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October 2007

Groovy U

Donovan One of the good things about the Empty Nest is that you never again have to worry about the whole college admissions rat race. But I have to admit I was a bit forlorn when I read an AP report yesterday announcing that Donovan, the groovy 60s singer, is founding his own University.

The school, to be called "The Invincible Donovan University", will offer traditional courses but will also train students in transcendental meditation. The singer believes that TM reduces stress and boosts creativity and learning.

"I know it sounds like an airy-fairy hippie dream to go on about '60s peace and love," Donovan told the AP. "But the world is ready for this now. It is clear this is the time."

The school is to be in either Glasgow or Edinburgh. I wish I could have at least taken a tour of the Invincible Donovan University with the Boy, and picked up an IDU t-shirt.

They call him Mellow Yellow. Quite Rightly.

Got Ghosts? They'll Be Right Over


PARANORMAL SLEUTHS Karen Darby, left, and Kathy O’Donnell.


YOU hear footsteps in the attic every night, but no one else is home. Household items disappear and then reappear in a different room a few days later. The children insist they hear voices coming from the closet. The dog keeps barking at an empty chair.

Who you gonna call?

You might try the Katonah Paranormal Society. They chafe at the term “ghostbusters,” but the two women who run it, Kathy O’Donnell and Karen Darby, will investigate activities believed to be coming “from the other side.” Call them what you will — ghosts, spirits, energy forces — they are very real to Ms. O’Donnell and Ms. Darby, who say they can sometimes see, hear and speak to the dead.

The two women are not what you might imagine. They don’t wear silly helmets or one-piece jumpsuits. In fact, they look a lot like other well-to-do women in this pretty hamlet of Bedford. The two are sisters, and they are both blondes, dressed in brightly colored sweaters and wearing tasteful silver earrings.

They also share an ability to communicate with the other world, they say, and their mission is to help people, both “the ones with bodies,” Ms. O’Donnell said, “and the ones without the bodies,” Ms. Darby finished. The sisters have a tendency to complete each other’s sentences and telephone each other at the exact same moment.

They take their work seriously. When a client calls, the women set up an initial site visit. First, they need to rule out alternate explanations for disturbances that seem paranormal but may be prosaic. A flickering light may signify only faulty wiring. And this time of year, old furnaces are often the real culprit behind random creaking and groaning.

But often, the women say, they can immediately feel hot and cold spots in the house. If they believe they are in the presence of someone who has “passed on,” they will return to do a full investigation, bringing along digital cameras and recorders. They say they have captured images (“Sometimes we’ve had full figures, faces, part of the face or just orbs,” Ms. Darby said), and sometimes they can tape voices of the dead. How is this possible?

“It has to do with vibration,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “They vibrate at a slightly different vibration than us. The digital cameras and recorders are much more sensitive. The L.E.D. light seems to illuminate their energy.”

When clients see physical evidence of a spirit, they are first surprised and then relieved, Ms. Darby said. “It’s nice for the homeowner to find out they’re not nuts,” she added. The women said they couldn’t reveal the names of any clients, citing privacy concerns. (Real estate agents also dislike word getting out about haunted houses.)

Here are some things the paranormals will tell you about spirits: they retain the same personalities they had when they had bodies, appear fully dressed and are eager to communicate. They have free will and usually, if asked nicely, will move on.

“We have a little conversation and say, ‘Look, you can’t keep doing this — you’re scaring the kids.’” Ms. O’Donnell said. “Some are pranksters. Sometimes we have to get tough.”

If they have a really difficult case, Ms. Darby said, they “flood the place with light and prayer, and that’s very effective.” The sisters are both interfaith ministers as well as masters of reiki, the Japanese massage therapy.

Ms. O’Donnell and Ms. Darby say the spirits of those who died traumatically — especially murder victims — sometimes get “stuck,” because of the shock of their demise. Some hang around peacefully for centuries until a homeowner disturbs them with renovations.

The sisters live with their families on horse farms, Ms. O’Donnell in Katonah and Ms. Darby in Fairfield, Conn. They say they have had their gifts since childhood, though they didn’t start working together on investigations ( until four years ago. They do not charge for their work, which they consider “a calling.”

Oh, and they don’t need enhanced intuition to know that you’re skeptical.

“Skepticism is fine,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “That’s our chance to educate them. They’re either open to us or not. But cynics — cynics just want to fight. I don’t want to fight.”

Ms. Darby added that they were not out to change anyone’s mind. “We’re just here to offer a service,” she said.



29redsox3951 Diversity has been a buzz word for awhile. It's big in hiring and it's big in college admissions and marketing. Everyone wants diversity and - no argument here - it's a good thing.Newyorkyankeesbaseballhistory

But I have to smile when I hear The Boy struggling to adjust in college to people who were raised very differently from himself. Am I speaking of fellow students who are of a different race or ethnicity or socio-economic background? Not generally. I am talking about The Boy's difficulty in adjusting to Boston fans.

Patriots_2 The Boy attends college in New England, and he isRedskins suffering - SUFFERING - due to what he calls the arrogance and ignorance of the Boston fans. He says  he can respect people who support teams other than the Yankees and his beloved Redskins (his father, The Weatherman is from Washington and raised The Boy as a Redskin fan). But Boston fans, he claims, are something different - lacking knowledge about the game itself, stubborn and obnoxious. (Note - these comments do not reflect the opinion of The Kate Chronicles. I'm just relating The Boy's opinion here.)

Yesterday was a black day for The Boy. First, the New England Patriots slaughtered the Redskins. I'm not even going to put down the score. Then, the Boston Red Socks swept the World Series.

The Boy was going to lay low in the library before the taunting began. Sports diversity - that's a whole different thing.

My Car in Dog Years

Car I'm starting to over-identify with the family Volvo. That car is steadfast. It's solid. It doesn't look bad, though it has its share of dents and scratches from years of being driven by every member of the family. It still rides well, but  its shock absorbers have seen better days, and it creaks and bumps a bit. Like me, the Volvo requires increasing investment in maintenance - and I'm not talking about cosmetics, rather just the time and money it takes to keep the car driving safely.

The Volvo is a 1998 sedan with well over 100,000 miles on it. I believe that car years are the equivalent of dog years, which means the car is pushing 70. (Come to think of it, that also means that the car is considerably older than I am.)

Anyway, we are starting to talk about whether it's worth it to keep maintaining Old Faithful. She just got back from a $400 brake job. The Volvo has seen us through two teenage drivers and that's a lot of miles on a bumpy road. But at the risk of mixing metaphors here, it still doesn't seem right to send her out to pasture.

Pillsbury Pie Crust Vindicated

182842061_d5fb9b1b7b_m I get a lot of nice complements on my pies. I don't make really fancy ones - just your basic apple, blueberry, peach and pumpkin, depending on the season. Pies aren't that hard but for some reason they impress folks.

But I've always had this dirty little secret - Pillsbury Pie crust. It is shamefully easy - you just unroll it and boom - butter and flour your pie dish and you're ready to go. You can also cut them up and make lattice crust tops, which look very fancy. Still, when people raved about the pies, I'd mumble something about the quality of the peaches or that the secret of apple pies is just the tiniest bit of grated lemon zest. But never, ever did I discuss the crust.

Yesterday, I read about an apple pie contest held at the Fall Harvest series (whatever that is) at Fortunoff (a place I've never been), which was judged by chef Peter X. Kelly and some pr guy. Now I do know Peter Kelly's cooking and it is superb. ANYWAY, the point is - and I do have one - that the prize winning pie was made with Pillsbury pie crust. Hah!

Hats off to the cook, who has come out of the closet with this heretofore shameful secret.

Rest Assured - Nuke Power Plant is Safe

Indian_point Look at this pretty photo of the Indian PointSleeping_guard nuclear power plant. Doesn't it look tranquil? Why it's enough to make you want to take a little cat nap. Which is precisely what one of the plant guards did on the job a few months ago.

But don't be worried - sleeping on the job when you are guarding a nuclear power plant in one of the most densely populated parts of the country is no cause for alarm (not that the alarms at Indian Point work either). According to a report released yesterday by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the napping guard represented a "very low safety significance."

Aren't you reassured? Sleep well tonight....

(Un)Natural Disasters

24firems337 The world has always been plagued with hurricanes, wild fires and other disasters that are usually seen as "Acts of God." And to some extent, of course, they are the forces of nature, well beyond the control of man.

But man ain't helping, either. The Weatherman, of course, is very concerned about climate change. He was explaining to me this morning that the devastating fires sweeping across California - and for that matter the drought in the Southwest - are exacerbated by global warming. Conditions for fire are more ripe, because increasing temperatures create a more arid climate.  Meteorologist Mark Jackson, who is in charge of the LA Forecast Office of the National Weather Service, told the NYT today, "we're at record dry conditions, and if you don't have moisture in the air, it's critical fire conditions."

Of course much of Southern California is naturally a desert anyway - the millions of people who live there are dependant on irrigation. But the water they count on is from snow melt runoff from the mountains. And as the earth heats up, that snow is disappearing.

To add insult to injury, the Times reports today that some of the needed fire fighting equipment in Iraq.

It's easy to read the news in a piece-meal fashion, but sometimes you have to step back and connect the dots.

In Grief, Family Finds A Mission


AWARENESS Mark and Kathleen Bonistall’s daughter Lindsey was killed in her off-campus apartment in 2005.

Published: October 21, 2007
White Plains

THE Bonistall home is full of pictures of Lindsey. There she is, with her head resting on her dad’s shoulder, at the father-daughter dance at Good Counsel Academy. There she is in her prom dress, the price of which to this day her mother has not revealed to Lindsey’s father, Mark. And there is Lindsey on a trampoline, petite in her blue jeans, with a look of pure joy on her face.

“She looks like she’s having a hoot,” said Lindsey’s mother, Kathleen. “That was taken the month before she was killed.”

