four themes

I haven't posted anything meaningful here since June 2008. I think facebook has replaced blogging for me in a way. Anyway, recently I've been thinking about four themes.

1. Minimalism and Zen.

2. House prices in Australia.

3. Climate change.

4. Peak oil.

1. My flatmate doesn't seem to be interested in very much other than Zen Buddhism. In his room, there's nothing much except for his laptop, a PRS-505 book reader, some clothes, and "Everyday Zen" by Charlotte Joko Bech. I wish he would share the cleaning more but on the other hand he doesn't get in my way much.

There's also a guy at work, David, who reminds me a bit of my flatmate, doesn't care about whether things are dirty or neat, is anti-social, but is very minimalistic. There's not really any paper or books on his desk like on other people's desks. He doesn't have any interaction with any outside clients, for some reason.

I have a feeling minimalism is related Zen somehow after seeing this photo of Steve Jobs in 1982. Somehow, I feel clutter causes me stress, like my friend David used to say, he lived a bohemian lifestyle until his early 30s but now finds clutter stressful.

Anyway, I'm dealing with the clutter in my house. I sold some things on ebay, like the Apple shirt I got at the Chermside store opening (for $43.60!) I'm dealing with the paper by taking pictures of things and then recycling the paper. This helps me deal with the thought that "I might want to look at this again someday"; digital photos take up much less space than paper.

With the PRS-505, the Amazon Kindle, and the upcoming Apple tablet, I think we might finally be moving to a paperless office or society. I have to keep some documents for the tax office for 5 years, but that's about it.

I also want to keep my bedroom as clutter-free as possible, inspired by the book "Househould Management for Men". That should help me relax. Possibly even get it down to my bed and my piano. My sister told me about an architect Ole Scheeren who keeps his possessions down to two suitcases so that he's free to travel places. That could be the ideal. There's an article about the suitcase test.

I want to redesign the living room, maybe have canvas prints of my favourite travel photos instead of A3 laminated printouts or framed normal printouts.

I did redesign my home page, took my high school stuff off the resume, that's hardly relevant now ... I have a filing cabinet at parents' full of university notes that I have literally not looked at in ten years. So after I deal with my own place I'll deal with my room there.

2. It seems we're in a big bubble still, with the first home owners' boost propping up prices this year. But my friends at work still seem to want to get on the ladder. Suckers. Noel Whittaker in his book "Making Money Made Simple" (20th anniversary edition, which I was reading today) writes that it was hard to save a deposit and pay off a house in the days of the readers' parents, but somehow I think he's just out of touch, hasn't looked at median house price to median income levels or read Steve Keen's blog or BubblePedia. Australia's house prices will come down just like all the other Western countries' prices.

Question is, in the meantime, is the best investment (for the difference between rent and mortgage) shares, cash, gold, or something else? Gold and shares, too, could be in bubbles.

There was a comment on a blog I read today saying that young people have to not buy and live in communal arrangements, having singles avoid renting of two bedroom apartments, more for prices to go down, and another comment on Steve's blog that occupancy rates have fallen from 5.2 in 1901 to 2.7 in 2006 I think, and have only just gone up from 2.51 to 2.56 recently. Why do people prefer to live alone more often now ... ? which brings me to

3. Climate change. My parents, after reading Ian Plimer's book and hearing about Climategate, think it's a bit of a con. I guess I think the IPCC is right about their conclusions, but the authors of Superfreakonomics seemed to be suggesting a better and cheaper way to fix the problems than some emissions trading scheme. I'm cynical about some of the motives of the people pushing ETSs and carbon trading, financiers are happy to have another product to trade, creating more bureaucracy and they get to claim they're saving the world as well.

The other thing is the people at my work who seem to be the most rabid climate change activists are those who fly the most! It's ridiculous! They probably claim they offset it by ticking the box when they buy the ticket, but I am cynical about that too and wouldn't it be better to just not travel. Plus one of those guys has just bought a two-bedroom apartment that he'll live in by himself... propping up the housing bubble by buying before the FHOB finishes, and having empty rooms around the place is hardly the sustainable thing to do. He claims to have bought "400% GreenPower" but I couldn't find any evidence of such a thing. I wonder about the effectiveness of buying GreenPower, I should read more about it.

4. Peak oil. My gut feeling is that this is probably a bigger problem than climate change. The IEA coverup article basically said the International Energy Agency is lying about the amount of oil left in the world to prevent panic! That was scary. When oil becomes scarce, fertilisers and plastics are harder to produce, transport becomes more expensive, and there will probably be resource wars over the last pockets of oil.

I considered switching from my 2006 automatic Yaris (6.7 L / 100km) to a 2009 manual Ford Fiesta Econetic (3.7 L / 100km) (the new smart fortwo diesel gets even less, 3.4 L / 100km, according to toptem.info), but I still spend less than $1,000 a year on petrol, and the Yaris still works fine, I prefer driving an automatic car, automatics have higher resale value, on the other hand the Econetic has an aux in on the stereo ...

back to the topic ... it's scary to think what might happen. Updates at The Oil Drum. A lot of people are in denial. If peak oil arrives, property prices will change quite a lot, places close to the city centre or on (electric) train lines will become the places to live. If I really knew what was going to happen I'd buy oil futures, buy those properties, short sell airline shares, etc but if wars occur over access to oil these things like money will probably be the least of my worries.

I'd better work out what I want to do with my life and work on that to the best of my ability in case some of these worst case scenarios come to pass. And decluttering should be a good first step!