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.