How journalism used to be

June 19, 2009

Those were the days . . .

Hat Tip: Press Pack


Common Cold

June 19, 2009

This Friday’s poem was chosen because Ogden Nash’ Common Cold depicts so well how I’m feeling.

          – Common Cold –

Go hang yourself, you old M.D,!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
In not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever’s hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honoured system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne’er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare’s plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

            – Ogden Nash –


Starting at the wrong end of education

June 19, 2009

Pita Sharples has tempered the comments he made yesterday about Maori having open entry to university by saying that would only be if they meet certain standards.

This afternoon Dr Sharples clarified that he did not expect unqualified Maori to be immediately accepted into courses.

“It’s just providing entry for people to attend a student learning centre where they can reach the standard to do a degree.”

Universities already run pre-admission courses and Dr Sharples is still focussing on the wrong end of the education system.

The problem is not that too few Maori are going to university it is that too few have the required literacy and numeracy skills to gain admission and succeed.

Solving that starts by ensuring pre-schoolers have the skills to get the most out of school from the start – just simple things like being able to count to at least 10, recognising and being able to name colours, knowing how to hold a crayon or pencil, how to hold a book, that the pictures related to the story and that reading is fun.

Once they’re at school, children who are struggling need to be identified early and given extra help. Families and whanau may need assistance too so they are capable of giving children the home support which is an important part of succeeding at school.

It’s not easy to do but it would be far more effective than trying to get more people into university if they don’t have the ability and will to succeed there.

Kiwiblog shows the problem isn’t too few Maori entering university but a disproportionate number who fail to complete their courses.

University isn’t the right  place for everyone and, as Macdoctor points out, you don’t have to be tertiary educated to succeed:

. . . whereas a good, basic education is essential, it is simply not true that a tertiary education is necessary for one to be successful. . . But the majority of business owners appear to have relatively low levels of education. One can only conclude that, while tertiary education will help in the job market, you do not need it to be a success. What you need is the motivation to be successful.

Giving Maori an easier route to university would set up more for failure once they were there and also reflect badly on those who got there on their merits.

Giving everyone better than basic literacy and numeracy skills would provide them with the choice of a tertiary education or taking another route to success.


It’s only a common cold

June 19, 2009

My throat was sore, the morning light hurt my eyes and my nose was running. I’d have liked to have turned over and gone back to sleep but I had no excuse for that because it was only a common cold.

The kitchen was full of morning busyness – radio on, phone ringing, toast cooking . . . I wanted to leave it and return to bed but I couldn’t do that because I wasn’t really sick I only had a common cold.

My farmer went out. Peace reigned but so did mess. Yesterday’s papers were strewn across the sofa, dishes cluttered the bench, in the laundry a pile of washing waited for attention. I wanted ignore it, sit down beside the fire and have a wee nap. But I couldn’t do that because I wasn’t really sick, I only had a common cold.

The phone kept ringing and all the callers started their conversations by asking, ‘how are you?” Of course I answered ‘fine thanks’ because they were not really interested in my well-being and although I wasn’t fine at all there was nothing to make a song and dance about. I only had a common cold.

The box of tissues was empty but the pretty bits of cotton and lace in my drawer would have been soaked by a single blow. I found more substantial handkerchiefs in my farmer’s drawer, hoping he wouldn’t mind me using them in an emergency. Not that this was an emergency. It was only a common cold.

It was nearly lunchtime but I wasn’t hungry, nor would I have been able to taste anything had I had an appetite for it. What I really wanted was to tuck myself up with a large lemon & honey drink and leave the day to get on without me. But I couldn’t do that when I only had a common cold.

It felt like someone had filled my sinuses with putty and one ear was a bit sore. I thought about ringing my doctor but the medical students with whom I flatted in my youth said if you treat a cold it lasts a week and if you leave it alone it’s over in seven days. Besides, it would be silly to subject others to infection in a doctor’s surgery when I wasn’t really sick and I only had a common cold.

I was supposed to be going down to Dunedin to the opening of MP Michael Woodhouse’s office this afternoon then on to Clinton where I’d been invited to speak to the Lions. I made apologies for both, knowing it would be foolish to spread any germs, but feeling guilty when I only had a common cold.

We were supposed to go to a combined 21st and 50th birthday party in Gore tomorrow but cancelled that too, still feeling guilty when I only had a common cold.

I prescribed myself an early night, last night and as I tried to get to sleep I thought about this “only a common cold” business. No doubt colds are common but why is something which makes you feel so lousy always prefaced with an “only”?


Fonterra’s 8th birthday not as happy as 7th

June 19, 2009

It was eight years ago yesterday that farmers voted to form Fonterra, New Zealand’s biggest dairy company.

If the company has a cake it will be more modest than the one it might have had a year ago when the milk payout was at its peak.

The new season’s forecast is a much more modest $4.55 per kilo of milk solids.

The freezing of executives’ pay  may be a symbolic gesture but it does send a signal to the industry that the white gold has lost some of its lustre.

Adding to concerns is the Reserve Bank’s warning in its May Financial Stability report that agricultural lending has increased steeply and may not be sustainable.

The reintroduction of subsidies in the USA and EU hasn’t helped matters and will slow the recovery. However, even with subsidies dairying in Britain isn’t healthy.

Phil Clarke notes a DairyCo survey conducted in February and March which showed:

The sharp decline in dairy commodity prices in 2008, which has now filtered through to farmers milk cheques, combined with rising input costs, has led to a radical reversal in this year’s Farmer Intentions Survey.

The latest document shows that just 18% of producers now plan to increase output, while the number looking to quit the industry has shot up to 13%……

According to DairyCo, the quitters will outweigh the expanders considerably in volume terms, leading to another 5% drop in UK milk output by 2010/11.

The situation gets even worse if further price falls are factored in. If prices drop another 2p/litre, then the percent who would leave the industry doubles again to over 30%, while only 6% would increase production.

The implications for the future of British milk production are frightening. Even at current prices we are going to see another significant fall in milk output and a sharp rise in our import dependency.

That bad news for British dairying may provide an opportunity for New Zealand because if Britain can’t produce enough to satisfy domestic demand for dairy produce we’d be ready and willing to fill any gaps on their shelves with ours.


June 19 in history

June 19, 2009

On June 18:

1306 Scottish King, Robert The Bruce’s army was defeated by the Earl of Pembroke’s forces at the Battle of Methven.

King of the Scots
   

1940 The Niagra was sunk off the coast of Northland by German mines.

1947 Indian author Salman Rushdie was born.


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