Friday, June 30, 2006

I Coulda Been A Contenda

Ask Mr. Long IslandBY MICHAEL WATT

The month of July 2006 marks the 15th year I have been writing this column, more or less. In July of 1991 I started writing a humor column for a chain of weekly newspapers that no longer exists – despite my efforts to amuse the masses. That gig lasted for about nine years.

When the newspaper chain ceased to exist I had about a year to myself, with no one to share my weekly musings. At first I thought it was going to be great – all that extra time on my hands with no loss of revenue, seeing as how over the course of the nine years the closest I came to getting paid – or even thanked, for that matter – for my efforts was a $50 gift certificate to a meat market in Malverne. I was sure I would use that free time to write the book that I know is in me. Uh huh. Nearly a year went by. No book. No column. The frustration was building and the backlog of verbiage was beginning to bind me up like so many slices of American cheese. I can’t even begin to estimate as to how many bon mots and pithy observations were lost, never to be recovered.

By this time I was gainfully employed by the company that hosts and I had the bright idea to start a weekly newsletter. Ostensibly the purpose of the newsletter was to provide a weekend guide of activities for thousands of Long Islanders, but the reality is I would have pitched creating a weekly recitation of pork prices if it met developing a weekly vehicle for my humoristic pontifications. The newsletter started on Memorial Day weekend in 2000. I was back in business.

How long is 15 years? Let’s put it this way – when I started writing my oldest son was less than a year old. He is now less than an inch taller than I am. My wife, Sharon, and I lived in a one-bedroom co-op in Farmingdale and had pizza for dinner every Friday night. We now live in a three bedroom house in Babylon and have pizza for dinner every Friday night. Since I started writing I lost my dad – and wrote a column (“Don’t Worry, Just Juggle”) about it, of which I will be forever proud. I kept the essays going even while I was getting my MBA – even wrote one column during class, when I was supposed to be learning about modern technology in the business world. Speaking of modern technology, thanks to it I was able to write the column on airplanes, in the back of limousines and even during my son’s baseball games.

For those of you keeping score at home I figure that means I have written more than 700 columns since 1991. At 850 words per column that’s an estimated 606,000 words – enough for about 20 books. At an estimated two hours per column – I know, based on the carefully massaged syntax as well as the copious and clever alliteration one could be justified in thinking it took me a lot longer to crank these things out – that’s close to 1,500 hours of my life, or 45 weeks. Yikes!

As much as I enjoy the time I spend creating this thing – and I do enjoy it – the thought occurs to me that there were other – some might even say better – ways I could have spent my time. With that in mind, I thought I would jot some of those ways down.

I could have:

- been a roadie for Madonna’s “Blond Ambition Tour;

- learned to speak Lithuanian;

- learned how to box, taken on Mike Tyson as the next “Great White Hope” a la Gerry Cooney, pocketed a million-dollar payday and then figured out how to drink oatmeal through a straw;

- watched every James Bond movie – even the one with George Lazenby - ever made. Oh wait, I have done that;

- memorized the Suffolk County phone book (“Aaron Aardvark, 555-0052…”);

- taken singing lessons. No, on second thought, there’s not enough time in the world to overcome my vocal shortcomings;

- run for office (“if elected, I promise to do away with promises that can’t be honored and make Star Jones-Reynolds the Poet Laureate of Suffolk County;"

- edited and marketed a DVD called “Holy Cow and Pass the Cannoli” - the best of Phil Rizzuto as a baseball broadcaster;

- Speaking of Phi Rizzuto, I could have written (and still just might) a screenplay based on the fictional couple depicted in the song “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” Why is the guy “waiting for the end of time to hurry up and arrive.” What is it about the woman that makes one want to welcome death?

- Made millions by inventing something really useful, like a fruit bowl that keeps fruit slightly chilled during the summer so the fruit doesn’t ripen so fast;

I could have but I didn’t. I just kept writing. Why? I’m not sure I can answer that. I would like to think I do it to improve as a writer, but I have no way of measuring my progress because I am loath to read anything I write once it is written. I hate it all. (That’s also probably why I have never compiled all my columns.)

Regardless of why I do it, for the time being I will continue to do so. Unless, of course, I ever get around to finishing that book. Uh huh. Then maybe I’ll look into that roadie thing with Madonna.
Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Long Island Search Engine Marketing & Online Advertising

Does it piss you off when you check your keywords in the most popular search engines and your competition has wiped you off the face of the map?

Maybe it's time to hire a real search engine marketing team...
For more information call at 631-543-1000 x258.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No Vacation from Hunger on Long Island, New York

Help Feed the Hungry on Long Island - make a donation to Island Harvest today!It's summer on Long Island. Many families head to the beach, catch up on yard work, or go on vacation. Others struggle to feed children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs during the rest of the year.

To help them, please make a summer gift to Island Harvest. We collect and deliver millions of pounds of food and supplies to pantries and shelters throughout the Island, where families can obtain them, at no charge.

We recently helped a Selden family find a food pantry. The parents own a business, yet they can't make ends meet. The mother confided, "We just can't make it. We used to be OK, but now the end of the month comes and the money is going out faster than it came in."

During the school year, federally-funded breakfast and lunch programs are of enormous help to tens of thousands of families like this one. For most, these programs go away in June. It is no accident that our member agencies see a spike in demand for food in July and August.

Island Harvest is helping families stretch their budgets by teaching them how to prepare more and better meals for less money. And we pick up and distribute perfectly good surplus food from area retailers, which would otherwise go to waste.

Please take a moment to make a generous gift to Island Harvest. Visit our Web site, and go to the secure contributions page, or follow this link. You can also mail your contribution to Island Harvest at 199 Second Street, Mineola, NY 11501.

Comments on Newsday Column about Kids Safety

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

I'm taking a break from the issues surrounding the hurricane threat and it's effect on Long Island homeowners and flood insurance to talk about another area that is making our lives more interesting these days. It's another issue that is causing homeowners insurance policies to be canceled or restricted and is only going to get worse.

