May 17

No more landlords

My husband and I have been very fortunate in the property market here in Toronto.  We managed to pull equity from our first home, a condo, and buy our house on Gerrard.  We got some fantastic tenants for the condo who quite frankly took better care of it than we did.  As a result, if the Zhang’s called to say something was wrong, I just called the appropriate tradesmen and had them go in and fix the issue.  This is because I knew the Zhang’s would have tried to fix it themselves and they wouldn’t bother us with something minor.  We wanted to keep them happy.

We also had Ian living in our basement at Gerrard.  He had been there for many years before we bought the house and was an excellent tenant.  Also capable of taking care of things himself, he never caused a fuss and if he asked for something, we just provided it.

After about 5 years we sold the condo and bought our house in Newmarket.  This is when things on the rental front dipped.  We converted Gerrard into a rooming house.  The original idea was we would rent to Japanese exchange students and employees of Zuimei’s restaurants.  Unfortunately that did not work very well.  Short term tenants are very hard on property.  They simply don’t give a shit.  They don’t care if the heater is on while the windows are open in the middle of Winter.  They don’t care if the bacon they cook every morning is splattering grease all over the cabinetry.

Since neither Zuimei or I were interested in policing the property, nor able to upkeep the property the way it should have been we sold it.  With the penalty from Scotiabank for breaking the mortgage (and they royally fucked us over) we ended up about even on the payment front.  We paid off 13K of the principle and then got hit with a 13K penalty.

One of the things I learned while being a landlord is how the entire system is slanted in favor of tenants.  There is now a proposed landlord licensing system.  Now I firmly believe that everyone should have a safe, comfortable place to live.  But it’s a two way street.  You need to protect landlords as well as tenants.  I think the landlord licensing system might be a good idea, with a few provisos.

  1. The fact that the TCHC is not subject to the fee is ridiculous (just do a small search and see how many issues these guys have).  If it is a good idea then the city should be subject to the same rules and fees as everyone else.
  2. Monies collected should be spent on helping landlords, not just tenants. Whether it is educational materials or checklists, or document templates if the money is not spent in improving the system then it is just a money grab by the city.
  3. Slumlords should be named and shamed.

One thing I have never understood is who there isn’t a Yelp for housing.  People should be able to read the reviews on buildings and landlords.  These are businesses, there should be no expectation of privacy.

The flip side is there should be a tenant registry.  If someone is a serial rent dodger you should be able to warn other landlords.  Take Nina Willis for example,

At the provincially funded Landlord and Tenant Board, Willis complains of maintenance issues — which can result in a rent abatement or buy time if an inspection or repairs are ordered — and she typically alleges harassment and discrimination.

When ordered out by the board, she appeals, putting the eviction on hold. She has lost her last seven appeals and has left a string of landlords thousands of dollars in debt.

If you question how totally slanted the rules are look at this:

My landlord said there are no pets allowed in my building, and that I will have to move out or get rid of my pet. Is that legal? No. Even if your lease states there are no pets allowed, it cannot be enforced under the Residential Tenancies Act. However, if your pet is considered dangerous, causes allergic reactions, or is overly noisy, the landlord can ask the Landlord and Tenant Board to issue an Order to remove the pet.

In other words, a tenant could lie, have a pet, move in and then the landlord would have no legal recourse to remove them. Or what about these guys who are serial renters who then sub-lease.

Without a doubt there are unscrupulous landlords and they need to be dealt with.  But the system must also recognize there are unscrupulous tenants and provide landlords with the appropriate means to deal with them as well.

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Apr 10

Ma’agalim

I came across this charming animation video on reddit which /u/xChipsus translated.

Ma’agalim – Jane Bordeaux from Uri Lotan on Vimeo.

 

Nights turn into days
Days turn into years
And among them I was going faster in circles
Winds are blowing on me
Blow on the back of my neck
Everything seems too far too big

I’m not moving forward
It’s the time that drifts away
This is another passing train
It’s a further tightening rope (knot)

Sunrises sinking fast
As more seasons pass
And I stay the same in this shortening time

(x2) I’m not moving forward
It’s the time that drifts away
This is another passing train
It’s a further tightening rope (knot)

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Apr 06

Encouraging news

There were two news stories recently that I found very encouraging.

