I got up early

I get up early almost every morning to see if anyone has published any of my work. My articles usually get published around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning. It wasn’t yet dawn but the sky was beginning to get brighter. I grabbed a banana, a glass of vegetable juice and my laptop and headed for the back porch.

The air still had the nighttime crispness to it. The kind of freshness that you only get in the late summer/early fall. The birds hadn’t started their morning song yet but the crickets and frogs were going full tilt. I love hearing the crickets and frogs.

There were a few other sounds in my neighborhood, My a dog barking in the distance and the low quiet hum of traffic passing a few blocks away. The neighborhood was quiet until my neighbor started his car to go to work. Other than that it was fairly quiet and I was enjoying it. Our neighborhood is comparatively serene. A few of my neighbors are retired and they don’t have anywhere to go that early in the morning. I would say it is a sleepy little neighborhood.

 Another advantage to where I live is that you can’t get anywhere by driving through it. The only cars I see belong to residents and the people who are lost.

The light from the moon was augmented by the street light filtering thru the leaves of our maple tree.  Between the two sources, there was just enough light so I wouldn’t step on something. The leaves of the trees hadn’t started to turn yet, but I knew it would not be long before their stately mantle would be on the ground, being strewn about by the wind.

I watched a cat slink across my back yard, looking for a meal when it spotted me. It froze hoping I wouldn’t see it and stared at me, watching to see what I was going to do. When it decided I wasn’t a threat, it continued across my yard, under my fence and disappeared behind my neighbor’s house.

A cool breeze kissed my face and sounded the wind chimes I have on my back porch. Listening to the wind chimes is very soothing to me and we leave some of them out year round. Unfortunately, the gentle breeze brought the pungent odor of a skunk with it. The skunk wasn’t nearby so it was only a slight wisp of a smell though.

I’ve been trying not to listen to those people who are talking about the end of summer, trying to pretend they are wrong, that these long, lovely days will never end. But in the early mornings, I can smell, hear and feel fall coming.

It is still light out enough evenings to fool us all into thinking that we have more time. And my wife and I will delay dinner until 7 p.m., to take advantage of that time. Playing cards outside until dark, but then we have to move inside until bedtime. Gone are the nights sitting on our porch swing until 10 o’clock.

Very soon it’s going to be time to change the clocks. Finally the clock in my car will be right once again. I never did learn how to set that damned clock. How does the axiom go? Is it fall back or fall forward? We must have 12 to 15 clocks that will need resetting: vehicle clocks, alarm clocks, a clock radio, the clock on the stove, clock on our phone and one on the microwave. The list seems endless and that’s just downstairs. It’s an all-day job. Everything else resets itself.

As I think about it, I am retired with nothing to do, why do I need so many clocks? The only room in my house that doesn’t have a clock is my bathroom. I get up when I am awake, eat when I am hungry and go to bed when I am tired. But I digress.

These late summer days won’t last long, I know that. The older grandchildren have gone off to college and the younger ones will be back at school before long. They won’t be spending all day with us like they did over the summer, until the next school vacation.

The leaves will soon start turning a kaleidoscope of colors signifying the shorter days and longer nights. Soon, I’ll all be switching the position of the lawn mower and the snow blower in our garage.

But that’s all for later. Right now is a good time to put off whatever it is you wanted do inside until after dark, step outside and just smell the air. Soon we won’t be able to breathe the fresh air outdoors without bundling up against the cold.

So, step outside. Look at the trees, look at the sky, and enjoy the scents of late summer. Take advantage of the daylight and walk through a park if you can — or just walk around the block. Fire up the grill, cook the last few hot dogs of summer and eat your dinner outside.

But, as we all know, these days won’t last forever. Winter is coming, with its cold winds, snow, icy roads and slick sidewalks and then it will be time to put on our boots and snow tires. Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport NY.

Be sure to protect yourself from credit card crooks:

bank banking business cards
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Our lives are a series of credit card swipes for purchases. We swipe for gas, we swipe for groceries, and we swipe for our morning Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato. If we are behind someone who is using cash or especially a check, we get aggravated. Why mess with cash when you can get to all your money on a small plastic card? The card you use to handle your purchases has weaknesses that hackers are only too happy to exploit.

Over the last several years, the number of credit cards that had their information illegally acquired has had a dramatically increased according to FICO, the credit scoring company that is used by most banks and lenders to determine borrowers’ financial soundness. There was a 26 percent increase from 2015 to 2016 in the amount of places where debit card financial information was stolen they reported. And those penetrations required thousands of people to have to get new cards.

It is extremely easy for thieves to steal your debit card information. Crooks can place skimming devices and/or cameras over the keypads at gas pumps or ATMs to capture PINS and card numbers and then put this information onto a counterfeit card that they can utilize to hack into your personal bank account. There recently was a skimmer found on a gas pump in Lockport. It was removed before any credit card information was stolen.

The improvement of skimming technology contributes to the rise in credit card crime. For less than $100, anyone can purchase a skimmer from a marketplace online and they are making them even smaller and harder to detect. Online, the simplicity of skimming breeds even more theft when people become successful and then they become more organized.

There is also the practice of “Social Engineering.” Years ago someone from “credit card security” called me at 2:00 AM waking my wife and me. They claimed my CC number was being used to make calls to India, Pakistan and China and wanted us to verify our numbers. All he wanted was my CC number, the pin and the name on the card to verify I was “the proper person” he was calling. He was a very smooth operator and by feigning stupidity, I kept them on the line for almost an hour. I enjoyed listening to his banter he had instantaneous answers to all my questions but when I asked him where he was calling from he hesitated. That’s when he started to unravel. I asked the scammer “Where are you located?” After a long delay (like they had to look it up) they responded West Menlo Park CA. I then decided to ask a political question and asked “What congressional district are you in?” It was at this point the phone went dead.

The Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act stipulates that if you report your card is lost or stolen before someone uses it, you are not liable for the fraudulent transactions. If your credit card is used before you report it, your liability could depend on how quickly you report it. In most cases, if you report it within two business days the maximum you might be held liable for is $50. If you wait more than that to alert your bank you could be liable for up to $500. However most credit card companies will waive the fraudulent charges the first time.

Here is a tips to lessen the possibility your card will be compromised. Be aware of the ATM you’re using. If anything looks out of place or your card doesn’t go into the machine easily, walk away. If you use an ATM and your card isn’t immediately returned, contact your bank or financial institution at once. Pay attention to the people lingering near you. If someone is standing a little too close, don’t complete your transaction. Go away. Check your bank account regularly and set up an online alert for your accounts. Ensure all your contact information (address, email, and mobile number) is correct on your account.

It has become very simple for crooks to steal credit card data. Criminals place cameras and/ or skimming devices over the keypads at ATMs or at gas pumps to capture your card numbers and PINS and then insert the information onto a card that they can use to access your bank account.

I’m not relating all this to you to panic you. Just to advise you to be careful out there.

Norb is a writer from Lockport who just got several million dollars from a Nigerian prince and he expects the funds to be deposited in his bank account soon. You can follow him at his blog WhyWNY.Home.blog

Why I love writing

pen writing notes studying
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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.