Opinion

Here are some chuckles from the internet. Hope you enjoy them.

1. Two antennas met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony wasn’t much, but the reception was excellent.

2. A jumper cable walks into a bar. The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything.”

3. Two peanuts walk into a bar, and one was a salted.

4. A dyslexic man walked into a bra.

5. A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm, and says, “A beer, please — and one for the road.”

6. Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

7. “Doc, I can’t stop singing ‘Green, Green Grass of Home.’” “That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome.” “Is it
common?” “Well, it’s not unusual.”

8. Two cows are standing next to each other in a field. Daisy says to Dolly, “I was artificially inseminated this morning.” “I don’t believe you,” says Dolly. “It’s true, no bull,” exclaims Daisy.

9. An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

10. Déjà moo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

11. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn’t find any.

12. A man woke up in the hospital after a serious accident. He shouted, “Doctor, doctor, I can’t feel my legs.” The doctor replied, “I know, I amputated your arms.”

13. I went to a seafood disco last week … and pulled a mussel.

14. What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

15. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. The one turns to the other and says, “Dam!”

16. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Not surprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it, too.

17. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office, and asked them to disperse. “But why?” they asked, as they moved off. “Because I can’t stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer,” he explained to them.

18. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt, and is named Ahmal. The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, “They’re twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.”

19. A dwarf, who was a mystic, escaped from jail. The call went out that there was a small medium at large.

20. And finally, there was the person who sent 20 different puns to his friends with the hope that at least 10 of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in 10 did.

Astronaut Scott Kelly and author Tom Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Amiko Kauderer

By Daniel Dunaief

How often do you get to talk to someone whose legend loomed large over your childhood?

Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing author Tom Wolfe, who died last week at the age of 88. Wolfe wrote “The Right Stuff,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” among others. I spoke with Wolfe about astronaut Scott Kelly, who was so inspired by “The Right Stuff” that he directed a life he considered somewhat aimless toward becoming a fighter pilot and, eventually, an astronaut.

My conversation was rewarding and memorable, so I thought I’d share my interview with the legendary author.

DD: Kelly credits you with putting him on a path that led him to spend almost a year aboard the International Space Station. Is there a satisfaction that comes from that?

TW: Nothing else I’ve written has had such a beautiful result. He told me he’d been floundering around trying to figure out what to do with his life. He hadn’t been doing well in school. Then he just got the idea of going into space and became an astronaut.

DD: Did you know he took “The Right Stuff” with him?

TW: He sent me from the space station a picture of the cover on his iPad. That was one of the greatest messages I ever got.

DD: Do you think Kelly’s mission increased the excitement about space?

TW: There’s been a general lack of a sense of heroism in much of the post-World War II era and there were people who responded to the space program in general in that fashion.

DD: How does the excitement now compare to the early days of the space program?

TW: John Glenn’s return created a lot of excitement. At that time, we seemed to be at war in space with the Russians. That was what kept the space program going. There was always this threat. It’s very hard to hit the Earth from space. You’ve got three speeds: the speed of what you fired the rocket with, then you’ve got the speed at the end of that opening shot and you’ve got the speed of hitting the Earth, which is moving.

DD: How do you think people will react to Kelly’s mission?

TW: It remains to be seen whether it inspires young people the way the Mercury program did.

DD: What drove the space program until that point?

TW: Wernher van Braun [a German engineer who played a seminal role in advancing American rocket science] spoke in his last year. The point of the space program was not to beat the Russians. It was to prepare for the day when the sun burns out and we have to leave Earth and go somewhere else. It’s hard to imagine everybody shipping off to another heavenly body.

DD: Getting back to Kelly, how difficult do you think Kelly’s mission was?

TW: Scott Kelly’s adventures were a test of the human body and the psyche. Being that removed from anybody you could talk to and see must be a terrible stress. That’s what he and others in the space station are chosen for.

DD: Do people like Kelly still need “the right stuff” to be astronauts?

TW: It’s the same except anyone coming into the program is more confident that these things can be done. For Mercury astronauts, these things were totally new. The odds against you, the odds of death, were very high.

DD: What advice did you give to Kelly when he started writing his book?

TW: Begin at the beginning. So many of the astronauts and other people who have memorable experiences will start with the adventure to get you interested. Then, the second chapter, suddenly you’re saying, “Harold Bumberry was born in 1973,” and it makes you take a deep breath [and say], ‘OK, here it comes.” Whereas starting at the beginning always works.

DD: What do you think of the movies made about your books?

TW: I think they’re terrible. Three of my books were made into movies and I disliked them all. The reason being they didn’t do it like I did. You can’t do a lot of things in a movie that you can in print. You’re better at presenting themes, better at dialogue. You can hear it, you can’t get inside a mind of a character the way you can in print. Movies don’t have time.

DD: What impact did Scott Kelly’s being inspired by your book have on you?

TW: It’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

Lucky me, our Mother’s Day celebration this year included a trip into New York City to see “My Fair Lady.” Now this show, which I first saw on Broadway in 1956 just after it was launched, was a trip down memory lane for me. It was also a bellwether for how much our culture has changed. At the time of its premiere 62 years ago, the play was the “Hamilton” of its time, creating the adulation and frenzied response for tickets that we are familiar with today.

“My Fair Lady” was a different sort of musical for its many-layered themes and clever, witty lyrics. It stood apart from the golden era of Rodgers and Hammerstein marvels like “South Pacific” and “Oklahoma!” that had preceded it. This wasn’t in the mold of a romantic musical but rather one about personal transformation and English class rigidity.

The play, by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, had as its inspiration from the ancient world, Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” and more recently George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” This is the story of a sculptor, talented but alone, who carves a beautiful woman out of stone and then falls in love with her. He prays to Venus to bring her to life, and the goddess of love hears him. The statue becomes flesh and blood beneath his hands, and what comes next is the essence of the story.

In the Lerner and Loewe iteration, two high society phoneticians named Henry Higgins and retired army Col. Hugh Pickering make a bet over whether the way English people speak — their accents — lock them into their class and station for their entire lives. Higgins feels that if he can teach a low-born pupil to speak the King’s English, he can change that person’s life. Now we are in the time of Edwardian England, and the person who overhears the conversation and offers herself up for self-improvement is Eliza Doolittle. A Cockney flower girl in Piccadilly Circus, she is both terrified of what is to come and palpably ambitious, insisting that while she is a “good girl,” not looking for anything carnal, she desperately wants to learn.

So Higgins takes her into his elegant home and professorial life and works intensely with her in his laboratory for months while Pickering looks on and offers help wherever he is needed — after being assured by Higgins that there will not be any hanky-panky involved. Higgins vehemently asserts to Pickering that he is not interested in emotional relationships. The experiment between the high-born cerebral bachelor and the “guttersnipe” pupil thus begins. Will Higgins succeed and win the bet?

We know Eliza will succeed, even as we watch her anguished attempts to learn what Higgins is working so hard to teach. There are testing moments for her progress and teaching opportunities that include a riotously funny visit on opening day to Ascot Racecourse. Fun is poked unmercifully at the pretensions of the upper classes.

Finally, the big test arrives, a ball where Eliza is going to be introduced to and judged by those swells
assembled. She, of course, pulls it off and is thought to be of Hungarian royal blood. But is she congratulated? Well, you have to go see the play. I’m not about to spoil the ending for those unfamiliar with the plot.

But her triumph is not the point. Her future is. What is to become of this person who has transcended her class, with its freedoms, grime and penury notwithstanding, and is now locked into the bourgeois rules for women in an ossified society? Is she to become Higgins’ mistress? And what about him? She has now awakened emotions in him that he has long walled off from his daily life. Will he ask her to marry him? He, too, has been transformed.

The answer is that 1956 was quite different to 2018. Can you guess?

What do the signs tell us?

In Hawaii, numerous small earthquakes caused parts of Big Island to shake. Geologists, who monitor the islands regularly, warned of a pending volcanic eruption. They were right, clearing people away from lava flows.

How did they know?

It’s a combination of history and science. Researchers in the area point to specific signs that are reflections of patterns that have developed in past years. The small earthquakes, like the feel of the ground trembling as a herd of elephants is approaching in the Serengeti, suggest the movement of magma underneath the ground.

Higher volumes of lava flows could come later on, as in 1955 and 1960, say USGS scientists in the archipelago.

The science involves regular monitoring of events, looking for evidence of what’s going on below the surface. “Hopefully we’ll get smart enough that we can see [tremors] coming or at least be able to use that as a proxy for having people on the ground watching these things,” Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, explained to KHON2 News in Honolulu.

People look for signs in everything they do, hoping to learn from history and to use whatever evidence is
available to make predictions and react accordingly.

Your doctor does it during your annual physical, monitoring your blood chemistry, checking your heart and lungs, and asking basic questions about your lifestyle.

