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Judy Blume, Interviewed
Published on November 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

I loved Judy Blume's books when I was a kid, and read everything by her that I could get my hands on. Her young adult novel "Then Again, Maybe I Won't," is one of my favorite books of all time, and I probably read it about 12 times. (My other young adult author hero is Robert Cormier. His book "The Chocolate War" is also pretty amazing.) And when I was in fifth grade I had the opportunity to go see Blume speak and get her autograph. So that was pretty cool. (I believe she autographed "Just As Long As We're Together," thought I'm not entirely positive.)

Anyway, courtesy of NPR comes an interview with Judy Blume. She talks about censorship, getting kids to read and advice for young writers. You can check it out here.


Bike Safety Haiku
Published on November 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

This is pretty cool: New York City is using haiku to promote awareness of cyclist safety. The poetry is printed on colorful signs, which are being installed at high-crash locations.

Sample haiku:

"Oncoming cars rush

Each a 3-ton bullet

And you, flesh and bone."

I love it! We need bike safety haikus in Albany!


Does Sex Addiction Really Exist?
Published on November 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

The new film "Shame," in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict, has been getting rave reviews. And Newsweek recently ran an article about the "sex addiction epidemic."

Over at Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory interviews clinical psychologist David Ley, author of the upcoming book "The Myth of Sex Addiction," about why this is all a bunch of nonsense. It's pretty interesting, and you can check it out here.


My New Hero
Published on November 30, 2011 by Sara Foss

My new hero is Emma Sullivan, the Kansas teenager who tweeted that Gov. Sam Brownback "sucked."

You might think the governor's office would have ignored this missive, having better things to do, like run the state of Kansas, but no. Brownback's office noticed the tweet, and the governor's spokesperson said that it "wasn't respectful." Sullivan was summoned to the principal's office for an hour-long tongue lashing, but remained unrepentant, and refused to apologize. Apparently she understands the concept of the First Amendment better than her elders.

The most idiotic response to the controversy came from Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus. You might think Marcus would have more important things to write about, but now. She devoted a whole column to Simmons' bad manners. "Emma Sullivan, you’re lucky you’re not my daughter. (Dangerous sentence, I know: My daughters might agree.) If you were my daughter, you’d be writing that letter apologizing to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for the smart­alecky, potty-mouthed tweet you wrote after meeting with him on a school field trip. ... More to the point, as I constantly remind my daughters, parents are not bound by constitutional constraints. The Constitution does not grant teenagers the fundamental right to have a cellphone or use foul language on it. The parental role is to inculcate values of respect for authority — even those you disagree with — and the importance of civil discourse. It’s not to stand up for your little darling no matter how much she mouths off." 

Yawn. I've already expressed my views on civil discourse. Basically, I'm not sure it's as important as Ruth Marcus is. Could Emma Sullivan provided a more fully articulated explanation as to why Governor Brownback sucks? Sure, I guess. But I'd say that the governor needs to develop a thicker skin. And that there's room for all kinds of commentary - including the more juvenile kind - in this great land of ours.

Esquire's Charles Pierce has more.

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Lessons in Parenting
Babies and Television
Published on November 29, 2011 by guest author: J LeBlanc

We do not have “television” in the proper sense. We watch movies and other programs on DVD. Now, however, this activity has been relegated to times when our son is asleep. My husband and I made this decision upon discovering that our son, who usually loved nothing more than to play and interact with us, would stare at the TV, transfixed, if it was on. Even if he did keep playing, it wasn’t exactly easy for us to pay attention to our programming. More importantly, we were bothered by his reaction to the TV.

The last time I was at someone’s house who had television, I was struck by how much it has changed since I was young, especially the advertisements. Commercials I grew up with, like the Life cereal one where his brother offers Mikey some cereal and is surprised to find that “He likes it!” seem pretty sedate when compared with the explosions of sound and color that seem to accompany today’s commercials, as if every one were its own fireworks display.

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Carol of the Beasts
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about animals and their fondness for the holidays, and what you can do to help them enjoy the holiday season.

Here's an excerpt:

"Our old beagle Buddy liked Christmas as much as any kid. In the days leading up to Christmas, he’d run around sniffing everything, begging for gingerbread, nosing out presents hidden in boxes or under beds and unwrapping anything under the tree.

After a few years he learned to wait, and on Christmas morning he’d be rewarded with something rolled up in a piece of tissue paper — usually a little red ball. The first year, he shredded his present within a few minutes and hid pieces of it around the house to find, with great joy and much bellowing, in later months.

After a few more years he learned to be more careful with his Christmas ball, carrying it around in his mouth from the living room to his bed to his dinner bowl. Sometime in the spring we’d find it, behind a radiator or under a dresser, wash it and save it for the next year. He probably got the same ball for the last five Christmases of his life.

Our replacement dogs have never been quite as crazy about Christmas as Buddy, just as our later flocks of hens have never been as festive as our first flock, who we are pretty sure loved the song 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing' more than most birds."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Prout's Neck, Maine, Thanksgiving Weekend
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

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Drinking is Good For You?
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

We often hear that drinking too much is bad for our health. But research suggests that drinking too little can also be problematic.

On Alternet, Anneli Rufus writes:

"I don't want to go to rehab, but a raft of recent studies show that moderate alcohol consumption lowers our risks for many dire conditions including heart disease, stroke, gallstones, diabetes and dementia. Some studies even suggest that the answer to pesky menopause symptoms comes in six-packs and goes great with pretzels.

The keyword here is "moderate." Some studies define this as one drink per week; others as up to four drinks per day. This haziness notwithstanding, these studies show that heavy drinkers are far more likely than moderate drinkers to die from certain diseases.

But so are people who don't drink at all."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Overall, I'd say that these studies are good news for the likes of me, as well as most of my family, and many of my friends.


Watching "The Muppets"
Published on November 29, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review "The Muppets."

Some links:

Julie Klausner on why Kermit is a terrible boyfriend

Sam Adams on the unlikely origins of the popular Muppets tune "Mahna Mahna"

Jason Bellamy on why he didn't like "The Muppets"

 


Candy As Currency
Published on November 28, 2011 by guest author: A Espeseth

My son is four. We have celebrated Halloween with him – maneuvering him into a getup and shuffling him around the neighborhood – ever since he was one and couldn’t even walk on his own. He was a gorilla and I was Faye Ray. He clung to me as I collected the candy.

The second year, when he could walk and talk, he selected a giraffe costume, and because we forgot about needing a bag to collect candy, we grabbed a paper cup from the neighborhood Halloween pre-party and he used that to hold his take. We made it to maybe four houses before he spilled the contents of the cup and we went home. The third year he caught on to the candy and costume bit. He made it all the way around the block and we made sure he had a proper bag for his collection. No spills this time, and the enticement of candy was enough to dispel the fear of approaching complete strangers. But once the event was over, the candy was pretty much forgotten. My husband and I ate some, and then the rest was pitched.

This year was a new frontier. My son began considering his attire for the occasion weeks, if not months, in advance, and the promise of sugar caused his eyes – no, his whole body – to dance as though just the idea of candy spiked his insulin levels. The nagging for candy started even before it was in hand, and my husband and I quickly decided we’d already had enough. Candy was a demon that would have to be exorcised from our home.

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My First Black Friday
Published on November 28, 2011 by guest author: R.B. Austen

I don’t participate in Black Friday.

Our family usually heads out to a movie that day and avoids the holiday retail experience. A few years ago, my sister and I did go to the mall in search of an advertised great deal on Uggs. Being new to the Black Friday experience, we waited until late afternoon and soon found out that the great deal had been sold out. And I still don’t own any Uggs. Luckily.

When I was hired for my part-time position at a Generic Women’s Apparel Outlet, I was told that I would be required to work Black Friday. I almost didn’t take the job because that’s the day my husband and I leave one family’s Thanksgiving celebration and head to the other’s. I was, however, looking for a job and figured that breaking up the holiday weekend for one day wouldn’t be too bad.

A week before Thanksgiving I asked the assistant manager why the Thanksgiving week shifts hadn’t been posted. She said the schedule had been worked out, but had to be approved and finalized. She showed me the schedule and I was only on for Black Friday. I was very relieved. Then I returned to work on Saturday and saw the official schedule had been posted. With a sigh I saw that I was working my scheduled Black Friday shift, but a 4-hour Saturday shift had been added. I quickly found the manager and told her I couldn’t work that day as I would be out of the state. She looked at me with surprise and said that it had been a requirement when I was hired. Apparently, when I was informed about working Black Friday, the manager had actually meant Black Friday Weekend.

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Anne McCaffrey, R.I.P.
Published on November 28, 2011 by Sara Foss

I wanted to note the recent death of novelist Anne McCaffrey, who wrote the excellent fantasy series Dragonriders of Pern, which I absolutely loved when I was 13 years old.

Here are some links to articles about McCaffrey.

Neil Gaiman remembers Anne McCaffrey.

The New York Times runs a lengthy obit.

In July, "Princess Diaries" author Meg Cabot talked about McCaffrey in an interview with the L.A. Times.

 


On Hating
Published on November 28, 2011 by Sara Foss

I've been known to be somewhat free with my use of the word hate, prompting my father to once observe, "We didn't raise you to hate."

Last year, after I declared my hatred of the Miami Heat, a reader informed me that "hate is a very strong word." Which is true. I guess. Anyway. Rather than change my ways, I decided to write a whole column about all the things I hate. This list included Bed, Bath & Beyond, colleges and universities that pay their presidents $1 million or more and people who stop to answer their cell phones in the middle of doorways. 

Petty?

Perhaps.

But it's unlikely I'll ever change.

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Inside the Bank Bailout
Published on November 28, 2011 by Sara Foss

Bloomberg did a bang-up job with today's report on the bank bailout.

The first four paragraphs are enough to make your blood boil. Here they are:

"The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue.

Saved by the bailout, bankers lobbied against government regulations, a job made easier by the Fed, which never disclosed the details of the rescue to lawmakers even as Congress doled out more money and debated new rules aimed at preventing the next collapse.

A fresh narrative of the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 emerges from 29,000 pages of Fed documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and central bank records of more than 21,000 transactions. While Fed officials say that almost all of the loans were repaid and there have been no losses, details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger."

Click here to read the whole thing.

 


My Christmas List
Published on November 28, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I post my Christmas list.

Click here to read it.


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