Día de los Muertos


It’s All Saints day if you’re a Catholic and it’s el Día de los Muertos for Mexicans.

More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.

It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate.

A ritual known today as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. . .

Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual.

The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth.

The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the monthlong ritual.

Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake. . .

I had my hair cut in Wellington on Wednesday by a young French woman who has lots of friends from Hispanic countries.

She said they were planning to celebrate el Día de los Muertos with a parade this evening.


Word of the day


Consanguineous – relationship by blood or by a common ancestor; of the same lineage or origin; a close affinity or connection.

Rural round-up


Alliance Group secures exclusive deal with iconic UK retailer:

Leading meat processor and exporter Alliance Group has secured an exclusive deal to supply chilled New Zealand lamb to iconic UK retailer Marks & Spencer.

The   cooperative   will   be   the   sole   supplier   of   chilled  New   Zealand   lamb   to   Marks   &   Spencer   from Christmas 2012, sourcing lambs from approved farms across the South Island for processing at the company’s Lorneville (Invercargill), Pukeuri (Oamaru) and Smithfield (Timaru) plants.  

This supply arrangement is the first time Marks & Spencer has agreed to an exclusive deal for chilled lamb from a single New Zealand supplier.  . .

AgResearch scientist gets funding for new TB vaccine:

An AgResearch scientist has won funding to investigate the development of a new type of vaccine to protect animals and humans against tuberculosis and, potentially, a wide range of other infectious diseases.

Dr Axel Heiser has been awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It gives him a year to explore the concept of a new vaccination technique that would be more effective and longer lasting than what is available at present. . .

Wasps to fight colding moth ‘will reduce need for spray‘:

Pipfruit New Zealand says a new biological control agent for codling moth could save apple growers millions of dollars a year in spray costs.

The wasp, Matrus ridens, originates in Kazakhstan and has been successful in helping control the moth in the United States.

On Thursday Plant and Food Research released 1000 of the parasitoid wasps into a Hawke’s Bay orchard. . .

Wool growers asked to put money into another international marketing venture:

Strong wool growers are being asked for up to $10 million to step up the scope of international marketing firm Wools of New Zealand.

Wools of New Zealand has been funded by the wool market development fee since 2010 and wants to raise $10 million by issuing shares to wool growers at $1 apiece. The marketing company was spun out of PGG Wrightson into a grower’s trust last year and is the latest attempt to build a central promotional body for the wool sector.

The Christchurch-based company needs to raise at least $5 million, and plans to use some of the funds to repay a $1.87 million loan owed to its shareholder, Wools of New Zealand Trust. The remaining funds will go to developing marketing and royalty earning programmes and to build supply chains. . .

More Fonterra farms in China:

Fonterra has signed a dairy farm investment agreement with local authorities in China’s Yutian County.

The agreement – forecast earlier this year by NBR ONLINE – paves the way for two more large-scale dairy farms to be developed for $100 million in Hebei province, which will complete the dairy giant’s goal of a five-farm “hub”.

The company says in a statement the two farms, 120 kilometres east of Beijing, will house more than 3000 milking cows each and collectively produce up to 65 million litres of milk a year.

Friday’s answers


Thursday’s questions were:

1. Who said:”if you don’t want to work you have to work to earn enough so you don’t have to work.”?

2. Who wrote Counting for Nothing What Men Value and What Women Are Worth?

3. It’s travailler in French, lavorare in Italian, trabajar in Spanish and mahi in Maori, what is it in English?

4. It starts: Eight hours work, eight hours play . . .  –  how does it end?

5. If you could afford not to work, would you?

Points for answers:

Andrei got 2 1/2 (missed the eight bob a day) and a bonus for correcting the typo.

Willdwan got 2 1/2 and I suppose some feminist  applies to Marilyn Waring for another half.

PDM got one and a nearly for #2.

Alwyn got a clean sweep – again – and wins an electronic bouquet of rhododendron flowers.

Adam got 2 1/2.

Grant got 2 1/2 and if some feminist is worth a half then I guess a local politician is too.


Answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »

PM fronting Farming Show


Farming Show host Jamie Mackay is handing over the mic to Prime Minister John Key today.

