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                      Diary of a Divorcee.    Back to  News and Gossip Pages;     
Collapse of a marriage.
I don't know exactly when, but at some point during the four and a half years of my marriage I made the transition from idealizing other people's marriages to idealizing their divorces. Our one family event — and I am not exaggerating when I say one — is to have coffee at Starbucks on Sunday morning. I look at Jack — handsome, athletic, young at 51, with whom having sex has become as distant a memory as having a conversation — sipping his double grande mocha. Sophie, glorious at three and a half and the glue that has held us together, carefully picks the raisins out of her bagel and eats them separately. And here I am, with my grande, extra-shot latte, trying to remember when things were good. Because I know they were good once — even if for a very short time, but it seems like that was long ago.
If Jack's and my relationship were plotted geometrically, it would form a right-angle triangle: a quick ascent to the top, and a long, slow decline. My brother's wife, Elizabeth, met Jack on an airplane in 1990, liked him, asked if he was single and as they were coming in for a landing, gave him my phone number. I remember walking into the kitchen of my mother's house, Elizabeth was beaming and laughing as she announced, "I found you a husband!"
Having never been on a blind date in all of my 35 years, I was intrigued but a bit apprehensive. The last two years had been difficult for me; both of my previous boyfriends died. The man I lived with in the mid-80s and planned to marry, died of a massive heart attack when we were vacationing in Jamaica; the other — our relationship was wonderful and ridiculous and would most likely have turned into a good friendship — was shot and killed in El Salvador while we were still hot and heavy. They were both named Jack. I asked Elizabeth his name. She paused, "Uh, Jack." "I hope he has insurance," I replied.
Our first date was on a Friday of Labor Day weekend. When Jack picked me up I was taken aback by his good looks — tall, large blue eyes, sweet smile, athletic. People on airplanes routinely ask him for his autograph even though they are not sure which movie star he is. After college he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys but didn't make the final cut. Still a jock at 46, he even taught aerobics. An environmentalist in his real life, Jack had just returned from Alaska where he had camped and fished and kayaked. My idea of fun is to sit in a European cafe surrounded by cigarette smoke. That first evening, we went to a French movie, walked around in a bookstore and ate some salmon he had caught in Alaska. I returned home Tuesday morning. By the following Friday we were talking about marriage.
Jack had been single for nearly 12 years after his first marriage broke up. His daughter, Betty, was in college when we met and he and his first wife, Jan, were good friends. His most serious and long-term affair since then was with a married woman. I, too, had been married once before "for about five minutes" as my mother liked to say. My first marriage was a statistical cliché; I was 24, the average age of first marriages for women, he was 27, a few months older than the 26.7 years the census bureau quotes as the average marrying age for men. We had no children. And unlike the 7.2 years that most first marriages last, ours ended after three.
Jack was a radical departure from the tortured intellectual types I had been drawn to in the past. While he may be bored by the Times Literary Supplement, he could talk about his feelings with an ease and directness I had never encountered. We would go to parties and Jack would emerge telling me intimate things I didn't know about people I had known for years.
But it was always work. Hard, hard work. Panting, my tail wagging, I was the perfect acquiescent female, immersing myself in his world. And every once in a while I would come up for air and ask where the appreciation, even the acknowledgment was, and Jack would shut down. As our relationship developed we went to therapy together to try and resolve some of our tensions. We are both gifted in psycho-chat and made some genuine breakthroughs as we convinced everyone, especially ourselves, that we were made for each other.
A year after our Labor Day date, I moved into his horrible suburban colonial. I hated this house like a person but made the best of it. I painted and rearranged the furniture. I dreamed of putting on an addition. I remodeled my life: taking aerobics and permitting our schedules to be dominated by his time honored schedule of the last 12 years. Now if I were reading this I would say, Hey, get a life. Why didn't you put that size 7 1/2 B Via Spiga calfskin boot down and just assert what you wanted to do. Well, I would meekly say, You see I tried. And it wasn't as if Jack demanded that I do all these things. I could do what I wanted. Have dinner with friends, travel to Europe for reporting assignments and spend time at my mother's and aunt's.
So we managed to construct a fairly comfortable, if parallel, existence. Sex continued to be wonderful (as I write that today I sort of recoil). A year after I moved in, I got pregnant and we gathered 75 friends and relatives for a lovely wedding.
Now I know that part of the etiquette of civilized separation and divorce is the phrase, "It was nobody's fault." Or better still, "It was both of our responsibility." And I am trying really, really hard to be fair here, but Jack recently articulated the fact of the matter in a rather touching way.
We were sitting on our horrible green-striped sofa — Sophie had just carefully dumped about a quart of Elmer's School Glue, which I had mistakenly concluded would be easier to scrape off when dry than when it was wet, and now there are lumps with jagged edges that catch on your clothes and poke your legs on it — having the 10,000th discussion about our relationship. Jack said, "I have been thinking about love. And there is the love that makes you want to do everything you can for the other person. And then there is the love that makes you threatened so you push the other person away." Guess which one he had?
My pregnancy was so closely connected to our marriage that it is difficult to know which was the more alienating for Jack. But one of them certainly was because nothing made me want to roll around in the hay more than being pregnant, and Jack had turned off. Things were further complicated by the fact that Jack had gotten a one-year assignment to save forests in British Columbia which involved moving to an isolated town on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I went for a few months — during the summer when it is a lovely spot for a vacation — but had some assignments in Europe, so I essentially spent the rest of my pregnancy alone. Jack appeared at Thanksgiving, I was due December 7. Sophie was finally born Christmas Eve and Jack went back to his trees January 4. In other words, we didn't exactly bond as a family during those important early days with a new baby.
