FUN LINK TIME

Daily Frenchie

I’m one of those people that like to solve problems.  Sometimes I notice things and mentally link them to people they could possibly benefit, and sometimes that person just doesn’t exist…so what do you do with this excess information?  Well, problem solved.  See below.

  • 60 minutes: The Save the Tortoise Episode.  Is watching 60 minutes uncool?  I know it’s been around for awhile, but I just realized this show exists.  Most people I talk with like to name drop NPR (example: “Oh, I heard about [insert hot button topic] on NPR“).  Apparently radio is the way to go.  I linked to the tortoise episode, on 60 minutes, because it’s strangely heartbreaking. 
  • Confidence and public speaking: This article on how to sound confident even when you’re not.
  • DecorEasy DIY for decorating with silver tape. 
  • The British: This post on what British people say v. what they mean. 
  • FoodFork and Beans for vegan recipes
  • Acne: This thoughtful article on acne from The Dame is one of the most thorough and holistic approaches to acne I’ve come across, incorporating changes to both your lifestyle and eating habits instead of just recommending facial products. 
  • Bunions: If you google “Victoria Beckham” and “Bunions,” you will meet the most famous pair of bunions in the world.  Try this bunion splint to try to prevent that.  It’s a progressive problem and can only get worse over time, so far as I know, so this splint should stop the problem from getting worse, and it may also makes you appear mildly athletic.
  • Acne Scars: Try this organic scar cream
  • Bed Hair: Try this silk pillowcase.  
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PICTURE FOR THE WEEKEND NO. 22

shorline along Muir Beach

I trotted around here over the weekend.  It is nice to live near the water – or at least to have the water a pleasant commute away.

As an aside, why are weekend pics practically always nature shots?  Because I find them calming, and I like a bit of calm during my weekend – also during the workweek, but there’s no time for that, so weekend it is!

IDEAL V. REAL: THE TV

Via
Oh, how I would love this.  Let’s look at it from another angle.  See below.  Yes, that still looks beautiful.  The entire apartment is quite beautiful actually, if you follow the link.  There really is no end to good taste and what it can do for you.  
Via
Now, here’s a touchy question that I sometimes struggle with…is this practical?
  
Because in reality, I don’t have overwhelming large pieces of art that I can display, and I’m not sure that I would want a TV that low to the ground.  
Here is the larger problem: I’m addicted to aesthetics.  I follow interior design sites the way some people follow porn: In the dark.  Late at night. Alone.  I’m checking things out. 
Aesthetically speaking, a TV at eye level (where you can watch it easily and use it for its intended purpose) looks fairly unattractive.  Most TV stands I’ve found are 1) overpriced and 2) unattractive.  So it’s like being screwed at two entirely different angles. 
Below, I included the most practical, easily accessible, commercially available, and least ugly solution from West Elm.  It’s not the same as the ideal, but it’s not hideous.  
In my own abode, of course, I have an bleh thing from IKEA.
West Elm

I’m not going to include a picture of my bleh.  Because it’s bleh. 
I suppose this second option could look okay depending on what you put around it. My preference is to minimize clutter, to not have too much stuff, you know?  
Just the proper amount.  (See above)

EASY WEEKEND DIY: BRANCH AND YARN

Sweet Thing
Do you live near a forest?  No?  How about near a tree?  Do you have access to yarn?  If so, then you can probably do this DIY.  I am not talking about the fancy wood trinket mobile – more the large branch next to it.  
Simply wrap some yarn in a color block pattern around a branch, apply some glue, and voila.  Lean the branch where you will.  Some people paint fancy patterns, that’s a bit more work, but if you can, do. I’m not stopping you. 

A MOMENT FOR CALM

It’s hump day.  I’ve mentally been congratulating myself on getting past 100 posts – pictures count, you know.  So I should be feeling fairly accomplished if nothing else, but instead there a slight nagging sensation.  A little pull of dissatisfaction.  It’s not altogether unfamiliar.  Because there is always something more out there that needs to be done.  It could be something big, or a series of small responsibilities or dissatisfactions that, added together, create a larger burden.  And these things are always there, listed inside your head, ticking away the seconds like a bomb. 
I’m posting this now as much for myself as for anyone else, as a reminder to acknowledge that nagging sensation, and to put it aside.  To calm down.  It’s the middle of the week, there’s still some time left to do what you need to do, and you’ve already checked a few things off the list. It’s an ideal moment to take a little time to breathe.  I will repeat this every once in awhile – the need to cultivate calm – because I think I need the reminder every now and again.  Repetition leads to building habits, and I believe that this is a good habit to have. 
I took that pic above because it evokes a sense of calm.  Many pictures unintentionally (or intentionally) create dissatisfaction by creating wants – the desire to get away, the desire to buy things, the desire to lose weight, should I have kids (?), etc.  All of this leads away from appreciating what you have.  
There is nothing I want in that picture.  It’s cozy.  It’s neat.  It simply exists in a way that reminds me that there is another way to be.   

FRIEND OF THE BRIDE

Flickr

I’ve never wanted to be a bridesmaid.  Is that odd?  I have friends who get very excited, and some people consider it an honor to be a part of the bridal party.  I understand the feeling of belonging, of being part of your friend’s big day.  I want my friends to be happy.  It just happens that this part of friendship seems to come with a lot of work and money.  Traditionally, and I might be wrong here, you have to:

  • buy the bridesmaid dress
  • pay for dress alterations
  • organize and pay for the bridal shower, including travel and accommodations + gift for bride
  • organize and pay for the bachelorette party, including travel and accommodations + gift for bride
  • wedding gift

That seems like a lot of money and work, and I would feel awful making my friends do that, and on the other hand, I wouldn’t feel bad if I didn’t have to.

