Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The world´s most AMAZING mazes!

Bom dia from Brazil - São Paulo to be exact. With up to to twenty million people, this is the world´s third biggest maze, and possibly one of the most confusing. It´s crazy. It was built in an ad-hoc fashion, so there´s no logic or land marks to fall back on, and to top it off, almost no one speaks english. Thank god I had some one to pick me up from the airport.

It is late now, and I arrived in the morning. I´ve spent my day taking ages doing everything, including transport, eating, sleeping, and trying to open and close my freakin´bag (which is no easy task). I´ve been for a walk, and what a crazy place. You could be annoymous so easy in this place - especially if you only knew about two people, like me (both of whom I only just met today).

Anyway, more tales of insane amounts of traffic - including foot, motorbike, bicycle, bus, trolly bus and, of course foot - to come. I mean, during the day the population of Wellington is probably within about a one or two kilometre radius of me. Tomorrow I start early, kicking off the Global Young Greens meetings, with plenty of discussion about things that matter, and partying, which matters a lot too. So for the next week it´s all about Green and São Paulo insanity. I´ll keep you posted.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Old polls make Zack a happy boy, even if no one cares enough to vote

The poll that I put up two weeks ago I never commented on. But then again no one voted.

The question was how happy are you? Something to mull over in your own time perhaps, and you can read about some of my views on happiness in previous posts. But basically it comes down to contentment. To be happy most of the time you need to be content with whatever your circumstances are (which of course can discount certain major traumatic events, but after they happen, you should be able to become content again, after accepting the past). So whether your in Wellington, as you have been most of your life, or your all alone in some random place on the other side of the world, try and be happy with the moment that you have been given. It's simple once you get your head around the idea, it's just in the practice that counts. And I'm relying on that philosphy to get me through the next four months without any major emotional hitches. Good luck Zack. Thanks Zack. So alone.

This weeks poll is, well, a little special. And I will leave it up for longer than a week as I probably wont have time to change it much over the next wee while. And it is a bit of a special poll.

They built this city on rock n' roads

Good evening all. Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but I was very busy getting ready to go to:

Yeah, that's right, I'm staying in Hollywood. For the night. And then heading on to Brazil tomorrow. I'm sorta on the hillside below the sign at someone's sweet house.

So it is that my big OE trip has commenced.

Prior to my departure, besides not blogging, I was very busy. Workin' full-time, living alone, and getting a lot of man-love (and a little woman-love too, but not so much) saying good bye to everyone - some people prematurely, meaning I said good bye to them several times over a couple of weeks. But that's all over now, and after some stressful packing I was on the plane all to Auckland, and there was nothing more I could do. (By the way, that guy from that band followed me from Wellington all the way to LA, but I can't remember what band. And I don't know that guy's name. I'm pretty sure they're well known around NZ and Australia though! Yeah, that's right.)

But then my worst nightmare struck. Fatigued, but in cramped stuffy conditions on the flight to LA, I decided to read some of my travel guide to both become more informed about Brazilian culture, and also to hopefully be put to sleep. Was I ever misguided in that belief. Just out of interest I decided to flick to the "do before you go" section - specifically the part about Visas. Much to my horror, it said NZers and Canadians (I have dual citizenship) both need Visas!?!?!? Noooooooooo! Because I didn't have one. And I still don't. Those lousy Lonely Planet liers gave me a severe case of in-flight panic, and for nothing. New Zealanders DON'T need a Visa for stays of up to 90 days in Brazil. So thank god, but never trust Lonely Planet. Ever. Even if the guide is up to date to only a few months ago as mine is. The End.

Disclaimer: Lonely Planet offers quality travel guides, with plenty of information in them. I'm sure they try to be as accurate as possible, but inevitably there will be some mistakes. Otherwise I wholeheartedly endorse the guides, unless something bad happens to me on my trip due to the information contained within the aforementioned guide book series. Then I will reconsider my position, and talk to my lawyer. (Jack, I'm counting on you).

The other scary moment was some severe turbulence in the middle of the night, which woke everyone up from their slumber, including "sob lady" who lived roughly two rows back from me and decided to sob and scream the whole time. But I wasn't even scared even.

And so I made it alive to the city of many wide streets - Los Angeles. Beneath the smog it was a beautiful day. After deciding American TV is just as crap as most of NZ TV (that is, because most of NZ TV is American TV), but manages to be crap over hundreds of channels, and after a snooze and a shower, I went for a walk to get me some American Eats, and see the Hollywood.

Above is the Capitol Records building in the evening sun, as I walked over a bunch of names in stars (though didn't really recognise any of them...

And that's the smoggy freeway that runs by Hollywood Boulevard, along with some tall smoggy buildings in the back.

I better sum up for now, but I am enjoying this free internet access - a luxury I will have to live without.

In conclusion, being in LA is like being in an American movie, without any action. And you can smell the air and taste the water, which you don't have to put up with in a Cinema in Wellington. And Fox News is just as unbearable yet strangely addictive.

PS If you still don't know about my trip, or have only just come accross this blog, please refer to this previous post.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Get out and vote!

C'mon guys, get out and vote. In my poll this week. And in the general elections too - especially you young people who tend not to. It's so important! And it makes a huge difference. But more rants on that another time.

As for my poll, it leads on from my post a few days ago about sustainable happiness. Are you happy? What makes you feel that way? Is it because you have lots of time to socialise and generally hang with cool people? Is it because you work hard, but then have heaps of money to spend on new shiny things? Do you feel crap for the above reasons, or because the above aren't true for you. Are you naturally positive or depressed.

Place votes now!

Monday, 14 April 2008

Do I support the fair trade deal with China?

Well, what a week. What an overwhelming response to the poll. But it ended up with a 50-50 split between the yes camp, and the no camp (and I know who both of you two are methinks).

Anyhow, I'll just give my opinion now.


The toss up between money and morality is such a despicable one. Do we need the extra money? No. Do the Tibetans and the Chinese people need their freedom? Yes. It's a very simple equation. And, of course, with peak oil and climate change looming we seriously need to reassess our ability to provide for ourselves (including food an clothing) as a very geographically-isolated nation. When will oil prices rise so much that it's more economical to produce clothing in NZ than important the goods from China? It's anyone's guess whether that will even happen or not, let alone when, but it reinforces the issue of sustainability needing to be the bedrock of any economic policy right now. We need to be asking the question - is this deal moving us further towards economic sustainability, or further away? Because if the answer is the latter, then we should not be going down that road. And though I cannot hope to do in depth analysis on the fair trade deal with China, I very much doubt that it is moving us any closer to being sustainable, even taking into account the "environmental" parts of the agreement (which are, in my understanding voluntary and potentially completely undermined by other parts of the deal which may prevent us from increasing our own environmental regulations).

And as for the human rights question: the argument for the deal is that staying in good relations with China is the only way that we can hope to have an impact on their human rights situation. That might be case, given that they are so much larger than us in every way, but since when has entering into a preferential trade deal been the way to keep up relations with a dictatorship? And what parts of the deal, specifically, are engineered to improve the human rights situation in China? Time and time again it is proven that you can justify anything as long as it is not directly morally repugnant on the grounds that it will help the economy. Furthermore, it is scary the types of underground ways the Chinese Government has started to infiltrate other countries in an attempt to silence its critics not only in China, but also abroad - Amnesty have uncovered some examples of these tactics (though you can search for that info yourself because I can't be bothered).

And, interestingly, a vigil outside the Chinese embassy in Fiji lead to the participants being arrested. Fijian government also snuggling up to China? Because, don't forget, we deal with the bad Governments in those two countries in completely opposite ways. One, we stand next to proudly in their country as we join our two economies in holy matrimony. The other we impose trade sanctions on and turn our backs, plug our ears and say "nanananana we're not listening".

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Sustainable happiness

A couple of days ago on Afternoons on National Radio (I only listen to it at work to keep myself from turning into a vegetable) on the Panel one of the people on it (I'm real bad with names) said she was sick of Greenies telling her not to use her spa etcetera. She thinks that environmentalism equals going without, which means going without pleasure. Well, if that's the way many others think too, we're doomed.

So many people equate material things with happiness. I can't have pleasure in my life without my spa. In my opinion that's an extremely narrow view on the world.

The nature of happiness is something that everyone understands because it's so simple and logical, but not many truly apply the philosphy to their lives. Happiness is a state of mind where you are content, if not overjoyed with the way things are right now. I've had a really good day - I haven't done anything special and, indeed, minimising my impact on the environment has been in the back of my mind for everything I've done. I've been alone, and done menial tasks. But it's a nice day and I'm happy to be alive.

If you believe strongly enough that material pleasures equal happiness then you may well be happy, but that attitude will cost us the Earth. However, lots of people fall into the trap that pleasure equals happiness, and thus gradually become less and less satisfied as you want more and more pleasure. Happiness is loving yourself, loving life and loving those around you. It's not letting the small things get to you, but letting the small things make you happy. You can be happy about reaching your measure of success, happy getting there or happy with things just as they are. Happy because you know what it's like to feel really low, and glad you have little reason to feel that way now.

The real reason why the aforementioned anonymous panel person doesn't like environmentalists telling her what to do is because she doesn't like being told what to do. She doesn't like being told that her way of life, which is what she knows and how she lives, is bad. People naturally respond to criticism and being told what to do in a negative way. And major change is often resisted. But it all comes back to what is truly important. Those around us, ourselves, and therefore the environment on which we depend.

Environmentalists don't want everyone dead because people are intrisicly bad for the environment (as she suggested). We just realise that if we're to stick around we need to live sustainably. But if we're ever to get there, we need to look at the positives as we slowly, but surely, move in that direction.

Friday, 11 April 2008

$10 billion? What the hell man, what the hell.

What a nerve the free-riding generation has. First they get an almost-free education. Then they screw up the planet for us and get rid of our free education. Then they allow housing prices to skyrocket and do nothing, and finally they get to retire for free too. Student loans have now totaled $10 billion! What the hell man, what the hell?

Our economy is larger than ever before, and we are far wealthier than ever before overall. But getting an education is more and more expensive. Why? Eight and a half years of Labour and all they've done is give us measly interest free loans - already late in the game too. If we'd wanted unsustainable economic growth we would've kept National in power.

A couple of shocking facts:

There is a significant reduction of university enrolments from students from poorer backgrounds, down from 15 percent in 2004 to 6 percent in 2007.

Average student debt has risen 54 percent in the period 2004 to 2007 to a disturbing $28,838

(Source: NZUS Income Expenditure Survey 2007, wording from Young Greens $10 billion debt day leaflet)

So the income and education gap is growing between rich and poor, and the mountain to climb to reach a debt-free life for all is growing too. No wonder so many people are moving off-shore. It's like we're forcing them out.

We need free education and a Universal Student Allowance so we can live. Everyone will be richer for it. Education is fundamental to quality of life and advancement of society.

I'm not looking forward to starting my life of debt when I start studying next year.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

I'm sorry TV3...

It would appear I was wrong in my 5 April post about the Methyl Bromide protest when I said TV3 didn't run the news story about it when they sent cameras. They did, I just couldn't find it. However, I'm still mad at the Dom Post. It was a local story to Wellington - where was the freakin' article?

By the way, I'm not one of the people in white suits - I missed out. I'm a blackish blob in the background with a gas mask on. I'm famous!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Do you support the fair trade deal with China?

Though admittedly I haven't gone through the deal (that was made public on the day of the signing) with a fine-tooth comb (who has the time to do that?), here are a few things about the deal.

China has an abysmal human rights record. They have a single party system, and voices of dissent are oppressed with Chinese efficiency. Unions are destroyed if they ever start to form, and there is widespread use of child labour. But what does opening up our trade barriers have to do with this? And we can talk to them better now that we've given them preferential trade, right? Besides, we're going to make a killing out of this deal. Local manufacturers will be hurt, but they are almost gone already anyway, and they'll be given time to "adjust" before tariffs are removed completely (ie. move their manufacturing to China). We are an exporting nation, so will benefit greatly. We should be proud that we were the first nation to stand beside the senior Chinese Party officials and put our flag up next to the Chinese one to signify a uniting of two nations under the auspices of trade.

Please vote in poll now, or before it closes if you need time to think and read about it.

PS It's a bit of a fallacy to call it a "free" trade deal. No free trade deal is truly free - otherwise it would be a very simple document. An almost free trade deal is what it really is, with a few mentions of immigration and stuff.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Do I trust internet polls?

Time for my opinion on my poll this week. The result showed that some people were trusting, and some people very paranoid. But it mainly shows not many people are visiting my blog so far...

