Saturday, December 26, 2009

A fatwa on 2009 UPDATE

Despite the title, I do want this to be a positive blog.

Wow, I remember blogging.  It seems like my last blog was posted...... far too long ago.  And far too much has happened in the time between then and now.  I've moved to a new place and am trialling shared custody (or whatever the new-fangled word is) of my children.  Having never spent more than 2 days away from my beautiful children, this is indescribably  hard.  Christmas Day was particularly emotional for me, and, truth me told, the spirit and fun of the occasion completely passed me by.  Thrown into the mix with this was a particularly nasty falling out with someone (other than my ex), and just the general sense of horror that accompanies a marriage break up unnecessarily exacerbated by falling out with people.

What has been hard for me is the realisation that there are people out there - increasingly, I am weeding these people out of my life - who feel it is their place to interfere and to comment on things that are actually not their business, but they choose to make it their business by imposing their expectations from their own similar experiences.  If I do not respond to my experience in the same way that they did, they react with anger, resentment, and take it as a personal attack that I somehow think less of them.  They then deign to suggest that I am in denial.

Despite knowing that I should let these people and their reactions just go, I am still left reeling, and in a way that sets me back considerably. I'm not for a second suggesting here that I am perfect, but I do know that if a friend is going through a traumatic experience, I will be there for them, they can confide safely in me, and I will support them through whatever decision they decide to make.  Because I know that they are special people who bring their own wonderful perspective and insight to my life and to the world, and for that I love them.  But it's a lesson that is little learned from childhood that there are just some people out there who do not subscribe to such an approach.

Having always been very dismissive of therapeutic approaches that choose to categorise people, I don't care for textbook responses to emotional trauma, and, anyway, it is no-one's place to rush me through any of this according to their expectations.  This is MY life.  If there are people out there who have issues in their life that need to be addressed, these issues need to be addressed through their own life, not mine.  Just because I am not seething resentment, hatred, and outward anger all the time does not mean that I don't feel it or I don't care.  It means that I am not the sort of person who can physically or emotionally sustain that level of negativity.  It's just not my makeup.  It also means that I have practical responsibilities in my life, like three so-far-well-adjusted preschoolers, and juggling several jobs at the same time, and living in a new home, and a child starting school soon..... I could go on and on, but I'm trying to say that my life isn't going to stop for me.  It means that, for the moment, I would prefer to focus my energy on looking forward and creating a sense of emotional and physical stability for my children, rather than run the risk of getting mired in my idealistic dreams of a past not fulfilled and retribution on those who destroyed that dream.  There is plenty of time for me to reflect on what might have been, but for the time being I find it unhelpful and pointless.

While any falling out is painful, it is also an insightful view into disdainful one-sided and disrespectful behaviour. But, I don't mean to sound so glib.  It is still a falling out with someone you thought you could trust, and this is a morale destroying moment.  In a time as deeply painful as a marriage breakup, the realisation that there are yet more people in my life who cannot be relied upon has an enormous impact, and I am left feeling stunned at the selfishness of others.  In my case, it has set me back significantly and I find I am having to rethink who my true, trustworthy friends are.  It's a painful exercise, but one that I suspect is less painful done now rather than, once again, finding out the hard way.

It is an unfortunate truth that the number of true friends that we have will reduce over the years. This is either through natural occurrence or specific events, as we realise that the person who we thought and classed as a true friend is in fact not deserving of that title.

So, 2009 has been really hard, and I for one am glad to see it go for good. Had it not been for the discovery of blogging, I hate to think just how dire I would be feeling right now.  Blogging has not only given me a much needed outlet and inlet for my otherwise unappreciated brain, it has also provided me with some timely insight into just how kind and generous people can be.  And these are people I have never met.  But I would drop everything to meet them if given half a chance. When I was feeling really down and desperate, there were bloggers out there who sent me emails or posted comments or added me as a Facebook friend; gestures that were incredibly uplifting, and served to strongly reinforce to me that there exist people who do not strive to impose their expectations on me, and who are genuinely supportive and helpful.

I has made me realise that a true friend is not necessarily someone who I have physically met. A true friend is a little more than a very good friend, and it is entirely possibly to have such a friend if only "cyberly". A true friend will support you even if it hurts their own interest (such as revealing their blogger anonymity). A true friend will understand your motives and needs and will know when not to offer any analysis or criticism (such as giving me a phone number or sending me an email, just to reassure to me that I am never alone, and just letting me say all I want to say without fear of judgment). A true friend will come forward to help without any request and be with you in need without showing it or expecting anything in return. To all the lovely bloggers and commentators out there, if I never called you, don't for one second think it was because I didn't appreciate your gesture.  I may yet use it, even if just to personally thank you for being there when I needed someone to remind me that I am actually more than something that can be scraped off a shoe and discarded just because I didn't behave in an expected way.  It's a reminder that I am worthwhile.  And for that I am so very grateful.

Perhaps, now that I have cathartically blogged about this, I should change the title. Perhaps, in fact, 2009 has been a wonderful year for me. A year where I have had to face some very painful personal situations and learn some important lessons, but where the goodness and the kindness of people has also been very apparent. While a few people have set me back considerably, there have been many more people who have made me appreciate how wonderful human nature can be. As painful as I find each day, I also find the energy to continue purely from knowing that there are people out there who are genuinely compassionate and empathetic.

It's been quite a year.

Let's hope 2010 has perhaps a bit less insight and a bit more enjoyment. And a bit more to blog about.

UPDATE: Thank you so much for your kind comments, directly to this blog, or through your own blogs, or through emails. It's a wake up call to not get mired in the actions of very few and to remember that the majority of people are kind. The loneliness and heartache of only seeing your children 50% of the time, and the sense of injustice that accompanies it, is indescribable at the moment, but I am holding on to the hope that it will get easier with time. Blogging output may increase, if only to keep the brain distracted from the lack of noise. Even though, right now, all topics that would ordinarily warrant an opinion feel unimportant.

But, you've given me the motivation to get thinking again. Thank you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The need to breastfeed some scientists

William Feldman, Mark E Feldman, Departments of Paediatrics, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto; and Scarborough Grace Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Temboury MC, Otero A, Polanco I, Arribas E. Influence of breastfeeding on the infant's intellectual development. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1994; 18: 32-36.
C du V, FloreyV, Leech AM, Blackhall A. Infant feeding and mental and motor development at 18 months of age in first born singletons. Int J Epidemiol 1995; 24: S21-S26.
Morrow-Tlucak M, Haude RH, Ernhart CB. Breast feeding and cognitive development in the first 2 years of life. Soc Sci Med 1988;

These are the intelligent people who came up with the idea that "intelligent mothers have intelligent babies, whether or not they breastfeed. However, intelligent mothers usually breastfeed."

Chicken or egg?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Defending the oppressed narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock carriages

Thomas the Tank Engine started out as bedtime stories by a loving father for his son. With encouragement from the Lady of the House (am I allowed to call her a "Lady"?), the stories were written down and published in beautifully illustrated little books, well before the TV series. The original children's books accurately describe post world war British railway history, and include accounts of real incidents and events.

In an effort to sensibly use Australian taxpayers dollars, because, clearly, there was too much tax money sloshing around, Professor Shauna Wilton was funded to conduct a study. Not a study into anything sensible, you understand. That would be boring. Rather, this study has helpfully asserted that Thomas the Tank Engine demeans women. Furthermore, she has warned that "such negative messages about society subconsciously gleaned from the show may drive its young fans off the rails in later life."

And I thought they were just trains.

Research has also shown that the pollution generated by Thomas the Tank Engine has been a minor contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer and the environmental effects on the earth, compared to the pollution generated by Professor Wilton.

In reality, what Professor Wilton’s research proves (aside from the obvious proof that she wastes taxpayers money on idle rubbish) is that she has not actually watched any Thomas the Tank Engine episode or read any of the books. The female characters in Thomas are plentiful and hardworking, are no different to the other engines, and are certainly not subservient to any of the males. I can rapidly list Annie, Clarabell, Henrietta, Daisy, Mavis, Caroline, Emily, Molly, Rosie, Flora, Pip and Emma, Catherine, Isabel, Victoria, Agnes, Ruth, Jemima, Lucy, Beatrice, Cora, Ada, Jane, Gertrude, Lady, Lady Hatt, Alicia Botti, The Refreshment Lady, and Mrs Kindley. Professor Wilton’s study seems to neglect the narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock.

Unless I am missing the point that, in real life, broad-gauge engines actually do demean narrow-gauge engines and rolling stock.

Thomas the Tank Engine can now take his place with Noddy and Big Ears and their obvious gay tendencies, and that whore Sleeping Beauty, who possibly had an adulterous relationship with Tiger Woods.

I am now deeply concerned that my sons will develop patriarchal, sexist, he-man, wymyn-hating attitudes and tendencies.

