Saturday, August 31, 2013

Perfect Egg Just A Pre-Packaged Purchase Away

You'd have to be pretty stupid not to be able to boil an egg.
(Saying that, I met someone just last week who, at the oh-so-adult age of 20, had just accomplished her very first egg-boil. Yes, I too was stunned!)
So, if boiling a pan of water, dropping in an egg and timing it for a few minutes seems far too complicated, your ship has just come in! The Dippy Egg is about to hit UK supermarket shelves, apparently designed for those too inept to create a perfect runny yolk.
The Dippy Egg - a single pasteurised egg in its shell - is pre-boiled in an airtight plastic bag to just the right consistency, before being sold in a plastic pot. All the hungry (lazy?) consumer has to do is remove it from it's plastic bag, put it back in the pot, pour on boiled water, replace the lid and wait five minutes (clue: it's as easy as opening a packet of 'instant noodles', ok?).
When the egg's ready, it can be eaten from the lid, which doubles as an egg cup. And joy of joys, even if left in hot water in its pot for longer than five minutes while you're busy Facebooking your achievement to your 3,571 friends, the yolk will still not set. A blessed miracle!!
Of course, for a REAL challenge, the adventurous could boldly learn how to boil an egg from scratch themselves.
*whisper* The trick is...don't burn the water first!!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fonterra Botulism False Alarm - But WHY?

Wednesday's news that NZ dairy giant Fonterra's botulism scare was
just that - a false alarm - was greeted with a huge collective sigh of relief.
But questions must be answered.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) received results confirming the bacteria found in the Fonterra whey protein concentrate was not the botulism-causing clostridium botulinum, but clostridium sporogenes, which is not capable of producing botulism-causing toxins.
The latest independent research involved a total of 195 tests carried out in both the US and NZ. Fonterra originally commissioned independent testing from AgResearch, as one of only two NZ research facilities capable of carrying out testing for the bacteria. Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings: "On the basis of those results, we had no choice but to announce a global precautionary recall." He acknowledges there was confusion and anxiety arising from the recall and apologises, but says Fonterra would do the same again, if confronted by similar circumstances.
MPI has informed overseas regulators of the new results, and will provide full diagnostics. On the back of these results, NZ and Fonterra now has a solid and clear platform from which to re-enter overseas markets affected by the scare.
The NZ Food and Grocery Council says from an industry perspective Fonterra did exactly the right thing, putting public safety first.
NZ Infant Formula Exporters Assn says it's looking forward to resuming trade with China, but it was dismayed with the way the scare was handled initially, with its members losing millions.
Opposition party Labour's primary industries spokesman Damien O'Connor calls the results a complete systems failure by MPI: "This fiasco is a disaster for our clean, green brand. The inability of the ministry's systems means our reputation is always at risk.''
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says MPI's announcement is good news and the govt is relieved. The all-clear will go a long way to reassure international markets that MPI has done a thorough job.
However, there're unanswered questions about the scare, and both MPI and Fonterra need to take an extremely hard look at how it developed.
+ Why was the bacteria wrongfully identified in the first place?
+ Given that the original test showed clostridium botulinum, why was it allowed to continue to progress into the infant formula food chain?
+ Why did it take so long for the warning flags to go up?
+ Why was MPI able to test the product for the bacterium in less than a month whereas it took Fonterra three months (and now has come up with a different result)?
Inquiries are underway...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christchurch Art Scene All Bull

The bull is back!
The bronze sculpture of a bull standing on a grand piano was taken to
Christchurch's heart, when it was displayed on an empty site last year.
People wandered around the bulls - set outside in a cleared lot surrounded by Christchurch's buildings being demolished - and all seemed to have smiles on their faces. Then, to go up to the 2nd floor of the Ng Gallery in the only remaining building on the other side of the road, with the room swelling with sound and that amazing piano, and look down on the bulls amongst the devastation, it was impressive!
Now the bull has returned, to support a fundraising campaign by the Christchurch Art Gallery Trust, to buy the sculpture and put it on permanent display.
Michael Parekowhai's On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer will be on display outside the Arts Centre for the next month. The public fundraising campaign aims to raise $200,000 towards the purchase, and donations are coming in from around the world.
Three bull sculptures were commissioned for the 54th La Biennale di Venezia (Venice) in 2011. When they were displayed atop grand pianos on Madras St., Christchurch in July 2012, about 50,000 people visited them.
Arts Centre director Andre Lovatt says the bull is a great way to attract people back to the city.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Swiss Cheese

Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, has launched a new drive-through service: prostitution!
Hookers: this way!
To help move the sex trade from the CBD, city officials have built a cluster of garagelike "sex boxes" at the edge of town. A motorist in search of action can cruise along a footpath lined with licensed hookers, and drive the one of his choosing to the relative privacy of a three-sided wooden stall.
From 7pm-5am, anyone can drive into the wooded park, negotiate a price with one of up to 40 prostitutes plying their trade, and park in one of the nine tarpaulin-covered garages.
To gain access to the new park's footpath (or to legally ply their trade anywhere in the city), the hookers must have a Swiss work permit, health insurance and a sex-worker license that costs 40 Swiss francs (about NZ$55) a year. They also must pay about NZ$7 in taxes for each night they work at the venue.
The new sex park was unveiled last weekend. In addition to the private parking sites, the venue includes bathrooms and showers, a security alarm in each box and cafe tables set among trees strewn with lights.
Park-up: the media get an eyeful...

The facility, approved by 53% of voters in a 2012 referendum, was built for NZ$500,000 less than the voter-approved NZ$3.3 million budget (!!!). It's also sexpected to cost more than NZ$900,000 a year in security and upkeep.
There's no truth that this initiative is being considered by Christchurch, as an end-use for the many shipping containers in use around the city...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No Whale For Sale

54 restaurants and hotels across Iceland have joined a pro-whale watching effort and vowed not to sell whale meat.
The Icelandic Whale Watching Organisation and The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are behind the effort, and restaurants and hotels involved are sporting a window sticker saying "Whale friendly".
37 of the 54 restaurants and hotels are in Reykjavik, the capital and largest city (population about 120,000 - over a third of Iceland's total). The rest are spread all over the country.
But do these restaurants even matter? After all, only 37 of the approx.250 Reykjavik eating places are participating...
Well, whale meat enthusiasts have requested the compilation of a list of restaurants that DO offer whale meat on their menus. Such a list might be available at some point, but at least for now it's very obvious which restaurants do NOT serve whale meat. Some cynics have pointed out that many of those participating restaurants didn't offer whale in the first place, and were not likely to serve it in the future anyway. However the list is a positive start, and will hopefully prove a selling point for the supporting restauranteurs.
Meanwhile Kristjan Loftsson (Iceland's lone, and some say maverick, whaler) continues his Ahab-like pursuit of whales with his handful of 1940's steam-driven whaling boats. To mid-August 2013, he had killed 89 fin whales.
The Icelandic Tourism Association (SAF) is deeply critical of his activities. SAF agrees with the Icelandic whalewatchers' association (Icewhale) that killing whales is not only bad for whalewatchers but for the tourism industry as a whole. More and more, Loftsson's activities are seen as harmful to Iceland's image and economic interests, and furthermore are cruel and unnecessary. Even the shareholders in his company are beginning to publicly call for this loss-making whaling enterprise to stop (last month, a whalemeat shipment to Japan was blocked by Germany, and returned to Iceland. The Icelandic shipping company Samskip announced it would not be involved in further exports of fin whale meat.).
Loftsson is being seen as an out-of-date diehard, determined to use his wealth to kill whales that are increasingly difficult to sell.

Monday, August 26, 2013

You've Been Erased!

Deleting yourself from the internet is hard work.
Some say it's virtually impossible to erase your footprint from the Virtual World.
First, you have to decide where exactly you want to disappear - from social media sites to retailer databases. Then the bigger issue (for those of us not techno-savvy): you've gotta figure out how you're going to do all that!
Well, they say 'for every problem, there's a solution' here's something you may want to check out.
A site called makes vanishing from the web much easier. Created by U.K. developer Robb Lewis, is a directory of URLs that highlights links to pages you may want to remove yourself from, so you don't have to jump through hoops to do so. This includes sites like Facebook, Foursquare and the like.
Some companies use "dark pattern" techniques, which makes it difficult to delete accounts. This is meant to dissaude users from successfully completing the removal process. ranks each site's process from "easy" to "impossible", so you know what to expect ahead of time. For example, and are rated as "hard" to delete, while movie directory and PayPal are listed as "easy." Sone sites such as Pinterest and Netflix are "impossible".
The promotional material trumpets: next time you want to call it quits with a site, visit and save yourself a headache. Ahhhh, if only it really WAS that easy!
Better still, think first about the long-term implications before even signing up to a particular site...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fuck-Up In Fuglafjørður

