Universal Topics

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about a reporter and his girlfriend who investigates topics that begin with the letter U such as university, unemployment, UFO's and United Nations.

Submitted: November 11, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 11, 2011



Let me introduce myself.  My name is Andrew Scot and I am doing this column on things that begin with the letter U.  I am doing this report with my girlfriend, Vivien Leigh.

I met up with a uni student by the name of Steven Hassan beside the pond at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.  That's on the North Island.  I asked him if I could follow him around for the day and he obliged.

First we went to a lecture that was in L1 in the L block which houses lecture theatres.  He was doing a bachelor of science in the biological sciences.  The lecture was for human physiology.

As we entered the lecture theatre we walked down the aisle and made our way into to our seats.  One of the girls said hi to him and he said hi back.  Everybody piled into the lecture theatre.

“That's our lecturer,” said Steven “Professor Paul Higgins”.

Mr Higgins set up the laptop and plugged it into the projector.  Once he was all set up Mr Higgins cleared his throat and said in a loud authoritative tone “Before I give the lecture, I would like to welcome the famous Andrew Scot to our class.  He is doing a series of columns for the New Zealand Herald”.  The students applauded.  “He'll be joining us for our lab class this afternoon.

“Right, the circulatory system.  What we have here is the human heart.  Now the heart is made up of four chambers.  The left ventricle, the right ventricle, the right atrium and the left atrium.  The heart acts as a double pump that beats as one and is made up of cardiac muscles that are arranged into cylindrical sheets and bundles.  The heart pumps the blood from the right atrium to the right ventricle and into the pulmonary arteries sending it to the lungs where the red blood cells pick up the oxygen and is then sent to the left ventricle through the pulmonary veins.  The blood is then pumped into the left ventricle and to the rest of the body via the aorta.

“The blood is carried through the arteries and into the capillaries where the oxygen is passed to the cells and the carbon dioxide taken away through the veins and back to the heart again.  There are valves inside the heart and the veins to prevent the blood from flowing backwards so that the blood can only go in one direction . . .”

I must admit I felt like dozing off a few times.  A few students fell asleep during the lecture.  After the lecture we climbed out of our seats and flooded out of the lecture theatre and through the corridors.


* * *


After lunch we went into the mammalian physiology class where Higgins and his lab assistants had set up the dead rats on the benches.

“Morning class,” said Mr Higgins “Today we are going to dissect some dead rats to learn about their anatomy.  I hope you've got your dissecting kits ready”.  I looked around to see the students nodding.  “You will be split up into pairs”.

Me and Steven were working with Lisa.  First we had to cut open the rat's belly with the scalpel by slicing down the middle of its belly and folding back it's skin.  We cut through the muscle and abdominal membrane to get to its organs.  It smelt bad.  We had to locate the intestines that consisted of the duodenum and ileum making up the small intestine and the colon that makes up the large intestine and the rectum where the poohs are stored.  We located the pancreas attached to the duodenum, the stomach, the liver, kidneys, spleen, and bladder.

We had to cut through the rib cage by snipping the sternum with the scissors.  Once we cut open the thorax we saw the lungs and heart which were very small.  It was smelly and disgusting.

After we had finished dissecting the rat we had to throw it in the bin to be disposed off in a hygienic way.


* * *


Immediately after the lab class we went to the zoology tutorial that was being held in the F block.  There the class discussed the different types of arthropods which are characterised by their exoskeletons, jointed limbs, antennas.

“Today we are discussing the phylum arthropoda,” announced Doctor John Washer “Can you name the four types of arthropods”.

“Crustaceans, myriapods, arachnids and insects” said one of the students.

“Can you name some examples of crustaceans?”

The students took turns in naming the types of crustaceans.  There were the decapods which included crabs, lobsters, shrimps and prawns.  They all have the same feature of ten legs and all have claws for holding their food.  There were the barnacles whose larvae resembled other crustaceans and are adapted for filter feeding.  There were the copepods which are microscopic planktons that feed on phytoplankton.

They discussed the types of myriapods that include the centipedes with a pair of legs on each segment and fangs at the front for killing prey.  They are confined to damp places.  And then there are the millipedes with two pairs of legs on each segment and a cylindrical body for burrowing in the ground.

