Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday morning

Time to take a breath. It's nice to shift into a lower gear — at least for a little while, until reality, in the form of mountains of dirty laundry, etc., sets in. Weekdays, I'm up at 4, spend a little time reading the news online, then head for the gym by 5. I have to be back in time to coax my daughters out of bed and get them off to school by 7. Weekends, the morning pace is slower and that's good. I'm still up ridiculously early; the internal clock doesn't re-set itself on weekends. But I can lollygag around for a while, since even the gym opens later on weekends.

Saturday morning is my day to weigh in on the South Beach Diet website. As of today, I've hit the 45 pound mark. When I saw that on my SBD online chart, it actually brought tears to my eyes. Part of me can't believe I've actually done this. That's probably because it's been so effortless. I have 8 pounds to go to reach a "Normal" BMI. If I continue to lose at the rate of one pound per week, I will reach my goal weight (160) by my one-year anniversary of starting my new lifestyle (notice I didn't say "diet"). That will be a total of 54 pounds lost since Jan. 14, 2006, when I took a look at the horrifying image of myself in a wet suit (a family snapshot taken at Discovery Cove, Sea World, Orlando FL during the holidays) and resolved to do something about my obesity. I'm very grateful to Andy Mitchell, CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center, for telling me to read "The South Beach Diet." I never would have picked that book up without his recommendation, mostly because of its dopey name. But that little paperback changed my life.

Now I'm off to the gym, a daily physical routine I've become sort of addicted to. I alternate between weight training and working out on the cardio equipment every other day. On Saturdays I often do both, which is what I intend to do today. I never imagined myself as a gym rat. But hey, life is full of surprises.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Enough about grandmothers

If I hear or see Nancy Pelosi referred to one more time as "a 66-year-old grandmother" I'm going to scream.

How many grandfathers are members of the House of Representatives? Can you recall ever — ever — hearing a member of congress described as a "grandfather?" And I'm not talking about the fill-in details at the end of a story. I'm talking about a sentence high up in the story, the woman's initial description, as in Bob Herbert's op-ed column in yesterday's New York Times:

"Also in Washington, Nancy Pelosi, the 66-year-old grandmother who had been portrayed as some kind of raving San Francisco radical in countless Republican campaign ads..."

In the past few days, I've seen references in the media to newly elected congresswomen as "working mothers." I'd like to know: Is there any other kind? And why aren't there any "working fathers?" We all know the answer is because fatherhood has not traditionally been considered a full-time job, the man's occupation. Motherhood is, of course, the main gig for us double-Xers. The rest we take on at our own peril.

Then, of course, there was the president's feeble attempt at humor during his press conference Wednesday afternoon, when he said he told Ms. Pelosi he'd give her the names of some good Republican interior decorators to help her with her new office.

Yep. I'm sure decorating her new office is her top priority, Mr. President, right up there on her agenda for the first 100 hours. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on W's part, but it was a sexist remark nonetheless.

It's 2006. Are you as aghast (and annoyed) as I am that things like this are still being said/printed/talked about?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When things go whoosh

I am a lousy blogger. I'm good with essays and I've got a decent touch for columns. But blogging? I've discovered this old dog needs to learn a new trick or two when it comes to adapting to this unique literary form.

Blogging requires frequency and regularity. Blog readers and subscribers want to know that a blogger will have a new post on the Web at regular intervals. But I have a conceptual difficulty to overcome. I have a hard time writing unless I've actually got something to say.

Another problem I have with blogging is the idea that it's OK to post little blurbs about things. Me? I sit down at my keyboard and don't come up for air until I've got a thousand words on my screen. The first draft usually comes out of me in one big whoosh. It's almost involuntary. It usually happens first thing, in the predawn darkness of my kitchen. It's an idea that's been knocking around in my head for several days that erupts into a column, even before I've poured my second mug of coffee.

After the initial spewing forth, I read what I've written and start editing, whittling it down to a manageable 650 words or so. Usually the editing process takes me longer than it takes me to write the first draft. That's because the real work is in the reworking — the scrubbing, polishing and finessing. That's also the fun part for me. That's my chance to try and make my writing sing.

Often I'm reminded that I'm just plain tone deaf. But sometimes, well, it can be sweet.

A blog is a different animal, though. That much I've learned. It's not just putting my column on the Web, which is pretty much what I've been doing since I started my own blog back in August 2005.

A blog is supposed to be more spontaneous than any column-writing I've ever undertaken. It should be informal, less structured, more conversational. And it's supposed to be interactive. That is, bloggers are supposed to engage readers in discussion — a back-and-forth exchange between blogger and reader and among readers themselves.

To this end, posting short, informal entries regularly — daily, even — is crucial. And that's where I fall flat on my face. Maybe it's my lawyer background that compels me to be long-winded. Maybe it's just that I'm such a creature of habit and my habit is to write 700-word columns. But I've got a hard time with brevity. And spontaneity. Not to mention forgoing all the editing and polishing. I've got to learn to go with the initial whoosh (and have shorter, more frequent whooshes) and leave it at that.

But what's the big deal? Why should I care? Is blogging so important anyway? Blogging, along with all the other bells and whistles of the World Wide Web, is the way of the future. They've even got a cool name for it as it relates to the craft we practice here in the newsroom: citizen journalism.

When it comes to journalism, everything about the Web requires lots of big changes in how we do what we do. Brevity is just the beginning. Interactivity is key. No longer do news editors alone define what is and isn't "news." People are no longer "readers" on the receiving end of news editors' decisions. Now they are "users" who get to pick and choose their "content" from a variety of sources. And in this brave new world we live in, "users" are even able to create "content" themselves and put it up on Web sites for all to see — and comment on.

In other words, the monopoly previously enjoyed by the news media on the identification and reporting of news is now a thing of the past. This isn't all bad — even if you're in the news business. But there are certainly some dangers. We've all learned that the Internet is not always the most reliable source of accurate information. A lot of the stuff floating around out there isn't vetted for accuracy. Rumors spread like wild fire — and the fire is fueled by the anonymity of the Internet.

Travel on the information highway is fast and treacherous. The trick for journalists is to take advantage of the great things the Web has to offer — for example, new sources of information, an incredible opportunity for research, the ability to reach the entire world with a story or image — without compromising the standards that make journalism more than rumor-mongering.

The trick for me, in particular, is to let go of some old habits. I'm starting tomorrow. I'm going to blog often and blog briefly. No more 700-word essays on my blog. No more simply posting the columns that I write for our newspapers. From now on, my blog takes on a life of its own. I'm scared but willing. Come along for the ride. Go to and — whoosh. Interact with me and with each other. It is the 21st century, after all.

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