Last words & water blob

September 17, 2013

Conversation with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked by:

* Famous last words.


* Paging Fun Mums, a site with a wealth of inspiration for anyone who wants to entertain children.

Among the posts are one with instructions for making a water blob.

Word of the day

September 17, 2013

Gardyloo- warning cry used by servants in medieval Scotland to warn passers-by that slops or other waste was about to be thrown from a window into the street below.

2012 Ignobles

September 17, 2013

Ignobles are awarded annually for achievements which first make people laugh then make them think.

 This year’s winners are:

MEDICINE PRIZE: Masateru Uchiyama [JAPAN], Xiangyuan Jin [CHINA, JAPAN], Qi Zhang [JAPAN], Toshihito Hirai [JAPAN], Atsushi Amano [JAPAN], Hisashi Bashuda [JAPAN] and Masanori Niimi [JAPAN, UK], for assessing the effect of listening to opera, on heart transplant patients who are mice. . . 

PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE: Laurent Bègue [FRANCE], Brad Bushman [USA, UK, the NETHERLANDS, POLAND], Oulmann Zerhouni [FRANCE], Baptiste Subra [FRANCE], and Medhi Ourabah [FRANCE], for confirming, by experiment, that people who think they are drunk also think they are attractive. . . 

JOINT PRIZE IN BIOLOGY AND ASTRONOMY: Marie Dacke [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA], Emily Baird [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], Marcus Byrne [SOUTH AFRICA, UK], Clarke Scholtz [SOUTH AFRICA], and Eric J. Warrant [SWEDEN, AUSTRALIA, GERMANY], for discovering that when dung beetles get lost, they can navigate their way home by looking at the Milky Way. . . 

SAFETY ENGINEERING PRIZE: The late Gustano Pizzo [USA], for inventing an electro-mechanical system to trap airplane hijackers — the system drops a hijacker through trap doors, seals him into a package, then drops the encapsulated hijacker through the airplane’s specially-installed bomb bay doors, whence he parachutes to earth, where police, having been alerted by radio, await his arrival. . . .

PHYSICS PRIZE: Alberto Minetti [ITALY, UK, DENMARK, SWITZERLAND], Yuri Ivanenko [ITALY, RUSSIA, FRANCE], Germana Cappellini [ITALY], Nadia Dominici [ITALY, SWITZERLAND], and Francesco Lacquaniti [ITALY], for discovering that some people would be physically capable of running across the surface of a pond — if those people and that pond were on the moon. . . 

CHEMISTRY PRIZE: Shinsuke Imai [JAPAN], Nobuaki Tsuge [JAPAN], Muneaki Tomotake [JAPAN], Yoshiaki Nagatome [JAPAN], Toshiyuki Nagata [JAPAN, GERMANY], and Hidehiko Kumgai [JAPAN], for discovering that the biochemical process by which onions make people cry is even more complicated than scientists previously realized. . . 

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE: Brian Crandall [USA] and Peter Stahl [CANADA, USA], for parboiling a dead shrew, and then swallowing the shrew without chewing, and then carefully examining everything excreted during subsequent days — all so they could see which bones would dissolve inside the human digestive system, and which bones would not. . . 

PEACE PRIZE: Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, for making it illegal to applaud in public, AND to the Belarus State Police, for arresting a one-armed man for applauding.

PROBABILITY PRIZE: Bert Tolkamp [UK, the NETHERLANDS], Marie Haskell [UK], Fritha Langford [UK, CANADA], David Roberts [UK], and Colin Morgan [UK], for making two related discoveries: First, that the longer a cow has been lying down, the more likely that cow will soon stand up; and Second, that once a cow stands up, you cannot easily predict how soon that cow will lie down again. . . 

PUBLIC HEALTH PRIZE: Kasian Bhanganada, Tu Chayavatana, Chumporn Pongnumkul, Anunt Tonmukayakul, Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Krit Komaratal, and Henry Wilde, for the medical techniques described in their report “Surgical Management of an Epidemic of Penile Amputations in Siam” — techniques which they recommend, except in cases where the amputated penis had been partially eaten by a duck. [THAILAND] . . . 

Same destination, different vehicles

September 17, 2013

Prime Minister John Key points out that David Cunliffe’s election as leader has given voters a clear choice between centre right and hard left.

. . . It’s not that Mr Cunliffe’s heart isn’t in the right place – Mr Key says his opponent wants the same things for New Zealanders he wants, they just differ on the best way to achieve those things.

“I think actually in that regard, all politicians share the same ambition – we want to see people have you know, good jobs, be independent so they can look after their families, have a world class education for their children, feel safe in their communities, and basically know that they can get medical care,” says Mr Key.

“The issue is how you get there, and David Cunliffe wants to take Labour down a very left-wing path for achieving that.”

That left-wing path is one of bigger government, higher tax rates, slower or negative growth, inflexible labour laws, union dominance and more welfare dependency.

It is one which would repeat the mistakes of the past and undo the good the current government has done in reducing the burden of government, lowering taxes, addressing educational failure, helping people who could work to do so. . .

The destination both parties are aiming for might be the same but they use very different vehicles for getting there and only one of those vehicles, the one driven by National, has any chance of getting where it’s going and staying there.

First partnership schools announced

September 17, 2013

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Minister John Banks have announced the first partnership schools:

Minister Parata says Partnership Schools offer a new, innovative and dynamic approach to engaging students in education.

“They will help young Kiwis be the best they can be by helping raise aspirations and encouraging them to succeed,” she says.

“The school sponsors were all assessed against specific criteria including the strength of their educational offering, and their ability to improve the education results of children who are being left behind by our system. 

Minister Banks says the schools offered a different approach to education and another option for parents. 

“These schools all offer something different and we are confident they can start meeting the needs of students for whom the current system is not working,” he says.

“I am looking forward to these schools welcoming their students early next year in what will be an important new development for education in New Zealand.”

The five Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are:

  • Vanguard Military School sponsored by Advance Training Centres Limited.  It will be a co-educational senior secondary school for years 11-13, located in Albany Auckland.  The ethos and training methodology of the military will be used to achieve results that allow students to move into a broad range of further training or employment options.
  • Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa sponsored by He Puna Marama Charitable Trust.  It will be a co-educational secondary school for years 7-13 located in Whangarei.  The school intends to raise the achievement of Māori students by reconnecting them with an ethos of leadership and pride.
  • Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru sponsored by Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Trust.  It will be a co-educational secondary school for years 9-13 located in Whangaruru, Northland. The bilingual school will target Māori students and offer additional learning opportunities including farming and outdoor education.
  • The Rise UP Academy sponsored by Rise UP Trust.  Located in Mangere, South Auckland for years 1-6.  The Rise UP approach will include effective governance, excellent teachers of inquiry based learning and culturally responsive whānau engagement.


  • South Auckland Middle School sponsored by Villa Education Trust.  It will be a middle school for years 7-10 located in South Auckland.  Project-based learning will be used for each student within a structured environment, based on Christian philosophy and values.

The concept of partnership schools has been controversial.

What can’t be denied is that it is unacceptable to have 20% of pupils leave school without a qualification and unable to read, write and do maths.

The reasons for that are many and they include what happens at home before children get to school and the support, or lack of it, they get from home once they’re there.

But conventional schools simply don’t suit some pupils. Partnership schools will take a different approach which could help those who need it most.

There are no guarantees and critics of the concept might put politics before pupils in hoping they’ll fail.

For the sake of those children, and the country which will do best with improved educational outcomes, I hope the alternative system makes a positive difference.

Less mail, slower service, less mail . . .

September 17, 2013

New Zealand Post has announced another reduction in service.

It’s replaced it’s target of getting mail across town in a day with a target of three days.

From 7 October 2013 all standard letters will be delivered within New Zealand Post’s Standard Post nationwide delivery target of three working days.

Customers continue to have access to next working day delivery options through priority mail products with FastPost, BoxLink (a service for sending items to PO Boxes or Private Bags) and Courier-Post overnight delivery.

I don’t know what the target for rural delivery is but if we need to get something in a very few days we’d use a courier rather than standard mail or even fast post services.

And that’s part of the problem – less mail means slower service which results in less mail and even slower service  . . .

Referendum even more redundant

September 17, 2013

Finance Minister Bill English and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall have announced the timetable for the partial float of Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy and further selling down of Air New Zealand shares.

The Government has confirmed New Zealanders will have the opportunity to invest in a minority shareholding in Meridian Energy from later this month, before an expected sharemarket listing on 29 October.

Full details will be set out when the offer document is lodged this Friday 20 September, Finance Minister Bill English and State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall say.

Pre-offer marketing will start this evening, ensuring New Zealanders are aware of the Meridian offer through television, newspaper and online advertising. This will explain how people can get more information, including ordering an offer document.

As with the Mighty River Power share offer earlier this year, New Zealanders will again be at the front of the queue for shares in Meridian, Mr English says.

“The Government was very clear about the opportunity for New Zealanders when we put our share offers programme to New Zealanders during the 2011 election campaign. The compelling reasons for proceeding with the share offers are as valid today.

“The Government share offer will enable New Zealanders to invest in big Kiwi companies at a time when they are telling us they want to diversify their growing savings away from property, bank deposits and finance companies.

“And we can invest the proceeds in other public assets like modern schools and hospitals, without having to borrow that money in volatile overseas markets, and increase debt.”

As Ministers have previously indicated, investors will buy Meridian shares in two instalments over 18 months. This means investors will need to pay only around 60 per cent of the price up front – but they will receive in full any dividends.

In addition, there will be a price cap for New Zealand retail applicants to provide more certainty about how much the shares will cost.

Mr English says further decisions have now been confirmed, including:

  • The Meridian offer document will be lodged this Friday 20 September, setting out all the information investors need to make an informed decision about whether to invest. This will include the price range, the price of the first instalment, the capped price of the second instalment and the expected yield.
  • After the offer document is lodged, the Financial Markets Authority has around five business days to review the document. This ‘consideration period’ is expected to conclude on 27 September.
  • New Zealanders will then have three weeks from 30 September to consider the offer document and apply for shares before the general offer closes on 18 October. This will be followed by a book-build process where institutions bid for shares.
  • It is expected that Meridian will list on the New Zealand and Australian sharemarkets on 29 October.

Mr Ryall says the offer process puts New Zealanders at the front of the queue for shares and will ensure they have easy access to information.

“To help achieve this, a retail syndicate will be marketing the offer to New Zealanders, and they will offer information and advice to their clients.

“In addition, we have included what is called a ‘broker firm’ aspect to the Meridian offer. Under this arrangement, brokers assess demand from their clients and submit bids, and the Government then chooses how much to allocate them.

“Just like the retail offer, this process is open only to New Zealanders and is consistent with our commitment to ensuring 85-90 per cent New Zealand ownership of the shares,” Mr Ryall says.

Ministers have also confirmed they are considering options for Genesis Energy and Air New Zealand – two of the other companies in the Government’s share offer programme.

“As the Prime Minister said last month, we anticipate that the Genesis Energy share offer will occur in the first half of 2014, subject to market conditions,” Mr Ryall says. “Preliminary work is underway and will continue over the next few months.”

The Air New Zealand share offer will be different to the others, as it is already a sharemarket-listed company.

“What that means is that New Zealanders can buy shares in the company now, if they wish,” Mr Ryall says.

“We are currently working through the best way the sell down can occur and we remain keen to ensure that New Zealanders have the opportunity to participate in it.  At this stage, no final decisions have been made, including on timing. However, when it occurs we expect it will be a shorter process than that used for Meridian and Mighty River Power.”

This makes the politicians’ referendum on the partial sale of a few state owned assets now even more redundant.

It was always only political posturing.

It was never going to have any impact on government policy which was clearly signalled before the 2011 election, made the issue by the opposition and had already begun with the partial float of Mighty River Power before enough signatures had been gathered.

That Grey Power which fronted the referendum petition has now negotiated a deal for its members with a private power company makes it not just redundant but hypocritical.

Referendums are very blunt instruments and none of the four Citizens Initiated Referendums we’ve had since they were introduced in 1993 have achieved anything.

There are better, and cheaper, ways to make a point and influence policy.

All the latest one does is reinforce the growing body of opinion that Citizens Initiated Referendums have had their day.

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