Hard News by Russell Brown



I had a disorientating feeling on Saturday evening: I was watching a game of rugby, from Eden Park's ASB Stand, and it occurred to me that I didn't know the rules. I can't recall the last time that was the case.

I have not closely studied the Experimental Law Variations under which this year's Super 14 is being played -- it's summer, for God's sake -- and while some of them are easy enough to grasp (the backline must now assemble five metres back from the scrum, rather than crowd up at the last feet, for example), Lyndon Bray whistled a series of free kicks at the breakdown that were a mystery to me.

I'm sure that if I'd been watching the game on TV, those modern sages, the commentators, would have been all over it. But not knowing was … odd.

The Blues v Chiefs game certainly was fast, especially in the second half. Although it is clearly not a given that the ELVs reduce the number of scrums in a game. A team with a clear advantage at scrum time, as the Blues had, will clearly opt to pack down rather than scramble a free kick, much of the time.

Other observations: they're trying very hard this year with the trains at the upgraded Eden Park station. And is Danny Lee really our best halfback?

Earlier in the day, with the morning to kill in Wellington, I had popped across the road to Te Papa to encounter what turned out to be its 10th anniversary weekend. I made a special effort and visited the pats I usually skip on my way up to commune with the "Polynesian tat" (cf: Duncan Fallowell) in the Level 4 gallery. I still came away a bit dissatisfied and confused. I know the kids love it, but could we also have some comprehensive, well-lit exhibitions for grown-ups?

Props to the owner of the Museum Hotel, Chris Parkin, who noticed my complaint about the collapse of paid internet service at his hotel last week. He was onto it very quickly, and got back to me to explain what had happened:

Interestingly, the problem seems to have arisen through lack of communication between techos and lay people (often the case in this rapidly changing environment).

Our system is an in-house system developed in conjunction with a firm of software engineers. What we were not aware of, is that the system only caters for 45 users at a time. We have a large American film crew (50 rooms) in house at the moment, who make heavy use of the system, and at odd times of the day, and with the additional load from the Webstock group, many users either missed out, or found the system very slow.

This will be corrected tomorrow (2 weeks too late unfortunately) and sufficient lines allocated so all rooms are guaranteed service and full speed.

I guess it is just Murphy's law that if something can go wrong, not only will it, but at the worst possible time. However, at least you have helped us identify a problem of which we might otherwise have remained unaware.

Happy to help. It wasn't the first time I've felt embarrassed about guest geeks' experience of our internet service in Wellington, the most broadband-minded of our cities. (The film crew, by the way, is in town for Avatar.)

Chris also responded to my question about the remarkable art collection on display at the hotel, which includes a McCahon and couple of Brent Wongs: "The art collection is mine. I treat the hotel as 'my large house' and like to share my taste in art with our guests. Glad you enjoyed it."

I think Audrey Young and John Armstrong are pretty much on the mark on the Owen Glenn story, although Audrey is far too kind to her colleague Fran O'Sullivan, whose swivel-eyed, poorly-written column on Saturday was just a bit sad.

And just for a change of pace, MIT's John Tirman has a fascinating piece for Editor & Publisher about the media war on the Lancet studies of mortality in Iraq, and in particular what he describes as the "hatchet job" in the National Journal. His annotated version of the Journal story, linked from the article, is an interesting read:

The topic of the war’s exceptional human costs, now inflamed by these calumnies, appears to be too hot to handle. Even with all this fuss in January, no explorations of the Iraqi mortality from the war have appeared in the major dailies. No editorials, no examination of the methods (or the danger and difficulty of collecting data), no sense that the scale of killing might affect the American position, or might shed some light on U.S. war strategy, or might point to honorable exits and reconstruction obligations. Remarkably, no curiosity at all about the dead of Iraq, and what they can tell us.

The graph below, from a recent Pew Research report, bears out the idea that while a significant number of Americans want to stay abreast of the situation in Iraq, their news media have all but abandoned reporting on the war:


PS: Happy fifth birthday to No Right Turn, and fourth birthday to Blogging it Real.

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