Monday, September 30, 2013

Air New Zealand: Not Patriots?

As the America's Cup frenzy subsides, we're hearing more behind-the-scenes stories of the good, the bad and the quirky.
I'll leave it to you to rate THIS...
When Team New Zealand was building its America's Cup AC72 catamaran, Air New Zealand denied them help - because the Kiwi sailors were sponsored by a rival airline, Emirates!
Team NZ approached the airline to use its carbon-fibre manufacturing facility, but senior managers turned them down. The airline had the only autoclave machinery in the country capable of producing the specific designs required by the Kiwi sailors. But Air NZ refused as it wanted limited sponsorship rights in return. But that couldn't be done, due to existing major sponsorship from Emirates.
After the rebuff, Team NZ's Auckland-based boatbuilders Cookson Boats found a way to change its autoclave technology to make curved dagger boards for the team, and that machinery was used almost daily for a year while the huge catamaran was being built.
Now *shock*horror*probe* Air New Zealand (which says one of its guiding principles is to champion and promote NZ and its business) says it provided the same service for Oracle!
Our govt pumped $36 million into Team NZ's cup campaign.
Air NZ is owned by our govt.
Yet Prime Minister John Key says Air NZ acted as a commercial organisation and made decisions it believed were in its own best interests.
An Air NZ spokesman said the airline had been strongly supportive of Team NZ, with a commercial arrangement to reduce its travel costs during the cup campaign: "The airline is grateful for the efforts of all Team New Zealand's sponsors, as a successful regatta has driven strong passenger traffic on our Auckland-San Francisco route."
Yes, I'll BET it's benefited financially...
Spite...? Or just straight-out business? You decide.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

USA's Cold War Near-Miss

Recently declassified documents show that, in 1961, a hydrogen bomb nearly obliterated America's North Carolina! It would have caused a blast 260 times more powerful than the Hiroshima explosion!
Goldsboro USA: Hiroshima's revenge?
Parker F. Jones (supervisor of the nuclear weapons safety dept at Sandia national laboratories) says that just one simple, vulnerable switch prevented a nuclear catastrophe.
Two H-bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on Jan.24, 1961 after a B-52 bomber broke up in flight. One of the bombs acted like it had been armed and fired: its parachute opened and triggers engaged. Jones writes that the MK39 Mod 2 bomb had four safety mechanisms, one of which was designed to not work in the air. When the aircraft broke up, two others were rendered ineffective. So just one simple low voltage switch stood between the US and a major disaster!
Schlosser discovered the 1969 document through the Freedom of Information Act. And as if that one incident isn't frightening enough, he discovered at least 700 "significant" accidents and incidents involving 1,250 nuclear weapons between 1950 and 1968!!!
Mind you, though it would've been catastrophic on the immediate populous, should we really feel sorry for the USA's near-miss? After all, this was the country that detonated an H-bomb in space...just because it could! Yes, that's true too!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal...

The human touch will soon be removed from purchasing altogether.
Visa will no longer accept signed credit card receipts from next year - mandatory PIN numbers come in from Oct.2014, to curb credit card fraud. Visa reckons smart chips and PINs are much harder to replicate than magnetic strips and (heaven forbid!) signatures.
And by April next year, every Mastercard will have PayPass, its version of touch-and-go technology. Visa will allow banks to decide if their credit cards will use contact-less PayWave charging. But individual account holders will be unable to opt out of contact-less charging.
Tech experts reckon it's easy for account details to be stolen from cards in pockets and handbags, using reading technology on cellphones. The companies dispute this: Visa says its cards have to be within a few centimetres to be activated, transactions cannot be duplicated, and a fully functional credit card cannot be created from intercepted details from a hacking device. Visa and Mastercard also say they haven't seen any increase in fraud after contact-less technology was introduced.
Signatures aren't the only thing becoming obsolete: the personal chequebook is also predicted to go the way of the dodo, though not quite yet. Usage has plummeted in the past decade: while 160 million cheques were written in 2002, just 54 million were written last year. BNZ estimates chequebook use is falling by about 10% every year. For the time being at least, most banks still offer chequebooks, if requested by the customer.
Hmmm, wonder when CUSTOMERS will be removed from the equation entirely...!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Art Or Excrement?