This morning's Newsday had a column by Ellis Henican entitled 'Hey Grownups! Stop stealing fun from our kids'. It talks about things like the disappearance of diving boards for home pools, changes in playground equipment in the name of safety, and the like. I enjoy his writing and he is, to a great extent, on the mark here. And I give him credit for NOT taking it as an opportunity to bash the insurance industry, which is part of the reason some of this stuff is disappearing.

The insurance industry was a major influence in the 1960's when car manufacturers were forced to stop building 'muscle cars' because of injuries and lawsuits. Cars are faster now than they were in the Sixties, but with air bags, anti-lock brakes, and other improvements, they are much safer too.

The key word in the above is LAWSUITS! We are the most lawsuit-crazy country in the world, and in particular, the corridor from Washington, D.C to Boston is just out of control. Every time someone injures themselves, whether it's spilling hot coffee in their lap or cutting themselves while illegally breaking in to a school, there is a lawsuit, and claims get paid. All you have to do is turn on some late night TV, and you will be sure to find some attorney saying 'if you've been hurt any time for any reason, call 1-800-FRIVOLOUS and we will get you some money.

To give you a further example, I am very active in the service group Rotary International. Clubs in our part of the world were asking the parent organization to provide a type of insurance known as Directors and Officers coverage, which has to do with being sued for not doing your proper job as a Director or officer of the group. They advised that we would have to purchase it ourselves, because the Northeast U.S. is the ONLY place in the world (ok, maybe California too) where people will sue charitable organizations and volunteers for this sort of thing, and they could not justify making clubs all over the world contribute to it.

Long Island homeowners insurance carriers, in addition to being worried about hurricanes, flooding, and the like, have started to crack down on trampolines, certain breeds of dogs, and other areas. Every time a dog nips someone, there is a lawsuit, and most times a payment. With trampolines and diving boards, and other things cited in the Newsday column, the problem is that nobody takes any responsibility for their own actions. We have been conditioned that there is always somebody to blame, and that money helps.

As always, for more information or assistance with a homeowners, flood, or any type of insurance question, visit our web site at

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Recap of Show #1, Long Island Podcast Night, Friday June 23 Show

The rain wasn't enough to keep The Long Island Podcast Network from letting the night go on as well as four talented bands who all showed up and rocked the house at Jan's Rock Garden in Selden, New York. (Nobody was electrocuted thanks to that cool cover!)

At 7:45 Farmingdale's Paging Grace kicked it off and performed 6 originals plus a cover of Gin Blosson's Hey Jealousy. They rocked Jan's Rock Garden and Long Island Podcast Night was underway. SIGH (Striving In Greater Hopes) from Brentwood played next at 8:30 and performed their Long Island Podcast Network single "Problems" as well as 6 other songs. Next was To Each His Own Element from Long Beach played their exciting brand of alternative and played for 30 minutes. Finally, to end the night was Jean Hates John from Sayville and they performed their MySpace singles including Shine, Jet Set, and Don't Make Me Beg.

Kicking off the night, it's Paging Grace (Farmingdale)

LI Podcast Network CEO Bruce Chambers and SIGH Singer Cyrille Robes (Brentwood)

Long Beach's To Each His Own Element Performs

Singer Deanna and Bassist Frankie from Jean Hates John (from Sayville)

A Long Island Scene

Photos by Alida Thorpe
The pond at sunset.
This pond is in my neighborhood. It looks very different in the four seasons and at different times of day and weather conditions. This photo was taken early evening on June 16, 2006.
The sun was setting and the wind had died down.
(Click on the photo to see more details.)
You can see the other houses and vehicles on the street if you look carefully but from this angle,
it could be upstate New York or some foreign country.
No, it is Long Island!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Will We Really Remember?

Ask Mr. Long IslandBY MICHAEL WATT

“We’ll Remember Always…Graduation Day.”

That’s what Brian Wilson wrote a few hundred years ago, back when he was cranking out heartwarming hits for the Beach Boys and before he hit the sandbox. At least I think it was him. Assuming it was, is he right? Sure, we all remember the stupid song – at least those of us of a certain age do – but what do you REALLY remember from your graduation day?

I know I sat through four graduation ceremonies: eighth grade, high school, college and post-graduate, and the only thing I can remember about all four is that graduation gowns can seem warm and heavy, especially if you, eh, “celebrated” your impending diploma receiving the night before.

At least that is what I remember from college. I worked the night before my high school graduation, after staying out all night the night before that attending my senior prom. So I equate my high school graduation experience with being very, very tired. Same with the post-graduate experience. For some unfathomable reason I decided to enroll in an MBA program three days after my youngest son was born. Nothing like capping off a night of term-paper writing with a three a.m. feeding. By the time graduation rolled around I was a zombie. Eighth grade? All I remember from my eighth grade ceremony is walking away from it wishing I had that two hours of my life back.

I’m sure there were speeches given at each of the ceremonies but I am afraid I was not taking notes and therefore have little if anything report. Eighth grade? Pfft. Forget about it. If you put a gun to my head I might remember that the principal spoke but that’s only because it would make sense that he did. At my high school graduation I recollect that my friend Ronny was the senior class president and gave a speech that ticked a few people off. I don’t remember exactly what he said, mind you, just that he did. The truly scary about my not remembering anything from his speech? I wrote it for him. Yikes!

College graduation was a little better, from what I recall through the haze of the morning after. The late J.J. Quinn, S.J., a friend and a Jesuit, gave a truly inspiring sermon at the baccalaureate Mass and then proceeded to walk off the stage, becoming the first and only priest I have ever known to leave Mass before it was over (he did grab a bulletin on the way out just to cover his tracks). Unfortunately I have nothing to report from that sermon, other than it was touching. I can share with you, however, that a few years ago when J.J. spoke at the Mass celebrating his 60th anniversary as a Jesuit priest he shared this thought with the congregation: “Life is not measured by years, but by celebrations of the heart.” Nice.

