Sunday, November 18, 2007

First Snowfall of 2007

I think winter is here!

It's been snowing non-stop here in Fairmount Township, Pa. since about noon. The snow sure is pretty when it sticks to the trees! But I hate to drive it the stuff!

The snow is really starting to stick now, as its getting darker out and the cars are starting to slow down. I am kind of sad that fall is gone. The leaves were gorgeous this year, but the weather was
really mild right up until now. It went from the upper 60s to freezing! Where's that gradual change that used to happen?

So, I guess it is time to let go of all the summer clothes I still have hanging up. Time to put them in a Glad and shove them in the attic to make room for all the long-sleeve shirts. Ah- better yet- time to go shopping for more sweaters, etc. Maybe a cute hat and some mittens...
My NJ Adventure- I 've been working on my adventure coming home from NYC for a memoir chapter. Perhaps I will post it soon.. It's quite the story!
I just hope getting to work tomorrow is not as treacherous.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The View- I celebrated Whoppi's Birthday!

I had quite the adventure getting there and getting home-- more on that later ( A LOT more on that later!!)- but Steph and I were at the View on Tuesday.
Bill O'Reilly and Marc Cohn were the guests that day. I love "Walking in Memphis," which he performed a snippet of for Whoopi Goldberg when her cake was wheeled out. Prior to that, he played a song of his new album and talked about his hiatus from releasing new music, and how he got back on track after being shot in the head in Denver. Cool guy and super talented. Marc Cohn's band and back-up singers were really good too. I'd go see him in concert for sure if he came around here.

Bill O'Reilly? Eh. I am way too liberal for him, but I must say that I could agree with him on the topic of his new book, "Kids are Americans, Too" which basically states that parents are absent these days, while the kids are the boss. Despite me disagreeing with him most of the time, I suppose it was cool. I would have loved if it was Michael Moore, though!

The women were a hoot. Didn't interact with the audience as much as other shows I have gone to, but there is just so much that has to be done behind the scenes in those few minutes during the commercial breaks. I was just so excited to see Whoopi Goldberg in person- I mean, I grew up loving her. It was awesome to be that close to the icon, Barbara Walters on the set of the View, too. Joy and Sherri are a hoot as well!! But Whoopi-- she's been making me laugh since I was a kid.

We made out well with the gifts, too. I did not even know they gave out gifts on the View until a few weeks ago when some friends of mine went. Here is what we received:

1.) Bill O'Reilly's book, "Kids are Americans, Too"
2.) Marc Cohn's new CD
3.) A Tickle Me Elmo
4.) $100 gift card to Daffy's
5.) Candy bar from the Retro Candy Bar
6.) Piece of strawberry shortcake served in a commemorative Whoopi's Birthday Bash pint glass.

Good times!! Thanks Steph for coming with me. And... stay tuned to read about my adventure. This is the first time I have been at my home computer since Monday-- and it's 8:00am on Thursday... yep. That should clue you in to the adventure I had.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Norman Mailer & Wilkes University

The front pages of both local papers featured a tribute to the life of the great Norman Mailer. I also think it is appropriate because today is Veteran's Day, too and Norman Mailer is a veteran. My creative writing classmate, Joe Cetta was quoted in this one:

Mailer connected to Wilkes through creative writing program
by Heidi Ruckno, The Citizen's Voice (11.11.07)

A close friendship with Wilkes University professor Dr. J. Michael Lennon gave Norman Mailer the opportunity to get well acquainted with Wilkes University.

Lennon, Mailer’s literary executor and biographer, and Dr. Bonnie Culver co-founded the university’s Masters of Creative Writing program in 2004. When they asked Mailer to be on the advisory board, the author accepted the invitation.Lennon and Mailer had been friends for more than 30 years.

The two collaborated on Mailer’s last book, “On God: An Uncommon Conversation.”Mailer was a great friend to the Wilkes community and to Culver personally, she said. He even convinced her a bachelor’s degree was not a necessary requirement for admission into the creative writing masters program.So far, three students without bachelor’s degrees received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, Culver said.

“That’s because of Norman,” she said.

Mailer always believed a writer’s level of formal education had little to do with his or her ability, but his involvement with Wilkes stemmed far beyond that small detail.Mailer visited the university several times as a guest speaker, delivering the keynote address at the inaugural Pennsylvania Writer’s Conference in June 2004. He also started the Norris Church Mailer scholarship fund in honor of his sixth wife, and routinely invited Wilkes students into his Provincetown, Mass. home.

Scranton resident Joe Cetta, 28, a graduate of the creative writing program, visited Mailer’s home during a Wilkes University trip. Mailer was not one to protect trade secrets, Cetta said. He was always willing to share some pointers with aspiring writers.Mailer told Cetta it was best to write now and edit later. The author felt it was easier than censoring before the pen hit the paper.Cetta was grateful for the advice, even though he was never a Mailer fan. Like many others, Cetta had some difficulty with some of the author’s views.

The author had unpopular opinions about feminism and fought to get a convicted killer released from prison.Mailer was brilliant because of the controversy, Culver said. He was never afraid to stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable.“He was never shy about trying something that was going to stretch our imaginations, and that’s the mark of a truly great artist,” she said.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer Died This Morning

It's ironic that shortly after Norman Mailer and J. Michael Lennon's On God was released, Mailer's questions regarding God could have been answered. The Pulitzer prize winning author Norman Mailer died this morning of acute renal failure, according to the AP.

Of of my writing mentors, Dr. Lennon (as I and my classmates call him, but known as J. Michael Lennon to the literary community) is Mailer's archivist and biographer. I envy that Dr. Lennon gets to tell the tale of this revolutinary man who dabbled in so many creative things during his ever-so exciting life.

Most people discount Wikipedia as not being a reliable source, but I checked today and Dr. Lennon updated the Norman Mailer entry to include his death, so I know that Mailer's entry is accurate. There is a wonderful tribue to Norman Mailer from the AP I found on Yahoo news, and I am sure as the day goes on and the Sunday papers will have beautiful spreads and collages about this literary figure and his life. But here is a snippet from the above-mentioned source that displays what a fascinating life this man had:

"Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as pugnacious, streetwise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party. He had nine children, made a quixotic bid to become mayor of New York, produced five forgettable films, dabbled in journalism, flew gliders, challenged professional boxers, was banned from a Manhattan YWHA for reciting obscene poetry, feuded publicly with writer Gore Vidal and crusaded against women's lib..

...But as Newsweek reviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, "in the end it is the writing that will count." (Source: AP, Nov. 9, article by Richard Pyle.)

Mailer is known for many novels and creative nonfiction: I created an Amazon Link search results for : Norman Mailer

For more on Norman Mailer, just Google him. There is so much to read and learn. I particularly love the counterculture era and guys like Ginsberg, so it is way cool that Mailer was part of that. Sometimes I wish was alive in those days-- I would have fit in. That's why I wish I had the chance to meet Norman Mailer before he passed away, but I know that in small ways I am already influenced and touched by him. He is a writer I want to emulate- serious about the writing, but also takes a stand on issues he believes in... and also likes to take riskes, change gears when you least expect it and above all, enjoy life- Norman Mailer did a little bit of everything and that's how my life is, random.

At our January residency of the Wilkes University MA in Creative Writing program I am sure we will have a tribute to Mailer, who was a board member. I know that many of the Wilkes students who have been in the program longer than me have met Norman Mailer at his Mailer conventions. I know that Dr. Lennon will make sure that America and the World remembers Mailer and all the things he gave us.

While trying to find a few pics, I came across this really cool writer's mugs page. You can get this print on a mug or in a frame:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Deadly Crash on Route 118 AGAIN

Over the summer I wrote a Letter to the Editor to the Times Leader about people driving too fast on Route 118, as well as the general condition of the rural road.

The front page of the paper today has this headline:

One dead, five injured in five-vehicle accident on Route 118

I will add to this blog later today- I can't find my letter- the link above works, but does not show my whole letter.... the TL only keeps the full stories up for seven days. At any rate, I am glad to know that they did print my letter and that the issue I was writing in about was indeed an important one-- of course it seems some people ignored my pleas.

They State Rep. Karen Boback will look into this- I hope she goes back to read my letter.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I created a podcast about sleep and dreams

Call me a dork. I know.I made a podcast to go along with a new website, to make it more fun.

I just made a quick introductory episode, which also has a review of a cool sleep tea, but the 'grand opening' will be on Nov. 19. about lucid dreams.

Check it out and let me know what you think!! Please?
Also- if you like to learn about dreams, want herbal sleep aids, etc. check out the site!

I finally got knocked up & some book news

First of all- my headline. Let me explain. I am a direct mail sucker and signed up for the Columbia House DVD club a few months back. I usually check the "Do Not Send" box for the monthly selection... until last month when the movie was Knocked Up. So-- yep. I got Knocked Up. Found out yesterday. Haha. I've been wanting to see it- I always go for horror and thriller movies when I rent or go to theaters, so this will be refreshing. Plus, I like Elizabeth Hegel.

I am in a procrastinating mode so I decided to Google and search Yahoo for my book ("Kids, Have You Seen My Backpack?" and Other Inspirational Stories of Non-Traditional Students: An Adult Learner Anthology) to see what I could find. It's been out a few years and sold a few copies, so I just like to search every now and then to see if there is anything new online about it. Here are some tidbits I found:

1) It sells for over $30 in Australia.
2) It is availabe at which is like a Netflix for books. That's pretty cool. I should join and "rent" it and write a note in it. Haha.
3) It's used as a textbook at Drexel University for an adult learner's program- a class called Strategies in Life Long Learning. That is awesome that the 22 people in my book get to inspire other adult learners- I want to e-mail the professor and see what kinds of assignments she has with it... that'd be cool. I'd like to try them, too! (I'm a nerd; I LOVE homework!) By the way, the Goodwin College at Drexel has, since the book came out, used book snippets as testimonials, as two of the essayists attended the evening program. Coolness. Read them here.
4) And this one- I found a few weeks ago, but figured I'd share here. I am nobody, but this guy somehow got a signed copy and it's going for like $70. Can you believe that?! Who would by that? Haha! (Who else but me would search for that?!)
5) You can do a search by what Barnes & Noble stores have it in stock, and one on 555 5th Avenue in NYC has it! And, there is one left at the Arena Hub one too.
6) Google Books is the coolest thing- I didn't even know this, but I guess through the publisher they have a deal to show previews... Check it out here.
7)You can do a national library search at Google Books too- my book is available at 13 that were found, from Penn State Scranton to schools in Florida, Ohio, Washington, Cali, and Colorado.

--I just get a kick out of this stuff. I don't have a lot of money to put toward marketing my book, so this is pretty cool that it got to all these places with minimal effort- I am thinking about putting out a revised edition soon. What do you think?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Berks County Roadtrip: Crystal Cave and Roadside America

Today was all about reliving old memories, while making new ones. I had a very cool childhood. I was fortunate enough to spend almost every weekend on the road to music gigs- and during our travels we always made it a point to stop at roadside tourist attractions. I think that's why I always bonded with the Griswalds. At any rate, Dave hasn't been to any of these cool places I've been to. When we first met, he told me that he loved trains. And for four years, I've been trying to go on a day trip to check out Roadside America, the world's largest miniature village. Since Crystal Cave was in near by Kutztown, I plotted a spontaneous Sunday afternoon.

Roadside America, Shartlesville
Roadside America is just amazing. Of course last time I was there I was a kid, so things looked a lot bigger- but this roadside Pennsylvania attraction is definitely one to take in. The 1,500 square-foot attraction was started by brothers Larry and Paul Geiringer. The story is that when the two were boys, they lived on a mountain and saw all these 'miniature' houses and buildings. They were fascinated by them- even upon learning they were regular size buildings.... They began to build models and train sets and their passion eventually led to Roadside America. Paul became and priest and moved to Ohio, while Larry kept going. He passed away in 1963; his wife took over until her death in 1973 and to this day, the same family runs Roadside America.

What is so cool about Roadside America is that all the miniatures are hand-made from simple tools-- the hard way-- but also as I like to say, "the heart way." The stained-glass windows on the little churches are all hand-painted. So, so cool.
Some things that you'll see at Roadside America in addition to streams, waterfalls, trains and trolleys are: Indian tee-pee villages; snowcapped mountains with winter activities and working cable cars; tribute to the coal, lumber, steel and energy industries; the Old West; rural farms with a hoe-down in the barn; a modern zoo; early colonial towns with great architecture; a circus; an airport and so much more. There is music playing throughout, as well as buttons you can push to make certain things work- very, very cool.

Every half-hour Roadside America tells everyone to take a seat and they play patriotic music as they turn down the lights so only the lights within the village are on- it is kind of like a sunset, night and sunrise show. Very cool. The only thing that I didn't like was in the slides was a picture of Jesus- that was unnecessary to me, but this IS after all a family business and they seem to have religious roots.
No matter how old you are at Roadside America, you feel like a total kid again. I should also mention there is a gift shop which of course sells Roadside America souvenirs, but also lots of train items and a selection of PA Dutch and Amish items, too.

Crystal Cave, Route 222, Kutztown, Pa.
I wrote so much about Roadside America that I don't want this post to be too, too long. I was at Crystal Cave many times as a kid, so it was cool to bring Dave here as well. The site closes Nov. 30, so the season was winding down- this was good because we had a small group. We had a spunky teenage tour guide, Steph I think her name was. Very funny and good with the lingo. It always helps when you have a knowledgeable tour guide!

This cavern is very cool- a great geological lesson for sure! We got to see stalactites, stalagmites, flowing rock and other geological marvels made only from sediment and water over the course of hundreds of years. It's amazing that this structure exists underneath Pennsylvania farm country. What was kind of cool to learn was that early visitors were allowed to saw off stalagmites/tites as souvenirs, so some of the cave's treasures are now family heirlooms! 54-degrees year-round, Crystal Cave is definitely literally cool as well.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Screw the Banks! Have you heard of person-to-person lending? Read this if you need money-- or want to invest money.

Todays blog-- for once-- is not a rambling about my views on something. Today, I am providing a public service to those looking for money-- or looking for a great investment opportunity.

On NPR this morning I learned of this wonderful concept of person-to-person lending. I mean- borrowing money from friends, family and neighbors- and loan sharks- has been happening since the beginning of currency. However, this person-to-person lending has stormed onto the Internet, and there are some great success stories on both ends, lender and borrower.

The company that NPR profiled this morning is called Prosper. The site allows people to lend or borrow money- and manage payment, etc. all from one place.

Loans from Prosper:
Users can ask for a Prosper loan from $1000 to $25,000 (certain states have limitations)-- those borrowing on Prosper can create a listing- just like they would on an auction site- explaining their need. Pictures can also be uploaded as well, which I think is a great option especially if the loan is for a house-related purpose. Then, the loan is listed in the listings section and lenders can "bid" on your loan- a $50 minimum. So- this is not like one person out there is giving another $5000- more like a community of people chipping in.

When the Prosper loan is fully-funded- after everything is reviewed- the money is automatically put into your bank account, minus the fees associated. How cool is that?

Lenders get to ask questions to verify anything. Credit score and debt to income ratio is displayed on your listing, but only to registered lenders. One thing I did notice was that people really failed to proofread their listings. My take is that people want to lend to smart people-- and if someone wants to "CONSALIDATE" their loan... or promised the loan will be "PAYED" on time-- they will be ignored.

There are forums, webinars and other help areas to assist borrowers to create successful listings.

Investing in Prosper:
People who are looking to get a good return on investment may want to look into Prosper-- when people get into the high DTI or low credit score area, interest rates go up-- some people in states that allow it will pledge they will pay 25% interest! So, the ROI for lending money on Prosper can be very lucrative. I did not read too much into the lending part, but I believe what happens is that a portfolio of investments is created and the lender is paid by Propser monthly.

How does Prosper make out? They charge an origination fee off the top of the loan and then take 1-2% of each loan, while the lender gets the rest.

This is a sound company with huge financial backing, as well as a community of 450,000 people
and has thus far loaned over $93M.

I did it
I have been wanting to sell dream items on line for a long time now, but just didn't have the start-up money to get an intial inventory-- so I created a listing. Let's see what happens. Here is a link if you want to try it too.... either borrow some money, or make some money!!

Great Rates, No Banks. Borrow. Lend. Prosper.