The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Well I don't feel much like blogging at the moment, so I guess I'm going to take a break.

Please feel free to peruse the Archives and the Few Things Worth Noting.

Also here is a game that Nickname Pending brought to my attention - it involves pretending you run MacDonalds and thus much despoiling of the earth.

Update, 5.18pm February 18th 2006: I'm not sure that I'm coming back, so I would advise that those interested subscribe to this blog through Bloglines, and then you won't have to keep checking this page to see if I'm posting again. span.

weather with you

Hat tip: Samantha Burns

You Are Sunshine

Soothing and calm
You are often held up by others as the ideal
But too much of you, and they'll get burned

You are best known for: your warmth

Your dominant state: connecting

No comment, except to say I don't feel very sunny today.

Monday, February 13, 2006

graphomania - the old blogomania?

As part of my preparation for my trip later this year I'm trying to read a few fiction books about the places I'm visiting. I've just finished The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, in advance of perusing Prague, and I stumbled across the below in Part Four: Lost Letters (Chapter 9, for the listeners at home):

I asked him what he wrote.

His life story. The story of a man who swam three days at sea, held his own against death, lost the ability to sleep, but preserved the strength to live.

"Is it for your children? A family chronicle?"

"My kids don't give a damn." He laughed bitterly. "No, I'm making a book out of it. I think it could do a lot of people a lot of good."

My talk with the taxi driver gave me sudden insight into the nature of a writer's concerns. The reason we write books is that our kids don't give a damn. We turn to an anonymous world because our wife stops up her ears when we talk to her.

You may ask whether the taxi driver was merely a graphomaniac. Let us define our terms. A woman who writes her lover four letters a day is not a graphomaniac, she is simply a woman in love. But my friend who xeroxes his love letters so he can publish them someday - my friend is a graphomaniac. Graphomania is not a desire to write letters, diaries, or family chronicles (to write for oneself or one's immediate family); it is a desire to write books (to have a public of unknown readers).


Graphomania (an obsession with writing books) takes on the proportions of a mass epidemic whenever a society develops to the point where it can provide three basic conditions:
1. a high enough degree of general well-being to enable people to devote their energies to useless activities;
2. an advanced state of social atomization and the resultant general feeling of the isolation of the individual;
3. a radical absence of significant social change in the internal development of the nation...

But the effect transmits a kind of flashback to the cause. If general isolation causes graphomania, mass graphomania itself reinforces and aggravates the feeling of general isolation. The invention of printing originally promoted understanding. In the era of graphomania the writing of books has the opposite effect: everyone surrounds himself with his own writings as with a wall of mirrors cutting off all voices from without.

(my emphasis)

Kundera wrote this is 1979 - replace the word "book" with "blog" and I think my point is made. It reminds me of our habit, in the NZ political blogosphere, of so often talking past each other, so rarely actually having a conversation that isn't primarily about point-scoring.* If I ever stop blogging, that will be why.

(I actually wrote all the above [well typed, in the case of Kundera's words] a couple of weeks ago, but it seems even more apt in the wake of the Mohammed cartoons.)

- Milan Kundera
- Blogging

* Thank you though to the many commenters here who don't descend to that level, and also to Idiot/Savant of No Right Turn who I believe maintains a high standard that I certainly aspire to, even though I doubt I will ever reach it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

4 (four) - a meme

Tagged by: MVT

Four jobs I've had:
1. Fast food cashier and kitchen hand - couldn't eat KFC for years afterwards
2. Admin slave - the boss found it difficult to understand why I couldn't answer the office phone at all hours, despite the fact that he only paid me to work 20.
3. Shop assistant - at an attempt to copy the Body Shop (it went bust)
4. Typing up the TV listings for Craccum (unpaid) - The Hawke of Algiers anyone?

Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Princess Bride
2. Run Lola Run
3. Labyrinth
4. The Fifth Element

Four places I've lived:
1. North Shore, Auckland
2. Kingsland, Auckland
3. Howick, Auckland
4. Mt Eden, Auckland
(Yes, I've never lived anywhere but Auckers)

Four TV shows I love:
1. Green Wing
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
3. The Office
4. Doctor Who

Four places I've vacationed:
1. Te Kaha, East Coast
2. Vietnam
3. Bintan Island, Indonesia
4. Waiheke Island

Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Macaroni Cheese
2. Cao Lau
3. Chicken Paprika
4. Peach & Apple Cobbler

Four sites I visit daily:
1. Bloglines
2. Google
3. No Right Turn
4. Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Ireland
2. Tahiti
3. Wellington
4. Te Kaha

Four bloggers I am tagging:
1. jarrod at First Against The Wall - in the hope he will start blogging again!
2. Mr Frank Stupid at Stupid Internet Name
3. Red Confectionary
4. Cactus Kate

Thursday, February 09, 2006

pages keep on turning

As some readers may be aware, at the end of March I'm heading on a little trip overseas for a few months.

