Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Game is Rigged

While I was up in Auckland for a 40th, Mrs RRB enquired why I don't get more involved directly in politics. I told her that I tend to annoy more or less all the political parties. I'm the sand in the vaseline to all parliamentary parties. Well then, she said. Why don't you start your own party? I replied that I would if there was a snowball's chance of an outside party ever entering parliament. Frankly, the odds are stacked firmly against such an idea.

The only party under MMP to enter parliament without a sitting MP was Act back in 1996, and that still required former MPs to stand for the party as well as a truckload of cash to pull it off. In the four MMP elections that followed, not a single new party has entered the House. It's a closed shop.

By-elections are a good example of how parliamentary incumbency can tilt the playing field towards the insiders. Whether it's the Taranaki-King Country by-election in the Nineties or the recent Mt Albert one, parliamentary resources are brought to bear in a way that makes it impossible for non-parliamentary parties to match.

Then there's the broadcasting allocations at general elections, which not only award vast funds for the incumbent parties, but also disallow minor parties to increase their public visibility with privately funded Tv and radio advertising.

But the really recent glaring example of insular entitlement has to be the swift return of Phil Heatley to ministerial duties. Sure, the Auditor-General cleared him of serious misconduct. As Bryce Edwards points out in this good post on the subject:
It has to be remembered that Auditor General Lyn Provost (pictured on the right) is not making these rules or even commenting on the correctness or value of these rules, but is just interpreting and helping apply the rules. The rules are written, of course, by the politicians themselves.
It seems you can drive not one, but two ministerial drivers between the sides of this law:
Mr Heatley's wife drove his taxpayer-funded SUV and caught the Wellington-Picton ferry. Mr Heatley himself took a flight to Blenheim and a VIP car then took him to Picton. The Heatleys took the train to Kaikoura - a VIP driver followed in Mr Heatley's car. The Heatleys then drove their car back to Picton, but its VIP driver, stranded in Kaikoura, had to be collected by a colleague. All this was at the taxpayers' expense.
That's allowed. So is the taxpayer picking up the bill for Heatley's National Party conference expenses; food, wine and accommodation. It's also perfectly within the rules for the minister (who is paid $250,000 a year for his troubles) to charge a $6.50 Burger King to the taxpayer too. That one greasy meal sums up the petty, grabbing entitlement of a man who volunteered for public service. It stinks, but it's within the rules.

John Armstrong is rightly gobsmacked, and he cuts a lot of slack all the same. For example:
MPs are constantly hit up for donations to worthy causes and obliged to buy raffle tickets to help fund organisations in their electorates. They should not have to suffer financially for such largesse.
To borrow a phrase from The Wire, that sounds suspiciously like Clay Davis' "walk around money". It is not the taxpayers' responsibility to pay for MPs to upgrade their mana with one-on-one handouts, especially when MPs are among the top one percent of income earners in the country. That's so backward, it's downright feudal.

It is little wonder that outside parties have a hell of a problem trying to get a foot in the door of parliament. We can't all be like MPs, with their hands on the tap of other people's money. And it's no surprise that politicians are treated by the general public with the utmost contempt when blatant skimming like this is within the rules.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Collect call from the Super Gorilla

Writer Neil Boorman takes a look at the trouble with Boomers over at the BBC. NZ shares many of the same costs facing the succeeding generations of X and Y. On top of the usual indebtedness the young ones face, boomers here have had the leaky building syndrome, the finance company collapses, the Clark and Key governments happen here on their watch.

Clark was responsible for ignoring the housing bubble, but John Key continues to ignore the superannuation bubble. Paula Bennett's benny bash on one hand, kid gloves over Super Gold Card free ferry trips on the other. Vilify the bloke who got the dole while crusading against Manners Mall buses, but venerate the oldies who have nothing to fill their days but to ring talkback and write letters to the editor, complaining that the tuis sing too loud.

