Sunday, September 27, 2009

Israel Stands Ready To Act!

Mohammar QaddafiThis week's UN grandstanding by Libya's Mohammar Qaddafi highlighted that, even on its home patch, the UN does not have the balls to stand up for itself. His supposed 15-min."speech" rambled on for 95 minutes – yet no-one had the guts to curtail it!
Mahmoud AhmadinejadOn the other hand, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed his extremely dangerous true colours, after revelations that his country was well into constructing a second nuclear-processing plant, underground and in secret: one capable of and designed to produce nuclear weapons. When the UK and USA spilled the beans, Ahmadinejad basically said, "So whatcha gonna do about it?!" And that's the scary thing. While most of the bigger powers tut-tut and say, "Er... well... you just can't, ok? Please? It's a naughty thing to do!", Israel is preparing to act. Decisively. World-alteringly.
For several years now, Israel's air force has trained for pre-emptive strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities...and has made its position quite clear: for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability is completely unacceptable and, if the rest of the world won't do something about it, Israel will act alone.
Of course, if this does happen, Israel suddenly faces retaliatory military action from all sides, and will not survive. But what will Israel's destruction precipitate globally (apart from widespread Arab rejoicing)? Israeli jets, ready to roll!
As no-one wants another international conflict, it is up to all countries to somehow enlighten Iran's leaders of the hopelessness of their dogmatic stance. Iran can achieve so much more for its people and country by peaceful means, than by crafting a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
Israel seems quite prepared for the consequences of 'levelling the playing field'. Is the Western world ready to let things escalate to that point?
PS: 29 Sept.09 - A worrying article from the Jerusalem Post...
PS: 04 Oct.09 - Food for thought from the Aljazeera website...

Friday, September 25, 2009

After all these years of Daylight Saving, some people still ask: in spring, do we put the clocks forward or back?
This is so basic! DST begins in NZ this Sunday 27 September... when we "spring forward" an hour. It runs until Sunday April 4, 2010, when – to use an American expression – we "fall back" an hour.
You may not know but modern DST was first proposed in 1895 by a NZ entomologist George Vernon Hudson, whose shift-work gave him leisure time to collect insects, and made him aware of the value of after-hours daylight (many books wrongly credit an English builder William Willett, who proposed it in 1905). Germany was the first European nation to use DST (in 1916), to conserve coal during wartime.
NZ dabbled with a half-hour shift from 1927 until WWII, then revived the concept in 1974 with a one hour summer advance. Of course the dairy farmers complained (don't they, about everything?!) but generally this country of outdoors enthusiasts thought it was pretty cool.
So that's another NZ re-write for the history books: George Hudson (inventor of Daylight Saving) can take his rightful place alongside kiwi Richard Pearse – the first man in the world to fly (tough luck, Wright brothers, you guys were nearly a year too late!).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fashion Week Gets Real!

Air NZ Fashion Week 2009 logoAir NZ Fashion Week 2009 will be remembered for its first-ever plus-sized showcase, using women with an average size of 18.
No stupid pony-prancing with Belsen-survivor bodies (e.g.: like this emaciated... thing...on the right: her shadow has more substance than her body!). These bootilicious belles strode out oozing confidence, with big smiles and bigger styles that proved curvaceous creatures can surpass any stick insect on the catwalk.
The show was run by The Carpenter's Daughter label, which designs for curvy gals: the women were sized from 18-24 and aged 14-66. And they'll run another show this weekend using the same well-proportioned women drawn from a public model call, including a 70-year-old.
65% of Kiwi women are sized 16 or bigger, so these models are highly representative (US size zero = NZ size 6). The label's founder said she wanted to "show normal everyday women that they are also part of fashion because they get left out a little bit".
But while things got bigger on the catwalk, the 'goody bags' have shrunk! Maybe it's indicative of the recession that the contents of the bags this year were leaner: some designers dispensed with them altogether!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hogging The Headlines #4: Making More Money!

