Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Instant Aural Appetisers!

In Australia from November, radio listeners'll be able to actually control what's being played on-air in real time and even dump bad songs as they're playing, in a radical new experiment.
The Austereo radio network, in partnership with US internet radio station Jelli, will unveil a new 24-hour national digital radio station, Hot30 Jelli, next month.
Jukebox radio...what is the point?On its website, listeners will see the live queue of songs to be played and can vote whether each song "rocks" or "sucks". The songs played will always be the ones with the most votes, and the next song to play is decided a split-second before the last song finishes. The initiative pampers to young people's desire for "instant gratification".
But I ask: why bother? The central core of radio is and always has been communication. If it's turned into an instant on-line jukebox, you might as well stick to an ipod. *sigh*
PS - Along the lines of the "evolution" of radio, you might like to read my 04 Feb.2009 post about the devaluation of journalism, then see what Rupert Murdoch plans to do about it...click here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The World's Biggest Landfill

Boaties dump it overboard. Kids sail it down stormwater drains. Picnickers leave it on beaches. Then it's forgotten...outta sight, outta mind. But the 20th Century wonder, plastic, is never gone completely.
Yeup, that's it...right there...our mess. Great!Over the years, plastic products that've floated out into the oceans have been gradually drawn together by the world's currents, to form an enormous swirling mass of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. It's known variously as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, North Pacific Gyre, Trash Vortex, and Plastic Graveyard - and has now grown to twice the size of Continental USA! Sounds too incredible to be true, yet the plastic mass can be seen from space, as this satellite pic shows.
turtle choking on plastic bagPlastic waste is one of the most significant sources of marine pollution, making up 90% of all floating debris. Bottles, bags, balloons, net floats...you name it, it's out there, and a real problem for marine wildlife. Whales have been found starved to death with throats blocked by plastic buckets. Turtles feast on plastic bags, thinking they're jellyfish. Diving seabirds have been strangled by 6-pack beer can collars.
The plastic is also churned into smaller pieces as it swirls about, and then consumed by fish. The chemicals in the plastic enter the food chain, and we eventually consume tasty carcinogens like DDT and PCBs!
To help document The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the marine research and education organisation Algalita built a boat from recycled plastic bottles (15-20,000!) and sailed it from California to Hawaii. Click here for a slideshow of the Garbage Patch and a 4min.video clip......or here for the video clip alone.
Many NZers actively recycle plastics, so what more can we do? Avoid supermarket plastic by using your own bags. Write to your local MP (a real letter looks so much better than an email), requesting initiatives that encourage industry to move into recycling - and penalise those that can but won't. Praise companies using recyclable plastic packaging. Choose products that're packaged in glass or recyclable plastic (Grades 1 and 2: look for the little triangle code on the package).
Reduce - reuse - recycle - respect.
Or not give a damn: it's up to you.
PS: - See also my post of 24 April 2010 for more details and links...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are Student "Journos" Protected?

convicted murderer Anthony McKinneyA US university class project may just have been too successful.
Journalism students investigated the life-sentence murder conviction of Anthony McKinney. They posted their findings online, including key witnesses recanting trial statements, allegations of police intimidation and two potential suspects named by a man who says he was at the murder.
In response, the state has reopened the case...andsubpoenaed a range of material from the university, including off-the-record interview notes, student memos, even the grades of the Investigative Journalism class.
The uni says the students should be considered "reporters" and therefore be protected from having to divulge such information. It will fight in court to only hand over on-the-record documents and statements — not background information or any private grades.
The state calls the students "investigators" not reporters, and wants to ensure students did not approach the case with a bias, and that grades were not linked to the investigation's results.
(This university project has an impressive record: since it started in 1999, student reporters have helped exonerate eleven convicts, including five on Death Row.)
But if the case goes against the students, could this place the growing phenomenon of "citizen journalism" on legal thin ice? Would Joe Public still be allowed to capture/distribute a news-worthy event with a video-camera or mobile phone? How much news would we have missed, had it not been for "citizen journalists"? Remember the Rodney King police beating (1991)...the London Underground bombings (2005)...the Indonesian Tsunami (2004)...these "social voyeurs" have established a movement which would surely now be impossible to stop.
Rodney King beating 1991 Indonesian tsunami 2004

