Posts by Paul Smith

Just a social drinker

We were both ageing duffers with time on our hands, and sunlight on our faces. We had met, as commuters do, at the bus stop, sighing almost simultaneously after just missing the bus into town.

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Slip sliding away?

Democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America’s democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace, according to Freedom in the World 2018, the latest edition of the annual report on political rights and civil liberties, released today by Freedom House.

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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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