This Is It – a concert experience truly for the fans

I saw Michael Jackson’s This Is It film last night.

I believe it puts to rest any questions about the King of Pop’s creative talent or health issues. He still had it. While he was thin he was healthy enough to out dance and many of the younger back up dances and demand perfection on every beat and note of every song.

The film shows just how spectacular the concerts would have been. Combine Pink Floyd’s The Wall dramatic concerts with U2’s 60m LED Curtin from their Vertigo tour and that will give you an idea of just how much more than  music concert This Is It would have been live.

This Is It runs for two hours and does not miss a beat it is so much more than just a film of a dress rehershal, we are fortunate that the practices were filmed on multiple days from multiple angles. All of this comes together fantastically, in addition to this a number of videos that would have been used on the LED screens during the concert are included as well as behind the scenes footage.

Even if you have just a passing interest in Michael Jackson this is a film to see. It was a pity that NZ audiences are so quiet, the film got a clap from about half the audience at the end, however, I am sure that in some places you would have people dancing in the isles.

Brian ‘I just can’t wait to be king’ Tamaki

The news coming out of destiny church is becoming more alarming by the day as the herald reports this morning on members paying to see the swearing of an oath to Brian Tamaki by 700 men.

Scrubone at Halfdone Blog has written a good post on the issue: http://halfdone.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/cults/

His key comments are:

Someone commented over there (sarcastically) asking what the difference between a cult and a church is. Well, if you’re not “permitted” to listen to Radio Rhema or “attend any other Christian ministry”, you’re in a cult.

Cults try to shut down all independent thinking. The activly control what members do and say. Only the thoughts and idea of the leader are allowed.

On the other hand, a good church will encourage (Biblical) independent thought and study and cooperating with other churches in the Lord’s work. Naturally, there are plenty of bad churches out there, on both extremes.

Update: Immediately after I wrote this Scrubone just did another great post: http://halfdone.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/brians-cult/

All I can suggest is Tamaki should get a new theme song, how about this one:

If you desire more entertaining information on Tamaki’s background here is the Uncyclopedia article on him:

“the development of his theology, a radical and innovative doctrinal system that dispensed with annoyances like humility and love for fellow man and replaced them with the more progressive and modern virtues of materialist greed and unbridled judgmental bigotry. They kept their doctrines nice and flexible so they could make them up as they went along. The only thing set in stone was that the congregation had to give them plenty of money.

such a skilled orator was Pastor Brian – it was positively ingenious the way he could turn any sermon on any subject around to the subject of money, and how God needed more of it. No matter what the theme of his sermon, whether it was “Socialism is the Tool of Evil”, “Homosexuals and Women with IQ’s higher than 50 will burn in hell”, “Thinking is the enemy of righteousness” or “Fundamentalist Indoctrination is the true path to Holiness” – all would eventually find their utmost expression in the familiar mantra – “It’s time to take up the tithe and offering now” – at which point the Armourguard security van would back up to the door of the church and the security guards would cock their weapons.”

Auckland Power Cut another case of Déjà vu of Déjà vu

Okay the power has just been restored to my flat on Auckland’s North Shore after a cut lasting around exactly an hour and a half.

I am not grumpy about the cut, they are a fact of life.

What I am grumpy about is the fact that it is not a storm so the reasoning for the cut seems to be a little odd. At first my flatmates thought a car had hit a local power pole. But as we have found out the cut is to 280,000 customers in West Auckland, North Shore, and Northland. Which would mean upwards of 500,000+ people would be without power this morning. So why is the power out:

“Just after 8.00am this morning a circuit on the Otahuhu to Henderson 220 kV line tripped while the other circuit was out for maintenance, causing loss of supply for North Auckland and Northland.” – stuff.co.nz

Sound familar?

Lets think back to 2006:

“The 2006 Auckland Blackout refers to the massive electrical blackout in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, on 12 June 2006. It started at 8:30 am local time, with most areas of Auckland regaining power by 2:45 pm local time. It affected some 230,000 customers had an impact on at least 700,000 people in and around the city.

The immediate cause of the blackout was determined to be a grounding cable falling across a 110kV transmission line at the Otahuhu sub-station. This was caused by the failure of a corroded shackle, as the result of unusually high winds.[1] This equipment is part of the national grid, owned and operated by Transpower.

