and crocodiles cry, too

January 12th, 2014

And once again, two things about this article:

1: Assuming that the photo is of the Neill Andrews who made the reported dickheadish racist statement on Facebook – and given the Herald’s preference for vaguely borderline irrelevant photos from Thinkstock, I’m not sure – then I’m curious as to why he’d get a tattoo that looks an awful lot like Japan’s World War 2 rising sun flag with the word 家族 (family, household, whanau, MDBG also says clan, pronounced jiāzú in Mandarin) in the middle? Oh well, at least it says something coherent, I mean, it could be a lot worse. But the flag that tattoo so resembles is associated with some rather horrific events, and I find it hard to reconcile with “family” or “whanau”.

2: Why is this guy being given any credit for expressing remorse or regret? Look how the Herald quotes him:

“I pretty much take the piss out of everything and everyone,”


“I make fun of stereotypes and topics that are taboo because it’s important that we do talk about these things,” he said.

“Yes, I am over the top in the way I do it at times, but it gets the issue and message out there. I certainly didn’t want to offend a whole race of human beings and for this I am extremely regretful.”

If you want to take the piss, you actually have to be funny, for starters. Secondly, precisely what issue and message did he want to get out there? If he was meaning to call attention to the evils of racism, then, judging by what they Herald quotes him as having posted to Facebook, he really needs to seriously rethink his communication strategy, because it reads a hell of a lot like he was actually encouraging racism. Thirdly, if you don’t want to offend entire races of human beings, don’t say or write things that offend entire races of human beings. It’s really not difficult. But far more importantly, this just reads like crocodile tears. He behaved, to put it very mildly, like a dick, then when he got called on his dickishness, he was all “Oh, woe is me! People are taking issue with my dickish behaviour!” If you load your apology up with “I was just taking the piss” and “I am over the top at times” then I see no reason to believe you are actually remorseful for your behaviour. Perhaps “It was a badly failed attempt at humour” would be better, but whatever, that’s not what he’s quoted as saying. What he’s quoted as saying reads like just as big a non-apology as a certain two former radio hosts made a couple of months ago.

Two things irritate me about this article.

1: So what if the Brits want to whitewash the ANZACs out of their World War 1 centenary? We really need to drop the post-colonial chip off our shoulder. It doesn’t matter what they do, we still know we and the other colonials saved their sorry pommie arses from ignominious defeat three times (Boer War and both World Wars) before they finally resigned themselves to being America’s lapdog.

2: Dear NZ Herald: “media” is plural, so that sentence should read “Australian media report” – note the lack of a 3rd person singular ‘s’ at the end of the verb. But more importantly, who wrote this?:

Australian media reports the “Anzac whitewash” is driven by a bid to win political and economic favour in multicultural Britain.

“It’s basically to remind Britons the First World War wasn’t just soldiers from here fighting in France and Belgium but involved people from Lagos, Kingston and the Punjab,” a government insider told News Corp. “There has been no mention of old Commonwealth allies like Australia or New Zealand but more interest in celebrating the role from new Commonwealth countries. I think it’s fair to say Commonwealth ties are being frayed a little on this one.”

What utter nonsense! Why? Well, Lagos clearly refers to Nigeria and Punjab to India, and I’m going to assume that Kingston refers to Jamaica. Jamaica came under English rule in 1655. The British East India Company began trading with India in 1617, and the Raj began in 1858. British influence in what is now Nigeria seems to have begun with the 1807 abolition of slavery, but Nigeria didn’t become a proper colony until 1900. New Zealand was colonised with the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, Australia’s colonisation began with the arrival of the First Fleet and the construction of the penal colony that became Sydney in 1788. Nigeria gained its independence in 1960; Jamaica in 1962; and India in 1947. Australia and New Zealand? Well, the Statute of Westminster was passed in 1931, but not adopted by Australia until 1942 and New Zealand until 1947. The Australia Act of 1986 ended whatever constitutional ties may have remained between Australia and the UK and effectively ended the right to appeal to the Privy Council. New Zealand passed a similar law, the Constitution Act in 1986, but did not abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council until 2003 So, actually, I’m not sure when either Australia or New Zealand can be said to have gained independence from the UK. Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand are Commonwealth Realms, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. India became a republic on independence, and Nigeria in 1963. And how is it that “soldiers from here” is somehow magically more inclusive of ANZACs than of Nigerians, Jamaicans and Indians? Australia and New Zealand are much further away from “from here” than those other three countries.

