Monday, February 26, 2007

Buck up your maths skills kiwis!

According to an article in today's Press (A7): "poor mathematics skills are leaving shoppers out of pocket because they fail to notice getting shortchanged." It also noted that "one in three workers admitted their inadequate skills had lost their company money".

This is shocking but unsurprising.
Too many people are leaving school without even the basic school certificate (NCEA level 1) Maths. Or even enough knowledge in applied Maths to work out the change. As someone who was once called "William the calculator" for my skills in mental maths I find it incredibly hard to understand how you can pass through a school system without these skills, even if you bunked most of the time and hardly listened. The amount of times I see shoppers and shopkeepers struggling is unbelievable. And if they can't do this, I bet they can't sit there and quickly work out whether the 300g or 500g option is cheaper per gram. I always have to work this out - it's a simple technique that saves me a few cents here and there - which all add up.

At least New Zealanders tend to use eftpos a lot! Come on Kiwis, buck up your ideas and at least follow your maths teacher who helps you try and solve these practical problems.

Alcohol consumption hits a high: some philosophical meanderings on attitudes to alcohol.

According to the Weekend Press New Zealand's alcohol consumption is the highest in 20 years, a staggering 464 million litres. That's 2.15 litres per man, woman or child per week. If we ignore the 21.5% of people aged under 15, that's 2.74 litres per week. Considering that this of course includes all the teetotallers and people for whom one to 5 standard drinks in a week is the norm, one would suggest that there is a huge amount being consumed in the under 25 bracket, the time in one's life when alcohol consumption is probably at its peak.

Alcohol watchdogs are blaming RTD's for the increase. Rebecca Williams notes that "RTD's are cheap, convenient and designed to appeal to young people". She's right. And the people I believe it to be affecting most are young women. Young women these days are notoriously big drinkers compared to their counterparts of a generation ago. In some cases women try to out-drink the men with disastrous consequences. The culture these days find it acceptable for women to get absolutely off their face. This is particularly prevalent among students, for whom binge-drinking of any kind is the norm. It is no good for these young women's livers or other biological functions. Naturally binge drinking is not good for us blokes either, but a women's system is even less designed to cope. The Alcopops range is very appealing to girls pretty much anywhere from high school upwards, and in many of these drinks you can't even taste the alcohol, meaning youngsters become absolutely slaughtered before they know it.

The problem with these 'slaughtered' young women is that they can become pliant, and easy to be taken advantage of. It is likely that many a time a young woman in this situation - who acquiesces to consensual sex - soon regret their actions. The bloke cannot be charged with rape because everything was ostensibly consensual but he has taken advantage of their high alcohol intake. Naturally this can work the other way round but this way appears a more common scenario. Of course the more people drink alcohol, the more they have sex...and the more they have sex, the more chance of STI's and unwanted pregnancies becoming a reality (given that alcohol leads us to less rational decisions like not worrying about contraception). Children having sex younger and younger is something to avoid as well!
The culture of binge drinking is to a large extent ingrained in the Kiwi psyche. Rugby and Beer seem to be our national icons, and the two are synonymous with each other. Middle aged New Zealanders binge drink, their children binge drink. Binge drinking is particularly bad in students lifestyles. I have participated in this binge drinking culture, and far too often at that. Most people go out from time to time with the simple objective of getting wasted. Others go out for a few quiets that descend into a binge. I can sit here and tell you that if I have a dozen beers in one night, I don't consider it a huge night. Neither would others. It may well be seen as a moderate, fairly drunk night, depending how quickly they were consumed of course. And this of course is a dangerous perspective to have.
It is the binges that are doing us damage. If I had 3 standard drinks 6 nights of the week, this would be much healthier than one night of sinking 14. Somewhere along the line education has to solve the issue. Raising the drinking age to 20 is not going to help. Well it could a little, but it's a measure I would vote against. At 18 you are deemed an adult who can participate in most legal activities, surely you should be allowed the fundamental right of supping a beer in a pub?
At the moment, as the law stands, it is illegal for those under 18 to buy alcohol, but it is legal to supply a minor with alcohol and for them to consume it. Apparently the Hospitality Association's Bruce Robertson wants an actual drinking age of 18 to be considered with any minor who consumes alcohol, effectively becoming a criminal. I can see the rationale behind the idea. It is certainly not good for children to drink. To abuse your body with alcohol is not good at the best of times but before the age of 18 when your liver hasn't fully developed is a particularly bad time to be doing it. Especially if it's week in week out systematic abuse. I wouldn't support the measure though. My parents gave me my first beer when I was about 13 or 14. I was never allowed more than one until I was about 17 or so. If this age range can learn to sensibly have a drink or two under controlled parental supervision then this is surely a good thing. They are less likely to go off the rails when they are 18. France doesn't have a drinking age. A glass of red wine is considered something worthy for any age. And France don't have the problems we have.
That is because it is all about culture and education. With the right education, with an improvement in our drinking culture our problems will diminish. One of these days I'm going to listen to that voice in my head telling me every binge session is doing me damage. If we could all listen to that voice in our heads more often, society would be a lot better place!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Leeds United: Relegation Inevitable

