Oct 30, 2008

Who you should vote for - a Merl post

Every wonder why otherwise sensible and intelligent people could make the absolutely awful and unfathomable decision of choosing to support their terrible political party, the party which would take the country to hell in a handbasket and would make you consider emigrating to another country if they won the election? Me neither.

So without further ado, here's a guide to voting for the parties in the upcoming New Zealand election:

Act. You should vote for the Act party because they are the natural party of libertarians. Standing for both economic liberalisation to moral permissiveness, if this is you then Act is your party. Please disregard the hypocrisy of Rodney voting in lock-step with National to condemn several morally permissive pieces of legislation, or the fact that he spoke up in favour of those issues before he became leader of what is left of the Act party. He proudly represents Act's founding principles and puts party before self, even if the party might only be himself after the next election. Vote Act!

National. You should vote for National because it really isn't such a big deal that what the party says in public is quite different from what they say in private. Please. Give us more credit than that. Since everybody know about National's 'secret agenda' of welfare cuts and selling state assets to anonymous donors, it isn't really a secret agenda. It's like advertising really. It's not a lie if the advertiser doesn't expect the public to believe it. And that's why you should vote National.

United Future. Vote for Peter Dunne because you might get an extra MP who you've never heard from into parliament. But at least it won't be the Christian Democrats!

New Zealand First. Accounting is hard. Really hard. That's why most people pay accountants to handle their finances for them. Who could blame Winston for taking a pugnacious and grandstanding approach to dealing with the media, when it's precisely this approach that has served him so well for his entire political career? So what that only legitimate disciplinary approaches for his alleged misbehaviour need to come from either the Prime Minister or the Privileges committee, both controlled by Labour and amounting to a smack on the back of the hand (note: written before the privileges committee found against Winston). If Labour disciplined him before the election they would be committing electoral suicide by bringing down their own government, and who expects them to put principles above political power? They are politicians. Winston is New Zealands most consumate politician, and really, who in parliament is more interesting? You should vote for New Zealand First.

Labour. Usually the major opposition party campaigns on a 'get the buggers out' platform. You should vote for Labour because they've apparently forgotten that they are the incumbent government and are arguing for re-election primarily to protect the treasury benches from National. And charges that they are a tired party with no new legislative ideas (having passed fewer pieces of legislation in the last term than any government in the last 20 years) are ridiculous. Who cares that in the last term they have frequently resorted to the delaying parliamentary tactics usually used by the opposition to obstruct legislation simply because they don't have any other pieces of legislation ready to be debated next. They are not National. And that's why you should vote for Labour.

Jim Anderton and whatever he's calling his party at this election. You should vote for him because there just might be enough people like you this time round to get Matt Robson back into parliament. Maybe.

Maori Party. You should vote for the Maori Party because they reject all the PC rubbish of recent times. Call a spade a spade, and they do. Multi-Culturalism is absolute rubbish, and serves only to distract people from what's really important, Bi-Culturalism. The Maori Party take a refreshingly different approach to campaigning. They are the only party not slavishly courting your party vote (since they will be creating an electoral overhang in parliament and really don't need party votes to hold the balance of power post-election). And that's why you should give your electorate vote to the Maori Party.

Greens. You should vote for the Greens because although they are not and never will be more than a minor party, every private members bill that passed in the last term of government was a green initiative (although they were definitely helped by the Labour government not having any government legislation that they really wanted to pass, making more private members days available than usual). If you want more social engineering and moral decay in society this is the party for you. Remember the anti-smacking bill? Outrageous. People should be allowed to assault their children as God intended. And climate change? Please, that is the product of media hysteria and has been thoroughly debunked. You should vote Green. Read more...

Oct 28, 2008

The Frivolity of Evil

I was passed an article to read this morning by a fellow kiwi home-edder. "The Frivolity of Evil", by Theodore Dalrymple. It's a discussion of the repercussions of the fusion of the welfare state and a culture that says that the highest good is never to feel bad about yourself.

The full article is here.

Now, personally I have grave reservations about abolishing the welfare state. I think the parties on the Right end of the political spectrum have a lot to gain by having a desperate and hungry workforce - when employers have 100 people desperate for the 1 job you've advertised then the employer gets to set any conditions they choose. High unemployment and no welfare sets the stage for exploitation, child prostitution and indentured labour (more honestly known as slavery). On the other hand, welfare sets the stage for selfishness, apathy, eternal adolescence, dependancy and depression.

Right now our society sees the evils of Welfare because that is the system we live with. Some years ago the Political Studies department here had about half a dozen academics - all but one had been born and raised in the West. These 5 were all vehement Socialists/Marxists/Communists etc. The one academic who had been raised behind the Iron Curtain was a fervent Capitalist/Democratist.

We see the evils of the system we are in.

But anyhow, I found the following quote from the article to be very thought-provoking...

...sooner or later the summation of small evils leads to the triumph of evil itself.

...There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

The consequences to the children and to society do not enter into the matter: for in any case it is the function of the state to ameliorate by redistributive taxation the material effects of individual irresponsibility, and to ameliorate the emotional, educational, and spiritual effects by an army of social workers, psychologists, educators, counselors, and the like, who have themselves come to form a powerful vested interest of dependence on the government.


Oct 24, 2008

Randomness and children

Miss4 helping in the garden

Miss4 has spent the last two or three days in this dress-up dress. It was actually my flower-girl dress from when I was 5, but it is now the firm favourite dress-up. I think she's being a princess most of the time, but it varies.

She now teams it up with a light blue baseball cap, with a dress-up wedding-veil secured over the top of it. Startling, but surprisingly pretty. She got lots of indulgent smiles from strangers when we went to pick up Merl's Grandma from the airport a couple of days ago. Today the dress and hat/veil were complemented by a shoulder purse (containing a small pony), a tote-bag (containing a stuffed zebra, koala, and two toy rabbits), and the blue surgical hair-net she was allowed to take home after her operation - not worn as a hair-net, but brought into service as a special cocoon/cradle for her toy panda and a couple of dinky cars.

I like hanging out with kids. They're so random.

Merl's Grandma is staying with us for just over a week. It is really wonderful to have her with us, as we haven't seen her since Christmas, and every day is precious! She's our girls' only remaining Great-Grandparent, and my heart gets a lovely warm feeling in it when I see the connection they've made with her.

Back to the theme of randomness in children...

Conversation in the car today:

Miss4: Why did M have a pirate party? Why wasn't it a mermaid party?

Me: Well, I guess he preferred pirates. But that's okay, cos you went as a mermaid anyway.

Miss4: He should have had a mermaid party.

Me: Well, it was his party. He can have any sort of party he wants to.

Miss4: What if he'd had a Sky party instead?

Me: That would be cool. Then people could come as clouds or birds or aeroplanes or stars or all sorts of things. What other things?

Miss4: Fairies, and other flying things.

Me: What would you go as?

Miss4: A mermaid.

Oct 17, 2008

on holiday

Our family spent a wonderful 5 days in the North Island visiting Merl's family last week.

Here's Miss 4 playing ball in the sun with Grandma and cousin S. The rules of this game could briefly be summarised as "don't hit people with the bat - hit the ball! The ball!" On the whole, good sportsmanship abounded, but 3 year old boys with a bat in their hand seem to need constant refocusing on the true task at hand!

Miss1 really loved the whole trampoline thing. We have a tiny little one at home - but nothing compares to a 'real' trampoline.

Especially with a ball. Balls make a good thing better.

We even took the opportunity to leave the children for a 'sleepover' with Grandma and Grandpa for one night while we traveled to our old home town for a friend's wedding. It was the first time in 5 years we've been childless. I cannot describe the feeling that washed over me as I realised that no-one, not a single soul, would be calling out for my attention in the night.

'Bliss' would come awfully close :)

I slept like a log until I woke to the dulcet tones of Merl saying "what's the time?" And it was 7.30!!! That's a royal sleep in, that is.

Wedding was lovely, children had behaved well and not been at all distressed by our absence while gone (although Miss1 wouldn't let me out of her sight once we'd returned). All in all a wonderful trip, with the only down-side being that we can't do it more often! Read more...

Oct 14, 2008

reading in the dark

It's about three quarters of an hour since the girls went to bed, and I've just discovered that Miss4 is even more of a replica of her mother than I'd thought. She was curled up in the passageway with a book trying to read in the dim light coming through the glass front door.


So I sent her to bed with dire warnings of eye strain and short-sightedness (I've been very short-sighted since I was 8 years old), then had a quick conversation with her Dad.

The choice is either to ban night-time reading or to allow it under the covers with a torch (so as not to disturb her sister).

We figure that if she's anything like either of us (and boy is she like us both), she'll disregard the banning of the reading and just continue to read via streetlight and moonlight. So, the torch it is. We shall have to get one of those dynamo ones so we don't go through lots of batteries. Read more...

Oct 13, 2008

Go the Greens

Well, if I was to vote in our upcoming General Election purely based on their home education policies, I'd have trouble deciding between the Greens and Act.

NCHENZ, the National Council of Home Educators New Zealand have an "Election 08" section on their website, where they have posted responses they have received from parties to enquiries about their education policies.
Since I feel that I would spend lots of time crying in the shower trying to scrub myself clean after voting for Act, that leaves me with one clear choice.

Okay, so I was probably going to vote for them anyway, but this makes me even happier :)

The other proviso is that I haven't seen the policies from National or Labour. But I think we can guess that Labour (the incumbents) won't move too far from where we are - which would also make me happy. And we know that National wants to bring in national standardised pencil-and-paper testing of every grade level even at primary schools. No word yet on whether that will extend to private schools or home-edders, but I am firmly opposed to this policy even in state schools, so it almost doesn't matter what their home-ed policy is.

As for United Future, whose voting base has generally been conservative Christians, I hear rumours that they want home educators all to operate through the Correspondence School. Hmmm. Not my cup of tea either. And not something that will fly with the bulk of the Christian home educators either I wouldn't think.

24 Oct 08
Edited to add:
United Future have clarified their position. The person who answered a question saying that homeschoolers would all have to work through the correspondence school was under-informed. (I'm guessing that, like many kiwis, he thought that homeschoolers were people who used the Correspondence School).

Anyhoo, UF are supportive of homeschoolers and see no reason to change current system etc etc.

Oct 7, 2008

Tracking Wages - A Merl Post

These graphs seemed interesting to me. From No Right Turn. Read more...

ig nobels 2008

The Ig Nobels are in for this year.

Although the coca-cola and exotic-dancing research subjects have, predictably, caught the imagination of the media, I personally liked the Peace Prize. Imagine needing to dish up a salad while preserving the dignity of the ingredients...

Here there are in full, from the Improbable Research website.

NUTRITION PRIZE. Massimiliano Zampini of the University of Trento, Italy and Charles Spence of Oxford University, UK, for electronically modifying the sound of a potato chip to make the person chewing the chip believe it to be crisper and fresher than it really is.

PEACE PRIZE. The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity.

ARCHAEOLOGY PRIZE. Astolfo G. Mello Araujo and José Carlos Marcelino of Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, for measuring how the course of history, or at least the contents of an archaeological dig site, can be scrambled by the actions of a live armadillo.

BIOLOGY PRIZE. Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.

MEDICINE PRIZE. Dan Ariely of Duke University (USA), Rebecca L. Waber of MIT (USA), Baba Shiv of Stanford University (USA), and Ziv Carmon of INSEAD (Singapore) for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine..

COGNITIVE SCIENCE PRIZE. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University, Japan, Hiroyasu Yamada of Nagoya, Japan, Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, Atsushi Tero of Presto JST, Akio Ishiguro of Tohoku University, and Ágotá Tóth of the University of Szeged, Hungary, for discovering that slime molds can solve puzzles.

ECONOMICS PRIZE. Geoffrey Miller, Joshua Tybur and Brent Jordan of the University of New Mexico, USA, for discovering that a professional lap dancer's ovulatory cycle affects her tip earnings.

PHYSICS PRIZE. Dorian Raymer of the Ocean Observatories Initiative at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA, and Douglas Smith of the University of California, San Diego, USA, for proving mathematically that heaps of string or hair or almost anything else will inevitably tangle themselves up in knots.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE. Sharee A. Umpierre of the University of Puerto Rico, Joseph A. Hill of The Fertility Centers of New England (USA), Deborah J. Anderson of Boston University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School (USA), for discovering that Coca-Cola is an effective spermicide, and to Chuang-Ye Hong of Taipei Medical University (Taiwan), C.C. Shieh, P. Wu, and B.N. Chiang (all of Taiwan) for discovering that it is not.

LITERATURE PRIZE. David Sims of Cass Business School. London, UK, for his lovingly written study "You Bastard: A Narrative Exploration of the Experience of Indignation within Organizations." Read more...

Oct 6, 2008

kereru, bruised ribs and puppets

All features of this last week, which has been moderately eventful, as these things go.

For a start, I spent the latter half of last week waiting to discover whether I had Shingles or Pneumonia. Turns out it was neither (thankfully). I had a bad cold and extremely sore ribs on one side - couldn't cough, laugh or even breathe deeply. Went to Dr who sent me off for a chest x-ray and started me on antibiotics in case of pneumonia, but said he suspected shingles, but wouldn't be able to tell until the rash came up. Spent next couple of days in pain and feeling unwell. People from church prayed. X-ray came back clear. I no longer feel the slightest bit unwell. But ribs are still very sore.

Yesterday I recalled being viciously (albeit accidentally) jabbed in the back by a small person's elbow about the day before my mysterious rib pain began. That sort of thing happens all the time so I'd forgotten all about it. Bingo. So I had a cold and injured my rib-cage. Still, at least I've had the x-ray now and know there's no rib cracked or anything. I'll just need to be careful and gentle for the next few days. Yay for a husband who loves to stay home with the kids! He was great - took most of last week off so I could sit/lie around doing nothing while he took care of the offspring. Good stuff.

On to the kereru (native woodpigeon). These were quite common to see in our neck of the woods when I was growing up, but then almost vanished about 10 or so years ago. Well, they're back, and this pair were spotted in the gum tree in our neighbours house. I love them. They make cool "whoo whoo whoo" sounds with their wings as they fly, they try to land on branches that are ridiculously inadequate and fall off, and they're altogether lovely.

I hope they stay and the gum tree doesn't get cut down this year (or ever). There's a couple of neighbours who hate it with a passion as it shades their sections quite thoroughly even in summer, drops gum leaves every where and threatens to 'self-lop' one of its great branches into their section. I can understand all that - gum trees aren't really great in suburbia (they also don't like other stuff growing near them and inhhibit healthy growth of other plants), but they provide great nesting sites for these beauties. And they suck up huge volumes of water each day. My section has kinda soggy bits all through winter so I'm happy for the gum tree to be taking what it needs.

On to our third, unrelated topic for today. Puppets.

I handed Miss4 a book of 100 things to make with paints and paper and suggested she have a look through for something to do today. She decided to make a 'dancing dollie'. She drew and coloured the picture of the dancer, and showed me where to cut the holes for her fingers. Then she cut out around the dancer and voila - a dancing puppet.

I unearthed a discarded wine cask box from our craft supplies stash and improvised a wee theater using the craft knife, and she was quite taken with it for about 20 minutes this morning.

It's fun introducing her to new ideas - she's seen puppets before, and played with our wee finger puppets that you can see in the photos - but we've never taken the leap to staging a puppet performance ourselves. I'll raise it as an idea tomorrow. The usual pattern is that she'll be uninterested in something when I first mention it, but after it rolls around her mind for a while (and this could be a long while) it may pop back up, seemingly out of nowhere, as a full-fledged interest.

I'd also like to get hold of a prism in the next week or so. We're reading the Magic School Bus Color Day Relay chapter book, and there's an explanation of white light being fractured by a prism, but reading about it, hearing about it and even seeing it on YouTube (I haven't looked, but I'm confident its there) doesn't compare to actually holding the thing yourself and seeing it happen in real life. Read more...

Oct 2, 2008

e-day - disposing of electronic waste

Are you in NZ? Do you have old computer or mobile phone bits lying around? (who doesn't...) This Saturday is the day to get them out of your house without them going to the landfill. eDay organisers claim that up to 95% of the collected waste gets recycled in some form or other (only 5% going to the landfill).

Computer waste is a big deal - those little chips and cell-phone bits contain lots of heavy metals and sometimes radioactive waste. Not only are these toxic to waterways, they are really expensive and wasteful to mine for in the first place - much better to keep them cycling through usefully.

From the eDay website...

eDay is a community initiative designed to raise awareness of the hazardous nature of electronic waste (e-waste), while offering an easy way for households to dispose of old computers and mobile phones in an environmentally sustainable manner.

eDay was created in response to a growing concern about the volume of e-waste being dumped in landfills around the country with a potentially toxic effect on the environment.

The event was launched in Wellington in 2006 with an extremely successful pilot sponsored by Dell. Fifty-four tonnes of unused computer hardware were collected in one day. In 2007, eDay was extended to 12 locations throughout New Zealand where a total of 6,900 cars dropped off 415 tonnes of e-waste. This included more than 26,000 computer items including monitors, CPUs and printers.

Click here to find out where your local drop-off point is

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