The first was the Panama Papers.  The Panama papers is this massive leak about the offshore holdings of the filthy rich. While having offshore accounts isn’t illegal in and of itself, it usually smacks of something nefarious and maybe it should be illegal.  It has implicated everyone from the Prime Minister of Iceland to Lionel Messi.

What I find encouraging is it was leaked at all. It was probably leaked by someone little.  Similar to Edward Snowden who was just a data monkey but had access to everything the NSA did. The time has come to hold the 1%’s feet to the fire.  The second part of the Panama papers that I love is that people are beginning to be held accountable.  The Prime Minister of Iceland was forced to resign after massive protests.

God I love Icelanders.

 

The second story that gives me hope is the Brandon University requires victims of sexual assault to sign gag order.  Not so much to the story but what happened afterwards.  So as the CBC reports,

The contract, which Brandon University confirms is authentic, spells out that the signer cannot have contact with the other person involved in an incident and that they are not to discuss what happened with anyone else other than a counsellor.

Students are threatened with suspension or expulsion if they breach those conditions, according to a copy of the document obtained by CBC News.

Which as you can imagine re-victimizes women who have been assaulted by forcing them to remain silent.  We Believe Survivors posted a copy of the contract here, which the university acknowledges as legitimate.  One has to question whether it is the student’s well-being the school cares about or their own reputation.

Anyway the encouraging thing is a day later the University admits the gag order is a mistake, and has said it will rectify the situation.  Yay for progress!  Now if we could only get people to stop raping all together then we’d be all set.

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Mar 27

Adobe Summit 2016

I was fortunate this year to get to go to Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. If you work in analytics, or marketing and you haven’t been to one I would highly recommend it.  Now obviously because it is put on by Adobe they talk a lot about their products, but even if you’re tool agnostic, or prefer another brand it is still worth going.

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Brad Rencher’s keynote at Adobe Summit

The theme this year that I took away was customer experience trumps everything; and is going to be the next wave in business. In that we need to recognize our customers, remember who they are their preferences, and recommend products or services that will appeal to them.  But these recommendations have to be relevant to the customers.

What I found interesting is that Adobe put this into practice at the event.  Everywhere I went, staff would greet me by name. Now of course I am wearing a nametag which makes it a bit easier to recognize my from the ten thousand other attendants, but it still has an emotional effect when you’re greeted every morning with “Good morning Dave”.  They also provided everyone with a backpack which was very relevant (and appreciated) because you’re collecting notes and handouts at each lecture.   They would have people walk through the venue reminding everyone when the next set of sessions would start.  And they had these recommended meet and greets.

At summit you will meet a very eclectic group of people.  For example I met a fellow named Phil from New Zealand.  I wish I had taken a photo of him because he looked like Billy Connolly but more hip. He was in education and was looking at what they should be doing to help their students and the organization. He was looking for not only tools that could help them stand up the various sites that needed to be developed but also meet their future needs.  I met a lot of analysts and developers such as myself, which was nice because there isn’t really anyone at the bank I can speak to about this stuff from a dev perspective.

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Slide from one of the presentations I attended

Summit will also confirm that you’re not alone in your organizational struggles. All large organizations have the same issues with silos and fifedoms, analysis paralysis, and education.  One of the things you can get from summit is strategies around how to beat these issues from people who have done it in their own companies.

Now there are lots of parties and dinners and things you will get invited to.  Some are vendors looking for new customers.  Some are vendors thanking existing customers for their business.  The best party is Bash, which is the one Adobe throws.

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Brian and Maja on the way to Bash

This year had xGames motocross, fireworks, food trucks, lots of booze and Weezer!

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Weezer at Adobe Summit

On top of all this, Las Vegas itself is an experience. I described it as being in a busy mall you’re in 24/7.  There are lights and noise constantly, people everywhere; which quite literally stimulus overload; which is intentional. If you look at the way the buildings are designed they are intended to keep you in the casinos and distracted so that you gamble more.  For us this became overwhelming so on the last day in vegas, after Summit we decided to rent a car and get out to the desert.

