Thursday, May 31, 2012

US Military In North Korea?

US military resources are in Nth.Korea.
No, we're not. Yes, you are.
No, we're not. Yes, you SAID so.
Errrr, we were speaking hypothetically.
Tokyo-based online international affairs mag The Diplomat reported this week that US Army Brig.Gen.Neil Tolley (US special forces boss in Sth.Korea) said US troops have secretly parachuted into Nth.Korea (DPRK) on spy missions with Sth.Korean soldiers.
The proverbial must have hit the Pentagon fan, coz the next day The Diplomat wrote: "While the author strongly disputes the contention that any quote was fabricated, we acknowledge the possibility that Brig.Gen.Tolley was speaking hypothetically, about future war plans rather than current operations. The author insists he heard no such qualification, but if there has been a misunderstanding then we regret any confusion."
On his own blog, the journo David Axe wrote: "The Diplomat has yanked my 'Commandos In Nth.Korea' story, under pressure from those who claim I made up Brig.Gen.Tolley’s comments. I did not make them up. Multiple sources confirm Tolley's words. And I'm told no transcript will be made available. US Forces Korea is lying about what happened..."
Army Times reporter Sean Naylor: "I was there....Tolley clearly said ROK and US troops were in DPRK for recon, as Dave reported."
Whatever the truth, it should be no surprise. The Korean War never officially finished. The border is rife with minor skirmishes. The air is filled with vitriolic verbage. Nth.Korea is increasing its military. There's no possibility of recon NOT being undertaken (they'll be doing the same right now in Iran). The fact is, US is very focused on the Korean Peninsula, esp. after DPRK's latest test-launch/crash of a ballistic rocket.
A fortnight ago was twice-yearly Exercise Max Thunder between US and South Korea, the largest Air Combat Command exercise in Korea. Traditionally for fighter planes, less than 2hrs beforehand US added high-altitude B-52 bombers to the mix. Interesting. An exercise liaison officer said: "It’s important to show what we bring to the fight. During an actual war, B-52s would support the fight. So it’s important to exercise those capabilities now."
It must have impressed South Korea. It should have done the same with China, a DPRK supporter. And if it didn't make Kim Jong-Un take notice, then he really is as stupid as his haircut!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Smokin' Gun

World No Tobacco Day is tomorrow, Thursday 31st May.
And (by really bad coincidence) a new NZ Treasury report says smoking actually saves the Government money!
That's because smokers often die earlier than non-smokers and thus the country doesn't have to pay them superannuation. The report says smokers pay $1.3 billion a year in tax...that's more than what they cost the country in health bills. It's long been a quirky anecdotal suspicion (much like the public perception of police speed cameras), that's now official!
Treasury then boldly goes where no smoker has puffed before to write that, due to smokers' shorter life expectancy reducing superannuation and aged-care costs, they're already "paying their way in narrowly fiscal terms"!! The report says smoking helps, not harms, the public coffers, because smokers' earlier deaths save huge pension costs of NZ$5.5-5.8 billion a year!
[The report was prepared for last week's Budget decision to raise the tax on cigarettes by 10% per year for the next four years, beginning Jan.2013. This, in addition to the annual inflation-indexed increase, will lift the average price of a 20-pack to over $20 by 2016.]
But then the whole subject moves from the sublime to the ridiculous: the NZ Institute of Economic Research oddly suggests that smokers should be able to pay increased prices into a special fund, and get the money back later if they can prove they've quit. Like their own little carcenogenic savings account!
These sorts of statements from officialdom actually undermine the very issue that's trying to be resolved ie: making NZ completely smokefree by 2025. Treasury could well be misconstrued, by those seeking any validation of their habit, as saying "Please keep smoking - it's good for NZ!"
Sometimes reports like these need to be released with discretion.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

One-Eyed View Of The Universe

They're back again, and back in time - just in time to save mankind!
Men In Black 3 stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones - and keep an eye out for one-eyed villain Boris The Animal. You can't miss him but you may have difficulty identifying the actor: he's NZer Jemaine Clement, of the musical comedy duo Flight of the Conchords (with some extra muscle, a full beard and 4hrs of makeup daily)!
As Boris, his biggest Hollywood role, he's already getting great reviews. New York Times calls him "a great and eccentric comic talent who's improved every Hollywood movie he's appeared in". Boris "is played with thunderous mock pomposity". Hollywood Reporter says he's "full-tilt ferocious, leaving fans to add their own ironic comedy to his performance".
His Conchords sidekick Bret McKenzie won an Oscar last year (for his original song Man or Muppet in The Muppets film): don't be surprised if Clement is nominated next time.
Back home, Conchords' first NZ tour begins next month - ticket sales so high that new venues were added, incl. Auckland's 12K-seat Vector Arena. Then a July Oz tour: Sydney Opera House is sold out!
Clement is keen to make a Conchords feature film, and also a vampire comedy set in Wellington, so he's looking for funding. After the way his country ignored him when he first sought support for Conchords, it's well past time to make amends. (NZ tv didn't wanna know, so the Conchords went to American cable channel HBO...and the rest is history! The duo win a Grammy for best comedy album and played LA's 17K Hollywood Bowl and London's 12.5K Wembley Arena. And remember their comedy hit Business Time? [link] )
NZ On Air and our govt fund far less worthy projects. How about backing some real talent?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rena Ram: Soft Sentence

Last week, justice time for the ill-fated container ship Rena's skipper and navigation officer.
Maritime NZ brought six charges against Capt.Mauro Balomaga and five against Leonil Relon after they ran Rena aground, causing one of our worst maritime accidents. The men were heavily criticised for their incompetence and for deliberately trying to deceive officials - NZHerald documents the onboard cover-up. Both were charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by altering the ship's documents, a charge carrying a max.7yr.prison sentence. They pleaded guilty, and got 7mths. WTF???!!!
Judge Robert Wolff said some may think that's too light (no shit, Sherlock!), but bore in mind that both men had been vilified in the community, plus they'd be serving their sentences away from home, here in NZ: "It would be a mistake not to recognise that, as foreign nationals, whatever sentence you serve here would be harder than on any resident in this country to serve."
Maritime NZ is happy with the outcome. But is the general public, esp. those affected by the spills? After all, these two pillicks get out after only 15 weeks. That's right, less then four months behind bars and then home they go. Not bad (for them), when you consider the impact on NZ; the 7-YEAR bullet they dodged; the cost to Rena's owners; and what of the clean-up bill? THAT particular subject has been absent from the spotlight of late.
Judge Wolff took into account in sentencing, the mens' vilification in NZ and that they'd be locked up here rather than at home. Awwww, precious!!! He seems to forget the luxury of OUR prisons compared to ones in the Philippines! And being isolated from public contact in jail nullifies the impact of any vilification: I suggest the guilty men have scant regard for what we kiwis actually think of them!
Judge Wolff has delivered a limp-dick sentence, the like of which is becoming far too common-place. Why NOT hit 'em with the maximum sentence? It's well-deserved.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Besses On The Belfry

