And Another Thing!
Accepting the Inevitable
Published on January 16, 2012 by guest author: Barry Wenig

Someone I know (a close friend who looks just like me, but is definitely not me) is having a 50th birthday in April. Sometime during my forties I started to realize that I had probably crossed into middle age, so I came up with a novel approach to deal with that fact: I decided that I'd live until 100. If I did that, I wouldn't be middle-aged until I turned 50.

Well, since December I've been spending time trying to come up with a new plan. Maybe I could plan to live until 101?  While that would buy me another year, I've rejected it as unwieldy for two reasons: 1. I'd have to continue to issue a new age goal each year and 2. Who the hell was I fooling? As those who know me can tell you, I was never going to live to 100 to begin with.

There is a third reason: In reality, I've been acting like an old man for a very, very long time.

Case in point?  The way I have dealt with the technology changes in the way music is recorded.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I started making cassette mixes, with the aid of my first stereo with a built-in cassette deck. (I believe it was made by Sanyo). This was a big step for me. My first forays into mix making in the late '70s involved a portable, monaural Panasonic cassette player, which I perched next to a speaker on top of a high bookshelf. This method ended when the player unceremoniously fell on my head one day while I was recording tracks from my brother Jeff's "Woodstock" soundtrack album.


Self-Improvement, By Resolve
Published on January 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my weekly column over at the DG, I write about New Year's resolutions and self-improvement.

Here's an excerpt:

"I hate to let big blocks of free time go to waste, and so I decided to travel to New Hampshire for New Year’s and visit old friends and their new baby.

I went to high school with the husband, as well as his four siblings, and at some point I inquired as to how his brothers and sisters were doing. His older brother, I learned, had recently gotten married and had never been happier. But there was a problem. 'We don’t like his wife,' my friend said, and by 'we' he meant 'my brothers and sisters.'

'Why don’t you like her?' I asked, because I tend to be curious about such matters.

My friend ticked off a short list.

She was materialistic, and liked to buy expensive things and flaunt expensive things. She was into schmoozing and social climbing. She lacked depth, and was self-absorbed.

I nodded, with sympathy and understanding. These are all things that annoy me, too. But instead of continuing with his litany of complaints, which I was more than eager to hear, he switched gears. 'I should stop talking about her,' he said, with a guilty look on his face. 'One of our resolutions is to stop saying mean things about her.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Pregnant at the Holidays
Published on January 3, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

My husband and I had our Christmas plans scheduled long before Thanksgiving.

Although it’s a busy time of visiting family, we have a pretty set routine: We spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with one family and then travel in the evening for a couple of days of festivities with the other family. The next year we swap which family gets which days. So imagine our surprise when my mother-in-law called about two weeks ago to see if we wanted to completely change up our holiday plans. In fact, they would save us a trip and come to our apartment! And they could come on the days we were set to see my family!

While I love Christmas Eve with my family (yummy mini-sandwiches, "Twas The Night Before Christmas" and my mother’s usual franticness while carrying “Santa’s” presents downstairs and hanging stockings by the fire with stress, etc.), this seemed a little difficult. My family had already made their holiday plans around when we would be in town, and we weren’t really being “saved” from a trip to CT as we would still need to head down there sometime to share the holiday with my husband's extended family.


What's in a Nickname?
Published on January 3, 2012 by Sara Foss

In my weekly column at the DG, I write about nicknames.

Here's an excerpt:

"Now that the first trimester has passed without incident, I feel I can make a happy announcement: My sister Rebecca is pregnant.

Naturally, we have already come up with a nickname for the unborn child, whom we have taken to calling Skeletor because of the baby’s Skeletor-like appearance in an early ultrasound.

I’m fairly confident this nickname won’t stick, but you never know.

Many nicknames seem ridiculous at first, but acquire a strange legitimacy if used with any level of frequency."

Click here to read the whole thing.

New Year's Resolutions
Published on January 2, 2012 by Sara Foss

Read more

Walk more

Cook more

See art more

Drive less

Work less

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.

Bragging Rights
Published on November 21, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my weekly column at the DG, I write about my recent triumphs in my Pigskin Pick'em group, as well as some of my fears and phobias.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last week, for the first time ever, I took sole possession of first place in my Pigskin Pick’em group.

How did I respond to this unlikely triumph? By bragging away.

'Ha ha ha ha,' I wrote, when I blogged my football picks on the Gazette’s website. 'I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can!'

For the uninitiated: Pigskin Pick’em is a contest in which participants — there are about 15 in my little group — try to guess which NFL teams will prevail each week.

Usually I finish in the bottom third, undone by a devastating midseason slump from which it is impossible to recover. What makes this all the more galling is that the leader of my Pigskin Pick’em group is an obnoxious friend from high school. I feel like he’s been beating me at things for 20 years. He still likes to mention the time he beat me at cribbage 27 times in a row. But now, at least for the time being, I am in first place in Pigskin Pick’em. And I am seven points ahead of my obnoxious friend, which certainly counts for something.

