Saturday, March 31, 2012

First To Fly

Ask any school pupil who was first to fly, and you'll likely be told the Wright brothers (in Dec.1903).
What a shock to the US history books if a New Zealander was placed ahead of Orville and Wilbur Wright! There're growing calls for lasting tributes to be awarded the efforts of Richard Pearse.
Son of a South Canterbury farmer, Richard William Pearse (1877 - 1953) grew up on a farm about 10km inland from Temuka, just north of Timaru. His ambitions of becoming an engineer and training at Canterbury University College in Christchurch were firmly quashed by his father who said if he wanted to know anything about engineering to see the local smithy. A the college's brilliant resident professor might well have unleashed the latent genius in Pearse, as he did with another pupil of the time - Ernest (later Sir) Rutherford, world-famous NZ atom-splitter.
In 1898 at 21, Pearse was set up on a small farm by his father, hoping to kindle some agricultural interest, but Richard couldn't be drawn from his engineering dreams and constant tinkering. Locals labelled him "mad" and left him alone in his workshop, where eventually his burning desire to fly became reality.
By the end of the 19th.century, no-one had yet achieved sustained controlled powered flight though several were striving hard - notably America's military-funded Samuel Langley who dogged the other (now far more celebrated) contenders, the Wright brothers. Pearse faced a mammoth task: no technical training, only self-made equipment, no financial backing and little encouragement. Yet after much trial and error his kiwi ingenuity produced a bamboo monoplane with innovative rudders, both horizontal and vertical, for balance and steering...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why Publicise The Bad Guys?

Last week's shooting spree in southern France, which saw Islamist extremist Mohamed Merah murder soldiers and Jewish children, caused outrage across the country.
The gunman filmed his actions with a camera around his neck: footage was later sent to international news channel Al-Jazeera. As seems to be the norm these days, it was expected Al-Jazeera would jump on the ratings bandwagon and play the video...I'm pleased to see it did not. In fact it announced emphatically that "in accordance with Al-Jazeera's code of ethics, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents'' (perhaps it should also be noted that France warned any broadcaster airing the video would have its signal jammed). Given that the channel owed much of its early popularity to showing recordings of Al-Qaeda's late chief Osama bin Laden, this is a most positive reversal of form, and one that should be considered by all media outlets.
Too many times in the recent past, we've seen media outlets play footage simply because they CAN: they seem to have not considered the downstream effects. A classic example of this was the nutter US preacher Terry Jones, who planned to burn Qu'rans (Sept.2010) to mark the 9/11 anniversary and to "make America wake up". The riots in the Arab world and resultant deaths would probably not have happened (or at least not to such an extent) if media channels had not publicised his scheme.
Here in NZ, we see the same thing year after year at our national celebrations at Waitangi. Footage is almost exclusively of angry protesters and violence...though I'm sure there must be SOMETHING positive to cover (?).
I'm not advocating media outlets serve us up prissy sanitised flowers-and-kittens news every night (a la Anne Murray), but it would be commendable if they all published a Code of Ethics...and then STUCK to it! Publicising the actions of the worst in our society merely encourages more to crawl out from under their rocks...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

First In, Best Dressed (Supposedly!)

Most accept maori were not New Zealand's first inhabitants.
Ancient Egyptian Cook Strait ferry
But now, claims that the places of Captain Cook and Abel Tasman in our history books are just as dodgy. A new book reckons Spanish, Greeks and even Egyptians were first! To the End of the Earth, by researchers Maxwell Hill, Gary Cook and Noel Hilliam - retired curator of the Dargaville Maritime Museum - shows (supposedly) ancient maps pre-dating Christ, which they say detail the Oz and NZ coastlines.
They claim skeletons, rock carvings, stone buildings and monuments all prove Europeans lived here centuries before Polynesians. These artefacts include a rock carving of an ancient Greek ship found in Taupo, carvings on rocks at Raglan, and a stone pillar with an accurate coastal map of NZ showing Lake Taupo in its pre-232AD eruption shape (slight problem with that...Lake Taupo's nowhere near the coast!).
Hill also says the legendary maori explorer Maui was an actual Egyptian naval navigator, who steered a flotilla of Greek ships from the Red Sea under the flag of Ptolemy III in 232BC.
AUT professor Paul Moon says the authors lack credibility as none have any quals in history, archaeology, anthropology or related disciplines: "This is no evidence at all that people came to NZ at this time. On the contrary, Ptolemy's map shows a complete lack of geographical knowledge about the South Pacific."
But the authors claim British botanist David Bellamy is on their side and quote him as saying: "Max Hill has filled his steerage log with a collage of artefacts any museum would like to have in its keeping."
Tick - tick - tick - tick...
A rock carving, dubbed the Jesus Watch, was discovered on a Northland farm recently. The huge boulder weighing several tonnes, has deep cuts in it - claimed to be a huge Greek star calendar marked with figures.
Yeup, wearing my doubter's cap...but hey, who knows? We've all heard about the Spanish helmet found in Wellington Harbour that (supposedly) predates Tasman's arrival by about 60yrs; a (supposed) Tamil bell used by Whangarei maori as a cooking pot; the (supposed) extremely tall blonde passive people (supposedly) massacred by maori warriors; the (supposed) ancient Northland brick wall that maori (supposedly) don't want anyone to see; or the Ship Of Rongotute...and let's not forget Hilliam's claim to have discovered a WWII sub off the Kaipara that smuggled gold and Nazis to NZ...?
Do I hear a Tui Beer billboard coming on?

