Thesis completed!

Finally, and only 3 months overdue (which is pretty good), my thesis is currently being printed for submission.

I am so glad to have that done! This blog has suffered a lot over the past few months, hopefully I’ll have more time to keep it going now.

Concentrate washing powder

You’ll have seen all the ads for the new 2x concentrated washing powders, they are all you can buy these days and are being pushed as “better for the environment” – because there is less packaging to throw away.

Fair Go discussed tonight whether consumers were being ripped off – basically people are not reading the instructions and using too much because they are used to using the old, large scoops. If you follow the instructions you’re fine.

But fewer people know why laundry powder is actually concentrated. It’s nothing to do with the environment, that’s just a convenient side-effect and a handy marketing gimmick.

It’s all about transport costs.

At half the weight, you can transport twice the value of product for the same price. It’s that simple.

It’s not about the environment. It’s all about efficiency and cost. And that’s a very good thing. Enjoy your new, efficient washing powder.

And if it helps the environment along the way, all the better.

Friday cartoon

Courtesy of XKCD

The Napier siege could have been prevented

The Napier siege could have been stopped before it started with more lenient gun laws. The Herald states:

A fourth man, civilian Leonard Holmwood, was also critically hurt when he bravely tackled Molenaar – his neighbour on Chaucer Rd – and tried unsuccessfully to wrestle the firearm away from him after the police were gunned down.

Good on Mr Holmwood! He must have been able to sneak up on Molenaar while he was focussed on shooting at the cops. Molenaar can’t have seen him until he was close for him to be able to “tackle” him.

But wait a minute, what if Mr Holmwood had a gun? He could have shot Molenaar before he even noticed him, ending the siege before it had begun.

It is impossible to make a law that will prevent people like Molenaar from having guns. There are too many in the country, and criminals by definition don’t obey the law. But we could make it easier for people like Mr Holmwood to have guns.

Something to seriously consider.

No woman should be forced to carry a child?

As the ASC abortion appeal starts,  Blair Mulholland argues that as human life starts at conception, abortion should be avoided, but as no woman should be forced to carry a child against their will, it should be free and legal.

So what woman is actually FORCED to carry a child?

Any woman (or man) having sex has freely chosen to run the risk of pregnancy. No contraception method is foolproof. So any woman becoming pregnant from consensual sex has freely chosen this. No-one is forcing her to carry a child, she put herself in that situation.

So we don’t need free, legal abortions to stop women being forced to carry children, abortion just allows both women and men to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

The ONLY time a woman is forced to carry a child is when she is raped, and conceives (which is rare from rape as it is hard to conceive in that stressful situation).

Therefore, as no woman should be forced to carry a child against her will, rape should be illegal. It already is? Oh, good.

The only time this argument can possibly be valid is when arguing for an abortion after rape, and even then the morality of abortion can be disputed. Otherwise this argument is irrelevant.

More posts on abortion.

You don’t need a gun to be a dangerous psycopath

Following the shooting of 4 people in Napier by an man with 18 guns and no firearms licence, 60 minutes has managed to buy a gun without a licence, very easily.

This doesn’t surprise me at all. No-one knows how many guns are actually in NZ, but estimates are generally over a million. With only around 230,000 people holding gun licences, the reality is that many of these guns are owned by unlicenced people already. When you are talking those sorts of numbers, there are bound to be a few people willing to sell to an unlicenced buyer.

In the country at least, people don’t generally get a licence to buy a gun. They get a licence to buy ammunition for the guns they already have.

But is this really as bad as some sectors of the media might imply?

New Zealand’s violent crime rate is over double that of America, with Auckland having a comparable violent crime rate to Washington. But gun crime is only a small fraction of this. Because guns aren’t the problem.

Anything is a weapon. I have been working on the farm today, and as I write this am wearing a sheath knife on my belt. That is highly lethal (I kill sheep with it), but I can buy that wherever I like with no licence at all. And if I couldn’t buy it, I could easily make one with a chunk of steel and an angle grinder.