Beside the Anglican Church of St Mary the Virgin in Christchurch is a free-standing belfry. It bears a stone plaque, reading:
This belfry is erected by Friends, Parishioners
and The Lancashire "Besses O' Th' Barn" Band
to the memory of New Zealand's Great Statesman and Humanist
13 years (1893-1906) Prime Minister of this colony
Born June 22nd 1845 at Eccleston Hill Lancashire
Died at sea Lat.33°, 55'S. Long.150°, 08'E
S.S. "Oswestery Grange" Sunday June 10th 1906
Buried at Observatory Hill Wellington June 21st 1906 Aetat 61
Love The Brotherhood, Fear God, Honour The King
["The Brotherhood" refers to the Freemasons. Seddon joined them in 1868 and 30 years later, when Premier, became the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of NZ.]
But what was the "Besses O' Th' Barn" Band?
Turns out it's not a case of "what WAS...?" but "what IS...?" The "Besses O' Th' Barn" Band still exists!
Besses o' th' Barn is actually a curiously-named town on the edge of Manchester, in Lancashire, UK. Theories for its name abound (including being named after highwayman Dick Turpin's horse Black Bess), but more likely it stems from an infamous landlady of a local hotel! The industrial town's main claim to fame though is that it's the birthplace of one of the oldest and most famous brass bands in the world, the "Besses O' Th' Barn" Band.
This celebrated outfit of amateur musicians, known affectionately as the "Besses", can be traced back to 1818. And by the late 1800s, Besses were firmly established as one of the UK's leading musical ensembles - amateur or professional.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

You Are What You Are

Headlines screamed about protesters screaming about the Urewera Four's sentences. So, what's with all the screaming, huh?
Holy SHIT!! WTF just happened??
North Island iwi Ngati Manawa says the 2½-yr prison terms for Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were "completely over the top". And you could tell from Iti's painted face he hadn't expected it either!
Iti, Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were found guilty of unlawful possession of military-style firearms and Molotov cocktails at training camps in the Urewera Ranges in 2006/2007. Iti and Kemara were jailed; the sentencing of Signer and Bailey was adjourned but home detention's likely. Justice Hansen said their intent was serious: "A private militia was being established.... a frightening prospect in our society, undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life."
A Ngati Manawa statement said the sentences were out of all proportion to the offences committed. It claimed "sustained mainstream spin, hype and emotion ad nauseum" painted Iti and Kemara as anti-society with villainous and destructive intent. Wait for it...wait for the race card! "All it does is confirm that Maori are not treated impartially by the justice system and that bias and prejudice are alive, well and kicking."
So what did they really expect? That because Iti and Kemara have brown skin and facial markings, they get off??? If, after all the damning evidence, they walked free, that would show serious favouritism. By the legal system running its course (for better or worse), that is impartiality.
After the sentencing, National Business Review wrote about Iti's Plan B, which would have been adopted if Plan A (peaceful negotiation with the govt by Tuhoe, to get what Tuhoe wants) failed. Iti himself described his group as a revolutionary military wing of Aotearoa and referred to training to smash the system, while Kemara spoke of training to kill "because we will probably have to".
The judge pointed out that a crime committed for a noble ideal is as much a crime, as a criminal act done for a base motive. He also made it crystal clear that any damage done to the local community as a result of the police operation was the responsibility of the prisoners and "should not divert attention from the unlawful activities which necessitated the investigation in the first place". In other words, stop the screaming about poor ol' maori being victims because they're maori!!! It simply didn't happen!
But of course, appeals will be forthcoming. Don't ask me why though: $6m of legal proceedings surely can't be wrong...unless of course you lean towards the bro side, in which case it's all a racial conspiracy. Bzzzzzt! Wrong! There is no racial bias in law.
You are what you are. Innocent or guilty.
End of story. My sentences now finish. Let their sentences begin...

PS: 16 July 2012 - Tuhoe activists denied bail while appeals are heard.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sci-fi, Puppet-style

With the Alien prequel movie Prometheus about to begin in NZ, an unusual remake of Aliens is ready to hit the stage.
Yes, stage! The Meat and Potato Theatre is performing a musical rendition, using...puppets!
Luckily for my aging sensibilities, the show is light-years away from me - in Salt Lake City, Utah on May 24-June 10.
Aliens (The Puppet Musical) has the same storyline as the 1986 James Cameron flick: Ellen Ripley returning to slay slimy space creatures and fulfill maternal instincts by protecting an orphaned girl. But mix that up with a full cast of puppets, a soundtrack of eight songs, and the very novelty of the show should draw an audience through curiosity alone!
Meat and Potato’s version tweaks the cast lineup a bit, with characters such as Optimus Prime and puppets resembling Ernie and Bert. Alf and Lady Gaga also make appearances. The only character appearing in the flesh is Ripley. As for the alien itself, you’ll know the queen mother has arrived when strains of opera-singing hit the air (y'know what they say: "It ain't over til the slime-dripping egg-laying human-devouring lady sings").
As the fuzzy puppet soldiers are armed with water-guns, audiences should expect to get a little wet...and have a good laugh!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lifting Netball's Profile

