Word of the day

February 4, 2014

Paracosm – a detailed imaginary world, or fantasy world, involving humans and/or animals, or perhaps even fantasy or alien creations.

Fake signs & two types of people

February 4, 2014

Discussion with Jim Mora on Critical Mass today was sparked off by:

 Fake signs in the London Underground


There are two kinds of people in the world




Rural round-up

February 4, 2014

Risk in having all eggs in Fonterra basket:

Government analysis has pointed to weaknesses in the dairy industry, including putting all our eggs in the Fonterra basket.

A five-year Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment project looking at the state of New Zealand’s food and beverage industry found growing strengths for our exports beyond dairy but also sounded a warning about our continued reliance on dairy.

According to the report, New Zealand is the ninth largest milk-producing country in the world and accounts for 2.4 percent of global milk production. Fonterra controls 88 percent of our milk supply and is the fourth-largest dairy company in the world by turnover and first by milk intake. . .

Grant helps student’s project – Letitia Atkinson:

A former Tauranga Boys’ College student is getting a $5000 scholarship to go towards a Bachelor of Science research project.

Zach McLean, who is currently studying at the University of Waikato, will take on a project that involves investigating genes associated with the genetic network regulating pluripotency in bovine embryos.

Pluripotent cells are able to produce all cell types in the body, and emerge during early pre-implantation development.

Zach will be working alongside Dr Bjorn Oback and the Reproductive Technologies group at AgResearch. . . .

Speed fencing record set:

A new world record has been established in speed fencing.

Bill Brewer and Simon Green erected 30 battens on a nine-wire fence in 11 minutes and 38 seconds at last week’s Grasslandz Agricultural Machinery Expo, at Ereka, in Waikato, to become inaugural world champions in the event.

The Taumarunui fencing contractors also won $1000 in prize money. . .

Honey of a job comes to an end – Sonia Beal:

Don Freeth scooted home for the last time on Friday, after almost 40 years working for Blenheim beekeeping company Bush J & Sons.

Mr Freeth, 73, has clocked up just under 108,000 kilometres on his 1968 Honda 50, most of which had been accumulated riding to and from work every day since he started there in October 1975.

“Sometimes I go in the car if the weather’s a bit crook, but other than that it’s every day,” he said.

Mr Freeth described himself as a “jack of all trades”, helping out with all aspects of the company’s beehive management including inspecting hives, packing honey, and queen-rearing, the method used to raise more queen bees. . .

Record profit for Primary Wool:

PRIMARY WOOL Cooperative’s profit of $1.9m for the 2013 financial year is the largest in the cooperative’s 39-history, says chairman, Bay de Lautour.

An average of two members per week joined the cooperative in 2013, growing to three members per week in the first four months of the 2014 financial year, de Lautour says.

The 2013 profit represents 71c a share and comes from Primary Wool Cooperative’s 50% share of Elders Primary Wool which de Lautour says has gained market share as farmers see the benefits of their wool being handled by an efficient broker and seeing half the profits returned to the 100% farmer owned cooperative. . . .

Timaru beauty declared top cow – Jill Galloway:

A cow from Timaru jazzed things up at last week’s Dairy Event, in Feilding, being named the best bovine beauty on show.

It was the Miss New Zealand of dairy cows at Manfeild Park on Thursday with the country’s best cows and calves all aiming to put their best hoof forward.

The Supreme 2014 All New Zealand Champion, or the top cow award, went to Fairview Dolman Jazz-ET, a 5 -year-old holstein friesian cow, from Timaru.

The judges deemed the South Island stunner “best in show”, topping all other cows in the competition. . . .

Strong Results at Karaka 2014:

New Zealand Bloodstock’s 88th National Yearling Sales Series drew to a close yesterday with increases posted across all key statistics as the hammer fell on the final of 1372 yearlings catalogued over six days of selling.

At the completion of Karaka 2014, the combined statistics across the Premier, Select and Festival Sales show consistent strength throughout the week to record an increased average, clearance and median, with 64 fewer horses sold compared to 2013. . .

Greens facing tougher fight

February 4, 2014

The Green Party has never been in government and so never had to compromise in its promises.

That changed in the last couple of weeks when co-leader Russel Norman swallowed a huge dead rat in saying Labour’s support for oil and gas exploration wouldn’t be a bottom line.

That sort of compromise is what they have to do if they want to be in government, but it’s also the sort of thing that loses support from people like Rachel Stewart who says that Norman’s slip let down the people of ‘Green’ land:

. . . Russel Norman’s response to Labour making it crystal clear they would continue with National’s oil drilling agenda was deflating to say the least.

Suddenly he was sure something could be worked out in any coalition talks.

Oh, really?

It was a bit of a wake-up call for me and the many others leaning towards the Greens. It was only January and here was their leader speaking of selling out before he’d even got out of the blocks. . . .

Selling out – that’s what the Greens usually accuse other parties of doing.