Alright, so I’m relying on Wikipedia for my fact-checking here, but my point is this: I can’t see how Australia and New Zealand can be called “old Commonwealth” and Nigeria, Jamaica and India “new Commonwealth”. That’s just absurd. What I can see is that perhaps this mysterious Australian media writer might mean by “old” and “new” Commonwealth, especially considering that not-especially-subtle hint that the British authorities are trying to include normally excluded minorities, is that Australia and New Zealand are “predominantly white Commonwealth”, while Nigeria, Jamaica and India are “predominantly something other than white Commonwealth”.  And that disgusts me far more than the possibility, however vague, of an “ANZAC whitewash”.

Alright, so have a read of this. It’s a fine argument, isn’t it? Trouble is, it’s bollocks. Why?

It all started with the Roast Busters, then the treatment meted out to a friend of one of their victims by two radio hosts with…

…a record, shall we say.

And the response to those two shock jocks.

And then the response to that response.

And then Edgeler weighs in in the article linked above, and continues in the comment thread.

Now, I’m certainly not going to rehash the whole Roast Busters saga. Among many reasons why not, one thing the world does not need is yet another privileged white bloke spouting on about rape culture – but more on that later.

Nope, Edgeler has got me a bit riled up. See, reading his essay left me thinking “That’s all well and good, but there’s something fundamentally wrong with your argument, now what is it?… ”

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oh for crying out loud

August 11th, 2013

DCD, shipments of meat held up at port apparently because MPI didn’t adequately inform AQSIQ of changes to its documentation (although I think there may be a bit more to that…), botulism in the whey protein…

…and now this.

240 workers sitting at home twiddling their thumbs wondering if they’ve still got jobs all because:

Alliance general manager of processing Kerry Stevens said the Ministry for Primary Industries suspended Pukeuri’s certification for exports to China last month because cartons in the container were incorrectly labelled.

Chinese regulations demand a label on both the inside and outside of a carton.

And in Otago, too. I note the south seems to be having a tough time of it economically. And wow, this news must have the locals worried, to say the least.

But, once again, I have to wonder what went wrong. This doesn’t seem difficult: your export market requires your product to be labelled a certain way, so you label it that way, and provided you’re doing everything else right, particularly regards quality, hygiene, and safety generally, everybody’s happy, right?

Nelson mayor in China

March 27th, 2012

I may, perhaps, be getting a little obssessed with the giant, gaping holes in the mainstream NZ media’s coverage of China. Hot on the heels of Tim Groser’s leading a trade delegation to China, a trip that apparently completely did not happen if you only read English, comes news of Nelson mayor Aldo Miccio leading his own delegation to China. And once again, it apparently only happened in the Sinophone world. Not even the Nelson Mail seems to be able to find time to cover the goings on of their own mayor (although, to be fair, something may have appeared in the print edition but not online…).

Quzhou municipal party secretary Zhao Yide travelled up to Hangzhou to meet Miccio. They discussed further communication and cooperation in fields such as tourism, agriculture, education, and development and exploitation of mineral resources.

Miccio also took his delegation down to Jiangmen, where they were reported to be completely satisfied with the investment environment. Miccio said he was left with a deep impression and would recommend Jiangmen to local enterprises after his return to Nelson.

And both those articles end with a brief introduction of Nelson including a quick rundown on its important industries.

Now, I dunno, but I’m still wondering why, after the Shanghai Pengxin/Crafar farms saga, with China’s economy somehow still managing to charge full steam ahead, with all the potential future economic troubles here, with NZ leaders for decades now having waffled about moving our economic focus away from our traditional European, North American and Australian partners and growing new markets in Asia, with the current sorry state of Western economies, why Tim Groser and Aldo Miccio can lead trade delegations to China and NZ’s media not cover them. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. Maybe my google fu is just really bad. I dunno.

I do know I frequently find myself frustrated with the incredibly shallow and fragmented nature of the knowledge of China displayed by so many Kiwis, and I think it’s becoming reasonably clear that I am somewhat frustrated with the immense holes in the mainstream NZ media’s coverage of China. Something tells me their may be a relationship between these two phenomena.