Suddenly, sporting folk are talking about women's netball.
No, not the short skirts or long legs... but the lift.
Last Sunday's trans-Tasman clash between NZ team the Mystics and the Ozzie Vixens in Melbourne was set ablaze, when the kiwis employed a rarely-used tactic of cheer-lifting, a rugby-lineout-type lift. Mystics defender Anna Harrison pulled off some spectacular action following assisted lifts from teammates, a move which impressed some and left others questioning its legality.
Yet it's a tactic that's been around in top-level netball since the 1970s, and was used by Singapore against Sri Lanka at last year's world champs.
By all accounts, its a difficult manouvere to achieve successfully, requiring perfect timing and a defender who keeps her body perfectly straight while being lifted. Mystics coach Debbie Fuller came up with the idea, as a way to combat increasingly taller shooters who have entered the ANZ Championship in recent years. The team practised the move for the past month and checked with umpires to make sure they would not be penalised. It's not against rules to lift a player, but some whingers say it goes against the spirit of the game.
But the Ozzies were impressed: their coach Lisa Alexander called it a great innovation and hasn't ruled out using it: "Definitely it adds variety to the game, and makes people sit up and take notice. Its a great innovation, but we'll be doing our best to counteract it." She said Australia had even trialled the tactic in the past.
In my book, ANYthing that enhances the game has gotta be good for it! And if there's a brief flash of an extra length of toned leg in the air at the same time, well...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Two More Gone

The needle has jumped the groove again...
Last weekend Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees, the pop group at the forefront of the disco era with its Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, died at 62 after a long battle with cancer.
The Bee Gees - Robin, Maurice and older brother, Barry - had a four-decade pop career that began in Australia, then flourished as champions of disco in the '70s. But a decade before 1977's Saturday Night Fever (which cemented their reputation forever), they had a string of big hits worldwide, some of which featured Robin’s plaintive vocal style.
Robin also released several solo albums and singles, to mixed success. But he'll always be remembered as one of The Bee Gees. One of the biggest-selling acts of all time (selling well more than 120 million records) they've had 15 US Top Ten records, including six consecutive No. 1 singles in the late '70s, and won six Grammy Awards. In 1997, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Also departing the dazzle of the mirror ball last week was disco diva Donna Summer. In 1975, she released a single like nothing before - a steamy breathy sexy number called Love to Love You Baby (all 17min. of it!). Zap! Instant disco icon, influencing artists from Grace Jones to Beyonce and Rihanna! Her single I Feel Love is considered early electronic dance music. And she survived the supposed "death of disco" in the late '70s/early '80s to remain one of pop's most pioneering artists, with hits including Bad Girls, MacArthur Park, Last Dance, She Works Hard for the Money, On the Radio and the duet with Barbra Streisand No More Tears (Enough Is Enough). Summer died last Thursday at 63, another victim of cancer.
Unlike punk's hopeful claims at the end of the '70s, disco is NOT dead. But sadly, two more of its biggest names are...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Klaatu Comes Calling

A big jump in UFO sightings over the North Island, these past two months.
"Give me your drugs...
or the girl dies!"
And little green men may even have visited Northland in the past five weeks - one man reports seeing a UFO land! Suzanne Hansen, director of Ufocus NZ research network: "He's a very credible source. He saw an object that had landed, and said it was definitely not an aircraft or like anything else he'd seen. I've got 30 (UFO/UAP) reports at the moment from the upper North Island and Northland from the past couple of weeks that we're yet to's unprecedented."
Charles Gillard reported seeing strange lights hovering above the Tangihua ranges just after 4am Sunday. He said the white and blueish lights were definitely not a helicopter or plane, and darted about at speed for several minutes before simply vanishing. Inquiries showed no helicopters or planes in the area at that time.
Ms Hansen said Gillard's sighting is similar to others recently in Northland, and Ufocus is looking into all such reports made to its website: "Researchers in Australia have reported the same things happening there, with what we call a "UFO Flap" (an outbreak of UFO sightings)."
However, the NZ Skeptics (NZ Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) says UFO sightings can be easily explained, usually by natural phenomena. Spokesman Vicki Hyde says despite the "unprecedented" number of recent sightings, this is the first the public has heard of them: "The problem with UFO sightings is that there're so many possible explanations for them. Something like 80-90% are people mistaking things like Venus for UFOs." Awwwwwww, spoilsports!
In the case of Northland - legendary for its "green economy" - perhaps another 9% might be explained away by excessive smoking of certain substances. Does that leave a teensy-weensy liddle unexplained percentage? Or is it all just 'da weed' talkin'?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Hunting The Hyenas

More kick-arse in the fight against piracy.
Helicopters attacked a pirate base 20km inland from the Somali coast last week, in the first airborne land strike by anti-piracy force, EU Naval Force. It came four days after Somali gunmen hijacked an oil tanker in the Arabian Sea, and was the first time EU Navfor had taken the fight to Somali soil, since its mandate was expanded earlier this year to allow land strikes. No EU forces actually landed on Somali territory, but earlier this year, US special forces did go 'boots dry' to rescue some hostages. However, unlike the EU operation, that wasn't a policy change - it was undertaken due to reports that the health of one hostage was deteriorating. Riiiiigghhtt!!!!!
Somali parasite...opps...pirate
Somali pirates've scored millions of dollars' ransom over recent years, in what's now a highly-organised international criminal enterprise. A study by the One Earth Future Foundation showed Somali piracy cost US$7 billion (NZ$9.1b) last year, with ransoms paid reaching US$160 million (NZ$208m). The pirates have so far generally refrained from killing hostages but, after last week, threatened to do so if attacked again.
As of the end of March, pirates still held 15 vessels and 302 hostages. In the first quarter of this year, attacks fell sharply in Somali waters thanks to international naval patrols: 43 attacks including nine hijackings, compared with 97 attacks a year ago. There are an estimated 3-5,000 pirates in Somalia.
But considering this "first time" attack was also great PR, the details seem a bit confused. Some media report one helicopter was used; others, five. Some state three skiffs and a fuel dump were destroyed; others, nine speedboats. Either way, although the pirates' losses were minimal (with the ransoms they're getting, skiffs are a dime a dozen!), the attacks do send a clear message.
But I personally advocate an even clearer one! Don't waste time with arrests and costly trials, from which they're likely to be repatriated anyway. High-velocity steel is the perfect answer.
Don't glamorise 'em - gun 'em down!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happiness Is A Warm Arse!

