Thursday, 26 July 2007

HMS Speights departs on High Seas Pub Crawl

The cargo ship Lida departed Dunedin yesterday afternoon, on the most unusual voyage of its life... a 70 day 'pub crawl'.

The replica Speights Ale House, on the deck on the cargo ship
Speights Brewery came up with the ambitious plan to send a fully-operational pub to London by boat, accompanied by "five good Southern men" (selected from over a thousand applicants).

The Ale House is a specially designed replica of the famous Cardrona Hotel, and is complete with a kauri wood bar, beer taps, tables and stools, heating, air conditioning, a stereo system, and a plasma TV.

The five 'Southern Men' discuss the 10 week voyage ahead
Their unique voyage will take around ten weeks, arriving in London in early October, during the Rugby World Cup. The Speights pub will be unloaded somewhere along Canary Wharf, and should be ready for business within hours of arriving up the Thames.

Along the way, the boat will stop off in Samoa, Panama, Barbados, and New York. The lads will get to do a bit of sightseeing at each port, as well as spread the good news about the 'pride of the south'.

A video production crew is also onboard... they'll shoot and edit daily updates which will be uploaded to the web via satellite equipment on the ship, so kiwis back home and around the world can check on the progress of the Speights floating pub...

The ship's video crew... Gavin, AJ, and Abe

Trying my hand at pulling a pint onboard

Melinda & Ben on the deck for the pre-cruise at Port Chalmers
* 3 News: Pub-boat leaves Dunedin for UK
* Speights: The Great Beer Delivery

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Gone by lunchtime

3 News is reporting that embattled Minister of the Environment, David Benson-Pope, could be about to be sacked after he contradicted himself in Parliament.

The Labour Party MP admitted today that he did in fact have an opinion on the appointment of Madeleine Setchell, saying "I will likely be less free and frank in meetings with such a person."

That appears to contradict statements he made in media interviews earlier this week, where he claimed he knew nothing about the situation or "that woman". It seems he hasn't learnt from past mistakes that little lies have a way of coming back to bite you.

NZ Herald journalist Audrey Young notes that Benson-Pope has misled the Prime Minister and the public, including herself. Hillin Cluck has steadfastly supported him despite his long list of scandals, lies, denials, and backtracks, but surely even she must have had enough.

The PM is now reported to be going through the recent transcripts of media interviews with Benson-Pope, to decide whether the Dunedin South MP can keep his cabinet job, or whether it's time for a little re-shuffle.

* NZ Herald: Benson-Pope admits involved in Setchell case

* NZ Herald: John Armstrong - Labour's the loser if Benson-Pope keeps his scalp
* 3 News: Benson-Pope: On his way out?
* Kiwiblog: Liar liar pants on fire

** UPDATE: Yep, Gone by Lunchtime! (11.30am in fact)... Local electorate committee claim to be 100% behind PSB... We'll have to wait and said what Head Office and our Popular and Competent Prime Minister have to say about that ;-)

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Rank your blog posts with Thoof

A new digg-like 'social bookmarking website' is aiming to be a fairer way of ranking submitted stories, and reducing the ability of some 'power users' to game the system.

Thoof offers personalised news, pictures, and videos like other similar websites, but is hoping to appeal to a wider community including smaller bloggers.

To get a story ranked highly on the big sites like digg, stories need a lot of votes very soon after they're submitted. That swings things in favour of the major bloggers, and those working in networks to help promote each other's sites.

Thoof claims to be a next generation social bookmarking site. It 'learns' the interests of each reader, tailoring the stories it displays to the tastes and viewing history of each user. Subject tags are also used, helping group and link to other stories on similar topics.

Stories on Thoof are all submitted by users, who can add a special 'ThoofRank badge' to the bottom of their post. The badge measures how interesting each story is to reader with similar interests. It also means even niche subject stories can achieve a high rank, because they're not compared against only the biggest stories.

I joined the site this morning, and submitted a couple of recent stories from this blog. The sign-up process was quick and painless, and the 'ThroofRank badge' was easy to embed in my blog posts. I also found a number of other interesting stories on "my" front page, on topics that appealed to me.

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Hot NZ Dollar forces up Interest Rates

New Zealand Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Alan Bollard, has again raised the official cash rate this morning, in a bid to dampen inflation and to try to cool the hot kiwi dollar.