Even so, I wasn’t sure I should brag about this achievement."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Shooting a Gun
Published on November 15, 2011 by Sara Foss

Fellow Oberlin alum Chelsey Johnson writes about shooting a gun over at The Rumpus. Chelsey is like me in that she imagined this was something she would never do. She writes:

"I never thought I’d shoot a gun. But here I was, standing at the glass counter, looking down at an array of gleaming pistols laid out like deadly jewelry.

'I don’t even know where to start,' I said to my friend Steve. He already had his eye on a heavy black thing that looked like it could kill someone without even being fired. He wanted something with some kick. 'Look,' I told the guy behind the counter. 'I want the smallest, easiest, least dangerous gun you have.'

The guy gave me the kind of smirk you give a vegetarian who orders a cheeseburger with no meat. I’ve been that vegetarian. Now I was that girl at the shooting range."

Click here to read the whole thing.

In August, Dan Baum wrote a thoughtful piece about carrying a concealed weapon in Harper's magazine; click here for the pdf.

In April I provided some of my own thoughts of guns here.

Gone Fishing
Published on November 2, 2011 by Sara Foss

We're officially on vacation until Nov. 9.

Hometown Pride?
Published on October 31, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my weekly column over at the DG, I write about my surprising surge of hometown pride when fellow Lebanon High School alum Ben Cherington was named Red Sox GM.

Here's an excerpt:

"I felt an unusual swelling of hometown pride this week when New Hampshire native Ben Cherington was named general manager of the Boston Red Sox.

Ben Cherington went to my high school, and although I never spoke to him (he was two years ahead of me), I certainly knew who he was.

He was a familiar face in the halls, one of those people you’re aware of despite never having a meaningful conversation or interaction. As soon as he was named GM, my Facebook feed blew up with proud comments from other Lebanon High School alumni. (As well as amusing comments. One schoolmate recalled how Ben was awarded “best hair” in the high school yearbook.) While sportswriters and commentators in Boston debated Ben’s readiness for the job, my hometown friends responded to the news of his appointment with unconditional joy.

Our elation was heightened, I suspect, by the fact that Ben Cherington is now the GM of the Red Sox, as opposed to the San Diego Padres or the Houston Astros or some other team nobody from New England ever roots for. The Red Sox are our team, and now one of our own is running the show."

Click here to read the whole thing.

A Rational Rage
Published on October 23, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my weekly column at the DG, I write about the murderous rage I flew into last weekend when I got lost hiking.

Here's an excerpt:

"Last weekend I went hiking and briefly became separated from my group.

The separation probably lasted about 20 minutes, maybe 25. But it was long enough to send me into a murderous rage.

We had hiked approximately 10 miles, with a few more to go, when I slipped into the woods to go to the bathroom.

'You guys go on ahead,' I said.

My hiking party took my advice, and by the time I emerged from the trees, they’d vanished. This was curious in and of itself — every other time we’d stopped for a bathroom break, the group had drifted about 15 to 20 feet down the trail and come to a halt, their conversation still audible to the person peeing in the woods — but I didn’t dwell on it. Instead, I went charging down the trail, eager to catch up.

But after a few minutes, I became concerned.

Where were they? Why hadn’t they waited? I had always waited for them. Were they playing a trick on me? Were they trying to mess with my mind? Or had they simply forgotten about me? I started walking faster, and as I walked, I became increasingly furious.

Then it occurred to me that maybe I had done something wrong. Too much time had elapsed; my hiking party was no doubt aware of my absence, and none too happy about it. I looked for trail blazes, and found one. Was I going the wrong way? No. As I stood there, pondering my predicament, it started to rain. I decided that I should turn around, that something — I wasn’t sure what — had gone wrong.

I felt a little frightened, but also irate. I wanted to find my hiking party — which comprised my sister, a close friend and the close friend’s 11-year-old son — and scream at them. And maybe strangle them as well."

Click here to read the whole thing.

The Incomplete Book of Running
Published on October 16, 2011 by guest author: Cindy Pragoff

I can feel my midlife crisis coming on, and instead of buying a Porsche, I've decided to take up running. At the age of 35, I've just reached that point in life where I wake up at least once a week with a backache. I notice that I juuuust take a little longer to recover from sprains. I can twist my shoulder just from brushng my teeth too vigorously. But better to start running now than when I wake up twice a week with a backache, right?

I was never interested in running as a kid. I dreaded even the sprints I had to do while playing tag with my brothers, and forget kickball. Phys Ed. was a nightmare for me, and I can't even blame being a bookish nerd, since most of my bookish friends had no problems clearing hurdles or doing a few laps inside the gym. It was just a painful chore for me - my legs ached, my ankles twisted this way and that, and I always got a nice big stitch in my side. Not exactly a great reward for trying to stay fit. Instead, I turned to the instant gratification of donut after donut, and have been more or less chubby since age 12.

