Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Paintballs Save The Planet

An MIT graduate has devised a wacky plan to save the world from destruction by an inbound asteroid.
Sung Wook Paek of the Cambridge Massachsetts academy's Dept of Aeronautics and Astronautics won the 'Move An Asteroid' 2012 Competition sponsored by the UN Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC).
His plan skips the asteroid-killing nukes a la Armageddon and Deep Impact, and relies instead on a far more quirky method: paint.
He proposes maneuvering a spacecraft close to an incoming earth destroyer, then firing two monstrous volleys of paint pellets - the first to cover one half of the asteroid in a light-coloured paint powder, and the second to do the same to the other side after it rotates into view. With the asteroid thus brightened (or, more properly, having its albedo increased) the sun's solar radiation would more forcefully push upon it, knocking it off-course.
If you've stood in the sun wearing dark clothing, you'll know dark surfaces absorb the sun's rays, while they bounce off light surfaces. And from your deep grasp of Newton's Third Law of Motion, you'll also know that when something bounces off something, the first something gives the second something a push. The asteroid would be slowly but steadily nudged away, saving our beloved planet. The paint pellets themselves would also have a kinetic effect on the asteroid's course when hitting it, adding to the trajectory-altering effect. Bonus!
Paek calculated what would be required to deflect the asteroid Apophis, scheduled to close-call in 2029 and again in 2036. This
Who needs Bruce Willis
to save the world,
when we've got
Paula The Paintball
asteroid has 450m diameter and a 27 gigaton mass. Should Apophis hit us, the results wouldn't be pretty! According to Paek, a mere five tons of paint would be needed to coat Apophis with a five-micrometre layer of paint powder. It would then take up to 20 years for the force of solar radiation to push Apophis sufficiently off-course, saving mankind.
A quick look at the calendar shows we still have time to use this technique before the 2036 visit. As for the 2029 one? Worry not: that pass will merely be close enough to deflect Apophis sufficiently to give it a better shot at us in 2036 - although the odds of it actually doing so are quite poor.
As for the odds of Planet Earth using Paek's paint? Also quite poor!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bringing It Home

Activist environmental group Sea Shepherd will be bringing this year's anti-whaling campaign right to Japan's front door.
Their ships leave from Sydney and Melbourne, Oz in the next few days to meet the whaling fleet in its home waters for the first time. While SS founder Paul Watson's been quiet in the past few months after skipping bail in Germany, he's preparing his crew for another confrontation: "It's time to bring intervention north and show Japan we intend to ensure there are no whales killed. We've never been stronger, and the Japanese've never been weaker..."
This year's campaign, Operation Zero Tolerance, will be using four ships and a crew of 110. Deputy Leader Peter Hammarstedt says if they can reach the whalers soon after setting sail, they may achieve their goal of zero kills.
For a short while, it appeared as if the nasty Nippons would call off this year's butchery due to the necessary overhaul of Nisshin Maru, the fleet's flagship, that would cause them miss their departure date. However the Japanese Fisheries Agency quickly killed that thought when news reached the international community, spurred by the fear of 'losing face' over their farcical attempts to convince the world of the need for lethal scientific whale "research".
The only other time anti-whalers approached Japan's waters was when Greenpeace's ship Esperanza tried to catch Nisshin Maru in 2007: the Japan Coast Guard came to its rescue. That was one of the last times Greenpeace actually put its money where its mouth was, over Japanese whaling...
There may be a similar outcome this year for, while SS may have four ships, two choppers, eight RIBs and four drones, the Japan Coast Guard has 12,000 sailors and hundreds of ships, already on high alert due to repeated threats from Chinese vessels.
The Institute for Cetacean Research (the Japanese govt-funded organisation managing the whaling fleet) revealed this month that SS's actions cost whalers $25.2 million in losses in the 2010-11 season, because they had been able to catch only 17% of their quota, and 26% in 2011-12. Watson: "The key to success in stopping illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary is economics. We will negate their profits. Our objective is to sink the fleet economically and we are well on our way to doing that."
SS's expedition begins on November 5th, with the crews employing unmanned drones to locate the whaling fleet early in the Pacific. SS's ships the Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Bridgette Bardot will then try to disrupt the fleet as it heads south. The new addition to the team, Sam Simon, will be waiting "somewhere" in the Southern Ocean...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Wellington Gets Preciousssssss

A giant sculpture of Gollum, a prominent character in both the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, will greet visitors to Wellington as they arrive for the premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey next month.
Unveiled on Friday morning, the huge Gollum by Weta Workshop is suspended over Wellington Airport's food court. It's 13m long, 3m high, and depicts Gollum submerged in water with his arm stretched-out catching his favourite meal, "juicy sssweet fissshesss". It's made from huge blocks of polystyrene and coated in epoxy resin, weighing in at 1200kg.
The nine separate parts were brought in through the main terminal doors before being clamped together and painted on-site. It took three nights to construct the sculpture and attach it to the terminal's trusses with 10 suspension wires.
The premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be held on November 28, ahead of the nationwide release to screens on December 13. Wellington is spending $1.1 million on activities in the week of the premiere, billing itself as The Middle of Middle-earth.
PS: 31 Oct.2012 - The Hobbit will now be released in NZ earlier!
PS: 24 Nov.2012 - The Hobbit jet is revealed!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wanganui: Too Smart For Its Own Good?