Democracy favours the old as well. The old ones vote, the young (and brown) don't. While Winston Peters draws breath (as well as a variety of pension plans), there'll be no chance of cuts to elder welfare. NZ children's health, education, welfare and quality of life will be slashed back before a single means-tested dollar is aired against the seniors.

The baby boomers have no qualms on having their cake, eating it, and leaving X&Y to pick up the bill. And John Key has no problem with it either.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fuzzy logic at the BSA

The latest round of Broadcasting Standards Authority rulings on viewer complaints has been released. Chimpanzee with a receding hairline, Breakfast TV's Paul Henry, has had a complaint dismissed against his use of the word schizo. Back luck to the comics at current affairs improv show 7 Days though. The BSA has ruled against the comedians:
Airing last September on TV3 show 7 Days, a panel of comedians interpreted a young girl's picture of a recent news story - in this case the proposed double-bunking of inmates.

The girl introduced herself, then held up her picture of two prisoners sleeping in a top bunk, and another two arguing about who should get in the bottom bunk first. Part of the girl's picture read: "No money, plus a lot of prisoners, equals a lot of grossness up ahead."

This prompted the comedians to make off-colour jokes of a sexual nature, one involving sodomy.

That the adults-only rated programme had a verbal warning before it started and was on at 10pm was not enough to prevent it from breaching good taste and decency standards, the BSA said. 

The full 7 Days decision is here. Crunch point:
[20]   The Authority considers that the child’s presence and identification in the segment was unnecessary and exploitative. Essentially, the segment directly linked the young girl to a ribald discussion about sex and drew her into a context which was highly inappropriate.
OK, let's get this straight. It's OK for bald chimps to use low brow humour at a time when young children are part of the TV audience. But it's not OK to use the same humour after 10pm at night, after the least subtle viewer warning ever. Go on, have a look.

Sodomy doesn't even make it into the top 31 swear words, not unless you include bugger at 31, below even bloody. Still, it seems that if one uses a primary school kid's drawing as an improv device, jokes must be kept to a child's level of humour. Fart, poo and Paul Henry jokes only.

Why not relive the good old days of NZ comedy fresh at NZ on Screen, back in the day when anything was good for a laugh. HT Spare Room.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adiós CC's

Food manufacturers continue to consolidate their supply lines. The latest casualty in this right-sizing is Bluebird's CC's and Aztec Corn Chips. They have been replaced by a locally-made version of the Americana trash Doritos. As a fond nacho lover (you should try my Nacho Grando el Gonzo plate), Zippy Gonzales is not amused. Fortunately, there's still Mexican Supplies. Just as Whitaker's chocolate is to Cadbury, Mexicano Corn Chips is now my preferred supplier.

Kiss my kidney beans, Big Food!

Branded Food Fights

Cadbury has been causing all sorts of badwill in NZ, from screwing with the size and recipe of its chocolate bars, to offshoring and screwing with the formula for its Creme Eggs, Minties and Wine Gums.

Nestle is learning a similar lesson over in Oz, after the food giant had a Greenpeace ad critical of palm plantations removed from YouTube. Negative comments on Nestle's Facebook page have been deleted, as well as threats not to take the brand's logo in vain:
When Nestle's company Facebook page was flooded with negative posts from 'unfans' the company moved to delete them and any altered logos that appeared on the social networking site.

"To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic - they will be deleted," Nestle's moderator wrote. 
Incidentally, one of the free speech tragedies of the Top Secret ACTA treaty will be to make criticism and mockery of these superbrands punishable by disconnection from the internet. Thou shalt not make graven images of brand names. Yeah right.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Drunk on power

A brief history of Nikola Tesla, told by a guy who has drunk a six pack of beer and a half bottle of absinthe:

Drunk History: Nikola Tesla
Uploaded by dquaid. - See more comedy videos.

