Posts by Susannah Shepherd

  • Up Front: The Little Things,


    Maisie is only an arsehole if you are a mouse (as illustrated), sparrow, or lost kitten crying piteously in the street. She is, however, stupid. So very stupid. It took her over a month to master the cat door and, even now, five years on, she occasionally forgets how it works and tries to pull it open instead of pushing.

    We love her anyway and tell her frequently that she's lucky she's so pretty...

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Feed: My Life in Curry, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Big fat sultanas, with sliced banana and dessicated coconut on the side.

    I remember that, and have been known to make it (usually with whole meat rather than sausages though). I was always under the impression it was a South African variant on curry although I have no idea why I think that.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Up Front: Neither Deep nor Wide, in reply to Graham Dunster,

    Jerash was great (Bedouin bagpiper), Petra unbelievable (and empty) Dead Sea likewise.

    One of my treasured souvenirs of Jerash is a short video clip of a group of exuberant teenage Jordanian girls on a school trip dancing in Bedouin style to the strains of 'Scotland the Brave'.

    We also had the luck to go to Wadi Rum on a hot sunny day but shortly after rain. Flowers in the desert, creeping across that vivid red sand... just amazing.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Hard News: The shaky ground of…, in reply to Morgan Davie,

    That said, I have come across (second hand) a recruitment consultant who uses psychometrics in a way that I can cautiously endorse – principally by making psychometrics subordinate to other evaluations and processes, rather than using them as an all-powerful oracle or as floating evidence that can rationalise any desired position.

    I suspect this is a fairly common way to use psychometrics in workplaces that make the hiring choice directly. It would be the only effective way to use pysch tests in restructures that involve changing how the business operates rather than just shedding jobs (past performance isn't much of a predictor if the new roles need different skills).

    I do quite a bit of recruitment, supported by HR, and we always use the "personality" tests as a way of tailoring some of the things we'd probe into in an interview (i.e. inquiring about how a rules-driven person copes with stuff coming out of left field). And if someone comes out high on the anxiety spectrum, we'll cut some slack for interview nerves if we see signs of them.

    We don't screen people out of the process on the basis of anything in the personality profile, although I can see how this would be a temptation if you're dealing with 400 applicants instead of the 10-50 I normally get. I work in an area where we struggle to find as many good candidates as we'd like, so we actually want to see the potential in people, not find excuses to kick them out of the running.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Southerly: My Life As a Palm Tree, in reply to David Haywood,

    On rainy days, his preferred method of entertainment was to have me swing him in circles by his heels, and then flip him yelling into the air, so that he somersaulted once (or preferably twice) before crashing onto the settee.

    For your future reference, my uncle (and brother) would advise that it is sensible to leave more than ten minutes between (1) ingestion of a bottle of raspberry fizz by said child and (2) the swing by the ankles indoors game. Spectacular to watch, though.

    My maddest toddler game, and one of my first memories, was inserting a sheet of paper into a bar heater to see if it would turn red. It did. (I must ask my mum whether she was actually in the loo at the time this was all happening - I do recall her scooping me and the flaming paper, still clutched in my pudgy little hand, straight into the kitchen sink.) The one upside for my parents was a strongly-developed fear of matches that didn't ease until I was old enough to not be completely stupid with fire.

    And when we were slightly older - I have lots of cousins much the same age as me and we used to spend hours unattended in a quarry / yard complete with water-filled shingle pits and the full cave-in horrors, not to mention someone not much older than we had been being abducted and murdered nearby a few years later. If we got bored at the quarry we'd play chicken on the railway bridge...

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Hard News: Tooled Up for Food, in reply to Islander,

    We have my Nanna’s girdle-iron – which belonged to her Nanna & was brought to ANZ from the Orkneys…I still cook iron breads & potato cakes on it

    Snap - they made that stuff to last back in the day! My most precious piece is a cast iron frypan that looks like Russell's, only bigger. I know exactly where mine comes from - at least six generations of mother to daughter, back to the 1850s. It's got a sheen like silk on it.

    Of the modern stuff, I'm pretty attached to my heavy-bottomed stove-to-oven casserole / saucepan with silicon handles, and my mandolin.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • OnPoint: What Andrew Geddis Said, But…, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    Does anyone know why the redacted parts couldn’t be got by an OIA request?

    You can try, but they will likely withhold it as legal advice. That withholding ground is one of the stronger ones, and it would take an exceptionally strong public interest, or an implicit waiver of advice by Ministers discussing its contents (difficult if they don’t give speeches on the bill) to winkle it out of them.

    I wouldn't give up just yet, without applying under the OIA:
    * Never assume that anything redacted for proactive release by government, of any stripe, has been redacted in full compliance with the OIA. I don't know if any special rules apply to material going to Parliament, but for other proactive releases, they can release what they like and punt on interest disappearing before the OIAs get processed.
    * It would be a very odd RIS that consisted entirely of legal advice (especially on something like the carer legislation). The cost-benefit aspects should be releasable, even if any discussion on the Bill of Rights aspects (which usually goes in the Cabinet papers, not the RIS) is not.
    * If an OIA response withholds a suspiciously large amount of material on the basis of legal privilege, test with the Ombudsman. It's an area in which departments compiling OIA responses tend to be quite risk-averse, to avoid accidentally waiving legal privilege.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Hard News: Fact and fantasy, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    In 2008, New Zealand ranked first among 146 countries in Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index , which ranks countries on the quality of their environmental policies. The report compares international data on criteria like habitat loss, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and protected marine areas.

    In 2012, however, the country slipped to 14th.

    That points to something in the policies, or lack thereof, of the current government. Even if it’s just a solid track record of indifference and inaction.

    Or, as is actually the case IIRC, it might point to Yale changing their methodology between those two studies.

    Regardless of the state of my memory, it does point to the essential pointlessness of these international comparisons. Yale says we're in the top twenty. The study published in PLOS One says we're in the bottom twenty. And as Mike pointed out earlier, you'd be unwise to cite that study as a measure of New Zealand's water quality. I for one find it hard to believe that it's less safe to drink from or swim in the rivers of New Zealand (or some other named environmental disaster areas like Iceland) than it is in most of the countries named as top environmental performers - Central African Republic? Mali? Eritrea? Really?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • Capture: Cats Love Cameras,


    In the crash mat after medal-winning high jump attempt.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

  • OnPoint: Some of My Best Friends are Consultants,

    Treasury's shoddy data doesn't remotely surprise me.

    At my (shall remain nameless) agency, we are however seeing quite a change in our approach to consultants - the cap on numbers plus fast-falling baselines means that we're employing far fewer in-house consultants, and really only buying in skills that we can't hire and/or don't need permanently. This does differ from the past when we often got in quite mediocre people at generous rates as a lazy alternative to a proper recruitment, training and workforce planning strategy. I'm now seeing more applicants for mid-range policy jobs coming from those who have been in the consulting sector, as contracts are harder to get than they used to be unless you're highly skilled and experienced.

    I'd be surprised if government is routinely using consultants in the way Tom describes - Ministers' offices don't hold appropriations for policy advice and I've seen a couple of occasions when a chief executive has had very stern words with a Minister who had the temerity to suggest a preferred consultant for a departmental piece of work. And if the consultant is working in-house, which is often the case if they're working on advice to go directly to Ministers, the stuff they are working on will generally be discoverable.

    This government has tended to set up separate advisory groups (like the Charter Schools Working Group) when it wants more politically-directed advice, but at least that's relatively transparent - and if the group has any sort of secretariat function supported by officials, a lot of the transactions will be in an official system somewhere.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report

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