The Southern Hemisphere winter's surely here.
Daytime temperatures are heading south fast!
Everyone has a slightly different internal thermostat. Me, I'm really feeling the cold at the moment, so I prefer the room temperature to be considerably higher than glacial. The problem with working in an office is that everyone wants the temperature set differently, and there'll be harsh words when someone plays with the office thermostat.
Now - following years of heated car seats - OhGizmo! reports there's an office solution: heated and cooled office chairs.
In any given office, almost half of the workers are dissatisfied with the temperature, according to Phil Williams of Webcor Builders in USA: "Our Tempronics chairs allow workers to have individual control of thermal comfort, which is known to increase productivity and employee retention. The portable chair can move with the user, in contrast with the fixed nature of customary AC systems."
The Tempronic chair features a cooling/heating system that allows each individual user to set his preferred working temperature. In tests, the chair kept workers comfortable between 16C-29C. It uses around 75W of power to do its thing, and it could be seen as a way to save on business energy costs (as a typical AC can consume 1,800W). Not sure how the numbers crunch here, coz it would just take 24 of these chairs to use up 1,800W. Then again, maybe an 1,800W AC isn’t enough to cover the area taken up by 24 workers. Anyway, the chairs cost between US$800-1,100 depending on quality.
The other thing I'm not clear on: do these run on batteries that you'd charge up overnight, or do they plug in to the socket?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pete Gets His Sea Legs

One could be forgiven for thinking Pete Bethune had given up on saving the planet.
After his brush with Japanese law and his bitter departure from Sea Shepherd, he established Earthrace Conservation, aiming to save Mother Earth by both education and direct action. However after a brief flurry of start-up activity, there've been no posts on its website since Sept.2011! But lo, the Bethune Boy is back!
Late last month, he launched a new vessel in Auckland. The craft, which can travel on both land and sea, is named Sealegs after the NZ company that developed it.
Pete and Co.want to tackle illegal fishing off the African coast this Nthrn.summer, and according to Sealegs, the new craft is perfect for their kind of missions: "Our vessels don't need a boat ramp - they can be launched and landed on almost any beach or pebble shore and that is a great tactical advantage." These amphibious vessels have been increasingly used by law enforcement and military units around the world because of the flexibility that a land/sea capability offers.
Coastal Africa has seen a dramatic increase in so-called 'pirate fishing', dominated by vessels from Asia and to a lesser degree Europe, that take advantage of Africa's lack of Navy and Coastguard vessels. Bethune: "A few years ago, pirate fishing was limited to offshore areas, but now it's prevalent throughout the inshore fisheries as well. This is having a devastating effect on local communities. It removes local employment, in many cases displacing families that've fished their waters for many generations. It removes their principal source of animal protein, in many cases forcing them to target endangered land wildlife. Finally, it steals from these countries one of the few sources they have for foreign exchange earnings."
All valid points, but read on...Earthrace and Albany-based Sealegs (the world’s largest manufacturer of amphibious boats) upgraded this vessel together. Bethune brought in several members of his team who've served in the US Navy Seals to help: "These guys have been in many maritime combat situations, and were invaluable in making it tactically more effective. We changed the layout, electronics, masthead... the result is a real beast that sets a benchmark for amphibious assault vessels." They've even added a military-grade thermal night-vision camera.
In the photo, his team all dressed in black look very military, and Bethune does has a reputation for aggression. I hope he keeps in mind that he is a civilian, and will be working WITH African govt agencies... he won't BE the law enforcement.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Linguistic Landscape Or Cultural Quagmire?

Do business signs in another language cause you unease?
There's a claim immigrant businessmen, using signs in their own language, are creating 'ethnic precincts'. Massey University researchers Robin Peace and Ian Goodwin studied 500 photos from around Auckland (incl. Northcote, Dominion Road, Botany, the CBD and Papatoetoe): many used language other than English. They say they can cause annoyance and repugnance to English-speaking NZers.
An poll seems to back the research. 39% of people think all immigrants should use English on their business signs; a further 40% say English translations should be offered beside ethnic scripts; 21% say the signs should be accepted, as NZ is a diverse society.
Mt Roskill Business Assn prez Richard Prakash says while the signs add character to an area, this is New Zealand. He says single-language signs are designed to attract one culture to a shop, but they should be in English too.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown feels the signs add to the city's "unique character": "I'm not concerned by an increase of signs in different languages if business owners think it's appropriate for their customers, as long as they don't contravene any laws." Errrrrr, Lenny...your council has no regulations about languages used on signs!
It's an interesting issue, and covers many languages such as Samoan, Tongan, Afrikaans - not just Asian. However some in the Asian community know no other language than an Asian one (and it must be a relief for new arrivals to see theirs on signs). Of course, dried rat penises in an Asian store are highly unlikely to be bought by Europeans. But conversely, the opportunity to do so should be facilitated by some English signage. Or are Aucklanders simply racially intolerant?
Ahhhh, but then there're tales of migrants "no speekee eengleesh"... until $$$ are discussed!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Of Salmon And Sand...

We seem to have entered a brief phase of "warm fuzzy" films at the flicks - about time too!
For those over 25 who still enjoy movies, there're the likes of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and now Salmon Fishing In The Yemen (the preview of which I saw on the weekend).
An unlikely title, but a well-crafted film with very good performances from Kristin Scott Thomas (as the British PM's press advisor), Emily Blunt (a sheik's UK representative) and Ewan McGregor (resident salmon expert). The plot is basically this:
the UK govt needs some good news from the war-ravaged Middle East. Enter an eccentric sheik who wants to introduce salmon to his desert country, Yemen. Everyone thinks the idea's crazy...except for Kristin Scott Thomas, who may be a bit touched herself! She bullies everyone into making it happen (so the politicos can get some press-friendly mileage). Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly: add in irate sports fishermen, Yemeni terrorists, a war hero boyfriend, and this light-weight movie gradually evolves...
Yes, it is a tad slower than the norm, but when there's finally a movie without gratuitous sex, violence or foul language, that's a pleasant change. Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is entertaining and a genuine heart-warmer.
[Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, starts 17 May across NZ]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SpaceX: THIS Time?