HT /.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bits and bobs

# Wellington's Carter Observatory has finished refurbishment and will be celebrating with an Open Day this Saturday.

# Victoria University alumni might be interested in acquiring a piece of Grant Buist's Quad mural:
As part of the Quad redevelopment, I learnt today that my mural is being “decommissioned”, which is a military euphemism for ‘binned”. This mural, which took me four years to paint, is made up of 18 panels, each of which is 1.2 metres wide by 1.6 metres tall, painted on hardboard which varies in weight from damn unwieldy to OMG this thing is heavy. It’s one of the projects of which I’m proudest.

Now, I could bung the entire thing on TradeMe, but I think I’d prefer to give it away panel by panel to people who have fond memories of staring at it in the Quad during lunch. The only condition is that you’d probably have to turn up at Vic and haul the thing away yourself.

So, hover your mouse over your favourite panel, note the title and number, contact me here, and reserve it.
# Peter at Dub dot dash points to this smoking version of I Put A Spell On You, a collaboration between Nick Cave, Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones, Johnny Depp and others to raise funds for the Haiti quake survivors:

# The Wellington nights are getting colder and the heating bill for the Hobbit Hole is sure to rise. One way to keep warm and stay fed is to bake your own bread. Lifehack gives a quick and easy way to make One Minute Prep Ciabatta bread. Nothing is better than a very low oven proving dough to warm up the room as well as the smells of baking bread to lift the spirits.

# The Story of Bottled Water, brought to you by the same team who gave us the Story of Stuff:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

55 after 40

Life has recently been inconveniencing my blogging. It's the exact opposite of writer's block with a much better side effect. There's plenty to write, there's a galaxy of poetic moments pushing and prodding for attention like a Chinese food stall queue or a stock market floor. Buy, Sell! Simile, Metaphor!

But there's been no time to sit down and blurt. The main reason for this has been brought to you by the number 40. There's been the full turning 40 years old trip. Weird girlfriend flashbacks, Dave and the Dynamos earwig, as well as Bono yelling How Long Must We Sing This Song from Live at Red Rocks, painful like a Bangkok brothel.

As much as I try to convince myself that time is an illusion, and 40 times around the sun is as meaningful as Xmas, that theory isn't holding up very well. Sure, 2001 gave me Bride of Frankenstein grey hair at the temples (Miss Tigger, a Gen Yer, described it as the Paulie-Walnuts-from-The Sopranos look). 2005 was also pretty interesting too.

But turning 40 has hit like an ordained mindquake, the stocktake from hell. It's not like doing the yardie at the 21st, something I not-entirely-sadly avoided. I had seen my siblings and mates suffer enough, and it interested me as much as Aussie Rules. I had been completely wrecked before and a repeat performance lacked the novelty.

There's no avoiding 40. It started at the Wellington Cup in January, where a fortunate trifecta and a flat cellphone battery led to a large correction in mana levels all over the place. There was the story of the old-timer panelbeater from Pram, who I traded histories with over the coincidence of deafness. Mine naturally, him by trade.

There was the excellent birthday spread put on for me by Madame Guru and Mr Perfect. I'm completely sick of mince and they served pork fillet. Bless! If I gave you the odds of me first meeting up with them, you wouldn't put serious money on it happening. That was so utterly random yet it all worked out for the better. Risk is good.

I've just come back from Auckland, where the heat was moist, the traffic better than I remember it, Prozaic even. It was Best Mate RRB's turn to hit 40. While there, I swapped Tales of Childhood Danger with a bloke who grew up in Ashhurst, just around the corner from me in Palmy. Him with midnight eeling when he was eight or nine, jumping off the Big Rock into the Manawatu River and scaring the train drivers in the Manawatu Gorge as they jumped off the rope swing way up high.

Kids these days. They don't swim. Maybe a Virtua Swim on PS3, but their thumbs won't save them at Piha Beach. I sympathised with RRB's Mum-in-Law that the kids were getting spoiled (I'm not only recovering from Auckland mozzie bites, but there's bite marks on my tongue. Never saw that happening). I haven't felt so deeply, self-consciously ambivalent since I first took LSD at Wellington Zoo back in the Nineties.

