Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

August 27, 2010

Every Friday I point you towards some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I always love reading Katy Keim’s suggestions over at Book Snob. This week, she had a terrific post on why we all need to read that “Great American Novel” Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

2.  What would Ayn Rand do? Here’s some deliciously wry child-rearing advice from Eric Hague over at McSweeneys.

3. If you’re in need of a laugh, have a look at The Onion’s spot on the new, FDA-approved depressant drug for the Annoyingly Cheerful.

4. Also sure to bring a smile is Alex Beam’s rant against (pretty much all) drivers in The Boston Globe.

5. Bibliophiles will adore  Save The Words, a website that allows you to adopt words that risk being dropped from the English language. (Snollygoster, anyone?) (Hat tip: Mary Murphy’s Reading blog)

6. Finally, for those who are interested, here’s a post I did earlier this week for Politics Daily on 10 Reasons To Lift The Cuba Embargo.

I will be doing a staycation in London next week with the kids. I’ll see you all on the other side of August (sometimes known as September!)

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Things Psychotherapists Shouldn’t Do

August 25, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Daphne Merkin’s recent essay in The New York Times Magazine about her lifelong search for the perfect psycho-therapist has generated quite a bit of buzz.

As I noted last week, when I first read Merkin’s piece, I was fairly sure that it would serve as another great example of the age-old aphorism “there are two types of people in the world…”. On the one hand, I knew that some people would be turned off by this five-page, detailed meditation on Merkin’s ongoing relationship to psychotherapy, using it as confirmation that psychotherapy really is just an extended exercise in (pointless) narcissism. On the other hand, I also imagined that there would be people (like me) who — while acknowledging the self-indulgent nature of therapy — find both the process and analysis…of analysis…endlessly fascinating. Which is another way of saying that I couldn’t put the article down.

Those predictions turned out to be right, as a quick scan of the Letters To The Editor on that post in The New York Times will attest.

But while I’m generally in the supportive camp on therapy-as-life-strategy, I think it’s worth looking at the critiques that are emerging from the article about psychotherapy more generally. They seem to come in three varieties.

Read the rest of this article at www.PoliticsDaily.com

Image: dr_sigmund2 by zoria via flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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The Kindness of Strangers: It’s A Small World After All

August 23, 2010

I was struck by an article in The Guardian last week about lost wallets.

The article reported on a recent study in which a company “dropped” 20 wallets containing £10 in cash, a photograph, tickets, receipts, stamps and several business cards in shopping centers, on public transport, in museums, cafes, and on the street in five British cities: London, Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. Only two in ten of the wallets were returned to their owners and only around half of those (55%) contained the original sum of money.

The study caught my eye because I was recently one of those lucky 20%. I didn’t exactly lose my wallet, but I did lose an envelope containing 15 pounds (roughly twenty-three dollars). And here’s the kicker: the envelope didn’t have my name and address on it.

All it had was a hand-scribbled note that I’d written to a woman – we’ll call her Kelly – from whom I was buying a (British) Dustbuster before she moved back to America the next day. The note read something along the lines of “To Kelly from Delia. Thanks and Good luck!,” with the cash stuffed inside.

While walking to her house to pick up the Dustbuster, I’d apparently dropped the envelope on the ground along a busy London street. Because I couldn’t find the envelope when I got to her house, I assumed that I’d lost it for good and went to a bank machine to get some cash. But the next day, a stranger contacted me (and Kelly) by email to say that she’d found the envelope and because she knew that Kelly was moving (and vaguely knew that Kelly knew someone called Delia) she figured that it was us.

Can you believe it? I mean, what are the chances that this woman would a. see the envelope on that particular street, which is quite commercial and heavily trafficked b. bother to read my chicken-scratch and c. return it on a hunch? Bear in mind that I’d never met her before and barely knew Kelly either.

She is obviously a very nice person. To whom I am most grateful. (If you’re into this sort of thing you must listen to the This American Life episode entitled The Kindness of Strangers.)

I love this story because it illustrates the humanity in all of us. (OK, in 2/5 of us.) But it’s also a great small-world story. Sometimes I really do believe the whole Six Degrees of Separation thing (even if I’m not connected to Kevin Bacon. Sniff.) A friend of mine just posted on Face Book that her son is about to go off to college and it turns out he’ll be living right down the hall from his best friend in Kindergarten (whom he hasn’t seen in 13 years.) Again, what are the odds?

OK, so now it’s your turn to dish. What’s your best kindness of strangers and/or small world story?

C’mon folks. It’s a light news week. Let er’ rip…

Image: Castanza Wallet by rbieber via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

August 20, 2010

Every Friday I point you to some recommended reading around the blogosphere:

1. I’m always impressed when people follow their dreams in adulthood. In that spirit, have a look at my friend Laurie Gould’s new website – Gould Tunes – which showcases the album she and some friends will be releasing later on this autumn: Songs of Domestic Bliss. Working moms should definitely have a sneak preview of “I Should.”

2. Here’s a novel idea. Get divorced and share custody of not only the kids…but a blog! That’s what’s happening over at When The Flames Go Up. Check it out!

3. I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to follow what’s going on over at Gawker, but boy am I glad that I did. Love this blog network’s irreverent, snarky tone. Here’s a great spoof of Sarah Palin’s recent diatribe against a “cackle of Rads.”

4. A friend of mine linked to Beloit College’s Mindset List For The Class of 2014, where a humanities professor on campus walks you through the mindset of the current graduates to let you know how young they are (or how old you are.) My favorite? “John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.”

5. I always enjoy Howard Baldwin’s rants over on Middle Age Cranky. Here he is on Boomer Living’s Coffee House Blog talking about “Seven More Things That Really Frost Me About Middle Age.” (Yeah, I’m also bummed about the game show thing.)

6. In case you’ve ever wondered where I live, here’s a glorious website that provides A Virtual Tour of Hampstead Village, replete with vintage pictures. (Hat Tip: ‘Cross The Pond.)

7. Finally, for those who are interested, here’s my defense of the EMILY’s list Mama Grizzly ad that’s been the subject of much discussion back home in America this week.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Signs You Think Like A Man

August 18, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

A few weeks ago, I posted a link to a quiz on the BBC website called Sex ID that purported to let you know whether you think like a man or a woman. (Warning to those who have yet to take it: the quiz lasts about 20 minutes.)

If you managed to make it through this quiz, you’ll know that a lot of the tasks that they have you do boil down to whether you’re good at reading maps and judging the angle of parallel lines (more typically male traits) vs. whether you can read people’s expressions and identify with them (more typically female traits.)

I’ve since been informed via The Guardian that a new study is out showing that behavioral differences between the sexes are not, in fact the result of fundamentally different wiring in the brain, but rather the result of societal expectations.

Be that as it may (and I’m sure that this is one of those debates that will rage into eternity and beyond), I’ve been giving the whole male vs. female thing some more thought since taking that quiz, where I scored (huge sigh of relief?) as a prototypical-thinking woman. Here are some further indicators I’ve come up with that shed light on whether or not you think like a man:

1. You like reading instruction manuals. While I’m quite sympathetic to Gretchen Rubin’s admonition over on The Happiness Project to read the instruction manual, there is a distinction between doing something because you *ought* to do it and doing something because you enjoy it. I hereby submit that I absolutely hate reading instruction manuals and – as a result – have spent many a frustrated moment by either failing to consult them ex ante or failing to save them somewhere useful ex post. My husband, in contrast, has an entire file full of instruction manuals for virtually every single appliance in our house. Not only does he consult them regularly, he actually seems to enjoys it! And instruction manuals in video form are even better, as with this video on how to take apart and re-assemble my new Brompton folding bicycle. Hey, it’s your funeral, as they say…

b. You like to talk about gadgets. I’ve posted many times on this blog about my husband’s penchant for gadgetry. I don’t think that’s an inherently male trait – many of the things he’s bought for us have been hugely useful and I like them as much as he does. But there’s using them and then there’s talking about using them. And I’ve noticed lately that guys like to spend an inordinate amount of time cataloging, describing and comparing gadgets in a way that women don’t.

c. You read David Pogue’s column in the NYT religiously. Which brings us to a corollary of (b) – David Pogue’s technology column in the New York Times, Pogue’s Posts. Don’t get me wrong. If I’m in the market for a new cell phone or a digital camera, I turn to Pogue first. The guy is unbelievably knowledgable about technology and a terrific writer to boot. But as generic reading material on the order of “Here’s how I’m going to spend my breakfast?” Not so much. Whereas my husband is glued for hours.

d. You like playing strategy games. This may have actually been one of the questions on the BBC quiz; I can no longer remember. But since taking that quiz, my son and I happened to open up Othello, a game that one of his friends gave him for his birthday last year. It’s one of those deceptively simple games that actually requires an enormous amount of strategy on the part of the players. If you’re like me, you take the easy route on this game, maximize your winnings as you go, and ultimately lose. If you’re like my son or my husband, you look like you’re losing all the way along but at the very last minute you win because you’ve been thinking like 6 moves ahead the whole time. (Ditto Settlers of Catan, the greatest game of all time.)

e. You (still) like assembling Legos. Someone recently gave my husband one of those adult Lego kits. It was a model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Falling Water home (see above), a painting of which is hung in our living room. I think Legos are really cool, especially this new architectural series. But, much like gadgetry, it’s something I’d rather admire than actually build. So if this had been given to me as a present, it probably would have languished somewhere in a closet, taking up space on my never-ending “should” list. Whereas my husband spent weeks with the kids building this house, which now adorns the mantle in our living room right in front of our picture. (He’s in good company, btw. Apparently, to kill time during a recent trip abroad, English football legend David Beckham confessed that he spent a night in a hotel constructing The Taj Majal.)

