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The cover of the first issue of The Village Times in 1976 by Pat Windrow

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

This is a week of celebrations, and it gives me great pleasure to share them with you, our readers. First is the delightful news that Times Beacon Record newspapers won 12 awards for outstanding work over the past year from the New York Press Association this past weekend.

The convention was in Albany, and we loved hearing our names called out before a group of more than 300 attendees from weeklies and dailies, paid papers and free, representing communities throughout New York state. The prizes are listed elsewhere in the paper, and I am particularly pleased that they span the two primary responsibilities we carry: good editorial coverage and attractive advertising. Those are our two masters, and we need to serve both well in order to survive.

Speaking of surviving, a major part of the convention and its workshops was concerned with just that. As most of you know, newspapers — and the media across the board — are engaged in a gigantic struggle. Small businesses, long the backbone of community newspapers like ours, are falling by the wayside. Consumers are buying from Amazon and Google. It’s so easy to toddle over to a computer in one’s pajamas and order up Aunt Tillie’s birthday present, have it wrapped and delivered in no time at all, and perhaps even save some money in the transaction. Only small stores with highly specialized product for sale can compete. Or else they offer some sort of fun experience in their shops, making a personal visit necessary. And it’s not only small stores that are disappearing. Stores like Lord & Taylor — “a fortress on Fifth Avenue,” according to The New York Times — are also gone, directly impacting publications like that esteemed paper.

But that is only one existential threat to media. The other is the drumbeat of fake news. The internet and social media have been significantly discredited as news sources. Cable television hasn’t done much better in the public’s regard. Print, which has always been considered the most reliable source of fact-based news, mainly because it takes longer to reach the readers and is vetted by editors and proofers, can be dismissed with a wave of the hand and the accusation, “Fake news!” 

On the other hand, polls show that print is still the most trusted source. And that is particularly true for hometown newspapers, where reporters and editors live among those they write about and have to answer to them in the supermarket and at school concerts.

Which brings me to my next cause for celebration. Monday, April 8, marked the 43rd anniversary of the founding of The Village Times, which began the Times Beacon Record expansion. We were there in 1976, we are here in 2019, and I believe a good measure of success is simply survival. We are still just as committed to the high ideals of a free press — carrying those ideals and passion to our website and any other of our other platforms and products — as we were that day of wild exhilaration when our first issue was mailed to our residents. We will remain so in the future with the support of the communities we serve.

There is one other happy occasion this week. My oldest grandchild, Benji, is celebrating his birthday. When Benji was born, 24 years ago, I became a grandmother. This is, as we know, a club one cannot join on one’s own. One needs a grandchild to be admitted to this lovely existence. And in addition to the joy of watching him grow up into an honorable and talented young man, I have the exceptional pleasure of working with him as he goes about his chosen career of making quality films. It was he who directed and helped write our historical movie, “One Life to Give,” and now its sequel, “Traitor.” It is he who will be the first of our family’s next generation to graduate from college next month.

I am writing this column on the eve of your birthday, Benji. Happy Birthday, Dear Grandson! And I salute your parents for letting you follow your heart. 

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Wait, was that at me? How am I supposed to know? She’s still waving. I could wave back, but what if she’s waving to someone else. Should I put my stupid hand in the stupid air and risk the possibility of looking stupid?

Yes, this happened to me many times during my adolescence. How was I supposed to react when someone I kind of knew, or maybe wanted to know, was waving in my direction? Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t see the person waving, while I casually looked around to see if anyone near me was responding. I probably looked like I had a neck twitch, as I scanned the area to see if it was safe to wave.

These days, the waving conundrum has taken a different form, especially after we moved away from the tristate area. It appears that the Northeast and Southeast have different rules for waving. In the Northeast, we wave when someone we know well walks by us in the car. If they don’t see us, perhaps we offer a quick and polite tap on our horn, just to let them know we saw them and we’ll likely text or email them later.

If someone we’re pretty sure we don’t know waves, we immediately assume that someone else is the recipient of their gesture — they have a small dog on the loose and we better slow down, or their children are playing a Nerf gun game and might dart into the street. If they continue to wave, we squint for a while, trying to figure out if maybe they’ve lost weight. It could be they’re someone we might have met casually at one of our kids sporting events, or they want us to sign a petition, or even buy a product we’re sure we don’t need because we can’t stand all the crap we already have in our own house.

Of course, if we have our defensive curled upper-lip action going too quickly, we might scare away our son’s teacher, our daughter’s assistant coach or a new neighbor who has introduced herself to us four times.

In the Southeast, however, the rules are different. Most of the people in the passing cars wave when I walk the dog. Yes, we have a dog and, no, you can’t pet him even though he’s pulling as hard as he can to get to you because I have to bring him back inside so I can do some writing. I’ve stopped trying to figure out the source of the amicable gesture and I wave back. My son, who sometimes accompanies me on these dog walks, wondered, “Hey, do you know that person?” He is still playing by the rules of the Northeast.

