23 March 2017

The consolations of electrocution

Hospitals are excellent at responding to physical suffering, but what about suffering from boredom? For many there are long waits which can get boring. It may sound trivial or luxurious doing nothing, but could boredom be a problem that impacts on health outcomes and performance of hospitals? Is this a hidden malaise of hospital life?

Many struggle with doing nothing. A study found over two thirds of men, and a quarter of women, preferred electrocuting themselves rather than sitting in a blank room thinking for fifteen minutes...

- Elizabeth Burns, 'Pass me an anti-boredom pill doctor', BMJ Opinion, 2 March 2017

18 March 2017

2nd test v South Africa, day 3

Day 3 of the second test turned out to also be the last, as South Africa shot out New Zealand to take an eight wicket victory in double-quick time. Adding 10 runs to their overnight score, the tourists ended up with a first innings score of 359, a lead of 91 on New Zealand's score. Then New Zealand only managed to bat for 63.2 overs, accruing a mere 171, with only opener Jeet Raval impressing with 80 off 174 balls. A dismal seven New Zealand batsmen were dismissed for single digit scores, with James Neesham's dismissal particularly galling. Durban-born Keshav Maharaj achieved his best bowling figures by taking 40 for 6, and South Africa had little difficulty in knocking off a short chase to take the match with two days to spare. From a spectator's perspective the main feature of the day at the Basin was the bone-chilling southerly, which forced me out of the ground after two sessions to the much-needed refuge of a hot shower! 

Vance Stand view

Inspecting the wicket

Vernon Philander bowls

Jeet Raval's half-century

11 March 2017

Book whisperer



Absolutely legendary second-hand book find today at Arty Bees - I've been looking for the first edition of Judith Schalansky's Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will for around seven years. Every so often I check in bookshops just in case. So today I went into Arty Bees for the first time in about six months and asked for it, and the lady at the desk was justifiably incredulous because it had literally just been purchased and was sitting 20cm away atop a stack set aside to put in the shop window!

The perils of carpetbagging

It's unclear what former Porirua mayor Nick Leggett has done to deserve such uncritical coverage as Jo Moir's catchily-titled 'Nick Leggett putting family before politics - calls quits on running for National in the Mana seat' in today's Dominion Post. Granted, he still retains some of the high profile and goodwill he generated during his two successful terms as Porirua's fourth mayor from 2010 to 2016. But since he stood down from that role and gambled big in a series of decisions that overestimated his political capital, Leggett has failed to convince anyone else to buy into his personal agenda. These high-stakes gambles have seemingly combined to greatly diminish his political standing, a point that seems to be missed in Moir's article.

To recap: Leggett felt he had a good shot at the Labour nomination for the Wellington mayoralty, but this went to poster-boy and all-round safe pair of hands Justin Lester. In his first gamble, Leggett decided to stand against Lester on a well-funded independent ticket, trusting that his personal profile and successful track record in Porirua would translate to a big tick in the capital. However, his performance in mayoral debates (at least the ones I attended and read about) seemed to be more about sour grapes at Lester's nomination than about a compelling vision for the city. On election day voters elected Lester with a healthy majority, with Leggett achieving a commendable second placing but still 7200 votes behind Lester's 31,900 tally.

Newly out of work, Leggett then concocted the brilliant wheeze of switching his political allegiance from Labour to National. (One Twitter wag suggested John Key's resignation shortly afterwards was a direct result). This illustrated that Labour leader Andrew Little's public comments about Leggett being a right-winger, which media commentators attacked at the time, as being wholly accurate. 

In one sense Leggett swapping sides made sense because the Labour brand had outlasted its usefulness and relevance to Leggett, but the flip side of this decision is that voters can choose to punish candidates who appear disloyal to the parties who have nurtured their political careers. Tariana Turia leaving Labour to establish the Maori Party over fundamental political differences is one thing, but Leggett jumping ship to National had a strong whiff of careerism and opportunism to it. Certainly, some right-of-centre voters will now look on Leggett more favourably, but I'm guessing the net result is that his brand is considerably weaker.

