31 January 2010

Opinions: For what they're worth.

In an age when everyone thinks they have a right to express their opinion, and that their opinion matters, Ellen Goodman gives some good advice.
As for keeping the attack dogs from nibbling away your courage? My theory, after decades in this business, is that you only give a few people the right to make you feel rotten. You have a handful of chits to give out, penuriously, to those you trust and respect. You don't give them to just anyone with an e-mail address and an epithet.
Ellen Goodman
I listen to talk radio. It is often entertaining, sometimes informative and upon occasion, irritating. When it irritates me, I turn it off. For example, I turned it off at a certain time in the morning this past week to avoid listening to my least favourite radio host, only to find out later that he is still on holiday and my favourite nighttime host was filling in! Just so you know I am discerning and not an addict!

giving your opinion ≠ getting involved

I am fascinated by those who call in and think that by so doing, they are changing the outcome of the issue under discussion. The same can be said for commenting on blogs or debating over a cuppa. If the process expands our thinking, then there is value in it. If it is only a pastime and creates nothing but hot air, then go pull weeds or recycle something. Those activities are more useful.

Voicing an opinion and getting involved to actually create change are two different things.

Opinions are cheap. As my dad says, they are like bellybuttons: everyone has one.

30 January 2010

Shona Art: Money to the Maker

One of the best things about travel is that you get a chance to smell the smells, taste the food, hear the sounds and appreciate the art of different cultures. I love that!

New Zealand has a superb creative vein that continues to produce amazing work.

Zimbabwe too, has artistic expression with traditional roots, yet it continues to develop and surprise.

A few years ago charitable trust was formed by a Canadian doctor a few years back and it has breathed new life into sculpting because it creates a revenue stream for the sculptures.

Sculpture: Sisters by RUFARO MURENZA

An aficionado of Shona abstract and contemporary art sculptures, Dr. Brian Carpenter wanted to access the crisis and consider what opportunities could directly benefit the artists. Carpenter met with his partners, Doug Dicker in Zimbabwe and Greg Pendura in Canada. Together they developed a business model where Muvezi Inc. and Muvezi Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization named for the Shona word ‘carver of stone’, was born.

As an initial goal the charity wanted to renew passion for this spectacular, yet endangered tribal art form. By doing so they are simultaneously improving the quality of life for hundreds of Shona artists, along with the thousands of people depending upon them within their familial and social circles of influence. Today, thanks to Muvezi’s efforts, the top Zimbabwe carvers receive a consistent income and regular shipments of 15-ton quality stone that arrive directly to their workplace. The Shona artists can now work with their apprentices on an ongoing, daily basis without the stress of financial uncertainty. Artistically and economically this is the ideal way for their craft to evolve.

In only a few short months, the 200 Shona sculptors working for Muvezi are regaining motivation, confidence and self-esteem. The foundation’s artists, along with their apprentices and families, finally have security and support.

Needless to say extraordinary improvements in craftsmanship and creativity have taken place. Some of the highest quality custom-made Shona art for the Western world is now being created and this wonderful art continues to evolve.

The transformation, from traditional tribal art to contemporary African art form, is being cultivated and primed. Indeed, a Renaissance is in the works. For the non-profit charity, their role is to ensure their fine decorative stone art is world-class. Ensuring top quality means Muvezi is dedicated to selling only the best. As charity gifts, office gifts or simply fine art decorative pieces, Muvezi is ensuing galleries, museums and art enthusiasts around the world can collect and display this magnificent art.

Sculpture: Come Dance With me by EDIAS MUROMBA

Check out the Muvezi website for some amazing pieces of art that can be purchased online and shipped to your home with much of the proceeds going back to the sculptures and their communities.

reference tools online and wordsmith links

Well beaten tracks through the internet will take you to some of my favourite writing and reference sites.

I often check in at RefDesk.com for a miscellany of info in my writing.

Wordsmith, Oxford English Dictionary and NY Times both have Word of the Day features, as do many dictionaries and iGoogle.

Arts & Letters Daily is another favourite repository of essays, opinions, news and links.

Writer's Digest published its annual 101 Best Sites again in 2009.

With so many great sites out there, share your favourites. We can't discover them all, so let's form a linking co-op and arrive more quickly at the best.

Add your favourite links in the COMMENTS and I'll summarise them all in a future post.

29 January 2010

Motivation to Give?

We see a variety of real and urgent needs right now in Haiti.
We've seen footage from Zimbabwe, New Orleans, Ethiopia, Samoa, Thailand and elsewhere.
We know people in our own circles who are going without something they really should have for safety, health or comfort.

Why do we give?

What motivates you to give when there is a tragedy, a need and an appeal?

I'm not as interested in the outside stimuli as I am in the inner mechanism at work in you.

Why do you give?

What is it in you that compels, motivates and stirs you to action?

Picturesque Speech

English spoken or written well is a beautiful thing. I remember reading Picturesque Speech in The Reader's Digest when I was a kid. I'd read the joke pages and a few other regular features, usually including those that built vocabulary or used words creatively.

Just this past week I heard Kerre Woodham say something about "a snowball's chance in hell."
I loved the picture that formed. I also thought it great that we had a casual reference to a theological doctrine in NZ's public media.

I recently said, "mad as a hornet" and my friends cracked up. They'd never heard that. I'd never heard "a dog's breakfast" or "at the coal face" until I moved to New Zealand.

I get lazy at times and utilise common words when I could pillage my dictionary for gems of meaning and significance. Why use thing, it, alot or went when you can engage conundrum, item, issue, conflict, numerous, countless, galloped, stumbled or meandered?

Imagine using the words
a flicker of . . .
peeling . . .
tragically . . .
wafted . . .

How about these from Priti Mehta
A tiny acrobat of hope somersaulted in his chest!

The Sky is tye-dyed with clouds!
Then there is the misuse of words. Consider these humourous pictures:
...the ram who charded over the cliff because he didn't see the ewe turn

...the disappointed fisherman who went back to the tackle shop demanding a rebait

Add something to the mix. Click COMMENT and chime in.

28 January 2010

Distraction of the Trivial

"It occurs to me it is not so much the aim of the devil to lure me with evil

as it is to preoccupy me with the meaningless. "

Is 'pleasure' on your To Do List?

Ellen Goodman quotes:

• How come pleasure never makes it on to ... a dutiful list of do's and don'ts? Doesn't joy also get soft and flabby if you neglect to exercise it?

• Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe, aren't even aware of.

• The things we hate about ourselves aren't more real than things we like about ourselves.

Check out that word in the first quote. don'ts What is proper punctuation?

27 January 2010

Road Trip: South Island

I'm on a quick tour of the South Island.

It's Auckland Anniversary weekend so I'm getting out of Auckland!

I usually go to Parachute Music Festival this weekend, but my feet are still not up to that much walking and standing so I thought a drive would be in order.

I may be able to post as I go, especially some photos of the amazing NZ scenes. It's a gorgeous country! You really oughta see more of it!

Where's Waldo? Who's Waldo? Where's Indiana Jill?

Common Errors in English Usage

Which word: effect or affect?

How's it spelt in this particular case?
When do I use "swum"? What of "begun"?

I enjoy words used well, intentional construction of a sentence, well crafted and highly polished. I also enjoy colloquial language and picturesque speech. One thing we must agree on though is that the rules must be known so they can be bent or broken appropriately.

Paul Brians helps us do that in his book, or calendar, on Common Errors in English Usage. Go to the List of Errors here to sort out your own conundrums. Paul's homepage is also a gold mine of resources and reference material.

For example:
You can allude (refer) to your daughter’s membership in the honor society when boasting about her, but a criminal tries to elude (escape) captivity. There is no such word as “illude.”

26 January 2010

Half of North Island Without Electricity

My fan stopping was the first hint that the electricity had stopped flowing. The whole system is very vulnerable if a fault in one place takes down half the island!

Just like with cell phone service, competition would bring about change.

Stuff.co.nz reports:

Armed police were needed to help Transpower gain access to power lines over a Waikato farm after the landowner refused to let the company fix a major power fault this afternoon.

A power cable hit trees on the farm of Steve Meier today, causing a fire which led to a power grid emergency.

