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February 2011
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April 2011

March 2011

The Woman of Rock Over Time

OK - my verdict is in. I think the women have aged a lot better. Maybe it was less hard living. Maybe it was botox, plastic surgery and other cosmetic efforts. I'm not saying that  anyone of us exactly improves over time. But please compare and contrast the guys and the gals. On balance, I say the gals have it. Check it out:

Stevie Nicks

Joan Jett

Pat Benatar

And Patti Smith - never a conventional beauty, but still looking at least healthy, especially relative to the guys.


More Adirondack Winter

Images It may be spring in many parts of the country, but it is still the dead of winter in the Adirondack region of New York. The Weatherman and I were up there this weekend. On Saturday we went snowshoeing on a frozen lake. I was a bit nervous about it, but the Weatherman pointed out that the temperature had been below zero for several nights in a row. Locals told us that "ice shanties" for ice fishing were still up.

Anyway, it was very beautiful, with the sun glinting off the ice and the gorgeous views. But by midday you could hear what sounded like distant thunder, and what was actually shifts in the ice below. Time to trek back up to the shore.

And also time to get back to the realities of rewrites. One of the suggestions the editor made was to put more of my relationship with The Boy in the book. I really need to figure out where this is appropriate and what anecdotes would resonate with other mothers and sons. Onward.

Cousin Brucie - Song Detective

Images Have you ever had just a few bars of a song swimming around in your head, but you just can't remember the whole thing, let alone the title or the name of the artist? For ages, I have had fragments of what I thought of as the "Doot Doot" song in my head, and all I could remember was the opening line: "Do I love you?" and a kind of doo-wap chorus. It was driving me crazy.

Well yesterday I was listening to Cousin Brucie (any Baby Boomer worth his salt will remember him as THE 60's dj) on satellite radio and he said that if anyone was trying to remember a song, just email what ever you could remember about it, and he'd play song detective. I sent off an email to with what little information I had. Imagine my excitement when I promptly got a response with the follow link. Cousin Brucie found it! And it was as great as I remembered!

It was called "I Do" and by a group called the Marvelows, recorded in 1965. At last!

Thanks Cousin Brucie!


Facebook Memorial

Unknown Yesterday I went on to Facebook and saw a notification that it was my friend Paul's birthday. This was startling, since Paul passed away last November.

I clicked on his homepage, and found that people had used the occasion to write tributes and remember him on this day. Because he was a pediatric cardiologist, there were numbers of people who simply wrote that if not for Paul, they wouldn't be here today. They meant that literally - Paul was in the business of saving babies' lives. There were also tributes from young doctors who had trained with Paul, people who had gone to high school with him, people who simply wrote that they missed his laugh -which, by the way, was particularly great.

But in the end, it was his photo gallery that was the most gripping, because there he was, in shot after shot, smiling on the beach with his family, all dressed up in a tuxedo at a fancy event with his wife, Paul receiving an award, and my favorite - just a shot of his two sons, both giving thumbs up, each with a smile that echoed his own.

Just about everyone wrote about how much they missed him. I used to think Facebook memorials were kind of creepy but I've changed my mind. It was like having a small cyber visit with Paul. Just wish it could have been the real thing.


Unknown When the Weatherman and I flew home from Cozumel on Saturday, we had a connecting flight in Atlanta. The airport was swarming with soldiers. We spoke to one young man who told us they had been on a huge cargo plane, and had been traveling 20 hours to get home from Iraq. They were back for "a little R & R" he said, and then would head back over to Iraq. Some of the troops looked so young, but there was a fair share of graying, balding soldiers too. One particularly good looking young guy had a stuffed tiger tied to his enormous pack, clearly a gift for a little one in his life.