Lindsey Bonistall was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Delaware when she was raped and murdered in her off-campus apartment on May 1, 2005. Her killer, James E. Cooke Jr., then set the apartment on fire to cover the crime. He was sentenced to death in March. The Bonistalls do not speak his name in their home.

But they do like to talk about Lindsey, and they have a story for nearly every photograph of her. The prom photo, for instance. Lindsey had begged her mother for the elegant Vera Wang gown, and her mom had relented. The night of the prom, Lindsey was riding in a limousine when two boys, athletes both, began bragging about the push-ups they could do.

Lindsey, her parents say, challenged them on the spot, then got out of the car and proceeded to do more push-ups than either of them — with one hand behind her back. The gown? It was fine.

The Bonistalls will tell you about Lindsey’s gift for impersonations — how even at age 6, she could do a perfect Urkel, complete with hitched-up pants. They will describe Lindsey as always in flight — from the time she did gymnastics as a child, through her teenage years as a cheerleader (she was the “flier,” the one tossed up) and later as a diver.

The childhood room that once housed their high-energy daughter now serves as the headquarters for the foundation, “Peace Outside Campus,” that the Bonistalls hope will be her legacy. The mission is to promote the safety of college students who live off campus. Even the foundation’s name brings another Lindsey story — her parents say she liked to end conversations by putting a peace sign to her lips, blowing a kiss and saying, “Peace Out.”

Lindsey’s death was anything but peaceful, and the Bonistalls — who have an older daughter, Kristen — are determined that other families avoid the kind of pain that they continue to endure. Today, family, friends and supporters will gather in Elmsford for the third annual Lindsey Run, a 5K race that raises money for the foundation.

The foundation’s Web site,, offers Living Off-Campus 101, which has a checklist of what to look for in an off-campus apartment, as well as information on personal safety. Mr. Bonistall has also been working to set up a certification program for off-campus housing. This has proved challenging. Landlords are not always cooperative, and colleges have been reluctant to become involved in crime prevention outside their boundaries.

Several schools, including Pace University, have foundation chapters on campus that aim to raise awareness of the issue among college students. And in a new foundation effort, Teens in Transition, college students will talk to high school seniors about living safely off campus. The program, which is scheduled to begin next month in White Plains, will open with a home video of Lindsey at her high school graduation, followed by headlines about her murder.

The Bonistalls attended the entire trial, listening to all the horrific details. They went, Mrs. Bonistall said, “because it was the last physical thing we could do for our daughter.” Mr. Bonistall said there were times when he wanted to leap over the railing to stop Mr. Cooke from talking about Lindsey. He said he restrained himself by repeating a mantra that he and his wife used to get through the ordeal: “D.A.G.” — dignity and grace.

Every day is still hard for the Bonistalls. They attend a support group for survivors of homicide victims. It’s a club that no one wants to belong to, Mr. Bonistall said. On the other hand, he added, “It’s the one place where someone can say, ‘I know how you feel,’ and they really do.”


Guys, Sports and The Clock

Redskins Long ago, I learned there was real time and sportsAirplane1_2 time. For instance, if I was getting ready to serve dinner and would ask, "how much time is left in the game?" the Weatherman might answer, "4 minutes." Silly me would time the meal to be ready in say, five minutes. And there it would sit on the table, cooling off, because the Weatherman was speaking of football time, which has only the slightest correlation to real time. Four minutes on the game clock could well mean 15 minutes on the kitchen clock.

Sports time also can be the way guys (and not to be sexist here, die-hard gal fans) can structure their days. So it was that the Weatherman and the boy decided they would leave for the airport yesterday as soon as the Redskin game was over. And so it was that the Boy missed his flight back to college. (In fairness to the Weatherman, there was terrible traffic which compounded the initial delay of a dramatic-to-the-last-second extremely drawn-out 4th quarter.)

22redsoxxlarge6_3 And when The Boy had to take a later flight, that conflicted with the pick-up at the airport. Why? Because the friend who was scheduled to come get him was a Boston Red Socks fan. And while the earlier flight didn't conflict with the game, the later flight was smack in the middle of it.

Of course The Boy was pretty calm and completely understanding of all these delays and complications. I mean, come on. There was a game on.

Secure The Perimeter

Securethepermiter I've had both my children home this weekend and it has been heaven. The Boy had a fall break from college, and his sister came up from the city to visit him.  For two glorious days, we had our family of four under one roof. We did a lot of hanging out and because we all have a nerdy side - played a couple of board games too. There was also quite a bit of eating. The first night I made Cider-Braised Chicken and last night I cooked Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon.

In less than an hour, The Weatherman has to take The Boy to the airport. It's time for me to secure the perimeter. If I can somehow batten down the hatches and lock doors, maybe I can keep him here.

Of course, a few years ago, I joked about putting bricks on his head to keep him from growing, and all weekend he has been looking down at me from even greater new heights. I guess I can't stop time.

