Saturday, April 30, 2011

Has Japanese Calamity Saved The Whales?

It seems the Japanese whaling industry may have been kicked off the "take".
Japan's announced massive budget cuts to divert money for earthquake and tsunami recovery. In addition, its Fukoshima nuclear crisis is draining hundreds of millions of dollars from the treasury. So cuts across the board, including child support, senior citizen support and pensions, infrastructure repairs and maintenance. And if this includes the annual US$12million subsidy to the Institute of Cetacean Research (as it should do), then its unlikely the nasty Nippon whalers will be back in the Sthrn Ocean in December.
But some bureaucrats seem intent on blocking any environmental initiatives anywhere: Japan recently sent a delegation to Palau attempting to dissuade the island nation from working with Sea Shepherd.
The Republic of Palau
is about 500m / 800km E of the Philippines: 21,000 people on less than 500 square km. A Memorandum of Agreement signed in March authorises SS to work with its Division of Marine Law Enforcement, to safeguard a unique protected marine area designated as the world’s first shark sanctuary. It makes it legal and official for SS to utilise its basic modus operandi against anyone fishing illegally in the shark sanctuary. Japan offered (but not yet confirmed) Palau a patrol boat and operating funds, if Palau rejected the agreement.
I'm sure SS would be happy if Palau got a free patrol vessel and funding. Then SS could go to other Pacific island nations and make similar offers, which may inspire Japanese counter-offers. Perhaps Japan could be manipulated into providing fishery patrol vessels to the entire Sth Pacific! Of course, these offers are never free: the vessels would come with bribery strings attached, like compulsory support for Japan's continued whaling.
Amazing: in the midst of all its woes, Japan still finds time to bully anyone who works with SS. 
PS: 17 May 2011 - Under pressure from Japan, Palau withdraws from SS agreement...but will they still get a free patrol boat?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Plus Size TV: No Wide Screen Needed

Hands up who remembers Gilmore Girls... that sugar-sweet comedy-drama about a 30+ single mum called Lorelai Gilmore and her goody-good teenage daughter Rory, living in Stars Hollow.
The character I liked most was Sookie - she was Lorelai's best friend: a talented chef, a bit scatter-brained and klutzy, controlling in the kitchen.
Sookie was played by Melissa McCarthy, a 5ft.2" cuddly hotty. I was always surprised the scriptwriters didn't have a field day with her weight, but that would've alienated some of the audience the show wanted. I can't actually remember even one 'size' joke at her expense...
"Love me. Love ALL of me."
Melissa's about to start a run here on NZ TV in a romantic comedy called Mike and Molly (TV2, Sun.1st.May 8pm). It's about a couple who meet in a weight-loss support group. And this time, there will be laughs made out of the couple's size - in fact, that's pivotal to the whole show. I'm looking forward to seeing how the issue's handled. Ok, to be totally honest, I'm more anticipating seeing Melissa McCarthy...but that's a whole different story!
Another show I enjoy is Drop Dead Diva (TV2, Wed., 9.30pm): "A vapid aspiring model killed in a car crash gets brought back to life as an intelligent overweight lawyer, hoping to find the meaning of inner beauty..." Another leading lady, Jane Bingum (played by Brooke Elliott), who's not a stick insect! And again, she looks hot!
So why is US TV suddenly relating to larger people? Or are the producers merely using them to gawk at? Are they trying to attract the 60% of Americans classified as overweight? Have they finally realised that most viewers are not model-thin? Is "fat" no longer a dirty word? Is "being normal" now ok? Has "plus size" finally come-of-age?
So many questions. I guess the ratings will tell...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

RWC: The True Cost

I've said it all along - the *yawn* Rugby World Cup 2011 will cost us big time.
But, not being an economist, I could not have calculated such a huge deficit as was proposed in the Herald! "NZ will spend more than $1.2 billion on investments... but the RWC will make only $700 million in direct economic returns." That's - a - HALF-BILLION-DOLLAR - loss!!!
RWC Minister and all-round womble Muddling McCully said it in a nutshell (though he didn't actually intend to): "The important thing is to understand the scale... it's way bigger than anything we've ever done before." And that's true - have we ever before held any event with such a budgeted loss? This is the same minister who told us triumphantly (in Aug.2009) that RWC was only going to lose $40million and that was "small beer"! OK, Muzz, so now the entire brewery's gone down the gurgler!
Major upgrades of stadiums, ports and airports; the $12m inflatable rugby ball; signage and transport improvements; manpower costs; the "Cloud" piss-up venue on Queens Wharf... and the spending continues unabated with places like Hamilton being legally forced to spend $410k on upgrading its stadium lights. Jeez...
NZ Institute of Economic Research principal economist Shamubeel Eaqub: "The RWC was never that big. People got really excited because it's something to hang your hat on. People have blown this event out of proportion."
Naturally, fighting 'til the final whistle, RWC CEO Martin Snedden says this is all bollocks! He disputes the way the report analyses several costs and income streams, including ticket revenue and cost of upgrading stadiums and infrastructure: ''If this is intended to be a serious piece of economic analysis then it's incredibly flawed.'' But then, he would say that, wouldn't he? That's what he's paid to say.
Even now, long before the RWC has kicked off, Australia is thinking of bidding for RWC 2027! But they're saying their efforts will show the world how great NZ's 2011 RWC could have been. Ouch!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The REAL New Zealand Day