One of my darkest days as a Leeds fan is right now, and it certainly suits my current mood. I fully expected to lose to Wolves last night but the result is still hard to take, especially when you take into account how the bottom six are sitting. A week or two ago everything had squeezed up and we were in with a shout of survival. But the draw against QPR a few days ago was crucial. They were on a freefall. A win would have lifted us to level on points with them but an abject 0-0 draw resulted. And now the loss against Wolves makes the table look like this:

Luton 36
Hull 35
QPR 35
Barnsley 35
Southend 31
Leeds 31

And we have the worst goal difference. We have 12 games to go. We are not yet down but we sure as hell will be. 95% chance of going down. I feel so hollow. This just adds to my hollowness about at least two other things. I did have the hope that checking the results today would ease some bitterness instead of just exacerbating it. The end of LUFC is nigh. Leeds United: rest in peace. Dennis Wise you are a muppet as was John Carver and Kevin Blackwell before you. Ken Bates you are a useless turd. And as for the players: this is the Leeds United shirt we are talking about - play like you could die for it instead of just going through the motions. Very few of you actually seem to care. You pick up your healthy pay cheques and start planning which club you are going to join next season. Our vast array of injuries don't help but our players are not only not up to the job - they are not up for the job. Players, management, hang your heads in shame. You have 12 games to be heroes. 12 games to retain our status. Here are the games for us remaining:

Birmingham v Leeds Utd
Leeds Utd v Sheff Weds
Leeds Utd v Luton Town
Leicester v Leeds Utd
Southend v Leeds Utd
Leeds Utd v Preston NE
Leeds Utd v Plymouth
Colchester v Leeds Utd
Leeds Utd v Burnley
Southampton v Leeds Utd
Leeds Utd v Ipswich
Derby v Leeds Utd

We should lose against Birmingham but the next 4 games after that will completely define the season. If we could get a minimum of 3 wins and a draw out of Wednesday, Luton, Leicester and Southend then we would really give ourselves a fighting chance. And these are potentially winnable matches against lowly ranked teams, two of them also fighting relegation. I very much doubt we will but we need good results in those games, and set us up for the tough last 7 games.

But whatever way you look at, I think we're done for. I feel too down and upset to cry. No doubt I will do a few times before the season is over. And play a bit of "Everybody Hurts" by REM, or John Blunt, to make me feel even more upset. When we failed in the Championship playoff final last season the next day I was singing the Leeds songs to myself all day long with tears in my eyes. I have to prepare myself for a similar eventuality. What a circus for Leeds fans to endure. I hope the Leeds fans go to the last game of the season against Derby and throw a party.

We have never been as low as the third tier of English football. To go there would be the worst moment as a Leeds fan. The last 5 or 6 years have been like hell on earth for us Leeds fans. But if we do go down, I just have to hope that we can come back over the next few years instead of remaining condemned to the lower leagues for an eternity.

We'll be back.

MARCHING ON TOGETHER (highlighting - all my own choice)

Here we go with Leeds United
We're gonna give the boys a hand
Stand up and sing for Leeds United
They are the greatest in the land

Every day, we're all gonna say
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
Everywhere, we're gonna be there
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

Marching on together
We're gonna see you win(na na na na na na)
We are so proud
We shout it out loud
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

We've been through it all together
And we've had our ups and downs (ups and downs!)
We're gonna stay with you forever
At least until the world stops turning 'round

Every day, we're all gonna say
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!
Everywhere, we're gonna be there
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

Marching on together
We're gonna see you win (na na na na na na)
We are so proud
We shout it out loud
We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Anti Smacking Bill.

Today Sue Bradford's Anti Smacking Bill is set to comfortably pass its second reading. This bill would effectively repeal s59 of the Crimes Act which permits parents to use reasonable force against children. My position on this issue is exactly in line with Chester Burrows of the National Party who is set to place certain amendments on the table.

My problem with s59 is that it allows parents the opportunity to get away with unacceptable levels of violence against their children. I know people who have disciplined their children far too harshly such as with a belt or stick. I'm even not a fan of the slipper. Any discipline that leaves the child with marks on their body is surely unacceptable, with no place in modern society. So some change is desirable.

