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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What They Said

I was going to write something both witty and pointed about Pita Sharples' advocacy of that ol' favourite of the Right, Work for the Dole, but Tze Ming, and Russel Norman, and Jordan, and no doubt heaps of other people have already done it better than I.

All that remains for me to do is register my a) disgust and b) contempt, and then go on to quote the best graffiti I have ever seen:

Unemployment is Not Working

And hands up all those surprised to hear John Key talking the same walk today? Maybe there's something in those recent Herald profiles of National MPs - almost all of them so far have said the non-National MPs they respect are in the Maori Party...

Honouring the 5%

In homage to this post and the resulting thread at Public Address, which in turn is a response to that Herald on Sunday editorial (sadly and somewhat suitably offline) about what a curse we bloggers are upon the world.

And here's more cat blogging by your gracious host Span.

Unfortunately Wrong-footed

I've come late to the online kerfuffle about the blog criticising CYFS workers, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it.

Those who have waded in so far include David Farrar, who wrote about the CYFS Watch blog and why he isn't linking to it. Conversely Idiot/Savant linked to it, and thinks suppressing it is a dangerous thing for our democracy. (Others who have written on this, please feel free to add your link in comments).

The Social Workers Registration Board has put out a release on Scoop about their accountability processes, which served to highlight that registration does not appear to be compulsory for their profession.

It's not often I find myself in disagreement with Idsy, but this is one of those rare occasions.

I take his point about freedom of speech. I think it is very important. But what's also important here is the rights of these workers, and I believe that both could have been respected if the CYFSWatch blog had been done differently.

In particular, if it did not include the names and personal details of the Child Youth and Family (CYF) workers and if it omitted the high level of personal abuse - if it focused its anger on the employer rather than the workers, basically.

There should be processes within CYF to raise concerns and have them addressed. As someone who deals with similar processes in a different setting every working day, some people will not have a legitimate grievance but will persist regardless. Others will have a strong case but not pursue it. Such a process will need to be able to soothe the former and encourage the latter. It will also need to respect the rights of the workers to natural justice and fair process, or the vicious circle will simply continue with a new person wearing the mantle of the aggrieved.

The process also needs to recognise that sometimes (I suspect often) the concern that has come about is due to flaws that go beyond a single social worker. Which is why the CYFSWatch blog is so wrong-footed. Because ultimately who can effect change to the system that is CYF? The individual social workers? Not so much really, particularly not if they act alone.

The blog has done some valuable work in raising awareness of the high level of frustration and rage felt by some who have had dealings with CFYS. There is always room for improvement, but I hope that the angry blogging has not prejudiced the ability to see the causes of that seething as something bigger than the actions of this social worker or that one.

I also sincerely hope it has not led to threats against any of those named on the blog, or their families. We have a chronic shortage of social workers, registered or not, and this kind of scrutiny, which goes against natural justice and makes those workers vulnerable, is hardly going to help.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

And in the Blue Corner

And so the debate about the make-up of the Labour caucus continues - Carl has posted about the shock news that there are some unionists amongst the Labour MPs, while Insolent Prick has analysed the Red Team to portray it at (what he considers) its worst. You'd never guess he has strong associations with National.

But let's turn the tables a little here - let's look at National for just a few moments. I know that in general people don't like to overly scrutinize National MPs, goodness knows why, but perhaps they deserve a little bit of our attention.

In comments to my post refuting Fran O'Sullivan's attack on the make-up of the Labour caucus, Psycho Milt postulated that a change of Government probably wouldn't see that journalist similarly writing about the lack of "union activists, teachers, lecturers, community workers and nurses" the National caucus has.

So just how many does it have? I live but to serve...

Nurse aide, community worker ("welfare representative") - Paula Bennett
Secondary teacher - Gerry Brownlee
Primary and secondary teacher - Brian Connell
Nurse - Jo Goodhew
Community worker ("youth education coordinator") and union member (4 years in the Clerical Workers Union* in the mid 80s) - Tau Henare
Legal academic - Wayne Mapp
Secondary teacher - Allan Peachey
"Junior lecturer" - Lockwood Smith
Physics teacher (secondary) - Maurice Williamson

As with the Labour MPs, I've looked only at their bios on the Parliamentary website, for consistency's sake. Feel free to make additions/subtractions in comments.

I'd note that "community worker" is about as hard to pin down as "business person" and "entrepreneur" were for the Labour list. Further I haven't included Nick Smith, as he was a tutor at university, not a lecturer, or Nicky Wagner (a lecturer, but at a polytechnic which doesn't quite fit the Labour stereotype) but I'm willing to argue the toss on whether they count or not.

The above is a considerably shorter list than that produced by applying O'Sullivan's list ("Business people, successful entrepreneurs, military men, scientists, accountants, farmers, diplomats and even a few lawyers") to Labour MPs.

Psycho Milt's list works out at:
Union activists - maybe one**
Teachers - four
Lecturers - two (four if you include Smith [N] and Wagner)
Community workers - two
Nurses - one (and one nurse aide)

So what we can conclude here is that the stereotypes applied to Labour MPs apply even less to the National caucus than the reverse.

Newsflash indeed!

* The Clerical Workers Union amalgamated with what is now the Service and Food Workers Union during the 1990s.
** Despite David Farrar's pronouncement in comments over on a post about this at Just Left that many National MPs would have been union members over the years only one listed it. And I note that the one who did is an import from another party.

Friday, January 26, 2007


So on January 9th this year I posted some fictitious political news cos there wasn't much doing.

My four spurious announcements included the following:

Bush: "We Will Fight Them On The Beaches" - George W finally admits that climate change is a) real and b) not so good, and decides to launch a comprehensive War on Carbon Emissions, starting with fuel efficiency standards in line with China.
Then in Bush's state of the union address, reported January 24th here, there's this:

President Bush today called for Americans to cut their petrol use by 20 per cent over a decade, mostly through a nearly five-fold increase in use of home-grown fuels such as ethanol by 2017.

In his annual State of the Union address to Congress, Bush also called for tighter vehicle fuel efficiency standards...

I'm looking forward to my other stupid predictions coming true!

Maybe I should also forecast a Big Wednesday in my near future. Although that might mean I have to start buying tickets.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stand alone

Guesses welcome. Chocolate fish imaginary.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A few surprises in the Labour caucus

Both Jordan Carter and DPF have posted on the Fran O'Sullivan column about Labour renewal on their list, and what kind of people O'Sullivan wants to see Labour select and/or promote.

This has provoked some contest in comments about the current make-up of the Labour list, and the National list for that matter, and whether either meet O'Sullivan's call for:

... Business people, successful entrepreneurs, military men, scientists, accountants, farmers, diplomats and even a few lawyers, a Tim Finn or a Sam Neill to revitalise my [Helen Clark's] Government.
O'Sullivan herself notes a few people who actually do fit her list who are already in the Labour caucus or likely to enter it, including Shane Jones and Stuart Nash, and says that the party currently has amongst its MPs:

More than half of the caucus have been either trade union secretaries or union
activists at some stage of their careers. Or they were teachers, lecturers, community workers and nurses.

The caucus boasts a couple of lawyers, a farmer and some with business experience but they are in a clear minority.

First up, what is actually wrong with being a teacher, lecturer, community worker or nurse? Or a union activist*? Many NZers are, and in public votes on the most respected professions teachers and nurses are generally right up there. Certainly they would have more contact with a broader range of us everyday Kiwis than your average merchant banker.

Then there's the second bit I've quoted, the current makeup of the Labour caucus. Now I've had a quick gander at the Labour bios on the Parliamentary website and actually the MPs can tick more of O'Sullivan boxes than I thought, from a perusal of their former careers. A lot of the bios are clearly incomplete, but still I came up with the below:

Poultry farmer - Chris Carter
Partner in one of the big law firms - Charles Chauvel
Business management experience - Clayton Cosgrove
Diplomat, management consultant (latter is according to Stef, in comments, added 25th Jan) - David Cunliffe
Another lawyer - Lianne Dalziel
Soldier AND lawyer - Russell Fairbrother
Possible accountant ("Computer accounts, Treasury") - Phillip Field (oh the irony)
Company director - Martin Gallagher
Retailer ("Fruit and vegetable shop") - Pete Hodgson
Shearer and farm overseer - Parekura Horomia
CEO of a local Enterprise Board - Annette King
Business person AND dairy farmer - Damien O'Connor
Lawyer, manager and director, "worked in agri-biotechnology field" - David Parker
Finance Officer in the banking sector - Jill Pettis
Business management experience, including being a Fellow of the NZIM - Ross Robertson
Air Force service, tourism operator - Dover Samuels
Restaurant owner and manager - Judith Tizard
Another lawyer and legal academic (clarified in response to comments, 25th Jan) - Margaret Wilson

So I make that**:
  • 10 business people (hard to define what counts and what doesn't, of course)
  • 2 "military men"
  • 1 possible scientist (Parker)
  • 2 possible accountants (Field and Pettis)
  • 2 farmers and 1 farm overseer (O'Sullivan said Labour's caucus had "a farmer")
  • 1 diplomat
  • 5 lawyers (O'Sullivan said there are "a couple" now and that the party needed "a few")
It seems to me that O'Sullivan's point is that Labour doesn't have enough owners. It doesn't have enough people who represent capital, rather than labour (note small l). I believe Labour does need serious renewal, but imho Labour is too favourable to the owners already.

I challenge O'Sullivan to have a butcher's at the diversity in National's caucus with a similarly critical eye, and see just how representative John Key's party is.

* Many who were union activists did it concurrently with work in other areas, which is the reality for most uniony people.
** Clearly some of the Labour caucus have done more than one of the things on O'Sullivan's list, so the bullet points would add up funny. Successful entrepreneurs I have no idea about, as I can't get that kind of information from the bios. Oh, and Jim Anderton, leader of the Progressives, but secretly a Labour MP in disguise, was a business person (managing director of 2 businesses according to his bio) - I'm sure someone told me once that he used to own a factory that made shopping trolleys, amongst other things.

If Span were Oztraaleean

Here's a grand test to discover where you fit in the Australian political system. (Hattip: Idiot/Savant, who is 94% opposed to traditional Australian values!)

If I were Australian I ought to vote for the Greens (96% preference) and I'd sit on the Far Left of their spectrum overall*. No surprises there. I think I'd rather eat my ballot than vote for John Howard. (Certainly I'd be less likely to get indigestion if I did.) However I was only 67% opposed to traditional Aussie values. The results state that a high positive result in this category is equivalent to the positions held by the "Christian Right."

It's different from many political tests, as you have to indicate a preference - even the undecideds are tainted towards agree or disagree, which I think is a good idea, unless you are truly apathetic or indecisive (in which case you probably wouldn't do such a test in the first place).

The hardest question for me was this one:

Protecting the environment is more important than providing social welfare services to people in need.

I think it's a false dichotomy. There are ways to make sure that you tick both of these boxes, and I'm definitely in favour of pursuing those first, before making trade-offs.

Unlike other online tests I've done lately, this one has 50 statements to answer. And I really liked their caveat:

This page was designed for fun. If you are unhappy with the results, do not
worry about it too much.

*For those wishing to send their own results to others, or put them up on their blogs, you need to click on the link near the bottom of the results page that gives you a permalink. I didn't and had to redo the whole thing, with the result that I am now 0.9% less in favour of the Greens.

National cuddles up to the sidestream vote

So John Key is off to Ratana today, and was making nice noises toward Maori on Morning Report earlier. And Jackie Blue's positive comments about Tariana Turia in the Herald yesterday have been posted by David Farrar.

Anyone else smell a charm offensive?

Key knows he has a lot of work to do to mend the bridges razed to the ground under Don Brash's leadership. I'm pretty sure I heard him say something in the media recently about the need for National to make it clear they will work with groups that don't vote for them if/when they win a term in the Beehive.* Not only is he correct about this in the sense of a functioning democracy, it's also good strategy for moderating the public perception of his party.

In some ways the timing of Key's ascension has been very bad for Labour - the Xmas break has allowed him to appear brand spanking new, and shiny with it, for 2007.

IMHO the media is being quite soft on him and he is encouraging it by being very careful with his tone and words, focusing on coming across as someone who hasn't made up their mind yet about various matters and is still considering. It will be interesting to see how long he will be given to put his stakes in the sand. Giving a big interview to Investigate was a clever tactic - National strategists must know that the hard right will read it but "mainstream" NZ is unlikely to.

I look forward to Key's plays for voter groups formerly written off by National; women, non-Pakeha, union members, non-heteros, etc. I doubt however that National's policies will change much to reflect the friendlier shop window.

* New blogger Carl from Single Malt Social Democrat thinks it unlikely Labour will be turfed out next time, in an interesting post about the possibilities for the 2008 election.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Do Pass Go

One of the good things about flying to Wellington for work periodically is that I get to peruse the Air NZ mag and dream about other places I'd like to travel to (nice as Wellington is).

When I flew last week I noticed a little item in the mag about a website encouraging NZers to vote for a new set of street names for a new NZ Monopoly board, or rather vote for where on the board they should be (highest number of votes will probably be where Mayfair usually sits).

The new Monopoly is to be called "Here and Now", and asks you to vote in each region for one of three landmarks. For example the Wellington choices are the Cable Car, Oriental Parade and the Rimutaka Ranges. Auckland's are Rangitoto, the Sky Tower or the Viaduct Harbour.

While it's quite nifty (and the website is certainly grand), I'm not sure I get the idea of having monopoly properties that a) aren't streets and b) are often public parks. How much rent could you charge someone to stay in the Sky Tower? Or on a cable car?

Anyway, you can vote once a day in each region before Feb 11th, and you can follow the results live as well.

Don't say I never post anything meaningful and useful ;-)

Linky Love - Volume 1

I've been quite inspired by the link farming work that Ampersand does over at Alas, and have decided to do a bit of it myself, although no doubt on a much smaller scale.

My intention is to semi-regularly put together a post that links to a whole lot of posts that I've noticed and got something out of in recent times. Mainly these are going to be from NZ pol blogs, because that's often what I read, but also feminist blogs. They'll be the posts that I probably haven't written about but wanted to. Sort of like a recommended reading list, but I'm not vain enough to think that anyone will follow my recommendation. More like an acknowledgement to the author that I appreciated their post even if I didn't comment or write my own post on the subject.

I've decided not to call it a link farm though, as Wikipedia tells me that has pejorative connotations as it is a spammer tool. "Linky Love" seems to more reflect what my sentiment is, so I'll see how that goes as a name.

So here is my first go at it. Hopefully it won't be the last!

Anarchia - Mental Illness: My Struggle - thought-provoking post from Asher about responses to disclosure of mental illness

Put Up Thy Sword! - Repentant Kiwi Bloke - don't agree with everything AJ says (no surprises there) but this is a revealing and interesting (if somewhat paternalistic) piece about rape and the responsibility men take (or don't) for sexual violence.

Capitalism Bad: Tree Pretty - Hating your body is for losers - Maia writes about feminism and body image, wondering what we can do collectively to stop the hate.

Hard News - Appeasing Osama - Russell Brown has covered the outbursts from Dinesh D'Souza, blaming the left for 9/11 because of our support for liberalism (in the sense of homosexual rights, feminism, etc). An interesting discussion has ensued in the forum thread.

Inside Higher Ed - Against Phalloblogcentrism - Article by Scott McLemee about the perception that political blogging is dominated by men, and how that culture may be maintained. (Hat tip to Make Tea Not War's post at What We Said, where there is also some discussion in comments of this notion) (Apologies to MTNW for not adding the hyperlink, fixed 24th Jan)

I See Red - Minimum Wage 1980 - 2007 - Tony Milne has done a very helpful graph of the level of the legal minimum wage year by year since 1980, thus under both National and Labour-led governments, plus an additional graph showing it in today's dollars. While the evidence is not surprising it is certainly good to have.

Long Ago and Not True Anyway - "Post Abortion Syndrome" - Terence succintly sums up the wrongness of anti-abortionists arguing on the basis of protecting women's mental health.

NZ Human Rights Lawyer - Mad Bad and Unparoleable - given all the recent reactionary palaver about parole, Mark Lillico's contribution is refreshing, imho.

Ranting on the ROK - Vanity Size Me - a post by Stef about the irritation and impracticality of the practice of labelling a size 12 as a 10 (etc) that seems to be infesting women's clothing.

Red in Roskill - As the Bishop Said to the Editor - Michael Wood returns to blogging with a piece about (Anglican) Bishop Randerson's comments about faith, inciting what must be the longest non-spam comment I have ever seen.

Ok that'll do to start with.

If you have a post of your own, or some else's, that you'd like to highlight please feel free to add it in comments, or to discuss the above posts, or indeed most anything else. In particular I'd appreciate some feedback on this concept, good or bad.

A golden view

Okie dokie, who takes the chocolate fish?

And big ups to Gerrit for the tip-off about filenames, I won't be making that mistake again, not that it seemed to be the source of the guesses for any of you.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blog Spots

Mellie is back blogging at Random Contributionz, giving his input on the whole strange blogger drinks saga of recent times. Who would ever thought people having a few bevvies would be so controversial? (Or maybe we just like to talk about ourselves?)

Also back in the bloghood is Michael Wood, having reinvented his previous blog Bertrand Bargolias as Red in Roskill.

And, it seems getting back to the blog was a New Year's resolution for Geoff Hayward too, as he has reactivated The Thorndon Bubble.

I've added to my blogroll anarchafairy and Contradiction, which have both been around a wee while but I've only just cottoned on.

Anyone else new or renewed please feel free to add linkage in comments.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Public transport systems I have known

Over on Brain Stab Morthos wrote (ages ago) about some of the public transport systems he has used, in the UK and Italy. It got me thinking.

I live in Auckland. Not exactly an area renowned for its fabulous public transport system, particularly if you want to go somewhere other than the CBD, especially somewhere in another city (eg North Shore to Manukau). I remember having to catch three buses to get home from the airport once. Which is fine if you have a lot of time (and less luggage), but not so good for the majority of people.

Things have changed a lot here since I got a car and now I only use public transport sporadically. Auckland still has a long way to go, but there seem to be Plans, and there's some evidence of their implementation - double-tracking on some of the Western line, more bus lanes popping up. The recent announcement that the Onehunga line will not be re-opened is a bit of a blow, but I suspect the fight will continue there and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it becomes a hot local issue in the elections later in 2007.

Anyway, the point of this post was actually not to write about Auckland but to write about some of the systems I had the luck to use while I was overseas last year. Only in the UK did we have a car, which of course we got rid of as soon as we got to London. But in all the other countries we visited we were reliant on public transport. For the most part it was grand. (This exception can't really be blamed on the Tube as a system).

Everywhere we went, with the possible exception of Moscow*, the public transport system was easy to navigate, despite our English-only limitations (ok, Nickname Pending had some German too**). Mostly the staff were friendly and knowledgeable, often anticipating our needs. Usually the prices were reasonable or cheap - a luxury born in some places from possessing a population large enough to sustain the system without subsidy. Clearly the public transport system was used not only by tourists but also by commuters, families, people going about their everyday lives, because it was comprehensive and went to the places people not only worked and slept, but also where they did their living.

In other words, quite different to Auckland.

Many cities had underground train systems, something NZ lacks. Moscow's Metro was certainly the biggest, and had these escalators that went down and down and down until you were certain that you must be coming back up again. For anyone who has had vertigo at the top of HSB1, multiply that tenfold. The trains were rickety and noisy, and seemed to be going at great speed. The announcements were all in Russian and you could go anywhere you wanted on one token as long as you didn't surface. Some of the stations had chandeliers and mosaics left over from the Soviet era, but I was only brave enough to take a snap of the outside of our local station (didn't want to end up a Kiwi version of Zaoui in a Russian jail).

St Petersburg also has a Metro, but we hardly used it, so I can't really comment on that, and Istanbul's we didn't quite understand. We got on at one end of the line and the next stop, just up the hill, appeared to be the other end. Obviously an oops by us somewhere in that experience. I'm sure it's very nice.

Athens was pretty good, which you would expect as it was built for a recent Olympics, and we trained everywhere from Italy onwards - within cities, between cities. Have Eurail pass, will train. Often the Italian trains were grubby, but they were always (roughly) on time, and safe. Procuring tickets and tokens was a breeze, although you have to validate your ticket in a little yellow box thing before getting on. Once you got used to doing that it became automatic and no hassle at all.

Lljubjana wasn't so big on a train based public transport system, so instead they had amazing bus coverage. At around a quarter of the size of Auckland, it puts us to shame. Although we did encounter more weirdos on those Slovenian buses than anywhere else in Europe.

The German systems put everyone else to shame. S-bahns and U-bahns, it was just a marvel of public transport in both Munich and Berlin. Paris's Metro was also useful, although more difficult to navigate, while Bordeaux had a handy combination of trams and buses that got us around. The trams were particularly great to get to and from the train station, plenty of room for luggage.*** Madrid had another comprehensive subway system, easy to get around and a welcome relief from the extreme heat outside.

And then there was London's Tube. I adored it. If it had been up to me we quite possibly would not have seen any of the sights as I would have been happy to set myself little challenges to get through the system all day long. All of my experience in Moscow, Germany, Paris and Madrid just seemed to prepare me for an underground where the signs were in English, I was somewhat acquainted with the placenames, and there were little quirks to each station.

To return to living in Auckland, a place with barely a decent bus system, and no plans to build a metro, was a big crash down to earth.

What would I like to see in my hometown? Obviously a subway system, but I realise that's ambitious. However I'm sure we could achieve something using a combination of methods - bus, train, tram, ferry - that would mirror the comprehensive coverage of the wider city in a way that the Moscow and London systems in particular do. Spokes of a wheel and then rings connecting them. I'd also love a single ticket system (or even recyclable tokens, save the paper) and council or state ownership of the providers - different private providers have created many of the problems we have now.

We need to do something, and sooner or later someone's generation is going to have to bite the bullet. We do not want to be trying to put this in after Auckland has grown even larger - I have experienced the Bangkok system, which is slowly growing, and it was not pretty.

Although if someone invents the teleport I'm quite happy to shelve my public transport dreams in favour of a network of teleportation stations. Then I'm sure I'd get to the gym more often.

* It didn't take us too long to sort out the Metro, but getting a train ticket from Leningrad station to St Petersburg was a three hour nightmare.
** Which handily saved us from a 32 Euro fine in Naples.
*** Although the friend we were visiting got intercepted by an American evangelist recruiting for Jesus on one of the Bordeaux trams when on her way to meet us. She had to get off several stops early to escape.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mirror mirror

Again guesses are welcome.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I'm down to Wellington for work tomorrow, for the rest of the week.

I'd kind of assumed, seeing as Welly and Auckers aren't really that far apart, that the weather will be what I've been experiencing up here this week, minus the humidity. That would be rather warm and sometimes even sunny.

But then someone emailed me about something saying they hoped I didn't freeze in the Capital - are readers from the bottom of the North going through a cold snap?

Information appreciated!

(Yes I could just check the weather forecast, but, and I know this will be a shock to some people, they aren't always right...)

Going tribal

Noticed over on I See Red, Tony Milne has put up his Tribal affiliation as a Grey Lynner.

It's a pretty simplistic test, but I did it anyway, with the results below:

The Grey Lynn Tribe - Intellectual

The highly educated intelligentsia who value ideas above material things and intellectualise every element of their lives. Their most prized possession is a painting by the artist of the moment, they frequent film festivals, secretly wish they had more gay and Maori friends, feel guilty about discussing property values and deep down are uneasy about their passion for rugby.

Well I'm not that into art (although I do like beautiful things) and I think I've been to three or four film festival flicks ever. But I do feel uneasy about my passion for rugby, and I'm not that interested in talking about property values. I have a lot of gay friends, but could certainly do with more mates who don't share my white bread background!

A few things about the test - it's a bit weird that the tribes are almost all named after Auckland suburbs. Sure a third of the population live here, and that's over a million people these days, but it feels a bit wrong. Also it asks a bit about background and I come from a family which is working class on one side going back generations, and reasonably nouveau riche on the other, so there's quite a clash there that meant there were a few boxes I could have ticked but the other side of the family cancelled it out. Perhaps I'm just a bit too anal about answering quizzes!

And as a piece of promotional material for the book, 8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ, it's pretty dandy.

Rich has come up with a few additions to the list of tribes, to cover the likes of Michael Boulgaris and Graham Capill.

I'd be interested to track the tribes of other bloggers, so please let me know if you do the test, as I have a high suspicion many of us are going to be Grey Lynners. Although I'm betting Asher will be Cuba St. I wonder if there will be any difference between right and left?

Other bloggers' tribes:

Also in comments for this post are the tribes for: Craig Ranapia, Ghet, Asher, Krimsonlake, MTNW and Stef.

(Updated 17th Jan to include new answerers, will make with the linky love on the weekend folks, right now I'm off to Welly for a few days hard work).
(Further Updated 20th Jan to include lots more)
(And even further updated 21st Jan to add Gonzo)
(Yet more updating 24th Jan to add Pam)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Radiating that happy feeling

Because the radiation therapists have reached an agreement* with the DHBs, phew.

This strike (or rather series of strikes) has been very tense. On the one side you have workers who really deserve more recognition (pay and otherwise); a mainly female workforce who perform vital health tasks and are in demand here and overseas, facing great financial temptation to flee NZ. On the other side there are the DHBs, who are not exactly known for their friendly attitude towards their workers, but are elected boards running our health systems, and as such at arms length from the Government itself.

And then in the middle are the patients and their families. People who are in a bad state, going through the worst part of their lives in some cases, and already facing considerable uncertainty about their health anyway.

But all the radiation therapists have had to bargain with, ultimately, has been their labour, or rather its absence.

Like Maria Von Trapp I thought Bishop Randerson was quite wrong with his call for the radiation therapists to return to work for the good of their patients. These are people who have studied for some years, at considerable personal cost, and who do a difficult and highly skilled job, not for the money but because they care. Radiation therapy is not a profession you go into for the dosh - but it is not unreasonable for those working in it to expect fair remuneration.

Everyone, actually, is entitled to be paid at a rate they deserve. In our economic system what you deserve is not possible - instead you get what you can negotiate, and sometimes part of negotiation is taking industrial action, including striking.

I'd also note that a lot of people, including Randerson, have been calling for some kind of arbitration to break these deadlocks. Funny thing is that we already have a form of this, brought in with the 2004 amendments to the ERA (I think) and now called facilitation.** It's for exactly this kind of situation, where bargaining has been protracted and the relationship is fractured. I don't understand why the parties haven't gone there with this dispute, although it does require the consent of both sides, so I'm assuming one or tuther didn't agree. Either that or they did seek it but just continued to refer to it as "mediation" publicly.

Left Reckoner though had it right - the dispute had got to the point where the public relations battle was being won by the DHBs and time was running out for the radiation therapists.

It always strikes (hah hah) me as somewhat ironic that the very people we trust to care for us, or our loved ones, are the same people we, the public, often demand ignore the needs of their own families to serve us. It's a false dichotomy - radiation therapists are part of the public too, they have needs as well, and I know that they will have tried everything they possibly could before striking.

What stinks here is how the DHBs are getting off the hook. They have run the line, successfully, that it was the radiation therapists holding the patients to ransom. But who actually has the purse-strings here? Who was in fact holding out? The DHBs. Remember that the radiation therapists were in fact losing money whenever they went on strike, as they wouldn't be paid whenever they were taking industrial action. Some might say that not having to pay the strikers would have been saving the DHBs money, possibly even enough money to fund the extra pay claimed, but I don't have that kind of inside information. Would be interesting to do the figures though.

While this dispute sounds like it is at an end, this could be quite a big industrial year.*** And much of that will depend on what the Government decides to do with the contents of its coffers, and how hands-off Clark, Cullen et al decide to be.

* I'm assuming they are now going to have to seek member ratification, which actually means it isn't totally over yet, but I suspect that the union involved wouldn't have withdrawn the strike notices unless the agreement was within parameters members had previously indicated were ok.
** And it has been used - I can remember three cases off the top of my head where facilitation has been applied for, although only one of those actually ended up being facilitated I think.
*** In addition to what is happening in the medical sector, there is a great deal on the negotiating table this year in education, and no doubt in the broader public service. I note that the police will not be in talks though, as they settled late last year.

And now for something a little lighter

Again, successful guesser gets imaginary chocolate fish (now 99% fat free!).

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I've been putting off posting this for a while. I keep bringing it up then making a few changes and saving as draft. But now feels right - especially in light of the latest blogged justification of rape that Asher has highlighted (hattip: Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty).

A while back I was given Don McGlashan's latest album Warm Hand as a gift. Unfortunately I find it hard to listen to these days. Now it is intertwined, irredeemably I suspect, with the rage and sadness I feel over an incident that happened in the early 1990s, but which I only found out about last year. Every time I listen to London I get angry. Every time I listen to I Will Not Let You Down I feel righteous but powerless, whenever I get to Miracle Sun I cry.

This is what rape does to this woman, a woman who has not been raped, a woman who has not been abused by friends of her rapist, both physically and by having her reputation dragged unjustly through the dirt for years.

Of all the rape and abuse stories I have heard, from friends, family, people I don't even know particularly well, only one was the victim of a stranger. It was a stereotypical rape - walking from the bus stop home, through a park. The baby was adopted out.

That's one. From many. It frightens me how many women I know who have been raped or sexually abused. When you add sexual harassment to that equation there may be very few women indeed who have never suffered because of their gender. And that violence has come from men known to the woman (almost exclusively in the cases I know of). Not strangers at all, but ordinary men, living in our lives.

What angers me even more, what really causes the rage to swell inside me, is that this ordinary violence is so frequently minimised, when its frequency is the very thing that makes it even more serious and worthy of addressing.

I heard on the radio in mid-December (when I first started writing this post) someone talking about the "primal scream" that Brash's first Orewa speech untapped - the crying out of Pakeha who had felt Maori had too many advantages and were glad to hear someone else voice their anger and legitimise it. While it's not a cause I identify with (or agree with, in fact I believe it is based on lies we conveniently tell ourselves about our past and present), I wonder when the primal scream comes for women.

When do we tip the polls in such a manner that we change the paradigm, that we make it ok to be honest about the abuse, when, and how, do we make it ok to voice the truth. How do we stop it from happening again, and again and again? If a fallacious speech by a dishonest politician can galvanise the racists and bring them out of the shadows, why can't women create such a surge with a grievance so true and so real?

This post isn't about answers. I guess it's my own little primal scream, an attempt to voice the deep concern I feel - to see if there are others out in the ether who feel as I do.

And, if there are any others, if they have any ideas for the transformation I seek. Silent internet screams are not enough.

The Gender Meme

Over at What We Said (Hat tip: Make Tea Not War) Mandarine has started a meme about gender, which I've given a go below.

The author notes that "usually means in your culture/opinon", i.e. you don't need to go and do some census related research, just answer from your own understanding and experience of gender stereotypes.

Three things you do that women usually do:
Tidy the house before guests come around, Shave my legs, Unload the dishwasher.

Three things you do that men usually do:
Care about whether or not my rugby team (Harbour) wins, End up setting up things like blogs or email groups for other people, Wear trousers to work.

Three things you do that women usually don’t do
Crave computer games like Civ, NZ Political blogging, Have quite a high ratio of male friends.

Three things you do that men usually don’t do
Worry about whether my stomach is flat enough, Abstain from alcoholic beverages, Organise the regular food shop for the household.

Three things you don’t do that women usually do
Wear make-up most days, Refer to groups of women as "girls", Tie myself to the kitchen bench when around at the in-laws'.

Three things you don’t do that men usually do:
Drive stupidly, Mow the lawn, Grunt in response to conversational attempts from others.

Three things you don’t do that women usually don’t do:
Carve the roast, Settle arguments with my fists, Fix the plumbing.

Three things you don’t do that men usually don’t do:
Clean the shower, Worry about the size of my arse, Follow Grey's Anatomy religiously.

It's quite challenging to answer and has made me have a bit of a think about the stereotypes I believe in myself. Much of my answering has caused me to feel grumpy, partly with, you know, The World, but also with myself. The double negatives take a bit of double thinking, but it's definitely an interesting exercise.

No tagging, but if you want to do it please feel free. You may want to check out others who have answered this meme from the list there.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Meanwhile, in Fanland

For those of us still ignorant of bit torrent (or who have to turn down kind offers of illicit dealing in overseas TV series due to puter problems), the news that TVNZ has Torchwood is grand.

I wouldn't have minded at all if Prime got it, or TV3, just as long as the damn thing gets shown here, and soon. I do worry about TVNZ doing a Soprano on it, but seeing as I am trying to worry less I am just going to forget about that for now.

There's been a bit of a discussion about TVNZ landing it over at Public Address System, although given my recent admission here (and further discussion in comments), I'm feeling a bit perturbed at Morgan's comment at PAS that one of the main characters is "a drug rapist psychopath that flies off the handle at the slightest provocation." :-(

But it does make me feel better that the night before last I had a Doctor Who dream. I was in an Eccleston episode, complete with Rose, and it wasn't based on an existing plot. I didn't seem to be a character, just sort of observing, and unfortunately I can't remember any of the storyline now, but damn it was exciting!

And Prime seems to be replaying the Eccleston series at the moment, for those who haven't noticed (like me - I only twigged to this earlier in the week, when I caught the episode where Big Ben gets the bash).

So all round it's been a Doctor Who week for me, and there's still two and a half days to go!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things - the return

So before I forget that I did that list of Things and file it away under failed attempts at New Year resolutions (like last year), here's an update, more for me than you.

Some of the list o'Things are just done or not done:

Tick-boxes - completed (or nearly)
x15 Jump drive - purchased, have started filing photos so that I can put the best ones on the stick and hide it.

x18. Buffy - Maia has agreed to be my dealer. First delivery next week!

x31. Dye my hair - done.

x35. Avoid Limewire obsession - have strictly curtailed my visits to around the beginning and end of each month, to avoid totally stuffing up the broadband limit. Keeping a little list of songs as I think of them, not feeling any danger of obsession now that initial splurge is over. Phew.

x37. Mole check - done.

And then there was the stuff that was more vague, and I can't really tick it off until I look back at the year in December and see how it all went:

Amorphous - going well
x3 Exercising more - yep, trying to get to a point where I actually want to exercise every day, and seem to be reaching it. Nickname Pending's sister is an inspiration in this regard, she seems incapable of going a day without a significant jog, and although jogging isn't my bag I am playing a lot of tennis against the wall. Need to find some inside exercise options though, other than the gym (which includes the swimming). Suggestions in comments welcome.

x4 . Haven't worked a single extra hour since we started on Monday. But it's only Thursday. In fact I've been incredibly slack on the whole work ethic thing. I don't feel too bad though, as long as I'm not the worst in the office.

x8 . Keep blogging here - going ok so far, despite the dirge of political news (making stuff up doesn't count apparently).

x10. Commenting more frequently on other blogs. Starting to get into a routine, which is good.

x14. Crosswords - yep, so far.

x21. The Thicket has suffered several concentrated pruning sessions since I posted this photo. However there is still a long way to go. But it's not feeling impossible anymore.

Well that's not too bad for less than a fortnight.

Oh and the pic is heinously uplifted from here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Smelling the flowers

An imaginary chocolate fish to the commenter who can accurately name this temple and where it is.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Nouncements

Well it's been a few days since I last posted, but I just don't feel like there's much political to write about, and I can only go so far with memes and self-indulgent photo posts.

Jordan's indicated that he too feels there is Not Much going on*, but that "there'll be an announcement, soon."

So I've decided to make up some political news upon which to blog. Some announcements I'd like to hear, no less:

A Veritable Tsunami of Funding For Public Services - Clark and Cullen announce (in dubious taste) the Labour-led Government's grand plans to pump meaningful injections into the budgets of schools, universities, polytechnics, hospitals, and other public institutions.

Bush: "We Will Fight Them On The Beaches" - George W finally admits that climate change is a) real and b) not so good, and decides to launch a comprehensive War on Carbon Emissions, starting with fuel efficiency standards in line with China.

Real Issues About National's Conduct - The Herald's editorial reversing their naive dismissal of the concerns raised in The Hollow Men, and signalling the beginning of their own media campaign to root out and expose corrupt behaviour in all political parties.

International Year of Being Nice To Each Other Begins Well - Headline of article covering the launch of 2007 as International YoBNtEO, for politicians, bloggers, and all the people of the world. Blogs across the nation suddenly seem bereft of trollish comments and senseless barbs, while politicians agree that actually there's quite a bit they can develop across party lines without compromising their principles, so let's stop slagging each other in public.

Ok, that's enough to be going on with then.

* Although I'd note that Jordan has managed to write several posts since his Not Much, which suggests that there is more going on than perhaps he initially thought! I however am not motivated enough to write about climate change or Fiji (especially when No Right Turn has been doing such a sterling job).**
**Can I still call it a digression when it's at the end of the post?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Five Things Meme

Pamziewamzie from Red Confec has tagged me with the Five Things meme that she in turn caught from DPF.

It's kind of similar to a meme I did a while back, but I'll do it anyway.

The idea is that these are Five Things that no one knows about me. Then I have to tag five more people to do it too.

1. Sometimes I ask the receptionist at work if she will help me hide the bodies of two particularly irritating workmates.

2. I'm quite disappointed that I probably won't live long enough to see humanity spread to the stars and encounter new environments and species.

3. I'm really curious about something that happened last year where I think I got sold a dummy but I can't bring myself to ask the one person I think I could question about it because I'm scared of the answer (and its consequences).

4. I've never been able to read any Stephen Donaldson because I can't stomach the idea of a hero (or even an anti-hero) who rapes. (I've read Lord Foul's Bane up to that bit, but no further).

5. Whenever I eat scorched almonds I think of that story about the old person with the bowl of almonds and I get a little grossed out.

Ok, here's the five I tag: MTNW, I/S, Maia, Left Reckoner, and Stef. No pressure to do it though, I know meme's are not up everyone's alley.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Blog Spots

Thanks to Idiot/Savant for his grand coverage of the Fiji situation (much easier than trying to work out what is going on from the MSM) and also for highlighting NZ Human Rights Lawyer, a new blog on wot it says it's on.

Also new and noticed is The Coalmine Regulatory Committee, where Darcy has already written a fab post on the idea of differentiated fines, which I agree with wholeheartedly, particularly the following:

To someone who earns $30,000 a year, a $1,000 fine is certainly more economically damaging than such a fine would be to a person who earns $100,000 in a year. Therefore, the person on the higher income is being punished less severely than the person on the lower income – over three times less severely, if yearly income is the only variable we take into account. This is not equitable. These two people, by being given the exact same punishment, are being treated unequally by the law.

I've often thought about this, particularly in relation to speeding fines - for those who are well able to pay, speeding tickets become similar to a fee to speed. While the demerit point system goes some way to even the punishment (and thus deterrent) out, you can still do a certain amount of speeding and simply shell out some dosh for the privilege, which is all fine and dandy if you have a lot of spare readies to flutter about. Must be rather frustrating for the police I imagine.

Good stuff to start the new year with.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Some enchanted ceiling

It's a beautiful day here in Auckers - I've already done too much outside for the safety of my skin (tennis, roller skating, washed the car on the lawn), but I just had to go out once more to take some snaps of this rare event.

And for those interested in perusing the skies of additional others, here's the Enchanted Ceiling site, where bloggers (and indeed other people, I hear there are still some people in the wide world who don't have blogs) can post pics of the heavens above them.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Secret to Job-hunting

Over at Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty, Maia is chronicling her battle with Work and Income to get the unemployment benefit.

It's the kind of real-life writing that deserves regular publication in all our major daily newspapers - if it's this tough for someone like Maia I can only shudder when I think of how others might fare, those with children, or no transport, or cruddy health, or a foreign accent, or no union experience, or brown skin, or visible tattoos, or a nasty former boss, or poor English, or overseas qualifications and/or work history etc etc ad nauseum. I've fitted in to a few of those categories in my time, and any of us could find ourselves trying to row that boat, sans paddle, in the future.
Anyway, go read it, and keep reading it as the episodes of Maia vs WINZ unfold:

Part 1 - WRK4U
Part 2 - The Forms
Part 3 - The Reality
Part 4 - The Call Centre (added 4th Jan)

I'm just waiting for the case manager to mention the importance of smiling.

The thicket

In my x Things List, coming in at x21 is Clear the thicket.

Here's the thicket, as of yesterday.

The picture is taken from quite a narrow viewpoint, and makes it look much smaller than it is. I had a little go at it just before I took the photo, nothing that really made any impact though, so the pic gives a good sense of the dense overgrowth.

When we moved in the thicket was a rose garden. Oops.

My aim is to basically clear it so that it can be abolished for lawn/path/a different garden/a petnaque terrain/a playground for mara/whatever.

I've had a couple of bashes at it in the past. Fingers crossed this time I get to some kind of completion.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Not my New Year's Resolutions

I have a few goals for 2007, some of which I'm keeping to myself of course. I'm not going to indulge in the kind of blogged accountability exercises I did here in 2005 (and tried in 2006, but failed). I don't think anyone was really interested and it became a bit of a chore reviewing it every month.

I was tempted to do a 101 Things list, as suze has done, but it sounds like too much work coming up with them all, so I'm just going to create an x Things list (where x is a variable representing however many things I feel like putting on the list at any given time).

So here it is then, my x Things list, hopefully for completion in 2007. Open to edit of course.

x1. Finish the kitchen (is it just me or was this also on the 2005 and 2006 lists?)
x2. Get to grips with bit-torrent (having just been introduced to the marvels of mp3s, thanks to a very useful Xmas gift, this is surely the next step in bringing Span into the new millenium)
x3. Exercise more (yes, yes, most common new year's resolution and all that, but I actually quite like it). To be more specific, this will be achieved through an increase in the following activities (not exhaustive): tennis, swimming, gymming, roller-skating, walking, cycling (added Jan 2nd), skipping, heavy-duty gardening (added Jan 5th).
x4. Avoid extra hours of work (no more motivation now that I have annual leave again as of today)
x5. Worry less (distraction is the name of the game)
x6. Procure Casino Royale on DVD (whoever thought Cactus and I could agree on anything?)
x7. Get copies of all the Green Wing there is in the world on DVD (this does not include hoovering up all other copies for others, but is limited to one copy of each available for moi)
x8. Keep blogging here, and maybe also elsewhere
x9. Fix the puter (or rather pay someone else to do so) so that my profile works again and I don't have to use Nickname Pending's
x10. Comment more frequently on the blogs of others (first and foremost those on the Regular Reads list)
x11. Purchase some decent black boots without ridiculous heels
x12. Organise a kick-arse reunion in March for my fellow Ancients
x13. Sort out the bookshelves, and hence the books (after all, they aren't going to shift themselves now are they?)
x14. Do more crosswords
x15. Sort out one of those memory stick things (the words, they escape me) to deal with my anxiety about our hard drive being stolen and all of my photos being lost to me.
x16. [secret]
x17. Wear my contacts more often.
x18. Make a commitment to getting more Buffy into my life (starting from a base of zero)
x19. Work out how to be less enraged/irritated/annoyed by The Misanthrope (this may involve removing him from my life, although my most recent attempt was unsuccessful)
x20. Get a spare set of AA Sony Rechargeables (and AAAs)
x21. Clear the thicket
x22. Fix the CD burner (no, it's not the software)
x23. Be less sarcastic
x24. Take B vitamins
x25. Turn the back room into a decent spare bedroom
x26. Play Bastard with Johnny the Red et al

Ok it looks like today x is equal to 26.

That'll do to be going on with.

Update, 2nd January 2007:
As inevitably happens with these kinds of posts, I thought of some more, such as:
x27. Use less petrol
x28. Use less electricity
x29. Do my neck exercises (and fend off those damn migraines)
x30. Go to some live comedy
x31. Dye my hair
x32. Attend at least one Harbour game
x33. Try the Box n Kick class at the gym
x34. Be more assertive with certain workmates who have made dumping an artform
x35. Avoid getting totally obsessive about Limewire.

Update, 5th January 2007:
But wait, there's more!
x36. Clean out the fridge
x37. Get my moles checked
x38. Have a proper dental check-up (not just the hygenicist either)
x39. Tackle the oven
x40. Try Idiot/Savant's hot choc recipe (in comments)
x41. Create that artwork I've been meaning to do
x42. Replace the ugly and odd lampshade in the bedroom (it urks me everytime I look up, which is quite often when you are lying in bed)

Ok I think I should stop now. If x is equal to 42 then that sounds to me a rather appropriate number. In other words - DNA would approve.