Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rare Sight At Christchurch Airport

Auckland's loss was Christchurch's gain yesterday.
A380: first-time caller
The break-down of a Qantas 737-800 aircraft had blocked part of the Auckland International Airport runway. The plane was taxiing after arriving from Sydney, when it experienced a problem with its brakes. Because of the jet's position on the taxiway, part of the runaway was closed for safety reasons... which meant some flight diversions.
Six flights were diverted - one to Ohakea air base (Cathay Pacific), two to Wellington (Virgin and Fijian Airlines) and three Emirates flights to Christchurch, the only other airport in NZ with a runway long enough for Emirates A380 planes.
Ground Control to Major Tom...
Two A380s and a 777 touched down in Christchurch for quick refuelling. The A380 had not been seen before at Christchurch, so many airport staff were snatching furtive views and photos from airbridges, as the jets arrived in quick succession.
Add those newcomers to the spectacle of NASA's SOFIA airborne astronomy 747SP parked near the Antarctic hanger, and it became a very rare sight to warm the heart of any local planespotter.
The Emirates flights returned to Auckland soon after.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pen Mighter Than Sword?

Is our military might scared of...journalists???
Opposition defence spokesman Phil Goff has demanded Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman condemn the defence force's definition of investigative journalists as "subversives".
A leaked NZ Defence Force security manual cites three main "subversion" threats it needs to protect itself against: foreign intelligence services, organisations with extreme ideologies and (brace yourself!) "certain investigative journalists"... highlighting people who acquire classified information to "bring the Government into disrepute".
Recently, investigative journo Nicky Hager reported our military asked US spy agencies to monitor the phone calls of Kiwi journalist Jon Stephenson, while he was in Afghanistan reporting on the war. Phil Goff says he also expects the govt to apologise for this.
Minister Coleman says the "subversives" policy had been in place since 2003 - when Labour was in power - and was intended to protect soldiers on operations. Goff (defence minister from 2005-2008) claims he was unaware of this, and also says he'd never known an instance where a NZ journalist knowingly put at risk the safety or wellbeing of NZ soldiers. Well, he must've forgotten the NZ Herald publishing in 2010 a clear non-pixelated photograph of our Victoria Cross recipient, SAS Corporal Willie Apiata on patrol in Kabul. This action spurred the NZ Defence Force to withdraw him from active service, which in turn made him decide to leave the full-time military.
Having served myself, I fully understand the need for national security, and especially operational silence. Bringing back a 'D-Notice' would provide more control over sensitive information. Otherwise, why not work together with media on general and transparent issues? That is far preferable to labelling them "subversives" and stirring up a hornets' nest!

Monday, July 29, 2013

J.J.Cale: He Don't Lie, Cocaine (No More)...

Influential musician/songwriter J.J.Cale (John Weldon Cale) died last Friday of a heart attack at 74.
Cale was best known for writing Cocaine and After Midnight, songs made famous by his collaborator Eric Clapton.
Cale often played all the parts on his albums, also recording and mixing them himself. He is credited as one of the architects of the 1970s 'Tulsa Sound', a blend of rockabilly, blues, country and rock that influenced - among others - Neil Young and Bryan Ferry.
He won a Grammy Award in 2008 for The Road to Escondido, which he recorded with singer/songwriter Eric Clapton.
Cale recorded After Midnight in the mid-60s, but had given up on the business part of the record business by the time Clapton covered it in 1970. He heard it on the radio that year, and thought "Oh boy, I'm a songwriter now!"
Cale continued to tour and release new music until 2009, but he declined to put his image on any of his covers. He developed a reputation as a private figure and a muso's muso. His songs were covered by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Cash, The Band, Deep Purple and Tom Petty. Singer-songwriter Neil Young once described Cale as the best electric guitar player he'd ever seen other than the late Jimi Hendrix.
While he never attained Clapton's level of stardom, Cale had a wide-ranging influence, particularly his style of playing the guitar and the songs he wrote for music legends.
Cale once said: "I'd like to have the fortune, but I don't care too much about the fame."
[with thanx to NY Times]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Time To Let It Go

They tried: they 'died'.
But the campaigners battling to save the quake-crippled Christ Church Cathedral have vowed to go down fighting, despite a court ruling its demolition can legally proceed.
Bulldozers won't be allowed to roll over the 132yr.old building until outstanding legalities are sorted out, but the Anglican Diocese received a major boost on Friday when the the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision allowing deconstruction to finally continue.
The Gothic-style cathedral's custodians - the Church Property Trustees - earlier this year released three options for a future cathedral, including restoration, a timber replacement, or a contemporary design...which the Church prefers.
The Church's plan to deconstruct the damaged building to a safe level of 2-3m above the ground, prompted public protests and the Great Christchurch Buildings Trust (GCBT) went to the High Court to reverse the move. The court ruled the Church was entitled to deconstruct the mauled cathedral, but only if a new one was built on the same CBD site. This was challenged in the Court of Appeal, which this week unanimously upheld the High Court's findings.
It means the Church is now allowed to continue deconstructing the building, but not until the High Court settles a number of outstanding issues, including whether the Church will repay an insurance payout used to build its temporary 'cardboard cathedral'.
The GCBT is "very disappointed" with the decision, but has not given up hope: it'll be meeting with legal advisers this week to consider options.
But go into the CBD soon and look at the Cathedral up close. It's dead. It can not be fixed without uber-financial input, the like of which can not be justified. It's time to let it go.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

NZ Earthquake Hits Australia???!!!