PS: For a lighthearted piss-take on this, check out Alf Grumble.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Feathering His Nest

Traditional symbolism? Rarity? Dollar value?
Two 123yr.old huia feathers have been stolen from a Dannevirke museum. The Dannevirke Gallery of History is in the town's historical Old Court House. It holds the Dannevirke town and district archives, including old photos and many more artifacts.
The tail feathers, worth up to NZ$8000 each, were taken last week from one of two mounted juvenile birds in a glass case: someone just prised open the front panel and grabbed them. Police, auction houses and antique dealers have been advised.
In 2010, a feather similar to these was auctioned for NZ$8400 in Auckland, a world record for a bird feather. Several years ago a bald eagle feather sold in the US for US$2800 (NZ$3400).
These stolen feathers came from a pair shot in Pohangina Valley, north of Ashhurst, in 1889. The birds had been in the museum for 25 years and were its biggest drawcard. Only about 15-20 people a week visit the small building, which has no security systems: the items are not insured.
Colin Miskelly, Museum of NZ curator: "The theft is an example of personal greed over the national value for future generations. At one level it's no different to the theft of medals from the Waiouru military museum" (in 2007).
Huia were considered treasures by maori. Only important people, like chiefs, were allowed to wear huia feathers in their hair or wear huia beaks as ornaments. When European settlers arrived in NZ in the 19th century, the huia was found only in the lower half of the North Island. Native rats and dogs, plus traditional maori hunting, had reduced numbers to a point where they could not survive settlers' land clearances and trophy hunting. The last huia was seen in the Tararua Ranges in 1907... 
You can guarantee the thief knows exactly what he's got.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

UNESCO: "Save It!" - But Offers No $$$

Another overseas cry to save Christchurch Cathedral.
The UNESCO World Heritage Centre says while the cathedral isn't a world heritage site, its symbolic value needs to be considered. Its spokesman Gina Doubleday says while it may seem expensive at first, saving it would help maintain the city's character, bring business opportunities and lift long-term property values. She says a restored cathedral would testify to history and continuity of cultural life, that a brand new building wouldn't be able to convey.
Work began yesterday to remove its stained glass windows and other heritage items. The Anglican Church decided the building is beyond saving, and all but the bottom 2-3m of the 130yr.old building will be pulled down. It says removal of the windows and heritage items will take about six weeks. Deconstruction work should be finished by the end of this year.
A decision on what form a new cathedral may take is still some time away, and whether it's built on the existing site will depend on the results of ground stability tests. A new cathedral incorporating some of the old is an option but there'd be a $50m shortfall.
The NZ Historic Places Trust feels saving this and other heritage central city landmarks would help Christchurch's recovery by returning cultural tourism to the city heart: it's bitterly disappointed in the demolition decision.
Over the past month, at least 60,000 people walked through the CBD cordon on special open weekends, for a last look.
Also mauled in Feb.2011's EQ, The Catholic Basilica. Estimates for retaining and rebuilding this even more visually impressive cathedral (on Barbadoes St.) are around $100m.
Perhaps if UNESCO provides $100m for each of these fine buildings, they could both actually be saved...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bring Out Your Dead!

