Beards

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You’ve most likely noticed that beards are in and the plaid shirted, beard wearing male is now fashionable. I have sported a variety of beards, side burns and mustaches over the years and I am now finally in style. Woo hoo!  I have had my current beard for over 10 years. These days, the unshaven look once saved for mountain men and lumberjacks is seen everywhere from boardrooms to billboards to fashion magazines. I have lived through several cycles of beards and can tell you beards are not going to dissapear soon.

Growing a beard will transform the way you look. Just like dying your hair purple and yellow might raise a few eyebrows, having a beard also defines people’s impression of you. People will look at you differently and you will also feel different. When I met my wife I sported a counter culture, bad boy, Hippy Dippy goatee. That was a part of my look, a part that would soon change. She asked me to shave before I met her parents. What we do for love.

Just like the hair on your head protects your scalp from getting sunburn (ask any bald guy), facial hair provides protection for your chin, cheeks, and upper lip. If you get a tan and then shave you could have a paler “beard shadow” which is the reverse of a five o’clock shadow. This shows that your beard protects your skin from sun damage and could protect you from skin cancer.

A study by researchers at the University of Queensland shows that having a beard reduces your facial UV exposure by about one-third, compared to a clean-shaven face, and the ultraviolet protection factor ranged from 2 to 21. This means that a beard protects you from ultraviolet rays that would hit your face. Free sunscreen!

I now am back to the goatee I wore as a teenager when I met my wife. It’s white now without any red in it and it is a little less thick. I call it my “cancer beard” and vowed to not shave it off until I was pronounced cured of cancer. Trim it, sure but not shave it off.

The average male spends 3,350 hours standing in front of a mirror, scraping a sharp, metal blade across his face during their lifetime according to the New York Times. No matter how close or how often, you shave, your beard grows back a little bit every day.

When it comes to tracking trends, research has shown that a good, healthy beard makes a guy seem more attractive to the majority of women right now. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that men with beards are generally regarded as more masculine, dominant, and socially mature. They are also usually regarded as more responsible, older, fatherly figures.

The next time I grew a beard was when I was in the navy. We were on a Mediterranean/North Atlantic cruise. We were allowed to grow beards on this 6 month cruise. As I think back on it, it probably was a morale builder. We would hold “Longest beard” contests and “Ugliest Beard” contests. We would also hold a “Best Moustache” contest.

Men who live and work in cold environments like Western New Yorkers do, frequently seem to grow big, bushy beards. That’s because having the extra layer of insulation that a beard provides helps keep our face warm. I appreciated that extra layer of insulation while my ship was in the North Atlantic.

If you are terrified of making it through your next Western New York winter without freezing your face off, then fall and winter is probably a good time to grow a beard. The best time to sport a bushy beard would seem to be in November. Sprouting a beard at this time will help promote cancer awareness and will support all your “No Shave November” friends.

Unfortunately, researchers have discovered that beard growth tended to hit the highest point in the late summer, predominantly in August and September, by November it is decreasing, reaching its slowest speed in January and February. Even your beard doesn’t like to go out in the winter

Beards might make you look all rugged and rough, but under their crude surface there is frequently a smooth, silky baby face. This occurs because growing a beard can actually protect the skin underneath from aging, according to the tabloid Metro. A beard, by blocking sun exposure, results in fewer wrinkles, fewer liver spots, and so on.

The other thing that keeps your face so smooth under your beard is your sebaceous glands, which are always at work keeping your skin moisturized and oiled up, according to Business Insider. People touch their face a lot, so you’d normally be rubbing this oil off pretty regularly, but not if you have a thick beard protecting your face and thus preserving your skin’s oils. So having a beard today might make you look older, it could also make your skin look younger in the future.

I now am back to wearing my teenage goatee. However it is white now, not red and a little sparser. I call it my “cancer beard”. I vowed not to shave it off until I was pronounced cured of cancer. I will trim it, sure, but not shave it off.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Western New York.

Blogging

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Someone asked me why I have a blog. I do it because writing a blog helps me to express my thoughts in front of the world. Blogging helps me to stay up to date on current events about because I have to do research for my articles. It also helps me to learn new things. I have always liked learning and in fact I have attended 2 on-line colleges and the University of Buffalo on Main Street, Buffalo in the 60s.

I think writing a blog helps me to think clearly and deeply about my life, world events, society etc. Blogging helps make me confident about writing and helps me express myself and my opinions. It helps me become unafraid of making a mistake. Any time I get a date wrong or a fact wrong, people let me know. I now understand the adage “Cite a number or a date but not both.”

Having a blog where I can document and share my life adventures, ideas and struggles is a great way to stay connected with my family and friends some of who are hundreds of miles away.

