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Archive for April, 2009

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West End Farmers Market

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Yesterday was opening day for the new West End Farmers Market at the corner of Ridgefield Parkway and Gayton Road, just a couple of blocks from home. As a (former) city girl, I find the concept quite appealing, sparked by last summer’s mini-market held at The Martin Agency. 

I hit the road early, arriving just after the market opened and the place was already bustling. It’s situated on a grassy area on the corner once anchored by a Winn-Dixie grocery store, now the home of Ollie’s discount whatever-it-is. There hasn’t been so many cars in the parking lot in a long, long time. This will be good for the neighborhood.

It’s too early in the season for much produce, there was only asparagus and herbs available. But there were several arts-and-crafts vendors, a cake vendor (I think, there were a lot of people at the booth so I didn’t get too close), a honey booth, Tuckahoe Seafood, where I purchased a piece of salmon that John grilled up last night, yumm-o, a couple of beef farms and a lamb farm, and a garden center booth. I bought a London Broil from one of the beef farmers, John and I always enjoy grilling them.

I think this will be very popular, I hope it’s successful. I was chit-chatting with the lady at the beef booth and I guess they live in Buckingham county. I don’t know where that is but it sounds far away. Considering that they had to be set up and open for business at 8am, they must have gotten up with the chickens. (groan)

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Credit Card Fraud

So yesterday, I got a call from CapitalOne’s fraud unit. They discovered suspicious activity on my Mastercard and needed me to call them back ASAP.

Wow! Before I called, I went online to look at my balance and sure enough, there was $300 on it and it should have been $0.

I had a bit of a hard time getting out of the woman what the charge(s) were for because they had suspended my account and I couldn’t even get the details of the new transaction(s) from the website. Finally she read to me almost 20 charges in 2 days for just under $20 each. And the retailer was Vodafone GmbH. Yikes! That’s a European cell phone company, certainly not one I would be  buying from.

Here’s my theory: since my card hasn’t been stolen, my card number must have been nabbed in one of those data breaches you hear about all too often. I think these charges are for pre-paid cell phones or gift cards or something like that. These charges in US dollars equate to just about 15 euros each. I’ve seen enough crime shows on TV to know that the Bad Guys like pre-paid cell phones because they aren’t trackable, like regular cell phones are. And I was just reading an article in the Washington Post the other day which said most of these cyber-criminal gangs responsible for hacking and stealing data are operating out of Eastern Europe and Russia.

So the lady accepted my statements that I did not authorize these charges and closed my account. Now I have to get a new account and card and make sure any retailers who charge my account automatically get the new number. That would be the YMCA and the Smart Tag people.

Here’s my advice to you: do not make online purchases* with a debit card. I used to, before these breaches were commonplace, but even though I haven’t used my debit card that way for a long time, the number is out there in who knows how many databases. It may already have been nabbed, just not used yet for evil purposes. I’m going to have to check with my bank to see if they can issue me a new debit card, suspend the card number I’ve got now but not close my account (my debit card number does not match my account number like my Mastercard does). That way I can avoid a bigger problem should the Bad Guys want to clean out my account.

Check your online balance frequently, between monthly statements. You may be able to spot something fraudulent before the credit card company does. I give CapitalOne props for suspending my account and rejecting even more of these charges as quickly as they did. I am not responsible for that $300.

*I know, I know, even in-person transactions with a debit card are susceptible because some of these companies that have been hacked are payment processing centers. That is a good argument to quit using debit cards and go back to check writing, although I don’t know if that is foolproof against the Bad Guys, either.

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Relay for Life

I joined a team here at The Martin Agency as part of a large group of agency folk, family and friends to participate in June’s Relay for Life before I really knew what it entails. I had heard of it before, figured it was some kind of fundraiser to find a cure for cancer, so when I heard that it isn’t really a race like a 10k and that I could walk it rather than run, I signed up. Heck, I can do that.

But then I found out that it goes ALL NIGHT. That’s right, from 6pm Saturday night to 6am Sunday morning.  The premise of this relay is that teams are formed and a member of each team should be on the track at all times. The way I figure it, the larger the team, the less time each person has to spend on the track, right? And I guess those who aren’t on the track get to par-tay. I think I’ll be in a sleeping bag somewhere or in my car. Oh boy, this will surely be something I’ve never done before. But it sounds like fun.

But more than just going around the track, I need sponsors. We are “racing” to be the team that brings in the most money.

Here’s where you can help: pledge a “per-lap” donation, a flat amount or buy a luminaria in honor of a cancer survivor that you know, or in memory of  someone who lost that battle. The luminarias will be on display at the relay and will be lit at 9pm. (I can send you a form.)

If you live in Richmond, why not come out and join me? The relay will be at Lee Davis High in Mechanicsville. June 6th, 6pm. Come on, it’ll be fun and it’s for a great cause.

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Spring has sprung in Henrico

Even after 13 years living in Virginia, I am still in awe of the awakening garden in the spring. There’s a lot to be said of Southern California weather, but I never appreciated the changes between seasons because they are so subtle. 

I usually get spring fever in February and March when the daffodils start coming up. Then the ornamental fruit trees start blooming and then the rest of the flowering trees. These are among my favorites:

Cherry trees

Cherry trees

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

Red bud tree

Eastern Redbud tree

Red bud blossoms

Eastern Redbud blossoms

White dogwoods at Capitol Square

White dogwoods at Capitol Square

White dogwood blossoms

White dogwood blossoms

And I’ll leave you with the view from my studio windows:

Pink dogwood blossoms

Pink dogwood blossoms

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