Cutting to the quick


Good journalists are supposed to ask incisive questions, some pride themselves on putting in the knife in a way which leaves the interviewee lost for words.

But today it was the Prime Minister who cut to the quick, and journalists who were stunned into silence.

He’d been asked if he’d send his children to a childcare centre where 80% or all of the staff were fully trained.

“I think if I sent my 15-year-old or 17-year-old to early childhood at the moment they’d have a meltdown,” he quipped.

But what if his wife Bronagh had another?

“I’d be extremely worried because I’ve had a vasectomy.”

In the face of the stunned hacks, he said; “It’s probably too much information for the purposes of a press conference but anyway.”

And while the reporters got themselves together: “Boy, that’s slowed things down. Any other questions?”

A Radio New Zealand reporter had sufficiently recovered by this stage to ask: “Did it hurt?”

“Not overly, actually,” Key replied.

TVNZ then wanted to know if it was a budget cut.

“All I can say is it’s been highly successful but anyway we won’t get into that either.

“Any other questions or are we done for the day?”

There was another, about deep sea digging, and Key said he was happy to dig into a different issue.

All very amusing, but is it news?

If I Had A Hammer


Happy birthday Peter Yarrow – 72 today.

Pokarekare Ana


New Zeaalnd Music Month concludes with Pokarekare Ana sung by Haley Westernra.

We may not always be word perfect, but it’s the song almost every New Zealander can sing.

Monday’s quiz


1. What is an udometer?

2. What do the following coffee shop terms mean:  brevé, granita and lungo?

3. How many monarchs have come from the House of Windsor?

4. Which book won the 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Award?

5. Who said: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”?

Rural party would make matters worse for rural people


NZ Farmers Weekly reports that opposition to the ETS is fuelling discussions on the formation of a rural party.

It’s only talk and I hope it stops there because it would do more harm than good.

Rural people are not only a minority, we’re diverse. The only thing which unites us is geography – we don’t live in towns or cities – and that isn’t enough on which to base a viable political party.

The Outdoor Recreation Party should serve as a warning.

In spite of the hundreds of thousands of people who enjoy the great outdoors it got nowhere at its first election. It then merged with United Future which went backwards at the next election.

I understand the opposition to the ETS and until recently I might have supported it. But I’ve accepted the fact that it is now law which will come into effect on July 1.

A show of hands at the National Party’s Northern convention yesterday suggests that is the majority view. A discussion on the issue, which showed strong opposition, concluded with a request for a show of hands on whether the ETS should be delayed. I reckoned fewer than a third of the delegates put their hands up for a delay and Audrey Young thinks it was only 20%.

I suspect that 20% was more rural than urban but that’s not grounds for trying to form a rural party.

It wouldn’t be difficult to muster the 500 people needed to form a party, they might even get a few candidates willing to go to the expense and trouble of standing for parliament. If they did they are more likely to take votes from National than any other party and what would that achieve?

At best a weaker National led government. At worst a Labour led one which would include a strong Green element. Both those parties’  plans for the ETS are more radical and expensive than National’s and their other policies are a lot less rural-friendly too.

Those opposing the implementation of the ETS are making a lot of noise but they don’t have the numbers and strong as the anti-ETS is it’s not enough to make a foundation on which to build a viable political party which would be able to make a positive difference to rural people.

Rorts have risks


He had an accident and couldn’t work for several weeks.

When ACC wouldn’t pay him as much as he thought he should be getting he complained to his MP.

The MP asked some questions. The answers showed the couple had arranged their affairs so their children could claim full student allowances.

Their earnings went into a company and both the husband and wife were paid small taxable salaries.

The MP explained the rules. ACC payments are based on your wages or salary. If you arrange things so you don’t appear to earn much then that’s what ACC will base its payment on when you make a claim.

May 31


On May 31:

1279 BC – Rameses II (The Great) (19th dynasty) became pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.

Ramesses II: one of four external seated statues at Abu Simbel

526  A an earthquke in Antioch, Turkey, killed 250,000.

1223 Mongol invasion of the Cumans: Battle of the Kalka River – Mongol armies of Genghis Khan led by Subutai defeated Kievan Rus and Cumans.


