Friday, July 29, 2011

Some things I do not understand

These could be the first few of a very long list.

How does the United States owe $14 trillion?

Who do they owe it to?

Who lends anyone anything approaching that amount of money?

Where can I find him?

How do you imagine having to paying $38,000,000,000 interest a month?

What REALLY happens on Tuesday if they don't pay it back?

Is paying it back what they have to do on Tuesday - seems an awful lot to find over the weekend?

I went to this site to make it more understandable but it served only to confuse further. Good fun though.

I really never have understood money. This means I am no good at it. Mr McCawber is my style of an economist.

What haven't we heard of recently?

All sorts of things, I suppose. I haven't heard a good fondue recipe for a decade or two (thank God). Shane Warne had disappeared off the planet but recently resurfaced looking like an effeminate stick. What ever happened to the paperless office? Martin Luther hasn't had much to say for himself of late; but I suppose he has an excuse being as he's been dead for over five hundred years. Anthropogenic global warming. Where's that been hiding?

Remember AGW? It was all the go, ooh, only a couple of years ago. The weird beards of the world were telling us all that the end of the world was just around the corner and it was all due to polluting the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. My running of several four litre cars was principally to blame. We had 'air miles' on imported fruit and veg in Europe so the socially responsible could buy carrots on the basis of how much fuel they used to get to Waitrose's shelves. There was a never ending stream of similar bollocks which the great unwashed swallowed hook line and sinker.

Al Gore touted his corpulent carcass all over the globe and told porkies to anyone who would listen. We had heads of government and captains industry prostrating themselves at the altar of the Almeister. Countries started wasting billions of hard earned cash on Emission Trading Schemes and Carbon Taxes. And so it went on. And still goes on I think. It was bollocks then and its bollocks now. Al Gore gets fatter and richer by the week and even scored himself the Nobel Peace Prize. Give me a break.

All this alarmist bullshit got the highest possible press profile. The Royal New Zealand Herald even used to run The Green Pages where breathless cub reporters would extol the virtues of tofu fuelled power stations and public transport. I say used to as they no longer run this rubbish. We no longer hear of Indian Ocean atolls disappearing beneath the waves. Where are all the stories of polar bear deaths and melting ice caps? These were once the darling stories of the popular press. They are no longer fashionable, they are no longer even heard of.

And why is that? It is because it was, and still is, all bullshit. As we shall see all this trendy ecobabble is being destroyed by some inconvenient truths which come to us as facts. Funny that. But is the realisation that the emperor has no clothes (and if that emperor is the Al Meister, what a hideous image that conjours up) getting the headlines the bullshit received? No.

The emissions trading scam. We here in the Land of the Long White Confidence Trick have bought into this. You know, buy and sell stuff that does not exist on the promise that if you make some more you've already paid for it and planted a tree so there won't efectively be more of it because you bought it off someone who had lots anyway and we save the planet. Sound like a scam? Well of course it does because it is. Carbon markets (save me) are closing down wholesale because it is reckoned that 90% of the trade is fraudulent. Got that? 90%.

The great white whale Al Gore, stood up and said in 2007, 2008 and 2009 that the entire North Polar Ice cap would be gone by the summer of 2014. Ludicrous though it sounded people believed him and stuck pins in wax models of Bugatti Veyrons. The polar ice caps are in fact expanding. Sure at this time of year they get smaller because it is Northern Hemisphere summer and we have one of those every year. Its the time when Al goes North to take pictures of polar bears clinging to melting ice floes; these photos to be released in January, of course to 'prove' his point. Sorry, but overall polar ice caps are bigger. Is Al Gore in jail? Next cell to Bernie Madoff would be good.

The underlying cause of all this predicted mayhem is the computer model predictions that all this carbon dioxide pollution will allow less heat to escape from the atmosphere. It all gets reflected back by this evil greenhouse gas. We've been through all the water vapour stuff before so I won't tire my fingers with it all again. If you don't understand, then Google is your friend. Well these computer predicitions are just that - mathematical modelling of what might happen. Right up there in the precision stakes with knitting fog. What about some boring old data, you know actually measuring stuff that really is happening.

Well NASA has done a bit of that with some of their satellites and stuff. NASA is good at satellites and stuff. And I'll tell you what, data over the last eleven years (so we are not talking an astronaut sticking his finger out of the space shuttle window here) has shown that the atmosphere is releasing far more heat than the doomsday computer projections would have had us believe. Well there's a shock (a bit of sarcasm thrown in there). The discrepancy between the predictions and the observations is most marked over the oceans. So there's more greenhouse bollocks down the pan. The central plank of the alarmist global warming theory has just been proven to be a complete and utter crock.

But what will we hear of this in the mainstream media? Nuffink. You could have Anders Breivik debating the alarmist case armed with nothing but bullshit against Pippa Middleton armed with a wheelbarrow full of data confounding his every preposterous claim and the papers would still report that Obald is wrecking the planet every time the XKR leaves the garage.

Keep going, we'll get there.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weather is bad and needs to be punished

I long ago learnt not to get upset by things over which I have, and can never have, any control. However the bloody weather is giving me a run for my money at the moment. I like to be organised and because of this my travail away from the paddocks around the house run like a Swiss watch. I have over the last year learnt that Mr Gantt had two things going for him. He had a seriously odd name and he knew what he was doing. I could never have made the progress I have over the last fifteen months without some of the rudimentary basics of project management. I run to a schedule and love it. I, for the first time in my working life, have a number of synchronized Get Things Done lists on all my various electronic aids to an existence and they all have timelines. Sounds nerdy, but it works.

