Friday's Top 10: From Raleigh Choppers to budgie smugglers; Flipping the bird at politicians; China's housing affordability fail; the NZ$, Bitcoin, Dilbert and more

Friday's Top 10: From Raleigh Choppers to budgie smugglers; Flipping the bird at politicians; China's housing affordability fail; the NZ$, Bitcoin, Dilbert and more

Today's Top 10 is a special combined long-weekend post from Gareth Vaughan David Chaston. We'll be back to guest posts from next Friday.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact

See all previous Top 10s here.

1. From Raleigh Choppers to budgie smugglers. Nottingham's the Bank of England's bellwether city, but what might the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's be?

Nottingham's probably best known in New Zealand for Robin Hood and the Trent Bridge cricket ground where Sir Richard Hadlee and Chris Cairns starred for the local county team. But, like most of Britain, it has a rich history and is now seen as a bellwether for the wider economy by Bank of England governor Mark Carney.

As a journalism student I spent a month there in January 1997 working for a local radio station. Nottingham Forest were still in the Premier League (for a few more months), and the beer - much to my disgust- was warm.

They once built the popular Raleigh Chopper bikes there and now Speedo is making togs in Nottingham. Having read this Guardian story I can't help but wonder which mid-sized, or smaller New Zealand city, might be seen as a bellwether by Graeme Wheeler?

Nottingham is dependent on the services sector, which accounts for nearly nine out of 10 jobs. Unemployment is a problem too. Its proportion of households where no one of working age has a job is one in four, among the worst rates in the country.

But Carney could do worse than follow the fortunes of Nottingham. If local authorities succeed with their growth plan, the city may yet become a model of how to achieve Britain's much talked about but little evidenced rebalancing.

The city council says its long list of projects, grants and business loans are already paying dividends. Since its launch in July 2012 the scheme has made more than £49m of finance available to businesses, and a record 3,762 new companies were set up last year. The council also touts the creation of 200 apprenticeships and 790 jobs.

That goes some way towards the short-term employment goals, but longer-term Nottingham needs to build on its heritage of manufacturing and innovation, says Kathy McArdle, who is charged with regenerating the city's recently rebranded Creative Quarter.

2. The resurgence of bitcoin notes electronic currency bitcoin has again been reaching new highs, trading as high as US$233.40 on Thursday (US time). It has come up with three theories for this, but doesn't seem convinced that any of them is necessarily accurate.

If none of those answers really satisfies, you’re not alone. Skeptics say bitcoin may once again be moving into bubble territory, driven higher by speculators and hangers-on reacting to the publicity from the Silk Road bust and other factors–an ironic development given how bitcoin advocates talk it up as a long-term alternative to unstable paper currencies.


3. How about a Barack Obama or a John Boehner Halloween mask?
Following their recent government shutdown politicians have been prominent in US media headlines. So perhaps it should be no surprise to hear that Halloween masks of President Obama and House Speaker Boehner are proving popular this year. Although apparently not as popular as Miley Cyrus as American adults reportedly spend US$1.2 billion on Halloween costumes.

Dev Mukherjee, the CEO of costume retailer, says that Boehner searches have spiked over the past couple of weeks. “There were more this morning than yesterday even,” he says. But Rep. Ted Cruz isn’t faring quite as well. “We may have had one or two searches for him, but not many,” says Mukherjee. He attributes some of the Boehner costume search-fest to the Saturday Night Live parody video of the government shutdown featuring Miley Cyrus. (The company offers a costume that’s similar to the one worn by the actor playing Boehner in the video.)

For consumers, it may be hard to dress up as Boehner. While Obama masks abound, many retailers do not carry Boehner models. This may be due to the fact that the shutdown happened so close to Halloween that manufacturers didn’t have time to create the mask.

But that doesn’t mean that you won’t see Boehner costumes on the streets this Halloween. “There will be a lot of DIY shutdown related costumes this year,” says Bietz. The reason: “Political headlines historically do have an impact … it’s a ripple effect that we see in demand for Halloween costumes.”

4. Flipping the bird at politicians
Many of us, when particularly annoyed at something our politicians have said or done, might have contemplated giving the Beehive or a politician on our TV a one fingered salute. A Czech artist has taken things a few steps further.