Power was affected between Huntly and Cape Reinga, with Aucklanders experiencing rolling power outages as Transpower and Vector attempted to conserve energy in the area.

Power to the Auckland network is expected to be progressively restored by 8.30pm, Vector said this evening. Hot water outages would continue, possibly as late as tomorrow.

Transpower head Patrick Strange told Radio NZ that up to 10 per cent of the region had been hit by the outages. Power to Auckland had been cut to about 5000 homes by lines company Northpower at the request of Transpower.

Dr Strange said Transpower had problems accessing the property where the fire had occurred.

But Mr Meier told Campbell Live he had informed Transpower years ago, and again recently, that the trees below the lines needed trimming.

"Eighteen months ago they came to do this work and because TV3 was invited to film them working on landowners' land, Transpower would not let it happen, and they withdrew all work," he said.

But Dr Strange told Campbell Live that Mr Meiers had refused to allow the company access to the farm this afternoon .

"We've been having a hard relationship with Mr Meier, probably the most difficult in the country.

"We have been trying to get on the land for some months, we've been sending him notices saying we needed to do tree-trimming...

"When the fire was on this afternoon and we tried to attend to it, he still blocked us and we had to basically have over 10 police, I think, on site to allow us to go onto the land."

Mr Meier said Transpower was tonight "illegally on his property" while working on the fault.

Outages 'completely unacceptable'

Auckland Mayor John Banks told Stuff.co.nz the outage was "completely unacceptable" and Transpower had to be held accountable for it.

The main areas affected were: Remuera, Ponsonby, Epsom, East Tamaki, Freemans Bay, Manukau, Mt Wellington, Newmarket, Onehunga, Birkdale, Beachhaven, Northcote, Glenfield, Manly, Helensville, Hauraki, Forest Hill, East Coast Road, Albany and Belmont.

"We fully appreciate the frustration that outages can cause and we will do our utmost to minimise their impact while normal operations on the transmission system are restored," Vector said earlier in a statement.

"It is essential to take this action in order to prevent a major outage of greater duration and spread."

But Mr Banks said the outages would end up costing residents and Auckland businesses a "lot of money".

He said there would be "wastage" due to gridlock being endured by motorists on the road, frozen goods melting, service industries not able to serve and disruption generally.

"This will cause a lot of hardship on a broad front," he said.

Police Inspector Chris Robinson said large parts of Auckland city were affected, particularly traffic lights causing rush hour chaos.

The city last year lost the electricity twice last year including one major incident in which the Marsden Point oil refinery was forced to close.

Newmarket Business Association chief executive Cameron Brewer said power to half of Newmarket's businesses was cut about 4.45pm.

The outage "[did] nothing to inspire confidence in the security of electricity supply into Auckland", he said.

"Power cuts seem to have become a regular event in Auckland and it's fast becoming beyond a joke."

Not Religion, but a faith peppered with passion and with doubt

Those who believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.

- Miguel de Unamuno

My friend Autumn put this on her Facebook page and it struck a cord with me. The testing of our faith makes it our own. To doubt, weigh the issues and to decide again is valuable. God has no step-children and calls us not to be believers only but disciples/followers.

What Autumn challenges us with, by way of Miguel, is not religion at all.

WifiTrak, the Wifi-Finding App

Wi-fi is the poor man, or frugal girl's answer to internet access on the go. Many smartphones and gadgets are wifi equipped now, but how to find a wi-fi network to give web access?

A review of a wi-fi detector from everythingiCafe

Immediately after downloading and opening the WifiTrak app–while on a moving public transportation bus, mind you–a few connections started popping up in my home screen’s list. The itemized list tells you if the connection is secured with a passcode (with a small lock icon to the left), as well as what the connection’s strength and channel are. Tap the arrow on the right, and you can see the MAC Address, noise level, and Authentication, and also choose to connect or “Forget This Network,” which will remove it from the list (and remember to keep it off in the future, as well).

You also have more options when you open up your settings via the “i” icon at the bottom of the home screen. Here, you can modify your “Forgotten” and “Known” lists and also set up WifiTrak to automatically scan for networks, as well as change the frequency with which it checks for new connections (down to just one second). The app can also auto-connect you to a network once it reaches a specified strength, and also notify you with your choice of sound.