Thus, months ago, it was decided that today I would work in Christchurch for the day and then catch the early evening flight to Wellington to be in time for the weekly pub quiz. That is how you do things; meticulous planning. In order to get a full day in ChCh we will arrive the night before and sod the seismic risks. Then tomorrow we have things to do in Wellington and then its back to Obald Acres. All ship shape and Bristol fashion like what it should be. When those two days work are done it ensures that next week is teed up nicely. And so on. All mapped out and charted on one of Mr Gantt's bits of paper through to mid October. Perfect.

Then it bloody snows. And snows and snows and snows.

Worst cold snap for sixteen years the media breathlessly inform us. As if this is something to be celebrated like a couple of batsmen (not batters, please) breaking New Zealand's opening stand record. A winter wonderland the 6 o'clock news gushes forth. Pictures of kids making snowmen, drunk students throwing snowballs and frost on seven wire fences. Just to pretend they realists the media show a few obligatory pics of rubbish drivers getting no traction and sliding rear door first into ditches, a farmer or two in his blue overalls and RD1 beanie dishing out hay to cows and the winter landscape is complete. We cross to some reporter at a ski field who finds someone to say their takings are up on last week when the piste was so much mud and then more pictures of kids tobogganing on tea trays in lieu of going to school. Cross to Jim Hickey who tells the terminally stupid that we have all this snow courtesy of a blast of cold air from the Antarctic running into a moist atmosphere (no shit, Sherlock). For the nth time this winter he calls this a polar rodent and entreats the denizens of Middlemarch to repair to the log box. Back to the studio to interrupt one day of winter with the news that the United States is broke and there is a nutter shooting people wholesale up where all the snow should be.

Cold snaps and snow are not cute and cuddly. They are a pain in the arse. They have disrupted my carefully organised Gantt view of the next three months. I should be in Christchurch now and I am at 30000 feet somewhere over Taranaki. The only similarity between the two is that it is as dark up here as I'm sure it is down there. And just as bloody cold. I will be in the Wellington office far too early; but at least the Coffee Nazi will be open. I am very grateful to the Air New Zealand Gold Elite hotline for getting me on this flight at fourteen hours notice after they said that even all the Gold Eliteness I could muster would not get me on a flight to Christchurch today, but flying at 0600? Please. But I've learnt something already this morning. The Auckland Domestic Terminal does not open until 0500. More bloody disruptions to my comfy routine in having to hang around the McDOnalds (hell, I hoopoe I wasn't spotted) for seven minutes waiting for security to open. I will now spend most of the rest of the morning trying to fit the work I am not doing today into next week. And that will mean that next week's stuff will have to find a new square on Mr Gantt's sheet of paper . And. Well you get the picture.

I've always hated snow. It is cold and wet and just plain horrible. I have never seen the attraction of skiing either. It is cold, wet, you have to wear expensive stupid looking clothes and you break things - like legs and arms and stuff. Today I think I hate snow more than anything I can think of. Mr Gantt doesn't like it either.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Odds and ends from around NZ this week

Saturday morning pre dawn Stygian gloom and its pissing with rain. Therefore golf is right up there with sticking pins in one's eyes, there can be no agricultural work around Obald Acres and I'm at the beck and call of the damned telephone for forty eight hours. Enforced indoorsness means one of two things; do some preparatory work for next Monday and Tuesday (has to be done and a bit dull) or repair to the barn and apply the HSS to free machining steel (infinitely preferable but should really wait). The next two days do not fill me with much enthusiasm.

Random thoughts on the week. Rotorua really is very smelly and I can't imagine why anyone would live there for that and a few other reasons. The sulphurous nature of the atmosphere has other downsides in addition to the assaults on the olfactory apparatus. I had to stay in Rydges Rotorua which is the most bizarre hotel in the southern hemisphere. The first peculiarly Rotorua affliction is that all the bright ware (taps, towel rails etc) are so tarnished by the aforementioned air that one is afraid to touch them in fear of getting contact dermatitis. The rooms are inappropriately vast with a five minute trek from wardrobe to chaise longue. The furniture looks to have come from a second hand store in Ngaruwahia and the atrium restaurant is crap. Stay there in the winter and you have to tape up the door to the spa room to stop all heat from the puny in room heater disappearing into the sulphurous outdoors and stay in the summer and you are told to tape up the windows to stop flies getting in. No, a nasty hotel in every way. Mercifully staying somewhere else in a couple of weeks which cannot be worse - I hope.

Then when the time comes to mercifully exit Rotorua you go to Rotorua International (sic) Airport. I think it gets the flash International appellation courtesy of a flight a week to Sydney. Didn't see the duty free shopping mall that International Airports pride themselves on in order to fleece the punters. In lieu of this Rotorua has joined the other nasty New Zealand Airports (I'm looking at you Hamilton and Palmerston North) in charging a development tax before you are allowed to escape over the perimeter fence. This really pisses me off as I can't see it ever being used to develop a really poor airport. The biggest downside of this transport hub though is not the airport's fault. I have a lot of time for Air New Zealand (good grief I spend enough time with them every week) but the lack of a Koru Lounge in Rotovegas is a national disgrace; get it sorted. I am back in three weeks and I expect, nay demand, Kapiti smelly cheese and Kaitaia Fire for my tomato juice to be in place by then.

Christchurch and Wellington next week. Both are prone to more seismic activity than I would like. Had a palpable tremor in Wellington a couple of weeks back but was ensconced in a suitable earthquake proofed building and all we got was a rather diverting swaying of the leaves on the office pot plants for fifteen seconds or so. As nothing compared to the ongoing disruption in Christchurch where the number of quakes since September 4th last year is now well over seven thousand. One night for me and when I requested a single storey hotel next to the airport the predictable response from my travel agent was 'That is what everyone wants'. Still, the denizens of Christchurch want in for what I am up to despite being given several opportunities to back out, so the least I can do is front up. Thoughts on the shaky city later in the week.

