Important

How fitness trackers can help you EARN

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Health insurance is a major Australian industry, and when you can get cheaper car insurance for driving safely, it only makes sense that Australians could earn or save thousands a year just by walking—and your fitness trackers can help you do it.

Many insurers already offer members benefits for walking a certain amount of steps per day. AIA offers $5 weekly vouchers for iTunes, Hoyts, Woolworths and Boost Juice for completing 12,500 steps per day, while others offer discounted premiums for staying active.

Medibank’s partnership with Coles offers 10 Fly buys points for every day customers reach 10,000 steps on their fitness trackers, which equates to about five cents. Similarly, Qantas gives frequent flyers the ability to earn points by cycling through the Qantas Assure Wellness Rewards program—although to earn 100 points, participants would need to ride 100km a week.

One US health insurer even will deposit actual cash into an account for members who complete a certain amount of steps a day.

Amy McDonough, senior vice president of strategy and operations for Fitbit Health Solutions, said the scheme can have a big impact on adding value for life—and these types of schemes are resonating with people.

“It’s heading in the right direction, and we’re really excited about that.”

Can we please talk about male entitlement?

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News flash: no one owes you anything. Image via Everyday Feminism.

Last Friday night reminded me of why I avoid going out: men. And no, not all men—just a certain type of men. The one who prowls clubs looking for a partner to do the dirty with. The one who thinks he’s entitled to your attention. The one who’s shocked to find out he’s not.

But that’s what it’s like when you go out in a small town.

It was karaoke night—and there were only around 20 patrons in the entire club. It was the first time I’d gone out in months—with my mum and best friend, no less. But of course, when there’s a woman, there will be a man thinking he’s entitled to her attention.

A random guy came up and put his hand on my back.

“Come on, come up and dance. Support my buddy,” he said.

Firstly, no. Take your hands off me. You have no right to touch me—even if it is just my back. The location isn’t important: the lack of consent is.

“No thanks!” I replied. Because dancing in front of some random dude who thinks that’s a sign i’ll go home with him is probably the last thing I want to do.

“No?” he was shocked I’d refused—and with no excuse either!

“No,” I responded, smiling and waving my wine glass.

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Yes, I am happy with my wine. No, I don’t need your attention. Image via Inside Amy Schumer.

With that, he left, shaking his head. What a shock that must have been! A simple “no”, rather than an excuse. I didn’t tell him I wasn’t drunk enough to go dance, I didn’t tell him I had a boyfriend, I didn’t tell him I wasn’t at all interested: I just told him no—and that’s how it should be.

Ladies and gentlemen: you don’t owe anyone anything. It’s not bitchy to refuse. It’s not rude to refuse. It’s your right. Just because a member of the opposite sex happens to smile at you doesn’t mean you have to do anything. You don’t owe him anything. Women do not exist to pump up Male egos.

I’ll repeat that: women do not exist to pump up male egos.

And really, if your ego can be shattered by a person saying no, you probably weren’t all that good to begin with.

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. Like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter for more!

I don’t want children. But my stretch marks are still beautiful.

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Image via Instagram, @LoveYourLines.

Stretch marks. Those tiny and sometimes not so tiny pink lightning bolts that adorn most of our bodies. They signify life. They signify change. And often, they signify you’ve created. We have all seen those posts praising women for their post-baby bodies, proudly showcasing their stretch marks and soft bellies—and that’s absolutely fantastic. I am utterly ecstatic for them—they’ve done something absolutely phenomenal, and have the courage to tell society to eff its standards of womanhood: that idea of a skinny, yet big-breasted, yet curvy woman with perfect skin, long hair and a sweet, meek smile. We see posts about women openly declaring love for their bodies, stretch marks and all, saying phrases like “my body created life” and loving it more because of that.

While this is so fantastic and awesome, I can’t help but think it creates a dichotomy between two kinds of women—a divide—between those who have and want children, and those who don’t or can’t.

