Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Writing for Trademe

I have spent an hour writing up a short piece to persuade someone to buy my beautiful Video Cassette Recorder and have at last got round to loading the information onto Trademe. They say it is 3090 characters too long! I can't let all that creative work go to waste, so here it is as a testament to an hour of wasted time:

Video Cassette Recorder SVHS
Professional Panasonic AG 7350

These days these machines are mostly used as boat anchors but here is one in excellent condition and low head hours all ready to transcribe your VHS and SVHS tapes to DVD or other more permanent archive.

It was given to me by my son who acquired it in Australia and used it lightly in his video production business in the early 1990s. I have run only a few dozen tapes through it during the last ten years. I have just recently cranked it up to play the last of my own conversions to DVD and after a quick cleanup of the heads it ran perfectly. However, as can be seen from my wiring connections, my use of it was fairly unsophisticated so I cannot guarantee that all its other complexities will work perfectly. Indeed, there are switches on this machine which mean nothing at all to me and when I flick the lid off (two screws – no domestic machine was ever so easy to open) I get indigestion just looking at the masses of ICBs. Really, it deserves someone who understands more about it than I do(but I hope you noticed I probably do know what ICBs are). I hope the photos will say everything that you need to know.

One day this will be a collector’s piece as there were not a lot of them. Most people working in SVHS bought a full edit pair with controller (I did and it cost $19000), and while the AG 7350 would have worked quite OK on either side of such a pair, it was usually operated “stand-alone”. The original cost was in the order of $7000, I think, and if I get a good proportion of that back I would feel obliged to offer some of it to my son, so don’t bid too high, please. But you could conceivably make a handsome profit on it as an antique if you buy it at my reserve and hold onto it for, say, about 158 years. That’s what I was going to do; but prostate cancer and downsizing our home have changed all that…

If you don’t want to wait that long, the AG 7350 would make an impressive conversation piece in your lounge. Or you could cut the front panel off and frame it as a picture. Either way; you could sound very knowledgeable about it if you bone up on some of the specifications below and get them into your small talk. It would also work well as a designer doorstop in your loo. Powered up, its lights make an impressive sight in the flowerbeds at night. The possibilities are endless. So, at my reserve this beautiful piece of kit is available for what any vasectomy surgeon would have called a real snip. You could also use it to copy your old VHS and SVHS cassettes onto DVD.

It’s a heavy machine but I can pack it adequately, but without responsibility, for transporting. I think that $25 will cover regular courier but if you want it sent some other way the extra cost might be on you. I can deliver between Paihia and Auckland if you’re not in a hurry – but you can give me $10 for petrol. Or you can, of course, come and collect it. Our Paihia church has a couple of hospitality homes where you can have two nights in Paradise for a very moderate rate (

Oh, yes, if, by any chance, you do want to use it as a boat anchor, you will have to fit your own ringbolt.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"What my Godly mother didn't tell me"

For some years, Margaret has played the organ for church once a month. She offered to do this, not out of passionate interest in the church but for her great love of music. She has obviously enjoyed the experience and gives great leadership to our congregational singing. Our reputation for singing arises partly out of the enthusiasm and competence of our three organists and she contributes much more than her share of both.

She comes from a very devout Christian family but half a century ago outgrew what she found to be a rather repressive understanding of the faith. So it was some diffidence that I asked if she would share something of her experience with us. We billed the service as “What my Godly mother didn’t tell me” and we had a dialogue around Faith, Scripture, Conversion and Future Life.

We sat in comfortable seats to one end of a large circle of chairs. Margaret spoke briefly about how her mother used to enthuse about the topics we had chosen. Faith was having Jesus in your heart; the Bible was absolutely to be believed, word for word, Conversion was signing a pledge card at Easter Camp (“I think I was converted 27 times”) and the Future Life was all about heaven and hell. After she introduced each topic, I offered another point of view and we then shared lively conversation.

For me, it was an opportunity to offer my views more firmly than is always appropriate in “the pulpit” and the pastoral setting. For Margaret, the whole experience was a kind of epiphany, she told me later. She says that when she retires and looks for some university study, the Bible is now at the top of her choice of topics.

