Should we flag it away?

Kiwi and Aussie flags

For once, I agree with the New Zealand PM, John Key. New Zealand needs a new national flag.

I know that some of my friends are passionately opposed to the change, and if some polls are to be believed, so are most Kiwis.

So why change?

  • Many Kiwis, never mind others less blessed, can’t distinguish our flag from Australia’s. My wife is one of them. Recently, the Prime Ministers of both countries have confused the two.
  • The Pacific is infested with similar red, white, and blue colonial-era ensigns.
  • At least five countries’ flags bear the Southern Cross, not to mention a heap of territories and dependencies. Depending upon your definition of a nation, at least twenty bear the Union Jack, and the U.S. State of Hawaii.
  • A distinctive flag is an asset.  Especially to a small country trying to be relevant. Ask any Canadian who’s old enough to remember their stunningly obscure pre-maple leaf design.
  • The Union Jack? It has no relevance to us in this century.

Why not change?

  • Kiwis fought and died for the flag.
    • Really? I served in the armed forces for 20 years. I served for my family, my friends, and for my country. I served for what the flag represented. Fortunately for me, I didn’t get shot at, but I wouldn’t have taken the risk for a piece of blue bunting.New Zealand war grave
    • Another version of this argument is that fallen servicemen and women were buried under the flag. OK, it draped their coffins, but what is engraved into their headstones? The silver fern. I doubt that those people were serving for the flag.
  • We love the current flag!
    • Really?
    • Sigh…
  • It symbolises our nation’s heritage and the Treaty of Waitangi.
    • Bollocks. When I was young, we still had strong ties with the United Kingdom. My parents’ generation talked about England as “Home” despite having never travelled away from Te Ika a Maui in several generations.
    • The treaty was a hastily scrawled document which has never been ratified. Those gains that have been made by Maori over the last couple of decades in the spirit of the treaty were negotiated by Kiwis: Maori and Pakeha.
    • The Southern Cross shines on more than half the planet.

What about a design?

Oh dear.

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Sorry Larry Ellison, I need to gloat


Schadenfreude is not a good Christian sentiment to be encouraged but right now I’m overwhelmed by it. Anyway I’m not a good Christian so what the hell.

The America’s Cup has been plagued by people with too much money buying line honours and too often succeeding.

This year the holder has plumbed the usual depths. The trophy was once awarded for a tussle between two nations sailing their own yachts, built in their own countries and sailed by their own nationals.

Emirates Team New Zealand have done that. Emirates as the main sponsor is obviously not a Kiwi concern, but most of the money is from New Zealand, almost all the crew are Kiwis, and the boat was designed and built by Kiwis in New Zealand.

American Mr Ellison had one, repeat one, American out of 11 crew members on his boat for this morning’s race. With his limitless pockets he managed to lure a truckload of non-American hired guns into his nominally American team, he’s shamelessly manipulated the rules to maximise his chances and now his mercenaries are being given a well-deserved thrashing.

Money may be able to buy a bit of happiness, but not today Larry. Suck it up.

Loving it.

Bureaucracy strikes again

Home is the sailor, home from the sea … and that’s where he stays

I’m a marine engineer. An involuntarily retired marine engineer with 40 years’ experience. I’m fit and I’m good at what I do. A Certified Foreign-going Chief Engineer, Steamship and Motorship. There are people around the world who need experienced Class 1 marine engineers desperately. Even old-timers such as myself and especially we rarities qualified in steam.

I want a job.

Recently I was offered a job. It’s been 7 years since I was at sea as chief engineer, so I was happy to accept a position as second engineer.

Everybody’s happy, right?

Well, now that you ask – no…

Oh dear, they’ve changed the rules

In the good old days when I first qualified, my Ministry of Transport Chief Engineer’s Certificate; and my naval Engineer Officer’s Charge Certificate qualified me to be the engineering boss on any non-nuclear ship or installation afloat. Merchant Service or Blue Water Navies.

Then the international bureaucracy brought in a requirement to have a licence as well as a certificate. This was progress. The licensing process ensured that people were up-to-date in areas such as safety, first-aid, fire-fighting and the like. No objections from me.

Every 5 years engineers are required to renew the licence. If I hadn’t served a minimum period of sea service in the preceding 5 years I could still serve at sea with my certificate, but only in a rank below that of the certificate. So as a Chief Engineer I’d have to do 12 months at sea as Second Engineer to revalidate my Chief Engineer’s licence.

Fair enough.

Maersk Cloud
I had 4 years as chief engineer in the m.v. Maersk Cloud; then the biggest car carrier. in the world. The bureaucrats figured that I’d forgotten everything since then.

“Yeah, that’s fair,” said the pen-pushers. “We’ll soon fix that”

I had to inform the people who wished to employ me that I couldn’t take the job. The rules now state that I can’t serve in a lower rank to re-qualify. I must do a 12 month refresher course.

“OK,” I told the New Zealand Maritime Safety Authority’s Chief Examiner, “I’ll do the course.”

“We don’t have a course,” says he, “Not enough demand.”

“OK, I’ll go to Australia.”

“Sorry, no demand there either.”

So, to cut this short, I’d have to go to Canada or the U.K. It would cost me in the $100,000 ballpark range all up, with no guarantee of a job at the end.

I expressed my innermost thoughts to Mr Marine Examiner.

“Oh, it’s all different now, you wouldn’t be able to cope.” Says he who hasn’t been to sea in 30 years.

I can cope. For 40 years I’ve driven ships ranging from salvage tugs and survey ships to the biggest car carrier in the world. From an 80,000 ton diesel electric pipelaying vessel to steam turbine frigates and a 60,000 shaft horsepower cruiser. The ship hasn’t been built yet that I wouldn’t walk onboard tomorrow and confidently take over. With the possible exception of nukes.

You gotta love bureaucracy.

I’m not pleased.