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July 2007 Archives

July 2, 2007

Getting Ready for MagicMeets!

All Ears is a Platinum Sponsor of MagicMeets

In less than 2 weeks time, I'll be in Harrisburg PA for Fred Block's MagicMeets event! This will be my 3rd appearance at MagicMeets and the 4th meet overall. I'm getting really excited.

The 2006 Ballroom Buzzes with Excitement

I know, some of you are wondering, what exactly is MagicMeets. For those of you who have had the good fortune to attend a December MouseFest, think of MagicMeets as one day of MouseFest. Now that you have that image in your minds, condense it into 8 hours in a huge ballroom, with 500 of your closest Disney internet buds, well known Disney-related Authors and Webmasters and well, you get the idea. But let me back up a bit....

MagicMeets began 4 years ago (then called DisMeets) by Disney fan- extraordinaire Fred Block. Held in a small ballroom in North Jersey, approximately 40 folks gathered for several hours of a concentrated Disney Fix. Speakers that year were WDW Trivia book author and webmaster, Lou Mongello and John Rick, founder of the Central Jersey Pin Traders group. It was such a huge success, that Fred wanted to build on it to become a Mid-Atlantic day of Disney.

Fred Block, Deb Wills, Mike Scopa

The 2005-2006 meets were held in Allentown PA - kind of a central point Fred discovered on a map as he tried to find a location central to folks in Ohio and Pa as well as the northeast and Maryland and Virginia. Over 350 fans attended in 2006 and enjoyed 2 keynote speakers, a total of 9 breakout sessions and a day full of fun and magic.

Fred's event quickly outgrew the Allentown Crown Plaza facilities and he spent much of last fall and winter scouring the mid-Atlantic for a new venue. After months of research and discussions, he decided upon the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel & Convention Center in Harrisburg, PA, just 20 minutes from Hershey Park's chocolate world. The Radisson offers a separate conference facility with a huge ballroom and breakout rooms. The conference area is just across the parking lot (a short walk) from the main part of the resort where you will find the guest rooms, front desk, and restaurant and lounge.

The morning keynote speaker for the 2007 Magic Meets will be none other than Mike Scopa (columnist on MousePlanet, co-host on the WDW Today Podcast and AllEars blogger). Mike hasn't disclosed his theme yet, but he promises to have some Disney Magic :) When I asked Mike to tell me what MagicMeets has become for him, he explained, "After experiencing the 2006 DisMeets I was convinced that along with Mousefest that MagicMeets will also be a must do on my calendar every year. The enthusiasm, the energy, the people, and the "Disney Magic" I discovered that weekend has hooked me forever."

Steve Barrett Mike's talk will be followed by 3 separate breakout sessions with speakers including: Len Testa (Unofficial Guide), Dave Marx (Passporter Guide Books), Steve Barrett (Hidden Mickeys), Tim Foster (author), John Rick (Central Jersey Pin Traders), Sharla Whalen (scrapbooking and photography), Kevin Fonner (Home Imagineering), Annette Owens (travel planner) and Becky King (former Cast Member).

After lunch, the afternoon keynote speaker Lou Mongello (one of only 2 speakers to attend all 4 meets) will talk about the Seven Wonders of Disney World. I've seen a few of Lou's mini articles on this topic and it should be a great one.

WDW Today podcast hosts Mike Newell and Matt HochbergBut wait, there's more!!!!!

Several activities also run concurrent to the day's schedule that you'll want to know about.
First, the guys from WDWToday Podcast will be broadcasting live; much like they did in 2006. There will also be a special segment where you can call in during the afternoon. Be sure to tune in and listen to Matt Hochberg, Len Testa, Mike Newell and Mike (will he lose his voice) Scopa and their special guests! For details visit the WDW Today website!

Also, is the 2nd annual DisneyWorldTrivia.com "Dream Team" silent auction! Over 110 lots of new and collectible Disney merchandise will be auctioned to raise money to send children with life-threatening illnesses on a Walt Disney World vacation. This year's recipient is the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America through Firstgiving.org. In 2006, the Dream Team was able to sponsor the wishes of two children through the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation of NY/NJ/CT to go to Walt Disney World. Over $3,800 was raised at the MagicMeets silent auction!

Dream Team Final Total Pat Whitson, Dream Team 2007 Auction Coordinator, told me: "I'm really hoping to blow that $3800 total from last year out of the water. We have so much more to offer - more merchandise, more variety, better quality overall. Firstgiving makes it a lot easier for us to collect the funds, encourages more people to donate, and distributes the money directly to Make-A-Wish. Our donations page is at http://www.firstgiving.com/dwtdreamteam.

This year's MagicMeets event also has some new activities that will be sure to put smiles on everyone's faces.

Friday night is a special VIP event. Hosted by MouseFanTravel.com, AllEars.net, and MagicMeets, 40 adults staying 2 nights or more at the host hotel will be selected by random drawing for special perks. In addition to limited merchandise, attendees will be able to get their event registration completed so no long lines on Saturday!

Also at Saturday's Magic Meets will be Segway of Central PA! Fred plans on bringing his own personal Segway to the meet as well! Saturday evening Sharla Walen will be hosting a Scrapbooking Meet.

AllEars Linda Eckwerth and Deb Wills
Oh and did I mention that there are author, webmaster and vendor tables located around the ballroom too!

On Sunday over 145 attendees will be heading to Hershey Park for a day of amusement park fun and games.

I recently spoke with Fred and asked what his hopes are for the 2007 meet: -This year's event brings lots of new things that I'm really excited about. It's the first year we are doing the Friday night VIP Party and it's also the first year we will have MagicMeets pins. I'm looking forward to seeing lots of new, and returning, friendly faces and having an overall good time."

Last, and certainly not least, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the tireless volunteer staff that Fred has assembled that help make the event run smooth as silk.

I'm ready for a weekend of Disney and excitement, seeing dear friends again and meeting new ones. I hope to see you there!

If you weren't one of the lucky folks to snag a ticket before the event sold out, you can follow the activities right here in Blog Central! Mike Scopa will be posting daily blogs as will Deb. There will also be a laptop at the AllEars table so folks can blog live on our Guest Blog about the experience!

IMPORTANT: Magic Meets is SOLD OUT and there will be NO walkup tickets available. You must be a registered, paid, ticket holding participant to get your event day credentials and entrance to all the sessions. The 2007 event sold out hours after Fred announced it. So if you want to attend next year, i suggest you go to his website and sign up for the newsletter!!!

Hope to see you there!

July 3, 2007

Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas Construction Update

We have received lots of email the last 2 weeks about the ongoing construction at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Some readers reported they were contacted by Disney and moved to another resort (Saratoga Springs being the primary one). Others have written stating they have not been contacted and asking for advice.

All Ears Team Member Linda Mac is at the Lodge now, the first DVC guest to stay in the new Villas. She has been blogging daily.

I just received official word from Diane Hancock, at the Disney Vacation Club, who writes:

"Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas opened to Disney Vacation Club Members yesterday. We are pleased that our Members are happy with the new accommodations. There is construction occurring at the resort to complete the conversion of the fifth and sixth floors to Vacation Homes.

In an effort to accelerate the construction timeline and potentially complete this effort earlier than planned, portions of the resort will be temporarily closing. As a result of the accelerated timeline, we are working with Guests who have existing Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge reservations to assist them in selecting alternate accommodations for their upcoming visit. This does not affect all Guests staying at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The care and safety of the animals at the resort is at the forefront of planning the construction. No animals have been adversely affected by the construction and we are proactively managing their care."

July 12, 2007

MagicMeets - Pre-Meet setup

MagicMeets Organizer Fred Block arrived in Harrisburg yesterday. As chairperson, he needed to get to the hotel a few days early to make sure everything is as planned. Those of you who have run events know how those last minute items always get you!

Fred tells me he has a busy day planned including meeting with the hotel conference staff this afternoon.

Here's an early photo of the ballroom as the setup begins.

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MagicMeets Ballroom Setup
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Scheduled to arrive in Harrisburg today is morning keynote speaker Mike Scopa and MEI - MouseFanTravel President Beci Mahnken.

Fred promises to call me later with more updates.

Magic Meets - Thursday Afternoon Update

Photos being sent live from cell phones.

Mike Scopa has arrived in Harrisburg.

Fred just called.. he's **so** excited. "All the months and months of planning are coming together. You can already feel the Disney Magic in the air."

He's got a busy afternoon still. Headed now over to one of the Sponsors, Kathy's Christmas, that is holding a special "after meet" event on Saturday.

After that, he and Mike Scopa are going to pick up the PA equipment and get started setting it up in the ballroom.

Fred said the hotel did a great job setting up the huge ballroom -- "now it's our turn to sprinkle it with Pixie Dust."

Some meet attendees, including some of the volunteer staff, have begun to arrive. They are being greeted in the hotel lobby by the Welcome to MagicMeets signage!

Fred recently spoke to the Lou Mongello, afternoon keynote speaker, and he's on his way from New Jersey and plans to arrive this evening.

The last thing Fred said to me was: Hang on Deb -- The Ride is About to Start!!"

Here's Mike next to one of the MagicMeets Signs at the Hotel.!

Mike Scopa Arrives at Magic Meets

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Fred Block and Mike Scopa

Fred Block and Mike Scopa

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Fred Block on his segway
Fred Block on his segway

July 13, 2007

Magic Meets - Friday Morning Update

9:30am -- Just spoke to Fred on the phone. Things are going great.

Here is Fred's morning report:

Just woke up a little while ago. We were in the ballroom late last night getting a head start on things. Screens and projectors needed to be setup and fine tuned and audio systems had to be turned up and tested.

Mike Scopa, Mike Newell, Lou Mongello, two very helpful volunteers ( Jim Felty and Brad Garfinkel) and myself all worked in the ballroom with setup.

Shortly after midnight we were joined by Beci Mahnken who flew in from Seattle WA. She gave me one heck of a bear hug! It's GREAT to see friends again!

Trying to remember what else as I'm still not completely awake but alas, as has been said, THERE IS WORK TO DO!

Today I will be doing more work in the ballroom and also preparing for most of the sponsors and speakers to arrive. Being that some people got a head start setting up yesterday, those arriving today find extra hands to help out.

Aside from setting up the ballroom and breakout rooms, we also have to prepare for our first (hopefully annual) Friday Night Pre Meet VIP Party.

Well that's all for now, I'll try to get some more to you all later if I can squeeze in a fraction of time from my loaded schedule.

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Deb's Update
Last night Linda and I were busy doing last minute touches on everything. We are both working this morning and then will head home around lunch time to pack the car and head out. Of course, packing the car is not as easy as it sounds. We have 4 gift baskets (yes 4) that will be given away at the meet, plus AllEars® Swag, plus decorations for my breakout talk.

Also, we are bringing several Disney posters that will be on easils at the AllEars tables. These posters are "for sale" with all monies going to the DreamTeams' Make a Wish fundraiser. The posters are very cool - I'll try to get some pics up later.

We are only about 90 minutes from Harrisburg so the ride will, hopefully, go quickly.

Today we will probably run around like little kids -- screaming with delight to see our dear friends again.... and meeting lots of new folks.

I'll be checking in again later this afternoon once we arrive at the hotel. Will also see if I can get a couple blog interviews with folks who have already arrived.

Hold onto your hats and glasses folks - this here is the "wildest" ride in the universe.


July 14, 2007

MagicMeets Friday Evening

What a day! It's almost midnight and we haven't stopped since we got here around 3pm. Waves of folks are checking into the hotel. It's hard to walk 5 feet without running into someone who is here for the event.

We spent our afternoon setting up our tables and meeting and greeting all the folks we haven't seen in a long time. The ballroom looks awesome!!!

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Pat and Tracy begin to set up the Dream Team auction area.


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Debbie Koma and I set up the breakout room for tomorrow's talk on the Disney Cruise Line.


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A few of us had dinner at the hotel restaurant and then got ready for the VIP reception. Fred Block asked everyone who had booked 2 or more nights at the hotel to send in their name for a random drawing of 40 persons. The VIP reception had lots of perks, but the big one was checking in for the Sat meet in advance. No waiting in line!

Here's Colleen and some of the other staff of volunteers that were checking in folks who won tickets to the VIP reception.

 Colleen and some of the other staff of volunteers

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Fred welcomes everyone to the VIP reception.


MagicMeets - More Friday Night

The alarm going off at 5:30am this morning was just plain "rude", LOL. Especially since we didn't get to bed until after midnight last evening. There is SO much going on and so many people here, you don't want to stop.

At 7:15, the sponsors and speakers have breakfast with Fred to go over all last minute items and run thru the day's events. I know once it starts.... it'll be like a roller coaster.

We have to have our tables all set up for the doors to open at 10am!

Here are some additional photos from last night's VIP reception.
Mike Scopa (WDWToday, MousePlanet, AllEars), Dave Card (Tagrel), Debbie Koma (All Ears)


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Ann, Deb, Carolyn and Jill


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Folks enjoying the refreshments.


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Mike Scopa and friends.


MagicMeets Saturday Update








July 22, 2007

Sunday Fun

And here's some SUNDAY Fun! The first seven (7) folks to email me their address get a Free copy of Passporter's Treasure Hunts at WDW.
Those chosen allow their names and states to be published here!
Please tell us if you are reading this blog via RSS or a direct link to the website.

Katie P from North Carolina

Sunday Fun - Update with Winners!

Earlier this afternoon I offered the first seven (7) folks to email me a Free copy of Passporter's Treasure Hunts at WDW.

Here are the winners. Thanks Everyone!!!!

Anna K from KY
Larry H from MD
Scott P from PA
Barbara W from Canada
John M from New York
Joanne B from Virginia
Katie P from North Carolina

July 28, 2007

The Magic of Meets

( This article was originally published in the AllEars® weekly newsletter on July 24, 2007.)

The Magic of Meets!

by Deb Wills,
ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief

Having recently returned from MagicMeets, an incredible weekend in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, I was finding it very difficult to "put pen to paper" and get my thoughts and emotions written to share them with you. Every time I sat down to write, I found myself staring at the screen, wondering where to start. An overdose of Pixie Dust will do that to you! You know what I'm taking about, right? Like when you come home from a Disney trip and images of Mickey and Donald and the Queen of Hearts and Alice are still dancing in your head, but you don't exactly know how to describe it?

Then, I received an email from reader Teddy Beaver that put things into perspective for me:

"I just want to tell AllEars®subscribers that if you read this newsletter or Mouseplanet or PassPorter or any of the other fine websites, books, e-newsletters, etc., do not ever hesitate to attend functions they sponsor or tell us about. I have read over the years about MouseFest, MagicMeets, trips, gatherings, whole bunches of stuff that they have invited us readers to. Well, finally, this past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending MagicMeets. WOW! What a blast! The whole day was fun and informative. But I have to say, the high point was meeting all these folks who week-after-week share and spread Disney magic. The Debs, Mike Scopa, Fred Block, the Marxes, and just too many to mention, ALL were friendly, welcoming and truly made us feel part of the experience. My warmest, sincere thanks to all of our publishing friends who bring us a little bit of magic all year round. It was great being with people who not only 'get it,' they make it happen!"

THAT, as my dear friend Mike Scopa said during his keynote talk at Magic Meets, is "Why We Do What We Do."

We do it because we still believe in spreading the Magic -- the Magic that we find at Walt Disney World and want to carry with us in our day-to-day lives.

So what exactly was MagicMeets? It was rather like a mini-convention, a gathering of Disney lovers who wanted to get a little "fix" without making the trip to Orlando. There were keynote speeches in the ballroom; 12 breakout sessions on everything from Home Imagineering to dining at Disney to what it's like to be a Cast Member; Segways available for trial in the conference center area; webmasters and book authors and others on hand to discuss all manner of things Disney; a kids' area; a wonderful luncheon -- and it was all broadcast live on the web via folks who usually bring you Disney podcasts. And, for those who stayed through the weekend, let's not forget the adventure to nearby Hershey Park on Sunday when we had our own chocolate-covered version of Extra Magic Hour.

Every person I saw on Saturday at the MagicMeets event had a huge smile on his or her face. Whenever I asked someone how the day was going, "Outstanding!" was the typical response. If we could have harnessed the energy from the laughter alone, Monster's Inc. style, who knows what we could have accomplished.

Since I returned home, I've heard story after story of heartfelt joy, surprise and magic from that day. I'm sure every attendee has his or her own special memories. Here are just a few of mine:

-- talking with a gentleman who came up to me and reminded me that I had met him at Walt Disney World some time ago when he was in a wheelchair. He thanked me for my kindness that day.

-- hearing the giggles of Beci and Annette from MouseFanTravel after they tossed pixie dust on a woman and awarded a ticket to a private party for this December's MouseFest.

-- hugging two ladies I met several years ago in the Magic Kingdom while waiting for the Christmas parade, as they excitedly told me they would be sailing on the cruise I'm hosting along with Steve Barrett (the "Deb and Steve Cruise") in September 2008.

-- seeing the breast cancer survivor I met two years ago at this event. At the end of the day, this woman approached me and I immediately remembered her. We hugged, shared a few private words and then gleefully looked into the camera for a photographic record of our brief encounter.

-- being convinced we were going to float in the air with Peter Pan and Wendy when the couple bidding on tickets to a special IllumiNations party I am co-hosting in December ran up to me to tell me they had WON!

Topping off all these memories is the one I've saved for last: More than 110 items were donated, packaged, and brought to the MagicMeets event this year for a silent auction, with the proceeds to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Under the guiding hands of Lou Mongello, of DisneyWorldTrivia.com, and Pat Whitson, auction coordinator for the project, "Dream Team" volunteers assembled an auction area that looked incredibly professional in the hopes of raising enough money to send one family to Walt Disney World ($6,000). Through the generosity of the 520 people gathered in that ballroom in Camp Hill that day, a grand total of $9,000 was raised! When the total was announced, there were many folks dabbing their eyes with tissues and many others were speechless.

Mike Scopa summed up what I was feeling: "I walked over to the silent auction area as Fred (Block) was doing more prize giveaways. I saw the total money raised -- $9,000 -- and grabbed Pat (Whitson) and started crying. Amidst all that was given the attendees during this special day they had turned around and had given back. I was so moved."

The power of the Disney community is incredible. Lou and Pat -- many of us are already thinking of creative donations for the 2008 auction so we can break five figures!

Kudos to the folks who donated items, and to all the folks who bid on items. Everyone who attended deserves a huge round of applause. And I mean everyone.

Did you know that everyone who attended MagicMeets purchased a ticket? That included each speaker -- each paid all his or her own expenses. Each table holder paid a sponsor fee in support of the event. We all gave of our time freely, so that all attendees would have a day to remember. I believe we achieved that and much more.

Speaking of applause, I want to be sure to acknowledge Fred Block, the mastermind of this event -- he outdid himself. Fred is supported by a loving wife and two beautiful daughters, who willingly (OK, maybe not that willingly) made their own sacrifices so that their husband/father could spend countless hours/weeks/months putting together the MagicMeets gathering. I'd like to also thank everyone who stopped by the AllEars® table to express their thanks for the website, newsletter and blogs. Team Members Deb Koma and Linda Eckwerth worked very hard all day to keep things flowing at the table. To everyone who attended my talk, "Ahoy Mateys, Disney Cruises for Adults" -- we had a great time, didn't we? Many thanks to my team and the MouseFanTravel.com folks for assisting with the presentation.

Just before the MagicMeets event, I was really tired, burning the candle at both ends. I found myself falling asleep every night on the living room couch, dragging out of bed at 5 a.m. when the alarm went off... make that 5:25 after I hit the snooze button two or three times. I'd been spending the last few weeks very busy on the final prep for MagicMeets, gathering swag to pass out, putting finishing touches on the gift baskets for giveaways (Linda Eckwerth gets special kudos for these), deciding on decorations for my "Ahoy Mateys!" break-out session, finding last-minute goodies for the Make-A-Wish silent auction, packing everything up...

And then I went to MagicMeets, and that made it all seem worthwhile. Yes, I came back from Camp Hill still physically tired (I think those late nights staying up after midnight had something to do with that), but mentally I was rejuvenated. My batteries have been totally RECHARGED and I feel the creative juices pumping again.

You see, while the umbrella under which we gathered was Disney, MagicMeets really has as its underpinning -- Magic. The smiles and laughter, hugs and tears, sharing in the joys of friendship are what make MagicMeets special.

We hope you'll consider joining in the Magic of MagicMeets along with us next year.

July 30, 2007

Upcoming 2007 Special Resort Discounts

As is usually the case come this time of year, Walt Disney World announces Annual Passholder and Florida Resident room discounts for the remainder of the calendar year. These should be announced in early to mid August.

What is different this year is that there will be a special 4 week period where the resorts really need to fill rooms. During this period, AllEars hears there will be a special dining gift card available. So, your 2 night minimum stay (with an AP or Florida Resident room discount) during this special 4 week period, will also get you a Dining Gift Card! For Values it is $20, for Moderates $50, Deluxe Resorts $75 and Disney Vacation Club (for cash, not points) resorts for $100! One card per room, again a 2 night minimum.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the Annual Passholder and Florida Resident discounts in August.

Small Ticket Change coming in 2008

All Ears hears that the advance ticket discount for all 4-day or more tickets will disappear in 2008.

No word on any other ticket changes at this time.

July 31, 2007

2008 Dining Plan Changes

UPDATE INFO: 7/31/07
1) The Deluxe Dining plan still does NOT include gratuity. It DOES include the appetizer.
2) No word on DVC member pricing.


There has been lots of internet chatter about changes coming to the 2008 Magic Your Way Dining plans. AllEars now hears the following is scheduled to be announced in August:

1) Automatic Gratuity will be removed from all 2008 packages that include dining. Tax will still be INCLUDED, but the gratuity will not.

2) The Magic Your Way Plus Dining Plan as we know it today will change for 2008. Gone will be the appetizer from the Table Service meal. The full service option will consist of entree, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage. The price goes down just $1 per person per day to $37.99 for those 10 and older. $9.99 for those 3-9.

3) 2008 will see the introduction of the Magic Your Way Plus DELUXE Dining Plan. This plan will include: 3 meals a day - your choice of table service or counter service; 2 snacks per day per person; a Resort Refillable Mug for each person on the reservation. Signature restaurants will still count as 2 Table Service meals, but now with the additional table service meals, dinner shows and signature restaurants may be more doable. Price will be $69.99 for those 10 and older and $19.99 for those 3-9.

4) The last major change will probably be the addition of a Magic Your Way Plus Wine package. For $39.99 per night you may order a bottle of wine at your Disney restaurant or from a location on property that sells wine (like resort stores). It can not be purchased separately and may only be an add-on to a Dining Package. There are still a lot of details to work out on this including if there will be a special wine list to order from or a dollar limit. Sounds like if you are at a Signature Restaurant that takes 2 Table Service credits, you will also be charged 2 Wine credits if on the add-on plan.

Again, this is UNofficial information. Look for Walt Disney World to officially announce the 2008 packages and dining options in August.

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About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Deb's Digest in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2007 is the previous archive.

August 2007 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.