Hard News by Russell Brown

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    how will this state get mail delivered?

    Serbia got mail when it was under sanction by the rest of the world. You could even order stuff from Amazon with an address like: 11 Milosevic St, Belgrade, Croatia. Amazon would ship it, the Croat post would get it and think: "stupid yanks don't know what country Belgrade's in" and redirect the package.

    Today, you can post stuff to Northern Cyprus, which is unrecognised by the rest of the world.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Simon Grigg,

    I've been writing banking software since '98

    I think the banks here in Indonesia are still using the beta of that software. Any chance you could have a word with them about an upgrade?

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3284 posts Report

  • giovanni tiso,

    I would also like to point out that I once chanced upon myself being described as an "extreme Marxist" in the forums of Trade Me.

    An extreme Marxist is somebody who reads Gramsci while skydiving, presumably?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report

  • James Liddell,

    Very blunt indeed. 150 sq m is a pretty large floor space for a shop, and would catch all sorts of dairies and independent liquor outlets. Will we now no longer be able to grab a bottle of Riesling at Monty's superette or Wineseeker on our way to a BYO restaurant, but have to tramp off to a supermarket or biq liquor barn instead?

    The Bill does not prohibit any shop with a floor space less than 150 sq metres selling alcohol. Rather, it is grocery stores with less than 150 sq m that the legislation targets. Your local bottle store should be unaffected. (see s.17 of the Bill).

    The problem this seeks to rectify is the fact that it was never intended under the original legislation (and subsequent amendments) for dairies to be able to sell alcohol. In fact they were specifically prohibited under s.36(3)(b) of the SoLA. But they got around this by arguing that they were actually groceries (s.36(1)(d)(ii)), not dairies.

    Semantics? Possibly, but the legal distinction is (supposedly) there in the law.

    Now, applying it in real life, is Shalimar's a dairy or a grocery store? I would've assumed that it was a dairy (based on size) but apparently the DLA felt otherwise.

    Does this matter? Well a multitude of research evidence shows a very strong causal link between outlet density (i.e. the number of booze shops) and alcohol-related harm in a community. Reducing the number of outlets, therefore, should reduce the harm. That's the basis of the policy.

    I personally don't have a problem with dairies such as Shalimar not being able to sell booze. I'd much rather go to my local bottle shop where there is a greater range of beers and wines from which I can choose. And maybe, just maybe, requiring people to make an extra effort and go further than the local dairy to purchase some booze might have some impact on our appalling drinking record.

    /end rant.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2007 • 102 posts Report

  • James Liddell,

    An extreme Marxist is somebody who reads Gramsci while skydiving, presumably?

    Reading Lenin's Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism whilst bungy jumping, surely?

    Wellington • Since Jul 2007 • 102 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    Regulation obviously can control alcohol usage. Countries with very strict laws make this very obvious. Conversely, removing regulation absolutely will not reduce usage. At best, it could have no effect. When people said that the Prohibition didn't work, they weren't saying that it had no effect on alcohol consumption. They were saying that the side effects were worse than the problem, namely the enormously profitable illegal business of selling alcohol, and all the flow on effects of such a powerful and popular drug being only available from hardened criminals.

    The question of how big a shop should be allowed to sell alcohol seems pretty irrelevant to me. It's a question for local communities, and each community will have different preferences. I'm quite happy to buy my grog at the supermarket, since I go there with the car, and booze weighs a lot. I also buy my milk and bread there too. I personally don't want a grog shop of any kind on my street, boutique or otherwise. But that's because I don't want any shops of any kind on my street. I chose a quiet suburban street because that's where I want to live at the moment. And still I get yahoo kids doing burnouts every night.

    When I was younger and living in Melbourne I lived above 4 separate Italian restaurants, a bottlo, and there was a 7-11 right across the road. I liked that then too. There were drunken yahoos of every description carrying on all night long, particularly during Formula One season, or the soccer World Cup. At least once per night each restaurant would dump all the empty bottles in a bin just below my balcony. Visitors would leap to their feet thinking there had been a car crash. I scarcely noticed it.

    One size does not fit all on this question. Obviously the way that rural people buy their alcohol has to be different from suburban people. And there will be differences between inner city, inner suburbs, middle suburbs and outer suburbs. Most people choosing to live anywhere further out than the inner suburbs will have cars and find going to the supermarket extremely convenient. Further in and the car could be a liability, in which case there's a good case for more distributed shops (and of course there ARE more distributed shops, for this reason).