Then they discussed the types of arachnids which include the scorpions with their stings in their tails; ticks and lice that feed on and live on the bodies of mammals; and the spiders that have eight legs and spin their webs from a special gland on their abdomens.  Some spiders even build trap doors to capture their prey.

Then they discussed the different types of insects.  The coleoptera which includes the beetles; the Lepidoptera which includes moths and butterflies; the diptera which includes the flies; and the hymenoptera which includes the ants, wasps and flies.

“Next week class we will discuss the different orders of insects and their characteristics”.

We all packed up our books and left the seminar room, walking through the corridors and down the stairs.


* * *


While I was following Steven around the university my girlfriend, Vivien Leigh, observed Teresa Phillips as she did her masters thesis on the rainbow and brown trout at the Ngongotaha Stream in Rotorua.  Her supervisor was John Washer whom Vivien asked to observe one of his post grads.

Teresa spent most of her time typing up the data on the weight and length of the trout and showing the graphs to Vivien.  The graph showed a linear relationship between the weight and length.  She used the keilidagraph software to make the graphs.

Vivien looked at the graph of the number of rainbow and brown trout against the time of the year.  The graph showed that the migration of rainbow trout reached their peak in November while that of brown trout reached their peak in September.  Teresa also showed that the migration of trout is at its highest during new moon, indicating that the trout are using this tactic to avoid wild bears which aren't even in New Zealand!  Wow.  I thought the trout would have realised there are no bears in New Zealand.

Vivien even talked to John who explained that Teresa was making good progress and that she is very talented.  They are due to go on a joint limnology conference in mid-November.  Vivien thanked him for her time and left the office.


* * *



The next day me and Vivien went up to Auckland to investigate life on the unemployment benefit.  We went to the Grey Lynn branch of WINZ which stands for Work and Income New Zealand.  In New Zealand WINZ is the company that pays out the unemployment benefit to the unemployed and helps people back into jobs.  I met up with a case manager by the name Sarah Brightsten who introduced us to one of her beneficiaries.

“Hi, welcome to Grey Lynn” said Sarah as she offered to shake my hand.  Me and Sarah shook hands and Sarah and Vivien hugged.  “Andrew, Vivien, this is Peter Waimata, one of my beneficiaries.  He's been on the benefit for over a year now”.

“Hi” said Peter as he got up and shook my hand “Nice to meet you”.  Peter was in his mid forties with gray hair, beard and thin build.  “So you're writing a column I hear”.

“Yes I am.  We're doing it together.  I wanted my girlfriend to be with me”.

“Right, Mr Scot and Miss Leigh.  We are going back to my house to do some job searching.  First I'll have to get the Wednesday paper”.


* * *


On the way to his place we picked up the local paper from the Caltex station.  He lived in Bond Street which goes over the north western motorway.

“A year on the benefit then?” I said.  Peter nodded.  “Must be rough?”

“Sure is, bro.  Difficult surviving on the dole.  I only get two hundred and sixty three bucks a week”.

“I couldn't survive on that” said Vivien.

We arrived at his house where we made our way to the table and he looked up the job section in the classified index.  He turned to the job section in the paper.  There were various categories of jobs in the paper.  Manufacturing, trade, situations vacant, hospitality, all sorts of jobs.

“Here's a good one” he said as he circled an ad in the manufacturing section. 

He circled the ads that had phone numbers and plotted down the E-mails in his note pad.  He rang up a few companies on his cell phone, giving them his name and contact details.  Some of them said they'll call him back.  Some wanted someone more experienced.  He finally got a job interview with a labouring company which was to be in the following week.

We followed him back to his bedroom where he got out his laptop and started looking up jobs on the internet.  He typed in the web address for Trademe.co.nz and clicked on jobs.  Then he selected Auckland in the locations field and trade in the jobs field.  He applied for several labouring jobs and manufacturing jobs.  When he applied via Trade me he put down his name, E-mail and phone number, wrote a message and attached his CV.  He showed us his CV too.

He worked for Fonterra Takanini as a security officer for Red Key, as an usher for Eden Park, a casual labourer for New Zealand Labour Hire and Labour Exchange, he worked for the Awapuni Coolpack stacking corn and sorting peppers and thinned apples for Leader Brand.  Yet Peter couldn't get a job.

“Have you heard of National's unemployment reforms that they're planning to place after the elections?” said Peter.

“Yeah.  They're really stupid,” said Vivien “Like he wants to introduce a discount so that young adults under the age of twenty get paid ten dollars forty per hour for the first three months of  employment.  Plus he wants to work test sickness beneficiaries and parents on the DPB”.

DPB stands for Domestic Purposes Benefit which is paid to solo mothers who are unemployed.  They want solo parents to be work tested for part time work after their youngest turns five and full time work after their youngest turns fifteen.  And if the mother becomes pregnant while on the DPB then they are to be work tested after their baby turns one.

“What I think is that if National introduces policies to attract employers to pay young workers below minimum wage,” I said “Then it would be harder for older people to get into work”.

“Exactly,” agreed Peter “The employers might sack the older workers so they could hire young people for the job because it's cheaper.  A lot of the jobs require qualifications that the young people don't have”.


* * *


The next day we followed Peter around as he went and did some door knocking.  He printed out some CV's and went out to various employers.  He tried the local supermarket in Grey Lynn, handing in his CV.  The woman there told him she would get back to him.  He handed the CV to a printing company, Darien Rush Security, Fulton Hogan.  They all said they would get back to him.

The next week he attended a job interview at a labouring company called Filtren Bros.

“So what type of work have you done” asked the boss.

“Well I've worked for Labour Hire, assisting with the concrete and drilling, carrying timber and Gibb boards, lifting up aluminium frames to the second floor …”

“Must be heavy work”
“Sure was.  Hard dragging the frames into the second floor. I cleared up houses on the construction site and guarded the footpath while the bus shelter was being upgraded.  I also picked tomatoes, deleafed them and thinned them”.

“What can you bring to the company?”

“I am keen for work.  Desperate man.  I'm a hard worker.  I'm always on time.  I'm dependable and can work in a team environment.  I can also work unsupervised”.

“Well, Peter.  It was a pleasure meeting you,”  We stood up as the employer shook our hands.  “I'll call you tomorrow morning if we need you on Sunday.  OK?  Good luck”.

“Thanks for the job interview”

“You're welcome”.  The employer walked us out of the building and we waved and said our goodbyes as we headed to Peter's car.


* * *



A week later me and Vivien met up with a ufologist by the name of Susan Patrick in the town of Unity in Utah, United States of America.

“Hi,” said Susan “Welcome to Unity.  There's been a lot of UFO activity in the county lately.  People have been seeing them for over a month now”.

We hopped into her Ute and drove through the residential area, the town centre and into the country side where we reached the shore of Lake Utah.  We climbed to the top of a hill at 9:39 pm on Halloween night.  People were looking up in the sky and me and Vivien looked to find a group of three UFO's dancing in the night sky.

The UFOs were in the form of bright blinding light that danced around each other, doing figures of eight, loop de loop and spinning around each other before heading towards us one by one.  The UFOs made a loud whooshing noise as they flew over our heads, causing the surrounding area to glow as bright as day.  They spiralled round each other as they went away, than turned back towards us,  flying over our heads again.  The UFOs climbed higher into the sky, dancing round each other.  Then stopped and hovered in the air for what was maybe twenty minutes before plunging towards the lake in a massive dive, then pulling up as they were about to hit water.  The three UFO's spiralled round each other as they climbed further into the sky.  Before merging into one single blinding light.  The UFO suddenly vanished.  Leaving nothing but black sky.

“That was amazing!” yelled Vivien “Wasn't it, honey”.

“Spectacular” I replied “I've always wanted to see a UFO.  And I've seen three.  Bloody awesome”.


* * *



Two days later me and Vivien had met secretary general Ban Ki Moon in the front foyer of the United Nations Headquarters which is located on Manhattan Island, New York. 

“Hi.  Welcome to the United Nations” said Ban Ki Moon “I'll take you up to the secretariat”.

We entered the elevator and, as we headed up to the top floor, Ban Ki Moon explained the founding of the United Nations.  Originally the League of Nations was formed at the end of WW I to help maintain peace and security throughout the world.  But when the US, Germany, Japan and Italy pulled out, the League of Nations failed and there was a World War II.  The United Nations was formed by the allied powers to replace the ill-fated League of Nations. 