I blog to write about the people and places that have made me happy throughout my life-like growing up in Buffalo. When I write, it is to share, with anyone that is interested, my thoughts and knowledge about a particular subject. I have so many wonderful fans that write to me about how much they like my articles. It is a great feeling to know that the articles I write can have a beneficial effect on someone’s life.

I don’t make any money out of writing my blog yet. This is not why I blog at this point. I also post articles as a guest on other online newspapers and websites like Art Voice. I do this to both garner new eyes for my blog and to help them out with content. Plus I also enjoy seeing my byline on articles I write. Some of these people make a living from this and I am glad to help out.

The more I write, the easier it gets and the better I think I become at it. Most professional bloggers write on a regular basis. I run my articles thru a spell checker, grammar checker and two plagiarism checkers. I even get feedback from readers, some good some bad. This helps me become a better writer.

Being a good writer is not required to a successful blogger. In fact many very high-profile bloggers are self-proclaimed lousy writers. Part of their success might be credited to their message of “If I can do it, anyone can”.

Most people start out with just one blog but as they gain experience and they sooner or later come up with other ideas for blogs. I am now on my third blog. What I have learned from my previous blogs will assist me in growing the readership of my current blog and blogs I may yet write.

Meanwhile, by cultivating my own online network of readers has created its own benefits, like gaining access to seminars, product unveilings, and other events. I wrote an article on being color blind that appeared in Buffalo Rising and was read by someone in California.

They contacted me and asked if I would be interested in trying out their glasses that help people like me with a color perception problem.  They ended up sending me $700 worth of glasses to try out for free. In fact I am wearing them now. Not too bad for writing a 900 word article on the difficulties I have being colorblind.

I also received a call from the owner of a restaurant I had reviewed. I had cited a few problems and the owner said he couldn’t have paid to get such an honest assessment of his restaurant. He sent me a $25.00 gift card even though I told him I wasn’t going to change the review.

Blogging is a great way for me to build up my writing portfolio. I get published a few times a week in local newspapers but blogging has enabled me to get readers from Maine to California. I have notebooks with my articles that have been published in local newspapers but by showcasing my writing skills on a blog, I can grow my exposure and possibly find a way to start getting paid for writing.

As the internet and technology become more ingrained in our day-to-day lives, the benefits of blogging become impossible to ignore. Gone are the days that I needed to program in HTML like I did when I wrote my first website, ten years ago. Websites such as WordPress.org or Blogger.com have made it relatively easy to set up a blog in 15 minutes or less.

Blogging makes me think about newsworthy topics and the world around me. A blog keeps my mind focused and sharper. I believe in the adage “use it or lose it” and at seventy I am still able to write two or three fairly lucid articles a week.

Apart from all the benefits of blogging I mentioned above, my blog might someday become a source of income for me when it achieves enough subscribers. I have not yet made any money off any of my blogs so far, but I just might.

Why I love writing

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I need a new drug, one that won’t make me sick. (Huey Lewis and the News)

What a rush it is writing for the Union Sun and Journal, my hometown newspaper. I discovered my love for writing when I was in my late 60s. I got my first opinion published in The Union Sun on January 29th 2016. Previous to that the only place you could find my rants, raves and writing was on Facebook.

I had a long dry spell after that where I didn’t get published anywhere until I found the Lockport Star. This was a weekly print newspaper and I got my first article with them published on the editorial pages on April 2nd 2016. I continued with the Lockport Star getting published regularly with opinions and also became the food columnist with them. I was still getting an occasional piece in the US&J but by then I had been bitten by the writing bug real bad.

On April 12th, I became a writer for The East Niagara Post, an online, independent news website published by Heather Grimmer. I signed a contract with them as their food columnist and could write whatever I wanted from restaurant reviews to recipes. Unfortunately the ENP shut down just a few short weeks after I signed on. I only managed to get 3 reviews published before they closed.

By July 16th, I had been published 25 times when I got picked up by The Sun, another weekly paper out of North Tonawanda, once again as the food columnist. About a week later, after I got one review published, the Sun was closed down by the parent company.

The Star was owned by the same company as the Sun and at first the Star thought they were going to stay open but they didn’t even stay open long enough for them to publish any more of my work. I was starting to see a pattern here.

I got published 6 more times in the US&J and then I got my first piece published in The Niagara Gazette.  I was now getting published occasionally in 3 places. The US&J, the Gazette and in the Sunday Lifestyles supplement. Nothing steady mind you but it was exciting nonetheless.

In September, I was published on the Opinion page of The Buffalo News. Another first for me. This was the fortieth time I saw my work in print.  I was now appearing in the US&J on a weekly basis. I also had an occasional appearance on the US&J sports pages. I have been published an additional 2 times in the News since then and I picked up a gig as the restaurant reviewer for the “Night and Day” supplement that is in the Union Sun and the Niagara Gazette on Thursdays. I get a review posted there about once a month.

Many of the pieces I write garner comments, many positive and a few negative. I still post in several groups on Facebook and have attracted quite a following, some from as far away as Oregon and Florida. I don’t save these comments, however the hand written letters that are sent to me I keep in a notebook along with all the articles that get published. I feel if someone takes the time to put pen to paper, it deserves to be archived. A piece I wrote on fruitcake last Christmas resulted in 5 of my readers locating some. They all bought the fruitcake they found and gave it to me. I appreciate that immensely. Next time though I will write about not being able to find gold bars.

By the end of 2016 I had been published 67 times. The 100th time I got published was in a blog called “Sweet Buffalo” by a blogger named Kimberly LaRussa.

I have written over 500 opinions, two of these were three word challenges. The first of these was when a friend said “Timing is everything.”  I challenged myself to take these three words and write an opinion, when I was done I had written a 750 word piece that was published in November of 2016. The second one was when an acquaintance challenged me to write an article based on the three words “Attitude is everything”. This resulted in a 755 word piece. I have penned over 90 restaurant reviews and have had my work published over 200 times so far.

I was also asked to write an article advocating the passage of a school budget referendum to get an artificial turf installed in the soccer field at the high school. This piece was published in both the Union Sun and the Gazette, by the way, it passed the referendum.

I am now published in six places three print and three online. I am looking for more regular gigs because I still haven’t run out of things to say. Writing is my new drug.

 

Writer’s Block

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I can’t think of anything to write at this time. I know this is a serious problem for a writer like me and it is hard for me to admit but I seem to have what some people call “writer’s block”. It appears I have hit a wall when it comes to writing.

I have written over 500 articles about such diverse subject matter as patriotism, volunteering in your community and the art of bring up children. I have shared personal narratives about my fight with cancer, living with color blindness and my time serving on a destroyer in the Navy during the Vietnam War. I have even related my point of view on how to do away with cable or satellite television, how to avoid getting shot by the police and how to operate a motor vehicle safely.

I have written about my opinion on whether we should ever do drug testing on animals, if doctors or other health practitioners should help with assisted suicide, the need for community service by teens and if the Electoral College should be eliminated or not.

You may have read commentaries from me on the lack of common sense today, train wreck television like Jerry Springer, Steve Wilcos or any of the currently popular reality shows or court television programs. You may have also seen pieces I wrote on my family’s Thanksgiving or holiday traditions, watching what you post on line on your Facebook or Twitter accounts or recalling emails.

I have also written over fifty reviews of restaurants from Buffalo to Lockport, From North Tonawanda to Medina. I’ve critiqued seafood places, Mexican restaurants, American style restaurants and trendy pubs.

You may think it is easy for me to write but quite the contrary. Sometimes it is difficult for me to find something to write about, something I feel passionate about.

I have said many times that I wish I could just plug a jump drive into the side of my head and make a copy of all my memories, experiences and opinions so I could share them with my children and grandchildren. Writing for the newspapers has helped me share some of the “Pa Pa stories”, as they call them, and there is are notebooks full of my articles that have been published.

Like I said, I have writer’s block. I make an effort to find something, anything, anywhere to write about by reading newspapers, books, magazines and surfing the internet. I have watched television and movies but to no avail. I am finding it extremely difficult to find a subject that tickles my fancy enough for me to write about.

I could write some drivel just to kick out an article but that would not reflect who I am nor how I like to write. I suppose I could also google some obscure academic paper on some obscure subject by some obscure writer and change it around enough to slip under the radar of all the plagiarism checkers out there, but that would be doing a disservice to me, the writer of the article, my editor and my readers.

I guess I will just have to wait till my muse finds me again so I can write something worth your time and mine. Yes, it is hard to for me write when I am so uninspired but I will have to try as hard as I can and see what I can do.

I know I can write but I can’t make it any harder than it has to be by over thinking it. I just have to type a few words and that’s the problem. I can’t find the right words to type. They don’t have to be good words (all first drafts suck). I just have to type them.

It’s kind of like building a house. I need to build a foundation first. After I have that in place, it is easier for me to build the framework of what I want to say. Hopefully once I get started building the story, I will reach a time where I can’t stop. I have had a problem like this before and end up writing 12, 14, or even 1600 words.

I end up writing in run on sentences. But this is a good thing. All I have to do is pare this down to about 700 words removing the extraneous and irrelevant material and correcting the grammar and spelling until I have a good sound article. I can tell this by reading it out loud. That way I can check the way it sounds and change it around till it just flows.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I don’t have writers block after all. Just thinking about writer’s block gave me something to write about.