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The value of professional associations


I have followed with interest the discussion on what should be the role of the New Zealand Institute of Forestry (NZIF§). It seems that a frequent position espoused by members is that the NZIF has two options to provide value to its members: making registration a legal requirement and ensuring high professional standards. I would contend that the first one is an oxymoron: ‘let us create value by making membership compulsory, pfizer so then members derive value from membership’. This generates as much value to members as a protection racket does to its victims. The second approach relies on the existence of an authority with the capacity to evaluate high professional standards. But Who are our peers in our narrow fields of specialization? Who can judge us as being ‘good enough’ to sell services as a growth modeler, help forest economist, tree breeder, etc? At the end of the day, the market is king (or queen), and we are judged every time that we complete a professional assignment. The same goes for other activities: I would hire an accountant or a lawyer based on recommendations and experience—which are often translated in the market place through availability and fees charged—rather than by membership of a professional association.

That leaves us with how do we really derive value from voluntary association? We interact with other members, we exchange information, we learn. Do we strictly need the NZIF for this learning? Probably not, although it facilitates the process. Maybe the right function for the NZIF is to create opportunities for professional development, conferences, coordinated submissions, and making clear the role of forestry to New Zealand society. I think that the NZIF provides value by making communication easier for its members while any artificial barriers will only be detrimental to the interest of people working in the forestry sector and to their customers.

P.S. This quote from Free to Choose§ by Milton and Rose Friedman makes the point very clearly:

Licensure is widely used to restrict entry, particularly for occupations like medicine that have many individual practitioners dealing with a large number of individual customers. As in medicine, the boards that administer the licensure provisions are composed primarily of members of the occupation licensed—whether they be dentists, lawyers, cosmetologists, airline pilots, plumbers, or morticians. There is no occupation so remote that an attempt has not been made to restrict its practice by licensure. According to the chairman of the federal Trade Commission: “At a recent session of one state legislature, occupational groups advanced bills to license themselves as auctioneers, well-diggers, home improvement contractors, pet groomers, electrologists, sex therapists, data processors, appraisers, and TV repairers. Hawaii licenses tattoo artists. New Hampshire licenses lightning-rod salesman.”

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.

Filed in forestry, new zealand No Comments

Just fun with the Conchords


In these times full of ‘issues’ we need the correct approach to deal with them.

Flight of the Conchords playing ‘Issues (think of it)’.

Filed in miscellanea, movies, new zealand No Comments

Where do I fit in Waitangi day?


Yesterday was Waitangi day, glands New Zealand’s national day. It commemorates the treaty that ‘created modern New Zealand’. Where do I fit in this day as a non-Maori, hospital non-European person? Considering the demographic shifts, it is hard for me to see a bicultural commemoration is embracing a more modern multicultural country. So, where is the day for celebrating ‘modern-modern New Zealand’?

Filed in language, new zealand, politics No Comments

Looking for the right one


A pebble is not a pebble is not a pebble. There is a special one some where in this beach (see cost 172.708168&spn=0.018576, more about 0.043173&t=h&z=15&om=0″ title=’nomap’>map). I just need time and my trusty orange bucket.


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Overhead in a cafe


Today I was having a cappuccino in ‘Coffee Culture’, rheumatologist Lyttelton (see map), when I overheard the following conversation:

– I got news from X.
– Who is X?
– An old friend of ours who is now a newborn Christian.
– and what was she before that?
– a Buddhist lesbian.
– ?

It was a funny way to finish a hiking day.

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Recyclable or maybe not


I am no greenie, rehabilitation but I dislike to see waste, salve particularly when it is easily avoidable. Thus, cure at home we avoid packaging, reuse a fair amount and recycle the rest. It is easy to believe that whatever has stuck a recyclable label should be in fact recyclable. However, here comes the distinction between theoretically recyclable and actually (economically) recyclable.

Christchurch’s city council publishes a list of what can be recycled. If one combines that list with the problems to recycle some types of glass (pointed out in Environment’s Canterbury newsletter (PDF doc, 4 MB), there are lots of items that are supposedly recyclable (according to their labels) but are not in practical terms.