You can kill a lot more people with a car than a gun, and you don’t even need a driver’s licence to buy a car. Or you could use an axe, a machete, a kitchen knife, a chainsaw – the average home is a formidable arsenal of lethal weapons.

But despite being well armed we don’t all go around killing people – because we aren’t all violent nutcases.

Violent crime is not about the availability of weapons. It’s about what makes people violent nutcases.

We can only solve violent crime by addressing the causes of violence: family situations, drug addictions, mental health, violence in the media, and so on. We must empower parents to actually discipline children when they are young so the police don’t have to do it later.

There is a lot we can do. But restricting a few tools won’t do a thing.

Ubuntu 9.04 Linux is awesome!

I’ve been using Ubuntu 8.04 Linux for the past year, but installed the new 9.04 on my new computer. I could not believe how easily everything worked.

Sound works, the wireless card works, suspend works, even the webcam works, with no fiddling whatsoever! Is this really Linux?

Linux just gets better and better every year, and I can honestly say now that Ubuntu now has far fewer problems on my laptop (emachines D620) than Vista – even though it was sold with Vista! And I don’t have to worry about viruses, or deal with Vista’s horribly annoying popup windows asking me if I really want to do everything…

The winds of change are blowing. I’m not saying that suddenly everyone will suddenly switch to Linux now just because Ubuntu has made a great distribution, we won’t see that until it is readily available in stores alongside Windows, but this feels like a turning point to me.

The question is slowly changing from “Is it worth the fuss moving to Linux?”, to “Is it worth the fuss staying with Windows?”.

Well done Canonical for putting out such a well-polished free operating system.

If you like the sound of this, you can download a bootable (“live”) cd and see if it works on your computer without messing up Windows at all.

I just wish I could buy a laptop in New Zealand without being forced to pay Microsoft for Windows, when I won’t even use it. I’d much prefer to be giving that money to Canonical (who make Ubuntu).

Windows Vista is worse than I thought

I got a new laptop on Friday, my old one was playing up (thanks to Rhys at Dick Smith Riccarton for sorting out a replacement easily). It came with Vista. I use Linux, but thought I’d shrink Vista down to a small partition and keep it just in case it came in handy.

But it wouldn’t shrink. Try as I might, I could not stop the Windows partition filling half my hard drive, despite there being plenty of free space.

Worse still, with 1GB of RAM (admittedly not much for Vista but the machine was sold with this and should work as sold) I kept getting messages saying I had run out of memory and had to close programs – even with NO programs open! I don’t know what it was doing in the background using up 1GB of RAM before I even tried to do anything.

Within a few hours I had given up and wiped Vista. I can’t mess round with software that won’t work, I have a thesis to write. I pity all you poor people struggling with Vista, I suppose it might be ok with 4GB of RAM but I really shouldn’t need that to edit a text document.

So I installed Ubuntu 9.04 Linux!

Gang patches banned by Rodney Hide

The law banning gang insignia in Wanganui has been passed. It won’t do any good, and is a major breach of personal freedom.

Just so you don’t think the liberals are all against it and the conservatives are all for it as the Herald may imply, I’ll quote Family Party leader Richard Lewis (former South Auckland police sergeant):

“Banning gang patches will only strengthen the sense of victimisation that unites gang members and creates appeal towards gang life. … Gangs have outlasted Governments and Police Commissioners. It’s naive to think banning their colours will make any discernable difference to what gangs do.” (link)
“Banning patches will help gangs take their business of drug dealing further underground.” (link)

Who supported this disgraceful law:
National
Peter Dunne (United Future)
Rodney Hide, Peter Garrett, John Boscawen (ACT)

Who opposed it:
Labour
Green
Maori
Sir Roger Douglas, Heather Roy (ACT)

Most of the votes were predictable:
National supported it to pretend they are doing something.
Dunne supported it to keep in their good books, and he probably likes banning stuff.
Labour opposed it because National supported it.
The Greens opposed it because they want to ban or control anything that moves unless it is offensive, then they pretend to be in favour of personal freedom as a smokescreen so you don’t notice all the bans.

It is the Maori party, Douglas and Roy that have truly stood up for freedom and common-sense today. Hide, Garrett and Boscawen could have, but chose not to.

