Word of the day


Fugacious – ephemeral, lasting a very short time, fleeting, transitory, momentary, passing.

Bloggers’ licence


Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by Valerie Davies’ Bloggers’ complexes.

If you haven’t visited her before I encourage you to go back to her earlier posts.

I like the way she finishes with food for threadbare gourmets and food for thought.

Apropos of the latter, one recent post finished with:

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is only of interest to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.     E.F. Schumacher. 1911 – 1977  Economist and writer of ‘Small is Beautiful ‘.

Look, listen


The Pati, Pene and Amitai,  brothers have amazing tenor voices.

Their parents brought them from Samoa to give them better opportunities and they’re getting them.

TVNZ has the story – and their singing – here.

L♥ve Our Kiwi Bees!


It’s National Bee Week when we’re encouraged to L♥ve Our Kiwi Bees!

Bee Week is a major campaign designed to educate New Zealanders about the importance of the humble, often overlooked, honey bee. Bees are critically important to New Zealand and to the New Zealand economy – much more so than you might think!

Without bees, two thirds of our everyday food would disappear, our gardens would be without many of their plants and flowers, and our major agri-export industries (worth around $5 billion) would be in severe trouble.

Bee Week has been established to highlight the value of honey bees and beekeeping in New Zealand.

This year’s Bee Week will highlight that while bees in New Zealand are not under immediate threat, as in some overseas countries, they do face challenges and they do need to be actively protected and preserved.

A good source of bee friendly information is Raymond Huber’s blog.

He’s a bee keeper and the author of two books for children in which the main character is a bee – Sting and the sequel Wings.

Dropping decile rankings designed to stop stereotyping


The decision to drop decile rankings from Education Review Office reports is designed to stop link between rank and performance:

A school’s decile rating will no longer be shown on its Education Review Office report, following a decision announced today.

ERO says it has taken the decision to remove the rating from its reports in an effort to correct the stereotype that a school’s decile equals performance.

Dr Graham Stoop, Chief Review Officer for the Education Review Office, says that for some time there has been public confusion about the purpose of the decile rating and what it actually means.

“The decile rating system is a mechanism used by the Ministry of Education to make funding available to schools. Too often it is seen as a rating of the quality of the education which a school provides and this is simply not correct.

“By removing the decile rating from ERO’s reports we hope to help remove this element of confusion and correct this misconception.

Dr Stoop says ERO’s reports are designed to give parents an assessment of the quality of education provided by schools for learners.

“We have decided that decile has no part to play in our reports.”

The decile ranking reflects the income of its catchment but it’s a fairly blunt instrument.

A few years ago Waitaki Boys’ and Waitaki Girls’ High schools had different rankings even though they were in the same town and had pupils from the same catchment.

One measure the decile ranking is based on is the number of people and bedrooms in a house.

That means small towns with a lot of retired people, like Oamaru or Alexandra, score highly because they have single people or couples in homes with two or more bedrooms. These houses aren’t overcrowded but that’s not a reliable indication of the inhabitants’ wealth let alone that of unrelated homes housing school children.

Country schools usually score higher decile ratings because the value of farms and size of farm houses skew the average, even if there are a lot of low income people in townships in the school catchment.

As a generalisation pupils in higher decile schools are more likely to come from homes with better educated parents and the reverse is true for those in lower decile schools. That could make it easier or more difficult for teachers but ought not to have anything to do with the quality of education a school provides.



Science leader for MPI


The Prime Minister has had a chief science advisor since early in his first term, now the Ministry of Primary Industries has a science leader too:

Dr Ian Ferguson (MNZM) has been appointed to the newly created position of Departmental Science Adviser for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), Deputy Director General of Policy Paul Stocks announced today.

“This is an exceptionally important role for the Ministry,” Mr Stocks said. “I am confident that Dr Ferguson will provide strong science leadership to ensure that MPI is well connected across government and with the science community, and will continue to produce high quality scientific advice.”

