Scott & Sarah Kennedy

Friday, March 28, 2014

Auckland's Low Carbon Action Plan

It's been a long time since I've been fired up enough to write something here, but it's finally happened. I saw in the Manukau Courier that submissions were being taken on Auckland City's Low Carbon Action Plan. No I hadn't heard of it either. Well the article informed me that the plan was to reduce Auckland's Greenhouse gases by 40% by 2040.
I became interested. Firstly it struck me as an odd target to make, when month by month the science around anthropogenic climate change is looking shakier. Such huge cost to our economy seems odd when the benefits to the environment seem highly unlikely. Why would we commit to this?
So I decided to check out the website. There was a nice brief 85 page document with a large number of action plans. Seriously who has time for that? Nice that some person being paid rate money (i.e. a net drain on the economy) can afford the time to put together such a document. Pity the poor sap who actually contributes to the economy who has to read through it.
I did read through it. I was appalled. You should be too. Can I strongly suggest to citizens of Auckland that you read this plan, or at least the Executive Summary which is only 25 pages. Once you have read this plan, make a quick online submission.
Below are some highlights from my submission.
Question 3A: You have indicated that you don't think we have identified the key issues. What issues do you think we have missed?

I believe that the whole goal of reducing Greenhouse gases by 40% is fatally flawed. First of all the science regarding the harm of these gases is inconclusive, and the evidence that GHG actually have a detrimental effect on our climate is looking shakier by the year. Why are we reducing energy consumption, when consumption of energy suggests a pumping economy. Surely a city that has an economy moving in a positive direction should actually be increasing energy consumption, not reducing it back to levels of the 1990s.

Question 5A: You have indicated that you don't think we have identified appropriate targets. What targets do you believe we should set?

I do not believe we should be setting targets in this area. These targets will lead to increasing burdens on the people of Auckland.

Example 1: Built Environment action 8 proposes a WOF on private rentals. While this will produce a nice income stream for the council, which presumably is the reason for its suggested implementation, the costs will be passed on by landlords to their tenants. Rents will increase affecting struggling families.
Example 2: Action 3 of the Travel plan suggests that pricing tools will be investigated to help manage travel demand. This sounds suspiciously like making it more expensive for people to travel freely about their city in their own cars. Aucklanders do not support this.
Example 3: Actions 6 & 7 of the Energy part of the plan suggest that we move 90% of Auckland's energy to renewable sources by 2025. While this sounds nice in theory, I noticed the plan mentioned wind energy. Wind energy is extremely costly in the long run, with physical breakdown of turbines. Furthermore wind energy is responsible for playing havoc with birdlife, and is not a 'green' option in that sense.
In action 7 you propose to promote the use of renewable energy for heating and cooking at residential and commercial premises. With whose money? Presumably rate payers. Surely people should be free to decide what energy they use and not be brainwashed by campaigns that have taken their own money off them to make them change their behaviour!

Example 4: Action 9 of the Built Environment part of the plan proposes the introduction of disclosure of the energy and water performance and design standards of residential, commercial and industrial buildings at point of sale, rent or lease. It is proposed this is going to be mandatory by 2020. Again one can only presume this is going to cost money, and the council will clip the ticket on the way increasing its income stream. But all of these types of proposals are only just going to make Auckland a more and more unaffordable place to live.
I do not have the time to pick holes in every single action point of the document. I actually work a job that produces something of worth for the economy. My essential problem with this plan is that it is placing more controls and costs on the citizens of Auckland. Instead of Mayor Len Brown's dream of Auckland becoming the world's most liveable city, we will end up with an unaffordable city.

Question 6B: What else do you think we could be doing?
Less is more......The city doesn't need people running around thinking of ways to spend money we do not have.

Question 6C: How should these actions in this plan be funded?
Most of these actions (specifically the ones I have identified) should not be taken because ultimately they do not need to be taken and will place a huge burden on Aucklanders.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The kingdom of grace and the world of ungrace – part 1

Like so many other New Zealanders I was shocked and disappointed at the recent revelations that ACT MP and “3 strikes” law campaigner David Garrett had used a dead baby’s birth certificate to get a false passport. It is disappointing when people in positions of influence are found to have ‘skeletons in their closet’. However what for me was most shocking was the self-righteous and venomous indignation of the media and general public baying for blood. It highlights for me what has elsewhere been described as ‘ungrace’.