As I read this over, I realize that it may provide more of an insight into my marriage than it does into generic male/female brain differences. Then again, I do think that having a division of labor is key to a happy marriage, so maybe that’s a good thing!

Image: falling water lego side by happy via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Let’s Be Friends: Join Me On Facebook

August 17, 2010

OK, so at long last I’m going to go ahead and open up my Facebook account to…(drumroll please)…you!

I’ve held off doing this for a long time. When I first joined Facebook a little over a year ago (yes, I know, I was a late adopter…), I wasn’t quite sure how it would fit into my life and wanted to keep it just for close “real life” friends and family.

Well, as any of you fellow Facebook-o-philes realize, that model quickly went right out the window. Although I wouldn’t “accept” anyone as a friend that I’d never met personally, the range of people who made it under the radar because we’d once met was still quite high. One year later and with 325 friends (and growing), it now seems silly to call all of those people close friends.

In addition, I blog regularly at places like Politics Daily and The Huffington Post and Yahoo! Shine where it’s pretty much du rigueur to invite readers to not only follow you on twitter (which I’ve always done), but to friend you on Facebook. It’s all part of the new journalism, dontcha know, and I need to get with that program.

Until recently, another barrier to going global with my Facebook account was that I decided – erroneously, I now believe – to use my given name, Delia Boylan, for Facebook and my professional name, Delia Lloyd, for everything else. But that just proved confusing. I’ve recently solved that problem by changing my Facebook name to Delia Boylan Lloyd so that there’s something for everyone (including my own multiple personalities…).

But probably the most important reason that I’ve changed my Facebook policy is that there’s absolutely nothing I post there that I wouldn’t be 100% comfortable with other people seeing. Which doesn’t mean that my status updates anodyne or dull. It’s simply that I gradually realized that there’s no rational reason that people who don’t know me – but might want to Know me (in a non-biblical sense, heh-heh) – shouldn’t.

Plus, I’m an inherently extroverted person and I enjoy reading status updates from people I don’t know as much as from those I do. They’re witty, informative and (among other things) often give me writing ideas. And since we now know that social networking isn’t destroying the whole fabric of friendship, just evolving what the concept means, I say, bring it on.

Since I’m opening up my virtual floodgates, let me briefly explain how I use these two wonders of social media. Facebook I use mostly in a very personal sense, by which I mean that I post short, often humorous snippets about my day to day life – e.g. something funny my kids said, a great book I’m reading, a film I’ve seen. It’s a sort of “behind the scenes” RealDelia.

Twitter, in contrast, I tend use in a more professional sense. I share neat articles, interviews and videos I come across, or other cool stuff on the web. It’s very much a sort of daily version of my Friday Pix series, except that I update it throughout the day.

So join me,  friends, on Facebook. Here’s a link to my profile, which is also on the “About page” of this blog. (Note: I will ask you how you got to me, just to weed out the crazies.)  And if you’d like to follow me, I’ve included a handy-dandy blue bird in my side bar that will take you directly to my twitter feed.

Finally, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what any of this is and couldn’t be bothered to find out, I say: do so in good health.

Image: Facebook by Laughing Squid via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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America’s 10-Year-Old Susan Boyle: The Newest Child Star

August 16, 2010

Move over, Susan Boyle. You’ve got competition. She’s 10 years old, she’s beautiful and, boy, can she sing.

In Tuesday’s episode of “America’s Got Talent,” Pennsylvania native Jackie Evancho knocked the audience off its feet with her rendition of the Puccini aria “O Mio Babbino Caro.” The judges could not believe their ears: During an interview with Jackie after she was finished, one of the judges asked her to re-sing a note — just to be sure they really were listening to a 10-year-old and not some offstage diva.

Read the rest of this story at www.politicsdaily.com

Image: Vocal Microphone by Magic Photography via Flickr Under A Creative Commons License.

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*****

For those who are interested, I’m also over on Politics Daily today talking about the latest round of controversy surrounding the Lockberie Bomber’s humanitarian release from a Scottish prison last year.