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Image via Facebook.

Is this just another way we women have been conditioned to pit ourselves against each other?

I haven’t given birth—nor do I want to. And like most women, I have stretch marks too—around my thighs, around my hips, and around my breasts. It’s inevitable. It’s a part of life, growing and changing. And as I age, I come to love my body more and more—even if it isn’t supermodel skinny, even if my belly is soft, even if my thighs touch, and a whole lot of other things that happen. But why can’t my stretch marks and soft belly be celebrated as “beautiful”, even if I haven’t given birth to achieve them? They’re a fact of life. And I think emphasis needs to be taken off celebrating bodies based on what they have or haven’t done.

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There’s already a significant stigma against women who don’t want children. That oh, you’ll change your mind or your life isn’t complete until you’ve had kids or you don’t know happiness until you’ve heard your child’s laugh or worse: you’re still young. You’ll realise how great having kids is.

Thanks. I didn’t realise my life, my worth and my value revolved around popping out miniature versions of me and my partner (gosh, that would be trouble). I’m perfectly happy not going through that experience, thank you very much.

As a social community, we adore and stand behind women who’ve had children and choose to wear bikinis in public. We stand behind these mothers, and we call them brave (which they are). But should we really be teaching and continuing this idea that we can only love ourselves entirely if we’ve borne children? Is this really the message we want to send to young girls? “Your life isn’t complete until you’ve had a baby”.

We should all be proud of our bodies, and proud of our tiger stripes. And if we continue to praise women for their soft bellies, stretch marks and so on, only if they’ve had children, we continue to perpetuate this way we differentiate and place value upon different choices. We continue to perpetuate the idea that children complete your life—which is obviously a terrible notion for women who don’t want children, and women (including trans women) who can’t. Just because my body hasn’t been through a miraculous experience like giving birth does not mean I am any less deserving of celebration. I shouldn’t have to go through that to be comfortable with my lack of a thigh gap, with my stretch marks, with my comfy belly. I am a happy, healthy human being: isn’t that enough?

We need to celebrate our bodies, not for what they have or haven’t done, but for the simple fact that we are human—and all humans deserve to be able to celebrate their bodies: and be supported and cheered for doing so. There’s so much negativity in the media about women: please, ladies: can we just love our bodies for how they are?

Zoe is a journalist with a passion for all things wacky and strange. You check out more of her work on Facebook and Twitter.

Orange is the New Black addressed something really important–and we need to talk about it.

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Tiffany Doggett. Image via Buzzfeed.

Why are we so afraid to call it rape?

Rape culture is very real and very dangerous—but Orange is the New Black isn’t afraid to tackle it. In the latest season of the hit Netflix series, we see conceptions of rape addressed—and reformed—through the characterisation of inmate Tiffany Doggett.

Doggett was raped last season by a commanding officer at Litchfield Penitentiary—a man who was supposed to be responsible for her safety. Instead, officer Charlie Coates took advantage of her and raped her: but it wasn’t how we usually see rape represented on screens. Doggett wasn’t screaming. She wasn’t frantically trying to beat him off. But we could see from her face that she desperately didn’t want to be there.  It doesn’t matter if she didn’t fight tooth and nail to stop him—or even if she didn’t tell him: it is still rape.

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Image via Cosmopolitan.

This season, Doggett confronts Coates, making sure he’s not raping anyone else. But here’s the kicker: he didn’t even know he’d raped her. “But I love you,” he insists. “It’s different.”

“But it didn’t feel any different,” Doggett responds.

It didn’t feel any different because it isn’t—rape is the unwanted penetration of oral, vaginal or anal cavities. So, why are we so afraid to call it that? We live in a society where we’re so focussed on blaming the victim: what did they do to provoke it? What were they wearing? Were they drinking? Had they slept together before? Were they in love? Where they in a relationship? Why didn’t they yell for help? People voice these questions as if any of these factors negate a heinous crime. Newsflash: it doesn’t.

