Sunday, March 31, 2013

Odds and Sods

A random assortment of niggles and observations.

# Brickbat to Martyn Bradbury / Maritime Union's new Daily Blog. I am not going to click through to read every damn repost and Bomber polemic from the RSS feed. Your signal to noise ratio does not warrant a headline or summary feed in the way I accept from, say, Public Address. Put the full post in the RSS, you hit count-obsessed idiots.

# For some reason, the signal to noise ratio over at Tumeke has improved dramatically. It's crystal clear, matter of fact. No static at all.

# Google is throwing a Googly over the Swedish neologism ogooglebar, among other matters. Harden up, you tax-dodging excuse for a new paradigm. The Old Reader is still looking the better alternative for the soon-to-be-extinct Google Reader, if only they can get the bugs and lazy load settings sussed.

# Alain de Botton, you poor wet Brit. Please stop banging on about the need for athiests to have secular churches. We used to call them pubs, bars, nightclubs and cafes, before they were put out of business and turned into daycare centres. Adult spaces just need space and tolerance, and there's not a lot of that going around right now.

# How come parents can feed their babies opiates and I'm not allowed to smoke cannabis at the age of 43? Even parts of Yankland are freer right now than these small narrow islands (A shout out to Colorado, Washington and even California, with a higher medpot store density in L.A. and Denver, Colorado than Starbucks. If it wasn't for all the thick racist bible thumpers, it might almost be worth going there).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

SOE Sold Cheap

Another day, another omnishambles in the SOEs. Fran O'Sullivan takes to the National cabinet with a chainsaw today, letting rip at Key, English and Ryall for playing footsies with Rio Tinto:
Key probably finds it hard to compute that his Government is now on the backfoot as it tries to scramble together a short-term subsidy to prop up the energy-hungry smelter for a few more years, all the while as the Treasury floats down 49 per cent of the shares in Meridian Energy (which supplies electricity to the smelter), and other state-owned electricity generators like Mighty River Power and Genesis Energy.

Yet again, the National Roundtable Brains Trust has been caught short on the SOE sales policy. Like the Maori Council water dispute and the 'Mums and Dads Investor Guarantee', the Rio Tinto shakedown shows how little foresight and planning went into National's SOE sell-off policy.

It all makes Rogernomics look clean and fair in comparison. I don't shy away from the SOE model that was introduced by Prebble at the time. It was always a temporary measure, a holding pattern for public float or private sale. This model was supposed to be a temporary thing, not some dead albatross hanging around the taxpayers neck some thirty years later.

Mistakes were made at that time. National not only didn't learn from them, they are compounding the damage without rhyme or reason.

Once they've finished paying off the admen, the investment banks, the Megacorps, the investors who don't flip their shares straight off, and every other interested party with their hand in the pocket or the till, it'll be a wonder that this half-arsed garage sale was worth the hassle.

I hope some gronk names a newly discovered jellyfish after John Key. Rest assured, this thing comes with a hell of a sting.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fat Fucks Burn Better on a Righteous Pyre

As far as George Orwell was concerned, the hallmarks of a totalitarian society can be summed up by bad cigarettes and compulsory fitness. The opening chapter of 1984 came to mind as I watched the first segment of TV3 ambitious new current affairs show The Vote.

The format seems robust enough, but the subject matter gave me reflux. Taxing 'bad' food is a mind-numbingly stupid idea, up there with Labour's aborted policy of exempting 'fresh' fruit and vegetables from GST.

But New Zealand has no shortage of bashers. Everybody needs somebody to hate, after all. The smokers are sufficiently marginalised, so now the puritans are after the drinkers and eaters. Can you spot the epicurean persecution yet?

No drinking in bars after midnight tonight. Blame the Christians.

[And lest you think I've dodged the 'Obesity Epidemic' argument, I put the temporary rise in fattery down to a combination of anti-smoking hatred (besides bulimia and cocaine, cigarettes are a model's best friend), Soccer Mum protectionism (e.g. stranger danger), the rise of imported cars in the '90s (especially in Auckland), the corresponding decline in cycling (especially when helmets were made compulsory), as well as added time pressures of modern life (e.g. fewer housewives chained to the stove). Access to fast food is at best a contributory factor.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Nerd in Every Meshie

Ongoing communication and advocacy issues in the Otautahi rebuild have me thinking about a possible handshake around this bottle neck, at the same time as empowering the people and get things moving up faster.

