April 30, 2004

thank you for the vegemite

in a previous post I mentioned that in their attempt to be polite, Midwesterners actually went round the circle a little too far and crossed over into dishonesty. lest anyone misunderstand my point as being that people were rude, not at all! for the most part, the apparent Midwestern politeness and friendliness is true. [appearances are not always what they seem, however].

Indeed, just yesterday I received the nicest multi-coloured, written in felt-tip pens on newsprint card that I have seen since I was in primary/elementary school myself. And that is the mark of true politeness. They even wrote "Thank you for letting us taste the Vegiemite (sic)" but were more effusive by way of an exclamation mark about the Tasmanian devil.

Posted by robe0419 at 1:30 PM

April 27, 2004

vileness in the Minnesota Daily

From the Minnesota Daily: "Riter and Ford competed against each other in high school, with Ford winning the 2000 state title in the 800 and Riter winning in 2001. Now, they root each other. "

I'm all for people making up for past rivalries and encouraging each other but this is a little too much!

Posted by robe0419 at 9:53 AM

April 26, 2004

blowing hot and cold

Farenheit and celsius may be objective measures of temperature, but what really matters is how we perceive these as "hot" or "cold". Minnesota has an interesting climate [and I do not mean by that I dislike the climate], over the year whereas in New Zealand they have less climatic variation, and a lot of variation in the weather.

What is a little odd is how the same temperature on the dial feels in different places. In Minneapolis, 50F/10C feels quite pleasant. When I go running it's T-shirt time, and no gloves. By contrast, in Wellington the same temperature is generally accompanied by dampness and a southerly which makes it all feel a little cooler, and the clothing of choice is typically polypropelene.

By contrast, 68F/20C in Minneapolis feels cooler than the same temperature in the Antipodes, where 20C is typically accompanied by sun unmoderated by the ozone layer.

A strange phenomena, but possibly one confined to me, myself and I, given the subjective element in temperature.

Posted by robe0419 at 4:17 PM


On Friday, 23 April I went to talk to three classes of kindergarten students at Seward Montessori school, who had been learning about Australia and New Zealand (mostly Australia, but we'll let that slide ...). All in all it was a wonderful 2 hours of cultural exchange for me, and I hope for them too.

The most interesting thing I learnt was that the Sydney Opera House is featured in Finding Nemo. After showing pictures of all the wierd and wonderful fauna in Australasia I showed pictures of the cities. The "Wellington Cable Car" sign in the picture of Wellington alerted them that that was Wellington, but there was no clue that the next picture was Sydney except the opera house. "Does anyone know where this is?" I asked, and in each class a couple of little hands would shoot up, and little voices would call out, that it was Sydney. "How do you know?" I asked, and they would enthusiastically reply that Sydney was featured in Finding Nemo. Most other little heads in the class would then nod enthusiastically, remembering the film if not Sydney.

They were all markedly less enthusiastic about vegemite, as most Americans are (follow these google links to see what I mean).

In the first class, the choicest and most appropriate comment, was the girl who said that "I don't really care for that." One can assume that all the children saying "ewwww" and "yuck" would have expressed similar sentiments if they had been as articulate.

In the second class though I received proof that children in Minnesota are taught to lie, and to debase the meaning of useful words in the English language. Amidst a chorus of "ewww" and "yuck" the teacher actually told the children "If you don't like something, don't say yuck, say that's interesting, or that's different".

Anyone who has spent anytime in the Midwest will know that "interesting" and "different" do not mean curious and distinct as they do in most other parts of the English-speaking world -- they mean "I don't like that, but I'm not going to tell you that directly."

Midwestern people will defend this practice as being polite, overlooking that dishonesty is impolite in itself, saying that it would be rude to directly say "I don't like X". Perhaps they could learn to say "I don't really care for that" as some five years have ...

Posted by robe0419 at 11:16 AM

April 22, 2004

presidential polls

A couple of recent polls, for what they're worth, have shown Bush ahead of Kerry.

Some/many in the liberal blogsphere seem to be pretty depressed about this, but essentially all the polls are showing, for now, is that the race is a dead-heat. The day-to-day back and forth of the polls doesn't show a lot. If all the polls showed Bush opening up a lead in polls taken a month apart that might be cause for concern, but the signal:noise ratio in the recent polls is pretty low.

The real story as Ruy Tuxeria points out is the steady erosion in issue-by-issue support for Bush. This, rather than the headline numbers now, will probably be reflected in later movement in the polls. Pretty simply, on the right track/wrong track and favorable/unfavorable ratings, the polls all indicate that there's a share of the population that may still be saying they'll vote for Bush, but are very willing to consider another candidate.

It's a truism of almost all democratic systems that elections are a referendum on the incumbent. Oppositions don't win election, government's lose them. This of course plays out in presidential elections in different ways than parliamentary ones (Bush would never have made it to the top in a parliamentary system ...) but is true nevertheless. It's also true that you have to have a challenger/opposition that is able to take advantage of the presidents/government weaknesses.

Posted by robe0419 at 4:19 PM