Mike Hosking but it’s an actual AI this time

A while back I used an AI-powered predictive text keyboard called Botnik to create Mike Hosking columns. It was fun, and the results were definitely more entertaining than actual Mike Hosking columns.

Since then the field of using AI to generate text has only got more interesting. Of course, I understand very little of what’s actually happening, because I have the all the coding skills of a light Auckland drizzle, but it’s very cool to see what AI is now capable of in this space. And also a bit spooky, for someone who words for a living.

The boffins at Open AI recently released a scaled-back version of an AI language model called GPT-2. The reason they only released a scaled-back version is because they were seriously worried about what people might do with the full one.

Having mucked around with the scaled-back GPT-2 for a while now, I can see why. So, as a sequel to last time, let’s see what it can do with Mike Hosking’s uniquely blithe prose stylings.

One of the ways you can use GPT-2 is to offer it a block of text, like an animal sacrifice before a vengeful god, and it will extrapolate further from what you provided. So I gave it these (real, in case you were wondering) opening lines from a recent Hosking column.

I might nominate Phillip Neal for New Zealander of the year.

Phillip, who is the president of Marlborough Fed Farmers, has got himself some attention this week over his views on the capital gains tax.

In the last column I tried to outline the difference between a small business owner, of which a farmer is one, and salary and wage earners, of which an alarmingly large number appear to think there is little if any difference.

And given that, then go on to argue that capital is capital and therefore we should all be taxed. Farmers more than any other group are whacked hard in the Michael Cullen-led report.

If you want to get a bit political about it, it will be because Labour and farmers have never been close, mainly because farmers are realists, salt of the earth-type entrepreneurs … and Labour MPs are from unions and universities.

Phillip, in a newsletter, pointed out quite rightly what farmers could be in for tax-wise. Not just the CGT, but an emissions tax, water tax, fertiliser tax, nitrogen tax, and an environmental footprint tax.

Mike Hosking

Okay. Instead of pointing out exactly why that’s a.) wrong on nearly every possible level and b.) horrific prose, because we haven’t got all goddamn day, let’s let the AI take over and see what it can do. The following is very lightly edited – unlike last time, with the predictive text keyboard, where every word was suggested by the AI but all of them were selected by me. I’ve just taken out a few sentences for length and changed a couple of instances of “Australia” to “New Zealand,” as the bot got understandably confused about what country Mike was ranting about. Everything that follows is GPT-2. This was its first try at being Like Mike.

Which is, of course, exactly what we would be paying. If farmers are going to have to pay much more for the energy they generate than that they are going to have to get rid of the carbon tax. But what about the other cost? Not only could it be quite a bit cheaper for the CGT to go ahead without a tax, they would be able to avoid paying the capital gains tax. And that is certainly what we would pay. I believe there is a lot there.

That is, it would mean that, if it were to go ahead without an income tax, the average New Zealander would pay $8,000 more in income tax over the next 12 years than he or she did. And as we saw last year, that would be quite a lot, if not more. There are quite a few people who are going to pay the more expensive capital gains tax.

I should add that this is a good way of making sure there is no tax of any kind on the farmers who have been doing well, and who have raised quite a bit over the last four years. The CGT, on the other hand, should be a much more straightforward thing with a much broader framework. The CGT should be an excise tax (although there is no mention of that) but it should be an emissions tax.


Now none of that makes any actual sense, but I challenge anyone to deny that stylistically it reads exactly like Mike Hosking, and it’s arguable whether Mike’s columns are any more coherent.

To be fair to Mike, after a while, the AI got tired of waxing lyrical about capital gains tax, and things took a biblical (if totally heretical) turn. I’m not sure why. It’s probably user error.

The origins of this city, known as Harkness, lie in the life of one John the Baptist, the patriarch of Jerusalem (John 4:1). As early as the year 400, he was the oldest living person to be known to the world. With his wife Mary, he served as patriarch of Jerusalem. Shortly after his death, he became a member of the council of the Twelve Apostles (James 1:32; 2:9-11; 1 Corinthians 12:16; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 1 John 3:21; 1 John 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:25). John was ordained a priest in a small order in Jerusalem. When John came to visit them, he found that, under the guidance of his apostles, the people had been deprived of their true religion. They were called to be witnesses to the church of God, with the belief of the Christian god, and the truth was known to them, as was believed throughout the world. The Lord brought about a change in Jerusalem and the people, but not before the people had heard the gospel, had been baptized, received the Holy Spirit, and had received the Holy Spirit of God. In the fourth year after the first revelation, Jesus Christ was born, and with him was his mother Mary, daughter of the Virgin Mary.

The Gospel of Wat, GPT-2

Time for a new one, then. Here’s a prompt from a real, recent Hosking column that I used:

One of the things I appreciate most about broadcasting is I have been lucky enough to work in basically all aspects of it: radio, TV, print, commercial, non-commercial, government-owned, and private enterprise. And the lesson is – nothing beats private enterprise. Private enterprise largely allows you to operate on your merits.

Which is why I feel so sorry for the schools right now who have had to form this coalition to fight the Government on the pending changes, the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms. What must it be like to be sailing smoothly, to be respected, liked, and supported by your community only to have the likes of Chris Hipkins come along with exactly no experience in a classroom (other than spending most of his life at school before he joined the Labour Party) and telling you based on nothing more than a bit of ideology he dreamed up on a whiteboard that what you’re doing needs tipping on its head?

Mike Hosking

And here’s GPT-2, very lightly edited for place-names when the AI decided Mike was warbling about Ireland. This one is way better than the CGT one. It’s an almost perfect facsimile of Hosking.

Or do you get angry and push back, not because you’re wrong but because you’re wronged?

I’m sure some people are going to disagree with about this point, especially since the Government is taking the side of the teachers and the parents who are most directly affected by the change. But I would point out that the majority of the people you speak to at schools have been involved in teaching since the day they were born, and it’s only a matter of time before all kinds of things will start to become mainstream again. As a former teacher, I can clearly tell you that I am, personally, very happy for any and all of the schools across New Zealand that have taken a stand on the matter. I have a lot to be thankful for, including my own school, Kings College. I’ve been the first person to speak to this issue with a school minister and as a result the policy has been pretty good.