There are suggestions to move our national day to Anzac Day.
As our current NZ Day (*sigh* call it Waitangi Day, if you must!) slides further into a mire of maori dissatisfaction, more and more kiwis want a national day that actually feels all-inclusive.
Waitangi does not, and has not for years. It's become increasingly a native bitch-session, an opportunity to push the boundaries of civil disruption, disrespect authority and advocate separatism.
Anzac Day however has a respectful solemnity, a quiet remembering, a grateful acknowledgement of service and sacrifice. The steadily climbing attendance figures point to its growing importance in the NZ psyche.
A weekend TV current affairs discussion reached the consensus that Anzac Day was evolving quite naturally into a de facto national day, because of all the problems up at Waitangi. It celebrates nationhood - something the current day has failed to do for decades. But our PM does not favour any change, in either date or emphasis.
Some say our Trans-Tasman rivalry is artifical bedrock for the Anzac legend, that it's more a playground dislike of each other, which we only temporarily set aside when a bigger bully tries to take over the sandpit. If so, isn't that part of "brotherly love"?
If a change happens in the future, Anzac Day already has all its nationalistic ducks in a row: where else can you find white and brown NZers side-by-side against a common foe?
Journalist Richard Long feels a better idea would be Dominion Day (Sept.26), which marks the 1907 move away from 'colony' status. A problem with that is that most of us either can't remember Dominion Day or even what "the dominion" was! Re-education would take too long and basically mean force-fabricating a national feeling for that day. If the govt couldn't create an obvious national holiday to mark the loss of Sir Edmund Hillary (one of our greatest sons), there's no way it'll wind back the clock for Dominion Day.
Mind you, Richard Long was writing his article in The Dominion Post newspaper (the antecedent of which commenced publication on Dominion Day 1907), so perhaps, just perhaps, there was an ever-so-slight bias showing...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Money, Money, Money...

...but is it worth ANYTHING?
We think WE've had problems, getting through the recession. Zimbabwe's inflation has been the highest in the world: at 100,000% in 2008!!
If that's hard to comprehend, then get this: one hundred billion Zimbabwean dollars... buys you three farm eggs!
Little wonder the chap holding the ten million dollar note is laughing his head off: he knows only too well how badly crippled his country is, and that - quite literally - ten million dollars ain't worth the paper it's printed on!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Price Of Freedom

Visiting the old Hobsonville Cemetery recently, I noticed the gravestone of one Edmund Sager Midgley. An ornate carving, with his two wives reposing alongside, it also recorded the deaths of two sons and a grandson to war. That struck me as a very high price for a family to pay...
Edmund Sager Midgley was born in Yorkshire in 1848, son of farmer William Midgley and his wife Maria Sager. He emigrated to New Zealand and married Ellen Clark, an Auckland lass, at St.Ninians in Avondale in Jan.1890.
They had three sons: Sager Owen (b.1891), Percy Lionel (b.1892) and Herbert Latimer Midgley (b.1895). Ellen died in 1897, and Edmund remarried in 1899 to Margaret Hepburn nee Cantwell, an arrival from Ireland.
The lads may have had their imaginations fired by the news of kiwi soldiers battling the Boers in South Africa. Certainly the younger two left farming and stepped up to 'do their bit' during the First World War...
Pte.Percy Lionel Midgley #12/174 departed with the Auckland Regiment NZEF for the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. In the second week of the ill-fated campaign, on 8 May 1915, British forces made a frontal assault on Krithia village. In broad daylight, it was carnage: 6500 British casualties in courageous head-long charges, including 800 NZers. Percy Midgley died that day, aged 22. His body was never identified: his MIA notice appeared in the Evening Post 16 June 1915.
Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery is 1km SW of Krithia. It is the final resting place of 3,360 WWI servicemen - two thirds are unidentified. It also contains the Twelve Tree Copse (New Zealand) Memorial, erected to commemorate those kiwis who fell at Gallipoli and whose graves are unknown. It contains 179 names, including Percy Midgley.
Herbert Latimer Midgley also joined the NZ Expeditionary Force and went to France with the 1st NZ Cyclist Company, which performed valuable reconnaissance and communications work. Midgley #10370 rose to the rank of sergeant during his two years at the front, and was posthumously awarded the Military Medal (MM) for numerous acts of bravery under fire.
London Gazette, 11 Feb.1919: "Operations during Somme advance Aug-Sept.1918. On 3 Sept.1918, the 53rd Brigade wanted information as to the position of the enemy on the east side of La Tortelle river and also the state of the ground on the banks of the river. Sgt Midgley led a patrol out and came under severe machine gun fire, but he personally pushed on himself in full view of the enemy and tested the ground of the river bank. He bought back most useful information. On numerous occasions he has done valuable work under fire in a very cool and determined manner showing a splendid example to his men." Herbert was wounded shortly after and later died in a military hospital on 7 Nov.1918, aged 23. He lies in the Cambrai East Military Cemetery, Cambrai, France.
Having lost his first wife and two sons in 20yrs, at least Edmund's death in 1922 spared him from the loss of his grandson Andrew Herbert Edmund Midgley.
Andrew went to WWII with 4 Arm.Brigade, NZ Armoured Corps and was Mentioned in Dispatches (MiD) for bravery. Midgley A.H.E. #81144 served in Italy with 18th.Armoured Regt., which was equipped with Sherman and Stuart tanks, Lynx scout cars and a variety of other vehicles. As the regiment pushed back the German line and dashed for Trieste he too was killed in action, on 16th.April 1945 - just two weeks shy of his 26th birthday. He is buried in the Faenza War Cemetery, Italy.
Anzac Day: Lest We Forget.
(...photo of St.Ninian's, courtesy of Timespanner)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wellington's Waka Wimp-Out

$100K got the capital a pretty impressive canoe back in '89.
Built for the national 150th annvsy celebrations in 1990, Te Raukura – or “Wellington’s waka” – was meant to be the centrepiece of the new waka house. The focal point of the Wgtn.waterfront party zone for the upcoming *yawn* Rugby World Cup 2011, the idea was to display the 14m waka behind a glass viewing wall.
The canoe's been housed by Waiwhetu maori in Lower Hutt, since it went there for repairs in 2006. It was meant to be returned on NZ Day this year for the opening of the waka house. But the Lower Hutt bros refused (some dissatisfaction over their $25m cash-and-property Treaty settlement...the return of the paddleboat was caught up in the hissy-fit).
After two mediation attempts failed, High Court proceedings began. But finally a frustrated Wgtn.City Council backed down, caved in, wimped out, relinquished all claims to Das Boot. In return, it gets $150K from the Lower Hutt bros
which it'll spend on a new waka. So, the tally board:
Cost of waka: $100K.
Legal costs: $250K.
Cost of waka house: $11.5 million.
What ratepayers have: one empty waka house, $150K compensation.
In stepping down from the claim, court documents say: “While officers are confident High Court action would favour the council, it is also likely to be very expensive and will not contribute to positive relationships.”
Well, hello - if you're sueing someone for stealing your possessions, you'd go them for court costs too! As for "positive relationships", that'll need a bit more than a $150K Band-Aid to fix!
In my world, if you pay for something, it's yours. If someone does not give it back - then Houston, we have a problem.
PS: 20 May 2011 - Lower Hutt bros still haven't paid up! It's about to go legal...
PS: 23 May 2011 - The bros pay up, just in the nick of time!
PS: 13 Aug.2011 - The first of Wgtn's two waka has arrived...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Forgotten Battle Of Kap'yong

It's Easter Weekend around the world.
Here, we're just days away from commemorating Anzac Day on the 25th., the famous anniversary of the WWI assault on Gallipoli. And today is the 60th anniversary of New Zealand and Australia making another heroic stand together...
In 1951, these and other Commonwealth countries were fighting in Korea as part of the UN coalition to stymie the invasion plans of Nth.Korea and its Chinese allies. In such a short space as a blog post, I can't possibly do any justice to the efforts of those involved in the pivotal Battle Of Kap'yong, which was later described by a newspaper correspondent as "some of the bloodiest and fiercest fighting ever to take place in Anzac history".
At dusk on April 23rd., massive Chinese forces smashed a ten-mile gap in the front. They threatened to split the UN Army in two: had they not been stopped at Kap'yong, they may well have pushed all the way down to Seoul and captured the entire Korean Peninsula.
"Into the valley of death..."
All the fighting units involved have their own recollections, and they naturally vary according to their positions on the battlefield.
As far as 16th.Field Regt., Royal NZ Artillery went, they were firing their 25pdrs at almost point-blank range into wave after wave of seemingly impervious enemy. When the Chinese got under the artillery barrage and began to climb uphill towards them, gun trails were even lifted up so the barrels could be depressed enough to fire down into them. At one stage, the Chinese reached the gun lines and there was ferocious hand-to-hand fighting: my father recalled clubbing at enemy soldiers with a piece of 4x2 timber!
The Regiment was forced to withdraw to prepared back-up positions in the dark of night with no lights and, without loss, were rapidly back in action in support of the infantry.
NZ 25pdr in full recoil,
during Battle of Kap'yong
16 Fld Regt kept pouring heavy artillery near other UN units, being the deciding factor in multiple areas. The kiwi gunners pounded the enemy relentlessly but, despite heavy losses, the Chinese repeatedly threw wave after wave of troops into the artillery barrage in suicidal attempts to overrun the Oz positions.
For the next four days and nights the regiment fired without pause, the gunners - stripped to the waist - sweating over their smoking, paint-blistered guns. In the thirty hours preceding Anzac Day, they fired about 10,000 rounds! Oz casualties were heavy but the infantry, with the support of the NZ guns, accounted for an estimated 1,000 Chinese killed and 3,000 wounded.
At dawn on Anzac Day the Chinese massed for their greatest assault. Meeting the advance with murderous fire, the Australians piled up at least 500 enemy dead around their positions. Then the assault fizzled out. New Anzac traditions had been made.
For their deeds, 16th.Field Regiment received the Presidential Unit Citation from the President of the Republic of Korea.
Many call Korea "The Forgotten War", yet it contains one of the greatest stands in our military history. Australia commemorates it today, but there is NO service anywhere in Auckland remembering the 60th anniversary of the Battle Of Kap'yong...shameful.
[...recollections courtesy of Southern Gunners]