I explained that I wave at every car, even the likely empty parked vehicles in case someone is sitting in them, because that’s what you do here. I told him I’ve conducted my own experiment, where I don’t wave and I see what happens. More often than not, the person slows down and waves even more vigorously, as if to say, “Hey, I’m waving here. Now it’s your turn.”

Kids in the modern era seem to have solved the waving problem. They do a quick head nod, which could be a response to a similar gesture from someone else or it could be a way of reacting to music no one else hears. Then again, they’ve probably figured out how to make a thinner, acne-free virtual version of themselves wave at cartoon versions of their friends.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

So, what was it like to be in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sunday during the?

For starters, employers warned their staff about heavy traffic around the Spectrum Center and about parking challenges. They suggested working from home on Friday and over the weekend, if possible, to avoid delays.

As a result, for the entire weekend, the car traffic around this manageable city seemed even lighter than usual. People couldn’t drive too close to the Spectrum Center, but it was nothing like Yankee Stadium or Citi Field before or after a game against a heated rival, or even against a middling team on a warm Saturday in July.

The city rolled out much tighter security than usual, putting up fences around a nearby bus station and restricting walking traffic into the outskirts of the stadium to ticket holders only. 

Once inside, I felt as if I had become a Lilliputian in “Gulliver’s Travels.” Men and women of all ages made 6 feet seem like a minimum height for admission. I felt like a kid who sneaks onto a ride at Disney World despite falling well below the clown’s hand that indicates “you must be this tall to enter.”

The clothing choices reflected a wide variety of fashion statements. Some had come to be seen, decked out in fine suits, flowing dresses and high-heeled shoes. Others strutted around in sweatpants and sweatsuits, donning the jerseys of their favorite players.

Celebrities walked among the commoners, much the same way they do at the U.S. Open. Several people approached a slow-moving and frail-looking Rev. Jesse Jackson to shake his hand. Jackson later received warm applause from the crowd when he appeared on the jumbotron large-screen display.

As taller teenagers, who were well over 6 1/2 feet tall, brushed past us, we wondered whether we might see any of them at this type of event in the next decade. They were probably thinking, and hoping, the same thing.

The game itself, which was supposed to start at 8 p.m., didn’t commence until close to 8:30, amid considerable pomp and circumstance.

The crowd saluted each of the players as they were introduced. The roar became considerably louder for local hero Kemba Walker, the shooting star for the Charlotte Hornets who scored 60 points in a game earlier this season.

The crowd also showered old-timers Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki with affection, saluting the end of magnificent careers that included hard-fought playoff battles and championship runs. The two elder statesmen didn’t disappoint, connecting on 3-point shots that also energized the crowd.

While the All-Star game sometimes disappoints for the token defense that enables teams to score baskets at a breakneck pace, it does give serious players a chance to lower their defenses, enjoying the opportunity to smile and play a game with the other top performers in their sport.

Wade and Nowitzki, who each have infectious smiles, grinned on the court at their teammates, competitors and fans after they sank baskets.

A first-half highlight included a bounce pass alley-oop from North Carolina native Steph Curry to team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo. In the end, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis, 178-164.

The halftime show proved an enormous success, as rapper and North Carolina product — via Germany — J. Cole performed “ATM,” “No Role Modelz,” and “Love Yourz.” The young woman sitting near us knew every word of the songs, swaying, rocking and bouncing in her seat.

I asked her if she knew Cole would be performing and she said, “Of course.” I asked her whether she liked the basketball or the halftime show better. She said she enjoyed both.

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Stock photo

Over time, parents have learned to have conversations with their kids about drug use — whether they should not use at all or to use responsibly.

With New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) stating his hope to pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana during his recent 2019 State of the State address — something that has been in the works for years — we think the time is right to discuss marijuana use in the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol.

While laws will likely prevent minors from buying the drug, legalizing means, in general, it will be easier to find, and parents may need to remind teenagers that just because something is for sale, just as with other drugs, it doesn’t mean they can or should purchase it.

Of course, what’s available at parties always comes into play. Many times, parents may have the talk about alcohol with their children, stressing that their judgment can easily be impaired after only a drink or two, but do they include that smoking a joint can do the same? Just like with alcohol, it’s not safe to drive a car or operate machinery after using marijuana, as it can impair judgment, motor coordination and reaction time.

The sage advice from parents that they would rather have their children wake them in the middle of the night with a phone call asking to be picked up at a party than having them get behind the wheel after drinking — or in a car with someone who has been — would apply to marijuana use as well. Besides waking up mom or dad, there are always the options of sleeping in the house where the party is taking place, getting a ride from a designated driver, or getting a cab or Uber. That’s a golden rule that even adults need to abide by as driving while impaired by a drug in New York state can lead to a $500 to $1,000 fine, a license suspension for at least six months and a possible one-year jail term. If marijuana is legalized, being over the age limit will mean smoking or eating edible cannabis will become a choice, rather than a secretive, unlawful vice.

And if recreational use of pot becomes legal, due to the danger of impairment, despite the new law, many employers may still have random drug testing — something for people to consider as they seek employment.

If state officials legalize the recreational use of marijuana, there will be something else in common with cigarettes. While many may think smoking a joint doesn’t cause the same health problems as cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association, smoking marijuana can still pose a risk to lung health.

To help with discussions about pot use, residents can find out what’s on the minds of others Feb. 25 when the Suffolk County Legislature invites people to share their thoughts about legalizing recreational marijuana at a public hearing at the William H. Rogers Building in Smithtown. We at TBR News Media will be there.

With the possibility of New York becoming the 11th state to legalize recreational use of marijuana, it’s time for parents to get ahead of any problems by discussing drug use with their children.

The following dialogue was inspired by an actual conversation. No friendships ended as a result of this interaction.

Joe: That’s interesting.

Aaron: What made it interesting?

Joe: It held my interest.

Aaron: That’s tautological.

Joe: What does tautological mean?

Aaron: It’s a kind of circular argument, like something is interesting because it held your interest. So, what’s interesting about what I said?

Joe: No, you see, it’s not what you said, so much as the way you said it and, of course, the fact that it was, indeed, you who said it. Like, remember that time you said that our boss was having an affair with the man she kept insulting at work and then, lo and behold, she was?

Aaron: Yes, I remember that was because she was having an affair with you.

Joe: Oh, right. Good times.

Aaron: Can you tell me how what I said interested you?

Joe: But, first, did you read the latest thing about Donald Trump?

Aaron: Which one?

Joe: The one where he’s mad at the media and the media is reporting about stuff he says isn’t true.

Aaron: You’re going to have to be more specific than that.

Joe: You want specifics? How about Russia?

Aaron: What about it? It’s a country.

Joe: You’re funny.

Aaron: Stop calling me funny and tell me what Trump and the media are disagreeing about.

Joe: Are you angry?

Aaron: I’m trying to have a conversation.

Joe: Conversation. That’s interesting.

Aaron: What’s interesting?

Joe: It’s like the way you’re looking at me right now. You know what I mean?

Aaron: Nope.

Joe: You have your eyes open and your eyebrows are up, like you’re expecting me to say something interesting, when, you know, you’re the one who always says interesting things. I read interesting things. This
morning, I read something compelling about Trump and the media.

Aaron: OK, let’s go with that. What was compelling about it?

Joe: It was just, you know, well, maybe you wouldn’t think it’s compelling and maybe you knew it already, which means I probably don’t have to tell you.

Aaron: I want to talk about something.

Joe: We are talking about something. We’re talking about me and you and this weather. You know what I’m saying?

Aaron: Not really.

Joe: The weather is all around us, right? And, it’s all around everyone else. Except that, when people are somewhere else, the weather around them isn’t the same as it is here. So, to experience weather, you really have to be here.

Aaron: Right, uh huh. Go on.

Joe: Now you’re looking at me differently. You’re frowning. You need to laugh more often. That’s your problem.

Aaron: I don’t have a problem. I’m trying to have a conversation.

Joe: About what?

Aaron: Well, a few minutes ago, you said what I said was interesting and I’ve been waiting patiently to find out what you thought was interesting about it.

Joe: Oh. Let me think. I’m going to replay the entire conversation in my head and then I’ll let you know.

Aaron: Right, sure.

Joe: No, really. Was it before or after the conversation about the weather?

Aaron: Before.

Joe: See, I was listening. I remembered that we talked about the weather.

Aaron: You weren’t listening to me. You were listening to you. You brought up the weather.

Joe: Right, OK, I have a confession to make. I wasn’t listening to what you said all that closely, but I know it was interesting.

Aaron: What part? Do you remember any of the conversation?

Joe: Not really. I have to go. It’s been nice chatting with you.

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By Linda Toga

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-3-41-23-pmTHE FACTS: With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about making gifts of cash to my grown children. I’ve heard that I can give each child $14,000 without any negative tax consequences. I am not wealthy but, at this point, I believe I can afford to give each of my children $14,000. I know they could really use the money.

THE QUESTION: Is there any reason I should think twice before making the gifts?

THE ANSWER: The quick answer is that when you’re talking about giving away thousands of dollars, you should always think twice. That being said, there are many factors that you should consider before deciding whether making significant cash gifts to your children is in your best interest.

Since you did not mention your age, your health status or the number of children you have, it is difficult to say which factors may prove the most important in your decision-making process.

Under current federal gift tax laws, a person can give any number of people up to $14,000 a year without incurring any gift tax liability. The recipients of the gifts need not report them on their tax returns and can simply enjoy the grantor’s generosity.

The need for the grantor to report gifts to the IRS only arises if the value of the gifts made to any one person in a single calendar year exceeds the $14,000 gift exclusion.  In that case, in April following the year in which gifts valued at over $14,000 were given to a single recipient, the grantor is required to file a gift tax return with the IRS. The return reports the amount of the gift in excess of $14,000.

For example, if the grantor made a gift of $20,000, he would have to report $6,000 of the gift on the gift tax return. Under current federal law, no gift tax will be due unless and until the cumulative value of the gifts reported by the grantor exceeds the estate tax exclusion amount in effect when the gift tax return is filed.

For gifts made in 2015 and reported in 2016, the grantor would not have to pay any gift tax unless the value of his cumulative lifetime gifts exceeded $5.45 million. Under New York State law, there is no gift tax, but the value of gifts made in the last three (3) years of the grantor’s life may be added to the value of his estate for purposes of calculating estate tax.

Since most people are not in a position to give away millions of dollars during their lifetime, whether or not a gift triggers a gift tax liability is usually not a deciding factor in making gifts. A more important factor for many grantors is whether they will need the money as they age. The cost of long-term care and the possibility that the grantor may need to apply for Medicaid are factors that frequently dictate whether gifting is a good option.

While the gift tax laws allow people to make gifts of up to $14,000 to countless people each year without adverse tax consequences, Medicaid eligibility is not governed by the tax code. As a result, many people who make gifts in accordance with the IRS guidelines are later surprised to find they are penalized for making those gifts when applying for Medicaid.

Under the Medicaid guidelines, gifts made within five (5) years of applying for benefits may trigger a penalty period based upon the value of those gifts. For younger, healthier grantors, the risk of having to apply for benefits within five (5) years of making a gift and then facing a penalty period may be minimal. However, the risk increases for the elderly or those with serious health conditions.

If you feel that you have adequate assets to cover the cost of your care, or if you have a generous long-term care insurance policy, you may not be concerned about the cost of care down the line, in which case making significant gifts to your children should be fine.

However, before you actually write those $14,000 checks to your children, I encourage you to carefully look at both your financial and physical health and assess your risk tolerance. After all, you don’t want to make the gifts this year and then have to ask your children to return the money or pay for your care next year.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate and estate administration, real estate, small business service and litigation from her East Setauket office.

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There are several boarding options for pets during the holidays.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

No matter which holiday you celebrate this time of year there is one thing common to us all: travel. Whether we travel for a day or for over a week, this means figuring out what to do with the four-legged family members.

Bringing your pet with you

This can be as easy as loading Fluffy or Fido in the car or as complicated as figuring out how to travel by air. If traveling by air, make sure to contact the airline you plan to use first. Certain requirements include: cost of travel (do you have to pay for a full seat or just a small additional fee), health certificate (usually within two weeks of travel), vaccines and whether the airline allows you to sedate your pet for travel.

Getting a pet sitter

This can be a touchy subject as I’ve heard stories of dream pet sitters, stories of nightmare pet sitters and everything in between. Most times using a family member, friend or neighbor is the best choice. If you decide to look for a pet sitter online, make sure to set up an interview beforehand to check if the pet sitter is associated with any pet sitter associations or any state or local trade associations. An interview also gives you a chance to ask for references.

Boarding facilities

There are many boarding choices nowadays, and it can be difficult to choose which is best for you and your pet. One hopes that nothing bad will happen to our pets, but it is good to know how the facility will handle an emergency if it happens. It is best to visit the boarding facility ahead of time to check for cleanliness and orderliness, as well as find out what kind of relationship the boarding facility has with a veterinarian. 

Our boarding facility is literally attached to the animal hospital, so we have a veterinarian on premises every day (including Sundays). Other boarding facilities have a veterinarian that visits every day, and some only have a relationship with a veterinarian if your pet is injured or showing symptoms of illness. 

Additionally, when boarding at any facility, there are certain vaccines that are required by law including distemper, Bordatella (kennel cough) and rabies for dogs and distemper and rabies for cats. This may mean making an appointment with your veterinarian before dropping your pet off at the boarding facility.

Dr. Kearns and his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.
Dr. Kearns and his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

I hope that this information is helpful and remember to start early in making arrangements for either a pet sitter or boarding.  The end of year holidays are the busiest time for pet boarding.

I want to wish all of the readers of this column both a safe and joyous holiday season and happy 2017. I also want to thank both Heidi Sutton and the staff of the Arts and Lifestyles section, as well as all the staff of the Times Beacon Record and affiliates for another great year.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

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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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