Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

General Debate 19 January 2016

January 19th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

A moving story

January 18th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A very moving story from the Melbourne Age.

The two scientists relished life. They skied, went bushwalking and climbed mountains, often taking their three young daughters with them. Their cultural and intellectual pursuits were many – classical music, opera, literature, wine, arguments over dinner with their many friends. They donated 10 per cent of their annual income to political and environmental movements. Family events were spent thoroughly debating the topics of the day.

As their capacity declined, the conversation about ending their own lives became more serious and their rejection of what Peter called “religious do-gooders” became more fierce.

“It was also a way into their favourite topics; philosophy, ethics, politics, the law…,” says their youngest daughter, Kate. “The idea that their end-of-life decisions could be interfered with by people with the superstitions of medieval inquisitors astounded them, and alarmed them.” …

Once they were aged 87:

They set a date. Peter said it was time and Pat agreed. They would enter the “big sleep” together on October 27, the day after Pat’s 87th birthday.

Anny got on a plane. When she arrived in Melbourne on October 21, she was shocked at how frail her parents looked. She would often find her father slumped in his chair. Her mother was struggling to move in the purposeful way she used to. Anny showed them a DVD of concerts she had performed with the Munich Radio Orchestra. But she could see that her parents had changed. They were tired. Even a bit bored, she thought.

On their final night together, the family shared a last supper of sorts. The sisters prepared a plate of cheeses, avocado and smoked salmon to eat with wine. Peter and Pat pecked at it. They didn’t seem very interested in food. Anny picked up their grandmother’s violin and played for her parents. They went to bed around 10pm.

The next morning, Peter and Pat got up early. They showered, dressed and made their bed. Peter had breakfast, a fried egg and coffee. Pat did not eat. She wanted to keep her stomach empty for what was to come.

The family sat in their backyard in the soft morning sun, enjoying the native garden that had flourished around their Robin Boyd-style home. Peter had designed the house himself in the 1960s.

“They were more cheerful than I had seen them since I arrived,” Anny said.

Everybody knew the plan. The sisters were to leave around noon. They felt they had no choice. Assisting, aiding or abetting a suicide carries a penalty of up to five years’ jail in Victoria. Their mother would have liked them to stay, but not at the risk of prosecution.

Pat did not want to die by herself, so she would take a lethal drug first. After leaving her in their bed, Peter would walk alone down the hall of their home and into the living room where they had shared so many hours. He would open the back door and trek one last time through his yard and into his shed where his equipment was set up.

Wouldn’t it have been simpler if they could have had their loved ones present when they chose to go?

Somewhere in Antarctica, there is a mountain named after Peter Shaw. He conquered it in 1955 on a pioneering mission with the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions.

The following year, he was awarded a Polar Medal for the mission and he was immortalised on a postage stamp. The trip had been tough. He and his companions had endured at least one terrifying storm that was so traumatic no one ever spoke about it again. They relied on candles for light and layers of wool for warmth. There were no fancy gadgets.

The year that Peter stuck an Australian flag in that peak was the same year he fell in love with his sweetheart.

Patricia was the “it girl” in their mountaineering club. Dazzling blue eyes and blonde hair. But Pat – or Patsy as she was sometimes called – was more comfortable in shorts and hiking boots than dresses and baby-doll heels. She was whip smart, too. Had plenty to say and knew what she was talking about.

The first time Peter ever saw Pat, he later told the girls, he had turned to a friend at the club gathering and asked who she was. The attraction was mutual. They married when they were 27.

Sounds like they had a great life, and they got to leave it on their terms.

Now their daughters waited on the beach. Their greatest fear was not that their beloved parents would die, but that they – or worse, one of them – would not.

The Shaw sisters trusted their parents and had faith in their plan but they were still aware of the many things that could go wrong.

What if the drug their mother had buried in her garden for fear of a police raid had lost its potency? What if one of them survived to be accused of killing the other?

Real fears.

There is no good way to lose your parents. When the three sisters returned to their parents’ house, they were orphans. The plan had worked and there was no sign of suffering. Peter and Pat had set out to end their lives in a meticulous, scientific fashion without any fuss, just as they had lived. And they had done it.

Quality of life can be as important as quantity.


Peter and Pat should have been able to do what they did, without the need for secrecy, and with tightly regulated procedures for assistance.