Investigation of this incident found that maintenance of the electricity transmission system was not adequate and that this substation had major and minor design deficiencies.” – 2006 Auckland Blackout

Which in turn sounds very familar to this:

The 1998 Auckland power crisis was a five-week-long power outage.

Almost all of downtown Auckland in New Zealand was supplied electricity by Mercury Energy via four power cables, two of them 40-year-old oil-filled cables that were past their replacement date. One of the cables failed on 20 January, possibly due to the unusually hot and dry conditions, another on 9 February. Due to the increased load from the failure of the first cables, the remaining two failed on 19 and 20 February, leaving about 20 city blocks (except parts of a few streets) without power. – 1998 Auckland power crisis

So in eleven years have we learnt or done anything to stop these incidents repeating? It seems not.

I haz Forza 3 – First Impressions

I am very happy tonight because the copy of Forza 3 that I ordered off Fishpond on Thursday night arrived at my house this morning, when I was not expecting delivery until Tuesday because of the long weekend.

Forza 3 has been hyped as one of the best games of the year, so far in my first two hours of playing it has not lived up entirely to this hype.

My first moan is that for a simulator it has far too much of an arcade feel to it. I saw a comment on a forum that stated the cars feel like they are floating, and that is exactly the problem, it feels like you are driving a hovercraft simulator not a car simulator.

Second to this is the graphics, they again have a very arcade feel and look to them and do not compete with the likes of Dirt 2 or Race Pro as far as track detail goes.

The lack of a free race mode is disappointing oversight. In New Zealand the game is heavily marketed upon the inclusion of the Australian V8 Supercars. However being forced to wade your way through the career mode until you unlock them is an incredible pain. Update: I found free race mode, you just had to be able to start career mode, and then back out of it.

Tracks. Or lack of them. No Australian tracks. And too many fictional tracks. Fictional tracks suck because they try to make them ultra cool but in the end they are nothing like any real track would be and therefore just adds to the arcade feel of the game.

Next is the music, or lack of it. Forza 2 had a good soundtrack on menus and loading screens, however, while racing you had no music on the pure sound of a race car. However, Forza 3 reverses this and on the menus you had electronic background music, and any real music is played quietly in the background of races, it is slightly off putting and again adds to the arcade feel of the game.

Finally the annoying track intros. Why can’t the race just start with 3, 2, 1 rather than some silly view that rotates 3 different views of the car?

So what is good about the game?

AI. The computer drivers in the game are aggressive and hard to beat.

Damage. You cannot just ram up the backside of another driver and expect to get away with it. You will damage you vehicle and this affects your performance.

Going off the race line affects performance. Also dirt and grass dramatically slow you down. This is what a racing game should do.

My Difficulty Set up: Autobrake Off, Anti-lock brakes on, stability control off, traction control on, shifting automatic, suggested line braking only, AI hard.

Note: I have tried to race with Anti-lock brakes and traction control disabled but it just causes you to spin no matter what you do to prevent it.

More Criticisms of Anne Tolley’s cuts to Primary School Teaching

Gordon Campbell of Scoop calls the cuts: Anne Tolley’s 19th century approach to education

Remember National’s election promise to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD tables? In government, its moves in education seem motivated more by a desire to return New Zealand to the golden age of Victorianism – when the three “R”s and a stern testing regime were seen to be all that a young lad or girl really needed.

From a New Zealand perspective, one aspect of the reaction to the Cambridge University report in Britain has been particularly interesting. There has been a striking level of support from the Conservative Party for the retention of an expert advisory service across the entire curriculum.The Tories are doing so not instead of a concentration on the teaching of reading and writing – but because they believe the broad-based approach actually makes the task of teaching reading and writing skills much more effective. Here for instance is the shadow Tory education Minister Michael Gove, writing in the British press earlier this week :

“A broad and demanding curriculum – far from undermining reading, writing and arithmetic – reinforces attainment in these core skills. “Perhaps Education Minister Anne Tolley should be talking more to her British counterpart. Or at least explaining why she and her Tory colleague are treating the evidence on teaching outcomes so differently.

Clearly, the decision to narrow the scope of the advisory service available to our teachers makes no educational sense. It is being done in the service of a national testing regime at primary level that also makes little educational sense. This is penny pinching and political rhetoric, at the expense of our children and their future. The money at stake – $10 million – is a fraction of the amount that the government is planning to spend on the Rugby World Cup. Well, the battle of Waterloo may have been won on the playing fields of Eton. But an emphasis on winning at rugby – and a Victorian Age type of education system – will be of little use against the challenges we face from globalization.

And Catherine Delahunty at Frog Blog: The Three Rs”: Reduce, Regiment, and Ruin our public education system

It wasn’t much fun waking up this morning to the news that the Ministry of Education will no longer be providing advice to primary schools on arts, science, technology, or physical education – nothing in fact, except the “three Rs”: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. This latest assault on the public education system by the National Government is just plain stupid.

It also heralds the undoing of a robust curriculum. There is no educational justification for such a narrow focus, when all the evidence points to the importance of a holistic educational experience at primary school level.

The limitation of Ministry of Education support to literacy and numeracy is clearly to assist with the implementation of the new National Standards (which are due to be announced tomorrow, according to Education Minister Anne Tolley.

Presumably, the Minister thinks literacy and numeracy are not developed in parallel with the core subjects by subjects like art, science, and technology. Perhaps she hasn’t been visiting schools and seeing the interconnections between subjects in action like I have. She certainly hasn’t been listening to her counterpart in the British Tories, Conservative Education Spokesperson Michael Gove, who says

“a broad and demanding curriculum – far from undermining reading, writing and arithmetic – reinforces attainment in these core skills.”

You can drive a truck through her logic but I get the feeling that the Minister’s ideological advisers don’t care. They have a plan which involves selling the idea that the “three Rs” are somehow learned in little boxes taught separately from other topics, and that all children learn in exactly the same way.

Through this same cut, we have now lost all the Sustainability Advisors who survived, just, the cuts to the Enviroschools Budget earlier this year.

Under this Government, it seems that “three Rs” are now Reducing the curriculum, Regimenting the assessment processes, and Ruining opportunities for our children.

National does not believe science should be taught in school

My jaw dropped this morning when I read this information posted by a friend this morning on facebook.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/stories/2009/10/22/1245ce3b9622

Primary schools have been told that art, PE and science are to take a back seat to the three Rs.

The Ministry of Education has told schools they will get no extra help next year to teach subjects other than reading, writing and mathematics.

The ministry says support services for schools that it funds through various advisors will now focus on a smaller number of critical priorities, including literacy and numeracy, as well as help implement the Government’s national standards policy.

Teaching groups say the move is short-sighted, and the first sign of how national standards will affect schools and children.

This move is going to a major affect on the intelligence of our young people. Yes you need Reading, Writing, and Mathematics they are fundamental skills in being able to engage with the world. For instance you are currently reading a blog, that I have written, and when you go to the shops later today you will need mathematics to know how much money you can afford to spend. You use these three primary skills in every situation of every day.

However, you also use PE, Science, and Art just as much. And they are equally as important to a child’s intellectual development. PE lets students explore the world, learn how to run, catch, and have fun, it promotes good exercise and living a balanced healthy life. In the process it gets much needed oxygen into the body, and the poisons from the foods we eat out so that we can focus better and all round be a lot healthier. Without PE we are not going to learn inside the classroom very well.

Art. One of the defining characteristics of our generation is our individuality. And we primarily express that through art. Art is not about painting, drawing or scribbling, it is about expression and gaining a cultural understanding of the world around us. Through art our society changes and improves. Art allows us to photograph the past so we can learn from our mistakes, it allows us to plan, think, and see things before we actually have them in real life, like plans for a building. Art is a key part of a child’s development it enables them to mature. Forget about writing for a second, if a picture is worth a thousand words we should be able to read that to.

Finally science. Where do I start, science is the key to the world. Mathematics may be the fundamental language of the universe. But without science mathematics is simply numbers with no meaning or context. Science gives numbers meaning it explains how things are related. It explains how we came to be, why things are the way they are, and can even predict the future. For instance if I know a car is traveling at a certain speed and it needs to stop at a certain point, and its brakes are not powerful enough to stop it from that speed in that time then I can tell you now through science, physics, and the use of maths that it will not be able to stop.