Back in Auckland and we find that after two days of clear skies in my absence normal service has been resumed and its raining. I know one shouldn't complain about things about which one can do nothing but it really does rain an awful lot in Auckland in the winter. I would not like to be one of my sheep having to spend the weekend in my bottom paddock where the ovine residents have just now been joined by a flock of ducks. The birds would be more at home than the woolly ones at present. My mowers (all four of them) will think I have found a new object of weekend affection and ones whole life takes on a seasonal dampness.

The enforced time indoors for the weekend means I can indulge in playing with Apple's new operating system as an ersatz excuse for not doing any real work. It was revealed this week that Apple has more cash than the GDP of 126 of the world's countries. Not really comparing like with like, I know, but it doesn't disguise the fact that they have serious amounts of dosh. A portion of this which probably equates in percentage terms to the sort of money you and I wouldn't mind losing down the back of the sofa has been spent on OS X Lion. They are getting a bit short of large feline animals for the next one. We've had, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard and now Lion. What is next? Ocelot? Cheetah? - not a good commercial name, I would suggest. Cougar? - vide supra. Bornean Clouded Leopard? - that one really trips off the tongue.

I quite like Lion, but then it is only a computer operating system and not the meaning of life. For openers the price was right - free. I timed the purchase of the 27" iMac with this in mind but for $0.00 I got a new shiny operating system on all three of my Macs. The only downside was the 4Gig download throttled my broadband back to dial up speed for 24 hours as it exceeded Vodafone's 2Gig per day cap. Now what is that about? They should reward you not penalise you for big downloads as it means you are using their service more and potentially giving them more dosh. Non comprende.

This minor irritation turned into a major one, however, when I lost all phone line (hence Internet) connectivity to the rest of the planet during a storm. This occasioned a call to Vodafone's Help (sic) Line. Now these are an easy target for opprobrium but all of it is deserved. I am unsure whether the female at the other end was physically in New Zealand but she certainly was not a native of Te Kuiti. Call VF on the shoephone (obviously) and we get past the mother's maiden name stuff. 'How can I help you?'. I laudably refrain from 'I suspect not all' and tell her my land line is down. 'If the problem is inside your house it will cost you money'. 'I know, but the problem isn't inside my house as next door has no land line either' 'Are you in Auckland'. Again, supreme self restraint stopped me from asking her the same question. 'Can you disconnect your phone from the wall socket?' 'Well of course I can, it is a very easy technical manoeuvre, but why would I want to do that?' 'I need to see if the problem is in your home'. Deep breath. 'I believe I told you about next door'. 'But I need you to disconnect the handset' A bit of cruelty now - why not? 'But all my handsets are connected to the land line through a PABX'. This did not go down well. My new friend had to contact her supervisor as to the next move which I suspect was finding out what a PABX was. 'You have to get your telephone engineer (hang on, I thought that was your mob) to check your PABX before we can troubleshoot'. 'Stormy weather, next door - any pennies dropping yet?' And so it goes on for three quarters of an hour. Eventually this automaton agrees to log a fault only after I have agreed to sell my first born if the problem is not outside the confines of Obald Acres. And we pay an arm and a leg for them to do this to us. All's well that ends well as service was reconnected in about eight hours (although Miss Te Kuiti would only commit to 'between 24 and 72 hours') and the engineers sent me a couple of texts to say the deed was done. A minor irritation in an otherwise entirely agreeable rural existence.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cages, cars and drivel - but no penguins

First the good news. There is nothing to report on the penguin front this week. It would be too much to hope that the damned bird has died - we would have heard about that ad nauseam - but at least he is no longer bothering us on a daily basis. However there is news of some one with the same intellectual horsepower as the misplaced bird. The President of the Otago University Student's Association is one Logan Edgar. He is a tad brassed off that Union membership is to be made voluntary and not compulsory. Compulsory union membership, give me a break. He can obviously see his meal ticket going South (and you can't get much further south than Dunedin) and sees the Bill trying to get through parliament as a thoroughly bad thing. So what does he do? He decides to lock himself in a cage on the University lawn as a protest. It is quite beyond me what thought processes got him to the place where this would seem to be a reasonable idea let alone something that would change the inevitable chain of events that is underway - filibustering notwithstanding. In a proper world some one capable of such stupid thoughts wouldn't even get to a university let alone rise to hold some sort of office of influence. People like this should be gainfully employed flipping burgers. I hope someone loses the key to his cage and it is bloody cold.

Cars. When I first arrived in the Land of the Long White Jap Import I was a little bemused. Having come from Singapore where cars are compulsory crushed when ten years old I was appalled at the crap that was New Zealand's car stock. I'd never seen such rubbish. Someone explained the concept of the Jap Import and all became clear. The crap on the roads was there by design. The heap of junk in front of you with the 2011 number plate is in fact a cast off courtesy of Mr Takeda from Yokohama when he traded up to the latest Nissan Cedric. But they were cheap. You get what you pay for and New Zealand had decided that the best way to get around on our apologies for roads was to buy second hand crap that no one wanted in Japan. Over the years this has meant the country is full of rubbish cars. It would appear that all this will change a bit. In what may be the only good emissions standards legislation have ever bought to the country, any car built in Japan before 2005 will no longer be importable. Good. The bleaters (see yesterday's post) bleat that will put the price of cars up. Good. Or they will have to accept a 'drastic reduction in quality' in their purchase of tatt. I don't really see how this is possible but there you are. No, this is all good. The first steps to raising the quality of cars on NZ roads and reducing the numbers. Some people will not be able to afford the car they want bleat the bleaters. Tough, we want quality, not quantity. All we need to do now is get serious about improving the roads; some nice concrete ones, please.

