Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whalemeat Sold At Iceland’s Main Airport

Success for an undercover investigation into whale meat sold at Iceland’s Keflavik airport.
minke to go
It not only prompted the UK Foreign Office to issue a warning to Brits, but also led to a dramatic overnight removal of the meat from the airport’s Duty Free stores.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) revealed last week that Iceland was openly selling whale meat packaged for export at the airport. If they bought the meat, travellers risked arrest for importing an internationally protected species.
WDCS and AWI caught store staff on camera wrongly advising that whale meat could be legally taken into the US. In fact, such citizens could face arrest and prosecution under several US laws for illegal wildlife trade. Travellers returning with whale meat to the UK, EU or many other nations that comply with a ban on international trade in whale products face similar penalties.
Thousands of UK tourists visiting Iceland each year have now been warned by the Foreign Office: they risk penalties that include jail or fines up to £5,000, as importation into Britain and other EU countries is illegal under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
Despite its removal at the airport, whale meat is still sold in other stores in Iceland. WDCS recently ran an awareness campaign aimed at tourists visiting Iceland, after revealing a staggering 35–40% of the meat from minke whales slaughtered by Iceland is eaten by tourists!
Chris Butler-Stroud, CEO of WDCS: "It is impossible that Iceland is unaware of laws that prohibit imports of whale meat. It's making a mockery of international law."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Big Stitch

On the Southern Motorway, I saw a sign advising closures on the Newmarket Viaduct this coming weekend.
Big Blue on the Newmarket Viaduct
It's a bit of needlework going on. Almost literally. What NZTA calls The Stitch.
You'll be aware that the roading contractors have fitted the final bit of the new northbound viaduct jigsaw puzzle into place, using Big Blue - the huge lifting gantry that's now an integral part of the Newmarket skyline.
230+ concrete segments, each averaging 70 tonnes, are in position. But now they need to fill the 1.5m-wide gap between the new viaducts to make one complete structure: hence "The Stitch".
The viaducts will be concreted together this weekend over 18hrs, from 6pm Saturday 3rd to midday Sunday 4th.
Obviously it's necessary to close three of the four southbound lanes during this. Diversions for southbound drivers will be in place from the Gillies Avenue offramp to the St Marks Road onramp. Once that's completed, work will continue to prepare the new northbound half of the viaduct for traffic. Switching traffic will happen over Auckland Anniversary Weekend in late January: on that weekend, all three northbound lanes over Newmarket will be closed for 36 hours to link the motorway to the new viaduct.
The coathanger...
+ ...meanwhile the usual summer resurfacing work will continue on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, during the lighter traffic flows of the Christmas/New Year holidays.
The two southbound "clip-ons", as well as Shelly Beach Road off-ramp, will close from 5am Boxing Day-Thurs.6th Jan. Three lanes northbound and three lanes southbound will remain open on the bridge throughout the work. Cook Street southbound off-ramp will also be closed during this period.
(...thanx to AKT)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Poo Power!

Here’s a motorcycle that doesn't leave anything to waste - because it's powered by excrement!
The curious creation, called Toilet Bike Neo, has been made by Japan's leading toilet manufacturer Toto and uses a modified lavatory and a mobile laboratory for poo processing.
Bizarrely, the rider is even encouraged to use the portaloo as much as possible on every journey, as the waste is turned into biofuel which powers the machine. Presumably the rider is also encouraged
to use discretion when taking part in the "personal refuelling" option!
The company hopes the travelling toilet, which can reach a maximum speed of 50mph, will help reduce CO2 emissions by 50% in the next six years.
The three-wheeled chopper is currently completing a 600-mile promotional tour of Japan. Sorry, I haven't managed to discover how many miles the rider gets, out of one standard bowel movement...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mana Island Unwelcome Visitor

One little rat - one big problem.
But the Department of Conservation is confident it'll be able to catch the rodent spotted on Mana Island. It was detected by live motion sensors. A DOC spokesman says there could be more than one rat, but they're sure they'll be able to get 'em all! Tracking tunnels and traps have been laid out, and a rat detection dog will be there for the next week. Once cleared, DOC will have to wait two years before the island get its pest-free status back.
Mana Island lies off the SW coast of the North Island near Kapiti Island - close enough to the coast that it's possible the rat may have swum the distance or hitched a ride on driftwood. More likely, it's arrived on a boat. (You may recall the three-month hunt for a stoat running free on neighbouring Kapiti Island earlier this year.)
In 2009, the 3km long island was selected by the Global Restoration Network as one of NZ's top 25 sites for ecological restoration. It has many native animals and plants that're rare on the mainland: Cook Strait Giant Weta, Shore Plover (only 200 remain in the wild), North Island Robin, Takahe, critically endangered Whitaker's Skink, Wellington Green Gecko, Yellow-crowned Parakeet, Brown Teal, Diving Petrels, Fairy Prions and Fluttering Shearwaters. Planned transfers include: Tuatara, Little Spotted Kiwi, a subspecies of carnivorous snail, and a range of threatened plants.
So Mr.Rattus is definitely persona non grata there!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Makin' Bacon With Facebook