One in six women and 1 in 33 men will be raped within their lifetimes. One in two transgender persons will be sexually assaulted, as well as 44% of lesbian women, 26% of gay men, and 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men. This is a major problem—yet instead of tackling these issues, we’re too focussed on blaming the victim.

As a woman, I’m afraid to walk home alone at night—even though my bus stop is only 500m away. As a woman, I am afraid when a group of men walk towards me. As a woman, I make sure I’m not too drunk to keep my wits about me. I make sure my dress isn’t too short. I make sure I don’t lead anyone on—and even then, I’m not safe.

Doggett was raped in a prison environment meant to protect her.

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Most rapes are not reported, and even if they are, they’re not likely to result in a conviction. This must change. Image via Waging Non-Violence.

Our actions do not give another person permission to so much as touch us. Even if I walked down the street naked, I’m still not “asking for it”—because my body is mine, and every human being deserves that right. But some people still don’t seem to get the concept of “no”.

Maybe you loved them. Maybe you knew they were horny, so you just let them do it. Maybe you did try to stop it, but gave in because it was easier than fighting. Maybe there were tears in your eyes, as you stare at the wall, wishing you were anywhere else. Maybe you cried when it was over and they were asleep or gone. Maybe they did love you. But then, maybe they didn’t. Maybe it was a cruel and vicious crime—and actions or intentions don’t change that.

As women, we’re so programmed to feel like we have to please our partners—even if we don’t want to. But love is not an excuse for rape: nothing is. And this line of thinking, this notion of “oh, you can’t call it rape after it happened” is absolute bullshit, and a massive cultural problem. Maybe you were too scared to speak up—maybe you’re too afraid to confront in your own mind what it was, and only realise what it was later. It is “not making it up” to get someone in trouble—because only one in six rapes are reported, and only 17% of rapes are actually convicted.

Rape affects every facet of your life. It restricts your sexuality.  It restricts your chance at future relationships. You lay awake, crying and reliving those moments. You flinch at every rape joke, or mention of sexual assault.  This is not okay.

But we live in a society that would rather blame the victim than prosecute the victim. But it is not the victim’s fault—it’s the rapist’s fault.

Rape is an unforgivable crime—and we need to stop sugar coating it.

What are the major parties saying? A guide to this Federal Election

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Your choice matters. Image via Power FM.

The Federal Election can be a very confusing time—especially if you’re not really sure what to do, who to vote for, or what the major parties are even saying. It can be pretty overwhelming—particularly researching what it is you want to find. Here’s a guide on what the major parties are saying to help you decide:

The Greens:

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Image via the Greens.

Animal welfare

  • Stronger animal welfare standards and legislation with tougher penalties.
  • Ending unnecessary use of animals for testing and education.
  • Clear definitions of “free range eggs”.
  • Abolish animals in circuses.
  • Ban the slaughter of whales, greyhound racing, recreational shooting, selective breeding, race jumping and shark culling.
  • Stop the importation and exportation of zoo animals unless it will assist the continuation of the species.
  • Establishment of a national animal welfare body.
  • More power given to RSPCA and animal cruelty investigations.

Environment, climate change and nuclear energy

  • Plans for habitat management, species loss, and protecting native plants and animals.
  • Ratify international environmental law.
  • End broad-scale clearing.
  • Increase educational resources.
  • Cleaner oceans and protect costal zones.
  • Ban dumping and creation of new coal mines.
  • Detailed emission targets each year until 2050.
  • Net zero or net negative emissions within a generation.
  • 100% stationary electricity to be sustainable as soon as possible.
  • Renewable energy implementation and research.
  • Aim for a nuclear-free world.
  • Cease uranium mining and exportation.
  • Eliminate nuclear weapons.

Finance and economics

  • Banks to make greater contribution to public purse through taxes and levies.
  • Minimise ATM fees.
  • Programs introduced to improve Australian financial literacy.
  • Tax and superannuation reforms to benefit low-income earners.
  • Reduce excessive executive salaries.
  • Housing affordability and availability.