So did it work?

It did! While moving at a surprisingly rapid speed on public transit, WifiTrak continued to find wifi connections available wherever I was. Once I was on still ground, the app also managed to find wifi connections much faster than my iPhone and my laptop, as well as some that weren’t detected at all on my laptop or iPhone.

So there you have it, folks. For $0.99, WifiTrak is a pretty great investment, especially for you iTouch’ers out there.

From everythingiCafe Does it work?

25 January 2010

Haiti: "Dig my people out."

Rick was in Connecticut ministering to his dying mother when the earthquake hit last week. He immediately rushed back to his home and to his Haitian family, colleagues, staff and friends to help. When I (Maria) spoke to him the morning after and asked what he needed from us he said, "If you are moved to do so, put on some work gloves, grab a shovel and help me dig my people out". Unfortunately, we are probably too late to dig out the 50 or so staff and small children that are buried in the rubble. We are not too late, however, to get him his supplies that will save other lives.

excerpt of an article by Maria Bello on The Huffington Post, January 21, 2010

e have been called here by our dear friend, Father Rick Frechette. A doctor and priest in Haiti for the last 22 years, Rick defines the power of one man's call to action. He and his Haitian colleagues have built and run the only free pediatric
hospital in Haiti, the only hospital for disabled children, two orphanages, 20 street schools, free medical clinics in the poorest slums of the city, Cite de Soleil and most recently, New York City, a job training center that includes a bakery and shoe factory. He supplies the only free drinking water to the people of Cite de Soleil and feeds thousands of people a day in and around Port-au-Prince.

The Port-au-Prince I hear and see today is nothing like the vibrant city I visited last year. A group of us from L.A., led by Paul Haggis, created an organization called Artists for Peace and Justice to fund Rick's projects in Haiti and went down to work with him. For days we rode around the streets of Cite de Soleil in open air trucks, greeted by joyous children and smiling adults. I was struck not only by the overwhelming poverty of a country only one hour from our shores but more by the the Haitian people themselves who, living in the midst of it all, found a way to celebrate life each day. There is no celebrating today, only the sounds of endless grief. Read the rest of the Huffington Post article.

The suffering continues. Just because it is not in the headlines, let us not forget to help.

Parenting: Hopes & Fears

"The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears."

Ellen Goodman

How much is a parent's role to prevent and protect?
How much is it to see their child struggle, fail, fall, get up, learn and grow?

24 January 2010

Vasectomy: Input Anyone?

A friend whom I will not name has used his Facebook options quite well in asking for advice.

...... looking for recommendations for a good vasectomy doc.
+1 point if he/she did yours well,
+ 2 extra points if he did his own (true story...happens more than you would think),
-1 point if there was serious pain/swelling,
-5 points if you have a post-vasectomy child.
So far he has had 32 comments, one from his wife who didn't think FB was the place for that particular discussion.

Many of the comments gave him info to consider when making his decision. One referred to a doctor named Rusty Hatchett living in a small town in Indiana.

So, there you go, all of you who think FB is just a nasty social virus and of no good at all!

Scripture on Sights, Pt 2: Why Those Passages?

Much has been made of the biblical passages on the sights of military rifles being used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

What questions arise in your mind?
  • Why those passages?
  • What if passages from The Quran were inscribed? Who'd be offended?
  • What discussions have there been in barracks and transport vehicles among the service men and women?
  • Who was aware of this before the big news break this week?
  • Does the inscription break a government rule that bars proselytising by American troops?
  • Will it create more of a reaction if troops are captured as they will be perceived as being on a crusade against Islam? (Isn't that already part of the equation since some Muslims consider the killing of non-Muslims a religious right and honour? Some Christians would think on similar lines though with reversal of targets.)
  • Can we keep politics, religion and ethnicity in it's proper places and not borrow from one to promote the other?
  • If there'd been anything else much going on this week would it have made headlines?
  • Who have I offended on all sides of this conversation?
"The inscriptions are subtle and appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number. Trijicon's rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they're aiming for.

Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to US special operations forces, include "JN8:12," a reference to John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,'" according to the King James version of the Bible.

