Saturday, 30 December 2006

Big Macca's Back in Black :-)

Great cricketing news today, with big smasher Craig McMillan called back into the Black Caps as cover for his brother-in-law, the injured Nathan Astle.

(Astle has a badly bruised thigh, after being hit with the ball while batting in the first ODI against Sri Lanka.)

McMillan was dropped from the Black Caps by John Bracewell earlier this year, and even missed out a New Zealand Cricket contract mid-year, after a run of poor form with the bat.

While we probably do still need Astle in the lineup, it would be great to see Macca back in Black. He's been having a very good domestic season with the bat, and has a ODI average of 27.47 from 175 matches.

The aggressive batsman might even be handy as a part-time bowler as well, given New Zealand's lack of success with the ball. Macca was always known for having a bit of a "golden arm", and seemed to have an uncanny ability for breaking up niggly partnerships.

The Black Caps second One Day International against Sri Lanka is in Queenstown tomorrow.

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Happy Feet Movie goes Gangsta!

Hands up those of you who've seen the hit animated movie Happy Feet this holiday season?

Happy Feet is set in Antarctica, where the Emperor Penguins have to sing for their soulmates... all except Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood), who's unfortunately the worst singer in the world - but luckily he's a flash hot tap dancer ;-)

Here's the Gangsta Happy Feet Remix video...

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Farewell 2006

2006 is almost over, and some of the country's bloggers are compiling their look back over the last year...

Here's the great Year in Review contribution from Dan News NZ...

* Check out Gman's Awards of the Year here...

(and he's not too impressed with Labour luvvy, Nigel Neill (that's Sam to you thespians), getting a New Year's gong either ;-)

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Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Conclusive proof that US cops don't just eat Donuts!

It's Big Maccas day for Manhattan's finest ;-)

(Photo credit: Anne Williams)

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Saturday, 23 December 2006

Get the Windows Vista look without the headaches!

Check out this great program... It will transform your computer (Windows XP) user interface to imitate Windows Vista (Microsoft's upcoming update of Windows).

Vista Transformation Pack gives you PC the fresh new look and feel of Windows Vista, without the hassle of learning a whole new system ;-)

* More screenshots and Download page here

read more | digg story

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Thursday, 21 December 2006

Major website relaunch for TV3

New Zealand's TV3 had a 'soft' relaunch today of its website. The CanWest MediaWorks channel has unveiled a major revamp of its site, offering a much wider range of News and other video clips, as well as more interaction with browsers.

The main page is dominated by news... Items from 3News and Campbell Live (with video clips and/or pictures) are now mixed with stories coming in from RadioLive throughout the day.

The new site breaks down news stories into different section, including Sports, Entertainment & Arts, and Business News. It also offers a live stream of the 6pm news, which is replaced at other times by a Weekly News Wrap programme.

TV3's new site now also offers localised weather forecasts, movie reviews, competitions, gig guides, streaming radio stations, and more detailed programming information and schedules for TV3.

There are however a few teething problems with the new site. A few people seem to be having problems viewing the video clips now (no video, just audio), and there's some layout issues with browsers like Firefox. This is probably to be expected with a major revamp like this, but it would be nice to see web designers fully road testing sites in more than just Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

On the whole its a big improvement, and puts TV3 in a much better position, with state broadcaster TVNZ set unveil a revamped version of its site sometime in the new year.

* TV3 New Zealand website
[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Avril Lavigne - Keep Holding On (Dr Luke) - Eragon Soundtrack
^ Tommy Körberg & Sissel Kyrkjebø - Julen Är Här ]

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Monday, 18 December 2006

State TV to sell programmes online

New Zealand's State TV broadcaster has announced the launch of a new online division, which will offer some of TVNZ's premium shows for sale on the internet... albeit with a number of catches.

TVNZ ondemand
is scheduled to launch on the 1st of March 2007, featuring a wide range of video content from TV One and TV2. The state broadcaster says most of their premium local shows - including Shortland Street and Eating Media Lunch - will be available for pay-download.

The cost will initially be around $2 for a half hour show, $4 for a one hour programme. Users will need to buy a package of "Play Points", which will be deducted from their account for each download.

Some 15 and 30 second video advertisements will also screen before shows and clips. The site will also make money through traditional internet skyscrapers and banners, and sponsorship packages for some shows.

However, one big stumbling block in attracting regular users could be TVNZ's draconian Digital Rights Management system. All download content will be encrypted, and can only be viewed for 7 days after downloading. After that time, the paid download will simply die, and the video will no longer play (making it more of a rental than a purchase).

The system will also allows TVNZ to track user's viewing habits... letting them analyse which demographics are watching each show. The videos will be in the Windows Media Player 9+ format, meaning its a PC-only affair. TVNZ say "At this stage Macintosh users are not part of this experience".
Downloadable shows will be in VHS quality... around 200MB in size per half hour (they estimate anything from a 7-45 minute download time... depending on your internet connection ;-)

They do play to offer some content free of charge, including News products. TVNZ will also dip into their archives, offering selected items for free... at least initially. A range of show clips and previews will also be available free of charge.

TVNZ say they're hoping to negotiate rights deals with some overseas suppliers for top imported shows. Their ABC/Touchstone Television deal, which includes hits like Lost and Desperate Housewives may be a hopeful target.

State TV's chosen direction is in contract to that of many of the major US and UK networks, who currently offer many of their top TV shows for free online (most through streaming).
Some have created their own Broadband Video channels like CBS's great Innertube online channel, which features recent episodes of top shows, as well as new and unique content created specifically for the web.

Americans can also download episodes from a huge range of Network and Cable TV shows through itunes and Amazon Unbox. These cost (US) $1.99 an episode, and unlike TVNZ, don't self destruct after 7 days. Videos from itunes are "near-DVD quality", and can be downloaded onto video iPods. Amazon's Unbox video downloads can even be backed up onto DVD.

In the UK, state broadcaster BBC offers some shows for free download, and is hoping to allow people to watch anything from the past week for free. Channel 4 lets users download all of its home-grown programming for a charge. But like TVNZ they're only valid for a short rental period... although for just £3.99 a month you can watch everything you want.

* TVNZ: Broadening your viewing horizons
* Primetime downloads are plentiful, but quality's spotty

* BBC: Online TV a reality in the US
* The Inquirer: It's a big week for UK broadband TV

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Want to reduce poverty? Lower those tax rates.

Some interesting information from a recent US study, revealing that building a strong economy and helping the poor means keeping taxes and government spending low.

The study revealed that the US states with the highest tax rates are failing in the fight against poverty... while those states with the lowest tax rates are reducing poverty.

read more | digg story

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Thursday, 14 December 2006

Editing makes Muso sound Good!

Even a poor amateur musician can sound pretty good with some judicious editing!

Check out this Norwegian guy (Lasse Gjertsen) as he performs a great Drum solo, before duetting with himself on the Piano...

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Alas poor Don, We knew him well...

New Zealand lost another sensible and intelligent politician this week, as Don Brash bowed out of politics. Brash's retirement came just weeks after he resigned as leader of the National Party, and after a short 4 1/2 career as an MP.

The MSM loved to pick up on his stumbles, and worked hard to promote controversy with his speeches. The lefty liberals labelled his accurate call of "One law for all New Zealanders" as racism, and couldn't understand that they were so out of touch with much of the country.

In his now famous Orewa 1 speech, Brash quite rightly voiced concern about the growing trend towards racial separatism based on the Treaty of Waitangi. He expressed concerns about the trend of race-based favouritism in policy-making, and in Government departments.

Don Brash also showed what National are in danger of losing with their new direction... A clear understanding of why a Policy Spending War between the two major parties is not in the best interests of real hard-working New Zealanders...

"We need to re-establish the principle of personal responsibility, re-affirm the importance of family and community, and turn our back on the politics of envy, where the party that wins is the one that can take $25,000 off a hard-working Kiwi and spread it around to win the maximum number of votes among those who aren't so hard-working."

The Ghost of Christmas Past, with her offsider The Christmas Grinch

* Kiwiblog: Don Brash valedictory speech
* National Party: Don Brash Valedictory Speech in full

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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

National & Labour agree to pursue Duopoly

The National Party has agreed to support plans by the Labour Party to clamp down on anonymous political donations, and to ban third-party advertising that attacks other political parties.

Election law reform is on the table after overspending during the last election campaign, most notably by Labour, who illegally overspent by around $800,000 on "pledge cards" and glossy brochures.

In return for supporting the reform, National wants to have tougher penalties introduced for parties breaching the spending cap rules.

New deputy leader Bill English is also calling for a 90-day pre-election ban on advertising by government departments to promote "the pet policies of the government of the day".

This would be a major step towards a more level playing field. Labour exploited this loophole last year, spending a whopping $15 million promoting its "Working for Families" package, designed to put more of middle New Zealand on welfare.

The idea of state funding for political parties is also likely to looked it. This should be vehemently opposed by National. There is no reason why New Zealand taxpayers should be funding the advertising campaigns of political parties without their consent.

The third-party advertising issue is an interesting one, as Labour have always relied on the Unions to fund major anti-centre-right campaigns during election time. Labour will be looking for a way to leave in some loophole to allow this practice to continue.

(A media release today by Don Brash notes that the union representing many old-school and state-broadcasting journalists - the EPMU - "had members driving up and down the main streets of our major cities on the eve of the election, chanting anti-National slogans over loudspeakers".)

I personally believe banning third-party political advertising would be a breach of freedom of speech. It seems really to be an attempt by Labour and National to cement their "duopoly" in New Zealand politics, by quietening any outside voices.

* NZ Herald: National to play ball on election law reform

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Kiwis finally get a bite at Apple's iTunes

New Zealand has finally come in from the dark, and been added to Apple's global iTunes music empire. (However, the standard domain wasn't operational today, with the NZ site accessible only via

iTunes NZ offers over 2 million songs for download, at $1.79 each. That's around 25% more expensive than in the USA, where songs retail on iTunes for just 99c each (~$1.23 NZ). Meanwhile, most albums here are priced at $17.99, music videos at $3.59, and games for $7.99 each. A large range of podcasts are also on offer.

Apple's unique relationship in New Zealand - previously only operating through third party distributor Renaissance Corporation - was perhaps one of the reasons why kiwis were so far down their priority list... left in the dark when Apple launched in Australia last year).

Apple USA have owned the domain name since mid-2005, but its believed that negotiations with local record companies took longer than expected.

The Apple iTunes Music Store will finally allow kiwis to easily buy digital music for their ipods, and lessen their temptation for illegal music downloading. The current largest digital music stores here - Digirama and CokeTunes - only offer songs in the WMA format, which can't be directly transferred to an iPod.

Renaissance will continue be the distribution manager for Apple products in New Zealand. However, Apple will now operate its own Online Store, giving it the ability to sell product directly. New Zealand will also become part of Apple's "worldwide pricing model", which should mean lower prices for consumers here.

* NZ Herald: iTunes finally available in New Zealand
* STUFF: Apple launches iTunes in NZ

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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Kiwis to become AustraliaNZ?

It's great to see an Australian parliamentary committee is encouraging Australia and New Zealand to work together towards a full union... or to at least adopt a single currency, and have more common markets.

Committee chairman Peter Slipper says, "This is not an attempt to annex New Zealand, or have a compulsory takeover... Any change would have to be voluntary and mutually beneficial."

New Zealand - population around 4.1 million (less than even Sydney) - actually used to be administered as a part of the colony of New South Wales.

New Zealand became a separate colony in 1840, the capital moving from Okiato to Auckland to the more central Wellington, after political concerns the South Island would form a separate colony when gold was discovered in Central Otago.

The Australian committee wants to see a closer relationship between the six ocker colonies, and the lone colony in the deep south, and is calling for a joint committee between the Australian and New Zealand parliaments to investigate the possibilities.

Labour's Finance Minister, Dr Micky Cullen has rejected any suggestion of New Zealand adopting the Australian currency... although he hasn't been quite as dismissive of the idea of an Anzac currency or adopting the US dollar.

And in an exclusive interview with LFRF, PM Hillin Cluck said, "I don't rucken ut'll hippin. Nu Zuhlind us the bust countray un the wehld, end we won't consudah joinung Austrahliah fur et least sux or siven years".

Let's face it, the Aussie accent isn't quite as bad as the Kiwi one, and the two countries flags look pretty much identical.

If we joined Australia as a new state, our sports news would be filled with happier stories about our national cricket team, basketball team, football team, and swimming stars. (We could just agree to ignore that Aussie Rules game down here ;-)

Hat tip to...
* Radar blog: Stay where you are, New Zealand, we're taking over

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I've Been Painting...

Hmm... Can we assume our Popular and Competent leader has been getting the paintbrushes out for a little self-portrait? ;-)
(Lets just hope it's not another Paintergate...)

* Screen capture by TINA: There is no Alternative

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How US soldiers pass the time in Iraq

Two clips doing the rounds on the interweb, from this week's Viral Video Top 10... The liberal lefties are so gonna love these ;-)

* Western soliders make Iraqi kids run for fresh water...

* US soliders punish Iraqi looters by crushing their car with a Tank...
(I don't think the reporter was working for Fox News ;-)

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Monday, 4 December 2006

National Train to Lurch to the Left?

With John Key replacing Don Brash as leader of the NZ National Party, most pundits are expecting the party to gradually reposition itself further to "the middle" of the political spectrum.

Key's new "shadow cabinet" certainly has a lot of ability, and some fresh faces in key portfolios. Katherine Rich returns to a meaty portfolio with Education, while Tau Henare should partner well with Georgina Te Heuheu to give National a bit of grunt in Maori Affairs.

However, it will be interesting to see how much National tries to fight Labour with big spending promises in major areas like Health, Welfare, and Education.

While the National Party does have a history of being more "right of centre", it's not well known for its ability to curb spending, or opening the way for more freedom and individual responsibility.
However, it is positive to note that John Key seems to have accepted that the National Party is unlikely to ever govern alone as long as New Zealand has MMP, and wants to foster better links with the minor parties. One hopes Messers Brownlee and McCully got the memo.

The final weeks in the political career of Don Brash must have been pretty tough. After the 2002 election, where National won just 21% of the vote, some commentators even wondered whether the party would still be a seen as a major force. Don Brash helped rebuild the party and its support, very nearly leading National to victory on the back of a campaign to cut taxes.
However, I've got to say I've yet to be shocked by any of the allegations or alleged emails in Nicky Hager's book (apparently big business supports National - and the Unions support Labour)... unlike those v-dodgy sounding allegations about Panty slut-boy in the Investigate: Online article. (Not quite the behaviour one expects of a Minister in charge of Child, Youth and Family.)

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