20 May 2005

You must have a rather odd family

'In my family we judge strength of character by deciding whether we would go tiger-hunting with them'

MARY-ANN SIEGHART, ‘Quote Unquote’, Radio Four
(from Private Eye)

17 May 2005

One area in which Japanese innovation is sadly lacking

While it is not true that the Japanese language has no swear words, standards of vituperation are certainly lower than in English. Even the word commonly used to mean “you bastard” — kisama — is simply an impolite way of saying “you”.

The worst that one can do in daily speech would be Shine bakayaro!, which means little more than “Drop dead, you idiot!” Such is the dearth of salty invective that angry Japanese turn increasingly to a reliable English expression, pronounced the Japanese way: Fakkyuu.

- The Times, 7 May 2005

14 May 2005

South Park party leaders

Gonzo Freakpower decided to see what New Zealand's political party leaders would look like if they were characters in South Park... have a look at what he came up with:

Gonzo Freakpower

Treasury analyst whips dodgy boss

The Times - 12 April 2005
Dominatrix gives Treasury painful lesson
By Chris Ayres

A RETIRED dominatrix who traded her wooden paddle for a calculator is to be paid $60,000 (£32,000) in damages after taking a job at the US Treasury Department, where she ended up working for an abusive former client. Susan Peacher, 45, from San Francisco, claimed that her boss sexually harassed her by trying to kiss her in the lift, telling her that she had luscious lips and repeatedly asking for “sessions”. Ms Peacher, more used to giving rather than taking abuse, filed a lawsuit. The case has transformed the image of the Treasury Department, an organisation better known for tax refunds and social security payments than leather whips and sadomasochistic sex.

When the former dominatrix — known as Mistress Celeste to those who visited her San Francisco dungeon — objected to her boss’s behaviour, he made himself her direct supervisor and began to give her negative performance reviews. Eventually Ms Peacher went higher up in the Treasury Department, disclosing her former profession and complaining about her treatment. She says this simply resulted in more retaliation and abuse.

“I was very afraid I would lose credibility,” Ms Peacher told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The Bay Area is a little more accepting than other places, but I’m a private person. While I have no shame over what I did to make a living, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was judged by the choices I made.”

That was when she began compiling evidence, including phone logs and e-mails, of her harassment. Now she has been awarded $35,000 in compensatory damages, $25,000 in lawyers’ fees, a job transfer and permission to work from home one day a week, as well as 800 hours of leave that was taken away from her.

Ms Peacher began her career as an office manager in Washington before moving to California. Faced with financial problems she attended a seminar on becoming a “pro domme” and entered the sex industry.“I was initially a little wary,” she told the Chronicle. “I’m an analyst at heart. I wanted to know what I was getting into. I didn’t want to get arrested.” Eventually she had what every dominatrix dreams of: her own dungeon and her own clients, many of whom worked for newly wealthy dot-com companies.

“It was not prostitution,” she said. “It was fantasy role-play.” When the dot-com industry went into a slump, causing lay-offs in the S&M business, Ms Peacher looked for a “safer” job — in the federal Government.

Now the former dominatrix heads the local chapter of the National Treasury Employees’ Union. “If someone doesn’t stand up,” she said, “things won’t ever change.”

Not much to do in Ashburton, then?

Teenager trapped under avalanche of peas

A bored teenager was trapped under an avalanche of peas after he and two friends forced the door of a shipping container. Ashburton District Court was told yesterday that Benjamin Jordan Hylands, 17, used a cigarette lighter to burn the plastic ties securing the closed shipping container at a seed company yard. As he opened the door, peas flooded out onto the ground, trapping his associate up to his chest.

Police, fire and ambulance staff had to use a forklift truck to rescue the boy, who had minor injuries. Hylands admitted a charge of recklessly damaging the peas belonging to South Island Seeds. He was sentenced to 200 hours community work and ordered to pay reparation of $200, half the value of the damaged peas.

- NZPA, 10 May 2005

13 May 2005

Did the Minister use his own felt pen? If not, why not?

Marc Alexander: Is the Minister, in any meaningful sense, concerned that of the 2,342 young people who received an independent youth benefit in the year ended 30 September 2004, 77 percent of them graduated on to an adult benefit, according to answers from his office to written questions; and what specific steps is he taking to avoid, and stop, the independent youth benefit from becoming the dole with training wheels?

Hon RICK BARKER: The member will be delighted to know that the number of people on the independent youth benefit has fallen yet again. It is down to 1,944 as of March 2005. The member will be delighted to know that more of these young people are moving directly on to employment than have done in the past. I seek leave to table the graph that I referred in my presentation.

Madam SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that graph. Is their any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The National Party might reconsider its position if the Minister was able to say whether he coloured in the graph himself.

Madam SPEAKER: I thank the member for his contribution.

- Hansard, 11 May 2005

Now that's customer service

'Your piece about the Paris smoking ban (25 February) prompts me to write to say that a common practice in provincial French restaurants, when you ask for the non-smoking area, is to be shown to a table and for the waiter then to remove the ashtray'

- Richard Davies, St Pancrace, France (letter to Guardian Weekly, 11-17 March 2005)