Archive for July, 2012

How to Green Your Vacation

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

By Shawn Dell Joyce

How do you take a vacation and still protect the planet? Driving is the easiest vacation option, but it is getting more expensive and is one of the leading causes of climate change, generating almost 20 pounds of carbon emissions for every gallon of gas used.

Air travel seems more efficient, since more people travel for less time. However, a single transatlantic flight for a family of four creates more carbon emissions than that family will generate at home in a year.

Consumer Reports points out that a flight from New York to Los Angeles can produce from 1,924 to 6,732 pounds of carbon depending on the carbon calculator you use, and such variables as a plane’s fuel efficiency, passenger load, and air traffic. Air travel’s devastating effect on the environment is leading many conscientious passengers to resort to carbon offsets.

According to TerraPass, offsetting a flight from New York to LA would cost around $10. Your ten bucks is invested in clean energy and efficiency projects, such as wind farms, that result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The most fuel efficient way to travel long distances is by train, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In a recent report, the DOE states that Amtrak – on an energy-consumed-per-passenger-mile basis – is 18 percent more energy efficient than commercial airlines.

Here are a few ways to save fuel costs and emissions this summer:

–Take a local vacation and explore the places you haven’t been in your own community. Set aside a week of local family fun, and schedule a different museum, farm, or small town for each day. Plan your stops according to the route of a train or bus to maximize your efficiency.

–Explore the rail trails in your area by bicycle. Most communities have rail trail projects connecting larger towns and cities. Explore your area by riding five-mile segments each day.

–Stay in a green hotel when possible. If you strive to be green at home, why not on vacation as well? Check and

–Travel with friends, and share the costs and carbon of each car trip. If you carpool and then share a vacation rental, including meals, you form tighter friendship bonds, use less gas, and eat out less.

–Stay with friends or camp. Hotels are very resource intensive, from air conditioning, cleaning, and disposal of trash. When you stay with friends, you lighten the environmental and economic costs.

–Consider a working vacation and volunteer at an organic farm in a place you wish to visit. Many countries also have programs for whole families to spend a vacation working as part of a relief effort. and

–Indulge in roadside attractions by visiting the places near home you secretly always wanted to see, but never got there. You know, the ones advertised on giant billboards on major highways such as caverns, zoos or some other unique place you really should get to at least once.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 7/31/2012

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012


By Carrie Jacobson

Here are a few things I have learned while moving:

1. If at all possible, do not have an art studio on the second floor of a building. It’s nice to feel closer to the sky, but it’s really very much not nice to move All That Crap down several flights of steps.

2. If at all possible, do not be married to someone with ADD when you move. That person will simply not see that a closet is full of stuff, or that the basement is really nowhere near empty, or that, oh, yeah, I guess I did leave some of my fly-tying materials behind.

3. If at all possible, do not run your well nearly out of water while attempting to shock it to improve the water test you need to pass to actually close on the sale of the house. Especially do not do this during a drought.

4. If at all possible, do not schedule an art show in the middle of your move.

5. If at all possible, do not move in the middle of a sweltering summer.

6. If at all possible, just burn everything you own. Then move.


Want a portrait of your pet? It will look great in your home! Pet portraits make excellent presents, too … email me at for details.



Dog Pee, the DH and Willie Mays

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Willie Mays, "the catch," 1954 World Series, the Polo Grounds.

By Bob Gaydos

I wasn’t planning to write for the Zest blog this week because I had other stuff on my mind and nothing about which I felt a need to expound. That wasn’t good enough for my fellow Zester, Mike Kaufman.

He felt a need to call me out in a column he wrote — he actually did two of them — on whether it’s OK to let your dog pee on a neighbor’s mailbox post. Really. Even did a poll on it. Since I thought this question was covered by the “do unto others” credo by which we all aspire to live, I ignored it. But he insisted. Yes or no, Bob, pee or no pee. Exasperated, I answered: No pee! No pee! Never let your dog pee on my or anybody else’s mailbox post! Yucch.

