Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A cat cafe

April 5th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

WOULD you like some kitten with your coffee?

Feline company is exactly what one of London’s newest cafes is offering — and stressed-out city-dwellers are lapping it up.

“People do want to have pets and in tiny flats, you can’t,” said cafe owner Lauren Pears, who opened Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium last month in an area east of the city’s financial district.

“There’s not many places in London you can just curl up with a book and chill out with a cat or two on your lap,” she said on Friday. “I think that’s what our success is down to.” …

The cozy English tea room, named after Alice’s cat in Alice in Wonderland, charges customers 5 pounds ($9) for two hours of kitty company. Coffee and afternoon tea — sandwiches, cakes and scones — are on the menu at an additional cost.

Lady Dinah’s opened on March 1, and is fully booked until the end of June.

Ms Pears raised more than 109,000 pounds through a crowd-funding campaign to get the cafe up and running. Despite more than a year of planning permission delays and figuring out how to maintain health and safety standards, she says the hard work has been worth it.

The 11 resident kitties were donated by people leaving the country who could no longer look after them. Kitty welfare is paramount: the cats get regular breaks away from people, and staff have been trained by animal behaviourists to care for them.

That’s a great idea. No surprise they are booked up for three months. I love in an apartment block that bans pets, and miss not having a cat. I’d definitely go to a cafe with cats.


General Debate 5 April 2014

April 5th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

F is for Freedom

April 5th, 2014 at 5:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Initiative hits F in their economic alphabet:

Trying to explain economic freedom to someone living in an economically free country is like trying to explain to a fish what water is. Like a fish in water, when we are free we rarely stop to consider what freedom is, why it is important to our livelihood, and what would happen if it was ever taken away.
Fortunately, New Zealand consistently ranks near the top of international indices measuring economic freedom. But this also means that we might take it too much for granted.
In its broadest sense, economic freedom is the ability for individuals to autonomously arrange their economic affairs and pursue greater prosperity. More specifically, it is the ability to exercise personal choice, participate in voluntary exchange, compete in markets, and enjoy the use of one’s property.
The choice to start a new business in any given field is an example of economic freedom. As is the ability to choose from ten different brands of bread at the supermarket. When you are able to sell your bike on Trade Me at whatever price you wish, this is also an example of economic freedom.
There is a role for government to play in economic affairs, but that role is limited. For the most part, it is to provide the legal structure to protect property rights and enforce contracts.
Of course, very few governments stick to those core functions. There are many other tasks that governments have taken on, such as the provision of roads and infrastructure, education, and health, to name a few.
But the more the government’s role is extended, the more economic freedom is threatened and diminished. The government harms economic freedom through corruption, over-regulation, taxation, and restrictions on voluntary exchanges.
While tax policies, subsidies, restrictions on foreign investment, or regulatory reforms by themselves may be undertaken with the best intentions, they all limit economic freedom. This has real material consequences. One only needs to observe the difference between North Korea and South Korea.
According to empirical research, high degrees of economic freedom are positively correlated with greater economic growth, higher average incomes, greater gender equality, higher life expectancy, and less poverty.
The value of economic freedom over crowd-pleasing government policies is only truly appreciated when it is gone. We should never take it for granted. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

The link between economic freedom and prosperity is well documented.

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General Debate 4 April 2014

April 4th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Tracking planes

April 4th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An aviation industry group is creating a task force to make recommendations this year for continuously tracking commercial airliners because “we cannot let another aircraft simply vanish” like Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. …

The aviation mystery has highlighted the need for improvements in tracking aircraft and security, according to the International Air Transport Association, a trade association for the world’s airlines meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

“In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief that an aircraft could simply disappear,” said Tony Tyler, the director general of the group whose 240 member airlines carry 84 per cent of all passengers and cargo worldwide.

“We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” he said in announcing the high-level task force to make recommendations on tracking commercial aircraft.

I strongly agree with this, and not just  because by the time this post appears I’ll be on board a Malaysia Airlines flight to (hopefully) Kuala Lumpar!!

I’d even go further and say modern aircraft should have drone capability where their airline can take over control via autopilot if a plane diverts from its intended route without good reason.

But the Air Line Pilots Association, the world’s biggest pilot union, warned that live-streaming of information from the flight data recorder, as an alternative to the current black boxes, could lead to the release or leak of clues that could make pilots look bad before all the facts about an accident are known.

The pilots union have a lot to answer for when it comes to safety. They’re the reason the black box only records the last two hours of conversation, which means for MH370 even finding the black box may not help us know what happened. Their concern about people judging pilots prematurely should be a distant second to safety.


General Debate 3 April 2014

April 3rd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 2 April 2014

April 2nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 1 April 2014

April 1st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Monday Motivator – Rhythm of Peace And Power

March 31st, 2014 at 10:51 am by Richard Hume

Monday Motivator 16

Rhythm of Peace And Power, Drepung Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet

Purists may have an issue with using an 8 second exposure on a people shot however sometimes breaking the ‘rules’ pays off. In Drepung monastery in Lhasa, Tibet this was one such case when it paid off for me as I purposely captured the movement and a little of the eternal mantra of these monks.

When I looked at the film many months after taking the image I was amazed to see that some of the monks were actually sharp. I have always loved this photograph.

Click on the image for a larger view of this photograph.


Richard []

YouTube: Timeless – A Panoramic Journey




General Debate 31 March 2014

March 31st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 30 March 2014

March 30th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 29 March 2014

March 29th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

E is for entrepreneur

March 28th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

From the NZ Initiative:

As George W. Bush allegedly once said, “the problem with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur.” That may not be entirely correct as the French may be short of business sense but certainly not of words. What is clear though is that most people have no idea what entrepreneurship really means.