The UN came into existence on the 24th October 1945 after WWII had ended.  Its purpose is to maintain international peace and security throughout the whole world; develop a friendly relationship between nations based on the principle of equal rights and self determination; achieve international cooperation in solving economic, cultural, social and humanitarian problems; and to maintain respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction of sex, race, religion or language.

The United Nations is authorised to settle international disputes, make recommendations for such disputes and enforce the recommendations collectively by way of embargo or even military action. 

The first place that Ban Ki Moon showed me was the secretariat which is the administrative body of the United Nations and acts as an international civil service.  Ban Ki's job is to act as the chief administrator of the UN as well as international mediator.  He then took me down to the general assembly where I was due to give a speech.

The general assembly is made up of representatives from each member state who are empowered to discuss issues within the UN charter.  It makes decisions on a qualified majority of two thirds on the important issues and a simple majority on other issues.  Each member state has a single vote.

“I would like to introduce the famous reporter from New Zealand, Andrew Scot” announced Ban Ki Moon.

The general assembly clapped as I walked up to the podium .  I paused for a few seconds before giving my speech.

“Quite recently,” I said “The Libyan people had been liberated as colonel Gadaffi has been shot dead by the interim council army.  Now the Libyan people are free!”  The representatives applauded.  “There has been reports of human rights abuses in Syria lately with the Syrian troops cracking down on peaceful demonstrators.  Innocent people are being shot in order to keep the royal family in power.  Action must be taken immediately to ensure that Syria gives its people a right to democracy, freedom and justice!”  The assembly applauded louder.  “The Palestinians have the right to have their statehood recognised by the Security Council and be granted membership of the United Nations.  This organisation was based on the principles of freedom, liberty, justice and equality”.

I looked around the room as the assembly gave me a standing ovation


* * *


After I had greeted the representatives of the general assembly and had greeted John Key and Barrack Obama, Ban Ki Moon took us upstairs where we listened to the proceedings at the UN Security Council.  The Security Council was set up to enforce international peace and security and to  discuss the important issues affecting international security.  It is made up of five permanent members which are the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China which made up the five allies who fought in WWII and ten other seats that are taken by other member states in turn. 

A decision is made by 9 out of 15 members voting on a measure with the permanent members having a right to veto a decision.  This maintains the world authority of the great powers.

Today they were discussing what they were to do about the situation in Palestine.

“The Palestinians should not be given recognition for statehood” stated Bob Wilson of the United States “If the Palestinians want to have their statehood recognised, then they'll have to make peace with Israel and, until that time, they should be not be allowed membership of the UN”.

“With due respect” said Hassan Allah of Egypt “Until the Palestinians have their independence recognised, there will always be terrorism in Israel.  The only way to guarantee peace in Israel is to give the Palestinians their statehood”.

At the end of the day the Americans had vetoed the Palestinians their right for statehood, which was just plain mean.


* * *

Ban Ki Moon took us to his office where he discussed the other organs of the UN.  There is the International Court of Justice which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.  It was set up to settle international disputes between nation states and offer a legal ruling over their conflict.  Recently the UN set up the International Criminal Court to try war criminals and corrupt government officials who commit crimes against humanity such as torture, wrongful arrests, suppression of freedom of speech and other human rights violations.

He took us down the corridor where he introduced us to the head of the Economic and Social Council.  This acts as a coordinating body for the specialised UN agencies in the international cooperation of economic, social and humanitarian issues.

The specialist agencies include the World Health Organisation which monitors health and disease around the world; the UN International Children’s' Emergency Fund which distributes aid to children living in poverty in the undeveloped countries; International Civil Aviation Organisation; International Labour Organisation; World Bank which loans money to countries struggling to get out of poverty; International Monetary Fund; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which looks after the refugees around the world; Universal Postal Union; International Atomic Energy Agency; and many other organisations that helps to make life more secure and easier for the human species.

After Ban Ki Moon had discussed the specialist organizations in full detail he took us down in the elevator and led us to the front foyer of the UN where we said our goodbyes.

“See ya” said Vivien.

“Thanks for the tour” I yelled out.

We waved to Ban Ki Moon and he waved back before we headed out the front entrance and down the stairs.  The sun beaming brightly above us as I put my right arm round her waist.

© Copyright 2017 simon arthur. All rights reserved.

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