But the moment that really had me having the life-flashing-before-the-eyes experience was trying to fly into Wellington yesterday afternoon. I'm never going to laugh at these YouTubes again.

It had been an enjoyable but exhausting weekend, and I was really yearning for home and peace. The Auckland Airport security lady, who went into great swathes of busyness checking the specific blade length on my standard issue Swiss MacGuyver knife, was almost enough to set me off into official complaint mode. "I've got into Parliament with that," I said to ignorant response. She needed to consult a bigger ruler, she said. So much for one size fits all, eh.

Some poor bastard and his missus were having similar but different problems with security. They were about as out-of-type for terrorists, domestic or foreign, as Tama Umaga batting for the Black Caps. Still, some trivial slight had to be enquired upon them. Your tax dollars at work.

I was booked on the 1:30pm Air NZ Flight NZ439 from Auckland to Wellington. The plane arrived late. Battles with Auckland fog and Wellington wind had it running behind time. Rodney Hide strode off the arriving flight, polite enough to stop and have a yak. We boarded half an hour late from balmy Auckland. I knew that a big front was coming up from the South Island, but the full force of just what that meant had yet to hit. It was Monday, and I shared Row 13 with a Mum and sprog on the way back to Wellington. John Boscawen was seated up front in Business. There were omens for Africa.

We departed Auckland sometime after 2pm and approached Wellington from the south an hour later. Cloud sat in a thick smooth blob over the land like sculpted mashed potato. The landing gear was lowered and the Cook Strait waters appeared below, white peaks on the waves speaking volumes about the wind gusts at sea level.

The 737 pitched and yawed violently as it attempted to reach the runway. It was even odds which part of the plane would touch the tarmac first; wheels, nose, tail or wingtip. The latter were thrumming like a bass guitar string. It's a weird thing for a manic depressive to have a "so-this-is-it-we're-going-to-die" moment and be somewhat resentful at that fact.

Just when I thought the wings would snap off with the stress, or the plane would smear into the runway like Marmite, the pilot aborted the landing with a big burst of thrust and a steep rise back into the heavens. A spare pilot in the seats later told of 55 knot wind gusts. That's about 100 km/h in landhugger units.

We were advised that we were heading to Christchurch to refuel. Ninety minutes after we were originally scheduled to land in Wellington, we were landing in Christchurch. I had never been so happy to see the Cathedral City before. Residual adrenaline had me reeling off clichés to all and sundry. I chose the wrong day to quit sniffing glue, etc. It was meant to sound reassuring but the adjacent Mum didn't look convinced and was probably classifying me as a deranged pedo pervert or something.

At least three other diverted jets joined ours parked at the international terminal. The plane was being refuelled with sufficient gas to allow another couple of goes at Wellington airport, a 30 minute holding pattern, with enough back-up for a return to Auckland if that all proved futile.

We weren't allowed to leave the plane while this was happening, so the nearly fully booked flight sat on the tarmac in Christchurch's blazing heat. Cellphones were whipped out as passengers informed their loved ones elsewhere what was happening. The crew did what they could to make things comfortable. Food and water was passed out as surround sound wailing children didn't. I switched off my hearing aids, which also work well as Deaf aids when the time is right.

There was a bit of commotion near the rear of the plane. Supervisors were consulted, Air NZ rulebooks were pulled out, and around 4:30pm a man, woman and child left the grounded flight. Half an hour later, once the family's luggage had been extracted from the cargo bay, the flight was ready to take off for Wellington. The safety video was shown again, preceded by the cabin staff advising "Please pay particular attention" to the instructions. Everyone watched as if their lives depended on it.

