Stock Market Check-Back for August


Today, I’m reporting in on how our imaginary stock market portfolio did in the month of August. But first … a shameless promotion:

Shameless Promotion!
Give a boost to a creative project Library Life Hack is working on with Canadian writers Natasha Deen and Trent Wilkie, and illustrator Daniel Schneider: it’s a comic book set in Strathcona County, Alberta — the origin story of a wild west female superhero named Boy.

You can help this project soar by visiting our indiegogo page and leaving behind a teeny tiny investment (you’ll get something back in return), by leaving a comment, or by sending this along to your networks (all of which will earn you my undying gratitude and a whole lot of good karma.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

P.S. Let me also say that if you’ve ever wanted to be a comic book character yourself, this is your big chance …

And now, back to business. Our portfolio performed in August much the same as it did in July. Four stocks are in negative territory, and the star of the show continues to be Magna International, with a stellar 63% gain over its Jan 1 price. Canadian Tire and Sparton Corp. are in second and third place, at 36% and 35% gains.

Overall, the Canadian stocks have performed very well, cruising from a 3% gain on Feb 1 to a 34% gain as of Sept 1. (This despite a 35% loss from AEterna Zentaris.) The US stocks have held their own, wavering a few percentage points in each direction. It would be nice to see them start to gain a little bit of ground — but we’ll see what the final quarter of the year brings.

Company Name Closing Price
Dec 31
Closing Price
Aug 31
% Change
AEterna Zentaris Inc. 2.38 CDN 1.55 CDN -35%
Bombardier Inc. 3.76 CDN 4.79 CDN +27%
Callaway Golf Co. 6.50 US 6.92 US +6%
Cameron International Corp. 56.46 US 56.79 US +1%
Canadian Tire Corp. 81.00 CDN 109.85 CDN +36%
Cott Corp. 8.03 US 7.99 US 0%
Indigo Books & Music 10.68 CDN 10.60 CDN -1%
Koninlijke Philips Electronics 26.54 US 30.82 US +16%
Magna International Inc. 49.68 CDN 80.96 CDN +63%
BlackBerry 11.80 CDN 10.64 CDN -10%
Ryder Systems Inc. 49.93 US 55.61 US +11%
Sherwin-Williams Co. 153.82 US 172.40 US +12%
Sparton Corp. 13.87 US 18.77 US +35%
USG Corp. 28.07 US 23.34 US -17%
Westjet Airlines Ltd. 19.81 CDN 21.96 CDN +11%
Total Value $CDN $179.11 $240.35 +34%
Total Value $US $343.22 $372.64 +9%

Hitting the Books — Without Hitting the Banks

Hello and welcome to part two of our Long Weekend Double Header!

Keeping Up With Tradition
For as long as I can remember, the Tuesday after Labour Day has been the first day of school. So, it only seems fitting that this blog post should be about hacking post-secondary education.

This is an idea that has been gathering momentum for several years now. I live in Canada, where the cost of post-secondary is high, but not necessarily out of reach. However, I know that’s not true in other parts of the world.

At the beginning of August, Forbes Magazine told us that student loans now make up the second highest form of consumer debt in the US. Only mortgages are higher. These are sobering statistics: the average borrower will graduate with almost $27,000 in debt, and 10% of those graduates will have racked up more than $40,000 in loans.

All of this — for an education that doesn’t guarantee you a job. Small wonder that alternatives like the UnCollege movement have started to spring up.

Let’s Investigate Some More
Over the past few months, I’ve looked at a variety of book resources that talk about education hacking. These are three that I thought were especially interesting:

    Hacking Your Education
    Written by Dale J. Stephens

    The Personal MBA
    Written by Josh Kaufman

    The Art of Non-Conformity
    Written by Chris Guillebeau

We’re going to look more closely at the alternative educational program presented in the “Art of Non-Conformity”, which Chris Guillebeau calls “The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School Experience”. All three books present excellent ideas, but I chose this one because it was so tangible, but at the same time, quite flexible.

It’s proposed to cost about $10,000 — which is much better than $40,000 — but let’s see if we can use some library resources to get the cost down even lower. You’ll see the building blocks of Chris’ program below in blue, with the Library Life Hack suggestions in yellow.

