Monday, April 30, 2012

Text-Speak:101 - YOLO

Have you done this?
In our uninformed past, after receiving a sad text, we replied LOL, thinking we were sending lots of love...only to discover later how hurt our friend was when, having told us about their cat's death, we'd sent back laughing out loud!
Just when we 'of a certain age' (ie: from an era when we actually said what we meant, not communicated in abbrev!) thought we'd got a good grasp on text-speak, along comes another...YOLO.
No, it's not low-fat yoghurt. It means you only live once and comes from young black communities in the US. Its used as a verb for doing something badass, something that takes balls, or something a person wouldn't do in a normal day. Similar to you've only got one chance to live or enjoy it while you can, people use it to persuade their friends to take risks or dare them to do something.
The phrase has been around for eons - the 007 movie title You Only Live Twice (1967) was a play on it - but this shortened version YOLO has got popular since appearing late last year in a US rap song.
Why did no-one
buy these?
As with most of these acronyms, there're multiple meanings, such as:
You Obviously Lack Originality...You Obey Lord's Objectives (that's for all the hip God-Botherers)...and YOLO is also San Francisco Bay area slang for cocaine!
California has a county called Yolo, where many residents are amused that their area's name is hip. They find it hilarious that beautiful people in New York might wear shirts saying YOLO in giant letters. In fashionable Brooklyn boutiques, track jackets reading YOLO sell for US$100, but in Yolo County, the locals have no special reason to have any great civic pride. In fact their Chamber of Commerce lost thousands on a run of Yolo County tee-shirts that failed to spark any consumer interest!
Maybe they could dust 'em off and sell 'em in the Big Apple.
After all...YOLO!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gold And Silver, Opera And Death...

£5,000 of gold was alot to steal in 1880!
Grevious consternation was caused in November 1880, by the theft of five gold bars from SS Tararua on a trip from NZ to Melbourne. A £1,000 reward failed to find a culprit…but several years later, police recovered some of the gold after the death of the ship's steward.
However, 'twas business as usual for Tararua in April 1881. The twin-screwed steamer had recently passed survey and was busy plying the NZ-Australia trade route, delivering cargo and passengers.
On Sunday 3rd.April (census night), she was in the port of Napier with 140 passengers, incl.the 35-strong Simonsen Opera Company. On Thursday 28th.April, the Simonsen Opera Co.was playing to a full house in Auckland "and doing a splendid business". Meanwhile the ship that had delivered them there was steaming to its doom...
Leaving Dunedin at 5 that night, under the command of 29yr.old Captain Frank Garrard (who'd joined her a few weeks before), Tararua was headed to Melbourne via Bluff and Hobart, but ran foul of Otara Reef at Waipapa Point on the Catlins coast, before dawn on the 29th.
The first lifeboat was holed as it was launched, but the second one carried a volunteer close enough in to swim ashore and raise the alarm: a farmhand rode 35 miles/56 km to telegraph the news. The message reached Dunedin by 1pm - but it was not marked urgent so rescuers didn't leave until 5pm!
Initially, NZ's worst-ever civilian shipping disaster was reported as of minor interest, but when rescuers arrived, the full extent became known…
On the reef, the wind and waves had risen and were pounding the ship. At noon, six passengers who were strong swimmers were taken close to shore; three managed to get through the surf, the others drowned. Captain Garrard gathered the women and children on the fo'c'sle as the ship began to break up – tragically a large wave swept most of them to their deaths. He later "died nobly at his post".

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Whale Song

Anti-whaling action vs Viking Metal.
It's the latest (and somewhat quirky) battle for Sea Shepherd. Following the success of its Animal Planet TV show Whale Wars, it's on-screen attention is now on the Faroe Islands.
Whale Wars: Viking Shores now showing on US tv was filmed during SS's visit to the "ferocious isles" last year. The Faroese are defending their traditional whale hunts in unique fashion: after the 2nd episode Fri.May 4th., Paul Watson has an online debate with Heri Joensen, lead singer of the FI folk-metal band Týr. The live-streamed face-off on video conference platform Watchitoo will air on Animal Planet's website and Facebook 10pm ET.
Joensen: "Týr's musical mission is to break down the walls that are erected between all the kinds of metal that have arisen over the years. Walls do nothing but fill people with prejudice." Quite!
This defender of Faroese customs has written an anti-SS song called Rainbow Warrior (which includes the lyric: "May your ship sink"). But Rainbow Warrior is a Greenpeace vessel - opps!
As you're aware (from previous posts) the traditional pilot whale hunts (grindadraps) are not pretty, and the show pulls no punches. But instead of its aggressive Sthrn.Ocean tactics, SS went ashore, stayed at local hotels, mixed with local people and announced a willingness to debate anyone, talk to any media, and stop any hunt. Result? A small amount of dialogue, but also no whales killed in the two months they were there.
Watson: "The FI reasoning was rather funny. They said, if we don't kill any whales, then you won't have a TV show. They forgot our show's about not killing whales. So we were quite happy with that." He believes a lot of young Faroese don't want the grinds: "We actually have a segment of the Faroese population now opposed to it. Also, older people, especially mothers, are concerned because of the high mercury content of the whales. It's recommended people eat it only once a month, and pregnant women and children not at all. But with the more traditional conservatives, it's like denying global warming. That's why the Faroese have the highest rate of mercury poisoning of any people on the planet." So Animal Planet has organised a debate (here's the promo): not with someone from the govt., a scientist, or even one of their grindmasters, "but it ends up I'm debating the lead singer of a Nordic heavy metal band. So if that's the best they can find to defend what they're doing, it should be interesting."
Last year's visit also created greater awareness in Denmark and the Faroes of the global position on the hunts. This coming northern summer, SS will have a land-based presence there led by SS Denmark, so it'll be Danes and Faroese themselves opposing the grind. Rock on.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lessons In Responsibility

When a speeding driver kills someone, he's blamed - not his parents, his socio-economic standing or what he had for breakfast.
It's simply taking responsibility for one's own actions...not finding someone/something else to blame. But despite a coroner's ruling last week, the family of Natasha Harris who died suddenly in Feb.2010, is blaming what she had to drink! She died of cardiac arrest, but also had a severe lack of potassium in her blood, probably relating to excessive consumption of soft-drink. Y'see, she drank 7L of Coca-Cola daily!
Pathologist Dr Dan Mornin said this was consistent with her tiredness, low strength, and with other cases of heavy soft-drink consumers, and it was probable a combination of factors (including poor diet and her 30 cigarettes a day) played a role in her death. How much Coca-Cola she drank varied, but averaged 7L a day. Her family is convinced the Coke was partly responsible - and say it should carry warning signs!
Her partner Chris Hodgkinson said she'd been unwell for a year before her death, including vomiting six times a week. The pathologist said her vomiting was likely caused by too much caffeine. Hodgkinson said she was addicted to Coke and without it would become moody, irritable, "quite nasty" and be low in energy.
University of Otago researcher Dr Lisa Te Morenga said every litre of Coca-Cola contained 100g of sugar, so drinking 10L a day equated to eating 1kg of sugar. Ms Harris drank no other beverage and very little alcohol. Since she'd been unwell, she did not eat breakfast, ate only snacks at lunch and often went without dinner. All her teeth had been removed because they were rotting, prompting a dentist to remark about drinking too much Coke.
Coroner David Crerar suggested that even if Coke had warning labels, Ms Harris may not have heeded them - she was after all a smoker and all cigarette packets carried health warnings.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Masturbation, North Korean-Style

A week ago, North Korea (DPRK) celebrated its Founder's Day, with a failed rocket launch and a spectacular military display.
Military parades can be pretty awesome when you write a blank cheque while your people starve! Oh yes, it's quite impressive what you can do...for example, rolling out an enormous 16-wheel missile carrier (sorta like boys in the nuclear playground waving their dicks at each other)! This particular dick can launch missiles too, and the Western Worry is that DPRK can now take its Big Boys' Toys all over the playground, making them harder to find and destroy.
This 122-ton carrier is far too sophisticated for DPRK to have built, so the fingers point at China. While its Foreign Ministry says "Not us, grasshopper!", a Chinese firm that makes these big-time transporters is bragging about the sale on its website!
Some kind souls say maaaaaaaybe the company didn't sell DPRK an entire vehicle, just a chassis, thinking it was for civilian use. China could play this card to avoid accusations of intentionally violating a UN ban (on selling DPRK technology for a ballistic missile programme). Or maaaaaaaybe the Chinese firm sold it to a 'front' company and didn't know who the end-user was: the company denies trading with DPRK. WTF? Get REAL!!!
The Chinese firm is Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co. - part of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, a state-owned company making the Shenzhou space rocket as well as missiles. Hubei Sanjiang itself makes vehicles to transport heavy toys like ship parts and large-scale machinery...and missiles. It is inconceivable that such a company made/delivered 'the largest self-propelled overload special off-road transporter in China' to North Korea, with no idea what it would be used for! And therefore its also inconceivable that the Chinese government isn't in this, up to its neck!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Day 2012

"They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them."
From the poem for the fallen by Laurence Binyon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Back In The Ring

Anti-whaling ship Brigitte Bardot is back in the water again, after its lengthy repairs have been declared successful.
You'll recall the Sea Shepherd boat was escorted into the Fremantle Port in January after its port side pontoon was cracked in rough seas, about 370km off Fremantle during Operation Divine Wind (the 2011-2012 anti-whaling campaign). An immediate return to port was necessary for the safety of ship and crew. A few weeks prior, in the middle of the night, the hull cracked under the weight of a 40ft falling wave. The repairs
cost over $250,000.
Once the Bardot arrives at the Seaworks dock in Williamstown, Victoria tomorrow (Anzac Day), it would begin preparing for Sea Shepherd's new anti-shark finning campaign in the South Pacific this Australian winter.
I do have doubts though about vessels of this type venturing forth into the southern oceans. We've seen one (Ady Gil) nearly cut in half by a solid steel vessel, the other sustaining serious structural damage from a rogue wave. Yes, Brigitte Bardot is very sleek and fast (with a top speed of 27kts/50 km/h and a cruising speed of 22kts/40.7km/h) and, in the right conditions, is ideal for tracking down the Japanese whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Maru. But how often do sailors get "the right conditions" around Antarctica? Given that angry whalers and violent storms are very real threats to any Antarctic campaign by SS, might it not be better to invest in a steel ship of ice-proof strength with the speed to outpace a whaling ship: surely there must be one on the market?
A greyhound like this may look good in media shots but is it really the best option down there?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Muslim Women Wear Bras. So...?

