Paper or Plastic?

The recent decision by New York State to prohibit single-use plastic bags from retail stores makes it an ideal time to reexamine one of my favorite environmental quandaries. Plastic grocery bags were developed as a substitute for paper bags in the late 1970s. It was promoted as a way to save trees and prevent the cutting down of our forests.

The opinion that paper is superior to plastic for the environment is not really based on science or fact. It is based on misunderstandings about the way that plastic bags are made, how a landfill works and the assumption that non-biodegradable products are bad for the planet. 

But what about cotton bags? According to, they must be reused thousands of times before they equal the environmental performance of plastic bags. The Denmark researchers note that organic cotton is even worse than conventional cotton in relation to environmental impact. According to the article, organic cotton bags must be reused more times than conventional cotton bags based on the assumption that organic cotton has a 30% lower yield rate per acre than conventional cotton, and therefore was presumed to require up to 30% more resources like water, to grow the same amount. Everything we do, every bag, whether plastic, paper or cotton, has some kind of an impact on the environment.

But plastic bags are reusable. Some of the ways I reuse plastic grocery bags are as trash can liners, item storage and storing paint brushes for use the following day so they don’t dry out. With this ban, I will be forced to buy plastic bags for these purposes. So the ban on plastic bags will not reduce my use of plastic bags and will in fact create more waste and cost me money.

The discussion over the environmental impact of paper versus plastic has led to a number of life cycle assessment studies in Europe and North America. These evaluations show that regular plastic bags are much safer for the ecosystem than paper bags are.

In 2011, an Irish government research paper said that “it takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.” According to research, the manufacturing process also produces a greater amount of toxic chemicals when compared to making single-use plastic bags.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment collected data that tracked the province’s plastic bag reduction program. It shows a 59.1% rate in the reduction in the use of plastic shopping bags. The United Kingdom’s Environmental Agency did a study of paper supermarket bags and found that they contribute three times as much to global warming than plastic shopping bags do.

A published Life Cycle Assessment, from EcoBilan, a division of Price Coopers Waterhouse, shows that in their manufacture, paper bags consumes over xxx times more energy than the manufacture of plastic bags. They also said that paper bag manufacture consumes over four times more water than the manufacture of plastic bags. Many studies agree that paper bags carry a substantial environmental impact in their manufacture that is not seen with plastic bags.

It is not easy to reuse paper bags because they have a tendency to tear and they get soggy when they get wet. Paper grocery bags are heavier than plastic bags. The typical plastic shopping bag weighs 0.28 ounces whereas a standard, 20 pound, Kraft paper, grocery bag weighs over 1¾ ounces. The largest and most significant result of changing from plastic to paper grocery bags will be the additional amount of volume and weight that paper bags will add to the solid waste stream. This additional amount will include a significant increase in the volume of greenhouse gas emissions that are generated to transport it to the landfills.

Plastic bags also play an unseen role in the conservation of the planet. In Canada, plastic bags are made from the ethane that is usually burned off during the natural gas refining process. Burning off this gas as opposed to using it to manufacture plastic bags also adds to the greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

It takes only one truck to carry two million plastic bags but seven trucks to ship the same number of paper bags. The contrasts connected to plastic and paper strongly indicates why banning plastic bags won’t help. We are merely swapping one problem for another.

 Case in point, in 2006, Taiwan rescinded a ban on plastic bags in their fast food sector. The ban led to an increase in the use of paper bags with a substantial increase in waste management costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Nothing is without a downside.

To be honest, a plastic bag doesn’t create very many problems just sitting in a landfill. The problem comes about when people don’t throw away their bags appropriately and the bags end up flying around in the wild, obstructing waterways and becoming a threat to wildlife. Rather than banning plastic bags, maybe we just should take personal responsibility and dispose of them properly. It is a shame that the government has to pass laws to get us to do what we should.


An offer I couldn’t refuse: Chapter Two

Tony kept asking me to spend a weekend working down there and I kept refusing. Finally I told him it would be a while because I wanted to bring Donna, my wife, with me to see New York City and I needed to save up for plane fare and a nice hotel room. His reply was that he would pay for her plane fare and the hotel. My answer was how about next week?

On the flight down, I introduced Donna to all of the flight attendants. As we talked with them, I mentioned that Donna was involved in the planning for a bridal shower and asked if I could get some of their clear plastic on the rocks glasses. One of them said sure. They left and when they came back, they had two sleeves of glasses and a huge pile of napkins.

Donna didn’t like flying and was quite relieved when we landed. My hands were glad that the blood flow returned to them also. Nico and his girlfriend, Mia, picked us up at the airport and took us to the plant. I think Donna was further traumatized when she saw where I was working. While Nico and I worked Mia and Donna went shopping at a local mall. They also went for a visit to Mia’s parents house

After the day’s work was done, Nico took us to our hotel to drop off our luggage. Then we went on a night time, tour of New York. The first thing we hit was Chinatown where we went up a narrow stairway to a Chinese restaurant on the second floor.  We had an enjoyable meal and even though it was the very first time I used them, I turned out to be very proficient using chopsticks.

After dinner we went on a tour of the city. We went on the Stanton Island Ferry. And saw the Statue of Liberty. We ended up in the Bowery where a person “washed” our windshield by spitting on it and wiping it off with an old dirty rag. He then wanted a tip for this “service”. We also saw the Empire State Building. After our tour, we returned to our room and had a good night’s sleep. It was a long day.

 In the morning, Nico picked us up and we went back to Tony’s place for another day’s work where I picked up my pay for the weekend. Donna waited in the office anxious to get on the plane for the trip back home.

Once we were done for the day, we went back to the airport and flew home. Donna still didn’t like flying and my hands got crushed all the way back to Buffalo. Two weeks before the birth of my son, I finished my assignment with Tony and thought we were though. I was mistaken.

Shortly after that I got a call from Tony and he asked me to design some new acetators for him. We negotiated a price and I started drawing plans. I had studied Machine Design and Construction in school and actually had 5 years of drafting experience. I spent many nights at the kitchen table making several pages of drawings for him.

About a month later he called and told me he wanted me to work full time for him running a few of his businesses. By now I thought this was not a man you told no to and I didn’t want to be around when Mattia had to do his real job so I tried to set up a few roadblocks. I also didn’t want to be owned by this man and didn’t want to be put in a situation where he would ask me to take a “package” across town for him.

First off I told him that I had a young family and I needed to have medical insurance. His answer was that any medical bills I got I would give them to him and he would pay them in full. Damn. Next I told him I needed to find a place for us to live. He told me he had just the right house for us that he would get for me. He told me I could walk out my back door and I would be on the beach.

Running out of excuses I told him that I would need to move my stuff and would have to hire a moving company. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses.  He said not to worry. He had a friend in the moving business that would bring my stuff to my new home. He also said if I needed any more furniture, he would buy it for me.

I had one more roadblock left. I told him I liked where I was living and all of my family lived in Western New York. I expected another counter offer but he said he understood. That family was very important.

I never heard from him again. Up until now I haven’t told this story to anyone but a few close friends and family but I think that now, 45 years later, everyone involved was dead from one reason or another and it was safe to tell.

Norb is a writer from Lockport that has lived a very interesting life.

An offer I couldn’t refuse: Chapter One

I am sure most of us have taken on a few “side hustles” to make a bit of extra money beyond their regular job. I have had several of them from running my own handyman business for 35 years to helping Donna, my wife, run her bath products business that sold her lotions, potions and soaps internationally. But the most unusual side job ever I had involved working in place in New Jersey. I am not really sure what to call it because it wasn’t a factory, retail establishment or plant. I’ll leave what to call it up to you. I have changed the names to protect the innocent (me) but all relevant facts are true.

The adventure started in 1974. We had just recently found out my wife was pregnant with our third child and I was sitting on my couch with my family watching television when my phone rang. When I answered I heard this Marlon Brando, Godfather sounding voice on the other end.

“Hello, this is Tony Colombo” the voice said. “I hear you are pretty good at building acetators. I have three German made machines that I bought three years ago. They are all disassembled and sitting in my building on pallets and I can’t find anyone to assemble these. Do you think you can do it?’

First off, I was flattered that my reputation had proceeded me. I told Tony that I had no idea but if he was willing to pay me a generous wage and pay all my expenses I was willing to fly down and take a look. I love a good challenge.

The following weekend I flew to Newark airport where he had one of “nephews”, Nico, pick me up and drive me to his place of business. It was a typical slummy building in a slummy part of town. Steel doors no windows etc.

We parked in an alley and Nico let me in to the dark, dingy, musty smelling building. When he flipped on the lights it didn’t look much better. He took me down a short flight of stairs and showed me a pile of pieces that reminded me of a bowl full of elbow macaroni.

The only documentation they had was a German language, operator’s manual. Fortunately it had good illustrations because the only German I knew was the swear words my father would say when he was mad. None of these words were in the manual.

As I was assessing what I had gotten myself into Tony arrived with his driver, Mattia. Mattia came in first and did a quick sweep of the area before Tony came in. Tony shook my hand and asked me if I thought I could help him. I told him I wasn’t sure but if he was willing to give me a chance, I would try.

In our discussions, Nico told me that just because Tony socialized with organized crime figures, that didn’t mean he was a member of these families.

Thus began a nine month undertaking to build these machines. Every Sunday, I would go to Buffalo International Airport for an early flight to Newark. I went so often that my daughters told everyone that I worked at the airport on the weekends.

I flew so often that I got to know all the flight attendants and would have my first cup of coffee before we even took off. I felt like a rock star. There were a few times when I was the only passenger on the Boeing DC-9 aircraft. One time, as they were serving me my morning Danish, I asked what they did with the leftovers. The stewardess answered they threw them out. I handed her my carryon bag and told her to fill it up.

Every Sunday, Nico would pick me up at the airport and take me to the plant. He was my chauffeur and my helper. He was also my cook. He would take some football shaped rolls and cut them in half and rip the soft center out. Nico would then fry up some eggs with peppers and onions to stuff inside. Good lunch.

One day we were working on the second floor, setting up some tanks, when I looked out the window into the next building. The buildings were so close together that I could have closed their windows. There was a hooker there plying her trade. Nico said it happens all the time. Yeah it was that kind of neighborhood. I would call it a slum but that would be an insult to all the other slums in the world.

We worked hard assembling these machines and at the end of the day I would retrieve my pay and money for the next week’s airfare from a file cabinet. Cash, always cash. There were also other things in this cabinet. I discovered that there were three businesses listed as running from this site. There was a concrete and masonry supply company, and a restaurant equipment supply company. I don’t know where all the goods were stored for these companies because there was none of this where I was at.

I also discovered a copy of his annual net worth and it showed that he owned a home in Palm Springs Florida. The furnishings in this home were worth more than everything I owned. I also found out he was a board member of several banks. Yeah I am a snoop. Man, was this guy rich.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (Merry Sickness and a Happy Penu-monia)

Life is filled with ironies. It was strange having an article published on Christmas Day about how much I enjoyed our traditions around the holidays. Odd that this would be in the paper seeing that December 2019 was one of the worst Decembers I have ever had. You see on December 19th I had a bad reaction to Benadryl that I was given via my chemo port.

My right hand started twitching and shortly afterward my left hand joined in. Soon my legs started and finally I was flopping around in the recliner I was sitting in like a fish out of water. If I would have had the foot rest down, I swear I would have ended up on the floor. When the nurse came over, there was a look of panic on her face. She stopped the Benadryl drip immediately and started a saline flush. Then my Oncologist came over and told me that he had been practicing over 30 years and had never seen anyone have an adverse reaction to Benadryl, an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of an allergic reaction.

They called for an intensive care ambulance that took me to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital where they gave me a cat scan of my brain to see if the twitching could have been caused by my cancer metastasizing in that area, but the scan didn’t show any. They also x-rayed my lungs to check for Pneumonia.  Again all clear. We got home from Millard Fillmore Suburban late that night.

Then on December 24th, I went to ENH (Eastern Niagara Hospital). You know you have been to the hospital too much when you go to sign in and the person at the admissions desk knows your name. I was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted. I spent 8 days flat on my back with an IV and oxygen shoved up my nose. I missed the Christmas Eve family celebrations and the Christmas Day get-togethers that I love so much.

Finally, on January first, I was released to go home. I am now walking around dragging a blue hose that is hooked up to an oxygen machine and am now limited to living in just the downstairs of my home.

Eastern Niagara Hospital has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to hospital officials. We are so blessed to have a small local hospital right here in our community. I understand that they are having trouble overcoming a number of the financial burdens that were incurred over the past ten years. I hope they are able to emerge from this without closing.  

According to, hospitals have been closing at a rate of about 30 a year. In every year since 2011, more hospitals have closed than opened.

 I will say that each and every one of the staff members at ENH were professional, pleasant and took the time to explain everything to me.  Many of the nurses, aides etc. knew me from previous visits and even when they weren’t assigned to me, they would stop by just to say hi.

I would mess with dietary by taking components from other dishes and combining them to make a new dish not on the menu. One breakfast I had them make me a breakfast sausage sandwich by combining a bulky roll, a sausage patty, a fried egg and a slice of cheese. Bam! New meal “off the menu”.

For dinner they offered pasta with grilled chicken or meatballs. I had them put down a bed of Rotini, a couple of smashed meat balls, a layer of cottage cheese, a slice of provolone cheese and some Marinara sauce on top “Deconstructed Lasagna”. It was good.

Dietary finally got even with me though one day. I ordered 2 pancakes, 3 syrup and a chocolate milk for breakfast, making a remark about a 5 year old’s breakfast. When I lifted the lid, there they were, Mickey Mouse pancakes. This made my day.

Some rural hospital closures are strategic decisions that are the result of mergers and acquisitions but others are caused by the inability to stay profitable says I have been to a few large hospitals and a few small “rural” ones and it seemed like you were just a number at the big hospitals. Patients who live far from major cities might be left with even fewer hospital choices says the American Hospital Association.

One of the reasons I bought my house where I did was because the hospital is only a half block away from me. If you look out the back of ENH you can see my home.  This has worked out quite well for me. Whenever I would injure myself at home, I would just walk over to the ER.

If ENH closes, I would have to drive 16 miles (or about 30 minutes according to to get to Millard Fillmore Suburban. Even if I was to cut this time in half by taking an ambulance, a lot of bad stuff can happen in 15 minutes.

Baby its Cold 0utside

Holiday .
The song ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside” ‘ is seen as In the current era, and is being banned by some radio stations. The radio stations have stopped playing that classic song because it has lyrics that suggest rather than proposing an innocent situation of while being snow bound. SMH.
As long as we are eliminating everything that could offend the , I have a few more suggestions.
I think we should ban “ ” by Bing Crosby because this might offend people. We also need to eliminate “ Is in the Winter Night” by Enya” and “The World of Winter” by Bing Crosby for the same reason.
There are many, many songs that reference that should be forbidden because many religions in . They have their own . In fact the very name should not be permitted just because of the part. This word might offend the people, the . The . The and the followers of .
Now I see that there some “ ” movies that people want to ban. The first of which comes to mind is the classic Rankin/Bass holiday offering “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” They want to ban this because an throws the out of the sleigh even though mentioned that . Then there is that with , the deer who are towards Rudolph, the dentist and the toys from The Island of Toys.
While we are at it let’s look at a few more Christmas classics. We have “A Story”. It’s just not in America unless there’s a hungry child in a marathon. And how about washing your mouth out with ? Oh fudge, that is ! But was the norm back then. I am old enough to have this myself. Good times.
Then we have the movie “How the Stole ”. I think it is very insensitive to call him a . Clearly he has . Notice isn’t there even one person in all of Whoville. Then be aware of the fact that they didn’t actually accept the until he gives everyone presents! Looks like to me. And what about making that poor wear a heavy antler and pulling that giant sleigh. Someone call .
The movie “ ” features, , and a father his son. “Frosty the Snow ” has the magician Professor Hinkle attempting to Frosty by him in a greenhouse where Frosty is .
“Home ” is about a who is accidently home during the holidays by when the rest of his family goes to Europe. I think being by your parents is a bit of a problem.
I see that some people are trying to prohibit all related symbols in the schools and have suggested a ban on a list of themed items in the hopes of being inclusive and culturally sensitive to all of the students.
A list of the suggested items would include the singing of . Even the on the is on the hit list because that’s a related symbol. I think some people are spending more time working on these lists than they are taking time trying to understand diversity.
We now can’t see scenes on governmental land due to “the separation of church and state” activists. Wal-Mart has switched its banners to “Happy Holidays” from ” “. It is Wal-Mart’s and other retailer’s participation in the moneymaking side of that is the real attack on this beloved holiday. One more time, the have co-opted a cultural tradition that most have enjoyed.
Enough is enough! I think I am old enough to decide on my own which movies I watch and which music I listen to. I love watching the old movies and listening to the old songs. I love sharing them with my grandchildren. I will always wish you a no matter who you are or what you believe. is the Holiday I celebrate. If you want to respond or because that’s what you celebrate, I promise not to be offended in fact I may respond in kind with your religious preference. I welcome your heritage as well as my own. Instead of us getting offended by each other, why don’t we just try to get along? This is supposed to be the season of peace on earth and good will towards men no matter what you believe, not the season of hate and discontent.
In closing, I will wish you a , Happy , Happy or a season, whatever works for you, from my home to yours.
Norb has a blog at you can follow there

Age is Just a Number

Previously printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette

By Norbert Rug, an internationally published writer and blogger from Lockport.

I have decided to age gracefully. Sure, I have a few health problems. I need hearing aids to hear, glasses to see, I use a cane to walk, I have peripheral neuropathy and cancer. But these are just pot holes in the road of my life.

We have all dealt with our own personal pot holes. Aging gracefully to me means continually reinventing myself as I pass through landmark ages like my 60s, 70s and hopefully my 80s.

Aging gracefully to me means finding out new things that I enjoy, learning to adapt to change, learning a new skill, staying socially and physically active, and feeling I am connected to my community and loved ones. It wasn’t until my 60s that I discovered my love for writing. This helps me feel connected. I can still drive (although my wife frowns on it), work on my computers, go to dinner or do Sudoku puzzles. I feel keeping my brain alive helps keep me younger.

Today I’m 71 years old, and to some of you, I might be too old for some things and I probably am. I don’t think I will do any skydiving or race car driving soon and Papa don’t do running. I always tell Donna that I have a twenty five year old mind inside a seventy one year old body. The truth is I don’t care very much about age.

I am going to celebrate this day because I’m alive and that is the most important thing. “Upright and taking nourishment” is what I tell people. Being alive to me means that I can still have another chance to do what I love and to be happy. Age does not control my feelings, I am the one who is in charge and I know that my happiness is something that nothing or no one can control unless I let them.

I’m doing what I want, what I love and I will always do so for as long as I can despite my age. My age means absolutely nothing to me. My dreams, my love for life and goals are what keep me alive, and even if one day I reach 100 years old, I will be just as alive as I am right now. Age will only matter to me the day I stop learning and enjoying life. This will be the day where I may as well be dead.

The important thing in our lives is to understand that our age is not what matters. What matters the most in our lives is our attitude, commitment and perseverance. Donna calls my perseverance stubbornness but I am not about to argue word verbiage with her. Of course our age signifies the passage of time, so we may have more problems as we age. The key to living our lives to the fullest is doing what we decide is important. If we believe that everything is possible then maybe it is. We should never let age interfere with what we want to do.

Unfortunately, for many of us, aging also brings anxiety about taking care of ourselves later in life. We think about losing our spouse, about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Many of these fears often stem from popular culture, Television shows or movies but I have yet to yell at the neighborhood kids to “Get off my lawn” like Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino.

Let’s give less importance to our age and more to our mind and attitude. We cannot achieve things and live a happier life if we don’t believe in ourselves. Old age just means that you are still alive and you can keep being happy, dreaming, enjoying life, having fun, laughing, smiling and living your life to the fullest!

Coping with change is problematic, no matter what age you are. The specific challenge for aging adults is the large number of changes that start to occur. These might including children or grandchildren moving away and not visiting as often. I have grandchildren that live, work and attend school out of town.

Changes might be the loss of parents, friends, and other loved ones. I have lost both of my parents and a couple of friends over the years. Retiring might also be one of the changes you experience along with declining health and even the loss of independence. It is very natural to suffer these losses. But if you balance these things with positive things, you just might have the formula for aging gracefully.

There are many fallacies about aging. The fact of the matter is that you are much stronger and more resilient than you may recognize.

The late John F. Kennedy said, “It is not enough to add years to your life, one must add new life to your years.”

I looked at the bottom of my foot the other day and could not find an expiration date.

My Wife’s Kindle

“Honey, My Kindle is broken” she said. With the urgency she would have used if the house was on fire. This was at 6:00 A.M. on a Saturday, a day that I usually get to lounge in bed a little longer. My eyes were barely open.

Her Kindle was not booting up. I told her I would look at it later when I was awake and rolled over to go back to sleep. Fat chance. She said “I can’t turn it off. All it does is show me that it is loading.” So I grudgingly sat up, put my glasses on and looked at it. She was right, that little loading circle was going around and around, not doing anything but making me dizzy. I tried shutting it off to no avail.

She was having a panic attack because she had no books to read, no Facebook and no instant messaging. How was she going to survive? She said maybe she needed to go to the library to get some books. But unfortunately, the library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s going to be a very long weekend. 

She said that when I get up I should look at the website I had visited months ago to fix this Kindle the last time. I’ve looked at hundreds of websites since then but sure, I remember which website that was. I knew I wasn’t going to get any rest until I fixed the problem.

So I got up, got dressed, skipped breakfast and went on the internet to try find out how to trouble shoot a Kindle Fire. Only about 470,000 websites showed up. This is getting better and better.

They all had different suggestions, all of them guaranteed to work. But after much pressing this, sliding that or swiping something else that the sites said would definitely fix the problem, I had only managed to turn it off and on several times just to see that annoying circle taunting me, time and time again. It looks like I might be missing lunch also.

I must point out that my wife paces when she gets stressed, and every time she passed me she would ask “How are you doing?” thus destroying my train of thought.

Four hours later, I finally reached a site on my computer that asked for her password. I asked her what it was and she answered “I don’t remember it. You set it up.” My stress meter went through the roof at this point. She looked around and found four scraps of paper with multiple passwords on them, none of which were for her Kindle. It was at this point that the Kindle almost met the wall.

Continued searching revealed a 24/7/365, Amazon, tech support, website. Maybe they could help me. So I went on it and started a chat with “Carl”. He ran me through all the things I had done for the last 4 hours and said it was rather peculiar. He said he would have to put me on hold while he went and checked with someone else.

Meanwhile Donna was asking me about the hundreds of books I had gotten her, her pictures, her Facebook and her instant messaging accounts among other things. When I answered that first off, just let me see if we can get her Kindle working, she disappeared. She then returned to ask if I thought we should just go out to buy a new Kindle soon because the stores would be closing shortly. ARGAAH.

When Carl returned he asked me if I had tried the factory reset yet. I told him I didn’t know because I didn’t know what he was talking about. He told me it was very easy. I asked him about the accounts, pictures and books and he answered the books would still be downloadable from “the cloud”.

What this cloud was and where it was I didn’t know because it was fairly sunny out at this time. He said the pictures and accounts would “probably” be lost. This is tech support talk for “kiss them goodbye.” He said we would just have to log on to Facebook to get back to her account.  

We then went through what seemed like an hour of jumping through hoops with the Kindle until eureka! It started again. Of course everything was missing. I managed to find the cloud that was holding her books hostage and had to download them all, one by one. So far so good.

Off to Facebook. She has 2 accounts there because she had forgotten her password when her first Kindle crashed so I had to start her a new one. I went to log on to the one she was currently using and I asked her for her password. She again presented me with those same four scraps of paper with passwords scribbled on them again. I might have as well have been using the menu from McDonalds because none of these passwords worked there either.

So we had to set her up with her third Facebook account, notified all her contacts and download the IM APP. Eight hours after I started, my head hurts and my eyes are blurry. I was ready for bed. I still wasn’t finished but I called it quits for the day. We did eventually get her all set up.

Two weeks later she woke me up at 5:30 and said she could not get out of her “Alexa” APP, the voice application that is like “Cortana” and “Google Voice”. Here we go again………

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport. You can find him at when he is not fixing his wife’s Kindle.

Reading to your child

There are many reasons to read to your child. Reading to your child, shows them that they are important to you and can open their eyes to the wonders of the world without them having to leave the comfort of your home. When you read to your child, your child learns how those letters on the pages stand for specific sounds and form words.

Reading has always been one of my favorite things, so I am not surprised that I enjoyed reading with my children. When I was in High School, I didn’t work very hard. I was a solid C student. In History class they made a mistake seating me next to a bookshelf filled with old Readers Digests. I spent all class reading them, cover to cover.

My wife is also a reader.  Every week she would trudge to the library with a tote bag full of books that she had read. She would then spend an hour or more refilling her bag and walk home. I decided to make her love of reading easier on her so I bought a Kindle for her. I was able to find a few sources for free books online. I have managed to get her hundreds of books, enough to fill her needs. When her first Kindle wore out, I had to go get her another one.  Some people have their cell phone by their side at all times. My wife is like this with her Kindle. 

When my son was very young, I would read to him regularly. Before he even went to kindergarten he would read the newspaper to me while I had my morning coffee. We would discuss words he didn’t know so he would understand what he was reading. I also helped him with annunciation. By the time he was five years old, he was an excellent reader.  I attributed this to the reading we did together.

Reading to your children is a worth your time. Snuggling up with them and a book is valuable quality time. Every parent is thier child’s first teacher. There are things you end up teaching your children without knowing such as how to hold a book, which direction to turn the pages and how the letters on the pages combine to form words.

If children want to jump ahead or simply hear the plot line when you are reading with them, that’s fine with me. They are learning, even if you’re not trying to teach them something. Let your kids take the lead and guide you through the tempo of the story sometimes. There is also room for kids to multitask. Let your kids color, play with Legos or action figures, while you read to them. You may be pleasingly surprised by how much they are listening to you.

We have always read to the children in our care. When my son was in elementary school, I was working second shift and didn’t see much of my children. I always encouraged them to read though. I used to let my son pick a book and I dictated it into a cassette recorder as a bedtime story. I would even tell him when it was time to turn the page. This never worked though. He and one of his buddies would rush home from school throw their jackets and back packs on the floor and rush upstairs to his bedroom to listen/read the day’s story. He is now an avid reader and has instilled this in his eight year old twin sons.

We have a great problem with the twins reading when they have to do something. They will have their noses buried in books and sometimes I don’t even think they hear us call them the first three times. Most parents would kill for such a problem.

We have to save the Sunday funnies for them every week end and they read them on Monday when they see us. Each week during the summer, Donna would take them to the library and check out a bag of books. They would pore over the books throughout the week, and I loved all the different places I would find them reading, draped over the recliner, under the dining room table or lying on one of the beds in the spare bedrooms.

My eight year old grandsons like reading manga. From what I understand, when reading manga, the pages are turned in the opposite direction than you would reading a novel. The front of manga is the back cover. Dialogue, sound effects and narration, are likewise read backwards. You read the narration from the top right corner, moving down the left side. Panels in manga may seem to flow awkwardly. It is often left to the reader to decipher the order, as there is really no set way that the panels flow. Now they are teaching me how to read.

Having the ability to read helps students in school. Our children all went on to further their education and have good jobs. Now my grandchildren are attending college. I know we helped foster in them a love of reading. I hope they also pass it on to their children one day. I hope you read to your child too. Everyone benefits when you do.

Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport. He also blogs at

It’s the little things that make life better.

When Donna and I got married I was in the service. We moved 500 miles away from home and we were dirt poor. I used to steal food so we could eat. It was at that time that I learned it was the little things that mattered most. We lived in low income housing and everyone there would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. The poor were the most generous people I had found. I also found out that you didn’t need a big fancy car. We drove several “rust buckets” over the years. As long as your car got you from point A to point B that was all you needed. I didn’t need to dine in four star restaurants, a 50 cent, freshly cooked crab from the corner bar was as good as gourmet cooking.

When my daughters were about 7 and 5, I woke them up one cold winter night and threw them in into the back seat of my car. We drove out to the country away from the light pollution of the city and watched the Aurora Borealis. We froze but it was worth it. They are now in her forties and this will still come up in conversation.

The little things in life can include finding a bird’s nest or a warren filled with baby rabbits, witnessing the renewal of life first hand. We had a Mourning Dove build a nest on our garage this year and it was the first thing I looked for in the morning. It was nice seeing Mom (or Dad) sitting on the nest every time I looked. Some people could learn parenting skills from birds.

Our dining room table has had jigsaw puzzles on them and when you passed by you would add a few pieces. This was kind of a community project. I used to tell my children bed time stories as a way to encourage them to read. I see my children have passed this along to their children.

When we would all gather around the dinner table (yes people used to do that) we would all have to all tell us a useless fact of the day. A fact that you would never, ever need in conversation. A fact so obscure that they wouldn’t even ask it on Jeopardy.

One of my granddaughters spread paper hearts around our house. They were stuck in the vanity mirror, on top of a dresser and even in the frame of our television. Even though she is across the country, every time we watch television we think of her.

At night we used to play games around the table after dinner, like Checkers, Cards, Chess and Othello.  My children have passed this along to my grandchildren. I now play chess with them and I am starting to have to watch myself so I don’t lose. My oldest grandson regularly beats me at Canasta now.

My kids still remember going to a local park and flying kites. I had made my kids kite winders years ago and we gave them a workout, all except my daughter. She just couldn’t seem to get her’s flying, I would set my winder down and get her kite in the air. As soon as I passed the string to her, the kite would turn upside down and commit suicide by crashing into the ground. This happened several times.

Learning to ride a bicycle, picking berries from Nana’s secret raspberry patch behind the garage or homemade popcorn while watching a movie at home. These are things the things a child will remember all of their lives.

Donna and I love to sit on our porch watching a storm roll in and the more lightening the better. When you are older you will understand how precious little things, like the memories you share with your loved ones or sitting on your porch in the early morning, sipping tea and listening to the birds. These things are seemingly of no value in themselves, but they can be prized as they convey peace, love and happiness.

I can still remember building a “Fort” out of couch cushions and blankets, playing stick ball in the street with a sewed off broom handle and a tennis ball, making snow forts and having snowball wars with the neighborhood kids or playing hide and seek, outdoors at night. Not too shabby for a 71 year old. What are some of your childhood memories?

Let me encourage you to get up every day and focus on what you do have in life. Be thankful for the blessings of the little things, the smell of fresh cut grass, and the sound of wind chimes, the feel of raindrops hitting your skin on a warm summer afternoon or hearing the laughter of little children as they play.

Even though when you don’t get what you expect, learn to appreciate the little things in life. A thirteen year old girl, wise beyond her years, once told me, “You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.”

Norb is a loving, independent journalist that enjoys sharing his memories. You can share yours with him at

Facial Recognition

I am for the implementation of the Facial and Object Recognition System (FORS) in the Lockport schools. There I said it. I know this might be an unpopular stance but it is the way I feel. I believe an integral part of journalism is to present both sides of an issue and to write how I feel not to just agree with the prevailing opinion. I expect very little support and a lot of blow back due to my opinion but with all the articles condemning FORS I thought it was time to hear from the other side.

Perhaps the most persuasive reason to have FORS in schools is that it could make our children safer. FORS allows the software to look at it’s photographic database to identify a person and see if he or she is supposed to be on school property. It can also identify a person who is prohibited to be near a school like sexual predators, fired employees and gang members. It can then alert an armed, trained school resource officer, a Lockport city policeman or a Lockport policeman moonlighting as a school security guard to approach the unknown person to evaluate their intent.

Initial security should be to lock all the doors while school is in session so no one from the outside can get in. The doors in Lockport are being locked right now.  I know this isn’t a perfect solution because a person could wait near a door till someone opens the door so they can gain access. This also wouldn’t stop a person who is supposed to be there from committing a crime and we can’t lock all the doors from the inside due to fire and other safety concerns but FORS would add an additional layer of protection.

Facial Recognition is the highest speed biometric technology available. This has only one function and that is to recognize human faces. Forget the eye scanners and thumbprint readers, FORS currently analyzes the unique characteristics of a person’s facial images that are taken by a digital video camera. It’s the least invasive way and provides no delays and makes people completely oblivious to the process.

Whether you know it or not, FR software is out there and is currently being used right now. Facial recognition has been around in one form or another since the 1960s but recent technological developments have led to a wide proliferation of this technology.

Face recognition has been used to find missing children and victims of human trafficking. If missing individuals are in a database, law enforcement can be alerted when they are recognized by face recognition in an airport, retail store or other public space. Three thousand missing children were discovered in just four days using face recognition according to the website

The best in facial recognition technology is currently available. The Apple’s iPhone X represents the beginning of a new era by using Facial Recognition Technology to unlock a smartphone. This is made possible by the cautiously running infrared and 3D sensors that work with a forward facing camera. The system’s unlock would is practically instantaneous and does not need the user to press any buttons.

But this is hardly the only example. There is the infamous Facebook facial recognition software whose power and accuracy is better than the FBI’s systems! Each time you post a photo or tag your friends on Facebook, you provide massive help for thier facial recognition algorithm.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection began testing facial recognition technology at around a dozen U.S. airports. The New York Times reported on the use of FR for security purposes in the private sector, notably in Madison Square Garden and at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Despite broad experimentation, there is no federal law governing the use of FR, although Illinois and Texas have laws that mandate informed consent. Whether used by governments or in private enterprise, the technology appears to be developing faster than the law.

Instead of utilizing manual recognition, which would be done by a security guard or the approved representatives not on the premises, the facial recognition technology automates the identification process and ensures its flawlessness every time without any pause.

Anyone that has a problem getting photographed by “Big Brother” might be advised to look around. There are cameras everywhere like Walmart, Home Depot and Walgreens to name a few. With the low price of digital, video surveillance systems, even my neighbors have them.

Facial recognition software can be used to quickly detect perpetrators of identity fraud. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles’ Facial Recognition Technology Program has been doing just that, with 21,000 possible identity fraud cases identified since 2010.

Aside from public usage by airports and railway stations, stadiums. There is even an adaptation of facial recognition for use in medical applications by diagnosing diseases that cause detectable changes in appearance.

Some citizens may resent the idea that the government obtains, holds, and uses their biometric data without their consent. Anyone who holds a passport or has sought a visa should not be surprised that the government at least has this information, even if the individual has not expressly consented to allow the government to retain it.

Like I said, I am for anything that has the potential to protect our children.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Lockport. His children and grandchildren have been/are Lockport students.