Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Counting down to the battle for the Auld Mug

Competition resumes in Valencia this weekend, as the two remaining America's Cup challengers battle it out for the right to challenge for the Auld Mug, in the Louis Vuitton series.

Emirates Team New Zealand and Italian syndicate Luna Rossa Challenge were very evenly matched in round robin racing, but the Italians seemed to find another gear in their semi-finals against former favourite, American team Oracle Racing.

Yachting commentators believe Luna Rossa made some successful modifications to its boat to give it an edge in those races, and it remains to be seen whether the team has more changes up its sleeve to help it power ahead of Team New Zealand.

The kiwi team are also playing it quiet when it comes to the issue of modifications, and like Luna Rossa will be cautious about giving away all their secrets in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, with America's Cup defenders Alinghi still the ultimate goal for both teams.

Luna Rossa navigator Tom Schnackenberg was syndicate head for Team NZ, during their poor defence campaign in 2003. The veteran's competing in his 10th America's Cup campaign, and is keen to beat his countrymen in the race to challenge Alinghi.

Much of the focus will be on the helmsmen at the starts, with the pressure of New Zealand's Dean Barker to outwit Aussie James Spithill, who is helming Luna Rossa's boat.

Opinion seems divided on just which syndicate and boat has the edge, although one commentator claims Alinghi is already focusing on Luna Rossa's racing style, suggesting the Italians are expecting the Kiwis to sink during the "first to 5" Louis Vuitton series.

* NZ Herald: Schnackenberg out to beat Team New Zealand
* NZ Herald: Alinghi may have broken rudder
* Official Website: 32nd America's Cup

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Stay alert with Sustained Release Energy Tabs

Most people (including me ;-) can't function properly in the morning without a strong cup (or two) of coffee or tea. And anyone who knows me knows my caffeine pill-popping habit. (I even got in trouble back at summer camp, after someone confused my herbal "XTZ" tablets for something more potent ;-)

However, new research has revealed that if caffeine is consumed in low doses throughout the day, it can help you stay awake and alert for longer periods of time.

The US study found that giving small doses of caffeine every hour were more effective then a big dose in one or two large cups of coffee.

Researchers observed that while a large dose of caffeine is effective short term, the user crashes as the caffeine wears off, and often ends up feeling more tired than when they started.

A new sustained release energy pill has taken onboard this research, and combines caffeine with other energy igniting herbs to provide a steady flow of refreshing energy, that lasts all day.

Get More Energy When YOU Order Mr Energy 8-HR energy pills! The pills also help promote weight loss, by increasing your metabolism and fat burning ability, without the accompanying jitters often caused by energy products.
Among the beneficial herbs are Green Tea Leaf (boosts mood and energy), Cinnamon Twig (promotes blood circulation), Glucuronolactone (improves memory retention and concentration), Naringin (antioxidant and fat burner), Hoodia Gordonii (boosts metabolism, enhances energy).

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Tuesday, 29 May 2007

When TV Live Crosses Go Bad... ;-)

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Hotel hunting on the net

I have blogged before about my overseas travels, and how plans are going for my annual trip with friends to the UK/Europe and USA around September. After spending 2 years living in the UK, and 5 seasons of summer camps in the USA, I've made sure I get back over at least once a year ever since.

We're just starting to look at flights and accommodation, and I've come across a great site that we'll use when booking hotels in London, Stockholm, and New York. is a great site I've come across which lets you book a wide range of hotels in many countries around the world. There's also other types of accomodation like motels, resorts, and vacation rentals which will probably appeal to families and small groups.

I tried a search for hotels in London (where we'll be in early September), and the website returned a heap of different options, from the posh pricey ones that we'd like to be staying in, to the more reasonably priced ones we'll be looking at instead ;-)

You can search by Hotel name, Price, and Quality. You can also narrow down your search to find properties near certain landmarks, or ones with certain facilities like a Swimming Pool, Restaurant, or Fitness Centre.

The site seems to have some pretty competitive deals, and there are "special internet rates" with a number of the hotels, which the site says it can negotiate because of the number of reservations it processes.

You do have to pay for your reservations up-front by credit card to get the low rates, but I prefer that anyway as it makes it easier to budget for your holiday before you leave town.

I was also able to get a good list of Cheap Hotels for our short stay in Stockholm, Sweden. Our major US stop is in New York, so I'll have to hunt down a good cheap but well located hotel in Manhattan for our week there, as well as our weekend in Chicago on the way home.

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Police choose not to Investigate their own

Quelle surprise. The Police Complaints Authority has decided not to investigate the "serious allegations spanning a 15 year period" about Police corruption, much of it focused on Dunedin.

The PCA claims it is unable to carry out a proper Commission of Inquiry, and says nothing more will be done, as no specific complaints have been laid since the Investigate magazine article, or its followup pieces online.

The printed story included sordid allegations of underage sex, drug dealing, bestiality, and other shocking behaviour by New Zealand Police officers, particularly focused on those working in Dunedin during the 1980's.

The MSM quickly picked up on the story about Police Commissioner Howard Broad and the dodgy movie he saw at a Police party in the 80's. However the Investigate magazine article also contained a lot more, wider ranging allegations which have been largely overlooked, as the Police "old boys network" swung into action.

One of those mentioned a couple of times was former Dunedin Detective Sgt Milton Weir, who was accused of being a pretty corrupt cop. As well as allegations of dodgy sexual behaviour, blackmail, and coverups, one witness told how she watched Weir at a cocaine-fueled party "chopping a cat to death in an absolute frenzy" with a bbq tool, after it rubbed up against his leg. She described him as "unstable".

Investigate publisher Ian Wishart says on the magazine's blog that since the story "we’ve been deluged with documents and information from current and former police telling us we’re right on target and telling us where to find more evidence."

As Wishart correctly points out, "The PCA relies on police to do its investigations which is a blatant conflict of interest".

* NZ Herald: No investigation into sex, drugs claims against police
* Good cops join growing call for Royal Commission
* 15 of the serious allegations Police have decided not to investigate

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Saturday, 26 May 2007

Getting Revved Up about eating Fruit & Veges

New Zealand farmers are proud to push the "clean green" message when marketing their products overseas, but I don't think they've done anything quite as clever or "out of the box" as their counterparts from Florida.

Florida's farmers, under the banner of the Fresh from Florida agricultural promotional campaign, are sponsoring a racing team and car in Daytona's Grand-Am KONI Challenge Racing Series.

Check out the high profile "Rev It Up" sponsorship deal in this video advertisement, which illustrates the unique and amusing juxtaposition between Florida's quiet fruit and vegetable growers, and the fast paced world of high speed motorsports...

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Long time, no blog...

It's been a little while since I last managed to sit down and update my blog. Had a busy few weeks, and also spent the best part of a week in bed with the obligatory winter cold/flu.

Last weekend I was involved with friends in creating a short film for the 48 Hour Film Festival. We managed to draw "Musical" as our genre, and got a response to our film at the world premiere of Bain: The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story) on Thursday night in Dunedin's first heat. Photos to follow soon...

Recently, a group of us travelled over to Queenstown, to check out their production of the cult musical, The Rocky Horror Show.

A number of our friends were involved... Doug Kamo directed the show, Stuart Walker was the Musical Director, former Dunedin-lad Simon Green starred as Rocky, and Russell Dixon (who starred in our Dunedin production of Beauty & the Beast) played Frank-N-Furter.

Liverpool, Kelly, Anna, & Jenny on their way to the theatre

More of the Dunedin gang... John, Lynda, Tim, & Simon's sister Ginny

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Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Cullen increases real taxes by 22%

Just before Gordon Copeland quit the United Future party, the former revenue spokesman criticised Dr Cullen's arrogant refusal to cut taxes for New Zealanders, despite massive Government surpluses.

Copeland backed a study released by the Centre For Independent Studies, which revealed that over 12% of New Zealand workers are now paying Dr Cullen's top tax rate of 39c... compared with just 5% of taxpayers in 2000.