A couple of weeks back we had a little taste of the mainstay of that Private Eye classic, Pseud's Corner. Regular perusal of the Herald will reveal a gent who deserves a Lifetime Achievement Award - William Dart. This plonker's supercilious grey bearded visage peers over his glasses at you three or four times week. I now read him just because it is so painful. His stuff is so bad it almost turns itself inside out to be good again. It's a bit like a coffee cup having the same shape as a doughnut; they both only have one surface but are totally different. No, its nothing like that at all but I'll leave it in as it is interesting. Monsieur Dart is the classical music critic for the Herald and is totally incapable of saying anything that means anything. One excerpt from his latest drivel will suffice. 'Although some piquant dissonances were not as sharply pointed as they might have been, Peter Scholes had a feeling for Ibert's throwaway, almost music-hall, humour.' Not a clue. And he does this again and again and again every couple of days. And he gets paid for it.

I've become a closet fan of Mr Dart and I have rumbled his ruse. Years ago he got drunk and cut up Roget's Thesaurus into so many one word pieces. He then put the shredded tome into one of those tombola machines and held a whole series of lucky draws. About forty prize winners per draw and the words were assembled in the order they were drawn into sentences and phrases. These were then stuck on pages of an exercise book. He carried on until he sobered up but his work was done. He now had all the classical music reviews he could ever need. All he has to do when Granny Herald wants the latest drivel is to photocopy half a dozen random pages from the master exercise book and he's done. Obviously pages are going to repeat on a fairly regular basis but this matters not as a) no one really reads it, b) if they do they've forgotten it faster than a unfamiliar phone number and c) who cares, anyway? Seven paragraphs on Berlioz? No problem, give me five minutes and I'll fire up the Xerox. Kaching - I'll take my cheque now please.

Off to buy a tombola machine.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wanna buy a bridge?

How much do bridges cost? Half a crown? Twenty squillion dollars? How would you know? If it is not something you buy a lot of you wouldn't have a clue of the price of anything. I have no idea how much a leg of lamb costs because Mrs Obald is in charge of that sort of thing. I am, therefore, a sitter for getting ripped off at the Mad Butcher because if he says bits of sheep are a bargain at $x per kilo I'm going to take him at face value and buy one for each corner.

So it is with bridges. I haven't bought a suspension bridge, nor yet a simple log across a stream, for a week or two now and so am a little rusty when it comes to the going rate. If the Auckland Council tell me that a second harbour crossing is going to cost $3.9 billion I think to myself 'Bridges ain't cheap, I think we'll stick with the lamb shanks this week' and move on. Well I mean they have to cost that much don't they? It will be about eight hundred metres or so long, be full of expensive steel and concrete and stuff. And there will be all those big yellow machines to hire, armies of blokes in Hi Viz jackets. I'm surprised that we are getting such a good deal; could easily be over $4 billy.

Last week the Jiaozhou Bay bridge, which was built over the course of four years was opened in China. It is the longest bridge in the world at 26 miles (got that, it would take a Kenyan just over two hours to run across it) and it cost $1.5 billion. Even if that is in US dollars (which I think it is) that is still only $1.8 billion South Sea pesos.

We are planning the country's biggest ever rip off. Buy a bridge from China; we buy pretty much everything else from there. At just under a kilometre long it probably will only cost half a crown. But we must protect the New Zealand worker. Just look at all the fuss buying railway carriages from China has caused. You can just hear the bleating from the usual coterie of bleaters. In the face of unnecessarily spending billions of my money I have only one thing to say to that.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Apparently inevitable

As listed in the preamble to this blog one of my hobbies is small scale engineering. My interest in this has been almost lifelong but it has only just (over the last eighteen months or so) been allowed to resurface.

We go back to South West London circa 1966. World Cup Willy is the national mascot, the filthy Argies and Portugal have been seen off and its 'Two World Wars and one World Cup' time. The Obald tribe has just returned from a camping holiday in foreign France and its back to school. Favourite subjects maths, chemistry, physics, biology (well sort of for biology) and metalwork. Called to see the Transitus form master (and how terribly archaic is that - just left the Remove and about embark upon Transitus) who delivers the bombshell. 'If you want to read medicine at university (and there is no other place to do it) metal work has to go and you have to study Latin. You what? Swap the micrometer for Caesar's Gallic Wars Book II? Mr Glanville (only redeeming features were the possession of elastic sided boots and an Austin Healey 3000) was adamant - I would never be able to prescribe digitalis to the nearest minim unless I learnt my mensa, mensa, mensam.

The resentments engendered by this encounter were only enhanced as I trudged off to fight losing battles with the ablative whilst watching my mates get warmed up for a session with the second cut files. I was very keen on rock climbing at the time (a compression fracture of L1 in 1970 soon persuaded me it was not a good lifetime pursuit) and my climbing buddy was one Richard Borisiewitcz (Borrie) who owned an ex Police minivan (lust) and was an apprentice toolmaker (mega lust). We get over all this. I realise that the possession of a cool sports car is no excuse for idiocy as I discover that having a grounding in Latin is no more required for the study of medicine than having a good collection of knitting patterns.

Life moves on over the next forty years and circumstance dictate that I can at last get my revenge on bloody Glanville. I, at about the same time, come into the ownership of three things; a big barn with a three phase power supply, a bit of spare cash and a considerable amount of spare time. Although I now am grateful for a basic grounding in Latin the hidden toolmaker inside me can emerge. I will take up metalwork again but as it is now the twenty first century we will embellish it by calling it small scale engineering. I am not going to call it model making as I have no intention of constructing one fifth scale models of the Flying Scotsmen or building a track on the property; oh, hang on, there's an idea.

