Stolen credit cards

Someone was using my credit card in NY the other day. VISA contacted me to tell me that someone tried to spend $1075.00 at a Versace store, but they stopped them and blocked the card. They knew it wasn’t me from my spending habits! Which is correct, I don’t wear Versace. I’m a t-shirt and jeans guy. Basically a slob.

The only reason I bring this up is that I find it interesting that our credit card companies know more about us than Google or Facebook. They know what we spend on everything these days – people use credit cards to buy a cup of coffee. If I drink coffee every day and order tea one day, will they see this as fraud?

A few months ago I wrote about having my card declined at a gas station which was a few miles from home – it was out of my usual buying pattern.

A few years back I was notified by American Express – they said someone was using my card fraudulently. I asked them how they knew – they said they were buying motorcycle parts – which was out of my buying pattern. The same week, VISA contacted me, again it was a case of fraud. How did they know? Someone was buying Avon – which was out of my buying pattern. So I guess my buying pattern is somewhere between motorcycles and Avon.

I’ve been extra careful with my credit cards, I keep them in special sleeves so they can’t be scanned, but I guess there is always a crook out there who knows a loophole or two. I’m glad that the credit card companies are stopping sales in their tracks and not letting them through. Still – it’s all about getting new cards and dealing with changing all that info on auto billing places.

Last month I had to change my American Express card – someone set up a fake account on Etsy and they were charging small sales to people. They charged me for four items at $62 each. I only noticed because I have this thing set up where they email me every time I use the card where the card is not present – mostly online. Even when I guy something they send me an email, which I like.

They don’t send out new cards overnight like they used to. What they do is give you the new number through secure means and you can use that number until you get the actual card. I already changed out my Apple Pay account with the new card info.

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The price of gas; and coffee

This cartoon from Friday really hit a nerve with people. It got so many shares, likes and comments, more than any other I think.

A lot of people were saying they didn’t like it because it made no sense – how can you compare one cup of coffee to gallons of gasoline? But the point of the cartoon is that if a guy buys a $5.00 cup of coffee, most likely he is doing it daily and most likely, he is doing it more than once a day, so for him to complain about the price of gas is disingenuous. Plus, anyone who buys $5.00 coffee really has no right to complain about the price of gas. It’s just a big metaphor. That’s all. Sort of like Elon Musk complaining about the price of a space rocket.

And yes, I know gas is more than $3.00. I was surprised to see some of the comments from Norway and other far away places where gas is $7.00 a gallon! But it was cleaner to read making it $3.00 a gallon rather than $3.79 a gallon or $3.99 a gallon or even $4.00 a gallon, since $4.00 was too close to the $5.00 amount of the coffee.

I was driving around my county the last few weeks and saw that gas in less populated areas is much less than popular and more upscale neighborhoods. Some differences as much as 50 cents a gallon and these places are harder to get to than popular neighborhoods and areas. So none of it makes sense other than supply and demand I guess.

And might I add that Shell gas stations are always more than any other station on any give day at any time of the year. I gave up buying Shell gas years ago. For spite I think they are higher in price. If one station is $1.99 a gallon, Shell, across the street is $2.29 a gallon. If gas is $3.79 at one station, at Shell across the street, it is $4.15 a gallon. I think they do it to see how many people are too lazy to drive across the street for the cheaper gas – and it’s not cheaper brands, it’s name brand gas that is cheaper than Shell. Always.

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CartoonStock

I’m proud to be a part of CartoonStock, which is a searchable cartoon archive on the internet where editors, and just about anyone, can find cartoons for their publications from newspapers, magazines, newsletters and online publications. At CartoonStock, people are buying the rights to publish the cartoons.

In 2018, CartoonStock was acquired by longtime New Yorker Cartoon Editor and Cartoonbank.com creator Bob Mankoff, and cartoon lover/philanthropist Lawrence Benenson.

Cartoons available were published in The New Yorker, Esquire, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, National Lampoon, Barron’s, and The American Bystander, as well as online collections from The Weekly Humorist and Narrative Magazine.

“By joining CartoonStock’s talent and technology with our longtime publication connections, we’ve created the platinum level in the cartoon universe, allowing us to showcase distinguished cartoonists alongside upcoming talent with content that is hilarious, insightful, and relevant,” says Bob Mankoff.

There are curated cartoons on various subjects, or you can check out each cartoonist individually and see their work, or you can type in keywords for whatever subject you are looking for and the various cartoons pop up.

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The slow mail deliveries

This cartoon published Friday, hit a nerve with many people. The postal service is getting worse and worse. We get our mail late – days late and late in the day – some days our mail carrier arrives at 6 pm. One day our carrier had a special delivery at 10 am, she handed me the 10 am package and then I asked where is the rest of the mail? She said, “I’ll deliver it later in the day.” I said, “But you are here now!”

Years ago, the mail arrived late at our office, so I got a PO Box and rather than wait till closing time to get our mail for the day, I would be able to pick it up early in the morning – it was always at the PO Box early and I could grab it on my way into the office.

Last summer I ordered a book from a lady in California. It literally took a month to reach me in Miami. She mailed it June 3 and it arrived July 3. After all that time I never ended up liking the book – it was a graphic novel on cartooning, but I found it boring.

I had a very nice Etsy business going months before the presidential election. I was selling lots of political things – hats, t-shirts, etc. it was turning into quite a large business. We would ship the items in three days and the post office took a month or more to deliver! People were getting so upset and I was concerned about them not receiving the merchandise in time, before the election, so I stopped selling the stuff months before election day – losing thousands of dollars in the process! I returned so much money, too because of constant complaints.

I used a print-on-demand company that shipped the stuff via UPS, but then after a day or two it ended up at the USPS and there they sat for weeks or a month before they were delivered!

One time, a few years back, it took two months for my condo maintenance check to reach our accountant. And it only goes a few blocks away. I think they thought I was lying about paying it, but when it finally showed up they saw I had mailed it months before.

I hear that the guy running the post office wants it to go commercial; rather than have the government run it, have a private company run it. I’m not sure how that would work because he would lose his job if that happened, right? So maybe that’s not true. Who knows. But in this day and age, you would assume the US mail could arrive fast and on time.

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Work from anywhere; just answer the phone

This cartoon from the other day reminds me of an old neighbor I had. She and her husband used to spend time between Miami and New Hampshire and I asked her how she did it. Didn’t her clients (they were lawyers) care that they were not always present or in the same city?

She said, “It really doesn’t matter where you are. They just care that you pick up the phone.” And I always remembered that. I don’t always pick up the phone – I prefer email or text. But I did like the thought that if you get the job done, who cares where you’re getting it done from.

She ended up moving away, but was still in Miami. She ended up on the city’s historical board and was probably the only one who cared about preserving history and was anti-development. I always agreed with her regarding that stuff. In Miami, there is no reverence for history – it’s all about new – new chrome and glass.

Regarding the fact that you could be anywhere and conduct business, it reminds me of when I first started an online business, back in the stone age when things were new online. Customers would call me on the phone to give me their orders. They didn’t feel safe putting their credit card numbers online. But the thing is, I would take the numbers and put them online myself, that is how you put the credit cards through the system – online. And when I would take the number from them, there were times I was at a restaurant or in the park and I was literally taking their info down on a napkin. So much for keeping their credit cards secure. It would have been secure if they had just put their numbers into the system online to begin with.


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Selling crypto art

I was talking about online comics and wondering how to make money at it and I think the future is NFTs – which are non-fungible tokens. This is a method to pay for original digital art sold through crypto currencty.

You may have read recently that Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sold his first tweet for $2.9 million (in NFTs). The actual first tweet ever was sold. I don’t know how you sell a tweet, but it was done.

It seems that things can be sold now where in the past that was inconceivable.

The downside of digital art, as opposed to pen and ink or canvas and paint has always been that there was no original art. It’s all on the computer, there is nothing tangible. But now that non-tangible art can be sold through the NFT exchange.

Digital artist, Mike Winkelmann, recently sold a piece of digital art for $69 million.

CNBC sort of explains the whole concept of NFT’s here.

There is one concern about this selling of digital art – the rights. Who owns what? For instance if a syndicate owns or controls your cartoons, do they own the rights, or do you? A good reason for self-publishing and not being controlled by another entity.

I’m sure as time goes by, things will be more understood and perhaps I and other cartoonists can start selling the original digital pieces of our comics this way, and finally make a living at what we do! You know, maybe someone will like a specific cartoon and want to own the original digital piece. Hope so.

Thanks, but I’ve moved on

Me with my friend Michelle, celebrating the Grapevine, about 10 years ago.

This week, a year ago, I ended the Coconut Grove Grapevine, which was the daily news of our little village. The last post was exactly a year ago today.

I published it for 15 years and in that time covered everything that went on in town. I covered events, village council meetings, I fought with politicians, I did it all. After 15 long years, I ended it. I gave fair warning – a few months in advance. It was time.

But people are still mourning it. It’s almost like a tv show that ended, where people want more. You know – like Friends – people keep asking, “When is the reunion?”

I bring this all up because it’s hard to believe that people still want to send me stories to publish or want me to get involved in causes. Close friends. Just this week alone, four people asked me to publish things! I’m shocked. I quit my job guys, I retired from it, and you still want me to go back to the daily grind.

One friend called and wanted me to get involved with something at City Hall, I can’t remember what, but I was shocked that he asked. The other day I got a call out of the blue from my lawyer – a friend – who is concerned with tree issues in the village – he was reading old stories in the Grapevine and wanted me to get involved in saving the trees again, by covering the destruction around the town, caused by real estate developers, who would rather pay the fines than follow the law. You know, do it, then ask for forgiveness later.

Speaking of trees, one of my best friends called the other night – he too was concerned about a single tree in front of his former house, and he wanted me to do a story on it, to try and stop it from being taken down!

I was at a community event this weekend, sort of a mini arts festival. One of the organizers, a good friend of mine, asked me if she should send me photos that she took, you know, to help promote the event! I would post them on the social media pages, which I sometimes still dabble in, just to keep them alive.

I told her no, that I didn’t want to go there and start that again, besides, I deleted all the emails associated with the Grapevine and I certainly didn’t want her to text me the pics and I don’t want to be pressured or obligated, like I was for 15 long years.

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Today is ‘Tom Falco Day’

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Last year – February 14, 2020, was declared “Tom Falco Day” in the City of Miami. It’s hard to believe it has only been a year. While this past year seemed to fly by, in some instances it felt like 10 years in one! It is hard to believe this was only 12 months ago.

Last Feb. 14, I received a proclamation that says this date is mine! It may be Valentine’s Day to you, but to me it’s this. It may be just that one day last year, but I am claiming it in perpetuity so every February 14 is Tom Falco Day! That’s me at left with one of our City Commissioners, Ken Russell.

For 15 years I published the news and was an activist in our little village and I decided to end the publication that month. And it was so great of Ken and the local government, including the BID, to do this for me. So many of my friends and townspeople came out, such memories. It was bittersweet. It was so nice to see so many faces.

It was sort of a surprise, so I didn’t invite family or anyone. I was just told to show up Friday afternoon at 4 pm. I knew something was up, but not what, I knew enough to throw a jacket in the back of my car, just in case.

Not publishing the news every day is a lot off my shoulders, it was a big responsibility. Ending that responsibility felt like it was the last day of school. Forever! I remember that feeling.

I’m still around, I see the same people every day, but I’m part of the community now, I blend in, I’m not in everyone’s business. I like it this way.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day Tom Falco Day!

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It’s all about communication

When I look at today’s comic, it reminds me of a few years back, maybe 15 years ago. I have an online business that can be operated anywhere. But 15 years ago, even though it is the same business, which can be operated anywhere, I still felt tied to the office/home.

I had a neighbor, an attorney, who spent her time between New Hampshire and Miami and she told me, “It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you pick up the phone!”

And I always remembered that and it made my life so much easier. She said, “You can be lying on the beach, and I don’t think the client cares, as long as you answer the phone!”

Ironically, I’ve never been a phone person and I avoid answering the phone, I prefer email, which has suited my business very well. But I do answer the emails quickly, especially since I have my phone on me 24/7, but even back then, before iphones, I answered emails quickly.

It’s all about communication. Even from the beach.

The NY Daily News is homeless

kamelotThe New York Daily News is homeless. They no longer have physical offices!

This seems to be the case in NYC with many businesses. Since the pandemic struck and people have been working remotely, offices have been empty and in many places, they may never return. In the tech world, Twitter, Google and so many other companies have allowed workers to work from home indefinitely.

By the way, this is today’s front page. Is this a new hashtag – #kamelot? Love it!

The NY Daily News has its original building on 42nd and 3rd. I visited it recently. Only they are no longer in their flagship building (the one used as The Daily Planet in Superman), they moved downtown – way downtown to 4 New York Plaza, which is right next to the Staten Island Ferry building. That’s where I met with editors to talk about my comics. And they didn’t own the whole building, they just rented space on one or two floors. How the mighty have fallen.

I guess in reality, the reporters are out and about all day and probably filing their stories electronically, but to think there is no physical place is sad. Even in old westerns you see the old newspaper office, where you can walk right up to the place and walk in.

The new normal. A sign of the times. And when I think of all those old wonderful New York newspaper buildings – The World, The Sun, The Herald. A thing of the past.

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The New York Herald

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Park Row from left: The World, The Sun (the small building), the Tribune and The Times