Wanganui is a top contender to be named Intelligent Community of the Year for 2013.
The city is one of 21 towns and cities named as semifinalists in the worldwide 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year award, and is the first community in NZ to reach the semifinals since the awards started in the 1990s.
The selection underlines the city's work to embrace the challenges of broadband and developing strategies to use the new technologies for the benefit of the community.
Wanganui's Mayor, Annette Main says it's fantastic news for the city. She says Wanganui has gone up against much larger centres, many with universities and significant digital networks already in place, and this recognises the progress Wanganui has made in economic and social terms through adopting a pro-active approach to acquiring and using new technologies. The Intelligent Communities Forum says a place among the year's Smart21 is considered a "badge of honour".
Wanganui will be judged against towns and cities from US, Australia, Canada, Taiwan, Portugal, Brazil, Greece, Finland, Estonia, China and Albania. In January the forum will name seven finalists, with the announcement of the winner of the 2013 Intelligent Community in June.
A nice accolade, true...but the city's obviously not smart enough to permanently remove gangs, gang insignia, and NZ's worst convicted paedophile Stewart Wilson from its midst though, eh!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nazi Buddhist Space Statue. Yea. Right.

To paraphrase slightly: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably wasn't actually discovered by Nazis.
Last month, researchers announced they had identified a "priceless," 1000yr.old swastika-emblazoned statue of buddha carved from a meteorite, and discovered by a Nazi ethnologist before WWII!
Now, according to The Guardian, Buddhism specialist Achim Bayer claims the 24cm statue features over a dozen "pseudo-Tibetan" characteristics that cast serious doubts on whether the figure was really sculpted in the pre-Buddhist Bon culture of the 11th Century...such as the statue's shoes, trousers and hand positioning, and that the buddha has a full beard rather than the thin facial hair usually given to a deity in Tibetan and Mongolian art. Bayer says he believes the statue's a European fake made sometime between 1910-1970.
An earlier expert had claimed the statue's previous owner told him it had been brought to Europe by Ernst Schäfer, a Nazi ethnologist. In the late 1930s, Schäfer led an SS expedition to Tibet in search of ze Aryan race's origins. But historian Isrun Engelhardt (an expert on zat expedition) is unconvinced: "There is an extremely precise list of the purchased objects, including date, place and value, but this statue is not on it." Achtung! Ze list has over 2,000 pieces but ze meteorite statue is not a piece purchased privately by Schäfer.
Vell, ve VOULD haf found it,
if it wasn't for zat meddling
Doctor Indiana Jones!
In fact, there seems to be only one piece of the statue's story that IS true: that it was in fact hewn from a piece of the famed Chinga iron meteorite, strewn across the border region between Russia and Mongolia 10-20,000 years ago.
Ach, at least it's still a statue from space, ja? Just don't mention ze vor!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Free Ride for Child Abusers

When did childhood become such a gamble?
Gambling on their LIVES...
A woman who left her five children locked in a van in an Auckland casino's basement car park, while she and her partner went gambling upstairs, has got off scot-free!
The 28yr.old woman and her 30yr.old partner appeared in the Auckland District Court on Tuesday: she was discharged, while her partner was convicted and discharged, and ordered to pay court costs of $132. Yeup, that's all!!
They pleaded guilty to leaving a child under the age of 14 without adequate supervision. They cannot be named in order to protect the identities of their children. Oh puh-leez! Those kids, aged ranged from 5mths to 9yrs, were found alone in the casino's car park around 11am on February 26: they'd been locked in the van for about 45 minutes. A passerby spotted them crying and alerted SkyCity, who found the parents gambling upstairs in the casino. Authorities were notified immediately and the kids were taken into care. The family already had a history with Child Youth and Family (CYF).
But by the time the couple entered guilty pleas in August, both had enrolled themselves in programmes. The father was undertaking a 'stopping violence' programme, and had taken part in problem gambling counselling sessions. So bloody what...?
Because they'd been caught gambling while their kids were LOCKED in a vehicle below them, and they pleaded guilty and dashed off to do a course or two... does that make them good enough to dodge a harsher penalty? No bloody way!
This is a straight-out case of child abuse, wilful neglect, possibly even unlawful detention, certainly pathetic parenting. For that, they faced the full might of our justice system...but one walked free while the other only paid $132! Remember that these two already had a track record with CYF, so it's not as if they made a first-time stupid oversight. Further, they got name suppression under the do-goody guise of "protecting the kids"! They'd be better protected by being removed from such irresponsible prats.
Tell me where the justice is in this case - coz it sure wasn't in the courtroom on Tuesday. I'd LUV to hear the judge's reasoning behind his decision. Un-bloody-believable!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On Ya Bike, Mike