Friday, April 22, 2011

First To Honour The ANZACs

There's not much in Tinui.
Tinui's a small village about 40km from Masterton in the Wairarapa - only two streets and 16 houses. Its claim to fame is that it erected the first Anzac memorial in the world, and held the first-ever Anzac Day service.
In April 1916, the vicar of the time led an expedition to place a large wooden cross on top of the 360m / 1200ft. Mount Maunsell behind the village, to commemorate the Gallipoli dead, and a service was held on 25th April that year.
The unveiling of the cross only a year after Gallipoli underlined the impact of the Anzac campaign on the small community: 48 men from the village died there. The similarity between the bleak hilltop and the landscape of Chunuk Bair was not lost on the locals.
Despite being constructed of Jarrah hardwood, the exposed position of the location took its toll on the original memorial and, as a result, in 1965 the degraded timber cross was replaced with the present one made of aluminium.
Now the site is listed as a Category I historic place: this status is given to places of "special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value", and is promoted these days by the Air Force as a domestic alternative to travelling to Gallipoli. Numbers attending the Tinui Memorial Anzac Day service have grown to over 800, as more NZers become aware of the significance of this little village in our heritage.
As I said, there's not much in Tinui - except a big heart in the right place.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Social Networking Saves Snoopy

Westerners use dogs for work, security and friendship.
We have emotional ties with canine pets, and so were shaken by the story this week from China: "Hundreds of dogs being trucked to Chinese restaurants were spared a culinary fate after about 200 animal lovers mobilised to stop them ending up on dinner tables. A truck crammed with dogs was forced to stop on a Beijing highway by a motorist, who swerved his car in front of the truck and then used his microblog to alert animal-rights activists."
The dog-lovers caused a 15-hour standoff that jammed traffic, and eventually an animal-protection group purchased the dogs for 115,000 yuan (US$17,600). Many of the dogs had been stolen and were still wearing name tags.
This particular firm trucks similar loads to restaurants weekly, but won't face legal action because it had all the necessary permits. Initially it was the protesters who were likely to face the courts, for traffic violations! 
Eating dog and cat meat (both thought to promote bodily warmth and thus popular in winter) is widespread in China, and other countries too regard dogs and cats simply as meat sources [for more on the subject of dogs for dinner, click here...]
Until recently, this sort of protest action would've earnt the activists lengthy jail terms, but there're now growing numbers of similar actions in China. I've never been a believer in social networking as an accurate news source, but to drive citizens to action like this, it's superb. That's certainly been evident during the recent peoplepower upheavals in the Middle East.
Perhaps it may be able to initiate a movement to stop the consumption of dogs, cats and exotic animals there altogether. But to get these centuries-old traditions banned (especially across a country the size of China!), while not impossible, takes time...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

November Shoe-In

As if it was not clear before the Christchurch earthquakes, it's plain as day now: Labour has no hope of winning the 2011 Election.
It's been plagued by internal irritations and leadership fights, at the same time as the country has faced one of its biggest hurdles. That National was at the helm when Chch was blitzed was a godsend for NZ, as I doubt Labour was in any sort of condition to tackle such a catastrophe.
National was blooded by the global economic slump. To be in power when that arrived was like being dealt the deathcard for any party, yet National did as good a job as could be expected. None of us honestly hoped for a miracle, we just wanted to survive a situation that was not of our making. Then, when not out of the tunnel but surely seeing the light at its end, the earthquakes came...and National responded the way a govt should.
Ok, months down the track, slower-than-desired solutions are now causing local dissatisfaction in Chch and that's to be expected, given the magnitude of the problems and the small size of our country and resources. Nothing gets fixed overnight, but it feels to me that this govt has enough gaffer tape to at least hold it all together.
I don't believe Labour in its current form would've even been capable of opening a box of Band-Aids by now! I'm also sure that deep down inside, Labour knows this - perhaps that's why it seems more intent on nipping at the govt's heels, rather than showing nationalistic solidarity and supporting it's earthquake remedies.
Backing the govt's efforts would show a maturity and political savvy that may pay dividends down the track, but Labour's current shareprice has crashed. The latest 3News poll shows 78% of voters believe Mr Goff can not win this election. Even among Labour voters, only 35% think he can.
And the polls show National could govern alone - it's on 54%, Labour 34%, the Greens 6%, NZ First 2.7%, while the Maori Party (1.4%) and Act (1.1%) barely feature. Do the maths...
In times of crisis, most people stick with the devil they know: right now, no-one knows if Labour even knows what it's doing! I'm no political pundit, but it doesn't take a brain surgeon to pick the result of November 26.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vino Schmeeno

Sacrebleu! Great news recently that a kiwi pinot noir was crowned best in the world!
But don't expect to get your mitts on a bottle - even its makers are struggling to track it down.
Martinborough Vineyard's 1998 Reserve has topped the world's finest wines in California. Burgundys dominated the competition, taking three of the top five spots, but even the most prestigious - a $7000 bottle of 1990 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti La Tache - was trumped by this $200 Martinborough wine.
Just 300 cases of the '98 Reserve were ever made: Martinborough Vineyard has only 10 bottles remaining in its cellar, and is now trying to buy it back for $500 a bottle to replenish its stock.
The long, dry, summer of 1998 was regarded as one of the very best periods for pinot noir grapes in Martinborough.
Mind you, if you never get to taste this earthshattering winner (and let's face it, that's the probable scenario facing most of us!), take comfort in settling in for the evening with a $10 supermarket loss leader. It's been proven that most wine snobs are not able to tell the difference!
Psychologists have found that drinkers in a blind taste testing could only tell the difference between $6 wine and $50 wine about half the time. Specifically, 53% of the time for whites and 47% for reds...that's about the some percentage had they simply guessed.
So break out the cheapo vino and bottoms up!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Number Crunching In Norway