Ya gotta hand it to the Americans: when they do it, they do it BIG!
That includes their stuff-ups!
A US on-line news site has been slammed for reporting that this week's big EQ near Wellington actually occurred in the Australian state of Victoria, and was felt as far away as Napier in Western Australia!!
The 2013 Great Australian Earthquake...riiiight!
The dickhead who wrote the article is Tom Ukinski, science reporter at the Las Vegas-based Guardian Express. He said Seddon (NZ), near the epicentre of the 6.5 EQ, was in fact a suburb 7km west of Melbourne: "It is located in the state of Victoria on the SE tip of Australia. The shock effects of the quake have been felt as far away as Napier, in Western Australia, 3302km from Melbourne," he wrote. And thus, with that initial geographical cock-up, everything else followed suit: "This suggests that the path of the quake is along the southern part of Australia." The article continued: "The death toll for earthquakes with a magnitude of 6.0 to 6.9 can reach 25,000 people. A large number of buildings in populated areas can be destroyed. The damage can be experienced far from the epicenter (sic)."
You'd think, when faced with the enormity of the error, GE would've withdrawn the article asap...but no. GE elected not to take it off the website, despite hundreds of comments from readers: "To preserve our journalistic integrity, we have decided not to change one word of Tom Ukinski's article, however, our team of reporters are (sic) working as fast as possible to provide you with the most accurate news and information covering the recent New Zealand earthquake. We expect to provide you with an update shortly, right here on this page."
The headline to the updated story read: "Severe Earthquake Strikes Australia / Correction - New Zealand".
Readers had a field-day with their comments:
• "We're taking up a collection to buy Tom an Atlas for his birthday".
• "And I thought the Muppet Show had finished? Apparently one of its previous stars is now a journalist working for the Guardian."
• "Leave poor Tom alone - everyone knows that Australia is really NZ's West Island."
Hmmm...not much more to add really.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's A Wrap!

Scene from The Hobbit movie. (Source: Breakfast)
Today marks the final day of production on the set of The Hobbit in Wellington.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, followed by The Hobbit series, has meant 14 years of movie-making in the capital city.
Post-production work will continue on the movies and the second installment of the trilogy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens in December.
The final installment There and Back Again will be released a year later.
Tourism New Zealand has thrown nearly all its budget at advertising based on The Hobbit, and says the movie's played a part in 8.5% of all visitors coming here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Idea that Won't Flush Away

Singapore's charge d'affaires at the United Nations is flushed with success.
Mark Neo's proposal to have Nov.19th declared as World Toilet Day has been wholeheartedly supported by the UN!
Before you start thinking of any amount of toilet humour, Neo says he doesn't care if jokes are long as the message gets across: "I'm sure there'll be laughter among the press and the public when it is reported that the UN is declaring a World Toilet Day. That's ok, especially if they recognise the prevailing and unhealthy taboo, that prevents an open and serious discussion of the problems of sanitation and toilets globally."
He then went on to stress that 2.5 billion people around the world do not have proper sanitation, that 1.1 billion people poo in the open, and that providing toilets could save the lives of more than 200,000 children each year. The 193-member UN assembly voted unanimously in favour of declaring a World Toilet Day.
Singapore took up the toilet cause because of the efforts of one of its citizens, Jack Sim, who is known as 'Mr Toilet' because of his efforts to improve sanition around the world. He was named one of the Heroes of the Environment for 2008 by Time Magazine. He's even persuaded the Gates Foundation to switch its global focus from water to sanitation.
So joke about World Toilet Day as much as you like - it all helps to increase awareness of the problem.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kim Jong-Un, We Adore You!

"PLEASE, Kim! We ALL want your babies!!!"
To the rest of the world, he's an international pariah who rules over a starving population with an iron fist, while threatening to blow up neighbouring countries.
But if you can believe his own publicity, Kim Jong-Un's status in North Korea is like that of a movie star! Yea. Right.
These pix from North Korea's Central News Agency show the despot mobbed by weeping female workers (!!!) during a tour of a mushroom farm. The adoring bints cling to the arms of the Mighty Kim as he's marshalled through the assembled crowd by a woman soldier. The propaganda picture resembles the sort of hysterical mob reaction normally reserved for movie stars and rock acts...and of course it's all REAL! The news agency would not reveal when the pictures were staged, er, taken but they were released last week.
I AM Da Man!
Here's Fat Boy touring the mushroom factory. Afterwards, from his infinite wisdom, he 'gave guidance' to the workers. He said they should follow the words of former DPRK president Kim Il Sung (his late grandfather, founder of the dictatorship), who wanted to turn the country into a world famous mushroom producer.
Ya mean, by keeping his 24-million hungry people in the dark and feeding 'em propaganda bullshit??!!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Psycho Killers

