Archive for May, 2011

How Can Anyone Be a Mets Fan?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Fred Wilpon

Fred Wilpon, the man who messed up the Mets

By Bob Gaydos

OK, I have avoided writing about this topic for years because I didn’t want to have to deal with the whining, delusional comments that pass for rational argument among Mets fans. But honestly, I don’t get it. I don’t get how anyone can be a Mets fan.

As far as I can tell, being a Mets fan these days consists of being willing to root for a boring team made up of mediocre major leaguers, rookies who never ripen, and established major league stars who are always hurt. But more than that, it’s fans caring about some of these mediocre players and talking about them as if they are ever going to be good major league players that baffles me. You know, like Joe Beningo and his kid sidekick, Evan, on WFAN or that noontime kid on ESPN Radio.

They go on and on about a team that has tanked at the end of the year for a decade, whose legitimate star pitcher may not pitch this year, whose star outfielder and shortstop have been hurt more than they’ve been healthy for two years and whose star third baseman, who literally broke his back playing for them, has spells where he literally couldn’t hit the ball if it was the size of a grapefruit.

All the rest is gruel. Plus, the owner of the team, Fred Wilpon, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and can’t spend money to get better players, so he’s going to have to trade his few blue chips for some young, potential stars. And we know how well that’s worked out recently. Wilpon has stayed quietly in the background most of the time, letting his general managers and managers talk about the team to the working press, which in the Mets’ case also contains a disproportionate quota of wanna-believers whose memories don’t go back past the 1990s.

But Wilpon sat down last month with a talented reporter from the New Yorker, a publication with no rooting interest save selling more magazines. The story that resulted told about Wilpon’s rags-to-riches story in real estate and his being snookered by Madoff. He and Madoff says that’s what happened; a trustee for other big losers say Wilpon knew what was going on. But that’s another story. Wilpon also made some comments in the New Yorker about his team and star players that has Mets nation in a tizzy. Here’s how it was reported in the Sporting News (also a non-rooting publication):

“The comments were made on April 20 while Wilpon watched a 4-3 loss to the Astros with the reporter, so don’t blame him for coming across more as fan than executive. Jose Reyes, whose contract is up after the season, had led off with a single and stolen second when Wilpon told the New Yorker, ‘He’s a racehorse. He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money (a seven-year $142 million contract). He won’t get it.’

“When David Wright hit, Wilpon said: ‘A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.’

“About Carlos Beltran, given a seven-year, $119 million deal by the Mets, Wilpon took a shot at himself as well as his player: ‘We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one (2004 playoff) series. He’s 65 to 70 per cent of what he was.’

“Finally, the magazine sums up what Wilpon thought about the Mets at the time when Ike Davis stepped in. ‘Good hitter,’ Wilpon said. ‘(Cruddy) team-good hitter.’ ”

Only he didn’t say cruddy.

Now, any Mets fan who can utter the words Armando Benitez with a proper sneer, knows that Wilpon’s assessments are right on. But the whining is that he didn’t have to say it publicly. Oh, please. He’s owned the team for 30 years. He remembers when they were a star-studded, scrappy bunch of all-stars, even if many of the fans don’t. He also knows he hasn’t delivered that kind of team nearly as often as he should have, what with playing in the biggest market in the country and making tons of money because of it.

Wilpon and his baseball staff have let Mets fans down year after year by failing to draft or trade for good, never mind star, players, by running a wreck of a medical staff that has seen star after star go down year after year, passing it off as being “snake-bitten,” and by being unbelievably inept in public relations. (They made manager Willie Randolph fly to the West Coast so they could fire him in the middle of the night.)

Mets fan know that they have to trade Beltran for some young player(s). Ditto Reyes. Wilpon is trying to sell a huge hunk of the team just to keep operating, for Pete’s sake. And he was absolutely right about Wright. Nice kid. Trouble throwing to first base. The thing is, Mets fans know all this and jabber about it on talk radio for hours (or at least when Joe and Evan are on), but for some reason the guy who pays the players’ salaries is not supposed to talk about it.