Later that day Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, then the president of the University of Notre Dame spoke at my commencement. Fr. Hesburgh encouraged us to live a life full of commitment, compassion and competence. Good advice. After that my mind might have trailed off a little. I do remember thinking this, though: “If I had known I was going to make it (to graduation) I wouldn’t have worried so much along the way.” I think that was the first time I realized that worrying about things is a waste of time and energy.

When my sister Ann graduated from Fairfield University in 1999 the commencement speaker said something that stuck with me. As profound as it was, however, I have zero recollection of the speaker’s name or why he was deemed worthy of speaking. He shared with the audience how thrilled and honored he was to have been selected as the commencement speaker for the last graduating class of the 20th century for such an esteemed institution of higher learning as Fairfield University. “I recognize,” he added, “that the commencement speaker at a graduation is a lot like the corpse at a wake. Technically you are there because of him but in reality all you want to do is talk and commiserate with each other.” Now that’s humble.

My son Max had his “moving up” ceremony yesterday, acknowledging his transition from sixth grade to the Babylon Jr./Sr. High School. There were no speeches, per se, just a lot of nice, hard-working people acknowledging each other and congratulating the students for making it through grammar school. Max graduates from high school in six years. Alex, his older brother, in two. I doubt I will be asked to speak at either ceremony but that won’t stop me from trying to come up with something profound to say so that they remember their day. Or perhaps I’ll just borrow a line from Brian Wilson that will be sure to have an impact on my boys. Something along the lines of, “the girls on the beach, are all within reach, if you know what to do.”

Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Insurance Fraud Warnings Not Very Helpful?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

The New York State insurance superintendent has sent out a 'public service announcement' sort of thing to try to warn the public against fraudulent insurance companies. It stems from the horrible boat accident last October when 20 people were killed on Lake George when a tour boat capsized. Here are several paragraphs from the article in National Underwriter and then I will add why I think this is not very helpful.

"New York ’s insurance superintendent has taken to the airwaves to warn consumers about fake insurance as his inquiry continues into a phony insurance operation that was exposed by a fatal accident, a spokesman said yesterday.

Superintendent Howard Mills announced he had distributed a video to television stations telling consumers how to protect themselves from being hurt by fake insurance companies. T

he issue was spotlighted in New York on Oct. 2 when the Ethan Allen tour boat capsized on Lake George, killing 20 people, and it was revealed that the insurance purchased by the vessel’s operator was bogus." Quoted from a National Underwriter article, and here is a link to the full text.

The problem I see here is that the 20 victims were not a party to the fraudulent insurance. They just got on a boat for a nice afternoon ride. I have tremendous respect for Insurance Superintendent Howard Mills, but does he expect that every time we walk into a building, ride in a bus, go on an amusement park ride, stay at a hotel, or whatever, we are going to do some sort of investigation as to the whether the owner has valid and sufficient insurance?? That would be virtually impossible!

This is where our government is supposed to design and implement regulations in and for the public interest. If the people on this boat had even thought of asking whether the boat owner carried proper insurance, at best he probably would have shown what he thought was a valid policy (since apparently they thought they had purchased valid coverage) and that would not have helped.

Yes it's good to be aware and alert to help fight fraud, but in this case there is not much the victims could have done, and I believe it's the regulatory system that could have done a better job. As always, for more information, please visit our web site at

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Insurance Industry Developments

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Like all businesses today, the insurance industry is facing constant changes and challenges. One day I might see a study of various potential catastrophes. The current 'really bad case' scenario predicts losses over $150 billion in some major act of terrorism (that's double the size of Katrina), and the next day it's the Federal government trying to get involved in the supervision of insurance companies, which right now is done by the states.

That last part might not seem like a big deal, but if you're a State Senator or other official, or a believer in a more conservative interpretation of the Constitution (our country, after all, is a union of states, where the Federal government is supposed to leave matters of commerce to the states except where it involves interstate activities, which much insurance often does not) then you are pretty actively protecting your turf in this sort of battle.

States' Rights has been a huge issue over the years, but on the other hand, technological advances like the Web and computers have made it harder and harder to argue against one uniform set of rules for everybody.

Just yesterday Congress passed a bill that will attempt to make uniform regulations, but for just one part of the industry at this time. In this case, that would be the Excess and Surplus market. Many people will never actually buy a policy in this sort of company, but the best known of them would be Lloyd's of London. It is a vibrant and active market where all kinds of interesting coverages can be bought and sold.

Another HUGE issue these days is reinsurance company financial strength and premium charges. As end consumers of insurance, we never see where the insurance companies go to buy their insurance against the big losses, but they do it, nonetheless. And some of them were hit pretty hard in the past few years. Costs are expected to rise 50% or more in the next couple of years and the impact on our rates will be widespread.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Half Way to a Goal

Heidi M. Gaumet, President of HMG OrganizingBy Heidi M. Gaumet, President of HMG Organizing

Whenever we are trying to achieve any change in life, pacing ourselves is important. If you have read my previous postings or are familiar with my work, then you will know how I like to compare getting organized to losing weight. And I am going to use that analogy again to explain what I mean.

Last September I started Weight Watchers. I had finally reached the point where I was tired of my weight (as you may be tired of your disorganization) and decided to do something about it. I did very well on the program for three months and lost 15 pounds. At the time this was my goal (as in reaching your goal of getting organized). Then it was time to maintain (as you will need to maintain any areas you have organized).

Well, I basically fell off the program (backsliding, as you may experience while trying to reach your organizing goals) but I was fortunate that I continued my intense exercise program. Therefore, I have only gained back 3 lbs. since December and have been maintaining my weight loss.

Because of the fact that I eat too much, I know that this is an issue in life that needs constant monitoring. I compare it to chronic disorganization. There may be a cure but I don’t know if I will ever be “cured”. So, I am learning ways to manage it. And sometimes that means being easy on myself and just accepting things as they are.

This morning as I was thinking about the situation (and comparing it to organizing, as I usually do), I came up with an important realization. Even though I have not completely reached my goal (I now realize I want to lose another 10 pounds), getting half way there is a great accomplishment. Look at it as the glass being half full, not half empty. I am going into this summer 13 pounds lighter than I was last summer. Clothes are fitting me better, some even too loose, and that is something to be happy about.