Reading, Writing, and Mathematics are primary skills our children need to learn, but there is no point in giving child the skills and the tools to do things, without the context within to use them. What is the point of learning algebra if you are not going to be given any real life situation (through science) of its application.

The majority of people learn best through example, demonstration, and hands on learning. The government is sending us back to the dark ages where what is said is absolute truth, you rote learn everything, and never challenge the absolute truth. This is a sad day for New Zealand education.

A State of Urgency

Labour MP, Grant Robinson blogs on the continued use of urgency in Parliament (with a nice pun as the blog title) to ram through laws without following due process:

http://blog.labour.org.nz/index.php/2009/10/21/a-state-of-urgency/

Parliament is now in urgency. That would be the fifth Parliamentary week in a row that we have gone into urgency.Perhaps its time to rename urgency as normalcy if this is the approach National is going to take. In all seriousness, while there is a place for urgency, and (before the right begin to howl) all governments have used it, this is getting beyond a joke.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the complex the hearings on the Emissions Trading Bill are taking place from 9am to 9pm each day, with some submitters given only a few hours notice of needing to submit and then being given a very short time to state their cases. It appears from media reports that National even tried to get the committee to agree to having all 184 people who wanted to submit in public put through in one day.

The excessive use of urgency and the rushed select committee processes should be of concern to all New Zealanders.  Apart from being anti-democratic, they open the door for bad and poorly considered law. There will necessarily be simple drafting errors but more than that Select Committees are either not getting a say or not getting enough time to properly scruitinise the Bills.

Earlier this year National put through the bill creating national standards for literacy and numeracy without a select committee process. In other words without giving parents, teachers, experts in the field the chance to have a say. Inevitably Anne Tolley has now had to delay the whole process to try to deal with issues that have come up since the Bill was passed. These could have been dealt with in a Committee.

This is completely unacceptable for a Government. Urgency has its place. When laws need to be passed urgently. Not as a political tool to stifle debate or the views from the government. I forgot to note in my earlier blog that the Benzodiazepine Ban was also passed under urgency in addition to inserted at the last possible moment. Tea Party time anyone?

Letter to Hon Steven Joyce regarding Benzodiazepine Ban

To: s.joyce@ministers.govt.nz
Date: Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 8:52 AM
Subject: Benzodiazepine Ban

Dear Hon Steven Joyce,

I am outraged at the news this morning that the Government last night rushed through a ban on Benzodiazepine while driving without any public consultation.

I have been using Lorazepam for the past two years to control an anxiety/panic disorder which is primary associated with flying. For instance in August I flew to Christchurch to go skiing. I flew out of Auckland at just after 6am and landed in Christchurch around 8am before hiring a car and driving an hour to the ski area. Under this new law I would be unable to drive because I would still be under the influence of the Benzodiazepine.

This is where the law fails and the lack of public consultation shines through. I would suspect very few users of prescription Benzodizepines would be silly enough to take the medicine and then immediately drive. In fact the label on my container of it clearly states that it may cause sleepiness, to limit driving and the operation of heavy machinery, and to limit alcohol. The reality of this medicine, however, is that it takes a long time to wear completely off. While I would never drive within two hours of taking it, any time beyond that I would consider myself safe to drive provided I took the same precautions as when you have taken any other medicine (cold/flu tablets, anti-depressants, pain killers) or any other issue is affecting your ability to think straight (for instance an emotional crises).

It makes me very angry and annoyed that the Government has passed this law without weighing up all the facts. As the Act party as highlighted “an ESR study of deceased drivers from July 1 2004-June 30 2008 showed that only 22 of the 826 drivers deceased during this period had benzodiazepines in their bloodstream, and of those less than one percent had benzodiazepines alone.” What the government has done is turn ordinary New Zealanders who rely on this medication to manage a major but controllable problem in their lives into criminals.

It should be noted that one of the reasons the previous administration was voted out of office was the failure to listen to the public over issues. It became arrogant and instead of listening to the people as a democracy it appeared to be acting more like a dictatorship. I hope that this new government does not head down the same path.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,
Bradford Heap

Albany,
Auckland,
New Zealand

Government Bans Benzodiazepine as part of Boy Racer Legislation

So far I have not had much reason to get angry with the new National led government, that was until this morning.

