Monday, 29 September 2008

Strange bedfellows

Continuing the political theme, I spotted the latest cover for Free Radical magazine. Good, eh?

Back to the US presidential race and the bank buyout; first is a lovely comment piece from the NYT's Frank Rich (unfortunate name).

Part of Rich's story, which is really about McCain's "suspension" of campaigning being a fake, is the Republicans' rush to deflect attention from Palin's disastrous CBS interview. It also outlines the lobbyists who used to spin for Fannie Mae and now run the McCain campaign, while Honest John refers to lobbyists as "birds of prey" and says he's on the side of the little guy. The only difference being that the little guy knows how many houses he owns, I suppose.

In that interview with Katie Couric, Palin banged on about how she's always had to deal with Russia, then she asserted that McCain has always been greatly in favour of regulation of finance; yeah, right! Here's the Russia-diplomacy bit;

Ms. Couric asked Ms. Palin to explain how Alaska’s proximity to Russia “enhances your foreign policy credentials.”

“Well, it certainly does,” Ms. Palin replied, “because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there—”

Gently interrupting, Ms. Couric asked, “Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?”

“We have trade missions back and forth,” said Ms. Palin. “We do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to our state.”

Then there's McCain's gambling, which he hides from the evangelicals. I don't suppose you get many saved end-timers in Vegas, anyway.

What a poisonous old power-toad this man is - and his cheesy offsider is not helping.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Hell in a handbasket

Everybody has an opinion on the attempted bailout of the US banking sector. Gordon Campbell at Scoop has lots of plain speaking to get off his chest; here's a sample. 
". . . (a) the plan probably won’t work (b) isn’t fixable and (c) will be politically suicidal", because ". . . every person who has lost their home in the recession/subprime fallout because their bank refused to help them re-structure their debt - is furious that Wall Street is getting bailed out at their expense." And worse, ". . . this will allow John McCain and every Republican in a marginal seat to run as outsiders and rail against Washington – even though it was their party and its loony zeal for de-regulation that made the crisis possible, and inevitable."

James Howard Kunstler is as expressive as ever; he has every right to a good burst of "I told you so" as he's been predicting a banking and mortgage meltdown for some years, but he's not gloating. He does, however, call this ". . . a cockamamie scheme for the US treasury to absorb all the losses from a twenty-year binge in which Wall Street created and retailed the most complex set of swindles ever seen on this planet Earth. The background music to the tableau was the 'whoosh' of a several trillion dollars exiting the US financial system never to be seen again."

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has something to say, drawing a rather long bow in an attempt to invoke Marx and to find a moral message in this mess. To him, it's not greed that is the sin, it's idolatry; and he calls on the secular saints Dawkins and Hitchens to expose this fallacy!

"...ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry.
   The mythologies and abstractions, the pseudo-objects of much modern financial culture, are in urgent need of their own Dawkins or Hitchens. We need to be reacquainted with our own capacity to choose — which means acquiring some skills in discerning true faith from false, and re-learning some of the inescapable face-to-face dimensions of human trust."

Sorry Your Grace, those two gentlemen are busy pulling down the entire edifice of religion; if they ever succeed, you'll just be an irrelevant old airhead.

I'd like to hear the story about the free market self-correcting without government interference again - that's my favourite fairy story this week.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Mrs Ronald is At Home

Heather was home by 10.30am, and soon settled into life in bed, with regular walks on crutches here and there.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hip op moving on

Heather will come home tomorrow, Friday 26th. I'll take at least Friday and Monday off, and more if needed. Heather's sister Elaine arrives on Monday so she can take over daytimes for a while, and I'll go back to work - in theory, at least.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Progress report 2

Heather is doing very well; she's off oxygen and morphine, has been a few paces here and there on crutches, and is generally making great progress. Alice is on her way to Rarotonga, and I'm at home with the cats. I'll go and sort out the rubbish and recycling now. It's a full life...

Progress report

Before; Heather inspecting her new home.
After; eating an iceblock to soothe the throat.
Heather was oddly cheerful last night, which can probably be blamed on the morphine drip. Her throat is very sore from the tubes and gases, so she sounds like someone who's just smoked 40 Rothmans.

This morning she said she'd been up and taken a few steps using crutches, then was wheeled into the shower - she'll be feeling a lot fresher after that, I'm sure.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Heather's big day

This morning we'll take Heather to St George's Hospital around 11am, and leave her to undergo a hip replacement some time this afternoon. I don't think she'll be in much of a mood for visitors tonight, but I'll pop over briefly about 7 to see how she is doing. We're all a bit nervous, which is understandable given the seriousness of the operation.

