Word of the day


Otiose –  serving no practical purpose or result; functionless, useless; indolent, idle; being at leisure.

Maeve Binchy 1940 – 2012



Irish author Maeve Binchy has died.

She had the gift of creating believable characters and making interesting stories from ordinary lives.

Her website is here.

40 mls and still showery


We’ve had a very dry winter which makes feeding out and doing off-season maintenance easier.

But we needed soil moisture for spring growth and were beginning to wonder if we’d have to start irrigating early.

Then we got yesterday’s forecast for heavy rain and started worrying we’d get too much at once.

However, nature was in a kind mood and delivered 40mls of rain from yesterday afternoon until this morning and did it gently enough to allow it to soak in.

It’s still showery which isn’t ideal for calving which is now under way – the milk tanker did its first pick up on Friday.

But better some gentle rain now than drought going into spring.

Unions good, commerce bad?


Labour’s attempt to sabotage the Lobbying Disclosure Bill is bad enough, it’s reasons for doing so are even worse:

The Labour Party wants to exempt trade unions from a bill to regulate lobbyists, saying unions are “less sinister” than professional lobbyists and corporates.

That is very much a matter of opinion.

The bill would cover anybody paid to lobby MPs, whether it was for an organisation such as Greenpeace or a trade union, a company such as SkyCity or as a professional lobbyist.

However, Mr Chauvel said it was too broad and the exemption was being sought because Labour believed it should apply only to groups or people who lobbied for a commercial purpose rather than not-for-profit groups. . .

“When trade unions came up, it seemed to me that they fell on the not- quite-so-sinister-and-behind-the-scenes side of things.”

He said corporate lobbying had the power to change policy, and was often done on the quiet.

“There is a big public interest in knowing what corporates are doing because they can afford heft lobbying and hospitality, and research and all the rest,” Mr Chauvel said.

And unions which donate at least tens of thousands of dollars to Labour, to which some of them are affiliated, have no heft and don’t do anything which some might regard as sinister and behind the scenes? They have no influence on policy and do nothing on the quiet?

Is it really that simple on Planet Labour – unions good, commerce bad?

Oh dear, that someone would give Chauvel the gift to see himself – and unions as others see them.






Nearly 1m adults functionally illiterate




Shameful statistic of the day:

Close to 1 million working age adults in New Zealand lack the literacy and numeracy skills needed to function in a modern workplace.

To put it another way, about 4 in 10 (that’s 2 in 5) adults have difficulties with reading, writing, maths and communication.

These results may seem far-fetched but they’re backed up by research (2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey) – and their impact is very real.

Poor adult literacy rates cost New Zealand businesses daily through accidents and injuries, as well as millions of dollars in wastage, mistakes, missed deadlines and low productivity.

Even if some of these people are immigrants who aren’t fluent in English that is a staggering number of people who can’t read instructions, newspapers, warnings, employment contracts, school notices, road rules, menus, or help their children with homework.

Many will also have insufficient grasp of maths to budget or even count change.

That is nearly half the adult population ill-equipped for work and life.

We’ve had some work for us and have offered them help but none have wanted it and they’ve soon moved on.

The reasons for poor literacy and numeracy will be many and complex and it would be most unfair to lay all the blame on teachers or the education system.

But they are the people best equipped to ensure the next generation of workers is far better equipped than the current one.

Private investment will determine CBD success


Quote of the day:


“The private sector will ultimately play the biggest role in the redevelopment of Christchurch’s central city so we want to do all we can to make it easier for them to invest in the city,” Mr Key says.

The government has a role to play in the rebuild but the future of the city relies on private individuals and companies having confidence to invest there for it to succeed.

Take the justice precinct as an example, public funds will build the court but it will require lawyers and support services using private funds to build offices too.

The rebuild plan is here.

July 31 in history


30 BC  Battle of Alexandria: Mark Antony achieved a minor victory over Octavian’s forces, but most of his army subsequently deserted, leading to his suicide.