Scientists around Long Island are involved in a broad range of studies. Geneticists, for example, try to see what the sequence of base pairs might mean for you. Their information, like the data the geologists gather in
Hawaii, doesn’t indicate exactly what will happen and when, but it can suggest developments that might affect you.

Cancer researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University are using tools like the gene editing system called CRISPR to see how changing the genetic code affects the course of development or the pathway for a disease. Gene editing can help localize the regions responsible for the equivalent of destructive events in our own bodies, showing where they are and what sequences cause progression.

Scientists, often working six or seven days a week, push the frontiers of our ability to make sense of
whatever signs they collect. Once they gather that information, they can use it to help create more accurate diagnoses and to develop therapies that have individualized benefits.

Indeed, not all breast cancers are the same, which means that not all treatments will have the same effect. Some cancers will respond to one type of therapy, while others will barely react to the same treatment.

Fundamental, or basic, research is critical to the understanding of translational challenges like treating
Alzheimer’s patients or curing potentially deadly fungal infections.

Indeed, most scientists who “discover” a treatment will recognize the seminal studies that helped them finish a job started years — and in some cases decades — before they developed cures. Treatments often start long before the clinical stages, when scientists want to know how or why something happens. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake can lead to unexpected and important benefits.

Outside the realm of medicine, researchers on Long Island are working on areas like understanding the climate and weather, and the effect on energy production.

Numerous scientists at SBU and Brookhaven National Laboratory study the climate, hoping to understand how one of the most problematic parts of predicting the weather — clouds — affects what could happen tomorrow or in the next decade.

The research all these scientists do helps us live longer and better lives, offering us early warnings of
developing possibilities.

Scientists not only interpret what the signs tell us, but can also help us figure out the right signs to study.

From the time I was a young girl, I wanted to be a mother. The urge to hold and to love a baby, my baby, was a conscious one. I also had professional ambitions, so in those days, before women expected to be able to do it all, there was a bit of a conflict in my head. Curiously, while I don’t remember telling anyone about my maternal urges, I did mention it on my first date to the man I eventually married. He told me that he too looked forward to having children, so the rest is history.

When I did have my first child, I was quietly terrified. I was the caboose child in my parents’ families, meaning that my parents were older, and everyone in my generation was already born before I came on the scene. There were no babies for me to practice on, I had never given a baby a bottle nor changed a diaper, and I was afraid I was inadvertently going to do some terrible harm to a helpless infant. It wasn’t until the baby’s one-month checkup, when the pediatrician exalted about how his development — size and weight — were “off the charts,” that I began to relax and believe the baby would survive my ignorance.

After that the parenting urge was so fulfilling that we did it twice more in record time. Judging from my friends’ tales of their children, we had it easy with three boys. They were exceedingly energetic but never moody, didn’t hold a grudge for more than three minutes, weren’t particular about what clothes they wore and could be entertained with a generous supply of miniature trucks on rainy, “indoor” days or any ball game on “outside” days. Baseball on our dead end street was their favorite, and I became a pretty good pitcher, if I do say so myself.

They didn’t much like it when I started the first newspaper and was away from the house a great deal. They were all in elementary school by that point and they came to accept the new arrangement, even were infrequently pleased with my new occupation. And since my office was only some five minutes from the house and three minutes from their school, I felt I could get to them quickly if they needed me. I was able to look in on them in the course of each day. In fact, I had more trouble convincing my mother than my
children that it was acceptable to work both inside and outside the home. I just could never understand how all three unfailingly picked friends who lived on the farthest ends of the school district and had to be driven back and forth. That and the constant car pooling for games and music lessons made me grateful that I had learned to drive — not a typical skill among my urban classmates when I was growing up.

I weathered their teenage years as best I could, sometimes marveling that only my children could make me scream (and my mother). At the same time, my husband and I vicariously enjoyed the children’s various successes: academic, musical and athletic. They were blossoming into young adults and we were regularly irritated by them and immensely proud of them.

As the children reached their later teenage years, the family dynamic shifted. My husband was terminally ill, and the children were forced to deal with death. My mother and my father had both passed on by then, and the boys had been deeply touched by their loss, but the death of a parent at a far younger age than expected for either their father or themselves struck me as a cruel trick. Somehow we had not lived up to our part of the parenting contract.