Bollard's raised the official cash rate (OCR) by a quarter of a percent, to 8.25%. It's the fourth increase this year, and comes as New Zealand banks call for a more "consensual approach" between the Governor and other groups.

The ANZ Bank has suggested a new "monetary policy committee" be formed, to ensure decisions aren't seen as the responsibility of just one person. The Government rejected the recommendation of a committee structure for the Reserve Bank in 2001.

Some analysts are critical of the recent rates rises, which appear to have done little to slow the climbing kiwi dollar. Exporters claim the strong currency is putting their businesses under serious strain.
The New Zealand dollar hit a new 22 year post-float high of US81c this week, after breaking through the psychological US80c mark on Monday night. That figure was written off as "idle speculation" just a few months ago, but some economists now say the kiwi dollar could even reach US$1, if the Greenback continues to weaken.

(Bad news for exporters I guess, but great news for jet-setting tourists like me, for my September trip to the United States! ;-)

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Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Be an Individual on the road

In today's world, there's a lot of different names, numbers, codes, and passwords to remember. I've had my current car for a few years now, but still can't remember the registration number when I'm asked to write it down on a form, or if people are checking who's left their lights on ;-)

I guess one simple way of helping me remember my license plate would be to get a Personalised plate... you know one of those snappy ones like "IMC00L" or "PLAYAH".

They stand out when you're stuck in traffic, but the recent trend in the UK is to go one step further and show your support for your favourite football club or region by customising number plates with added badges, backgrounds, and slogans.

The website lets you customise your individual (all acrylic) license plates by choosing from a range of different backgrounds, badges (flags, football clubs, car makes), and borders online. It's a great idea for a stand-out plate for yourself, or for a truly unique gift.

You can also add an extra 'slogan' to all Number plates and show plates, and even design your own plate or badge if you want something totally personal. (There's no Newcastle United badge or any basketball or cricket badges up on the site yet, so I think I'd have to try that option!...)

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Warehouse toughens up against bludgers

The Warehouse retail chain is cracking down on customers who have been taking advantage of its generous return policy.

The discounter is famous for its slogan "Where everyone gets a bargain", and for the last two decades has advertised a twelve month, no questions asked, money-back guarantee on all purchases, even if returned goods were no longer suitable for sale.

But commercial reality and the behaviour of some of The Warehouse's core customers has forced a change in its return policy. Customers now need to provide a printed proof of purchase, and except for genuinely faulty goods, the products need to be in saleable condition and in their original packaging.

A spokeswoman for the discounter said the change in policy followed an increase in customer abuse. She described how some people would buy school shoes, wear them for a few months, then bring them back and expect a new pair.

Other abuses include customers returning clothing which had clearly been worn for a number of months, and those bringing back appliances and household gadgets which were dirty and partly damaged and requesting a refund.

I'm sure those customers are the same ones that live on the dole or "sickness benefit", complaining they have no money after they've bought their weekly quota of Lotto tickets, Instant Kiwi scratchies, cigarettes and booze. (Yeh... gross stereotype, but you know it's true ;-)

Good on The Warehouse, I say! Some customers are upset by the changes, but the company says the new policy has stopped "repeat offenders". Even the Consumers' Institute agrees the retailer's new rules are fair for customers.

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Monday, 23 July 2007

BP fights back against "misleading" article

British energy giant BP has launched a PR fightback against a US newspaper article it claims "misrepresented important facts" about a major upgrade at one of its oil refineries.

The Chicago Tribune paper reported on an expansion at the BP Whiting Refinery in Indiana, where the company's planning to spend $3.8 billion upgrading its refinery to process more crude oil from Canada into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel (to rely less on the volatile Middle East).

But the Tribune article reads as being fiercely anti-industrial and somewhat misleading, claiming BP is planning to dump "significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan". The report says Indiana regulators "exempted BP from state environmental laws" because the project will inject money and create new jobs.

However, a BP factsheet argues water released from its refinery into Lake Michigan is not sludge but 99.9% treated water (with all 'sludge' treated and released elsewhere). The company admits the expansion will mean an increase in ammonia discharge, but says it will still be under half the legal limit.

Along with the environment exemption, BP have agreed to install new equipment to reduce the concentration of pollutants in the water. The company says it has already been voluntarily improving its water discharge, and will spend $150 million upgrading the refinery's wastewater treatment capability.

