Monday, February 23, 2009


Yes, I know, I know - way too long without posting. I've been so busy that I've hardly sat down in months. However, a ghastly imminent law change here in NZ cannot go uncommented upon.

Amendments to the Copyright Act, allegedly to combat piracy, are due to come into force at the end of this week. These changes going to result in situations where people will be considered guilty of piracy until proven innocent; not the way the law is supposed to work, but hey, a large number of New Zealanders wanted a National/Act government, so these types of law changes shouldn't be unexpected. (Would be nice if politicians would stop rushing through these 'amendments' without notice, in midnight parliament sittings.) This is merely reaping the reward for this massive mistake — another step along the road to an oppressive, free-marketeer's-wet-dream-police-state where we are all the slaves to corporations, living in perpetual fear.

There's not even a requirement to provide evidence of piracy, as this is deemed 'impractical' by politicians, with the result that anyone suspected of piracy will have their internet connection suspended by their ISP. And the definition of what constitutes an ISP is extremely vague, amounting to ANY INDIVIDUAL OR ORGANIZATION providing any sort of access at all to the internet - this includes schools, libraries, hostels, universities, hospitals... These are all apparently ISPs now.

The Creative Freedom website explains the situation in much more detail, but suffice to say these changes are opposed on every front, even by groups at polar opposite ends of the political and economic spectrum. No-one wants these laws; politicians are showing how out of touch they are with everyone by going ahead.

To show solidarity with others opposing this law change, my profile has been edited. I strongly encourage you — wherever you may be — to do the same and voice your displeasure.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What's in an "-ism"?

Capitalism n
  1. The rule of money.
    imperialism, jingoism ant. socialism)
  2. Form of discrimination based on financial status.
    (compare racism, sexism, ageism)
  3. School of thought and philosophy favoured by the élite, the central tenet of which states: "we exist—primarily to acquire more money".
    (ant. egalitarianism, altruism)
  4. The art of removing money from the population.
    (compare expressionism, absurdism)
  5. The worship of money.
    (compare judaism, hinduism)
  6. A political movement seeking to give rights to capital, esp. across international borders.
    (compare feminism, liberalism)

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Last week I happened to be out driving home from a friend's place at night, when I came upon a car crash.

Only a few minutes before my arrival, a car had gone out of control and smashed headlong into a lamp-post. The red hatchback had spun around and was facing the wrong way, the front totally V-ed in. Two lanes were blocked by the prone and buckled lamp-post, glass everywhere in the darkened section of road. Some guys and girls about my age, or maybe slightly younger, were milling around, dazed. I rolled down my window as one guy shuffled over, and asked him whether anyone was hurt. He replied that there were no injuries, that they were just a bit shaken. He was certainly looking pretty pale. Other vehicles arriving at the scene were driving up onto the kerb and around the wreck, continuing on their way. Local residents in dressing-gowns looked on from their driveways, unimpressed. I rolled my window back up, and drove up onto the kerb, just as blue lights appeared in my rear-view mirror. I left, and continued on home.

While I had been surprised by the accident, I wasn't surprised at who had been involved: Young "car enthusiasts" (read: boy-racers) out on the town for the night, showing off their "performance vehicle" (read: wrecked hot-hatch) to girls dumb enough to get into the car with them.

It might seem strange for someone training to be an engineer to take this stance, given the reputation for rowdiness and frat-boy antics that engineering students have garnered for themselves over the years. However, I am not the typical engineering student. In fact, ENSOC and the tragic "manlier-than-thou" attitude of engineering students at UoC were a big factor in my decision to continue my education somewhere with more sanity.

The issue of boy-racers has been much in the press lately, with plenty young guys and girls getting into accidents and smashes, getting injured or killed. Or injuring and killing other innocent pedestrians and road users, and generally causing chaos and damage wherever they go.

Even given that there have been moves to try and curb boy-racing activity, such as noise limits on exhausts and locking down certain areas of town on Friday and Saturday nights, I am struck by one glaring omission from the public consideration: Why are these cars—even in their unmodified state—allowed onto our roads in the first place when there is no necessity for them?

Some of these cars are beyond the technological prowess of that which was available to seasoned professional race car drivers in the 60's or 70's. After all, cars like the Subaru WRX and Nissan Skyline have their origins in professional rallying and Touring Car racing. Yet here we are in 2008, with young reckless guys caning around residential areas in their tooled-up rides with 300, 400, 500 HP under the hood. This is just nuts. Crazy. Why on earth is it legal? You don't need this insane amount of power to drive around town at 50 Kmh. (OK, I'll qualify that by stating my assumption that the car isn't towing a boat or trailer of some kind. But then, I haven't seen too many boy-racers ripping down the road with a caravan in tow.)

I draw the following parallel with firearms (the fact that a firearm's purpose is to injure, kill or otherwise destroy something notwithstanding): It is legal to own some types of firearm in NZ for hunting and target-shooting. These pursuits are deemed legitimate uses of a firearm. However, weapons such as sub-machine guns are extremely tightly controlled, being illegal to posess unless you are a certified collector, since there is no legitimate use for such a weapon in general circulation.

I would argue that the same principles apply to vehicles on public roads. You don't need to get from 0-100 and beyond in 3.9 seconds. You don't need a top speed of 240 Kmh. Ever. On the racetrack, or private proverty, sure, go ahead, let loose. In a controlled environment, with the right training, safety measures and expert supervision, well away from anyone who might be injured and where the risks are known and minimised, there is no problem, just as it is with firearms.

Now consider that nobody in their right mind would give a young child a loaded sub-machine gun, safety-off, and expect them to comprehend the possible consequences of its use: They lack judgement, experience, wisdom. Yet hardly a second thought is given when it comes to some young guy* who thinks he's the shit buying or otherwise obtaining access to a twin-turbo Legacy or RX-7. What's the essental difference?

The problem is that there's no catch-all answer to the boy-racer issue. I'd make the following notes from my own observations:
  1. There is no necessity for cars of this kind of capability on the road. The principal purpose of a car is to get you from A to B safely and in relative comfort. This can be very easily achieved with less than 200 HP.
  2. Drivers of high-powered vehicles often seem unaware of the degree of control required to handle them properly, and are more likely to be tempted push the car's limits.
  3. I am constantly gobsmacked at the unbelievable stupidity of some drivers I have encountered on NZ roads. On several occasions, I have had to take evasive action to avoid serious accidents because some asshole was showing off, or couldn't stand the thought of having to slow down behind someone doing the legal limit. Just last week, for example, a guy in a car sitting on the side of the road did a U-turn across my path in an 80 Kmh zone, without either bothering to look in his mirrors or indicate. I found out that the brakes in the car I was driving work very well under load. Had I not braked when I did, I would have ploughed into his driver's door at 80 K. I'll bet there's not much comeback from that.

My points are these: That there are insufficient controls in place for these vehicles at a legal level, that and standard driver training is out of touch with the technology legally available to inexperienced drivers. A limit on the legal horsepower of vehicles available in this country might be a good idea. Or maybe have a graduated scheme for less restriction on horsepower with increasing driver training.

Without the right skills, only luck seperates a few minor scratches and a dented bumper from an explosive mingling of glass, bone, blood and metal; from a close call to a death, be it the driver's, the passenger's, the pedestrian's, or all of the above.

Hopefully the guys and girls in the red hatchback realise just how close.

* I have singled out guys, because by-and-large most racers are guys. However, there are girl-racers too, even to the extent that they are represented by their own group. Just goes to prove that in this so-called age of equality, neither gender has a monopoly on idiocy.

Friday, April 04, 2008

When is a U-Turn not a U-Turn?