How to start? Well, of course, nowadays in any new venture Google is your friend. I spent about three months trawling the web and getting the grounding I left behind in Merton as Bobby Moore led the lads onto Upton Park. It soon became obvious that the first (of many) purchase I would need to make would be a lathe.

The choice here is relatively simple. For about the same money you can buy a new made in China effort or a vintage model made in Great Britain. The word seemed to be that Chinese lathes were of variable quality (there is some good stuff about, but the trick is picking it and this is next to impossible for a neophyte) and had negligible resale value. On the other hand some of the old British stuff was superb, and if well cared for, would last a lifetime and had excellent resale value. So old British it would be. This also seemed to be 'right' considering the genesis of this interest. With Great Britain's manufacturing heritage there are (or more correctly, were) literally hundreds of British lathe makers but the name that stands out in the small machine field is Myford. After another couple of months keeping an eye on TradeMe I buy, sight unseen, a Myford ML7 from Ranfurly in Central Otago. When it arrives its serial number tells me it was manufactured in the year of my birth (which for the slow learners makes it the same age as me) and the original sale papers showed it to have been sold to the vendor in Dunedin in 1954.

It was filthy and took a couple of weeks to clean and reassemble. The manuals for this are easily obtainable from the web in .pdf format (you didn't know they had PDFs in 1951 did you?) and I had acquired a virtual machining buddy from joining a Myford Bulletin Board. This virtual buddy has since transformed into a flesh and blood buddy and has become a mentor filling in (and much more) gaps in my embryonic knowledge of this art. I soon became aware of why the Myfords had such a good reputation. My sixty year old machine could cut to tolerances which were limited only by my puny ability to measure accurately. This thing could, after sixty years, still cut better than I could measure. Measuring (and marking out) properly is, to my mind, easily the hardest bit of engineering. And setting things up for the cut. An hour centering things in chucks or collets and setting tool height etc is followed by thirty seconds of cutting.

We progress. I buy a milling slide for the ML7 and start doing some milling. Compared with the gentle art of turning when ribbons of swarf flow off seemingly inert metal with a low hiss, milling is brutal. It is soon obvious that small lathes are not a good thing on which to do a lot of milling if you want them to retain their accuracy. I also start hankering after a more versatile lathe. I want more spindle speed and I really want, even need, a quick change gearbox. Changing the gear train to cut a single point thread on the ML7 was taking at least half an hour and I was getting impatient.

We need new machinery. Milling easy. Mentor is selling his superbly cared for Arboga mill (circa 1974) and that is that sorted. A new lathe? Has to be Myford again and I opt for the Super 7 which fills all the deficiencies of the ML7. The old lathe goes to its third owner in 60 years via TradeMe for considerably more than I bought it for proving the resale value part of the equation at the start of this journey to be correct.

A 1971 Myford S7 takes its place and it is superb. A Mercedes compared to the Ford Cortina of the ML7. All this while, nothing I have learnt has led to me any other conclusion than that Myford make the best small lathes around. The S7 (admittedly up specced) is still in production and all spares are still available. Original Myford stuff is excellent but bloody expensive. The ultimate complement for any product is there in the shape of knock off spares from China and India. Cheaper by far but you get what you pay for; definitely curates egg here. Myford will even regrind your lathe bed and put it back into factory condition after years of use and wear. For a price. Deep in the English Midlands Myford carry on like England still held the World Cup.

Until last week. Myford has gone to the wall. Apparently the catalyst was the death of one of the family that owned the company but there was an underlying malaise that made the end inevitable. Unfortunately running a company along the lines briefly illustrated above is not going to cut it in the real world of the early twenty first century. There has been a fire sale this weekend and, in true Myford style, this was not at fire sale prices.

End of an era? Well I have been in this game for too short a time to judge properly, but I would think so. Am I saddened by it? Yes, but not because Myford is no more. It affects me not at all as I have my lathe and there are so many spares in the wild that it is never going to be a problem. But I am saddened that the world of elastic sided boots, Austin Healey 3000s and manual lathes is one step further away.

Velcro fastened trainers, Toyota Supras and CNC lathes have no soul.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Several birds with one stone

Never look a gift horse in the mouth so when a video like this comes along one is obliged to use it.

Just watch the first two minutes - the rest is a waste of space


This has so many learning points. Julia Gillard has a hideous voice. She could knock on my door to tell me she was giving me a DB9 for being a nice bloke and I would shoo her away just to stop the pain in my ears. She is a politician and a perfectly calm lady calls her (quite correctly) a liar and it phases her not a jot. 'Yes I said that and now I'm doing something else - so what?' 'I said that during the election campaign, but that was just to get me elected and I would say that the sun rose in the West if I had to. It has no relevance to what I do now. Yes I'm taxing you on the back of a complete crock, why? Because I can and I know best.' And so it goes on. It is absolutely unbelievable except that it is how these clowns operate. And I was very impressed how the grey haired lady never once lost her cool.

Now for the subtle stuff. Notice how she can say carbon is a pollutant with a straight face. Only politicians can do that. And check out the goon standing behind her left shoulder. The absolutely bog standard yes man. I'm unsure how he stands up being he is an invertebrate. What a plonker; he should hand in his man badge forthwith.

So is this political bollocks purely something one can observe in a Brisbane shopping centre? Well of course not. In September 2009 Phil Goof said, and I quote, a capital gains tax 'doesn’t immediately appeal to us as a key priority for any incoming government'. Not two hours ago he announced Labour's tax package with as a central plank a capital gains tax. Quelle surprise.

I suppose that is not quite so bad as he has zero chance of having anything to do with an incoming government in the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Woman stares wildly at calamity

Best picture/caption combo for a while

Rebekah Brooks is right at the top of a list of people I would not want to be at the moment. Or ever, come to think of it.

