Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The world champions that dare not speak their name

Close racing in the Audi MedCup TP52s.

In New Zealand, sports are divided into two broad groups. There's those that grew from the British public school system, involving teams of young chaps chasing a leather ball around a grassy field; soccer, rugby, cricket, hockey, and the like. And then there's the others. That's everything from snooker to slalom, including yachting.

So the best sports news since the last All Blacks victory has sunk without trace. Emirates Team New Zealand won the Audi MedCup regatta at Cartagena. It's the Grand Prix circuit of sailing, but it's just not something that we talk about in polite society. This really makes me cross!

UPDATE; Friday 3rd September. At least the Tall Blacks get some coverage; pretty good for a sport that didn't begin in England. it's still blokes chasing a ball though, is that the only definition of sport that our journalists know?

But is it art?

It's a poor day when you don't see something amazingly pointless.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

WalMart shoppers

I was sent this set of photos, plus many more, in one of those joke-photo emails that do the rounds. The photos were a selection from the People of Walmart web site. These are a selection from that selection. I admire the bravery of the photographers in several cases where they walked up and took direct face shots of some very heavy dudes. This sample is mostly quirky or spectacularly bad choices of clothing.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Marvin lives on

I went to mediaworks' web site today (that's TV3 and a bunch of radio stations) and I got this "404 Not found" error page that reminded me of Marvin the Paranoid Android, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
(Click for a bigger version)

Marvin probably gets a kick out of having his gloomy mood live on. "The first 10 million years were the worst".

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

My online world

If you click the screenshot above, you will see a full size version in a new tab or window. Look at the tabs that are open in the web browser (Firefox is still my favourite but Chrome is pushing hard).

Right, to the point. The sites I use most (outside work) are:
  • iGoogle - One of my home pages. This is personalised with news and tech sites, Doonesbury and Zits, and shortcut windows to Facebook and Gmail
  • Twitter - enough said.
  • Facebook - just because.
  • Blogger - you're reading it. My other home page.
  • Gmail - not really essential as it's part of iGoogle, but convenient.
Every one of these is a web based service; in the cloud, as the current mantra goes. Three of the five are Google products. So, as Google have been predicting, I spend nearly all my online time in a browser.

Does this make me one of the Net Generation? Doubtful - a new lecturer called me Sir several times this afternoon, so maybe I'm more of the Cobweb Generation.

Extension cord needed

Here's the ultimate lunacy of Max Bradford's privatisation of New Zealand's electricity industry. The state owned generator and retailer Meridian is building wind farms and solar power projects - in Australia and the US.

Wait a minute, weren't they set up to provide power for New Zealand? Well, not really - it seems that their primary duty is to provide returns for their shareholders. Besides, if they don't develop new generation in New Zealand, the existing power becomes dearer - and their profit rises. Good, eh?

So if you want some of the electricity that Meridian are investing the NZ Government's capital into, you'll need a very long extension lead.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Onward Christian soldiers

I'm in danger of becoming addicted to weird US religious web sites. Especially when they say things like this;
After the events of September 11th, 2001, our Christian President George W. Bush vowed to smoke those responsible for the attacks out of their sandy desert holes. He vowed that our great nation would bring these belligerent people the peace of freedom. True to his world, President George W. Bush lead (sic) our armies into Iraq, holding the sword of truth in one hand and a message of peace in the other. We stood proud as Saddam Huseein’s (sic) forces were quickly defeated under the might of God’s American army, then we watched in respectful silence as the Iraqi people put their former oppressive dictator through moral punishment in their own court system. God bless America and the good we have done for Iraq.
I shouldn't watch, but I want to see what they come up with next. Fascinating!

Big event

This performance in Rarotonga puts New Zealand kapa haka groups to shame. It's the big kapa rima (action song) performed at the performed by Arorangi village in Te Maeva Nui (Constitution Celebrations) 2010.

The video is one of many clips posted to YouTube by a Cook Islands local, Wendy Evans, who's been a friend of ours since the early 70s in Invercargill. Wendy and her husband Phil used to own the Cook Islands News, and are now semi retired and following their hobbies.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Second time lucky

Heather is all organised for an early start to go skiing; she has to be at school before the bus leaves at 7am, so she's doing a 5.30am wake-up. Seems ample to me, to put it mildly, especially as the school is only a 5 minute drive away.