Ain't TV-land a wonderfully fickle place...?
We viewers are subjected to dickshits like Paul Henry for prolonged painful periods, while quality journos like Cameron Bennett are 'let go'. And how long has painful Mark Sainsbury been foisted upon us?
Now we hear the long-serving and damn good Mike McRoberts is getting the heave-ho from TV3! Mike's been the face of TV3 news and current affairs for a decade. But NBR tells us he will not front a new 1hr.current affairs programme that'll replace 60 Minutes - that job's gone to Duncan Garner.
McRoberts has been relegated to newsreading duties and perhaps the odd bit of reporting here and there. For someone who's been the poster boy of TV3 news and current affairs, it will be a major blow to his self-esteem. Over the years he has popped up in hotspots all over the world, branding him as a seasoned journalist.
Duncan Garner on the other hand, while covering the political spectrum, has not come across as a hard-hitter or overly competent. It would be fair to say he has rather big shoes to fill...
Mike may be wondering whether he has any real future with TV3. His wife, who's a TV3 60 Minutes producer and reporter, will remain on the replacement show, but is far from happy at the treatment meted out to hubby. TV3 shouldn't be surprised if two resignations hit the management desk before too long...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Earthquake Caused By Water Extraction?

A killer earthquake in Spain may have been triggered by decades of pumping water out of a nearby natural underground reservoir.
A study in the journal Nature Geoscience (focussing on the May 2011 EQ in the southern Spanish agricultural centre of Lorca) suggests human activities played a role in moving the Earth's crust.
University of Western Ontario scientists reckon the quake was related to a drop in the level of groundwater in a local aquifer, which created pressure at the Earth's surface. They used satellite data to see how the terrain was deformed by the EQ, and found it correlated to changes in the Earth's crust caused by a 250m drop in the natural groundwater level over the last five decades, due to groundwater extraction. The groundwater was tapped by deeper and deeper wells, for irrigation and livestock.
Their findings suggest that human-induced stress on faults, like the one near Lorca, can not only cause an earthquake but also influence how far the fault will slip as a result. While this research doesn't automatically relate to other EQs, it may offer clues about quakes that occur near water in the future. The implications of this research could be far-reaching if ever the effect of human-induced stress on seismic activity is fully understood.
In the meantime, it's worth considering how many Canterbury farms (a traditional wheat-growing region) have converted to dairying, a water-intensive land use...
Canterbury holds 20% of New Zealand's farmland. Statistics NZ says, in 2008, half of NZ’s grain seed and fodder crop land was in Canterbury. Yet between 1994-2009, Canterbury's percentage of the national herd increased from 5% to 15%.
In light of this Spanish study, the possibility that Canterbury's increased water usage may have had a part to play in the two big EQs of 2010 and 2011 should not be dismissed.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beheaded For Refusing Prostitution

To say 'the Middle East is a different world' is a huge and monstrous understatement!
And I use "monstrous" with grave deliberation - events happen in that area that the Western World simply cannot fathom...or stomach.
Afghan police have arrested four people who tried to force a woman into prostitution in Afghanistan... and when she refused, beheaded her!
Mah Gul was murdered after her mother-in-law tried to make her sleep with a man staying in her house. The mother-in-law, father-in-law, her husband and the man who killed her have been arrested.
Gul married her husband four months ago and her mother-in-law had tried to force her into prostitution several times in the past. The suspect says the mother-in-law lured him into killing Gul by telling him she was a prostitute.
This murder comes against a backdrop of world outcry over the shooting by Taliban Islamists (read: gutless wankers!) of 14yr.old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai, who had become a voice against the suppression of women's rights, and who is slowly on the road to recovery.
While Malala's case has made world headlines, it must also be remembered that oppression and violence against women are commonplace in Afghanistan. Many cases go unreported. Last year, in a case that made international headlines, police rescued a teenage girl who'd been beaten and locked up in a toilet for five months, after she defied her in-laws who tried to force her into prostitution. 
So much for following the Qur'an's rules for respecting women...!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bagust: Breakfast Bye-Bye

