For most of my regular readers the remote possibility of visiting Aotearoa New Zealand has become even more remote since the arrival of the current pandemic, and for the foreseeable future is likely to remain so.
I’m now at the age where an adrenaline rush does little more than remind me that my body isn’t what it once was. I prefer to reminisce and relive past experiences from memory rather than seek out new ones.
With that in mind, here’s a modern video clip of the same experience I had on the same river forty-nine years ago. As far as I can recall, the boat appears to be identical to the one I rode in way back in April 1971.
Rushing through a narrow river valley with literally just a few inches of water beneath you while travelling at a speed of 80 kph (50 mph) relative to the water (somewhat faster relative to the valley walls on the downstream run) definitely does create an adrenaline rush, but unlike a bungy jump, it’s not over in a few seconds. The g-forces you’re subject to apparently are similar to those experienced on a rollercoaster but as I have never ridden a roller coaster, I am not able to confirm. Certainly, decelerating from full speed to a standstill in just a boat length while doing a 360 degree turn (otherwise known as a Hamilton turn) is an unforgettable sensation.
So without further ado, here’s a recreation of my jet boat experience five decades on. I recommend you take the link to Youtube and watch it at full screen.
Here’s another jet boat tour. Observe the terrain you pass through on your way to the river.
If g-forces are your thing, then hitch a ride in jet sprint boat. These boats can accelerate from 0 to 130 Kph (80 mph) in less than 2 seconds. The top boats can pull 7 g-forces while maneuvering through the course. I’ve been told that there are more jet sprint tracks in this country than race car tracks. The jet sprint park below is about a forty minute drive from where I live.
On the other hand, if a little bit of white water is your thing, there’s rides such as this one at Taupō.
or this (but I’d recommend wearing a safety helmet here).
Three campaign rallies and three times President Trump calls out the abject failure of the country of New Zealand in fighting the pandemic. It’s time Kiwis kissed their elderly and sick goodbye, throw away masks and hand sanitiser and await their fate. It’s no use fighting it, for as the PONTUS knows, it’s over for New Zealand. Everything’s gone.
So America, and the rest of the world, take a lesson from the dumb ass Kiwis – don’t try to emulate them. Celebrate the great job being done by Donald Trump. You only need to look at the US mortality rates to know how well they’re doing, and as the president has said, other countries would know just how well you’re doing if only fewer of you were tested.
If you think I’m jesting about the wisdom the President Trump, then I highly recommend you listen to the three video clips below. Not only will you be greatly informed, you will also be greatly inspired.
Now I realise the President was a short on details. Well it was a political rally after all. So I have prepared some charts. I’ve used charts because I know how well the President is able to explain them. You saw how he slayed that interviewer when he challenged the President: The President used charts to really sock it to that guy.
Just in case you find charts a little more difficult to read than the President, I have included a brief explanation below each one.
As you can see, America is higher on every chart (except one, and that’s because America tests too much). If you want to keep America high in the charts, then don’t forget to vote for Donald Trump in November. If you vote for that other guy, America might end up like New Zealand.
Our (relatively) safe COVID-19 status has seen increased interest in basing international film and TV productions here. As well as Avatar 2 and Power of the Dog already under way, permission has been granted to another five production teams to enter Aotearoa New Zealand and due to start production soon. These include:
Keeping the coronavirus out of Aotearoa New Zealand is fraught with difficulties, the most significant perhaps being that it requires the cooperation of multiple agencies. I’m glad I’m not the only person who regards the setting up of a Border Security Force as a potential source of abuse and tyranny.
Whilst the current multi-agency arrangement involving Customs, Health, Police and Military has revealed many flaws from managing security to testing for COVID-19, these are being acknowledged and corrected as they come to light. This is uncharted territory, and if anyone believes that a plan of action can be brought from the drawing board to fruition in record time taking into account every possibility with every permutation already considered and planned for, then they are living in cloud cuckooland.
Would a Border Security Force result in appalling forms of abuse as can be witnessed in countries such as Australia and the United States? I would hope not, but I’d prefer that the opportunity does not arise. Better to resource the existing agencies adequately and create a management task force dedicated to coordinating the agencies and quickly respond to issues as they arise.
If there are legal barriers to setting up such a task force in any future national emergency, then sure, bring in legislation that will allow it ensuring that transparent oversight is included. But having a permanent independent force with little in the way of transparent oversight on the American or Australian model with all their reported abuses? No thanks!
With a general election coming up in less than two months, several political parties are promoting a Border Security Force, but this does not appear to be on the radar for the governing Labour party at the moment. However, they are just as subject to public pressure as other parties, so I want to put my position now in the hope that I’m just one of many voices opposing the formation of a Border Security force.
