On Vacation

October 25, 2010

Hi All.

I’ll be away on vacation in Berlin this week but look forward to catching up with you next week.

Auf Wiedersehen…Ich bin ein Berliner…and all that good stuff.

Have a great week!

 

Image: German Flag by Craig Is Shooting via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

October 22, 2010

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

1. In keeping with my ongoing need to keep you up to date on the most outlandish antics from this midterm election season, check out this video of Jimmy McMillan of “The Rent Is Too Damn High” party at the New York governor’s debate. Wowza. Even Andrew Cuomo is laughing… (P.S. Love the ‘stache…)

2. As always, I loved Howard Baldwin’s post Random Thoughts On Turning 55 over at Middle Age Cranky. (“When I am old, I shall look like I grew up in California.”)

3. At the other end of the age spectrum, here’s a Sesame Street Muppet with an afro singing the song “I Love My Hair” which a real life Dad wrote for his daughter so that she would…love her hair.

4. And speaking of children’s television, a friend of mine in Boston has been involved in this really cool on-line project designed to teach kids to recycle.

5. I’m always fascinated by people’s relationship to their work, so I really enjoyed this interview with Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles at the Huffington Post. (If you haven’t seen one of Charles’ video book reviews, it’s a must.)

6. If you want to smile, have a look at the Here Comes Another Bubble video over on A Modern Mother.

7. Finally, here’s my story from Politics Daily about quite possibly the bravest woman on earth:  a 20 year old university student who’s just become the Chief of Police in a Mexican drug zone.

*****

In case you missed the RealDelia reader survey I ran on Monday, you still have time to fill it out. Click here for details.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

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Prenups Made Legally Binding In UK

October 21, 2010

Paul McCartney must be green with envy. Like many wealthy British celebrities, bankers and heirs, McCartney didn’t have a pre-nuptial agreement (“prenup”) in place when he divorced Heather Mills in 2008 — to the tune of 24.3 million pounds ($39 million). He couldn’t. His native England didn’t allow them.

But that all looks set to change. On Wednesday, a landmark Supreme Court ruling recognized the legal standing of prenuptial agreements for the very first time in England and Wales. While we won’t know until 2012 whether such agreements will be enshrined in British law, this judgment now means that prenups will have decisive weight in divorce courts going forward.

The decision marks a radical shift in British law. A prenup is a contract that typically stipulates how property and other assets will be divided should a marriage end. Traditionally, prenups were seen as contrary to public policy in England and Wales on the basis that they might encourage couples to split up. From 2000 on, the norm was to divide all assets between the spouses on a 50-50 basis, although judges can use discretion in deciding how much to allocate to any one party.

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

Image: McConnection – Year 9, number 31 Paul McCartney fanclub Netherlands by Antoon Foobar via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways To Keep Your Brain Active As You Age

October 20, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I had a senior moment the other day. I was talking to my daughter about my elementary school, and I started listing my teachers one by one. But when I got to fifth grade, I drew a complete blank. I could envision the lady perfectly – plump, jolly, liked to wear purple – and even remembered that her name began with an “F.” But for the life of me, I couldn’t remember her name.

I can be forgiven this lapse, of course. It was, after all, 35 years ago (cough.) But it was another sign that as we age, our memories aren’t quite what they once were.

In that spirit, here are five tips for keeping your brain active as you age:

1. Work. Pay no attention to all those French people behind the curtain, striking their hearts out because Nicolas Sarkozy is about to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. New research reported in the New York Times last week shows that postponing retirement is actually better for your brain. Coining the phrase “mental retirement” to capture what happens when your brain is no longer getting regular exercise, the study shows that retired people as a group tend to do less well on cognitive and memory tests than people who are still working.

2. Walk. But in case you’d still prefer to be living on the beach at 65 rather than toiling away in an office cubicle, be sure that you walk a lot in paradise. Another study out last week shows that walking at least six miles a week may be one thing people can do to keep their brains from shrinking and fight off dementia. Which is good news for me, even in my new-found hip, urban status as the owner of a collapsible bike. One thing that not owning a car really does is get you used to good, vigorous walks.

3. Be Social. Back when I wrote about five reasons to be optimistic about middle age, I referenced some new research showing that  – contrary to the long-held view that our brains get fixed in early childhood – circuits in the adult brain are, in fact, continually modified by experience. (See #1.) Turns out that one of the things that keeps the brain developing as we age is being social. In addition to getting out and meeting people, people who volunteer and help kids also seem to age better and help their brains.

4. Use the Internet. OK, this one is controversial, especially coming from someone who warned you not to get an e-reader lest it chip away at your capacity to engage in sustained, concentrated thought. But there are two sides to every story. And a lot of scientists – Harvard’s Steven Pinker, for one – think that far from damaging our brains as we age, the Internet and information technologies are helping us manage, search and retrieve our collective intellectual output at different scales. Colin Blakemore, a British neurobiologist concurs. As he notes – reacting to the prevailing “internet ruins our minds” thesis:  “At its best, the internet is no threat to our minds. It is another liberating extension of them, as significant as books, the abacus, the pocket calculator or the Sinclair Z80.” So by all means, grab that new Kindle, Grandma. And get a Twitter account while you’re at it..

5. Eat lots of fish. Many parents will be familiar with the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs) for brain development in utero and in young children. (Neurotic parenting confession #346b: Until my son – who was born allergic to just about everything – was two, we regularly spiked his rice milk with flax seed oil for precisely this reason.) But it turns out that these so-called “good fats” are also increasingly seen to be of value in limiting cognitive decline during aging. Fish, for example, is a great source of EFAs. Flax-soaked salmon, anyone?