Ever heard of the Kevin Bacon Game?
Connecting a movie star to Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon if they're been in a film with him...the higher the number of “hops” between an actor and him, the higher that actor’s Kevin Bacon Number is. [Here's a link to the Oracle Of Bacon, where (using the International Movie Data Base or IMDb) you can find out your favourite actor's Kevin Bacon Number!]
The game's origin is a 1960s experiment which claimed every living person is connected to any other through only six friends. Now, according to a recent study, Facebook has reduced those "six degrees of separation" to only four! The study shows 99.6% of all pairs of users are connected by paths with five degrees (six hops), 92% are connected by only four degrees (five hops), with the average distance between users getting smaller over time.
Facebook also put out another study about the average number of friends on Facebook. According to that, 10% of people have less than ten friends, 20% have less than 25 friends, while 50% have over 100 friends. The study shows even in an online social network supposedly crossing the boundaries of geography and age, people tend to have friends their own age and in the same country.
The research also shows that if you limit the analysis to a single country, the “four degrees of separation”
theory shrinks even further, with most pairs of people being only separated by three degrees.
And all of these contacts are real genuine deep-and-meaningful friends. Riiiiiight.
Anyway...Kevin Bacon's coming to my barbeque next weekend: nyah-nyah! (if you don't know who he is, maybe you should've skipped this entire post).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Torshavn Snack Time

Another "grindadráp" in the Faroe Islands this week...
Dozens of boats herded a pod of pilot whales into a bay near Torshavn last Tues.22 Nov., as locals took part in another traditional whale massacre. The blood-letting continued in the twilight while the Faroese Coast Guard vessel Brimil stood by. Why such a show of force was needed is anyone's guess, as Sea Shepherd's presence departed in early September.
According to a Faroese government statement, there've been five whale drives between January and September this year, with a total catch of 406 pilot whales. That's on a par with 2010, when 1107 pilot whales are slaughtered in 14 grinds.
The American Cetacean Society says pilot whales are not considered endangered, but there has been a noticeable decrease in their numbers around the Faroes.
Update: As more info comes in about this grind (22 Nov.), it seems only deteriorating weather saved an enormous super-pod from massacre.
Multiple pods had formed into a group estimated to be 1,000 strong, spotted off the island of Streymoy. As a helicopter hovered above, boats from Torshavn and neighbouring villages arrived, racing against the approaching darkness and approaching storm. The decision was made to drive the whales to Sandágerði (the authorised killing beach of Torshavn). Changing currents made the whales hard to herd: finally the huge pod was split into four groups, the first group of 81 being driven towards the shore and the waiting knives...
The remaining 900 whales were only spared by winds that refused to relent and caused the rest of the slaughter to be cancelled. The storm ultimately reached hurricane force, damaging FI houses and boats before moving on to hit Denmark and Sweden.
This was the third grind in the past week...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

No ANZAC Help

In the lead-up to Operation Divine Wind ("Kamikaze"), Sea Shepherd has again asked New Zealand and Australia to send a navy presence into the Southern Ocean. But despite the vast majority of NZ voters supporting a ceasation of whaling (under any guise), our government will once again sidestep the issue...claiming no doubt that with the general election this weekend, it can't possibly consider such a request. Yea...riiiiight.
Last year SS offered an olive branch to Greenpeace, inviting it to enter the fray. Just one more vessel would've ended the nasty Nippon commercial whaling much earlier. GP did not respond.
So SS will be there again without any outside help, and a long way from assistance, should Japan escalate its response - as it did with the deliberate ramming of Ady Gil (Jan.2010). Bob Barker will be ready to depart from Hobart in Tasmania, while Steve Irwin and the hi-tech vessel Brigitte Bardot will leave from Freemantle, WA. Rumours of an Oz naval vessel heading south have been refuted by Oz Environment Minister Tony Burke. The whalers usually depart between Nov.6-19 (except for last season, when they sailed early Dec., so again this year they're running late).
SS claims over the past seven campaigns to have saved over 2,700 whales and last season was able to save more whales than the whalers were able to kill! The nasty Nippons, calling it "research", have killed about 10,000 minke whales since 1986, with no scientific breakthroughs to show for it. The international process for granting it legitimacy has been exposed as wildly corrupt.
It will be interesting to see what the extra $40m security beef-up this year has bought the whaling fleet...and what it's game plan will be. Hmmm, let's start with:
Day One -
(1) accidentally ram and destroy Brigitte Bardot.
(2) sail factory ship Nisshin Maru below 60°S latitude line.
(3) armed snipers practise head-shots on environmentalists.
(4) time for morning tea.
Needless to say, this year's campaign will be no picnic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News Teams REALLY Onto It! NOT!

