Friday, December 14, 2007

A test

This is just a test.

Friday, November 23, 2007

FUD from Genesis

When I moved into my new flat, it was connected to Genesis Electricity. Getting the bill put in my name resulted in the remains of several trees being delivered to me in the form of bills, corrected bills, bumph, "charity" begging, etc. Destroying the planet is a hard job, but somebody's got to do it.

Amongst the bumph was a document with the following statement, which is repeated at their website:

We know that New Zealanders are concerned about future generation. So we are committed to keeping the energy coming. If lake levels drop we can rely on our other energy sources such as wind and thermal energy.

Now, that would suggest to me a claim that where other generators might cut power in a crisis, Genesis would be able to keep their customers going. That's how I read it anyway.

So I checked this fact with somebody in the industry. Can the customers of power generators be selectively connected / disconnected from the mains? (perhaps in the same way as your hot water tank gets turned off at peak times through a device called a ripple relay).

Nope - can't be done either technically or legally.

So basically, Genesis are putting out a blatantly misleading statement to sell power. As a customer and shareholder (they're an SOE) I object to this.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sorry, I gave earlier

I guess I might be being a bit curmudgeonly, but I am slightly irritated with this "Movember" thing that has induced a substantial proportion of the males around town to grow facial minge.

Firstly, I have this belief that essential public services, like healthcare, should be funded out of taxation, not dependent on charitable contributions. The several thousand dollars I fork out each month in tax ought to pay for a decent health system without my having to find a few more quid voluntarily. If it doesn't, then we should be paying more tax.

For me, charities should be funding "nice to have" areas of spending, like sport, parks and art galleries; they should also be campaigning for change (which government obviously can't do).

Secondly, charitable donation should be an act of entirely voluntary altruism. If charities try to guilt trip me into giving them money, the iconoclast in me says no. I object to chuggers, badges, stickers, etc. The Movember thing is getting a bit like poppies are in the UK - you're obliged to have one or people think you're a callous bastard.

Incidentally, did you know that when you give money to charity via a business through the "do you want to donate a dollar for cute babies" thing they hit you with at the till, the supermarket company or whatever is taking a tax deduction. So basically, as you give money to the charity, you decrease the amount of tax money that's going to fund healthcare, etc.

I gave some money this month to the Urewera 17 legal fund. Plus I gave some to the SPCA, just because they're were some chuggers buttonholing people next to a nice SPCA lady sitting quietly with a bucket - so the latter got my money.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Distorted fireworks

More distortion in the Herald today, this time with fireworks as the target.

They claim that "at least nine people were injured in fireworks-related incidents at the weekend" and report calls for a ban on all private firework sales. Apparently we have been told by the Prime Minister to "behave" or fireworks will be banned.

Let's examine those reported nine injuries:

Incident 1 was two kids slightly injured when a home firework malfunctioned and shot fireballs, apparently with enough force that they were still able to inflict burns 10m away.

Incident 2 was three children slightly injured by a faulty firework at a public display.

Incident 3 was a 22-year old man with an eye injury from a private firework. No details are provided on what happened.

Incident 4 was two idiots in the South Island1 throwing petrol on a fire and each other on top. This dumbass accident involved petrol not fireworks.

Incident 5 was a professional pyrotechnics operator injured by a firework at a public display.

So actually, three people were injured by the private use of fireworks. Four people were injured at public displays. Two were injured by stupidity with gasoline, which I assume the government isn't going to ban, at least until supplies run dry.

Two, maybe three of the injuries stemmed from "misbehaviour" rather than product or procedural failure. Only one of these involved fireworks (and we don't know they were being dumb, it might have been another dud).

But the Herald manages to turn no evidence whatever that anyone was injured by fooling with fireworks into an unanimous call for a ban. They didn't even question the fire chief when he said "[the new restrictions] are a positive thing but they just don't work". They're meant to be journalists - should they not have asked what his criteria was for a success? Or why he was saying that, when *nobody* had been seriously injured in Auckland as a result of fooling with fireworks. Should they maybe have asked whether the reduced sale time for fireworks was having a bad effect on product quality?

1. What is with South Islanders? They're only a quarter of the population but account for a disproportionate amount of dumbass injuries (eating ten party pills at a go also springs to mind). Maybe just the South Island needs a ban on anything flammable, toxic, or longer than it's wide?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The imaginary Crown

I just got back from the rally against police oppression of thought criminals in Aotearoa. We had a good turnout despite the shite weather. People were fluffy. There were no cops apart from those lined up outside Wellington nick trying to look staunch (only one of them had a coppers beard - what's with that? Are they going out of fashion or are they auditioning for undercover work?)

One of the speakers, as is traditional, used the term "Crown" to describe the NZ government. I so don't like that shorthand - here's why:

The decisions to send armed cops against Tuhoe and arrest peaceful activists in Te Aro aren't being made by an old lady in a castle in England.

They aren't really being made by a younger lady in an office block in Wellington (who believes that a right-wing government run by her is better than one run by John Key).

What drives those decisions is the attitudes of a bunch of New Zealanders listening to talkback radio on their way to the mall.

- They think that because they pay rent to a bank instead of a landlord, they actually "own" their house.

- They think that their tax money, rather than being coming straight back in services and benefits, is being handed out to The Other to subsidise indolence.

- They think that because they have a desk, phone and business card, they're actually partners in the enterprise they work for rather than human machinery.

- They think that the passage of 150 years erases the property rights of brown people and makes any attempt to reclaim those rights an act of racism.

- They think that spliffs and pills are bad, evil drugs; but their six pints while watching a rugby game is a chap's reasonable refreshment.

- They believe that all of this is not a political stance, but something called "common sense" and that the media which echo this all back are "impartial".

Which is all a lot harder to deal with than to just rail against an imaginary "Crown".

That's my rant for today. Have a good one.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Crap security advice

If you use a corporate provided computer system, you probably have a number of passwords to "remember". You probably have these written on a postit attached to the monitor or stored in a convenient file on the desktop called Passwords.doc.

Here's some advice a dude with dodgy hair at Computerworld that explains why:
Use strong passwords: No user password should be shorter than eight characters. It's even better if they are nine or 10 characters long. Elevated accounts should have even lengthier passwords. Passwords should not be shared between internal and external sites, and they should be changed every 90 or so days.

Users won't remember those passwords. Particularly if they access an "elevated" system like payroll that only needs to be accessed every quarter. They'll be on postits or in files.

Look, if the data/system is too important for a six character password it should be protected by two factor authentication, like one of those security dongles you see. Otherwise you might just as well hand your users a printed card with the password on and tell them to keep it safe.

And while I'm at it, something that wasn't recommended in the article, but which is very popular, is to have a convoluted system of forms and approvals to get a login. Which pretty much guarantees that once Doris in accounts has finally obtained a password for the payroll system, it'll be written on the whiteboard for the whole office to use.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Burning Man Pt2 - Actually there!

So here we are again with the next part of my exciting holiday in the desert - Stay Awake At The Back There!!

By the time we had made it through the entrance, it was heading for dawn already. Despite Dire Warnings it was pretty easy to find the Burner Hostel area. We parked up, and I started into rum with coffee to keep the cold out (it wasn't really very cold at all). The first interesting site was a very nice couple with a tricycle that incorporated a harp. Which the girl was playing, rather sweetly.

Soon sun rose over the desert and the BRIBH: 

It was time to pitch camp. The tent having been beach tested, it went up relatively easily. The shade structure took a bit more cursing - having tested it in the cool of my Auckland office, I hadn't allowed for it expanding in the desert sun. However I eventually got the thing built - and it stood up through duststorms for the whole week:

Britcamp had also to be finished, so we bolted and tied that together. By the evening we were pretty much sorted. The BRIBH bar was also ready...

I'm not sure what the correct ratio of rum to coke in a rum and coke is. Probably the first ones that Emma made were about right - by about 9ish, it was about a pint of rum with a dash of coke.

Having partaken of That Drink, I then decided unilaterally to go for a wander around the city. There was after all, that exciting total lunar eclipse to see that evening..

Despite it being the first night, numerous bars and dancy places had opened. I found most of them. At some stage I noticed that the moon looked wierd - I wasn't really sure as to quite why. Eventually, I lighted upon a pub that brewed English-style beer - what a great concept!

By that stage, my Cup With A Lid (which one had been instructed to Always Carry) had been left on a bar somewhere. No problem, since I had a convenient Nalgene water bottle that was now empty of water. The people in the pub nicely filled this with beer, so I was sorted!

There follows a blurry interlude. Apparently at some point around this time The Man was burnt. Early. There also should have been a lunar eclipse, but apart from the abovementioned wierdness I can't really recall noticing. I guess I somehow made it home. (I have an instinct for this, usually)

The next morning, I realised that the shade structure was good for about 0900. Not any later and certainly not noon like I'd hoped. The only shade structure that works for that is an RV with aircon and plenty of diesel. I was thirsty as fuck. I reached for my water bottle, which contained the dregs of the (by now very) warm, flat, English beer from the night before... 

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Submission on BZP

Here's my proposed submission to the Health Committee that is considering the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill.

I oppose the intent of this bill because:
1. The control of potentially harmful substances, in order to achieve any degree of popular acceptance, should be evidence based.

2. Despite 15% of young adults in New Zealand using BZP, there have been no deaths and no proven long term harm as a result.

3. Comparable drugs which are not to be proscribed by the bill cause 1000 deaths (alcohol) and 5000 deaths (tobacco).

4. Some level of use of recreational substances by young people and others is inevitable in all open, democratic societies.

5. Proscribing a further group of substances will not reduce the overall level of use but will result in users switching to other substances, which may be more objectively harmful (e.g. Methamphetamine)

6. No alternatives to proscription of BZP (such as education, control of outlets, price control through taxation) have been attempted, apart from banning sales to under 18s.

7. The normal presumption of innocence under the Bill of Rights Act is reversed by this act. It is unjustified to remove this basic right for the crime of supplying an allegedly mildly harmful substance, whilst it remains for serious crimes against the person, such as rape.

Any thoughts? The deadline for submissions is the 12th October. I believe that the committee sees a summary of the points raised by submitters, so for maximum effect, submissions should try and include original points that will be included in that summary.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Burning Man Pt1 - the pre-burn

In some ways we Kiwis are not as isolated as we think. Downtown Auckland to downtown San Francisco is a sub-18 hour trip with no changes of plane - some of the Brits had epic journeys involving Atlanta and the like. I got to SFO on a sunny Sunday lunchtime, and after a quick snooze wandered up Haight St in search of blinkies and clothes. San Fran has many areas that reflect events in modern history - from the New Deal (the Coit Towers) through an obscure 1950's literary movement (North Beach) to the great leap forward of the 1960s (the Haight). The latter has more or less moved on into the current world of nu-rave (or whatever one calls it) with all the stores fully ramped up to meet the needs of those adjusting for the Company Picnic (as I understand they call it in the Bay Area).

Having got myself some nice skirts sharongs and a kilt, as well as a few of the aforementioned overpriced blinkies, I was ready to head out. I caught up with Hippie and Pascal, stuffed our faces with Mexican food (cheap and yummy) and headed out of town in my shiny (and soon to be otherwise) rental car. A four hour blast up the freeway later, we managed to find Hageys without a map (navigation kudos to Pascal - no u-turns!) and began my descent into the lower circles of burnerness.

Reno pre-burn was a whirl of shopping, meeting new friends, hanging out in the pool, buying beer, drinking beer, buying more beer, etc. The crowd at Hageys was the usual mix of dotcom millionaires, predicate violent felons and recently released DPWers. Somehow I managed to equip myself with ticket, water, snackfood, more blinkies, (mostly) legal substances and more beer.

One thing you notice as you approach Burning Man is the level of hierarchy and status positioning that happens in a supposingly "radically participatory" festival. Each to his own, but an awful lot of people seem to regard part of their Burning Man experience as being able to set themselves up as a team leader or whatever. I guess they are all self-employed or work for amazingly flat organisations that don't give them enough of that sort of thing in the default world?

Anyways, a group of us decided, since we weren't going to be allowed in One Minute Before Midnight, to go camp at Pyramid Lake on Saturday. Hagey gave us the good oil on where to camp, we managed to avoid getting stuck in the sand (unlike one family of obvious non- burners who drove their soft roader right up to the lake and got it axle deep. Ha ha!) and found an excellent spot right by the pyramid. Us being me, Itamar, Paisley, Keren and Neta (so one Kiwipom, three Israelis and a token American).

After chilling at the beach, kayaking around the pyramid (thanks to Jenna? for lending us her boat) and driving up through the desert, we got to the gates of Burning Man.

Soon (after several hours fluffing around) I finally entered into the altered world of the Playa!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back from Burning Man

I just got back from Burning Man a couple days ago.

I'll post a few articles (with photos) on this next week when I have better computer access, but suffice it to say that it was awesome. I missed the first burn of the "Man" but saw the second one.

Plus I met lots of people and have some great ideas and plans.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Outaa here!

I'm just about packed. Costumes, tents and other fun things (including the MoaBike) have either been built or passed the event horizon of not-happening-this-year. My flat contains less strewn around bits of wire, fur and disassembled electrics and instead has three large bags.

So for the next three weeks I shall be variously in California, Nevada and at the location shown above partaking of the Burning Man. I'll write something about it when I get back, probably!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Shiny stuff

I should maybe have gone to Siggraph '07 in San Diego - despite my general conference aversion. They were covering wearable technology - like a bikini1 that charges a mobile music player. Actually, a bikini that charges a phone would be more useful. If the phone was in the top, then it would add a whole new aspect to the phrase "why are you talking to my tits".

1. Just as a bonus, some of you might not know the etymology of the word "bikini". Two piece swimsuits were invented at about the same time as H-Bombs. The first such device, when tested, blew the middle out of Bikini Atoll. Hence the name bikini was used for a swimsuit with no middle bit.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Email advice

Apparently the following advice has been circulated in a major NZ university on the phrasing of emails to students:

You want a days extension! Ha ha ha!

I'm sorry to hear of the death of your father/auntie/cat/pet gerbil. Especially since I'm fully convinced you never had one. Even if you presented me with the body laid out in an open casket, I'd still suspect you'd got one of those goff Engineering students to dig it up out of Grafton cemetery.

Whatever grade I gave you, you still wouldn't pass this course. I suspect you'd have problems passing water without drinking five pints of Lion Red first. Oh sorry, you don't drink Lion - should have guessed that from the headtowel you wore in the one lecture you came to this term. Cristal then.

Call me old fashioned, but to get a degree in an English speaking country you actually have to speak English. Which you have about as much skill at as George Bush.

I'm sorry to hear that you are going to report this to Sheik Yerbouti - if he's related to you, he must be a thickshake!

I will not be giving you the assignment extension. You are not only thick as pigshit, but a hideously ugly freak to boot.

Dr Insensitive Bastard


Thank you for asking for an extension for your May class assignment.

I'm very sorry to hear about the death of your family member. Please accept my condolences. This year has certainly been a tragic one for you - it is some time since a student had more than two bereavements in a semester, let alone twelve.

