Test your words


Do you know the 100 most common words in the English language and could you type them in five minutes?

I could get only 58 – and that was after several attempts.

I noted none of the important words for social interaction – please, thank you, sorry … were in the top 10; and no was but yes wasn’t.

Hat Tip: Ex-expat

Alien alert


Adam Smith over at Inquiring Mind has located evidence of visitors from Planet Winston including those here, and  here. 

Another has left a letter to the editor of the ODT:

May I suggest Tremain depict Winston Peters grappling with the demon like ogres that threaten peace in this land, display all the folds Mr Peters has won for his country and crown his head with laurel in recognition of his achievements and love of country. Fair is fair and I, too, love my country and the people who serve it.

Bill Lucas,  Green Island.

Benson-Pope still prevaricating


David Benson-Pope is still prevaricating on whether or not he’s planning to seek the Dunedin South seat as an independent – or for a party other than Labour.

He said he took the Labour signage off his electorate office a couple of weeks ago to comply with the Electoral Finance Act. But that excuse doesn’t hold water because the EFA takes effect from January 1st so he’d hardly breach the Act for eight months then suddenly decide to abide by it.

He could just be playing games but TV3 says he’s asked the council where billboards could be erected. Given the bad blood between him and Clare Curran Labour’s canddiate for the seat he currently holds it is unlikely he’s asking so he can help her.

Emotion beats facts with food


When Aim toothpaste moved its production to India I stopped buying it.

When I read in a newspaper that most of the garlic in our supermarkets came from China I detoured to an organic shop to get my supplies, on the assumption they’d be locally grown.

While chatting to the woman serving me I mentioned why I was there. She replied, “This probably comes from China too.”

Seeing the look on my face she sought to reassure me by saying it would be organic. The reassurance didn’t work because I don’t have strong feelings about the benefits of organic over whatever food that isn’t organic is called (because it can’t be inorganic).

But I do have very strong feelings about food safety and I’m not confident enough about standards in places like India and China to put their produce in my mouth if there’s an alternative.

I say feelings because this is primarily an emotional response not a rational one. I don’t have any facts about the companies which make the toothpaste and grow the garlic to back up my reservations, and I’ve never been to either country.

But it’s not facts that matter here it’s feelings and that should be worrying Fonterra because as Philippa Stephenson points out over at Dig ‘n’ Stir the news of the contaminated infant milk formula has hit the world headlines.

Fonterra said it did everything it could once it found out about the contamination. That will be cold comfort for the families whose babies died or are ill and it won’t wash with consumers who regardless of the facts might feel happier choosing another brand next time.

It’s a long story



Brian Henry admitted to the privileges committee  this morning that he and Winston Peters had a poor recollection of events and:

. . . their earlier story did not now seem correct.

He acknowledged that Mr Peters must be the client referred to but said that did not conclusively show Mr Peters’ solicited a donation towards his legal fees.

Not conclusively? What about beyond reasonable doubt?

As Keeping Stock  puts it this story get more bizarre by the day; and Matthew Hooton suggests there might be another chapter involving the IRD.


Mud Cake



Take equal quanitites of philosophy and ambition and discard principles.

Seive envy through prejudice spiced with innuendo and mix with bile.

Add raw desperation and duplicity and stir until beaten up.

Cook over simmering resentment until well done.

Ice with sound bites.

Serve immediately because this dish has a tendency to curdle as it cools.

This is the second in a series of posts featuring recipes from an old book recently discoverd by the Enfield Windsor Ngapara Picnic Table. The first was a Campaign Casserole.

South pays North gains


The cable through which electricity is sent between the North and South Islands has generated many an argument.

The latest has southern generators sparking because they have to pay for it but no longer gain most from it.

In the past they’ve paid because they got the benefit from spending power north but now a similar amount of electricity comes south.

South Island generator Meridian Energy said the link should be paid for by “anyone who uses and everyone who benefits from it”.

That sounds fair to me, although of course no matter who wins this argument, in the end it will be the consumers who pick up the final bill.

Hot fashion from AgReserach


(Photo John Selkirk/Dominion Post)

AgReserach section manager Peter Ingham put the blow torch on model Chris Peck at Air New Zealand Fashion Week.

It was the first time AgResearch had put its revolutionary stab- and flame-resistant fabric to the test on a person.