Workplace:

  • Stronger protection of worker’s rights.
  • Protection for casual and fixed-term probationary workers.
  • Childcare incentives.
  • Paid parental leave scheme.
  • Minimum of 5 weeks leave for all employees.
  • Shorter standard working hours.
  • Expenditure increase of 3% to support science and technology research.
  • End criminalisation of consensual sex work.
  • Protection of journalism sources and regional independent media.

Peace and security:

  • Ratify international human rights legislation.
  • Global disbarment strategies and promotion of non-violence.
  • Close foreign defence bases within Australia.
  • Stronger support for the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
  • Reform restrictive “counter-terrorism” legislation.
  • End global death penalty.

.Education:

  • More funding for schools based on equity.
  • More infrastructure and specialised teachers.
  • Free university education
  • 16 and 17-year-olds can vote.

Health and mental health:

Gender and sexuality:

  • Allow same-sex marriage.
  • Equal access to adoption, fostering and assisted reproduction regardless of sex, sexual orientation or marital status.
  • Transgender rights.
  • Remove religious exemption for anti-discrimination laws.
  • Create commissioner for sexuality, gender and intersex rights with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
  • More funding to domestic violence and women’s shelters.
  • End the gender wage gap.

Liberal:

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Image via the Liberal Party of Australia.

Workplace and tourism:

  • $20 million in funding to protect vulnerable workers.
  • Tax cuts for small businesses.
  • Tax incentives for innovative start-ups.
  • $23 million investment for small businesses.
  • Trans-pacific trade agreement and free trade with Indonesia, the European Union and Pacific Islands.
  • $20 million investment for infrastructure for tourist regions.

Environment:

  • Planting 20 million new trees by 2020.
  • $70 million investment for green spaces.
  • $30 million to support local parks.
  • Emissions reduction fund.
  • $15,000 to community groups for renewable resources.
  • $5 million to a threatened species recovery fund.
  • $3 billion to invest in the Great Barrier Reef and clean water over 10years.
  • $100 million aim per year for Smart Cities program.

Education:

  • Additional $60 million in funding for sport programs.
  • STEM funding of $73.6 billion over 4 years.
  • $4.6 million for alternate education pathways.

Technology and science:

  • A further $60 million to upgrade or create 499 new telephone bases to tackle an additional 3,000 mobile phone service black spots.
  • $50 million to the MyGov website.
  • $7 billion in funding for clinical trials.
  • $650 million in 4 years for medical funding, including $20 million for childhood cancers.
  • $1.1 billion for the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Security:

  • $2.5 billion boost to law enforcement and security.
  • $1 billion to strengthen borders.
  • $40 million Safer Communities Fund,

Labor:

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Image via the Labor Party of Australia.
Education:

  • $37.3 billion investment for education.
  • Girls Into Code initiative with $4.5 million in grants.
  • Safer Schools program of $6 million over 3 years.
  • Increase in child care benefits for low-income earners.
  • $50 million to support family day care systems.
  • $31 million funding for tertiary education.
  • Additional funding for undergraduates.

Health:

  • Restore medicare benefits.
  • Legalise medical cannabis.
  • Give citizens the right to die.
  • $72 million funding for mental health.
  • $7 million for breast cancer, $10.6 million for prostate cancer.
  • $25 million for dementia research.

Climate Change and Environment:

  • $500 million to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • 50% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Net zero pollution by 2050.
  • $17.4 million in funding for Climate Change Authority.

Animal Welfare:

  • Ban cosmetic testing.
  • More investigations and sanctions to breaches.
  • Establishment of animal welfare body.

Infrastructure:

  • NBN to premises.
  • $400 million Western Sydney rail package.
  • $1.2 million National Cycling Strategy.
  • High-speed rail between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

Workplace:

  • Protect weekend penalty rates.
  • $4.5 million for Fair Work Commission.
  • No baby bonus.
  • Paid parental scheme leave.
  • Tax reductions for small businesses.
  • Crack down on multinationals.
  • More jobs and courses available.
  • Creative Australia Policy.
  • Building 12 submarines in South Australia.

