Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spy Valley Sequel

Smiling on the other sides of their faces, methinx!
Last week, the NZ Court of Appeal ruled that the protestors, who damaged the Waihopai spy base in Marlborough, must cough up $1.2 million in damages.
You'll recall in 2008, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, farmer Samuel Land and teacher Adrian Leason trespassed onto the base and punctured an inflatable dome covering a large antennae. They felt the operation of the base was contributing to the second Iraq war, and their protest was aimed at exposing it.
In March 2010 their defence, that their actions were "for the greater good", amazingly scored them a Get Out Of Jail Free card...
At the time I questioned how this could be possible, when they admitted wilful trespass and damage to property! Well, the Crown obviously felt the same: in Aug.2011 it filed trespass charges and sought the cost of repairs to the facility, put at $1.2 million, winning its case in the High Court.
This trio of vandals naturally appealed, but the Appeal Court has now dismissed their bleatings, and made orders for costs against them.
So the protestors' self-righteous smug smiles are gone.
And the govt faces the arduous task of extracting $400K from each, as recompense for the taxpayers. All three trespassing vandals will bleat that they have no money. Bzzzzzt! FAIL!
A teacher, while not paid mega-bucks, will still have superannuation to cash in. A farmer can sell his farm. And a friar who claims to not have a red cent to his name...? Well, he'll just have to rely on the good nature of his Order and/or his supporters.
Or serve jail time. Simple as that.
That's the nature of the game they played. The game they LOST.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Defragging Your Brain

Researchers have found our brains clean themselves during sleep.
Scientists long thought that one of the functions of sleep was to restore and repair the brain, and now research in the journal Science has found the brain's cleaning activities increases 10-fold during sleep, helping to remove the day's toxic clutter.
Researchers found the brain fluid flushes out rubbish twice as fast when asleep as when awake. This clean-up is so energy-intensive it would hinder our thinking if done when we were awake (rather like running a defrag computer programme while in the midst of some other work). They conclude that unlike the rest of the body - which depends on the lymphatic system to drain toxins - the brain has its own separate method of rubbish removal.
University of Auckland senior anesthesiology lecturer Dr Guy Warman says the research is very exciting, as there've been theories about why we sleep for a long time. He says an important implication is, if someone doesn't get enough sleep, the toxic build-up could mount and have health consequences. The number of hours a person needs to sleep to avoid a chemical build-up depends on the individual. But, generally, eight hours of sleep each night is needed for a good, restorative sleep.
However, explain this: if my brain DOES defrag every night…then how come it's STILL full of crap??!!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Accolade For Shona Laing

This week the NZ Music Awards announced its nominations.
The highlight is the long-overdue induction into the NZ Music Hall of Fame of kiwi singer/songwriter Shona Laing.
Damian Vaughan, CEO of Recorded Music NZ:
"Not only is Shona extremely talented and deserving of this award, hers is also a pioneering acknowledgment of the role female artists play in our music psyche."
Laing's four-decade career started in 1972 when she was a 17-yr.old schoolgirl, coming runner-up in the tv talent show 'New Faces' with her song 1905. Her first two singles, 1905 and Show Your Love, both certified gold and both peaked at No.4 on the NZ charts.
In 1973 she won two Rata awards: Best New Artist and Recording Artist Of The Year. Laing twice represented NZ at the Tokyo World Song Festival - in 1973 (with the song Masquerade) and 1974.
She travelled to Britain in 1975 and was based there for the next seven years - in 1982, she was a vocalist for Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Perhaps the most well-known of Shona's hits would be from the 1986 Genre album: (Glad I'm) Not A Kennedy hit No.2 in NZ, and No.14 on US Modern Rock list. Shona even had a cameo singing role in the 1985 movie Shaker Run.
To refresh your memory, here's a kiwi classic from a classy kiwi...

A self-concious video, but a great song...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pirates No More – But Still Walking The Plank

Piracy charges have been dropped against 30 Greenpeace activists (including two NZers) being held in Russia.
But now they're charged with hooliganism, which in Russia gets you a max of seven years' prison, instead of the 15 for piracy.
The environmentalists were arrested in September after the Ruskies boarded their vessel Arctic Sunrise in international waters. The activists were protesting oil-drilling in Arctic waters, and had tried to board a drilling platform owned by gas giant Gazprom.
Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia says the new charges are still "wildly disproportionate", and the Arctic 30 are "no more hooligans than they were pirates". He says Greenpeace will contest the
The ghosts of the KGB
still haunt Russia...
charges of hooliganism as strongly as it protested the piracy charges.
Russia's main investigative agency, The Investigative Committee, has also suggested it may charge some of the eco-warriors with use-of-force against officials, which carries a max 10yr.sentence.
Greenpeace Netherlands spokesman Kees Kodde says the Dutch govt has started legal proceedings against the Russian govt at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
It should be noted that the punk group Pussy Riot, still languishing in a Russian jail since Aug.2012, were also accused of hooliganism...

PS: 26 Oct.2013 The change from piracy to hooliganism is NOT a reduction of charges (as some media say). It's anything BUT and the Arctic 30 may be in greater difficulties. Under Russian law, hooliganism is defined as "a gross violation of public order, expressing clear disrespect for society, committed with the use of objects used as weapons, organised group that is associated with resistance to authority".
This means the Ruskies bring all charges under Russian Law ONLY - they do not have to prove an act of piracy under International Maritime Law. This will make the case easier for Russia to prove...and much harder for Greenpeace to escape from, without major international pressure!

PPS: 13 Nov.2013 - Activists moved from Murmansk to a St Peterburg prison.
PPPS: 20 Dec.2013 - In a shock move, Prez Putin has pardoned the 30 Greenpeace activists, as well as the members of Pussy Riot and a former oil tycoon/political rival!!! A Christmas miracle?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Facebook: Decapitations OK To Share

On Facebook, it's ok to post decapitation videos!
Now you can post, say, a video of some poor bastard having his head sliced off by a rabid Taliban long as you write platitudes like "OMG! How terrible!"
WWII war crime.
If this happened today,
you could post
long as you said "tut-tut!"
Facebook slapped on the ban last May, stopping graphic content such as beheadings and other nasties from being published. But now it's returning to its status quo, ie: not policing violent content that members share in condemnation of the depicted acts.
A spokesman says: "Facebook is where people turn to share experiences, particularly when they're connected to controversial events such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events. People share these videos here to condemn them. If they were being celebrated, or the actions encouraged, our approach would be different." But wait: back in May, Facebook DID take a different approach, saying it would delete violent videos reported by users (this, after a backlash when two execution videos did the rounds).
Meanwhile, Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities continues to state: "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." Yea. Right.
Facebook reckons graphic stuff like beheadings are only a violation of its policy...if the content is being celebrated by users!! But it's trying to figure out the best way to give people control over types of content. In the meantime...
*psst!*...wanna see a snuff movie?'s... oh...really bad. TERRIBLE!! Check it out, dude! :-)

[This follows so soon after Facebook earlier this month effectively opened the privacy door to STALKERS!]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

007, Dive! Dive! Dive!

The anonymous buyer of the Lotus Esprit submarine car from the James Bond flick The Spy Who Loved Me has turned out to be billionaire Elon Musk.
Internet entrepreneur and PayPal founder, Musk was the chap whose private space company SpaceX successfully launched the Dragon in May 2012, to regularly restock NASA's International Space Station.
The white Lotus Esprit S1 made famous in Roger Moore's Bond 1977 film (which also featured Barbara Bach, later wife of Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr) was sold at a UK auction last month. As is typical of most auctions, the identity of the buyer was confidential but Musk has since been outed as the new owner.
She's NOT an optional extra!
The sale came 24 years after the car was found in a New York storage container which had been purchased for just £64 / US$100!
And apparently, Musk plans to get the car working as an actual transformable aqua-vehicle: "It was amazing as a little kid to watch James Bond drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform. What I'm going to do is upgrade it and try to make it transform for real."
But at £550K / US$866K, the Lotus is by no means the most valuable Bond car: in 2010, a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger and Thunderball sold for US$4.6m!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Who's No.1 For Hacking?

