Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Haute Cuisine

When the significant other and I were recently discussing my European sojourn (we're catching up after 18 months apart while she does an OE) the subject of Xmas dinner came up. The question was asked as to what would I like for the occasion. I'm sorry to say that I took the piss to a certain degree and rattled off a list that included foodstuffs such as duck and venison. I assumed she would know I was being facetious and would make her purchases appropriately.

Well imagine my surprise when I arrived to find smoked duck, venison, and a host of assorted goodies ready for my delectation. I almost felt guilty.

So I've been paying for my sins and have revisited my culinary days. Yesterday saw an entree of smoked duck, rhubarb and apple relish, and Roquefort cheese on garlic crostini. The mains was thymed potatoes roasted in duck fat topped with caramelised red onion and roasted venison, with fresh asparagus and roasted cherry tomatoes.

Apparently people are coming around for Boxing Day dinner today so I've got a new menu to plan. I'll get onto it just as soon as I finish breakfast - whole grain toast topped with blue cheese, caramelised red onion, and cold venison.

I think it's what they call breakfast of champions.

Trails and Travails

OK so I'm on the road again. It's been 10 years since I was last in Europe and now I'm revisiting some old haunts as well as my love interest. I'll update when and where I can but what follows is a precis of one of the longest trips I've ever taken.

[take note; flying direct to London from NZ is a very bad idea - especially at Christmas]

22/12 2.30 pm Leave flat for Wellington Airport. It turns out there's no such thing as check-through baggage to Heathrow thanks to US Homeland Security. All arrivals to the USA have to go through customs and immigration. Thanks George.

4-5pm Wgtn - Akld. The usual domestic cattle class crap. If you're taller than 5'9'' then legroom isn't something Air NZ redgards as essential.

5-7pm Stuck at Auckland Airport with all the other Xmas travellers. Ick. Who takes 3 year old children on international flights? It's just asking for trouble.

7pm-10am (US WT) Ah the joys of timezones and the international dateline. It means I get to relive the 22nd of December. The flight to San Francisco's taken about 11 and a half hours and my normal habit of not being able to sleep on planes is running true to form. Still it was a good chance to catch up on a lot of films I've missed lately thanks to be an over-worked and anti-social bastard. I've managed to cram in Superbad, The Simpsons, Stardust, Invasion, and the Bourne Supremacy. Big ups to Air NZ for it's individual digital content on demand setup.

10am - Arrived in San Francisco. Was expecting a bit of a rigmarole with security (having the word journalist listed as one's occupation on immigration forms has been known to create all sorts of problems) but it's turned out not too bad. Though dear old Uncle Sam now has my photo and fingerprints on his database - not really too happy about that as I'm hardly a threat to democracy. The homeland security announcements in the airport are a little disturbing too. It's all a bit Orwellian and paranoid for a simple Kiwi lad such as myself.

I've now been up for 27 hours and on the road for about 20 so technically over halfway to London.

23/12 11am Frankfurt. At the risk of sounding like a whining bitch I have to truly say that flying Lufthansa truly bites. Seriously it's like airtravel in the 80s and 90s. The plane is dated, the AV system id a series of crappy blurry monitors in the aisles and don't get me started on the food. Forget about war crimes tribunals for former members of the Nazi regime, the caterers for Lufthansa need to be prosecuted for crimes against humanity such is the state of the food they provide. I know airline food isn't much at the best of times but the slop Lufthansa serves up is a vicious assault on taste, decency, and culinary standards.

Spent the flight stuck next to a very irritating German chap. Despite having acres of legroom on his side he feels the need to co-opt mine as well. Having an overweight middle-aged Kraut trying to play footsie with me in the dark of night is not pleasant. I've now been awake for 38 hours.

12.20pm Frankfurt. Bugger! Fog at Heathrow is causing flight delays. Flights are being cancelled left right and centre but mine is still listed as delayed - phew. No word as to whether we'll make it to Heathrow today but it isn't looking promising.

1.35pm Still stuck. They're talking about leaving at three but nothing definite. Can't leave the gate area in case I miss a boarding announcement.

4.30pm Wishful thinking on my part - Still in bloody Frankfurt. Lots of angry passengers wanting to know what the fuck is going on. The famed German efficiency isn't providing a lot of answers. We're now on the plane but no word on when it might actually leave.
My questions are; Why was this plane nowhere near the departure gate? And, why would you only have one person handling all the ticketing for several hundred frustrated passengers?

5.20pm Finally in the air. The flight into Heathrow is surreal. There's heavy fog, yet clear as a bell above 500 feet. I can see the lights of London glowing and shining beneath the fog -it's a surreal sci-fi sort of sight. Apparently the visibility on the runway is just 100m so they've had to reduce the numebr of flights into the airport for safety reasons. Heathrow's only handling 24 flights an hour which is why so many flights have been bumped/delayed/cancelled. I found out later hundreds ended up being stuck overnight and have had their travel plans turned to shit. Looks like I've had a lucky escape.

6pm London (GMT) Finally arrived and through customs. Been awake for over 48 hours and travelling and in transit for 40 - it's not quite as bad as the 42 hour train trip I once did from Istanbul to Damascus but it's pushing it pretty damn close.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

F**k Moving!

If there's one thing in life I hate above all else it's moving house.

So guess how I've been spending my weekend?

This is the state of my bedroom at the moment as I wrestle with my overly large library.



And the living room is not a hell of a lot better.



Seriously it has been bloody awful and I have to say I'm not overwhelmed with felicitous feelings for my former landlord who chose to put our old home on the market and cast us out onto the streets 10 days before Christmas. The only solace in it all is that the property market is now apparently on the slide so the evil bastard is likely to get his comeuppance.

Hah!


Anyway moving in Wellington is a little different top moving anywhere else. The city, while reasonably picturesque, is cursedly hilly so access to properties can be a bit like ascending from base camp at Mt Everest. My new flat is a case in point.

The movers (yes I shelled out for movers as there was no way in hell I was lugging all my crap around), well their faces dropped when they saw what they were faced with.





It was sort of like scaling an alpine pass. This shot shows the little path that they had to wend their way up while staggering under the load of my worldly possessions.

Then there was worse in store ... what every mover fears most.



Stairs. Lots of them with nasty twisty turns. Just what you need when you're lugging a 48" TV. I almost felt sorry for the poor bastards. However the fact I was paying them about 90 bucks an hour did temper that emotion to a slight degree.



Anyway this shot gives you a rough idea of the height difference from my carpark to where my flat actually is.



I figure the movers earned their pay, and so did they. Poor buggers were absolutely shattered at the end of it and not happy that they still had two other jobs to do.

Naturally I was very grateful and promised that I'd use them next time I moved. Their response; thanks but really we'd rather never see this place again if we can help it so consider contracting some other suckers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Step in Time

Here's a tentative headline and opening par for what may happen at the next RWC given yesterday's decision by the NZRFU.


RUGBY'S DARKEST DAY.
Auckland, October 14 2011.

New Zealand rugby fans are once again in the depths of despair after the All Blacks were once again bundled out of the Rugby World Cup. After dominating all-comers for the past two years the Graham Henry coached side went into the competition again as raging favourites yet were undone by the man rejected for the All Black coaching job back in 2007. Yes, in one of sport's cruellest ironies, it was a Robbie Deans inspired Australia that has sunk Kiwi pride to levels so low it's hard to see how they may ever rise again.

etc etc

Friday, December 07, 2007

Off the F**king Deep End.

This story's made a headline or two of late. It's a train-wreck all by itself.

But then I discovered the woman at the centre of the story has been blogging about it.

I suggest you read the comments - if you can stomach them.

Un-fucking-believable.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Perfidy of Wellington's Wind

I've been in Wellington a little over a year and a half now and I'm still getting my head around the wind. Honestly I really should just recall what it was like the last time I've lived here - back when I was in high school two decades ago.

You see there's always wind in Wellington (though today was the exception to the rule) but it tends to come in only two directions; north and south. Most days it's either one way or the other.

Bad luck for me then yesterday when I did this ride.



When I left it was a gentle northerly. A bit of a nuisance but not that hard to push into and there's always the pleasant thought of having it behind you on the way home.

Can you guess when the wind changed to the south?? 5 km short of the Totara Park turn-around.

Bastard!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Age, and Why it Fucks You.

Today, in a fit of mindless optimism with no hope of success whatsoever, I played cricket.



Actually it wasn't completely my idea. I was roped in by a guy I know through work as his team was a few players short and they were desperate for a few ring-ins. The fact he called me shows how desperate they were. You see I haven't actually played the game in about 12 years.

There was a time, when I was youthful and supple, when I played regularly and was actually quite good at it. I played rep' grade at high school and then a bit of club cricket when I was at University. But then a busy lifestyle (and a few broken wrists) saw me pretty much give the game away.

Until today.

I can quite honestly say that I am not the cricketer I was 12 years ago. In fact I suck .... majorly. Warming up I thought I'd bowl a few balls. The first ball was a full toss that flew over the stumps and nearly decapitated the wicketkeeper. No worries thinks I, that's just a loosener, the next one will be better.

It wasn't. It was a half tracker that turned into a wormburner and cracked the poor keeper on the shins.

It was at this point it was decided that fielding was where I was going to spend my time. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I used to be a wicketkeeper for fear I'd bollix that up too - actually given the 7 broken wrists and the now very dodgy knee there was no way in hell I was going near the gloves. It would have been a medical misadventure in the making.

Anyway the fielding wasn't a total disaster. I only made one real flub. You know the one. It's where you go to field the ball and it scoots between your legs and off to the boundary leaving you stranded like a cast sheep. Things were actually going pretty well after that, I made a few saves and didn't have deal with any steepling outfield catches (for which I was truly thankful).

Then things turned to custard a little bit. I was jogging in to collect a gentle block. I bent down, picked up, turned, and POW went my knee, Buggeration. So there I ma hobbling like cripple, desperately trying to knock the ligament back to where it was supposed to be, and all the while my erstwhile team-mates are shaking their heads wondering which tit had landed them with the hospital case player.

The rest of the innings was spent limping manfully in areas where I fervently hoped no running or any cricket like activity might occur.

Thank God for deep mid-wicket when the pitch is low and slow!

Now I'd hoped to shine with my batting prowess. And, given my performance in the field, I could have only improved. But alas it was not to be. Being the substitute I was relegated to number 11 in the batting order and our 9th wicket partnership was broken on the last ball of the match leaving muggins here all padded up with no place to go.

For the record we lost. Comfortably.

And how do I feel after attempting to revisit my cricketing youth?

Well, kind of like this.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The March

Should have posted this yesterday but the pic's got lost in the Telecom aether.

Anyway the Tuhoe Hikoi hit town yesterday so I tagged along and got a few shots on the cellphone.



Instead of piling up to Parliament and speechifying, like most protests do, the Hikoi did a quick march down Molesworth St and along Lambton Quay. It kind of took the Police by surprise as it appeared they weren't expecting it.



Now a lot of people have commented on the appearance of some of the marchers. And it is a fair point - if you're pissed off at being represented as terrorists it's probably not that clever to dress like one.

Having said that it was just 30 or 40 people tops that were in the whole Gaza strip militant mode. A fair few of them were activists and not Tuhoe which just goes to show it just takes a few wingnuts to stuff things up.

Anyway the Hikoi made sure it stopped outside the Te Puni Kokiri building so they could give the Maori Affairs Ministry the raspberry.



Then off for a quick bit of a harangue at a nearby park.



The white middle class civil servants were all left a bit bemused. Angry Maori aren't a common occurrence on Lambton Quay (it's just soooo Porirua).

If I had to assess the march I'd say there was a lot of pent up aggression. But their actions by no means came anywhere close to the rhetoric. The language was, in some cases pretty raw, if it had been translated into physicality there's have been mayhem. The fact there wasn't speaks volumes for the vast majority of the marchers.

There were a few numpties behaving like complete plonkers but I couldn't make up my mind as to whether they were doing it for the TV cameras or whether they were complete idiots.

Ballsy call of the day: goes to the white middle aged woman who rolled up with the placard that read "I Support the Police". To front up with that to that crowd took gumption. She got a bit of verbal from some but there were those that actually took the time to go over to talk to her and exchange points of view in a reasonably civil manner.

Dickhead of the day: goes to the civil libertarian that went up to the aforementioned lady and told her she shouldn't be carrying such a placard. Nice to see free-speech only applies when its speech you like eh pal?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Terror Struck

While the wingnuts and basket cases from the left and the right are collectively frothing at the mouth over today's decision by the Solicitor General, albeit in different directions, one does have to wonder about the legislative capacity of our Parliament.

Put aside for a moment for the rights of wrongs of last month's actions by police and focus for a moment on the fact it's probably the law that's up the duff in this instance.

I mean if this doesn't make the point then what does?

In examining the the relevant provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Act I have concluded the legislation is unnecessarily complex, incoherent and as a result almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by police in this case.
David Collins - Solicitor General.

In a nut shell - and I'll use simple language for the tinfoil hat brigade out there - it means the law is an ass.

It doesn't necessarily mean the police were wrong. It means the law has been written in such a way that they simply cannot lay terror charges.

Take a close look at the Act. Have a read through and pay attention to the way it deals with domestic terrorism. I think you'll find it pays it only cursory, if not fleeting, attention and the definitions are such that .... well you get my point.

When the powers that be (ie the wallies in Parliament) wrote this law in 2002 the focus back then was ostensibly very 9/11 focussed. Threats were seen as external, not internal and the legislation was written accordingly.

And for those that are lambasting the Police for seeking lay the charges under the Act in the first place. Well you might want to consider this.

It was the only way they could get the interception warrants they needed. There was no other statute, or at least none the Solicitor General can find, that'd let them do it.

And isn't it deliciously ironic that the Government is told one of its main security Statutes is a pile of dross on the very same day MP's are amending that very legislation.

I'm betting the Attorney General isn't smiling.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bliss

After chasing politicians around in the tropical heat for four days nothing beats kicking back on a nice quiet beach.

