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.