A local storm's brewing over a controversial photo by a fine arts student in British Columbia, Canada.
Her large black-and-white print showed a woman in full Islamic scarf and cloak holding up a flowery bra while folding laundry.
Sooraya Graham, who wears Muslim headdress (or niqab) herself, presented the image for a class assignment last month. Soon after it was hung in the school hallway, another woman (who also wears a niqab) tore it down. That started a debate about censorship, cultural misconceptions and community representation.
Sooraya said she wanted to remind people that Muslim women are human, and wear undergarments too, but was not expecting such reaction. Eventually, administrators retrieved the photo, and learned the woman had been acting on behalf of several non-fine arts students who'd been offended by the image.
Graham said her intention had been to "humanise" women who wear the niqab, by showing one doing a simple act of laundry that many women can relate to. She could only assume those who opposed the image may have felt mocked. Since the incident became public, an education centre in the city, funded by the Saudi Arabian Embassy, has also voiced its opposition.
Professor Ernie Kroeger said his class appreciated the work: "It's mildly provocative, but in almost a light-hearted way. No-one thought it offensive or controversial." The silver-lining is that it generated conversation: "People with differing opinions can actually talk about it, and find out what the objections are." Ha, such an academic!!
Still, I can see nothing wrong with this photograph: can you?
Isn't this simply freedom-of-expression?
Or more confirmation that the world has got far too precious?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some Serious Egg On Your Face, Bro!

Shame. Shame. Shame.
Endless shame on the trust board members.
Taranaki iwi Ngati Tama's 2003 treaty settlement scored them $14.5m (mostly cash, with some land). If that dosh was safely invested it may have made about $800k pa. If half had been re-invested to grow an asset base, then about $400k pa would've been left for marae costs, admin., education etc.
But maybe the Ngati Tama Development Trust got greedy, too eager, stupid. Either way, its biggest single investment was more than $12.5m in Oz-based computer software company My Virtual Home (now down the gurgler)!! Other major investments included $4.39m with Tu'Ere Fishing (which went into voluntary administration in 2011, after accusations of labour and human rights abuses of foreign crews), and $1.19m with property investment company Open Group (also a gone-burger).
The most basic investment advice is: don’t put all your eggs into one basket. So what did they do? $12.5m into one investment! And into a software company to boot, which is seriously dumb unless you know IT and most people don’t...
This is a shameful case of people rising to the level of their own incompetence, playing with high stakes and not knowing the game. They were supposed to be acting on behalf of their people but failed to consider their responsibilities and ignored common sense. They've lost nearly $20m, and left their iwi with nothing but sorrow, empty piggybank and no future.
This iwi should be held up as an example, not to embarrass Ngati Tama but as a "what not to do" case study for other small iwi, who may also wanna make fast bucks with whitey's treaty hand-out. It should also be compared with the strategies of, say, Tainui, which I believe is currently worth $600m+!
Some commentators have said: "No worries, it was only taxpayer money in the first place, they’ll be back for more." Well, one bit of good news to come out of this fiasco is that Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson has said iwi will never be bailed out for losses made after settlement: "The Crown balances its responsibility to make sure the iwi are in a position to manage the settlement assets, against the need for iwi to plot their own destiny."
You make your bed - you lie in it.
And that's the way it should be.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Golden Shears

New Zealand loves its sheep.
Much of our prosperity was built around the production and export of quality lamb and wool (and much of Aussies' kiwi joke repertoire is about our supposed "intimate association" with the woolly creatures!).
The major event on the sheep industry's calendar each year is The Golden Shears. This competition is an icon of the NZ shearing and wool-handling industry.
Its origins go back to 1958, when members of the Wairarapa Young Farmers’ Club had the idea of holdng a shearing competition at the annual Agricultural and Pastoral Show. Shearers came from all over the country to compete. The competition was such a success that the organisers decided to take it to another level.
World champ, kiwi Cam Ferguson
The Wairarapa branch of Federated Farmers was approached to help run this competition. A bigger venue, Masterton War Memorial Stadium, was secured and the name Golden Shears was agreed upon. The inaugural up-scaled event was held today in history - 21st.April 1961 - with nearly 300 shearers from NZ and Australia, including the legendary Godfrey Bowen, taking part (his brother Ivan was the first Golden Shears champion). The event surpassed all expectations with crowds so great, the army was called in to control crowds around the stadium!
The Legend - David Fagan
Through the 1960s and 70s, before the impact of live sport on TV, the fascination and excitement of Golden Shears ensured seats were booked 12mths ahead! Competition between shearers was fierce. Many of our great champions, like David Fagan (as well as being World Champion, he's also won the Shears a record 16 times!), Snow Quinn, Roger Cox and Martin Ngataki, engraved their names in the record books.
By the late 1970s, shearing had entered the world of professionalism. With more competitions, prize money and sponsorship involved, many shearers adopted the attitudes and training regimes of professional athletes, concepts never heard of in those early days.
The competition has come a long way from its humble origins, but The Golden Shears remains the world's premier shearing and wool-handling championships, and the ultimate prize for shearers in NZ.