Honey and Soy Glazed Salmon

Salmon Ok, I know this is a photo of a raw salmon fillet. That is because I was so excited over last night's dinner that it went right from the oven to the table, and I completely forgot to take a picture.

This recipe - so easy and so tasty - came from my niece Emily.

2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 and 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon water

4  six ounce pieces salmon fillet

Whisk together honey, soy sauce, lime juice, mustard and water. Marinate salmon overnight (I just did it for a few hours). Preheat oven to 375, and place salmon on baking sheet. Bake salmon for approximately 15 minutes. At the same time, heat marinade and reduce it in pan on stove. When salmon is cooked, spoon marinade over each piece of salmon.

I served this with pasta with spinach. (I had some nice, fresh spinach, so I just sauteed garlic and onions until they were soft, and added the spinach and cooked it for just a minute, until it was soft but still bright green. Tossed it in with the cooked pasta.)

Cider-Braised Chicken

Dscn8712 I got this recipe from Gourmet Magazine.

1 whole chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sprinkle chicken with 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.  Heat oil in heavy skillet, then brown chicken, skin side down first, turning once, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a place, discarding oil.

Wipe out skillet, then boil remaining ingredients until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and braise, covered, turning once, until chicken is cooked through, 25-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter. Boil sauce to thicken if necessary. Whisk sauce if separated, the pour over chicken.

I used chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. Served it with brown rice and green salad. Seasonal and easy.

"Heart Gallery" Distasteful

Collage6_2 Does anyone else find this distasteful? The Social Services Departments of a group of local counties - Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Ulster - are collaborating on a photography exhibit of kids waiting to be adopted.

It doesn't sound so bad, but in fact, these portraits run like ads, and sound somewhere between a singles classified and those sad little articles that animal shelters run to get someone to pick out a dog or cat.

Listen to this: "Jayson is 10, a sports fan who likes the Knicks, the Yankees and the Giants. Jayson is in the fourth grade in a small special education class; academically he is at the second-grade level. He can be impulsive, a little aggressive and easily frustrated, but also eager to please. He would like to be the only child in an adoptive family."

Or this:  "Yathzendal, 16, is happy to please. He volunteers for extra chores. He attends a seventh grade special-education program, where his reading and math are at a second-grade level, and goes to art therapy every week."

The pathos of these descriptions, along with the photographs of these hopeful, smiling faces, just strikes me as worse than cheesy and exploitative. There has got to be a better way to match difficult-to-adopt children with  families.

Quick - Call the WAHNbulance!

A_lyoga All I want to know is if there is an exercise work out you can do (assuming you are of the baby boomer generation) that doesn't hurt or get you hurt.

Countless people told me it was time to try yoga, and I went to a couple of classes. Disaster. Couldn't do anything, and every position was pretty painful. Thus I was vindicated, though not happy, when my friend Sally sent me a recent story from Time Magazine, pointing out that over the last 3 years, 13,000 Americans were treated either in an emergency room or a doctor'sCartoon_ambulance_3 office for yoga-related injuries.

No wonder I wasn't feeling any inner peace when the very limber and young instructor called out "chaturanga" and I would find myself in yet another painful contortion.

I would tell you about the spinning class I went to yesterday and why it ended up aggravating my shoulder, but someone would probably call the "Wahnbulance" on me. You know the wahnbulance. Someone calls it when you are whining, and it arrives with the siren going "WAAAAHN! WAAAAHN!" That's your signal that it's time to buck up.

Some Jobs Are A Real Bummer

Titlephoto_2 Mickeymouseengineer_2

Writer_3 Check out these pictures and tell me who looks the happiest. If you choose Mickey Mouse, the engineer, you are on to something. According to a government survey, that woman on the left, the day care worker, should be far more depressed than happy Mickey over there. The writer, I'm sorry to report, ought not to be exactly jumping with joy either.

The survey said that people who are in "personal care and service" -  that would include those who care for the elderly, for children, and folks who served up drinks and food - have the highest rates of depression of workers. Roughly 10.8 percent report depression lasting two weeks or longer. The happiest occupations are "Engineering, architecture and surveyors," with only 4.3 percent suffering from the blues.

Now as you can see, these categories are pretty broad. I tried to figure out where I fit in, and decided I'm in the "Arts, design, entertainment, sports and media" business. We log in at 9.1 percent depressed.

Before you get too bummed at what you do for a living, consider this - the overall rate of depression for full-time workers was 7 percent, compared with 12.7 percent of those who are unemployed. So no matter how bad your job makes you feel, it's still better for you than sitting at home.

Real Women Don't Live Here Any More

Pic1_2 Last night, the Weatherman and I watched an oldAlice_doesnt_live_here_anymore movie - "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." It was made in 1974, directed by Martin Scorsese, and starred Ellen Burstyn as a recently widowed woman on the road with her difficult 12-year-old-son, trying to make a life for herself as a singer.

It wasn't a great movie, but it was interesting, particularly seeing a young Jodie Foster starring as a precocious child with a foul mouth. But what struck me the most was how Ellen Burstyn looked. She played a woman in her mid-30s and she looked like a woman in her mid-30s. Her forehead wrinkled, she wasn't  amazingly toned, buff or thin. She looked pretty, sexy, but like a real human being. And oh yeah, her teeth weren't perfect, either.

That, more than the awful clothing or that weird 70s lethargy that informed many of that era's movies, is what made the film seem dated. Boy, would I like to be able to see contemporary films that featured actors and actresses that resemble real life people instead of the Stepford wife-like performers on the screen today.

Congress Dealing with 1915

11prexy600Why is the US House of Representatives spending its time on a resolution - one that is symbolic only - condemning the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey during World War I? Of course it was a terrible thing. But while this was happening in two far-away countries almost a century ago, let's check out some of the other issues happening on this day in 2007 that Congress might want to spend its time on.

The front page of the Times today also has stories on the Marines' role in Afghanistan, the Blackwater shootings, immigration issues, the decline in dental health (because of all of the uninsured people in this country), a school shooting and an auto strike.

Also, this vote has, not surprisingly, enraged Turkey, whose support in the Iraq war is critical to the United States.

OK - a few disclaimers. First, sorry to be blogging yet again about page one of the NYTimes. Second, I find myself in the horrible position of actually agreeing with George W. Bush about something, though for different reasons. And third, obviously, OBVIOUSLY, genocide is a despicable thing. This is a photo of some of the survivors, attending a session of Congress.

But I'm at a loss as to why -  when our country is in such terrible straits - the House of Representatives feels that this resolution is a priority. And where do we get off, being the moral arbiter of anything?

What Is Wrong With This Picture?

10iraq600 This photo, in today's NY Times, is of an Iraqi boy looking inside of a car in which two women had been murdered (and another woman and child injured) by private security forces.

Not the infamous Blackwater this time, but a different firm, though it, too, was hired to protect the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). And what is USAID charged with doing in Iraq? Why, it is suppose to help the State Department improve local government and democratic institutions.

The guards fired 40 shots at the car. They were not protecting any government officials; they were part of a convoy that was controlling traffic, as part of a routine movement involving the transport of still more security guards.

I can't take my eyes off of the little boy's face. Somehow he doesn't look like he is ready to embrace American democracy.

Best Mouse Pad Ever

Dscn8708_3 OK, maybe you have to be a cat person. But I finally have got my desk, computer and chair in an ergonomically-friendly set up. And since I had to resurrect my old keyboard and mouse, I needed a mouse pad.

Today, while shopping in a book store, I came across this amidst some Clinton memorabilia. This photo is a close up of the mouse pad, which as you can see, features Socks, the Clinton cat, at the Presidential podium. The computer mouse (not pictured) sits appropriately just under Socks' paw.

This made me think about what ever happened to Socks, and wonder if he was anticipating a return to the limelight, should Hillary get elected to the White House. According to Wikepedia, at least, Socks is still alive and kicking, if not mousing. But I was very sorry to learn that while Socks retained his position as "first pet" for awhile, the arrival at the White House of Buddy, a Labrador retriever, disrupted things badly. Socks hated Buddy on first sight and the two never got along, prompting Bill Clinton to once say, "I did better with the Palestinians and the Israelis... than I've done with Socks and Buddy."

Worse, when the Clintons left the White House, Buddy made the cut and moved to Chappaqua, while Socks was left behind, in the care of Bill's secretary. As I grapple with who to vote for this fall, I really have to consider this act of poor judgment and disloyalty. I'm just sayin'.

A Story Told From the Ruins

Published: October 7, 2007

Colwe600 TO most people, this swath of waterfront property along the Hudson River looks derelict and, especially to developers’ eyes, ripe for the wrecking ball. The old Anaconda Wire and Cable plant, closed since 1975, is a hulk of aging red brick and metal buildings.

Exhaust pipes protrude from the walls, and vines scale the bricks. Boarded and broken windows dot the buildings, and rusted fencing circles much of the plant. The factory, which was built in 1898 and expanded in 1912, later became notorious for polluting the Hudson with chemicals.

But to Robert Yasinsac, the defunct industrial property is a place of haunting beauty as well as historical significance. On a recent fall afternoon, with the sun dipping low on the Hudson, Mr. Yasinsac photographed the distinctive water tower on the site, and an old power station. A bit farther down the shoreline, he pointed out a hulk of metal, partly jutting out of the river and beached on the sandy shore. To the untrained eye, it looked like a piece of junk, with crabs crawling through its rusty pockets. But to Mr. Yasinsac, it was another hidden treasure.

“This is the wreck of a steamboat, the Lancaster,” he said. “It’s a relic of the Hudson’s history, with all those steamboats plying the river.”

He continued to poke along the shoreline, pointing out part of the boat’s hull in some overgrown brush, and examining loose bricks scattered nearby.