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In-Car Mobile Use Ban Soon

Not long now until New Zealand finally joins the ranks of Sensible Motoring countries: from 1st.November, it'll be illegal for drivers to talk, or send text messages, on handheld mobile phones while driving. And about bloody time too!
Surely text-driving is a no-brainer...? Hmmm, maybe not: between 2003-2008, there were 25 fatal crashes and 482 injury crashes in NZ where a cellphone/mobile device was a factor. Drivers using handheld mobiles face an $80 fine and 20 demerit points: 'tis a start but methinx not tough enough... Yes, it's a no-brainer...but she IS a blonde!
There's an exemption for emergency 111 calls, and also hands-free devices and two-way radio as many businesses depend on them for work.
One can only speculate as to why it's taken so long for this law change to come about e.g.: UK's had a similar law since 2003. But, given that the youth generation has grown up with mobiles surgically implanted in their skulls and seem unable to communicate or exist without them, I don't hold high hopes of a vast or immediate improvement in the situation.
As a vaguely-associated aside, I spotted this headline recently:
"Mobile phones to be banned in French primary schools." Mobile phones...for primary kids??? Don't even start me on this one!
PS: 26 Jan.2011 - Five deaths and 182 crashes during 2010 in NZ have been linked to drivers using cellphones.
PS: 07 June 2012 - A NZ study is investigating if children using mobiles regularly are at high risk of cancers, due to their softer skulls...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Halal DOES Hurt!

Halal, an Arabic term describing an object/action permissible to use/engage in under Islamic law, is widely used to designate permissible food.
Ritual halal slaughter as practiced in Islam and Judaism (throat-slitting while the animal is conscious) is often slammed as inhumane by animal welfare groups. In 2003, UK's Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) said this type of slaughter should be banned. Halal/kosher butchers were angered by the FAWC statement – naturally they felt their beliefs were threatened. The Muslim Council of Britain also objected, stating "the method is a sudden hemorrhage...quick loss of blood pressure...the brain is instantaneously starved of blood...no time to start feeling any pain."
Now a New Zealand study shows animals killed thus really do feel pain. Craig Johnson's team at Massey University (Palmerston North) lightly anaesthetised animals so, although they experienced no pain, electrical pain signals could still be detected. They killed calves in the halal/kosher method, and the animals generally lost consciousness after 10-30 sec...but pain signals were detected up to 2 minutes after the incision! Research showed the pain originated from severed throat nerves, not blood loss: the nerves send pain signals until the time of death. Then they stunned animals 5 seconds after incision and the pain signals disappeared instantly. The research proves if the animal is stunned, pain signals stop.
"The religious community is adamant animals don't experience any pain, so the results might be a surprise to them," says Johnson. "Our work is the best evidence yet that it's painful."
These findings may help religious groups at least consider other options to halal slaughter. As Mohammed said: "If you kill an animal, kill well...let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters.” (Sahih Muslim)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jessica's Journey Begins...

After colliding with another vessel while asleep at the helm, schoolgirl Jessica Watson has polarised public opinion over her attempt to be the youngest person to sail unassisted and solo around the world.
There're many sceptics pointing to her youth and lack of deep-water sailing experience. Still, society would be no safer if we stamped down hard on adventurism, beyond reasonable safeguards. Adventurous spirits are not easily denied: in this case a young Aussie teenager is pushing tolerances...and isn't that what teenagers do? Sometimes all you can do is try to help them be as safe as you can, be poised to help if it's needed, and worry like hell.
Her family certainly believe in her: they describe her as well-prepared, incredibly focussed and unbelievably mature for a 16 year old girl.
So, Jessica set sail today from Sydney on her 23,000 mile/8-month voyage in her little 34ft.boat, "Ella's Pink Lady" (which she describes as "really cute, but really tough as well.").
I'll be posting on her progress from time to time, or for more, check out her website and blog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Just A Game!

Well, contrary to my own line-in-the-sand, I'm posting about rugby again!
It's in...it's out...who cares?Rugby addicts know far more than I do about Thursday's big NPC match between Canterbury and Hawke's Bay, won by Canterbury 27-20. Why it hit the headlines was the disallowed Hawke's Bay try which, with luxurious hindsight, should have been given. Because no TV replay was available, the referee relied on a split-second call by one of his assistants... who declared a no-go.
That's the way the cards played...however it's neither fair nor sporting to then harass the line-ref after the event. Bruce Dockary was verbally abused as he left the venue, his children were targeted on the notorious Facebook, he even took a day off work to stay in hiding.
TV News replay that night showed the try should have been awarded but, from any angle other than the camera's, no-one could've positively called it "in", certainly not the emotional Bay supporters. Their disappointment at not winning the game focused not on their team losing, but (in their minds) on Bruce Dockary stealing the victory from them.
For crissake, when are rugby fans going to grow up and calm down??!! IT - IS - JUST - A - GAME! Games have winners...and losers. Yes, it's great to win but, carry on like this, and your sport will be full of losers!
For more musings on rugby losses (specifically the *yawn* Rugby World Cup)...click here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fin In The Firing Line

endangered fin whale26 countries recently filed a diplomatic protest over Iceland's whaling.
Iceland defends it's position, claiming it's whalers kill no endangered whales. But since June, Icelandic whalers have killed more than 200 whales - including 125 fin and 70+ minke - despite a limited domestic market for minke meat and none at all for fin meat! Fin whales are listed as 'Endangered' by the authoritative 'Red List of Threatened Species', which estimates the global fin whale population has declined by more than 70% over the last three generations. Hvalur whaling fleet, Iceland
This season's hunt (the largest since the 1980s) hit another bloody milestone: the Hvalur whaling company, the only company licensed to hunt fin whales in Iceland, "celebrated" the killing of the 15,000th fin whale since the company started in 1947.
Now, it may seem odd that Iceland is hunting a species for which no local market exists: surely the fin whale meat just languishes in a freezer for years. Ah-ha, but here's the rub: Iceland is now exporting 1500 tonnes of whale meat to Japan! So staunch environmental activists like Sea Shepherd may do their very best to disrupt the Japanese Southern Oceans whale hunt, but... well...let's just say the Japs have "many ways to skin a cat". Damn it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Selling Ourselves...

Hard to imagine, I know...but not EVERYONE loves rugby!Interesting to see how the NZ publicity machine has "come of age".
Over the last decade or so, we've promoted the country by association with major sporting events like the Rugby World Cup and America's Cup yachting. We've utilised social networking and multi-media options (e.g.: the giant rugby ball in London and Paris, an interactive walk-through promotional vehicle, not only for the rugby but the many other delights to be enjoyed here).
Our PR has thankfully come a long way from these two domestically-targeted "New Zealand Is Yours" ads from the 1970s, made by the NZ Tourism and Publicity Department. Yea, hip cats, like - dig the scenes of our groovy swingin' nightlife! Or if that's all too much, how about a scenic bus tour for retirees? And while watching, check out the tongue action at 39sec.!
Now hyperjump to how we're currently being sold to Australia in the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign: a completely different way of showcasing our country's delights...by God, home looks GREAT! (many thanx to Richard Phelps' "Lifestream" for the Oz ads...)
PS: 21 Nov.2009 - Uh-oh, seems the 'gigantic rugby ball' may not have been the greatest promotional idea after all: click!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Nobel Prize - No Domestic Peace

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barak Obama has really stirred the pot in his own country!
Some say it's rather premature. Others see it as a huge snub to ex-Prez Bill Clinton, widely thought to be overdue for the prize. After all, he did help promote Northern Ireland peace, put in major effort on a Middle East deal (albeit unsuccessfully), created the Clinton Global Initiative to combat worldwide problems, and is the UN special envoy to Haiti. Yet the tres-PC long-memoried Nobel committee bypassed him... perhaps because of the Lewinsky affair?
But the US domestic outrage is more depressing than the award is surprising. Remember the inspired millions joyously filling Washington DC on Obama's Inauguration Day? Nine months later, many Americans seem convinced this same man has personally slighted them (over such things as the bank bailout, car industry rescue, health care, not closing Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq...).
Meanwhile military top hats worry the peace prize will make it harder to reinforce Fortress Middle East.
Conversely Europe generally sees Obama not just as a turning point in history, but as a step in the direction of survival and away from the Cold War mentality. Maybe this Nobel Peace Prize should be viewed as a chance to recall the optimism felt less than a year ago.
Perhaps Bo the First Dog is the only one with a righteous reason to be unhappy about the Nobel Prize: when the Obamas got the news, it completely overshadowed Bo's first birthday celebrations!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bomb The Moon, Before It Bombs Us...

Just after midnight tonight NZ time, America will bomb another major target. No sanctions, no provocations, no declarations of war, no protests.
It will bomb...THE MOON! This - is - not - a - drill.
NASA’s LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite) mission has sent a booster rocket at twice the speed of a bullet to impact near the moon’s South Pole, to see if there's ice mixed in the soil of the crater’s floor. Scientists think there may be billions of litres of it...but so far no proof.
So the NASA moon missile will splat into the moon at 9000kmph. It’s expected to make a crater about 20m across — and send 350 tonnes of rock and moon dust flying in all directions, creating a monstrous plume several kms high. The blast will be so large that it should be seen from Earth through telescopes 30cm or larger.
If there's ice mixed in, a small satellite, flying on the same path less than 600km behind the rocket, should be able to detect it before it too crashes about four minutes later. More info on the NASA website...
PS: 10 Oct.2009 - Well, wasn't THAT a non-event! *yawn* NASA is now trading-off the less-than-spectacular result by saying analysis of the obtained data'll make it all worthwhile: "Science is not about fireworks." Yea, so why did NASA build the whole impact thing up in the first place then?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Power Of The Pen...