Friday, April 20, 2012

An App for Saving Whales

It ain't easy being a right whale: never has been.
The ancient mariners didn't regard 'em as the "right whales" to hunt for nothing - they swam slowly and close to shore, floated when harpooned, and contained lotsa lotsa oil. Hunted hard by commercial whalers, their numbers plunged. Although populations are returning in the Sthrn.Hemisphere, they're very low in both the N.Pacific and N.Atlantic.
The N.Atlantic population is estimated at only around 400, and unfortunately, the majority live at least part of the year off the northeastern US, heavily trafficked by shipping. Nearly three-quarters of known right whales have scars from fishing gear, while 29% of right whale deaths since 1970 are from ship collisions.
As a result the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) introduced measures to reduce the likelihood of collisions, incl. speed restrictions and voluntary vessel re-routing in certain areas at certain times. Now NOAA has produced an app for iPads and iPhones that provides real-time updates of whale positions!
The app, called Whale Alert, provides info from a system of acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls. It also uses GPS, Automatic Identification System (AIS), the web, and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA's right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate area.
While nothing can completely stop accidental human impact on whale populations, this app is a step in the "right" direction.
Just don't let the nasty Nippon whalers get it!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lawyer Wants Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card

Why keep this a secret?
A lawyer charged with smuggling contraband into prison has lost a four-month battle to keep her name secret.
Davina Murray fought hard to keep things hush-hush but she's now facing criminal charges. She allegedly delivered a mobile phone, cigarettes and lighter to one of her clients, rapist/murderer Liam Reid. The contraband was found on Reid after one of Murray's visits to Mt Eden Prison last October - 2mths after a prison smoking ban began. Murray's so convinced Reid is innocent, that she's visited him 80 times in 9mths. Methinx a tad excessive for a lawyer/client relationship...
It took five court sessions before she lost her name suppression fight - that included new charges being laid, her appeal against the ruling, her lawyer falling sick, and Murray simply failing to show up for a hearing. The judge called it a farce; the prosecution called it unacceptable and is seeking costs. She's due back in court next month and, if convicted, could face 3mths in prison and a fine of $5000. It could also end her legal career.
The reasons why she wanted her name suppressed: because of her (a) career and (b) political standing. Ahhhhhh, y'see, Davina Murray is a prominent figure in the Maori Party, and stood as a list candidate in the 2011 Elections. She was charged the day before voting day.
Yes, and you know what's coming, don't you!! Wait for it...
Murray: "I maintain I'm not guilty to this matter. This is a lot bigger, I believe, than just political interest, given my relationship with the Maori Party."
Ahhhhhh, there it is. So predictable. The race card! She's supposedly been charged, not for smuggling gear into prison...but because of her relationship with the Maori Party! Yea, right.
If you've done something wrong, you pay for it, regardless of your skin colour. No ethnicity in this country should expect a free ride.
Update: 09 Oct.2012 - Murray's case now deferred until 11 March 2013.
Update: 17 July 2013 - Murray's texts show she's in love with this toe-rag, and planned to marry him!
Update: 13 Sept.2013 - Murray admits guilt...FINALLY.
Update: 01 Oct.2013 - Murray sentenced for prison smuggling.
Update: 24 Feb.2014 - Murray pleads for mercy! Jeez!
Update: 03 March 2014 - Judge says "Davina, piss off!"
Update: 07 May 2014 - Murray tries race card over driving charge.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Worm Is In The Apple

Why choose a Mac over a PC?
A quick Google search will deliver a multitude of 'reasons' lists; one point that's regularly hammered home is that Macs are far less prone to viruses et al.
In fact, friends who own Macs often crow when the latest global Trojan is hammering at Microsoft's door: "Ah well, if you only had an Apple Mac..."
Now however their smiles are fading. Malware called Flashback has infected 2% of all Macs worldwide. To put that into context, the Conficker worm (that plagued massive numbers of PCs in 2009), infected as many as 4-5% of all Windows systems at its peak.
Kaspersky confirms more than 600,000 Macs had been hit by Flashback exploiting a vulnerability in Oracle's Java system. Apple has since issued a patch for Java to Mac users but...its fix came SEVEN WEEKS after Oracle did the same for Windows users!! Apple maintains Java for its users, and has lagged behind Oracle in the fix-it department by months in some cases. It's now released a Flashback removal tool, but only for users of the most recent version of OS X who have chosen not to install Java.
More than half of all Macs infected with Flashback are in the US. Experts have described the Flashback campaign, and the resulting infection of hundreds of thousands of Macs, as "unprecedented". Some security experts pointed to Apple's slow patching as a factor in Flashback's success. Hackers had a seven-week window to examine Oracle's patch before Apple released its fix.
Computer security experts feel Apple needs to look to Microsoft when it comes to handling OS security breaches. For years Apple's mocked Microsoft for its track record in dealing with Windows malware, viruses, and weekly patches. Now the tables have turned. They say the Flashback Trojan is the final nail in the coffin for Apple's stellar security image; that although Microsoft juggles a much larger number of threats, it does a better job of warning customers and delivering fixes.
Apple's image of invulnerability has gone for good....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Budget Building, But What A Beauty!

Christchurch’s cathedral replacement will be a cardboard creation!
The temporary cathedral will serve as a place for worship and gathering until a new church is built, according to the Christchurch Cathedral website. Then it will become the worship centre for the St John’s parish, whose Church, vicarage and hall had to be demolished following the Feb 22nd quake. The structure - of cardboard tubes, timber, steel and concrete - is intended to last for more than 20 years.
Richard Gray from the Transitional Cathedral Group: "the cathedral will attract national and international interest, drawing additional visitors to the city." It will cost up to $5m, most of which is already in hand. The 700-seat building was designed free-of-charge by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. It'll be an A-frame structure on a concrete foundation, stabilised with shipping containers (now such a familiar and integral sight around post-EQ Christchurch). It will also provide a venue for concerts, exhibitions, civic and community events, something currently lacking post-Feb.22nd. An ancillary building (linked containers) will sit alongside the Cathedral and include a café and shop along with meeting rooms, amenities and offices.
Demolition of the Cathedral began last month, after officials said the 130yr.old building was beyond repair. The new structure will be built on the site of the destroyed St. John’s Church at Latimer Square (cnr.of Hereford and Madras Sts), on the edge of the "red zone" and two blocks to the east from Cathedral Square where the original cathedral is being taken apart.
Work begins next week, and should be finished by this Christmas!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Danish Navy Kicks Pirate Butt

