Fats Domino, Early Rock ’n’ Roller With a Boogie-Woogie Piano, Is Dead at 89

Rotund and standing 5 feet 5 inches — he would joke that he was as wide as he was tall — Mr. Domino had a big, infectious grin, a fondness for ornate, jewel-encrusted rings and an easygoing manner in performance; even in plaintive songs his voice had a smile in it. And he was a master of the wordless vocal, making hits out of songs full of “woo-woos” and “la-las.”


Fats Domino in 1956.

Associated Press

Working with the songwriter, producer and arranger David Bartholomew, Mr. Domino and his band carried New Orleans parade rhythms into rock ’n’ roll and put a local stamp on nearly everything they touched, even country tunes like “Jambalaya” or big-band songs like “My Blue Heaven” and “When My Dreamboat Comes Home.”

‘A Good Ear for Catchin’ Notes’

Antoine Dominique Domino Jr. was born on Feb. 26, 1928, the youngest of eight children in a family with Creole roots. He grew up in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he spent most of his life.

Music filled his life from the age of 10, when his family inherited an old piano. After his brother-in-law Harrison Verrett, a traditional-jazz musician, wrote down the notes on the keys and taught him a few chords, Antoine threw himself at the instrument — so enthusiastically that his parents moved it to the garage.

He was almost entirely self-taught, picking up ideas from boogie-woogie masters like Meade Lux Lewis, Pinetop Smith and Amos Milburn. “Back then I used to play everybody’s records; everybody’s records who made records,” he told the New Orleans music magazine Offbeat in 2004. “I used to hear ’em, listen at ’em five, six, seven, eight times and I could play it just like the record because I had a good ear for catchin’ notes and different things.”

He attended the Louis B. Macarty School but dropped out in the fourth grade to work as an iceman’s helper. “In the houses where people had a piano in their rooms, I’d stop and play,” he told USA Today in 2007. “That’s how I practiced.”

In his teens, he started working at a club called the Hideaway with a band led by the bassist Billy Diamond, who nicknamed him Fats. Mr. Domino soon became the band’s frontman and a local draw.

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“Fats was breaking up the place, man,” Mr. Bartholomew told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2010. “He was singing and playing the piano and carrying on. Everyone was having a good time. When you saw Fats Domino, it was ‘Let’s have a party!’ ”

He added: “My first impression was a lasting impression. He was a great singer. He was a great artist. And whatever he was doing, nobody could beat him.”

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Fats Domino, Early Rock ’n’ Roller With a Boogie-Woogie Piano, Is Dead at 89

CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

In 1947 Mr. Domino married Rosemary Hall, and they had eight children, Antoine III, Anatole, Andre, Antonio, Antoinette, Andrea, Anola and Adonica. His wife died in 2008. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

In 1949 Mr. Bartholomew brought Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records in Los Angeles, to the Hideaway. Mr. Chudd signed Mr. Domino on the spot, with a contract, unusual for the time, that paid royalties rather than a one-time purchase of songs.

Immediately, Mr. Domino and Mr. Bartholomew wrote “The Fat Man,” a cleaned-up version of a song about drug addiction called “Junkers Blues,” and recorded it with Mr. Bartholomew’s studio band. By 1951 it had sold a million copies.

Mr. Domino’s trademark triplets, picked up from “It’s Midnight,” a 1949 record by the boogie-woogie pianist and singer Little Willie Littlefield, appeared on his next rhythm-and-blues hit, “Every Night About This Time.” The technique spread like wildfire, becoming a virtual requirement for rock ’n’ roll ballads.

“Fats made it popular,” Mr. Bartholomew told Rick Coleman, the author of “Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ’n’ Roll” (2006). “Then it was on every record.”

Fats Domino – Ain’t That A Shame – 1955 – (subtitulada) Video by BurlFish79

In 1952, on a chance visit to Cosimo Matassa’s recording studio in New Orleans, Mr. Domino was asked to help out on a recording by a nervous teenager named Lloyd Price. Sitting in with Mr. Bartholomew’s band, he came up with the memorable piano part for “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” one of the first rhythm-and-blues records to cross over to a pop audience

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Trading Tracks on the Charts

Through the early 1950s Mr. Domino turned out a stream of hits, taking up what seemed like permanent residence in the upper reaches of the R&B charts. His records began reaching the pop charts as well.

In that racially segregated era, white performers used his hits to build their careers. In 1955, “Ain’t It a Shame” became a No. 1 hit for Pat Boone as “Ain’t That a Shame,” while Domino’s arrangement of a traditional song, “Bo Weevil,” was imitated by Teresa Brewer.

Mr. Domino’s appeal to white teenagers broadened as he embarked on national tours and appeared with mixed-race rock ’n’ roll revues like the Moondog Jubilee of Stars Under the Stars, presented by the disc jockey Alan Freed at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Appearances on national television, on Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan’s shows, put him in millions of living rooms.

He did not flaunt his status as an innovator, or as an architect of a powerful cultural movement.