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All in all it was a very successful Summit for us.  I think everyone had a good time and I have some items I will try to put into practice at the bank.

 

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Mar 11

Favorite U2 Songs

I have been a U2 fan since 1988.  My parents took my sister and I to the UK and the rental car we had had a CD player.  Nicole and I pooled some money and bought “The Joshua Tree” and listened to it over and over for the entire summer.  As a result I became a U2 fan, and over the next few years I went back through their catalogue from their earliest EPs onward.  Years later I took my family to the Zoo TV tour which was amazing since it was the first and only time I got to go to a concert with my parents. When I asked them what they thought, my mother noted how different it was from the Joshua tree.  And that is what I love about U2.  They are not afraid to try something new and change things up a bit.  Here is my list of the top 10 U2 Songs.

One - Recorded on the 1991 album Achtung Baby, this song apparently held the band together after creative differences threatened to break them apart.

“At the instant we were recording it, I got a very strong sense of its power. We were all playing together in the big recording room, a huge, eerie ballroom full of ghosts of the war, and everything fell into place. It was a reassuring moment, when everyone finally went, ‘oh great, this album has started.’ It’s the reason you’re in a band – when the spirit descends upon you and you create something truly affecting. ‘One’ is an incredibly moving piece. It hits straight into the heart.” ~ The Edge

Still Haven’t found what I’m looking for - From the Joshua Tree album in 1987 the video was filmed in Las Vegas, which was just perfect. Produced by Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, it is a wonderful blend of pop and soul.  Many critics mention it is the band’s quest for spirituality while on tour in the U.S. Listen and decide for yourself.  You can watch the video on U2′s website.

Desire – Desire came off of the Rattle and Hum album in 1988 and is the one of the strongest songs on the album. It was the first #1 for the band in the UK and Australia.  Produced by Jimmy Lovine, they filmed the video in Hollywood and the song has been revamped numerous times for subsequent tours.  Personally I love the original, from the way the song starts with “ya” to the harmonica at the end.

Beautiful Day - This song came from the 2000 album, all that you can’t leave behind which came out while I was travelling around the world. Bono explained that the upbeat track is about losing everything but still finding joy in what one has.  Which was apt since while I travelled I carried everything I owned in a backpack.  I love the way the drums beat through the vocal harmony.

Sunday Bloody Sunday - One of the most instantly recognizable drum beats kicks off this masterful protest record like a call to arms. It’s an song about war, from the album title “War”. The song is about the Bloody Sunday incident in Derry where British troops shot and killed unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders. U2 briefly stopped performing it after the video below because as Bono put it, the song was “made real” and could never be surpassed. Take a listen and see what you think.

All I want is you - Another great song from Rattle and Hum is “All I Want Is You.” The slower pace makes it a ballad I guess.  I don’t really know.  I do tell my husband this whenever he asks if I want anything from Japan.  I especially love the way U2 combines is it in medleys with other songs.  The way the song slowly increases in volume and intensity makes it especially good for that. Watch this example where all I want is you transitions into Where the streets have no name.

Bad – by far my favorite U2 song. It is the pen-ultimate example of the Edge’s delay use and the Eno/Lanois dreamy atmospherics work so well it is hard to not love this song. It is apparently about heroin addiction and someone who died of an overdose.  The song is about letting go. I would say it is U2′s “Let it be”. While the studio version is good, the live versions are mind blowing.

I am going to include 3 here actually.

The first is the 12 minute version from Live Aid includes reference to Lou Reed, and the Rolling Stones.  Bono apparently also saved the woman he pulled from the crowd as she was being crushed by the throngs behind her. The last lines of the song are really what make it so good though…”I’m wide awake, I’m not sleeping.”

The Second is from Paris in 1987. It feels a little more raw than the Live Aid version. It it tough to overlook the ridiculous mime-esque outfit and long hair but if you just listen to the song itself…

The last one was shot in Paris. The reason I include it is the band, older now slows it down just a bit, Patti Smith comes out and the sing a few bars of “Gloria” as well.

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Mar 11

Random Images

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