Last week the Danish navy did it again.
It intercepted a pirate "mothership" off the Horn of Africa, captured 16 Somali pirates and freed 12 captives. The Danish warship Absalon, serving in NATO's counter-piracy mission Ocean Shield, stopped the vessel and boarded it without resistance. The navy calls such a boat a "pirate mothership" because it's big enough to operate on the high seas and serve as a support vessel, carrying equipment for pirates who tend to use small skiffs to approach and board ships.
The operation was carried out without armed force. The Danish navy said: "As Absalon approached the ship, they surrendered right away." Not surprising when you see how formidable it looks! There were three Iranian and nine Pakistani hostages, the original crew of a fishing boat seized about a month ago. The pirates will remain aboard Absalon until Denmark determines if it can hand them over to a country in the region for prosecution.
It's the second time in two months Absalon has arrested pirates and freed hostages off Somalia. At the end of February, it opened fire on a pirate vessel that disobeyed orders to stop, killing two hostages but freeing 16 others and capturing 17 pirates. According to a Danish newspaper, Absalon has been the most successful counter-piracy warship in the Gulf of Aden, capturing over a third of all pirates detained.
Piracy is rife off the Horn of Africa. Although anti-piracy operations have succeeded in reducing the numbers of vessels and hostages taken in the past few years, efforts to stamp out piracy are hampered by the unwillingness of many countries to prosecute captured pirates in their courts. This often means navies engaged in anti-piracy missions have to release captured pirates without prosecution. Politics, politics...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

North Korea Shoots Itself In The Foot

A leader must say what he'll do, and then do what he says. But if that path is going to hurt his people, he'd re-evaluate his position with a view to possible change.
Fly! FLYYY!!! Why won't it fly???
Ya thunk?
Not so the new young leader of North Korea (DPRK). Despite warnings of sanctions and the halting of food relief, Kim Jong-Un pressed on with the launch of a long-range rocket. He claimed it was to put a weather satellite in orbit, to mark the birth of DPRK's founder. US feared the rocket, using ballistic missile technology, had the potential to strike mainland America. Last Friday the rocket was launched, and fell apart a minute later. Opps!
Now however, Kim Jong-Un's F.U. attitude (designed as much to cement himself in power, as it was to stand firm in front of the entire Western world!) may cost him dearly.
And not just the financial loss of a rocket to his 24m starving people (does he really think they give a rat's arse about a rocket?). A Radio Free Asia article puts the cost of the launch and the 100th anvsy.of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung at US$850m, enough to feed most of its people for a year. The cost of other celebratory events may be around US$2b: "Right now, people are solely interested in when they will be able to receive their rations of food. Compared to the food problems, issues like the satellite launch are nothing."
All UN Security Council members agreed a rocket launch would be a violation of UN sanctions resolutions, imposed in 2009 after North Korea's last nuclear test. The Council is now in a huddle to decide its next step. Exactly what that'll be remains to be seen, but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier warned the DPRK, if it pressed ahead "...we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action." Talk about shooting yourself in the foot...
PS: 17 April 2012 - Again, UN shows it has no balls. Its response? Tut-tut! Let's carry on with existing sanctions. Oh, but we will get tougher next time. Yea, right.
PS: 18 April 2012 - Like father, like son...here's DPRK's response.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

No Whale On Trade Me Menu

An auction of whale meat was pulled from Trade Me this week.
On-line, the seller "gudbloke2" (who allegedly bought the canned meat at a Japanese dairy) said the blue tin was likely to contain minke whale. He said he hadn't tasted whale meat himself: "Only tried whale skin. That was pretty average."
Trade Me said the auction started on Tuesday, and was removed Wednesday evening after a complaint. It advised the seller he'd "breached our listing rules which specifically ban the sale of 'snails, whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, sea lions or indigenous birds, or parts thereof'." The Conservation Department was notified about the attempted sale. Anti-whaling group Project Jonah put a screen shot on Facebook.
New Zealand has been a member of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) since 1989. This is an international agreement between governments, aiming to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. All import, export, re-export and introduction from the CITES list has to be authorised through a licensing system - no licence, no bringing it into the country.
It's illegal to import whale meat into NZ. Full stop. And if you're selling something illegal, then you'd have to be an idiot to do so on Trade Me: it's a transparent marketplace - everyone can see what you're up to, and there's a trail of electronic information left. So it's plainly obvious that "gudbloke2" is a prize plonker, for not realising - in this pro-conservation country - that either this attempted sale (a) would get him into trouble, or (b) was illegal.
I hope they do more than spank him mercilessly with a wet bus ticket! But the question must also be asked: how did he manage to get the can of whale meat into NZ in the first place?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friggin' Heck: It's Black Friday!