I followed him six weeks later and began the most miserable period of my life. I will spare you the details, but let me just give you the broad outlines: Tiny town. No friends. Torrential rain. Two streets to walk on. Detroit cable station. Peter Jennings at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. And Jack, of course, happy as a clam and totally immersed in his new life. No, not as a father — as a Canadian.
I was incredibly depressed and Jack was unevenly sympathetic. We decided that I should return home and Jack would commute. Things did not improve. We fought about everything — money, the house, sex, the house, Sophie — and then, exhausted, we stopped fighting. I was furious Jack seemed incapable of acting, as they say, conjugally. He felt betrayed by my anger. While Jack may have been turned off sexually when I was pregnant, I became numb after Sophie was born. It seemed like the one place where I could assert some control since I didn't feel like I had any in other parts of my life.
We considered more therapy, which meant that I went into more therapy and Jack didn't. I tried Prozac but it made me feel like Forrest Gump, only nauseated. I told my therapist, the wonderful Dr. K., "Maybe my depression is a perfectly reasonable response to a depressing situation." He nodded and discussed serotonin. My therapy sessions were beginning to bore me, I was consumed by the misery of my marriage and my utter inability to get out of it, blah blah blah.
I spent my time looking at other people's divorces like they were want ads in the paper. Jack flourished professionally and was marginally involved in Sophie's life. I was overwhelmed by the logistics of parenting a small child and stood outside, during mild evenings, with the other mothers on the cul de sac and watched the children playing. The fathers would drive up, one by one, and children would race to them ecstatically. On rare occasions this would happen with Jack. It did not make me less angry.
Once during a blizzard, when the snow plows finally came at 3 o'clock in the morning, Jack and I had sex for the first time in about 10 News and Gossip Pages;     months. I asked him if he wanted to stay married and he said Yes. And I said, Then we have to move to a different place, a place that is ours, and we have to start acting like a family. And he said Yes. I thought of Sophie and how much she deserved two parents. And we both went to sleep, a bit forlorn. And I knew it was over, but I didn't know how I could get out of it.
"Betty" is a pseudonym. The author's name and the names of friends and family members have been changed to protect their privacy. "Betty's" work has appeared in Esquire magazine, the New York Times Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, and the New Republic among others. She has worked for The New York Post, National Public Radio and Congressional Quarterly.  
                      Infedility forgiven.?.    Back to News and Gossip Pages;     
by Stephen Peters
New lovers may view infidelity as the ultimate deal-breaker. But as relationships mature and bonds grow deeper, the subject becomes less clear-cut. After years or even decades of building a life together, couples may wonder whether breaking it off is the only option.
The truth is, infidelity doesn't always have to mean the end of a relationship. In fact, partners who move beyond the pain and stigma of an affair often find they learn things about themselves and each other that ultimately make their relationship stronger.
Infidelity affected the lives of David and Bathsheba in Biblical times, as well as those of Paris and Helen of Troy in ancient Greece. No less than four U.S. presidents--Thomas Jefferson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and most notoriously, Bill Clinton--have succumbed to its lure. So have civic leaders (Martin Luther King, Jr.) and royalty (Prince Charles and Princess Diana).
Dr. Shirley Glass, a Baltimore psychologist, has been doing research on the subject for over 20 years. In an article in the New York Daily News, Glass estimated that about 25 percent of wives and 45 percent of husbands have full-fledged affairs, with another 15 percent engaging in emotional affairs without sex involved.
Read on to learn about some of the most common factors that lead to infidelity, signs that can help you determine if an affair is taking place, and ways to possibly work through it.
Why We Stray
What compels a partner to stray? The reasons can be as different as the sexes themselves. While women are usually prompted by emotional factors such as loneliness, boredom, or unfulfilled expectations, men often follow the lead of their libido.
"There are many men who do love their partners, who enjoy good sex at home, who nevertheless never turn down an opportunity for extramarital sex," Dr. Glass told "Psychology Today." "When women have affairs, it's much more often a result of long-term marital dissatisfaction. Surveys show that for women, the highest justification is for love; emotional intimacy is next. Sex is last on their list of justifications. It's the opposite for men; sex scores the highest."
Sydney Biddle Barrows, the author of Mayflower Madam (Ivy Books, 1997) and Just Between Us Girls (St. Martin's Press, 1997) agrees. "Women stray more for emotional reasons," she says. "They don't feel emotionally close to their partner, or they're looking for somebody to pay attention to them, to see them, to recognize them, to validate them. There are a lot of men who stray for relationship reasons too, but women tend to stray more to form a bond."
Unfortunately, these differences in motivation often make it hard for a faithful partner to understand and work through a mate's infidelity after it occurs. "Men feel more betrayed by their wives having sex with someone else," Glass says. "Women feel more betrayed by their husbands being emotionally involved with someone else."
Watching for the Signs
At first, you may just notice little things. He's spending more late nights at work, sometimes two or three days a week. She's suddenly stopped voicing her concerns about your relationship and grown more withdrawn and distant. You may notice that you're suddenly having sex less often; or, in some cases, more often.
Since nobody knows the dynamics of your relationship better than you do, no one can better judge what might be considered erratic or suspicious behavior. One indication that something may be wrong is plain old intuition--if you sense that something is amiss, there's a good chance it is.
Sadly, proving infidelity has become big business, and these days there are plenty of ways to accomplish that goal, from auto-tracking devices to spray-on sperm detectors. The digital age also provides a potential trail of electronic evidence, whether it's an unfamiliar number on a cellular phone bill or beeper, or a hidden folder of email on the computer.
Confronting Your Mate  
Confronting a mate who you think is having an affair can be one of the most difficult challenges you'll ever face. Will your partner tell you the truth? Will he or she be willing and ready to end the illicit relationship if there turns out to be one? If so, are you willing to work through your feelings of anger and betrayal to repair the relationship if the two of you decide that's the right thing to do?
