Avocado rustling in New Zealand

Surging local and international demand for avocados is fuelling a crime wave in New Zealand.

Since January there have been close to 40 large-scale thefts from avocado orchards in the north island of New Zealand, with as many as 350 fruit stolen at a time…It is suspected many more thefts have gone unreported.

Avocados are selling for between NZ$4-6 each [US$2.80-4.20] across the country, after a poor season last year and increasing local demand.

According to New Zealand Avocado in 2015 an additional 96,000 New Zealand households began purchasing avocados, and local growers – largely geared towards the lucrative export market – have been unable to keep up with the surge in demand.

…Sergeant Aaron Fraser of Waihi said there had been “spates” of avocado thefts during his time in the police but nothing as sustained as the current activity.

“These stolen avocados can carry risks,” he said…“They are unripe, some have been sprayed recently and they may still carry toxins on the skin. But with the prices so high at the moment, the potential for profit is a strong inducement for certain individuals.”

One of those commodity tales that prompts me to think of renting a not-too-big agri-freighter and bringing over a load from Mexico. We’re currently buying avocados at retail for about 50¢ apiece North of the Mexican border.

Thanks, Mister Justin

Kiwis lead in religious liberty — Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster OK’d for marriages

Pastafarians, rejoice! New Zealand has now granted the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the legal right to perform marriage ceremonies — and just in time for ChriFSMas!

…The Church of FSM came into its own in 2005 as a response to the proposal that the fundamentalist Christian theory of Intelligent Design be taught alongside evolution and natural selection in Kansas public schools. Adherents to the church, known as “Pastafarians,” are sometimes seen sporting their religious head coverings — colanders — in passport and official identification photos from countries around the world. While many insist that the Church of FSM cannot possibly be a serious institution, the church’s official website offers this rebuttal:

“The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after having existed in secrecy for hundreds of years, came into the mainstream just a few years…Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not a science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.”

New Zealand Registrar-General, Jeff Montgomery, explained the decision to grant Pastafarians the right to officiate marriages to stuff.co.nz:

“In considering the matter, I have referred to the Objects of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, reviewed material available online about this organization and considered other organizations already being able to nominate marriage celebrants.

“A review of media and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s international website show a consistent presentation of their philosophies. While some claim this is a ‘parody organization,’ members have rebutted this on a number of occasions.

“As registrar-general, it is my role to apply relevant legislation . . .”

Congratulations to Pastafarians everywhere!

Seven messages used by effective reading teachers



In 1982, the late, great NZ reading researcher Marie Clay identified a group of children having difficulty learning to read as “tangled tots (with) reading knots”.

She was referring to children who, despite having no condition that potentially affected their ability to learn, didn’t seem to benefit from reading instruction. She hypothesised that such children “had tangled the teaching in a web of distorted learning which blocked school progress”.

I’ve met many such children (and their teachers) during five decades of anthropological research in hundreds of classrooms. There were also classrooms which either didn’t have “tangled tots” or, if they did, had more success in untangling their “reading knots”.

When I looked more closely at these “non-tangling” classrooms I discovered they had something in common. Their teachers continuously (and subtly) embedded messages about “learning to be an effective reader” in the language they used when teaching reading.

So far I’ve identified the following seven messages.

1. A reader’s major focus should always be meaning

2. Effective readers draw on all sources of information in the text

3. Effective readers are always predicting

4. Effective readers self-correct

5. Effective readers have a range of strategies

6. Effective readers know how they read

7. Effective readers love reading

RTFA. The details are positive – the result of practical work and analysis from successful teachers. A body of knowledge, of course, rarely consulted by the politicians and educators who make a living at not achieving very much useful to the future of humanity.

Yup. Cynical as ever.

The question I face when confronting the collapse of American education starts with reading skills. My father was first in his generation to graduate high school. My mom graduated from what used to be called a commercial high school. A 2-year high school. They taught my sister and me to read before we entered kindergarten in the New England factory town where we grew up.

They didn’t consider that a problem or an insurmountable task. They considered it a responsibility – to aid us in growing a useful lifelong habit, to aid us in learning and making decisions on our own.

Every Saturday, my mom, my sister and I walked the 4-mile round-trip from home to the neighborhood Carnegie library and back to get something to read and enjoy in addition to schoolwork. That was never a task. That was a happy and healthy part of our life.

Kiwi PM states for the record: “I am not a reptile”

John-Key-reptilian
Close-up of Prime Minister during the press conference

He’s been to a doctor and a vet just to make sure, but Prime Minister John Key is adamant he’s not a shapeshifting reptilian alien.

Mr Key was unusually forced to deny any previously non-declared extraterrestrial connections to reporters after an Auckland man put in an Official Information Act request asking for proof he might be one.