No sooner did the Faroe Islands announce new laws beginning May 2015, requiring the certification of any participants in the killing of pilot whales (grindadráp), than I learnt of the horrific slaughter of 267 whales in Fuglafjørður on 30 July.
Blood bath
This mass butchery followed an earlier kill of 120 whales in Viðvik on 22 July.
Photos in the Faroese media show a chaotic mass of men, boats and whales in Fuglafjørður: I wonder why the decision was made to take so many whales. The hunt foreman made the call to drive half the whales towards the beach, with the aim of stranding as many as possible so that people there could quickly kill them. He ignored the fact that at the time only four men were ready on the beach. This meant the whales that actually stranded had to wait to be killed, watching as family members were brutally dispatched. The rest remained in the shallows and deeper water as the bay turned red with blood.
But this was not the end of the story. The photos show men trying to secure whales from their small boats, by sticking the round-ended hook into their blowholes. Some were wading or swimming in the bloodied water, trying to do the same. Others engaged in a tug-of-war on the beach as they dragged individual whales onto the shore for slaughter.
Reports indicate it took about 1.5 hours to kill the whales, and I can only guess at how much each individual whale suffered.
Fuglafjørður must surely rate alongside Klaksvík (19 July 2010), as one of the worst pilot whale butcheries ever.
Out of their depth
On health grounds alone, these whales should not have been killed, due to their toxicity levels. Combine that with the inherent cruelty, and serious questions continue to be asked of this highly modern society, as to why this needless massacre of pilot whales continues.
The new regulations may result in the more humane killing of fewer whales, but it's deeply disappointing that the regulations will not to be introduced for another two years.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Obama's Bragging Rights

"Well, boys, I don't wanna brag...but I AM the President of the United States of America!"

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Look For Old

Christchurch's RSA has released images of what its new home in Christchurch will look like.
The current Returned Services Association building was damaged in the Canterbury EQs and is being demolished. Its replacement, due for completion by the end of 2014, is partially funded by the sale of more than 1000m2 of land in Gloucester St. The new Christchurch RSA clubrooms is planned to open on 4 August 2014, one hundred years after the outbreak of WW1.
As I strolled past the old building a few weeks ago, I noticed the artillery fieldgun that stood sentry outside for many years, has been removed. But I also notice that it does not feature in the artist's impression of the new building.
I do hope it finds a home in the forecourt of the new RSA. It's a direct link to the roots of the Returned Services Association, an acknowledgement of the services and sacrifices made in sweat and blood. Even as the RSA spreads its membership base wider, and signs up those who've never seen any form of military service - let alone active engagements - that traditional link must be retained...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yahoo! Japan Says FU To Environmentalists

Wildlife advocates are bitterly disappointed by international conglomerate SoftBank Corp's refusal to ban ads for ivory, whale and dolphin on its company Yahoo! Japan.
This follows an approach by the Environmental Investigation Agency and Humane Society SoftBank, urging it to direct Yahoo! Japan to join all other Yahoo! websites worldwide in banning the sale of these products.
Today Yahoo! Japan lists almost 8,000 ads for elephant ivory (which have tripled since Amazon and Google removed all ads for elephant ivory and whale products from their Japanese shopping sites). Around 80% of the ivory ads are for hanko (name seals used to sign official
Dolphin for dinner?
documents), made from illicit ivory tusks smuggled into Japan from Africa.
Yahoo! Japan also offers 249 whale products (including sashimi, bacon and canned whale meat), from internationally protected species like fin whales illegally killed in Iceland, minke from the Antarctic whale sanctuary as well as Bryde's, sei and sperm whales killed in the NW Pacific. Other ads feature products from mammals brutally killed in Taiji in Japan, made infamous by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove.
Yahoo! Japan is the top dog in SoftBank's internet division, making nearly US$4 billion in 2012, and naturally Softcorp wants to expand it internationally. But along with that expansion comes a broader social responsibility.
Amazon listened to the concerns of the global village last year.
Yahoo! Japan would do well to heed their concerns also...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

