Thursday, March 27, 2008

Watch out Fonterra

There's a new cow in town.

6.9 million reasons to kick oneself

Some person will suddenly realise that s/he is no richer today than they were yesterday - despite having won 6.9 million quid.

I feel like that every Saturday night.

Guilt-free flying for $88?

Air NZ has introduced a voluntary carbon levy.

Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe said:

"When customers purchase a flight on Air New Zealand, they will now be able
to make a concious choice about whether or not they want to take positive steps
toward helping our environment."...

Prime Minister Helen Clark said at this morning's launch the airline had set
itself the "bold goal" of being the world's most environmentally responsible

I wonder if Air NZ has calculated the "environmental cost" of its flights. Underpinning any such work will be a stack of assumptions, many of which I expect are debatable. However, nit-picking aside, this raises the question in my mind as to why they did not impose a levy across the board (in the same way the airlines have imposed levies for fuel costs). The intuitive answer is that by being the first to do that would lose them market share.

Given the investment in carbon credits and the investment in for an "environment trust" (whatever that is) Air NZ is already bearing some of the cost of its emissions. And presumably that cost is being borne by either passengers and/or shareholders.

Being a cynic by profession, upbringing and experience, I can't help but wonder if this move is expected to actually generate significant revenue for the trust or simply a publicity stunt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A birthright?

Is owning a house a birthright?

The NZ Herald seems to think so.

The right to buy a house is no more a birthright than the right to buy a car or a plasma TV or party pills (up until the end of the month, anyway).

If having a house (and I use the term house rather than home deliberately) is an unalienable right, then the only way to achieve this is, ironically, to have cookie cutter high rise housing. Even then, as Singapore has found out, it does not make it immune to the vagaries of the market.

Throw money at the problem?
The Aussies tried that with the first home-owner grant. All that achieved was to push up the price. Exisitng home owners said thank you and put it in the bank. Prospective home owners watched as prices went up even more as more people were encouraged to come into the market.

The move to mass permits is a step in the right direction but will it ensure that the supply over time will be enough to just meet demand? Given that the last decade has proven how volatile (especially upwards) demand for housing can be, would the recent proposal result in supply rising quick enough? Unlikely. So we are still going to see some degree of house price volatility. Will that result in changes to housing affordability? You bet.

Is the housing market so "strategic" that it needs to be regulated so as to ensure a policy outcome? Is the government saying it wants market forces to work better (i.e. faster)? The whole approach seems open to inconsistencies that may well leave a bigger mess.

But then it may not be Labour's problem to deal with.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Branding again

It always cracks me up when I see brands over-reaching themselves.

Spotted in the shopfront window of Wellywood's Adidas store:

"Celebrate orginality"

With Adidas?

So buy Adidas and you can be original like the other 50 trillion people who buy Adidas. Clearly there is still plenty of money to be made from scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The scaremongering goes on

Mickey Cullen once again tries to frighten the little voter kiddies by threatening them with the Bogeyman a.k.a. Sir Roger Douglas if they don't vote for Labour this year.

Yes indeedy, the VRWC will come for you naughty swing voters.

Nothing about housing affordability

Ruby Rubberlegs is performing at the Royal Easter Show in Seeeeednee.

The only connection with housing is the reference she makes in this video to her New York apartment.

Ruby Rubberlegs the teaser

Something that small should only cost ... umm.. $2 million bucks.

Not about boy racers?

While it's understandable that the grief of the sister of a car crash victim can make her want the press attention to her brother's death go away, her description of it not being a boy-racer incident is misplaced.

The police seem to think the two cars were racing. Presumably they would have some prima facie evidence to that effect.

Unfortunately it doesn't take a helluva lot of encouragement for people to go nuts behind the wheel. It's also a well documented phenomen that getting behind the wheel changes some persons' behaviour totally.

Leaving aside the fact that nothing has been said about the behaviour of the driver who also died in the incident, this story once again highlights the sad truth that there is significant number of Kiwi drivers who do not know how to balance risk and safety.

The Aggressive Drivers website carries a number of conference papers, one of which has this passage that certainly rang true:

"The risk in driving is largely under the control of the driver. The driver
decides in each moment what risks to take and which to inhibit or avoid. Risk
taking is a tendency that varies greatly among drivers as well as for the same
driver under different conditions. Thus, if a road is made safer by
straightening it, or by removing objects that interfere with visibility, drivers
will compensate for the greater safety by driving faster—the "risk homeostasis"

Hence the stupid, stupid, stupid practice of people speeding up when reaching passing lanes. "The road is wider, I can go faster."

Just in case you didn't know

Crucifiction is bad for you.

It's official.

"This Holy Week, the thousands of guilt stricken or pious worshippers who will
flay the skin off their backs, and the handful who will crucify themselves, are
encouraged to get a tetanus shot first and be sure to use a clean whip or

I always wash my whips otherwise they get a bit whiffy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DHB report out

The report on HBDHB hsa been released.

I've not bothered to read the whole thing but this article in Stuff has a couple of bits that irk me.

But the report saves most criticism for the now sacked board, finding that
it did not have even the low level procedures in place to manage conflicts of
interest ...

Mr McKernan said there was nothing stopping DHB members doing business,
but the HBDHB had "very weak systems and processes for determining how conflicts of interest should be managed".

Weak systems are the result of spreading the administration of the health system too thinly. We have 21 DHBs all competing for skilled administrators.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Herald Sub-editor Learns from News of the World

A rather silly headline from the Herald: Taxpayers may get $300k bill.

Aside from the fact that it could equally have been "Taxpayers may get $30k bill", the Herald is attempting some rather silly dog-whistle attempts to stir up outrage.

This is the way our legal system works. Legal Aid may be subject to abuse but that is infinitely better than having the police being the sole deciders of who is right and who is wrong. Moreover, if we are to deprive people of their liberty for long periods of time, we had better be damn sure of their guilt.

Note to the Herald sub-editors: Please try to incorporate more aspects of the story that relate to Nicky Watson.

Political consistency

No Minister blogs about the return of Sir Roger Douglas to ACT.

A comment about Helen Clark's voting for the reforms led by Douglas and her backing of Douglas over Lange got me thinking about political (in)consistency.

Politics is pretty rife with politicians changing their minds:

"Read my lips - no new taxes"

"No GST - ever"

Yet this is not seen as a big problem - at least to the majority of the electorate.

Is there a way of ensuring that politicans do not become time inconsistent (economics jargon there - just had to do it!)? How important is that they stick to the same script? If we allow pragmatism, do we open the door to even bigger flip flops?

Excessive Wealth

God: So tell me Benedict, how come you have so much wealth?

Benedict: Well, Big Guy, it's not really wealth.

*G raises an eyebrow*

*B shifts uneasily*

B: You see it's actually all spent.

G: On.... ?

B: Good deeds in the future. You know, helping little kids read and write so they can go on to have a zillion children themselves.

G: But you can't spend it now?

B: Oh no - because if we did that it would mean nothing to spend tomorrow.

G: And the good you do tomorrow is more important than the good you do today because.... ?

B: I decided the Church should have a discount factor greater than 1.

Brands and consumer choice

The first big consumer-advocacy programme in the mainstream media was, IIRC, Fair Go - which has gone from strength to strength.

There are now fairly weak imitations, such as Target. Excuse me while I go ingest some formaldehyde.

So much of Consumerism (as opposed to consumption) is about brand. Which makes this article in the Herald interesting.

While advocates of branding claim that it is about what their products provide that is different from others, branding IMHO is more about perception rather than reality.

In one sense it is an attempt by producers to exploit the inherent laziness of consumers by distracting away from issues such as nutritional content. Those chewy snack bars are a prime example of something that is marketed as healthy but is probably worse for you than a couple of pieces of fruit.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I just realised

... that I have the exact same layout as The Hive.

You lazy bastards!

*looks at ceiling*

My what big eyes you have

Actually this is the kind of reaction I get from my mother when she sees me after I get my no.1 haircut.

A distraction

This is such a cool web game.

It has now officially replaced Puzzle Bubble as my fav time waster.

And from the bizarre files....

.. a story of a woman who sat on a toilet for 2 years.

Okay - she obviously has some serious issues dealing with the world around her.

I'm guessing that the boyfriend had another toilet to use. Either that or had some real good drain cleaner (I hope!).

How does one fit a bandwagon on a mobile phone?

Poneke has blogged about cellphones and the call to ban their use whilst driving here.

Now the phone companies have called for a ban.

This part gets my back up:

Vodafone spokesman Raphael Hilbron said a ban would be the tipping point to get
people to do the right thing.

"People know it to be wrong, but because it's not illegal, perhaps there's not as much stigma attached to it and people think, 'Well, I'll do it because it's convenient'."

Sorry, Raphael but you've got it wrong. People do it because a) they think they are super good drivers and b) they don't give a shit about others on the road.

Making a law against it will NOT change that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is what Ministers are for

After all the hoo-haa surrounding the Hawke's Bay DHB, it's nice to see that David Cunliffe also throws his weight around at the appropriate time.

How much chips - Part 2

As Cheezy said, the rules against fatty foods are just around the corner.

I have sympathy with the view that the junk food pushers are targetting kids. I know from time spent with my extended family that young kids will pester their parents for things, especially food, that have seen on TV.

On the other hand, shielding children from TV ads is what economists call a second best outcome. Getting parents to understand a) the need for a healthy balanced diet and b) that they need to impart to their kids a degree of self-control is to my mind the first best outcome.

My nephew was around 5 at the time and was travelling in the car with his grandparents. He knew that his grandfather kept some mints in the front of the car.

"Granddad, can I have some mints?"

Granddad mutters something about not at the moment.

"But Granddad, I NEED to have a mint!"

And I need to win Lotto.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And you thought hauling your ass out of bed was hard

It's amazing what some people will do for love.

This guy clearly had a hard time.

I wonder if he's the one responsible for the increase in chip serving size?

Edited: right link now I hope

Friday, March 7, 2008

How much chips are you having with that?

According to A Chip Group, the "average serving size of chips has increased from 330 grams to up to 1kg that [sic] over the past 10 years."

1 f******g kilo????

I like chips but not that much!

No wonder there are so many fat bastards these days.

Can we have a new law to outlaw fatty chips? *snort*

This could so be me

It's a recurring fear of mine that I will go to sleep in a public place and start snoring. So I have a lot of empathy for this guy.

I doze off in meetings a lot. When people start droning on about things that really don't interest me, it's like a switch gets flicked.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Head injuries cause brain loss

A cursory reading of that headline elicited a scoff. Of course, there is a bit more to it than first meets the eye.

The point being that blunt trauma to the head can result in a loss of brain tissue - rather like a bruise leaving a big whole in your leg.

I smell an extreme weight loss diet coming....