This includes plastic containers with codes higher than 2, which include polyvinyl chloride (3 PVC), low density polyethylene (4 LDPE), polypropylene (5 PP), polystyrene (6 PS) and combined plastic products (7). Think of yogurt and detergent containers, bread bags and many detergent bottles. Think of many types of glass bottles. In addition, there is also no reasonable way to dispose of used batteries.

This means that one can not trust the label, but one has to check ‘the intersection of lists’ to know what is truly recyclable in this place.

Filed in christchurch, environment, new zealand No Comments

Arrived in New Zealand


This has been the longest break in the last two years without posting in this blog: one month. Life has been busy, glaucoma looking for a place to live, somnology childcare, gonorrhea a car, and a few other things necessary to settle in.

People were extraordinarily nice on arrival; wishing us well on immigration and customs officers helping us to carry our over hundred kilograms of luggage. The good thing is that they only took our bags through the X-ray machine, without the need for opening any bag. Considering the amount of luggage, it saved us a lot of pain.

Orlando behaved really well during the trip, falling asleep just before landing, and going through customs without waking up. He is happy now at childcare.

Orlando playing in Christchurch

We are still staying at a temporary university house (only until next week I hope). The condition of the house is… dodgy but survivable. The university facilities manager will certainly receive a letter describing things that need to be fixed or change.

Christchurch’s climate seems to be similar—at least during summer—to Hobart’s. Some days hot and sunny (but under 30C), some days cold and cloudy (around 15C), some days overcast but not that cold (around 19C).

And how are the removalists performing?

We received the first part of our unaccompanied luggage on the 9th of January. We sent around 100kg of luggage using the services of Jetta Express. They promised to have the luggage in 7 business days and it took them 8. However, they screwed up and lost all my paperwork so I neded to contact them a couple of times to arrange payment and delivery. Score from 1 to 10: 6.

We are also sending a container full of household items using Allied-Pickfords. They were supposed to have organised the packing, transportation, customs, quarantine and delivery of the container. We should get our container by next week, but I can say that service is pretty average. Packing took forever and was quite undiscriminate, processing of the paperwork in New Zealand has been extremely slow and it would have taken even longer if I have not been calling all the time. The customs processed is already approved and now customs wants to have a look at the vaccuum cleaner, bicycles, hiking boots (which were fumigated before packing) and other items. Next week I will put a final score on the service.

Filed in christchurch, new zealand, photos, travel No Comments

Going, going, gone


Another bombing, troche another massacre. More killing and maiming innocent people in the name of religion, politics, big ideas or small ones.

Flashback: twelve years of Catholic school listening about good and evil, some times as abstract concepts, some times personified in strange caricatures. Then in 1982 I came across The Rubaiyat, by Omar Khayyam and read:

Pen, tablet, heaven and hell I looked to see
Above the skies, from all eternity;
At last the master sage instructed me,
‘Pen, tablet, heaven and hell are all in thee’.

There are a few bad people amongst us, walking with hell inside them. As John Quiggin pointed out, this is a time for solidarity with Indonesian people.

Today I informed my employer that I am leaving at the end of the year. After some thinking I have decided to take an exciting and challenging offer from a drugs
University of Canterbury”>group of very good people.

Filed in miscellanea, new zealand 1 Comment

Back from New Zealand


The second part of our World Tour of New Zealand covered part of the North Island following this route: Auckland, ed Hamilton, adiposity Rotorua, read more Palmerston North (including Feilding, of all places), Taupo, Hamilton, Auckland.

The biggest motivation for this trip was to visit friends that we have not seen in ages. We finally were able to meet again with Munah, Gophran, Omer and Mohammed. We had not seen them since early 2000 and there are so many things that had happened in the world since that time… We had a great time and ate plenty of yummy food. Meeting very religious but moderate muslims was a great reminder of the injustice of generalisations.