Ain't it reassuring to know, when ya pick up a newspaper or - more likely these days - Google the latest news, that the reporting agencies are right on top of a situation.
After all, that's what they're there for: to - keep - us - informed.
So I was most relieved to be told by TVNZ last Sunday 20 November that the cargo ship Rena, stranded as it has been off Tauranga since early October...IS ON A LEAN.
*Shock! Horror! Probe!* Ok, maybe it was a slow news day...or perhaps the news sub had only just cottoned on to the fact that Rena has been on a severe cant for six weeks now!
So, TVNZ appears to be 1½ months behind the times...but Stuff.co.nz has got that beaten hands down! Yesterday (Tues.22 Nov.) I was told by Stuff that "Khmer Rouge trio accused of Cambodia's worst horrors".
No shit, Sherlock! It wasn't Huey, Dewey and Louie! This happened in the 1970s, and that's the best headline you can come up with NOW? Ahhhhh, maybe the journo wasn't even born then...this may be all NEW to him/her! *sigh* 
Surely journalists or sub-editors can come up with far more relevant and accurate headlines than these?!! That is after all their job, their responsibility...
But wait, here's another from yesterday, via NZ Herald:
Surely the core of the story is not that Little Timmy didn't really mean to hurt his mate when he tried his knife out on his arm. Any half-decent journo would have followed the real thread, which is: WTF was Little Timmy doing with a knife at school in the first bloody place?!!! 
Are journalists these days simply writing column inches...are they still capable of actually hunting out the real story? I wonder...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sign Of The Times

After 20 months of debate and more than 33,000 votes, it's finally all over for the Wellywood sign.
Public voting on sign options for Wellington's Miramar Peninsula was overwhelmingly in favour (18,000+) of Wellington - Blown Away, which says Wellington but has windblown letters at the end.
I was pleased to see the PC Brigade didn't hijack the vote in favour of a giant taniwha eye on the hill (11,000 votes)! That would have been just plain stupid...and dare I say cultural insensitive to non-indigenous NZers?! LOL Mind you, isn't the whole issue of a sign also stupid?
Many still maintain the option of no sign at all would have been a winner, instead of one that so closely paradies the iconic Hollywood sign - which in itself was simply a real estate hoarding that became a symbol of the area (the original Wellywood idea garnered only 3,000 votes).  But 'no sign' was never an option.
So the question will always be: why was the airport so adamant it would erect a sign, regardless of public opinion? I guess, BECAUSE IT CAN! Still, it's all academic now: Wellington International Airport will build the sign by March next year.
Hmmm, is that offer of free beer, for anyone who rips the sign down, still available...?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Natalie Wood Returns

Three decades after her death, the ghost of a drowned actress rises again.
Actress Natalie Wood (wife of film star Robert Wagner) died myseriously in the Pacific 30 years ago. Police have started a new investigation into the events of 28 Nov.1981, when the actress fell from a yacht she was aboard with Wagner and fellow actor Christopher Walken.
Her sister Lana Wood always doubted the official version - that Natalie drowned after falling from the yacht unnoticed when she tried to clamber into a dinghy. She adds she does not believe Wagner was involved in any foul play, but thinks he has not revealed all he knows about that night. She says the coroner's conclusion made no sense...as her sister was terrified of the water.
It Takes A Thief (1969)
The case has re-opened after Dennis Davern, the yacht captain, said he'd taken part in a cover-up at Wagner's request. But police point out the 81-year-old former star of the long-running Hart to Hart tv series is not a suspect. Marti Rulli, strong supporter of Davern, has submitted a dossier of evidence, including sworn statements from Davern, a Coastguard official and a woman on a nearby boat casting serious doubt on the official explanation. Davern claims Wood disappeared after a furious row with Wagner, fuelled by booze and motivated by tension over her relationship with Walken, her co-star in a new film. Rulli: "This is not new evidence that's mysteriously come to light...it's old information never previously investigated. It's been a long slow process but I'm confident they'll finally get to the bottom of it."
Wagner gave his version of events in his 2008 memoirs, saying he'd argued with Walken about how much of one's personal life an actor should sacrifice for his career – not, as Davern claims, whether his wife was having an affair with Walken.
The thrice-Oscar-nominated West Side Story star was found floating in her nightgown, aged 43. The coroner's verdict did little to quell speculation about one of Hollywood's enduring mysteries...
...but think about it: would any sane man wanna kill such a babe?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Whale Wars: Cameras Rolling

