Saturday, August 28, 2010

Zavanna est mort!

One of our two canaries died this morning, 29 August 2010

Zavanna joined us in time to have a starring role in the Hutt Valley High School stage production of Daughters of Heaven. She starred alongside Sarah Rose.

The average life span of a female canary is 5 - 6 years and for a male canary, up to 10 years. Zavanna was born in 2001, and lived with us for almost all of her 9 years.

She is survived by her companion, Michael.

Meet our menagerie

Friday, August 27, 2010

Are those chickens coming home to roost?

I don't normally pay a lot of attention to court case reports in the media, but this news item deserves it: "90-day trial warning for employers.

It seems that the Stokes Valley Pharmacy has been ticked off by the Employment Court because it "had not complied with contractual requirements of the Employment Relations Act relating to the trial period". In other words, it had manufactured an excuse to fire an employee within the 90-trial period, but hadn't followed the rules in doing so.

Well, that's a surprise, isn't it!

I have no time for this scurrilous piece of legislation, and have said so previously.

Matt McCarten, from the Unite union, summed up the problem with the legislation like this:

"What John Key, and most New Zealanders, think is that everyone is decent. But laws are supposed to protect the vulnerable from bad things. You don't legislate for people to be good - they'll be good anyway. The law is stop bad people from doing bad things, and that's what they're taking away."

And I say 'Amen' to that!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Colour in the Garden

It was a quiet Saturday today - the weather is improving, and even though it is still August, Spring is in the air.

It is Jayne's birthday tomorrow, and she had a few friends coming over for the evening, so of course, there was the obligatory cupcake baking function to be attended to:


Meanwhile, outside, the increase in average temperatures has started the spring-time burst of colour in the garden:


But while wandering the estate, I happened to pause by one of the 'elephant ear' lilies, and noticed, in the junction of one of the leaves and the trunk a leaf from the tree above, to which small snail was clinging:


And there on the trunk was very small, iridescent beetle:


I had seen a beetle like this only once before, on a piece of nightshade I had pruned, and was struck by the glorious colouring - spring-like indeed!


I'm not paranoid - I just don't like biased news reportage

The Australian media conglomerate that dominates print news reportage in our part of the world is doing it's bit to either bury or distort reportage of the deteriorating industrial relations scene in New Zealand.

Over at the NZ Herald there is a different picture, with, for example, a lengthy story called "Unions battle to regain lost ground".

And why is that a concern?

Because New Zealand is now entering a period in which workers are beginning to fight back against the further undermining of their conditions of employment.

The public profile is being raised because the House has recently given the first reading of a Bill which will extend a 90-day 'trial period' for employees in small businesses to all employers.

The trial period works like this: An employer employs a new staffer. If, within the first 90 days of employment the employer decides the staffer is not 'suited' to the job, or found deficient in some other way, s/he can be dismissed with no protection and, more importantly, no right of appeal for unfair dismissal.

Proponents of this scheme argue that it promotes employment by allowing employers to try-out new staff, and that removing this tool hinders employment because getting rid of unsatisfactory staff was too costly, time-consuming and complex.

Workers, in contrast, argue that the provision gives employers carte blanche to sack staff within 90 days without good reason, and a lever to be used to keep wage rates down. They further argue that the balance of power in the workplace means employees have no tools with which to assert their rights.

Fairness at work graphicUnion action is being stepped up with the launch of a new Fairness at Work website and a series of public rallies.

And, of course, PPTA is stepping up it's campaign for a pay rise for secondary teachers. Watch the hysteria over empty classrooms and the difficulty for parents' of making arrangements for their children.

Watch also for the silence from Fairfax over the obstinate refusal to negotiate meaningfully by the Government's flunkies.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

About time too!

According to the DomPost, "Parliament has started digitising journals dating back to the 1860s, with the information to be made available online."

And about time, too, I say!

For those who are baffled by this enormous break-through, be it noted that the Journals referred to are the proceedings of New Zealand's House of Representatives.

For any self-respecting historian, these volumes are bread and butter for research. They hold all of the transcripts of the debates in the House of Representatives, as well as all of the official Reports tabled in the House.

Consequently, they are a goldmine. And they will be online? Brilliant!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's all a matter of perspective

Heather Roy (MP?) has claimed the headlines twice in the one week. First was this sortie into the realms of the Dadaist absurd: "Mt Ruapehu – our highest peak?" Wherein she breathlessly reported that a group of year 10 maths students had calculated that the summit of Mt Ruapehu is in fact further from the centre of the earth's core than that of Aorangi/Mt Cook.

She faithfully reports that the caluclations have been verified by a "physics research fellow from Canterbury University", which, of course must mean it is correct and irrefutable.

She goes on to claim that "In geography, as in politics, it seems that perspective is everything." And she is mostly correct. After all, a simple bit of research into the debates about the relative merits of differing map projections, Mercator's or Peter's, would have revealed Geographers have known this simple truth for decades. It is staggering to think the penny has only recently dropped for Ms Roy.

Of course, Ms Roy should already have known another simple truth: always read the fine print! After all, maps which record mountain heights, and almost all other documents, always specify that the peak of the mountains are "above sea level" - note: NOT "above the center of the earth". So did the lads from Christchurch Boys High calculate that? or claim that?

Sorry, Ms Roy - Aorangi/Mt Cook holds the title until someone does THAT calculation.

And then she burst into the headlines again: Boscawen new ACT deputy leader. It seems "Heather Roy is the latest MP to be dispatched on leave after she was today rolled as the deputy leader of the Act party and forced to resign her ministerial portfolios."

One of the outcomes is that "[Rodney] Hide takes Roy's old role as Associate Education Minister and another of Roy's former roles - Associate Defence Minister." That will make Hide responsible for Special Education - Oh dear! Maybe he has personal experience of the services?

The imbroglio prompted political journalist Colin Espiner to call his opinion piece "Dumb and dumber" saying "So two white, middle-aged, balding, barrel-chested men are in charge of the Act Party. How electorally appealing." He puts the boot into Hide for the debacle, but I blame Roy. Espiner claims she has, amongst other things, "political savvy." Is that why she sided with Roger Douglas?

Last year Mrs Roy was accused of working with fellow MP Sir Roger Douglas against Mr Hide's leadership.

It doesn't take much insight to see the hand of Act's founder and prime philosopher behind her posturing and comments. And she was like a sacrificial lamb!

Never mind, at least she'll now have two weeks enforced 'leave'. Should give her time to follow up on the Christchurch Boys' High calculations. She might even have a go at climbing both peaks to see first-hand which is the higher!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

The passion of a wife

Desiree and I both enjoy reading Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti detective stories.

They are set in Venice, and have extensive descriptions of that lovely city. There is even a website dedicated to places mentioned in the books.

The main characters are Commissario Guido Brunetti, and his partner Vianello. Brunetti is married to a university lecturer in English literature, Paolo.

In the latest novel we have read, A Question of Belief, Leon provides the following:

"Other men had wives who begged them to go out dancing, travel the world, stay up late and do irresponsible things. Brunetti had managed to marry a woman who looked forward to going to bed at ten o'clock with Henry James. Or, when driven by wild passions she was ashamed to reveal to her husband, with Henry James and his brother."

I'm with Guido here!