D. None of the above

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It’s a collision of colors, sights, sounds and ideas, of comings and goings. I know he wasn’t running for office here in the United States, but the love fest for Pope Francis was incredible. He drew enormous crowds, while discussing climate change and immigrants.

This is the time when the mean season meets the postseason. Republicans are gearing up to fight for us, but before they do, they’re fighting against each other, while they get ready to fight against Hillary Clinton, the presumptive frontrunner on the Democratic side who wants to unify a nation that’s divided over its feelings for her.

But wait, we’ve seen this Democratic show before, right? That guy with the eloquent speaking ability and the minimal experience in Illinois didn’t really have a chance to become president eight years ago, until he did and now President Obama is almost getting ready to leave his job.

Can’t you just feel the Republicans racing for position behind Donald Trump, wondering when and if there will be an opening that allows them to lead the party?

Speaking of comings and goings, Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had dueling ideas for what to do about Syria. Ideas and rhetoric collided at the United Nations — a place Putin hadn’t addressed in 10 years.

People are angry. Well, Trump certainly is. Or, wait, is he just playing angry on TV until we can all sort it out and realize that he’s just a patriotic American with a vision for America that will keep us safe, happy, fully employed and healthy?

Then, of course, there’s the postseason, where the boys of summer have a chance to become the men of October. The Mets are loaded with young guns, who are ready to drive the Dodgers and their manager Don Mattingly out of the postseason. My beloved Yankees look like a flawed team limping their way into the wild card in desperate need, perhaps, of someone with Yogi Berra’s legendary ability to drive in runs in big situations.

And then there’s water on Mars. We’ve been hearing about it for a long time, but NASA is excited that this evidence is for real. They don’t know where it comes from, exactly, or how it got there, but they’re convinced it’s there and it’s incredibly salty. The announcement left open the possibility that it might contain some form of life. While it’s exciting, it’s also a tad anticlimactic to those hoping for signs of life with hands and a face.

The stock market doesn’t know what to make of these times: Are we OK with China? Are we worried about low gas prices? Does the Federal Reserve know something it’s not telling us? Is this a great time to buy or the right time to sell? Watching stocks is like tracking a flock of birds who seem to be heading west in the sky, only to reverse course dramatically and go east before slingshotting back and forth again and again.

Next, there’s the surprise resignation by House Speaker John Boehner, and the start of a new era on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah.

The trees that turn color first are a sign that school really is open, that fly-by-night Halloween stores will start opening, and that pumpkin pie and mince will soon be available at favorite restaurants. By then, families scattered hither and yon will come together at Thanksgiving to reconnect, laugh and recharge their batteries.

By then, the leaves will be off the trees and the Halloween candy will be either eaten or donated. So, let’s not rush ahead, because we’ve got so many modern moments ahead.

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To reply all, or not to reply all, that is the question. But, seriously, when is replying to everyone by email necessary? I know we live in a world where we share every thought that occurs to us because we can. Distributing our thoughts electronically to as many people as possible gives new meaning to the words “publish
or perish.”

Still, something about replying all is the equivalent of spraying graffiti, with your initials on it, in my email box. I already get more than enough emails from all the stores that send me hundreds of discounts a day. With all these discounts, I feel like an idiot for paying the listed price for anything. But I digress.

I know there are times when replying all is helpful. You see that the conference room is unavailable. Sharing the news will allow everyone to be more productive through the day.

There might be a time when you need everyone on a list to know something, like not to park on a side street where the permit-parking-only signs might be hard to see.

But do all 100 of us on a long email distribution list really need to know that you, specifically, received the email? Not only do people tell us they got the message we all received, but some of them feel the need to embarrass themselves in the process.

A teacher asks all the parents in her six classes to confirm that they received her message. A reply-all message that says: “The Smiths received the email and couldn’t be more excited about the start of a new school year. Every morning, Johnny can’t wait to sit in your class,” is a surefire way to sabotage Johnny as he navigates through the middle school minefield.

Then there are the simple emails that don’t require any reply, such as an email with the address of a field or a meeting.

“Got it, Dan. We’ve been there so many times before.”

Of course you know where it is — everyone knows where it is. The directions and the address for the GPS make it possible for everyone to get there.

Seasonal greetings are not, repeat not, an opportunity to hit reply all, especially when the group includes people you’ve never met.

An email that “wishes everyone a healthy and a happy start to the new school year” is not an opportunity to echo the same, exact thoughts to strangers.

“So do we” is not an appropriate reply-all response, nor is “Ditto for us” or “Same to everyone else” or “The Dunaiefs feel the same way.” Adding emojis doesn’t make the email message more personal. It’s like doodling next to your graffiti. Cut it out, people — we’re not all 12.

I’m tempted, when these reply-all messages come through, to write something snarky, but in a distribution list that includes people I don’t know, someone will undoubtedly take it the wrong way because, let’s face it, there’s always someone ready to take offense.

Then there are the reply-all messages that seem to highlight a specialized talent or experience. Someone might, for example, be asking people to bring baked goods to a party, a meeting or a fundraiser. By indicating that you’ll bake miniature tarte tatin, crème brûlée or flourless chocolate soufflé, you seem to be bragging first and contributing to something a distant second.

It reminds me of that old joke about an 80-year-old man who goes to a priest to confess that he spent a magical evening with two 25-year-old women. The priest, in shock, asks the gentleman how long it’s been since last confession.

The man said, “Confession? I’ve never gone to confession. I’m not religious.”

The skeptical priest replied, “So why are you telling me this?”

“Are you kidding?” the man answered. “I’m telling everyone I know.”

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The night starts off with the top dog standing in front of a packed auditorium, selling all of us on the idea that what our children are about to receive in the form of another year of education at their fine institution is a spectacular blend of academic learning, extracurricular opportunities, social growth and development, and personal inspiration.

Ah, can’t you just hear the academic angels singing?

Somewhere in that magical evening known as Back to School Night, the principal and his or her vice-principal minions suggest how spectacular the teachers are, how magnificent the community is, how incredible the resources are and, most of all, how wonderful the parents are for being involved and coming to this Evening of Champions.

These people who are in these top academic positions are often doctors, although they’re not the kind with stethoscopes and they don’t have a waiting room full of old copies of People magazine.

They assure us that they’re people, too, and that they’ve been where we are. They know what it’s like to have someone they’ve brought into the world treat them as if they’re somewhere between an athlete’s foot fungus and a pimple surfacing on the tip of their nose just before the most incredible moment of their lives.

But, wait, there’s more. Their teachers tell us what they’ll learn, they smile, shake our hands — and assure us how excited they are to be sharing in this experience with our wonderful children.

Wonderful? Seriously? We can only hope that’s the case when they’re in school because the “wonderful” has been squeezed out of them by hormones that turn their voices into violins with broken strings, by their tough-love coaches, and by their would-be girlfriends and boyfriends who have decided that today is perfect to send them a text saying, “Sorry, we can’t date anymore because I’m looking for someone better.”

It’s almost like one of those old-fashioned sing-alongs, where we watch teachers with their Smart Boards at the front of the room, following the bouncing ball as it wows us with one after another of the stops on the journey to enlightenment.

For comic relief, we might get to hear from a teacher who seems about as comfortable speaking in public as I did when I was in seventh grade. He might look down at his feet as he talks, read from a script or take two huge gulps before each sentence. Speaking in front of a group of people, we realize quickly, is not exactly the ideal way to spend his day.

As they talk, they tell us how much they love a subject that, truth be told, might not be their first choice. However, the nearest district hiring biology teachers is an hour away and our school desperately needs a language arts teacher. They implore us to share information about our kids. That’s when we reach into our sales bag and suggest how eager our children are to fill their minds with inspiration and information. We plaster an enthusiastic smile on our faces as we hand in our creative writing assignments.

