Jim Letourneau's Blog

Investing, Technology, Travel, Geology, Music, Golf. I think that covers it.

Clean Your Room!

I'm a borderline hoarder. I'd rather see papers in stacks on a table than put away neatly in a file folder.  I don't like to throw "useful" things out.  My wife and I moved into a very nice condo last summer and I slowly got comfortable with getting rid of things that I won't be using any more. I didn't want to ruin the look of the place with too much of my clutter.  It took a few dozen trips to Value Village and Goodwill but the volume of my possessions was reduced considerably. 

In spite of having a well designed office and closet, I still maintained a messy looking space albeit with far less stuff. The door to my area was still closed when we had visitors.

I was reading the always thought provoking  kk.org a few weeks ago when I ran across The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up by Marie Kondo. I decided to order the Kobo version (in order to save space). 

Her method is based upon years of experience helping clients de-clutter. The anecdotes about her clients lacked the shock value of watching Hoarders. However, her personal stories about her lifelong obsession (I concluded that Marie Kondo is a bit of a freak) with tidying up did inspire empathy and trust. Every time I had a thought about dismissing her advice as being overly detailed, I remembered that I was the one with the problem. 

The greatest value in Kondo's book is her advice on handling personal items like photos and mementos.  It is very easy to get distracted by them and lose focus.  

I followed the instructions and they worked very well for me. 




The Treadmill Phase for LinkedIn

While eavesdropping at a coffee shop, it occurred to me that if everyone is trying to "dominate" their space via LinkedIn, it is going to be several orders of magnitude more difficult to do so. Unless you're a cow in the vicinity of a slaughterhouse, there are many benefits to being first in line to use a new service.

I tend to sign up for more services that I could ever possibly use. I will live forever through my inbox that will be receiving emails from these services long after I'm gone. While the noise factor is irritating, I have benefited greatly by being an early adopter on a popular services like LinkedIn. 

Fast forward to today. LinkedIn has added several Tinder style features that require a mere swipe or click to provide their user base with fast dopamine hits (someone noticed me today!, I matter!). Organizations are making concerted efforts to format their thought pieces and white papers into the most engaging formats. That means you could see a post, a video and an infographic with the same content. More noise, less signal and a tough road ahead for those trying to get noticed on LinkedIn. 




I really didn't know who Damon Albarn was until his solo album, Everyday Robots came out in 2014.

I was somewhat familiar with Blur and Gorillaz but Albarn got a fan for life after I heard this...

Fast Forward to the new Blur album, The Magic Whip. Very good stuff.

On Politics

My home province of Alberta is gearing up for an election this week and it looks like there might be a change in government. It seems like one of the big issues for voters is trust. If a person/party stays in power for any length of time, the machinery that they build to support themselves eventually becomes corrupted. 

Corrupt people tend to gravitate to those in power. They tend to be very adept at corroding the good intentions of people. A great example is the Clinton dynasty. I think the mining community has a good handle on the character of certain donors to the Clinton Foundation. As Russel Zisky would say "never convicted." 

I see that Hillary Clinton has something in common with Alberta's ruling party, a trust deficit. There is a best before date for those in power. I'm thinking 10 years is too long and 5 is not enough. 


When the Media Doesn't Play Ball

I ran across two examples of the outrage that celebrities have when the media doesn't play ball. The veneer of civility cracks quickly when everything is recorded and shared.

First the Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price launched into an expletive filled tirade that basically bemoaned the fact that he couldn't control the media. Once you strip out the f-bombs he believes that he is being completely open and up front about the team with reporters so why would would they be so ungrateful as to report on things that he hadn't told them about yet.

Secondly, we have the always charming and deeply thoughtful Robert Downey Jr. walk out of what was supposed to be a promotional interview for a movie. His flashy smile quickly fades as the interviewer decides to go off topic and ask him political and personal questions. Its not the first time that Krishnan Guru-Murthy has gone rogue as seen in this Quentin Tarantino interview.

Robert Downey Jr. didn't agree to an in-depth interview. Did his people not know about the Tarantino interview? Possibly, but I suspect Guru-Murthy hasn't been blacklisted from accessing celebrities because when a celebrity walks out of an interview, it gets more page views. 

The Seven Deadly Sins of Speaking

I first wanted to check out Julian Treasure's TED Talk How to speak so that people will want to listen to see if I could pick up a few Toastmaster type tips. Instead, I was schooled in how to be more mindful when I open my yapper.

I'm hyper aware of negativity in conversation. On occasion I am drawn to it (there are some very creative ranters and complainers) but more often than not, I'll start to check out. 

I've listed the sins below along with Treasure's comments.

  1. Gossip, speaking ill of somebody who's not present. Not a nice habit, and we know perfectly well the person gossiping five minutes later will be gossiping about us.
  2. Judging. We know people who are like this in conversation, and it's very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you're being judged and found wanting at the same time.
  3. Negativity. You can fall into this. My mother, in the last years of her life, became very, very negative, and it's hard to listen. I remember one day, I said to her, "It's October 1 today," and she said, "I know, isn't it dreadful?" (Laughter) It's hard to listen when somebody's that negative.
  4. Complaining. Well, this is the national art of the U.K. It's our national sport. We complain about the weather, about sport, about politics, about everything, but actually complaining is viral misery. It's not spreading sunshine and lightness in the world.
  5. Excuses. We've all met this guy. Maybe we've all been this guy. Some people have a blamethrower. They just pass it on to everybody else and don't take responsibility for their actions, and again, hard to listen to somebody who is being like that.
  6. Penultimate, the sixth of the seven, embroidery, exaggeration. It demeans our language, actually, sometimes. For example, if I see something that really is awesome, what do I call it? (Laughter) And then of course this exaggeration becomes lying, out and out lying, and we don't want to listen to people we know are lying to us.
  7. Dogmatism, the confusion of facts with opinions. When those two things get conflated, you're listening into the wind. You know, somebody is bombarding you with their opinions as if they were true.It's difficult to listen to that.

