Friday, December 31, 2010

Hot Pants!

More solar-powered items are coming out every day. And why not: it's free power! And soon a new American clothing line could be putting solar panels on you.
For the low low price of US$920 (!!!), Silvr Lining can sell you a pair of Go Urban Cargo Pants, which boasts "fly front, low-slung drawstring waist, and two back patch pockets with button down flaps". Oh yea, the main reason you might be mad enough to pay nearly a K for a pair of pants: "two side cargo pockets each comes with independently-functioning power supply."
The cargo pants are just one item in the new clothing line from Silvr Lining that can generate its own solar power - not enough renewable energy to power a small town, but the pocket-sized solar panels will be able to charge small electronic items like MP3 players and smartphones. As if US$920 weren't enough, if you want to charge more than one item with each solar panel, it's going to cost you another $20.
The collection also features solar-powered jackets and overcoats: ideal for the northern winter!
Just make sure you remove the solar panels before you throw your pants in the wash.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Wait For The Whalers?

The crew of Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker didn't let any time go to waste while waiting for the Jap whaling fleet to arrive in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Just before Xmas they discovered a Patagonian toothfish poacher, hunting an endangered species of fish commonly known by its marketing name of Chilean sea bass and sometimes the Antarctic toothfish.
The 70m vessel was hailed on channel 16, but took off at speed. SS crew members retrieved buoys - free of any markings or radio transceivers - netting and several kilometres of longline rope.
It's illegal to set buoys, lines, and nets without identification numbers or the name of the vessel. This along with the fact that the vessel failed to respond to the calls from BB and fled the scene immediately, were all clear indications the ship was poaching. The fishing vessel’s name, flag, and identification numbers could not be ascertained due to the long distance between it and BB.
Confiscating illegal longlines and nets from the Southern Ocean has been a regular occurrence for SS over the last seven years of their Antarctic Whale Defence campaigns.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Maui, Where's My Jawbone?

The cat's among the pigeons! The balloon is up! The fox is in the chicken coop! The genie's out of the bottle!
And maori are not indigenous!
New research by Janet Wilmshurst from NZ's Landcare Research shows maori first settled here between 1210 and 1385 AD! This is poles apart from maori oral history, which tells tall tales of the Great Fleet arriving in 800 AD.
Which is The REAL Great Fleet?
The research claims previous studies used radio-carbon-dated materials with a high level of error.
AUT Professor of History, Paul Moon, says the new evidence is based on 1400 radiocarbon dates from 47 Pacific Islands. Moon says people need to accept maori oral histories are open to interpretation, and may not be entirely accurate: "If maori reached NZ just 300 years before the first Europeans, people might also reconsider the idea of maori being indigenous. It could be interpreted as a different type of “indigenous” from the sort that applies to peoples who inhabited countries exclusively for thousands of years...this is something that might have to be faced."
He says the study's implications could also impact on the findings of the Waitangi Tribunal, which has repeatedly accepted evidence of a much earlier settlement date. Ironically, the mid-fourteenth century date for maori arrival was widely accepted up until the 1950s, when academics challenged it on the basis of maori geneology, and shunted the date back by hundreds of years. Now it looks like it'll have to be dragged forward again!
And at the same time, let's examine whether non-maori can claim for wrong-doings to their ancestors! Our financially-beleaguered country can thus claw back excessive payments to iwi by the Tribunal - whose judgements may be based on information now nothing more than the shifting sands of a land hooked by a mythical islander's grandmother's jawbone...yea, right.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Holidaymakers faced traffic tangles yesterday as they departed Auckland both north and south. They found the Northern Gateway toll road and the Kopu Bridge access to the Coromandel Peninsula crazy-clogged by so many others who'd had the same idea!
Congestion at the Kopu Bridge can be understood: the replacement is still under construction (due for top-off mid-2012), so the existing 82-yr.old one-lane bridge is the only option.
However you've gotta wonder why it was bumper-to-bumper for almost the entire 7.5km Orewa-Puhoi toll road on Monday afternoon!
"Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we..."
Usual northbound travel times were doubled - not terrific when you're off on holiday and unleaded petrol is nudging $2L!
The Northern Gateway problem is that two northbound lanes merge into one before the Johnstone's Hill tunnel, then merge again with vehicles from the Orewa-Puhoi coastal road on the one northbound lane beyond that tunnel. And the solution - a $1.65 billion four-lane highway from Puhoi-Wellsford (planned for completion in 2022) - is still in 'public submissions' stage.
There is a way past though, and why more motorists don't choose it is puzzling. Just exit at Silverdale before the toll road, and take the alternative Kaipara Coast Highway route (SH16) to Wellsford! This is always heavily promoted in pre-holiday advertising. Although the road's a little more winding with few passing lanes, it's scenic, only a tad longer than SH1 (68km vs 51km) and without congestion. Motorists rejoin SH1 at Wellsford less stressed, less time taken and well ahead of the pack too.
Then again, as this snarl-up always happens Dec.27th., why not delay travelling until the 28th.? Everyone's going on holiday so why rush anyway?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Longest Words In The English Language