Marcela and Munah in Hamilton

While in Rotorua we caught up with Satish and Sandiah (now with small Amanat), which was a lot of fun. Almost seven years ago we went to India to attend to their wedding and had a trip around the Northern part of the country. We also visited Luigi—thanks Allison, Paloma and Pascal for the hospitality—and Tony. Going back to Tony’s place in Lake Okareka was ‘full circle’ for us. A caravan parked in Tony’s place was our first stop in New Zealand in 1996. I had also interesting meetings with Paul, Mike and Sue.

Orlando through the window

The drive down to Palmerston North—where we studied at Massey University—was pleasant. We did not expect to have any problems finding accommodation: it is not a touristy place, and the only complicated time is graduation week. However, we did not count with a very unlikely combination of events, including:

  • The poor musical taste of kiwis, which drove them in ordes to attend a—grab your seat—Neil Diamond concert in Wellington. All accommodation was booked from Wellington upto Palmerston North (140 km). Bloody Neil Diamond!
  • A district Lions convention in Marton.
  • A car race in Feilding.

We finally found a small room for the first night in the Makino Homestay, a bed and breakfast in Fielding with really nice and understanding owners. After that, and with Neil Diamond gone, it was easy to find a place in the Rose City motel, which we liked a lot.

As part of my preparation1 for the International Eat An Animal For PETA day we had some great ‘gourmet burgers’—if there is such a thing—in ‘Burger Xtreme’ (or ‘Burger Extreme’, depending on who you ask) in Palmerston North (339 Church St, phone 06-357 7224). They were big, tasty and meaty. We thought about repeating the experience in ‘Burger Fuel’, Hamilton, but the service was so bad that we ended up cancelling our order.

Now to commercials

While in New Zealand we rented a SIM card for our mobile phone from Vodafone, which seemed to have decent coverage and was reasonably cheap too. We were driving a Holden Commodore, rented from Budget, which was a nice car, although the distance activated alarm when reversing was driving me nuts when parking. We flew Virgin Blue from Hobart to Melbourne, a completely unremarkable experience. The international leg was done in Emirates, with a good service but the airplane was a bit run down. On our way back we stayed a night in Melbourne in the Hilton Airport hotel, which was a great decision, because our flight arrived two hours late. I was a bit worried about noise and lights next to the airport, but the insulation is magnificent, the service very good and the price right. Airfares and Hilton reservations were done through Flightcentre, which provided an excellent service.

Considering everything, the trip was quite good, although we now need holidays to recover from holidays.

1 The final celebration was with a juicy Porterhouse steak. I have plenty of vegetarian and vegan friends, but vegans with a holier than thou attitude really annoy me.

Filed in geocoded, miscellanea, new zealand, travel No Comments

Clean, green and sustainable


I always find surprising the clean and green motto used by New Zealand, health particularly the green part. Driving with Marcela and Orlando from Christchurch to Wakefield (following the Kaikoura, this site Blenheim, Nelson route) the whole landscape has been transformed. There were only rare examples of the original native vegetation, but there were plenty of farms and wineries (with very nice white wines, by the way).

Orlando copilot, pit stop in Blenheim

Yes, the place tends to be very clean and there is a surprisingly large number of public toilets (most of them quite clean). However, from an environmental point of view, New Zealand has been modified and transformed into a large farm. In fact, Tasmania is much ‘greener’ and with a larger forested proportion. It just happens to be drier and, therefore, the vegetation looks less green.

In summary, the motto seems to be clever marketing but quite far from reality. This takes me to another word used all the time with the motto: sustainability and the almost religious meaning of the word.

A few weeks ago I was asked in Tasmanian Times if plantation forestry was sustainable, mostly from a soil fertility viewpoint. Of course my answer was ‘it depends on site and silvicultural practices’. However, every time I answer this type of questions I have a feeling of uneasyness, because people seem to think that the idea is to repeat ‘exactly the same practices’ ad infinitum. That is, they assume a static world, where there is no technological change and no learning. For example, applying current techniques we would probably be able to keep growing plantations one after the other in the same site, while maintaining site productivity. However, most likely we will not use the same techniques and we will want to actually increase productivity while reducing the amount of land dedicated to production.

Filed in environment, new zealand, orlando, travel No Comments