Word of the day


Tragedy – calamity; serious accident; an event resulting in great misfortune and loss;

From the quake zone


The radio reported  a large earthquake in Christchurch when I was about half an hour away from the city.

There was no mention of the airport, where I was headed. I carried on, seeing nothing unusual until I reached my destination just as people were being evacuated. I turned round and joined the long, slow procession of vehicles heading south, listening with growing concern to National Radio.

I stopped at the Caltex petrol station a few kilometres from the airport to buy water but the power was out and the staff member said they couldn’t sell anything.

Traffic lights were out but drivers were calm and courteous, moving slowly and giving way to others to allow vehicles to keep moving through the intersection.

The BP station near Rolleston was crowded. A woman ahead of me in the queue was shaking and fighting tears. A young man said he’d only got out of Halswell because he had a four wheel drive vehicle.

As I waited for a gap in the traffic to allow me back on the road a bus drove past in the opposite direction, it’s driver clasping a cell phone to his ear and apparently oblivious to the fire engine trying to pass him, siren blaring and lights flashing.

I heeded the request to keep off the phone until I got to Darfield, rang my farmer to report in. He’d been talking to someone on the eighth floor of the Forsyth Barr building in the centre of Christchurch as the quake struck, he heard loud screams then the phone disconnected.

It took several tries and a long wait on hold, to get through to Air New Zealand.

Flights are expected to resume this evening but the only seat they could guarantee me was early tomorrow – the last on the flight. I was going up to Wellington for a meeting but it’s not essential for me to be there. I chose to leave the seat for someone whose need might be more urgent.

I am now heading home, counting my blessings and thinking of the people on Christchurch who may not have homes to go to, the ones who are injured, the ones who’ve been killed.

If there’s a lucky time to have an earthquake it was in the early hours of the morning when the September one struck. Today Christchurch’s luck ran out.

36.5/44 = mature


Political tragics can get their weekly political trivia quiz fix from the Dom Post againt oday but any who required further distraction can test their morals and social responsibility.

I got 36.5 out of 44 which means:

Your score puts you in the mature category of social reasoning and the majority of people will have scores in this range. Thinking here transcends the practicalities of one’s preferences and exchanges to an emphasis upon social feeling, caring and conduct.

You take into account the consequences of actions for other people, whether for benefit or harm, as a consideration in its own right for deciding how one should act towards others. You emphasise relationships, thinking how you might feel if you were on the receiving end. Empathy is important, as well as compassion.

You are likely to expect others to conform to normally expected conduct, reflecting on “common decency” and will think of the chaos caused by laws being broken. You will value, love and respect others, and appreciate some higher values, as well as speaking of the benefits of a clean conscience or pride.

There’s cause for hope if that’s how the majority score.



Only 6/10 in the Dominion Post’s political quiz.

Farmers aren’t creaming it


It’s not difficult to find out the prices farmers receive for their produce. Unless they sell by private sale the price paid for milk, stock and crops is public information.

What those who criticise us of creaming it when prices are higher overlook is that the price is an indication of gross income only and takes no account of the costs of production and other necessary expenditure.

Many also forget that the price of dairy products or meat in the supermarket aren’t a very good indication of the returns to producers.

“The current high milk prices has many thinking that farmers must be creaming it but we’re not,” says Lachlan McKenzie, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“If you look at a litre of milk, the farmer’s share expressed as revenue, is about 300 mils.

“Most dairy farmers, myself included, got less than $0.60 for a litre of milk last season. From these 60 cents, we had to pay all the costs of production including, wages, vets, tax as well as paying the mortgage.

“A small number of dairy farmers are paid more for producing “winter milk”. There are a lot of extra costs running a dairy farm through winter but even they get only a small premium on a per litre equivalent.

“So if someone’s making a mint from milk, I’d suggest looking a lot closer at retail margins.

Fonterra’s decision to freeze the price of milk came as a surprise to farmers. I suspect it’s a PR exercise because the damage to the brand of ever rising prices was deemed to be greater than the cost of keeping it down.

The Visible Hand in Economics sounds a note of caution about this move:

Now if that is what they want to do, I’m sure they have good reason.  However, lets all remember one thing:  if Fonterra decides to sell milk in NZ more cheaply than it does overseas it is taking a litre of milk that would have been more highly valued by a non-New Zealander and giving it to a New Zealander.

 That transfers funds from the co-operative – and the farmers who own it – to domestic consumers. That’s okay if it’s done for commercial reasons but what happens when the freeze comes off?

Supermarkets have followed Fonterra’s lead by announcing they won’t raise prices anymore this year but they have the opportunity to offset the impact of that by increasing their mark up on something else.

This hasn’t stopped calls for price controls which Agriculture Minister David Carter, has sensibly resisted.

David Carter says he will not be advocating the subsidising of dairy products, because there is no reason to artificially establish pricing for any of the country’s export products.

Mr Carter says high international prices for export products are good and the benefits will ultimately flow through to all consumers.