BP insists it's committed to minimising the environmental impact of their actions, and points out modernisation of the plant will create about 2,000 new contract jobs during the construction period, and 80 new full-time BP jobs in Whiting once the project is completed.

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Sunday, 22 July 2007

David Blaine Street Magic Terrorism... sort of

That crazy, wacky, hyperactive illustionist David Blaine loves getting back to his roots, and performing amazing street magic tricks for innocent passers-by.

Watch as "Blaine" terrorises two Los Angeles guys again for one of his street magic TV specials, performing unsolicited feats of magic and illusion, and even following the pair back to their apartment!... ;-)

* Hat tip: Clint Heine and Friends

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Saturday, 21 July 2007

Feel better about your cheating ways... ;-)

You've heard all the crap about "Carbon offsetting"... the greenie media beat-up bollocks which encourages misguided individuals to invest in projects to "offset" their so-called carbon emissions.

Even for the sad majority who have bought into the MSM-fuelled myth of man-made carbon change and global warming because of CO2 emissions, carbon offsetting is a massive con job. Put simply, many "carbon offset" projects just don't add up...

Some companies have been found to be selling the carbon credits from their supposed projects several times over, while Carbon credits from tree planting are basically a phony climate fix.

Then there's the massive tree plantation projects, which have seen some indigenous people forced out of their communities (Amazon villagers refer to them as ‘devil’s orchards’.)

But now (with tongue planted firmly in cheek), there's a new kind of offsetting... Cheat Offsetting. According to the website offering this unique service...
When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere... Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience.

Cheatneutral does recommend that you first look at simple, everyday ways of reducing your cheating. Once you've done that, you can offset the remaining, unavoidable cheating through the site. ;-)

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Flying by the seat of his pant-ies

Beleaguered Labour Party Cabinet Minister David Benson-Pope continues to fly by the seat of his "pants", as yet another scandal emerges with his fingerprints all over it.

Benson-Pope is accused of political interference in the public service, by forcing the sacking of Madeleine Setchell from a senior communications role at the Ministry of the Environment.

Setchell fully disclosed she was in a relationship with Kevin Taylor - chief press secretary for National Party leader John Key - when she applied for the job, and was appointed under that knowledge.

However, just three days after she was hired, a "staff member" from the office of David Benson-Pope (Minister for the Environment) called the Ministry's Chief Executive putting on some not-so-subtle political pressure that the appointment could be "an issue".

The MP has denied any knowledge of such behaviour, and has refused to discuss the issue (quelle surprise). PM Hillin Cluck arrived back in the country today, and also refused to speak to reporters. She will feel the heat in Parliament next week, but is expected to once again stand by her man despite the evidence.

The Dunedin South MP has been keeping his tail down recently, after a long run of scandals and investigations, including Tennis-gate, Nightie-gate and Panty-gate. However, it seems he couldn't blend into the background for too long.

BP was one of the guest speakers at a Local Government conference in Dunedin last week, and managed to give a speech so childish and offensive that a number of delegates walked out in disgust.

Meanwhile the shocking revelations by Investigate magazine and others about the late night habits of "panty slut boy" still hang in the background despite attempts to bury the story.

Not a good look for any Cabinet Minister, especially not the former Associate Minister of Education and current Minister of Social Development (including the Child, Youth and Family Service).

* Dominion Post: Benson-Pope in another denial scandal
* 3 News: Benson-Pope under fire
* 3 News: National keeps the pressure on Benson-Pope
* NZ Herald: Clark will face questions about Benson-Pope in Parliament
* Whale Oil: John Armstrong: Yellow card for political interference

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Thursday, 19 July 2007

All the Celebrity Goss in one place

The Web 2.0 'Digg' trend continues, with a new site aimed at aggregating all the latest celebrity gossip and entertainment news in one place. updates its database every 5 minutes, gathering the hottest celebrity news stories, rumours and scandals, as well as the latest photos from the web's top gossip and entertainment sites.

Users can vote and leave comment on any of the stories, with the top items and newest gossip appearing on the front page. Stories are grouped by celebrity or similar topics, with Top 10 lists featuring the Most Talked About Celebrities and the Most Viewed Pictures.

The site is likely to prove popular with web surfers looking for the latest stories. It was interesting to follow the recent controversy over psycho-crazy MSNBC newsreader Mika Brzezinski, who threw a temper tantrum on air and refused to read stories about Paris Hilton's release from jail, as a protest against the so-called "dumbing down" of news.