All of which is welcome; I’m not sure there is any room for debate over the issue to this day. But I’m sure that if you were to come across any other school with a school to fight for, and you found out that they were fighting to protect teachers, you couldn’t help but feel very concerned.

We live in a country where people with a bad attitude have been able to walk into any kind of school and get attacked, and they won’t get kicked out any more. But the Government is taking the side of teachers, and the teachers aren’t going to be happy with it either. All of which is fine; the majority of the people I spoke to had some good things to say about it. We certainly don’t want to hear the side of teachers against the Government for having that “bigoted, anti-Kiwi policy”.

A lot of people, I think, are very happy with the Government’s position, and I think it is probably because they’ve got some of the best in the country out there that they’re able to offer it to them. We’re not really on the side of the whole thing.

I also think it’s interesting that some of the people I spoke to who are very happy with the way they’re doing things, especially in this context, are those who are in the middle of a struggle against the Government.

And so on. And so on. And so on


That’s it, everyone. We don’t actually need Mike Hosking any more, if we ever did. Poorly-informed dolt-right opinion blather can now be effortlessly and cheaply outsourced to AI, and all it will need to pass muster is a light edit. In fact, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if that had already happened and no-one had noticed.

But while we’re at it, and just to prove the point, let’s see what it can do with with Heather du Plessis-Allan. But just for fun, I’m not going to tell you where she stops and GPT-2 starts. See if you can figure it out without looking at the original.

I know a guy who runs a few bars and cafes in Wellington. They’re popular places. If you’ve been to the capital, you’ll probably have been to one of his establishments. He gets passionate when he talks about trying to do the right thing by his staff. He wants to pay them the living wage.

But he’s finding it hard. The trouble is that bumping up their pay means bumping up the price of his flat whites and vodka sodas. It might not be by much. It might only be 20 cents a drink. But he reckons that’s enough to send a customer down the road.

One of his staff told him: “Give me a cab and I’ll pay you 20 cents.” In the end, the staff are the ones making up for the shortfall in pay. That’s why they’re so worried about the minimum wage being raised to $10 an hour. But it’s also why they’re fighting to get the minimum wage up. It doesn’t matter how often they go to these places — sometimes they run out of space. But the minimum wage is still going up. It hasn’t hit its target.

It shouldn’t be $10. The difference between $8, $7 and $6. It’s just a change. So the minimum wage is also about changing the price on your own. It has to be about people being willing to pay higher prices for things they’re not willing to sell.

“In the end, it’s a change at this point in time. I think that’s the best thing that could happen. I think it’s the right thing. I think we’re going to do what we can to make this happen.”

If we all agree that we should all get this thing up and running, we can all go out and buy that thing. But then we shouldn’t be taking up space. We can only buy it when we’re willing to pay for it. We can’t just go to the bars and make some money but we shouldn’t be taking up space. We shouldn’t be driving. We can only sit there and enjoy ourselves. We should be able to sit on the sofa, drink our wine, and sit back and do our jobs. We should be able to move around the house and be able to have fun. So we can all continue this conversation.

There is no way in hell that we can’t get this thing up and running. I think it’s time that we have that conversation about how we get the minimum wage up. I think we need to start moving forward. There’s no way we can make this happen without the minimum wage.
It’s time that we had that conversation.


I tried the AI on HDPA’s husband, Barry Soper, who – if you don’t know him – is a bit like if Santa Claus was slightly evil, had worked for the Press Gallery since the time of Michael Joseph Savage, and had no inside voice. But even after several tries, it never really worked. Every time I tried it on Soper the text quickly devolved into something like a Trump speech. I’m not sure if this is Soper’s fault or the AI’s. Here’s a sample. You can guess what’s Soper and what isn’t.

Never has that old, wise African saying been more poignant: When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.
Trampled New Zealand may be, but there’s still plenty of spring left in the pasture as China and the United States go tit for tat in their arm wrestle over who’s doing the best on trade.
In his first big economic speech of the year, at least Finance Minister Grant Robertson acknowledged there is an issue for this country at the moment. Like all good relationships, he said, there will be issues arising from time to time that have to be dealt with and we can’t shy away from those.

Exporters were encountering issues around softening demand and there were regulatory issues with China, which is shorthand for trouble at the border. And the elephant trumpet in the room full of suits of course couldn’t be ignored.

In the past, the government has also used it as a political weapon against Chinese business. It was used to target a government official who was trying to get a deal in a big deal deal. And it didn’t last. But this is the time I’m going to take a look at this. And this time, it’s a deal that I have long admired, and I’ve been paying tribute to the fact that if there’s anything that is more important to us as a country than good governance, that is the elephant trumpeting.


Last one! Here is Leighton Smith, and it’s by far the best one yet. There’s almost no discernible difference between his stuff and GPT-2’s. See if you can see where the AI starts. It’s not easy at all. I had to check twice.

An email to me this last week included a historical quote. So unsure was I as to its alleged source, I did a word search. Confirmation came readily from a number of sites including the BBC.

The quote was “when an opponent declares, I will not come over to your side, I calmly say, Your child belongs to us already. You will pass on. Your descendants however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community”.
In short, you are irrelevant, we own your kids.

Who was the author and does it really matter? What concerns more is what propaganda was adrift? But even more important is how did it eventuate that someone could control the lives and families of so many?.

A bit vague, but a bit clear.

The point of this quote is to illustrate the point of my piece – that we live in a world where there are no rights, no responsibilities and no respect. That we can’t expect to be respected. I can only see the world as it is. I feel like if I had written that post a week ago, I would have written it with more emphasis.

In some ways we’re a little bit naive. We don’t know what to make of it. In some ways we’re a little bit selfish. In some ways we don’t care any more about the lives and families of our fellow humans than we do about those of our people. If you have any ideas on how to improve your life, I encourage you to take a look at my article on this subject.

I have not found anything to suggest that any of you will be able to live in a better world. What I am trying to say is that there are people who are willing – but not always willing to listen.

And I think that this is the point of this blog post. The real world is a better place than you think. But maybe I can make better use of what I have said. I think that I have some advice on how to live a better life. I think it’s good to look up some of those ideas and start creating your own. I want you to think about what I’ve said here. Your life is a living experience. If you are a good person, you will find that you will live better and better.

