November 30, 2009

Antonia Steeg.... New Zealand animal and rural photography.

This site has some wonderful pictures of animals and Antonia also features interesting views of rural New Zealand scenery. I have put up one of her horse pictures, but it is probably easier to start at the gallery to see more of her wide range of topics:)
Have a look at

Really, really tired at the moment - and it doen't help that people think we must be sitting around at work twiddling our thumbs because classes have finished for the year. Yeah right!!!! Shame about all the interviews, marking, submitting final results, assessment and handout planning we get to do instead! Another long day... bring back the classes!!! The stress levels have been sky high and I landed up having a good cry last week... not sure it helped, but it did help to remind me just how tired and stressed I was... still am, but trying to pace myself more. I spent a quiet weekend catching up with friends and my parents - but still slept badly and got up at about 5....too much to think about I guess.
This week we are also interviewing for a new staff member to join our small team. Sadly, my long term friend and colleague is cutting back to being a part time casual tutor, so I need a new office mate and programme leader. Times change, but I will miss her being around greatly.

On top of it all, the summer has abandoned us here... it is cold, and damp and grey, even though it was incredibly hot last week. . Tonight, we have even lit the fire - I am grateful for the cheerful warmth and a cosy room!

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November 29, 2009

Animals in Entertainment

Sometimes you have to reflect on the past to realise how much things have changed... and watching some movies that a friend posted on Facebook reminded me that we have come a long way in our attitudes on how we use animals in films and shows now.

I started thinking about it further after seeing this video clip - we all thought, it is rather disturbing...  on quite a few levels.

Today she drew my attention to the famous diving horses that were popular in the 30's.. particularly in Atlantic City. I confess I had never heard of them! The original horses were diving from 60ft high.

One of the divers was blinded by hitting the water with her eyes open, but continued to do it for many years. Disney even made a movie about her - which was heavily romanticised, but contains interesting footage of how they did the diving...

But on looking around, there are films of horses doing it in the 50's in Miami, and to my amazement, this strange practice is still happening today. Nowadays, they don't have a rider... but I still feel it is exploitation.

I am sure there is footage out there somewhere of the chimpanzee tea parties so often held at zoos.

Animal films and tv programmes have been around since television started... who can forget Lassie, Mr Ed, Flipper, Skippy, The Incredible Journey and Daktari to name just a few I grew up with. However, I imagine the requirements for the use of real animals in filming has altered dramatically since those days!

"No animals were harmed in the making of...."

I guess it depends on how you interpret "harm"?

November 28, 2009

Greyhounds and Friends

Sometimes people forget that greyhounds need homes once they are unable to race anymore... these lovely dogs make wonderful pets. I was surprised how gentle and placid they can be considering they are bred for speed.

I have had many students who are involved in this worthwhile cause of rehoming greyhounds. I found this blog about it, and you can also see more in New Zealand at

For those living overseas, just search for "Greyhounds as Pets" and your own local organisations will show up. Most of them run get togethers where you can meet available dogs, get together regularly at local parks to show off your dogs and meet other potential adopters.
If you are interested, do get in touch with them and find out if you are a suitable owner... they will be more than happy tell you what is required :)

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Killer whales: Death by karate chop,

killer whale

Moments before the deadly blow. The raised fin is about to come crashing down like a karate chop on a shark (circled). It has been driven to the surface by the orca before this coup de grace

An interesting article on how Orcas track and kill sharks.... check it out, and the other photos. I do think their sheer size difference helps, but I am intrigued how they have learned that holding a shark upside down can immobilize it! Shame that humans have not go th3 ability to do that to sharks when they are attacked!

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November 23, 2009

Face-Off With a Deadly Predator

This is an amazing video of a leopard seal... and a job I don't envy as it looks cold, let alone dangerous.

Right now, after a hectic week, my job feels pretty overwhelming... but on reflection, I think I will avoid a swap with this guy.

Meanwhile, I had a great birthday last weekend, with final end of year dinners and exams... our marking pile kept us all head down for a while!

All this was followed by a full on business trip to Wellington, and a weekend of parties for birthdays and neighbours - and a lot of recovering...from being tired, not the drinking!
Anyway - back to work, and finishing all our classes this week, so the interview process starts all over again over the next fortnight. Not much time in there to grieve, but we will miss the leaving students. Good luck everyone.

