Saturday, June 30, 2012

I wish they had a GPS system for dogs' balls!

Yes, I know that the title desperately needs further explanation, although there would be those amongst you would take the title literally and apply it to some of the men you have in your life. This blog is of an entirely different nature--- it concerns Perdy my Jack Russell.
I buy these orange balls with a blue stripe for my dog. They are almost indestructible (even for her) and they have a great bounce. Perdy spends a great deal of time chasing them when I use one of those throwing devices. I no longer have the throwing ability of my youth and I wouldn’t even try skipping a stone across a river. I long ago gave up on the cheaper versions because Perdy can deconstruct them in a matter of minutes, so it’s the expensive ones for me. The cost of two balls is about $23.
Maybe you think that’s a good deal, considering that they last so much longer. The trouble is--- you would be wrong in making that assumption. Yes they last in terms of being very hardy, but it is other factors in the ‘park experience’ that create hazards for these bright little balls.
Other dogs also like them, so expect to spend a good deal of your time, retrieving your balls from other dogs. Sometime their owners are nothing but unforthcoming about helping in the retrieval. Maybe they think that if their dog keeps it for a certain number of minutes, then it’s a bit like the old serfdom law about if you stayed free for set number of days, then you were a free man/woman. Either way, it is very frustrating when these doggie daddies and mummies are so uncaring. I bet their dogs end up with social agencies involved in their lives and risk losing their loved ones to the State.
If I throw the said balls into the water down at Onehunga, I risk other hidden dangers like the current. One should always ascertain whether the tide is going in or out before embarking on the adventure. Make a wrong decision and expect to wave goodbye to your loved ball under the motorway. Just pray that doggies don’t follow.
Perdy likes to share--- up to a point. She has a few friends whom she likes to play ball-catch-chase-goobie etc. with. Anyone else doesn’t get a look in. Indeed Perdy will hissy fit for about three seconds if anyone else trys it on. If you know Jack Russells, you will know what I mean. Just try to imagine a dog on steroids--- that’s her. Indeed, the pet shop asked me what I fed her and I said anything she wants. You see, Perdy looks like a doggie body-builder. It’s all the crazy running she does.
Today I was most annoyed. Perdy and Patch, good her mate managed to lose the second ball in a week, in the same area. They took the ball into the trees and flaxes and I’m buggered if we could find it. I guess some other lucky sod will score a pair of barley chewed balls.
This is where my desire to have balls fitted with GPS systems comes in. It would save so much gnashing of teeth and tears from the dogs. Oh yes--- they get quite miffed when the balls go missing. So hurry up one of you and invent such a system. I shall trial it for free.

Who's God should we have in our classrooms?

My heading looks provocative, but the question must be asked in the light of ‘revelations’ that some school are being targeted by preachers, fully intent on recruiting young people to their way of thinking. It raises the question about the balance of how much and by whom we should invite into our classrooms to inform young minds about the values of Christianity.
I am not for a moment degrading the Christian message but I am questioning the right of various denominations to go into our schools and deliver a programme that can be said to be aimed at increasing the membership of their ‘churches.’ This would be made an easier task if the school already possesses a staff that is already well down that track. Quite a few schools have fundamentalists majorities on their staffs. It does not take a terribly large leap of faith to see what the possibilities for them to extend their influence are.
However, the scenario I have just described is a minority position for most schools. Teachers reflect society and that means that most schools have a pretty good balance of beliefs and non-beliefs in the makeup of their staffing. It is only when an outside organization and an inside willingness cooperate to allow a situation where this ‘bending’ of young minds occurs that it becomes an issue.
One must also ask--- what of the other religions? Should we not allow members from the Hindu, Muslim, Baha’i, or Jewish Communities access to our kids?
NO! You say. New Zealand is Christian Country and has Christian foundations. Perhaps you are forgetting that we also have tried very hard to find a balance between the state and the church. School is for learning and God alone knows how difficult the situation is in relation to that at the moment. Do we really need these groups coming in and ‘teaching’ our kids, albeit in a voluntary manner for the kids? One must remember that it is an ‘opt out’ delivery system so it is actually quite alienating for a young kid to ask not to be included. Does he or she then become some sort of victim because he is not abiding of the opportunity to hear the word of God?
The values as espoused by the Christina faith are actually pretty universal and it is just in the mechanics that the differences occur, so the good ‘citizen ‘message is an appropriate one--- but we must be careful that we do not invite people into our schools who would deliver more than that basic message and we must make sure that parents clearly hear the message that they can ‘opt out,’ without their kids feeling the pressure.

Russia--- rewriting its history---'Positive History.'