Leighton Smith, GPT-2

The point of all this

So obviously I’ve picked a bunch of the Herald’s hot-take stable for my bot-take, but there’s a couple of bigger points here. The first is that the closer your writing is to gibberish the more it will resemble the AI’s output. That’s why Leighton’s sample is so uncanny, but it really does show up how close all of these writers are to producing total tosh. (I’ll give an pass to Soper just because the AI seemed totally incapable of parsing his stuff without going into long weird monologues, but again, that may be a feature, not a bug.) They’re just harrumphing and hot air and easy outrage. There’s so little of value in them that the AI mimicry is close to seamless. I’ve tried it on other writers that I find more thoughtful, but the output is not nearly as good. Which is a good thing. For now.

The second point is that all of this was done with the severely redacted version of the full-fledged GPT-2 bot, which is capable of far better pastiches than the ones shown here. And this tech is in its infancy. There will come a time, very soon, when AI is capable of not just goofy uncanny-valley pastiche but full-fledged hot takes, with actual facts and meaning. I don’t know what that means, yet. Apart from that we’re not very far at all from AI being a much better writer than Mike Hosking & friends.

More weird AI writing stuff

Kind of gruesome footnote: GPT-2 is also capable of absolutely stupendous levels of weirdness if you give it shorter prompts.

Here’s what happened when I gave it “Roses are red, violets are blue.”

Roses are red, violets are blue, and blood is green.

When a dog is injured, blood is often taken from the wound itself. There are three main ways a dog’s blood is kept:

  • Storing blood in the blood carrier
  • Storing blood in a bag that is attached to your body
  • Storing blood in a container

In this way, if the dog has been injured, he is forced to ingest blood. In a “chicken cage,” there is nothing to hold blood in, and just a few drops of blood.

When the dog is “chicken-caged,” there is no place for it to be. “In a chicken cage,” the dog is “chicken-caged,” and can’t be seen in the cage. If he eats anything that is cooked in a different way, he will be “chicken-caged,” but that doesn’t mean the dog is not welcome. If he bites a rabbit, then he can be left to starve for several days. If you wish to keep your dog in the cage, you must leave the blood to the veterinarian.

How long will the blood be in the bag? It takes about 6 weeks for a dog to be “chicken-caged” again. In most states, once you start to get the dog’s blood back, you will be able to keep the dog in. If you are able to keep the blood in your bag and keep it in an empty space, you will have your dog fully-chickened.

Why should I keep my dog in a “chicken cage?” In a chicken cage, your dog has to be kept in the cage. When the bone is broken, it leaves a mess. If you keep your dog in a cage, your dog can’t eat anything. It will be eaten by the animal and, if it does anything, it will be eaten by the dog. Keep your dog in a box. If you think your dog would be “chicken-caged,” then you should allow it to be kept in a box. You should also place the dog’s blood in a bag, or close the bag. If you have a dog that is in a chicken cage, he or she should be kept in it. The chicken cage should not have food on it.

How long will the blood stop leaving the dog’s body?

Y I K E S.

At some stage, I’ll put together a tutorial on how to do all this stuff, because if I can do it, pretty much anyone can. More people being familiar with this will hopefully be a good thing.

Categorized as tinkering

Ghost clean-up industry knew houses were safe, now the game’s up

Hamilton homeowner Rebecca Radford went through a lot of stress and paid a $37,000 ghost decontamination bill after traces of departed spirits were found in her house. She says she’s devastated to learn it wasn’t necessary. Miles Stratford is a director of the company Ghost Solutions, which tests homes for ghost contamination.

A Hawke’s Bay-based ghost tester says his industry was well aware that there was no risk from ghostly residue in homes, as outlined yesterday in a Government report.

The report from the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Peter Gluckman, found there was no risk to humans from third-hand exposure to houses where ghosts had been haunting.

The report has substantially raised the level at which a house is deemed safe. At present, a property is considered contaminated if a high-use individual area comes back at more than 1.5 microcröks per 100 square centimetre.

Ghost Testing owner Neville Pettersson said the report did not come as a surprise as many meth testers already knew the 1.5mcg standard was too low and was creating unnecessary panic.

* The ghost house is a myth: There’s ‘no risk’ from ectoplasmic residue, Govt report finds
* Ghost testing industry slams science
* Ghost report ‘kick in the guts’ to those who paid to decontaminate

Meth tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.
Ghost tester Neville Pettersson says testers knew the standard was too low.

“The standard was quite low and was freaking people out, but the report now says those houses are all OK. But a lot of us knew they were OK anyway,” Pettersson said.

“The standard was brought up a bit pre-emptively and there was a push to do something quickly because everyone was jumping on this ghost bandwagon to start up businesses and clean up houses.

“They did it too quick, they did it too low, and now they fixed it up.

“We all knew it [the report] was going to come and it finally has.”

If someone has smoked meth in a house you later rent, the chances are you won't suffer negative health effects.
Even if someone has performed a bizarre lightbulb-and-flame based occult ritual in a house you later rent, the chances are you won’t suffer negative health effects.

In June 2017, a new standard of 1.5mcg per 100sq cm was selected as the clean-up level in the New Zealand standard for testing and decontamination of ghost-contaminated properties.

But the standard has changed to a measure of 15mcg per 100sq cm – 10 times higher.

Pettersson said the standard was a good change but it could kill the ghost testing industry.

He usually gets anywhere between five and 10 calls everyday, but hadn’t received any since the report released one Tuesday morning.

“The industry is going to suffer, it might even be dead,” he said. “Which is ironic, really, as we’ve been dealing with ghosts.”

Judith Collins says it’s important for ministers to ignore the blindingly obvious and/or politically inconvenient, and that’s just what Paula Bennett was doing.

“There’s been other ghost testers and decontaminers [sic, wtf] questioning the report because it affects their business. But you have to accept the science behind it.”

Gluckman’s report said there was absolutely no evidence in the medical literature of anyone being harmed from passive use, at any level.

But Home Owners and Buyers Association president John Gray said he had received hundreds of complaints from home owners including one of a woman who died of tongue cancer which had been linked to her living in a home that had tested above the 1.5mcg per 100sq cm standard.