Here's a commendable way for a company to take responsibility for the end-of-life options of the products it makes!
"At Foot Locker we're all about sneakers. As much as we love seeing a fresh new pair of kicks on someone's feet, we also want to make sure even old shoes get a second life too and in return, make the planet a little greener. From 18th March - 7th April 2012, we are launching a recycling initiative, you can drop your old, un-used, worn and pre-loved shoes at a Foot Locker store and in return, we will give you a £10 / €10 redeemable voucher to spend on a new pair of sneakers or any other purchase at Foot Locker."
Foot Locker UK is aiming to collect 20,000 pairs of old sneakers or trainers of any brand and in any condition. The shoes'll be sorted and graded by the company's garment recycling partner, for reuse or recycling.
Schemes like this are an important step (excuse the pun!) in the right direction. I do hope it's not just a cutesy brand-awareness scheme because it really does have long-term viability. Here in NZ, our regular e-waste collections recycle computers, and old mobile phones are collected as a fundraiser for Starship Children's Hospital. Noel Leeming even recycled a dead microwave of mine! So why not old clothing too?
Instead of companies disassociating themselves from their products once sold or outside the guarantee period, I'd love to see them get on board and make this the start of something bigger...and if they get some kudos while saving the planet, that seems a fair trade!
"The Shoe Fence" near Waihola, NZ / The Travel Tart

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Whale Wars: Who Really Won?

Now that it's all over for another season (and hopefully the last season!)...just who won?
Sea Shepherd declared itself the victor after Japan's whaling fleet left the Antarctic with less than a third of its expected catch...but the nasty Nippons claim they were due to head home then anyway.
After fruitlessly pursuing the whalers for much of the season, Paul Watson trumpeted the mission a success: "Is it a victory? Yes. We kept them running almost for the whole three months." However SS only caught the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru twice in that period - once on Christmas Day 2011 and then again on Monday 5th March. A day later, NM and its harem turned for Tokyo, causing SS to announce a decisive victory. Was that really a win?
Japan's Fisheries Agency (FAJ) announced its fleet was heading home on schedule, but that its catch of 267 whales fell far short of the approx. 900 projected. Michihiko Kano, Japan’s minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, said they killed 266 Antarctic minke whales (compared to a government quota of 850) plus one fin (compared to a quota of 50). Japan's Mainichi Daily News reported the low numbers were due to bad weather, but noted SS obstructed the whaling operations 11 times during the season. That catch is the second lowest for many seasons, after the whalers were forced out of the Antarctic last year, having taken only 172 whales.
FAJ's NZ mouthpiece Glenn "Ginza" Inwood had earlier stated that any catch figures would not be released until several weeks after the fleet reached port...yet there was FAJ spilling the beans within days of the whalers heading northward!
Captain of SS's Bob Barker, Peter Hammarstedt, was surprised how quickly the Japanese abandoned their activities when they were spotted: "It was not an incredibly dramatic confrontation. As soon as the factory ship saw us on the horizon, they immediately changed course for Japan. The fleet decided rather than have confrontation, they would call the whaling season short." Then again, perhaps they really were due to leave then. Stranger things have happened...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Road Rules From Tomorrow

By now you know two of our 'give way' road rules are changing.
We're actually the last country in the world to get rid of these ones! Every motorist, cyclist and even pedestrian needs to know them: they kick in from 5am tomorrow (Sunday March 25).
These changes only apply when a vehicle turning right is facing a vehicle turning left, or at intersections. The 'give way' rules at roundabouts and in all other situations are not changing.
Change 1: The left-turn vs right-turn rule
The new rule requires all traffic turning right to give way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning left. This applies at crossroads, T-intersections and driveways where two vehicles are facing each other with no signs or signals, or both are at the same sign or signal (eg: both at a 'give way' or stop sign, or both with a green light).
Change 2: At T-intersections without signs or signals
At uncontrolled T-intersections, traffic coming from the road that ends at the T-intersection (ie: the bottom of the T) must give way to traffic on the continuing road (ie: the top of the T). This also applies to uncontrolled driveways like supermarket entrances, and means vehicles exiting a driveway must give way to all.

These departing rules were introduced in 1977. We copied the Oz state of Victoria which introduced them to assist Melbourne trams (so why did we follow them???) They scrapped this in 1993 (crashes at intersections dropped by 7%) and we were left holding the baby. The AA says the current law's partly to blame for more than 2500 prangs a year. Of those, 73 involve injuries, with one or two deaths, and cost $22m.
We'll all need to be a lot more cautious as everyone adjusts - after all, we have generations of drivers who know nothing but the old rules! But it's a safe bet the local panelbeaters will do ok!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Mars Movie Curse

