Computer fails Churchill’s speech


Winston Churchill’s fight on the beaches  speech might have stirred the hearts and minds of the people to whom it was addressed, but it failed to impress a computer marker.

David Wright, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors (CIEA), an umbrella body for exam boards and other organisations, said that Churchill’s speeches to the nation in 1940 had not impressed the computer. It criticised his repetition of the words “upon” and “our” and did not identify “broad, sunlit uplands” as a metaphor.

The computer didn’t think much of the prose of Ernest Hemingway or William Golding either.

The idea that a computer could mark an English essay doesn’t altogether thrill me. But its assessment of Churchill’s speech and the other writers’ work makes me feel much better about the arguments I have with the grammar checker on my PC.

Hat Tip: Society of Authors’ newsletter.

Heart of stone


Two weeks ago large blocks of Oamaru Stone were delivered to Takaro Park.

Day by day they’ve been transformed by artists taking part in the stone carving symposium which is part of the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.


The sculptures are for sale during a silent auction which takes palce this weekend.



Sport talk


Last week I didn’t know the All Whites were playing a test to decide if they got to the World Cup or not.

Nor did I know about the NZ Match racing champs and that Tiger Woods was playing golf in Melbourne.

You’re welcome to educate me on what’s happened in sport since then or will be happening in the coming week.

My attention will be on Victorian sports – the national penny farthing championships tomorrow and the world stone sawing championships on Sunday – all part of Oamaru’s Victorian heritage celebrations.

Places, buildings, people


The programme for Oamaru’s annual Victorian Heritage Celebrations is so full we’re spoiled for choice and I hadn’t planned to attend the annual *Forrester and Lemon Memorial Lecture.

However, the chair of the local branch of the Historic Places Trust which organises the lecture, was at Wednesday’s races and promised much of it.

She was right. Sir Neil Cossons, who was Chairman of English Heritage, the United Kingdom Government’s principal adviser on the historic environment, delivered a fascinating lecture on recycling heritage buildings.

He spoke of the importance of the relationship beween buildings and places if they are to be enjoyed by people.

He also promised a case of champagne if anyone could help them with the challenge of finding a new use for an old building with ceilings only 6 foot 4 inches high.

Among the audience for the lecture were people taking part in the pre-conference tour for the Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference which starts in Dunedin on Monday.

*Forrester and Lemon were the architects repsonsible for most of Oamaru’s beautiful Victorian buildings.

Cavorting with the Victorian domestic goddess


An appointment with the Victorian domestic goddess is one of the sell-out performances at Oamaru’s annual Victorian Heritage celebrations.

Last night we were invited to cavort with her and promised an evening of frivolity and pleasure should we do so.

The cavorting was of a decorous nature although there were some delightful double entendres in the badinage between the goddess and her friends.

We also learned the intricacies of Victorian sporting behaviour, vicariously enjoyed a seaside picnic with culinary dishes to delight any gentleman and experienced social behaviours and amusements in a colonial settlement.

We were given the option of sherry or lemon barley water as we entered. The evening finished with a supper of Victorian delicacies and we were sent home with a Cyclopedia of Valuable Recipes.

This treasure house of useful knowledge for the wants of everyday life includes instructions on how to make smelling salts, Spiced Rose Water for a Casting Bottle and Most Delicate Cucumber Sandwiches.

Inflation is theft


Some things are too important for politicis – monetary policy is one of them.

But Phil Goff has turned his back on 20 years of concensus with his announcement that fighting inflation is no longer the most important priority.

“Our Reserve Bank policy targets are not well designed to produce a stable and competitive exchange rate, nor to keep interest rates as low as possible,” Mr Goff said in a speech to Federated Farmers in Wellington.

The battle against inflation was no longer the most important priority — growth and wealth creation were equally vital, Mr Goff said. . .

He might have remembered that you can’t have real growth and wealth creation with inflation if he’d read Eric Roy’s post on the National Party MP’s new blog:

In the mid eighties . . . I had just purchased an additional block next door.  The budgeted $40K surplus I calculated disappeared to a $90K deficit as interest rates soared to, in my case, 23.5% . . .

Those interest rates were driven in large part by soaring inflation.

Inflation is theft.

It erodes the real value of investment, adds to the cost of doing business and makes exports more expensive. Just look at Zimbawe.

Goff spent nine years in a government which undertook several reviews on monetary policy. He could have changed it then but did nothing, now he’s decided from opposition, where he can’t do anything, that he wants to something.

Not just one thing, but four: he wants a stable and competitive exchange rate; reduced interest rates for businesses and home owners; continued priorities of price stability and low inflation; and to guard against expectations of price rises.

Matt Nolan at the Visible Hand in economics explains the flaws in that wish-list:

So, with goal 1 they want to reduce the flexibility of NZ$ prices, which will lead to higher unemployment and a worse allocation of resources.  Furthermore, they want to keep the dollar low which implies subsidising exporters to the cost of households in the short-term.

With 2 they want to punish savers.

And with 3 and 4 they want to contradict themselves – as by limiting price flexibility and holding the exchange rate and interest rates down they WILL drive an increase in inflation expectations, dump price stability, and remove any chance of a low inflation environment.

 He has related posts here,  here and here.

Offestting Behaviour seconds that.

BK Drinkwater says reads Nolan’s posts and weep for the integrity of the Labour Party, who are leveraging public ignorance of economics to embark on a feckless campaign of populist short-termism.

Kiwiblog says if inflation gets out of control we all get poorer.

Not PC doesn’t want tinkering he wants abolition.

Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson says government spending is the root of the monetary policy problem.

Macdoctor counters some fiscal ignorance.

November 20 in history


On November 20:

1620 – Peregrine White,  was born – first English child born in the Plymouth Colony.


The Pilgrim Hall Museum owns the original Peregrine White cradle and Elder Brewster Chair

1765  Sir Thomas Fremantle, British naval captain, was born.

1820 An 80-ton sperm whale attacked the Essex (a whaling ship from Nantucket, Massachusetts) 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America (Herman Melville‘s 1851 novel Moby-Dick was in part inspired by this story).

Essex photo 03 b.jpg

1889  Edwin Hubble, American astronomer, was born.

1900 – Chester Gould, American comic strip artist, creator of Dick Tracey, was born.

1908 – Alistair Cooke, British-born journalist, was born.

Alistair Cooke, March 18, 1974 interview

1910 Francisco I. Madero issued the Plan de San Luis Potosi, denouncing President Porfirio Díaz, calling for a revolution to overthrow the government of Mexico, effectively starting the Mexican Revolution.

1917 Ukraine was declared a republic.

1925 Robert F. Kennedy, American politician was born.

1942  Joe Biden, 47th Vice President of the United States, was born.

1945 Trials against 24 Nazi war criminals started at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg.

1947 Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey.

1956 – Bo Derek, American actress, was born.

1962 Cuban Missile Crisis ended: In response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ended the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.


1975 Francisco Franco, Caudillo of Spain, died after 36 years in power.

1985 Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released.

1992 A fire broke out in Windsor Castle, badly damaging the castle and causing over £50 million worth of damage.

2008 After critical failures in the US financial system began to build up after mid-September, the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached its lowest level since 1997.

1937 Parachuting Santa, George Sellars, narrowly escaped serious injury when he was able to sway his parachute just in time to avoid crashing through the glass roof of the Winter Gardens during the Farmers’ Christmas parade.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.

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