And a couple of tangents:

I also know that I’ve found coverage of John Key’s trip to the nuclear summit in South Korea really pathetic so far. So he gets to hitch a ride on the Korean president’s Blackhawks to pay his respects at the ANZAC memorial. Well, he certainly does seem to enjoy his military helicopters, does our John. Apparently Obama stole his hotel room, or some such nonsense. Oh, wait, today the serious stuff starts. Oh, but wait, I thought he was there to talk nuclear security, not free trade or his lack of drinking buddies, or name dropping. An edit I was hoping to do a little more instantly, but that was held back by an odd connectivity problem: Oh, but wait, there is something on nuclear security tacked on the end of that name dropping article:

“I’ll challenge them to do a bit more, actually.”

Um, that’s nice, dear. But you don’t think you could persuade Claire Trevett to go into a little bit more detail in her article, could you? Oops, sorry, in my haste to hit publish I forgot I also had this article open. It’s a little better.

Now, having ranted all that, I must say I appreciated the NZ Herald posting this fun takedown of Gerry Brownlee’s ignorant bloviations on the sorry state of Finland.


January 29th, 2012

So outside I have a car with a flat battery that stubbornly refused to crash start earlier this afternoon. There’s a wee shop round the corner that may be able to help, but they’re still closed for the holiday. And now my laptop screen has decided to misbehave. I really don’t like disobedient technology. Here’s what I have:

The laptop monitor, on start up, bounces the image up and down like the vertical hold is out of whack on on old fashioned TV set, has a line of odd, bright, occasionally flickering colour across the top, and another similar line at the bottom below which everything is constantly flickering. After a few minutes, it gradually starts to settle down until eventually the screen becomes useable, but those two lines of odd bright colour at the top and bottom remain, and still occasionally bounces slightly. If I let it go to sleep, when I wake it up the image bounces just as it does on starting up, but shows no sign of settling down, leaving it unuseable and forcing me to restart and wait for it to settle. But, as you can see, I get a perfect picture on an external monitor, although the laptop monitor continues its naughtiness. I don’t understand what’s going on here.

Now, I have occasionally worried that perhaps my Lenovo R400 ThinkPad is perhaps not quite new enough to work perfectly with Windows 7, but it shipped with Vista, so it should be ok, right? Still, this isn’t the first time I’ve had issues with the monitor, although it is the first time the issues have been severe enough to render the computer unuseable and force me to restart the computer or to even think of plugging in an external monitor.

And in any case, what would cause the laptop monitor to misbehave while allowing a perfect image on an external monitor?

So tech wise this is not proving to be the best of days.


December 10th, 2011

One thing that becoming a father got me thinking seriously about is where I want my child to be educated. The Chinese and New Zealand education systems each have advantages and disadvantages. The big thing in New Zealand’s favour is that it gets pretty decent educational results in a relatively low-stress environment. And then the results of the election came in and I have to say I’m worried.

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what on earth is going on?

October 1st, 2010

I remember being asked quite some time ago why I no longer rant about New Zealand politics on this blog. My answer was something along the lines of NZ politics being so depressingly pathetic that I couldn’t face it anymore. Add to that the fact I haven’t been eligible to vote since 1999, having been outside NZ for longer than 3 years at every subsequent election, which takes away some of the incentive. And in 1999 I didn’t vote, because my voting papers arrived in Changsha mere days before the deadline, leaving me essentially no time to decide which was the least bad party of a rather bad bunch before sprinting to the nearest post office in the hope I might get my papers to the nearest consulate (Hong Kong, and assuming consulates could handle such things, otherwise the embassy in Beijing) in time. I suppose, having been in NZ last February, I’ll come in under the 3 year limit next election, but I was only there for 2 weeks, whereas one has to have lived in an electorate for one month to enroll, so I still can’t see how I’ll be allowed to vote. Basically, my participation in NZ politics is limited to vain ranting on this blog, and that’s not much of an incentive to involve myself.

But since that trip to NZ in February, I’ve been paying more attention to the NZ media and goings-on back on my home islands. The rate NZ politics is going, I might have to stop for the sake of my cardiovascular health. Things are building up to a point where I may not be able to resist resuming my ranting about NZ politics. And a gigantic rant follows, so I’ll put it behind a break.

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a little lunchtime rant

July 17th, 2010

Ugh. This is what happens when you let little people run your country. I’m totally with the philospher quoted in this article. Far too few people realise this, but a humanities degree most certainly does impart skills that are immediately useful to life in the real world. It’s extremely frustrating that anybody should be forced to explain that statement. I understand that many fields of  university study do include some measure of vocational training – medicine, law and engineering spring most immediately to mind. But the idea that the humanities are somehow useless or impractical is utterly absurd and really should be banished from polite society, left to languish alone somewhere on a subantarctic island populated only by seabirds and seals.