NZ TV Smalley Talk

TV3 presenter Rachel Smalley is jumping ship from brekkie TV to a rival radio network.
NewstalkZB (Radio Network) has signed Smalley for a new pre-breakfast programme called Early Edition, which'll air between 5-6am. Her show will lead into the 6-8.30am breakfast programme hosted by Mike Hosking.
Currently Rach presents Firstline Mon-Fri 6-9am on MediaWorks' TV3. When she moves to radio, she'll continue to present the weekly political debate show The Nation on TV3, for the rest of the decision's been made beyond that.
Across the road, MediaWorks' moneylenders are closer to taking control, two months after kicking it into receivership.
The receivers've signed a conditional sale and purchase agreement, which'll settle Sept.30. Then the broadcaster's assets will transfer to a new company chaired by Aussie businessman Rod McGeoch, and including former Eyeworks Touchdown boss Julie Christie, best known in NZ for a string of naff reality TV series.
The insolvency has meant MediaWorks' $172million in programme rights commitments over the coming five years are open to termination. TVNZ and Prime TV have been in like gannets, fighting to take shows away from MediaWorks' TV3 and Four. MediaWorks has owned rights for shows like Modern Family, The Simpsons and Family Guy for several years, but ownership and programming deals with these and other Fox TV and NBC shows are in limbo.
Industry goss says the receivers assumed studios were willing to keep MediaWorks strong, but they may have underestimated the willingness of Sky and TVNZ to poach shows.
MediaWorks receivers will be hoping that the loss of the soap opera Home and Away is the first and last biggie lost: that show began on TV2 this week.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Media Blinded By Its Own Dazzle

I make my living off the evening news.
Just give me something, something I can use.
People love it when you lose.
They love dirty laundry.
Got the bubble-headed bleach-blonde, comes on at five.
She can tell you 'bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.
It's interesting when people die.
Give us dirty laundry.
(Don Henley, Dirty Laundry)
An indicator of what's BIG in US news is when networks have special graphics zipping across the TV with a flashy soundtrack.
Who's the victim? Who's the villain? Who's the reporter with (to quote Don Henley) "a gleam in her eye"?
One of the biggies this month was - supposedly - 'the Trial Of The Century': Zimmerman versus Trayvon. Live coverage from fake-tanned TV hosts outside the courthouse, cheerily debating whether a self-appointed community watchman was or wasn't a murderer. Or to happily spin it another way: White vs Black. Or Adult vs Teen. Either way, it was 'Trial By Daytime TV'...and roll dem graphics!
But just over the border in Canada, a train loaded with oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, exploded and killed 42, with 5 more missing presumed dead...yet passed as a mere footnote in the good ol' USofA. Curious.
...meanwhile back in NZ, our media eagerly reports every jittery nuance of the WELLINGTON earthquakes, largely ignoring that the vast majority of damage and fear has hit the little town of Seddon. Most of the big shakes have been just off the Seddon coastline - nowhere NEAR the capitol. Yet squeaky wheels make the most noise, so reports around the world scream of collapsed bridges, rail lines shredded, commuters fleeing in abject Wellington!
Forget poor Seddon, feeling all this for REAL (and where virtually all of the town's 250 houses have sustained damage): the so-called TERROR of Wellingtonians SELLS far better! Well, if nothing else, the government in its parliamentary palace in Wellington may be finally gaining a slight understanding of what Christchurch experienced two years ago!
And of course how can we forget the recent US reporting of the Seddon EQ as actually happening right across Southern AUSTRALIA!!!
For the media these days, it all boils down to 'whatever sells...' and to hell with accuracy! Just give us dirty laundry.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Facebook: More Friends, Less Love

We may feel more connected online, but Facebook might not be our friend.
TVNZ reports that a new study shows the more people use Facebook, the less we 'feel the love'. Social scientists at the University of Michigan found, although using the social media site helped people to feel more connected, it did not make them happier.
Social psychologist Ethan Kross: "On the surface, Facebook provides a valuable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. But rather than enhance well-being, we found that Facebook use predicts the opposite result - it undermines it."
The study of 82 young adults found the more time people spent on Facebook during the day, the worse they reported feeling. Participants were texted randomly five times a day for a fortnight, with a link to an online survey. Questions included how worried and lonely they felt, how much they used Facebook, and how much direct contact with people they'd had since the previous text.
Life satisfaction was tested at the beginning and end of the study. Those who'd spent more time on Facebook had declining happiness levels. Conversely, more direct interactions (either face-to-face, or over the phone) led people to feel better.
Gee, what a revelation! Mum was right all along!!!
The latest Nielsen research shows 80% of New Zealanders use Facebook, higher than Australia (74%), the US (69%) and UK (68%).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