The failure of the Labour-led Government to adjust tax thresholds to match inflation has led to significant "tax bracket creep" in the last seven years. When taking into account inflation over that period, many New Zealanders have seen their real taxes increase by 22.6% since 2000.

"Let them eat cake!"

The Centre for Independent Studies revealed a person on the average wage of $36,000 in 2000, would need to be earning $43,000 now, just to maintain an equivalent income in real terms. Because of Cullen's inaction, they are paying an extra $2,400 in tax each year.

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United Future MP quits as party abandons principles

United Future MP Gordon Copeland has quit the party, in protest at its support of Sue Bradford's intrusive anti-smacking bill.

United Future was originally formed in 2002, with the merger of United New Zealand and conservative Christian party Future New Zealand.

(United has a habit of absorbing other parties during the MMP era, with leader and constituent MP Peter Dunne "merging" with mini-minor parties unable to crack New Zealand's high 5% party threshold).

However United Future has largely abandoned its philosophies in a bid to be part of the Labour-led minority coalition government, and voted in support of Labour's long programme of social engineering.

Copeland will now re-form the Future New Zealand Party, with former colleague Larry Baldock, who has been campaigning against the Bradford bill.

The controversial anti-smacking/anti-parenting bill is expected to be passed tonight, after National leader John Key caved in and ordered his MPs to support Green MP Sue Bradford's bill, following a minor amendment aimed at trying to appease opponents.
In reality, the amendment changes little, and will still allow Police to use the law as an excuse to arrest good parents for giving their children a light smack for correction.

ACT leader Rodney Hide recently moved National MP Chester Burrows' former amendment, but was supported by only a handful of MPs (including Gordon Copeland), and not by any National MPs including Burrows himself. Only 7 MPs voted against the bill this evening (Copeland wasn't one of them).

Copeland will remain in Parliament as an Independent MP, but will contest the next election under the Future New Zealand banner. His departure means the Labour-led Government can only rely on 59 votes out of the 121 seat Parliament.

* NZ Herald: United Future MP quits party over smacking bill

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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

John Key adopts another Labour policy

National Party leader seems intent on proving he's the best choice as New Zealand's next leader, with the latest 3 News-TNS political poll showing him as the country's preferred prime minister... the first time since '99 that someone other than Ms Cluck has held the top spot.

Unfortunately, Mr Key's method for securing that support seems to be ditching everything the National Party has worked and campaigned for over the last few years, and adopting as many Labour Party policies as he can.

In the latest National U-turn, Key has dropped his party's opposition to the Kyoto protocol, and introduced a target of "cutting climate change emissions by 50 per cent by 2050".

ACT Party leader Rodney Hide seems wary of this latest National Party policy change on his blog, with some justification... "Hmmm, what will that cost ... and the benefits are?"

Under Key's leadership, National have already given in to the Cullen-Saver scheme, backed down on its policy on market-related rents for state houses, and is expected to also backdown over interest-free loans for students.

Key seems to have swallowed the misinformation and outright lies presented as gospel by lefty scientists, greenies, and the mainstream media about "climate change" and "carbon emissions".

Unfortunately, much of the general public blindly believe the propaganda being recycled without question by the MSM, while viewing anyone who disagrees with the "official line" as a crackpot.

* Stuff: Key drops opposition to Kyoto

* Rodney Anything you can do, I can do better...

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This week's Broadcasting News ;-)

A couple of amusing pieces in last week's NBR that I only got my eyes on today...

(Stolen from the NBR's In tray column...
"This week's clarifications and retractions...")

* Carly Flynn, Nightline, TV3: Last night on Nightline we brought you a story about teenagers running amok in suburban Auckland...
We apologise we did not make it clear that one of those callow youths, Jesse Peach, was our reporter on the scene. He was the one wearing his dad's suit.

* Joint apology by One News, TVNZ and 3 News, TV3:
We apologise. On Friday May 4, 2007, nothing happened but we ran the news anyway.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Join the Boycott, or enjoy a Sub?