TV One Breakfast co-host Petra Bagust is leaving the show at the end of this year.
Yiiipppeee!!! It's the best TV news I've heard since the demise of Paul Henry!
Bagust joined Breakfast in early 2011, and was never a good fit for the role. Her pushy personality meant she often talked over her guests and co-presenters, generally with little content of much value.
"I always said I would give up this job the day I go to bed before the children, and that day is rapidly approaching."
During the show yesterday (in a live announcement seemingly aimed at heading off other media), she said she "loved the challenge of Breakfast...and it was a privilege going live to the country three hours a morning". She also commented that Breakfast meant "keeping Kiwis informed... during two incredible years full of tragedy and triumphs", particularly during the Christchurch earthquake, Royal Wedding, the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics. "Breakfast is bloody hard work, and it takes a lot of effort from an incredibly committed group of people to make it happen. I want to say thanks for having me on the team."
Petra has been a regular on NZ screens since 1996, presenting a range of TV from live news to talent searches. She hosted TV3's What's Really In Our Food? before crossing to TV One. TVNZ once again finds itself in the all-too-familiar position of needing to find a new co-host, and/or possibly reinventing the early morning show. No-one is lined up at this point to join co-host Rawdon Christie.
Bagust's last day on Breakfast will be December 21st.: an early Christmas present, with much rejoicing.
I guess the Facebook page I Cringe Every Time Petra Bagust Talks will shut down then too..?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maori Language: Sink Or Swim Time?

The future of the maori language is at stake.
Well, that's according to the treaty gravytrain...opps, sorry...the Waitangi Tribunal, which has *yawn* once again lambasted the govt's treatment of maori early education centres (kohanga reo). It reckons the Crown has breached Te Tiriti by failing to adequately fund and support the total immersion movement, and the language is down the gurgler if more support isn't offered!
When we grow up, we'll score
ANOTHER billion from whitey!
Wharehuia Milroy, Kohanga Reo National Trust: "For all sorts of reasons...the govt has not been able to support kohanga reo in the way it was set out in the initial stages." (Hmmm, is that a hint of a conspiracy theory?) "We're talking about the demise of the language and if we don't provide an opportunity to vest our young ones with that language, I can see a time where we don't speak the language at all."
Te Tribunal held the urgent inquiry after publication of the report of the Early Childhood Education Taskforce, which - the claimants bleated - had not been consulted with them and had seriously damaged their reputation (oh really?! Methinx the average koiwoi barely knows it exists, let alone gives a damn about its reputation!). It recommended the govt apologise for Te Tiriti breaches it's supposedly made. (And naturally, said apology would have a compulsory multi-million dollar handshake attached, right?)
Yea. Right.
Education munster Hekia Parata: "Over a billion dollars have been directed toward funding kohanga reo over the past 20yrs. There is work under way in promoting greater participation in the early years of learning, and the govt is considering how best to support it."
And surely that must be the line in the sand: ONE BILLION dollars to prop up a language that's dying because the majority of its own people don't use it, and seem not to want it. Maori leaders have almost without exception said it's up to maori to use it or lose it. The country, still on its knees post-recession and post-EQs, cannot afford to burn such sums for no significant return, no buy-in from the very people this racially-skewed support is aimed at. When will someone have the balls to say "enough is enough"?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bay Of Whales' Casualties Buried

A pod of long-finned pilot whales that stranded on a remote East Cape beach early last Sunday, has now been buried.
The 51 whales came ashore in 2m swells at Whangaparaoa Beach, near Cape Runaway. Department of Conservation (DOC) Gisborne Whakatane marine ranger Jamie Quirk says 44 of the whales died relatively quickly from natural causes, while the other seven were injured during the stranding and were euthanised.
The death of so many animals is always heart-rending, and the whales have since been buried in a large grave in the back dunes of the beach.
Quirk: "The local community have been outstanding in assisting us to bury the whales. Without their involvement, the whole work would have been a lot more difficult."
Sea conditions at the time of the stranding meant it would have been hazardous and impossible to try to get any of the whales back out to sea.
Whales have stranded before in this particular bay: there was a large stranding in the mid to late 1980s, and smaller events since then. An orca stranded there only a few months ago.
Quirk describes the gently sloping sandy beach as shaped a bit of a fish hook, and those conditions often serve as a perfect trap for marine mammals. The stranding was significant to the area because Whangaparaoa means "bay of whales" in maori.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Veterans' Support Way Too Little Way Too Late

Former servicemen and women under the retirement age but unable to work are to receive a new benefit as part of a new veterans support package worth $12m a year.
Included therein:
+ a new Veterans' Weekly Income Compensation, for veterans below the retirement age but unable to work, which will be paid at 80% of the average wage.
+ those who accessed that benefit for more than 10 years until retirement would then receive a lump sum of $25,000 "in recognition of their circumstances resulting from service".
+ two separate schemes under the revamped War Pensions Act. All current veterans would be covered by Scheme One, which maintains current services and provision. Scheme Two would apply from 2015 for future veterans or those who hadn't claimed yet.
Prime Minister John Key: "Operating two schemes will allow us to provide for modern rehabilitation practices for future veterans without impaction on current veterans." ( "Impaction"??? Where DID this man go to school?!! He obviously does not know that impaction is a pathological condition when an impassable mass of stone-like faecal matter collects in the rectum.) "These are very brave New Zealanders, they've put their lives on the line in defence of our country. Given the commitments we made, we've done everything we can within the financial constraints we faced to try and honour their commitment."
What a load of "impaction"! Do the maths, work out how little extra this will give our service veterans, then look at what they need in their last years and what we as a nation owe them. THEN let's talk about "impaction"!
As I've written several times before, the support NZ gives its veterans is shameful and pathetic. Any government which regards these efforts as truly "honouring their commitment" does not deserve to be comfortably sitting (shitting?) in Parliament...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Iran Lifts Its Game

Iran seems determined to up the ante.
It has developed a new class of drones, able to conduct both reconnaissance and bombardment missions.
You'll recall that last week Israeli Air Force jets shot down an unidentified drone in Israeli airspace. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the drone, saying it had been made by Israel's arch-enemy Iran. The Iranian Defence Minister praised Hezbollah's efforts against Israel, saying it proved Iran's military capabilities.
The new Iranian drone is capable of undertaking both reconnaissance and attack missions. Called Hazem, it's produced in three versions (short-, mid- and long-range), and can be equipped with missiles and used for aerial bombardments.
Iran's new capabilities come after it managed to obtain technical information from a US RQ-170 stealth drone captured last year. And in 2010, Iran unveiled a prototype long-range unmanned bomber, saying at the time it should seek the ability to make pre-emptive strikes against a perceived threat, although it would never strike first (hmmm, is that not EXACTLY what pre-emptive means?).
So Iran is openly supplying an aggressive Israeli neighbour with drones, capable of delivering missiles deep into Israeli territory. Not only does this escalate the tension between Israel and Hezbollah, but it effectively means Iran is attempting those same pre-emptive strikes under the guise of Palestinian actions.
But if Iran thinks Israel hasn't figured this out long ago, if it thinks Israel will just sit back and happily TAKE these attacks…it must be more stupid than its rabid president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad constantly appears.

Monday, October 15, 2012

NZ Screws Another War Vet

An injured NZ Army veteran has been refused a veteran's pension because he now lives in the Cook Islands.
70yr.old William Framhein served two years in Malaya and Borneo and did four six-month tours of duty in Vietnam. His leg was injured during training in Malaya and "keeps bubbling up like a balloon" whenever he wears shoes. So in 2004 he and his wife returned to the Cook Islands where he can go barefooted. But our govt refused him a veteran's pension when he turned 65 in 2007.
Auckland councillor Mike Lee, who has known the family for 40yrs, has appealed all the way up to the Prime Munster and the Gov-General, but has been rejected at every step.
Successive Cooks governments have lobbied NZ for more than a decade to get veteran's pensions and NZ superannuation payable to Cook Islanders who have worked most of their lives in NZ. They too just get rejected. (Although the Cook Islands are self-governing in domestic affairs, they are part of the Realm of New Zealand and the 14,000 residents are NZ citizens).
At most, a few hundred Cooks people would qualify for NZ super if the rules were changed, and William Framhein believes he is the sole NZ war veteran living in the islands. He was refused the veteran's pension because he did not meet two requirements - living in NZ at the time of applying, and living in NZ for at least 5yrs since the age of 50.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says the law did not give her discretion to exempt anyone from the legal requirements for veteran's pensions. Paula: FIND A WAY!!!
RSA (Returned and Services Association) prez Lieutenant-General Don McIver says if the only way to give Mr Framhein a pension is to change the law, then the law should be changed: "This guy served in Vietnam and went back again three times. In my view it warrants special consideration."
He served for us. He suffered for us.
This country has a moral obligation to see Bill Framhein right.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Get The Message

Do you think Jetstar might get the message, if enough passengers wore this T-shirt?
And yes, I'm taking bulk orders! Your choice of colour...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

When Is A Woman REALLY Pregnant?

"The only time it's appropriate to assume a woman is pregnant is when there's a head dangling out between her legs."
Such insightful Facebook comments followed a 'mortifying', 'outrageous', 'shocking' and 'unprofessional' Jetstar incident this week: a Jetstar flight attendant demanded (TVNZ's choice of word: perhaps he requested...?) a 'pregnancy' medical certificate from passenger Kelsey Hughes... despite her not expecting a baby. Well, the media had a field day!
TV3 News: shocking; TVNZ News: outrageous;
Southland Times: pregnancy query mortifies;
Canberra Times: unprofessional
In the face of this public outcry, Jetstar apologised and gave Kelsey a $100 voucher for future flights...but she says all she wants is an apology from the flight attendant concerned. However if the tsunami of indignation could subside for a brief mo, we may be able to look at
Kelsey: really NOT...
this calmly...
The attendant was doing his job. Seems more tact and discretion was needed in his approach (with an immediate apology following the mistake)... but he WAS following his employer's rules.
[Jetstar policy states passengers more than 28wks pregnant are required to carry a letter from a doctor or midwife declaring them fit to fly, and crew are expected to request a medical certificate if they have reason to believe a passenger is pregnant.]
Stunning fact: your average guy is not the greatest judge of a woman's 'condition' - perhaps when working around skinny flight attendants all day, one's judgement is impaired to the point where a 'standard koiwoi shoila' may seem preggers.
You may also not know that back in 2008, a baby was stillborn at 34wks on a Brisbane-Auckland Air NZ flight. To witness THAT in-flight may well have been 'shocking', 'mortifying' etc! So most airlines advise 36wks as the safe cut-off point for boarding a plane pregnant.
Sarah: REALLY...
In Aug.2012, at 35wks, Sarah Clear was escorted off a Jetstar plane: she'd flown into Auckland, unknowingly breaching Jetstar's pregnancy policy - but no staff member raised any concerns. When she boarded for her return flight, crew removed her. On that occasion, in the initial instance someone had NOT done their job properly, thus making Sarah's removal seem bad.
The root cause seems to be a lack of communication. Surely back at the ticketing stage, the pregnancy question could be asked by the booking agent, or added as a compulsory-answer box for on-line bookings. This would avoid embarrassment for all.
A pregnant flier should expect to be asked for her certificate.
She should also expect the question to be asked with tact.
But the airline system should flash a 'request certificate' warning to the crew as well, rather than simply rely on a mere male's eyeball.
And as for that fluppunt und rully untullugunt Facebook comment?
To the oh-so-worldly-wise writer, I say:
Duuuh!! That's not being pregnant, ya prat - that's actual childbirth!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Popularity By Proxy