On the other hand, I have just finished a (non-taxpayer-funded, so it must be useful) study on Barney, the big, purple dinosaur. Through my extensive research, I have discovered that the Barney stories only represent a minority of us in the socio-ideological stakes. This is evident by the lack of purple dinosaurs in the community, and is blatantly unfair to the all us non-purple humans. Barney should be forced to conform to our way of life, in the same way Professor Wilton expects children’s shows to fit into her own small world view.

God gave up looking for a parking space

What a bizarre article in this morning's copycat Herald Dominion Post about an atheist advertising campaign about "no-god" billboards on the side of buses.

So what?  But, aside from that, what I find most bizarre about this is that there have apparently been multitudes of complaints to advertising standards boards by, obviously, those who have religious sensitivities and are unable to turn away when they see advertising on the side of a bus.  I am astounded that there are people out there who pay attention to advertising on the side of buses, but, instead of complaining (and thereby draw more publicity to that which they find so offensive), I generously offer these sensitive religious groups some advertising campaigns they can use for free.  That must lead to good karma, surely?

Taoism
Bus will come.

Agnosticism
I don't know if bus will come.

Calvinism
Bus won't come because you don't work hard enough.

Buddhism
If the bus comes, it really isn't a bus.

7th Day Adventist
No buses on Saturdays.

Zen
What is the sound of of a bus coming?

Hedonism
There is nothing like a good bus coming.

Hinduism
This bus has been here before.

Islam
The bus will come, Inshallah.

Protestantism
Let the bus take me rather than someone else.

Catholicism
The bus will come because you deserve it.

Hare Krishna
The bus will come, rama rama.

Judaism
Why does the bus not coming always happen to us?

Rastafarianism
Let's smoke on this bus.

Jehovah's witness
Knock knock, bus driver, open the door.

TV Evangelism
Send more buses to God's own bus terminal at 90-1234-005679-123, and smile, smile, smile with buses in your heart (credit card payments can be made through PayPal).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The font of stupidity

Some things are a matter of opinion. Some things are a matter of fact. This is fact: Comic Sans is evil incarnate. I am not unique or original in this view, which as mentioned isn't actually a view but a fact, but it is worth pointing out here because for some reason, not everyone is aware that Comic Sans is evil incarnate.

Comic Sans is a font. A typeface. A Microsoft standard font released in 1994 to ape comic book lettering for kiddie stuff. For no reason at all, the world went entirely mad when they saw it and fully-grown, seemingly professional adults started using it for formal communications. At work. For business. This includes businesses that involve children. Even though the communication is directed at the grown ups.

This forced what was a perfectly fine cute and wacky' font to become the most hated thing in design since clipart, and rightly so. There are situations where it is simply not appropriate to communicate using a font whose personality is childish, immature, and incapable of making robust, rational decisions. If that is the personality you are trying to imbue into your writing, then go ahead and use Comic Sans. Just bear in mind that using Comic Sans gives exactly the same messages as! using! an! exclamation! mark! after! every! word!!!

For those of you not familiar with it, you might not think that such an innocent-looking font could possibly give off that much "this communication is FUN!" evilness, but you must bear in mind that the font is now so well-known, it labours not only by its 'cute and wacky' looks, but under the weight of its reputation. Here are some web resources expressing the level of hatred for Comic Sans:

Ban Comic Sans website.

A web comic.

A message from some cartoons.

Loads of great examples of inappropriate Comic Sans use on Flickr if you search, but this is my favourite.

And if you are not sure when it is appropriate to use Comic Sans, here’s a handy flow chart.

The 'sans' in Comic Sans refers to it being a 'sans serif' font; that is, without extra decorative lines like Times New Roman etc. 'Sans' simply means 'without'. So a literal definition of Comic Sans could simply be NOT FUNNY.

I concede that blaming the inventor of Comic Sans for its misuse is like blaming Einstein for nuclear bombs. Remember kids: Comic Sans does not annoy people; people annoy people.

On the other hand, he created a monster. He must die. Or at least give a hundred dollars to everyone who has to look at their work Christmas party invite, created by the token office compulsory fun organiser, which has Comic Sans, clip art, PowerPoint 'word art' styles, and plays a tune and opens a broadband-bandwidth-depleting You Tube video without your prompt.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An often ignored necessity in houses

Can I tell you something very quietly?

I don't want to make too much of a fuss about it because it possibly sounds a bit wanky, but I'll soon be moving to a two-storey house, having loved living in a single storey house, and ...... I want to put a lift in.

Just something simple and subtle (if there is such a thing when it comes to lifts).  Given that I am likely to live in this house until I shuffle off this mortal coil, the lift idea makes sense.

The smallest lift is My Lift. It fits easily into a house, is big enough to take a wheelchair and another person, is quiet and doesn't look like a lift. The doors, which come in different styles of frosted glass, look more like a door to a room than a door to a lift.  Just quickly take a deep gulp and brush over the cost, and you will come to realise that over the lifetime of the house, AUD50,000 is justified in terms of keeping the whole of the house usable for the rest of our lives.  And just think how enjoyable it would be to help the economy by hiring a lift attendant (with uniform).

Or so I'm trying to convince the owner of this house.  I suspect this might be a work in progress.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Race based politics zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I was trying to decide if I had anything insightful to say about  Hone Harawira, or whether the numb skull deserves my blog space, but then I heard that another hui has ended without an outcome and I fell asleep.

Could this get any more boring?  What a poor lesson in leadership and management for our "future" (which I will forever consider myself a part of, regardless of my age, thank you very much).  Can someone please respond to my suspicion that hui end when the food finishes and reconvene when the supermarket has enough stock again?  Because the impression that's left is that hui have nothing to do with reaching conclusions and agreements in a timely manner.  And everything to do with an opportunity to get together for a chat and a feed.

We all know that as long as hate-based race-based politics is allowed to continue in NZ, no censure will befall Hone.  As much as we would like it to, and as much as we know it morally should.  So stop pissing around with the hui, get off the benefit that allows you the freedom to take weeks off to attend hui and pay for all the food, and do something useful for a change.  If you're going to insist on politics based purely on tribal lines, you might feel more at home in Africa.   It's surprisingly easy to come up with policies that are intelligent and not divisive.  It's takes much more effort to call people mofos and to play the victim card.  Perhaps a hui is needed to talk this through.  I'll get the potatoes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Accept PDTs and move on

Only twice in the past have I found myself in public places with a child who is on the verge of meltdown. Three children later, I have come to know what it takes to avert most PDTs (Public Displays of Tantrum). So I confess it's hard for me to watch other parents struggle without rushing up to them and giving them a sympathetic hug (I'm not into PDAs either).

But some parents seem to deserve it. Having had to up to the proverbial with Sanctimummies, it was bad karmic pleasure to witness a well-known Sanctimummy offspring collapse into a violent, toy-flinging heap at - of all places - The Warehouse this morning (the jury is still out as to why the Sanctimummy was at The Warehouse).

Back around the turn of the Millennium, a young, beautiful woman lived in the banana groves with her husband and her three unassisted-birthed, unschooled, natural-fiber clothed babes. She claimed to have healed herself of pancreatic cancer, and, when her family weren't roaming the plantation, eating fresh bananas straight off the palms, her family ate their raw, organic vegan meals at a low, Japanese-style table.

She generally enjoys her role as a mother. And her children are not bad children, but the label "laid back" doesn't apply to them either. They are boisterous, loud, and very curious; in short, they are normal. One day, one of the kids, used to getting his way all the time, didn't know how to respond to rejection and started screaming. Not wanting to miss the fun, the other kids joined in the group scream. As she frantically tried to quiet the tumult, she noticed the searing glares of the other shoppers, oblivious to the irony that it was a judgemental look that she had many times inflicted on others. One man nearby muttered loud enough for all to hear: "If I had five minutes with those kids they would behave themselves."

She was humiliated. She felt like the worst parent ever. How could this happen when she stays away from artificial fibres, only conceives according to a basal moon chart, doesn't vaccinate, reads all relevant books, sends her children to the Steiner school, and only eats organic vegan foods?  With horror, she wondered if her children were, in fact, autistic, having consumed processed food at a birthday party last month.

I cornered her at her car after she ran out in deep shame, and, after providing appropriate soothing noises about children testing us and the science behind autism, I tried to explain to her the following basics of child behaviour:

1. It is Not Your Fault

2. It is just A New Developmental Phase

3. How You React Matters:

  • ignore the show;
  • avoid Public Humiliation;
  • if you can’t avoid, distract; and
  • coat yourself in Teflon

She wasn't buying any of it.  There is clearly a belief that there exist some parents whose children don't throw temper tantrums. Their children are always polite and kind to animals and happily eat all their raw vegetables on their plate. They always sleep through the night and their cloth nappies never stink. In fact, they don't wear nappies, and instinctively knew how to use the toilet from birth. These are the people that make the rest of us insecure. Even thought they may think it is their great parenting that caused this child to be so angelic, I can assure you that it has very little to do with them. It's the luck of the draw.

I sometimes wonder if these are the people who write books on parenting.  These people are the weirdo parents, not the parents whose kids melt down in public. Their kids (assuming they exist) are aberrations, not yours. Just forget that they exist. They probably don't.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Kamusta Maligayang pagdating sa Telstramalinaw

Or something.  Apparently that's Filipino for "Welcome to TelstraClear", but I concede a free internet translation thingy may not be accurate.

I'm bemused (for those who think that means "happy", it actually means bewildered and confused) at the article in today's Kapiti Observer on the rumours of TelstraClear's call centre in Kapiti potentially closing down and upping sticks to Manila, or some country without a minimum wage and many willing workers, anyway.

What is bemusing me with this article isn't that there is concern about potential job losses, or the impact on Kapiti's economy (although I did laugh at that one), or the loss of New Zealanders answering phone calls from New Zealanders.  What is bemusing me is that there is actually a TelstraClear call centre.  In New Zealand.

I had no idea.  Whenever I have tried to ring TelstraClear, I am faced with a suicidal voice "recognition" system, where the only phrase that gets you connected to an operator is "FARK OFF BEFORE I KILL MYSELF" (I give you permission to use this phrase without fear of copyright), and then the person who answers comes with one of the following names: Jamal, Karim, Abdul, Mohammad, Satish, Ravi, Kamahl, Shoshanna, Malik..... and has an accent that is very hard to decipher.  And from the advice provided, their location is questionable, but is presumably not New Zealand.

The fact that they are possibly overseas, though, doesn't bother me if the quality of advice provided is adequate.  In TelstraClear's case, it never is.

What does this call centre do, exactly?  Clearly, from the comments by the call centre workers in the Kapiti Observer, it is possible at some point in the TelstraClear chain to be connected to these people who apparently care enough about their jobs to "improve customer service and maintain its competitiveness".  And here I was thinking that the majority of Kapiti TelstraClear customers are only so because calls to Wellington are free with TelstraClear and are toll calls with Telecom.  If there's a secret voice recognition code for this good customer service, I want to know it.

And, as for the quote in the article (verbatim follows):
I always thought TelstraClear were good and cared about their staff but in reality now it comes down to it they don't.  We are just a figure and they're just after profit.
Quite.  And so they should be.  TelstraClear is a business, not a welfare agency (or, clearly, interested in improving literacy).  Yes, it's an awful feeling to have just taken out a mortgage only to now find yourself redundant.  But that's just the way things are.  As the person paying the phone bill, I want to know that the company is doing what it can to ensure its costs to me are minimised.  If this means the company has to move part of its business to a country with a cheaper and more efficient call centre operation, then so be it.

I wait with baited breath to see if the Filipinos can offer a superior customer service.  They won't have to try too hard.  Or perhaps I should start learning my Filipino swear words.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to stop global warming

I'm bored with climate change now. I resent that I should feel guilty whenever the sun shines. When the weather is lovely, I want to enjoy it, dammit.

Not that I ever paid much attention to the global warmingists.

The usual free-range communists and fair trade hippies continue to berate us for having fun, and that methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and that farmed animals are doing more damage to the climate than all the world's transport, power stations, and sunken lightbulbs put together.  What's more, demand for beef means forests are being destroyed, and pressure is being put on our water supplies.  Oh my god.  We are doomed.

Plainly, then, the solution is to kill anything with more than one stomach. Maybe I should shoot my sheep?  No, happily what the free-range warmists are actually saying is that you can keep your petrol-run SUV and your walk-in beer fridge, but you must stop eating meat.

In fact, you have to stop eating all animal products. No more milk. No more cheese. No more jellybeans. You must become ...........shudder ...........vegan.

Now of course if you don’t like the taste of meat, then it’s perfectly reasonable to be vegetarian. It’s why people who don’t like non-Maori join the Maori Party.  At least vegetarians don't shun animal  products.   However, I can think of nothing I’d like less than being vegan.

Of course there are certain weeds I like very much. Broccoli, asparagus, basil, rocket and leeks in particular. But the idea of eating only a broccoli, without even so much as a blue cheese sauce or parmesan topping, fills me with dread.

There are wider implications, too. Let us imagine that the world decided today to abandon its appetite for joints of beef, and for meat-infused Mars bars. What effect would this have on the countryside?

What would you find in the fields that were once filled with grazing cows and truffle pigs?

Hardcore free-range vegan warmists like to imagine that the land would be returned to the indigenous species, that you could go for a walk without a farmer shooting a rabbit, and that you’d see all manner of pretty flowers and ferns and lots of once-extinct creatures. Moa, for instance.

In fact if animal farmers were driven away, the land would be divided up in two ways. Some would be given over to the growing of potatoes, and the rest would be bought by rock stars.

Plainly, the best thing we can do if we want to save the world, preserve the countryside and continue eating meat, is to work out a way in which animals produce less methane.

Scientists in Germany are working on a pill, but apparently this has a number of side effects. These are not itemised, but I can only assume that if you trap the gas inside the cow one of the drawbacks is that it might explode.  And scientists in NZ (AgResearch?) are trialling grasses that produce less methane inside a cow

But these ideas, while intelligent, are in fact unnecessary. Cows need a new foodstuff: something that is rich in iron, calcium and natural goodness.

Vegans.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Inane utterings about toothbrushes

At the moment, I am in a short-attention-span frame of mind. So it was a mistake trying to buy a toothbrush. Has the toothbrush industry been taken over by a Marketing 101 class doing a spoof exercise?

Take the Access, for example. It promises not only a rubber handle with superior grip, but also claims it "reaches behind back teeth". In order to....????? Clean tonsils? Then there is Colgate's micro-sonic power brush, which promises outstanding sonic cleansing because it "combines high-speed sonic vibrations with multi-angled bristles". My brain equates "sonic" with "boom", which seems disappointingly unlikely in this case since the brush is powered by a single AA battery. Reach has the "dualeffect" brush, with "massaging fingers". Not in my mouth, thanks. Johnson & Johnson offers a brush with an "antibacterial microbe handle" – surely a great relief for all those avid toothbrushers who worry about microbes on their toothbrush handles.

After carefully reading each packet, I decided to select my toothbrush using the same criteria - no, criterion - I used when I selected my car. Colour.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Food brutality

I've been very absent for the past three weeks. Not that I haven't been thinking about blogging. It just took a backseat to some personal upheavals, and I found, much to my surprise, that I get blogger's block when I'm feeling happy. And when I'm feeling anxious. And there haven't been any other emotions happening.

But today, I witnessed an outrage that finally put the blogger block to rest. In what feels like a past life, I travelled the world, and witnessed much public kindness and much public brutality. So much so that I feel pretty hardened now. But, there are two images that continue to haunt me. I like to think that it is merely coincidental that both were witnessed in New Zealand in the last 5 years.

My sons and I were standing in line at a bakery, behind a young mother who ordered a lovely, fat, pink finger bun for her toddler, its lush coat of icing spangled prettily with hundreds and thousands. The child reached up expectantly. My own cavities hummed with excitement.

It was then that the act of violence occurred. Ignoring the child's outstretched hand, the mother grabbed a napkin and vigorously scrubbed the icing off the bun. The poor child looked on bravely while I looked on horrified. He accepted the ruined treat humbly, and, I thought as I glanced down at my boys, with surprising grace. He was clearly used to this.

I still don't get it. Isn't the icing the whole point of a finger bun?

That mother would get on well with the group of parents I used to sometimes, despite my best efforts, bump into when I was walking my nannying charges through Central Park in New York City. These mothers banded together to oppose ice-cream trucks. One mother admitted:
I feel kind of bad. I want my three-year-old, Katherine, to have the full childhood experience and all. But it's really predatory for ice-cream vendors to be right inside the playground.
Is that really easier than just saying "no"? One mum insisted to her son that the ice-cream van was a "music truck". Perhaps sent as a public service for people with an uncontrollable craving for Greensleeves? She complained:
As a new mother, everyone advises you on toilet training, but the ice-cream truck, nobody ever mentions that.
In their ideal world, parents would discard the ice cream, and present their children with the stick.

I thought of these mothers when I witness the other brutal, haunting event that occurred when I was pregnant with my first child. Now, when reading this, bear in mind that I am not a clucky person, even when pregnant, even after having three children. When I meet other people's children, they generally have to work pretty hard to earn my friendship, let alone any smidgen of respect. The same ruthless approach tends to apply to parents. And I have no qualms admitting that, while I am undeniably supportive, I do judge other parents (to myself), and take smug pleasure when my judgements prove correct (which is often).

At a crowded food court at the policy-wonk end of Lambton Quay one busy lunch hour, a very large woman, with her very large husband and very large child (I guess he would have been around 4 years old), ambled into the food court and found a seat. Nothing significant in that, and I was so engrossed in selecting my sushi that I barely registered their presence, other than hearing the kid scream.

To this day, I do not know what made me look, but I glanced across and noticed the woman trying to breastfeed her child. Being pregnant with my first child, and still quite career-focused, I shuddered at this prospect and wondered if I would be this woman in 4 years time. The kid refused a feed, so, with evidence of much practice, the woman reached across to the next table, picked up the sugar bowl, dipped her nipple in it, and then offered a feed to her son again. Naturally, now that the item on offer was now sugar-coated, he accepted with less restraint this time.

One of the side effects of the personal upheaval of the last three weeks is that I seem to suffer from amnesia. I'm not sure why I share that last story with you, other than to suggest you never use sugar bowls in cafes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

When inanimate objects attack

Rage against inanimate objects is on the increase. Do not bother telling me to buy a Mac because I cannot afford it, but I do know that between my PC and me, one of us has to go. In short, my computer is suffering from a bipolar condition where it can be perfectly normal in the morning and completely “shutdown” in the afternoon. Sometimes.

I have tried to be compassionate but in a fit of angst (unfortunately for the computer, compounded by a marriage break up), I Googled "inanimate object rage" and discovered over 250,000 entries. I am not alone. Global bloggers unite in inanimate object fury.

"Inanimate Objects Hate Me!" shrieks wittandwisdom.com. "This past weekend, while attempting to mow the lawn, I had what I’ve patented as a Witteurysm, which is when one blows a part of his brain out of his earhole due to the actions of an inanimate object."

There was a story in the paper recently about a Japanese man who got so angry at the new apartment block next door overshadowing his house that he got a gun and shot the building 12 times. That will teach the building to block his sun.

In New York, it is common to see people attacking taxis with umbrellas and fists because the taxi did not stop. In Singapore, I witnessed elevator rage, with someone becoming so furious at the lift, which stopped at every floor, he began thumping the wall (obviously, as this was Singapore, he was arrested).

The loss of self-control is overwhelming as we scream at these uncaring objects that glare back with vacant expressions and no remorse for the pain they cause.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Krapiti Coast Hypoocrasy

It must be obvious now that I do not enjoy living in Krapiti.  Yes, I have made many wonderful friends here who I hope to remain friends with for many years to come, even when I shortly move back to Wellington.  Yes, the climate has provided us with a wonderful garden and memorable trips to the local beach.  Yes, there is a sense of close, caring community spirit here that you really notice in times of need that I don't believe is so evident in the bigger cities like Wellington.

But, there are many many many negatives with Krapiti.  The road, the random wasting of ratepayers' money on proposed aquatic centres, the politics of personal agendas.  And, now, I find myself having a sanctimonious rant on poo.

Every walk I have had with my children over the last few months has been noticeable in the lack of dog poo ruining our shoes and pram wheels.  The council effectively addressed that issue (but the fact that it was necessary to impose a bylaw with fines, rather than persuasion, does rankle with me).  But brickbats to the council for being hypocritical on its poo stance.  While the dog poo may have reduced noticeably, and the numbers of people carrying highly useful plastic bags has increased, a remarkable amount of horse manure remains on footpaths, on the side of the road, and all over the  beaches.  To the point where it is just preferable to not go for a walk or go to the beach at all, just to avoid the massive quantities of horse poo.  For a while, I was collecting it in large sacks for the garden, but that novelty soon wore off when all I wanted to do was walk from kindy to the beach and not have to scrape shoes and pram wheel ever few metres.

So, although I said I detest bylaws and fines for something that should be a point of personal pride and respect for the area we all live in, I rang the council to ask if there were any rules on the dropping of horse poo in public places, like there is for dog poo.

The response:
Horse poo isn't as bad as dog poo because horses are vegetarian so their poo composts down without risk to human health.
True.  But does that mean vegetarian humans are allowed to defecate on public property?  Does that mean I should be encouraging my children to play in poo?  Tell me, Oh Irritating Call Centre Dufus, would you let your child play in horse poo?  I realise that horse poo may not be toxic or harmful to humans, and is in fact very good for the garden, but it is still a waste product and it is aesthetically unattractive for a suburban district, unappealing to step in, and revolting to witness children playing in it.

Having said all this, one of the greatest floors I have seen was in a house in Waipukurau where they made their conservatory floor out of cow poo (the difference between this floor and the Krapiti situation, of course, is that the floor was hard and looked clean and tidy).

The council keeps trumpeting its green horn about how attractive life is on the Krapiti Coast.  Horse manure coated roads, footpaths, cycleways and beaches is a green step too far for me.   I am a poo prude.  It is not an attractive look, and leads me to conclude that there are a significant number of residents in  Krapiti who might like their open spaces, but are arrogant and inconsiderate in how their behaviour might impact on others.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Seeing victims everywhere

(This is not an anti-feminist rant!  Far from it.  It is more a rant on how some women are letting the side down!  So start showing some blog etiquette and bloody read the blog before going off at me. )

She has a look on her face as if she's perpetually confronted by the ghost of Benny Hill. She is convinced that at least one half of the population is out to get their filthy hands on her. That she herself has nothing to fear is not just ironic, but the heart of the matter.

The Constitutional Feminist is a new creature. Germaine Greer is not a Constitutional Feminist, for she can provide opinions that are intelligent. By contrast, the Constitional Feminist feels it her duty to stick her stupid beak in wherever a woman is so much as a bit player in the game. Routinely passing herself off as a "researcher", an "academic" with a "special interest" (that special interest being "women"). She is no different, in reality, to a horny teenage boy - not interested unless there are girls involved. Had she been moved to write anything at all on the events of September 11 2001, it would probably have been a lament for all the dead women, along with a diatribe toward al Qaeda for not trusting females to carry out the hijackings. She views the tale of humanity as nothing more than Adam vs Eve.

A little while ago, one such individual blogged a tense piece, outraged that she was unable to buy clothing for her daughter that was age-appropriate. (I don’t want to tell you who this blogger was because the author drives me to murder with the useless diatribe. I refuse to give the blogger any marketing. But it involves an appendage at the end of a limb and, ironically, a receptacle to observe one’s sexiness). This is normal as the Constitutional Feminist is always ready whenever the issue is the "sexualising" of women (women looking sexy, presumably with the aid of a shiny reflecting receptacle). She has a big problem with females who appear sexually alluring, and it's an opinion one might have thought she herself would surely be too embarrassed to make public. When the anti-sexy lobby is at long last championed by one who is, herself, gorgeous, that is the day I will begin to consider that maybe this isn't all about jealous little girls.

Not that I am unsympathetic. I have strong memories of what it was like at fourteen (indeed, sometimes even now), when I wished my features were as beautiful as those on display in the magazines. My escape hatch, rather than wearing "sexualised" clothing, was bizarre clothing and dyeing my fringe bright red (punk rock from a respectable family), a scene where looking ridiculous was the very point, and from beneath such a deliberately ugly facade I scowled at the "Beautiful People", as if they were somehow lesser than me for simply having won nature’s raffle. I grew out of it – very much so – extraordinarily so - but the ghost of that childish envy still visits me occasionally, when I see Halle Berry and re-imagine my life with her looks upon it. A psychologist might observe the clothing I wear these days - drab, quaint, or boringly sensible - and conclude that such clothing serves the same purpose as the robes of punk.  It is an exemption from the contest I know I can’t possibly win, disguised as my personal preference, which, of course, has nothing to do with vanity, and everything to do with the difficulties of cleaning off dried vegemite.

The Constitutional Feminist is evidence that "adulthood" is largely an urban myth, that one never fully abandons the desires and insecurities of youth, but simply learns to camouflage them among more serious matters and motivations.

Whatever else she might be, The Constitutional Feminist cares very much about the impression she makes. It follows that she cares about how other women are perceived beside her – her daughter, for example - but one shouldn't be fooled into thinking such concern is at all intellectually noble. It is the rage of teenage envy, fermented by years and fortified by time, and therefore seemingly mature, but not. Maturity has nothing to do with years. It is earned, gradually, with each acceptance of little injustices that the young cannot understand. The Constitutional Feminist scratches those itches with feminism, a notional factory that takes sour grapes and turns them into principles. One doesn’t have to grow out of feminism as one must grow out of punk, or a childish inferiority complex.

But the other irony of a life lived in theatrical indifference to the male species is that The Constitutional Feminist does not know men anywhere near as well as she thinks. It wouldn't occur to her that when a man sees a sexy picture of a women he does not necessarily presume her to be without intelligence or honour. Nor would it strike her that men are less likely to objectify the person in photographs than The Constitutional Feminist is likely to disrespect them - that many men, unlike herself, seem to know the difference between a magazine and a woman. It would be totally beyond The Constitutional Feminist to imagine such a thing as a man who doesn’t judge a women by her livelihood. She presumes everyone to be like herself - a freelance magistrate, narrow and shallow, dismissive of those who don’t play by her morals.

Too often, Constitutional Feminism is an opening for a type of politicised evangelism. Take the Australian Women’s Forum, for example. Dig beneath the veneer of feminism that dolls up their website and you find a solid god-fearing bedrock that looks less of a feminist think tank than a conservative Christian lobby group whose overriding priority is to criminalise abortion. Such people masquerade as academics and concerned intellectuals when in fact they are more like products of a politicised nunnery, blindly enslaved to an ancient text and angry at the knights who never came knocking.

Which wouldn’t be worth mentioning if The Constitutional Feminist was a fringe dweller, or just a sister doing it for herself. But feminism has become the bogus justification of power for the thick and envious.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Waiting at the yellow light

I was going to suggest that the dearth of blogs from me lately was because of my devastation at my marriage collapsing, but the reality is I was stuck in traffic.

Submissions close today for the Kapiti highway options.  An interesting press release from Chris Turver marked the event:
More than 3,000 individual submissions on the government’s plans for a four-lane expressway through Kapiti have been received by the New Zealand Transport Agency – and staff are still counting.

Chris Turver, an advocate for the expressway to be constructed on the existing Western Link Road road route between Raumatiu South and Peka Peka understands the total is a record for a public consultation process on a government roading plan outside Auckland.

He says the response reflects the huge interest in Kapiti in getting it right and he hopes the majority of the 3,000 responses to date will be in favour of the Western Link Road which has already been supported by a 2,100-signature petition.

The petition, organised by Mr Turver and KCDC Councillor Ann Molineux, ran for just three weeks and was delivered yesterday to NZTA Board chairman Brian Roche, with a copy to Transport Minister Steven Joyce.
Interesting times.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweeping generalisations



Because the above intellectual is clearly in the USA, I will guess he is not a supporter of the Melbourne Moran gang family.  Even so, I fear for my children.

There are people in the world whose intellect will remain at a child's level forever because they weren't born to parents who encouraged them to read, who simply weren't sufficiently interested in the world around them to do any more than make excuses for what they don't know, rather than summon what little curiosity they possess and research things for themselves.

As quoted on the National Geographic Magazine site:
  • over 80% of Americans have not read a book since high-school;
  • over half of Americans can't find any given state on a map;
  • nearly all Americans interviewed could not find most foreign countries;
  • almost half of American teenagers have no idea what the Second World War was about, and don't bother asking who won, when it was fought, or any of the details;
  • nearly half of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth;
  • nearly one-quarter of Americans do not know that the United States landed a man on the moon in 1969;
  • almost half believe you can drink antifreeze if you're stuck in the desert; and
  • over half believe the earth is 6,000 years old.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ten unusual playgrounds from around the world

Playgrounds have come a long way since the early days of hot, steel slides and open-backed infant swings. Safety is a big issue on today’s playgrounds, but, thankfully, so is imagination and ingenuity.

1. Nishi-Rokugo – Tokyo, Japan.
In Japanese, Nishi-Rokugo means Tyre Park. The Kawasaki plants are located not far away, so it’s possible they donated the 3,000 tyres that make up the dinosaurs, monsters, bridges, slides, swings, and all the loose ones there for kids to stack and hop on. But this sand-bottom park is hardly just for kids. Parents can haul tyres up specially designed tyre steps and tube down wide concrete slides.



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2. The Fruit and Scent Playground –Liljeholmen, Sweden
A banana slide, strawberry spinners, a pair of cherry swings, an orange see-saw and a watermelon jungle gym are all part of this unusual, small park in the south of Stockholm.

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3. Clemyjontri Park – Fairfax County, Virginia
Not just the name is unusual. This is one of the few playgrounds in the world where children with disabilities can play side-by-side with able-bodied children. The entire park is equipped with ramps for wheelchairs and the ground surfaces are specially designed with a non-slip material. The park is named for Adele Lebowitz’s (a major donor) four children: Carolyn (CL), Emily (EMY), John (Jon), and Petrina (Tri). Mrs. Lebowitz and her husband were also sponsors of a local children’s television show, The Pick Temple Show, in the 1950s. The star of that show, a clown named Bozo, was played by Willard Scott. Bozo, who later morphed into Ronald McDonald.

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4. Pruessen Park – Berlin, Germany
Is this the only playground in the world created specifically for seniors?  Anyone under 16 is not allowed inside Berlin’s Pruessen Park, nicknamed the “Playground for Grown-Ups.” The equipment is specifically designed for people over five feet tall and caters to Germany’s fastest growing age demographic.

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5. Zabeel Technology Park – Dubai
Dubai’s Zabeel Technology Park has two zones featuring futuristic technology and alternative energy exhibits, a series of high tech interactive displays, and a maze modeled on the solar system.

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6. Takino Hillside Park – Sapporo-shi, Hokkaido, Japan
The Children’s Playground in the Takino Hillside Park in Japan borrows ideas and images from nature. Varied lighting and sound conditions create a unique sensory experience for kids. Check out the cool net play tool in the rainbow nest dome. You can see how a lot of the park is built into, and under the hill.

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7. St. Kilda Adventure Playground – Adelaide, Australia
St Kilda Adventure Playground is one of Australia’s best known parks and covers 4 hectares along the beautiful South Australian seafront (not that I am biased). The park opened in 1982 and recent upgrades include a wooden castle, a small maze, and a submarine, nicknamed “The Yellow Submarine.” The park's biggest attraction is the beached pirate shipwreck, which is especially popular with dolphins and other sea wildlife.
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8. Teardrop Park – New York City, NY
Located between residential buildings in Battery Park City, and built for a whopping $17 million, the park features prominent rock outcroppings, geologic formations, a secret path, a bluestone ice wall, a humongous, almost dangerous looking slide, sandboxes, water play areas, a reading space with rock seats, and places to rock hop.
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9. Yerba Gardens – San Francisco, California
The rooftop at Yerba Gardens in San Francisco is home to one of the most elaborate playgrounds ever constructed. Aside from the ice-skating rink, bowling center and the 130,000 square feet of open space to play in, the playground includes a beautiful 103-year-old hand carved carousel. The Zeum carousel was constructed in 1906 but could not be installed in San Francisco as originally planned because of earthquake issues. It was eventually housed at Luna Park in Seattle, where it was the only piece of equipment to survive a horrific 1911 fire. The city of San Francisco bought the carousel from a collector in 1998 and restored it to its original condition. It now serves at the centerpiece in Yerba Gardens

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10. Playground – Boadilla del Monte, Spain
Spanish architects Eduardo Navadijos and Csaba Tarsoly designed this stunning modern playground with the intention of giving children inspiration to pursue their dreams in an airy and cool environment.

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Return your failed genius to sender for a full refund

As any suffering parent knows, for the past decade DVDs ingeniously called "Baby Einstein" flooded the market and the presents under the Christmas tree.  Some parents embraced the freedom to shove their little budding university educated 2 year olds in front of the television, without any guilt that they might turn their children into television-addicted zombies.  Who needs the commitment of a Montessori education when you can just turn on the television and put in a DVD with the word "Einstein" in it?  Brilliant!  (Let's conveniently ignore that Einstein himself was apparently not an obvious genius as a child.)

After a while, it dawned on some parents that - Shock! Horror! - watching shapes, annoying songs, colours, and badly drawn cartoons did not guarantee their child a place in university at 5 years old.  So, naturally because this happened in the USA, now Disney (who foolishly bought Baby Einstein in 2001) finds itself having to offer refunds to any parents who bought its Baby Einstein videos and found their babies did not become instant geniuses the way a name like "Einstein"  might possibly suggest.

Baby Einstein sells USD200 million worth of products a year.  About a third of all American babies/infants apparently owns one of its DVDs.  Giving their parents refunds represents a quantity of money that might rival Obama's healthcare package, and a lot of embarrassment. What made Disney budge? According to the Times:
Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”
Did anyone force these parents to buy the DVDs?  While it may be appropriate to remove "educational" from the marketing, surely Disney has no responsibility to refund money. Parents asking Disney to refund their money on infant entertainment because all of a sudden "research shows" that TV is bad for children (hasn't it always been bad? This is hardly new) is basically the parents asking Disney to take the same kind of helicopter-style care of them that they are taking of their children. How can there be any claim of raising children capable of critical and independent thought when lawyers are pushed to sue a clever marketing plan? Doesn't the very fact that this lawsuit was brought in the first place constitute the parents' admission that they bought the DVDs because of what the marketing said without giving it any thoughtful consideration of their own?

Now I need to put in a little waiver here.  Those who know me are aware that I don't have a television in my house - well, I do, but it lives in a cupboard only because it just doesn't look good in my newly decorated house.  But I have no objections to children watching television.  I don’t think watching a little TV is going to turn any kid into a dullard. But to think that watching TV is the key to education, rather than, say, reading a book, letting the kid dig in dirt, splash in the tub, discover that sand tastes bad, or bang on a pot is a sad indictment on those parents who believed the Baby Einstein DVDs were going to make a difference to their child's education.  While a "little TV" might not turn anyone into a problem child, it does go against how the brain develops. We live in a 3D, not a 2D, environment. A child is not, or should not be, a passive inhabitant of their 3D environment.

So, now I wait to see who is going to ask for a refund on the basis their child is not a genius?  Picture the scene in the crowded Walmart (screamed in an American accent, possibly from the midwest):  "Look at my kid!  Did you ever see such a dumb, thickarse excuse for a human being?  I gave him this "genius" dvd with the word Einstein in the title, and what do I get?  Braindead Thicko Boy!  I want my money back!"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Protecting children from evil will not make the world less evil

Once upon a time, in a far away land called EwwKay, a a parenting site polled 3,000 parents about the stories they told their children. A significant proportion of them said they refuse to read certain traditional fairy tales to their Precious Widdle Darlings, finding the stories either too ominous or not politically correct enough.

Quoth The Telegraph:
Favourites such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and Rapunzel are being dropped by some families who fear children are being emotionally damaged.

A third of parents refused to read Little Red Riding Hood because she walks through woods alone and finds her grandmother eaten by a wolf.

One in 10 said Snow White should be re-named because "the dwarf reference is not politically correct"

Rapunzel was considered "too dark", and Cinderella has been dumped amid fears she is treated like a slave and forced to do all the housework.

It is horribly sexist to tell little girls that their greatest happiness can be found in marriage to a handsome prince. Moreover, do we really want to scare the kiddies with stories of grannies who turn out to be big bad wolves? Should Cinderella not be rejoicing in the fact that her father married more than once - and how very lookist to notice that the two awful stepsisters are ugly.

More than a quarter of the parents surveyed now reject fairy stories in favour of books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I have nothing against this book, which is a good preparation for life in today's obese-obsessed world. It is a charming book, in which readers are invited to open flaps and see that the caterpillar has consumed a list of sensible fruit and vegetables. However, having read it about 250 times to my children (multiply all figures by three), I can say that it is extraordinarily boring and utterly unmemorable.

I am, however, happy to read fairy stories to my children for hours. Who are these parents who think that they are helping their children by withholding knowledge of Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother's fascinating teeth, of Hansel and Gretel, of Cinderella or Rapunzel? These stories, which are replicated in almost all the cultures of the world, have been part of the shared experience of childhood for generations.

Many of them were collected up by the ingenious German brothers, the Brothers Grimm, during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The Grimms were interested in the origins of European languages. However, in the course of their research, they realised there were rich folk stories handed on from generation to generation in the country districts of German-speaking Europe. They found much which horrified them, just as it would shock social workers today - incest, child murder, bullying, abuse of all kinds. They found many stories of babies abandoned in the Black Forest villages, teenage pregnancies, and many abusive parents or grandparents among the boot-faced Teutonic peasantry.

The point is that the stories were not a way of covering these things up. They were a way of articulating fears and coming to terms with them.

Our national cultures, our sense of who we are as groups, are sustained by great myths. Our religions are a set of shared stories. Fairytales are also an absolutely vital part of our shared life together - only this time not as big cultural or national groups but in the most basic group of all: the family. Twenty-first century women have advanced beyond the fantasy that they are kitchen drudges who will one day turn into princesses by capturing the heart of the most handsome prince in the world, but that does not mean we would live richer lives without any knowledge of these stories whatsoever. The lessons given out by fairy stories are not bad ones, whatever some timid parents might feel

Goldilocks was idiotic to invade the three bears' house, and learnt a useful lesson about other people's property in the process.

The story of Snow White, even when sentimentalised by Walt Disney, remains one of the most enchanting ever told, but it is also useful. The apple offered by the witch versus the drug offered by a friend before a night out clubbing.

Rapunzel is, if I can use a tired word, "empowered" by her lovely long hair. The envious older woman tries to hold her back. How many daughters know that to be true when they think of the possessive part of their own mother's love for them? By literally letting her hair down, Rapunzel escapes and finds happiness. That is not just a fairy story for millions of girls who have escaped the constraints of a tyrannical mother/witch. It is what really happens.

Children are born into a world of fear. We do them no service by trying to eliminate that from their lives.  Denying the existence of evil is never healthy – children can come up against the real thing all too soon. How can you teach your child to avoid bad people if such terms are not even in their lexicon? How will these parents deal with their preteen wanting to read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books?

I would like to think these parents will come to their senses and we will all live happily ever after. However, I suspect this is but a fantasy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dr Seuss, the Blogger visionary

I always knew Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr Seuss) was a man ahead of his time.

The following excerpt is from "Scrambled Eggs Super", published in 1953.

Previously in the story: Peter T. Hooper is travelling everywhere to track down eggs for a miraculous breakfast he's planning to make..........
I went for the kind that were mellow and sweet
And the world's sweetest eggs are the eggs of the Kweet
Which is due to those very sweet trout which they eat
And those trout ... well, they're sweet 'cause they only eat Blogs
And Blogs, after all, are the world's sweetest frogs
And the reason they're sweet is, whenever they lunch
It's always the world's sweetest bees that they munch
And the reason no bees can be sweeter than these...
They only eat blossoms off Beezlenut Trees
And those Beezlenut Blossoms are sweeter than sweet
And that's why I nabbed several eggs from the Kweet.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recommended new blog

Very interesting blog here about the virtues of alcohol and what we lose if governments restrict ("Return to Prohibition?") its sale because of the actions of a few individuals.  It's written from a the viewpoint of a food and wine lover who worked in the wine industry.  Well worth a read.

Socialist seduction techniques

Again, certain people have chosen to ignore blog etiquette.  This morning, an unnamed councillor (nah, bugger it, it was Lyndy MacIntyre), somehow worked out who OM is, and contacted OM directly to discuss Ostrich Economics.

Sigh.

Ostriches and bad blog manners before I've had my (non-organic, non Free Trade) coffee?  Bad.  Very bad.

The far Left ostriches in Kapiti have a deeply immature habit of using rhetoric and subtly manipulative language to push its causes.  Start with a literal truth steeped in emotion (or make it emotive: "think of the children!/trees!/environment!") that most sane people will agree with.  Then, hide the substantive truth.

Where is the intellectual rigour to lift the cloak on this dishonesty?  That democratic voice is suppressed.

When discussing the Western Link Road and the expressway options put forward by the Government, phrases are used by the Kapiti ostriches, such as "we care" about the environment so "we want to lead" the roading decision.  An assumption is made that people want the Council to "do something".

See how the literal truth conveys the substantive untruth.  The literal truth - "we care" about the environment - is used as a bait.  If you accept that bait, you will therefore accept the rest of it.  It is true that many people care about the environment.  The substantive untruth is that the Council should be out in front, leading this roading issue, and ergo, presumably seeing itself as leading the world on climate change with ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions.

Statements such as, "the people of Kapiti don't want it, so the Government should accept that," are untrue, or at the very least, completely untested.  There is no evidence that Kapiti Coasters (or Kapitians?) support any particular option in overwhelming numbers.  No poll has been taken.  The Council and the likes of Lyndy MacIntyre assume support when it is nothing more than turn outs to meetings held by high profile individuals pushing one agenda to orchestrated campaign activists.

At the same time, they remain opposed to hearing views that do not support their stance, particularly those steeped in intellectual rigour.  To hell with democratic voice.  Of course, you will never hear them utter that literal and substantive truth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sustainable Economics vs Ostrich Economics: the apparent confusion

As a trained economist, I should know by now not to read anything put forward by people claiming to be "sustainable" or who believe in "peak oil". And, sure enough, today there is more head-in-the-sand/we-want-standstill-traffic-every-Friday-and-public-holiday/more-than-one-anecdote-equals-data/cow-pat-economics press releases from a councillor (with a union background - but of course!!) in Kapiti.  This from Lyndy MacIntyre, a ward councillor.
The road to nowhere

Last week, two months after the Minister of Transport announced he would ram a motorway through our community whether we want it or not, councillors voted on a KCDC submission.
You mean, after the council wasted decades of time and money on building a road that was supposed to take traffic off the state highway, but ended up looking like a goat track?  After the council allowed its decisions to be driven by the personal politics of a Mayor and the preferences of property developers?  After the Government made it very clear that the state highway north of Wellington is a road of national importance and the council still did nothing?

Perhaps some people in the community are sick of traffic sitting at a standstill every Friday, every public holiday, and every time there is an accident on the narrow two-lane bridge into Waikanae.  Perhaps there are some evil capitalist businesses that want to move their freight more efficiently on a roading network.
Determining the KCDC position has been a hard road to travel. Councillors were faced with responding to a Ministerial edict that is not about benefiting our community, but all about getting from Wellington to Levin 12 minutes faster, and accommodating the trucking industry.
It was only a "hard road to travel" because the Mayor and her councillors decided this would be an opportunity to push their preferred views, did not bother to talk to people who may have a differing view to them, and based their opinions on the views of a vocal view, rather than those who are DIRECTLY affected. For many people and businesses who make the regular trip between Wellington and Auckland, 12 minutes off the travelling time to Levin would be brilliant when calculated over a year.