And now for something completely different: a little light relief for all those anally-retentive language buffs out there (yes, including me!)...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Klingon Christmas Carol

What if Charles Dickens was a Trekkie?
Well, wonder no more. This year (only in America, of course!!) there’s "A Klingon Christmas Carol"... performed completely in the Klingon language!
The storyline of "A Klingon Christmas Carol" follows the familiar Dickens script: an old miser is visited on a hallowed night by three ghosts who shepherd him through a voyage of self-discovery.
The narrative has been reworked to match the Klingon view of the world, the universe and all that. For example, since there's no messiah nor celebration of his birth on the Klingon planet of Kronos, the action is linked to the Klingon Feast of the Long Night. Carols and trees are replaced with drinking, fighting and mating rituals. And because Klingons are more concerned with bravery than kindness, the main character’s quest is for courage.
Say WHAT...???
It's nearly 1½ hours long, with three fight scenes, 17 actors with latex ridges glued to their foreheads and a performance delivered entirely in Klingon - a language made up for Star Trek! Riiiigghhtt!!
The Wall Street Journal has details...
"Bah! Humbug!" - or should that be "BaQa'!"???

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ice(land) Block Ahoy!

When whaling nations feel a harpoon in their wallets, perhaps then they'll realise the rest of the world is sickened by the senseless slaughter.
That time may be nigh. Nineteen conservation and animal welfare groups (representing millions of US citizens) have asked the US Secretaries of Commerce and Interior to impose trade sanctions against Iceland, for its escalating defiance of international conservation agreements on commercial whaling.
A petition by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) on behalf of the ‘Whales Need US’ coalition and Species Survival Network, urges the US to impose conservation legislation known as the "Pelly Amendment" against Iceland. If this happens, it could deal a death blow to Iceland's whaling industry.
[The Pelly Amendment authorises the US president to impose trade sanctions against another country for “diminishing the effectiveness” of conservation agreements; in Iceland’s case, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which bans commercial whaling, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits international commercial trade in whale products.]
Iceland resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and dramatically increased its self-allocated quotas in 2009 to include 150 fin whales, an endangered species. In 2010 Iceland exported more than 800 tonnes of whale meat, blubber and oil (more than US$11-million) to Japan, Norway and the Faroe Islands... and made illegal shipments of whale products to Latvia and Belarus.
Any country that breaks international laws must be prepared for consequences. If these are whaling nations, so much the better! The Obama administration is taking a fresh look at Iceland’s renegade whaling and trade, indicating recently that it's “evaluating potential responses”.
Should the USA impose trade sanctions on Iceland, I wonder who'll be next? Japan? The Faroes? Can't wait...
PS: 27 Dec.2010 - The Federation of Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners (LÍÚ) believes it can legally continue to hunt whales. LÍÚ claims, when Iceland rejoined the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the country put a reservation on the commercial whaling moratorium: it agreed not to authorise commercial whaling before 2006. After that, whaling would not be authorised while progress was being made on the IWC’s management plan for sustainable whaling.
At the IWC’s 2005 and 2006 AGMs, Iceland warned no progress was being made in those discussions. No-one spotted the trap, thus Iceland was happily able to say that its reservation no longer applied and therefore it was open season again.
But as we all know, it doesn't take much for a whaling nation to "filibuster" a negotiation until it collapses, eg: Japan over whales and tuna at the 2010 IWC. Did Iceland do that at the IWC in 2005 and 2006, to help its own cause?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Public Spending In The Public Eye transparency in government spending?? Riiiiiiiight!
Bennett: "No, seriously...!"
A new cyber-mapping system will enable the public to track every taxpayer dollar spent through social services. Some details will still be kept secret for security reasons: places like Women's Refuge who deal with sensitive issues will have their exact locations concealed, which is logical. Well, ok then, almost total transparency...
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett: "Finding out exactly what services are funded and by how much, anywhere in the country, is now a few clicks away." The justice, health and education sectors will also come online soon, as well as Te Puni Kokiri (ahhhhhhh, now that one will be damn interesting...!).
English: "Yea, great *yawn*!"
The website - - has info from the Ministry of Social Development, Child Youth and Family, Work and Income, the Ministry of Youth Development, and Family and Community Services.
Deputy PM Bill English is trumpeting it as an important tool to see exactly how public resources help communities: he says the system has the potential, for example, to pinpoint troubled youths in one area which would then enable social services to identify them and help them to change.
Bugger that, I just wanna spot where all our money is being wasted!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dieing To Work For GAP

