Ways to Save in 2018

Last year may have been a disappointing Dumpster fire in countless ways, but it was a great year for travel deals — saving money has never been easier or more accessible to more people. Looking forward to 2018, there’s no reason to think it should be any different. Here are eight tips to help keep your travel expenses nominal and your wallet fat.

Sign Up for Newsletters

Deals on flights go live and then are snapped up so quickly that it’s practically a full-time job keeping track of them. According to Matthew Kepnes of the website Nomadic Matt, one of the best ways to stay on top of the latest deals is to sign up for the many deal newsletters that catalog the best travel bargains — he specifically recommends those from the websites Scott’s Cheap Flights, The Flight Deal and Secret Flying.

Remember the Old Standbys

AARP and AAA have been around since 1958 and 1902. Yet despite the tens of millions of members between them, they’re somehow overlooked as great resources for discounted flights, hotels, rental cars and many other travel-related expenses.

AARP has its own travel portal powered by Expedia, which offers members 10 percent discounts on certain hotels and 25 percent off some car rentals, among other benefits. Membership — which was once reserved for the 50-plus set but is now open to anyone 18 and over — costs $16 annually, but there’s currently a deal for $12 for your first year when you choose to auto-renew your membership.

It’ll be a few years before I’m ready to join AARP, so in the meantime, I belong to AAA. A regular membership (cost varies by state) gets you the roadside assistance the organization is famous for, as well as discounts on hotels and rental cars. A basic membership also includes $100,000 in travel accident coverage when you book your trip through AAA. An additional fun hidden benefit to membership is that they will handle certain D.M.V. transactions for you, like registration renewal and transfer of vehicle ownership.

Save Money While Doing Some Good

Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused devastation in the Caribbean that continues to affect the daily lives of residents. Rather than stay away, though, I would argue that tourists should consider visiting those places that have been hurt by natural disasters. Getting a good deal in Napa Valley (which suffered its own setbacks this year because of wildfires) or the Caribbean isn’t cynical — it’s helping a region that needs money to get back on its feet.

“Travelers who visit the parts of the Caribbean that were hit by Hurricanes Irma and Maria will see various stages of the rebuild/recover effort,” Hugh Riley of the Caribbean Tourism Organization wrote in an email. “Some islands will be fully up to speed and ready for the winter; others, only partially so.” (As of now, many Caribbean destinations are fully operational.)

Carefully research your destination before going, but don’t hesitate to jump on a good deal. I recently found deals to Christiansted, St. Croix, on select dates in February with round-trip flight from New York City and seven nights lodging for under $750 per person, taxes included. Deals to Puerto Rico (which is in various stages of recovery, although tourist spots in San Juan are largely back in action) are even better: You can score seven nights at the boutique Dreamcatcher hotel in San Juan with nonstop flight from Kennedy Airport for around $625 per person, taxes included, during select dates in February.

Set Your Google Alerts

We’ve all been there: JetBlue had a flash sale two days ago but you didn’t find out about it until it was over. This is where Google Alerts can help — the customizable alerts, delivered to your inbox or RSS feed, are a great way to get the upper hand on sales on flights, hotels, and more. You can customize the alerts to arrive daily, weekly or as they happen.

Play around with combinations of words and figure out what works for you — an alert for “flight flash sale” to keep up on airline sales, for example, or “laptop discount” if you’re looking for a deal on a new computer. The best part is that there’s really no downside to setting a few alerts. If, after a few days, you find they’re not sending you useful information, you can tweak them or eliminate them entirely.

Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for Free

Having Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck is a must for frequent travelers to ease the way through those long security lines. But why pay for it? A number of credit cards out there will cover the fee ($100 for Global Entry, $85 for PreCheck; Global Entry includes the PreCheck benefit) with miles or points or, better still, cover the cost entirely by way of a statement credit.

The Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card from U.S. Bank offers up to a $100 credit every four years for Global Entry or PreCheck. Among other cards that tout the same benefit are the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, the American Express Platinum card and the Citi Prestige card (which offers the credit every five years instead of every four years).

Money Back on Your Purchases

Make your online shopping work for you by using shopping portals — sites that get referral bonuses from retailers and then pass on some of those savings. Let’s say you want a new pair of boots for a coming trip, and you plan to purchase them from Shoes.com. By making the purchase through a shopping portal like Ebates, you could get a big chunk of that purchase refunded to you; as of this writing, Ebates is offering 12 percent cash back on purchases from Shoes.com. Money you earn through the portal is sent to you via check or PayPal.

Most of the major bank and credit card companies have their own shopping portals, too. Discover Deals is currently offering 5 percent off purchases made in the Apple Store — why not get $150 back on that $3,000 laptop purchase? Use sites like CashbackMonitor.com to track which portals are running the best deals.

No More Pesky A.T.M. Fees

A.T.M. fees can mount up quickly when you’re traveling. Fortunately, there are options. The Citibank Account Package will waive A.T.M. fees when you maintain an average $10,000 monthly balance. And Chase’s Premier Plus Checking will waive fees up to four times per month when you maintain a $15,000 monthly balance.

