Excerpt of the Day: Strange the Dreamer

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is perhaps one of the most beautiful fantasy novels I’ve ever read. It contains sharp observations of the human mind and heart in a manner expected of a literary novel, however it’s an adventure containing librarians, scholars, magic, dreamers and strange enemies.

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It is an incredibly unique Young Adult Fantasy novel, which incorporates original concepts in a breathtakingly fresh manner, the story weaved with such true emotion and wit that it seems real, allowing the reader to fall into the lush world Taylor has created . The quality of writing is amongst the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The thoughts, desires and experiences of the protagonist, Lazlo Strange, are enough to touch any heart and fill it with wonder, joy and, yes, the longing to dream just a little more fearlessly.

Lazlo Strange is a war orphan and junior librarian. He has been obsessed with the mythic city of Weep since he was five years old, but it would take someone much bolder to make his way across half the world in search of it. But then a stunning opportunity presents itself and he gets the chance to travel to Weep with a band of legendary warriors passing through his hometown, and he seizes the chance to make his dream come true. Everything that unfolds from that moment on in a pure adventure, full of unexpected turns, wonders and magic.

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 An excerpt from page 14-15. 

“Some manuscript were expected at the Great Library of Zosma, and Lazlo was charged to deliver them.

He never came back.

The Great Library was no mere place to keep books. It was a walled city for poets and astronomers and every shade of thinker in between. It encompassed not only the vast archives, but the university, too, together with laboratories and glasshouses, medical theatres and music rooms, and even a celestial observatory. All this occupied what had been the royal palace before the current queen’s grandfather built a finer one straddling the Eder and gifted this one to the Scholars’ Guild. It ranged across the top of Zosimos Ridge, which knifed up from Zosma City like a shark’s fin, and was visible from miles away.

Lazlo was in a state of awe from the moment he passed through the gates. His mouth actually fell open when he saw the Pavillion of Thought. That was the grandiose name for the ballroom that now housed the library’s philosophy texts. Shelves rose forty feet under an astonishing painted ceiling, and the spines of books glowed in jewel-toned leather, their gold leaf shining in the glavelight like animal eyes. The glaves themselves were perfect polished spheres, hanging by the hundreds and emitting a purer white light than he’d ever seen from the rough, ruddy stones that lit the abbey. Men in gray robes rode upon wheeled ladders, seeming to float through the air, scrolls flapping behind them like wings as they rolled from shelf to shelf.

It was impossible that he should leave this place. He was like a traveler in an enchanted wood. Every step deeper bewitched him further, and deeper he did go, from room to room as though guided by instinct, down secret stairs to a sublevel where dust lay thick on books undisturbed for years. He disturbed them. It seemed to him that he awoke them, and they awoke him.”

We Deserve to Know what’s really Happening in Aid Projects: the Fight for Greater Transparency in Aid

Transparency will make aid much more effective  

If we wish to see the effective, accountable use of aid throughout the world, we need to push for greater transparency.

We are living in an age of astonishing global inequality. Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world are living in extreme poverty while the number of billionaires has never been higher. There is a lot of work being done by NGOs, charities and governmental organisations to deliver aid and funds to those in need. However, many aid organisations have been accused of misusing or misplacing funds in the past and this highlights the severe importance of increasing the transparency of where funds are being invested. This is just one of the many reasons we must push for greater regulations and practices promoting open data standards for global aid.

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Greater transparency will enable us to achieve higher levels of aid effectiveness and create a culture of accountability. The World Bank’s Sanctions and Suspension Office, which keeps track of cases related to aid, found extensive evidence of fraud and corruption. In fact, in between 2007 and 2012, investigations unveiled that fraud or corruption existed in 157 contracts worth $245 million. Of course, we must note the hidden figure of crime in such statistics and acknowledge the corruption that remains undiscovered. The Center for Global Development state that if we spend more time tracing the usage and dissemination of aid funding, we will be able to tackle corruption effectively. Thus, if we wish to see effective, accountable use of aid throughout the world, we need to push for greater transparency.

Women are suffering and we need aid transparency to ensure the right work is being done in the right places

Women’s economic empowerment is essential to decreasing poverty globally, and aid organisations must be transparent and held accountable for their funding in such areas.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by poverty globally. They are much more likely than men to be deprived of education, food, sanitary equipment, paid work and healthcare. According to Oxford International, women are affected by poverty more deeply than men in the form of unpaid care work, lack of decent work, lower wages and longer workdays. Gender inequality in the economy costs women in the developing world approximately $9 trillion every year. If aid was delivered to girls and women effectively, actively providing them with education, healthcare and enabling their employment in safe environments, entire communities, families and economies could be uplifted. For this reason, the United Nations has listed gender equality as an important Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) if we wish to create a more equal, peaceful and prosperous world.

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Abundant evidence suggests that countries with higher levels of gender equality tend to have much lower levels of poverty and stronger economies. For instance, in Latin America, the increase of women coming into paid employment from 2000-2010 led to a 30% decrease in poverty. Thus, women’s economic empowerment is essential to decreasing poverty globally, and aid organisations must be transparent and held accountable for their funding in such areas. In order to enact effective change through aid, we must have a solid evidence-base on how much is being spent on gender-related aid projects and what areas the funding is being allocated to. Furthermore, there must also be follow-up reports, statistics and data which highlight the effectiveness of varying gender equality projects. This will empower aid organisations with the knowledge of where greater funding in required, what techniques are ineffective and what aspects of aid have proven to be highly useful.

The work that is being done to create greater aid transparency

Publish What You Fund found there was little information on aid that could be used for effective decision-making, leading onto the risk of donors duplicating efforts in some areas and leaving others under-funded.

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In October 2011, a non-profit organisation, Publish What You Fund, created the Pilot Aid Transparency Index in order to implement the systematic assessment of aid transparency. Publish What You Fund found there was little information on aid that could be used for effective decision-making, leading onto the risk of donors duplicating efforts in some areas and leaving others under-funded. Furthermore, this lack of information also meant that donors weren’t being held accountable and civil society was largely uninformed of what resources were coming into their country, even though they have the right to have access to such information.

In 2016, after five years of the creation of the Aid Transparency Index, Publish What You Fund found that there was a 25% increase in the transparency standard of aid. Furthermore, by June 2020, the Aid Transparency Index showed significant improvement in aid donors’ transparency in comparison to 2018. This tells us that the efforts to make aid more transparent are moving in the right direction and the work of organisations such as Publish What You Fund is integral in this movement.

The global fight to tackle gender inequality is intimately linked to the fight for aid transparency, and we must push for greater transparency if we wish to have access to accurate information on aid figures, statistics, reports and effectiveness. Whether we are ordinary citizens, aid organisations or governmental institutions, we have the right to see, trace and understand the effectiveness of the aid that is being disseminated by aid organisations globally.

 

Excerpt of the day

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We can all talk. The challenge? Getting people to listen.

Your ability to influence others, build your career, and achieve your personal goals is dependent on how effectively you communicate and engage with people.

And here’s both a harsh and sad fact. Some people have values and views many would find offensive. But they get heard. They get noticed. Not simply because of what they believe, but because of how well they communicate their message. Criminals and politicians can manipulate minds because they’ve developed the skills of knowing how to persuade others. Yes, other factors and skills do come into play, but if they’re unable to communicate effectively their influence is weakened. Their voice is less likely to be heard.

Think about the ways you communicate your messages to others. Could your approach ever be described as boring or bland? Do you say things the way you’ve always said them? If not, great; but if you do, then perhaps it’s time to freshen up your style… see how you can make your message more sticky and memorable. First, repetition – be prepared to repeat your message in different ways. Second, use less-familiar language – language that gets people’s attention and causes them to want to know more.

How to Speak so People really Listen – Paul McGee (Pp1. 5. 7. 24)

 

 

Excerpt of the day

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“The first step is so define what success looks like for you…

Serial achievers all have their own definitions of success, with the common feature that they want to test themselves and deliver the very best – that’s where their personal fulfilment comes from.

What do we mean by success?

First of all, what we are talking about here is your idea of success, not what other people believe or expect of you. Their definition will always be based on their own measure, which may be very different to yours, so let’s put them on one side for now.

The symbols of success vary from one person to another and from one time to another. Getting the degree you want or running the marathon in the allotted time are goals that give you something to reach for. They are also tangible measures that others can see and respect, which is always gratifying.

The intangibles of success are more subtle. They span your life to this point and include your hopes and fears for the future. When it comes down to having a successful life or not, then the essence remains the same for all of us.

The Psychology of Success – Judith Leary-Joyce (Pp13-14)

Perception post: Breaking Wood

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“…Superheroes are almost always represented as lone wolves: out in the darkest hours of the night, protecting the city they call home, concealing their identity behind a thick mask and, most importantly, accomplishing everything alone. They can break all three wooden sticks alone.”

I came across a thought-provoking Czechoslovakian folk tale recently. It was about a father, on his deathbed, who wanted to give his sons an important lesson before his passing. He gave each son two wooden sticks and told them to take one of the two and break it. They all did. Then, he told them to give the remaining sticks they had to each brother in turn so they could attempt to break three at the same time. One by one, they all gave it a go. And one by one, they all failed.

His message was clear: when divided, you are weak and vulnerable, but in unity, you are strong, impenetrable even. As long as the brothers stuck together, they would always find peace and security. This was the final lesson he left with them – and rightly so – because it was probably the most important one; let’s just say the end for the three sons in the folk tale wasn’t particularly good…

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Perception post: Embracing scars

blog post on respect

“We are the curves of the mountaintops: smooth from a distance, but jagged in proximity; serene from afar, yet possessing dusty scars when observed closely.”

Upon starting this blog – on April 5th 2016 – there were some thoughts racing through my mind, holding me back: what if this blog reveals too much about me? What if all the judgmental people from my past find it begin to do what they’re best at – judge? What if people don’t resonate with my creativity? What if I overstep the boundaries of my experimental comfort zone and, instead of remaining private, as I have always been, become an open book?

I have found there is only one way to make peace with my worries: I want to be honest – an exposing, confessing, vulnerable honesty. Not because it’s something that this blog or my life demands of me, but because I know it will liberate me. Once you’ve told your truth, openly accepted it, confronted it, you feel its hold over you ceasing, its strength diminishing. Gradually, it becomes so weak and faint, until one day, it’s no longer much more than a reminiscent smile curling at your content lips.

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Excerpt of the day

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“By turning names into things we create false models of reality. By endowing nations, societies, or cultures with the qualities of internally homogeneous and externally distinctive and bounded objects, we create a model of the world as a global pool hall in which the entities spin off each other like so many hard and round billiard balls. Thus it becomes easy to sort the world into differently colored balls, to declare that “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.””

Eric R. Wolf Europe and the people without history (Pp6-7).

 

Excerpt of the day

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‘And what good’s theory going to be in the real world?’ said Harry loudly, his fist in the air again.
Professor Umbridge looked up.
‘This is school, Mr Potter, not the real world,’ she said softly.
‘So we’re not supposed to be prepared for what’s waiting for us out there?’
‘There is nothing waiting out there, Mr Potter.’
‘Oh, yeah?’ said Harry. His temper, which seemed to have been bubbling just underneath the surface all day, was reaching boiling point.
‘Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?’ enquired Professor Umbridge in a horribly honeyed voice.
‘Hmm, let’s think…’ said Harry in a mock thoughful voice. ‘Maybe… Lord Voldemort?’
Ron gasped; Lavender Brown uttered a little scream; Neville slipped sideways off his stool. Professor Umbridge, however, did not flinch.

J.K Rowling Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Pp220).

Excerpt of the day

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As for Michael Corleone, he found himself standing, his heart pounding in his chest; he felt a little dizzy. The blood was surging through his body, through all its extremities and pounding against the tips of his fingers, the tips of his toes. All the perfumes of the island came rushing in on the wind, orange, lemon blossoms, grapes, flowers. It seemed as if his body had sprung away from him out of himself.

Mario Puzo The Godfather (Pp444).