Top Reads of the Week
Published on March 23, 2012 by Sara Foss

Music: Brian McElhiney on listening to his entire CD collection

Poetry: Dan Schneider on the Open Mic scene

Phobias: Sara Foss on her fear of math

Parenting: Cindy Crawford on traveling with children, and J LeBlanc on reading aloud to kids

Real Estate: Adam Rust on a hiccup in the home-buying process

Published on March 22, 2012 by Sara Foss

After it was announced that the Denver Broncos were going to sign Peyton Manning and trade Tim Tebow, I emailed my friend Dave, who is Broncos fan.

Was he happy?

You bet.

Dave was never entirely on board with the whole Tebowmania thing. He wrote, "My favorite non-Bronco is now a Bronco? Te-who?"

I, too, was happy, mainly because Tebow is going to the Jets. Last season, I greatly annoyed making fun of both the Jets and Tim Tebow, and this trade will doubtless increase the opportunities for mockery. Just imagining what it will be like to watch Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Tebow and Santonio Holmes interact brings a smile to my face. 

Of course, I don't really expect to see Tebow play very much. Sanchez is the Jets' starting quarterback, and although Sanchez has his flaws, he's a much better QB than Tebow. Maybe the Jets have some other plan for Tebow. Who knows. But I'm already looking forward to next year's Jets-Patriots games. Watching the Pats eviscerate the Broncos was one of the highlights of last year's NFL season.

I am not as convinced as everyone else that signing Peyton Manning is a slam dunk. In fact, I'm not even sure it makes sense for Peyton to continue playing football, given that he is recovering from a neck injury. Why risk another neck injury? He has a Super Bowl ring and four MVP awards. What else does he need to prove? That said, I'm looking forward to Peyton's return to the NFL. He's a great player, and it will be fun to watch his comeback.

Next season's NFL season should be intriguing, especially with Saints coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire year because of a bounty scandal. The offseason has been terrific, and the games will probably be even better.



Speaking Fees
Published on March 22, 2012 by Sara Foss

A couple of years ago, I was invited to talk about journalism by a women's group at a local Unitarian church. Afterward, they mailed me a $40 check to express their appreciation. Knowing that my newspaper would regard accepting the money as ethically suspect, I wrote a $40 donation to a local food pantry.

I didn't mind doing this, but it seemed totally absurd, given the speaking fees that big-time journalists command.

A recent CJR piece sheds more light on the amount of money reporters and editors get paid for speaking to groups they ostensibly cover. Of particular concern is the fact that people who regularly cover Wall Street are essentially enriching themselves by talking to the people on their beat. According to the piece:

"Many journalists give paid speeches to businesses and business groups. And Wall Street, as it happens, is probably the top source of such engagements. Household names like Bank of America as well as obscure hedge funds, private-equity firms, and others in the financial world frequently hire journalists—including scribes who regularly cover Wall Street—to deliver speeches at events ranging from publicized conferences to small private dinners with select clients. Millions of dollars have flowed to journalists in speaking fees in recent years." 
Click here to read the whole thing.


Mommy Making It Work
The Tribulations of Traveling with Small Children
Published on March 21, 2012 by guest author: Cindy F. Crawford

My identical twin and little sister live on the other side of the country, so the only way to see them is to fly there. Without kids, it’s no big thing. With kids, it’s a nightmare.

My most recent cross-country trip via airplane with two small kids, ages 2 and 5, was to Spokane, Wash., for my twin’s Idaho wedding. That’s right. I said Idaho. From Alabama, that’s three airplanes and about 10 to 12 hours of traveling. And it was in mid-January, when it snows in that part of the country. A lot. So there was no guarantee our original flights were going to stick.

And they didn’t. We had layovers and flight swaps going both ways. Going there, we couldn’t go through Denver because of a snowstorm. We were rerouted through Minneapolis and it was 12 a.m. when we got to Spokane, which was 2 a.m. our time (central).


Why Street Art is Awesome
Published on March 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

I'm a big fan of street art, and I enjoyed this piece on Salon about the beauty of street art. There are lots of pictures, so check it out.

But Who Will Protect Us From George Zimmerman?
Published on March 21, 2012 by Sara Foss

After learning about the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was gunned down after leaving a convenience store with Skittles and iced tea, I asked whether it would be OK for me to declare myself a neighborhood watch captain, arm myself and shoot anyone I deemed suspicious. Wouldn't the world be a better place if I did that?

Well, no, it wouldn't - I was being sarcastic. There are a lot of things to object to in the story of Trayvon Martin, and a lot of the discussion has centered on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which gives people who feel threatened the right to use force without first making an attempt to retreat. (Emily Bazelon explains the law's history in Slate.) Trayvon's killer, self-proclaimed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, wasn't charged by local police, presumably because no one witnessed the attack and because he claimed self-defense. But recent reports suggest that the local police are a bunch of bumbling fools, and left a whole lot of questions unasked. Fortunately, ThinkProgress has compiled a list of 20 facts about the Martin case, for people who might not realize what an outrage it is.


Lessons in Parenting
It's Never Too Early To Start Reading Aloud
Published on March 20, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

Reading aloud came naturally for us from the start - my husband and I are avid readers, and what better activity for me as the mother of a newborn, spending much of my days nursing and holding a sleeping baby, than to read. Our reading aloud habits have changed gradually over time. At first, I could spend the better part of a day reading aloud to my son as he nursed or slept. Later, as he slept less and began to be interested in grasping objects, I read to him primarily while he nursed, which was still a significant portion of the day. Eventually, he would unlatch while nursing, give me a mischievous smile, and feel for the book he knew would be there. That is when we switched to picture books.

This transition was probably the hardest. As with all babies, the book was just another object he wanted to grab and chew. We had board books and a couple of cloth ones, but we also established a reading etiquette. I allowed him to do as he pleased with the cloth books and sacrificed a board book I didn’t care for so that he could practice turning the pages by himself (it was subsequently torn in two), but during “reading time,” he didn’t touch the book. He sat on our laps and watched the pages as we read. My husband especially had a strict “no touching the book” policy - at least not until he had finished reading the book, after which point he would let our son hold it, but not put it in his mouth. I started out this way as well, except that I relaxed once I realized he really wanted to turn the pages himself - first the board books and then the paper ones, too - and he was really quite well-behaved about it, waiting patiently for me to lift the page enough for him to turn it.


Fixing Up A Foreclosure
A Hiccup
Published on March 20, 2012 by guest author: Adam Rust

Adam Rust is purchasing a foreclosed house and fixing it up for renters. This blog post is part of a series about that process.

We were quietly surveying the scores of legal books on the shelves of the meeting room when my lawyer came in. He was late, and when he sat down he threw several folders stuffed with all kinds of papers on to the table.

“I cannot imagine how these guys can get away with working like this,” he said. “Here we are, thirty minutes to closing, and they need me to have you sign two new disclosure forms. And, until you do that, they won’t give me the closing documents. And until they do that, the bank won’t give you any money.”

HUD wants my signature on a document that says that I knowingly turned the water on. I can agree with their point, but the problem is timing. If they wanted to put a new contingency into the deal, it needed to happen on Friday.

I knew that things were in play after the leaking water heater ruined a carpet and the ceiling in the house. The realtor said that I would be on the hook for it. But now that it seems like we are not going to close, I see a potential fight over the water. My lawyer is mad about that, too.

“As-is is the operating word here,” he says. “I get that. But ‘as-is’ means you have a right to know what the ‘is’ is. If you can’t turn on the water, then how you can utilize your right?”


Watching "A Separation"
Published on March 20, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Iranian film "A Separation," which won the Oscar for best foreign film.

Click here to read it.

Notes On Poetry, Online And Otherwise
Closed Mic - A Dive Into the Local Poetry Scene
Published on March 19, 2012 by guest author: Dan Schneider

A couple weeks ago I decided to check out a local open mike. I wanted to see what other people were writing, get a chance to meet some fellow writers, maybe even read some things I’d written recently. The open mic night was hosted by a local writing center, so I hoped it might attract a more literary crowd than a reading at any old café or bar.

I was running a little late as usual, and was worried when I climbed the stairs to the second floor that I’d be interrupting the first or second reader by barging though the double doors. But when I got to the small room with a podium and rows of chairs climbing to the back, a man stood waiting patiently for all stragglers to file in and take a seat. There were probably a dozen or so people, a few younger, most middle aged, seated in groups of two or three, black winter coats draped behind their chairs. Maybe another dozen came in by the time the night was over.