1578  Martin Frobisher sailed from Harwich,  to Frobisher Bay, Canada, eventually to mine fool’s gold, used to pave streets in London.

1669   Samuel Pepys recorded the last event in his diary.


1678  The Godiva procession through Coventry began.


1759  The Province of Pennsylvania banned all theatre productions.

1775  American Revolution: The Mecklenburg Resolutions adopted in the Province of North Carolina.

1790 Alferez Manuel Quimper explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

File:Manuel Quimper.jpg

1790 – The United States enacted its first copyright statute, the Copyright Act of 1790.

1813  Lawson, Blaxland and Wentworth, reached Mount Blaxland, effectively marking the end of a route across the Blue Mountains.


1819 Walt Whitman, American poet, was born (d. 1892).


1859  The clock tower at the Houses of Parliament, which houses Big Ben, started keeping time.


1862  American Civil War Peninsula Campaign: Battle of Seven Pines or (Battle of Fair Oaks) – Confederate forces under Joseph E. Johnston & G. W. Smith engaged Union forces under George B. McClellan outside Richmond, Virginia.

Battle of Fair Oaks Franklin's corps retreating.jpg

1864 American Civil War Overland Campaign: Battle of Cold Harbor – The Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee engaged the Army of the Potomac under Ulysses S. Grant & George G. Meade.

Battle of Cold Harbor.png

1866  In the Fenian Invasion of Canada, John O’Neill led 850 Fenian raiders across the Niagara Riveras part of an effort to  free Ireland from the English.

Battle of Ridgeway.jpg

1872 Heath Robinson, English cartoonist, was born (d. 1944).


1884 Arrival at Plymouth of Tawhiao,  Maori king, to claim protection of Queen Victoria.


1889Johnstown Flood: Over 2,200 people died after a dam break sent a 60-foot (18-meter) wall of water over the town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Debris litters and completely covers the ground above a Pennsylvania Railroad bridge. A small bridge and several mills and smokestacks are viewable in the distance.

1898 Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, American clergyman, was born (d. 1993).


1902 The Treaty of Vereeniging ended the second Boer War war and ensured British control of South Africa.

1910 Creation of the Union of South Africa.

1911  The ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic was launched.

RMS Titanic 3.jpg

1916  World War I: Battle of Jutland – The British Grand Fleet under the command of Sir John Jellicoe & Sir David Beatty engaged the Kaiserliche Marine under the command of Reinhard Scheer & Franz von Hipper in the largest naval battle of the war, which proved indecisive.


1921  Tulsa Race Riot: A civil unrest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the official death toll was 39, but recent investigations suggest the actual toll was much higher.

1923 Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, was born (d. 2005).

1924  The Soviet Union signed an agreement with the Peking government, referring to Outer Mongolia as an “integral part of the Republic of China”, whose “sovereignty” therein the Soviet Union promised to respect.

1927  The last Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line after a production run of 15,007,003 vehicles.


1930 Clint Eastwood, American film director and actor, was born.


1935  A 7.7 Mw earthquake destroyed Quetta, Pakistan,: 40,000 dead.


1935 Jim Bolger, 35th Prime Minister of New Zealand, was born.


1938 Peter Yarrow, American folk singer (Peter, Paul and Mary), was born.


1939 Terry Waite, British humanitarian, was born.


1941  A Luftwaffe air raid in Dublin claimed 38 lives.

1942 World War II: Imperial Japanese Navy midget submarines began a series of attacks on Sydney.

Ko-hyoteki Sydney.jpg

1943  Zoot Suit Riots began.

1961 Republic of South Africa created.


1962 The West Indies Federation dissolved.

1962  Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel.


1965 Brooke Shields, American actress and supermodel, was born.


1967 Phil Keoghan, New Zealand-born US televison personality, was born.

1970  The Ancash earthquake caused a landslide that buried the town of Yungay, Peru; more than 47,000 people were killed.

