Saturday, 17 December 2011

An Aussie Christmas

As many (probably four) of my readers are from overseas, I thought it would be nice to give you a glimpse into what the Australian Christmas entails. I imagine it would be rather different than the cold Christmases of the northern hemisphere. While you're huddling around the open fire, we are searching for ice cubes for our drinks that haven't evaporated yet.

Here are a few things that I think would be different:

Carols by Candlelight

As Christmas in Australia is usually characterised by sweltering heat what better way to celebrate the occasion by gathering in a park after dark and singing along to Christmas carols? This happens all over the country from small local productions to massive crowds like the photo above. Popular with families and young children the night includes guest singers and fireworks at the end. I imagine if this was done in the northern hemisphere you would all freeze your little butts off!

Cold Meats and Pavlova

Another weather orientated tradition. Because it's so freaken hot outside there no chance that we'll be cooking a hot roast for Christmas lunch/dinner. Instead we have cold meats like ham and chicken and seafood, accompanied by salads and bread rolls. Best of all, dessert is pavlova. A fluffy meringue full of sugary goodness with fruits and cream. Doesn't matter how much food you've eaten, there's always room for pav!

Christmas Crackers

Simple tradition, but one of my favourites. When everyone sits down to Christmas lunch or dinner, they take a Christmas cracker (or bon-bon) and pull it apart. The one who gets the large end gets the prize. Usually some useless figurine, a lame joke and a paper king's hat. It is very normal to see everyone having lunch all wearing these paper hats. Maybe not the dog though (just an excuse to post a cute puppy photo).

Boxing Day Cricket

After an exhausting day of dividing yourself between multiple family events on Christmas Day, there's nothing better than spending Boxing Day (26th December) getting up late, eating left over Christmas food, putting your feet up and watching the Boxing Day test match. Doesn't matter if you like cricket or not, this is what you do.

I'd be interested to hear what others do over the holiday season . . . . 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sea Changes - City Verses Country

Where do you live? The city or the country? Do you ever visit the other side and think what it would be like to live there?

I was thinking about this the other day when a rally for marriage equality was taking place in Sydney. Although I'm not of that persuasion I would've liked to have joined to show my support on the issue (plus did you see the awesome rainbow umbrellas they had?). Unfortunately for me, Sydney is two hours away. This is always the case for anything that happens in the city. Coming from a regional area means that going to those sorts of things needs planning and possibly overnight accommodation.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to be so close to everything. Major sporting events and concerts, everything open 24/7 . . . Starbucks . . . (god I miss those frappuccinos). There are pros and cons for both.

The City
- Short distance to major events including sport, concerts, theatre, exhibitions, rallies and festivals
- High density of services and public transport
- Extended opening hours for stores
- Starbucks

- Concrete to tree ratio is too high
- Extreme traffic problems
- Too many people in one place
- Pollution

The Country
Photo -
- Wide open spaces, fresh air, beautiful landscapes and wildlife
- Awesome local pubs
- Being able to see the stars and constellations at night
- Everybody knows everybody

- Long distances to services and entertainment
- Mosquitoes and snakes
- The onset of extreme boredom
- Everybody knows everybody

Luckily for me, where I live is a nice combination of city and country. Half an hour one way is vineyard country and half an hour the other way is a regional city. And right out of my doorstep is this:
Lake Macquarie

Not bad. I guess a two hour drive to get to the city isn't that far after all.

Can anyone else shed some light on the comparison of city and country?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

My Automatic 'Dislike' List

** WARNING. This post may contain humour that is not to everyone's liking. If you are easily offended or have no sense of humour, it is recommended that you do not read on **
Many people fall into my automatic dislike list. I mean the people that I automatically judge simply by one fatal flaw that I don't like. You know the ones. They could be perfectly reasonable people if you knew them personally, but our snap judgements place them instantly into the dislike list.

People with 'My Family' stickers on the window of their cars

Nobody cares that you have four kids two dogs and a cat. We can tell from the people-mover you drive and your general ignorance of all people around you. I can't understand why people are creating a helpful guide for all thieves, serial killers and pedophiles to profile your family without even trying. It's this 'me culture' our society all plagued with. Good on you for wanting to celebrate your family, but keep it in the photo album.

Probably lovely people. But I want to ram your car. Personally, I prefer these. At least they're honest.

Charity street workers

Oh, she's not going to say something bad about charities, is she? Yes, I am. Well no, I have no problem with charities and I have a great deal of respect for people working for their cause. What I don't appreciate is being solicited in the street by people that won't take "No, thank you" as an answer. Or when I'm silly enough to hang around to listen to their spiel, they tell me that the charity I currently donate to monthly isn't as worthy as their own (true story). Whatever happened to the charity buckets where they collect cash on the spot? These days they need your credit card or bank account details and have you sign up to a monthly plan. You feel like you're entering into some never-ending scheme. Take my cash and loose change, but please don't take my credit card!

Probably lovely people. But I can't fund every charity that approaches me.

People who insult the English language

"Oh yeah, I seen that movie last week". No. No. No! How many years of school did you miss? Do you realise that language is one of the only things that separates us from chimps? If you speak this way, you may as well be swinging in the trees. I'm happy to forgive the odd typo and auto correct can make some interesting mistakes, but basic spelling, grammar and sentence structure is important. You have been privileged to grow up in a country that provides a high level of education for all.

Probably lovely people, but stop hurting my eyes and ears with your spelling errors and bad pronunciation.


This is a serious one (although the picture doesn't suggest it).

I'm sorry, but the instant I see people smoke, I know I'm not going to spend much time with them. There are people in hospitals terminally ill that would give anything to have more time on this Earth, while they're sucking away at those cancer sticks. Annoyingly, this smoke tends to be shared with everyone surrounding them. Short of running in the opposite direction to every smoker on the street, passive smoking can't be avoided.

Probably lovely people. But have some respect for your life and the life of others.

Ok everyone, what is on your automatic dislike list? Who do you narrow your eyes at?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Parents with Prams Car Spaces

If there's one thing that really gets up my nose, it's people that view themselves as more important or special than the rest of us, for no good reason. People that have children often fall into this category. Suddenly, they're more important than everyone else. And society encourages it. We're forever hearing how "working families are doing it tough" or about the tax breaks families receive.

Well, this train of thought has infiltrated shopping centres. Over the last few years I have noticed these so-called 'Parents with Prams' special car spaces popping up. Now, I have no problem with special parking for the disabled or the elderly, but special parks for people that choose to bring their young children to the shopping centres? Please!

I had no idea that when you have children, your legs fall off. What a disaster! Thank goodness I found this out before taking the plunge into motherhood. However, last time I checked, being disabled isn't a choice, but parenthood is.

I'm not going to deny that these parks would make life a little easier for parents who do have young children. They most certainly do, but I don't see why this should be at the expense of everyone else. There seems to be a sense of entitlement from parents to these car parks. While we're at it, maybe we should start introducing special car parks for women that wear uncomfortable shoes?

The world population hit seven billion last month, which goes to show that people are quite successful at the breeding game. And you must wonder, how did they do it before 'Parents with Prams' parks!

Maybe this stems from my lack of experience with prams, but wouldn't they make great devices to hang shopping bags from, kind of like trolleys? Think about that next time you see me struggling with heavy shopping bags that are cutting my fingers off. Now, where are those 'People with Weak Arms' car spaces . . . . . ?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Holiday madness

It is said that in Australia everyone is in party mode from the second Tuesday in November (Melbourne Cup Day - traditional day of piss ups and stupid hats), and this lasts through Christmas until Australia Day on January 26th. Probably true as my calendar is always full between these months with family events, parties and public holidays. It's a good time of year - warm (sometimes stupidly hot), sunny and everyone is enjoying the beach, BBQs and daylight savings.

However, throughout the year I watch as our shopping centres and TV commercials are transformed to conform with the latest holiday or event. Whatever time of the year it is, there is something out there reminding you of an upcoming event that cash needs to be outlaid for. This year I was walking through the local supermarket and Christmas novelties were out in mid September. Sorry, you may not have caught that - mid September! These decorations will be up until the end of Christmas sales in January. That's a full FIVE MONTHS of Christmas merchandise staring at you in the face wherever you go. Bit much, hey?

On top of this, no sooner has the tinsel and trees been put away, the Easter eggs and hot cross buns start appearing on the shelves. It's almost like the Christian calendar was developed by the commercial industry. Luckily for department stores everywhere, whenever Christmas or Easter isn't the flavour of the month, Hallmark comes to the rescue with Valentine's Day, St Patricks Day, Mothers' Day, Fathers' Day, Back-to-school sales, etc.

I am not against shopping. In fact, I'm rather good at it. And we all know how commercialised holidays are. But September is way too early to be thinking about Christmas. Saturating the year with these holiday products just dilutes the holiday. What's the point of having these special once-a-year days if you're exposed to it for almost half the year? It's department stores trying to cash in on Christmas revenue for as long as they can. And it leaves a bad taste.

Anyone who buys a hot cross bun in February, or a Christmas baubles in October, is an idiot.

P.S. Don't even get me started on the so-called 'Christmas in July' rort.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Occupy Laman Street

Laman Street October 7th 2011 - photo by Phil Hearne Newcastle Herald Website

While the rest of the world protests against economic inequality and corporate greed, the residents of Newcastle have their own social issue to fight. Comparably less significant, but an issue that has brought many residents together to stand alongside the trees of Laman Street, Cooks Hill and demand an honest risk assessment before council remove the iconic figs altogether.

Following on from my previous post 'Save Us From Ourselves' the fate of the Laman Street figs has been back and forth to council until, finally, the removal equipment arrived in Laman Street a couple of weeks ago. They were met with protesters attempting to block the street's access, who were then pushed out of the way by police. The crowd watched on as the workers started chopping massive limbs from the figs. However, council's general manager has put the complete removal of the trees on hold with concerns over safety of staff, Councillors, contractors and members of the public.

And so the saga continues. The trees have a temporary reprieve. Here's a gallery of some creative signage the public have created in the area surrounding Laman Street and Civic Park.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Obnoxious Ads - You Can Bank On It

Just in case people aren't pissed off enough at banks at the moment, the Commonwealth Bank in Australia has just realised their 'Celebrating 100 years in Australia' commercial that is nothing more than vomit inducing.

For those unaware, the Commonwealth Bank in Australia is one of the 'big four' banks in Australia and is the second largest Australian-listed company on the Australian Securities Exchange. It's not surprising then, that they are trying to market themselves to us as 'one of the people'. Unfortunately, their new ad seems to claim a role in, or at least compare themselves to, many historic Australian events including major sporting achievements. However the worst offence of all is their mention of Australia's role in the first world war, in particular our presence at Gallipoli. Claiming to be pillars of strength, like our soldiers and victims of bush fires. Too bad they couldn't justify themselves further by claiming that high bank fees are integral to Australian history as well.

Anyone have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Australian society's partnership with the Commonwealth Bank after watching this? Didn't think so.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Portrait of a Long Weekend: Part Two

Last long weekend I wrote a blog entry on how many of our long weekends are plagued by rain. Turns out the October long weekend is no exception either . . . .

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Gay Marriage - The next step in equality

In 100 years (or 50 years even) future generations will look back on the fight for homosexuals to have the right to marriage and wonder what all the fuss was about. We look back on slavery and limited rights for women and people of colour as shocking by today's standards. Same-sex marriage will be in the same league.

There are many arguments against same-sex marriage. Many say that the definition of marriage is 'between and man and a woman' and that it shouldn't be changed. Before the general acceptance of homosexuals in our society, that may have made sense, however times change as our society matures. These are simply words and these should not be an unbreakable barrier between inequality and equality.

Why not just allow civil unions? Because that is not equality. Separating the unions of hetero and homosexual couples is segregation. By that logic, maybe the gays shouldn't have first rights to seats on the bus either? Besides,"Will you civil union me?" doesn't have the same zing.

Won't someone please think of the children?! Ah yes. The purpose of marriage is to provide a stable upbringing for children and children need a mother and a father, etc, etc. Although I agree that male and female role models are important for children of both genders, exposure to these role models need not lie solely for the parents of the children. Many kids grow up in single parent households and become healthy, well-rounded adults.

But some arguments take it to another disturbing level. Recently, columnist Miranda Devine rather craftily criticised gay Senator Penny Wong and her partner's decision to have a child by indirectly blaming the London riots on the 'fatherless society' of young people leading to struggling, single-parent, misguided youths.
"Marriage is not just a private relationship: it is a social good. Collectively, the erosion of the institution of marriage, and the relegating of fathers to the sidelines, is destructive to society".
As if trying to lift the argument to higher levels of insanity, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said that his four daughters would be affected if same-sex marriage was allowed.
"We know that the best protection for those girls is that they get themselves into a secure relationship with a loving husband, and I want that to happen for them. I don't want any legislator to take that right away from me".
Ok Barney. If I was one of your daughters, I would be blushing immensely at that comment. First you think that they need a strong secure husband for protection, and second, you believe that it is your right that your daughters get married. Off with the min mins again I see.

In the end, legalising same-sex marriage shouldn't be an issue for anyone other than homosexual couples. No one owns the concept of marriage. And in no way will it diminish the rights or symbolism that marriage has for other couples. If people believe it will lessen the specialness of marriage for themselves and their partner, then they need to take a hard look at what is most important in their lives. The exclusivity of marriage or their marriage itself.

It makes you wonder, that in a first-world country like Australia, which appears to be socially-progressive, multicultural and tolerant of others, has such trouble in this step towards greater equality. We are all human and are just trying to live our lives as happily as we can. If it doesn't harm anyone else, what's the problem? Just because it is, doesn't mean that it should be.

Live and let live.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sydney Icons

Sometimes I forget and take for granted the stunning icons we have in Australia.  The simple things that make you feel like you're home. The smell of eucalyptus, warm westerly winds and cold meats and salads at Christmas. Or for me recently, enjoying the newly warm weather on Sydney Harbour and having lunch at a pub overlooking Manly beach.

When I go to Sydney I don't really take much notice of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House, but this time when viewing it from the Manly Ferry, it took on a new perspective. From Circular Quay we changed ferries to the Darling Harbour service. Here are some photos of the icons we passed on the way:

Sydney Opera House

Luna Park

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House from Darling Harbour

Here is a video of The Ship Song Project, which highlights the Sydney Opera House as a musical, art and cultural hub for Australia. Apologies to the non-Australians who may not recognise the iconic artists in this video. Still, it's beautiful to listen to:

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Gift-giving dilemmas

When did something that is meant to feel good and charitable become a mind-bending nightmare? Who? How much? When? And what is appropriate? It's such a first world problem, but one we face throughout most of the year. Some thoughts on the perils of modern gift-giving:

The abundance of gift-giving events - Seriously. We have created so many celebratory events that seem to have gifts tied to them. I blame Hallmark. All they have to do is create a new card range recognising some non-event which then ties the possibility of adding a gift for good measure. Or maybe it's our desire for attention that creates these new events in our lives? Standard gift-giving events include birthdays, cultural holidays, weddings and babies. Branching out of these are new 'events' that some believe involve the need for gifts:
      • engagements
      • bridal showers
      • bridal kitchen tea (what on earth is this?)
      • hen's parties
      • house warmings
      • anniversaries
      • graduation
      • new job
      • retirement
      • Valentine's day
      • Mother's/Father's day

Cash please - I realise that these days a lot of people have lived with each for a long time before engagements and marriage and will often request money instead of gifts for these occasions. This annoys me. Probably because I'm the type of person that puts a lot of thought into gifts and giving cash just lowers me to the level of people that don't bother thinking at all. Cash in a card makes me think that it's a cash-prize for being clever enough to throw yourself a party. It's impersonal and people will judge your friendship and generosity on the amount you contribute.

How far does gift-giving extend? - A few years ago when I moved out of my parents home and Christmas came along, I grappled with the dilemma of who would be included on my gift-giving list. Immediate family was a given, but what about aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents, work colleagues and friends? In the end I added a couple of friends and grandparents into the mix. Any further and the occasion would have been unbelievably expensive.

Not opening gifts in the presence of the giver - I show up at a party. Fair enough, there's a lot of people there to talk to, but guests (like myself) that spend time thinking about the perfect gift don't appreciate it when there is a gift table and nothing gets looked at while guests are there. In buying the gift, I think about the surprised and happy look on your face as the gift is opened. This is doubly annoying when there's no recognition down the road like "Oh, thanks for that book. You know I looked everywhere for that title". You would think that I would get the same response (ie: none) if I brought nothing, but I doubt it. It would be noticed and I'd be labelled as a non-gift giver.

Anyone else have their own gift-giving peeves to share?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Save Us From Ourselves

This is a great example of when common sense is replaced by moronic politics and bureaucracy. For those unaware of this situation, look at the photo above and try and guess what has prompted the need for this 'safety' fence. Uneven ground? A car accident? A bomb threat? No! It's the trees lining the street.

Over the last couple of years (yes, years) there has been ongoing debate in Newcastle, New South Wales, about the removal of these fig trees due to their apparent unsafe nature (trees drop leaves, you know). Council's public insurance won't cover potential injuries or deaths resulting in tree failure and, therefore, they have decided that the trees need to go.

The local people want them to stay. They provide natural scenery, shade and a beautiful green archway along a significantly cultural street in Newcastle. And according to historic photos (see below), the figs have grown with the development of the area. They are essentially part of the heritage of the precinct.

Laman Street figs circa 1930s

Laman Street figs circa 1950s

Laman Street figs circa 1970s

Laman Street figs today

The figs have been identified as potentially dangerous in high winds (like any large tree, I suppose) and I understand the need to warn people of these dangers. Why not put signs up? "Dangerous in high winds. Enter at your own risk". There! Now it's up to the people to decide. 

Council - don't patronise the public by fencing off the area like we're toddlers. Stop saving us from ourselves. 

These figs are some of the last remaining stands of mature greenery in the Newcastle CBD. Figs have extensive root systems which allow them to stand for hundreds of years, even in urban spaces. Despite the many storms and high winds over the last few years, the trees have managed to stand without harming anyone. However, by council's logic, maybe they should go around and tear down every old tree within a dripline of a suburban building? 

I'm not trying to push some hippy agenda here. By all means, tear down trees that pose a threat, but I don't believe these ones do. We should be hanging onto any natural environment we can in our urban areas. The figs have developed such a beautiful and iconic corridor in the Newcastle CBD. It will be tremendously sad to see them go.

More photos:

Council will meet next week for a final vote on the fate of the figs. Will common sense prevail? Or will financial concerns and politics get in the way? 

I'm not holding my breath . . . .

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Odd things I don't like

Do you have certain things in life that just rub you the wrong way? Even if it's not exactly rational? Words, numbers, animals, people, social norms, etc, etc? Here are some of mine:

Prime numbers - stupid, non-conformist numbers that don't look good on anything. I secretly hated turning 23 and was so relieved to make it to 24. 29 coming up in the next few year though. Yikes.

Sloths - possibly the creepiest, slow-moving, alien creature on planet Earth. Why don't they have an obvious head shape? It just looks like an extension of their neck. And wolverine-style claws? I'm so glad I can't accidentally come across them in Australia.

Sticky date pudding - looks chocolately, smells chocolately, but isn't. Disappointing on all levels.

Bureaucracy - "Excuse me, you need to re-do this form, you signed slightly outside the box". Get out of my life, please.

The term 'preggers' - As in "Did you hear that Jodi is preggers?" Please don't cheapen the situation by using such a tacky word to describe it.

'Parents with Prams' special carparks - I hesitate at this one because not having a child myself I can hardly judge how difficult it is to cart kids around a shopping centre. But the pram is on wheels and provides a handy place to hold heavy shopping items. Unlike me with my hands dropping off walking 10 kilometres to my car. I'd rather see the priority parks go to the elderly or disabled.

The 5-day working / 2 days off standard week - So much for work-life-balance.

Being asked to give money as a wedding/engagement gift - Getting married? Here's a cash prize. Seriously though, it feels sterile, boring and unthoughtful. Let people be creative!

What rubs you the wrong way?

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Pointless Products We Think We Need

We are an all-consuming society. But some products are just useless and unnecessary, but are marketed as if we need them. We don't.

Dettol No-touch Hand Wash System
The ad for this product claims that there are millions of evil Hitler germs left on normal soap pumps and this system prevents the spreading of germs by eliminating the need to touch the pump. But wait a minute! Isn't the purpose of hand wash to clean your hands anyway? So after you touch the soap pump, you literally wash your hands of any germs transferred onto your hands anyway. Dettol targets the clean-freak psychos of society with this one.

Bottled Water
In the first world, where tap water is hygienic and completely drinkable, bottled water is an unnecessary and expensive product. People will readily complain about the cost of petrol, but currently petrol is a mere $1.50 a litre in comparison to $2.50 for 600ml of bottled water. Yet people still buy it. Maybe because it gives them the false sense of health superiority over the others who buy sugared drinks with their lunch. "That's right everyone, I'm health conscious and drink bottled water". Too bad they don't realise they're being rorted out of their money for something that's free out of the tap.

Internet Fridge
Ok, so most people saw through this monstrosity. Not sure where they connected the concept of a fridge and the internet. Steve Jobs must have had a good ole laugh at this one. Excuse me while I lie comfortably on my lounge with my $600 iPad while you stand in the kitchen and browse the internet on your $15,000 fridge. Enough said.

3D Television
If 3D television did what you see in the picture above, I'd be impressed. Unfortunately for this so-called 'revolutionary' television experience, all you get are the images sitting a couple of inches off the screen. People seem to forget that we actually view television in 3D anyway. When you watch a film, you're not seeing an old Super Mario-style 2D picture. You can see depth. When 3D television starts making me duck out of the way of explosions on screen, then they can call it 3D. In the meantime, the current technology is just a gimmick.

Does anyone have any other examples of products that are just unnecessary?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Why religion and politics don't mix

Illustration: Reg Lynch

Last week, Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party in Australia wrote this drivel about his campaign to remove the option of ethics classes in New South Wales' schools.

Quick background for those unaware:
  • NSW state (and apparently secular) schools have religious education classes to teach, more times than not, Christian beliefs and the bible.
  • If parents wish for their children not to participate, up until 2010, it was prohibited for the children to receive any instruction while they did not attend scripture. 
  • Due to popular demand, a draft curriculum for an ethics-based class as an alternative to religious education was prepared and trialled in late 2010. 
  • State Premier Barry O'Farrell made an pre-election promise to keep the ethics classes and since then Fred Nile has used his parliament voting powers to threaten to block O'Farrell's legislation moves unless he scraps the classes.

The option of an alternative to scripture in secular schools makes so much sense, I can't see how anyone could oppose it. If anything, in secular public schools, ethics classes should be the norm and religion classes optional, not the other way around. Or even the study of all major religions in an informative and educational way, not in a factual and converting way. Parents have the option of sending their children to religious schooling if they want or attending church in their own time. This should not be the role of the public school system, particularly in a multicultural country such as Australia.

Some quotes from Fred Nile's on the subject:
"I have not sought to blackmail the NSW government. I simply reminded them: before they reject my Ethics Repeal Bill, they should remember they need our votes to pass their controversial industrial relations legislation." - possibly the best definition of blackmail I've ever heard. 
"I agree with the teaching of ethics in NSW schools, colleges and universities, provided it is based on history's greatest teacher of ethics, the Lord Jesus Christ." - excuse me while I vomit into my lap.
Now, this is not an anti-religious post. Fred Nile and everyone else has every right to practice whichever religion they like. However, his role in politics isn't to indoctrinate every child into his chosen faith by banning all other educational options other than scripture. Even representatives within the Catholic and Anglican churches have backed the option of ethics classes.

He has even gone on to say that secular ethics is the philosophy that lead to Nazism and WWII and is therefore 'dangerous' for our children. Wow . . . way to throw the hardest, most irrelevant card on the table for sake of shock value and scare tactics. We all know what you're up to here Fred. You don't want possible converts being 'wasted' in ethics classes when they could be on the path of Christian enlightenment.

I think these actions from Fred Nile demonstrate the need for ethics classes for our young people, so the next generation don't end up just like him.
"So kids, imagine you are a politician who wants to pass an unpopular bill through parliament. What would be the most ethical way to approach the problem? Yes, Johnny?"
"Um,  threaten to withdraw support for another bill until everyone votes for yours?"
"Hmm . . . . " 
Last week, 11 year old Charlie Fine, a public school student, explained his sentiments over the drama in this article and gave some insight into what the ethics classes involve. I encourage everyone to read it.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Happiness is . . . .

. . . consuming a Starbucks Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino whilst overlooking Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand. 

Gorgeous scenery and my favourite drink in the world 
(seriously deprived of these at home).

Queenstown Mall.

Statue of William Gilbert Rees (founder of Queenstown in 1861).

Elevated view of Lake Wakatipu

Friday, 15 July 2011

Nature is amazing

As a person who works in the environmental sector (ecology in particular) I'm always on the lookout for interesting natural things around the world. I love being continually wowed by the extreme variety, beauty and randomness of nature. Check out the photo of the Borneo rainbow toad (Ansonia latidisca) below:

Photo and story credit - Conservation International

It looks like a Photoshop masterpiece! Despite it's bright colours, look how well it blends with it's environment. This species has been rediscovered in a remote forest on Borneo Island 87 years after it's last sighting. With frogs being one of the most easily affected animals from climate change, disease and habitat loss (globally up to 120 species suspected to be extinct since the 1980s), it is refreshing to see an endangered species soldiering on in a wilderness environment.

I'd swap them for the cane toads any day . . .

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Chock-a-block of ads

Image credit - Link

Anyone dare to start a drinking game where you watch TV shows like Masterchef or The Block and every time there is product placement you down a shot? My guess is you would face-plant the floor within 10 minutes.

When it comes to product placement in TV shows, some shows have started to take it to a whole new level. This is particularly noticeable in lifestyle reality shows with homey themes (cooking, renovating, etc). The last series of Masterchef made $80 million in advertising alone. It seems the show's key ingredient is sponsorship. The product placement pinnacle of the series must have been the episode where a contestant spills their dish on the floor and Matt Preston cleans up the mess with a paper towel. Ah, but which paper towel did he use? Is it important? Yes it is! Two minutes later an ad for Handee Ultra paper towels came on during the commercial break featuring Matt Preston himself endorsing the product. How coincidental!

The latest series of The Block on Channel 9 has reached new dizzy heights in product placement. There's barely a camera angle that doesn't show a Stegbar sticker on the windows, Black and Decker tools or the contestants wearing Mitre 10 shirts. You may say that that is understandable as it is a renovation show, but we are also treated to shots of an LG fridge in the background beside some well-placed Woolworths bags and captions on the screen indicating that they are using a Windows 7 phone. Relevant? Hardly. I tried to count the number of obvious ads during the show, but I blinked too often and therefore missed too many.

So why do I have a problem with it? I guess it only bothers me a little bit, but as we are constantly bombarded with advertising wherever we go, it would be nice to sit down and unwind in front of a TV show without feeling like you're being sold something. Come on, we already sit through the commercial breaks.

Has anyone else seen blatant product placement in their favourite TV shows?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Stupid Child Names

Photo credit - Link

This post is not about stupid children with names, it's about stupid names for children (or stupid parents with children). There seems to be a modern trend in the naming of children that leaves a lot to be desired. Nurses, teachers and childcare workers must bare witness to most of these with so many young children passing them by.

There tends to be two categories of stupid child names:
  • Outlandish names that come from words that were never meant to be names like Apple, Rainbow or Horseradish. 
  • Moronic spellings of normal names like Kymberleigh, Jazmin or Taiylah.

All parents want the best for their children, but some seem to have this instinct confused with the want to name their child something 'unique' because they are under the impression that their child is special and different in this world (wrong). There would be no problem with this as long as the naming didn't defy every rule in the English language and permanently damage the child's chances for a normal life. Unfortunately, this is normally the case.

Think about your child's future of endless correction "No, it's Madison spelt Maddisonne" or the looks of disbelief when they introduce themselves at their first job interview as Trixibella. Stop it! Just stop it before I contact child services!

Now of course, variation in spelling of names doesn't need to be crazy. Take Katherine or Catherine, Allen or Alan. Also some different names may have historic or cultural backgrounds, but the name should still be pronounceable and not make my head self-destruct when I hear it.

Bottom line is, if you decide to name your child something stupidly different and they grow up with half a brain, they will be cursing you for years to come.

"So, what's your name?"
"Olivia, spelt Alyvya"
"Yeah, my parents are morons".

Anyone have any real-life crazy names worth sharing?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Simple Garlic Sauce

As I am what I would consider to be a 'modern feminist', I do worry myself sometimes when I suddenly get excited when I succeed in something Stepford wife-like. Last night I finally perfected a garlic sauce recipe after many previous sad attempts and found myself beaming with pride over it. Other Stepford wife epiphanies of mine include finding a shower cleaner that actually cleans grout properly, writing the grocery list in order of the aisles I walk down and baking cupcakes one lazy weekend afternoon.

Picture credit - Link
As a female generation Y-er, I have been brought up in the golden years after the previous generations fought for gender equality, basking in the freedom that I can to do whatever I like. I would consider the olden days of the unemployed, stay-at-home wife/mother and caretaker of the house and family to be old fashioned and outdated. It is tricker now as the boundaries of the male and female roles begin to blur. But there's no need for women to define themselves as the housekeeper anymore.

This is not to say that the younger female generation can't enjoy cooking, cleaning or doing nice things for their partners. That is their choice, and choice is what the feminist revolution was about. However, I can't help but cringe when I catch myself in these stereotypical situations. Luckily for me, when I'm in the kitchen I look nothing like a Stepford wife (see image above). No pearls, A-line dress, high heels or perfect hair. More like I'm in my fluffy robe, with bed socks and hair frizzing from the steam coming from the cooktop. 

So, in trying not to pander to female stereotypes, but probably doing it anyway, here is my recipe for garlic sauce which can be used to top meat or pasta:

Simple Garlic Sauce

1-2 teaspoons of minced garlic
Half a cup of milk
Half a cup of pure cream
1 tablespoon of butter
Sprinkle of parsley, parmesan cheese salt and pepper to taste

1. In a small non-stick pan on medium-high heat, saute garlic and butter.
2. When combined and aromatic, add in milk and cream and stir.
3. Stir occasionally as the mixture thickens (approx. 10 mins).
4. Add in parsley, shaved parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve. 

You can also add sliced mushrooms as you stir to make a nice mushroom sauce.