The New Zealand blogsphere has gone into overdrive, following revelations a Subway store in Dunedin sacked one of its workers, after she shared her staff soda with a friend.

Jackie Lang was sacked from her 2-year job at the George Street (Dunedin) branch of the 'fast food' sandwich giant, after security video footage showed her sharing a drink of Diet Coke with her friend, then refilling the cup and leaving it on the table.

Following her dismissal, Lang was arrested at her home by Police, locked in a police cell for two hours, and charged with the "theft of two cups of Coke valued at $4". She's due to appear in the Dunedin District Court later this month, and has also lodged an personal grievance case against Subway.

The story featured in the Sunday Star Times newspaper at the weekend, as well as on Sunday's Prime News tv bulletin.

The unusual story has even gone international, being picked up by newspapers in Australia. The major tv networks - TV One and TV3 - picked up on the story today, covering a protest led by the youth wing of the Labour Party, encouraging a boycott of all Subway restaurants.
Now kiwi blogs are joining in on the act, with a "Bloggers Boycott of Subway Restaurants", led by Aucklander at Large. At the time of this post, 17 blogs had signed up to the boycott, which encourages people "not to visit any Subway stores until the charges against Ms Lang are dropped, and she is given her job back."

While Jackie seems to have got a raw deal by her manager (with no disciplinary procedures or system of warnings followed), I'm not sure that I can join in on such a boycott.

One is because I quite like Subway's sandwiches (the Toasted Cheese Steak is a particular favourite, although doesn't really come close to a 'Philly Cheese Steak'). They're vaguely healthy (for those that choose the low fat options)... and hey, there's real unprocessed raw vegetables in your sandwich! :-)
The other reason I can't condone joining the Bloggers' boycott is because the CTU and other socialist organisations are trying to use Lang's case as a black mark against probationary employment law.

National MP Wayne Mapp's bill would have offered a 90-day probationary period of employment, allowing both employers and new employees to walk away from the agreement if they're not satisfied, without the threat of personal grievance procedures.

This change is still badly needed, with businesses reluctant to take on bad and lazy workers they will then be stuck with for life. The 90-day rules of the Mapp bill would never have been in effect here, with Lang employed by Subway for around two years.

Lang now has another job, and I doubt she wants her Subway job back as the protestors are demanding.

Finally, Subway restaurants are individually franchised operations, so as one commentor on the main boycott website notes, "This boycott would be like punishing a group of siblings because one of them misbehaved."

* Stuff: Subway calls cops over drink-sharing
* TV3 - 3 News: Students show support for sacked Subway worker
* TV3 - Campbell Live: The Subway sacking debacle (with video)

* Update: Dunedin Police are apparently dropping the charge of "theft of 2 cups of Diet Coke, valued at $4...

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Monday, 7 May 2007

Adrenaline Freestyle Free Running

French Le Parjour (L`art du deplacement) crew, 'Team Adrenaline' take Freestyle Freerunning to the next level... Way cool! (The quartet come from Gennevilliers, Paris)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Mika - Love Today
^ Pink - Who Knew ]

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Friday, 4 May 2007

Saints import sees Stars

Auckland Stars basketball player Casey Frank and Wellington Saints import Bakari Hendrix have both been suspended for one game, after being ejected from the teams' clash in Wellington last night.

The Stars (playing without any imports, after their original pair abruptly quit the country earlier this month) held on to beat the Saints by two points, 108-106.

According to one eyewitness, the clash between Frank and Hendrix began with a bit of chatter oncourt, before a shove and a head-butt led to the pair being ejected from the game.

A full on brawl then broke out in the corrider near the Auckland Stars changing room, with punches thrown between the pair, after officials from the two teams turned their attention to a photographer from the Dominion Post newspaper.

(Photo from the Dominion Post)
Both franchises are blaming each other for starting the brawl, with Wellington Saints CEO Nick Mills claiming the "aggro was sparked by Stars tactics", but Stars coach Kenny Stone insists Frank was provoked.

Basketball New Zealand has launched an immediate investigation, with the possibility of further sanctions to follow. NBL officials will consider game reports and video footage before deciding how far to take the enquiry.