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November 19, 2009

A dog and her ... kittens |

wow - nice of her to do this as when we hand reared kittens it was a lot of work! At least she doesn''t have to bath them!!!

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November 13, 2009

Whale Watch® - Kaikoura - New Zealand

Congratulations to Whale Watch Kaikoura who have won the supreme prize at this year's Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in London.

Check out their interactive flash site linked above (needs Flash).
or go here if you aren't able to see that one -
There is also a great article from the British Telegraph and a video on whale watching on here:

I first went with them in 1998 - and yes, we saw a whale... and although we now stick to our annual dolphin swims, we often see the whale watching boats out near us. Last week they launched their new boat... The Wawahia is the sixth in Whale Watch Kaikoura's New Zealand fleet. It was designed by Teknicraft Design and built by Q-West Boat builders in Wanganui at a cost of $2.5m, and is the first of a planned new generation fleet of whale watching vessels.

Hopefully we will get to see it when we go back next March :)

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November 11, 2009

Shark's do-it-yourself caesarean

Visitors to Auckland tourist attraction Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World were given a treat on Tuesday - a fishy lesson on how to deliver babies via caesarean section.
Visitors found baby sharks spilling from a large gaping wound in a female shark and told staff.
A large shark had apparently taken a bite into the female school shark's stomach to deliver the four babies, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.
Kelly Tarlton's aquarist Fiona Davies said it was common for sharks to take chunks out of each other, even in the wild, but she had never heard of anything like this.
"It had to bite a certain part to let them out and do it without killing the babies or the mother."
She said the unusual delivery had probably saved the baby sharks' lives.
If there had been a natural birth, the babies would have been eaten by adult sharks and stingrays before staff could rescue them.
The young sharks have been put in a "nursery" before they were released into the wild.
The mother shark was doing "surprising well" and was being monitored.
How amazing... never heard of this before.
Just wish it had happened when we were there recently!!!!

November 10, 2009

New Zealand's Oldest Cat

This lovely cat, Smokey, that reminds me of my own cat, Motley, is apparently 24 years and 9 months old, verified by vet records. That is equivalent to 111 human years and he has been confirmed as the oldest cat here in a recent competition.
So, can anyone overseas beat this?

My own Motley has been adopted by our neighbours.. which means they each get to call him either 'Bronski' or 'Henry', enjoy his company, entertain their visitors, and I get to pay for his food, vaccinations, flea treatments, worm tablets, and recently, because they asked me to do a house call when he was vomiting, his check up, meds and blood tests. In return he gets to wander here whenever he wants to see us, and get called 'Motley' again. However, my partner has now decided he suits the name "Douglas" better. Excuse me if I have problems keeping up!! He is about 15 now - wonder if he will make 24?

And just to let you know, after my recent post on our Guy Fawkes sagas, Saffy is now swallowing pills and sporting an enormous head collar... but her feet look much better.
Jess is braving the dark again...still a little anxious, but coping...


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November 8, 2009

Getting up close and personal with the lions at Werribee Open Range Zoo

Wow... that is getting up close and personal!!
I grew up near Whipsnade Zoo in England...which was an "open Zoo"... and I remember the feeling of being on the African Plains as we drove though in the car.

Here in New Zealand, we have some wonderful zoos and wildlife parks. Many years ago when I first visited Christchurch, I went to our local Orana Park to see the new lion cubs. It was great, but increased safety laws meant they later closed some of the lion access. Many years later, they have managed to reopen the popular lion encounter rides... which are apparently very exciting...
Both offer a chance to see lions at close quarters...
Me - I will always love the noise... the deep rumble and power of the roar.
I might stay away from the teeth though.

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Dog tales.. fireworks mayhem.

Ok - I have Guy Fawkes week worked out now.

What are 'appeasing pheromones'?
Wednesday 4th pm - apply DAP (click here to read more)  to dogs bandanas tv and put up with stereo panting from them.Forget to feed dogs while still daylight - Jess refuses to eat as she is too stressed!

Thursday 5th pm : Guy Fawkes...we are going out to an Award dinner... so my partner leaves the dogs alone with the tv, curtains drawn, wearing their DAP bandanas.