    Then there's kids. Of course stricter laws in some areas will make it harder for kids to get alcohol. But getting alcohol will still be extremely easy. The whole country is awash with the stuff. Always has been. If there is a problem (I'm not convinced that anything has changed, or ought to), then it's a social problem driven entirely by the demand for alcohol, not the supply of it. Personally, I doubt that we have the ability to alter anything at all, so far as the emerging culture of youth goes. The next generations will decide for themselves what their values are, and so they should. Since my generation is hardly a wonderful role model, any advice towards moderation seems like hypocrisy in the extreme.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I have observed that the young, until about 25, have undeveloped taste buds. They can't discriminate clearly between different kinds of tastes, or the dimensions, or quality of them. Which is why they prefer sweet alcohol RTDs - one dimensional taste sensations. Wine/beer (the crafted sort) is perceived as too sour.

    From what I can remember, when we're born, we only like the taste of yummy sweet things as a survival mechanism to ensure that babies will enjoy drinking mother's milk.

    This is also why children often don't enjoy eating the same food as their parents.

    The sense of taste develops as we get older. Where we previously were revolted by olives, as adults we happily eat them. Oh, and coffee - that's a big one.

    So it makes sense that this affects young drinkers too. When I was a teen, I couldn't stand beer; I preferred, uh, Miami wine cooler (out of the cask).

    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report

  • stephen walker,

    Israel, that bastion of Western Democracy in the Middle East, famous for its...bombing, starving and slaughtering of entire populations whenever it feels like it. Oh, and stealing as much land as it wants. All made possible by the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, the United States of America, supplying military hardware and diplomatic cover, 24/7 for over 60 years!

    sorry, but most of the stuff i see in the Guardian seems rather...timid.

    and, seeing we had Counterpunch mentioned up-thread...

    Brian Cloughley: Israel is Immune From Criticism
    Mike Whitney: The Gaza Bloodbath
    Saree Makdisi: What Kind of Security Will This Barbarism Bring Israel?

    ...speak the plain truth, no mincing words or pretending these are not war crimes on a massive scale.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 646 posts Report

  • Glenn Pearce,

    I've been writing banking software since '98, and IMO it's not that big a deal. Sure, it's non trivial and probably expensive to implement, but you wouldn't need any technological breakthroughs, just a lot of coding. In effect, we would have three times as many bank accounts, and inter-system protocols would need to support three values rather than one transaction value.

    Mikaere, for what it's worth, I've been a software developer for over 20 years too so I've got a rough idea about this sort of stuff thanks. The point is not whether it's "technically" doable or not but the COST involved would be horrendous.

    The introduction of the Euro and the period where most of the Euro countries had to support dual currencies would be the best comparison. This is not limited to the banking system, it's every single piece of software that records $ values. Every Retail POS system, every Accounting package, every billing system, virtually every corporate database would need to be changed.....

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I personally don't have a problem with dairies such as Shalimar not being able to sell booze.

    So you think it's ok, as a knee-jerk political reaction, to take a hard-working family's livelihood away? Because it might (read won't) stop a few people being drunk and obnoxious.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Mikaere, for what it's worth, I've been a software developer for over 20 years too so I've got a rough idea about this sort of stuff thanks. The point is not whether it's "technically" doable or not but the COST involved would be horrendous.

    Yes, the cost would be high. No argument.

    But I see it as an investment in long-term benefits. Very long term, and benefits that are IMO currently immeasurable - in the same kind of way that the benefit of the personal computer was immeasurable as at the mid-70s.

    We can't continue along the current economic path, it is simply non-sustainable. My proposal is about investing in evolving out economic system into one that is able to fully cost our economic activities.

    It will not be cheap, but it will be worth it.

    Personally, I'd love to live in a world where we don't have to campaign for justice, where it was a natural by-product of our economic system.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report

  • James Green,

    it is grocery stores with less than 150 sq m that the legislation targets. Your local bottle store should be unaffected

    See this to me actually sounds worse. It's emphasising the disconnect between food&drink. I'm quite happy for a dairy to sell wine to go with food (cf. my european ramble before). I think it's much more toxic having a local booze barn. Interestingly, under current licensing laws, you can't sell spirits with food. I suspect most wine shops would happily forgo spirits(? just going on my preferred wine store). To me, wine shops, and dairies selling a limited amount of wine and probably beer is OK. More problematic are straight boozers. Perhaps we could have a stock ratio -- only allowed to have half as much beer as you have wine, and only a third of your wine can be under $10 (obviously I'm just making these numbers up, but an interesting idea).

    Oh, and on acquiring a taste for wine. Sweetness is certainly a thing. Note how newby coffee drinkers also head for the sugar and milk.
    This isn't too say sweet wine is bad. After being a dry-wine-nazi for some years, I've really come to appreciate prosecco, and some of the sweeter waipara and central rieslings (Main Divide/Peg Bay etc.)

    Limerick, Ireland • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report

  • James Green,

    Yes, the cost would be high. No argument.

    The older banks might be in favour of it. I gather their back-ends are still largely in 80s era databases, hence the overnight processing time because everything is still a day-end process to update etc. Which is why ASB can brag about real time money movement, because their systems are 90s vintage...