But the pee question turned out to be a straw dog. Mike, a former sports writer, was really calling me out on the designated hitter in baseball, which I had supported in one of my previous posts. At the end of his dog pee column, he added: “NOTE TO BOB GAYDOS: Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees was the American League’s first designated hitter on Opening Day 1973. Thirty years later he expressed regrets: ‘I screwed up the game of baseball. Baseball needed a jolt of offense for attendance, so they decided on the DH. I never thought it would last this long.’ If even Blomberg can recant, it is not too late for you, Bob. Please come to your senses. Come home to the real game of baseball.”

First of all, Ron Blomberg is one of those Old Timers Day “Oh yeah, he was a Yankee, too“ guys. He had a couple of decent years and faded fast. He was never big enough to screw up the Yankees, let alone the whole game of baseball.

But Blomberg and Kaufman miss the point. There is simply no going back to anything. Baseball has evolved over the years, becoming more attuned to what fans like, which is more offense. It’s why they lowered the pitching mound. Sure, everyone can appreciate a good pitching matchup and no-hitters are special. But a whole season of teams batting .256 facing each other and watching opposing pitchers avoid number eight hitters with .230 averages to get at a pitcher who is an almost sure out is not fun. Nor does it necessarily win games. Good pitching always trumps all else. But when all else is equal, the teams that can hit — and that means mostly American League teams with designated hitters — will prevail. Look at the inter-league games records. The American League destroys the National League

I don‘t know what happens to pitchers when they leave high school. Until then they are usually the best players all around on all their teams. That means they could hit, too. But even before the DH, major league pitchers were no longer feared hitters. Players can’t bunt anymore. It’s a disgrace. The hit and run is almost obsolete. Baseball went bonkers with steroids for a while, and everyone was a home run threat. Now, things are back to seeming normalcy, but next year teams are going to play teams in the other league every day. That’s not fair to American League teams whose pitchers will have to bat. National League teams will gladly find a guy on the bench to add some punch to their anemic lineups.

The point is, the players union will never give up the jobs and the fans who see the DH every day will never go back to so-called “real baseball.” Not that long ago, baseball players used to leave their gloves on the field and wearing a batting helmet was unknown. But once upon a time, in the 1860s, nobody (not even the catcher) wore a glove, the ball was pitched underhanded from 45-feet from home plate, the ball could be caught on a bounce or on the fly for an out and you couldn’t overrun first base. In addition, foul balls were not strikes and if the umpire, standing to the side of the batter, didn’t happen to see the pitch, it didn’t count.

Now, that’s old time baseball, too, and they still play it in Cape May County, N.J., Michael, if you’re interested. For a whole season, I’m sticking with the current version.

* * *

While I’m at it, I might as well take care of all the dog-eared baseball questions. In response to my own poll (“Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?”), my colleague Jeffrey Page responded: “Bob, What about the Question of the Eternal Triangle: Mantle? Mays? Snider? My heart says Duke. My head says Willie. Mantle? He was pretty good, too.”

OMG, Brooklyn, get over yourself. Yes, New York City had the three best center fielders in baseball in the 1950s, but the Duke was always number three and you know that in your head, if not your heart. Mantle could have been the best ever but he drank like a fish and wrecked his leg and was still an all-time great and notches above Snider. But Willie Mays had it all, including a flair for the dramatic. I watched him rain triples and chase down fly balls all around the Polo Grounds and my head and heart have never doubted his preeminence. Best ever. Willie, Mickey and the Duke. 1,2,3.

* * *

Which brings me back to Michael and his dog pee. The most fascinating thing about his poll to me is that, of the 10 people who replied, four apparently said let your dog go wherever, whenever. I want their names, Michael. I don’t have a dog, but I have a friend who has three and they’re looking for new fields of dreams.


Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Big Sky

By Carrie Jacobson

I have not thought of myself as a consumer.

I do have too many clothes, beautiful clothes that I love, and which are now nearly useless as, after more than two decades of going into a newsroom to work, I no longer have a 9-5 job.