It seems upper-crust Brits still delight in bagging those Down Under.
A leading British art critic has savaged the Royal Academy's new Australia exhibition - the largest exhibition of Australian art ever assembled abroad - which opened last weekend in London.
Has the Sydney Sun set on Ozzie art?
The Sunday Times' Waldemar Januszczak described indigenous art by some of Australia's best artists as liquid diarrhoea, and opined that its native art work "amounts to a market in decorative rugs" and "tourist tat". Frederick McCubbin's famous The Pioneer was called "poverty porn", and Fred Williams' desert landscape as "thick cowpats of minimalism".
Januszczak saved his most scathing attack for John Olsen's Sydney Sun, bought by Australia's National Gallery for A$500,000 in 2000. According to him, it "successfully evokes the sensation of standing under a cascade of diarrhoea."
Olsen, for his part, was extremely magnanimous in his response to the criticism: "You can call it diarrhoea or energy - it just depends on what you ate last night." Olsen went on to say the exhibition shows Ockers have their own way of looking at things: "We don't give a damn about what (the Brits) say we are. Such a review is endeavouring to put the colonials in their place. Ha-bloody-ha. I'd say it was extremely foolish."
Just for the record, Ozzie critics are equally scathing about the exhibition, calling it a "clumsy embarrassment"...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lucky It's not The KGB!

Russia is about to prosecute 30 Greenpeace activists on piracy charges.
The eco-warriors were on Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, which was seized last week by the Russian Coast Guard, after members tried to climb onto an Arctic offshore drilling platform, to draw attention to the environmental risks of Arctic oil-drilling.
Russia says it will question all the participants and detain "the most active" on piracy charges. Russia does not take prisoners when it comes to piracy - the charge carries a potential jail term of up to 15yrs and a fine of 500,000 rubles (about $15,500).
The oil platform, the first offshore rig in the Arctic, is owned by state-controlled gas company Gazprom. It was deployed in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom had planned to start pumping oil this year, but no date's been set.
Greenpeace insists that, under international law, Russia has no right to board its ship and no grounds to charge its activists with piracy. It says that Coast Guard officers hit and kicked some activists when they stormed its vessel.
The activists hail from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, UK, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, NZ, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the US.
They can count their lucky stars they're not being questioned by the KGB - they might never have been seen again!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Following a weekend that saw 120 pilot whales slain in the Faroe Islands, Sea Shepherd Global is gearing up for Operation Grindstop 2014, the most wide-ranging, determined and longest-duration Faroe Islands campaign in SS history.
This year alone in the Faroes, 1,306 cetacean lives have been destroyed in a 63-day period. Recently, 430 Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins were slaughtered, and just last Sunday (22 Sept.) in the second massacre at Hvalvik Bay this year, another 120 pilot whales were butchered.
"Hehehe! What fun, Sven!!"
Faroese grind hunts have been around since at least 1584 (when records started of such hunts). However, the medieval hunts (so necessary then) are as cruel today as when they first began. The pursuit and beaching of these animals is extremely terrifying for them (in the UK and also across Europe, the harassment of dolphins and whales is a crime in itself) and the killing looks just like what it actually is: a frenzied massacre of innocents. The Faroese who take part in the slaughter do not spare any lives: mothers, babies, pregnant females - the entire cetacean family is killed and the waters of the bays run red for hours.
The 23 grind bays are assigned to six whaling districts across the FI, within which the meat and blubber is supposed to be divided among locals. However, some of the whale meat ends up in restaurants or aboard ferries for consumption by tourists.
In recent years, Faroese officials have warned women of child-bearing age and children, not to eat the meat - it is laden with mercury, PCBs, dioxins and DDT derivatives and is therefore not fit for human consumption. As a result, after large grinds have taken place, SS believes much of the meat and the carcasses are distributed to businesses for profit or dumped back into the ocean, further compounding the environmental and moral tragedy.
The campaign will mark three years since SS made its presence felt in Faroese waters. The last time it patrolled there, no whales or dolphins were killed.  It's obviously time to return...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Farewell To Nathalie

