Word of the day


Vafrous – crafty, cunning, sly.

Of remembering and mothering


Jim Mora and I started our Critical Mass discussion with a look at the lost art of total recall in which The Guardian’s science editor Robin McKie discusses techniques for improving your memory from Joshua Foer’s book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

We also looked at Just had a baby? Welcome to the 1950s. Rebecca Asher discusses modern motherhood, the equality illusion.

She makes the point that being the primary caregiver is hard and most of the work still falls on mothers.

She is right.

But after reading Private Secret Diary in which Alex Marsh,* writes about being the at-home parent for his children, I concluded that the primary parenting role is no easier when it’s the father who does it.

* Alex has published a book Sex, Bowls & Rock & Roll on giving up paid work to look after his children and swapping music for bowls.

I bought it on the recommendation of Quote Unquote, have just started reading it and am thoroughly enjoying it.



7/10 in this week’s NZ History Online quiz.

Rembrandt’s Late Self Portraits


Rembrandt’s Late Self Portraits by Elizabeth Jennings was featured as last week’s Tuesday poem.

(Yes, I do mean last week, life got in the way of my good intention to post this earlier).

Among others linked in the sidebar were:

Yellow by Mary McCallum.

Clouds Caught on Fence Posts by Clarie Gaskin.

A Series of Titles for Books I Might Write by Saradha Koirala.

Unions campaign against job opportunities


Unions have launched a campaign against job opportunities:

A union campaign has been launched opposing the extension of the 90-day trial period for new workers to all employers.

The trial period previously applied to businesses with fewer than 20 employees and the extension is among changes to the Employment Relations Act which takes effect on 1 April.

The amended act also requires unions to get permission from employers before entering workplaces and allow employers to ask workers to provide a medical certificate for a single day off sick.

In addition, employees will have the right to cash in their fourth week of holiday entitlement.

The 90-day trial period which has been available for smaller businesses hasn’t resulted in  mass sackings and it won’t when it is extended to all employers.

Recruitment and training are time consuming and expensive processes, no employer wants to go through it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

A trial period means it is possible to terminate employment without penalty if an employee isn’t up to the job or doesn’t fit in with the existing workforce.

This is not only better for employers, it’s better for existing employees whose jobs could be made more difficult or unpleasant by a workmate who doesn’t have the ability or attitude to do the job properly.

Three weeks holiday plus 11 statutory days off is more than enough for some people who might prefer the extra week’s pay instead. But the important point is that it is the workers’ choice.

The campaign slogan is  things just got tougher. They’ve got easier for employers and most employees. The only ones who will find it tougher are difficult employees and possibly unions which won’t find it quite so easy to wander in and out of workplaces.

Reports of demise premature


When even supporters are criticising a leader it ought to be a safe bet that he’s about to be toppled.

But it appears reports of Phil Goff’s political demise were premature.

A well informed source tells me one of those tipped to replace him, David Parker, spent the weekend in the south. It is possible to plot by phone and email and it could be he was standing back to let others do the work.

But it is more likely that the lack of an obvious successor who could unite caucus and the danger of a leadership change this close to the election, are holding the knife-wielders back.

It’s all very well saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend when you’re fighting, but once the common enemy is dispatched the friendship will fail without something, or someone, strong to keep them together.

When Labour’s leader and president don’t appear to be communicating well and caucus is divided into factions it would take a strong and widely popular person to make a positive difference to the party’s electoral appeal.

There doesn’t appear to be anyone who could do that for Labour, yet.

No viable alternative isn’t a vote of confidence in Goff but it will give him a stay of execution for now.

March 29 in history


On March 29:

1461 Battle of Towton – Edward of York defeated Queen Margaret to become King Edward IV of England.

Roses-York victory.svg

1549 Salvador da Bahia, the first capital of Brazil, was founded.

1632 Treaty of Saint-Germain was signed, returning Quebec to French control after the English had seized it in 1629.

1638 Swedish colonists established the first settlement in Delaware, naming it New Sweden.

1790 John Tyler, 10th President of the United States, was born  (d. 1862).

1792 King Gustav III of Sweden died after being shot in the back at a midnight masquerade ball 13 days earlier.

1799 New York passed a law aimed at gradually abolishing slavery in the state.

1799 Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1869).

1806 Construction was authorised of the Great National Pike, better known as the Cumberland Road, the first United States federal highway.


1809 King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden abdicated after a coup d’état. 


1809 At the Diet of Porvoo, Finland’s four Estates pledged allegiance to Alexander I of Russia, commencing the secession of the Grand Duchy of Finland from Sweden.