Tomorrow Alice flies to Rarotonga to attend her friend Pip's wedding, returning on Sunday in time to prepare for her first day at work next Monday. Big events all round!

Thanks to a fine weekend the boat painting is done, so I will return it to the yard at Lyttelton in the next day or so. (Later; the boat is back at Lyttelton today; thanks to Mark Schroeder's assistance it only took an hour.)

UPDATE: Heather was out of surgery at 3:15, and called us at 5:30 to say she was awake - when the morphine allowed. We're off to see her now - 6:45pm.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Boating soon

Today was devoted to boat maintenance. At 9am Schroeder and I arrived at the trailer yacht yard at Lyttelton, hooked up the trailer, and drove back to town to get a warrant of fitness for the boat trailer. That went flawlessly, and by 11am I had the boat parked at home to do some more painting.

Last weekend I did most of the sanding in the cockpit. Today I applied a power sander to the remaining spots, applied primer, then went to have lunch and do the weekly supermarket run. By 2pm the primer was dry, so I started with a portable vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust and the seeds from the trees, followed by creamy yellow deck paint to cover up the primer. The second coat will go on tomorrow morning, then we'll take the boat back to Lyttelton, with sails stored inside ready to start the season. Once we raise the mast and attach the sails, of course.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Politics on the web

I'm about to watch TVNZ7's streaming video of their "Leaders on 7" series. It will be interesting to see if their servers are up to the demand.

Later: oops! The debate on the internet next Tuesday will be streamed, but last night's debate was broadcast though not streamed live. It will probably be available on the TVNZ On Demand site later today, though.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

False hope for the hopeless

A phrase hit me as I watched TV this dinner time; "age repair elixir". The combination of powerful magic words ("It's not a cream, it's an elixir!") intrigued me, so I did a quick google. The commercial was advertising this product; ANEW ULTIMATE Age Repair Elixir, $US44 for 1 fl.oz. Apparently it is "A luxurious, ultralight serum that provides the maximum level of Pro-Sirtuin TX Technology." Whatever that is - or more likely, isn't.

The people who've swallowed this tosh so far are then advised to apply the elixir "every morning and night before your moisturizer". I wasn't brave enough to look up the price of that, and bailed out from the web site.

About then I looked up at the TV, and there was the Family Health Diary, telling us to pester our doctors for a new brand of asthma inhaler, and to buy other dubious products for even more dubious reasons. These snake-oil salesmen make me really cross, taking advantage of the stupid and desperate like that. I suppose the cosmetics industry is marginally more ethical than this lot, because they don't actually fool about with people's health. However they certainly charge a lot more for the illusion of glamour and imaginary benefits they promise in such sincere tones.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Long weekend

Because I took a day's leave on Friday, this weekend has been longer than two days in my mind; all Saturday I kept assuming it was Sunday because I'd had a day off the day before. (Left - this shot taken on Friday by Chris shows the characteristic grin of a tired but happy skier.)

Today began with an IT emergency; at 7:45am I noticed that the Blackboard web server wasn't responding, then ascertained that the database server was off-line as well. Both were the victims of Windows updates; isn't it nice to know that our systems are protected by these folk? Even if the servers won't run, at least they're safe from bugs. We hope. Anyway, rebooting both servers did the trick, so that was good.

After lunch I went to Lyttelton and started a small yacht-painting job; I sanded most of the nooks and crannies in the cockpit, especially the floor. Next time I will vacuum up the dust, tidy up the corners, then paint the cockpit floor and walls. The cockpit gets most of the foot traffic in the boat, after all. I hope we'll be ready for our first race on October 11th.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Playing hooky

Hutch and I sneaked off and went skiing today. It was interesting to be above the cloud (mostly) and the sunny faces softened by midday. At 2.30 the cloud settled in for good, and by 3 we'd had enough. Back in town (after the compulsory beer and game of pool at Hororata) we were joined by the feminine folks for pizza and pasta at Pepperoni in Stanmore Rd, and now I'm off for an early night.
Mount Hutt was above the cloud level...

...most of the time - this rolled over about noon, but didn't stay.

Chris Hutching

Lunch in the sun

A self portrait - all photos from my phone cam again.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Foot traffic

This winter I have noticed some odd behaviour among central city pedestrians.

Pedestrians (dressed in corporate black for invisibility) walk around a corner to the left. They walk about 10 metres, until they cannot be seen by left turning drivers, then leave the footpath and walk diagonally across the road, backs to the approaching traffic. This suicidal behaviour may avoid the wait for the traffic lights, but it is very bad for their life expectancy. The bravest pedestrians also wear headphones, so they cannot hear approaching traffic.

This is the pedestrian equivalent of some Christchurch driver characteristics; indicators that only work when the steering wheel is turned, and the daring red-light running so beloved of this city's motorists.

The pedestrians obviously want to copy the risk taking behaviour of the motorists. Are they entered in some secret contest that only those Christchurch born and bred are privy to?

Foggy photos

Wednesday morning was extremely foggy, making for some very atmospheric photos on my little 2MP phone camera. I think the lower quality actually helps with the impressionist style of these shots of Victoria Lake in Hagley Park.

The original size is 1600*1200 pixels, which isn't too bad, considering; I've chopped these down to 1024*768 then I think Flickr resized them again. Blogger isn't accepting uploads of photos today; I hope they sort this out soon.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

New toy

Yesterday I finally received my new Nokia 6275i mobile phone from TelstraClear. It is a rebadged Telecom phone, part of their introductory mobile deal as they regroup after their break with Vodafone.

The deal gives me a free phone (though it's CDMA, not 3G, so in a few years it will have to be updated) with all the modern goodies; camera and video, MP3 player and FM radio, and best of all, it syncs with Outlook on my work PC so I have my address list and appointments at hand. This costs $20 a month, plus 29c per minute calls to any NZ number, and 500 free texts a month.

One drawback so far - the headphone jack is 2.5mm, not 3.5mm, so I have had to buy an adapter on TradeMe for $5. Still, it will all come together as I learn how to use it, I'm sure.

Sunday, 7 September 2008


It would have been really nice to be at Mount Hutt on Saturday. Oh well...

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Palin; Sarah or Monty?

When it comes to famous Palins, the Palins of Pythonshire have it all over the Wasilla, Alaska, branch of the family.

When Michael Palin goes to far away places (like Alaska), he behaves himself. Unlike some.

Mind you, Michael Palin is no stranger to the higher latitudes. He's been Pole to Pole, after all. And remember his knowledge of the Norwegian Blue Parrot; "No no he's not dead, he's, he's restin'! Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful plumage!" Given the US media attention, Cousin Sarah from Wasilla is probably pining for the fiords herself, by now.

Then came support from an unlikely quarter. On the Daily Show, Jon Stewart shows conservative commentators up for their double standards.

Video proof

Make your own video labels here;

Friday, 5 September 2008


I have rapidly become a fan of Google's latest beta, the Chrome web browser. It is lean and minimalist in its design, with some great features. For example, the single address bar (the "Omnibox") is also a smart Google search bar, plus it is an index to your recent searches, and thanks to its Safari underpinnings the cool "rip off" tabs work fine. And it is screamingly fast, thanks in part to the Safari engine, and partly to a philosophy of spinning off a new process (not just a new thread) for each tab. That also means that a crash in one tab should leave the rest intact.
I can't use it for Blackboard though, as Blackboard barfs at running any Java apps, saying "Unsupported browser". Never mind, I'll await further developments with great anticipation.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Palin again

Oops, I was suckered (along with Jim Kunstler, whose blog had the photo originally). That shot of Sarah Palin by the pool with gun was Photoshopped; here it is, with the original.

There is a lot more on the web about Palin, with people turning up old photos of her, or faking some if they are of a malicious turn of mind. American politics sure brings out the freaks...

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Trouble with Palin

It seems that John McCain was a bit hasty in his choice of Sarah Palin as his VP candidate. Apparently McCain had only met her a few times, and her name was put on the list four days before she was announced. Now the Alaska governor's background is being enthusiastically examined by the US media and it's not looking good.

The first problem is her pregnant 17 year old daughter - but that's fine, Bristol and her boyfriend Levi are going to get married soon. (Don't names carry extra unspoken information?)

The New York Times also reports "...Ms. Palin now has a private lawyer in a legislative ethics investigation in Alaska into whether she abused her power in dismissing the state’s public safety commissioner; that she was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaskan Independence Party, which has at times sought a vote on whether the state should secede."

Is it really OK for a potential Vice President to belong to a party that wants to secede from the Union? What would Abe Lincoln say?

Then there's this photo of her relaxing, Alaskan style. Remember, this is a potential US President, if old John-boy falls off the perch. It's good to see that her bikini is in the presidential colours, though.

If this is how McCain's team do their research and make important decisions, then it doesn't look good for a McCain-led foreign policy.