“To the best of my knowledge, no. Having been asked that question directly, I’ve taken the unusual step of not only seeing a doctor but a vet, and both have confirmed I’m not a reptile,” a smiling Mr Key said today.

“So I’m certainly not a reptile. I’ve never been in a spaceship, never been in outer space, and my tongue’s not overly long either.”

Last month, Auckland man Shane Warbrooke put in an OIA request to the prime minister’s office, asking for “any evidence to disprove the theory that Mr John Key is in fact a David Icke style shapeshifting reptilian alien ushering humanity towards enslavement”.

David Icke is a British author who believes many world leaders are actually part of a plot to enslave the human race, driven by reptilian shapeshifting aliens…

When asked how he would describe himself, Mr Key said he was “just an ordinary Kiwi bloke”.

Unlike one of our most infamous Republican presidents who said, “I am not a crook” – and turned out to be one – I think we can take the prime minister of New Zealand at his word on this one.

New Zealand lawmakers pass gay marriage bill


Louisa Wall, Labour MP, celebrating the bill’s passage

Hundreds of jubilant gay-rights advocates celebrated at New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday as the country became the 13th in the world and the first in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers voted 77 to 44 in favor of the gay-marriage bill on its third and final reading.

People watching from the public gallery and some lawmakers immediately broke into song after the result was announced, singing the New Zealand love song “Pokarekare Ana” in the indigenous Maori language…

In one of several speeches that ended in a standing ovation, bill sponsor Louisa Wall told lawmakers the change was “our road toward healing.”

In our society, the meaning of marriage is universal — it’s a declaration of love and commitment to a special person,” she said. She added that “nothing could make me more proud to be a New Zealander than passing this bill.”

Lawmakers from most political parties were encouraged by their leaders to vote as their conscience dictated rather than along party lines. Although Wall is from the opposition Labour Party, the bill also was supported by center-right Prime Minister John Key.

“In my view, marriage is a very personal thing between two individuals,” Key said. “And, in the end, this is part of equality in modern-day New Zealand…”

Same-sex marriage is recognized in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Lawmakers in Uruguay approved a law last week that President Jose Mujica is expected to sign. Nine states in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.

The article notes the usual copouts from fundamentalists whose ideology slanders religious folk worldwide. This post also notes the nations already years ahead of the United States. At the current rate, I expect just about any progressive law to become a fixture outside the US well before Congress gets it right.

Our Congressional conservatives are better characterized as cowards, ideologically corrupt, backwards, only capable of blocking attempts to move this nation into the 21st Century.

Full moon rising

 
Have you ever watched the Moon rise? The slow rise of a nearly full moon over a clear horizon can be an impressive sight.

One impressive moonrise was imaged two nights ago over Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. With detailed planning, an industrious astrophotographer placed a camera about two kilometers away and pointed it across the lookout to where the Moon would surely soon be making its nightly debut. The above single shot sequence is unedited and shown in real time — it is not a time lapse. People on Mount Victoria Lookout can be seen in silhouette themselves admiring the dawn of Earth’s largest satellite.

Seeing a moonrise yourself is not difficult: it happens every day, although only half the time at night. Each day the Moon rises about fifty minutes later than the previous day, with a full moon always rising at sunset.

If you see a couple of tiny sparks off in the lefthand distance – that’s just me and my cavemates reenacting Quest For Fire.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Air Canada flight finds disabled yacht in Tasman Sea


Glenn Ey happy to be alive

An Air Canada passenger flight bound for Sydney has helped locate a yacht in distress in waters between Australia and New Zealand…Flight AC033 was diverted by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) after it spotted an emergency beacon activated in the Tasman Sea.

Pilots descended to 1,800m altitude and used a passenger’s binoculars to find the vessel.

The boat and its lone sailor was found about 500km east of Sydney.

The yachtsman reportedly left the Sydney area about two weeks earlier and had been drifting for about one week after losing his mast and running low on fuel…

The Air Canada flight from Vancouver, with 270 passengers and 18 crew aboard, was diverted about 12 hours into the flight. It flew an additional 400km as a result of the diversion…

We’re really pleased we could help,” spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said, adding that weather conditions – and not the diversion – had been the main cause of delay.

Later, an Air New Zealand Airbus 320 en route to Sydney from Auckland was also diverted before an Australian rescue plane arrived and dropped a life raft and satellite phone down to the stranded seaman.

A merchant vessel was also asked to shield the boat from strong winds until a police vessel could reach the sailor.

An AMSA spokesman told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the help of the passenger jets had been needed because of the remote location of the yacht.

“The location of the beacon was within a flight path, so we needed to assess the situation and the Boeing 777 was the closest asset available to us,” Jo Meehan said.

Bravo! Lots of good stories about people aiding people in need, lately.

Think we’ll find one that includes Congress?

I know, I know.