Witness the development that spurred Moir's article. On joining National, Leggett would have hoped that his high profile would translate into a nomination to replace Hekia Parata as National's candidate for the Mana electorate, which covers his old Porirua mayoral turf. But no. National, quite sensibly it must be said, would rather put up a loyal party worker to lose against Kris Faafoi in September (majority in 2014: almost 8000). Perhaps it will be a candidate from a minority community, to further National's long-term strategy to diversify its overwhelming image as a party of Pakeha males.

Perhaps Leggett has other irons in the fire and will surprise everyone with an announcement of a candidacy or a list spot for the 2017 election. But until then, he will have to resort to the hoary old refuge of generations of US male politicians caught philandering*, that cliche of spending more time with his family. And possibly pondering the wisdom of his high-risk gamble to ditch the Porirua mayoralty.

(* To be absolutely clear, I'm not accusing Leggett of any such infidelity!)

09 March 2017

Sounds familiar

'[L]eaders who are highly successful in chaotic contexts can develop an overinflated self-image, becoming legends in their own minds. When they generate cultlike adoration, leading actually becomes harder for them because a circle of admiring supporters cuts them off from accurate information'.

- D.J.Snowden & M.E.Bourne, 'A leader's framework for decision making', Harvard Business Review, November 2007.

01 March 2017

An enemy whose hostility was to be unabated

Historian Paul Moon describes the sour relationship in the 1830s between the Colonial Office and the New Zealand Association, the fly-by-night settler company that would later change its name to the New Zealand Company and establish a range of colonies in New Zealand including Wellington:

'Although [Edward Gibbon] Wakefield and his disciples had succeeded in lodging their claws into the thinking of some officials and members of the House of Commons, it was [Undersecretary] James Stephen himself who remained Wakefield's most vigorous and highly-ranked opponent. Moreover, he did not conceal his feelings about Wakefield's organisation, as he confessed in an 1840 memorandum in which he announced that 'The Company had discovered from the first that I had been an opponent of their scheme'. Stephen's opposition to the New Zealand Association can be traced back to June 1837, when he wrote a note in the margin of a piece of correspondence from Lord Melbourne to Glenelg regarding a proposed Bill to give Government sanction for the Association's expansion into New Zealand. Stephen wrote that any assumption of sovereignty over the colony '...would infallibly issue in the conquest and extermination of the present inhabitants'. 

Stephen rejected Wakefield's rabid urge to colonise and his implicit disregard for native races, but above all, the animosity Stephen felt for Wakefield grew from his personal dislike of this private coloniser, as he later stated to Lord Howick: 'I saw plainly that the choice before me was that of having Mr Wakefield for an official acquaintance whose want of truth and honour would render him most formidable in that capacity or for an enemy whose hostility was to be unabated. I deliberately preferred his enmity to his acquaintanceship; and I rejoice that I did so'. 

Howick, though, was more sanguine in his opinion of Wakefield's efforts, and spoke in the House of Commons in June 1839 in a moderately positive tone about the principles on which the New Zealand Association's operations were based: 'As far as I am aware, the benefits to be derived from an undue dispersion of settlers in a new territory, with the means by which this object can be best accomplished and the necessity of combined labour, which in a new country can only be secured by artificially maintaining a proper proportion between the members of the population and the extent of land which they occupy, had entirely escaped the notice of all writers upon political economy, until they were stated in the works of Mr Wakefield'. This was far from an unqualified endorsement, but nevertheless reflected the type of rift that existed in the British Government between hawkish interventionists on the one hand, and those who urged a more cautious and guarded approach on the other'.

- Paul Moon, The Path to the Treaty of Waitangi, Auckland, 2002, p.79-80.

See also:
History: Colenso's grave, 12 January 2015 
History: The lifeblood of a young colony, 12 June 2009
History: Forest lords & mission houses, 16 January 2009