Downsizing the paper war

Somebody once quipped: “Everything can be filed under Miscellaneous”…
I’m finding it’s true. There's a bigcleanup going on around here so we can move to a smaller home next year.
The cleanup at this stage includes sorting through dozens of files on different aspects of Local Shared Ministry, culling them vigorously and throwing the remainder into one file called “Local Shared Ministry”.
Why didn’t I think of that twenty-five years ago?

Another step...?

Interesting that a parliamentary committee has just recommended taking water services away from district councils. They prefer only five “arm’s length” companies to handle water issues for the whole of the country.
Another step in the right direction. But not quite far enough… Give responsibility for water to a government department, I say!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Unitary Council - a Step in the Right Direction?

So the Local Government Commission has decided that the whole of Northland should be one, vast, unitary Council, merging a City, a District and a Region.
I guess it is good to see that the new political leaders of these organisations have already met and say they are willing to work together for the best good of all — whatever that pious generalisation means. And I am pleased to see that the proposal goes some way towards what I consider to be the ideal two-step solution.
With a mixture of modesty and superiority, I suggest again -

1. Merge the sectional interests of all our little country’s Councils and Boards into a single organisation which could take over their roles. Actually, it’s already in place. It’s called the NZ Government. And it, for a country of our size, could do everything our complex system of Councils and Boards does.
2. Return local government to the locals. Reinvent elected voluntary community bodies that represent defined communities with common interests or common boundaries. The present system of wards can link up to seven or eight distinct communities, and consistently creates accusations of sectional interests. By definition, it is not “community”.

The Paihia Community Trust is a model for this view of local government. There may be as many as thirty defined communities under the new Unitary Council. I wonder if it will have thirty or more Community Boards?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Well done, Paihia!

Last night we joined several hundred locals for the twilight opening of the new park: Horotutu - “Our place”. There was free food, the shortest of annual meetings for the Community Trust and then there were thanks to all involved

As one who laboured for years on the Paihia Planning Committee to get the District Council to take our little community seriously, I found it absolutely stunning to see what has been achieved. The Council has obviously come to the party, instituting a special rates levy of $9 or so per household for local amenities and services. After several public consultations and submissions to many official bodies, the small maritime car park was cleared to be turned into a people space.

Then the voluntary work began. Commercial firms donated goods or gave big discounts for supplies. Contractors loaned machinery and allocated staff resources. Teams of volunteers worked separately to construct half a dozen separate features. Several individuals gave three months of full-time work every day, many of them discovering skills they did not know they had. One group provided meals for the workers every day for the whole three months.

The result is a beautiful green space incorporating the existing trees, augmented with special seating and the various features dreamed up by the “placemakers”. The cost has been in excess of $150,000 a large part of which was expended in feature lighting that changes colour every few seconds. A psychedelic piano, a huge illuminated model of the Bay of Islands, a stunning water and light feature and a telephone box library of books for free exchange. Other placemaking projects are invited and will be incorporated into this outstanding new amenity for the town.

Our Council representatives used to berate us because, they said, Paihia people could never agree about what they wanted. And it’s true that a few are still bemoaning the loss of 26 car spaces on the waterfront. But already small communities in this country and overseas are hearing what can be achieved when local people take some responsibility for their environment and try to do something about it. Well done, I say.

Isn’t this something like Local Shared Ministry? Small churches don’t have to wait for the national church to do it all for them. They have the resources, they have the people; all they need is the will and the commitment. And with some help from officialdom, great results can be achieved.

It was a good day at church.

Heather led us in a challenging service on the lectionary theme for the day - the Sadduccees’ question about the resurrection. Marie, soon to return to UK, helped us to reflect on Remembrance Sunday and we shared our convictions in well known and well-sung hymns. Then we adjourned to "an upper room" where the newly established Ocean Rock CafĂ© provided us with excellent facilities for our annual meeting.

Nineteen of us sat around the one table. Nine apologies accounted for our entire membership. We listened to very brief prepared reports from our Ministry Coordinators. We re-elected our representatives to the Parish Council Team. And, in the light of the news coming through from the Philippines, we decided to donate $800 for Typhoon relief.

