30 March 2016

The merest pittance for Muriel Bromborough

'Oh, Brancepeth,' said the girl, her voice trembling, 'why haven't you money? If only you had the merest pittance - enough for a flat in Mayfair and a couple of good cars and a villa in the South of France and a bit of trout fishing on some decent river, I would risk all for love. But as it is...'

- P.G. Wodehouse, 'Buried Treasure', in Weekend Wodehouse, 1939.

See also:
Comedy: Knuts & spats, 17 August 2013
Comedy: Wodehouse in Hollywood, 12 February 2013
ComedyThe fine art of stage direction in musical comedies, 15 February 2012

1954 Austin-Healey 100

1954 Austin-Healey 100 BN1, which was built from 1953 to 1955, photographed at Cable Bay, Nelson, 25 March 2016. 

22 March 2016

The Equaliser

Cuba St, Wellington, 22 March 2016

The tax paid on New Zealand's highest incomes

As top incomes have risen, the rate of tax levied on those incomes has fallen. In the 1980s, the top tax rate was cut from 60 percent to 33 percent (the tax cut offset somewhat by the closing of a number of tax loopholes and the introduction of a fringe benefit tax); after rising to 39 percent, the top rate is now once again at 33 percent. Income from capital gains (earned from selling assets such as property or shares) has remained almost entirely untaxed.

New Zealand does not have a strongly progressive tax system ('progressive' means that people pay proportionately more tax as their income increases). People on lower incomes pay nearly 30 percent of their income in tax (in part because GST affects a larger proportion of their income); middle-income earners pay less tax, at around 25 percent; and people earning $150,000 a year pay around 34 percent. If untaxed income from capital gains were taken into account, the actual tax rate of New Zealand's highest earners would reduce further - possibly to a point where it would fall below that of the lowest-paid New Zealanders.  Most countries in the developed world tax capital gains; at present, New Zealand largely does not. The tax paid on New Zealand's highest incomes is currently less than in almost any other developed country.

- Max Rashbrooke, The Inequality Debate: An Introduction, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2014, p.65-6.

20 March 2016

It is, is it?

Lorne St, Wellington, 19 March. 'Danger, live equipment - Keep Out - IT 1081 - IS 691 - IS 678 - IT 1033'

15 March 2016

Lived through their vocations, from the past until completion

BBC: 'New Order's Blue Monday was released on 7 March 1983, and its cutting-edge electronic groove changed pop music forever. But what would it have sounded like if it had been made 50 years earlier? In a special film, using only instruments available in the 1930s - from the theremin and musical saw to the harmonium and prepared piano - the mysterious Orkestra Obsolete present this classic track as you've never heard it before'.

10 March 2016

The grand procession of the scald miserable Masons

A GEOMETRICAL View of the Grand PROCESSION of the Scald Miserable MASONS Design'd as they were Drawn up over against Somerset House, in the STRAND, on the twenty Seventh of April Ano. 1742.

Detail of a multi-page etching, presumably part of the collection of the New Zealand Freemasons, displayed in the Wellesley Hotel, Wellington.  The etching was possibly published in 1771, if it has the same provenance as this identical piece in the collection of the British Museum. An American Masonic author believes the 1742 procession was a satirical jibe by opponents of Freemasonry, rather than a legitimate Masonic event. The Somerset House depicted is the previous occupant of the prestigious site; this earlier, Tudor palace was demolished in 1775 to make way for the current palace.

05 March 2016

An established position in the motored gentry

"A closed car does keep the clothes nicer," from Mrs. Babbitt; "You don't get your hair blown all to pieces," from Verona; "It's a lot sportier," from Ted; and from Tinka, the youngest, "Oh, let's have a sedan! Mary Ellen's father has got one." Ted wound up, "Oh, everybody's got a closed car now, except us!"

Babbitt faced them: "I guess you got nothing very terrible to complain about! Anyway, I don't keep a car just to enable you children to look like millionaires! And I like an open car, so you can put the top down on summer evenings and go out for a drive and get some good fresh air. Besides--A closed car costs more money."

"Aw, gee whiz, if the Doppelbraus can afford a closed car, I guess we can!" prodded Ted.

"Humph! I make eight thousand a year to his seven! But I don't blow it all in and waste it and throw it around, the way he does! Don't believe in this business of going and spending a whole lot of money to show off and--"

They went, with ardor and some thoroughness, into the matters of streamline bodies, hill-climbing power, wire wheels, chrome steel, ignition systems, and body colors. It was much more than a study of transportation. It was an aspiration for knightly rank. In the city of Zenith, in the barbarous twentieth century, a family's motor indicated its social rank as precisely as the grades of the peerage determined the rank of an English family--indeed, more precisely, considering the opinion of old county families upon newly created brewery barons and woolen-mill viscounts. The details of precedence were never officially determined. There was no court to decide whether the second son of a Pierce Arrow limousine should go in to dinner before the first son of a Buick roadster, but of their respective social importance there was no doubt; and where Babbitt as a boy had aspired to the presidency, his son Ted aspired to a Packard twin-six and an established position in the motored gentry.

The favor which Babbitt had won from his family by speaking of a new car evaporated as they realized that he didn't intend to buy one this year.

- Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt, 1922

04 March 2016

Remember when I used to be dope, I owned a pocket full of fame

Following a Friday work drinks discussion about the importance of eclectic, wonderful music, here's my contribution: the 1993 collaboration between Daisy Age whimsical rappers De La Soul and Scottish indie triers Teenage Fanclub, "Fallin'" is a lovely, witty slice of loping pop goodness. Sample lyric: 'I knew I blew the whole fandango when the drum programmer wore a Kangol'. From the soundtrack to the film Judgment Night, which has proved rather less enduring than the song.
De La Soul e Teenage Fanclub - Fallin from ale on Vimeo.

A distorted, vulgar repetition of 1964

If Trump is the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton is chosen by the Democrats, the 2016 election may seem like a distorted, vulgar repetition of 1964: a contest between a Republican who scares and repels people, including Republicans, and a Democrat whom many voters, including Democrats, don’t like or trust, leading to an outcome that may change the electoral map again. There are wishful hopes (Governor John Kasich, of Ohio, may be hoping) that no Republican will win the required number of delegates to secure the nomination in the primaries, which could lead to a brokered convention. But a Republican Party with the power to do the brokering no longer seems to exist. Of the two major not-Trumps, Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio, who in any other year might be seen as too far to the right even for the G.O.P., talks incessantly about uniting his party rather than his country, while Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, talks about uniting those who agree with his cruel, narrow outlook. Trump, meanwhile, could barely manage a wobbly disavowal of support from a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The Republican Governor Nikki Haley, of South Carolina, said the other day that the effect of a Trump candidacy on the Party would be to “make us question who we are and what we’re about.” But the other Republican candidates would also prompt that line of questioning.

- Jeffrey Frank, ‘From Goldwater to Trump: When Parties Fail to Stop Alarming Candidates’, New Yorker, 2 March 2016

02 March 2016

Fine-tuning the Robigo run

The Asp Explorer-class smuggling vessel Brabant Ascot 
A much-travelled route in Elite Dangerous is the path from the civilised bubble out around 400 light years to the isolated outpost at Robigo Mines, owned by the mysterious CDE Corporation. Being so far from the rest of humanity, there's obviously demand for the usual accoutrements of modern life, but the main reason most commanders venture out to this particular base is for the lucrative Shadow Delivery contracts that exist, bringing 'certain wares' from Robigo to select systems back in the civilised worlds. The fact that those wares are either stolen or involve contraband human cargo - for Robigo appears to be an entrepot for fenced bullion and slaves - matters little to the credit-hungry commanders who flock to the crowded facility. The only catch: ships carrying the illicit cargo must not be scanned at any point before delivering their ill-gotten cargoes.

Most commanders outfit a Lakon Asp Explorer for the smuggling run, suited as it is to being stripped down for speed both through witchspace and when on the run from pirates and the law. Only the fastest pilots can hope to avoid being scanned and claim the highest delivery contracts - often several million credits per consignment.

My first three attempts at the Robigo Run have fine-tuned my approach to smuggling, which is quite necessary given my relative ineptitude as a pilot. With no weapons and stripped down for speed, the Asp can outrun nearly every other ship in the 'verse, but the trick is avoiding being scanned while entering patrolled main stations. A Docking Computer can really help by permitting the fastest possible approach to the station mailslot, with the computer taking over for the crash-avoiding deceleration to the landing pad. The rewards for a successful return trip can be phenomenal.

The first run in the Brabant Ascot involved stacking around 12 missions from both Open and Solo mode, half of which were Shadow Deliveries (each over MCr1) and half Data Deliveries (usually MCr0.25-0.50 each). My inexperience as a smuggler showed though, because halfway back to civilisation I was pounced by a clutch of Authority Viper interceptors, one of which pinged me with a scan. Missions Failed! Still, after completing the remaining Data Delivery missions I netted a cool profit of MCr5.0 in 82 minutes, a profit rate of MCr3.68 per hour. The main benefit was to my rankings - my trade rating climbed from Broker 74 to 80, my Imperial rank rose from Baron 30 to 35, and my Federation rank climbed a point to Lieutenant 55.

The second run went much more successfully. With only one Shadow Delivery mission failure, and that only due to a mysterious and impossible to achieve 13-minute deadline from Robigo, I delivered every other mission to its correct destination without being scanned. In 97 minutes I earned an enormous MCr18.6 at a rate of MCr11.5 per hour. There was a major rank boost too, as I reached Broker 98, Baron 42 and Lieutenant 60.

In my third and final Robigo run I took mainly Shadow Delivery missions, having decided that the last half hour of a smuggling run shouldn't be spent in boring shuttle runs dropping off paltry data contracts. The run itself proved the usual mix of heart-stopping near misses, pirate and authority interdictions, swift getaways, and in the Federation system of Beldarkri, a near catastrophe when my Asp was nearly stuck in the Johan Station entry mailslot while an authority scan started on me. Luckily I was able to free the ship with a dangerous boost inside the station, which left me with frazzled nerves but a few more ill-earned millions. This time the earnings were slightly lower at MCr17.4 in 66 minutes at a rate of MCr15.85 per hour. Dropping those signal missions proved to be the right move. And my rankings moved to Entrepreneur 5, Baron 54 and Lieutenant 65.

Heady stuff. But now I think it's time to move to the other side of the law and pay back my debt to society. I see the Czerny Terminal shipyard in Lalande 2450 has a nice new Federal Assault Ship with my name on it for a spot of pirate hunting!