Great show tomorrow - the PM takes the reins.

You can listen on NewsTalkZB provincial stations, Radio Sport (except in Auckland and maybe Wellington) and here.

NZ 5th in Prosperity Index


New Zealand is ranked fifth out of 144 countries in the The Legatum Institute’s prosperity index.

The institutes uses eight measures to determine its ranking and is the only one in the world which uses both wealth and well-being.

New Zealand’s economy is ranked 27th; we’re 13th for entrepreneurship and opportunity; 2nd for governance; 1st for education; 20th for health; 13th for safety and security; second for personal freedom and 4th for social capital.

The first place for education is based on access to it, the quality of it and human capital.*

Switzerland is in first place for its economy and also governance, but 32nd for education; Denmark is first for entrepreneurship and opportunity; Luxemburg is in top place for health; Iceland is first for safety and security, but 61st for economy; Canada is first for personal freedom and Norway is first for social capital.

Zimbabwe has the worst economy (anyone still think printing money is a good idea?) and governance; the Congo is worst for entrepreneurship and opportunity, and health; the Central African republic is worst for education; Chad is bottom ranked for safety and security; Yemen is last in personal freedom and Togo is the worst country for social capital.

The top 10 are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand,Canada, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland.

The bottom 10 (from least worst to worst): Ethiopia, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Togo, Burundi, Haiti, Chad, Afghanistan, Congo and Central African Republic.

Key findings from the index:

  •  Prosperity is increasing but safety and security are decreasing.
  • The USA is out of the top 10 for the first time – it’s 12th, mainly because of a fall in the entrepreneurship and opportunity ranking.
  •  The rise of the east continues with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan in the top 10 for economy and top 20 overall.
  •  Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are all rising.
  • Accountable governance and entrepreneurship are key drivers of prosperity, especially for the top 50 countries. In developing countries health and education are more important.

If you’re wondering if that last point is an argument for benign dictatorships in developing countries, the next point gives an answer:

  •  Accountable government is a key stepping stone to prosperity. 27 of the top 30 countries are democracies.
  • Tolerance is also good for prosperity.

This is very much a once-over-lightly on a very interesting report.

Hat Tip: TV3

* P.S. does our top place for education change my mind on the discussion that it’s not where we are in the world but whether we’re good enough that matters?

No. Being best in the world is very good but if our education system is failing to deal with the long tail of underachievers it still needs to be better.

Te Maru o Nga Kura a Iwi (the Iwi Education Authority) agrees.

How much do taxpayers subsidise unions?


In Britain taxpayers provided subsidies of at least  £113 million to unions:

The value of this subsidy has been exposed in the most extensive survey of national and local government ever carried out by the TPA. It shows that trade unions received an estimated £92 million in paid staff time (facility time) plus £21 million in direct payments in 2011-12. The research also demonstrates for the first time that public bodies are often deducting trade union subscriptions in the payroll process without charging the unions for that additional administrative support, despite union claims to the contrary. . .

It is compulsory here for all employers to collect union fees.

That will incur a cost which adds to overheads.

A remit from Young Nationals seeking the repeal of that legislation was passed unanimously at this year’s National Party conference.

I don’t think it has made its way to the government agenda yet.

What other subsidies do employers in general and taxpayers provide to unions here?

Is that fair and reasonable or is there more scope for change, especially when some unions have political affiliations and will soon gain 20% of the vote for the Labour leader under proposed changes to the party’s rule?

There is a plan


The Opposition, and others who disagree with National’s strategy keep saying the government doesn’t have a plan.

It does and Trans-Tasman recognises it:

. . . In plugging away on its business growth agenda the Govt is putting down policy markers which in aggregate will add up to substantial transformation in the economic climate. Its mantra there are no quick fixes is balanced by a range of measures aimed at steadily improving the environment in which business has to work. . .

We didn’t get into the economic doldrums overnight and we won’t get out of them quickly either.

But the government is slowly but surely changing economic direction away from tax and spend and debt-fuelled spending to one based on export-led growth, savings and investment.

More tax to encourage more?


Trans Tasman makes a pertinent observation:

OK, so the Govt wants us to smoke more, which is why it has hiked the tax on tobacco, right? And the whole Kyoto, putting a price on emissions thing: it’s to encourage people to put out more greenhouse gases, isn’t it?