Mr. Yasinsac is an archaeologist, of sort. He’s into ruins. He and his friend Thomas Rinaldi roam the Hudson Valley, photographing structures of distinctive architecture that are threatened by neglect and development. Beautifully restored properties like Kykuit or Lyndhurst don’t compel them. They are drawn to far less glamorous sites like the Yonkers Power Station, built in 1906, and the Brandreth Pill Factory, built in Ossining in 1836.

Last year, the two came out with a book, “Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape” (University Press of New England). This fall they are lecturing around the Hudson Valley, hoping to draw attention to structures that are wasting away. In doing so, they hope to save some of them.

Mr. Yasinsac and Mr. Rinaldi say that historic buildings — the places that gave the Hudson Valley its identity — are disappearing at an alarming rate. They mourn the loss of places like the Briarcliff Lodge, in Briarcliff Manor, a once grand hotel that opened in 1902 and was later razed by a developer who eventually abandoned the project.

The sites the authors document include not only old factories, but also churches, firehouses, mills and dilapidated mansions that have fallen on hard times — places that haven’t been lucky enough to be considered tourist attractions.

“Most of the historic places in the Hudson Valley at one point were in ruins and have been restored to such an extent that you’d never know it,” Mr. Rinaldi said. “Boscobel was in an almost complete state of disrepair.”

Sometimes, they will try to get properties designated as landmarks to protect them. In 2005, Mr. Yasinsac argued that the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, in Yonkers, should be preserved because of its historical and architectural significance. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board rejected the designation, and the property is scheduled to be converted into medical offices and a health club.

He and Mr. Rinaldi are realistic. They don’t have the money to buy and restore properties themselves. If they can’t save the buildings, they reason, they can at least photograph them, creating a visual historical record of what once stood on the land.

“Every building has got a different story, and that’s what we’re trying to tell,” Mr. Yasinsac said. “We are trying to encourage the reuse of these sites, but the easiest thing for us to do at the moment is simply to document them.”

Mr. Rinaldi sees the artistic beauty in ruins. He noted that Thomas Cole, one of the best-known painters of the Hudson River School, complained about the lack of local ruins in the Hudson Valley. “There’s an aesthetic in decay that artists have found fascinating for a long time,” he said. “Something that’s been neglected long enough can become picturesque.”

Mr. Yasinsac and Mr. Rinaldi maintain a Web site ( that features a “Hudson Valley Demolition Alert,” a list of structures that they consider vulnerable.

Neither man has quit his day job. Mr. Rinaldi, 28, works in the capital projects office of the Central Park Conservancy in Manhattan. Mr. Yasinsac, 30, is a museum associate at Philipsburg Manor, the restored milling, farming and trading complex from the 17th to early 18th century in Sleepy Hollow. Some days he’s in period dress, in a frock coat or a milling apron. Working for an established historical site by day while combing the region for historic ruins in his time off makes perfect sense to him.

“We’re both out there telling stories and preserving aspects of history that people are not going to hear or see anywhere else,’’ he said.


Broccoli Two Ways

Chickendinner_2 I love broccoli, but plain old steamed broccoli can get boring over time. For two recent dinners - one with baked chicken and curried couscous, and the other with lamb chops and baked sweet potatoes - I made broccoli two different ways. Both are simple but just add a little flavor to the veggies.

For both variations, I steamed the broccoli first until it was crisp and bright green, butLamb_dinner_3 not soggy. (I steam it in the microwave - so easy.)

Variation 1 - while the broccoli is steaming, mix together two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil with the juice of half a lemon. Add freshly ground pepper. Toss the steamed broccoli in the mixture and serve.

Variation 2 - chop of two or three garlic cloves. Saute them in about three tablespoons of olive oil. While the garlic is cooking, shake some red hot pepper flakes in - about a teaspoon. When the garlic is crunchy (but hopefully not burned), toss the steamed broccoli into the garlic/pepper/olive oil dressing. I like to add some salt, but I over-salt everything.

Mommy Jobs

Plasticsurgeon Maybe you're like me, and you hadn't heard of the term "Mommy Job." I initially  assumed it meant some kind employment for mothers.

But no, a "Mommy Job," according to a recent story in the NY Times, is a trifecta of plastic surgeries - a breast lift, with or without implants, a tummy tuck and liposuction. These charming procedures are offered to new mothers, who are suffering from the "deformities" caused by giving birth, i.e. stretched out breasts, stomachs and skin. These "deformed" women, one presumes, are in their 30s.

Where is the moral outrage about this? People get riled up about clitoral surgery on women in Africa - it's grounds for political asylum, for Heaven's sake - but no one seems to be angry about the increasing pressure on women to mutilate themselves in the name of beauty, eternal youth, or whatever else is being pursued.

Why are perfectly healthy women going under the knife?  Much of it is money-driven of course. Cosmetic surgery is a cash cow for plastic surgeons. But this is also a women's issue. (You don't see men going under general anesthesia, to get shoulder implants and butt lifts.) 

Making aging a medical issue - to be treated by surgeries on the face and eyes and injections of toxins in the forehead and other junk in the cheeks and lips - was bad enough. But to turn childbirth into a deforming experience is almost criminal.

And Now, For A Commerical Break

Bilde This is my friend Carin. She recently published "Beyond The Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After....After the Kids Leave Home." Being a new empty nester myself, I not only contributed to the book (she interviewed me, anonymously thank God) but also read it. So far, I find she is dead on. She predicts three stages that Moms go through: grief, relief and joy.

Grief, you betcha. In fact, while I'm in the promotion business, I'll link you to my own article about how blue I felt when The Boy departed for college. But time marches on, and I now find myself in the relief stage. It's not that I'm happy the children are gone - I miss them both every day and think about them a lot. But two things happened yesterday that made me glad I'm not still in the throws of hands-on Mommying.

First, some one mentioned "Open House" to me and I just burst out laughing. It was a bit irrational, but just the idea that after attending say, 30 Open Houses (I'm counting 2 years of nursery school, and kindergarten through 12th grade, times two children), I never have to go to another one again, prompted a burst of happy relief.

Then, yesterday night, driving home from a lovely dinner out, I saw the streets filled with teenagers, high school students hanging out, with potential trouble all around. Not my problem. I don't know what either of my kids were up to last night. But I wasn't waiting up to hear a car pulling up the driveway or being awakened by cell phone calls telling me that they were going to be even later than expected.

Joy? Not yet, but so far Carin has been on the money. Check out the story about her in yesterday's Journal News.

MacBook Rising

Computer_on_platform_2 Hah! Victory is mine. I've been trying to figure out a way to continue to use my lap top in a way that strains neither the neck nor the wrists. (See yesterday's blog on this dilemma.) And while I grant you my solution is not pretty, and admit that it took hours with tech support, a trip to the Apple store, and involved the expenditure of yet more money, this new set up works.

Here's the deal. At the Apple store they sell something called the "Elevator." It is basically a stand for a laptop. It is sold as a "space saver" but what space are you saving? Would you store something under your lap top? Never mind that, what the elevator does is raises your screen to eye level. Then, I resurrected my old wireless mouse and wireless keyboard from the computer that melted down and synced that with my lap top. Now it kind of functions like a desk top when I sit down to write for hours, but when I go mobile, I can just lift the lap top off its nifty new stand and I'm good to go.

I'm feeling so self-satisfied about all this that I know the set up must be doomed in some unforeseen way. Stay tuned.

MacBook Woe

The very first entry I ever wrote on this blog was about the heart break ofMacbookpro my computer meltdown. It was a sad tale, but soon enough I was blogging about my new love affair with my MacBook Pro, my sweet little laptop that until now has brought me nothing but joy.

Workstation_3 And the machine itself - that is, it's very heart - has yet to betray me. The problem is, if you will, an ergonomic one. Think about it (and you might need to be middle-aged or older to follow me here): on a laptop, the screen is attached to the keyboard. That means that either you can have your wrists at a comfortable angle on the keyboard, but spend your working hours looking down at the screen, thereby straining your neck and shoulders, or you can have the screen at the right height for your eyes, and have your wrists bent backwards on the keyboard, which is just begging for carpal tunnel syndrome.

I have spent some time discussing this with both a physical therapist and with Mac tech support. The solution seems to be attaching a new keyboard to my lap top and possibly also attaching something called a VGA screen, which is essentially another monitor.

In other words, I'm kind of recreating a whole desk top, which is simply plugged into my lap top. P. Diddy's song - "More Money, More Problems" comes to mind, and this whole contraption is going to be cumbersome, expensive and look ridiculous.

Perhaps the more appropriate song lyric here is from the Rolling Stone's "Mother's Little Helper," i.e. "What a drag it is getting old...."

Campus News

Newspaper I am a big fan of student newspapers. I love to see young people learning the trade. And there's a special advantage to reading the school newspaper of the college your kid attends. For instance, unless I checked out The Boy's online campus news, I would never have known about "Knife Carrying Man Arrested After Entering Dorm Room." Somehow that story didn't make it into any of the presentations at a recent Parents Weekend.

Of course, I'm not sure how I feel about the sex column which poses the burning (sorry) question: "Is Using Lube a Good, Safe Sexual Option?" That story didn't get great placement (page 6) but was probably more widely read than the cover piece on "Budget Committee Approves Club Budgets." Still I say, "Viva la free press!"

Besides, what a great way to stay informed on campus news without being an obvious stalker.

Vows - Junko Ozao and Jason Choy

Published: September 30, 2007
WHEN Jason Choy dropped to one knee on a Manhattan street and finally proposed to Dr. Junko Ozao, it didn’t go as planned. “I thought he was ill,” recalled Dr. Ozao, 30, a surgical resident at Mount Sinai Hospital. “I said, ‘Oh, my gosh, man down! I have to take his pulse.’”

It was a typical setback for the couple, who met 11 years ago as Yale freshmen. She was in a library working on chemistry problems; he suddenly noticed her and began working to get her attention.

