March 11, 2014

New Zealand considering changing the national flag

Filed under: Pacific — Tags: — Nicholas Russon @ 07:51

The current PM’s choice would be the silver fern on a black field, which is the symbol used by the national sports teams, especially the All Blacks:

New Zealand flag 320pxNew Zealand is to hold a referendum on whether to change the national flag, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

Mr Key, who on Monday called an election for 20 September, said the vote would be held within three years.

The current flag shows the Southern Cross constellation and includes the Union Jack – the UK’s national flag – in one corner.

Mr Key said the flag represented a period of history from which New Zealand had moved on.

“It’s my belief… that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed,” he said in a speech at Victoria University.

New Zealand All Black Silver Fern flag 324px“The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom.”

“I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag.”

Mr Key said that he liked the silver fern — popularised by national teams including the All Blacks — as an option, saying efforts by New Zealand’s athletes gave “the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity”.

January 28, 2014

New Zealand primary school descends into anarchy by “ripping up the schoolyard rules”

Filed under: Liberty, Pacific — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:45

In a breathtaking display of anarchy, an Aukland primary school got rid of all their playground rules and let the little savages do whatever they wanted. As you’d expect, the results were catastrophic and the kids will need to undergo therapy for the wanton violence they unleashed. Well, no, not really:

Ripping up the playground rulebook is having incredible effects on children at an Auckland school.

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

J.D. Tuccille hails the rise of spontaneous order:

Youth is a relatively low-risk time to test your limits and discover what hurts and what doesn’t. Kids are practically rubber, so when they fall down off a bike or out of a tree, it may be a jolt, but it’s unlikely to do permanent damage. The lessons they learn about what’s fun and what’s painful can be retained for later in life when the stakes are higher. I know that I gained a relatively low-cost understanding of the world wandering the streets unescorted as an eight-year-old than I would have if I’d been “protected” from the world around me, and I suspect the same is true of most kids everywhere.

And, of course, kids get to burn off a lot more steam when they play free than they do when adults ban tag and running. Those rules are imposed by adults who live in fear that children will damage their little selves, but that leaves the tots chock full of unreleased energy and uncertain of the limits of their worlds — limits they’ll have to discover when they’re older and the consequences can be more severe (or else they won’t discover at all as they internalize the fear in which they’ve been marinated).

November 10, 2013

QotD: The New Zealand rugby team

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Sports — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:27

There is a saying that you do not beat New Zealand — you just get more points than them at the final whistle.

Tim Worstall, “About next week’s rugby”, TimWorstall.com, 2013-11-10

August 29, 2013

New Zealand bans (most) software patents

Filed under: Law, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:27

Hurrah for New Zealand:

A major new patent bill, passed in a 117-4 vote by New Zealand’s Parliament after five years of debate, has banned software patents.

The relevant clause of the patent bill actually states that a computer program is “not an invention.” Some have suggested that was a way to get around the wording of the TRIPS intellectual property treaty, which requires patents to be “available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology.”

Processes will still be patentable if the computer program is merely a way of implementing a patentable process. But patent claims that cover computer programs “as such” will not be allowed.

It seems there will be some leeway for computer programs directly tied to improved hardware. The bill includes the example of a better washing machine. Even if the improvements are implemented with a computer program, “the actual contribution is a new and improved way of operating a washing machine that gets clothes cleaner and uses less electricity,” so a patent could be awarded.

July 27, 2013

The brief, glorious career of the libertarian sheep

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:15

An amusing tale in Modern Farmer:

Shrek the sheep 1

Take a moment to drink in the glory of Shrek the Sheep. Shrek really, really, really did not like getting his hair cut. So for six years, this New Zealand libertarian managed to avoid spring shearings by hiding in a cave.

By the time he was found in 2004, his owners couldn’t even tell he was a sheep. “He looked like some biblical creature,” John Perriam told the BBC. Or, to quote a member of Modern Farmer‘s editorial team, “Someone help that sheep, he is being eaten by some kind of dirty monster.”

When Shrek was eventually sheared (because man always triumphs over sheep), there was enough wool to produce 20 men’s suits. Just an abnormal, excessive, downright insane amount of wool. Which led us to some basic questions: If a sheep is left unshorn, will its wool grow forever? Is that healthy? Is this a glitch in the (wooly) fabric of evolution?

Shrek the sheep 2

That’s Shrek mid-shearing, and not very happy about it. This is a fairly old story, as Shrek died a couple of years ago.

H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.

December 6, 2012

NZ court allows Kim Dotcom to sue for illegal spying

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:01

This could get interesting quickly:

Details of the top secret international spy agency ring known as Echelon will have to be produced after a new judgment in the Kim Dotcom case.

The internet tycoon was also cleared to pursue a case for damages against the police and the Government Communications Security Bureau in a judgment which has opened the Government’s handling of the criminal copyright case for its harshest criticism yet.

[. . .]

