Wednesday, May 17, 2006
  John Jose Hancock 1910-2006
Obituary: John Hancock

By Adam Gifford

* John Hancock, agronomist. Died aged 95.

In 1948 the New Zealand Herald reported that the Department of Agriculture's animal research station at Ruakura had established the largest herd of identical twin calves in the world.

That herd was the work of Ruakura's research officer, John Hancock, and it allowed the country to take rapid strides in the management of farm animals.

Hancock was born in Finland to a Swedish-speaking family, but always described himself as a Yorkshireman.

After earning a degree in agricultural science at Helsinki University and a spell managing Finland's Ayrshire cattle breeding programme, he migrated to New Zealand in 1938, bringing his wife, Rakel, soon after.

He worked in farm labouring jobs in Kaukapakapa, the King Country and the Wanganui back country, coming to Ruakura in 1941 as a shepherd.

When Campbell McMeekan arrived as superintendent at Ruakura in 1943, he recognised that Hancock's qualifications had been overlooked and had him transferred to the scientific staff.

Hancock embarked on a flurry of research and publication which led to him being made a Doctor of Science by Massey University.

As a trained geneticist, he was interested in the potential of identical twins for research. Waikato's large cattle population and the willingness of farmers to participate in research allowed him to gather pairs, after first developing tests to determine the calves were identical and not fraternal twins.

He established that the grazing, resting and other habits of twins were practically identical, as was their butterfat production. This meant any differences when the twins were separated were due to nurture. It was on the basis of this research that the science of stocking rates, on which every New Zealand farmer depends, was developed.

Dr Lindsay Wallace, a former director of Ruakura, says using twins meant an enormous saving in cost of animals and the land area needed for research.

Hancock also studied the grazing habits of dairy cattle, spending time just observing how long they grazed, how they rested, the minutiae of their lives. This resulted in discoveries such as the causes of bloat.

Hancock's work in New Zealand became his ticket to an international career. In 1953 he took a job with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank) in Washington. He subsequently oversaw the Food and Agriculture Organisation's animal production work in South America and set up the World Bank's agriculture development operations in Rome.

Dr Hancock died in Rome on April 16. He is survived by his children John, Elissa, Robert, Gitta and Jim, and his wife, Malou.
  Why laptops
WorkIT column in NZ Herald.

Laptops handy but care needed

Wednesday May 17, 2006

In the third quarter of last year laptop prices in New Zealand went under the all-important $1000 mark.

Sales of portable computers leapt that quarter to 46 per cent of the total, compared with 40 per cent for the whole year, according to research firm International Data Corporation.

In 2003, only 30 per cent of computers sold were portables. The trend is holding up. Almost 45 per cent of the 129,682 PCs sold in the quarter to March 31 were laptops, preliminary IDC figures show.

That is changing the way we live and work. It means people need to appreciate the difference between the form factors so they can get the best out of their machines, and not damage themselves.

While portability implies mobility, the fact is most laptops will get used at the same office or home office desk where the desktop PC used to sit. But many of the ergonomic workarounds we developed to make out working lives more comfortable will no longer be available.

Instead of being able to have the keyboard at a comfortable height, the mouse waving round at the end of your arm in plenty of space, and the screen at eye height, you will be hunched over looking down at the screen, and making fiddly movements on a trackpad or trackpoint to move the cursor round.

If you are doing a lot of spreadsheeting or copying and pasting, your problems with tiring micro-movements will amplify.

Read more... (may be time barred, but can be found through google)
An online possie for Adam Gifford, a New Zealand journalist specialising in information technology, Maori news and the arts.

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