I guess that was when my children started to become my friends. It probably would have happened around that age anyway, but we became allies in the face of adversity. And then life’s wonderful joys unfurled. … They graduated, got jobs, found their loved ones and eventually made me a grandmother. That’s a club one can’t apply to oneself, but having arrived there, I can endlessly sing its praises.

Bottom line: How ultimately satisfying it is for me to be a mom.

It’s only May and, despite the warm weather, it feels a bit like October around here, at least, if you talk to fans of the Yankees and Red Sox.

The two best teams in baseball, as of earlier this week, were preparing to go head-to-head in a three-game
series that seemed to have more on the line than a typical series between the heated rivals at this point
in spring.

The Red Sox had that incredibly hot start, winning 17 of their first 19 games, tearing up the league and anyone who dared to try to compete with them. The Yankees, meanwhile, started slowly, sputtering to a .500 record.

And then the Yankees seemed to have gotten as hot as the weather, scoring runs in the clutch, pitching with confidence and bringing in rookies like Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, who play more like seasoned veterans.

On a recent evening, my wife and I made a quick stop to the grocery store. As we were walking out, a friend saw me in my Yankees sweatshirt. The friend asked if the team pulled out a win, even though they were losing 4-0 in the eighth inning.

As my wife waited patiently, I recounted nearly every at bat that led to another improbable Yankees comeback. A man who worked at the supermarket came over to listen, put up his hand to high-five me and said he had a feeling they might come back.

While the team measures the success of the season by the ability to win the World Series, the fans, particularly during a season with so much early promise, can bask in the excitement of individual games or series.

The first season, as the incredibly long 162 games from March through October is called, can include
numerous highlights that allow fans to appreciate the journey, as well as the destination.

Nothing is a given in a game or a season. We attend or watch any game knowing that the walk-off home run the rookie hit could just as easily have been an inning ending double play.

Ultimately, the most important part of the season is the recognition that it is a game. You can see that when the players mob each other at the plate or smile through their interviews with the sideline reporters after a tight contest.

Year after year, all these teams with all their fans hope the season ends with a victory parade. They want to be able to say, “I was there.”

Ultimately, in life, that’s what we’re hoping for. Moments to cheer for friends and family, to celebrate victories and to enjoy these contests.

Indeed, the winners often look back on the moments when nothing came easily, when their team, their family or their opportunity seemed to be so elusive. These are occasions when nothing that seems to go right turns into those where everything goes according to plan. They don’t happen because you’ve got the right fortune cookie, put on the right socks or asked for some deity to help your team beat another team full of equally worthy opponents, whose fans utter the same prayers.

They happen because of the hard work and dedication. They also often happen because people are taking great pride in doing their jobs and being a part of a team.

Right now, it feels like these two blood rivals are well-matched, facing off in a May series that can bring the energy of October. And, hey, if you’re looking to connect with someone, put on a Yankees or Red Sox sweatshirt and head to the supermarket.

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As we sit crunching numbers for 2018-19 proposed school budgets, we can’t help but wonder how many parents and taxpayers are paying attention. We already know the answer — not enough.

School taxes make up more than 60 percent of the average homeowner’s property taxes in Suffolk County, according to a 2017 analysis done by ATTOM Data Solutions, a real-estate information firm. Despite this fact, voter turnout for school budgets remains dreadfully low year after year.

In May 2017, the ballots cast by a mere 412 people determined how Port Jefferson School District would spend its more than $43 million to educate about 1,000 enrolled students. Now, its taxpayers face coming to terms with a settlement of Long Island Power Authority’s lawsuit over the tax assessment of the power plant and what it might mean for their wallets.

To cast an educated vote May 15 on your district’s proposed 2018-19 school budget is a test of every Long Island taxpayer. There’s a little more than a week left, so start studying.

Ever since the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting Feb. 14, this year has been marked by tense debates between students, parents and school administrators over school safety. On March 14, Rocky Point High School students participated in the National School Walkout despite knowing they would face in-school suspension. These students brought their dissension to the board of education trustees. Elections for these vital positions are held annually during the budget vote. Unfortunately, only 909 people in Rocky Point voted in 2017 on who would be determining if the students’ punishment was fair.

The most direct way to make changes in a school district’s policy is to vote and become involved. The elected trustees on a board of education participate in the lowest form of government, smaller than the town or county government, but that shouldn’t reflect on the importance of the job. By running and winning a seat on the board, one can propose changes to a school district’s security measures or educational policies. This civic involvement is vital to bringing about change.