Occasionally people just need to listen to a friend who is going through a rough patch but I always like to say "It would be a shame if we were still talking about this a year from now."

Noel Gallagher is the Edgy Karl Pilkington of Rock

Seeing the dressy Arcade Fire hordes trundle off to the Saddledome in their finery reminded me of this awesome Noel Gallagher interview in Rolling Stone. I've excerpted his thoughts on Arcade Fire.

Did you hear Arcade Fire's new album? 
I haven't heard it. Anybody that comes back with a double album, to me, needs to pry themselves out of their own asshole. This is not the Seventies, okay? Go and ask Billy Corgan about a double album. Who has the fucking time, in 2013, to sit through 45 minutes of a single album? How arrogant are these people to think that you've got an hour and a half to listen to a fucking record?

Did you see that they've asked people to wear formal wear or costumes at their shows? [Ed. Note: Arcade Fire has clarified that this dress code is "super not mandatory."]
[Sighs] Well, what's the point of that? Do you know what the point of that is? That is to take away from the shit disco that's coming out of the speakers. Because everybody's dressed as one of the Three Musketeers on acid. "What was the gig like?" "I don't know, everyone was dressed as a teddy bear in the Seventies." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Ah, fuck knows, man, I have no idea. I was dressed as a flying saucer." "Yeah, but what was the gig like?" "Fuck knows. I don't know. Seen Cheech and Chong, there, though." Not for me.





Documenting Shipping or Where's My Spy Camera

I'm gaining some customer service experience through Dress.Up Fitness bracelets. Currently we sell through eBay and our website, www.dressupfitnessbracelets.com. I am learning that consumers are no longer content to wait for something to arrive in the mail. They want to know when it was shipped and where the package is (and if they are like me, they might obsessively click the tracking page to see if there has been any progress). I've had a few experiences where the tracking info I received wasn't very helpful and ultimately, it doesn't allow packages to travel any faster. However, I understand that desire to KNOW.

Documenting Injustice - Bundy Ranch

Peter Gabriel was ahead of his time. In 1992 he co-founded WITNESS, an international nonprofit organization that has been using the power of video and storytelling for 20 years to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Watch his TED talk from 2006, Fight injustice with raw video

The ideal of handing out portable DV cams to citizen journalists was born of technological innovation. Technological innovation has killed DV cams but today we have a nearly infinite number of citizen journalists. 

Our stories and injustices, real and perceived, are now documented in excruciating detail. 

Which brings me to the Bundy Ranch story. Cliven Bundy runs cattle in the middle of a desert north of Las Vegas. Bundy's cattle graze on public land. He claims pre-emptive rights due to his Mormon ancestry. The free range days ended quite some time ago for most ranchers. Tragedy of the commons stuff.  For background read CNN's Showdown on the range: Nevada rancher, feds face off over cattle grazing rights

The plight of a rancher is to be frustrated. Working the land is hard. Cattle prices fluctuate. Add increasing government regulation to the mix and tempers flair. In this case Bundy's last stand is the result of his failure to win in the courts. Bundy can't graze cattle but large solar facilities probably eradicate more tortoise habitat. Meat is out and solar is in and the government is trying to enforce the will of an increasingly fickle population. 

Back to citizen journalism. Watch the raw footage of the most recent "Bundy Ranch" confrontation. People are so immersed in capturing footage, that they trip over each other. It is half media scrum/half protest. Protesters are struggling to provoke government agents with one hand because the other is holding a phone camera.  

I doubt this is what Peter Gabriel had in mind when he started WITNESS but there is no question that these protesters feel empowered because they have the ability to document their encounters with agents of the US government. Hopefully this conflict can be resolved without anybody getting seriously hurt. If not, at least there will be video.

The Big Picture on Canada's Falling Dollar

Why is the Canadian Dollar dropping? The value of much of what Canada exports has been dropping. Jeff Rubin's Why the loonie’s fortunes are still tied to oil sums up the energy situation nicely. Thanks to George P. Mitchell, producers in the critically important energy sector are trying to find ways to export beyond the North American continent.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the Canadian Dollar is not just tied to energy. With the exception of lumber, most of our other commodity exports (metals and agriculture) are falling in value as well. In my talk at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference I pointed out Canada's relative lack of economic diversification. Canadian investors will start being more open to investments in technology over the next few years.

Meanwhile many of the speakers at the conference reminded me of this quote from Bob Lefsetz:

But you can’t speak this truth in the music business, oh no, because that’s undercutting the game!

The TSX Venture has been on a 3 year slide. It is currently at some key technical levels so maybe we'll get a bit of a run up but until commodity prices turn, I'd consider it a bounce, more than a longer term reversal.

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The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference now known by the #VRIC14 hashtag is looming. 

I'll spare you yet another long term TSX Venture chart. I'm not a gold conspiracy believer although I'm curious as to what the hell happened with Kitco and the $750 million in fines. I'm open to being wrong and seeing the gold price move higher but for the most part, I'd encourage people to broaden their horizons and keep diversified. I pretty much know what most of the speakers are going to say but I've been impressed with Ned Goodman. That alone is a good reason to attend.