Posts by Paul Smith

1984 on a sunny Auckland day…

It’s  2  o’clock on  a day so sunny that it confounds Aucklanders accustomed to their city’s moodiness. There’s not a cloud to be seen and on the Waterfront Viaduct, families stroll, gorge on takeaways or just sit and, over a drink, watch the passing parade. Not far  away something much darker is on show in the stunning ASB Theatre. It holds  680  –  and is close to capacity.

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Miscellany April

First an editorial confession. We’ve been in Oz, but no, there’s no ball tampering copy here, just this:

Condom machine graffiti: ‘ For refund, insert baby here’.

Aussies are not so much a weird as a witty mob at times. Where some residents with dogs might put up a sign saying ‘Beware of dog’, others choose to let passers-by know with much more precision. Take this for example:  ‘My dog can make it to the fence in 2.8 seconds. Can you?’

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The Human-Induced Earthquake Database (HiQuake)

Who would have thought..?   We’re living on an egg shell and the data in this story from the independent  website (below)  confirms how fragile the planet is while indicating the damage done by us.

Nature magazine says that from mining projects to oil and gas operations, human activity has set off earthquakes around the world and in many geological settings.

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On the buses

When you ride on an  Auckland  bus, there’s no such  thing as a typical ride – not if you’re looking.

The entertainment is  not so much in  the city’s  sport  – that  never-ending version of  upmarket stock cars. A U-turn  perhaps – just in front  of the car speeding towards them? No worries. Drivers  career  backwards out of driveways into busy traffic lanes,  or  exit out of  entrance ways to  shopping centres.  Quite a few fancy  they can beat traffic lights too, often  with  predictable  results.  It’s  Auckland.

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Miscellany – February

Artificial intelligence

“We’re a species that… can study our own ability to be manipulated,” said Tristan Harris, a former ‘design ethicist’ at Google.

“We have to talk about the advertising-based business model, which, paired with artificial intelligence, poses an existential threat. We have to get really serious about this. If you think about where are the most powerful AIs in the world located right now? Arguably, at two companies: Google and Facebook. The most powerful AIs in the world.

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Poverty then – and now…

Sometimes the stuff that spills out of  old box files on their way to the bin, are not only worth  remembering, but keeping.

One  we found  was Windows on Poverty, a 1992 Report  from the New Zealand  Council of Christian Social Services on Poverty in New Zealand.  It was well on its way to pile in  one of those  purges we hoarders  are  told  we must do.  But  caught between  the  need to clear  out stuff – and hoard,   we once more hoarded. Why? So  we don’t forget, so we don’t allow it to happen  again. Not in Godzone.

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Christmas on the Coast

9 a.m. and the mercury is racing up to 30 degrees. “Better watch out” locals tell us. “It’s going to be a ripper”. They’re right, so we retreat into the air conditioned world which reminds us of home and  what temperatures at Christmas should be.

But then we’re on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and it’s a cloudless Christmas Eve. Still, Christmas is Christmas and though the Mooloolaba Beach is scattered with bodies, the radio station plays – rather incongruously – White Christmas.

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A pilgrimage to love

He arrived at the wrong address at the right time and his pride was ruffled slightly when we told him as much. A middle-aged Indian, he had come for some maintenance on our house and loosened up when he realised his office had given him the wrong address.

As he worked, we began to chat and I asked why he had made the  trek from India to New Zealand.

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Time to update

Somebody said my computer was old, they did, they did.

Then another blessed with a pronounced sense of humour, asked what Windows I used. And as if this was overheard somewhere out there in some cyber conspiracy, website after website wanted to know my computer’s credentials – then turned it away… 

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Pushing the envelope, outside the square…

I don’t know what other boomers expected from this election but here’s what one, not a million miles from this keyboard hopes for:

Hope.  In the arid landscape of ideology over the past 30 odd years it was as precious as water – but there’s an oasis ahead and room for hope. Just look at what’s happened abroad, as Martin Jacques wrote in the Guardian recently:

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