*sigh* It's tough being popular!
Opened up my emails yesterday, and look what was sitting in my Spam bin...
Tania...Svetlana...Daniella...Juliana...AND Sofiya!
ALL of them very cute sexy girls who like to chat on-line and show their bodies!!!
Checked my spam again less than an hour later, and...
Now there's Olga...Nastia...AND Claudia too! ALSO all very cute sexy girls who like to chat on-line and show their bodies!!! And of course all genuine, caring women wanting to have a deep meaningful true and lasting relationship.
What can I say? *sigh* It's tough being popular!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

She Who Scares The Taliban

Malala Yousafzai took on the Taliban.
Brave Malala, scourge of the Taliban
As turbaned fighters swept through her town in NW Pakistan in 2009, the 11yr.old schoolgirl spoke about her passion for education - she wanted to become a doctor - and became a symbol of defiance against Taliban tyranny.
This week, big tough masked gunmen answered her courage with bullets. They singled out the now-14yr.old on a school bus, shooting her in the head and neck - two other girls were also wounded. All three survived, but doctors say Malala is in critical condition, with a bullet possibly lodged close to her brain.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed she had been the target (So tough! Such a hero!), calling her crusade for education rights an obscenity, adding that if she survived, they would certainly try to kill her again: "Let this be a lesson."
It most certainly IS. That a schoolgirl could be a threat to the Taliban, that they could see her death as desirable and justifiable, is a lesson about both these animals' brutality and her courage.
Malala's father ran one of the last schools in their district to defy Taliban orders to end female education. As an 11yr.old, Malala wrote an anonymous blog documenting her experiences for the BBC. Later, she was the focus of documentaries by New York Times and other media. The school was eventually forced to close but months later, in the summer of 2009, the Pakistani Army ousted the Taliban from the area. They fled into neighbouring districts or Afghanistan, and an uneasy peace settled over the Swat valley.
Malala Yousafzai became a powerful voice for children's rights. In 2011, she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize. Later the prime minister awarded her Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize.
Mature beyond her years, she recently changed her career aspiration to politics. She led a Unicef children's rights delegation, that made presentations to provincial politicians in Peshawar.
That such a figure of wide-eyed optimism and courage could be targeted by Taliban indicates the pathetically desperate levels they now stoop to, in order to impose violence.
As one social media commentator in Pakistan acerbically wrote: "Come on, brothers, be REAL MEN. Kill a schoolgirl."
A 14yr.old girl has bigger balls than all of those gutless pricks!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Huawei: The Enemy Within?

The NZ Govt knows best.
It's flicking off renewed concerns about Chinese telco Huawei (which is happily operating here, while being accused of espionage in USA).
New security worries have surfaced, following a US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee report which advises telecommunications operators not to do business with Huawei, because of potential Chinese state influence on the companies. The committee cited long-term security risks linked with the companies' equipment and services.
Acting NZ Communications Minister Steven Joyce says the US has long been concerned about Huawei, but our security agencies have already screened it: "Different countries take a different view on the risks to their security at different times. That's an example of where our sovereignty is very different to the US."
US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers says companies using Huawei equipment had reported "numerous allegations" of unexpected behaviour, including routers supposedly sending large data packs to China late at night.
Opposition parties and technology experts says our govt should follow the lead of the UK, US, and Oz and stop Huawei operating here. Labour's even calling for a full inquiry.
But no, the NZ Govt knows best.
It knows far more than the global heavyweights. It's certain, now that we've given Huawei hundreds of millions to roll out our broadband, that they will be our friends. And friends would not ever spy on us. Surely...?
Huawei has an office in Auckland, and over the past two years supplied equipment for the ultra-fast broadband roll out.
Strategic Analyst Paul Buchanan reckons our govt has ignored international security concerns regarding Huawei: "This points again to a cavalier attitude of the government to issues of intelligence and security." Cavalier? Try, naivety. Ignorance. Blind stupidity. Irresponsibility. But hey, the NZ Govt knows best.
[See also my posting from April 2012...]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hobbit Premiere Next Month

Once again, the pitter-patter of little hobbit feet will grace the red carpet in Wellington.
But organisers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premiere are keeping tight-lipped as to which celebrities will be at next month's launch. Wellington's Embassy Theatre, which held the Lord of the Rings premiere, will host Sir Peter Jackson's latest film on Wed.Nov.28.
Sir Peter confirmed he would be joined by members of the film's cast, as well as Hollywood stars and executives, but event organisers are keeping tight-lipped at this stage as to whether Orlando Bloom, Sir Ian McKellen or Martin Freeman will be there: all will be revealed in due course.
Sir Peter says he's thrilled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will have its world premiere in the "Middle of Middle-Earth": "Nowhere else in the world does a premiere quite like Wellington...it's special showing any film to an audience for the first time, but even more so when it's in your home town."
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the choice to call itself "the Middle of Middle-Earth" for Premiere Week reflects Wellington's position at the heart of NZ's film industry. The City Council will contribute $1.1 million to the week's activities, ensuring the capitol looks its best under the international spotlight.
The film is the first of The Hobbit trilogy and is based on Tolkien's famous novel, in which dwarves call on Hobbit Bilbo Baggins to help them reclaim the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the dragon Smaug. It's due for world-wide release on Dec.14, with the second film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, releasing on Dec.13, 2013. The final instalment The Hobbit: There and Back Again is due out July 18, 2014.
PS: 24 Nov.2012 - The Hobbit jet is revealed!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Great Shrinking Barrier Reef

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has seen a shocking reduction in the past 27 years.
The Reef is the most outstanding coral reef system in the world because of its great length, number of individual reefs and species diversity. But a new study released last week shows it's now half the size it was in 1985!
This depressing analysis (of more than 2,000 surveys from 214 reefs) shows a drop of 50.7%. Scientists were able to break down the causes into three: storm damage (48%), coral bleaching (10%), and 42% to the crown-of-thorns starfish.
Paradise lost?
John Gunn, Australian Institute of Marine Science CEO: "We can't stop the storms, and ocean warming (the primary cause of coral bleaching) is one of the critical impacts of the global climate change. However, we can act to reduce the impact of crown-of-thorns."
Villain of the piece...

The crown-of-thorns starfish is widely spread throughout the Pacific, and feeds specifically on coral polyps. It receives its name from venomous thorn-like spines covering its upper surface. Its numbers have dramatically increased in the last few decades, causing significant damage.
Several control measures are being used. Injecting sodium bisulphate into the starfish is the most efficient. This is deadly to crown-of-thorns, but does not harm the surrounding reef and oceanic ecosystems. However, to control high infestation areas, divers need kill rates of up to 120 per hour each. Another practice, of cutting them in half, yielded only a kill rate of 12 per hour per diver and the diver performing this test was spiked three times. Both methods are labour-intensive, as is the third option of simply burying the starfish under rocks. This can only be done where there's suitable material and without damaging the fragile coral.
Right now, the coral cover is declining at 3.38% per year. If all three causes (storms, bleaching, and starfish) were prevented, it would be growing at 2.85%. But if just the starfish could be contained, the coral cover would increase at 0.89% per year.
It's not a lot, and it's not fast, but it would be enough to offset the other damages.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NZ In A Month

Just a month to run the length of NZ!
No mean feat for anyone...let alone a 19-year-old. This week Victoria Taylor from the Hutt Valley completed the 2200km Cape Reinga-Bluff trip in only 34 days.
She even ran on a treadmill while crossing Cook Strait aboard the Interisland ferry. And as icing on the cake, she ran across Stewart Island too.
Victoria's efforts raised more than $9,500 for child cancer, and beat the previous record by nine days. She also wore out $750 worth of shoes in the first week, had her support driver quit after the first day...and unexpectedly, put on 6kg in the process!
Her next goal is the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Selectors, keep an eye on this girl: she's got guts!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Treaty: Con Or Cream

