Word of the day

December 21, 2012

Fatidic – of, relating to, or characterised by prophecy; prophetic; having power to foretell future events.


Rural round-up

December 21, 2012

Bruce Wills wants progress on water quality and end primary school taunts plus successful TPP outcome in 2013:

While some environmentalists point fingers at farmers as the sole reason for why water ‘isn’t what it used to be,’ I have never seen farmers treating water more seriously and with more respect than they do today.

As 2012 draws to a close there is no such thing as the ‘good old days’ when it comes to water use in town or country.

As the President of Federated Farmers, this got me thinking about the two things I would dearly want for Christmas and the New Year.

One is an end to the ‘farmer v. environmentalist’ stoush and the second is a trade liberalising Trans Pacific Partnership. . .

Dairy effluent to fish food project scaled up:

A Bay of Plenty regional council project which involves converting dairy effluent into fish food is being scaled up to farm trials.

The project is one of a number to receive a share of the council’s $30,000 Bright Idea Fund which is available for staff ideas that fall outside the normal scope of council work.

Rivers and Drainage manager Bruce Crabbe says batch trials show whitebait have successfully been raised on dairy effluent converted into a protein rich plankton.

Forestry workers urged to stay safe this summer

With a number of recent deaths in the forestry sector, workers, contractors and forest owners are being urged to make safety a priority this summer season.

The forestry sector has the highest rate of fatal work-related injuries in New Zealand and the rate of ACC claims for the forestry sector is almost six times the rate for all sectors.

“This is unacceptable – we need to do better when it comes to keeping our forestry workers safe,” says the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s General Manager of Health and Safety Operations, Ona de Rooy. . .


Friday’s answers

December 21, 2012

Thursday’s questions were:

1.  Who said: I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.?

2. What’s your favourite Christmas carol/song?

3. It’s heureux in French, felice  in Italian, feliz in Spanish and manahau  in Maori, what is it in English.

4. What’s your favourite Christmas food?

5. Do you celebrate Christmas and if so how?

Points for answers:

Given there were no wrong ones for 2, 4 and 5, taking a generous view that if you’re happy you might rejoice, and because I appreciate your regular contributions to the quiz, Andrei, Alwyn and Grant all win a virtual Christmas cake with five right.


Apropos of counting blessings . . .

December 21, 2012

. . .  living near Central Otago is one of them:


Speak out against the crowd

December 21, 2012

If you want to change the course of history, speak out against the crowd.

That was the message from Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers’ vice president in an Otago University graduation address.

. . . As you go out into the world your lives and your actions will be defined by your values.

The challenge is to value for the whole of your life the knowledge that will inform your decisions.

Gather all the information available to you; understand that risk and probability is a part of this universe – nothing is certain or risk free and everything is a trade-off; understand the contrary argument; always be prepared to challenge and question – even your own views; above all adapt to new information.

You will recognise these as basic principles of the scientific method.

My message today is whether your degree is in commerce, law, bio science or the health sciences you must, each and every one of you, understand and employ science principles.

Arthur Conan Doyle’s super detective Sherlock Holmes said:

“It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts “.

Sherlock Holmes called it “a capital mistake”, we call it “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is seen in many of this country’s debates for example alternative medicine, immunisation, genetic modification and fluoridation.

Marketing relies on confirmation bias – accentuate the positive eliminate the negative.

Fundamentalism of all persuasions also relies on it – accentuate fear, eliminate reason.

Science can also fall victim to confirmation bias but the strength of science is that, because of its principles, over time it is self-correcting. . .

. . . Employ scientific principles and your conclusions will have integrity.

But if you want to alter the course of history you need to be prepared to speak out against the crowd.

To back what you know is right in the face of hysteria or as Kipling said “keep your head while all about are losing theirs”.

In 2001 a group of science and industry organisations, including this university, formed the Life Sciences Network to provide a rational perspective in the genetic modification debate. I was its chairman.

At the time it was a popular notion that genetic modification was bad and dangerous. Bad news stories, no matter how incredible, would linger in the papers for weeks. Celebrities were falling over themselves to slam genetic modification.

Fifteen thousand people marched down Queen Street calling for the technology to be banned. We were vilified as puppets of evil corporates such as Monsanto. It got nasty – at times I was assigned a bodyguard and wondered about the safety of my home and family.

It was not a comfortable position to be in but the question of genetic science was a critical strategic issue for New Zealand. We applied scientific principles and our values.

We did our homework, we considered all the information available to us, we understood risk and probability, we put ourselves in our opponents shoes to understand their view, we continually challenged our assumptions and we were prepared to modify our view if compelling information came forward.

In other words we used scientific principles to form our views and underpin our arguments, which, while not popular, had integrity and longevity.