*****

On Monday, I was over on http://www.PoliticsDaily.com talking about reform of the British welfare system.

Image: thyme salmon with leek coulis by elana’s pantry via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


RealDelia Reader Survey

October 18, 2010

Hi folks.

I’m taking a break from my normal posting today to ask a big favor.

I’m in the process of re-designing this blog (stay tuned!) and as I go about doing that, I thought that it might be helpful to know a bit more about my readers.

Should I ever try to syndicate all or parts of this blog (for profit), I need to know a bit more about the demographics of my readers. And should I ever wish to run ads, I will also need to know a bit more about you.

So I’ve designed a survey to learn a few details about who’s reading this blog. A few points worth making up front:

*I’m running this survey through an on line company called Survey Monkey.

*This is completely anonymous survey and all data will be handled confidentially. No one will know who you are (even me!)

*This won’t take more than a few minutes of your time. (Promise!)

But it will be enormously helpful to me as I move forward with RealDelia.

I wish that I could give you a prize for doing this, but I will instead just thank you from the bottom of my heart. As a token of my appreciation, I will also bequeath you the virtual flower bouquet featured above for being such loyal and devoted readers of this blog.

Apparently the survey link was not working when I first posted but it should be working now. If you tried to do the survey and could not, kindly try again.

Please take a moment and Click here to take survey

Thanks!!!!

Image: Thank You For 44,000 Views This Year by Poppy Wright via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

October 15, 2010

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

1. This is now a bit dated, but if you haven’t seen these two ads back to back, it’s a must. The first is Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m You” ad in which she dispels all those pesky rumors that she’s really a witch. The second is a You Tube parody of the O’Donnell ad which is just…well, priceless.

2. In a campaign season featuring the likes of those ads, it’s no wonder that my Politics Daily colleague Donna Trussell came up with this post to characterize America’s political “moment” right now, aptly entitled Witches and Whores and Sluts, Oh My!

3. I got a real kick out of the Funniest Notes To Thieves Ever Written over at The Huffington Post.

4.  And as long as we’re looking at lists, you won’t want to miss The World’s Eight Strangest Sex Remedies at the Global Post.

5. I’ve mentioned before how much I love Strangling My Muse, a blog designed to inspire creativity. Check out this Neruda writing prompt and tell me that you don’t just want to grab a pen and start writing!

6. Finally, here’s a beautiful video about dancing in the streets.

Have a great weekend!

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Signs You’d Make A Lousy Housewife

October 13, 2010

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

I have tremendous respect for women (and men) who choose to work inside the home. And yet, when it comes to myself, I’m fairly certain that – even if I wanted to – I could never make it as a housewife. (Or house husband, as the case may be.)

If you’ve ever wondered whether you were meant to work primarily inside or outside the home, here are five indicators that should influence your decision:

1. You need help operating basic appliances. I’m not talking about fancy, fuzzy-logic rice cookers or super-deluxe espresso machines (replete with matching grinders). I’m talking boilers. All summer long, my husband and I noticed that the heat would come on at seemingly odd times. We tried tinkering with the thermostat in the hallway, but that had no effect. But then the heat would go off again and we’d forget all about it. The other day, while a service repair man was at my flat fixing our washer/dryer, I asked him if he could take a look at our boiler to figure out what the problem was. He opened the cabinet, looked at the boiler for about three seconds, and then turned to me and said…“Um…Miss? See this large red button here that says ‘On?”

2. You can’t even read the symbols, let alone the instructions. Forget instruction manuals. I think we all know that I’m lousy with those. I’m talking about the little symbols they devise for appliances so that even someone who can’t read (for example) can somehow manage to use the oven. Someone, that is, who isn’t me. I’ve lived in my house for nearly six months and – much like the heating problem, but even more frequently – I’d notice that whenever I put something in the oven, it tended to burn. Then, one evening when I was hosting a dinner party (and burning some lasagna), a friend of mine looked at the oven settings and noticed that the little squiggly lines that emanated off of one of the settings were also present on the setting I was using. “Um, no offense, but I think you’re grilling the lasagna” she said politely. (“Grill” being English for “broil.”) And when she showed me the little symbols, it all made perfect sense. Ah, so you mean you want to “bake” without the squiggly lines…got it.

3. You need to psych yourself up for ironing. Just before school started this autumn, I realized that my son needed his school uniform labelled. And because – between all the sports gear and the regular uniform – he’s got quite a lengthy list of school attire, this was going to take some time. Truth be told, all you need to do is set up the iron and apply the labels. (OK, you also need to iron each one like three times so it’s a bit more involved than that.) But that’s really it. And yet, I must confess that I find ironing completely oppressive. In order to execute this task, I literally had to play loud music, lay out all the clothes in assembly line fashion next to the ironing board and then talk to myself as I ironed each successive item to get me through the ordeal.

4. You can’t even count the rooms in a house. I’m not a terribly visual person (as I think the previous entry attests.) My husband – who is – can corroborate this.  I once famously scoped out an apartment for us in Boston and came home extolling the virtues of our new “three bedroom,” only to have him arrive a short while later and inquire as to where the third bedroom was located. The answer was…nowhere. It’s O.K. I have other talents.

5. You’re a hopeless cook. I recently asked my 9-year-old what he wanted for dinner. “How about some international cuisine?” he answered. “Um,you mean like Chef Boyardee?”

Image: 69/365 housewife with nothing to do by katie cowden via flickr under a Creative Commons license.