A Czech artist known for his anti-communist stance has floated a huge statue of a hand making an obscene gesture on Prague's main river (see picture below), days before parliamentary elections that could give the communists a taste of power almost a quarter-century after they were ousted.

David Cerny's giant purple hand, extending an oversized middle finger, was placed on a pontoon on the Vltava river Monday, near the famed Charles Bridge and visible from Prague Castle, the seat of the presidency.

5. Making money from 'free'
Modern life is pretty inexpensive, given what we can do with technology these days. Amazon is under threat with same day delivery by many upstarts. Who would have thought that online shopping would come with same day delivery? We know it does - we ordered some office supplies yesterday at about 10am and they were delivered here a bit before 2pm! Stunning.

Now something as central to our lives as a PC operating system is about to become free. Tech companies now regard it as a loss-leader and are giving it away. More from

The desktop operating system is dead as a major profit center, and Apple just delivered the obituary.

Amid a slew of incremental improvements to its iPad tablets and MacBook laptops, Apple today announced some landmark news about its oldest surviving operating system: It will not charge for the latest big upgrade, Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, breaking from a tradition that goes back 16 years and shining a light on a long-unfolding reversal in how tech profits are made. Eighteen years ago, the tech industry’s dominant company made nearly half its revenue selling OS licenses. Now, as Apple just confirmed, the prices of OS licenses are headed towards zilch.

6. The NZ$ falling out of favour?
Look at the longer term trend in this chart. Our currency is being used less and less (since 2006) for swaps. We may be the 11th most traded currency, but we are tiny even though NZ$250 billion is traded monthly

7. Affordability fail
China announced it plans to build 35 million new 'affordable' homes. It is a huge target, and as the FT reports, even if only half that number are built, it will still amount to one in two of all homes built in China in five years. It has a ring about it like the Auckland Housing Accord, which in its own way plans to treble the new homes built in the SuperCity.

In the Chinese example however, things aren't working out as planned.The policy has not succeeded in curbing property prices, and has instead become a hotbed of corruption and a fiscal burden for already indebted companies and cities. China’s affordable housing drive is at risk of going badly off course.

Even when prices are reasonable and corrupt officials are kept away from them, affordable housing developments have run into another stumbling block: many are in the back of beyond, where land is much cheaper. “If the housing is good, it gets allocated to officials and friends. If it’s bad, it’s so remote and very few people apply for it,” says Mr Du of Credit Suisse.

Caijing, a leading Chinese magazine, surveyed affordable housing developments across the country in August and found that many were about 20 per cent empty. Several were more than half unoccupied. Bad locations and poor transportation links were cited as the main reasons.

8. One trick pony
New Zealand wine exports are absolutely dominated by Sauv Blanc. Almost 85% of everything shipped in 2012-13 was that variety, and only 6% Pinot Noir. They love our stuff in Germany, Canada and the USA. And they are paying more for what we ship to our big export markets in the UK and Australia.

A record 345,000 tonnes of grapes were harvested in 2013, up 28% on 2012 and 5% on 2011, so the the upcoming year could be this industry's best ever.

9. China's dairy distortion
Susan Kilsby analyses why demand for milk from China is straining the dairy industry in the rest of the world. Local back-yard production is declining rather sharply, it seems.

The shortage of milk within China this year was driven by a combination of weather factors, policy and prices.  Milk production was initially hampered early this year by the very harsh winter experienced in China which was then followed by a very hot summer.  This resulted in a reduction in milk production particularly in the Northern regions where the majority of the milk is produced.

Weather conditions are not the only factor which has impacted milk production.  China’s quest to produce high quality safe milk has come at the expense of milk volumes.  Milk prices being paid in China this year are historically very high, but not all milk producers get paid at the same rate.  The large factory farms are being paid much more for their milk than the farmer who may only have a few cows.  This is part of the government’s quest for a more integrated supply chain where the dairy processing companies have greater control over the quality of the raw milk they are using.  

10. Clarke & Dawe
An interview with Benjamin (Ben) deRule about how to understand Aussie political language.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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#4 Cerny really hates communists, this is what he did in 2011 to the tank that was the war memorial "commemorating the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army"

So the Chinese have discovered that affordable housing in "bad locations" with poor public transport links is a failure. So where will Auckland try to put affordable housing? - in "bad locations" with poor public transport links of course. 

That's correct. Centrally mandated locations for building certain types of housing (government trying to pick winners) is at best inefficient.
The government should focus on improving the main transport infrastructure and remove the artifical restrictions on land use. Developers will soon find the popular (=profitable) locations to place houses near this infrastructure.
On a related note, the latest Freakonomics podcast that I listened to while walking to work this morning has a good take or environmentalism vs NIMBYism

By "removing artificial restrictions on land use" do you mean forcing sprawl while continuing to subsidize cars to ensure existing central suburbs stay untouched? Or do you mean allowing density?
Ed Glaser you refer to in link above covers why dense cities are green, sprawl is not and why cheap Texas towns like Houston are a disaster. Good stuff, although right wing sprawl proponent NIMBY's wouldn't like it.

I mean allowing the purchaser to decide rather than the planners/NIMBYs

Just out - net inflation for low income families is running at $52.00 a year;

Brighter Future*
*exclusions may apply.

Quite right - you should sell that to the Tui folks :-).

#3 Hope the Boehner mask has crocodile tears on it. Except from a 60 Minutes interview where he blubs talking about kids and the American Dream and a choice description from Matt Taibbi. Boehner's something else

#8.  NZ Sauvignon is a wonderful example of  extreme systemic biological risk concencentration. (I'm standing in here for certain others who usually criticise me).
NZ Sauvignon is effectively just one plant. No sexual reproduction here, it's all cuttings from an original plant. Everyone in the industry knows this and worries about it but it is verboten for anyone in the industry to say anything at all even every so slightly negative about NZ WIne upon pain of excommunication from the high church of the NZ Wine Institute (who issue the licenses you see). Peer pressure rules.

Perhaps the export figures exaggerate the dominance of Sauv Blanc ..
.. from the 2012 vintage , SB accounted for 17297 ha out of the NZ total vineyard area of 33400 ha . ... . but it is a high yielding variety , as judged by the 181121 tonnes of it crushed that year , from a total of all varieties crushed of 263944 tonnes ..
.. Pinot Noir had 23285 tonnes crushed , off a total of 4828 hectares planted ...
.. Chardonnay 22855 tonnes crushed , 3792 ha .
And sadly for the Gummster , Muller Thurgau just 2 tonnes crushed , down from a peak of 15387 tonnes in 1995 ... SB was only 11015 tonnes in that year . Total grapes crushed in 1995 , 72526 tonnes ...

Not to forget the whine produced by 100 thousand Cantabrians getting crushed by the Jackbooted EQC and their associated Corporates of interest.
Cote de Nuts.

Hello Count : How did the gastrolectomy go ? .... hope it's all Okey diddily dokily with you ..
... and we mist our Friday Funny !
This fella comes home from his round of golf ...... he's in a terrible state , dishevelled , sweating profusely , and shaking ...
... his wife asks what happened to him ...
.." It was terrible " he says , " my playing partner had an enormous heart attack on the third hole ... after that it was play shot - drag Trevor - play shot - drag Trevor ... "

Love it...!!! ha ha
 yas the gastroscopy...mmm I elected to have it fully compos mentis with a little spray to so called numb the throat....urk , now I actually know just how long five minutes is as they make lefts n rights blow up your guts and the casually tell you they're heading down your bowel for a squiz n a snap or two  for the album.
I did ask at the outset not to entertain conversation with me like the Dentist idiot does while he's got his fists in your it was all rhetorical from there....but geesus mate unless your a trained sword swallower  get knocked out, and bugger me it wasn't the urge to gag that gave me grief, it was wanting to cough but knowing I'd start gagging like a first time whore....
 On the bright side, it was all pretty  down there clean n pink n stuff doing what it's supposed to I'd be guessing it's back to the exit strategy from here....bugger..!
Stay well I'm off to get some sun, n have me a paddle out there. Cheers Matey. 

One for the road :
David Beckham gets into the back seat of a London taxi ... The driver stares long and hard at him through the rear vision mirror .... " ummmmmmmm ... ? " he murmurs ... still staring , " ummmmm ... OK , give me a clue .. "
" OK " says Becks , " ... I played for Man United , had 100 caps for England , married Posh Spice ... and finished my career for LA Galaxy in America ... "
" No , you silly twat ! " snarls the cabbie " I need to know where you wanna go . "

Apple has probably realised that if they give away an operating system that is full of open doors for NSA access they cannot be sued but if customers have paid for the OS then they should expect a secure system.