* eats plants * loves science * scared of earthquakes * a bit opinionated *


Browns Bay, Auckland

Today we took Dad to Browns Bay, a beach suburb on Auckland’s North Shore. Once upon a time it was a summer holiday destination for Aucklanders wanting to get away from the city, but as the city expanded geographically, it engulfed this pocket and turned it into another suburb of Auckland.

Now it’s very popular with South African migrants who move to Auckland and end up settling in Browns Bay. It’s not hard to see why as it’s got quite a lovely beach, with a wonderful children’s playground, lots of cafes and restaurants, a skate park, supermarkets, banks, libraries and pretty much all the amenities one could want. There’s even a good yarn shop if you like to crochet as I do. House prices are also fairly reasonable, except for the cliff-top McMansions that overlook the sea.

The downside is that it’s a fair way from Auckland CBD and the traffic at peak hour is probably dreadful. Although I don’t really know for sure as I’ve never driven into the CBD from Browns Bay at peak hour but it’s dreadful everywhere else in Auckland so I can’t imagine Browns Bay would be immune to this.






Daniel became a bit obsessed with this climbing wall at the playground:


I had a go as well. When I got to the top though, a little kid came up to me and said: “Only kids are allowed up here”. Oops!






We finally made it to Bunnings today as well. For people in the Northern Hemisphere who have no idea what Bunnings is, here’s a photo. I don’t remember seeing anything quite like it in York, but I’m sure the UK must have something similar.



Auckland’s Sky Tower

I thought I should give Dad a break from doing chores around our house so today we took him to the top of Auckland’s Sky Tower, a 328m structure in central Auckland. It took two years and nine months to build and cost NZ$85 million. There are some impressive views from the top, a couple of restaurants, a cafe, a sweet shop, some pieces of glass flooring, a platform to bungy jump from (we decided not to do this) and today there was an odd character in a Sky Tower costume.

Here’s a photo which is almost perfect except that Elizabeth is touching her bottom. I keep telling her that it’s rude to do this in public but she doesn’t listen to me.


From left to right: Dad, Me, Daniel, Sky Tower person, Elizabeth


The hill at 11 o’clock is Mt Eden, a volcanic cone.


The Sky Tower


Auckland Harbour Bridge and Waitemata Harbour



Elizabeth, Creeper and Daniel. Creeper has had a busy weekend: he landed in the toilet bowl twice while Daniel peeing. I don’t think Creeper will be accompanying Daniel to the toilet again but he is very, very clean now as he’s been through the washing machine twice.


Don’t ask



Daniel climbing a gorgeous tree


Albert Park


Happy Easter everyone!

My Dad is visiting us for the weekend. Whenever he comes, we seem to end up visiting Bunnings – a mega hardware store – numerous times. Bunnings is Dad’s temple and since I’ve always got a list of jobs for him to do, we end up making numerous trips there. Although so far this weekend we haven’t had to go once, even though Dad has been hard at work fixing things.

My husband, Ben, is very clever and good at lots of things: he’s a world-renowned group theorist, an international chess master, speaks some French and Latin, is a master of crosswords and puzzles, has a deep and soulful singing voice, but he’s no handyman. In fact, he’s a crap handyman (although he did fix our coffee grinder – he made me write this). I’m the handyman in our household. When I first met Ben and moved into his apartment, I woke up one morning to find the smoke alarm on the floor outside our kitchen. It had been sticky-taped to the ceiling! Sticky-taped!!! I offered to affix it properly for him and asked for Ben’s Phillip’s head, to which he replied, “What’s that?”.

NB: This post was published with prior approval from Ben who did not mind me making fun of him. This is a sign of self-assurance which is a very attractive quality in a man. :-)

Elizabeth, who is four, is sneaky and manipulative. Ok, so I have only myself to blame as I’m sure she’s inherited these qualities from me. This morning when she saw Ben’s Easter egg, she asked him to share it with her. When he asked whether she’d share her Easter egg with him, she said no. So Ben explained that this was unfair and that sharing goes both ways. So she disappeared for a little while then returned with a collection of crayons in a bowl and explained that these were her hot dogs and that she would share them with Ben.

Happy Easter everyone!


The velomobile: I want one!