I give you Pangaimotu Island.




I mean, seriously how cool is this.





Though I did end up with one of those patchwork sunburns. The peril of travelling solo is that there's no-one to smear the sunscreen on the parts of one's back that can't be reached single handedly. I would have prevailed upon a dusky maiden to do it for me but unfortunately they all had boyfriends who were far bigger and stronger than I.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valour.

I must say I am glad my flight home is tonight. I had considered taking this one.

Actually I suspect my employers would have preferred it if I'd been on that plane - for news purposes of course (I'm almost sure they don't want me dead)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hot Times in Tonga

Since Monday I've been on the ground in Tonga covering the Pacific Forum leaders meeting and let me tell you it's been an experience.

On the work front it's been quite frustrating. Traditionally these events have been quite media friendly. Generally the media have been able to hang outside the meeting centre and nobble passing politicians for comment pretty much willy nilly.

Well that hasn't been the case here. Security in Nukua'lofa has ranged from insidious to inane. The entire area around where the meetings have been taking place have been cordoned off with police and military checkpoints at virtually every intersection. We arrived on the understanding that our media passes would allow us to get to where we needed to be. The reality has proved to be very much the opposite.

The press conference area has been located within the security zone, however the facilities from which media file are outside of it. Getting in to get to the people we need to speak to has been hit and miss at best, and nigh impossible at worst. The checkpoint that lets you through in the morning is invariably the one that steadfastly refuses to let you through in the afternoon. There's no rhyme nor reason to it either. Invariably we're sent via another route where the same situation repeats all over again.

Getting tetchy gets you nowhere, nor does courtesy, or even abject pleading. The poor blokes at TV3 missed a stand-up with NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark on Tuesday because they were turned back at three separate checkpoints. Myself and two colleagues made it barely in time after walking about 1.5 km in a circuitous route - the direct path was a mere 500 metres.

And some of the restrictions have been bizarre. In Vava'u, at the leader's retreat on Wednesday, cameramen were even forbidden from taking shots of the harbour.

As far as Tongan security is concerned we in the media are the enemy and all our security passes do is serve to identify us. On that basis coverage has been limited to Helen Clark and Alexander Downer which is not what we're here for. We'd love to talk to the other Pacific leaders but the problem's been we can't get anywhere near them. Frustrating doesn't even begin to sum it up.

At times this frustration has boiled over, not into outright confrontation, but pretty close to it. On Tuesday the media were told the beginning of the plenary session would be open so photographers could get shots. They were also told it was for five minutes and then everyone would have to leave. For those in print and radio it meant the event was pretty meaningless so most abstained from attending. However a decision was made to allow the media to stay - that saw the rest of us descend like a horde of locusts seeking admittance.

Were we let? Not bloody likely.

This sparked an exchange with security. Even press secretaries were lobbying for us to be let in but the police were resolute, no-one would pass. Tempers flared and officials were told pretty bluntly what our opinions were. The next day the Fiji Times ran a story quoting Tongan Government official Kitione Mokofisi (who'd coincidentally been lurking in the background when the fracas occurred) describing Australasian journalists as rude and insulting. He even went so far as to attack the female Kiwi journalists for being tasteless in their dress sense.

Well not only did Mr Mokofisi misquote an Aussie journalist, accusing him of calling Fijian Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama a leper (the question was did he feel like he was being treated like a leper), but he was completely wrong about his accusations against the female Kiwi press corp. As the Tongan King had officiated the official opening ceremony in the morning they'd made sure their legs and shoulders were covered and no excess skin was on display. Mokofisi's attack was no more than a case of sour grapes and distracting attention away from the obstructive nature Tonga had imposed on the Forum coverage.

It's also worth noting that the Fiji Times never bothered talking to either the New Zealand or the Australian media about the incident.

Let me point out that my criticism is restricted to the officials. I've found the Tongan people to be absolutely fantastic. Their courtesy and cheer is like a breath of fresh air to those of us who have to deal with the surly, cynical, and abrasive day to day lifestyle at home. Considering the challenges they have to put up with (marginal infrastructure, indifferent politicians) they're an overwhelmingly hospitable people.

PS - if you ever visit, skip Nukua'lofa and head for Vava'u. It's superb.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Headlines We'd Never See

In light of this event over the weekend I was wondering how would I headline it?

I mean "Banks to the Future" isn't bad but I kind of like this:

"BANKS BEATS DICK!"

I mean given there was a porn king running in the same mayoral race it is kind of appropriate.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bunch of Bleeding Muppets.

Dear Vodafone,
in this modern IT dominated age when we rely on our cellphones for important communication why do you choose to embark on a week long upgrade of your computer systems which means your customer service (which was damn poor to begin with) becomes completely non-existent?

Please do tell me, what company in its right mind would allow it to be in a situation where customers seeking simple things such as global roaming, email interface advice, or even help on blocking spam texts, are being told by your drooling, slack-jawed staff that nothing can be done until next week? I'm so glad to know that when I go overseas next Monday there'll be no way I can get my phone set up because I haven't given you 2 working days notice.

Thanks for nothing you muppets!

I must say I was so impressed by one of your staff who offered to set up a customer's internet connection on his phone for a nominal fee of $25. Never mind the fact he'd just shelled out $800 for the phone so could possibly expect a little bit in the way of free assistance. I was even more impressed the staff member in question couldn't even tell this poor man whether the Vodafone website had a FAQ page that might be able to help him out of his quandary.

Seriously where do you find these people - Morons 'R' Us?

It's one hell of a way to run a business.

May all your crabs turn into lobsters,

A former customer.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

One of Those Days.

It seems there is a God and he appears to be a jealous one. At least so far as my loyalties (or lack of) to the All Blacks are concerned.

Today began with the discovery that my car battery is flat/kaput/finis. That meant my much needed run to the supermarket had to be by foot and I had to lug the bloody things back by hand. While at the supermarket I got a call from the landlord who informed me he is selling our property and we'll have to move out.

The move date? 12 days before Christmas. There's some festive bloody cheer for you.

I suspect it's divine retribution for me betting on the French.

Bollocks!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Setting Goals

When the All Blacks last won the World Cup I was 14 years old. At that tender age I did not have the money to buy an All Black's jersey to show my support for our national side. But I promised myself when I was 18 and the All Blacks contested the World Cup again I'd definitely buy myself a jersey after they'd lifted the trophy.

I'm now 34 and still no jersey (sigh)

But on the brighter side, in 1999 I started betting against the All Blacks once they entered the elimination stage of the tournament. When they finally win the thing at last at least I will have collected enough cash to buy a jersey - even at the over-inflated prices they charge for them these days.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Missing in Action

No not me.

TV3's new midday bulletin.

It was supposed to play for the first time today (yes ahead of tomorrow's Sunrise launch) under it' flash moniker "3News@12". It had been discussed in the news team's morning conference call and it seemed it was all go.

We all dutifully tuned in at midday and what did we get?

Everybody Loves Raymond.

