Wa’da we think of paper shufflers?


Cactus Kate  left a comment asking me to:

opine on a general farmer’s opinion of Auckland paper shufflers and speculators? Particularly the exchange speculators. I can’t do it without using expletives.

I won’t presume to speak for all farmers or even farmers in general, but I suspect Eric Roy’s observation in response to a question on Wellington would apply just as well  to paper shufflers further north:  “There’s too many people up there who’ve never had a bad lambing.”

And then I offer this story:

A farmer was grazing his flock on the long acre of a remote road in the Otago backblocks when a brand-new shiny 4WD emerges from a dust cloud.

The driver, a bloke in an Armani suit, Gucci shoes, Bolle sunglasses and Yves St Laurent silk tie, slides down the window and says to the farmer, “If I tell you exactly how many sheep and lambs you have in your flock, will
you give me a lamb?”

 The farmer looks from the man to the peacefully grazing herd and
murmurs, “Why not?”

The well-dressed bloke whips out his notebook, connects it to his mobile phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get a fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. Then he opens the digital photo in Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. Now he accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-colour, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturised LaserJet printer, turns to the drover and says, “You have exactly 2,586 sheep and lambs.”

That’s right.” says the farmer. “Well, I guess you can take one of my lambs,” And he watches the man select an animal and stuff it into the back of his 4WD.

Hey,” muses the grazier, “If I can tell you exactly what you do for a living, will you give me back the animal?”

The man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

“You’re a bureaucrat from Wellington” says the farmer.

“Wow! That’s correct! But how did you guess that?” the bureaucrat asks.

“No guessing required.” answered the farmer. “You showed up here uninvited; you wanted to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about sheep.

 “Now, give me back my dog.”

Stressing that I understand that town and country need each other and it ill behoves any of us to claim we’re superior to anyone else, I put my tongue in my cheek and quote Vincent McNabb:

“There are those who wrest a living from the land and that’s work; there are those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from the land and that’s trade*; and there are those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from those who wrest a living from the land and that’s finance”.

(*trade in this context refers to wholesale and retail not trades).

It doesn’t really matter what paper they shuffle and where they shuffle it, the people shuffling it make a living from the ones who do the work.

Click Go The Shears


It was going to be a  bonus tune for New Zealand Music Month, but the only version I can find comes from the other side of the Tasman.

Backblocks Baby Doctor



One of the questions posed in Monday’s Quiz was the name of the author of Backblocks Baby Doctor . I’d been thinking about the book because the news about swine flu reminded me of Doris Gordon’s account of working during the 1918 flu epidemic.

I thought others might be interested in reading the book because Doris  had a no-nonsense approach to writing and the result is a fascinating and down to earth account of her life and times.

She was one of the first women to qualify as a doctor in New Zealand, graduating in 1913. She married in 1917 and two weeks later her husband, who was also a doctor,  left to serve overseas. She lectured at the University of Otago during the war then worked as a locum in the North Island during the 1918 flu epidemic. 

At 9pm I was in the home of a master painter whose only two children had both got out of bed and walked round two blocks to witness the Broadway celebrations. I verified that the elder son was dead, went into the kitchen to sign the certificate, and was startled to find the undertaker there, tape in hand; and I literally shivered when he suggested that I also sign the death certificate for the other lad who was undoubtedly just about to die.

It seemed ghoulish to sign while there was a flickering pulse but the undertaker was as hard pushed as I was.

When her husband returned to New Zealand the following year they set up in general practice together.

Doris had a particular interest in maternity services. She was instrumental in establishing the NZ Obstetrical Society and by skill and perseverance raised the money to endow a Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Otago Medical School and for the Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Dunedin.

Early on she learned the power women wielded:

Starting just after one triennial election has passed, various items of reform are decided on by twenty or thirty women leaders who comprise the National Council of Women. These are usually the presidents and leaders of the women’s organisations. For the next two years they indoctrinated thousands of women in hundreds of branches. In the third year – election year again – a deputation with a substantial women’s vote solidly behind it, bears the request to the appropriate minister. This represents petticoat government at its best and is a system seldom known to have failed.

Doris was the first Australasian woman to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (FRCS) and was also awarded an MBE.

While working full time, studying, fund raising and advocating on maternity services she also raised three children.

This book, and its sequel Doctor Down Under,  should appeal to anyone with an interest in health, politics, the politics of health, maternity services, history and/or inspirational people.

Backblocks Baby Doctor  by Doris Gordon, published by Faber & Faber, 1956. It’s out of print but a Google search located several second hand copies.

Hidden agenda in NZX purchase of CPL?


I greeted uncrtically the news that NZX was buying Country-Wide, publishers of most of of the papers which get delivered free to rural mail boxes, including my favourite NZ Farmers Weekly.

Others aren’t so innocent.

Cactus Kate finds some sharp knives in the NZX Haystack .

Jenni McManus reports  that Trans-Tasman editor in chief Max Bowden has made a Commerce Commission complaint because he thinks NZX is trying to act as regulator in a market in which it would be a participant.

At issue: whether an organisation calling itself a regulator should be cornering the market in anything, let alone a commercial enterprise, by acting as both a player and the market enforcer.

Adolf at No Minister smells something fishy and asks:

How can it be that the regulator of share trading activities in New Zealand companies an be allowed to itself operate trading companies which are not part of its core activity, namely regulation? What happens when one of its own companies transgresses?

Roarprawn also smells something whiffy and agrees with Fran O’Sullivan who questions why the stock exchange is putting on gumboots.

Expanding into publications during the economic downturn is a bold move.

The Cross memo explains that the NZX is getting into an “advertising-reliant media publication” in this climate. She contends print media are the best way to contact farmers while internet access remains slow and inconsistent for rural New Zealand.

“This protects to a certain extent rural publications from the downturn in advertising in mainstream/daily media publication and, second, farmers’ behaviours as the majority still read physical papers instead of accessing the internet for their news and information.”

The memo predicts it will be more than five years before farmers swap to online news services.

I’m not so sure about that, improvements to rural boradband services are moving quickly. We’ve got wireless broadband but discovered by accident we could get a much better service through the phone line now.

I’ve always used “you don’t do rural broadband” to put off people wanting us to change to telephone providers. But when I used that line with a cold-caller on Monday I was told they did and we could get broadband access via our phone line. I phoned Telecom to check and was told that our exchange had been upgraded and our phone line could now deliver broadband.

If that service is as good as promised more country people will turn to the internet for news rather than waiting for the papers which come with the mail – which for us isn’t until early to mid afternoon.

This point is made by Quote Unquote who also has questions about the NZX purchase of CPL.

. . .  there are some astute comments about magazine publishing in general which Weldon could consider – in particular, Rundle’s key line:

To go into the magazine trade now is like starting a stable just as the first Model T Ford rolls off the line.

We’ve been getting a regular stream of change-of-address emails from farming friends who have discovered they no longer have to rely on dail-up access to the internet.

The service we get in the country still doesn’t deliver the ultra-fast speeds available in cities, but it won’t be far away and when it comes, our readinghahbits will change.

You can’t tuck a PC into your back pocket as you do with a paper when you’re heading up the back paddock . But if you’ve already read the news on the net  over breakfast you won’t need to.

The question of who’s going to pay for the news on internet will wait for another day.

On-line auction postponed by tech problems


Fonterra’s 11th on-line auction was supposed to have taken place last night.

But a message on the globalDairyTrade website  says it has been postponed a week because of technical difficulties and will restart on May 12 at 1300GMT.

Pots & Kettles


Phil Goff has just told Breakfast what a good job Trevor Mallard will do in his new post as Education Spokesman and how he’ll counter the razor gang attacks from the government.

Excuse me?

Maybe Phil was overseas when Mallard cut a swathe through the countryside and provincial towns and cities, shutting schools left, right and centre as he went.

If there was one single explanation for the bluewash in the provinces which started at the 2005 election and continued in 2008 it was the closures forced on schools by then Education Minister Trevor Mallard.

Besides, any cutting the government does will be in the bureaucracy Labour allowed to balloon not in the schools which it neglected.

Families Commission finds world’s not flat


Is it news to you that the environment where children are raised has a great impact on brain development and their ability to acquire social and moral skills?

I suspect not and that it won’t surprise you that this:

. . . in turn, affected how well they picked up everything from language and writing to important social and moral skills, such as knowing how to control their emotions and desires, and have empathy for others.

“In loving, nurturing environments the child’s brain will develop normally, said Charles Waldegrave, a well-published researcher based at The Family Centre.

“But recent developments in neuroscience and child development show that ongoing experiences of neglect, abuse or violence can seriously damage development in children, leading to long-term impairment of their intellectual, emotional and social functioning.”

But it appears to have come as a surprise to the Families Commission or they wouldn’t have needed the 61 page report, healthy families, young minds and developing brains: enabling all children to reach their potential .

That’s 61 pages for the authors Charles and Kasia Waldergrave to state the bleeding obvious and come up with four recommendations:

1. Accessible information on the importance of healthy neural and cognitive development in children and the risks of developmental impairment be produced in popular formats, firstly aimed at a target group of families who are at risk of abusing or neglecting their children and the key groups that work with them, and secondly at the population as a whole.

And information will do what to counteract the alcohol and drug abuse, multiple partners, poor literacy and numeracy,  low income and other factors which creates the environment that leads to neglect and abuse?

 2. Access to high-quality ECE continues to be increased, particularly where children are at risk of violence, abuse or neglect.

High-quality ECE is a laudable goal, but it’s putting band aids on bleeding arteries because it will do nothing to stop the neglect and abuse the children return to at home.

 3. Policies that focus investment on lifting children and families out of poverty be extended to ensure adequate income, decent housing and affordable access to healthcare for all New Zealand families.

 Would that be aimed at higher benefits which increase dependence or better productivity, increased employment, education and other initiatives which foster independence?

4. Further research be commissioned to track: the effects of impaired development in children so targeted policies can be implemented the numbers of children at risk; the effectiveness of enhanced environments in restoring potential development for those whose development has been impaired; the effectiveness of public education programmes in preventing children from becoming ‘at risk’ and promoting safe, secure and loving family and educational environments.

Is there just a teeny wee bit of self interest in that recommendation given it comes from people likely to be employed to do that research?

And what would do more for those must at risk and in need: more research or more money for front line services like Plunket?

We don’t need research to state the bleeding obvious. We know that being brought up in loving families doesn’t guarantee healthy emotional and social development nor does childhood neglect guarantee failure.

But we also know the earth’s not flat and that the risk factors are well established: children raised in dysfunctional  homes are a lot more likely to follow their parents’ bad example just as those by loving and nurturing families are likely to follow theirs.

Reports aren’t going to solve the problems in dysfunctional homes and we don’t need more of them.

If the Families Commission was really serious about  addressing the causes of neglect and abuse it would disestablish itself and request that the funding it gets is redirected to where it will make a positive difference.

Boh Runga – Starfish Sleeping


Day six of the NZ Music Month tune a day challenge.

Boh Runga with Starfish Sleeping:

Over at Inquiring Mind Th’ Dudes are Walking In Light

At Keeping Stock Graham Brazier sings Billy Bold

And at Rob’s Blockhead Blog it’s Rain and Tears from Hi Revving Tongues

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