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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why you should vote...


Your voice counts!

Its true - your voice really does count.  If you were one of the nearly 26% of kiwis (the worst turnout in a century) who did not vote in the last election in 2011 then this post is about you.  You may not realise it, but your vote is an important one.

In recent months there has been a lot of talk around about those kiwis who didn't vote in the last election - the disengaged voters - the great 'unenthused'.  With an election on the horizon each political party is desperate to tap into this resource.  If I was a gambling lady, I would hazard a guess that this election may well hang on the ability to get those who didn't vote last time, and those who are recently eligible,  to come out to the poles and cast that all important vote.   Believe it or not - the future of a number of parties - and in fact the next Government - rests upon it.

I am an avid political follower - it defies logic to me that someone would not exercise their democratic right and cast that all important vote.  To not have a say in our democracy seems like the utmost in irresponsible citizenship.  Its had me wondering.  Why don't people vote?  Who were these people?

So, a bit of digging, some research and I found out more.  From there I had some reflections.

Firstly - The Statistics:  


  • Only 73.8% of eligible voters turned out on election day in 2011- the worst in a century 
  • 21% of eligible voters 'didn't get around to it, forgot, or were not interested'
  • 20% of those who did not vote were either not eligible or did not register (12% didn't bother to register which is 2% of the total vote count) 
  • Of those who did not vote, the young (44% of 18-24yr olds), the poor and recent migrants were those mostly represented 
  • 43% were disengaged - of these, those who didn't think their vote counted or didn't trust the politicians, accounted for 22.2%
  • 10% were overseas or away at the time of the election (I wonder if they know that they can cast a special vote?)
  • Its interesting to note that 8% didn't vote due to not understanding the issues
  • 35% of those who are unemployed did not vote 
  • nearly 60% of recent migrants did not vote accounting for around 18% of those who did not vote
  • Those on a lower income tended to not vote 



People Who Did Not Vote 


My Reflections on the Stats:


It is interesting to look at the statistics behind why people chose not to vote.  What concerns me is how many decided to not vote based on either not feeling engaged enough to be interested, or because they did not know the issues or because they felt disenfranchised with the process.  If you were to really look at the statistics, most people fall into that category in some way, shape or form.

Even those who are offshore or working during an election have the ability to cast a special vote - and I can not help but wonder that if you were keen to have your vote counted you would make sure this took place.  

It is scary to think that our young feel so disenfranchised that they don't vote.  I know when I turned 18 I couldn't wait to vote.  What has happened to our youth that they feel so distanced and such apathy to the whole process.  Sure, civics in schools would be helpful, but its more than that.  Many issues that impact on them are often not high on the list of priorities of election campaigns.  I would suggest that to not tap into the needs of this demographic and inspire them to vote is a mistake.  It will be interesting to see how Dot Coms party fares with this demographic.  To inspire these young people to vote could be quite a game changer.

I wonder if we had the ability to vote online if this would make a difference?  The sceptic in me suggests that yes, it would make a huge difference but the reason its not going to happen in the next election is because it likely to disadvantage the current Government.  (I did say I was being a sceptic)

I wonder what kind of effort goes into assisting recent (and not so recent) migrants with information about our election system, and I wonder how many of the various political parties bother to actively seek their voice.  As migrants I no doubt they have numerous suggestion on equity, lessons we could learn and things we could do to strengthen things for all citizens.  The statistics showed many were Asian, seeking their voice should be a priority.  I imagine for all migrants it can not be easy to migrate to New Zealand.  An untapped demographic I would suggest.


Why Your Voice Is Important!


Your voice counts! 

Often people who don't vote feel it's because their voice will not be heard - that they will continue to feel marginalised and that no one cares about what they think.  I want to challenge that thought, and tell those of you who choose not to vote because 'no one cares' that actually, your voice is important and in this upcoming election, I believe your vote will be critical.

Odds are - the way you think is echoed by someone else.  Sure, there will be slight nuances and differences in the thinking, but whether it's 1000 people who think like you or 200,000 - then that is one heck of a voice.   Trust me when I say that combined, when you all vote , then that is one very powerful voice.  

All of the political parties out there - some new, others more established, are looking to expand their party vote.  The beauty of our MMP system is that regardless of whether you are left, right, centre, far left or far right in your thinking - there is a party that is keen to hear your voice, to understand what you need and want, and prepared to act on it.  You may not like politicians but one thing you can be assured of - they need you.   If you don't like your local MP or candidates - then you can give your party vote to who you feel best meets your way of thinking.

For those of you who did not vote last time - imagine if you (and those just like you - because there were plenty who felt the same way you do) had.  Those parties that did not quite get over the line may just well have - and as a result, some of the policies that the majority of kiwis have cringed over, would never have had the legs to get through.  The more MPs in parliament that represent your thinking the better and more balanced our country is.

So, heres the ultimate challenge.  Don't let any of the above reasons for people not voting last time put you off making the effort.  Your vote is important - your vote and your voice will make a difference and it could be the combined voice that brings balance and stability to public debate.

Exercise your democratic power as a citizen - who you are makes a difference! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Which Music Tops the Charts This Week Around the World?

So, I was wondering today - what are the number one songs across the world?
Are they the same?  Are they different?

Here are this weeks number one songs in New Zealand (we can't have a list without my home country in it), Australia, England, America, China, Malaysia, Philippines and Russia (for fun).   Yes, its a random list of countries but its fun to look both within and outside the box sometimes.

Enjoy.


New Zealand:
5 Seconds of Summer - She looks so perfect
3.8/5 Stars


Its very pop rock and pretty good considering its Australian (I jest - we love our Australian neighbours).    It is catchy and typical of the genre.  I can see why its topped our charts - and I am considering purchasing it for myself.   I find if I don't watch the video I like the song more (they make me feel very very old).






Australia:  Philippines:
Pharrell Williams - Happy
4/5 Stars 


Who can't love this song - its catchy, its cheerful and you can not help but tap your foot and want to sing or hum along.  Heck, its even being used during assemblies now!!  Nice collaboration of lyrics and music.  It promises 'happy' and it delivers.  Both Aussie and the Philippines have this as their number one.





America:
Katy Perry(ft Juicy J) - Dark Horse
4/5 Stars 


I love Katy and I love this song.  The fact it caused controversy in the way it did is enough in its own right to ensure I applaud her from a large roof top!  (Lets not go into why right now however least I offend someone).   I have purchased this from iTunes and I love to listen to it when I am at the gym, in the car, or just whenever!  I love all the little twists and turns with the music, both instrumentally and lyrically.  Its clever and I like it.




China:
Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA
3.5/5 Stars for me 


It is typical of Miley - its got a hook or two, its bouncy and its something you can sing along to.  Certainly perky enough to listen to - I imagine I would tire of it quickly however so not on a list of must buys from iTunes for me.



England:
Duke Dumont (feat Jax Jones) - I got U
3/5 stars for me 


This is a chilled out dance remix sound - not really my 'cuppa tea', but pleasant enough to the ears.  For me its a bit repetitive and not all that inspiring but by all accounts its sweeping the world up.  Apparently it has been transformed into 7 minutes of energetic piano house by some LA producer.  All power to them - I'm not sure it would improve it for me.  However, each to their own.



Malaysia:
Fynn Jamal - Arjuna Beta
4/5 stars for me


A beautiful and haunting song with sweet melodies and hypnotic sounds that draw the listener in.  Lovely.  To be honest, nice to hear something not on our mainstream airwaves for a change.



Russia:
Serebro - Ya Tebya Ne Otdam
3.5/5 Stars


Its certainly a catchy piece of pop dance music.  This is a Russian girl group not that dissimilar to any from the western world - they have obviously used the same formula to create this hit and I can see it being played on radio stations and in clubs across Russia.  Not being a russian speaker means I am unsure what the lyrics refer to, but the beat and style of music makes that not necessary for enjoyment.
Interestingly, the number 2 song in Russia right now is by Lana Del Rey 'Young and Beautiful'.



Saturday, March 22, 2014

Peach Upside Down Cake - Scrumptiousness in a Hurry!

                         


I got invited to a special class sharing of Kai (food) a few weeks ago.  The Reception class (the newbies in the school - precious little 5yr olds) were cooking.

They cook every Friday, and they always make something based on the letter of the week.  On this particular occasion, they had been learning about the letter U.   The previous week I had been invited to partake in the sharing of letter O, which was a simply divine omelet, and had been reminded to come back for letter U - which, I was promised, was going to be delicious.

The mind boggled - at the time I wasn't sure what U might be, but I was sure it would be great.  

To my, and the students delight, the letter U was upside down cake!  They had made pineapple, in the microwave - so it was quick, delicious and by all accounts super easy to make.

That weekend I decided I would make my own version of this yummy cake.  Ive made it a few times now.

So, here is my version of the easy and speedy cake.  Its made in the microwave so that speeds the process up even further.  It is the perfect cake to whip up if visitors arrive or if you suddenly find yourself craving something light and sweet - and its a lovely cake for a family Sunday night treat.

Peach Upside Down Cake 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Tin of drained peaches (you can use pineapple instead) 

50 grms melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence 
1 egg

1 & 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 cup of peach juice (drained from peaches) 

Method:

1. Put 2 tablespoons of melted butter into a microwave ring tin.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar around the ring tin, ontop of the melted butter. 

2. Place drained peaches from a tin of peaches on top of the melted butter/sugar mix, arranging around the outside of the tin.  



3. Melt 50grms of butter and add 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, 1 egg into a bowl and beat together.  



4. Mix in 1 and 1/2 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons (yes, 2) of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 cup of peach juice - add more if you need it.  



5. Pour over the topping, place a paper towel over the top (baking paper works just as well) and cook in the microwave on medium heat for 12 minutes.  Let cool for 5 mins then tip out onto a plate.  The peaches will be on the top!




ENJOY!!

Serve with whipped cream, or ice cream.  To lighten the calories, serve with greek yoghurt mixed with a little honey to sweeten. 



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Long Bay National Park

            



Sunday looms, and you wonder - shall I go to the gym or could we all go out as a family and explore, get some fresh air and be fit together?   Fit together won!




As a family we went and explored Long Bay National Park.  Its a lovely gentle beach, perfect for swimming and strolling along.  A bonus is how close to the city it is, and it is not too far from home.  Situated on the East Coast of the North Shore, it is a very popular place for Auckland's to come to in the weekend, and long holidays.





There is access to 3 beaches, but on this occasion we only explored Long Bay beach.  There is an amazing old original homestead that is undergoing restoration, the Vaughan Homestead, a number of walks and a fabulous playground and facilities for recreation.  There are WW2 Gun Emplacements which can be accessed from one of the walks. 


It is a lovely day out, and well worth the explore, especially if you are a fan of water activities such as swimming, boating and kayaking.  Long Bay Regional Park is adjacent to the Long Bay, Okura marine reserve, so it is a look and enjoy but don't touch place.

Enjoy the series of photos that highlight some of the beauty of Long Bay.  On the day we were there it was mostly hot, humid, overcast and the sun graced us with its presence sporadically.  

http://regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/longbay

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reading Reimagined - Coolest New Tech On the Block!

Yes, the title is a bit 'naff'.

But, the technology I am about to dedicate to this post is most certainly NOT 'naff'.  In fact, its quite cool and likely to revolutionise how we access information, read a book, and in theory, take the art of cramming to a whole new level.

Techno Man sent me a link to this new technology, eager for me to take a look.  Initially I was a bit skeptic. (ok, I confess, I was playing Candy Crush and was somewhat fixated on trying to get to that elusive next level - I've blogged on its addictive qualities before which you can read here - and didn't really want to be distracted)

However, after I read a few lines and had a practice or two of the embedded App, I have to say I am impressed.  I can see multiple applications for how this will be accessed - and on a personal level, I can imagine all the hours I spend reading research and various articles being reduced dramatically.

Let me introduce to you 'Spritz'.

Spritz is text streaming technology that allows users to read up to 1000 words per minute.  In the last few weeks it has been released for Samsung GS5s and Galaxy Gear 2.   This nifty tech has been designed to work on mobile digital devices and to allow users to read, retain and assimilate information quickly without having to scroll, pinch and swipe to navigate.

The company is a Boston Based software developer and they have coined it 'Reading Reimagined'.  They have spent the last 3 years working on the technology.   Currently you can test it out in English, French, Spanish, German, Korean and Russian with Chinese next.

Heres how it works:

The text you want to read is streamed via the Spritz App one word at a time, through a small reading pane called a 'redicle'.

Each letter that is streamed has one letter in red - this is to help your brain piece the word together quickly and it is placed at its 'optimal recognition point'.  The whole point is so that you can read something with the least amount of eye movement.

The speed the text is delivered through the 'redicle' is adjustable, and range from 100 words per minute to 1000!

The company have had some positive early feedback from dyslexic and ADD (Attention Deficiet Disorder) learners, and hope that it will be a useful tool.  As an educator, I can see how this App might be useful for students and adults learners alike.

I am not sure how well it would work for reading fiction, as one word at a time would distract from how I like to 'imagine' a story as it plays out in my mind - sometimes the beauty of the written word is in the well crafted sentence, and seeing it in its totality.  Being able to 'picture' and 'hear' the characters and get a sense of the drama implicit in the sub text is a key appeal of the act of reading.  However, for factual reports, research and day to day reading like emails and practical text - it would be a godsend.  I get a bit excited just thinking how quickly I could clear off emails and other important documents, freeing me up for more important daily tasks.  

Test it out for yourself - the below video is at 350 words per minute.  I expect with some practice you can get faster and more efficient.  Whilst not available in other formats than those listed above (yet another reason for Techno Man to play 'oneupmanship' when it comes to Samsung/Android vs iPhone. I am hoping Apple come out with its version of Spritz.




Read More:

Sprtiz Website - full of interesting details -if you click the box that says 'click to sprtiz' you can try it yourself!! You can even adjust the speed!! (its almost as addicting as Candy Crush - almost)


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Game of Thrones-esque Politics



Game of Thrones and political machinations - drama in real life!

It's been a shocker week in politics.  Many media pundits might argue that it's been far worse for those on the left than those on the right.  Both major parties, as this Kiwi sees it, have been 'tricky'.   From 'secret' trusts, over inflated 'dinners', dodgy business vs political interests and matters of perceived conflicts, strange defamation cases that smack of hypocrisy and electorate seat wangling.  One could be mistaken in thinking it was a plot out of Game of Thrones.  

Politics is very 'Game of Thrones-esque'.  

There's political machinations, betrayal, power and money struggles, negotiation, bargaining, wars (admittedly mostly with words), backstabbing, scandal, alliances, secrets and fueds.   Oh the intrigue!  Passions can run high, and the media live to sensationalise every moment of it.  This year we have even had a castle! 

The following 5 quotes seem to fit the week in politics, and the messages are particularly pertinent for David Cuniliffe, leader of the opposition.  Sage words of advice, if you will, for a looming election.  

1. 'Take my advice, bastard.  Never forget what you are.  The rest of the world will not.  Wear it like armour, and it can never be used to harm you.'


This is important, it's why it's number one.   Criticism was laid at his feet this week on Q&A, about how the public don't really know who he is or what he stands for.  He made it clear that he's for the people.  Be strong, be clear and most importantly, be consistent.   (please note - its a quote - I am in no way calling anyone a 'bastard')


2. 'Everyone wants something.  And when you know what a man wants you know who he is, and how to move him.'


Find out what middle income New Zealanders want.  Pay attention to the Gen x and Gen Y members of our country.  We have been marginalised and have had to pay (and pay hard) for the benefits that the Baby Boomers reaped from all that came out of the reforms of WW2.  Now that we are being punished by the users pay model that we inherited - our voice is important.  Tap into it and find out what we think - what we want and why.  While you are out canvassing seek the voice of all those non voters who were disengaged and disenfranchised from the last election.  Bring us some hope and bring us some vision.  Martyn Bradbury summed it up nicely here.  

3. 'Can a man still be brave if he's afraid? ''That is the only time a man can be brave'


I expect you are concerned about this up coming election, and with the week you have had David, I expect you are concerned about caucus and membership confidence. Ride through it, learn from it and take charge.  Be bold, be visionary and be brave.  You have good ideas, you have sound fiscal management understanding and by all accounts, some of your suggestions (like CGT) is well received in the bean counter circles of this world.  This is not the time for 'same old same old' - now is the time to ask your policy committees to be brave - to embrace the bold thinking and innovation that will knock the neo liberal changes onto their ears!  What is the worst thing that will happen?  Defeat.  To be honest, without you are facing a certain defeat as you battle one of the most popular PMs for some time.  SO, be brave and go forth and conquer.  You can do it and you need to do it.  


4. 'Words are like arrows, once loosed you can not call them back.'


This is important.  Pay heed to this.  Watch what you say, as it always comes back to haunt you.  Your party has at times, been accused of trying to muck rake.  Stay out of the mud - all it does is make you dirty and smell bad.  Leave the rolling around in the mud to your opponents.  Lets face it - they are pretty good at it, and if you watch Parliament TV, then you will know that they can not help but be insulting and rude.  It fascinates me that they call this 'banter' - when I watch, I call it rude, ignorant and exceptionally bad role modelling.  So heed your words - use them carefully and use them like a well planned weapon for the betterment of our country.  Try not to be tempted to be smug, rude or arrogant. While I am on the subject, learn to play nice with the media.  When they ask you a question, take a deep breath and reign in the desire to sound like a smart alex when you say 'I'm not having that discussion in the media'.  All it does is rile them up.  Learn from Sean Beans character - he lost his life because he didn't play the game - don't let your self righteousness (or the appearance of this) be your beheading.  Too much is at stake.  

5. 'Always keep your foes confused.  If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are likely it do next.'


This is a tricky one.  Whilst you need to be open, honest and show the public who you are and what you stand for, you need to keep some cards up your sleeve for when you are going head to head with your opponents.  But, it does work both ways.  Exploit your opponents weaknesses, play up your strengths and time the announcements carefully.  Watch the leakage of important information - this week showed that it left you open, vulnerable and easy to attack.  It is in this way that you need to keep your foes confused.  


Like many here and across the world, I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the Game of Thrones series.  In the meantime, I can at least be entertained by the very real Game of Thrones saga playing out in front of my very own eyes.  I just hope the twists and turns, dramas and tribulations don't leave that Throne open to the wrong King.  



























Inspiring Change - The Day of the Women


Today I saw a post from our Ex Prime Minster, Helen Clark (and if I say so myself, one of the best our country has ever seen, and a hero of mine).  She made a post, to commemorate that today, the 8th of March, is International Women's Day.  She shared the UN's (United Nations) 'Progress For All' meme (see above) and stated, "Gender equality not only improves lives of women and girls, but also the prospects of families, communities and nations.'

Inspiring change is this years United Nations theme.

It got me thinking, and it got me wondering.

Firstly, where are we at in terms of woman and children in our world?  What exactly is the situation?  It can be all too easy to fall into a false sense of complacency when you live in a country that for the most part, is a blessing to live in as a woman.

New Zealand has a proud history of Women's Suffrage  and strong, independent Kiwi women that we can be proud of.  We are, on average, women who are entrepreneurial, capable of thinking outside the box, and we were the first country to give women the right to vote.

As the mother of a young girl who will one day grow up to inherit the world, I am forever grateful that here in New Zealand, her future success is only limited by her imagination and hard work.  If she decides to be the next 'lorde', run for parliament and become Prime Minister, be a CEO of a large multi national corporation, or lead Greenpeace in its next crusade, then here in New Zealand - land of the best cows milk Fonterra can produce, and sweetest manuka honey a bee can collect, is where it will happen.

This is not the case for the majority of women and girls in our world.

A few facts:

  • Violence kills more women than war.  At least 1 in every 3 women around the world is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during their lifetime.   Usually the abuser is someone she knows.  
  • When a Nation finds itself at war, 90% of the victims of conflict are woman and children.  In Rwanda during 1994, up to 500,000 women were raped.  In the Croatian/Boznia-Herzegovina conflict, up to 60,000 women were raped.
  • Around the world, only around 20% of women are represented in Parliament.  
  • Despite the fact that women make up half the worlds population, over 70% of them are in poverty.  For these women, they face hard lives of injustice, abuse and hardship.  
  • Four million girls and women are sold into prostitution or slavery every year.
  • On average, women earn half of what men do.  They face discrimination and 'glass ceilings'.
  • 99% of maternal deaths die in developing countries - that is one women or young girl dying every MINUTE. 
  • In many countries, girls are required to marry young, many to men 3 or 4 times older.
  • In many parts of the world girls are not allowed to attend school and get an education.  This despite the fact that being educated is a key means for future success, lower mortality rates, less chances of HIV and a better quality of life.  
  • Globally there are 10 million girls less than boys not being educated.  41 million of them are denied a primary education.
  • There are 750 million people who can not read - of those, 2/3rds are women.  The fact you can read this makes you a minority! 
  • Although women produce 80% of the worlds food, most of them go hungry. 
  • In one country, Saudi Arabia, women are prohibited to drive, or ride a bicycle in public.  Apparently woman are also prohibited to leave their house without their husbands permission.
  • Having a boy baby is more prized than having a girl in some countries, and as a result parents may choose to end a pregnancy if they find out they have a girl.  
  • In some countries women are unable to own land or housing.
So, I wonder.  

Why does this happen to our women and girls?
Why do we let these atrocities and the gross, deliberate disempowerment continue?
What is wrong with our society that we would do this to our mothers, our wives, daughters, sisters, aunties, our grandmas, and our communities?
How do we improve things in our world?  
Who of us will take charge and take action?  
How do we protect all those precious little girls out there from being exploited, marginalised or disempowered?  
What will happen if we don't?

Oh, I could wonder about this for a long time.  

Inspiring Change is a worthy theme.  For me, If I could wave a magic wand to eliminate this I would fix it in a flash.  Imagine a world where all the successful women assisted those less fortunate to climb the ladder of success and then they, in turn, help the next generation.  It concerns me that there is so much feminine tragedy in the world.  Those of us in the developed world, whist far further down the equality road, still face discriminatory policies and actions.

If I could inspire change in others, it would be that all of us unite - men and women - to ensure that we do what we can to ensure our women - our mums, nanas, aunties, daughters, sisters - are able to be all that they are capable of being.  

Sources:
http://www.ibtimes.com/cradle-babies-government-program-southern-india-save-infant-baby-girls-death-only-encouraging

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/mar/07/women-representation-in-politics-worldwide

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp

http://www.unicef.org/gender/gender_57317.html

http://www.womankind.org.uk/about/why-women/statistic

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/mar/07/women-representation-in-politics-worldwide