Dead before he even hit the ground.
New sci-fi film John Carter is about to become the biggest movie flop of all time. Disney expects to lose US$200m on it! I mean... hello!!! A US Civil War soldier, somehow transported to Mars which is inhabited by 12ft. barbarians. Wow, an unforgettable plot - NOT. Its been bagged by critics, despite having the same director as Oscar-winning Finding Nemo.
Hollywood is muttering about the Mars Movie Curse. 2011's biggest flop was another Disney flick Mars Needs Moms, which cost $150m and only took $39m. Red Planet (2000) with Val Kilmer lost $82m. Disney tried to avoid the curse, deleting the words "Of Mars" from John Carter's original title, fearing it was box office poison. But some considered it mad to make a Mars movie at all!
Disney's now been marred by Mars movies four times: John Carter (2012), Mars Needs Moms (2011), Mission To Mars (2000) and My Favourite Martian (1999).
Even with big name actors, there're no guarantees. Take Gigli (2003) with Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck - yes please: take it far away! It was pulled after only three weeks, one of the shortest runs ever for a big Hollywood film. And back in the early '90s, Kevin Costner was gold, with Dances With Wolves, JFK, The Bodyguard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. But Waterworld (1995) is one of cinema's most renowned crash-and-burns. Then he did The Postman: cost $80m / took $17m.
Even good reviews can't ensure success. Disney's sci-fi version of Treasure Island - Treasure Planet (2002) - was critically acclaimed, but...cost $180m / took $38m.
Movies that lost over $100m include: Town And Country (2001); The 13th Warrior (1999); Sahara (2005) - cost $241m / took $119m; The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) - cost $120m / took $7m. But topping them all: Cutthroat Island (1995), which lost $147m, winning top slot in the Guinness World Book of Records.
However John Carter looks set to break this record! So at least there'll be something to remember it for...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Is This The End Of The World Down Under?

The way the media's beating this drum, you'd think Harold Camping had finally got it right!
Australasia borders on all-out Marmite crisis!
Fans urged to start rationing Marmite!
Marmite fans stockpiling supplies!
It's Marmageddon! WTF???!!!
The dark yeasty spread has been out of production since Sanitarium closed its Christchurch production plant last November following earthquake damage. This plant singlehandedly keeps all Oz and NZ Marmite fans satisfied, churning out about 640,000kg of Marmite annually. But this week, the very last remaining stocks were distributed and, once sold, there'll be no more Marmite until at least July.
Reaction? Traders are cashing in, asking as much as $800 for an unopened 250g jar of Marmite on Trade Me! News of the temporary demise is wildfire through social networking sites. Established Facebook pages, both pro- and anti-Marmite, are gaining thousands more followers. The story's gone global, with UK newspapers The Guardian and the Daily Mail both reporting on NZ's supposedly shocked (oh really?) reaction to the shortage. 
Sanitarium general manager Pierre van Heerden is urging customers not to panic: "We will be back with Marmite, manufactured in NZ, and it will be the same product, so there's no need to panic...this is just a short-term hiccup." He's confident this won't push desperate customers to buy rival spread, Vegemite (made by Kraft): "Our experience has been that if you eat Marmite, you don't eat the other spreads and you really love the Marmite you've grown up with."
I'm personally a Vegemite fan (Marmite's taste is too sharp for me) but if you need an incentive to change, consider THIS! >

PS: 27 March 2012 - At the supermarket, I saw the empty Marmite shelves filled with an import called MightyMite! The label says it's in its 10th year of production, is 100% Oz-owned and -made! Ever heard of it? We'll probably never see it again, once Marmite returns!
PS: 30 March 2012 - OMG, this is getting absurd! Sanitarium is about to run tv ads, featuring ex-ABs coach Graham Henry, urging koiwois not to panic over Marmite shortage!!! Get a life!!
PS: 19 June 2012 - The wait is now even longer!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Operation Carthage's Collateral Damage

Today in 1945, Britain's RAF attacked Copenhagen in Denmark.
Shellhus, 1940
Operation Carthage targeted the HQ of the Shell Petroleum Company, taken over in 1944 by the Gestapo and which housed its entire staff for all of Denmark.
By the end of 1944 the Copenhagen Resistance was being wiped out - the Gestapo had arrested many of its leaders and a lot of material was filed in the Shellhus archives.
By mid-March 1945 the situation became intolerable. A desperate call to London begged for an attack: if the Resistance was at all important, the RAF must attack at all costs!
RAF Mosquito overflying
a smoking Shellhus
On 21 March 1945, the Shellhus' top floor housed imprisoned resistance fighters, some being interrogated as the first bombs fell. 8 were killed but 18 escaped during the bombing. The raid succeeded in destroying Gestapo HQ and severely disrupting Gestapo operations in Denmark. 55 German soldiers, 47 Danish Gestapo workers died in the headquarters itself. Four Mosquito bombers and two Mustangs were lost, and nine Allied airmen died. But...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cash Kronor No Longer King

Sweden was the first country in Europe to introduce bank notes in 1661.
Now it's going further towards getting rid of 'em. Already quite a high-tech nation, it's well along the bank queue towards being cash-free... frustrating those who prefer coins and notes over digital money. In most of its cities, public buses don't accept cash any more. Tickets are prepaid or bought via texting. A small but growing number of businesses only take cards, and some banks (which make money on e-transactions) have stopped handling cash altogether.
That's a problem for elderly people in rural areas who don't have credit cards or don't know how to use them to withdraw cash. The decline of cash is noticeable even in churches - some have installed card readers to make it easier for worshippers to donate.
Notes and coins now only comprise 3% of Sweden's economy.
A strong supporter of a world without cash was once part of Sweden's most successful export commodity, the '70s group ABBA. Björn Ulvaeus: "I can’t see why we should be printing bank notes at all anymore." A cashless society may seem like an odd cause for a guy who made a fortune on Money Money Money and other huge pop hits, but for Ulvaeus it's a matter of security. After his son was robbed three times, he started advocating a faster change to a fully digital economy, if only to make life harder for thieves.
The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy has made an impact on crime statistics. Bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011,  the lowest level since records began 30 years ago. Robberies of security transports are also down. Less cash in circulation makes things safer, both for the staff that handle cash and also for the public.
Incidentally, Björn's personal wealth has been estimated at approximately $110 million so, regardless of how his country's fiscal policies evolve, he'll still be comfortable as king of the hill!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Good Ol' Days!

Ever wondered why our great-grandparents had such fond memories of their youth? The answer was in their medicine cabinets!
Maybe there was a bottle of Bayer's Heroin. Between 1890-1910, heroin was sold as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. It was also used to treat children suffering with a strong cough.
Metcalf's Coca Wine was one of a huge variety of wines on the market containing cocaine. Everybody used to say it would make you happy and also work as a medicinal treatment.
Vin Mariani or Mariani wine (1875) was the most famous coca wine of it's time. Pope Leo XIII used to carry a bottle with him all the time. He awarded Angelo Mariani (the producer) a Vatican gold medal for his God-given product.
Maltine was produced by the Maltine Mfg.Co. of New York. It was suggested adults take a full glass with every meal: children should only take half a glass.
Here's a paperweight from Boehringer and Soehne (of Mannheim, Germany), proud to be the world's biggest producers of products containing quinine and cocaine. Then there was opium for asthma: at 40% alcohol plus 3 grams of opium per tablet, it didn't cure you, but you didn't care...
Cocaine tablets (1900) were used by stage actors, singers, teachers and preachers, to give them a top performance.Great to smooth the voice!
Cocaine toothache drops: very popular for children in 1885, I'm sure! Not only did they relieve the pain, they made the children very happy!
Opium for new-borns: this made them sleep well (not only the opium, but also 46% alcohol)!
From the cradle to the grave...everyone was stoned! No wonder they were called The Good Ol' Days!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Harold, Backpedalling

Do you remember that prize prat, Harold Camping?
Of course ya do! He's the elderly US preacher who spent millions last year telling the world of its impending destruction.
Well, for the very first time he has admitted...opps!...his apocalyptic prophecy was wrong.
In a letter on his ministry's website, Camping has told his followers he actually has no evidence the world will end anytime soon: "We realise many people are hoping for the date of Christ's return. We humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing."
Camping's Family Radio International over recent years has spent millions of bucks erecting thousands of billboards plastered with the Judgment Day message. But after global cataclysm didn't occur on May 21st 2011 as he'd originally forecast, Camping revised his prophecy, saying he had been off by five months.
Followers were crestfallen when the Rapture didn't occur, as many had quit their jobs or donated their retirement savings or college funds to the righteous cause. Mind you, they only have themselves to blame: Harold was on record as wrongly foretelling Armageddon on September 6th 1994!!
Camping was later hospitalised after suffering a mild stroke, but continued spreading the word, through his website and his weekly Open Forum radio show, that natural disasters would instead destroy the globe in October 2011.
Now Camping has told his flock (well, the remaining few still hanging on to his every word) that he's stopped looking for new dates, and will concentrate on deepening his faith through re-reading the Scriptures: "God has humbled us through the events of May 21st (2011). We must also openly acknowledge that we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world. Though many dates are circulating, Family Radio has no interest in even considering another date." And about bloody time too!
Hmmm... I'm SURE the answer's in here SOMEwhere!!! Fourth time lucky???

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Maui's Dolphin: Why So Special?

Maui's dolphin is the world's smallest dolphin, found only on the west coast of NZ's North Island...nowhere else in the world.
It is our rarest dolphin, internationally listed as 'critically endangered', meaning there's a high risk of it becoming extinct in the near future. This year, a study estimated the Maui's dolphin population at just 55: that's individuals aged more than one year (i.e. excluding calves of under a year). A previous survey carried out in 2005 put the number at 111.
Maui's dolphins have distinctive grey, white and black markings, a short snout and a well-rounded black dorsal fin. Females grow to 1.7m and weigh up to 50 kg, males slightly smaller and lighter. The dolphins are known to live up to 20 years. Females are not sexually mature until 7-9yrs. They produce just one calf every 2-4yrs, making population growth very slow. A population of 55 adults means just over 20 breeding females survive!
Living near the coast, often in water less than 20m deep, Maui's dolphins occasionally venture into harbours, and a significant number have died after being entangled in set nets. This has prompted a series of set net restrictions, extending from Maunganui Bluff and Bayleys Beach north of the Kaipara Harbour down the west coast almost to New Plymouth.
But these restrictions are not enough, and NABU International (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) has called on the NZ government for more urgent action: "The government is currently considering interim protection measures after a period of public consultation. This is likely to take us into May and may result in a further compromise that fails to offer the species the full protection it requires to return from the very brink. Every day the animals are exposed to gill and trawl nets carries a risk we can't afford. If ever there was a time to act, it is now."
Unlike the incredible rescue of the entire Chatham Island black robin population from just ONE breeding female in the 1980s, we cannot cloister these dolphins somewhere safe until their numbers increase. They cannot be re-located. The only element that CAN be controlled is the human impact. The government must instigate an IMMEDIATE and TOTAL BAN on set nets in the dolphins' area, with severe penalties for enfringements. DOC must also be given more resources to enforce this dire situation. To hell with 'interim measures after public consultation' - forget that PC crap!
Act NOW before another endangered species is lost forever!
PS: 30 April 2012 - Maui's dolphin survival near the "point of no return": expert.
PS: 06 July 2012 - IWC calls for complete gill net ban to save Maui's dolphin.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Winning Hearts And Minds

A bourgeoning Auckland-based supermarket chain wants to bottle and sell its own milk.
Anyone out there wanna partner-up on this initiative?
Nosh Food Market's director Clinton Beuvink says the boutique supermarket chain started thinking about bottling milk itself, after reducing the price of its "Cow and Gate" milk to $2 for 2L in its six stores in February: "We've done the sums and we believe an independent bottler would easily recoup the cost of setting up a factory in Auckland to supply us and our family of retail friends. Sustainably, milk can be a lot cheaper for consumers." Beuvink reckons in our dairy-strong country, excessive margins on milk are "anti-Kiwi" and a $2 million pasteurisation plant in Auckland would have low distribution costs. Nosh would take care of demand - all it needs is someone to put up his hand and say 'I'm in'.
Clinton: determined to
cream the milk prices!
Nosh is expanding its stores in a tight geographical grid which makes its distribution costs very low. It has four stores in Auckland plus one each in Hamilton and Matakana, and plans to open more this year. So for any new partner, there's a guaranteed market right from the start.
Beuvink says supermarkets make about 30% profit on milk, and Nosh will continue to make a loss after extending its discounted price throughout March...but it's more about the principle.
The two big supermarket chains (Foodstuffs which owns the Pak'n'Save supermarkets, and Progressive Enterprises which owns Countdown) said last month they would not follow Nosh into a milk-price war...but if Nosh gets a business partner and starts making serious in-roads on the milk market, that position may have to be revisited.
Meantime, big bouquets to Nosh for its customer-oriented decision!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can We Get Addicted To Ice Cream?

You’ve had plenty of ice cream, but you’re reaching for that scoop again.
If you're like me, you'll not be surprised to hear that ice cream may be as addictive as drugs.
True! Is ice cream as addictive as heroin? Or, put another way, is heroin as addictive as ice cream? Depending on how you phrase the question, you're either asking whether heroin addiction is no more serious than a love of junk food, or you're questioning whether junk food junkies may have a serious disorder that needs intervention. Now a new study suggests there may be no clear line between addictive and normal responses, and adds to evidence that all addictions act on the same motivational system in the brain.
US researchers have bolstered previous research that people can be left feeling 'addicted' to some foods. (They actually studied Haagen Dazs ice cream: no word on your low-fat versions, 'home brands', or NZ's iconic Tip Top brand.)
In the study, 150 teens between 14-16, were shown a picture of a chocolate milkshake and had to answer questions about eating habits and food cravings before they could drink it.
Using brain imaging, researchers found that teenagers who had recently eaten the most ice cream enjoyed looking at the drink less. This is a pattern common to drug users who need more of a drug to achieve a high. This pattern shows up with frequent drug use, where the more an individual uses the drug, the less reward they receive from using it.
It's easy to get into a dessert habit. Indeed, for many of us, that ice cream habit has been in place since our childhood - there's a cue (dinner is over), a routine (ice cream time!) and a reward (the flavour). And if the ice cream doesn’t arrive? Our brain gets unhappy, and starts giving off patterns that look a lot like anger — or even depression!
Ice cream addiction? YES!!! There IS a god!! Bring it on!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Around The World On The World

The world's largest privately-owned cruise ship will dock in Akaroa Harbour, Canterbury, tonight, for a three-day stay.
The ship, known as The World, offers an exclusive seagoing community as it constantly travels the globe. The residents purchase one or more of the 165 apartments long-term, that allow them to relax and enjoy onboard life resembling any other upscale community on land. It features golf or tennis lessons, spa treatments, a fitness club, casino, night clubs and even a grocery store, delicatessen and travel agency.
Residents are involved in creating the ship's itineraries, special in-depth expeditions and unique Enrichment Programme. The Programme brings aboard experts in all different fields; diving, wine tasting, world cultures - to prepare for each port they visit.
Black Cat Cruises marketing manager Alison Fleming says it's rare to see "something so spectacular. It really is something quite special and different and is far beyond any usual luxury travel standards." The World visited Nelson in 2006.
While its passengers explore Canterbury this weekend, Black Cat Cruises will run two one-hour cruises to the ship for people to see it from the water. These depart at 3.40pm on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th.
The World arrives about 6pm this evening and leaves on Saturday just before midnight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pt Chev's Hallyburton Archway

Take a stroll through the Auckland suburb of Point Chevalier, and you'll see it's loaded with local history.
For example, 335 Pt Chev Road. Blink... and you may miss a rusting iron archway bearing the words Hallyburton Johnstone. Walk down the path out of curiosity and find, tucked away, the Pt Chevalier Hallyburton Johnstone Tennis Club. These sports facilities were opened in 1927 after bowling enthusiasts made arrangements with the said Mr Hallyburton Johnstone, to buy the property on long-term trickle payments. The bowling and tennis clubs are now in their ninth decade...
Follow the car access out of the property, and you pass an elderly church barely tolerating the indignity of a tacked-on chocolate 1970s-looking reception area. A Presbyterian church until 2010, it's now home to the Serbian Orthodox Church for the Parish of Serbian King St.Milutin.
But back to the club's namesake...
Hallyburton Johnstone
(1862-1949) was a farmer, property investor and benefactor (not to be confused with one of his descendants of the same name, who was a NZ politician).
He actively supported sport - eg: the Hallyburton Johnstone Shield for women's cricket has been contested since 1935. His philanthropy extended to presenting the Auckland Museum with various ornithological specimens and maori artifacts he'd found. He also used to own the Gt.North Road land on which was built the Ambassador Picture Theatre in 1929. The Ambassador still stands, but hasn't shown movies since the mid-80s. At one stage, it was used as an Assembly of God church, and is now a studio for Auckland artist Peter Roche.
Hallyburton Johnstone's interesting life is well-documented in A Waikato Settler's Legacy (researched by Yvonne McCardell).
And an interesting stroll through Pt Chev awaits you any day...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Iran's Going Quackers!

In the midst of the looming crisis over Iran's nuclear aspirations, comes a good laugh via Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel strongly believes that Iran's nuclear programme is not for peaceful purposes, but for the creation of a nuclear weapon. It's PM was speaking to the UN last week, trying to convince the world of the gravity of Iran's suspected atomic drive, and served up this classic line: "If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? That's right. It's a duck. But this a nuclear duck!"
On Twitter, #nuclearduck quickly became a trend and it also made YouTube, with an Israeli called Amir Kotigaro remixing the speech to a peppy soundtrack, splicing it with footage of Daffy Duck.
Nuclear Duck - Bibi Netanyahu featuring Daffy Duck and Duck Sauce quickly racked up thousands of views.
All I can say is: This is no poultry matter...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hone Threatens The World

