Friday, March 31, 2006

A plague upon both your houses

From the Guradian Unlimited

Rachel Corrie went to Gaza to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinians, whose voice is seldom heard in her country, the US. That she herself should be silenced - first by an Israeli bulldozer, next by a New York theatre cancelling a play created from her words - is a testimony to the power of her message. This song was written on a plane on March 20 and recorded at Big Sky Recordings, Ann Arbor, Michigan on March 22. The tune is borrowed from Bob Dylan.

I remember hearing about this on the news several years ago.
Rachel Corrie had 23 years
She was born in the town of Olympia, Washington
A skinny, messy, list-making chain-smoker
Who volunteered to protect the Palestinian people
Who had become non-persons in the eyes of the media
So that people were suffering and no one was seeing
Or hearing or talking or caring or acting
And the horrible math of the awful equation
That brought Rachel Corrie into this confrontation
Is that the spilt blood of a single American
Is worth more than the blood of a hundred Palestinians

Kissing Hank's ass

PZ Myers at Pharyngula has an interesting post about choices which reminded me of this classic. I'd origianlly read this at the The War on Faith but lookingat some of the comments at Pharyngula link to a some what sanitised version of it.

What kind of Vampire am I?

You scored as powerful vampire.

powerful vampire


dangerous vampire


depressed vampire


pathetic human


weak vampire


which type of vampire are you??(PICS)
created with

From the hours I've been working lately, the fact that I am a vampire should be taken as given, the only question was what kind.....

Friday random 10

Stray VoltageGramsciLike stray voltage
If I CouldStellar*Magic line
Basket CaseGreen DayInternational Superhits
Just ForNickelbackSilver Side Up
More Human Than HumanWhite ZombieAstro-Creep 2000
Boat ParadeFive for FightingAmerica Town
Amazing GraceHaley WestenraPure
Buffalo SoldierBob MarleyLegend
PossessionSarah McLachlanMirrorball
Wait And SeePacifierLive

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Somewhat disturbing.....

Life's just not fair to mice. They're small, everything bigger than them picks on them, I believe there's still about 300+ sitting in a freezer in the University of Otago that I'd forgotten about when I left. About the only things they could harrass were invertebrates. Well now the invertebrates fight back. I have to admit, even with my dislike of mice the footage is somewhat unpleasant. Via Pharyngula

To see mice getting the better of somehting much bigger than themselves here's some footage of mice attaking an albatross chick. Via Immunoblogging .

"Nature, red in tooth and claw"

Update: If the top link for the mouse doesn't work try this one.

Christians and Crusades

This is a nice parody of a Jack Chick track, Image Dogtoring #1: Christians & Crusades. Apparently Jack Chick Publications can be extremely litigous, so it may not last long.
Via Pharyngula.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Could you pass the US citizen ship test

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 8 out of 10 correct!

Not bad for a stranger in a strange land....

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bad Math for Bad Politics

Mark at Good math, bad math has a great post about some bad math being used by a political pundit. Number at risk is at least as important as the number of events, in this case, unfortunately deaths.
Quoting Mark:
"And as an aside, I've got to say, the image of Rush Limbaugh holding an American flag while trying to diminish the magnitude of the sacrifice made by American soldiers in this foolish war is deeply, deeply sickening. Give our soldiers the respect they deserve for the kinds of sacrifices they're making: what they're doing is a whole lot harder and more dangerous than anything any of us do in our normal lives. To pretend that the deaths of these people - not to mention the deaths of all of the innocent Iraqi's - is the equivalent of getting into a car accident is disgraceful."

How your computer works

Some people have too much time on their hands....

Oh and there's sound as well so you may want to turn the volume down a little before checking it out.

No comment

A letter in the opinion section of the the Greenville News.

Bible tells the truth about our creation

Why is it that these evolutionists are trying so hard to deny that God created the Earth and all that is on it? Now we have an "educated" minister who claims that seminaries have proved that the beginning chapters of the Bible were not written according to the Word of God, but by unknown authors and added to the Bible by some editor. How about the words in John 1:1-4?

I don't think much of a minister who felt it was more important to preach about things he didn't believe, rather than risking his post by not pleasing his (ignorant) congregation.