Arseholes of the world – stand up and be counted!
If you have the BALLS...
Two seals have been callously shot in the head at virtually point blank range north of Kaikoura: their bodies were found last Saturday at Ohau Point seal colony. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is seeking the public's help to find who is responsible for killing the female seal and 11-month-old pup.
DOC South Marlborough area manager David Hayes says NZ fur seals are protected by law and it's an offence to kill/harm them. Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 there are penalties of up to 6mths' imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000 for killing or harming fur seals or other marine mammals, plus a further fine of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal the offence was committed against.
The shooter/s had better keep a close eye on the rear view mirror: in late 2010, when 25 seals (including pups) were beaten to death at the same location, two wankers were arrested - one was convicted and the trial of the other is this September.
The Ohau Stream waterfall pool, inland from the seal colony, where pups gather and play between May and September, has become a highly popular attraction with around 12,000 visits a month. That anyone can exploit the seals' openness and vulnerability in such a manner is sickening. When arrests are made (and they WILL be), I trust the court hits them with full force.
Obviously the previous arseholes' penalties weren't deterrents enough!

PS: 24 July 2013 - Name-and-shame some other arseholes who attacked seals...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Christchurch - Made In China

NZ's immigration minister says Chinese construction workers will be part of the Christchurch rebuild.
Following a deal with the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says 35,000 workers will be needed to complete the massive job. He says that means a shortage of 17,000: where they actually come from "...will depend on their skills and ability to speak English."
It's not just the rebuild where immigrants are being targeted. A number of job ads now ask specifically for foreign workers. A Nelson fishery recently advertised for workers fluent in Russian. Our orchards traditionally employ seasonal overseas contractors, and now 20% of our dairy workers are foreign. But with NZ unemployment sitting at more than 6%, does that mean kiwis are missing out?
Well, the problem is: there just aren't enough NZ workers with the right skills. The govt is working hard to up-skill kiwis into work, but they have to be motivated. Woodhouse: "Any employer will tell you that when Work and Income sends some workers to them, they'll have some of those barriers. That is, they're not skilled or educated enough. They may have some issues with drugs, alcohol or mobility, and those are barriers that we need to continue to move, so Kiwis are first in line for the jobs."
So until those on the unemployment line get motivated to actually work for their money, there can be no justification for any mutterings about migrant workers (of any ethnicity). Modern thought processes leave no room for the shameful anti-Asian sentiments, actively promoted by NZ politicians in the late 19th/early 20th century.
The jobs are there. If kiwis don't want 'em, immigrants will happily step up.
The concerns will be if Asian workers bring their problems of drug-smuggling, money-laundering, biosecurity food-smuggling risks, Triad gangs and the like. If they make efforts to integrate into NZ society, they'll be warmly welcomed...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Return Of The George

Who ate all the pies?
Maybe it was a big boy called Brownlee (!!)...but some clown called McDonald is bringing 'em back.
McDonald's is extending its Georgie Pie trial: another six restaurants now sell the famous NZ steak mince'n'cheese pie. That's a total of 17 Maccas so far, adding the much-missed Georgie Pie to their menus.
Two more Auckland restaurants started to sell the pies this week. Four more in the Manawatu will follow suit from early August.
McDonald's NZ managing director Patrick Wilson says, since the pie's relaunch, the number of ovens have doubled to meet demand: "Sales have been far greater than projected, which tells us Kiwis are still passionate about Georgie Pie and staying true to the original recipe was worth it." 
Earlier this year, plans for a restaurant on Auckland's North Shore and an additional Hamilton restaurant were postponed when demand in other restaurants outstripped supply. The relaunch proved so popular that special queues and security staff were bought in to handle crowds. At times, the lines went out of the restaurant and stretched across the car park!
During its 21 years in business, Georgie Pie achieved a number of firsts here: first drive-through and first with breakfast; first 24-hour drive-through; and the first domestic concept to seriously challenge the international fast food giants. Many NZers have fond memories of the delicious pies, the production of which was discontinued in the late 1990s. Today, the only change to the original much-loved recipe is the removal of MSG.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Amazon Confirms It IS Apollo

"Thunderbirds are GO!!!"
So now it's official!
You'll remember Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos financing the successful deep-sea search for the engines of the Saturn V rocket that sent astronauts to space during the Apollo era. And remember the speculation: wouldn't it be great if...
Now it's been confirmed. Conservators have found on the wreckage the serial numbers of the actual Apollo 11 rocket engines! Bezos has verified that these are engines from the first mission that took astronauts to the moon. And oh, what a coincidence: today marks the 44th anniversary of the 1969 moon landing.
"F.A.B., Mr.Tracey!"
Bezos: "44 years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and now we have recovered a critical technological marvel that made it all possible."
Each of the engines weighs nearly 9 tons, and they came in a cluster of five. They provided 32 million horsepower by burning 6,000 pounds of fuel every second, and together they lifted the largest rocket in history 38 miles above the Earth in less than three minutes. After separation, the rocket engines made their re-entry at 5,000 miles per hour, and then plummeted into the ocean. That's where they remained, undiscovered for decades, until Bezos' team found them last March, using sophisticated sonar.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Leave Cardboard Cathedrals Out In The Rain...

The sceptics will be crowing!
Christchurch's 'cardboard cathedral' has gone a bit wrinkly in the rain.
Several cardboard columns that give the transitional cathedral its name have wrinkled and discoloured after recent rain.
The good news is: we're assured the damage has no bearing on the structural integrity of the $5.3 million transitional cathedral.
The unusual building in Latimer Square has had its opening delayed multiple times: currently, Naylor Love Construction says it's aiming to finish the building for July 26th (but given that the pic below was taken on July 11th., I think this is overly optimistic). The project was delayed by heavy rain early in construction and the coloured windows took longer than expected to install. Late design changes had also delayed the project.
NLC director Scott Watson says weather damage to the cardboard tubes was always expected and the repairs are being carried out now that the building is watertight. The cardboard columns are cosmetic only, with the building load carried by timber beams inside the tubes. However, the finished product will still look exactly as envisaged by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban.
Christchurch had one of the wettest Junes on record - more than four times the average rainfall.
Ready by July 26th? I think not!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Does It Need A Name?

The biggest Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) ever to be used in Australasia, and the 10th-biggest built worldwide, will soon arrive in NZ to help build Auckland's Waterview Connection.
The 14m-diameter mega TBM will dig two 2.4km tunnels over the next two years, burrowing 45m underground to complete a motorway ring route around the city. To the vast majority of us, it's simply a bloody great tunneling machine. Most of its work goes on outta sight, and we probably won't even reflect on its gargantuan glory when we drive through its efforts in 2017.
But for tunnellers, their superstition supposedly demands that every machine is given a female name before it (or rather she) starts tunnelling. Ever heard of this before??? Yeup, there're intelligent skilled men working deep underground, who harbour superstitions probably originating pre-Industrial Revolution! Really???
Auckland's primary school children were asked to come up with a name for this one. The shortlist was:
Soteria - the Greek goddess of safety and delivery without harm.
Alice - "Just like when she went through a rabbit hole into a wonderland, and when the tunnel is finished it will be wonderful because it will be faster to get to my cousins place."
Tara - short for Tarawa, maori for earthworm.
Ngawini - "known as the queen of the north. A strong fine-looking woman with a regal carriage, one who is expected to be obeyed. Ngawini lived in Paua, born in 1854. A tunnel-boring machine named Ngawini - strong, respected and connecting to north, to continue many more empires."
And we're expected to accept that primary school kids came up with these ideas by themselves? Riiiiigghhtt!
To cut a long tunnel story short, the winner was 'Alice', submitted by a Manukau 9yr.old.
So, now the cuteness and superstition is over, will we get references to Lewis Carroll, the Mad Hatter, Bill the Lizard, the Dormouse and the Cheshire Cat in news stories throughout this project, hmmm? No, I didn't think so. So why did this TBM need a name at all?
Incidentally, the words waka kotahi in the pic are the maori words for the NZ Transport Agency. It supposedly means "one vessel" and is intended to convey the concept of travelling together as one.
Why we need that name also escapes me.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Auckland Needs $68 Billion - But No Pressure!

Auckland drivers may soon be tolled at motorway exit ramps!
This week, a high-level Think Tank report suggested this as a viable way to ease rates pressure. The report gives authorities a clear timetable for when new revenue sources will be needed, in order to find an extra $400 million for each of the next 30 years - to cover projects such as the City Rail Link and new roads, including another harbour crossing.
photo: Steven McNicholl
A Sunday drive in Auckland???
photo: Steven McNicholl

The plan's expected to suggest rises in fuel tax and rates, and possible user-charges on existing roads from 2020, rather than just the tolls now allowed on new govt highways. Without some of the Think Tank's ideas, ratepayers will stare down the barrel of a huge funding gap revealed in the Auckland Plan, which lists transport projects that're expected to cost $68 billion.
Surprisingly, a large proportion of 2300 public submissions on an earlier options paper preferred road charges, to spread the load. A NZ Herald straw poll this week indicated 45% support among the 3000 respondents.
The report will suggest tolls at the off-ramps to local roads. Long- distance travellers would be free to drive through the city without being charged, as long as they stayed on the motorways.
Obviously its far too early for the report to indicate quite where these tolling areas might be...but imagine the extra congestion as cars slow on off-ramps for tolling. The resultant tailbacks (and they WILL occur!) would have a major impact on the very motorways the scheme is trying to finance.
The Think Tank may have to think outside its tank...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Food Origins: How Hard Can It Be? Oh...