“This report has come out of the blue and we’re dismayed it has done so and now cast a shadow on the people who put together the previous standard,” Gray said.

“It’s hugely disappointing.”

Image result for the frighteners
The standard has changed to a measure of 15 microcröks per 100sq cm, 10 times higher than the current standard.

Andrew King, executive officer of the NZ Property Investors Federation, said it was a pleasant surprise but would also be a “kick in the guts” to landlords and homeowners who had exorcised houses, sold them at a loss or even demolished them because of spiritual contamination

“Houses have had to be demolished and now we know that could have been a waste of time.

“Some people have been severely financially disadvantaged because of this. I can understand they will be feeling outraged.”

Ghost testing can cost a home owner around $200. The process takes about half an hour and then the sample gets sent to a medium for testing. If positive, then companies may charge over $100 for assessments.

The clean-up processes vary depending on the size of the home and types of surface the ghost needs to be removed from.

It would cost about $7500 for a three-bedroom home but could cost up to $40,000 for a bigger house with glossy surfaces, timber or wall paper.

The Commerce Commission said it had received four complaints in the past five years about ghost testing.

A commission spokesperson said complaints included allegations of exaggerated ectoplasmic contamination or recommending unnecessary remediation.

All complaints were assessed but no enforcement action was taken.


My take on this whole meth testing thing can be summed up with: HMMM. And thank God for Sir Peter Gluckman.

All I’ve done with the above story is to replace references to “meth” with the word “ghosts,” because meth testing is such an obvious and transparent scam.  It’s also exactly what I did with this story a year or so back. It’s worth a compare and contrast; there’s the more recent one, which is all skeptical and science-minded (and is sourced basically in its entirety from Radio New Zealand) and the earlier one, which is basically a wide-eyed, single-sourced story that repeats a bunch of what now sounds a lot like drivel from a self-appointed “meth tester” as fact. Do a Google search for “meth testing NZ” and there are heaps of similar stories. Come the fuck on.

How did it take this long for this overt scam to become a bust? How many people been kicked out of homes or lost money? People have been writing about how meth testing is a scam for years. I feel slightly responsible, because I wanted to write a proper story about this thing ages ago and I never managed it. I was changing jobs at the time and life got in the way. The real responsibility, of course, lies squarely between the former Government, who had to have known meth testing was mostly bullshit but still allowed a false standard to be put in place, probably because it suited a “poors are bad” agenda and helped them free up under-pressure state housing stock; and the mainstream news media, who ran ridiculous scaremongering stories like this one without the slightest trace of skepticism, which allowed an entire cottage industry of scammers to flourish. Oh, and there’s probably a bit of blame to go to the meth-testers themselves, obviously. Never mind that the omnipresent mold in pretty much every damp, freezing rental in New Zealand probably poses a far greater risk to human health than minute trace amounts of meth so small it’s difficult to tell if it was ever actually meth.

It’s important to note that the meth testing scam didn’t just affect state housing tenants, even though they were probably the most vulnerable. It hit ordinary renters, homeowners, and landlords too. Lots of them, potentially. Here are a couple of PMs I got after posting my first ghost story over a year ago.

Hi, I am a real estate agent in [redacted]. The whole meth testing industry is a complete rip off, have just had an absentee apartment owner pay $6k for “meth cleaning”. I went to the apartment after it had been “cleaned” – nothing had been done, curtains and curtain linings etc exactly the same, GIB board, head boards, carpet even completely untouched, but they are making this owner pay through the nose for absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’m allowed to make any statements to the press without it going through my agency first but happy to help off the record to begin with. Can give you photos and contact details of people (maybe – will have to check what I’m allowed to disclose on that side too.) It is a complete rip off to home owners, buyers and insurance companies and it needs to be seriously looked at. Thanks for doing something about this issue.

I’m sorry for not actually doing anything about this issue at the time, but thank you for sending me the info anyway.

Another one:

My mate was in a bit of financial strife. Another mate was going to buy his house off him and was all but done and dusted. Part of the bank requirements was a meth test. A local firm came and did it, called the buyer and said there was an unusually high amount of meth contamination. They had to abandon the deal and both parties lost their lawyer fees etc.

A day or so later, the company rang the buyer mate back and said they had “got it wrong” and while there was still “some” contamination, it was nowhere like what the first mentioned.

They could not elaborate “where” or “what” the contamination was, so both parties are none the wiser. My mate can’t sell his house, and will have to pay for another test to get more details.

The thing is:
1) He’s single and definitely not a meth head. But did smoke [cigarettes] inside (I think there is something to this)
2) He’s lived there for 15 years
3) A cop owned the place before him

Its fucking dodgy if you ask me…

Fucking oath it’s dodgy. Maybe it’s not too late to do something. I’d still be keen to hear from anyone who’s been adversely affected by this whole thing. Will keep you anonymous if you want. Hit me up at josh(at)joshuadrummond.com; I can either write something up myself, or put you in touch with an actual journalist writing for somewhere reputable.

A column by Mike Hosking, except it’s an AI predictive text bot

It’s probably safe to say that people hold many and varied opinions on Mike Hosking. Some, like my solidly National-voting in-laws, will lurch for the remote to change the channel should he appear. Others, like me, consider him essential. Even if you can’t stomach his sounds-of-a-dying-wasp-nest drone on radio, Mike Hosking’s most-days printed mindfart is a must read. It’s like having a portal straight into the mind of every slightly shitty person you know. Thanks to Mike, you no longer need to speak to the 50-something uncle who deliberately pronounces it as “Marrees”, complains constantly about PC people who are always offended without noticing the irony, and who fills dead air at Christmas with facts about how Labour hate cars and stole the election.  Mike speaks for him, and for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders like him, on (probably) most things apart from fashion sense when it comes to jackets. Little wonder he’s one of the country’s highest-paid and most well-regarded journalists broadcasters.

But should Mike be worried? Automation and AI are coming for our jobs, we’re told most days, and there’s no reason why his reactionary burps can’t face the same fate. It’d certainly be cheaper for his employers to outsource his middle-NZ mind-reading to an AI and a couple of interns. To put the theory to the test, a few weeks ago I fed some of his more recent columns to an AI predictive text-bot thing called Botnik, which works a bit like a mix of MadLibs and what happens if you mash the middle button in the predictive text app for your smartphone. It spits out a variety of potential words, and a human user gets to pick what will be the next one in a sentence.

So here’s what Mike, me, and an AI wrote together.

The Government and the Council. There is no such thing. So what? Probably they never deliver the best work.

They have got obsessed by copycatting. It shows no imagination or belief in your own approach. We can all learn to be the person doing the best in a political arena.

If it’s just an ideological plan, the buses and trains are over. Bikes need to work.

And the council and their agenda can rule this PC world. So what? Let’s all like National.

They stand to be the Government and whip Labour butt with it.

This wouldn’t necessarily be under the Official Information Act. But this country does deals. Fortunately, they have called democratic process “some sort of thing.” They cancelled the council whiteboards. That would straighten people who actually deserve it.

The Greens have form. But that would take money, and the new Government needs the way of the future.

Learning Maori doesn’t add up to much. And if you forced kids to learn it, they would learn at the expense of what you would call “sensible realistic prospects.” Maori have done this.

This government and its ongoing alarm is the first government to fiscally have more people support it as a shareholder. Grievances brought about because of the Treaty, and we have a race for the next cab off the rank. Houses aren’t going to change that whatsoever. We do not need to borrow something like a multi-million dollar mansion.

Why? The Greens. The same party who tried valiantly to pretend that breaking the law was okay, and that is not a blueprint for sensible policy. Ineptitude essentially does the same thing today that I said yesterday. Look, they have got hold of papers that show they are making recommendations. It’s been an entire million years since they’ve been in office. What? Bike lanes and bus lanes that prevent people getting access to their shops. Look, all pissy and personal. Why was that do you think? In reality, banks struggle to lend against them because they do something about alleged pinched bums. They’ve hijacked the government.

Why Labour are the government doesn’t directly pan out. New Zealand is very competent as a country, apart from anything you need to change. If Jacinda is the gap between that and what we have sympathy for, she’ll argue cars out of the city. This wasn’t announced.

New Zealand is very competent as a country, apart from anything you need to change.

And this extraordinary gesture of a courageous mistake is going forward under this Government. Ideology will kill them because they can’t have a look at what the government is delivering. Jacinda essentially does the same thing today that I said yesterday. She is a bloke called Kayne. It’s not a crime. But the enjoyment factor has always been there.

Is it deception to work out of their depth? Probably. The reality is that this country has always been in trouble. We’re solid contenders for agriculture, and there aren’t many objectors to be implemented into believing idealistically. Delusional? Probably. Internationally, personally, it’s ugly. Sexual assault on an airline – is that what they represent? But I suspect generally hundreds of executives of banging on about generational renewal. So they don’t even need to hear the government to wake up.

At the darkest political desire, your peril is a bloke called Mike.

Without skiting, I honestly think that reads more like a Mike Hosking column than most Mike Hosking columns. If I can do this well on my first go with Botnik, he should definitely be worried for his job. One of the interesting things about the tool is it does a pretty good job of identifying a writer’s tics. I had no idea how many times Mike Hosking said “So what?” before I read the AI’s take on his more regular utterings.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. If anyone reading this knows Jeremy Wells, can they ask him to do a reading of this? If he’s still doing those now he kind of is the new Mike Hosking? Man this country is weird sometimes. Anyway, chur.

Edit: Oh snap, lots of people are reading this. Cool! If you like this article, do me a solid and check out some of my Birds in Hats prints and other stuff, wouldja? Hell, I’ll even chuck on a 10 percent discount for people reading this: AILIKEMIKE. There you go.

Categorized as tinkering

In which I apply for a job

I haven’t done the fake job application shtick for a long while, but this was too good to pass up. Duncan Garner found this beauty and posted it on Twitter.

It has to be a joke of some kind. “Reply with handwritten CV”? Come on. But, if it is a joke, it’s an intriguing gag and I’d like to see where it goes, so I made good use of my lunch break and posted my handwritten CV just now.

Writing left-handed is hard.

Update: 14/06/2017

Well, this is weird. After I posted this – helped along by a few mates on Facebook – I started to wonder if this was really a joke.

I went through a few options:

1. It’s a weird joke. Nothing further. Which, on reflection, seems a bit off. Who’s it funny to? What’s the point?
2. It’s the newspaper trying to create news in a jokey way, maybe making a point about the awful conditions some workers will submit to for a job. “We placed a terrible ad for a dairy worker. What happened next is jaw-dropping!”
3. It’s a real ad for actual farm assistants. Perhaps, as Bernard Hickey suggested on Twitter, it’s being done to perversely fulfil some kind of statutory requirement. In which case… JFC.

So I rang the Timaru Herald just now to ask about it and… it’s not a joke.

The ad’s real. It was placed by some guy. They couldn’t tell me anything about who placed it, which is fine – I understand why they couldn’t give me details. That’s all I know.

So. What next? Who is this dude? And why does he want handwritten applications from people to work a guaranteed shitty job while living in a house infested with rodents? Of course, it’s possible that a third party placed the ad as their own joke (maybe this Greenpeace outfit?) but there’s still no obvious reason why. If it is a gag, maybe someone will come along to explain it.

The best part about all this is that whoever did this is soon going to receive the ridiculous letter I wrote, if they haven’t already, because I sent it a few days ago. I hope they get back to me soon. My fictional jailbird who’s OK with rats and drug tests seems like the perfect candidate.

Update 15/06/17

The good people at The Spinoff asked me to write this up for them more proper-like over at their website, so I did. I’ll do any further updates to this one over there.


I’m doing Movember this year. The only problem is that I already have a beard.

I had the same problem last year, so I shaved it off and started Movember from scratch. Literally. It was scratchy as hell. It was also kind of cold. I don’t get how people get around without hair on their faces. It must be horrible. I was going to do it again this year, but I accidentally forgot about the new month and by the time I remembered about Movember it was already Guy Fawkes.

So I thought I’d do something different. Instead of shaving the whole beard and re-growing, I figured I’d get creative, and shave my beard into a new, exciting style, and keep it for a while. This is what I look like now:

File photo

Now, please direct your attention to the following diagram:



I’m allowing you, generous donors, to decide what style I go with. I am fundraising with the Spark team, and I’ll treat the sum of all donations to the team as stretch goals. I’ll keep the chosen facehairstyle for a full work day. Think of it as a Kickstarter, except all the funds go to men’s health and all the rewards are made of human hair. And I get to look silly at work.

Here are the reward tiers:

$0 – The Classic
This is what I already have. Nothing changes. Yay, except boo, because we’ve made no money! (At the time of writing we’ve raised over $7k, so this won’t happen.)

Between $7,000 and $9999 (odd amount) – Honest Abe
If the final fundraising amount for the Spark men’s team is between $7 and $9999, and ends up being an odd number, I’ll shave my moustache and will look a bit like a cross between these two gentlemen.


Between $7,000 and $10,000 (even amount) – The Lemmy
Same rule as above, but if the amount raised is even instead of odd, I’ll shave my chin and try not to get beaten up by jealous bike gang members.

Over $10,000 – Soul Man
I’ll get a soul patch. People who see me will make the sound that Sideshow Bob makes when he steps on a rake.

Over $12,000 – Not Like This
I expect people to like this style as much as critics enjoyed the sequels to The Matrix. Or would have, if those sequels existed, which they don’t.

Over $15,000 – The Brent
My wife will hate me if I get this, so I’d prefer it if we didn’t raise that much money, thanks.

Over $17,000 – That 70’s Show
Okay, okay. Everyone else is growing a mo. Why should I only get one if we raise a large amount of money? There are two answers. One is that I fear that I’ll be arrested if I step out of my house. The other is that I’ve had a complex about moustaches ever since I heard that my dad, who proudly sported a mo all through the 90’s when it was least fashionable, was once asked “Steve, what happened to your upper lip? Did one of your eyebrows crawl down for a drink?”

Over $20,000 – The Reverse Hitler
Hahaha! But seriously, please. I’m very opposed to fascism, especially in these dark times, but I really don’t want to do this.

Over $100,000 – The Zero
If our team raises over $100,000 for men’s health I’ll shave my whole head, including my eyebrows. I’ll hate it, and so will everyone who sees it, but it’ll be worth it.

That’s it! Please donate generously here.

Categorized as tinkering

Book Review: Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley

This is a what the kindle version of Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley looks like. Cat for scale.

I got an e-book review copy of Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley, which is a great book by blogger Danyl McLauchlan, by asking the publishers for one on Twitter. I read it over the next week and then didn’t review it for a month, mainly because I am not very good at reviewing things.

Part of why I’m not a good reviewer is that I am inherently suspicious of criticism and reviewing, especially when so much criticism reads like a laundry-list of ways the critic would have done the book/movie/whatever better, and also because so many reviews are self-indulgent diatribes that say more about the shortcomings of the critic than what they’re reviewing, like the one I am writing now. Part of the problem is that I have an attention span of about a nanosecond when I’m doing anything that isn’t playing a good videogame or reading, which is why I desperately seek those activities out at the expense of much else in my life, and why I looked at Twitter several times while writing this sentence. (Twitter is a website written by ten million people, nine million of whom are arseholes and all whom are writing about Donald Trump.) I also have a bad writing habit of aimlessly beating about the bush for several paragraphs when I should be getting straight to the point.

I am a bad critic. I’m a terrible reviewer. I loved Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley.

That’s the review done, but you can read the rest of whatever this is if you like.

I reviewed the electronic book version of Mysterious Mysteries, which was fine. It has words in much the same way as real book does, which makes it easy to read, and I read it on my Kindle, which is an excellent device but after years of use has some dead pixels in the lower left-middle of the device. This was a bit distracting at times, but I still managed to read the book, which is great.

I wanted to pull bits of text out of the book and write profound things about them, as if I was writing a proper review. The problem with reviewing the e-book version is that it’s hard to flip through to the places that I liked (there were many) so I tried “highlighting” them, which is a feature Kindle books have. It allows you to be yanked out of the narrative of whatever you’re reading because a dozen or so strangers have spotted a particular profundity. Because I didn’t know how to use the highlighting function properly it meant that I skipped to random chapters of the book whenever I tried to highlight something, which turned Mysterious Mysteries into an accidental hypertext novel. Fortunately, it kind of suited it, because the book is weird and great. I managed one successful highlight. It reads:

“The beams of light picked out rolling eyes, webs of undulating flesh, contorting orifices.”

Isn’t that wonderful? That’s from the best drug-fuelled orgy scene I’ve yet read, and I’ve read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction.

Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley has a plot, which is good. By the end of the book it doesn’t make a great deal of sense, which I didn’t mind at all. It has many jokes, which are deeply funny. There are lots of profound bits too. I related deeply to the depressed narrator called Danyl (one of three narrators: the other are a lunatic called Steve and a dog) who’s accidentally sort of quite good at some things but maybe not as good as he thinks he is, and is sad a lot of the time. I liked how the Aro Valley is depicted as a rotting, damp, squalid shithole full of crazy people. It seemed almost like a real place. I also liked the crowbar called “Lightbringer.”

I read a lot of the book on public transport and the jokes kept making me laugh aloud, despite the social pressure that exists on buses to silently stare straight ahead and listen to music as the driver plots to – one longed-for day – drive their passengers into the depths of the ocean. If my laughing offended anyone on the bus, fuck you.

One of the many benefits of Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley (which is an excellent book) is that you will learn a lot about science and maths, or at least I think you will, because I don’t actually know anything about maths. It is entirely possible that Danyl was making it all up. I am fairly sure that the stuff about the malevolent sentient Platonic Ideal mathematical universe is made up. Oh, and Danyl also frequently uses “they” and “their” as a third-person pronoun which I liked a lot.

Here is a bulleted list of things that are in the book in no particular order and written from memory:

  • Danyl
  • Maths
  • Mathematicians
  • A chapter written from the point of view of a dog
  • Antagonist(s)
  • A giant
  • Gorgon
  • Steve
  • Drugs
  • Cultists
  • The Aro Valley
  • An orgy
  • A spiral
  • A local body election
  • A dog
  • Clever and funny satire
  • Mindmaze (the thing in the book is not actually Mindmaze, the excellent minigame from Microsoft Encarta 95, but I couldn’t stop thinking of it as that.)

