Archive for February, 2014

Hogan’s View

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Snowed in HoganBill Hogan

For Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

St. Valentine’s Day again, and despite its standing as little more than a boon to retailers of candy, greeting cards, flowers and the like, I have found myself playing a holiday game and making mental lists of the people whom I’ve never met and yet would be happy to send a Valentine. Some of them are gone and some of them remain. (And thanks to Lennon and McCartney for those words; and thanks to George and Ringo as well. Four Valentines are in the mail.)

So, Valentine’s greetings to the family of course – wife, daughter, son-in-law and the newest member who’s just 18 months old and who seizes my breath and makes me smile even if I’m not in the mood to smile.

And also to:

–Jackie Robinson, the most courageous of men. By this time, everybody knows what he did for the nation and understands his bravery, not to mention his raging competitiveness. Here’s what Jackie had to say: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Those are the words that appear on his gravestone.

–Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic leader of the New Jersey State Senate, who’s at the forefront of the investigation of the September outrage at the George Washington Bridge. Some people at age 79, facing the wrath of Chris Christie, might go away quietly. Not Loretta, who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor with Jon Corzine in 2009. Recently when she asked that Christie inform the Legislature when he’s going to be out of state, Christie declared at his snarkiest: “I understand. She’d really love to be lieutenant governor, and she’s not. So every chance she gets to stick it to me, she does.”

Loretta dismissed Christie, likening him to a spoiled brat, describing his outburst as nothing more than “a playground taunt.”

–The reporters and editors of the Record of Bergen County who broke the bridgegate scandal and who have provided spectacular coverage ever since. If you got stuck on the bridge, The Record is the paper you need to consult. (Truth in column writing: I worked at The Record until 2007.)

–Marcia Ball, whose swamp rock singing and piano playing make me jump all over the place, whose ballads make me sentimental and whose rendition of Randy Newman’s song “Louisiana 1927” makes me tremble with an emotion I thought was reserved for people who survived Hurricane Katrina.

“It rained real hard and it rained for a real long time. There was six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline. Louisiana, Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away.” If you can listen to Ball sing that refrain and not consider yourself a Louisianan, you’re made of strong stuff.

–J.S. Bach and his Coffee Cantata and the plaintive cry of the character Liesgen who at one point sings, “If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment, I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.” I love coffee; I know what Liesgen means (though I’ve never felt like a roast goat).

–Bette Davis for her look and her voice, and especially for two of the greatest lines in movie history. In “All About Eve,” she urges the guests at a house party, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” And in the otherwise forgettable “Cabin in the Cotton” she declares to the lovelorn Richard Barthelmess, “I’d love to kiss you but I just washed my hair.”

–Dylan Thomas for his poem “Fern Hill,” in which he recalls ” … in the sun that is young once only, time let me play and be golden in the mercy of his means.”

–The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers for their humbling of the Yankees.

Happy Valentines Day everybody, and take it easy as you shovel the snow.

The ‘picture of health’? Me? Sonofagun

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

          The 'new' me.                  IR Photography

The ‘new’ me.
                                                                              IR Photography

“You’re the picture of health.”

(She has to be talking to me. There’s no one else in the room.)

“Thank you, doctor.”

This exchange took place last month at an office in Middletown. The picture was considerably less pleasant, never mind healthy, some 18 months earlier when I first walked into the doctor’s office. I was overweight, with the familiar accompanying physical complications — high blood pressure, pre-diabetic blood sugar readings, good and bad cholesterol numbers headed in the wrong directions, low B-12 and Vitamin D readings, a lack of energy, flexibility and stamina and swollen ankles.

If anyone asked, I said I felt “fine.” And I believed it.

Since that time, I have lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I no longer take the blood-pressure and diuretic medications that were originally prescribed. I’m told my numbers in all other areas are “good.” I have more strength and energy and my flexibility is improving as is my stamina. My ankles look great

And I plan to stay this way.

I’ve been writing occasionally about my improved health and the lifestyle changes that brought it about for two primary reasons: 1. I know myself well enough to know that when I share my plans publicly I am more likely to stick to them, especially when they involve significant challenges; 2. People have told me that my updates have inspired them to make health-related changes in their own lifestyles.

Now, I admit it’s a nice ego boost to be told that something I’ve written or done has motivated someone to try to improve his or her lot, and at at the same time I’m humbled to think I can make a difference in someone’s life. But the truth is my motives are purely selfish.

I’ve been muddling around this planet for 72 years and I’d like to enjoy at least a couple more decades here before moving on to the next station, whatever, wherever and whenever that may be. The key word in that sentence is “enjoy.” I don’t want to hang on as a creaky, chronically complaining old crank no one wants to be around. I can’t stop the years from adding up, but I sure can do something about the pounds and the blood pressure.

By way of updating my current condition, I am pleased to report that shoveling snow this winter from hell has not left me panting and praying for sheer survival. I don’t like it, but neither do I dread it. It’s good exercise (up to a point) and evidence of improved stamina.

Getting to this point has not been a matter of jumping on a stationary bike once in a while or taking an occasional stroll around the block. That used to count as “exercise” and, technically, still does. But that doesn’t take fat off or put muscle on. For me, it has meant changing the way I eat and making workouts, with and without weights, part of my routine. The workouts have been regular and irregular during this transition period, but they have been regular enough that the 50 pounds I lost have not been rediscovered.

My coach tells me I have a lot of nascent muscles. (I think some have progressed to actual muscles, but it’s not worth quibbling about.) The main point is that the bench presses (with dumbbells), planks, pushups, crunches and squats have shaped a new body (and vocabulary) and, while I don’t look forward to every exercise, I do appreciate the feeling of accomplishment at mastering something new and the emergence of lats, glutes, abs, quads, biceps and triceps.

I’m really talking about being fit here, not just not being fat. To me, that means combining regular workouts with a nourishing, appetizing, non-punishing diet. I don’t believe in starving myself or limiting portions of foods I enjoy which also happen to be healthful.

No, it has not been a piece of cake. Not long ago I reveled in the embrace of cheesecake. French fries used to count as a vegetable. Coke or Pepsi? Depended on my mood. Salt and vinegar potato chips, bacon, butter and sour cream on my “healthy” baked potato. Lots of salt, lots of sugar, lots of fat. Lots of XXL shirts and not much energy.

As I said, I was “fine.” There is, to be sure, a bit of bliss in ignorance. It’s all good … until it’s not. Turns out what I didn’t know was actually hurting me.

Without going into too much detail, I have stopped eating red meat and almost eliminated salt, processed sugar and saturated fat from my diet. I eat a lot more vegetables and fruit — as much as I want really — and try to eat foods that have not been “enhanced” by additives I can’t pronounce and whose chief purpose seems to be creating a long shelf life. That means less packaged goods and more of what used to be called “food.” For some reason, the less we add to our food, the more it costs, but that’s a topic for another time.

I don’t tell anyone how to eat (although I may still make suggestions to my son), nor do I tell anyone what they should do for exercise. Unless asked. Then, if I tell someone he can eat as much as he wants of different foods and and that it tastes good, but he says he wants to continue eating the same stuff, but smaller portions, I say, “Good luck.”

If I suggest regular exercise and I hear the occasional-stationary- bike-and-try-to-walk-regularly mantra, I say, “That’s good. Good luck.”

My feeling is that any significant change comes down to motivation, not need. I have my own personal motives to change major areas of my life and I am fortunate to have found someone to help me make those changes. I don’t believe in using “old age” as an excuse for whatever ails me. If I did, I’d still be taking the drugs the doctor prescribed a year-and-a-half ago. I’m not bragging; that’s just the way it is, for me. We make our own choices.

It’s simple. I like what’s happening to me physically, which is good for me mentally and spiritually. And I feel better than fine. I feel good.




Food: Will It Always Be There?

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By William J. Makofske

Here in the United States, the issue of food availability is taken for granted. Grocery stores are packed with all kinds of food from around the world. Of course, shoppers who look closely at their grocery bills may notice the price of food has gone up substantially in the past few years. Then again, they may not. We are a very wealthy country, and food costs as a percentage of income are relatively low compared to others. Food insecurity today is primarily due to poverty, not supply.

But what about the future?

According to many food experts, including Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, who is writing a new book on food and world agriculture titled “Full Planet, Empty Plates,” the situation is approaching crisis proportions. Food production is a complex system that involves many interacting components, including available water, arable soil, sufficient land, fertilizer, a lot of input energy, biofuel production, and a stable climate.

Food supply also depends on the number of mouths to feed. World population has gone from around 1 billion people in 1800 to roughly 7.3 billion today. In simple math terms, that’s 7.3 times the number in 1800. Population is still increasing, adding an additional 80 million people each year, or another billion in roughly 12 years. Can we keep increasing our food supply? Let’s look at only one component – water – affecting the system and see why increasing supply is problematic.

Many books have been written on water scarcity. Fresh water from rainfall, rivers, or aquifers, is needed to grow food. However, changing climate patterns are making the interiors of the large grain-producing countries hotter and dryer, thus reducing yields. In many countries, decreasing river flows that cross borders between nations have created serious conflicts over available supplies. Climate change is also causing the warming air over tropical oceans to become increasingly saturated with evaporated water, which subsequently comes down in buckets, and afterwards, not at all, causing a feast/famine cycle in water supply.

Around the world, water scarcity is an increasing problem, particularly where irrigation is needed. Many Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan, are importing large amounts of grain as they deplete their aquifers. Brown notes that some 18 countries, containing 3.6 billion people, including China, India and the United States, are over pumping their aquifers. What will we use instead? Now we are into big time fantasy: desalinization which is very costly, diverting melting glaciers from the Arctic or Antarctic, or emptying the Great Lakes.

Today, larger and larger areas of the United States are suffering from drought, and in the west, water conflicts are intensifying. Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, is literally drying up. We could of course use underground water from aquifers. We do, so much so, that some of the largest fossil (cannot be replenished) aquifers, like the Ogallala aquifer in the Great Plains, an important source of water for Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska is dropping fast. It will run out. In recent years, growing towns and cities in the west have purchased large amounts of water from farmers, reducing food production. As I write, California, one of the great food- producing states, is in an unprecedented water crisis. Lack of rain and mountain snow melt-off has created the worst drought since the 1850s, when records were first kept.

If all the factors affecting food production are examined, the picture is not pretty. With low grain carryovers from year to year, it would take only one bad year in two large grain-producing areas to cause an unprecedented food crisis. Or we can just let the current trends in water supply, arable land, biofuel production, climate change and population growth continue unabated. We will reach the same place sooner or later.

Dr. William J. Makofske, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Ramapo College, is an environmental physicist who studies energy and environmental issues. He is a member of Sustainable Warwick where he is the energy adviser for the Energize Warwick campaign.




Hogan’s View

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

hogan feb 7

Don’t Rename the Bridge; Rename the River

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By Jeffrey Page

Pete Seeger on the banks of his beloved Hudson River.

Pete Seeger on the banks of his beloved Hudson River.

I never met Pete Seeger, but of course this didn’t stop me from reaching certain conclusions about him. One such was that anyone who could sit down and write an anthem like “If I Had a Hammer” had to be a pretty great individual. Another was my sense that Seeger was a man who defined modesty.

Clearly I’m not alone in my appreciation of the life and music of Pete Seeger. Now, in the 11 days since he died at the age of 94, there have been calls by some of his admirers that the Tappan Zee Bridge be renamed in his honor. After all, they argue, Seeger lived in Beacon overlooking the Hudson River, which, farther downstream flows under the TZB and which will flow under its $14 billion replacement, whose construction has begun.

Link Seeger and the bridges? I think such a name-change would be a mistake. For one thing, we will probably never fully understand the extent of the disruption of the Hudson’s ecology during the construction and life spans of the two enormous bridges. Proponents of the Pete Seeger Bridge should remember that Seeger spent much of his life trying to achieve an unsullied, uncontaminated and unpolluted Hudson. I don’t believe he ever crusaded for the first TZB, or the one that’s being built now. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Moreover, I don’t imagine Seeger would feel especially proud of having his name superseding that of the Tappans, a family of Indians that lived in the areas surrounding Nyack when the Dutch arrived. And of course, his name would not include the word “zee,” from the Dutch for a wide sea. Unless they called it the Pete Seeger Tappan Zee Bridge, which would be ridiculous.

The Tappan Zee Bridge and its replacement span ought to remain precisely that.

But if we’re going to honor Pete Seeger by naming something for him, how about changing the name of the Hudson to the Pete Seeger River. After all, if it were not for him and the Clearwater project, the Hudson might be the same old befouled mess it was before Seeger and his friends decided to do something about it.

As far as Henry Hudson is concerned, he won’t be forgotten. There’s the Henry Hudson Parkway on the upper west side of Manhattan, the Henry Hudson Memorial Park in the Bronx, a 16-foot statue of Hudson atop a 100-foot column in the park, the Henry Hudson Bridge connecting the northern tip of Manhattan with Spuyten Duyvil in the Bronx, and Hudson Street downtown in the West Village.

We know Henry Hudson made four voyages to North America. He explored the river that would be named for him on his third visit. But the mystery of his fate developed on his fourth voyage, when he searched for northern passages to Asia.

He was in Canada, sailing on what would become Hudson’s Bay when his crew mutinied and took control of the ship. One account holds that the crew was weary and wanted to return to England but that Hudson insisted on continuing his exploration. The crew took the ship and set Hudson, his son, and seven crewmen adrift in a longboat. They were never heard from again.

Ultimately you have to wonder why the fuss about Hudson. After all he wasn’t exactly the first European to reach what would become New York. In fact, he arrived second, in 1609 – a full 85 years after Giovanni da Verrazzano.

“A very agreeable site,” Verrazzano wrote in his log as he entered the great harbor of the future New York, “located between two hills between which flowed to the sea a very great river.”

That would be the Hudson. Or the Seeger.