The Boeing launched northwards to Wellington. Christchurch might have been fine and dry, but up in the air it was plain that the ominous mashed potato cloud hadn't evaporated. The Southern Alps held it all back from the Canterbury Plains like a dam.

Once more we approached Wellington airport. The plane cut down through the starchy cloud once again, bouncing and smacking around slightly less than the last attempt. The waves below looked less like stiff peaks of egg white too.

Touchdown was somewhere on the far side of 5:30pm. As far as landings go, I've had rougher. I joined many of the passengers in a round of applause for the pilots as we taxied to the terminal. Wild at Heart indeed. Emergency services with lights a flashing dotted the airport like the end of Die Hard II, but at 1/16 the scale and budget. Speaking of which, lucky they haven't installed the Wellywood eyesore up the road. No-one has to worry about an airborne 3 metre tall W travelling at 55 knots into the face just yet.

Big ups to the pilots and crew on Flight NZ 439, the four hour trip for the admission price of a one hour show. An Extra Special Choice Award to Angela, the flight crew madame who kept everything sane for the passengers. You don't pay people for the everyday to and fro. Staff are insurance for when things go wrong. That's when quality and experience come to the fore.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Drugs on Tuesday

The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs, the governmental body tasked with evaluating the actual, demonstrable harms of various drugs on evidence-based criteria, has concluded a review of LSD:
Official documents show the committee felt LSD was inappropriately classified, based on evidence of risk of harm.
Peter Dunne, Associate Minister of Health has announced that under no circumstances will the classification of LSD be lowered. Dim Post rubs it in.

One voice who won't be offering any opinion on the matter is BK Drinkwater, who has recently scored a job with the Ministry of Health. He sets out the new rules of engagement here, following the sterilised muted blog examples of Roar Prawn, Che Tibby and Well Urban. In NZ, we don't lock up our dissidents. We give them jobs in the machine.

Law Commission on Drugs Part 5 soon.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bill Maher and the Electric Babysitter

This week's New Rules from Real Time. He's got some words of wisdom that's equally applicable to NZ schools:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet the Commissioners

If you're in Wellington on Tuesday 23rd March, get curious about Drug Awareness Week and come along to:

Law Commissioners Val Sim and Warren Young will be giving a presentation and taking a few questions all about the Controlling and Regulating Drugs discussion paper.

1pm at Victoria University Kelburn, Student Union Building, Meeting Room Two.

5:30pm in the city, at the St John's Community Hall, up the hill a bit from the corner of Willis and Dixon.

Gold coin donation / koha

High fibre diet

Big ups to Sam Morgan, Stephen Tindall, Rod Drury and others for forming Pacific Fibre, which is planning to open up NZ's connectivity with a 5.12 Terabit/sec pipe to Oz and the US. There's a not so subtle dig at the Southern Cross cable, which is partly owned and operated by Telecom:
Sam Morgan commented: “We desperately need a cable that is not purely based on profit maximisation, but on delivering unconstrained international bandwidth to everybody, and so we’ve decided to see whether we can do it ourselves.”

It's a sign

Click image to embiggerate

Let the last word on the Wellywood sign go to Alan Moore's DR & Quinch Go To Hollywood:

Mind the oranges, Marlon!

Philosophy & Object Violence

Pablo at KiwiPolitico looks at the ad-hockery of NZ policy. A lot to think over and the thread comments are also illuminating:
NZ’s so-called “number 8 wire attitude,” supposedly evidence of Kiwi pragmatism and resourcefulness, is actually the logical result of a chronic and perpetual lack of planning and an ex post, ad hoc approach to policy-making. One interlocutor phrased it as “policy by anecdote,” where politicians relate stories they have been told as proof that similar approaches elsewhere can work just fine in NZ.

Bryce at liberation looks at the Heatley affair and the 'ethical sickness' of entitlement:
Various commentators and politicians have expressed bemusement about what they see as the essentially trivialness and non-intentionality of Heatley’s resignation-inducing offence with his credit card. Yet it should be reiterated that Heatley scandal was over what was essentially his theft of taxpayer funds for his own private use.

