Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sarah Suggests: Welcome to Night Vale

I'm not really a podcast kind of girl. I prefer watching things to listening as an exclusive activity, and apart from a few episodes of "Made of Fail", I haven't ever really been interested.

But that changed when I started listing to "Welcome to Night Vale". I kept hearing about it everywhere on twitter and tumblr. I saw fanart that I didn't understand and people shipping characters I'd never heard of. From a podcast. Take a moment to wrap your head around that one. Anyway, I now listen to it on the train to work, which can be a really weird way to start your day.

So what is Welcome to Night Vale? Well, going by their website, it's "a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale." What you also need to know is it's fictional. But I'm hoping you will get that by the end of the first episode.

The bigger question, is why is it suddenly the biggest podcast on iTunes? Techgeek attempted to answer this recently. Basically, it makes weird seem normal. Clouds that glow and rain dead animals, mysterious angels, a levitating cat and a ban on going to/looking at/thinking about the dog park are all part of life in the desert community.

The other interesting thing is that the popularity of the podcast seems to have been contributed to a lot by Hannibal fandom. I guess if you like Hannibal, you'll love this. And even if you don't like Hannibal, but like offbeat, quirky and unique things, you will love Welcome to Night Vale also.

Download from itunes here
Personal fave merchandise: Night Vale NRA stickers
Check out the fanart on DeviantArt here
Search the tumblr hastag here (must be logged in)


Sarah Suggests is an ongoing serious in which I will highlight stuff I think is cool. It might be a book, a movie, a tv show, a magazine, podcast, song - whatever!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Blog Action Day - Modern Abolition


Abolition is a world I associate with the American Civil War. With Abraham Lincoln and Gone with the Wind. But recently I learned there is such a thing as modern abolition and that was quite a shocking thing.

Because if modern abolition exists that means there are modern slaves.

Oh, I knew there were still slaves in our world. I am not completely blind to sex trafficking, and I've seen Blood Diamond. And I remember reading a book once about a young girl from Africa (sorry I cannot be more specific than that, I genuinely cannot remember where she was from) who was sold into domestic slavery in London, to a wealthy couple, her own countrymen. But I haven't thought much about it since.

This month, mum bought me a copy of Peppermint magazine. I've never read it before - kind of always considered it to be a bit expensive, a bit hipster. But what a revelation - it had an article on "Made in a Free World", a "network of individuals, groups, and businesses working together to disrupt slavery and make freedom go viral." Founded by an amazing guy named Justin Dillon, they work to raise awareness, increase transparency in our supply chains and engage people, groups and businesses about modern slavery.


There are an estimated 27 million slaves worldwide. Take a moment to think about that number. TWENTY-SEVEN MILLION. That's more than the population of my country. That's more people in slavery than ever before in the history of humanity.

They exist in so many more industries that one would guess. Not just the sex trade - there are slaves laboring in manufacturing, mining, agriculture and fishing.

What I do like about Made in a Free World is that their action plan does not include boycotts. Instead, they work to try to help businesses identify slavery in their manufacturing chains, exposing forced labour where they may not have even realised it was happening. They also are trying to raise consumer awareness via their Slavery Footprint website, which can help you identify how many slaves work for you. Yes, YOU. How many slaves helped make your coffee, or grow the crops used to make your clothes? I did the survery. It said I had 34 slaves working for me, mainly in the areas of medicine, gadgets, electronics and car manufacture. Now that's an eye-opener

Here's a great video about children enslaved in Ghana's fishing industry.

So what can you do? Read about the issue more. Get educated about it. Here in Australia, Anti Slavery Australia works to help those in slavery or forced labour situtions. This may be anyone who is trapped working in their family's shop and paid no wages to a sex worker being held to "work off a debt". Have a good read of their site, there are many things you can do to get involved. You can volunteer, donate, fundraise.

But I think the most important things are awareness, and questioning. The more you know, the better the decisions you can make about your consumerism. The more questions we ask, the more exploitative practises are exposed.

How many slaves work for you?

{This post was written for Blog Action Day 2013. This year's theme is Human Rights}

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Microfinance - lending through Kiva

Today, I lent money to a lady in Cambodia to build a toilet. How? Through the wonders of microfinance.

I'm hoping you have heard of Kiva. I first heard of it a few years ago via twitter and have been a fan ever since. Today, I financed my third loan with them.

So what is microfinance? Well, it's "a general term to describe financial services to low-income individuals or to those who do not have access to typical banking services.Microfinance is also the idea that low-income individuals are capable of lifting themselves out of poverty if given access to financial services. While some studies indicate that microfinance can play a role in the battle against poverty, it is also recognized that is not always the appropriate method, and that it should never be seen as the only tool for ending poverty." - (via the Kiva website)

I'm not naive enough to think that my $25 contribution to Vesna's loan will lift her out of poverty and into financial abundance. But I hope that it will make a difference to her life. What is more important than having a sanitary place to go to the toilet?

You can fund loans for all different types of business ventures or reasons. You can lend to people all over the world. If you find the choice overwhelming, it helps to have an idea in mind of who or what type of venture you'd like to contribute to.

Today, I used the messageboard of one of my "teams", Nerdfighters, to find Vesna's loan. Teams are simply self-organized groups of Kiva lenders where members connect and have shared lending goals. Someone else had funded her and posted a message about it.

I knew that I wanted to lend to a female, and usually I focus on those who are trying to start or maintain a business to support their family. My last two loans were for a lady in Kenya for her clothing shop and a lady in Uganda for her beauty salon. But today, Vesna's situation spoke to me and I didn't hesitate to hit the lend button.

Now, Kiva has been criticized for various things over the past few years, and I'm not unaware of the issues surrounding some of their loans and practices. In particular is a worry about partnering with Strathmore University and its association with Opus Dei. They addressed these concerns here. However, at the end of the day, I'm satisfied that the loans I'm making are helping those who need it. I encourage you all to do some googling and research before lending via Kiva or using any sort of microfinance website, in the same way you would look into any sort of charity before handing over your hard-earned money for a donation.

One last thing - I was not sure about Kiva's loans to First World country borrowers. What possible reason could a person in the US need to access microfinance? Would I be funding someone's food van startup in Brooklyn? But then I realised that even in the First World, there are people that are unable to access bank financing. It's a personal question, but one worth thinking about - does Dennis from Newark deserve to have the right to ask for a loan to fund his window cleaning business, as much as Karo in Armenia for tyres for his truck?

*This is not a sponsored post. I just wanted to share my latest loan with you all, and put down some thoughts about Kiva that I've been having lately.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A lesson in patience

I had the most horrendous train ride one morning last week.Well, it was more eye-opening than anything.

A mother got on with her two young boys. My first two thoughts were "Who takes small children on a peak hour service?" and my second "Who brings small children into the Quiet Carriage?". Then I tried to squash these thoughts. Because -
1. She probably had to; and
2. She probably didn't know or if she did, didn't care.

Because these two kids, though angelic-looking, were not very well behaved. I think that's putting it politely. Every minute of the 40-minute journey to their station was spent with mum trying to get them to sit down, stop fighting and stop yelling. Basically, to behave in a socially-acceptable manner in public.

By the end of it my heart was just breaking for her. She was so patient, so consistent. I could tell she was a fan of speaking to her kids like they were adults, and there was nary a "stop that!" to be heard. Instead, she just asked them to behave better, reminding them of where they were going.

And I'd like to give a kudos to my fellow passengers too. There wasn't any tsk-tsking, rolling eyes or big sighs. Nobody told her to keep her kids under control, or suggest she leave the Quiet Carriage.

When she finally got off, still encouraging her unruly children instead of rousing, I thought - THAT COULD BE ME ONE DAY. And also I HOPE I'M A MUM LIKE HER.

I got a lesson in patience, something I think we all could do with from time to time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting Ready for Storm Season

Get ready, Queensland.

No, seriously, you need to get ready. Why? Because storm season is once again approaching! I've blogged about prepping for the unexpected before, and one of the things I am hellishly passionate about is being somewhat ready for things like rain, hail, wind, lightning, floods, bushfires, blackouts, cyclones and plagues. Ok, maybe not so much that last one (though speaking as someone who has lived through the horror of a mouse plague, I would not wish one on my worst enemy).

This year, Queensland Government has launched Get Ready Queensland week. It runs from 14-20 October and focuses on knowing the risks, being prepared, staying alert and knowing when to take action. Visit their website here for more info,or hit up your local council site. My council, Moreton Bay, will be having stalls at local Bunnings as well as sausage sizzles around various neighbourhood centres, to help educate people on how to prepare for storm season.

You can even download their brochure here. It's full of great tips!

Yesterday, hubby and I decided to muck in and try to clear some of the shed-building debris that has accumulated in our yard. There were steel offcuts, wooden fence palings and the entire old garden shed to be gotten rid of, plus some old chairs that we have been meaning to throw out for years.

 So we borrowed a trailer from a friend and loaded it up. Twice. Two trips to the dump later, we have managed to get rid of most of the major risks. Can you imagine if any of this stuff had gotten airborne in a windstorm?

It was a heck of a lot of work but very worth it - not only for the peace of mind but having that junk out of the backyard is pretty great too!

There are still quite a few things we need to do to be completely ready - clean the gutters, do a battery check on all our torches, do an inventory on our go-bags, check the drains, do a stocktake on the pantry and make sure we have bottled water on hand.

And THEN, I might feel prepared for what mother nature decides to throw at us this year.

Do you prep for storm season? Got any hot tips?


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