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Christmas tree 16 December 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Christmas, Happiness.
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Christmas is back.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love Christmas. Sadly no snow for me this year, though, as I am staying in Australia. But look at my Christmas tree – finding the Christmas spirit all the same. Enjoy your Christmas wherever you are!

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Cognitive dissonance 18 September 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Canberra, Life, Philosophy, Politics.
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I am suffering, dear reader. I am suffering from cognitive dissonance.

I’m sure you have heard of that before: holding two or more beliefs at the same time, where those beliefs are incompatible in theory and practice.

I often suffer from cognitive dissonance, which is why I could never go into politics. The world is not sufficiently black or white for me to pick a side and not see the other’s merit. There are times I feel strongly one way or another, but often, I cannot reconcile conflicting beliefs to take a position on a matter. How easy it would be to be certain of yourself all the time.

This time around, it’s politics. Today, the Abbott government was sworn in. Out of 20 ministers, there is one female, and 19 male ministers. And I am struggling with this on two levels.

On the one hand, I am disappointed that there is only one woman in cabinet. I think there are plenty of capable, interesting, intelligent, measured, hard-working women in the Liberal Party. And I am sure there could have been more women on the front benches. I believe the government and the cabinet should represent the people that put them there, which may mean they should look like a cross-section of society.

On the other hand, I do not believe there should be a ‘quota’ of women that should be promoted (in any position), and merit should be the driver for appointments. I believe women are not ‘equal’ when they experience positive discrimination. I think they are equal when people no longer see their gender. As a woman, I would hate to think that I get to where I am in life because of (or despite of) my gender. I want to be respected, valued and appreciated for my brains, my abilities and my shutzpah.

I think selection bias, or the fact that one tends to select and promote people who look, feel, sound and behave like oneself, is a driver behind many appointments. And not just in government.

I don’t think it is necessarily done in a malicious way, but I think a leader who is unaware of his or her own bias might easily fall into the trap of promoting those like him- or herself. My selection bias might explain why I am disappointed there are no more women in cabinet. I want to see strong, capable women in places of power and decision making.

And as per my previous post, I think Abbott plays a dangerous game in terms of his outward views on women. Whether he actually holds a low opinion of women or whether the media is just portraying him as such, is not really the point. However, I do think it less than politically astute to give his opponents more fodder, which is what this cabinet has done. And to say he was ‘disappointed’ there were not more women on the front bench was outright silly – he chose the front bench.

There were countless Facebook posts in my feed over the past days reflecting a less-than-flattering view of “I cannot believe any woman would have voted for this government, and now you reap what you have sown” or worse still, “Abbott will take Australia 20 years back in time”. Simplistic gibes.

Because Abbott and his party did win. And it would have taken a significant number of female voters to get him there. It is, however, possible that women who voted for him are also suffering from cognitive dissonance.

The world is not black and white, and it is the varying levels of grey that makes it interesting. I will keep an open mind on this cabinet. May it do good for Australia.

Abbott talks about looks too much 5 September 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Canberra, Life.
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Clearly, Tony Abbott should steer clear from commenting on fellow candidates or his daughters looks. In case you missed it: not long ago, he noted that the Liberal candidate Fiona Scott had ‘a bit of sex appeal’. More recently, he said about his daughters (he has three) that they were ‘not bad looking’.

Not because the comments are actually that bad – if you watch the footage from either occassion, he is actually being a total dag. Lighthearted. And even friendly.

On both occassions, though, people cringe. And here is the rub: it gives further amonition to people who think Abbott is out of touch, old-fashioned and (god forbid anyone should have known this word prior to the infamous speech in parliament earlier this year) mysogenistic!

Set aside that he also praised Fiona Scott for multiple other qualities that she is supposed to bring to the table. Set aside that he is obviously a biased dad who seems to adore his girls. Set aside the fact that ‘not bad looking’ is the quintessential Australian understatement.

You, Mr. Abbott, are in the public eye. And soundbites are the way of the media. So steer clear of praising women for their looks. Completely. For some reason, it is no longer acceptable.

Like it or loathe it, stick to telling women (and men) that that you work with they are well-qualified. Smart. Intelligent. Astute. The best option for the future. Or whatever you choose to say. I must admit that I would not like to be introduced at a work function with any reference to my looks. I would like to think that I am where I am because of my ability and my skills. And it would be highly inappropriate for a supervisor to say that I have sex appeal.

At the same time, leave the man alone about his daughters. He clearly loves and adores them, and probably thinks they are the most gorgeous girls he knows, both inside and out. So what? That’s a dad’s perogative.

Wonderful Canberra 4 September 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Canberra, Happiness, Travelling.
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It is amazing what three weeks can do in Canberra.

Blistering cold winds, rain, clouds and grey have been replaced with the big blue skies that makes me all sooky for Australia, warm, sunny days, with a light summery breeze. Not quite spring, but on the precipice.

Blossoms everywhere, crocuses popping their head through the grass. And the rose bushes in front of my house, which I only pruned back to nothing in the beginning of June are visibly growing buds every day. Yesterday, they were buds, today they are two centimetre long leaves and stalks.

What an amazing turn around. Soon there will be ducklings galore. Lunches outside. All those wonderful spring activities.

I bought a motorbike. And two weekends ago I rode it to Uriarra Reserve. A perfect ride of about half an hour. Gorgeous scenery. Windy roads. And a picnic with friends at the other end of it all.

And this weekend, I went with my partner to the south coast to celebrate his birthday. We brought our push bikes, and rode them along the beach. Ate fish and chips and had one of the best Thai green curries we’ve ever had. It was only for two nights, but it felt like a holiday.

So bring it on, Canberra. I can’t wait to run and cycle along your paths. Familiarise myself again with you after what felt like a short and rainy winter. Bring it on :)

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Bird watching 5 July 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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Outside of my window at work, there are some gorgeous trees, a favourite spot for local birds. I get to see all sorts of beautiful birds. At the moment, with the shrill, cold winds raging through the winter wood, they are even more easy to spot. Sadly, I don’t take my camera to work, so all of the pictures below are courtesy of my favourite website, canberrabirds.org.au. I have tried to attribute the pictures as best I can.

There are spotted pardalotes:

by Harvey Perkins

by Harvey Perkins

Superb fairy-wrens (although being winter, they are not as blue):

Superb Fairy-Wren

by Geoffrey Dabb

Crimson Rosellas:

Crimson Rosella

by David Cook

Eastern Rosellas (always in pairs):

Eastern Rosella

by Julian Robinson

King parrots (male and female):

King-Parrot male

King-Parrot female by Peter Fullagar

Red wattle birds:

Red Wattlebird

by Helen Fallow

Eastern spinebills:

Eastern Spinebill

by David Cook

And crested pigeons:

Crested Pigeons

by Julian Robinson

Last year, I was fortunate enough to save a female Superb Parrot from certain death after it flew into a window, and all dazed, the magpies decended on it:

Female Superb Parrot

by David Cook

And the fine folks over at RSPCA nursed her back to life, ensured she had no concussion, and finally released her back in the vicinity of my work. Apparently, Superb Parrots tend to mate for life, and her little boy would have been very happy to have her back. I have seen the boy as well, but they are not around at the moment.

When I went for my walk on Wednesday, I saw a Golden whistler:

Golden Whistler

by Lindsay Hansch

I have also seen lots red-browed finches in the past.

What a delectable feast for us bird nuts.

On positive blogging 27 June 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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My latest posts have had an undertone (or overtone) of complaining and bitterness. What a cop-out that is – sitting in my high and mighty state and pointing out the foibles of life around me.

This is not why I got into blogging. Anonymously ranting and raving. I shall turn this around.

I am aware that this reflects my post from 2 years ago: blogging positive. Old habits die hard.

Better attitude, better writing. That’s the goal.

What a cesspit the Australian political landscape is 26 June 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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It has been a really long time, I would say years, since politics have had any substance in this country. I am frustrated.

I am sick of the personalities and the low-blow personal attacks. As if anyone cares?

I am sick of the so-called major topics that are being discussed. They are distractions and unhelpful.

Boat arrivals. There are such few people that arrive by boat to this country. It is a travesty that so many people perish on the way over – surely there is a solution out there that doesn’t require locking people up on islands out of sight? Surely most asylum applications can be processed and dealt with in a timely manner rather than having these people wait, in limbo, for years?

Gay marriage. It is going to happen, so why is this such a major political play thing? Stop telling people what they can and can’t do in their lives. If it isn’t hurting anyone (and no, being ‘offensive’ to you does not qualify) then what do you care what people want to do with their lives?

Misogeny. Oh, please. Stop reducing my life experience to something out of a 1950s magazine. In today’s Australia, women can have what they want. So take it! But everything involves choices. And if you chose not to take it, that’s fine, too. That is the whole point. If I as a woman choose having a family and therefore do not become a CEO before my 35th birthday, I do not see myself as a failure, because they are my choices and they make me happy. And guess what? If I choose to focus on career and aim to lead a company by my 35th birthday, guess what? In Australia 2013, I can do that, too! It would take a heck of a lot of overtime and focus, and very hard work, but it is my lack of commitment and drive in that field, not my gender, holding me back.

