It's just occurred to me that I have a birthday coming up on September 9th. I have historically not been that good at asking for birthday presents, but check how many levels I've taken this year!
I've been hoping for some info on the most cost-effective animal charities for ages, and the_alchemist has just delivered here. I'm REALLY excited about this and would love a contribution on my behalf.
If you want to go cost-effective but prefer to help humans, try here.
For a cause that's personal to me and to one of my best friends, donate to St Andrew's Hymnathon. See also this awesome rant.
Or donate to Wordbirds (I'll try to earn it by actually posting some more stories before my birthday!)
If you want something more fun and tangible, adoptions are always good:
Adopt a dog from Dogs Trust (worth visiting just for the pictures)
Adopt a wild animal from Care for the Wild. I've worked with this charity - they're awesome and very underfunded.
If you want to go for something else, that's great too - just two provisos. No charities that use animal research, though I would love donations to the Dr Hadwen Trust, which funds non-animal medical research. And if you sponsor a human being, please make sure I won't be expected to write to them, because I can see that turning into a procrastination/guilt nightmare!
I've recently started lusting after t-shirts. Please note that I would be JUST AS HAPPY with getting any of these second-hand off eBay. Or indeed if you have any interesting t-shirts of your own that you want to get rid of. :) I take a small or medium in men's t-shirts, medium in women's, and always prefer black unless otherwise stated.
Skywalker (I know I already have one Star Wars shirt but LOOK AT IT)
Any of these THREE Utena shirts
Mary Poppins - Wanted this one for YEARS, can't find it in the UK but can usually find it for cheaps from US ebayers. And yes, it's fine if it's late!!
Joker & Harley
Don't Panic and Carry a Towel
Sandman - Best I could find online in the UK, but any Sandman shirt would be good
Love ALL the people (in blue, please)
HUGE DOG FACE
Bose logo - Another US ebay one
I'd also love a t-shirt with this:
I has an Amazon wishlist. Right now the top thing on it is a magic whiteboard (like, a poster that's a whiteboard) and markers. I would LOVE one of these to help me organise myself and channel my messmaking urges :)
Books-wise, my wishlist is mostly focused on rebuilding my library of obscure Mary Poppins/P.L. Travers stuff (or rather, building my own now that I can't borrow Cath's.) Also, the elusive 5th volume of Utena.
Protein shakes. Not glamorous, but if you buy me these you will be buying me powdered mental health!! I'd prefer unflavoured so I can mix them with different things.
A ticket to St. Paul's. I've just found out I could visit free for a whole year on the strength of one ticket. I love hanging out there and normally can't get in unless there's a service.
Mini trampoline £9.99 on ebay - if it's been sold search 'mini trampoline', 'trampette', or 'rebounder'. If you buy me this you'll be buying me flat, sproingy mental health :D
An old bike - they go for as little as 99p on ebay, and wait for it - I'M NOT FUSSED ABOUT QUALITY OR GENDER AS LONG AS IT'S RIDEABLE. :D Please make sure there's a lock with it, though. I'm about 5'7" if that helps.
Cuddly dogs - always acceptable
Noms - also always acceptable. Non-sugary noms preferred, because if you all give me chocolates at once AND there's birthday cake I'll go sugar crazy!!
Costuming halps! I want to go to MCM in October as Jay to Casby's Silent Bob, so I'll need a beanie hat and stoner boy clothes (and maybe a cuddly orangutan). Any suitable things or help with shopping funds would be much appreciated!
Vegan leather jacket (old/battered is fine) - How did I forget to add this?! I am seriously wearing an imaginary leather jacket right now!
He happens to be a rather good artist, and so you should all check out his PlunderZOO, where for a minimum 10 USD donation you can become the owner of a lovely original 3"x5" art card depicting one of the rare specimens from what he calls his "special zoo"...
Pass it on, if you feel so inclined...
If you care about the future of the UK benefits system (as I know lots of you do), you may well want to respond to a consultation document published today: 21st Century Welfare.
The document sets out Iain Duncan's Smith's plan for reforming benefits, and on page 40 has a series of questions about it (and about the benefits system in general. You can respond to them by post or email any time before 1 October
This page gives you the address to write or email to, plus links to the document in Welsh and other related info. You can order copies in audio, large print or braille by writing to the same address.
If you're not an expert on the subject, you may also want to refer to the easy read version for clarification about the gist of what they mean. It's intended for people with learning disabilities, but personally I think they can be useful for anyone.
I have worked on analysing consultation responses before, and have a few tips for making a positive impact
1) You don't have to respond to every question if you don't want to.
2) Succinct responses tend to have most impact...
3) ...but don't let that make you refrain from saying things you think are important.
4) Think: "If someone were summarising my response to the whole thing in a single sentence, what would that sentence be", and then put that sentence somewhere appropriate (either at the beginning, or if there's a suitably wide question at the end). If you're writing a particularly long answer to a question, you can do something similar at the question level too.
5) Quantity of responses is more important than having beautifully worded and beautifully thought out ones. Put your efforts into persuading more people who agree with you to respond rather than in writing the most perfect consultation response ever.
6) The Government pays more attention to responses from groups (which they call 'partners' and which the Labour Government called 'stakeholders') than to responses from individuals. So persuade any relevant groups you're part of to respond, and consider forming something like an online campaign group and responding collectively, so the response will be grouped with that of other 'partners'.
7) If you have the time and energy, do your research. And make sure you're doing the right research, which in this case means reading the documents which the ministers and civil servants who will read your response have written or read. For example, Dynamic Benefits: from welfare to work was produced by Iain Duncan Smith's think tank in September 2009 (you need to scroll down to get to it).
8) Be genuinely open to considering what the consultation is suggesting. Leave your preconceptions at the door. If there's anything in it you like, say so: don't make it look as though you would disagree with *anything* that a Tory Government could produce.
9) Realistically, suggesting changes to the system proposed to make it better is likely to more change of succeeding than telling IDS that the whole thing is rubbish. But if enough people do the latter, it will be hard for them to ignore entirely...
10) If lots and lots of people write saying the same thing (and it's not the case that more people have written to say the opposite), the Government *will* pay attention and it *will* be reflected in policy. Maybe not as much as it should be, but at least to some extent. Consultation responses tend to be better heeded than letters, protests or petitions.