'Strikingly Ordinary' An Understatement

Most of us have, at some stage, raised our eyebrows at what the
hi-brow call 'art'.
But this week I find myself agreeing with the judge of the National Contemporary Art Award: Jon Bywater described a photo which won the $15,000 first prize as "strikingly ordinary…" (though I suspect he meant that in a more complimentary manner than I do!).
Auckland artist Dieneke Jansen's photo, entitled Morrison Drive, Hobsonville, 23 November 2012 was taken at the former Hobsonville air force base. It's of some overgrown debris in an empty section, in front of some unremarkable state houses.
And it's just that: strikingly ordinary. It's a shot anyone could've taken, but very few would've wasted the time. So why it was chosen as the winner, from 37 finalists, is anyone's guess: short of better quality entries perhaps?
To underline that thought, a merit award went to Zac Langdon-Pole for an old curtain he stretched over a frame and called Disguised as its Physical Self. However you look at it, this is not art.
Considered one of New Zealand's premier art events, the National Contemporary Art Award is renowned for its controversial winners. Last year's was a bus shelter, temporarily erected outside the venue, which attracted the homeless, graffiti and litter.
Again, this is not art. Forget the "striking": it's simply "ordinary".

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Mammal Discovered

Scientists have discovered a new mammal living in the cloud forests of South America.
It's been named olinguito (Spanish for "little olingo") and is the first new species of carnivore identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years.
It's taken more than a decade to identify the mammal. The trail began when zoologist Kristofer Helgen uncovered some bones and animal skins stored in a Chicago museum: "It stopped me in my tracks. The skins were a rich red and when I looked at the skulls I didn't recognise the anatomy. It was different to any similar animal I'd seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science." Helgen is curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, home to the world's largest mammal collection - more than 600,000 specimens. "The olinguito is a carnivore - the group of mammals that includes cats, dogs and bears and their relatives. Many of us believed that list was complete, but this is a new one."
The olinguito inhabits some protected areas from Central Colombia to western Ecuador. Though a carnivore, it eats mainly fruit, comes out at night and lives by itself, producing just one baby at a time. The animal was assumed to be an olingo, a grey-coloured mammal that looks like a raccoon-cat-teddybear hybrid. Scientists now believe an olinguito was exhibited in several US zoos between 1967-1976, but was mistaken for an olingo, a close relative.
Helgen: "The world is not yet explored and the age of discovery is far from over. This makes us think - what else is out there?"
It should also make us think: how long will the olinguito survive? Given its rarity, and that it resides in poacher-accessible forests which are currently exploited despite laws to the contrary, will man respect this new discovery... or drive another creature to the brink of extinction?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Christchurch Icon: One Last Look

For several months now, demolition crews have been steadily chewing away at Christchurch's iconic Canterbury Brewery.
All that remains is the big red multi-storied multi-windowed brewing tower right on the corner of St.Asaph and Antigua Streets...and by tonight, much of that will be rubble. I spoke to some of the crew yesterday and they said that - all things being equal - they'd begin tearing down Big Red this morning.

Brewing history bows to the bulldozer: beer's been made on this site since 1854, longer than anyone else in New Zealand. So raise a glass of Canterbury Draught and enjoy a last look at Canterbury Brewery.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Alfredo Moser For A Nobel Prize?

Alfredo Moser is a bright spark!
In 2002, the Brazilian mechanic figured out how to illuminate his house during the day without electricity, using nothing more than plastic bottles filled with water and some bleach.
So how does it work? Just simple refraction of sunlight, says Moser as he fills a 2L plastic bottle: "Add two capfuls of bleach, so the water doesn't turn green with algae. The cleaner the bottle, the better." He drills a hole in a roof tile with a drill. Then, from the bottom upwards, he pushes the bottle (they work work best with a black cap) into the newly-made hole. "You fix the bottle in with polyester resin. Even when it rains, the roof never leaks. An engineer measured the light - depending on how strong the sun is, it's more or less 40-60 watts."
[So just what is refraction? It's the bending of light, caused by a change in its speed. The speed of light is determined by the density of the substance through which it passes. So refraction occurs when light passes from one substance to another with a different density eg: from air to water. In the case of Moser's lights, sunlight is bent by the bottle of water and spread around the room. Science: 101!]
Moser: "Light is for everyone. Whoever wants it saves money. You can't get an electric shock from it, and it doesn't cost anything."
In the Philippines (with a quarter of the population below the poverty line, and electricity very expensive), Moser lamps are now fitted in 140,000 homes. The idea has also caught on in about 15 other countries, incl. India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Argentina and Fiji. His idea is expected to be in a million homes by early next year!
Whether or not Alfredo Moser gets the Nobel Prize for his idea, a huge number of people around the world are benefiting from it.
[with thanks to BBC News]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hallelujah! I See Da Light!

'Seeing the light' is an experience often linked to near-death incidents.
After surviving a heart attack, some people recall being drawn towards a bright light - now the boffins may have a reason. They say the brain keeps working for up to 30sec after blood flow stops.
University of Michigan scientists conducted research on nine lab rats that were subjected to induced cardiac arrest. In the first 30sec after their hearts stopped, they all showed a surge of brain activity, seen in electroencephalograms (EEGs) that indicated highly aroused mental states. Prof.George Mashour: ''Many known electrical signatures of consciousness exceeded levels found in the waking state, suggesting the brain is capable of well-organised electrical activity during the early stage of clinical death.''
About 20% of people who survive cardiac arrest report having had visions during a period known to doctors as clinical death. "Reduction of oxygen or both oxygen and glucose during cardiac arrest can stimulate brain activity that's characteristic of conscious processing. It also provides the first scientific framework for the near-death experiences reported by many cardiac arrest survivors.''
"OY! Who left the bloody
fridge door open!"
Experts warn against presuming that this is evidence of life after death. They say near-death experiences are just that: experiences.
But how much can a study on rats reveal about humans? After all, that may well have simply been the bright light inside a fridge full of cheese...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blinded By Science?

In 2006, a TV documentary Catalyst collected all the 'research' papers produced by the Japanese whaling programme over the previous 18 years, and locked three scientific experts in a room with them.
The experts were not allowed out until they'd peer-reviewed every paper and delivered their verdict.
What had been discovered in the 'research'?
How many animals had died for that information?
And was it all worth it?
The Japanese make no bones about it: their 'research' is geared towards a longed-for-day when commercial whaling is resumed. So the expert panel was judging these papers on their usefulness for managing commercial whaling.
Of the original 55 'research' papers, the judges found only 14 that may be relevant. They also read ludicrous papers detailing Japanese 'research' on test-tube whale babies. And attempts to breed hybrids of whales with...COWS! True! And discovering that some whales sometimes eat fish!
Then they sorted out those papers that could only be produced by lethal research (because, let's face it, the real source of contention is how many whales were killed for this information. And that figure is...6,800!). The number of remaining papers: just four.
So, some quick maths: with 6,800 whales killed over the 18yr programme, divided by four papers - that means 1700 whales were killed for each of those four papers, WITH NO DISCERNIBLE VALUE GAINED.
And with the by-product going directly to Japanese shops to finance the ongoing killing, no-one can call that true science. Not even the die-hards at Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Supermarket Superhero Sooooo Ozzie

Australian supermarket chain Coles has unleashed the new face of its brand.
He's an everyday-bloke-come- pricing-superhero called "Col". The new cheesy character will promote special-value in-store offers from Coles.
Coles also launched "Col" to social media, by uploading a teaser to its YouTube channel in the style of a fake TV report, featuring him high-fiving customers and doing good deeds around the store while wearing a homemade outfit. Coles published a tongue-in- cheek infographic for staff, on how they too can look like Col!
Hey, if it sells, who can knock it??!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

OMG!!! Non-Lethal Whale Research!!!

Ocean Alliance researchers are completing the third year of a sperm whale study, Operation Toxic Gulf, in the Gulf of Mexico.
They've found sperm whales there show significantly higher levels of heavy metals, including nickel and chromium, than sperm whales elsewhere. The team is studying Gulf sperm whales, by using a biopsy dart to collect a small skin and blubber sample from them. The cells are cultured on board the research vessel for further tests, and Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr says "...the signs suggest these may be some of the most polluted whales in the world."
While both nickel and chromium are found in crude oil, Kerr says there's no direct evidence to prove the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was responsible for the heavy metal contamination. He says the spill was the most obvious potential source, but the Gulf has many potential sources of pollution, including the Mississippi River. Kerr is also concerned about the 1.8 million gallons of dispersants used to clean up the spill: "I think (using the dispersants) was very good politically, because the oil was 'out of sight, out of mind'. It was not a good use ecologically."
Kerr cited a study conducted on microscopic marine animals, that showed oil and the Corexit dispersant 9500A used separately had similar toxicity. However, when the two were mixed, toxicity increased up to 52-fold. He says the dispersant may actually make the oil more easily absorbed by Gulf wildlife: "When oil is on the surface, it's very bad for birds, turtles and the marshes, but what it's done is disperse it through the whole food chain." Sperm whales are a good test subject because they're an apex predator, and toxicity accumulates up the food chain.
The current study runs until at least 2014, gaining valuable details about Gulf pollution and the effect on wildlife.
Wouldn't it be great if the Japanese could gain as much information from their own so-called 'research' programmes without having to kill any whales!!! Riiiiiigghhtt...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Meridian Sees The Light

A NZ electricity supplier earns itself 'Pillick Of The Week', after it sent a letter to a lamp-post, threatening to cut its power!
Yeup, that's right: apparently Meridian Energy believed someone was living in the power pole.
The letter was addressed: To the occupier, 771800Streetlights NPDC Control Point 394, 9 Shearer Drive, Oakura 4650.
Taranaki resident Clive Saleman, who lives (in a real house) at 9 Shearer Drive, received the letter stating he had seven days to provide Meridian with his customer details or his electricity would be cut off.
The request left him perplexed: "We were a little bit alarmed about what was going to happen. Then we thought, hang on a minute, we're not with Meridian Energy, we're with another supplier. So I'm thinking, is there somebody living in that street light?" With tongue firmly in cheek, Clive continued his story: "I went down to the light and knocked on the door to see if they wanted their mail, but no-one came out."
Clive's call to Meridian proved fruitless, with one of its customer service reps continuing to demand their details: "He still wanted all that even though it wasn't our issue. I don't think he comprehended how silly the situation was."
Meridian has now said the letter was generated by an 'automated administrative process' - in other words, blaming a computer - and apologises for any inconvenience it may have caused Mr Saleman. The spokesman says it's the first time Meridian has sent a letter to a streetlight...and is fairly certain no one lives there.
Nice one, Meridian - no flies on you!

Friday, August 9, 2013

No Belugas For USA

To the delight of anti-captivity activists, the US this week denied a permit for the Georgia Aquarium, to import 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia.
It was a blow to the captive display industry and indicates a turning tide in public and governmental attitudes toward keeping such creatures in tanks for human enjoyment.
Limited importation of some wild-captured marine mammals for public display is permitted under US's 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), but this was the first request for import in more than 20yrs (new arrivals in today's aquariums are typically rescued animals or those bred in captivity.).
The US govt ruled "...that the import will likely have a significant adverse impact on the species or stock...the requested import will likely result in the taking of marine mammals beyond those authorised by the permit... five of the beluga whales proposed for import, estimated to be approx 1.5yrs old at the time of capture, were potentially still nursing and not yet independent."
Most of the 9,000 public submissions were against the importation.
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation says, despite what the aquarium and its partners (the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and SeaWorld) say, "...the permit does not support conservation, but rather significantly jeopardises belugas in the wild by perpetuating and instigating ongoing captures for display facilities. Even more appalling, they targeted vulnerable and depleted populations, including nursing mothers and dependent calves."
Georgia Aquarium execs, thinking the permit a done deal, were taken aback. They warned, without presenting any evidence, that this "places the long-term global sustainability of an entire species in limbo. The animals would help ensure the sustainability of beluga whales in human care in the US for the purposes of education, research, and conservation." Riiiiiigghhtt...
What happens next is not clear. The applicants could appeal. Failing that, these gentle white whales (now living at Russia's Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station) may be sold to countries without MMPAs.
But animal welfare activists want them rehabilitated to the wild.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

BK Bun Bed

A Burger King worker in Japan has lost his job after he posted a photo of himself lounging around on a pile of buns!
Yes, I AM a dick!
BK apologised after the idiot employee tweeted the picture - which spread around the world. It said the buns were later disposed of, not served up. The same (now-closed) Twitter account also showed a pic of Idiot Boy sitting in a restaurant bin.
The newly-unemployed pillick joins a long list of former (obviously 'maturity-challenged') employees, fired after being hoisted on their own pittards. For example, just last week a Subway staff member was fired after posting a pic online of his genitals on top of a foot-long sub (and before you speculate, he'd placed himself widthwise, not lengthwise!!). Earlier this year a KFC worker was sacked when a photo of her licking a pile of mashed potatoes went viral. And a Russian flight attendant lost her job over a snap showing "the bird" being given to a planeload of passengers.
...and so am I!
As mentioned many times before, social media users must be aware that once a posting is made, it can not be retracted. It's "out there" for all to see - often the more stupid the photo or comment, the faster it'll spread. It may (???) seem clever to flop your dick onto a bread roll, but do you really think that'll stay private? (Intended pun!) Or tweeting you're having a great time at Big Day Out when your boss thinks you're actually home sick... duuhh!!!
Meanwhile, could someone please investigate the contents of the bucket on the right-hand side of that bun-bed photo! WTF?!!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Grindadrap: Beginning Of The End?

The Faroe Islands' first grindadráp of 2013 took place on 22 July.
125 pilot whales were killed in the bay of Viðvík, one of the 23 allowable grind bays according to govt regulations.
However, the slaughter came hot on the heels of an announcement by the Minister of Fisheries on the Faroe Islands, Jacob Vestergaard, that as from 01 May 2015, all those taking part in the Faroe Island's whale hunts (or grindadráps) must participate in a course in the laws and correct procedures relating to the grinds, and possess the relevant pass certificate.
Training will be given in the use of the only grind tools permitted as of 2015 (nostril hooks and spinal lances), the ability to recognise whales' death signals, and understanding all legislation before they can take part.
Use of the grindknife and also the grinding hook (sóknarongul) will only be allowed by special permit from the foreman of the grind or the local police chief. The Pilot Whalers' Assn has agreed with most of the changes.
Runi Nielsen, Earthrace Conservation rep on the Faroes: "A large majority of the participants who at the moment just show up and take part, will not bother to take these mandatory courses and by doing so will exclude themselves. The fewer people taking part, the less a part of the Faroese way of life the grinds will be."
Nielsen believes the new legislation will prevent repetition of one of the worst grinds in Faroese history that took place in 2010...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Blue Smoke Drifts By...

Pixie Williams, singer of the Kiwi classic Blue Smoke, has "drifted by into the deep blue sky": she died last Friday, aged 85.
Pikiteora Maude Emily Gertrude Edith Williams was born in 1928 in northern Hawke's Bay. Her parents died young and, in 1945, she shifted to Wellington and into the YWCA Hostel in Oriental Parade. There, her beautiful voice came to the attention of 28th Maori Battalion veteran Ruru Karaitiana, who was looking for a singer to bring his song Blue Smoke to life.
Karaitiana composed the song while on a troop ship in 1940. It was popular at troop concerts long before it was recorded in 1949 by Pixie Williams and the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette at the Radio Corporation's Columbus Recording Studio in Wellington.
Blue Smoke, sung by Williams, was the first record wholly processed and recorded in New Zealand. It was a huge hit, topping the charts for six weeks and selling 50,000 copies (despite having been rejected by London music publishers). Dean Martin was one of several international artists who covered it.
Pixie couldn't read music but taught herself to play guitar, ukulele, the banjo and piano accordion. Her promising singing career however eventually took a back seat to married life and raising four children. Later, at 73, Pixie decided to teach herself the organ...for something to do.
In 2011, a Pixie Williams CD collection of 13 songs was released. After the launch, The Recording Industry Association of NZ presented Pixie with a Triple Platinum Award for Blue Smoke.
"Music - it's what keeps you going through good times and bad.
When you've got music in your life, you'll be ok."
Pixie Williams (1928-2013)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Kiwi Komputer Kracker Killed?

Conspiracy theories abound, over the death of New Zealand-born computer hacker Barnaby Jack.
The 35yr.old ex-Aucklander was one of the 'good guys', making a career revealing the dangers posed by unscrupulous hackers combined with computer manufacturers' failures to install proper safety devices on equipment.
Jack thought it highly plausible that a terrorist could hack someone's pacemaker and speed up their heartbeat until it killed them! And he knew what he was talking about, having shown how to make cash machines dispense money by hacking into a bank's computers. He could also hack a diabetic's insulin pump from 10m away, so it would dispense a fatal dose...
Hmmm. You doubt it? He was due to demonstrate his work at a major computer-hacking convention in Las Vegas, showing how, with a wireless transmitter, he could trigger a power surge in someone's heart pacemaker and kill them from up to 20m away. However, a week beforehand, Jack was found dead in his flat in San Francisco. To say his sudden death is mysterious is putting it mildly.
Predictably, for someone working in the shadows, there've been many theories about how he died, fuelled by the coroner's refusal to discuss the case (other than to say that the autopsy results may not be available for possibly months). A local police source admitted this silence was puzzling. Jack's former work colleagues know of no medical condition that could have killed him.
Naturally, some social media suspect the US govt and the CIA: some suggest they wanted to silence Jack before he could reveal how the US's enemies could hack into devices such as pacemakers. Or perhaps the US wanted to harness the skills themselves and use them on their enemies. There've been suggestions that Jack is not really dead, but is working on secret research projects. Another theory: could the multi-billion-dollar healthcare industry have silenced him? After all, he was about to expose a huge flaw in one of its most lucrative devices that could cost it untold millions, and cause major public embarrassment. Manufacturers of items such as cash machines and insulin pumps have had to alter their designs following Jack's revelations.
"Sometimes you have to demonstrate the darker side," Barnaby Jack liked to say, as he justified his hacking skills. Has he become the victim of that 'darker side'?