Friday, May 24, 2013

What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

Imagine for a moment that you like playing Scrabble. Imagine that you were playing against your friends, family and workmates. Now imagine that while they got the full assortment of letter tiles, the only tiles you got were M, D, N, E, L and U. Not a fair game you might say. Now, imagine if your life depended on this game of Scrabble. Do you reckon you could keep up with your peers' scores?

That's what my right ear plays with in this loaded game of life. My left ear has a few more tiles to play with, but no plurals, no G, K or T. And P's and H's are as rare as Zeds and Exes.

The technical name for the above diagram is "Audiogram with Speech Banana" (the original was nicked from here).

The graph's XY skeleton is the standard chart for describing someone's hearing. The horizontal axis charts the pitch or frequency, while the vertical charts the decibels or loudness. The thick black line at 20 decibels marks the border of "normal" human hearing, which can "normally" detect frequencies between 125 and 8000 Hz.
Just as most legally blind people have some vision, profoundly Deaf people are not all without sound (Hence Deaf Club Dance Nights). Unlike visual acuity, hearing impairment is not measured arithmetically but logarithmically.

While 20 metres is one tenth as far as 200 metres, 20 decibels is nowhere near one tenth the loudness of 200 decibels. 20 decibels is one tenth as loud as 30 decibels (I don't know what makes a sound 200 dB. Maybe a large meteorite. Rest assured most legally blind people would still see some light from the flaming meteorite, and the Deaf would hear/feel aspects of it).

The black silhouettes on the graph represent common sounds at their respective pitch and loudness. For example, a vacuum cleaner's whine is around 3000 Hz and about 60 decibels loud. The grey shaded area is known as the Speech Banana, and represents the area where the human vocal range occurs.

The red and blue dots graph my right and left ears respectively. As you can see, I was born unbalanced, and short of a few letter boxes. The ski slopes show typical congenital sensori-neural hearing loss. All the sounds above the coloured lines pass me by, like Vogons or neutrinos. And if you want me to hear your plurals, please say your S sounds at the volume of a motorbike.

I mention this crash course in Deafness for a few reasons. Firstly, this "Who says I need a cure?" article in Stuff Nation. Secondly, because I want to do my little part for the end of NZ Sign Language Week. And thirdly, because the pet WINZ doctor has kicked me off the Invalid's Benefit. This means for all practical purposes I am considered fit enough for the workforce.

I do want to work. I hate being at WINZ's mercy, let alone the judgment of the Doctor Gods who determine eligibility for incapacity. However, the hermit's life has given me some peace of mind for the first time in decades, and I'm not at all sure how long that will last if I'm thrust back into the barrage of white noise.

I learned long ago that one of the worst things you can be is different. Whether it was in the playground factions of primary school, or TV movies like The Boy with Green Hair or The Tin Drum, one was expected to not stand out.

Conformity became a personal issue when I discovered the old man was a practising eugenicist. I hid my Deafness deep down, learning to respond to personal interaction in non-silent environments not from the incomprehensible garble that came out of peoples' mouths, but rote reactions to their facial expressions. The method was hit and miss, but better than nothing.

Bluff and bluster can only take you so far in business. Misunderstandings, mishearings and mistakes cost time, money, and reputation. No-one wants the Deaf guy. Too off-key, too loud, too risky.

Hearing aids, you say? I got my first one at 18, an awful brick of a device that hit my brain like static on the radio. My current aids are much more advanced, but I still prefer not to wear them. I worked out why after reading Oliver Sacks' tragic tale in An Anthropologist on Mars. To See and Not See is about a man born blind who gains the ability to see before losing it again. There's only so much brain plasticity to go around, eh.

I have finally accepted who I am but the Norms still won't. However, you are most welcome to prove me wrong by hiring this Deaf guy. I don't want your pity. I want a job. Can you handle the diversity?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Calm the Fuck Down or Fuck the Fuck Off

Brit Prime Minister David Cameron is currently calling the machete attack terrorism, demonstrating the threshold for scare tactics has been lowered to the level of bare criminality. I look forward to the next Birmingham pub bottling being described in similarly lurid and hyperbolic terms.

Speaking of bollocks, I was wondering how long it would take for the local spy ring to reply to the continuing accusations of illegality, incompetence and mission creep that has plagued them ever since Kim Dotcom started his day in court. Enter Aaron Lim with this steaming pile of spooks' ectoplasm:
A Boston type attack in New Zealand is unlikely, but not impossible.

Only two bombs have gone off in NZ history. The first was the fatal and unsolved Union Hall blast. The second was the Rainbow Warrior attack, performed by a state-funded team of cheese-eating terror monkeys.

New Zealand lacks the deep racial cleavages of Boston, or the centuries-old feuds of Europe. We don't have the same brand of religious nutters, such as the Tokyo subway sect, and the local neo-nazi outfits lack brains and charisma.

The Cold War is over, and the spooks have to justify their existence in ever more bogus ways. This crazy arc is described by the James Bond franchise, which went from supervillains with Connery to chasing its tail with Craig.

The enemy is us! C'est la guerre. If they aren't kept busy in overseas theatres at prohibitive expense, the military tend to get restless and start their dramas on the local peasants for exercise.

My advice is to ignore that army mole and listen to Bob Jones instead. He's right on the button when he openly questions the need for a standing army.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's the Time, Mr Wolf?

The IPCA report on Police conduct over the Tuhoe Terror Raids has been released. Even by it's blinkered terms of reference, it is clear the Police completely cocked up the operation from go to woe.

The report fails to illuminate the pivot that convinced the Police to stop eavesdropping and start arresting people. Logistical considerations for the massive raid seemed to have played a large role. Maybe they thought they'd get lucky with their many fishing licences. The unclear, non-present danger is palpable.

The second major cock-up was calling Mr Wolf and the STG into it. The AOS was overkill as it was, but the cops were so paranoid that they pulled in Mr Wolf, and Mr Wolf is a serious mop up kind of guy. How did the cops justify calling in the wetware? From paragraph 93 of the report:
The information which STG relied upon in formulating the plan included the following:

• the targets possessed numerous weapons including “heavy calibre military style semi-­‐automatic weapons” and were part of a group actively training in military tactics;

• they had received training in the use of rudimentary explosives and incendiary devices;

• intelligence suggested they were prepared to “die for their cause” and use lethal force to achieve their purpose, including sleeping with weapons under their beds to be better prepared for any attack on them;
• the intention of this group was to achieve “an independent Tūhoe nation within the Urewera area”;

• the area where the training camps were situated was rural and some distance from comprehensive medical facilities;

• not all attendees at the training camps had been identified by Police;

No firearms were presented during the raids, although some were recovered during searches. None were “heavy calibre military style semi-­‐automatic weapons”. The rest was fear of the unknown by the Police, where ghosties and ghoulies got them jumpy. However, STG know their lock-downs for serious occasions, and they were the ones who suggested the roadblock.

The third major cock-up was Police knowledge of the confiscation line history, and the subsequent failure to take that into account in the roadblock.

All in all, there's a lot of rotten egg still on the face of NZ Police, and the smell will never go away.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Razing Saddles

Never in my wildest, most unsettlingly cynical dreams might I have imagined that Bill English's Budget would have trampled over a bunch of disabled people and their families.

John Key blithely mounted on Smiling Assassin? Sure. The stone cold Steven Joyce, riding triumphant with Roads of National Significance through Whenua Tapu all the way to Levin? Sure. Judith Collins slapping away with glee on No Consensus? Easily within her modus operandi.

But Bill English and his trusty old high horse, Prisons Are a Moral Failure? Impossible. After all, wasn't this the concerned Christian who attended the Hustle for Autism gig?

Yet here we are, with Andrew Geddis taking Hobbit-like length and attention to detail to describe exactly how National are raping and pillaging Parliamentary procedure and the constitutional Tao de Kiwi. There is Keith Ng cataloguing similar levels of disgust through a Tarantino monologue of misgivings. Even conservative reactionary nana the NZ Herald has woken up with a lucid complaint.

I'm pretty blown away myself. I have little to add except my contempt.

It's just another form of sad omen that this government is done with consulting the people. Don't bother sending in select committee submissions. They won't get read. Don't hope to tweak MMP through the correct channels as you were promised. Watching X Factor is a more productive use of your time (and NZ on Air funding). And don't bother with Judicial Reviews or crawling to the courts on your hands and knees for mercy. In the unlikely event that you can afford a good lawyer, National will just re-write the code like some goddamn script kiddie anyway.

Trust National. They know what they're doing. Here's another confident smiling assassin, featuring Phil Collins:

Friday, May 17, 2013

If it bites like a dog

There's a fine line between cops and robbers:

"A gang can be defined as a structured group (of five or more people) that maintains an exclusive membership marked by common identifiers and formal rules that supersede the rules of the state."

- Patched; The History of Gangs in New Zealand, Preface, pg. ix.

Cheap fast food for business-friendly intimidators? Someone's tax is another one's protection money. Either way, the citizens pick up the tab.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hard Power Callisthenics

On the hazardous yet cyclical Grand National racetrack of politics, it looks like it's blinkers on and non-stop whipping of the horses for National from here til the 2014 election finish line.

The last week's running had bad omens all over the track; corpses, dark copses of impenetrable thickets of legal thorns, and rude genuflections and curses from the lead jockeys.

Aaron Gilmore should have be scratched from the race. He was not up to form. Like Colin Espiner, I have watched Gilmore's Maiden and Valedictory Speeches and still none the wiser why the hell he ever got in the game. All I heard was Beaker bait: Me me me me me me me me me.... Little wonder that his ambitions lie dead in the pond. Go to Oz, young idiot, and raise the IQ of both countries.

Speaking of which, John Key's colours are finally revealed as nothing more than a Muldoon in Holyoake's Y-fronts; a dull grey with stains of uncertain origins polka-dotting the garment. Not his fault Gilmore got under the hooves.

The track is heavy from the rain of shit that the Kim Dotcom storm has thrown up. The GCSB thickets have been exposed in the downpour as well, and there's no way their fuck-ups (US or NZ Police-inspired or otherwise) are getting an autopsy. Let's put a blind around that mess and forget it ever happened.

Joyce is flogging away close to Key, maneuvering to give himself enough time to give the lagging Shearer and hopeful Norman the finger. Think you can pull that old nationalisation gambit? I'll show you how to nationalise a gambit. Suck on a 35 year binding PPP contract!

Who cares if he's dosing the horse with too much ginger? Not only is Joyce picking winners, he's insured them against private losses. The first sod for the new National (Party) Convention Centre will be thrown before the 2014 election, and opened before the 2017 one. No wonder John Key keeps harping on about a four year term. Rome wasn't built in three years.

Unbridled power is evident in Judith Collins' form on the MMP review. Listening to her on Morning Report, she's personally absolutely for a bill on MMP reform. But, alas, five parties are content with the status quo. Her party among them. What's a poor Justice Minister to do?

In a few years, all of Simon Power's legislative jockeying will have completely washed away, like beers in rain. Ghosts of the civil dead indeed.

Never mind that Collins is the jockey behind the big push on welfare reform and not Paula Bennett, as confirmed by a reliable little Beltway birdie last week. Never mind she was the brains behind the last deal (as CCA Head honcho) that sealed Sky City's deal with the Clark government, which is being waved around as precedent. Stick it on the incompetent Labour schmucks like a Kick Me sign anyway.

Budget Day tomorrow and I reckon Bill English will be spanking it for all it's worth. Budget surplus is on track for the 2014 election, and if Labour don't get within a length of winning soon, you can pretty much write them off til at least 2020. My advice is to shoot the old nag and go on foot. It'll be quicker in the long run.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tooth and Nail

Aaron Gilmore has finally learned that if you play with Dionysus, don't complain if the Maenads chase you. Now we can finally focus on more meaty politics stories, and look forward to former Eye to Eye Producer Claudette Hauiti joining the National Caucus. You can almost see the caucus evolving into a more liberal beast before your eyes.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Obligatory Lazy Link Post

There is no news today, so here's an obligatory post of interesting things.

# Aaron Gilmore might be getting attacked by batsmen swooping and diving around his head like mental magpies. Thank Dagg Pablo and Manhire are awake and staring in horror as the new GCSB and Communications Intercept Bills move at warp speed into select committee stage of indeterminate length and intensity.

This is real, and much more dangerous than some bug-eyed born-to-rule cretin with bent antennae screwing with a one seat majority government. Even if you're naive enough to believe in a benevolent John Key appointing everyone from the Governor General to the GCSB Head, think what some future, less scrupulous prime minister might do with that unbridled power. What would Muldoon do? And when the hell did NZ did decide to adopt the US presidential style of appointees to the new royal court anyway?

# I've finished reading Patched; The History of Gangs in New Zealand. It's way too early to blurt to conclusions, but the thesis of pivots proved illuminating. On a completely different subject, the NBR headlines a call for an end to the NZ Police's lethal car pursuit policy. It is certainly responsible for more carnage than any of the other gangs in New Zealand right now.

# This week has seen the moral panic over fake cannabis come to some kind of crescendo with Duncan Garner hitting the bong. For the public good, of course. We wouldn't have all this madness if BZP was still legal. Or real cannabis.

If we're to sit through exploitation media on the divide between the clueless and the guileless, give me this witty Dragnet remake over any of the MSM drivel any day:

# And finally, the Telegraph looks at the life of one of the most respected of this household's gods, an icon of iconoclasts, Richard P. Feynman. He made a great leap from observing the nature of spinning plates.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The American Disease

Etiquette says that it is impolite to talk religion or politics over dinner, which may go some way in explaining why I don't get invited to dinner parties. Food? Political. Choice of background music? Political. Serving white wine with steak? Political. Aaron Gilmore? Christ, what an arsehole.

The reality TV junkies have lived such short safe lives, they have lost collective consciousness of the terrors of existential threats, the miseries and humility of shared suffering. If it can't be parsed into a CSI-friendly anecdote, the eyes glaze over or the subject flips to royal pregnancies and sport.

It is disconnects like this that allow vastly ironies to go unremarked, such as the final Constitutional Debate being held the day John Key released plans for mass surveillance, and a raft of new crimes against the state.

New Zealand is getting the American Disease, a virulent STI or Security Theatre Infection. It can only be a matter of time before our first Aaron Swartz-like victim occurs, or worse.

There's hope amidst my cynicism. I'll leave you with an increasingly popular search phrase from Lord Cooke of Thorndon:
"If ever a Government indifferent at heart to basic rights were to hold office in this country, it could force through, possibly in a matter of hours and by the barest of majorities, legislation opposed to basic principles of justice. Orthodox theory has in the past been that the Courts could not intervene. I am not so sure; the authority of Parliament itself - supremacy as it is often called - ultimately turns on judicial recognition."
- Lord Cooke of Thorndon, "Practicalities of a Bill of Rights" Australian Bar Review 189,201.

More on Ghost Ships

National continues to sex up the threat of ghost ships with selective leaks:

A classified report has confirmed that the boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrived without warning on the West Australian coastline last month had been sailing for New Zealand.

Unsurprisingly, Farrar is taking this bilge seriously.

Let's turn to NASA to point out what a unbelievably stinking crock of crap this threat is, and why NZ is more likely to get boat people from the Galapagos Islands or South America than some Walter Mitty captain putting against the current from Sri Lanka (as seen from the 1 minute mark):

It's one thing to leak from the top of the Beehive. It's quite another thing to tell the public that it's raining.

