Monthly Archives: November 2013

My thoughts on Zipcar

Greetings, readers. Rebecca brought this service to my attention a few weeks ago and boy am I glad she did. Zipcar is what is known as car sharing rather than a car rental company. From what I understand, it began in big cities and has finally worked its way to here, State College, PA. I am thrilled. You see, a number of years ago I lost my own car due to a mishap and have been using the local bus system and cabs ever since.

So far, from what I’ve learned about Zipcar, it works like this. After you become a member, if you need a car for an hour or two or three you can look up on their website where a vehicle is closest to you, and try to reserve it. Here in State College there are at least five cars near my apartment building. So more than likely one that is available is within walking distance to me. When making a reservation, if I understand it correctly, you can request the size of car you need or want. After your reservation is made, on your computer screen you will be told what kind of car you have, what color it is, and where the car is located.

I put the service to the test just the other day when I took a friend to meet her train. My first go on it went smoothly but there were a couple of hiccups. I wasn’t quite sure how to use their gas card, for instance, and now must get reimbursed. When Rebecca and I were first taking a look at this, there was a set of short videos – a how-to more or less – on what Zipcar is all about. I should have looked at the video explaining gas fill-ups more carefully because it did answer my basic question. Live and learn, as I always say. Also, the car is locked and unlocked with my Zipcard, while the keys stay in the car. Leaving the car with the keys locked in it goes against everything I was ever taught and trained to do.

The car I used the other day was a Toyota Prius hybrid, and it was the first time I have ever driven a hybrid. It didn’t take me long to learn how to use it and I loved it. Peppy and efficient with an awesome stereo.

How will Zipcar be useful to me, you ask? Well, if my dear Godmother needs me in a hurry, if I need to get to a doctor’s office not on a convenient bus route, or if I need to take someone to a plane or a train in a pinch, this service is perfect.

There were two fees at the beginning of the membership, that cost a bit of money; one to become a member and one for my annual fee. The relatively inexpensive per hour charge I like, but I have to watch myself that I don’t use this service too much. I am on a budget. Even though I’ve only used the service once, I have already reserved a car for my annual Christmas Eve light ride. So far I give Zipcar a good solid 8 out of 10, and thanks again, Rebecca.

Hope everyone enjoys their afternoon. Take care, stay safe and happy reading.

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The day after Thanksgiving

Greetings, readers. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and got home safe. I had a perfectly lovely day and I will now share some of the highlights of my Thanksgiving.

As I’ve always done since childhood, I got up early and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. There was some concern about the level of wind in New York City and it would be a game-time decision on whether the balloons would be allowed to fly. They were allowed to fly but they had to have extra people with extra ropes to keep them from flying too high. I was very happy to see all the nice balloons because the parade wouldn’t be the same without them. As the parade started almost three miles away from Macy’s front door, the first hour of the broadcast was the performances from all the Broadway plays, performed right in front of Macy’s. The second hour was when the marching bands and some of the floats began to roll by. Everyone did such a magnificent job. Marching bands from many different states partook. Musical performances were sung, dancers danced, and the Radio City Rockettes danced to a medley of Christmas tunes.  And of course, at noon Santa Claus came by with his mechanical reindeer lifting up from the float. I was a little bit perturbed when NBC switched to the dog show directly at noon, cutting off the end of the parade by a minute or so. I guess the parade ran long.

After the parade, I went to a local diner which was serving a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It was most delicious. School children were donating their time on Thanksgiving day to be servers and greeters. I thought that was wonderful; that they would give back to their community before spending time with their families.

After a couple of games of football on the tube, I was so exhausted I went to bed at 9:15. Hellishly early for me. All in all a great day.

I decided to split an entry on Thanksgiving day and on Zipcar into two posts so that each topic could stand on its own.

Take care, and happy reading.

Thanksgiving is a comin’

Greetings, readers. Tomorrow begins my favorite time of the year; the holiday season. Rebecca and I were talking earlier and she got a chuckle that I have my whole day planned already. I’ll be watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 9:00 until noon, dinner at 1:00, and football after that. At exactly noon, when Santa Claus turns right at 34th street, it will be time for me to think about decorating the apartment and getting into that Christmas frame of mind.

I know it is not politically correct to say Merry Christmas, but when I was a youth in the early 70s, the generic “happy holidays” was just starting and had not caught on yet. More times than not, I will say happy holidays to people just to be safe and not offend anyone. But, being Roman Catholic, Merry Christmas was what I heard as a child; it is what I knew. As a lot of my regular blog readers know, I am a very sentimental person; I had a very wonderful childhood, and enjoy looking back on it.

On to some other news, my two writing projects are going well … finally. Yay to that. When I see Darren next on December 12th, I’m certain I shall have lots to give him to work on. I imagine that Rebecca will be happy, because she will have more to edit. Right now working feels good.

Let me get you up to date on some family members. This past Friday I saw my cousins Ed and Maria, and we had a lovely dinner at the Tavern restaurant. They came down for the day so that Maria could check out Penn State. My Godmother is doing better, thank goodness, but not quite well enough to have company. Best friend Dave and clan will be home for Thanksgiving, and will be enjoying the day at a relative’s house nearby.

Yes, I expect in a week or so, this apartment will look lively with lights, and Christmas Carols will be playing on my computer or on one of the local radio stations. And on December 24th, the Christmas light ride will be renewed, thanks to something called Zipcar. I will explain that service in my next blog entry.

So, until Friday, I hope everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving and stay safe if you are traveling; keep an eye out for the weather. Take care and happy reading.

Many good ideas came from yesterday

Greetings, readers. Yesterday went very, very well. I’m referring to the addition of Darren to my workforce. In the nearly two hours of work time, after the weekly Wednesday accountant meeting, many good ideas were bounced around and put on the table. Darren told me that he wanted to be an idea guy and he showed me that proof positive. At least four good ideas were written down on paper and two or three of them have a solid foundation.

Darren said write what you know, which is a well-known quote. I’m going to follow that advice. As many of you know, I love aircraft, the aircraft investigation TV series, and the paranormal. Why not combine a good airplane story with a good ghost or paranormal story? I almost couldn’t sleep last night because ideas were rolling in my head. After Rebecca and I are finished with this blog today, we will begin taking notes for that project.

An idea I had, which Darren seemed to like, was that I would write a first draft of a play or screenplay – in other words, the dialog of a story – than I would turn it over to him and see if he couldn’t turn it into a novel. He is much better at writing prose than I am. If all goes well, I should be able to begin this project this weekend. Whoo-hoot.

A firm work schedule for Darren has not been worked out yet; so far it is on a trial basis. But if our sessions go as well as it did yesterday, I see nothing but bright days ahead for this sagging writing career.

I’m not certain if I will put another blog entry up tomorrow; this might be it for the week. It depends on if a topic strikes me or not. So until soonest, take care, stay warm if you are in a cold climate, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: New face around here

I am doing the blog entry today because Joe is working with my husband Darren on some ideas for Joe’s work. It is Darren’s first day. Joe and I are used to each other and work very well together, but we have also gotten in a rut. We need someone to bring in new energy and ideas to shake up our mind-set and habits a little bit. Darren has agreed to a trial period of working with Joe to see how much he can advance his writing career. He will work with Joe one day every week or two. Darren is an idea guy and already has a couple of ideas for us to explore. I’m excited to see where we end up in a few months.

There are a couple of challenges to this arrangement. The biggest one is that Joe doesn’t have a suitable seat for Darren in the apartment/office that we usually work in, so they will have to work in public. Right now we are all three working in the community room of Joe’s apartment building, so there is background noise and people wondering in and out. In the future, they might need to work in a noisy restaurant, hopefully with a good internet connection to help them do research, that may be very distracting.

Another question about them working together is, will their styles clash or mesh? From the conversation they are having right now about ideas for an airplane-crash-with-ghosts story, they seem to work together well. They are really cooking today. If they keep this up, and he can follow up on the inspiration, Joe will have a great piece of writing next year.

Actually, this isn’t the first time that Joe and Darren have worked together, though it is the first time they have worked on Joe’s writing. Joe has been doing Dungeons and Dragons (mostly 4th edition) with Darren and me for over two years now. Darren is the Dungeon Master and Joe and I are the players in the game. For four months this last year I was the DM while Joe and Darren were the players going through the adventure. We will start another adventure with Darren as DM next month. So they know each other and have been partners, but they are having a conversation now that they never had before, about writing styles and genres.

We will keep you updated about how it works. Welcome to the team, Darren!

Joe will do another blog entry either tomorrow or Friday. As he would say, take care and happy reading.

CP and me

Greetings, readers. This is my one and perhaps only blog entry dealing completely with my affliction from cerebral palsy. I have been looking at blogs and websites about CP for a project, and have connected with a couple of people in the same boat, and I now have my own case on my mind. I have mentioned my CP in this blog here and there, but I have not done a post about it and how it effected my life.

I have had it since birth and will die with it. However, thanks to my well-meaning but over-protective parents, I didn’t know I had it until around the age of 16. Up until that point, I was simply told that I had a weak left side and the whole topic of being different from other people really didn’t come up at the dinner table.

Let’s start from childhood. Vivid memories of Tuesday evening swimming lessons at the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania YMCA conjure up images of cold swimming pools and a little boy trying not to drown. I remember thinking to myself that I should be able to do what all the other kids were doing – swimming. I could just barely tread water. I knew it was time to quit when my favorite part of the evening was when it was time to leave, and I could put my quarter into the vending machine and get my plastic NFL helmet for my collection.

Around the age of 10 or so, I suffered what I still call to this day my klutz year. I was a normal active boy enjoying Nerf football and Whiffle ball, but in the span of twenty-one weeks I suffered three broken fingers, one smashed elbow, and a broken wrist … all on the same arm. The arm that I tended to fall to – the left. I was cast-free for one week before I smashed my elbow, then for one day before I clobbered my wrist. Not deterred from wishing to feel normal, I continued to play outdoor sports.

In my 20s, I remember playing racquet ball, with my friend from high school, which can be a brutal sport. We created our own game and called it Tenaquet. We served overhand and we gave each other two ball bounces rather than one. That aided my bad balance and Jim’s bad knee. What fun we had. When my knees and my back started to go haywire, I had to officially ‘retire’ from sports.

Around this time, it was becoming painfully obvious that attending Penn State University day classes was not for me. I was having a very hard time with taking notes and I was a horrible test taker. Later I figured out why. Even though I can read, my retention isn’t quite up to par. I had to withdraw and never did finish. I think Mom understood, but was in denial that her son couldn’t finish college. Just a couple of years ago, I found out from my Godmother that Mom had the measles when she was pregnant with me. This could explain why my brain didn’t develop correctly. Perhaps in some strange way she felt responsible. Which of course was ridiculous. Things happen.

As I briefly mentioned in other blog posts, things like my balance and fine motor skills are effected; not to mention the fact that I have seizures. But every day I do the best that I can do. I can just give people 100% of all I’ve got on any particular day.

On the positive side of my mild CP: I can walk, I can jog, I can drive a car. I can write. And I can give a fairly proficient air guitar show. Also, with the help of Flight Simulator X, I can even be, in a way, what I always wanted to be growing up as a kid, which was an airline pilot.

Overall I would have to say that my life has been good and I have learned to live with my mild disability as best I can. Having the knowledge as a child that I have CP may or may not have made a difference. Who knows, I might have been worse off. Unless someone invents a reliable time machine, I will never know.

Until next week, have a great weekend, take care, and happy reading.

Top ten list of MLB or NFL stadiums gone by

Greetings, readers. This is a top ten list of stadiums and parks no longer with us. I have always enjoyed looking at football and baseball clips on YouTube from Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. It was demolished in the early 2000’s. Such a beautiful stadium it was. That got me thinking. Why not do a top ten list of stadiums and ball parks not around anymore? So here they are in no particular order, besides #1.

#10. Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [Home of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Athletics before they moved to Kansas City and later to Oakland.]

#9. Shea Stadium in Flushing New York.  [Home of the Mets and the Jets.]

#8. Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, New York. [Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers before they moved to Los Angles.]

#7. R.F.K Stadium in Washington D.C.  [Home of the Redskins Football team, and the Senators Baseball team before they moved to Minnesota.]

#6. Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio. [Home of the Reds.]

#5. Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. [Home of the NFL’s Falcons, and MLB’s Braves.]

#4. The Orange Bowl Stadium in Miami, Florida. [Home to the Miami Dolphins NFL team, and University of Miami Hurricanes.]

#3. Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. [Home to the New Orleans Saints.]

#2. Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [Home of the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers, and the MLB Pirates.]

#1. Baltimore Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. [Home to the Baltimore Colts before they moved to Indianapolis and MLB’s Orioles.]

Honorable Mention: Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. [This is the final season for 49er football before they move to their new home the next NFL season. I believe this stadium is set to be demolished sometimes in the very near future.]

There they are, chime in with your list if you want to. Take care, have a good day, and happy reading.