Yet all too often board of education races have little to no contest. The board of education trustee races tend to have even fewer ballots cast than the annual budget.

If Long Islanders want to be a force of change behind the factors creating high property taxes and have a say on poignant issues like school security, get out and vote. Ask questions of your board of education candidates to find out where they stand. Attend budget presentations to see exactly how your tax dollars are being spent. The polls will be open Tuesday, May 15. Take five minutes while dropping off or picking up your child from school to cast your ballot. It can make a difference in their education, and then you too can say you’ve done your homework.

This is the season for speeches. We’re about to enter the graduation and wedding time of year, when principals, best men, maids of honor and valedictorians stand in front of a group of people and share their thoughts during these momentous occasions.

For those about to grab the microphone, I’d like to offer my top 10 list of things not to do in a speech — in reverse order.

10. Don’t make inside jokes that no one, outside of your best friend and maybe your sibling, understands. Looking at your friend after you’ve made a joke that no one gets and pointing back and forth between this other person and you only endangers that friendship.

9. Don’t make a speech without practicing. Find someone who can be helpful and not someone who thinks you shouldn’t change anything you do, ever. That honest person might prevent you from saying, “The groom is so lucky. He gets to sleep with Karen — I always wanted to sleep with Karen. I can’t wait to hear about it.”

8. Don’t correct yourself on small details, such as, “Remember when we had that school snowball fight in second grade? No, wait it was first grade, right? No, no, it was second grade. I was right the first time.” Most people won’t care about those details. They’d rather you got it wrong than hear you go play a one person game of memory ping-pong.

7. Don’t forget to thank everyone you should thank. You can acknowledge your friends for helping you get through those tough years, the writers of your favorite movies for giving you a chance to laugh, and the woman at the supermarket for encouraging you to submit an application that got you into a summer program. Never forget to thank your parents, any relatives who are in attendance and the teachers who somehow managed to educate you despite your insistence that their subject was irrelevant.

6. Don’t imagine that alcohol makes you a better singer. It doesn’t. Besides, there’s always an enormous collection of cellphones at any wedding. You can’t erase that horrible rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Ever. Strangers will come up to you and screech at you.

5. Don’t quote someone else extensively. Winston Churchill was a tremendous speechmaker, JFK said some memorable things, too, as did Martin Luther King Jr. Audiences can read and have no desire to hear you butcher an extensive collection of words someone else delivered.

4. Don’t try to sell something. You’re there to support the graduate, the bride and groom and numerous families. This isn’t the time to suggest that people moved by your speech can pick up tissues at your store
because you sell the softest tissues in town.

3. Don’t talk about how difficult it is for you to give a speech. Chances are the audience supports you
anyway, so there is no need to tell them, over and over again. If you aren’t particularly good at public speaking, they’ll notice.

2. Don’t look down at your poorly written notes during the entire speech. If you look up once in a while, you won’t sound like you’re muttering anecdotes and advice in your sleep.

1. Don’t give a long speech. The most important part of any speech is to keep it short. Sure, you might be funny and have some words of wisdom that people will remember. And, yes, you might recall an
anecdote that sheds light on the people in your class. People want to eat dessert, go to a party, or throw their ridiculous square hats with tassels into the air for the annual picture of stupid hats in the air. A good rule of thumb for speeches: When in doubt, leave it out.

For those of us who remember the savage Korean War (1950-53) and the various attempts at a peace treaty over the years, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un’s pirouette from warmonger to statesman is astonishing. All of us remember the test missiles that were fired from North Korea, some over Japan, into the sea as recently as last year.

We also remember the bellicose rhetoric about being able to reach the continental United States from North Korea with those missiles.

What happened?

First there was President Donald Trump’s equally bellicose rhetoric, some of it personally aimed at North Korea’s leader, referred to as “Little Rocket Man.” Trump was severely criticized at the time for sounding like a schoolyard bully rather than a diplomatic leader. The world watched in horror, wondering if we were on the edge of nuclear war. All the while North Korea’s ongoing tests were apparently successful. Probably the most concerned was South Korea’s new leader, Moon Jae-in.

Next came the Winter Olympics serendipitously and President Moon’s invitation to the North Koreans to participate under one flag. This too was unprecedented. Kim accepted and perhaps more tellingly sent his sister as his representative. She seems to be one family member he trusts. We all witnessed the diplomatic success at the Olympics.