Chief high court judge Helen Winkelmann said the GCSB would have to “confirm all entities” to which it gave information sourced through its illegal interception of Dotcom’s communications.

She said her order included “members of Echelon/Five Eyes, including any United States authority”. The Echelon network is an international intelligence network to which New Zealand and the United States are members, along with Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The judgment also recorded Dotcom’s suspicions he had been spied on at least six weeks before the GCSB admitted to doing so, and sought details as to whether others had been swept up in the illegal operation.

Update: Moved the video below the fold to stop it auto-playing any time someone visited the blog main page.


September 18, 2012

Canada ranks fifth in the world for economic freedom

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:19

The annual Fraser Institute report on world economic freedom may confirm what a lot of Canadians have been noticing: we’re now much more free than our American friends, at least by the measurements tracked in this series of rankings (PDF):

  • In the chain-linked index, average economic freedom rose from 5.30 (out of 10) in
    1980 to 6.88 in 2007. It then fell for two consecutive years, resulting in a score of
    6.79 in 2009 but has risen slightly to 6.83 in 2010, the most recent year available.
    It appears that responses to the economic crisis have reduced economic freedom
    in the short term and perhaps prosperity over the long term, but the upward
    movement this year is encouraging.
  • In this year’s index, Hong Kong retains the highest rating for economic freedom,
    8.90 out of 10. The other top 10 nations are: Singapore, 8.69; New Zealand, 8.36;
    Switzerland, 8.24; Australia, 7.97; Canada, 7.97; Bahrain, 7.94; Mauritius, 7.90;
    Finland, 7.88; and Chile, 7.84.
  • The rankings (and scores) of other large economies in this year’s index are the United
    Kingdom, 12th (7.75); the United States, 18th (7.69); Japan, 20th (7.64); Germany,
    31st (7.52); France, 47th (7.32); Italy, 83rd (6.77); Mexico, 91st, (6.66); Russia, 95th
    (6.56); Brazil, 105th (6.37); China, 107th (6.35); and India, 111th (6.26).
  • The scores of the bottom ten nations in this year’s index are: Venezuela, 4.07;
    Myanmar, 4.29; Zimbabwe, 4.35; Republic of the Congo, 4.86; Angola, 5.12;
    Democratic Republic of the Congo, 5.18; Guinea-Bissau, 5.23; Algeria, 5.34; Chad,
    5.41; and, tied for 10th worst, Mozambique and Burundi, 5.45.
  • The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom
    among large industrial nations, has experienced a substantial decline in economic
    freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally
    rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and
    Singapore. After increasing steadily during the period from 1980 to 2000, the chainlinked
    EFW rating of the United States fell from 8.65 in 2000 to 8.21 in 2005 and
    7.70 in 2010. The chain-linked ranking of the United States has fallen precipitously
    from second in 2000 to eighth in 2005 and 19th in 2010 (unadjusted ranking of 18th).

June 28, 2012

What did Canada give up to get “2nd class seating” in the TPP negotiations?

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:27

Michael Geist on the Canadian concessions to get a seat at the kiddy table for the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations:

…the benefits for Canada are hard to identify. The price of admission was very steep — Canada appears to have agreed to conditions that grant it second-tier status — and the economic benefits from improved access to TPP economies are likely to be relatively minor since we already have free trade agreements with four of the ten participants.

Given those conditions, why aggressively pursue entry into the negotiations?

[. . .]

Given Canada’s late entry into the TPP process, the U.S. was able to extract two onerous conditions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper downplayed as the “accession process.” First, Canada will not be able to reopen any chapters where agreement has already been reached among the current nine TPP partners. This means Canada has already agreed to be bound by TPP terms without having had any input. Since the TPP remains secret, the government can’t even tell us what has been agreed upon. [Scott Sinclair reports that the commitment is even broader, covering any chapter where provisions have been agreed upon]

Second, Canada has second-tier status in the negotiations as the U.S. has stipulated that Canada will not have “veto authority” over any chapter. This means that should the other nine countries agree on terms, Canada would be required to accept them.

This condition could be used to stop Canada from joining forces with another country on a tough issue during the late stages of the negotiation. For example, Canada and New Zealand both have copyright terms that last for the life of the author plus an additional 50 years. The U.S. has proposed that the TPP mandate a term of life plus 70 years. While Canada and New Zealand might be able to jointly block the extension, the U.S. could pressure New Zealand to cave on the issue and effectively force Canada to accept the change.

Getting rid of our government-mandated monopolies in the agricultural sector (a good thing) is not going to be worth the price of adopting American-style copyright legislation.

March 20, 2012

New Zealand facing “Marmageddon”

Filed under: Health, Pacific, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:18

Oh, the Marmanity!

An announcement by New Zealand’s leading manufacturer of the black sandwich spread, Marmite, has sparked “marmageddon” fears among Kiwis.

Food company Sanitarium said on its website that supplies “are starting to run out nationwide” after “our Christchurch factory was closed due to earthquake damage”.