The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," the King James version reads."

The Times Live in South Africa reports, "Gary Tallman, a US Army spokesman, said the service was not aware of the markings. But Army acquisition experts will determine if Trijicon violated any procurement regulations, he said.

Munson, Trijicon's sales director, said the practice of putting Bible references on the sites began nearly 30 years ago by Trijicon's founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon's president, has continued the practice."

What have I missed in this conversation?

23 January 2010

15 Fabulous Books about Books

Book club members and readers in general might be interested in AbeBooks list of books about books. I was surprised to see that I've read or have on my To Read stack five of the 15 titles!

Is there anything better than to read a book… about a book, or books, or bookshops, or authors, or the pleasure and processes of reading, or collecting, or being addicted to books?

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much
by Allison Hoover Bartlett, one of AbeBooks’ bestsellers in 2009, was the latest addition to a long list of books about books (or in this case a book thief) to capture the attention of bibliophiles. With classics like Fahrenheit 451, The Haunted Bookshop, and 84, Charing Cross Road on this list, you cannot go wrong.

Others mentioned are
Sixpence House by Paul Collins
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes
Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman
Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Used and Rare by Lawrence Goldstone

Visit AbeBooks to see more titles, recommendations and discussions of books.

Founded in 1995 by two couples from Victoria, AbeBooks.com went live in 1996 and immediately began to transform the world’s used book business by making hard-to-find books easy to locate and purchase. In 2002, the New York Times described the company as “an actual Internet success story.” By 2003, the United Nations acclaimed AbeBooks as one of the world’s leading ecommerce companies at its World Summit.

The unique inventory of books for sale from booksellers includes the world’s finest antiquarian books dating back to the 15th century, countless out-of-print gems, millions of signed books, millions of used copies, a vast selection of college textbooks and new books too.

Check out Reading Copy, a blog with book related news.

Add to the list! What's your favourite book about books. Click COMMENT and join the conversation.

Maori Hangi fit for a Prince

Prince William seemed at ease through much of his agenda during a recent visit to open the Supreme Court in Wellington.

He sailed with the America's Cup team, kicked the rugby ball around with some All Blacks and school boys, saw plans for the new stadium extension, had dinner out of a hole in the ground and wore a Maori designer shirt.

He went on to help cook for the Prime Minister and made appreciative comments that took the wind out of the sails of those pushing for New Zealand to be a republic and no longer under the British banner.

He possibly appreciated the fact that his first state visit was less formal than if his grandmother's staff was in charge. The Governor General told him the dinner at Government House would be informal, no stiff shirtedness and even provided a shirt for the prince. Can't go wrong in wearing the gifts you're given.

Dinner with the Prime Minister was informal too, a Kiwi BBQ at which he helped cook.

Oh ya, he made a speech too, but that was just the excuse for coming.

All in all, the young helicopter pilot strengthened the bonds between Britain and New Zealand by just being himself and mixing with those with whom he came in to contact.

Scripture on Sights, Pt 1: Not A New Development

The Daily Kos reports:

Maj. Kristian Dunne, a spokesman for the New Zealand defense force, one of the foreign militaries currently using the sights, stated, "We were unaware of it and we're unhappy that the manufacturer didn't give us any indication that these were on there. We deem them to be inappropriate."

Another purchaser of Trijicon products, for use in Afghanistan, is the British military. The revelation that there were Bible verses on its country's weapons prompted the following statement from the Church of England, as reported by the The Guardian:

"It would be unfortunate if this practice by an arms manufacturer undermined the military effort in areas of the world where our forces are trying to bring long-term stability. People of all faiths and none are being killed and injured in these conflicts, on all sides, and any suggestion that this is being done in the name of the Bible would be deeply worrying to many Christians. The meaning of the Bible is to be found in reflective reading and prayer, not in sloganising and soundbites."

The Otago Dominion Post published this account:

Biblical citations on weapon sights used by Kiwi troops in Afghanistan are "inappropriate" and will be removed, the Defence Force says.

The Defence Force was first made aware of the codes on its weapons when contacted yesterday. There has been global criticism of the citations on the Trijicon Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, also used by the United States and British military.