They work in almost slave-like conditions, sewing. Last week, more than two dozen were burned alive in an easily preventable sweatshop fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
These poor workers died making clothes for GAP, USA's US largest clothing manufacturer. This is the second time this year that more than 20 workers at a Bangladeshi clothing factory have burned to death.
The factory is owned by the Hameem group, Bangladesh's 5th.largest clothing manufacturer (whose website trumpets it has "an excellent track record in apparels manufacturing for last twenty years (sic)"). It's 10,000 employees produce clothes for a number of US and European clothing retailers, chiefly GAP (which owns brands like GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy). It is believed the factory was also producing Wrangler jeans.
$24 a month...
GAP said it's “terribly saddened” by the incident and will work with other brands supplied by the factory to "understand what occurred": it carefully avoided any hint of responsibility. GAP claims it makes both announced and surprise visits regularly to assess factory performance against its Code of Vendor Conduct.
But what does GAP do if a supplier is violating its Code? "We continue working with a factory as long as we believe it’s committed to making improvements. If a factory has very serious or repeated violations of our code and lacks the intent or ability to resolve them, we’ll terminate the relationship."
This is not the first time GAP's manufacturing partners have been embroiled in controversy. You may recall in August 2009, GAP's manufacturing operations were uncovered as causing serious environmental damage in Lesotho, Africa. And in June last year, several Hameem factories were set alight in protest at workers' deaths.
It seems well past time for GAP to lift its game. How many workers must die or fall seriously ill, before GAP determines its partners lack "the intent or ability" to make improvements?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Heritage or Hi-Rise

Such a shame...but who's to blame?
The Auckland City Council, in its questionable wisdom before dissolution, gave consent for a developer to bowl one side of Turua Street in St Heliers.
Coming down: seven buildings including three 1935-36 Spanish Mission-style art deco cottages and two 1890s cottages. Going up: a three-level office, shopping and apartment building.
Back in 2007, when the developer first applied, the Turua Street houses were identified in the St Heliers Village Centre Plan as "character-defining". So the application was publicly notified: people who felt affected by the decision could object, and the council had to take their views into account. A year later, the developers appealed in the Environment Court for the "character-defining" identification to be removed. This time, the resource consent was granted on a non-notified basis, meaning the council decided interested parties wouldn't get a say..!
And that's how these things get done: with no recourse except a judicial review (which they could not afford) and a last-ditch fruitless petition to the new ("don't blame us") Auckland Council for a heritage order, supporters were resigned to watch as workers began preparing the buildings for demolition.
But wait! Enter new mayor Len Brown (who stood for the mayoralty on a pro-heritage platform). He's met with the developer and architect about how they could redesign the development to let the three cottages stay. He's also stressed that the developer has a legitimate right to redevelop the land and people should remain realistic about possible outcomes.
PS: 06 Jan.2011 - Uh-oh, looks like the writing's on the wall...
PS: 21 Jan.2011 - An 11th-hour stay of execution...but for how long?
PS: 29 Jan.2011 - The bulldozers won...
Art deco houses are falling like flies and having three together like this was very rare. As more of these buildings are lost, so too is more of the soul of Auckland.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kestrel Comes Home

Kestrel is the last working survivor of Auckland's historic ferry fleet... and still going strong at 105.
Launched in December 1905, she has a kauri hull, at 39m long is believed to be one of the largest wooden vessels of this age left in NZ, and is unique in that she has two bows and two stems. A rudder and propeller at each end allowed the vessel to pull into a berth forwards. When ready to leave, the skipper would go to the wheelhouse at the other end - the stem then became the bow and Kestrel could steam back out the way she came in.
Over her working life, she was an excursion steamer and a cross-harbour ferry on the Devonport-Auckland run. After a multi-million-dollar makeover about five years ago, she begun her second century as a classy floating restaurant/bar in Tauranga.
Headin' home...
But after sitting vacant for several years, Kestrel was sold to The Kestrel Preservation Society in November, towed out of Tauranga Harbour and now resides back home in Auckland Harbour. The society hopes she'll become a key feature in the waterfront’s future redevelopment plans.
Many Aucklanders will remember sailing aboard Kestrel (and her sistership Toroa, currently undergoing restoration in Henderson) and will be thrilled to have her home. Perhaps the return of Kestrel will encourage more support for the Toroa Preservation Society's efforts...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Busted! Whale Meat IS Sold In The Faroes!

I found this (Sept.2010) story recently, and thought it worthy of further discussion.
Several times, I've highlighted the butchery of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. I was assured by several Faroese that none of this meat is ever sold, so imagine my great disappointment to read that an open and a "grey" market in whale meat exists on the Faroes!
Animal protection activists Andreas Morlok (Project Whale Protection Action, ProWal) and Juergen Ortmueller (Whale and Dolphin Protection Forum, WDSF) found pilot whale meat can be ordered in restaurants, and bought on the street!
Morlok: “Contrary to the insistence of the Danish and Faroe govts., we did uncover...a lively trade in pilot whale meat. It can be ordered in restaurants like Marco Polo and in the four-star hotel Hafnia and can be openly purchased in the fish market of the capital Thorshavn. Anybody can buy and consume whale steaks there, and this at an exorbitant price of 40-50 Euros per meal.”
The pair discovered an additional “grey” market for whale products. After a hunt (or grind) every inhabitant has a right to whale meat at no cost, so there's a very strong temptation to on-sell the meat, to those who want more and are willing to pay. The two were offered whale meat in the restaurant of the Hotel Sjoemansheim in Klaksvik: the chef said he'd "acquired" fresh meat, because the freezers were full after the slaughter of over 800 whales this season. And a man hiring boats sold them half a kilo of marinated whale meat.
None of this is ever sold. Yea, right!
As I've blogged previously, in Torshavn the biggest supermarket SMS sells minke-whale meat imported from Norway as a delicacy at a price of 43 Euros per 2.5 kilos. Up until now Norway has maintained the whale meat is only for 'own consumption' and that they only export whale products to other whaling countries like Japan and Iceland.
With this now out in the open, I look forward to comments from any Faroese who can put hand-on-heart and truthfully deny these activites actually take place.