Even Prime Minister John Key said he is rationing his personal supply.

[. . .]

“Supplies are starting to run out nationwide, and across the ditch in Australia. We know that we will be off shelf for sometime but we are doing everything we can to minimise how long,” the company said.

“Don’t freak. We will be back soon!”

Of course, the announcement set off a buying-and-hoarding frenzy, making the situation all the more dire. But not to worry: supply and demand has already set in — prices are rising to help even out the distribution of the remaining stocks.

February 23, 2012

Timelapse footage using tilt-shift makes everything look like a model

Filed under: Randomness, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:15

A time lapse of action in and outside the Port of Napier filmed mostly from the Bluff Hill lookout. Edited in Sony Vegas11 with Magic Bullet Looks 2 using the Swing Tilt pre-set that makes the machinery and ships take on a model toy appearance.

H/T to Nelson Kennedy for the link.

Wikipedia says:

“Tilt-shift photography” refers to the use of camera movements on small- and medium-format cameras, and sometimes specifically refers to the use of tilt for selective focus, often for simulating a miniature scene. Sometimes the term is used when the shallow depth of field is simulated with digital post processing; the name may derive from the tilt-shift lens normally required when the effect is produced optically.

“Tilt-shift” encompasses two different types of movements: rotation of the lens plane relative to the image plane, called tilt, and movement of the lens parallel to the image plane, called shift. Tilt is used to control the orientation of the plane of focus (PoF), and hence the part of an image that appears sharp; it makes use of the Scheimpflug principle. Shift is used to adjust the position of the subject in the image area without moving the camera back; this is often helpful in avoiding the convergence of parallel lines, as when photographing tall buildings.

October 28, 2011

Royal succession rule change

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, History, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:20

Dedicated republicans, feel free to skip this item. Thanks to an agreement among the heads of government meeting at the Commonwealth meeting in Australia, the line of succession to the throne will now treat women equally:

Sons and daughters of any future UK monarch will have equal right to the throne, after Commonwealth leaders agreed to change succession laws.

The leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries where the Queen is head of state unanimously approved the changes at a summit in Perth, Australia.

It means a first-born daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would take precedence over younger brothers.

The ban on the monarch being married to a Roman Catholic was also lifted.

Under the old succession laws, dating back more than 300 years, the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the monarch. Only when there are no sons, as in the case of the Queen’s father George VI, does the crown pass to the eldest daughter.

October 23, 2011

What to do when “Tech Support” calls you

Filed under: Humour, Law, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:39

crshbndct recounts the heart-warming story of his recent call from “Tech Support”:

“Good Morning Sir, I am calling to inform you that you have serious issues with your pc and that we can help you fix them”

“Really? I just got it working today (had been having a nightmare of a time with video drivers)”

“Yes, Sir, but do not worry, we can help you to fix this problems”

(Realising its a scam, but willing to play along)

“Oh OK well that’s good. How are you going to do that?”

“Well Sir, Your computer runs a thing called Windows XP, which has many viruses and malware and rootkits and things like this which infect your master root on your CPU and slow it down and causes problems with your computer which can cost a lot to fix. We can help you fix this really cheaply”
“Really cheaply?!?! That sounds fantastic!! How do I do it?”

June 24, 2011

Speaking of unusual drink ingredients

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:33

I’ll be honest and say I would never have imagined this being a popular beverage:

The hard cases among you who subscribe to the “I’ll drink anything, me” school are directed to the Green Man Pub in Wellington, which is serving up shots of apple-infused horse semen.

The tempting equine oyster concoction — dubbed Hoihoi tatea — forms part of the NZ boozer’s entry into the 14th annual Monteith’s Beer & Wild Food Challenge, and the stallion magic water is apparently proving popular with women.

The pub’s chef, Jason Varley, said: “Ladies thought it was great — a couple were going to go home and get their husbands to eat grass.”

More information at the Dominion Post site.

May 24, 2011

Bribery: Canada ranked below international pariahs Australia, Hungary, and New Zealand

Filed under: Cancon, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:21

Apparently, Canadian businessmen pass out bribes like business cards, and we’re accused of being the only G7 nation to fail to crack down on the practice, according to Transparency International:

Canada has again been scolded on the international stage for its “lack of progress” in fighting bribery and corruption by a watchdog agency that ranks it among the worst of nearly 40 countries.

Transparency International, a group that monitors global corruption, put Canada in the lowest category of countries with “little or no enforcement” when it comes to applying bribery standards set out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

[. . .]

The poor rating places Canada in the embarrassing company of countries like Greece, Hungary, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia — although New Zealand and Australia are also among the 21 countries in the bottom rung.

<sarc>Well, there goes our sterling reputation for international dealings. We might as well order in 30 million black hats now.</sarc>

March 2, 2011

Small scale demonstration of earthquake liquifaction

Filed under: Science — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:45

H/T to BoingBoing.

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