We emerge from the school, ready to take all that sales energy and turn ourselves into cheerleaders for education and our children.

“Oh, honey, I met your science teacher last night and she seemed so spectacular.”

“That’s interesting, Dad, because my science teacher is a man.”

“Wait, are you joking?”

The children share a devilish smile, pick up their heavy backpacks and trudge off to a place where the sounds in the real world corridors — real and in their own heads — are often nothing like a chorus of those academic angels.

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Disney has owned the imagination of children’s minds for decades. When I was a child, I certainly was well aware of Mickey Mouse and all his pals. “Mic” — see you real soon — “key” — why? Because we like you — “Mouse.” The catchy and inviting songs and cartoons helped define my childhood, much the way endless texting, emojis and Taylor Swift songs do for this generation.

Recently, we took our son to the Broadway production of “Aladdin.” While the singing, dancing, staging, choreography, sets and lighting were truly spectacular, something occurred to me. What role do parents play in these Disney stories, which become the foundation of our children’s cultural legends?

Looking at Aladdin himself, the Broadway version suggests he loved his parents and that he thinks they were spectacular people. That’s nice, but they are gone from the picture, which makes them invisible saints, who help by inspiring him to be better or reminding him from a distance that he hasn’t done much with his life besides living as a “street rat” with a heart.

Then, there’s the ridiculous, all-powerful sultan. He has educated his daughter and given her a chance to think for herself. Ultimately, though, he wants her to get married so her husband can rule the kingdom. That’s an inconsistent message from one of the many single parents Disney has brought to life.

How, exactly, can he not notice that his evil adviser manipulates him and is clearly out for his throne? Despite Jasmine’s fury with Jafar, the sultan doesn’t see Jafar for what he is. It seems this well-intentioned wealthy man who lives in a spectacular castle doesn’t listen to his daughter.

In “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle’s father Maurice, who is also a single parent, is an absent-minded genius she has to protect. Peter Pan? He takes kids away from their parents to Never Never Land. In “The Little Mermaid,” Ariel runs away from her father Triton to pursue a life — and a love — he has forbidden. Looking for Ariel’s mother? She’s not under or above the sea.

Speaking of a child without a mother, in “Finding Nemo” poor Nemo grows up under the overprotective fin of his humorless clownfish father Marlin. Sure, Marlin is heroic but he has a long journey, physically and emotionally, to find his son — and in a way, himself.

I don’t recall seeing Cinderella’s father at all, leaving her with the evil stepmother — seems like a bad call on the father’s part there, too — and her horrible stepsisters.

Maybe taking away parents — or turning them into buffoons — creates plot points that these heroes have to overcome. It gives them a chance to learn to trust themselves and their friends and to believe in who they are. I realize the stories aren’t about the parents and maybe, in some backhanded way, these stories encourage kids to find courage when their parents can’t simply hand it to them or purchase it online from Amazon.

I guess there wouldn’t be as much of a heroic role for a child who helped conquer something just by learning or listening to his well-intentioned parents or to grandparents who attend every concert and are eager to hear about school.

Taking parents away, or giving them questionable judgment, creates opportunities for kids to take control of their perilous lives.

Perhaps Disney has bequeathed real-life parents a gift through all these invisible or flawed guardians. It gives the rest of us a chance to say, “I messed up here, honey, but it could be worse: I could be a Disney parent.”

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Hello, ladies,” the gentleman at the front door said. The blushing and grinning reminded me of middle school, where the athletic star walks into a room and the girls swooned.

Except that, in this case, it wasn’t a group of middle school girls, it was their middle-aged mothers.

“Hey, bub,” I wanted to shout, “back here, behind the considerably taller women sits a man.”

Of course, I didn’t say that, because I didn’t want to stand out, or even up, for that matter. I had a good seat and was waiting for a key moment to contribute something or to clear out.

I was at a do-gooders gathering. That’s not the name of it, because people don’t generally come up with such generic sounding names for a collection of people who want to make a change, to help people, to make a difference in the world. But, really, that’s what they were.

Why were they there? Who knows? I didn’t ask them. I suppose it could have been that they all felt a strong calling to contribute. It could have also been that they had friends who would be there that night and they wanted to do their part, alongside their close friends, to effect change. Or maybe it was because they were required to be there, because their daughters played on a sports team and the parents of the team captains had the responsibility to make sure everyone, and they meant everyone, as email after email said, attended and contributed.

After all, for this effort to be successful, they needed 100 percent participation. Lovely, lovely, lovely. But wait; I seem to recall reading this book called The Chocolate War, which kept springing to mind as I was furiously typing details of this meeting to my wife.

For instance, I told her that I’d never smelled such a powerful combination of floral scents. The host of this gathering had gone deep into the well of potpourri for a scent that, I’m guessing, carried over the river and through the woods all the way to grandma’s house. I also told her that I was the only man in the room and that there was a plate of cookies in the center of the island that no one touched.

Anyway, in The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, Jerry Renault, on an assignment from a group of unofficial student leaders, is told not to sell chocolates as part of a fundraising campaign. When the assignment ends and he’s supposed to decide to accept the chocolates, he continues to refuse. Ultimately, he suffers serious consequences from rebelling against the school and the Vigils, the student thugs who effectively run the school.

I’m not suggesting that these delightful women, with their floral-scented kitchens and earnest, sincere, and heartfelt grins and plans are anything like the Vigils. They are working toward a great cause and are encouraging complete participation. But, something feels wrong about the compulsory nature of a good act.

Instead of everyone working for one, particular effort, perhaps this group could encourage full participation in a charity, good cause or effort of each player, or a family-choice activity. I get it, of course. The complete effort of the players and all their families could easily be greater than the sum of the parts of small efforts from each person.

Maybe it was because I was the only man in the room, or maybe it was because I am such a fan of The Chocolate War, but I couldn’t help wondering if there was a coercive undercurrent to all this cheerleading.

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Former President Jimmy Carter’s announcement last week that he had four spots of cancer on his brain made me think of Wallace Hartley. Engaged to Maria Robinson, Hartley spent a week with his fiancée in Yorkshire, England before he brought his violin to lead the orchestra on the maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912.

The 33-year-old violinist played music as the enormous ship floundered and disappeared with more than 1,500 other people into the frozen waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

After Hartley’s body was recovered, 40,000 people reportedly lined the route of his procession, while more than 1,000 people attended his funeral.

What is it about Hartley that captured the imagination of the people in England? Is it that he offered something resembling normalcy and decency in the face of certain death? Is it that he didn’t panic, dive overboard or do whatever he could to save himself? Maybe.

Or perhaps it’s that his swan song was so beautiful that it might have offered something remarkable, memorable and peaceful that night to two groups of people: those safely at a distance in lifeboats and the ones confronting the final moments of their mortality.

Last week, Carter, who is 90 years old, offered a picture of calm as he grinned, answered questions and remained positive throughout a public discussion of his health.

I’ve often heard people imagine what it is that makes humans different from other animals. At one point, a discussion centered around our use of tools. Chimpanzees, however, remove leaves and branches, jamming sticks — or in this case their own version of tools — into a termite mound and eating the insects attached to those branches.

Maybe we’re different, some have argued, because we use language. Given the extensive sounds of songbirds on Long Island, the range of noises dogs make when we return home after our bosses bark incessantly at us, or the calls of whales over hundreds of miles of ocean to each other, it’s hard to believe we hold an exclusive on language.

Among other things, maybe we’re different because we can see through time. We can imagine the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, we can picture the age of the dinosaurs and we can work toward a 5-, 10- or even 20-year plan in our lives.