Wikipedia calls the fear of Friday the 13th friggatriskaidekaphobia (I won't even attempt to pronounce it!).
Seems it's a relatively recent arrival: there's no written evidence of a "Friday 13th" superstition before the 19th century, so it's likely a combination of two older superstitions: that 13's an unlucky number and that Friday's an unlucky day.
Numerologists consider 12 the number of completeness (as reflected in the twelve months of the year, gods of Olympus, hours of the clock, tribes of Israel, apostles of Jesus) whereas 13 is considered irregular. A superstition deriving from the Last Supper says having 13 people at a table will result in the death of one of them. It's also been suggested Friday is unlucky because, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
An interesting Friday urban myth concerns the British navy. The story goes that in the 19th century, the Royal Navy wanted to dispel an old sailing superstition that beginning a voyage on a Friday brought bad luck. So they commissioned a ship named HMS Friday. Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on a Friday, under the command of a Captain James Friday... she was never seen again. This is just a myth, as confirmed by the definitive listing of RN ships: JJ Colledge's Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present which does not list any ship of that name. Further, the Royal Naval Historical Branch in Portsmouth has washed its hands thoroughly of this tale.
Many people though do fear a Black Friday. The Stress Management Centre and Phobia Institute in N.Carolina estimates 17-21m people in US are affected. Some people are so paralysed that they don't go to work, avoid flying or even getting out of bed. It's been estimated US$800-900m is lost in business on this day. In 2008 the Dutch Centre for Insurance Statistics said fewer accidents occur when the 13th falls on a Friday...possibly because people are more careful or just stay home.
So - no substance to a fear of Friday the 13th (apart from it being a scary movie!), but if you dread a Black Friday...there's another one this year in July!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Grant Tilly Glides Away

Well-known kiwi actor Grant Tilly passed away in Wellington yesterday after a long illness, aged 74.
Tilly starred in a variety of local stage and screen productions throughout his life, but was probably best known for his role in the tv series Gliding On (1984-86). He was also a founding member of Wellington's Circa Theatre in 1976, and made a great contribution to the theatre scene in New Zealand.
Grant started his career as a drama teacher and established the NZ Drama School, and continued to be associated with it until 1988. On stage he appeared in a run of New Zealand plays, including Foreskin's Lament, The Daylight Atheist, and Joyful and Triumphant. His acclaimed screen acting roles included missionary Henry Williams in the big-budget 1970's local production The Governor, and a German officer opposite Hollywood star Tommy Lee-Jones in the movie Savage Islands.
The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson, said Grant had been unwell for some time and his passing was very sad: "Grant was a wonderful actor who entertained generations of Wellingtonians."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fun Fun Fun Auf Der Autobahn

For no reason at all, a 70s tune popped into my head last weekend... and would not get out!
das album Autobahn
Wouldn't have been so bad if the tune had lyrics (or at least lyrics I could sing!) but it was early techno, called Autobahn, by an electronic band Kraftwerk. Remember it? Mainly instrumental with some German lyrics, the main refrain being "Wir fahr'n fahr'n fahr'n auf der Autobahn" ("We drive drive drive on the Autobahn"). But the chorus was often mistaken for "Fun fun fun on the Autobahn"...
Its repetitious keyboards were meant to capture the feel of motorway driving: today it sounds a bit dull - yet in 1974 the single version was #5 in USA and Canada, UK #4, and #7 in NZ and their home country of Germany. The album version lasted over 22 minutes, the entire first side of the LP.
Kraftwerk's music directly influenced many popular artists from many diverse genres: Gary Numan, Ultravox, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, Soft Cell, Joy Division and New Order to name a few. Kraftwerk influenced other forms of music like hip-hop, house, drum and bass, and they're also regarded as pioneers of the electro genre.
So, nearly 40yrs on, even if we can't sing it correctly, we can still have fun fun fun on the autobahn...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dark Side Of The Force

Networking. Social Status. Facebook. Hundreds of apps. Thousands of friends...and "legitimised stalkers".
I've written cautionary posts in the past about information flow, and how much can be given away unknowingly. Cameron Scott wrote an article for Computerworld last week, about how a new app was compiling data from Facebook and other social networks, to help users track down single unsuspecting women! The mobile app Girls Around Me has now been pulled.
But this reveals just how much people still have to learn about social networking. If you're not some tragic soul who updates your status every five minutes, then you may know someone who (sadly) does. The Girls Around Me app collected data from the social network FourSquare - showing local bars where women had checked in - and matched that with info from their Facebook profiles, including photos and dating status. Hey presto: instant "no-strings nookie radar"! Crawlers could see how many single women were in a particular nightspot, what they looked like, what their names were. Creepy!
But the real tragedy? All these details were supplied freely by social network users. Bambi thinks it's harmless fun to tell her friends she just arrived at Rocky's Roadhouse wearing a tight pink halter and Daisy Dukes, having dumped boyfriend Chuck last week. But if that info is taken out of context, it could have potentially dangerous consequences.
Many people have no idea the amount of information they're sharing on-line. Remember the 2010 dramas over Facebook's privacy settings? Mind you, app developers often think, if information is available they can develop it any way they see fit. Combine that with users not always understanding how revealing their digital information can be, and privacy breaches are bound to occur.
Just because it's technologically possible, is no justification for necessarily doing it. At the same time, Bambi must engage brain before revealing all to her 14,391 genuine friends...
PS: 11 April 2012Wall Street Journal has just published an interesting article about personal details being used by Facebook...