Just think about it. If you were halfway more organized than you were last year at this time, how would that make you feel? I’ll bet you would feel great, even if you were not completely at your goal. Think about that for a moment. Think about where you could be in just a few months from now if you got started on your organizing project today. And organizing should be like weight loss. To be successful, losing no more than 2 lbs. per week is recommended. So when you organize, don’t feel you need to do it all at once. Just a little bit each day and you will achieve your goal quicker than you realize.

To Sell Or Not To Sell - That is the Long Island Real Estate Question


Two months ago my sister announced that she was putting her house up for sale on Long Island and looking for a new home. I thought she was crazy. She bought her house about three years ago. The median price of an average home on Long Island, New York today is nearing the 1/2 million dollar mark, so how could she afford it?

Well, it turns out that with the increased value of her existing home she built up enough equity to put down a sizable down payment on a new home. Besides that, she was one of the smart ones and managed to pay a few dollars more every month towards her mortgage payment, so she was able to reduce her original mortgage loan amount considerably.

When you sign for your mortgage the bankers usually offer that tid-bit of good intentioned advice as a way to pay off your mortgage faster and save a few dollars on the astronomical interest fees you pay on the original loan amount. Great idea, but we all don't live in a perfect world, especially on Long Island, so I am sure you get the picture.

We bought our home five years ago. We had the property evaluated two years ago, thinking that we might be able to do a similar trade up. It just did not seem feasible at the time. Now, two years later the Long Island real estate market is making some unusual shifts.

Is anyone paying attention to the Long Island real esate market lately, besides me and the 27,000 real estate brokers? In the past month or so it has become a buyers market. What? How did that happen, you ask?

Well, most of us agreed a long time ago that Long Island, NY is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Many people that live here find it difficult to make ends meet. Quite a few have packed up and moved on to more affordable places to live. North Carolina seems to be the most popular relocation spot for displaced Long Islanders. So there are lots and lots of houses for sale and not enough buyers to balance out the market, so this is starting to drive the prices down creating opportunities for buyers.

Homes that would have sold like hot cakes to the highest bidder a few years back, are still on the market. The friends and families of the ones that already ventured out of state are hearing tales of real estate envy. Yearly property taxes comparable to a month's worth on Long Island. New homes for the price of a fixer-upper on Long Island. So, there may be a lot more homeowners caving into the peer pressure and putting their homes on the market.

To sell or not to sell - that is the Long Island Real Estate question. Following the philosphy of "Believe none of what you hear, some of what you read and half of what you see", we have no plans of packing our bags and moving out of state, just yet.

We did put our house on the market and started looking at houses for sale on Long Island. A home a little closer to Mom and the rest of the family in Nassau County would be ideal and make things a bit easier with raising the kids.

We dumped a ton of money into our house to make it more comfortable for us, so we do not have to move. We will have to see how the real estate market on Long Island pans out in the next few months. If we can sell our house for the right price and find a comparable house that fits within our budget, the magic eight ball says, "A move is in your future."

Thanks for reading my rantings.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The State of The State I’m In

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

Last week I had my annual physical which means this week I write my annual column complaining…err, commenting on my annual physical.

Unlike most people, I usually look forward to my annual physical because I see it as a reward of sorts for the stuff that I DON'T do during the year. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. I don’t smoke. I don’t eat a lot of red meat and I don’t eat ice cream every night of the week like I used to. (As this is being written I can hear my friend Corcoran of Babylon saying “sounds like you don’t have a lot of fun, either,” but that’s another column for another day.) There’s no point in going into why I no longer do any of these things; I just don’t. All I ask in return for not doing them is to hear my doctor say to me once a year, “Wow! You’re in phenomenal shape.” I’d even settle for, “You’re in phenomenal shape for a guy your age.” Is that too much to ask?

Apparently it is.

For starters, the doctor giving me the physical looked as if he is only a couple of weeks removed from the Mosh Pit on MTV’s Spring Break. (Do the kids still do the Mosh Pit thing? Does MTV still do “Spring Break”? Is MTV still around?) That’s one of the weirder aspects of aging. First you have to get used to the cops on patrol being younger than you. Then your kids’ school teachers and coaches. Then the nurses and doctors. I know I will be officially old when I am senior to the priests at Church

Anyway, Dr. Doogie takes a look at my chart and tells me my “bad” cholesterol has gone up markedly since my last physical. I would have punched him if I felt my heart could stand the strain from a sudden burst of activity.

Memo to Doogie. This is the part where you tell me how you wish you were in as good a shape as I am now. Instead I barked, “How can my cholesterol be up? I eat salads. I eat oatmeal. I get my five daily servings of fresh fruit and vegetables. I drink nothing but seltzer and water. THERE’S NO WAY I COULD LIVE MY LIFE ANY HEALTHIER WITHOUT JOINING A MONASTERY. THERE’S NOTHING LEFT FOR ME TO GIVE UP! Ewell Gibbons himself couldn’t do it any better.”

Well, that last comment had about as much impact as the Al Gore movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” I neglected to realize that unless Dr. Doogie did a stint at the advertising Hall of Fame he would have no idea who Ewell Gibbons was. As Phil Hartman used to say, “Humorous reference wasted on youthful audience.” But the frustrated-bordering-on pleading tone of my voice must have gotten to the young Doc. He tried to comfort me by saying, “Well, your ‘good’ cholesterol is also up. Besides, as you get older no matter what you do your ‘bad’ cholesterol tends to increase. There’s not a lot you can do about it.”

“Oh really?” I said. “Then how do you explain all those commercials clogging the airways for drugs that reduce cholesterol?”

He assured me that my bad cholesterol, although higher, was still in what is considered “acceptable range” and that would not have to pay any attention to those ads for at least another year. I told him I was taking Fish Oil (with Omega 3) supplements and he asked me about the dosage. I take 300 milligrams a day. He told me my body needs 3,000 milligrams daily. Yikes! I was either going to have increase my dosage ten-fold or learn how to spear Salmon with my bare hands.

Then he asked me if I was having any trouble “throwing the football through the tire.” I assured him that the only problem I have with erectile dysfunction is spelling it. I think he wanted to ask why I would need to spell it if I did not have any problems there (not everybody gets my delightful sense of humor) but I also think he wanted to get me the hell out of there as soon as possible so he did not.

Then the ‘C’ word came up: Colonoscopy. As if to get me warmed up to the idea he let me know that at 46 I was “still a couple of years away” from having to have a colonoscopy but that I should start thinking about it.

I do not consider myself to be on the squeamish side, so I wish I could come up with a good reason for being so reluctant to undergo this process. I certainly get no sympathy from my wife, Sharon. I suppose once you’ve gone through the birthing process twice and cranked out two kids weighing a total of nearly 20 pounds, any griping about a once-a-year pokey poke will fall on deaf ears.

Since he brought up the colonoscopy it was my turn to want to get the hell out of there. I made a mental note to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the physical and my strategy paid off. I was out of there in a flash and thought about next year. If nothing else, at least the doctor will be a year older, too,

Thank you for reading this column.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Nikon at Jones Beach Theater announces their Summer 2006 Season Line Up. One of the top ranked amphitheaters in the country, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater will play host to such acts as Kelly Clarkson, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Steely Dan, Rob Thomas and Jewel, and Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band. The current 2006 Concert Schedule is as follows:

Friday, June 17 at 7PM
$49.50, $29.50

Saturday, June 24 at 8PM
$95.00, $65.00, $35.00

The Derek Trucks Band
Tuesday, June 27 at 6:30PM
$65.00, $45.00, $20.00

Trey Anastasio & Mike Gordon
with The Benevento Russo Duo
Friday, July 7 at 5:00PM
$52.50, $35.00

Wednesday, July 12 at 7:30PM
Thursday, July 13 at 7:30PM
$75.00, $49.50, $29.50

Tuesday, July 18 at 8PM
$65.00, $40.00 & $20.00

Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Drive-By Truckers
Wednesday, July 19 at 6:30PM
$42.50, $22.50

KC’s Boogie Blast
The Ultimate Dance Party
Gloria Gaynor
Sister Sledge
Friday, July 21 at 8PM
$42.50, $32.50, $20.00

David Garza
Saturday, July 22 at 7:30PM
$49.50, $39.50, $20.00

Sunday, July 23 at 8PM
$39.50, $29.50, $20.00

WALK FM Summer Concert
Friday, July 28 at 7:30PM
$86.00, $66.00, $36.00

Thursday, August 3 at 7PM
Friday, August 4 at 7PM
$49.50, $29.50

Marco Antonio Solis
Laura Pausini
Saturday, August 5
$96.00, $66.00, $41.00

Monday, August 7 at 7:00PM
$71.50, $31.50

Tuesday, August 8 at 7PM
$39.50, $20.00

Friday, August 11 at 7:30PM
$59.50, $35.00, $20.00

O.A.R. (…of a revolution)
Jack’s Mannequin
Saturday, August 12 at 7PM
$35.00, $25.00

Michael McDonald
Thursday, August 17 at 8PM
$95.00, $65.00, $35.00

The Wailers
Saturday, August 19 at 7PM
$35.00, $20.00

Sunday, August 20 at 6PM
$75.00, $52.50, $42.50, $20.00

An Evening With
Tuesday, August 22 at 7:30PM
$251.00, $126.00, $86.00, $46.00

By Overwhelming Demand, 2nd Show Added!
An Evening With
Wednesday, August 23 at 7:30PM
$251.00, $126.00, $86.00, $46.00

The Family Values Tour Feat:
Stone Sour
Dir en grey
Saturday, September 2 at 3PM
$49.50, $9.99

Friday, September 15 at 8PM
$131.50, $91.50, $61.50, $36.50

Saturday, September 16 at 7:30PM
$75.00, $45.00, $20.00

Please note: Event information is provided as a courtesy of with permission of Nikon at Jones Beach Theater for your personal non-commercial use. Copyrighted 2006, all rights reserved.

Nikon at Jones Beach Theater does have a VIP List for season ticket holders, offers pre-sale events and discounts to mailing list subscribers. Some events may be sold out, or additional shows added due to popular demand. Ticket limits and parking fees may also apply.

For more information about the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater’s 2006 schedule, check out the website at or, call the concert hotline at 516-221-1000.

Nikon at Jones Beach Theater is located within Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, New York and is operated and produced by Live Nation.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Don't Procrastinate!

Photo by Alida Thorpe
Sailing on the Great South Bay
Don't procrastinate!
In response to the posting below...She is RIGHT!
Nothing gets done if you keep putting if off. I've learned the hard way and learned by experience. After all, I am almost 20 older and hopefully wiser.
It is so much easier to iron three shirts than 25.
Me? I'm a list maker. I make lists every day or so and try to set my priorities. Teaching for 30 years has kept me organized. I had no choice. Procrastinate and nothing gets done and the students suffer for it.
I do make time to do the things I enjoy. All work and....well, you know what that does.
The photo above is what I love the most. Sailing...and boating, fishing...the water in general.
Take time for yourself, get things done right away and balance your life.
You can do it. Set priorties and don't let the little chores get you down. Just get them done.
Sunday for me? Chores and responsiblities in the morning and boating in the afternoon!
Click on the photo to see the larger version.

What Are You Avoiding Today?

I am taking a break from ironing 25 shirts. Yes, 25. And why am I spending a beautiful Sunday morning taking on such a task? Because I have been putting it off for weeks. O.K., let’s be honest—for months. I know it has been months because there are cold weather shirts in there. How embarrassing!

But this is nothing new and this is why I am sharing with you today. I do not like ironing. Even though I am really good at it, it is the one task that always makes me procrastinate. I have not yet figured out why. Especially since when I finally get myself to do it, I don’t even mind it all that much.

