A New Albania

SONY DSCAlbania? I knew only one person who’d been there. He told me that eight years ago 700,000 small concrete bunkers, like giant mushrooms, were the main tourist attraction. “They littered the place,” he said, in a country roughly the size of Nelson/Marlborough.
Others made brief [...]

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Sunny Hokitika

Brian VinerLast week I was reading a very famous book.
Every year I read the book that has been given the big prize. This year it, the big book, has been written by our most famous author and it’s won the biggest prize in the world  [...]

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Politicians who make us think

Chris HoranI sometimes regret that music never became a consuming interest in my life after childhood friends and the 1950s fell behind me. Science too, despite my awareness of its importance in life, I just can’t prop my eye-lids open long enough to understand it. [...]

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Calling the Beehive…

Politician: Quick! Find some studies that show smaller class sizes don’t make any difference to learning. And hurry!
Minion: Just a moment, sir. I’m on Google now.
Politician: There’s no time to lose. We can’t let Labour steal a march on us. Parents will love the idea of smaller classes. Damn and blast those conniving socialists! It’s a stab to the heart. [...]

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In Praise of Ageing

ageingby  Patricia Edgar
‘So when is someone old?’ asks writer, sociologist TV producer Patricia Edgar as she  begins her book In Praise of Ageing. And with that she launches into the first of many challenges to conventional myths about the elderly.
She writes with  a crusading passion [...]

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A conversational amble…

Two senior cabinet figures talked international affairs last Wednesday, one all crisp intellect, one a conversational amble. No prize for guessing which was Tim Groser and which John Key.
Both made the optimists’ trade case, Groser with a wide span at a conference on China where some weighty foreign academics spoke. Some of those experts were treated to Key’s later perambulation [...]

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Miscellany – mid July

Ever been annoyed when you hear (mostly young women) talk without substance, like, you know, I went, um, and he kinda said like uh, I mean, you know…and so on?  Well a  group of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has published a fascinating article about filler words. Brilliantly titled Um… Who Like Says You Know: Filler Word [...]

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You’re not listening!

Jasbindar SinghImagine the surprise one day when a close family member, in a rather exasperated voice, declared, “you’re not really listening!”
My mind immediately went into a defensive mode – “But of course, I am listening!”
But after I got over this mini ego-attack and truly listened, [...]

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This month in History – July

Jack Lovelock
Celebrity dog Paddy
NZ’s first postage stamps
Privy council rules on Samoan citizenship
Riots at Mt Eden prison
First Lotto goes on sale
Yvette Williams
Parliament moves to Wellington
Pioneer aviator George Bolt dies
Women’s Suffrage petition
Carless days
John Walker

Names and dates, people and places, they vanish in the slipstream of daily life. But in this section and with the help of http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/calendar we’ll revive – if only [...]

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An A-Z of New Zealand traditions & Folklore by Gordon Ell
(Published by New Holland)

New Edinburgh or the Edinburgh of the South
Founders of the  Free Kirk of Scotland settlement of Otago at first planned to call their town New Edinburgh. William Chambers suggested changing the name as early as 1843, to avoid adding to the list of colonial towns names beginning [...]

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