And as noon came, so did lunch. We moved to small tables nearer the window and enjoyed excellent lunch meals or traditional Sunday roast. And at only $10 a person, with free tea and coffee, it was generous value - and the parish picked up the bill.

It was a thoroughly pleasant occasion. We were all amazed and grateful for the efficiency of our hosts, the great facilities and the quality and economy of the meal.

But we did well ourselves, too. We played to the strengths of the small church. We couldn’t have done it with 100 people. But a church of a couple of dozen is a family. And it was as a family that we worshipped, did our business and enjoyed our Sunday lunch together today. That’s what small churches are all about.

Monday, November 4, 2013

"We know what's best for you"

Our Government seems to be claiming that they don't have to listen to the electorate. On several major issues on which surveys show overwhelming public support they just refuse to act. The sale of national assets, and giving people some rights about their end of life are both matters on which the public is coming to quite strong views. On the former, a national and binding referendum has been forced. But the Prime Minister has already announced that, whatever the outcome, his government will not act on it. (I guess I do have to concede that, after strenuously opposing recommendations from bodies of all kinds, they have today announced stiffer blood-alcohol requirements for drivers...)

But on many issues, we have been told, “The government needs more evidence“. So they have kept calling for more and more research on issues which are less and less open to new insights. Meanwhile, the suffering, the high cost - and the anger - mount up.

I know a degree of conservatism is always necessary in those who carry responsibility for thepublic. I can understand that any government must move cautiously in areas of major change. But I have observed the same tendency in the western mainline church. The strategy of stipendiary ministry in small parishes has been clearly failing for decades. People want something else. But the official wheels are still turning only slowly.

Where, in government or the church, is a strong sense of vision of a better way? And where is the conviction to follow that vision and the commitment to bring it to life? Are not vision, conviction and commitment the heart of faith? If so, perhaps a strongly secular government may not be expected to exercise them.

But can we so easily excuse the church?

First-home builder?

When I worked in the deep NZ bush in the 1950s it was legendary that if you were looking for emergency shelter, you should head for a totara tree.

A thrush on our property must have heard about this. Perhaps she's a first-home builder. Maybe her mother told her “It’s often pretty wet in these parts, kid. So when you’re looking for a dry place to build a nest, choose a totara“. Anyway, here she is now, a few metres outside our bedroom window industriously working away at a new season’s nest - in the totara tree we planted about twenty years ago.

But her nest is high up in the top of the tree, in full view from our bedroom window. And no doubt soon to be spotted by some passing harrier or falcon. Worse, there hasn’t been any decent rain in weeks, so she hasn’t discovered how vulnerable she and her brood are going when we have a sub-tropical downpour.

You have to admire her diligence, her commitment, and the instinctive drive which propels her to build and round out her little home. But has she got one of the basics right? We’ll watch her with interest.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

What shall it profit a person...?

The new Quotable Values recently distributed should not have greatly surprised us. Bev and I had already set the asking price for our home well below the 2010 QV. But we still got a shock when the 2013 Valuation arrived.
Friends around town have experienced much greater “losses” than ours. For some like us, it means an immediate threat to a good and quick sale. For others, it is a bit of a technicality—they may even have some optimism that their rates will come down as a result. For others again, who have recently taken on mortgages based on 2010 prices, hard times may lie ahead, especially when interest rates rise.
I guess the QV is a metaphor for ourselves. We place a high value on our capacity to enjoy life to the full. But suddenly we may find a kind of “de-valuation” has been going on in our very being. An unanticipated failing in the physical or mental system, the advent of a serious disease, and we can realise that life is changed forever.
With the property QV, we can appeal, argue, plead, even pay for another professional valuation. But where our life is concerned, the Christian story reminds us of something a little different.
The Gospel story assures us that we have personal worth far above the things we own. This worth is not linked to personal convenience, comfort, success, happiness, enjoyment and certainly not material prosperity—not even the very home we live in.
Even in hard times, we need to try to live by that kind of conviction.