Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pens, Pencils, Refill, Book bag... and an iPad?

Unless you have a five-year old about to start school, the yearly shop for school stationery usually happen post-Christmas, after we've all spent our money on presents. (Unfortunately for our household, it also coincides with TWO birthdays*) I was a bit shocked to find that this year Sam's list cost me almost $100. Part of this list cost included "shared" items for the class, such as whiteboard markers and Jovi's (crayons, for the uninitiated), but fortunately, unlike the Year 9's of Orewa College next year, I won't have to buy an iPad.

Or if you bother to read the rest of the article (unlike the radio networks who can only read the first line of news items), it also states a laptop, net book or tablet PC will do. It appears the main issue parents have, is with the affordability of the technology. I'm not going to argue that a computer is non-essential equipment for school. It should be obvious enough that we're living in an electronic age, and children are being exposed to digital devices at an earlier age than ever (I say this as I wipe the toddlers fingerprints off my computer screen, and while the 6 year old is off playing Peggle on the xbox).

 The first year of high school is hideously expensive as it is, when the cost of a new uniform alone can be upwards of $300 not to mention fees (or if you like your compulsory "donation") which, usually run in the hundreds. And this is if you go to a "free" state school. This is not helped by Orewa College's status as a decile 8 school. A high rating means that they are entitled to less funding. It's an unfortunate catch-22.

It appears that the main problem, though, was a lack of communication between school and home. With consultation, the school could have lessened the resulting parental outrage, and perhaps they would have then offered their support and input to find a way to fill the funding gap.

*One of them being mine

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Great Boycott

This post is far too close to Baillies... But sod it. It kind of needs discussion.

It turns out DB have won their defence of the trademarked "Radler". A search on the net shows this to be a rather generic term though I was surprised to see that, while the word itself means "cyclist", the term, when applied to beer essentially means shandy.

That is, a beer that's mixed with a soft drink.

So there are loads of calls for a boycott.

It's interesting to note that this is quite likely to effect a bunch of businesses. I don't often choose my pubs based upon the beer they serve. I'm more likely to go for the ambiance of a place. I do dread DB pubs to some extent. I miss a good cider or the comfort of a Guinness and Macs Gold isn't completely awful.

In saying that though, I don't avoid DB pubs. There are often reasons for going there. A Monteith's Pilsner goes down well with me. Really well. If it's on offer, I'm happy. The DB pub I do occasionally stop by does jugs. Now I know jugs tend to get a bad rap. They're a very social drink though. See how quickly you end up with a table full of people sharing in a jug or three and soon after a bowl of fries will appear. None of the uncomfortable feeling that you're about to get stung when it's your round.

Given that I'm an open source sort of guy and will make compromises for what I feel is moral and right, I'm quite willing to boycott that pub and any others which are DB pubs. So that means I'll be avoiding (Actually.... this is probably a pretty good start of a list):

Those are the ones I could find online.

If you have more to add (Auckland only or otherwise the list would be insane), leave a comment and I'll add them to the list. Remembering that even if you don't drink DB products, the best way to show your disgust is to hit DB in the pockets (Yay capitalism?) - or, in the case of most of these pubs, a partner of DB (Barworks).

I'm a Hufflepuff!

My husband has been urging me to write an update for this blog for ages. Like, seriously darling? You don't get enough of my incoherant ramblings at home?

In case you have been living under a rock, in a cave, or perhaps far away on a desert island, with only a volleyball for company it is common knowledge that It All Ends today. Well, that's NZ time anyway, I'm discounting the world premieres that have already taken place. And that the book was released way back in 2007. Anyway the fact is, it is the finale of the most important movie series of my generation (with apologies to Messrs. Spielberg, Lucas & Jackson).

As such, most of the blogs I visit (as well as the rest of the internet) have had Potter-related articles/video clips scattered through them. Including this one:

 via  The Mary Sue

In the grand scheme of the wizarding world, the poor old Hufflepuffs are forever doomed to be “the others”, consigned to the background in photos, forever runners-up. Unless they die.*

I feel the need to defend them though, (and I swear it has nothing to do with the results of this quiz), and really, while they may not be brave like a Gryffindor, cunning like a Slytherin or a bunch of nerdy swots like Ravenclaw. Hufflepuffs are shown to be diligent, reliable and imbued with a sense of fairplay. Yes, I know they are not exactly the most exciting qualities, but they're ones we should all hope to posess.

Thanks J.K. Rowling. The journey has been magical.

*you know, the chick who could change her hair colour, and the sparkly vampire.

Not Doing Enough

Labour today finally released the details of their capital gains tax.

They don't go far enough. Capital gain tax would only be 15%. Think about this a second. If your primary home was exempt (the wording around this has been, to me, quite ambiguous, so I mention it here as a qualifier), then what we're talking about is pure profit. The qualifier is needed as when you've sold your home, you still need to buy another one right?

These are large investments with high returns. I would love to see a capital gains tax based upon the current tax system. The more the gain, the more the tax. It really wouldn't be hard to figure out an annual figure on an investment.