Stephen Hawking, extreme violence to inanimate objects and cheesy soundtrack. It must be a Pink Terror Hawking chaser:

Pink Terror Hawking from mike barzman on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ACTA is malware

The top secret ACTA circus is coming to town next month. Prior to these cone of silence meetings that intend to cripple the internet, InternetNZ is putting together PublicACTA. The guy who has done more to shed light on this dark ACTA material, Michael Geist, has been confirmed as a keynote speaker.

Don't let the lawyers, hucksters and business pimps win. Register your place for this vital, public and open forum on April 10th. HT Creative Freedom Foundation.

Spleen Generator

If the city leaders absolutely positively insist on a graffiti magnet on a hill, what should really go on that sign?

Have a go for yourself here. HT Wellingtonista.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Inside Marijuana

A recent National Geographic documentary giving a good overview of the War on Drugs against marijuana:

Law Commission Submission form

A pdf of NORML's submission form to the Law Commission is available for download here. Print it off, fill in your details and send it to the Law Commission by April 30 2010. Spread the word around your friends and networks as your part of Drug Awareness Week!
NORML Review of Drugs Laws

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Morons in the news

Boy gets trapped in Coke machine.

Truck driver takes a tall haul through a short tunnel.

Retired property magnate whines that her loopholes might run dry:
"It's said we don't contribute to the economy but I pay rates, insurance, bank interest, numerous tradespeople, merchants and a property manager."

Everything but the tax. Congratulations Pat Baker. You are exactly the blood-sucking tax-avoiding poster child of the baby boomer shitstorm that might cost this country its future.

Now that's sharp

Great gonzo's gonads, a big thank you to Chris Trotter for pointing to Mark Ames' eXile. This is industrial strength satire from a kindred vicious mind. Take this classic reprint of 20 Reasons We're Ashamed to be Americans. A sample:
We would seriously consider converting to Islam if someone would slowly saw [Seth] McFarlane’s head off while forcing him to sing the theme song to “Three’s Company,” complete with laugh track.
Vampire Squid Hunter Matt Taibbi has co-written Sex, Drugs and Libel in the New Russia with Ames. This pair could quite well qualify for the reincarnations of Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo. We are in awe.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Law Commission on Drugs - Intermission

The story so far. The Law Commission has released a discussion document reviewing the thirty-five year old Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, the first time such a review has occurred in a generation. The lines of communication are open until April 30th. Written submissions are being requested. Talklaw is your portal right into their public discussions.

If you ever wondered if there was time to change the dishonest, hypocritical, morally-skewed, racist, expensive, damaging laws on drugs, now is the time. The Law Commission received over 4000 submissions on their Alcohol in Our Lives discussion paper. We're aiming at getting at least double that for the MODA review. 400,000 kiwis used cannabis last year. Hey, I'm only asking for two percent of this large minority to lift pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard and put a stop to this insane bullshit war on weed.

Cannabis is part of our culture. Let's be honest. We're soaking in it. No-one else in the world has tinny houses. Only kiwis spot from stoves:

We can't go on like this; arresting people, ruining overseas travel opportunities, careers, lives and families by denying the blatantly obvious. Marijuana is now indigenous. Regulate it. Tax it. Get over it.

The Law Commission is kindly making themselves available to the public at meetings around the country during Drug Awareness Week. I hope the Young Nats, Young Labour, Young Greens and Act on Campus can once again unite as they did for the Keep It 18 campaign. If anyone from the Young Ones wants to come along for the ride, please get in contact with your local branch of NORML.

Many hands make light work of Power's swift dismissal of drug reform. Get in there, people.

UPDATE: If you're in Wellington at the Newtown Festival on Sunday morning, be sure to drop around to the NORML stand and say gudday.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The mire in the gyre looks increasingly dire

If a butterfly's wings beating in the Amazon rainforest affects a tornado in Texas, you can be pretty sure that an estimated 3 million tons of plastic crap in the North Pacific will affect the future of marine life, and therefore all life. If you're not depressed enough with this, there is growing evidence of a similar trash heap in the North Atlantic. Because these catastrophic messes are in international waters beyond the shores of the litterbugs, not one thing will be done about it.

CRI Freedom

The Crown Research Institute Taskforce has landed with a crash, bang and a strong whiff of ammonia. The Science Media Centre has the information here. Science Minister Mapp was on Nine to Noon making encouraging sounds. 95bFM had Peter Griffin talking about it at the beginning of this clip.

All in all it sounds like a good report. Funding rounds should be moved from 2 to 5 year contracts, giving the gronks more time to do work instead of chasing funding. Fair go. Richard Feynman fucking hated admin. It's a useless distraction from what's important. This is the same physicist who said screw government.

The requirement that CRIs return a minimum nine percent return to the government each and every year looks to be on the way out. This is one policy u-turn I'm glad the Key government is performing. Hell, even Gareth Morgan can't pull off returns at that level.

There should be more co-operation between CRIs, as opposed to the competitive model currently used. Any Sesame Street muppet this side of Oscar the Grouch could tell that co-operation is the way to go.

While NZ R&D is well below our trading partners', the big surprise was seeing just how slack the private sector is at pulling their weight. There's some good graphs over at Vincent Heeringa's prophetic look at New Zealinstan at Idealog. You can almost see what Labour was getting at with their research tax credit (All the same, it was too late and too lame a policy which deserved to be shot).

The CRIs should offer an olive branch to private industry to see how they might help them become more productive. Many of our parochial business patriarchs are pretty set in their ways. It'll take a bit of a mindshift for them to accept a little broadening of their horizons. It wasn't that long ago when I was working in a meat exporting head office, showing the CEO how to bookmark a webpage.

My two cents to add on; I am flabbergasted at the NZ banks' flat ignorance of R&D. They assume R&D is only for devising ever more elaborate ways to milk debt off their customers. Not one of them has a specialist in R&D investment. That is left to NZ's pissant little venture capital markets. It's all too hard for Ira Goldstein, especially when you've got the Property Monster to suck off.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Sticks and Stones

I have a few molecules of sympathy for what police unionist Greg O'Connor is on about with this disrespect for the police thing:
"I'm not talking about someone just saying 'bugger off'. But, particularly in a bar situation, when police are trying to do their job and someone is yelling 'f-off pigs', police should be able to arrest them and charge them with insulting behaviour. Cases show that it's something police are expected to put up with, but it shouldn't be."

But to make "fuck off pigs" grounds for arrest is over the top and counter-productive. Yeah, it's not much fun getting verbal abuse thrown at you, but it comes with the territory. You shouldn't unnecessarily throw abuse at cops in much the same way you shouldn't throw abuse at octogenarian slow drivers, call centre workers or parking wardens. But it happens, and as far as pressure valves go, it's pretty soft stuff. Talk is cheap.

And a little courtesy can go a long way. As Youthlaw points out, things will usually go better for young ones involved with the police if they show some respect. Is it too much to ask for mutual respect?

Why are more people hurling abuse at cops more nowadays? It might be because respect for the police as a whole has deteriorated over the years. Certainly, the esteem with which police were held dropped like a stone when the last National government merged Road Traffic enforcement with Police. What cost savings were made in the budget were more than offset in that unquantifiable ledger of public goodwill.

More recently, local government bylaw enforcement by police for such petty crimes as breaching alcohol-free areas are also partly to blame (Or bike helmet laws or searches without warrant). Just like teachers, politicians currying populism have dumped the police with ever greater and more encompassing little burdens. Just like teachers, police are faced with more confrontational public relations as they became the coalface nanny instead of focusing on their core functions.

Police culture bears some responsibility for the state of things too. Their lobbyists are always keen to expand the police power base, confusing might with right. The inability to ensure the bad cops who abuse their privileged place as public servants with a monopoly of force are held to account is unhelpful. It is common knowledge that loyalty within the force trumps loyalty to public service every time.

Fault lies on both sides. It is not unreasonable to suggest that both sides of the equation should be weighed up and see if some de-escalation can be brought to bear. A war on words is not the right approach.

Simply the best

The Best Use of a Rube Goldberg Machine in a Music Video - OK Go. Creative destructive fun with physics at its finest. Must watch in HD.

Most Gratuitous Use of the Word "Fuck" in a Serious Screenplay - The Wire. Innovative police work by the fuckload.

Lord of Belize

Nicked from here

There's not a single, solitary MSM story in NZ about John Key's mate Lord Ashcroft, but the non-domiciled tax status of the National / Tory peer is causing a huge ruckus in the UK. Phil at Whoar mentions the story and that's it.

It seems that the former Mr Ashcroft received his peerage on the understanding that he would become a UK resident by the end of 2000. Here we are ten years down the track and he's still a non-dom don.

Not a good look for a man who has thrown millions of tax-avoiding pounds into campaigning in marginal constituencies for the Tories.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Today in God

Poneke points out that the editor of the hallucinogenic magazine Investigate, Ian Wishart, has complained to Science Minister Wayne Mapp. Wishart accuses Sciblogs of "the site’s anti-religious propaganda and an article by me critical of Sciblogs being used for a scurrilous attack on ACT MP Rodney Hide by a global warming activist."

Wayne Mapp has leapt into action, writing back to Wishart: “I have asked the SMC to review contributions from their bloggers to ensure the content is consistent with both the terms and conditions [of the blog] and the [blog's] code of ethics.”

In other news, Eric Crampton at Offsetting Behaviour points to an article that reckons that Tolkien couldn't be Jewish AND write LOTR. Jews are totally Sci-Fi. Christians are totally medieval.

Oh, I just love religious arguments. They're existential viewing.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Rose of the River Café

Last week, I was hunting through the larder for some dinner. While not quite Mother Hubbard's cupboard, a substantial part of the back wall was showing, which is never a good sign. Happiness is a full pantry, after all. Luckily, there were enough ingredients to make one of my favourite dishes.

A dribble of Balsamic vinegar, a dash of olive oil, a couple of handfuls of penne pasta, a can of tomatoes, the last of the basil leaves from the window sill which the sun barely reaches these last days of summer. A large dollop of butter from the fridge, some garlic, a handful of parmesan. It should be Pecorino but close enough damnit. All the right ingredients for a cheap feast.

The real recipe is in the River Café Cookbook. Where else does the book like to fall open? Ah, the Risotto al Amarone di Valpolicella, another filling meal which requires stuff all in the larder. Excellent student food. Ah, Chocolate Nemesis, you unmakeable blob! The ultimate in chocolate porn and just as unattainable. And yet, a revised recipe released in 2004 might do the trick.

I was never much chop in restaurant kitchens, but left to my own devices and the right book at home, all was good. Three books, to be precise. The Edmonds, the River Café Cook Book, and my exercise book of gleaned gems from around about (The Alison Holst and Sauces books have gone walkabouts).

One of the founding chefs at River Café, Rose Gray, has passed on. So long, and thanks for all the simple meals.

A Day in Pompeii

Wellington ratepayers and residents can get into the Te Papa exhibit One Day in Pompeii for free this Thursday 4th March. See here for more details.

Making plans for Nigel

Russell Brown comments over at about the weirdly condensed article in the HoS about ODD and "autistic syndrome disorder" (sic). I first clicked onto ASD as Mr Bean syndrome, which explained a hell of a lot about my unintentional anti-social behaviour within the autistic spectrum.

This clip is dedicated to Nigel Latte, who knows as much about ASD as the next pop psychologist: