Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kindle---I never thought I would like it, but----

I love books---the feel of them and just holding them. I like covers, in colour and the quick reference on the back, drawing me in to the possibilities within. What then am I to make of my new acquisition--- my Kindle?
I usually visit the local library down in Onehunga about once a fortnight. I have been on holiday for the last two weeks, and not once have I gone down there.  I take Perdy to the nearby bay, driving past the library sometimes. It feels like I am betraying this wonderful institution. I feel guilty. Is this going to be a permanent addition to my daily life? God---I hope not.
Blame my new Kindle. It took me a while to understand some of the basic workings of the device, but I have managed to learn how to buy books using my credit card. Once I had the help I needed to register and buy, I was off, purchasing three books in the last week. It didn’t cost much; probably no more than it wold have cost for me to take my car down to the library.
How does Kindle compare to holding a real book? It is a different experience and one that I have come to terms with surprisingly quickly. I have learnt also to be gentle on the touch pad. My big fingers are more than capable of making the screen jump forward several pages or backwards, causing me to get a little confused before I realize that I had already read the pages on the screen.
The screen is not like a cell phone, with strong backlighting. If the light in the room is not bright it can be hard to see the screen, but I have adapted to that too. I like the function whereby I can increase the size of the letters too, but that can lead to turning the pages a lot more frequently.
What about the books that I have ordered? I had not heard of any of the authors and I relied on how many 'stars' other readers had awarded stories. However, the prices of the books I have purchased so far have not been exorbitant. Nothing annoys me more, when I buy books from bookshops at anything up to NZ$40, only to feel let down at times when the book doesn’t do it for me. When I pay only $2.99 for a book, it feels OK if I get a ’bummer’ of a book. So far only one of the three was less than I would have liked.
I am about to search for some books titles in the ‘best seller’ range. I expect the cost to go up significantly, so I shall possibly go and look at the library for their latest releases, or a book shop and then search in the ‘storefront’ on my Kindle and make the purchase. Hell--- I have to get out sometime eh.
One last point---- Using my Kindle has made me determined to get my books online through Amazon. I will need some help in achieving that, but look for my books soon. I have also ddecided that I will always have one book form the library. Hah! I feel better now.

SkyCity deal--is it the best? (update at bottom)

I heard Pam Corkery on ZB-talkback today and she was commenting on the SkyCity deal to build the new National Convention Centre. It made me wish that she would consider getting back into Parliament. We need her balance. She certianly summed up how I feel. Sure we may get a free centre, but at what cost--- an ongoing drain on our national finances as we have to 'fix the social issues' caused by dream seeking gamblers. Then  we hear that the Casino may have to sacrifice space to fit in another 500 pokies. The whole thing stinks. C'mon Pam---- get back into that place you left--- not that I blame you-- but you have a 'way about you' that we need! Anyone reading this who knows her--- pass the messgae on.

Our illustrious Prime Minister Key has aided a deal to have SkyCity Casino pay for a NZ$300 million National Convention Centre. There is no doubt that such a centre will bring money into the Auckland economy and have flow on effects for the rest of the country. Yes, it will also bring more jobs, both for the construction period and the overall running of the centre once completed. Wow---- fantastic! you may say.
Sorry--- I am going to be a boring old fart and try to bring a wider understanding of the implications for such a ‘deal.’ Firstly, as part of this magnificent contribution to Auckland and New Zealand, all SkyCity wants is the increase in the number of machines it is allowed to have under law. Obviously they have done their sums and decided that the deal on offer works well for them. Is that such a bad thing?
OK--- is there any way of quantifying the damage both in social costs and actual costs to the community as a whole. We all know that lots of people are addicted one way or another--- I guess mine is food. For others it may be smoking, sex, drugs, alcohol and other compulsions, bordering on the psychotic. Gambling is a vice that besets many in our society.
There are many forms of gambling, from games or cards at home, horse racing, dogs, and anthing else that can move. There is Loto (OK---some of you may not agree with me), and there are the thousands of POKEY machines in hundreds of establishments, especially in lower economic areas of our towns and cities in NZ.
Then there are the big establishments. We have several casinos in NZ, the largest by far in Auckland. Without a doubt, these establishments cause harm. Yes they provide entertainment for most of their customers in the form of the ‘game,’ and also offer other relaxing facilities. They also lay claim to caring about their ‘difficult’ customers and offer various ‘baring’ systems to stop problem gamblers. This does not take into account the thousands of customers at that next level down, who spend their rent or food money or their kids ‘clothing and education money.’
Little is said by the institutions about the damage done to families and the resulting violence, when the money isn’t there for essentials, like the ‘old man’s booze.’ ‘OH’ they say----‘but we gave the church next door money, so that they could fix their roof.’ Wonderful---- So now they are OK with God!
I think we all know, deep down that casinos do a great deal of damage. Yes, they are not alone and if we single them out, it may appear a little unfair. They pay their ‘blood money’ and hope that the criticism is blunted and then go on their merry way, pocketing their profits.
We are all left with the ‘debt to society,’ paying for the generations to come and those already afflicted. Ask those people what they would like, and sadly, most of them would continue to chase the rainbow. Such is the freedom to choose, not unlike the God-given gift of life. We are given that to stuff-up or live to the fullest.

Take a look at the NZ Herald this morning to see the more extreme side of Pokies--- not just at the SkyCity Casino. Problem gambling is wrecking lives and when it is combined with 'P' (Methamphetamine) then you have a terribel combination. How many of our families are suffering whne one or both parents are sucked into gambling? Do we really need Libertarian policies when so many are being hurt?

USA Millitary, only as good as it's leaders? Afghanistan

Once again the US military is in the headlines re the action of some of its men in Afghanistan. This time it is re the photos taken of men either beside dead insurgents or holding body parts.
Surely in any culture this is pretty low. It says little for the officers who theoretically oversee the actions of those they command. I am not trying to create a belief that soldiers on the ground act like mythical ‘knights of old,’ but the latest actions do little for the overall respect that the USA would like to believe they are viewed by the Afghanistan people.
It reminds us of some of the other atrocities that the troops have been involved in over the last few years and once again brings to mind the question about why the USA and its partners are still in Afghanistan.
Is there any real evidence that the prolonged war has had any benefits for the Afghanistan people?  Yes some girls have started to go to school after the Taliban banned their involvement in anything other than staying at home. Yes there has been some rebuilding of damaged infrastructure, but I wonder at how long these gains will remain intact.
It seems that even in Kabul, that the President virtually lives surrounded by security and in compound-like conditions. The same goes for any Westerners or Government officials.
Can the battle in/for Afghanistan ever be won? I doubt it. The USA and its military partners (including NZ) have been involved in other unwinnable wars (Vietnam) yet they have still not learnt their lesson. It is not the God-ordained responsibility of the USA to be the policeman for the world, dragging in unwilling ‘siblings’ to legitimize their actions.
Look beyond Afghanistan’s border to Pakistan. The provinces bordering Afghanistan are impossible to govern for the Pakistan Government. They seem incapable and possibly unwilling to stop the flow of the Taliban and their supporters entering Afghanistan at will. Perhaps they are trying to play a ‘balancing act--- that is, keeping their ‘foot in both camps.’
What would happen if all foreign forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan? The example of Vietnam springs to mind. The forces of the embattled Southern Regime were quickly overrun. What has happened since? Gradually, the reunited Vietnam has changed and slowly connected its economy to the wider region. I am not saying that life is anything like that of the West and the freedoms we all take for granted, but nor does it resemble a Stalinist Regime of the past. None of this happened over night, but the war that has dragged on in Afghanistan has to be worse than waiting for the Taliban to change to a ‘softer’ version of what we have seen when they ruled.
I find it hard to believe that the Taliban is not without division within the leadership. Are they so different to the Vietnamese Communists, who also held fanatical political beliefs--- their religion, one might say? The form of Islam that the Taliban practice must be seen as fundamentalists in nature. Maybe there is a difference. One didn’t hear the Communists preaching death as a pathway to heaven, where many virgins awaited the arriving hero, who had just blown himself up with the blood of innocents mixed in with the body pieces, now held up by Western soldiers.
How long would the Taliban rule, unchanged? How many victims would suffer under their rule? One can almost feel a new justification to stay and try to prevent such a scenario, but at what cost to those nations participating in this hopeless ‘policing action.’
Damn--- I wish I had the answer.