Last night I was at a Food Pantry Board meeting. We wrapped up business at 9:30 p.m., but then a few of us stayed an extra half an hour. Why? Because one of the board members has a son who recently joined the Marines. She had brought photos from family weekend at Paris Island. There were more than 3 dozen, but she went through each one slowly, lovingly, with comments like, "look - that's more of his natural smile," and "it's good he got the crew cut. He started losing his hair during boot camp. I think it's the stress." Her son is 21; I've worked with him at the Pantry. He looks exactly like his mom, has a gentle manner and incredibly good manners.

As of today, the Department of Defense has identified 4,430 American service men and women who have died since the start of the Iraq war, and 1,493 who have died as part of the Afghan war and related conflicts. 



Images What is that white stuff covering the lawn and falling from the sky? Where are my tropical blues and greens? Images-1

The Weatherman and I are back from a week in Cozumel, where everything was warm and beautiful and relaxing. It was wonderful to be away and together.

We were not completely isolated. I did not pack the computer, but couldn't help checking CNN every day, as the disaster in Japan unfolded and the Middle East continued to heat up. Even lying on the beach I was remembering where I kept the potassium iodide pills that our family was issued, since we live within 10 miles of a nuclear power plant ourselves. The images from Japan were heart breaking and the news from Libya scary. Still, I don't know why it all seems so much more real when you are in New York than when you are in Mexico.

Anyway, back to reality. I got a detailed note from my editor about the book. Mostly quite positive I am happy to report, but two chapters need some work. More details to follow...


Books, Books, Books

1290110709-just-kids Back when the kids were in elementary school, my friend Emily and I Cleopatra-a-life-by-stacy-shiff-21610265 decided to start a book group. We approached a few women, picked out our first book (please don't ask which one -I can't even remember why I walked into the room) and started meeting monthly.

Fast forward almost 15 years and we are still together. Some members have dropped out and new ones have joined but the core group remains. We met last night and as I looked around the room I felt so grateful for all the friendship, not to mention the expansion of literary horizons, this group has afforded over the years.

Images You can check out the books tab on the left to see some of the many books we've read. It's not up to date, though. Last night we were discussing Patti Smith's Just Kids, which we all loved. The month before it was A Visit From The Goon Squad, which received a more mixed review. Before that it was Stacy Shiff's biography of Cleopatra, which a handful of people found a slog, but others, myself included, found fascinating.

Next month - "Swamplandia." By now I have read dozens of books I would have been unlikely to choose on my own, and have almost always been glad for the exposure. Our conversations have always strayed outside of mere literary discussion. For years it was about our little kids, and for a long stretch, adolescent difficulties, and then the college admission follies. Now we tend to focus more on the content of the book, but when we get off topic, conversation veers towards middle age issues, such as the burning question of whether you can actually get a "neck lift."

In the publicity packet the publisher sent me, I was told to come up with possible questions for a book group discussion. Wouldn't that be a kick?!


Operating Room Music

Unknown-1 After My Daughter was delivered by caesarian section, my obstetrician was bopping away down by the incision and commented, "Oh, good. I like this beat. It makes the sewing go faster." 

It was the first time I realized that surgeons listen to music in the operating room. When The Boy was born, the song, "I Got You Babe" was playing, highly appropriate for the occasion.

According to an article in Salon, the connection between music and medicine runs deep. In fact, Apollo, the God of healing, is often depicted with a lyre, an instrument akin to the harp. Evidently surgeons who have studied an instrument are better at suturing. (Think about it - both use manual skills.) And a study published In The Journal of The American Medical Association measured doctors' blood pressure, heart rate and other indicators of stress while they performed a series of subtraction problems and listened to music.  It turns out the doctors did better if they were listening to music of their own choosing than if they were listening to music selected by researchers, which included such calming pieces as "Pachelbel's Canon in D."

The article goes into far more detail, but my take home is that it's ok to have music in the operating room, but that the surgeon should listen to whatever he or she likes. Which means that when you are shopping around for a doctor, you need to factor in not only the usual stuff - skills, reputation, how many times they have done this operation - but also musical taste. Because I don't want to be unconscious while someone is rooting around my body to the tunes of "AC/DC."


