Tuesday, November 14, 2006

America and Me

It doesn’t matter how angry I get with American foreign or indeed corporate policy my fury is tempered by the following things;

i) I visited a gallery in CA some 4-5 months after 9/11 with my then new wife. A curator, recognising that we were not Americans made a point of apologising to us for the bombings and what followed. I was deeply touched and reminded of the difference between America and Americans.

ii) One of my oldest and dearest friends is an American, a book editor by day and a liberal campaigner in her remaining hours. I should wish to have such determination.

iii) Rachel Corrie was an American. So was Jackson Pollock, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Andy Warhol………..

A lesson for us all and it seems the American government in particular. When being just one must choose one’s enemies with care…….

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ooooh it feels like Christmas already….

For fear of getting left out SWMBO and I want our say on what the alleged 11 Billion NZ operating surplus should be spent on:

1. Radical overhaul of the New Zealand Railway system ?
2. Public transport infrastructure.
3. Solar hot water heating for
every home.
4. Tax breaks for domestic green technology enterprises.
5. Green technology tax breaks.
6. Nationally subsidised IT infrastructure.
7. Saucer of Milk for Brash and the Exclusive Bretheren.
8. Pledge cards for everyone.
9. 22 New stadia for the Rugby world cup.
10. Cultural induction programme led by Bob Clarkson…….

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Absence and Orgasms

Where have I been ? Weeeeeell he said fiddling with his fingers I’ve been busy and neglectful. Occasionally work requires some long hours and just recently I have been giving time to others largely for their benefit. I have also managed to keep SWMBO happy which is good, but my infrequent rants have suffered. That said, this blog on Orgasms really did remind me of how valuable blogging can be.

The blog was an insightful hoot but I do think one or two points should be made.

1) So you really think men don’t notice faking ? I don’t dispute that older women may have got the better of me on this one, but younger ones are shocking….in fact so shocking they are boring. I may not be Don Juan or Casanova but I do think the two worst insults to my attempts at communicative sex are a) Epileptic routine – shaking like they belong in the bath with the washing only marginally better than……b) Dead fish routine – lay there and smile when he’s done.

2) Another cause of faking would be impatience – Yes some women are just too busy to wait…..I know I was bad but should she really look at her watch ? Another facet is the “me being used as a warm dildo”, I’m still not sure if that is a complement or an insult.

3) How did I figure it out a little of the orgasm thing ? I watched and got other women to show me….is that breaking the rules ? I am now a capable linguist at least.

4) In case you have never tried it, this I recommend - porn movies look hilarious played backwards at high speed. (Or maybe I was drunk at the time).

5) Yes the biggest source of sex education is the porn movie and porn mag. What I don’t understand is how blokes can figure that the penises are unreal but the sex isn’t…..can anyone help me out here ?

6) Not all Lesbians think like Jagose….

Yep I guess Kate’s right; its all about communication, that’s talking isn’t it ?….funny we can spend so much time talking about sex and failing to communicate. The talking is easy the truths are hard……mmmm there goes another platitude……..time for bed…

Monday, August 07, 2006

Living History.

Me and SWMBO managed to figure that today was not the day to go cycling. It was p*****g down and sounded pretty dangerous out there for a while. Instead we took a trip to Auckland Museum.

To be honest the Viking Exhibition was thin on real artifacts, big on replicas, short on context and left me feeling a weeeee bit cheated; which is a shame because the rest of the museum is pretty good, in fact so good SWMBO prefers it to Te Papa. We had a good day, though I figure it would be a struggle to actually get in without making a donation. I think there should be some kind of way to recognise that this is Auckland’s Museum, paid for at least in parts out of Auckland Rates. Consequently there should be at least one or two days a year when JAFAS should be able to come and go from the museum with impunity. It’s not like asking for boxes at Eden Park or anything is it ?

My amblings drew me to an interesting place and some equally interesting thoughts after the Vikings. I do have very mixed thoughts about Holocaust Memorials in the context of contemporary society and history. I will happily defend my comments about Zionists hiding behind the Holocaust these days and therefore hiding behind dead people, which is in my opinion shameful. I also know that this is a lesson we cannot afford to forget and even that the logical progression of this was a Jewish Homeland. SWMBO is well briefed on my feelings and therefore it was with interest that she took me into the memorial section in Auckland museum. First thing to note was the strangeness I felt at reading about the internment of the children of a Jewish Father and a Gentile mother by the NAZI’s. My dad was right, I would probably have been burned with many others. This thought however did not supersede my grasp of a broader issue.

There are a lot of holocaust memorials but very few Genocide memorials. The Holocaust represents a unique and outrageous example of genocide. But genocide is indisputably what it is. To only recognize this instance of genocide(holocaust) is wrong and misleading. One might presume that such atrocities no longer occur, or indeed that they are unlikely to do so in the presence of such memories. Neither of these proposals makes any sense. In the first place as Rwanda proved the will if not the raw material exists and therefore such things continue; as does the potential for future atrocities of a large and small scale. The Balkans too has shown evidence of an alarming trend. Genocide is commonly perpetrated by one group against another ethnically distinct party (can someone look this up for me ?). This in turn begs a number of questions e.g. could Maori have suffered its own Holocaust in the 19th Century ? Worse still it invites speculation as to who might be next and this is where history can teach us a great deal. Genocide is not a unique occurrence tied to the holocaust. It is self defeating to isolate the holocaust as a unique and self serving example of this form of brutality. To me at least, it makes far more sense to treat it as a problem that could occur at any time therefore requiring vigilance at all times, at any location and in all eras. In this light education, history and society would be better served by holocaust memorials being placed within a timeline of the history of genocide. That is to say that the holocaust will probably always form the centre of knowledge and experience in this respect, but it should be set in a temporal context that underlines the need for contemporary vigilance. In failing to do this we may miss the real benefit and purpose of such monuments in a modern age.

Yes I know this is me, the anti Israeli loon but read this carefully and then shoot me. As it is, this is the sort of issue that needs reviving and discussing in a modern context.

Leaving the land of ……..

It seems more people than ever want to leave the UK; no surprises there then. What grabbed my interest was somebody prepared to take an interest in why……

Here are some of my reasons…..

My profession: Higher education teaching at a new university in the UK is no fun at all. In fact I would go so far as to say it is genuinely bad for your health. There are worse jobs in the UK, but most of them pay more. Secondary teaching is no fun either, but at least when you take on responsibility you are paid accordingly (and you don’t have 3 years of extra study debts as well). Twice a year my blood pressure used to hit unhealthy levels and I’d get headaches etcetera, clearly was suffering from stress related illness. It’s a wonder that I sustained any level of health at all and maintaining some kind of sport performance was an achievement of epic proportions. When it came time to leave, SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) asked why, I explained that to continue in the current post ran the risk of me ending up in pine overcoat. She got the message when I pointed out that three people had held the same post as me in a two year period and that the office of four that I shared, had turned over 7 staff in that space of time ! We re-named the office the departure lounge. The next issue was that I was unconvinced at the time that I would be better off anywhere else in the UK, so we moved…….Strangely enough to join four other ex-colleagues from the same institution at my new host employer. Mmmmm strange that…..

The cost: There comes a point at which the cost of living becomes soooo expensive that you realise you have been seriously ripped off ! At that point its time to go.

The edge: It became clear to me at different times just how fragile modern British life can be and just how far we can fall. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride. Nor it seems would these kids.

The non-culture; I know I was born in Bahrain and I know that I support Wales, it’s also true that I spent a lot of time as an ex-pat. But ! I was educated in Oxford and I sound like it. More importantly I absorbed unknowingly a great belief in a liberal pluralist ideas, which I still believe should be at the heart of Britain. Crickey, I was at one stage a member of the young internationalists debating the grievous nature of Reagan’s election to the post of US president. In the following years I protested and picketed with the best of them until I realised how utterly futile it was all becoming. The problem is that the tradition to which I refer has been quietly murdered. How else do you explain Iraq, ID cards, executive pay and Tony F*&^ng Blair. Blair is worse than Thatcher in many respects, at least she picked her own fights rather than piggy backing on to US stupidity. I always said that I would leave the UK when it became like the US, it has and I am not going back.

A growing sense of anomie; I began to feel alienated within the country I had called, until then, home. It hurt me to see that most of the people I met defined themselves in terms of what they drove, what they owned and what they earned. It made me feel ashamed to be part of a society so superficial.

I am rarely seduced by ex-pat nostalgia. If fact it bloody well annoys and embarrasses me in equal measure. I go to Browns Bay to get my hair cut and that’s it. I avoid the British Shop like the plague only entering to buy some Foxes Glacier Mints for an older guy who I’m sure would shrivel up and die without them. I do miss Europe, a literate tradition and years of irony, sarcasm and satire that have yet to grow amongst my generous hosts.

To my ever complaining ex-pat cousins I say; shut or pack up and piss off. I won’t miss you either.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bittterness, Bile and Israel...........

I can’t really write about this without having a quick bit of bio. I describe my father as a lapsed Jew, I should perhaps point out that he is a British Jew and possibly illegitimate. He was in Bahrain serving in the British navy when I was born. We as a family returned to mainland Saudi Arabia some years later to work on the aircraft support group in Dhahran. On reflection the notion of a Jew working in Saudi seems absurd, but we managed this with ease by virtue of all signing affidavits to the effect that we were in fact Christians and having Anglican Clergy endorse them. The smell of damp sand and humidity is unavoidably the smell of home for me. The Arabs I spent time with varied widely; some simple, some smart, some educated and some bigoted. They were a culture apart by virtue of not having developed along the same path as the west or indeed America. They shared in a different and it appeared to me altogether more devout form of religion. I was informed that it was always the shia that caused trouble and the sunni that did best business. Within this the underlying politics of family and tribe were obvious. Arabic culture was once both advanced and virtuous for its time it has to my understanding always been tribal and really can only be understood from this point of view. It is no surprise then that Arabs have rarely been able to present a united front on any important issue much to their detriment and shame.

I also remember a rather sobering conversation with my father about anti-Semitism and the role of the Jews in world history. It ended in the usual punch and Judy farce commonly played out between us; with one chilling difference. Before he stormed off in a drunken fury my father chillingly reminded me that whilst I wasn’t Jewish, I was “Jewish enough to get burned…..”. That riposte shut me up for a long time and the memory of it still disturbs me. It should be noted that this conversation actually took place whilst were on Arabic soil.

Neither the encounter with my father nor the then rather amusing antics of the Israeli air force (they regularly used to buzz Dhahran Airport ) forced upon me a real point of view with respect to Israel and the related conflict. My readings revolved around Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ghandi, and Solzenytsyn (pretentious or what). No surprise then that my sympathies always came to rest with the little guy (and probably still do). But I was really quite ignorant of this issue. I was for the longest time pre-occupied by the end of the cold war. This all changed in 1989 when I went to the USA. After three months of learning that America was a nice place to visit but not a nice place for a guy like me to stay I was ready to leave. I caught the dog from the west to the east and opted to visit the seat of government in Washington on the way. It was here that I experienced something of an epiphany. There were a lot of guys clearly Arabs (I was later to learn Palestinians) protesting out side the Whitehouse. It was a bizarre thing to observe the protesters watching the CIA watching the protesters, cameras clicked and radios buzzed. In this context I began to realise that the protest wasn’t altogether benign. The placards displayed an array of grievances but it was a pamphlet protesting the Zionist control of American media that was actually shoved into my hand by a very nervous looking young man. On the bus to NY I read the pamphlet and I really made me think. Suffice to say in the 18 years that followed I have never turned from arguing and sometimes screaming my support for a free Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and related UN resolution. I have learned much over time and been despondent, depressed and disappointed with all sides of the debate. I have however never changed my mind on this matter.

An important point to note here is that I dislike Israeli’s for the same reasons I despised my father, not because they are Jewish but because they are contemptible human beings. I have consistently accused Zionists and Israelis of being the lowest immoral cowards, these people have used and manipulated the suffering of the holocaust to defend the indefensible in the Middle East. They have consistently and selfishly devalued other instances of genocide the world over in order to achieve their goals. These people in effect have hidden behind their own dead. How low is that ? My love for America has gone, my love for certain Americans and indeed certain Jewish Americans has never wavered. It is a strange feeling to be tracked across the world by virtue of being born in the Middle East. It is both strange and tragic to stand in yet another line for a “random” airport search and be the only white face in a very brown looking queue. It is kind of funny seeing the look on those brown faces though (what’s whitey doing here ?).

For the most part I have avoided ranting about this issue in this blog preferring to voice my opinions elsewhere. It would though, be negligent of me to be completely silent on these matters for fear that this might be taken for an endorsement of the status quo. It is through silence and dubious ignorance that things have been allowed to get as bad as they are now. Though I should point out they would have some way to go before matching the atrocities of 1982. Nonetheless 750 dead in pursuit of two captured combatants seems pretty poor behavior to me. But here is what really bugs me: America has consistently blocked any collective effort at world level to bring an end to these problems (as usual). As such the present atrocities though well publicised are allowed to continue. There has been much wringing of hands and sympathetic writing, but in the end no actual action has been taken. This IMHO is truly sad and genuinely negligent. I don’t buy Israeli goods. I won’t entertain or endorse any Israeli activity that I encounter; I will not travel to America for the foreseeable future and avoid buying American goods. I have never met anyone in New Zealand with all its liberal traditions, including my wife, who is prepared to do the same. Whilst my actions may seem pathetic I believe they are better than nothing. I for one will not sit on my hands and just bloody well cry at the injustice of it all. Sorry folks can’t do it, this issue offends my deepest moral senses. Enjoy those out of season Oranges and if they come from Israel spare a thought for what they really cost.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Bikes, Cars and Phones

Sorry if by chance you have missed me. The truth is that she who must be obeyed and a number of valued friends managed to talk me into getting some sleep. This inevitably meant that my sporadic blogging has been reduced to less acceptable levels. Nonetheless I will persist if not prevail.

First business of the day: Further to my comments about dickheads on bikes vs. motormania I bore witness to some pretty shoddy cycling. This gave me a little sympathy for the much maligned driving community. I’ve decided that these people have to be drivers who have lost their licenses and think that the road still belongs to them, even though they are astride a pushbike. To these people I say, please don’t call yourselves cyclists (cyclists are nice people) and of course good luck I hope the next collision isn’t too injurious.

What sympathy and love I had for other motorists pretty much evaporated this afternoon though. Picture me driving round (yes I do use a car from time to time) the foul femme who pulled on to the roundabout whilst I was borrowing her piece of highway. Enhance the picture to see the mobile in her hand and while you’re at it hear one of the rare instances when irate me leans on the horn in order to interrupt the conversation going on with the mobile. I wouldn’t mind but the foul femme took this as a cue to abuse me rather than apologise. Having done some scientific research in the area I am quite aware of how dangerous driving and talking on a mobile can be, this incident proves the point. I suppose I should thank fate though for the gem that apparently followed. Whilst on the highway foul femme was still talking on the phone and decided to pass on my left, she paused to hurl a bit of abuse at my wife and I. What she couldn’t manage in time was to see the slowing of the car in front of her (I didn’t see this bit and the next bit, but my wife did). When eventually foul femme did look round her face apparently was a picture, she finally drops the phone, jams on the brakes and gives the guy behind her a near heart attack. I doubt she will have learned anything of use from this experience and it’s probably all my fault according to her. She is however the cause of my wife very nearly wetting herself with laughter. I wish I could have seen that face………

Before I forget do visit Graham Reid's Music from Elsewhere it is worth the click,,,,

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bikes, drivers and me (not just another rant).

Whilst I have ranted and railed against cars, I have to date avoided ranting at drivers themselves. However this exchange which Graham Reid over at PA kindly allowed me to post has helped me articulate some thoughts on the matter in a vaguely rational way. What follows was stimulated by this post from GR and is really a throw away comment about cyclists who appear not to care about what is going on around them.

The comment was:

“However, I wish they'd focus on these dickheads on bikes who run lights, weave in and out of traffic like God gave them the right, and then blame drivers who accidentally bowl them over when they are coming from the wrong damn direction with no lights or even a florescent flag top warn us of their presence.”

On reflection my own objection to this comment rests with its desire to take issue with the cyclists as though they are the soul cause of the problem. Weaving cyclists are part of an escalating debate IMHO. BTW I do feel superior on my bike not because it doesn’t pollute but because I have the character to do something many people are just to lazy to even try despite the social, personal and environmental advantages.

Whilst GR and I may have to agree to disagree on a number of issues I think we both agree that personal abuse is a waste of time. Thus I was sad to hear that Graham received a deluge of personal and abusive e-mails from bikebums. I confess when I think of loud mouth fools I do think of motorists, one might forgive Graham for thinking the same of bikebums. Which is a shame for those of us describing cycling as the intelligent option.

One last word from me: The conspicuous behaviour of a minority of foolish cyclists neither mitigates nor explains the appalling collective attitude of motorists in their dealings with bikes. Nor does the comment “but I’ve ridden a bike” provide any kind of fig leaf, ride often enough and you will appreciate the issues and the anger. Bugger the moral superiority, crickey I walk to work how green is that ?

Anyway the exchange:

Graham –

This is a bit long (and possibly a bit dull) but it is the response of a cyclist of some years, please do read if you have the time and I hope it makes you chuckle and think a little bit.
ah yes i knew THAT would get the riders writing!

at least you didn't get too personal like some of the other cyclists who have written accusing me of being too lkazy to get off my fat arse (do i have a fat arse? my wife doesn't think so!) and driving some gas-guzzling monster.

Yes I do believe that cars are the enemy of physical activity and the majority of the population would be better off making somewhat fewer journeys in their boxes (You can imagine my frustration at the recent budget announcements !).

while i was being a little i did know it would get a
response but at no time did i suggest that ALL riders were like that .. although you seem to be suggesting that ALL drivers are inconsiderate people who ("invariably"??) think they own all the road. If that were true then there'd be no cyclists left by now!
however could i make one thing clear.

No I don’t think all drivers are inconsiderate either. I do feel that legislation does not force them to look for, acknowledge and act accordingly towards other road users. There is a degree of car centric/car supremacy culture that is exemplified in the attitude of Auckland drivers towards anything that isn’t a car. And before you say it, the rule of the majority in a democracy should not be at the persecution or detriment of the minority. Given that we live under the Treaty of Waitangi it is amazing the number of Kiwis who fail to grasp this concept. The problem with bikebums is that the only time they are noticed is when they;

i) do something wrong - used by drivers to justify indignation, existing behaviour and seizure of moral high ground.
ii) get in the way - sorry guys but not every space is a car shaped passing space – if it ain’t big enough WAIT.
iii) are subject to a collision – on the majority of occasions where near misses and collisions have occurred any apology is usually tempered with that “ its your fault for being on my road/in my way” look. Don’t be guilty be observant…..

Bikebums are on the roads at other times but are constantly subject to the law of SIDSY (sorry I didn’t see you).

Q: Were you looking for me ?

i do not think that riding a bike makes anyone morally superior to someone
who drives, that's a line that seems to be advanced by cyclists all the time ("oh we aren't polluting therefore . . .")

There are a number of moral goods that can be attributed to cyclists that are not attributable to motorists, why does that bother motorists; if not because of dissonance with their own behaviour ? Cyclists are doing the right, thing are you absolutely sure you are ?

i used to travel to the city by bus or train (believe me the latter took some patience when the damn things would NEVER run on time) but if i have to go to howick from morningside then i am going to take my car. there is no other way of getting there that makes any sense. You can't cycle out there and back in any decent amount of time to make it financially viable if time is money (and mine is actually)

Yes I would take the car for cross town journeys too at the moment, it would take all day to get form the shore to Green Lane and back on a bike. I might think differently if:

1. Motoring was more expensive.
2. If there was a proper public transport network.
3. Public transport was equipped to transport my bike.
4. If Auckland had built a harbour bridge to accept anything other than a car (this speaks volumes about how much thinking and culture has to change in this respect).

Q: Would you ride on a bus with A WI-FI uplink ?

so this notion that if you look at a car and see just one person in it then
therefore that person is a lazy sluggard who just loves pumping shit into
the atmosphere might not always (("invariably"??) be right at all.
anway i have to say that while i think there are some very responsible
riders (most I would say) in my experience driving around the central city many are not.

Many responsible riders rarely ride in the city anymore. My wife and I have commuted on bikes in London, Sheffield, Biejing, Vancouver and Paris. I may be getting older but riding in Auckland give me the s**ts and the wife won’t do it either anymore. Sorry Graham but many drivers here are either too ignorant/arrogant/lacking in vision to be regarded as anything other than a menace.

Q: Do you switch off your mobile before getting into the car ? n.b. hands free kits are still an unreasonable demand on safe driving.

why are rear view mirrors not mandatory on bikes but they are in cars and
motorbikes etc??

For the same reasons that internal combustion engines don’t have speed management fitted to them - Because it would make other operations impractical – something you would know if you had thought this through or indeed have ridden a bike yourself. If cyclists used their mirrors as much as some motorists did there would be no point anyway.

i find riders will wobble wildly across the road or just put out their hand to cross a line of traffic without even a glance behind to see what might be there coming up. that's suicidal and crazy, and the other day when i nearly hit a guy who just shoved his hand out and then just pulled out in front of me (i was very aware of him and travelling well below the speed limit)-- and he yelled at me!!!!

Question of perspective here, drive a bit slower, leave a few more gaps and such manoeuvres become a lot easier for cyclists (That said, if you can’t ride one handed then walk !). I do not think it reasonable that I should have to dismount and cross the road at a crossing in order to complete a right turn on a bike, because all motorists insist on travelling at the maximum legally permitted speed at all times. Usually a reduction in speed for you would amount to a delay of a few minutes at most, is your time really that expensive ?

irresponsible shit! and you and i both know that if i had belted him he'd be
telling all his mates about yet another stupid auckland driver etc etc.
sorry, not a lot of time for that nonsense. In my experience some bike riders in the central area are careless with regard to their own safety, and that is borne out of driving most days in abject fear that i will hit someone. and i take great care and try (on narrow roads sometimes) to give a wide berth to cyclists because i am
terrified i will hit and injiure someone (and it'll my fat arse gas guzzling
no-good-polluting shitbag fault no doubt!)

Even if it is your fault, why worry ? You won’t pay for the treatment (ACC) and I think you will find that litigation rarely results in a meaningful conviction for the motorist (your insurance company lawyers deal with that). I have been deliberately run over by a guy in a car in front of witnesses the charge eventually came down to careless driving ? When motorists become more personally culpable for their actions and specifically their misdeeds involving bikes then I think attitudes will change as they have done in Europe.

and don't get me started on joggers who run on the roads when there are
perfectly good footpaths there for that purpose!!

When they employ tow trucks to remove cars from pathways and they prepare/maintain paths to the same standards as roads then we can talk about this issue. At the moment many paths are clearly employed as an extension of the drainage system or parking system. The camber on Auckland paths costs me a fortune in physio bills (not paid for by ACC unless I twist my ankle).

so cheers and thanks for reading and taking the time to write. i was pleased
to see in today's herald that someone picked up on the courtesy on the roads
yesterday -- but my feeling (as opposed to yours obviously) is that
aucklanders have been getting much much better rather than worse as some say.

Hmm moot point here the wife says I am a much nicer driver after a week with the rellies in Dunedin. I understand everyone was well behaved for perhaps the only time this year and it was only for a morning.

of course some clown will always run a red light or cut a cyclist off just as some cyclist might cut me off and run a red light, but mostly i see patience and good manners
i must be driving in the wrong part of town!

I will front up on one matter: I regularly jump red lights but with causes that can be justified from the cycling POV.

I am not going to wait for a car to come up behind me in order to get across a junction because I am not big enough to trigger the control switch.

For my own safety I do punt across junctions before the green lights in order to get across and to the side of the roads before I impede the traffic behind me. I do this a lot where there is a split left filter lane (danger of getting run over by inside passing cars going too fast/not seeing) and when the cycle lane runs out at a junction just when I really need it. These options are safer for me and actually speed up traffic flow.

I don’t see the point of not crossing the lights at a controlled T junction when clearly the cycle lane clearly permits unimpeded flow for me and turning traffic. This doesn’t make me bad it does make me intelligent (though illegal I must agree).

Don’t expect cyclists to exhibit any better behaviour than motorists but do ask the question are they actually any worse than motorists or is it just they they aren’t in cars ?

and be safe out there.
mine's the xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx right behind you -- look out!

I am old enough to remember truly courteous roads that I could ride on as a six year old without fear. Can’t do that now…..sadly and certainly can’t let my future heirs do it either. I am the owner of several broken bones and missing a few teeth from various MVC’s mostly caused by lack of observation by motorists.

I promise to be very safe and very defensive for the time being but be warned I am big and look like a bank robber (face modified in a crash). Beware of my wife who has attacked offending cars with her shoe for want of a better weapon !

And remember we always hate the other guy because….he drives just like us.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Modern music and me

As my life draws ever closer to middle age there are a relatively modest number of things that make me act with childish glee. Buying new CD’s is one of them; I love popular music and it shows I have a room stacked with the stuff. So with much anticipation and more than a hint of nostalgia I got home this afternoon with my faithless greatest hits cd ready to re-live some miss spent youth of the late eighties and early nineties; the glow sticks, the gloves, the luminous jackets, the whistles, yeah yeah yeah I was there right from the days when a rave was a couple of hippies turning up in a field with a PA rigged on the back of a flatbed wagon and a couple of coloured torches. Yes, it was really like that and I did manage to dance for eight and a half hours straight without any intoxicants in my bloodstream (though I couldn’t speak for the guys with the bug eyes n stuff). I settle down slip the CD into my PC; which is rigged to my HIFI ready for that blast from the past. But wait a minute, this can’t be true oh no oh f**k the damn thing won’t play. A second glance at the box reveals two clues as to why: Clue one; the box has been opened and re-sealed, clue two there is a Sony BMG logo on the back. I might add there is no copy protection info on it though. Educated guesswork leads to the conclusion that this is a return because of another piece of bungled copy protection by Sony. Now I’m really F****d off but here’s the funny bit. I can’t play it directly but when I use a very familiar PC tool (EAC) I can rip the lot to MP3 and the whole thing can be played clear as a bell. Back to the glow sticks then ? Hell yeah but with a note to self to have my own rant on this matter before I die. So here it is.

I know because I was there;

When; to get an A&R man to turn up at a gig you had to make sure you had a bag of Charlie at the ready, preferably two.

When a couple of fools called radio DJ’s at the time went to play Frisbee with the new CD format of the time on in a park to show us how much better than LP the new music format was gonna be.

When they told us how the new format gave us music not like for a few years play like albums, not for a lifetime either, these baby’s were supposed to go on forever (not true). Aaaaand they sound sooo much better (only on cheap gear as we found out later). Yeah the music is exactly the same as on LP (errrrm it can’t be CD’s are digital - LP’s are analogue).

CD’s did sound good and they were more forgiving than LP’s they also cost almost twice as much as LP’s which meant I stopped buying music for almost 10 years. I just plain couldn’t afford the gear or the medium. LP’s quickly disappeared and those that remained cost the same as CD. The record industry at a stroke almost doubled their revenues, as did the retailers. What was better was a legion of mugs went and re-bought their existing collections on CD. Yep people bought what they already had at a higher price (how dumb am I !).

At the same time two other things happened; the indie labels started to struggle ‘cos they couldn’t compete with the new money or the new format and bankers etc. saw the music business as a means of making money rather than losing it in a dodgy fashion.

Record companies got bought out by businesses with proper accountants; at the same time the lists of artists signed got culled. For a while all music really did sound the same. Coincidentally Sony in this period made a mint out of selling the then ubiquitous walkman and later the discman. The strange thing was that your average walkman contained a tape that was probably copied from a mate somewhere somehow. The music industry didn’t die despite dire warnings that home taping was killing music, indeed it boomed. Sony wasn’t too fussy about what got played or where it came from in those days.

I lived in the UK at that time and got ripped off royally because of the record industry cartel at the time which meant that your average CD or LP cost almost twice as much as it did in the US hmmmmmm. Still does I believe.

Needless to say when a rep from the majors comes on RadioNZ today and talks about how ripping and file sharing is killing small acts and the guy from the indies tactfully points out that his business has never been better I have to smile. When Sony who made so much money off the walkman scores another own goal over copy protection I laugh. When DRM and digital copyright law come up I smile some more. I wonder how the Sony rep explains the whingeing in the context of having to pay out a $10million settlement for a payola charge in the US.

I sit here confident of two things:

No amount of DRM will stop me from copying and sampling music for free (thanks to other determined and like minded souls). This will not trouble my conscience in the knowledge that new artists make more out of merchandise and direct sales than on their early recordings with a major. Established artists tend to worry less (except for the f***wits in Metallica). This and my first MP3 player really did get me back into BUYING music. Which brings me to my second certainty.

I will in all probability buy a legit copy of just about everything I have ripped or borrowed over the years. And if I can I will replace all my LP’s (well perhaps not the Mel and Kim stuff) but this is difficult because not all releases get ported to CD because they don’t make enough money. At the moment I have 2000 LP’s and about 600 CD’s. This amounts to nearly 8,000 tracks some of which are already covered by an LP copy and a CD copy.

Dear Sony - and other greedy people who now own record companies. If you can’t make enough money out of music – pack up and p**s off - you weren’t welcome in the first place. I’m not interested in your shareholders; I am interested in Artists and real music. If you intend to hang around, get used to the idea that not everyone is prepared to pay twice or indeed three times for something they thought they bought the first time and thought they would only need once. If you want to make more money then add more value; if not then accept the rule that unchanging commodities go down in price not up and no amount of whingeing, bribery or dodgy legislation will get round this. In fact carry on as you are and you will end up with less than you started with. Which is, in humble my opinion what you deserve.

BTW – All my music is held in MP3 on my hard drive…..la la la la la !

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More dead people on the way...

I was quite sad to hear about the bomb in Tel Aviv; Because

i) more people got killed.
ii) even Hamas must be sucking their teeth over the PR disaster that it represents.
iii) it will cost the PA and therefore the Palestinian people money they can ill afford.
iv) above all it will give the Israelis yet another excuse to avoid proper negotiation.

But I do wonder what I would do if shelling in response to some pretty feeble rockets was killing roughly one of my civilian countrymen a day……

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hill and Mallard put up, shut or p**s off

Thank you to all of those who have given up so much to represent New Zealand at the commonwealth games. However because you haven’t met our expectations we’re going to say you are not good enough. Doesn’t sound very nice does it ? Enough to make some athletes take up a “proper job” perhaps ? I wouldn’t blame them.

It seems a rum old deal when Trevor Mallard and Nick Hill describe the New Zealand CWG team as lacking in mental toughness. With quotes like: "New Zealanders tend to be too nice." or they lack: “ruthlessness” and a “cut throat” attitude. I at least am left in no doubt as to who the gutless ones really are. They were careful of course not to say gutless themselves.

Mallard is an ex –teacher professing an interest in rugby and mountain biking who deservedly may be described as a sporting never was. Hill is an ex electricity exec who got as far at Otago U20 rugby so we might call him a nearly has been. Can’t see what about these two really qualifies them to talk about the difficulties and the issues surrounding modern international elite sport.

Hill does sit at the top of SPARC it must be said, but he doesn’t actually run the high performance program. He is probably far to busy working out performance based funding formulae and medal expectations for 2008, which appear to have no correspondence in reality. Can a team of athletes really be described as lacking in toughness when they fail to achieve goals that apparently they didn’t even set themselves ? When the head of SPARC blames a formula and the athletes for the failure to achieve an apparently uncontrollable if not arbitrary gaol; I start to question whether he has any grasp of sporting reality at all. I certainly doubt whether he should really have influence on New Zealand high performance at any level. My earlier point remains you don’t damn athletes because they failed to meet your expectations however well calculated.

Mallard is easier to explain; he clearly feels that NZ have underperformed and that this reflects poorly upon him personally, hence his expert analysis and conclusion that NZ athletes lack “mental toughness”.

Phrases like lacking 'killer instinct' or “mental toughness” reflect exactly the unarguable platitudes that are referred to by the inept and intellectually bankrupt who are unwilling to take responsibility for failure. However if anyone is interested at the bottom of this section I have put the dimensions of “Mental Toughness” as researched and published by Jones, Hanton and Connaughton of the Uni of Wales in 2002, who took the time to ask elite coaches and athletes what they thought mental toughness was. Note the absence of phrases like not being too nice or indeed cut throat/killer instinct. While you are at it see how many of those 4th places can actually be attributed to lack of these qualities. And if you have time read the more sensible and measured response of Dave Currie our very capable chef de mission.

I too am disappointed to see that NZ didn’t do a well as on previous occasions and there may be room for improvement in many areas. But to be honest my first step would be to sack those in authority who appear to want to either grandstand at athletes expense or are unable to take responsibility for their share of failure. Such people are in my opinion of no use or value to a team. Say something positive or constructive or shut up. Better still go join act and then we know not to take you seriously.

1. Having an unshakable self-belief in your ability to achieve your competition goals 2. Having an unshakable self-belief that you possess unique qualities and abilities that make you better than your opponents
3. Having an insatiable desire and internalized motives to succeed
4. Bouncing back from performance set-backs as a result of increased determination to succeed
5. Thriving on the pressure of competition
6. Accepting that competition anxiety is inevitable and knowing that you can cope with it
7. Not being adversely affected by others’ good and bad performances
8. Remaining fully-focused in the face of personal life distractions
9. Switching a sport focus on and off as required
10. Remaining fully-focused on the task at hand in the face of competition-specific distractions
11. Pushing back the boundaries of physical and emotional pain, while still maintaining technique and effort under distress (in training and competition)
12. Regaining psychological control following unexpected, uncontrollable events

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Cars and me

Okay lets make something clear.....

I love cars, I was brought up in a car town. The kids I grew up with worked in the factory until they closed it down. Crikey I used to have a compendium of cars, models and stats in my head just like all the other kids. Cars are in my blood they were an indivisible aspect of my growing up. Had my first proper kiss in a car, got laid for the first time in a car, had a birthday party...yep in a car. Once filled a car with birthday balloons just so that I could romance a beautiful girl. So much of the beauty, pain anguish and excitement of my life has been framed by a motor windscreen. Even now when I get behind the wheel of my cheesy Nissan, the Bogan, the Kev whatever.... screams to get out. When I'm on the road with the stereo loud you can see the years (and the common sense) just flow away from me. Get the idea ? There will always be some part of me that will so so so looooooove cars, driving and the illusion of freedom they bring.

So why have I chosen to walk to work ? I'm a selfish bugger I don't want to give up my car......

The problem is that as I have grown older I've learned to look beyond, bonnet, mirror signal manouver. Every time I drive I know I am doing a bad thing. Me I'm bad; not just the other guy driving next to me, or the guy I am passing on my left or the Mum driving her kids to school...no I really mean me. I am as bad as everyone else and especially bad when I am the only one in the car.

That fact bothers me... but not as much as the fact that it has taken 23 years to figure this out and think a little differently about the issue. I'm worried that there may not be enough years left for everyone else to figure this out and more importantly to think so differently as to change the way we live; which is what is necessary in order to save the future. This is my responsibility as much as it is that of anyone else who gets behind a wheel.

I'm tired of ruining the lives of people I have yet to meet........The difference between my parents and I is that the truth and consequences of my actions are inescapable.

The equation I keep in my head is this.....Millions of years ago trees and plants were more abundant than they are now - they harvested Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and released Oxygen, keeping the Carbon. In so doing they created conditions essential to allowing mammals and in turn me to exist. While we were evolving, the trees and plants died and the Carbon they harvested went to earth with them. It made coal and oil.............All the time we burn these as fuel we reverse this process. Logically if we do this for long enough we will eliminate the vary conditions that allowed us to exist at all.

I like many others I am concerned about the fact that we have no means to re-capture the carbon dioxide and the elimination of important life giving conditions is set to take place awfully soon. How do I come to feel this....I look around and notice that this fuel we is starting to become costly because it is no longer in abundance. If this fuel is scarce then we may assume we have made considerable inroads into reversing natures carbon dioxide harvesting process. This should worry us all not just the Americans or the Alaskans or the Chinese but me too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Apple's slice too big ?

The question needs to be asked; has Apple fallen out with someone big in the music industry ? Has Jobs had a standoff over the cost of ITunes ? Because in response to potential French legislation requiring the interoperability of DRM.......Apple are squealing....

"If this happens, legal music sales will plummet just when legitimate alternatives to piracy are winning over customers."

Not true, in fact the reverse may be argued:

No-one is talking about the French calling for the removal of DRM technology far from it.

However in the current situation as I see it; If for some reason I don't like IPods i.e. because they sound c**p (partially true IMHO) and want to buy a superior competing device (fill name of any other device in here). Having quite possibly invested $thousands in ITunes(quite possible), I have limited options......

i) Burn all ITunes on to CD and then rip them to non DRM MP3 – Not very legal and likely to add the the probability of piracy due to the proliferation of non-DRM protected material.

ii) Use either an existing player like Winamp or some freely available software to achieve the same aim. Also not very legal blah, blah, blah.

iii) Go and download my entire music library from existing pirated sources. Don't see that being too popular either; especially if I see other stuff I like and don't have to pay for.

iv) I could of course buy all the music again from a compatible service. I think most business men begin to see the customer starting to look a bit pale and poor.

v) I guess I could just buy another IPod and suffer c**p sound.

From a distance it becomes clear that the only gang who benefits from ITunes is Apple when things are viewed in this way. They (Apple) stand to lose a lot if they allow interoperability of DRM. Most of the commentary on the topic has acknowledged this. What has been made less clear is this argument that ITunes with its restrictive approach is damaging the DRM cause. Something that I suspect hasn't escaped the notice of the big DRM gangsters that run the digital copyright racket. In truth I suspect they have known this for some time.

Far be it for me to say that French politics is corrupt, but like the rest of Europe they are quite responsive to the voice of the DRM Gangsters (music companies and existing exploiters of copyright)....hence the present draconian and non-sensical digital copyright legislation which can be operated as a racket to make people pay more for less....rant rant rant.... My point being, I don't think such a challenge to Apple would have come about without the backing of someone other than the consumer. Someone somewhere wanted this to happen it seems likely that the consumer was not considered here. This legislation only really damages Apple. After all, as far as I can gather (not reading in French) the rest of the package looks like your usual don't use ripping or cracking software gumpf. Which would explain why M$oft, Yahoo and others are not squealing.

Was this just the right time for a well targeted challenge to reopen a shrinking uncompetitive market or was this in fact just the right bit of legislation at the right time ?

Well you know what I think.......(he said slipping a legit CD into his PC for ripping to the hard drive in an unprotected format). Don't love DRM or the Music industry but boy do I want to know who Apple p****d off.

The bit that does make me chuckle is the probability of another copy protection own goal. I suspect after the current round of publicity, more people will know how to get round ITunes protection than did before, hence the pirates gain allies.......Thanks Apple - Greedy Greedy Apple........

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Killing in the name of……

This is a blog best known for misplaced and mis-timed irrational outbursts. Watch this though. The images really do speak for themselves. For the first time in a loooong time I cried for real at the sheer hate and anguish caused. How can anyone feel that they are being justly represented by people who would condone and do such wrong……


I think when you see things from day to day you don’t for one reason or another feel the full impact of it all…

It makes me ashamed to speak the English language. Can we ever put right and make peace with those that we treat in this way ?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Smokocar ?

I’m sure this must seem both evangelical and absurd but in many respects drivers are the smokers of the 21st century. They occupy an extraordinarily protected and expensive place in society. Just as smokers of the early 20th century were allowed to light up where and when they wanted, so drivers are allowed to drive wherever and whenever they wish. Roads are in many respects both metaphorically and sometimes literally the ashtrays of our age.
The fact of the matter is that driving is a health hazard for those driving and those around them. This can be illustrated in terms the levels of activity associated with driving, the amount of activity that is subverted by roads-unreasonable driving and the effects on the environment. Please don’t try and convince me that vehicle emissions are somehow unlike passive smoking. There is a clear and indisputable health precedent for the reduction of vehicle use (some would argue there is quite a compelling economic one as well). This is a key battleground for health in the coming century. In the post war developed world the same precedent was established with respect to smoking. Replace the phrase “big tobacco” with “big motor” and you have a grasp of how some people feel about the issue. Taking bikes off roads is the same, as saying non-smokers can’t stand in a room where someone is smoking. Indeed the issue should be reversed, just like smokers; motorists should be forced to occupy a decreasing space in society. Actions like this can and should be driven by the knowledge that it will benefit the health of everyone involved.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

We the little people vs. Auckland transport planning


ARC announces a funding gap of $700m and declares that the public transport wishlist is in the freezer. Absent from this declaration is any suggestion to cease road building and road improvement so we may assume that this is business as usual in cartown. And the already f****d up public transport system can rot again. Well how bad can it be ?

It takes my wife 80mins to get from Auckland hospital to our door at peak times a journey that can’t be more than 15k (a fit adult on a bike can do this in half the time). At sparrows fart the trip to work never takes less than 50mins (nb. There are no viable really early buses from where we are as we found out when we tried to catch an early plane). But now the fun starts - we cannot afford for my wife to take the bus-ride from the stop at the top of our drive why ? Because that route is owned by a different company to the one that runs the majority of routes into and around Auckalnd central connection of these services for the regular commuter would require a ‘special pass’. To buy a linked annual pass for this purpose would cost another $1000 on top of the $1400 we already pay. So to go from door to door using the bus service from the shore would cost a minimum of $2400p.a.. If my wife wasn’t a student I suspect it would cost closer to $3000. I dread to think of the cost to someone who has to use three services to get to work and doesn’t buy an annual pass. At these prices cars are starting to look really good value for money.

But here’s the best bit, my wife renewed the bus pass (that only she can use) at a cost of $1460 using the provided internet portal. The site declared that the pass would be delivered within four working days. It wasn’t delivered so two days before the expiry date she had to phone them to find out where the pass was. My wife was told that she would have to go to and collect the pass from a someone involved at Auckland Uni who was to be found at enrolment. If we had not have phoned how long would it have taken for them to tell us and did they propose to do it in writing ? After 45mins of queuing the pass was obtained with the accompanying excuse that the passes kept on getting stolen in the post so they wouldn’t send it. This is a lie defeated by the fact that the passes can be de-activated on request and therefore useless to the thief. The second reason given was altogether more truthful, so few passes had been requested they basically couldn’t be bothered to sort out postage. How lame is that ?

Despite considerable subsidies from ARC, the incumbent service provider still fails to open its books to public scrutiny, fails to provide a service that in any way really encourages all but the most determined commuter and has yet to buy its predominantly agreeable drivers a decent wage; But! they still pay shareholder dividends of course. Just how f****d up can this be………………

And no the alternatives for those of us on the shore are not good…..

Both my wife and I stopped cycling to work, why ? because Auckland drivers have no regard for anyone but themselves. We have collectively cycled in Beijing, Shanghai, London, Geneva, Paris, of all these places Auckland remains the worst. So bad in fact that it scared us off the road.

That said you really don’t want to walk in a town where the only safe place for cyclists is the path and consequently there is no safe place for pedestrians. This is also the town that cannot be a***d top put pavement on both said of many roads so getting to work on foot is a trial of lights that seem to take forever. Which is necessary because you have to cross and re-cross the road to find the pavement that will get you anywhere. Don’t bother running unless you want to spend a fortune on orthotics and physio either. The camber of many paths here is just silly…..

When I first got here I wanted to run from my house to the skytower over the Auckland bridge I have given up hope, but the idea still gets a few laughs along with the excuse that no paths were added to the bridge because the gradient was too steep….go on tell me that this rumour is true…..