Book post a day challenge for NZ Book Month


A reminder that tomorrow is the first day of New Zealand Book Month.

Deborah at In A Strange Land and Rob at Rob’s Blockhead Blog  have accepted the challenge to write a post a day on a New Zealand book for the month. 

If you want to join in on your blog leave a comment and I’ll link to your posts.

If you don’t have a blog you’re welcome to do a comment a day instead.


book month

Radio NZ staff prizeless


That’s not a typo in the heading, although some are indeed priceless, but they are also going to be prizeless this year

Kiwiblog has a copy of an email sent to staff :

This is to advise you that due to budgetary constraints Radio New Zealand has – reluctantly – withdrawn from this year’s New Zealand Radio Awards. . .

 Passing quickly over the pedant’s observation that it should be owing to rather than due to, and get to the point which is: this is a shame, not just for the people who won’t have a chance to compete, but for the awards as well.

Some of the victories will be hollow if RadioNZ staff and programmes aren’t competing.

Maybe we should have a Bloggers’ Award for RadioNZ.

I’ll start by nominating Jim Mora for broadcaster of the year – and not just because he mentioned Homepaddock yesterday :).

Afternoons and Country Life  are my nominations for best programme.

UPDATE: If there’s enough nominations to make it worthwhile I’ll set up a poll to choose the winners (and do my best not to delete it as I did with the daylight saving one) – and donate a gift box of Whitestone Cheese to the winner.

Still only 9/10


Missed one question in the Dominion Post’s political quiz again.

I didn’t know the name of Roger Douglas’s book.

Kiwiblog got another 10/10.

Ben & Mark Boys of the High Country


A generation ago most people who weren’t from farms had friends or family who were.

That is no longer the case and to many city kids, rural New Zealand might as well be another country.

A newly released book, by Christine Fernyhough and John Bougen aims to change that.

Ben & Mark, Boys of the High Country, is the story of the real day to day lives of Ben and Mark Smith of Mount White Station in Canterbury.

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Damming the creek, catching tadpoles and cockabullies, mustering on foot and horse back, helping in the shearing shed or stock yards, and pig hunting are common place for nine year old Ben and eight year old Mark.

Christine’s words and John’s photos portray these and other aspects of high country life for city kids who’ve never been off a tar sealed road.

Christine chooses simple terms to describe Ben and Mark’s activities and the station which is their 40,000 hectare home –  she explains is nearly as big as 60,000 rugby fields put together.

John uses his knowledge of the people and places to good effect in capturing the day to day life and seasonal routines. While the book is about the boys, the photos also highlight the beauty of the land. The blurb on the cover says the photos are stunning, and they are.

Although the book is aimed at children  it will appeal to adults too, whether it’s read from cover to cover or left on the coffee table to be dipped in to.

Ben & Mark Boys of the High Country by Christine Fernyhough and John Bougen. Published by Random House. $36.99.

Let there be light


Do hotels and motels provide intimate lighting to promote romance; are they saving power by cutting down on lighting or is it just poor design?

I’ve found myself blundering round in inadequate lighting, peering into semi darkness in every room  I’ve stayed in recently.

None of them had a single light which provided sufficient illumination by itself. The problem is exacerbated when there is no central control for all the lights so each has to be turned on and off individually.

The worst was a hotel in Wellington. The room had a small wall light in the entrance, a lamp either side of the bed, another lamp in the corner, a light in the tea & coffee cubby hole, another over the desk and one in the wardrobe. When I turned all of them on I still couldn’t see to read easily.

It’s possible that low lighting has always been the norm for hotels and motels and I”m just noticing it more now that my eyes require better light for reading than they used to.

There are no doubt times intimate lighting is desirable when you’re staying away from home, but it would be better if that could be a matter of choice and not the default setting.

Malfalda on power – international & domestic


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Mafalda, pick up that sweater you left on the floor.

I don’t have to obey, Mama! I’m the president.

And I’m the world Bank and the International Monetary Fund!

That was Clever.



When you live in a drought-porne  prone region you don’t tempt fate by saying you’ve had too much rain.

