Jane Henson 1934 -2013

April 3, 2013

Jane Henson, who with her future husband and fellow puppeteer Jim Henson was instrumental in bringing the Muppets to life in the 1950s on a TV station in Washington, D.C., died Tuesday at her home in Greenwich, Conn., after a long battle with cancer. . .

I came across the theme song before I ever saw The Muppets.

One of my flatmates sang beautifully and one night on the way home we stopped to play the flax behind the Otago University registry building in Leith Street- as you do when it’s been raining and you can make a wonderful sound by sliding your fingers along them.

Not content with just doing that, the musical flatmate started singing the Muppet Song to our accompaniment on the flax.

I’ve just re-read that and will excuse you if you don’t quite get the picture – or the song. I think it was better at the time than in the re-telling.

My next encounter with The Muppets was television replays when our daughter was young. She loved the programme, not just watching it but singing and dancing with the characters.

It was also a useful tool for letting her know how long a journey would be – the trip to Dunedin was one and a half Muppet shows.

I was very sorry to read of  Jane Henson’s death but I hope those who mourn her will be comforted by the lovely legacy she’s left in The Muppets.


Word of the day

April 3, 2013

Irrefragable – impossible to refute  or disprove; incontestable; undeniable.


Rural round-up

April 3, 2013

Planning: our rural romance mustn’t stop us building homes:

This evening many of us may find escape by watching the first of 42 hours of the BBC’s chronicle of 100 years of rural life, The Village, set in the lushly dramatic countryside of Edale and Hayfield in the Peak District.

A few of us – 165,095, in England and Wales, to be precise – might be doing so in the comfort of a second home, deep in the heart of Cornwall, perhaps, facing rolling green fields with not another dwelling in sight.

Yet, whatever the romantic view of our green and pleasant land, in fact and fiction, in our towns and cities, an all too real crisis of space and homes is already upon us.

As rents rise, mortgages are elusive and home ownership for increasing numbers of young people becomes a distant dream, the refusal to concede so much as an inch of greenfield terrain by organisations such as the National Trust appears less and less reasonable. . .

Focus on rural crime – Jill Galloway:

In a first, crime prevention advocate Crimestoppers is launching a campaign aimed at giving rural communities greater confidence to speak up about suspicious or criminal activity.

It is called “Shut the gate on rural crime”, and is supported by New Zealand rural insurer FMG and New Zealand Post.

Chief executive of Crimestoppers Jude Mannion said there were about 50 calls a day from all around New Zealand – urban and rural areas.

“Things like stock theft are now more professional and organised than they were. And in rural areas there are fewer people and that brings a problem of isolation.” . .

City docs ‘go rural’:

HEALTH Minister Lawrence Springborg’s plan to turn Beaudesert Hospital into a training facility for rural doctors has been given a positive prognosis from young city GPs keen on taking their much-needed medical skills bush.

The urban based doctors were recently at the South East Queensland medical facility for a ‘Go Rural Queensland – a day in the life of a rural doctor’ workshop run by Health Workforce Queensland.

While Beaudesert might only be a one-hour’s drive from Brisbane, the town’s medical services still operate in a rural context that would appear foreign to how services are delivered in the city, according to Health Workforce Queensland CEO Chris Mitchell. . .

Feed dispenser takes top award – Gerald Piddock:

A dispenser that provides dairy cattle with a daily dose of mineral supplements has taken top honours at the South Island Field Days innovation awards.

Called the Conedose, the machine dispenses molasses mixed with mineral supplements to cattle in the dairy shed.

It was designed by Southland-based company Winton Stock Feed and won the class one New Zealand-made farm machinery award at the South Island Field Days at Lincoln.

The Conedose dispensed non-soluble minerals, which other feeders could not do, Winton Stock Feed operations manager Paul Jackson said. . .

Mesh covers could beat TPP – Gerald Piddock:

A simple mesh cover could be the answer to halting one of the country’s most devastating tomato and potato pests.

The covers are being trialled at the Lincoln University Future Farming Centre to see if they stop the tomato potato psyllid (TPP) from invading the plants.

The results so far look extremely promising despite the trials being in their first season, centre head Charles Merfield says. . .

Beef, Lamb & Chelsea: A Recipe For Success:

In an exciting new partnership, Beef + Lamb New Zealand has today announced a partnership with Chelsea Winter, winner of Master Chef New Zealand 2012.

