Law of unexpected consequences on rats

March 25, 2014

A pest control company, Flick Anticimex, says giant rats could become an increasingly dangerous pest.

Flick’s warning follows a recent study by Dr Jan Zalaswiewicz from the Universty of Leicester, which claims rats may grow to the size of sheep as larger mammals become extinct.

“Although this may sound a bit Jurasic Park-ish, it is not too difficult to imagine. Rats are extremely adept at co-inhabiting with humans and the surrounding environment. They are survivors and they are very adaptable,” says Gary Stephenson, National Pest Technical Manager at Flick Anticimex.

Flick pest control technicians have seen rats inside commercial cold rooms which have evolved into ‘arctic’ type species by developing long fur, to cope with the near zero temperatures.

Gary Stephenson says that there are additional factors which make the scenario of giant rats more likely.

“Local government regulations now mean that dogs and cats have to be kept off the streets and locked within property boundaries – this means some of the historical predators of rats have all disappeared,” says Gary Stephenson.

“And prey birds such as eagles, hawks, owls and kites have reduced markedly in numbers as a result of the creeping urban spread.”

The now extinct Josephoartegasia monesi was a type of rodent that weighed over a ton and was larger than a bull. Its modern-day relative, the capybara, is the size of a sheep.

This would be the law of unexpected consequences in action – cats and dogs have to be restrained and wild predators like eagles and hawks have reduced in numbers because of urban spread.

Is Gareth Morgan quite so sure he wants to get rid of cats?

He’s offering students free beer in exchange for dead rats. He’d better keep doing that and ensure the rat population is well under control before getting rid of any more of their predators.

 


Quote of the year shortlist

December 10, 2013

The 10 shortlisted finalists in Massey’s annual Quote of the Year competition have been chosen and are open to public vote:

Dr Heather Kavan,  Massey’s speech writing specialist, started the competition three years ago because she found her speech-writing students had trouble identifying memorable lines.

. . . “The quotes I knew were too old for the students. Edmund Hilary’s “We knocked the bastard off” was said in 1953. Muldoon’s one-liner about Kiwis going to Australia “raising the IQ of both countries” and Lange’s “I can smell the uranium on your breath” quip were both said in the 1980s.

“I thought there must be some good contemporary New Zealand quotes, but no-one is collecting them.”

Dr Kavan and her judging panel narrowed down several dozen entries nominated throughout the year by Massey students and the general public to a top 10.

She describes the judging criteria: “Memorability is paramount. The gay rainbow line with its colourful imagery is a good example of this. However, many of the quotes appealed for different reasons. The GCSB one stood out because it was funny and most people can relate to having a frustrating experience with a government department.

“We were also keen to get quotes that were relatively spontaneous, such as Winston Peters’ ‘What didn’t he know and when didn’t he know it?’

“Another criterion was context. We chose ‘He’s an extraordinarily lucky cat’ because Moomoo’s story made international headlines and even the word ‘extraordinarily’ seemed like an understatement.” . . .

The shortlisted quotes are:

If there was a dickhead that night, it was me – MP Aaron Gilmore reflecting on how he got intoxicated and called a waiter a ‘Dickhead’ at the Heritage Hotel in Hamner Springs.

Why are you going red, Prime Minister? – Kim Dotcom at the Parliamentary enquiry into the GCSB spying on New Zealand residents.
I’m not, why are you sweating? – Key’s reply to Kim Dotcom.

The GCSB, the only government department that will actually listen to you – Unknown origin but repeated on social media.

Male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel – Man Booker prize winning novelist, New Zealand’s Eleanor Catton.

I’m not a spreadsheet with hair – Auckland singer/songwriter Lorde.

What didn’t he know and when didn’t he know it? – Winston Peters querying John Key’s knowledge of the Parliamentary Service’s actions.

In New Zealand nobody takes you seriously unless you can make them yawn – author James McNeish at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer – Gareth Morgan’s Cats to Go campaign website.

He’s an extraordinarily lucky cat – Massey University veterinary surgeon Dr Jonathan Bray after removing a crossbow bolt from the head of Wainuiomata cat Moomoo.

One of the messages that I had was that this bill was the cause of our drought. Well, in the Pakuranga electorate this morning it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate – Cabinet minister Maurice Williamson in his speech to Parliament supporting the gay marriage law.

