Monday, 22 June 2009

Mobiles and Media Spin; a weekly roundup

A quick update from some current new items, reminiscent of John Stewart or Stephen Colbert; sadly without the investigative journalism, pinpoint timing, or humour.

So, in other news:

Maria Sharapova has been promoting a new dress that alerts the wearer to a call when it's normally too loud to hear. Which poses the obvious questions:
  • If it's too loud to hear, how can you talk to the person who is ringing?
  • How important are you to have to take a call, even when you are out at a pub? And who are you pissing off in the process?
  • How obnoxious are you that not only do you need your phone to ring, but also your entire body?
And in a case of mixed media messages, the Retirement Commission released report gauging New Zealanders' financial literacy. Unfortunately The Press forgot which angle to take.
Pick One!

Lastly, the All Blacks won their game against France (14-10), redeeming themselves somewhat in terrible weather. Yet still reporters found something to complain about.

I didn't even know there was a trophy until this week.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Angels and Detonations

Cinema is no stranger to controversy and condemnation from the Catholic church, in recent years it's been up against such movies as Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, and loudest of all - The Da Vinci Code (and Tom Hanks' hair).

So it was no surprise when I heard that the church had banned director Ron Howard from filming in parts of the Vatican for the new Angels and Demons movie.

Having seen said movie this week it is then ironic that the church has less to fear from this movie (about the divide between religion and science) than the previous one about Mrs Of Nazareth; and actually comes out fairly unscathed, showing off the beautiful St Peter's Basilica and a number of antiquities to good effect (or at least studio reproductions of them).

Add a bit of momentum and this movie is considerably better than the first (which was terrible); though that doesn't necessarily mean it's good, but I found it enjoyable.

the movie does require a large amount of suspension of disbelief (ie turn your brain off at the door); and this time the disbelief doesn't come from a two-thousand year old wedding conspiracy.

It's not the religion at all, this time it's the science; and it bugged me throughout the movie.

Movies have long used "artistic licence" with science, whether it be hacking computers, rerouting spy satellites, or curving bullet trajectories; but when the A&D story revolves around a canister of antimatter being used as a bomb, things are stretched to the extreme.

There are two real issues:

  1. Creating antimatter. It's not that easy. Actually it's really really really hard, and impossible for in any sort of "visible" quantity.
  2. Storing antimatter. Magnetic fields are the way to go, since as soon as antimatter touches anything (ie matter) it's explosion time. But in a clear glass container the size of a thermos? They don't even use that for regular explosives!

And underlying the story there is another subtler issue:

Religion v science - Enemies? Or two sides to the same coin?

I have heard and read opinion that science is mutually exclusive with religion. That isn't my belief (I am a relatively well informed individual) - nothing I know leads to a conclusion that they aren't just describing the same thing.

Faith (from
  1. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  2. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
Seems kinda the same.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Our justice system. Part 2

Hi again,
Back for round two?

This is not as vaguely sarcastic as the previous post, because to be honest I was quite interested in the whole affair. I haven't been in a district court ever before, so seeing the 'inside' is quite an eye opener and all quite structured,

  • Yes there is a lot of waiting around, but only because there are legal processes occurring in the background that jurors have no need to see.
  • The juror pool was not (as I had wondered) entirely made up of stay-at-home mums and the unemployed; it seemed to be a fairly good representation of NZ.
  • The intro video was actually worth watching, and not horribly cheesy.
  • The jury officer used an actual rotating ballot box to select the jury panel (two groups of 50 people)
And it was tense.

I don't know what it is, but waiting to have your name called out of a random ballot and list is surprisingly blood pumping. Waiting to see who gets challenged (and trying to guess why) is like an advanced class in people-watching.

However, I didn't get picked for a jury today, so my tour of the judicial system ended at 11am.

I will leave you with two statistics though:
  1. the jury that was picked was: female-4, male-8
  2. jurors that swore on a bible were-3, and not-9
Should we be surprised with number 2? Dismayed? Where is NZ in reality?

The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands:
"See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God."
Micah 6:8

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Our justice system. Part 1

Hello again,
Tomorrow I begin a scheduled week of jury service. I'm quite looking forward to it, as I haven't been 'selected' before. Everyone who has, recommends to bring a good book.

Having read the instructions there are a couple of idiosyncrasies that are worth mentioning:

1. Payment
A juror gets paid $31 per half day, or $62 a day (plus travel)
Expected times are 9am-5pm, with an hour lunch - giving you a standard 8hr work day
This gives the princely sum of $7.75/hr (or if you only want 7 hours and unpaid lunch, $8.86)

The NZ minimum wage is $12.50...

2. Governor General
You can't be a juror if you are the Governor General.
Fair enough, the representative of the Queen isn't really suitable.


Do they have to mention it on the juror information sheet? There is only one Governor General after all, it should be easy to figure out.

Ergo; either the Governor General is particularly poorly informed; or the Ministry of Justice is a bit obsessive-compulsive.

I forsee the Hon. Sir Anand Satyanand opening his jury summons with a groan, then after reading the information sheet, he high-fives his secretary once he finds he is excused.
Possibly unlikely.

I expect more oddities tomorrow, so there will probably be a Part 2. Don't expect a case report though - justice is blind.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Dr Manhattan project

About a week ago I watched the Watchmen at the movies.

This isn't a review of that movie. (But suffice to say, if you've never heard of it before, it's probably not for you).