As the herald reports: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10604475

In the passing of the Boy Racer Legislation there was a “last-minute inclusion of a ban on driving while affected by benzodiazepine, a prescription sedative and anti-anxiety medication that is often used as a sleeping pill.”

The government has brought this change in as a Supplementary Order Paper with no public consultation. This is outrageous and one of the many issues that people had with the previous administration. It is simply not right to bring in such a law that affects so many people without letting the people have a say on it, doing so turns the Government from a democracy to a dictatorship and removes peoples rights to making their own decisions and having their own free will.

The Act party sums up my feels and response to this in a much more controlled tone than what I am feeling right now:

http://www.act.org.nz/blog/benzodiazepine-ban-short-sighted

This is short-sighted and will place hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders on the wrong side of the law for no good reason. Under this addition to the ‘Boy Racer’ Bill currently before parliament people who are legally taking this prescription medication will be placed in the same category as those who use Class A narcotics – they will have to prove through a blood test and presumably in court that they were taking what they were prescribed.

During Select Committee submissions, the dangers around benzodiazepines were not raised at all, by anyone – but a lobby group raised concerns just before the Bill’s final reading and Mr Joyce has now decided to tack an amendment to the Boy Racer Bill before Parliament.It is irrational to lump law-abiding citizens in with P-crazed drug addicts and defeats the purpose of having prescription medications. Evidence around the effects they have on driving is extremely weak – an ESR study of deceased drivers from July 1 2004-June 30 2008 showed that only 22 of the 826 drivers deceased during this period had benzodiazepines in their bloodstream, and of those less than one percent had benzodiazepines alone.

Benzodiazepines are one of a number of commonly used anti-anxiety agents and sedatives. One thing the Minister hasn’t considered is that sleep deprivation is also a significant factor in road accidents – but he need only read his own road-side signs to get this message.

If Mr Joyce is seriously telling New Zealand that sedatives are significant contributors to our road toll he had better start examining anti-histamines, phenothiazines, tri-cyclic anti-depressants, and a host of other legally prescribed drugs that cause sedation. By eliminating half the population from driving he probably will make a hefty dent in the road toll.

Act really do a good job of putting this into context. The reality is Benzodiazepines does have an effect on you, that is why they are used for anxiety, panic disorders and other related problems, it is one of the modern day medicines that still actually works!

I have used Lorazepam (aka Ativan and Temesta) which is a form of Benzodiazepine on a irregular basis for close to two years to control an anxiety/panic disorder. My primary use of it is to control anxiety before flying.

For instance a few months back I flew to Christchurch and upon arrival hired a car to travel to the ski field. Before the flight I took a Lorazepam to calm myself down. Under the new law I would not be able to drive when I arrived because the Lorazepam would still be in my system and I would still be affected by it.

And this is where the main issue with this law is. I doubt many people would be silly enough to take a Benzodiazepine and then immediately drive, in fact the medicine bottle is clearly labeled may cause sleepiness do not drive or operate heavy machinery, limit alcohol. However like any form of medication it has its primary effect on you and then takes time to drain itself from your bodily system. For myself it normally has a maximum feeling for around 2 hours, mostly gone by 4 hours and on occasion I can still feel a little different after 8 hours. Depending on the interpretation of the word “affected” I could potentially be unable to drive for a day after taking a prescription medication to control a problem that would be as common as asthma or Celiac.

All medicine has its positive and negative elements. All medicine has some form of effect on you. It is how you manage those effects that is important. Simply outlawing a medicine in this manner takes the ability for the individual to make decisions for themselves and gives it to the government.

“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” – V for Vendetta

Sorting out Adobe CS4 License Key Issues

Okay this is one of those blog posts that tell you something they really should have included in the instruction manual.

When you install Adobe CS4 Web Standard Academic Edition make sure you enter the license key during install.

If you do not do this make sure you switch the language from US English to International otherwise when you try to insert the license key after installation the program will not accept it and the only remedy is to uninstall and reinstall.

Adobe Install Fail.