It is good to see ACT’s open vote policy meaning people can choose to go against the party leader when he goes against the personal freedoms he apparantly stood for before the election. But it is disappointing that three ACT MPs chose to inflict this disgraceful law on New Zealand.

A sad day for New Zealand, and a sad day for ACT.

AROUND THE BLOGS:
Andy Moore looks at what Rodney Hide said on this in the past, and his massive U-turn now.
Bernard Darnton discusses the principles of the law, a classic post including:
“Backers of the law claim that it’s necessary to crack down on gang members and that they need to be cracked down on because they’re always breaking stuff and hurting people. If that was true you wouldn’t need a law against leather jackets, you could just arrest all these gangsters under the Prohibition of Breaking Stuff (and Hurting People) Act.”

Dodgy student alcohol and sex survey

I have just taken part in the Tertiary Student Health Project survey, an Otago University project looking into alcohol use and sexual behaviour among students. Unfortunately the questions were designed such that even myself, a happily married monogomous father with no risk of contracting STDs, would have sounded like a risk-taking no-condom-using childless student! There just weren’t options to choose to describe my actual situation, which will make the results highly questionable.

Fortunately they had a comments section at the end, this is what I wrote:

I have a number of concerns about the accuracy of the data collected in this survey.

Your questions on sexual behaviour are designed assuming all sexual behaviour is casual. Although you would never guess it reading the response to this survey, many people are still married before having sex. If you did not realise this, you may have just consulted with one sector of the student population in designing your survey, and it may be advisable to consult wider before the next one. Your survey equates “a long-term relationship” (whatever that is defined as) and engagement with marriage, when there is a world of difference between the three, especially in terms of duration and break-up rates.

You never ask in what situation the respondent had their first sexual contact, which is far more likely to have been influenced by alcohol than what they happened to be doing in the past 12 months.

You also ask whether you have ever unintentionally got someone pregnant, without asking whether you had intentionally got someone pregnant – there seems to be an assumption that pregnancy is always accidental and undesirable, which is nonsense. As a result your survey will under-record the true rate of pregnancy among students.

You ask about condom use without asking about risk factors for STDs. For example:
– You ask whether you have only had the one partner, but not whether if you have had more you have tested clear for STDs and thus have none to pass on.
– You never ask whether your partner was a virgin before you, or whether she has tested clear of STDs.
If both partners are clear of STDs, they may be unlikely to use condoms. This will bias condom use rates downwards, while having no bearing on STD risk.
– You have equated a long-term-relationship (“long-term” for one respondent may mean 10 years, for another 1 month: high break-up rate and children are usually not desired) and engagement, with marriage (lowest break-up rate as intended to be permanent, children are generally desired), so the condom use between these relationships will be markedly different but never identified in your survey.
– You never asked whether the respondent was trying for a baby.
– You never asked whether the respondent’s partner was using alternative forms of contraception. (You may have asked female respondents this, but you never asked male respondents, despite the major influence this will have on male condom use. Remember not all partners are students.)

Because of these issues your survey is likely to show a low rate of condom use and therefore imply a high risk of STD contraction, which could be used to push policies encouraging condom use on campus, when in actual fact you have no idea what the actual rate of condom use among those at risk of contracting STDs is, because you never asked the right questions.

Having been in this survey I will have to be highly skeptical of the results when they are published unfortunately, especially when making just a couple of extra answers available to pick could have made this information actually useful. However students are behaving this survey will come up with some statistics that could be used to push a particular political line (that of the Family Planning Association), rather than obtaining well-rounded factual data that can be used by people of all opinions. This is very disappointing, because alcohol and sex are highly important issues at university, and need to be understood well in order to help students.

I trust that you will publicise the actual questions asked alongside the results, to ensure people can judge the accuracy for themselves. It would be advisable to consult wider in formulating the questions for your next survey.

Unfortunately, I must advise you to take the results of the Tertiary Student Health Project with a pinch of salt when they are finally published. Which is a great shame, this project is no doubt expensive and could easily have been very useful.

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