In the movie there is a character called Dr Manhattan. He is a genuine superhero, thanks to a failed science experiment. He glows blue, he can breathe in space, he can teleport, he can see through time.

In short he becomes the closest thing to a god around, and even manages to get worshiped at one point.
He is also totally not like God, at all.

The most well-known (and cliched) verse in the bible is John 3:16:

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life..."

Christians know that God is ultimate never-ending love. Sometimes we forget to tell everyone else, amidst all our guilty finger-pointing, but it is a fundamental truth (see also Mark 12:28).

Dr Manhattan is not this. As the years have gone on he grows increasingly dispassionate; until he almost forsakes humanity (and all forms of life) altogether in order to live alone on Mars. Superman he is not.

Now, you probably don't know any blue superheros living on Mars; but I bet you've wished a few people you knew (or yourself) acted with love a bit more often; after a long day at work; when the baby has been crying for an hour; after driving together in the car for 4 hours.

"Love others as well as you love yourself."

It sounds so easy. Right?
Forget the finger-pointing for a while. Try something new.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Gateway to India.

Welcome to my first post of the year. Yes it is March, time moves on. Back to the travel diary this time, while I think of a theme for next time.

In that lost three months after Christmas I had the opportunity to see a part of India for two weeks. Mumbai mostly, but a quick side trip to Delhi and Agra (Taj Mahal).

Everyone asks: "How was it?"

To answer that requires quite an unraveling of emotion and imagery. Especially for someone from New Zealand, the population of which is a quarter of Mumbai (forgetting the other 1 billion people).

India. It is extreme.
  • The largest democracy in the world. Everyone has an opinion, and someone is bound to disagree.
  • Food has Flavour. Spice is inherent in everything, unless it's super-sweet.
  • Infrastructure is overloaded - water stops, power goes out.
  • A few people are extremely wealthy, and a lot of people are very poor. Beggars are prevalent almost everywhere, only slightly outnumbered by the taxi drivers, or balloon salesmen.
  • It is Hot. 30+ degrees C during the day in Mumbai. In winter.
  • The Bollywood industry makes hundreds of movies a year, almost stripping Hollywood; most of the films never leave the country.

India. It is a paradox.
  • Officially a secular state, religion is part of everything. A large proportion is Hindi, but it's not hard to find Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain...the list goes on.
  • The Taj Mahal is truely a wonder of the world (it is amazing), yet rubbish lines the nearby city streets.
  • Women dress in colourful, beautiful saris; while the men are plain in their shirts, pants and shoes.
  • Modern ideals and freedoms (particularly for women) are in conflict with a traditional India lifestyle. Valentines Day this year was particularly heated.
  • A movie about India, directed by an Englishman, and courtesy of America won the Oscar Best Picture award (Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire).

It has taken me a while to get my head around it, and if I went back I imagine it would hit me again.
And why did I go at all? If you've seen any photos of the trip then that should be clear; the best reason there is.

What's next? Who knows.
The future is unwritten.


Thursday, 4 December 2008

Tradition... tradition

The Sunday just gone (30 Nov) signaled the beginning of Advent.
Advent is an important tradition in the Christian church, as it marks the start of the lead up to the birth of Christ (and hence Christmas).
For everyone else (and many Christians too) Advent also marks start of the calendar that has little chocolates behind each door; and is otherwise a good word to use in scrabble.

Advent is commonly observed (at least in Baptist NZ), by the lighting of five candles, one each week till Christmas itself (week 1- Hope, 2 - Peace, 3 - Love, 4 - Joy), and the fifth is the Christ candle (white coloured) and lit on Christmas day.

It's all very pretty and really adds something to the weeks before Christmas (otherwise overrun by endless advertising and jingles).

Of course; it never actually happened in the bible.

Mary was a bit preoccupied at the time to think about lighting candles (with all the riding the donkey, and looking for a place to give birth going on), Joseph was more concerned about getting back home safely, and the wise men hadn't arrived yet.

So where did Advent come from? The early church - people made it up (arguably with God's influence). History otherwise regarding Advent is a bit vague, it may have started as early as the 4th century but that is still 300-400 years later than the birth of Christ.

There are many traditions that are sourced directly from the Bible - communion (Matthew 26:26-) and baptism (Matthew 3:13-) being two significant ones that spring to mind. These traditions were acted out by Jesus and are therefore given serious weight in the church today (even if you don't believe in Jesus, I hope you can respect that for those who do, following His actions is really important).
And there are these other traditions that have developed over the centuries (for good or bad), and have merged with the originals. Funny how humans do that.

Does it matter?

As with most things, the answer is yes and no. There's no point blindly repeating something that you don't understand or believe to be true; so it's at least worth asking some questions as to what it all means (Christians strangely enough ask questions all the time, because we often don't know the answers).
If you don't understand a Christian tradition (or any tradition) I suggest you investigate further.

Tradition has its positives as well:
My family has for many years assembled the Christmas tree in the first week of December (sadly I have missed out recently, being in the wrong city). Each time we play the same (often terrible) Christmas music, and place the dozens (or hundreds) of ornaments on the tree, and at the end we get to turn on the lights and look at the twinkling glow.
Our tradition is associated with good times, and family bonding. It may only be a tradition for my family, but it's a good one.

So, this December I invite you to think about Advent - even if for the chocolate - as it might add new dimensions to your lead up to Christmas.

Hope. Peace. Love. Joy.

Merry Christmas.