Gender and sexuality:

  • Marriage equality.
  • $70 billion to family violence services.
  • $8.4 million investment for indigenous girls.
  • Paid parental violence leave of 5 days.
  • More coverage for women’s sport with $21 million in funding to the ABC.
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Image via Mamamia.

Despite all of these lovely promises, there’s no promises they will be put into place. I would encourage each and every one of you to think for yourselves–and to do your research: because your vote matters.

 

 

I’m sorry, but I don’t support the dairy industry.

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I feel for our dairy farmers—I really do.

I can’t imagine how it would feel to have everything you’ve ever known dwindle around you. To have your livelihoods rendered worthless. To be thrown into unfair debt. I have no doubt that dairy farmers have the best intentions—and maybe some of them really do look after their animals. But even so: dairy is a destructive industry, where animals are objectified as means to an economic end—and this isn’t okay.

Before you abuse me, take a moment to consider my words—humour me.

Let’s think about the practicality of dairy and how we actually get milk—cows don’t just magically produce it: it results from pregnancy. Like humans, cows carry their young for nine months.  Unlike humans, most cows will have their young taken away within 12-14 hours after birth due to their economic strain. Calves less than 30 days old—known as bobby cows—will often be sent to the slaughterhouse. In Australia, this is around 400,000 calves per year. This “cruel separation” is a traumatic experience, destined to be repeated over and over for a cow’s workable lifetime— every 13 months. These calves will never even taste their mother’s milk.

There are 1.6 million dairy cows in Australia. While cows will naturally live around 20 years, cows in the dairy industry are only expected to live around seven to eight years. Australian cows also produce around 5730L of milk per year—which is incredible, as the average is only 2900L.  Our farmers are struggling, and no matter how beloved certain cows may be, farmers simply need to get as much as they can from their livestock. But is money worth these drastic measures?

Speaking of drastic measures, let’s talk about industry standards. Yes, there are standards—and yes, they’re a lot better than a lot of other countries. They do genuinely try to provide better lives and treatment for cows in terms of welfare. But some aspects are still quite barbaric, such as dehorning and castration. Dehorning is a common practise for male and female cows, which involves sensitive tissue being sawn off. Castration, while considered a major operation for older bulls, can be done to males younger than six months by anyone—no matter how inexperienced. Shockingly, there are no laws required for pain relief.

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Bobby cows. Image via Vice.

Is cruelty and objectification not enough to convince you of a change of heart? Well, let’s look at health factors.

For decades, we’ve been fed the idea that dairy is best—that we need it. But consider who would have encouraged this propaganda: that’s right, the for-profit dairy industry. Yes, dairy is the source of calcium and other vitamins, but to put it bluntly: it’s not meant for us. It’s meant for a rapidly growing baby calf.

Dr Mark Hyman said consuming dairy is actually not in our best interests, and that we’ve been force-fed many ideas that are not factual. For instance, milk doesn’t reduce fractures—it may actually increase the risk of them by 50%. By consuming five to seven portions of fruits and veggies per day (and no animal products), a person can reduce their risk of heart disease by 47%, strokes by 26%, and cancer by up to 18%. Furthermore, about 75% of the population is lactose intolerant. Know why?

Because. We’re. Not. Meant. To. Drink. Another. Animal’s. Milk.

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Breaking this bond is the price of dairy. Image via My Mind Vegan.

Think about it. Think about what they’re not telling you. Do you think animals should be used purely for economic gain? Even if you don’t think it’s wrong for them to be killed for our consumption, I’d like to think that—as reasonable agents—we can agree that cows should at least be treated well—starting with stricter industry standards and better policing. Even if they’re going to be slaughtered, at the very least, they should live fulfilling lives.