Subscribe to the Economist and read every issue religiously. Cost: $97 + 60 minutes each week.
If your library has Zinio, use that and your library card to access The Economist online. Failing that, come in to your closest library each week. The Economist is a standard title in most periodical sections. It’ll get you out of the house and you’ll save $123.
Memorize the names of every country, world capital, and current president or prime minister in the world. Cost: $0 + 3-4 hours once.
I definitely can’t improve on the cost, but if you head to the kid’s section, they usually have an electronic version of Encyclopedia Britanica, where you can find it all in one place.
Buy a Round-the-World plane ticket or use Frequent Flyer Miles to travel to several major world regions, including somewhere in Africa and somewhere in Asia. Cost: variable, but plan on $4,000.
There isn’t much I can do for the ticket price, but libraries generally have extensive travel sections. Use those to get the most out of what you spend on your accommodations, food, transfers, etc. They’ll also help you figure out what to go see when you get there.
Read the basic texts of the major world religions: the Torah, the New Testament, the Koran, and the teachings of Buddha. Visit a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and a temple. Cost: Materials can be obtained free online or in the mail—or for less than $50 + 20 hours.
Libraries will usually have at least one version of each of these texts. Based on the least expensive versions available from and, you’ll save $54.53
Subscribe to a language-learning podcast and listen to each 20-minute episode five times a week for the entire year. Attend a local language club once a week to practice. Cost: $0 + 87 hours.
Podcasts are terrific because they’re so portable. If you’re more of a visual learner, I can also suggest Mango Languages, which is accessible online with a current library card. Mango offers more than 50 languages, ranging from Azerbaijani to Yiddish.
Loan money to an entrepreneur through and arrange to visit him or her while you’re abroad. Cost: Likely $0 in the end, since 98% of loans are repaid.
I totally endorse this — I’m a Kiva lender myself.
Acquire at least three new skills during your year. Suggestions: photography, skydiving, computer programming, martial arts. The key is not to become an expert in any of them, but to become functionally proficient. Cost: Variable, but each skill is probably less than three credits of tuition would cost at a university.
Right now, three credits of tuition at the university I attend will set you back $670, so that’s a good-sized window to experiment with. The three I picked were photography, illustration and screenwriting. The total savings came to $272.03 and you can see the book lists here.
Read at least 30 non-fiction books and 20 classic novels. Cost: approximately $750 (can be reduced or eliminated by using the library).
I drew up a list of the ones I thought were most appropriate for my interests. You can find them here, and the money saved by using my library card came to $684.74
Join a gym or health club to keep fit during your rigorous independent studies. (Most universities include access to their fitness centers with the purchase of $32,000 in tuition, so you’ll need to pay for this on your own otherwise.) Cost: $25-75 a month.
Going to the gym may be an important reason to get you out of the house during your year of alternative schooling, which is a perfectly good thing. However, if you’re strictly focused on saving money, libraries have excellent video resources that will help you learn a home practice in yoga, pilates, and tai chi. You will also find libraries well-stocked with books on developing running and weighlifting programs. You can likely save anywhere from $300 to $900 over the course of a year.
Become comfortable with basic presentation and public speaking skills. Join your local Toastmasters club to get constructive, structured help that is beginner-friendly. Cost: $25 + 2 hours a week for 10 weeks.
Toastmasters has such an excellent reputation that I would hesitate to advise you to look for a free alternative. Bite the bullet and do the real thing. I think it’s worth it.
Start a blog, create a basic posting schedule, and stick with it for the entire year. You can get a free blog at One tip: don’t try to write every day. Set a weekly or bi-weekly schedule for a while, and if you’re still enjoying it after three months, pick up the pace. Cost: $0.
I can’t offer anything here, except that there’s lots of useful, current (and free) advice on sites like and
Set your home page to Over the next year, every time you open your browser, you’ll see a different, random Wikipedia page. Read it. Cost: $0.
Nothing to add here either.
Learn to write by listening to the Grammar Girl podcast and buying Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Cost: $0 for Grammar Girl, $14 for Anne Lamott.
Take “Bird by Bird” out of the library. You’ll save $13.68. Grammar Girl is still free, though.
Instead of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, read The Know It All by A.J. Jacobs, a good summary. Cost: $15.
If you take “The Know It All” out of the library, you’ll save $13.71.
TOTAL COST: $10,000 or less.
TOTAL COST: If you’re really determined, you can probably squeak through this year with just the cost of your travels and your Kiva loan. I’m going to estimate $6000.
*The total cost of the self-directed, alternative graduate school program does not include housing or food, but neither does the tuition for traditional school programs in the U.S. and Canada. Freedom and independence, however, are included at no extra charge.
*What he said.

Show Me the Money
This is already a pretty long post, so I’m going to wrap up quickly. Based on the items that I could actually affix a price to, if you embarked on a year’s studies like the one shown above, your library card would save you $1161.69. Now, that’s what I call a cha-ching!

Free Stuff!
Let’s close the doors to higher learning for now. There are so many exciting things happening in alternative education that I would need several more posts to cover them all. But for now, let me leave you with a challenge. Write up a list of the 30 non-fiction books and 20 classic novels YOU would read if this was YOUR year of self-directed studies, and send it to me at librarylifehack [at] In return, I will send you your very own copy of “The Art of Non-Conformity”. Absolutely free. Doesn’t get much better than that, folks. : )

Have a great week!