Defence Force spokesman Major Kristian Dunne said that like other countries, New Zealand had been caught unaware. "It's put us in an uncomfortable situation. We can see how they would cause offence. We are unhappy they didn't make us aware of it."

The Defence Force would talk to the US-based manufacturer and supplier to ensure future orders did not have the inscriptions. It would remove the letters from existing gunsights. "They didn't violate any policy but we consider them inappropriate. Everyone has freedoms of religious belief and our soldiers are from multiple religions."

The Defence Force had about 260 of the sights, which were first bought in 2004. Personnel would continue using them, he said.

"The sights were chosen because they are the best of their kind. It enables our guys to fire weapons very accurately during night and daytime."

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the biblical codes were undesirable and could be easily misconstrued. The Government had not been aware of them.•

What jumped out at me most was the fact that NZ Defense Forces have
been using the sights since 2004 and were unaware of the Bible references?

The inscriptions are subtle and appear in raised lettering at the end of the stock number. Trijicon's rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they're aiming for.

Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to US special operations forces, include "JN8:12," a reference to John 8:12: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,'" according to the King James version of the Bible.

The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," the King James version reads.

22 January 2010

Jay & Conan: Bigger playground, but boys still quibble

Conan O'Brien signs deal with NBC,
ending run as 'Tonight Show' host;
Jay Leno set to return.

Conan O'Brien is getting a $45 million package to walk away from NBC's "Tonight Show," a programme I used to watch on my grandfather's knee when it was hosted by Johnny Carson.

Read the following NY Daily News article on the near fisticuffs.

O'Brien's seven-month run as host of the venerable franchise will end Friday, and comes after more than a week of intense negotiations between his camp and NBC.

NBC and O'Brien, issued a brief statement Thursday morning, saying they "reached a resolution surrounding" his contract to host "Tonight."

Under the terms of the deal, O'Brien will be freed from his contract with NBC, and will be able to seek other work after Sept. 1, 2010.

His final appearance on "Tonight" is Friday.

NBC's "Today" first reported the deal, which is believed to include a payout of upwards of $33 million for O'Brien and the remainder going to pay severance to his staff, most of whom moved to California from New York, when he took the job.

The deal sets up Jay Leno to return as host of "Tonight" — a show he was on for 17 years until last May — to return on March 1.

"We're pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years," Jeff Gaspin, Chairman, NBC Universal Television Entertainment said in a statement. "He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television."

For more than a week, O'Brien and NBC officials have been at loggerheads over his future.

It started when NBC officials decided to end Leno's struggling prime-time show and move him to 11:35 p.m., thus pushing "Tonight" to 12:05 a.m. followed by "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

O'Brien refused to move, kicking off a fight over how much money he should get to leave, and when he'd be able to work elsewhere.

Moreover, NBC will retain the "intellectual property" rights to some of the material he created during his run at the network, including the Masturbating Bear.

O'Brien joined the network nearly 17 years ago as the host of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Leno left the show last May, ending a five-year plan to have O'Brien take over.

However his prime-time show struggled, which, combined with O'Brien's struggles on "Tonight," forced NBC's hand.

O'Brien took some parting shots in his monologue on Wednesday night's show.

"Over the past week, ratings for the 'Tonight Show,' are up by 50%," he said. "When NBC executives heard this they told me, 'See, you really don't fit in around here.'

"This whole experience has been so surreal. I never thought I'd be jealous of the long, illustrious run that NBC gave 'Joey.'"

"Hosting ‘TheTonight Show' has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for me – and I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too," O'Brien said in one joke

Even CBS' David Letterman has gotten in the routine of slamming NBC over the mess.

"Let me ask you this: in contractual negotiations, are you fascinated by legal detail?" Letterman joked Wednesday night. "Listen to this: Conan O'Brien, he had 'The Tonight Show' and now he's leaving, and NBC is negotiating with him and it's that intellectual property – he can't take his signature comedy bits with him. But that's okay, Jay will take them."

O'Brien's last show will be Friday, with Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell the scheduled guests and Neil Young the musical guest. Where O'Brien goes next is the big question.

Fox officials have said they're interested in talking to him about a show, although there are numerous hurdles to get that off the ground. Sister cable network FX is also interested.

