I Am A Rock

June 10, 2009

This song always reminds me of Donne’s line, no man is an island, entire of itself. . .


Eco-bulbs are brighter

June 10, 2009

An independent test by Consumer New Zealand found that energy efficient bulbs last longer and are brighter.

Consumer NZ compared a standard 100 watt incandescent light-bulb with compact fluorescents rated between 18 and 20 watts.

Of the 17 tested, 11 of the energy-efficient bulbs were brighter and one bulb was 47 per cent brighter.
 
But six of the energy-efficiency bulbs were dimmer; with the worst bulb 20 per cent dimmer.

That’s not going to persuade the government to change its decision to reverse the previous government’s attempt to ban incandescent lights.

There should be no need for force after their use. If the compact fluorescent bulbs last longer and burn brighter than the more energy inefficient alternatives a bit of advertising should persuade consumers to make the change to CFLs voluntarily.

The CFLs I use do seem to last longer than incandescent bulbs but I must have the minority which Consumer found to be dimmer and they also interfere with the radio.


Job lost by Nat budget cut for 2nd time – updated

June 10, 2009

 The Ministry of Women’s Affairs was seeking an editor for their Women In Agriculture newsletter.

It could be done from home and a very generous salary was being offered – from memory it was about $20,000 which was a lot of money for a very much part-time job in 1991.

The job description could have been written with me in mind. I had the journalism training and experience, was one of the co-founders of WAg in North Otago and still actively involved with it.

I applied, was short listed, interviewed and offered the position. But the offer came with a proviso that funding continued and the Budget a few weeks later cut it.

That was bad news for me as an individual but as a taxpayer I couldn’t argue for continued funding for something which definitely wasn’t necessary and which, if truth be told, shouldn’t have been publicly funded in the first place.

Nearly two decades later another National budget has put paid to another part time job for me. Teaching Spanish night classes has fallen victim to a change in rules for Adult Community Education (ACE) with funds being redirected towards priority areas of literacy and numeracy.

Again while I’m sorry as an individual I can’t argue against this move as a taxpayer because that would mean trying to justify public funding for private indulgences because these are essentially hobby classes.

I’ve been teaching the classes for four years with a Uruguayan friend. We’ve taken it seriously, spent time preparing lessons, provided notes and done our best in the classroom. We’ve enjoyed it and so have our students but the relative contribution by taxpayers and students was brought home to us this year when we discovered that 20 classes had been advertised when we thought we were only offering 10.

The students had paid $70 for 20 lessons but would get a refund of just $5 if we taught only 10 because most of the costs their fees covered were upfront ones, in particular advertising, and the major on-going cost of our wages came from taxpayers.

The classes were fun for our students and us but when there are so many other more important calls on public funds I couldn’t argue that paying for us to have fun was a priority.

Someone in the first lesson always asked how much they could expect to learn and I brought them down to earth by explaining after two years studying Spanish at university, three months of total immersion classes in Spain and five trips to Argentina to practise I have only an intermediate grasp of the language and a rusty one at that.

Even if the students went over what they’d learned between classes, which few if any ever did, 10 or even 20  two-hour lessons once a week were never going to be able to give them any more than the very basics – especially for those who’d never learned a foreign language before and/or didn’t understand how English worked either.

That’s not to say the classes didn’t have value. Apart from enjoyment, the students learned a little about another language and different cultures, they met new people, used their brains and expanded their horizons. But even so I couldn’t put my hand on my heart and say that anything they learned or gained could justify taxpayer funding.

There are many important priorities for education which taxes should fund, hobby classes aren’t one of them .

Stargazer sees this differently at The Hand Mirror.

UPDATE: Labour has launched a petition against the changes to ACE funding.

Bill English responded:

“Keeping ACE funding at previous levels would have meant not funding some of the Government’s other priorities such as special education, literacy and numeracy or skills training for the young unemployed.

“Labour, presumably, would just put the extra spending ‘on the credit card’ like everything else it is promising. Labour left behind about $500 million of unfunded tertiary education commitments, which is one of the reasons we’ve had to reassess some existing funding.

“I challenge Maryan Street to show how she would fund ACE at current levels, meet other education priorities, and stay within Budget,” Mr English says.

Quite.

I’d struggle to make a case for public funding of hobby classes at the best of times let alone now when the country is facing years of deficits.

There is no case now when we’re facing years of deficits and literacy, numeracy and special education are much higher priorities.


50 year fall for export prices

June 10, 2009

An 8.2% drop in export prices in the March quarter was the largest quarterly fall since December 1957, Statistics NZ said.

This was mainly driven by a fall in dairy product prices which were down 20.5 percent. The other main contributor to the fall in export prices was a 28.0 percent fall in petroleum and petroleum products due to lower export prices for crude oil.

Import prices also fell – down 5.4% in the March quarter. But when the price of petrol and petrol products which dropped 35.8% are excluded, the price of imports increased by 2.8%.

The terms of trade fell 3.0 percent in the March 2009 quarter as merchandise export prices fell more than import prices. This is the largest fall in the terms of trade since the June 2002 quarter. The latest fall in the merchandise terms of trade means that in the March 2009 quarter, 3.0 percent less merchandise imports could be funded by a fixed quantity of merchandise exports than in the previous quarter. 

While prices fell, seasonally adjusted export volumes increased by 2%, the first rise since the December 2007 quarter. Dairy products were the main contributor this.

While export voumes rose, the seasonally adjusted  import volumes fell 9.8 percent in the March, putting them at their lowest level since the December 2004 quarter.

The fall in export prices while volumes increased means we’re selling more for less which isn’t a recipe for economic growth.


The Dot

June 10, 2009

dairy 1

The Dot by Peter H Reynolds is a delightful book about making your mark which shows what a little encouragement can do to foster creativity.

The words are simple, the pictures delightful and the message inspiring.

The author, has a website: peterhreynolds.com  

He also has a blog, Stellar Cafe  where he has written two posts about this book. The first answers 7 questions, the second on a stellar proverb nulla dies sine linea – no day without a line.

I gave The Dot to a friend who is an art teacher and she reads it to her classes at the start of each year.

It’s also available in Spanish. I’ve read it to my adult Spanish class and they enjoyed it at least as much as children do:

dairy 10001


No nudity for daughter’s sake

June 10, 2009

Consideration for her children is behind actress Reece Witherspoon’s refusal to strip for a movie.

The ‘Rendition’ actress – who has two children, nine-year-old daughter Ava and son Deacon, six, with ex-husband Ryan Phillippe – doesn’t think it would be appropriate to appear nude because of the effect it could have on her kids.

She said about nude roles: “I had my first baby when I was 23, so for me, no. I’ve always been choosing roles knowing that I have a daughter and I have a responsibility to her and to the world to be representing women of strength.

“These are the women I know in life. I think it’s a natural extension of parenthood for you to feel like you’re responsible for the worlds you create, whether they be silly or serious. I think you are responsible for the art you put in the world.”

While I recognise her name, I’m not sure if I’ve seen any of her films so can’t comment on whether or not she’s been a good role model in them. But I approve of her aim to represent women of strength and her decision to keep her clothes on for her children’s sake.


Where to with water?

June 10, 2009

 The need for a comprehensive reform of fresh water management is illustrated by what’s happening with the Waitaki River.

Twice this year the storeage lakes in the upper catchment have been so full Meridian Energy has opened the spillways on its hydro dams.

Yet an error with the Waitaki Catchment allocation plan means that not only is there insufficient water for new consent applications – some of which have been lodged for 11 years – there may not be enough for existing irrigators either.

The welcome announcement on the process to improve fresh water management through the Land Water Forum was expanded on in a speech by Environment Minister Nick Smith at the Environmental Defence Society conference.

He started by stating that economic success and good environmental practices aren’t mutually exclusive.

Last century’s politics equated environmentalism with more regulation, big government and anti-capitalism.

 Today it is well recognised that successful environmental policies need a strong market economy and vice versa.  Marrying together successful economic and environmental policies is the new paradigm.

 To be a 21st century environmentalist does not mean being an apologist for inefficient, costly bureaucracy.

Smith said the main elements of the government’s policy should:

  • ensure that water contributes to New Zealand’s economic growth and environmental integrity
  • provide stronger central government direction and leadership
  • set some limits and bottom lines to shape the actions taken on managing water quality and allocation
  • explore supplementary measures to address the impacts of land use intensification on water quality
  • develop an allocation regime that provides for ecological and public values, and then seeks to maximise the return from the remaining water available for extractive use
  • identify the contribution water infrastructure (including storage) could make to better water use, and address barriers to achieving this
  • address some of the scientific, technical, information and capability gaps that hold back improved management, and
  • maintain Treaty-based engagement with Māori on water management options.

Then Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer once observed that we’re a very pluvial country. We have plenty of water, just not always the right amount in the right places and the challenge is to manage it well. This paper provides a good foundation on which to build a process for doing that.

The MFE Cabinet paper on New Start for Fresh Water is here.

Smith’s speech isn’t on-line yet so I’ve copied it after the break. Read the rest of this entry »


%d bloggers like this: