Wait. What? 20 May 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life, Philosophy.
Tags: Evil, google, Language
add a comment
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 2013Posted by uggclogs in Baking, Cooking, food, Happiness, Life.
Tags: Baking, cake, cooking, marble, yummy
1 comment so far
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
200g butter (room temperature) (mistake number 1: the butter I used was too cold. It needs to be soft, but not melted).
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
- 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 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life.
Tags: Australia, politics, taxes
add a comment
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.
Vietnam gets under your skin 30 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in only in Vietnam, Travelling, Travels, Vietnam.
Tags: Travelling, Travels, Vietnam
add a comment
I saw Anh Do’s stand up show last night, in which he draws on his experiences to make an audience laugh and choke up in equal amounts. It was a rather strange experience to see a comedy show (?) where the comedian himself was touched to tears talking about his family. It was strange, but warm and close. And strangely familiar.
Anh Do came to Australia from Vietnam as a refugee many years ago. He identifies as Australian, and is proud of Australians that faught, but his story is so interwoven with Vietnam that he is still distinctly ‘immigrant’, too. His accent is but faint, but still very much there.
Snapshots from Vietnam were shown on a screen behind him, and at one stage he played a traditional Vietnamese song over the top of some images. Instantly, I could feel the oppressive heat, the smells (and stenches), the blossoms. The noise, the motorbikes, the food, the language.
Vietnam has got under my skin. And I missed it so much last night.
It is indescribable. I have been thinking about it all day – that longing that Vietnam conjures up in me that I had never envisioned. Never.
I now have a fascination with the country that I never thought I would have. I devour all news related to Vietnam, I read books about it. Books I never read leading up to going there or while I was there.
What a mysterious, magical country. No wonder the Vietnamese are so proud to show it to you.
Sometimes, being offended is a choice 26 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life.
Tags: musings, Offended
add a comment
Political correctness has been around for as long as I can remember, with people censoring what they themselves and others say in order to not offend.
And, being a human being, I can understand that you do not wish to offend others. It’s part of belonging, isn’t it – I don’t offend you and you don’t offend me, and we will get on and therefore I will feel safe and secure. And so will you.
Not wanting to offend people purposely is, I believe, showing empathy. It shows that you have the insight to know that being offended is not a very nice feeling.
If we were to live in a homogenous society, where everyone believed in the same god, the same values, the same political choices and economic management, it would also be easy never to offend others. Because you would never have opinions that differed with theirs.
But a homogenous society is hard to come by in this globalised world. There are multitudes of religious, political and economic views.
And we tend to hold those views, because we tend to believe them to be right. If you thought your views of the world were wrong, you would change them, wouldn’t you?
So people are going to disagree. There is going to be differences of opinions.
As human beings, we surround ourselves with people. We live with others, interact and work with others, and socialise with other human beings.
And although you might be wonderfully attuned to your surroundings, your opinions may be different and they may offend. And frankly – so be it!
Because if you, as a person, have taken your surroundings into account and haven’t gone out of your way to offend someone on purpose, then you can’t help it that you may have offended someone.
Let me explain that one with an example. Say you are a passifist, and your country chooses to go to war. You have every right to hold the opinion that your country should not be fighting a war.
Taking your surroundings (and other people) into account means that you do not picket a dead soldier’s funeral, you are attuned enough to understand that the grieving family of the soldier might take offense. I would say that self-censoring your actions in this manner is human, reasonable and mature.
Yet when you take your view to your politicians, the ones that chose to send soldiers to war, while discussing with them, they say they are ‘offended’ that you should not support freedom… Well, that’s their choice.
You can’t control someone else’s offence. Simply saying you are offended these days is apparently a reasonable argument to get your opposition to back off. The fear of offending people is crippling people trying to implement policy. Even people that are trying to do good.
I think it is fine to moderate how you say something, but you do not necessarily always have to moderate saying it at all.
Because sometimes, being offended is a choice.
Canberra in autumn 16 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life.
Tags: autumn, Canberra, fall, morning, sunny, sunshine
1 comment so far
Love it or loathe it. In fact, I prefer if you loathe it, so I can have it to myself.
Canberra-bashing is a national sport in Australia. Despite being the capital and the seat of parliament, people hate it. Even people who live here hate it.
Not me, though. And although I hope these are not going to change your mind (I am happy to keep this wonderfully ecclectic and nerdy town to myself) I can’t help but want to share the gorgeousness of autumn with you.
Us foreigners are constantly bowled over by Australia’s bluest of blue skies.
And with the changing foliage in the foreground… How can you but love autumn here?
I am in denial 15 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life, Technology.
Tags: denial, google, Google reader, rss
Every morning, I scan Google Reader for updates on interesting things, news, and articles. I have all my favourite blogs in one place, organised in folders. They are wide-ranging, from my daily hit of the best cartoons of the web (at the moment, the favourite is SMBC) and things I find amuzing, humour and blogs of friends to economics, news, finance and trading blogs.
I have an entire folder dedicated to things I am working on right now, giving me an edge over colleagues. I am given credit for being ‘a person in the know’ as well as a person who hears the gossip about things happening behind the scenes.
I also follow several job ad blogs, so I keep up to date with what skill sets employers that are hiring are looking for, and I occasionally send off an application based on what comes my way through Google Reader.
And, finally, Google Reader is my one-stop-shop to find out what happens in Canberra socially. Because, sadly, Canberra is one of those cities where marketing is sorely lacking, and mostly you hear about events after the fact. (Don’t get me started on that).
So I am in denial.
Google Reader is going to be discontinued. And I am yet to do anything about it.
I don’t want to lose my portfolio of knowledge, built over years. I have starred recepies that I am yet to try and articles I am yet to read. I have no patience for blogs that do not allow RSS feeds, and I could not imagine going to all of these (literally hundreds) of blogs on an individual basis to see whether updates are available.
So I should be looking for an alternative.
But I like Google Reader.
In fact, I even like Google, the company.
Why! Why are you making my life harder, rather than easier (like you always have in the past?). Why are you even making me think about how to find my information, how to export it, and how to maintain it?
You didn’t hear my cries when you discontinued Google Wave. I know hardly anyone used it, so I was understanding then. This time, I am angry. And sad. And in denial. I still have not even looked for a solution. Because looking for a solution to my problem would mean acknowledging that this is really happening. July is coming up fast, and you will stop being part of my life. And frankly, Google+ is not floating my boat.
So let me break my cycle of denial right here with you, readers: Has anyone found a suitable RSS feeder they could recommend?
Whatever happened to courtesy? 11 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Argentina, Life.
Tags: anger, courtesy, Margaret Thatcher, politics, vitriol
1 comment so far
I am astonished with the vitriolic outpouring that I have seen in the news and on the streets regarding the late Margaret Thatcher.
What I do understand is that she was a polarising person. Many people hated her and what she stood for. Many people felt that their lives were ruined and that she would not budge on issues, no matter what. She was a strong, determined woman (first female Prime Minister, nicknamed the Iron Lady by the Russians, etc.) who at times was hard-nosed and unrelenting.
Yet enough people agreed with her views to vote her into office. Several times. So love her or loathe her, she was in power because the majority of the people who voted in the UK at that time put her there.
From a neutral stand-point, I can see why someone would dislike her. She made decisions that weren’t popular, and she stood her ground against the mining unions. And the Argentinians. And others who disagreed with her.
But to sum it up, she served her people. She did what she thought was right for Britain. And you are perfectly entitled to disagree with all of that, and feel like she made Britain into a worse place. But I do not believe that anyone who becomes Prime Minister of Britain and is voted back on several occasions believes they are doing the wrong thing. They make the decisions they make because they believe they are right.
And honestly, all of this can be eulogised respectfully, fiercely, and powerfully, without resorting to pettiness. Resorting to chanting ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead’ and celebrating in the streets upon the news that she had passed away is low-brow and detestible. Bob Carr, the Foreign Minister of Australia, decided that her death was the perfect time to point out that she was also racist.