The Nrthrn.Hemisphere whaling season began on April 1st., but it is no joking matter.
Norway is one of only three countries defying the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling (along with Iceland and Japan). While many feel the Faroe Islands should also be on that list, the ban does not specifically include the smaller pilot whales butchered there annually.
Despite international opposition, Norway has killed over 9,500 whales since 1993. Between now and August, it hopes to kill 1,286 minkes (although it generally seems to catch only half its annual quota).
The Norwegian govt’s own data shows that at least 20% of whales do not die straight away, but suffer long agonising deaths. In 2010 investigators filmed the death throes of a minke harpooned by a Norwegian vessel... over 22 minutes! The footage shows there's no humane way to kill whales. Indeed, despite considerable investment and research by Norway, a more suitable killing method has never been found... but it still maintains that the argument - of whaling being cruel - is NOT enough to stop the hunts!
Perhaps it will be the money that talks loudest. Three animal welfare groups have released an economic study, revealing the Norwegian public’s appetite for whale meat is at an all-time low and the whaling industry is unlikely to survive without substantial financial support at taxpayers’ expense. The whalers themselves acknowledge their profits are slumping with smaller catches and fewer vessels involved in the hunts.
Norway says whaling is non-subsidised... but promotion, marketing and research do receive significant government funds. It is absurd that taxpayers’ financial support for whaling is almost as high as the value of the meat (just as is the case in Japan). Fewer than 5% of Norwegians eat whalemeat regularly. Notably, young people are particularly uninterested in trying it. The low demand is reflected by the fact that less than 20 vessels take part in the annual hunt and that less than 1% of fishermen are whaling – a maximum of 50 jobs this season.
As blogged in the past, Norway and Iceland export whalemeat to Japan - ironic when the industry there is suffering the same lack of support. Norway also exports to the Faroe Islands, despite Faroese' claims to the contrary.
This study illustrates why Norway needs to question its logic in sustaining an industry which is not only already in decline but also has diminished public support. Only a fool would deny that whaling is not only inherently cruel, it is also neither wanted nor needed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

One Small Pee For Man...

This photo is a rarity: it shows an odd tradition of Russian cosmonauts.
Just before taking their seats inside the space ship, they all have a leak on the wheel of the bus which takes them to the launching site. I believe this pic is the first time it's been caught on film in 40 years of space launches!
The tradition was started by Russian pioneer Yuri Gagarin, the first man to actually reach space - 50 years ago this week, on 12 April 1961. In Gagarin's case the pee was simple necessity, but now it's a beloved if rather peculiar tradition!
Gagarin died during a routine training exercise flight on 27 March 1968. Details of the plane crash were hushed up back then by the Soviet government, but the common belief now is that the plane tangled with weather balloons and crashed before Gagarin could recover.
His death was somewhat ironic, as he had been banned from any further space missions because his value as a Soviet hero was too high to put at risk. Gagarin insisted on flying though, and that was his downfall...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Paving The Yellow Brick Road...

Paved paths, roads and driveways look great, but the actual laying of the bricks is back-breaking, time-consuming work... or at least, it is if you do it the usual way.
A Dutch industrial company Vanku decided that squatting, kneeling and shoving the bricks into place on the ground was just too slow and hard, so it invented the Tiger Stone paving machine.
This 4m, 5m or 6m-wide device is fed loose bricks, and lays them out onto the road as it slowly moves along. A quick going-over with a tamper, and voila! Instant brick road, Toto!
A couple of human operators stand on a platform on top, feeding loose bricks by hand from its hopper into its sloping “pusher” slot – that's about the only human touch the bricks get, as the operators arrange the bricks into the desired finished pattern. Then gravity slides them together, in one road-wide sheet, down onto the sand bed.
A machine with two operators can pave at least 300sq.m. per day, whereas a single human paver on hands and knees manages about 75sq.m. So obviously a substantial saving in time, but the cost? The Tiger Stone is priced from US$82k-110k.
I'm curious: how does it pave around corners?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Shameless Vulture

A man who offered permanent NZ residency through tribal adoption was found guilty this week of altering a document with intent to cause loss.
In 2009 Gerard Otimi bullshitted illegal overstayers, that they could avoid deportation if they paid him $500 each to be adopted into his tribe.
The mostly Tongan and Samoan victims had their passports stamped and signed by Otimi, and were issued certificates giving them permission to remain in NZ as a hapu (kinsman).
The 32 victims were so desperate to stay that they believed this shyster. Otimi's scheme was a godsend in their eyes - a chance to remain in NZ 'lawfully', the removal of the overstayer stigma and relief from possible deportation.
As part of his defence, this maori rip-off artist (with previous history of suspect deals) dissed the court, saying it did not have jurisdiction to hear his case because maori had retained their sovereignty under the 1835 Declaration of Independence, and he claimed the Treaty of Waitangi was an "immigration document" that allowed others to come here.
This immature refusal to accept reality (which surely borders on contempt of court) is rife among the rabid fringe of maoridom (eg: the Harawiras, Popata brothers, Tame Iti etc). It drags the collective maori image down in the interests of personal greed, and does nothing to nuture racial harmony. Otimi's actions have also shown great disrespect towards his own people.
I don't know if Otimi has any authority in his tribe, but that doesn't give him any authority to override the laws of this land. I've touched on this subject several times in the past and will continue to point out that, regardless of our own political leanings, ethnicity, longevity in NZ... this is ONE nation and there is but ONE set of laws.
Anyone who claims otherwise has permanent right-of-residency in The Great White Cloud Cuckoo Land!
PS: 15 June 2011 - Otimi faces jail if he doesn't pay up.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Keeping Quiet Now Costs

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing".
A long-overdue change to some laws this week: the Crimes Amendment Bill (No.2) makes it punishable to keep ya mouth shut. Extended family and close friends of child abusers face up to 10yrs' jail, if they turn a blind eye and don't report abuse.
Changes have been introduced aimed at protecting children from abuse and neglect, including a new offence making people who are close to a family liable if they do not report abuse. This will stop people from dodging responsibility for abuse under their noses. No longer can people say they weren't involved: standing by and doing nothing makes you involved, and this bill makes it clear.
The changes were spurred by the 2006 deaths of the 3mth.old Kahui twins from severe head injuries. Gossips fingered the parents of the twins, yet the family closed ranks to handle it "the maori way". The amendment will mean cases like this must be dealt with in the legal way, or those shielding the abuser will also face consequences. After all, there can be only one set of laws for the entire population.
A loophole will also be closed of the "claim of right" defence, used by the Waihopai Three after they admitted vandalism of the Waihopai Spy base in 2008. This trio argued they acted for the greater good, because disrupting satellite transmissions could save lives in Iraq. The defence can now be used only where the person believes they have a personal right in the property concerned.
The touchy-feely Greens plan to oppose this - no surprise really, we can't have the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, now can we, Spock?
Overall, good changes - just a shame they're not backdated...to 2006.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pub Crawl #2

Going up: Pub Crawl #1, August 2010...
Engineers today continue gently-gently moving Auckland's historic Birdcage Tavern back down the hill to its original location.
The 125yr.old Freemans Bay tavern was built on what was then the waterfront, as the Rob Roy Hotel. You'll recall the 600-tonne building was moved 40m up Franklin Rd last year by hydraulic rams, to allow the Victoria Park tunnel to be built. The 450m $340 million Victoria Park tunnel will be open to traffic in November, three months ahead of schedule (but what a shame, not in time for the *yawn* Rugby World Cup! Awwwwwww!). It's 10m below ground and runs from St Mary's Bay to Wellington Street. Once completed, the tunnel will carry northbound traffic to the Harbour Bridge while the existing Victoria Park flyover will take traffic south.
The hotel's $2.5m relocation started yesterday and should be done by tonight. This has been an astounding part of the tunnel project, and the NZ Transport Agency deserves praise for its committment to the preservation of local heritage.
The 1886 hotel, now owned by NZTA, will be restored as the focal point of a new public square - the Rob Roy Plaza: it's not yet determined how the old building will be used. I'm looking forward to travelling through the tunnel...but (if it's opened once again as a pub) I'll be looking forward much more to a damn good opening night at the Birdie!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Another Bloody PC Victory

Britain is now allowing gays to donate blood, in a move bound to increase fears of catching HIV via transfusion.
The ban's being lifted...because the PC Brigade decided the rule could be discriminatory and might breach equality legislation. WTF??!! Ever heard of "the greater good"?
There's a catch though: gay men will only be permitted to donate if they haven't 'done the wild thang' for a decade. This 10-year pause ensures those unaware they have HIV don't pass it on accidentally. But the system's based on trust (!!!): there're no checks that donors are actually telling the truth and around 7% of sexually active UK gays are thought to give blood despite the ban. Donated blood is screened for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, but a tiny number of infections are missed because there can be a time lag before they show themselves.
UK gay rights campaigners pushed for the ban to be lifted, seemingly with scant regard for public safety, saying many homosexuals are in long-term monogamous relationships, have been celibate for years or practise safe sex (recent NZ statistics however show that's not the case here).
USA still bans any man who's had sex with another man since 1977 from ever donating blood. In NZ, gays can't give blood for five years following sex with or without a condom with another man.
I find it ironic that I'm barred from giving blood. Before my OE, I had donated 32 units of blood, and looked forward to continuing that when I came home. However on my return I was told, because I'd been in the UK during the Mad Cow Disease (CJD) scare, I might have contracted something which may manifest itself in 40 years from now...the blood bank has no CJD detection test so I'm persona non grata.
Ah well, I'm often told I'm mad as a meat axe anyway: if I live another 40 years, I'll be quite lucky!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shingle Street: What REALLY Happened?