Well consider the position of Labour and the Greens and – as of this week – whoever writes NZ Herald editorials. Apparently, according to this logic, the way to get more houses is to tax them more. Confused? They are. . .

. . .You don’t – unless your grasp of economic incentives is really skew-whiff – increase the tax on something you want more of.

There might be valid reasons for a capital gains tax – though I’m not convinced the negatives outweigh the positives.

But whoever thinks it will increase the supply of houses needs to think again. It won’t.

November 2 in history


1410 The Peace of Bicêtre between the Armagnac and Burgundian factions was signed.

1570 A tidal wave in the North Sea devastates the coast from Holland to Jutland, killing more than 1,000 people.

1755 – Marie Antoinette, Queen of France was born (d. 1793).

1783  US General George Washington gave his “Farewell Address to the Army”.

1795 The French Directory succeeded the French National Convention as the government of Revolutionary France.

1861  American Civil War: Western Department Union General John C. Fremont was relieved of command and replaced by David Hunter.

1868  New Zealand officially adopted a standard time to be observed nationally

1882 Oulu, Finland was decimated by the Great Oulu Fire of 1882.

1889  North and South Dakota were admitted as the 39th and 40th U.S. states.

1895  The first gasoline-powered race in the United States. First prize: $2,000

1898 Cheerleading started at the University of Minnesota with Johnny Campbell leading the crowd in cheering on the football team.

1899 The Boers began their 118 day siege of British held Ladysmith during the Second Boer War.

1913  Burt Lancaster, American actor, was born (d. 1994).

1914 Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire.

1917 The Balfour Declaration proclaimed British support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” with the clear understanding “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”

1920 KDKA of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania started broadcasting as the first commercial radio station. The first broadcast was the result of the U.S. presidential election, 1920.

1930 Haile Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia.

1936  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was established.

1936 – Italian dictator Benito Mussolini proclaimed the Rome-Berlin Axis, establishing the alliance of the Axis Powers.

1936 – The British Broadcasting Corporation initiated the BBC Television Service, the world’s first regular, high-definition (then defined as at least 200 lines) service.

1938 – Queen Sofia of Spain was born.

1941 Bruce Welch, English musician and songwriter (The Shadows), was born.

1942 At El Alamein in Egypt, the 2nd New Zealand Division opened the way for British armour, allowing the Allies to force a breakthrough and send the Axis forces into retreat.

NZ Division helps Allies break through at El Alamein

1944  Keith Emerson, British keyboardist and composer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), was born.

1947  Howard Hughes performed the maiden (and only) flight of the Spruce Goose; the largest fixed-wing aircraft ever built.

1957 The Levelland UFO Case in Levelland, Texas, generated national publicity.

1959 Quiz show scandals: Twenty One game show contestant Charles Van Doren admitted to a Congressional committee that he had been given questions and answers in advance.

1959  The first section of the M1 motorway, the first inter-urban motorway in the United Kingdom, was opened.

1960  Penguin Books was found not guilty of obscenity in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover case.

1961  k.d. lang, Canadian musician, was born.

1963  South Vietnamese President Ngô Ðình Diệm is assassinated following a military coup.

1964 King Saud of Saudi Arabia was deposed by a family coup, and replaced by his half-brother King Faisal.

1965  Norman Morrison, a 31-year-old Quaker, set himself on fire in front of the river entrance to the Pentagon to protest the use of napalm in the Vietnam war.

1966  The Cuban Adjustment Act entered force, allowing 123,000 Cubans the opportunity to apply for permanent residence in the United States.

1974  78 died when the Time Go-Go Club in Seoul burned down.

1983 U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

1984  Velma Barfield becomes the first woman executed in the United States since 1962.

1988 The Morris worm, the first internet-distributed computer worm to gain significant mainstream media attention, was launched from MIT.

1995 Former South African defence minister General Magnus Malan and 10 other former senior military officers were arrested and charged with murdering 13 black people in 1987.

2000 – The first resident crew to the ISS docked on the Soyuz TM-31.

2007 – 50,000–100,000 people demonstrated against the Georgian government in Tbilisi.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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