The journo's at TVNZ are pissing themselves.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On the Road

Every now and then, just for a change, I give the mountainbiking a miss and take the road bike for a spin.

Here's this morning's effort.



And here's what it looks like in terms of hill climbs.



Mind you the route I took yesterday is a lot more fun. Less traffic and better scenery.



It's not quite as long as the Bays Ride, but the hills are a lot more substantial. Especially the last one.



So that's how I spent my weekend.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tipping over the Edge

Here's another in the list of mountainbike trails that I've been posting here from time to time. Today's little number is the Tip Track. As you can tell from the picture it's a groovy little descent.



And you can even stop to admire the view on the way down.



Take it from me it's a track you want to always do in the downward direction. Biking up it would require a fortitude not found in mere mortals.

Though I understand there are some fitness freaks that can get to the top in under 30 minutes - not me though.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Paying it Back

I heard an interesting little story when I was ambling through Parliament the other day catching up with a few contacts. It involves Winston Peters, New Zealand First, and the party's election spending as identified by Auditor General Kevin Brady last year.

For about the past 10 months the Press Gallery has been hounding Winston on a regular basis asking him when he intends:
a) releasing the legal advice he sought on the matter late last year.
and,
b) to pay any, or all, of the money back.

About 2-3 months ago Peters said an announcement was imminent but since then nada, nothing, zilch, zib, not a peep from the man.

So what's going on?

Well the rumour is (and I hasten to say it is only speculation) the legal advice Winston Peters has received states that the Auditor General got it wrong. Winston's now loathe to pay back the $160 thousand but is caught in a cleft stick as he knows what public and political condemnation he'll receive should he try to finagle his way out of the situation.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Fashion Police

Where have I been? Blame Facebook. It's the greatest timewaster I've come across in an age thanks to Scrabulous. I've been play Scrabble almost incessantly for the past 3 weeks with various friends scattered from NZ, to the UK, and Papua New Guinea.

I guess it has its benefits - apparently "qi" is a word and so too is "jow". There's nothing like having some more useless information to add to the burgeoning list.

Anyway it seems the grip of winter (not that Wellington really has one) is loosening and spring is on the way. I guess this means I've run out of excuses not to be out and about on the weekends and trying to lead a semi-meaningful life.

Mind you Wellington's a bit of a weird place for socialising. The profusion of civil servants and other assorted professional types means there's a certain degree of decorum that I'm still coming to grips with. You see I'm a Canterbury boy by nature so I'm more used to the slightly more relaxed attitude that exists down there. If you feel like going out in Christchurch wearing jeans and a shirt you can pretty much get away with it. A little bit of scruffiness is perfectly acceptable there. Not so in the capital though. Here if you're going out you have to be reasonably presentable and woe betide you if you turn up wearing anything from Hallensteins. For a bloke that managed to get away with not wearing a tie until he was 33 I'm finding it a wee bit of a shock to the system. A few weeks back my trusty old boots ($29.95 at the Warehouse) finally gave up the ghost leaving me with no option but to buy another pair. The Wellington fashionista (or should that be facisnista) got to me and I've ended up with a new pair of $350 dollar footwear.

Gulp!

God help me when I finally get around to buying the shirts and pants to go with them. I suspect I may need a bank loan.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Parliamentary Porkie Pies

And believe it or not I'm not talking about David Benson-Pope.

On Tuesday Herald journalist Simon Collins had a beaut wee scoop about a new anti domestic violence/child abuse initiative that was about to be launched by the Government. naturally this had every other journalist in the Press Gallery scrambling to match it.

But what was the response from the office of Minister of Health Pete Hodgson?

His press secretaries were emphatic in denouncing the Herald story. They said it was completely wrong and no such initiative was planned. One staffer went so far as to suggest Simon Collins had got things mixed up and could be referring to a Ministry of Social Development announcement planned for next month. Even the staff in the office of acting Minister for Social Development and Employment, Steve Maharey, were running the same line.

That is until Maharey went on Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, and Radio Live and confirmed the details of the Herald's story.

And sure enough the policy was announced today.

So what are we to make of this?

Well either Hodgson's staff are incompetent, or they're liars. It beggars belief that they weren't aware of the policy and that it was due for release. Press secretaries, by their very nature, are in those sorts of information loops. While evasion and manipulation is to be expected if they don't wish to talk about such things flat out lying is not.

While journalists always treat press secretaries with a fair degree of scepticism there is a firm rule that lying is not good form. Generally it gets found out and once it is there's no way a reporter will take anything that person says at face value ever again. Any residual trust is dead and buried - permanently.

Lying not only undermines the credibility of the press secretary it also damages the credibility of the the minister. Press secretaries are an extension of their minister, a mouthpiece as it were. Their actions reflect on those that titularly control them.

Pete Hodgson image is now tarred, and it's all because his staff didn't have the good sense to be straight up with the media.

One would have thought Labour would have learned a few lessons from the Benson-Pope experience.

Apparently not.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flatting. A Necessary Evil.

Flatting at my age is not something I do out of choice. It's determined by burgeoning interest rates, over inflated Wellington property prices, the realisation I don't want to be landed with a mountain of debt, and the fact what I made from my selling my last home is appreciating quite nicely thank you very much.

However by having made the business decision not to buy when the market is high I've been forced into a flatting lifestyle. Something I hadn't done for some time. I'll admit it has its benefits - cheaper utility bills for one - but it also has its drawbacks.

You see it doesn't matter how careful you are you never really know what a prospective flatmate is like until you've lived with them. Here's a sample of what I've experienced in the past year or so.

1) The Vocal Shagger.
When this girl scores the whole street knows (not just our house). The throes of passion are such that furniture in adjoining rooms is rearranged and plaster has been known to fall from the ceiling. Once the neighbours even came round to inquire as to whether someone had been hurt (though how they mistook orgasm for murder escapes me).

2) The Invisible Woman.
She pays all the bills on time and even does her share of the houseweek. Yet she is never seen. Months can go by with no sight nor sound of her. Once a room check had to be carried out to make sure;
a) she still lived here.
and,
b) She wasn't dead and mouldering in her bed.

3) The Slightly Bemused, Yet Devious, Foreigner.
This person plays upon English being their second language to their advantage. Expect huge delays on getting the bond, conniptions when it comes to getting the rent paid on time, and a complete incomprehension that living in a house necessitates paying a share of the monthly power bill. Trying to explain the situation will be met with a vacant look and the phrase "Que?".


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mortality

I'm feeling a little down tonight. Late last week I got the news that someone I've been professionally associated with for some time was quite ill and in hospital and not expected to last much longer.

I won't name him here as it's not appropriate, but suffice it to say I consider him a friend and a thoroughly decent chap.

For the past few days I've been mulling over whether I should visit him or not. Like I say we know each other, but it's a relationship based on a professional acquaintance and I was a little unsure if it would have been appropriate to intrude at a time best reserved for family and close friends.

Well tonight I visited him .... I'm glad I did but it's highlighted just how patently unfair life can be at times.

