Word of the day


Tocsin – an alarm bell or the ringing of it;  a warning signal; an omen.



13/15 in Stuff’s kids’ quiz – let down by bowls and music.

Closing gap helping vote for change?


Most polls take an FPP approach to government, assuming the party with the most support will win the election and the right to govern.

Although the party with the most votes has been the one to lead governments in New Zealand since MMP was introduced that is no guarantee that one with less support won’t end up being able to cobble up a majority with several coalition partners.

National is still well ahead of Labour in all polls, but today’s update from iPredict shows potential coalition partner Act faltering in Epsom which is giving a slight boost to the horrifying possibility that we’ll get a Labour/GreenParty/Maori Party/ New Zealand First coalition.

Act’s chances in Epsom have dropped to marginal levels, making it just possible that Phil Goff could be our next Prime Minister, according to this week’s snapshot by New Zealand’s online prediction market, iPredict.  With John Banks hovering at just over 50% chance of winning Epsom, and New Zealand First nearing MMP’s 5% threshold, a Phil Goff-led government isn’t out of the question . . .

Forecast party vote shares are now: National 45.0% (down from 46.0% last week) Labour 29.7% (down from 31.0% last week), the Greens
11.1% (steady), New Zealand First 4.7% (steady), Act 3.6% (up from 3.1% last week),  UnitedFuture 1.9% (up from 1.6% last week), the Maori Party 1.2% (steady),  the Mana Party 1.0% (down from 1.1% last week), the Conservative Party 0.9% (down from 1.0% last week), and the New Citizen Party 0.4% (down from 0.5% last week).

Based on this data, and the electorate results above, Parliament would be as follows: National 58 MPs, Labour 38 MPs, the Greens 14
MPs, Act 5 MPs, the Maori Party 3 MPs, UnitedFuture 2 MPs, and the Mana party just 1 MP.  There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 61 MPs on confidence and supply.  John Key’s National Party would be able to govern with any one of the Greens, Act or Maori Party.

Although Act often does better in elections than polls, the chances of it getting at least 5% are remote and the possibility of Banks not winning Epsom is increasing. If NZ First gets at least 5% and Banks loses Epsom the picture is gloomier:

Under this scenario, Parliament would be as follows: National 57 MPs, Labour 38 MPs, the Greens 14 MPs, New Zealand First 6 MPs,  the Maori Party 3 MPs, UnitedFuture 2 MPs, and the Mana Party just 1 MP. There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 62 MPs on confidence and supply meaning Phil Goff’s Labour Party could govern with the Greens, New Zealand First and the Maori Party, and would not need the Mana Party.

There are only two silver small linings to this gloomy prospect.

The Mana Party wouldn’t have to be part of that coalition and the thought of such a government might help persuade people to vote for a change from MMP in the referendum on the voting system




Just 3/10 in the Herald’s changing world quiz.

I’m not going to waste my time trying with the George Clooney’s girls  one.

Thursday’s quiz


1. Who said: “It is a noteworthy fact that kicking and beating have played so considerable a part in the habits which necessity has imposed on mankind in past ages that the only way of preventing civilised men from beating and kicking their wives is to organize games in which they can kick and beat balls.”?

2. Name four of the seven All Blacks who have been knighted.

3. It’s jeu in French, gioco in Italian, juego in Spanish (not to be used in place of jugo, which means juice, as I did at an Argentinean cafe)  and purei  in Maori, what is it in English?

4. Which university did Graham Henry study at and what qualification did he gain?

5. What will you be doing on Sunday from about 845 8:45pm?

There’s optimism . . .


. . .  and there’s over optimism.

Irish bookie Paddy Power is so sure the All Blacks will win Sunday’s Rugby World Cup final he’s paying out already.

I’m optimistic but only cautiously so. On paper the All Blacks are a much stronger team the Les Bleus but anything could happen on the night.

Even when the Wallabies had to score two points a minute in the last seven minutes to even the score in the semi-final I couldn’t relax and even if the All Blacks are well ahead of France in the final I’ll be on the edge of my seat with all digits crossed until the final whistle blows.

Where there’s pigs . . .


Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt makes a very amusing story of the day in 1999 when a small group of conservationists came to see if he could help save the Auckland Island pigs which DOC was planning to cull.

Life on the island was hard and there weren’t many of them, but the animals which had been isolated and free of disease for so many generations had potential for use in medical advances.

Tim reckoned the special mayoral fund would cover the cost of 17 pigs but he hadn’t taken into account the population growth that would occur when the pigs moved from Auckland Island’s harsh environment to the balmy climate of Southland.

The annual cost of keeping the pigs went from $3,000 to around $13,000 as their numbers increased, the council wasn’t pleased and took the mayoral fund from him. But Tim was optimistic these pigs would more than repay the investment and now they are.

Their isolation had made them the only pigs in the world that were virus free and so able to be used in cell transplants to people for diabetes treatment. By 2008 each pig was worth $350,000.

Living Cell Technology built its first quarantine unit in Southland a couple of years ago and the company has now announced a multi-million dollar commitment to commercialise a diabetes treatment using the Southland-farmed pigs.

Living Cell Technology announced Otsuka Pharmaceutical Factory, of Japan, had committed $31m to a joint venture to create Diatranz Otsuka, a company that would concentrate on accelerating the commercialisation of Living Cell’s groundbreaking cell implant therapy, Diabecell, to treat diabetes.

Diabecell has been trialled in New Zealand, Argentina and Russia, and is designed to normalise the lives of people with type-1 diabetes. It involves being injected with live cells from the unique Auckland Island pigs, farmed in a special multimillion-dollar piggery near Invercargill.

Where there’s Auckland Island pigs there’s money making opportunities and the potential for better health and quality of life for diabetics.

The rising cost of the pigs cost Tim the mayoral fund, but he thinks it’s ben worth it and the story he tells keeps getting better.

Oil spill serious but in greater scheme not catastrophic


At last some balance on the affect of the oil spill from the MV Rena:

Professor David Schiel, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s top ecologists thinks we’re over-hyping things:

So far I think that the marine environment will cope very well with it . . .

I think there’s very much to hope for, for the locals and for the nation in terms of this so far that it doesn’t turn into an ecological disaster. . .

It’s not as these things go a great deal of oil, but it’s a very big ocean . . .

It’s dose dependent so if you get a lot of oil in a little space and it gets confined for a while without getting dispersed the effects are going to be much larger than if it disperses widely, gets pushed out to sea, the oil weathers and it moves across the sea surface and some of it sinks.

Once it sinks micro-organisms help break it down, converting it so that the eco-system can accomodate it

So far it’s not as bad as it could have been and if things go as plan, they get the fuel oil off that vessel and it’s a straight forward boat salvage operation we should be okay.

No oil spill is good and this one could harm the economy.

But the combination of the clean-up effort by people and nature means – at least yet – this is not the ecological catastrophe we’ve been told it is.


Peak oil self-perpetuating?


Have you noticed that the people who warn us about peak oil are also the ones who don’t want us to look for anymore?

So what is peak oil? An email from a reader explains:

The thesis of ‘peak oil’ is that demand will significantly exceed supply and ability to find more (hence the peak) which will start a bidding and resource war, leading to the eventual collapse of western civilization as we know it.  There are plenty of charts etc produced to prove that this will happen / or is happening right now. . .

The counter argument is that there is plenty of oil available and yet to be tapped – for example the shales, coal conversion, gas conversion, oil sands, and deep ocean fields.   The price goes up making it economic to extract from these sources, and the peak gets pushed way forward.  In the interim, because of the higher cost of oil/fuel alternative technologies – electric, hydrogen, hybrid etc make much more sense and become more widely adopted.  High speed internet makes travel for communication less of a requirement, and the whole system balances up in some degree.  Let’s say this is the technological progress continuing argument. . .

The consequences of peak oil would be dire. That makes the opposition to further exploration from those who promote the theory so puzzling unless they want to make sure their fears are realised.

Requiring safeguards to protect the environment from exploration and exploitation is eminently sensible. Taking the Luddite’s approach to banning exploration altogether turns peak oil into a self-perpetuating scenario: they say it has happened/will happen and won’t let us find more so it does happen.


October 20 in history


1548 The city of Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) was founded by Captain Alonso de Mendoza by appointment of the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

1632 Sir Christopher Wren, English architect, was born (d. 1723).

1740 Maria Theresa takes the throne of Austria. France, Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony refused to honour the Pragmatic Sanction (allowing succession by a daughter) and the War of the Austrian Succession began.

1781 Patent of Toleration, providing limited freedom of worship, was approved in Habsburg Monarchy.

1803 The United States Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase.

1818 The Convention of 1818 signed between the United States and the United Kingdom which, among other things, settled the Canada – United States border on the 49th parallel for most of its length.

1827  Battle of Navarino – a combined Turkish and Egyptian armada was defeated by British, French, and Russian naval force in the port of Navarino in Pylos, Greece.

1859  John Dewey, American philosopher, was born (d. 1952).

1883  Peru and Chile signed the Treaty of Ancón, by which the Tarapacá province was ceded to the latter, bringing an end to Peru’s involvement in the War of the Pacific.

1904  Anna Neagle, English actress, was born (d. 1986).

1910  The hull of the RMS Olympic, sister-ship to the RMS Titanic, was launched from the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast

1932 William Christopher, American actor who played Father Mulcahy in M*A*S*H, was born.

1934 Michiko, empress of Japan, was born.

1935  The Long March ended.

1941 Stan Graham was shot by police after five days on the run.

Fugitive Stan Graham shot by police

1941  World War II: Thousands of civilians in German-occupied Serbia were killed in the Kragujevac massacre.

1944  Liquid natural gas leaked from storage tanks in Cleveland, then exploded; levelling 30 blocks and killing 130.

1944 – General Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his promise to return to the Philippines when he commanded an Allied assault on the islands, reclaiming them from the Japanese during the Second World War.

1947 The House Un-American Activities Committee began its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a blacklist that prevented some from working in the industry for years.

1950  Tom Petty, American musician, was born.

1951 The “Johnny Bright Incident“  in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

1952 Governor Evelyn Baring declared a state of emergency in Kenya and began arresting hundreds of suspected leaders of the Mau Mau Uprising, including Jomo Kenyatta, the future first President of Kenya.

1967 A purported bigfoot was filmed by Patterson and Gimlin.

1968  Jacqueline Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

1970 Siad Barre declared Somalia a socialist state.

1971 The Nepal Stock Exchange collapsed.

1973  ”Saturday Night Massacre“: President Richard Nixon fired Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus after they refused to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

1973  The Sydney Opera House opened.

1976  The ferry George Prince was struck by a ship while crossing the Mississippi River. Seventy-eight passengers and crew died and only 18 people aboard the ferry survived.

1977 A plane carrying Lynyrd Skynyrd crashed in Mississippi, killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitarist Steve Gaines along with backup singer Cassie Gaines, the road manager, pilot, and co-pilot.

1979  The John F. Kennedy library was opened in Boston.

1982  During the UEFA Cup match between FC Spartak Moscow and HFC Haarlem, 66 people were crushed to death in the Luzhniki disaster.

1984 The Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in Monterey Bay, California.

1991 The Oakland Hills firestorm killed 25 and destroyed 3,469 homes and apartments, causing more than $2 billion in damage.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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