The king of vanquishing A.T.M. fees, however, remains Charles Schwab Bank and its High Yield Investor Checking account. The account requires no minimum to open, charges zero fees regardless of account balance and offers unlimited rebates on A.T.M. fees worldwide. The catch: It has to be linked to a Schwab brokerage account.

Protect Your Privacy

There’s no silver lining to the massive Equifax data breach this year that exposed the data of 145 million Americans to potential hacking and identity theft, which cost Americans $16 billion last year alone. Protecting yourself after a security lapse of that magnitude is tricky. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three major (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion) credit bureaus — make it a habit to check every so often for suspicious activity. While Equifax is now offering freezes and locks on your credit file, it is also pushing free enrollment (through January) in its TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service.

It may seem a little perverse, however, to hand the keys right back over to the person who just totaled the car, so to speak. If you’d rather not use Equifax’s credit monitoring, sites like WalletHub and Credit Karma offer free services.

Lucas Peterson is the Frugal Traveler columnist. He has written for GQ, Lucky Peach, Eater, LA Weekly and Food Republic. His video series for Eater, “Dining on a Dime,” is now in its 11th season. @FrugalTraveler

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page TR5 of the New York edition with the headline: In With the New, but Keep Some Old Ways to Save. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/travel/ways-to-save-budget-2018.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You’re Over 75, and You’re Healthy. Why Are You Taking a Statin?

“This is a situation that makes most doctors very uncomfortable,” said Dr. Sei Lee, a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco. “Some feel these drugs have been successful used in younger patients, so why not use them?”

So why not? “We don’t have good specific data for people without known heart disease over age 75,” Dr. Lee said. “Are statins helpful or harmful for them? The honest answer is, we don’t know.”

To be clear: Statins make sense for adults of any age who already have heart disease, who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, or who have had arteries unblocked with a procedure like stenting. This is called secondary prevention.

In 2013, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association issued a series of statin recommendations for primary prevention, relevant to adults up to age 75 who have high cholesterol or diabetes, or who for other reasons face an estimated 7.5 percent risk or greater of developing heart disease within 10 years.

Last year, the United States Preventive Services Task Force similarly recommended statins for primary prevention in people aged 40 to 75 who had risk factors like high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking, with a 10-year disease risk of 10 percent or greater.

But for people over age 75, both panels agreed, there was not sufficient evidence to reach a conclusion. As with many clinical trials, the major statin studies mostly haven’t included patients at advanced ages.

“The oldest patients enrolled have been up to age 82,” said Dr. Michael Rich, a geriatric cardiologist at Washington University School of Medicine, referring to the PROSPER study published in 2002.

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The authors of that study followed 5,800 patients for three years and found that pravastatin provided secondary, but not primary, prevention against cardiovascular events.

But Dr. Paul Ridker, a self-described “statin advocate” who directs the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, gets irked at the argument that we don’t know enough to give statins to older patients without heart disease.

“I don’t believe there’s any doubt that statin therapy is effective for primary prevention in older adults,” Dr. Ridker said. He cites a recent reanalysis of data from two major studies showing that patients over age 70 taking statins experienced the same reductions in cardiovascular events and mortality as younger ones.

Dr. Orkaby and her Harvard colleagues hoped to help resolve such questions with their recent study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, comparing physicians over age 70 who took statins for primary prevention with those who didn’t.

The team matched each group for 30 variables and found that over an average of seven years, statin-takers had an 18 percent lower death rate, though not a statistically significant reduction in cardiovascular events.

In the same issue, though, an editorial co-authored by Dr. Rich called statin use for primary prevention in older patients “an unresolved conundrum.”

The physician study was observational, so can’t establish causes, he pointed out. And it followed a group that was healthier than average, and all male. Moreover, he said, the findings suggest the drugs had more benefit for those under age 77.

What’s not debatable is that while statins do effectively lower cholesterol in older people, their advantages and disadvantages add up differently than at younger ages.

A fairly common side effect, for instance, is myalgia, muscle aches sometimes combined with fatigue. Dr. Orkaby estimates that up to 30 percent of statin takers experience this symptom.

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Sandy Koo, 72, a retired teacher in Los Altos, Calif., began taking Lipitor in her 50s. It lowered her cholesterol, but she found that “I’d walk a block and a half, and I was so achy I had to sit down.” She cycled through other statins for years, looking for one that didn’t make her legs hurt.

Myalgia reverses when people stop taking statins (which also have more serious, but very rare, side effects). Still, many older people already struggle to remain mobile and perform daily tasks.

At advanced ages, “it’s easier to lose your functional ability and harder to get it back,” said Dr. Lee. (A few small studies report a reversible cognitive impact from statins, too, but he and other researchers didn’t give much credence to the finding.)

Further, older people often take multiple drugs. Statins interact with scores of them, including proton pump inhibitors (like Nexium), blood pressure and heart medications (like Plavix), and many antibiotics.

Complicating the debate, the 2013 guidelines called for “high-intensity” statin therapy — high doses of atorvastatin (Lipitor) or rosuvastatin (Crestor) — for primary prevention up to age 75, for those who can tolerate it.

“Many patients were doing fine for years on a low-intensity statin, and it was doing the job, reducing their cholesterol,” Dr. Orkaby said. When switched to high-intensity regimens, “they developed the symptoms you might expect, so they stopped taking them at all.”

All of which argues for a thoughtful conversation for patients in their late 70s and beyond whose physicians suggest starting — or stopping — a statin.

It can take two to five years for a statin to pay off preventively, so a healthy 80-year-old expected to live that long might well opt to take one or to continue taking one.

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“It’s a well known, proven therapy that might prevent a devastating illness,” Dr. Orkaby said. By trying different statins at different dosages, she said, patients usually can find a comfortable regimen.

On the other hand, she routinely stops statins for nursing home residents — who are already very ill — or for elders who are frail, have life-limiting diseases, or grapple with an already daunting number of prescriptions.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Dr. Orkaby said. “We don’t want to do harm by prescribing a medication. And we don’t want to do harm by withholding it.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/05/health/statin-over-75.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Dolphins Show Self-Recognition Earlier Than Children

Dr. Reiss first reported self-recognition in dolphins in 2001 with Lori Marino, now the head of The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. She and Dr. Morrison, now an assistant professor in the psychology department at the University of North Carolina Pembroke collaborated on the study and published their findings in the journal PLoS One.

Dr. Reiss said the timing of the emergence of self-recognition is significant, because in human children the ability has been tied to other milestones of physical and social development. Since dolphins develop earlier than humans in those areas, the researchers predicted that dolphins should show self-awareness earlier.

Seven months was when Bayley, a female, started showing self-directed behavior, like twirling and taking unusual poses.

Dr. Reiss said dolphins “may put their eye right up against the mirror and look in silence. They may look at the insides of their mouths and wiggle their tongues.”

Foster, the male, was almost 14 months when the study started. He had a particular fondness for turning upside down and blowing bubbles in front of the one-way mirror in the aquarium wall through which the researchers observed and recorded what the dolphins were doing.

The animals also passed a test in which the researchers drew a mark on some part of the dolphin’s body it could not see without a mirror. In this so-called mark test, the animal must notice and pay attention to the mark. Animals with hands point at the mark and may touch it.

The dolphins passed that test at 24 months, which was the earliest researchers were allowed to draw on the young animals. Rules for animal care prohibited the test at an earlier age because of a desire to have the animals develop unimpeded. During testing, the young animals were always with the group of adults they live with, and only approached a one-way mirror in the aquarium wall when they felt like it.

Rules for drawing on human children are apparently less strict, and they pass the mark test at 18-24 months.

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Frans de Waal, of Emory University, who studies cognition in apes and other animals and is the author of “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” , said in an email, “Great study.”

Dr. de Waal worked with Dr. Reiss on an earlier study of self-recognition in elephants but was not involved in the dolphin research.

He said the study has value because science needs to go beyond asking whether species display mirror self-recognition (MSR) to ask “whether the emergence of MSR correlates, as it does in humans, with other milestones of development.” Connecting the ability to the rest of development can help researchers “begin to answer the question of what MSR means.”

A small side note that doesn’t have any apparent scientific significance is that Foster, the male, visited the mirror many more times than Bayley, the female.

“He clearly was interested in viewing himself,” Dr. Reiss said.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/science/dolphins-self-recognition.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

On ‘Encore,’ Anderson East Revisits the Rough Soul of Yesteryear


Anderson East revisits Southern soul on his new album, “Encore.”

Joshua Black Wilkins

Drinking deeply from the past is a reliable form of nourishment — it can soothe, and it can comfort. Some singers lean on it like a chaise. But some see it as a challenge, a high-wire act executed while surveilled by the unforgiving eyes of history.

Anderson East understands what’s at stake when channeling yesteryear. “Encore,” his second major-label album, is an often lustrous revisiting of raucous Southern soul, rousingly delivered and pinpoint precise. He has a voice full of extremely careful scrape and crunch, but his howls never feel unhinged.


“Encore” is Mr. East’s second major-label album.

Mr. East, 30, is originally from Alabama. In addition to songwriting — over the last two years, he’s collaborated regularly with Miranda Lambert, with whom he’s romantically linked — he has been tinkering with heritage soul music. His 2015 album, “Delilah,” was a slightly more tentative take on the style, but on “Encore,” he blossoms.

“King For a Day,” written by Mr. East with Chris and Morgane Stapleton, is a rollicking history lesson, and “Surrender” is a nod to the exuberant stomp of Ike and Tina Turner. Mr. East extends his approach even to covers, like his muscular soul update of the bluesman Ted Hawkins’s “Sorry You’re Sick,” which is punctuated with bright horns.

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Executing at this level requires not just a vocalist who’s dutifully studied, but also a team of equally faithful students. “Encore” is produced by Dave Cobb, who has made tactile, glossed revivalism his stock in trade in recent years; it is performed by an exceptionally sharp band that is unshy and enthused.

The downside of this approach — at least for a singer — is that at times the music is so deeply reverent that it becomes the main character, the gasoline for the song’s emotional narrative, rendering the lyrics, and even the singing, immaterial. Such is the case on “House Is a Building,” which is a conversation between downcast piano and horns that Mr. East can’t penetrate, and on his sweet but level cover of Willie Nelson’s “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/arts/music/anderson-east-encore-review.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

A Designer’s Healthy Answer to Bacon, Egg and Cheese

To usher in the new year, we asked creative people to share the homemade recipes they count on to detox, cleanse — and refresh.

CreditJulia Stotz

“My wellness regimen has evolved over the years, although I’m not sure I would call it wellness,” says Wendy Mullin of the brand Built by Wendy, which clothed the mid-90s downtown scene and formally relaunched last year. “Between 1992 and 2007, my routine was something like: Wake up late, sometimes hung over, and walk my dog to the park, stopping at the deli on my way, where I’d pick up a coffee with milk and one sugar, and a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll with ketchup on it. Not on the side, so I didn’t have to deal with opening it and squeezing it out and all that.” She’d then read The Daily News and possibly head to the gym for an anxiety-ridden run on the treadmill, always in corduroy cutoffs (Mullin doesn’t “do workout clothes,” she says) and “gym shoes, in the elementary-school way.”

As Mullin, 47, has settled into adulthood, she’s made some adjustments — she now regularly swims laps at the YMCA and practices yoga, both at home and in a studio. “I did, for the first time, self-consciously go to the grocery store with yoga clothing on — O.K., I covered my leggings with gauchos,” she says, “then I realized, everyone wears yoga clothes to the grocery store and nobody is looking at me, so get over it.” In terms of diet, Mullin’s bacon, egg and cheese has become a “Morning bruschetta.” She shares the recipe for that, as well as her version of a breakfast taco, below.

CreditJulia StotzWendy’s Morning Bruschetta

∙ 1 English muffin

∙ 1 hard-boiled egg

∙ 1 avocado

∙ a few cherry tomatoes

∙ a drizzle of olive oil

∙ a squeeze of lemon juice

∙ salt and pepper

1. Remove the egg yolk from the hard-boiled egg (and toss it to the dog begging below). Chop up the rest.

2. Chop up the avocado.

3. Halve the tomatoes.

4. Toss it all together — plus olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper — and stack it on toasted English muffin halves.

Variant: For a Breakfast Taco, use Trader Joe’s corn & wheat tortillas fired over a stove’s flame instead of English muffins, and substitute lime for lemon.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page ST3 of the New York edition with the headline: Homemade Recipes; Au Revoir, Bacon and Eggs. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/t-magazine/wendy-mullin-breakfast-recipe.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

How Rice Pudding Gave Me Courage

Our son was still only crawling when Marie-Cécile, a young Frenchwoman, became his babysitter. That she stayed with us for years explains why he has a near-perfect French accent and why I know the lyrics and accompanying hand motions to nursery songs from the 1960s. It’s also why I know the expression au pif.

The first time I heard the words (pronounced “oh peef”) was when I asked Marie-Cécile how she made the rice pudding that was cooling on the counter. “Au pif,” she said, bouncing her index finger off the tip of her nose as though she were playing charades. Encouraged to give a definition, she shrugged her shoulders and shook her head slowly.

As a noun, pif is slang for nose, and au pif can mean randomly, roughly or off the top of your head. Having cooked with Marie-Cécile a few times before then, I should have guessed that it had something to do with feeling your way around a dish. Marie-Cécile never turned to a recipe, not even to check a measurement, a step or a tip. She cooked simple, satisfying food, calmly and assuredly, partly from memories of things 3,600 miles away and partly from good kitchen sense.

Although it sounds most adorable in French, au pif is the way people everywhere cook. A dash of this. A bit of that. We toss broccoli into the pasta because we find some in the corner of the vegetable bin. We put the stew to braise in the oven when the stovetop is full; open the spice drawer, see star anise and flavor a stir-fry with it. We cook with what we have on hand, making changes to recipes as we go along. Sometimes cooking au pif is creative; sometimes it’s practical; and most of the time we don’t even think about it. It’s just how we move about the kitchen. It’s how we put together a meal — until we get to dessert, which so often involves more precision than inspiration.

Marie-Cécile’s desserts were never exact, formal or fussy. Those she returned to often — poached fruit; baked apples; a thick, sweet pancake; and a memorable rice pudding — were made in the spirit of au pif. I thought of them as this-and-that sweets: A little more of this or a little less of that, and they would still be fine. If precision were important and if recipes were required, Marie-Cécile, like so many good cooks faced with flour, sugar, butter and measuring cups, was timid.

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When I knew her, I was timid, too. I was just learning to bake and hadn’t yet discovered that within the bounds of a recipe, a baker with an imagination could find room to play.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/magazine/dessert-rice-pudding-courage-france.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

You Can Hit a Wall Riding at Home

I live in a one-bedroom apartment and kept it between my sofa and a bookshelf, so close that I could reach out with my left hand and touch the Bible in French or a biography of Judy Chicago if I need inspiration. When not in use, the bike was always there, a bit of an eyesore that sometimes served as a laundry rack.

I connected my iPad to the Flyweel app (there is a bike with a built-in screen) and browsed. There are live classes where you can ride along in real time with the New York studio or you can choose an on-demand class, which range from 20 to 60 minutes. There are classic Method classes with cycling and the signature pipe-shaped weights (a two-pound and a four-pound come with the bike). Power is a more intense ride; Beats is rhythm based. You can also take the off-bike workouts like FlyBarre and Stretch & Recover.

What makes Flywheel particularly precise and beloved by a certain Type A fitness freak is the TorqBoard, a screen that shows how hard you’re working in relationship to everyone else in class. You can opt out if you prefer not to know or share, but because of masochistic tendencies, I always keep mine on. It displays real time data, including your speed and exertion and power.

I put on a 30-minute class and started riding. The first song was “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors. Normally this would be the part of class where I begin a long internal monologue about how no one should be spinning to bands that played at the Wetlands in the ’90s and why aren’t we listening to Beyoncé — but then I remembered that I could turn off the music. Or at least turn it way down. You can modulate how much of the instructor or music you hear, so if it’s a class you’ve taken before, you can adjust toward music; if you hate the music, you can adjust for the instructor and put on your own, as I did.

I would spend many hours taking classes while listening to the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify, podcasts about true crime, the Clash. Instructors like Dionna Littleton, who quickly became my favorite, would remind me that feelings are not facts. Dionna would suggest pedaling at 100 r.p.m., but perhaps some of us would like to try 120.

“I don’t know your life,” she was fond of saying. Or, “What if this was your best ride ever?” Alas, it never was. I reliably ended most classes second to last on the TorqBoard.

At home, distractions are unavoidable. One morning I paused a class 10 minutes in to investigate a strange noise and ended up getting locked out on my fire escape wearing nothing but a sports bra, leggings and socks in 23-degree weather. After one of my neighbors came home and managed to unlock me, I changed my socks and got right back on the bike. If there’s one thing at-home exercise can do, it’s keep you loyal to a routine.

Midway through, I cheated and went to SoulCycle. I missed the energy of other people in the room and the smell of the grapefruit candles, which made the workout seem somehow more fulfilling. A week exercising at home taught me that I really prefer to leave the comforts of my apartment. Plus I ran into an acquaintance who told me an uplifting anecdote about the great sex she was having with her new boyfriend. That doesn’t happen at home.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/09/style/flywheel-cycling-spinning-at-home.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

When Anorexics Grow Up – The New York Times

My stars were Karen Carpenter, Tracy Gold and my favorite, Jennifer Jason Leigh, who, in the 1981 movie “The Best Little Girl in the World,” appeared appealingly helpless in high-waisted jeans.

With one exception, these movies wrapped up anorexia in tidy boxes where therapy, feeding tubes, weight gain, finding release from a controlling mother’s grip and discovering the joys of food led to a happy ending. I was a kid who no longer ate dessert when I watched Ms. Leigh’s character jovially lick an ice cream cone beside her therapist. But even I knew then that ice cream was neither the problem nor the solution.

The only other outcome for anorexics was the one the singer Karen Carpenter suffered — the one that would never happen to me: death at age 32. So old, I remember thinking. How could she let that happen when everyone else found the cure?

The aging anorexic doesn’t make for a compelling movie. Adults with the disorder aren’t represented in pop culture and news outlets, so I assumed we were either supposed to outgrow our eating disorders or die.

But in 2003, one-third of inpatient admissions to a specialized eating disorders treatment center were for people over age 30, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. In an online survey published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 13 percent of women over age 50 were found to have eating disorder symptoms. And many older sufferers of eating disorders, some of whom have been battling the disorder since they were young, feel shame at having a “teenager’s problem” and are reluctant to get help.

After decades of therapy — of great days and good years, relapses and starting over from scratch — I realize there’s an ending these movies fail to capture. Some of us are never going to be fully cured.

That doesn’t mean we return to our anorexia rock bottom.

For me, that was when I was 20 and had become so ill that heart palpitations kept me up at night. It was when I walked down Bayswater Road so weak from hunger that traffic sounds and accents blend into a single white noise loop. It was when two photographers stopped me on the same afternoon to ask if I wanted to model while my chest rattled from walking pneumonia.

Living with eating disorder thinking means actively ignoring a voice in my head that tells me it’s dangerous to have a favorite restaurant (Tanoreen in Brooklyn) or to lick my lips while savoring sumac shredded chicken. It’s forcing myself to use positive adjectives to describe my 5-year-old’s mac and cheese after she proclaims it’s the “best thing ever.” It’s never being able to engage in conversations with other women — and, boy are there many — about losing weight or trying out a fad diet. And it’s feeling their eyes on me when I won’t join in the ritual of bashing my own thighs.

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They suspect it’s because I think I’m better than everyone else; I know it’s because my weak mind can’t afford dabbling in this sport.

I feel anxiety every time I realize my body is going to change as I age, with or without my consent, whether I weigh 89 pounds or 289 pounds. I don’t trust the body and fear the ways it can turn on you. At an early age I decided that the only way to stall death or pain, or both, is to wield a lion tamer’s whip and keep cracking at the body, change after change.

For me, change is as much an enemy as weight gain and the body itself. Puberty is one of the most frequently discussed risk periods for the development of eating disorders. The frustration I have with the focus on puberty and eating disorders is that it doesn’t address the fact that every stage of life for a person with an eating disorder presents enormous changes.

My triggers have included puberty, leaving home for the first time, and getting pregnant. As I age, they may include watching my own children leave the nest and confronting my mortality.

My heart hurts thinking about a teen anorexic sitting in her suburban bedroom, one change down and hundreds more to go. She may believe that eating dessert one day means she’s saved. That she can then bid farewell to therapy and go enjoy a banquet of delicious foods for the rest of her life. I hope that’s her fate, but for an anorexic, it isn’t always the resolution.

I refuse to call myself fully healed because there is still work to do. Some days it’s easy work, other days it’s work that makes me break down in tears on my husband’s lap. But it’s work that must be done every morning, every evening, at every meal.

This is the way I keep healing.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/well/live/anorexia-eating-disorders-adults-anorexic-aging.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

Springfield Arbors preschool consists of one long hallway on the ground floor of an assisted-living facility, with several classrooms strung along either side. The surrounding neighborhood, known as Six Corners, is home to a high school (the same one that Kelly attended), a community college and a steady beat of drug- and gang-related violence. Six Corners children live on the down side of what’s known in education circles as the achievement gap. According to analysis done by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit Strategies for Children, between 12 and 14 percent of third graders in some Six Corners schools read at or above grade level, compared with between 37 and 43 percent in nearby Forest Park, a neighborhood known for its well-preserved Victorian homes, and as the birthplace of Dr. Seuss, the city’s most famous native son.

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Kelly came to preschool teaching about a decade ago, when the local caterer she was working for abruptly shut down. For a single mother with a high-school diploma, the options in Springfield were limited: Home health aides, retail salespeople and food-service workers all made about the same salary. Receptionists and secretaries made more, but those jobs required office experience, and the work itself sounded dull. Kelly wanted a job helping people. She had only ever worked in food service, but when she found a local preschool with an opening in the kitchen, she saw a chance to pivot.

She started by making herself known in the classroom, lingering to help out when she delivered lunches, introducing herself to parents in the hallway, befriending the teachers and asking them about their work. When an assistant-teacher spot opened up, she jumped on it. She considered it a promotion, even though the teacher’s salary ($9 an hour) was actually $1 an hour less than what she made as a school cook. For the first year, she split her time between the kitchen and the classroom while she earned her Child Development Associate certification, or C.D.A., which required her to complete a nine-month course that met for four hours every Saturday at the local Y.M.C.A.

At first she thought that credential would help her carve a path to some greater edification: a higher degree, maybe, and a higher wage along with it. But those dreams were quickly jettisoned. In 2011, just as she was completing her first class at the community college, an electrical fire tore through the three-family home that Kelly and her two children shared with her grandmother, mother, aunt and cousin. Her relatives’ apartments weren’t damaged much, but Kelly and her children lost nearly all their possessions. Worse, the fire seemed to usher in a newly dark chapter in her life. In 2012, her younger brother died in a horrific car accident; a year later, her cousin was shot and killed, and her aunt died. Her daughter’s boyfriend — the father of her newborn grandson — was also killed, in another shooting. Somewhere in the middle of those heartaches, the preschool she worked at closed, and Kelly moved on to Springfield Arbors.

The C.D.A. taught her the basics of lesson planning, class structure and family engagement, but her real training came through trial and error. Kelly’s classroom was often chaotic, but parents quickly learned that they could come to her with concerns, even after their children had aged out of her classroom. One mother asked her to step in as foster parent during a particularly tough time. Others hired her to babysit when they picked up night shifts at one job or another, so that Kelly might welcome a given child at 8 in the morning and not return him to his mother until well after 10 or 11 at night. The work was exhausting, but she found she had a knack for it — an instinct for what her students needed, an ability to relate to them and, when all else failed, a willingness to keep trying.

One early-spring afternoon, when a rainstorm kept the children indoors during what would normally be playtime, Kelly tried arranging a field trip to the basement hallway — the only substitute playground at Springfield Arbors. But when too many of them fell into tantrum mode at the same time, she changed tack and set up the portable chalkboard at the front of the room. It did not take long for one, then three, then a dozen of the children to notice her chalking letters and gather around. The letter of the week was “D,” and she had been teaching the students what words it was used in and showing them how to write and pronounce it. “Down, over, over,” she said in a long, slow drawl, as she drew first the spine and then the hump of the letter. She was speaking to one little boy specifically, and when she was done, she handed the chalk to him and held his hand as he repeated her movements. Then she removed her hand and nodded at him to try on his own.

At first, the class was enthralled by this demonstration. But then one little boy started screaming. Grandma, an elderly volunteer who sometimes came for an hour or two and mostly sat in back of the room on a small couch, grabbed the boy’s arm and yanked him to her side. “Cut it out,” she said. “Come sit!” The boy yanked his arm back, flopped onto the floor and wailed. Kelly kept her focus on the students at the blackboard. Eventually the screamer ran back over to the circle and forced another little boy off his seat, which made the other boy cry, which distracted the rest of the class and set half of them wandering off, before anyone had made a full D.

When nap time came it seemed impossible that any one of the tiny, furious bodies twirling through the room could be stilled long enough to let sleep come, let alone all of them at once. But the sleeping mats were soon laid out across the room, and the children took their cue, except for the little blond boy, who wouldn’t lie still. One of Kelly’s colleagues sat on the floor near him, urging him to calm himself. “Relax your body,” she said over and over, patting his back. But it was no use, so she traded spots with Kelly. Kelly leaned over the little blond boy and made eye contact with him and allowed him to grab at her hands with his. This seemed to do the trick. When he settled in just enough to release his grip, she took her cellphone out and played soft music, just for him, which clinched the deal.

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By the time all the children fell asleep, Kelly was sitting cross-legged on the floor with four little ones unfurled like flower petals around her. She was rubbing each of their backs in turn with one hand — rub, rub, pat, next; rub, rub, pat, next — while rocking a fifth in her other arm. Her classroom had a total of 19 students just then, and in order for her to grab lunch, the school’s cook had to be summoned to sit with the sleeping children. She pulled a pack of noodles from her coat pocket and tiptoed toward the door. “It’s a ramen week,” she whispered. “I just spent a fortune on household stuff yesterday, and my son has two basketball games this week.” The high school charged $5 admission to each game, and Kelly rarely missed one, even when it meant skimping on meals.

She returned a few minutes later with a bowl of steaming noodles and two co-teachers. As the children snoozed, the three women slipped into a whispered chat. One student’s voucher was about to expire, and the student’s mother had yet to contact the voucher office to renew it. They debated who was to blame for this looming catastrophe; but how the voucher office worked was a mystery, even to these women who were both mothers and teachers.

“You can’t call them,” one teacher said. “They never answer. You have to go down there.”

“She must have missed her appointment,” another added.

“They don’t always give appointments,” Kelly said. “They never gave my daughter one for my grandson.”

One teacher, Miss RJ, was summoned to the office: The nurse at her own children’s school was calling to say that both of them were sick. But Springfield Arbors was still short-staffed. So Miss RJ was stuck there, and her own children were stuck with someone else.

In the United States, the care of children who have not yet aged into public school has long run on two tracks, separated mostly by household income. The upper-and-middle-income track was designed specifically to engage and nourish young minds at their ripest juncture. The low-income track originated in the social-welfare system; its programs were created not just for children but also for their mothers, who needed to work. As such, they tend to be larger and staffed by teachers with high-school diplomas. They also tend to be chronically underfunded.

The last half-century is littered with attempts to merge these two tracks — that is, to make the day cares of the poor more like the preschools of the middle class and wealthy. But those efforts have long been plagued by a deep cultural ambivalence toward both charity and working mothers. When Head Start, the nation’s first public preschool, began in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, its goals were twofold: to provide underprivileged preschoolers the tools they needed to keep up with their better-off peers; and to offer an economic boost for their mothers, some of whom were recruited and trained to work at the centers as educators. The program was part of what would come to be known as the country’s biggest peacetime mobilization of human resources, but enthusiasm for it was short-lived. Amid concerns about “family weakening” in the 1970s and “welfare queens” in the 1980s, funding for early education stalled. Today Head Start serves less than one-third of the nation’s eligible students. As part of a wave of reforms about a decade ago, Head Start began requiring half of its lead teachers to hold bachelor’s degrees. It’s too soon to tell what impact this has had on teaching and learning, but one unintended consequence is that it’s harder for teachers like Kelly to find work at the centers.

Head Start is not the only program to raise credentialing requirements for preschool teachers. In 1998, as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Education Law Center, an advocacy group for New Jersey public-school children, the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered 31 low-income school districts to provide high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. Among other things, the court’s definition of “high quality” included full-day programs staffed by college-educated teachers who earned salaries equal to those of their K-12 counterparts. The resulting program — known as the Abbott preschool program, after the lawsuit that led to the mandate — represents one of the first efforts among education reformers to replicate the models of Perry and Abecedarian and bring them to scale.

One recent morning in a brightly colored classroom at Egenolf, an Abbott preschool in Elizabeth, N.J. A 3-year-old girl with soft brown pigtails and a white shirt examined a row of water bottles, each of which had a pine cone submerged in a different liquid, and dictated observations to her teacher, Yamila Lopez Hevia. The cone in the “cold water” bottle was closing up. The one in warm water was closing, too — but more slowly. “And what do we think is going on?” Lopez asked. “Why might that happen?” After a brief pause, the girl pulled up two big words, each of which she had heard from Lopez.

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The pine cones, she explained, were a-dap-ting to their en-viron-ment.


Yamila Lopez Hevia leading her students in morning dancing and stretches at Egenolf Early Childhood Center in Elizabeth, N.J.

Natalie Keyssar for The New York Times

It was the crowning moment to a much larger project that began when the children noticed that it was getting colder out and that the leaves were changing color. Lopez led them through a dialogue about how trees and other plants get ready for winter. From there, they turned their attention to what animals do. Lopez took the class to a local park, where they noticed squirrels collecting nuts and looked for birds who might be getting ready to migrate. In the end, they circled back to themselves, discussing sweaters and warm coats and winter boots. “We introduced some big concepts,” Lopez told me when I visited her class recently. “And it all started with that one simple question: ‘What do you see happening around you?’ ” The technique was called scaffolding, and it was a key tenet of current preschool pedagogy, which Lopez learned as a student teacher.

According to that pedagogy, preschoolers discover the world around them through trial, error and experimentation. They learn by doing things more than by thinking about them. The techniques that educators and developmental psychologists have devised for cultivating this natural tendency are decidedly Socratic. Rather than standing at a blackboard chalking letters or leading a large group in song, they assert, teachers like Kelly and Lopez should pay close attention to what the children themselves are interested in, or puzzled by, and respond to that. Any given moment is ripe with the opportunity to teach in this way, but doing it well requires a suite of disparate skills. A squirrel collecting nuts for the winter might hold a biology lesson; but to offer that lesson, a teacher needs to recognize the moment as it occurs. She also needs a grounding in that discipline and a clear sense of where the student in question sits on the developmental spectrum.

“The bottom line is really individualized intentional teaching,” says Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. “And there’s specialized knowledge that preschool teachers need that’s different even from what kindergarten and first-grade teachers need.” For example, he says, preschoolers are apt to reverse letters. “It really helps to understand why they do that, if you want to help them get it right,” he says. “It’s not an isolated thing. Like, let’s take my sippy cup. My whole life up to now, my sippy cup is a sippy cup no matter what way I hold it — upside down, sideways, whatever. But now you give me this thing called a d. And I put it down one way and it’s a b. And another way and you tell me it’s a p. What’s with that?”

Barnett and others say that the ability to guide preschoolers through this stage of development takes a college degree. Teachers who don’t have rich vocabularies or groundings in math and science can’t impart those things to their students, he says. In a 2015 report, the Institute of Medicine agreed. The report argued that holding preschool teachers to lower standards than public-school teachers has fed the perception that the work itself is low-skill and in turn has helped justify policies that keep preschool teachers’ wages down and prevent them from growing professionally.

But teachers themselves have been divided over the prospect of new job requirements. Many of them migrated to the field precisely because it did not require a higher degree. College — navigating financial aid, carving out the hours for class and homework — takes time and money and know-how. And for those who have been doing the job for years or even decades, the suggestion that they need additional training can feel like an insult.

Abbott addressed these issues head-on. It provided intensive college-admissions counseling, including help with financial-aid forms and scheduling. It also covered tuition for teachers in the program and nudged the college programs to bring their classes to the preschools. “We had the college professors go into the Newark schools and hold their classes there so that the teachers didn’t have to travel,” Barnett says. “We also paid for substitutes when the teachers needed to go to classes during the day, because we knew that not everybody could do this at night school.” The process was neither cheap nor easy nor fast, he adds. Many teachers struggled through remedial courses and community college before making their way into bachelor’s degree programs. All told, it costs $14,000 per child per year, more than twice the national average.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/09/magazine/why-are-our-most-important-teachers-paid-the-least.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

This Worm Evolved Self-Fertilization and Lost a Quarter of Its DNA

“That tells us that the stuff being lost in Caenorhabditis briggsae is disproportionately involved in male biology,” said Erich Schwarz, an assistant research professor at Cornell University who led the sequencing efforts for the study.

Digging into a specific example of what C. briggsae lost when it dumped all those genes, the researchers studied male secreted short (or m.s.s.) genes, which have been found in all studied Caenorhabditis species except those with selfing hermaphrodites. “We thought this gene family was maybe emblematic of a larger phenomenon,” Dr. Haag said.

Da Yin, a graduate student in Dr. Haag’s lab and lead author of the study, showed in lab experiments that C. briggsae fathered more offspring when those genes were added to their genomes, suggesting that these genes contributed to a reproductive edge in males.

This bolsters the scientists’ hypothesis that C. briggsae’s dramatic reduction in DNA had to do with its change in sexual strategy. Over time, the species possibly gave up many genes facilitating male-dependent procreation because a mostly hermaphroditic lifestyle offered an advantage, Mr. Yin said.

C. briggsae are opportunistic creatures that often colonize isolated oases — say a rotting apple — as lone individuals. If the wrigglers always had to rely on mates to multiply, it would be harder for them to kick-start these new colonies. As a result, it might be more efficient for the species to skew heavily toward hermaphrodites — having more males may “put a brake on population growth,” Dr. Haag said.

Being able to examine the genetic underpinnings of C. briggsae, particularly in relation to such a close relative, C. nigoni, has been a gift, he added.

“We have this natural experiment where a species has given up the way it used to reproduce,” he said. “It shows us how much of the genome is involved in the subtleties of mating and reproduction — and it’s startling just how much of it is.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/science/worms-selfing-hermaphrodites.html?partner=rss&emc=rss