The host read some poems from his magazine and then opened up the floor by saying, “We haven’t had a sign in sheet for this reading yet, and though we might start one someday, I don’t see the need to do it now.” And he invited anyone who cared to read to come forward and do so.

I did not have terribly high expectations for the night, but considering what came next, I might have been asking to be ferried to the moon and back in the arms of a stuffed walrus.

I am surely revealing myself to be complete snob, but the reading fulfilled almost any open mic cliché you can think of. Ho hum Haiku? Check. Guitar players? Check. Long-winded, self-important old guys? Check. Random/angry bearded poet playing atonal ditties on the concertina between poems? Oh yes.


No Bracket For Me
Published on March 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I ponder March Madness.

Here's the gist: Despite being a basketball fanatic, I don't really care about it.

Click here to learn more.

Everything is Bad For You
Published on March 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

In her weekly environmental column over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about how almost everything we use is bad for us.

Here's an excerpt:

"As I suspected, everything is bad for you. Washing, eating, cleaning, the sun, sunscreen — everything.

Makes you want to just curl up and go back to bed. Except that your bed is probably bad for you too.

The more we read labels to avoid ingredients that are known to be bad for us, the longer that list grows. Now a new study says we have to watch out for all those things that aren’t even listed on labels.

The Silent Spring Institute, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that researches links between chemical exposure and health problems, just released a report about hormone-disrupting chemicals in consumer products.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at more than 200 common consumer products, from cat litter and diapers to a wide variety of cleaning products. Researchers found 55 chemicals that are known hormone disrupters (linked to breast cancer among other diseases and conditions) or asthma triggers in the products they tested."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Fear of Math
Published on March 19, 2012 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my greatest phobia: math.

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve got a number of phobias, and I’ve mentioned a few of them before: crowds, public speaking, karaoke.

But I’ve rarely discussed my biggest phobia, which is math.

Unlike my fears of crowds, public speaking and karaoke, I’ve always felt a little bit ashamed of my fear of math. I don’t think there’s ever been a subject I’ve worked harder in for less satisfying results. Numbers have always confounded me, and I suspect they always will.

Years ago, I read the book 'Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences' in an effort to get a handle on the problem, but it didn’t help. Instead, it just made me depressed. The author, John Allen Paulos, makes it clear that incompetence with numbers is nothing to be proud of and that there’s real value to understanding concepts such as probability and coincidence and knowing how to work with and interpret statistics."

Click here to read the whole thing.

From A to Z: A Journey Through My CD Collection
Published on March 19, 2012 by guest author: Brian McElhiney

Music collecting is serious business for my best friend Steve and me.

It always has been, ever since we first met in 8th grade back in 1998. Just about every weekend, I would go over to Steve’s house and we’d spend our Saturdays skateboarding around the small back streets of Okinawa, Japan, hitting up local mom-and-pop CD stores and buying up whatever we could afford - back then it was lots of Metallica, Nirvana and Korn CDs.

Steve moved to the Chicago area the next year, but our friendship — and our voracious music acquisition - continued unfettered through our high school and college years. We still update each other whenever we buy new CDs or records - our recent purchases include Sonny and Cher, The Turtles, Soulfly, Wild Flag and Foster the People, to name a few off the top of my head. Neither of us ever really made the move to digital music, so we both have hundreds of CDs and vinyl albums crowding our respective homes

One night in the fall of last year, we were talking on the phone about - what else - music. I was pacing in front of my CD collection - which is arranged alphabetically - occasionally pulling an album out of the rack and glancing at the artwork. Some of them I had completely forgotten I owned - like the Promise Ring’s “Horse Latitudes” mini-album that I purchased during a college trip to Portland, Ore., and D.C. post-punk band Nation of Ulysses’ first album. Still others I have no memory of actually having listened to at any point.

I suddenly blurted out to Steve, “One of these days, I’m going to listen to ALL of my CDs, every single one, from A to Z.” Steve’s reply - “Let’s start next weekend.” OK. The following weekend, The Project began.


Top Reads of the Week
Published on March 16, 2012 by Sara Foss

Music: Tony Are considers the Monkees, and Eric J. Perkins lists his favorite album purchases of February

Real Estate: Adam Rust hits a snag in the buying process

Movies: Sara Foss on "Pina"

Growing up: Steve LeBlanc wonders how he survived his childhood

Sports: Sara Foss on the NBA trade deadline

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