Looks like 2012 will be a big year for Sea Shepherd on tv.
As I blogged back in July 2011, Animal Planet filmed SS in the Faeroe Islands this summer (that was when the Faroese were too scared to undertake their bloody pilot whale butchery in full glare of the world's cameras!).
According to Capt.Paul Watson, founder of SS, next year we can also expect to see two specials, on their efforts in the Mediterranean and Namibia, Africa.
The Lizard Trading Company, which films the action aboard the SS vessels, has also substantially beefed up its TV crews, says Watson: "There'll be an Animal Planet film crew on 'Operation Divine Wind' on all three ships. We will be looking at 10-12 episodes. There will also be a five episode series on Whale Wars – The Faeroe Islands. In addition there will be two episodes on the Med Tuna campaign and two episodes on the Namibian Fur Seal campaign. In total, 19-21 SS episodes for 2012. As the show enters its fifth season, Whale Wars remains the No.1 watched show on the Animal Planet network."
That amount of exposure will bring joy to any SS fan – not to mention an unprecedented amount of publicity about its many campaigns outside of the Southern Ocean.
As Animal Planet has yet to announce a fifth season of Whale Wars, let alone premiere dates for any of those specials, we’ll just have to wait for their PR machine to make it official.
+ And on an ever-so-slightly-personal note: in the new series, keep your eyes peeled for possibly a quick flash of THIS BLOGSITE! The Whale Wars production team actually emailed me a few months back, wanting permission to use some of my material in their programme!!!
Would I like some global exposure...? For my humble efforts...???
Aw shucks, let me think about it for just a little bit...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rena: A Cash Cow?

So Rena is still alive...
Despite the doom-and-gloom predictions two weeks ago that she was very likely to break up 'soon', she still creaks and groans on Astrolabe Reef with obvious structural damage (and probably more than what we've been told).
The oil removal work is virtually finished - much slower than we were promised. Now begins the removal of the containers - this too will be an extraordinarily slow job. In fact, so slow that if you extrapolate the supposedly wildly optimistic "maximum of three per day" figure released, it will be MONTHS before the 1200+ containers are gone! MONTHS! WTF??? Can they be serious?
Crane barge Sea Tow 60 is moored by Rena now, but the salvors are taking time to ensure all the equipment and systems are ready and working properly before commencing operations. And how many months have they had so far to do all this checking? Ahhh, but we're told the salvors on ST60 had to design a system for decoupling the containers, and each set of containers presents its unique challenges. Riiiiiiiiiight.
Meanwhile, another crane barge with a longer reach, Smit Borneo from Singapore, is en route and due to arrive in Tauranga by early December. Again, we've had MONTHS to get Smit Borneo here, get systems designed and tested...hmmmmmmm.
NZers have been incredibly tolerant of this situation to date. But I can't help feeling the public purse paying for all this is being viewed by some as a 'cash cow'. Certainly the speed of parts of this operation hints at that.
I find it 'very interesting' that someone on the salvor team, blogging daily about the sluggish efforts, has been shut down by legal beagles! Surely this wouldn't have been done if there was zip to hide...
Safety and caution are one thing.
Dragging heels and/or taking a long time to make decisions (perhaps intentially?) is quite another.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whale Stranding Season Begins

'Tis the season to be watchful...
The New Zealand whale stranding season is underway (running Nov.-March), with the treacherous Farewell Spit (top of the south Island) claiming its first victims.
A multiple stranding on Monday eventually claimed all the pilot whales involved. A pod of more than 60 was found on Monday evening. Dept.of Conservation (DOC) rangers found 20 dead whales, and one whale in poor condition was euthanised. Tuesday morning, another 44 whales were found stranded nearby, 2-3km from shore, 34 alive and 10 dead. DOC said another 16 whales died since Tues.morning and the decision was made Wed.morning to euthanise the remaining 18. It had been hoped the whales would refloat and hopefully find their way out to sea in the high tides, but they re-stranded each time and more whales died: "The whales seemed to come a little further inshore in each re-stranding. The tides are reducing so it became very unlikely the remaining whales would get out to sea and survive."
A major problem with Farewell Spit is its shallow tidal flats. Rescuers would have had to walk the 2-3km back to shore after re-floating the whales in chest-deep water, and the risk to them was too high. [You may recall the 80+ pilot whales that died there last February...]
...meanwhile, a humpback whale at Monkey Island near Orepuki (about 40km W of Invercargill) was shot by DOC last weekend, after it was determined the whale was in pain and would not have survived flotation. The 10m whale come in with the tide last Sat.morning. It was very thin and weak, and there was no chance of floating it. Humpback whales rarely strand so when they do there is some underlying reason.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Truth Is Out There

In the run-up to the NZ General Elections, I've seen many politicians' erections.
Errrr, let me rephrase that: I mean politicians' billboards, erected on virtually every intersection from here to eternity.
I've also noticed some citizens are treating said public exhibitionism with the disdain it all deserves. A vast majority of the hoardings near me have had moustaches stuck on their faces. No, not daubed on with a thick pen - actually stuck on. Those responsible have had moustaches made of adhesive paper expressly for this purpose!
Seems like lots of cost and effort for a little bit of fun...however the Mo Mob is not alone! 700 National Party billboards around NZ have been cleverly altered in a co-ordinated effort this week.
Pre-printed add-ons, altering the billboards' captions, were used. In Waitakere, a billboard promoting Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has had "The Rich Deserve More" plastered across the bottom. Others read: "Drill it, mine it, sell it".
An un-named organiser of the group said the new slogans reflect the truth: "We decided to help the National Party spell out its plans in ways every voter can understand. "They believe in increasing the deficit by giving the rich tax cuts, then selling state assets to reduce the deficit they just created, drilling oil wells along our coastline, and digging up forests for low grade coal. We want to make sure voters know that." Mystery Organiser Person says over 50 people were involved in altering the billboards: "The Prime Minister believes in transparency. He says he doesn't lie. We're happy to help."
Whoever did arrange this knew the exact dimensions of the boards, perfectly matching colour scheme and lettering style, organisational ability and money! Consider the quote from Mystery Organiser Person: smells a tad Kermit to me...
Update: And lo and behold! It WAS someone from the Greenies - and he's fallen on his sword.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Biodegradable Bottles?

The familiar clink of a wine bottle could become a thing of the past.
A British inventor has made one from paper!
The papier mache bottle has a carbon footprint just 10% that of a glass wine bottle – of which the UK uses 1.2 billion a year. The Greenbottle can also biodegrade on a compost heap within weeks.
Martin Myerscough has already invented cardboard milk bottles that are on sale at UK food chain Asda, and hopes their success can be repeated with wine.
And no, the bottle doesn't go soggy: the wine is held in a plastic liner, similar to that of a wine box. Advantages of the bottles are that they don't break when dropped, and are much lighter to carry. The cardboard shell also helps insulate white wine after it's been chilled in the fridge.
In some countries, wine is already available in Tetra-Pak containers but, because of their waxy coating, they're difficult to recycle - unlike this innovation.
Wine experts think (hope?) the concept will only find favour with inexpensive, commodity wine.
But as we already have "chateau cardboard" wine, isn't this a bit like reinventing the wheel?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cinema Suburbia

Balmoral in the 1920s
Balmoral is a suburb approx.5km from the centre of Auckland City.
Much of the area dates from the 1920s-1930s, and a feature is the numerous Asian restaurants in the Balmoral shopping area: they'd rival Auckland's upper Queen St area for the title of 'Chinatown'.
Among those shops, the largest building is the neo-Greek-styled Capitol Cinema...
It opened in Aug.1923, one of the earliest (and most luxurious) of several suburban theatres built in that decade. It could seat over 900, with electricity initally supplied by an on-site generator (but by Oct.1923 management announced to the public they were “now connected with the City Electric power service”).
'Talkies' arrived in 1929 and, after renovations in 1934, the theatre was floodlit in colour to be a focal point of the area.
By 1974 the Capitol Cinema was Auckland's largest suburban theatre still standing, and was upgraded to show "a better type of movie”. It was gutted by fire in 1978 and closed, but this was not its final curtain...
It reopened in 1986 as a circle-only operation called Charlie Grey’s. Since then, it's been an up­market art house cinema and the home of Bollywood cinema. Now it shows independent movies in one half (seating 130), while in the stalls area is an indoor climbing venue (!!!).
The Capitol is an intimate and comfortable film-haven, one of few suburban theatres left (57 suburban cinemas existed across Auckland at various times: now they can be virtually counted on one hand). It's hoped it'll remain as a Balmoral landmark for many years to come.
The Capitol Cinema, Dominion Rd., Balmoral
[read also about the Victoria Picture Palace Theatre, re-opened with love in Devonport, Oct.2010...]

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Source Code

What is reality? Can the future be changed?
When decorated soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of another man, he discovers he's on a mission to find the bomber of a commuter train. He's part of a military experiment called Source Code, which enables him to cross into another man's body in the last eight minutes of his life. With a second much larger bombing looming, Colter re-lives the first incident again and again, gathering clues each time until he can solve the mystery and prevent the next attack.
Source Code is the second feature film directed by David Bowie's son, Duncan Jones: a smart sci-fi thriller that's a bit like Groundhog Day meets Inception. With constant jumps to and fro in time, you can’t help but feel sorry for Captain Stevens, grappling with his own reality while trying to find the bomber and yeup, save the gal too. Like Deckard (in Blade Runner) before him, Colter has to accept who and where he is, and what his ultimate fate is. Or is not.
If you missed it at the flicks, it's worth a look on DVD. Or if you have SKY, you can see it on the movie channel this month. Serve with lashings of “temporary suspension of disbelief”: enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Having A Whale Of A Time

This video is so stunning, that it was shown repeatedly on US tv last weekend.
A surfer and two kayakers are floating off Santa Cruz, California... when two feeding humpback whales lunge straight up out of the water, jaws wide open, landing fairly close to the trio!
The close encounter was shot by Barbara Roettger: she says she noticed the telltale "bubble net" that meant the animals were coming to the surface but it was too late to move.
Currently a pod of whales is feeding close off the Santa Cruz coast. That's thrilling boaters and kayakers who've been flocking to see them up close, but alarming the US Coast Guard which is warning people to stay 30m away from the creatures or face a $2,500 for "whale harassment." Hungry whales are good at avoiding people while "lunge-feeding" but getting too close poses safety risks.
What's amusing is that the guys in the kayak were so busy checking out the female surfer in the bikini that they missed the real action right behind them! (Huh? What female surfer? What slim tanned body? What skimpy white-bottom black-top bikini? Never noticed...)

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Answer Is Glowin’ In The Wind

Recent tests in eastern Japan have found more than half of all seafood sold there is radioactive!
Greenpeace analysed 60 seafood samples from Japanese grocery stores and supermarkets throughout eastern Japan, and found 34 were contaminated with radioactive cesium-134 and cesium-137, and some at levels up to 88 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg).
While the samples are well below the 500 Bq/kg limit set by the Nippon authorities, the contaminated seafood still represents a health risk, especially to pregnant women and children. It should be noted that this 500 Bq/kg radiation threshold is set extremely high – over three times the 150 Bq/kg limit imposed by the Ukraine govt after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986!! (A 1972 experiment with dogs showed a single dose of 140 Bq/kg was lethal within three weeks.)
Because there's no mandatory labeling of food that's screened for radiation, the Japanese consumers have no idea if the food they're eating is safe. Greenpeace is urging the Japanese govt to work with the retail industry, to indicate whether food products have been tested for Fukushima radiation and, if they have, to label the results. It believes that doing so will not only help to improve consumer confidence in the food supply, but also boost the fishing industry. Of course, those selling contaminated food may not be so positively inclined towards mandatory labeling...
It was also recently reported that radiation levels emitted from the Fukushima plant were actually twice as high as government estimates had originally assumed. And one of the radioactive elements found in much higher quantities was cesium-137, the same substance Greenpeace detected on seafood.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Sinking Of "Big Fitz"

SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter.
When launched in June 1958, she was the largest boat working the Great Lakes (at 711ft long, 71ft wide and 33 ft deep), and her loss in a Lake Superior storm on November 10th., 1975 remains the Great Lakes' biggest maritime disaster.
Nicknamed Mighty Fitz, Fitz, or Big Fitz, the ship suffered some minor mishaps on launch day: it took three attempts to break the champagne bottle used to christen her and she collided with a pier when she entered the water. Some sailors might have regarded that as an omen…
...yet for 17 years the Fitzgerald carried taconite ore from mines in Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit and other ports, virtually trouble-free. As a workhorse she set seasonal haul records six different times, often beating her own previous record. Her size and record-breaking performance were impressive.
In the afternoon of November 9th., 1975 with a full cargo of ore, the Fitz began her fateful last voyage from Superior, Wisconsin. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Michigan, she joined a second freighter, SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day, the two ships were caught in a massive winter storm, with near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35ft/11m high.
The last communication with Edmund Fitzgerald was at about 7:10 p.m. when Anderson notified her she'd been hit by three towering waves, and that they were headed in the Fitz's direction. Captain McSorley replied, "We're holding our own." Only minutes later, Big Fitz abruptly sank into the frigid waters of Lake Superior, approx. 15nm/27km from Whitefish Bay. No distress signals were sent. Her crew of 29 died. No bodies were recovered.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Preparing For Kamikaze

Sea Shepherd's ship Bob Barker is in Sydney, preparing for its 3mth. anti-whaling campaign, Operation Divine Wind (or Kamikaze).
Ship's manager Andrea Gordon says the hardest part is tracking down the Japanese factory ship. "Our most effective tactic is finding Nisshin Maru and staying behind it. Once we put a SS ship there, they stop killing whales and try to run from us. Last season we circumnavigated almost half of Antarctica chasing them out of the whaling grounds and eventually they went back to Japan a month early, cutting their whaling season short." The volunteer crew expects aggressive tactics from the whalers. Ms Gordon says, "We're going up against one of the most well-funded and technologically advanced fleets, and we've faced a barrage of tactics from them."
Japan spent US$27m (!!!) on upgrading security this year. Last month, Japan's fisheries minister Michihiko Kano said a Fisheries Agency patrol boat would sail with the whaling fleet to "strengthen the protection given to the research whaling ships." I hear that any beefing-up of Japanese whaling security will not involve a Japan Coast Guard ship (a) because they have no vessels capable of handling the Southern Ocean, and (b) the Coast Guard has no mandate to operate so far from home. As the whalers specifically mentioned an armed security vessel, it’s more likely they'll have a private fast vessel equipped with water cannon, sonic devices (perhaps with armed security officers aboard) etc, to run interference.
Bob Barker is docked at Sydney's Circular Quay Nov.10-12 for free public tours, before it heads to Hobart, Tasmania for final prep. Over the past decade, the nasty Nippons have sailed between Nov.6-19 (except for last season, when they did not depart until early Dec., with no reason given). But Australia has quashed rumours that it's sending an armed patrol vessel to the Sthrn.Ocean...

Meanwhile, a 2008-2009 Master’s Dissertation argues that the insistence on continued whaling in the face of world opinion is actually an internal fight between the Japanese Fisheries Agency and other government entities for resources and influence. This draws together a lot of background info I haven't seen before... 
PS: 09 Nov.2011 - Paul Watson disappointed by NZ govt's stance on Antarctic whaling.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is It Art – Or Just Plain SICK???