If you enjoyed the late Tom Clancy's techo-thriller Threat Vector, you may be thinking that China is the world's worst nation for internet hacking. Think again.
China has a reputation as the hacker capital of the world, but a new report shows the bulk of global cyber-attack activity has recently come from its smaller neighbour, Indonesia.
38% of the world's cyber attacks originated in Indonesia during the second quarter of 2013, up from 21% in the first quarter. This spike knocked China off the hacking pedestal, with Big Red accounting for 33% of attacks, down from 34%. The amount of hacking originating in US (although at No.3), is a piddly 6.9% of cyber-attack traffic, a decrease from 8.3%. Indonesia and China alone accounted for more than half of all global cyber-attack activity during the quarter!
While it may seem like Indonesia came out of nowhere to take the lead (last year it accounted for less than 1% of cyber crimes), hackers may be taking advantage of its increase in connection and weakening IT structure. The country's average internet connection speed increased 125% from the same time last year. That, coupled with the fact the country isn't spending lots on its infrastructure, may make the country a haven for cybercriminals.
Last Jan., hacker group Anonymous Indonesia claimed responsibility for defacing 12 government websites. In April, the country's defence minister announced it was building a Cyber Defence Centre to combat hackers. Microsoft also felt the supposed wrath of Indonesian criminals (among others) when it put the lid on a cyber-crime operation in June.
One thing to keep in mind: the IP address assigned to a particular country may not be the nation where the attacker resides. So someone from China with an IP address associated with them, may actually be committing cyber attacks in, say, France, while sitting anonymously in Turkey...!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Who'd Wanna Be A Dolphin, Huh?

The Japanese town of Taiji is taking a leaf from the Icelandic whale-watching play-book.
They offer a tour which allows tourists to watch minke whales being harpooned and then sample grilled whale afterwards!
Taiji is the site of the annual slaughter of thousands of dolphins (as featured in the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove). Now the town has declared its infamous bay to be a marine park, in which tourists will be encouraged to swim with dolphins – and then eat them later!
It's the most barbaric bit of mixed marketing since Icelandic whaler Kristjan Loftsson declared his whaling fleet was "eco-friendly", because his ships ran on whale oil!
Masaki Wada, a Taiji town official: "We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place. In the summer, swimmers can enjoy watching the mammals that are released from a partitioned-off space…this is part of Taiji's long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat." He almost makes it sound appealing.
This perverse proposal only serves to highlight how tough it is to be a dolphin in the 21st century: everyone in the world wants to swim with you; you've been trained to blow up Vietcong divers and detect gulf war mines; you've been a TV star; rogue scientists in the 1960s have dosed you with LSD...  
*sigh* After all that, what dolphin in its right mind would wanna associate with humans?

Friday, October 18, 2013

From The Backblocks To The Empire's Bosum!

Today marks one of myriad historical events that've been lost in the mists of time...
In 1924, from a sheep station in Shag Valley (near Palmerston), East Otago, amateur radio operator Frank Bell (1896-1987) sent a ground-breaking Morse code transmission on his amateur radio station Z-4AA. It was received and replied to by amateur operator Cecil Goyder
Cpl.Frank D.Bell,
NZ Field Artillery,
taken 1916.
This was not only the first-ever, trans-world two-way radio communication of any type around the world, but also the first radio transmission of any kind to be sent and received at such a distance. Within hours, Bell was inundated with congratulatory telegrams, amateur radio call cards and letters.
These days we think nothing of having internet, skype, phone and wireless comms around the globe and into space. But back then, the wireless companies - already in possession of air time and armed with laws preventing interference by amateurs - had not been able to open up communications. This achievement was made by amateur Hams!
Frank and his older sister Brenda (1891-1979) were to become world radio pioneers. Their father Alfred, a keen amateur scientist, set up what was probably the first telephone connection in NZ, between two farmhouses in Shag Valley. As a boy Frank made his own crystal set and spent long hours listening to radio signals.
Frank was invalided home in 1917 after military service in France. While recuperating, he revived his interest in wireless. With a small group of amateur enthusiasts, he helped pioneer the use of short radio waves to communicate over long distances, initially through Morse-code telegraphy. He achieved a number of radio transmission firsts, including NZ's first overseas two-way radio contact with Oz (1923) and USA (1924). But it was his two-way radio conversation with UK on the evening of 18 October 1924 that made world headlines.
groundbreaking siblings in 1974
The humble and publicity-shy Bell was elected, in his absence, to the executive committee of the International Amateur Radio Union on its formation in Paris in 1925. But at this point he lost interest in radio, and focused on farming.
Brenda took over the wireless station, becoming NZ's first female amateur radio operator. Maintaining the groundbreaking work of her brother, she became the first NZer to contact South Africa in 1927, and went on to a professional career in radio.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Knox Church: Foundations Laid

