Siestas solution to sun exposure?


One of the reasons southern European countries have siestas is to enable people who work outside to avoid the extreme heat in the middle of the day.

We might have to emulate them if we’re to heed suggestions from a University of Otago study into workers’ exposure to high UV radiation levels.

Recommendations include providing shade for workers and scheduling outside work to avoid the most dangerous times for sun exposure.

That’s not difficult for tasks which can be done in tractors, most of which now have air conditioned cabs. But it’s easier said than done for some farm tasks such as mustering, although from my observations most farm workers are pretty good at wearing hats with wide brims which protect their heads and necks.

The suns-sense message is timely for me because I had my bi-annual skin check yesterday – something I’ve been doing ever since the removal of a couple of skin cancers – fortunately the least dangerous basal cell carcinomas – a decade ago.

Since then I’ve been very careful about the slip, slop, slap message – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. But that won’t protect me from the damage done when I was young and spent long summer days at the river, coming home bright red to liberal applications of *Q-tol, the bright pink lotion which took the sting out of sun burn.

Then I spent two summers while a student as a pool attendant in Taupo, wandering round in skimpy shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, almost as keen on acquiring a tan as earning money.

There was some excuse then as there was little information available about the risk of skin cancer from over exposure to sun. That’s certainly not the case now but fashion has yet to catch up with the health message because a tan is still regarded as attractive and healthy while pale is often coupled with pasty as a observation on someone who doesn’t look their best.

* I don’t remember seeing Q-tol for years – is that because they’ve discovered something in it we shouldn’t be exposed to or has it just been replace dby something more effective?

Animated guide to credit crisis


Not sure how the credit crisis happened?

Jonathan Jarvis produced an animated depiction which explains it for his thesis in Media Design.

Hat Tip: Solo

Cullen culling himself?


A party ousted from government after three terms needs to cull some of those who’ve been there, done that and will be blamed for doing it,  if it’s to present new faces and fresh direction at the next election.

Those who don’t  go voluntarily face the ignomy of a public ousting of the dead wood, as happened with National after 1999.

The Dominion Post reports that Michael Cullen  is not waiting to be culled and is planning to step down in the next couple of months.

There is no doubting his intelligence and wit, but the latter was sometimes harsh and I think his reputation as a prudent Finance Minister was ill founded.

New Zealand was in recession months before most other countries and he must bear some of the responsbility for that because of the policies of over taxing and over spending.

He and his colleagues sqaundered the good economic years of the noughties. We’ve been paying for that with restricted growth for years and the bill will get bigger.

The ACC  blowouts ought to have been in the PREFU and he left other financial timebombs in expenditure promised but not budgeted for on top of reckless spending such as the purchase of St James Station at an inflated price which has left the Nature Heritage Fund’s coffers all but empty.

In December Bill English identified gaps in the budget he inherited including:

* $1 billion for the insulation fund agreed to with the Greens in the last few months of the last government (though this was flagged as fiscal risk in Treasury documents).

* Only $8 million was set aside in 2009/2010 as part of the ongoing $600 million promised in the budget for the growth of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

* Other spending had been “creatively funded” such as the $40 million to buy the St James Station which was funded by “cleaning out” the Nature Heritage Fund for the next four years.

* The need for unbudgeted government payments to ACC would also “unexpectedly” increase government debt by $1.2 billion over the next four years.

Keeping Stock reminded me of the train set Cullen bought. The multi-thousands of hecatres of land expensively purchased through tenure review and now in the DOC estate are another monster he’s created with an appetite for taxpayers’ dollars.

He apologised for the quip he made in his maiden speech about getting stuck in to farmers:

 “I’m proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawkes Bay [he was given a scholarship to Christ’s College]. I ripped them off for five years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years.”

But his actions speak louder than his words. His rich prick  sneer at John Key was just one of many examples which show he resented wealth and didn’t understand wealth creation. He got stuck into not just farmers but all taxpayers and we’re all the poorer for that.

Borrowing to save senseless


If your income dropped would you borrow to save for your retirement?

Not if you’ve got any sense.

Of course Phil Goff is going to take the opportunity to grab a headline by making a fuss about the government considering changes to the state super fund.

And John Armstrong is right about the importance of maintaining political concensus on the issue.

But the super fund was at best never going to cover more than a small proportion of projected super payments, so if it costs more to borrow than the fund returns then suspending payments in the short term would be sensible.

UPDATE: Kiwiblog thinks politics might get in the way of doing the sensible thing.

Food miles fallacy foiled by facts


The food miles campaign is thought to be one reason for a 15% fall in New Zealand lamb sales in Britain.

For four years now some UK shops, like Tesco, have been promoting the food miles concept, meaning the closer to home something is produced the more sustainable it is. Now, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research says it can prove that theory wrong. 

“Our cattle are grazed on grass rather than grain, and they’re housed outside most of the year rather than being in heated sheds,” says John Ballingall, “so the energy used in producing New Zealand food is often lower than the UK.”

In fact, the research shows that an average trip by car to the supermarket in Britain, 6.4km, to buy the weekly groceries uses the same amount of energy as shipping that food 8500km.

That’s a very impressive statistic but ecopolice don’t always let the facts get in the way of their religion and the green message is even infecting British hospitals which are being encouraged to  serve less meat and cheese  in a misguided attempt to be kinder on the environment.

Hospitals should serve meals which meet the dietry and health needs of the patients at the lowest cost and base their policies on facts not politics.

Less meat and cheese may be better for the health of some patients but not necessarily all and buying local isn’t necessarily better for the environment.

Food transported 100  miles by 10 trucks may have more impact on the environment than having it moved 1000 miles by one truck and as the NZIER figures above show going thousands of kilometres by ship is better than a few by car.

Besides, the distance food travels is only one factor in an assessment of it’s environmental footprint. A Lincoln University study showed New Zealand dairying produced less greenhouse gas than British dairying, even when the shipping was taken into account.

Given how short most hospital stays are these days patients are probably not in danger from the new prescription for their diets, but the implications of the other “green” initiative of greater sterilisation and reuse of equipment could be very serious if it increased the risk of infection.

However, the food miles debate might be academic because sustainability tends to be the concern of those wealthy enough to choose and as the recession bites households and hospitals alike are more likely to be more concerned about how much food costs than how far it travels.

Hat Tip: No Minister

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