This trip will begin with a rather long flight, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Suitcase space is at a premium, so I'm limiting myself to only carrying one (reading) book at any one time.

Thus I'm looking for a guaranteed winner, nice and thick, but not too hardcore, to take on the plane. It needs to be able to keep me interested, through the long long hours, be paperback, and preferably have a distinct ending so that I'm not annoyed that I haven't packed the sequel.

Oh and it needs to be something I haven't read before.

Recommendations please, dear readers, for your Best Aeroplane Read (Long Flight).

the zone diet

Last night I noticed Bill English's press release on Feb 7th which trumpets out "96% of parents can't be wrong", and goes on to say:

A survey showing that 96% of parents want to choose which schools their children attend shows Labour is out of step with the aspirations of New Zealand families, says National’s Education spokesman, Bill English.

I checked out the Maxim report that English is referring to. I wanted to see what the question was in this survey:

Parents were asked to respond to the statement, "I would like to select the school my child goes to," indicating whether they strongly agree, agree, neither agree nor disagree, disagree or strongly disagree.

Nearly all parents (96 percent) indicated that they would like to select the school their child goes to.

Maxim then go on to defend the simplicity of the question, but I want to know is, what would the answers have been if they had shoehorned these facts in:

  1. Approximately two thirds of NZ schools don't currently even have zones. The Maxim report itself has a dandy graphic on this that shows only 33% of primary schools and 38% of secondaries have zoning. (I suspect that the vast majority of them are in Auckland and yet those surveyed were from across the country.)
  2. Being able to pick which school you want your child to go to doesn't mean you actually get to chose which school they attend. Just like the Oscars - you can pick any Oscar that you want to win, but unless the Academy picks you for it too, you ain't getting it.
In situations where spaces are tight (remember Point 1, this is about a third of schools), there is no guarantee that just because you choose School A your child will get in to School A, unless there is some obligation on the school to take students like your child above others.

Under zoning that obligation is for schools to take local students above others. Without zoning that obligation is up to the school and its Board of Trustees, and they could decide anything they liked as long as it didn't directly contravene legislation, eg the Human Rights Act. They could decide they were only going to take students who lived in houses with even street numbers and if you happened to live in an odd numbered house, tough cheese.

In the zoneless world it is the school who has all the power. It becomes even more dangerous when community involvement is also curtailed, through associated policies like encouraging schools to take-over others and turning schools' senior figures into managers instead of professional leaders. Where demand is high and supply is low the market will provide - which usually means the people with the big wallets gets what they want and stuff everyone else.

Abolishing zoning gives the appearance of parental choice. But it can't deliver the reality.

Moxie over at Kete Were has been writing some excellent stuff on zoning recently, e.g.
- John Morris - victim of injustice?
- Zoning debate rages on - in my mind at least

- Education
- Zoning

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

disagreement in a caucus of two?

Remember this from Rodney Hide's recent speech, you know, the one that created much furore on the Right side of the blogosphere:

"Don Brash will lead National into the next election – so long as his caucus keeps their collective nerve.

But Don must kill the question over his leadership quick smart.

He should take a leaf out of the late Sir Robert Muldoon's book when confronted with the “colonel’s coup” in 1980.

Sir Robert reached beyond his caucus and enlisted his supporters across the country to retain his job and dispense with the ambitions of his opponents.

Don Brash needs to front up at caucus on Tuesday and put his leadership on the line. He needs to tell those MPs who are destabilising his leadership to put up or shut up.

They won’t put up. They don’t have the numbers.

Don then needs to ask the National President and Party Head Office to conduct a ballot of all members to test their support for his continued leadership.

Compare and contrast with this, from Act's The Letter:

Instead of wasting time, demanding pledges of loyalty, National need to review their parliamentary tactics.

The speech was delivered on February 2nd, The Letter went out on February 7th.

Has Hide changed his mind within a week or does Prebble still write The Letter?

youth rates bill to pass first hurdle

Hat tip: Andrew Falloon (!)

Image heinously uplifted from:

Looks like the numbers are in favour of putting Sue Bradford's abolition of youth rates bill through to Select Committee, thanks to, of all people, Peter Dunne. Wohooo!

