Charity and money

Years ago I decided I wanted to donate at least 0.7% of my income towards charity.

Over the weekend I was doing my tax, and calculated it: for 2015-16 it’s 1.32%. Cool.

About half the annual total is Oxfam. Other regulars include Greenpeace, The Salvos (though I mean to check their latest position on homosexuality, as for a while there it was looking pretty medieval), Amnesty. The regulars, of course, have been set up as direct debits – though note I refuse to deal with chuggers.

The rest is ad hoc stuff like sponsoring friends for charity events, Royal Children’s Hospital (Good Friday), Public Transport Not Traffic etc.

Meanwhile in the high finance stakes, I’m being urged by some family members to refinance my home loan and get an investment property.

Refinancing is easy thanks to a friendly local mortgage broker. But investment property? It all seems very adult… and time consuming, though probably worthwhile. Do I really want to contribute to the stupidly high appreciation of home prices?

New umbrella (again)

Excuse the radio silence. I’ve had a really bad cold this week.

In our last exciting installment of my quest for a durable, reliable, compact umbrella, I was on my third Senz Mini.

The first had been replaced under warranty, the second lost, and the third… sadly, it has started to fail me. As did M’s one last year.

Leaving aside the lost one, that’s two in four years. That’s really no better than standard $30 umbrellas. It’s not as if I use it every day.

I love the Senz shape, and I know they keep refining the design, but I just can’t keep buying them at $70-80 a pop based on this track record. The larger Senz umbrellas might be fine, but I think the compact/folding ones are just a little too delicate.

So I’ve bought myself a Blunt XS Metro (A$89), the same brolly I bought for M to replace her Senz.

The Blunt coverage isn’t as good due to the shape (the Senz wins out on that). And it’s not compact enough to fit into a pocket when folded. But it looks lovely, and hopefully it’s more durable.

If not I guess I’m just going to give up and buy lots of the cheapies.

Do I need an umbrella at all?

Something in my DNA tells me that, as a dedicated walker and public transport user, I need a good umbrella in my work bag. Perhaps it’s my half-English blood. And growing up in the city of four seasons in one day.

But I do see a significant number of people wandering around Melbourne on grey days without umbrellas. I’ve made sure we have a couple of spares by the front door at home, but my kids almost never use them.

I think for now I’d prefer to keep one handy for rainy days.

I need a new phone

On Thursday night my phone, a Nexus 5 that I got about three years ago, finally started playing up.

Android phone booting

It would continually boot, with a buzz, and a proclamation on the screen of “Google”! Then repeat. Bzzt… Google! Over and over.

Scouring online, I discovered this is a reasonably rare, but not unique, situation. The power button was jammed down.

The next morning, before work, I went looking for solution. No problem, said people on the forums… there’s a quick and simple fix. And they pointed to a Youtube clip someone had uploaded showing how to do it.

Quick and simple. Get your jewellers screwdrivers (okay, I have a set), take off the cover, then remove the battery, unplug all these ribbon cables, then…

At the point where they said to take out the motherboard, I thought yeah, this isn’t going to be the kind of quick and simple fix done just before going to work.

Then I found another suggestion in the forums:

Give the phone a good whack against the side of a desk. A couple of hits and the power button may go back into place.

I tried it. Bang. Nope. BANG. BANG. There it is! Wow, it worked! All without pulling the phone apart.

Except… no. It couldn’t be that easy, right? It wasn’t. 36 hours later it was playing up again. Bzzzzttt… “Google”!

So I need to buy a new phone.

The Nexus 5 had been excellent. Three years is a long innings for a smartphone, and over that time it hadn’t slowed down markedly, and Google had kept feeding it updates, without them having to be filtered through the phone manufacturer and phone company first. (In fact, they’ve only just announced updates for this model will cease in a few months.)

So I wouldn’t hesitate to get another Nexus.

For now I’m getting by on a borrowed HTC Desire 510. It’s functional, but I’m reminded of how much bloatware HTC and the other manufacturers and the carriers put on Android phones.

The Nexus 5’s replacement, the Nexus 5X (RRP $579), has been getting good reviews, and might be a good option.

And apparently in the next few months a new set of Nexus phones are expected.

No, I wouldn’t go an iPhone (SE from $679 RRP; 6 from $929). I love Apple’s hardware, but I love that I can plug an Android phone into any computer and move files around — I couldn’t stand being locked into iTunes and Apple’s ecosystem.

The chains of Bentleigh

My local suburb is increasing in density, and (not entirely disconnected from that) it’s also interesting to see how the retail strip is doing.

The shopping centre has grown around the railway station, which is still the epicentre, though the east side of the tracks is where most of the busiest shops are located.

The chain stores (often referred to as “anchor tenants”) have maintained their presence here, and in fact new ones are moving in.

  • The banks may have pulled out of many suburbs (leaving only an ATM of you’re lucky) but the big four (Commonwealth, ANZ, and Westpac, as well as Westpac subsidiary Bank Of Melbourne) are staying. NAB strangely doesn’t list their branch on their own web site, but I’d swear there is one near the station (see above).
  • The three big supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and Aldi have branches. No IGA though – there is one in nearby East Bentleigh.
  • Target is on the site of an old Coles variety store
  • Medicare was here until last year; it’s now closed. But there is a post office and dealers for Telstra and Vodafone.
  • Real estate agent offices abound: chains include Woodards, Buxton, Hocking Stuart, Hodges, Century 21.
  • Flight Centre and some smaller chains such as Glick’s bagels, Cartridge World, Discount Lollie Shop and Paint Spot. Brumbys and Baker’s Delight also have branches
  • And food giant of the moment Domino’s pizza, as well as Crust Pizza and Nandos chicken and Subway are all here, though other fast food outlets such as Maccas, KFC and Hungry Jack’s seem to prefer to be on the highways or major arterial roads.

All these chains sit alongside hundreds of individual retailers, who while they might compete, are probably glad that the chains are there to bring in the shoppers.

Chemist Warehouse, Bentleigh

The newest chain store arrivals are Mexican restaurant Taco Bill’s and Chemist Warehouse, the latter taking up residence just a couple of doors from Priceline… they must be delighted.

I suspect restaurants benefit from more local competition, growing the local market of diners. I’m not sure the same can be said for chemists. 

Despite the utilitarian warehouse design of Chemist Warehouse (well, it is in the name), I don’t mind them — though I’m always amused by their advertising. “Australia’s Cheapest Chemist” it proclaims, but if you look closely it actually says “Is this?” in front of that. So technically they’re not making the claim, they’re asking the question. Hmmmmmmm.

Moved to Chemist Warehouse, Bentleigh

It turns out Chemist Warehouse is not a new pharmacy — it’s a moved and rebranded one. Perhaps not a surprise – the Pharmacy Guild has strict location rules preventing too many chemists in one area.

These rules were recently extended by the government until at least 2020:

Rules that restrict new pharmacies from opening near existing pharmacies will be extended for another five years despite numerous government-commissioned reviews recommending they be abolished. — SMH 18/5/2015

That aside, rebranding is a clever move. I rarely saw anybody go into the old chemist. The new one has brand recognition and more promotion — and already, from what I’ve seen, is getting a lot more customers.

I guess that’s the advantages of being part of a chain.

Other rail-based suburbs I’ve lived in, such as Murrumbeena and Glen Huntly, may not have the benefits of lots of chains, but it’s pleasing to see them still getting customers in, thanks to things like quality local cafes.

Hopefully all these local centres will continue to thrive. They’re so much more interesting than the malls.