Brzezinski received some support from loopy lefties and the "worthy but dull" brigade, but the fact remains that despite what people might say, most would rather find out what a famous celebrity is up to, rather than what some politician or academic had to say ;-)

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Former Roswell PR man spills beans on Aliens

Is this the Roswell Smoking Gun?...

A former public relations officer involved in the coverup at the Roswell airbase has admitted that he did actually see a crashed spaceship, and the bodies of aliens in July 1947 .

Lieutenant Walter Haut worked as a PR man at Roswell at the time of the alleged UFO crash, and was involved in selling the 'weather balloon' story to the media and locals. Just a day after an initial release admitting a Flying Disc had been captured by the Air Force, Haut was ordered to change the official story.

However, in a signed, sealed affidavit which Lt Haut left to be opened upon his death, he revealed the "crashed weather balloon" was simply a Government-ordered cover story, aimed at diverting attention from a second (and more important) crash site.

Haut - who died last year - claims in the signed statement that the real crashed object had been stored by the military in Building 84 at Roswell Base. He admits to handling the material the craft was made of.
"Samples of wreckage were passed around the table. It was unlike any material I had or have ever seen in my life. Pieces which resembled metal foil, paper thin yet extremely strong, and pieces with unusual markings along their length were handled from man to man, each voicing their opinion. No one was able to identify the crash debris."
Lt Haut describes a quick tour of the hanger where the wreckage was being kept. He saw an "egg-shaped craft with no windows or landing gear, and "a couple of bodies under canvas" that appeared to be the size of a ten year old child but with disproportionately large heads."

Haut says in the notarised affidavit that he's "convinced that what I personally observed was some type of craft and its crew from outer space."

* Fox News: Dead Airman's Affidavit: Roswell Aliens Were Real
* UFO Digest: Sealed Affidavit of Walter G. Haut

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Tuesday, 17 July 2007

"That" Javelin accident...

Here's the clip of that funny (sorry, horrible) javelin accident at the Golden League games in Rome's Olympic Stadium.

French long jumper Salim Sdiri was speared by a javelin thrown by Finland's Tero Pitkämäki in a freak accident at the recent athletics meet.

The men's javelin and long jump competitions were taking place at the same time... Pitkämäki seemed to lose his footing as his launched the javelin, which then veered off course.

28 year old Sdiri collapsed to the ground before being taken to hospital. He was found to have sustained a three centimetre wound in his side, but luckily no internal injuries.

(The TV report is just as funny to listen to as the actual incident itself ;-)

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Magnus Carlsson - Live Forever
^ Avril Lavigne - When You're Gone ]

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Monday, 2 July 2007

Bain - The Musical - 48 Hours Films Competition, National TV Final on C4

Dunedin-made short film "Bain - The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story)" aired on C4 Television on Sunday July 1st, as the Dunedin representative in the 2007 48Hours Film Competition (after winning the Dunedin awards for Best Film, and Best Score).

The musical short from Burt Hall Banana Republic Productions tells the (fictional) story of Dunedin man Trevor Bain, a multi-coloured jumper-wearing former paperboy who finds himself in prison for 13 years... "Will Trevor's lifelong dream be a victim of fashion, or the road to redemption?"

Separated at birth? (Left) Former convicted murderer David Bain
and (Right) Singing jailbird Trevor Bain
(Any similarities between the two is entirely coincidental ;-)

Competition was tight between the 5 City finalists and the 3 Wildcards, with a good mix of genres including Musical, Animation, and Western. Members of the Bain cast and crew, plus some of our great Bain supporters turned out to Dunedin's Oriental Tavern to watch the live TV final with us.

We didn't quite take out the top prize, but it was a good night all the same. Congratulations to the National winner of 48Hours 2007, which was another musical film... Lease by Team Lense Flare (starring soon-to-be Shortland Street star Johnny Barker).

Go the Jumpers! The 'Bain' team after our win...
** More Photos from Bain - The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story)...

Click below to watch the version of "Bain - The Musical (The Trevor Bain Story)" that screened on C4 TV, as part of the Grand National Final of the 48 Hours Film Competition 2007.

(NB: Clip begins with "Behind the Lens", a faux "preview" interview with Bain's co-creators... Speed through to around 1:20 if you just want to see the short film)...

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