The influence of iPods, well written letters & first lines


Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass started with the influence of iPods – how they’ve changed the way we listen and respond to music.

We moved on to look at Theodore Dalrymple’s look at the art of the well written letter and finished with the Amercian Book review’s 100 best first lines from novels.

Word of the day


Dactylonomy – numbering or counting by using ones fingers.



8/10 in NZ History Online’s weekly quiz.

Debt’s a dirty word again


The Taxpayers’ Alliance is organising a rally against debt in Britain:

An exciting event, the Rally Against Debt, has been organised for 14 May.  It will be a major demonstration highlighting the importance of tackling the huge public sector deficit, and the need for substantial spending cuts.  So far over 1,300 people have signed up to a rally that aims to be a well mannered alternative to the unrealistic trade union march and the vandalism of the UK Uncut protest on March 26.

Unlike most marches, this one is not asking the government to spend more, it aims to be a – polite – request for reductions rather than increases.

New Zealand households are saving more which shows they’ve understand the need for personal spending restraints. People of my parents’ generation who had been through the Depression regarded debt as a dirty word and it’s getting that way again.

I think most people also understand the need for similar frugality from the government even if no-one is suggesting we take to the streets to ask for less.

Commodities one bright spot amid economic gloom


Among all the grim news about the economy there is a bright spot – the ANZ commodity price index hit a record high in March when it increased by 4.7%.

This represents the seventh consecutive monthly rise in the index, with the latest month also being stronger than any of the preceding six monthly increases.

Fourteen commodity prices increased in March and three were unchanged. For the first time in seventeen years there wasn’t a single decrease in the price of any individual commodity in the basket of 17 commodities that we monitor.

Last month was the first time in 17 years there wasn’t a single decrease in the price of any of the 17 commodities the ANZ monitors. Prices for

Fourteen commodity prices increased in March and three – wood pulp, kiwifruit and apples – were unchanged.

The price of wool strengthened 12 percent in March, with prices having doubled in the past 12 months. Whole milk powder prices also rose 12 percent, ahead of a 7 percent rise in skim milk powder prices. Lumber and skin prices also increased by 7 percent rise in the month. Beef and log prices grew 3 percent in the month; lamb, casein, butter and aluminium prices lifted 2 percent; venison and cheese prices rose 1 percent; and seafood prices increased by ½ percent. The export prices of wood pulp, kiwifruit and apples were unchanged over the month. 

The value of the New Zealand dollar weakened in March. Consequently the rise in the locally priced ANZ NZD Commodity Price Index was magnified, lifting 8.1 percent from the preceding month, to an all time high. The NZ dollar priced commodity index is 25 percent higher than its level a year ago, and nearly double the low point recorded in February 2009, which followed the global financial crisis.

 The New Zealand economy is poised to benefit from the increased rural income that will inevitably filter through the economy. Soft rural land values and a strong focus on the balance sheet has curtailed the benefit to the broader economy. This will not continue indefinitely. It is only a matter of time before this rejuvenation spills over into other pockets of the economy.

Farmers are cautiously optimistic after the best season many of them can remember. However the caution means they are paying off debt and keeping costs down which means the benefits of the commodity boom haven’t spread far from the farm gate – yet. 

The Lincoln Field Days last week attracted about 21,000 people, a similar number of people as the last Field Days two years ago but sales were higher.

That is a positive sign that better prices farmers are receiving will start spreading further through the economy.

April 5 in history


On April 5:

456  St. Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary bishop.


1242 During a battle of the ice of Lake Peipus, Russian forces, led by Alexander Nevsky, rebuffed an invasion attempt by the Teutonic Knights.

 Depiction in the illuminated manuscript Life of Alexander Nevsky.

1254  Willen van Rubroeck, a Flemish Franciscan, meets the Mongolian Khan Möngke

1566 Two-hundred Dutch noblemen, led by Hendrik van Brederode, forced themselves into the presence of Margaret of Parma and present the Petition of Compromise, denouncing the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands.

1609Daimyo (Lord) of the Satsuma Domain in southern Kyūshū, Japan, completed his successful invasion of the Ryūkyū Kingdom in Okinawa.

1614 Pocahontas married English colonist John Rolfe.


1621 The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth, Massachusetts on a return trip to Great Britain.


1649  Elihu Yale, American benefactor of Yale University, was born  (d. 1721).

1722 The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen discovered Easter Island.

1792  U.S. President George Washington exercised his authority to veto a bill, the first time this power is used in the United States.