I learned to at least tolerate running when I joined marching band in college. Every time a member missed a step, the director barked out his order to "Take a lap! Go!" I was a stitch-ridden mess with noodle arms for the first four weeks, but adapted surprisingly quickly. I learned how to keep my head help up and my back straight. My legs stopped hurting and starting building calf muscles the size of my head. Unfortunately, I dropped out of band after only a year and lost my mojo for running without Art Bartner to blow his whistle and call me out in front of 250 angry Trojans. I also regained my mojo for carbs, and lots of them.

Fifteen years and 25 pounds later, I came back to the idea of running a few months ago after a talk at the Paley Center. I went for screenwriting tips, but when one of the panelists compared writing to running, I realized one would be far easier to start than the other. "You're going to [bleep]ing hate it at first, but after a while you start doing it just to relax." That resonated with me in a way nothing else really had, showing me that it didn't always have to be a lung-squeezing grind, but that it was still OK to grit my teeth and curse it all the way. I was ready to do my worst.


Sights and Sounds of New York
Published on October 2, 2011 by Sara Foss

In my column this week at the DG, I write about my recent trip to New York City, and visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Park 51 - the Islamic community center better known as the "ground zero mosque" - as well as my observations of the massive police presence around the Wall Street protestors.

The Wall Street protest has picked up steam since last weekend, and my basic feeling is that the New York City police department's heavy-handed approach to it has only fueled the movement. When I first saw the protestors, I remarked on how easy it was to walk past them without even noticing them, but when you flood the area with over 100 police officers, it's hard not to pay attention. Now I learn that about 700 people were arrested on Saturday while trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge; the protestors are claiming that the police tricked them, and trapped them on the bridge. Again, I feel like all the police had to do was let the protestors cross the bridge, and this would be a non-story. Instead they arrested hundreds of people, and now it's all over the news. Which leads me to ask: Are the police secretly trying to help the protestors? Because this is a movement that is media savvy, and wants the attention.

Over on Firedoglake, a protestor provides a first-hand account of what happened on the bridge.

Here's an excerpt:

Soon the crowd cross the street towards the Brooklyn Bridge. As they crossed, people began to become confused about whether to walk on the pedestrian walk-way or the street. The group split into two, and kept marching. We chose to take the pedestrian walk-way at first. As we looked down to the street, we saw that the police were seemingly leading the protesters to the street in order to keep them safe (or so we thought). At that point, we opted to go back onto the street rather than continue of the pedestrian path.


Lifestyle Tips
Published on September 30, 2011 by guest author: Tatiana Zarnowski
Last week my co-worker passed out a "job list" from a local martial arts academy that was developed to motivate youngsters to complete chores like making their beds, treating classmates with respect and cleaning up after meals. Those who succeeded, the sheet said, would get an "attitude stripe" at the end of the week, which I assume is the martial arts version of a gold star.

Anyway, it spurred me to think about what I'd put on my own list, a job list that's relevant to adults. Here's the work in progress:


Job list

Declutter total pigsty that is living room
Scrape caked-on food off dishes
Throw away nasty rotten food in fridge
Lug trash to curb
Wash out litter box before cats stage revolt

Get enough sleep so I'm not total zombie at work
Plan meals instead of eating Wheat Thins for dinner
Remember that walking to car does not count as exercise

Try to get there on time. For real.
Stop rolling eyes so much

Balance checkbook in private so sobbing doesn't alarm people in cafe


Tatiana Zarnowski lives in Ballston Spa, N.Y., and she hopes to earn an attitude stripe this week.

At the 9/11 Memorial
Published on September 26, 2011 by Sara Foss

Over the weekend, I had the chance to visit the 9/11 Memorial, which I wrote about today in my blog at the DG.

Here's an excerpt:

"I never had any interest in visiting Ground Zero, because it seemed like a sort of ghoulish and weird thing to do. I didn’t know any of the victims, and I didn’t like the idea of turning the site into a tourist attraction. But I felt perfectly comfortable visiting a memorial, and after watching some of the coverage of the 10th anniversary events, I knew that I wanted to go there myself. For me, the memorial provides a place to reflect upon the lives lost and the horror of what happened that day, which I think is important. September 11 had a broad and sweeping impact, resulting in wars, an overhaul of airport security and drastic changes to civil liberties, but the memorial takes you back to a time before that, when the scale of the attacks and the enormity of the loss were first becoming apparent.


The 9/11 Memorial is free, but you need a ticket to get in at a certain time. I actually liked this system, because it keeps crowds down, and although I didn’t think it was necessary to show my visitor pass four or five times to enter the memorial (maybe three times would have been sufficient?) I appreciated the orderly approach. I had seen pictures of the memorial, but it was much more impressive in person. The memorial comprises two reflecting pools, each about an acre in size, located within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood. Each reflecting pool features an enormous waterfall that cascades into a smaller, central hole, and the site is surrounded by swamp white oak trees, which helps create a surprisingly peaceful atmosphere. Of course, the memorial is located in the heart of New York City, and the construction around the site is ongoing. I liked this contrast — the memorial is a quiet space, but the hustle and bustle of the city never full recedes."

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