A penguin on Jetstar?

Easier pickings this week as the Herald meticulously documents things that don't matter whilst on the other side of the world another organ of the press has a chance of bringing down a British Prime Minister. To be fair Granny does give this a fair bit of syndicated coverage deeper into the rag but not before we've waded through pages and pages of drivel.

The bloody penguin won't go away. He now has a name (and no, I won't demean myself by telling you what it is) and 'could soon move from his hospital room to a pool retreat'. He's now gained weight - aren't you so relieved? We know he's a he because the damned thing had its DNA profile run. Apparently you don't sex penguins by just looking at the naughty bits but you put a dollop of blood into a PCR machine. Again, who is paying for all this crap? The nation is now committed to looking after this ornithological millstone until it mercifully dies. And that won't be allowed to happen until its been to Penguin Intensive Care during its final illness. The decision to turn off life support will have to be made at cabinet level and its eventual demise will be followed by national mourning, hand drawn cards from primary schools and shedloads of hakas. I sincerely hope we don't have to have a penguin update next week.

Auckland's transport seems to be getting more space on this blog than it deserves recently but there are two stories of note juxtaposed on A7. There is a picture of Plod (hi viz attired, naturellement) ensconced under a motorway bridge with a video camera. He is there for yours and my safety, of course. Is he, bollocks. He is there so that as well as give you a fine for jumping a red light, talking on your cellphone or eating a pie whilst driving he can cane you with demerit points. Nasty, nasty stuff. Why isn't he out catching the bad men.

Just below this there is 'Ask Phoebe'. This is a sort of Agony Aunt for Auckland type thing. My first questions would be 'Why did you let your parents give you such a daft christian name and why did you not change it by deed poll as soon as you were able?' Anyway someone has asked our fount of all metropolitan knowledge 'How do you best get on the north bound SH1 from the airport?' We are talking how do you get from New Zealand's largest Airport onto its main trunk road. One would hope the answer would be along the lines of leave the passenger terminal, get in the left lane and take the slip road onto the six lane highway. The real answer from our Phoebe? Follow SH20 to the Sandringham Rd exit (at Mairo St), go down Sandringham Rd and turn left into Mt Albert Rd. Continue along here as it becomes Carrington Road, and then left into Gt North Road. This will lead you to the Pt Chevalier onramp to SH16 citybound. Head towards the city and take the Northern Motorway offramp to SH1 North. I'm serious. There is no bloody hope for a city that has infrastructure like that and I'm saving up for a helicopter.

Front page complete with a picture montage of four picturelets is a follow up of the chap who had a leak all over a Jetstar flight to Singapore. He widdled all over the show and on a passengers scarf (got to keep warm when in Singapore) in particular. The scarf owner is rather brassed off about the whole thing. I would say she got what she paid for by flying Jetstar. As usual on a Tuesday I am typing this in the Auckland Koru Lounge and Jetstar have already cancelled their first flight of the day to Wellington. The phantom wizzer is the son of New Zealand's netball coach which apparently makes this non story the more news worthy. I don't think so. If I were the chap involved I would be keeping my head severely down and certainly not holding press conferences. This all happened a couple of weeks ago and if he had just STFU it would already be today's fish and chip paper. He says he he's very sorry (well he's not going to say otherwise) but he can't remember anything of the incident. There is a side bar to the story where a sleep researcher talks about a condition called parasomnia where you do things in your sleep with out realising it. Bollocks. Why don't we just stop all the talking nice. He was as pissed as a ferret and couldn't find the change to operate the Jetstar 'Pay as You Widdle' in-flight toilets.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New fangled stuff

Social media. What a silly phrase but it is here and one bit of it has made a bloke a billionaire well before his thirtieth birthday. That's not a bad effort, you have to admit. Even Woods T. was past thirty before he hit the mark and then rather publicly gave a good deal of it away to her who was once Mrs Woods. There must be something in this social media stuff if it generates so much dosh although I probably shouldn't argue with anyone who thinks the first half of this sentence is an oxymoron.

I like to think of myself as reasonably technologically up to date and I suppose I had better dip my toe into this social media world. Prior to the exercise I am a little apprehensive when reflecting that I appear to be about thirty five years too old, don't have acne and only occasionally eat pizza. Never mind, you are as old as you feel or something. Now what have we got? It would appear that the only men left standing after the initial shakeout are Facebook and Twitter. I am led to believe that there were (are) others, but the likes of Bebo and My Space have gone the way of gas lamps and hansome cabs.

There are in fact hundreds of social network sites, lots with specialty interests. Join up to Care2 if green living and social activism is your bent. I don't think so. Thought of joining Cloob? I thought not, but it is apparently all the go in Iran; bet its a real barrel of laughs. Fetlife for people into BDSM; perhaps not this, is a family blog. GovLoop? 'For people in and around government' - the fact that they are all loopy is preordained by their group appellation. If you are Mongolian and want new friends in Jamaica (must happen a lot) then hi5 is the site for you. This site is not very popular in the USA which must cause great angst on the steppes. 743,930 people have joined Ravelry because of their interest in knitting and crochet.

If you think that is a lot of balls of wool then the numbers for some of the other networks are crazy. Habbo. Never heard of it? Nor me. A general site for teens with just the 20 million members. is a site for amateur genealogists and there's 15 million of them. Fruhstuckstreff has not been quite such a runaway success. Founded in 2001 it still only has 14,800 members. I have no idea what they do but they meet in a phone box outside the Dog and Fox on the third Thursday of the month.

If we are talking numbers though, Facebook is le grand fromage; just the 640 million close friends with numbers growing by the minute - literally. So I'll start my foray into this world at the top and I'll join Facebook. Pay me money ($0.00) and I'm in. What I want to do is use this as free advertising for my rather puny little game fishing lure selling business. All the big companies have Facebook pages so I'll soon be up there with Melton's. Not so fast. I cannot have a business page without first having a personal page. I don't want a personal page but I can't find a combination of key strokes that will get me around this road block. OK, I make this damned personal page and then make the business page. I am told to write on my 'Wall'. Eh? I am having a bad feeling about this already. The connection with aerosol cans and those unreadable words along every spare square inch of every railway line in the UK is inescapable. I then have to send requests to people I don't know but might have similar interests for them to be 'friends'. And then they become friends and they suggest me to others of their friends and so on. It is an electronic chain letter cum Ponzi scheme.

I have had a Facebook account for just over a year now and I can confidently say I hate it. The Lure Company has hundreds of 'friends' who are anything but. They are just names who have avatars of big boats or big fish. They do nothing but sit in the ether as an invisible cloud of potential but ultimately nonexistent customers. The have bought nothing. One of them wished me happy birthday last year. I don't know him (or her) and I am fairly confident the felicitations were an automated response from his computer rather than from my new best mate in Peurto Rico (for that is from where the greetings originated). I can't get into the Facebook culture at all. I have a good mate who plays Farmville which is a Facebook based game thing. I looked over his shoulder whilst he planted crops and bought chooks and stuff. It looked very silly; and it cost money. No, Facebook can get nicked.

So it was with a very heavy heart that I, two weeks ago, signed up with Twitter for the same princely entrance fee. The idea was to try and increase readership of this Blog. Facebook and Twitter are the same, are they not, with the only difference being that you only have to write 140 characters? Twitter is Facebook for those with a short attention span or no ideas? Well, no. I have been pleasantly surprised by Twitter and actually think it is quite good. I no longer much care if it increases my Blog readership or not as I am enjoying it in its own right.

What I really find useful is that you can use it as a RSS feeder. Be careful who you follow and you can effortlessly keep abreast of breaking news on anything you fancy. And, this is very important, not keep abreast of stuff you have no interest in whatsoever. I am currently only following 31 things and have just the 18 following me. The BBC has me and 842,882 other people following their efforts - but they are the BBC and can handle that sort of traffic. I have written (in 140 characters or less, of course) to each of the 18 people who have taken enough interest to tick me as worthy of a follow pretty much out of common courtesy. I follow the BBC, the NZ Herald, Air New Zealand, Cricinfo, a couple of blokes who dish out news on Mac stuff, a couple of people who post stuff about Jaguar cars, the Dalai Lama (two million follow his Tweets and he follows no one; appropriately classy) and that is about it for the moment. I can add to or subtract from that list as the pleasure takes me.

Conclusion? Facebook is horrible and 640 million people are wrong. Twitter is good and I am right.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A16 to the rescue

A regular, if even only weekly, go at The Herald might prove to be harder than first anticipated. I really should not be surprised as it is a very poor newspaper with a level of journalism that struggles to reach mediocrity. Occasional guest comments from overseas columnists are a welcome oasis in this desert of rubbish but there is not even that treat today.

Front page has a shock horror story revealing that if Auckland wants a second harbour crossing it will have to be paid for. The hideous notion of a toll with people who want to use a new flash bridge or burrow paying for the privilege is termed 'absolutely outrageous' by a member of the Kaipatiki local board. Although the Kaipatiki Local Board is hardly on a par with US House of Representatives in the world governance league I'm afraid this fool's view will have a similar impact on this matter as she is a) a wimmin and b) has a name which would indicate she is not a white middle age anglo saxon male. Give her a disability and strong evidence that she bats for the other side and its a shoe in - a nice shiny eight lane bridge over the harbour will fall out of the sky for no money 'cos some stupid woman from Birkenhead thinks it will be unfair for a piece of infrastructure to be provided in any other way.

This sort of attitude is hamstringing this country's progress. All this bloody sense of entitlement and fairness. Do we need a second harbour crossing? I haven't a clue. But there will be ways to determine whether we do. They will involve some clever chap doing all sorts of economic modelling and there will be an answer at the bottom of the page. We (the Auckland Council or Central Government - who cares?) will have to pay for this advice. If the advice is any good it won't be cheap - send the bill to the stupid woman in Kaipatiki. Then if we do need a bridge or tunnel just build the bloody thing. Sod the endangered newts and native ferns, get the big yellow machines in and get on with it. It will be eye wateringly expensive but thems the breaks. Why not pay for it with tolls? What is wrong with that? Silly woman says that people cannot imagine having to pay $60 week to cross the bridge to go to work. Idiot. Either move, get a new job, or, much more likely, use the existing bridge which will obviously remain as free to cross in the future as it is now. Infrastructure projects are bloody expensive. User pays ticks all the boxes to pay for them.

While we are speaking transport there is a stouch between the Auckland Transport chairman and central government. In a previous life the Transport bloke was chairman of some other Council and drew up a very spiffy (in his opinion) regional transport masterplan that stretched into the distant future with us all speeding round the region like the Jetsons. Central Transport minister has looked under the bed and found the cocoa tin less than overflowing with folding varieties and has told him in Auckland that, at $2.4 billion, plans for railways all over the show are not on. I suppose it could still be done if the silly woman from Kaipatiki pays $1500 for a return ticket from Birkenhead to Albany. But that is not going to happen as it is absolutely outrageous to pay $6 to cross a new harbour bridge that will also cost eight figures. The Auckland transport wallah labels this entirely sensible bit of pragmatism from Wellington as ' Government undermining city rail plans'. Well I should bloody well hope it is - that is what it was elected to do.

