Friday, April 28, 2006

Seagulls and the Great South Bay

Photos by Alida
Fire Island in the distance as seagulls fly over the
Great South Bay.
Long Island? Yes, of course!
We love it!
Beautiful day and the seagulls are flying. Every so often they dive and crash into the water for a fish or something to eat.
It is so nice to see them react to the natural foods in their environment...the hunters.
So much better than seeing them over a dumpster or someone's garbage.
The bay is so peaceful: birds flying and catching fish, the smell of salt air, flowers in bloom and the sound of the waves on the traffic sounds here.
Yes, we love Long Island!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Animal Shelters on Long Island NY

Ron writes, "I need a baby kitten short haired to adopt. Where can I find a list of animal shelters on Long Island?"

Try this page for Long Island Animal Shelters in New York.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It's the Homeowners vs. the Hurricanes

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance

Last week we had our regular meeting of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Suffolk County, the local part of the national organization of Independent Agents. Our guest speaker was Howard Mills, New York State Superintendent of Insurance.

We were immediately impressed with his depth of knowledge and up-front speaking style. This is no political hack we were listening to, so we paid close attention. Naturally a good part of his talk was about the New York homeowners insurance issues, especially focusing on Long Island and Suffolk County. In a relatively short time he took us all the way from the global market for reinsurance, which is the way insurance companies themselves protect against catastrophic losses, right down to what we as individual homeowners should be looking at to help lower our risk of damage in a storm.

He stressed that no one approach will solve this problem, it will have to be a combination of changes in the insurance industry and changes to things like building codes and construction methods. The one thing I thought was interesting for our discussion here was a survey that his department did of home improvement stores in the area.

Mr. Mills told us that storm shutters, reinforced garage doors, and hurricane resistant roof clips are standard all through Florida, and required in all new construction there. Not only are they not required here on Long Island by building codes, but his office could not even find a store, large or small, that carried them in stock. They are only available by special order.

Hurricane roof clips, in particular, are apparently pretty inexpensive, easy to install, and provide great protection against high winds. It may be some time before local building departments require them on all homes, but it may be a relatively short time before insurance carriers start to offer insurance savings, or more liberal underwriting, based on people who go the extra mile to lower their risk of a hurricane claim.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Choice = Power

When you think of choices, what comes to mind? Decisions like what to wear, what to eat or perhaps even what to do this weekend? These are all valid choices but I wonder how many of us have been neglecting some very important choices in our lives. I’m talking about choices that affect your life. Choices that you may make yourself, or heaven forbid, allow someone else to make for you!

What! You may think, I don’t allow other people to make decisions for me! It’s true, however, that many of us don’t realize how many of our own choices for empowerment we just toss by the wayside and allow others to have control. Whose life is it anyway? Are other people living your life for you? Who will have to live with the consequences? They won’t!

What I simply am suggesting is that you become more conscious of how you make decisions and choices.

Do you make decisions with confidence? With unwavering trust in your own wisdom and competence? Do you ask others for their input before deciding? Do you ask others on a regular basis before coming to a final decision for yourself?

If you find that you are constantly looking for validation for sources outside of yourself, ask yourself why. What is the motivation behind asking for someone else’s input before a decision? I am not saying this isn’t a good thing at certain times, but if it is done on a regular basis, then the reasons behind it are worth exploring, so that you can begin to trust yourself wrong and put your power back in your own hands.

If you find that you are basing many of your choices on what others think, then do the decisions represent the values that you want to embody for yourself? In other words, is it the choice you would have made anyway, or was your mind swayed by the responses you received from outside sources?

If you find that you are unable to make your own decisions, then realize that you don’t trust or value your own opinion as much as you do that of others. Allow me to now remind you that you are a valuable, worthwhile human being. Your opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. And, when a decision or choice affects your life, then your opinion becomes that much more valuable. Why disempower yourself by handing over a decision that is important to you and affects your life-to someone else? When you do that you are literally handing away your power.

If you question the fact that you are powerful, take a moment to remember that we all have the ability to make choices. This ability can never be taken away. Choice=power!