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Wooden Dollies Of Shields

North Shields (known locally just as "Shields") is a town on the north bank of the River Tyne in NE England, by Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
It's synonymous with seafaring and Geordies, and a quirky part of its history is...or rather ARE...the Wooden Dollies.
Wooden Dolly statues have stood in Shields for two centuries. There've been many incarnations, beginning with a ship's figurehead, then a fishwife, before returning again to its original form.
The tradition began in 1781, when a collier brig Alexander and Margaret, captained by 25-yr.old David Bartleman, was attacked along the Norfolk coast by notorious English pirate John Fall. The lightly-armed crew of ten managed to hold off Fall's cutter, but the victory was short-lived. Two hours later, Fall attacked again and the plucky collier was no match for 100 pirates with 18 four-pounder guns! Alexander and Margaret was totally disabled. With the mate dying, and himself and two crew seriously wounded, Captain Bartleman was obliged to strike and pay ransom of 400 guineas. He then brought his shattered vessel into the port of Yarmouth and died on Feb.14th 1781. His father Alexander Bartleman (the vessel's owner) engraved on his son's headstone in St.Nicholas' Churchyard, Great Yarmouth: "T'was great. His foe though strong was infamous (the foe of human kind). A manly indignation fired his breast. Thank God my son has done his duty." [more on this stone later...]
Dolly No.3
Three decades later, the ship's figurehead settled in Shields. A 1931 newspaper recalls:
'The first Dolly came from a collier brig which was in dock for repairs in 1814. Mr.Alexander Bartleman presented the figurehead to the quayside tradesmen', who placed it at the entrance to Custom House Quay on Liddell Street. It stood there until 1850 when it was vandalised. A second figurehead was placed on the same spot. The Wooden Dolly, as the figurehead became known, was used by seafarers as a source of good-luck charms: they cut pieces of wood from it and took them on voyages!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Track Your Spouse For 12c A Day

Back in the good/bad old days, if you were suspicious of your spouse's activities, you had to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars on private investigators.
Er...so I'm told.
Today, a new feature from US car manufacturer General Motors can do it for just 12c a day!
The new service is called Family Link, and allows owners of OnStar-equipped vehicles from Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac to track a family member through the OnStar website, and receive email and text alerts when the vehicle arrives at a location or at a specific time.
OnStar vice president of subscriber services, Joanne Finnom: "We're depending on subscribers to tell other family members that they've enabled the service on the vehicle." (Oh, sure - like, honey, I'm just going to spy on you today! Hope that's ok.) She says Family Link is something subscribers asked for, and last year the company got 4,500 customers to test the service. Family Link was a hit, with Finnom saying the testers "told us it provided them peace of mind by staying connected to their family when they’re on the road." Riiiight. So, nothing whatsoever to do with checking to see which motel they may have pulled into, when they were supposedly at their yoga class...
Family Link is being pitched to parents who want to keep tabs on their kids, but it could be used to track anyone driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle enrolled in the service. But with all location tracking services, the privacy and security implications are murky at best. Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "It's troubling. Any time a new service like this is introduced you have to think beyond what's described in the press release. It's important to remember that you can provide a service that is valuable and useful and still be violating people's privacy."
OnStar will start sending invitations to an initial batch of customers this month, with more going out in June, before the service rolls out across US later this year.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Big Blast, Big Bucks

So much money, so little to do.
Wired.com reports that billionaire Jeff Bezos has announced plans to zip down to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, and pick up at least one of the F-1 engines that blasted Apollo 11 into space.
This is the guy who founded and is CEO of Amazon.com, so he's gotta lotta dosh! And it's the sorta thing an über-rich sod does on a whim one weekend. He's already involved in several extreme undertakings, such as the private spaceflight company Blue Origin. His team of engineers has recently used state-of-the-art deep-sea sonar and actually located the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000ft below the ocean's surface, so he's now making plans to raise them.
Wealthy patrons seem to be bringing about a resurgence in deep oceanic exploration, with director James Cameron's recent dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (March 2012) and Richard Branson's similar plans to reach the ocean floor.
If recovered, the engines would be a crowning piece of Apollo memorabilia for Bezos. He says watching the moon landing aged 5 helped inspire his passion in science, engineering, and exploration: "With this endeavour, maybe we can inspire a few more youth to invent and explore."
The monstrous five F-1 engines were the powerhouse of the Saturn V rocket, which remains the largest launch vehicle ever built in US. They produced 7.7m pounds of thrust over 2.5 minutes and brought the rocket up to an altitude of 38 miles.
At the end of their burn, they fell back to Earth and splashed down into the Atlantic. The remaining parts of the spacecraft brought the Apollo 11 crew into lunar orbit and landed men on the Moon on July 20th., 1969.
Bezos has no idea what condition the engines are in, after crashing into the sea and sitting in corrosive salt water for the past 40 years. But he is planning to find out. And while the venture is being carried out with private money, Bezos says the rockets remain the property of NASA. 
Well, as he donates millions of buckeroos annually to charity, I guess he's allowed a little bit of self-indulgence...

Friday, April 6, 2012

Norwegian Idiot Arrested

The Norwegian who went to Antarctica without permission in January is now in custody.
Bad hair day, Jarle?
Self-proclaimed "Viking" Jarle Andhoy and four others (incl. NZer Busby Noble) were arrested by the Chilean navy last weekend. When found, his yacht Nilaya was drifting between Antarctica and Sth America after its boom snapped; food and diesel were low.
You'll recall the headlines earlier this year when Andhoy spent weeks sneaking around the ice illegally. He was looking for evidence of missing sailboat Berserk, which sank in McMurdo Sound in Feb.2011, killing three. Andhoy and a mate had been travelling across the ice on quad bikes when Berserk sank: a week's search-and-rescue operation covered more than 25,000sq km, in treacherous seas and 180kmh winds. Andhoy said he returned to find answers to the sinking. Well, hello! It was one of the worst Antarctic storms in 20 years!!!
In January, Busby Noble claimed he'd been below decks repairing an anchor and fell asleep, thus becoming an unintentional stowaway when Nilaya sailed. Yea, right. Transpired he was an acquaintance of one of those who died, and a maori activist. First thing this bro did when he reached the ice? Plant a maori separatist flag! Jeez! Give it a rest!
No, give them "arrest" - the appropriate response to this foolhardy unauthorised barely planned risk-taking. Norway's media and hundreds of Facebook fans were treating these "Wild Vikings" as heroes for cocking a snook at authorities and going to the ice without permission. Duuhh, this ain't an anti-establishment game! These clowns would've expected total support if they'd got into trouble, yet did not conform to safety protocols, thus putting others at high risk/high cost to mount search-and-rescue ops.
There was never going to be any evidence to find: this was just a
'f***-the-system!' trip. So no glorious Viking exit into a southern sunset: Andhoy and cohorts deserve everything that's coming to them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Phar Lap - Ultimate Racehorse

Winning the 1930 Melbourne Cup
Champion racehorse Phar Lap has been the source of much trans-Tasman debate and rivalry.
Even today, he is the benchmark for champions past, present and future.
NZ-born and bred, Phar Lap raced primarily in Australia. Of his 51 races, he won 37 and was placed second or third in five others. At the height of his career he was as close to a 'sure bet' as was possible in the unpredictable world of horse racing. From 1930 he won 33 of his last 35 races, including the 1930 Melbourne Cup. In the gloom of the great Depression, Phar Lap’s exploits thrilled the people of two countries.
Drama and controversy surrounded Phar Lap's career. Criminals tried to shoot him the Saturday before his 1930 Melbourne Cup win. His strapper Tommy Woodcock, trainer Harry Telford, and regular jockey Jim Pike were offered substantial bribes to ensure he didn't win: they all refused.
Phar Lap had arrived in Oz as a two-year-old. A bright red chestnut, he grew to a huge 17.1 hands (1.74m) high with an enormous 27ft.stride, earning nicknames such as Big Red and The Red Terror. His name meant lightning in the Thai language, and he lived up to that with his ability to finish races with a surge of speed. While he was no looker, this mattered little to the punters.
Having conquered Australasia, Phar Lap was about to do the same in America. On 24th.March 1932 he won the rich Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico in record time (though nursing a hoof injury and still recovering from his long sea voyage). Invitations to race in major meetings in the eastern US flooded in, but...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kiwi Kardashian Katastrophe Komin'

Just when local tv couldn't get any worse...
gird your loins for a new reality show, a koiwoi version of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, featuring socialites Sally Ridge and daughter Jaime. Who??? Exactly!
MediaWorks would neither confirm nor deny details: "It's not our policy to comment on what is or isn't in development."
Keeping Up With The Kardashians initially centred around superstar siblings and their manager mum, then added boyfriends, husbands, divorces, spin-offs...*yawn* US tv, playing to the lowest common denominator, hit on a successful formula to please the dumbed-down. Now NZ tv wants to cash in too: you can bet, should this
OBVIOUS similarities...yea, right!!!
 ever happen, MediaWorks'll have the barefaced affrontery to expect NZ On Air funding.
While the Ridge wenches don't have the international pull of the Kardashian clan, there are comparisons between their socialite lives, where celebrity status is gained through who they sleep with and how they look. Sally Ridge was married to former All Black/NZ Warriors player Matthew Ridge before taking up with former Black Cap Adam Parore.
Stuff.co.nz: the public don't care less!
Daughter Jaime was involved with NZ hockey rep Dwayne Rowsell, then left him for All Black and NZ heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Bill Williams - they've just split. And the locally-famous-for-being-locally-famous Ridges, like the Kardashians, are also into fashion. Sally's a former interior designer and owner of a failed undies company; her daughter is a model.
Another similarity with The Kardashians? This will also be crap!
PS: 14 Sept.2012 - And what garbage it WAS!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Next Hundred Years

As it was...
Last Friday saw the opening of Abbeville Estate.
A year ago, I had blogged about the fate of the old Westney Rd Methodist Church, which used to sit in Mangere, by the Auckland airport access road. At that time, I'd been provided information by Peter Alexander, Auckland International Airport's General Manager Property, and he kindly invited me to attend the opening...
Abbeville Homestead
Abbeville Estate is Auckland's newest venue for weddings and events. It contains four heritage buildings in tranquil surroundings, yet is only minutes from the city and the international airport (not that you'd know it - plane noise is almost non-existent).
The barn
The Nixon Road site is the original location of Abbeville Homestead and barn (the only intact pre-1860 historic farm complex remaining in the Auckland region). Moved onto the site are the equally well-restored 1855 Westney Homestead and Westney Church (c.1856).
Many of those attending the opening had family ties to to the church: their ancestors had been buried beside it. But no burial records existed, so the Mangere Hist.Society had the awesome challenge of finding descendants, from just
Westney Homestead
headstone details. Then permission was needed to resite the graves, so the land could be developed for the airport's second runway. The restoration of the church, with Andrew Rennie's well-known stained glass windows in pride-of-place, must have been fitting closure. Having seen the church in its latter tired days, I was
The Rennie windows
most impressed... 
The Estate plan required sustainable activities. The Great Catering Company will manage/operate the Estate as a function venue: several weddings are booked already. With the church and reception venue on-site, Abbeville Estate makes a one-stop wedding location!
Big bouquets to all those involved...and esp.Auckland Intl.Airport for going well beyond its core responsibilities and helping to preserve local history.
Ready for the next century...