Monday, July 27, 2009

Puzzled and Quizzical

I recently let a friend talk me into acting as Quiz Master for a Quiz Night run as a fund-raiser for the Hutt Valley High School Underwater Hockey squad. They were raising money to help them get to the National Finals in Christchurch in September.

It was a full-on evening - a big crowd, with lots of prizes donated by local businesses. Tres generous. So there were lots of things to give away as well as all the questions to get through. I even had to run a 'game' in the middle of it all - again to extort money from pockets.

There's always one who has to mug for the camera!

And if the company didn't keep your mind occupied, ...
I told you Christy - I'm just making it up as I go along!
You got me into this Lyn - you get me out of it!!
All-in-all, it was a successful evening. I didn't lose either my life or my voice, everyone seemed to have fun, and the Underwater Hockey squad raised a bucket-load of money.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Serving the Public ... or Not

An interesting contrast in the political fortunes of 2 public servants in recent days.

Dame Sian Elias recently went public with some serious suggestions for addressing shortcomings in NZ's penal system. The DominionPost story was headlined "Top judge suggests prison amnesty". They reported her as saying that "We need to look at direct tools to manage the prison population if overcrowding is not to cause significant safety and human rights issues."

Her concern was not about sentencing but the consequences of that sentencing - overcrowding in prisons, with the resulting loss of dignity and infringement of the rights of prisoners.

She suggested easing current restictions on bail and parole. "If not we will have to keep building prisons and diverting resources into incapacitation. ..." she said.

What made this speech noteworthy is that Dame Sian is New Zealand's top judge. She is the Chief Justice.

John Whitehead also made the headlines: "Public servants told to lift game" in the words of the DominionPost

"Nothing should be off the table: for example, contracting out delivery as we do with some social services and others, like Australia, do with private prisons, may be more effective." At least that's what the DomPost reported him as saying.

Mr Whitehead said the public service needed to get out of its traditional comfort zone in the current economic crisis. "We must take the opportunity to build a leaner, more productive public service and we need to get on with it now."

Neither sets of suggestions were particularly innovative, extreme, provocative or new. What was interesting was the difference in the reaction.

The reaction to Dame Sian's ideas was, again as the DomPost put it, "Call for chief justice to resign". It was immediate, blunt and near vitriolic. Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesman Garth McVicar said the suggestion was "outrageous". "It's corrupt. I think she is totally on the wrong track. She should resign, if that's what she thinks, because it will be difficult for her to continue in her job."

Justice Minister Simon Power said "The Government is elected to set sentencing policy. Judges are appointed to apply it." The Prime Minister agreed. "There is a delicate line to tread here between the role and advocacy of the judiciary versus that of the minister and ... the chief justice strayed over that line," Mr Key said. In other words, 'Get back in your box, Judge.'

In marked contrast, Whitehead's speech was greeted with little comment.

The speech drew a sharp reaction from the Opposition and state sector unions. PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott criticised the "strong privatisation signal" as being misguided.

Labour state services spokesman Grant Robertson said it signalled the resurgence of The Treasury's influence over the public sector. "Where's State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie? Why is the secretary of the Treasury delivering this speech, not the person in charge of our public sector?"

But no-one questioned the right of Whitehead to give voice to his views, especially in the public arena.

So what does this all tell us?

Firstly, it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Elias is a woman and not to be trusted with such public policy matters. So much for equal employment - the glass ceiling is alive and well.

And what of Whitehead? Clearly he is a 'stalking-horse' for the right-wing. The ghost of Rogernomic lives on in this Government. The slash-and-burn brigade are just waiting their time.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yipppppeeee !!

Spring is definitely on the way!

It may be some weeks away yet, but when the garden belgins to show flourishes of colour, you know the end of winter is around the corner.

Daphne, Daffodils, and Snowdrops are the give-away.

I've told you about the neighbours cats before, and how they enjoy exploring our backyard. They also REALLY LIKE to look at our birds. And are quite keen on coming inside to check out our place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two's company

The weather is cold, which means our (water)bed is quite warm.
Jayne has been away for a week, which left Peaches somewhat bereft of company.
The consequence?

Tiffany meanwhile continues her habit of sleeping in odd corners or odd positions - in the drying cupboard or under a rug on the old chair. It seems she is happy if her nose is tucked in somewhere and warm.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Presenting ...

This was the weekend of 'THE CONFERENCE' and 'THE PRESENTATION'.

One of the elements of Desiree's Research Fellowship was placement ('hosting', they call it) at the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University. She was part of the Scottish and Irish Studies Programme.

And they were hosts this year of a conference - Ireland and the Irish Antipodes: One World or Worlds Apart?

Part of the deal with the Centre was that Desiree would present a paper at the Conference. So she was given the final slot in one of the streams - on Sunday, just before the closing comments.

Consequently, the past couple of weeks has been fairly focussed for her. She put together a couple of versions of her 'story' - what she has been researching, and what she has found. She also found an interesting selection of images to use.

It all came together well, which then brought us to the Conference itself. We both went to the Opening, which was an interesting dissertation by Sir Tipene O'Regan - a gifted orator, who is aging and lost his train of thought a couple of times, but is experienced enough to recover. Fluent, circuitous and thought-provoking. This was followed by a reception hosted by the Irish Embassy from Canberra.

Desiree attended the Friday sessions, and then she came out to the Club, where were joined by the First Secretary from the Embassy. Orla Tunney was substituting for the Ambassador, who had family commitments to attend. A pleasant relaxing evening.

We both went to the Saturday and Sunday sessions, and Desiree went to the Dinner at the Victoria University Marae. Interestingly, we chose to attend different streams, reflecting our respective interests. I went to the papers delivered by the 'geneologists', Desiree to those delivered by the 'academics'.

Which brought us to Sunday, and Desiree was on tenterhooks, but having to wait until the final slot, at 1.30pm.

Let me put you out of your misery - Desiree's presentation went well, and was well received.

You can see what I mean at

As a matter of interest, the presentation includes a photo of her grandmother, who also gets a mention. Desiree was wearing the locket seen in the photo, but it now has this same photo as the insert. So Rose was along to make sure Desiree didn't malign her! And to lend support, of course.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Can you believe it?

You have to wonder what planet people are on sometimes.

I have always been under the impression that children are very largely shaped by their parents. In other words, children are the products, not solely, but very largely of the way their parents brought them up - the values they taught them, the behaviours they modelled, the cultural values they transmitted, the language the used, and so on.

Apparently I'm wrong. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last time, but this time I'm surprised at how wrong I am.

You see a lawyer (obviously a far more clever and better-informed person than me) says "These parents are unfortunate to have children with bad attitudes. It is not the fault of these mothers and it makes no sense for them to be punished."

He gave voice this stunning revelation in the course of a recent court case in Napier District Court.

It involved three "mothers to be charged with failing to ensure [their children] attended classes." The lawyer's inspired defense is that "it is not the parents' fault, but the children's attitude that is the problem."

I wait to hear how this turkey thinks they came by this 'attitude'.

If you want to get hold of this clearly creative and innovative thinker, you can find him at Napier Law, who have premises at Ocean Boulevard 131 Emerson St Napier, phone +64 6-835 7519.

Many Happy Returns

Birthdays are a time to reflect - on life, the universe and everything!
Which, of course, got me to thinking, as Desiree celebrated another anniversary of her 31st birthday, just who she shared the auspicious date with.
It is an eclectic mix! To wit:

1367: Sigismund, German Emperor/king of Hungary/Bohemia
1476: Paul IV, [Giampietro Caraffa], inquisition/Pope (1555-59)
1867: Luigi Pirandello, Italy, writer (6 Characters-Nobel 1934)
1886: Joe Cox, cricketer (S African pace bowler in 1913-14 series v England)
1892: Edward H Carr, England, historian (History of Soviet Russia)
1902: John Dillinger, US bank robber (public enemy #1)
1902: Richard Rodgers, composer (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
1909: Eric Ambler, London, suspense writer (Epitaph for a Spy)
1914: Charles Urbanus, Dutch baseball player
1926: Mel Brooks, NYC, comedian/actor/director (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs)
1933: Pat Morita, Berkeley CA, actor (Happy Days, Karate Kid)
1943: Bobby Harrison, England, rock drummer (Procol Harum-Conquistador)
1945: Dave Knights, London, rock bassist (Procol Harum-Conquistador)

And then, of course, I had to find out what else of note (apart from Desiree's birth) HAPPENED on said date:

1461: Edward IV crowned king of England
1762: 1st reported counterfeiting attempt (Boston)
1762: Russian tsarina Catharina II grabs power
1770: Quakers open a school for blacks in Philadelphia
1820: Tomato is proven non-poisonous
1838: Britain's Queen Victoria crowned in Westminster Abbey
1859: 1st dog show held (Newcastle-on-Tyne, England)
1902: US buys concession to build Panama canal from French for $40 million
1914: Austria invades Siberia (WW I)
1917: Potato entrepreneurs begins in Amsterdam
1917: Raggedy Ann doll invented
1919: Treaty of Versailles ending WW I signed in France
1934: Hitler flies to Essen (Night of Long Knives)
1941: German troops occupy Galicia Poland
1958: Brazil becomes world soccer champ in Sweden
1964: Organization for Afo-American Unity forms in NY by Malcolm X
1967: Israel annexes East Jerusalem
1967: George Harrison is fined for speeding
1968: Daniel Ellsberg indicted for leaking Pentagon Papers

I've absolutely no idea if there is any message in any of this! Probably not. Or, maybe, I won't know until next year, on this same date! Very Zen!