As for me, I would go with the smallest minority (ie. I do trust people, OK?!?! Just not everyone.) Internet polls have no statistical basis whatsoever - so keep that in mind when viewing the results to my polls (as this will be especially the case for ones that have very few votes). Internet polls are not a representative sample of anything, they are just who visits the site and wants to vote. So whenever the media quotes internet polls, or txt polls, I get really frustrated. They mean nothing! And many people trust them as being accurate polls, because there is a low level of statistical literacy out there. Sure, if a few thousand people voted it might give a very rough indication of the population's feelings, but it's nothing to be reported about. The purpose internet polls serve is to raise an issue (which is what I will use mine for mainly), add an interactive aspect to the site, and to show the media outlet the opinions of their viewers. So don't trust them!

As an interesting side-note, I heard that because the "scientifically" done polls (where they try and get a representative sample of the population) only use landlines to call people, they miss a disproportionate amount of less-well off people, as many of them only have cell phones to avoid paying landline connection charges. So polls are often slightly more right-wing than the actual truth. Don't know how true this is, but it reaffirms that it is very difficult to get a truly representative sample, even when your trying to.

Watch out for my next statistically-irrelevant poll, which I will put up tomorrow.

Party time!

Last night I had my official leaving party for my trip. It was three weeks out from it, but still a good excuse to party and drink binge-ing-ly. The collection of bottles wasn't majorly impressive as you can see, but as usual some people had too much to drink. Silly kiwis.

Sorry for those of you who should have been invited but weren't - I'm only human. But there's still time to say good bye. And thanks to all that came - great to see you (slash meet you in a couple cases).

But yes, party time is such a great human invention. Connections with others are so vital to our lives, and it's fantastic to be able to talk to so many people in one night, as well as just generally have a good time and have a beer (or two...). There's so many good people in this world, and we are so lucky in New Zealand. I will miss everyone and I will miss Wellington.

For those who still aren't in the know (and for those who have never met me), here is the run-down of my trip that I published for my party's "Information Table" so that I didn't have to talk about it over and over last night:

Zack’s Trip

(So that you don’t have to ask him about the details ‘cause he’s already talked about his trip heaps).

Zack leaves on 26 April to Sao Paulo in Brazil. It is here he will be attending the second Global Green and Global Young Greens Congress. This is a body of over one hundred associated Green Parties around the world. The theme of the Congress is Climate Change, though more issues will be discussed.

He then has two weeks of freedom during which his only plans are to make it to Rio de Janeiro, which isn’t too far north of Sao Paulo. From here he will start a tour, which will take him up to the Amazon River and into Venezuela, ending up in the capital Caracas.

From Caracas he flies on 1 July to Guadalajara in Mexico where his sister currently resides. He will spend a month of QT there. From here he flies on 1 August to Ottawa. This is where most of his extended Canadian family lives, and he will spend a month of QT with these simple, friendly Canadian folk.

Finally, after spending a few days in LA with some random peeps, he will return to NZ on 5 September 2008AD, after spending over four months on the trip the that would later be regarded as the journey that made him great, and that would subsequently lead him to change the world forever. (Perhaps a wee premature, but just you wait).

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Mmm... Drugs.

In my search for a source for my claim in my post last night that alcohol should be classified as a Class B drug (which I heard twice on National radio - one from a Lincoln University study, and another from an English academic who was visiting NZ and is an expert on drugs. But evidently they don't keep full archives on their website) I came across this interesting graph on the BBC website. It was from a Science Select Committee inquiry in Britain in 2006. They recommended that a more evidence-based rating system for drugs be introduced, showing the true harm rating of drugs, rather than this Class A B C system that both they and us have, which is widely off the mark. Note Class A drugs that are way down the scale, including Ecstasy (given a bad reputation because old people don't like young people staying up all night and dancing) and LSD (given a bad rep from old squares not liking hippies). Alcohol comes in the fifth most harmful drug, with BZPs close behind (which have been illegal in Britain for some time). But the colouration of the graph best sums things up about our current, dishonest and unconstructive system.

On another note, a couple of my friends who used to take BZP pills tried some of the new pills last night. At the time they said they were crap and had little effect. Don't know about all the varieties, and there are supposedly more on the way, but for those wanting energy, could be best to stick to caffeine and guarana.

Toxic gas? So?

I attended a protest yesterday outside Aotea Wharf in Wellington. The issue? Well, it seems the Wellington Regional Council is turning a blind eye to the spraying of an odourless and highly-toxic gas out in the open at the port, which it has an 85% stake in. Methyl Bromide has been linked with all sorts of horrible illnesses, and has been shown to be dispersed widely when sprayed out in the open - which is especially a problem in windy Wellington. Furthermore, it is an ozone-depleting gas - which you think New Zealand would be much tougher on given our high rate of skin cancer caused by the hole in the ozone layer. Methyl Bromide is used to fumigate logs, and I was shocked to hear it was being regularly sprayed in downtown Wellington when other parts of the country have had a guts-full of it being sprayed in their neck of the woods.

So a group of concerned young folk - including myself - and a couple of Green celebrities - Sue Kedgley and Steffan Browning - stood outside the fence around the logs yesterday to protest, and get some media coverage of the issue. We even donned white suits and gas masks to get attention. All was going well with a TV camera, and a late Dom Post photographer. So where the hell is the report and article about this issue which is incredibly important to the health and well-being of Wellingtonians? Not even a small mention, that I could find anyway.

Well at least someone's fighting the good fight, with Sue Kedgley launching a petition that same day, calling on the spraying of Methyl Bromide to be halted immediately: until such time as they have proper facilities in place to capture the gas, before it can escape into the atmosphere and the lungs of Wellington-peeps.

Friday, 4 April 2008

RIP BZP, hello... um... WTF?

Congratulations to Jim Anderton for perpetuating the "Wack-A-Mole" syndrome in the "War on Drugs". (Sorry to use such horribly American terms, but it seems, as usual, the US is at the forefront of this stupid, futile and costly war). Yes, earlier this week BZP was made illegal thanks to him, but I still can't quite figure out why. It is now a Class C drug - whereas alcohol should be a Class B drug. Yet he hasn't made that illegal (I will endeavour to find a source for that statement). In fact it has become more and more readily available in recent years, with the numbers of outlets selling alcohol increasing exponentially. And now, of course, there is a new legal drug all ready to go on the market - and we don't even know what's in it!

A couple of points. Firstly, I thought the outlawing of BZP was going to come with a change to the Misuse of Drugs Act that would make it mandatory that companies had to prove themselves that the new drug they are putting on the market is safe before it went on the market, rather than the Government having to "prove" that it is harmful enough to be illegal before making it illegal. However, I understand that the Act is going to be amended later on this year, and that is a change that will probably be put into it. However...

(Point number two before I go out and have some good sober times on a Friday night. So that I can party harder tomorrow night.) Some minor, or even major amendments to the Misuse of Drugs will not have much of an effect. Why? Because we have such an inconsistent and dishonest approach to drugs in the country (and in much of the world). Inconsistencies in Government policy, where one drug is are allowed to be sold and advertised everywhere pretty much, when it is an extremely harmful drug, and most other drugs are criminal offences even just to possess. But there are misunderstandings on both sides. Of course the law-makers want to be doing what they can to protect citizens, especially younger ones, from harm. They're not going to do that by making them criminals though. If we are ever to grow out of our binge drinking culture, and be able to move to a stage where most people can enjoy drugs safely most of the time (yes, drugs are not all bad. They are a lot of fun, mind expanding, relaxing - many things to many people. We are never going to rid our society of them, and why should we?) we need to be much more level headed and mature when talking about them, and start a dialogue between the different groups in society that have differing views. It's hard, especially when so many people have been affected adversely by drugs, but it is the only way we can move forward.

PS Alcohol is a drug!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Don't be a fossil fool: STOP COAL!

Rumour has it that some young hoodlums viciously attacked the wall outside the new Supreme Court construction site on Lambton Quay in Wellington earlier today. Of course I was not there, so I can only go on what I've heard through the grapevine, but their weapon of choice seems to have been paper, glue, and a highly topical and powerful message. The message said "Don't be a fossil fool: STOP COAL." However it was, as these pictures show, promptly torn down by the man. In bright orange. Who was yelling and stuff, from what I hear.

As to whether or not Helen Clark and friends looked out of their office windows, saw the message, and realised that they were allowing a disgusting, dirty and ultimately deadly industry to continue pillaging the environment in New Zealand, and therefore decided then and there to outlaw it completely, remains to be seen.