She's off to Porter Heights with a Shirley Boys trip, and Alice is also going; they'll pick her up on the way out of town. Let's hope they don't get stranded for the night, as Heather did the first time she skied this winter!

I'm stuck at home with my aches and pains. I'm planning to see Michael Caine's latest movie, Harry Brown, and prepare a roast beef dinner. Only 3 weeks till my appointment with the orthopedic surgeon, hopefully we'll have rapid progress to an operation after that. Bring it on, this referred pain down my shins is a real killer.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Hear ye the word

We went to a Microsoft seminar on Cloud Computing yesterday, where we were told about Windows Azure, the cloud based operating system (well, kind of...). It was here that I learned a new word, after they introduced the notion of "affinity groups";
An affinity group is a way of explicitly grouping Windows Azure hosted services and storage accounts in the same geo region.
Here comes the new word; if a server is not allocated to an affinity group, it is "unaffinitized". No, I am not kidding.

Monday, 16 August 2010

The wild world of air fares

Victoria St from Albert Park

On the same day that Pacific Blue announced it was dropping its domestic NZ routes (but increasing its international ones, including Auckland-Cairns), we got Heather tickets to Auckland and back in early December for $110. Alice will be up there for a conference and Heather decided to add some matrial bonding time. (Is that the counterpart of filial or paternal?) And the flights were with Air New Zealand, which is more or less reliable when it comes to arrivals and departures.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Land Of The Free (if the Army allows)

Remember the First Amendment (the Free Speech one)? Then there's the integrity of foreign states, and their right to do what they choose, whether it suits the US or not. So news sites in foreign countries can publish stuff about America without hindrance, right?

Not according to this guy, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen; he seems to have forgotten that the US is not the whole world. Thiessen says that Obama should use the US's power, even military power, to stop WikiLeaks publishing the next batch of Afghanistan papers.
“The United States has the cyber capabilities to prevent WikiLeaks from disseminating those materials ... Will President Obama order the military to deploy those capabilities? … If Assange remains free and the documents he possesses are released, Obama will have no one to blame but himself.”
IF a citizen of a foreign state remains free? OF COURSE he should remain free; the US has for centuries defended the rights of people to fight oppression and stand up for the right to share information. The US has no right to lock up, or otherwise silence, citizens of other countries, any more than it has the right to muzzle its own citizens. (No, I'm not a Tea Bagger.)

However Cory Doctorow was clearly bothered by a trend towards repression and control (in the name of "Freedom" of course) when he wrote Little Brother, and the situation hasn't got any better in the last two years.

On a practical level, how on earth can you stop WikiLeaks? It doesn't have a single server, it's a distributed network so it can resist most kinds of attacks. And it's distributed an "insurance file", containing all the raw Afghan data, via a network of bit torrent sites around the world. The file is encrypted, but if WikiLeaks is somehow shut down, no doubt the encryption key will become equally widely distributed and the raw information (not WikiLeaks' current anonymised version) will be even more widely seen.

It's a stalemate, I'd say.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Just yesterday

Oh wow, man, I just had a cosmic thing happen. Well, not exactly, but I've been sitting here on a Saturday night, nothing on telly and Heather's sloped off to bed (still recovering from her mountain sleepover) - so I'm surfing around Huff Post reading what a lying uncaring bitch Sarah Palin is, and listening to the Grateful Dead - as you do. Then I noticed that iTunes shows me the original date of the recording. I'm listening to a live version of Sugar Magnolia, on the Farewell to Winterland live concert. June 1975! And it sounds so good.

So that's my revelation, how good 35 year old music can sound. Actually, it's moved on to US Blues, and that sounds pretty good too. Think I'll try for Ripple or Attics Of My Life next.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Adventure over

Heather, Diane, and Grant arrived back in Christchurch at lunch time today, ready for showers and a snooze. It's been quite an adventure, for more than just them; Diane's son Kit was there too, on a school ski trip. There were around 300 kids in the crowd, which made life pretty loud at times. Over all, though, it went OK - Heather says the ski area staff were brilliant throughout.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Nobody leaves

Heather went off to Mt Hutt this morning for her first skiing day, with two friends - when they got to Mt Hutt it was already blowing hard, but they skied on the one operating chairlift until lunchtime, when the wind reached over 200 km/hr. The skiers were all kept inside the cafeteria, apart from fitting chains to their cars in the carpark ready for a quick descent if the wind dropped. But it didn't.