PS: 29 April 2013 - Whale meat discovered being sold unlabelled on a Faroese ferry!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back On The Chain Gang

You know the tv ad: good kiwi bloke takes back what’s rightfully ours - a plate of our bloody fine lamb - from the dining table of a bunch of Euro aristo-snobs (if not, here it is......).
The ad's for Silver Fern Farms, a nice bit of patriotic post-colonial NZ humour. You'd be forgiven for thinking Silver Fern actually has the well-being of the average kiwi at heart...or at least running alongside commercial reality.
But no: what that ad persuades us to believe, and what Silver Fern actually thinks, seem to be poles apart.
Workers at Silver Fern's Te Aroha meat works in the Waikato had their pay docked... for observing an official two-minute silence to remember the 29 men killed in the Pike River mine disaster!
When staff downed tools and observed the silence, as requested by the prime minister, they lost two cattle each from their daily quota: the equivalent of between 98c and $1.60 for each worker.
Ok, so it's only a few bucks from each man but, when Silver Fern actually encouraged workers to observe that respectful silence, and then took a claw-back from each pay packet, that really sucks! And it probably cost the wages department more to calculate the deduction than what was lost in productivity! Petty, pathetic, unpatriotic: that's Silver Fern Farms' actions in a nutshell.
Ironically, just two days after the two-minute silence, the meat works was destroyed by fire. Divine justice, some might say...but it also means 300+ good respectful hard-working kiwi blokes are out of jobs right before Christmas.
Think I'll just stick to getting my meat from The Mad Butcher...what about you?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ducks In The Wind...

Amidst the pre-Christmas hustle-and-bustle, we all need something to give us a wee smile and boost our spirits.
Well, here's a video showing dogged determination...or maybe that should be "duck-ed" determination. Nothing was hurt (save perhaps Mother Duck's pride) and, for the ducklings, it seemed like just another day at the office.
I'm sure Kansas wrote a song about this..."Ducks In The Wind".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yearning For The Yen

Forget the rotten butter bombs, international protests, hi-tech speedboats...what may ultimately end the Japanese whaling industry is money.
For many years Sea Shepherd has harassed the whaling fleet, aiming to reduce their catch and bleed their bank accounts dry. Under the guise of “research”, the whaling industry has enjoyed massive government subsidies to help make up for a declining market. The last few years however have not been kind, especially with SS on their tails. Worse for wear, the Japanese whaling industry has received subsidies since 1998 of US$164-million of taxpayers' money.
Key findings from a report "Sink Or Swim: The Economics Of Whaling Today" (WWF, 2009):
+Sales of whale meat, blubber and other products have made losses for almost all of the last 20 years. Overall sales of whaling by-products have lost US$223-million since 1988.
+2008/09, the industry needed US$12-million subsidy to break even.
+Overall subsidies since 1988 total $164-million.
+Wholesale prices of whale meat per kg in Japan have been falling since 1994, from just over US$30/kg (1994) to US$16.4/kg (2006).
+The average amount of whale products stockpiled in the main cold-stores (about 40% of total Japanese refrigeration capacity) increased from around 1500 tonnes (1997) to around 4000 tonnes in recent years (since 2005).
[PS: 05 Jan.2011 - now 6,000+ tonnes/6 million+ kg: ABC News]
The industry costs Japan heavily, and the irony is that large-scale whalehunting has never been a traditional Japanese activity. Eating whalemeat on a big scale was only introduced post-WWII as a short-term measure: it is nostalgic "baby-boomers" in power seats that hurt their own country, by perpetuating this myth.
Japan suffers damage to it's global image, as more countries denounce its dogmatic whaling stance. Australia, the Netherlands, NZ, and USA issued a joint statement this month, confirming their combined opposition to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Australia is taking Japan to the International Court of Justice in an effort to stop the practice altogether (sadly NZ doesn't have the guts to join Oz's efforts, nor will it send a naval vessel down to Antarctica - becoz it's new tubs are still undergoing sea trials... and are riddled with problems!). Japan views such legal moves and protest actions as racist attacks on its very essence.
Meanwhile as of July 2011, new regulations from the IMO (UN International Maritime Org.) will make it illegal for the Nisshin Maru factory ship to operate below 60° south... the area where all the Japanese whaling is done. The new rules prohibit ships using heavy oil in the Antarctic Treaty System area, because of the harm a spill would cause. Furthermore, the IMO Guidelines For Ships Operating In Ice-Covered Waters put requirements on safety and hull-strength which the Nisshin Maru does not fulfill.
Weapon of Mass Destruction
Adhering to rules and regulations has never been the practice of the whalers, and I suspect they would drag out re-trials following any legal losses for years to come, and search for loopholes in the IMO ruling, while in the meantime continuing to hunt.
The bottom line though is...the money. The whaling fleet has lost a third of its hunting season this year, so will again be reliant on that financial safety net to survive. But sooner rather than later the Japanese government (perhaps under pressure from its taxpayers) will have to say: enough is enough.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TV Ad Flying Gays To The Brink..?