Aucklanders have a chance to express their support for the Bill at this rally on Saturday, and I'm sure the campaign will heat up once it's through the first vote in the House, which I think will happen this Tuesday.

It all ties in with the campaign to raise the minimum wage (for everyone). Although I believe $12 is still too low, this is an important first step in addressing very real, and pressing, concerns about the level of income of a lot of families. If people currently had enough to live on there wouldn't be loan sharks all along the main street of Otahuhu and popping up near many state housing areas in Auckland. Proof, yet again, that the market will not provide for everyone.

Update, 12.33pm 8th February 2006: Thanks to Joe Hendren for pointing out in comments that the Bill is only about youth rates, not lifting the minimum wage. Oops! I've corrected my original post (including the title) accordingly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

the blog you'll hate to love

Your chance to get one back - Splog - SPAM us.

The Splog's description says it all:

This page was put in place so that you can spam here instead of other blogs where spam is unwanted. Spam is welcomed here. I'm ready to visit your lovely websites, leave a comment.

Gotta love that Next Blog button.

Monday, February 06, 2006

saying no

Gosh, Maia of Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty posts some excellent, thought-provoking stuff. She challenges me (inadvertently) to be a better feminist and I love that - it makes the synapses fire and reading her writing often results in connections clicking into places between random things stored away forever in my skull.

Recently she posted about the case of Ranui Biddle, who was recently found not guilty of raping a woman who had agreed to Biddle sleeping in her bed. According to the jury, and the judge, this woman's agreement to Biddle sharing her sheets was also an agreement to sex, despite the fact that she said no.

Well that's handy to be aware of. I shall be sure to write that down somewhere so that I won't forget. Maybe a tattoo on my hand would be a good place: "Span, Don't Forget, Bed Sharing = Consent to Sex." To be sisterly, I should also go around and tattoo this message (sans the span) on the hand of every woman I encounter, presumably from a young age; shouldn't every woman know about this new law?

Seriously though, this judgement is seriously disturbing. As I've commented on Maia's blog, this kind of event always prompts me to think about when it is too late for a woman to say no.

Is it:

a) before the date
b) at the start of the date
c) before the man pays (if he pays) for the meal/movie ticket/whatever
d) before she shares transport with the man
e) before she invites him in, or enters his abode
f) before they kiss
g) after they kiss but before anything else
h) before clothing is removed
i) before they are in bed
j) before penetration
k) during penetration
According to the judge and jury in the Biddle case, it's at point i (before they are in bed). And that, dear readers, is a total and utter crock.

At any of the above points if one of the partners says no the sex should stop. It might be hard, it might be frustrating, but it should stop. No means no. It means no further. It means stop.

In fact, I reflect on the fact that No is often one of the earliest words that people learn. Those working with small children will know how irritating it is when they learn No, and its power. There is no ignorance in our society when it comes to the meaning, and intent, of someone who says no. There really are few words so clear, especially in this situation, as NO.

(All of this just underscores the point I made a few months back in my post saying yes. Wouldn't it be better to have a policy of If In Doubt Find Out - actually talk about sex, communicate openly and honestly, and if you're not sure if your partner is into it, ask.)

I want to take the Biddle case a bit further. Imagine that we are talking not about sex but about dancing. Pretend, if you will, that you are the one who doesn't wish to dance, but this doesn't occur to you until you are actually on the floor and being twirled around, or perhaps you change your mind. You can still say no at this point, with no greater penalty than annoying your partner. You can walk away at any point.

Sex should be the same - and no one should be in the least interested in continuing sex (or dancing) with a partner who is not keen.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

more on Bloghui

Following rebutted cynicism over at Kiwiblog about the forthcoming BlogHui 2006, there is now a Stuff article on the March event.

At $300 a pop it's rather a stretch for the common blogger, but let's hope this first one is a success and future ventures can become more accessible. I note that participants for this year's are limited to 100, which is probably a good way to test viability.


Yellow Peril right on the money

All of this palaver about cartoons of Mohammed has rather missed the point, imho.

Yes, many people can publish them legally (free speech and all that) which is a Good Thing. I have no problem with the original publication of the cartoons, but some of the blog incarnation of this saga is really quite juvenile.

If your sole motivation in publishing the cartoons is really just to piss other people off (to put it mildly) is that actually a good reason to do so? That seems to me why most of the NZ bloggers who have published them have done so.

I note that many of the cartoons are in languages I certainly can't read and I expect many of those who have blogged them also fail to actually understand the punchlines. So publication really is more about saying "Up Yours" rather than anything else.

Tze Ming has put it better than I ever could:

Why be so determined to publish low-quality cartoons only, and specifically only because they will upset a vast amount of people who never did anything to you, but who, rather, have had to put up with this crap in escalating doses since September 2001? The right to 'take the mickey' is truly satisfying when the powerful are being mocked. What kind of satisfaction are these newspapers taking from putting the boot into people who are already floored? I mean, what is the point?

What I hate the most about these 'freedom-of-speech' moments, is that when the desired outrage is elicited from some cheap shot (eg, a newpaper gets called a pack of cunts, people stop buying Danish cheese) then those reactions are deemed attacks on freedom of speech. Well, they're not. They're further expressions of freedom of speech. Sow, reap, eat.

Update, 12.19pm 6th February 2006: Maia and Mr Stupid have posted in a similar vein:
- Free Speech - Capitalism Bad
- ixnay on the lasphemybay - Stupid Internet Name

Update the second, 10.48am 7th February 2006: Psycho Milt and I are having quite a civilised and (imho) constructive disagreement about this all over at a post on Sir Humphrey's (scroll down to read the comments).

Mohammed cartoons
Free speech

own goals II - Jan update

You can read my original NY resolutions here. The first month has gone ok imho.

However I realised that I forgot to assign myself rewards for each resolution, so these are inserted this month instead.

1. To start swimming once a week - I have gone swimming the last three Sundays, which I think is pretty good. For various good reasons I can't this morning, but I'm planning on going to the gym a bit later for a work-out anyway. My swimming is hideously bad however - I did 6 lengths (it's a 25m pool) the first time, 8 the next, 10 last time, and I'm doing 2 of each stroke that I know (breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, doggy paddle, freestyle without doing the breathing properly). It's much harder than I anticipated.

Reward: If I'm still swimming regularly by the end of September (seeing as I will be out of the country for three months and will then have to get back into my gym routine from the end of June), I'll book myself in to a spa for some pampering for half a day.

3. To eat breakfast - this is going pretty well. I take some toast into work each day, and have furnished myself with some nice jam, and am even managing to do an approximation of this most weekends as well.

Reward: If I'm still eating breakfast every work-day by the end of September (same deal as 1.) I'll buy myself the two Bartimaeus trilogy books that I don't have yet.

4. To take my lunch to work most days - mostly successful, although work is getting insane, which means a lot of time on the road, which in turn means Drive Thru Take Aways (shudder). I shall have to counter with pita pockets of spinach, salami and feta methinks.

Reward: Well the obvious reward for this (same time scale as the previous two) is a slap up long lunch somewhere delightful. Suggestions in comments please folks.

5. To make some decisions about my political activism outside work - I think the trip will probably make some decisions for me in a way. I think it will be valuable (for me) to remove myself from the equation totally for a few months and then reassess without all of the emotional baggage when I return. I'm helping out with Auckland's International Women's Day committee and a film fundraiser for Auckland Sexual Abuse Help at the moment, although I suspect I've over committed myself at a time when (as mentioned in 4.) work is overwhelming.

Reward: I think the main reward here will be a sense of purpose and a lack of guilt. No other reward seems necessary at this stage.

Second Half of the Year Resolution
2. To start learning te reo - has to wait until I'm back from the mini OE.

Reward: Once I'm enrolled in a decent course I'll treat myself to a CD I've been hankering after (probably the latest Goldenhorse), and when I've completed the course I'll add a DVD (I'm thinking Green Wing*, if it's available in NZ by then).

I never did get those sparkly roller skates from last year's reward list. Going to keep my eyes peeled while I'm in Europe and damn the postage!!

New Year's resolutions

* Wohoo Season 2 starts in the UK in March!!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

the end is surely nigh

Hat tip: Samantha Burns

Yep, it's a Canadian reality TV show entitled The Next Great Prime Minister. (Be aware, this page seems to take An Ice Age to load). Apparently they are basically turning an existing concept into a show for the small screen, as the competition itself has been around for a decade already in some form or another.

It sounds like a similar concept to Trump's The Apprentice, with four ex-PMs judging and an internship with a Canadian public policy think-tank as the ultimate prize. However at this stage it is a one-off special, rather than a full series.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

damn it

I know I was having an argument somewhere with Mr Stupid about Maori not being a dead language.

50 points (in Stupid parlance) to the person who can direct me to the post (it wasn't on here).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

away again

For work, for a few days. After that work goes insane with busy-ness, so blogging may be a bit light over the next few weeks.

And a belated get well soon to MTNW too.