Orana Wildlife Park's oldest giraffe has died.
Mid-last week, staff and volunteers were mourning the loss of 25yr.old Nathalie, who had died overnight.
Nathalie was the second giraffe to be born at Orana in Christchurch. She in turn gave birth to six calves, making a valuable contribution to the zoo-based giraffe breeding programme.
The zoo's head keeper of exotic mammals, Rob Clifford, said everyone was ''very upset'' by the sudden loss: ''She was a grand old lady and one of the nicest giraffes I have worked with. We were very fortunate that Nathalie was such a genuine gentle giant. She had a fantastic nature."
Rob says thousands of visitors had been given the chance to handfeed Nathalie over the years and she had been a ''fabulous'' ambassador for large animals: "She would have enthused many children to have a love of wildlife. She will be sadly missed."
Orana Park has offered visitors the chance to hand feed giraffes since 1982 and not surprisingly this experience continues to be ranked the No.1 visitor experience at the zoo. There is something about the stately beauty of giraffes that attracts people to these gracious animals. Visitors are simply in awe at the chance to interact with them and are intrigued with their long eyelashes. It is a real thrill to watch the giraffes extend their massive tongues to strip foliage from branches.
Orana's giraffe herd now stands at four animals, including one-year-old Fanana, who arrived at the park last month from Australia's Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Christchurch CBD: It's OFF!

This week saw the official start of construction, of the first stage of a $140m Christchurch CBD development on Oxford Terrace.
Flamboyant property developer Antony Gough says, while the Feb.22 EQ had a devastating effect on the hospitality area known as The Strip, it'd provided an opportunity for him ''to create an even better and more vibrant'' area.  The Terrace would be made up of buildings of various styles and forms, all facing into a central piazza. The buildings closest to the middle would be 2-3 storeys, while the largest outer building would be seven storeys.
Gough: "The Terrace will combine the best of global urban design with unique features of Christchurch to deliver a village development that will be a landmark in the city for the next 100 years."
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry 'Bulldozer' Brownlee hailed Gough as the CBD's greatest champion who'd been incredibly positive about the recovery from the onset. [Hmmmm, well, that sure can't be said about 'Who Ate all The Pies?' Brownlee, can it!!]: ''The Terrace is another really important milestone of the road to recovery.''
- Stage 1: includes two buildings facing onto Oxford Tce; a third facing onto Hereford St.; scheduled to open in late 2014 and will include retail, hospitality and office space
- Stage 2: starts early next year; includes two buildings that'll complete the central piazza
- Residential apartments may form part of the later Stage 3.
- The completed development will include 45,000sq.m of built space where up to 2000 people are expected to work.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Self-Pleasure On Swedish Beaches Is OK

Those who "spank the monkey" in public in Sweden...may be able to "get off" without charges!
A recent court ruling in a Swedish court suggests that masturbating on the beach in Sweden is ok, according to public prosecutor Olof Vrethammar.
Vrethammar was prosecuting a 65yr.old who was charged with sexual assault after getting literally caught with his pants down, giving himself a sandy handy on a beach in Stockholm.
A ruling, which acquitted the man of the sex assault charges, found that although he was publicly "flogging the log", he was not directing his actions at anyone in particular. That was enough to clear him of the sexual assault charge!
Vrethammar: "With that ruling, we can conclude that it is OK to masturbate on the beach...although the act may be considered to be disorderly conduct."
This revelation that public wanking may not be a criminal offence cums just two months after one Swedish political party announced they'd like it to be illegal for men to stand while urinating! Go figure!!!

[...with thanx to Huffington Post]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Powershop STILL Doesn't Get It!

Christchurch Airport won't put up a satirical ad poster on its billboards… and Powershop can't figure out why. Duuuhhh!!!
The poster, with Middle Eastern-style lettering, shows a military general with his face covered by branding. [Comparing the image to others on-line, it looks strikingly like that of dictator Col. Qaddafi!]
Powershop CEO Ari Sargent says he's "mystified" [mystified???] by the airport's stance. He says Powershop's recent posters have been toned down - less satire, more humour [That's debatable!]: "The first part of our campaign, almost two years ago now I think…" [You thunk? Ya mean, the CEO doesn't KNOW?!] "…was Saddam Hussein collecting for charity, and North Korea's Kim Jong-il running a sausage sizzle."
Christchurch Airport CEO Jim Boult says the company understands the ad's intent, but is "also conscious of the different nationalities and age groups that come through daily, and how they might perceive advertising which others might find amusing." The airport caters to a number of airlines including Dubai-based Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Ads in the latest series have depicted Margaret Thatcher holding mistletoe aloft at Xmas, Nixon as a '70s peacenik, and Mao dancing Gangnam Style.
Sargent says the latest ad's running in Wellington and Auckland with no negative feedback that he's aware of, so he's "a bit surprised to see the objection from Christchurch".
Obviously Ari Sargent and Powershop have very short memories. They seem to have forgotten the furore over the Saddam Hussein ad! And gee, what's happening in Syria right now?!
Perhaps Powershop should try advertising the benefits of its service, rather than using images of controversial historical figures who've tortured, gassed and murdered millions of people.
That's a usage that I just don't get!!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Costa Concordia Righted