Prepare for the fur to fly!
TV3 News reports controversial ad-man John Ansell will this Monday launch a new "racial equality" campaign, aimed at exposing what he calls The Treatygate Con.
Ansell created the 2005 Iwi/Kiwi billboards and ACT's 2011 "Fed up with pandering to maori radicals?" ad. He quit as ACT Party marketing director in July 2011, after criticising "white cowards" for not standing up to maori radicals.
He plans to officially launch the $2m Colourblind New Zealand campaign "to expose and expunge the corrupt Treaty industry" and end racial favouritism.
He says he shares Martin Luther King's dream of a country where people are judged on their character, not their skin: "A Colourblind State is a New Zealand where every citizen has equal rights, lives under the one law, votes on the one electoral roll, and whose taxes are spent by the state according to need, not race."
Ansell believes NZers have been lied to about the infamous Treaty's origins: "For 40 years the state, a large number of its teachers and professors, and any number of Treaty Grievers, have been telling us that our British pioneer forebears were a bunch of land-grabbing, money-grubbing crooks, bent on ripping off the poor innocent, gullible maori." He believes the govt's constitutional review (part of its support deal with the Maori Party) will see a written constitution created "with the false version of the Treaty at its core" to make non-maori NZers second-class citizens.
He wants input from likeminded kiwis about what the campaign's next steps should be: suggestons include a referendum to scrap the Treaty.
There are many in NZ who feel the same as John. There's also a large number who'll object: liberal do-gooders, those who feel under attack culturally, or simply because they're fat on the Treaty back.
Expect a shit-slinging fight over this one! Roll out the Harawiras! 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cranmer Courts: Another CERA Casualty?

For a few short weeks, it seemed the iconic EQ-damaged Cranmer Courts in Christchurch were to be saved.
An amazing 11th.hour rescue package came from an Oz-based international disaster insurance recovery firm: sadly, it was too good to be true. Risk Worldwide, after due diligence, decided it was 'a bridge too far'. So yesterday, the demolition of another irreplacable piece of Christchurch architecture, began. Rebecca Macfie wrote this in The Listener:
There was "....a sense of tired disbelief that no-one had been able to mount a successful defence for a building that has dominated its corner of the city and shaped the urban landscape for more than 13 decades – a building listed as Cat.1 on the Historic Places register, equal in importance to Parliament Buildings and the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
Serious effort was made to save Cranmer Courts, but the odds were stacked against it. Yes, 10,000 earthquakes had left the building with extensive damage. But the owners had carefully and diligently boarded it up to protect it from the weather, and fenced it off...so that it posed no danger to passing cars and cyclists. Nevertheless, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority several months ago slapped on a Section 38 notice – make it safe, or demolish it – and the owners didn’t have the means to come up with a plan that would satisfy CERA. Section 38 notices suspend all the normal protections for listed heritage buildings – demolition can proceed without the requirement for resource consents or public consultation.
(When) an Australian buyer...wanted to save the historical façade and redevelop the site...CERA agreed to put a hold on the demolition while the owners negotiated a deal. Mind you, it also charged them thousands of dollars a day for the cost of suspending the demolition contract.
But in the end the...key stumbling block was CERA’s Section 38 order, which hang like a sword of Damocles over any potential deal. The risk for the buyer was that he could buy the property, spend large sums coming up with a make-safe plan, and still not satisfy the all-powerful CERA.
CERA...is not entirely to blame – but nor did it help. Its powers are sweeping and, from the moment the Section 38 was issued, any opportunity for heritage advocates to be heard was lost. And, despite having duly drafted up a heritage recovery programme for the city, as an organisation it is – at best – agnostic about the city’s historic fabric.
According to heritage advocate Lorraine North, over 50% of Chch’s listed heritage buildings in the central city have already been demolished; in many cases the demolition has been facilitated by CERA's Section 38 notices. And it will keep on happening."
Food for thought...or has Gerry Brownlee already eaten all the pies?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jetstar Blinded By The Light

Jetstar has a reputation for pissing passengers off.
Its first months of operations into NZ were marred by myriad mistakes. Complaints were commonplace. For a while, the no-frills Aussie airline was in danger of sinking under the weight of its own incompetence. It became a laughing stock of our skies and - when the only connection you could get was a Jetstar one - you learnt to not rely on it...
That said, Jetstar worked hard to iron out its rough spots and seemed to have largely got its act together. However, last Sunday it was SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up) time!
Four Jetstar flights between Wellington and Auckland were delayed...because the airline forgot about daylight saving! The Sunday 8.15am flight out of the capital was an hour late while crew waited for its plane to arrive from Oz. Like every year since 1974 (!!!), NZ clocks went forward an hour on Sunday morning, but that wasn't factored into Jetstar's schedules. As a knock-on effect, three later flights on the route were delayed.
Passengers only found out when they got on the plane and were told the flight was delayed because of daylight saving - as if daylight saving was the problem. No, the problem was Jetstar's legendary incompetence! Though its scheduling is by computer, it would have taken the briefest of glimpses by a human to have spotted the error.
Jetstar Australia issued this written statement: "The flight departed Cairns on time and was flying over the Tasman Sea when NZ's time-zone switched to daylight saving which meant the aircraft was late arriving into Auckland. Once Australia changes to daylight saving this week, any anomalies for trans-Tasman services will be eliminated." Riiiiiigghhtt!! How could they have dropped the ball so badly?
Is it because Daylight Saving was a NZ invention?
Is it because they're Australian?
Or is it simply because they're Jetstar...!