Dragon, solar panels open
Maybe THIS weekend...
The much-awaited flight of the SpaceX craft Dragon has been rescheduled again, to this Sat.19 May (8.55 GMT).
The Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, planned to be the first commercial craft to restock the International Space Station (ISS), has had its test flight rescheduled a few times (originally due last Feb.). SpaceX has already shown it can release and retrieve the Dragon, but getting it alongside and berthing with the fast-moving ISS is not easy. However it'll mean BIG bucks if the cargo ship can actually dock, so SpaceX's been testing and retesting, just in case...
ISS above South Island, NZ
The private space company (owned by Elon Musk, Internet entrepreneur and PayPal founder) has a multimillion-dollar contract with NASA to become the ISS cargo-deliverer. Once proven successful, the Dragon will begin a minimum 12-flight contract to resupply the ISS. And as its reusable, it'll be able to bring cargo back as well. However SpaceX has carefully kept expectations low, saying this is a test flight as well as only the rocket's third blastoff and Dragon's second flight.
This mission was originally only supposed to be a launch/orbit test, so attempting to connect with the ISS is actually ahead of schedule. The launch will be on NASA TV from 7.30 GMT this Saturday, with a docking attempt on Tuesday.
Soon after this launch, SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) will start a joint marketing campaign for international customers, offering rides on the Dragon to Bigelow habitats in orbit. Each module can support six crew. BA plans to connect several modules in orbit, so national agencies, companies, and universities can access space.
PS: 20 May 2012 - Houston, we have a problem! Re-scheduled launch now Tues.22 May. Maybe.
PS: 25 May 2012 - A successful docking for Dragon.
PS: 01 June 2012 - Successful splashlanding. Chick-ching!!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Paul Watson: Attempted Murder?

Paul Watson is under arrest!
In news that'll bring self-righteous smirks to the faces of the anti-anti-whaling fraternity, the founder of Sea Shepherd was taken into custody in Germany last weekend, and will be extradited to Costa Rica.
Watson (captain of the Steve Irwin), was nabbed on an outstanding warrant over a 2002 incident (during the filming of Sharkwater, which went on to win 31 international awards). SS says: "The 'violation of ships traffic' incident took place on the high seas in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark-finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero. On order of the Guatemalan authorities, SS instructed the crew of Varadero to cease their illegal shark-finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted." But SS claims while it was escorting Varadero back to port, the tables were turned: "A Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the SS crew. The crew of Varadero accused SS of trying to kill them, while the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy. To avoid the gunboat, SS set sail for Costa Rica, where they uncovered even more illegal shark finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings."
In incidents involving high-profile environmental groups (especially Sea Shepherd), it's always a case of "you said, we said". SS is very canny about recording its activities, so when it claims to have video evidence to support its position, I'd not be at all surprised if it actually does. But a charge of attempted murder may need to be confronted with every weapon in its arsenal.
SS has labelled the arrest "nonsense" and hopes the Costa Ricans will drop the charges. Watson is due to appear in court on Thursday.
Update: A German judge has refused to release Watson, saying he wants to confirm Costa Rica actually wants extradition. The warrant was issued in Oct.2011, curiously close to the time the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) filed its civil suit against SS in the United States. So why did Costa Rica issue an arrest warrant for Watson in Oct.2011... for a 2002 incident? Meanwhile INTERPOL says it will not publish a Red Notice seeking Watson's arrest, because its Office of Legal Affairs is not satisfied the Costa Rican request is in compliance with INTERPOL’s Constitutions and Rules.
PS: 22 May 2012  - After eight days in custody, Watson is released on bail.  It is unprecedented for a non-German national to be released on bail during an extradition proceeding, and must indicate German doubts over the entire affair.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beware The Homosexual!

Ahhhhhhh...American paranoia! Ya can't beat it!!
This 1961 clip is an edited version of a 10min. propaganda film. It's the tale of young Jimmy Barnes. Jimmy hitch-hikes. Jimmy meets Ralph. Ralph wears dark sunglasses, has a pencil-thin moustache, receding hair and an insipid smile. Ralph has a sickness, a sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph is... *gasp*...a homosexual. And "one never knows when the homosexual is about".
How Americans ever survived Reds Under The Bed, the Cold War and the Space Race with this sort of public service bullshit is beyond me! God bless America - it needs all the help it can get.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

WWII: Did Aliens Save Britain?

They stand like alien creatures from H.G.Wells' War Of The Worlds, silent sentinels in the Thames and Mersey estuaries...wartime defences such as I'd never seen until recently.
image by Diamond Geezer/Flickr
I found this picture on-line and felt compelled to find out more.
In the darkest days of the Second World War, Britain stiffened its upper lip and came up with numerous strange but hopefully effective ways to defend itself (the Dambusters' 'bouncing bomb'; Mulberry harbours; radar; the fiery coastal pipeline system)...
After France fell, the Germans were regularly hitting Allied shipping in the English Channel, and enemy planes were bombing London Docks without much resistance. The Admiralty sought out designer Guy Maunsell - his idea became known as the Maunsell Sea Forts. The Thames and Mersey waterways were vital for transporting much-needed food and equipment, and these forts (three in the Mersey, four in the Thames) were designed to protect UK's most important ports, London and Liverpool.
The towers were built in 1942. Interconnected steel platforms held anti-aircraft weaponry; one tower was for accomodation and control; another housed a powerful searchlight. To get an idea of scale, note the two floors of windows.
My first thought was: were they worth it? Well, it seems the forts shot down 22 aircraft and about 30 flying bombs, so they proved of value (though it may have been cheaper to have bought a few more squadrons of Spitfires!).
The forts were decommissioned in the 1950s, due to deterioration and a collision (by Norwegian ship Baalbek in 1953, which destroyed two towers, killed four civilian caretakers and destroyed guns, radar equipment and supplies).
So, what to do with them once their military usefulness was over? Post-war, they've been used for a variety of activities, such as pirate radio in the 1960s and the establishment of the self-styled Principality of Sealand in the same decade. Their designs were used extensively in the development of drilling platforms and offshore fuel exploration. They were the blueprint for the very first offshore oil platform (in the Gulf of Mexico) before 1950. For this very reason alone they have immense historical significance. Since 2003, serious talks have been held between concerned parties and the UK Govt to try and preserve them.
England saw off Hitler many years ago. Hopefully these remarkable sea forts can fend off time and rust in the same successful manner.

