Hard News by Russell Brown


And on into a whole new year

It's Foo time! Kiwi Foo Camp is on this weekend, and I expect to emerge intellectually enriched, much the wiser and only a teeny bit hungover.

The event is billed as being the work of Nat Torkington and myself, but my credit considerably overstates the case. My major contribution is really as the purveyor of beverages, in which spirit may I thank Monteith's and my new friends at Eden Coffee and EspressoWorkz.

Meanwhile, perhaps you could make a difference by signing the Independent's petition relating to this case:

A young man, a student of journalism, is sentenced to death by an Islamic court for downloading a report from the internet. The sentence is then upheld by the country's rulers. This is Afghanistan – not in Taliban times but six years after "liberation" and under the democratic rule of the West's ally Hamid Karzai.

The fate of Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has led to domestic and international protests, and deepening concern about erosion of civil liberties in Afghanistan. He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed.

I'm not aware of a comparable petition to our own government.

What the graffiti artists say abut the death of Pihema Cameron.

Going about its work: Aucklandista --- sister site of well, you know. We needed y'all …

The Wellingtonists themselves have a guide to surviving the Sevens if you're not actually going, and a little word on Yahoo!Xtra not working with one of its more valuable Flickr communities.

An excellent remix of the infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video.

If you missed The Daily Show's wonderful interview with US presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, it's here. She is what we refer to in broadcasting as "good talent".

Not the pilot you need when you're 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.

Coolest thing on Public Address System you may not have seen: reader Amy Gale digests Titus Andronicus in lolcat. Genius.

Most interesting and energised thing: Kracklite lets rip:

Funding has shifted more towards 'Performance Based research Funding', which puts pressure on academics to follow the 'publish or perish' mode. I have no problem with that in principle, as that is what universities should be for - centres of research, not graduate factories. Unfortunately, it's been clumsily executed and often academics are trying to both teach in bulk and produce recognised 'outputs'. Things at XXXXXX got very Dilbert.

What appears to be pissing Tim Shadbolt off is simply that times and polices have changed and SIT benefited from bums on seats and would not adapt to the new model of research-based funding. That institution is a dinosaur, a poor university expecting university funding when it should be a polytechnic, even though 'polytechnic' is considered infradig nowadays. Shadbolt, in my opinion, is an idiot, with his idiocy compounded by the institution's short-sighted management and ham-fisted government policy.

What's been presented by both Key and Clark is piecemeal, lacking strategic context and relevance. I don't see either of the main parties having a coherent and practical long-range plan to deal with post-secondary education, be it trade, professional or academic. They have separate needs and none should compromise their quality by pretending to be another - and let the students have their wanderjahr before they decide on what they should do.

It's been a good January here, but my year really starts now. I'll be speaking at Webstock (where ticketed entry is still available for some workshops, along with general conference entry). I like that the Webstock crew have done this.

On return, I'll be ramping up the use of the 'Speaker' slot here, inviting some more people to step up; and starting work on my Big New Thing.

Meanwhile, we have a meeting this morning that will have a major bearing on our son's future. Thanks to everyone who was so nice and supportive after my post on humans.org.nz last week. We're moving forward.

And, finally, a shopping tip. The Goldmine in Ponsonby (opposite the Women's Bookshop and Magazzino) has a huge swag of stock from the now-defunct Petra Ceramics factory. I picked up a nice baking dish and some pretty little bowls …

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