We can also salute the life of someone we knew. Long ago, when my son was 4, we passed a chipmunk roadkill. He asked whether the members of that chipmunk’s family missed him.

Despite the familiarity of routine in our lives, we recognize the uncertainty of each day, whether we have the good fortune to live as long as Carter or the misfortune to see a sudden end, the way Hartley did. In those final moments, if we get them, we might have an opportunity to offer a memorable swan song, tipping our caps to others who are still here, grinning the way Carter did, at a life well lived, at friends, at family and at memories that will outlive us.

More than 100 years later, Hartley’s name is immortalized at his grave and through the Internet, a tool for communicating developed long after he played his last note and offered what legend has it were among his final words: “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”

Carter has no idea how many notes he still has left to play with his diplomacy and his efforts to construct homes. In this press conference, however, he shared a broad smile and a reassuring tone, ready perhaps for the moment — whenever it comes — to bid us all a peaceful farewell.

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We’ve all “had to go” at one point or another when the timing or location weren’t ideal. Maybe we were defending our dissertation, facing a pitcher in a big game, getting instructions about our first assignment at a new job, or sitting in the window seat of an airplane with two sleeping passengers between us and an aisle already crowded with people waiting to use the restroom.

A friend recently shared a “have to go” story that continues to give a chuckle to my kids, who suddenly tuned in because they sensed a real-life bathroom joke coming.

So, there he was, hiking with a group of his buddies. He was on a 6-mile trail when he noticed the familiar, unsettling rumbling in his stomach. Ignore it, he figured, because, as we all know, that always works so well. Well, no, not at all, actually.

Less than a mile later, the extreme effort to avoid soiling himself kept him from taking another step along the trail. He asked if anyone had toilet paper. Nope, they assured him, no luck. This was one of the many disadvantages of hiking with a group of men.

Once separated from the apparent toilet-paperless pack, my first thought would have been to avoid poison ivy and bears — or bears covered in poison ivy. However, he didn’t have the luxury of time for those kinds of concerns. As soon as he got his shorts down around his hiking boots, he had an instant explosion. Fortunately, he wasn’t trekking in the winter and there wasn’t loose snow overhead.

Disgusted by the stench from the first toxic release, he crab walked his way as far as he could to start round two. And so it went, for five rounds, until he left a connect-the-dots, “Hansel and Gretel” trail in the woods. When the contents of his digestive system were finally out, he faced the toilet paper dilemma.

He looked at the evergreen pine needles around him. Nature didn’t offer a solution.

He considered his underwear. He decided to rip it off and “go commando” the rest of the hike. Despite his best efforts, the underwear wouldn’t rip; it would only stretch, rendering it useless on two levels.

Taking off his shirt would work, but he was surrounded by mosquitoes. The only other option, he realized, was his hat. Fortunately, he said, the hat wasn’t as abrasive and uncomfortable as he imagined.

We’ve all been there. OK, well, we haven’t all exactly been on a trail without any toilet paper after our stomachs erupted. But we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve absolutely had to go at the wrong place, wrong time, or both.

In “Two Weeks Notice,” Sandra Bullock as Lucy Kelson is stuck on a stopped highway with her boss, millionaire George Wade played by Hugh Grant. Recognizing the urgency, Grant brings Bullock to a nearby camper and agrees to give the owners $1,000 to let her use the bathroom.

Until I figured out that I was lactose intolerant, I had numerous memorable urgent trips to the nearest restroom, including once in the middle of a baseball game and once in Philadelphia after my very first — and last — cheese steak.

The only upside to these agonizing moments — and it’s a small consolation — is that they can make for amusing and relatable anecdotes.

Oh, and to top off my friend’s hiking story, if you will, when he returned from the woods without his hat, one of his buddies realized his mistake. As it turned out, he did have a handful of tissues.

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A friend of mine recently shopped for a dishwasher with son, age 8. He checked out all the specifications from one to the next, examining the price, checking out the Energy Star rating and comparing the colors to the other appliances in his kitchen.