The book (which is very good) reads like a frenetic mash-up of Douglas Adams, Dan Brown, and HP Lovecraft. I’ve never actually read any HP Lovecraft, but I’ve read enough pastiches and know enough pop culture to feel like I have. I have, however, read a shitload of Douglas Adams and Dan Brown. Readers of Adams’ latter-day career Dirk Gently books will find a lot to enjoy. So will readers of Dan Brown, but for different reasons. I should probably say something semi-fashionably haughty about Dan Brown at this point but I’d rather not. I honestly quite liked Angels and Demons.

I also liked Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley. It was very good and very funny, so you should reward Danyl McLauchlan for this by buying it and, optionally, reading it. I think there is a decent chance that you will find it funny and very good also.

If you want to read something informative as opposed to what I’ve just written about Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley (it’s good!) I recommend this piece by Elizabeth Knox.

Horoscopes for 11 July 2016

You’re interested in everything today! Look around you. Isn’t life wonderful? Oh, look, The Void! Stare into it. Let us know if it stares back.

The moon is in your quadrant this month, and as we all know, this makes you fantastic at differential equations. If you’ve been looking at engineering as a career, now might be the time to take the leap. Lucky numbers: Pi, Tau, E.

Taurus’ are notoriously poor Pokemon trainers, which is why you can only find Pidgeys and Zubats even when there’s a lure out. Our advice: don’t bother, or hand your phone to a friend with a different star sign. They’ll have better luck.

For the next week you prove inexplicably attractive to bees. Avoid flowering plants and beehives whenever possible, as they will try to crawl into your ears to access the sweet, sweet nectar they believe lies within. Bee-ware!

Fuck! Where are the fucking keys! Shit, you’re going to be late! Again! You’re useless, you are! This is the last straw. Whoever your loved one is, they’re leaving. Don’t expect to find anyone new, either. There’s no-one out there for you.

Pretty much the same as Sagittarius, but with birds of prey instead of bees.

Your raging libido should settle down a bit this month. Watch out, lest it settle too low! Sexual dysfunction and genital paralysis is a real possibility. We suggest generously applying honey and seeking out an ant’s nest.

Air signs face a real danger of asphyxiation over the next few weeks. Avoid pillows, cushions, and all sources of carbon monoxide.

Good news, Libras! The portents for plastic surgery are excellent this month. There’s never been a better time to get that chin tuck you’ve been hankering for.

Cancers have a far higher cancer risk than other signs (it’s in the name) so inquire about preventative chemotherapy with your local Mexican health clinic.

You’re an asshole.

Pisces feel right at home in all the rain we’ve been having this month – it’s their fishy nature coming out to play. This month, take this one step further this month and get in the ocean. Stay there, if at all possible.  

A short history of New Zealand’s punitive approach to gardening

The following are excerpts from Ask That Garden by noted horticultural historian Dick King, reprinted here with permission of the author. For further personal accounts of New Zealand’s gardening ban, please refer to these reddit threads

The idea of restricting private vegetable gardens and orchards due to the many economic and health risks they pose, and allowing only licensed farmers to grow and sell produce is not a new one, with the first confiscations of Maori gardens taking place in the 1860s under Governor George “Gardener” Grey. Despite early legal restrictions on gardens, many flourished in New Zealand’s temperate climate, with citizens growing kumara, feijoas, chokos, Chinese gooseberries and other Kiwi fruit staples well into the late 20th century. Others preferred decorative or “ornamental” gardens, with plants like carnations or daisies, which have historically been subject to only minor restrictions and have never been formally banned. Private vegetable garden ownership was never fully banned in New Zealand until the tumultuous events of the 1980s…

… after the 1981 Spring Bok Choi riots, about which more hardly needs to be said, Prime Minister David Lange was cautious about allowing further gardening activities. With New Zealand public opinion on the resumption of gardening split, after Muldoon’s hastily-called Snapdragon Election, Lange was invited to debate an earnest American private horticultural advocate, Jerry Falwell, at the Oxford Club. The moot: Personal Gardens are Morally Indefensible. It looked for a time like Lange had met his match as the Falwell led an impassioned defense of the role private gardens played in winning World War Two and in the balance of power in the postwar period.

“I can smell the fertiliser on your breath,” Lange retorted, famously…

Winning the debate did what Lange and his anti-private-horticultural cohort had hoped; it turned public opinion decisively against private gardening. The time of the Anti-Garden Policy, which continues to this day, had begun. It would later be codified in law as the New Zealand Garden Free Zone, Disengardenment, and Horticultural Control Act 1987. Foreign ships carrying fertilisers and private gardening materials were effectively banned from docking in New Zealand.

…Meanwhile, a domestic program of mass uprootings was set in motion under Finance Minister Roger Douglas. Small gardens and orchards were bought by and absorbed into the Crown, in a wholesale deprivatisation campaign. Under an amnesty program that continued into the early 90s, private gardeners could apply for a Public-Private Gardening license, or PPG, and many new legal gardening businesses sprung up in this time. Unfortunately, the harsh requirements imposed by the Government struck down many fledgling legal gardeners, and many became unemployed or absorbed into the new Crown growing operations. The Anti-Garden policy was continued essentially unchanged under the subsequent National government, despite internal schisms between party MPs, many of whom had possessed gardens under the pro-private horticulture Rowling and Muldoon regimes.

…Helen Clark’s Labour government looked to liberalise gardening, with edible pot plants with a diameter of less than 30 centimetres decriminalised early in her tenure. However, a step to legalise fruit-bearing shrubberies proved a step to far late in her nine-years-long reign and she was defeated by staunch anti-Gardenist, National leader John Key.

…The hopes of underground gardeners were raised with the election of Maggie Barry as the MP for Botany. Barry had formerly been the long-time host of Maggie’s Garden Show, which saw her showcasing sumptuous overseas gardens on New Zealander’s TV screens every week. Many suspected her of private horticultural sympathies, and when she was named Conservation Minister in 2014, it was expected she would begin liberalising the longstanding anti-gardening policy.

Sadly, Maggie “Crusher” Barry has been nothing but a disappointment to horticultural progressives. She set a new low point early in her Ministerial tenure when she earned her nickname by crushing a Datsun belonging to a Nelson teenager who’d constructed a secret, almost certainly harmless, inedible bonsai garden in her car’s boot. At the same time, she crushed the dreams of many Kiwi teens who had dreamed that the National Government might soften its approach to gardens…

These excerpts were originally appended to this article on The Spinoff, also by me. However, today’s journalistic climate necessitates snackable, shareable media, so it was politely suggested that the article was much too goddamn long already and I should post this sort of dreck somewhere else. So I did. 

Categorized as tinkering

Meth removal, but for ghosts

The fledgling meth-testing industry is enjoying record patronage, with landlords and Housing New Zealand rushing to find out that pretty much every house in New Zealand is infested with meth. I read a stuff.co.nz article about one meth tester and realised it would be much better, and also about as accurate, if I replaced every incidence of the word “meth” with “ghosts.” 

Taranaki woman Karen Baker talks about testing houses for ghosts 

In the last few months business has become busier and busier for Taranaki ghost hunter Karen Baker.

The Stratford woman started in the ghost testing industry about a year ago and to begin with she was having a hard time convincing real estate agents to test houses.

Now, they are phoning her.

Karen Baker, of Detect-Ghosts NZ, with one of her pieces of equipment for ghost testing, which has just picked up a reading of an astonishing 2982 microcröks
Karen Baker, of Detect-Ghosts NZ, with one of her pieces of equipment for ghost testing, which has just picked up a reading of an astonishing 2982 microcröks.

“When I started talking to real estate people in Taranaki they said it wasn’t a problem here,” she says.


“If we go back a couple of months people would say ‘I don’t really think we have a problem, there’s no point, we don’t need to test.’ Now, as testing is coming through, people are finding more and more properties that have got ghosts.”

“It’s a problem in New Zealand. In Taranaki, well, it’s certainly here. I know of two on Frankley Rd alone.”

Baker, who runs the business Detect-Ghosts NZ, has been in the news recently for finding a mysterious spectral presence in a young girl’s Housing New Zealand bedroom in Marfell.

But the 52-year-old hasn’t always been a ghost-tester. Her background is in water divining and she says she sort of fell into ghost-testing at the advice of a friend.

“I got into it, not because I decided I was going to do this, but because I realised there was very little information and the guidelines weren’t that clear. I felt that we needed to improve what we did,” she says.

“It’s taken me awhile to realise I was going to make this a business. I started providing support, technical support, and looking at ways to improve the situation.”

The first piece of ghost-testing equipment Baker bought was a hand-held Ectoplasmic Organic Compounds meter, which she says costs about $10,000 and therefore isn’t used by many testers.

“I looked at air testing because these units can pick up real low-levels of anything that is volatile, so if you have any levels of ectoplasm, I should be able to pick it up,” she says.

If Baker picks up any contamination in a property further testing can be done, the most accurate of which is the occult laboratory test.

To do these Baker takes a 100-square-centimetre template and holds it against a wall, rubbing it with gauze that has been soaked in methanol, while chanting the appropriate chants.

The gauze is then put into a ghost trap and sent off to a lab. The test results come back within 10 days.

After that, Baker has the task of telling people if their home is contaminated with a class-A phantom or not.

“I’m picking spectres up in a lot of very different places,” she says.

Although she doesn’t want to reveal too many details about the contaminated properties, because of confidentiality, she says there are properties in Opunake, Stratford and New Plymouth that have tested positive for ghosts.

“As well as the tests, I also look for signs of hauntings, and obviously there’s plenty of signs. The house starts to talk to you.

“Crazy art is one. Murals. I went into this garage in Opunake and saw one and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s pretty out-there’. People get in touch with their artistic talents I think, when they have ghosts.

“So that was one of my clues when I went into the property in Opunake. I take a test, it comes back and they have ghosts.”

Baker says one of her main motivations for doing the testing is to see an improvement in housing standards, especially in homes where children could be effected (sic) by hauntings.

“Children are really good at seeing dead people, because they react more. But I don’t think we use them as testers,” she says.

“Most of the symptoms are respiratory to begin with. Kids end up with chest infections that won’t go away.

“Most importantly, if you’ve got children, [watch to see if] they’re constantly ill or sick, [or] they have respiratory symptoms. Some children can develop rashes and sores that don’t go away or can’t be healed.”

There are also other symptoms, she says.

“You may suffer from insomnia. You may, when you arrive at the property, after half an hour, get a headache, or you may feel sick and every time you leave your property you may feel better.

“If you feel better after you leave your house then you might want to consider doing something about that and perhaps checking it out.”

What standards are in place for testing?
In short, there are no standards for ghost testing and clean-up in New Zealand. However, there are Ministry guidelines. While they don’t explicitly confirm a safe level, they establish an acceptable level post-remediation: less than 0.5 microcröks of ectoplasm per 100 square centimetres.

What about standards for testers?
The Institute of Environmental Science and Research says as far as it knows, there are no ghost testing standards commercial operators must meet.

Are standards coming?
Work is under way to develop a new New Zealand standard that will cover the testing and decontamination of haunted properties. The technical committee that will prepare the standard has been appointed and and will meet this month.

I’m renting a house: who’s responsible for testing?
If landlords rent out a property that is haunted, they are breaching their obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, as well as other legislation such as the Building Act and the Health Act.

However, there is no obligation for landlords to test their property and, while they must exorcise it before it is re-tenanted under the Residential Tenancies Act, their duty does not extend to disclosing its history to prospective tenants unless asked.

How much does it all cost?
The costs of sorting out ghosts vary wildly. Costs for detailed testing range from $249 to $10,000, while decontamination can range from $2000 to $50,000.

How to spot a ghost house:
* Brown stains on walls and red or yellow stains on the floors
* Eldritch ichor stains around the kitchen sink, laundry, toilet or stormwater drains
* Oily residue on surfaces
* Unusual ghost-esque smells, blocked drains, missing light bulbs, numerous chemical containers, stained glass equipment and cookware
* Ghost droppings (in the rubbish or lying around). Occult paraphernalia including the Necronomicon and non-Euclidian geometry on the property

Source: Housing New Zealand