I do have too many painting-related items, too many paintings and too much paint, if there really is such a thing.

I have cut my own personal library down to about 50 books. I have thrown away boxes and boxes and BOXES of mementos, newspaper clippings, stories and novels and essays I’ve written. I have donated clothes and shoes and linen tablecloths. I have given furniture and towels and sheets and rugs and blankets to my daughter. I have left good stuff at the end of the driveway, and passersby have happily taken it home with them.  I have sold my dead mother’s possessions at yard sales, and given them to groups holding yard sales, and wheedled and whined until my siblings and childhood friends took them – and still, when push came to shove, we barely managed to fit most of our stuff into a 26-foot-long moving van.

I sat on the deck and looked at the truck and burst into tears.

“I don’t want to be a person who has this much stuff,” I wailed to my daughter and my husband. They love me and generally don’t think I am crazy, though this episode might have dislodged their certainty a little. “We could burn the truck and still live fine in our new house!” I cried – and of course, I was right. We bought the house furnished, after all.

“What IS all of this stuff?” I cried. “What IS IT?”

At this point, I would like to come right out and say that a lot of it is my husband’s stuff. While I would like to live in a house with a bed and two chairs and a flower arrangement, he would like to have a library stuffed with books, walls rich with paintings and photographs and work rooms with the right materials and plenty of them.

So that is him, and that is his stuff.

I told myself that, this move, I would limit myself to one box of things. You know the things, the things it’s so hard to part with, and the things that are so hard to explain. I tried for one box, and think I ended with three – which is far better than the 10 or so I began with.

In the boxes are letters from my mother and poems my father wrote, and notes from friends and staffers. There’s a magic wand given to me by a friend whose birthday and mine fall on the same day. There’s Oscar the Seal, my favorite stuffed toy, which began life as a gift to my brother, but which, according to my mother, I took instantly, before brother Rand had a chance to see it.

There’s a photograph of me and my long-gone dog Gus, at the top of a mountain in Banff, Canada. There’s my Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance certification pin. There’s the oddly shaped box with my baby hospital bracelet, and another tiny box that holds a pin my grandfather won for working for decades at Dupont.

It was hard to get it down to three boxes. Hard to toss out plaques and awards I won in my years in newspapers. Hard to toss out papers I worked on that reported history. A couple of those papers even made history, and I threw them away, too. It was hard to toss out the paper reporting Mike Levine’s death, but I put it in the recycle bin, and instead, kept a rock from his gravesite.

I threw out notebooks and cracked cups I had treasured. I brought old paintings of mine to Goodwill. I recycled my journalism portfolios, gave a hundred  books to the library, donated my skis. I let go of a lot this time. I faced a lot this time.

This time, in spite of the 26-foot truck, I made a lot of choices and came to grips with a lot of truths. I won’t work in a newspaper again, at least not in any capacity that requires nice clothes. I won’t ski again, at least not to the extent of needing my own skis. I won’t reach out to friends I haven’t thought about in 20 years, though I certainly will never truly forget them.

This move is some sort of defining point in my life, and for once, I am facing up to it, and all the truth it holds.


**If you are interested in buying ‘Big Sky,’ please contact me at


Didn’t ‘You People’ Get the Retweet? We’re All ‘Anglo-Saxons’ Now

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Ann Romney/Photo illustration by Samuel Wynn Warde

By Emily Theroux

Across the digital divide that polarizes online political adversaries into two camps — “libtards” and “wingnuts” — the Leftie cyber-rabble prowled the #Interweb, brandishing “twitchforks” and calling for Marie “Ann”-toinette’s head. The #TwitterRumble went down shortly after Ann Romney called all those pinkos “you people” on national TV.

On Twitter, clashing hashtags trended ever higher — among them, #MittHatesThisHashtag (because, e.g., “he can’t make it stop asking for his tax returns”) and #YouDidn’tBuildThat, a gag line favored heavily by @Reince, @GOP, and @NRCC, the last of which tweeted this zinger: “We didn’t build this tweet. Somebody else made that happen.” (No one said conservatives couldn’t ever be clever — as long as you remember to count out #Wittless Mitt, whose brain has remained “severely scrambled” ever since Eric Fehrnstrom ran corrupted Al Green files from iTunes during Mitt’s last #Etch-a-Sketch erasure.)

I haven’t found a similar hashtag yet for Willard’s imperious wife — although #YouPeople think of everything, even #FreeStuff ! Here’s a good one — Dogs Against Romney @Grrr Romney: BREAKING: Dogs across America have volunteered to help Mitt Romney find his tax returns (photo). #YouPeople aren’t #Anglo-Saxon.

Back to Lady Ann, who lost her patience in a very public forum over yet another request that #The Mittholder release more tax returns. At first, Ann played along when Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts grilled her about money (which is so tacky!). The couple’s’ philanthropic donations, she conceded, consist of  a modest 10 percent standard tithe to their church (chump change for the fabulously wealthy.) “Do you think that is the kind of person that is trying to hide things, or do things? No,” Ann asserted, as if someone who “gave back” so bounteously couldn’t possibly ponder a little #BarelyLegal tax avoidance, if not white-collar shenanigans, to make back his investment in the hereafter.


What Ann Romney said next dripped entitlement

Then Roberts pried just a tad too long, and Ann lost it.  “We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and … how we live our life,” she snapped.

The Cybertubes lit up like a Roman candle over what virtually everyone heard her say. Like Ross Perot 20 years earlier, Ann Romney had apparently had the execrable taste to utter the words “you people” (the subject of a longtime movie meme, “What do you mean, ‘You People’?) — and even worse, she said it to an African-American TV anchor. (Whether her intended target was “you media people” or “you class warmongers” became grist for the late-night irony mill.)

Mrs. Romney stumbled a little over the tactless taunt, almost choking back the “you” part, but I, for one — along with Joan Walsh of, several bloggers, and countless anonymous comment posters — definitely heard the “ooh” sound after the “y–.”

Even with the “you” left out, her statement dripped entitlement. She sounded snarky, put-upon, rude, and arrogant when saying her husband had disclosed quite enough, and nobody was getting a single page more.  As of the latest count, at least 20 prominent conservatives and a National Review editorial begged to differ. All of them called for the very arrogant Romneys to release their tax returns for multiple years. “There’s no whining in politics,” said Republican strategist John Weaver. “Stop demanding an apology; release your tax returns.”


The cardinal rule of blog threads: ‘Never feed the trolls’

One extremely persistent “fib-flogger” spent the weekend haunting the Salon comments section, repeatedly posting  some variation on the following theme:  “Pardon me? This article is based on Joan Walsh’s claim that Ann Romney used the term ‘you people’ during an interview. ABC, the network that actually did the interview, reviewed the tape, and it’s (sic) verdict: ‘Our ruling after reviewing the original audio is that she did not include the you.’ And The New Yorker agrees. Joan Walsh was wrong. Joan Walsh should apologize. See how simple that is?”

I really did try to refrain from posting a reply, but it was a losing battle. I ended up storming the rhetorical Bastille with a rant that I’m hoping might have pleased my late father, a professor of symbolic logic and the philosophy of science:

I see how simple it is, and that’s the problem. Your argument is fallacious.

The flaw in your reasoning is that you continue to assert that ABC’s decree about what Ann Romney said was a matter of fact, not self-serving opinion, and that Joan Walsh was therefore wrong — even though ABC had neither the objectivity nor the omnipotence to make that stubborn little word, however badly it was enunciated, vanish into the ether.

Your implication that because the interview was hosted by ABC, their “verdict” must be correct, represents a “false attribution to a biased source.” Tacking on another media outlet’s opinion offers evidence that you are additionally making an “appeal to authority.” (If a big TV conglomerate and a glossy magazine say so, they must know better than we mere mortals do. That would make them the final arbiters of empirical truth — which is complete nonsense.) Opinions are like ***holes; everybody has one.