1970 Ancash earthquake is located in Peru


1971  In accordance with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1968, observation of Memorial Day occurs on the last Monday in May for the first time, rather than on the traditional Memorial Day of May 30.

1973  The United States Senate voted to cut off funding for the bombing of Khmer Rouge targets within Cambodia, hastening the end of the Cambodian Civil War.

1975 Mona Blades, an 18 year-old htich hiker disappeared, after last being seen in an orange Datsun.

Mona Blades vanishes

1977  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System completed.

Trans alaska international.jpg

1981  Burning of Jaffna library, Sri Lanka.

1985 Forty-one tornadoes hit Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, leaving 76 dead.

Sourced from NZ History Online & WIkipedia

Dame Pat Evison


Dame Pat Evison died today.

Arts and Culture Minister Chris Finlayson paid tribute to her:

Dame Pat Evison was one of our most well-known and well-loved actresses for her television roles in groundbreaking series, but she was also a pioneer in New Zealand theatre,” Mr Finlayson said. “She was one of the first New Zealand theatre students to receive a scholarship to study overseas, at the Old Vic Theatre School in London.”

“She was also an important part of television history in this country, acting in Pukemanu, the first continuing drama series ever produced in New Zealand.

Dame Pat acted in a number of early Downstage Theatre productionsn in Wellington. Her performance in the Samuel Beckett play Happy Days was described by director Bruce Mason as the “finest event in New Zealand Theatre”.

I never saw Dame Pat acting in live theatre but Pukemanu was the first local drama I remember and it was a must-see for me.

An interview with Dame Pat was featured on the Arts on Sunday.

The only youTube clip I could find of her was this:

What’s up with RSS feeds?


Using Bloglines or something similar is the easiest way to keep up with several blogs and other websites which update regularly without having to check them individually.

But I’ve noticed recently that Bloglines doesn’t work for some blogs, eg Kiwiblog and Macdoctor, although they update regularly in my side bar.

Then there are others like Beattie’s Book Blog which just shows array  in the side bar but updates normally with Bloglines.

Is it something I’m doing – or not doing – or is it a universal problem?

While on the subject of RSS feeds, some blogs display only an introductory paragraph.

I suspect it’s to draw more visitors to their blog because you have to visit it to read the whole post. But unless I’ve got lots of time to spare or the intro is really, really fascinating I usually pass right on to the next blog and forget about them.

If I Only Had Time


The penultimate dayof NZ Music MOnth – John Rowles sings If  I Only Had Time:

Was it cleaner’s revenge?


It wasn’t cold by South Island standards but the Auckland hotel room was a little cooler than I find comfortable.

It had what we call a heat pump on the Mainland, but I suspect it’s used more often as an air conditioner up here and regardless of which setting I tried, all I could get was cold air.

I had a restless night because I wasn’t quite warm enough, got up at 6.30 without putting brain in gear, turned on the shower and got drenched with cold water.

It’s the fault of the shower designer that the rose is on the wall directly opposite the door. I was staying only one night so couldn’t have done anything to upset the cleaner the day before. But I wonder if someone else had and that’s why s/he had angled the shower rose so the water gushed straight out rather than down?

Much more than management


“Being in government doesn’t just mean managing. It means changing and putting right things we identify as being wrong.”

Commerce and Justice Minister, Simon Power.

Bad back or laid back?


Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was asked about the results of investigations into beneficiaries receiving well above the average wage.

WINZ had investigated more than 300 of these cases and she said they found some were people who were fostering extremely vulnerable and demanding children, and doing it well,  and it would have cost the state far more to care for the children any other way.

However, there were some whose needs and contributions were less obvious.

One of these was a couple who had been beneficiaries  for 15 years. He had a bad back but in that time they’d also had 10 children.

“Bad back or laid back?” the minister asked?

Under promise, over deliver


The problem of drought and the need for irrigation in North Otago was impressed upon John Key when he was in Oamaru for the National Party’s Mainland conference last weekend.

In the week since then we’ve had about half our average annual rainfall.

 I thanked him, with tongue in cheek, for that at the Northern Region’s convention cocktail party last night and added we’d got far more than we’d asked for. 