Here is a man, who's liked and respected by all that know him, left a shadow of his former self in a hospital bed. One of my colleagues gave a very apt description of him the other day.
"He's a gentleman, but more importantly he's a gentle man".
And that's the honest truth. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met in my line of work and genuinely nice people are few and far between in political circles.

For him to be in this truly awful predicament, well ...it's just not right.

He's barely had time to come to terms with his illness and now he's got just days left. He doesn't want to die, nor do any of us who know him want to lose him, but there's nothing he, or any of us, can do.

What can you say or do for someone in such a situation?

Absolutely nothing - and that's the worst thing about it all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Bumf.

It's been a while since I did a substantial overseas trip. About 11 years to be precise (that's not counting a couple of jaunts to Australia and elsewhere in the South Pacific). So I was a little bit surprised when I went to collect my tickets from the travel agents.

You see in the old days your travel envelope was fairly straight forward. Tickets, luggage tags, and maybe an immigration form was what you got.



Something kind of like this.

However when I opened mine I was staggered to find 17 different pieces of paper awaiting my perusal. The three essential pieces you see above and 14 other bits of extraneous shite.



In that carbon negative pile of glossy pamphlets are; warnings about not leaving the country with unpaid fines, advertising for Duty Free stores, warnings about drug smuggling (apparently it's a no no - who would have guessed?), warnings about what you can and can't take on your carry on luggage, and even a print out of what I can see and do at my ultimate destination.

Call me a grinch but this is overkill.

Also while it's laudable that Flightcentre is giving me dutyfree vouchers, But I really don't see the point in them giving them to me if they expire in October when I'm travelling in December.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vive la Revolution

Politics is a strange racket sometimes. It sort of goes without saying that, by and large, your average politician (and most of them are distinctly average) is a fairly thick skinned creature. It's not the sort of career one chooses if one is easily hurt by criticism. For most politicians a personal attack slides of their hide like mud off a basking hippo.

But when it comes to the media it seems to be a different story - at least as far as their behaviour in the sacred precincts of the debating chamber is concerned. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen is selling the new broadcasting rules as a liberalisation give that TV cameras will be allowed to show reaction shots. And, to be fair, that is a relaxation from current practice. However not extending the same liberty to still photographers is somewhat perplexing. the argument a single moment can be taken out of context has limited merit when newspapers can quite freely take a still from a broadcast agency.

But this is all a sideshow when compared to the fundamental issue. Blocking the use of TV footage for satire and banning any images that might denigrate an MP's image.

It's skewed from the beginning. A cartoonist, such as Tom Scott, is free to lampoon and a radio journalist is free to describe what they see in whatever terms they choose. Yet a TV journalist, or a still photographer, is not allowed to show what anyone in the public gallery can see. Doesn't this strike you as a little out of kilter?

If anyone in the public gallery can see what an MP is up to then so too should any other member of the public elsewhere in the country. However MP's are canny beasts. They know the power of an image and there's no way they''ll allow the public to see them as they really are. The behaviour in the Debating Chamber in Parliament regularly borders on the farcical and MP's would prefer that not become common knowledge.

Michael Cullen made the claim this week that Parliament is for debate, not theatre, though how he managed to say it with a straight face is beyond me. Theatre outstrips debate by a country mile in our Parliament and the Right Honourable Dr Michael Cullen is one of the practice's most well known exponents.

It's been gratifying to see the media thumb their noses collectively at the rules this week. Kudos to TVNZ, TV3, Prime, the Dominion Post, Newstalk ZB and others for taking a stand against the self righteous, self-serving, and hypocritical line taken by our country's elected members.

(oh and if anyone's interested Auckland Issues Minister Judith Tizard managed to sleep through most of Question Time today. She only woke when prodded by Dover Samuels who noticed the Press Gallery had their eyes on her)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Well the rumour mill is bubbling about the salary being paid to TVNZ's new communications manager Peter Parussini. The word is it's around $250,000 which is a hefty sum and more than what some of the presenters actually get.

It's also equivalent to the salaries of five intermediate level journalists - do you think the 30 odd news staff that have just been axed in TVNZ's cutbacks might be a little pissed off?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Week in Politics

Sheesh, what a week it's been. The corridors of power have been flat tack with spin, innuendo, and the truly inane.

Lets start with the last first.

Inanity of the Week.

This has to go to the minor parties (Greens, Maori Party, United Future, and ACT) for their proposed code of conduct. To see Rodney Hide and Peter Dunne talk about the need to remove personal attacks from the House was ludicrous given some of their past behaviour. Rodney Hide (now known as the recently reformed Rodney Hide) is noted for his sharp tongue and scathing with during Parliamentary debate. In fact it's a strength of his and by signing up to this code he's effectively emasculated himself. And as for sensible Peter (setting aside some of his past diatribes against the Greens) wasn't he the one that all but accused Labour of being political adulterers just a few weeks back?


Wally of the Week.

Gordon Copeland by a country mile. Gordo, if you're going to commit your vote to one party make sure you name it correctly when you do your interview with One News. Naming the wrong Party makes you look like a bit of a dick. And as for supporting the Government on confidence and supply and National on everything else, well that's just bizarre. It's not often that I find myself in agreement with Whaleoil but this time I think he's hit the nail on the head.


King Hit of the Week.

This goes to the Ombudsmen and their scathing report on the Department of Corrections and it's prisoner transport procedures. The bad news just keeps coming for Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor who is by now a dead man walking. The smart money says he loses the portfolio at the next Cabinet reshuffle. The question then becomes who will be the next minister? One can't really see people queuing up for this job as Corrections is where Ministers go to die. If I had to make a pick I'd posit Ruth Dyson, Lianne Dalziel, and Shane Jones as potential candidates.

In O'Connor's defence I have to say his performance in Question Time on Thursday was a marked improvement. For the first time in 18 months he actually took National MP Simon Power head on and fought fire with fire and came out of the debate with some credit. Though one has to ask; why hasn't he done this earlier? It seems like it's too little too late.


Bizarre Diplomacy Award.

The hands down winner here is Fiji's Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over his regime's expulsion of NZ High Commissioner Michael Green. It seems the marching orders stem from Mr Field getting a better seat at the rugby than did Frank. No wonder Bainimarama is known as Coup Coup Frank in some quarters.

Mind you Foreign Minister Winston Peters didn't exactly cover himself in glory in the way he handled the matter. The media were aware of the situation shortly before 10 am Wednesday morning but could they get a comment from the Minister or his office on the situation? Not likely. Peters was intending to release the information at a Select Committee hearing after midday (if one was cynical one might suspect he intended to grandstand on the issue) and there was no way he was letting anything slip. In fact he went so far as to have the media booted out of the hearing when he briefed the Committee. The end result was that National Leader John Key was the first politician to comment on the development - not a good look for the Government.

The other bizarre thing about the Select Committee hearing was that for an hour and half not a single MP asked a question about Fiji. The biggest issue of the day and they stayed mute throughout. National also did itself no favours by not being there. They'd walked out in a huff earlier.


Junket Award.

