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Monday, February 23, 2009

Build a Better Date Night
Whether your trysts are regular or once in a blue moon, you can rev up your romantic routine. Experts help three couples with three different issues. Read on to get inspired and try something new together.
By Sarah Mahoney

J Muckle/Studio D

Tell the truth: Did your date nights vanish years ago, along with sleeping in, Sunday brunches, and reading the newspaper over coffee?

You're likely due for a refresher. Couples should give special time together a high priority, because it not only helps you stay connected, the latest research reports, but it also makes both partners happier. "Date night is one of the best ways couples have to pull back from the fray and remember there's an 'us' hidden in the swirl of their daily lives — and really focus on maintaining and celebrating their connection to each other," says Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and relationship expert from

To help keep your marriage strong, date night should be fun — of course — but you should also make it novel in some way, or you'll grow bored with your time together and, possibly, with each other, says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who researches couples' interactions. That doesn't mean that you have to give up your beloved French film nights or ballroom dancing sessions and start bungee jumping just for the sake of novelty. Rather, you should simply make the effort to think creatively about how to spend your time together. "My wife and I love the ballet," says Aron, "and my sister gave us a backstage tour at the local dance company, so we got a different perspective on something we already enjoy."

To discover how to spice up date nights, we found three couples who faced challenges and asked them to road-test expert fix-it advice. Read on to see what worked — and why.

The Kitchen Cure
Names: Nina and Jayme Deibler
Hometown: Pittsburgh
Married: 4 years; she's 37, he's 38
Kids: A daughter, 2
Their challenge: Making date night happen at all

"My husband and I used to have great dates," Nina says. "We both love good food, and we'd often spend five or six hours cooking and experimenting with different wines."

But since their daughter was born, finding couple time has gotten harder. "I travel frequently for my job, and Jayme often works evenings and weekends," she says. "So when we do have a few hours, we usually want to spend them with our daughter."

"Working parents worry that time spent as a couple subtracts from time spent with their kids," explains Schwartz. "But when couples feel guilty leaving a child with a sitter, I tell them, 'This isn't selfish, it's protecting both your marriage and your family.'"

Expert Makeover

"It's great that these two have such a strong common interest," says James M. Graham, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Western Washington University in Bellingham. "I'd like them to indulge their passions in a project they can finish in a few hours — one with a unique twist. Experimenting together makes a date more satisfying, just as team-building exercises draw people closer."

When a couple has to overcome a new challenge, their sense of accomplishment after they succeed is magnified. "Dates that allow that kind of growth let you surprise yourself and your partner," he says, "and see each other in a new light." Just keep changes and challenges moderate. "This should be fun, not traumatic."

The Deiblers decided to try making sushi — a dish they love in restaurants but had never prepared themselves. They bought the basic equipment (including a book of instructions) at a favorite cooking store and arranged for Nina's mom to take care of their toddler for a few hours.

The Verdict: A huge hit

Her take: "The expert really nailed it when he suggested a project for us — this was great. And it was a challenge: The rice had to be just the right temperature, and some of the chopping and rolling was tricky. We did need the time without our daughter, but several of my neighbors want to trade babysitting so we can all have date nights. I found this experience very inspiring — it made me feel like we were dating again. Next time, I want to try cooking Indian food."

His take: "The food turned out really well, and we had the kind of fun we haven't for ages. It reminded me how good we are at working together and how we complement each other: Nina did the organizing and the shopping, and got the rice going. Then we took turns chopping and wrapping, tasting as we went along. And because we did it all between 5 and 7:30, we are confident now that we can make something like this happen at least every other week."

5-Minute Fixes Names: Cate and Dan Adams Hometown: Salt Lake City
Married: 18 years; both are 49
Kids: Twin girls, 16
Their challenge: Making limited time together feel meaningful

"We've always tried to do date nights, even before we had kids," says Cate. "Then, after the girls were born, we didn't go out often. Now that they're older, we both work full-time and still don't go out much.

"After our last anniversary, we decided that we'd try to spend five minutes each day just talking and connecting. And it's helped. But we'd like to find a way to make that time more special."

Expert Makeover

The experts loved the five-minute ritual, which eases the scheduling pressure that prevents many date nights from happening at all. But Schwartz advised the Adamses to expand beyond their "How was your day?" conversations and get creative. She suggested that they develop ways to mix it up by brainstorming together and surprising each other. She emphasizes that no one, including the Adamses, should feel pressured to come up with something novel for every single date. There's nothing wrong with what the two do now: chat in the kitchen while Dan does the dishes. But sharing a glass of wine, going for a short walk, or just sitting on the deck once a week can make those few moments feel more special.

The overachieving couple decided that they would come up with something different to do every single day for an entire week. One night, they traded foot massages. The next, Cate asked Dan to show her how to fix a flat tire on her bicycle. Another evening, each drew a picture of the best thing that happened to them that day. And one night, after Dan noticed someone selling weird-looking rocks on eBay, they raced down to the creek that runs through their backyard to see who could find the most eBay-worthy stones.

The Verdict: Sure, it was nice, but enough already!

Her take: "The night we brainstormed was funny, and we laughed a lot throughout the week. But the best part, honestly, was all the talking we did while we were doing these things. In almost every case, we wound up spending much longer than five minutes, and it was good to realize we could make that much time for each other."

His take: "We had some fun with this, but I missed the quietness — and the spontaneity — of just being able to sit down and talk with Cate and decompress. And having to think of something new to do every night just wouldn't be sustainable in the long run, obviously. But I can see doing something special more often than we do now."

The Active Answer
Names: Camille and Kent Boskovich
Hometown: La Grange, IL
Married: 22 years; both are 47
Kids: A son, 19, and a daughter, 17
Their challenge: Spicing up their tried-and-true routine

These two spend plenty of time together — and enjoy it. They work out at the same gym, they have dinner out once a week, and they often spend weekends driving to their daughter's hockey tournaments in other cities.

Still, "our dates are pretty boring," Camille says. And while they enjoy elaborate events — from opera to White Sox games — they're looking for date ideas that don't take much advance scheduling.

Expert Makeover

Dating can be complex for couples like this, as they anticipate an empty house — and a kid-less social calendar. Even people with common interests, like these two, need to expand their dating repertoire, says Aron. He advised them to explore more in the fitness realm. They already enjoy it, and his research shows that couples typically find shared physical activity one of the best ways to bond. Aron actually persuaded spouses to Velcro themselves together and crawl across gym mats — and found that it made them feel more in love than they had before this unusual exercise.

"It's really important that they pick something they're both new to," he says — maybe a swing-dance class or snowshoeing. But they shouldn't worry that every activity has to be a perfect fit, says Schwartz. "Think of yourself as an anthropologist doing research, and remember, if you don't like it, you don't have to try it again," she says. Plus, even a bad date can be a good bonding experience and provide a couple with a shared memory to laugh about later.

After looking at their options, Camille and Kent tried a fitness yoga class at their health club: She had taken a few classes in the past but was still a novice, and he had always been interested in giving it a go.

The Verdict: Mixed reviews but headed in the right direction

Her take: "I was surprised Kent was game to try this, but it was really great. The instructor asked us to do some tough poses, and Kent kept shooting me a look like, 'Are you kidding me?' On the one hand, I worried that he wasn't enjoying it that much. On the other, it was funny — and it really felt good to do something besides going out to dinner, especially something physical and healthy. So this inspired us: We're going to do a few sessions with a trainer next."

His take: "Honestly, is this a better date than going out for dinner and sharing a bottle of wine? No way. But that said, it was OK, and I would try it again. I'm looking forward to the training sessions. I'm a treadmill guy, so it'll be good to add weights — and fun to do it with my wife."

You Can’t Friend Me, I Quit!
On Facebook's fifth anniversary, a not-so-fond farewell.
By Steve Tuttle
Newsweek Web Exclusive

Illustration:; photo: Getty Images

I was a late convert to Facebook, the social-networking site that turned five years old Wednesday. I joined about a year ago at age 47, swept up in the massive wave of people turning the corner to the back nine of life, and pitifully trying to do what comes so naturally to our sons and daughters. My own 16-year-old, Grace, literally cried from embarrassment when I told her I was signing up, and she begged me through her tears not to do it. When it was clear that I was serious, she made me promise never to "friend" her. Since I didn't know what that meant at the time, I agreed. Last week I redeemed myself in her eyes, because I signed off of Facebook forever—or at least until Tuesday.

I had one of those Hallmark movie moments. I was sitting here at work thinking up my next pithy "status update," which is where you broadcast to all your online buddies in a few words what you're up to at that very moment—and finally came to my senses. "What the hell have I become?" I cried.

So goodbye 157 Facebook friends, 75 of whom I wouldn't recognize if I saw you on the street. Goodbye super nifty "Pieces of Flair" application, and the 1,332,359 members of the "I Don't Care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like a Dumbass" Crocs-hater group. Goodbye, William and Mary alums I barely remember from 25 years ago. Not you, Tom, the other Tom. Hello to actually working at my job again. Well, a little anyway. I wouldn't have been able to write this story about quitting Facebook if I didn't quit Facebook because I wouldn't have had the time.

When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me. Instead of scouring my friends' friends' photos for other possible friends, I could have been raising money for Darfur relief, helping out at the local animal shelter or delivering food to the homeless. It depresses me even more to know that I would never have done any of those things, even with all those extra hours.

I was so addicted to my imaginary playgroup, I put the Facebook application on my BlackBerry. That way I could know immediately when some kid who used to pick on me in elementary school was reaching out across the years to remind me that I still had cooties. Once I was so entranced reading my Facebook page on my handheld, that I lost sight of the actual faces of the people on the street around me, and came to only after I fell into the lap of a man in a wheelchair. I was hurt when he rebuffed my attempt to friend him, but it turns out real life doesn't have that feature.

Nothing personal, former Facebook friends: I'll miss those wall updates about doing dishes and changing the kitty litter. I'll miss seeing those artsy photos of beach sunsets and city streets covered with snow. I'll miss posting those, I mean. I'll miss your constant name dropping and updates that make sure we all know you're camping in a hemp tent on a sustainable emu farm in Costa Rica, or that you eat only dolphin-free tuna, and I should too. But most of all, I will miss those hundreds upon hundreds of baby pictures that remind me daily of how insanely happy I am that my kids aren't babies any more.

Then there's the whole anxiety-inducing to-friend-or-not-to-friend minefield that I won't miss at all. You get a request from, say, Spiffy McGee, but the name doesn't ring a bell. You see that you share a friend, so maybe he found you that way. Or you note that he went to your college, which makes sense, because there were a lot of WASPy "Old Virginia" guys at William and Mary with names like Biff or Buff or Ridge. So you think, what the hell, and you add him, and within minutes your wall is peppered with posts like "Spiffy McGee feels a deuce coming on" or "Spiffy ate the worm!" with photos to prove it. Then you feel pressure to say what you're doing to outwit Spiffy, so you write: "Steve is in a Honey Smacks mood this morning." Seriously, I wrote that.

Facebook status updates are the literary equivalent of inane cell-phone chatter, like when you're on Amtrak and the man in front of you can't stop talking loudly on his Bluetooth for one second, so you're stuck sitting behind him and have to listen to stuff like: "Hi, honey, I'm on Amtrak now. I'm sitting in my seat now. I'm taking off my coat now." Yes, I could always sit in the Quiet Car, but one of the last times I did that the train attendant kept waking me up every five minutes yelling: "This Is The Quiet Car! This Is The Quiet Car!"

Being on Facebook is like volunteering to receive spam, and the more successful you are at finding friends, the more spam you get! In the end, Facebook is really the emptiest, loneliest place on the whole World Wide Web. It's all static and white noise, and the steady streams of status updates start to look like ASDF, ASDF, ASDF after a while.

So I've decided now to do something more worthy and productive with all of my new free time. I'm going back to the original reality-based Facebook, the local bar where everybody knows your name, which for me is Off The Record at the Hay-Adams Hotel here in D.C. Status updates there are said in real time to real people, like: "That guy's got a problem with alcohol. I see him every time I come in here," or "How would the Civil War have changed if Abraham Lincoln had octopus tentacles instead of a beard?" (Thanks, Cliff Clavin). So goodbye, potential and former Facebook pals, all 150 million-plus of you, and hello, John Boswell, the best bartender in America. If any of you need to get in touch, check the third stool in, right side. If you want to friend me, buy me a beer.

Facebook Made Me Do It
Seven lies we tell ourselves about social networking.
By Raina Kelley
Newsweek Web Exclusive

Everybody loves to complain about Facebook. But I've been wading through all the nonstop commentary over the last few weeks and I've made a startling discovery. Everybody also lies about why they use Facebook. After exhaustive research, here are the Seven Lies You Tell Yourself About Facebook.

1. I Only Friend People I Really Know: Stop pretending you have standards; you will friend anyone. You would accept Bernie Madoff if he asked. You want your friend count to be sky-high. That's why I accept all sorts of people I haven't seen in 20 years and couldn't pick out of a line-up. I refuse to have one less friend than my arch nemesis from college. I will not tolerate a lower count than my annoying colleague who sucks her teeth in meetings whenever I say anything. Admit it, you're no better than I am—how many of your "friends" would you invite to your house?

2. Facebook Made Me Do It: Facebook didn't make you tell all 1,384 of your friends that you once had chlamydia. Facebook didn't hold your hand onto the mouse and force you to type: "Josh is in favor of slapping geese and women," as one of your "25 random things" and it certainly didn't waterboard you into asking everyone what their slave name is. Psychiatrists call this "externalizing blame." It's a way to lay-off shame and self-loathing onto somebody (or something) else so you can feel better about yourself. I once wrote, "Raina is feeling like the cat's meow," and hated Facebook for days because of it. I know now that it was nobody else's fault but my own.

3. Wall-to-Wall Flirting Isn't Cheating: Just because it's called "social networking" with "friends" doesn't make hard-core online flirting OK. Do not try and tell me that you were surprised when your boyfriend left you after he read your pornographic wall-to-wall with his cousin. Also: stop sending your assistant cute virtual gifts. Virtual gifting counts. In fact, it's probably not appropriate for you to be "friending" her or the cute summer intern in the first place. Same thing goes for wall-to-wall stalking the love of your 7th grade life. Online harassment is just as bad as the bricks and mortar kind.

4. I Use Facebook to Keep in Touch With People: No, the truth is you're nosy. Admit it. You scour the profiles of other people for the same reason I do. You want to know their business. Facebook isn't addictive—your desire to know what other people are up to is addictive. The over-sharing thrills you. I know I'm hooked. Don't you hunt through your friends' walls looking for any scrap of information that will produce that warm tingly schadenfreude feeling?

Facebook is our own personal reality show and our friends are the stars. What else besides "American Idol" or "Project Runway" allows you to be so judgmental while wearing pajamas? If people stopped revealing ridiculous stuff about themselves in their status updates, "Rock of Love" would be your "guilty pleasure" instead. You know you're dying to discover your college roommate lives in a trailer in his mom's backyard. I literally cried from joy when I saw that an ex-boyfriend was sporting a comb-over.

5. I'm Soooo Over Facebook: Come on. You love Facebook for exactly the reasons you pretend to hate it ... it's the Big Thing. And we're not falling for that ironic distancing pose you've been adopting lately. We know you spend hours looking for former girlfriends or that guy who you loved from freshman psych but didn't have the courage to talk to. I tried to act all Margaret Meadish when I first joined Facebook ("It's a classic example of mass hysteria inspired by our collective need to be famous. Blah, blah, blah.") But everybody knew I wasn't on there doing social anthropology. I was on there because I wanted to snicker at that girl I went to elementary school with who reports every single one of the eight pomegranate martinis she drinks every night.

6. And I am Soooo Not Competitive: We don't just want more friends than everybody else; we also want the highest score in Word Twist and the most virtual Easter Eggs. I recently spent nearly 24 hours playing Scramble on Facebook until I had a higher score than my friend Dough Dough. Why? Because I knew Facebook would send him a note that said; "Raina has beaten your personal high score on Scramble." When he commented on his complete and total defeat, I just said; "I didn't know Facebook would tell you that. OMG! LOL!" We love Facebook because it allows you to gloat to your heart's content and hide that self-satisfied smirk on your face behind the wall of the Internet. By the way, if you have a Scramble score higher than 147, don't even think about friending me.

7. Facebook is My Friend: No, it's a business (albeit one that has yet to make money). Everyone knows casinos hide the exits and pump oxygen into the air to keep you gambling and get all your money. Facebook is doing the same thing but with avatars and Food Flings. They want to trap you behind their dotcom walls so they can attract advertisers. Think about it. If Facebook really loved you, they wouldn't run those "5 Friends HATE you!" banners on the top of Scramble. And have you ever had a friend try to take ownership of all the posts and baby pictures you sent them for who knows what reason? Nor has a "friend" ever taunted me with ads that implied Obama owed me $12,000 in personal-stimulus money.