Just when I thought I'd heard every bizarre photography idea…
A US woman has posed naked and blood-soaked - INSIDE the carcass of a dead horse!
The local TV channel heavily
pixelated the images:
this is the SAFEST of them!
She and boyfriend had recently taken over care of the 32-year-old horse, which was in declining health. After the horse had been put down and gutted, the woman crawled inside the carcass and got pictures to prove it. The 21yr.old said she wanted to "feel as one" with the animal.
A police investigation has found no evidence of any criminal activity. The horse was not abused or tortured. It was killed in what law enforcement considers one of the most humane ways to put animals down, a single gunshot to the brain with a high-powered rifle. The meat was harvested and eaten…after the girl had wallowed her way through it!
In addition to THAT photo, there were others - including one of the woman and her boyfriend holding the horse's heart. In another, they hold a piece of the horse in front of their mouths – as if they're about to take a bite.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the pair then posted the pictures on-line and… well, you can imagine the response. The girl has received death threats and hostile contact from people across USA who have seen the pictures and labeled her everything from a devil worshipper to a pervert. Now police time is being wasted, tracking these threats and keeping a watch on the girl…
So is this just freedom-of-expression? Radical art? Is it ok, as long as the images carry a warning? Or has it crossed a line into areas that the majority would not condone? And once someone has stepped over that mark, how much further might they go?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Close Encounters Of The Asteroid Kind

It's "Near Miss Day" tomorrow.
A large asteroid will pass closer to Earth than the moon!
Asteroid 2005 YU 55 will pass at 23:28 GMT, about 322,000km (201,000 miles) from us - visible from the northern hemisphere, but too dim for the naked eye and too fast for the Hubble Space Telescope.
It's the first time since 1976 that an object of this size has got this cosy to Earth. The orbit and position of the 385m (1,300ft.) asteroid are well known, and there's no chance it'll hit us – though let's face it: if it was going to, we couldn’t do a damn thing about it! And a rock the size of four playing fields could hurt! A meteoroid hit the moon in May 2006, with the equivalent of 4 tons of TNT: that one was only 25cm (10 inches) and travelling 38km/s (85,000 mph), yet it left a crater 14m wide and 3m deep. YU 55 is travelling slower at 13km/s (30,000 mph) but note the size difference...
The boffins reckon YU 55's been visiting Earth for thousands of years but, because gravitational tugs from the planets occasionally tweak its path, they're not sure how long the asteroid has been in its present orbit. Computers plotting the asteroid's path for the next 100 years show there's no chance of impact.
Previous studies show the asteroid, which is blacker than charcoal, is probably composed of carbon-based materials and some silicate rock. This pass gives scientists a rare chance for study without having to go through the time and expense of launching a probe. NASA tells me an event like this won't happen again until 2028 when Asteroid 2001 WN5 will pass even closer...
Japan plans to launch a 2018 asteroid sample return mission. NASA is working on a mission to return soil samples from an asteroid in 2020, followed by a human mission to another asteroid in the mid-2020s.
Hmmm, will Bruce Willis still be up to it by then...?
PS: 08 Nov.2011 - A little scaremongering from NZHerald...
PS: 08 Nov.2011 - Eyes peeled for another space object this week...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hearts In The Right Place, But...

A new international coalition wants to set up a network of designated marine protected areas (or MPAs) and no-take marine reserves, in the oceans surrounding Antarctica.
The Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) is a coalition of environmental groups and philanthropists including Greenpeace, the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, Forest and Bird, Natural Resources Defence Council and other groups worldwide.
It has set a time frame for a system of MPAs by 2012. This network would protect key Antarctic habitats and wildlife from human interference. Sizewise it would be greater than anything achieved before: the areas recommended for protection include the Weddell Sea, Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Sea. Key countries fishing there are Russia, Norway, Korea, Japan, NZ, UK and Spain.
AOA says global fishing stocks are depleting due to overfishing, and these resulting shortages are straining the marine resources of the Southern Ocean: "As fisheries resources around the world come under more pressure, more distant nations will want to go to Antarctica to extract protein, and they will do it either legally or illegally."
The MPAs would protect 10,000 species including emperor penguins, minke and killer whales, seals, krill and colossal squid. AOA wants most of the area to be placed into no-take reserves that ban all activity except for scientific research.
Ahhh...but then we return to the same ol' hoary loophole exploited by Japan's commercial whaling, which the nasty Nippons claim is just "research". For this new network to be effective, "research" must be accurately and legally determined so that NO country can find a loophole to abuse.
This sounds a wondrous and lofty idealistic plan, and I wish it total success...but if it IS abused (as we all know it will be), does this coalition have any teeth?
What would be the penalties? Who will impose them? And how?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Coronation Street Is BACK!

