Three myths about New Zealand Democracy

myth reality

Myth 1. New Zealand has democracy

Myth 2. Local Politics is not party-political

Myth 3. New Zealanders can influence politics

Myth 1 – New Zealand has democracy

Yes we have MMP (Multi-Member Proportional).

But we don’t have proportional voting in our Electorate Seats, and without it we don’t have democracy. Instead we have a winner takes all system called First Past the Post (FPP). We know that politics is not a zero-sum game and that we only advance by listening to each other and working together. And we all know the rorts which means voters actually have to vote for candidates they DON’T want in order to exclude even worse candidates.

A simple short term solution (until we get proportional representation in Electorate Seats) is to count Electorate seat votes under a Preferential system. The voting would stay the same and the ballot paper wouldn’t have to change, but the counting system would be preferential – candidates would lodge their preferences with the Electoral Commission. For example. Candidate A would lodge a ticket saying “if we don’t get elected then our votes should be counted towards  Candidate B, C and D etc, in that order.” Here is how a preferential count works.

Myth 2 – Local Government is not party-political

Go to almost any neighbourhood organisation meeting or Local Board meeting and nine times out of ten the first speech by the rulers will begin by saying “It’s wonderful that national politics doesn’t intrude into our local government” or “We don’t want party politics here.” This is the myth propagated very very deliberately by the Citizens and Ratepayers group which is an arm of the National Party. The revelations from the

Guest Blogger Starling: Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

Originally posted on Shapely Prose:

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs.  She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection…

View original 1,626 more words

Waitangi Tribunal Report on Orakei (extract)

The full report is available here (pdf).

Paora Tuhaere canoe Taheretikitiki on the Waitemata Harbour in 1890

(pic: Paora Tuhaere canoe Taheretikitiki on the Waitemata Harbour in 1890)

This is from the summary:

The Maori people there were first to promote British settlement following the Treaty of Waitangi. They moved to protect the settlers from threatened attacks on the new town of Auckland and rallied support for the Crown when New Zealand was on the brink of civil warfare.

They led some of the earliest pan-tribal conferences that rank high in Maori history. They developed and through all adversity main­tained a policy of respect for law, order and due process.

Yet it was this group of Maori people who suffered at the hands of the Crown one of the worst cases of cultural genocide this country has known.

The story of Orakei gives sharp relief to the same problems that beset other people in other places and covers national policy from 1840 to the present day.

For Orakei is a microcosm of the country …

A history is available here.

Carpals of Swamp Wallaby – Wallabia bicolor

Carpals of Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) are from left wrist of a male wallaby 1.65 m from head to tail unless noted otherwise.

Unlike humans, the swamp wallaby has seven carpal bones, not eight (the scaphoid and lunate form a single scapholunar bone). The trapezoid is tiny (5 mm long). They are different to kangaroo. Captions below photos.

 

Wallabia bicolor overview

Wallabia bicolor overview.JPG

Wallabia bicolor carpals apr 2006Wallabia bicolor carpals apr 2006.JPG

Wallabia bicolor carpals in order

Wallabia bicolor carpals in order.JPG

Wallabia bicolor ulna tip in triquetral
Wallabia bicolor ulna tip in triquetral.JPG

Wallabia bicolor scapholunar still bound

Wallabia bicolor scapholunar still bound.JPG

Wallabia bicolor joint capsule scapholunar hamate 2

Wallabia bicolor joint capsule scapholunar hamate 2.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor joint capsule scapholunar hamate
Wallabia bicolor joint capsule scapholunar hamate.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor left scapholunars

Wallabia bicolor left scapholunars.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor two left scapholunars
Wallabia bicolor two left scapholunars.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor triquetrals

Wallabia bicolor triquetrals.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor trapeziums
Wallabia bicolor trapeziums.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor trapeziums 2

Wallabia bicolor trapeziums 2.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor trapezoid
Wallabia bicolor trapezoid.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor left trapezoids

Wallabia bicolor left trapezoids.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor left capitates
Wallabia bicolor left capitates.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor capitate and trapezoid separating

Wallabia bicolor capitate and trapezoid separating.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor capitates
Wallabia bicolor capitates.jpg

 

Wallabia bicolor left hamates

Wallabia bicolor left hamates.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor hamate separating
Wallabia bicolor hamate separating.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor distal carpal row hamate on left

Wallabia bicolor distal carpal row hamate on left.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor distal row without hamate

Wallabia bicolor distal row without hamate.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor second carpal row
Wallabia bicolor second carpal row.JPG

 

Wallabia bicolor distal row stepped metacarpals

Wallabia bicolor distal row stepped metacarpals.JPG

 

miscellaneous bones t

miscellaneous bones t.jpg

 

Mnemonic for wrist bones of mammals and their order in the two carpal rows:

Sally Left The Party, To Take Cathy Home

(1st, upper, medial, proximal row = scaphoid, lunate aka semi-lunar, triquetral aka cuneiform, pisiform)

(2nd , lower, distal row = trapezium, trapezoid, capitate aka os magnum, hamate aka unciform hook shaped)

 

Swamp Wallaby is in Class Mammalia, Subclass Marsupialia (Metharians also include Marsupials), Order Diprotodontia (Koalas, Wombats, Possums, Macropods), Superfamily Macropodoidea, Family Macropodidae (Wallabies, kangaroos, tree-kangaroos), Subfamily Macropodinae, Genus Wallabia, Species bicolor. This classification is from: Mammals of Australia, Editor Ronald Strahan, revised edition, Reed New Holland Publishers, Sydney, 1995, which says “A combination of genetic, reproductive, dental and behavioural characteristics set the Swamp Wallaby so far apart from other wallabies that it is classified as the sole living member of the genus Wallabia.” p409. This is debated because it can hybridize with Macropus agilis (agile wallaby) so perhaps should be placed in the genus Macropus.

Sailing

Deep water sailing is something I’d wanted to do for a long time. 

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(pic is not me or my old Mirror Dinghy. My old pics lost in mists of time)

Although I’d crewed on planing 16 footers  at university and found it an incredible buzz hanging out on the trapeze, I wasn’t bitten by the sailing bug again until a few years ago when I helped Sean Illes deliver his Alan Payne 38 foot steeler on a coastal run. I was hooked as soon as we reached the huge gently rolling swells of the Pacific and he gave me the tiller. We surged up the swells and I held us along the tops for as long as I could before the whole rhythmic process began again. I loved being in sync with the ocean, the light breeze and the boat. I loved being able to control our gentle but firm sinusodoil progress across the swell. All my subsequent sailing has been an attempt to recapture those moments.

After that voyage I began to teach myself to sail. Crewing for Sean and at university hadn’t given me the skills I needed, and there’s nothing like doing it yourself. I read everything I could. Sean advised me to get a stable dinghy and the first time I pushed off all by myself in the little 3 metre Mirror with its red sails, my heart was in my mouth. Despite the oars in the boat and a tiny breeze that barely ruffled the surface, I worried that I might never make it back to shore.  When a jetskier came over I was mad that he was invading my space, but he turned out to be a friendly member of the local rescue centre and a former Mirror sailor. He’d noticed my jib luff was loose and was helpful with his advice. I was soon tacking back and forth with much more success. And I learned how hard I had to work to get upwind for a decent downwind run.

Over the next couple of years I grew bolder and bolder, taking longer trips and camping out overnight while the little boat bobbed and tugged  between anchor and shore line and I fretted in my tent as the wind got up. I watched the clouds scud across the face of the moon and dreamed of great conquests. Setting out in the morning I clutched my laminated maps (now I have to call them charts) in one hand and the tiller in the other while the rain came down and I learnt to navigate around the islands of the bay and enjoyed feeling snug and dry inside good gear. What fun, what adventure, until I got too close to a leeward shore and swamped the boat in the waves trying to claw away. But it was still fun and still an adventure and Joanna was pleased to pick me up with the boat trailer.

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Soon I was ready for bigger things and I bought a 24 foot Sparkman and Stephens (Glass Spider), joined the Reactor Association and became a volunteer on Spirit of New Zealand. Joanna worried that I wasn’t ready for my first keeler, but she’d said that about the dinghy too.

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(pic – volunteering on the Spirit – I can’t speak highly enough of this organisation)

The Spirit of NZ is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I joined for the sailing experience on a square rigger but was soon there for “the program” helping young people experience leadership, challenges and have the time of their lives while they did it. Captain Ms George Micet is easily one of the most impressive human beings I’ve ever met. Brilliant with kids, committed totally to the program, a great sailor and wonderful to me on my nervous first voyage – I probably needed more looking after than some of the kids. Volunteer Brent Beavan was also a joy to sail with. For me, the Spirit of New Zealand IS the Spirit of New Zealand.

All the time I kept reading. The romance of the sea fuelled my thoughts and learning as much as I could was my aim. A friend said I read too many books. But there were no old men of the sea down by the wharves who I could chat to. So I thought the books were a pretty good substitute. The Reactor Association was awesome in its friendliness and camaraderie. I crewed whenever I could, including in an Auckland to Russell race though not on a Reactor.