Shingle Street is a coastal hamlet in Suffolk, UK.
Strange events there during WWII have fueled big rumours ever since...of an actual German invasion attempt!
Anecotal evidence says along the beach may have been a pipeline defence system, which could release a flammable mix to set the sea on fire: such devices were tested in the UK but there're no records that they were used in this area.
However, official documents of what may/may not have happened at Shingle Street in those desperate days were locked up by the British Govt for 75 years - not the usual 50 (why?) - until questions in the House of Commons led to their premature release in 1993.
The story goes that a small invasion fleet of German E-boats landed troops at Shingle Street, the pipeline defence was activated...and many burnt bodies were later retrieved from the beach.
A 2002 BBC report suggested the invasion was a fake, manufactured by the British Head of Propaganda during the war, who may have spread rumours of a failed invasion to boost morale. If so, then they went to great lengths, as the Suffolk Home Guard received many reports of an incident resembling this at the time. It's also been suggested that the rumours, widely reported in the US press, were a successful example of black propaganda, aimed at ensuring American co-operation by showing that UK was capable of resisting the might of the German Army.
Whatever the reality, there are too many eye-witness accounts and sworn testimonies to deny something happened at Shingle Street in August 1940...
defensive pipeline testing, WWII: no location named...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Of Fishing, Whaling and Sanctions

Pressure builds on Iceland over its current fishing policies, and not just from the European Union.
The UK's Whale and Dolphin Conservation Group is urging Brits buying seafood to question its source, claiming a lot of Icelandic fish comes from companies linked to the whaling industry: “The UK wholesalers buying Icelandic fish from whalers should be encouraged by the public to look elsewhere."
Iceland's about to be hit by EU sanctions after refusing to halt its self-declared 146,000 ton mackerel quota. The Faroe Islands (FI), which last month gave itself an even larger quota (75% larger than 2010!), faces the same.
smaller-scale than Japan,
but just as deadly...
In 2009, Marks+Spencer and Waitrose (UK retail chains that buy large amounts of fish from Iceland) publicly distanced themselves from fishing companies connected to whaling. And at least five major European food distributors terminated their FI seafood contracts specifically because of the continuing kills.
Iceland catches minke and endangered fin commercially. FI conducts numerous pilot whale kills annually.
Elin Brimheim Heinesen (a FI reader of this blog) made the point that "the more people outside the Faroes condemn them and punish them by not buying their export goods or by not travelling to the islands, the more isolated will the Faroese be from the rest of the world, and the more they will stick to their old traditions - which in the end means more pilot whales will be killed." And while that viewpoint has some validity, it avoids the positive outcome of ceasing whaling, and gaining more income from fishing and increased tourism.
Last year I received a comment from a Faroe Islander, bragging that because they'd killed a record number of pilot whales in 2010, the freezers were full. So let Sea Shepherd "bring it on", because they wouldn't NEED to kill ANY pilot whales in 2011. Riiiiiight! If that's the case, then why has the "grindadrĂ¡p" (the annual FI massacring of pilot whales) recommenced this year? Yes, an early start with the slaughter of 60 pilot whales in the last few weeks.
...in the meantime, Sea Shepherd is returning to FI this northern summer with Steve Irwin and Gojira, fresh from trumping the Japanese in Antarctica.
PS: 11 April 2011 - As if it doesn't have enough problems, Iceland has just voted NOT to repay UK and the Netherlands for £3-billion of deposits lost in a failed online bank! Does Iceland have a death wish, or what??!!
PS: 02 August 2011 - Norway has formally banned all mackerel and mackerel products from Iceland and the Faroe Islands in protest at the two countries' self-declared fishing quotas.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Little Bit Of Knowledge Is A Dangerous Thing

A nationwide outbreak of irrational panic is sweeping Korea.
The presence of insignificantly tiny amounts of radiation in some rainwater over part of Sth.Korea has children wearing masks and schools closed!
School boards across Korea, which is Japan’s closest neighbour, advised principals to use their discretion in scrapping outdoor activities to address concerns expressed by paranoid parents. An official communique said that schools should try to refrain from outdoor activities, so as not to alarm parents unduly with the current level of radiation reported.
Some schools near the capital Seoul actually did shut for a day. [So...what...the kids returned the next day and now glow in the dark??]
The Korea Herald even reported that the Sth.Korean govt had been considering making an artificial rainstorm to “block the inflow of radioactive materials” from Japan...but then the prevailing winds changed.
Gotta wonder just how much information is getting through...

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Shall We Call This, Then?

Names have started dribbling in for Hone Harawira's one-ring circus... even though he's still deciding whether he'll actually launch a political party for this year's election.
Foo, my party's gonna be THIS big, eh!
Harawira's been running a naming poll on his website, and says various options have popped up (including Tino Rangatiratanga, the name of his racist "up yours, whitey" separatist flag - gee, that was a surprise!). Personally I like 'The Bro-dy Bunch' myself.
Hone-bro's been the centre of idle speculation, that he might set up a new left-wing party in time for the November election. But bearing in mind how long The Maori Way traditionally takes to consult, ponder, debate and finally decide, I'll be surprised if this happens. HH says any decision will be down to his Far North followers in the Tai Tokerau electorate, who've backed him as an independent. And supposedly a new party wouldn't be able to contest the four Maori seats presently held by the Maori Party, under the divorce deal agreed when he left. But his continued sniping at his previous pals has led them to consider taking the gloves off.
HH's said a decision will be announced on April 30th. Shame it wasn't done 29 days earlier: that would've been far more appropriate!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Waka Tacky Tiki

