Word of the day


Slacktivist – An activist who seeks projects and causes that require the least amount of effort; one who supports causes and people, without doing anything difficult or inconvenient;  one who undertakes  “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel good.

Hat Tip: Are you a slacktivist? at Monkey With Typewriter.

Distinguishing rogues


The line only one poll counts is right but it doesn’t mean that those interested in politics don’t take notice of opinion polls between elections.

However, there are reliable polls and there are rogue ones and Kiwiblog has a very goodguide on how to distinguish between them.

It’s something the Sunday Star Times ought to have applied when reporting on the latest Horizon poll and to be kept in mind by anyone reading:

Two-thirds of voters polled last month by Horizon Research believe National will be able to govern after the election, expected to be held in November.

But when asked to reveal their personal voting intentions, the result makes the election too close to call. National is by far the single most popular party, with 40.4% of the 1718 people polled saying they will give it their party vote, compared to just 28.3% for Labour. But the poll also predicts 8.9% for both the Greens and New Zealand First, 2% for Act, 1.7% for the Maori Party, and 1.2% for United Future.

When those parties are taken into account, a Labour-Greens-New Zealand First alliance (46.1%) would be a whisker ahead of a National-Act-Maori Party-United Future coalition (45.3%).

In every other poll in the past year National is around, and often above 50%, Labour rarely gets above 33% and New Zealand First, thankfully is safely under 5%.

It isn’t impossible, but highly unlikely, that National will continue to keep enough support to govern alone as the election approaches. It’s not impossible that Labour could lead the next government and that NZ First would be part of it.  

But as Whowouddathort shows this poll is so inconsistent with others it can’t be taken seriously.

Art in the Garden


Take more than 40 visual and performing artists.

Place gently in seven glorious gardens around Alexandra and Clyde.

Cover with blue sky, warm with sunshine tempered by a light breeze and serve to the public over two days  for a very modest $15.

This is Art in the Garden, Alexandra Art Society’s annual fundraiser and it’s a wonderful day out.

Two friends and I spent several hours yesterday wandering round the gardens which varied from a small, newly established town plot to expansive rural oases*  contrasting, but in harmony, with the dry Central Otago landscape.

Art varied from small ceramic pieces to large Oamaru stone sculptures. Some artists worked with wood, other with metal, there were photographers and painters, several working as we wandered.

Yesterday was the opening day of the two day event and tickets give the right to return on the second day. The distance stops me doing that but I’ve got it in my diary for next year.

*Is it oases, or is the plural oasis or oasises?

Rebel With A Cause


If you read only one book this year, make it Rebel With A Cause by Ray Avery.

If many of the anecdotes and incidents described in this autobiography were in a work of fiction they’d be dismissed as too unrealistic.

That an abandoned and abused child could go on to achieve so much in science, business, philanthropy and life is almost unbelievable but Sir Ray did. For doing so earned the award of New Zealander of the Year, the Sir Peter Blake Medal for Leadership and was knighted in the New Year Honours.

Awful as his early life was, he not only writes without bitterness or recriminations but also manages to show how the lemons thrown at him enabled him to make lemonade.

In writing about his part in the development of Douglas Pharmaceuticals, he reinforces his guiding pinciple of doing everything to the highest possible standard. He applied that principle when he went on to work for the Fred Hollows Foundation in Eritrea and Nepal, working with local people to help them help themselves.

In showing how to do things well in third world countries he also exposes the wasteful, incompetent and even dangerous practices of some supposedly reputable aid agencies which do more harm than good, sometimes killing more people than they save.

It is an inspirational book which shows you can overcome awful circumstances and not just survive but thrive; that violence doesn’t have to begat violence and that you can choose to reply to evil with goodness.

Rebel With A Cause by Ray Avery, published by Random House. $39.99.

For more on Ray Avery:

An interview with Ray Avery by Renee Liang at the Big Idea

Medicine Mondiale

Poor Fortune by Lauren Bartlett in Idealog

Q&A interview by Paul Holmes

The Amazing Adventures of Mr Ray

The Rebel Who Found His Cause by DIana Witchel in The Listener


Janaury 9 in history


On January 9:

1349 The Jewish population of Basel, Switzerland, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, was rounded up and incinerated.

1431 Judges’ investigations for the trial of Joan of Arc began in Rouen, France, the seat of the English occupation government.

 Joan interrogated in her prison cell by Cardinal Winchester. By Hippolyte Delaroche.

1768  Philip Astley staged the first modern circus in London.

1773 – Cassandra Austen, English watercolorist and sister of Jane Austen, was born (d. 1845).

1793  Jean-Pierre Blanchard became the first person to fly in a balloon in the United States.

1799 British Prime Minister William Pitt introduced income tax to raise funds for the war against Napoleon.

1806 – Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson received a state funeral and was interred in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Nelson’s coffin in the crossing of St Paul’s during the funeral service, with the dome hung with captured French and Spanish flags.

1816 Sir Humphry Davy tested the Davy lamp for miners at Hebburn Colliery.

1822  Portuguese prince Pedro I of Brazil decided to stay in Brazil against the orders of the Portuguese king João VI, starting the Brazilian independence process.

1839 The French Academy of Sciences announced the Daguerreotype photography process.

1854 Jennie Jerome, American society beauty and mother of Winston Churchill, was born (d. 1921).

1859 Carrie Chapman Catt, American suffragist leader, was born  (d. 1947).

1861  The “Star of the West” incident near Charleston, South Carolina – considered by some historians to be the “First Shots of the American Civil War”.

 Steamship Star of the West approaching Fort Sumter. Illustration from Frank Leslie’s Weekly

1878  Umberto I became King of Italy.

1880 – The Great Gale of 1880 devastated parts of Oregon and Washington with high wind and heavy snow.

1894 New England Telephone and Telegraph installed the first battery-operated telephone switchboard in Lexington, Massachusetts.

1896 Warwick Braithwaite, New Zealand-born British conductor, was born (d. 1971).

1898  Gracie Fields, English music hall performer, was born  (d. 1979).

1902 Saint Josemaría Escrivá, Spanish Catholic priest and founder of Opus Dei, was born (d. 1975) .

1903  Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, son of the poet Alfred Tennyson, became the second Governor-General of Australia.

1905 According to the Julian Calendar which was used at the time, Russian workers staged a march on the Winter Palace that ended in the massacre by Tsarist troops known as Bloody Sunday, setting off the Russian Revolution of 1905.

1908  Simone de Beauvoir, French author, was born.

1913  Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States, was born  (d. 1994).

1916  The Battle of Gallipoli concluded with an Ottoman Empire victory when the last Allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula.

1916 Peter Twinn, English World War II code-breaker, was born (d. 2004) .

1918 Battle of Bear Valley: The last battle of the American Indian Wars.

 Yaqui people, c1910
1920 Clive Dunn, British actor, was born.
Clive Dunn-1973.png

1923 Katherine Mansfield died.

Death of Katherine Mansfield

 1928  Judith Krantz, American author, was born.

1933 Wilbur Smith, Zambian-British novelist, was born.

1939 Susannah York, British actress, was born.

1941 Joan Baez, American singer and activist, was born.

1942 Lee Kun-hee, Korean industrialist, chairman of Samsung, was born.

1944  Jimmy Page, British musician and producer (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1948 Bill Cowsill, American singer (The Cowsills), was born (d. 2006).

1951  Crystal Gayle, American singer, was born.

1951 – The United Nations headquarters officially opened in New York City.

1953 Morris Gleitzman, British-Australian children’s author, was born.

1978 – AJ McLean, American singer (Backstreet Boys), was born.

1980 Sergio García, Spanish golfer, was born.

SergioGarciaTPCChampion2008 1.jpg

2005  Rawhi Fattouh succeeded  Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization . 

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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