Cyber Love

Unknown It's not enough that I nursed a big crush on Watson, the IBM computer that became a Jeopardy champ. Now I've got a little thing going for my new MacBook Pro.

I feel like one of those people who dumps a middle-aged spouse for a younger, slimmer model. But can you blame me? My old computer was slow, warn down and cranky. This new one is so fast, so sleek, so responsive and just so darn cute. And like a trophy spouse, it was also very expensive, so I am treating it with kid gloves. Actually, I wish I had a pair, because I'm worried about every little smudge this pretty keyboard might receive.

Anyway, the two computers - old and new- were able to communicate wirelessly, so the old one imparted everything it knew to the new one. It's all very civilized and I hope we can all stay friends.

Writing: It's A Skill

Images-1 My local school board just announced that students in the fifth through eighth grades would no longer be given letter grades for English. They believe that this approach will produce better writers.

"This method avoids a student being labeled as a 'B' writer, for example. It encourages them to take risks and grow," the Middle School English Department Chairwoman explained.

What on earth is wrong with being labeled as a 'B' writer? Might that not encourage a child to take more care with his work, so he could become an 'A' writer? Not to mention that  evaluating writing - particularly at the Middle School level - is not subjective. Kids need to master sentence structure, punctuation, grammar and spelling.

By that logic, why grade math or science? After all, we don't want any budding Nobel prize winners to become discouraged if they can't master Algebra. ERRRRRGH! Perhaps I'm becoming an old curmudgeon, but this seems one more example of "self-esteem" parenting/teaching gone wild.


The Long Journey Home

Unknown My  new computer has arrived! The lap top I've been working on is more than four years old, which in computer years, makes it about 85. You can no longer make out the "a" "e" "s" "d" or "n" letters on the keyboard and some others are fading fast. But I was far too superstitious to replace my MacBook Pro in the middle of writing the book, despite the fact that I had backed it up in myriad ways.

The title of this post refers to the computer's journey. I have been tracking it with anticipation. It started its trip in Shanghai, China on Feb. 26. There seem to have been a few stops in Shanghai, and then it made its way to the Fed Ex center in Anchorage, Alaska, where it arrived on Feb. 28. It has just a few hours to rest up, and clear "international shipment release" before it made another long trip from Alaska to Newark, New Jersey. By now it was March 1, but there was little downtime for our little MacBook Pro. The next day he was bound for Elmsford, New York. He arrived there at 8:12 a.m. and by 8:27 a.m. he was on a Fed Ex truck and heading to my house. 

After all this, the driver went to the wrong house. But because I had been tracking the computer's trip so carefully (I was really breathless with anticipation) I caught this early, they made a new delivery attempt, and by 4 p.m. yesterday, it was in the house.

You already knew I was a nerd by my Watson obsession. Now you know how bad it is - there are actually people who click on the tracking number of an online order for sheer entertainment. 

Anyway, it is still in its box in the back hall. I feel I should give it another few hours to collect itself after all this world travel before I ask it to get to work.



Hollywood Standards

Images-1 Great article by David Carr in yesterday's NY Times on how Hollywood has tolerated Charlie Sheen's ongoing history of abuse towards women,  only pulling the plug on his show after the actor insulted his producer. 

Like many people, I find it hard to resist watching the train wreck that has been Charlie Sheen over the last few days, with his appalling public melt down. But, as Carr points, out, how about when he pushed his then-wife Denise Richards on the ground, threw a chair at her, and threatened to kill her? Or when he was arrested on felony charges a few years later with another wife, after holding a knife to her neck? And then there was an incident in which his escort locked herself in a hotel bathroom, after Sheen went on a rampage and wrapped his hands around her neck and threatened her too? 

 None of this was enough to get Charlie Sheen's show shut down. But insulting your boss and calling him "a clown"? Now that is unacceptable!