Monday, March 31, 2014

Weird Word of the Week: Acrazing

Madame L is glad you asked. You will not find this in any dictionary, but if enough of us start using it, maybe it will eventually appear in the Oxford English Dictionary. That is, after certain diabolical creatures and minions are ice-skating.

Anyway, Madame L's pal Aunt Louise thought she had invented the word "acrazing" by putting together the two words "crazy" and "amazing."

Since inventing the word, however --- that is, after coming up with the idea having never seen this word used anywhere else in the whole world --- Aunt Louise has seen it in a few other places. (Just Google "acrazing" and you'll see what Madame L means.)

"That's all right," Aunt Louise told Madame L. "It's clearly a case of serendipitous co-invention, and I will not begrudge credit for the use of my invention to anyone else who cares to use it, in any context whatsoever."

So, go ahead, Dear Readers. Use the word "acrazing" at will and as frequently as possible.

You're welcome.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Personal Sized Baked Oatmeal Snacks

Dear Readers,

Madame L is not writing a book review this week. In place of that, here is the recipe for those oatmeal snacks Aunt Louise mentioned last week, from the Sugar-Free Mom Web site:

Personal Sized Baked Oatmeal with Individual Toppings: Gluten Free & Diabetic Friendly

Recipe type: Breakfast
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups applesauce, unsweetened
  • ½ cup or 1 banana, mashed
  • 6 packets of Sweetleaf Stevia or 1½ teaspoons stevia powder or use ½ cup honey
  • 5 cups, Old Fashioned rolled oats { I used Bob’s Red Mill}
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal*
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Optional toppings: raisins, walnuts, chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix eggs, vanilla, applesauce, banana and Stevia together in a bowl.
  3. Add in oats, flax, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and mix well with wet ingredients.
  4. Finally pour in milk and combine.
  5. Spray a 12 and 6 capacity muffin tin with cooking spray or use cupcake liners. Pour mixture evenly into muffin tin cups.
  6. If using toppings add them onto the tops of muffins now. If using fresh or frozen fruit, drop it right into the batter.
  7. Bake 30 minutes until a toothpick in center comes out clean.
  8. Cool and enjoy or freeze them in gallon freezer bags.
* Whole Flax seeds may be used but grind them yourself if not using already ground. Flax seed is safe to cook with. Here is an article to support.
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 18
  • Serving size: 1
  • Calories: 143
  • Fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 23g
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Sodium: 161mg
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 6g
  • Cholesterol: 25mg

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Preventing Running Injuries

Dear Readers,

Aren't you glad that Madame L, like her pal Aunt Louise, has concerns about running injuries?

And Madame L has also done some research on the topic. Here's a great article on how to prevent knee injuries. The author, Danny Dreyer, begins:
By far the biggest complaint I get from runners about running is that it's so hard on their knees. Secretly, inside of me, I have my own complaint. It's that running is blamed for all the knee problems when in actuality it's not running that is causing the injuries—it's the way people run. 
So that's something else we can all work on: our technique. Follow that link, and a couple of minutes of reading will give you some ideas on improving your running.

Hang in there, Readers and Runners,

Madame L

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weird Word of the Week: Cobbler

Madame L's mother used to have a wonderful snack ready for us when we got home from school, and often this snack was fruit cobbler, usually peach cobbler: peaches covered with batter and baked in the oven.

Madame L loves Wikipedia's list of types of (food) cobblers, which Madame L was unaware of until now: "In the United States, varieties of cobbler include the Betty, the Grump, the Slump, the Dump, the Buckle, and the Sonker."

Of course, the word "cobbler" can also refer to a person who makes or fixes shoes, the apron worn by cobblers, a kind of software, a mixed drink, and probably a lot of other items.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Speaking of Haters...

Dear Madame L,

I heard that people are hating on Jenny McCarthy for her anti-vaccination views. Since you've written about this, what do you think about it?


Not a Hypocrite

Dear Kind Person,

Madame L is glad you're not a hypocrite. Madame L hopes you aren't thinking she is a hypocrite just because she has written posts arguing against the anti-vax crowd.

Madame L wrote a long reply some time ago to a Dear Reader who wondered about the vaccine schedule recommended by her doctor for her infant.

Madame L wrote again to a Dear Reader who had read of injuries to children from early vaccinations and who had been led to believe that gut flora protect children from autism and other harmful conditions and that vaccinations destroy those helpful bacteria.

Madame L also wrote a column addressed to all her Dear Readers about Jenny McCarthy's own hypocrisy in preaching against vaccines, using non-scientific and laughably ridiculous arguments against vaccinating children against childhood diseases that should by now have been eradicated from civilized countries.

Madame L stands by everything she has written on the topic. Yet Madame L would not participate in the hateful screeds written by some people who agree with her and disagree with Ms. McCarthy.

On the other hand, Madame L finds the comments recently posted on Jenny McCarthy's own Twitter account not hateful, but rather truthful and full of humor and refreshingly straight-to-the-point candor.

Ms. McCarthy asked her Twitter followers for their ideas on what to look for in an ideal mate, and many people replied things like, "Someone who respects science..."

Madame L says, "Good for those people! Keep those comments coming! Keep vaccinating your children and advocating for science and care not only for your own children but for all our society, where we are responsible for each other's health!"


Madame L

Monday, March 24, 2014


Dear Madame L,

Why does it seem like whenever a nice person starts to be successful, all these haters come out of the woodwork to say mean things about the person. Case in point: Arthur Chu, the guy who's been winning on Jeopardy! on TV. I've heard that people are tweeting and posting on Facebook and whatever that he's arrogant and rude, and things like that. So I checked on YouTube and watched a bit, and it looks to me like he's just focusing on the game, which is what he should be doing, right?


Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Dear Nice Person,

Thanks for the question. Madame L hasn't watched Jeopardy! for just about ever, so she had to look for an episode on YouTube. For any of her Dear Readers who may be equally clueless, here is Arthur Chu's first appearance on Jeopardy!

Madame L does not understand how people could hate this guy. It looks to Madame L like he's just a serious and focused guy who is doing his best to win the game, which is what anyone should be doing when they're playing a game, right? Maybe they're jealous or envious. Maybe they need to get a life. Madame L does not know. Anyone else?


Madame L

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Sunday Book Review: March 23, 2014: The Craving Cure

Author Rena Greenberg, founder of Wellness Seminars, Inc., wrote "The Craving Cure: Break the Hold Carbs and Sweets Have on Your Life."

Madame L hasn't finished reading this book yet, but is still enjoying it. It seems to offer some real help, much like you would get in a seminar or workshop offered by the author, for figuring out why you experience those cravings and how to replace them with more healthy behaviors.

Oh, dear, Madame L finds herself writing like those self-help authors when she's reading these kinds of books. What Madame L meant to write was, "...why you want that sweet treat and how to want something better." Or something like that.

As always, with these books (if they're not the faddish ones), "The Craving Cure" has a lot of plain old normal and healthy ideas---they're just the ones you keep forgetting about---like eating some leafy vegetables and protein along with that healthy carb-filled root vegetable you like so much. Another obvious but obviously needs-to-be-repeated idea is amping up your own motivation to eat a healthy diet. Another is getting exercise, and another is getting enough sleep.

But that's the point of the self-help books, isn't it: You can't afford the time and/or the money to attend some seminar, but you can get the book, used, from, and re-motivate yourself on your own schedule.

One reason Madame L chose this book over the hundreds of possible books on the topic of food addiction is that the author has struggled with food addiction herself. Another reason Madame L likes it is that she doesn't just go through the usual exercises (uncover your negative beliefs, be more aware of foods' effects on you, deep breathing, hypnosis, etc.) but also recommends a two-week "cleansing" which appears to be a healthy one, not like the faddish baby-food or juice-only diets that don't work and make you feel horrible besides. (However, Madame L is never going to drink a smoothie made with kale and spinach leaves. Never. Ever. Not in anyone's dreams.)

Madame L does recommend this book (which offers many choices besides kale and spinach for the fresh-vegetable section of the two-week cleanse). She is hoping its insights will help her in her own journey to fitness and healthy eating.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Bully in your Head? Banish It!

Dear Madame L,

Every time I try to do something new or different, it's like some part of me wants me to fail. I mean, I'm not crazy (at least I don't think I am), but it's like I'm telling myself, "See? I knew you couldn't do it," and things like that. Which, as you can imagine, makes it even harder each time for me to try new challenges.


Voices Begone!

Dear Voices,

For what it's worth, Madame L doesn't think you're crazy, either. And Madame L notes that we're being encouraged always to engage in "positive self-talk," which, it seems to Madame L, is just another way to put new voices in our head. Sure, they're positive, but they're talking, right?

At any rate, Madame L suggests that you find ways to get rid of those negative voices, which may arise from our memories of negative and taunting voices of childhood.

Here's an excellent article with suggestions on how to do that, "6 Ways to Keep the Voices in Your Head from Making Your Life Miserable."

First, this article explains about the negative voices:
Some psychologists believe these are residues of childhood experiences—automatic patterns of neural firing stored in our brains that are dissociated from the memory of the events they are trying to protect us from. While having fear-based self-protective and self-disciplining rules probably made sense and helped us to survive when we were helpless kids at the mercy of our parents’ moods, whims and psychological conflicts, they may no longer be appropriate to our lives as adults. As adults, we have more ability to walk away from unhealthy situations and make conscious choices about our lives and relationships based on our own feelings, needs and interests. Yet, in many cases, we’re so used to living by these rules we don’t even notice or question them. We unconsciously distort our view of things so they seem to be necessary and true. Like prisoners with Stockholm Syndrome, we have bonded with our captors.
The 6 ways to get rid of these voices include recognizing their origin, paying attention to them when they "speak" to you so you can recognize them and replace them with positive voices, and training yourself in "cognitive flexibility."

Please do read the entire article and consider studying more about mindfulness-based methods of dealing with negativity.

Good luck,

Madame L

Friday, March 21, 2014

5 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy

Dear Readers,

Madame L found these tips from the people at LinkedIn, but they apply to all the areas all of us expose ourselves to online, so here they are, modified for all those areas:

1. Update your privacy settings and make sure what information you're giving out on each networking and every other kind of site you use and visit.

2. Consider opting in to special privacy measures provided by site managers. (Madame L adds: But be sure you don't think these will actually remove a layer of privacy, i.e., consider this step very carefully.)

3. Use secure browsing whenever possible, indicated by the "https" at the beginning of the URL.

4. Change your password for each site you visit every few months. (And need we add: Don't use an obvious or easily guessable password.)

5. Watch out for spam and phishing emails asking for personal information. (This was already covered, and in more detail, in the tips Madame L shared yesterday. Check it out, if you haven't already done so.)


Madame L

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Web Safety Tips

Madame L is very happy to provide to her Dear Readers these Web safety tips, thanks to her Dear Husband, who learned them from a security training class required by his work.

1. Beware of QRC tags - those square bar-code things. Some of them can be stick-ons that lead you to - and open - malware. 

2. If a strange pop-up appears, DON'T CLICK ON THE "X" in the upper right to close it. That could be a GIF designed to say "ok" to downloading malware. Instead, press Alt-F4 to close the pop-up. 

3. Do NOT use Peer-to-peer (P2P) software for anything you need to download. By using one of the many P2P clients out there, you tacitly permit your own machine to store stuff for others to download. Studies have shown that the vast majority of P2P content moving through the internet are porn, illegal movies, and malware. Once you have installed that client, don't expect that you will ever again have control over what sits inside your computer.

4. NEVER click on a link in ANY message that appears to come from your bank, phone company, or PayPal, etc.. If you do financial transactions from your personal computer, MANUALLY type in the URL yourself. 

5. A new attack method is called ClipJacking. Scammers try to trick Facebook users to click on the play button of a video. There are numerous cases where this turns out to be an agreement to monthly mobile phone charges or to download malware. The "play" button is actually a transparent GIF, and clicking it means you might as well stick a fork in your butt - because you're cooked. 

6. You've probably already heard about the guy who "salted" a company parking lot with 10 USB devices? Eight of the 10 people who found them promptly went into their offices and plugged them into their desktop machines thinking they had just found a free USB device. GOTCHA. 

7. "US Customs can confiscate ANY computer coming into the country and require you to provide passwords without probable cause, and arrest you if you fail to comply. They are not even required to provide you with a property receipt. If your laptop is fairly new, you may need to prove that you didn't buy it overseas, or pay a duty tax on it. Receipts or registration paperwork should do."

8. Malware has been remotely loaded on the Blackberry and other smartphones of unsuspecting travelers while they were overseas.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weird Word of the Week: Hongkonger

Dear Readers, although this word may sound vaguely vulgar, it just refers to a person from Hong Kong. Hongkonger and Hongkongese have both been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

Both words refer to "a native or inhabitant of Hong Kong." Hongkongese "can also be used as an adjective to describe matters related to the city or its inhabitants," according to the South China Morning Post.

The newspaper reports that Civic Party lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching residents of Hong Kong are trying to differentiate themselves from people who live in mainland China. "Not just the people are different, but also our cultural spirit and political identity," she said.

Even though the term HongKonger has been used since the late 1800s, it hasn't been recognized by the OED until this latest update.

This update also added herogram, do-over, and wackadoodle. Madame L does not know whether "wackadoodle" is illustrated with a photo of any U.S. politician, but if the OED editors are interested, Madame L could certainly suggest a few candidates.

Madame L assumes all her Dear Readers are already familiar with the words do-over and wackadoodle. Madame L had not heard the word herogram until reading about these new additions to the OED, so she looked it up, online, at --- you'll never guess where, Dear Readers --- Urban Dictionary, where she found that it means "a message of heartfelt appreciation or thanks."

If Madame L were to send a herogram today, or any day, here's who she'd send it to.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Figuring Out the Surprise Ending

Dear Readers,

Madame L was happy to read Laura's comment about figuring out the plot of a mystery novel:
I read one of the books from that list - "The Crossing Places," by Elly Griffiths. I had the "whodunnit" part figured out, or part of it at least, about half way in, and couldn't tell if that's because I'm getting better at discerning plot lines, or if it was a thin plot line. Either way, I enjoyed the book and liked the main character. 

Madame L has a hard time figuring out the plot in those kinds of stories, and she has heard that that's exactly what the authors of mystery and suspense and thriller novels want. 

In fact,  in a workshop Madame L attended recently with three writers of suspense novels, one of them, Dana Haynes, put it this way:
Mystery writing is like football: You have two teams competing against each other: the writer versus the audience. And mystery readers are smart. Be respectful of them. But mess with the reader's mind! And keep thinking to yourself: That's good, but this will be even better! It's not unfair to use obscure clues. But don't cheat. Make the clues out there, but obfuscate them.

As a result of taking that workshop, Madame L looked for a used copy of Mr. Haynes's "Crashers." She hasn't read it yet, but she'll report on it when she does.

(Madame L found it at a local used bookstore, but it's available at for as little as a penny.)

Keep those comments coming!


Madame L

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Five-Second Rule

Dear Patient and Fastidious Readers,

Madame L believes you will be delighted to hear that the five-second rule appears to be a good rule to go by.

Yes, Madame L has heard of the study a few years ago that supposedly found that even one second is enough for horrible germs to get on some dropped food.

But the latest scientific research, at Aston University in the U.K., seems to have found that " picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time."

This research was conducted by final-year biology students at the university. It reminds Madame L of research done by some of her biology lab students a few years ago, looking for the most likely sites of bacteria around a university campus. It reminds Madame L of that research in that it was done by students.

These students' supervising professor said, "Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time; however the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth."

He added, "We have found evidence that transfer from indoor flooring surfaces is incredibly poor with carpet actually posing the lowest risk of bacterial transfer onto dropped food."

So, go for it, Dear Readers! Oh, by the way, the science students also found that almost 90% of people they surveyed have eaten or think they might eat food dropped on the floor; but most of them say they would follow the five-second rule.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Book Review: Sunday, March 16, 2014: Five Crime Novels....

Dear Readers,

Madame L is happy to share with you a link from Laura, who commented on Madame L's post about the book "Open House":

I was going to leave a list of books I've read lately, but I don't have the energy for that right now. I should probably do what you and Aunt Louise do and do a blog entry for each book. Anyway, I just stumbled on this article: and am going to try some of the books on this list, because I love mysteries and I love strong female characters.

Thanks, Laura. Madame L has already read one of these, Tana French's "The Likeness," and recommends it highly. Madame L will be sure to check out the rest of them because Madame L also loves mysteries and strong female characters.

That reminds Madame L: She has just finished reading another one of J.A. Jance's novels, which she found out about from Laura, and which she thoroughly enjoyed, and she will be writing a review of that book soon.

In addition, Madame L will soon be writing a review of "Learning to Fly," by April Henry, an amazing thriller with a strong woman as the main character.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

What if I Don't Want to Buy A Bazillion Things?

Dear Madame L,

I just got back from a trip to Costco where the only way I could buy peppercorns was in a gigantic (like, two pounds) plastic bottle. Like, for a restaurant where they go around asking if you'd like some pepper on your salad. And the only way to buy sunglasses was in a pack of three. Etc.


I'm Not Running a Boarding House

Dear Single-Family Dweller,

Madame L suggests you buy your peppercorns at your regular grocery store and your sunglasses at your pharmacy.

Better yet, buy those things at your local dollar store. Yes, Madame L buys salt and pepper and sunglasses and reading glasses and ketchup and aspirin and all kinds of things at the dollar store.

Madame L does like to go to Costco on Saturday mornings to sample the food and buy a magazine or two. Aha! Madame L is going to go to Costco right now!

Thanks for writing,

Madame L

Friday, March 14, 2014

Fiction Friday: March 14, 2014: Poetry as Fiction

Madame L usually posts her "Fiction Friday" comments on Aunt Louise's blog, but this time she's doing it here because Aunt Louise has filled her quota for the day.

Madame L tends to think that poems reflect real-life experiences and thoughts and feelings of poets, but of course poems don't have to do that at all. In fact, in some poems, the poet takes on a persona that is most decidedly not that of the poet.

One of Madame L's favorite examples is "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning, in which the narrator or persona is clearly not the poet himself. The duke stops in front of a painting of his last wife, his last duchess, as he makes a deal for the hand of a countess to be his next wife, cataloging the other fine art works he possesses.

So, even though Madame L provided a link to the poem, she is going to include it here, too. If you want to hear the poem read aloud, which is the best way to enjoy a poem, other than reading it aloud yourself, you can find a link to an audio recording at the page. 

(Madame L has deleted the poem which was included here because it seems to be causing problems with other posts.) So go to this link to read the whole thing:  "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning,
That's my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said 'Frà Pandolf' by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps Frà Pandolf chanced to say, 'Her mantle laps Over my lady's wrist too much,' or 'Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint Half-flush that dies along her throat:' such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy. She had A heart -- how shall I say? -- too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. Sir, 't was all one! My favour at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace -- all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, Or blush, at least. She thanked men, -- good! but thanked Somehow -- I know not how -- as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech -- (which I have not) -- to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, 'Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark' -- and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, -- E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meet The company below then. I repeat, The Count your master's known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretence Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed At starting, is my object. Nay, we'll go Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! - See more at:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to Address Your Professor

Dear Readers,

Madame L has not received a question about the issue of how students should address professors and instructors, but thinks you'll be interested. She has just read an article on the topic, "That's Doctor Instructor to You." 

Madame L has been on both sides of the issue: as a student, and as an instructor. Maybe it was the way she was raised, but as a student Madame L has never had a problem calling a professor by his/her title, such as, "Professor," "Doctor," "Ms.," Mr.," or "Mrs"---or by their first name, if that's what they want.

As a teacher, Madame L has told students they can call her by her first name or her last name with the appropriate "Ms." or "Mrs." attached. When a student has assumed Madame L held a doctorate of some kind and called her "Doctor," Madame L has corrected that error immediately.

Madame L understands that in some places it is typical and expected for students to call their professors by their first names.

When that is NOT the custom, Madame L believes students should show respect and just plain common courtesy by calling a teacher, of whatever rank, by the title that teacher wants to be called.

However, the author of that article points out, that "....the vast majority of college students often call their professors by the “wrong” name or title because the conventions for this are massively, overwhelmingly confusing."

It seems obvious to Madame L that the professor/instructor/adjunct/whatever can clarify the situation on the first day of class, and then afterwards as necessary.

As Rebecca Schuman concludes the article:
Most students, then, have no idea what to call us, so it’s up to us to let them know, immediately. On the first day of class, and in the syllabus, say: “I’m Dr. Schuman.” Or, “I’m Martika.” Or, “I’m Count von Count.” Whatever you want to be called, name yourself this thing in person and on the syllabus—and if the students don’t catch on, don’t be afraid to correct them (even if, in Gulliver’s case, you have to do this over and over). And here’s one for the ladies: If you ever get called “Miss,” don’t be afraid to tell them that if they’re going to treat you like a dance teacher, they’d best be ready to plié.
Obviously, that slim minority of the willfully disrespectful will just carry on, and there’s nothing anyone can do. And sure, they don’t respect us because they’re “smarter” than we are, but we grade those twerps—and you’d be surprised how often the openly disrespectful are poor students. But most students are truly, understandably clueless as to what to call us. So not only should we tell them what we want, we should also be patient while they figure it out. Me, I’ll be grateful if they ever stop opening their correspondence with “Hi.”
And if you’re a student and unsure? Err on the side of respect and let them correct you downward. Your professors, adjuncts, instructors, and staff worked hard to get where they are, and it never hurt anyone’s grade to acknowledge that.
Such common sense, that it makes Madame L wonder why this should ever have been an issue in the first place.

What do you think, Dear Readers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Talking Politics

Dear Madame L,

How can I handle people talking about politics in a disagreeable way? And by "disagreeable," I don't mean that they disagree with me; I mean that they are rude and that they express their opinions in a loud and in-your-face manner.


Too Timid to Speak Up

Dear Timid,

If you don't want to speak up, you can leave the room. That's the only suggestion Madame L has for the timid. If you want to stop being so timid, Madame L has some other suggestions:

One is, still, to leave the room. Madame L has witnessed people doing that, and has seen the outspoken rude person's face register surprise and chagrin as he realizes he has been rude.

Another is to speak up with your own opinion. Madame L has seen people do that, too, and it seems very effective, as long as it's done in politely. (Because if it's done otherwise, not only does it not make your point, it reinforces the other person's rudeness.)

For example, Madame L was recently in a small room with seven other people when one of them made a rude comment about how "Obamacare" was going to make health care unaffordable because there are fewer doctors now than there were some years ago. Another person said, very mildly, "The Affordable Care Act is not the reason we have fewer doctors now," and another person said, "That's right." So the rude person observed that he wasn't gaining any friends or converts to his political views, and stopped talking about that.

Another is to speak up with a suggestion that politics is not an appropriate topic of conversation. Madame L has also seen people do that, and it has also been effective, although the offender did huff and puff a little before switching off.

Madame L invites her other Dear Readers to offer their suggestions, particularly ideas that they have seen that have effectively smoothed over the discomfort of people who aren't interested in discussing politics.

Best wishes,

Madame L

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weird Word of the Week: Kuzushi

Kuzushi is a Japanese word for unbalancing an opponent in martial arts. Although kuzushi is most commonly associated with judo, it is also used in judo, aikido, and jujitsu. It makes sense, doesn't it, that you would want to unbalance your opponent to make it easier to throw him/her.

Here's a Web site with a couple of nice line drawings showing the principle of kuzushi.

And here's a good demonstration of kuzushi in aikido:

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Open House," Continued

Dear and Faithful Readers,

Madame L finished reading "Open House," by Elizabeth Berg, this morning, and she still recommends it, with reservations. Warning: There are three scenes involving sex. However, although Madame L did not like those scenes, and doesn't think that even the mildest and non-explicit sex scenes are necessary in any book, they are not graphic and did not make Madame L want to throw the book down and then throw up on it.

Madame L could see why "Open House" was an Oprah Book Club selection: It hits all the right "wronged-woman-rights-her-life" notes:

--the woman discarded by a husband who (according to her best friend) everyone else knew from the beginning wouldn't be good for her;
--the woman ignored and then despised by her 11-year-old son, and finally coming to terms with him;
--the woman turning down blind dates suggested by her mother;
--the woman going on one of those blind dates which turns out disastrously;
--the woman having a "truth or dare" type weekend with the aforementioned best friend;
--the woman coming to an understanding of her mother;
--the woman growing a spine and getting roommates and temporary jobs;
--the woman making friends with a man who---spoiler alert, but not really, because you knew this was coming, didn't you!---becomes more than a friend; and
--the woman's husband telling her he had decided to come back to her, and her realizing she doesn't need him any more.

So, you get the picture, don't you, Dear Readers. As she mentioned earlier, Madame L still recommends the book, say, for a weekend when you have nothing better to do and want to live through the remarkable fantasy and happy ending that Elizabeth Berg creates.

Madame L is not going to keep the book, but has already put it in her pile of give-aways, so if any of her Dear Readers would like to take it to the beach or wherever, just let Madame L know, and she'll send it on.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Book Review: Sunday, March 9, 2014: Open House

Madame L has been reading another book by Elizabeth Berg, "Open House," which was an Oprah's Book Club selection when it came out in 2001. Madame L is NOT reading it because of that! Madame L is reading it because she found it on her local library's book sale shelf the other day, remembered how much she had liked other books by Elizabeth Berg, and happened to have three dollars with her.

Madame L could have gotten it used from for less than that, but she never would have found it on because she didn't know it existed until she saw it in the library.

Madame L would apologize to her Dear Readers for not being one of those reviewers who has access to the latest books, allowing her Dear Readers to be the first among their friends to know what the latest novel or self-help book is all about... That is, Madame L would apologize for that if Madame L thought her Dear Readers cared about that.

Madame L is enjoying this book so far, even though the premise is fairly ordinary: A woman's rich and handsome husband leaves her, and she doesn't know what to do. So far, the plot has advanced to where the deserted wife has made a new friend, gone on a disastrous date, disappointed her son, found out her oldest friend hated that husband all along, realized that she can't stand her mother, and gotten a temporary job at a laundromat.

Madame L is still reading this book because of Elizabeth Berg's wonderful writing, not because she needs to know more about the trials and hardships of women whose husbands have left them.

Madame L will report later this week to you, Dear Readers, how the book progresses and what she thinks of it.

Meanwhile, what have YOU, Dear Readers, been reading, that you would like to share with Madame L and her other Dear Readers?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What to do About Spam?

Dear Madame L,

I'm getting more and more e-mail messages lately that are obviously spammish scams. What should I do about this?



Dear Fellow Sufferer,

Madame L feels your pain and suggests:

--Reading Google's article on how they recognize spam and deal with it, just for the heck of it;

--Reading this Wikipedia article on anti-spam techniques; and

--Reading this Wikihow article on 5 ways to fight spam.

Madame L has stopped opening email messages from people she doesn't know, has increased her spam filter to the maximum, has installed spam-detecting software on her computer, and has stopped visiting Web sites she isn't absolutely sure are okay.

Other suggestions, Dear and Faithful And Spam-Free Readers?


Madame L

Friday, March 7, 2014

Aunt Louise Asks: What's Wrong With These People? (Know-It-All)

Dear Madame L,

Aunt Louise here, with my own story of someone who made me wonder what her problem was.

In my poetry workshop, where at the beginning of each class we can read a favorite poem by anyone or a poem we ourselves have written,  I read one of my own poems about how I wished there were more fiery women poets. I thought it was funny, and the workshop leader and most of the other students seemed to like my poem.

But one woman came over to me during the break with a list she'd made, in angry, spiky handwriting, of a bunch of women poets. She stuck it in my face and said, "Here. Here's some women poets for you."

I glanced at it. She had written down about 15 names, all of them famous women poets, and none of them writers of any "fiery" poems that I'm aware of --- like Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Marge Piercy, and people like that. I glanced at it and said, "Ummm. I've read some poems by all these women."

She grabbed the paper back from me and said, "What about Maya Angelou? What about Patti Smith? What about...?" And so on.

I said, "Yes?" Because obviously she hadn't listened to my poem and was just trying to show how smart and well read she was. She stomped back to her seat with a look of self-righteous victory.

I shrugged and glanced at another class member who was trying to catch my eye to give me a big grin of understanding and solidarity, which was a relief.

So, Madame L, I guess I'm not asking for advice on this, just thought it was a funny story to add to your collection of "What's Wrong With These People?" stories.


Aunt Louise

P.S. Here's that poem, still in draft form:


Maybe I have nothing against the male poets, per se.
Maybe it's per the professors who crammed them down my throat
as extensions of their own raging egos
that soured me on them.

I wonder: if you threw a line to me
that I didn't know came from the male ego and
its extensions in the halls of academia,
how would it strike me?

Maybe like a baseball bat?
Maybe not a strike at all, but a ball, high and outside.
Maybe I'd be lost without the context.

But here's what I want, now:
a female poet
who knocks me out with fast balls,
firebombs and kung-fu,
who yells at me so loud I have to
stop and listen. 
It didn't sound to you like I'd never heard of Emily Dickinson and Marge Piercy, did it?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Caffeine Versus Your Heart

Dear Madame L,

I've been reading about how good coffee is for you! --- Yet I've been taught all my life that it isn't good for me at all, and that caffeine is bad for the body in many ways. What do you say about this?


Already Over-Stimulated

Dear Hyper Reader,

Madame L thanks you for the question. Even if you're not a Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), as Madame L is, your parents probably taught you when you were young that coffee wasn't good for you. They probably told you, as many of Madame L's friends' parents told them, that they could drink it when they got older.

Madame L always wondered about this: If some food or drink wasn't good for children, in what way was it good for grown-ups? Nobody had a good answer to that question, of course, because such a food or drink does not exist!

Madame L believes that all the new pitches for coffee and the positive effects on the brain of caffeine are a passing fad, or, to be more blunt, a passing marketing ploy by the big companies which profit from the sale of and addiction to coffee and caffeine. Madame L remembers when cigarette companies wanted everyone to believe that smoking was just what the body needed to be healthy and happy, too. And Madame L is well aware that the medical profession, like every other, has members whose opinion can be bought and changed with enough money.

But doctors who are concerned about their patients with heart disease tell them in no uncertain terms to stop drinking coffee. They put it like this:

Stimulants — even too much coffee, tea, soda, or chocolate — can speed up your heart rate even more. Also, beware of over-the-counter medicines, including nutritional supplements and cold and allergy medicines. Drugs may contain stimulants or have other properties that can trigger arrhythmias and/or interact with your prescription medications.

And even the Mayo Clinic, in this article, trying to say coffee is just great for everyone, admits that there are "some risks" associated with coffee.

"Some risks"? How many risks do you have to take with your health and your life before you'll break a habit that has "some risks"?

And WebMD comes right out and says coffee may trigger heart attacks. 

Now there's "some risk" for you.

So, who you gonna trust? Madame L is gonna trust the cardiologist who has his/her own real patients' best interests at heart.

Thanks for asking,

Madame L

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slow Reader Catches Up ("We Meant Well")

Madame L has been spending a lot of time at a certain hospital with a certain husband who usually won't even start reading a book unless Madame L has already gone through it , underlined and highlighted, and turned down page corners.

And here's the great thing: When said husband has nothing else to do but lie on his back (or halfway sitting up, sometimes) and read, he has been able to "force" himself to read.

He's been reading "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People," and he wants Madame L's other Dear Readers to know that he is enjoying it greatly and recommends it highly.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weird Word of the Week: Diverticulitis

Madame L doesn't even want to write about this. And she particularly doesn't want to look at the kinds of pictures that always accompany articles about this kind of thing. So, Dear Readers, she will spare you from seeing those pictures and will just mention briefly that diverticulitis is a condition when little pouches form in the intestine walls and get infected and inflamed.

You can find out more than Madame L wants to think about from that WebMD site Madame L just linked you to and from this site run by the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

You're welcome.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What's Wrong With These People? (Nosy Friend)

Dear Madame L,

This friend of mine is always asking me questions about things that are none of her business. She wants to know how much I'm paying for rent, how much I still have outstanding on my student loan, how much I weigh, what I paid for my new sofa, stuff like that. What can I say to her?


Would Like More Privacy

Dear Private Person,

Madame L would like to know why you are friends with this snoopy person.

Are you maintaining this friendship because you work together? Because your mothers are friends? Because you were friends in high school or college? None of those is a good enough reason for this person to be asking questions you're unwilling to answer.

If you really think she's your friend, or you have to remain civil to keep your job, you should be able to say, "Oh, I never talk about such personal things." And then change the subject.

Otherwise, Madame L thinks now --- or any time soon --- would be a good time to start telling her, "None of your business." And then, if she gets all huffy or acts like you should be okay with those personal questions because of your so-called friendship, you tell her that's it.

Yes, there are many other ways to deal with such a person. Madame L has tried some of them herself. However, she warns you that they may backfire. For example, if you ask that kind of person how much SHE weighs, how much SHE owes the bank, and so on, she may tell you, and then use her own so-called openness as an excuse to keep asking you more.

So: Use your verbal judo skills to deflect, or get out of the ring.


Madame L

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Book Review: Sunday, March 2, 2014: We Meant Well

"We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People" is an eye-opener of a book.

Sure, we've all seen the news reports about the bribery and corruption, the tribal loyalties, the attacks of supposed allies on U.S. troops, the mistreatment of women, and the general overall chaos and futility of what we've done in Iraq.

But Peter Van Buren, the author of "We Meant Well" and a Foreign Service officer, gets down to the nitty-gritty reasons why it has turned out that way:

It begins with uncontrolled spending of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund bureaucratic foul-ups and lack of communication between the Army and the State Department. It continues with personality conflicts, cultural chasms, the need for people in the field to check off vague and even meaningless and, most importantly, impossible goals while dealing with disorganization of and lack of infrastructure. And it only gets worse from there.

Madame L has had conversations with friends who served in the Army in Iraq whose stories back up, and are backed up, in every detail in this book.

And you know it's true, and that its truth stings, when you find out that the State Department, angered by Van Buren's revelations, began proceedings against him, which he finally avoided by retiring.

But Madame L is not giving her Dear Readers the flavor of this book. Van Buren makes his account work, where others have failed, to show the situation in Iraq, with biting humor and perception, no holds barred. It's like the "Catch-22" of our time. But better.

Madame L hasn't finished reading this book yet but still recommends it highly. When she finishes it, she'll be happy to loan it to any of her Dear Readers who would like to read it.

Meanwhile, you can read the first chapter in this on-line excerpt. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Doggie Treats

Dear Madame L,

I found a recipe in my local paper the other day for doggie treats, which I would like to make for myself. It looks perfectly edible, made with oatmeal and an egg and even some cinnamon. Because of course dogs like cinnamon, right? I don't know.

Anyway, no raw meat or icky stuff, and you cut them out with a cookie cutter and bake them on a cookie sheet. What do you think about making them for myself?


Arf, Arf

Dear Arfie,

Madame L wonders if you have a dog.

If so, please try the doggie treat recipe on your dog first and let Madame L and her other Dear Readers know your results.

If not, why are you looking at doggie treat recipes? Are you really really really bored? Do you sit when someone says "Sit"? Run after tennis balls? Or what?

Actually, either way, Madame L hopes you'll be brave enough try the recipe and, if you (and your dog, if you have one) like it, share it with her and her other Dear Readers. You could respond in the Comments section or send an email message to "ellemadame [at] gmail [dot] com."

By the way, Madame L just Googled "Do dogs like cinnamon?" and found out that they do, and that, according to one dog enthusiast, cinnamon is "an essential spice" for dogs and humans.

In fact, that writer clams that "... half a teaspoon of cinnamon a day helps to regulate blood sugar and raise insulin resistance ... [and] boosts the body's ability to use insulin to improve blood glucose levels." 

Madame L would like to hear from other Dear Readers about doggie treats, cinnamon, and anything else they would like to write about.


Madame L