But we’ve had enough for now.

It started raining late last week, stayed grey with drizzle over the weekend, poured on Monday and finally cleared up yesterday afternoon.

The temperature dropped with the rain but there haven’t been any reports of heavy lamb losses.

We turned the irrigation off on Thursday and after 60mms of rain should be able to leave it off for a while.

KiwiRail must pay its way


Transport Minister Steven Joyce told Q&A that if the decision to buy KiwiRail had been his he would never have bought it.

It was one of the more costly legacies of the previous adminsitration:

KiwiRail is projecting a deficit of almost 50 million dollars next year, rising to more than 300 million in 2012.

“It’s cost New Zealand around $900 million already in terms of the purchase price, plus the loans we took over when we purchased it back. It has very high fixed costs,” says Joyce.

It’s not difficult to think of many other areas where that $900 million could have done something good; and the opportunity cost of $50 million next year rising to more than $300 million in 2012 which is being wasted on the railways is eye watering.

Joyce said the government isn’t prepared to keep paying for KiwiRail and is trying to get it to a form where it can be self-sustaining.

“(So) it can at least, to use the term, wash its own face. And that is going to be a challenge, don’t underestimate the size of that challenge,” he says.

“We can’t just keep tipping tax payers money in the back of it.”

Phil Goff didn’t say sorry for this profligate expensditure of taxpayers’ money when he was doing his mea culpa. Does that mean Labour still thinks it was a good idea?

September 30 in history


On September 30:

1791The first performance of  The Magic Flute, the last opera composed by Mozart, took place.

1901 Hubert Cecil Booth patentsed the vacuum cleaner.

1921 Scottish actress Deborah Kerr was born.

1924 US author Truman Capote was born.

1935 US singer Johnny Mathis was born.

1957 US actress Fran Drescher was born.

1962 Sir Guy Powles became New Zealand’s first Ombudsman.

1966 Botswana  proclaimed its independence.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Now is the Hour


In memory of Sir Howard Morrison who was buried today.

Turakina Maori Girls’ College choir sings Po Atarau (Now is the Hour).

(It starts at about 2:07).

More from Mafalda


Another Mafalda cartoon, apropos of New Zealand Book Month which starts on Thursday:

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I am alone & bored. Could you come to my house?

I’m sorry, Miguelito, I am going to go out with my mother. But don’t you have a book? A book is a good friend.

Well, What do you want to play?

Rubbishing junk mail


I’ve just picked up the mail – one news paper, two invitations, several invoices and seven bits of junk mail. 

I dumped the junk mail into the rubbish bin unread.

 If it had come electronically it would have been contrary to anti-spam laws.

What’s the difference between electronic spam and the paper variety?

Tuesday’s Answers


Monday’s questions were:

1. What’s a mugwump?

2. Who wrote Book Book?

3. Who said,  “I was only doing my job boss, looking after my mates”?

4. The song is Po Atarau in Maori, what is it in English ?

5. What is paihamu?

Gravedodger got four right, though gave only a partial answer to #1, he gets 2 bonuses for expanded answers to the others, and sympathy on the loss of his dog.

Samo got four right too, and a bonus for the creative answer to #2.

Paul got three right, was on the right track with #1 and earned a bonuse for his creative answer to #2.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »



Humour is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a foreign language.

Word plays, subtle nuances and cultural differences can make something which is hilarious to a native speaker incomprehensible to anyone else.

But some humour transcends language and cultural barriers and some like the Mafalda cartoons have international appeal.

Mafalda, created by Quino, which was the pen name of Salvador Lavado,was first published in Argentina 45 years ago today.

It is a cartoon strip which features Mafalda, her family and friends. She is a young girl with a very advanced wit and social conscience:

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Good morning. Have they abolished the earth’s injustices yet?

Ah. No?

Wake me for lunch then.

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From this humble little chair I make a sincere call for world peace!

At the end of the day it seems that the Vatican, the UN and my chair are worth about the same.