I'm awarding this one to Trevor Mallard. It seems our Sports and Recreation Minister is heading back to Valencia again for the conclusion of the America's Cup. It seems being there for the Louis Vuitton Cup was so appealing he's felt the need to go straight back again. Mind you his presence there could explain this outburst from Ernesto Bertarelli about boorish Kiwi fans. Trevor "Heineken" Mallard does have a certain reputation.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Human Touch

This is one of a series of videos produced by a group of young Iraqi men. They're attempting to show what it's like for civilians living in Baghdad. I seriously recommend you take the time to watch it. It's a side of the Iraq story we don't get to see through the media and it's a perspective we need to see.

Friday, June 08, 2007

How Not To Leave a Country.

Again I'm being lazy and blogging something I recently posted on a discussion group. But given the length I really can't be arsed typing it out twice (even if it does blow my semi-anonymous blogging status). It's yet another tale from my multitudinous fund of OE stories - enjoy.

Back in 1990 and 1991 when I was in my late teens I was living and working in Japan looking after a showjumping team. Initially I was all official and had a working holiday visa. All was sweet with the wonder that is Japanese bureaucracy. However after my first six months getting an extension proved to be a difficult task and I had to resort to some unorthodox tactics to stay in my country and in my job. The solution was simple - every three months I'd quickly flit out of the country and come back in getting a tourist visa.

Not strictly legit' but it achieved my aims.

So things progressed along this path for some time but unfortunately for me things changed. You see I wasn't the only Kiwi in a certain area of Hokkaido working in the horse industry and eventually the immigration department wised up and decided to check matters out.

Learning this I made efforts to make my status a little more legal and endeavoured to get my paperwork in order. Unfortunately the system decided not to play ball, in fact it decided to lodge said ball squarely in my fundamental orifice. I ended up in the situation where, not only did I not have a working visa but I also had no tourist visa either.

Matters got worse when immigration rang my place of work and a receptionist (long on looks but short on guile) blithely told them how long I'd been working and exactly how much I had been paid. At this point I decided a strategic retreat to New Zealand was necessary and this is where things began to get a bit tricky.

There I was at Narita Airport plane tickets in hand going through immigration when I struck up a conversation with an Australian. He like me had visa issues and was heading home to rectify matters. He was just ahead of me in the queue, presented his passport at the immigration desk, and a kerfuffle ensued. Two of the largest Policemen I'd ever seen promptly turned up and hauled him off for questioning.

I'm now slightly apprehensive.

I roll up to the immigration officer and hand over my passport. He looks at it, then at me, then calls for the police. Off I'm hauled to a small room and the interrogation, and the bizarre nature of Japanese bureaucracy, begins to unveil. Because I have no visa I'm told I can't be in the country. However without a visa I also can't leave it.
"Simple" says I, "give me a visa and I'll go".
"Not possible", says the not so friendly official,"a visa can only be issued by the Japanese Embassy in NZ"
"OK let me on the plane and I'll apply for one when I get home" says me.
"You can't leave Japan without a visa"

Bollocks.

Anyway while all this was going on files had been checked and my somewhat undercover work history was sprung. In no uncertain terms I was told I could face 6 months in jail and/or a hefty fine. Fairly heavy duty stuff for an 18 year old to handle. Suffice it to say I was shitting bricks.

The official sternly tells me I'm in big trouble (btw all this conversation was going on in Japanese), tells me to stay where I am and heads out the door. I. of course, do the complete opposite. As I still had my passport and plane tickets I was on my feet in a flash, out through the other door, past immigration and heading for the boarding gate at a great rate of knots.

Luckily for me the flight was boarding and I scuttled on and wedged myself into a window seat taking care to ensure there was at least one octogenarian between me and the aisle.

Five minutes later there's a commotion at the front of the plane. Very foolishly I look up to see what's going on and there's the immigration official I'd escaped from not 15 minutes before. His eyes meet mine and down the aisle he strides shouting angry imprecations and calling down all sorts of nasty curses upon my head.

Bugger!

A number of options were flashing through my head as he's screaming at me (in Japanese) to get of the plane immediately. I did what any other baka gaijin would do in such circumstances and stared blankly at him pretending I couldn't understand him(despite our prior fluent conversation). The poor man is now a bright shade of red, and heading for purple, as he speaks through clenched teeth in strained english. Again he orders me off the plane.

Time for plan B and in my best 3rd Form German I said;
"Einen bien auschlander. Nicht spechen sie englisch. Sprechen sie Deutsch?"

Now I won't say his face was reminiscent of Hiroshima revisited at this point, but it was pretty close. Veins throbbing his rage was approaching incandescent status.

And this is when my saviours intervened. God Bless Air NZ hostesses who will come to the aid of a Kiwi boy in distress. Pleading schedules, fuel loads, baggage priorities, and other such aviation priorities they efficiently whisked the protesting official off the plane and onto the airbridge. The poor bugger didn't know what hit him. Before he knew it the door was closed and yours truly had flown the coop and was home free and clear.

Needless to say when I applied for a visa when I got home it was turned down. I've never been back to Japan since - I'm still slightly worried about what might happen if I did.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Which One?

Ok go here and take a long hard look at these health representatives both appointed an elected.

Then take a guess - which one is the internet dater?

Monday, June 04, 2007

How RNZ Broke the Muliaga Story

I've just figured out how RNZ got the scoop of the year.

I'd been wondering why the name of the Muliaga family spokesman, Brenden Sheehan, was so familiar. The fact he was a unionist was well known but what I'd forgotten was that his union represents RNZ. It turns out I've even blogged about him before.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

What if Tintin was A Scouse?

Here's how Tintin might have turned out if he was a Manchester United fan.

[this is most definitely not workplace friendly]

The Scottish Gangsta

Have you ever thought about what might happen when rap music mixed with Scottish culture?

Here's the result.



Bizarre - yet kind of catchy.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Taito



The only thing an MP should ever take from a constituent is their vote.

'Nuff said.

Hard Slog.

It's a rare weekend in Wellington that you are lucky enough to be blessed with two clear, calm, and sunny days. Luckily for me this has been one of those occasions. They're few and far between but they're bliss when they happen.

So as promised. Here's Deliverance.



This bit is at the top - note the gnarly tree rooty goodness. There's more of that all the way down. I would have taken more photos but I was too busy concentrating and staying on my bike. It's the sort of single trail that if you fall off it then you end up falling a very long way. Having a 40 metre tumble down a hill side was not high on my list of priorities.

Anyway after giving myself heart failure on Deliverance I decided it was time for some serious sifting. So after a little back trail negotiation I ended up at Hawkins Hill.



See what I mean about it being a glorious day!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Nutters I have Met. Part 1.

OK so I'm cheating a little bit. I posted the following tale on a discussion group that I'm a member of and have decided to copy and paste it here. It's just one of those weird things that happens to you from time to time when you are a journalist.

It dates back to the time (late 1999) when the then Chch City Council manager Mike Richardson had created a bit of a media firestorm over a few comments he'd made about the Second Coming, the millennium, and how all the sports facilities the Council had developed would make perfect landing spots for the Heavenly Host as well as great places for mass Baptisms

I'm sitting in the office one afternoon, busy trying to get my head around all this, when an elderly gent in rather impeccable 1970's formal attire wanders into the office and starts bending my ear about Mr Richardson and his relationship with God. Yours truly, thinking he was speaking to a member of the same religious group, asks the man if he was an acquaintance of Mr Richardson.
"Oh no, no, no" said the old fellow rather genially. "I just know Mr Richardson is wrong in his belief that God will come to Christchurch with the dawning of the millennium".
I couldn't help myself and asked him how he could be so sure of this.
He gave me a gentle smile and said;
"My son, I've been here since 1974"


It turned out he'd written his own Bible and everything. Definitely one of my more memorable moments in journalism.

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

Actually scrub that. You can grab me by the hand and lead me there, but just make sure there are mountainbikes involved.

I'll hope you'll excuse the rather oblique and inane references I'm making but I've just discovered another mountainbike trail up in Karori. And it happens to be called Temptation - hence the really bad pun.



It's a beaut' wee trail. Not difficult or technical but it flows really well and is possibly the easiest way to get up the dreaded Wrights Hill (word of advice - going up the road on a bike is a real drag).



And it has some surreal little glades, nooks, and crannies to take you by surprise as well.

In the next post (or thereabouts) I'll introduce you to Temptation's bigger, and slightly more intimidating, sister. Her name's Deliverance and she is aptly named.

Friday, May 25, 2007

If I Was a Super hero


Your results:

You are Apocalypse

Apocalypse 100%
Magneto 99%
Lex Luthor 83%
Dr. Doom 81%
The Joker 76%
Juggernaut 74%
Dark Phoenix 72%
Venom 71%
Mystique 70%
Mr. Freeze 64%
Catwoman 64%
Green Goblin 54%
Poison Ivy 50%
Kingpin 49%
Two-Face 46%
Riddler 40%


Click here to take the "Which Super Villain are you?" quiz...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Inquiring Minds Want to Know.

I'm sure Ian Wishart won't mind this as he appears to be great fan of maximum disclosure in all matters public and private.

The thing is I'm slightly curious about the John Dallison Flannery that is listed as a shareholder on HATM Magazines Limited - the firm responsible for publishing Investigate Magazine. Is he the same John Flannery that was formerly a director of John Flannery and Associates?

I only ask this because the firm in question is listed as a private investigations outfit based in the North Shore.

Just how many PI's (Wayne Idour aside) is Mr Wishart involved with?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

On Top of the World

Occasionally, just every once in a while. Wellington will put on an absolute stunning day. Luckily today was one of those days and what better way to make the most of it than get lost on a mountainbike on the hills behind Maungaraki. This is the same place I was blathering about a few weeks ago .... however it really is a fantastic place to explore.

Seriously it's another world up there. No-one about but the occasional sheep and the odd (and I mean that literally as well as metaphorically) walker. Bliss, and all within 20 minutes of Wellington.

This is looking north-east towards the Rimutakas.



While this is the view to the north-west. Somewhere way up in the distance is Pauatahanui.

Any bets as to whther this is autumn's last gasp before the crap winter weather arrives.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Ultimate Irony.


Without a word of a lie I swear this is among the wine selection at the post Budget drinks of Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen tonight.

It was a pungent little number with a big nose and an bitter aftertaste of sour grapes.

For context go here or here.

I swear to God you just can't make this stuff up.

Mum's the Word

Given all the crap that's floating around about the NZ police at the moment let me share this little yarn which dates back 20 or so years in the small country town where I grew up.

The local police station had been subject to an arson attack (suspicion being it was lit by the cops who were sick of their ancient poky digs) meaning they were operating out of the old courthouse
building down the road.

However, following the annual cannabis plantation raids, they chose to store their confiscated pile of dope plants in the cell one weekend ahead of impending incineration on a Monday morning.

Lo and behold they turn up on Monday and the plants were gone.

Unfortunately for the enterprising thieves the planst had wilted and were prone to shedding their leaves. The jig was up largely to the early risers of the town who'd spotted a group of young men - young men not noted for their civic duty - industriously sweeping the footpaths at 5.30 in the morning.

The police caught our green fingered friends but charges were never laid.

Basically because the youths were quite happy to tell the local paper exactly what they'd done. Something the local Sergeant preferred to avoid.

So the police got their plants back, the lads got off scot-free and everyone was a winner on the day.

[NB I was not one of the young men]

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Irony


I wonder if he lived? And if he did, what did he say when he met his doctor?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

To Hit Or Not To Hit

To be honest I don't give a toss one way or another regarding the so-called "Anti-Smacking" Bill. I don't have any kids so it doesn't really affect me.

However the debate, which has been spirited, has thrown up some choice moments. My favourite was a conversation I heard at a rally outside Parliament yesterday between a Destiny Church member and a Bill supporter.

Bill Supporter: "So do you kick your dog?"
Church member: "Of course not."
Bill Supporter: "So why would you want to hit your child."

No come back whatsoever.

Oh and while I'm pinching pictures from Scaryduck I feel I should pass this one along. It's a salutary lesson in where not to stand.

Wrong On Many Levels.



Courtesy of Scaryduck.

He's a sick, sick man.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Now they Tell Us!




According to Telecom NZ needs to spend one and a half billion dollars if internet broadband targets set by the government are to be met.

Apparently they can only foot a third of the bill.

A decade and a half as a monopoly with a virtual license to print money yet they never got round to doing much in the way of infrastructure investment.

I wonder why?

Maybe it slipped their mind. Or was it the fact that, with a largely captive market in their pocket, they simply didn't give a fuck.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Making Money Out of Misery

This is why I'll never work in PR. There are the constant jests about PR practitioners having no soul but in this case they prove it.

What am I on about you ask?

Let me refer you to this story which ran in the papers today. The poor bastard dies from anaphylactic shock after having an allergic reaction to something in his food. Pretty tragic, and one can imagine his family are having a pretty rough time at the moment.

So what do the people at Addenda Publishing do?

They put out this press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DATE: 26 April 2007

Tragic Allergy Death Should Not Deter Allergy Sufferers from Eating Out – Author

Allergy sufferers should take a lesson from this week’s tragic death of Auckland man Grant Freeman from a suspected allergic reaction to a restaurant meal, says Kim Koeller, author of Let’s Eat Out: Your Passport to Living Gluten and Allergy Free.

“But that lesson should be to take care and be thoroughly prepared, not to give up eating out from fear,” she says.

Koeller and co-author Robert La France have produced an award-winning book series that shows allergy suffers how to eat out safely. Through their consulting practice, they also educate the restaurant trade in safe food practices that will prevent the sort of tragedy that happened this week.

Koeller and La France will be back in New Zealand in August to address a major conference on the subject of allergies and dining out.

Koeller and La France are available to New Zealand media for comment. For more information or to arrange an interview or review copy, contact the New Zealand distributor Addenda Publishing


There's nothing like trying to make a quick buck out of the illfortune of others is there. I hope some journo' gives them a right royal rocket for trying to pull this shameless and scurrilous plug.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

No Respect

While many of my peers have been out and about today doing their patriotic duty at ANZAC Day commemorations I, as usual, have ignored it completely.