General Debate 18 January 2016

January 18th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

A fixed date for Easter

January 17th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The heads of the Christian churches are close to sealing a deal to fix the date of Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury has revealed, ending more than a thousand years of confusion and debate.

The Church of England’s Archbishop of Canterbury Most Reverend Justin Welby said the agreed date would be either the second or third Sunday of April.

A fixed date would be great. So annoying to have to check every year when it will be.

He expected to make the change within 5-10 years, though he admitted that churches have been trying to agree on a date without success since the tenth century.

Progress takes time!

Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, the Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (head of the Greek Orthodox church) are all working towards a common date, he said.

If they can reach a deal, it will end one of the most noticeable rifts in the church, and have knock-on effects for schools, businesses and the travel industry across the Western World.

For one and a half millennia, for Anglicans and Catholics, Easter Sunday has been the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox – a convoluted formula which means the date can vary by more than a month from year to year. …

To add to the confusion, the Eastern Orthodox Church calculates Easter differently using the old Julian calendar – this year Orthodox Easter falls on May 1.

No one knows the actual date Jesus was crucified, so having it commemorated on a particular date close to the general period is as likely to be accurate as the current system.

General Debate 17 January 2016

January 17th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Rolling Stone on e-cigarettes

January 16th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rolling Stone reports:

Daniel Walsh was first drawn to electronic cigarettes for the same reason millions of smokers have taken up the devices. “I was a guy who could work 20 hour days and juggle a number of complex projects, but I couldn’t quit,” says Walsh. “It was my greatest deficit.” The quixotic promise that have made e-cigs the subject of endless controversy — that smoking cessation and smoking as recreation can coexist — resonated with Walsh. After successfully making the switch, he was so enamored by the product that he left his job developing artificial intelligence in San Francisco, decamped to Michigan and launched Purebacco, a manufacturer of the flavored, nicotine-laced liquid that are battery-heated into an inhalable vapor inside e-cigs. With over 30 employees, satellite offices in San Francisco and London, and plans to expand into a 40,000-square-foot headquarters, Purebacco’s growth is a microcosm of the industry as a whole, which is estimated to do $3.5 billion in sales this year. “There is so much anecdotal evidence out there supporting the idea that people like me have helped hundreds of thousands of smokers quit,” says Walsh, who is known to colleagues as the High Priest of Vaping, a fitting nickname for an enigmatic scientist with a mane of blond dreadlocks who works long hours in his sleek laboratory. “Yet as an e-cig CEO, I’m not really supposed to say that, since current rules prohibit us from marketing our products as anything but another vice.”

In many countries it is more difficult to sell or import e-cigarettes than actual cigarettes. including NZ.

Whereas 84 percent of smokers believed e-cigs to be safer than ordinary cigarettes in 2010, by 2013 that figure had dropped to 63 percent. A study last year found that a third of people who had abandoned e-cigs and resumed smoking tobacco did so out of concern for the health effects of vaping.

Vaping does have some health impact, but it is exponentially less than actual smoking.

People smoke for nicotine but they die from tar.” Michael Russell, a South African scientist widely considered to be the godfather of tobacco control, wrote those words in 1976.

This is the crux – you get addicted to the nicotine, but it is the tar which kills you. So a product that delivers nicotine without tar is far better than a product that does both.

General Debate 16 January 2016

January 16th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Oil prices keep dropping

January 15th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar


From Macrotrends.

This show the price per barrel, inflation adjusted. It has not been this low since the 1990s, and even then during the Asian recession. It might be indicating another recession looming?

Of course what I like to think of is the years and years of predictions by Green Party MPs and others that we face peak oil, and ever increasing oil prices and that we must stop investing in any roads as the cost of oil will become so great there will be so few cars.

General Debate 15 January 2016

January 15th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 14 January 2016

January 14th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 13 January 2016

January 13th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Guest Post: Women working in the male dominated oil and gas industry

January 13th, 2016 at 7:18 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Gary Lindsay:

I once got in a lot of trouble at work for saying “don’t put your hand where you wouldn’t put your cock.”  Before you jump to saying things like “that’s totally inappropriate for work” or “what were you thinking” I will put it into some context.  It was at a toolbox meeting (the daily prestart safety meeting) in the oil and gas industry in Queensland and it was during a discussion about hand placement brought about because two geologists in my team managed to get hand injuries that week.  I was repeating something that I had heard several years earlier from an old guy in a similar meeting.  The only differences from when I first heard it on a rig in New Zealand as a green mudlogger in 2005 was that it was in 2012.

A lot has changed in workplaces in the 11 years since I got my first “real” job, particularly in the drilling industry, and even more in the 19 since I got my first job, working in a dairy after school.  One major change is that there are now many women working in the oil patch, mainly for service companies doing jobs such as rig geology, mud doctor, MWD/wireline logging, mudlogging and as safety officers – i.e. there still aren’t that many doing the hard jobs of offsiding/roughnecking, or drilling.  One of the consequences of their presence is that talking dirty, swearing, and general coarse language is now banned, but in reality still happens when the precious types are not present – you just have to suss out what your co-workers are like before you open your mouth.  Because of that a lot of rig culture has had to change.  I don’t really have a problem with the pressure sensor being called a pressure sensor instead of a donkey’s dick (which it resembles), or many of the other name changes that have taken place.  One area where it is detrimental is safety.

Men on drilling rigs used to have lots of different sayings about keeping safe, with the one I mentioned above being one of the cleaner ones.  There was a definite use for them.  You’re way more likely to remember something a bit lewd than something like “be careful with hand placement.”  You’ll have a laugh as you back away from putting your hand somewhere stupid instead of crushing your fingers.  I have anecdotal proof of this – if you ask any of my former colleagues what lesson from a toolbox meeting they remember the most it will be the one where I said “don’t put your hand where you wouldn’t put your cock,” with no exceptions.  It is a good way to get a message through to people.

Similarly you used to get yelled at for doing unsafe acts (I remember one instance in particular where I took a shortcut underneath the v-door, where drill pipe is hauled up from the ground to the drill floor – a big no-no since getting hit by falling drillpipe is a good way to get yourself killed).  You can’t do that now either, because the powers that be have decided that people not getting their feelings hurt is more important than people not getting killed in an industrial accident.  Instead it is all softer discipline, where you get stood down, you have to answer to a committee, and can be run-off or sacked, and of course it must be documented (which is in itself dumbing down safety but that’s a different rant).  Firing a keen but green worker for doing something dumb doesn’t make the industry safer.  If he gets another job he won’t have learned his lesson, since he probably doesn’t understand the danger behind what he did, and if he doesn’t get another job then the industry has lost someone who may have made a good worker.  But it’s OK because at least he didn’t get his feelings hurt.

There have been a few things come up in the last week or so that have prompted me to write this.  The biggest and most obvious one is the incident where Chris Gayle asked Channel 10 presenter Mel McLaughlan out for drinks during a sideline interview.  For god’s sake, if you’re paid good money to interview people who your company talks up as a ladies man and you are a reasonably attractive woman then of course he’s going to play up to it.  That’s part of her job and if she can’t handle it then hire someone who can.   You don’t hire a 50 kg scrawny weakling to haul bags of cement, although at a different job they did hire small women as lab assistants and then had to design an apparatus to help them move around core (sticks of rock) so nothing would surprise me.  The whole thing has been blown out of proportion by people who are on a moral crusade but are actually doing more harm than good.  Is that what we’ve been reduced to?

I might be old fashioned but I don’t think I am.  A man used to be able to support his family on a single wage, and there was no need for women to get into traditionally male dominated roles.  That is no longer the case – some women want a career and to a certain extent it is expected by society.  I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with workplaces requiring change to accommodate it.  There is a reason why drill rigs are rough places, and that’s because it can be a dangerous job.  As well as helping to keep workers safe, it helps promote working together as a team and get the job done efficiently, and it helps guys cope with working in an uncomfortable environment (particularly in Australia) far from their families.  A definite command structure isn’t optional, it is necessary.  I haven’t ever been in the military, but I gather that it is the same there and they are having similar problems.  Put another way, males don’t go into a female dominated industry and expect the incumbents to stop their girly gossiping etc. which I think is much more destructive to a company (my previous employer mentioned in the first paragraph is a case in point).  Women should be able to work in oil and gas.  But things are done the way they are for a reason.  Please don’t use that as a reason to change something that was working.  And please don’t take my comments at anything but face value – I have worked with plenty of women who are as bad or worse than I am, and I have worked with plenty of men who are pussies.

No tag for this post.

RIP David Bowie

January 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Saddened to read that David Bowie has died, and surprised to realise he was 69 years old.

I recall especially well his single The Laughing Gnome, as that was my nickname at school!

Also thought he made a great goblin king in Labyrinth.

An incredibly versatile and enduring entertainer. He will be missed.

General Debate 12 January 2016

January 12th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 11 January 2016

January 11th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 10 January 2016

January 10th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Why girls are outclassing boys at school

January 9th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Economist reports:

Until the 1960s boys spent longer and went further in school than girls, and were more likely to graduate from university. Now, across the rich world and in a growing number of poor countries, the balance has tilted the other way. Policymakers who once fretted about girls’ lack of confidence in science now spend their time dangling copies of “Harry Potter” before surly boys. Sweden has commissioned research into its “boy crisis”. Australia has devised a reading programme called “Boys, Blokes, Books & Bytes”. In just a couple of generations, one gender gap has closed, only for another to open up.

So it is a global issue, not just a NZ issue.

The reversal is laid out in a report published on March 5th by the OECD, a Paris-based rich-country think-tank. Boys’ dominance just about endures in maths: at age 15 they are, on average, the equivalent of three months’ schooling ahead of girls. In science the results are fairly even. But in reading, where girls have been ahead for some time, a gulf has appeared. In all 64 countries and economies in the study, girls outperform boys. The average gap is equivalent to an extra year of schooling.

That’s a huge difference.

To see why boys and girls fare so differently in the classroom, first look at what they do outside it. The average 15-year-old girl devotes five-and-a-half hours a week to homework, an hour more than the average boy, who spends more time playing video games and trawling the internet. Three-quarters of girls read for pleasure, compared with little more than half of boys.

So parents need to make reading cool for boys.

Once in the classroom, boys long to be out of it. They are twice as likely as girls to report that school is a “waste of time”, and more often turn up late. Just as teachers used to struggle to persuade girls that science is not only for men, the OECD now urges parents and policymakers to steer boys away from a version of masculinity that ignores academic achievement. “There are different pressures on boys,” says Mr Yip. “Unfortunately there’s a tendency where they try to live up to certain expectations in terms of [bad] behaviour.”

Gender stereotypes for most of our history have worked against women, but now gender stereotypes in education are working against boys and men.

Perhaps because they can be so insufferable, teenage boys are often marked down. The OECD found that boys did much better in its anonymised tests than in teacher assessments.

Discrimination on the basis of gender?

What is behind this discrimination? One possibility is that teachers mark up students who are polite, eager and stay out of fights, all attributes that are more common among girls. In some countries, academic points can even be docked for bad behaviour. Another is that women, who make up eight out of ten primary-school teachers and nearly seven in ten lower-secondary teachers, favour their own sex, just as male bosses have been shown to favour male underlings.

The lack of male teachers is a concern.

Girls’ educational dominance persists after school. Until a few decades ago men were in a clear majority at university almost everywhere (see chart 2), particularly in advanced courses and in science and engineering. But as higher education has boomed worldwide, women’s enrolment has increased almost twice as fast as men’s. In the OECD women now make up 56% of students enrolled, up from 46% in 1985. By 2025 that may rise to 58%.

At 60%, there would be 50% more women than men in tertiary education.

Social change has done more to encourage women to enter higher education than any deliberate policy. The Pill and a decline in the average number of children, together with later marriage and childbearing, have made it easier for married women to join the workforce. As more women went out to work, discrimination became less sharp. Girls saw the point of study once they were expected to have careers. Rising divorce rates underlined the importance of being able to provide for yourself. These days girls nearly everywhere seem more ambitious than boys, both academically and in their careers.

The mass entrance of women into the workforce and higher education is one of the great trends of the 20th century. Now the challenge is to ensure boys are not left behind educationally.

General Debate 9 January 2016

January 9th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 8 January 2016

January 8th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 7 January 2016

January 7th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 6 January 2016

January 6th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 5 January 2016

January 5th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 4 January 2016

January 4th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 3 January 2016

January 3rd, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 2 January 2016

January 2nd, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel