Friday Links

If food looked like this, I’d never eat again.

This weekend, my aunt is coming from Russia. I think she’s bringing lots of blogging fodder in her suitcase (and, I’m hoping, dried mushrooms).   She lives in Yaroslavl, which is a pretty small town, and the amount of culture shock she receives in America, even from my family, is insane.

For instance, my mom gets up to go running or biking at 6:00 am on weekends, which my aunt can’t fathom, because the only people who run outside in Yaroslavl are lunatics.  Also, she can’t believe that squirrels exist freely in the wild (our backyard) because there are no small animals in Yaroslavl, seeing as to how they have all been killed by alcoholics or chased away by pollution.  Ah, Russia.

From le blogs

  1. Brianne explains why kids should  be dirty
  2. Susie writes about gender issues in Saudi Arabia
  3. Fellow ex-East European Pauline has some thoughts on immigration and America (check my comment.  Maybe a future blog post?)
  4. Did I tell you before how much I love this blog?  Billion-strong Russia.
  5. Grace asks what should and shouldn’t be shared in the workforce

From les internets

  1. Inspired by my recent organic/commune/microfiber/recyclable bag purchase
  2. Anthony Bourdain is so badass
  3. I’m feeling really comicy this week
  4. Writing in English in India
  5. Some ladies are crazy/brave
  6. File this one under bad ideas.  Why?  Because
  7. Still not quite sure how to respond to this, so I didn’t yet.
  8. Headline says it all.
  9. Susan Rice and life advice (oh, it rhymes!)
  10. The Rumpus echoes my thoughts on San Francisco.

How to get me to give you money. It’s not by sending me your stupid donation email.

Interrupting my California recap to rant and to commend.

I am frequently bombarded by e-mails from Israel-related organizations that want my money either to help uphold the democratic values that Americans so value about Israel or to help poor starving children with one arm on this holiest of Jewish holidays.  I delete all of them.

I have donation fatigue.  And I have no idea where my money is going.  Yes, there is Charity Navigator for American charities. But I have no idea how effective the organizations that constantly send me e-mails are, even if I am very familiar with their work and know tons of people who work there.   If they are e-mailing me constantly, they are spending less money on actual work and more on administrative tasks.

Also,  if you are e-mailing me every day (every single Jewish organization on the face of this planet who unfortunately know that I exist due to my excessive active youthful participation in the mailing list of every single Jewish organization on the face of this planet), you will get $0 from me.  I’ll use Jewish organizations as examples, because those are the ones I’m most familiar with.  Here are some examples of the messages that beseech me to give:

Right into the trash.  Why?  Because I was a slave worked at Hillel on my own volition, giving the organization my blood, sweat, and tears for all of my college career (and it was great-I met the majority of my friends there).  And there is no way students leave legacies behind.  The people who wrote this don’t understand how campus Hillels work.  They are extremely fluid and, because of administration bureaucracy, manage to make not much of an impact beyond the four years you spend there.

Donations are not what makes the organization on a branch level run.  Usually, funding is obtained by writing tons and tons and tons of grant applications, a process that, had I spent just a bit longer on, I would have been qualified as a grant specialist in any non-profit.   These parents that this e-mail is appealing to, however, likely don’t know this unless they also toiled at Hillel.

Here’s another one.  The New Israel Fund, who I donated to once to give money to Russian Israelis to marry as Israelis in Israel, now have not taken the hint that I don’t really want to give any more money to them and keep sending me things like this, which cites a survey of dubious origins that polled only 500 Israelis (doesn’t say which area of the country, etc.), to alarm me into giving them money with a nice use of an urgent Ben-Gurion side-quote,

And then there’s the JTA.

JTA, I don’t know if you realize this, but EVERY moment in time is fraught with challenges and opportunities for the Jewish people.  And if I want a news update, I can get it from the Jewish Peoples’ News source: Twitter.  And if that fails, there’s my mom.  Stop patronizing me. Please.

I delete lots and lots of these e-mails every day. These organizations are not the only guilty ones.

And then, I found an effective way to give.

I very frequently read and share stories from David of Treppenwitz, one of my favorite Israeli bloggers. Recently,  he posted,

Long time readers will recall that one of the things I like to do throughout the year is drop off the occasional hot or cold drink (depending on the season) as well as the odd bag of cake or cookies for the soldiers I pass along my daily commute.