In one corner of the Christchurch CBD, work quietly continues to restore one of the city's remaining historic churches.
Knox Presbyterian Church on the corner of Victoria St and Bealey Ave was severely damaged in the Feb.2011 earthquake. For more than two years, its stood naked - striped back to just its timber skeleton.
This week saw a milestone in the 1902 church's rebuild as the concrete foundations were poured. These will be completed within a month and then work begins on replacing the roof.
The new church will not be a replica of the old, but more a modern interpretation of the previous. It will be designed to meet 100% of the building code and as a result has bricks replaced with lightweight timber cladding.
It's expected the church will be finished by May and open in July, complete with the salvaged and restored 1910 pipe organ.
Funding for the multimillion-dollar project has yet to be confirmed, but would include insurance, grants and support from the Knox Trust. Another $2m will come from trust applications and donations. 
The Knox Church restoration should serve as an example to other congregations: no angry debates, no legal wrangles, no drawn-out public angst, just a quiet resolute determination to put a roof over God's children...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Facebook Welcomes Stalkers

I warned you. Now the time is nigh.
Facebook is dumping a feature that protects your privacy!
Facebook: helping you share more
ads with the people in your life...
The retirement of the "Who can look up your Timeline by name?" privacy setting means now anyone can find the profile of someone else through the search bar. People used to be able to make themselves disappear from the search functions, and hide their presence on the network to strangers, by modifying the setting.
Facebook says it's removing that setting (which controls whether users could be found when people type their name into the search bar), because only a single-digit percentage of the nearly 1.2 billion people on its network were using it. But it says users can still protect their privacy by limiting the audience for each thing they post about themselves.
Of course, being careful about what you post doesn't get rid of the fact that you can now be found on Facebook by anyone...stalkers or admirers alike!
As Facebook is an advertising-backed business whose revenue growth depends on its users (YOU!) sharing as much data as possible, the company's main motivation is to wipe out your user privacy over time. The removal of this search setting goes hand-in-hand with the expansion of Facebook's search feature, which people often use to find people they know - or wanna know - on the site. This will force more ad content to be readable by everyone, so more pages can be served up and more ad revenue generated.
Is that really what you joined Facebook for?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Are You Man Enough?!

If the purpose of advertising is to grab your attention, then this retro ad from the late 70s sure does that...but for all the wrong reasons!
Stand aside, Robin Gibb!
Dig the script, cat - it's so... hip... so outta sight!
"One Easy Piece.
Because one is enough, when it's you.
Show where you're headed in the ultimate fashion climax.
Its so tight it shows all you've're a walking turn-on. And treats your body as well as she does.
Easy on, easy off, quick as a flick of her tongue.
Sexy cool crinkle cloth for those hot nights to come.
Designed with your desires in mind...she'll eat you alive in it.
Are you man enough to fill it?"

Sock it to me, mama!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Akaroa: Don't Miss The Boat

This week's news, that Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) may not be able to accomodate cruise ships for several years, means waving goodbye to millions in tourist revenue.
The port lost the cruise ships - mainly to neighbouring Akaroa Harbour - after the 2011 earthquakes and, more than 3yrs on, it's still fighting with insurers. LPC's claim has been called potentially the largest in Australasian history: about 500 port assets, including the HO building in Lyttelton, wharves and piles were EQ-damaged, with an estimated half-billion dollar total!
cruise ship in Akaroa, 2011