Electoral finance reform


The process for the reform of electoral finance is so much better than it was for the now ex-Electoral Finance Act.

Aiming to get good law rather than handicap the opposition is a good start; and consultation, discussion and genuine attempts to get cross-party support ought to result in something fairer and enduring.

Justice Minister Simon Power has released a proposal document for discussion.

* Broadcasting allocation – I don’t support any public funding of political parties and their activities. Whether or not there is any public funding, parties, other groups and individuals should be free to spend their own money on broadcasting should they choose to do so.

* MPs’ work vs electioneering:

The Parliamentary Service Commission is considering these issues as part of the process for developing a permanent definition of funding entitlements for parliamentary purposes in the Parliamentary Service Act 2000; in addition, the Speaker of the House has recently convened a cross-party committee that has developed a public disclosure regime for Parliamentary Service funding.  

 The Government proposes to ensure consistency between the Parliamentary Service Commission’s work and the work undertaken as part of the electoral finance reform by raising the suggestions made in the submissions with this cross-party committee for further consideration.

It is often difficult to distinguish between parliamentary activities and electioneering. During the election period any advertising which is paid for by Parliamentary Services should be restricted to factual information which helps constituents such as electorate office hours.

* Campaign expenditure limits haven’t changed since 1995. they need to be raised to take account of bigger electorates which were established by MMP and be adjusted for inflation.

* Regulated campaign period – should not advantage the governing party and should not be retrospective.

* Disclosing identity of promoter – requiring a real name is reasonable. I am not sure why it is necessary to also have an address on the material, especially for parties which all have registered offices.

Other discussion on the proposals can be found at Kiwiblog  , SOLO (where Lindsay Perigo is not impressed),  Not PC (who agrees with Lindsay; and Monkeywithtypewriter (who applauds the cross-party approach)

You can’t just shut a farm down


One of the questions being asked about the farm where animals were starving to death is why didn’t they shut it down?

You can’t just shut a farm down because that would endanger the stock.

If calving is still underway, cows need to be monitored and looked after; cows which have already calved need to be milked and calves have to be fed.

Another question being asked is why it took MAF three days to react to complaints. They say they don’t operate a 24/7 service which is correct, but they could have asked a vet to go to the farm as soon as the complaints were received.

A third question is why don’t neighbours intervene?

It’s possible that neighbours don’t know what’s happening next door, but in this case one did and it was him/her who reported concerns to MAF.

This is, as DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle says, a good demonstration of the farming community’s high awareness of animal welfare standards.

 “Poor management practices are not acceptable. The industry has been working in this area since the late 1980s. We’ve taken an extremely proactive approach in communicating best practice guidelines to farmers, via our consulting officers, the dairy companies, the processing companies, the transport companies and the media. New Zealand’s standards are based on the Animal Welfare Act and our Welfare Code documents and are internationally regarded as world-class,” says Dr Mackle. 

“While we await the outcome of the MAF investigation into the Benneydale farm, DairyNZ would not stand in support of any farmer found to have breached animal welfare standards. It’s bad for the animals, farmers, the industry, and for our country’s image.”

DairyNZ, is the industry good organisation for dairying and it correctly points out that farmers have no excuse for ill-treating animals.

The honourable member


Finance Minister Bill English has done the honourable thing in removing doubts about his ministerial housing allowance.

He has elected not to take up any housing allowance; has received no housing allowance since July 28 when he paid back the difference between the allowance paid to ministers and other MPs; and has repaid to Ministerial Services all the housing allowance he received since the election.

He also received an opinion from a QC, confirming that changes to his family trust arrangements did not affect his eligibility for the previous ministerial housing allowance.

 He said:

“What I’m announcing today reflects a set of personal decisions I have made about my own situation. It is in no way setting a precedent for others although I make the point here that I believe Parliament does have to think how it can accommodate the families of long-term politicians.

 “At all times my decisions have been driven by my desire to keep my family together and provide them with as much stability as possible. It’s now clear that the system has struggled to deal with my circumstances.

 “This has been an unnecessary distraction. I now want to move on and focus on building our economy and ensuring that New Zealanders have jobs.”