The salesman gave the father and son team an overview of all the features. When my friend asked about the energy efficiency, the salesman suggested he could get one with a particular rating, but it was not that big of a deal.

My friend’s son insisted, “Hey, it protects the environment. You need to tell people that when they’re buying it.”

My friend does energy research, where he tries to find the most efficient way to produce energy, although not for dishwashers necessarily. He spends his days designing, developing and refining plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while keeping down the cost of supplying the energy.

When he told me this story, he said he realized that his son, who didn’t always seem to pay attention to what his father said, was listening.

When our kids were young, my wife and I used to say, “The recorder is on.” That was a reminder that we might be venturing into conversational areas that weren’t appropriate for our children or that we might want to avoid saltier language.

Did treading lightly around difficult subjects and avoiding curses help our children at all? Well, we’d like to think so, at least back then. Still, the way we speak to, about or in front of our children matters.

That brings me to the recent Republican presidential debate at the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There was a candidate, Donald Trump, who made some pejorative comments about a moderator for the debate, Megyn Kelly of Fox News. He continued to go on the attack, even suggesting that Kelly should apologize to him for her tough questions.

Even in the moment, when challenged by a woman about his perspective on women, he insisted, with some effective humor, that he didn’t have time for political correctness and that he wasn’t referring to all women, only one, with whom he has an ongoing public feud.

But wait, a politician, who wants to be the leader of our country and of the free world, doesn’t have time for political correctness? Yeah, I get it, he’s barnstorming around the country, full of bluster and self-importance, blending entertainment and outrage in one big, hairy ball.

What happened to the notion of nuanced negotiations? Shouldn’t our leaders demonstrate the kind of statesmanship that enables them to discuss important matters with the leaders of other nations, without running the risk of alienating them and damaging our negotiating position?

Maybe Trump, the latest guy running for president, has a corollary to President Theodore Roosevelt’s “speak softly and carry a big stick” ideology. Perhaps he believes he’ll be more effective if he speaks loudly and brashly and carries a big stick.

Whatever his philosophy, it seems like the manner in which he delivers his messages isn’t exactly what we might like from a role model for our country and for the world.

Does attacking the moderator of a debate in which he’s trying to demonstrate his leadership skills underscore his effectiveness as a leader?

Perhaps Trump, and we, might want to consider the lessons we teach. If he was in a store buying a dishwasher with a younger relative, would he really want the next generation to insult the salesman and then demand an apology?

Whatever, Cleveland was rocking and the rest of the United States watched in record numbers.

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President Obama (D) announced this past Monday the final version of the Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 to combat climate change compared with 2005 levels.

Environmental experts hailed it as an important step, giving the president a chance to lead by example at a global climate conference in Paris starting Nov. 30.

“This is the biggest emission reduction of greenhouse gases that any president has ever achieved,” said Judi Greenwald, deputy director for Climate, Environment, and Energy Efficiency at the Department of Energy.

Environmental and health groups have lifted their green thumbs in approval.

According to the American Lung Association, the plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed days of work and school by 2030.

“This is a president who said the time to act is now and he’s followed through,” said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, director of the healthy air campaign at the ALA. She said she was pleased to see the target increased from the level in the draft form last year, which was 30 percent.

“We don’t often see the rules strengthened when they’re finalized,” she said.

The states have considerable control: They now have until 2022, two more years than in the draft proposal, to begin complying; and they have until 2018 to create their own plans. If they do nothing, the federal government can create plans for them.

Given that the states can comply with the plan in their own way, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided a rough estimate of 415 million less short tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2030 with the plan than without it.

Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is a funded primarily by the DOE, has a team of scientists dedicated to energy security, which conducts just the type of renewable energy research outlined in the plan.

“This clean power plan will spur the adoption of cleaner technologies that are being developed” at BNL and other national laboratories, Greenwald said. “We really are going in a direction toward much cleaner power systems. This will accelerate that and will provide a market for the technologies.”

While Congress will determine future funding, the Clean Power Plan could provide an additional boost during appropriations.

“We’ll absolutely be working with our lab champions in Congress, who obviously include lots of members, to push for the most robust funding we can get for the department and the labs so we can get a lot of these technologies out of the lab” and into the field, said Eben Burnham-Snyder, deputy communications director at the DOE.

Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have suggested the new limits would cause hardship in his state and would hurt the national economy. He has suggested he would use every means at his disposal to fight the plan.

Margot Garant, mayor of Port Jefferson, got behind the plan.

“It’s totally in line with repowering the industry,” said Garant. “This, as far as I’m concerned, gives PSEG another shot in the arm to take down these legacy plants, repower then with clean, efficient plants.”

Garant said the plan, at first blush, didn’t appear “unrealistic.”

Cheap natural gas, a tough recession, the rise of wind power and improved efficiency have already reduced power plant emissions by 15 percent from 2005 to 2013.

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I am now a member of a club that I would just as soon not have joined. It started with vomiting. I haven’t vomited in so long that my wife and daughter had never seen, or heard, the process. My daughter said I shriek in a scare-the-bats-out-of-a-tree way just before releasing the contents of my stomach. After this vomiting episode, I questioned what I’d eaten, what new allergies I might have developed or what stomach bug or virus I might have picked up. Vomiting, however, was only one of a host of symptoms, including extreme lower abdominal pain that radiated to my back.

I had kidney stones. My taller brothers don’t have kidney stones. Did I hit the genetic jackpot: crooked teeth, nearsightedness, vertically challenged and, gulp, kidney stones? Is it possible — and I’m hoping this is the case — that my diet somehow caused this excruciating experience and, as such, I’ll have some control over my kidney future?

When I said the words “kidney stones” in public, I saw a universal sympathy and support, even from people who are less than thrilled to see or hear from me.

“Oh, man, I gave birth to four kids and none of the deliveries was anything like the pain of having kidney stones,” one woman confided as she offered a reassuring squeeze of my arm.

Of course, after the little, life-altering intruders come out of our kidneys, bladders or anywhere in between, they don’t smile broadly at us, learn to walk and share an unending love — and the occasional sneer — with us. They’re just a hard pebble that uses our nerve endings like tightly wound strings on a violin of pain.

“My brother is a firefighter, built his house with his own hands and catches pitches without a baseball glove. I’ve never seen him as uncomfortable as he was when he had kidney stones. He was crying on the floor of the emergency room,” another woman recalled.

A friend said the pain embraced his abdomen, back and legs. He could barely move until he’d ejected the stones.

Other than the vomiting, the thing that struck me, literally, about my kidney stones was how impossible it was to get comfortable. No position helped: sitting, standing, praying with my head down and backside up. Pacing the room, putting my arms over my head, pulling out the hairs on my leg and curling my toes under my feet as I walked did nothing to distract me from the acute agony.

“One to 10 on a pain scale?” the emergency room nurse asked me on my first hospital visit. “11,” I muttered, as I crouched next to the hospital bed in a catcher’s position.

“Sit here, honey,” she offered.

“I can’t,” I whined.

After glancing at my face, she raced out of the room and jogged back with an IV and painkillers.

Even strangers rallied around me. I called to cancel a hotel reservation within moments of the allowable policy. When I mentioned kidney stones, the operator promised to hold the reservation past the usual time and would allow me to cancel the next day, free of charge, if I couldn’t make it. When I called the following morning after a brutal night, she wished me a quick end to my kidney stone saga.

Eventually, when it was clear my stone wasn’t rolling itself out of my body, I had a procedure to remove it with its own aftercare challenges. My recovery, despite some pain, is considerably more comfortable than the agony of a kidney stone.

I’m hoping some time down the road, a medical miracle worker turns these particular stones to rubble before they bring their unwelcome pain again.