Air New Zealand is cutting an in-flight safety video showing a rugby player declining to kiss a male flight attendant...after complaints from the gay and lesbian community it could spur gay suicides!!
The airline cut a scene from its light-hearted video called "Crazy About Rugby". It shows All Blacks running through safety procedures for passengers boarding Air NZ flights, and features All Black centre Richard Kahui politely turning down a request to give gay flight attendant Will Coxhead a peck on the cheek.
An unnamed university professor (yeup, the academic stirrers are generally "unnamed", aren't they!) has raised concerns that the rejection could lead to gay male suicides. Oh, puh-leeez!!
Freedom of choice...
The airline's operations and safety manager David Morgan said it had not anticipated the scene being viewed as distasteful or causing concern, so have opted on the side of caution and got out the scissors.
Meanwhile Will Coxhead, a real-life flight attendant with the airline, said he was "absolutely gutted" by the complaints over a scene he described as a bit of fun: "I'm proud to be gay, proud to be an Air New Zealander and extremely proud of my role in the safety video."
Obviously some in Gay-land are being ever so slightly pwecious darling and need to lighten up big time. If the decline of a cheek kiss is gonna to push a gay person to kill themselves, then there're much bigger problems going on in that person's head!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's Paramount: Public Safety or Political Correctness?

A somewhat bizarre incident aboard a Cook Strait ferry on the weekend, when crew observed a man strapping small boxes to himself.
They kept a close eye on the suspicious-looking character, while armed officers waited at the wharf. Two men were searched before being taken away...and later freed without charge.
Turned out the boxes (known as tefillin) contained Biblical verses, not explosives - they're tied to one’s arm and forehead and are part of a Jewish prayer ritual. Followers would think nothing of doing this practice, but those unfamiliar could well be excused for thinking they were witnessing a terrorist act.
KiwiRail spokesman Kevin Ramshaw: “These may well have been part of religious observance, but to people who are involved in the travel business, there were what seemed to be wires attached to them.”
Unfortunately our race relations commissioner Joris de Bres feels the crew "over-reacted": “Just because someone is doing something religious in public doesn’t mean they are a terrorist. If you analyse what they were doing, it doesn’t lead one to think that a terrorist act was envisaged. I think it’s unfortunate. It reminds us of how we need to stop and think before we jump to conclusions.”
But this is not a one-off incident. Last January, a US flight was diverted after alarm prompted by a Jewish teen using a tefillin to pray: an attendant mistook his religious items for a bomb. Many US Orthodox Jews avoid using tefillin on flights to prevent such misunderstandings.
I would have thought that was good common sense...just like the response (not "unfortunate over-reaction") of the ferry crew. Pardon me Bres, but if someone nearby saw something that could... might... possibly have potential to end my life, I'd hope they point it out to someone in authority, rather than wait to see if it actually did go bang!
PS: 13 March 2011 - ...and it's happened again!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Commercial Reality or Emotional Betrayal?

We will remember them.
Poppy Day is the Royal NZ Returned and Services' Assn's (RSA) major fundraiser - on the Friday closest to April 25th., Anzac Day, volunteers accept public donations in exchange for a red poppy.
The poppies themselves are no works of art - just flat red paper, green plastic stem and small RSA label - but they represent the sacrifices of thousands of Armed Services veterans over the years. They also represent income for the makers, Kilmarnock Enterprises which provides work for intellectually disabled people.
Last week the RSA announced that Oz company Cash's had won the tender to make the 1.2 million poppies annually from 2012: parts sourced from China and assembled in Oz. Sad news for Christchurch RSA, which has made the national supply since 1931. But the writing was on the wall: this year the Auckland region also contracted a separate poppy supplier.
The Chch Press had a field day, yelling "Revolt over poppies" [Kiwis threatening to boycott poppy sales...oh really? Are we??] and "Battle lines drawn over poppies".
Personally I've heard no-one who's overly concerned. This is after all the 21st.century, and the RSA has every right to maximise its returns, to gain most benefit for its members. Outsourcing the manufacturing will have as little impact on public support for the RSA, as the change years ago from the more realistic twirled poppy with wire stem, to the current flat plastic-stemmed model.
The indignant few should remember their donation to the RSA helps elderly veterans and their widows: a withdrawal of financial support merely hurts the welfare efforts. If people feel that strongly about the impact on Kilmarnock's intellectually disabled employees, perhaps a donation to them may be in order too.
[PS: see also last April's post about the Peace Movement trying to cash in on RSA Poppy Day...that's far worse!]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Total Eclipse Of The...

That big hunk o' cheese in the night sky will be obscured by the Earth's shadow later this month, in the first total lunar eclipse visible from NZ in nearly three years.
In a lunar eclipse, the moon is obscured as it passes through the Earth's shadow. A total lunar eclipse only occurs when there's a full moon.

Tuesday December 21st is the day...or rather the night. But the eclipse will begin before the moon rises, so in Auckland it'll rise in partial eclipse. Further south the moon will rise in total eclipse, while the lower South Island will see only the tail-end of the eclipse.
The moon will rise at 8.36pm, mid-eclipse is at 9.17pm, and the eclipsed moon is likely to appear copper-coloured. You'll need a clear eastern horizon to be able to see it though. Over water would be ideal, and the further north you are, the better. In Auckland the eclipsed moon won't be visible until around 9pm. It will be necessary to use a higher vantage point like the top of one of the volcano cones to view it.
The last lunar eclipse was a partial one on June 26th this year. This will be the first total lunar eclipse since February 20th, 2008. The next lunar eclipse seen from here is a total eclipse on June 15th next year. 
Just thought you'd like to know...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who Saw Jim's Googly Bits?

This week in Florida, the state's Executive Clemency Board issued a posthumous pardon to Jim Morrison, former lead singer of '60s rock group The Doors, for indecent exposure.
Yeup, "The Lizard King" was officially pardoned almost 40 years after his death.
Florida took action against Morrison following a 1969 Doors concert in Miami, at which he's said to have exposed himself to the audience. Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek claims Morrison didn't ever 'flash' the crowd: "It never actually happened. It was mass hypnosis."
Riiiiiiiiiiiggghhhtttt!!!! So everyone in da house was doing the same trip, huh?
Hallucination or not, the pardon is for real...and somewhere out there, Jim Morrison is smiling.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"...nothing fundamentally wrong with it."

Woof! Woof! I'm a DOG!!
...that may well prove to be the understatement of the year!: RNZN captain of fleet operations Captain Dean McDougall commenting on the fault-prone offshore patrol vessel HMNZS Otago, which has had to return to Auckland AGAIN, after another problem in one of its engines (the third fix-it job since delivery in February).
HMNZS Otago and sister ship(wreck) HMNZS Wellington were in heavy seas way down in the sub-Antarctic region when the fault developed - not the best place for problems. They headed back home straight away to have the engine repaired, under warranty.
This problem is similar to one HMNZS Wellington experienced on her maiden voyage from Melbourne...but this time the Governor-General and his missus were on board! Nice one!
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says a full review will be conducted into the problems the new ships are experiencing: he says too many have occurred over a short time. Too right - if this was a car, we'd have called in Consumer months ago!
Meanwhile Fleet commander Commodore Ross Smith says the latest engine fault is a teething problem.
Oh come ON!! What will it take for you to turn "teething problems" into major dental surgery???

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"This Kitchen Is Shut! F*** Off!"

F*** OFFF!!!!
A kiwi promotor wants a taste of chef Gordon Ramsay...on a plate.
Ramsay's being sued for NZ$2.1 million for not doing a charity fundraising tour of NZ earlier this year: he pulled out of a June speaking tour after claiming his mother had suffered a heart attack. But Duco Ltd - the company that planned to bring him here - claims to have evidence showing there was no proof of a heart attack.
The Chance2Eat dinners were to raise money for medical treatment of 9-yr.old Napier girl Matisse Reid, who can't eat because of an intestinal disorder. The dinner tour was rescheduled for October - but again Ramsay cancelled. According to legal papers, he'd said that was because of a "business crisis" in the UK. But Duco claims that Ramsay was making public appearances at his own restaurant in Dubai.
This is just the latest setback for the master chef who's lost some of his most prestigious restaurants in the past two years in UK and USA. He's gone from being valued on the 2008 City and Guilds Vocational Rich List at £50-million...down to £4.3m in debt!
Meanwhile, Mattise's mum can't work in the US, but they must stay there to be able to take up available organs at a moment's notice. Matisse has been at the top of the waiting list for three years, but the organs needed are hard to get, so it's been a long expensive waiting game...
No comment from Ramsay: not even his trademark "F*** off!!!"
PS: 10 Dec.2010 - Matisse undergoes a 12-hr.operation...and may soon be able to eat her first ever meal!
PS: 12 Dec.2010 - After two intestinal surgeries, Matisse is in a "bad way"...
PS: 28 Dec.2010 - Matisse is back in intensive care after transplant rejection...did you enjoy your Xmas dinner, Ramsay?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boy Racers: When Will The Law Grow Balls???