Politics can be a dirty business and Labour were out to get Bill. Regardless of the fact that successive speakers -from Labour and National, have accepted that Dipton is his primary residence as defined by the parliamentary Services – and regardless of what the Auditor General finds, they were going to keep at him.

The perception – and it was only a perception – of wrong doing was a distraction. Bill’s focus, rightly, is on the more important issue of getting the country back on the right economic track. 

This has been expensive, financially and politically, for him. But he’s shown once again that the term honourable member isn’t just a title, it’s a reflection of his behaviour.

That is more than can be said of Jim Anderton who gets a party leader’s allowance though he’s only running a one-man vanity vehicle.

It’s also more than can be said for the Greens, as Kiwkblog  points out:

I look forward to the same level of scrutiny on the Greens renting of houses owned by their superannuation scheme to themselves, to maximise the taxpayer subsidy. They have done exactly what Mallard accused Bill of – using a trust or fund to maximise eligibility. If they owned the properties in their own names, they would only be eligible to claim the interest off any mortgage. get more from parliamentary services by renting flats from their pension fund than they would if they were in their own houses.

Bill has said he’s not setting a precedent but what others do will be measured against his actions. That will be good if it inspires them to act honourably but it will be bad if it makes it puts even more pressure on the family life of MPs.

September 29 in history


On September 29:

1547 Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes  Saavedra was born.

Portrait commonly said to be that painted by Juan Martínez de Jáuregui y Aguilar (c. 1600). Modern scholarship does not believe this portrait, or any other graphic representation of Cervantes, to be authentic.

1758 Horatio Nelson was born.

Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, by Lemuel Francis Abbott

1810 English author Elizabeth Gaskell was born.

Elizabeth Gaskell, in the 1832 miniature by William John Thomson.

1862 the first performance by a professional Opera Company in New Zealand took place.

1907 US singer Gene Autry was born.

1913 US film director Stanley Kramer was born.

1916 John D. (Davison) Rockefeller beccame the first billionaire.

1918: The Hindenburg Line was broken by Allied forces. Bulgaria signed an armistice.

1923 US children’s author Stan Berenstain was born.

1929 The Metropolitan Police Service was formed in London.

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1930 English author Colin Dexter was born.

1935 US musician Jerry Lee Lewis was born.

1936 Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was born.

1943 Polish president Lech Walsea was born.

1956 English athlete Sir Sebastian Coe was born.

1964 the Argentinean comic strip Mafalda , created by Joaquín Salvador Lavado (who used the pen name Quino), was published for the first time.


Sculpture of Mafalda made by Argentine sculptor Pablo Irrgang, installed in front of 371 Chile Street, San Telmo, Buenos Aires, where Quino used to live. Original title: Homenaje a Mafalda.
Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

Animal welfare paramount

28/09/2009 have a very disturbing video of starving calves.

They were on a property owned by Crafar Farms, the country’s biggest dairy farmers.

Owners are not directly responsible for everything which happens on the farm. But they are responsible for ensuring that systems and processes are in place and operating properly.

It appears that in this case they weren’t.

Animal welfare must be the first priority in any livestock operation.

It appears that on this farm it wasn’t.

If owners aren’t able to monitor farms regularly they have to employ other people they can trust to do it.

The bigger the operation the more important it is to do that because no systems are perfect and the best processes are only as good as they people who carry them out.

Gardening advice from experts


The print edition of the NBR has a weekly In Tray column which this week is devoted to gardening advice from experts.

Among them are:

Graham Henry: Rotate your plants. Plants thrive on never knowing exactly where they are and what their place in the garden will be next week. Keep a few on the bench and bring them on when others wilt. Pack down well and maintain good field position. If plants won’t behave themselves, give them 10 minutes in the compost bin and they’ll come right.


Micael (sic) Laws: Get the labelling right on you plants, otherwise confusion ensures and when things come up, you won’t know what you’ve got . . . For best results, I recommend orcids, dalias, dapnes, ydrangeas and ollyocks. Erb gardens are nice too.

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