Adele Rogers St. John once said, "There is so little difference between husbands, you might as well keep the first." Though it sounds over-simplistic when it comes to dealing with the complications of an affair, statistically speaking the advice is sound. While most people know that the divorce rate in this country is around 50 percent, they are often surprised to learn that the failure rate for second marriages increases to 60 percent.
In their book Surviving Infidelity (Adams Media, 1999), therapists Rona Subotnik and Gloria G. Harris discuss the advantages of sticking things out, at least for a while. "Because we view an affair as a symptom of a problem rather than its cause, we encourage people to work through the marital or individual issues before calling it quits," they write. "If you try and you still are not able to make the marriage succeed, at least you will understand more about yourself and your marriage."
The Rebuilding Process
Understandably, the process of saving a damaged relationship can bring about its own level of emotional fallout as feelings of trust and safety are repaired. Sometimes a betrayed spouse becomes hyper-vigilant about his or her partner's activities and whereabouts. Others become obsessed with the details of the affair, and then find it hard to avoid making comparisons. But many couples find that if they can get through the rough spots, they might not only survive an affair but eventually arrive at a new level of communication and understanding.
"Leaving a bad marriage without trying to repair it first is like buying high and selling low," Dr. Glass told Psychology Today. "Better to see how good you can make it, then look at it and ask: 'Is this good enough?'"
Surviving an affair doesn't guarantee you've eliminated the possibility of another. Once you've begun negotiating the sometimes slow and painful path toward rebuilding your relationship, you must also commit yourself to making sure it remains strong.
"A relationship is like a fire," Glass says. "You can let it go down, but you can't let it go out. Even though you're in another part of the house, you have to go back every once in a while to stoke the coals."
When Is an Affair an Affair?  
A common misconception about infidelity is that it has to be physical. That's not always the case. Three important factors can help determine whether a platonic relationship has turned into an affair, or is on its way to becoming one:
1. Secrecy
Whether you're meeting a coworker for coffee or exchanging personal email with a cyberstranger, if you're keeping it a secret from your partner, you may want to ask yourself why. It could be a first step towards infidelity.
2. Emotional Intimacy
Confiding things to another person that you don't confide to your partner is a potential red flag, as well, especially if those things convey a sense of vulnerability or emotional availability.
3. Sexual Chemistry
Physical contact is not a prerequisite for sexual chemistry. Flirting or letting someone know that you're attracted to them, and then using your primary relationship as an excuse for not exploring that attraction, can create a sense of sexual tension that leads to full-blown infidelity.
                      Taking risks with sex           Back to News and Gossip Pages;     
U.S. experts fear resurgence of AIDS
By Charlene Laino MSNBC  
DURBAN, South Africa, July 9 —  Despite the millions of dollars and years of educational programs that have been poured into HIV prevention, as many as 5 million Americans indulge in sex and drug habits that place them at risk of infection with the AIDS virus, the U.S. government reported this weekend at the International AIDS Conference.               
       AFTER YEARS of dramatic declines in HIV infection and AIDS death rates, both have stabilized in the United States, indicating a clear need for stepped-up prevention efforts and better treatment strategies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported here in Durban.
      “The trend is worrisome — a sign that Americans are becoming complacent about AIDS,” said Dr. Helene Gayle of the CDC. Should the trend not be quickly reversed, the United States could see a resurgence of the disease, particularly among gay men, said Gayle, head of HIV prevention at the Atlanta-based agency.
      “A leveling off of infections in the United States is unacceptable given what we know about the disease,” she said at an American Medical Association function held here in conjunction with the 13th International Conference on AIDS. “The government needs to increase funding of AIDS programs and develop new tactics,” Gayle said.   
         The latest CDC data show that since July 1998, the number of AIDS cases and deaths in the United States has remained stable, with about 40,000 Americans being diagnosed with the disease and 16,000 dying annually.
      Before 1998, new cases had been declining dramatically, from more than 70,000 a year in 1993 to about 40,000 in 1998. This was largely because of safer sex and avoidance of dirty needles, according to Gayle.     
 There are concerns that the HIV infection rates in America are beginning to climb now after years of stability. NBC’s Hillary Lane reports.  
        So why did rates start to level off?
      An analysis of several large-scale surveys shows that 2 percent to 4 percent of adults — or 4 million to 5 million Americans — continue to place themselves at high risk of infection, the CDC found. The agency defined high risk as having six or more sexual partners in the last year, having sex with someone known to be infected with HIV, exchanging sex or money for drugs, using crack cocaine, injecting drugs in the past three years or having homosexual sex.
      In addition, HIV is a virus that quickly mutates, Gayle said. As a result, many people are being infected with new strains of the virus that even the most potent of drugs cannot overcome. In other cases, patients find the number of pills — upward of 24 a day in some cases — and their high price tag — as much as $15,000 a year — too much to handle. They stop taking the drugs, and the disease often quickly rebounds.
      The best way to combat the disease is by preventing it in the first place, Gayle said. “Well-designed preventive efforts have the power the slow the epidemic.”
      But currently, only one-tenth of the total HIV/AIDS budget is invested in prevention, the rest bring spent on developing new treatments, she said.       
      Both positive and negative trends were observed, Gayle said. While condom use has increased substantially since the 1980s, for example, only 40 percent of unmarried people and 23 percent of drug users report using them. And while prevention programs have helped to increase the number of IV drug users who use clean needles, about 1 in 5 continues to shoot up with dirty ones.   
       Infection rates among gay men dropped precipitously in several cities after the intensive preventive efforts of the 1980s, Gayle said. But more recently, rates among homosexuals have remained stable at 1 percent to 4 percent, with higher rates among those being treated at STD clinics.
      Younger gay men are especially at risk. A CDC study in the most recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that 7 percent of young homosexual men visiting clinics that treat sexually transmitted diseases were infected, with rates as high as 14 percent among African-Americans.
      There’s also other troublesome data that could suggest a resurgence among this population, she said.   
       Last week, the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported a significant increase in new infections among homosexuals from 1997 to 1999. Experts fear that the success of drug cocktails are making gay men feel they are immune to the disease, resulting in a return to unsafe sexual practices.
      Overall, gay men in the study were 17 times more likely to be infected than heterosexuals. Overall, the CDC estimates, 15 percent of AIDS cases are attributable to heterosexual transmission, Gayle said.
      But some studies have shown a rise in unsafe sex practices among high school and college students, causing concern among public health officials.   
      While this year’s AIDS conference is being held in this South African city as a means of focusing attention on the pandemic that is sweeping developing nations, the United States is proving a poor example, she said.   
        “We’re setting a poor tone, one of growing complacency and apathy,” she said. “We have to show the world that we are committed, that we can make a difference in the global epidemic.”
      Other experts agree.
      “We’re meeting here in Durban to address the impact of the pandemic and develop better strategies as a way of showing a global commitment to preventing spread of AIDS,” said Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general. “We must continue to use every means available to educate, motivate and mobilize communities to fight this disease.”
      Sandra Thurman, director of the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy, warned that “the stark reality is that the pandemic is out of control. We must all work together to turn the tide.”
                      All about Browsers        Back to News and Gossip Pages;       
Netscape and Explorer got big once computer illiterates arrived in the Internet wonderland. They needed the GUI's page metaphor in order to get comfortable with the new medium. The capabilities of the medium were expanded, illiterates became literate, and the GUI of the Netscape-Explorer continuum - with its imposed norm of downloading the latest version - was, more and more, seen as limiting. The first cracks in the monopoly of the graphical browser are becoming visible. The continuum is being attacked by graphic designers who would prefer to make Flash/Shockwave sites that stand on their own; by the more and more varied uses of the Web; but also by Linux and the free software movement; browser developers; new machines like the Web telephone; the misuse of Quake as a browser; users who keep using old versions out of stubbornness or laziness; and institutes with obsolete equipment.
Only a small group of users regularly has the latest software at home. Choosing to make a site that can only be viewed with 4.0 browsers means choosing a target audience. It does not include, for example, scholars and students who only have access through school. That situation will not go away: a school or university can't add a cool 32 MB of extra memory to hundreds of PCs once a year, any more than the users can download a new version just like that.
Besides, 4.0 browsers have become dinosaurs, unmanageable, too big to manoeuvre with ease. Compare them with the extremely handy Swiss army knife: knife, bottle opener, corkscrew, everything on one handle. But there is a limit to the number of accessories: there are Swiss army knives so thick, with so many integrated attachments, that they still work but are no longer handy. 4.0 browsers are such knives, with their enormous numbers of plug-ins to translate the 4.0 Web experience. Starting up takes longer and longer, it's not clear which functions are available and which aren't, and people whose computers will easily tolerate the 4.0 version will be startled in 1999 by the amount of RAM needed for its successor. It seems that a technological limit has been reached - the browser must be written anew if it's to remain functioning easily. Or is it time to throw the myth of the universal graphical browser overboard?
The use of spatial metaphors to grasp the Web's virtual structure and experience is ingrained in the software and in our gaze. It seems as if we can no longer escape it: it's an inherent concept. The Web is a sea of information you surf, you navigate, it's a library you explore, a highway you drive. The Web is an information architecture that extends in three dimensions. The browser is the technological means that makes experience there possible. The browser is the means of transportation for following links in virtual space, the instrument for charting them, and the sense (and the lens) with which the user observes space. In theory every browser can give its own interpretation of the HTML elements, and place these in a configuration of its own. The representation is different, but the information architecture read by Netscape and Explorer remains the same.
In the structure of the Web lies the possibility to write one's own means of transportation for data travel. Because, as Webstalker's Matthew Fuller has remarked,  
On connecting to a URL, HTML appears to the user's computer as a stream of data. This data could be formatted for use in any of a wide variety of configurations. As a current, given mediation by some interpretative device, it could even be used as a flowing pattern to determine the behaviour of a device completely unrelated to its purpose.(1)
The structure of the Web makes a variety of experiences of it possible on the software level. This can be seen as the technological expression of relativism: equipped with a different ideology, world view or religion, the human subject observes a different reality.
Originally this Web architecture was set up to be read in different ways. The formatting tags were logical and structural, not physical. What the <b></b> tag does with the data between depends on the interpretation of the browser. That can mean make boldface, but a more radical interpretation is possible too, like open this content in a new window. Graphical browsers brought this mutability of HTML interpretation under control: HTML was adapted to the browsers with the goal of showing the design exactly as the designer intended. That is a limiting way of handling the medium which is not essential for the structure of the medium. Rather, that structure lends itself outstandingly to a variety of unlocking methods, to the implementation of filters, to radical use and misuse.
The browser filters the experience of space and the interface determines how space is experienced. The interface mediates the illusion of a space: at the birth of the Netscape-Explorer continuum there was the page. Despite the spread of the metaphors of ocean and highway, the metaphor of the magazine page is the true building block of the graphical browser. It's a principle that is useful for fanzines, handy for the use of the Web as distribution channel, and understandable for beginning users. The problems begin with the expansion of the use of the infrastructure. As HTML was forced to become a formatting language, so Explorer and Netscape were forced to become overgrown monsters. They are Formula 1 racing cars built on a go-kart chassis. (And you can take them shopping, too.) The graphical browser aims to pass along all sorts of experiences with one piece of software, one means of transportation.
The means of transport determines the experience of space and the importance one attaches to the elements within it. Different spatial information is important to a bicyclist than to a driver or a pedestrian. Good maps reflect this. Hikers use maps with a scale of 1:50,000, which is so detailed as to be useless for the driver. A highway is of the same importance to a cyclist as a railway embankment: it is an obstacle that, at most, can serve as a point of orientation to the horizon. A real cyclist's map thus will not highlight it in red. Nor is a highway one of the elements that a cyclist wants to experience. He prefers to stay as far away from it as possible and its existence has a minor effect on his experience. By contrast, a small paved bike path through the woods is of utmost importance - surely for the tourist - for it is where the desired experience is to be found. In other words, the means of transportation is a filter for the experience of space.
You ride a bicycle because it's the fastest way to reach your destination, because it's more pleasant than another means of transport, or because you want a certain experience. On the WWW most people put up with taking the same means of transport every time - for getting train information, looking at promotional sites, random surfing, or reading the newspaper.
With the availability of bigger programs we are inclined to underestimate the scope of smaller programs. Once we're used to the automobile, the distance between Amsterdam and Rotterdam looks impossible by bicycle.
Around the means of transport arises a specific organisation of the experience of space. Or we organise space by the choice of transport. This has most of all to do with speed and range. The invention of train, bicycle, automobile and aeroplane led to a different view of geography. Distances got shorter and cities could be looked at from above, but the observation of the space crossed changed too: a meadow full of dandelions turned into spotty golden stripes on green. With high enough speed, the means of transport becomes a time machine, and there are people who claim they can see from an automobile how space curves with respect to the cabin. It is most of all the development of modern art - namely futurism - in which the influence of means of transport is immediately visible. Many innovations in the representation of space in art can be directly explained via the development of transportation technology (see Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Cambridge, Massachusetts 1983).
Just as some means of transport are healthier than others, it can also be supposed that there are good and bad browsers for mental health. A good browser delivers only healthy information and doesn't bother you with superfluous, distracting manipulations. A bad browser fills your head with banners, distractions, cookies, superfluous pictures, frames with redirects, and so on. Those who find attention and concentration salutary for the mind will reject the use of the blink tag as unhealthy, which is to say someone looking for World Cup results won't get banner ads, because they are disturbing, are a superfluous assault on the senses. Thus a proposal can be made for an ergonomic browser that filters distracting and unhealthy elements, independent of Web site makers' intentions.
Fantasise about a hundred different browsers, each perfectly suited for the combination of Web and machine. A browser for academic archives, one for investments, one for on-line shopping, one for looking up sports results, one for playing games, one for combining contents, one for making associations, one for daydreaming, one for working out aggression. Or we might imagine kits for building one's own instant browsers that would perfectly agree with the experiences one desires as Web user, with built-in filters and one's choice of interface.
Alternative browsers and alternative browser misuse have been proposed by artists, programmers, architects and fanatical gamers. Some are just proposals; many are working applications. They are developments of the idea that the experience of web space can be driven not just on the design level, but also, or instead, on that of software.
Ambulator (2) is a browser designed by B. Mueller for people who want to feed their imaginations with images, who wish to dream away on arbitrarily loading pictures and make up stories in their heads to go with them. The Lycos search engine had already made it possible to picture-zap on the Web (better than TV). Ambulator goes one step further: it's a picture browser based on a search engine. The user starts with an almost empty screen where a search command can be given. Someone who types in, for example, 'David Bowie' is thus ordering Ambulator to search the Web for pages where the words 'David Bowie' appear. Ambulator regards HTML as a stream of data that can be plucked from at will, not as a message with a beginning and an end whose unity must be respected. Of all browsers Ambulator has the strongest built-in filter: it ignores all HTML except one tag. It searches pages where the search term appears for IMG tags and the corresponding URLs. It then serves only the pictures and makes a collage of them on the black screen.
Ambulator's practical use is extremely limited. The search command 'David Bowie' does not guarantee pictures of David Bowie will be found. What will be found are images on pages that have the search terms. The images might be banners, bullets, Netscape logos or navigation buttons. (In this respect, Ambulator mercilessly shows how miserable so much Web design is.) But because Ambulator works in this random way, improbable combinations can also appear on the screen. And that very randomness of images sets fantasy in motion: a story, strange connections, a short daydream or the invention of a joke - at least for those who let themselves be enchanted by the images appearing and disappearing in the black hole of the screen.
Ambulator stops searching only when it ceases to find. It keeps scanning the Web and HTML for the desired words and the IMG URLs. New pictures are loaded on the screen and those that have been there too long disappear. There is no experience or transmission of any information architecture. Ambulator is a flat surface with pictures that light up. The spatial metaphor does not completely disappear, but becomes irrelevant.
Now that emulators are popular as never before and there are perverse people running VirtualPC on their Macs, the time seems ripe to bring back the experience of the old Web. There is a demand for Atari emulators for playing old games - Elite has clearly not yet been surpassed - and there are dozens of emulators for old synthesisers on the market, now that original Moogs and Vibra 7000s are impossible to find. There will likewise be early adopters among Web users - nostalgics, true - who long for the old Web, when it was still pure. No commerce, no government. What they need to realise those longings is Lynx (3).
Naturally, they can still telnet to a provider and type Lynx at the prompt. If they're lucky, the only real text browser will start up, and they can surf from a dumb terminal, 1993-style.
The poor academics who were forced to use Lynx are dying out. Now and then you find an email in a newsgroup from someone who only has UUCP access to the Web. The last of the Mohicans. Or will new groups of Lynx users form in developing countries with donations of discarded 386s and 2400-baud modems?
For two years a client-side Lynx has also existed, with which you can emulate the old Web on your computer. This updated Lynx - there are versions for PC, Mac and PowerPC - also supports frames and tables (forms were always supported), but not the IMG tag.
In the same way that emulators of old synthesisers clearly produce a sound that cannot be attained with standard MIDI software, Lynx gives something of the experience of the pre-Mosaic Web. Naturally, much is lost - but that is also true of the MiniMoog emulator as compared with elaborate MIDI software and the Atari emulator as compared with the PowerPC. It's precisely that loss which gives us back something we thought was gone.
But Lynx is more than an emulator (although it would not have to be to claim right of existence!): it is useful and, sometimes, extremely convenient.
Lynx does text. Lynx doesn't do pictures, Java, javascript, or any shockwave, Flash or Real Audio whatsoever. (The inflexible Lynx-adept would say you have to look at Real Audio sites with real audio, compress shockwave documents, and that Java always crashes because it was written with a Microsoft compiler that generates scripts only PCs can read.) You miss anything that's an assault on the loading time.
Whoever uses Lynx will notice that, when the Web is busy and graphical browsers would simply say does not have a DNS entry, Lynx brings in the desired information without faltering. And what a relief to be able to navigate with the keyboard (no RSI). No more time-wasting clicking or menu searching; just pressing a key once (z=stop, s=save). Client-side Lynx is fast.
In all its primitiveness, Lynx is also a perfect filter. Those who hate banners and don't want animation or DHTML (enough TV around already); those who don't accept cookies and are tired of refusing them; those who don't want their every wish anticipated and would rather figure things out for themselves; those who choose to live in a textual universe and put up with the fact that many sites are unusable and innavigable and others unreachable (this site was made for 4.0 browsers) - those people should use Lynx.
Lynx is also the browser for those who hate bad and non-Web-native design. The philosophy of the Web is that of hypertext: links are there to connect information and the user determines what s/he wants to refer to when. Most sites that were built from the philosophy of the Web and that take into account the shortcomings of network communication are outstandingly readable with Lynx. NASA and most universities, for example, can be reached. Sites that were made from a graphic design borrowed from paper, that make themselves in the image of TV and seek to overwhelm the user with flashing images, cannot be reached. Lynx is there for nostalgics and text nerds, a small group that is scarcely economically interesting. A negligible group. And a group that wants to be neglected. Just let them go their way; they'll take care of themselves.
The Lynx user imposes a certain limitation on him- or herself. In the same way that someone who only gets around on foot consciously limits his/her range of action, but as a trade-off gets more detail out of life, so the Lynx user limits what is depicted on his screen. But in return he gets less junk, less commercialism, less pushiness, less unwanted intimacy, more speed and a familiar old-style hypertext labyrinth. For the Lynx user the Web is an archive of linked text documents. The Lynx user does not want progress. The Lynx user wants to go back to the source and focus on what has been lost. The Lynx user gets off on purity: a monochromatic screen of alphanumeric characters.
Webstalker (4) is a radical browser - some call it a metabrowser - which passes the interface and the metaphors of the GUI continuum by. It breaks through the prestructured context of the combination of HTML and graphical browser which limits experience and the possibilities for (artistic) production. Webstalker, designed by Matthew Fuller, Simon Pope and Colin Green of I/O/D, looks like a purely artistic project that is wholly unconcerned with the practical value of the Web as it currently exists.
The starting point of Webstalker is to bring about a breakthrough in the limited character of Web experience. Webstalker takes HTML documents for what they are: a data stream. The way Explorer and Netscape translate this stream is, as is known, merely one of many - and one that, according to the makers, was determined by the promise of e-commerce and graphic design with its page metaphors. Webstalker is software which foils these limitations of the Web's political, cultural and artistic meaning by showing one of the possible alternatives. And it is more than a purely artistic project.
Webstalker's best trick is that you begin with a blank screen. The user must produce windows him- or herself and assign them a function. Crawler, map, HTML-stream, stash, and dismantle are the five ways to approach the data stream. The user manufactures, as it were, his or her own browser.
The user opens an URL in the crawl window and the stalker starts following. It follows all that links that lead off that page until no more new ones can be found. It maps space in the map window and reproduces the data stream of the source. You can dismantle a part of the site to see the structure better and it is possible to save the text from a page so you can read off line. Like Lynx, Webstalker has a certain practical value as a browser for finding text information. It puts the user in a position to circumvent all distracting information, bumpers, and commercialism on a site without knowing a page's exact URL.
The emphasis, though, is on the possibility of portraying the relationships, the links, yourself, on making visible the structure of information networks. The site map in the map window gives an impression of a site's construction and structure at a glance, and, potentially, how the site is embedded in a larger network.
Webstalker was developed out of the conviction that the presentation of information must take account of its structure - something which threatens to be forgotten on the Internet. Webstalker does not give the user a website's geography; it portrays the topology as a process. You see the structure unfolding as the stalker searches the Web. Analysts of linking behaviour on the Web can imagine a modified Webstalker as the perfect research tool, an expanded version which generates maps that can be interpreted via graph theory and provide insight into the politics and the economy of linking.
Webstalker has devoted itself to a different notion of what HTML data is and what it can be used for. The functionality of Lynx, for example, is in accord with the goals of the Web, but the functionality of Webstalker is on another plane: of the meta-level, analysis, or the aesthetic value of graphics (which reduces the structure of Web sites to raw material for pretty pictures). Webstalker escapes the oppressive page metaphor and manages to slip underneath representation. Thus the software itself becomes a sensorium.
Someone who uses Webstalker experiences the Web most of all as an empty universe in which star systems appear if they're asked for. Experience is not determined by hackneyed metaphors. (In thinking, it is nearly impossible to escape metaphors, which is not the same thing as applying a metaphor in design!) Within those star systems a star's structure can be requested and downloaded for further study. Webstalker is the browser for people addicted to meta-levels and analyses, for hard-core users who demand the same austerity and purity from art and browsers that logic and mathematics offer.
Webstalker and Lynx are browsers for protestant text lovers, code-eaters who, fed by code, make images in their own heads. Ambulator is the browser for people who make up stories and wish to be fed by images without being disturbed by text. For the Lynx user the Web is what it always was: a library, an architecture of text and links - without GUI - and a hypertext in optima forma. For the Webstalker user the Web is an empty universe where star systems appear. And for those who use Ambulator, it is an accumulation of unrelated images, a reason to start imagining.
The rationale behind alternative browsers and the use of obsolete ones is to treat the Net as a space for reinvention. The Web is not a space that can only be made visible, legible and navigable with one kind of software. The advantage of the Net over reality is that the Net is only a stream of data which can be made visible, legible and navigable in various ways. That's why it's pointless to condemn users of Netscape 1.0 or MacLynx as losers who've neglected to download the 4.0 version. Just as it would be pointless to regard the development of alternative browsers as a threat to the general access and clarity of the Web. (This would be as limiting as demanding that everyone be a libertine.) The Web, after all, has long been suited for more than just one goal, and it is not controlled by commerce. And as in everyday life instruments are used in ways other than those they were made for (a match to stop a timed switch, a bicycle as a ladder to climb over a fence), software and infrastructure can also be used in inappropriate ways. Zapping with search engines. Surfing with Webstalker. That is not some kind of subversive act of sabotage; it is one of the possibilities at hand: a self-imposed limitation, the wish for a specific experience, a means of reaching a goal or a greater user-friendliness with respect to the desired goal.
Propagating the use of Lynx is not just a case of an old intellectual's nostalgia for the days when the choice was between Lynx and Mosaic (for the happy few with a PPP connection) and the Web was the domain of academics and hackers - no government, no commerce. It is part of a proposal for dealing with the medium in multiple ways, not only on a content level but also on a software level.
Consider the Web as one enormous database. The browser as a lens that makes a data stream visible and interpretable. Let us stop optimalising sites for as many users as possible. Optimalise the site for a specific browser that best conveys the experience of the site, and leave it to the user whether to experience the site in the optimal manner or in another of his or her choice. This is not subversion aimed at resisting the commercialisation of the Net, or at trying to undermine its economic and financial importance or contain its socio-political importance. It is an expansion of the possible experiences. For why shouldn't we develop optimal and safe shopping browsers? Or, like the browsers that bring in perfect Java and Flash, a small browser for Real Audio. Let Netscape and Explorer do what they were made for - GUI, HTML for the page metaphor, multimedia as a mosaic of free-standing elements - so that pessimistic intellectuals can stop cursing at the graphical browser's putative monopoly on Web experience.
                             Broken Heart           Back to News and Gossip Pages;     
By Robert Sapolsky
March 27, 2000 (Palo Alto, Calif.) -- Yes, although it's not a subject that has prompted much clinical research, much less rat studies of fatal heartbreak.
A chief medical examiner once wrote to me describing a poignant case of what appeared to be a fatally broken heart. This pathologist had recently performed autopsies on an octagenarian couple who died on the same day. The man, with a long history of heart disease, was found dead out in his farmyard. His wife, dead a shorter time, was found on the front porch, at an angle showing that she would have seen her husband's body. Next to her was the bell she had brought to summon him to the lunch sitting on the table inside. Her autopsy showed no obvious cause of death other than a heart that had stopped.
What happens in a case like this? We can only speculate, since it's not possible to study this phenomenon in animals, and it's hard to glean much from an autopsy. But there are documented cases of sudden cardiac arrest following powerful emotional distress. What probably happens is that ongoing stress, following a traumatic event or loss, adversely affects the cardiovascular system. Stress does its damage over time by slowly chipping away at the integrity of the blood vessels, causing subtle damage that sets them on the path to atherosclerosis, or "hardening of the arteries."
During a crisis -- including an emotional crisis -- the sympathetic nervous system is also involved. This system mediates the "fight-or-flight" response by secreting stress hormones such as adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, along with the related norepinephrine. These chemicals stimulate the heart and prepare the body -- either to do battle or run for one's life.
Under normal circumstances, the levels of those two chemicals are choreographed with wondrous precision. The last thing you'd want to do is to get the sequence of cardiac stimulation out of whack, because disruption of these cardiac stimulators can lead to serious consequences. But such loss of coordination is precisely what happens during immensely strong sympathetic stimulation to the heart, resulting in difficulty pumping blood, especially when the heart muscle is already diseased. This state, known as "fibrillation," can prove fatal.
So, yes, it's certainly possible to die of a broken heart, but it usually takes a very major break and an already weakened heart.
When people think of fatal heartbreak, though, other less plausible scenarios often come to mind. If someone is so devastated by a loss that he or she stops eating, for instance, jumps off a building, or, instead of sprinting away from a predator, turns around to tell the beast a tale of woe, that person is not going to fare well. But that's not the kind of fatal heartache we are considering here. Nor is it the case of a guy who gets catastrophic news and, wailing, clutches his chest and keels over dead from sudden cardiac arrest. While there have been such cases following powerful emotional distress, they are extremely rare, more common to the movies than real life.
Robert M. Sapolsky is professor of biological sciences and neurology at Stanford University and the author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping.
                      Caring for Elderly    Back to News and Gossip Pages;     
Spouse Raises Risk of Death
When Spouse Is Ill, Caregiving Spouse Needs Support, Too
By Jane Schwanke
Dec. 14, 1999 (Minneapolis) -- Caregivers who provide support to their spouse and are under stress are more than twice as likely to die within four years than spouses who are not serving as caregivers. Researchers say the findings indicate that both spouses need treatment and support at the same time. The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"It is widely known that caregiving can be stressful, but it has not been demonstrated [until now] that caregiving may contribute to premature death," the lead author of the study, Richard Schulz, PhD, tells WebMD. Schulz is director of the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh.
In another article in the same journal, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, states that while caregiving can be stressful for any family member, spouses have a unique disadvantage. "Marriage is the central relationship for the majority of adults, and [sickness and death] are lower for the married than the unmarried ... in part because of the support provided by this key relationship. However, when the spouse is ill, the prime source of support can become a major generator of stress, while simultaneously limiting the partner's ability to seek support of other relationships."
Schulz and his fellow researchers studied 392 caregivers and 427 non-caregivers aged 66-96 years who were living with their spouses. After four years of follow-up, they found that the caregivers who were experiencing stress and strain were more than 50% more apt to die than caregivers whose spouse was not disabled.
"Strained caregivers ... are much less likely to get enough rest in general, have time to rest when they are sick, or have time to exercise," according to the researchers. All of these factors, and others not reviewed in this study, are possible links between caregiving and death, they say.
Other studies have shown that elderly spouses who serve as caregivers experience higher rates of influenza and pneumonia -- conditions that together constitute the fourth leading cause of death among persons aged 75 years or older. In addition, depressive symptoms are associated with the development of heart disease, and with poorer outcomes for patients who already have heart disease.
"Caregivers need to pay attention to their own health," Kiecolt-Glaser tells WebMD. "[Stress] has clear consequences for mortality, and the older the person, the more it may affect their health." Kiecolt-Glaser is with the department of psychiatry and the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus.
"Patients who are not [mentally] impaired may be able to decrease the stress experienced by their [spouse] by being an advocate for professional services for themselves, being sensitive to the demands they place on their spouse, and by monitoring the needs and health of their spouse," Schulz says.
"Politically, [this study] is likely to fuel the debate about the financing of long-term care," Kiecolt-Glaser says, "particularly when considering that caregiving will become an increasingly prominent problem as the baby boom generation ages."
Vital Information:
Caregivers who provide support to their spouse and are under stress are twice as likely to die within four years, compared to spouses who are not caregivers.
Providing care is particularly stressful for a spouse because a person's prime source of support becomes a generator of stress, while limiting the ability to draw support from other relationships.
Caregivers are less likely to get enough rest, have time to rest when sick, or exercise, but they should pay attention to their own health.
                 The    Dark Side of Relationships          Back to News and Gossip Pages;     .
Study Finds Negativity a Big No-No for Relationships  By Jim Morelli, RPh WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Dr. Dominique S. Walton
Nov. 1, 2000 -- She's bad for me. He's good for me. A new study shows there may be something to those relational statements.
In the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, British and American researchers find that individual personality has a lot to do with couple happiness, but in surprising, complex, and gender-specific ways.
"Our basic finding, which seems to replicate across a wide range of studies, is that the tendency to experience and express negative emotions is more important in relationships than any other personality trait," says study author Richard W. Robins, PhD, of the University of California, Davis.
After looking at 360 couples in various states of union -- dating, living together, and married -- Robins and the other researchers make one overall conclusion: Negative personality traits are among the most toxic pieces of baggage partners drag in to a relationship.
Women tend to be poisoned most by negatively aggressive men, and men by hostile or unfriendly women -- or those who get emotional when stressed. That said, however, the authors' suggest negative people are their own worst enemies, in that their grim personalities color their view of the relationship more than they affect their partners'.
The news is a bit different when it comes to positive personality traits. The researchers find, as might be expected, that two positive people make for a harmonious union. But women get more out of having a positive partner than men do. Put another way, a man with a happy partner doesn't necessarily become happy (nor necessarily does a woman). But the researchers conclude that the happiness of women in relationships is more likely to be affected by the man's personality -- no matter what it is -- than vice versa. Only when women are negative does it significantly rub off on the male partners.
"It seems intuitive that other traits such as positive emotionality and self-control would matter a great deal as well, but they don't seem to predict relationship outcomes nearly as well as negative emotionality. So it seems surprising that, for example, how happy and cheerful your partner tends to be is only weakly related to your relationship satisfaction," Robins says.
And if all that isn't surprising enough, Robins says the research also found no basis for the widely held belief that two 'bad' people thrown together -- creating something called synergy -- make an even worse marriage.
"We didn't find any evidence that particular combinations of personality traits -- for example, high negativity combined with low self-control -- had a synergistic effect," he says. "In other words, it is not the case that people who are particularly angry and impulsive are exponentially more likely to be dissatisfied with their relationship. ... Of course, these people are less satisfied, but the combination of these two characteristics does not make them even less satisfied than you might expect."
There is a hitch to all these conclusions: Very few of the couples studied were hitched. In fact, just 7% were married. The rest were almost evenly split between daters and cohabitators.
Plus, the couples were young. The mean age of the women was less than 21. The men, on average, were about 22.
"This is not really a study which can draw conclusions about marriages between people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s," says Dennis Shulman, PhD, a clinical psychologist and director of the National Training Program in Contemporary Psychoanalysis in New York. "You ask a 20-year-old something and a 40-year-old the same thing and you're going to get a very different answer."
Still, Shulman agrees with the idea that individual personalities can shape a relationship -- and that women see things differently than men: "Women do tend to come into relationships with different kinds of strengths and interests than men. As a rule, women tend to look for more issues having to do with care, community, and connection. Men tend to have more of a wish for [independence]. In good marriages men become more relational. Women become more [independent]."
"I definitely agree that a limitation [of the study] is the age of the participants," Robins says. "For a number of reasons, the effects of personality may change as people get older, and therefore it would be best not to generalize the findings from our study to all couples."
Still, he says other studies do confirm that negativity is the most damaging personality trait in married couples. "It is also possible that being in a particular type of relationship might alter your personality," he says. "So, for example, being in an unsatisfying relationship over time might increase the amount of anger, sadness, and anxiety you feel."

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