I camped out on Glass Spider, got a beautiful new mainsail with three reefs and a new storm sail from Dave Giddens and was ready for whatever the elements could throw at me. (These days I might take Peter Smith‘s lead and have two reefs with a deep second reef). Truth be told, I wanted to match myself against them and see how I’d come up. I wanted to experience the experiences I’d read about in my sailing books. I learned to sail on and off the anchor and enjoyed the challenge of picking up the mooring under sail. Even if it took me three or four tries, I didn’t care what onlookers thought. And the new friend I’d made on the neighbouring mooring was very encouraging. The first time I anchored on my own it was in Islington Bay and I was incredibly worried the boat wouldn’t hold even though I’d bought an oversized anchor and plenty of chain. I enjoyed fooling around with the spinnaker on windless days and the Reactor sailors were teaching me a lot more about sailing.

One day I sailed back from Kawau to Auckland in 40 knot following winds. I thought I was a careful seaman who took all the safety precautions. The boat was stable, the main was fully reefed (Dave had put in a deep third reef for me) and the little red storm jib was set. I figured that if I was capsized, at least the wind would push me onshore. I had a good PFD on and a harness with a quick release shackle. When a wave boarded me I suddenly realised I’d better shut the storm boards. It wasn’t much of a wave but I knew that I’d better be careful. I couldn’t afford a mistake and needed to be on the tiller at every moment. I didn’t want to go broadside to a wave and risk getting tipped over. I was towing the dinghy on two painters. It powered along, veering this way and that, surfing down the waves as they passed underneath from behind. Fortunately I’d learned to make the painters long enough so that it didn’t plough into the back of me. I’m a little older and wiser now and would think twice about doing that again. Ah the joy of inexperience.

At the same time I was looking around for a bigger boat, something more comfortable, something safe and solid I could sail to Australia in and see my family. The dream was still alive, but each boat I looked at had something about it which wasn’t quite right. Or maybe I knew deep down this time that I wasn’t quite ready. In any case one boat which appealed to me was an aluminium Cape 40, designed by Alan Mummery. I wanted to know all about it and wanted to ask Alan if I could careen it on its side for a washdown. I’d done that by accident once at Sandspit in Glass Spider. After the initial shock of thinking the boat would be swamped, it had turned out well when the coastguard and the woman who had taken my frantic radio call for help were so wonderful. But Alan said no, the boat wasn’t designed for careening. He arranged for me to meet another Cape 40 owner, John Green of Caper. That led to an invitation to sail across the Pacific. Wow!

A couple of months later John and I and Ken Fisher sat around variously at my place or John’s planning the voyage from Tahiti to Puerto Montt in southen Chile. We’d be joined  in Tahiti by Mike Hardie from Wellington, a great sailor. This was one leg of a round the world cruise which John was doing. Finally my dream was coming true. I had decided, after a long initial flush of enthusiasm about the romance of single-handed ocean crossing, that I was too old and wise for that. John and Ken had just the right attitude. Careful planning, brilliant preparation, safety systems sometimes in triplicate. It was all systems go and I felt safe and secure with sailors much more experienced than me. I had already turned down a couple of offers from people whose safety attitude was different to mine. One guy had boasted about how he would avoid the New Zealand requirements for Cat 1 by registering his boat somewhere else. I asked what sort of things he wouldn’t be doing and I was horrified by his answers. For example his liferaft was going to be the zodiac. Having done the Safety at Sea course and having read the Coroner’s Report on the Sydney Hobart disaster I thought anything you could do to improve your chances of survival, you should do. Don’t call me, I said, I’ll call you.

I also did the five day course First Aid at Sea STCW95 at the Maritime School. The presenter was the brilliant Brent Palmer and I learned about Celox (powdered shell which stops bleeing instantly), the Bone Injection Gun (for putting in an IV drip), inflatable splints, and the artificial airway (i-gel LMA Laryngeal Mask Airway – a tube you just shove down an unconscious person’s throat which is specially designed to separate airway and oesophagus). We also practised on pig trotters, injecting and sewing, rather than use a skin stapler. Learning how to handle a dislocated shoulder was also great and CPR for the untrained is now 100 compressions per minute and worry about the breathing afterwards. I’d recommend the course to all.

I flew to Tahiti to join Caper and for the next few days we stocked and packed the boat, writing down all our stores and which locker they were in in a little book. We did all those last minute things you have to do for a sea voyage. Mike was very good rigging a sail catcher for the main. It was like a stack pack only different and was wonderful to work with. We also rigged a Wichard boom brake, the Gyb’easy, which John had done a lot of research on. And Mike again was great in installing the custom made stainless steel horn on the bow through which we could lead the parachute anchor for heavy weather sailing. John also had a series drougue aboard.

Finally all was as ready as it was going to be and we left the berth to fill up with fuel on the way out of the Papeete harbour. We tootled down to the runway crossing where planes fly low and waited for clearance. Soon we were out in the channel between Tahiti and Moorea islands. Darkness fell and we prepared for our first night at sea. Our night watch was from 6 pm to 6 am, but the person next on rotation usually relieved at 6 am too. The four of us had a two hour watch each which meant we had a good night’s sleep every couple of days at least because if you started at 6 one evening, you started at 8 the next and then two hours later each evening until you started again at six. During the day whoever was on deck was also on watch and it all flowed seamlessly. We filled in the log every hour at least. During the first night we saw a bit of shipping and one yacht coming in towards the channel. After that we saw no other shipping until 34 days later as we approached the coast of Chile at Puerto Montt.

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(I felt sorry for the beautiful tuna and had never seen a fish killed with such respect by the crew – thanks for the lesson guys)

Evening watch was blissful on a good night. I  learnt some new constellations with my rotating star chart and tried to figure out why the Southern Cross was upside down over near Chile. Every night the companionship of Orion’s Belt and the Matariki (Pleiades) further behind on the port bow meant our course eastward was good. The windvane or one of two electric tillers did the steering. In the tropics, flying fish would be found aboard in the morning and we saw bird life of various sorts. As we got further from land the bird life dropped off until we got into the southern ocean where we saw albatrosses.

So what’s it like to travel for 34 days without sight of land on a small boat with three other men? You learn a lot about yourself and each other and in my case I learnt the dream and the reality could be two different things. Don’t get me wrong. I had a great time and don’t regret for a moment doing the voyage. It’s just that the ever changing ever fascinating seascape I’d read about wasn’t enough to hold my interest. I enjoyed the brilliant deep deep blue of the ocean once we’d got away from the shallow waters around Tahiti. I’d only ever seen such blue in detergent advertisements and didn’t believe nature could produce such colours. I enjoyed watching the swells build up from various weather systems from all points of the compass. It was fun to see three or four different wave trains and think about the work of David Lewis in documenting how the Pacific voyagers used them for traditional navigation.

John had an excellent library on board and we all read and talked and argued about all topics under the sun then started all over again reading and talking and cooking and eating and reading and standing watch during the nights. Fortunately we were old enough and wise enough to live and let live when we disagreed. We had tailored weather routing from Bob Macdavitt. Every few days he’d send us an updated list of coordinates and the times he expected we’d arrive at each one and the conditions we could expect along the way. I programed them into the chartplotter for Mike our navigator and we set our course accordingly. Bob knew our boat speed and we would report our position to him every few days. In addition John did a daily sked to Taupo Marine giving our position. Each day Mike would go over the boat from head to toe looking for broken rigging or screws. John would regularly check the bilges and the water, oil and fuel levels. Ken took lots of photos and despite being sick on one occasion insisted on standing his watch. I got some weird headache which lasted for days in one particular part of my head. No fun.

Some days began for me with dawn creeping into the sky while I was on the morning watch. Or if I’d finished my watch before the light came, I’d sleep through till a civilized eight or nine o’clock. Mike helped me hone my skills on the sextant but I was never 100% happy that I got it right. What with the bouncing and movement of the boat on the waves, you had to take as many shots as you could and average them out. I learned how to take a noon shot but I’m not sure my astigmatism (even corrected with glasses) was not a confounding factor. A few months earlier I had learnt that my sights with a hand-bearing compass were consistently different to other people’s – so I had to have my own little deviation card. Nonetheless I was having fun and had the GPS to check myself against.

We were really very lucky with the weather. We only had one three day gale, and remember that a gale is not as bad as a storm. The seas were rough but we didn’t fall off any big waves. There were only a few times when cooking was dangerous, so we made sure we didn’t sit in the line where we’d be hit if the pot jumped off the gimballed stove. I realised too that ocean sailing needs a bit of strength. I’m not sure that Joanna would have had the strength to hold on if she had been on board and had to move around the boat. Our lee sheets were handy too and a few times I rigged the straps that would hold me if I was flung about. Still and all, I wasn’t. And I’ve had reports of people on cruise ships being thrown out of bed in conditions which must have been worse than anything we experienced on the voyage.

I think we all withdrew into our own thoughts during the gale and sat huddled in our bunks, well braced in the lee sheets or whatever, wishing it would just go away. After the gale our radar reflector which was tied to the spreader was loose and we had to sort it out. I was the lightest and offered to climb up and have a go. I’d seen people swinging outboard from the stays and balanced on spreaders before but had not really taken enough notice of the techniques involved. Mike and Ken belayed me while John kept the tiller steady. I had my bike helmet on in case I slipped and bashed my head against the mast. John called out to me that I should wrap my legs around the spreader or stay as I leaned outboard and take the weight on my harness, but I didn’t quite understand and was a bit too chicken to try.  I was gradually loosing strength hanging on and wasn’t able to reattach the reflector. Fortunately I was able to cut it loose and attach a line to lower it to the deck.

During our preparation I thought John was joking when he said to budget about 15 baby wipes per day. You mean there won’t be enough water for washing? Turns out the baby wipes were absolutely brilliant. We used them after using the heads and we used a few for full body scrub downs every day. As we got down into the southern ocean the temperature dropped and we got into our thermals and woolies. For a few days I didn’t bother to wipe down my lower legs and was surprised by the build-up of dead skin cells around the cuffs of my long thermals. So it was back to the full monty wipe downs after that.

Our main meals were Back Country dried meals of about 6 different types. You just pour boiling water into the sachets, let stand for a few minutes and eat. They were so good at first that we all said we’d be happy to eat them at home. By day 34 we had a different take on it. Somehow, despite them being different they had all begun to taste the same. Still, unless you’re willing to cater differently, they were pretty simple. We also ate muesli and John baked a mean damper and good porridge. Tins of fruit and nice nibblies  (sultanas, dried fruit, nuts, lollies) were in constant demand. There was plenty to eat, but despite that we all lost weight. It must have been the constant movement of the body maintaining its stability against the motion of the boat.

As we sailed into the Humboldt Current near the coast of Chile, the sealife burgeoned. We saw whales and had a couple of narrow escapes, just avoiding collision. Some cloud formations as we got near the coast fooled more than one of us that we were seeing land. It’s extraordinary to see a massive cloud bank that has been carved out from the top with what looks like valleys. It certainly looked like land. During the night before we made landfall we saw perhaps six ships and had to keep a wary eye on them both for real and on our radar. Most of us were up all night with the excitement of the approach. Then as the day dawned the richness of the sea life was amazing. Dolphins, seals, seabirds. The coast seemed to be very very busy after the long stretches of endless ocean.

A shower was what we all wanted and I have never had a better one! Then for me it was goodbye and ten days of travel through Chile (left luggage was great for all my sailing gear) up to Santiago to fly home.

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Chinese power in our libraries

Open Letter to Auckland Council Library

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(pic via David Bandurski’s excellent website)

Hi Guys

I’m concerned about the amount of mainland Chinese propaganda in our library system from Chinese government donations. Much of this material distorts the truth in a way favourable to the Chinese government. And let’s face it, China is making concerted efforts to project its soft power in our region and throughout the world via Confucius Institutes (partly modelled on the British Council and Alliance Francaise) and in any way it can.

The Chinese government strictly controls and often bans any discussion of many many areas, including Tibet, Taiwanese independence, universal human rights, Tian An Men and so on. My Chinese friends and neighbours are being swamped by mainland controlled media including radio here in New Zealand which bows down to these dictates. Let’s avoid it in our libraries.

So as a member of the community and a professional Chinese to English translator who also uses Chinese material in the library, I’d like to become involved in the committee which makes decisions about what Chinese language material is in our libraries.

I also have a proposal I would like to discuss.

I propose that all Chinese language material in our libraries have a sticker on it. The sticker would show a link to a library webpage in Chinese and English.

The page would be a statement about:

  • the committee which decides these issues
  • an invitation to have input into the committee
  • not condoning censorship (indeed our libraries should have Chinese propaganda in them)
  • our library will be careful to meet the needs of all members of our community
  • we will be careful not to become overwhelmed by propaganda from any source.

I look forward to your response.

Kevin

Mon 30Jun2014

Quick riff on #teamKey

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When it’s OK for others to eke out a survival while #TeamKey “earns” $8,000 a week

When your #TeamKey Immigration Minister says a “German backpacker” is an immigrant

When #TeamKey rejects science and says they “disagree with the facts”

When #TeamKey wants to spend $14B on roads and ignores walk to school ideas

When #TeamKey promotes an American trade deal to let tobacco companies sue your government

When #TeamKey sets river quality targets below the Yangzte river targets