We return home about 9, clean up the chaos and decide to take the dogs for a walk along the lake to face their firework fears, which, despite the heavy panting, they seemed to enjoy. We then had stereo panting while we watched tv until bedtime. Jess bravely manages again with no dinner...

Friday 6th pm: my partner is working and I am babysitting for a kids are all going out, so before they leave they carefully shut the bathroom door, where Saffy shut herself in the night before while "poo hunting" behind the door, and tried again to dig her way to freedom. Sadly, she decided to do it through the wrong door; the airing cupboard door.... but then she is blonde! I return home later and, again, clean up (some) of the chaos...

Saturday 7th am: I wake up, give Jess an extra large breakfast as she is not eating at night. Find a wet and shredded dead feather quilt in garden that had been hanging innocently on the washing line at some point the day before until the deranged canines found it.  We missed finding that in the dark... must have been done before they were shut inside! We clean up the feathers all over the courtyard, feeling like we are working in some sort of chicken-killing factory and hope the fine sunny weather will give way to strong winds later ( it did) and that the feathers will be organically distributed back to line birds nests.

Saturday 7th pm:  I get to apply ALL the knowledge learned - training really works!
 I apply the DAP to their bandanas, feed the dogs in brilliant sunshine at 5 pm...turn up the tv in the lounge and this time, also the radio in the bedroom... shut the bathroom door to protect the airing cupboard... then have to work out how to stop the laundry door shutting, gritting my teeth at the damage to the laundry door where Saffy tried to dig her self out the previous night after the ironing board fell over and locked her in...
I then shut ALL the curtains fully and create a secure and dim cave for them... and bravely go out.

Result... doors and bedding - safe. Dogs fine... apart from Saffy's damaged nails and foot licking that I just know is going to cost me this week!
Might just sit home quietly with them tonight.... Can some one remind me again why I have two dogs?

Fireworks have a lot to answer for!

November 6, 2009

Dinner doodle gets girl on Google

Amelia Abbott, 8, has won a competition, "New Zealand Doodle for Google", and will have her work appear on for a day next year...
Her winning doodle is a wonderful collection of classic New Zealand Icons...the silver fern, kiwi, kiwifruit, morepork, nikau palm and tuatara

Thousands of NZ schoolchildren took part and there are some other amazing winners on this news article - do go and have a look.


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November 5, 2009

Face The Facts


I read that Danish students are going to be allowed to use the Internet during examinations.

According to the BBC, 'Sanne Yde Schmidt, who heads the project at Greve, says: "If we're going to be a modern school and teach them things that are relevant for them in modern life, we have to teach them how to use the internet."'

I can't argue with the statement that young people need to know how to use the Net. Am I the only person who would point out, though, that young people generally manage to work that out for themselves?

But the argument is that this kind of examination tests the ability to research a subject and work out the answer to a question through the integration of information derived from various sources, rather than just the learning and regurgitation of facts.

And I certainly approve of children being taught those skills as early as possible. And I'm aware that there are now sophisticated computer programs that do a good job of spotting plagiarism, generally seen as one of the biggest risks of access to the Internet.

But I can't help wondering whether this is going a little too far. We do need to learn how to commit information to memory and how to use the information we've stored away to answer questions. This can be a simple regurgitation of facts, but the ability to do more than that should be what distinguishes the top grades from the average.

If I'm employing someone, I want that person to be able to think on his or her feet. Though there may not be total recall of every fact related to the matter at hand, that person should at the very least remember enough to have an idea of possible solutions rather than being able to do little more than stare blankly at me until they've had a chance to dive onto the computer.

We are, surely, in danger of creating a generation who are data-rich, but information- and understanding-poor.

This is an interesting concept...thank you Ro.

Currently the issue for us when assessing written work at tertiary level, is making sure that students do not just copy and paste their work off random internet articles... and yes, we can tell. The language and words let us know, let alone that much of it is rubbish. But we want them to read widely, journals, and textbooks and internet articles, then reflect on what they have found... and in the process, learn about it. This is what fosters deeper learning and helps them remember the information, and recall it when required!

When training a vet nurse, we are looking for the overall picture that demonstrates: knowledge, skills and attitude. All our students will fit somewhere on a spectrum of highly academic through to highly practical. We want to develop the skills they need to cope with both areas. At the same time, their attitude can be seen in how they deal with other classmates, workplaces and whether they are ethical, honest, and professional.. it can be reflected in their dress sense for work, their following of safety precautions, the development of their knowledge and skills and their application, and various feedback from the places they do "work experience" at...