“Fats, how did this rock ’n’ roll all get started anyway?” an interviewer for a Hearst newsreel asked him in 1957. Mr. Domino answered: “Well, what they call rock ’n’ roll now is rhythm and blues. I’ve been playing it for 15 years in New Orleans.”

At a news conference in Las Vegas in 1969, after resuming his performing career, Elvis Presley interrupted a reporter who had called him “the king.” He pointed to Mr. Domino, who was in the room, and said, “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”

Mr. Domino had his biggest hit in 1956 with his version of “Blueberry Hill,” a song that had been recorded by Glenn Miller’s big band in 1940. It peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts and sold a reported three million copies.

“I liked that record ’cause I heard it by Louis Armstrong and I said, ‘That number gonna fit me,’ ” he told Offbeat. “We had to beg Lew Chudd for a while. I told him I wasn’t gonna make no more records till they put that record out. I could feel it, that it was a hit, a good record.”

He followed with two more Top Five pop hits: “Blue Monday” and “I’m Walkin’,” which outsold the version recorded by Ricky Nelson.

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“I was lucky enough to write songs that carry a good beat and tell a real story that people could feel was their story, too — something that old people or the kids could both enjoy,” Mr. Domino told The Los Angeles Times in 1985.


Mr. Domino performing in 2007 on NBC’s “Today” show.

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Mr. Domino performed in 1950s movies like “Shake, Rattle and Rock,” “The Big Beat” (for which he and Mr. Bartholomew wrote the title song) and “The Girl Can’t Help It.” In 1957, he toured for three months with Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, the Moonglows and others.

Well into the early 1960s, Mr. Domino continued to reach both the pop and rhythm-and-blues charts with songs like “Whole Lotta Lovin’,” “I’m Ready,” “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday,” “Be My Guest,” “Walkin’ to New Orleans” and “My Girl Josephine.”

He toured Europe for the first time in 1962 and met the Beatles in Liverpool, before they were famous. His contract with Imperial ended in 1963, and he went on to record for ABC-Paramount, Mercury, Broadmoor, Reprise and other labels.

His last appearance in the pop Top 100 was in 1968, with a version of “Lady Madonna,” the Beatles song that had been inspired by Mr. Domino’s piano-pounding style. In 1982, he had a country hit with “Whiskey Heaven.”

Although he was no longer a pop sensation, Mr. Domino continued to perform worldwide and appeared for 10 months a year in Las Vegas in the mid-1960s. On tour, he would bring his own pots and pans so he could cook.

A New Orleans Fixture

His life on the road ended in the early 1980s, when he decided that he did not want to leave New Orleans, saying it was the only place where he liked the food.

He went on to perform regularly at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and in 1987 Jerry Lee Lewis and Ray Charles joined him for a Cinemax special, “Fats Domino and Friends.” He released a holiday album, “Christmas Is a Special Day,” in 1993.


Mr. Domino outside his home in New Orleans as it was being rebuilt in March 2007, less than two years after Hurricane Katrina struck.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Reclusive and notoriously resistant to interview requests, Mr. Domino stayed home even when he received a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 1987. (He did travel to New York when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 as one of its first members, although he did not take part in the jam session that concluded the ceremony.) In 1999, when he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, he sent his daughter Antoinette to the White House to pick up the prize.

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He even refused to leave New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city on Aug. 29, 2005, remaining at his flooded home — he was living in the Lower Ninth Ward then — until he was rescued by helicopter on Sept. 1.

“I wasn’t too nervous” about waiting to be saved, he told The New York Times in 2006. “I had my little wine and a couple of beers with me; I’m all right.”

His rescue was loosely the basis for “Saving Fats,” a tall tale in Sam Shepard’s 2010 short-story collection, “Day Out of Days.”

President George W. Bush visited Mr. Domino’s home in 2006 in recognition of New Orleans’s cultural resilience; that same year, Mr. Domino released “Alive and Kickin,’ ” his first album in more than a decade. The title song began, “All over the country, people want to know / Whatever happened to Fats Domino,” then continued, “I’m alive and kicking and I’m where I wanna be.”

He was often seen around New Orleans, emerging from his pink-roofed mansion driving a pink Cadillac. “I just drink my little beers, do some cookin’, anything I feel like,” he told The Daily Telegraph of London in 2007, describing his retirement.

In 1953, in Down Beat magazine, the Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler made a bold-sounding prediction that turned out to be, in retrospect, quite timid. “Can’t you envision a collector in 1993 discovering a Fats Domino record in a Salvation Army depot and rushing home to put it on the turntable?” he wrote. “We can. It’s good blues, it’s good jazz, and it’s the kind of good that never wears out.”

Correction: October 25, 2017
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to Mr. Domino’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He attended the ceremony; he did not stay home that night.

Correction: October 25, 2017

An earlier version of this obituary misspelled the given name of one of Mr. Domino’s sons. He is Antonio, not Anonio.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/obituaries/fats-domino-89-one-of-rock-n-rolls-first-stars-is-dead.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Scared of Dark Paint? Don’t Be

For those of us more comfortable with whitewashed walls, however, it’s not so easy to make the leap to eggplant or onyx. But here are some tips from design and color experts on how to use dark colors without becoming overwhelmed — or claustrophobic.


Walls painted in Mink from Benjamin Moore create a dramatic entry.

START SMALL If you’re nervous about playing with a deep, dark hue, “limit the color to the inside of cabinets, backs of bookshelves or a painted floor,” said Donald Kaufman, who owns the paint company Donald Kaufman Color with his wife, Taffy Dahl. “Dark, bold windows often bring the outside in.”

Ms. Studholme, of Farrow & Ball, suggested starting with a contained space like a powder room, the underside of a claw-foot tub or a hallway. “When you arrive, it creates a sense of drama,” she said. “You come through and go, ‘Wow.’” An added bonus, she noted: “A dark color in the hall makes the rooms off the hall feel really big and light.”

Ellen O’Neill, director of strategic design intelligence for Benjamin Moore, recommends starting with a focal point, like a fireplace mantel or the inside of shelves or drawers. “I recently photographed a home where the owner painted the inside of the drawers of an antique Chippendale chest a rich aubergine,” she said. “What a color surprise every time you open a drawer.” And as you become more confident, she said, “you can graduate to painting doors to a room or hallway, window trim or wainscoting.”

TEST IT OUT When you’re ready to tackle a whole room, “start with a color family that is already dominant in the home and select two to three shades that you feel makes a statement,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I’d get quarts of each color and paint large swatches of each, one set next to a window and one set in a corner. Observe how the room’s lighting affects the colors three times a day.”

EMBRACE THE DARKNESS “A deep, rich color goes an especially long way in a room without a lot of natural light, as dim rooms look particularly dull in lighter colors,” said Frances Merrill, the founder of Reath Design in Los Angeles, who painted her children’s room Farrow & Ball’s Pigeon gray. “It makes the small space feel finished and gives definition to the ever-rotating collection of artwork.”

In the playroom, she used Templeton Gray from Benjamin Moore. “Every surface in this room is usually covered in a layer of Legos and half-finished science experiments,” she said. “I find that the deeper colors mask the chaos.”


Benjamin Moore’s color of the year for 2018 is a deep red called Caliente.

“Conventional wisdom states that small spaces — especially those facing north — should be lightened to increase the sense of space,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute consultancy. “However, painting trim a lighter color in an area painted with darker hues can actually increase the illusion of space,” she said, because it creates a “greater impression of height or width in the space.”

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Whatever your situation, “it’s best to work with what you’ve got, rather than try to fight the light,” said Ms. Studholme of Farrow & Ball, which offers a guide to how light affects color on its website.

PREPARATION IS KEY “Before painting, ensure surfaces are sound, clean, dry and free from dirt, grease and any other contamination,” said Ms. Cosby of Farrow & Ball. “Always sand down surfaces to achieve a smooth base.”

And if you change your mind later, dark colors are just as easy to paint over as light ones, assuming you prep properly. “Start by priming over the bold hue, then apply two coats of the desired color,” said Ms. O’Neill of Benjamin Moore. But “be sure to allow the primer coat to dry completely before applying the first coat of color.”

GO HALFSIES To add “sophistication and spirit” to a client’s “stark, boxy, white rental,” Alex Kalita, a founder of Common Bond Design in Manhattan, painted the bottom half of the bedroom wall in Hague Blue from Farrow & Ball. She calls it “the chair-rail effect” and notes that it serves a few purposes: “It simulates architectural variation in otherwise uniform space; it ties in the building’s teal window frames; and it leverages the cozy, rich, complex and grown-up quality of Hague Blue, while maintaining the practical qualities of white paint, like the illusion of ceiling height.”


Hague Blue from Farrow & Ball.

Another tip: “If you’re tempted to go dark and bold on the walls, but you prefer a restrained aesthetic, try keeping the furniture neutral,” Ms. Kalita said. “You can even make bulkier pieces recede by camouflaging them in the wall color. We had our client’s Wonk NYC dresser color-matched to Hague Blue, so that the piece could augment the client’s storage without competing for attention with the room’s more deliberate and sculptural design elements. Dark walls do a good job of visually absorbing things.”

FINALLY, BE BRAVE “I encourage people to be brave with color and unleash their inner artist,” said Ms. Eiseman of the Pantone Color Institute. “Experiment with color, have fun with it, allow yourself to live with it for a while. It is, after all, just one or two cans of paint. And when, and if, you tire of it, move on to another color and treat yourself to another creative exercise.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/realestate/how-to-use-dark-paint.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

‘Hotumn’ Takes Hold as October Temperatures Soar

Mr. Gottschalck said temperatures in that large section of the country have averaged between six and eight degrees above normal so far this month — a jump from September, which was also warmer than usual.


For Justine and William Coll, Oct. 6 was a beach day in Sea Isle City, N.J.

Vernon Ogrodnek/The Press of Atlantic City, via Associated Press

The culprit? Warm southwesterly winds shifted northward by high pressure patterns in the Northeast and low pressure in the Southwest, according to Mr. Gottschalck’s analysis.

He said that temperatures running so much higher than average for three weeks in October was unusual. “It’s a pretty strong anomaly.”

Discerning the root cause of any particular weather pattern in real time is not possible with current technology, and Mr. Gottschalck cautioned against attributing the balmy atmosphere to a new norm connected with climate change.

It could take several decades of research to know definitively why it’s still too hot to try that new soup recipe, he said.

But, he added, long-term trends are clear. Over the decades, “there is definitely what we would call a secular warming trend, with above-average temperatures occurring across much of the country.”

Last year, October was similarly hot, and across an even broader swath of the continental United States.

i carved a pumpkin and left it outside for two days and it literally melted bc its so hot wow i love fall pic.twitter.com/esLnHxdveV

erin gilfoy (@eringilfoy)
Oct. 16, 2017

For anyone who can’t stand the heat, change may be just around the corner. As soon as this weekend, Mr. Gottschalck said, temperatures in the affected regions are expected to drop closer to seasonal averages. That will mean fewer 70-degree days and more 50-degree ones.

Plan your Halloween costume accordingly.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/nyregion/warm-autumn-weather.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Should Your Spouse Be Your Best Friend?

There is some research into this question. John Helliwell is a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics and the editor of the World Happiness Report. As he researched social connections a few years ago, he found that everyone derives benefits from online friends and real-life friends, but the only friends that boost our life satisfaction are real friends.

“But while the effects of real friends on your well-being is important for everybody,” he said, “they are less so for married people than for singles. That’s how we got to the idea that marriage is a kind of ‘super-friendship.’”

Dr. Helliwell and a colleague discovered that a long-running study in Britain had data that may illuminate this question. Between 1991 and 2009, the British Household Panel Survey asked 30,000 people to quantify their life satisfaction. In general, married people expressed higher satisfaction, he said, and were better able to manage the dip in well-being that most people experience in middle age, as they face work stress, caring for aging parents and other pressures.


Michelle and Barack Obama earlier this year.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

But an entirely separate part of the study asked people to name their best friend. Those who listed their spouse were twice as likely to have higher life satisfaction. Slightly more men than women made that choice, he said, “which makes sense, because men tend to have fewer friends.”

Is feeling this way about your spouse necessary for a good marriage? I asked.

“Absolutely not,” Dr. Helliwell said. “The benefits of marriage are strong even for those who are littered with outside friends. It’s just bigger for those who consider their spouse their closest friend. It’s a bonus.”

Others are not so sure.

Amir Levine is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia University, and the co-author of “Attached.” A student of social relations, Dr. Levine explained that everyone has what he calls a hierarchy of attachment, meaning if something bad happens to us, we have a ranking of the people we call. In our early decades, those on the highest rungs are usually our parents or other family members.

“The problem as you grow older is, how do you let somebody close who’s basically a total stranger?” he said. “Nature came up with a trick: It’s called attraction. Sexual attraction brings down all the barriers, lets you get close to a new person in a physical way that you don’t get close to your family.”

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Over time, of course, this physical connection wanes. While many bemoan this loss of titillation, Dr. Levine celebrates it. “It’s smart,” he said. “If you’re going to be crazy about the other person all the time, how are you going to raise kids? How are you going to be able to work?”

Instead of complaining, we should view this new phase as an achievement: “O.K., now I have this person I’m attached to. I have the feeling of security. That’s what allows me to be an individual again and self-actualize.”

It’s this feeling of security, Dr. Levine says, that leads us to describe our spouses as “friends.” But that language is not quite right, he says. First, couples still need what he calls “maintenance sex,” because it re-establishes physical closeness and renews attachment.

Second, the term “friendship” is “an underwhelming representation of what’s going on,” he said. “What people basically mean is, ‘I’m in a secure relationship. Being close to my partner is very rewarding. I trust them. They’re there for me in such a profound way that it allows me to have courage to create, to explore, to imagine.’”

Dr. Levine summarizes this feeling with the (somewhat awkward) acronym Carrp; your partner is consistent, available, responsive, reliable and predictable. But don’t we already have a word, “spouse,” that fits this description? I said. Why are we suddenly using the expression “best friend,” when that doesn’t seem to fit at all?

“Because not every spouse provides that,” he said, “and we’re indicating we don’t take it for granted. What we should probably be saying is ‘secure spouse.’”

There’s yet another problem with calling your husband or wife your best friend. The words mean totally different things.

Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader are founders of the Couples Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., and the authors of “Tell Me No Lies.” They’ve also been married for more than 30 years. Dr. Pearson said there’s a critical difference between a best friend and a spouse. “One of the criteria for a best friend is you feel unconditionally accepted,” he said. “Do I care if my buddy Mark is messy in the kitchen, leaves his bathroom a shambles and doesn’t pay his income taxes?”

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But with a spouse, he said, you can’t avoid these topics.

Dr. Bader said that when couples are just getting to know each other, they often say they’re companions, and she’s fine with that. When couples have been together 30, 40 or 50 years, they use similar language, and that can be the mark of a healthy relationship.

“It’s the in-between ones, when they use the language of friendship, my stomach turns,” Dr. Bader said. “It’s a red flag for a lot of conflict avoidance and intensity avoidance. It often means they’ve given up on the complexity of being with somebody. Instead of saying, ‘Oh, well, that’s who they are,’ it’s better if they try to work things out.”

Dr. Bader said that she wished popular magazines would challenge the notion that you shouldn’t get married to change someone. “I think that’s what marriage is about,” she said. “It’s where some of the juices come from, and it’s also how you get the best out of the person you marry.”

A good marriage, she said, is when people “push each other, challenge each other, encourage each other and, yes, change each other.”

Asked if they were best friends, they laughed. “We’re good friends,” Dr. Pearson said.

“Really good friends,” Dr. Bader said. “He’s lots of things that my best friend isn’t, but my best friend is lots of things he’s not.”

And that may be the point: Calling the person you’re married to your best friend may be shorthand for saying that you actually like your spouse and that you have shared history, shared lives and shared dreams. But in the end, the expression doesn’t do justice to the full meaning of marriage or to the full meaning of friendship. After all, if your spouse is your best friend, then whom do you complain to your spouse about?

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/style/should-your-spouse-be-your-best-friend.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

My Wife Found My Sexy Phone Pics and Won’t Let It Go

So here you are, long after the discovery of a liaison that, if not adulterous, was certainly adulter-ish. Your wife is still angry with you, still feels aggrieved and mistrustful. You’ve gone to counseling, but she hasn’t reconciled herself to a husband who, early in a marriage, was swapping sexual pics with another woman. You think she’s being unpleasantly manipulative; she may think she’s reminding you that you’re on probation, that you have further to go to earn back her trust.

It’s often said that holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. In this case, your marriage is now on its sickbed. One issue here is how much you and your wife value it. That’s hard for an outsider to assess. Anger, like love, isn’t a voluntary emotion; you can’t simply decide to dial it up or down. But surely your wife isn’t the only angry spouse in your marriage. You say you felt emotionally abused by your wife even during the affair (a serious complaint); you think your relationship isn’t healthy, “but it’s what I’ve got” — not exactly a Hallmark sentiment. Do you truly think that getting rid of those pics would fix what’s wrong here? If your counselor made a list of what was rotten in your marriage, I doubt your wife’s vengeful lock screen would make the Top 10.

I have been divorced for many years. My ex-husband is now married to a dentist. As part of our divorce agreement, I am responsible for the children’s health insurance, including dental coverage. There were no issues until I had a brief period of unemployment. When I got a new job, it included health and dental insurance, but there was a waiting period for coverage. To cover that brief period, I bought health insurance for myself and my children but did not purchase dental insurance.

During that time, my ex-husband took our daughter to the dentist for a checkup. The dental practice my daughter visits is her stepmother’s office. When my ex-husband sent me the bill for this visit, which came to $400, I asked if the visit could be postdated by just a day, so I could submit it for insurance. He told me that doing so was illegal and that I needed to pay, and that he didn’t appreciate the fact that I didn’t have any dental coverage.

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I asked my daughter why she didn’t let me know about the appointment so I could let her know our dental insurance ended. She said she thought that because it was her stepmother’s office, she was fine.

Since that time I have been receiving bills from this dental practice. I have had conversations with their accounts-payable department to let them know that my daughter is the dentist’s stepdaughter. But no understanding was reached; I have not paid, as I believe it’s wrong to have charged me when it was known that I didn’t have company insurance at the time. I am now getting bills from a collection agency for the $400.

So my question for you is: Do I pay it just to make it go away or try again to reason with my ex-husband and his wife to please drop these fees? Name Withheld

Communication between ex-spouses can be like pulling teeth. So it’s not surprising that you didn’t warn your husband that it would be financially inconvenient for your daughter to have dental treatment at that time. Given that you are in charge of medical insurance, you could reasonably think it odd that your child was taken for a dental visit without your knowledge. But again, not so surprising, especially if your daughter’s teeth are normally looked after at her stepmother’s office.

While your husband is correct that it would be wrong and could be illegal to file a false claim, he and his wife might have been able to help you by agreeing to lower the costs or to spread them out. The fact that the charge was sent to a collection agency also sounds less than cordial. Still, if I understand the situation correctly, you were in breach of your divorce agreement, even if your reasons were entirely understandable. Absent any information from you to the contrary, then, he was entitled to assume that your daughter was covered. You’re asking him and his wife to cover costs that you are liable for. I’m afraid you’d better bite down and pay up.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/magazine/my-wife-found-my-sexy-phone-pics-and-wont-let-it-go.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

College Advice I Wish I’d Taken


Kearin Ever Cook/Pratt Institute

I taught my first class at Columbia University’s M.F.A. program this month, and even though I’ve been teaching college writing since 1993, I initially felt a little intimidated by the school’s regal campus. That, and regretful.

I enjoyed going to college at the University of Michigan, an hour from home, but my secret humiliation is: I was the type of mediocre student I now disdain. As a freshman, I cared about my friends, my boyfriend and my poetry. Or, I cared about what my boyfriend thought of my friends, what my friends thought of him, and what they thought of my poetry about him. Here’s what I wish I’d known and done differently:

A’S ARE COOL AND COME WITH PERKS As a student, I saw myself as anti-establishment, and I hated tests; I barely maintained a B average. I thought only nerds spent weekends in the library studying. Recently I learned that my niece Dara, a sophomore at New York University with a 3.7 G.P.A. (and a boyfriend), was offered a week of travel in Buenos Aires as part of her honors seminar. I was retroactively envious to learn that a 3.5 G.P.A. or higher at many schools qualifies you for free trips, scholarships, grants, awards, private parties and top internships. At 20, I was too busy freaking out when said boyfriend disappeared (after sleeping with one of said friends). Students certainly don’t need to strive obsessively for perfection, but I should have prioritized grades, not guys.

SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP If a class was boring or it snowed, I’d skip. My rationale was that nobody in the 300-person lecture hall would notice and I could get notes later. Attendance barely counted. When I went, I’d sit quietly in back. Yet as a teacher, I see that the students who come weekly, sit in front, and ask and answer questions get higher grades and frankly, preferential treatment. After 15 weeks, I barely know the absentees or anyone Snapchatting the term away on their iPhones. It’s not just that these students flush $300 down the toilet every time they miss my class; participating can actually lead to payoffs. I reward those who try harder with recommendations, references, professional contacts and encouragement.

CLASS CONNECTIONS CAN LAUNCH YOUR CAREER As an undergrad, I rarely visited my professors during office hours. I didn’t want to annoy teachers with what I considered triviality. Besides, I thought I knew everything already. In graduate school, on the other hand, I went to the readings of a professor I admired. Eventually, I’d go to his office just to vent. Once, after I complained about a dead-end job, he recommended me for a position at The New Yorker, jump-starting my career.

But it’s not just your professors who will help your life trajectory. Several classmates of mine from graduate school wound up working as editors at other publications, and they have since hired me for freelance work. Years later, I’ve helped students and colleagues where I teach, at the New School and New York University, land jobs, get published and meet with editors and agents.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/17/opinion/college-advice-professor.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

How Google’s Physical Keys Will Protect Your Password

The physical keys are an evolution of two-factor authentication, an extra security layer to ensure that your password is being entered by you. Google was one of the first companies to start offering two-factor authentication back in 2010, not long after it learned that it had been hacked by state-sponsored Chinese hackers.

After the attack, Google’s security team came up with a motto: “Never again.” The company later rolled out two-factor authentication for Google customers’ Gmail accounts. It involved text messaging a unique code to your phone that you must type in after entering your password in order to log in.

Unfortunately, those text messages can be hijacked. Last month, security researchers at Positive Technologies, a security firm, demonstrated how they could use vulnerabilities in the cellular network to intercept text messages for a set period of time.

The idea of Google’s Advanced Protection Program is to provide people with a physical device that is much harder to steal than a text message. Google is marketing the program as a tool for a tiny set of people who are at high risk of online attacks, like victims of stalking, dissidents inside authoritarian countries or journalists who need to protect their sources.

But why should extra-tough security benefit such a small group? Everyone should be able to enjoy stronger security.

So we tested Google’s Advanced Protection Program and vetted it with security researchers to see if the program could be used by the masses. The verdict: Many people should consider signing up for the security system and buying a pair of keys. But if you are married to some non-Google apps that are not yet compatible with the keys, you should wait and see if the program matures.

Setting Up Advanced Protection

Anyone with a Google account can sign up for the security program on Google’s Advanced Protection webpage. To get started, you will have to buy two physical keys for about $20 each. Google recommends buying one from Feitian and another from Yubico.

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The keys, which look like thumb drives and can fit on your key chain, contain digital signatures that prove you are you. To set one up, you plug the key into a computer USB port, tap a button and name it. (The Feitian key wirelessly communicates with your smartphone to authenticate the login.) This process takes a few minutes.

On a computer and a smartphone, you need to log in with the key only once, and Google will remember the devices for future logins. That is more convenient than traditional two-factor authentication, which requires entering a unique code each time you log in.

But there are trade-offs. Google’s Advanced Protection cuts off all third-party access by default, allowing only applications that support its security keys. For the time being, that means only Google’s Gmail mail app, Google’s Backup and Sync app, and Google’s Chrome browser.

On an iPhone, for example, you will have to use Google’s Gmail or Inbox apps for email, and on a computer, you can use only the Chrome browser when signing in with a browser. So if you rely on Apple Mail to gain access to your Gmail on an iPhone, or if you use Microsoft Outlook for getting into Gmail on a PC, you’re out of luck. Google says its goal is to eventually allow third-party apps to work with the program, but it is also up to other companies to update their apps to support the keys.

Testing the Security

Despite the drawbacks, security researchers agree that the Advanced Protection Program is a solid piece of security and relatively painless to use, even for everyday use for people outside high-security jobs.

Mr. Sabin, the former N.S.A. hacker, who is now a director of network security at GRA Quantum, a security consulting firm, said the physical keys had pros and cons. On one hand, if you lose a key, a hacker would have a hard time figuring out which account it was associated with.

On the other hand, if you lose the keys or don’t have the keys around when you need to log in to a new device, it takes longer to regain access to your account. Google has put in place more elaborate recovery steps for Advanced Protection users, including additional reviews and requests for details about why users have lost access to their account. In our test, we answered security questions to try to recover an account, and Google said it would review the recovery request and respond within a few days.

Runa Sandvik, the director of information security at The New York Times, said the keys were not much of a hassle. She said Google’s requirement of using two keys meant you essentially had a spare: If you lose one key, you can get into your account with the remaining key.

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But she noted that the keys could get annoying if you used many devices and constantly needed to carry the keys around to log in to your account. That may be an issue for people who work in the technology industry, but most people probably use only one computer and one phone.

Ms. Sandvik, who has been testing Google’s program to assess whether to recommend it to the newsroom, said she had not yet discovered vulnerabilities in the security key system outside of the slim possibility that a hacker gained possession of both your password and your key.

“It’s something that is relatively easy to set up once you have both keys,” Ms. Sandvik said. “I don’t see a reason you shouldn’t turn this on.”

The Bottom Line

While the security keys are easy to set up and provide tough security, they may be disruptive to your productivity if you rely on apps that are incompatible with the keys.

It took a few minutes for us to migrate to Google’s apps from Apple’s and integrate them into our newsroom workflow, which already relies on Google’s mail, messaging and cloud storage services. But using the keys required sacrificing an important feature — Apple’s V.I.P. alerts, which notify you when people you deem important email you. Google’s iOS apps for Gmail and Inbox lack a similar feature. For people with flooded inboxes, lacking V.I.P. alerts makes sifting through emails time-consuming.

Another example of how the keys can stifle productivity: Many employers still require using the Microsoft Outlook app for email, which won’t work with the keys.

If using Google’s security program would disrupt your work, you may want to wait for more companies to update their apps to support the keys, which rely on a standard called FIDO, for Fast Identity Online. Mr. Sabin predicts that many apps will follow Google’s lead.

If you decide to wait, don’t procrastinate on turning on traditional two-factor authentication that relies on text messages. While it is hackable, it is still much safer than relying on a password alone to protect you.

The question is how long it will take security researchers to find a way to hack the physical keys as well. When asked if he had already circumvented physical multifactor authentication devices like Google’s keys, Mr. Sabin would offer only: “No comment.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/technology/personaltech/google-keys-advanced-protection-program.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

For Your Brain’s Sake, Keep Moving

Last year, in an important study published in NeuroImage, the researchers found for the first time that young brain cells in adult mice that spent a month with running wheels in their cages did seem to be different from those in animals that did not run. For the experiment, the scientists injected a modified rabies vaccine into the animals, where it entered the nervous system and brain. They then tracked and labeled connections between brain cells and learned that compared to the sedentary animals’ brain cells, the runners’ newborn neurons had more and longer dendrites, the snaky tendrils that help to connect the cells into the neural communications network. They also found that more of these connections led to portions of the brain that are important for spatial memory, which is our internal map of where we have been and how we got there.

This type of memory is often diminished in the early stages of dementia.

But these findings, while intriguing, involved animals that had been running for a month, which is the equivalent of years of physical activity by people. The researchers wondered whether such changes in neurons and connections might actually begin earlier and maybe almost immediately after the animals began to exercise.

So for the new study, which was published last month in Scientific Reports, most of the same researchers gathered a group of adult, male mice. (Males were used to avoid accounting for the effects of the female reproductive cycle.) The animals were injected with a substance that marks newborn neurons. Half were then allowed to run for a week on wheels in their cages, while the others remained inactive. Afterward, some were also injected with the modified rabies vaccine to track new synapses and connections between the neurons.

When the scientists then microscopically examined brain tissue, they found that the runners’ brains, as expected, teemed with far more new neurons than did the brains of the sedentary animals, even though the runners had been exercising for only a week.

Interestingly, these neurons also looked unique. They were larger and, as in the study of mice that ran for a month, displayed more and longer dendrites than similar neurons in the other animals. In effect, the young neurons in the runners’ brains appeared to be more mature after only a week of exercise than brain cells from inactive animals.

These young cells were better integrated into the overall brain circuitry, too, with more connections into portions of the brain involved in spatial and other types of memory. Most surprising to the scientists, these cells also proved to be less easily activated by neurochemical messages to fire rapidly, which is usually a hallmark of more mature neurons. They remained calmer and less prone to excitability than new neurons in the inactive animals’ brains.

What these differences in cell structure and connection mean for brain function remains uncertain, though, says Henriette van Praag, a principal investigator at the National Institutes of Health and senior author of this and the earlier study. Neither study was designed to look into whether the running mice thought and remembered differently than mice that were sedentary for most of the day.

But the current study “provides more pieces of evidence that brain cells produced under running conditions are not just quantitatively but qualitatively different” than other neurons, she says, “and these differences are evident very soon” after exercise begins.

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Perhaps most important, the new brain cells in the runners tended to integrate into and bulk up portions of the brain that, if damaged by disease, are associated with early memory loss and dementia, she adds.

Of course, this experiment used mice, which are not people. While some past neurological studies with people have hinted that exercise might alter our brain structure in similar ways, she says, that possibility is still theoretical.

Still, she says, “I think it is a very good idea for the sake of the brain to be moving and active.”

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/04/well/move/for-your-brains-sake-keep-moving.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

The Battle of Brains vs. Brawn

But whether a similar trade-off occurred with our muscles has remained in doubt. Muscles potentially provided another route to survival during our species’ early days. With sufficient brawn, animals, including people, could physically overpower prey and sprint from danger.

But muscles are also very calorically needy and, like brain tissue, use blood sugar as their primary fuel. So scientists have wondered whether and how early humans’ bodies balanced the fueling needs of their brains and their brawn. Did one take precedence over the other? If so, that choice could tell us something about the underpinnings of human development and also how best, even now, to manage thinking and moving.

Since experiments on cavepeople are, however, not practicable, researchers at Cambridge University in England decided instead to focus on the bodily machinations of 62 elite, collegiate rowers for their new study, which was published this month in Scientific Reports.

The scientists hoped to suss out what happens when both muscles and minds are stressed, and if one of those operations gets preferential treatment from the body.

To find out, they asked the rowers, who were all young, male and fit, to visit a university lab on three separate occasions.

During one visit, the men sat quietly while dozens of words were displayed on a large screen in front of them. The men had three minutes to memorize the words and then, immediately afterward (when the screen went dark) write down as many as they could remember. This was their mental task.

On another day, they rowed on a rowing machine as intensely as they could for three minutes while the researchers tracked their power output, testing muscular prowess.

Finally, on the last visit, they rowed for three minutes while simultaneously viewing a list of new words and then, immediately afterward, writing down as many as they could recall.

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Then the researchers simply compared their performance on each task. Almost uniformly, the men had been able to produce fewer watts and recall fewer words when they performed the muscular and mental tasks together.

But the falloff in physical functioning was much steeper than the mental slump. The rowers lost almost 13 percent of their power output, a decline that was about 30 percent greater than their loss in word recall after the combined session.

“Our proposed explanation for this finding is that they were both competing for the same resource,” which in this case was blood sugar for fuel, says Danny Longman, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge who led the study.

And the brain won.

The implication of this victory is that thinking probably provided more advantage for us during evolution than brawniness, Dr. Longman says, and on those occasions that both systems needed to be fed, the brain got its portion first.

Of course, this study was very short-term and viewed the tug-of-war between brains and muscles only indirectly. The researchers did not track actual changes in blood sugar uptake by any tissues. They also looked only at quite-intense exercise and used memory recall as their sole marker for thinking.

But even with these limitations, the study to some extent advances our understanding of how we became the species that we are, Dr. Longman says.

“For me, the main message of this study is a bit philosophical,” he says. “An enlarged and highly functioning brain is one of the key factors that make us human. This study demonstrated, in a very simple way, this defining characteristic of our species.”

More humbly, the results also indicate that intense workouts may not be the optimal time to compose your next epic poem or calculate tax withholding.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/25/well/move/the-battle-of-brains-vs-brawn.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

As Winter Sets In, Tiny Shrews Shrink Their Skulls and Brains

Previous research had hinted that all shrew species might undergo a reduction in body and head mass during the winter. There is even a term for it, Dehnel’s Phenomenon, named after the Polish zoologist who conducted that research, August Dehnel.

But previous studies only demonstrated the effect across whole populations of the small mammals, leaving open the possibility that larger-headed shrews were dying off in winter, reducing the average head size of the spring shrew populace.

To study individual shrews, the researchers used live traps to capture the animals in Germany from summer 2014 to fall 2015. The captured shrews were X-rayed and implanted with a microchip. Twelve shrews were captured and measured at three distinct intervals, each of them displaying the same pattern: a peak head size in summer, a cranial reduction in winter and then regrowth in spring.

About the size of a mouse and found in nearly all regions of the world, shrews are often mistaken for rodents, but are more closely related to moles.

Exactly how a shrew shrinks its brain is still something of a head-scratcher. Changes in cranial size tend to be “unidirectional and finite” in vertebrates, the study notes. But there is evidence that the shrew’s brain case shrinks when the joints between the bones of the skull reabsorb tissue during autumn and winter. As spring approaches, the bone tissue regenerates.

The researchers could not say how the reduced brain size might affect the shrew’s cognitive abilities, and plan future research to learn more.

Knowing that a mammal can successfully shrink and regrow its own body — especially a complex organ like the brain — could open up exciting new avenues for exploration. Mr. Lazaro said that his team had already been approached by medical researchers with an interest in bone and joint diseases. The findings “could mean an important advance for the study of degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis,” he said.

Correction: October 25, 2017

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of species of shrews. There are hundreds of species, not three.

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[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/science/shrews-shrink-heads-brains.html?partner=rss&emc=rss