(FYI: Each time you repeat this post, you include, “And The New Yorker agrees.” It wasn’t The New Yorker; it was New York magazine. Please, before copying and pasting yet again, correct your template.)


No hiding Mama Romney’s ‘Leona Helmsley’ snobbery

Ann Romney’s attitude came across loud and clear, whether she said “you people” or, as New York magazine suggested, “(stumble) people” — which reminds me of Rick Santorum’s pathetic attempt to convince his critics that he really said “blah” people, not “black people,” the last time Republicans tried to backtrack when one of their anointed “misspoke.” (This Old English term has, since the Watergate era, been appropriated by politicians caught making demonstrably false statements they soon live to regret — not because they didn’t mean whatever weasel words they used, but because all those people who are now howling in indignation about such “untruths”  might actually have voted for these idiots, had they simply kept their lying mouths shut).

Mitt Romney is running for president, not Holy Roman Emperor; he has no “divine right” to unilaterally change the conventional rules about what information voters are entitled to see — at least not if he wants to win. If the Romneys have nothing to hide, then why have they remained so adamant about concealing their financial records from voters in every election since Mitt’s failed 1994 attempt to take down Teddy Kennedy?

Sorry to have to break it to you, Princess Ann, but if your husband wants to be president of all of the people, “how you live your life” is probably going to be more of an open book than a permanently sealed ledger of potentially dodgy financial dealings, stashed in the offshore bank vault where you both deposited what was left of your moral compass so many moons ago.


Crikey! Romney adviser makes racial ‘gaffe’ in London

This just in from across the pond: The Atlantic Wire, ThinkProgress, and Slate have reported that an unidentified Romney foreign policy adviser made an astonishing observation about his boss to Britain’s Daily Telegraph: “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that ‘the special relationship’ is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” So Mitt’s “special” — and frankly, #WeAreGobsmacked, as they say in the Old Dart.

The Telegraph warned readers that the adviser’s statement “may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity,” as this obvious diplomatic neophyte suggested that “Mr. Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr. Obama, whose father was from Africa.”

The Romney campaign’s reaction to The Telegraph’s story was categorical denial. “It’s not true,” declared Romney’s press secretary, Andrea Saul, in an email to “If anyone said that, they weren’t reflecting the views of Gov. Romney or anyone inside the campaign.”

As you might have expected, Saul “did not comment on what specifically was not true” — or whatever became of that hapless policy advisor, who must have come down with the equine epizootic from flying over in cargo with Ann Romney’s dancing horse. Hysterical at the thought of Rafalca having to tangle with Edward Gal, the gay dressage champion, the poor sucker didn’t know what he was saying. (Can’t say I’ve seen him around the Olympic stables lately, either.)


And the rest, comrades, is revisionist history!

One intolerant cretin who spoke his mind in the comments section of The Atlantic Wire story actually had the cojones to inquire:  “Does the writer have no clue?  Romney’s adviser was speaking of the long historic ties between the U.S. and the U.K. which Obama has downgraded. … What is racist is denying the fact that the U.S. was settled primarily by English followed by other Europeans who remain the overwhelming majority.” (I wouldn’t be so sure about that; 2040 and the demise of “majority-white ‘Amercia’ ” is just around the corner, if we can make it past 2012 without a second Civil War.)

Of course, Genius-Boy just couldn’t resist topping off his #ReverseRacist shout-out with: “The multiculturalists may want to change this fact by flooding these countries with Third World immigrants but that doesn’t change history.”

“You know what’s really clueless?” I asked him (rhetorically, of course, as I would hate to run into “his kind” some night in a dark alley). “Denying the fact that President Obama is also ‘part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage.’ The president is a 13th-generation direct descendant from genuine Mayflower Pilgrims, as Anglo-Saxon as someone with your prejudices might ever feel comfortable meeting — including his maternal ancestor, Deacon John Dunham of the Plymouth Bay Colony.

“Can Mitt Romney say that? Can you?”

On the Death Penalty & Gun Control

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

The next time some Second Amendment zealots say they can’t understand what’s so strange (or dangerous) about someone like James Holmes possessing an M-16 semiautomatic rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun, and a couple of .40 caliber semiautomatic handguns, please say a prayer for Veronica Moser.

No need for a formal entreaty, just a please-God reminder that Veronica walked among us for a while, that she had a great smile, that sometimes she liked to wear a pink boa and heart shaped earrings, that she was shown in one picture doing what people her age often must do (trying to rescue the dregs of her ice cream from a cone leaning at a precarious angle), that she was one of the 12 people Holmes murdered in his assault in Aurora, Col.

She was 6 years old. We should remember that as well.

In the months to come, there also will be people offering explanations for Holmes’s felonies and will use his troubled state as an argument against capital punishment.

When that happens, could everyone – people on both sides of the issues of capital punishment and gun control – remind themselves not only of Veronica, but of her mother, Ashley Moser, 25, who Holmes shot into critical condition with bullet wounds to her neck and to her abdominal area, where her unborn child resides.

Additionally, the next time a James Holmes strikes, could someone please read the following list out loud: Fayetteville, Ark., 2; Santee, Calif., 2; Tucson, Ariz., 4.; Florham Park, N.J., 2; Red Lake, Minn., 8; Nickel Mines, Pa., 6; Blacksburg, Va., 32; DeKalb, Ill., 6; Cambridge, Mass., 1; Fort Hood, Texas, 13; Huntsville., Ala, 3; Oakland, Calif., 7.

Those are just 12 of the approximately 75 public shootings that have occurred in the United States during the first 12 years of this new millennium. In the dozen listed we lost 86 of our friends, relatives, and neighbors. There were many more in the 2000s and in decades previous.

Say a prayer. If you don’t know a prayer, just spend a minute remembering them and others we have lost to lunatics with guns.

As for Holmes. Doubtless in the months to come, we will be deluged with explanations for him, the kind of “clarification” we have grown accustomed to over the years, and which some of us are no longer buying. Chances are someone will tell us Holmes had an unhappy childhood, or that he was bullied at school, or that he had a drug dependency, or that he was sexually abused as a child, or that he didn’t get along with his father, or that he didn’t get along with his mother, or that he was paranoid, or that he feared the world, or that he was a loner, or that his girlfriend left him.

Lots of excuses.

Fine, but let us never forget that in addition to walking into that movie house with guns, James Holmes attacked Veronica, and Ashley and all the others out for a midnight movie, with gas (he had a mask) before firing, and that, previously, he had booby trapped his apartment in order to kill as many cops and neighbors as possible. Do I really have to listen to someone tell me how troubled poor James Holmes is?

Doubtless some of these tales about Holmes will be coupled with pleas to Colorado officials to forego seeking a death sentence and go for life imprisonment because it is the more humane thing to do. Must the test of our humanity involve the way we dispose of James Holmes?

A life sentence would mean that if Holmes lives to the age of 80, Colorado taxpayers, possibly including Ashley Moser, would have to shell out enough money to feed him about 61,320 meals. They would pay for his medical care. They would pay for his dental care. They would pay for his clothing. They would pay for everything in his life.

How does society benefit by keeping Holmes alive? Does it demonstrate its humanity? Does it show us as a better people? Not if Holmes is in jail and Ashley Moser has to visit her daughter’s grave. And not when you come to grips with his wish to murder far more people than were in the theater.

I spent most of my life opposed to capital punishment. In most cases, I think I still am, though I accept that anti-death penalty absolutists will disagree. Whatever remains of my humanity is shaken by the likes of the Sons of Sam, the Timothy McVeighs, the Dylan Klebolds and the Eric Harrises. And James Holmes.

Do I, yet again, have to prove my decency by standing for the right of James Holmes to live? I don’t think so. Would society’s decision not to put him to death make the world a better place? I don’t think so.

I hope they serve Holmes whatever he wants for his last meal, and I hope dessert is an ice cream cone.



