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 nrug@juno.com when he is not fixing his wife’s Kindle.

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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 WhyWNY.home.blog

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 nrug@juno.com

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 facefirst.com.

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.

How will you Live

How will you choose to live your life? This isn’t a trick question. I am asking if you have chosen to live your life fully or just exist day to day. Not being able to control your circumstances is exasperating but it doesn’t mean you are helpless.

In my opinion there are two types of time. One is when you sit around and wait until things happen to you. I think this is wasted time. The other is when you take control, when you make every second count, when you are learning, growing and improving. It’s your call.

Many years ago, I accepted a job at a textile company shortly before I was to be laid off from a job that I was working at. A job that I loved. A job where I learned quite a bit.  A job that I had devoted over ten years of my life to. They were downsizing the plant I was in because they had opened a new plant in Denver, Colorado that was built with all brand new equipment. I hated to leave but the writing was on the wall and I jumped at the chance to join this new company as a maintenance man.

The pay was less but the job came with a promise that I would receive periodic raises the longer I stayed there. I received a promotion to Maintenance Manager and a small raise. The job was great and I enjoyed working at what I thought was a “secure” business. I worked there nine months before they went bankrupt. I was devastated.

I took control of my life and cold called on some local businesses resume in hand. I was hired to repair the machinery and building at one of them. I ended up running thier second site and once again I was in control of my life. We had discussed a raise and I was told it was coming as soon as the paperwork was done. This was the same answer week after week.

Then one night I received a call from a millionaire in Toronto that had bought the textile company I had worked for, lock stock and barrel. He wanted me to run the place as the plant manager for more money. Most of the old employees came back and I hired a few friends that I knew were looking for a job. My second in command hired a woman who I later found out was his mistress. The two of them joined forces to undermine everything I was doing. This job turned out to be a disaster.

I grabbed the bull by the horns and started applying for every job I was qualified for (and a few I felt I could fake my way through) and was eventually hired as the maintenance manager in a food manufacturer. During the interview, the plant manager offered me complete autonomy in running the maintenance department.

This promise was quickly broken though when the owners came in and oversaw every decision I made. So I decided I would make the most of every moment I was there. I started my exit strategy hoping to be able to support my family by running my own business. They finally decided they could run the department without me and again I was blowing in the wind.

The most horrible thing in life is to have is a job that you dislike, one that stifles your creativity. This might make you uninspired, a person who does nothing more than the minimum necessary to ensure their job, a drone.  We have to choose to make use of every minute of our lives and yes, relaxing or spending time with your family or friends is good use of your time. We all need some down time to recharge and get ready for what comes next. We have to make a willful decision to live in the present. Carpe Diem.

I do not imply that you should quit your job immediately if you don’t love it. Spend the time choosing how to spend your days. Learn everything you can about the job and yourself. Fill every nonworking second in productive reading and research.

Life is constantly asking us, is this going to be productive time or wasted time? On a long commute do you zone out or listen to an audiobook or think about your future? When our flight is delayed, are we getting some exercise by walking around the terminal or stuffing your face eating a cinnamon roll?

There is plenty you can do to make this productive, purposeful time even if the situation is not completely in your control. Read a book. Write something. Make a phone call. Observe your surroundings. Learn something. Open yourself up to new ideas.

The future is not something that happens to you or is even guaranteed, it is something you make happen. People say that this moment does not define your life, but it is just a moment in your life. How will you use it?

Norb is a freelance writer from Lockport. His restaurant review website is https://lovinspoonful.my-free.website/

Reel to Reel: The Upside, 2018.

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When Philip Lacasse, a quadriplegic billionaire, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a reckless paragliding adventure, played by Bryan Cranston employs an ex-convict Dell Scott, played by Kevin Hart as his caregiver, they both start on an unexpected path of friendship and discovery. Bryan Cranston’s chief executive Yvonne Played by Nicole Kidman is on hand to lend solid support.

This is the second buddy film we have seen recently. This wasn’t by design, it just happened.  It is a remake of the French 2011 film “The Intouchables”. The Intouchables was inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, originally from Algeria.

Cranston never over exaggerates his disabled character but instead gives us a great grouch. Cranston plays a man who has no control of his body below his neck with a Do Not Resuscitate order. His interactions with the unfiltered Hart creates a rapport between the two of them that quite thankfully works in the film. There are quite a few really enjoyable location shots that include a stoned trip to a hot dog restaurant and a trip to an opera house that creates some pretty good laughs. Even a scene involving catheters, erections and colon hygiene is less cringe worthy than you might expect.

Surprisingly, Kevin Hart held his own in this movie and I hope he will consider doing more movies like this. He showed a good range that I didn’t expect from a comedian. It must have been hard for him to perform in such a reined, utterly likeable performance. The casting alongside Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman was outstanding. It’s an entirely different kind of role for Hart who anchors the movie. This provides the comedian his highest profile, straight role he has had so far.

The only reason his character, Dell applies for the job is to maintain his parole status even though he doesn’t want the job or has any experience for it. All he really wants is a signature that so he can show his parole officer that he applied for a job. Hart handles the material easily, combining enough witty remarks to offset the more dramatic emotional dialogue. Dell and Philip’s mutual experiences grow, as the two share joints, prank the police to get out of a ticket and form a bond over Mozart and Aretha Franklin. Later, when Dell’s hostile ex-girlfriend and son reject his attempt to apologize, he buys them a new house and car that dramatically changes their minds. Nothing like money to make you have an about-face.

This movie defies the general consensus that remakes aren’t as good as the original. When taken on its own merits, and bolstered by a trio of utterly charming lead performances from Hart, Cranston, and Kidman this is a thoroughly delightful movie. This is an undeniably powerful human story at its core. The tale of Phillip and Dell, the black parolee who restores Phillip’s will to live, is surprisingly winning. The plot however is highly predictable. Except for the end.

Most of the movie was shot in Philadelphia and was originally produced by The Weinstein Company. When the studio went bankrupt it forced the film to initially miss it’s scheduled March 2018 release date.

Some of these story lines, such as the one about the art work painted by Dell, are split your side funny. Bryan Cranston’s timing in delivering his punchlines is spot on and as a bonus there are even a few Buffalo references. I would highly recommend this for a cold winter night to enjoy with your family.

10 out of 10 popcorns popcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37fpopcorn_1f37f Continue reading “Reel to Reel: The Upside, 2018.”

From full house to empty nest to full house again.

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Photo by Fox on Pexels.com

Empty nest syndrome, I never knew when it would hit. That extreme feeling of loneliness when my kids began leaving home to start a life on their own. Everybody had graduated from college, the weddings were over and suddenly we went from “Full House” to “Just the two of us”. Sure my wife and I had each other but gone were the slamming doors, the laughter and the family dinners. I know it was our job to raise our children to be self-sufficient members of society but dammit, why did we have to do such a good job of it?

I would sniffle a bit and wipe away a tear knowing what a good job we had done. The house we called home always seemed so small when we were raising a family. I think we could park airplanes in our living room now, it is so empty.

When I walk by their empty bedrooms, I see beds that are no longer being used. There are no piles of clothes on the floor, there are no shoes under the beds, and there are no toys that haven’t been picked up. Gone is the raucous laughter that used to fill our house to the roof top, gone is the pile of boots by the back door that indicated everyone was home, gone is the back yard full of toys and bikes carelessly strewn about.

I knew the bedrooms would be empty, the house would be quieter, their places at the table unoccupied, but other little daily patterns of life, can simply take you by surprise. We didn’t have to rush them out the door anymore so they wouldn’t be late for school. We didn’t have to help them with their homework. Years of my family eating, sleeping and playing under one roof had been brutally altered and I had no idea how to handle it.

Years after my children left, the grandchildren started arriving. They used to stop over after school until their parents got home from work. They would occasionally come over to Nana’s and Papa’s house for a super sleepover. The living room would look like an emergency shelter with four or more kids sleeping on the floor, in sleeping bags. You had to carry a flash light if you needed to go thru the living room at night so you didn’t step on anyone.

But times have changed and Donna and I have gotten used to being alone. About once a month, our twin seven year old grandsons will have a sleep over though. Other than that our children and grandchildren will stop over for an hour or so just to visit and that’s about it.

This Christmas however we have received the best present ever.  My oldest daughter recently sold her home and had to move out of the place she has lived in for twenty years. She has bought a new home but hasn’t closed on it yet. Because of this she is temporarily between homes. Soooo she is domiciled at our house.

It gets better than that though. Her daughter that is in a pre-professional ballet company in Denver, Colorado will be coming home for a visit. She is a born dancer and it is semisweet to see her pursuing her dream. It is nice she has found what she wants to do in life but I just wish it wouldn’t take her so far away from us. She will also be living at our house. My daughter also has a second daughter that is attending college out of town. She will be living and sleeping with us also.

It is a good thing that about a year ago we added a first floor bedroom suite complete with a walk in closet and a bathroom. We are now officially out of bedrooms. I can’t imagine five adults living together with only one bathroom. We would have to post a bathroom schedule on the door. I can only imagine our old, old water heater straining to keep up with the demand and the sink full of shampoos, conditioners and lotions.

That doesn’t mean we can’t put up more of my family though. We do have 4 recliners in our living room, a walk up attic where the super sleepovers were held in the summer and plenty of floor space.

I know it will be only a few short weeks before this arrangement ends. The granddaughters will be going back to school and my daughter will be moving into her new home. Once again it will be just the two of us, the way we started our lives together. But, for now, it is great to have a house full of laughter once again. I am just going to sit back and enjoy it.