Monday, November 30, 2015

NZ Passports Grow Wings

From today (Mon.30 Nov.2015), you can now purchase a ten-year New Zealand passport again!
Since 2005, kiwis were issued 5yr passports: that was in response to security concerns after the New York Twin Tower attacks on Sept.11 2001. But last May, the NZ Govt announced passports would return to a 10yr validity, as modern biometrics technology was considered strong enough to address passport fraud security issues.
So from today, NZers aged 16yrs+ can apply for the new passport at a cost of $180 - $40 more than a 5yr version. And although the new 10yr passports are more expensive per unit than the 5yr ones, they work out cheaper per year of validity. Children's passports remain at 5yrs (as is international convention), due to the rate at which their appearance change. But the 5yr adult passport is now a gone-burger.
A surge of applications is expected from today on, as lotsa folk wanting to renew their 5yr passports have been holding off until now. However the Department of Internal Affairs is confident that new passport turn-around time will be within 10 working days.
The new passport validity period brings NZ passports in line with US, UK, French, Dutch, German and Ozzie passports.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Puppet Power!

Who's the dummy?!
If you're tired of the same ol' ventriloquist and puppetry acts - y'know, wooden dummy sits on human dummy's knee, taking the piss out of human dummy in tired slapstick routines, dubiously half-funny back in the '50s - well, be prepared for a massive sea-change!
Puppetry just got supa-COOL! In the video clip below, puppet master Alexander Jorgenson does a phenomenal performance with his marionette Barti, controlling more than 40 strings to make this puppet come alive. Barti plays the piano and sings Lucille (a big hit for Little Richard in 1956) for a cabaret crowd, and afterward Barti even steals a few kisses from some of the ladies in the audience!
This must surely be the most stunning marionette work you'll ever see!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Old Friends DO Die...

Don't it always seem to go, that we don't know what we've got...
'til it's gone. Ahhh, how true.
Many people have reconnected with friends, acquaintances and schoolmates over the years, on the kiwi website But soon they'll have to find a new platform.
Old Friends, a subsidiary of Trade Me, is going to be shut down in Jan.2016 and all its data deleted (as required under the Privacy Act).
Spokesman for Trade Me, Logan Mudge, says it's not a decision made lightly: "We have to focus on what we can and cannot do. We haven't been able to give it the attention it needed so it was time to close." He said it wasn't a financial decision as the site was making a modest income, but rather so that Trade Me could focus on bigger business opportunities in its core areas.
Over the last few months, 600-1,200 users accessed the website daily. In comparison, Trade Me had 848,000 daily users. But saying that, Old Friends had other impressive numbers. These included 1,621,577 members - nearly half the NZ population - plus 2300 schools, 36,000 workplaces, 7100 clubs, 164 marae etc etc. But even those numbers weren't able to be converted into any sort of income. So it's goodbye, Old Friends, coz dollars talk.
Many Old Friends users have tales of reuniting with friends they haven't seen in decades - some have even caught up with childhood sweethearts.
Nothing will be launched to replace Old Friends. Users have been emailed to tell them the website is closing down in mid-late January. They've been urged to download and save any information, photos and data they want kept.
It seems to me such a shame that the service could not have been outsourced to save it. Surely, with the existing infrastructure in place, a couple of part-timers could have maintained Old Friends from a home base...?

Note: Sam Morgan, who founded TradeMe, NZ's largest online auction site, sold it in 2006 to Australian media company Fairfax for over NZ$750 million.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Does This Count As A No-Ball?

A game of backyard cricket, in a property bordering the Avondale Racecourse in Auckland, could have ended badly for one of the participants last Saturday.
A wayward shot resulted in the ball soaring skywards and on to the Auckland racetrack near the 1000m mark...just as the field jumped from the barriers for the start of Race 2.
Soon after, a young man, who didn't appear to be in a great rush, wandered onto the track to retrieve the ball as the field thundered towards him...
After realising a race was in progress - and he was right in the middle of it! - he ducked under the inside running rail when the thundering hooves were within 75m of him.
The course manager spoke to the cricketers at the property, and a racecourse staffer was posted on the back straight for the rest of the day.
Club president Alan Boyle: "Safety requirements obviously demand an investigation. Firstly I need to talk with the track manager and club committee member responsible for track safety, so it's a bit premature to comment until that is done."
I'd suggest in the meantime, NZ Cricket officials might like to measure the length of that hit, and see whether the batter is worthy of recruiting for the Black Caps!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Who's Really So Vain?

One of the biggest questions in music history: who was Carly Simon really referring to in her hit You're So Vain?
You remember: "I bet you think this song is about you, don't you?"
Actor Warren Beatty has long been a prime suspect, and now Carly has confirmed it. But Beatty's wrong if he thinks the whole song is about him.
Carly's revealed he was only the subject of the second verse:
"You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive
Well you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and..."