How convenient! If you don’t like your history---well---- just rewrite it and call it ‘positive history.’ Whilst Russia is not alone in doing this, it is the country that stands out at the moment. It is of course driven by the ebullient Putin. He has heavily unfenced the rewriting of Rosina History to put a better light on the past. Why would historians, he argues want to dwell on past indiscretions and encourage a national psyche that finds the mistakes of the past depressing?
So what do he and his cohorts do?---they take a figure like Stalin and ‘re-present’ him in light that is more like the one that existed in his very time---not as bad of course, but one that presents him as a defender of Mother Russia. That is not without some truths---many would say that you can’t make an omelette (he did?) without breaking an egg. He is referring to the need to drag Russia out of a nonindustrial past to one that is industrial and strong enough to defeat the Nazi invasion. Of course, Green (Author of Animal Farm et al) asked—‘where’s the omelette?’
Now, if one went into a Russian school, they would find history books that semi-sanitise the role of Stalin and various other aspects of Russian History. Gone or going are the texts that emerged after the fall of the Iron Curtain---ones that more accurately reflected Russian History. You could say that there was a Russian Spring for a while, but then the spectre of Russian History re-emerged and the State took control of the views and teachings in Russian schools.
I must not be too harsh when I describe these events. Nothing is as it seems in Russian History--- it all depends on who is telling it.
We in New Zealand have been guilty of white-washing our past when it comes to explaining the colonization of New Zealand. It is only recently (the last 30 or so years) that a more honest view of our history has been reflected in our classrooms, so one must not get to precious when pointing the finger at Russia.
The USA is similar to NZ just like most countries that have National Syllabuses that reflect a certain point of view. No-one is exempt from that.
However, I go back to Russia. It will be both interesting as possibly a bit sad to watch developments in Russia as it once gain follows the cult of the ‘strong leader.’ Is that their future--- reinventing the past?

Housing---a basic need but often unreachable.

If you are hoping to find a house to rent at a reasonable price or perhaps enter the ownership model in Auckland (and other larger cities in New Zealand, then you better have a very large income. The fact is, that for both possibilities the goal posts are continually moving, making your wish merely a dream.
Perhaps you should consider one of the outer suburbs, but even then you face stiff competition. If you have a dog, then it is even harder to find a rental property willing to take you. We all know that finding a deposit and buying your own house is like chasing the sun over the horizon.
There are many reasons for this impossible situation and very few suggestions emanating form the Government or the opposition. I have read about steeply increasing rates bills causing sizable increases in the price for renting. That is just part of the problem.
One wonders at the effects of the Christchurch earthquakes; a plausible explanation if we factor in the increased pressure of those leaving the city (and not heading across to Australia) and moving to Auckland and other cities. I know that the school I am employed in has quite a few students enrolled from the southern city. If you extrapolate that across Auckland, it goes without saying that there will be increased pressure on the housing stock, both rental and for purchase.
The effect of this pressure is hugely increased rents and large numbers of people competing at auctions, sometimes having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars over the Government Valuation of the said houses. Where does that leave prospective buyers? For some, it means joining the mad rush across the Tasman, where they believe they will find ‘greener grass. For some it works, but for many, they simply find that they have joined another queue for a better life that can be just as elusive. God help our situation, if they return in mass.
Is there a place to revisit the State’s involvement in the issue of ‘affordable housing---for rent, purchase or a combination of the two models? It is easy for those already happily ensconced in their homes to say that it is not the State’s role to provide for housing needs, and thereby increases the taxes those in that situation have to pay. There is no magic pill--- I accept that, but we do need to enter into a discussion about the State’s roles in the housing market.
 I have heard of models whereby the State takes a proportion of the ownership for a ‘State/private’ ownership home. We could explore this option and have a range of possibilities. For example; a range of State input from 20% right up to about 70%. This would achieve two goals.
Firstly, it moves people into the ownership model and there is much to be gained by tenants having a real stake in a property. Pride of ownership and a more stable community are important positive factors. Secondly, the model I suggests could well move a significant number of people from that impossible situation where they can never consider any form of ownership. The model if implemented could well increase the stability of some communities, where at the moment we see huge transiency in our schools. A more stable community is a plus for all--- families and schools.
Of course there is also the model of the State being more proactive in the traditional State house model. That there is a need is not the question. It is the affordability that will be thrown up as the main opposition to such a scheme. The alternative is that if we don’t follow one or both of the model I have suggested, then we are doomed to see an increase in social problems and yet more our people moving to Australia and beyond.
How would we finance such schemes? I know that for many, that is the main issue; one that is perceived as even more frightening than the social dislocation. After all, they are secure in their homes and in the misplaced belief that none of this affects them.
I am against using the ‘superannuation fund or Kiwi Saver to pay off Government debt, but I am not against using such funds to kick-start some of the suggestions I have outlined. As long as the State does not overexpose itself by going above a figure that they cannot safely retrieve through tenant/owners repayments, then what is the problem, other than a philosophical one?
We cannot sit by and do nothing--- as a nation, we must house our people or face the increasingly dangerous societal dislocation of unmet dreams and overflowing prisons. Take your pick!