So I return to my headline – whatever happened to courtesy?
And no, I don’t want anyone to start waxing lyrical about the virtues of Margret Thatcher if they fundamentally and visciously disagreed with her throughout her life. If everything she stood for was repugnant to you, there is no need for crocodile tears.
I am not claiming that no bad things should be said about the dead or that ‘if you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all’.
What I am saying is twofold. Firstly, the dead can no longer defend themselves, so your perfect opportunity to speak has come and gone.
Secondly, say what you want to say about the woman, say that you were (and still are, and always will be) opposed to her politics and who/what she represented. Say that you think the world would have been a better place if she had not come to power. But don’t dismiss that she had a profound impact on the world, on Britain, on Europe.
Don’t lower your opportunity to change the world into a better place by resorting to petty children songs. If you don’t agree with it, change it. Make your views heard. Talk with people. Listen to people. Get into politics to implement policy if you believe strongly enough.
At least she did.
Hip to be square 10 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life.
add a comment
On my recent travels, I ended up in a lengthy conversation with someone who was quite ‘alternative’. In hindsight, there may have been a bit of flirting on his part that I did not detect at the time, but the conversation was interesting, and it has had me thinking for a while since.
He was saying that there seems to be a ‘wicked’ side to me, which was undetectable until you speak to me. He said something along the lines of, I hadn’t expected someone who looks so ‘normal’ to be this interesting.
Set aside the obvious dripping of a compliment that was shooting my way (and in my slightly inebriated state may have been a little flattering), it had me thinking.
We all know that the way you present yourself, the moment you walk into a room, you make an impression of sorts. People glance at you and make up an opinion of what you are like.
On this occasion, I was wearing a knee-long dress, a blow dried bob, and black heals, as well as some simple jewlery. Very straigh forward, very demure, and, turns out, in this man’s eyes, square.
Long gone are the days that I so desperately wanted to be different from mainstream that I tried to stand out by joining a group of non-conventional people in what was probably goth-light. Oh, the irony of being different by copying others. Gone are the dreadlocks and the blue hair. The left-overs from that time (a small tatoo and a piercing) I mostly cover up, not for lack of pride, but for wearing clothes that cover more of my body.
In fact, I am far more comfortable in being mainstream now than I would ever have thought I would be.
It’s been a process of maturing with age, as well as understanding my own psychology a little better. That need for being different originated from trying to find myself. And finding myself was finding a place to belong, oddly. Which, at that time, may have been influenced by music, boys, and the fact that I ‘was not my parents’. All very familiar to the psychologists out there, I am sure.
The time I was the most unique was probably when I was the least accepted, an outcast of a small Scandinavian town, and I had little to no money. I wore clothes that I wanted to wear, whether they looked good on me or not. I was so uncomfortable with my body (where did those boobs and curves come from?) that I would rather wear oversized jeans (which used to belong to my dad) and sweatshirts. Years later this morphed into sub-culture-but-mainstream-goth-light with black nail polish and studded belts.
But now, I am finally understanding the song ‘it’s hip to be square’. I am comfortable with who I am, what I wear, and what I stand for. I don’t mind going for a ‘look’ (1950s housewife dresses do live in my closet) but I cannot help but reverting to square.
I like normal. I don’t mind a bit of trashy TV and pop music on the radio. I still have ecclectic tastes and sometimes I get all nostalgic over my old Machinehead or Rancid CDs (remember CDs?). But I simply don’t have the energy or the willpower to maintain an ‘image’. And I certainly never had the money for designer clothes or those incredibly expensive band-tshirts.
Maybe that makes me a sell-out. But by selling out, I have made you more unique.
So let’s face it. My Target-brand clothes and my 9-5 desk job makes me the squarest of square. We all find happiness in different things. But I am true to myself and to my bank account.
Blogging 9 April 2013Posted by uggclogs in Life.
add a comment
It has been a while, dear reader. A drought of thoughts in writing. That is not to say that I have not been thinking. But I have found it hard to put it black on white.
But time has come. Back to the attempt at improving my writing. I hope I will be a more frequent contributor yet again.