I won't triumphantly cheer "The Costa Concordia rides again!"...
but the cruise ship, which capsized last year off Tuscany, was pulled completely upright yesterday.
It was a perfect end to a daring and unprecedented engineering feat, and adds a few more bucks to the world's most expensive salvage, at a cost estimated at more than NZ$977m.
The ship was brought back to vertical in a snail's-pace 19hr. operation known as 'parbuckling', with no environmental spill seen so far. Parbuckling is a standard operation to right capsized ships, but it has never before been used on such a huge cruise liner.
The Concordia was carrying over 4,000 people when it struck a reef off Giglio Island on January 13, 2012, after the captain brought it too close to shore. It drifted, listed and capsized just off the island's port, killing 32 people. Two bodies were never recovered.
The Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino is on trial for manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship during the chaotic and delayed evacuation. "The Cowardly Captain" - as the world's media dubbed him - maintains the reef wasn't on the nautical charts. He also claims he did not desert his vessel, but slipped and fell off the ship during the evacuation... riiiiight.
The liner is expected to be floated away from Giglio in the Northern spring and turned into scrap. But crews may first have to do lotsa work on the ripped starboard side to ready it for the attachment of empty tanks, that'll later be used to help float the vessel away. It must also be made strong enough to survive a second winter storm season...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

North Korea: Ski-field Miracle

Fat Boy Kim Jong-un is obviously Da Man!
He's moving heaven and earth to build a top-of-the-line ski slope, despite global sanctions... and his starving populace.
The North Korean dictator leader spent some teenage years in Switzerland, and learnt winter sports there. He's promised that 'ski fever' will grip the country in 2014.
He's building 110km of ski slopes, a heliport and hotel in the Masik mountains in the SE of N.Korea. Eight slopes are already marked out - now all that's missing are the ski lifts.
North Korea ordered a chairlift and cable car from a Swiss company, in a US$7.6 million deal. But that was blocked by UN sanctions, which added "luxury sporting facilities" (including ski resorts) to the list of products banned from being sent to DPRK. The North Koreans were ever-so-slightly pissed: they'd pinned their last hopes of obtaining high-quality equipment (vital to secure the deluge of international tourists they're expecting) on Swiss neutrality. And let's not forget the 2018 Winter Olympics are being held just across the border in Sth.Korea. *Piste! Don't mention that!*
Not to be defeated, the glorious DPRK military's rolled up its sleeves. Where inferior force might take a decade to build the Masik Pass Skiing Ground, the official Korea Central News Agency raves that this "gigantic patriotic work" will be completed within a year, thanks to the army construction squads "waging an all-out charge and death-defying drive as intended by the Worker's Party of Korea, by dint of indomitable mental power and persevering charge."
Whatever would they
do without him?
Thankfully, the Divine Inspiration himself is there to tell 'em how to properly build a drainage system, and to offer advice on the production of skis and other gear.
The jingistic state newspaper Rodong Sinmun remarks on the "miracle" of the construction, the fruit of "world-startling labour feats." Bless.
The soldiers constructing the field are "ready to flatten any mountain and empty even a sea in response to an order of the party." Go, go, socialism!!! "The ski resort is a monumental edifice of eternal value to be used by the people even in the distant future, while enjoying wealth and prosperity under socialism, and it is also one of the icons of a highly civilised nation...(Fat Boy) called on the builders to...provide the people with more civilised and happier living conditions so that cheerful laughter under socialism and loud shouts of hurrah for the WPK may be heard from the area of Masik Pass." Riiiiight. Three cheers for Fat Boy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