In retrospect, something seems to have changed after that. Was it a new perspective for the two Koreas as a result of the games? Or did it have some connection to the subsequent visit Kim made to China in the middle of one night? I believe that was Kim’s first trip out of his country, and of course it is significant that he chose to visit Premier Xi Jinping. Was Kim invited or did he request the meeting? What advice was he given by the powerful Chinese leader, who seems to have established a rapport with Trump? What will the Chinese, with their long-term view, want to happen now?

At this point, Kim has been counseled, Moon has been galvanized and the tenor of the Korean debate begins to shift. Kim invites Trump to meet with him, and over the objections of our diplomats, Trump immediately accepts. There is no doubt that Trump is partially responsible for this shift.

The two Korean leaders then enter into a diplomatic choreography with lots of positive dialogue that plays well for the people of both Koreas, and the rest of the world for that matter, who want peace. In war, it is humankind that suffers terribly, and the people can only hope and pray for their leaders to keep the peace.

So what does North Korea want, as far as we can tell? Certainly Kim wants to stay in power as the No. 1 priority. So far his most visible achievement is his development of nuclear missiles. He also professes to want an improved economy. In fact, he was surprisingly forthright about the woeful condition of his roads and infrastructure in talking with Moon. When North Koreans went to the Olympics, they were apparently impressed by the South’s trains — and probably everything else that attests to a good economy.

The South wants to eliminate the threat of nuclear war and confrontation. And perhaps it wishes to invest in the economic recovery of the North, where there will be money to be made. The Chinese would like to see the United States leave the Korean Peninsula. I would be keenly interested in what else China expert Henry Kissinger thinks the Chinese want. Undoubtedly the South would also like to see us go if peace is
somehow assured. There are some 30,000 American troops still stationed in South Korea.

And what would we like? We would first like the removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea and finally a formal peace treaty ending the 65-year conflict.

Those goals have seemed irreconcilable until now but perhaps what we will get is a prolonged peace.

Where is the Invisible Hand of China in the Current Korean Dance?

The morning routine for all four of us was slightly off kilter. My daughter, who usually doesn’t have the energy to complain about starting her day, suggested that she really needed a day off. Sorry, but that wasn’t going to happen. Besides, she doesn’t generally want a day at home because she feels as if she would fall behind in her classes and would rather keep pace.

I dropped her off at school as she groaned something to the effect of, “Bye, have a good day, I hate this.”

I returned to pick up my wife and take her to the train. She was also slightly behind schedule. My son came “elephanting” down the stairs. It’s an expression we use that is exactly as it sounds. He throws his feet so heavily and loudly on the steps that the house shakes until he reaches the first floor, turns hard to his right twice and collapses into his chair.

My wife and I raced out of the house two minutes behind our usual departure time. Two minutes? How was I supposed to make it to a train that is only early when we’re late? It’s Murphy’s law of trains. Whatever can go wrong with the commute does go wrong and, often, in conjunction with other problems.

We came to the final light seconds before the train was scheduled to pull in.

We reached the traffic light just as it turned red, in that small window when all the lights are red at the same time. Despite the line to my left waiting for a green light, I made a right on red and pulled into the intersection behind another car waiting to make the immediate left into the train station.

Unfortunately, the cars on the other side of the street hadn’t left an opening for the frantic commuters to reach the station. When their light changed, the traffic immediately started moving, blocking us from making the turn.

My wife considered getting out, racing across the street and trot-running through the parking lot. The cars speeding by near her door made that impossible.

A car behind me honked, moved to our right and slowly passed. A woman in her 60s flipped us the bird.

Do we still do that? Do we still raise our middle finger to strangers? I do it to my computer when it’s frozen and to my phone when it’s not allowing me to respond to an email or text, or when it adds an error to one of my emails because it retyped a name into something potentially problematic.

But this woman, with her tight lips, curled and dyed hair, and menacing eyes, slowly rolled past me, extending the curse finger just in front of her left shoulder. That raised digit was so stiff, long and rigid that it looked it could have just as easily have been a weapon as a gesture.

I was stunned to react immediately. Then a few responses ricocheted around my head as my wife raced out of the car: “Sorry? Right back at you, sweetheart.” … “You know what you can do with that finger.”

It’s possible her day had, or was expected to have, much bigger problems than mine. I am sorry I upset her so much that she needed to express her outrage.

Or maybe I gave her a chance to be angry at something other than herself, her family, her boss or the people who work for her. Could I have done her a favor, providing a target for her anger?

I don’t know her story, but I do know that my day suddenly seemed less problematic.

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