High prices for dairy products is keeping the New Zealand dollar high. If it was lower it would increase the cost of imports including fuel, food and medicine and there’d be complaints about that too.

The problem isn’t the high price of the food we produce it’s low incomes and that won’t be solved by sabotaging the exports which are the key to economic recovery.

Sheep smart, farmers smarter


If you were looking for the animal equivalent of mastermind you probably wouldn’t start with a sheep.

But research by Professor Jenny Morton, a neuroscientist at University of Cambridge, has found ovine intelligence is greater than most people realise.

She said: “They have a reputation for being extremely dim and their flock behaviour backs that up as they are very silly animals when in a group – if there is a hole they will fall into it, if there is something to knock over, then they will knock it over.

“So I didn’t expect them to be so amenable to testing and certainly didn’t expect them to be so smart. In our tests they performed at a level very similar to monkeys and humans in the initial learning tasks.

“When we then changed the rules they still performed as well as monkeys and better than rodents.

“They are quite intelligent animals – they seem to be able to recognise people and even respond when you call their name.”

Anyone who’s had pet lambs wouldn’t argue with that. Rainbow, our longest surviving pet lamb loved people, came when she was called and was walking, baaing evidence that sheep aren’t stupid.

Grant McMaster of Closeburn Station  a guest on The Panel yesterday, pointed out that smart sheep require smarter shepherds:

“Sheep are very smart animals and that’s why farmers are smart because they’ve got to outwit the buggers all the time  . . .  Sheep are very smart like the fellows who run them.”

Anyone for maaastermind?

February 22 in history


1495 King Charles VIII of France entered Naples to claim the city’s throne.

1632 Galileo‘s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems was published.


1732 George Washington, First President of the United States, was born  (d. 1799).

1744 War of the Austrian Succession: The Battle of Toulon started.

Action off toulon 4.jpg

1797 The Last Invasion of Britain started near Fishguard, Wales.

1819 James Russell Lowell, American poet and essayist, was born  (d. 1891).

1819 By the Adams-Onís Treaty, Spain sold Florida to the United States for $US5m.


1847 Mexican-American War: The Battle of Buena Vista – 5,000 American troops drove off 15,000 Mexicans.

Battle of Buena Vista Nebel.jpg

1855 Pennsylvania State University was founded as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania State University seal.svg

1856 The Republican Party opened its first national meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"Republican Party Elephant" logo

1857 Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, English founder of the Scout movement, was born (d. 1941).

Robert Baden-Powell

1862 Jefferson Davis was officially inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia.

1879 Frank Woolworth opened the first of many of 5 and 10-cent Woolworth stores.

1882 The Serbian kingdom was refounded.

1889 Olave Baden-Powell, English founder of the Girl Guides, was born  (d. 1977).

1902 The Kelburn cable car opened.

Kelburn cable car opens

1904 The United Kingdom sold  a meteorological station on the South Orkney Islands to Argentina.


1908  Sir John Mills, English actor, was born (d. 2005).

1915 Germany instituted unrestricted submarine warfare.

1918 Robert Wadlow, American tallest ever-human, was born  (d. 1940).

Robert Wadlow compared to his father, Harold Franklin Wadlow

1922 Britain unilaterally declared the independence of Egypt.

1924 U.S. President Calvin Coolidge was the first President to deliver a radio broadcast from the White House.

1926 Kenneth Williams, English actor, was born  (d. 1988).

1943  Members of White Rose were executed in Nazi Germany.

 Members of the White Rose, Munich 1942. From left: Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst. Courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

1928 Bruce Forsyth, British entertainer, was born.

1944 American aircraft bombard the Dutch towns of Nijmegen, Arnhem, Enschede and Deventer by mistake, resulting in 800 dead in Nijmegen alone.

1948 Communist coup in Czechoslovakia.

1950  Julie Walters, English actress, was born.

1958 Egypt and Syria joined to form the United Arab Republic.

1959 Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500.


1962  Steve Irwin, Australian herpetologist, was born (d. 2006).

197 An  Irish Republican Army car bomb was detonated at Aldershot barracks, killing seven and injuring nineteen others.

1974 Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit conference started in Lahore.

1979 Independence of Saint Lucia from the United Kingdom.

1980 Miracle on Ice: the United States hockey team defeated the Soviet Union hockey team 4-3, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history.


1983 The Broadway flop Moose Murders opened and closed on the same night at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.


1986 Start of the People Power Revolution in the Philippines.


1994 Aldrich Ames and his wife Maria del Rosario Casas Dupuy, were charged by the United States Department of Justice with spying for the Soviet Union.

1995 The Corona reconnaissance satellite program, was declassified.


1997 Scottish scientists announced that an adult sheep named Dolly had been successfully cloned.


2002 Angolan political and rebel leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in a military ambush.


2006 At least six men staged Britain’s biggest robbery ever, stealing £53m (about $92.5 million or 78€ million) from a Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

 Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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