Woman Gets Graduation Invite in Mail ... 22 Years Late
The Associated Press

LA GRANDE, Oregon — An Oregon woman finally received an invitation to her nephew's high school graduation in New Jersey, but she may be a little late — it was in 1987.

Theresa Schlossarek, of La Grande, found the invitation last week in her mailbox. The envelope, which had been opened, was postmarked June 2, 1987, from Toms River, New Jersey, where her brother, Hermann Ilnseher, lives.

Ilnseher said the lack of response from his sister was noticed but dismissed.

"We just thought that she lived so far away, she couldn't come," Ilnseher said. "She usually would send money, though, so we did joke about that later on, that maybe she could send some and add interest for the years passed."

Peter Hass, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service's Portland district, called the delay "very unusual and very unfortunate."

Hass said the envelope could have been stuck in machinery or misrouted and delivered to the wrong address, which would explain why it arrived opened. But he said no matter the age of the mail, "if it's postmarked, we're obliged to deliver it."

Schlossarek's nephew, Michael Ilnseher, now an assistant principal at an Atlanta-area high school, said he didn't remember his aunt not receiving an invitation.

"I never realized something could be lost for 22 years like that," he told The (La Grande) Observer.

Beheading of Wife Poses Another Test for U.S. Muslims
The Associated Press

Muzzammil Hassan, right, founder of Bridges TV, is charged with murder in the beheading of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, left, in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The crime was so brutal, shocking and rife with the worst possible stereotypes about their faith that some U.S. Muslims thought the initial reports were a hoax.

The harsh reality of what happened in an affluent suburb of Buffalo, New York — the beheading of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan and arrest of her estranged husband in the killing — is another crucible for American Muslims.

Here was a couple that appeared to be the picture of assimilation and tolerance, co-founders of a television network that aspired to improve the image of Muslims in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Now, as Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan faces second-degree murder charges, those American Muslims who have spoken out are once again explaining that their faith abhors such horrible acts, and they are using the tragedy as a rallying cry against domestic violence.

The killing and its aftermath raise hard questions for Muslims — about gender issues, about distinctions between cultural and religious practices, and about differing interpretations of Islamic texts regarding the treatment of women.

"Muslims don't want to talk about this for good reason," said Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, a Muslim author and activist. "There is so much negativity about Muslims, and it sort of perpetuates it. The right wing is going to run with it and misuse it. But we've got to shine a light on this issue so we can transform it."

There is evidence of movement in that direction in the 10 days since the Hassan slaying. In an open letter to American Muslim leaders, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali of Sterling, Virginia, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, said "violence against women is real and cannot be ignored."

He urged that imams and community leaders never second-guess a woman in danger, and said women seeking divorces because of physical abuse should not be viewed as bringing shame to their families.

Muslim women's advocates consider the statement significant after years of indifference in a community which has seen only recent progress — for example, the opening of shelters for battered Muslim women in a few major cities.

"This is a horrible tragedy, but it gives us a window," said Abdul-Ghafur, editor of the anthology "Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak." "The next time a woman comes to her imam and says, 'He hit me,' the reply might not be, 'Be patient, sister, is there something you did, sister? Is there something you can do?' The chances are greater the imam will say, 'This is unacceptable."'

At least nine mosques, imams and Islamic organizations also agreed to denounce domestic violence this week at the behest of a coalition of Muslims that organized on the Facebook social networking Web site after Aasiya Hassan's death.

"What you have is a cultural problem our communities have been silent about too long," said Wajahat Ali, a journalist and playwright who helped drive the effort. "What people with an agenda are trying to do is say this is an example of a barbaric religion. This is an example of barbaric misogyny and domestic violence."

At the South Bay Islamic Association in San Jose, California, Imam Tahir Anwar said he preached at Friday prayer services about keeping peace in the family and denounced physical and emotional domestic violence.

"I wouldn't say (the problem) is particular to the Muslim community, but to the immigrant community whether you're Muslim or otherwise," Anwar, whose parents are from India, said in an interview. "Women don't speak up about it. It's a taboo that all immigrant communities sort of face."

Of Islam's potential role in the Hassan slaying, Anwar said: "All religions have texts that can be misinterpreted. Good people regardless of faith would never do something like this."

While sermons like Anwar's are encouraging, other Muslim clerics in the U.S. likely preached that Aasiya Hassan could have avoided her fate by being more obedient, said Muqtedar Khan, an associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware.

"The imam has to be enlightened enough to recognize this violence happens, to not hide in denial or somehow blame it on American culture," said Khan, author of "American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom."

"In order to essentially condemn violence against women, they will have to treat women with greater respect. Unfortunately, the level of enlightenment among imams in North America varies significantly."

Asra Nomani, a Muslim journalist, author and activist from Morgantown, West Virginia, challenged Muslims who say the murder has no link to Islamic teachings. While Islam does not sanction domestic violence or murder, a literal reading of a controversial verse in the Quran taught in some mosques can lead to honor killings and murder, she said.

"It's sort of like the typical reaction to terrorism in the community, where people want to say, 'This had nothing to do with Islam,"' Nomani said. "Well, it doesn't have anything to do with your interpretation of Islam that teaches you can't kill innocent people. But terrorism, violence, honor killing — they are all part of ideological problems we have in the community we need to eradicate."

The passage — Chapter 4, Verse 34 — has been widely translated to sanction physical discipline against disobedient wives. There is disagreement about to what degree and whether it's punitive or symbolic.

The verse is cited "all the time" to justify domestic violence, just as people of other faiths cite scriptures to support oppression of women, said Salma Abugideri of the Peaceful Families Project, which offers training and workshops to combat domestic violence in Muslim communities.

"People will use whatever they can to justify their behavior," she said. "It just seems that people outside the Muslim faith just tend to buy that rationalization as true."

There also has been speculation — by the head of the New York chapter of the National Organization for Woman, among others — that the Hassan case involved honor killing, in which a person is slain by a relative who believes the victim has brought shame to the family.

Aasiya Hassan was killed six days after her husband was served with divorce papers and a protective order. Mo Hassan is a native of Pakistan; acquaintances said he was not overtly religious, and his lawyer has said neither religion nor culture played a role in what happened.

Marsha Freeman, director of the International Women's Rights Action Watch at the University of Minnesota, said honor killing is a cultural and not religious phenomenon. She said it's practiced in some Muslim countries but not others and is present in nations with people of other religions.

"I wouldn't go running around talking about honor killings without knowing more," Freeman said.

On Web sites and e-mail lists, many Muslims are rejecting the term.

"Calling it an honor killing, it sort of takes it out of the mainstream conversation and makes it a conversation about those people from over there from those backwards countries," said Abugideri, of the Peaceful Families Project. "In fact, in this country and in mainstream society there are many cases where domestic violence escalates to the point where a woman is killed."

Friday, February 20, 2009

25 random things about Facebook
It’s not a computer virus, but it sure is starting to feel like one
By Helen A.S. Popkin

It’s not a computer virus, but for some Facebook members, it’s starting to feel like one. It’s called the "25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you," and it seems all the kids are doing it. The Facebook notification pops up in your e-mail or Facebook "wall" with instructions to list these 25 things and tag 25 of your own “friends” to do the same.

The only thing lacking in this dubious invitation is the dire threat of a chain letter — that failure to comply means certain death in say, the next 25 days. Well, turnabout is fair play. Let's see how YOU like it, Facebook!

1. Facebook fosters the illusion that every person you know actually cares that you left your Nikes in the locker room at Crunch.
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2. Nobody cares that you left your Nikes in the locker room at Crunch.

3. If you join Facebook to find out what your kids are up to, you might actually find out what your kids are up to.

4. You don’t want to find out what your kids are up to.

5. Unless, of course, you want to find photos of your 19-year-old daughter making out with another 19-year-old coed for the edification of a bunch of 19-year old dudes doing beer bongs. (That’s age 19, if you’re lucky.)

6. You can announce your divorce on Facebook via the heart icon thingy.

7. Don’t announce your divorce on Facebook.

8. Don’t announce your divorce on Facebook for a number of reasons, the least of which is that all your "friends" will respond on your "wall" with sympathies that in a different era would've been delivered in privacy. You wouldn’t console somebody by shouting across a room full of people. Why are you doing it on a Facebook "wall?"

9. You people take Facebook way too seriously.

10. A woman was killed after changing her relationship status on Facebook.

11. Remember that Burger King "Whopper Sacrifice" application that allegedly offered a free Whopper coupon for every 10 friends you dumped? Well, you probably shouldn’t have dumped a couple of your oldest friends, two of which are hardcore vegans. At least one of them didn’t find it hilarious at all and now they won’t “re-friend” you.

12. If you join Facebook to find people you used to know, you’re just as likely to find your middle school BFF Jill as you are to reignite the passions of that one guy from Photography class who has been stalking you since junior college.

13. "Don’t Get Botox"

14. Facebook can get you fired. Yes, you. Just like you are not that one person who can drive safely while talking on a cell phone, you are not that one person who is in no danger of getting fired for something stupid posted by or about you on Facebook.

15. What’s more, your boss is on Facebook. If you join, you’re going to have to decide whether to accept his or her "friendship." If you accept, you risk losing your job for something he or she stumbles upon. If you attempt to play it safe by not accepting your boss’s "friendship," you risk losing your job for offending him or her.

16. Oh, and you’re also at risk of alienating your oldest friends by bumping their rank in your "Always show these friends" box. We’re talking your adult friends, like, in their 30s and 40s, with jobs and kids and all kinds of grown-up responsibilities.

17. Your otherwise grown-up friends are angry at you for bumping their "Always show these friends" rank because obviously you’re trying to communicate some kind of super secret Facebook message along the lines of, "I value your friendship two-people less today than I did yesterday." It’s like watching your friendship stock plummet.

18. The esteemed widow of former Emperor of Malawi did not just send you a "friend" request, nor is she bearing a unique and prosperous offer straight out of Nigeria just for you.

19. And while we’re on the subject, I'VE JUST BEEN HELD UP AT GUNPOINT IN LONDON AND I NEED YOU TO SEND ME $600 NOW!!!!!

20. Facebook is most concerned about Your Privacy. (And the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are friends!)

21. Don’t connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts. People you haven’t heard from for, like, seven years — people you never thought you were friends with — will leave lame and annoying comments on your Tweets.

22. It’s like, hey, if you want to rekindle the friendship I never thought we had, call me or at least send a private e-mail. Jeez.

23. OK, the cool thing about having your Facebook and Twitter accounts connected is that your Tweets show up as your status updates. But then, if people respond on Twitter and maybe ask you something, and you respond via Twitter, it shows up as your Facebook status, and that’s annoying.

24. While you're sending zombie challenges to all your "friends," there's a guy in Egypt using Facebook to foment democracy.

25. Eventually, someone will post photos from your high school yearbook. Dang, your hair was big.

Naw, but seriously. You kids are awesome! Come "friend" me on Facebook!

Why do you own a Kindle?
As Amazon prepares to launch Kindle 2, a book-loving e-reader explains
By Helen A.S. Popkin

Sarah Lally Brown is a voracious reader, often devouring three tomes at a time. While the 35-year-old Woodinville, Wash. resident prefers the woodsy, remote area where she and her husband live, 20 miles from Seattle’s city center, she says she wouldn’t be there if they couldn’t get broadband. Still, Brown is not what you’d call a gear head.

As her friends point out, Brown possesses many of the skills that would come in handy in the event of civilization’s collapse — vegetable gardening, canning, sewing, sawing logs, tending chickens (of which she has five) and upholstery (hey, you never know). Many of these skills she either learned or improved thanks to books, lovely bound paper books.

Why then, one might imagine her luddite literary brethren asking, does she not only own — but love — a $359 Amazon Kindle, the e-reader many fear might destroy the publishing industry that creates the books she says she loves? "Why does anybody own a Kindle?" luddites often ask. As early adopters drool in anticipation of Kindle 2’s launch on Feb. 24, Technotica asks a literature-loving Kindle owner just that.

Technotica: Why do you hate books?

Sarah Lally Brown: I love books! I have an entire room in my basement that is full of board games and books.

Well then, do you celebrate the rapid decline of the book coffee shop culture? Barnes & Noble-encased Starbucks locations not closing fast enough for you?

I applaud having a venue where you can take a book read for a test drive and having the whole selection there. It can be really nice, but I vastly prefer my neighborhood bookstores.

Sarah Lalley Brown
Sarah Lally Brown is a voracious reader (you can tell by the glasses) who loves both coporeal books and her Kindle e-reader.

So why do you have a Kindle?

My husband got one for himself right when they first came out. He is a notorious early adopter of everything. He ordered his and I soundly mocked it. I told him it was completely ridiculous — why would you ever want this thing to read books?

Then he left it home a few days when he was at work and I picked it up because he had a book that I wanted to read. I realized this is pretty cool and I started borrowing it so much he was irritated enough to buy me one for my birthday.

Were you surprised?

I was totally surprised. It’s not the kind of thing I ever would have justified for myself because of my most problematic thing about the Kindle: Man is it really pricey. When you think about it, it is not a trivial piece of electronic equipment.

Yeah, it’s not the kind of thing I’d feel safe carting into the bathroom …you know, for reading in the bathtub … and whatnot.

Yes, definitely. It’s not the kind of thing I would ever indulge in for myself. I am very lucky to have been given one as a gift. I often get asked what the gadget is that I am using, and I love to explain the book reader concept and how much I love it. But evangelizing the technology always hits a huge speed bump when people ask me how much it cost and I sheepishly mumble, "three hundred and, cough, dollars."

Kindle does frighten the luddites.

Most people clam up at the price and I can almost see them shelving the option way up high on the luxury shelf. And what is the book reader all about? It's getting people to love books again. Making books less intimidating — a 50-page short story and a 800-page novel look the same when you hold them in your hand — and more likely to fit into your every day.

Has the Kindle made your reading ability faster, stronger, better than it was before?

Sarah Lalley Brown
Four of Brown's hens, Candace, Ursula, Penelope, and Muriel. (Eunice not pictured). These gals don't own a Kindle — Technotica just really likes chickens.

It definitely allows me to read more. I usually have two or three books going at the same time — a fiction, a non-fiction and some kind of trash — like a beach blanket kind of book. That’s actually my favorite thing to use the Kindle for. I’ll get books that I would’ve gone to a book store and bought used, and read them and donate them to the bookstore. Now I can get them and not worry about having to recycle them when I’m done.

Or worry about anybody seeing you reading them …

That is really nice, yes.

So you told me before we officially started that your husband is looking forward to the new Kindle. How about you?

They didn’t change any of the things about it that would make it necessary to me. It’s pretty and it has some changes to it … but none of the things that would be important to change are there.

What Kindle improvements would you prefer?

Besides price, I'd have to say the display. If there was a full-color display with crisply scanned images, it would be so nice to convert my heavy shelves of plumbing and electrical and other books into something smaller. But for regular text reading the current display is fine by me.

If the new Kindle had its corners cut off like everything square or rectangular on “Battlestar Galactica,” I would totally drop $400 on it … in a minute … because that would be awesome!

That would make it look futuristic!

Yes. And awesome!

There is one thing I really like about (the current Kindle). I can read one-handed or read no-handed if I’m eating. It’s light and easy to balance and I can click through. But I do get this weird notch in my thumb.

Do you miss pages?

I do love my paper books more. If there’s a book that I truly love … and I especially like to loan books to friends … I’ll read the Kindle version then I’ll go out and buy the paperback.

That kind of eliminates my last question: How do you loan books to your loser friend who will never ever return them?

It is a kind of hard thing to get around, and I’ve had to kind of suck it up. I’ll buy books in dual media. Sometimes there’s a book that you want to pass on.

Well, it’s a good thing you still love corporeal books. You never know when a rickety chair needs a shim!

Actually, I use zip ties.

Bonding with Your Teen
Though bonding may seem like the last thing your kid wants, now is the time she needs you most. Try these smart strategies.
By Debra Kent

My 17-year-old phoned me at work last week and said, "Come home soon! I really want to be with you, Mommy." Lisi hardly ever calls me Mommy anymore. As my heart swelled, I must confess I felt just a tad superior to all those parents who complain about their aloof, uncommunicative teenagers. So I skipped my 5 p.m. workout, drove directly home, and knocked on my daughter's bedroom door, anticipating a long chat over hot cocoa.

Lisi looked up from her laptop, greeted me with a cheerful "Hi," and then resumed chatting online with her best friend, Nicole, asking only, "Can you close my door, please, Mom?"

Welcome to my world. For the last few years I've been competing for face time with my daughter against best friends, boys, school, drama club, and the entire parallel universe that is Facebook. Despite the odds, I'm determined to spend more time with Lisi. Even though she often seems less than interested in hanging out with me, my gut tells me that our bonding is more important at this stage than ever — for both of us. And experts agree. "Strengthening your relationship with your teen during her adolescence should be your top priority," says family therapist Carleton Kendrick, author of Take Out Your Nose Ring, Honey, We're Going to Grandma's. "It's your best chance to forge a lifelong relationship anchored in love and respect." That's the payoff most parents are after, so we gathered the smartest advice from parenting pros and savvy moms on when and how to boost that connection.

Creating Together Time

Simply being in the same place at the same time with a teen can be a struggle. Teens have countless enticing ways to spend time without you — from their peers to the mall to any of their multiple screens — but there are many activities you can share, as well as ways to turn everyday situations into bonding opportunities.

• Chat during chores. We all know that family dinners play a key role in raising healthy, happy, communicative kids. But I've found that it's actually before dinner, when my daughter and I are prepping the meal, that we have some of our best times together. No matter that I come from a long line of reluctant cooks: Cutting up carrots for chicken soup or rolling out cookie dough lets me and Lisi work cooperatively, share a goal, and produce (usually) edible results. So while family dinners can seem a bit forced or even confrontational for some during the teen years, the kitchen can be a level playing field where parent and kid work — and talk — as equals. And depending on your child, there may be other bond-boosting ways to work as partners: shoveling snow, painting the basement, or volunteering together.

• Car talk. Next time you're in the car together, take advantage of your captive audience. "When we're driving, my 16-year-old is definitely more willing to talk about her concerns — her friends, how things are going at school — than she is otherwise," says Ruth, a 49-year-old mom in New York City. "And she's more responsive when I ask questions." Openness can actually be easier for your adolescent when you're shoulder to shoulder instead of eye to eye, which can make a teen defensive. And the car is neutral territory, so your child won't feel her personal space is being invaded, the way she may if you try a sit-down in her room, says Gene Beresin, M.D., director of child and adolescent training at Massachusetts General Hospital.

• Share your passions. Inviting your kid to try an activity you love shows you at your best — and, if you're lucky, can lead to enjoyable hours together. Believe me, I had my doubts. I am an artsy-craftsy type and my daughter decidedly isn't, so I wasn't sure she'd be game to try my latest obsession: making jewelry. But once she saw the cool beads I'd found online — and I showed her how easy it was to make earrings — she was hooked. We've spent hours creating together since. Even if your child isn't motivated to join you, sharing your passion — whether it's stargazing, rock climbing, or political blogging — offers him a new perspective on you as someone with interests beyond his math grades or messy room.

• Get a handle on her hobbies. Try the inverse of the preceding principle, as Jennifer Johnson, a Salt Lake City mom, does. She jams at least once a week with her garage band-loving sons: She sings, 15-year-old J.C. plays drums, and Truman, 12, plays guitar. She may not be Chrissie Hynde, but she's found a way into her kids' world by learning to appreciate their music. Whether your kid asks you to watch an old episode of Freaks and Geeks or read the (new to her) poetry of Charles Bukowski, once she's offered you entry into her obsession du jour, demonstrating a real willingness to enjoy it with her is a surefire way to strengthen your bond. She'll appreciate your taking an interest as she reveals new sides of herself.

• Take the time to watch. Sometimes simply paying (positive) attention can intensify your relationship with your kid. "It's easy to forget that teenagers, just like toddlers, really want you to watch them," says Debi Yohn, a counseling psychologist and author of Parenting College Students: 27 Winning Strategies for Success, who used to hang out with her own son by cheering him on as he shot hoops in the driveway. Jamie Willis's son, Elijah, was a Dance Dance Revolution fanatic, and before he went to college, the 44-year-old Cincinnati mom provided him with an appreciative audience — and not because she enjoys video arcades. But Elijah liked showing off his skills for his mom, and she was delighted to enhance his fun by being a spectator.

Getting Your Teen to Talk

Even when the situation's right, conversation may be tricky, since adolescents can be all too ready to take offense — or simply ignore your overtures. Sure, you already know the basics, like "listen more," "nag less," and "yes/no questions elicit yes/no answers." But here's the in-depth scoop on talking — well and at length — with your teenager.

• Don't play 20 questions. "Teens often find the questions we ask intrusive and annoying," says Susan Smith Kuczmarski, Ed.D., author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent's Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. Instead of posing queries that your kid may interpret as prying, "try to pick up on her interests, just as you would with a person you want to get to know at a cocktail party," recommends Stanley Greenspan, clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at George Washington University and author of The Secure Child. Ask general questions about a topic your teen loves, or, when he makes a comment, add your own. Keep an eye out also for your teen's covert conversational openings — a dramatic sigh, an exclamation, a lingering look. If you don't know what's behind it, try, "That was a look!" Then wait. You just may have begun a discussion.

• Talk by typing. You may feel that nothing is as close as a face-to-face, but teens can actually be more comfortable with cyber communication. Learn to speak your kid's language of choice, whether it's e-mail, cell phone texting, posts on Facebook, or chatting online. Even if it feels impersonal, that sensation probably won't last for long. A 2008 Samsung Mobile survey found that 68 percent of American parents have begun text-messaging with their kids — and 51 percent of them agree that they communicate more now. What's more, 53 percent of teens who text-message with their parents said that it had improved their relationship. Laura Stack, a productivity consultant in Highlands Ranch, CO, became a convert because she found that her 13-year-old daughter, Meagan, will text on topics she's too shy to discuss in person, like cute boys and crushes.

• Know when to linger. Just being in the right place at the right time — and in the right frame of mind — can up your chances for a heart-to-heart. If you observe your teen's routines and casually manage to be around when he seems most receptive, you'll lay the groundwork for some great discussions. "My teenage son's a night owl," explains a single mom I'll call Rachel, in Oakland, CA. "I use this to my advantage by making a point of being there when he makes his nightly trip to the kitchen for a snack." It turned out that her son was often in search of a good talk as well as a bowl of cereal. And the technique works both ways: Having regular times for hanging out yourself lets your teen know when you're available and willing to listen — without you ever having to say a word.

• Adjust your attitude. When your teen's in trouble, communication can easily break down if you start dictating or lecturing. To foster closeness when the going gets rough, "you need to realize that your teen is not a problem to be solved, but a person to be understood," says Jamie Woolf, author of Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos. A key rule: Don't overreact. "The biggest reason kids don't share information is because they're afraid their parents will freak out," says Linda Perlstein, author of Not Much Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers. "Before you get mad at your daughter for 'dating' too early, for instance, talk to her calmly. Your definition of dating and hers may be completely different." Don't underreact either. If your kid comes to you with a problem that seems trivial, like a bad haircut or a friend's dis, don't just dismiss it, advises Robin Goldstein, Ph.D., an instructor of human development at Johns Hopkins University. "Take what your kid says seriously. She'll be more likely to confide in the future if more worrying problems crop up."

• Don't be put off by a brush-off. A few weeks ago, Lisi invited me to watch an episode of Arrested Development in her room. About to settle in for a chat afterward, I was crestfallen when she said, "Are you still here?" and announced it was time for her to go hang out with Nicole. Sure, I was disappointed, even hurt. But at times like that it helps to remember that your kid's not purposely playing bait and switch with your expectations. According to Kuczmarski, all teens are ruled by the Three F's: freedom, friends, and focusing on themselves. It's just a part of their growing independence.

It also helps to know that research shows teens want to spend more time with their parents, even though they seem to push us away. "It's the seesaw of adolescence, one foot in childhood, the other stepping out as young adults," says Aaron Cooper, Ph.D., author of I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy: Why You Shouldn't Say It ... "So don't take a snub personally. It really is just a phase."

The 7 Don'ts of Bonding with a Teen

Follow these rules to keep your signals clear and your bond strong.

Don't ask endless questions; you're not an inquisitor.

Don't sing along to your teen's music uninvited (especially in front of her friends) or use her slang. She'll be mortified.

Don't tease or be sarcastic.

Don't talk when you could be listening.

Don't cut your kid off when he's venting.

Don't exclude your teen's friends from activities even when you'd rather have one-on-one time; making room for BFFs shows respect for your kid's life outside the family, too.

Don't use Facebook or IMing as a way to spy, nag, or scold.

Speaking In Teen
8 simple rules for communicating better with your kids
By Hugh O'Neill,
Best Life

If there's a teenager in your house, you might have noticed that grown men and 15-year-olds aren't always in sync. The problem is not just that you've got antipodal interests—theirs: instant-messaging friends; yours: roads not taken—but that your minds work differently. Your brain tries to subdue anarchic feelings, while their brains urge the chaos front and center. When you add in the crossing hormonal shifts—theirs surging; yours on the ebb—oddsmakers rank fathers and teens talking right up there with Villanova taking out Georgetown in '85.

Still, those are the bets worth winning, right? After all, any dolt can dig the company of an 8-year-old who mistakes him for a god. But it takes a man in full to court a sullen 16-year-old who appears indifferent, maybe even disdainful. Once again, I'm wiser now than I was back when my teenagers were still living down the hall. Offered in keen hindsight, here are a few thoughts that might help, whether you're trying to savor a happy child or to steady a wobbling one.

Keep a rescue rope's distance
Adolescents are on an important mission. In a way, their job is to move out into the jungle on their vision quest—and away from you. So don't look for too much from them. Don't be all up in their grille about sharing. One of the few sweet things about being a teenager is feeling pain in private. It's bad enough when some cheerleader busts your son into a million pieces, but it becomes unbearable if you, Dad, feel like talking about it! Teenagers don't want you to catch them when they trip. Move back. The kids need a background sense that you're over there on your side of the river caring about them, but the only way they'll ever reach out is if you allow them not to.

Lock on
In moments when a teenager does reach out, it's pivotal to focus completely. No shuffling through the mail and listening with one ear. Sure, we've got a million things on our multitasking minds, but giving this precious child your full attention is, all by itself, a gesture of respect that will open up things between you.

Flatten your voice
Kids are able to read volumes of meaning into every meaningless Dad inflection. When their hypersensitivity meets your way of speaking, it's a minefield of misunderstanding. Your stylized patois of irony and sarcasm that works so well in a bar with buddies and even delighted your 8-year-old is a mismatch once he's a teenager. I'm not suggesting that you speak like Mister Rogers—he'll think you've had a stroke—but favor plain over fancy. Be straightforward. Don't depend on tone. The plainness of a good man is a superb antidote to the confusion of 16. Be thoughtful, not fast; clear, not clever. Think Gary Cooper.

Resist referring to your youth over and over
I made the mistake of thinking my kids would be reassured to know that when I was young, I had some of the same feelings they were having. Wrong. It made their feelings seem like a cliche. In general, try not to view their feelings through the prism of their age. Kids, quite rightly, hate being seen as the 12 billionth person to go through a stage of life. They'd rather savor their feelings as though nobody else has ever gone through the gauntlet of adolescence. Fair enough. A helicopter-height perspective on their feelings is insulting, even though you mean to help. If they ask, tell them that, yeah, you kinda remember feelings like that, but don't offer comfort with, "This too shall pass."

Don't be so sure
The trait that most often comes between fathers and teens is Dad certainty. We spend the 30 years between our own adolescence and theirs figuring out what exactly it is we know about the world, and then our few hard-earned shreds of wisdom collide with a young mind more interested in its own process than in our conclusions. When my kids were teens and they seemed troubled, I assumed that my steadiness could help them. Wrong. In fact, it was an insult to their confusion. In a way, the secret to talking to kids is to respect uncertainty, timidity, fear—all the traits that grown men are trained to disdain. In a storm, our instinct is to be a pillar of strength. But buoys are far more helpful.

Don't be Mr. Problem-Solver
We get in trouble with teenagers for the same reason we get in trouble with women. We have this instinct to offer counsel and, apparently even worse, to suggest a way to fix a problem. Imagine that; all they want is sympathy, and we insist on tying off the veins and stitching up the wound. People want to work through problems themselves. Be sympathetic, and, if they ask, be prepared to offer a gentle, maybe, oh, I-don't-know, give-this-some-thought suggestion. But this is their process; they won't appreciate you cutting it short.

Get smaller
Believe it or not, to your kids, you're a daunting figure. Yeah, you. I swear. They don't know the truth about you. All they see is this guy with a job and a wife and money. When our kids are small, we tend to tell stories of our successes. That's all to the good; kids are well served by a model of a man who has made his way competently through the world. But as your kids' complexion heads south, put some blemishes on your record, too. Start to mix in a few tales about your setbacks. No, not the really dark stuff, but start to ease your way down off the pedestal a bit and give the kids a fuller picture of the old man. It will help your teenagers talk to you if they can see you as a seeker, too, a person who has had stumbles and falls, and if they can sense that nobody's life is a painless progression forward.

Don't be nothing
Sure, some self-effacement is the open sesame into a teenage heart. But the only thing worse than an overbearing father is an underbearing one. James Dean was speaking for all teens in Rebel Without a Cause when he cried out to his wimpy father, as though begging, "Give me something!" It's a mistake to erase yourself in search of intimacy. If you love the kids, you'll change your style to suit theirs, but not your substance. Kids need you to be an honest broker between their interior life and the larger world in which they're trying to thrive. You bet it's a tough balance, but they need you to find it.

It's no accident that many of the secrets of talking to teens are thou-shalt-nots. In a fundamental way, the task before fathers is to unbuild ourselves, to subdue the masculine habits of gendered manners of speech that, while handy in the hurly-burly, are too ham-handed for the ether of adolescence. The kids can't step up to our grown-man take on life, so it's up to us to tear up the stump speech and listen and talk in ways that suit the delicacy of 15.

My kids have been a great gift to me. Not just because they're kind and funny and give me a stake in the future but also because when they were teenagers and moving away from me, my love for them, my hope to stay in touch with them, pried open my heart. Though I was reasonably successful in relationships, I was also a frozen man, without a feel for the daily drama of being alive. But living so close to their flame, I found my spirit softened, suddenly susceptible to hunches and half-formed feelings, to the uncertainties and sweet ache of life. Until I loved teenagers, I was missing out. I didn't really catch on until after they were gone. But they were good teachers.

14 Dates You Should Never Forget
Remember these dates -- or else!
By Jeff O'Connell,
Men's Health

1. Your first roll in the hay. Remember how spontaneous, sloppy, and exhilarating it felt? Put away the guidebooks, videos, and devices. Unless you're dating Paris Hilton, no one's watching. Just do what comes naturally.

2. The expiration dates for your driver's license, health insurance, and passport. Red tape isn't to be tussled with. To defuse each one of these bureaucratic land mines, you'll spend years on hold and standing in lines when you could be rehabbing fully covered car-wreck injuries in Gstaad.

3. The edible kind, like the ones that killed the monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Sans poison, dates are low in calories (24), fat, and cholesterol; full of fiber; and richer in potassium than bananas. Eat six or seven a day and shave points off your blood pressure while adding some snap to your bullwhip.

4. 1507. The year the New World was named after Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci. People remember guys who arrive first and plant their flag. Having a cool name helps, too.

5. February 26, 1993: The first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center. Few attacks come unannounced, whether on the battlefield, in the boardroom, or in your own backyard.

6. Her mom's birthday. Hell hath no fury like a woman with a mother-in-law scorned.

7. Easter Sunday. Surprise her with a woven basket filled with perfume, jewelry, and chocolate, and see which impresses her more: that or the roses she got on Valentine's Day.

8. January 1692. The kickoff to the Salem witch trials. Nineteen people were hanged in a climate of war, economic strife, religious intolerance, and teenage boredom. Of course, something like that could never happen today.

9. The date when you took her on a picnic instead of to a restaurant; to an art museum instead of to a movie; or on a midnight stroll on the beach instead of to a bar for a nightcap. Also, the date when you were asked in for that drink instead of dispatched with a hug.

10. D day: June 6, 1944. If the Nazis had won the war, we'd probably be on our Ninth Reich by now. History has a series of pivot points. We bet your own life has had a few. Learn from them and it'll be easier to spot the next one coming.

11. Your date of birth. More specifically, your sign. Think astrology is psychobabble? An increasingly large number of attractive women don't. So indulge them: On a first date, the drone of rigorous skepticism is about as sexy as a dentist's drill.

12. November 19, 1863. Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. If you want immortality, get to the point.

13. The expiration date on a condom wrapper. This ain't a Budweiser: The consequences of cracking open a stale one will dog you for 18 years. Condoms with spermicide last no more than 2 years past their date of manufacture; those without, no more than 5.

14. January 1, 2000. Two dropped digits plunged cyberspace into chaos, resulting in premature missile launches, a global transportation shutdown, and a worldwide economic meltdown. Oh, wait a minute. No, they didn't. So the next time a coworker starts hoarding drinking water and stockpiling munitions because the end is near -- heard about the 2012 apocalypse lately? -- abuse him verbally.

How to Calm Your Kids' Fears
Kids have always had nightmares. But these days the bad dreams may be worse. How to help your frightened child sleep better.
By Beth Brophy

Planes crashing into skyscrapers. Angry men making nasty threats. Frightened women and children fleeing their country. The images that have been flashing across our TV screens since September 11 are disturbing to us all. For children, who are not only exposed to the trauma on television but also pick up the anxiety of their parents, nighttime is especially fraught now. Bad dreams — and more distressing ones — seem to be on the rise.

At first, you may not know exactly what's troubling your child, says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., associate director of the Sleep Disorder Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, because the images in nightmares are not always literal representations. "Kids may report dreaming about monsters, not burning buildings," she says. You do know, however, that they are frightened, as their little hands shake you or their cries wake you in the night.

To head off bad dreams — whatever their origins — you need to start well before bedtime.

• Turn off the news when kids are around. And limit their exposure to frightening movies and video games.

• Choose tranquil activities (no roughhousing or cartoons) at bedtime. Save the most relaxing one — a back rub, a story — for last, and make sure it happens in your child's bedroom, not in the living room or playroom. With older kids, talk about the day and any events they're looking forward to. This isn't the moment for a discussion of disasters, though reassuring conversations at other times during the day can help quell bad dreams.

• Know when nightmares signal a serious problem. A dream that occurs over and over can be one sign, says Patricia Garfield, Ph.D., cofounder of the Association for the Study of Dreams. And having bad dreams frequently is another. Regardless, parents should try to figure out if there's a pattern: Does your child have nightmares only when she spends time with a certain friend or babysitter? Addressing the daytime problem may take care of the nighttime one. If not, a chat with your pediatrician (and possibly a referral to a therapist) may be a good idea.

• Don't dismiss the worry with "It's just a dream." A three- or four-year-old has to be given specific proof, Mindell says. "Show her that the dog is not hurt or that her baby sister is safely asleep in her crib."

• Help your child describe the dream. And quietly reflect on what happened in it. Praise any detail that shows he took some kind of action — yelling at the monster, for example. "This helps because it shows kids they have power to change the dream," Garfield says.

• Suggest ways to make a dream less threatening. One patient Garfield worked with learned how to "put a big X on any scene she didn't like;" another "changed the channel" in her head. Your child may come up with his own ideas.

• Tell children that others share their fears. Reading books that deal with nightmares in a sensitive way can offer gentle reassurance. Experts' favorites: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer, and Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley.

The Dad Commandments
10 fundamental laws for fathers
By The Editors of Best Life

Fatherhood, you might argue, is too complicated to be reduced to capsule form. But complexity only adds intrigue to the quest for guiding principles. And do we need guiding principles. After all the emotions, all the yelling, and all the laughter, I have distilled the duties and demands down to a decade of Dad dicta. Herewith, on behalf of all God's children and their male parents, the 10 Commandments of Daddy.

1. Hey, Dad, be big

In spirit, that is. Consider some of the big guys who have gone before you: Father Time, God the Father. You can't give this role a walk-through. You've got to play it. The kids expect stature from you. You're the anvil on which they hammer out their deal with the world. Be a presence in their lives-and in their minds.

2. Hey, Dad, be small

Yes, this contradicts the first tip. Don't be so big that you suck all the air out of the room. Give your kids space to move around in, to test their thoughts and strengths. Take a backseat three or four times a week. Say, "Maybe." Say, "I don't know." Now and then, tell the kids you're sorry-assuming you behaved badly. You'll feel brand new.

3. Hey, Dad, come home

Lots of fathers have two jobs. If that's your situation, God bless you, pal. You'll get no heat from me. But if you can pay the bills without working double shifts, get home when you can. Nothing good can happen until you do.

4. Bob and weave, Bubba

Stay light on your feet. Don't make too many hard-and-fast rules. Don't insist on having your way with the kids just because the rest of the world isn't always overly interested in the sound of your voice. There is a difference between authority and power. Have the first; don't abuse the second.

5. Never dance in front of their friends

Remember the cautionary legend of the father who once picked his kids up at a junior-high dance and actually went into the gym and did a few seconds of the Hully Gully with Margie Costanzo. His adult children still have embarrassment nightmares.

6. Save your money, big man

If you're not careful, the kids will send you to the poorhouse three dollars and twenty-nine cents at a time. Think college tuition. Think down payment on their starter homes. Although it's true that money can't buy happiness, it can buy lots of other stuff.

7. Spend your money, tightwad

F. Scott Fitzgerald said the sign of a first-rate mind was the ability to have two opposite opinions at the same time. You're a first-rate mind, Dad. So spring for the glowing monster trading cards. If you've got the money, pop for the musical princess crown. What are you saving your money for, pal? College? Hah! You can't possibly save enough. There is the future, and then there is now. This is it.

8. Never go on a ride with the word whirl in its name.

Especially the Space Shuttle Whirl at the Great Escape near Lake George, New York. It's tougher to be a good father when your nervous system is permanently compromised. Stay on the ground and wave.

9. Let 'em be-they're not your second chance

We become most upset with the kids when they remind us of... well, us. Help them follow their own path, not your road not taken.

10. Love their mother

Hug Mom. Often. In front of the kids. Sure, sometimes marriages end, but the obligation to a woman doesn't. Be grateful to her. Speak to her with respect. Try to make her laugh. Listen. Even if you're not married to her, figure out how to love her.

Don't Let Your Demons Raise Your Children
Five ways to keep your hang-ups, insecurities, bad habits, and other flaws from influencing your child's development.
By Jeremy Greenberg
for MSN Lifestyle

Before having children, I considered my bad habits, hang-ups, and other flaws to be traits that made me "interesting" (although my wife never found it all that interesting when I'd curse around her mother). But then I learned better.

One day, I was changing one of my 9-month-old twin son's diapers. I noticed a bit of diaper rash. My protocol for diaper rash in is to alert my wife of the matter, then go tend to something for which I'm better qualified -- like picking up toys, or doing nothing. So, being tired -- and as irritated as my baby's bum -- I yelled "BARBARA!" And from the changing table below, I heard parroted back (as loudly as his baby lungs would allow), "Ba-ba-ba!"

Great, I thought. My kid's not even a year old, and he's already yelling for no reason.

I was suddenly gripped with the fear that I'd accidentally drop an F-bomb, which one of my kids will then teach to the rest of his fourth-grade class as though he were preparing them to pass the Foul-Mouthed SATs. I imagined other parents would then refuse to let their kids play with mine -- damaging the boys' self-esteem and eventually leading them into a life of crime and debauchery. I shivered as I imagine one of my kids talking to me through a plate-glass window during visiting hours, saying, "Dad, if only you hadn't sworn, I would be a senator, chiropractor or some other respected professional. Instead, I'm in jail learning to carve knives out of bar soap."

Even healthy, "normal" people typically have a few habits or behaviors they don't want affecting their children. But how does one make sure a habit of nail-biting or yelling at other drivers isn't passed to the next generation as though it were an heirloom clock?

Five ways to keep your quirks away from your kids
I spoke with some experts on the subject, and compiled five key things to make sure you raise a kid who doesn't raise Cain:

1. Take a chill pill.
The first bit of advice comes from Debbie Mandel, M.A., author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life (Wiley, 2008). Her basic message to parents: Chill out. "When parents don't manage their small stressors which accumulate during the day, they grow irritable, depleted and negative. Whatever you say or do, a child is absorbing your mood."

Of course, this begs the question, "What if you're kids are your small stressors?" But I digress. Mandel's point certainly strikes a chord. My kid definitely picked up on my mood during the above mentioned diaper-rash incident. In the future, I will do what I must to relax. My new mantra: more yoga, less yelling.

2. 'Sorry, my bad.' (Be honest when you screw up.)
When you say or do something regrettable, own up to it. "Parents are going to get angry in a way that they wish they didn't, or punish them [kids] a way that doesn't fit the crime," says Robin Goodman, Ph.D., psychologist in private practice and director of A Caring Hand: The Billy Esposito Bereavement Center, in New York City. "There's nothing like admitting that you're not perfect."

You can even take the honesty-is-the-best-policy strategy a step further. Julie Mains, a Seattle-area mother and professional musician, says, "I noticed my 8-year-old had started cracking her knuckles, and now we're quitting it together."

The changing-together technique also works for nail biters, hair twirlers, gum snappers, and, in extreme cases, smokers. (So for those out there who still puff away, know that one day, you and your kid can bond by splitting a pack of Nicorette.)

Of course, my kids are infants. The only things we currently change together are diapers. And that's actually more my changing them, while they flail about and accidentally smear enough Desitin on their faces to pass for Marcel Marceau.

3. 'Hey, that's not a toy. That belongs to Mommy.' (Keep your adult things private.)
Of course, there are those things to which children should never be exposed. Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media, 2008), says, "If you go out and drink too much, the kids should not know you have a hangover, just that you don't feel well. If you're a dating single parent, your kids don't need to hear the gory details. You're 'going out with a friend' is sufficient."

Seriously, though, Dr. Tessina raises an excellent point: Many adults do things for which any explanation runs the risk of piquing a kid's curiosity. If a child asks, "Why do you bite your nails?" the best response may be something relatively innocuous, such as, "Because it's a nervous habit." But if a kid asks, "Why did you come home in a cab at 3:00 a.m.?" it's not in your child's best interest for you to reply, "Because it was $1.50 Long Island Iced Tea night at Bennigan's, and Mommy had some things that she needed to forget."

I'm a little concerned about this bit of advice, because it requires a white lie. I suppose that one can look at it this way: It would be best not to do things that require you to hide the truth. But if you do those things, 'tis better to tell that white lie than risk your kid's becoming curious about alcohol or dating before he or she is ready.

4. Opposites attack. (Avoid overcorrecting for how you were raised.)
This is definitely an area in which I must be careful. Growing up, I wanted to own a pet store that dealt exclusively in Siamese kittens. My father wanted me to be an engineer. And I guess you can call our battle of wills a draw, since I became neither. Who knows? If I'd been encouraged to follow my dream, I might have revolutionized the Siamese-cat industry.
According to New York psychotherapist Dana Dorfman, if I were to respond by vowing to do the complete opposite of my father, it could be a mistake. "When a parent tries to 'undo' that which had been done to her, she may find herself going to the other extreme," she says.

Dorfman goes on to say that parents need to grow up and not let the scars from their childhood affect their parenting. Failing to do so indicates "that the behavior remains largely predicated on one's childhood, rather than an adult choice about rearing the child."

Besides, if I give my kids too much freedom, it could very well breed a lifetime of resentment for not providing enough structure and guidance (which I'm sure my father would find highly amusing).

5. Mirror, mirror on the flaw. (Face your demons.)
There's one final tactic for keeping your flaws from fumbling up your family, according to Tessina. She says, "The best way to not pass on your demons is to face them and work through them. If you have an addiction, a bad health habit, or problems getting along, get help and work it out, so you don't pass it on to your kids. Demons can be banished with some expert guidance."
And facing one's demons isn't all about big problems. Pamela Lewis, a Walnut Creek, Calif., mother, found that having a child inspired her to be less of a slob. "When I was pregnant with my first child, I started making the bed every day."

While messiness hardly qualifies as a life-altering flaw, a cleaner parent is most certainly a better parent (though my wife would be surprised to hear me admit that).

It's all good
With a little self-awareness, relaxation, honesty, and discretion, there's no reason to fear that your issues will necessarily become those of your child. Besides, parents should cut themselves some slack. They aren't the only ones who raise their children. Dr. Goodman reminds us that "parents aren't the only place kids learn things. They go to school, and then it's no-holds- barred."

I think that's a great bit of advice to remember through the parenting journey: Do the best you can, and any bad habit your kid does pick up will probably be from a poorly parented classmate.

7 Moves That Will Make You a Better Dad
Tips for raising happy, well-adjusted kids.
By Craig Playstead

1. Dig deeper
A nice house, cool clothes, and grub on the table just aren't enough. Providing for our kids is in our DNA, but how well do you know yours? Do you know who your kids play with at recess? What subject they really struggle with? What they love to eat for hot lunch? If you don't know these things, you need to. While all of us are busy as hell with work and everything else in our lives, we need to make time for our kids and get to really know them -- especially the odd, everyday things that make them tick. I make it a point to talk with my kids about what happened at recess before asking about what happened in class. I want to know about the relationships they're forging, and also what they're up to with their only free time of the day. It's not easy to get this from them. But here's a fun way to spend a little time with them that they'll think is awesome: When your son or daughter is standing at the bus stop ready to be picked up for school, drive up, stop, and tell them to get in. Kidnap them for breakfast and they'll think it's the coolest thing ever. When kids are really impressed or excited by something (like this) there's a much better chance of them opening up and telling you about their lives. Don't preach, don't gasp, just listen.

2. Teach your kids to stand tall
One of the most important things a father needs to teach his kids is how to stand up for themselves. You will not get far in this world if you become a doormat, and the longer you let it happen, the harder it is to turn it around. This can be anything from just learning how to speak up in class, or confronting someone who's being unfair to them. Our offspring need to be heard, defend what they believe in, and not be bullied. Yes, we want them to be nice and to treat people well, but there is also a time to be assertive instead of like a punching bag. Teaching them how to do all this in a scary world is one of the basic duties of being a father.

3. Get off your rear
While we may be proud of our lecturing skills, most of the time when we talk all our kids hear is, "Blah, blah, blah." So that makes our actions even more important. You can tell the kids that it's important to be healthy and active, but if all they ever see you do is sit on the couch shoveling Doritos into your mouth as you watch "Celebrity Rehab," they're going to do the exact same thing. Kids should always be learning, exploring and trying new things. It's all part of how they find out what they're passionate about and who they are.
Dads can help fuel this exploration by doing the same thing; getting involved in new sports, musical instruments, and activities. This keeps dads fresh and active, and also shows kids that it's cool to try new things. Want to crank up the enthusiasm? Get junior's buddy and his dad in the game too -- kids will do almost anything if their friends are involved. If you want to start golfing, make it a foursome and it'll be even more fun.

4. Prepare for your death
This should be something that I shouldn't even have to write, but it's amazing how many men skip this to save a buck. We can all sit here and think that it's not going to happen to us, but death happens to dads every day. Protecting your family should be number-one on your responsibilities list as a father. If you're not taking care of your family you run the risk of ruining their lives if the worst should happen. This encompasses a lot, including having a life insurance policy and a will, and knowing who's going to be there to teach your son about being a man. Another aspect of this is keeping yourself healthy with regular physicals and, for God's sake, exercise. I used to work out to look better, but now it's all about longevity. My ultimate goal is to live long enough to make sure my daughter doesn't marry some jackass. They don't say "hope for the best and prepare for the worst" for nothing.

5. No worshipping heroes
There are parents out there who absolutely worship their kids and think they can do no wrong. But those kids will grow up with a distorted view of how the world works. Every parent should love the hell out of their children, but thinking that they are flawless is setting all of you up for disaster. The kids end up with unreal expectations on how the world works, don't understand defeat, and can't figure out why everyone doesn't think they walk on water. And the parents end up devastated when you finally come to the realization that little Tony actually is capable of throwing his classmate into the girls' bathroom or stealing the neighbor's mail. We all have flaws, and there's nothing wrong with that. Let them learn to deal with the disappointment of losing, and even the brilliance of constructive criticism. It'll prepare them for the real world.

6. Remember why you married her
I've said this before, but a lot of people still scratch their head when I do. One of the best (if not the best) things you can do for your kids is to be a good husband to their mother. This can be difficult to do, but it just might be the most important item on the list. We pay so much attention to not screwing up our kids that we sometimes neglect the one relationship that plays the biggest role in the person they turn out to be. And if you're divorced, remember that the way you treat their mother will have an enormous impact. It will help them respect her, and also show them how to deal with challenging relationships as they get older.

7. Imitate Clark W. Griswold
Clark was on to something when he loaded up the family truckster and headed west to Wally World. A couple times a year, we all need to bust out of that rut that our daily routine puts us in -- and getting out of Dodge is the only cure. It's not just us either; every member of the family needs to get away and put a little adventure back in their life. As painful as the family vacation can be while it's happening (with the constant potty breaks, spilled juice boxes, and annoying comments from the backseat), I run into more adults who claim that vacations were the parts about their childhood that they'll never forget. It doesn't have to be expensive -- you don't have to go far -- you just need to have a family experience to remember, for better or worse.