On The Tip Of The Tongue

The first language of children in North Wales would most likely be English or Welsh, right?
Imagine the surprise when Young Boyo skipped home from school with a form asking parents to tick the dialect that applied to them from a list of more than 80.
Conwy: anyone for Kannada?
Remarkably, the local authority in Conwy (where 96% of the population is white) has trimmed the list from one supplied by the Welsh govt., which contained around 300 different languages and races!
The baffling list included obscure languages spoken in the boondocks of the world, including Igbo (from SE Nigeria), Tagalog (spoken by a quarter of Filipinos), Kannada (mother tongue of people living in the Indian state of Kannartaka) and Wolof (a dialect spoken in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritius).
It came with an equally confusing form asking parents to detail their child's ethnicity, which included seven categories for gypsies alone, plus around 85 other nationalities and races.
The 'data collection' documents were issued by schools in Conwy County Borough Council: it says the information is needed to help provide a better education service.
Annoyed parents are complaining the council has gone completely over-the-top, in Political Correctness and not wishing to offend anyone whatsoever! Conwy Council defends itself by passing the buck, saying it's a statutory requirement of the Welsh govt.
So too - it seems - is a total lack of initiative and street-savvy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ugly Rules OK

Feel a bit sorry for the blobfish.
The Pacific fish that looks like a bald, grumpy old man, has been named the world's ugliest animal.
More than 3,000 people contributed to an online poll, aimed at raising awareness of unsightly species that play an important role in the global ecological web.
The blobfish, a squidgy pink creature capable of enduring crushing pressures at great depth, is becoming a casualty of deep-sea trawling. It was a clear winner, says Coralie Young of the British Science Assn.
A little surprisingly, NZ's rare flightless parrot, the kakapo, was second ('surprisingly', because in June, the kakapo was voted - in another online poll - as the world's favourite species!) Third was the axolotl, a Mexican amphibian also called the "walking fish".
Other candidates were the proboscis monkey, which has red genitals, a big nose and a pot belly, and the Titicaca water frog, which also suffers under the less-than-scientific moniker of "scrotum frog".
Young: "It's a light-hearted way to make people think about conservation."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Good Word

Confirmation: Christchurch's historic Knox Presbyterian Church will be rebuilt – at a cost of $5.5million.
The 1902 church building, on the Victoria St/Bealey Ave.corner, was severely damaged in the Feb.2011 earthquake, which caused its century-old bricks to tumble and limestone to crack. The building's timber skeleton has remained exposed to the elements for more than two years.
Knox Fundraising Committee chairwoman Liz Baxendine says new lightweight cladding will be added to the old timber. The ''modern interpretation'' of the 111-year-old building is expected to be completed by the end of next year, leaving the distinctive peaked roof and striking interior timbers in place, but without including any bricks. The rebuild is designed to meet 100% of the building code.
Baxendine says the church's 1910 pipe organ survived the earthquakes with only minor damage and would be repaired, upgraded and reinstated in the new structure.
Funding for the multimillion-dollar project was yet to be confirmed, but would include insurance, grants and support from the Knox Trust. Another $2m was being sought through trust applications and donations.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ed On Top

Hillary does Everest...
Sir Edmund Hillary tops the world again!
A New Zealand-made 3D movie depicting Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Mt Everest played to a packed audience at its world premiere in Canada last Friday.
Beyond the Edge, about the world-first feat by the Kiwi mountaineering legend and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953, made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival to positive reviews from fans and film critics.
The climbers' sons, Peter Hillary and Norbu Tenzing, were among
...Moffit does Hillary
those at the sold-out event.
Director Leanne Pooley, a Canadian now living in NZ, said the film was completed only two weeks ago, and she’s delighted with its reception. Expat Kiwis and the local Sherpa community turned out in force for the screening.
Nelson actor Chad Moffitt played the young Sir Edmund, and Mt Cook resident Sonam Sherpa was Tenzing. The movie, filmed in the Southern Alps, received a 3.5 out of 4 stars review from Canada's largest daily newspaper, the Toronto Star.
It will have a NZ premier at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington on 22 October.
+ ...meanwhile Nepal plans to name two mountain peaks after Hillary and Tensing. The unclimbed peaks are expected to be opened to foreigners in the spring season that starts next March, in a move designed to boost tourism in the beautiful but desperately poor country.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NZ Does Conservation Week