A leaked UN report says the H1N1 pandemic may result in anarchy, unless the West coughs up for antiviral drugs and vaccines! The headlines scream:
Swine flu 'could kill millions unless rich nations give £900m'.This report will fuel concerns that health officials are unable to stop the pandemic in developing countries. It claims if the virus takes hold in poor nations, millions could die and the economies of fragile countries could be destroyed.
Health ministers around the globe were warned last week about the costs of averting a humanitarian disaster in the next few months. It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN's public health body, said it would not be able to raise half that amount because of the global downturn.
Yet Britain has just announced a dramatic decline in Swine Flu cases, bringing the country – according to its chief medical officer - "tantalisingly close" to winning its battle against the pandemic. WHO itself has said H1N1 is in decline in the Sthrn.Hemisphere, admitting the impact here was not as severe as first estimated.
The Northern Hemisphere – approaching winter – is readying for a second wave of Swine Flu. But remember that many cases, presented as the dreaded pandemic, have been everyday common-or-garden influenza...
Is this leaked WHO report a desperate attempt to solicit major funding for its work in poorer countries, by punching the panic And now let's all play the fun family game: Death By Vaccine!button before Swine Flu begins its nosedive?
And what of the stunning affidavit currently being investigated by the FBI, alleging an international conglomerate of drugs manufacturers and distributors is behind the H1N1 fright-and-fight preparations (as I alluded to on 14 June 2009)? Have we all been played?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Moko? Maybe Not...

Mark Kopua at work A leading Maori tattooist is laying an official complaint after recently being rejected from a bar for having tattoos. Christchurch's Bourbon Bar bans gang 'tats', but tattoo artist Mark Kopua says his tattoos are cultural, and he wants people to understand the difference between cultural and gang tattoos. Mr.Kopua's picture shows his traditional tattoos – hardly offensive.
What I dislike intensely are full-face tattoos. As I understand it, Maori facial moko defined a warrior blooded in battle, a facial story of his origins... striking and handsome in historical context, but has it any place in modern society? I find a full-face moko very threatening – the “Don't Fuck With Me!” attitude of this All Black moko advertising conveys violence, anger, hate. Why would you want that etched permanently on your countenance?
Actually, any tattooing turns me right off: from a snake emerging from a woman's nether regions to a tiny discreet butterfly, huge squirls over shoulders to a lover's name on a breast...not my cup of tea!
But then, just like this blog, tattoos (often called "body art" these days, to encourage social acceptance) are...maybe his mother loves him! very personal. Just be aware if considering one that, when sporting tats like this charming skinhead, your personal viewpoint may not be shared by the general populous!
Here's some reading if you're interested: Myth and The Moko and Bringing The Story of Moko To Salem.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DANGER! DANGER, Will Robinson! #2

Dirty Dancing movie poster, 1987The death of '80s heart-throb Patrick Swayze has inspired an outpouring of on-line tributes from fans...while a darker side of the web tries to cash in.
Hackers are renowned for jumping on the search bandwagon and targeting popular search terms, to sell fake anti-virus software and to infect your computer with malware. Just as these maggots exploited the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett to lead people to virus-laced websites, so Swayze’s death has led to similar tactics.
Cyber-criminals use search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques to get these websites ranked high in search engines like Google. When you visit these legitimate-looking sites you're advised your computer needs anti-virus scans. When these scans are completed, you're told your computer has been infected with Trojans, and surprise! surprise! They then offer to sell you fake anti-virus software to remove them. Many of the sites also implant viruses designed to steal such things as passwords and credit-card numbers. BEWARE!
This is the same technique that I warned about back in July 2009...ask yourself: do you really need to pour your emotions out on a fan website?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

ET, Phone Home...Collect.

The Hubble space telescope's recent outstanding images from space made me muse about what may actually be "out there". Given there're at least a billion stars in our galaxy and at least a billion galaxies, the odds are simply too large for extraterrestrial life NOT to exist.
What would constitute 'First Contact' with an ET life form? Any such claim of 'contact' would of course need compelling scientific proof - we humans demand that - but what is ENOUGH proof? We already have astronauts claiming cover-ups, skeptics saying UFOs are weather balloons, past civilisations, “Chariots of the Gods”, lost technologies, seemingly impossible logistics of long-distance space travel, laws of (human) science saying nothing can travel faster than light...
And what's meant by “intelligent species”? Does that mean “sentient”? Does it mean “as intelligent as us”? Oh, such human arrogance: to think we're the only sentient beings in the universe, or the yardstick to compare ET intelligence against!
For years now we've been beaming radio waves into space. But surely ET technology is more advanced than ours, ie: not wave-based? Perhaps some kind of particle-based communication system?
We can only imagine the huge impact of the future discovery of ET life! Until then, we wait and keep watching the stars through Hubble. But remember: those bright sparkles died eons ago and their light is only reaching us what does THAT tell us? That we're waiting for ET to phone us...?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stepping Down From The Skins...

