Saturday, June 30, 2012

Higher Education

I've been thinking a lot lately about college education--what it costs and what it's worth. I think it started with this article. Even though I went to law school directly from college, I realize how lucky/privileged I was that I could have gotten some kind of entry level job with a future right out of college; I could have worked hard and advanced. I don't think that's possible anymore. Entry level jobs with futures seem to have disappeared.

I was also privileged because my parents paid for my college education and for part of law school expenses. I took out a loan for $15,000, which unbelievably covered my  law school tuition for three years. I also had a one-year grace period before I had to start paying off my loan.

This would not be possible today. Tuition prices have soared; loan conditions have become punitive--see this, this, and this.  One more depressing article which people have told me is not news.

All of the conditions in the linked articles show me that young people are screwed. Only the most elite will be able to attend college without a suffocating Damocles sword of debt hanging over their heads (thanks to Bernard Schwartz of NYU for the reference.)

Student loans are a scam that must be stopped.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back to Lake Mohegan

Sunday night, I suggested that we hike on Monday. Unfortunately, Monday greeted us with thunderstorms so we postponed our hike to Wednesday. We decided on Mohegan Lake and took our usual route around the lake, stopping at the dog beach so Spike could swim.

Mohegan was the place where Spike learned to swim. He's always loved to chase his ball; on that first day we threw his ball farther and farther into the water. The first time he swam for it, everyone on dog beach cheered.

Last Monday, we tried a new park, Putnam Memorial State Park, "Connecticut's Valley Forge" and the oldest state park in Connecticut. I've lived in Connecticut for over 30 years and never heard of the place. Putnam is ocated on the site on the winter encampment of General Israel Putnam's Continental troops from December 1778 to May 1779. We spent about an hour on the self-guided walking tour of historical sites. 

We discovered Putnam in Doggin' Connecticut: The 57 Best Places To Hike With  Your Dog In The Nutmeg State. I don't know how Doggin' Connecticut missed Lake Mohegan; it's awesome for dogs and their humans. But in addition to Putnam, it turned us on to Babcock Preserve in Greenwich, Dennis Hill State Park in Norfolk and Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent.

We look forward to other hikes in the future.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


On recent walks with Spike, I've glanced into parked cars we passed. The most common items I saw were coffee cups, usually paper or styrofoam. I also saw many air fresheners dangling from rear view mirrors and a few graduation tassels.

The most unusual item was a dried rose draped across a dashboard. Other items: a red Santa Biblia and various electronic equipment.

Memorable Lines: Girls Edition

I regularly watch Game of Thrones and True Blood and HBO is big on promoting its new shows. I started watching VEEP to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus and figured I might as well check out Girls.

Frankly, I don't get all the praise. I'm interested enough that I watched all episodes. It's not funny, which is the usual standard for a comedy. I also don't like any of the characters.

But the reason for this post is a line that Adam (Hannah's boyfriend) said. They were at the surprise wedding of Jessa and Thomas who've only known each other for a few weeks. Adam says, "Time's a rubber band."  That intrigued me because I've seen that image used in an explanation of time travel. On another level, Jeff and I started talking about getting married after dating for a month or two. (Just for the record, I'll add that we were engaged for almost two years before we got married.)

Another small thing that appealed to me: Hannah's friend and coffee shop boss, Ray is shown reading "I Capture the Castle" my favorite book and praising English women authors.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Things that brought me relief in the past few days:

The heat wave is over: It lasted for only about two days but it was sudden and intense, and it wiped me out. Apparently the thunderstorm Friday night cooled things down. My Saturday morning walk with Spike was our normal distance and time. Later Jeff, Spike and I ate at Nik's Place, a seasonal road-side stand near the beach and Taylor Farm dog park. After lunch, we enjoyed a sunny loop around the park cooled by a sea breeze.

Getting a good night's sleep: I've messed up my sleep patterns by staying up and sleeping in too late. This culminated in an abysmal Thursday night: I know I slept but it didn't feel as if I slept for more than a minute or two at a time. I got at least eight hours sleep Friday night and by Saturday morning felt much better.