    Limerick, Ireland • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report

  • Peter Ashby,


    I guess my unease with supermarket sales stems from the degree to which it normalizes alcohol, placing it on the same level as bread and milk. I'm still not entirely comfortable with that equation.

    But that is the whole point. If alcohol is a forbidden fruit then the yoof will WANT it with a vengeance. If, like I was, like my kids were, you are raised with small amounts of alcohol with meals, first at special occasions then gradually more regularly as they get older. Then alcohol is something normal that you consume in social settings because you like it. Rather than something you neck just to get pissed as quickly as possible.

    The problem is the culture, and possibly an element of genetics. We know for eg that those from the 'Celtic' fringe here in the UK are more likely to be alcoholic and problem drinking here in Europe gets worse the further North you go. Us Scots are worse than the English (though happier on it I find) while booze sales in Scandinavia are draconian but they still have problems, the locals are seriously into making their own hooch when the state liquor outlets (open god knows when for a short as possible) can't or won't supply.

    I agree that the answer is better enforcement of off licenses that sell to minors or the intoxicated. The same thing applies here in the UK, they do sting operations using minors asking for booze but little gets done as a result. The problem is that you are talking of people's livelihoods and THE PROFIT MOTIVE and that cannot be interfered with regardless of the damage caused to society.

    I really like small owner operated wine shops, very much nicer than booze barns. Ditto small bars vs large swill pens. However I am aware that others may disagree so who am I to tell them they can't? Deal with the problems properly instead of threatening to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report

  • Danielle,

    Note how newby coffee drinkers also head for the sugar and milk.

    Harumph. I've been drinking coffee for nigh on 25 years, but woe betide you if you deprive me of my milk.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report

  • Kumara Republic,

    There seems to be some kind of undrawn border line between traditionally Protestant/Orthodox and traditonally Catholic nations in Europe when it comes to binge drinking. With the notable exception of Ireland, of course. And bingeing habits in the Anglophone New World seem to have been inherited from their former colonial masters.

    And for further enlightenment...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    I drink alcohol to get drunk. The taste of the stuff is disgusting, as is usually the case with toxins. But at times, I enjoy being drunk.

    I'm always mystified by people who talk about how much they like the taste. There have been comments that you have to be an adult to like it because of various strange things about taste buds and being 'undeveloped' as a child and so forth. But I can honestly say that despite having been an adult for some time, and having drunk a shitload of alcohol, I have never liked the taste of any of it. If someone could provide me the same taste without the alcohol, I would laugh at the idea every bit as much as everyone does laugh at low or non-alcohol beer. What is the fucking point? I finally poured out 7 lingering cans of low alcohol beer that had hidden in my fridge for 6 years. No takers in all that time (including the guy who brought them to my house in the first place). Curiously every other beer, from the flash to the lowbrow, got drunk.

    I do sometimes like to drink alcohol. But it's not for the taste FFS. The only training of the taste buds that goes on with alcohol is in disconnecting them from your gag reflex, and then telling yourself you love it. I'm yet to see the shelves lined with no-alcohol wine and millions of connoisseurs supping away going on about the lovely bouquet and which bloody province of France it comes from. If that could be done it would solve the alcohol problem straight away. But it can't because of the elephant in the room, that we drink to get the alcohol out.

    So, when I say I like Heineken (for instance) what I'm really saying is that I hate it less than most beers, and I'm prepared to endure the yucky taste, upset stomach, and flatulence, to get the quite strong drugged effect I can get from it.

    Pardon me for being so frank about my crass tastes here, but I think it goes to the very heart of the massive mind fuck involved in discussing the 'alcohol problem'.

    If you are having trouble understanding why it is that kids binge drink then you are failing to admit to the whole point of alcohol. It IS a substance designed to get you drugged. If you have seriously convinced yourself that you drink because you like the taste but not the effect then you won't be able to understand where kids are coming from. All they see is adults drinking, and since they can clearly tell the stuff is yucky as, they conclude that adults think this kind of intoxication is OK.

    I really don't think trying to get kids to buy into some whole boring adult lifestyle choice which involves lying to oneself a great deal, is something they take to easily. There is no 'right' way to drink. There are merely consequences of your choices in drinking. That is the only factual thing you can tell kids about how to drink responsibly. If they drink too much, a great many very bad things can and probably will happen to them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Peter Ashby,

    Well Ben I will just have to say that your tastebuds are obviously very different from my own. i am a connoisseur of single malt whisky and will talk endlessly about the flavours I get from different malts. The unpeated Caol Isla for eg tastes to me of honeyed green melons. But you have to add enough water to get that it being cask strength. Other cask strength whiskies are drinkable with only a little water and some with none, the cask strength Edradour particularly coming to mind. So the alcohol level is absolutely not something i am going for.