I am still bewildered by the fact that I have not learned my lesson in this area yet. When I do laundry each week, why don’t I just take the few shirts that need ironing and do it immediately? Especially since I know it will grow into the ugly monster that it has become today. 25 shirts?? I still can’t get over this.

Will I ever learn this lesson? Considering I am approaching my 38th birthday and still have not, who knows. Maybe today will be the breaking point and I will remember that I spent a glorious spring morning (after weeks of rain, no less) in front of the t.v. with my iron in hand. On the plus side, I did get an early start so the day still lies ahead for me to enjoy. But that’s no excuse. I am making a commitment to myself today to iron on a weekly basis and not let this happen again.

What is it in your life can you change to avoid the “pile up”? Think about it and think about how good it would feel to commit to change that area. I know that never having to iron 25 shirts in one shot again will create a wonderful sense of accomplishment and freedom. Wouldn’t it be great to feel that way about a habit in your life that you can change? I put the challenge before you!

I hope you enjoy this wonderful Sunday!

Friday, June 09, 2006

All Baseball, All the Time

BY MICHAEL WATT Ask Mr. Long Island

The Yankee-Red Sox game is on the tube as this is being written. Monday my older son’s high school team played for the Long Island Championship (they won). Over the weekend all of the ball games my sons and I were scheduled to play in (five in total) were postponed because of rain or wet conditions. So what did I do? I went to see my nephew’s high school team play for the Long Island Championship (bigger high school division. They won, too). That’s what I did. This baseball thing is out of control. Is there such a thing as Baseball Anonymous?

Now I love the sport and I love watching my sons play it. I even signed up to play softball in one of those “Over The Hill” leagues on Sunday nights. But between watching my sons play, playing myself and then of course all the extracurricular activities related to my participation as a board member in the local Little League, it seems as my life has been taken over by the horsehide sphere. It’s as if baseball is my god and I am one of its…well, I can’t say what but to paraphrase Mrs. Bush it rhymes, sort of, with 108 stitches.

See, now, that’s what I mean. Only a nudnik would know that the standard baseball comes with 108 stitches. I need a life.

It shouldn’t surprise me that baseball encompasses so much of my daily existence – that’s the way it’s always been. My childhood friend Dr. Mike the Chiropractor once told me that there was a time in our youth when he forgot what color hair I had because I was always sporting a baseball cap. What few home movies my family has feature a little boy (me) running around making “safe” and “out” signs as if I were an umpire. What? Other kids didn’t do that? That’s not normal? Of course it’s not. If you watched those movies and you didn’t know any better you would think my parents fed me crack for breakfast.

The first date I ever went on involved, you guessed it, a baseball game. The date fell on the Fourth of July and I thought there was a fireworks show at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa. My beloved and I walked there from her parents’ house. No fireworks, though. Just two teams of unknown origin playing a game under the lights. We stayed to watch and I think I treated her to a box of candy at the snack stand. Remarkably, this young lady saw fit to be my girlfriend for another nine months. I did notice, however, a marked reluctance on her part to speak to me when I saw her at the 20th high school reunion a few years back.

I played ball in Little League and CYO and then, of course, high school. With each passing year, however, it became increasingly evident that “professional baseball player” was not going to appear anywhere on my resume. Sadly, the end of my high school baseball career was rather ugly and as a result I ended up virtually ignoring the game for a couple of years. That stretch, 1976 and 1977, coincided with a sparkling run of great baseball by the Yankees – the team I suffered watching in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Just another instance of my ship coming in and I’m at the corner luncheonette, buying a paper and a cup of coffee.

The remarkable Yankee comeback in 1978 brought me back and by the time I graduated from college and started working in New York City in the early 1980s I was back full time. In 1983 I started dating my wife, Sharon. It took me some time to muster the courage to introduce the notion of watching baseball as an entertainment alternative into our relationship. (Sharon was never a big fan). I started out slowly and gently at first, with a seemingly innocuous changing of the station on the car radio “just for a second to see what the score is.” Then I convinced her to watch the All-Star game with me and that night something clicked. I’m not sure if it was the majesty of the hit and run or the sight of 50 or so healthy young men running around in skin-tight pants that did the trick and quite frankly I do not care. Baseball was no longer anathema to Sharon and I would not dispute the argument that Sharon’s embracing of the game was the first major deposit in the bank of knowledge that led me to believe that she was The One for me.

I am also proud of the fact that one of the highlights (there were many) of our Honeymoon in New England in the fall of 1985 was the evening we spent at Fenway Park, watching the Red Sox take on the Tigers of Detroit. Since then my wife and I and our sons have visited nearly ten other baseball parks around the country (Yankee, Shea, Camden Yards, Wrigley, The Jake in Cleveland, The Big A in Anaheim, Dodger Stadium, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia and Petco Park in San Diego). This summer - after Alex is done playing for his two travel teams and Max is done with the Williamsport and local baseball tournaments - our vacation plans are to fly to Seattle, watch the Mariners play the Yankees at Safeco Field and then drive to San Francisco to see the Giants play. In between we’ll stop in Oregon somewhere and do something touristy, seeing as Oregon does not have a baseball park that we are aware of.

So it is a baseball life for me and my family. This weekend we are off to Binghamton to watch Alex’s team participate in the State Championships. We’re all pretty excited because we hear Binghamton is beautiful this time of year – at least when there’s a baseball game going on.

Thank you for reading this column.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Search Engine Optimization vs. Search Engine Domination

Search engine optimization is when you optimize your website for better search engine ranking and placement.

Search engine domination is when you know a thing or two more about search engine marketing and BLOW your competition out of the search engines. Ohhh, how sweet it is!

For more information call at at 631-543-1000 x258.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Written by an Australian Dentist...To Kill an American

You may have missed it in the rush of news last week, but there was actually a report that someone in Pakistan had published in a newspaper an offer of a reward to anyone who killed an American, any American.

So, an Australian dentist wrote an editorial the following day to let everyone know what an American is, so they would know when they found one.

(Good one, mate!!!!)

He wrote:
"An American is English; or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole, Blackfoot or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans.

An American is Christian; or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he may answer only to God, not to the government or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God-given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return. When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet army 25 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable the people to win back their country.

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan.

Americans welcome the best of everything . . . the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services, the best movies. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America, The Statue of Liberty, welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, the tempest-tossed. These in fact are the people who built America.

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001 earning a better life for their families. It's been said that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

Please keep this going!
Pass this around the World?
Then pass it around again.
It says it all, for all of us

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Panic Mode in Insurance Companies?

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Apparently Allstate just announced that they will be dropping all earthquake coverage country-wide except for four states (Kentucky, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Florida) where it is legally required, and they are in negotiations in those states! They currently write this coverage for over 400,000 homeowners.

Earthquake, of course, is another 'catastrophic' insurance coverage, meaning that it has the potential to affect a large number of properties in the same event. And since we have had relatively little earthquake activity in the past few decades, there has been a lot of building in areas that previously were considered dangerous because of underground faults. This is similar to all the building that has gone on near the coast during the last couple of decades when we were in a 'low' time for hurricane activity.

It seems that the industry is going into full panic mode. This is going to be an interesting couple of years for homeowners because once this sort of ball gets rolling, it's going to be hard to stop it. Although hurricane and earthquake clearly fall into the catastrophe classification, if you start 'massaging' the definitions, there are other coverages that could be questionable in the next round. War is already excluded, but terrorism is not, at least on privately owned dwellings. What else will they be able to think of?

In a strange way, this might actually help the Long Island and New York homeowners situation. One of the problems has been that the parts of the country that are not subject to hurricanes and flooding have been less than excited about programs such as the FEMA Flood Insurance to help those areas that are so exposed. If earthquake coverage also necessitates a government program, then we may find more support in general for things like government catastrophe backstops that are now being sought by the insurance carriers.

The other good thing that will eventually come of this is better building codes to reduce damage when the storm or other event does occur. Those take many years to implement, but they have to start sometime. As always, for more info on these or other issues, you can contact us through our web sites at and

Best Pizza on Long Island, New York

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Monday, June 05, 2006

View from the Fire Island National Seashore

The view from the Fire Island National Seashore,
looking north to the south shore of Long Island.
The Great South Bay is calm.
Soon the boaters will navigate across the bay for a day of sunshine
and a visit to the Atlantic Ocean.
Welcome to my Long Island!
Click on the photo is see the larger version.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Long Island Mouse


Who is smarter the city mouse, the country mouse or the mouse from the suburbs?

I was talking to a colleague the other day. While we were chatting I mentioned a company that had contacted me with an offer to do a joint promotion. My business associate flipped out and went into a twenty minute diatribe about this company.

He explained how they had contacted him on several occasions. This "other" company was extremely inquisitive asking more questions than inquirying minds need to know.

My colleague, a bit uncomfortable with the line of questioning, joking replied to the individual on the phone, "Are you asking all these questions because you want to do business with me, or are you a competitor fishing for information?"

This seemingly friendly caller became quite enraged at that point, realizing that he was now on the spot. His reponse was littered with expletives too indecent to repeat. He also told my associate that he was going to put him out of business and abruptly hung up the phone.

My business associate went on to explain how the "other" company stole his ideas. They took his product line and reproduced it, in a cheaper format and for a cheaper price. Not only were they marketing their product to all of his customers they were also solicting his business associates making deals for endorsements.

I realized that he was annoyed with me as well. I did not realize the similarities in the product lines until he pointed them out to me. I tried to defend my position explaining that the "other" company was very nice, very persistent and extremely accomodating. He made it clear to me why they were so eager to work with me. He also made it clear that if I proceeded with a business relationship with them, this would cause a rift in our working relationship. I told him I would see what I could do about getting out of the arrangement.

It took me a few days to realize the effect my doing business with this "other" company would have on our existing relationship, as well as the impact it might have on his business. My affiliation would not only be an endorsement of the other product, but would establish an association, making the products even more similar in the mind of the consumer.

So, I asked myself what was more important? The yet to be determined benefit of doing business with this new company or the value of the existing relationship with my associate? I decided on the latter.

I took a bite of the humble pie and called my colleague to apologize. He was extremely relieved and grateful that I was of like mind, with regard to business ethics. We had a long conversation after that discussing how difficult it was to run a business on Long Island.

It takes years to establish your brand, build your reputation and keep your customers happy. Business typically runs in cycles based on the economy. Some years good, some years not so good, some years are great. If you manage to keep your head above water and adapt to the changes you are ahead of the game. To add to the challenge there is almost always competition.

Competition is the cornerstone of the American way of life. Driving the price of goods down and leveling out the playing field of the supply and demand that drives our ecomomy. So, why is it that Long Island competitors plays so unfairly? I have seen first hand how companies sprout up overnight. Their entire business based on stealing ideas from their competitors and calling them their own. Is this what happens across the country, across the globe or just here on Long Island?

Maybe it is the whole mentally of living on Long Island. The Long Island mouse thinks he is smarter than the city mouse and the country mouse. We enjoy the perks of living close to the city, but not as far as the country. Yes, for some this is the ideal place to live if you can afford it. For others the high cost of living is driving some mice to the country. And several mice are stealing the cheese - to get by, just to have more cheese than everyone else or just because they think they are the smartest mouse?

I think the smartest mouse takes pride in making his own cheese, lives where it is most comfortable and stays away from the copy cat!

Thanks for reading my rantings.

Have You Thought About Slowing Down?

More and more in my work with clients I see people who are overextended. Their schedules, kid’s schedules, partner’s schedules, work, home, play, exercise, spirituality. Sound familiar? It makes me as the question, what are we doing to ourselves? Is this really the kind of life we want to be living?

The rush to get ahead, make money, succeed and advanced is creating one rushed society. I see it every day on the roads. People driving faster and faster. Where exactly are they going that is of such importance that they need to drive 100 mph, weaving in and out of traffic and endangering other people’s lives? It can’t be that there are so many people running late.

I have been trying an experiment in my own life of trying to slow down and become more aware. Tune into what I am doing and trying to reduce the amount of multi-tasking I am doing in a day. And it has been a good experience so far.

When I bring up this topic in my workshops, I usually get a lot of groans and eye rolling. “Impossible!” I hear. “Pu-lease! Slow down? But how?” I gently remind people that anything is possible if we want it badly enough. It is very easy to not overextend yourself, reduce the amount of things you do in a day and find more time for quality as opposed to quantity.

I will share a few of the changes I have made that have made a difference. Some may seem inconsequential to your life or in general but they have made a huge difference in my life.

#1. Being More Aware While Driving
I notice so many people racing through parking lots, it truly amazes me. There have been numerous occasions when I have almost been hit, while walking in a parking lot, because the driver was not paying attention or driving to fast. Being more aware and tuned in while we are driving is not only important for safety but also for our sanity. In slowing down, I have adopted the attitude of letting others do what they want on the roads and not getting angry about it. I have also started using the cell phone less while driving because it is a distraction. Overall, it has made me a better driver and I definitely feel more calm when I am on the road.

#2 Less Television
A major part of slowing down for me is reducing the amount of television I watch and not using the t.v. as background noise. This may not sound like much of a way to slow down but it makes a huge difference. On days when I am working from home and on the computer, I usually have the t.v. on in the background, even though I can’t see it from my office. When I turn it off and work in silence, it makes such a difference. I am able to focus better and tune into what I am doing; not to what is happening on the t.v. I have also found that watching less news and less shows in general has decreased stress and allowed me more time for more important things such as reading, hobbies and quiet time.

#3 Unwinding Time
Taking time to transition from work mode to home mode is very important. I have been trying to add this into my schedule for awhile. It’s always there on my To Do list but like anything new, it takes time for me to get rolling on it. Well, one day I had a very busy, stressful day and came home late. My husband wanted to watch the news and for me it was just information overload. So, I took some time alone in the guest bedroom to just breathe, clear my head and relax. And half an hour later I was fully refreshed and recharged. Taking time to clear our heads after the work day is so important so we can transition from those thoughts and stresses and be fresh for our family and events of the evening.

#4 Appreciate the Every Day
We have all heard the saying that we should appreciate the little things in life. So every day I look for these little things. It helps to take our focus somewhere else to reduce stress. And it can be anything. My latest favorite is my appreciation for water. How many times a day do we just turn on the faucet and out comes clean, fresh, warm or cold water? Have you ever really thought about that? How lucky are we that we have this anytime we want it? I think it is one of those things we definitely take for granted and we don’t realize how many people in the world do not have this simple, basic need. Try to find something each day that you usually would overlook because it is so common. Focus on that and how thankful you are to have it.

These are just a few examples of slowing down and tuning in. What does this have to do with organizing? A lot. Organizing is about more than creating a cleared space. It also extends into our thoughts and how we live our lives. So many people suffer with cluttered minds and thoughts and this carries over into their physical space. Doing less will actually help you achieve more in the long run. And if you take the time to tune into life a bit more, it will bring more meaning to it and help to reduce stress.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

FEMA Flood Insurance - Extreme Makeover

Aaron Stein, Long Island Insurance BY AARON STEIN

Well, the issue of hurricanes hitting Long Island and the New York metropolitan area continues to make big news. There was another big article in today's Newsday talking about storm preparedness, and I just got an invite today to a big conference at the New York Hilton on July 19. Called the Northeast Hurricane Conference, they hope to bring together all the various parties - government, insurance, emergency personnel, and so on. The idea will be to try to get information out to everybody, including us everyday folks.

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., both houses of Congress have passed different versions of a major FEMA Flood Insurance reform act. Now of course they need to have a conference committee to iron out differences, but there are going to be some major changes in the Federal Flood Insurance program (NFIP). It will be no surprise to most folks, I'm sure, to find out that Katrina bankrupted the FEMA flood insurance program. It required an infusion from the U.S. Treasury of $23 billion (so far). And although Long Island gets great benefits from the program, I'm sure you can understand that the folks in places like Arizona and New Mexico feel that those who live in flood areas should pay for their own claims through the FEMA program, not be subsidized by those not in flood areas.

There are two fundamental ways to financially beef up the flood insurance system so it's better prepared for the inevitable future claims. You can get more money in, and pay less money out. So some changes will be designed to get more people to participate in the program through changes to the flood zone maps and through requirements in federally backed mortgages (which means most loans.) In other words, more people will be getting letters from their bank advising that they need flood insurance. The second part of the 'more money in' equation is higher rates, unfortunately.

On the 'less money out' side, we might see more restrictions of coverage on buildings that have had multiple losses in the past, less available coverage for vacation and second homes, enforcement of penalty clauses for underinsurance, and other possibilities. I stress that these are all possibilities at this point, though most of them are in one or the other of the bills already passed by Congress. The only real question is exactly what form the final bill will take. There is no question that action will be taken on some bill.

Next time, we'll talk a little about Excess Flood Insurance, over and above the $250,000 maximum available under the FEMA program. That's going to be another big issue as banks wake up to the fact that many many homes on Long Island and in New York would cost many times that much to re-build after a flood. As always, for more info, visit our website at For previous posts in this series, look at the archives here or visit our blog homepage at

Seeking information on dedication ceremony for James McNaughton, an Army Reserve and NYPD officer

Paul writes, "I would like to know if there was recently a street renaming ceremony in Long Island, New York for James McNaughton, an Army Reserve Officer and NYPD officer who was killed in Iraq. I am trying to find this information but have been unsuccessful. Thank-You"

There was a small mention in the Journal News on May 21, 2006:

"The family of NYPD Officer James McNaughton was given the Medal of Valor. McNaughton was the first law-enforcement officer killed serving in Iraq."

Upon checking the NY Fraternal Order of Police Web site, mentioned in the article that they presented the award and could not find any information about it. You might want to contact them to find out if there is a dedication ceremony planned or maybe our readers can provide some information?