So let’s take the word ‘entrepreneur’ and dissect it a little. It was actually coined by (quelle surprise!) a Frenchman (of Irish origin): Richard Cantillon (1680-1734). Quite literally entrepreneur means ‘under-taker’ and this is how it translates into many other languages (e.g. ‘Unternehmer’ in German or ‘imprenditore’ in Italian).

Unfortunately, the connotation with funerals and gravediggers prevented a similar English translation. It might have helped to elucidate what entrepreneurs do because, well, they undertake things.

Undertaking itself is a word with many potential meanings. It is about committing oneself to a task, taking charge and obligating oneself to a project, often while bearing risks. In a nutshell, this is how most economists would describe entrepreneurs.

There are two definitions of entrepreneurship which one can often find in economics textbooks. One focuses on the risk aspect that is inherent in entrepreneurial activity. While employees do not bear any residual risk for the company they work for, entrepreneurs stand to lose some or all of their investment if things go wrong. Seen from this angle, an entrepreneur is the bearer of insecurity relating to his income. Therefore, a small shareholder is an entrepreneur while a highly paid employee like a CEO is not.

The second way of looking at entrepreneurs focuses not so much on their responsibilities but on their activities. For Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, entrepreneurs are people who are always on the lookout for new and better ways of doing things: inventing new products, conquering new markets, finding more efficient production methods. In this way, their actions promote a process of ‘creative destruction’.

US economist Israel M. Kirzner, meanwhile, emphasises that an entrepreneur’s core function is spotting hitherto unexploited opportunities. In a way, this is also what Schumpeter’s entrepreneur does but Kirzner takes it a step further: we all behave as entrepreneurs in this sense, even in our roles as consumers.

So next time you are looking for a better bargain, or a new job, you may feel a little like Gordon Gekko, Citizen Kane or Mr Burns: we are all entrepreneurs now … even the French.

I can relate to the insecurity of income as a small business owner. But the benefits outweigh the risks, which is why we do it.

Looking forward to F for Freedom next week.

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General Debate 28 March 2014

March 28th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 27 March 2014

March 27th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 26 March 2014

March 26th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

MH370 confirmed crashed

March 25th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The devastated relatives of passengers on board missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 must assume the plane is “lost” and the flight crashed in the Indian Ocean, the Malaysian PM says.

The families were called to meetings this morning to be told the fate of flight 370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people, including two New Zealanders, aboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing.

Those who could not attend received a text message or phone call from the airline confirming the terrible news.

New satellite analysis showed MH370 flew along the southern corridor and its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, representatives of the UK Air Investigation Branch had told Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

“This is a remote location, far from any possible landing sights,” Najib said today.

“It is, therefore, with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

I think this almost rules out terrorism.

Either it was a freak accident that overwhelmed the pilots, or it was one of the pilots.

I’m unconvinced that something like a fire on board would kill the pilots, yet allow the plane to keep flying for seven hours.

Also there is the mystery of the fact that the deviations from  the flight path appear to have been programmed into the computer in advance.

At least the families of those on dead have some certainty now, but questions will remain until at least the black box is found. Even then it may say little as it only has the last two hours of cockpit conversation, in the bizarre interests of pilot privacy protection. Anything short of a clear motive for or confession from a pilot will mean it remains a mystery.


General Debate 25 March 2014

March 25th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 24 March 2014

March 24th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 23 March 2014

March 23rd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 22 March 2014

March 22nd, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

D is for debt

March 21st, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

This week’s letter from the NZ Initiative:

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius’s sage advice to his son about friendship was:

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be
For loan oft loses both itself and friend.

In contrast, borrowing and lending between complete strangers makes the world a better place. 

People can deposit savings with institutions that on-lend the funds to people who need to borrow to buy a house or expand their business. Globally, banks and other such intermediaries shift savings from countries that have a surplus of savings over investment opportunities, such as China in recent decades, to deficit countries. 

People with surpluses are better off than if their opportunities to invest were narrower and people with deficits are better off than if their opportunities to borrow were fewer.

These transfers of savings may take the form of debt or equity. This article is about debt. 

Unlike equity, debt involves no ownership control of the borrower’s enterprise. Instead the borrower typically agrees to pay the lender interest and principal according to a pre-determined schedule, as for term deposits or payments on government bonds.

The lender is risking that the borrower will default, and needs to take care as a result. Higher interest rates can compensate for greater risk, but not if the borrower defaults.

Conversely, borrowers who borrow too much can inflict severe future distress on themselves and their associates.

Borrowers have less incentive to be prudent when they are merely the agent of the person who is really liable. For example, when large companies or governments are borrowing, they are putting their shareholders and taxpayers at risk respectively, rather than the managers, politicians or officials who are signing the borrowing contracts.

Unless such agents are well-controlled, they may borrow imprudently.

Similarly, lenders have less incentive to be prudent when they are merely someone’s agent, or when they can assume that someone else, such as the government, is assuming the risk. Government-backed lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were major underwriters of the last US housing bubble.

Misplaced confidence in financial soundness is a dangerous thing, particularly for taxpayers. Unsurprisingly, research has found evidence that government guarantees for bank deposits increase the risk of bank failure.

Peace-time debt crises of national significance commonly reflect government mismanagement of fiscal, exchange rate, monetary, industry and/or prudential policies. But they can also have climatic and international causes. The costs in unemployment and lost output can be very serious.

Not sure what next week’s E is!

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General Debate 21 March 2014

March 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 20 March 2014

March 20th, 2014 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Who dun it?

March 19th, 2014 at 12:57 pm by David Farrar

Well I think it was either the pilot or co-pilot. I can’t imagine the plane could have been diverted without any distress signal, without at least one of them involved.

How awful for the families of those on board, and how intriguing for the rest of us as we all wonder how did it happen.