Mana Party leader and loudmouth Hone Harawira has written an open letter to overseas investors - steer clear...or else!
Hone, wearing his
"Take Me Seriously" hat
NZ's Parliament this week began debating legislation to sell up to 49% of four state-owned energy companies (SOEs); Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis and Solid Energy. It also plans to further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.
Harawira says the plan is opposed by a majority of NZers, because they're concerned assets built up through the hard work of generations of NZers would be sold to investors who were motivated by profit, not the public good. Er...hello...that's why people invest - for a profitable return!
Hone-bro: "As the indigenous people of Aotearoa..." (I think he means New Zealand) "...maori have been even stronger in their opposition. The maori view is that no asset sales should proceed until maori interests in those assets have been properly addressed." And as usual, Hone-bro regards maori interests as of higher value than the interests of the entire nation.
The Maori Council has an application before the Waitangi Tribunal over water issues relating to the sales and Harawira says there's a separate case before the High Court: "Steps are being taken to take the case to the United Nations (under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and maori groups have pledged to take action against sales to overseas interests which impact on our sovereignty."
Er...maori sovereignty? When exactly did this pipedream become reality, Hone?
"I think it only proper to send a warning to overseas investors - steer clear of any share offer in the above SOEs. The purchase of these shares is likely to see you caught up in legal battles and direct action from citizens determined to protect their own interests, both of which will be lengthy and costly and have an adverse impact on the value of your investment. You have been warned."
And the world quivers in fear...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pink And White Terraces Revisited

They were often referred to as the eighth natural wonder of the world.
New Zealand's Pink and White Terraces were considered an international marvel, formed over a thousand years by geothermally heated water containing large amounts of silicic acid and sodium chloride from two large geysers.
The White Terraces - 1884
The White Terraces were at the north end of Lake Rotomahana (near Rotorua) and faced away from the lake. They descended to the lake edge 40m below. The extra sunlight they received from facing N gave them a white appearance. The Pink Terraces were positioned about two thirds of the way down the lake sheltered from the harsh sun on the western shores, facing SE. Their pink appearance (nearly the colour of a rainbow trout) was due to less sunlight reaching them and therefore less bleaching.
The Terraces were thought to have been completely destroyed by the 1886 eruption of Mount Tarawera, until scientists found remnants of the lower tiers 60m below Lake Rotomahana last year.
Now the scientific team is back on the case, aiming to unearth more information on the geological feature and the geothermal system that created them. Scientists will first remap the lake bed at a higher resolution. Seismic equipment will be used to get a clearer picture of the geological structures under the lake floor. As well as finding out more about the lake's extensive geothermal systems, the scientists hope to get clearer images of the underwater remnants of the terraces. The lake is roughly 3km x 6km and about 120m deep at its deepest point. It enlarged to five times its original size after the Tarawera eruption.
The Terraces were NZ's most famous tourist attraction in the mid-19th century. Once they'd been sighted by missionaries and traders in the 1840s, they started attracting visitors from all over the world. NZ was still relatively inaccessible and passage took several months by ship, followed by an overland trip 150km to Lake Rotomahana. Those keen early tourists would bathe in the thermal waters, in pools at the base of the Pink Terraces.
PS: 30 March 2012 - Chunks of the Terraces fetch a high price.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Grave Over-Reaction

Families around the Commonwealth have been shocked, by the mindless vandalism of war graves in a Benghazi cemetery.
Local reports say a group of Salafists, angered by the accidental burning of the Qur'an at a Nato military base in Afghanistan last month, caused the damage. Around 200 headstones were damaged: those of 11 fallen NZers were smashed or tipped over. Some 1214 Commonwealth troops (British, Indian, Kiwi, Oz, Canadian and Sth.African) who died in WWII in the North African desert are buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery. Libyan authorities have apologised for the desecration.
In NZ, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman reacted with shock: "As Minister of Defence, I'm very determined that we make sure these gravestones are repaired." Returned and Services Association president Lt.-General Don McIver says the RSA is very upset to hear about the damage, something that is extremely rare: "The news is devastating. Our concern extends to the families of those people who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country."
Prime Minister John Key says the desecration will be heartbreaking for families, and the graves will be repaired by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
In Australia, there have even been calls for the Diggers' remains to be brought home.
Middle Eastern people are extremely hot-blooded and tend to express themselves openly, loudly and often violently. That said, although I can understand their anger over the accidental burning of their Qur'an, I can not at all condone them venting their passions in this manner.
Salafists, followers of an ultra-purist interpretation of Islam, have already destroyed several tombs of Muslim holy men in Libya, which they considered to be idolatrous. This rabble (which even posted its attack on You Tube!!)  is probably too young to remember that those soldiers died to liberate Libya for them. And an Allied coalition has only just finished helping them regain their freedom again.
These vandals need to re-read the very book they're so upset about being burnt: this behaviour is not in keeping with Islam. All it does is re-enforce a growing hostility towards all things Islamic, which is not at all helpful...