 He grinned and said, “It’s good politics to under promise and over deliver.”

In drought prone regions we never say we’ve had too much rain and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but I did say next time he over delivered it needn’t be quite so generously.

May 30 in history


On May 30:

70 Siege of Jerusalem: Titus and his Roman legions breached the Second Wall of Jerusalem. The Jewish defenders retreated to the First Wall. The Romans built a circumvallation, all trees within fifteen kilometres were cut down.

Arch of Titus Menorah.png

1416 The Council of Constance, called by the Emperor Sigismund, a supporter of Antipope John XXIII, burned Jerome of Prague following a trial for heresy.


1431  Hundred Years’ War: 19-year-old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by an English-dominated tribunal. Because of this the Catholic Church remember this day as the celebration of Saint Joan of Arc.

1434  Hussite Wars (Bohemian Wars): Battle of Lipany – effectively ending the war, Utraquist forces led by Diviš Bořek of Miletínek defeated and almost annihilated Taborite forces led by Prokop the Great.


1536  Henry VIII of England married Jane Seymour, a lady-in-waiting to his first two wives.

1539  Hernando de Soto lands at Tampa Bay, Florida,  with 600 soldiers with the goal of finding gold.


1574  Henry III becomes King of France.

1588 The last ship of the Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon heading for the English Channel.


1635  Thirty Years’ War: the Peace of Prague (1635) was signed.

1642  From this date all honours granted by Charles I were retrospectively annulled by Parliament.

1757 Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1844).


1806 Andrew Jackson killed Charles Dickinson in a duel after Dickinson had accused Jackson’s wife of bigamy.

1814 Napoleonic Wars: War of the Sixth Coalition – the Treaty of Paris (1814) was signed returning French borders to their 1792 extent. 

1832  The Rideau Canal in eastern Ontario opened.

Locks in summer.

1842  John Francis attempted to murder Queen Victoria as she drove down Constitution Hill with Prince Albert.

1846 Peter Carl Fabergé, Russian goldsmith and jeweller, was born (d. 1920).


1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law establishing the US territories of Nebraska and Kansas.

1859 Westminster’s Big Ben rang for the first time in London.

1868  Decoration Day (the predecessor of the modern “Memorial Day) was observed in the United States for the first time (By “Commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic” John A. Logan‘s proclamation on May 5).

1871  The Paris Commune fell.


1876  Ottoman sultan Abd-ul-Aziz was deposed and succeeded by his nephew Murat V.

1879 New York City’s Gilmores Garden was renamed Madison Square Garden by William Henry Vanderbilt and opened to the public at 26th Street and Madison Avenue.

1883  A rumour that the Brooklyn Bridge was going to collapse causes a stampede that crushes twelve people.

1911  At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first Indianapolis 500 ended with Ray Harroun in his Marmon Wasp becoming the first winner of the 500-mile auto race.


1913  First Balkan War: the Treaty of London, 1913 is signed ending the war. Albania becomes an independent nation.

1914  The new and then largest Cunard ocean liner RMS Aquitania, 45,647 tons, set sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City.

Aquitania 06.jpg

1815  The East Indiaman ship Arniston was wrecked during a storm at Waenhuiskrans, the loss of 372 lives.


1917  Alexander I became king of Greece.

1922  In Washington, D.C. the Lincoln Memorial was dedicated.


1941  World War II: Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas climb on the Athenian Acropolis, tear down the Nazi swastika and replace it with the Greek flag.


1942  World War II: 1000 British bombers launched a 90-minute attack on Cologne, Germany.


1948  A dike along the flooding Columbia River broke, obliterating Vanport, Oregon within minutes. Fifteen people die and tens of thousands are left homeless.

1955 Topper Headon, British musician (The Clash), was born.

1958  Memorial Day: the remains of two unidentified American servicemen, killed in action during World War II and the Korean War respectively, were buried at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.


1959  The Auckland Harbour Bridge, crossing the Waitemata Harbour was officially opened by Governor-General Lord Cobham.

Auckland harbour bridge opened

1961  Long time Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo was assassinated in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Head and shoulders of a man with a small moustache wearing a military uniform with many medals on his chest. He is looking into the camera, smiling slightly.