On this matter I can do no better than reblog Robert Glennie’s post on Will New Zealand Be Right?
Normally I am quite tough on matters of national security, and I am, but the concept of a New Zealand border agency fills me with dread. One does not have to look far to see in other countries why it is controversial. And the last a government agency with enormous control was created in New […]
The Kiwi comes from Aotearoa New Zealand and its succulent green or yellow flesh is delicious on top of a pavlova.
No! Wait! That’s a kiwifruit, not a mammal, real or honorary. They originally came from China in the late 19th or early 20th century and were known as Chinese gooseberries until it became an export commodity, at which time the name proved to something of a hindrance. Having both “Chinese” and “berry” in the name proved to be too much for the sensibilities of Americans at the time so a new name was coined.
Sorry. The Kiwi is a two legged mammal that… Umm. I thought Kiwis were real mammals, not honorary ones.
Now you’re referring to human beings who consider Aotearoa to be their home. Yes they are real mammals. I’m referring to another 2 legged creature.
Oh! You mean the bird?
Precisely. One of the peculiarities of Aotearoa New Zealand is that prior to the arrival of humans around 800 years ago, the only terrestrial mammals inhabiting these islands were three species of bats – flying mammals. On the other hand, there was a vast range of flightless bird species.
Kind of back to front compared to the rest of the world
Back to front?
Flying mammals and flightless birds.
I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. But back to the kiwi. It’s often referred to as an honorary mammal because it exhibits some characteristics that are very mammal-like and rarely, if ever, seen in birds. Here’s a few examples:
The power of flight is very costly in terms of energy requirements and birds have made a number of evolutionary adaptations in order to minimise this cost. Think weight reduction.
Bone structure: Birds typically have lightweight bones filled with air sacs to reduce weight. Flightless birds may have slightly denser bone formation but still retain air sacs. The kiwi on the other hand, has heavy marrow-filled bones just like mammals.
Reproduction: Female birds typically have a single ovary, again an adaptation to reduce weight. Kiwi have two ovaries, and just like mammals, ovulation occurs alternately in each.
Leg muscles: Birds have considerably less leg muscle mass compared to mammals of equivalent size. Again an adaptation to reduce weight. However, the kiwi has gone to the other extreme. The legs make up one third of their total weight.
To put that into perspective, a typical kiwi is about the same size as a fowl (chicken) and weighs in at slightly over 3 Kg (around 7 lb). If you were able to buy kiwi meat from the supermarket, a single leg would weight around 600 grams or 1.3 lb. That’s some leg! Kiwi put those legs to good use.
Adult kiwi can easily outrun humans, and their legs and sharp claws can be used to fend off introduced predators such as cats, stoats, rats and possums. However, dogs can wipe out entire kiwi population in single area almost overnight.
Skin: Kiwi have tough leathery skin that is more mammal like than bird like.
Vision: Birds rely on good eyesight for survival. In the case of nocturnal birds, eyes become oversized to ensure adequate light reaches the retina. However, Kiwi imitate many mammals that occupy a similar ecological niche in other parts of the world. Eyes are small and eyesight is poor. Kiwi are very long sighted. So much so that even objects on the horizon have a focal point well behind the eye. Kiwi have almost no binocular vision (where the visual fields of both eyes overlap). They cannot even see their own beak! Rare for birds, they cannot see colour.
Sense of smell: On the other hand, their sense of smell is highly developed. In the bird world, only the condor has a better sense of smell. Birds typically have a bony ridge between the eye sockets. In the kiwi, this space is occupied by a nasal cavity, just like mammals.
Birds typically have their nostrils at the base of their beak. Not so the kiwi. It’s the only bird with nostrils at the tip of the beak. This is used to help locate underground grubs.
Sense of touch: The nostrils are surrounded with mechanoreceptors (pressure-sensitive receptors). It was once thought that kiwi located prey entirely by smell, but new research indicates that the mechanoreceptors might allow the kiwi to detect prey up to 10 cm (4″) underground.
Hearing: Few birds have highly developed sense of hearing. Kiwis are an exception. As with the areas of brain related to the sense of smell, that area related to hearing is larger in size and more complex than other birds of similar size. The external ear openings are large and can easily be seen
Whiskers: Cats and many nocturnal mammals, have whiskers to aid in the detection of objects in close proximity in the dark. Kiwi have whiskers on their face and base of their beak that serve the purpose.
Burrows: Like badgers, kiwi build burrows where they hide out when not foraging and for nesting. Kiwi sleep standing up.
