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Mar 26

Colton Dixon – Love Has Come for Me

Colton Dixon’s debut album, ‘Messenger’ won’t be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ (it’s pretty “upbeat” (read: rocky)) but you have to love the depth of the lyrics of his songs. I really hope this is having a major impact on the millions of people around the world who saw him on American idol.

I particularly love the lyrics in ‘Love Has Come for Me‘ (oh yeah and his final performance on idol, ‘everything‘ by lifehouse):

I tell myself that I can do better
Someday I’m gonna get it all together
Who am I fooling?
I am weak and prone to be The me that I will always be
So what’s left to do but surrender?

This is where I end And this is where You start
And everything I needed Is everything You are
Love has come for me
Oh, love has come for me

I’ve never understood but it’s amazing
The way you never let the past enslave me How do you do it?
Love the heart, the part of me
That desperately needs a remedy
I wanna be a life You keep changing

This is where I end And this is where You start
And everything I needed Is everything You are
Love has come for me
Oh, love has come for me

And I’ll go where You want me to be
And even though I may be broken
I can see Your love has come for me

I’m never gonna get it all together
So, what’s left to do but surrender?

Cause this is where I end And this is where You start
And everything I needed Is everything You are Love has come for me
Love has come for me Yeah, love has come for me
Love has come for me

Mar 17

Will the Next Generation of Kiwis Opt Out of Home Ownership?

I’ve been on a bit of financial planning binge over the last several months. This was prompted by a bunch of books I’ve been reading including the books from the ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad‘ series and a bunch of investment books (including shares, bonds and property).

Meanwhile there has been a house price spike in Auckland, New Zealand as can be seen from the tail end of the graph below (data from Barfoot & Thompson).

Interestingly, during this period, total returns are 21% or 4.2% per annum. Adjust that for inflation and you got a 1.8% return on your investment, hardly amazing. But that’s a subject for another post.

Auckland Housing Prices (Average Selling Price)

Average Selling Prices for Houses in Auckland sold by Barfoot & Thompson

Back in 2005 when we bought our current house (a 3 bedroom house on a small section on Auckland’s North Shore) we were able to get it with a mortgage of about 3.5 times our combined income. We then went overseas for a couple of years and came back ready to have our first child. Fortunately, my income had increased, so we could still afford our mortgage (3.7 times income).

These days, with two growing pre-schoolers, a wife who’s just finished studying and is returning to work our mortgage is a very healthy 2.3 times income.

Here’s the issue, like many of our peers (and generations before us) we’re now growing out of our 3 bedroom house on a cross leased section.

In previous generations they may have just added an extension (not possible with so little land) or simply moved to another house with only a marginal increase in their mortgage.

Even though our house price has to some extent kept up with house price increases, acquiring a four bedroom house on a full section in our neighbourhood would require us to increase our mortgage by 82%.

This would mean our mortgage was now 4.3 times earnings, without the likelihood of the dramatic salary increases possible in the earlier years of your career. [Note, this site suggests 2 – 2.5 times gross earnings].

Hillcrest Weatherboard House

This is actually the house we’ve most liked in our area. Well above the 4.3 ratio though!

So what am I saying?

There’s a lot written about housing affordability and the fact that people can’t afford a first home. I’m looking on one step further, even if you can afford a small first home, based on two incomes, what future can you look forward to when kids come along and you eventually need a bigger place?

The answer is pretty clear to me, either:

  • A lot more middle class New Zealand families will be renting their homes in the future (maybe from overseas residents (again a topic for another post))
  • A lot more middle class families will be forced to live outside Auckland
  • There will be a major correction in house prices as people refuse to pay the unaffordable prices
  • Many families will undertake a massive (possibly unsustainable) debt burden that will negatively influence their entire life.

The last point is the one I worry about. What does a society look like where families are toiling under the pressure of their massive mortgages? Unable to take holidays, struggling to put food on the table, unable to even think about supporting their community (either financially or in time)?

That’s why, I would encourage my peers and those just starting out their adult life to seriously think whether the traditional aspiration of house ownership is still relevant.

Oct 07

Virtual Savings Accounts by Kaha.biz

For a long time now I have been frustrated by the financial situation of wanting to have savings accounts so that I can keep my savings separate from my mortgage (e.g. saving for a holiday or a new gadget) but knowing that it’s a stupid thing to do financially since the interest rates are lower and you have to pay tax on the interest.

So…one day I was lying on the couch reading the Steve Jobs biography and I had a eureka moment.

“Why not design a website which replicates the savings accounts I have in the bank ‘virtually'”.

The idea is that the “real” money goes into my mortgage but an equal amount is put in a Virtual Savings account.

A few months of development later… Kaha.biz is born.

I’m super excited about the opportunity to share this site with the world, while also a bit nervous about whether people will understand it, enjoy it or just find a million bugs!

I guess only time will tell…

Aug 01

Windows Phone Calendar Items Disappearing

There seems to seems to be a fault with the windows phone platform affecting a wide group of it’s users wherein in the last couple of days (most users report on 31st July) their calendars are not syncing between windows live and WP7.

The primary thread on the microsoft site seems to be this one:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/winphone/forum/wp7-sync/all-calendar-entries-have-disappeared-from-windows/9b827bb7-6760-4fa7-ae7b-903e26211814?page=1

If you’re being impacted, hit that page an press the “me too” button on the top right.

That thread also highlights some suspicious product launches that may have caused the issue, but it’s all speculation at the moment.

Apparently the only fix at the moment is to hard reset. When I better solution is found, I’ll post it here.

Jan 16

Sony Music Unlimited Review

I’m about 1/3rd through a two month trial of Music Unlimited but like many trials, I’ve already made a decision about what I’ll be doing at the end of the trial.

Music Unlimited LogoPro’s:
– Affordable (NZ$15/month), essentially the cost of one digital album if bought on itunes.
– Great audio quality
– Songs are quick to load (i.e. not much delay between tracks or when selecting a new song)
– Huge catalogue
– Nice web interface

Con’s:
– Not available for Windows Phone
– Very slow to load on PS3
– Clunky interface on PS3
– Seemingly a resource hog on PS3, since you can’t do anything (e.g. look at pictures or surf internet) when Music Unlimited is running.

So I guess the good news for Sony is that the fundamental elements of Music Unlimited are solid.  But it’s all the usability aspects that are not up to spec.  So I won’t be using it.  However there are just two things which would make me change my mind.

(1) Improve the software performance on PS3 to load faster, have better UI and operate in the background while viewing photos (as normal music does on the platform)
(2) Develop a Windows Phone App which allows songs to be stored on the device (i.e. so that they’re not downloaded over the data network)

So Sony, great job on this product, complete the items above and offer me another trial.  In the meantime I’m going to check out the Zune Pass.

Jan 10

Blackhole Trojan ‘hopefully’ Gone

Firstly, I’ll start by apologising to anyone who visited this site over the past year or more since it was infected by a trojan/virus.  Hopefully you were sensible and had adequate anti-virus protection and were not infected.

I thought I’d better give an explanation for why the site had been down for several days…

A couple of weeks ago when I was home alone for a few days (I called it ‘bachelorfest 2011′ but that’s another story) I spent many hours trying to remove the trojan without wiping out a lot of work on my wordpress blogs.  It didn’t work, because when I came back on Sunday, the site was infected again.

I was faced with a decision, close down the site or just delete everything and build again from the ground up.  Obviously I’ve taken the decision to do the latter.

So I’ve finally got the site live, but there will be content that I’ve lost (such as the images in the post below until I re-upload them).  I’m not going to do too much work on the site for a few days (such as a new theme, adsense integration etc) until I get confident that the virus is gone for good.

If you ever come across anything like that on this site again, leave a comment and I’ll look into it.

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