Sydney model Chris Peck, 20, who braved a blowtorch, admitted it was “pretty scary at first and got the heart racing” but said he had jumped at the opportunity.

“Not everyone gets set on fire with a blowtorch in the name of hot fashion.

“Initially I couldn’t feel anything, then it got slightly warm, but there was no burning.”

AgResearch section manager Peter Ingham also energetically stabbed the fabric with a screwdriver and said that though the wearer would feel it – which is why it was demonstrated on a mannequin – there would be no penetration.

Similar in appearance to a Swanndri, the fabric is made from knitted Vectran-based fabric combined with short wool fibre.

AgResearch also unveiled its new textile-tracing system called Verifi TT, which can be used to detect fake designer garments.

Laing’s legacy – ODT


The ODT devotes its editorial to the legacy of Duncan Laing.

Nat win probable – Colin James


Political commentator Colin James has correctly predicted the outcome of 12 of the last 13 elections and is expecting a National win this time.

However, the uncertainties of a two-month campaign rule out making more “definitive” claims.

“It’s not a prediction. It’s a forecast. I’m forecasting a National-led government and I haven’t changed that [forecast] since shortly after the last election,” he said last night.

. . . Mr James said the odds were on a National-led government, given concerns about the economy, households being squeezed and a “black” mood felt throughout the country during autumn and winter.

There had also been “wear and tear” on a three-term Labour-led government, and the Government’s political management had slipped last year but had recently improved.

National was back in shape, was disciplined and had a new attractive leader who was of the rising political generation, and had enjoyed a “huge poll lead for 18 months”.

However, some recent polls, including one showing strong gains in economic confidence, provided some hope for Labour.

Mr James, whose political column appears in the Otago Daily Times each Tuesday, said he had been mistaken in 1996 when he had not foreseen New Zealand First’s decision to support a National-led Government.

He can confidently predict that there is no risk of that happening this time.

53 sleeps …


Only 53 sleeps until election day and the Electoral Commission still hasn’t ruled whether party logos are election advertisements.

That prime example of the law of common sense, the Electoral Finance Act, gets worse as we approach the election.

Our companies must meet our standards


The contamination of infant milk powder  in China is being blamed on sabotage of the raw milk before it reached the company.

The milk powder is produced by Sanlu a company in which Fonterra has a 43% stake.

The New Zealand dairy giant said someone put the banned chemical melamine into raw milk supplied to Sanlu. The possibility of contamination during the production, storage and sales process has been excluded. Melamine can boost the apparent protein content in some standard tests on food.

I don’t know if it is realistic to expect companies to screen milk for this sort of contamination before they use it but I do wonder if Fonterra could have done more once the contamination was discovered.

Fonterra said it would have preferred a public recall of milk powder that killed two babies in China earlier but its joint venture partner Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co Ltd had to abide by Chinese rules.

Those rules wouldn’t apply in New Zealand and if media here had been alerted the news would have soon spread to China.

No-one would have anticipated sabotage but Philippa Stephenson says the debacle wasn’t unexpected.

Fonterra’s sickening infant milk powder, brand blowing disaster in its part-owned Chinese company Sanlu was predictable.

China’s explosive dairy growth had brought major problems with milk quality and exposed a crippling lack of managerial expertise, US Trade representative Todd Meyer told a Christchurch conference only late last year.

Farm dairy hygiene is appalling, bacteria levels in milk are high and antibiotic use so great that yoghurt can’t be made from the milk, the conference heard.

In December, Dig ‘n’ Stir asked whether Fonterra was smart enough to ignore the lure of China, a country littered with the corpses of Western companies that thought they could make a killing in the world’s most populace nation.

The phrase, meant figuratively not literally, has come chillingly true.

There are opportunities for New Zealand companies in China and other countries but these come with real risks if foreign ventures can’t meet New Zealand standards.

PGG Wrightson has a made a big investment in dairying in Uruguay; both Silver Fern Farms and Alliance Group are talking about sourcing lamb from South America. They must be very, very careful that anything associated with their brands and New Zealand’s reputation measure up to everything that would be required if they were produced here.

We are world leaders in food standards, animal welfare and environmental protection but taking our expertise and money to other countries doesn’t guarantee they’ll do things the way we do nor do them to our requirements.

It’s not easy working in other countries with foreign languages and different cultures and what works here may not work there. But that is not an excuse to accept lower standards, especially when it comes to safety.

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