French fries from France?
Pasta - Italy, right?
You may think with names like French fries and Worcestershire sauce, it's pretty self-explanatory where certain foods came from. But a survey has revealed that most people are unaware of the origins of some of our most common foods consumed every day.
The majority of those questioned - 70% of 1,000 people - were confident they had a good knowledge of foreign foods. But when put to the test, few of them correctly identified the origin of fajitas... no, not Mexico - these first originated in the US.
Likewise, over three-quarters of those surveyed wrongly believed that chilli con carne was first eaten in Mexico (not the US), and only 10% knew the origin of cheesecake was Ancient Greece.
More than 90% are fooled by the deceptive name of Worcestershire sauce, which was created in Bengal (not the West Midlands of England). Only 11% knew the correct birthplace of French fries was Belgium. And less than 5% knew that pasta actually originated in China. Mama mia!!
10. Fajita, 88.9% incorrect: answer, Texas, USA
9. French Fries, 89.3% incorrect: answer, Belgium
8. Cheesecake, 89.9% incorrect: answer, Ancient Greece
7. Noodle Chop Suey, 90% incorrect: answer, USA
6. Garlic Bread, 92.6% incorrect: answer, Asia
5. Chilli Con Carne, 92.9% incorrect: answer, USA
4. Vindaloo, 93.7% incorrect: answer, Portugal
3. Lasagne, 94.5% incorrect: answer, Greece
2. Pasta, 95.1% incorrect: answer, China
1. Worcestershire Sauce, 96.3% incorrect: answer, Bengal

Monday, July 15, 2013

Could The Royal Dickheads Yet Swing?

Two infamous "Royal prank" DJs may yet face criminal action.
Britain's Metropolitan Police have asked Australian authorities to consider charges. Mel Greig and Michael Christian could be prosecuted along with Oz radio station 2Day FM, after they tricked a nurse into revealing patient info [the background]: the nurse later killed herself.
London police: "The Metropolitan Police Service has requested that consideration is given as to whether any offences were committed under Australian legislation." Scotland Yard previously decided there was no evidence to support any UK charges against the dumb duo.
It'll be interesting to see what, if any, charges can be laid under Australian law...
+ ...meanwhile Greig's case against 2Day FM's parent company, Southern Cross Austereo, for 'failing to provide a safe workplace', could net her a six-or seven-figure payout!
That's the view of personal injury lawyer Anthony Carbone, who says the station appeared to have been "playing with fire" by encouraging questionable stunts, and that Greig has a "very strong case" against her employer. He says she'd probably need to prove she had suffered a diagnosable psychological injury as a result of the prank...but not that the nurse's suicide was forseeable. The claim could comprise medical expenses, loss of future income and damages.
Carbone says Austereo's rap sheet – including tricking listeners into believing a popular presenter had died, a stunt that police claim encouraged dangerous driving, and a notorious lie detector scandal – could bolster Greig's claim: "It goes to the heart of what kind of workplace Mel was working in. Did Austereo condone and encourage the pranks? Did they promote bad conduct? This doesn't seem to have been a one-off thing; it seems to have been ongoing."
I would however be extremely surprised if a radio station was fined for this sort of stunt. Despite their dubious relevancy, prank broadcasts have been ongoing since virtually the dawn of radio. Orson Welles' rendition of The War Of The Worlds gripped the US nation in mass hysteria in 1938! In Auckland, Radio Hauraki's Kevin Black released several albums of his prank calls in the '70s!
This is not illegal behaviour - but to call it 'entertainment' (as radio should be) is to liken a bucket of vomit to a gourmet meal.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Starting A Long-Term Relationship With Sofia

The Hubble space telescope's little sister has touched down in Christchurch.
The US$1-million-per-mission US/German flying telescope SOFIA landed for the first time in the city just after midday today.
SOFIA - the Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy - is a refrigerated 2.5m-diameter telescope inside a 1977 Boeing 747SP, a shortened jumbo jet that had seen service with United Airlines and, earlier, PanAm.
SOFIA is the only airborne telescope in the world, and the programme is a joint venture between NASA and German space agency DLR. The plane was likely to be making winter flights in and out of Christchurch for the next 20 years. It will base itself here for about three weeks, but budget constraints meant that this year there would be no money for public open days and outreach programmes.
Christchurch was chosen as a southern hemisphere base because of its often cloud-free night skies and lack of atmospheric haze, its long airport runway and the relatively empty airspace around the South Island. The city also has a track record of supporting logistically difficult missions: Operation Deep Freeze and the US Antarctic Programme have been an important part of life at Christchurch Airport since the mid-1950s.
SOFIA's NZ$1.2m-per-mission price tag makes it as expensive to operate as the Hubble space telescope itself.
But how does it work?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Right Royal Welcome

Is it a boy? Is it a girl?
You'll know soon enough, if you fly into Christchurch Aiport.
Night-time visitors will see the terminal alternately displaying pink and blue lighting – until we get word of the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby.
Then the terminal and control tower will be baby blue or pink for the rest of the week.
The ability of the airport terminal to change colour is very popular with visitors. Christchurch Airport CEO Jim Boult: "Most nights, the lighting rotates through the colours of the rainbow, and often visitors wait to take a photo of the terminal in their favourite colour."
The airport can celebrate all sorts of significant events in this way – including red for Chinese New Year, pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness or blue for Men's Health Awareness. It's even gone red-and-black to support the Crusaders, and black-and-white for the All Blacks.
Boult: "Millions all over the world are waiting to see whether the royal baby is a prince or princess, so we're very happy to work with Monarchy NZ to be lit up when the future king or queen is born."
Prince William (the Duke of Cambridge) is very much in the hearts of Cantabrians. The Prince visited Christchurch on behalf of the Queen in 2011 to attend the National Memorial Service, following the devastating earthquakes that hit Canterbury.
The lighting colour scheme will herald the baby's arrival to thousands of people...because every day the equivalent of the entire population of Timaru passes through the airport.