The role focuses on the key areas of quality assurance of science inputs into regulatory decision making; strategic direction for science investment; and ensuring that MPI is able to effectively deal with emerging risks and opportunities. . .

The recognition of the importance of a scientific approach to policy is welcome. It is especially important in the MPI which oversees the productive industries which play such an important role in the economy and have such an impact on the environment.

It’s very easy for governments to have good ideas,  ensuring they are based on sound science will help to ensure they work in practice.

August 21 in history


1192  Minamoto Yoritomo became Seii Tai Shōgun and the de facto ruler of Japan.

1680  Pueblo Indians captured Santa Fe from Spanish during the Pueblo Revolt.

1689  The Battle of Dunkeld in Scotland.

1770  James Cook formally claimed eastern Australia for Great Britain, naming it New South Wales.

1772 King Gustav III completed his coup d’état by adopting a new Constitution, ending half a century of parliamentary rule in Sweden and installing himself as an enlightened despot.

1808 Battle of Vimeiro: British and Portuguese forces led by General Arthur Wellesley defeated French force under Major-General Jean-Andoche Junot.

1810  Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshal of France, was elected Crown Prince of Sweden by the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates.

1821  Jarvis Island was discovered by the crew of the ship, Eliza Frances.

1831  Nat Turner led black slaves and free blacks in a rebellion.

1863  Lawrence, Kansas was destroyed by Confederate guerrillas Quantrill’s Raiders in the Lawrence Massacre.

1878  The American Bar Association was founded.

1888  The first successful adding machine in the United States was patented by William Seward Burroughs.

1904  William “Count” Basie, American bandleader, was born  (d. 1984).

1911 Mona Lisa was stolen by a Louvre employee.

1918   The Second Battle of the Somme began.

1920 Christopher Robin Milne, inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, was born (d. 1996).

1930 Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, was born  (d. 2002).

1942  Allied forces defeated an attack by Japanese Army soldiers in the Battle of the Tenaru.

1944  Dumbarton Oaks Conference, prelude to the United Nations, began.

1945  Physicist Harry K. Daghlian, Jr. was fatally irradiated during an experiment with the Demon core at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

1952 Glenn Hughes, British bassist and vocalist (Finders Keepers/Trapeze/Deep Purple), was born.

1952  Joe Strummer, British musician and singer (The Clash), was born  (d. 2002).

1958  Auckland became the first city in New Zealand to introduce the ‘Barnes Dance’ street-crossing system, which stopped all traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time.

Auckland pedestrians begin 'Barnes Dance'

1959  President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order proclaiming Hawaii the 50th state of the union – now commemorated by Hawaii Admission Day.

1963  Xa Loi Pagoda raids: the Army of the Republic of Vietnam Special Forces vandalised Buddhist pagodas across the country, arresting thousands and leaving an estimated hundreds dead.

1968  Warsaw Pact troops invade Czechoslovakia, crushing the Prague Spring and Nicolae Ceauşescu, leader of Communist Romania, publicly condemned the Soviet maneuver, encouraging the Romanian population to arm itself against possible Soviet reprisals.

1968  James Anderson, Jr. posthumously received the first Medal of Honor to be awarded to an African American U.S. Marine.

1969 Michael Dennis Rohan, an Australian, set the Al-Aqsa Mosque on fire.

1971  A bomb exploded in the Liberal Party campaign rally in Plaza Miranda, Manila, with several anti-Marcos political candidates injured.

1976  Operation Paul Bunyan at Panmunjeom, Korea.

1983  Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was assassinated at the Manila International Airport.

1986 Carbon dioxide gas erupted from volcanic Lake Nyos in Cameroon, killing up to 1,800 people within a 20-kilometer range.

1991  Latvia declared renewal of its full independence after the occupation of Soviet Union.

1991  Coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev collapsed.

1993  NASA lost contact with the Mars Observer spacecraft.

2007   Hurricane Dean made its first landfall in Costa Maya, Mexico with winds at 165 mph (266 km/h).

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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