Scarfies or barfies?


Monday’s ODT welcomed students to Dunedin with an editorial headlined Dunedin’s lifeblood.

It noted a welcome decline in anti-social behaviour though cautioned:

Those so inclined might well find that there are consequences and that leniency from university authorities and the courts is harder to gain than they expect.

Columnist Michael Guest also sounded a cautionary note in his ode to students:

Welcome back, it’s good you’re here,
The year’s about to start.
But listen up and heed this well,
Take this advice to heart.

20,000 students,
The good old days are gone.
The sheer amount of numbers mean
That leniency’s a con.

. . . A rowdy night of fun and games,
Some disorderly dereliction.
You plead before a heartless Judge,
But no discharge without conviction.

With degree in hand, you’ll want some fun,
With international travel.
Canada’s closed, that’s just the start
Your plans will soon unravel.

. . . You’re all scrubbed up with suit and tie
You think your lawyer’s plucky
But discharges and suppression
Are only for the lucky.

You’re bullet proof? You’re fancy free?
It’ll be OK on the night?
The Judge will smile down on you?
And let you off? Yeah, Right!

This may be prophetic because while there was little sign of  Tuesday’s mayhem in George Street yesterday afternoon, retailers I spoke to were furious, as they had every cause to be.

Exactly who is to blame is a moot point, it may not only have been students and it definitely wasn’t only the first years. At least some of the trouble came not from those in the toga parade but by-standers  and as as today’s ODT editorial  points out there actions weren’t spontaneous:

  . . . it is beyond most people’s comprehension that anyone could actually plan to throw buckets of vomit and faeces at participants in the parade.

But first-hand witnesses are adamant it happened – and how else can you explain it other than premeditation? How else could such material be collected for that use? It is beyond abhorrent.

 The woman who organised what is thought to be the first toga parade, former Dunedin City Council events manager Islay McLeod,  is sad the event has become become nothing more than “an initiation rite through a sewer”.

Ms McLeod said the parade, which started in 2001, was initially called the first day parade and was created to welcome students the same way as graduands were farewelled.

It had gone from “scarfies to barfies in less than a decade. . .”

It’s difficult to understand how supposedly intelligent people could behave this way and this quote from a first year student who was caught up in the violence raises more questions than it answers:

“I think some ground rules need to be laid down for this event for it to be safe and enjoyable,”

Ground rules? We already have laws which protect people and property from disorderly behaviour, including casting offensive manner, but people who disregard them are hardly likely to be deterred or controlled by ground rules.

And one of the reasons for that is that on top of the total disregard for other people, their property, society’s norms and the law ,those responsible appear to have no sense of shame.

Paul Thomas  points out in another context:

The virus attacking our capacity to feel shame mutated into a more aggressive form and the unwillingness to accept responsibility became a refusal to acknowledge error or harm done, let alone atone for it.

 Commenting on that Macdoctor says:

Our sense of shame is derived from society. As society ceases to define what is acceptable conduct, people start stepping through the invisible, ill-defined boundaries at will. Society then feels outraged by this behaviour, because it is so far “beyond the pale”.  The look we receive back is one of incomprehension.

It doesn’t matter who they are or what they wear – gang members in patches, students in togas, business people in suits – when they behave badly we’re all outraged, but outrage  is impotent when faced with an absence of shame.

P.S. Dave Gee has photos of the parade/riot

Dept of Common Sense


One of the things I like about The New Zealand week is that it greets you with a cartoon on its front page.

This one is from this week’s edition:


PGG Wrightson refinances


Investors’ fears PGG Wrightson  wouldn’t be able to renegotiate debt financing haven’t been realsied.

The rural services company’s shares have crashed in the last week as the market grew increasingly pessimistic about PGG Wrightson’s chances of securing funding to replace the $180 million of debt that matures in April.

But today the company says it has received bank commitments to refinance all of its facilities. ANZ, BNZ and Westpac are providing a total of $475 million in three tranches:
– $275 million of core debt for a 30-month period to September 2011
– $125 million amortising facility to December 2010
– $75 million of seasonal working capital to April 2010.

The company’s half-year report showed a $32. 8  million loss or a $4.65 million net profit  depending which version you take.

If you read the second story to the end it explains the difference because the first is described as an accounting loss which includes non-trading items. Among those will be the costs involved with its its failed courtship of Silver Fern Farms.

That will feature in the books for the next half year too because while SFF has spurned PGW”s offer of $10 million in compensation for non-consumation of the deal and is talking about wanting as much as $144 million.

Private grief in public life


No one goes through life untouched by sadness but most of us are able to grieve in private.

It must be so much harder for people in the public eye like David Cameron whose son has died.

Ivan was six and from media reports it sounds as if he had a similar condition to our sons who had mulitple disabilities and recurring seizures.

Tom was only 20 weeks when he died. Dan was five years, however, he had passed none of the developmental milestones so could do no more than a newborn.

We had wonderful support from family, friends, agencies like Plunket and IHC, the family GP and Dan’s paediatrician but even so looking after Dan was difficult and we knew it would become more so as he grew physically without developing intellectually.

Because of that one of the emotions I felt when he died was relief. Dan’s death freed us to do things it had been difficult, or sometimes impossible, to do with him and relieved us from the strain of knowing every plan we made came with a proviso that Dan’s health would allow us to do it.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t feel anger, sadness and all the pain that comes with losing a child too. Not just for Dan but over the hopes and dreams I hadn’t even been aware of having for his future, because when you lose a child you also lose the teenager and adult he would have become.

But at least I was able to go through all that in private.

How much more difficult it will be for the Cameron family when David has a public role which is so demanding and his duties as Conservative leader will sometimes, perhaps often, conflict with his own need to grieve and be with, cherish and be cherished by, his family.

I hope they are surrounded and supported by the love and kindness that helped us and that they too find that grief passes, happiness returns and that life can be good again.

Minding your hs and ks


To h or not to h when spelling W(h)anganui is the question.

I’ll leave the answer to Poneke and move off on a tangent because the discussion reminds me of many a one I had with my father.

He was from Scotland and was forever telling me to differentiate between which and witch  when I spoke. When he said the former you could hear the h, when I said it often as not you couldn’t.

I take it from discussion on W(h)anganui that Maori from that area pronounce wh  with a breathy h as  Dad did, as distinct from those further north who pronounce it more like an f.

That in turn reminds me of a discussion brought up in a celebrity debate about the difference between Maori in the north who use ng  and those in the south who use k so down here it’s Aoraki  but across the strait  it’s Aorangi.

The debater (Jim Hopkins or Garrick Tremain, I think)  then applied this to English with a convoluted sentence in which strong  became strok, wrong became wrok and dong changed to dok before concluding that sometimes it was better to use the northern pronunciation because you could express your ire without causing offence by telling those annoying you to get funged.

How much is a billion


When numbers get more than a few zeros my brain starts to freeze so there’s far more zeros in a billion than I care to contemplate.

But put the concept into words and even I can grasp is so I was fascinated by these examples  which illustrate the magnitude of the number:

How big is a billion? If a billion kids made a human tower, they would stand up past the moon. If you sat down to count from one to one billion, you would be counting for 95 years. If you found a goldfish bowl large enough hold a billion goldfish, it would be as big as a stadium. . .

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate Washington spends it.

These examples refer to a US billion, which is a thousand million: 1,000,000,000. A British million is even bigger – a million, million: 1,000,000,000,000.

There’s more examples here:


* If we wanted to pay down a billion dollars of the US debt, paying one dollar a second, it would take 31 years, 259 days, 1 hour, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds. To pay off a trillion dollars of debt, at a dollar a second, would take about 32,000 years.


* About a billion minutes ago, the Roman Empire was in full swing. (One billion minutes is about 1,900 years.)


* About a billion hours ago, we were living in the Stone Age. (One billion hours is about 114,000 years.)


* About a billion months ago, dinosaurs walked the earth. (One billion months is about 82 million years.)


* A billion inches is 15,783 miles, more than halfway around the earth (circumference).


* The earth is about 8,000 miles wide (diameter), and the sun is about 800,000 miles wide, not quite a million.





Hat tip: Jim Mora


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