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
November 10, 2013
August 29, 2013
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
An amusing tale in Modern Farmer:
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
H/T to BoingBoing.
February 22, 2011
This quake has inflicted severe damage on downtown Christchurch, with 65 reported dead as of this morning, and the death toll almost certain to rise. The Wall Street Journal is running constant updates to this article as further news becomes available. TVNZ is also running a live feed.
Australia has offered whatever aid they can provide:
Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard has told a press conference that Australia will give New Zealand whatever it needs to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake. She says she told her New Zealand counterpart, John Key, “anything you want that we’ve got we will get it to you.”
December 23, 2010
“Henry . . . mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111″
Meet the Tuatara:
Tuataras are living fossils in more than one sense of the term. Through long-term capture, tag and recapture studies that were begun right after World War II, researchers have found that tuataras match and possibly exceed in attainable life span that other Methuselah of the animal kingdom, the giant tortoise. “Tuataras routinely live to 100, and I couldn’t tell you they don’t live to 150, 200 years or even more,” said Dr. Daugherty.
They live, and live it up. “We know there are females that are still reproducing in their 80s,” said Dr. Daugherty. At the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, New Zealand, a captive male tuatara named Henry, a local celebrity that had been nasty and unruly for decades until a malignancy was removed from his genitals, mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111.
In every way, tuataras are late bloomers and passionate procrastinators. They don’t reach sexual maturity until age 15 to 20. A female needs two or three years to grow a clutch of eggs internally, and takes another seven or eight months after mating before she finally lays those fertilized eggs. Then the eggs incubate in the ground for yet another year before a brood of finger-size baby tuataras will finally hatch. By comparison, the incubation time for the average North American lizard is only four to six weeks. “If these were plants, most lizards would be like weeds, and the tuatara like a sequoia,” said Dr. Daugherty. For all the nobility of the comparison, the tuatara’s stately pace is also its Achilles’ heel, he added. That’s why the reptile today is found only on diligently monitored islands away from the New Zealand mainland, protected from mammals like rats, pigs or stoats that within months could reduce every sequoia equivalent and its seedlings to so much sawdust.
H/T to DarkWaterMuse for the link.