Word of the day

04/02/2014

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

04/02/2014

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

 Fake signs in the London Underground

And

There are two kinds of people in the world

 

 

 


Rural round-up

04/02/2014

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

04/02/2014

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

04/02/2014

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

04/02/2014

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

04/02/2014

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:


Warning against one-hit wonder

04/02/2014

Praise for our economy is always welcome but Treasury’s Chief Economist Dr. Girol Karacoaglu has issued a caution about the rock-star label:

It’s no secret that New Zealand is in an enviable position. Our economic outlook is very good compared to most other countries we benchmark ourselves against. “Rock Star Economy” seems to be the phrase on everyone’s lips. That makes great headlines, but it only really reflects our short-term outlook. It’s true that we expect to see a period of higher growth over the next few years, but the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update forecasts growth to be more moderate after that.

We’ve already seen some of the risks identified in the Update start to materialise. Domestic demand has been stronger than originally forecast, and the reality is that the global environment will continue to be volatile. It will be important to be responsive to these factors.

If we want to achieve the kind of long-term, sustainable economic growth that will consistently raise living standards for New Zealanders, we need to:

1. Learn the lessons of the last decade
2. Show restraint as the economy hits a new gear, and
3. Use the opportunity of higher growth in the short-term to expand the economy, and create a platform for sustained growth over the long-term.

The lessons of the last decade:
The developed world went into the 2000s with a belief that in many respects we’d answered the question of how to achieve stable, long-term economic growth, with steadily rising incomes. We were wrong. Governments and households overextended themselves, asset markets became overvalued, and extra revenue wasn’t sufficiently used to pay off debt. Then it all came tumbling down. For the last five or six years everyone’s had to take their medicine. New Zealand was better placed than many other countries, but has still felt the impact of the Great Recession.

With things now looking up, this is the time to show we’ve learned. The question is, what path will we take this time?

Showing restraint as we hit a new gear:
Over the next few years we expect the Crown’s day-to-day finances to improve as the economy picks up. The temptation might be to spend more.

With the economy operating at or above capacity over the next year or so, too great an increase in government spending risks driving interest rates up higher than they would naturally rise at this point in the cycle. In turn this will put more upward pressure on the exchange rate, and undermine the very export-oriented sectors we want to support higher living standards over the long-term.

Instead, the Treasury’s view is that we need to stay restrained in our spending.

In particular, we need to tightly manage the Crown’s investments in the Christchurch rebuild, to avoid log jams, cost escalations and extra spending. We need to keep pursuing efficiencies in the public sector. We can tighten government spending if household spending is higher than expected. And we can keep steadily reducing debt over time – having room to move on the Crown’s balance sheet was crucial to New Zealand’s ability to support demand in the economy during the downturn. It also meant we could deal with the costs of a large earthquake. We need to rebuild the buffer against future crises.

Use this opportunity:
But while short-term choices about how we manage the government’s finances are important, the real prize is long-term economic growth. As the economy shifts into a new gear we have a golden opportunity to pursue lasting gains by lifting productivity.

In this context, the Treasury welcomes the recent public discussions around how to improve educational outcomes. Other areas we see as priorities include:

· Strengthening our international connections – so that New Zealand businesses have better access to emerging markets;

· Encouraging companies to invest in productivity improvements. For example there are some signs of a lift in productivity in the construction sector that could make a real difference to how we manage the economic cycle if they can be sustained; and

· Pursuing productivity gains in the public sector.

To make headway in some of these areas we’ll need to address some complex and persistent challenges. That will require innovation, and within reason, we can afford to take some educated risks. We just have to be measured, and invest wisely, with an eye on the long-term. We might be a rock star, but we don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.

Our economy is doing well but it needs to keep doing well and reckless spending and a reversal of the policies which have contributed to growth will put it all at risk.

The only way we can afford the first world services and infrastructure to which most aspire is to keep with low tax, low spending policies which reduce the burden of government and encourage growth.

Opposition parties have fought every policy National has introduced which have got us through the recession and growing again.

And policies announced so far by the Labour and Green parties show that a government led by them would do the opposite of what is needed – they’d increase taxes, spending and the burden of government and hamper growth.


February 4 in history

04/02/2014

211 Roman Emperor Septimius Severus died, leaving the Roman Empire in the hands of his two quarrelsome sons, Caracalla and Geta.

960 The coronation of Zhao Kuangyin as Emperor Taizu of Song, initiating the Song Dynasty  period.

1677 Johann Ludwig Bach, German composer, was born  (d. 1731).

1703 In Edo (now Tokyo), 46 of the Forty-seven Ronin commited seppuku (ritual suicide) as recompense for avenging their master’s death.

1789 George Washington was unanimously elected as the first President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.

1792 George Washington was unanimously elected to a second term as President of the United States by the U.S. Electoral College.

1794 The French legislature abolished slavery throughout all territories of the French Republic.

1810 The Royal Navy seized Guadeloupe.

1820 The Chilean Navy under the command of Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald completed the 2 day long capture of Valdivia with just 300 men and 2 ships.

1825 The Ohio Legislature authorizes the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal and the Miami and Erie Canal.

1859 The Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in Egypt.

1902 Charles Lindbergh, American pilot, was born (d. 1974).

1905 Hylda Baker, English comedy actress, was born (d. 1986).

1913 Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist was, born (d. 2005).

1915 – Ray Evans, American songwriter with Jay Livingston, was born.

1915 – Norman Wisdom, English actor and comedian, was born  (d. 2007).

1921 –  Betty Friedan, American feminist, was born  (d. 2006).

1921 – Lotfi Asker Zadeh, American-Iranian/Russian mathematician and computer scientist and the father of fuzzy logic., was born.

1936 Radium became the first radioactive element to be made synthetically.

1941 The United Service Organization (USO) was created to entertain American troops.

1941 – John Steel, British musician (The Animals), was born.

1945 World War II: The Yalta Conference began.

1947  Dan Quayle, 44th Vice President of the United States, was born.

1948 Alice Cooper, American musician, was born.

1948 Ceylon (later renamed Sri Lanka) became independent.

1957 The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571), logged its 60,000th nautical mile, matching the endurance of the fictional Nautilus described in Jules Verne‘s novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.

1966 All Nippon Airways Boeing 727 jet plunged into Tokyo Bay, killing 133.

1967  Lunar Orbiter 3 lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 13 on its mission to identify possible landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo spacecraft.

1969 Yasser Arafat took over as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

1974 The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Patty Hearst in Berkeley, California.

1975 American Lynne Cox became the first woman to swim Cook Strait when she swam from the North Island to the South in a time of 12 hours 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

First woman to swim Cook Strait

1975 Haicheng earthquake (magnitude 7.3 on the Richter scale) occurs in Haicheng, Liaoning, China.

1976 In Guatemala and Honduras an earthquake killed more than 22,000.

1980 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini named Abolhassan Banisadr as president of Iran.

1985 The New Zealand Labour government refused the USS Buchanan entry to the country on the grounds that the United States would neither confirm nor deny that the ship had nuclear capability.

USS <em>Buchanan</em> refused entry to NZ

1992 A Coup d’état led by Hugo Chávez Frías, against Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez.

1996 Major snowstorm paralysed Midwestern United States, Milwaukee, Wisconsin tied all-time record low temperature at -26°F (-32.2°C)

1997 Two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 troop-transport helicopters collided in mid-air over northern Galilee, Israel killing 73.

1997 Serbian  President Slobodan Milošević recognised opposition victories in the November 1996 elections.

1998 An earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter Scale in northeast Afghanistan killed more than 5,000.

1999 Unarmed West African immigrant Amadou Diallo was shot dead by four plainclothes New York City police officers on an urelated stake-out, inflaming race-relations in the city.

1999 The New Carissa ran aground near Coos Bay, Oregon.

2003 The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was officially renamed  Serbia and Montenegro and adopted a new constitution.

2004 Facebook, an online social network was founded by Mark Zuckerberg.

2006 A stampede occured in the ULTRA Stadium near Manila killing 71.

2008 – The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) scheme began to operate.

2010 – The Federal Court of Australia’s ruling in Roadshow Films v iiNet set a precedent that Internet service providers (ISPs) were not responsible for what their users do with the services the ISPs provide them.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia.


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