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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

With 10 weeks left until the end of 2021, it seems fitting to consider what we might put into a time capsule that future generations might open to understand the strange world that was so incredibly different from the one just two years ago.

Here are a few items I’d throw into a box I’d bury or shoot into space.

— Masks. Even with so many events where people aren’t wearing masks, including huge gatherings of fans at sporting events, masks are still a part of our lives in 2021.

— A Netflix app. I’m not a streaming TV person. Most of my regular TV watching involves sports or movies (many of which I’ve seen a few times before). Still, I got caught up in the “Stranger Things” phenomenon and am now impressed with the storylines from “Madam Secretary,” which include prescient references to our withdrawal from Afghanistan and to the potential (and now real) pandemic.

— Pet paraphernalia. The number of homes with pets has climbed dramatically, as people who seemed unwilling or uninterested in having dogs are out with their collection of poop bags, leashes and pieces of dog food to entice the wayward wanderer in the right direction.

— A zoom app. Even with people returning to work, many of us are still interacting with large groups of people on a divided screen. Future generations may find all this normal and the start of eSocializing and virtual working. Many of us today are still trying to figure out where to look and avoid the temptation to scrutinize our own image.

— Cargo ships. The year started off in March with the blocking of the Suez Canal. For six days, the Ever Given kept one of the world’s most important canals from functioning, blocking container ships from going from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. As the year has progressed, concerns about shortages and supply chains have triggered fears about empty shelves.

— A small model of the Enterprise. The ship from the show “Star Trek” seems apt in a 2021 time capsule in part because William Shatner, who played the fictional Captain James T. Kirk (or admiral, if you’re also a fan of the movies), traveled briefly into space. In many ways, the science fiction of the past — a telephone that allowed you to look at someone else — is the fact of the present, with FaceTime and the aforementioned zoom.

— Competing signs. Protesting seems to have returned in full force this year. As the year comes to a close, people who do and don’t believe in vaccinations often stand on opposite sides of a road, shouting at cars, each other and the wind to get their messages across.

— A syringe. We started the year with people over 65 and in vulnerable groups getting their first doses of a vaccine that has slowed the progression of COVID-19, and we’re ending it with the distribution of booster shots for this population and, eventually, for others who received a vaccine eight months earlier.

— Take-out menus. I would throw several take-out menus, along with instructions about leaving food at a front door, into the time capsule. While numerous restaurants are operating close to their in-dining capacity, some of us are still eating the same food at home.

— An Amazon box. Barely a day goes by when I don’t see an Amazon delivery truck in the neighborhood, leaving the familiar smiling boxes at my neighbors’ front doors.

— Broken glass. I would include some carefully protected broken glass to reflect some of the divisions in the country and to remember the moment protesters stormed the capital, overwhelming the police and sending politicians scrambling for cover.

— Houses of gold. I would throw in a golden house, to show how the value of homes, particularly those outside of a city, increased amid an urban exodus.

— A Broadway playbill. My wife and I saw a musical for the first time in over two years. We were thrilled to attend “Wicked.” The combination of songs, staging, acting, and lighting transported us back to the land of Oz. Judging from the thunderous applause at the end from a fully masked audience, we were not the only ones grateful to enjoy the incredible talents of performers who must have struggled amid the shutdown.

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By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

There I was, tapping on my computer keyboard, when what sounded like a pneumatic drill started tapping right outside my window. I jumped up, ran down the hall, out the front door and around the house to be greeted by the sight of an unperturbed woodpecker.

Busily bobbing his beak into my shingles, he ignored me for a few seconds, despite my frantic hand waving and yelling, then cocked his head to see what the fuss was about. We looked at each other but he didn’t leave. I picked up a pine cone that had fallen on my driveway and threw it in his direction, along with a couple of words I wouldn’t repeat in polite company. Slowly, letting me know it was his idea, he flew away.

He left behind three black holes on the side of the house, each the size of a quarter. I went back inside to my computer, and then there he was again, rat-tat-tatting on the shingles. The words, “How much wood could a woodpecker peck if a woodpecker would peck wood?” passed through my mind as I again ran out the door and yelled. This time he moved away more quickly. I made a little pile of pine cones along the side of my driveway and returned to my computer. Not five minutes later, the scene repeated itself. I replenished my arsenal, knowing he would be back, and he was.

Good heavens, what was I to do, stand guard all day? What if I hadn’t been home? From the number and size of the holes, he had clearly been there before.

A truce seemed at hand. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed my neighbor. Yes, he was aware that there was an energetic woodpecker among us. In fact, hadn’t I heard? The neighbor on the other side of my house was having his wood shingles removed and replaced with vinyl that looked like wood but obviously didn’t taste the same. Maybe the culprit had just moved over to my shingles.

Next, I called my trusty neighborhood hardware store. Yes, they had heard of such a problem before and they did have one possible remedy, a roll of reflective tape for $7 that I should cut into 3-foot strips and hang from my house. 

We rushed down to get the tape and also bought a roll of twine.

Back home we did as instructed, knotted the red and silver streamers to the twine at five-foot intervals as if on a clothesline, then hung the entire line high up across the side of the house. We repeated the process for the front of the house where he had also started pecking. I am lucky to have saintly friends who executed these maneuvers on ladders for me. When it was done, we stood back and looked at the handwork. The house looked decorated for Halloween.

As you might expect of me, I researched “woodpeckers” on my computer and found four reasons that woodpeckers would carry on this way. The first was to make a “satisfyingly loud noise and proclaim that this was his territory and attract a mate.” Bully for him.

The other three explanations were less romantic but more practical: to find food in the shingles, especially larvae of carpenter bees, leafcutter bees and grass bagworms; to store food; for nesting.

I further found some good news, or at least some consolation. It seems that ancient cultures associated woodpeckers with luck, prosperity and spiritual healing. To other cultures they represented hard work, perseverance, strength and determination.  Woodpeckers are, apparently, among the most intelligent and smartest birds in the world.

More good news in the form of fortune cookie messages: When they appear, it is time to unleash one’s potential and change any situation to one’s best advantage. From woodpeckers one can imbibe the skills of being resourceful and determined. They encourage the power to unshackle ingenuity and creativity in those around them.

Well, now you know. Whatever success ensues, I will owe it to my woodpecker.

P.S. After one more short visit, he has not come back.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

What do you name after the man who’s already named everything after himself?

That is the question people will grapple with when they consider how to deploy the name of the 45th president.

Did you know, apart from edifices and casinos, the Trump name has been added to a species of small moth with yellowish-white scales on its head, called the Neopalpa donaltrumpi? Additionally, a sea urchin fossil is called Tetragramma donaldtrumpi.

What should be in the running to honor the legacy of a man who may extend his presidential legacy in 2024?

Here are a few suggestions that, hopefully, will delight and alienate people on both sides of the aisle equally.

— A pizza slicer. Called the Trump, this great divider will cut a pie into two pieces, elevating the one on the right while crushing the one on the left into a mess of tomato sauce and crumbled cheese that wants to tax the rich.

— A board game. With a rotating cast of characters, the object of the Trump Cabinet Shuffle will be for each player to hold onto as many cabinet members for as long as possible, even as many of them either want to leave or write books about their experience.

— A remote control. The former president clearly found TV a relevant and important medium. People around the country could search their couches for the “Trump,” so they can change the channel to watch Fox News, which will provide the names for the Trump Cabinet Shuffle.

— The Trump label maker. Borrowing from an episode of “Seinfeld,” people could develop a label maker named after someone who was fond of naming people and objects. The Trump label maker would default to the most common words in the Trump vernacular, including “disgrace,” “beautiful,” and “fake.”

— A fast-food franchise. Given the former president’s predilection for the fast food he served to college football players, it’s surprising no one has come up with Trump World Burgers. Each restaurant could have a game of darts, where patrons could sling darts at the faces or names of their least favorite democrats. Every wall would have a TV tuned to Fox News and every place setting would sit on top of the New York Post.

—A magic wand. Can’t you picture it? Let’s get out the Trump wand and make everything unpleasant — impeachments, investigations, and distasteful stories- disappear.

— A fertilizer company. Yeah, okay, this might seem especially harsh, but fertilizer, while it’s made from feces, is necessary for the growth of many of the foods we eat, whether we’re vegetarians and eat only greens, or carnivores and eat the meat that eats the greens.

— Oversized boxing gloves. With pictures of the former president on each hand, a boxer could put his small, medium or large hands into red Trumps to fight against the forces of evil.

— An especially tall straw pole next to a smaller pole. The taller Trump pole could show how, even at a distance, he’s leading his closest competitor. “Trump is always ahead at the polls.”

— A distorted mirror. Like the side view mirrors on cars, these Trump mirrors could accent certain features while minimizing others, creating whatever reality the viewer prefers.

— Stiff-legged pants. With material that stiffens during the playing of the National Anthem, the Trump pants would make it impossible to kneel.

— A huggable flag. Given his preference for hugging flags, someone should design a flag with arms that hug back, as in, “the Trump flag is ready for its hug.”

— A “yes” puppy. You know how people have little puppies whose heads pop up and down when you touch them on their dashboard? Someone could add a sound effect to that, like “yes, yes, yes, yes,” each time the Trump head moved.

The red-eyed Eastern Towhee's scientific name is Pipilo erythrophthalmus. Photo from Unsplash

By John L. Turner

Human beings (Homo sapiens). Domestic dog and cat (Canus lupus familiaris and Felis catus, respectively). White Oak tree (Quercus alba). Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus). 

You may remember these “Latin/Greek “ or “Scientific” names from your high school biology days and probably have given them little to no thought ever since. Further, I bet you currently ignore them whenever you see them in a book, magazine or on-line article, quickly passing over these obscure, hard to pronounce, often multisyllabic words, tucked neatly inside a pair of parentheses.

First a little bit about the rules and convention concerning scientific names. All species on planet Earth have been assigned a binomial name, the first referring to the genus and the second the species; so with humans the scientific name “Homo sapiens” means that human beings belong to the genus Homo (the only existing species in the genus) and are unique belonging to the species “sapiens”. The generic name is capitalized but not the species name. Both are either italicized or are unitalicized but underlined. So in the case of the Blue Jay either Cyanocitta cristata or Cyanocitta cristata conforms. (By the way, the name means a chattering blue bird with a crest.)

You might well ask what’s the purpose of scientific names? Plain and simple, it is to eliminate ambiguity and prevent mistakes. It’s a way to ensure that a scientist on Long Island and a scientist elsewhere in the world are communicating about the same species…an uncertain outcome if these scientists are communicating using the common names of species. 

For example, two scientists discussing otter biology need to know what otter species they’re talking about. Is it the Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris)? Or maybe the River Otter (Lontra canadensis) or Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus)? How about Giant River Otter, (Pteronura brasiliensis), European Otter (Lutra lutra) or any other of the thirteen species of otters found in the world. In discussing some aspect of otter ecology or biology, just mentioning “otter” may not be sufficient to provide the level of specificity or accuracy needed. Researchers need to know they’re both talking about the same species of otter. Or bacteria. Or slime mold. Or many other species that can affect us.

If you have an interest in nature and natural history, I’d encourage you take a second look at scientific names as they often impart some helpful information about or describe some aspect of a species, referring to the geographic range of the species or where it was first discovered. It may also provide information regarding some physical characteristic of the species, say possessing a long tail or having a red cap on its head.

For example, the Latin/Greek name for the Ring-billed Gull, a common gull on Long Island, is Larus delawarensis, the species name meaning “of Delaware,” stemming from the fact the first specimen of this species was collected near the Delaware River south of Philadelphia. And as but one of many examples relating to a physical feature, the scientific name for the Eastern Towhee is Pipilo erythrophthalmus; the species name is Greek for red-eyed — “erythros” meaning red and “ophthalmos” meaning eye (think ophthalmologist). Indeed one of the conspicuous features of this beautiful member of the sparrow family, a common breeding bird in the Long Island Pine Barrens, is its red eye.

The scientific name for the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) presents another example in which a scientific name expresses a physical feature — leucocephalus means white-headed and Haliaeetus means salty sea eagle, a description of the type of habitat it frequents, so the name provides an apt description of the species — the salty sea eagle with the white head.

Other scientific names honor their discoverer or someone who the discoverer of the species wants to honor. Former Presidents Reagan, Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump have all been so honored with a species named after them as has all the members of the Rock Band Queen (Lead singer Freddie Mercury is honored with the name Heteragrion freddiemercuryi, a species of damselfly). So too the members of the Rolling Stones, Rush, and the Ramones. Lady Gaga and Beyonce have been so honored, so has Bob Dylan, and comedian and late night host Stephen Colbert has done very well — with three species named after him: a beetle, spider, and wasp.

In addition to honoring an individual or providing some basic information about the species, some Latin names provide a more complete picture of the species. 

Let’s take Trailing Arbutus as an example. A beautiful low-growing plant with five-petaled, light pink flowers which grows along sandy trails in the Pine Barrens, the Latin name for the species is Epigaea repens. “Gaea” is Greek for the Earth or Earth Goddess and “Epi” mean “upon.” So the generic name means “upon the earth”. The species name “repens” comes from repent. What position are you typically in when repenting? Trailing or prostrate on the ground. So, the scientific name for Trailing arbutus means to “trail upon the earth” an accurate description of the plant’s growth form.

Another example involves the Northern Mockingbird, a common breeding bird in suburbia. Well-known for its ability to mimic the songs and sounds of other birds, the Mockingbird’s scientific name, Mimus polyglottis, means “many throated or many tongued mimic”; poly meaning many and glottis referencing the throat or tongue.

While the Latin names for the arbutus and Mockingbird are accurate, for some other scientific names of species the jury is still out with regard to accuracy of the name. Take us humans (Homo sapiens) which means “wise man.” Given the path we’re on, of global destabilization of this planet’s finely tuned climate, with potential catastrophic effects for human societies and the natural world, perhaps a change to our scientific name is in order. Indeed, time will soon tell whether “sapiens” should be kept or replaced.

A resident of Setauket, John Turner is conservation chair of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, author of “Exploring the Other Island: A Seasonal Nature Guide to Long Island” and president of Alula Birding & Natural History Tours.

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By Michael Ardolino

Michael Ardolino

In past columns, I’ve mentioned how it’s important to keep an eye on real estate trends when deciding whether to sell your home. There are some slight changes, but once homeowners know all the information, they’ll find fall is looking good. 

It’s still a sellers’ market

The housing market may be cooling slightly as temperatures dip, but it’s still the time to sell. 

Odeta Kushi, First American Financial Corporation’s deputy chief economist, recently commented on the current housing market. “We are seeing some signs of softening in the housing market, but context is important here … We’re still very much in a sellers’ market, but we are seeing some early signs of softening.” 

Earlier in the year, the real estate market saw record-low inventory which meant homes were selling for more than they would have been just a couple of years ago. Over the last few months, inventory has grown slowly, and there are fewer buyers out there. 

Data from the real estate technology firm OJO Labs confirms that the housing market continues to be competitive. The firm’s data shows that 49.6% of homes sold for more than the initial list price in July. In July 2020, it was 26.8%.

One of the most important things to know in the housing market is the definition of “months supply.” The term means the number of months it would take for the current inventory in the housing market to sell. The current sales pace is the main factor. The rule of thumb is six months of supply equals moderate price appreciation. When listings are low, prices go up.

Looking to the future

Many experts have said sales were slowing down because of a lack of supply. The strong demand is still there, and lately there has been an increase in listings. However, more homes on the market are still needed.

Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com, has said, “If these changing inventory dynamics continue, we could see a wave of real estate activity heading into the latter part of the year.”

For the fall, experts are expecting a busy season. More sellers are putting their homes on the market which is something we normally see in the spring.

Tune in to the news

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appeared before a Senate panel Tuesday, Sept. 28. They testified in a hearing about economic recovery. The overall economy, which has shown signs of slowing, affects the real estate market, and we’ll talk more about this in next month’s column.


When deciding on selling or buying a home, timing is everything, and trends and staying on top of financial news can help you make the right decision for you and your family. I’ll be keeping on top of the trends and financial news for you. So … let’s talk.

Michael Ardolino is the Founder/Owner-Broker of Realty Connect USA.

Help wanted sign in window

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here is a possible answer to a couple of current questions. How to deal with the thousands of Afghans we have brought to our country ahead of the Taliban takeover and also those refugees from Central and South America who have massed at our border? That is one question. Another is how to respond to the ever-widening gap between the rising need for home health care workers and hospital aides, and the aging of the current United States population who will need such services?  And there are other such industries that urgently need workers, where there are not enough Americans to fill them.

Some of the immigrants may be well-educated or have needed skills. Those can probably be settled readily into American locations after they have been vetted and vaccinated. For those without obvious skills, the government will need to offer training, including English classes. The newcomers could be given a choice of what work they would want to do. Some may be or would like to be farmers, and we certainly need more workers in agriculture. Some may already be carpenters or landscapers or roofers or mechanics. If they can drive, we might be able to prepare them to drive trucks or buses, jobs that are going begging today. Perhaps they could help moving companies, which are understaffed and leaving customers stranded in their new homes waiting for their furniture to arrive. Some could help veterinarians, who are hugely overworked now by the many new pet owners who wanted companionship during the pandemic and acquired dogs, cats and other domestic creatures. 

Child care is a field that needs more workers. Mental health practitioners, overwhelmed by those experiencing anxiety, depression and stress could certainly use non-managerial help. So could both be teaching and non-teaching educational services, and sawmills turning out lumber for new construction and renovation, and textile mills trying to meet the sudden demand for back-to-school and back-to-work clothing places to welcome help. We have a desperate shortage of nurses in our country, both PNs and RNs. Hospitals, now newly reduced in their staffing because of the vaccine mandates, probably need help with basic services.

All of these positions, of course, would need varying degrees of training, and that in turn would offer new teaching jobs to the currently unemployed. Such programs would be no small task to organize, but it was doable during the Great Depression almost a century ago, and we can surely again put people to work where they are needed. Some of the jobs would be easier to prepare for than others. All could improve our economy, especially in areas with stagnant growth, and perhaps meet urgent needs.

I wonder if the federal government is thinking strategically when they place thousands of refugees in select communities. Currently, some 37,000 Afghans are at military installations in 10 states while other evacuees remain at overseas bases waiting to be processed, according to Nayla Rush, writing for the Center for Immigration Studies on Sept. 23. In total, the Biden administration has reported that over 100,000 Afghans were evacuated.

The top ten states receiving the newcomers, according to the Center, are California (5255), Texas (4481), Oklahoma (1800), Washington (1679), Arizona (1610), Maryland (1348), Michigan (1280), Missouri (1200), North Carolina (1169) and Virginia (1166). To coordinate this mammoth resettlement, President Joe Biden (D) appointed former Delaware Governor Jack Markell. He is also the former chairman of the National Governors Association and has held top positions in the private sector. 

“Nine religious or community-based organizations have contracts with the Department of State to resettle refugees inside the United States,” according to the Center, and they have final say on the distribution. These agencies, in turn, maintain nationwide networks of local affiliates to provide the necessary services. State and local officials are not involved and have no control over the program. Refugees are not resettled in states that do not have any local affiliates, which explains why some areas are skipped. 

Our country has a need of workers. Potential workers are entering the United States in significant numbers. Together that creates opportunity. We need some thoughtful and skilled management here.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

In a fractured and uncertain world, the skill sets that make us marketable to potential friends, employers and neighbors have shifted.

Sure, competence, professionalism and experience can and do come in handy in the context of numerous environments. These days, though, getting along with others and navigating through the cacophony of frustration beamed into our living rooms and phones on an hourly basis seems to have elevated what otherwise might seem like trivial skill sets in another time.

I have come up with a list of skills or, perhaps more appropriately, qualities that might be helpful in the modern world.

I don’t overuse the word “literally.” To emphasize a point, people often literally throw the word “literally” into phrases, as in “I literally hate tofu.” I’m not sure you can figuratively hate tofu, but I don’t overuse that word.

I keep a straight face: even when confronted with outrageous claims in which others hold fast to ideas, to heroes or to patterns I find questionable or even objectionable, I don’t wince, roll my eyes or shout them down until I’m in the safe space of my home with my wife.

I know how to write a handwritten note. Electronic communication has become so ubiquitous that sharing a personal touch that comes from writing something by hand has scarcity value.

I have trained my dog to do exactly what he wants. Sure, other people have trained their dogs to sit, roll over, fetch the newspaper and come to them when they call, but my dog does exactly what he wants. That means when he wags at me, he’s genuinely excited to see me and he’s not just wagging because he’s expecting some immediate reward or punishment.

I can find almost anything in a supermarket. Having spent an embarrassing amount of time searching the supermarket for foods that satisfy four diets and that take the place of in-person dining and social interactions, I can find most items sooner than supermarket employees.  

Through a hard-target search of every bed sheet, blanket and pillowcase, I can find the remote control. While that may seem trivial, it shows a willingness to go the extra mile to avoid having to take a few extra steps to change the channel.

I speak teenager. Yes, they are wonderful people who not only have a shorthand way of speaking, but also have a tendency to multitask while they are talking, looking at their phones or speaking through a mouthful of food. I can interpret much of what they say even when they appear to be offering disconnected sounds in a guttural and frustrated language.

I can finish an entire chapter in a non James Patterson book without checking email or texts. That means I can concentrate for longer periods of time. Patterson is excluded because the chapters in his violent novels are often shorter than this column.

I can make myself laugh. Every week, I enter the New Yorker cartoon contest. The captions I write never win, but they make me laugh.

I have a wealth of untapped ideas. I look at all the masks around me and think, “Hmm, I could come up with so many new mask products.” For example, how about mood masks, which change color depending on the person’s mood? Or, perhaps, masks with the outline of states, presidents of the United States, or images of abolitionists, important women in history or slogans? Masks could become the equivalent of educational posters hung on the walls of classrooms or, if you prefer, facial bumper stickers, giving someone starting at our covered mouths a chance to read or see something new.

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Welcome to the casino. Just by being alive today, you’ve all punched your ticket to the worldwide slot machine.

Now, the machines operate the way people expect, most of the time. They follow their programming, they make the loud noises as the three wheels inside of them spin and then show images on those three wheels.

The machine doesn’t cost anything to play. You don’t have to put in quarters or tokens or anything else. You just sit down and a machine starts spinning.

In fact, when you sit in one of our relatively unclean chairs, because we’re much more about playing the game than we are about cleanliness or safety, the process begins.

The chairs are close together, so you and your neighbor can compare notes on how you’re doing in this game, can share stories about your lives and can enjoy time out, away from the limitations of quarantine and all the other frustrations that you’ve had to endure for so long.

We do everything we can to discourage masks. We want you to be able to share the freedom that comes from seeing each other’s faces clearly.

And, if you should happen to need to use the bathroom, we don’t have any annoying signs about washing your hands. In fact, we don’t even recommend soap. What is the value of soap, after all? It’s probably some corporate scheme to boost profits somewhere.

We mean, come on, right? The cavemen didn’t have soap and they lived long enough to become fossils. That should be good enough for you, too, right? Before they died, they drew cool things on the wall, sharing stories that survived years after they did.

Now, we want to share a few details about our cool slot machines. You want to know a secret? We didn’t build these machines. We know, it’s hard to believe, but they just appeared one day, as if a stork or another kind of flying creature brought them. Well, not all of them. That’s the incredible thing. A few of them appeared and, after we started playing them, they copied themselves. The more we played them, the more they produced new copies.

Now, you might have heard that these machines can be bad for you. But, hey, so many other things are bad for you, too, and you still do them, right? You have a little too much to eat or drink now and then, and you maybe put a recycling bottle in the wrong trash can, but who pays attention to those things?

Anyway, so, these original machines built themselves the same way, most of the time. Each time a new machine appeared, they worked the same way, with images flying across the screen.

Every so often, when the machines made enough copies of themselves, they changed slightly. We’re not exactly sure why or how that happened, but it’s perfectly normal, we think.

The newest versions of these machines spin at a faster rate and also copy themselves more rapidly. One of them, which is now the most common type, has a big D on its side. That’s the dominant machine.

Actually, at this point, we’d kind of prefer people stop playing the game. You see, each time you play the game, not only does that D version copy itself, but our people are telling us that we run the risk of creating other types of the machine that might have worse features.

But, wait, how can you stop playing? What can keep you out of a casino that’s everywhere? Well, there’s a special thing you can get at any local drug store that someone puts in your arm. After you get it, you become almost invisible to the machine. That may be the best way to get away from these monsters.

Pixabay photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

There is so much chaos in our midst. As we see a light at the end of the tunnel and start to feel free from the shackles of this pandemic, we need to seek out a deserted place to renew our spirit, recharge our battery and reflect on the things that are most important to us.

These past 18 months have been challenging. We have seen so much suffering, so much death, so much pain. For many of us, over the past few weeks we have been fortunate to reconnect with children, grandchildren, parents and good friends for the first time in more than a year. It’s overwhelming because we are beginning to realize that we have to create a new normal.

Hopefully, this new normal will cause us to value human connections over things; to see the importance of the people in our lives and to try to live every moment to the fullest. Hopefully, this new normal will underscore the importance of human relationships and the need for us to be respectful of all human beings no matter what their social circumstance, their sexual orientation, their race, religion or ethnicity.

As we begin to embrace this new normal, may we appreciate the sacredness of all life at all stages; may we also appreciate life’s fragileness and respond appropriately. We never know the time, the hour or the day that life as we know it might end. So, the challenge is to live life to the fullest, to make every moment count and to communicate to the people we love how much we love them and how important they are to us.

During this pandemic, I have seen so much pain and suffering, so much senseless death. I have deepened my appreciation for the people who give of themselves every day in healthcare and mental health — for all the essential workers that have sacrificed so much so others might live.

This past year has made me appreciate how hard life can be for so many who live in the shadows of mental health and addiction. Recently, I buried a 35-year-old recovering heroin addict who died last year in the midst of this pandemic. He spent the better part of his life in active addiction and destructive decision-making. He was lost and couldn’t find his way. Finally, he made the decision to embrace the road to recovery.

As he began that journey, it was very difficult. He had a number of stumbles along the way. He committed himself to a long term, nontraditional residential treatment program that helped him to change his life. He discovered a voice he never thought he had in poetry. It helped him to see life with a different lens. It empowered him to discover spirituality that helped him to cope with some of the potholes that he encountered along the way. His mother said she discovered a son who she thought was dead and found a son that, at first, she did not recognize. She saw laughter, compassion and concern for others. His new voice provided solace for so many and she found peace of heart. Although brief, she had reclaimed a lost son who was blessed with three years of a wonderful life.

This young man was doing well but like anyone who carries the cross of addiction, it took only an instant for him to disconnect and lose his life. The world is better because he walked among us and shared his new voice of hope, love and life. However, he is also a powerful reminder of how fragile life is and we do not know the time, the hour or the place when life ends. His life is a powerful reminder that we need to live each moment to the fullest, to become the best version of ourselves and to leave this world better than when we found it.

Addiction is like a cancer spreading out of control. People do recover and reclaim their lives but we have to do more to support those who are struggling on that road to find their way.

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Pixabay photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Help. I have a strange problem and to this point can’t find the solution. The man who nicely takes care of our pool said that he removed 600 dead frogs last week. That’s more than the previous week, which yielded more than the week before. The problem is worsening as I write. My neighbor’s pool, according to his estimation, had 2,000 dead frogs, and so on at other houses in the area. I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that others are having the same intrusion, but actually not much. Even as I respect and enjoy nature, I would like to have the pool water for my family and not share it with dead amphibians.

The pool guy suggested I call an exterminator, which I did. I happen to know a competent one, who confessed to me after hearing my story that in his 35 years of being in business, he had never heard of such a predicament. “Call a pool guy,” he suggested. So we are right back to square one. He did kindly offer to call an expert entomologist he knew. I was grateful for the suggestion but I haven’t heard anything back from him as of this writing. 

I tried to think of someone else who might have dealt with this situation before and finally came up with the answer man (and woman) for any questions concerning our house: the good folks at the local hardware store. Ben at Ace Hardware tried hard to think of a method for dealing with hundreds of frogs and after much thought, gave me a mesh screen to tie to the side of the pool and hang into the water. The theory goes like this. The frogs are dying because they can’t get out. Maybe they hatched in the pool, maybe they just jumped in because it has been so hot. Either way, the smooth sides don’t permit them to escape. So if we give them a way to exit, they will leave. At least, that’s the hope. We’ll try that. I like it because it’s nontoxic. 

My son and daughter-in-law looked for a clue to this unprecedented dilemma on Google. They came up with a couple of answers that we will also try. One is to spray the bricks around the pool with white vinegar. Apparently, frogs don’t like vinegar on their feet. Or maybe they don’t like the smell. In any event, we have a gallon of white vinegar and a spray bottle, and we’re going to give it a go. Google also suggested giving the frogs a way out. It even suggested a froggy ladder, which they happened to sell, and we then dutifully bought. Worth a try. 

Other suggestions, with our responses:

Turn off the pool lights. Lights attract insects, which in turn attract frogs, who eat the insects.

We don’t use pool lights. We like the insect-eating part though.

Cover the pool.

We want to use it.

Install fence.

We have a fence with posts widely enough spaced for a squadron of frogs to march through. We could, however, put wooden boards or chicken wire at the base to keep them from hopping in.

Keep lawn mowed and free of weeds and debris.

Already do that. Neighbors will bear witness.

Make own DIY frog repellent.

If vinegar doesn’t work, will try a heavy concentration of saltwater. Or a mixture of bleach and water. Maybe all three.

Sprinkle coffee grounds around the pool. Acid in the coffee can also irritate their feet.


Keep pool water circulating. Frogs don’t like to lay eggs in moving water.

We could do that by keeping the filter going all day and night. It’s an expensive solution, however, because it would require a lot of electricity.

Keep the pool heated.


Keep pool sparkling clean.

We try.

When I was a kid, I dreamt of having a swimming pool. The frogs were not in my dream. It could be worse though. Australia is presently undergoing a plague of mice.

Any help for us?