The theory of evolution does not and cannot explain so much about the universe that we know. For instance, when and how did water evolve? How does it happen that gravity can hold us to the Earth, and at the same time allow us to step up without any trouble? How did it happen that the Earth is spinning at the exact rate that keeps us from feeling that movement?

I find it much easier to believe that Genesis tells us the truth of the creation when we know from God's own Word that nothing is impossible for him to do.

A recent posting at the Panda's Thumb brought this up.

How can this person operate within a technological society?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What soldier type am I?

You scored as Special Ops. Special ops. You"re sneaky, tactful, and a loner. You prefer to do your jobs alone, working where you don"t come into contact with people. But everyonce in a while you hit it big and are noticed and given fame. Your given the more sensitive problems. You get things done, and do what has to be done.


Special Ops


Combat Infantry








Support Gunner






Which soldier type are you?
created with

Well I suppose once upon a time in a galaxy far far away I was a cutlunch commando....

Monday, March 20, 2006

More on the toxic toads

I talked about a recent Nature paper on the Cane toads in Australia, well some more news on them, this time from the BBC

Federal MP Dave Tollner says that the toads deserve no mercy.
"I suggested that people should hit them with golf clubs or cricket bats or, you know, lumps of wood - whatever was at hand. Other people have suggested that you should put them in a box and then gas them with the exhaust of your car. The RSPCA also suggests chemical euthanasia.
"You know, to me it seems far easier just to flog them over the head with a lump of wood," he says.

The toads are a pest species, their skin secretes a toxin, which can kill other wildlife that attempt to consume them. Since they were introduced some seventy or so years ago they ahve been spreading slowly through Australia from their point of release. Currently they are on the outskirts of Darwin.

Still golf clubs and cricket bats?

Filters: looking at the world though a stained glass window

About the time I was finishing my Phd thesis, one of my Mother’s friends disappeared in a town called Turangi (on the shores of Lake Taupo). The police searched for her, but she was never found, and while foul play is a possibility, it’s unlikely. My Mother’s friend had been quite active within her church as well as the wider community and the memorial service happened to occur while I was visiting after having submitted my thesis. It was quite obvious that she’d interacted with many people as there between two and three hundred people at the service.

What struck me most about the service though was when the preacher type person began to talk about how his faith shaped the way he viewed the world. The analogy he used was windows. Fare enough, and surprisingly appropriate. First he referred to looking out on the Tararua ranges from his living room, through plain glass, unfiltered. Then he referred to looking out on the world through the churches stained glass window, which contained an image of the cross. He was saying that he (and that we should as well) view the world through the filter of the Christian faith. That was the message that he was trying to get across at least. Poor dammed contrarian that I am, I walked away with a slightly different take on his message.

He was saying that he was restricting himself to what he can see through the stained glass window, which was not a lot. Nice image of the cross though. I guess that’s part of the reason I’m not religious, I want to look beyond the stained glass window. The way I see it, the view from his living room is an unfiltered view of the real world.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Latent extinction risk

Latent extinction risk and the future battlegrounds of mammal extinction
M. Cardillo, G.M. Mace, J.L. Gittleman & A. Purvis. 2006 PNAS 103: 4157- 4161
This recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes for interesting reading. From their abstract:
Global conservation prioritisation usually emphasizes areas with highest species richness or where many species are thought to be at imminent risk of extinction. However, these strategies may overlook areas where many species have biological traits that make them particularly sensitive to future human impact but are not yet threatened because such impact is low.

The authors have carried out an analysis to identify the latent risk of extinction for different mammal species. They define latent risk as the difference between the current extinction risk for a species and the risk predicted for that species based upon models using biological traits. Their models highlighted several important factors predicting extinction risk, small geographic range, slow life histories (older age of maturity, smaller numbers of offspring), and large body mass.

Having calculated the latent risk for each species that they have used in their analysis they then identify hotspots of latent extinction risk, areas with the highest latent risk values (Figure 2 in their paper). There methods highlight areas that have the greatest potential for species losses. Latent risk comes is estimated to be low for many parts of the world, but these are areas that are already heavily modified.

Fig. 2. Hotspots of latent extinction risk in nonmarine mammals. Hotspots are defined as the 10% of grid cells with the highest mean latent risk values (from Cardillo et al., 2006)

I quite like the paper, although I think the methods section is a little too brief, but I think that is an issue with PNAS rather than with the authors. What they have presented is another tool for conservation, a prospective tool, so too speak. Conservation biology has been described as a crisis science in the past, since the point at which we step in is once the species is declining and at risk. This tool used proactively has the potential to identify potential trouble spots of the future, allowing pre-emptive measures to be taken.