His saying it publicly doesn’t change anything. They will play for their next big contracts, wherever they may be and fans will talk about Ike Davis as if he’s the second coming of Keith Hernandez. Keith’s in the TV booth now with Ron Darling, who may still be better than anyone in the Mets’ starting five.

I have digressed all over the place because, as I said, I don’t get it. Yes, of course, I’m a Yankee fan, and have been for about 60 years. Mets fans, I am told, hate the Yankees and Yankee fans. Yankee fans don’t care. We have enough to do wondering why Brett Gardner is still in the major leagues and when Derek Jeter (who was supposedly washed up two weeks go) will get his 3,000th hit.

Yankee fans are used to a team owner talking publicly about star players. No, it was not always useful, but George Steinbrenner also poured tens of millions of dollars back into his team every year to try to keep it a winner, or at the very least, fun to watch. Many Mets fans I know are still hung up on the Brooklyn Dodgers, who also lost to the Yankees a lot, but who at least were always fun to watch and had lots of star players. I think these older Mets fans think Yankee fans are condescending. I don’t think so. I think Yankee fans just really don’t care about the Mets because lately it’s the same old story — they can’t seem to get out of their own way. (Personally, I loved the ‘69 World Series and bringing Willie Mays back for a curtain call. In the ’86 World Series, I rooted for the Mets. Of course, they did beat the Boston Red Sox.)

I also think Mets fans think that the true test of a fan is whether he or she is willing to suffer stoically and endlessly through lean times with the team. Again, just listen to the radio shows. But the Yankees didn’t win much in the ‘60s or ‘80s. The thing is, they never stopped trying and they were hardly ever boring. They set the bar high and, yes, they paid well to reach it. They still do. That’s why Yankee fans get upset when the team doesn’t play up to expectations (like losing Friday to a Mets knuckleballer). It may be easier to be a Yankee fan than a Met fan, but it’s much harder to be a Yankee player than a Mets player. Because it’s what they’ve done, their fans expect the Yankees to win. Not always, but usually. There is nothing wrong with winning. It’s why they keep score.

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OK, Mets fans, you get your say in the comment box below, or e-mail me. Why do you do what you do? Of course, any Yankee fan who wants to chime in is welcome as well.

‘Dream Drive’ Is in Our Backyard

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

The June issue of Car & Travel, published by the New York branch of the American Automobile Association (AAA) arrived this week featuring an article titled “Our State’s Three Dream Drives.” Listed among the top three “attractive escapes … . within reach of a fill-up or two” is Orange County’s own Pulaski Highway. The article by author/photographer Jeff Heilman is accompanied by a full-page photo of a Black Dirt farm in Pine Island.

The magazine reaches tens of thousands of readers in the five boroughs of New York City, as well as Westchester, Long Island, Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie and Herkimer counties, and parts of Lewis, Madison and Oneida counties.  However, the article clearly targets those who reside in the New York metropolitan area.

“For a remarkable country experience some 55 miles from midtown Manhattan, head to Warwick …. and sample the beauty of the surrounding Black Dirt Region,” begins Heilman.  He describes an “agricultural Eden, backed by twin mountains Adam and Eve …” I hadn’t expected to learn anything from the article but I never knew the mountains’ names before.

I love the next sentence: “Stretching out either side of the Pulaski Hwy. (Rte. 6), this deep sea of millennia-old organic decay, redolent with the smell of onions and other crops, including pick-your-own sweet corn and strawberries, intoxicates the senses while whetting the appetite.” Yes, and I would add that the sweet corn at Scheuermann’s Farm  on Little York Road is about as good as it gets anywhere. (Tip for first-time visitors: It is simply pronounced “Sherman.”)

“A host of local purveyors is happy to oblige,” continues Heilman, “such as the Quaker Creek store in tiny Pine Island, a third-generation Polish family-run cured meats and charcuterie emporium beginning life in 1947.” In case you were wondering, charcuterie (pronounced “shar-koo-tuh-rie”) is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork. I doubt that Bobby Matuszewski and his family think of their world-class kielbasy, beef jerky (try the muscle one), liverwurst, Sobkowiak original sausage and other home-made delights at Quaker Creek as charcuterie …. but it will get the point across to sophisticated Manhattanites used to shopping at Balducci’s: This stuff is good! (Also be sure to take home some home-made pierogi …. and the stuffed mushrooms are to die for.)

“Slake your thirst on varietals and ciders, cordials and liqueurs hand-crafted from local apples, pears and other fruit at the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery, with live music and fruit picking also on the menu,” advises Heilman. (Yes: Doc’s Apple Cider is a treat and the Black Dirt Red is always a reliable table wine.) “Looped by Rte. 94, historic Warwick, nearby Florida and artsy Sugar Loaf are appealing stops for strolling and casual fare, with Applewood Orchards & Winery another welcoming spot for tastings and apple picking.”

To Heilman’s list of thirst-slaking welcoming spots I would add the Demarest Hill Winery on Pine Island Turnpike (aka Grand Street) in Warwick. Owner/ winemaker Francesco Ciummo cheerfully offers generous tastings of a wide array of eminently drinkable if not outstanding red and white wines, sparkling wines, and distilled beverages (including a grappa to delight the stout-hearted).

Heilman concludes, “Following 17A back, don’t miss Bellvale Creamery atop Mt. Peter for delicious ice cream and great views.”  No argument there: I just hope the Noteboom/Buckbee family doesn’t decide to sell to some big corporation. (I still remember when there was one Friendly’s shop in Massachusetts and it had the best home-made ice cream around.)  My favorite new flavors at Bellvale are the Meadow Muffins and Blueberry Cheesecake.

Say, this post is making me hungry. I think I’m about ready to take a dream drive.  But I’ll have to do it later. I have to leave for an appointment in Manhattan now.

Michael can be reached at

Here’s a Concept: Alternative Toilets

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Since Thomas Crapper invented the water closet (yes, that’s where the word came from), many experts have come to view our sanitation system as the worst idea of all time. We use 3.5 gallons (per flush) of our best drinking water to dilute a few ounces of “excellent fertilizer and soil conditioner” to create an expensive, wasteful disposal problem.

The World Health Organization recently declared that waterborne sanitation is obsolete, and only waterless disposal of waste will allow enough water for drinking, cooking and washing in the world’s largest cities.

Waterless and low flow toilets could save the average household as much as $50 to $100 a year on water, adding up to $11.3 million everyday nationally. These are not the same low-flow toilets that gained a well-deserved bad reputation ten years ago. Technology has improved even the lowly Crapper so that most new toilets use only about 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf).

Sweden has popularized a dual-bowl toilet with separate compartments and separate ways of treating human waste. This system uses no water and results in a high quality fertilizer and composted human manure as byproducts. The separating toilets cost comparably to American toilets, but may take a while to catch on. Dual-flush toilets are becoming more popular here in the States, and offer users a choice of .8 gpf or 1.6gpf depending on the size of the job.

Composting toilets are completely waterless and can be self-contained or attached to a whole building system. If you have many bathrooms, a whole building system would be the most economical. It connects all the dry toilets to a single, large compost tank usually in the basement. There is no sewer hookup, so the plumbing ends in the compost tank.

A self-contained composting toilet is essentially a compost drum enclosed inside a toilet with a fold-out handle and tray. Some also contain fans and vents to eliminate odors. We have both a low flow toilet and a composting toilet in our home. We bought the composting toilet locally from Stoves Plus in Thompson Ridge. It is interesting to see who goes where, and we often categorized our guests by their level of queasiness with our plumbing.  Once you get over the initial shock of “no water in the bowl” it is easy to appreciate the simplicity of a composting toilet. Wood chips go in, tree food comes out.