Up to this point these small gestures have been funded entirely by the ad revenue generated by this site.  However, as the revenue from the sidebar ads has been, ahem, a little slow in the past couple of months… I was hoping that some of you might like to step up and join me in participating in this small, but meaningful, gesture.

I sent money to him.  Because I know exactly what he is doing.   And he doesn’t send me beseeching and patronizing e-mails.  And, actually, he probably doesn’t remember, but when I was in Israel in 2006 during the Israel-Lebanon War, he was driving t-shirts and underwear up to soldiers in the North and I emailed him asking if I could come and help and he actually called me by cell phone to tell me that my help was much-appreciated, but that he was all set.

I don’t mean to pile on these organizations because some of what they do is very good work. And I understand how hard it is to raise money for Jewish causes, or for any cause for that matter.  However, the constant fund-seeking is really wearing me out, because I have no idea where my money goes with large organizations and because they need to stop being so patronizing.  With David, I get the following email,

Hi Vicki,

Thank you so much for your generous donation.  It will certainly buy
lots of cold juices, iced teas and sodas for the soldiers.  Thanks to
you and a few other wonderful people I will be able to delivery drinks
and snacks for the entire summer and probably most of the fall as

And rest assured, I will make sure to let them know that there are
many wonderful people behind this gesture.

Warm Regards,


David Bogner
Efrat, Israel


Organic Strawberry Fields Forever. California, Part 2

We left San Francisco when it was cold.  It’s always cold in San Francisco.

We took the Pacific Coast Highway all the way down to Los Angeles.  The Pacific Coast Highway is the most incredible road I’ve ever been on.  Because every time you hit a curve, you can see the Pacific Ocean on your right-hand side and you have mountains in the distance, and the whole way you’re thinking of a way to capture the ocean views in a bottle.  You snap, snap, snap away with your camera, but you can never do it justice, no matter how hard you try.

So we gawked for about two hours until we got out of the San Francisco metro area, and then we came upon a sign that said Organic Strawberries.  “Look!  Organic strawberries,” I proclaimed, and pulled over.  Since I was named after a strawberry and they kind of are in my masthead, it was only proper.

They were the best strawberries I have ever eaten in my life. Extremely sweet, but not in a ‘roids kind of way. They were naturally sweet, like they were actually grown by humans who care about strawberries instead of machines that will eventually give me the HIV.

When you go in the store,

there is a cash register and the following sign:

And then you’re like, why can’t East Coast places have HIV-free strawberries?  And you get mad at the vast conspiracy that is the West Coast.

But it’s ok, because the strawberries are HUGE and juicy and ridiculously delicious.

Mr. B was reluctant to hand over the strawberries to me.  But in marriage, you have to take one for the team sometimes.

And then we kept driving, and we saw this:

Californians, I hate you.   So we got a nice couple from Australia/New Zealand to take our picture.  “What are you guys doing here?  You have great beaches out there,” I told them.  “Yeah, but here is nicer,” they said, and drove off.  What surprised me and Mr. B was the amount of foreigners on vacation in California.  Even in DC, I have never seen this many French, Italian, Australian, and German tourists.  And all of them speak perfect English.

After that, we kept driving.  And driving.  And driving. Our goal was to make it halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the site of Hearst Castle, for a tour.  Unfortunately, the castle was closed for the day by the time we got there.  But, on the side of the road, I thought I saw something.  And I pulled over.  It was seals.  Thousands upon thousands of seals, sunning themselves.  I love animals, so I stared at them for what must have been twenty minutes.

What a life.  No parents.  No work problems.  Just napping all day. Sign me up.

After Mr. B dragged me away, we continued, and we were suddenly in Southern California. The landscape changed from rough, rugged hills, to flat plains with mountains in the distance.

And Mr. B told me to take a picture of a church with Black Jesus in the window.

We started passing crazy vineyards and lots and lots of palm trees.  “Let’s live here for the rest of our lives,” I told Mr. B. “I don’t disagree with you,” he said.

And, as the sun set over the ocean, just like that, the highway became bigger and denser, and in the darkness, we could see the twinkling lights of the Los Angeles area.

We crashed at our hotel, prepared to take on Mulholland Drive and the places of Entourage the next day.

This was our favorite day of the trip.