Speaking about her new memoir Boys in the Trees, Simon says: "I've confirmed that the second verse is Warren." Asked if he knew this, she said that, in keeping with the song's theme, "Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!"
You're so Vain sold more than a million copies when it went to No.1 in USA in 1972-73 and, for more than 40 years, Simon has never publicly revealed the name of the subject, hinting that it could be a combination of people rolled into one.
Speculation has ranged from Beatty - once Simon's boyfriend - to her former husband James Taylor, to Mick Jagger (who sang back-up on the track) to showbiz tycoon David Geffen - though Simon squashed that rumour when it surfaced in 2010 (saying she didn't even know Geffen in '71 when she wrote the song).
Two other egotists are yet to be named. Asked if she will ever name the other two men, Simon says: "I don't think so, at least until they know it's about them."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Timeball To Rise Again

As it was...
The Lyttelton Timeball will be restored in an epic $3.4 million effort.
The Timeball Station (c.1876) was "mechanical Victoriana in action", the high tech of its day. Overlooking Lyttelton Harbour, it told mariners the exact moment it was 1pm each day, and was one of only five working timeballs in the world.
It was also home to the Timeball Keepers who, like lighthouse keepers, lived in their station.
When radio technology made the timeball obsolete in the 1930s, the building carried on as a residence, eventually owned by Heritage New Zealand. It got the timeball working again, turfed out the tenants, installed a museum...and then the earthquakes struck. After the Feb.2011 quake, there was no way the Cat.1 heritage building could be repaired.
So here's what's happening now? The octagonal 15metre tower and the timeball on top will be reconstructed - forget the residence. This'll start in July 2016 and will take 12 months. The new tower must comply with the Building Code, so there will be plenty of concrete, steel and block, hidden behind the salvaged heritage stones. The timeball and associated mechanisms will be restored, which will almost certainly involve casting new iron parts, rather than buying new gearing.
The timeball will work, but probably won't fall every day: that'll be reserved for special occasions or perhaps some schedule yet to be decided.
Ferrymead Heritage Park is currently the storage site for the salvaged materials: tower stone, the timeball, its mechanism, plenty of timber, whatever survived of the's estimated that about 2000 salvaged stones will be used to skin the new tower.
Total cost: approx.$3.4 million, of which HeritageNZ already has $2.6m. Stand by for some public fundraising next year...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Friends: The One Where Nobody Noticed

American tv series Friends had a fantastic run over its 1994-2004
People around the globe could relate to the many misadventures and oddball utterings of Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross.
It became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, nominated for 62 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning Outstanding Comedy Series in 2002. The series finale in 2004 was watched by 52.5 million US viewers, making it the 5th.most-watched series finale in tv history, and the most-watched tv episode of the 2000s decade.
Pretty amazing, huh?
What's even more amazing is that, until now, NOBODY noticed the cast substitutes!
Yeup, an eagle-eyed US fan has spotted stand-ins in several episodes!
Jordan D'Amico noticed one during Ep.209, The One With The Mugging (2003). As you can see (above), Rachel is there beside Joey. But then, quicker than you can say "How you doin'?!" - different blouse, different woman!
D'Amico then spotted a sub for Monica, in Ep.175, The One With Rachel's Date (2001) (to the right)!
How this has gone unseen for so many years is a mystery... just what the hell was happenin'???!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

New Excelsior But Facade Goes

the old facade
Christchurch's old Excelsior Hotel is going to be rebuilt.
Unfortunately it'll be a modern building with a replica facade - not the old facade that's been propped up by shipping containers in the CBD for the past three years.
The 1880s hotel was wrecked in the earthquakes and only the western facade currently remains.
Property development company Canterbury Property Investments (CPI) is buying the site - it's going to smash down the original facade and rebuild the hotel.
Christchurch Heritage Trust, which bought the building to save it in 2011, says it's happy with both the buyers and the rebuild plan (originally it had hoped to dismantle the facade and reuse it in a new building, describing
Artist's impression of the new Excelsior Hotel
demolition as "unthinkable" when it purchased the property).
Trust vice chairman Stephen Collins says things had changed, and lightweight replicas were now a viable rebuild option: "Purists may say it's not heritage but the reality is, what we'll finish up with will look identical."
CPI has already built a St Asaph St restaurant in the style of the demolished Occidental Hotel, and a barbecue restaurant in the style of a historic San Francisco fire station. As well, it's planning two new hotels on the old Press site in Cathedral Square, one behind a replica of the old Press building.
This project will cost about $10 million.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hello, Adele!

Adele's comeback single Hello is an absolute cracker (just like her, really!). And it's smashing records worldwide.
But let's not get snowed under by stats: here's the song itself. You'll LUV it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Job For Christmas

Want a new job pre-Xmas?
If you enjoy working with your hands, are persistent and patient, and have a passion for Christmas, then here's just the job for you.
Tesco in Wrexham, North Wales, is hiring a Christmas light detangler! The successful candidate will manage the "Christmas Lights Untangling stand", untangling long lengths of LED lights that've wound themselves into a mess.
An ad for the position appeared in the town's local rag recently and also on Tesco's website. The store is looking for an "enthusiastic individual to join the in-store team to run a new and innovative light-untangling service."
This is not a joke. It's serious stuff - the candidates need to be able to untangle 3 metres of lights, brought in by customers, in "under three minutes."
The job is billed as a UK first, and be available in the Wrexham branch, to help customers by untangling their knotted Christmas lights while they shop.
Not only will the candidate be expected to untangle the electric mess, but also check them for broken bulbs.
Ho-ho-bloody ho! Feeling that festive love? Bah-humbug!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Porn or Pop? Adele Decides

Adele and Oscar
Keep your ears open for Adele's hot new comeback single, Hello
and your eyes open for the new Rolling Stone mag, featuring the singer on the front cover.
But what a change! Gone is the big trademark hairstyle. She's stripped back to tousled wet hair and minimal make-up as she sits in a white dressing gown for the cover shot.
Adele says she's constantly asked whether she would pose for Playboy: "I've been asked so many times, it's ridiculous, but do they ask me because I'm a woman…or because I'm fat?" With the huge wave of public support for plus-size women, Adele says "...sometimes I'm curious to know if I would have been as successful if I wasn't plus-size. I think I remind everyone of themselves. Not saying everyone is my size, but it's relatable because I'm not perfect, and I think a lot of people are portrayed as perfect, unreachable and untouchable."
27yr.old Adele has enjoyed a phenomenal comeback, with the release of her first single since the James Bond Skyfall theme song in 2012.
An accompanying video for Hello has been released and it clocked a mammoth 100 million views in just five days. It's had the most US downloads sold in a week: 1.11m. It's the first song ever to sell 1m+ downloads in a week.
The catchy song was streamed 47.5m times globally on Spotify, making it the most-streamed song over a week in the online streaming platform's history.
The music video also broke records at entertainment platform, delivering more than 27m views in the first 24 hours after its release.
Can't wait for the new album, called 25, due out before the end of this month!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stewart Island Stranding

Dozens of pilot whales have died after stranding at Doughboy Bay on Stewart Island this week.
The pod of 29 was discovered on Tuesday evening by two trampers, who were unable to alert the Department of Conservation (DoC) for two days because the bay was so remote.
DoC says eight of the whales were still alive when they arrived on Thursday, but they had to be euthanised. Refloating was not an option given the length of time the whales had been stranded in hot, dry conditions.
Because the stranding site is so isolated, the whales will be left to decompose naturally on the beach. Visitors should stay well clear of the carcases.
And thus the 2015 whale-stranding season in NZ begins...

The largest mass stranding on record happened in 1918, when 1000 whales were stranded on the Chatham Islands.
The most recent stranding on Stewart Island was in June 2013 when one pilot whale got stuck on Maori Beach.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Winners And Losers

Ahhhh, the pitfalls of posting selfies!
An Ozzie woman who posted a pic of her winning Melbourne Cup ticket has had her A$825 winnings stolen.
...and OMG! She's BLONDE!!!
The Perth woman, known only as Chantelle, backed the 100-to-1 shot Prince of Penzance in last Tuesday's Melbourne Cup.
When she found out she'd won, she posted a selfie - including its clearly-readable barcode (duuuuuhhhh!!!) - to brag to her friends.
Well, one of those "friends" wasn't quite so friendly! Just 15 minutes later, she tried to cash her winning ticket...only to find it had already been claimed.
Shock-horror-probe! Someone had downloaded the selfie pic, cut out the winning ticket's barcode and put it into an automated machine.
The theft was made all the worse after Chantelle realised the culprit must have been one of her Facebook "friends".
This should serve as a warning to social media users posting seemingly innocuous images that may contain sensitive information...but you know it won't. This stupid practice of self-publicity will continue, and rip-offs like this will happen again!
So, at whom should our scorn be directed: the ratbag Facebook "friend" who made an opportunistic cash-killing? Or the bimbo idiot who showed the world her winning barcode?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bloody Tourists!

Everyone wants to head home with the perfect collection of holiday pix but, more often than not these days, that's impossible.
There are just sooooo many others, trying to snap the very same things as you! Dammit! How dare they?!
Places such as the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tour get millions of visitors every year, making them some of the busiest spots on this planet.
So, unless you wanna wake up at 3am, the likelihood is that any photo taken at a famous spot will also have a large number of tourists milling around in it.
But happy-joy, this pain-in-the-pixels could soon be a thing of the past. Adobe has invented a new piece of software that removes moving items from a picture. True!
'Monument Mode' is new software that uses an algorithm to distinguish moving objects from fixed ones.
To make it work, a camera in 'Monument Mode' is pointed at a landmark, even in a busy street, for a short period of time to record several seconds of footage from a fixed point.
The technology then analyses the live camera feed and removes the moving objects, giving a clean shot of just the subject and the monument. This enables the average person to remove pesky cars and tourists from their images in a similar way to professional photographers, who've been able to do this using Photoshop for years.
This wonderful toy is not for sale yet, but is not too far away.
At last: proof that there IS a God...and he's a photographer!