I mentioned the idea at the Open Government barcamp back in 2009 in a kamikaze public speaking gig, where it was evident that the practice struggled even in theory, and wasn't ready for Beta phase, let alone wasting geek time. Nowhere near as polished as Fix My Street guy, or this Census masher from another barcamp gatecrashing.

There are no such minimum standards for blogging, and maybe someone might pull something useful from the wreckage, so here goes.

New Zealand is filleted into geographic units called meshblocks. I encountered them working the Census before last. Above is a map of what was my territory around Aro Valley in Wellington. You can look up your own household Meshie here.

I tried to float Meshies as subatomic democratic entities, such as the idea of a Recoverable Proxy vote for certain issues. Or a secular Sister Meshie welfare scheme, where wealthy Meshies might co-operate with a poverty Meshie for public good.

It had all sorts of capture issues, or vigilante side effects, and generally more potholes than a Manila suburb. However, it might just work as a sure-fire means of two-way communication that cuts through all strata of affected people in the Disaster Area of Otautahi.

A delegated Nerd in every Meshie could be responsible for locally distributing and collating information (data, stories, complaints, gross injustices) in their superlocal network of residents.

Everyone from EQC, King Gerry, Sideshow Bob, and the rest of the merry band of non-contiguous bureaucracies would have reporting requirements to these Meshie Nerds, and the Nerds would swear a Postie's pledge to deliver both ways, come rain, shine or quake.

Media might have read only access to these lines of communications (e.g. via proactive OIA release) , in order to harvest the good and bad for greater public attention.

Why should terrorists alone understand the usefulness of a cellular network? Why can't the makers use the same tactics for constructive public benefit?

Korero with Pictures

Maori Television goes from strength to strength, apparently. I say apparently because I don't have a TV, and there's no streaming or online programming, so I have to take other peoples' word on it.

Many mates rave about the quality of Native Affairs, and now there's another fine example of the art of public broadcasting I'm missing out on; Behind the Brush (HT the bitchin' Paul Casserley).

Online refugees will have to content themselves with the Auckland Art Gallery, the Lindauer Online Project, and my two Good Gottfried posts (which may or may not have had influence over getting Behind the Brush from idea to reality. High hopes anyway).

UPDATE: I obviously wasn't looking hard enough on the site. Here's the first episode.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Backhanded Racket

The Jesus Freaks have finally learned to read. The godbothering posse from last time has wisely skirted my property this time around. I threw in a death stare just to be sure. Judging by the neigbourhood dog chorus, other sleepy villagers aren't so lucky.

It must be something seasonal. It seemed to be Hug a Christian on NatRad's Panel show on Thursday, with Chris Trotter and Gary Moore, Otautahitan  Catholic and Anglican bashers respectively. The former smugly announced that Godbotherers have a monopoly on human caring, while the latter rejoiced in vanilla traditions in public places. Chocolate and Hemp flavours need not apply.

I was angry before I realised just how scared and frustrated they sounded, not a bit like the RSA geezer up in Auckland. And I laughed.

Scared Christian White People are a minority, which goes some way to explaining how a Catholic squash player became the new Race Relations Conciliator. We'll see how minor once the first burst of data spews out of this month's Census.

Devoy's choice is ahead of its time. That is, in twenty years or so Scared Christian White People might well be a down-trodden minority, but not yet.

Indeed, Scared Christian White People have disproportionate voice presently. For every nutty Hone-ism or Joris de Bres-ticle, there's a dozen Gareth McMullah rants, a screed of narrow-minded bigotries from Family First's Bob McHuntly. For every militant atheist, there's a tax free haven like Sanitarium, a zero-rated piece of church land, and a meal ticket for government funds.

The world turns and this too shall pass. In twenty years time, I doubt Sanitarium will dodge its due taxes, churches will pay rates on their buildings and land, and secular protocols clean out all the loopholes such as integrated schools. God will pay tribute to Caesar.

Ghosts of Budgets Past

"The forecasts also show that this growth will raise real incomes of the average household by about $7,000 over the next four years, and create 170,000 jobs."

- Bill English, Budget Speech 2010, pg. 5.

"The Australian economy has created 676,600 new jobs while the New Zealand economy has lost 22,800 over the past four years."

