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5 interesting things

5 interesting things

Skaters on the Rideau Canal

I have been focusing on reading a lot to catch up on all of my library books and subscriptions. Of course, there is also family time and playing the Witcher II and a good amount of time drinking tea and having conversations with Mr. Tucker. I don’t plan to keep to any schedule here but I do enjoy sharing what I’ve read and a variety of thoughts I have had on certain things. For example, I realized that I have been online for THIRTY YEARS and it’s funny that my original optimism has reversed-course and I find myself divesting from the online world. Perhaps that is a conversation for another time. Here are some things I read this weekend:

1 – The Prestige Recession, “The decline of the critic mirrors the decline of the mediums they cover. Music and film are industries whose relative cultural value has dipped, thus their critics’s cultural influence has plummeted. In realms like politics and the culture wars, however, critics are thriving. Where there’s power and money, critics can have influence and get paid. When the money and power dry up, the beat does too…Cultural criticism and contextualization aren’t going away. They’re being de-professionalized. They’re switching mediums. What was a grand(ish) vocation has been demoted to a hobby and another form of “content.” It feels inevitable. We’ve gotten so used to it by now.”

2 – I first heard about Neal’s Yard Dairy in the book, The Lost Supper by Montreal writer, Taras Gresco. I didn’t realize how firmly planted the place was in the counterculture of the past few decades, nor how important of a piece it played in bringing back a British food culture. Nicholas Saunders: the forgotten genius who changed British food. “The central question of Saunders’ life is what happens when you try to create an alternative and it becomes so successful that it is co-opted by other people into the dominant culture. It was a tension he was never quite able to resolve, except in a few small projects… The compulsion that made him treat the question of yoghurt production in the same way as the chemical composition of an ecstasy pill found its purest expression in things that were done solely for the fun of it.”

3 – Great, as soon as I build a gaming computer and get back into it I read, The Tremendous Yet Troubled State of Gaming in 2024. This is really for econ and gaming nerds. “There are several reasons behind the many layoffs detailed above, but the first may be the most important. It’s also the most overlooked and most counter-narrative: video game revenues are falling… A lot of the challenge here is economical. In addition to the aforementioned increases in costs per developer, the number of people needed to produce a AAA game have grown as publishers expand the scale and scope of their games —more and higher-fidelity cinematics with professional motion capture and vocal performances, greater environmental and enemy diversity, more thoughtful NPCs and side quests. The enormity of this effort is easy to measure, as is the output.” Clearly, this piece goes on to describe all of the likely challenges facing the industry.

Adjacent, but as for myself, I was shocked to learn that even though it’s been 15 years or so since I played a game, the prices for top-of-the-line games were still hovering around the $80 mark – which hasn’t really changed since the 90s. Moreover, I could play older games that I had missed over the years for a measly $1-$20 – and I am not a multi-player kind of gal. I get that people who have gamed over that period of time have probably finished all of the games they want to play, but even today I get *flash sales* for brand new games with great worlds, stories and graphics. I also recognize the sheer amount of titles being released probably dilutes potential customers in ways that were impossible in the 80s-00s.

4 – Advice from people who really started living when they found out they were dying (H/T to The New Escapologist). I have a love/hate with these sorts of articles. On the one hand: yes! Please go out and live your one wild and precious life! On the other hand, it’s much easier to explain your erratic behaviour of skydiving and mountaineering if you have a terminal diagnosis. Otherwise, people just think you are shirking your responsibilities as an adult. It would be amazing if we could reconcile the two things. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could sell everything and travel for a year without getting the side eye and tsk tsks from their friends and family? Either way, this is good advice for the perfectly healthy as well: don’t delay, do what you love, enjoy every moment you can (except the painful ones, like the time in the dentist chair and the like).

“You get caught up in that world of work: pay your bills, eat dinner, sleep, repeat. But now I truly feel very different about money. What’s the point of earning, earning, earning if there’s no joy in your life? When I watch really power-driven people who want more and more, I want to tell them it’s the small things in life that are beautiful. We live in quite a toxic world, but it’s your choice what you expose yourself to. I get up, I walk my dog, I listen to every single bird that chirps. I’m grateful for that.”

5 – I came across this recently (at least, the short Instagram post that inspired it) and it has really resonated. I have stepped away from some social media lately in an effort to reduce my exposure to things that make me upset but that I have no control over. Instead, I am focusing on doing a daily photo (#DITL) on the Post Morbus Instagram. If people want to throw hands in their own comments sections, Imma LET THEM.

Anyway, she has three parts to this theory that I find is so profoundly helpful to me, especially as I revisit my investment into family, friends, acquaintances AND online interactions:

A – Detachment: just let people do what they are going to do & detach yourself from an emotional response.
B – Let people fail: let them learn and grow by not rescuing them.
C – Let them be themselves: don’t try and change people.

That is all for this Monday. I cannot believe that we are heading into February this week. I did end up cancelling my Globe and Mail Saturday paper subscription (ugh. They made me call on a telephone and speak with a real human and everything!) but I kept the digital version. Naturally, this concluded with them charging me for both. Modern life is rubbish, indeed.

Friends of a younger generation

Friends of a younger generation

What I am reading
• A truly sweet story about the author’s frugal aunt: Everything she needed.
• BIG OOF: 1-in-10 people in Toronto rely on food banks.
• Baby Boomers are buying up all of the houses.
• I learned the hard way that I couldn’t shop my way to a new self. “But if you’re constantly taking that break when you feel unsatisfied and insecure, you are letting the muscle that deals with the negative parts of your life atrophy.”

What I need to do
I have been lucky enough to have friends who are either a little bit older than me or who had kids when they were really young – sometimes both. My friends have raised these deeply thoughtful, intelligent and amazing people and I am so grateful to have these adult kids in my life.

One of them – who we all call Miss A – reached out recently and asked me to help her with some money stuff. While she is good with her money in the day-to-day sense (no debt, has some extra etc.), she wants to learn more about investing and the various tax-advantaged accounts. Could I possibly take some time to run her through some of it?


Luckily, I have put together some presentations already from our Money Mondays group and I just need to add the new First Home Savings Account (FHSA) to the deck but I am super excited to meet with her!

Of course – like most people – her first experience buying any investment products happened because she walked into her bank and asked to speak with a “Financial Advisor.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “They made you fill out a little quiz that determined what level of risk you were and then recommended one of their risk profile mutual funds.”
“That’s exactly what happened!” she exclaimed.

I guess I have to give them credit for steering her towards a TFSA but it frustrates me that this is generally where most people get their financial advice – from salespeople. I guess that is also why banks in Canada are able to pay out huge dividends (because, oligarchies!). Full disclosure: I own bank stocks (because, oligarchies!).

The thing is that it is SUPER hard to find decent financial advice unless you take an interest in it. Sure, the internet is teeming with advice but while some of it can be good (pay off debt! Save for a rainy day!) some of it is horrible and could ruin your life (use leverage to buy AirBnBs!). Schools don’t generally teach it, we are raised in families that rarely speak of it, and how do we even know what advice is right for us? There are a million and one finance books on the market and while there are some core similarities some deviate wildly or the information gets outdated quickly.

I was thinking of re-creating the path of books that changed my life but one of these has to be The Tightwad Gazette and while the core philosophy is great, the info is old. The Wealthy Barber is also a fantastic summation of the core tenets about managing an adult life but some of the content may grate on a modern audience. Most of the books about getting out of debt are definitely helpful but rely on shame – sometimes bordering on abuse – to get their point across. I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending many of them. I also haven’t had any debt for so long that I couldn’t even tell you if there are any decent & recent reads on how to get out of it.

I could go on – and indeed I have a (wildly out-of-date) bibliography on this site – but I think I will stick with some core summations in our talk. It’s a good prompt because I want to start introducing my teenagers a variety of personal finance skills outside of just basic money management. So that is my plan for the rest of the week!

In other news, I may continue to update here weekdays but I grapple with it. I do love to write something daily and have indeed been a life-long lover of journaling, a practice I have maintained more or less since I was a teenager. Writing here daily has been fun but I don’t know what real value it has & it does consume a lot of time. I do know that I want to keep a writing practice because I enjoy it, I just don’t know if it will be here or in another format. Until I decide, I guess I will keep on keeping on!