The Book Ship

The book ship is moored at the wharf. She is dwarfed by the luxury liner cruise ships. She is a battered old, beat-up relic of a ship. Her predecessor, Logos I sank and this is Logos II. She has sailed around the world, pulling into ports selling books. She is crewed by an international crew of volunteers.

In this island paradise, books are expensive because of the import duties and stamp tax on them. Books are not as ubiquitous here as they are in North America. There is a real hunger for books. The Lovely One and I decided to check out the ship.

We were met at the gangplank by a Norwegian young man. He was charging fifty cents admission to the ship. I handed him a twenty dollar bill, and as I was waiting for the $19 in change, I caught the pungent aroma of him being a little ripe and in need of a shower.

The gangplank was steep, and didn't have real steps -- just these rubber covered bars all the way up. A Dutchman, another volunteer on the ship was leading the geezers down the gangplank. He had an odiferous aura as well.

The Lovely One and I finally got aboard by climbing the gangplank. We climbed a narrow flight of steel deck stairs to an upper deck, and came upon the bookstore. I went with the intention of looking for a book of yoga. I want to do exercises for both my back, and my mind. What we failed to realise, was that Logos II was a predominantly Christian floating bookstore.

There were piles and piles of childrens Christian books, bibles, and tomes on how to live a proper lifestyle. There were other books, like stargazing manuals, dictionaries, extreme machine expositors and the like. However nothing really caught our interests until we came to the cookbook section.

I chose an amazing cookbook on Indian cuisine -- a huge tome replete with pictures and every kind of Indian food recipes from all of the provinces of India. It was a steal at about $10. The Lovely One got another cookbook for $9 and we headed down the exit stairway.

This took us to the lower deck, and it was populated with boxes and boxes of all kinds of inexpensive books that were being given away for donations. Essentially you bought a cloth bag for $8.00 and you put books in it. The discount books were not the Christian books but real useful ones.

The titles that I got were "50 Fast Digital Video Techniques" complete with a CD ROM of software; "PhotoShop Elements 2"; "The Low Carb Baking and Dessert Cookbook"; a huge tome on "Secure PHP Development" with a CD ROM software with 50 applications including an intranet; "J2EE 1.4 Essentials" and the Redhat Linux Bible including software -- all for $16.

However, in spite of the joy of having reading material, it is not all coming up roses. Quite the opposite. The cloth bags, and even the books themselves emanate an odour. It is a nutty odour and smells a bit like hazelnut dirty sox. It is a strange smell -- disturbing because of its pungence and yet ambiguity. You cannot place the smell. I am hoping that it is old ship smell, and it wears off. The pleasure of having reading material outweighs the olfactory cloud surrounding these books. And after a while, you don't smell it anymore.

Catching Up

This is a roundup of hanging threads. Yesterday, I told you that the fishing fleet was harbour-bound because of rough seas. Well today is no different. The harbour is crammed with boats and perhaps the windy weather and high seas will abate this afternoon. It is warm weather, and the sun is shining, but the wind is blowing and the seas are high.

On March 6, I told you about the ancient avocada pear tree budding on the office grounds. There were hundreds of buds that lasted forever. When finally the tree has fruited. See the little buds of avocado pears. However from the millions of buds, there is less than twenty fruits on the trees and the birds and insects seem to like them. They are dropping off. I fear that there will not be any avocados for me. (see pic below).

And we come to golf balls. These past couple of weeks, I have had to compete with the tourists, who have been snorkeling my reefs and robbing me blind of my usual harvest of lost golf balls. Well, the rough seas have scared off the snorkellers, and my numbers of found balls are up. Yesterday, four out of five golf balls were pristine, high end names like Titleist and Callaway.

My stock picking method using found golf balls in the ocean has yielded results as well. On February 11th, I outlined how executives who play with corporately embossed golf balls, and spend $264 on a round of golf, are putting themselves ahead of shareholders and I predict that the shares will drop. As a result, I hypothetically shorted the shares (bet that they would drop on the stock market). Well, we are at 8% gains so far since the 12th of February, thanks to the Bear Stearns meltdown. This is how I am doing:

Accenture: down $69

CBS: up $81

Worthing Industries: down $69

Wells Fargo: down $33

Heinz: down $117

Coke: down $25

Canon Electronics: down $87

Starwood Hotels: down $61

Bear Stears: up $1,136

On the 17th of March a bid was made for Bear Stearns at $2.00 per share. As late as January of this year, they were at $105 per share. On the stock market, the share price fell to $4.81 and I "liquidated" the position locking in the profits. That $1,100 profit was just on 15 shares, and it nicely negated the $379 loss on the others, for a profit of 8% of the roughly $9,000 invested in this scheme. And it isn't over yet.

So on this wonderful Friday in paradise, I again will walk home from work, and buy a $1.00 bag of wood-fire roasted peanuts with the blackened shells from the street vendor, and ponder another successful week in paradise. The weekend is here, and that means lobster fishing for me. There are only a few more days left in the season.

The Fleet is in

It has been a strange strange week in paradise -- weatherwise. Cold winds are blowing in from the north creating spectacular waves and an eight foot high surf. The ocean is roily and the fishing fleet hasn't been out in days. The famous fish restaurant hasn't had fresh fish for close to a week now.

This affects my recreational activities as well. When I snorkel, the undulating waves make me seasick. The water is so cloudy that I cannot see the fish, or more importantly any golf balls that I snorkel for. For all of last week, I get less than 5 golf balls per outing. I usually get 8 to ten.

Because of the high surf, I have taken to fishing in the moorage across the street with rod and reel. The slips are usually populated with jacks raising a ruckus. This week -- Nada, nothing.

As I was contemplating fishlessness, I saw a fishing boat go out. I snapped a pic of it. The sky was grey, and its prospects didn't look good, but at least a sportfisher was trying to make a go of it.

Northern Reflections

I had to depart from this tropical paradise on a business trip to the cold north. We maintain a house in the hills back home.

A friend met me at the airport and dropped me off at home. When I arrived, I couldn't access the house. The snowbank was over four and half feet high and about six feet long. It had a solid frozen patina on it. I climbed over and on the other side, there was a soft spot in the crust. I sank thigh deep in the snow bank. I could not move. There was only one way to get out. I had to roll out.

My computer bag filled with snow. Moisture got into my digital camera and ruined it. The following morning, I could not make it out of the driveway.

I decided to make the entrance way into our house a lot more user friendly. I got a shovel and dug for two hours. I dug a notch into the snow bank. It was about three and a half feet wide and about six feet long. At least one didn't have to be a hill climber to get into the house.

To free the car, I had to dig a similar notch to access the garage, road salt and bags of gravel. It only took me an hour to dig my way into the garage.

Once I had my supplies, it only took me an hour and a half to get the car out of the driveway.

Throughout the whole week, the sun shone for a mere eight or nine hours. The rest of the time, the skies were gun-metal grey.

Needless to say, I am glad to be back in the tropics.

Put da Lime in da Coconut

Rather belatedly, The Lovely One and I have just discovered Tropical Drinks. There is a fairly good reason for it. One of my business associates gave me a bottle of 21 year old Glenlivet Scotch. Man, that stuff is like a fine wine, with taste tones of caramel and honey. It is an ambrosia for the Gods, and when I googled the price of it, I nearly fell off the chair.

Then The Lovely One went for drinks at the ultra posh resort in our backyard. She took her best female friend who was visiting from the north. There, they discovered the Mojito -- a tasty blend of lime juice muddled with fresh mint and cane syrup, and white rummed topped with club soda. It is an amazing drink.

The Lovely One and her friend challenged me to mix other tropical drinks. I made a Pina Colada from scratch, buying the coconut stuff from the grocery store. It was a huge hit. The next evening, we experimented with a banana daiquiri, and that was a bust. The Lovely One refused to drink it. It was too sweet for her taste.

The coconut water with bits of coconut in it came in a big can, and after the Pina Coladas were made, there was half a can left over. A couple of days later, I was thirsty, and chugged the remainder. It was surprisingly delicious. We now have cans of coconut water in the fridge. They cost $1.49 for a can with twice the volume of a can of soda pop.

This sensitized me to coconuts. Last Sunday we were on a drive, and we drove down a deserted laneway. The palm trees were bursting with coconuts. I stopped the car and whacked down a trio of coconuts from a palm tree near the road. Two of them are pictured above.

I got home and got a big knife. I knew that there was this husk around the coconut, and eventually I would come to the brown hard shell with three eyes on the end. I cut the top off and the knife sliced through the coconut rather easily. I was surprised by the amount of liquid that gushed out.

I plunged the knife deep into the coconut and poured the coconut water into a large tumbler. It filled the glass. I looked inside the coconut, and there was no hard brown shell inside. I cut off a bit of the coconut, and it didn't taste like coconut. I gingerly tasted the water. It was warm, and it didn't taste like anything. I dumped the coconut water down the sink.

I can only surmise that there are different types of palm tree coconuts. The ones that I got weren't the food type coconuts. I have seen them used with tropical drinks by pouring in rum with the water, but sure as heck, they weren't the coconut that I knew and wanted.

Lifestyle Voyeur

I am a bit of a voyeur into people's lives. If I find a grocery list in a shopping cart, I will read it to see what they are buying. This gives me clues as to how other people live their lives. If I see a scrap of paper with a note, I will pick it up and read it. I think that these little bits of everyday minutiae are fascinating.

The Lovely One and I were sightseeing in a rich enclave on this island paradise. As we were entering a beautiful island church, I stopped to pick up the above note. It was fascinating for several reasons.

The top of it says: Court of Friends. Apparently this note is a bit of legalese in these kids world. I remember that as a child, my friends and I would try to emulate the adult world as a way of asserting authority over the other kids. We had our kangaroo courts, much the same way that the kids did it in William Golding's Lord of the Flies. If you couched a proceeding in pseudo-legalese, it lent credence to your will.

The other fascinating aspect of this is the golf cart deal. Because of the gated community, everyone drives golf carts. They are all that is necessary and much cheaper than cars, and the kids can drive them.

And that brings up the third aspect -- It looks as if the Robert guy is an adult, judging by his signature. It looks as if some girl child has conned the use of a golf cart out of an adult.

There could be all sorts of stories here. The most cogent one, is that privileged kids live in a gated community and drive around golf carts.

Budding Forever

One thing about the trees of the Caribbean, is that they all flower in some way or another. And when they do, the splashes of colors are beautiful.

My office is on the site of an old settlement replete with all sorts of fruit trees. The oldest tree on the property is an avocado pear tree. I know that it is the oldest, because one day an old lady was on the front pathway of our office building. She was visiting the offices on the second level, however, the architects who do business there had not arrived for the day yet. I went out to speak to her.

The woman's maiden name was the name of the street that our office was on. Her grandfather owned all of the surrounding land, and had planted all of the trees, including the Barbados Cherry, the Cuban Orange and the Avocado Pear tree. She told me that the avocado pear tree only flowers when it feels like it, and goes long periods without flowering. It was a very old tree -- the first one that her grandfather had planted.

This Methuselah Tree of my office has been trying to bud for two weeks now. I have awaited patiently to see what the flowers look like. The buds (pictured above) just got slightly bigger in the two weeks, and haven't burst into flower at all. It will be interesting to see if they do. I will post pics if and when that it does happen.

The Full Four Yards

A colleague of mine sent me an email today. He is from the far-away north where I lived before I moved to this tropical paradise. This is how he ended the email: We are having a major snow storm today – its pretty miserable. Hope you are well and prospering.

Another colleague wrote today :YES, it was freezing rain, and snow overnight and about 10-15cm of snow.. It only took 2 hours to drive from Oshawa to Markham along Hwy 7. Add 20 mins to the snow removal and ice scraping . It seems that everyone back home is getting the brunt of Old Man Winter.

This winter has been the winter of winters -- the worst in 20 years. I looked up the weather statistics so far and my former home city has had over 136.5 inches of snow so far. That is over eleven feet of snow. And the winter is not over, and they expect another 8 inches today. This winter, they will get the full four yards of snow.

The winters have been so mild in the past, that I shoveled very long laneways by myself. I took a whole afternoon to do it, and threw the frisby for the dog in between shovelfulls. I did this about 6 times a winter, which was not onerous at all.

This year, I would have had to pay someone to do it, and it would have cost a fortune. By pure chance, the Lovely One and I picked the right winter to escape the white stuff. Don't get me wrong, we have the white stuff here too. I have posted a picture of it at the top of this entry.

Harvest Time

Well, I got my first big fruit harvest from my orchards at my office. I got a handful of Barbados cherries and three Cuban Sour Oranges (or greens).

It was tough picking the cherries. I had to chase off a couple of mockingbirds. Then all of the good cherries were high up. I got a stick to knock them down, and some bark fragments from the stick got into my eye. On top of that, where my skin contacted the cherry tree, it gave me little itches. I don't know what that was all about. In addition, the branches scratched me, and it was quite painful for a second or two when I took my usual evening dip in the ocean. It burned like hell upon immersion in salt water.

I have high hopes for a continued harvest. The ancient avocado pear tree is trying to flower. The flower buds, and lots of them have been showing for a week. I eagerly expect to fill the larder and cornucopia with tons of avocado pear. Judging by the size of my cherry crop however, I might be a tad optimistics about how many avocado pears that I am going to get.

It was a harvest in every sense of the word yesterday. My evening snorkel yielding 14 golf balls from the ocean as well. Some of them were quite untouched except for a little salt water marinade.

Golf Ball Stock Picking Report

Well, I thought that it was time that I gave an update on my Golf Ball Stock Picking results. You will recall that I decided that companies whose executives could play the $260 per round golf course on this island paradise were not managing their expenses well. As a result, I predicted that their stocks would fall. I determined who these companies were, by snorkelling and collecting the corporate embossed golf balls that they hit into the ocean.

I am tracking 9 stocks, and four of the nine have already fallen. CBS and COKE are the biggest losers. However, I haven't made any money yet. As a matter of fact, I would have already lost 1% of my investment.

The stocks that I am tracking include Accenture (the company renamed themselves from Arthur Andersen after the Enron Scandal), CBS, Worthington Industries, Wells Fargo, Heinz, Heinz, Coke, Canon, Starwood Hotels, and Bear Stearns.

The most potentially interesting golf ball story that may develop, is that I found a golf ball from the California Mechanical Contractors Association. Many golfers mark their balls as the rules required. This one person marked their golf ball with their initials. I went to the website, and one of the officers of that association had the same initials as on the golf ball. I sent him an email telling him that he could pick up his ball at my house on his next visit. I eagerly await his response. After he duffed the ball into the ocean, I bet that he never expected to see that ball again.