- Brian Gaynor, NZ Herald 2013.

The abyss between Bill's fantasy and Brian's reality would be considerably worse if it wasn't for all those broken windows in Otautahi that need rebuilding.

Methinks Key's poll popularity is more Muldoon's bluff in the face of a weak opposition than enlightened governance. It's 1977 all over again, but without the novelties of punk and disco to offset the gloom this time around.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Day Google Shot Reader

Winter is coming to bloggerheads everywhere, as Massive Moneybags Google advises that it is shutting down Google Reader on July 1st. Geeks are sweating, economists are freaking out. I'm none too happy myself.

Alternative platforms are crashing around the world as panicking freaks and geeks crash at their doors with DDOS tactics that would make Black Friday at Macy's look civil. The comments thread at Marginal Revolution has a few suggestions.

Feedly was my first stab at a Plan B. Fingers crossed, but unless the lag clears once the DDOS stampede/migration wanes, that platform's acting like a big bloated pile of Beta. It's as if Adobe Acrobat Reader took over RSS feeds, such is the sub-optimal load time.

Plan C, Netvibes, met the same fate. I don't like phones in general, let alone smart phones, so the cross-platform appeal is lost to me. The cleanest Just Works platform so far seems to be The Old Reader. We'll see. So far the server is overloading so badly, it won't accept Reader imports right now.

I have no idea who is behind any of these alternative ventures. I don't particularly care. The feeds must flow. Screw the Gulf of Cyber-Tonkin.

Reader popped out of Google Labs, from the same nerd who birthed Blogger. Something's afoot on this platform too, and I'm wondering how long before, like some nomadic techno-hermit, I'll have to migrate this blog to another site as well.

That would really hurt. My trust in Google is already shaken by the Reader assassination. Another blow might just be brand-fatal for Google as far as this user is concerned.

The New Cat in the Hat is...

Another Grumpy Cat.

Whether this is an improvement on old Ratty the Sourpuss is another hairball entirely. Gordon Campbell diagnoses the fleas of sexual abuse, the worms of corruption and the sclerosis of intellect brought about from years of scratching at the same dogmatic patch of carpet that still face the new old pope (The pope is 108 in cat years). Vatican II seems distant as a Catnip Mirage.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Butterfly Beats Whale

There is a sure-fire gambit I use on Climate Change Deniers (CCDers) that has yet to be confounded, and which doesn't involve all that tedious mucking about with graphs and arguing with religious nutters.

Does the CCDer accept the existence of chaos and complexity, encapsulated by Lorenz and Merilees as the Butterfly Effect? i.e. A flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas (In the unlikely event that the CCDer denies the existence of chaos, refer them to the laws of thermodynamics).

OK, that was the hard part. Once the CCDer accepts the Butterfly Effect's existence, it's a fairly short step to point out that digging up carbon deposits built up over hundreds of millions of years and squirting it into the biosphere over a couple of centuries is bound to have an effect.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Pook Farm Annual Report

Shareholders and selected friendly media, as Chief Executive and majority shareholder, I welcome you to the first annual general meeting of the Pook Farm Co-op.

It has been a year of adverse conditions. Strong winds in early January knocked out the plum harvest. Birds savaged the apple harvest. The basil and coriander bolted. The salad veggies were wiped out by caterpillars. Caterpillars and fungus took a toll on the tomatoes as well, bringing yield down 50 percent.

On the brighter side, the carrots and onions did well.

As a result of these unforeseeable events, to the financial year ended February 28th 2013, Pook Farm made a $475 million loss. The co-operative's accounts have been audited by a visually-impaired first year Accounting graduate according to Generally Dodgy Accounting Principles.

Harsh lessons have been learned. We are currently lobbying the government to install massive wind breaks and sun shades at taxpayer expense. The Gareth Morgan double bluff is working nicely on the birds. And promising research overseas has shown the benefits of Derris Dust.

The Board of Directors has unanimously declared the Chief Executive's strategy brilliant, and has increased the CEO's salary 15 percent to $1.5 million a year (excluding perks).

Pook Farm is looking at diversifying into chickens this year. Doing so will bring not only another possible revenue stream and help with the insect plague, two chickens will double the shareholder base and add more depth at a Board level.

All those in favour of adjourning to the bar, say Miaow. We are adjourned.