1831 Great Bosnian uprising: Bosniak rebel against Turkey.

1847 Mexican-American War: United States forces led by General Winfield Scott took Veracruz after a siege.

Battle of Veracruz.jpg

1849 The United Kingdom annexed the Punjab.

1857 Sepoy Mangal Pandey of the 34th Regiment, Bengal Native Infantry revolted against the British rule in India and inspired a long-drawn War of Independence of 1857 also known as the Sepoy Mutiny.

Mangal pandey gimp.jpg

1865 American Civil War: The Battle of Appomattox Court House began.


1867 Queen Victoria gave Royal Assent to the British North America Act which established the Dominion of Canada on July 1.

1870 Pavlos Melas, Greek officer who organized and participated in the Greek Struggle for Macedonia, was born  (d. 1904).

Pavlos Melas.jpg

1871 The Royal Albert Hall was opened by Queen Victoria.


1879 Anglo-Zulu War: Battle of Kambula: British forces defeated 20,000 Zulus.

Défense de Rorke's Drift.jpg

1882 The Knights of Columbus were established.

1886 Dr John Pemberton brewed the first batch of Coca-Cola in a backyard in Atlanta, Georgia.

1900 John McEwen, eighteenth Prime Minister of Australia, was born  (d. 1980).

1902 William Walton, English composer, was born  (d. 1983).

1911 The M1911 .45 ACP pistol became the official U.S. Army side arm.

Mid-1945 produced M1911A1 U.S. Army semi-automatic pistol by Remington Rand. This one was re-built by Anniston Army Depot, October 1972, and carries the ANAD 1072 stamp. The cartridges shown are the .45 ACP (left) and 7.65 mm Browning/.32 ACP (right).

1916 Eugene McCarthy, American politician, was born (d. 2005).

1930 Heinrich Brüning was appointed German Reichskanzler.

1936 In Germany, Adolf Hitler received 99% of the votes in a referendum to ratify Germany’s illegal reoccupation of the Rhineland, receiving 44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters.

1941 World War II: British Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy forces defeated those of the Italian Regia Marina off the Peloponnesus coast of Greece in the Battle of Cape Matapan.

1942 Nazi sabotage hoax – career criminal Sydney Ross met the minister of national service, Robert Semple, in Wellington and claimed he had been approached by a German agent to join a sabotage cell and that Nazi agents had landed by submarine and were living at Ngongotaha, Rotorua. Ross was taken to see Prime Minister Peter Fraser, who referred the matter to Major Kenneth Folkes, a British intelligence officer brought to New Zealand to set up the Security Intelligence Bureau.

1942 The Bombing of Lübeck  was the first major success for the RAF Bomber Command against Germany and a German city.


1943 Eric Idle, English actor, writer, and composer, was born.

1943 Sir John Major, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born.

Head and shoulders of man in suit with grey hair in side parting, wearing large glasses with brown frame.

1943 Vangelis, Greek musician and composer, was born .

1945  Last day of V-1 flying bomb attacks on England.


1957 The New York, Ontario and Western Railway made its final run.

"NYOW diesel locomotive 104" 

1961 The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to vote in presidential elections.


1963 Elle Macpherson, Australian model, was born.

1968 Lucy Lawless, New Zealand actress and singer, was born.


1971 – A Los Angeles, California jury recommended the death penalty for Charles Manson and three female followers.

1973 Vietnam War: The last United States combat soldiers left South Vietnam.

1974 NASA’s Mariner 10 became the first spaceprobe to fly by Mercury.


1982 The Telegu Desam Party (India’s regional political party) was established by N. T. Rama Rao.


1982 – The Canada Act 1982 (U.K.) received the Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth II, setting the stage for the Queen of Canada to proclaim the Constitution Act, 1982.

1987 WrestleMania III set a world indoor attendance record at the Pontiac Silverdome with 93,173 fans.

1993 Catherine Callbeck became premier of Prince Edward Island and Canada’s first female to be elected in a general election as a premier.

1999 The Dow Jones Industrial Average closesdabove the 10,000 mark (10,006.78) for the first time ever, during the height of the internet boom.

A historical graph. From a starting point of under 50 in the late 1890s to a high reached above 14,000 in the late 2000s, the Dow rises periodically through the decades with corrections along the way eventually settling in the mid-10,000 range within the last 10 years. 

2004 Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined NATO as full members.

2004 The Republic of Ireland becomes the first country in the world to ban smoking in all work places, including bars and restaurants.


2008 35 Countries & more 370 cities joined Earth Hour for the first time.


2010 – Two female suicide bombers hit the Moscow Metro system at the peak of the morning rush hour, killing 40.


Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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