Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sharing opportunity

Big Music have won a legal case against Grokster in the US Supreme Court, allowing companies that operate file sharing services to be sued.

I'd suggest that this creates an opportunity for New Zealand. Some countries operate a system where a tax on blank media funds a "right to copy". We could do a similar thing with a small levy on bandwidth allowing a right to share files. The proceeds could be distributed to New Zealand musicians and other artists.

Having adopted such a scheme, we could pass laws sheltering NZ based companies from US and other litigation - this would be an economic boost as file sharing and other companies relocated here - we'd become a "data haven".

Monday, June 27, 2005

Reactions to restriction

A few things I've noticed recently:

- Auckland City Council is consulting on plans to limit bar opening hours to 3am (rather than 24hr in many cases as at present).

- Some Italians, annoyed by a smoking ban in restuarants, are organizing "private trattorias" in rented villas, outside the normal regulatory system.

- A kid got badly beaten up after a private after-ball party in a Grey Lynn warehouse.

What's the connection? It seems to me that if restrictions are increased on "legitimate" bars and clubs, then people are going to party in venues outside the licensing system. This went on extensively in the USA of the 1920s (speakeasys) and more recently in South African townships (shebeens). Of course, illegal venues are not going to be sensible and controlled like legal ones.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Alternative partnership

It occurs to me that, if the next election leaves NZ First holding the balance of powers, that the two largest parties would do well to consider an alternative.

The economic policies of National and Labour (free trade, mixed economy, independent central bank) are broadly the same. They differ mainly in emphasis - National wants to cut taxes, Labour to improve services. I suspect that neither Brash or Key really want to wreck the NZ economy by driving the budget into deficit (as their advertised policies undoubtedly would) - should they win the election look out for a claim that Labour left a "hole" in the accounts making their tax cuts impossible for several years (!)

NZ First have rather different views - if they can be said to have an economic policy it's Muldoonism - attempted autarchy and "redistribution through inefficiency".

So a Labour/National coalition would make sense for both parties (of course I personally would prefer Labour/Green). I wonder if either major party has ruled out a coalition with the other?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Chemical confusion

The Herald reports that the town of Takaka was evacuated after a fire at a dairy factory.

Nelson fire officer Rob Allan was reported as saying: "The focus was on keeping the fire away from the silos of caustic soda and sulphuric acid, If they do combine under a fire situation the gas that's produced is mustard gas" .

Not to doubt him or anything, but when I was at school H2SO4 + 2NaOH => Na2SO4 + 2H2O
Sodium sulphate is a mostly harmless salt and I think you know what H2O is..

To make mustard gas you actually need ethene (ethylene) and sulphur dichloride - I can't think of a good reason to have those in a dairy factory - unless they are making some very odd flavoured yogurt? The only chemicals you might have around that are nasty when combined would be Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) and any acid, e.g: (2NaOCl + 4HCl => 4NaCl +2H2O + Cl2). (You can try this in your own dunny if you want to expire from Chlorine poisoning).

Warning to kids of all ages: don't try this at home.

UPDATE: This article in the Herald suggests that the fire service and/or Fonterra's Health & Safety people are somewhat embarrassed by their error. Could I suggest chemistry lessons?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Go the desh!

As the Aussies lose to (last-ranked team) Bangladesh at one-day cricket, the news comes in that all-rounder Andrew Symonds has been suspended for going out on the piss.

As opposed to playing like a hungover wombat, presumably..

Friday, June 17, 2005

Health and power

I watched some of John Campbells pieces on power lines and cancer over the last couple of days. Not too much of them, as I find the attitude of those who don't know the difference between ionising radiation and electromagnetic fields, but are sure that they both cause cancer, rather irritating.

I will make the point however, that while power lines *might* have a rare health impact, not having electricity to warm our homes and refrigerate our food *will* have a real and immediate health impact!

Friday, June 10, 2005

Murdering truth

The increasingly irrelevant ACT party is unveiling its crime policies on the lawns of parliament with a collection of 131 white crosses on the lawns of Parliament, representing NZ's murder victims since the last election.

They are advocating California style "3 strikes and you're out" policies - which in that state have led to life imprisonment for stealing pizza from wastebins.

California is a safe, crime free haven then, where all the murderers and pizza thiefs are locked away? Not quite - California's last recorded murder rate was 6.8 per 1,000,000 - six times ours.

So in the unlikely event that ACT got elected, they'll need a bigger field for their next policy announcement to make room for all the crosses - perhaps they could book the Cake Tin?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

This morning's Dilbert

I thought this morning's Dilbert deserved sharing. I am glad that people are beginning to understand that the British accent is not only sexy, but a sign of latent genius: