Get in behind, Babe


Babe, the sheep herding pig became famous in the film based on the book by Dick King Smith.

Now she’s got a real life rival – Sue, a kune kune pig named after the hero in the Johnny Cash song A Boy Named Sue.

. . . he can shake hands by presenting his trotter on command, run through tunnels, navigate around cones, climb ramps and even complete a figure of eight. 

Owner Wendy Scudamore believes her talented porker could not only beat canine competitors in an agility contest, but even turn out to be a real-life Babe and learn how to herd sheep just like the pig in the hit movie. 

The Herefordshire pig started copying dogs when he worked out they were rewarded with treats when being trained.

 Wendy plans to enter Sue in the agility event at the Royal Welsh Show but even if he’s a prize winner he won’t be able to sire a dynasty of sheep herding pigs. An unfortunate mix up at the vets led to his castration.

HAT TIP: Farmgirl

Selling the good earth


Paul Walker from Anti-Dismal left a comment on my post about foreign ownership saying:

I do wonder what people think overseas owners are going to do with the land, dig it up and take it back overseas???

He’s right in context of the debate about foreign ownership but it reminded me that some enterprising Irishmen are not only digging up their earth and sending it overseas, they’re making money from it.

The Auld Sod Export Company sells Irish dirt to ex-pats and their descendents so they can have a little piece of Ireland wherever they are in the world.

Uses for the dirt are many and varied:

Official Irish dirt products serve a wide array of purposes. Everything from growing your own shamrocks, to wedding gifts, to paying respect at a loved one’s funeral. Irish Dirt aims to bring a piece of the old country straight to you, directly from the Emerald Isle.

Like all good entrepreneurs the company likes to add value so once you’ve got the real Irish dirt, the they’ll sell you shamrock seeds to plant in it.

The International Herald Tribune  reports:

An 87-year-old lawyer in Manhattan originally from Galway recently bought $100,000 worth of the dirt to fill in his yet-undug American grave. A native of County Cork spent $148,000 on seven tons to spread under the house he was having built. “He said he wanted a house built on Irish soil so he can feel like he is home in old Ireland when he walked around his house in Massachusetts,” Burke said. Neither man wanted his name mentioned for fear of seeming eccentric or foolish.

Since Auld Sod’s Web site,, went online in November, Burke said, he has shipped roughly $2 million worth to the United States, where about 40 million people claim Irish ancestry and Enterprise Ireland estimates annual sales of Irish gifts at more than $200 million.

I don’t think it was an Irishman who said, “Where there’s muck there’s money,” but this company is showing where there’s dirt there’s dollars. 

Could Mt Albert go blue?


Labour leader Phil Goff said last night the party was ready to fight a by-election in Mount Albert when Helen Clark resigns.

They may have had a head start because no doubt Helen Clark told them she’d been successful in her quest for a UN appointment before it became public, but National will be ready too.

A by-election gives voters the freedom to send messages they might be more cautious about in a general election and while Clark had a solid majority – 10,351 last year  a lot of her 20, 157 votes  would be personal. The party vote was only 14894 for Labour against 12,468 for National.

I wouldn’t bet the farm on a change of colour for the electorate in the by-election. But I might wager an old ewe if Labour puts up a list candidate whose win would bring in a new list MP who lost her seat . Kiwiblog  mentioned Judith Tizard who’d come into that category, a scenario about which Keeping Stock is less than enthusiastic.

Sudoku secret solved


Sudoku frustrates me. I can usually do the easy ones but have never made progress with any of the more advanced puzzles.

Not that I’ve ever spent much time on it because I never thought it was worth the effort when solving Sudoku seemed to owe more to luck and probability rather than brain power.

But I was wrong, it’s not jsut luck. The answers can by worked out by applying logic and there is a formula for solving the number puzzles.

James Crook, an emeritus professor in South Carolina, will be publishing his “pen-and-paper algorithm for solving Sudoku puzzles” on the web-site of the American Mathematical Society. While his paper runs to nine pages of detailed argument, the algorithm boils down to five logical steps.

If it takes nine pages to get the logic, I’d rather leave it to luck. However,  if you’re more enamoured with numbers than I am and want to apply the formula, you can read the paper here.

Hat Tip: Larvatus Prodeo

Fushnchups causing indigestion


Goodness me, aren’t we sensitive wee souls?