Your power of choice cannot be taken from you, you can, however, hand it over to someone else if you are not making your choices with faith and trust in your own wisdom and knowing. Again, handing this power over is a choice. You can choose to stand in your own power majestically, or, you can hand it over to someone else. Which will you choose?

When you make a choice or a decision, ask yourself- “Am I empowering myself or disempowering myself?” “Am I giving my power away?” “Who will this decision ultimately affect?”

Empowerment is power on the inside. Call up your inner power and use it!

Some points to remember:
  1. One of the most disempowering choices we can make is valuing the opinions of others above our own. When we do this, we are forfeiting our own power of choice.
  2. Think about why you have made the choices you have made in the past, or are making now. What has influenced you? Are you being true to yourself in those choices?
  3. Remember to make conscious choices! When you are conscious of the things you are choosing for yourself, you will be focus and clear, leading to some very empowered choices!
  4. Don’t allow yourself to be programmed to believe that you don’t have the power to choose what you want in your life, because you do!
Arielle Sumner Consoli of Indigo Skies has been dubbed "Long Island's Favorite Life Coach". She has helped numerous people live their ideal lives by making lasting changes, removing blockages, achieving goals and by simply showing them how possible it is to truly live their dream. Visit Indigo Skies at

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Reverse Mortgages, continued from 3/25

What is a Reverse Mortgage? (continued from 3/25 post)

As the cost of living continues to rise here on Long Island, many senior homeowners are growing increasingly concerned. As they search for ways to bolster their financial security and maintain their lifestyles, seniors are increasingly focusing on the Reverse Mortgage as a possible solution for their needs.

Last month we explored some Reverse Mortgage basics. Lets pursue them a bit further.

Who Qualifies for a Reverse Mortgage? Qualification for a Reverse Mortgage is pretty simple.

· The age of the homeowner/s must be age 62 or greater.
· The home must be the primary residence. You have to live there.
· The home must be in good repair. The home will be appraised during the loan approval process.
· There can be no other liens on the home. (Current liens or mortgages can and must be satisfied from the proceeds of the Reverse Mortgage.)
· Again, there are no income, credit or medical qualification criteria for a Reverse Mortgage.

How do you access the cash?

You can access your cash in one of three ways. They are:
· Lump Sum – a single payment of cash.
· A Line of Credit – You can use or pay back as you like.
· Monthly payments, either term or tenure.

You can also access the cash in any combination of these options. You might take a Lump Sum to pay off debts or another mortgage, a Line of Credit for a defined amount and Monthly Payments for the balance. Note that Monthly Tenure payments will continue for as long as you reside in the home, even if you have take out more money than the home ends up being worth.

So how much money can you get?

The amount you are able to receive from your Reverse Mortgage is based on three factors. They are:
· The Age of the youngest homeowner.
· Current Interest Rates.
· The location and Appraised Value of the home.

For an analysis of how much money a Reverse Mortgage would provide, do-it-yourselfers can access the AARP website calculator at Your Reverse Mortgage provider will also be happy to provide you with a more detailed analysis.

Next month we’ll take a look at who might benefit from a Reverse Mortgage the significant differences between a regular Home Equity Lind of Credit (a HELOC), and the Reverse Mortgage Line of Credit.

Francis Miller is a Reverse Mortgage Consultant with
the Senior Funding Group, Hicksville, New York.
He can be contacted directly at 1-631-312-3569

Long Island Concerts and Entertainment


Don't Miss Any of these exciting new shows - just booked
and on sale now at the North Fork Theatre at Westbury.
Buy your tickets at