No preen gland or tail: Other birds have a preen gland near the tail that supplies oil used to keep feathers weatherproof, waterproof and in good condition. The kiwi has neither.
No wings: Well not quite, even though the genus name Apteryx means wingless. Flightless birds typically have rudimentary wings equipped with flight feathers. The wings retain some purpose such as for display in attracting a mate or fending off opponents, to assist in balance, and to allow safe descents from a height. Not so the kiwi. A human in freefall with outstretched arms has greater powers of flight than a kiwi. It’s vestigial wings are barely 3 cm (about an inch) long, are not feathered and remain hidden under the kiwi’s plumage.
Hair-like plumage: Kiwi look soft and fluffy. Most birds have feathers equipped with hooks and barbs that keep the feathers in the neatly arranged vanes. Kiwi do not. The feathers hang loose, and in appearance look like fluffy hair or fur.
Body temperature: Birds typically have a body temperature of between 39ºC – 42ºC. Kiwi have a body temperature similar to mammals: 37ºC – 38ºC.
Other facts about kiwi.
Species: Up until the 1980s it was thought that there were only 3 species of kiwi. However, with the aid of DNA technology, it’s now known that there’s at least 5 species. What is unusual is the fact that there is very little difference in physical characteristics between species and DNA testing is necessary to identify them. The mechanism whereby five distinct species with almost identical characteristics could evolve in a relatively small geographical area is not fully understood, but one theory is that New Zealand was repeatedly fragmented by glaciers during Middle and Late Pleistocene. Fragments remained isolated long enough for speciation to occur but there was nothing to drive differentiation. It’s now known that there were many more species prior to the arrival of humans.
Huge egg: We Kiwi like to claim that the kiwi produces the largest egg in comparison to its body size, but the claim can also be made of the bee hummingbird. Both species produce an egg that’s up to 25% of the weight of the mother. A kiwi lays an egg that is about six times heavier than a chicken egg.
Birds’ eggs are typically 35% – 40% yolk. Kiwi eggs are 65% yolk.
In two kiwi species, incubation is shared equally by both parents, but in the other species the female takes no part in the incubation. It’s a male only task. Given the size of the egg she has to lay, I’m surprised any female kiwi would want to have anything to do with it.
Mate for life: For the most part Kiwi form lifelong monogamous partnerships. I say for the most part because while males always remain faithful, female kiwi are known to abandon their mate if she comes across a male she finds more attractive.
Declining numbers: Kiwi take around five years to reach sexual maturity, and in most species the female produces only one or two eggs each year. Mainly due to mammalian predation, only about 5% of kiwi chicks survive into adulthood. It needs to be around 20% to maintain the population. In areas with extensive (and expensive) predator control kiwi populations can double approximately every ten years. Nationwide, the kiwi population is declining at around 2% per year.
In yesterday’s post I quoted from and linked to an article that argues that the pathology paradigm is a cultural value judgment and not a objective scientific conclusion. So if autism is not a disorder, what is it? Most online scientific and medical literature still use the pathology paradigm, as do most sources within the autism community(a) and so are of little help when looking at what autism really is.
To gather a more accurate description one needs to look at the literature from the autistic community(b). The “problem” with following this course of action is that most descriptions are based on personal experience and are therefore subjective in nature rather than being objective in a scientific vein.
(a)Autism community: allies of autistic people; caregivers of autistic people; extended family of autistic people; professionals who work with autistic people; anyone who thinks they know anything about autism. (b)Autistic community: autistic people.
And here’s why it’s a problem: The experience of every autistic is different. The picture I paint to describe what autism is for me will be different from the picture painted by another autistic about their experience. Some of my experiences might event contradict those of another autistic. Many non-autistic people have an issue with this. They see inconsistencies, discrepancies that they interpret as “nonsense”, “bullshit”, “you’re making it all up”. And we’re the ones who are supposed to have rigid forms of thinking??
Comprehensive descriptions that include autism in all its variations and follow the neurodiversity paradigm are few and far between, but I find the following from the NEUROCOSMOPOLITANISM blog one of the better descriptions of what autism is.
WHAT IS AUTISM?
Autism is a genetically-based human neurological variant. The complex set of interrelated characteristics that distinguish autistic neurology from non-autistic neurology is not yet fully understood, but current evidence indicates that the central distinction is that autistic brains are characterized by particularly high levels of synaptic connectivity and responsiveness. This tends to make the autistic individual’s subjective experience more intense and chaotic than that of non-autistic individuals: on both the sensorimotor and cognitive levels, the autistic mind tends to register more information, and the impact of each bit of information tends to be both stronger and less predictable.