23 July 2013 - It's a BOY!!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Royal Prank DJ Sues Employer

"Royal prank" DJ Mel Greig has taken legal action against her employer, 2Day FM, accusing the station of failing to provide a safe workplace, after her involvement in last year's royal prank call.
Greig – who has been off the air since British nurse Jacintha Saldanha killed herself last December – has filed a claim with the Fair Work Commission.
[Here's the background to this story...]
She alleges Southern Cross Austereo failed to maintain a safe workplace in relation to the hoax phone call incident. Greig is still employed by Austereo and both she and Austereo are making no comments.
While she has not returned to work, her co-host Michael Christian has, and was controversially named the network's "top jock" in June.
If Greig and Austereo fail to settle the matter in conciliation, they'll head to court...
+ But wait: there's more! Austereo is now trying to cover its butt. It's gone to the Federal Court, questioning the authority of the broadcasting watchdog Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Austereo claims the ACMA has no power to decide if it broke the law by recording and broadcasting the hoax phone call without permission. If the court decision goes in favour of the ACMA, 2Day FM faces a hefty penalty - most likely a licence suspension, meaning the station will be pulled off-air temporarily.
I believe both Greig and her cohort Michael Christian are responsible for this stupid prank, though the nurse was ultimately accountable for her own terminal action. However unless the radio station ordered them to make that stupid call, it surely can't be guilty.
As for 'failing to provide a safe workplace', Greig may find that relates to things like harrassment and loose carpet in stairwells - NOT being blamed for a dickhead waste of airtime that ultimately pressured an unstable woman to kill herself.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Jumping the Goat's Horns

Until a century ago, Svolværgeita or Goat's Horns rock tower in Norway had never been conquered.
These days, not only is it one of the most popular climbing pinnacles in Norway, but thrill-seeking mountaineers defy death by jumping between its granite horns!
Goat's Horns peak - looming over the town of Svolvær - was first climbed in 1910. These days, climbers can scale Svolværgeita via the original route of its first climbers, just to see how good these pioneers were in their time.
There're several routes up the Goat's Horns but, once at the top, many climbers follow the decades-old tradition of jumping from Storhorn (Big Horn) to Lillehorn (Little Horn), over a 1.5m gap. It's considered the perfect mountainclimbing stunt, because it's easy enough to do, yet difficult enough to get your heart pumping. Jumping 1.5m may not seem too challenging, but one slip and you'll have to rely on the safety harnesses to save you from a 150m plunge to the foot of Goat's Horns pillar!
And if that jump wasn't scary enough before, a 3m section of Lillehorn broke off in 2008. That means the part that climbers used to land on is now missing. This apparently makes the jump even more exciting for rock-climbers in search of an adrenaline rush.
And the feat makes an amazing photo!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

I hear a Clash song wafting through the corridors of power!
NZ Labour leader David Shearer (who?) is demanding a fair go, after his MPs united last night to deny rumours of a party coup.
Shearer: blinkers on?
The rumours grew after whispers of a letter of no-confidence. But those MPs named - Andrew Little, Clayton Cosgrove and Shane Jones - deny any letter and label the rumours "crap".
Feelings ran high last night once social media climbed onto the bandwagon. A number of furious Labour MPs twittered, to angrily denounce talk of a leadership coup. Mind you, when MPs frantically deny allegations socially, rather than letting the PR Dept issue a calm press release, one can't help but question their sincerity. Methinx they doth protest too much?
The speculation further destabilises The Grey Man's position and puts more pressure on him to turn around perceptions that he's on borrowed time. This week he faced flak over a proposal to have women-only seats, but he convinced the party to withdraw the so-called and widely ridiculed 'man ban'. Of course, that's more grist to the mill...
An angry Shearer says the leadership rumours are not true: "All I want, all anybody wants, is a fair go. A fair go to have facts reported rather than innuendo and rumour."
This, following earlier rumours of a leadship push before the end of this year, won't help Shearer, at a time when many suggest there's been limited evidence of true leadership from him at all!
This morning's Stuff straw poll reflected this feeling:

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It Had To Come Sooner Or Later

Whiteys, sign up here!
A Facebook group is thinking about registering itself as a New Zealand political party.
The Pakeha Party is considering the move after getting over 30,000 likes on Facebook in just one day.
The group was founded by Auckland businessman David Ruck only three weeks ago, to establish "equal rights and benefits for the pakeha of New Zealand" - and spreads the message: "If the maori get it, we want it too."
It now has over 38,000 likes, up from just 2,000 likes on Sunday morning! Amazing what a little Maori Language Week publicity will do! Now, compare that figure to the Maori Party's 1,400 Facebook fans.
His page has become so popular that Ruck says he is going to register a party with the Electoral Commission. He says his followers want to take a stand against maori privileges: "They're sick of all the separatism. They're sick of maori asking for certain privileges that europeans wouldn't be entitled to."
Ruck says he doesn't think there should be any race-related parties, but as long as there is a Maori Party and a Mana Party, there'll be a Pakeha Party. He said he created the page after Mana Party leader Hone Harawira proposed a scheme to build 10,000 houses a year for maori, by maori, which can only be sold on to maori. Mr Ruck says the proposal, which Hone-Bro claims will help maori get a foothold on the property ladder, angered him and he created the Facebook group in response.
Mr Ruck says pakeha translates as "the others" and therefore his party stands for everybody, repeatedly insisting it's not a racist party.
"Look, it's 2013 and I think we need to start creating less of a divide, and pushing forward as one."
I suggest Dave Ruck's plan should not be taken too seriously...!