A guilty verdict on 45 of 48 accounts against Jerry Sandusky: Sandusky is a monster. But he doesn't look the way many imagine a pedophile monster--hey, he gave to charity. I worried that if he were acquitted, it would stop many child abuse and rape survivors from coming forward. At first it seemed that the jury was taking a long time, but with the number of charges, I guess they worked quickly after all.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Stopper

RA Dickey is the man, the 2012 NY Mets stopper. Tonight he pitched his second consecutive no-hitter. It was the first time in 68 years that a National League pitcher pitched consecutive starts with one hit or fewer.

Dickey had a career high 13 strike-outs, with nine straight wins; his record is now 11-1. It was also his fourth career shut-out.

"A star is born," says Keith Hernandez.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012 Writers Circle Retreat: Postscript

Last week at this time, I was beginning my writers retreat at Wisdom House.

I enjoyed my time there: I spent two full mornings writing. I reconnected with fellow writers and met a few new ones and more here.

I read my work in the Saturday evening share. Our reaction to the share is universal: we are all blown away by our work. We write poetry, fiction, non-fiction, plays, essays. We have different styles and different goals. Yet we are all writers and can relate on that level.

An important aspect of writing retreats is giving myself permission and an interrupted period of time to write. I try not to pressure myself to write every moment but just allow it to happen.

I heard a story that a writer stopped going to retreats because she used retreats as an excuse not to write the rest of the year. The weird thing is that I understand it. I usually struggle with writing when I return from a retreat.  It's just too easy to fall into a daily routine in which writing is a lower priority.

I wish I had the answers.

Beaglemania: Beagle Brothers

Here are Odin and Brahma, two four-and-a-half year old beagles, who are looking for a new together-forever home. They are both neutered and up-to-date on all their shots. Contact if you would like to share your home with these beagle boys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


At Lake Mohegan, a tree trunk next to the path:

It's hard to read, but it says, "Jillian, Prom?"

"How 'bout the Mets?"

Said Keith Hernandez as the Mets scored two more runs on two outs. Yesterday, the Mets scored nine of 11 runs with two outs, the highest total for any National League team this year.

In other news, RA Dickey just beat Jerry Koosman's Mets record for most scoreless innings pitched when he reached 32 and 2/3 innings. The Mets ultimately won the game 9-1 on Dickey's second career one-hitter with a career high 12 strikeouts.

2012 is a year for creating and breaking Mets records.

The fans are true to the orange and blue.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Visit to Lake Mohegan

Yesterday was a beautiful day and rain was predicted for today and tomorrow. I needed some kind of exercise and the gym didn't appeal to me so I suggested a hike at Lake Mohegan

At the main entrance is a beach with playground, snack bar, sprinkler park and picnic tables. No dogs are allowed there. We headed down a trail around the lake to the doggy beach. We threw Spike's squeaky ball into the lake a few times. Spike is a strong swimmer but slower than many of the other longer legged dogs. Jeff usually carries extra balls so Spike will always have one to retrieve. Yesterday, there were only a few other dogs around so he had no competition.

After Spike's dip, we finished a loop around the lake. Saw a few other hikers with dogs and a few people fishing. It had been about nine months since our last visit and we remembered why we love the place so much.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Canine Health Watch: Good News Everyone

I've recently written about some of Spike's health issues While we weren't stressed out about them, they were still a cause for concern. Spike is 11 1/2 years old and we want to make sure he stays healthy.

The latest tests were Wednesday. I collected an undiluted (i.e. his water was restricted from around 11 pm to 6 am) first-thing-in-the-morning urine sample, and we took him to the vet's for a blood test.

Dr. S. called with the results Thursday. The thyroid medication is working, Spike has no blood in his urine and is no longer losing protein in his urine.

Hooray for Spike.

The Writers Circle: 2012 Retreat

I arrived at Wisdom House Thursday evening after meeting some of the writers for dinner in Litchfield.

I had been looking forward to this retreat for months. Yet I found myself ill at ease for some reason that I couldn't name. I wasn't feeling very social. I wasn't sure what to say when people asked what was new. I think my unease might have been related to my lackluster writing productivity.

Regardless, I felt better the next morning. I walked the labyrinth which inspired three pieces I've decided to call vignettes. I took part in discussions about writers' spaces and writers' problems. I took some photos with my cell phone; the one above is from the peace garden. I've enjoyed good meals and went to Haight-Brown Vineyard for a wine and cheese tasting.

It's important to me to have a community of writers even it's only for one weekend a year.

Best of all, I've still got a day-and-a-half left.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Game of Thrones--More Thoughts on Season Two

For the most part, I loved it. I've written before about my issues with the "tits are us" HBO approach. But my biggest problem with season two was the scene of Joffrey abusing the whores, Roz and Daisy. Tyrion sent them in an ill-advised plan to drain some of Joffrey's poison. The scene did not appear in the books and it was unnecessary to show Joffrey's sadism and cruelty which had been shown multiple times.

After the first season of Game of Thrones, I started reading the books. On Tuesday I finished book five, A Dance with Dragons. I've enjoyed the series more than the books (which is unusual for me.) I've found that I've already forgotten some of the books' plot points. Maybe it's because I've read much of the books just before falling asleep. But I also think it's because Martin has too many characters, too many plots, and too many instances of they're dead, oops they're not (I'm already sick of this trope from soap operas.)

One of the biggest changes from book two to season two is the interaction between Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark. It's been brilliant. I've been a fan of  Charles Dance since A Jewel in the Crown and Maisie Williams can hold her own. I've also loved Sophie Turner (Sansa), Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) and Issac Hempstead Wright (Bran). All the acting has been stellar (although I'm not enjoying the Robb/Talisa subplot which I attribute to sloppy writing rather than poor acting.)

All in all, a solid season. I'll start the hiatus with new True Blood episodes and continue to watch some Game of Thrones reruns.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Favorite Book: "I Capture the Castle"

I used to subscribe to a magazine called Ingenue. I don't remember much about it but I did see a review for a book called "I Capture the Castle" Then one day at a sidewalk sale, I found it in a shopping cart of books in front of Woolworth's.

It was synchronicity--finding that book was important to me.

On the surface, there were few things in common between the narrator Cassandra and me: we were both 17 year old girls who wanted to be writers.

The differences: she lived in a castle the English countryside--I lived in a colonial in the New Jersey suburbs. She lived in poverty with little to eat--I lived in American middle class affluence with arguably too much to eat. She lived in a literary family--I lived in a family that rarely discussed books.

Yet Cassandra spoke to me. We both struggled with our writing--how could we learn to write? We both struggled with love--how could we learn to live with or without our loves?

I remember my mother asking me what was wrong the afternoon I finished the book. I felt sad. There was no pat happy ending and I felt for Cassandra.

Maybe it was our common age and our common dream that first drew me to Cassandra, but something more has held me to her. "I Capture the Castle" remains my favorite book.

Not-So Great Expectations

In financial and business reporting, bad news by itself isn't all that bad. It's the unexpected bad news that causes problems. Analysts and investors can handle the bad news better if they know what to expect.

A similar reaction occurs in sports. I'm a Mets fan. At the beginning of the season, we didn't have much besides hope.

After a third of the season, I'm happy with the standings. Currently, the Mets are 31-24 (564.) If they win tonight they will be in first place in the National League East. (Fingers are crossed.) Now, take a look at the Yankees, currently 30-24 (.555.) But while Mets fans are happy, Yankees fans are unnerved, based on calls to WFAN radio. Some are panicking: calling for a different player to be dropped in the order each day, bemoaning earlier trades, questioning every move of manager, Joe Girardi.

It all comes down to expectations. I generally don't like to generalize, but generally Yankees fans are entitled--they expect to win and win it all every year. Apparently, if the Yankees don't lead all season--it's a cause for alarm in the Bronx.

In Queens, things are different--with only two world series wins in 50 years--Mets fans know disappointment. We may not be cursed, but we've had heartache. Damn--I've just felt it again as the Mets blew the third, sure double play ball in the past two innings. As SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen described it, the Mets defense betrays them, over and over and over.

Sigh. I may be discouraged and disgusted  at this moment--but  as we enter the 11th--I still believe.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Tonight's The Night: The Mets' First No Hitter

Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter tonight in Mets' history, the 8,020th game.

I watched it all. At first, I didn't consider the possibility. Later, I watched  and wished. Tension mounted in the 8th and 9th innings and then Johan pulled it off.

This is a symbolic victory. The Mets need to build upon this.