Incinerating toilets are similar to composting toilets in that they are waterless. But they use electricity to incinerate human waste to a clean ash eliminating both pathogens (good) and soil nutrients (bad).

Many of these alternatives are costly and require a bit of plumbing know-how to install. If you want to reduce your water use today:

—– Try putting a brick in your toilet tank to save up to 5 gallons of water per day.

—– Install a $5 Frugal Flush Flapper valve in your existing toilet and conserve half your water with each flush.

—– Try a $1 Toilet Fill Cycle Diverter to save about ½ gallon per flush.

—– Pee on the trees if you live in a secluded area where no one will know.

—– Flush less often using the “yellow-mellow” rule

—– Check your toilet for leaks which could waste more than 100 gallons of water per day. Add a few drops of food coloring to the tank and see if any colored water leaks into the bowl after a few minutes.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Training sheepdogs

By Carrie Jacobson

I was trolling around the backroads between Fryeburg, Maine, and North Conway, NH, a couple of weeks ago, when I came upon a small group of people, a small group of dogs and a harried-looking clutch of sheep.

It was a sheepdog clinic. The canines were young and inexperienced, and a stocky farmer guy was training dogs and owners alike.

It was pretty fascinating. For the most part, the dogs clearly have the chasing gene – but have to learn the commands. One of the dogs was reluctant to chase, and the farmer guy dragged him over near the sheep and exhorted him, and he took off, as speedy and determined as any of them. My guess is that that dog’s been yelled at for chasing…

The rest, though, got gleams in their eyes right away, as they went after the poor, overchased sheep. It was great fun to watch, and I’d have stayed all day, were I not supposed to be at a wedding.

It’s such a miracle when any of us, humans or animals, finds his true purpose in life. I can tell you from experience that it feels like nothing else. The whole world seems to open up and shine with life, and possibilities seem endless.

If you’re looking for a fun Memorial Day weekend outing, why not try the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton, Mass.? It’s not such a long drive, but it is a gorgeous one. And the show is fabulous! Jaw-droppingly lovely high-end craft and beautiful paintings, too. I’ll be there, in the Morgan Barn, Booth 317. Please come and say hi.

Interested in buying this painting? Please contact me at

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

El Capitan is a 3,000-foot vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granite monolith is one of the world’s favorite challenges for rock climbers. Ansel Adams was best known for his black and white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park.

Mixed Feelings on Election Day

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

By Michael Kaufman

I cast my vote Tuesday with mixed feelings.  I have always voted in favor of the local school budgets and did so again even though we no longer have kids in the Warwick school system. I understand the importance of providing a good education to the children of our community and am aware of the harm that can be caused if we fail to do so.

And so I voted “yes” for the budget and “yes” for the purchase of new school buses. Then I voted for two of the three incumbent members of the board of education and for one of the two new candidates who had fought so hard and in vain to prevent the closing of the Pine Island Elementary School. It doesn’t matter which of the incumbents I voted for. All three won re-election. But I felt the people who tried so hard to save their local elementary school deserve to have their voice heard too.

“The fact that our three incumbents were re-elected I think speaks to the community’s belief that there were tough choices to make,” said Ray Bryant, Warwick superintendent of schools (and no relation to the great jazz pianist of the same name). “It’s time to work on healing the district and moving forward.”

I’m glad he at least intimated that the district is ill. It has been for a while. For too long our top school officials have swept problems like drugs, alcohol abuse, bullying, and suicide under the rug to preserve the myth that all is well.  But Bryant seems to be suggesting that the people in Pine Island who opposed the closing of their elementary school are the ones who have made healing necessary. I don’t agree. 

He is right about one thing: There were tough choices to make. On Tuesday we had a choice of voting for a budget that would slightly increase taxes while cutting back on staff and educational programs, or rejecting the budget and having even more devastating cuts.  Talk about voting for the  lesser evil. And until there is a change in the way we fund public education, all future school budget elections will probably be the same.