An interesting point that they don’t really raise is the concept of triage, often used by medical practitioners to sort injured into groups, those that need immediate attention, those with less urgent injuries and those beyond help. In that mythical ideal world of unlimited resources this would not be a problem. However, given that resources are limited, we need to identify the best areas to concentrate those resources on.

How does this study fit in? Well if we can predict which species are likely to become endangered, it makes sense to concentrate resources before this happens. The contribution of this paper is that they identify areas that are likely to become hotspots for extinctions. So do we expend resources on species that are doomed when we could expend those resources to protect future hot spots?

Fotunately it’s not quite that bad since species will be at risk from common threats, so managing these threats for one species will benefit others. Primarily the main threats come from anthropomorphic causes, over habitat fragmentation and destruction exploitation and a smattering of introduced predators.

Friday, March 17, 2006

About Darkling

I’ve called myself a population biologist, so what does that mean?
Several years back I was out tramping (hiking for Nth Americans) with a group of people. I knew a few out of the dozen or so people on the trip, which was a good mix of internationals and kiwis. At any point where I started to explain what I did, one of the people I did know would attempt to say that I was doing a math degree. This annoyed me (which is probably why she brought it up every time I started to elaborate), since I’ve always viewed myself as a biologist.

So what was I doing that got me accused of being a math PhD? I was carrying out an experimental study using feral house mice. I had established eight trapping grids on the Otago Peninsula, where I was running a mark recapture study. Every two months I went out to my study sites and live-trapped for either three or four days. Every mouse was individually marked allowing me to create encounter histories for each mouse. These encounter histories are simply a record of when each mouse was caught.

Using these records I could do several things. My study design is what is called the robust design in the capture-mark-recapture history. Using the encounter histories for each individual trapping session I could estimate mouse abundances on each of my grids. Because each mouse was individually marked I could work out what the proportion of mice recaptured on the second day was, and what proportion of mice were newly caught for the session. I could then do this for the third day and fourth day as well. Because not all mice were caught on the second and third day, and news ones were caught I could work out what the probability of recapturing a mouse was, and then based on the total number of mouse captures, I could then calculate the abundance of mice on the grid (although in practice I used a piece of software called MARK). In addition to mouse abundance these encounter histories could be used to calculate survival and recruitment between each of my trapping sessions.

So now I have three useful pieces of information; mouse survival, mouse recruitment and mouse abundances. The other part to this project was an experimental manipulation. The goal was to compare the predictions from a matrix model describing mouse population dynamics to what happened when the wild populations were perturbed.

Matrix models are useful tools for describing population dynamics and using them we can calculate various summary variables, which describe the state of the population. Sensitivity analysis is a tool for predicting how the dependent factor in the population model will change in response to changes in a model parameter. By dependent parameter, I mean a parameter that is calculated by the model such as growth rate or population size. For my study I reduced female mouse survival on some of my trapping grids and compared the observed population growth rates on those grids to the predicted population growth rates from my matrix models. I used estimates of mouse survival and recruitment from my control grids to construct my models.

This project took about two and a half years. My field sites were established in late 1999, and I removed the last trap from them in June 2002. While my dissertation contains one chapter describing how well the matrix model predicted the effects of my experimental manipulation, it has three chapters describing mouse population dynamics. One of those describes how mouse survival and recruitment rates responded to my experimental manipulation. I have two chapters looking at mouse population growth rates, one of those where the population growth rate is estimated from the mark-recapture rates, and another “decomposing” the variance in population growth rates to changes in various parameters (trapping grid, time, mouse abundances, site…).

So have I managed to answer the question as to what I do? I guess a shorter version is that I’m interested in looking at the processes affect population dynamics. What are the factors that lead to changes in population sizes, and how do demographic rates vary over time and factors affect them.

Friday random 10

Another random selection from my itunes library:

As good as it getsThe Feelers
Fumbling towards ecstasySarah Mclachlan
Born stubbornSepultura
Fear of the darkIron Maiden
WhalingDave Dobbyn
Brothers in armsDire Straits
JuiceHeadless Chickens
One more dayStellar*

What's my beer personality?