Does this make you feel sad? Do you wish things were different? Well, they can be—and you can help. Change begins with education. Even one mind changed can start a revolution. As it is, we don’t need dairy—there are plenty of plant-based sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens, beans, pulses, nuts, brown bread, enriched fruit juice, plant-based milks, soy mince, tofu and so on. Dairy is dwindling—the number of farms in the last two decades has decreased by two thirds. Maybe there’s a reason for it.

Dairy farmers, I feel sorry for you—that you’ve been brought into this war and are struggling. That you’re only paid 37 cents for a litre of milk, despite it costing 38 cents to produce. But instead of supporting our farmers by buying their product, why don’t we encourage them and donate to them to create new and sustainable livelihoods—livelihoods that don’t rely on forced slavery.

Some things are meant to change—and I for one choose compassion.

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Cows smile when you don’t eat them or take away their babies. Image via Reddit.

How to look after someone with mental illness

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Every day, six Australians will take their own lives—and another 30 will attempt to. But what if someone could be there for them? What if someone could have looked after them? What if we could have saved them? Mental illness is a serious—and terrifying—thing to experience or see. But even the smallest things can make a massive difference.  Here’s how you can look after the ones you love:

Clean for them

I feel paralysed when I’m depressed. I can’t move. I sit, and stare off into nothingness, stuck in a black hole of desolation. I peer around my little apartment, and see unwashed dishes, an overflowing bin, crumbs and clothes on the floor. But there’s not a single thing I can do to fix it. Even getting out of bed is a mammoth task when you’re depressed, and cleaning is almost unthinkable. But at the same time, a messy house is distressing. It’s cluttered—just like your mind.

Having someone to help with this would be glorious—and if you don’t have to worry about small things like cleaning, you can start focussing on the real task at hand: fixing yourself.

Cook for them

It’s the same as the above scenario. When you’re feeling down, it’s really, really hard to look after yourself.  When you’re sad, you don’t feel hungry—and you don’t exactly feel like cooking a nutritious meal loaded with veggies. I think eating a good meal is the first step to feeling better. It will help your body function better, and make you feel better. Who doesn’t love a food coma from comfort food? Cook your loved one their favourite meals: fill our hearts and our stomachs with love.

Tell them you’re there for them—and mean it

These small words can mean a lot—but if you say them, you have to really mean them. Check up on your loved ones. Make them smile. Help them do everyday chores, and encourage them to begin the healing process. Be there for them when they break down. Hang out with them, even if it’s something as banal as watching movies or having coffee. Trust me, the company will do them good. At the very least, it will stop them from doing something they’ll regret later—or something they may never come back from.

Hugs

We all crave human contact, whether it be through a loving embrace, or a shoulder to cry on. This love is exceptionally important for someone caught in a spiral of self-hatred, trapped inside the insanity of their own mind. Love tem endlessly and unconditionally. Bet the rock that’s always there for them when their world is spiralling out of control.

Gifts

I’m not telling you to go out and spend heaps of money—it’s the little things that matter the most. Pick them a flower, draw them a picture, write them a loving letter. Do something—anything—to make them smile, and remind them the world isn’t always a terrible place.

Talk to them

Sometimes you just need somebody to lean on. Let them vent, no matter how repetitive they are, or how illogical their worries may seem. Encourage them to feel their emotions, to process them, to validate them, and let it set them free. All we want sometimes is someone to listen to us, and to understand.

Distract them

Remember the little things—the beautiful things. The sun licking your closed eyelids. A cool breaze. The smell of flowers. The sweet tweeting of birds. The feel of the ocean on bare feet. The taste of chocolate. The taste and vibrancy of life. Try new things, reintroduce them to old things they love. Send funny memes or cat videos: laughter isn’t the best medicine for nothing.

Love your friends. Love yourself. Life can be beautiful. You are strong, and you can get through this. I love you, and there is always hope. Keep fighting.

Do you need help? Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online here.