UPDATE: 29 May 2015 - An intriguing plan to turn the old sea forts into a luxury resort!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Remembering Mum

It's Mother's Day tomorrow...
honouring our mums and the influence of mothers in society. Celebrated on various days around the world, in NZ it's on the second Sunday in May.
For most countries, the day's a fairly recent arrival from America. Some countries had existing celebrations honouring mothers, and just added aspects of the US holiday, like giving flowers and gifts. The extent of celebrations varies greatly: in some countries, it is offensive to one's mother not to mark Mother's Day.
Mothers Day in Bolivia commemorates an 1812 battle during its War of Independence, when women fighters were slaughtered by the Spanish army!
Meanwhile the offical Chinese People's Daily says that "despite originating in the United States, China accepts the holiday without hesitation because it is in line with the country's traditional ethics."
In France, Mothers Day began over low birth rate worries at the start of the C20th.! It awarded the Médaille de la Famille française to women who bore many children. France made the day official in 1920 as a day for mothers of large families.
In the 1930s, Germany's Nazis promoted the role of mothers as that of providing healthy children to the "Aryan race" plan. They also called the death of a son in war the highest embodiment of patriotic motherhood (Pop 'em out, lady, we need cannon fodder!).
UK's Mothering Sunday (fourth Sunday of Lent) comes from the C16th. Christian practice of visiting one's mother church annually in Lent. That meant most mothers would be reunited with their kids, when young apprentices were released by their masters for that weekend. It evolved to show appreciation to one's mother materially, although it's still recognised in the historical sense by some churches.
US soldiers brought their Mother's Day celebrations to the UK during WWII, and these merged with the Church of England's Mothering Sunday traditions. By the 1950s businesses smelt a great commercial opportunity and so it grew...chick-ching!
Here we give cards, gifts and breakfast-in-bed. You'd get the idea from all the advertising that mums want a new kitchen appliance for Mothers Day, to further bind them to the often-thankless domestic chores! To me, the most important thing is to let mum know she's loved, wanted and respected EVERY day. And if a gift accentuates that appreciation on Mothers Day, all well and good.
But for crying out loud, if you're dashing out today to buy her a gift, DON'T give her a bloody vacuum cleaner!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Iceland Fin Whaling Finished

Iceland has ceased the killing of endangered fin whales!
"Ach, vell, dere's alvays da minkes!"
Kristjan Loftsson, the lone Icelandic whaler responsible for killing 280 fin whales in Icelandic waters over the past six years, has abandoned plans to do so again in 2012. His single-handed bloodymindedness has put his country at risk of diplomatic action...
July 2011: US Secretary of Commerce invoked the Pelly Amendment and certified Iceland for its continued slaughter of both fin and minke, saying its disregard for the global ban on commercial whaling was unacceptable.
Sept.2011: President Obama announced Iceland faced up to six different diplomatic measures over its continued whaling. He eventually settled for diplomatic "chats" instead...
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has worked alongside Icelandic whalewatch operators to promote whale watching as a humane and profitable alternative to whaling. UK Director Robbie Marsland: "We're delighted no more fin whales will be slaughtered in Iceland. We are also pleased to hear Mr Loftsson acknowledge this outdated industry is uneconomic. It is just a shame that 280 fin whales had to die in this failed commercial experiment."
Loftsson believes the market for whalemeat in Japan has still not recovered since the 2011 tsunami. He regularly exports small amounts of fin whalemeat to Japan (Feb.2012: 130 tonnes), but has yet to find a demand for the meat on the Japanese market.
This is an end to the killing of endangered fin (a practice denied by the Icelandic govt.!) but not an end to ALL whaling there. Sadly, commercial hunting of minke continues: 58 were killed in Iceland last season, by two companies, from a self-allocated bag limit of 216. The first minkes of the 2012 season were killed recently.
IFAW continues its 'Meet Us Don’t Eat Us' campaign, encouraging tourists visiting Iceland to support responsible whalewatching but to avoid trying whale meat.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bradford Bleats Over Breeding Barriers

Free contraception for female beneficiaries.
How can this be regarded as intrusive?
Yet some call the recent govt. announcement an intrusion on women's rights to have kids!
Part of the govt's $287.5m welfare reforms is offering free long-term contraception to women on benefits. But moaners say this borders on state control!
The move is to support beneficiaries getting back into work, with the contraception offered to teenagers on benefits from July, then to all women on benefits (and their daughters aged 16-19) from October.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says youth and teen parents will be targeted - they're most at risk of staying on benefits long-term and having more kids while on welfare.
But Auckland Action Against Poverty's Sue Bradford (yeup, it HAD to be HER who opened her gob!) says while it's voluntary, it's "totally unacceptable" for the govt to get involved in women's reproduction, "because beneficiaries are seen as people who are worth less than others." Bradford reckons the govt is persuading women to take contraception through sanctions, like having to look for work when the child is one. Seems however the vast majority on a poll see it differently!
Paula Bennett says she's met young women who saw getting pregnant and going on the DPB (domestic purposes benefit) as viable: "29% of those on benefits have had a child while on benefits. That's pretty high numbers. If cost is a barrier, let's help you overcome that cost so you've got choices." A 'dole-bludger' stigma has hung over solo parents for decades - sometimes justified, others not. We've all heard tales of solo mums on the DPB, popping out sprogs every few years, seemingly to ride the gravy train. Yes, a sweeping generalisation - but I suggest one held by many NZers. This offer puts the ambulance at the TOP of the cliff...
Sure, Sue, of course women have the right to control their own reproduction, but having children is a serious responsibility. Free contraception negates the 'I can't afford it coz I'm on the dole' argument. The associated sanctions also mean those who may have seen unplanned breeding as a long-term income source will have to think again. Responsible parents have thought carefully, juggled bills, worked hard, supported families for years. THEY haven't constantly had their hands out for benefits. All power to them!
Maybe 'bludgers' will start to see the writing on the wall...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Currying Favour In Fight Against Cancer