Eee, by goom, there is a god...I say, there is a god, like!!!
And her name is Ena Sharples!
Coronation Street
is returning to primetime, after an about-face by TVNZ.
After being sliced and diced by a public backlash, TVNZ has brought it back, in place of MasterChef Australia (the final of which was last Wednesday). Coro will screen at 7.30pm on Thursdays and Fridays from next week.
It's been less than a month since TVNZ moved Coronation Street to the earlier time of 5.25pm, and set itself the arduous task of constantly editing out all the saucy bits to make it suitable for Little Timmy to watch. Talk about making a rod for its own back!
Ellen will return to the 5pm slot (oh well, if we must...), while the best of Intrepid Journeys will take the 7.30pm Tuesday slot that
egg on face
Coronation Street once held.
Head of TV ONE and TV2 Jeff Latch tried to put a postive spin on his rapid reversal: "We always said we'd retain an open mind about the best place for Coronation Street, and TVNZ is very happy to give fans certainty about the show's placement." Riiiiight!
He warned Coronation Street would be interrupted again in three weeks, when TVNZ broadcasts the closing addresses for the general election and the final Leaders' Debate. *yawn*
Yea, yea...however you wanna spin it, Jeff, it's another victory for People Power! Don't mess with Coronation Street viewers!
Now, pass the sarnies, like...eee, there's a good lad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

SeaWorld Sued For Slavery

Is this taking the law to extremes?
In the first case of its kind, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), three marine-mammal experts and two former orca trainers have filed a lawsuit, claiming five orca at SeaWorld are being held as slaves, in violation of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution. The orca are Tilikum and Katina (both at SeaWorld Orlando) and Kasatka, Corky, and Ulises (at SeaWorld San Diego).
The filing, the first ever seeking to apply the amendment to animals, seeks their release to their natural habitats or seaside sanctuaries. The 13th Amendment prohibits slavery…without making reference to "person" or any particular class of victim. PETA maintains "slavery is slavery", and it does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on gender, race or religion.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk: "All these orca were violently seized from the ocean and taken from their families as babies. They are denied freedom and everything else that is natural and important to them...the 13th Amendment prohibits slavery, and these orca are, by definition, slaves." She says orca are intelligent animals who in the wild work cooperatively, form complex relationships, communicate using distinct dialects, and swim up to 100 miles every day. At SeaWorld, they swim in circles in small, barren concrete tanks. Deprived of the opportunity to make conscious choices and to practice their cultural vocal, social, and foraging traditions, they
Tilikum at SeaWorld Orlando,
as seen via Google Earth
perform tricks for rewards of dead fish.
The orca are represented in the lawsuit by PETA, Ric O'Barry (former orca/dolphin trainer and star of the Academy Award–winning doco The Cove), Orca Network founder Howard Garrett, two former SeaWorld trainers, and renowned New Zealand marine biologist/orca expert Dr. Ingrid Visser.
PS: 04 Nov.2011 - A Canadian journo thinks PETA needs to pick its battles better...
PS: 10 Nov.2011 - Meanwhile SeaWorld Orlando plans an expansion... which will obviously involve capturing more wildlife.
PS: 10 Feb.2012 - A judge rules that whales are not 'slaves'.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Savidan: Never Say Die

There's been a lot of hero worship following the *yawn* Rugby World Cup.
But look back through New Zealand's sporting history, and you'll find plenty of other sports heroes there. Like in 1930, at the first British Empire Games, Canada (the event later evolved into today's Commonwealth Games).
Eleven countries competed in six events: wrestling, swimming, rowing, boxing, lawn bowls and athletics. NZ sent 22 competitors and won nine medals: three gold, four silver and two bronze. One of those golds, won by 28yr.old Aucklander John William Savidan, was surrounded by controversy.
“Billy” (5ft.5"/165cm, 126lbs/57kg) had been a long-distance runner from 1926. He first won the NZ Cross-Country Championship in 1927 at Christchurch, and the next year he won again at Wanganui against the world record holder, Randolph Rose. Writers of the day regarded Savidan as a good track runner above two miles, but felt it was in cross-country that he was strongest...
At the Games, he was in top form in the six-mile finals (the equivalent of today’s 10,000 metres). Believing he was on his last lap, Billy powered down the home straight and raised his arms in victory as he crossed the line…15,000 watched in horror as he was told the lap official had made a mistake! He had inadvertently turned over two discs instead of one (no digital counters in those days), and there was still one more lap to go! The exhausted Savidan couldn't believe it, but the reality was confirmed by a teammate. Then like a scene from an 'against-all-odds' movie, Billy managed to collect his thoughts, get his jelly-like legs pumping and set off again. From a dead stop to a final 440 sprint must have seemed an impossible task but not only did he do it, he won, collapsing as soon as he crossed the finish line - for the second time. And he set a new Canadian record of 30:49.6 which stood for eight years.
Later when he'd recovered, insult was added to injury as the band played the English anthem Land of Hope and Glory when the kiwi stood on the victory podium to receive his gold medal!
In his other event, the three-mile (equivalent to 5,000m), Bill did not finish - too exhausted from his previous mammoth effort.
Billy Savidan's "...performances stamp him as one of the gamest distance runners NZ has ever bred, and his modest and sterling personality makes him one of the most respected athletes of his day."