You Are Guinness

You know beer well, and you'll only drink the best beers in the world.
Watered down beers disgust you, as do the people who drink them.
When you drink, you tend to become a bit of a know it all - especially about subjects you don't know well.
But your friends tolerate your drunken ways, because you introduce them to the best beers around.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Pre-emptive action

Via Guardian Unlimited
The Bush administration today reaffirmed its readiness to use pre-emptive military action despite the corrosive events that have swept through Iraq since the American invasion three years ago.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A great leap backwards

South Dakota passes law making abortion ilegal. Go here for some video footage revealing a little of the political climate there.
Missouri is also considering a similar bill in addtion to several others which would:

  • Deny alimony to ex-spouses who live with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • Ban all abortions.

  • Provide tax credits for contributions that help kids in lousy school districts to attend private schools.

  • Propose a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to pray in schools and on other public property.

  • Allow pharmacists, insurance companies, doctors and hospitals to deny treatment if the procedure or medication offends their moral values.

  • Propose a constitutional amendment to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public property.

Rep. Cynthia Davis, an O’Fallon Republican and sponsor of several bills, said conservatives are tired of an overly permissive society in which high school students are taught how to use condoms.
“It’s time to get back to the basics,” Davis said. “Our country has been hijacked by liberals. We’ve had people with left-wing ideas pushing us away from what made America strong.”


Michigan as well apparently.

A new front in the war on science opens....

Apparently a new front in the War on Science has opened, the War on Epidemiology discussed here and here.

Too many are unable to conceive that a 21st century government would conduct the War on Epidemiology. They are unable to believe that those charged with the maintenance of the public welfare would repeatedly and consistently ignore the advice of medical experts in the service of a narrow sectarian religious dogma. That is why the Bush Administration and its army of mindless Uruk-hai have been successful: the willful ignorance of many–not a few, many–good men (and women) who psychologically can not confront any evidence that suggests those who are supposed to lead us are only worthy of our disdain and contempt.

Quoting Mike the Mad Biologist

Friday, March 10, 2006

And I thought it was just behavioural ecologists....

Oh dear [insert appropriate mythical being].

On the Ecological Society of America's list server there has just been an ongoing discussion, which seems to have now run its course, about the nature of the science and the roll of statistics. I might be mischaracterising some of the participants somewhat, but it sure seemed like some people objected to the increasing roll of statistics in ecology.
But as I have argued several times before, we need to be very wary of letting statisticians tell us how to do science. And once again I want to point out that when I refer to modelling I refer to representations of how the system works, and not to statistical models, which are just arbitrary fits to the data.

I'm having trouble parsing this statement. Mainly because the advice I'd expect to get from a statistician would be about things like making sure that I have enough controls, thoughts about sample sizes so that I actually have the power to detect any effects. If you just want to tell a story, by all means go out there and observe nature and write it up. If you want to show that something is causative, then well designed experimental studies, or appropriate statistical analysis of observation data are required. Anything else and you're just pissing into the wind. You're wasting your time and resources.

There was an interesting disscussion about Hamerstrom Science
Hamerstrom Science, as described by Dr. Joe Schmutz in his published letter in a past issue of the Journal of Raptor Research, emphasized uninhibited, massive gathering of data over long periods of time. There was no formula for the gathering of the data other than to provide all the knowledge that could be gathered on a species or habitat under study, with the goal of gaining personal knowledge until patterns of nature would be identified and explained.

On the surface it sounds like a good idea. On the other hand there is the minor issue of logistics. Resources are limited, so it's not feasible to just go out and collect all possible data. We need a way to work out what data we should collect, given that we will not be able to collect it all.

So to sum up, in an ideal world statistical analyses would be unnecessary. Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world so we need those statistical tools to show cause and effect. Even if that's as simple a making sure that our experiments are well designed, and carefully thought out. Whining about the role of statistics is not going to change anything. Regardless of your particular definitions of science we still need to be able to determine if our observations match our hypotheses, or if they aren't different from the appropriate null model.

Friday random 10

This seems to be a tradition among some of the blogs I lurk so I'll add my own picks. 10 Songs picked from my Itunes library randomly(ish). What can I say, my music collection is a wee bit eclectic and I've been listening to a little bit of music from the homeland lately.