So 1000-1200 skiers are spending the night in the cafeteria, after a $2 meal (pork stroganoff and wedges, apparently). Heather has texted to say it's very noisy, but they're trying to get some sleep. What a situation to be in!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Not a REAL sport...

Why does our TV sport still feature rugby when Kiwis are cleaning up at northern hemisphere international yachting regattas, including a dress rehearsal for the next Olympics at Weymouth in the UK?
TP52s in tight racing, Audi Medcup 2010

Emirates Team New Zealand are leading the Audi MedCup TP52 fleet by a comfortable 30 points, after 3 of the 5 rounds. At Weymouth, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke in the 49ers are just off the medals in 4th place, Hamish Pepper and Craig Monk lead the Stars just ahead of French and German crews, Andrew Murdoch leads the Lasers, and Dan Slater is in the top 10 in the Finns. Other NZ sailors have won some races as well, so in general it's a very impressive showing from the team.

Does this matter to TVNZ's and TV3's News editors? Not when Jimmy Cowan faces a fitness test on Thursday. Teams of Kiwis leading international competitions, in a sport that's world wide, not like rugby and cricket which are just played by the remnants of the British Empire, still don't appeal to the kinds of people who work in sports journalism. These boof-heads were brought up in a world where sports consist of a bunch of blokes chasing a ball round a field, and that's the way they'd like it to remain.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Waste of time

What on earth is the point of this man taking a photo? Is it because cousin Abidah has come to town? I think she's the one on the left - no, hang on, isn't that sister Nasira? Oh well, the girls were all looking lovely that day, so we thought a photo of them all smiling would be nice. At least we think they're girls...

(Hat-tip to my brother Ross for spotting this one.)

Saturday, 7 August 2010


Well, who'da thunk it? Bristol and Levi have split again. Because he may have fathered a child with Bristol's ex best friend? Maybe. Because he went to California and made a music video mocking the Palin family? Well, that might have had something to do with it too. Could it have been the Vanity Fair article where he said that Sarah was a useless mother and house keeper who didn't read much, and that her happy-family public image is a lie? Yes, possibly.

The boy might be a white trash dropout who has trouble keeping his fly zipped, but he's well off away from that bunch. How come Fox News doesn't publish this stuff?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Say it again, Jon

US defamation and libel laws are definitely more liberal than ours. This example would have the law offices fizzing in New Zealand, but in the US it's just part of Jon Stewart's intro to a story on the Daily Show.

"We talk a lot about how Congress can be somewhat ineffectual, or short sighted, - or ignorant - or a fetid pool of corruption and stupidity. (Located at the intersection of Entitlement Avenue and Abject Dereliction of Duty Lane.)"

It wouldn't happen here. But it should.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Wave bye bye

Google has pulled the plug on Wave. I can't say I'm surprised.

CNET News has a good story about it.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The myth of numbers

Transport Minister Steven Joyce has not agreed to lower the alcohol limit for drivers, to howls from various road safety groups. Apparently, by not reducing the limit from 80mg to 50mg, Joyce has condemned around 15-30 people to death each year, and another 300-600 to serious injuries. Really?

This is the "myth of numbers" again; the idea that if you can measure something, then altering that number will somehow affect the cause. In fact, drivers with alcohol levels between 50 and 80 barely register on the statistics, as this study of over 1000 dead drivers shows. The study was conducted by Dr Helen Poulsen of Environment Science and Research (ESR) between 2004 and 2009.
The group with blood alcohol levels between 50 and 80 had 2% of the fatal accidents. Is that worth a law change? The Minister's own bureaucrats think so.
The Ministry of Transport has calculated that lowering the limit to 0.05g (50mg breath level) and increasing enforcement and public awareness would save 15 to 30 lives a year and prevent 320 to 686 injuries. (NZ Herald)
Before we panic about the Government's callous indifference to the welfare of motorists, let's read that again. "Lowering the limit" - and "increasing enforcement and public awareness" - where did that come from?

We can measure breath alcohol levels (even that is a bit dubious, but let's agree for now) but we can't quantify increasing public awareness and we can't afford to increase enforcement. So we measure the magic numbers and ignore the factors that really would help cut the road toll.

I don't propose that we try this, for many reasons, but I'd be prepared to bet that if we lowered the limit to 50 and kept policing as we do presently, the change to the road toll would be statistically insignificant - less than the margin of error in any survey, in fact.