However repealing s59 would effectively criminalise parents who simply smack their children. Sue Bradford says it won't: "Repeal of s59 will not criminalize parents. Police, as always, will exercise discretion about mounting a prosecution, as their procedural rules require them to do. Only abusive parents have reason to fear the repeal of S59." However their actions would still be deemed within illegal bounds, and police time would be wasted on a trifling matter. If criminalising these parents is not the intent why can't we just define reasonable force?

Nanaia Mahuta who has come out in favour of the bill says that "there continues to be far too many instances of young people being abused, neglected or killed, and this cannot continue." Certainly she is correct, but how making smacking illegal will help that is surely anybody's guess. She is clearly radical on this issue, disappointed that the bill does not go as far as it had originally, in other words outlawing reasonable force as a defence. Would she prefer that the parent being attacked by an enraged child just take it, and not defend themselves at all?

A smack, delivered occasionally, is a valuable parenting tool. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been on the receiving end of a smack. I deserved that punishment. And it was effective. It shouldn't be overused however because then it simply becomes meaningless and commonplace. Effectively making smacking illegal however would be a disgrace.

In summary let's hope we get Chester Burrow's amendments. We should keep reasonable force but define exactly what that is by outlawing the use of implements, and simply making the only acceptable physical punishment as an open-handed smack.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Over the last few years there has been a lot about whaling in the media. I am vehemently opposed to whaling. Part of the reason is due to objective analysis of the facts, but it is also due to an emotional response. Thus I am against whaling objectively and emotionally. I don't see why, just because I am emotively against something, this should make my response invalid. Humans are not robots after all.

Let's analyse my emotive response first.

My mother has always instilled a strong conservation ethic in me, and she has always been strongly against whaling. In 1994 I was living in England and my family came to New Zealand for a holiday (and with a view to emigrating). One of the highlights of the trip was going to be whalewatching. As we fitted the whalewatching around my 10th birthday (April 25th) and my mum's birthday 3 days later it was extra special. First the family took a boat out. Seeing a Sperm Whale only a matter of 10 yards away was an awe-inspiring experience. The whale dived down. It was majestic. The whole experience was breathtaking. I was transfixed. Afterwards just Mum and I decided to take a helicopter ride and watch the whales breathing on the surface. This was also simply spectacular. Ever since that fantastic day I have loved whales. I started reading up on them, and I had a poster of all the different species on my bedroom wall.

I am completely behind Greenpeace in their attempts to stop whaling. There are many things I disagree with Greenpeace on, such as Genetic Modification, but on whaling: I stand beside them 100%. I completely respect their actions in doing things like getting in between the whalers and the whale, and sometimes I almost wish I was doing it myself. It's also great when they come up with something innovative to get their message across! It may make me sound like a bit of a radical, or a lunatic, but I love the work of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society such as their lobbing acid onto whaling fleets, and when I hear Japanese whalers come out with something like: “Sea Shepherd is conducting a campaign of outright destruction and terrorism. We have serious concerns that someone will be injured or killed in its destructive terrorism.” - I actually think: well good on them!

But objectively there are plenty of reasons to be against whaling too.

(1) Whaling is unsustainable. The gestation period of a whale, depending on the species, is anywhere from 1-2 years. The amount of whales that are killed there is no way the whale species can regenerate even a fraction of the amount that are killed.

(2) Killing just one whale can put the whole ecosystem out of kilter when you consider that a humpback whale for example eats millions of krill per day.

(3) Whales cannot be farmed. If they could there may be a theoretical argument in favour of whaling. But there is no way you can put a fence around them. These are wild creatures not sheep or cows.

(4) Whales are endangered. For the sake of biodiversity no species should become extinct. When whaling nations such as Japan or Norway are supposedly going after the more plentiful Minke, I can't trust that they're not going after the highly endangered ones also. Even killing Minke at the rate they want to will soon make them become highly endangered also.

(5) Whaling is a very painful experience for the whale. A harpoon can cause a whale to writhe around in agony for hours, spewing blood. It is horrible. That we can still inflict such pain on these beautiful creatures is barbaric.

(6) Although whaling is supposedly for scientific research it is clearly for commercial gain. Whale is considered just another delicacy by many Japanese, and people pay extortionate prices because it apparently tastes so good. Research is just an excuse. But even if it were for research, this would be research that is not needed. Why should humans thirst for knowledge cause mass killings of whales? Much can be learned by observing them in the wild or cutting up an already dead beached whale anyway.

Keep up the good work Greenpeace. Whaling is despicable both objectively and emotively.

Teenage Pregnancy.

Apparently the teenage birth rate is climbing year by year. This is very unfortunate as it deepens the countries social and economic problems, and I think it would be fair to say that many of these mothers come from what John Key would describe as the underclass of society.

It is all very well for welfare commentators like Lindsay Mitchell to blithely criticise the 'financial incentives' of giving birth but what's the alternative? What would be the consequences of say, removing all 'financial incentives'? It is conceivable that the birth rates will go down, but what of the children that are born? For a girl in poverty to give birth to a child and receive no welfare, is to put the innocent child into great danger of malnutrition or worse. The poverty that they will grow up in will be horrendous.
So what of any other alternatives? Will removing them from their mother and placing them into care or foster homes be better? Removing them will put huge emotional strain on the mother and will have deep psychological impacts on the child. Even one lucky enough to be placed with just one great foster family will end up undertaking the journey to discovery as to where they actually came from. Others will move between foster homes, becoming unwilling to make emotional attachments knowing how easy there are to break. There is nothing more important to a child than the love of its parents, and especially its mother.
What about forcing pregnant teenagers to have abortions? Apart from this being unethical state intervention the psychological effect of the abortion on the mother-to-be will be immense. A while ago I read a study (and I'm sorry I can't remember what it was but you'll just have to take my word for it) that suggested the psychological effects of abortion are far worse than those of going through with an unwanted pregnancy. Never mind the fact that having an abortion makes you more likely to become unfertile. As I was first made aware of by the character Rachel in the magnificent TV series Cold Feet, who was told she couldn't have a child with Adam because of her abortion with her ex-husband.
There certainly are a lot of girls or young women out there who have children in order to avoid going out to work, and because it guarantees them extra welfare money. This is fundamentally wrong but it is preferable to the child dying of starvation. The child must grow up in an environment where there is enough money to put food on the table. Often though, welfare money is abused, squandered on cigarettes or booze. This is why I think a voucher system could be explored. Vouchers which require that they are used for certain items such as food. Or money automatically being spent towards rent. I know things like this are subject to abuse, but it's possibly worth a try and can be a help towards those with the right intentions who just end up making stupid decisions.
Many of these women also have children (as Lindsay Mitchell alludes to) because they have an unstable family, because their father has fled and they feel unloved, because they have an uneasy relationship with their mother...because they want to feel the unconditional love of a baby. And it is statistically proven that it is much more likely for these problems to arise in lower socio-economic households. It's sad for the mothers, it's sad that they resort to this, and it's sad for the children involved. This is why it's so important to have policy which promotes family, which encourages a stable environment, which help children not be hungry, which helps Mum and Dad stay together. This is why it's good that John Key addresses the issue of the so-called underclass. It's vital that the vulnerable members of society have an improved situation. This is not done by simply throwing money around in the form of extra benefits as the left wing might have you believe. This is about ideas of tough love, of safer communities, of encouraging individual responsibility rather than a patronising nanny state attitude. I'm not quite sure how to tackle these issues exactly, but I'm sure John Key's ideas will have far more credence than those of the likes of Helen Clark!
Welfare and teenage pregnancy are huge issues in this country. It's very difficult to know where to start in solving these problems. But we need innovation. And we can't just ignore the problem. People: make some suggestions, help me out here!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

World Cup Squad covers all bases!

I apologise to be back talking about this issue again but I just wanted to point people to an article by Richard Boock which I enjoyed. And which I pretty much agreed with!

Click Here.

Sex Blogs

Apparently there are "nearly 7 million sex-related blogs"! It's a bit sad that people feel the need to discuss their most intimate moments on the net, even if they probably can be titillating reading at times. But I guess it's pretty similar to wanting to discuss any issue really. I suppose I should read some first if I really want to criticise!

Anyway, I would just like to reassure all my readers that none of my sex-life will ever be branded on the Internet! It's not really something I can ever see myself wanting to do! So all previous and future partners can sleep easily at night :)

The magic of the FA Cup

This morning I got up and decided to peruse the television channels, and was excited to see that ESPN was showing a live FA cup game: the replay between Middlesbrough against Bristol City. I had tuned in at the start of the second half and Bristol City had a 1-0 lead.

I love watching the FA cup. Especially when it's a Premiership team pitting its wits against a team a couple of divisions below. Middlesbrough are 12th in the Premier League and Bristol City 5th in League 1 (37 places below). And what I saw was a team who fought hard for every ball, a team encamped in their own half doggedly defending, and a team who could counterattack well. In short, I was impressed.

If you don't understand the prestige, the passion and the beauty of the FA cup you would probably wonder how it was even possible. But year after year there are shocks as the underdogs pull off mighty victories, or at least come agonisingly close. I love watching those games. Like a few years back when David Seaman of Arsenal pulled off what is possibly my most favourite save of all time against Sheffield United of the division below. The ball seemed destined for the net but somehow Seaman's big hand prevented it from crossing the line.

