Friday, July 29, 2005

Escaping the election

I'm off to the USA for the next two weeks. Yay! Yay!

Boondocks of freaking nowhere, however, but at least one can more or less guarantee that neither Don Brash or the regrettable Mr Peters will be on the telly.

Might post updates if I come across anything of interest..

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Funding education

The removal of interest on student loans - as promised by Labour - would, I think, be a good thing. Former students won't be burdened by debt, new students won't be put off and the public purse will be more likely to collect on the principal of the loan, which we won't if people disappear overseas and never return.

How can education funding be improved for *new* students? I'd suggest the following:

- A two year, full time (48 week) standard degree. This would be able to cover the same ground academically as the current standard of three short years. It would cost roughly 80% of the fees for a three year degree. It would save students a lot of money in subsistence costs, due to only spending two years in college. It would also get people into the graduate workforce quicker, which would be good for the students *and* the overall economy.

- An entitlement for everyone to have the (cost) equivalent of five years post-18 training - this could be anything from a degree to subsidised workplace training.

- Every tertiary institution being required to move towards zero-fee courses. If Southland Tech can manage it, why can't others?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Gee! Mail!

I just signed up for a gmail account - to use for blog communication and so forth. Gmail is wierd - it's been on beta now for over a year - they must have ironed the technical bugs out.

But you have to jump through a small hoop to get an account - there's no "sign up here" page - instead, you need to go to something like and get an invite. Apparently, they used to be sought after and sold - now, people just donate unwanted invites to a pool.

Why is this? Possibly Google lose money on each account - 2G of disk space costs a few dollars a year to maintain and if gmail accounts are mostly secondary emails, then ad traffic might not be enough to cover this.

Ultimate geek toy

I got one of these for my birthday!

It's a binary LED watch. You have to read it by pressing the button and then converting the led pattern from binary to decimal. Possibly the most outstandingly geeky device ever! Thank you sis!

Now, should I buy myself an Oakley Thump or wait for the next generation of MP3 player sunnies with built in WiFi?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Small Town Big River

Apparently Dargaville has conceded its epic battle with Balclutha for the title of Big River Town and the use of the eponymous web address.

I now forsee a battle between Dargaville and Tokoroa for the address - currently untouched and available.

(wikipedia links for our international readership - who may possibly not have heard of any of these places).

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Outrageously tame

TV3's new NZ comedy/drama, Outrageous Fortune, follows the lives and mishaps of a family of Westie criminals trying to go straight. In the blurb, TV3 honcho Caterina De Nave is quoted as stating "This is a bold story. We’ve not seen anything like it on our televisions before".

Well, actually, we have. Quite a lot of it - from Minder to Lock, Stock... And about ten years ago Tarantino set a standard for blackly humorous drama with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In more recent years, we've seen comedy/dramas like Footballers' Wives set a standard for outrageousness (ex-wife arranges to have a baby at the same moment as current floozie, switches babies, one is eaten by dog, replacement nanny is disguised former "hostess" seeking revenge for her rape by entire team... You get the picture - that's *bold*).

None of the characters in Outrageous Fortune are in any way scary enough - they look more like property spivs (the older ones) or bFM presenters (the younger ones) than desperate crims from the ghettos of Henderson.

For instance, in the first episode wayward son Van burgles some Chinese people who are, it is suggested, Triad members. Now in the tradition of cop drama, crossing the Triads tends to wind a character up having his fingers cut off and served up as sweet and sour. On a good day. These guys intimidate the mother by sitting next to her in a car. After the son fails to return the priceless heirloom, smashing it to find that it *doesn't* contain a kilo of smack, they make him clean their swimming pool. What *is* this - Heartbeat?

Even in the Guardian

The Guardian has an article discussing the role of websites in encouraging "terrorists".

It states that: "Among the sites causing concern is Jihadunspun (JUS), a highly professional website which claims to present "a clear view of war on terror". It has been widely criticised in the US by agencies including the state department. "

The site Googles easily - it's at Apart from some really appalling poetry, it doesn't seem to me to contain any incitement to violence, just a radical leftist/islamic point of view on the "war against terror". There's probably more dangerous information on wikipedia, particularly if you look at the article history where stuff has been expunged (like here).

It strikes me as going pretty far to try and suppress sites just because they contain "thoughtcrime". The Guardian seems to be joining in this - they don't include a link to this or any sites - admittedly this one can be easily Googled, but I think that if a journalist bases an article on a web link, they should tell us what it is so we can make up our own minds.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Anywhere but London

In the very unlikely event that any IOC members are reading this - please don't vote for London hosting the Olympics.

London's infrastructure barely copes with the people that have to live and work there - adding the Olympics is just going to lead to chaos. The tube isn't going to get rebuilt by 2012 - the only way to rebuild it properly is to do what the French have done in Paris and build alternative high speed lines. It recently took longer to replace an escalator than it took to construct the entire Central line with picks and shovels.

My other objection is that the Olympics will drive Britain even further along the path to a police state. The need to avoid a terrorist attack on the Olympics will give the government every excuse to add even more repressive measures (they already have detention without trial and want to bring in ID cards).

At least New Zealand is too small to credibly bid for the Olympics.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Royal wealth

The Guardian (or at least the PA) reports that Prince Charles' income from the Duchy of Cornwall exceeded NZ$30mln last year. In doing so, it repeats the common assertion that the Duchy is the private property of the Prince of Wales and that he receives no income from the state.

I did some analysis of this - the Duchy was founded in 1337 by the Black Prince. In those days, the monarchy equalled the nation state - personal and national possessions were not differentiated. Since then Britain has become a constitutional monarchy, and there is a clear distinction between national property (e.g. Hyde Park) and personal possessions (e.g. Prince Harry's paycheque from the Army).

Which does the Duchy fall into?

When founded, it was part of the combined national/royal assets. In 1760, most of the royal assets were accepted as national property (and the state agreed to provide monarchs with an income, the Civil List). The Duchy of Cornwall was not included in this - I don't have any background on why? It was certainly not (like Harry's salary or his inheritance from Diana) the result of personal, as opposed to public, endeavors.

The Duchy is also not like a normal asset - it is not passed automatically to the holders heirs, and it can be held in abeyance for several years. (most recently from 1936-1952). Being Duke goes with being the oldest son of the monarch - if no such person exists, then there is no dukedom and the income from the Duchy goes to the state.

Hence, I would conclude that the money from the Duchy, rather than being private wealth, represents an income from the nation for being the monarchs eldest son. This being so, one must ask whether it represents a good deal for the UK taxpayer?