New Antidepressant Won’t Harm Sex Life

January 31, 2011

Here’s some good news that should brighten up this cold and snowy January: The FDA has just approved a new antidepressant with minimal sexual side effects.

The most commonly used class of antidepressants — called selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — has quickly risen to the top of the charts for their ability to treat depression. These include such household names as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft. But there’s one problem with SSRIs: Many of them cause sexual dysfunction, including problems with achieving erection, delayed orgasm and loss of libido. As a result, patients frequently abandon their medication.

The new drug, vilazodone, was developed by the company Clinical Data and will be marketed under the brand name Viibyrd. (Yes, that’s right.) In clinical trials, it did not have a negative impact on sexual desire or function.

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

Prozac Sprinkles by Lushbunny via Flickr under a Creative Commons License

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

January 28, 2011

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

1. I absolutely adored this video about Kafka’s fitness routine over at Slate by my colleague Sarah Wildman (with a little help from her Dad.)

2. Here’s a beautifully rendered essay by Lisa K. Friedman in the New York Times about the e-affair.

3. Writers near and far will instantly relate to the painful truths found over at Bo’s Cafe Life. (Hat tip: Lisa Romeo Writes.) I’m particularly fond of the entry on January 22nd.

4. And speaking of writing, you will also enjoy Victor Borge’s act, phonetic punctuation.

5. The Oatmeal never disappoints. Here’s another brilliant comic strip – this one entitled Why I Don’t Cook At Home.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Update Your Website

January 26, 2011

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

January is a good time to capitalize on all that New Year energy floating around and make changes to your life that you’ve been meaning to enact for quite some time but haven’t quite gotten around to.

In this spirit, I recently made a beeline to the very bottom of my “long” To Do list and pulled something off of there that’s been chipping away at the outer edges of mind for ages: my website.

I’m a writer, you see, so having a reasonably attractive, fully-functional website that succinctly showcases both my background and my current projects is crucial for – well – staying employed.

A writer’s website doesn’t have to be anything fancy – and indeed, mine isn’t. (You can check it out here.) But it does need to look grown up and professional and be user-friendly.

Which my old one just wasn’t.

So this week’s tip list goes out to all writers, near and far, though the lessons should hopefully prove useful to anyone who has a resume that they haven’t looked at in a while.

Here are five reasons to update your website:

1. You update your links. Subscribe to just about any blog about freelance writing and one of the first posts you’ll come across is one that reminds you to always, always, always create PDFs of everything you write Online. And that’s because while it’s generally true that things live forever on the internet, plenty of publications will  – without warning – decide to yank your URLs and not link to them anymore. While I’m sure there’s some way to retrieve them if you know someone on staff, if you don’t, you’re SOL. When I started building my new website, I was amazed at how many of my links no longer went to the original articles. And that’s just not O.K. if the whole point of having a website is to showcase your writing. As a friend of mine once said about his application to law school, “Given that I pretty much wrote it in crayon, I wasn’t surprised that they didn’t accept me.” My old website was not written in crayon, but it did lack a certain gravitas. And having links that went nowhere was part of the problem.

2. You stop procrastinating. In addition to the relief that flowed after completing this large task that had been bothering me for – oh, about two yearsrevamping my website also forced me to stop procrastinating on some of the smaller side-projects that flowed from the re-design. To wit: linking to my audio files. I used to work in radio, you see, but for reasons that still elude me, I couldn’t upload all of my audio files to my old website. So I just ignored them, and buried them on my hard drive in places I knew I wouldn’t encounter. But once I confronted the beast and re-did the website, I finally got around to linking to the audio. So now you can listen, for example, to why I *really* embrace such a green lifestyle here in London.

3. You learn new skills. Commensurate with #2, I now know how to update audio files to WordPress.com. O.K., O.K., that’s admittedly not as impressive as blogging in Mandarin or learning to write code, but for the technologically challenged amongst us, I feel like I’ve stepped up my game.

4. You see how far you’ve come. If you haven’t updated your resume or your website in a while, I’d encourage you to go and take a gander. You may be surprised by what you find. Among other things – and particularly if you’ve taken on a new job and/or career in recent years – you’ll see how far you’ve come from when you were just a newbie. In my case, while perusing my old website, I came across a menu called “Op Eds and Guest Blog Posts.” “What’s This?” I wondered to myself. And when I opened it, I happened upon the very first blog post I ever wrote – for The Urban Muse – about academic blogs. I wrote this back in February, 2008, a full year before I launched RealDelia. And I wrote it precisely because I wanted to test the waters and see what this whole “blogging thing” was all about…

5. You reconceptualize yourself. In a recent post on career change, I made the rather unconventional suggestion that you apply for a job before you’re really ready in order to practice re-imagining yourself doing something new. Updating your website offers a similar benefit. It forces you to provide a narrative of yourself – if not several – that gives you a language for presenting yourself professionally.

*****

For great tips on website re-design, I highly recommend Marci Alboher’s amazing book, One Person, Multiple Careers: A New Model For Work/Life Success.)

Image: Crayons by GenBug via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


Friendship In Adulthood: What Do You Look For?

January 24, 2011

I saw an old friend over the holidays while I was back in the States. She moved to a new town a few years back and has slowly sunk roots there, buying a house…putting her kids in school…joining a synagogue. You know, the usual.

When I asked her if she’d made any close friends in her new town, she answered matter-of-factly: “I click about 85% with four or five women I’ve met. And I think that’s pretty good.”

She went on: “And I’ve finally realized what I look for in a friend: ‘Negativity.'”

I laughed out loud. But I knew exactly what she meant, both about the “85%” figure and about the negativity.

The fact is, it’s really hard to find people you connect with. I once wrote a commentary for Chicago Public Radio about the elusive search for female friends in adulthood. The thrust of the piece was to illustrate – by example – what a nightmare it is to have to “date” for friends once you grow up and have kids. So if you’re batting at 75% or over, like my friend is, I’d say that’s a pretty good average.

I can also relate to the negativity point. Despite my penchant for dark films about family dysfunction and self-destructive behavior, I don’t actually look for negativity in fellow friends. But I do look for some combination of intelligence coupled with a sense of humor, preferably on the self-deprecating side (which is actually what I think my friend meant by “negativity.”)

The problem is – even if you know what you’re looking for in a friend – how do you find those friends when you’re starting from scratch? And even if they’re out there…will you take the time and effort out of your busy life to “date” them?

In the hyper-connected world which we all inhabit these days, it’s easy to fall back on virtual friends. Women, in particular, are drawn to Online networking and community-building. I, myself, have made loads of friends Online in the past two years, of all different shapes and sizes.

But you can’t have coffee with a computer. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) And the internet can’t yield the sort of benefits that derive from close, real-life female friendships.

In case you’re wondering whether this entire discussion is academic, it isn’t. I myself, had to dip my toe back into the friendship-dating waters recently.

For months, I’d been trying to have coffee with a close friend of one of my cousins back in New Jersey, who moved to London last summer. My cousin spoke really highly of this guy, but between his schedule and mine, there just wasn’t a ton of overlap, despite the fact that we live about 10 minutes from one another.

And let’s face it. I knew that the probability that we’d hit it off was close to zero. So while I was happy to get together with this guy, I figured that this would be more of a “getting him oriented” in London kind of coffee, not the start of something beautiful.

Well, needless to say I LOVED him. Absolutely adored. He was cool and funny and smart. And we had tons of stuff in common. Not just the surface demographic-y type stuff, but a deeper appreciation for the same jokes, the same cultural references, the same reactions to British education. He was, in short, my people.

I was lucky that I happened upon my new BFF through my cousin. But close friends can just as easily sneak up on you at a book club, or that school function you dreaded going to, or that wine tasting that was so much better than you expected.

The point is to get out there. And experiment.

Who knows?

You might just find your soul mate.

Image: Making Friends by behang via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend

January 21, 2011

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

1. For all of you wondering who wrote the anonymous novel “O” that’s got all of Washington abuzz, Christopher Beam at Slate did a hilarious parody of the book as written by assorted famous people.

2. Enough of the Chinese Tiger Mom, I say. Bring on the Chinese Dad. Here’s Eddie Haung telling his story at Salon.

3. I really enjoyed this post at Formerly Hot, which is all about things we realize we suck at as grown ups (but don’t care.)

4. While you’re at it, you’ll also want to check out Geek Dad’s list of 10 things grown ups should never have given up in Wired.

5. And as long as we’re making lists, here are 10 reasons your novel won’ t get published at Terrible Minds. Very funny. (Hat tip: There Are No Rules)

6. This is beautiful. It’s a short video called “A Year In 90 Seconds” that takes you through the seasons by Norwegian media consultant Eirik Solheim. (Hat tip: Very Short List)

7. Finally, here’s my post in Politics Daily about Pastor Terry Jones (of Koran-burning fame) being banned from the U.K.

Have a great weekend!

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Cheer Up This January

January 19, 2011

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

So in case you didn’t hear, Monday January 17th was allegedly the saddest day of the year. Based on a mathematical formula, sadness is predicted to peak on the third Monday of each new year. This is usually a result of post-holiday blues/failed New Years Resolutions/bad weather and the like. Some even refer to it as Blue Monday.

If you found yourself inordinately down on Monday – or any day this month – here are five reasons to cheer up:

1. You’re not Sarah Palin. Although she can seem sometimes like America’s Princess Diana, former Alaskan Governor and ex-Vice Presidential running mate Sarah Palin is having a bad month. In the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Arizona, Palin failed to adopt a sufficiently conciliatory and empathic response. Instead, she went on a tear, aggressively defending herself from insinuations that she was to blame for the massacre and painting herself as the victim, rather than the 6 people who died and 13 who were injured. (The press also played a hand in this, mind you.) A post-Tucson Gallup poll commissioned by USA Today found that Palin’s rating is at its lowest level since she burst onto the national political scene in September 2008. She is seen in a favourable light by 38% of US voters, while 53% have an unfavourable view.

2. You’re not Amy Chua. Amy Chua – a.k.a. Tiger Mother – wrote a chilling oped in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks back about the draconian tactics she uses to exact perfection from her two daughters. And the blogosphere hasn’t ceased talking about it since. (Initial WSJ article has 6,800 comments and counting…) As someone who wrestles with having high expectations for her children – albeit without denying them food, drink or bathroom breaks as Chua claims to – I’m not entirely immune to Tiger Mother-like tendencies. But, boy, is she in the dog house this month, especially among Mommy Bloggers. My colleague Joanne Bamberger likened Chua’s child-reading tactics to child abuse. Ouch.

3. You’re not Ricky Gervais. British comedian Ricky Gervais hosted this year’s Golden Globe Awards in Hollywood and the consensus in the American press, at least, seems to be that he bombed. I actually thought that with one or two exceptions, Gervais was pretty funny. (Watch his opening monologue and judge for yourself.) But the rumor is that he is persona non grata at the awards ceremony next year, which – not that you asked – he has no interest in hosting anyway.

4. You’re not Robert DeNiro. If you think Gervais stunk the place up at the Golden Globes, then Robert DeNiro really tanked. As a huge fan of award shows, I was totally befuddled by his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. De Mille Lifetime Achievement Award. This man needs to stop working in the Focker franchise and go back to real acting so that he remembers show to properly thank people for recognizing his amazing career.

5. You’re not Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Not a household name? This is the now-exiled former president of Tunisia who was just tossed out as leader of his country after ruling for – oh – about 25 years. We won’t feel too sorry for Mr. Ben Ali, who fled the country with 1.5 tonnes of gold worth more than $60 million. Still, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a great month for him, either.

*****

And speaking of having a bad month, in case you want a quick update on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s latest sexual shenanigans, here’s my post for Politics Daily.

Image: BAFTA 2008 – Ricky Gervais by claire_h via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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The Economics Of Abortion

January 17, 2011

For the first time since 1981, the long-term decline in U.S. abortions has stalled. And experts are pinning the blame on the recession. In other words, when it comes to abortions, American consumers behave much as they do when buying cars: when they have less money, they are more likely to opt for a used car, rather than splurging on the latest model. I’ll explain that further shortly.

The new data comes from the Guttmacher Institute in New York, which periodically surveys U.S. abortion providers. Researchers found that in 2008, there were 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44. While this is significantly below the 1981 peak (29.3 abortions for every 1,000 women), it is virtually unchanged from the 2005 rate (19.4 abortions). Likewise, the total number of abortions in 2008 (1.21 million) was essentially unchanged from 2005.

While there are many possible causes for this latest trend, the chief suspect is the recession that hit in 2008, which altered the economic calculations (and savings accounts) of many American families.

“Abortion numbers go down when the economy is good and go up when the economy is bad, so the stalling may be a function of a weaker economy,” said University of Alabama political science professor Michael New.

In this sense, abortion can be thought of as an “inferior good” — i.e. something a consumer would demand less of if they had a higher level of real income. While abortions aren’t cheap (in 2009, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the average amount paid for a non-hospital abortion with local anesthesia at 10 weeks’ gestation was $451), they are far cheaper than having a baby. (The average cost of having a child in the hospital in America in 2005 was between $5,000 and $10,000.)

If that all sounds like a very rational and clinical account of an issue that is usually portrayed in red-hot, polarizing terms, that’s a good thing, at least as far as I’m concerned. Because if, like me, you’d like to envision a country where — in the immortal words of Bill Clinton, abortion is “safe, legal and rare” — then we need to start looking at the cold, hard facts around abortion rather than crafting policy based on our emotions.

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

Image: P3123372 by jessica_trinity via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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