Does the entire Indian subcontinent know something that Western medicine is only now beginning to investigate?
A chemical in curry is being tested for its ability to kill bowel cancer tumours!
Curcumin, found in the turmeric spice, has been linked to a range of health benefits. Studies have already shown it can beat cancer cells grown in a laboratory, and benefits have also been suggested in stroke and dementia patients.
Now a UK trial at hospitals in Leicester is giving curcumin alongside chemotherapy drugs. About 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year. If the disease spreads around the body, patients are normally given a combination of three chemotherapy drugs, but about half will not respond.
Forty patients will take part in this trial, which will compare the effects of giving curcumin pills seven days before starting standard chemotherapy treatment.
Professor William Steward, leading the study, says animal tests combining the two were "100 times better" than either on their own and that's been the major justification for continuing with the trial: "Once bowel cancer has spread it's very difficult to treat, partly because the side effects of chemotherapy can limit how long patients can have treatment. The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting, because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer."
This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area, that may lead to developing new drugs in the future. A clinical trial will help researchers discover more about the potential benefits of taking large amounts of curcumin, as well as any possible side effects.
Well, apart from the possibility of an increase in 'global warming side effect', I guess 1.2 billion Indians can't be wrong!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Norway Takes First Blood

Norwegian whale hunters have harpooned their first three whales of the year.
The whales were killed on April 29th., nearly a month after the hunting season began. Norway's whale hunting season runs 01 April-31 August, but weather conditions were poor in April and the vessels had been busy until now with other fishing activities.
Norway, Iceland and Japan are the only countries to defy the 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling, claiming minke whale stocks are large enough to justify limited hunts. Japan uses a loophole that allows killing the animals for "research," but most of its meat is headed straight for commercial markets...or at least onto its growing aging stockpile.
For this year's season, Norway has set itself a quota of 1,286 minke whales (the same as last year) even though the country's dwindling whaling fleet is having trouble filling the quota. Last year 19 boats took part in the hunt, taking just 533 animals. This season, only 18 of the 20 boats signed up for the hunt are expected to participate.
Fishermen's Sales Organisation spokesman Per Rolandsen: "The problem is to sell the meat. We hope sales will go better this year and that Norwegians will consume more whale meat." But "hoping" cannot make the trade or the product more palatable. Less than 5% of his countrymen eat whalemeat regularly. Norway and Iceland export the vast majority of their whalemeat to Japan (newly released Icelandic export figures for Feb.2012 showed Iceland exported an additional 130 tonnes of frozen whale products to Japan). But Japan also doesn't move much whalemeat domestically. The consequence is that its national stockpile at last count (2011) was something around the 6,000 tonne mark!
Why do these countries persist in such an uneconomic, cruel and hugely unpopular enterprise?
And curiously was does Japan insist on stockpiling whalemeat it neither needs nor uses?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Gold-Plated Crap

NZ’s most tweeted-about reality tv show began last week.
The GC (as in The Gold, that's Australia).
TV3's pre-launch publicity worked hard to say it would be nothing like Jersey Shore or UK's adaptation Geordie Shore. But it is. Some beautiful young things with money to burn in a hot beach setting, getting drunk and trying to get laid. Basically, it's crap...though one kind review said: "It may be trash, but it’s 'our' trash!"
That's true! WE paid $419K for it - another dubious NZ On Air funding decision! Perhaps NZ On Air could outline its definition of "quality NZ broadcasting" for us all.
Another reviewer wrote it "may be the worst tv show NZ has ever produced...that purports to profile successful young maori on the Gold Coast, but which instead twists their day-to-day lives to make them appear morally bankrupt and more interested in amassing money, sex and fame than in any kind of normal existence." He's not alone - a Facebook page has been set up called "Cancel The GC TV show".
But Throng (NZ's TV-watching community) says the pilot was the most-watched (est.370,660) TV3 show last Wed. night, more viewers...
+ than 3 News (30K more!).
+ than any episode of The Almighty Johnsons.
+ than any episode of this season's Go Girls.
+ Outrageous Fortune didn’t achieve those numbers until Series 3.
+ Only one episode of Campbell Live in the past year had more viewers.
+ Only the season finale of NZ's Next Top Model had more viewers.
Why? Why? Why indeed? Maybe the majority of TV3's 18-35yr.old viewers actually like crap.
Trash tv has its place...just not on any tv that I'm watching!
The GC, Wed.8pm, TV3

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dutch Weeding Out Stoned Tourists

Tourists to Amsterdam will soon have one less thing on their 'wish lists'.
Many seek out canals, Anne Frank's House, the Red Light District (er, just to look!)... maybe one of 'those' coffee shops where marijuana is openly on the menu.
But the Netherlands' famed tolerance for drugs is going up in smoke. The govt plans to ban foreign tourists from buying grass, by bringing in a "weed pass" available only to Dutch citizens and permanent residents. It argues the move is justified to crack down on so-called "drug tourists", couriers who cross the border from neighbouring Belgium and Germany, buy large stashes of dak and take it home to resell. Such issues don't exist in Amsterdam, where most tourists walk or ride bikes, and buy pot for their own use.
Many locals feel the "weed pass" won't solve anything and could create new problems: they say the coffee shops are well-regulated havens where people can buy soft drugs without coming into contact with heroin and cocaine dealers. Some worry the ban will harm the Netherlands' image as an open-minded society.
With five million tourists visiting Amsterdam each year (25% visiting a coffee shop), the Dutch tourism board says it'll be hard to judge the effect on tourism - it could reduce visits from those coming to smoke pot but increase tourists previously kept away by Amsterdam's seedy side. Meanwhile coffee shop owners in the southern city of Maastricht plan to disregard the new measure, forcing the govt to prosecute them in a test case.
The pass will roll out in 2013, turning coffee shops into private clubs, with membership open only to Dutch residents and limited to 2000 per shop. The Netherlands has more than 650 coffee shops, 214 of them in Amsterdam. That number has been steadily dropping as rules get tougher.
But it won't be just tourists who will miss out. With 650 coffee shops and just 2000 members per shop, thats only 1.3m "weed passes" for a population of 16.6m. I can't see this regulation being enforced easily...and furthermore, what's a tourist to do, if he actually wants a coffee???