Conservation Week 2013 launched yesterday...
...and it kicked off with a proposal for a new conservation park on Great Barrier Island, and a pest eradication programme on Rakitu Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
Great Barrier Island is a natural treasure and certainly deserves a higher conservation status than simply 'stewardship land'. The legal effect of a change in designation would result in greater protection for its flora and fauna, and an increased emphasis on recreation. If adopted, the conservation park would be of similar size to the Hunua and Waitakere Ranges Regional Parks, and would be the largest DOC Park in Auckland.
Meanwhile Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith says $190,000 from the Nature Heritage Fund is being committed to rid Rakitu Island of rats. These are a major problem for native birds on the island like the teal duck, morepork, grey warbler, shining cuckoo, silvereye, little blue penguin, and moko, copper and ornate skinks. It would also make the island safe for native birds like bellbirds and whiteheads. The rat eradication programme on Rakitu Island would take 2-3yrs to plan and complete and would involve an extensive programme of poisoning.
Conservation Week runs 8-15 September.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fonterra Fucked Up

As serious questions are raised over Fonterra's botulism balls-up, it transpires that the laboratories used by Fonterra were not accredited to carry out botulism tests!
Fonterra asked AgResearch to test whey samples for the clostridium botulinum toxin: it came back positive. So Fonterra issued a statement sparking global recalls of its product, a firestorm of consumer panic and criticism of the dairy giant. But the organisation in charge of accreditation of laboratories says the crown research laboratories were never qualified to carry out the tests: in fact NO NZ labs are accredited!
When Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) was finally notified by Fonterra, it sent samples to four overseas labs - all accredited - and had results back in 3½ weeks…confirming the contamination was a harmless strain of clostridium sporogenes.
Fonterra says it used AgResearch because it is one of only two research facilities in NZ capable of carrying out the test. AgResearch acknowledges it's not accredited, but claims it has the necessary experience and facilities to test for botulism. It agreed to carry out the botulism tests as a researcher, not as an accredited lab. It says when it advised Fonterra of the positive result, it said to also seek further testing. However, Fonterra claims it had no choice at that time but to go public that there was potential contamination.
So…panic reigned, orders were cancelled, reputations damaged… simply (it seems) because Fonterra didn't do the correct thing initially and go to an accredited lab!
Note to Fonterra: update your systems, for crissake! ONLY use accredited labs, establish clear lines of communication, traceability systems, specialised audits, more stringent quality controls… ANYTHING to avoid a repeat of what was – by ANY definition – a total FUCK-UP!!!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mt Hutt - Read The Bloody Forecast!!!

It's happened again!
More than 300 people, including 240 college students, were stranded on Mt Hutt last Wednesday by bad weather. reported on TV One
Staff closed the mountain late Wednesday morning when the weather deteriorated. Ski area manager James McKenzie says snow and wind reduced visibility so much they were forced to close the access road completely by noon. Workers were setting off explosives above the road to try to clear snow, so vehicles could leave safely. They checked conditions regularly until the snow and wind died down, allowing them to escort the stranded 316 off the mountain at about 2am Thursday.
A party of 270 Mt Hutt College students, staff and parents on an annual ski trip were among those stuck on the mountain.They hunkered down at the skifield cafe until the road cleared.
Parents vented their frustration on Facebook, calling the road closure predictable, and querying why the school went ahead with the trip when bad weather was forecast. The MetService had been warning of this short savage snap for several days...
[You may recall, in the winter of 2010, about 1200 were stranded up Mt Hutt by hurricane-force winds. The lousy storm had been forecast for days, yet still people were trapped - and questions were raised then! This seems a carbon-copy situation.]
Do they not read the weather forecasts up at Mt Hutt skifield? I get that $$$ is a driver, but that skifield should not have opened at all that day. Egress problems should have been anticipated, and thus easily negated, by simply keeping the gates closed!
Does no-one check the forecasts down at Mt Hutt College? Staff have a monstrous-sized duty of care, and that trip should never have gone up. These staff live near Mt Hutt, so (in theory) understand alpine weather. Perhaps they need a refresher in 'Weather Map Reading:101'!
Just what WERE they all thinking?! Evidently, very little.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Greg Boyed Makes Intelligent Choice