Meanwhile cruise companies have been told the port won't reopen to cruise ships before 2017...and there's the problem.
Royal Caribbean Cruiseline, the world's second-biggest cruise company, says one of its vessels Voyager of the Sea can't berth in Akaroa because it does not have small boats to carry their passengers to shore (the ship didn't need tenders to berth in Lyttelton Port, as there's a wharf). Voyager of the Sea (with 3500 passengers) would have visited six times this season if LPC facilities had been open, pouring half a million dollars into the region every time.
But this is an obvious opportunity. Why don't tourism operators in Akaroa join together in a business venture, and buy a small fleet of ferry boats? Sure, some may say it's not worth it for just six visits a year. But the bigger picture means more visits, the salvation of troubled small tour operators, a regional gain of millions...
Akaroa is the top-rated port call in all New Zealand: when passengers come off the ships, they absolutely rave about its beauty. So, instead of being crippled by the Lyttelton situation (which won't be resolved for years), capitalise on it. Crunch the numbers on a ferry business plan to secure the cruise visits. How hard can it really be?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Icelandic Whaling Concludes, Catches Down

The 2013 whaling season in Iceland officially ended at the end of September.
In all, 134 fin were killed since the start of the season on June 16. The quota was for 154 fin whales in addition to 20% of last year's unused catch: a total of 180.
The local Icelandic media claim that, as 150 people were employed in connection with fin whaling this northern summer, it therefore has a positive effect on the entire Icelandic society. "It matters immensely to us Icelanders to have companies that generate export revenue, revenue that enables us to uphold a welfare society," one paper spouts. The media sidesteps the negative impact of whaling on Iceland's global image. Further, the same media conveniently forgets, when beating its patriotic drum, that Icelandic whaling is the domain of just one
Do I give a shit?
company, Hvalur, driven by one man - fishing magnate Kristjan Loftsson. For that one individual, a whole country pays a price.
And as for generating export revenue, well, Hvalur has struggled to export fin whale meat this year. You'll have read here that a whalemeat shipment for Japan was sent back to Iceland from Germany in July, and shipping company Samskip announced it would no longer transport whale.
Better news on Iceland's minke whaling front: the season concluded earlier this month, with only 38 whales of the 216 quota caught. The minke whalers blame the former Icelandic Minister of Industries for the poor catch, as he decided to extend the size of a whale reserve off Reykjavík, thus cramping the whalehunting operation (though a commendable effort, it was later reversed by his successor).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

US's Antarctic Big Chill

Hundreds of US scientists in Antarctica may be evacuated, as funding dries up in Washington's continuing government shutdown.
A decision's due by the end of this week and, if scientists are pulled out, it'll be a disaster for their research.
US has three major bases: McMurdo Station (next to NZ's Scott Base), Amundsen-Scott at the South Pole, and Palmer on the Antarctic Peninsula. Any shutdown by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) will have a severe impact on Christchurch-based
C-17 Globemaster: dozens of supply
runs to the ice each season

Antarctica NZ which shares facilities and the vast logistics associated with the summer programme. An official says so far the US govt shutdown hasn't affected the NZ programme in Antarctica: "...but we are following the US situation and keeping in close contact with our partners at the NSF and their McMurdo Station."
Lockheed Martin, which runs the NSF's Antarctic operations, says it will run out of money by mid-October, and may be forced to evacuate all but a skeleton staff at the bases. That would spell the end to this year's research season, which normally runs from October-February. Personnel have only recently begun to be flown down to the ice for the new season. Lockheed: "We're in major planning mode to begin an orderly transition to caretaker mode at the stations."
Researchers are devastated at the prospect of losing an entire field season of work. John Priscu, a Montana State Uni biologist who's been to Antarctica about 30 times, says if the programme is put in caretaker mode, it'll be hard to reverse the situation quickly: "In Antarctica the planning is so intense...scheduling military aircraft and icebreakers. The planning goes on years ahead. You can't just throw a switch and say, 'OK, we're better now'."
Business Class to Antarctica...4,000km and no in-flight movie!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blessed Are The Geek...