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Coming to An Iceberg Near You

Could this be related to the 'floating' interest rate?
One of Australia's richest men is going to build a 21st Century version of the Titanic!
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer says construction will start at the end of next year, and Titanic II will sail from London to New York in late 2016. He wants it to be as similar as possible to the original Titanic in design, specs and luxury but with state-of-the-art 21st Century technology, and the latest navigation and safety systems. His announcement comes only weeks after the centenary of the loss of the Titanic (the largest luxury ship of its time, which sank on 15 April 1912 after hitting an iceberg on its Southampton-New York maiden voyage, killing 1,514 people).
When reporters asked if his Titanic replica would follow suit, Palmer said: "Of course it'll sink if you put a hole in it." He quickly added: "It's going to be designed so it won't sink.'' The original Titanic was also designed to be 'unsinkable' [although its owner the White Star Line never made that actual claim in any of its advertising. It got very close to saying it...but not quite! That was one of those 'urban
"Don't bloody let go this time, Rose!"
myths' that floated better than the ship!]
The cost of the construction is not known, but it'll be built by a Chinese state-owned company [the 1912 cost of the Titanic = £3m / in today's terms = at least £210m!!]. The Queensland mining magnate, with strong business ties to China, has expanded into tourism. He owns a luxury resort on the Sunshine Coast and plans to build a fleet of luxury liners. His building of the replica was announced on the same day he revealed plans to contest the next federal election in Queensland for the Liberal National Party.
Mr Palmer will be hoping his political aspirations don't follow the original Titanic.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Star Wars Day!

Across the galaxy, today is the 4th.of May.
May the fourth be with you!
(Hmmm, that line doesn't get any better with age, does it...)
By the way, if you saw those first two Star Wars films way back before you started going grey, here's a quick Lego recap...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Does This Sign Say To You?

In March, a Napier church group put up a billboard boldly stating "Jesus Heals Cancer".
This angered a family whose child was undergoing leukaemia treatment. They felt "the sign showed no understanding and compassion for people who've journeyed through cancer and lost loved ones" and that "the billboard was saying 'join the church and you won’t die of cancer'." They complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which recently ruled the sign breached advertising standards (by suggesting the church offered something other churches could not).
I got no feeling from the sign that the church was heartless or that it offered an exclusive deal. All I got was a most emphatic statement! It may have been a different story if the family had gone to the church, had hands laid on their child...and no healing happened. But they didn't do that - so was their complaint justified?
As more church groups erect thought-provoking signage, this is an interesting issue. On one hand, the sign states the church's beliefs. Indeed, Napier's Equippers Church claim that very recently six people were "healed from cancer" in their church. Pastor Lyle Peninsula: "All I can say is that it is what we believe. Can Jesus heal cancer? Yes, we believe he can." So is there anything wrong with proclaiming such beliefs on their billboard?
Yea, baby! Who's ya daddy?
The flip-side is the pain of those who've lost out to cancer or who, like the family concerned, are going through the shite of cancer treatment. Should they feel from this sign that their faith wasn’t strong enough, or that they weren’t special enough to make it on to Jesus’ healing list?
All around us are far more problematic billboards than this one, yet we pay them scant regard - they're just life's wallpaper. Should a church conform to a different standard, because their sign is about faith, rather than cars, politics or tampons? Society often uses Freedom Of Speech to justify all sorts of public statements. So, ponder this, if you will:
(a) Does this just boil down to someone's publically-expressed personal faith that someone else didn't like?
(b) How would you feel if you saw a sign in your NZ town saying
"There is one god and Muhammad is his prophet"?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wills: Poach Eggs, Not Animals

Fresh from celebrating his first wedding anniversary last weekend, Prince William is lined up to highlight the problem of animal poaching in Africa.
He's taking part in an anti-poaching project and doco, fired up by the "senseless slaughter" of Max, a hand-reared rhino, killed last year by poachers at a Kenyan wildlife preserve. Wills' friend, British TV presenter and Royals worshipper Ben Fogle: "I was lucky enough to go out to Botswana with him a few years ago, so it would be nice to do more with him. We're both passionate about stopping poaching."
Prince William has long been interested in conservation. In 2001, he began assisting with the Lewa Wildlife Preserve conservation project in central Kenya, and later became a patron of the Tusk Trust charity. After last week's London screening of African Cats, about Kenya's wildlife, the prince spoke out about endangered animals: "Films like this remind us of the dramatic beauty, and the harshness, of the natural world – and there is nowhere more awe-inspiring or beautiful than the vast plains of Kenya's Maasai Mara. Africa's natural heritage is the world’s natural heritage. We have to preserve places like this – not just for us, but for future generations. We must act now, coherently and together, if the situation is to be reversed and our global, natural legacy preserved. Tomorrow will be too late."
This is all very well and highly commendable, doffed caps and "Mummy would be proud" etc... but Prince William still goes out with shotgun in arm, blasting pheasants and boar into oblivion on a whim.
Just a passing thought...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Global Warming: Wind Turbines To Blame!

Here's a new drum for the wind farm critics to beat loudly!
The Wall Street Journal reports large wind farms increase local ground temperatures! Researchers, using nine years of NASA data from near four of the world's biggest wind farms, have found wind farms of a certain scale, while producing clean renewable energy, do have some long-term effect on the immediate environment.
Researchers studied a group of Texas wind farms as they expanded from a few dozen turbines in 2003 to more than 2,350 by 2011. On average, the night-time air around the wind farms rose 0.72C more than the surrounding area. Normally, the night air has layers of cool and warm air, caused as hot air rises and cold air sinks, with the coolest closest to the ground. As the giant blades churn the air, they pull the warmer air down to the surface.
Although researchers detected some daytime warming due to the wind farms, the temperature changes were highest in the predawn hours, when the air normally is still and not so turbulent. So far, the scientists don't know if these higher temperatures affect local rainfall or other weather patterns.
Ok, so it's a very minor temperature change, however as the use of wind farms worldwide grows, the boffins think they "might have noticeable impacts on local weather and climate"...but more research is needed (Of course! Gotta get those grants somehow).
For years, doomsayers have warned about wind turbines' impact on the local environment - spoiling the view, scaring the nearby animals etc - but this temperature lift could have a positive impact too. Think of the benefit to our kiwifruit industry if, instead of using low-level helicopter flights or lighting "smudgepots" every dawn to lift the cold fog blanket from vines, some strategically-placed turbines were doing that job as a 'by-product'!
Whether we like them or not, our demand for power means wind turbines are here to stay. They're safer than the nuclear option (which NZ would never tolerate) and cleaner than the depreciating fossil fuels and, if the biggest impact is a slightly warmer dawn, I'm sure Dawn would be happy.