I am not really interested in exploring whether or not it was the right thing for David Garrett to resign. In fact I am not really interested in the case per se except that it highlights the way the world works. In our world, we are judged for who we are and what we do. If we treat people nicely, they generally treat us nicely in return. If we treat people in a way that metaphorically burns bridges, we can lose friendships and alienate ourselves from others. If we do something stupid, that gives people the right to condemn us, and based on the magnitude of the folly, the right to dismiss us completely. This is the world of ungrace. And in a world of ungrace, people are very eager to put the boot in when someone is caught in wrongdoing.

Because we live in a world of ungrace we try to hide the real ‘us’ from those we come into contact with. We live in fear that our acquaintances and those closest to us might discover some of our own ‘skeletons’ and perhaps wipe their hands of us. We all know in the depths of our soul that if people could see the real us, they would find fault with much they saw. Indeed few of us have more than one person with whom we can be entirely honest about our true self. These true friends who love us in spite of our faults and flaws are rare and precious jewels, and their friendship mirrors the kind of friendship that God extends to people.

We cannot hide the real us from God. One of the occupational advantages of being God is omniscience. That means God sees the real us – our actions, our words, and scarily enough, the thoughts and motivations of our innermost self. He looks at each one of us warts and all, and still offers his love to us. This is an incredible truth. He sees our skeletons; the selfishness of our heart, the malice towards others, the deceit, and yes, even the stupid things we have done in our past, yet he still offers his friendship to us no strings attached.

What makes this offer even more gob-smacking, is that God’s grace to us comes at a great cost. For God to be just, he cannot allow the guilty to go unpunished. All of our obvious wrongdoings, and our less obvious closet skeletons must be paid for. They represent a relational block between us and God. This block cannot just be ignored. A husband who has cheated on his wife cannot just say to her ‘Let’s forget this ever happened’. But God has demonstrated great love for us, by finding a way to remove the block so that our wrongdoing before him and injustice towards others can be dealt with. God’s innocent son Jesus agreed to take the punishment that our wrongdoing deserved in order that God might look upon us as innocent. Jesus was nailed to a cross and forsaken by God as we deserved to be, in order that we who were once enemies of God might be made friends. The Bible poetically puts it this way; “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us.” Those who trust in Jesus are treated as if they had never done anything wrong. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of their friendship with God.

This is a most beautiful truth. God is a God of free grace. He does not require us to act in a certain way to receive his love. In him the world order of tit-for-tat ‘ungrace’ is slowly being dismantled. With Jesus a kingdom of grace broke into this world and the free offer of salvation from God’s just wrath has been offered through faith in him. His kingdom will gather in people from every tribe, every nation, and every language. And when he returns, we will celebrate God’s grace to us in a world removed of all sorrow and injustice.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Chalk and Cheese

I rarely have any good to say about customer service. In my experience people are a lot keener to sell to you than they are to help you when something goes wrong with their product. My recent Epson printer complaint is an excellent example. I complained about a piteously poor product, was offered a couple of measly cartridges if I bought another printer, and was told to call an 0800 number if I wanted to discuss the matter. Epson your customer service is pathetic. I have since replaced my Epson printer with a Brother HL-2140 laser printer thanks to Flybuys. The print quality is excellent, the speed is impressive, and there are no paper jams or misfeeds. So far so good.

What I really wanted to write about however is a recent experience I have had with excellent customer service. I want to hand a customer service trophy to Dell computers. In January of this year I bought a laptop for gaming university purposes. Having a small home and a young daughter who sleeps in the computer room, I needed a portable option. Since we don't own a TV, we also use it to watch movies. However, ever since I got it, I've noticed that it intermittently struggles to play a number of our DVDs. So I decided to write to customer service and ask if something could be done. Enter Dell's excellent customer service. The person I emailed asked if I could do a couple of checks myself and email the results, which I did. Then he organised for a technician to come out to our place in Parau. The technician rang the next working day and arranged to come out at a suitable time. When he arrived he immediately started dismantling the laptop. I had been a little worried that he would check whether various DVDs worked on it. Since it was an intermittent issue I was dreading what many of us technophobes dread:- the ol’ phantom computer problem, that disappears when a competent geek comes along, and reappears as soon as they have departed. But he didn't muck around with checking DVDs. He immediately replaced the drive. After briefly checking it, he left, and asked us to call if we have any problems.