Read more, if you care: http://www.nydailynews.com/

Don't Underestimate the Kiwis: NY Times' Filkins

The New Zealand Herald said today the journalist who broke the story of the SAS joining the counterattack against a Taliban strike was surprised at the reaction in New Zealand.

Afghanistan-based New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, in a blog posted to the newspaper's website yesterday, wrote:

"New Zealand? At war? Who knew? Not a lot of New

Zealanders, apparently."

"The news ... that a team of commandos from New Zealand had joined Afghan soldiers at the scene caused a sensation in the little country off the coast of Australia,"

Filkins said he spotted the New Zealand soldiers as they

moved in to Pashtunistan Square, the site of the Taliban attack, which killed five people and wounded at least 70.

He said one told him to: "Get out of here".

"I saw the patch on his arm announcing his country. Others were more friendly. 'Can't talk now, mate,' said another with a smile."

The Herald's assistant editor John Roughan said the paper stood by the decision to use the picture which, he said, had real news value.

"The soldiers were in a public street, in a major city, visible to anybody, wearing their uniforms, carrying their guns, photographed as the New Zealand SAS."

New Zealanders have reacted strongly for a number of reasons.

1. Filkins condescending attitude, calling New Zealand "the little country off the coast of Australia."

2. Filkins mixed his facts, calling John Key both President and Prime Minister.

3. Photos were supposedly published in The NY Times showing the unblurred faces of NZSAS troops responding in a combat situation.

4. Filkins deliberately described the situation bluntly "New Zealand is at war" when it is usually referred to more diplomatically in New Zealand.

New Zealanders know that SAS troops and regulars are involved in various situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but details are rarely reported. That is partially an intelligent approach to security for the people at risk, but it is also because New Zealanders view war with less gusto than your average American. A comparison of the media coverage in the two countries shows a very different diet of information and photos.

New Zealanders weren't as surprised about SAS in action as they were that SAS troops were identifiable in the photos. It is true that the NZ troops, some without helmet or sunglasses, were not in any way shielding their identities. Knowing that international media practices vary, does take the wind out of the argument that the NZ Herald should not have published the photos. If the photos are online or in a major newspaper like The NY Times, what difference would it have made to not publish them in New Zealand? We are all part of the global information community, though China still tries to control access and content.

What really gets up many people's nose is Filkins' attitude. In reality though, he's on the ground in Afghanistan, possibly near another disgusting scene of needless violence and the resulting suffering. He probably doesn't care what a few million people in the South Pacific think.

My personal aside, the photo did make the NZ SAS look mighty fine.

Old news in NZ media on NZ deployments in Afghanistan:

27 January 2005: The mission is currently projected to end in mid 2006. Deployed personnel currently serve in the PRT for six months; this is New Zealand’s fifth rotation.

he NZ PRT will undertake engineering projects, school refurbishments, and local village health programmes. They will also continue with the patrol in and around Bamyan and will assist with the Parliamentary elections in April.

29 October 2007: There are 107 New Zealand Defence Force personnel involved in the NZPRT in Afghanistan today. The Kiwis are located in Bamyan Province and their role includes reconstruction projects, security patrols, training of Afghan National Police, explosive ordnance disposal and providing humanitarian aid and assistance.

No New Zealand troops were injured in the gun battle, which happened about 11am Afghan time yesterday, (about 7.30pm NZT) and lasted about two hours.

A patrol, comprising Hiluxes and Hummers, was returning from the northeastern area of Bamyan province, when it came under fire from insurgents armed with small arms and rocket propelled grenades, said Captain Zac Prendergast of NZ Defence Force communications.

The New Zealand troops returned fire on more than one occasion and the whole incident probably lasted about two hours, he said.

Other New Zealand troops and two Nato coalition Apache helicopter gunships were able to support them returning fire. A Blackhawk helicopter was on standby in case anybody needed to be evacuated, he said.

Prime Minister John Key said it would not make any difference to New Zealand's commitment in Afghanistan.

"As I've said repeatedly, Afghanistan is a dangerous place and I believe the ongoing work of the PRT (provincial reconstruction team) and of our other defence forces continues to be important as we seek to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan."