Thursday, May 31, 2007


Are you guys listening, this is the sound of rushing regulation... frankly, I'm not opposed to it, there's a limited number of scrupulous professionals and a glut of charlatans... self-regulation can't work when the entry test is so low... they should have fixed it years ago, I remember when they were thinking about it but decided it was too hard, circa 1998/99.

Time to reign them in, the professional body (that's a stretch) has failed to provide consumers with anything close to adequate protection.

Waiting for the Sopranos...

I don't want to know what happens in the final season of the Sopranos until I can watch it for myself but odds are it'll be news long before series seven even starts on Australian television (and then it'll be shifted around to be screened at a shitty time). I've thought about the bittorrent option but so far, based on a brief look around, the new episodes aren't available... Anyone know of any other options, HBO on-demand is only available to subscribers (US-based)?

Here's a pretty cool YouTube overview of the first 6 series.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Graded assessment - NCEA fix-up

Social policy is always a compromise between the ideal and the practical. Adding grading to NCEA is really just raising the bar for what is considered competent however it has symbolic value that can't be ignored. Standard based assessment has never been well accepted in schools, despite being accepted elsewhere, and various implementation errors have further compromised its position. Whether this latest compromise will be sufficient to avoid major reform is unclear but National's criticisms aren't a substitute for an alternative policy (remembering it was under Lockwood Smith that standard based assessment really got going).

I have a clear memory of School Certificate. An examination designed for a time where unskilled work was plentiful and sustainable, it is neither now. However, suggesting that a university education is the only pathway is ludicrous. Leaving school with no qualifications almost guarantees unemployment and an increasing number of jobs, in the Australian labour market at least, require a vocational qualification not a degree. Therefore, whatever system applies it must give students options that improve tertiary enrolments and completions as well as improving school-to-work transitions.

That said, most of NZ's future workforce is already employed and an increasing number of them are more than happy with standards-based assessment...

End to the phony war

I'm pretty pleased with the All Blacks side to face France in the first test. It balances the need for a good win with the need to develop cover for the RWC. Thrashing the French is important both because this team needs momentum and because the French are highlighly likely to be in the finals.

I've just finished reading Spiro Zavos's book Watching the Rugby World Cup, which I'd recommend for its detailed preview of the Cup including the chapter on who'll win and why. Zavos is firstly a good writer then an excellent analyst of rugby. I didn't know he'd won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship early in his career.

Apparently, in the history of French rugby, winning at home is far more important than winning at home; winning in defence of your home town and within earshot of the chiming of your local church. This means, if NZ face France in the finals, we need to have beaten them resoundingly and often in the lead-up to withstand their inevitable fanatacism at home.

Zavos suggests the winning team will have some or all of the following attributes; a brilliant five eighth, a dominant pack, an inspirational leader and momentum through the tournament. The All Blacks have these elements, my only fear is that they've fallen too often at the penultimate test and will again, likely, face the Wallabies in the semis. The Wallabies are one of only a very few sides to be able to play significantly better during the tournament than at any point previously. Therefore, I hope the All Blacks crack 40 points against the French and the Wallabies continue to struggle with the Welsh... either way, I'll be listening to the alternative rugby commentary of Jedi and his mates come Saturday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Boarding late, no struggle for overhead locker space, somewhere to hang your jacket, meal options and frequent refills and quick exit to the obscenely large taxi queue .... Business Class is nice.

Labor party supply chain management

In the era of out-sourcing, contract labour, fragmented supply chains, and flexible industrial relations, federal Labor has decided against reinstating compulsory student unionism if it wins the federal election. Quell horreur!

David Farrar and his NZ VSMers will be very impressed and, no doubt, on the hunt for a National or Act backbencher to front a NZ campaign for the 2008 general election.

Interestingly, Australia Student Unions are linked to parliamentary parties far more strongly than in NZ. Despite the ranting of the VSM movement in NZ, there isn't the cross over between campus and parliament in NZ that there is here. Sure there's a few on both sides of the house who're former presidents, and more than a few staff too, but I can only think of two recent senior student politicians who're high up in NZ Labour. Compared with Australia, where it seems every other recent parliamentarian (either state or federal) is either an ex-staffer or an ex-student pollie. For Australian Labor, losing the strong link to the universities will impact on their recruitment, possibly not a bad thing?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sins of the son

"...for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth of them that hate me."
I wonder if the reverse is true? Are the sins of the son visited on their fathers? I'm sure all parents retain a sense of responsibility for their kids long after they're old enough to buy houses, start business, live and work abroad. I wonder then, how Terry Hicks feels about his son's misdeeds?