Autism is a developmental phenomenon, meaning that it begins in utero and has a pervasive influence on development, on multiple levels, throughout the lifespan. Autism produces distinctive, atypical ways of thinking, moving, interaction, and sensory and cognitive processing. One analogy that has often been made is that autistic individuals have a different neurological “operating system” than non-autistic individuals.
According to current estimates, somewhere between one percent and two percent of the world’s population is autistic. While the number of individuals diagnosed as autistic has increased continually over the past few decades, evidence suggests that this increase in diagnosis is the result of increased public and professional awareness, rather than an actual increase in the prevalence of autism.
Despite underlying neurological commonalities, autistic individuals are vastly different from one another. Some autistic individuals exhibit exceptional cognitive talents. However, in the context of a society designed around the sensory, cognitive, developmental, and social needs of non-autistic individuals, autistic individuals are almost always disabled to some degree – sometimes quite obviously, and sometimes more subtly.
The realm of social interaction is one context in which autistic individuals tend to consistently be disabled. An autistic child’s sensory experience of the world is more intense and chaotic than that of a non-autistic child, and the ongoing task of navigating and integrating that experience thus occupies more of the autistic child’s attention and energy. This means the autistic child has less attention and energy available to focus on the subtleties of social interaction. Difficulty meeting the social expectations of non-autistics often results in social rejection, which further compounds social difficulties and impedes social development. For this reason, autism has been frequently misconstrued as being essentially a set of “social and communication deficits,” by those who are unaware that the social challenges faced by autistic individuals are just by-products of the intense and chaotic nature of autistic sensory and cognitive experience.
Autism is still widely regarded as a “disorder,” but this view has been challenged in recent years by proponents of the neurodiversity model, which holds that autism and other neurocognitive variants are simply part of the natural spectrum of human biodiversity, like variations in ethnicity or sexual orientation (which have also been pathologized in the past). Ultimately, to describe autism as a disorder represents a value judgment rather than a scientific fact.
That’s the opinion of the High Court of New Zealand after a legal challenge to the COVID-19 lockdown. The challenge was only partially successful, in that the court found that all but one of the orders made in regard to the lockdown were lawful. What was not lawful was the “stay at home” order.
The Court concluded that:
By various public and widely publicised announcements made between 26 March and 3 April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, members of the executive branch of the New Zealand Government stated or implied that, for that nine-day period, subject to limited exceptions, all New Zealanders were required by law to stay at home and in their “bubbles” when there was no such requirement. Those announcements had the effect of limiting certain rights and freedoms affirmed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 including, in particular, the rights to freedom of movement, peaceful assembly and association. While there is no question that the requirement was a necessary, reasonable and proportionate response to the COVID-19 crisis at that time, the requirement was not prescribed by law and was therefore contrary to s 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
It’s important to note that the court recognised that while the government did have the authority to make such regulations, it did not in fact make them. That was corrected in regulations made nine days into the lockdown that did make the “stay at home” order lawful
For those interested in in the details of the court’s decision, a High Court media release can be found here (PDF), and the full judgment can be found here (PDF).
I was late in being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum – I was 60 years old at the time. At first I tried to prove that I was not autistic, but when that failed I reluctantly accepted that I had a disorder. It took quite a few years to realise that autism is no more a disorder than diversity in sexual orientation or gender identity are.
The following paragraphs from Autism and the Pathology Paradigm summarise my current understanding. You can read the full article by clicking the link in the citation at the foot of the quoted text below.
The choice to frame the minds, bodies, and lives of autistic people (or any other neurological minority group) in terms of pathology does not represent an inevitable and objective scientific conclusion, but is merely a cultural value judgment. Similar pathologizing frameworks have been used time and again to lend an aura of scientific legitimacy to all manner of other bigotry, and to the oppression of women, indigenous peoples, people of color, and queer people, among others. The framing of autism and other minority neurological configurations as disorders or medical conditions begins to lose its aura of scientific authority and “objectivity” when viewed in this historical context – when one remembers, for instance, that homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) well into the 1970s; or that in the Southern United States, for some years prior to the American Civil War, the desire of slaves to escape from slavery was diagnosed by some white Southern physicians as a medical “disorder” called drapetomania.
At this time, sadly, the pathologization of autistic minds, bodies, and lives still has not been widely recognized – especially not within the academic and professional mainstream – as being yet another manifestation of this all-too-familiar form of institutionalized oppression and othering. The academic and professional discourse on autism, and the miseducation on autism given to each new generation of professionals, remain uncritically mired in the assumptions of the pathology paradigm. And since bad assumptions and unexamined prejudices inevitably become self-reinforcing when mistaken for facts, this entrenchment in the pathology paradigm has kept autism-related theory, praxis, and education stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle of ignorance and bigotry.
Lots of places they were using to hold up, they are having a big surge, they are… And I don’t want that, I don’t want that. But they were holding up names of countries and now they are saying whoops! Even New Zealand. You see what’s going on in New Zealand. They beat it. They beat it. It was like front page. They beat it because they wanted to show me something. The problem is big surge in New Zealand. It’s terrible. We don’t want that.
Donald Trump, 17 August 2020
Of course, the surge is terrible in New Zealand. While we might want to see the Trump administration emulate us, it’s out of spite. We know that Donald will never allow that to happen to the USA.
Here’s the evidence in the form of a chart of daily infections per million:
I know that President Trump says we can’t use per capita measurements because it it makes US testing rates look bad, so here’s a chart showing new infections in absolute numbers:
As you can see, New Zealand is flatlining. That’s terrible. Not many people know this, but when a brain scan or heart monitor flatlines, it means you’re dead, very dead. That’s terrible for New Zealand. I have every confidence that the President of the United States will not let that happen to America.
Even in this country of Aotearoa New Zealand there are those who like to spread rumours. The problem is that with all the social media platforms available, and the way their algorithms select “news” all too often truth gets drowned out by the cacophony of rumours, innuendos and lies.
In the case of the family at the centre of the current COVID-19 cluster in Auckland, the rumour mill has been working overtime. Social media attacks on the family are vile, and the fact that the family are part of the Pasifika community has brought out the worst of racism in some people.
Health authorities keep the identity and ethnicity of those with COVID-19 away from public scrutiny, but work colleagues, neighbours, friends, family, and the curious will in all probability be aware of their status and either accidentally or maliciously leak the information into the realm of social media. After that it gains a life of its own.
Unfortunately the rumours, innuendos and attacks on the family and and those of the same ethnicity have had such a traumatic effect that the Minister of Health felt it necessary to start Monday’s COVID-19 press briefing with a strongly worded statement:
When it comes to conspiracy theories, some politicians seem to like nothing better than to add fuel to the fire. It’s election time here, and so to some extent, innuendos that the government is less than honest, have a hidden agenda or are corrupt or incompetent do tend to pop up more frequently. But it’s disappointing that some politicians are using the pandemic as a political football. Mind you, To some extent, the Labour party has to accept some of the blame, as their campaign is based almost entirely on how well they, as government, have managed the pandemic.
I do however feel that Gerry Brownlee (deputy leader of the National Party) overstepped the mark with his comments made shortly after the Auckland outbreak was announced where he said “it was Interesting” that the recommendation to wear face masks, the Prime Minister’s visit to a mask factory, the director General of Health having a COVID-19 test, and the new COVID-19 outbreak all occurring within a relatively short time frame.
His intention might have been an indirect criticism of the news media for not investigating the possibility of a link between these “facts”, or it might have been an attempt to have the media act as a proxy for political point scoring as Parliament was not sitting, but it played right into the hands of the conspiracy theorists.
Even Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the government junior coalition partner New Zealand First, has got in on the act. On his recent visit to Australia, he claimed that he had information from a “reliable source” that there had been major security breaches at the border isolation facilities. While most Kiwis probably paid little heed to his comment, as he’s notorious for quoting “reliable sources” that turn out to have no substance, it’s precisely what the conspiracy believers crave for – validation from a supposedly reliable source straight from the mouth of a supposedly reliable public figure.
Many prominent scientists and medical professionals have made an open plea for politicians of all persuasions and community leaders to be very careful about how they ruminate in the public forum. They need to fact check before attempting to make one plus one equal three. In this country all the facts relating to COVID-19 and the pandemic are readily available, and unlike many countries our public service, including the health service, are outside the political arena. It’s one thing not to trust politicians, but it’s entirely another matter to believe that peer reviewed scientifically based information is part of some evil plot to eliminate/control/modify humanity.
I’m sure that since Jacinda Ardern has set a new date for the general elections (moved from 19 September to 17 October), there’ll be a conspiracist somewhere who will believe this is part of “the Plan”, whatever that is.
Contrary to the belief of some, the delay is a the behest of most political parties but not because visiting a polling station might be hazardous during lockdown as that can be managed – besides, early voting and postal voting are both available. An essential part of democracy is for those standing for election having an opportunity to argue their cause. That is why, after listening to politicians of all persuasion she put election back 28 days.
While this is less of an issue throughout most of the country (although a limit of 100 people at a political rally does pose its own problems), in Auckland where groups of more than ten are not permitted, the campaign trail has virtually gone cold.
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