Generally speaking, a boy racer is someone who thinks its clever to spend $10,000 tarting up a $500 crap car that's one Warrant Of Fitness away from the junk yard; fitting a stereo pumping out more power than the engine; removing the suspension, destroying what little handling ability it had; adding wheels that look like rejects for a ferris wheel; the exhaust must look like it's been nicked from an F16 Tomcat; and superglue on a ski-jump spoiler to obliterate any rear vision that might be available if one was sitting correctly (I've yet to find out why they drop the driver's seat so they're low enough to peer through the steering wheel, while also leaning over to the right like their spines are buggered).
Boy racers believe such modifications make a car not only "cool" but endlessly faster: most of these cretins obtain this valuable info from reliable motoring sources...such as their mates. Strangely, these modifications never seem to improve performance or handling, although they do seem to encourage regular replacement of melted tyres.
Boy racers are also rumoured to drive recklessly, because this impresses the opposite sex and compensates for their sexual inadequacy. The effect this has on sensible motorists and elderly pedestrians is not taken into consideration.
On TV last weekend the story of Ashley Austin, who six months ago lost control of his car and slaughtered four-year-old Nayan Woods on a Christchurch footpath. The report said Austin was driving his Nissan Silvia (a boy racer favourite) on a wet evening, saw a gap in the traffic and decided to 'shoot it', by chopping down into second gear and flooring the accelerator. Surprise-surprise, he lost control and killed an innocent child.
Any sensible motorist knows to wait for a large enough gap before entering the traffic, not 'shooting' for a minor hole by 'chopping' and 'kicking hard'. Especially not in a tricked car. And certainly not on a wet road.
Ashley pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death. Publicly apologised. Wrote letter to grieving mother. She in turn said she didn't want the tragedy to be the defining moment in Austin's life. The judge took all this into account, said Austin was a man of good character and had no previous convictions for any offending - so he lost his licence for three years, is doing 100 hours' community work, must wear an ankle bracelet and remain at home on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
This scrot was driving a vehicle which fitted the definition of a boy racer car! He was driving in a boy racer manner! Because of this, he took a life! But due to no priors (and the child's mother having a massively good heart!), he virtually walks away scot-free! Surely this is a case worthy of car-meets-crusher - with the added pain of this dickhead having to push the button to destroy his own toy!
When is the legal system going to grow a decent set of balls, take this problem by the throat and strangle the bloody life out of it?! Quite frankly, I believe the public expects more than this. We are sick to our back teeth of this pathetic "boy racer" culture, this public flaunting of their penis extensions...and just as sick of limp-dick responses to the problem!!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never Say Die

Less than two months after resigning from Sea Shepherd in dramatic fashion following his trial in Japan, Pete Bethune has founded a new group called the Earthrace Conservation Organization or ECO. This new organisation will focus not only on whaling but wider marine issues, from overfishing to habitat destruction and pollution.
Bethune: “We’ll be taking action all over the world, wherever we see environmentally damaging activities taking place. I’m not setting up in competition with any other groups – it’s not as though there’s a shortage of bad things happening. My goal is to see Earthrace Conservation work both independently, and alongside existing organisations wherever and whenever they’d like our help.”
While the organisation does not currently possess any vessels, land-based campaigns are being planned. One will be accompanying supporting volunteers to the Faroe Islands during the summer of 2011, to address the barbaric grindadráp which happens several times annually, in hopes of eliminating the needless slaughter of pilot whales.
Bethune was sentenced to jail for two years by a Japanese court, but it was suspended for five years.

How Bloody Boring!

An American couple has sued Google for taking Street View photos of their family home...and won.
But was it worth all the legal effort?
A US court this week awarded Aaron and Christine Boring damages of $1 on the trespassing charges, which Google has agreed to pay. Yes - amazingly - that IS the real amount of damages awarded: $1! And yeup - amazingly too - that IS their real name: Boring!
The Boring family sued Google back in 2008 for "privacy, trespassing, negligence, and unjust enrichment" after photographs of their Pennsylvania home showed up on Street View (just as pix of most of our homes did). A judge dismissed the case in February 2009 because the Borings had failed to prove the images had caused them any real distress. The oh-so Borings filed an appeal, and in February 2010, the appeals court said the couple could pursue their trespassing claim.
The *yawn* Borings did just that... and won! And the court awarded them... $1. Boring! Ya gotta ask: was it all worth it? The court pretty much asked the same thing.
From their perspective, I guess that's not the real point - it's the principle they were making a stand for, so right now they'll be feeling nicely vindicated.
Wonder what they'll do with the $1? Frame it?
How boring...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Pavlovas: Tell Us Something We DIDN'T Know!

Give it a rest already!
Fair dinkum KIWI tucker!
The Oxford English Dictionary has finally and unequivocally settled a long-running argument between Oz and NZ, over... *drum roll* who invented the pavlova.
All of us Antipodeans know that the meringue dessert was named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s. But many Aussies and Kiwis alike claim to have cooked the first pavlova.
However, in its relaunched online edition, the Oxford Dictionary says the first recorded recipe appeared in New Zealand in 1927. Australia's "pretender" pav didn't pop up until 1935. So now it's OFFICIAL. The - pavlova - is - kiwi!
And in case you don't believe me, here're the headlines to prove it!

PS: 14 Nov.2011 - Has the first-EVER pavlova recipe been found...?

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Boys Are Back In Town

We're baaaaaa-aaaaaack!
It was nice while it lasted!
But from tomorrow (Sat.4th Dec.) cars once again must share the two outside lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge with trucks.
It's been great to have some truck-free lanes on "The Coathanger": the traffic has flowed more freely and motorists have surely felt less intimidated than when boxed in beside a big rig.
The restrictions on heavy vehicles using the extreme left-hand lanes north- and south-bound are being lifted, because the NZTA’s 2½ year strengthening of the "Nippon Clip-ons" is complete: well done! The restrictions helped to reduce vibrations and keep the bridge stable during precision welding inside the box girders.
By keeping freight trucks off the "clip-ons", the work was able to be done at night with little disruption to the nearly 170,000 commuters who rely on the bridge daily.
Still to come over the festive holiday break is the annual reseal, which is done at Christmas when traffic volumes are lighter. Hmmm, wonder why they didn't do that at the end of the strengthening work, and kill two birds with one stone?
NB: Readers outside Auckland may wonder: what's with the "Nippon Clip-on" business? Well, soon after the Harbour Bridge opened in '59, it became obvious that traffic was far more than planned for. Duuuuuuhhhhh! So less than 10 years later, two extra lanes were "clipped" onto both sides of the bridge. The additions were built by a Japanese firm – hence the "Nippon Clip-on" nickname...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

A Sea Shepherd communique (Dec.1st) has raised the tantalising possibility that the Japanese whaling fleet may have thrown in the towel... well, at least that's what SS hopes.
Normally by now, the butchery flotilla would be en route to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary but (at time of writing the press release) it still hadn't left port. The whalers have not officially said they won't be back in the Southern Ocean, but they are acting as if they may not be.
This could be merely a ploy, however over the last ten years the fleet has consistently sailed between Nov.6th and 19th. It's factory ship Nisshin Maru is still moored in Hiroshima. At this rate, they've already missed up to a third of their hunting season.
One of the Japs' problems is that they don't have a refueling ship: their usual floating petrol station was scrapped in August due to old age. The whalers have had plenty of time to find a replacement, but their challenge is finding a company willing to charter a vessel for the Southern Ocean, risk SS harassment and be associated with illegal whaling.
Go, Gojira, go!
SS's three ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker, and Gojira will depart from Tasmania today. Gojira is the new name for the fast interceptor Ocean Adventurer and significantly, it's SS's first Australian-registered vessel, with Oz crew defending Oz territory and upholding the Oz Federal Court ruling. For the first time ever, SS will be ready and waiting in the whale sanctuary when the nasty Nippons turn up. The whaling fleet normally arrives in the Antarctic mid-December and starts the return voyage in March. So SS will be able to start it's campaign of harassment more quickly this year.
But for the first time in three years, armed Japanese Coast Guard officers will be onboard the whaling vessels to defend against SS interventions (a la Pete Bethune's boarding). Japanese weapons, coupled with SS's 'bullet boat' could make Operation No Compromise 2010-2011 even more volatile than last year.
That's assuming of course that the Japanese even come out to play... 
PS: 03 Dec.2010 - Down but not yet out, the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru left port yesterday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Mad Dog Gets His Bone!

Wikileaks unveiled 250,000 diplomatic documents last weekend, and what do we find? *Shock!*Horror!*Probe!*
Nothing that'll stop the world turning. No smoking gun. No cat out of the bag. No fox in the hen house. For all the mutterings in the corridors of Langley, the juiciest tit-bits so far (and I use that term intentionally) involve the Mad Dog of Libya, Muammar Qaddafi. Wait, stop the bus: maybe the fox is in the hen house...!
More tea, darlink?
Classified diplomatic cables reveal the 68yr.old Libyan leader actually has good taste! Seems he has a staff of four Ukrainian nurses - including one named Galyna Kolotnytska who's described as a "voluptuous blonde". Galyna is 38, and the only one of the four-gal team that knows Da Boss's routine inside-out. So just how well does she know his routine? Inside-out!
The cables state Qaddafi has female bodyguards rather than males, and say "it's unknown currently why he travels like that". Well, duuuuuuh, think about it!! Voluptuous? Blonde? Able to leap large beds in a single bound? Unt vis an irrrrrrresistable Rrrrrrrussian accent, and a 9mm Makarov tucked in her garter belt!
Galyna Kolotnytska, I cannot see the attraction myself. YEA, RIGHT!
See the attraction?
There's even *gasp* a suggestion that G and G are "doing the wild thang"! Wow, those US diplomats must have very high IQs: I'd never have figured that out! So...just how well does he know her routine? Say all together: inside-out!
Other earthshattering revelations are that Qaddafi loves horse-racing and flamenco dancing. So...? To hell with all that: the man likes blonde voluptuous Ukrainian nurses... inside-out!
Qaddafi, you've just risen in my esteem by mega-points! Go, you Mad Dog, you!