Presenter Greg Boyed is leaving TVNZ's Seven Sharp to return to primetime news - and will finish tonight.
Boyed has worked alongside has-been consumer interviewer Alison Mau and wanna-be comic Jesse Mulligan to host the 7pm nightly current affairs show, which launched last February to dismal reviews and lacklustre ratings.
Boyed will co-host One News Tonight with Miriama Kamo from next Wednesday. His replacement was still being recruited, but the press release says a raft of 'familiar faces' will join M+M in the meantime.
Fact is, there've been so many 'familiar faces' guesting on Seven Sharp, that its format seems to have morphed from attempting to hook into the younger demographic (by blending social media with light news), into a veritable "who's-who" of NZ's "you-ain't".
Television channels adopt widely varying strategies for current affairs programming in the hunt for viewers, and networks have to adapt to the market. So do presenters. Boyed's initial move to Seven Sharp was perhaps an attempt to do just that. His decision to return to serious news is a far more intelligent choice. He is one of NZ's top news presenters, and does us all a great service by coming back to what suits him best.
TVNZ still trumpets Seven Sharp as the new face of current affairs but, for many, it's evidence of the channel 'dumbing-down'. Maybe it should take a leaf out of Boyed's book.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Rattle And Hum

Preparing ex-Invercargill trams
for their new home

Christchurch's iconic trams may be up-and-running again by the middle of next month!
If you've been into the central city lately, you'll have seen tracks being restored and overhead wires installed while, behind the scenes, trams are being repainted in readiness.
There have been repeated delays to the return but officials are confident they will be back by mid-October.
Initially the route will run from the top of New Regent St, through Cathedral Junction, across the Square, down to Canterbury Museum and back. Problems accessing parts of Armagh St mean it will be March 2014 at the earliest before the full route is available. Extending it down Oxford Tce through to the Re:Start mall could be done by May next year. It may also be possible to extend the tram route to the Manchester/High/Lichfield Sts corner where business activity is increasing.
As an added attraction, all trams will have screens to show visitors what inner-city spaces looked like before the EQs and what they could look like in the future...while deliberately steering away from showing customers the doom-and-gloom stuff.
Having the trams back would help add life and vitality to the retail core, as well as familiarity and a hint of 'normality'. The council estimates it will spend $1.57 million bringing trams back to the inner city: that'll be money well spent!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Macca's Going Veggie?

McDonald's is trying to cash in on the whole vegetarian scene, with two new vegetarian wraps now hitting their restaurants in Canada.
This is the first time in a decade that McDee's is attempting a veggie-focused product. Rather than resurrect the 'veggie burger' (which didn't sell well all those years ago), they're trying something new: a Santa Fe Veggie wrap and a Mediterranean Veggie wrap. So what's in 'em?
Santa Fe Veggie wrap: fire-roasted corn, black beans, a blend of two cheeses, tomatoes, red onions, lettuce and tortilla chips, along with a chili-lime glaze and southwest sauce.
Mediterranean Veggie wrap: garlic hummus, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, lettuce, crispy onions and a creamy Mediterranean sauce.
Looks a better choice than a Big Mac, The Santa Fe contains 490 calories, 24gm of fat, and 980gm of sodium. Compare that to a Big Mac, with 540 calories, 29gm of fat, and 1,020gm of sodium.
Not much difference really, and cutting out the cheese and dairy sauces won't change things too much...not that anyone looks to Macca's for healthy fare. So why come up with these options?
Well, McDonald's has found that even people who don't identify as vegetarian still want vegetarian options from a meat-oriented junk food outlet.
Go figure!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Explaining Twerking to Your Parents