Imagine that.... loads of people paying, probably smaller amounts, of tax based upon their income.... weird.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Google Plus

I know I've said previously that I don't like social networking. It's true. I don't. For the most part, I just don't get it. I don't understand the hype or the enthusiasm people show towards it. I want the word social back - as far as I'm concerned it never means sitting behind my computer.

Actually... that's not strictly true. In the good old days when I first got a computer (or at least, an IBM compatible - before that I had an Amstrad and before that an ancient TRS-80 based laptop thing) my friends and I would all get our computers into the same room and network the machines together and play games. We'd be behind our computers but we'd be talking to each other.

Anyway, the short of it is, I finally gave in to the Google Plus hype. People kept sending me invitations and registrations were open. What I wasn't expecting was what I saw when I got there.

The only content I seem to be able to find is a bunch of tacky advertising for Google Plus. Confirmation that it's better than Facebook. The question though... How? The chat function is exactly like what you'd get in GMail. Sending a private message is something you'd have to look up in order to figure out. The "home" page is much like having an rss feed into people's blog. There's no development community such as that which came up with Farmville and other value add features.

Not that I'm saying that Facebook is good. It's just, if you're going to claim something is better than something else.... should you not quantify that claim? Remembering that Google attempted social networking previously, are they banking on hype now?

I want a t-shirt. "I'm a first generation Google+ user and all I found was unsubstantiated claims".

What are we really afraid of?

Please note: This post is definitely not suitable for a younger audience. I'm not going to demand you stop reading here if you're fairly young as that never works. But I have warned you.... I would really rather you didn't.

I went to Nethui a couple of weeks ago. Brilliant! It was a conference where the technical side of things took a back seat to more social issues. I attended a lot of the digital citizenry and education streams and while some discussions were a lot better than others, I started asking myself, "What are we really afraid of?"

For example, the number of female teachers compared to male teachers is phenomenal. Looking at this site (found after a 2 second Google search), male teachers within elementary and middle schools (that's primary and intermediate in New Zealand) for 2010, is only 18.2%. The trend is that these teachers tend to start off older than their female counterparts. There's a lot of consideration that a male goes through when choosing this occupation.

What is our number one fear for our kids on the Internet? It seems that it's the fear that our kids may meet deviants. Never mind the psychological effects of cyber-bullying/cyber-stalking that may lead to lowered self esteem and it's associated problems.

There are differences between bullying and cyber-bullying. Mostly in terms of scope. At the Nethui, someone came up with an excellent point. In short, the net can make anyone a bully. In my day, it was the scary big guys or the popular kids that tended to pick on me (yes, I'm a result of almost constant bullying as a kid).

We kind of have an inkling in the back of our heads that New Zealand's suicide rates are horribly high. The media can't report on this. An interesting consequence that I've seen is that this information is underground. Bring on the rumour mill.

What I have to wonder is, given that we seem to be trying to protect people from the very idea of suicide, are we doing enough to prevent it? Would talking about this not be better? I remember as an 11 year old being shown animations about puberty. Things like "You're suddenly going to have hair where there was no hair". What we seem to fail to do is to say to people "This is a time in your life where your brain and thinking change significantly and there's some dangers in that. Things like depression, moodiness, confusion etc. We're happy to talk to you if you need it". As for my own experience, I still tend to try and work things out on my own. I'm sure life would have been much easier had I sought out help.

I always get a sense of fear whenever I'm trying to get something done and people keep trying to sell me stuff. National Bank, for example, when I opened my account tried to sell me KiwiSaver, life insurance, home and contents insurance etc. I know, this isn't really anything to fear. The problem is, when I get home, there's often a phone call asking if I would like to participate in a survey or buy something. When I enquired about a particular qualification from seek learning I got back an email that looked almost exactly like an infomercial had puked up on a computer and sent me the results. My life is being eaten up a sales pitch or a survey or an advertisement at a time.

The media are currently on a big campaign against those legal drugs sold at a dairy near you! Never mind the fact that they've also sold cigarettes for as long as I can remember. Actually... without cigarettes, I'm almost certain a load of local corner dairies would just disappear. I think this is a concern. I think there are some bigger concerns that the media is ignoring. It is no surprise that this stuff sells. There's a demand for it. Is there space to be working with these manufacturers/distributiors to sate that appetite in a safe responsible way? Age restrictions being regulated (rather than volunteered and not enforcible by law), perhaps you'd have kind of a speak easy set up - eg. you may only spark up in designated areas. You may not buy this crap over the counter...

What this highlights to me though is the power the media has. What we seem to be afraid of is what the media wants to highlight. And what the media wants to highlight is what sells, rather than what we really should be afraid of. Wouldn't it be really good if the media had to declare a scope on issues? The amount of legal drugs sold vs. the amount of illegal drugs seized and estimated rate of capture. The number of people meeting dodgy people online vs. the rates of other distressing experiences on the net compared to the likelihood of meeting dodgy people in "meat space".

Of course... ignorance is bliss.