Long Island Entertainment and Concert Line Up for 2006

April 28 WKJY presents John Tesh
April 29 Dick Fox’s Golden Boys Frankie Avalon, Fabian Bobby Rydell
May 6 Centerstage presents Michael Amante
May 7 Ann-Margret
May 11 Colin Mochrie & Brad Sherwood from Who’s Line Is It Anyway?
May 12 Russell Peters “Somebody!”
May 13 Michael Bolton
May 19 Whoopi Goldberg
May 20 The O’Jays / Jerry “The Iceman” Butler
May 21 Legends of Country Rock: Poco, Pure Prairie League, Firefall
June 1 Kevin James
June 2 Blue Oyster Cult / Foghat
June 3 Dick Fox’s Summer Doo Wop Extravaganza
June 9 Linda Ronstadt
June 10 Clarke Duke Project: Stanley Clarke & George Duke
June 14 Rick Wakeman
June 16-17 Donna Summer
June 24 Hot Tuna / David Bromberg
June 28 Doobie Brothers
June 30 Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
July 9 Creedence Clearwater Revisited
July 12 Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
July 13 Big Head Todd & The Monsters/Toad the Wet Sprocket
July 14 Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
July 15 Dion & Lou Christie
July 18 Dickey Betts & Great Southern/Kenny Wayne Shepherd
July 22 Air Supply
July 23 An Evening With Patti LaBelle
July 26 Air Supply & Billy Ocean
July 27 Charlie Daniels Band/Lee Roy Parnell
July 28 ABBA: The Music
July 29-30 Paul Anka – Decades of Hits
August 5 Peter, Paul & Mary
August 12 Rick Springfield
August 13 Legends of Laughter: Freddie Roman & Shecky Greene
August 18 Boz Scaggs
August 19 Motown Saturday Night starring Dennis Edwards &
The Temptations Review, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Impressions,
August 20 George Thorogood & The Destroyers
August 22 The James Gang Rides Again
August 26 The Beach Boys
August 27 Lewis Black
August 31 Peter Frampton
Sept 16 Richard Jeni

Tickets are available at the North Fork Theatre box office,
ticketmaster locations or charge by phone (631) 888-9000
Buy tickets online at
For Amex Gold Card Events call 800-NOW-AMEX.

North Fork Theatre
960 Broad Hollow Road
Westbury, New York 11590

Register to Win FREE tickets for North Fork Theater

More Long Island Concerts, Shows and Events

Old Spice or Old Hat?

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Everything old is new again, right? Remember this jingle: “Old Spice…a Little Dab Will Do You!”?

Of course you don’t. For one thing, it was a little dab of Brylcreem that would do you, not Old Spice. It was never explained exactly what Brylcreem would do for you, at least not to my satisfaction. (I’m always the last to know when it comes to such things, anyway). Old Spice, on the other hand, had a catchy little jingle that one whistled as one applied the product to one’s face just like the rugged sailor in the commercial. Both advertising campaigns were successful to the extent that here it is more than 30 years later and I can still hear both jingles in my head.

What they didn’t do, however, was get me to use the products. I couldn’t, really, because aftershave and hair cream just were not part of your daily routine if you came of age in the 1970s. Trust me, one look at the few pictures there are of me from that era will attest to the fact that hair gel or cream was never part of the grooming equation. And on those rare occasions where I did splash a little cologne, it was not Old Spice.

Truth be told I love the smell of Old Spice, but every time I come across it I think of my father. I think everybody from my generation has the same reaction, which may explain how Old Spice came to be painfully un-hip right about the mid-1970s on – no one wants to sport an aroma that’s associated with the previous generation. My father was also more of a Vitalis guy than a Brylcreem user, but for teenagers in the 1970s any thing that was designed to keep one’s hair neat looking was seen as a Fascist Tool designed to get all of us White Punks on Dope to conform and concede our independence.

Fast forward to the 2000s and what do I find my young sons using? You got it – Old Spice and hair gel. Okay, so maybe not Brylcreem (believe it or not the product is still out there), but definitely hair gel and definitely Old Spice. To follow either Alex, my 15 year old, or Max, my 11 year old, in the bathroom after either one showers is to take an olfactory trip down memory lane. The magnitude of the aftermath of generous applications of Old Spice Body Wash and Old Spice deodorant lead me to the conclusion that if Old Spice made a mouthwash my sons would use it. Not that that would be a bad thing, necessarily. For starters, I am grateful my boys are maturing to the point where showers are no longer anathema. But I also get a kick out of remembering how I delighted in following my father’s aromatic footsteps on those occasions when he would leave a cloud of Old Spice in his wake.

I honestly don’t know if either of my sons realizes that they have adopted the same smell as their paternal grandfather, just as I am not sure if knowing that would result in them no longer using the product. I mean, it’s one thing to not use something because your FATHER uses it. Can you imagine how they would feel if they knew they’re GRANDFATHER splashed this stuff on his face back in the day? Just like every generation thinks it invented sex and good music, I wonder if my sons’ generation thinks it discovered Old Spice?

Kudos, too, to the marketers of Old Spice. It’s as if they have given up on an entire generation – mine – knowing they can’t overcome the stigma of being your father’s after shave and opted instead to get a whole new bunch of boys to imagine themselves whistling a catchy tune and walking down a deserted pier with a duffle bag hanging jauntily on one’s shoulder - presumably after having enjoyed the company of a woman who was clearly attracted to you simply because you smelled so good.

As for the hair cream, or gel, or whatever, well my boys like to use that, too, even though they keep their hair styles real short. Their crew cuts come with that little flip up front, a flip that requires more maintenance than you might think. That’s where the hair gel comes in. I had a crew cut growing up but again, as the 1970s unfolded, having a crew cut was about as happening as reciting dialogue from “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” to impress your girlfriend. And the crew cut never required the use of gel. You just got your hair shaved down to the nub and you were done with it.

I don’t use the hair gel or the Old Spice. Quite frankly, when you drive a Saturn as I do there’s little else you need to do when it comes to impressing members of the fairer sex. I am not worried about not leaving an aromatic legacy, however. Embracing the philosophy that the apple does not fall far from the tree, I have a sneaking suspicion that when my sons have sons and my sons follow their sons into the bathroom, there may be other sensory experiences that will bring back memories of dear old Dad.

Thank you for reading this column.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Shrinking Long Island Homeowners Insurance Market

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance

So to continue where the last post left off, what are the insurance carriers doing about this situation of increasing storm frequency and severity combined with the tremendous run-up in home values of the past few years? Well, Allstate Insurance Company fired the first shot, completely closing down for new homeowners insurance policies on Long Island. In their original news release, they said they would be keeping those customers they already have. But shortly after, they announced that they would be non-renewing (canceling) the number allowed by law, up to 4% of their customers. Unfortunately, the current law is that the 4% is based on the number of homes they write statewide, not just in a particular area. This means that they could actually cancel a much larger percentage here on Long Island as long as they don't cancel many people from other parts of the state.

Last week, MetLife Auto and Home announced that they are going to stop writing homes that are not at least five miles from tidal waters on Long Island, which takes in a pretty large slice considering we are only 20 miles wide at the widest point.

Nationwide followed next with what they are calling 'managed growth', and exactly what action they are taking depends on whether you are in the relatively sheltered areas of Nassau and Queens counties, or in the more highly exposed sections of Suffolk starting in Brookhaven.

This is only going to get worse because the companies that remain can't absorb all this business at their current rates. Part of that issue has to do with reinsurance, which basically is when the insurance companies buy insurance themselves, through giant carriers that spread billions of dollars of risk around to help stabilize the market. The problem is that the reinsurance carriers have raised their rates because of the recent storms and the predictions that we will be having more of them. But the regular insurance carriers are not allowed to pass those costs on to their policy holders. There are valid reasons for this which are beyond the scope of our discussion, but still it is making it very difficult for insurance companies to price their policies and offer coverages in high hazard regions like ours.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Long Island Rail Road

Mary from NYC writes, "I would like to bring a small dog on the train from Penn Station to Syosset. Is that allowed? If so, what are the rules and regulations?"

The MTA allows seeing eye or hearing dogs. All other animals must be properly confined for shipment.

Check the Long Island Rail Road Official Web Site for full rules, regulations and specific policies.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Do You Canoodle?

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

With all due apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the rich and famous are different from you and me. They get to canoodle. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only upside to being rich and famous is the rich and famous get to “canoodle” and have that canoodling merit mention in the gossip columns.

Just what is canoodling? I’m not sure, quite frankly – another reason why it’s not very likely you’ll ever read about me doing it. According to, to canoodle is to “engage in caressing, petting or lovemaking.” The web site offers as Exhibit A a video snippet of Rep. Rick Renzi (a Congressman from Arizona) and Rep. Katherine Harris (a Congresswoman from Florida made famous in the 2000 Dimpled Chad Debacle) canoodling on the floor of the United States House of Representatives while a fellow member of Congress drones on in a speech. It was recorded by C-Span and is not nearly as enticing and exciting as, say, the canoodling between Pamela Anderson and Kanye West that was reported by several Web sites. But at least now we know what the “C” in “C-Span” stands for.

I am happy to report I am not the only one in the canoodling dark. I was discussing the Canoodling Phenomenon recently with my good friend John, a.k.a. The Bishop of Babylon, who like me and countless others considers reading Page Six of the New York a guilty pleasure. Neither of us was quite sure what specific activities actually constitute canoodling but we agreed it seemed like a fun thing to do or at least like a fun thing to be reported in the newspapers as doing. John and I are both happily married suburbanites and family men, however, so even if we knew how to canoodle and assuming (however unlikely) we could get our respective wives to agree to canoodle in public the news of such activities would not see the light of day. Nobody cares about married men and women canoodling unless, of course, they canoodle with men and women other than their spouses. Then everybody cares.

From what I can tell the unwritten rule of canoodling, at least as far as the gossip columns are concerned, is that at a minimum either the canoodler or canoodlee has to be either rich or famous - ideally both – which best explains why Paris Hilton is considered the Queen of Canoodling. Fame is relative, of course. When I was in college one of my fellow undergrads – I’ll call him “Bob Owens” – had a dorm room that overlooked most of the campus quad. He would park himself by his window on a Saturday night and take notes about who was seen walking across the quad (a prelude to some dormitory canoodling, no doubt) with whom and when and then dish the dirt the following morning in the cafeteria over bad eggs and stale cereal. We all lived for the gossip and, if memory serves, being worthy of mention in a Bob report meant you were something of a big wig on campus. Needless to say, and somewhat ironically, Bob himself did not get out much but we all greatly appreciated his taking one for the team on our nosy behalf.

I think our fascination with the whole canoodling process dates back to high school, when your choices for conversation were either yesterday’s algebra test or who was seen making out with whom. Canoodling (or public displays of affection as we called it back then) was the lifeblood of your social status. If you canoodled with the right person in the right place at the right time then you mattered. If not, you were voted most likely to read about other people canoodling in Page Six for the rest of your life.

That so many of us are fascinated by canoodling couples – and that the careers of these canoodlers seem to improve with each reported canoodling – proves the wisdom of what Frank Zappa once said: “Life is like high school with money.” (For the record, that a generation of American students has received their diplomas without having listened to a Frank Zappa album saddens me. In fact, I weep for the future.)

Speaking of the future, there is talk – blasphemous, dangerous talk – that use of “canoodling” has become passé. Just last month, for instance, Page Six reported that it is bored with the term and so opted to use “making out” instead when reporting that “Winona Ryder was seen with Liev Schreiber at Von on Bleecker Street.” Unfortunately for Page Six – which has had its hands full lately with scandals of its own – it turns out that Ryder was indeed just canoodling harmlessly with Mr. Schreiber, who apparently “is blissfully committed to (the) gorgeous Naomi Watts.”

Now I’ve heard of both Ms. Ryder and Ms. Watts but quite honestly I wouldn’t know either of them if they came to my door selling Girl Scout cookies. I have no idea what kind of place Von is. I thought it was a grocery store. It sounds expensive. As for Mr. Schreiber, for all I know he is the Secretary of the Interior. Yet the idea that he was seen canoodling with Ms. Ryder, that somebody felt compelled to share such information with a major news outlet in the Media Capital of the World and the fact that that news outlet felt compelled to share this bit of news with the rest of the world is just fascinating.

Not so fascinating that I want to canoodle, mind you. Fitzgerald canoodled, and he died at the tender young age of 44. Besides, since I am neither rich nor famous if I were at Von on Bleecker I could be sitting next to Kathleen Turner in her prime and I’d be too busy worrying about how much that bottle of Pellegrino was going to set me back.

Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Long Island Homeowners Insurance - What's the Real Story?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance

This week we will begin a series of articles looking in to what is really happening in the homeowners insurance market in the downstate New York area, especially on Long Island. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation running around right now, and it is critical that we stay well informed on the real issues, not the hype.

The big talk is about hurricanes and flooding. After Katrina last year, and after the large number of storms that have formed in coastal waters the past 6-8 years or so, panic is finally setting in with insurance carriers as they are realizing just what they have at stake in the New York area, and how it is (and isn't) different from other areas of the country.

Let's start by looking at what the insurance companies really fear. They are not afraid of a fire. The age when conflagrations such as the Great Chicago Fire could easily occur are long past, with improvements in buildings and in fire protection. So while a 'bad' fire might damage several buildings, or one large one such as the World Trade Center, they will not wipe out an entire city or even an area. The same can be said for most other kinds of damage covered by property insurance, including vandalism, burst pipes, and so on.

The real fear is of a truly catastrophic storm ripping through the New York area. Property values here are higher than almost anywhere else (we all know what ridiculous prices our homes are worth compared to a few short years ago) and the TOTAL property values in the NY metropolitan area are just astounding. The World Trade Center insured loss for the events of 9-11-2001 are somewhere in the range of $65 billion, depending on just which account you are reading. The damages being paid out for Katrina by insurance carriers are currently estimated at about $25 billion (see CBS News article here.) However, the current estimate of residential property values in the coast around NYC and the various suburbs is $1.5 TRILLION! Allstate lost $1 Billion last year and stopped writing all homeowners on Long Island in order to manage their exposure. According to NY State figures, they write about 26% of homes on Long Island, which exposes them to probably close to $100 Billion in property values! Is it any real wonder they are worried?

Aaron Stein is a the third generation owner of Norton & Siegel, Inc. in Babylon, New York est. 1892. Norton & Siegel provides all kinds of insurance from top rated insurance carriers, with old fashioned service. Let us shop around and give you high quality advice for all your insurance needs.

Long Island rowing clubs, crews and associations in New York

Robert writes, "I am interested in finding out about rowing associations."

Rowing is a growing sport on Long Island, New York. There are rowing associations, crews, clubs and teams that promote rowing as a sport and help to foster the interest of rowing as a spectator sport. Most of the crews on Long Island are comprised of co-ed High School and College teams that compete at various regattas on Long Island as well as out of state competitions. The Sagamore Rowing association offer programs for students as well as adults.

Sagamore Rowing Association (SRA) trains thousands of rowers across Long Island. They have numerous Olympians, World, National Team members and medalists. Sagamore Rowing Associations is one of the most established and highly regarded rowing clubs in the country. The rowing association has launched a dozen high school and university rowing programs on Long Island, in addition to many adult programs. Sagamore Rowing Association is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the sport of rowing, helping Long Island rediscover a traditional sport.

For a complete list of Long Island rowing clubs, crews and teams check out
Long Island Sport > Rowing

Friday, April 07, 2006

These Kids Today

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Who’s got it better than our kids?

We had tri-cycles. They get Big-Wheels, motorized Big Wheels for the really well-to-do. We had pinball. They have video games so real you can get athlete’s foot just by playing. We had the occasional ride to school if it was raining really hard. They have door-to-door, round-the-clock taxi service that would be good enough for the President of the United States if it included Secret Service protection.

My sister Joan took her daughter Joan, a swimmer who has won medals for her efforts up and down the Eastern Seaboard despite being only 14 years old, to a tournament at Harvard University. Apparently they got them real thick fancy towels there on campus, just one of the many nice amenities my sister did not have access to when she represented the best Massapequa had to offer on behalf of the Marjorie R. Post Town Pool swim team.
My cousin Chris introduced her pre-teen daughter Jordan to a friend who worked for an airline. Jordan, who was getting ready for yet another airborne journey across the pond to Europe, seized the moment and inquired of Chris’ friend as to whether she had enough juice with the airline to “upgrade her into First Class” for her impending trip.

My 15 year-old son Alex has watched a sporting event from a luxury box and/or 50-yard line at every arena in the tri-state area. I was 22 before I saw my first Yankee game, and that vantage point was the $2-a-seat bleachers.

My favorite story came from my friend Ken, who with his wife is raising four extremely nice kids in a seven-figure house on his six-figure salary. Ken was one of eight kids growing up and his first family vacation, according to Ken, was when they all piled into a station wagon and drove his older sister off to college. His kids have been on all kinds of nice vacations – on planes and everything - and not one of them is old enough to smoke yet.

Raise your hand if you think your kids have it a lot better than you did when you were their age. Hold ‘em up high. Yep – I thought so and I know what you mean. Every Christmas morning I make the same dumb joke: When I die I want to come back as one of my kids.

Ironically, each of us with our hands up probably heard the same thing from our parents – that we had it better than they ever did. And we did, of course. I know I had everything I needed as a kid. The difference, however, is that we wear our kids’ situations as a badge of honor, whereas some parents from the previous generation seemed a little bitter. I am generalizing, of course, and I guess I would be bitter too if I grew up in a Depression and then a World War, only to have my kids bitch about the fact that the dishwasher does not know how to empty itself.

Take my 11 year-old son Max and his baseball equipment, for instance. When I played ball I had a pair of spikes and a glove and without trying to sound too Dickensian I paid for them myself from the money I earned on my paper route or, later on, washing dishes at a catering hall. Max, on the other hand, has an equipment bag that is bigger and fancier than the luggage my wife, Sharon, and I used on our honeymoon. The bag has the logo of the travel team he plays for, PLUS his name PLUS his number. In the bag are cleats, hats, practice shirts, two game jerseys (home and away, both with his name on the back), sunglasses, a first baseman’s mitt, a pitcher’s mitt, an outfielder’s mitt and an aluminum bat that cost more than my first car.

Even though I must confess to feeling a twinge of jealousy every time I see my sons sporting a jersey with their last name on the back (I missed out on that as a kid), I am more amazed and amused than bothered by all this. I feel good that I can provide such things for my sons (Alex is equally well-appointed when it comes to baseball gear.)

But then I wrestle with the notion that my generation hands over way too much to the kids we are raising. Employers across the Island tell me tales of young workers wondering when they get their trophies just for showing up for work. On the other hand, I do not want my sons working every weekend like I did in high school and college. I want them to enjoy life, to develop recreational habits and hobbies and maybe even go on a trip or two as they get older.
I’m not sure what the answer is; I’m not even sure if there is a question. I do know there are few greater joys than watching a child enjoy something you made possible. Besides, the way I see it sooner or later my guys are going to be taking care of me and I am firm believer in what goes around comes around.

Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Home Inspection Basics

Home Inspection Basics: What You Need To Know By Chris Hantis, CHI/PHI
A-Pro Home Inspection Services

Most people know that buying a home is one of the biggest investments they'll ever make, but what they don't realize is how important the home inspection process is in ensuring that investment is a truly solid one. At first glance, a home may appear in good condition, but the fact is, most homes – regardless of their age – contain defects that very often go undetected by both the buyer and seller, ultimately leading to delays, hassles and financial headaches both before and after the sale. A thorough home inspection helps you buy your home with confidence, insures against legal problems down the road, and provides you with a top-to-bottom check-up of your home's anatomy. What most people also take for granted is that all home inspection services are largely the same. But what they find out – often when it's too late – is that experience, service and expertise levels in the industry vary immensely. Choosing the right home inspector can make a major difference in the time, expense and aggravation associated with the home buying and selling process. Here are seven fundamental questions you should ask before selecting a home inspector:

  1. Do you perform home inspections or warranty evaluations? Many home inspectors don't really perform a complete inspection at all, but rather what's known as a "warranty evaluation." Understanding the difference between the two is critical. A warranty evaluation only covers the basic elements covered by the home warranty, such as the heating/air conditioning system and other built-in mechanical systems. It does not cover all visible pre-existing conditions that might exist throughout the home. A real home inspection, however, consists of a full 500-point evaluation of virtually every system and component of the home, including major appliances and overall structural conditions, and should include a written warranty that protects both the buyer and the seller against inspection oversights.
  2. What are your qualifications? When selecting an inspector, it is extremely important to ask whether he or she is fully licensed under the laws and regulations of New York, and what type of training certification they have. The best inspectors are not only certified by a nationally-recognized professional association such as ISHI or NACHI, but also carry insurance coverage known as Errors & Omissions (E&O).
  3. Does your inspection include an examination of the home's foundation?
    The foundation of a home is the most important element of its stability and integrity, which is why it may surprise you that some inspection services do not survey its condition at all. Make sure that your home inspector includes a digital foundation level survey to check for unusual settling problems that could later cost thousands to repair.
  4. Do you check the heating exchange? Another critical element of a home which many inspectors overlook is the heating exchange, which is the single most important functioning part of a gas heat system. An aging or ill-repaired exchange system can release deadly carbon monoxide into your home with tragic consequences. Your home inspection service should offer a complete inspection of this system, included in the price.
  5. Do you guarantee your service in writing? Most home inspectors will go through your home and, based on a simple, visual inspection, give you their opinions on what components need attention. But once you sign off on the inspection report, you are 100% on your own regarding what to do with those opinions, and the inspection service has no further responsibility (or liability). Ask your home inspector if he or she offers a written guarantee protecting you against oversights.
  6. If you find a problem with the house, will a specialist have to be called in for further evaluation? A common practice of the home inspection industry is performing a visual inspection, then, if a possible problem exists, recommending a further evaluation from a specialist (e.g., electrician, plumber, etc.). This means added time, expense and headaches for both the buyer and the seller. A highly-trained home inspector, however, has the depth of knowledge in all components of a home to provide what's known as a "no-further-evaluation guarantee." This means that if the inspector cannot positively identify a component problem right there on the spot, he or she will pay for the specialist's further evaluation.
  7. I’m selling my home. Do I need to inspect it beforehand? Absolutely. Contrary to what some believe, a “pre-listing” home inspection not only gives buyers peace of mind, it also helps the close the deal faster for the seller. A comprehensive inspection conducted before the house is listed gives the seller an opportunity to repair problems before the buyer discovers them (thus justifying the home’s asking price), and in turn enables the buyer to make his decision with greater confidence. If you are a seller, make sure your home inspection service has an established "Pre-Listing" Inspection program.

About the Author
Chris Hantis, CHI/PHI is the owner of A-Pro Home Inspection Services of Long Island, licensed and certified by the State of New York. He can be reached at (631) 868-0499, or via e-mail

Long Island Ferries

Photo by Alida
Don't know what to do this week?
Full spring schedules are in effect for Long Island Ferries.
Why not take a trip?
(You can't do spring cleaning everyday!)
Take the kids, now that they are off from school, and visit a place you have never been
or revisit a place you love.
I know you will enjoy the day!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Spring Cleaning? Yuck!

Spring Cleaning? Yuck.

Today’s weather certainly indicates that spring is on the horizon and I couldn’t be happier. It is so nice to be able to open the windows and let some fresh air in. But opening those windows also reminds me how dusty things are and it definitely makes me groan. I know that the proverbial spring cleaning is in my near future and I am not happy about that!

I am not the biggest fan of that necessary evil—house cleaning. Organizing, no problem but cleaning? There are a million other things I would rather do first! So, how do I handle this problem that I cannot just ignore? By keeping organized, of course. When things are put away and your house has a neat appearance, that is more important than deep cleaning.

When it comes to cleaning, I choose my battles. I make sure that the most important things are taken care of: the kitchen, the bathrooms and vacuuming. Dusting and other issues can wait for another day (although I think that day has arrived according to what is blowing around in the breeze upstairs!). Dusting is one of my least favorite things (this is why I do not like knick knacks) but there is one good thing about it: if you let it go for a bit, it will not take more energy to do the job. Unlike a mound of dirty laundry or dishes which will grow and grow into a large task, dusting takes the same effort now matter how much there is.

Also when it comes to other things that annoy me but I don’t feel like dealing with them, I try not to stress over it. It can be very aggravating to think of the endless treadmill of cleaning because once you are finished, it just starts all over again. So another thing I try to do is daily maintenance, just like with organizing. For example, I will wipe down the bathroom mirror and sink in the morning before I leave the house. Or make sure there are no dishes in the sink or make sure the laundry gets done once a week. These simple maintenance things take some of the pressure off.

I guess I just need to face the fact that cleaning will always be a part of my life, like it or not. And I must say, I did notice a feeling of total accomplishment and calm when I did the unthinkable a couple of weeks ago: I cleaned the entire house in one day. This is something I rarely do. That feeling I had after was so good, I am trying to focus on that to motivate me to do that more in the future. But right now I am going outside to enjoy some of this beautiful weather. The dusting can wait. . . .