Shocks are a part and parcel. So are the romantic images they conjure up. The FA cup is a magical competition.

Today is Valentines Day, and so I was hoping that little known Bristol City of the West Country could add yet more magic to footballing folklore. But then Mark Viduka headed home a Downing cross from close range, and so it was 1-1. They then came close on two occasions of taking the lead as first. Downing's shot hit the base of the post, and Adam Johnson (formerly on loan to Leeds this season, doh!) crashed a long range effort into the cross bar.

And then it was extra time. Yakubu was brought down in the box and had the perfect opportunity from the penalty spot: but one of the poorest penalties you'd ever see was saved. Was it going to be little old Bristol City's day? But then Yakubu scored from close range...surely it was all over? Then with only a couple of minutes left and I was pumping in the air in a short fit of underdog excitement. McCombe turned home a cross leaving Bristol City in delirium.

3 and a half hours after the start of their locking horns and the sides were effectively level at 4-4 with penalties to decide the winner. Penalties were being taken, and at 4-4 in penalties it looked odds on that Yakubu would put his earlier miss behind him, take the last penalty, and send Boro into the 6th round. Instead he hit the post!!!! Sudden Death!!!! Mark Schwarzer pulled off his second great penalty save, proving his heroics for Australia against Uruguay in qualifying for the world cup were no one off. Then 19 year old Adam Johnson stepped up with no fear, and sent the hearts of little old Bristol City crashing to the floor.

But what a magnificent match. And what a magnificent advent for the cup. This is what it is all about. This is what makes football all worth while. The showponies and largesse of the premiership almost brought down to size. An exciting start to the day. Pity the underdog couldn't quite pull through!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Our World Cup Squad:

The Black Caps squad for the world cup has been announced:
Stephen Fleming (c)
Shane Bond
James Franklin
Peter Fulton *
Mark Gillespie
Michael Mason *
Brendon McCullum
Craig McMillan
Jacob Oram
Jeetan Patel
Scott Styris
Ross Taylor
Daryl Tuffey
Daniel Vettori
Lou Vincent

* Fulton and Mason have not been included in the Chappell Hadlee series and will be available for their respective provinces.

It's about what was expected - apart from the shock inclusion of Darryl Tuffey. The rationale from Bracewell is that he is the perfect replacement for Kyle Mills because he can swing the ball away from the right hander and has been in good domestic form. He's certainly a preferable option to Adams who I believe is really not up to the rigours of international bowling. Yes he used to have the x factor of having the happy knack of taking wickets but he's erratic and generally shows poor line and length. Who are the other options? There is Chris Martin who is not suited to one day cricket. Then there is Chris Harris who could be useful on the slow West Indies pitches and has been in great form for Canterbury. Unfortunately international teams are well used to his style of bowling and thus he holds little danger to them. He would have the advantage though of strengthening the squad's batting depth. Still, overall, I believe Harris to be the past - though I'm not sure that Tuffey is the future!

Is it right that they only have one batsman as backup? Given that bowlers are the ones to break down more often it's probably a wise move. But one backup is kind of light. Having said that if we have a couple of injuries/loss of form the likes of Vettori and Franklin can go up the order to take their place. What of McMillan over Marshall? I think that's the correct decision. The only thing that would tempt me to take a Marshall (and it would be Hamish), is his ability in the field. McMillan has shown in the CB series that he is worth his place. Just as Lou Vincent has proved me wrong to a certain extent, and started getting some consistently reasonable scores.

I also hope that Fulton's exclusion from the Chappel-Hadlee is not an indication that he will not be starting at the world cup. We need Fulton's classy brand of cricket, and Fulton does need game time.

I hope that New Zealand stop's its obsession with hitting boundaries and realises a high run rate can be made up of lots of singles and twos. It's one area we have always seemed to lack in, and it's high time we started improving in this area.

And before I finish my post I just want to scream three words: ASTLE ASTLE ASTLE! Why has everybody stopped talking about his decision to retire? It was on the tip of everyone's tongue for a sum total of about 3 hours and then it was forgotten. Why retire in the middle of the series? Why not have the world cup as a swansong? Was he pushed out? Is he bitter with Bracewell? Is he making a point against the rotation policy? Or was he purely and simply just fed up with cricket? I don't really know but I sure as hell wish people would talk about him more. Oh well I'll just go back to daydreaming about his swashbuckling 222 in the test match against England a few years back!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cellphones and Children.

Cellphones are wonderful technological devices. They allow instant communication via text messages and phone calls. And the newfangled ones can even take photos and videos. They are indeed a device that could be said to have revolutionised the modern world.

But they are also very dangerous, especially in the hands of children.

In some ways it is good that teenagers have cellphones. Parents can see their kids go off to parties in the knowledge that the simple 30 second process of their son or daughter writing a text can let the parents know that she or he is ready to be picked up. In other words communication between parent and child of where exactly both are, how much longer they will be etc is much improved.

That's the main advantage, but it's pretty impossible to force a child to only use a cellphone to talk to their mum or dad, and that's where the potential dangers lie.

Often a sixteen or seventeen year old child can be bored and decide to send a random text to a random number. Don't believe me? I have anecdotal evidence that it happens all the time. My mate in Auckland received a series of texts from what turned out to be a bored and pregnant 16 year old girl. In the weekends with what was then free vodaphone to vodaphone texting he would receive a barrage of texts saying "what are u up 2?", "why won't u talk 2 me", "I'm watching NZ idol", "do u hav a bf?" etc. He responded to a few out of vague curiosity but soon became annoyed with the incessant texts, giving her the cellphone number of two others on vodaphone, who then became the recipient of these frequent messages. I myself once had a text from someone professing to be a bored 17yr old girl in the South Island.

My point here is that random texts can go to anyone: a grandmother walking her dog, a paedophile, just anyone. People with sinister motives could easily take advantage of the situation. Starting off just sounding friendly, to meeting up, to being kidnapped. And these youngsters are probably too naive to even think of the consequences of sending off a bored random text. And it's not just 16 or 17 year olds who might be doing this - it's whoever has a cellphone. And that may mean anyone over the age of about six.

Which leads me to my next point. It is patently ridiculous that children as young as 6,7,8,9,10,11,12 have cellphones. Why would they need one? It's taking away the control of parents, it's giving them a tool that can easily be manipulated to others sinister uses. And it has brought about the advent of cellphone bullying at school. And these bullies can even hide behind anonymous numbers. It's easier for parents to monitor their kids on the Internet than it is on a cellphone.

Not to mention the harmful biological effects of cellphone use. A harm that is apparently a lot worse to children. Starting off with a cellphone in your pocket at the age of 8, and continuing through the rest of your life, can lead to problems such as infertility. The penetration of radio waves into the brain can lead to poorer concentration and memory. There are a ridiculous number of diseases or syndromes that children are at higher risk of developing simply because they want to use a cellphone. Most often choosing to do so for the sad fact that it is a fashion accessory, they think they look cool with a cellphone in their hands.
Finally, what about the costs accrued by the children or their family? First of all there's the cellphone itself, and whilst some have the basic no flaws kind there are many 12 year olds out there with swanky expensive ones. A lot better than my simple device. And they don't even need a phone let alone one that can make videos! Then there's the text messages, the phone calls etc. Some children spend crazy sums of money on using their phone. No wonder they end up getting part-time jobs too early in life. Missing out on the simple pleasures of childhood in order to finance the cellphones they don't need, and which are harming them. I once watched on TV about how this youngster aged about 16, who should have known better, racked up a bill into the thousands of dollars for one month's usage. The parents had been stupid enough to think that particular plan would be the cheapest - instead they were looking at a huge bill. The kid had downloaded vast quantities from the internet and the parents had the temerity to suggest it was the fault of the phone company for not informing them of every single charge every step of the way. I'm sorry parents but it's your own fault. You should never have let the kid use the phone to go on the internet! Even now, I only spend between $10 and $15 on my phone per month. $10 on 500 texts which I normally just avoid going over. And perhaps a couple of dollars on checking voicemail or making a quick urgent call. Many of these children are spending a lot more than me.

Cellphones with young children is another sad indictment on society in our self obsessed world. Parents need to realise the many societal, biological and financial harms they inflict, and take a good hard look at not allowing a child to have a cellphone until a certain suitable age (14?). And also looking to minimise their use.
I didn't have a cellphone until I was 2nd or 3rd year uni which was significantly later than most, and now I use it all the time, but they were never as prevalent among youngsters as they are today. It would be nice if children reclaimed their childhood and they or their parents said no to cellphones until at least 16, with the possible exception of urgent communication.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bridlington Town

I'm originally from a farm just outside the town Bridlington (Brid) in England. Andrew Falloon has been asking who is actually my local football team. Bridlington Town I told him. Somewhere in the lower levels of the English football pyramid. Upon further questioning he realised I knew bugger all about them and he has kindly done some research for me :)

Apparently the 'Seasiders' are in the eighth tier of English Football. A pyramid that looks something like this:

(1) Premiership
(2) Championship
(3) League 1
(4) League 2

Then below that:

We, Bridlington Town AFC, are currently in the Northern Premier Division One or the eighth tier of the pyramid.

But that's pretty good considering there are 24 tiers and literally thousands of clubs in the English football pyramid!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Commonwealth Bank Series.

The other finalist of the Commonwealth Bank Series has at last been found. And unfortunately that team is England. Needing to beat Australia and us in their final two matches (and hoping we failed to beat Australia), all these eventualities have transpired leaving New Zealand with a weaker preparation for the world cup, and the ignominy of going home ahead of what is a pretty average England side.

I've just watched our crucial game with England. And a bitter event it was too. It was a great start from the Black Caps as first Franklin delivered a maiden, and then Bond (after sending down a wide) destroyed Vaughan's stumps with a devastating, swinging delivery, reminiscent of the ball that dismissed Gilchrist back in the VB Series of 2001. But after picking up three reasonably early wickets we allowed Strauss and Collingwood to develop a strong 100+ partnership, both (I think) their top scores throughout the series. From this point on we never seemed to exert enough pressure as Fleming's captaincy, which is often (rightly) so highly praised, did not come to the fore - hindered by some relatively lacklustre bowling and fielding including the unusually weak link Vettori. After the important and potentially decisive dismissal of Flintoff we should have been able to restrict England to a score of 230 or so. Instead we let it drift to 270, including 16 off the final over which left Bond with the still impressive figures of 10-2-46-4!

But the worst aspect of our performance was that we got ourselves into a very dominant position with the bat, only to throw it away. For most of the innings we were clearly on track to win the game, but were guilty of letting ourselves meander through certain stages of the innings when calculated risks were the way to go. Especially as we had the luxury of having seven wickets in hand for the final ten overs - we hadn't made the most of this. For example our first 50 runs came off 6.5 overs, but our 100 wasn't up until 19.3 overs despite the loss of just 1 wicket. We allowed Flintoff and Panesar (admittedly two excellent bowlers) to be all over us, to intimidate us. Right until the last few overs we appeared comfortable but therein lies the problem. When do the Black Caps ever win a game with a fair few overs to spare? They seem to like to do it the hard way. The way that gives us all nervous wrecks. The way that a couple of bad overs and a winning position can become a losing one.

Fleming has to take a lot of the blame. Yes today he scored well for the first time this series, making quick early runs, but he simply lost his way. 106 off 149 is pretty damn pathetic. And this includes the fact that his first 29 were a run a ball, making his remaining 77 a useless strike rate of 64.17. He slowed down to ensure he made his century which was a selfish action, he should be playing for the team rather than his own gratification. He didn't even make up for it after reaching the milestone, a soft dismissal occurring as he finally tried to lift the ante - far too late on in the piece. He was also instrumental in what I perceive to be the game's turning point; the running out of Taylor who was looking good. Perhaps it would even have been better for Fleming to sacrifice himself. It's easy to criticise but Fleming really needs to account for his actions.

The Black Caps also need to think about their batting order, and being more flexible in different situations. Styris did his best out there today, and it wasn't bad, but just back from injury and a slow runner between the wickets, perhaps it would have been better for an in form Jacob Oram to take his slot and try and press home an advantage. Was Fulton the right man at 3 after such a good start. His strategy of slow, steady accumulation before accelerating to the close is better suited to when we are in trouble. Today he could have dropped down to accommodate the exciting Taylor. (It took a lot of guts to say that with Fulton my blue eyed boy from Oxford, just outside View Hill where my folks live, lol!).

Suffice to say today's result angers me. I would have loved to see an exciting finals series between us and Oz. And in a way we deserved to be there after having close losses to Australia in comparison to England's big ones. Yes England beat them - but even that, some are suggesting - could have been Aussie not exactly trying their hardest! We almost chased down 344 against Oz for goodness sake, and probably would have were it not for the rain delay that slowed Oram's momentum. But that's all hypothetical and possibly sour grapes. England are in the final now instead of us; and I'm bitter. But there's still the Chappell-Hadlee series, and of course we'll win the world cup!

Monday, February 05, 2007


Now that I've decided this blog will take on a new direction, why not begin with the big questions! Is there a God? If so what is he? Are morality and religion inseparable?

My personal perspective is that there is no God. To me we have undergone an evolutionary process over billions of years to where we are today. Experiments replicating plausible pre-biotic conditions, such as the Miller-Urey experiment have shown that organic molecules can be formed from inorganic precursors. Phospholipids can spontaneously form lipid bilayers, ribozymes can be self replicating. Without going into much detail, it is obvious that science continually discovers more and more about how life could originate. The scientific process is a wonderful thing that repeats experiments, undergoes careful methodology, and continually teaches us more and more. Over the years many so-called miracles that have been ascribed to 'God' or some sort of religious intervention have subsequently been explained by science. I believe that science can ultimately prove everything that occurred from the probable "big bang" to where we are today.

To believe in God is to believe in a magical creature. To me it is more feasible that the likes of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley are part of a wizarding network continually hiding its abilities from the prying muggle world than the idea that there is a God. The idea that someone or something exists outside time and space and metaphorically waves his wand to set Adam and Eve and the snake on their merry incestuous way (creationism) or that he created nature in all its complexity with some kind of purpose in mind (intelligent design) seems as primitive as the idea that the world is flat. Genetics quickly demonstrates the absurdity of religion.

If there is a God I don't like him much. Who would like someone who allows the poverty and famine in the third world? Who allows children killed in unnecessary wars the world over? Who allows the continual pain and suffering of the disabled? The standard answer is that God gives us free will and we can do what we want with it, then he judges each and every one of us either assigning us to heaven or hell (or purgatory). The moralistic non-believer sent to reside in hell alongside the mass murderer. Oh but actually, if that mass murderer happened to repent before he died, he's not even alongside you, he's gone to visit the saints in heaven. Does God think that eternal life in heaven compensates for pain in the real world? And then if there is an afterlife, what is the point of real life? Why don't we all speed up our deaths so we can all have a big reunion in the sky? If there is a God, I seriously don't rate his sense of humour.

I would seriously love to believe in God. To die and yet still have life. To live perpetually in a heaven of wonderful literature, all the people I liked, a few sports games to keep me entertained, and a fantastic lover etc etc would indeed be marvellous. But reality, science and common sense suggests its a load of cobblers. Something to act as a crutch to help people live their life at ease as they have the prospect of heaven to look forward to.

There probably was a great man called Jesus Christ, who lived a saintly life helping people in need. I expect that this then got blown out of all proportions, and now we have a novel called the bible. A novel with some interesting characters like the prophets, a bit of magic, a few parables. All very novelistic.

And which religion is right? Are any of them? Oh and why don't we kill each other to assert that one is better than another.

One question then that we need to ask is: do christians and religious people have a monopoly on morality? The answer is a definitive NO!

Fundamentalists correctly perceive that universal moral standards are required for the proper functioning of society, but they erroneously believe that God is the only possible source of such standards.

The Divine Command Theory argues that the essence of morality is to follow God’s laws. This argument is an attractive one because it makes morality objective, it does not suffer from the foibles of culture and individual choice, of moral relativism. The framework for morals is clear: something is right if God commands it, wrong if God forbids it. The theory also helps explain why anyone would be motivated to behave morally. Implicit in the reasons for behaving morally is the Christian principle that behaving morally, or following God’s rules, will get oneself a place in heaven. But this appeal for heavenly reward subjugates morality to a kind of expediency. The irony is that for the christian acting morally one is looking out for their interests because it gives them a path to heaven, and thus their morality may be superficial.

The next thing you have to look at is: “is conduct right because God commands it, or does God command it because it is right?” In the first case, if conduct is right because God commands it then morality is trivialised as being arbitrary. For example, although God’s command “Though shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13) seems perfectly congenial to humanity, since God is free to establish whatever set of moral principles he chooses, he could just as easily have commanded “Thou shalt kill whoever you dislike”. This belief that God could have chosen an alternative moral code could destroy whatever basis one had for worshipping him; one should not praise him when he could be equally as praiseworthy for doing the contrary. Furthermore, God’s arbitrariness eliminates the logical validity of God being good, because if something is good because God commands it, then God is good because God commands it, an unfortunate tautology.

So does “God command it because it is right”? This presumes a standard of goodness independent from God. In other words, it requires a belief in God as the moral enforcer. In his infinite wisdom God recognises that stealing is wrong, and so he commands everyone not to steal; he sees that adultery is wrong, and so he commands everyone to be faithful. In God’s omniscience, he imparts his wisdom in the form of the scriptures. However, this leads to a new problem, if God is not the author of moral law, then there must be an independent standard of ethics existing outside God’s will, by which he could evaluate rightness and wrongness. Thus, the validity of the theological conception of right and wrong is brought into question.

And regardless, God's laws are riddled with contradictions. He espouses both that: “Thou shalt beat him with rod” and "don’t do what you hate.”

Morality and religion are independent. Everyone has equal access to moral truth. And perhaps socio-biology provides the answer with the idea that moral instincts are contained within our genes and these survive through evolution.

There are many arguments against religion. I have merely touched on a few while I penned this short post. Who out there is going to proffer some opinions on these big questions?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

My blog takes a new angle!

This blog shall change from catering to the minority interest of in depth sporting analysis to a blog which shall contain my opinions on anything (including the aforementioned). This will give it a broader interest to everyone. I'm sure that you will all love it, and the more disagreement and debate that gets going the better. I shall endeavour to post 2 or 3 times a week and not to let it slide :)

Let the games commence!