That aside, my friend told me that she didn’t ask me to be a bridesmaid because she remembered how we had discussed how much it would suck to be a bridesmaid and she didn’t want to put me on the spot.  It’s true that I wouldn’t have refused – I would be a asshole jerk if I said no. It’s an opportunity to help a friend, and when a friend asks for help, you just give.  And pony up.

As a further aside, whenever I think “bridesmaid,” I think “handmaiden,” that old hag that had to brush the beautiful princess’s hair late at night after a day full of royal princessian activities, at which time the handmaiden had had to clean the royal bedchamber. This is pretty much how I would picture myself during the wedding festivities – swanning around as part of a match set of bridal accessories in some ugly satin number with a train that drags along the floor.  Probably strapless. 

EASY WEEKEND DIY: CANDLE IN A JAR

Via Dreams and Jeans
Alright then.  In the upper left corner.  On the trunk being used as a nightstand.  Do you see what I see?    Of course you do.  It’s so simple, really, when you think about it.  Do you have candles? Do you have old pasta sauce jars?  Then you can put the two together and voila!  An instant decorative (and useful) piece.  No more need to buy candleholders (unless you want to). 

LISTENING AND QUIET

Source
Have you ever listened to someone else purely for the purpose of understanding them – listening almost as a psychologist or psychiatrist does – listening purely out of interest in the speaker?  
I’ve noticed various types of listening recently:

  • Listening to refute: taking in information so you can assemble your own argument
  • Listening to join: taking in information so you can provide your own similar experience.  I think Tyra Banks is supposed to do this a lot on Top Model.  Except her similar stories have nothing to do with what the other person just said.
  • Listening to accumulate information, to store away for later, when it might come in handy
There are probably more.  I’ve been stepping back lately, and just noticing patterns of listening.  I’m not sure if it’s necessarily wrong to listen for the reasons I’ve just listed, I’m just saying those might be the more common ways to listen, while actually hearing the person and what they’re saying may not be.

Conversely, truly being heard and understood may be a basic (psychological, not to be confused with food, clothing, etc.) human need.  I’ve heard it described as “psychological air.”* I wonder how often this need is met.  And what people do get that need met.

In a more extreme case, I’ve been listening to the people at the back of the bus – the crazies that can still afford bus fare.  Not intentionally – they’re just loud. They have no censor. Sometimes they chatter – and their chatter has the feel of a conversation, just with themselves. They talk like there’s someone on the other end of the conversation. It’s like they’re meeting this need they have, this need to be heard and understood, but just in a very unconventional way.

It’s always interesting to notice people who either can’t or won’t self-censor, because they sometimes show a part of human nature that is raw and unguarded, possibly a part of themselves that other people normally wouldn’t allow to be seen.  Except for the one guy who got on the bus for poon, and started saying out loud how he wanted to sleep with every girl on the bus – every single one – and then a small circle of space started to widen around him.  Except for that guy.  I wonder if the discomfort that you sometimes feel, when that person near you begins to talk to himself, isn’t partly because it’s a distant echo of a need that is normally kept hidden.

* Stephen Covey

GIVEWELL: CHECKING UP ON CHARITIES

Our charity evaluation process

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Since I posted about fake charities, I thought I would post about ways to figure out effective charities.  The above is straight from the GiveWell.org website.

What is GiveWell?

Givewell is an American non-profit charity evaluator started in 2007 by two former Bridgewater Associates* investment analysts, Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld. The goal of Givewell is to promote giving to charities that are effective and transparent.

Where does GiveWell get its funding?

GiveWell is supported by foundations, such as the Hewlett Foundation, and individual supporters.  They do not solicit donations from the general public. Look here.

Interesting GiveWell Articles:

Some juicy bits from their blog (at least for me): Celebrated Charities That We Don’t Recommend, which names Kiva, Smile Train and UNICEF.

  • Kiva: Well, damn. I’ve given money to Kiva – I honestly thought I was giving money directly to women to help finance their businesses, when it seems the money was given to micro-finance institutions, and that the creation of this direct relationship between you as a donor and a businesswoman on the other end is illusory. Kiva promises to give you updates so you see how your contribution is having an effect.  I gave some time ago and have since received one really generic update.  
    • In regards to micro-finance institutions, GiveWell has put together an article suggesting that microfinancing (making small loans to people to help them start their business!), while a good idea in theory, may suck in practice.
  • Smile Train: You’ve seen those pictures of children with cleft lips – what kind of bastard are you that you could resist that? Well, you are not alone.  No one could resist that, and Smile Train has been so successful that they are out of room for more funding. 
  • UNICEF: UNICEF it would have never occurred to me to question, because…it’s UNICEF.  Speaking ill of UNICEF is like peeing on a church.  You just don’t do that. Well, UNICEF isn’t exactly forthcoming about what they do with their funds, so I’m putting my reverence on hold. 
Also interesting is their article on Mega-Charities: those large institutional charities (think $250+ Million budgets) that are well known.  This includes UNICEF (again), Oxfam, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, World Vision, and CARE.  This article points out that these organizations don’t provide a lot of data on where your money goes, and you can probably have a stronger impact donating to smaller organizations, possibly the one recommended on GiveWell (seems self-promoting, I know). Exception: Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.  Interesting…
Useful Links:

  • Here is the their list of top charities and the international charities they considered. 
  • Here is their Giving 101 guide showing you how you can make sure your donation has a positive impact.
  • Here is a link to their charity evaluation process
So the question now is – do you trust GiveWell?  Willing to give them a chance? 
* Bridewater Associates: an American investment management firm, or hedge fund.