In our view genetic modification can be used for benefit or harm but like fire it should not be banned.

Our GM opponents confirmed their bias in a fundamentalist approach which is ultimately doomed to failure as Galileo proved several centuries ago.

We held the line.

Fast forward a decade and, while genetic modification is still restricted and viewed with suspicion in some quarters in New Zealand, around the world it is one of the fastest adopted technologies in agriculture.

It is widely used in medicine, food production and manufacturing.

The GM debate was for me an exciting and rewarding time despite the risks. It has also provided opportunity. Speaking out has led me into leadership roles in science, industry and agriculture. The chance to make a difference has increased, not decreased.

You too have that opportunity.

A university education has taught you how to think. But don’t underestimate the importance of this skill and above all don’t take it for granted nor misuse it.

As you go out into the world you will meet triumph and disaster. Take Kipling’s advice and “treat the two imposters just the same”. Have the courage of your convictions, but whether you be in law, commerce, health or the biosciences use the principles of science to give your convictions longevity and credibility.

After all in the words of Sherlock Holmes “it’s elementary Dr Watson”.


Apocalypse not now

December 21, 2012

If you’re reading this the world hasn’t ended as the Mayan calendar foretold, Armageddon hasn’t happened,  the apocalypse wasn’t now.

But thinking about the end of the world, or at least of our own lives, occasionally isn’t without merit.

The deaths of our sons taught me in a way nothing else had before, that life is fatal.

It also taught me the importance of making the most of it.

Of course life has a propensity for getting in the way of good intentions and I don’t always live up to my own expectations.

But my boys’ legacies are a greater appreciation of life in general and mine in particular, with the abilities, experiences and opportunities they never had.

Since the world hasn’t ended it’s given me another day to count my blessings and enjoy the summer solstice.

I hope you’re able to do that too.


December 21 in history

December 21, 2012

1118  Thomas Becket, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury was born  (d. 1170).

1598  Battle of Curalaba: The revolting Mapuche, led by cacique Pelentaru, inflicted a major defeat on Spanish troops in southern Chile.

1620 William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims landed on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1682 Calico Jack Rackham, English pirate, was born (d. 1720).

1804 Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was born (d. 1881).

1815  Thomas Couture, French painter and teacher, was born (d. 1879).

1843 Thomas Bracken, Irish-born New Zealand poet, was born (d. 1898).

1844 – The Rochdale Pioneers commenced business at their cooperative in Rochdale, England, starting the Cooperative movement.

1861  Medal of Honor: Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

1872  HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain George Nares, sailed from Portsmouth.

1883 The first Permanent Force cavalry and infantry regiments of the Canadian Army were formed: The Royal Canadian Dragoons and The Royal Canadian Regiment.

1892  Rebecca West, British writer, was born  (d. 1983).

1905  Anthony Powell, British author, was born (d. 2000).

1913 Arthur Wynne‘s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, was published in the New York World.

1917  Heinrich Böll, German writer and Nobel laureate, was born (d. 1985).

1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress, was born.

1937  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first full-length animated film, premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre.

1946 Carl Wilson, American musician (The Beach Boys), was born (d. 1998).

1958 Charles de Gaulle was elected President of France when his Union des Démocrates pour la République party gained 78.5% of the vote.

1962 – Rondane National Park was established as Norway‘s first national park.

1964 More than 170 years of New Zealand whaling history came to a close when J. A. Perano and Company caught its last whale off the coast near Kaikoura.

NZ whalers harpoon their last victim

1967  Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a heart transplant, died 18 days after the transplant.

1968 Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. At 2h:50m:37s Mission elapsed time (MES), the crew performed the first ever manned Trans Lunar Injection and became the first humans to leave Earth’s gravity.

1971 New Zealand Railways (NZR) launched a new tourist-oriented steam passenger venture, the Kingston Flyer.

Full steam ahead for Kingston Flyer

1979 Lancaster House Agreement: An independence agreement for Rhodesia was signed in London by Lord Carrington, Sir Ian Gilmour, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and S.C. Mundawarara.

1988  A bomb exploded on board Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270.

1992 – A Dutch DC-10, flight Martinair MP 495, crashed at Faro Airport, killing 56 people.

1994 – Mexican volcano Popocatepetl, dormant for 47 years, erupted.

1995 – The city of Bethlehem passed from Israeli to Palestinian control.

1999 – The Spanish Civil Guard intercepted a van loaded with 950 kg of explosives that ETA intended to use to blow up Torre Picasso in Madrid.

2004 – Iraq War: A suicide bomber killed 22 at the forward operating base next to the main U.S. military airfield at Mosul, the single deadliest suicide attack on American soldiers.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


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