Oh, the irony: Former NZ Prime Minister Mike Moore is to chair Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman's charity. Perhaps now he can undo some of the damage he oversaw in his previous position as head of the WTO. Probably not, though.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Finding a way

Yesterday, I had lunch with my good friend Anyzoom at the C-1 café to celebrate coming to the end of his study, and having just been to a very positive job application. C-1 is one of my favourite haunts, not only because the coffee is excellent, but because it's close to polytech, and there are a number of unbelievably cute girls who work there.

We drank coffee and kept an eye on the scenery, talking about the project he had been working on in his final year, and what project I might end up undertaking in this, my final year. I have been struggling to find my niche in the engineering degree. In this final year, we get to pick our specialties: communications, electrical, electronics, control systems, computer engineering/ embedded systems. The problem is that I find all of these areas interesting, but due to the polytech's lack of resources, I know that not all of these streams will be run this year. Ideally, I'd like to study electrical engineering, but with a focus on renewable energy, power system planning and load analysis.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you will know (or have figured out) that I believe in being as independent as possible. This was one of the main points in undertaking the Week of Penury. Independence extending to being far less reliant on resources external to each household: growing food in the garden to offset rising produce prices; being less reliant on mains electricity; using more benign forms of transportation; shifting the 'work-life' balance, in favour of 'life', and so on. The coming transition might not come easy—in fact, it will in all probability be downright difficult—but it needn't be miserable. All sorts of things can be accomplished through foresight, co-operation and willingness to act. Taking the larger view, my project is therefore already defined for me: Get through the year of study and get into this area.

We also talked about resistance to change, and how economics, vested interests and fear slow the uptake of proactive initiatives. Corporate interests. I figure that there must be a way to build these groups—who wish to continue profiting from the status quo—out of the system. And I must be involved in doing it.

Although I don't recognise the authority of the U.S. or its military, I have to admire the mottoes associated with the U.S. Naval Construction Force, otherwise known as the Seabees:
"With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once, the impossible takes a bit longer, miracles by appointment only."
"We will either find a way or make one."

I believe there is a way to accommodate not only my engineering aspirations, but also my philosophy of life, in this coming time. I know I'll be working against the grain, but the outcome if successful will be worth it. Find a way!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I am Jack's Existential Angst

Sunday, September 23, 2007

UK Army Chief Loses Touch With Reality

Just read this news article on the BBC, and was completely infuriated.

So the man in charge of the British Armed Forces thinks the public should have more respect for servicemen returning from the conflict in Iraq. My question to him would be "Why?"

I have a feeling that the reason that people don't is because the British Army has no business being in Iraq in the first place. Iraq was invaded by American and British Forces with no mandate other than that fraudulently contrived by Bush and Blair.

Nearly all of General Sir Richard Dannatt's comments showed that he has lost the plot when it comes to the relationship of the Army to the population. For example:
"When a young soldier has been fighting in Basra or Helmand, he wants to know that the people in their local pub know and understand what he has been doing and why."
I'm sure that the folk down t' local know exactly why British Forces are in Iraq—so that the West can maintain some semblance of control in the region by installing puppet governments whom are 'open' to courtship by Western business interests. Just ask anyone from Nicaragua. Or Haiti. Or the Dominican Republic. Or Honduras.
"Soldiers are genuinely concerned when they come back from Iraq to hear the population that sent them being occasionally dismissive or indifferent about their achievements."
Achievements? So illegaly pacifying a country for foreign interests is something to be proud of... And who exactly sent the troops to Iraq in the first place? The general public has no control whatsoever over the actions of the Army... The Army is commanded by politicians at the highest level. Anyone old enough to chew solids knows that politicians act in their own interests under the guise of representing the people.
"We must move from being a society that uses the military as a political and media football and more towards seeing the military for what it is... [which is] the instrument of foreign policy conducted by a democratically-elected government acting in the name of the people."
The Army are simply trained thugs with government backing - they are not representatives of the people of Britain, nor are they carrying out the will of the people. Hasn't he seen the widespread, large-scale protests against the war?

Where do they get these people?