And, anyway, the edict was never about tourism to Kapiti.  It is about creating an effective roading network and identifying the roads of national importance.  The entire purpose of this exercise is to move traffic through Kapiti.  You always go on and on and on about how you want to retain Kapiti's small town, community feel.  Ensuring people don't stop here is a very effective way to do that.
The council submission concludes that building a motorway through Kapiti is a total overreaction to our transport issues. Even Opus, the company tasked by Government to develop the state highway plan, identifies the issue as "peak traffic demand".
Oh, so you actually WANT the traffic to be sitting at a standstill ever Friday/public holiday/whenever there is an accident up the line!  Dumb me!  Here I was, thinking that because you call yourself "environmental" you would prefer that traffic moved, rather than sit still for hours on end with engines idling.

Remind me again what it is about you that is "environmental"?
The submission, endorsed by councillors in a seven to three vote, takes a much-needed sustainable approach. It demolishes the NZTA argument for a motorway and concludes that peak congestion issues can be addressed by investing more in public transport, building a two-lane Western Link Road and making incremental improvements to the state highway. I supported this recommendation with the amendment that four-laning SH1 would happen "as and when is necessary".
What's sustainable about it?  The council has now endorsed four-laning the current state highway, which would result in 400+ homes being fully or partly demolished, over the Sandhills Motorway option that would result in 40 homes being affected, but these people knew about the designation anyway.  PLUS the forging ahead of a two-lane Western Link Goat Track, the purpose of which is....... er........ gosh, I don't know.  Please tell - the purpose of the Western Link Road was to take local traffic off the state highway.  If a highway is upgraded, it is unlikely locals are going to choose to travel on a meandering suburban street over the quick route.

And I would happily wager a bet with you that "making incremental improvements to the state highway" would end up being astronomically expensive, and a complete waste of money when the whole thing could just be sorted out once.
Four-laning SH1 has huge implications for the Paekakariki community. In this whole debate there has been no discussion about what happens in the southern end of the district. Many Paekakariki residents have asked me what will happen south of McKays Crossing if there is a four-lane highway through the entire district? The answer of course is a massive bottleneck, and the same issue arises if the entire SH1 is four-laned.
And this is based on what traffic modelling?  Of course, this would not be an issue if/when Transmission Gully is ever built.  Or if the residents of Paekakariki just faced reality, concede they live on State Highway 1 and not a back road, stopped trying to reduce the speed limit through the district, and allowed the road to be four-laned.  Or considered the merits of a local road that linked it with Kapiti through Queen Elizabeth Park (shock!  Horror!  The poor native trees that apparently cannot be replanted!).
We can make immediate sensible improvements to SH1 to address traffic flow and safety issues, but we don’t need to create a defacto expressway on SH1.
From this comment, I can only assume that you have never travelled on the State Highway through Kapiti.  If you had, you would have noticed the many houses dotted all along its route, with driveways that end directly on the State Highway. You would have noticed the many fast food outlets that have drive-through facilities and with entrances and exits on the State Highway.  You may notice the local roads, lots of them, that have Give Way intersections with the State Highway.  You have also possibly noticed that the road is, in parts, narrow and winding and is terrifying with the quantity of trucks at times.  And, finally, it may have also escaped your attention that a combination of all the above, plus a demographic that is largely elderly and terrified when driving in tiny cars around large trucks, culminates in traffic jams for hours every Friday night, at the start and end of every public holiday, and whenever there is a frequent accident at the Waikanae bridge.

So, in response to your vacuous comment, you actually do need to create an expressway through Kapiti.  Your proposed safety improvements on the current road will never be sufficient, and in fact are outdated already.
We should give the rail improvements and the Western Link Road a chance to reduce peak-time congestion, while  incrementally making improvements to SH1. Improvements could include an underpass at Te Moana Road, replacing traffic lights with roundabouts, slip lanes for properties with SH1 entrances, left in and left out onto the highway, tidal lanes, and four-laning where appropriate.
Ahahahaha!!!!  That's so funny!  What rail improvements?  Do you mean the train carriages that would make some communist states laugh at the antiquity?  Do you mean the double tracking of the track to Waikanae.  Remind me, are we talking about the same rail service that is being increasingly shunned by people because it is not always a cost effective alternative to fuel and parking in Wellington, and is so unreliable that people fear for their job security when they catch it?  And are we talking about freighting goods on this rail network that currently travel by road because this is a more cost effective and quicker option than rail?  And always will be?

I see you have probably never worked as a roading enginner.  Granted, neither have I.  So perhaps the glaring gap I'm seeing here is a complete and utter lack of common sense.  This is not "sustainable".  It is extremely unsustainable  As always, economic naivety and a lack of English ability, masquerading as sharing, caring policy, is alive and well in Kapiti.
A second motion supporting council’s fallback position of an eastern motorway was passed with the mayoral casting vote. I did not support this motion as I believe it offers support for an unacceptable motorway proposal, and undermines the council’s preferred  package.

Over the past few weeks I have talked with hundreds of residents from my ward.
Presumably you only spoke to those residents who agree with your stance.  I, for one, have been actively collecting petition signatures and can vouch that there are also several hundred residents in your ward who think your views are, well, "s***" (as stated by a 90 year old resident who you didn't talk to).
I really appreciate those who take the time to contact me to share their views and talk over these hugely important issues. The overwhelming view is that motorways are not the solution and we can and must find a more sustainable solution. But it is true that people feel powerless in the face of a Government determined to have its way.
No, again I must differ.  The Government, you may recall or have possibly conveniently ignored, initially presented two options.  They then listened to the concerns raised by affected property owners and tabled a third option - a brilliant option: The Sandhills option, which affects far fewer properties and goes along an existing roading designation, is the cheapest to construct and is the quickest to construct (yes, sometimes upgrading an existing road is not the quickest or cheapest option, but your lack of economics nous probably didn't realise this).

Conversely, the Council has had decades to construct a road that would take local traffic off the State Highway.  Instead, it has chosen to delay the process by small minded, private agenda politicking.  The Council has repeatedly ignored the rights of private property owners over the rights of property developers and the school of choice for Mayoral grandchildren.

The only way these affected resident have been able to effect any change to council decisions, and the only way the residents have been privy to private discussions between council officers and property developers that directly affected their properties, has been through official processes, such as OIA requests, complaints to the Ombudsman, complaints to the Auditor General, judicial reviews, press statements to national media, repeated meetings with Ministers of the Crown and MPs.  This is what being powerless in the face of government is.  Your ratepayers should never have to go through this.
I don’t underestimate the power and confidence of this Government. But that doesn’t have to mean saying yes to something that is wrong for our community, wrong for New Zealand and wrong for the planet. Let’s say no to motorways and let’s say yes to a sustainable solution.
Again, I LOL and PMSL.  While you are at it, let's also say a resounding YES! to longer traffic jams!  YES! to more accidents along dangerous stretches of roads!  YES! to more people leaving Kapiti in a quest for a place that is more accessible to Wellington's CBD!  YES! to economic disaster as businesses fold due to an inability to efficiently transport goods through the capital city to Auckland, and vice versa!

You are deluded if you think your views are "sustainable".  Learn the meaning of the word as a first step.  To assist you, I can immediately think of three definitions:
1. (Economics) capable of being sustained;
2. (Life Sciences / Environmental Science) (of economic development, energy sources, etc.) capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage; and
3. (Economics) (of economic growth) non-inflationary.

None of your ideas achieve any of the above.  The only thing I can think you possibly mean is sustainable means do nothing?  I think, perhaps, you are confusing "sustainable" with "ostrich"?  I can think of two definitions that might aid you:
1. A large, swift-running flightless bird (Struthio camelus) of Africa, characterized by a long bare neck, small head, and two-toed feet, and a tendency to spend long periods of time with its head in the sand.
2. One who avoids reality by refusing to face it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A question for train platform designers

Witnessed today at the Paraparaumu Railway Station: a person in a wheelchair turned his wheelchair to face the doors of the approaching train. The wheelchair suddenly lurched forward - I'm not not sure if brakes were on or failed - just as the train came into the station. Thankfully, the actions of about five people who threw themselves at the wheelchair, and prevented the man from falling under the train.  It was all over in less than 10 seconds.

Between today's incident, and the sickening footage of the baby in Melbourne, I would like to know why these platforms must slope towards the train?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strungling with global warming denialism

I do not want to share this with anyone I respect.

Historian and apocalyptic climate scaremonger, Robert Manne, has rewritten history:
In recent times, the phenomenon of denialism has come to be called, in Australia at least, the phenomenon of scepticism. This change in language seems to me to be both dangerous and wrong.
He appears to be saying that initial warming doubters were first dubbed "denialists", and that the sceptic tag came later.  I would argue that he has this the wrong way around.
Scepticism is in general, as it should be, a positive word, denoting scientific or humanistic curiosity and in particular the presence of an open mind. That is not the mindset of those who are now denying the reality of climate change.
Behold the presence of an open mind.  Manne also acknowledges, and fully supports, a Holocaust connection to the "denialism" slur:
Denialism, a concept that was first widely used, as far as I know, for those who claimed that the Holocaust was a fraud, is the concept I believe we should use.
So he’s not a denialism denialist. Among other highlights, Manne claims that the threat of climate change is greater than that presented by WWII (and more difficult to overcome) and that how we deal with global warming will “determine both the human future and the future of the earth".

Manne also invents the word "strungle".

Don't bother reading any of it.

Global Warming Melted My Homework

From an article in a newspaper from Jakarta. Link to come....
Cirebon School Ceiling Falls on Students' Heads

Dozens of elementary school students in Cirebon, West Java were injured after the ceiling of their classroom collapsed on Wednesday. The two-floor building was built with state funds and had been in use for just three months. However, the cracks on the ceiling had been noticeable for some time. The steel beams used to support the ceiling had expanded over the summer. School headmaster Sukhemi blamed the contractor who built the school, and said the builder should take responsibility for the accident. Dedi Windiagiri, the head of the Cirebon school board, denied that the contractor was to blame. Climate change, he said, was the true cause of the accident.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why stop at one fisk?

My apologies to Liberty Scott. He very rightly, and very brilliantly, fisked Sue Kedgley over an issue that is literally on my doorstep and that has dominated my life, and pretty much destroyed a lot of it, ever since we moved to the Kapiti Coast.

The proper thing for me to do would have been to quickly add weight to Liberty Scott’s blog. But in my defence, I am just so very depressed over the Kapiti roading issue now, having discovered that the Mayor has resurrected an entranceway proposal that would go through my house (despite the council repeatedly voting against it) and whenever the Mayor and her loyal friends and former lesbian girlfriends speak up, I am reduced to a crying mess. A useless state to be in when I am also trying to get on with my life.

But Liberty Scott’s fisking was brilliant. Why stop at Sue Kedgley? Ever since Jenny Rowan, the Lady Worship Mayor Of The Ugliness That Is Kapiti, came into power, the obnoxious view is that it is acceptable to disregard advice provided by council to its ratepayers, and to demolish homes and ignore any principles of natural justice. It is never about the people. It is all about the kanuka trees and the Mayor’s grandson’s school. By the way, that’s the kanuka trees that would never be there had the Sandhills Motorway been built decades ago. And the school that knew about the roading designation when it purchased the land.  Hypocritically, these people also brag about their union credentials and their people-hugging past.

Life isn’t easy for people in Kapiti who purchased their property based on council information, who are not lesbian and former girlfriends of the Mayor, and who do not send their children to the same militant Steiner school that the Mayor’s grandson attends. While the sanctimonious greenies have their estates protected by the mayor and her council slaves, reasonable greenies - who, let it not be forgotten, also have mortgages, care about their children’s future, don’t necessarily use disposable nappies, and – most importantly - pay rates - are directly and devastatingly affected by the peculiar greenie tenet of putting the environment ahead of people. The salvation of a few kanuka trees overrides any personal property rights, a concept that is surprisingly difficult to explain to those who call themselves green, but who are actually just thick. They have yet to explain to me how demolishing homes is environmentally superior to constructing a road on a designated route.

I cannot reconcile the principles espoused by the greenies involved in this when so many people’s properties will be affected by what they are proposing. The roading designation for the Sandhills Motorway option has existed longer than many of them have been alive. The people who have purchased their properties along (or, in some stupid instances, on) the roading designation, have done so knowing full well that a roading designation exists. So why penalise the sensible people among us for this?

The current move by the Kapiti council furthers this hypocrisy. Rowan, backed by Sue Kedgley, and Winnie Laban (let’s ignore the point that most of the affected part of the district is not in Winnie’s electorate) is now supporting four-laning the state highway (a move that will result in around 400 people being directly affected) AND a two-lane Western Link Road. The whole point of the Western Link Road was to take local traffic off the state highway. If you upgrade the state highway, people are going to choose to travel on that over a 50kph goat track. Why create further local roads when perfectly adequate roads for local traffic already exist? Do one or the other. Not both. Oh, but I forget – you must waste money! In that case, this idea of yours will achieve that.  You thieving, unethical excuse for a Mayor.

By utilising Sue Kedgley, the Mayor has ensured journalists will receive moral direction and sensational copy. This means that rather than holding the council to account, Kedgley has allowed the council to go without scrutiny or criticism.

I am now going to send off my submission and hope NZTA sees beyond the rhetoric of a vocal minority who have access to bored Green MPs, and does what is best for Wellington, for Kapiti, and for traffic travelling through the district – build the Sandhills Motorway, and build it soon. It is the safest, cheapest option, that – get this greenies – has the least impact on people and property. I am also going to take a moment to cry over what I had hoped would be a lovely life on the Kapiti Coast, but what in fact has turned out to be a soul destroying nightmare.

I'm sure there must be a council in NZ that doesn't treat its ratepayers with such disdain?  And may Kedgley, Laban and their respective parties stay well out of power for many years yet.  Their breathtaking disregard for people and their families and homes is disgusting.  They should be ashamed of their hypocritical stance that puts people last.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Goodnight Kiwi

Am I the only one who missed the news that two New Zealand zoos (Wellington and Auckland) want to import two tumour-free Tasmanian devils?  Don't zoos in New Zealand have a habit of letting animals go walkabout, and taking a long time to recapture the escapists?

Strewth! Tell me you are kidding?!? Yes, I know extinction is sad (sometimes), but tell me you don't honestly want to develop a breeding programme for these beasts? Have a closer look at the name. (Hint: the devil might explain a lot.)
Wellington Zoo’s Simon Eyre says New Zealand wants to assist in protecting the vulnerable marsupial in any way it can.
Sounds like a worthy plan. Take them out of Australia.  Good idea.  I support that 100%.

Problem is, though, I now live in New Zealand.

Earnest New Zealand zookeepers, I offer you a warning: if one of these ugly devils manages to escape - just one - fear for your pets, your ankles, and the future of New Zealand's meek, defenceless wildlife (what there is of it, anyway). It won't take one long to enjoy a large tucker. They’re aggressive, heartless, cold-blooded, bloody ugly (even before facial tumour) killers. They have very few redeeming features, other than that they are unique to a certain geographic location.

Goodbye cute, cuddly little Kiwi birds.

The REAL story behind the proposal to ban P

I have some inside knowledge.

The Chief Science Advisor, a charming man wearing a neat bow tie, welcomed the Prime Minister into his office.

"We're engaged in a major programme of research on the genetics of degenerative disease in child bearing turkeys with the common cold following prolonged used of pseudoephedrine.  It's an important topic," said the Chief Science Advisor, and the Prime Minister nodded, as if to convey that he, too, was heavily involved, and had read the briefing paper and so understood what his Chief Science Advisor was saying.

"Yes," agreed the Prime Minister.  "Very important.  Indeed.  So important for the economy, in fact.  What with Christmas coming up."

The Chief Science Advisor threw him a glance.  Now they moved deep within the inner sanctum of the Beehive to the laboratories, where the humming centrifuges and bubbling flasks attested to a high level of research activity.

"MgP2HP20P + HgPSOP4 = P," explained the Chief Science Advisor, pointing to a vat of curiously coloured powder.
"P?" asked the Prime Minister.
"MgPCO2P = P," responded the Chief Science Advisor.
"O," said the Prime Minister.  "I....."
"O?" asked the Chief Science Advisor.
The Prime Minister stroked his chin.  "Perhaps."
"Definitely," interjected the Chief Science Advisor.  "PHP2POP +PNaPCl3P = PPPpppPPPP+PP."
"P?" probed the Prime Minister.  "Why?"
"Because PPPpppPPPP+PP," the Chief Science Advisor explained, as simply as he could to a non-scientist.

The Prime Minister exploded in anger.  "Will you stop saying P all the time!!!  It's getting really irritating!"

"P?"  the Chief Science Advisor queried.

In a thunderous rage, The Prime Minister grabbed the nearest beaker and smashed it over the head of his Chief Science Advisor.  He then destroyed any evidence of his (now former) Chief Science Advisor with a Bunsen burner.

The next day, a press release was issued from the Prime Minister's office:
The Prime Minister proposes banning pseudoephedrine in the fight against P.  The ban is part of a wide-ranging plan to fight P, using the full force of the government's arsenal, as P is wrecking lives, wrecking families and fuelling crime.
The banning of other P-related products will be considered in due course.