Note that the “The One-Year, Self-Directed, Alternative Graduate School Experience” has been reprinted here with the permission of the original author

It’s a Ginger Thing

Hello and welcome to Week 24! This long weekend, we have a life hack double header. Today we’re wrapping up summer with a post about homemade ginger beer and tomorrow, we’ll mark the traditional first day of school with a tour into the brave new world that is DIY education.

My first Rum Swizzle, courtesy of the world-famous Swizzle Inn

My first Rum Swizzle, courtesy of the world-famous Swizzle Inn

It was a dark and stormy night …
Back in June, I sailed to Bermuda with two dozen of my relatives for a wedding. Now, depending on who you talk to, the national drink of Bermuda is either:

a) the Dark ‘n Stormy : classic ginger beer and Gosling’s Black Seal Rum; or
b) the Rum Swizzle: dark rum, black rum, apricot brandy and fruit juices

Among my family members that are old enough to drink, this provoked a lively debate and much taste-testing. I found myself solidly in the Dark ‘n Stormy camp. Given that I already loved ginger beer, the Swizzle hardly stood a chance.

You Can Probably Guess Where This Is Going
When I got back to Canada, I thought it would be great to let my friends try the national drink that I had pledged my allegiance to. There was just one hitch – where to get authentic ginger beer? Canadian grocery chain SuperStore has one under its President’s Choice label, but I can rarely find it. My favourite organic grocer had Fentiman’s ginger beer, which is fabulous but expensive. This sounded like a job for … bum budda bum … Library Life Hack!

True Brews, I Love You
I located a great resource in the form of Emma Christensen’s new book “True Brews”. This is a gorgeous title with straightforward instructions for a whole treasure trove of fermented drinks. Just like Suzanne Dunaway, Emma’s encouraging writing style quickly had me believing that I could brew anything and it would be fantastic.

I call this one "Ginger Beer at Sunset"

I call this one “Ginger Beer at Sunset”

The soda chapter is extensive. There’s ginger ale, glorious-sounding fruit sodas and my lifelong favourite, root beer. In the end, the recipe I took into the Library Life Hack test kitchen was a hybrid of the “True Brews” ginger ale recipe (found on page 24) and the one found in Martin Zibauer’s blog on the website for Cottage Life magazine.

I made three versions: a regular ginger beer, a lime one and a spiced one with nutmeg and cloves. It took a single evening to knock together three 2-liter batches, which I poured into a dozen 500 ml bottles. (About the size of a normal bottle of beer.) The ginger beer carbonated up quite quickly. In two days, it was ready to go into the fridge and be tested by my co-workers.

Everyone’s a Winner
I was really happy with the results, given that this was the first time I’d ever tried brewing anything. Plus, I love that my ginger beer is all-natural. I mean, it’s not exactly health food, but it’s still better than commercial pop. I held a Library Staff Taste-Off, and all three flavours got votes — but lime was the clear winner.

If You Try This At Home …
… I would recomend a couple of tweaks. Because life hacks shouldn’t require fancy (or expensive) equipment, I disregarded the instructions for putting the raw ginger in a food processor and just chopped it up into little pieces. If you’re chopping instead of pureeing, I’d increase the ginger by up to 50%. I’d also use a molasses-based sugar like a demerara or a dark brown.

One other important note: pay attention to the instructions about opening the bottles slowly over a sink. “All-natural” also means “a tad unpredictable”.

And Now, the Dollars and Cents
The most expensive parts of this experiment were the bottles and caps ($19.78 for 24), and the new strainer and stainless steel funnel I splurged on ($18.88). The raw ingredients were ridiculously cheap. 6 liters of ginger beer (in US terms, that’s 1.5 gallons) used $9.03 in ingredients. That’s 75 cents per 500 ml, plus 82 cents for the bottle and cap. Compared to $2.49 for a 275 ml bottle of Fentiman’s, that’s a savings of $25.51.

Since the bottles are re-usable (but not the caps) and I couldn’t buy some of the ingredients in bulk (meaning lots left over for next time), the price on a second batch would actually drop down to a total of $3.59, or about 30 cents a bottle, including a new cap.

And finally, I saved an average of $17.34 by taking the book out of the library instead of buying it. That’s a total of $42.85 saved this week. Cha-ching!

Here’s the lowdown on this week’s book:

True Brews:
How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home
Written by Emma Christensen
Published by Ten Speed Press
Released May 14 2013
ISBN 1607743388

That’s a Wrap
My own favourite ginger beer is the spiced version and I’m planning to make another batch for Canadian Thanksgiving in October. I’m also excited about trying Emma Christensen’s grapefruit soda recipe next. Yum! Thanks for tuning in and come back tomorrow for the second half of this weekend’s double header. Happy Labour Day!