Monday, 29 December 2008

On belief and blatant untruths...

From the Daily Telegraph:

Vicar went to hospital with potato stuck in bottom

A vicar attended hospital with a potato stuck up his bottom - and claimed it got there after he fell on to the vegetable while naked.

The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table.

He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game.

I believe him. Why, I remember this one time when I just happened to be playing a purely innocent game of naked leapfrog with a high school friend of mine back at her place. I happened to slip, and as we were trying to entangle ourselves, purely innocently. mind, her parents walked in. Oh, the unjustness of the accusations that flew...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A thought to warm the cockles

...of this evil old heart of mine.

For the rest of his life, the entire rest of his life, lo, even when he is eighty or ninety and sitting in a wheelchair, George W Bush is going to have people throwing shoes at him. Not every day, but often enough that he's going to be worried about it every time he goes out in public. You can now threaten him just by slipping off your shoes.

Not nearly as good as the Hague, but still, better than nothing.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Three predictions on the Warren Affair

I'll make three predictions regarding Obama selecting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, assuming he doesn't bow to pressure and replace Warren. This will allow me a "told you so" should they later come true:

i, On Jan 21, nobody is going to care much, if any, about what Warren said. The only interesting thing from his speech will be in comparisons with Lowery, with the latter cleaning Warren's clock.

ii, At some stage within his first term, Obama is going to deliver at least one major step forward for gay rights - whether this be some recognition of civil unions at the federal level, protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, or the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Go read his stance on gay rights.

iii, The people currently screaming "betrayal" and having hissy fits at Obama having a wider perspective than their own interests, important though those interests are, are going to celebrate that achievement, but not reconsider or apologise for their hyperbole on this issue. They're going to keep real quiet about what they've said about Obama over this affair, and never ever admit they were wrong.

Obama has been elected a President of a country of nearly 300 million. He owes the gays, both practically and morally, but that doesn't mean he has an obligation to let them dictate every action. The assumption by any interest group that they can get everything their way is simply goddamned childish - this whole affair reminds me of nothing more than the sort of over the top rubbish you see the NRA pumping out. If a group's sense of self identity can't cope with the President trying to make an ally out of someone useful to him who is hostile to them, even repugnant, then they better turn off the radio and stop reading the newspapers for the next four years, because Obama is going to have to do worse if the US has any chance of pulling out of the crash the Republicans have left it in. Iran springs to mind.

The more I see elsewhere, the more I have to admire the NZ Green Party for their clear-headed approach towards their own interests and coalition politics. The Dirty Hippies have turned out to be role-models for combining idealism with practical, honourable politics, and as a result have had the most influence of any minor party on NZ policy.

Molly Ivins once commented that you have to dance with them that brung you. Obama has stated that the gays are on his dance card, and when the music starts playing on Jan 21st, we can judge whether he keeps up to his promises. He has to dance with his various prom partners; I don't believe he ever promised any of them oral sex in the parking lot before the prom started.

UPDATE: John Cole, as so often happens, says it succinctly.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Unifying Iraq

News story from Iraq regarding the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush:

In Iraq, the traditional community is deeply rooted in tribal relationships. Whether Sunni or Shi’i (and some tribes contain members of both sects), in Iraqi tradition if a member of a tribe takes an action or is in trouble, members of his tribe will represent him and will be responsible for supporting him. But in Muntather’s case, tribal leaders from throughout Iraq, from the North to South and from East to West, have claimed him as their son. They have said that they want him released safe and sound, offering to pay whatever fine the government will set for him.

Muntather’s actions have, for these days, united Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians. It united Iraqis as Iraqis. And it only took a few seconds. Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders have publicly asked that Muntather not be referred to using his tribal affiliation (Muntather al-Zaidi), because they believe his tribal affiliation now encompasses all the tribes of Iraq: They’ve asked for him to be referred to as “Muntather Al-Iraqi” (Muntather the Iraqi). At the same time, the tribal leaders have said that they hope it is now clear that they have only one enemy — the occupation of Iraq.

On reading the US blogs, I don't know whether the right is deliberately ignoring or actually does not realise just how hated Bush (and by extension America) has become because of this war and occupation.

Good luck to Muntather Al-Iraqi. I hope he has the opportunity to use his fifteen minutes to help keep his country together and his countrymen and women thinking of themselves as a united group, even if just against an alien invader.

Comparing inaugurations, and the cultural benefits of cycling

Via Balloon Juice, I came across this article:

[Poet Elizabeth Alexander], who has published four collections of poetry, including 2005’s Pulitzer-nominated “American Sublime,” will take the stage along with a host of other celebs, including Aretha Franklin, Itzhak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma. She says she’s thrilled at being picked for the inaugural gig.

To clarify, we're talking about these people - Elizabeth Alexander, Arenta Franklin, Itzhak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma.

Compare and contrast to 2001:

The eclectic list of artists already announced for the show include country stalwarts Brooks & Dunn and Clint Black, Andrew Lloyd Webber (Margaret Thatcher's favorite contemporary composer) and "two fifths of the 5th Dimension" (no word on the other three fifths) — all topped off with a performance by Latin hunk Ricky Martin.
High on Dubya's list of favorites is Vegas fixture Wayne Newton, who will serenade the President with his rendition of "Danke Schoen."

Incidentally, in all the history of the last eight years, it is worth remembering public reaction right at the start of the Bush Presidency:

According to organizers and police alike, this year's counter-inaugural protests will be the largest since Richard Nixon took the oath of office in 1973, during the heyday of anti-Vietman war outrage.

This was, of course, before the lazy AWOL bastard got officially turned into "the bestest bravest Presidenting EVAH" for starting a war of aggression over a lie.

The Hague, bitches!.

Personally, I've been on holiday for a week, and hitting the cycling a lot. It's interesting; I've lost enough weight to mitigate the "fat guy on a bike" humiliation factor, and I've been able to notice the various changes even a week of pretty substantial exercise has bought on. My aerobic fitness has been pretty high due to a large amount of walking; the limiting problem was fatigue and pain in the different muscles used in biking as opposed to general exhaustion due to unfitness.

So after only a week with about 5 substantial expeditions (from town to J'ville, Days Bay to Petone, around the Mirimar peninsula, out to Owhira Bay and walking to the seal colony and back, and circling Mt Vic around Oriental Bay), I've actually been able to pay attention to a steady increase in muscle capability which I didn't notice with getting into the walking, where the limiting factor was my crappy aerobic fitness. And I lost one and a half kilos last week.

This bodes well for the suggestion of getting into gym work next year with the help of a co-worker. And, God help me, they're right about having to change exercise patterns to deal with plateaus in weight loss. I hate hurting and sweating, but I do feel better as I continue to look more like a human being again.

But the interesting thing about hitting the road more often was rediscovering the Aro St Video store, hands down the best and most eclectic store in Wellington. There are series and seasons I have yet to see in any of the other stores here - Eureka! House! Battlestar Galactica! I can see what I'm going to be up to in the evenings over Xmas.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Things 90% of the world probably knew, but I did not, and which I did not need to find out due to disillusionment and heartbreak...

...Anne Rice has become a born-again Catholic.

I fully expect that Marilyn Manson's next album will have a fluffy pink unicorn on the cover.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Unexpected consequences of the housing collapse - West Nile disease

From the Chartered Accountants Journal, Nov 2008:

"The home repossessions occurring in Southern California due to the sub-prime mortgage debacle have given rise to a health hazard. Many of these homes have swimming pools still filled with water, now stagnant, and in the summer months they provided breeding grounds for mosquitoes. As a result the incidence of West Nile disease has jumped 50%.

The problem is that the vector control districts responsible for spraying are short of funds for this responsibility as property values have fallen and the resultant aggregate $ value of assessed taxes has also fallen. Taxes assessed on the repossessed homes are often not paid and this has also negatively impacted vector district budgets.

As winter approaches this year's problem will abate but the challenge will be the long hot days of 2009."

I suspect we're going to see more problems like this during this recession, including some in NZ. There are two basic indicators of civilization - the delivery of clean drinking water to the citizens, and the removal of sewage. If you want to know just how stressed a particular city or society is, start keeping an eye out for stories about those problems showing up locally or nationally.

Oh-ho - so it's going to be one of THOSE days

I walk into work. In the space of about three minutes:

i, I get swatted by some young lady in lieu of saying hello,
ii, A silver-haired librarian is dreadfully sarcastic to me before I even open my mouth AND
iii, A woman who has become a grandmother this year greets me by firing rubber bands at me. And then runs.

I am on holiday from next week. I could do with some time away from this place before I crack.

There will be a retaliation for all these crimes...

Friday, 28 November 2008

Same as it ever was...

Exchange on bus this morning:

"You again?"
"Yeah - I'm working down this end of town, and I got on back in Hataitai."
"Well, I managed to make it this far without you disturbing me."
"I didn't want to wake you - you keep saying how much you need your beauty sleep."

Wonderful. I'm not even into work, and I'm already being harrassed.

So that's an appointment for Sunday lunch, I have a small family thing on Saturday, and I have an eleven year old making very broad hints about birthday presents in my direction - which part of "misanthrope" are people not understanding?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

In which the Gods of Karma are tempted...

I will now trample on one of my superstitious beliefs. Whether it be due to the Wiccan rede, or a belief in karma, or my own personal favourite, that God (if s/he exists) has a really really nasty sense of humour, I believe it is a bad idea to publicly wish ill on someone. Unless it involves George Bush and courts in Geneva.

But, God/Allah/FSM, if you're listening...

IRONY: Ann Coulter's Mouth Wired Shut — Although we didn't think it would be possible to silence Ann Coulter, the leggy reactionary broke her jaw and the mouth that roared has been wired shut.

...would it have been too difficult to throw in just a couple of broken fingers in the accident as well?

Monday, 17 November 2008

Someone who is really old...

Michael Parkinson has just released his autobiography.

One anecdote involves being asked for his autograph by a relatively unknown young singer called Paul McCartney.

Another involves the lead singer for a band stating that they were "pretty well set up for at least another year". 1965, Mick Jagger, about the Rolling Stones. No, he wasn't being ironic.

Reproductive obsession

Dear Women's Magazines,

Yes, we get it. Jennifer Aniston has a uterus.

But, for the love of God, unless you yourself are Aniston or John Meyer, or their parents, please stop speculating about the possible contents of said uterus. There's been more written in the last few weeks about the topic than would be found in a obstetrics text.

Can't you go back to badgering Suri Cruise or something?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

On voting in New Zealand

Somebody else's comments swiped directly from Daily Kos and No Right Turn:

Today I voted in the New Zealand general election. I did not have to queue. Instead, the whole process took less than five minutes: walk in, present my EasyVote card (a special ID issued by the Chief Electoral Office, to make it easy for them to cross me off on the roll), get a ballot, tick two spaces, and stick it in a box. At the end of it, they gave me a sticker. It was easy, quick, and painless. And comparing it with reports of American queuing for six hours to vote, have to ask: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?

One reason I've been given for the queues is that in some areas there was only a single polling place serving 15,000 people. This is astounding. My electorate has 49 polling places for 58,000 enrolled voters - or one for every 1,200 people (and I could have voted in any of them). Other electorates are similar. Where-ever there are people, or a school, we stick a polling booth. How hard can it be?

It gets better. I was actually travelling to Wellington today, and I could have voted in any of the polling places in any of the small towns I passed through on the way. It would have meant a trivial amount of extra fuss - booths only have rolls for their electorate, so it would have meant making a declaration that I was enrolled, and it would have meant a delay in counting my vote (as it would need to be checked against the electoral roll to see if it was valid), but it would not have been difficult. I would not have needed a form signed in triplicate in my own blood to prove that I couldn't vote any other way.

Because it is easy to vote (and our elections happen on a weekend, and there is a statutory requirement on employers to give people paid time off to vote), New Zealanders do. Our turnout last election was 81%. Our turnout this time might not be so high - it fluctuates - but should at least be in the high 70's. I compare this to the US turnout of 64%, and again ask: why do you make it so hard on yourselves?

I've described this in other threads when Americans were talking about how crap their system is. The only possible conclusion that can be drawn is simple - the elite, the politicians, especially the Republican Party, simply don't want people voting. Especially the people at the bottom of the pile. This is a sign of a country where democracy is seen as a matter of form rather than substance by the powerful.

Global Gender Gap, 2008

The latest report from the World Economic Forum is available here.

The Nordic countries jostle around for top place, while New Zealand is as boring as ever:

New Zealand (5) and Australia (21) continue to perform well in the rankings. Both countries have fully closed the gap on the educational attainment subindex and both perform well on economic participation indicators. Between 2007 and 2008, both countries show gains on economic participation, educational attainment and political empowerment.

The US country highlights read:

The United States (27) gains 4 places in the rankings this year, driven by across the board improvements in the four subindexes. Given the very tight differentials between country scores on educational attainment, small improvements in this subindex lead to a marked increase in the ranking on this subindex (from 76th position in 2007 to 1st position in 2008). These gains are accompanied by improvements in both the economic participation and opportunity subindex and in the political empowerment subindex, driven by gains in perceived wage equality for similar work, percentage of women in parliamentary level positions and percentage of women in ministerial level positions. The United States now holds 56th position in the political empowerment subindex up from 69th position in 2007.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Fear of a Black planet, revisited

This says it best, I think.

My basic emotion is relief. The skill of an Obama administration has yet to be proven. The structure of our government will prove a more able opponent of change than John McCain. But for the first time in years, I have the basic sense that it's going to be okay. Not great, necessarily. And certainly not perfect. But okay. The country will be led by decent, competent people who fret over the right things and employ the tools of the state for recognizable ends. They may not fully succeed. But then, maybe they will. At the least, they will try. And if they fail in their most ambitious goals, maybe they will simply make things somewhat better. After the constant anxiety and uncertainty of the last eight years, maybe that's enough.

Not euphoric. Not excited. Not in awe of the US for finally getting round to having someone non-pasty in power.

If he succeeds fully, given the US's current condition, he will deservedly be one of the top five presidents.

And if he doesn't, if he's a reasonably competent right-of-centre politican (what passes for liberal in the US) struggling with nearly insurmountable problems, at least he'll be someone decent trying to do something worthwhile in a vital position.

Which will make a huge change in itself.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Barack Obama and women's issues...

"He still has trouble... putting his socks actually in the dirty clothes, and he still doesn't fo a better job than our five-year-old daughter Sasha at making his bed, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm a little stunned at this whole Barack Obama thing."

"After he eats, he doesn't put away the butter"

"Because he's too snore-y and stinky, [his daughters] don't want to ever get into bed with him."

Michelle Obama explaining why the cryptoSocialistIslamicTerroristRadical Barack Obama is entirely unsuitable for the Presidency.

Coming soon as a Fox exclusive...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Warren Ellis on a universal male experience

"Shopping for clothes is a Boyfriend Thing. You stand around and look blankly at a bunch of pieces of fabric and you look at the price tags and you wonder how something that'd barely cover your right nut can cost the price of a kidney and you watch the shop assistants check you out and wonder what you're doing with her because she's cute and you're kind of funny-looking and she tries clothes on and you look at her ass in a dozen different items that all look exactly the same and let's face it you're just looking at her ass anyway and it all blurs together and then someone sticks a vacuum cleaner in your wallet and vacuums out all the cash and you leave the store with one bag that's so small that mice couldn't fuck in it. Repeat a dozen times or until the front of your brain dies.

"Point being: it's a Boyfriend Thing. And it's not just you, the Boy, who thinks so. Every shop assistant on the way will assume you're the Boyfriend.

"Especially with the laughing and the teasing and the hugging and the kissing and the holding of hands. And the carrying of bags. Very Boyfriend Thing."

- Warren Ellis, _Crooked Little Vein_.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Heh, heh, heh - he said "Eagleburger" (plus - Helen Clark is wrinkly)

Reading blogs, I ran across the name "Lawrence Eagleburger" today.

This always cracks me up. Back in the eighties, the long-running NZ satire series McPhail and Gadsby had a running joke taking the piss out of trade minister Mike Moore who promoted diversification by making a reference to "lambburgers or venisonburgers".

(Of course, it turns out Moore was absolutely correct, just fifteen or twenty years ahead of his time, as witness the gourmet burger chains).

Anyhow, M&G proceeded to roll out a different burger every week. The Wetaburger. The Gumbootburger. The Kiwiburger - with beak still attached. I loved that. An American named "Eagleburger" can't help but trigger that association.

But, anyhow, the only YouTube clip existing of McPhail and Gadsby is from 1983 covering this piece of feminist history, a "celebration" of the 40th Parliament which had the unprecedented number of 8 female MPs. The audacity!

Prepare to cringe a bit:

The women in question turned out to leave their mark in history. They included the good, the bad, and the unnecessarily airbrushed.

Look, we have a 58 year old woman who has proven to be an effective and, on occasion, tough-as-nails Prime Minister for nine years. Her opponent on the right is a financial wide boy who has repositioned himself as wet just to work off Clark's martinet image.

And yet Labour feels it necessary to airbrush her official portrait back to her late thirties...

Not necessary. I'm tossing up in voting between her and Jeanette Fitzsimmons, and the decision isn't going to be made by who's prettier. Given that NZ voted for Muldoon for so long, and the man looked like the south side of a north-facing bulldog, and given that up to now we've kept returning Clark despite knowing that she looks like, well, a 58 year old woman, couldn't we stop pretending?

Helen isn't young, isn't pretty, doesn't have a good sense of humor, and is not the readiest speaker in Parliament.

What she is is effective, tough and disciplined, politically talented, aggressively intelligent, and concerned with the welfare of her people. I can live with that in a PM.

Friday, 31 October 2008

A modest proposal - a bipartisan approach to dealing with censure of Winston Peters

From the Sunday Star Times:

"All polls have [Winston Peters'] National opponent, 31-year=old former Crown Prosecutor Simon Bridges, comfortably ahead in the Tauranga electorate which ejected Peters in 2005."

I propose that, regardless of whether National or Labour lead the next government, the following should be considered if Peters and New Zealand First are no longer in power:

i, Cease all political squabbles involving donations and forgive NZ First any irregularaties relating to their coffers.

ii, Invoke the Biosecurity Act.

iii, Stick a stake through Peters' heart (if it can be found), cut off his head, fill his mouth with holy wafers, burn the body, and scatter the ashes at a crossroads.

iv, Pray.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Fear of a black planet

Something people seemed to have missed.

Forty years ago, 17 October 1968, three men stood up on a podium at the 1968 Mexico Olympic games. The gold medallist for the 200m run was Tommie Smith, and the bronze medallist was John Carlos. Both were black.

And you've probably seen that picture of them raising their fists in salute of black power.

After that, they got sent home by the International Olympic Committee and the American team. There were death threats. Carlos' first wife killed herself because of the backlash. They couldn't find jobs, and struggled to feed their families. Smith's mother, age 57, died after receiving a parcel of dead rats in the post.

Smith is now a professor of sociology. He has never been inducted into the US Olympic Committee Hall of Fame, despite his 1968 achievement.

And now Barack Obama looks set to become President of the US, and I have to tell you, the screams of barely muted racist horror at the prospect from certain areas of the right sound sweet.

I bet Smith is going to be laughing his athletic ass off when that result is announced...

Friday, 24 October 2008

Greenspan - "I was wrong"

Now, this is interesting. Alan Greenspan has admitted that his ideology of the past 40 years was flawed, and needed to be changed in light of the recent financial meltdown. He doesn't seem to have mentioned the recurring cycle of bubbles and crashes which might prompt government.

Well, regardless of any other bones you might pick with Greenspan, this puts him head and shoulders above the Bush Administration and the wingnuts who support them. Congratulations, Alan.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Monday, 20 October 2008

I want you to know I am not making this up...

Joseph Hatch, 1837-1928. Mayor of Invercargill, 1877, and MP for Invercargill 1884.

Made his money from 1890-1920 by boiling penguins for oil. I am not making this up. Macquarie Island, about 200,000 a year, killing off about three million of them. Elephant seals as well, but penguins proved more economic.

There must be some way to work "penguin-boiler" into teh conversation around here...

On imagining $30 million

Well, the good news is I managed to get 5 numbers and the Powerball.
Now, I just have to work on getting them all on the SAME line.

Pity. I have now officially reached the age in which I engage in Real Estate Porn, an activity for which I have previously twitted particular women of a Certain Age. They had a habit of drooling of pictures of English country estates.

I, much to my shame, spent hours over the weekend spiritually masturbating over pictures of multi-million dollar apartments in Brisbane. Down to the point of considering furniture and home-area networks.

I feel so sticky.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Jump, you bastards, or we'll have you jogging as well!

Associated Press - Porky porpoises

"Dolphins at a Japanese marine park are on a diet after developing potbellies and struggling in their performances. Kinosaki Marine World said its 19 dolphins have been on a diet since August, when they started failing to hit jumping targets."

This is what losing looks like...

George Bush, 21 Nov 2005:

George Bush: 'We will stay in Iraq until we have achieved victory'

Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and allies - and their allies at the heart of their power. And so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq.

BBC World News, 17 Oct 2008:

The US says it is considering a draft agreement with Iraq on the role of its troops there after the UN mandate for their presence expires later this year.

Details have not been released, but officials say it would see US combat forces withdrawn from Iraqi towns and cities by the middle of 2009.

Iraq Today:

Thursday Oct 16th 2008
A roadside bomb in Baghdad's central Palestine Street area [...]
#4: A roadside bomb targeted an army patrol in Waziriyah [...]
#5: An adhesive bomb detonated under a civilian car [...]
#1: A suicide attacker disguised as a soldier [...]
#1: A roadside bomb detonated in Buhriz town (about 3 miles south of Baquba). [...]
#1: A suicide car bomber detonated near Balad police station around 4 pm. [..]
#1: Seven Iraqi soldiers were wounded by a hand grenade in eastern Mosul, [...]
#2: Two people were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded west of Mosul, police said.
#3: Two children were wounded by an improvised explosive device [...]
#4: Four civilians were wounded when Iraqi troops fired shots [...]

Wednesday Oct 15th 2008
MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier [...]
[...] a body and four wounded persons as a result of a bomb explosion [...]
[...] an adhesive bomb stuck to a sedan detonated in Karrada neighborhood [...]
Five mortar rounds landed in an unoccupied area [...]
#6: Two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession [...]
#7: Three policemen were wounded when a bomb exploded [...]
#8: Three policemen were wounded on Wednesday in a bomb explosion [...]
#9: A least four civilians were wounded when mortars fell [...]
#1: A bomb went off on Wednesday morning in Baquba [...]
#1: A civilian was killed on Wednesday by unknown gunmen [...]
#1: Iraqi national guards found 22 unknown bodies in a mass grave[...]
#2: Major-General Ali al-Hamdani, [...] injured in a roadside bomb blast[...] #1“An explosive charge went off targeting an Iraqi army vehicle patrol [...]
#2: “Nine civilians were injured in a roadside bomb blast [...]
#3: Police killed one attacker when gunmen attacked their patrol [...]
#4: A police patrol mistakenly opened fire in central Mosul [...]
#6: Two children were wounded in a bomb explosion in Mosul, [...]
#7: One gunman was killed in clashes with police in southeastern Mosul,[...]

Tuesday Oct 14th 2008
CNN is reporting the death of a U.S. - led coalition soldier [...]
The Washington Post is reporting the deaths of three ISAF soldiers [...]
AMS issues fatwa prohibiting long-term pact:
Iraqi official calls U. S. troop accord unlikely: [...]
Five Turkish soldiers wounded in PKK attack in Turkey:
Moldova to pull out of Iraq by yearend:
#2: Three civilians were injured by a roadside bomb in Talbiyah [...]
#4: Five persons were injured on Tuesday night [...]
#1: Police forces found two bodies, one male one female, [...]
#1: Iraqi police said eight mortar rounds landed in the U.S. base Anaconda [...]
#1: Two separate roadside bombs wounded five civilians [...]
Five civilians were injured by a bomb in Tuz Khurmatu market place
#1: An explosion struck a secondary pipeline transporting unrefined gas [...]
#1: A bomb went off on Tuesday in front of a church in central Mosul,[...]
#2: One civilian was killed and another wounded in a drive by shooting [...]
#3: Two policemen were wounded when a bomb hit their patrol [...]

Connect the dots.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

How to maintain a reputation as a literary maven in one easy lesson...

...fake it.

Dispatch from the class wars...

From the Guardian:

Super times for superyachts as billionaires buy into maritime bling

Monte Carlo boat show finds demand for floating palaces higher than ever

While others panic about the financial crisis, this weekend's Monaco Yacht Show proved that the mega-rich have never been richer. Yacht brokers describe an eastern European new rich, boosted by oil wealth, keen to outdo their rivals. Middle Eastern viewers and occasional Latin Americans are following suit.

As the number of multi-billionaires grows, the superyacht industry is enjoying such a boom that demand for the most expensive models outstrips supply. Boats built to personal specifications have grown to such vast proportions that the labels superyacht and megayacht are no longer enough. Those on the dockside now talk of the gigayacht - multi-storey, 120-metre floating mansions that resemble cruise liners. The cost of the biggest new boats exceeds €200m

200. Million. Pounds.

This is going to make it difficult for the hordes of peasants with pitchforks and flaming torches.

But we'll figure out a way, you fuckers, we'll figure out a way...

Huge amounts of drugs and drink to drown the heartache...

"Scarlett Johansson has married actor Ryan Reynolds in a hush-hush ceremony in his native Canada."

Why, Scarlett, why? Weren't the letters enough to intrigue you? The threats to your dog not sufficient motivation? The soaking in gasoline and offer to immolate myself outside your house not sufficient proof of my devotion? We both know your heart said "Yes, yes", even if your lawyer said "Restraining order!"

And with a Canadian, no less!

Once again, we must turn to modern ballads to express our feelings.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Spending tomorrow for tax cuts today (with Southpark)

Interested in a simple explanation comparing the effects of National vs Labour tax proposals?

Watch this.

Also useful - Paul Krugman's "Pop Internationalism".

New Zealand suffers from a basic macroeconomic flaw - we use way too much overseas capital. We must increase domestic savings. Kiwisaver is one component of such an effort.

And National want to gut it in order to win this election. If you have children aged 12 or less now, they won't be thanking you for this by the time they enter university. Indeed, I expect that it will form a major part in any first year essay on "Why is the NZ economy so fucked up now?" come 2015.

But, hey, Helen Clark is just too annoying - time for a change, right?

Me, I'm going to complete my qualification and position myself to shift to Australia if need be...

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

In the long run, we're all dead anyway - so why not party?

Now that we've established that (i) Wellington has not blown into the sea (yet) and (ii) I am a credulous fool (and, S. - "gullible" is SO in the dictionary!), via the Wellingtonista:

Forwarded without further comment

From: Richard MacLean []
Sent: Tuesday, 7 October 2008 1:36 p.m.
Subject: Bogus Wellington storm-damage report - please ignore

1.30PM - 7 October 2008

Bogus storm-damage report - please ignore

A bogus storm-damage report is circulating today on email groups around Wellington - containing information from a storm in August 2004.

Advice from Wellington City Council is to ignore the email - a copy of which is attached below.

The email contains extensive lists of streets closed by slips around Wellington, reports of damage at Wellington Airport, details of extensive delays to trains and buses, school closures, and 'huge seas' blocking Moa Point Road.

The City Council has received a number of calls from people anxious about the emailed report - headed WELLINGTON WEATHER WARNINGS - however we stress that the information is entirely incorrect.

While there have been strong northerly winds in the Wellington region today, and heavy rain - none of the incidents on the email being circulated have occurred. They all occurred during a fierce southerly storm in August 2004.

The City Council will attempt to find out how and why the email was initially circulated - but in the meantime our advice is please ignore it.

For further details please contact:
Richard MacLean - Wellington City Council Communications, tel 04 801 3578 or 021 227 8180.

These are my testicles. Please kick.

Ah, Wellington - known for its perfect weather...

Weather update 7 Oct 2008 approx 1 pm

Updates on storm as follows


Makara Rd, Homebush Rd, Fairview Cres

Trees Down,

Plimmer Steps, Mahoe St, Tawa, Kimberley Way Karori, Herald Mitchell St, Branscombe St, Arlington St Karori, Shortt St, Moffat St, Abel Smith St, Barnard St, Oban St, Tarikaka St, Houghton bay Rd, Taiaroa St, Beacon Hill Rd, Rintoul St, Konini St, Waipori St, Cnr Townsend Rd, South Karori Rd, Constable St, St Michaels Cres, Chater St, Mark Ave, Bell St, Mortimer Tce, Akaroa Dr, Hallswater Dr, Mornington Rd, Glen Alton Ave, Boundary Rd

Lines Down

Milne Cres, Lyall Bay Rd, Ellice St, Washington Ave, Carlton St, Cheeseman St, Para St, Wingfield Pl, Ohariu Road, Makara Rd, Cheeseman Rd, Akatea St, Ellice St, College St, Barnard St, Kekerenga St, Mark Ave, Bedford St, Amristar Rd, Glen Alton Ave

No Power

Severn St, Queens Drive, Darlington Rd, No Power in most parts of Wadestown, College St, Lucknow Tce, Simla Cres, Helston Rd

Road Closures

Onslow and Ngaio Road.
Moa Point Road is closed due to huge seas breaking over the southern end of the Wellington Airport runway.
Stewart Duff Drive, on the eastern side of the Airport, is closed because cladding is being blown off a hangar.
The Hutt Road is closed between Ngaio Gorge Road and Onslow Road because of lifting roofing at the Placemakers site.
Makara Road and Ohariu Valley Road closed by fallen trees and power lines.
A big slip has closed Homebush Road, Khandallah


Raw sewerage flowing down Wakefield Street Clutha Ave Nicholson Rd


Public access to the Basin Reserve has been closed. Approximately 15 windows in the RA Vance Stand have blown out.
Fulton Hogan working on Airport roof which is lifting
Council Parks staff have closed off the walking tracks on Tinakori Hill due to the danger caused by many falling trees.
Power poles are in danger of toppling on the seafront at Lyall Bay.
No power to about 40 homes in Karori
Hutt Motorway one lane north bound reopen between Melling and Maungaraki but south bound closed

Traffic lights out

Trafic lights facing wrong way
Kent and Majoribanks St

All Trains Cancelled

Buses from Hutt Valley cancelled

Glass all over footpath and road in Cambridge tce Northern Landfill
closed closed the transfer station Not operating Library Mobile bus -
Karori Today All flights cancelled the rear section of roof of Shed 6,
on Waterfront has lifted and gone the South end of Events centre Roof is
lifting and is likely to go vehicle entry to Waterfront including
Dockside, Shed 5 and the Helicopters is now closed.
Johnsonville badly affected No Power

Onslow College closed, other schools will follow Raroa Intermediate
closed Pump stations out Johnsonville Library closed - no power Flooding
in Hutt - Locations Affected WAIWHETU Haywards Tce and Wainui Rd.
Eastern Bays Marine Drive - debris and surface flooding Croft Grove -
surface flooding WESTERN HILLS
SH2 - slips and debris between Melling and Haywards
SH2 - Maungaraki and Melling one lane north bound re-opened> WAINUI HILL
RD - Gracefield Road on and off ramps closed. Gracefield Road closed
between Bell Rd and Wainuiomata Hill Rd closed.
RIVERSIDE CARPARK - is now being closed
BLOCK ROAD - is now closed
Road to Eastbourne closed
Electricity has been cut to parts of Korokoro, Petone, Naenae, Melling
and Coast Road Wainuiomata.
Other parts of the city may also be affected by power cuts

I do so love springtime in the Capital City - it's so bracing...

Monday, 6 October 2008

"As God is my witness, I thought this turkey would fly!"

An American Carol - Opening Weekend 3-5 Oct 2008.

Opening Weekend:$3,810,000
(1,639 theaters,$2,325 average)
% of Total Gross: 100.0%

Bowling for Columbine - opening Weekend 11-13 Oct 2002.

Opening Weekend:$209,148
(8 theaters,$26,143 average)
% of Total Gross: 1.0%
= Worldwide:$58,008,423

An Inconvenient Truth - Opening Weekend 24-26 May 2006

Opening Weekend:$281,330
(4 theaters,$70,332 average)
% of Total Gross: 1.2%
= Worldwide:$49,749,351

Gosh, I bet each and every one of the 1,639 theatre managers who choose to air THAT piece of crap have some explaining to do to their bosses.

Hmm - anyone care to explain how, if Hollywood is controlled by liberals, "An American Carol" managed to get such a huge initial opening - without previews for the critics?

BTW, production budget is not available, but judging from Zucker's other movies, would run in the $20-$40 million. Judging from the opening weekend performance, it's going to die almost immediately, and gross around $10 million altogether. This doesn't even begin to consider the outside production expenses.

Why don't studios make conservative orientated movies? Because they lose money, big time.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Ragnar Danneskjöld lives!

Many times on the Internet, libertarians have been pointed at the one true utopia, the only country on Earth which follows their mantra of the minimum possible government, the glorious paradise that is Somalia.

And now we see news that entreprenuers are following in the footsteps of one of the characters of "Atlas Shrugged", liberating goods funded by government theft.

I think we should applaud these independent libertarians, and all those on the Net who aspire to turn their own countries towards this model of freedom.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Memory failure

Memory failure

There’s a poem by Sappho;
I read it once.
She talks about her lover leaving.

Like clutching harder and harder
    On the blade cutting into your hand.
Like the coldest winter day
    Beauty in the eye and your lungs freezing.
Like the tsunami charging in
    The rush of power and the loss of hope.
Like the whisper through the lines;
    The things unsaid, the things never to be said.

I’d like to send it to you,

I can’t remember the title,
and I can’t find it again.
It’s out of reach
as well.

B.order/line (Will Christie)

B.order/line (Will Christie)

this is the event of fire
sleeping in
town and the roof is phat with birds
it is a very dogged
lust that wolves us

lying beside u
feels in motion
like the photo of a fall
the language body seethes
u make me
nerve us

come a bit close
desire's a pleasure
that erases
evidence of its own fullness
danger sharpens the attention
I love because u r

this is a stroke of the heart
your context is coming loose
I am an object
with feelings
increase yourself to my needs


All I'm saying is that, if you're put under pressure and you immediately start talking about dungeons and sex, trying to claim that they were only cucumber dungeons doesn't cut it. There's psychotherapy in your future...

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The next 5000 days...

The web is about 5,000 days old. I was there when it came along - I remember starting to notice it when Lynx replaced Gopher on the local university systems. I was too busy playing MUDs to pay too much attention, of course.

Watch this talk by Kevin Kelly. It may be the most important thing you watch this year.

Now, consider the summary list at the end and the messianic language it is couched in.

Let me ask one question - how would a mitochondria describe a person?

Thursday, 25 September 2008

A brief note on the etiquette of anal penetration

Imagine, on some long Saturday evening, you are relaxing and watching television when your lover/partner/spouse walks into the room. They stand in front of you, blocking American Idol or whatever the hell you watch on a Saturday night, and proceed to pull a long plastic glove onto their right arm, and make a fist.

Then they bring out the KY, and start slathering it all over the glove. You can't help but noticing, in a rather horrified fashion, that they've made sure to lubricate it well over half way to the elbow.

Then they tell you to stand up, drop your pants, bend over, and grasp your ankles firmly.

There are two important things to note at this point:

i, You have a perfectly good right to ask "Why?" AND
ii, "There's not enough time to explain" is NOT a good enough reply.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

What does an apogee look like?

A decade ago, 1998, I started mentioning my theory that US had reached its apogee, the maximum level of power, and was on the downward part of the curve. At the time, this seemed pretty presumptious, but then again, what exactly would an apogee look like? You'd expect it to look much like the previous few rosy years, with perhaps a small but niggling indicator showing some problems.

In my particular case, I chose the net return on national investments. In 1998, this flipped - the US was paying more out to foreigners who owned US assets than it gained from owning overseas assets. It had moved from a bank balance in the black to an overdraft.

I thought this would grow slowly over the next couple of decades before people would start to notice. I didn't expect the Bush administration to come along and fuck things up quite as thoroughly as it did. Hell of a job, Georgie.

And now this news:

Check out the chart showing the recent spikes in the US 10-year credit default swap. In other words, the market is now pricing-in the genuine possibility that the US will struggle to pay-back some of its long-term T-bills.

That possibility is still deemed to be quite low. But the ultimate financial question – until recently, unthinkable – is now being asked. Yes siree, the mighty US government could default. That’s how much the world has changed.

Welcome to the world run on the Euro.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Placing promises of tax-cuts in context

From G-Blog, National Monopoly:

An observation on feminists' supposed commitment to equality...

...from personal experience, even the most assertive and independant woman will arrange to have at least two burly males around when it comes time to move house. And we fall for it every time out of our desire to be helpful. Curse the wiles of the whole wretched species.

I feel so used.

And sore.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A brief lesson on the Newtonian laws as they apply to politics...

For every action, there is a reaction.

Even if they are your supposed allies. And you will notice the words "equal" and "opposite" do not apply in politics.

Just saying...

Thursday, 11 September 2008

You know all those song lists people keep compiling... might want to reconsider before posting.

From here:

What your music says about you

Indie: Devotees have low self-esteem and are not very hard-working, kind or generous. However, they are creative.

Rock 'n' Roll: Fans have high self-esteem and are very creative, hard-working and at ease with themselves, but not very kind or generous.

Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease with themselves.

Classical: Classical music lovers have high self-esteem, are creative and at ease with themselves, but not outgoing.

Heavy metal: Very creative and at ease with themselves, but not very outgoing or hard-working.

Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, kind, generous and at ease with themselves, but not very hard-working.

Country & Western: Very hard-working and outgoing.

Dance: Creative and outgoing but not kind or generous.

Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing.


Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Why looks matter in politics...

If you look like this, you can only rise so far:

If you look like this, however, the Republican party will embrace you and the media will love you.

Even if you have essentially the same policies...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

On dying for a good cause

At around 3 or 4 this morning, a blue warehou was happily swimming around Cook Strait. Shortly afterwards, it was very surprised to be hauled into the air by a net, bonked on the head, and put on ice. I know it was surprised because I saw the impression on its face.

At about 7.15, as I was leaving the house for a long, long walk, the fishing boat was tying up at the dock outside the Sunday market outside Waitangi Park. At about 11.00, I finally got to the market, and saw the fish gutted and filleted in front of my face. I purchased it, some fresh red peppers and fresh green capsicum at the market (along with other stuff - including three or four kilos of fresh oranges).

At about 2 p.m. I finally got home, along with groceries and a haul of books from the local market. The fish goes in the freezer, the groceries in the fridge.

At 6, the oven top is heated up and some oil goes in the pan. At 6.02 half of the fish went in the pan. One pepper, one capsicum, an onion, some Korean fish oil and a lot of pepper.

Oh, God, I'd forgotten how good really fresh fish is. The only thing missing is some mushrooms. Something to consider for Tuesday or so when the rest of the thoroughly surprised fish gets hauled out.

My friend, you died in a good cause.

Friday, 5 September 2008

What works against terrorism

There's been a report recently of a Rand Corporation study. It surveyed almost 650 terrorist groups that operated between 1968 and 2006. This is how they died:

43% ceased after a transition to the political process.
40% were destroyed by effective police work.
10% dissolved after victory.

And 7% were defeated militarily.

Note that - police work destroyed 40% of them, the military destroyed 7%. And this is the Rand Corporation saying this, not some leftist peace institute.

Feel free to cite these figures the next time wingnuts start getting erections over weapons.

Not to be shared with the better-smelling gender...

Okay, so THIS site could come in real useful.

But try not to spread it around where *they* may be listening...

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

For the first time in human history...

... it's possible to circumnavigate the North Pole.

The problem here, of course, is a positive feedback cycle - open water aborbs sunlight whereas ice reflects it. Thus the prediction that we will wave bye bye to the Arctic ice-cap entirely in summers.

Sorta sucks to be a polar bear.

Now watch what happens with the Antarctic ice cap (= sea level change) and with the possible release of Arctic methane deposits (= another positive feedback cycle). And I'm sorta wondering what the fuck happens to Thermohaline circulation with the icecap gone.

But, of course, global warming is all a myth and a conspiracy...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Finally - a scarier airport than Wellington

Via Cracked:

The island of St Maartin, where the SPF is not the only thing to worry about while sunbathing...

Monday, 25 August 2008

Towards Little Green Circle Jerks - some notes

There's an interesting situation showing up on the blogosphere. Two progressive/feminist US websites with historic ties are seperating under the strain of the fallout from the Democratic primary selection. The larger site, Pandagon, headed by Amanda Marcotte, had a reasonably weak pro-Obama bias, the smaller, Shakespeare's Sister, headed by Melissa McEwen, had a strong pro-Clinton bias (note that these are my impressions, and I admit fully that I didn't follow the opinions of the various communities too closely).

Pandagon, larger and more diverse, seems to be rolling on as it ever did. However, Shakespeare's Sister is showing signs of evolving more towards an insular community defined by ideological purity - towards the type of blog epitomised by Little Green Footballs on the right. This sort of community has characteristics so common that an example can and has been aptly tagged as "a Little Green Circle Jerk".

For a good demonstration of this, see the comments on this thread.

This doesn't seem to be driven by the owner of the blog - McEwen has an admirable dedication to openness under provocation. Although intelligent, she appears less educated and articulate than Marcotte, and the latter is more accomplished. I believe, however, that she has considerably more actual insight, albeit coloured by her biases. Rather, it is the community of commentators in SS which are the engine behind this evolution.

The following strike me as important notes on possible characteristics associated with this change:
- A emphasis on status through ideological purity (in this case, a moderate progressive stance combined with radical feminist elements).
- A need to define identity by adherence to group norms.
- A rise in the sort of "stroking" comments and posts which reinforce group solidarity, mutual praise and admiration for members who succinctly express group norms.
- A drive towards vilification of a symbol for the other camp (such as animosity aimed at Obama himself for not having the same views. Compare this with the way the wingnut right talk about Islam and the Qu'ran).
- Treating dissent as an attack, and repeated calls for a closed community through banning dissenters.
- A drift further away from the mainstream driven, as far as I can tell, by the more radical, passionate members setting the agenda, and other more moderate members refusing to engage or call them on it - at the same time both gang up to pour scorn on the agreed "outsiders".
- A loss of a sense of proportion, which is pretty close to losing a sense of humour regarding touchstone issues.
- A rise in restoring to ad hominem attacks as the first response, and a refusal to consider engaging differing ideas.
- A possible turnover in membership, with some commentators becoming more and more active, and others quietly dropping out without anyone seeming to notice.

I'm not a sociologist, and I lack a trained (or unbiased) perspective. The way this group is changing in response to the stress of the primary selection and post-primary events is fascinating, though. McEwen's genuine progressive beliefs seem to stand in the way of this drift; an obvious next step would be for her co-bloggers to start more readily banning people with or without her permission, or to persuade her to do the same.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Quick musical question...

What do the following bands have in common:

The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays, Nirvana, Radiohead, Third Eye Blind, Stereophonics, Supergrass, and Coldplay?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

What the election is about

From here (hat tip to Brian Easton):

Key findings about income growth

· From 2004 to 2007, median household incomes rose 6% in real terms.
· This followed an 8% rise from 2001 to 2004.
· From 2004 to 2007, incomes for low to middle income households rose much more quickly than incomes for higher income households.
· The relatively large rises for incomes for low to middle income households reflect the impact of the Working for Families (WFF) package on the incomes of low to middle income households with children.
· From a longer term perspective, median incomes fell in real terms from the late 1980s to a low point in 1994, and have been steadily rising since then at an average of 2.5% pa. By 2001, the median income had just returned to its 1988 level.

For those not following along, the 1984-1999 period represent the Fourth Labour and Fourth National Governments (i.e. Rogernomics and More Rogernomics) and post 1999 the Fifth Labour Government (i.e. Helen Clarke). leading up to this election, the indications are that National is pretty much the same as it ever was.

That's great if you're in the top 20% of the country - statistically Helen has been better for the other 80% of us.

But who gives a shit - change for change sakes, right?

Monday, 11 August 2008

"We are all different!" "(I'm not...)"


I woke up with a smile on my face after a very nice dream. Involving two pretty 20-somethings in fancy dress nurse outfits.

I swear, my subconscious is just one big male cliche at times. If I start getting interested in sports cars and loudly debating regional rubgy, I only hope my friends have the decency to shoot me.

Personally, I blame Sarah Chalke.

(Additional: Of course, the Annoying PA is laughing her ass off at this comment. There have been some pointed observations about certain predictable responses to her clothing choices.)

Cyberwarfare in Georgia

There are some interesting reports about cyberwarfare associated with the Russian/Georgian conflict. Essentially, a major Russian criminal group is acting as an adjunct to the Russian State in the conflict.

While the conflict itself is not as black and white as it may appear, the connection between the Russian government and the RBN is interesting. The Russian government has long appeared to have embraced the criminal sector as part and parcel of the new Russia; if you're going to go for capitalism on steroids, there's really no reason to exclude, say, extortionists, people smugglers and child-pornographers.

If Russia is aggressively turning outward, reclaiming the CIS, then we're looking at many of the necessary conditions for fascism - all that will be needed will be a successful populist irredentist movement, and it'll happen. If the Russian government starts pushing this internally, and war governments almost always do so, then we're looking at some Interesting Times in the Balkins. Again.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Another really bad idea...

From XKCD...

Please, Lord, make sure Spike never discovers these...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Human rights vs Women's rights

This is an interesting story:

Women-only scholarships under spotlight

Women-only educational scholarships are facing a legal challenge under human rights laws because they may discriminate against men.

In what may become a global test case, Victoria University Institute of Policy Studies senior researcher Dr Paul Callister has asked the Human Rights Commission to clarify its position, saying women significantly outperform men in education and therefore there may be no inequality for such scholarships to rectify.

Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner, Rosslyn Noonan, said she would carefully examine the issues and questions raised by Callister before responding.

The NZUSA has plumped for defending them, perhaps more for internal politics than on the merits of the case. Simple analogies will show the problem with the argument that they only give positive support and are no threat to others. The argument that the future of women in higher education is uncertain is particularly weak - the idea of NZ readopting any institutional barrier based on gender is bonkers, especially when we're doing so well discriminating on class with financial barriers.

This is a test case appealing to international guidelines, with implications beyond NZ. We're not the only country to show a success for human rights in gender equality in access to higher education.

It will be illuminating to observe the reaction of feminists outside NZ to this issue as it works its way into their national politics. I think there's going to be a distinction drawn between those who advocate feminism as part of liberal principles and those who advocate it as a tribal identity.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Family violence for fun and profit

Regarding the Tony Veitch case - I don't have a TV. I don't know who these people are. And I'm with Michael Laws on this - watching the incestuous NZ media tie itself in knots over one of its favoured sons is so entertaining.

Yeah, we get he's a nice bloke and under stress and all. But if he put the boot in to a woman on the ground, breaking her back, the correct place from which to interview him is from a jail cell. It's not that difficult to figure out, Paul.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Squeeeee!!! Squeeeee!!! Squeeee!!!

I think I have to go change my underwear now.

Friday, 11 July 2008

We shall fight them on the beachheads of Bondi

Of course, violence may be a bit closer to our shores than I had realised...

Gloom and depression

Well, with "war games" announced by the US navy in the Straits, followed within hours by "war games" announced by Iranian missile forces, I expect people to start dying this weekend. I'm hoping that it's just politicians waving their dicks at each other - but I wouldn't be surprised to be more anti-American than normal come Monday.

For those of you who have problems with geography - the Straits of Hormuz are off Iran, not off California. When the navy of country A sails off the coast line of country B, and fighting breaks out, you usually look towards country A as the culprit. Bear this in mind when the competing claims of who fired first start flying.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Oooh - I think I *like* this girl...

Ladies and gentleman, Lucie Boshier.

More of the story here. Her blog is here.

I wear black all the time, I don't give a hoot about fashion - and I think I may well be in love.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Again with the national stereotypes

Wonderful. I am now dealing with an article in a major paper about...

...sheep bums.

Ovine derrieres. The bits they can't wipe. The asses of the wooly creatures.

This is a serious article, folks. Apparently the bo hipi breed will avoid any animal rights complaints about "mulesing", or snipping skin around sheep posteriors. Heavy stuff. Worth doing a two-third page article on.

Who am I kidding? The only person more pathetic than me for wasting my time on this is Dr David Scobie, who describes himself as a "sheep bum scientist". What sort of a sick pervert goes into science so he can focus his efforts on appreciating the beauty of sheep anuses?

Oh, BTW - he's Australian...

Friday, 13 June 2008

Thursday, 12 June 2008

That's it, the world has officially ended

Noted in the paper - John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, now wears bifocals. And why not - he's 52.

The scary thing about writing this is that some who might read it will say "Johnny Who?".

Monday, 9 June 2008

International comparisons of petrol prices

Taken from the NZ Herald, $NZ/litre, presumably post-tax/subsidy pump prices:

Most expensive:

1, Sierra Leone, $6.24
2, Turkey, $3.43
3, Norway, $3.29
4, Eritrea, $3.24
5, Netherlands, $3.03
6, Finland, $3.00
Germany, $3.00
Portugal, $3.00
7, Italy, $2.98
8, UK, $2.89
9, Belgium, $2.86
10. Monaco, $2.81

New Zealand, $2.00
Australia, $1.75
United States, $1.33

Least expensive

10, Egypt, $0.41
9, Bahrain, $0.34
8, Qatar, $0.28
7, Kuwait, $0.26
6, Swaziland, $0.18
5, Libya, $0.17
4, Saudi Arabia, $0.15
3, Iran, $0.14
2, Turkmenistan, $0.10
1, Venezeula, $0.06

Women, spiteful and vengeful

The good news is that I got accepted for sponsorship to a library seminar.

That bad news is that it's the Annoying PA who gets to handle my travel and accommodation.

To quote:

APA: Hmm .. this is my time for revenge I guess
APA: let see, where I am going to place you
APA: 8-)

So some time this month, I expect to be travelling via dogsled and staying in the same room as the huskies.

I think it was the *not* looking while she was walking around wearing a towel which annoyed her...

Friday, 30 May 2008

Alcohol - a perfect substitute for achievement

Meet Anna Coddington.

Anna, at age 26, is releasing her debut album, 'The Lake'.

Anna also has a black belt in karate and a Masters degree in socio-linguistics. I feel so inadequate.

However, I have my wash-hose, and I could do Elephunk before the Black Eyed Peas ever heard of it.

The problem with trial by public opinion

These are the facts of a recent case as given by police to the media, prior to the trial:

i, The victim, a 10 year old girl, died from suffocation, She had been found in her bed with trouble breathing.
ii, There were injuries to her genitals, including a rectal tear consistent with penetration.
iii, DNA from the semen of the uncle had been found on her underwear.
iv, The family, maintaining the uncle's innocence, washed her bedding and clothing after she was found.
v, The family was from a part of Africa in which the myth that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS is common.

The uncle was arrested and charged with murder. He was, of course, vilified in the newspapers.

These are the facts that showed up in the trial:

i, The victim was indeed found in bed with problems breathing. She was also unconscious and having severe, chalky diarrhoa, which had drenched the bedding. By the time she got to emergency, she had a severe fever, a racing heart beat, and no measurable blood pressure. She had lost so much fluid from diarrhoa that she had gone into hypovolemic shock, depriving the brain of oxygen.
ii, The victim had contracted HIV at birth, from her mother.
iii, The anal injuries consisted of small lateral tears, otherwise reported in HIV/Aids patients. The rectal tear (about 7 cm) was actually a swollen and distended anal canal, probably due to the combination of Aids, diarrhoa, and the fluids desperately pumped into her by the medical team. There was pinprick haemorrhage to her genitals and hymen, but no sign of penetration.
iv, There was no sign of the uncle's semen anywhere else on the girl or bedding. The amount of DNA was about one 100,000th the size of a sugar grain. The girls' clothing had been in the wash after she was taken, the family had a habit of handwashing underwear, and DNA manages to survive through washing quite often.
v, The medical team and police appear to have fixated on sexual abuse, and interpreted all the evidence in that light.

The uncle was acquitted.

Moral: Be damned careful of what you read in the papers, do not assume the worst until proven ESPECIALLY for the most horrific of charges, and don't allow your prejudices and prejudgements to blind you to alternatives.

Source here.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

More demands on me from uppity females

I have just been handed a To Do list from an eleven year old, who will be known as K.M. - it reads:

- Grow some hair on the top of your head
- Comb your hair
- Give K.M. (the innocent child) lots of chocolate
- Buy K.M. expensive presents on her birthday and Christmas
- Give K.M. chocolate eggs on Easter
- Consider a job with more pay and no annoying children
- Realise how much children love you
- Learn to smile nicely

Wonderful - now eleven year olds are telling me what to do. Clearly, this child's parents have failed to beat her enough. I will be forced to do so on their behalf.

Addenda: And now the extremely annoying P.A. is requiring me to hang around with her shopping until her boyfriend can pick her up. To quote:

Annoying PA: You sucks
Harassed PiaToR: Shuddup
Annoying PA: I love harrassing you

That's it - I'm joining a Trappist brotherhood. Do they accept agnostics?

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

And it's not even in the Wikipedia yet...

This, or something like it, is going to be huge. The ramifications for the way people (and people and businesses) interact on a day to day basis will be staggering as it becomes more sophisticated.

Remember "aka-aki" and "mobile social networking" - you're going to hear a lot more about them in the next couple of years.

Monday, 19 May 2008

If this is Thursday, I must be psychotic

This looks like fun - Joss Whedon's new series, Dollhouse:

Dollhouse follows Dushku's Echo, a mysterious agent with no identity except for the personalities imprinted on her and then deleted by her employer depending on the wishes and needs of wealthy clients. Between assignments, Echo lives inside a cushy secret HQ with other blank-slate dolls in a state of oblivious, hyper-healthy bliss...though as the series unfolds, she's starting to remember stuff she shouldn't.

Yeah, I've had days like that. They usually involved alcohol.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

But... Canterbury is full of zombies already...

I have a really bad feeling about this movie. I haven't been impressed by NZ movies, although "Bad Sheep" did try hard. This, however, looks like the sort of cretins I spent my teenage years escaping let loose.

Perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised. And perhaps Scarlett Johansson will declare her true love for me tomorrow. Seems about as likely.

On the advantages of totalitarian communism

I heard on the radio today an account from a Kiwi stuck in the middle of the Chinese earthquake zone. He was impressed by the massive response of the Chinese government to the crisis. I note reports such as this:

More than 50,000 troops joined disaster relief efforts or were advancing to the area. The Chinese air force said 6,500 troops were parachuted into hard-hit areas where rain and clouds had prevented military helicopters from landing.

Premier Wen ordered troops to clear roads to Wenchuan. "Please speed up the shipping of food. The kids have nothing to eat now," he said amid crying children.

and this:

Premier Wen Jiabao was quick to reach the scene and urged rescuers to clear roads into the worst-hit areas as fast as possible.

"As long as there is even a little hope, we will redouble our efforts 100 times and will never relax our efforts," he told crying locals through a loudhailer in the badly hit Dujiangyan city, south-east of the epicentre.

The health ministry has made an urgent appeal for people to give blood to help the injured.
China said it would accept international help to cope with the quake - the worst since 1976 when 242,000 people were killed in Tangshan - and offered its thanks.

The government response was praised as "swift and very efficient" by Francis Marcus of the International Federation of the Red Cross in Beijing.

But he added the scale of the disaster was such that "we can't expect that the government can do everything and handle every aspect of the needs".

Make no mistake about it - the Chinese government is an oppressive totalitarian State whose only justification is the Chinese fear of anarchy.

But compare and contrast.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Further research on prostitution from Chicago

One of the things that irritated me on the discussions in Pandagon on prostitution was the glib insistence by some (female) commentators on why men used hookers. I've never done so, nor wanted to do so, but I know several guys who have, and the comments just didn't ring true.

I've come across a reference to some research from an anti-prostitution group, interviewing regular clients in Chicago. Two cavaets here - the group is noted as being biased in their research, and the circumstances in Chicago may not apply elsewhere where prostitution is more licit. None the less, there's some interesting comment on the attitudes of males who buy sex:

SEX ACTS: 46-48% of interviewees purchased sex in order to obtain sex acts they either felt uncomfortable asking of their partner or which their partner refused to perform.

NO COMMITMENT: 36% of interviewees said that they purchased sex to avoid emotional involvement or commitment.

ADDICTION: 83% considered purchasing sex an addiction for the man buying.

PORNOGRAPHY: 39% of interviewees were regular pornography consumers. Interviewees frequently mentioned reenacting pornography with women in prostitution.

EMOTIONAL STATE: 27% preferred women who looked “lonely” in order to imagine the existence of an emotional bond.

RACE/ETHNICITY: 43% of interviewees selected a woman in prostitution based on her race and/or ethnicity.

MEN’S DOMINATION OVER WOMEN IN PROSTITUTION: 43% of interviewees stated that if the man pays the woman for sex, she should do anything he asks.

INTOXICATION: 42% of interviewees were regularly intoxicated during their encounters with women in prostitution. 19% said they were drunk or high during every encounter.

CONFLICTING FEELINGS: 22% of interviewees felt guilty and/or shameful the majority of the time they purchased sex.
HARM: 42% stated that prostitution causes both psychological and physical damage to women. 13% of interviewees had witnessed an act of extreme violence perpetrated against a woman in prostitution.

Make of it what you will. Note that I have previously mentioned the support for legalising sex work by the NZ Prostitutes Collective, which cited reducing violence against sex workers as one reason for making the trade licit.

Marriage and civil unions in NZ - the reality

In 2006, civil unions became legal. These provided an alternative for both gay and straight couples, and were essentially identical to marriages. I, personally, thought they should have bit the bullet and called it by what it was, but that's a fight for another day.

They're not doing much. In 2006 (the first year tehy were available), there were 374 civil unions. In 2007 there were 316. This represents 1.5% of the number of traditional marriages

No doubt this explains the lack of Biblical inundation as God punishes NZ for its tolerance of sodomy. Mind you, it has rained all weekend, so perhaps Teh Gay can still be blamed.

The number of marriages is slipping, and in 2006 47.2% of NZ kids were born outside a marriage - the word "bastard" has ceased to be an insult here for a long time.

I think the fight over civil unions was a red herring. De facto and temporary arrangements appear to be the trend for the future, which probably doesn't bode well for all sorts of issues.

Monday, 12 May 2008

The Left may not be crazy; it just smells an awful lot like it these days...

Via Julian Sanchez a report on a professor looking at suing her students for asking too many questions.

I've forwarded this to a certain professor in rhetoric. Her reaction ought to be amusing.

Now, I've just found out that the daughter of a friend has just been accepted early into Vic. She intends to be a hard engineer, and will likely end up doing an Applied Science degree. She's been accepted into a B.A. programme to start with. I'll probably be going through the course handbook with her to make suggestions on what she'd want to do for the first year.

I'll print out this story for her and suggest she steer clear of anything involving literary criticism. She'll probably wind up voting ACT, God help us, but at least she'll keep her sanity.

UPDATE: The rhetoric professor notes:

I read about this on FARK. She isn't a prof, but a lecturer. Her book has been out for over a year, which is lots of time for reviews, and she's taken a post-doc. That means she's not done well on the job market. So, she's having trouble finding a good job--not a surprise. Her book is with Peter Lang, which is not a very prestigious scholarly press. Both of those facts are indications that the system is, in fact, working, and she's headed down the academic ladder. She'll end up grading standardized tests.

She's also a little tin pot tyrant.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Born under a bad sign

R.I.P. Darcy Clay, 1972-1998. Committed suicide a little over a decade ago, at the age of 25.

You stupid, genius bastard.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Learning lessons over the weekend

Hmm - three day weekend, beautiful weather and me with a massive sleep debt.

And then on Friday morning - early Friday morning - I got a call from a pretty young lass along the lines of "I'm boooored. Come out and entertain us, T.!". So over the weekend, I learned the following things:

i, A. is probably pre-diabetic.
ii, M's family is loaded.
iii, Despite the massive weight loss, my trick knee will still give out when I put weight on it the wrong way.
iv, Paraparumu Beach is still very pretty.
v, Losing a cell phone sucks.
vi, The Internet isn't life. People are life.

Annnnnnnd, I see there appears to have been a blogosplosion over the Evil Racism of Amanda Marcotte, She-Devil of the SS. Or something along those lines. It's difficult to make out in between the wails of self-flagellation and ideological rhetoric being hurled left, lefter and leftmost.

We're really going to need a bigger tea-cup for this storm.

Monday, 28 April 2008

On official representation

It will be noted that the Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, represented New Zealand at the Anzac Day rememberances, at Gallipoli.

Alas, the suggestion by the New Zealand government to the Turkish government that the event be marked by a reenactment with Turkish soldiers shooting at him as he entered the beach area was declined.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Coming up - the Patriarchy is blamed for this as well...

Lynchings in Congo as penis theft panic hits capital.

You don't even have to click on the link to realise how weird the story is going to be...

A slight shudder down the spine

Trawling through the Usenet archives, I found this exchange from back in 1998, I think after Clinton bombed the Sudan:

Liberal 1: "All I've been saying is that we cause some problems for other countries. That's it."

Conservative: "And? We do it so we don't have those problems here. That's what the rest of the world needs to learn."

Me: "What, to retaliate against US cities? The WTO bombing probably scared Americans more than the embassy bombings, even though they failed to collapse the towers. Oh well, there's always a next time - and now all the nutters in the Middle East have a reason to ensure there *is* a next time..."

1998. Jesus, I'm glad I didn't remember this three years later, or I would have turned myself in as a possible terrorist.

Sister, can you spare a boob?

The Ferrett, that is.

The context.

One reply.

Personally, I want the next con to make available a supply of buttons reading "Only if you want your nuts twisted off". They'd be obtainable in red or green, as per the wearer's preference...

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Two steps forward, one step back

Two steps forward:

Zapateros' choice of Cabinet ministers is a symbolic step towards removing the barriers to opportunity.

His so-called 40 per cent rule demands, but does not require, that by 2010 any company negotiating for public contracts should appoint women to 40 per cent of the places on their boards of directors.

The rule will have only a limited impact on the Spanish Parliament, where women already make up 36.6 per cent of the deputies, the fifth-highest figure in Europe, but it could open spectacular opportunities at local government level, and particularly in the boardroom, for Spain's female university students, who outnumber male undergraduates.


This rule was extended in 2004 to state-owned companies. Then in 2006, the Government legislated to impose an extraordinary ultimatum on Norway's public limited companies - either have a minimum of 40 per cent of women on the company board by January 1, 2008, or be closed down. Despite the dire prophecies of economic catastrophe, the law has come into force without driving out any major company.

"The most alarmist people told us the economy would suffer, that investors would flee Oslo, that the level of competence on the boards would plunge," Marit Hoel, the head of Norway's Centre for Corporate Diversity said. "What we've seen is that the economy is doing very well, that the investors are still there, and that the women who have been appointed to the boards are more highly educated, more international and younger than their male counterparts." step back...

Some of New Zealand's most powerful businesswomen have called for companies to improve diversity on their boards after a blighting report from the Human Rights Commission showed a dearth of female directors.

There are only 45 female directors in the stock market's top 100 companies and they represent just 8.65 per cent of 624 board directorships.

I'm not terribly hot on the Norwegian idea of mandating that every company should have a diversity quota on the board, but there's noting unfair about the government insisting that every company that wants to do business with it demonstrate some commitment to diversity - especially since keeping women off teh boards just doesn't make sense.

Boys will be boys - if we let them

I ran into a couple of interesting articles which illustrate a pretty obvious problem when considering what sort of an equal society to strive for.


- The problem

But increasing numbers of educators believe this is natural boyish behaviour - and boys urgently need to be allowed to be boys.

A decline in the number of male teachers, and the feminisation of our playcentres and classrooms, is suppressing boys' natural behaviour, they say.

Too often boyish boisterousness is being misread, discouraged or frowned upon and as a result, boys can become alienated.

Boys are not only struggling academically, they also account for more than 80 per cent of those defined as having behaviour problems at school. They represent 75 per cent of those who appear in the criminal justice system, form the majority of those who develop serious mental health conditions, and account for the majority of youth suicides.

- The cause

At preschool, a male teacher is like a needle in a sandpit. Of the 15,000 early childhood teachers, only 167 are male.

At primary school the male teacher is also an endangered species. Latest Ministry of Education figures show just one in five teachers is male, compared with 42 per cent in 1956. Some primary schools are now staffed entirely by women.

Reverse the genders and the behaviours menetioned, and comments like this below wouldn't be controversial at all - businesses, for example, have benefited a great deal by encouraging diversity and questioning a "male" approach to doing things:

In a recent article he wrote: "When topics like this get identified many and various hackles get raised. This is an issue that needs to be discussed and debated and none of us, either male or female, should be afraid to do so. Frankly, it is dangerous for a society to ignore issues of importance because the dominant view at the time happens to see them as unfashionable."

"It's fair to say we have a way to go with women teachers knowing what is okay male behaviour," he told the Herald on Sunday.

The subject is a political hot potato. Some argue the lack of men is a non-issue - good teachers are what is required and if most of them are women, no problem. They can fully cater to the needs of both sexes - if indeed they have different needs.

"Why is it so bloody hard to accept - given the physicality involved - that the needs of boys and girls overlap in certain places but there are things that are just different?" asks Langley. [...]

"Men relate to children differently," he says. "Men tend to be more physical with children. If a male and a female teacher observe conflict, a male is more disposed to stand back and let the kids work it out. Women are more likely to intervene and to see it as violence, as aggression."

Ballantyne also believes men encourage risk more than women and that children benefit from being encouraged to go beyond what they believe is safe. "Risk-taking is almost being managed out of our centres and I think we urgently need to look at what we are doing within our educational environments if we still want to be an innovative and creative country," he says.

This is a square peg which can't easily be pounded into convenient little ideological round holes such as "the patriarchy hurts everyone" or "men are responsible for everything bad in the world". That's why I suspect it's not even going to get mentioned, at least on the left. But it's still there, and it is not going away.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Knowing your heroes (again) - Nyasha Gumbeze

A further look at people who better deserve the label "hero" than, say, a prancing idiot in a flight suit.

(Taken from "Canvas") Nyasha "Bishop" Gumbeze, theological student at St John's Theological College, Auckland (Anglican):

[Gumbeze] comes from Zimbabwe, abnd is intent on using her training, place within the church, and resulting social status to ease the strife at home. It's a plan that has led others into early graves.

"I do see it like I'm training to be a plumber," she says. "That's how I feel, like I'm training for a profession that's also a calling as well, and it will help me get involved in politics. As a priest, that door is already open. There's an expectation that you will say something, confront people who are corrupt and unjust. But you can get killed doing that in Zimbabwe, it's dangerous for you and your family. The only way I could protect myself would be to say nothing but that would help no one, so speaking out and the risks that brings will be worth it if it's the truth. I came to New Zealand because they will not ordain women at home, now I want to be a bishop some day, for teh influence I could have and the work I could do for our women. Our voices have never been heard. I'm the kind of person who wants to break new ground. I'm not afraid to do that, so who knows what will happen. It will be God's will."

At a more bread-and-butter level, the 36-year-old is here with her husband and two children but the problems her family faces at home are never far from her thpughts. "Being here is like being in heaven, as long as you have some money you will find food in the shops. At home people may not even be paid for their work and if they are, there's nothing to buy. My family, they are alive. I can say that. They are struggling to survive but they are alive. they have no food, no money, no medicine, some of them have Aids. I pray for them every day."

Given all the bullshit the various "isms" throw at us, even the "isms" we more or less agree with, it might be worthwhile considering the very simple truth expressed by Gumbeze's decision on what to do with her life. And, as often happens, this truth has been expressed succinctly in Te Reo:

"He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

("What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people!)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Investigating prostitution (additional)

Given recent discussions, I note this news report with amusement. For those unfamiliar with it, the Womens Institute is a very conservative British organisation consisting mainly of elderly socially involved women - Tories with petticoats, if you like.

Women drop needlepoint to investigate prostitution

Two stalwarts of the Women's Institute in England - usually concerned with issues such as needlepoint and jam-making - are travelling to New Zealand to investigate brothels.

Pensioners Jean Johnson, 62, and Shirley Landells, 73, of the WI in Hampshire want to learn how New Zealand prostitutes run their own businesses.

They also want to talk to prostitutes to see how the profession operates, The Telegraph newspaper in London reported.

Mrs Johnson, a housewife from the leafy village of Four Marks, admitted that she expected the trip to be "quite an eye-opener". She added: "I'm prepared to be very shocked by what I see."

Mrs Landells, who joined the WI 40 years ago, said: "I joined up to get involved with jam-making and craftwork and never thought I would ever be doing anything like this.

"It's an issue that nobody seems to talk about - certainly nobody in the WI - but it's so important that we look out for the health and safety of these girls.

"I really am the least likely person to be visiting brothels - I'm very conventional I suppose. I imagine I may well be quite upset about things I see.

"I don't think it will be an easy trip but I think prostitution will always exist and someone has to stick their head above the parapet and confront these issues - I just didn't think it would be me."

On the way to New Zealand, they will tour a tour the red light district of Amsterdam and visit a "bunny ranch" in America dubbed "the best little whorehouse in the western world".

The pair will return to brief WI members on their findings as part of a campaign to legalise prostitution in Britain and provide greater protection for working girls.

Mrs Johnson proposed last October that Hampshire WI should campaign to legalise council-run brothels.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

How much is that in real terms?

Recently, there's been news of the financial losses from the American meltdown reaching $1 trillion, and similarly sized estimates of the cost of the Iraq War. So a short exercise in perspective may be necessary.

Imagine a small cul de sac, with 22 households in it, 11 houses on each side. The most expensive of these houses flies a Stars and Stripes. About four are owned by Indians, and four owned by Chinese.

The average income of these households is around $60,000 each. This is, however, an average - the household flying the Stars and Stripes pulls in $276,000 per annum, while the four households owned by Indians pull in $14,825 each. That gives you some idea of the wealth distribution of the world.

The Stars and Stripes house just blew $20,000 on a trip to Vegas. Earlier during the year, it had a big Fourth of July party with a lot of fireworks that cost anything from $12,000 to $80,000 depending on who you ask (and probably around the $20,000 - $40,000 range.)

By the way - the local neighbourhood watch program has a regular budget of $38.50, and an operating budget of $83.80 - and members of the Stars and Stripes household are worried it intends to take over...

Does that help with the perspective?

Happiness in New Zealand

I note with interest a recent demographic survey on happiness.

Major findings:
- Men are less happy than women.
- The middle aged the least happiest.
- Middle incomed are less happy than those poorer or wealthier.
- Those renting are less happy than others.
- Those not in a relationship (other than widows/widowers) are the least happy.

It's nice to know that I, a single, renting, middle-aged, middle-income male, am not alone in my misanthropy. Indeed, that makes me quite hap-

Ah, bugger.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Observations on Brisbane

Well, I managed to make it back after a week of trying to keep my mother's morale up. It's going to be a long process of recovery there *sigh*.

But some observations on Brisbane

- Hot and muggy. Yeah, I realise this is obvious, but I came from a NZ autumn, from temperate into sub-tropical.

- Bloody noisy birds and wildlife. I now understand the phrase "stone the crows" - if you'd been kept awake by the goddamned things squawking outside your window, you'd also be looking for rocks to chuck at them too. I really found myself missing the little lonely cry of the morepork at night.

- Brisbane has an absolutely ridiculous amount of gorgeous women in it - if I had known this in my teens or twenties, I would have moved over there and no doubt be speaking with a wierd Oz accent now.

- Translink offer daily passes usable on trains and the ferry systems. Use them - they're a cheap and effective way of getting around Southbank and the City area. The automatic ticket machines are also a brilliant idea. The bus system is incomprehensible, though.

- The insects are plentiful. There are these huge spiders hanging from the telephone lines; I'd considered smuggling one back to terrify a certain arachnophobe, but the only obvious means of smuggling could lead to some serious embarassment in the emergency room should it start biting. It's also rather startling to wake up with a bloody lizard hanging off your wall watching you.

- Morning TV is complete crap. It's either trivial news from the US or evangelicals. The best argument for no God existing is the fact that Benny Hinn doesn't get hit by lightening every time his strangely plastic looking head shows itself outdoors. I do have to admit to watching an entire spiel for a "Classic Soft Rock" collection all the way through - the nostalgia! the memories! the bad, bad seventies hair! I shudder to contemplate how many of those power ballads I have in my collection.

- I was too afraid to run a bath there - I got the impression that Queensland has water police that will bust in if they think you're wasting it and haul your naked dripping ass off to jail. There's evidence of many initiatives; businesses displaying signs talking about recycled water and the like, ads about desalination and exhortations to Aussies to keep up the conservation measures, that sort of thing.

- Aussie food places seem to have too much fried food and not enough sushi and filled rolls on offer.

Favourite part of the travel - heading over the South Island into Christchurch with clear weather throughout. I got to see an entire slice of the Island, west to east, with the West Coast, the mountains and the Canterbury Plains.

Least favourite part of the travel - spending today recovering from food poisoning from transit meals.