Jessica Rabbit ain't bad...What red-blooded male could ever forget the too-curvy too-stunning Jessica, wife of the bunny from the 1988 animated feature, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? ...or her classic line: "I'm not bad...I'm just drawn that way." Ilyssa
It's all in the power of the pen - that superb skill transforming a 'toon into a wet dream (...er, so I've been told!).
There's a talented artist in America, Les Toil, who turns photos into saucy sexy artwork of wild wicked women.
Les believes an "ample anatomy" is the most desired and aesthetically pleasing that an artist's model can have. Touche! So to become what he calls a "Toil Girl", you must not be skinny - the more curves the better. If you see Kate Moss in the reflection of your mirror, Krystelhe won't raise a pen for you.
Les works from personal photos of the subject and her description of how she might see herself, and the rest - as they say - is history!
If you proudly call yourself a bootilicious babe, a BBW, cuddly, amazonian, plus-size etc...then be inspired by the artwork of Les Toil, appreciator of all things feminine and curvaceous!
Wonder if he whistles "Fat-bottomed Girls" while he works...?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cincinnati Superhero!

I guess his heart's in the right place...
Cincinnati's streets are being patrolled by their very own SuperHero: Shadow Hare. Every day he's out there, keeping his eyes open for crime and prepared to make a stand for justice. And like his comic-book inspirations, he wears a mask and cape!

He's not alone either: the World SuperHero Registry lists dozens of masked "vigilantes" across America, prepared to put their money where their masked mouths are, and step up to the plate. So far though, none who've registered can fly or bounce bullets off their chests.
And God only knows what'd happen if they encountered a real criminal: maybe they plan to keep the bad guys laughing til the cops arrive!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rio Rocks - By Rolling Its Poor?

So, South America is to host its first-ever Summer Olympics! Rio celebrates its selection
the immense statue of Rio Cristo RedentorImagine that! Rio de Janeiro hosts the 2014 FIFA World Cup, followed in Aug.2016 by the Summer Olympics and the Summer Paralympics (Sept.)! The football tournament will be an ideal test for the infrastructure of Ronaldo's hometown, although huge numbers of partygoers are nothing new to the city reknowned for its legendary annual Rio Carnival!
What tourists often don't see are Rio's more impoverished areas: many thousands of poor in slums perched on unstable hillsides, with limited sanitation and intermittent electricity. Muggings, murder and narco-terrorism are rampant in these areas...bringing the city's death rate to nearly 40:100,000. And its lowly-paid police force is often part of the problem.
Rio at night...what a sight!This is a golden opportunity for Brazil to polish the image of its jewel city, by not only creating new sport, accomodation and transport facilities, but also making real efforts to improve the lives of its "underclass”.
It is hoped the country does far more for its poor than what Beijing's bulldozers did for the 2008 Olympics. But already Rio is building an 11km. concrete and steel wall ...the part of Rio they don't want you to see!to encircle the shantytowns and separate them from the wealthy suburbs. Officials say it’s an ‘eco-barrier’ to protect the rainforest from further encroachment by the surrounding slums - Brazilian human rights groups call it ‘social apartheid’.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Communication Is The Key

Civil Defence logoPublic Relations:101 - inform people!
During this week's Civil Defence response to the Samoa tsunami, this most basic lesson was forgotten. The poor information flow seemed to begin in Hawaii, where the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said (contrary to its name!) that it did not issue tsunami warnings – that was up to individual countries. All it did was state whether a tsunami was building, but it couldn't do that until a few markers had been hit so it could analyse data (sadly, one of those hit 'markers' was Samoa).
Samoa: the aftermath...If that is so, then blame must lie with NZ Civil Defence HQ, which appears to have not contacted major news networks with warnings – even though there're dedicated 'hotlines' for this. Information that did filter through (to some locations and not to others) seemed contradictory and confused: for example, Wellington Airport, sitting just 13m.above sea level was not notified at all!
On breakfast tv, the CD spokesman dodged questions, labelled eyewitness accounts of death and injury "rumours" and said he'd provide "some details in an hour"...about the time a tsunami was expected to strike!
When Civil Defence situations arise, fast accurate and regular information flow is needed. This week, we did not get it. Again. How many times will CD fluff a "near-miss", before The Real Thing catches it out?