How to Use a Life

I was very interested to read Bob Jones’ article in the Herald entitled “Many Definitions of Happiness”

He says

We all have our own definitions for happiness. Putting aside family and friends considerations, mine is to wake each day with interesting and varied things to do; no more, no less.

Which I thought was a pretty nice definition actually.

And this is from a guy who has a property portfolio worth around $700 million.

And so a couple of questions come immediately to mind:

1)  Does one need a huge amount of money to “wake each day with interesting and varied things to do”?

2) Why such a simple requirement out of life from someone who has so much?  Like why doesn’t he want loads of fancy things like cars, planes, houses, clothes, attractive women around him etc. etc.

The answer to question 1, is surely, no.  You can be fairly broke and still have interesting and varied things to do each day.  In fact you can be on the dole and have your whole day to yourself to do many things as long as they don’t cost a lot of money.

But of course Bob’s simple desire does depend on a number of things such as: Living in a country where one is able to go about your business without being restricted by the powers that be, basic rule of law and so on.  There are many many countries where this is not the case.  So we’re pretty luck actually to live in a place where you can stroll down the road anywhere in the country, even stand up on a box and say the prime minister is a dick, or whatever you want to do and you will be left alone, as long as you are acting within the law.

The answer to question 2 is more complicated, but only a little.  The Lotto adverts show people leaping out of planes, quaffing expensive champagne on fancy boats and so on.  But this sort of lifestyle is appealing to anyone with half a brain for about 6 months.  If you carried on this way you’d be a 120kg miserable alcoholic.  You just can’t spend your whole life eating, drinking, getting massages or whatever.

And you soon bore of the fancy sports cars, the big pool at your  big house and all the other material things.

So what to do?  Well this of course is the eternal question…

In our westernised society you either have to find a job or start a business so you can pay your way in life.

I recently came across a couple of articles which discuss this really well.  The first is entitled “Don’t Do What You Love, Do What You Do” and is very good.  It references this article which discusses the whole “Do What You Love” fallacy in some depth.

And so I’m going to Do What I Do.


We Have a Maine Coon Cat!

A lady came to our house yesterday, to buy something Nic was selling on TradeMe.  She saw our cat and says “You have a Maine Coon cat!” and Nic’s like “What?”  The lady explained that her old cat had died and she recently bought a kitten and they were/are both Maine Coon cats – a type of cat that comes from the state of Maine in America and is the biggest domestic cat around.

And she paid $1500.00 for the kitten!

And so once we had power on again, last night, we Googled what they look like, and indeed he looks exactly like some of the cats in the photos!

Now we got this cat off my sister a couple of years ago – it turned up at her place – in other words it was a stray.  She tried to find the owner but couldn’t.  And since our cat Buddy had died some time ago, we took him.  We decided to call him Boots because all 4 of his paws are white .

So we got a $1500 cat for free (well around $600 after vet fees for microchip, neutering and so on).

Here is a picture off the net of a Maine Coon cat….


And here’s a picture of Boots in front of my 23 inch monitor (for size comparisons).Boots 800x600

They look pretty similar to me.


Update: This guy has one.  And in the last sentence he says:

If he’s hungry, you have to feed him or he will just annoy you.

Which made me laugh.  With Boots he is just so like that.  Every day I think to myself, right I’ll feed the cat and then I can hear myself think!


High Performance and Scientific Computing.

I’ve just finished a course in high performance and scientific computing.  It was run on Coursera by Dr Randy LeVeque from the University of Washington.

Man it was a good course, really good video lectures, slides, notes etc.  I think if I read all of the books referenced in the class I’d be reading for the next year!

I learned new things such as how to use a git repository for code, how to use a Linux shell (been ages since I used ‘nix commands), how to program in Fortran again, how to do parallel processing via OpenMP and MPI and some maths things too.

No certificate for this one, just the satisfaction of having completed it.

One thing I’m going to spend more time on is the parallel processing in IPython, especially via the IPython Notebook.  This looks really interesting and really powerful.  So I’ll have to do some of this shortly.

The London Property Market is the Same as the Auckland Property Market

Well to be more precise, the London property market compared to the rest of the UK is the same situation we have here with Auckland vs the rest of New Zealand.

This article is quite good:

Britain’s economy is dangerously imbalanced – just look at the London property bubble

The only way to correct the situation is to invest north of Watford

The Guardian, The average home in London costs as much as three homes in the rest of Britain.The average home in London costs as much as three homes in the rest of Britain. Photograph: Yui Mok

Treat the cause, not just the symptoms, doctors are urged. Yet in tackling the Great British fever over our housing market we are doing precisely the opposite. The policy quacks urge us to breezeblock the greenbelt. Or to let those garden cities bloom. Or to build up, to build out – to just bloody well build.

Valid as some of these suggestions are, they muddle manifestations of the problem with its root. The confusions are threefold. First, there isn’t a housing bubble across Britain, despite the government’s attempts to blow in as much hot air as possible. Instead, we have a London bubble – a giant one. Second, for all the angst-ridden commentary, that bubble can’t keep growing for ever.