Fush ‘n’ chups , is a tongue in cheek guide to help Aussies bridge the Trans-Tasman cultural divide but some people are swallowing it whole and not not liking the taste.

Come on guys, wake up and smell the feesh n cheeps. We need to faice up to our national foibles with a smoile or they’ll theenk we don’t have a sense of humour.

Falling trade + rising protectionism = bad news for NZ


 New Zealand’s economic outlook  has declined and it’s going to get worse  as world trade declines according to credit reporting company Dun & Bradsheet.

New Zealand economic growth was forecast at -1 percent this year, while world economic growth was expected to slow to -1.2 percent, slightly worse than D&B’s forecast in January, the company said in its Economic and Risk Outlook.

Declining world trade, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, and a sharp drop in economic growth for China had significantly heightened the downside risk to New Zealand’s outlook, D&B New Zealand general manager John Scott said.

. . . Increasingly protectionist governments and policies aimed at shoring up domestic banks, which may result in restricted international capital flows, posed big risks to the world economy in coming months, Mr Scott said.

. . . “This requires a unique balancing act from the New Zealand government. They need to stimulate the New Zealand economy but do so in a way that avoids contributing to protectionist trends, both manufacturing and financial, around the world.”

Producing good food for a hungry world is only one half of the equation, as other economies retract their ability to buy from us and the prices they’re willing and able to pay will decrease.

Selling will be even harder if other countries use their deteriorating economies as an excuse to close their borders, threatening the slow progress we’ve been making on freeing up world trade.

Finance Minister Bill English also points to a gloomy picture :

Mr English told MPs that two key economic indicators out this week showed New Zealand faced a “challenge of chronic twin deficits” in the government accounts and balance of payments.

“This week’s statistics will show that the balance of payments deficit for 2008 is in the order of 9 percent of GDP – one of the worst in the OECD – and this week’s GDP statistics will show that output declined in the December quarter to around 2 percent lower than a year earlier and that is the economy will have contracted by about that much,” Mr English said.

 There is a silver lining to that cloud of bad news, though. It means we can’t afford protectionist measures which would claw back the hard won gains which have come from freeing up our economy.

Happily rural


There’s no surprises in a UMR survey which found that rural residents are happier with their location than people who live in small towns, suburbs or city centres.

The UMR Research survey of 750 New Zealanders people aged 18 and over found 90 percent of rural residents would most like to live in a rural area.

. . . More people wanted to live in a rural area than did so, at 26 percent, while 22 percent wanted to live in a small town.

Fewer people wanted to live in the suburbs or central city than did so, with 39 percent keen on the suburbs and 11 percent on the central city.

More space, less traffic, fewer people, fresher air . . . why wouldn’t you be happier in the country?

The money or the holiday


Some of our staff take all the holidays owing to them and more; we have to insist others take all they’re entitled to.

Those who take extra time off won’t be affected by the proposal to allow workers to choose the fourth week’s holiday or an extra week’s pay; those who aren’t keen to take what they’re eligible for will happily take the money instead of  packing a bag for a  fourth week off.

Four weeks holiday plus 11 statutory days off adds up to six working weeks plus a day off work in a year. Not everyone wants that much so now they’ll have a choice of taking the money instead.

The existing policy gives workers a vacation which many turn into a staycation, because they can’t afford to go away. National’s policy will enable them to choose a paycation instead.

It’s each worker’s choice, and if blogs are anything to go by this is clearly understood by those on the right but not on the left.

Kiwiblog approves the move and notes the fear and ignorance from opponents. 

Keeping Stock  agrees with the Herald editorial.

Oswald Bastable will be happy to take the cash and use it for his annual holiday.

Whaleoil is please the government will let employees buy back holidays.

The Visible Hand in Economics thinks it’s an excellent policy, thinks the Greens have got it wrong and has a more detailed discussion.

Monkeywithtypewriter may not consider himself politically right but he’s right on this when he says four weeks entitlement, pull the other one.

Meanwhile the sky is falling on the left where:

Bomber at Tumeke! doesn’t understand that the four week’s entitlement doesn’t kick in until a year has been worked so has nothing to do with the 90 day trial period.

No Right Turn takes a very jaundiced view  of employers.

And The Standard is doesn’t believe in good faith.

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