Dr. Ozao, a native of Scarsdale, N.Y., who favored a sophisticated black wardrobe, was taken aback by Mr. Choy’s flip-flops and California surfer drawl. “Here was this guy who seemed like me because he was Asian, but he was like this new species,” she said.

For Mr. Choy, it was the first day of a secret crush that he nurtured through four years at Yale, where his contacts with her were largely limited to group outings.

“She seemed confident and assertive in a way I didn’t expect from someone so demure,” said Mr. Choy, 29.

A few months after they met, he left a Valentine’s Day card for her. Mr. Choy, who is half-Korean and half-Japanese, signed it with his Japanese name, Akira.

Dr. Ozao, whose background is Japanese, was stumped. She did not suspect Mr. Choy; she had assumed from his surname that he was Korean.

Mr. Choy, who thought he’d been clever, was left to wonder, too. “I leave the valentine and she doesn’t say anything?” he said. “There was radio silence and I was crushed.”

That was more or less it until their senior year. Dr. Ozao was walking with some classmates when they came upon Mr. Choy with another woman. Suddenly, and to Dr. Ozao’s great surprise, she found herself becoming upset.

Her classmates decided it was time to set them up on a date, one they promised would be low-key. It was anything but. The couple went to a college dance where, according to tradition, participants are blindfolded and sent to find one another on an open field. As Mr. Choy and Dr. Ozao approached each other, students screamed encouragement.

It was, Mr. Choy said, “the worst date I’d ever been on.” Dr. Ozao agreed.

Mr. Choy figured that was that. But at the evening’s end, she hugged him, which encouraged him to ask her out again. Romance blossomed on their second date.

“He’s very friendly and such a nice guy,” Dr. Ozao said. Her friend, Carrie Trowbridge, added: “He opens her up a bit, because he’s so exuberant and social. She grounds him.”

Mr. Choy said that he and Dr. Ozao both lost their fathers at a young age, and Dr. Ozao had to endure her mother’s fight with colon cancer. “When times are difficult you really need to know that the person you’re with is a solid person you can depend on,” Mr. Choy said.

Yet, he adds, she’s a bundle of contradictions. “She’s very focused, very driven,” he said. “On the other hand, there’s a side of her that’s very much tender and very, very affectionate.”

They graduated from Yale in 1999, whereupon Dr. Ozao entered Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire. Mr. Choy proved his devotion with marathon bus rides that grew even longer when he entered the University of Pennsylvania law school. Both later ended up in New York, she as a Mount Sinai Hospital resident and he as an associate with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

Mr. Choy envisioned a romantic marriage proposal under the same tree in New Haven where they shared their first kiss. But because of her hospital schedule, he proposed instead outside a Manhattan restaurant.

On the way to their Sept. 15 wedding, the couple faced more than one roadblock, including a scheduling conflict with a jazz festival that would have drowned out their ceremony, and delays in getting her wedding dress. “It’s easier to remove a gallbladder, an appendix and to stop a bleeding heart than it is to plan a wedding,” Dr. Ozao said.

Once the day finally came, all went smoothly at Harvest-on-Hudson, a riverside restaurant in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. The morning, which began gray and blustery, gave way to sunshine as the couple were escorted down the aisle by their mothers.

After the ceremony, at which Judge Robert Cerrato of the Yonkers City Court officiated with assistance from Elizabeth Phaire, a nondenominational minister, the couple held a sake ceremony, signifying new beginnings.

“My mom had stage 3 colon cancer,” the bride said afterward. “She just asked to have 10 more years to see her daughter grow up. Modern medicine cured her. And now she’s at my wedding. It’s amazing.”

Lucky Birthday Girl

Birthdaycake Yesterday was my birthday. The number shall not be mentioned here - it wasn't a "big" birthday, though the digits are getting alarmingly large. But it was a particularly nice birthday, sandwiched as it was, between seeing both my children and being with The Weatherman.

The day began perfectly, with The Weatherman bringing me coffee in bed. We were up in New England, for Parents Weekend at the Boy's college. We drove from the Inn where we were staying over to the school to spend a little more time with Boy before starting the long drive home. The Boy seems completely happy with college life. Naturally, I milked my birthday hug for everything it was worth. The Boy made me a lovely card and burned a CD for me to listen to during the car ride. The Boy is a DJ after my own heart - the music was incredibly eclectic, ranging from rap (Akon)  to Lynyrd Skynyrd, with some disco (Parliament's "Give Up the Funk") and country (The Soggy Bottom Boys). It was most enjoyable.

After our goodbyes and a six hour drive, I arrived home to find my daughter cooking me a birthday dinner. She had taken the subway and train from Brooklyn, and then walked home from the station. She made a delicious pasta (with fresh tomatoes, basil, Parmesan, onion and garlic) and salad (arugula, apples, blue cheese) AND baked a birthday cake.

It doesn't get any better than this unless you throw in phone calls, cards and gifts from family and friends. I felt like a very lucky birthday girl indeed.