But there’s more. Universities are not, and were never meant to be, institutes of vocational training or job factories. They are institutes of academic and scientific inquiry. Their purpose is to expand intellectual horizons and add to the sum of human knowledge and understanding. If it’s vocational training you want, go to a polytech or do an apprenticeship. If an expanded mind is what you want, university is and must always be the place for you.

What’s more (“what’s more”? My wife is affecting my English as well as my Chinese?), sending signals to high school students about which degrees are likely to be most welcomed when they graduate and start the Great Job Hunt won’t actually help anybody find a job. It’s not uncommon for the most popular majors – frequently chosen because of the perceived demand for them in the job market – to have surprisingly low employment rates. The reason is, everybody runs for those majors thinking they’ll step out of their last exam, and after a stop by the local student pub to celebrate, walk straight into some super-duper fancy job with a spectacularly high salary. The result is a major glut of graduates in those majors, driving down job prospects and starting salaries for those graduates. I guess the classic example would be: Just how many gazillion excess lawyers does America have? Enough to get a pretty respectable start in filling in the Marianas Trench?

No. I can understand tying a certain component of polytech funding to graduate employment rates, so long as it is only one on a long list of measures of polytech performance, as the whole point of polytechs is vocational training. But not universities. Universities must be protected as institutes of free and wide-ranging intellectual and scientific inquiry and exploration, and part of the reason is precisely to ensure the job prospects of graduates.


oh, technology

June 14th, 2010

Time for a little rant:

It’s been a frustrating couple of weeks technology-wise. Apart from the usual hassles trying to persuade poorly maintained classroom computers to let me teach my lessons, I mean. Fortunately I have a student who is an absolute genius with computers.

Let’s start with our office computers. There are four. Until recently, only two were really useable, and one of them painfully slow. One is ancient, and needed some serious cleaning up. One is fairly old, and the problem with that is that technically naive and incompetent former colleagues got it stuffed so full of malware that it was simply unuseable. I had finally had enough of this situation and talked to my student the genius. He got me a new copy of XP and the product key, and I sat down with a colleague, we reinstalled XP on the malware-ridden and super-slow machines and cleaned up the ancient one. It was a long and frustrating process getting the malware-ridden machine fixed. Simply persuading it to let us see the desktop was hard enough. The other two simply required time and patience. The malware-ridden machine required some serious anger management. But we got there, eventually.

Fine, except that the formally malware-ridden machine simply refused to set up a network connection, meaning we couldn’t get online to “activate” Windows. And somewhere in the process of trying to get this thing working, my portable harddrive acquired a bunch of viruses. Brilliant.

So I had another talk to the genius, and he came by the office and fixed the computer, in the process having to reinstall XP again.

Anyways, now we have four functional computers.

But the troubles continued. A couple of nights ago, during a Windows update that came suspiciously soon after the previous update, Vista crashed and ate my computer. Everything, all gone. Unfortunately, not everything was backed up. A lot, including the important stuff, was, but still, we’ve lost a fair bit, including photos and videos from our trip to New Zealand in February. Some of that stuff was backed up on the portable harddrive that just acquired a bunch of viruses. I hope I can recover that….

I consulted my student the genius, wanting to know if perhaps there was some magic trick to recover all that lost stuff. His advice was, “Install Windows 7”. He’ll bring me a copy.

And then, just to add insult to injury, we were watching the Argentina – Nigeria game the other night. The TV kept showing Maradonna, which was bad enough. Argentina were playing hard-out, aggressive, and brilliant football. They scored. Then <BANG>, the TV went dead, with an odd buzzing sound coming out the back, and the smell of burning plastic wafted through the room. Attempts to revive the TV were futile. I blame Maradonna, or whoever decided to spend so much time broadcasting his ugly mug instead of the football.

The repairman came this morning and fixed it, so assuming nothing else goes wrong, we’ll be able to watch New Zealand’s first game tomorrow. 7:15pm on CCTV 5.

And would Firefox please stop checking my spelling like I told it to? ‘Zealand’ is perfectly correct, dammit!

Here’s hoping my run of bad luck with technology has ended.