I hope this sadness will not affect your success as a postgraduate student here at the University. Should you find the need to take some differently challenging units next term, I would commend our business school to you. They offer a range of internationally appropriate studies leading to recognised qualifications. Understanding that all languages are valid and vibrant forms of communication in international business, they avoid judging students on their (perhaps imperfect) command of just one of the planets tongues.

Your extension has been approved. Are you happy with a B+ grade?

I look forward to seeing you on your next visit to the university. If as mentioned you require an aegrotat for next term's classes then please let us know.

Kia Kaha,
Dr Sensitive Financially-Friendly

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Shade Structure

My shade structure for Burning Man is nearly done. Because BM is held in the desert, it gets damn hot in the daytime, so trying to sleep in, as might be required after hard-core partying, needs a bit of planning.

North Americans who drive to BM have the option of lugging large amounts of heavy stuff to solve this (e.g. a refrigerated shipping container with rooftop jacuzzi).
I'm limited to three bags of no more than 22kg each, so I've had to try and keep things small and light.

What I've tried to do is build a braced frame out of UPVC pipe and then put an Alishade cloth over it. Like this:

The actual frame is below. The joints between the pipe are reinforced with dowel to give them some rigidity and strength (in tension/compression). The idea is that the base will be firmly nailed to the playa surface with rebar hoops. The yellow rope bits you see are internal guys - I guess I could also string external guy ropes but shouldn't really be needed.

I've just got to fix eyelets to the shadecloth and it'll all be ready to go. Weight about 7kg and fits in a ski bag.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


If there's any doubt of the cleverness of our government, they've just been dispelled.

NZ has struggled for some months with an (allegedly) overvalued dollar and no effective tools to reduce the parity. Now they've found one:

Winston Peters has been sent around the world to spout his views on economics. Once the markets realise that not only does our present government contain an unreconstructed Muldoonist, but that any future Key administration will as well, we will see a dollar back in the 60c range faster than you can say "voodoo economics"!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Hey hey it (was) Saturday

I don't normally do political meetings, but I thought that George Galloway would be worth hearing. He didn't disappoint - I don't think any NZ politicians can match his oratory - he even does samples: "I told Tony Blair that the invasion of Iraq would not be the end, it would not be the beginning of the end, it would be the end of the beginning". (Original - Winston Churchill, 1942).

It was a very good turnout - the 800 seat hall was filled to capacity. That's a lot of people for a political meeting on a wet Saturday night in Auckland.

After that, and after lashing together a green glowy roadworkers top, I went to see Tom Cosm at Space. Cosm is amazing - he's known as a psy-trance DJ, but as Helix correctly pointed out last week, he's a whole lot more than that - he mashes together psy and breaks in a one-off live performance. (Using Ableton, a laptop and a couple of controllers). If you get a chance to see him touring with Pitch Black, go and do it...

Friday, July 27, 2007

36 days till the man burns!

It gets closer to Burning Man!

I got my EL wire delivery today.

The Moa-bike is getting close to complete. The Laser Eyes work. The LED illuminator works, the head is about there. I've done the frame for the tail and just have to cut and sew (!) the fur.

I've also got the shade structure roughed out, going to get the Alishade material this arvo and set the thing up. It fits in a ski bag, too.

DJ Station are making me a fur coat and I have a range of cool trousers.

So I think I'm getting there, mostly...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Save the Kiwi

Like everyone in NZ, I've got the option of joining Kiwisaver this year. I guess it's a sign of age that I'm actually interested in it.

I've just had a look at the terms - which, on most of the information sites, have been subject to a degree of inaccurate precis.

They basically amount to:
- An initial $1,000 kickstart
- A tax credit of $1,043 or the amount you contributed in a year, whichever is lower
- An employer contribution of 1% in 2008/09 rising to 4% in 2011/12

In return for this, you lock your money up until age 65.

What isn't in the scheme (and *is* in a UK personal pension, for instance):
- tax relief on contributions (apart from the capped tax credit). Your contributions come out of *taxed* pay
- tax relief on fund growth. The fund providers are taxed at 30% (you don't see this tax bill - it just reduces your fund growth)

Of course, the Brits pay quite a lot more tax than we do and they can only take 25% of their fund out as a lump sum.

I've made this calculator to see what the tangible benefits of the scheme are. It compares, based on age and salary, the effect of putting 4%/8% of salary into Kiwisaver against putting the money into a fund directly (and thus having it immediately accessible). Note that due to GoogleDoc limitations, to change values you'll have to export it into Excel or your own document if you want to change any values.

For the first 4% of salary, you always win. The size of the win tapers off as you earn more (and the younger you are) but you always get a reasonable (8% rather than 4%) benefit from locking your money up in Kiwisaver.

For the next 4% (i.e. making an 8% contribution) you *never* win in cash terms, unless you earn less than $27k. Locking up an extra 4% of income gives those earning more than this zero benefit.

(Of course, you might regard having the money locked away and unavailable to spend as a benefit - then again, if you wind up short of cash and needing to borrow at any stage, it's a big negative).

So I'm going to do 4%, but I can see no reason at all to go beyond this.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


I'm not going to blog about the America's cup - this is media commentary!

This article in the Herald about Team NZ's protest against Alinghi says:
"It may seem unfair to have docked Alinghi the race for such a technical fault which had no bearing on it"

Their journo must know very little about sailing, or be dedicated to oversimplifying. The issue Team NZ complained of was that Alinghi had to send a man up to drop their mainsail (that's the larger sail to the back). It's normal for any sailboat larger than a windsurfer to have its mainsail hauled up by wire/rope such that it can be released from deck level. This is only sensible, as the sail may need to be released in an emergency. If the sail was fixed to the top of the mast, you could potentially have lighter gear at the expense of safety - which would give you a slight speed advantage.

If a boat had this, then it *is* a material breach of the rules. As it turns out, it looks like Alinghi doesn't - it just has a halyard system that doesn't work very well.

I know this stuff - surely the Herald's yachting correspondent should?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Straight back to school

Have the Herald's new outsourced subs started work?

Straight (adj): Not crooked or bent; having a constant direction throughout its length.

Strait (n): A narrow channel of water

Friday, June 22, 2007

It's a bleedin' ski resort mate!

Queenstown has cancelled some of its winter festival events due to snow. Funny, but I thought that was the point of being in a ski resort?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Block Sobbath

In hairfarming news, a resurrected Black Sabbath are playing in Auckland in August and are on heavy bFM advertising/plug rotation:

They go out in NZ as "Heaven and Hell, Black Sabbath the Dio Years"

Two things here:
- I don't believe it's really Black Sabbath with no Ozzy. That's like the Stones without Mick Jagger.
- I'm fairly sure it's Ronnie James DeeOh not DieOh. He is not a girls school.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pulling the Queen's Chain

New Zealanders believed for many years in the "Queen's Chain" - a strip of land with public access around the coast and rivers of New Zealand. Sadly, no legislation was ever passed to enshrine this.

The UK government (in a rare moment of good sense) has just proposed a similar, but real, coastal access strip, for England and Wales (Scotland has had a coastal walkway for some time).
It's going to cost GBP50 million - not a lot really, given the length of coast and the price of land.

We need the same thing. Our coasts shouldn't be private preserves. Beaches and clifftops should be open to public access, whether they belong to Mr Rich Whitebastard, Ports Of Auckland or Ngati Whatua. This would remove the need for the (racist) Foreshore And Seabed Act and take us closer to having a right then many thought we always had. This is not, by the way, confiscation. Everyone would keep their land - they would simply have to concede the rights of the greater community to access.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bring it on!

The UK government is planning to build new nuclear power stations.

According to their consultation document, one of the top proposed sites is just outside Brighton.

For those that don't know, Brighton is the core of crustiedom. Anarchists and freedom fighters have sallied forth from there to such (unsuccesful) battles as Manchester Airport, the Newbury Bypass and Stop the City, not to mention the (succesful) Poll Tax Riot.

Trying to build a nuclear power station 10 miles outside the town is just going to be the trigger for the biggest uprising since 1649. It might even radicalise enough people to start a real alternative force in British politics.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Rather than spend another weekend bouncing frantically to dance music, I had a healthy outdoor weekend. I hiked up Mt Ruapehu.

It's a good walk. Starting from the Whakapapa carpark (outside ski season there is a huge amount of parking space) I headed up the lift lines. Navigating on an out of season ski field is easier than an unsullied mountain, although one needs to remember that you can't always follow a chair lift - especially when descending. (Skis and boards are a wonderful invention - some of the slopes that are quite easy to slide down are a bit alarming when you are standing on the bare rock).

I made fairly good progress up past the top draglift. The last few hundred metres before the crater are pretty crumbly though. Last time I was up here there was snow and steps kicked, which made it a whole lot easier. I made the mistake this time of aiming for what looked like solid rock rather than scree and ash - unfortunately it was steep and totally frangible. Will remember next time..

So I got to the crater at 3pm:

Took a photo and started down. The downclimb was easy enough, made it to the car just before it got dark.

Something I noticed is that there was a lot of bits of rubbish left lying about where the lift company have been building things. This isn't really on. I've got no objection to neccesary ski machinery, but they need to clear their crap up afterwards. If you leave bits of wire, fastenings, broken signs, etc. lying around on an eroding mountain, it all gets carried down with the scree and gets strewn all over the hill. Like Snowdon.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Events in history

"Violent criminals threaten Paris"
(Headline, Le Matin, 14th July 1789)

"Violent criminals threaten Paris"
(Headline, New Zealand Womens Weekly, 17th May 2007)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Power saving chargers

Nokia are making a phone that emits annoying beeping when the battery is full. Apparently this will save a huge amount of energy.

What would save even more energy, and not be annoying, would be for the phone to send a message to the charger to tell it to power down when the battery gets full. A properly designed switching supply should, in any case, draw very little current from the mains when the mobile device isn't taking any current.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Fired for taking prescription meds

Two women have been sacked by a state funded Te Atutu based addiction treatment centre "Higher Ground" for taking their prescribed medication (citalopram) for depression.

Both of them presented to their GP with depression and were prescribed a standard, evidence-based treatment. Their employer, on learning of this from one of the women, suggested that they instead take St. Johns Wort - an unlicensed drug of unproven effectiveness. When they did not take this advice, they were fired.

The Employment Relations Authority has rejected one of the womens claims on the grounds that she did not follow correct process in challenging the authority (the other has complained directly to the Human Rights Commission).

I think this is unacceptable on several grounds:
- Psychiatric illness is a disability and a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act. It should be as unacceptable to sack someone on these grounds as to sack them for being black. And I don't believe the ERA would accept a race-based dismissal on grounds of incorrect process.

- Organisations which systematically breach the HRA should not be funded or endorsed by the state.

- The public health system is based around evidence-based medicine - encouraging people to uptake appropriate treatment is part of this. The system should not be funding organisations that actively work against the uptake of such treatment.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Will Gordon succeed Tony?

Gordon Brown is widely expected to become the next British Prime Minister when Blair retires next month.

Will he though?

Brown has (and I write as no fan of the Blair government) been by far the most successful British Chancellor (finance minister) in living memory. He is the longest serving modern holder of the office and has presided over the longest period of sustained growth in British history, as well as achieving consistently low inflation and unemployment. Britain is now thought of as a rich country - it wasn't when I was a kid!

If he becomes PM, he is almost certain to be defeated at the next election.

One would have thought that he might want to be remembered as a highly successful Chancellor rather than a failed half-term PM (after the fashion of James Callaghan - John Major got re-elected).

Thursday, May 03, 2007

(Don't) Smack your kids up!

I'm posting this here, although it's actually an answer to this post on Tactical Ninja because I didn't want to deface Tatnja's LJ with a 400 word political rant/essay...

Firstly, I'd be the first to agree that NZ is a bit overregulated. I'd like to be allowed skyrockets. Or to drive on deserted South Island roads at a bit more than 100km/h. Or to go to a (mainstream) festival without having to pass through checkpoints between the "beer-free" and "child-free" areas. Or to advocate sofa burning (actually, I *can* - the Dunedin police just failed to prosecute a publican for that).

I don't think thumping kids falls into that category though. Small people are people, and they have rights not to be assaulted like anyone else. That's all changing the law does. The cops aren't going to wade in every time someone is spotted slapping their kid in Woolworths, but there will be the ability for the authorities to deal with violent abusive parents without them being able to claim immunity on grounds of "discipline".

Something I would also note is that, since schoolteachers have been banned from physical punishment, instances of teacher-child abuse (like the dreadful behaviour of "Christian" Brothers in the 1960s) has declined almost to zero.

Finally, I think NZ has a bit of an issue with violence and it's acceptability. Something I've noticed here is that people will say quite often "if you do/say x you'll get beaten up". Which they didn't in England. Or Switzerland. Or even the US (I guess when your preferred instrument of violence is a firearm you have to be that bit more sparing about when you bring it to bear). I think that needs to change and less clouting of kids might be a small step.

(BTW, Sue Bradford has three children)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Very quick crossword

For those of you with time to kill, but not much of it, I present The Observationz Very Quick Crossword

2: Furry animal with four legs.
2: Implement used to play cricket.

Have fun and don't think too hard!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We got rid of the twat!

I posted this response in the Herald in response to the glad news that Garth George is leaving Auckland:


Don't come back. Maybe your bigoted and archaic views will be appreciated somewhere else, although I think all of New Zealand is becoming a more intelligent, tolerant, society.

Perhaps Queensland or Mississippi? Or Zimbabwe - Robert Mugabe hates gays too you know..

Doubt they'll print it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Posh & Mental

I refer of course to the former royal couple, Kate & Wills.

This article talks about how Kate wasn't posh enough for the B.R.F.1

She went to Marlborough FFS! That's posh enough for most people. The thing is the B.R.F. aren't just posh - they have taken it to whole new levels. Use of archaic English is a marker - apparently the use of words like "toilet" and "pardon" mark you down as common (I'm not sure how "shithouse" and "you what mate?" fit on this scale?). I personally would see this as indicative of a psychiatric disorder..

1. British Royal Family

Saturday, April 14, 2007

No surprise

Apparently the Dubai backers of the "New Zealand" Americas Cup challenge are talking about holding the next series in Dubai, should they win the cup (and thus the hosting rights, which sensibly go to the winner).

I'm not surprised at all. The AC teams are not national rep teams like the ABs - they are the private enterprises of very wealthy people and will attach to whichever country is convenient.

Question is, if they do this will Dave Dobbyn have to start singing "Loyal" in Arabic - which, per Google, would make it موالي.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Having fun

Seen on a poster in Sydney (for a different party):
Jesus had a shit time at Easter. You don't have to!

So I escaped the Auckland holiday shutdown and had fun at a hidden location in the Australian bush - 10km from anywhere (and anywhere wasn't very much of a place) up a dirt track, which left my rental car a bit grubby..

That's the entrance gate thingy above. Neat eh! The organisers did a great job of decorating the place. They had a geodesic dome as a DJ booth (which apparently lives in Canberra and is available for hire).

Musicwise, it was psy-trance all the way. Excellent sets from all the DJs and a good reaction despite the intermittent drizzle. Naked Tourist played an excellent three hour set. I'm left inspired to adds a bit more psy- to my own collection..

Great party! Wish we had more of those sort of events in NZ - apparently they have an outside doof nearly every weekend right through the year, including midwinter day parties.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Glowing away

I've just about finished my first attempt at an EL wire project.

It's very simple - a t-shirt ($20 from Farmers) with a spiral of green EL wire. The spiral is a good shape to start with, as it doesn't involve any cutting and is low-stress on the wire. I didn't even have to terminate it - just used a standard length and made the belt loop thing with the surplus. I used hot melt glue to stick the wire to the shirt, passing it through the fabric every so often to try and give it some structural integrity. I was going to sew the wire in place, but actually duct tape on the inside of the shirt seems to have done the trick. Also, I've used tape to hide the bits of the wire I don't want to show.

Why? I'm going to this psy-trance doof in Aussie - flight's this arvo!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

On Airstrip One

‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You're not trying. Lower, please! That's better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.’

A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston's body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away.

- 1984, George Orwell, 1948

The home secretary, John Reid, today denied that plans to expand the use of "talking" CCTV cameras across the country were akin to "Big Brother gone mad".
Loudspeakers are being fitted to cameras in 20 areas, allowing CCTV operators to bark commands at people committing antisocial behaviour.

- Guardian, 4th April 2007

And people ask if I'm going to move back to the UK?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

New Burning Man theme..

In case you hadn't seen this - this is the modified theme for this years Burning Man.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Gardening from indoors

I just saw a Flymo type lawnmower being dangled from a crane.

That looks a great way to cut the grass. You could swing it back and forth over the lawn from inside the crane cab. Or, if it was a remote control crane, from your sofa..

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot Fusion

Went to an interesting gig last night - The Rapture / Gnarls Barkley at the St James.

Not sure why they put them on together - they are quite different although both are a fusion of styles.

The Rapture were my main reason for forking out for a ticket, and they were pretty good. I'd call them indie rock/dance music fusion (ok, if any genre fascists are reading this they will no doubt tell me the correct name). The style is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike the Prodigy. None of the showmanship of Keith though - four New York collegey looking kids.. I'm going to start looking out some remixes of their stuff - I think that's a gap in my collection and would go down well on the dancefloor - I think their songs would work better for dancing at 8min length..

Gnarls Barkley combined being slick and enthusiastic. They started with the Pink Floyd song "We don't need no Education" - I assume they were at Bliss incognito and pinched the idea from Helix! Generally, they aren't my #1 choice of stuff, but pretty slick and entertaining.

Early (7:45) start was wierd though - I'm kinda used to gigs as being a late evening thing - I suppose they're doing it cos it's a schoolnight. Not sure how many tickets they sold, but the place didn't look full. It's an interesting experiment promoting three midweek gigs by majorish international bands on weeknights. In Auckland.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Went to Bliss at Space on Friday night. It was awesome!

Then crawled to Hammy and played some tunes for my mate's party - also very cool.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hubbard's 500 million

Old Mother Hubbard (aka the mayor of Auckland) "guessed" that his trip to Hamburg generated $500mln in trade.

Stats NZ give annual exports to Germany at $894 million. Hamburg represents 3.6% of the German economy, so according to my calculator you could (reasonably) guess our trade with that city at around $32mln.

Does Hubbard really think that his visit will boost exports more than ten-fold?

I really think he should go back to cereal making at the first opportunity - then he can make dumb decisions in his private business with his own cash. Or at least pay for his own jollies and junkets out of his personal fortune, not hit the ratepayers up for business class air travel.

(Told-you-so section: see

Monday, February 19, 2007

Armed and dangerous

bFM just did an interview with MC Frontalot, a nerdcore rapper from (obviously) Cambridge, MA. Nerdcore involves rapping about geek stuff like Star Wars and text mode adventure games.

What's worrying about this is that we all know that many actual rappers and hip-hop identities are in fact middle class computer geeks from nice suburbs (or indeed public school educated sons of bishops). Is the converse true? Is MC Frontalot in fact a genuine crack smokin', machine gun totin' gangsta? I so hope so!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Kiwiburn '07

Last weekend I participated in Kiwiburn '07.

Thanks jack for the photo!

Things you don't get at Kiwiburn (unlike standard festivals):
1. Idiot drunken high skool kids
2. Lines to get in and have your car/body frisked
3. VIP areas
4. The annoying "band of the summer" that plays at every festival
5. Sleep

Things you definitely get at Kiwiburn:
1. Unbelievably cool friendly people
2. Your own spanking paddle
3. Theme camps with people giving out Absinthe shots
4. Me cranking out the bangin choon's - with fire poi dancers keeping up at 140bpm
5. Me playing trancy stuff with a guy toasting along (thank you Reno!)
6. Swimming in the lake
7. Burning the man
8. Tearing down the temple and throwing it on the flames
9. Shininess
10. Sheep

I'm so going next year - I want to have a floating theme camp on the lake. If I can possibly manage it, I'm going to Nevada in August as well!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Polled out

The Dominion Post is whinging that people skewed their "poll" on John Key's popularity. Allegedly people in Parliamentary Service offices have been multiple voting.

Well boo hoo! Simple answer - stop running unscientific self-selecting polls that are designed to achieve the result the paper is trying to push (not to mention make money from those dumb enough to text vote).

The voting system on Stuff is trivially easy to hack - all you have to do is block the cookie it sends when you vote - you can then watch the votes crank up indefinitely.

Have a look at their current poll on "Has Daniel Radcliffe made the right career move by starring in a raunchy new stage play?" Look at all the votes!

You can do this too - all you need is this little Linux script:

while [ $i -lt 1000 ]

Take a copy - drive pseudo-polling out of New Zealand!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


John Key has identified McGehan Close as New Zealand's worst street. For those not familiar with the neighbourhood, it's in Sandringham (not the one where the Queen lives). The following Google Maps picture shows the scene - burning cars, bodies, destroyed buildings, etc:

(You might notice that higher-res imaging is not available - the satellite pilots were too scared to fly any lower)

The scariest thing is that the area is frequently attacked by "gangs from Grey Lynn". These notorious desperados are noted for their pillaging of Auckland - look at these guys for instance:

I hope Mr Key's audience are suitably cautioned by his speech and stay safely in Christchurch - we wouldn't want them venturing into the ghettos of Glenfield, Takapuna or Kohimaramara, would we?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Advice for water-walkers

To avoid unfortunate tragedies like this one, the following safety tips are provided for those at large scale god-botherer gatherings who feel the need to try some aquatic pedestrianism:

1. Beginning water-walkers should start on a shallow pond with no currents.
2. Fast flowing rivers should be avoided for those who haven't managed the art of running on water.
3. As should jump starts from a bridge - you should practice starting from a level beach until confidence has been gained.
4. If you feel the water coming up to your neck, swim for the shore. Pray some more and try again.
5. Don't take the brown acid - even if you got it from the bishop.

Monday, January 29, 2007

First time?

I'm not sure, but this might be the first time that a columnist has used a newspapers comment facility to criticise the subbing of their article. Well done Charlie!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Healthy eating

Popular comedian and friend to Havoc and Newsboy Mike King is in hospital with a stroke.

Hopefully he'll make a full recovery, but could it be that stuffing yourself with red meat for every meal as advocated by the NZ meat industry and its spokespeople isn't all that good for you?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tribal strumming

Those naiccce girls at Red Confectionary pointed out this article in the Dom Post.

Since anyone can play this game, I've made up the following tribes with amusing acronym names, something the original authors conspicuously failed to do:

ARSEHOLES - Auckland Real Smooth Elegant Home Owning Lifestyle EnterpreneurS
e.g. Michael Boulgaris

SICOES - South Island Church Organising ElderS
e.g. Graham Capill

PRATS - Public Relations Articles To fill up Space
e.g. the article referenced above (ok it's not a group of people, I'm running outta inspiration here)

I'm sure you can think up others!

(Viz. Profanisaurus strum v. = A relaxed tug.)
Johann Hari has an article in the Independent today defending the UK government's proposed integration of state computer systems to share personal information.

I dispute his thesis on several levels:

Firstly, he treats as equivalent a criminal action committed by the state or by an individual criminal. This to me is plain wrong - as an elector I have vicarious responsibility for a cop who makes his dog cripple a child - I don't have such responsibility for the actions of a random psychopath, paroled or otherwise.

Secondly, he uses rape as an example of why it is acceptable for the state to invade personal privacy to prevent a much worse consequence. Leaving aside the likelihood that circumstances, not identity are at issue in most of the 50,000 unsolved rapes he cites, how desirable is a society where crime is suppressed through individual surveillance?

The widespread deployment (in the UK) of numberplate recognition is likely to allow the police to have a list of all vehicles (and eventually faces) that passed near the site of an offence. Given the pressure to make use of this information, it is likely that before long most people will become "suspects" in several serious offences every year. What will it do for the tolerance of policing once everyone gets a regular knock on the door and a demand to justify their movements?

It is technically possible (and becoming easier) to perform random drug testing on the entire population. Given that drug use is illegal, it would be justified in Johann's logic for the state to try and wipe it out by drug testing the entire population and imposing "rehabilitation" on those that fail. Would this be an acceptable use of state power?

It is an unfortunate fact that a largish minority of the UK (and NZ) population are hardline racists, support radical Islam, physical force (Irish) republicanism or other undesirable ideologies. Should the government monitor all communication and discussion in order to blacklist such people and prevent them working in jobs where they might discriminate against or attack other citizens?

I'd suggest to Johann that just as using state power to try and enforce better government on Iraq turned out to be a bad idea, so using state power to try and coerce the domestic population into better behaviour may be a good idea in theory, but a thoroughly bad one in practice.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My PageRank's collapsed (and then recovered)

My Google PageRank has gone from 6 to 0! No idea why - have they changed the rules so that blogs drop down unless you post at least once a month?

It's been Xmas - I haven't had anything to write about!

Oh: Now I switched to the new Blogger it's gone back up again - must be a new feature to make you upgrade!