From the top of the world of percussion: Phil Collins — the man who wrote the brilliant Sussudio and In the Air Tonight, then lost all the accumulated public goodwill when a story circulated that he’d divorced his wife by fax — is giving up drumming!
Phil has a condition that means he can’t play any more: his vertebrae is crushing his spinal cord because of the position he drums in, and he can’t even hold the sticks without pain. What a poignant reminder of the bone-crumbling on-set of time.
A colourful character with a string of marriages and divorces, Collins has often been surrounded by equally colourful stories. But just like the claim that In The Air Tonight was about him witnessing a murder, so the claim of Collins filing for divorce by fax is also an urban myth. He's debunked both rumours in numerous interviews but as he's said: "you can't unwrite what (others have) written, and I've just got to live with it."
Finally, to splash one more urban myth, the Cadbury gorilla TVC did not catapult In the Air Tonight back into No.1 in the UK. It did hit No.1 in New Zealand in July 2008 but the previous year in the UK, when the ad was played, it only reached No.14.
So, for those who dreamed of a Genesis reunion, thank goodness Cadbury trained up that gorilla, huh?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stamping Out Stoats

A breakthrough trap is set to revolutionise stoat control in New Zealand.
Stoats (labelled "our settlers' biggest mistake") were introduced in the 1880s to control the rabbit pest (introducing the rabbit was probably their SECOND-biggest mistake!). Stoats may look cute and harmless, but they're highly efficient killing machines that've contributed to the disappearance of many native birds, killing them and devouring their eggs. It's estimated stoats kill 40 North Island brown kiwi chicks daily! 15,000 kiwi lost each year!
The advantage of the new trap, designed in Wellington, is that it self re-sets twelve times, meaning DOC staff will be able to trap twelve times as many pests, hopefully eradicating the stoat and insuring the survival of kiwi and other birds.
The trap's pioneers are working on bigger versions, for pests like possums, and have snared international interest.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Message to Alaska

Dear Alaska...
Just writing to let you know your Bar-tailed Godwits have arrived safely. Forty of them touched down at the Christchurch estuary this morning, marking the start of spring. Have you sent any more? We'll keep our eyes open anyway.
That's one helluva flight though: 11,000km non-stop. Maybe next year you could spring for a few air tickets...?
Your godwits are in good company - there're 23 species of migrant birds that use the Estuary as a sanctuary during the northern winter - 136 different bird species spotted there in all! So it can get a bit like Grand Central Station in a snowstorm, if you get my drift. If not, well, you just gotta get used to guano-strike!
Thanks once again for the godwits. We promise to take good care of them! Looking forward to the partridge in the pear tree, and the flying reindeer too, closer to date.
Kind regards: keep warm!
New Zealand. xx

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mum Always Said: "Eat Your Greens!"

The world has a 'food problem' - or thinks it does.
In a recent book (July) "Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal", Tristram Stuart says farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in America and Europe dump 30-50% of their fresh produce - enough to feed the world's starving six times over.
Stuart makes suggestions on how to reduce food wastage. Here's a basic one: eat your crusts. As this represents 10% of a loaf of bread, biffing it equates to wasting a tenth of a field of wheat.
A harder suggestion relates to eating out. Stuart says wastage is caused by the expectation that every diner must have a choice of dishes, so each dish has to be made in excess. Restaurants could reduce this by requiring diners to choose, a day in advance. The only loss is the expectation of spontaneous choice.
He claims many diners are overwhelmed by the range on a menu anyway, and end up ordering whatever someone else is having. Oh, really...?
Stuart suggests restaurants reduce the portion sizes, while allowing anybody who feels hungry to request "supersize" for free. Hmmm, McRitz...! He points out some restaurants already do this, by offering a discount on empty plates - or a tax on uneaten items, depending on how you view it.
But which restaurant - competing furiously for business - would dare offer smaller portions and reduced customer choice? I guess they'd only do it if consumers demanded it.
The loss of 'freedom of choice': do diners really care that much?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Wag The Dog" Meets 9/11