PS: 10 July 2013 - Ruck's criminal background, and public reaction to his idea.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Maori: Precious Only To The Few

Do we? Really??
Last Saturday's editorial in The Press rode the coat-tails of Maori Language Week… and called for all children to learn the maori language at school!
It mounted the same old soapboxes used for years in this dull debate:
   "Maori has been an official language since 1987, yet we are a long way from embracing it. Some other countries have bilingual road signs; we generally do not. The current debate around whether the North and South Islands should also be called (maori names) is…controversial. Promoting and advancing the cause of te reo maori in this piecemeal way is likely to be slow and...factional." 
The editorial did not tackle WHY there's a general reluctance to wholeheartedly immerse the nation in maoritanga, or why – after $220million is spent annually to prop it up! YES! -  maori language usage is in steady decline.
   "Radio greetings, road signs, changing place names, and even Maori Language Week pronunciation campaigns can be seen as tokenism. None of them, individually, seriously advances the cause of the maori language. All of them together sometimes provoke carping and moaning …"
Like many white NZers, I have no issue with children learning maori history and culture at school…as long as it is evenly balanced with education about myriad other cultures that have shaped the world and impacted on our little corner of it. The maori viewpoint is not the ONLY viewpoint, and maori culture is NOT New Zealand culture – it is PART OF New Zealand culture (a point the PC Brigade dodges).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mrs Chippy: Cat On A Cold Tin Roof

The last hoorah...
Many of a certain generation were taught about Sir Ernest Shackleton's Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17, an attempt to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent... their ship Endurance was crushed in pack ice in the Weddell Sea; how they were marooned 560km from the nearest land with just three lifeboats to carry them to safety; how their
Harry McNish
valiant efforts became recognised as an epic feat of endurance. However they may not know about one four-legged team member.
Mrs Chippy was a tiger-striped tabby cat, taken aboard Endurance by Harry McNish, the carpenter nicknamed "Chippy" (as in chips of wood). A month after the ship set sail for Antarctica it was found that Mrs Chippy was actually a male, but
Mrs Chippy on crewmember
Perce Blackborow's shoulder
by then the name had stuck.
Mrs Chippy was described as "full of character" by members of the expedition and impressed the crew by his ability to walk along the ship's inch-wide rails in even the roughest seas. He took great delight in leaping across the kennel roofs of the sled dogs, tantalisingly out of reach. He would scamper up the rigging like a seasoned sailor. On the voyage out, Mrs Chippy once fell overboard into the freezing South Atlantic waters - the ship was remarkably turned around and the cat rescued!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Leave Bonnie Alone, Bro!

It must be Maori Language Week again.
Why? Well, for one, the suddenly-changed placenames on the weather map can't be pronounced by the tv presenters or understood by most viewers...and two, because a minor story about a maori greeting has rocked the nation!
It all began when Gary Cody's company Travel NZ sent an email seeking advertising, to Queenstown retailer Bonnie Rodwell, which began "Kia ora". She replied: "Sorry but why do we need to be addressed with "kia ora"? Neither myself or my office manager speak maori. Maybe more people would advertise with you if we were addressed with a little more respect. Whilst it may be a great government issue (and perhaps a little 'in vogue'), some of us, in private businesses that support NZ, find it offensive. Whilst we have no issue with anything 'maori' at all, we find it plain silly." *shock*horror*probe* How DARE anyone criticise the sacred culture!
Gary Cody - who claims he was gobsmacked by the response...yes, "gobsmacked"! - can't believe someone relying on tourism is offended by the phrase. So, tit-for-tat, he's complained to the Race Relations Commissioner!
Media ran amok, and some precious pup even started a Facebook page encouraging others to bombard Bonnie by postcard, email or phone and share the 'kindness of kia ora'. Such orchestrated invasion of privacy is even less acceptable than wasting the Commissioner's time with such triviality. I trust this complaint is treated with the disdain it deserves.
But maybe the tide's turning back towards common sense: there seemed to be more in favour of Bonnie's right to her own viewpoint, than those gobsmacked that someone might not LUV te reo.
People need to get a serious grip. Some men don't like "G'day, mate"; some women hate being called "ma'am". If someone doesn't wish to be greeted with "kia ora", what's the harm in that?
Oh, I see now: the greeting is MAORI. Therefore we must all embrace it with gusto. Of course. Silly me. I stand corrected. Chuuurrr, cuz!