Tighten your belts - the country's in trouble! Oh...but hang about, here's $2mill.for a giant plastic maori canoe. WTF???!!!
Plastic culture
A very hush-hush government grant for a waka-shaped "cultural pavilion" is being slammed...and rightly so! The govt's flicked the dosh to Ngati Whatua o Orakei for a 60m-long 15m-high plastic canoe-shaped pavilion on Queen's Wharf, in which to host cultural performances during the *yawn* Rugby World Cup [here's some concept artwork of it].
Flak is inbound on all sides - in fact the only people happy with this 'slip-it-under-the-radar' project are the govt and naturally the iwi (tribe) itself, which gets to own the pavilion for nix! Its trustee Ngarimu Blair says the money will be well spent: "Maori are also taxpayers and we like to see our taxpayer dollars going on things we also enjoy." Riiiiiiiiiight!! But is this for local maori? Or is this for tourism? Remember, the last "cultural performance" venue that opened in Auckland? It crashed under millions of dollars' debt. Why should this monstrosity, plonked on prime harbour real estate, be any diifferent? Surely if tourists wanna be screamed at by halfnaked men with eyes agog and tongues dragging on the ground, they'd go to a marae for the whole package and a microwaved hangi.
Critics say the project is an appalling use of taxpayer money, and the plastic construction damages NZ's clean green image. When the government is already borrowing more than $300 million a week, this is very difficult to stomach: $2mill.on an 18-day project works out at about 110K a day for a blow-up waka! I'm instantly reminded of those cheap plastic mass-produced tacky maori tikis from the 70s... choice, bro.
But it's a done deal: construction's already underway and should be finished by early October.
Who knew, huh...? Did anyone hear any calls for public consultations? Any requests for tenders? Does anyone smell an election year carrot?
Mark my words, once the *yawn* RWC is over, this thing will end up on the scrapheap...!
PS: 07 April 2011 - The Opposition's called it Tupperwaka cronyism! Spot on!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

NZ Police: Armed...Or 'armless?

police glock pistolDespite nine officers shot dead in the last two years, our new Police Commissioner says he's not going to arm every NZ police officer.
The Police Assn has called for all front-line police cars to carry handguns, warning last month it would take a person on a shooting spree before the step was taken.
Commissioner Peter Marshall says arming officers will not increase their safety. He says the officers he's spoken to don't want to carry guns: they want greater access to firearms (an important difference).
Marshall says it's likely firearms will be held in more lock boxes in police cars. Last year, the Police Assn was pushing for every front-line patrol car to carry a Glock pistol, in a lock box between driver and passenger. Yes, it's another step closer to permanent arming, but research shows half the force and half the public do want police to be armed all the time. The fact that 50% of both groups don't makes the lock box a good compromise.
Norway is similar in population and policing to NZ (it's the only mainland European country without police fully-armed 24/7), and lock boxes seem to work there. RIP Snr.Constable Lee Snee, May 2009
The way shootings have escalated over the last decade, if something like the lock box is not tried soon, our officers will end up armed anyway – out of self-preservation.
In 2002, NZ introduced laws increasing minimum sentences for police killings from 10 to 17 years, but this has not worked as a deterrent. To be honest, it's hard to know what will.
Arming the police won’t stop these incidents either...but it may give our protectors a bit more protection themselves.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Music In The Clouds

Many people do it. Download songs to computer.
If you want to listen to 'em on the road, you copy to your iPod or iPhone.
Amazon, with its online music store in competition with Apple, has two problems with that. (1) your library is scattered between home, work and mobile until you sync it together and, if your library is big, you can fit only some of it onto your phone. (2) Amazon naturally wants more people to buy music from it rather than iTunes. So it's launched software to resolve this...
Instead of sitting on your computer, your music collection sits online (or “in the cloud”). That way, you can listen to it from any computer anywhere, by logging into a special web page - the Amazon Cloud Player.
You can also listen to your entire music collection on an Android phone. No copying or syncing of music is ever required: your songs are always available everywhere, and they use no storage on the phone itself. Lotsa other functions too. All of this is absolutely free! Well, sort of.
Song files are pretty big. One huge advantage of the "cloud" is - moving those hefty files to the internet frees up computer/phone space. Amazon offers 5Gb of space free - enough for 1,200 MP3s (and buy more storage at US$1 a Gb per year).
You can store more than music files too: there's also the Cloud Drive, an online hard drive like the Apple iDisk or Microsoft SkyDrive. You can store anything here: photos, documents - anything you want to back up or retrieve later from any other computer. Even if you never use any of Amazon’s music features, this 5Gb online drive is free to anyone who wants it. (You can view the photos and play the music you’ve stored but otherwise, it’s just a place for parking files, not opening them.)
And if you buy an album from Amazon’s music store, your Cloud Drive gets bumped up to 20Gb for the year at no charge. Any songs you buy from Amazon don’t count against your storage limit (if you start with 5Gb free and buy 20 songs from Amazon, you still have 5Gb free).
Of course there're always a few thorns eg: Cloud Player is available only in USA. It only works on Android phones...but that'll be because Amazon’s system competes directly with Apple’s. It’s not clear how private your files are, or if they’re even yours. Amazon does not guarantee your files' security. You’ll have no music anywhere there’s no cell service or internet hot spot, unless you download to laptop or phone in advance, but that defeats the whole purpose. And yes, there are similar products available...
However, as another product in this highly competitive field, the Cloud Drive/Cloud Player sounds worthy of further consideration...if it's ever available to the rest of us: there is life outside the States!