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Our original staff

Our staff in 1999, the year this website began. This page appeared on early versions of the site.

Laura Olshansky

Editor in Chief

Egg and sperm
Laura when she was very, very young

Laura began meditating when she was three or four years old by visualizing faces as she fell asleep. Much later, after a spinal cord injury during a martial arts tournament left her partially paralyzed, she took up Theravada Buddhism. One of our other staff members has a crush on her but we're not saying who. Before becoming editor in chief of, she was a senior editor at an American publishing house that specializes in romance novels. She used to be fanatical about making perfect cappuccino, but now she'll drink anything. She lives with her husband and two teenage sons in a college town in a rural part of the United States.

Marilyn Cootsis


Lydenburg head
Marilyn thinks this terracotta head looks like her first husband

When Marilyn returned from a visit to Tibet and told her French Catholic family that she had taken Buddhist vows at a Kagyu monastery, they were so horrified that they begged the local priest to perform an exorcism. Undaunted, Marilyn continued practicing the yogas of Tummo and Mahamudra, and was rewarded after thirty-one years of diligent effort with a certificate signed personally by the lineage holder of the oldest, most authentic, most obscure Vajrayana school in Bhutan. She had this document framed and often gazes at it through half-closed eyes — without attachment, of course — as she begins her daily meditation sessions.

Freddie Yam

Contributing editor

Tapeworm by James Hayden (Nikon contest)
One of Freddie’s pets

Freddie is a middle-aged American couch potato who has experimented with a variety of meditation practices over the last few decades, especially restraint of thought. He began meditating in college after reading a passage in a novel by Doris Lessing in which a character silences her “inner voice”. He has a graduate degree in an irrelevant subject from a major American university. His grandmother was the first licensed female driver in Westchester County, and his grandfather still had all his hair when he died at 92. Freddie denies that his middle name is Isidore.

Elena Gutierrez

Contributing editor

Orangutan with baby
Elena might have looked like this if she had been born in a different time and place

As a child, Elena got upset whenever anybody killed an insect. When she got a little older, she dabbled in Qi Gong and Advaita. Then she became the infection control officer at a large hospital and had to squish bugs for a living. She often has a cat on her lap while she works at the keyboard. Her favorite quotation is John Bayley’s remark that the moral of Anna Karenina is that getting what we want doesn't make us happy. Her second-favorite quote is Freud’s remark that nothing makes an adult happier than the long-delayed satisfaction of a childhood wish. Her sexual fantasies tend to have a lot of atmospheric detail; even the color of the curtains in the imagined bedrooms makes a difference.

Rob Sacks

Technical guy

Lev Tolstoy
Rob used to think it’s surprising that the author of Anna Karenina looked like this, but lately fewer things surprise him

Rob is a professional computer programmer. He donates his services to and we appreciate the hell out of him. He's interested in meditation but he's too lazy to do it as much as he should. He's a firm believer in user-interface prototyping, whatever that means. When we asked him to explain, all he said was, “Sit them down at a table with a couple of boxes of crayons and get out of the way.”

Simple Simon

Coordinator of Fan Clubs

Macy’s parade balloon
Kinda makes you go woo hooooooo! doesn’t it?

Simple Simon says do this, and this, and this, but he doesn’t say do that. God, he’s annoying. And let’s not even talk about how he criticizes everything. Don’t you wish he’d shut up?


Jack of All Trades

Night sky with Milky Way
As much of everything as we could fit into one picture

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj says everything is caused by everything. He makes a good point even if he’s exaggerating. So next time you read something here you don’t like, please remember that we didn’t write it. Everything wrote it.

This page was published on December 6, 1999 and last revised on August 17, 2018.


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