Hard News by Russell Brown

Another night on the town

Warmest congratulations to Bizgirl for taking out the Best Personal Blog category at Friday Night's NetGuide Web Awards. I discovered only a day or so previous that I actually knew Bizgirl, only as a bloke, and was thus on the night in a position to introduce her to the rest of the crew, including her cyber-pal, Damian.

I know a lot of people expected us to win as we did last year, including Bizgirl. But the criteria were fairly heavily weighted towards blog-as-personal-diary, which doesn't necessarily fit us, or a number of other well-known blogs that didn't make the list of finalists. (It didn't fit IdolBlog at all, but they won Best Youth Site instead.)

The appearance of the hitherto unknown Tyler Ryan in the list caused a bit of a flap last week. After all, the guy doesn't post very often, no one links to him (well, not till last week anyway) and his spelling and grammar are not best practice. But take a look at his About Me page: he has quite a story to tell, and one that couldn't be told in any other way but through the miracle of the blogosphere. I trust he'll carry on.

The awards night itself was a lot better than last year, thanks largely to its relocation from the Aotea Centre to the more sympathetic environment of the Hyatt. The indoor fireworks were better than the cheesy laser show last year too (although my first thought echoed that of Jacqui Brown: are they allowed to do that?).

Ralph Norris's turgid speech will have slowed any hearts set racing by the pyrotechnics (for me, brought back unhappy memories of being trapped and forced to listen to this sort of thing when I was an IT writer), but otherwise it was a pretty good evening. We met Regan and Rachel from IdolBlog, who were more glamorous than anyone else there, and possibly more clever. They have a post about the evening too, with picture of the fireworks.

Alan Perrott in the Herald got an expert to weigh up the blog finalists. "Intimidating"? Us? We're pussycats, honest …

The awards did make me resolve to put together a proper blogroll for this page, which I will, in some marvellous week when I don't have much else on …

I had planned (and indeed had a ticket) to go and see the Scavengers afterwards, but the CactusLab crew were heading up to the Odeon Lounge to see Pine. I got a lift with them there to discover we'd just missed Alec Bathgate, and that it was a little too folky for my Friday night, so I grabbed Graham Reid by his old hippie long hair, threw him in a taxi and went to the Scavs after all.

We only missed a little bit of their set, which was actually a lot better than I expected - thanks in great part to Dion from the D4's contribution as bass player and singer of all the songs. He provided such momentum that it seemed Des Hefner was just hanging on behind the drumkit. (With the way the lights fell on Des's extensive forehead I kept getting an odd feeling that I was looking at Don Brash playing drums in a punk rock band …)

The Scavs were only added to the MintChicks' Friday night bill after their original Saturday night reunion show sold out, so it was a younger MintChicks crowd rather than a bunch of tottering forty and fiftysomethings, which was a good thing. The MintChicks were cool, and they whacked out 'Orgasm Addict' and 'Beat on the Brat' like it weren't no thing.

In keeping with my practice of making the most of a night out, I then hooked up with my pals Phil and Renee at the Safari Lounge, where Roots Foundation were playing. It was a little quiet, and I wish the sound at the Safari was better, but it was a nice enough way to spend an hour and a few dollars.

Further interruption to sleeping patterns was occasioned on Sunday morning, when a new-look All Blacks ran all around the Italians. It was a little hard to tell exactly what it meant, but it seemed to be a tolerable performance. Saimone Taumoepeau and Conrad Smith certainly stepped up and Dan Carter is certainly cemented as the new first-five. But what happened to the flat backline?

Microsoft's would-be Google-killer is up in beta, but the critics aren't impressed. It seems fine to me, and I certainly like their results for bill pearson fretful sleepers (our publication of the essay also now tops the Google rankings for the same search string).

I'm still in two minds after hearing the recordings of Iraena Asher's 111 calls on Sunday last night. In retrospect, the police made a terrible error in not sending a police car out to Piha to pick her up on that night, but the call-taker did repeatedly try and determine whether she was in immediate danger, and if Discount Taxis had not had a child dispatching cars, she would probably be safe now. What the call-taker didn't pick up, essentially, is that because of her mental state she was in a very poor position to help herself by, for instance, calling one of her family members.

An American friend has forwarded me an email titled "We Suck", which points to an AP story based on this press release about the 2004 Report Card on World Social Progress, which says that the US has fallen from 18th to 27th because of "cuts in social services and chronic poverty in U.S. cities and rural areas during the 90s."

It's actually a little misleading, because the US also ranked 27th in the last such audit, in 1998. But wasn't all that marvelous welfare reform supposed to have improved things by now? All of the top 10 countries bar Iceland are in Europe.

In 1998, New Zealand ranked 19th, alongside Spain and Japan, but with the same score as the UK and Spain who were ninth equal. The new tables don't appear to have been published yet, but it will be interesting to see whether we've advanced - and to speculate on how much the social agenda outlined yesterday at the Labour Party conference might push things along. But I'd better read today's paper before pronouncing on all that …