Every teenager dreads the day when your parents come to you, innocently asking: "What's twerking?"
Can public twerking make you go blind?
Remember: it's far better for you to explain, than for them to learn on their own by searching YouTube.
So...a critical first step is to acknowledge that twerking is a normal part of life and there's nothing shameful in their questions. They’re parents, after all and...well...they're curious.
Explain that twerking is a dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women, involving the rapid gyration of the hips in a fashion that prominently exhibits the elasticity of the gluteal musculature. They'll be puzzled why Miley Cyrus, who is white and wealthy, does it at every opportunity. Patiently respond that, for Ms. Cyrus, twerking is a brazenly cynical act of cultural appropriation being passed off as a rebellious reclamation of her sexuality after a childhood in the Disney-fied spotlight.
Upon hearing what twerking is, it's natural for your parents to want to experiment with it. They may even proudly announce, "Look at us, we're twerking!" not recognizing the inappropriateness of their actions and words. Try to resist the urge to chastise them; doing so will only increase their desire to twerk in defiance, perhaps in private.
It's also possible that your parents may suggest twerking at their next dinner party. Adopt a strict no-tolerance policy for group twerking unless you're there to supervise, other parents' children are warned beforehand and have given permission, and everyone in attendance is invited to participate.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Putin: Transvestite In Jackboots?

Zero deviation from the Big Brother-decreed 'norm' is the order of the day in Russia.
You'll recall the furore (Aug.2012) when three lesbians from the Pussy Riot punk collective were found guilty of hooliganism, for a protest against Pres. Vladimir Putin, and
Oh, ROCKY!! Lookin' good, Vlad!
faced 2yrs' jail. That same week, Moscow's high court upheld a 100yr.ban on gay pride.
St Petersburg was one of the first Russian cities to introduce a law banning 'gay propaganda'. Russia's parliament adopted similar laws, prompting protests and calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
This week, it's the G20 leaders' summit in St. Petersburg. So maybe Russia wants to portray a 'certain image'... or perhaps its merely Vlad The Putin who's concerned about his own image.
Either way, a painting showing Putin wearing tight-fitting women's underwear and brushing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's hair has been torn down by Russian police from a St. Petersburg gallery, for breaking unspecified laws. *shock*horror*probe* The artist has fled the country and is seeking asylum, fearing for his life.
Now, we can all see Putin is the master of the staged macho photo op. Whether tranquilising polar bears, harpooning whales, riding horses barechested or commanding a submarine, the Prez rarely drops his 'tough guy' image. (Bless him, he provides us with a few good sniggers!) We have seen him catch record-sized fish, and hang out with criminal bikie gangs. But what's with all this?
If Vlad spent half his photo-op time leading his country into...hell, even the 20th century with a dawning liberalisation!... he'd gain the sort of popularity that he dreams these images already bring him.
Or are these pix carefully staged to mask his real sexuality...which, by his own draconian laws, is banned? Does Putin go fishing...merely to hide his fishnets?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Company You Keep

Could the archetypal British dish of fish'n'chips be actually supporting the killing of endangered fin whales?
Unwitting Brits are eating fish, caught by an Icelandic firm with links to a company that resumed commercial whaling this year.
Campaigners are calling on Warners Fish Merchants in Doncaster (which supplies 8% of Britain's fish'n'chip shops) to halt imports from the Icelandic fishing giant, HB Grandi, which has close links with the whaling company Hvalur.
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) believes up to 90 fin have been killed by Hvalur since hunting in Icelandic waters resumed after a two-year hiatus. The fin whale was heavily hunted during the C20th., and is classed as 'endangered'.
Clare Perry, EIA: "Warners and other British companies should ensure there are absolutely no ties to whaling, before importing fish from Icelandic companies or other companies from whaling countries like Norway, Japan and the Faroe Islands."
Warners describes itself as having "a strong relationship with HB Grandi", and thus is fully aware that Kristjan Loftsson (owner of Hvalur) is chairman of its board, and that the companies share processing facilities.
"HB Grandi has in the past leased one of its buildings to Hvalur for processing whale meat," says Gary Warner, "...but HB Grandi does not have any quota on whales, nor does it catch or process whales." So, Gazza, just because HB Grandi doesn't actually fire the explosive harpoons, that makes its chummy association with Hvalur and bloodthirsty Loftsson ok?
In May 2011, major UK seafood supplier Findus marked HB Grandi as 'unacceptable' across its entire supply chain, for its whaling links. And in June 2012, HB Grandi was banned from supplying seafood to the 2012 London Olympics, for the very same reason!
It doesn't take a brain surgeon to read the writing on the wall: any association with any company linked to whaling will cost businesses dearly! Can Warners afford to lose 8% of its trade, because of the company it keeps...
Warners Fish Merchants: proudly supporting HB Grandi...