781 The oldest recorded eruption of Mt. Fuji.

904 Thessalonica fell to the Arabs, who destroyed the city.

1009  Pope Sergius IV became the 142nd pope, succeeding Pope John XVIII.

1200 Attempted usurpation of John Komnenos the Fat.

1423  Hundred Years’ War: Battle of Cravant – the French army was defeated at Cravant.

1451  Jacques Cœur was arrested by order of Charles VII of France.

1492 Jews were expelled from Spain when the Alhambra Decree took effect.

1498 On his third voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus became the first European to discover the island of Trinidad.

1658 Aurangzeb was proclaimed Moghul emperor of India.

1667   Treaty of Breda ended the second Anglo-Dutch War.

1703  Daniel Defoe was placed in a pillory for the crime of seditious libel after publishing a politically satirical pamphlet, but was pelted with flowers.

1741  Charles Albert of Bavaria invaded Upper Austria and Bohemia.

1777 Pedro Ignacio de Castro Barros, Argentine statesman and priest, was born (d. 1849).

1777 The U.S. Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that the services of Marquis de Lafayette “be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States.”

1790  First U.S. patent was issued to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.

1800 Friedrich Wöhler, German chemist and founder of organic chemistry, was born (d. 1882).

1803 John Ericsson, Swedish inventor and engineer, was born (d. 1889).

1856  Christchurch, New Zealand, was chartered as a city.

1860 Mary Vaux Walcott, American artist and naturalist, was born (d. 1940).

1865 The first narrow gauge mainline railway in the world opened at Grandchester, Australia.

1895  The Basque Nationalist Party (Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea-Partido Nacionalista Vasco) was founded by Basque nationalist leader Sabino Arana.

1909  Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Austrian writer and polyglot, was born (d. 1999).

1912  Milton Friedman, American economist, Nobel laureate (d. 2006).

1913 The Balkan States signed an armistice at Bucharest.

1919 German national assembly adopted the Weimar constitution.

1921 Peter Benenson, British founder of Amnesty International, was born (d. 2005).

1930  The radio mystery programme The Shadow  aired for the first time.

1932  The NSDAP won more than 38% of the vote in German elections.

1936  The International Olympic Committee announced that the 1940 Summer Olympics would be held in Tokyo. However, the games were given back to the IOC after the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, and are eventually cancelled altogether because of World War II.

1938 Bulgaria signed a non-aggression pact with Greece and other states of Balkan Antanti (Turkey, Romania, Yugoslavia).

1938 Archaeologists discovered engraved gold and silver plates from King Darius in Persepolis.

1940 A doodlebug train in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio collided with a multi-car freight train heading in the opposite direction, killing 43 people.

1941  Holocaust: under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, ordered SS General Reinhard Heydrich to “submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question.”

1943 Lobo, American singer and songwriter, was born.

1944  Geraldine Chaplin, American actress, was born.

1944 – Jonathan Dimbleby, British journalist and television presenter.

1945  Pierre Laval, the fugitive former leader of Vichy France, surrendered to Allied soldiers in Austria.

1945  John K. Giles attempted to escape from Alcatraz prison.

1948  New York International Airport (later renamed John F. Kennedy International Airport) was dedicated.

1951  Japan Airlines was established.

1954 First ascent of K2, by an Italian expedition led by Ardito Desio.

1959  The Basque separatist organisation ETA was founded.

1964 Jim Corr, Irish singer and musician (The Corrs), was born.

1964  Ranger 7 sent back the first close-up photographs of the moon, with images 1,000 times clearer than anything ever seen from earth-bound telescopes.

1970 Black Tot Day: The last day of the officially sanctioned rum ration in the Royal Navy.

1972 – Operation Motorman: British troops moved into the no-go areas of Belfast and Derry. End of Free Derry.

1972 – Three car bombs detonated in Claudy, Northern Ireland, killing nine.