Just updated the About page

Greetings, readers. As I’m still trying to get over this blasted cold, Rebecca has been doing some research and also just now got finished updating the blog’s About page. We were looking at other blogs in WordPress, and noticed a couple from people with Cerebral Palsy, which I am now following. I decided to add to my About page that I have CP too, as well as add the titles of my three books. Two books happened since I started this blog!

Next week we will have a serious blog entry about my CP and a top ten list about old ballparks and stadiums that are no longer in existence.

Until then, enjoy your weekend, I hope your teams win, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: Twitter, so far

I wrote last May that Joe was starting to use Twitter. We thought that it would help him find a bigger audience for his books and this blog, and could be useful for research. Well, not yet. It isn’t that easy to just sign up and find a big audience for yourself, though I know a lot of people put in the time and energy to connect on the social media sites. Joe and I don’t; we just don’t have the set-up to be on for several times a day, every day. So we are a little bit limited in the networking department. As for research, that is slow going too. Joe tried a few times to ask questions and no one replied with a specific answer. He is also a little disappointed that he sent Tweets to a few people and most did not respond at all. I think he likes being connected to the people he has followed, but he has not gotten much back for his effort. I thought that Twitter would help Joe a lot, but so far it has not.

I do not expect the same things from my personal Twitter experience, and I am getting a lot out of this service. I love using Twitter. I follow 56 accounts, with a few being people I know, like Joe, and most being creative people who do works that I enjoy, like Star Trek stars, book writers, and webcomic artists. I feel like I am at a party where I get to walk around and listen to different groups talking. Sometimes I put a reply on someone’s Tweet, which usually does not get a response, but mostly I lurk. I put up my own Tweet when I am on the computer, about four times a week. I have six followers, three of them people I don’t know who I assume follow me so I will follow them. I am not witty or funny in my Tweets, but I try to make them true to who I am and what I am doing.

My most exciting interaction with Twitter was the first week in October, when I wrote the blog post here about Schlow Centre Region Library and then Tweeted a link to it on my account. Schlow library saw that Tweet, and promoted the blog post on their Twitter feed! And Tweeted me a thank you for the blog post. And then the views on Joe’s blog hit 36 on October 3rd, which is a big number for one day. Wow, that felt powerful. A real taste of what I was hoping Twitter could do for Joe, if we could figure out how to do it on purpose.

So we are still beginning to explore Twitter, and I am having a lot of fun with it. Maybe Joe will too at some point. Twitter does not fit his style though. He fits Facebook much better. He likes to socialize with people he knows and likes already, and to write more than can fit into 140 spaces. And when someone comments on something he wrote, he can easily see it; with Twitter he has to look in a certain area and even then it might not be obvious.

Joe should be writing another blog next week. Take care, and happy reading.

Homework assignment still pending and I’m under the weather

Greetings, readers. As the title implies, there is a correlation between my homework assignment not being done and the cold that I am trying to ward off. Either I have successfully caught the cold going around State College, or I’m having one monstrous allergy attack. It did interfere with my writing, but I’m about to tell you the good news.

The short story which was my homework assignment is complete in my mind. I just have to get to feeling better to type it out. I showed Rebecca what I have so far and she thinks I’m off to a good start, which pleased me to no end. On the other hand, it was a little frustrating because I so wanted to get between three and four pages done, and just didn’t. After our blog entry is complete today, Rebecca and I are going to outline the rest of the story. I’ve had it locked in my brain for the last several days, which is unusual for me because most times I make it up as I go along.

I remember when I was writing my play Kimberly I had a vague idea of where I wanted it to go, but all the little plot twists happened on the spur of the moment. Oh yes, those were the days when I could crank out the first draft of a play in less than a year. Today I fear it would take at least twice as long.

The dream of being a writer will always be with me, but making it a career is turning out to be more of a problem that I first thought. Yes, I do get the occasional sale, but it comes far from paying the rent. At some point, I think what I might have to do is get myself a part-time job to help structure my life more, and Rebecca and I will work around our other work schedules. I don’t want that to have to be the case, I’m quite happy doing what I am doing right now, but unless we can find a way to successfully market the books better, some change might be in the offing in January or February.

The next blog entry will be a From Rebecca and then my next one will be next Wednesday. By then I hope to be fully recovered from whatever this sinus thing is. I also hope to have my homework assignment completed and even be on to the next one. Until next time, take care, enjoy your day, and happy reading.