Poll: No to Dog Pee on Mail Posts

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

By Michael Kaufman

Results are in. The majority (60 percent) of  Zest of Orange readers who responded to our survey believe it is not okay “to let one’s dog pee on mailbox posts other than your own.” As explained in my post on June 25, the poll was designed to settle an argument with one of my neighbors. When we walk our dogs together, one of us permits the dog to pee on mailbox posts along the way, whereas the other regards this as objectionable (unless permission has been granted by the mailbox owner).

Each thought our opinion is shared by the majority of our neighbors. We hoped the survey would settle the argument once and for all. That, however, is not the case: The poll has a margin of error of plus-or minus 100 percent because only 10 people responded. Thus, we can only say that the findings show a “trend” in favor of prohibition.

Benji won't pee on mailbox posts without permission.


Respondents included six adult men and four adult women of various ethnicities and social status. The group that believes it is okay to let one’s dog pee on a mailbox post (N = 4) was equally divided between men and women (n = 2 and 2, respectively). Perhaps the most surprising finding is that among the group opposed to allowing dogs to pee on mailbox posts (N = 6), two-thirds are men (66%; n = 4).

Although the survey results show a trend validating my heretofore unexpressed opinion, I am disappointed that so few people responded. I also find it perturbing that several respondents required clarification of the question—reminding us yet again of the failure of our country’s flagging educational system. This further suggests the importance of strengthening the U.S. Department of Education, not eliminating it altogether as is often suggested by leading Republicans. But just in case anyone is still confused, let me repeat: The question was not about letting dogs pee on (or into) a mailbox.  It refers only to the post upon which the mailbox rests.

Thanks to the 10 of you who took part in the survey (actually eight not counting me and Eva-Lynne). In light of the overall lack of enthusiasm, I think maybe the first Kaufman-Zest of Orange poll should also be the last. Better to leave the poll game to Gallup, Harrris, Zogby, Pew, Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, et al.

NOTE TO BOB GAYDOS—Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees was the American League’s first designated hitter on Opening Day 1973. Thirty years later he expressed regrets: “I screwed up the game of baseball. Baseball needed a jolt of offense for attendance, so they decided on the DH. I never thought it would last this long.” If even Blomberg can recant, it is not too late for you, Bob. Please come to your senses. Come home to the real game of baseball.

Michael can be reached at





Gigli’s Photo of the Week

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Photography by Rich Gigli


Now to consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk. Such rules and laws are deduced from the accomplished fact; they are the products of reflection.  

Edward Weston 1886-1951




Who Is Calling Who a Schmuck?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Michael Kaufman 

The other day I received an email from my brother asking if I have any local newspaper contacts. He lives in the state of Florida but comes up our way each year to teach ceramics at a summer camp in Sullivan County. After filling me in on some family news he explained that the kids at the camp have been raising funds for cancer research by selling their arts and crafts works on visiting day. They’ve been doing it for several years now and it has grown bigger each year. Visiting day is approaching and he thought the local papers might be interested in taking photos or otherwise publicizing the activity….assuming the camp owners would like to have it covered. 

I replied with the contact information for several writers at the Times Herald-Record.  “Great idea! They’d have to be schmucks not to like it,” I wrote. Just as I clicked “Send” I noticed that I had also inadvertently sent a copy to one of the newspaper people. I had pulled his name from my email contact list and placed it–temporarily I thought–in the cc field so I could copy it easily. But then I forgot to delete it. 

My first thought was that I hoped the writer understood that I wasn’t referring to him and his colleagues as “schmucks” should they decide to pass on coverage. I meant the camp owners…. if they rejected the opportunity for some positive publicity. But in order to get the gist, the writer would also have to read through an email full of personal references and names of people unknown to him before coming to the paragraph at the end which mentions the campers raising funds for cancer research. 

So I cranked out an email to the writer explaining the situation and he wrote back. “No problem.” It took him a little while, he said, but he had figured out what happened. He even liked the idea of covering the activity. I was relieved but this episode brought to mind an earlier email gaffe of mine, as well as one committed by someone dear to my heart. 

First, mine: I was working on a continuing medical education (CME) project with an expert physician from the Mayo Clinic. All communication and contact with him had to be arranged through his assistant, who liked to be called by his nickname. “Marty” (not his real nickname) was as friendly, polite and accommodating as could be….but that did not always mean we could reach the good doctor whenever we wanted. As project editor I was under pressure to meet certain deadlines and as one such deadline approached I began receiving nervous emails from the project manager. Had I heard from the doctor?  Had he reviewed the document? 

I replied that I was doing everything I could to keep things moving, including sending frequent reminders to “Dr. ___’s bobo Marty.” Just as I clicked “Reply all” I noticed that Marty had been among those cc’d on the project manager’s original email. Thankfully, Marty accepted my humble apology. 

But my all-time favorite email gaffe was committed by my wife Eva-Lynne when she worked for Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals. One day she composed one of her “honey do” messages to me but sent it instead to the head of medical affairs at P&G, who shares my first name. “Hi Michael,” she wrote. “Don’t forget to pick up the dry cleaning. If you have time, buy milk.  And I think we need toilet paper.” 

“Eva-Lynne, I really like you,” he replied, “but I’m not picking up your dry cleaning.”

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 Michael can be reached at



The Joys of Retroactivity

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

Ed Gillespie is one of those Republican “strategists” – the Democrats have them, too – who seem to materialize in presidential election years and who are interviewed by TV and print reporters so they can spin issues in favor of their candidates.

They’re also called upon to clean up the mess their candidates occasionally create. Such was Gillespie’s appearance recently in The Further Adventures of Mitt Romney and l’Affaire Bain.

At its core, the issue is this: Romney says he left Bain Capital early in 1999, but government documents filed by Bain in 2002 have him listed as president, CEO, and chairman. How could this be?

Actually, Gillespie said with a straight face, Romney retired “retroactively” from Bain. Neat trick, and you’re left wondering how someone could utter those words without snickering. Gillespie is good; he doesn’t snicker when he says things like that. But you could not be blamed if your first thought after hearing Gillespie’s line is of the famous politician who, when asked a certain question before the grand jury, said: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Would that I could do things retroactively. I could enter high school retroactively and pay attention in class retroactively, read my assignments retroactively, make a decent average for myself retroactively and head off to Princeton retroactively. It, uh, didn’t happen that way.

Retroactively I could be a kinder person. But I and 300 million Americans understand this. Mitt Romney does not.

Here are some people who would benefit from retroactivity:

–The governor of Maine, Paul LePage, could go back several weeks and choose not to compare the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo. (This is the same Governor LePage – no relation – who once described the NAACP as a “special interest group” that could “kiss [his] butt” if it objected to his refusal to attend the organization’s state convention.)

“Do you have a sense of what the Gestapo did during World War II?” a reporter from Politico asked LePage.

“Yeah, they killed a lot of people.”

“And the IRS is headed in that direction?”

“Yeah,” LePage said.

“Are you serious?”

“I’m very serious,” LePage said. Later he said, “I’m saying the federal government is taking away the freedom of Americans to make choices.”

Later the governor issued one of those completely meaningless conditional apologies. You know what I mean. “I apologize to Jewish Americans if they feel offended,” LePage said.

“If” they feel offended. For LePage, it’s an unanswered question.

LePage should have met my Uncle Harry, who spent several years in a Nazi forced labor camp in the Pyrenees. With Harry, there was no “if.”

–Nan Hayworth could retroactively rethink her idiotic postcard on which she thanks me for having participated in her telephone town hall. The fact is I wasn’t there.

She could take a minute to understand the silliness of her salutation – “Dear Neighbor” – since we are not neighbors. Not only do we live in separate towns, but in separate counties that are divided by the Hudson.

Note to Mitt: You can’t retroactively retire just as you can’t retroactively kill your Massachusetts health care system on which the Obama plan is based. You supported it as governor. Do you think anyone is going to buy the line that you retroactively think it’s a bad plan?

Or will people recognize your retroactive this-and-that for what it is: Another example of your saying anything – anything – to get elected.