* Update... Dominion Post Photo Gallery: The Whole Shbang...
* Stuff: Off-court brawl mars NBL clash
* Kiwihoops: Brawl Overshadows Stars upset win in Wellington
* Newstalk ZB: Finger pointing starts over basketball stoush

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Thursday, 3 May 2007

Anti-smacking vote proof National's gone soft

National's decision to back down and support Green MP Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill simply proves just how soft and 'Labour-lite' the NZ National Party has become under John Key.

Every single MP from the National Party, United Future, and NZ First acted like lemmings last night, following John Key in flip-flopping on their support for the controversial bill. What happened to this decision being a "conscience vote"?!

While there is talk of much disquiet amongst some National MPs, only 3 MPs took a stand and voted against the draconian bill last night... ACT's Rodney Hide and Heather Roy, plus independent Pacific Island MP Taito Field.

Mr Hide describes Clark's amendment as "clever", noting "the entire National Party has been rolled. I congratulate Helen Clark for a great sleight of hand and emerging from it unscathed."

Hide took over the former amendment of National MP Chester Burrows (which aimed to define what a 'light smack' was), who then rejected his own words and joined his colleagues in the rush to support Labour's minority coalition government.

(Only 9 MPs stood firm and voted for the Hide/Burrows amendment... ACT's Rodney Hide and Heather Roy, United Future's Gordon Copeland and Judy Turner, and 5 of the 7 NZ First MPs. Every single National Party MP backed out and supported Sue Bradford's offensive bill in full.)

The so-called "compromise" amendment (officially moved by Peter Dunne, leader of the supposed family-friendly United Future Party) had the full support of Sue Bradford, who was "delighted" at National's change of heart.

No surprises there, as the amendment really changes nothing in terms of making criminals of good parents. Bradford said, "This amendment keeps the integrity of my original bill intact... all it's doing is to say to avoid doubt police have discretion when prosecuting complaints."
In reality, what it means is that Police can use the bill as a crutch for intruding into the lives of innocent New Zealanders.

The clear evidence of this was a particularly nasty girl interviewed on 3News last night, who said she would call "111" on her parents if she was ever smacked. (A future Labour Party MP if ever I saw one ;-)

It will be very interesting to see whether the general public swallow the clap-trap from the country's politicians, or whether they can see through the legal mumbo jumbo and realise they've just been shafted.

* Stuff: Not all happy with smacking bill amendment
* Stuff: Clark/Key amendment passes by 117-3
* Newstalk ZB: Unrest in National ranks over smacking bill
* Rodney Hide: Confusing Times
* Bradford wins complete s.59 victory

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Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Satellite Freeview switches on for Kiwis

The first chapter in the life of Freeview New Zealand began this afternoon, with the digital satellite version of the platform officially switched on this afternoon.

The launch of kiwi Freeview ends the digital monopoly of the Murdoch- controlled Sky Television. Around 42% of New Zealand households currently fork out for the limited, poor quality service of pay broadcaster Sky TV.

The free-to-air digital platform lets viewers enjoy crystal clear digital quality TV, without paying a monthly subscription fee. Viewers will need a satellite dish on their roof, and a suitable set-top box. The digital satellite service is being aimed at the 25% of the population with bad television reception.

Viewers who currently have good UHF tv reception are being encouraged to wait for the Freeview terrestrial (DTT) service, which will be launching in March 2008, broadcasting from New Zealand's main centres. (The DTT service will also require a different set-top box, or television fitted with a digital tuner).

Freeview NZ is run by a consortium including State TV (TV One, TV2), CanWest MediaWorks (TV3, C4), Maori TV, and Radio New Zealand (National, Concert... but who really cares about radio anyway?? ;-)

TVNZ are hoping to launch a family/children/arts channel in September, with a news and information channel next March. TVNZ have enough capacity to add up to another half dozen in the future, while CanWest can add three channels, with another 6 or so available for regional or niche broadcasters.

* NZ PCWorld: A few of your Freeview questions answered
* NBR: Freeview digital television launched

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