Now here’s a really cool bicycle. It’s got three wheels, solar panels and shelter from the elements. It’s fairly pricey at $5,495 but you don’t have to pay for insurance, petrol or rego so overall it’s pretty cheap. The only thing missing, in my view, is space for two children.

More about this on Grist.


A warning to all bloggers and commenters

Joe Karam, a former New Zealand All Black, has just been awarded over half a million New Zealand dollars in a defamation case. The defendants were two individuals who posted defamatory comments about Mr Karam on Facebook and another website.

A bit of background: Joe Karam is a long-time supporter of David Bain, who was wrongly convicted of murdering his family in 1995 but after an appeal through the Privy Council in 2007, was retried and acquitted of all charges. Joe Karam played a pivotal role in Bain’s campaign to prove his innocence.

The whole David Bain saga really polarised New Zealand. Everyone here seemed to have very strong views about whether he was innocent or not. It reminded me a bit of Lindy Chamberlain in Australia, who in 1980 was accused of murdering her baby. It turned out a dingo took it.

Some people in New Zealand became quite angry about David Bain’s retrial as they felt certain of his guilt (note that I was not one of them!). This prompted heated online discussions and some websites and Facebook groups were created in response. Because of Joe Karam’s role in David Bain’s acquittal, much of this anger was directed at him; defamatory statements were made; and Joe Karam sued two individuals and an online trading site for defamation.

Fast forward to now and the judge has just ruled in favour of Joe Karam and identified 50 defamatory statements. One of them was a play on Karam’s name – “Karamalisation” – and was used to accuse of him of fabricating facts: “Karamalisation equals to ‘fudge the facts”‘. Another post compared Karam’s defence of David Bain to Nazi propaganda. Most of the statements accused Joe Karam of dishonesty, fraud and lack of integrity. This reminds me so much of climate science and the defamatory statements I read almost daily about climate scientists.

Good for Joe Karam, I say. But what does this mean for bloggers and online commenters? It’s really very simple. Don’t make defamatory statements, especially when they’re false or if you can’t prove them. One mistake made by the defendants in this case was to use the defence of truth, which they could not prove, and which increased the damages against them. I think this is what is known as punitive damages.

People should not think they’re safe just because they run small and/or unknown blogs. It’s true that exposure is taken into account in these cases – I believe the legal term is “extent of publication”. But all that is required is for mainstream media to pick up your comment and publish it which is exactly what happened in this case. It doesn’t take long for things to spread online.


Bjorn Lomborg economics

I’ve just seen a tweet of Bjorn Lomborg’s from the other day (yes, I’m a couple of days behind) on the cost of climate change versus the costs of mitigation. Here it is:

If you view his tweet on Twitter you will see that quite a few people have accused him of misrepresenting the report. For instance:


Is he making a false comparison? His 6% comes from this table in the Summary for policy makers:


Presumably he’s referring to the 2.1-6.2% reduction in consumption relative to a baseline in the row for 450ppm CO2eq. If so, then he’s chosen the upper value of the range which he tweets as being “Cost of policy higher than 6%”. This figure is also relative to a baseline, not annually. According to this IPCC presentation “this is equivalent to a reduction in consumption growth over the 21st century by about 0.06 (0.04-0.14) percentage points a year (relative to annualized consumption growth that is between 1.6% and 3% per year).”

Meanwhile, the IPCC WGII Summary for Policymakers puts the cost of climate change as:

With these recognized limitations, the incomplete estimates of global annual economic losses for additional temperature increases of ~2°C are between 0.2 and 2.0% of income (±1 standard deviation around the mean) (medium evidence, medium agreement). Losses are more likely than not to be greater, rather than smaller, than this range (limited evidence, high agreement).

On his Facebook page, Bjorn Lomborg says the 0.2-2% comes from a temperature rise of 2°C which we’ll reach sometime between 2055-2080. This seems to be consistent with the paragraph from the Summary for Policymakers above.

He’s comparing global economic losses annually with a reduction in consumption relative to a baseline. Is this a fair comparison?


How food labelling can make you fat

This is an interesting clip about how food labelling can influence our metabolism. The basic gist is: if you think you’ve eating something fattening, then you will think you’ve consumed more and this could affect digestion. By contrast, if you eat something labelled as low fat or fat free, you’ll feel like you’ve eaten less and so likely to eat more later.




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