They now face a quandary, if they want to look like a partner of a government in waiting, they’ve got to look reasonable and be prepared to compromise – as Norman did last year on his mad money-printing idea and more recently on oil and gas.

But in doing that they’ll lose support from people who aren’t prepared to accept compromise.

The party can expect no help from Labour.

Cunliffe has made it clear he’s determined to increase his party’s vote, even if it’s at the expense of potential coalition partners:

. . . Mr Cunliffe would give few hints as to its plans but said he was focussing on being the largest party in Parliament after the 2014 election to put it in a strong position to form the next Government. It is the first time Mr Cunliffe has been specific about overtaking National rather than talking about the joint Labour-Greens poll lift.

That will be a big ask and requires closing a more than 10 point gap between Labour and National in the polls. That is something it has not come near for the past five years.

His comment indicates Labour will be gunning to try to get some of its vote back from the Greens as well as targeting soft National voters. . .

Swapping votes from the Greens to Labour could give the latter more MPs but wouldn’t increase the left-block. To do that they need to take votes from the centre.

Labour knows that soft National voters are put off by the radical red policies of the Greens and is showing that it will have no compunction about butchering the vote of its potential coalition partner to build its own vote.

It’s not pretty but that’s MMP.


Clearing out the clutter

February 4, 2014

Education Minister Hekia Parata has established a taskforce that will free up schools to focus more on raising student achievement, and identify regulations that are obstructing this.

. . . The Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance will investigate regulations that may distract or hinder schools from focusing on raising achievement for all young people.

“Last year we amended the Education Act to set out for the first time the statutory purpose of school boards, which is to do all in their power to raise achievement for all students. Research also shows that 71% of our secondary school principals reported a desire to spend more time on educational leadership,” Ms Parata says. 

“By establishing the Taskforce we are taking action to ensure Boards and school leaders can continue to focus on raising educational achievement for all students and not be stifled by low level compliance and regulations.”

The Taskforce members are:

  • Murray Jack (Deloitte) – Chair
  • Jill Corkin (Principal, Snells Beach School)
  • Howard Fancy (former Secretary for Education)
  • Janet Kelly (former President of NZSTA, extensive experience in school governance)
  • Renee Wright (Te Tari Tautoko – Te Runanga Nui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Aotearoa)
  • Tim O’Connor (Principal, Auckland Grammar School)
  • Warwick Maguire (Principal, Burnside High School)
  • Prof Neil Quigley (Victoria University of Wellington)

“This Taskforce will bring together some of New Zealand’s foremost education practitioners on regulation, governance, and education. It is my expectation that the Taskforce will recommend changes to existing practices, rules and regulations in order to raise student achievement,” Ms Parata says.

The independent Taskforce will undertake a targeted consultation process starting in early 2014.

 “I am expecting a final report by 31 May 2014 identifying possible changes to rules, and regulations to achieve better education outcomes. The Taskforce will also identify areas of possible change that would benefit from further investigation,” Ms Parata says.

“My goal is to clear out any clutter and support schools to operate with flexibility and continue with their strong commitment to raising achievement for all students.

“This is an exciting piece of work for this Government as we continue our strong focus on helping five out of five young people to achieve their educational potential,” says Ms Parata.

This is a much-needed initiative and not only in education.

If we could clear out the clutter of low level compliance and regulation from other sectors too, New Zealand would be a far more productive country.

Schools have choices

February 4, 2014

Schools don’t have enough money?

This one does:

. . . About 250 new iPad minis were given to children starting the new year at Te Akau ki Papamoa, a decile 4 school in Bay of Plenty, yesterday.

A further 45 tablets have been ordered for late enrollers.

So far the school has invested about $50,000 to ensure all its senior students have their own device. They retail for about $450 each.

Hundreds of schools around the country have implemented “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, where students are either told or allowed to bring electronic devices such as iPads or laptops to assist their learning.

Principal Bruce Jepsen told the Herald that concerns about such policies creating a “haves” and “have-nots” situation meant his board of trustees chose a different approach.

He said another problem with students bringing their own devices was the variety, which could hinder teachers trying to corral a classroom full of different technology.

The school already had about five iPads in every classroom – around 150 across its 500 students.

Every student in Years 4 to 6 received an iPad yesterday. The plan is to extend the programme to the junior school eventually.

While many schools would balk at the cost, Mr Jepsen said it had been possible with careful budgeting and some fundraising.

A Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust subsidy will pay 50 per cent of the initial $101,000 cost. But Mr Jepsen insisted the school was committed to the initiative with or without assistance, with another $60,000 budgeted for that purpose.

“[The grant] means we are able to progress the second phase of rolling out to the junior school a lot quicker.” . . .

Accepting that decile rankings are blunt instruments, decile four reflects a community that isn’t wealthy but careful budgeting and some fundraising has given this school choices.

That’s what happens when you allow them to make their own decisions on how to spend their money in the best interests of their pupils.

It began with a farmer

February 4, 2014

Competition for the American Super Bowl isn’t just on the field, it’s also among the advertisers.

This one is one of this year’s contenders:

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