1962 Kevin Eastman, American comic book creator (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), was born.

1963  A protest against pro-Catholic discrimination during the Buddhist crisis was held outside South Vietnam’s National Assembly, the first open demonstration during the eight-year rule of Ngo Dinh Diem.


1966 Former Congolese Prime Minister Evariste Kimba and several other politicians are publicly executed in Kinshasa on the orders of President Joseph Mobutu.

1967 Daredevil Evel Knievel jumped his motorcycle over 16 cars lined up in a row.


1967  The Nigerian Eastern Region declared independence as the Republic of Biafra, sparking a civil war.

1971 Mariner 9 was launched to map 70% of the surface, and to study temporal changes in the atmosphere and surface, of Mars.


1972 The Angry Brigade went on trial over a series of 25 bombings throughout Britain.


1972  In Tel Aviv members of the Japanese Red Army carried out the Lod Airport Massacre, killing 24 people and injuring 78 others.

1989  Tiananmen Square protests of 1989: the 33-foot high “Goddess of Democracy” statue was unveiled in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators.


1998  A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit northern Afghanistan, killing up to 5,000.

Sourced from NZ History Online & WIkipedia

A little bird told me . . .


A pigeon has been detained on suspicion of being a spy

It gives a whole new meaning to the expression a little bird told me.

How to make a baby in seven easy steps


Who’d have thought it would be so simple?

Would you pay $4,500 for a TV?


Four and a half thousand dollars for a television seems very expensive, but Statistics NZ looked back at prices to mark the 50th anniversary of television and found that’s the inflation adjusted figure from the 60s:

In February 1966, the average price of the 23-inch black and white television ‘consolette’ tracked in the CPI was about £131 pounds. Allowing for general inflation, that’s about $4,500 in today’s terms. . .

. . . Colour television broadcasts began in 1973, not long before the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. In 1975, colour television sets were added to the CPI basket. In February 1975, black and white television sets cost about $350, and the 26-inch colour television set tracked in the CPI averaged about $840. In today’s terms, that’s equivalent to about $7,500, so buying a colour television set in 1975 would have been quite a stretch for many households. . .

. . .  In recent years, New Zealanders have been buying about 300,000 new television sets each year. In 2009, about three in four of these were LCD television sets.

Back in 2004, LCD television sets cost about $3,500 on average. In 2009, the average price was about $1,400 and they tended to have bigger screens and be of better quality, with higher picture resolutions and contrast ratios.

I can remember going to town on Friday night as a child and stopping to gaze at a television set playing in a shop window.

My family didn’t get a TV until I was at high school in the 1970s. My parents kept that original black and white set until my brother gave them a colour one more than a decade later.

Down The Hall On Saturday Night


Day 28 of New Zealand Music Month – since it’s Saturday, and inspired by Inquiring Mind who often goes Down The Hall on Saturday Night.

This version’s by Peter Cape:

To go or not to go . . .


. . .  and if I went, how? was the question which occupied me on Wednesday.

I’d booked a flight from Christchurch for Thursday and the roads north were closed by flooding but State Highway 1 to the south had reopened.

Did I take the gamble and wait, or rebook to fly from Dunedin and get there while I could?

The weather forecast warned of more rain and a strong probability of snow.

I consulted Rural Transport. One of their stock trucks took more than an hour to get from the outskirts of Oamaru to Morven, which would normally take about half that time, and had had water half way up its wheels.

That convinced me to head south while I could. There were a few fords between home and the main road, but they weren’t very deep and SH 1 was clear.

I’d hoped for good views of the flooding as we flew over North Otago but it was covered in cloud.

Reports from home tell me it’s still raining and there was an inch of snow in the high country. But there’s been no stock losses and  fences, buildings, and tracks have survived unscathed.

Temperatures have plummeted though so I’ll make the most of my weekend in Waitangi where I’m attending the National Party’s Northern convention where I think at least two of my layers of merino will be redundant.

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