Everyone seems to agree that the system needs to be changed, but beyond that generality are some serious differences. Some blame the teachers’ unions and seek to roll back the healthcare benefits, pensions, and job security they have achieved for their members. Others perceive an excess of high-salaried administrators. Some would scrap physical education and team sports as a way of saving money. Some would cut the arts.

All these miss the point. Public education should be funded by the general tax fund and not by property taxes. It is simply unfair for older citizens who live on fixed incomes to be subjected to tax increases they cannot afford.  It is also unfair to our children to scrimp on either physical education or the arts. The Roman poet Juvenal had it right when he wished for mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). 

I hope that in the next election this issue will be addressed by the candidates. I would like to be able to cast my vote for someone who will stand with parents and teachers in our community and beyond to effect meaningful change in school funding.  I am tired of voting for the lesser evil.

Now I’m going to listen to a little Ray Bryant music. 

Michael can be reached at

Posada Didn’t Play? Didn’t Notice

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Jorge Posada was MIA, not that some fans noticed

By Bob Gaydos

I had the a) privilege; b) opportunity; c) misfortune of attending the Yankees/Red Sox game last Saturday night with my 16-year-old son Zack and his 22-year-old cousin, Andy. It was the Jorge Posada Game. Or rather, the “Where the heck is Jorge Posada?” Game. We sat in the right field seats, near the foul pole. Second deck. Actually, decent seats to watch a wholly indecent game, at least as far as the Yankees are concerned. They could not hit; C.C. could not pitch. It was so boring, all the Red Sox fans in our section didn’t even get excited over winning, 6-0.

In fact, the game was so boring I spent more time observing the “fans” around us and left wondering who the heck these people were because they definitely were not baseball fans.

We were surrounded by what I guess would be considered upwardly mobile young people — males and females between 25 and 35 years old with an apparently unlimited supply of disposable income. I surmise this because of all the couples surrounding us (and they were all boy/girl couples) not one ever had even a fleeting conversation about the game we were supposedly watching. I know this because, as I said, the game was so boring you could hear everyone’s conversation.

The two couples behind us talked non-stop the entire game. No one ever mentioned a player’s name or a game situation. They did drink a lot of beer and eat and laugh a lot and the guys wore Yankees jerseys, but I had to wonder why they couldn’t find a cheaper place to double date on a Saturday night.

The same went for two couples two rows in front us. The girls spent most of the game going somewhere or other with each other, coming back with a new bottle of beer ($9) each time. The words, “Let’s go, Yankees!” never passed their lips and they didn’t even notice that Jorge wasn’t in the lineup.

They all did, however, enjoy the stadium cuisine, which is priced to make movie theater food seem cheap. (I sent Zack up with $10 for two more hot dogs and he had to kick in a couple bucks of his own.) Another young guy in front of us sat down with a $25 bucket of chicken wings and a couple of beers. There were probably fries involved, too. He and his date disappeared somewhere in the middle of the game. I don’t know which team they were rooting for.

The highlight of the game (I know because Zack posted it on his Facebook page) came when the very quiet young man sitting directly in front of us got hit, first by a hot dog, then by a beer shower, from the third deck directly above us. Since he was wearing a Lester shirt, we assumed he was a Boston fan and so we got some not-so-secret (we smiled at each other) enjoyment out of his misfortune. But he never even got angry. His date did, looking skyward with a “Who are those cretins?” gaze. But “Lester” sat there calmly. He didn’t even cheer when Adrian Gonzalez buried the Yankees with a three-run home run.

Who are these people?

When I was their age (yeah, I know, here goes the old guy talking about the good old days), if you were fool enough to take a non-baseball-savvy date to a baseball game, you planned on explaining some of the nuances of the game. (“He’s bunting to put the runner on second base so he can score on a hit. You can hit foul balls ’til the cows come home.”) You didn’t mind that because she was at least feigning interest in the game and it made you feel competent. Who cared what the hot dogs cost?

I once took a date to a Yankee game and sagely informed her that Yogi Berra (stop adding up the years) was a very good bad-ball hitter. It didn’t matter if it was a strike, Yogi could hit it out. Which, God bless his pinstriped soul, he promptly did. Right down the right field line, near the foul pole in the old Yankee Stadium, where the seats didn’t cost anywhere near as much as the similar ones we had in the new stadium.

Of course, our seats Saturday were wider and definitely more comfortable. They cost a hundred bucks each, which is why I was wondering who these young men were who were taking young women on a date to a baseball game which they clearly didn’t care about and which would cost them close to $500 anyway by time they got through parking, paying tolls, eating and drinking. Even in Manhattan, dinner and a movie is cheaper.

I did notice that there were empty seats Saturday night, which is not something the Yankees saw in the last few years at the old stadium. Ticket prices and the cost of food and drink and souvenirs have risen beyond all reason at the ballpark. I think this has led to a new kind of “fan,” a social fan, if you will. These are young people — apparently with healthy incomes — who go to the Yankee game because it’s seen as the place to be. Whatever “cool” is today, this is it. (“Yeah, Cindy and I went to the Yankee game Saturday night with Mitch and Amy. Awesome. Posada what? Didn’t play? Didn’t notice.”)

Because they have not been winning lately, a Mets game does not carry the same cache as a Yankee game, but I am willing to bet there are many more actual conversations about baseball at Citi Field than at the new Yankee Stadium. Not that it’s any cheaper.

It was, in sum, disappointing, insofar as the game went. But Zack, Andy and I enjoyed the day and taking the train to the game made it real easy. We’ll do it again and hope for a better performance by the “Bombers.”

As for the fans, that may be another matter: In the bottom of the ninth inning, the game all but over and half the people gone, the Yankee ball boy along the right field foul line tossed a warmup ball to a young kid standing at the railing. Some 35-ish guy wearing a suit (A suit! At a baseball game!) and a baseball glove reached over the kid’s head and grabbed the ball. He rejoiced in his theft, holding both arms to the sky to a chorus of boos from the remaining fans. He smiled and held the ball aloft as he returned to his seat along the fence (we’re talking four figures here) and adamantly refused to “Give the kid the ball!” as the chants demanded. Security came and talked to him. He clutched the ball more defiantly, perhaps anticipating his Monday morning spotlight. (“Yeah, went to the Yankee game Saturday night. Great seats. Got the ball Swisher was warming up with in right field. … What about Posada?”)

Just as I was saying to myself for the twentieth time, “Who are these people?” a gray-haired gentleman wearing khakis and a green windbreaker, walked slowly from his seat farther up the right field line to where the kid and the suit were sitting. The guy in the windbreaker held out his hand and gave the kid a ball he had snared earlier in the game. Then he turned and walked back to his seat to watch the Yankees go down without a threat.

By this time, all those twenty-somethings had long been gone, probably looking for a bar to refresh their game memories. But Zack (an avid, true Yankee fan) saw the whole scene play out. He gave the guy in the windbreaker a nod of approval. Now that’s cool, however they say it today.

Alternative Fuel Cars

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Gas prices have many of us looking at investing in alternative fueled vehicles. Before you buy your next car, take a look at greener vehicles soon available in our country.

—– Gas-electric hybrids were first introduced by Honda in 1999 with the Insight which claimed 70 MPG and the title of most fuel efficient car on the market. Toyota Prius came in second at 50 MPG, but quickly sold more units as the Prius is a midsized car, and still on the market.  Currently there are many hybrids on the market, but few can touch the Prius in fuel economy. Aftermarket improvements on the Prius include an updated battery pack that will give the hybrid up to 100MPG by allowing it to be plugged into an electric outlet. The drawback on this plug in kit is that it voids Toyota warrantees, is expensive, and requires installation by a trained mechanic.

—– Purely electric cars were introduced in 1950’s with the Henney Kilowatt. Low gas prices kept sales slow until General Motors upgraded the design to the EV-01. Although very popular, and pricey, GM pulled the EV-01 off the market and destroyed its entire inventory causing many to speculate on GM’s motives. Nissan seems to have picked up where GM left off with the introduction of the EV-02 Cube in 2012. Nissan’s electric car will have a range of more than 100 miles between overnight charges. This is accomplished by improving battery technology by making batteries flat, and more compact, rather than cylindrical cells. This improvement solves the main problem with electric cars which historically had only a 30 mile range. New electric cars are being designed that may act as storage units for the electrical grid system. They feed back electricity to the grid during times of peak demand, like when their owners are sitting in air-conditioned offices during midday heat.

—– Solar cars would be electric vehicles directly powered by solar panels attached to the car. So far, solar engineers have yet to overcome the pitfalls of collecting enough solar energy to power a car for great distances at highway speeds, and overcoming the weight of the solar panels and battery systems. These shortcomings may be solved by inventive racers in the World Solar Challenge and the North American Solar Challenge, sponsored by the United States Department of Energy. Some automakers have small scale electric cars that can be plugged into solar arrays to recharge. Most of these cars are not street legal yet. It is a short time before plug in electric vehicles can be charged by solar or wind powered generators creating the cleanest and greenest vehicles on the market.

—– Compressed air engines are emissions-free piston engines invented by Frenchman Guy Nègre in the 1990’s. This car uses pressurized air through a conventional fuel injection system to power the vehicle for a range of 100 miles carrying four or five passengers. The only exhaust is cold air which could be recirculated as air conditioning. A tank of air would cost about $3, and take about three minutes at a service station. The downside is finding a service station with the equipment to compress air to the required density. These cars are not scheduled for release in our country, but are expected to be available in the next few years in Europe and Central America.

—– Water-powered cars are just an urban legend at this point with each example turning out to be either a hydrogen-fueled car, or a fraud. A kit can be purchased online for less than $50 that claims to improve fuel efficiency of gasoline-powered engines by injecting water into the mix, but that claim has yet to be proven scientifically. The only water-powered car that has been on the American market was actually a steam-powered car called the Stanley Steamer in 1906.

—– Hydrogen powered cars are mainly electric cars powered by an onboard fuel cell that generates electricity through a hydrogen/oxygen reaction. The benefits are no carbon emissions, since the fuel cell only emits heat and water. Ford has already manufactured a fleet of fuel celled Focus, proving that fuel cell vehicles can be mass produced. However, there is still the problem of hydrogen infrastructure and the lack of refilling stations and lightweight hydrogen storage. Fuel cell cars are also exorbitantly expensive putting them out of the price range of the average consumer at well over $50,000.

—– Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) cars use mainly methane (byproduct of landfills) to fuel normal combustion engines instead of gasoline. Combustion of methane produces the least amount of carbon emissions of all fossil fuels. Most gasoline cars can be retrofitted to become bifuel running on natural gas as well as regular gasoline. There are already an estimated 5 million CNG vehicles running worldwide including cars like Honda Civics and GM released a multifuel vehicle in Brazil that runs on CNG, ethanol, and regular gas. The same motor was used in the Chevy Astra by the taxi industry. Drawbacks include finding refueling stations, and getting major automakers to release these cars to American markets.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School and a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist.

Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Photography by Rich Gigli

The Garden

If you have a mind at peace, and a heart that cannot harden,
Go find a door that opens wide upon a lovely garden.
– Author Unknown

Cahoots: A Place or a State of Mind?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Mickie James, alive and well in Cahoots

By Bob Gaydos

“It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with Al Qaeda.”

