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Monday, 30 December 2013

Luminous Moments

Sir Paul
For Christmas my lovely wife got me a Kobo ereader, a pretty cool piece of technology. I have a habit of hauling lots of books around with me as I travel, so an ereader has become a must.

One of the first books I downloaded onto it was Luminous Moments by the late Sir Paul Callaghan. What a cracking read.

I don't think I've ever read a book that made me cry during its introduction, which is written by Sir Paul's daughter Catherine. She describes, in painful detail, Sir Paul's fight with cancer and his characteristic scientific approach to his own illness. The rest of the book is a collection of Sir Paul's own writings, blog posts and interviews.

For his own part Sir Paul describes his childhood in W(h)anganui, the trials and tribulations of being a father, and fatherhood in general. He describes his love of science and the complexities of magnetic resonance (which I didn't really get, to be honest. But now I can now safely claim that I know where to find out about magnetic resonance!), his major field of research along with 'nuclear orientation'.

Another area of Sir Paul's work was communicating to the general public about science. One of his many projects was a documentary on transforming New Zealand's economy to a knowledge-based one where "the talented want to live" (the whole documentary is online here). The book acknowledges this work and has an entertaining interview with Kim Hill on Pseudo-science, and whether it's dangerous or not.

Sadly, Sir Paul is no longer with us - something this book can only compound as it reveals another brilliant Kiwi mind  lost. Nonetheless it's still a cracking (and important) read, and a real bargain at less than $5.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Referendum: What the government will worry about

The preliminary results for the citizens initiated referendum on the government's mixed ownership model are out - predictably, two-thirds are against and one-third for; turn out was just under 44% of all voters. Also predictably, it's been claimed as a victory which should have the government worried.

The raw numbers are 895,322 against 432,950 for. This is why the government won't be worrying about the result: the 895,322 who felt motivated to vote against the government's policy is much less than the 1,009,850 who voted for the putative Labour-Greens-NZ First government at the 2011 general election. This shows the CIR didn't really convince anyone - those who voted No are most likely the core constituency of those who oppose asset sales anyway.

What the government will actually worry about is that the CIR represents the Greens and Labour working together. Speaking from personal experience, these referendum campaigns are invaluable for political campaigners. You make a lot of connections and gain knowledge about how to run a campaign - the essential stuff of winning a general election. At the same time, it underlines that Labour and the Greens are becoming inextricably tied. That should have many within Labour worried.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

There's plenty of oxygen on the moon

Borrowed from the NZ Herald
Colin Craig's most recent comments about the moon landing has got plenty of headlines.

Which is exactly the point. Craig is getting plenty of media attention and, more importantly, the reportage is being read by his potential voters as some sort of anti-Colin Craig campaign.

This is exactly the same trick that Winston Peters used to pull. Winston used to run his lines on immigration, the media would respond in kind with accusations of racism, and talkback would run hot. The idea that a significant portion of the media are against you plays very well with a significant block of the electorate - I would wager, a significant enough proportion to propel you into parliament.

So as the Prime Minister has said, this is about Craig "winding up" the media, for publicity. In doing so he's kept Winston out of the media for the week.