So what should we be talking about?

Wait. What? 20 May 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Life, Philosophy.
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Last week, at the hearings on alleged tax evasion, the chairwoman of the British parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, described Google as ‘evil’.

For allegedly trying to pay less tax.

Now, taxation, especially international rules surrounding the plethora of systems and legislation out there, is an entire separate kettle of fish, which I will not jump into.

But to describe tax evasion (whether perceived or real) as ‘evil’ is a bit much isn’t it?

The word ‘evil’ is defined (by my very limited internet search) as ‘profoundly immoral and malevolent’.

Genocide is evil. Tax evasion is, at best, not very nice, or at worst, illegal.

And I am sorry, it simply does not qualify as a moral issue. Taxes are a man-made invention. It is not actually a measure of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. It is an agreement that we as humans have imposed on ourselves to be able to provide a ‘greater good’.

And I get that it was a play on words, as Google’s mission is ‘do no evil’. And that we all have to pay our fair share. And that without taxes, a government can’t implement all the lovely things it would like to implement.

So if Google has broken laws in what it has done, let them pay restitution. Throw the book at them, or whatever. If they have not broken any laws, and you still disagree with the level of tax they paid – then change your laws.

But let’s not water down the English language and start calling all the things we disagree with as ‘evil’.

As they are plainly not.

Marble cake 16 May 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, food, Happiness, Life.
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Marble cake

It’s been a while since I have been baking, but last night I brushed off the old skills. I had no idea that I had become so rusty, and was making rookie mistake after rookie mistake! The result was still tasty, but I think I will have to relearn my old tricks by getting back into baking!

An oldie but a goodie – marble cake

Ingredients:
200g butter (room temperature) (mistake number 1: the butter I used was too cold. It needs to be soft, but not melted).
250g sugar
3 eggs
vanilla (1 tsp of essence, 2 tsp of vanilla sugar, OR 1 vanilla bean)
250g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
100ml butter milk
2 tsp cocoa

Bread tin, 175 degrees, 45-50 minutes

Method:
- Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and measure out the necessary amounts.
- Make sure the butter and all the other ingredients are at room temperature.
- Butter a bread tin and line the bottom with baking paper (mistake number 2: I forgot the lining, meaning the cake is still in the tim now.)
- Turn the oven on so it pre-heats to the correct temperature.
- Whisk the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Make sure it becomes a fluffy texture.
- Add an egg at the time, whisk until just combined between eggs.
- Add the vanilla, combine.
- Sift the flour and the baking powder into the mixture.
- FOLD the flour through the eggs to maintain as much of the air in it as you can.
- Fold the buttermilk through.
- Separate about 1/3 of the mixture into a separate mixing bowl, and sift the cocoa into it. Fold through gently.
- Pour another third of the vanilla mixture into the baking tin, then the cocoa mixture, then the remaining vanilla.
- Use a skewer to gently draw a line through the mixture (ziggzag about 2.5 cm apart one way, then the long way). Don’t overdo this.
- Place in oven, and leave to bake.

Enjoy with coffee!

This cake also freezes well.

Family Tax Benefits 14 May 2013

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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There has been a lot of talk in Australia lately about broken promises. The Federal government decided to implement a few of new taxes over the last couple of years; the carbon tax and the mining tax. The former was a tax on polluters of carbondioxide, and the latter was a tax on mining companies.

The government was promising all these lovely benefits to ‘average Australians’ and ‘families’.

Turns out that neither one of these taxes has actually amounted to a whole lot of revenue for Australia. At least far less than projected. So all these promises were suddenly unfunded. So now the government (still the same) has had to scrap some of these promises as the economy is likely to run into deficit when budget is announced tomorrow.

One of these promises was higher “Family Tax Benefit A” which was scrapped earlier this month. It got me thinking – what is this benefit? And why is Australia already forking out billions of dollars for this benefit?

The Australian Tax Office states that the Family Tax Benefit Part A is paid for each child.

Now, I know children are expensive. You need a bigger house. A bigger and safer car. Clothes they grow out of and food. Never ending food. And school fees, uniforms, books, school outings. And then there are the activities, the sports, the music, the scouts (or similar) all the things you choose to expose your child to to make them into well-rounded individuals.

But I am going to edge out on the controversial branch here, and ask the question – Isn’t it a choice to have children?

I sure hope to have children one day, and I am sure that time will be difficult financially. And I will want to provide them with the best I can offer. But does that mean that all of Australia must pull together and pay for the brood that I pop out? And until the age of 16 (as the ATO currently states) or up until 20 in some cases?

I simply cannot agree with that.

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