It was a sorry case of 'life imitating art' yesterday, during memorial services in Washington USA for the 9/11 tragedy. A Coast Guard exercise was mistaken for a terrorist attack: read all the Associated Press details here.
The whole thing may have gone unnoticed...except that two TV networks confused simulated chatter over a Coast Guard radio for actual events and reported that the Coast Guard had opened fire on a suspicious vessel. CNN stated 10 shots had been fired. The story hit social network Twitter: "Coast Guard confronts boat as Obama visits Pentagon, police scanner reports say shots fired." Fox News followed suit: "The U.S. Coast Guard ship of some type fired on a suspicious boat in the Potomac River." The public was panicked, the headlines blazed, the FBI was mobilised, flights briefly halted!
And so the story grew...
In fact, no shots were fired and there was no trouble on the river.
While hindsight might tell the Coast Guard that running an exercise of that type in that location on that day at that time was...err...less than tactful, the onus must fall heavily on the news outlets to GET IT RIGHT!
Just because it's heard on a radio...does not mean it's fact. Just because a Coast Guard spokesman doesn't know about it...doesn't mean it's an attack. Stories must always be verified from at least two sources...this is Journalism:101. When in doubt...get a man on the ground.
It's Wag The Dog revisited. Nice one, CNN and Fox!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Coals to Newcastle...

First, New Zealand exported Tammar wallabies back to Australia, where they were officially extinct (ha, we were going to cull the bloody pests anyway!).
Now there're plans to re-introduce a bumblebee to Britain, where they too are extinct.
The short-haired bumblebee was brought to NZ on the first refrigerated lamb boats of the late 19th Century. It was one of four species introduced to pollinate red clover. But back in Ol' Blighty, farming practises had wiped out the bumblebee by 1988.
This November, NZ researchers will collect queen bees when they emerge from hibernation, captive-rear the next generation and repatriate them to Britain for release next June. In preparation, we're also instructing farmers in Kent on how to recreate bumblebee habitat, by sowing wild flowers and clover on pasture land around the release site.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

But What REALLY Happened...?

The collage is all my own work...the conspiracies are other people's!In this instant information age, Conspiracy Theorists abound.
There're two types: apparently intelligent people who are extremely passionate about what they see as massive cover-ups and frauds...and those fringe-dwelling nutters whose bible is 'X-Files' re-runs.
Here's the NZ Herald's selection of the best (worst?) conspiracy theories ever. The article contains links to just about every ConTheory you may want to indulge in: happy suspicions!
1. 9/11: US Govt.-orchestrated?
2. Moon landing: faked to show American superiority over USSR...that would be a helluva lot of hush-money!
3. Princess Diana murdered? the Royal Family, MI6, or the Saudis?
4. Area 51 and Roswell: crashed UFOs? Reverse engineering?
5. Alternative energy sources: discoveries hidden by oil cartels.
6. Who is controlling Earth? Freemasons? Lizard/human hybrids?
7. JFK's assassination: CIA? KGB? Organised crime? Hoover? Castro? Nixon? LBJ? Was Lee Harvey Oswald a patsy? Did he eat pastry?
8. Microsoft 'Wingdings' messages: hidden anti-Semitic messages.
9. Nazi alien affiliation: Nazi colony on the moon (dark side, of course!).
10. Facebook and CIA: yeup, secretive US govt.agencies really do want to know that Tammy is your bestest buddy ever!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hogging The Headlines #3: Brits Jittery on Jabs

