Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just for a change, I thought I might share the past weekend not because it was a “typical” weekend, but simply because it was not a typical weekend. If Al drops by, he might even enjoy some of this…

This past weekend was my grandson’s first birthday. Now as that particular branch of the family is residing some 5-1/2 hours drive away, a birthday party – even of this magnitude – is not something that one considers as a day trip.

But there was more afoot than that. Daughter Kath and s-i-l Darryl have been involved for many years in the mediaeval re-enactment movement. Neither of them have that much interest now in the combative side but have been adding their shoulder to the organisation of the more important annual events.

That the annual Jousting Tournament in Taupo coincided with grandson’s first birthday was entirely coincidental. There were other far more important events that shaped the timing; a couple of weddings in the mediaeval re-enactment community; Wellington Anniversary Day (which included Taupo), the availability of a team from Australia, in that sort of order…

Now Taupo is a couple hours closer to Auckland than is New Plymouth so it is a sorta halfway house as well as the Joust. We packed necessaries such as swim gear, wet weather gear, and woollies (well it was friggin COLD in Auckland) and left the cat to his own devices for the day. Had breakfast in Cambridge at 8.30. Spent an hour enjoying bacon and eggs and strong coffee. Tootled our way down through the showers and got to Taupo at roughly 11.

No, we did not get free admission because D was one of the organisers. It cost almost as much as breakfast.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around, meeting peoples, looking, baby-sitting (that gets increasingly difficult as mokopuna start finding their feet and standing), and just being a general pest. I proved that I can re-start a fire from black hot embers using only found material – pine needles in this case – as tinder. Not difficult, just a bit of patience and not choking the air out while keeping the heat in.

The disappointments? The swimming holes (natural, thermal, and hot!) were crowded all day, and not particularly salubrious. The weather was cool, a drafty SWer, with showers that were dampening rather than wetting but still annoying. Finding that Mercer is a lot further from Taupiri than I thought and nearly running out of fuel as a result.

The highlights? Seeing that part of the family. Picking meat off a pot-roast chicken for lunch. Getting smoke in my eyes. Breakfast in Cambridge, toasted sammies at 9 pm when we got home again.

One of the peoples we met was Rangi. A lovely and quite remarkable woman. She is in her late forties / early fifties. She has a 33 y-o daughter, an 8 y-o and a 3 y-o, plus an 8 month grand-daughter. TF was right that she is Maori (who are Polynesians), and she also has “Celtic” (English) blood. Hence the two tattoos; Maori whakairo on the chin and lips, a “Celtic tribal” design behind her ear. She agreed that the latter was probably about as “traditionally accurate” as calling Govenor Hobson a Roman Prelate. For those who don’t know, the modern whakairo is tattooed with the modern needle process. The traditional form was actually carved into the skin; an extremely long and painful process. There were two kuia in Te Whaiti when I lived there in the ‘50s who had the old form; the patterns were actually grooves in the skin coloured a deep brown-green with a paste made from a fungus, and scar tissue beneath where the skin and some of the underlying fatty tissue had been “cut out”; shading was done with a “comb” cutter very similar to the modern process in effect.

One of the reasons for that previous post was a comment my wife made that “…if you saw Rangi in the street it would be very easy to label her as transvestite…”. And to so do would be a travesty to a beautiful lady.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stories -

Take a look at the photo below. This is a person I met for the first time yesterday.

Think about who this person might be, and give me a quick two or three sentences on what you think the story might be.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Jesus rifle?

This is one of those rare stories that has the effect of curdling the probligo's morning plate of porridge.

The US military is reconsidering its contract with a company hired to supply its forces with rifle sights after it was found that thousands of the devices were inscribed with codes which appear to refer to verses from the Bible.

Different versions of Trijicon's Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight are used by the US Special Operations Forces, the US Marine Corps and the US Army.

The BBC reports that Britain's Ministry of Defence has ordered 480 of the gunsights for use by troops in Afghanistan. The ministry says that other versions of the ACOG are "widely in service."

Trijicon admitted to ABC News that the codes were deliberately added to the sights. Spokesman Tom Munson said the inscriptions "have always been there" and said the company has done nothing wrong or illegal by adding them.

The company said the practice started under its Christian founder, Glyn Bindon.

Quite frankly, I don't particularly care how "the practice started". At the same time, I fail to see how any Christian can stand by and allow let alone support the idea. OK, so that is based on my meagre understanding and knowledge of Christian beliefs. But after listening to the hatred, the rhetoric, and the anti-Islam propaganda for the past five years I can not understand why such a move can be made.

Why is shouting "Allah Akhbar!" as you press the detonator on your bomb any different from carrying religious symbolism on your weapons?

Anyway, there is common sense at hand.
Going to war in Afghanistan with Biblical citations stamped on their weapons is not appropriate for New Zealand soldiers, the Defence Force says.

Biblical citations had been found on weapon sights used by New Zealand troops in Afghanistan but the Defence Force said they would be removed.


The American manufacturer would be told not to put the inscriptions on further orders and the letters would be removed from existing gun sights.

Major Dunne said the Defence Force had about 260 of the company's gun sights, which were first bought in 2004, and soldiers would continue using them because they were the best of their kind.

The American manufacturer, Trijicon, said the American military had been a customer since 1995 and the company had never received any complaints about the scripture citations.

"We don't publicise this," Tom Munson, Trijicon's director of sales and marketing, told the American media.

"It's not something we make a big deal out of. But when asked, we say, 'Yes, it's there'," he said.

Personally, I can think of nothing more hypocritical than the use of religious symbolism in the cause of war. Yes, both sides are doing it. It does not matter which side. It is (in my opinion) a wrong thing.

And like drugs in baseball, the fact that "everyone is doing it" does not make it right.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A quiet glance at history -

TV programming being what it is at this time of the year there is not much out there to unwind the mind of an evening.

So it was that I happened to dip into the first programme of a series on the history of the Celts. It was quiet interesting, and covered the first known history of these peoples from the period of roughly 10AD on. That period also saw the decline of the Roman Empire and the relationship between our "known history" of the time, written by the Romans, has persevered because generally they were the victors. The Celtic side of these wars was not recorded as they had no written record.

The wars against "the barbarians of the north" are generally accepted as the defence of the Roman Empire from ravaging hordes of uncivilised naked warriors out on raids of looting, pillaging and rapine. Well, that is how the Roman record has it.

The programme was based around the archeological studies of two Celt cities; one in southern Germany, the second the French stronghold of Gretorex where Julius finally "subdued" the last remnants of the Celtic military structures about 30 years later.

One of the earliest Roman actions was effectively a "pre-emptive strike". The Helvetic tribes approached the Romans for permission to cross through the then northern reaches of the Empire, toward what is now southern France. That permission was given, but followed up with what might now be considered "genocide and crimes against humanity".

That first programme ended with this quotation from Tacitus' history of the Roman General, Agricola -

...Meanwhile, among the many leaders, one superior to the rest in valour and in birth, Galgacus by name, is said to have thus harangued the multitude gathered around him and clamouring for battle:--

30. "Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain's glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.

Ah, history... and it still happens.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Over the past five years or so that the probligo has been living in the blogiverse he has learned just how fragile - and in so many ways - the average American psyche can be. Just look to the last post for the most recent instance; the inability of an individual to accept that facts can actually oppose standing preconceptions and long held beliefs. But this is not the time nor place for that debate - that is yet to and will come.

About two or three weeks back there was a considerable raruraru in the local (NZ) media about a proposal to move away from traditional pasture farmed dairying toward the techniques used in EUrope and the US with fully enclosed herds on "artificial" feeds. The advantages were many, and much outweighed the perceived costs of open farming.

Personally I hope that they fail. NZ's major advantage in all farming methods is not the "green and clean" message but the fact that our methods are natural; we convert water and sunlight into food.

Now - this last week - there have been reports coming through of Missouri (the US one, so that we are clear) reclaiming some 5% of the total US dairy market (such as this example). Apparently the US dairy state had been losing its markets and consequently suffering reduced production under the pressure of "increasing costs and decreasing returns". That despite what I suspect would be fairly substantial state and federal subsidies.
With milk prices so low and many dairy farmers losing money, the New Zealanders’ low-cost methods, which mostly involve a different way of feeding cows, are luring converts.

“Their impact has been so significant in our state that it’s hard to get your arms around it,” said David Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairy Association.


As recently as 1975, the state had 20,000 dairy farms and 333,000 dairy cows. Today, there are about 2,000 farms and less than one-third the number of cows.

A decade ago, businesses, farmers, bankers, academics and others gathered around a table in the Greene County Extension Office in Springfield to confront the crisis.

The group realized the business practices of the state’s dairy farms needed to improve.

The turn-round in production has come largely from four farms purchased, "modernised" and managed by Kiwis - the re-introduction of traditional pasture based farms of my countryside.
Kevin van der Poel remembers the skepticism and suspicion when he moved here four years ago from New Zealand with a newfangled approach to raising dairy cattle.

He heard the doubts, peppered with a tall tale or two.

When he started construction on rock walkways for moving cattle between pastures, the rumor spread that he was building housing for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Some locals thought his cows seemed too thin.

In the radio programme on this topic last week (I still listen to the rural news and other rural based programmes) there was a delightful descrition of a field day held at one of the farms. Questions after the tour ranged from whether cows would get stones stuck in their hooves, to the problem of the cows having to walk too far and getting tired, and the consequent impact on production...

And so we come to -
Tony Finch understands why some people might resent the New Zealanders’ different approach and, ultimately, their success.

“People see that as a threat or a degree of arrogance that we do it right and they do it wrong,” said Finch, general manager of Grasslands Consultants, another New Zealand operation, with 9,000 cows on 10,000 acres around Monett.

“That’s been a struggle — to convince people that what we’re doing is not a threat to what they’re doing, but another way of doing it.”

In many ways, the New Zealanders are returning Missouri dairy farmers to their past.

Traditionally, all Missouri dairies were pasture-based. But, in the 1970s, many began to use confinement operations and increased grain feeding to boost milk production.

In the Ozarks, where most of the dairies are, costs rose as more feed needed to be delivered and more manure needed to be removed. Labor was scarce.
The operation, which the van der Poels run out of a nondescript yellow barn set back off a rural highway, pumps about $6 million annually into the local community, he said.

They employ 28 people, about a third of the number required to run a confinement dairy with a similar-size herd.

...thereby returning to my wish for the "enclosed farming" developments in Southland to bite the dust before too many people waste their money on them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Open letter to T Fraser Stern...

... should he ever decide to pass this way again.


I seem unable to contact you by any other means so I have to post this here.

Please, could you do me the courtesy of publishing the fact that in my last comment (on your thread relating to the whaling and protesters) I referred to the ICR; the Institute for Cetacean Research.

That organisation is undertaking whale research in the Southern Ocean. That organisation is taking whales (killing them) in the pursuit of that research. That fact they acknowledge and explain in the links I presented.

It is not Sea Shepherd. It is not Greenpeace. It is not any of the other "loonie leftist protest organisations" that you despise.

So, in the interests of truth and completeness I would appreciate your acknowledgement of that fact; that I was linking to a web page of an organisation to which you are not politically opposed.

In the interests of common courtesy, I ask (but in no way expect) that you acknowledge that fact where I am able to see it.

I make no other request.

The probligo.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On whaling - the TRUTH is out there...

This is the full text of a comment I tried posting at TF's place. It was rejected because it exceeds his limit on links embedded in a comment. His decision, I am not going to protest his rather blinkered attitudes.

OK, for those too lazy to do for themselves you can start here. (All of these pages come from the Japanese Cetacean Research Institute; the organisation undertaking the actual "research".) Read this because it outlines the "historic and cultural justifications" of Japan's whaling research.

Next, read what is essentially ICR's "Mission Statement". Think as you read this, how much of this research would require the killing of whales. "Observation", "sighting surveys"? OK are they that dumb they have to kill it so that they can say "Oh, it is a whale!"? As a matter of interest, NZ is running very similar "surveys" to those being undertaken by CRI. It involves taking tissue samples by dart (roughly 50 grams of flesh) from the whale. You want a link to that too?

The justification for killing whales is briefly outlined here. Take a read, it is only two pages. Make up your own mind whether the killing of 440 whales a year (their number) is justified. Think too at the same time what might happen to the (minimum) 1000 tonnes of whale meat.

Then read this letter from ICR to the NZ Ambassador to Japan. Make your own mind up about that as well.

Finally, remember all of this comes from ICR. None from those who are opposing the Japanese whaling.

This is an odd thought; but if NOBODY wants all that whale meat, then the market for it would dry up quicker than hand gun conceal permits in New York City.

You would think so. But if someone offered you protein food at half the price or less of good beef would you at least hesitate? Read some of the Japanese opposition web pages (with as much scepticism as you need). At least two I came across mentioned that whale meat was being provided to junior schools as part of the Japanese government's "food for schools" programme. Is that true? Well I take it with a couple grains of salt, but I would not be at all surprised if it were true.

[Afterthought] Both of those pages included "letters from Japanese mothers" stating their opposition to their children being fed whale meat. No, TF, I don't believe everything I read on the 'net...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Holiday occupations... Animal Spirits 1

I made mention (if I recollect in a comment to ATOW) that the Christmas break was going to include the absorption of "Animal Spirits", a comparatively short summary of "human psychology and the economy and why it matters for global capitalism", written by George Akerlof and Robert Schiller.

The title originally comes from "spiritus animalis" which in its old (mediaeval) useage meant "of the mind" or "animating force"; the fundamental life force of man. In its modern use it has attached to economics - blame Keynes for that - as a reference to a restless or inconsistent element in the economy.

A & S summarise those animal spirits as -

Confidence. A&S use that specific term as it directly and intentionally connects with Keynes' "multiplier effect". I personally think that given some of the twists used by A&S to mould "confidence" to their extension of Keynes' useage it might have been better to use "belief" rather than "confidence". The essence is the propensity for humans to follow a persistent line of thought irrespective of its truth and irrespective of positive (optimistic or growth) or negative (pessimistic or recession) trend.

Fairness. In NZ the last statutory attempts (by Auntie Helen) at resolving relationships between employers and employees required of both sides that they engage in negotiations in "good faith". As a legal codification it agrees fairly well with A&S's thoughts on the setting of wages. Essentially it leads to the discussion of the relationship between unemployment, wage levels, and inflation.

Corruption. Actually A&S include "and anti-social behaviour". I do not think that is neccessary; it is a redundancy. That it is very quickly reduced to the single word might indicate that they thought so as well. I occurs to me that the meaning of "corruption" can also be extended. There is the neo-classic meaning of "bad dealings" connecting to the "antisocial" idea. There is a second, older, and perhaps even a more appropriate meaning as well; in terms of "corruption of the flesh". Those with older heads will make the direct connection to death, but there is also the "corruptions" that are self-inflicted - the moral corruptions of the flesh.

Money illusion. This is an interesting one. It is the ability of humans to relate "value" to monetary numeration, but at the same time being unable to comprehend the impacts of inflation and deflation on the value of the monetary unit. So, the quantum of $1 million can be understood, but the impact of monetary inflation (or deflation) at 3% per annum for 5 years on that sum is not. (As it happens, that would make the "value" of the monetary unit reduce by about 17% or prices would have increased by some 20% over the five years).

Stories. The one word term is used by A&S as a shorthand for "sense of reality, who we are and what we are doing". Personally I think it is a very powerful and concise term and especially since it links with the first of "belief". Also in that context it gives rise to an extension into many other (than economics) facets of human existence that warrant further examination; at the very least by this old and somewhat rejuvenated probligo brain.

Interesting things discussed along the way -

The multiplier effect originally proposed by Keynes became the "Hick's multiplier" and as a result of the latter's (further) analysis became attached almost exclusively to monetary and GDP effects within the economy rather than Keynes' intended "confidence multiplier".

Samuelson thought that Keynes (in some instances) went too far and in others not far enough. That the two were "opposed" is not as significant as how much they were actually in agreement.

The classical Adam Smith view of the invisible hand creates a useful mechanism for examining the fundamentals. However it is only useful in the explanation of those fundamentals. Samuelson I recall wound his way through this minefield by using the "reasonable man acting in a reasonable manner" as an essential of the prim misses required to reach a delusion. That any man acts reasonably at all times may be so, but reason is not always perfectly logical. "Reason" is not part of the definition; instead "reasonable" is the mean of human behaviour.

The main discussion in the book centres on the reasons why "conservative" economics does not accurately predict either the occurence or the progress of "bubbles"; primarily because the impact of the spiritus animalis on the real economy is ignored.

All in all it is a thought-provoking read. Worth the effort and providing a somewhat different light on recent macro-economic events.

UPDATE - to add after-thoughts under the heading of "corruption"; to add the closing paragraph.