So said Yousuf Raza Gilani, prime minister of Pakistan, in response to statements in this country and elsewhere suggesting that the only way Osama bin Laden could have lived undetected for six years in a million-dollar fortress on a residential street in Pakistan, just down the road from that country’s version of West Point, was if elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence communities were working with bin Laden. In Cahoots.*

To which I say, “Where the heck is this “Cahoots” of which they speak? Is it in Pakistan? After all, it’s not the first time members of Pakistan’s military have been accused (is that the right word?) of being in Cahoots. This usually follows the assassination of one of their prime ministers. And a long time ago, the government of Pakistan was accused of being in Cahoots with China to snare a piece of valuable waterfront property that India also had its eyes on.

For some reason, people said to be in Cahoots always say they weren‘t there, so it would appear that this Cahoots is not a nice touristy place, but rather a place people go to plot evil, or at least nefarious, deeds. Which sounds a lot like Pakistan.

Or maybe Afghanistan? When 541 prisoners, including 106 Taliban commanders, tunneled their way out of Kandahar Prison recently, embarrassed U.S. and Canadian officials claimed Afghan prison officials were incompetent, corrupt, and in Cahoots with the Taliban. This suspicion was fueled by the fact that 800 Taliban prisoners had escaped from another maximum security prison in Afghanistan in 2008.

Then again, Cahoots could be in Mexico. In Hidalgo, Mexico, the Catholic Church, no less, has been accused of being in Cahoots with drug lords because it accepts donations from known leaders of that country’s drug cartels. A new church with a huge silver cross was built thanks to the generosity of a major drug lord. A plaque on the building identifies him. The people in the small town, who grew up with the man, say they don’t know him, but U.S and Mexican officials say they were in Cahoots.

The more I researched, trying to locate Cahoots, the more confusing the answer became. For example, on the other side of the ocean from Mexico, cases of radiation overexposure have led to suspicion that nuclear regulators and the Japanese government operated in Cahoots to cover up fatal flaws at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, flaws that some experts say would have manifested themselves even without the devastating earthquake and tsunami that cut off power to the plant.

Meanwhile in South Africa, Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande said the capitalist system is neglecting the efforts made by the South Africa working class and that the South African media are part of the problem because they are “in Cahoots with the oppressive capitalist bosses.” In the interest of fairness, communist leaders in every nation have always accused capitalists of being in Cahoots with someone.

From here, the search for Cahoots became increasingly futile.

When federal officials sued to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling raw milk across state lines, customers of the Pennsylvania farmer said, “The FDA is in Cahoots with the large milk producers.” And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charges that Facebook and the U.S. government are in Cahoots to build a mammoth database. He called it “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented,” in an interview with Russia Today.

There’s also an American blogger who says, “My gas station and my grocery store are in Cahoots. They both keep inching up prices, waiting to see which one will bankrupt me first.” And a lawsuit has been filed in California accusing Apple, Google, Adobe Systems, Intel, and other tech companies of being in Cahoots to violate antitrust laws by allegedly conspiring to fix employee pay, as well as working out “no solicitation” deals with one another.

Busy place, that Cahoots.

I had a just about given up hope of finding it (Google maps kept referring me to burger joints across America) when I came to the web site for TNA Wrestling. And I quote: “We start things off backstage where it seems like the cameras are spying on Madison Rayne and Tara. The former Knockouts Champion is all up in Tara’s grill, telling that it was her fault she lost her title to Mickie James four days prior. She says that for all she knows, the two of them are in Cahoots. Tara reminds her that it was her locked in the cage with Mickie and Madison goes on to say that she wasn’t there when she needed her. From what I recall, Madi, you demanded Tara stay in the back and play with little dollies while you unceremoniously got your ass beat. But that’s just one person’s reflection. Oh wait, nope, Tara remembers it the same way I do. Maybe we’re in cahoots! CAHOOTS!”

Well, no wonder it’s so hard to find. Who would ever suspect professional wrestlers of being in Cahoots?

* Cahoots capitals are mine.