The British Government is warning senior UK neurologists, that the new swine flu jab is linked to a deadly nerve disease - Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), which could be triggered by the vaccine (as I first blogged back in June). GBS causes paralysis, an inability to breathe, and can be fatal. The letter, leaked to The Daily Mail, has raised questions over why the British public has not been told before mass vaccinations begin.
These worries about the vaccine itself follow UK Government concerns about insufficient testing and unknown effects, especially on children. Yet the first wave of immunisation is still on-track for October, when about 13-million Brits will blindly put their faith in a vaccine which has been speed-tracked without due process. Given the potential GBS risk, some UK doctors are asking why there even needs to be a vaccine.
Now, UK watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is monitoring reported side effects from Tamiflu... yes, the very same drug guzzled here in NZ in great quantities during the initial rush! Meanwhile Australia begins a mass vaccination of 4-million at-risk patients and health workers this month...
Thankfully, our numbers of reported Swine Flu cases seem to be peaked and, with warmer weather, may be in decline. Maybe we'll see less panic, more common-sense...and hopefully our government will halt the vaccination programme for our health workers (planned for early 2010) until results are in from Britain. After all this doubt, would you want to risk it?
See my next Swine Flu update, 22 Sept.2009...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dog Eat Dog #2: The Taste?

After recent news about a South Auckland Tongan man's dog dinner, a few people asked "What does dog taste like?" and "Where is it legal to eat it?" Well, there's plenty of information on-line – and some grizzly photos too (which I've omitted).
But first: where is it legal to eat dog? stirfried dog with vegetablesChina for one, where production is St.Bernardturning into a large-scale industry. Some farms breed more than 10,000 dogs annually for consumption, importing St.Bernards to cross with other species. For Chinese people, dog meat is considered a winter food, because it’s believed to have properties of warmth and energy. Some people avoid it because they don’t want to "overheat". Others boycott it as the issue of animal rights grows in China.
South Korea banned the practice before thedog and rice noodles '88 Seoul Olympics, but it can still be found in restaurants (marketed towards wealthy businessmen). The killing is in a very cruel way (I'll spare the details!), but the method supposedly makes it taste better and it's also said to have aphrodisiac effects: indeed, dog meat areas are often associated with prostitution areas!
Dog-eating is forbidden in Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Philippines made it illegal in 1998, but people still eat it there and sell dogs on markets. Other dog-eating countries include Vietnam and Thailand (where it is apparently not very popular), Cambodia and Laos (usually a last resort in smaller and poorer villages). So it's widespread in Far East countries, whether legal or not. dachshund
As for the taste? The Sydney Morning Herald reports Prince Henrik of Denmark likes dog meat. He likens the flavour to tender veal. These views seem at odds with his status as honorary president of the Danish Dachshund Club.
Explorer Captain Cook, after trying dog in Tahiti, described it as like English lamb. 'Epiphany' blogged that it is a little less greasy than turkey or chicken, tasting like ostrich with a strong after-taste, while 'Everything2' says it's like mutton but more gelatinous. And many travel-bloggers have acknowledged they've probably unknowingly eaten it in Third World areas.
golden retrieverMost Westerners have strong objections to dog consumption, because of their emotional bonds with pets and based on their own cultural comfort levels. So why is mainstream America not shocked by PuppyBeef International Meats and its sister butchery KittyBeef, both providing exactly what their names suggest, to a very select clientele in over 15 countries... FROM THREE LOCATIONS DEEP IN HEARTLAND USA!!!
And by the way, PuppyBeef says the taste does differ between breeds!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spring Fever...

Yum! Yum! Christmas roast!There're too many reasons to be sad or angry in this world, so here're reasons to be happy...
It’s officially Spring! This is undoubtedly the best time of year. Big fat bumblebees are buzzin'. Blossoms are bursting out on trees, and gardens soon become a mass of colour. Next month's roasts are gamboling in the fields. Temperatures reach into the twenties more than once a week and people get their pale limbs out for the sun. Everything just feels happier!
Daylight Saving begins in four weeks - longer evenings loom.
Christmas is just 17 weeks away. And although that's not always great news, everyone should find at least one reason why it's good, somewhere in that hedonistic list of food, presents, wine, beer, a break from work, summer holidays, sun, surf, beaches, concerts...
There’s a New Year in sight. That signals a new beginning - God knows the world needs one!
Asparagus is back in season. Yum!! New potatoes aren't far off. Sweetcorn, succulent lamb, berries, fresh herbs...the food variety just gets better. And cheaper. BBQs begin to earn their keep. The house gets aired out. Mates drop by for beers after work. Finally, the hibernation is over!
We live in a great country: I know that sounds cheesier than Chesdale Slices but sometimes I think we all need a little reminder.