1973 A Delta Air Lines jetliner crashed while landing in fog at Logan Airport, Boston, Massachusetts killing 89.

1976 John Walker won gold in the 1500 metres at the Montreal Olympics.

John Walker wins gold in Montreal

1976 NASA released the  Face on Mars photo.

1978 Will Champion, English musician (Coldplay), was born.

1980 Mils Muliaina, New Zealand rugby union player, was born.

1980 Mikko Hirvonen, Finnish rally driver, was born.

1981 – General Omar Torrijos of Panama died in a plane crash.

1981 A total solar eclipse occured.

1987  A rare, class F4 tornado ripped through Edmonton, Alberta, killing 27 people and causing $330 million in damage.

1988  32 people died and 1,674 injured when a bridge at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal collapsed in Butterworth, Malaysia.

1991  The Medininkai Massacre in Lithuania. Soviet OMON attacked Lithuanian customs post in Medininkai, killing 7 officers and severely wounding one other.

1992  A Thai Airways Airbus A300-310 crashed into a mountain north of Kathmandu, Nepal killing 113.

1999  Lunar Prospector – NASA intentionally crashed the spacecraft into the Moon, ending its mission to detect frozen water on the moon’s surface.

2002  Hebrew University of Jerusalem was attacked when a bomb exploded in a cafeteria, killing 9.

2006  Fidel Castro handed over power temporarily to brother Raúl Castro.

2007 Operation Banner, the presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland, and the longest-running British Army operation ever, ended.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

Word of the day


Rusticate – go or send to, live, reside or spend time in the country; follow a rustic life; to suspend a student from university;  fashion masonry in large blocks with sunk joints and a roughened surface.

Would it work for windscreen wipers too?


A trial using a non-toxic repellant that makes keas feel queasy might deter them from attacking sheep.

If it also works for windscreen wiper they could be on to a winner with people using South Island ski field car parks or tramping in the high country.

Keas are cheeky birds which entertain visitors? But they do a lot of damage to  the rubber on windscreen wipers and around the windows of vehicles and many’s the tramper who has been woken by one or more keas pecking holes in their tents.

UPDATE: TV3 reports researchers are looking at whether the repellant could be used on tents and cars too.


Which whiteware?


Another kitchen renovation question: which whiteware do you recommend?

We’ve had a Fisher and Paykel double dishdrawer for years.

It’s good when there’s just the two of us because it gets full before we run out of dishes but it does take a long time to do a cycle.

It’s had a couple of malfunctions and is at an age where it probably isn’t worth repairing if it breaks down again.

Kitchen renovations which are in the planning stage could be an excuse for a replacement.

The question is, if we go for a new dishwasher do we go for a dishdrawer again or another make and/or model?

The oven is 21 years old, its seal is sagging and both it and the cook top will be replaced.

Everyone tells me to stick to electricity for the oven, but do I go for gas or stick with electricity for the cook top and if it’s the latter is conventional or convection better and which brand?

Some questions best left unanswered


One of the first rules journalists learn is that good news stories should answer all the Ws – Who, What, Where, When, Why and hoW?

The ODT has a story about rangers rescuing a seal in a G string at Lovers Leap.

Two questions it doesn’t address are whose G-string it was and how it got from the owner to the seal.

But there are exceptions to every rule and there are some questions best left unanswered.

Not the doing but catching and fixing


Andrea Vance thinks New Zealand’s halo is slipping:

Frequently topping global transparency indexes, the world believes Kiwis operate the world’s cleanest government. Its politicians are rated incorruptible: fraud, bribes and sleaze-free.

And yet, of late, domestic politics has been dominated by a series of grubby scandals. Take Taito Philip Field’s conviction in 2009 as the watershed. Since then MPs have been exposed for rorting their expenses to pay for blue movies and gluttony, golf clubs, flowers and massages, family holidays and bucketloads of booze. . .

She goes on to list various scandals, though misses two of the ones which best-fit the label corruption – Labour’s pledge card rort and Winston Peter’s dance around the truth of the donation from Owen Glenn.

However, bad as these are, it’s not the doing of dastardly deeds which puts a country’s reputation at risk. Even the best countries can’t claim a total absence of corruption from every citizen.

It’s the catching of the corrupt and fixing that really matter.

Our reputation is based on relatively few acts of corruption and a good record for catching the wrong-doers and making changes to close the loopholes through which they wriggled.

Fields was accused, tried, found guilty and imprisoned. Speaker Lockwood Smith has made MPs’ expenses public which has acted as a very effective restraint on their spending. . .

The halo is slipping, it’s not yet tarnished.

There is no room for complacency but our reputation for lack of corruption shouldn’t be threatened while those who do the catching and fixing keep ahead of those who do the doing.

Missing link on Planet Labour


There’s at least a couple of missing links on Planet Labour – the one between action and reaction and the one between productivity and wages.

There’s no better example of this than in Dunedin MP David Clark’s ignorance about the impact on an increase of the minimum wage:

” . . . It will affect a couple of hundred thousand New Zealanders, . . . “

I presume he means there are a couple of hundred people on the minimum wage who would get a pay rise.

But what about the people who employ them and the people who might have got a job had the minimum wage not been increased?

What about the people who have to pay more for goods and services when businesses can’t absorb the extra cost of wages and put up their prices?

What about people who lose jobs because the business can’t afford the flow on increase to other wages.

Keeping Stock explains:

 . . . You see Dr Clark; it’s not just as simple as paying people $15/hour. If the minimum wage goes up, so will everyone else’s. Our wage bill is in the order of $1m per annum, so an arbitrary, across-the-board 15% wage increase would cost us an additional $150,000 per year. That would be totally unsustainable for us; our businesses run at break-even at best. There is little doubt for our businesses that we would have to reduce our staff numbers.
So who wins there Dr Clark? We certainly don’t; nor do the staff members whose jobs are lost, and their families. And far from the Wanganui economy receiving a shot in the arm, there are suddenly less people spending. . .

Pay rises as a result of productivity increases or a reduction in costs are sustainable.

Pay rises by decree are not and would affect a lot more than a couple of hundred thousand people.

July 30 in history


762  Baghdad was founded.

1419  First Defenestration of Prague.

1502 Christopher Columbus landed at Guanaja in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras during his fourth voyage.

1549 Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, was born (d. 1609).

1608  Samuel de Champlain shot and killed two Iroquois chiefs which set the tone for FrenchIroquois relations for the next 100 years.

1619  The first representative assembly in the Americas, the House of Burgesses, convened for the first time.

1629  An earthquake in Naples killed 10,000 people.

1733  The first Masonic Grand Lodge in what became the United States was constituted in Massachusetts.

1756 Bartolomeo Rastrelli presented the newly-built Catherine Palace to Empress Elizabeth and her courtiers.

1811  Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, leader of the Mexican insurgency, was executed by the Spanish.

1818 Emily Brontë, English novelist, was born (d. 1848).

1825 Malden Island was discovered.

1859 First ascent of Grand Combin.

1863 Henry Ford, American industrialist, was born (d. 1947).

1863 Indian Wars: Chief Pocatello of the Shoshone tribe signed the Treaty of Box Elder, agreeing to stop the harassment of emigrant trails in southern Idaho and northern Utah.

1864 American Civil War: Battle of the Crater – Union forces attempt edto break Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia by exploding a large bomb under their trenches.

1866 New Orleans’s Democratic government ordered police to raid an integrated Republican Party meeting, killing 40 people and injuring 150.

1871  The Staten Island Ferry Westfield’s boiler exploded, killing over 85 people.

1893 Fatima Jinnah, Pakistani Mother of the Nation, was born (d. 1967).

1898 Henry Moore, English sculptor, was born (d. 1986).

1916  Black Tom Island explosion in Jersey City.

1925 Alexander Trocchi, Scottish writer, was born (d. 1984).

1926 Christine McGuire, American singer (The McGuire Sisters), was born.

1930  Uruguay won the first Football World Cup.

1932  Premiere of Walt Disney’s Flowers and Trees, the first cartoon short to use Technicolor and the first Academy Award winning cartoon short.

1935 Ted Rogers, English comedian and game show host, was born (d. 2001).

1940 Sir Clive Sinclair, English entrepreneur and inventor (pocket calculator, home computer), was born.

1941 Paul Anka, Canadian singer and composer, was born.

1945   Japanese submarine I-58 sank the USS Indianapolis, killing 883 seamen.

1947 Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austrian-born American actor and 38th Governor of California, was born.

1950 Frank Stallone, American singer and actor, was born.

1953  Rikidōzan held a ceremony announcing the establishment of the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance.

1956  A joint resolution of the U.S. Congress was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, authorizing In God We Trust as the U.S. national motto.

1958 Kate Bush, English singer/songwriter, was born.

1958 Daley Thompson, English decathlete, was born.

1965  US President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Social Security Act of 1965 into law, establishing Medicare and Medicaid.

1969 Vietnam War: US President Richard M. Nixon made an unscheduled visit to South Vietnam and met  President Nguyen Van Thieu and U.S. military commanders.

1971  Apollo 15 Mission – David Scott and James Irwin on Apollo Lunar Module module, Falcon, landed with first Lunar Rover on the moon.

1971  An All Nippon Airways Boeing 727 and a Japanese Air Force F-86 collided over Morioka killing 162.

1974  Watergate Scandal: US President Richard M. Nixon released subpoenaed White House recordings after being ordered to do so by the United States Supreme Court.

1974  Six Royal Canadian Army Cadetswere  killed and fifty-four injured in an accidental grenade blast at CFB Valcartier Cadet Camp.

1975  Three members of the Miami Showband and two gunmen were killed during a botched paramilitary attack in Northern Ireland.

1978  The 730 (transport), Okinawa changed its traffic on the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side.

1979 Carless days were introduced in New Zealand to combat the second oil shock.

Carless days introduced

1980 Vanuatu gained independence.

1980  Israel’s Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law

1997  Eighteen lives were lost in the Thredbo Landslide.

2003  In Mexico, the last ‘old style’ Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line.

2006 World’s longest running music show Top of the Pops was broadcast for the last time on BBC Two after 42 years.

2006 Lebanon War: At least 28 civilians, including 16 children were killed by the Israeli Air Force in what Lebanese call the Second Qana massacre.

2009 A bomb exploded in Palma Nova, Mallorca, killing 2 police officers. Basque separatist group ETA was believed to be responsible.

Geoffrey Hughes – 1944 – 2012


British actor Geoffrey Hughes died today.

His career included the role of Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street. More recently he played Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances.

In the latter he often wore a hat with the initials FH which stood for Fulton Hogan. The Dunedin based company gave him the hat when he was In New Zealand for a Telethon.


Word of the day


Pudencymodesty; shame; prudishness.

Blooming marvellous


For the first time in the history of the Olympics every country has at least one woman in its team.

That’s blooming marvellous and someone’s said it with flowers – leaving roses on the grave of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

The note on the blooms reads: In remembrance of your courage and determination. For the first time ever all Olympic teams have a female athlete. Thank you EMC.

Hat Tip: Open Parachute



7/10 in Stuff’s Biz Quiz

Dead right euphemisms wrong


A discussion on a journalists’ Facebook page bemoaned the use by reporters of euphemisms for death.

The instance which prompted the discussion was the a sentence in which a reporter wrote that someone had passed.

Passed where? one could be excused for asking – passed away, passed on, passed over or was news of the death exaggerated and had the subject of the story just passed by?

Most who commented agreed that, in news stories at least, dead is right and euphemisms are wrong.

Should you  prefer a less direct way of stating a life has ended there are scores of possibilities here.

But no-one does it better than Monty Python:

Stats stuttering


Sitemeter usually has a slightly more conservative total than other visit counters but the trend is usually the same.

But on Friday and yesterday it stuttered – no visits on the 27th and only 58 visits and 62 page views on the 28th?

Anyone else notice something similar on your blog?

This Month's Visits and Page Views

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