Where is Pseud's Corner when you need it? I had pretty much given up on the paper and was fast forward to 30 secs of trivia with Sideswipe and was distracted by a) a picture of a woman pushing a pram wearing hi viz track pants and, even more nauseatingly, b) a theatre review.

This piece of pretentious crap almost deserves reproducing in its entirety so you can get the full flavour of nausea that can be induced by the use of a word processing program. Janet McAllister is the author - just so you can be sure never to read anything else she writes.'This effective and moving one-woman play by Arthur Meek seems at first to be simple linear storytelling based on the diaries of the wife of New Zealand's first Chief Justice...'not a great start, but she's not even up to flying speed. 'But in the end its an angry sad reminder that "the colonialists didn't know any better" is a false defence for the Crown's appalling treatment of Maori' - Maori spelt with the funny thing over the 'o' so that it is an authentic representation of the language that never had a written form. A bit early in the day to have great waves of nausea pass over one especially so soon after the Black Doris plums. There are nine paragraphs of this drivel. Want some more? 'While she symbolically takes off her elaborate Victorian garb, she's taking off a cage she was never enamoured of anyway' All the better to walk around clad in a piece of bark presumably. 'The mighty (eh?) Auckland Theatre Company production is rather overwhelming for a chatty piece....'. 'Tony Rabbit's (seriously) monumental forest of metal ladders is set on sand within the confines of the stage - lighting turns them imprisoning or freeing by turn -and we hear John Gibsons' rythmical water, cutlery and tea-stirring sounds as appropriate'. It's unmitigated drivel written about a production that sounds a hundred times worse.

I bet Janet McAllister lives in Birkenhead and would think it impinges on her human rights to pay to cross a new bridge over the harbour.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Weeks End

Friday night and what to report?

A few amusing occurrences over the last couple of days mostly in the world has gone nuts category. Internationally the choosing of North Korea to Chair a UN Committee on nuclear disarmament is right up there with putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank. Only a dysfunctional mob like the UN could have their 'have to be fair to everybody' method of selection throw up one of the world's pariahs and not turn a hair. What is wrong with saying 'We can't have North Korea as they are both a bad bunch of ratbags and as mad as a box of frogs'. Selection is apparently done alphabetically and it obviously matters not whether the country after Switzerland for chairmanship of the United Nations Alpine Mountain Rescue Committee is Syria. Antigua and Barbuda taking over from Antarctica as Chairman of the United Nations Committee on Ice Bergs will raise not a single eyebrow in New York. Pack of Monkeys the lot of them.

That New Zealand can show nutty tendencies is part of the charm of the place. A bit of book banning over the last couple of days. Never a good thing. The book in question is apparently about some waste of space of a woman who has a degree of probably justified notoriety. I couldn't care less and won't buy the book. And there is the rub - if I don't want it I won't hand over the Ed Hilarys. No need to ban the damned book - if you don't want it, don't buy it. There is certainly no need to get all nasally dislocated as to whether a shop will sell it or not. There is even a Facebook page with in excess of ten thousand 'friends' (sic) calling for the book's author to be burnt at the stake.

Which brings us nicely to the Reserve Bank, they who issue the Eds. Not a place that interests me much except that its building is opposite my Wellington place of employment and is next to the emporium of the Coffee Nazi (who bye the bye I reckon is a good bloke). Well the afore mentioned Coffee Nazi must have been slipping something a little extra into the espressos bound for No 2 The Terrace as they are considering redesigning the bank notes. Ed and Kate Sheppard are to be traded in for other worthies. I never see bank notes of denominations greater than a $10 so I have no idea who adorns the rest. Maybe a bird of some ornithological sort on the green one - that's a $20 isn't it? Can't imagine who they have in mind as replacements. The Mad Butcher? Richie McCaw? But why change them at all? I can't imagine it would be a cheap exercise with all the designing, new flash plasticky paper stuff etc all for something that really doesn't need doing as the country isn't exactly flush at the moment is it? Silly.

As a bank note aside, I won one hundred trillion dollars a couple of weeks back in a Pub Quiz. That's $100,000,000,000,000. Gave up work on the spot, bought a different coloured DB9 for every day of the week and moved to Hawaii - which I had just bought. Only slight problem was that the note was issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and is apparently worth about 35c. Looks kosher enough though as I gaze at it on my desk. Oh, and it has a picture of three rocks, a buffalo and a waterfall on it. I'll stick with Sir Ed, thanks.

A dilemma. I missed Pink Floyd performing the Wall when it was being toured properly back in the eighties. I was in Singapore and it never came there. Never saw the Gerald Scarfe cartoons or the Wall being built. Missed the only proper reunion when they did four songs at Live 8 in 2005 and obviously Dave Gilmour, Roger Waters, Rick Wright and Nick Mason will never play together again because Rick Wright has joined Syd Barrett in being dead. When the band imploded in the mid eighties I was always on the side that Roger Waters was not supporting. I obviously don't know the bloke from a bar of soap but I don't like him. He just seems to be not a very nice bloke. On the other hand Dave Gilmour has long ago had a decent haircut and put on the amount of weight commensurate with his eye watering wealth and advancing years. In the same totally irrational way I have written Waters off, Gilmour appears to me to be alright; the sort of bloke you would have along to win squillions of dollars in a Pub Quiz (except he doesn't need the money and probably doesn't do Pub Quizzes). So here is the dilemma. Roger Waters is bringing The Wall to Auckland next summer. Toad or not Waters wrote a good deal of The Wall and it is bloody excellent. Do I buy a ticket and put my probably ill founded dislike of its main performer behind me? It won't be the Floyd but will it be close enough? Or do I just go and put Pulse on the home theatre, turn it up to warp factor twelve, frighten the sheep, be glad Waters ain't there and do without Gerald Scarfe again? Decisions, decisions.