I've been very pleased with my Dell laptop so far. It is a fantastic machine. But I'm twice as happy now, knowing the customer service that backs it up. I've heard of people having to send machines away for weeks on end while they get tested and repaired. I have never heard of technicians being sent to a home to fix a machine on site. So if you are looking for a laptop, may I recommend a Dell. Next time I'm in the market, I'll be certainly looking at one.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

A walk in the forest

Our little family took a trip to the Arataki visitor centre this afternoon. We popped across the road and did a short walk along part of the Arataki Nature Trail. Walking this trail provides one with a religious experience, for posted at various intervals along the path are signs that encourage an almost superstitious 'worship' of nature. I may comment on some of these at a later date.

However one sign that I really appreciate describes some of the deeds of Tane Mahuta the god of the forest and birds. On the left side of the sign is written:-

Ko Tane Mahuta te atua o nga ngahere
Na Tane i whakawehewehe a Rangi raua ko Papa
He maha nga Tamariki a Tane
Ko nga rakau katoa, nga manu, nga ngararu me nga kararehe katoa

Ko Tane hoki te timatatanga o te tangata
Nana i hanga a Hine-ahu-one te wahine tuatahi o te Maori
Kei roto i enei mea katoa te mana o Tane.

On the right side a translation in English is provided.

Tane Mahuta is the God of the forests
Tane separated Rangi (sky) and Papa (earth)
Tane has many offspring
All trees, the birds, reptiles and animals

Tane is also the beginning of humans
He formed Hine-ahu-one the first Maori woman
The spirit of Tane is found in all these living things

This reminded me of the creation account in Genesis, part of which I have reproduced here:-

And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:6-10 English Standard Version)

Its fascinating to see the links in the mythology and creation stories of various cultures to the Hebrews' Genesis account recorded in our Bible. While I know there are other explanations, it is worthwhile pondering whether these incredible commonalities suggest there is an element of truth in the stories. In Genesis we read the story of God creating the heavens and the earth, and the story of his creation of various kinds of animals and finally his creation of the first man and woman.

Anyway I am quite interested to eplore further parallels and have got the Reed Book of Maori Mythology out of the library to aid my investigations. Watch this space.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Hope beyond death?

If you are reading this, you are terminally ill. You may be reminded of a certain gruesome film “The Ring” where a message on a video gave its viewers seven days to live. While the message you have just read does not contain this same power, it is nonetheless true. From the moment of our conception, our time on earth is counting down. Morbid? Yes. Unimportant? No.

For such a universally important topic, death is not something our culture contemplates deeply. Sure, there are reports of death in the papers; there are accounts of murders and tragedies. Films and books are riddled with death. But somehow these deaths seem unreal; for the most part wholly ‘other’ from us. We cannot really imagine a world where we are no longer present. Our whole understanding of the world assumes our own being. In the rare incidents where we do contemplate our own mortality, we are distressed at something that seems so unnatural.

Why do our hearts rebel so much against death? Why do we grieve when a loved one dies? Why do we dread our own mortality? I put it to you that we rebel against death because it is unnatural for us. We are not designed to die. While some may say death is part of the circle of life, our hearts tell us this is not so. Death is an unwelcome intruder – a thief which humiliates us and robs us of our dignity.

Unlike those who hold to an atheistic evolutionary framework where death is an essential part of the world, I believe death is an intruder. As sons and daughters of God, we were created for life abundant. And yet in that garden of perfection our first father rebelled against God and brought death into the world. Since that fateful day, our race has been doomed to death. Our original glory and dignity as image bearers of God has been marred and defaced by our rebellion, and we all must face steady decay until death finally humiliates us.

Yet today is a special day. Today we celebrate the man Jesus who conquered death. Nailed to a cross and left to die, Jesus was the only human being who was not infected with the disease of sin. Jesus did not need to die. Yet he submitted himself to death in the stead of those he loved and desired to save. Death could not own him – for in him was no sin – no trace of rebellion against God his Father. So triumphant he rose from the grave and appeared to many of his disciples - eyewitnesses so committed to the truth of the resurrected Jesus that many would give their lives up rather than deny it in the years that followed.

Why does history so vividly remember this man who conquered death? What is so important about Jesus? Sure there is the amazing fact that he managed to escape death, but the rest of us are yet helpless and will all stare death in the face at some point or other. We remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, because he is the first fruits of the dead. The first fruits in a harvest signify a promise of more to come. In the same way, Jesus victory over death is a promise to his people that they too have victory over death.

Though we must still taste death, the sting of death can be taken away. Jesus now holds the keys to death, and we do not pass through the door unless Jesus has opened it for us. Moreover, for those who have been joined to Jesus Christ through believing in his power to save them from their own rebellion against God, Jesus promises that at the end of the world as we know it, they too will be raised to life – with perfected bodies ready to live life abundant in a restored world where death and suffering are banished forever. What hope Easter Sunday brings to us all as we contemplate our own mortality.

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Ever get the feeling you're not being listened to?

To Epson's credit, they replied very promptly to my email. Unfortunately, their email sent the message that they were really not listening to me. And I quote (with spelling mistake uncorrected):-

Due to your expereince with the Epson Stylus CX3100 Epson Customer Service Management would like to extend an offer of a set of complimentary cartridges if you purchase a new Epson printer through an Epson New Zealand Stockist. Please note that this offer is only valid for 30 days from today.

So apparently I'm supposed to be bribed back to the brand with a couple of measly ink cartridges once I purchase a new Epson printer. In the immortal words of some beer we drink; yeah right.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Epson does not exceed my vision

To whom it may concern:-

I'm fed up. I really am. I have spent the last hour trying to print a nine page essay for my university course. From the third Epson printer I have owned. The first one came free with a computer I bought and printed green when I wanted red or yellow when I wanted blue and was finally replaced by the shop I bought the computer from. The quality of the second (same model as the first) was marginally better. At least it printed the colour I chose rather than some randomly picked hue. But the third. The third has gone far beyond the first two in its annoying idiosyncrasies.

The stats looked good. It had a fancy name. Epson CX3100 multifunction printer sounds like a class act. If only. Multifunction? What a misnomer. More like multi-malfunction, for since I have owned it, this printer has gone where no printer before it has gone in exploring new ways to function inappropriately. The scanner stopped working, rendering the copying function useless, and leaving me with the print function alone.

Well you would assume that the print function should be all right since after all, this machine claims to be a printer. Alas how naive I was. This printer prefers to mess with minds rather than print documents. Let’s begin with the ill-conceived document feeder..what a place to start. It jams and then continues fruitless attempts to feed 50 odd pages through at once finally printing on the same line of the piece of paper it cannot feed through over and over again until the ink gleaming on the page is an inch think, and for the next 100 documents black patches of ink appear at regular intervals on the top of the page. Alternatively it might decide to misfeed so that the one page of the document prints hard up against the top of the page leaving Sahara size regions of white at the bottom of the page. Another of its party tricks is the ol’ feeding it through on an angle trick, which leaves one with a piece of paper with a gradually decreasing white margin.

And let’s not forget the print quality. It is appalling. Gutenberg's first printing press had clearer type quality. No matter how many times one cleans the heads or faffs around with 'maintenance' settings, it refuses to print clean lettering. If I wanted a strikethrough effect on all my documents, I'd select it in my word processor. Then to make matters worse, after finally having got the print quality from ridiculously poor to slightly better than ridiculously poor, the next time one attempts to use the printer, the type is back to unreadable, with missing lines of ink. So again one must clean the print heads using up more of Epson’s completely over-priced ink. How is it that humble black ink is bordering on the price of gold per ounce?

Which brings me to changing ink cartridges. How is it that my colour cartridge runs down when I’m only printing black text? Why is colour ink consumed when I want to clean up the quality of the black ink printing and vice-versa? Why do I need to install a new colour cartridge when I only want to print with the black cartridge? The only way any of this makes sense to me is to assume it is some ploy by your sales team to increase revenue.

Every time I attempt to print a document now, I have to retry at least three times, fiddling with maintenance settings in an attempt to get a type that is passable in terms of readability. Reams and reams of paper are wasted in the process. I swear that my Epson CX3100 is solely responsible for vast swathes of destruction in the Amazon rainforest. But alas this darn machine has crossed me for the last time. No longer will I endure its petulant shenanigans. I have decided to introduce it to my trusty friend Mr Claw Hammer. I will not sell this machine to some unsuspecting citizen. No, I could not inflict this on my worst enemy.

So I'm off to buy another printer. And I assure you it will not be an Epson. I have been driven to distraction with your printers which in my experience are the poorest quality printers around. I have never had such problems from the HP printers which I have used. I will never purchase another Epson product until I hear there has been a vast improvement in quality, and I will tell all my friends and family about my experiences with your piteously inadequate products. Your by-line at the moment is “Exceed your vision with Epson”. The only thing of mine that has been exceeded by Epson is patience.

Yours mostly sincerely,

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