Hard News by Russell Brown

Things I never knew

We have such educated readers. Gabor Toth got in touch to point out some things about our soon-to-be obsolete silver coins that I didn't know. July 31 will be really the end of an era. But I'll let him explain:

One of the sad (but little known) things about the upcoming coinage change is we will lose an extraordinary link with the past that goes back hundreds of years.

Our current five and ten cent coins are based on the sixpence and shilling respectively. These date back to the reign of Edward VI in 1550. Our 50 cent piece is based on the half crown introduced in 1526 during the reign of Henry VIII. The size and weight of these coins were standardised during the time of George III and they haven't changed since. NZ is one of the last countries to still use this Georgian standard (well - until the end of the month anyway).

Our 20 cent coin is a youngster in comparison. Based on the florin (two shillings), its size and weight were not standardised until the early 1850's.

Matt Barrett had a rather different, but equally interesting, angle:

Thought you might be interested to know a little piece of trivia regarding the old 50 cent coins.

In Switzerland, of all places, they are readily accepted by most vending machines in place of 5 Franc coins. 5 Francs are about $6 NZD - so, as long as you don't mind ripping off the Swiss, you can do quite well.

It doesn't hurt that all manner of things come via vending machines - most profitably, train tickets and cigarettes.

So - stock up on those 50 cent coins before they go out of circulation, should you ever intend to find yourself in Switzerland.

That, of course, would be wrong …

It can sometimes be hard to get more signal than noise on the climate change issue, but Jim Hansen's piece in the current issue of the New York Review of Books is a work of pinpoint clarity. Hansen, you may recall, is the senior NASA climate scientist who came under heavy manners a little while ago for speaking publicly on the issue, and his review of books by Tim Flannery and Elizabeth Kolbert, plus both the book and movie versions of An Inconvenient Truth is compulsory reading.

Don't say we never do anything for you. My online rugby buddy Steve Hodge kindly excerpted Ali Williams' much-in-demand dumping of George Gregan in Saturday's test match and I've uploaded it to YouTube to share the love.

This being the week for both YouTube gems and altered states, I'm happy to pass on Craig Foltz' recommendation of this clip of James Brown off his tits on television. He does feel good.

NZHistory.net.nz has a couple of interesting new things. There's a section on the nuclear free movement in New Zealand, that - nice! - links to our publication of the Lange speech. And a 20th anniversary feature on homosexual law reform.

The Kiwi Herald gets to the nub of the child poverty issue.

And Tumeke's auction of the flag they wouldn't sell on Trade Me (ie: the one Tame Iti shot) closes at 4pm tomorrow.