Monday, May 06, 2013

God's Away on Business

The relatively light-hearted Gilmore shtick couldn't last. Parliament resumes and it's back to the hard grind. The draft GCSB legislation omnibus bill being a case in point.

A quick skim bodes ill, and I'm really hoping some professional help in the form of close air support from the likes of Graeme Edgeler, Andrew Geddis or Steven Price comes into play here. Because the devil's in the details and those clause bait and switches got me nervous as it is.

This grunt will need some some time to gather his wits and tactics. I really wasn't expecting satire to hit so close to the bullseye. I'm off to bake a batch of Afghans. I may be some time:

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Caucus and the Cone of Shame

It is pretty clear by now that anyone who recognises the name Aaron Gilmore doesn't think much of it.

Matthew Hooton agrees with the Food and Services Union. A former Maitre D' called the boorish behaviour twattish in the Herald. The only serious defence I've seen raised so far is Michael Laws, and who gives a rat's arse about that pickled gremlin. I could go on, but I'll wait for Bryce Edwards to compile his compendium of Gilmore sneer and loathing in the next edition of Politics Daily.

But oh, to have a loose iPhone in the National party caucus come Tuesday! Parliament has been on a longish break, and resumes this week for a long, hard slog through the winter session. What will Aaron Gilmore's first day back at caucus be like?

Will it be cold stares or nonchalant indifference? Will it be tar and feathers or soap bars in socks? Or perhaps some equally arcane procedure akin to how the National Party List is sliced and diced?

Alas, what goes on in caucus stays in caucus. Whatever happens, caucus can be a very cold place away from the hearth. Cash swaddling doesn't insulate against that kind of frost.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

What shall we do with a half-Deaf Aspie?

The Atlantic has a fascinating interview with Gary Greenberg, author and contributor to The New Yorker, Mother Jones, and The New York Times. The talk ranges from Big Pharma, Big Insurance, the nature of illness, and the psychiatrist bible, the DSM. Here's a taste for the rainbow readers:
So we corrected our notion of what counts as a "disease." Is there a modern equivalent?
Homosexuality is the most obvious example. Until 1973, it was listed as a disease. It's very easy to see what's wrong with "drapetomania," but it's easier to see the balancing act involved in saying homosexuality is or isn't a disease -- how something has to shift in society. The people who called homosexuality a disease weren't necessarily bigots or homophobes -- they were just trying to understand people who wanted to love people of their own sex. Disease is a way to understand difference that includes compassion. What has to shift is the idea that same-sex love is acceptable. Once that idea is there, it doesn't make sense to call homosexuality a disease. 
The subject is all the more piquant as next week I must traipse into Wellington to see a pet WINZ doctor to check if I'm whether I'm still valid for the Invalids' Benefit (I'm not the only one having issues with disability services either). After craptastic email communications and having my rent money cut off temporarily, I have been informed that there are no designated doctors in Kapiti, after the existing one retired.

Seeing as Aspies are now relegated in DSM-5 to just one colour of the autism spectrum, it looks like I'll have to fall on my Deaf ears to prove my point. How am I supposed to demonstrate that the subjective nature of hearing loss is of sufficient incapacity to render me vocationally challenged? Will I have to recite a litany of misheard conversations and laughingly poor job choices?

Probably. There's no dignity to being Deaf even during NZ Sign Language Week.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Missionary Position

Evidence of Christian cannibalism has been unearthed on the bloody fields of modern America:
Gruesome archaeological evidence has emerged revealing how some of the first settlers of America survived a period of famine. The vicious winter of 1609, dubbed the Starving Time by historians, saw the colonists at Jamestown, Virginia, who had consumed every scrap of food in the settlement, turn to cannibalism. When help and supplies finally arrived the following spring, only 60 of the original 300 settlers were still alive. The skull of a 14-year-old girl, excavated last year from a rubbish dump at James Fort, has revealed a mass of cut marks, at first tentative, then fiercely smashing the skull apart to extract the brain and other soft tissue for food.
Let's hope that knowledge shaves some shine off American Exceptionalism.

As usual, near starvation was largely brought about a "breakdown in communication with the natives". Of course, American missionaries weren't the only ones who had to consider hard options in the New World. Take, for example, Samuel Marsden in New Zealand:
The missionaries at the Bay of Islands were in an awkward position. Set alone in their little settlement, they were expected by Marsden and the Missionary Society to survive as best they could, although small means had been made for their provisioning. Almost inevitably the missionaries were drawn into the musket trade: there was no other way for them to get the things they needed from the Maoris.

At first, or so it would seem, the missionary leaders placed no prohibition on giving muskets to the Maoris. In 1814, Samuel Marsden himself distributed them to favoured individuals.

That's an excerpt from the chapter The Depopulation of the Maoris in Harrison Wright's New Zealand 1769 - 1840: Early Years of Western Contact (Harvard University Press 1959, pg. 86).

Earlier on, the chapter points out that prior to European contact, Maori wars were more akin to a brutal Rugby League game. Deaths would be few, although plenty of blood was spilled. Muskets created a tech imbalance that allowed old feuds to be rekindled. As long as the chief owned more muskets than his opponent, right was on his side.


Isn't mitochondrial DNA amazing? It has allowed scientists to map human migration paths through haplogroups. Cheddar Man was not only genetically related to the village of Cheddar, he was eaten like one too. Neanderthals seemed to have resorted to eating their own in times of hardship, and everyone of European descent is descended from Neanderthals.

Is this what the Catholics really mean by original sin? Is that why Jewish Law bans the eating of pork? It doesn't matter. Ninety-nine out of a hundred starving people will still choose food over religion every time.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Aaron Gilmore is unwell

Aaron Gilmore, raconteur and bon vivant, has burst back into the Court of St. James in style.

Looking back as a burnt-out hospo droid, I had to put up with a lot of shit in my time. Oh, the stories I could tell, but my lips are zipped. What goes on in hospo stays in hospo.

However, these are not the old days. Waitrons and bar managers can get hefty fines (for a waitron, if not a National Party tit sucker) or lose their licence for serving drunk arseholes.

But what really grinds my gears is that these Bachanalian bastard lawmakers refuse to stop arresting and jailing less surly behaviour from the cannabis hippies.

And call me a dope fiend, but aren't all these Nats beginning to look the same whiter shade of pale?

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Thought of the day - New Blood Edition

Jacqui Dean Jackie Blue has been quangoed. Maurice is being encouraged to go for the mayor's job. Groser lost the WTO gig, and is rumoured to be looking at moving on from Parliament anyway. The National rejuvenation is in full swing, while Labour's caucus remains a cradle to the grave career.

Pardon the timing. I have neither a Parakura Horomia anecdote, nor any malice towards his passing. He did what he thought best for his people, which is an observation you couldn't apply to all MPs.


Today in Just:

# Serious Fraud Office admits there is not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Hanover Finance.'s Deep Freeze List sez that's $465 million down the hole. Tim Watkin puts the gloating in some quarters through the shredder.

# Gardening company owners sentenced to more years in jail than some serious crims and at least one manslaughterer (Tag. You're dead).

# Crewe Murder cops overheard joking about framing Thomas, sez former bar worker Queenie Edmonds. Lol.

# As above, so below. One UK citizen explains what happens to photographers in the UK. Echoes of Peel's Blue Brotherhood of the Crown Patches here, such as the IPCC:

# Going against intuition, I listened to Police Agent Provocateur Graham Bell on The Panel yesterday. Bell's rants usually give me diabetes, but at least the pain was worth it this time. I saw a glimpse of what Planet Bell, the police state, would look like. People wouldn't dance at Paul Simon concerts, satire would be reported to the police so that they can judge its merits, and families would eat dinner at the table and listen to Graham Bell lectures. Hell's Bells indeed.