To vote for the 2013 Quote of the Year, visit Massey University’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/masseyuniversity or http://on.fb.me/1dY9SUC

Voting closes at 5pm on Thursday December 19, with the winner announced on December 20.


Saturday’s smiles

February 23, 2013

Prompted by this week’s news that Gareth Morgan’s war on cats has extended to SPCA staff:

Why don’t cats play poker in the jungle? Too many cheetahs.

What is a cat’s way of keeping law & order? Claw Enforcement.

Did you hear about the cat who swallowed a ball of wool? She had mittens.

Did you hear about the cat which drank five bowls of water? She set a new lap record.

What do you call the cat that was caught by the police? The purrpatrator.

Why is the cat so grouchy? Because he’s in a bad mewd.

What do cats like to eat for breakfast? Mice Krispies.

Where is one place that your cat can sit, but you can’t? Your lap.

Why did the cat run from the tree? Because it was afraid of the bark.

How many cats can you put into an empty box? Only one. After that, the box isn’t empty.

How do cats end a fight? They hiss and make up.

What does a cat like to eat on a hot day? A mice cream.

What do you get when you cross a chick with an alley cat? A peeping tom.

If lights run on electricity and cars run on gas, what do cats run on? Their paws.

What do you call a cat that lives in an igloo? An eskimew.

 


Progress best prescription for people plague

January 23, 2013

Gareth Morgan has got the fur flying and alienated all cat owners with his cats to go campaign which declares the felines animalia non-grata.

David Attenborough has gone further by declaring that people are a plague on earth.

The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.

He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.

“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.

I won’t go as far as Not PC who says you first David  because as Tim Worstall points out there is a far better way than death to manage population growth:

. . . we do in fact know how to manage this process of curtailing growth in the number of humans.

Get rich.

Everywhere it has happened, everywhere this species of ours has gone from rural and Malthusian destitution to a bourgeois urban middle classness, the population growth rate has fallen like a stone. Indeed, so much so that it becomes the population contraction rate. It doesn’t actually need you and Jonny Porritt demanding full body condoms for all. It only requires that people know they can eat three times a day, have a roof over their heads and that there’s a decent chance that all the children they do have will survive into adulthood. Absent immigration there just isn’t any population growth in the rich world. Far from it, there’s contraction (to be absolutely accurate you have to adjust for it taking until the second generation of immigrants to reduce childbirth down to the rate of the indigenes). . .

Yes, those of the deep, dark, anti-progress, anti-people persuasion might not like it but the best prescription for the people population plague is progress of the economic kind.

I’m not sure what affect it will have on the cat population though.


Who would be left to pay? – Updated

August 31, 2011

Susan Guthrie and Gareth Morgan have come up with a grand plan which they say will ensure equal opportunity and choice for all:

A total rewrite of our taxation and transfer policies to correct the tax dodges available to owners of capital, to explicitly recognise the importance of non-paid work, and to foster equal opportunities for all citizens to participate in society and the wider economy, will go a long way to reasserting the values of egalitarian New Zealand.

In short, the following package addresses what is needed to get back on this path, while ensuring no blowout of government finances.

- An unconditional basic income (UBI) for every adult – $11,000 after tax, whether you’re in the paid workforce or not. This enables more people to choose paid or unpaid work – or not to work at all. Most importantly more would be able to pursue what they want to do, rather than what financial penury forces them to do. We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

Let’s look at that last sentence again:

We are a rich society so to compel people to opt for paid work or face the stigma of qualifying for a benefit has no logic.

It depends on how you define rich.

We are a country blessed with a wealth of natural resources and human talent but we don’t have the income to pay for all the first world services and infrastructure most of us regard as necessities.

That income comes from work, particularly work which leads to exports, savings and investment from which tax is paid.

Anyone is free now to choose not to work with the very reasonable proviso that they don’t expect the rest of us to pay them when they exercise that choice.

Some people are unable to work and that is why we need a welfare system as a safety net.

But giving anyone who could work the option to do so or be supported by the rest of us is madness.

Why would anyone bother to work unless they could get considerably more than they were being paid for pleasing themselves and who would be left to pay not just for them but little things like health, education, roads and other services and infrastructure which we all net taxpayers contribute to now?

This is not a recipe for equal opportunity and choice, it’s a recipe for social and economic disaster.

UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell points out other flaws – including that invalids and sickness beneficiaries would be much worse-off.


Super sense

June 12, 2009

The ODT editorial makes a sensible contribution to discussions on superannuation.

Of the Superannuation Fund it says:

Its principal weakness was its potential impact on future Budgets and future superannuation payments in times of economic gloom, for the first decision in any future Budget for the next 25 years will be the call on superannuation funds, not less than $2 billion every time, and such a burden will inevitably have an impact on other spending plans.

It has not taken long for negative circumstances to arise or for a government to have to face the unpalatable.

. . . The Treasurer’s decision to suspend contributions is correct because it makes no sense to continue with borrowed money. The Cullen scheme was designed only to soak up surpluses – to keep the “savings” in the bank, so to speak.

Borrowing to invest isn’t sensible for individuals, it makes even less sense for governments.

The editorial goes on to say there has been an encouraging response towards saving more from young people with good incomes but older people with little earning time left before they retire and people with little disposable income to save don’t have this option.

The editorial then canvases the idea of increasing the age of eligibility.

But, as a correspondent to our letters column noted, not everyone makes their income sitting at a computer desk; many spend their lives in hard, physical work, and the prospect of still having to do that at 68 to even 70 before being eligible for superannuation is, at the very least, disheartening.

Two of our staff would be affronted by the suggestion they’d be too old for physical work at 68 or 70.

One came to do three days tractor work for us in 1989 and never left. He turned 79 a couple of months ago, still works fulltime and has no intention of retiring soon.

Another is 77 and dags thousands of sheep a week, though he doesn’t work fulltime – he takes Wednesday afternoon off to play bridge.

A prudent person, perhaps now in their 20s or 30s, should realise there is a high probability universal state superannuation is unsustainable in its present form; that it is a false mindset to assume because people have paid their taxes they will get state superannuation; that superannuation will inevitably be means tested and the retirement age extended. It is a sobering but realistic prospect.

Another option for making superannuation more secure is to follow the suggestion made by Gareth Morgan to wind up the Superfund and pay it in to individual KiwiSaver accounts.

That might not be easy to do, but it would take the politics out of the issue because no politician would suggest meddling with individuals’ retirement savings.


Key tops Listener power list

December 1, 2008

John Key is number one on The Listener’s 2008  power list, up two places from 3 last year.

He’s followed by Bill English, who was at 5 last year, Alan Bollard (6), Steven Joyce (new), Tumu Te Heuheu (13), Pita Sharples (9), Rodney Hide (new), Helen Clark (1), Michael Cullen (2) and another newcomer to the list Gareth Morgan.

For the past four years the list has been a comprehensive one ranking 50 people in a variety of fields, this year’s list has the top 10 with 11 different lists of five for other categories.

They are: heroes topped by Willie Apiata VC; business & economy where Graeme Hart is number 1; Maoridom led by Federation of Maori Authorities chief executive Paul Morgan; the law where Sir Geoffrey Palmer is at number 1; agriculture topped by Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly; health & medicine led by Health & Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson; arts, culture and entertainment with Flight of the Conchords in the top spot; science and technology where science entrpreneur Jim Watson is number 1; the media led by Dominion Post editorTim Pankhurst; environment with David Parker in the top spot; and sport topped by Sparc chair John Wells.

Some observations on the list:

*  The only woman in the top 10 is Helen Clark who’s slipped from 1 to 8 and as there’s usually nothing so ex as an ex-Prime Minister she is unlikely to be in the list at all next year.

* There are only seven women among the 55 people on the other lists.

* The environment list is led by a former minister followed by Jeanette Fitszimons and Russel Norman, all of whome are now in Opposition.

* David Farrar of Kiwiblog is in the So close but missed the list  category under media which reflects the growing influence of the blogosphere.

UPDATE: The list isn’t yet on line but the print edition says:

And yes, the panel did consider the bloggers, but was not convinced that any of those opinionated voices were yet having a marked influence on Main Street.

It also notes:

A total of 55 people have appeared in the Power List in the five years it has been published by The Listener. Only four people have been on all five lists: Helen Clark, Michael Cullen, Alan Bollard and Graeme Hart. Ths is the first year neith Labour supremo Heather Simpson nor All Blacks coach Graham Henry has appeared on the list.

Of the total, just 27 (17.4%) have been women. And only 16 of the total (10.3%) live in or are strongly associated with the South Island.


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