We also talk about "dangerous and useless" - as in
Don't know how to do it = useless...
Don't understand why they do it = dangerous.

If we allowed the use of the internet in class, then it would make little difference to their success in assessment, as long as the assessment process takes it into account. An open book test allows students to refer to their notes and textbooks, but the questions need to encourage interpretation and application of their knowledge, not mere rote learning. Many closed book tests foster a cram and forget mentality...but they also let us check what sort of essential, must know, knowledge has got in there..and makes them at least read the notes again!

With the increasing use of wireless technology, being able to search for information on the spot has become normal... and I love it that I can check my facts and learn as I go. So I can handle students having the potential internet access.. just make sure the educators learn how to ask the right questions!

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Great White Shark bitten nearly in half by an even BIGGER monster

A 'monster' great white shark measuring up to 20 ft long is on the prowl off a popular Queensland beach, according to officials.

Swimmers were warned to stay out of the water off Stradbroke Island after the shark mauled another smaller great white which had been hooked on a baited drum line.

The 10-foot great white was almost bitten in half.

The fictional shark at the centre of the Steven Spielberg blockbuster Jaws was estimated to be just five feet longer.

Enlarge   We're going to need a bigger boat: The remains of a 10ft great white shark that was bitten nearly in half by what authorities - judging from the size of the bite marks - estimated was a 20ft monster

We're going to need a bigger boat: The remains of a 10ft great white shark that was bitten nearly in half by what authorities - judging from the size of the bite marks - estimated was a 20ft monster

Do duh duh.. do duh do duh do duh do duh
Note to self - abandon plan to holiday in Aussie beach areas...

I do enjoy snorkeling... and spent many hours enjoying it in Fiji, but I do remember swimming at a deep water beach in Northland, NZ, gliding over the rocks at high tide, but hyperventilating with fear because I knew they had pulled one shark out of the water at that beach recently.

Take care if you are over there!

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November 4, 2009

Kitten demand outstrips supply

You don't often read that headline... but as thr main kitten season in New Zealand has not been underway long, most of those available at this SPCA are too young yet to go to a new home.

By December there would be an abundance of kittens. "We'll be inundated, so please be patient. It's just a demand and supply issue."

If you are getting a kitten, especially a female one, please be responsible and have it speyed....before it has a litter! They can be operated on very young these days - usually when they reach about 1kg in weight as a rough guide. You don't have to leave it until they are 5-6 months old, but if you do, they are likely to be already pregnant.
Sad but true...

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November 3, 2009

New Zealand - Dolphins and Whales

WINNING SHOT: This picture won Ray Lovell the wildlife category in the New Zealand Geographic photographer of the year awards.

This lovely photo was taken in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand...

We also had some whales in Milford Sound recently.. look here :)

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November 1, 2009

Bangladesh journey drawing to a close...

James and Jess are winding up their time in Bangladesh with a week long holiday, a conference, and in early December, on their third wedding anniversary, they will leave Bangladesh and head off on a meandering journey to London, New York, spending Christmas with my brother in Vancouver, and then home via Australia. No idea when they actually arrive back in New Zealand, but sure the plans will filter through in time :) I think it is Febuary! So still four months away. They have put up some great photos - do check out their blog entries

Darling Phoebe has been very ill this weekend, requiring a trip last night to the Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland to be rehydrated. A worrying time for everyone, but she is home today, and a nurse will be visiting her to check that she is alright. Not sure what the cause is - hard to tell with babies and viruses and bugs... but she is a tired wee girl, as are her parents!
Sure they will write about it when they have caught up on some sleep - watch out at:

While my partner worked last night, I had a girls night with my friend, and we rewatched the wonderful Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. It is a great story of not only the support of female friendship, warts and all, but a brilliant illustration of how we need to appreciate that our mothers were people, with their own lives and dreams and aspirations, before we were born, and hold a horde of stories that we may never know about, unless their friends make sure we hear them! So, today, I am going to have a lazy Sunday and catch up with my parents...who knows what I might learn!

and just because - my smile for the day is:


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