Thursday, November 21, 2013

Honoring John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 22nd is a very nostalgic day for me as I am old enough to have lived through the shooting of President John F. Kennedy. I don't remember the shooting itself, but I remember the funeral.

I was just six, but I was drawn to the TV, watching the event unfold for several hours. I remember the day as clearly as if it was yesterday. I did not know, at the time, what was going on. I just knew in my little six-year-old heart that it was bad. Really bad.

It was before I got my first pair of glasses -- that was second grade -- and the TV was a little blurry, but even so, I couldn't take my eyes off our black and white television as I sat cross-legged on the floor in front of it.

It was a tumultuous time, but I hope the short time we had him made us a better country. President Kennedy, I salute you. May you, and your family, continue to rest in peace. 

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Three Cups of Tea: The Most Inspiring Book I've Ever Read

This book has changed me on so many levels. First, it is the first book to ever take us inside Pakistan and Afghanistan to show us the people, their customs and their culture. While I've always respected Muslims, now I understand them more than I ever did.

Second, through the book, after having "met" Greg Mortenson. I feel I am a more well-rounded person knowing who he is and what he is doing. I am so impressed, amazed and awed by him I would value meeting him as much as I would value meeting President Obama. The things he has accomplished in his lifetime are Nobel Peace Prize worthy and if he doesn't win it, I will be disappointed.

At first, I really enjoyed being able to witness the way someone else lives. I live in a big city and sometimes people tend to think that everyone lives the way we do. Greg Mortenson's life could not be more different from mine. The child of American missionaries, he grew up in Tanzania and as an adult, became a successful mountain climber. The mountains of Pakistan, where some of the tallest peaks in the world are, became a second home to him, a place where he was so comfortable, he fit right in, sleeping on floors, living without running water and dressing, out of respect, in their cultural clothing.

After mountain climbing and a career as a nurse, he literally fell into a new career, building schools for girls, first in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan, through a nonprofit he cofounded called the Central Asia Institute. While all of us over here have wondered about the people on the borders where we fought and dropped missiles, he was there, among the people, seeing it all from the inside out and fighting terror through education, not war.

I now consider Greg Mortenson an influencer I want to follow. My first instinct was to look for him on LinkedIn and Twitter. He's not there. My second instinct is to make a donation to Central Asia Institute, and that is something I will definitely do.

In the meantime, I highly recommend this book for EVERYONE. You can get it at your local library or at Amazon.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Say no to casinos in Long Island

Politicians in Nassau, Long Island (N.Y.) are advocating for the building of casinos to generate tax revenue. A good idea? I think not.

Let me use The Bahamas as an example. In the Bahamas, citizens are not allowed to frequent the casinos. Why? Because they would spend all their hard-earned money there. The whole point of a casino is to drive increased revenue -- notice I said "increased."

What do you think would happen if Bahamians all spent their weekly paychecks at the casino? The money would just go in a circle and there would be no growth.

That's the same thing that would happen in Long Island. We have plenty of casinos. We don't need anymore. Here's a better idea: Incentivize people to come up with their own ideas, to improve on ideas that already exist and to start businesses -- to build small factories, to build anything!

If New York approves the casinos in Long Island, we're just digging ourselves deeper in the "we don't make anything anymore" business model, and the money will just go in a circle in and out and there won't be any growth.

Instead of going in a circle, let's move the economy forward! Let's support people who come up with new ideas and stick with the casinos we've already got. We don't need anymore.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

A tip for effective proofreading

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Happy National Customer Service Week

October 7th to 13th is National Customer Service week. On this the 21st anniversary of the event, I just want to take a moment to thank all of the customer service reps who put up with people's tempers, impatience and aggravation every day.

And for all those who have solved my problems, helped me figure things out, corrected my bills, and answered my questions, here's to you.

Thanks for all your compassion, dedication to your craft and kindness. It's a job I've never felt I could do so, your talent is greatly appreciated.

Here's to you.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Deer in Your Headlights, Literally

According to the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, more deer-car collisions occur during the fall than any other time, so be aware, folks.
Altogether, they report that there are more than 1 million deer and car collisions a year. The state with the most deer-car collisions? Hawaii. Strange. Didn't know they had deer in Hawaii. Wonder how they got there. 

The states with the least? Montana, at 2, and Wyoming, with 13. You would think with all that land there would be more deer. There probably are, but then there are probably fewer cars running into them, I suppose.

What are your chances of having a collision with a deer? One in 174. Much much greater than your chances of winning the lottery.

For more information on deer-car collisions, check out the Insurance Information Institute.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Boycott Rolling Stone Magazine

How pathetic that Rolling Stone magazine chose to put a picture of the Boston bomber on their front cover. How about all the heroes and survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings? How about putting some of them on the cover?

This is clearly a ploy to sell magazines on the newsstand. Are they that desperate? Do they have no dignity?

First of all, the magazine is an entertainment publication. They don't report the news. So why now?

They should be ashamed of themselves. I hope everyone boycotts the issue and none of them sell. It would serve them right.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fifty Shades of Wow

Well, I finally did it. I read "Fifty Shades of Grey" because I wanted to see what all the fuss and buzz were about. Now I get it. It's a hell of a book.

However, once I got over the initial shock of it, about 50 pages in, I have to say, it read much like a typical romance novel. Girl loves boy. Boy has commitment issues. Girl cries a lot. They break up and boy breaks girl's heart. Unfortunately, no happy ending in this one.

However, being a person who has read dozens of romance novels, I fully expected that typical happy ending. But once I learned that the book was the first in a trilogy, then I understood why the first book could not have a happy ending. Of course it had to leave me hanging. Or else, why would I pick up the second book?

Another interesting observation: very early on, I started to see strong similarities between the lead female character Anastasia and Bella, the lead female character in the Twilight series. They are both women who fell so toxically in love with their man that they would give up everything -- do anything -- to be with them. In both stories, the female lead characters fall in love with 'bad boys' and cross over to the dark side. The only real difference between Bella and Anastasia is that Bella wasn't afraid and she had no regrets. Anastasia was very afraid and, of course, in the end she had many regrets.

Now being fully committed to the characters and the plot, I am willing to read the second and third books because I have to find out what happens to them. Will they work out their differences? Will Christian ever tell Anastasia the deep dark secrets he's keeping hidden inside? And will telling those secrets free him from their burden forever?

The bottom line is, even with the hefty sexual overtones, it's still a romance novel. I want my romantic night-in-shining-armor happy ending, so I will be expecting it in the third book. Ideally, I anticipate Christian will fix all his problems and, in "An Officer and a Gentleman"-like style, sweep Anastasia off her feet and give her everything she wants (and nothing she doesn't want). Only time -- and a lot of reading -- will tell.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Our Own American Soldier: My Great Uncle Charlie's Story

My grandfather James Pecoraro, my mother's father, was one of nine children. Grampa had a brother named Charlie who wanted to be a doctor. Back then, in the 1920s, there was no such thing as a student loan. And coming from a poor Italian family, my great grandparents didn't have the money.

So the entire family scraped and sacrificed for the one child. Whatever Charlie's brothers and sisters earned went into the kitty to put Charlie through pre-med and then medical school.

When he graduated, he was drafted into World War II. After basic training, he was sent to a hospital somewhere in the war zone. I don't remember where. On his second day, the hospital was blown up and Uncle Charlie was killed in action. All that effort for two days.

Gone but not forgotten. Rest in peace, Uncle Charlie.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Day I Visited a Mental Hospital

Many years ago, when I was a young twenty-something, I sold advertising for a now defunct radio station – WJAZ, a jazz station out of Stamford, CT. The station’s signal traveled across Long Island Sound and so we had a lot of listeners in Long Island, which meant we also had advertisers in Long Island.

One day, I was driving down the middle lane on the Long Island Expressway headed to see a client when out of nowhere there’s a full muffler in the middle of the lane. There were cars to my left and right and  so there was nothing I could do but go over it and pray for no damage. I ended up with a flat tire.

I could hear the sizzle as the air slowly leaked, but figured I could continue to coast until I came to the next exit. “There’s a gas station off practically every exit in Long Island,” I said out loud.

Along came the exit and I proceeded as planned. However, at the bottom of the exit was no gas station. There wasn’t even a town. I had coasted off an exit that led right onto the property of a mental hospital. Yup.

So I pulled up to the front door and walked into the lobby, where I found a security desk with three security guards. I explained that I had a flat tire and asked if any of them could help me. I said I would pay. Immediately they all started to mumble as to why they couldn’t help. One pointed to his back.

I was shocked. Are you kidding? These guys are supposed to serve and protect. They were strong, burly looking men. And they were too lazy to change a tire that could take 10 minutes?

I told them there was nowhere else I could go and one of them told me to follow the winding road until I got to the end and “Michael” – I don’t really remember his name anymore but that’s what we’ll call him – would fix my tire.

So I followed the winding road. It was a one-lane path that felt like I was in Little Red Riding Hood’s forest or something. At the end I found a one-bay garage. The door was up and I could see that it was a workshop. Michael came out. The security desk had called.

He said “no problem,” I can change your tire. As he pulled the spare out of my trunk, I saw the heavy scars on his wrist. He was not only a worker at this mental facility, he was a live-in patient. I was nervous and sympathetic at the same time.

He changed my tire and I gave him $10, thanked him and went on my way. It’s been more than 30 years, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. He was just one of those unforgettable people that we meet in our life. Every time I get a flat tire, I remember the day I coasted into a mental hospital.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Earth Is One Big Recycling System

Every year, the trees recycle their leaves and the flowers recycle their blooms. Even we as humans recycle when we die and new babies are born. Landfills recycle when garbage is broken down and decomposed, even though it can take up to 50 years. And, of course, there are actual recycling centers where we melt down glass and plastic and reconstruct paper into new paper products.

Unfortunately, today, however, we are using more than the earth can recycle. It horrifies me when I see people, and even entire companies, that aren't recycling. The Earth is dying. It is being smothered by garbage and pollution and won't last more than a handful of generations if we don't get serious about recycling everything we use.

I also look forward to the day when every home has solar panels and a small windmill on its roof. There is no reason for us to run out of electricity, or to be dependent on fossil fuel, when God gave us the sun. We are abusing our gifts. We need to do better.

Happy Earth Day!

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Please Read to Your Child

Parents, please, for the love of God, read to your children. Read every day. Let them explore the wonder of books. Kids love to turn pages and look at the bright colors. They enjoy hearing the stories. They get caught up in them and mesmerized by them. But if you don't read to them at an early age, they will never develop that love of books. And they won't read.

Read is so important and kids today do not read enough. They read texts with abbreviated words and acronyms. They read snippets of information on the Internet, and it's not enough. They need to read long-form material like Harry Potter and Nancy Drew and Jungle Book.

I remember when I was four and my sister Diane was five, my grandmother was taking Diane to the bookmobile, and I couldn't go because I was too young for a library card. You had to be five. I was insanely jealous and so angry that I swore to God and all of heaven and earth that when I was five I was getting a library card. The memory is so vivid to me even now. I remember how angry I was, but that was only because I loved to read so much. I was completely hooked on books.

As a child, for me, books were about escaping and traveling. They got me out of my world and put me in another world and I loved that. I got so caught up in them.

My sister and I always read at a higher level than our age. Length has never been a deterrent for me. Nine hundred pages? No problem. 

Another great "book" memory I have of my childhood was when I was 14. I had been asked to babysit a neighbor's kid all day on a Saturday while the mom (a single mom) worked. But the kid was 12 and didn't need watching, he only needed an adult in the house, so I picked up a book off the mother's nightstand and started reading it: It was "The Happy Hooker," and it was about 900 pages. I sat and read that thing all day. Boy did it keep my attention! I only had about 80 pages left when the mom got home. I laugh now when I think back. I asked her if I could take the book home and finish it and she said no. 

I don't have as much time to read today as I used to, but I always keep a book nearby.

Parents, if you want your children to succeed at anything, please get them hooked on reading. It doesn't cost anything, it will bond you together, and you will never regret it.

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Good Bye, CDs ... Hello MP3s

Once upon a time, like, 10 years ago, I swore I would never buy an MP3 download because I would miss the covers. I really enjoyed opening a CD and pulling out the cover, going through each page inside one at a time, reading line for line, and looking at all the photos. Plus, I didn't think I would be the kind of person to buy one song at a time. I liked getting "the whole CD." Even for my iPod, I used all the old music I had (when you have 450 CDs, you have a lot to choose from!).

Well, then the recession happened, and buying CDs became less of a priority. So one day, after many, many months of not buying any of the new music I wanted, I decided, well, I'll just download that one song I really, really want. So I did. It took about 1 minute and there it was -- new music on my computer! It happened so fast, and it was easy, and so cheap! Just ninety-nine cents!

So then I went, oh, I get it. I get this! A month later, I bought another song, and then another, and you can see where this is going. It's been about 5 years and now, of course, all I buy is MP3s.

Not only that, but MP3s are so easy on the budget. Even when I can't afford to go shopping for new clothes "this month," I can still afford a new song. What's a dollar? And what a lot of great enjoyment I get for that single dollar.

The interesting thing is, I'm not just buying new music. I'm also buying old music. That's one of the great beauties of MP3s. You can get any genre, any decade. Over Christmas, I was tired of the really old Christmas music we had and I was dying for a really good version of O Holy Night, so I went to and in about 30 seconds I bought Celene Dion's version and within a minute I was blasting it from my home office speakers. I do believe MP3s have spoiled me!

And now Amazon has the cloud, so I can save all my music to the cloud and if my computer breaks or I lose my iPod, wallah! just go up to the cloud and redownload it. If only all of life were that easy.

Now, not only do I not miss the covers of my CDs, but I look at my CDs as taking up space. I have no interest in buying a whole CD anymore.In fact, I'm thinking about converting the big bookcase of CDs that is just taking up unnecessary space to one (or two or three) of those black zipper cases with the sleeves inside. How easy to store, and less to move!

I wonder if, 10 years from now, a new technology will come along and I'll be saying, never! I'll never give up my MP3s! Only time will tell. 

Please check out my novel, In Fashion's Web on Amazon.