Winter’s recipes will be gracing butchery shelves and supermarket in abundance from this month.

Winter is joining the team as the face of mEAT magazine, Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s free, quarterly guide to beef and lamb.

“This is a really exciting partnership and we have had so much fun developing fresh new recipes to complement the new-look mEAT magazine, which I am sure readers are going to love,” says Winter. . .

Richie Mccaw Visits Fonterra’s Sri Lanka Operations:

Fonterra’s global ambassador Richie McCaw has gained an up-close view of Fonterra in Sri Lanka last week during a two day tour of the Co-operative’s operations in the country.

McCaw said it was great to see first hand how Fonterra was growing its business in the region.

“It’s my first time in Sri Lanka and it made me realise how big Fonterra and Anchor are in the region. You drive through Colombo and see Anchor signs everywhere – it’s amazing that Sri Lankan kids are drinking the same milk that I grew up on in Canterbury.

“You sometimes forget that Fonterra’s got such a global reach. The kids and farmers that I met during the trip all told me that Fonterra and Anchor are a big part of their lives – not only because of the products Fonterra supplies but because the Co-op has become part of the community over the last 35 years,” said McCaw. . .

From here via Campaign for Wool we have tartan sheep:

One of our favourite April Fools Day hoaxes has to be the Tartan Sheep: The London Times ran a photo of "tartan sheep" said to have been bred by Grant Bell of West Barns, East Lothian. However, the Times warned, "Before you complain of being fleeced, check out the baa-code for today's date." http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/af_database/permalink/tartan_sheep


Green fact check failure

April 3, 2013

Journalists are often accused of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story.

The Green Party has done that with this:Sandy GreenDavid Farrar has taken a lot more care with the figures than the Green Party, with its taxpayer funding, did.

So in summary, the Greens:

  1. Misrepresented the minimum wage change
  2. Inaccurately stated the minimum wage last week was $13.75
  3. Miscalculated the take home pay last week (they were wrong at $13.50 and $13.75)
  4. Miscalculated the change in student loan repayments
  5. Miscalculated the change in Kiwisaver deductions

This is pretty gross incompetence for a political party with you know staff and MPs. There is nothing difficult about going to the IRD website and using their calculator. Their advertisement is false and misleading and they should withdraw it until corrected.

Keeping Stock points out another fact check fail:

The starting-out wage will be an option for employers and employees from 1 May 2013.
So the starting-out wage isn’t even one of the changes that took effect on April 1st. The Greens have launched a giant April Fools Day prank at the expense of their own credibility.

This is a spectacular own goal by the Greens, so spectacular that we feel compelled to ask this question; is Sandy Green Rufus Paynter’s long-lost daughter?

Whoever she is, her long term outlook would be better if she’s in full time work than on a benefit and we’ll all be better off if student loans are paid off more quickly.


Greens adopt one policy for all

April 3, 2013

The Green Party has adopted a single policy statement to fit all situations.

Co-leader Russel Norman said the policy to have a single policy statement was consistent with the party’s policy on waste minimisation.

“We’ve decided there’s no point spouting forth, cluttering up the airwaves, clogging up bandwidth or cutting down trees to produce multiple policy statements when no-one takes any notice of them,” he said.

“It’s a waste of resources which is contrary to our philosophy and principles.”

Co-leader Metiria Turei said the new policy was entirely consistent with the party’s global warming policy.

“We’re worried about hot air and don’t want to be contributing to any more than we absolutely have to,” she said.

“We took baked beans off the breakfast menu but felt we had to do more  – or rather less – and our single policy statement is doing that.”

When asked what the new single policy statement was, the pair clasped hands and said in  unison, “They will have to stop the asset sales.”

“We’ve been saying that since before the last election. We like the sound of it and can’t think of a single situation where it’s not an appropriate statement,” Ms Turei said.

“It will also save us having to think up any policies for the next election which is also consistent with our energy conservation and waste minimisation policies,” Mr Norman added.


Act x NZ First

April 3, 2013

The Focus NZ Party, which began life as the Rural Party, has more than 400 of the minimum of 500 members it needs to register as a political party.

The Focus NZ party, headed by Kerikeri farmer and businessman Ken Rintoul, was formed last year around a group of farmers opposed to big rate increases proposed by the Far North District Council. . .

The policies released so far are something of a grab-bag from across the political spectrum, incorporating some of the philosophy and business-friendly approach of Act with a dose of NZ First’s interventionist economic nationalism. . .

Like some other small parties which have started its policies appear contradictory – it wants to cut taxes, which is a business-friendly policy, but it also favours a new tax on international transactions which is business unfriendly.

It’s also opposed to asset sales which isn’t a pro-business stance either.

Fortunately, its chances of being in a position to translate its policies into practice are slight.

Kiwiblog tables the best election results under MMP for parties that didn’t already have an MP in parliament:

  • 99 MPs 0.03%
  • ACT 7.14%
  • Advance NZ 0.05%
  • Animals First 0.17%
  • Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis 1.66%
  • Asia Pacific United 0.02%
  • Bill & Ben 0.56%
  • Christian Heritage 2.38%
  • Christian Coalition 4.33%
  • Conservative 2.65%
  • Democrats for Social Credit 0.08%
  • Destiny 0.62%
  • Direct Democracy 0.03%
  • Ethnic Minority 0.12%
  • Family Party 0.35%
  • Family Rights 0.05%
  • Freedom 0.02%
  • Future NZ 1.12%
  • Green Society 0.11%
  • Kiwi Party 0.54%
  • Libertarianz 0.29%
  • Mana Maori 0.25%
  • Mauri Pacific 0.19%
  • McGillycuddy Serious 0.29%
  • Natural Law 0.15%
  • NMP 0.05%
  • NZ Conservative 0.07%
  • NZ Super & Youth 0.06%
  • One NZ 0.09%
  • Outdoor Recreation 1.28%
  • Pacific Party 0.37%
  • People’s Choice 0.02%
  • Progressive Greens 0.26%
  • RAM 0.02%
  • Republic of NZ Party 0.02%
  • South Island 0.14%
  • Te Tawharau 0.02%
  • Workers Party 0.04%

So of those 38 parties, only ACT have made it in. 31 parties have failed to make even 1% and six parties made 1%. Of those six, four were effectively Christian parties, plus ALCP and Outdoor Recreation.

That list includes the Christian Coalition which was led by sitting, and former National, MP Graeme Lee.

To add evidence of just how difficult it is for a new party to gain traction you could add to that list parties formed by or with at least one sitting MP who failed to win a seat at the next election. Among them was ROC, formed by Ross Meurant who left National to form his own party and who is on the board of Focus NZ.

The 500 members required to form a party is a very low hurdle and Focus NZ will probably find enough people to jump that. Succeeding from there is much harder.

Persuading people to vote for a new party which doesn’t have an MP and is contesting the list vote only takes a lot of volunteers, a lot of good publicity and a lot of money.

Focus NZ  could be seen as a threat to National but there are already plenty of options for people who don’t want to vote for it.

The new party is much more likely to take the disgruntled vote from smaller parties which could hurt them but it would be a safe bet that Focus NZ won’t attract enough support to win even one seat in parliament.


Sell Landcorp – Act

April 3, 2013

Act wants the government to include Landcorp in its asset sales programme.

Associate Primary Industry Spokesman Robin Grieve says:

“ACT believes the Government should not be involved in the business of farm ownership and that 100 per cent of Landcorp should be sold,” Mr Grieve said.

I agree that the government shouldn’t be in the business of farming but National campaigned on selling a minority share in a few state assets and Landcorp wasn’t among them.

For that reason the sale of the company shouldn’t happen this term. The sale could be part of a future campaign but Landcorp shouldn’t be sold as a whole.

Putting the whole company up for sale in its entirety would limit the number of potential buyers to a very few. Most if not all who could afford to pay the more than a billion and a half dollars its worth would be from overseas.

While I’m not opposed to overseas ownership in general it wouldn’t be sensible to structure a sale so that all the farms were almost certain to go to foreign interests.

The only reason for the government to own the farms is to maintain a land bank for treaty settlements.

Once that is no longer needed any farms left in state ownership should be put on the market one by one until they’re all sold.

The company has a good reputation for farm management and its possible that a company making use of that could also be floated.

Act is right that the state shouldn’t be farming but its policy for Landcorp to be sold as a whole would be neither politically nor financially sensible.

It would be easier to sell the policy and ensure a better return for the land by selling the farms individually and over time.


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