I know little of Hicks early life. Wikipedia tells us he struggled as a teenager, possibly because his parent's marriage broke up when he was ten, but equally likely not. My own parents split when I was 13, not significantly older than Hicks, and my failings are most certainly disconnected from that event. Regardless, Terry must struggle with the fact that his son is, whatever else, very misguided.

Is it any different from the parents of any other person with a criminal record. Frankly, yes. Though we'll not know if Hicks committed murder, it is likely people died, if not at his hands, then at the hands of his compatriots.

Terry's only ever argued that David's been ill-treated by the US military commission. He's never claimed his son's innocence. I get the impression Terry Hicks has never, and will never, understand his son's actions, but he has remained committed to his son despite the circumstances and despite being up against not only the US government, but also his own. At least Schapelle Corby's parents had some support in their endeavours.

Terry Hicks seems like a decent man to me. He's very much the Aussie battler Howard claims to represent. He has been through hell over at least the last five years, and if David Hicks can't sell his book, I'll sure as hell buy his father's.

All things rugby

The rugby year starts on June 2, but already I'm distracted by replays, highlights, commentary and trivia. Here's a clip of a new young bloke in the Wallabies (plus some footage of one of the blokes to have struggled this year).

Thanks to the rugbydump.

France v NZ: deconstruction

Courtesy of the very clever chaps at, this little clip explains the difference between All Black and French rugby tactics. Want some more? Professor Thian's exposition of the forthcoming Iveco series is here.

Someone give John Clarke a call, I think I've found his long-lost son.

Hicks is back...

... in Australia to serve the remaining 9 months of his sentence. He'll return to a public life, of sorts, not long after the federal election, likely to be in November, however his case will certainly be a factor during the election.

As I've said previously, I'm not at all sympathetic to those who see Hicks as exclusively a maytr. He was, almost certainly, a mercenary. However, I'm entirely unconvinced by the case against him and no more convinced by his guilty plea - afterall some of the actions he admitted where not crimes at the time he apparently committed them.

What significance his return has on the election is unclear - Howard may hope to have somewhat diffused the impact by having him back but this could backfire. Rudd won't be camping out in Adelaide, but the Greens and some Dems will and Howard will still have to defend at least one or two of his various positions...

The Hicks who'll have the biggest influence on this year's election is not David, it's his eminently belieavable and reasonable father, Terry.

Keeping up appearances

Lazy as it seems, I'm posting a brief list of preoccupationa in-lieu of a more informative or engaging post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ponying up...

Having yesterday criticised Howard's government for its disengenuous politics regarding the, now-cancelled, cricket tour of Zimbabwe, I should at least note that AusAid have increased funding to Zimbabwe.

I still wonder whether the decision to intervene would have occurred were it not for the proximity of the federal election, however this additional funding is significant. Interestingly, although the DFAT release claims Australia funding around $6 million (AUD) in 06/07, the UN's reliefweb database records only $3M (AUD), only $500,000 of which has in fact been paid.

By contrast, NZ's contribution in the same period was nil although I suspect this is incorrect having looked at NZ Aid's Fact Sheet on aid funding for Africa (perhaps this is a quirk of the reporting and Australian funding is direct whereas NZ's funding is via international bodies such as Unicef?).

Its worth having a look at norightturn's comments on Zimbabwe which, amongst other things, deals with the NZ parliament's equivocation about the 2005 Cricket NZ tour.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Right thing for the wrong reason...

Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
John Howard is no St Thomas, not even close, but he is a clever tactician and his decision to come heavy with the Australian cricket team will serve him well. He's a well known cricket tragic and even Punter's said a polite thanks.

Most will agree that touring Zimbabwe now is straight out crazy (enter Sekai Holland as the first tempter) surely at the bottom of every professional cricketers wish list, but no-one should be fooled into thinking this isn't purely political.

But so what really, the focus should be on ending Mugabe's regime, not on Howard nor on cricket. However, I expect no greater effort will be made in Africa, Australia's foreign policy is too heavily focused on the Middle East. However, it does put into stark contrast the NZ government's unwillingness to intervene only a few years ago - a point well made by Keith Locke