For those readers not of Antipodean origin ANZAC Day is a public holiday in NZ and Australia to remember those that have died fighting for their country. Originally it was more centred around World War One and the Gallipoli Campaign.

The official line is that Gallipoli was where New Zealand started to develop a sense of nationhood. Unfortunately in reality it was thousands of young men's lives being profligately thrown away by incompetent British Generals in a war that had little relevance to New Zealand. The bonds of mother England have a lot to answer for really.

Anyway instead of honouring the dead I wen mountainbiking in a new area I've just discovered - Belmont Forest Park.

I knew I was onto a good thing when I found this gem of a single trail winding its way out of a narrow wee valley.



While it's not exactly an easy incline to ride up it turned out to be pretty manageable. Getting to the top the track branched out onto a farm 4wd track and was pretty cruisy.

The view wasn't bad either.



You can't really see it too clearly in this picture, but that's actually Wellington off in the distance at the top centre. Lower Hutt would be off to the left out of sight (and bloody good riddance too!) over a ridgeline.

The farm roads go for absolutely miles. I spent a couple of hours trundling along ridgelines and dipping into hidden valleys and I've barely scratched the surface off the place.

Oh and in keeping with the whole ANZAC Day motif I took this shot especially for the occasion.


Those indistinct gray blodges to the upper right are actually old ammunition bunkers left over from World War Two. The place is riddled with them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dogs that Survived Paris

In the world of truly ugly dogs here are always those that stand out from the rest.

Here is the reigning world champion.



Though it's fair to say that had the previous champion (3 years in a row in fact) still been alive there'd have been no contest.

Heeeres fugly!



Seriously, who in their right mind would want to own one of these pint size abortions?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Posting

Sometimes I wonder whether I should write a little more stuff connected to my work. After all I am in a rather unique position being relatively close to the Parliamentary action.

But then I realize, who gives a fat rats arse if another political blogger adds his squeals to the cacophony - probably nobody.

So I don't bother.

Much.

Monday, April 09, 2007

View From the Top



And that's why I love Makara.

Pity about the bone shattering descent though as I seem to have hurt my back. I'm now perambulating around the house like a gerontological disaster zone.

Oh and in light of my last post about the ER it seems the nurses are into the same sort of thing. Not quite as graphic but they do have their moments.

Here are a few examples:

From the disgusting.

Female caller asks- "Is dog semen harmful if swallowed?


To the purely foul.

Caller: Can you get STD's from a sheep?
Nurse: Excuse me (OMG did I really hear this right)
Caller: Can you get STD's from a sheep?
Nurse: I think that you should call the local vet!


And the truly bizarre.

When I worked in OB, I had someone call and she was masturbating to the answers that I was giving about breast-feeding questions - the situation didn't actually get weird and suspicious until she asked if I had ever breast-fed a baby - I currently had a 4 month old that I was nursing and, unfortunately, I was sort of punchy (it was 3 am and I didn't tolerate nights that well) and answered yes - the breathing got harder and faster and I could hear lots of rustling and such (it was actually a woman) and I said I was going to hang up and they said "No, not yet, I'm not there yet..." - I blurted out "What the heck are you doing?" - they managed to answer between pants "What do you think?" - then, I hung up.......


Y'know I'm truly glad I don't work in medicine.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Real ER

This is the thread that will not die. I pop in every few months just to see the latest outrageous story.

Such as:

If the cops are chasing you, your ear is not a proper place to hide your weed stash. What's worse, don't tell us that it's some random girl's phone number you stuffed in your ear to hide from your girlfriend.


and,

Feeding your weed stash to your dog is not a good idea either. Apparently in high doses it can cause what can best described as an acute psychotic break in said dog, putting multiple dog bites with avulsions and arterial bleeding on your growing list of problems.


even better,

We all know that smoking with O2 is bad but today I learned that its worse with a full beard. Oh the smell.


and finally,

Be careful when squatting 800+ lbs in competition - your quads might explode.


'Nuff said.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Dumped!

Sometimes I wonder if technology is altogether too much of a good thing.

A case in point an experience a friend of mine had the other day. To put it in a nutshell he was dumped.

Now I know many of you will be saying well so what, people get dumped all the time. However he was dumped via text message.

i.e. "Im sry bt itz al ovr"


Am I alone in thinking that this is slightly off?

I mean what's wrong with the good old fashioned way of breaking up with people. You know what I mean - not answering their calls, being perpetually busy/unavailable, or by being incredibly incommunicative on the rare occasions that you are together.

Methinks cellphones have a lot to answer for.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The News

I was going to write something deep, meaningful, and insightful about the quality of our broadcast news.

And then I found this.



Says it all really.

However at some stage in the not too distant future I will write something about how well, and how poorly, we are served by our news outlets.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

You're Nicked Son

It seems every time a Chinese dignitary visits this country the powers that be want to placate them at the cost of some of our basic democratic rights. This latest incident involving Chinese Capital news reporter Nick Wang is another case in point.

It is patently unacceptable for the Police and the Diplomatic Protection Squad to act the way the did. It is not for the Chinese Embassy to determine who can and cannot cover political events in this country. Their attempts to pressure the situation should have been firmly rebutted.

The officers involved can't plead ignorance. The officer based in Parliament is well versed in the rules and regulations pertaining to media coverage and surely knows the only person who can revoke a journalist's accreditation is the Speaker and no-one else. For him to issue the threats that he did is simply untenable.

Nor do our politicians come out of this with any glory. Both Helen Clark and Michael Cullen tried to fudge the issue yesterday saying events were confused, that media access to the Beehive core was unclear, and that Mr Wang may have caused trouble.

This simply does not stack up. Nick Wang, who's had Press Gallery accreditation for 8 years had sought permission from the Speaker to film the event. Furthermore the signing ceremony had been listed on the Government's Ministerial Diary as a photo opportunity - surely a clear indication that media were entitled to attend. But what really dismantles the facile arguments of Clark and Cullen is the video recorded of the event (kudos to Nick's cameraman here). It quite plainly shows he acted professionally at all times and did no more than raise reasonable objections to what was a blatant abuse of procedure. The PM and her deputy should hang their heads in shame for trying to pin the blame on Mr Wang. That they tried is unforgivable.

It's a sad fact the real reason the politicians are trying to downplay and avoid the issue is their drive for a free trade agreement with China. They simply don't want to offend the Chinese and risk the loss of a lucrative deal. This obsession with the dollar isn't just restricted to the Government though - National Party Leader John Key wanted to stay as far away from the matter as possible saying he couldn't comment "because I wasn't there" and "it was Dr Cullen's meeting".

It's a shame the leaders of our democracy don't have the gumption to stand up for one of its basic tenets.

Freedom of expression isn't as important to them as is free trade. How sad is that?

However the good news is Speaker Margaret Wilson has come out on the side of the media and is sending a stern please explain message to the police, as well as note to the Chinese Embassy reminding them of how we do things here. It's too soon to say but I would expect at least the Police and DPS to be forced to apologise to Nick Wang ... and maybe even the Chinese Embassy?