    I also like my beer and I will drink anything from 3% bitters to barley wine. The thing I like about the higher alcohol beers (IPAs and proper British Strong Ales) is the intense maltiness from all the malt they have to use to get the alcohol so high. I love the taste of malt extract too, but married to the hops and with all the yeast supplied esters as well the beer is much more interesting than malt extract.

    i should add that I have at most two drams a week and rarely drink more than two pints of beer in a sitting and then again only once or twice a week. I now actively dislike getting drunk and drink purely because I like the taste.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report

  • giovanni tiso,

    I drink alcohol to get drunk. The taste of the stuff is disgusting, as is usually the case with toxins. But at times, I enjoy being drunk.

    It's straight ethanol for you, then, I must assume? Or pitchers of Pink Chardon? No? I didn't think so.

    There is simply no to my mind way to separate the taste of alcoholic beverages from the sensations that accompany them. You might as well say that you have sex to be happy, but dislike the rubbing of bodies together - it makes zero sense. Except by way of comparison, between those who look for sex, any sex, and binge, and alcohol, any alcohol, and do the same, and boy is there a time for both of those pursuits in life, but then by and large people move on and start looking for good sex and a good drink, wouldn't you say?

    And by the same token, there is a reason why Peter doesn't just go around licking honeyed green melons. Would I like Laphroaig if it wasn't alcoholic? It's a silly question, obviously, how could it taste the same without being alcoholic? The taste comes with that rather potent sensation - can't separate the two. Or we'd all be drinking non-alcoholic beer.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    Pardon me for being so frank about my crass tastes here, but I think it goes to the very heart of the massive mind fuck involved in discussing the 'alcohol problem'.

    You're welcome. On the crassometer, though, you barely rate. The real high score would have to go to someone, now long departed from this world, who was reputed to regularly knock back Old Spice. Dog knows, it can't have been for the smell. Anyway, just how shitfaced do you want to get?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    I drink light beer sometimes -- Mac's Light (2.5%) is the best of them, but even Clausthaler (which seems to come in either zero or very low alcohol versions) is pretty good, although with that you're quite conscious of the gap in the taste where there alcohol should be.

    I like the taste of beer -- it's quenching and it's one of the few cold drinks (yes, obviously, apart from water) that isn't sweet, which makes it good with food. Mostly, it's nice to be able to guzzle one back on a hot afternoon without committing to 5% alcohol.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Joe Wylie,

    Steven - while Henry's early cars were capable of running on alcohol, it was hardly the norm. Model Ts, and even the later A, would happily burn alcohol and kerosene, but you needed to pour a bit of petrol down the carburetor throat to start them.

    The prohibition/big oil conspiracy schtick is dodgy at best. When Bertha Benz undertook her 106 km unauthorised road trip back in 1888 buying gasoline wasn't a problem:

    When they were short of gasoline, they visited a pharmacy. Gasoline was
    quite expensive at that time. People would buy it at the pharmacy in little
    bottles, and use it only for removing stains from clothes. Imagine the
    pharmacist’s surprise when he saw a strange machine carrying a woman
    and two teenagers who then came in and bought a half-gallon of
    gasoline—all the remaining stock. He probably didn’t realize it, but he had
    just become the owner of the first gas station in the world.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    Regarding communism vs capitalism vs anarchism and wine.

    It seems to me that none of the above systems is either perfect or perfectly flawed.

    Instead there are some things capitalism does very well. An example is the leading edge medical care available to the rich in the US which is a direct result of profit driven capitalist big pharma. Equally, those same companies can't be arsed developing drugs for diseases of the poor and in the US health care for those without money is appalling.

    Similarly Communism could get trains running on time and did a good job in some places of lifting the poverty and base health level. But failed in the end to provide enough innovation and cool toys eg washing machines.

    I don't really know of any examples of anarchism, unless you want to look at Africa where it seems as though anarchism has little to recommend itself.

    The point is no extreme political philosophy works very well at all.

    Instead societies that balance capitalism and socialism and anarchism seem to do the best. There are times when it is best to have the government run something. There are times when the free market does the best job. There are times when an absence of rules/laws works really well and times when regulation is needed.

    What seems to be even more confusing is that things that work well in some cultures don't work at all in others. The European approach to alcohol does not work in New Zealand. It's a cultural difference. But even worse than that, within New Zealand we have markedly diverse cultures. What works in Kingsland doesn't work in Otara.

    If you want to regulate alcohol in a way that is appropriate to the culture of the community then you have to regulate at the local community level, in a way appropriate to that community. I think that's precisely what our current licensing laws allow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    there is a reason why Peter doesn't just go around licking honeyed green melons


    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha,

    Russell, Macs Light used to be 1% but still better taste than the other low beers (and damn handy for scattered xmas commitments requiring driving). When did they make it stronger?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

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