Word of the day

January 3, 2013

Frabjous – a blend of fair, fabulous, and joyous; wonderful, elegant, superb, or delicious.


Patti Page 8.11.27 – 1.1.13

January 3, 2013

American singer Patti Page has died.

Her biggest hit was Tennessee Waltz but the one I remember her for was this:


Thursday’s quiz

January 3, 2013

1. Who said,  “A resolution to avoid an evil is seldom framed till the evil is so far advanced as to make avoidance impossible.“?

2. Who died while in command of HMS Resolution?

3. It’s résoudre in French, risolvere in Italian, resolver in Spanish and pūtohe in Maori, what is it in English.

4. New Year resolutions – do you  make them, keep them, break them?

5. If you could make a New Year’s resolution for someone else, what would it be for whom?


Good ideas that aren’t #1

January 3, 2013

Hot air hand dryers.

First they blow air, and the bacteria it carries, on to hands at just the right temperature to add more of what you don’t want on your hands than the water took off.

Then, even the heavy duty modern ones take so long most people give up before their hands are properly dry.


Bureaucracy and suspicion of science

January 3, 2013

Quote of the day:

A “rational optimist” like me thinks the world will go on getting better for most people at a record rate, not because I have a temperamental or ideological bent to good cheer but because of the data. Poverty, hunger, population growth rates, inequality, and mortality from violence, disease and weather — all continue to plummet on a global scale.

But a global optimist can still be a regional pessimist. When asked what I am pessimistic about, I usually reply: bureaucracy and superstition. Using those two tools, we Europeans seem intent on making our future as bad as we can. Like mandarins at the court of the Ming emperors or viziers at the court of Abbasid caliphs, our masters seem determined to turn relative into absolute decline. It is entirely possible that ten years from now the world as a whole will be 50 per cent richer, but Europeans will be 50 per cent poorer. . .  Matt Ridley.

He goes on to talk about the costs of bureaucracy:

As the Ming empire found out, the more government you buy, the less economic activity you get. A Fujian travelling salesman in 1400 was enmeshed in such a tangled bureaucracy that he could neither travel nor sell without bribes and permits, and he had to submit a monthly inventory of his stocks to the emperor.

Sound familiar? Every small businessman I talk to these days has a horror story to tell about the delays and costs that have been visited upon him by planners, inspectors, officials and consultees. Using the excuse of “cuts”, the bureaucracy is taking even longer to make decisions than five years ago. In the time it has taken Britain’s Government to decide whether to allow a fifth exploratory shale gas well to be drilled in Lancashire, and from the same standing start, the same investors have drilled 72 producing wells in Argentina. That the country of Watt and Stephenson should look a potential cheap-energy gift horse in the mouth in this way is staggering to this jaded optimist.

From ancient Egypt to modern North Korea, always and everywhere, economic planning and control have caused stagnation; . . .

There is a need for some rules but the more involved governments are in business the more difficult, and costly, it is for businesses to start, to operate and to grow.

. . . A growth-preventing bureaucracy is not the only thing suppressing enterprise in Europe. Superstition is also playing a part, as it has done in past episodes of economic decline. The great flowering of Arab prosperity and culture under the Abbasids was brought to an end with the burning of books, the shutting down of inquiry and a mistrust of novelty.

Again there are echoes. Many of the ideas that led to the genetic modification of plants — which has boosted yields, cut insecticide use, saved fuel and soil, and helped the poorest farmers — were pioneered in this country. Yet today there is almost none of this work done in Britain and none of its boons are permitted to farmers and their customers. The labs are ghostly quiet. Why? Entirely because of neophobic superstition that has animated reactionary elites into opposing change on the basis of myths peddled by green mystics. . .

Those myths promoted by green mystics are getting in the way of science and productivity improvements here too.

Hat tip: Tim Worstall


GDT TWI up 2%

January 3, 2013

The trade weighted price for milk in Fonterra’s first GlobalDairyTrade auction of the year increased 2%.

GDT Trade Weighted Index Changes

GDT_TWI

The price of anyydrous milk fat was down .2%; buttermilk increased 1.1%; cheddar was down 1.9%; milk protein concentrate was up 1.4%; rennet casein was down .8%; skim milk powder increased by 4.7% and whole milk powder increased 1.6%.

 

 


Business confidence up 22%

January 3, 2013

Business confidence in New Zealand is 22% higher than last year in a Grant Thornton IBR survey and businesses here are 10th in the world optimism table.

Pam Newlove, Co-Chair and Partner, Grant Thornton New Zealand Ltd, said that business confidence has lifted 22% on this time last year to 58%, well ahead of neighbours, Australia, where confidence was up only 7% to 31%.

“New Zealand business owners have accepted that the tough grind we’ve been going through over the last couple of years is the new norm and they are just knuckling down and doing the business. They have learnt to be smarter about how they do business rather than lament the recent difficult times. Successful operators are identifying their niche products or services and capitalising on opportunities and securing market share that way.

“Australia may not have suffered the level of pain that we endured during the global financial crisis, but with the slowdown of China and the fall in commodity prices, indicators have turned south in the ‘lucky country’ with a slew of major redundancies in some of the larger companies.

“Employment aspirations show that 34% of New Zealand companies are looking to employ more staff in 2013 compared with only 8% in Australia.”

New Zealand companies have almost twice the level of optimism currently being experienced in Australia when it comes to forecast revenues and profitability.

“Seventy per cent were expecting increased revenue over the next 12 months and 58% were expecting an increase in profitability. For Australia the figures were 36% and 34%, another indicator of the shape of their economy,” she said.

Lack of skilled labour (38%) red tape (31%) and a shortage of working capital (28%) were all cited as constraints to growing and expanding businesses.

“Red tape is interesting, although it is noted as a constraint, it is less of a concern in this country compared with many others. Interestingly, New Zealand is often seen as an easier place to do business relative to other jurisdictions.

“The overall picture is one of an improving economy but there are some key messages that have come out of the survey. Businesses must look after and retain their good staff, continue to educate and upskill them and continue to invest energy and time into maintaining and managing customer relationships,” she said.

The global outlook is less optimistic.

. . . The IBR reveals that global business optimism stands at just net 4% heading into the New Year. This halts a rally in confidence seen in the first half of 2012, when global business optimism reached 23%, and brings it nearer to the 0% level observed this time last year.

The fall in global business optimism has been largely driven by a huge fall in the world’s largest economy, the United States. Optimism amongst US business leaders climbed to 50% in Q2 this year, but slumped back to -4% in Q4 – the lowest since the depths of the financial crisis. Expectations for increasing revenues (down 10 percentage points) and profits (down 9) both fell sharply over the past three months. This chimes with research from Grant Thornton US which suggests 40% of CFOs have delayed decision making because of fiscal cliff concerns.

Ed Nusbaum, CEO of Grant Thornton International, said: “There is no question that protracted negotiations over how to resolve both the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone and the fiscal cliff in the United States have weighed heavily on business confidence over the past six months. With the economic outlook clouded by these issues, business investment becomes a much riskier proposition for many.

“The hope, both in the United States and around the world, is that these issues can be resolved and that this drop in confidence is temporary rather than the start of a longer decline.”

We trade with these countries and economic problems for them will affect us.

However, thanks to those so called failed policies of the 80s and 90s and current government efforts to reduce debt and promote export-led growth businesses have reason to be more confident than last year.


January 3 in history

January 3, 2013

106 BC Cicero, Roman statesman and philosopher, was born (d. 43 BC).

1431  Joan of Arc was handed over to the Bishop Pierre Cauchon.

1496 Leonardo da Vinci unsuccessfully tested a flying machine.
1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther in the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.

1793 Lucretia Mott, American women’s rights activist, was born  (d. 1880).

1823 Stephen F. Austin received a grant of land in Texas from the government of Mexico.

1831 Savitribai Phule,  social activist, first female teacher in India, and first female poet in Marathi language, was born  (d. 1897).

1840 Surveyors arrived in Port Nicholson to lay out plans for the proposed New Zealand Company settlement of Britannia at Pito-one (Petone). When this original site proved unsuitable, the decision was made to relocate across the harbour in a settlement they called Wellington.

New Zealand Company surveyors arrive in Port Nicholson

1848 – Joseph Jenkins Roberts was sworn in as the first president of the independent African Republic of Liberia.

1870 Construction of the Brooklyn Bridge began.

1883  Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1967).

1887 Helen Parkhurst, American educator, was born (d. 1973).

1888 The refracting telescope at the Lick Observatory, measuring 91 cm in diameter, was used for the first time. It was the largest telescope in the world at the time.

1892  J. R. R. Tolkien, British writer, was born (d. 1973).

1899 – The first known use of the word automobile, was seen in an editorial in The New York Times.

1909  Victor Borge, Danish entertainer, was born (d. 2000).

1916 Maxene Andrews, American singer (The Andrews Sisters), was born (d. 1995).

1922  Bill Travers, British actor and director, was born  (d. 1994).

1923 Charles Tingwell, Australian actor, was born  (d. 2009).

1924 British explorer Howard Carter discovered the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, Egypt.

1930 – The first New Zealand-made talkie , Coubray-tone News, the work of the inventive Ted Coubray, had its first public screening at Auckland’s Plaza Theatre.

1933 Minnie D. Craig became the first female elected as Speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives, the first female to hold a Speaker position anywhere in the United States.

1942  John Thaw, British actor, was born  (d. 2002).

1945  Stephen Stills, American musician (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) was born.

1946 John Paul Jones, British musician (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1950  Victoria Principal, American actress, was born.

1953 Frances Bolton and her son, Oliver from Ohio, became the first mother and son to serve simultaneously in the U.S. Congress.

1956 A fire damaged the top part of the Eiffel Tower.

1956  Mel Gibson, Australian actor and director, was born.

1957 The Hamilton Watch Company introduces the first electric watch.

1958 The West Indies Federation was formed.

1961 The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

1962 Pope John XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro.

1977 Apple Computer was incorporated.

1988 Margaret Thatcher became the longest-serving British Prime Minister in the 20th Century.

1990 Former leader of Panama Manuel Noriega surrendered to American forces.

1993 George H. W. Bush and Boris Yeltsin signed the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

1994 – More than seven million people from the former Apartheid Homelands, received South African citizenship.

1999 The Mars Polar Lander was launched.

2004 – Flight 604, a Boeing 737 owned by Flash Airlines, an Egyptian airliner, plunged into the Red Sea, killing all 148 people on board.

2007 – National Express had its worst coach crash just outside Heathrow Airport.


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