1804 High Possil Meteorite: The first recorded meteorite in Scotland fell in Possil.

1818 In the Battle of Maipú, Chile’s independence movement – led by Bernardo O’Higgins and José de San Martín – won a decisive victory over Spain, leaving 2,000 Spaniards and 1,000 Chilean patriots dead.

Battle of Maipu.jpg

1827 Joseph Lister, English surgeon, was born (d. 1912).

1837 Algernon Charles Swinburne, English poet, was born (d. 1909).


1862 American Civil War: The Battle of Yorktown started.


1874 Birkenhead Park, the first civic public park,opened in Birkenhead.

1879  Chile declared war on Bolivia and Peru, starting the War of the Pacific.


1897  The Greco-Turkish War, also called “Thirty Days’ War”, was declared between Greece and the Ottoman Empire.

1900 Spencer Tracy, American actor, was born  (d. 1967).

1904 The first international rugby league match was played between England and an Other Nationalities team (Welsh & Scottish players) in Central Park, Wigan.

1908 Bette Davis, American actress, was born  (d. 1989).

1916 Gregory Peck, American actor, was born (d. 2003).

1920 Arthur Hailey, American writer, was born (d. 2004).

Airport Hailey 1968.jpg

1923 Firestone Tire and Rubber Company began production of balloon-tyres.


1928 Tony Williams, American singer (The Platters), was born. (d. 1992)

1929 Nigel Hawthorne, British actor, was born (d. 2001).

1930  In an act of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi broke British law after marching to the sea and making salt.

1932 Champion race horse Phar Lap died.

Death of Phar Lap

  1932  Alcohol prohibition in Finland ended. Alcohol sales begin in Alko liquor stores.

Alko logo.png

1932 – Dominion of Newfoundland: 10,000 rioters seized the Colonial Building leading to the end of self-government.


1933  U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102 “forbidding the Hoarding of Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, and Gold Certificates” by U.S. citizens.

1936 Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak: An F5 tornado killed 233 in Tupelo, Mississippi.

1937 Colin Powell, U.S. Army General, 12th Chairman of the Joint Cheifs of Staff; and 65th Secretary of State, was born.

1937 Allan R. Thieme, American inventor, was born.


1942 World War II: The Japanese Navy attacked Colombo. Royal Navy Cruisers HMS Cornwall and HMS Dorsetshire were sunk southwest of the island.


1944 World War II: 270 inhabitants of the Greek town of Kleisoura were executed by the Germans.

1945 Cold War: Yugoslav leader Josip “Tito” Broz signed an agreement with the USSR to allow “temporary entry of Soviet troops into Yugoslav territory.”

1946 Jane Asher, British actress, was born.


1946 Soviet troops left the Danish  island of Bornholm after an 11 month occupation.

1949 Fireside Theater debuted on television.

1949 – A fire in a hospital in Effingham, Illinois, killed 77 people and leads to nationwide fire code improvements in the United States.

1950 Agnetha Fältskog, Swedish singer (ABBA), was born.

1955 Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom amid indications of failing health.


1956 Fidel Castro declared himself at war with the President of Cuba.


1956  In Sri Lanka, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna won the general elections in a landslide and S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was sworn in as the Prime Minister.

1957 In India, Communists won the first elections in united Kerala and E.M.S. Namboodiripad was sworn in as the first chief minister.

1958 Ripple Rock, an underwater threat to navigation in the Seymour Narrows in Canada was destroyed in one of the largest non-nuclear controlled explosions of the time.

1966 Mike McCready, American musician (Pearl Jam), was born.

1969 Vietnam War: Massive antiwar demonstrations occured in many U.S. cities.

1971 In Sri Lanka, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna launched insurrection against the United Front government of Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

1976 The April Fifth Movement led to the Tiananmen incident.

1986 Three people were killed in the bombing of the La Belle Discothèque in West Berlin.

1991 An ASA EMB 120 crashed in Brunswick, Georgia, killing all 23 aboard.

1992 Several hundred-thousand abortion rights demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C.

1992 Alberto Fujimori,  president of Peru, dissolved the Peruvian congress by military force.

1992 The Siege of Sarajevo began when Serb paramilitaries murder peace protesters Suada Dilberovic and Olga Sucic on the Vrbanja Bridge.


1998 The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge linking Shikoku with Honshū and costing about $3.8 billion, opened to traffic, becoming the largest suspension bridge in the world.

1999 Two Libyans suspected of bringing down Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 were handed over for eventual trial in the Netherlands.

2009 North Korea launched its controversial Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 rocket.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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