The important bit in all of this for me comes right near the end:

This is the price Britain pays for treating London as a “world city”, and lavishing on it all the plum infrastructure and transport links. For bailing out the City, but leaving manufacturing to wither on the vine. For putting all the big-boy jobs in the capital and draining the rest of the country of their sustainable local economies and elites. That process has gone on for decades, and it will require decades to correct. Without strong local economies, HS2 and the rest threaten to turn more of the country into dormitories for capital commuters.

And especially the bit in bold.  The government did indeed help the finance boys, and pump money into infrastructure and housing.  We didn’t have the same bank bailout here, but we did have billions poured into infrastructure.

AND in both countries manufacturing jobs were not valued at all.  I’m not sure why, but to prop up this sector would have been viewed as being very 1970′s, protectionist.  And not the right thing to do at all.

And it’s this that also helps the housing market in both London and Auckland take off compared to other parts of the country I reckon.  Manufacturing used to be done in many cities in both countries – and good paying jobs were available to be had in those cities – you didn’t have to up-sticks to London or Auckland to get a high paying job, you could get one in a regional centre – and a very nice lifestyle to go with it.

But these days, if you want a decent paying job, the big cities, and more so, the one big city in the country.





Papakura Business Association – Not!

I own a commercial property in Papakura,  and that property gets levied approx $12000 per annum in council rates, of which approximately $1200 is a targeted rate that goes to the Papakura Business Association.

So along with all the other properties in the Papakura CBD area, the total rates taken from property owners and handed over to the Papakura Business Association is approximately $170,000.00 per annum.

This has been done for 3 years now.  So that’s a bit over $500,000.00.  And what has been achieved in this time? Well almost nothing.

There have been meetings, a few Santa parades etc.  But basically that half a million dollars has been frittered away and nothing concrete has been achieved.

There isn’t even a website!

When this was put to the Papakura Business Association convenor recently, she resigned.

Hopefully now things will start to move along and our money will either be returned to us or Papakura will start to hum.

I prefer the latter, but will take the former rather than see any more money frittered away.


Auckland Council up to it’s Old Tricks

Some things never change, even when they are in fact supposed to be in the process of change.

The government is trying quite hard to get Auckland Council to open up land so that more houses can be built.  But Auckland Council are of course not happy with this because it goes against their high minded ideals.

So they’re trying to screw developers as per this story from WhaleOil.

The culprits are Auckland Council’s City Transformation Team (CTT) – who are charged with brokering deals to get development to happen including arranging infrastructure and implementing Council ambitions that will hopefully regenerate parts of Auckland.  


In another world these would be laudable objectives.

The CTT really are Council’s henchmen – carrying out the dirty job of extorting freebies out of developers using infrastructure as the incentive.

Yep this is just what I have found in the past.  Councils talk about wanting more development in their areas, more jobs and so on.  And they have staff employed to do this.

But what they do is the reverse, they do everything they can to stop development, new businesses etc.

Glad I’m not developing right now.

Sanity Prevails

So this morning there was a mini-hearing into whether there would be a rehearing at the Disputes Tribunal into the judgement against Mike McDonald (formerly of McDonald & Co. Accountants).

I had to reread that sentence several times to make sure it made sense!

So, to explain, as per the last post, I got judgement back in late November 2013 against Mike McDonald.  He waited for nearly the maximum time and then applied for a rehearing.

He was arguing that there was no dispute, while disputing absolutely everything he could.  So this did nothing but get him nearly 4 months breathing space.  Today the referee ruled that the original decision stood.

But this was what he was after, a delay.  It’s taken around 7 months to get to this point.

But now things can move on…

A Good Use for Land

This is a nice story, some people are turning marginal farm land back into Manuka so that their bees can extract honey from the Manuka trees:

Unsuitable farming land now home to 900 hives


SummerGlow Apiaries Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ
FAMIY BUSINESS: The SummerGlow Apiaries family handle every stage of honey production, from the hive to the jar. From left: Bill Bennett, James Jeffery, Alan Bennett, Margaret Bennett.

It is a hot summer afternoon at SummerGlow Apiaries just outside of Te Kowhai. Bees hoon around the house, sounding like small cars coming and going on a highway.

From the front it looks like a small family operation: a house, three hives sitting in front of a truck, a shed out the back. But in truth it is a not so small family business, operated by founders Bill and Margaret Bennett, their son Alan and son-in-law James Jeffery.

What you can’t see is the 2200 beehives SummerGlow has spread around the country, including 900 hives on a new land acquisition in Taranaki.

SummerGlow purchased the 900 acres of marginal farmland late last year. Margaret calls it “razorback land”, steep and unsuitable for regular farming.

“Very poor soils, but perfect for manuka,” she says.

Rest of Article


Now this land would have initially been covered in bush, but cleared for farming.  Which is a stupid idea since it’s so steep and marginal to begin with.

But now it’s being returned to bush, which is nice to read about.

Celebrating Life's Little Achievements