Friday, July 5, 2013

International Day For Mandela

As the ill-health of the former freedom fighter and president is monitored minute-by-minute around South Africa and the world, Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday draws near.
The day - 18th July - was recognised in 2009 by the UN as Nelson Mandela International Day.
For the 4th Mandela International Day, there're official programmes across Sth Africa to celebrate Mandela's birthday, but various organisations have worked out plans to celebrate the day with public gatherings, concerts and charity events.
Mandela gave fresh impetus to the 'charity begins at home' adage, by telling the world that all people can make a difference. Mandela Day serves as an annual call-to-action to people everywhere, to contribute to the global movement for doing good, by effecting change within their communities. People are urged to give 67 minutes of their time to make a change in their community and thus the world.
[Mandela is known as 'Madiba', the name of the Xhosa tribe to which he belongs. It's considered an act of honour to refer to somebody by the name of his tribe. He was given the English name 'Nelson' by his teacher on his first day at school. Giving African children English names was a custom in those days and was influenced by British colonials who could not easily, and often would not, pronounce African names.]
Nelson Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since 8th June for a recurring lung infection.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Morbid Milestones

Mid-June, America marked 6mths since the massacre of 20 children and six adults in the town of Sandy Hook in Connecticut.
At the same time, another milestone was reached. More Americans died by the gun in those same 6mths...than the total number of US troops killed in Iraq!
At least 5109 had been shot dead in USA in the past six months, in comparison with 4409 soldiers lost in Iraq. [Ironically that figure is not exact because, at the badgering of the National Rifle Association, the good ol' US Congress stopped funding the Centres for Disease Control in 1993, after its research said that having a gun in the house increased, rather than decreased, the likelihood of a member of that household being shot. The NRA yanked the pubes of the many congressmen within its tight grip...and hey presto! A public body that dared to criticise the NRA was suddenly penniless!]
That same week, the proof about Syria using chemical weapons finally spurred US Prez Obama into supplying the Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition. That step, though a modest escalation of US involvement, opens the door to an even larger role.
But how will it keep weapons away from rebels who're affiliated with jihadi groups? Does the US believe this move will persuade Russia to stop arming Syria? Will it provoke The Bear to supply even more? How can the US arm rebels yet avoid being drawn into another war? 
America does not learn lessons from its wars. It still feels a virtuous God-given right to militarily meddle in other countries' affairs. Nay, it seems to have a nationalistic NEED for such armed interference.
Yet back home, thousands of its citizens are gunned down annually... a national tragedy, a national shame!!!
God bless America...Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Is It Possible For Tip Top To Get Better?!

In New Zealand, a country with the world's best milk and cream, the sweetest fruit and richest flavours, it's no surprise that our Tip Top icecream is the world's best!
My favourite flavour!
Now the likes of paprika, marigolds and turmeric are among the natural colours and flavours that're replacing artificial alternatives in its icecream.
Announced this week, only natural colours and flavours will be used in Tip Top's 124 icecream products, after extensive market research found 85% of kiwis overwhelmingly preferred natural ingredients.
The Food Standards Code allows the use of artificial colours and flavours in icecream. When first used by the food industry many years ago they were considered leading-edge, giving consistency in taste and appearance and enhancing natural colours already in icecream - this is why many brands still use them.
Tip Top opened in 1936 when two friends opened an ice cream parlour in Wellington. Their humble venture grew to become a national icon loved by generations of kiwis. They didn't begin using additives until the 1960s: a spokesman says " was just the in-thing to do at the time. They're completely safe but people look back now and say, maybe natural's a little better than artificial these days."
Tip Top promises this won't affect the flavour of the icecream - the only difference would be a slight colour change with a couple of products. These changes are the result of nearly two years' work but, although it costs more to produce natural recipes, Tip Top is adamant icecream prices will not increase.
It says a full roll-out will be completed by December - just in time for another stonkin' NZ summer!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rena: The Removal Continues

One of history's most expensive salvage jobs is getting even more costly.
The owners and insurers of the sunken container ship Rena plan to remove the submerged four-storey accommodation block from the wreck.
No cost estimates revealed yet, but the bill keeps climbing. A new Lloyd's of London report says the world's two most expensive salvages to date are the Costa Concordia (which has not yet been moved), and the Rena - currently standing at $300million.
This latest project begins in October, two years after the ship struck the Astrolabe Reef and spilled 350 tonnes of heavy fuel oil into the Bay of Plenty. It follows concerns that the block, which housed the ship's bridge, crew quarters, offices and galley, could collapse and send more debris towards the shore. The job is scheduled for 80 days - half of that time allows for bad weather and sea conditions - and will begin once a special crane barge arrives from Singapore.
Rena's owners wanted to leave part of the wreck on the reef after properly containing the site. Their initial plan was to leave the accommodation block as a diving attraction, but changed their minds in light of wave action and currents potentially battering it into a
US salvors Resolve will cut away sections and lift them onto a barge to transport to the Port of Tauranga and the scrapyard. A team of smaller craft will prevent debris reaching the shore.
But for now, salvors continue to cut Rena's bow to 1m below the lowest tide mark, removing container wreckage from damaged holds and clearing hundreds of tonnes of debris from the sea floor.
The entire operation has been a logistical nightmare, which involved a race to empty out fuel holds, and cranes dramatically removing containers stacked in high leaning towers. It has now reached the point where nothing of Rena is visible from above the water.

PS: 02 July 2013 - $11million compensation for businesses hurt by Rena grounding.