AngelSarah MclachlanMirorball
ParihakaHerbsListen: The very best of
Blue Sky mineMidnight OilBlue sky minning
Won't give inThe Finn brothersEveryone is here
LoyalRunga/Dobbyn/FinnTogether in Concert: Live
A poem for ByzantiumDeleriumPoem
Home AgainPacifierLive
Guts and the GloryShihadLove is the new hate
Du HaastRammsteinMatrix Soundtrack
Changes3 Doors DownAway from the sun

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bloody Idiots

I'd read about David Irwing (hoocaust denier) being jailed in Austria and some opinions about the jailing (here, here and here). Free speech, even hateful and stupid speech should be protected, even when the bastards are saying things we don't like (inciting violence is a different story).

And on a tangentially related note...

On the other hand, there was an incident where someone attempted to burn down the Holocaust History Projects building. Orac at Respectful Insolence who has more details. This is just reprehensible. While I can understand the Austrian laws and the background too them, even if I don't agree with them, the attempted arson however, is just beyond the pale.

Which Sci Fi crew would I fit in with?

You scored as Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica). You are leery of your surroundings, and with good reason. Anyone could be a cylon. But you have close friends and you know they would never hurt you. Now if only the damn XO would stop drinking.

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

100% Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)
88% Serenity (Firefly)
88% Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)
75% SG-1 (Stargate)
75% Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)
75% Moya (Farscape)
75% Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)
69% Enterprise D (Star Trek)
56% Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)
56% Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)
50% Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)
44% FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)

Invasion and the evolution of speed in toads

Invasion and the evolution of speed in toads
Benjamin L. Phillips, Gregory P. Brown, Jonathan K. Webb, Richard Shine Nature 439 page 803

I originally stumbled across this paper through a post on Pharyngula, a couple of weeks back and commented there on it . On the surface the paper makes sense. Cane toads were introduced to Australia about 70 years ago as a management to control pests and as almost all of these introductions go, the cane toads then went on to become a problem themselves. Since the original introduction the range where the toads can be found has increased, dramatically so in the last twenty or so years.

Here we show that the annual rate of progress of the toad invasion front has increased about fivefold since the toads first arrived; we find that toads with longer legs can not only move faster and are the first to arrive in new areas, but also that those at the front have longer legs than toads in older (long-established) populations.

In the brief communication they present these four graphs to support their hypothesis.

Figure 1 Morphology of cane toads in relation to their speed and invasion history.
a, b,Compared with their shorter-legged conspecifics, cane toads with longer hind limbs move further over 3-day periods (r2 0.34) (a), and are in the vanguard of the invasion front (based on order of arrival at the study site; r2 0.11) (b). c,Cane toads are relatively long-legged in recent populations, and show a significant decline in relative leg length with time in older populations (r2 0.05). d, The rate at which the toad invasion has progressed through tropical Australia has increased substantially since toads were first introduced in 1935 (r2 0.92).

I’m not really convinced by their statistics in this paper. Lets begin with the first graph, Graph a. I think that there is a good argument to be made that the results that they show here could just be due to small sample size, at least for the toads with relatively shorter legs. When I look at this graph I see the main cluster of points, then there are the three “outliers” with shorter relative leg lengths. Two of these outliers are within the range of values expressed by the points in the main cluster. While they can argue that this indicates a trend, I don’t find it convincing. To improve this graph, in my opinion, rather than just take a random sample of toads and radio track them, they should have attempted to set a representative sample of toads. Some form of stratified sample where there is more replication of the toads with relatively shorter legs.

Graph b, I find the most convincing of the four graphs presented here. It looks like the first 200 or so toads to arrive have longer legs.

Graph c, I don’t find very convincing at all. The regression line they present has a small r2 value indicating that is explains very little of the variance in the data, and I wonder how of the relationship in that graph is determined by the individual point that occurs quite high up on the y axis. Another question, which occurs to me as I type this, what is a biologically relevant difference in relative leg length?

Graph d. This graph is quite interesting. Looks suspiciously like an exponential curve.

The authors present regression lines in their graphs, but talk about correlation coefficients in the text. I would have liked to see the coefficients for the regression lines in the text. Correlation doesn’t imply causation between two factors whereas a regression implies that one of the factors explains the other, something that they are trying to do within their paper. Admittedly, there is only limited space in a “Brief Communication” to Nature. I for one, would have liked to see the standard errors and confidence intervals for the regression coefficients.

