Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Cows interested spectators at an emergency landing
The Dominion Post has an amusing report this morning that I could not resist passing on.
Cattle are surprisingly inquisitive, as I have found out many times when going out mushrooming. They gather round and drool, and flutter ridiculously long eyelashes, and when they get really interested they start to lick.
This herd of beef cattle had the most interesting experience yet, on Sunday. A small plane, flown by a private pilot, made an emergency landing in their paddock after the engine started shuddering.
No one was hurt, and the plane was washed. After a fashion. The cows, after scampering away from the landing, reassembled for a close inspection. Then, liking what they scented and saw, they started to lick.
This happened just north of Wellington, at Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast. The Kapiti Aero Club secretary denied all knowledge of the pilot's identity. All he knew, apparently was that the pilot issued a mayday call, and then made a successful landing, and the plane will be trucked out this week.
More amusing still, it seems that cows are even more interested in cameras. As you can see, they have abandoned the plane to inspect the photographer.
Friday, October 13, 2017
Well, there's a language I have never heard about before. Luwian. Evidently a local dialect from about the time of beautiful Helen of Troy, whose face sank a thousand ships.
Long ago, a French archaeologist couldn't decipher it, either, but he had the sense to copy what he saw on a huge tablet covered with this script, before the stone tablet was used in the construction of a mosque. And now a team of scholars has translated the message, which is a story of a mythic "Sea People."
From The Smithsonian
An interdisciplinary team of Swiss and Dutch archaeologists
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
An old, unused, ship stamp could be yours for a mere fifty grand in Kiwi dollars, if you link to a stamp and coin auction that is to be staged in Wellington late this week.
The stamp was designed and printed to commemorate a royal visit to the country back in 1949
Due to the ill-health of the royal in question, King George VI, the visit was cancelled, and so was the stamp.
Well, it was meant to be cancelled and destroyed in its entirety, but one sheet of the print run was "liberated" before the rest were incinerated.
There are only seven known examples.
The auction as a whole is expected to make over two million in sales. That, however, might depend on the popularity of a rival attraction, a heavy-duty firearms fair that is to be held, if you please, at a school. The gun fair is designed for collectors of old military weapons, but instead has raised a heap of controversy...
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
From time to time I hope to feature authors who write in a similar vein to me, and the first of these is Joan Druett.
I initially became aware of Joan's books when I joined Old Salt Press, where she is one of the original founders, although her work has also been published by Heinemann, Collins, Simon & Schuster, Routledge - oh, the list goes on! As an historical novelist who also produces well respected non fiction she has her feet firmly set in both camps and, (somewhat unfairly), excels at both.
Amongst her fiction output is The Wiki Coffin Mysteries, a thriller series in the best traditions of both nautical history and crime fiction. The hero, a mixed race seaman with remarkable, if sometimes lateral, detective abilities is a wonderful creation in himself. Through the course of several books he takes on a series of diverse crimes and equally eclectic enemies, all within a strong maritime setting.
Lady Castaways is an example of her non-fiction output, and one of several that centre on female mariners. As an enthusiastic researcher myself, I am often amazed at the wondrous stories that can be uncovered with a little effort. In Lady Castaways Joan has taken several such tales, knocked off the dust and presented them in a way that gives some long forgotten nautical heroines their deserved prominence.
One of her most recent offerings is The Money Ship. In any style of fiction it is unusual to come across such a complex plot, and one that covers so great a range of years, yet Joan's writing style effortlessly keeps the reader informed. And there are so many fascinating facts rolled up with the fiction, although at no time did I find myself being lectured, or bored in any way – just an old fashioned good read and I commend it, and all of Joan Druett's work, to you.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Could New Zealand adopt Norfolk Island?
Apparently, some locals would love it.
And we would love it, too. Historically, socially, and visually, it is an amazing island. Unique.
Until recently it was easy to fly for a very different holiday, but the link between Auckland and Norfolk has vanished. We would love to have it back. We would love the island to be part of Us.
But is it possible? Andre Nobbs, resident and past minister, thinks it is.
Since the administration of Norfolk Island has been taken away from the locals, and given to the bureaucrats in New South Wales, the situation there has changed.
As we know, the folks who live there manage by having at least three jobs. They also have a barter system, to get around the fact that there is not a lot of money to pass around. The sort of situation where someone will drop off a basket of lemons, and get a dozen fresh laid eggs in exchange. A system that worked really well. Until now.
But, as Andrew Nobbs says, New Zealand is not known for being heavy-handed with the islands it administers. It tends to let the locals get along as best they can, and help out when they get into trouble.
Will it happen?
We can hope....
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Friday, August 18, 2017
DEFENDERS of President Donald Trump offer two arguments in his favour—that he is a businessman who will curb the excesses of the state; and that he will help America stand tall again by demolishing the politically correct taboos of left-leaning, establishment elites. From the start, these arguments looked like wishful thinking. After Mr Trump’s press conference in New York on August 15th they lie in ruins.
The unscripted remarks were his third attempt to deal with violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend (see article). In them the president stepped back from Monday’s—scripted—condemnation of the white supremacists who had marched to protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general, and fought with counter-demonstrators, including some from the left. In New York, as his new chief of staff looked on dejected, Mr Trump let rip, stressing once again that there was blame “on both sides”. He left no doubt which of those sides lies closer to his heart.
Mr Trump is not a white supremacist. He repeated his criticism of neo-Nazis and spoke out against the murder of Heather Heyer (see our Obituary). Even so, his unsteady response contains a terrible message for Americans. Far from being the saviour of the Republic, their president is politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for office.
Start with the ineptness. In last year’s presidential election Mr Trump campaigned against the political class to devastating effect. Yet this week he has bungled the simplest of political tests: finding a way to condemn Nazis. Having equivocated at his first press conference on Saturday, Mr Trump said what was needed on Monday and then undid all his good work on Tuesday—briefly uniting Fox News and Mother Jones in their criticism, surely a first. As business leaders started to resign en masse from his advisory panels (see article), the White House disbanded them. Mr Trump did, however, earn the endorsement of David Duke, a former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The extreme right will stage more protests across America. Mr Trump has complicated the task of containing their marches and keeping the peace. The harm will spill over into the rest of his agenda, too. His latest press conference was supposed to be about his plans to improve America’s infrastructure, which will require the support of Democrats. He needlessly set back those efforts, as he has so often in the past. “Infrastructure week” in June was drowned out by an investigation into Russian meddling in the election—an investigation Mr Trump helped bring about by firing the director of the FBI in a fit of pique. Likewise, repealing Obamacare collapsed partly because he lacked the knowledge and charisma to win over rebel Republicans. He reacted to that setback by belittling the leader of the Senate Republicans, whose help he needs to pass legislation. So much for getting things done.
Mr Trump’s inept politics stem from a moral failure. Some counter-demonstrators were indeed violent, and Mr Trump could have included harsh words against them somewhere in his remarks. But to equate the protest and the counter-protest reveals his shallowness. Video footage shows marchers carrying fascist banners, waving torches, brandishing sticks and shields, chanting “Jews will not replace us”. Footage of the counter-demonstration mostly shows average citizens shouting down their opponents. And they were right to do so: white supremacists and neo-Nazis yearn for a society based on race, which America fought a world war to prevent. Mr Trump’s seemingly heartfelt defence of those marching to defend Confederate statues spoke to the degree to which white grievance and angry, sour nostalgia is part of his world view.
At the root of it all is Mr Trump’s temperament. In difficult times a president has a duty to unite the nation. Mr Trump tried in Monday’s press conference, but could not sustain the effort for even 24 hours because he cannot get beyond himself. A president needs to rise above the point-scoring and to act in the national interest. Mr Trump cannot see beyond the latest slight. Instead of grasping that his job is to honour the office he inherited, Mr Trump is bothered only about honouring himself and taking credit for his supposed achievements.
Presidents have come in many forms and still commanded the office. Ronald Reagan had a moral compass and the self-knowledge to delegate political tactics. LBJ was a difficult man but had the skill to accomplish much that was good. Mr Trump has neither skill nor self-knowledge, and this week showed that he does not have the character to change.
This is a dangerous moment. America is cleft in two. After threatening nuclear war with North Korea, musing about invading Venezuela and equivocating over Charlottesville, Mr Trump still has the support of four-fifths of Republican voters. Such popularity makes it all the harder for the country to unite.
This leads to the question of how Republicans in public life should treat Mr Trump. Those in the administration face a hard choice. Some will feel tempted to resign. But his advisers, particularly the three generals sitting at the top of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and as Mr Trump’s chief of staff, are better placed than anyone to curb the worst instincts of their commander-in-chief.
An Oval Office-shaped hole
For Republicans in Congress the choice should be clearer. Many held their noses and backed Mr Trump because they thought he would advance their agenda. That deal has not paid off. Mr Trump is not a Republican, but the solo star of his own drama. By tying their fate to his, they are harming their country and their party. His boorish attempts at plain speaking serve only to poison national life. Any gains from economic reform—and the booming stockmarket and low unemployment owe more to the global economy, tech firms and dollar weakness than to him—will come at an unacceptable price.
Republicans can curb Mr Trump if they choose to. Rather than indulging his outrages in the hope that something good will come of it, they must condemn them. The best of them did so this week. Others should follow.