They say there's one born every minute...
and many of 'em turn into geeks!
Well, if you're stuck for what to buy a geek this Xmas, try ThinkGeek.
This website is chocka with the weird and wonderful, for those among us who are themselves weird
For example, here's the perfect gift for entomophagists: an Edible Bugs gift pack! Let's face it: bugs are all around us. They suck our
blood, invade our houses, scare people. So bite 'em before they bite you!
Around the world, many people eat insects - and many think eating insects is the thing of the future. They're healthy, abundant, and quite yummy - especially when they're seasoned.
Time to share those bugs, with this Edible Bugs Gift Pack. Six tins of flavoured and cooked bugs, plus one tin of giant waterbug chilli paste! For eating. Really! Why hold back from the taste of Sour Cream and Onion Dung Beetles? How about Bacon and Cheese Grasshoppers? BBQ Bamboo Worms, or Salted Queen Weaver Ants? And just US$39.99.
But if that's all just a tad too weird for your resident weirdo, ThinkGeek can tempt your geekazoid with logo-emblazoned Star Trek socks, a 'World Of Warcraft' Trivial Pursuit game, Canned Unicorn Meat (500gm of delicious unicorn meat from a small independent cannery in County Meath, Ireland)... and how could any left-minded galactically-fixated geek resist Astronaut Ice Cream? It's freeze-dried ice cream in three flavours (great for the survivalist with a sweet tooth!), and can be stored (unopened) for up to 3 years.
Geek goodies for everyone this Xmas! Ho-ho-ho!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hobbit: The (cost of) The Story So Far...

Making the movie trilogy The Hobbit has cost more than half a billion dollars so far!
That's double the total spent on the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The NZ$676 million figure includes the 266 days of filming with actors that was completed last year, but not an additional two months or so of "pick-up" shoots this year. There'll also be additional post-production costs as the next two movies are completed.
The first movie in the latest trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, made just over a billion box office bucks.
The trilogy is also one of the most expensive movie productions in which two or more movies are shot at the same time. Both Box Office Mojo (which tracks movie costs and box office receipts) and Guinness World Records estimate the most expensive single movie ever made was Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with an estimated $300 million production tag. That movie, in conjunction with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - which was shot at the same time - held the previous record for the most expensive total production, costing an estimated $450 - $525 million.
According to Box Office Mojo, Jackson's previous trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, cost a total $281 million to make. The Star Wars prequel trilogy, meanwhile, cost $343 million.
The second Hobbit movie, The Desolation of Smaug is due out in Dec., while the final, There and Back Again, is out Dec.2014.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Foggy Free: Grommet Grateful

It's a whale of a tale with a very splashy ending.
Foggy the humpback whale found herself in trouble off the coast of Nova Scotia recently. A regular visitor to the region, Foggy had swum into some fishing gear and ended up with rope wrapped around her mouth, head, the narrow part of her tail, and near her blowhole.
Tour guide Chris Callaghan was escorting a group of whale enthusiasts, when she heard about Foggy in distress: "She was so entangled, she wasn't able to lift her tail."
The local Whale Rescue Team was called: when they arrived in their zodiac, Foggy was not moving. But by her side was Grommet, an adult female humpback whale also known to visit the area. Rescuers were concerned about Grommet because "sometimes other whales interfere, thinking we're going to do more harm than good," says rescuer Jerry Conway.
But Grommet calmly waited for the rescuers to do their work. After 45mins' rope-cutting, Foggy was free! What happened next is something neither Conway nor Callaghan have ever seen before...Grommet jumped high into the air and landed in the water with a gigantic splash.
Perhaps it's a case of humans attaching human characteristics to a whale, Conway says, but it seemed like "she was pleased to see her buddy free." As for Callaghan? "I think it was pure celebration."
"Gee, thanks, guys!"

Friday, October 4, 2013

Author Closes The Book

Author Tom Clancy turned his last page last Tuesday.
His high-tech Cold War thrillers made him the most widely-read military novelist of his time. Clancy's novels were dependable best-sellers, with worldwide sales estimated at over 100 million copies. Several, including The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, were later made into blockbuster movies, with another based on his CIA hero Jack Ryan, due for UK release this Christmas.
Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford were among the actors who played Ryan on screen. (The new Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit movie stars Chris Pine (Capt.Kirk from Star Trek) and is directed by Kenneth Branagh. Keira Knightly plays Ryan's wife and Kevin Costner his CIA mentor.)
Is Chris Pine really Jack Ryan?

Clancy also wrote non-fiction works on the military and even successfully ventured into best-selling video games. His recent Jack Ryan novels were collaborations with Mark Greaney, including Threat Vector and a release scheduled for December, Command Authority.
Clancy was admired in the military community, and appeared (though he often denied it) to have a kind of special access, that enabled him to intricately describe anything from surveillance to the operations of a submarine. He often played off - and sometimes anticipated - world events, as in the pre-9/11 thriller Debt of Honour, in which a jumbo jet destroys the White House during a joint meeting of Congress, and catapaults a reluctant Jack Ryan into the role of US President.
Clancy was 66.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Copthorne On The Fast-Track

It collapsed last Saturday afternoon with a resounding crash. Seven floors pancaked on top of each other, leaving two outside walls standing.
Now what remains of the EQ-damaged Copthorne Hotel in Christchurch has been issued with an 'urgent demolition' notice.
Yesterday, CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) issued the owners with a 'Section 38' notice, in order to speed up the removal of the site's remaining structure.
MBIE (the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) has halted work on the Colombo St site while it investigates Saturday's unexpected collapse.The owners have up to 10 days to submit a plan to remove the hazard and make the site safe.
MBIE and CERA will work with the site owners and their contractors to review the demolition. If approved by CERA engineers, MBIE will in turn lift its prohibition notice, allowing the demolition work to begin as soon as the owner's contractor is able to do so.
In the meantime, the Copthorne's remaining walls poke up into the air like two defiant fingers, adding more interest to "Demolition Alley"...which already hosts the flooded basement remains of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers tower, the Forsyth Barr Tower (the future of which is still undecided) and the Victoria Apartments (to be torn down before Christmas).
"Demolition Alley" from across the Avon

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Eyes Open For Bulbuls

The government is seeking public help to rid NZ of an aggressive and unwelcome immigrant...
Conservation Minister Nick Smith wants to rid Auckland of the red-vented bulbul, a bird listed as one of the 100 worst invasive alien species and a threat to our native birds. Native to parts of Asia (Pakistan to SW China), they've been introduced to a number of Pacific Islands where they're now a serious invasive pest. They can cause significant damage to fruit and vegetable crops, and spread the seeds of invasive weeds.
Smith: "The red-vented bulbul with its aggressive nature poses a real risk to native birds like the wood pigeon. These prolific breeders have been found in Auckland twice before and we need to act fast to ensure they don't have time to make themselves at home."
In the 1950s, a small population of about 50 became established between Takapuna and Mt Eden after some were released from a ship. It took until 1955 to completely eradicate them and, since the late 1960s, it's been illegal to import them. In 2006, a small number were eradicated from Parnell.
This time, the birds have been spotted around Manurewa and Alfriston in south Auckland, in the western suburbs of Henderson, Te Atatu and Massey, and the Devonport, Belmont and Takapuna areas of the North Shore. There have also been some possible sightings in Whangaparaoa.
The red-vented bulbul is a medium-sized bird, about 20cm long (that's the size of a starling). It has a black head, dark back, grey-white belly, and a distinctive crimson-red patch beneath its tail. It also has a very distinctive call.
The public is urged to report all sightings to DOC as soon as possible, before spring growth on trees makes the birds harder to spot.

PS: 14 Nov.2013 - Bulbul reward now upped to $1,000!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bryde's Whales Win Gulf Concessions

Shipping companies have joined efforts to save an endangered resident whale in the Hauraki Gulf.
An agreement aims to reduce fatalities from ship strikes, which take a significant toll on NZ's Bryde's whale (pronounced BREW-da) population and other marine mammals. It's the culmination of a 6yr campaign led by Auckland University marine biologist Rochelle Constantine, whose research -  including full necropsies on washed-up carcasses - highlighted the contribution of ship strikes to the whale's plight.
Ships are expected to post whale lookouts during daylight, slow down in areas where the Bryde's whales gather, stick to recommended routes, steer 1km clear of sighted whales and report sightings so other ships can be alerted. They're also urged to avoid the channel between Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, a hotspot for whales and dolphins.
image by Peter Tasker
Reducing speed from the customary 15 knots to a desired 10kts is expected to greatly improve survival chances if whales are struck. The move will add up to an hour to transit times, time which can't be made up on short coastal hauls such as Auckland-Tauranga.
Bryde's whales are thought to congregate in the gulf because of plankton, krill and small fish. But habits which include lurking just below the surface and spending long periods resting at night make them vulnerable to shipping. There're less than 200 left in NZ waters and records suggest at least two a year are dying due to ship strike.