The central thesis to the paper makes sense, and is believable. I just think that their graphs are at best indicative of this. I'd be hapier if there first graph was stronger, in that they a had more conclusive relationship between leg length and speed of movement. While the rate of advance of the toads into virgin territory has dramtically accelerated over the last twenty years, there's more going on than just an increase of leg length. While the authors attempt to show a change in leg length between older and newer populations, the change in leg length between them is small, and not enough to explain teh dramatic acceleration.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Roll of statistics: Study design

A recent comment on the ESA (Ecological Society of America) list serve caught my attentions.
While I agree that too much emphasis is placed on statistics, phrases like the one below alarm me. I recall a talk by a distinguished professor in which he had his students review 400 papers and concluded that only two were scientifically correct. My conclusion was that 99.5% of scientists disagreed with his idea of how to do science.

I think that it is quite safe to say that scientists need better statistical training. Do they need to be trained statisticians? No. At the beginning of every study the students or PI or both should consult a statistician. Why? There are two reasons for this. Firstly the statistician can help to make sure that the study is appropriately designed so that they are indeed testing what they want to test. Secondly, the statistician can also advise them about what the best way to analyse the data are.

I remember hearing a story from a statistician at the university where I did my PhD. A MSc student in the Physiotherapy department wanted to see how balance was affect in amputees where the leg had been removed above the knee or below the knee. Towards this goal, they got in amputees and tested their balance and stability in different postures. If I recall correctly (the conversation occurred on a Friday evening at the Staff club), they’d obtained a hundred or so different measurements and then went to consult a statistician to find out how best to analyse their data. Unfortunately, while they had a lot of data, their actual sample size was too small to do anything with. They’d used two amputees, one who’d lost the leg above the knee, and one who’d lost leg below the knee. While their study should adequately demonstrate any differences in balance between the two amputees, trying to generalise their results would be extremely foolhardy.

So rather than use two individuals and take large numbers of measurements from them (pseudo-replication eg Hurlbert), what they should have done, would have been to have large numbers of individuals, and then take measurements from them since there is likely to be variation between individuals within the same category.

So do I agree with the above statement that there is too much empahisis on stats? If it's a well designed study then the stats become a side issue. On the other hand I hate reading papers and wondering why the hell people have chosen (in my oppinion anyway) an inappropriate means to analyse the date.

Hurlbert, S. H. 1984. Pseudoreplication and the design of ecological field experiments. Ecological Monographs 54:187-211.

A first serious post

Maori lay complaint over name

A campaign by local Maori to have the district's name spelt as they believe it should be was rejected by 82 per cent of those who voted in a referendum last month. But Whanganui iwi spokesman Ken Mair said yesterday he had laid a complaint with the commission, which had accepted it and would appoint a mediator. Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws and the district council failed to understand that it was a fundamental right to ensure that the integrity of the Maori language was upheld, he said. Whanganui, meaning big expanse of water, was the name given by Maori 100 years ago and, without an "h", had no meaning.

At issue is the name of a town in New Zealand. The name of the river that runs beside town, is Whanganui, the town once named Whanganui, however, now it is known as Wanganui.

I guess they are trying to enforce an orthodoxy. They are trying to defend their language, which not to long ago was probably best described as endangered. I don't think that there is anything neccassarily wrong with that, but on the other hand languages evolve over time, pronunciation changes, new words are adopted, old words are forgotten. Admittedly I don't think this is the case so much here, although if Maori is a living language then it will change over time, which this might be an example of. Nevertheless, the relevant question is "has the meaning of the town's name remained constant?", or "has the meaning changed", or just lost it's relevance? Does the name of the town mean something different from what it was initially named for?

When people say Wanganui are thinking of a "vast expanse of water" or are they thinking of that town in the lower North Island? Personally, I think of a particular town in the lower North Island next to the Whanganui river.

The begining

Well what can I say? After a couple of years reading the blogs of others I think it's time for me to start my own. Any particular reason? Well...
(a) I need to work more on my communication skills. To be able to express myself concisely and clearly, is something that I need to practice.

(b) We all need hobbies and since I’m spending too much time in the office lately, I may as well take advantage of being in front of a computer for most of the day.

(c) Who knows? But maybe I'll have something worthwhile to say, eventually.