Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hail to the Chief



What an interesting couple of months we’ve had since my last entry in this here blog. There just never seems enough time to write them like I had originally planned. Well, I’m not making a resolution about it, because I just don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. A belated happy 2017 everyone!

The biggest question for myself was what I was going to write about when I finally took the time to sit down and write another blog for my Outhouse reading pleasure. Certainly I haven’t been lacking for subjects – I had wanted to give one more update on my Extra Life efforts for the year (thanks to all who helped me raise $250 for CHOP in 2016! As a group, all CHOP supporters raised almost $200,000 this year!). There’s also that little movie set in the Star Wars universe titled Rogue One that came out about a month ago. I posted my initial reaction on Facebook after seeing the movie with Erin on opening day. Long blog short, to reiterate it ranks as one of my top (if not the top) movie in the franchise as of right now. But like Extra Life, there’s more I can say on that topic, but just am not prepared for it, and I wanted to get a blog entry in while I am enjoying an extended weekend and have the time to sit and pound on the keyboard for a bit.

What really got me motivated, however, is that bit of unpleasantness we have been witness to over the course of the last 12 months and more. Oh yes, the wonderful Electoral Process we have here in the United States of America. I’ve already said my piece about the candidates and the process in a few entries over the course of 2016, so I don’t have much to add to that, but a few things surrounding the inaugural really got under my goat, and I just have to get it off my chest, so for good or ill, here we go!

There’s no doubt that Representative John Lewis has done a great service for this country, and more importantly for the African-American community over the course of his life. All due respect goes to the man who put his life on the line to support those basic human rights that for some reason we all still have to fight and struggle to achieve at this point in the 21st Century. However, I take serious issue with his comments (and those of many others to be fair at this point) regarding the Russian’s and the “interference” with the 2016 election. To say that now President Trump is not a legitimate President because of this “interference” is just as asinine as the Birther movement against President Obama has been over the last eight years. For Mr. Lewis to say that what the Russians did undermined the fair and democratic process in this country is disingenuous, especially in terms of the information we received out of the DNC this summer. The Democratic insiders did more to undermine the fairness of the electoral process than the Russians ever could do without Putin personally voting for Trump. It’s that kind of Political bullshit that caused Trump to win the election in the first place.

At this point in time, there is absolutely no evidence that the Russians hacked any voting machine in this country to give Trump the votes he needed to win the election. Therefore any cause that the Russians gave for people to vote for Trump over Clinton is wholly based upon the actions of both political parties. 

The nonsense going on now just makes the Democrats look like spoiled children crying and stomping over their feet because they didn’t get the toy they wanted. At the end of the day, they didn’t lose the election because the Russians unfairly released negative information about one party without releasing similar information about the other party (none of which was ever proven to be falsified information as far as I know). They lost because the Republicans courted the right people in the right states which the Democrats ignored. The Democrats lost because of the political shenanigans prevalent in both parties, and like the New England Patriots, they were the ones who got caught with their pants down, even though they weren’t the only guilty party.

The Democrats ultimately lost because they were more concerned with Glass Ceilings than they were with ensuring they had a candidate that was the best possible alternative to what the Republicans offered up. This country has been more than ready for a female President for many years. We just needed one that was a good candidate for the job – from either party. The ones we have had so far, are by no means close to being that. There is absolutely no way that Trump should have been close to winning this election. The Democrats lost because of their own actions not because of the actions of the Russians.

You want a good conspiracy theory for this past election – I got one for you! I fully believe that Joe Biden, despite the untimely death of his son, would have been prepared and would have gone through with running for President if he thought it was the best thing to do for his party and the country. Despite being an insider himself, and still being a Sanders supporter, I found him to be more in tune with the needs of all Americans than the Clinton’s ever have been. I would have supported and voted for either Biden or Sanders in the general election. However, it is my firm belief that in addition to the death of his son, the Democratic party made it clear to Biden that they wanted Clinton to be the nominee and they ultimately cemented his decision not to run. I think that if the Democrats weren’t so hell bent on the Glass Ceiling, they would have and could have convinced Biden to run for the nomination. He would have won in a landslide.

Now we have to live with the results of the typical Political bullshit and corruption that goes on in Washington for the next four years. Like I said in my previous blogs on this topic, what we have witnessed is many Americans giving a big middle finger to the Political Establishment and the Media for decades of self-serving nonsense. The Establishment and the Media only have themselves to blame for this outcome – no other country or entity is responsible for results of this election. It would be my hope that they all grew up and learned a valuable lesson from this, but unfortunately, as history has shown, the only thing the political parties will take away from this is the motivation to further entrench their own interests and desires over that of the common American peasant. Mr. Lewis’ comments are only proof positive of that attitude.

At the end of the day, President Donald J. Trump may not be the person I voted for, nor the person I would want leading the country, but as an American who exercised one of the most basic rights available in our Democracy, he is my President and will be my President for the next four years. I wish him all the best and all the luck that he can make our country a better place in which all of us can live. At the very least, if he can be the one who truly changes some of the typical business as usual in Washington, than I would consider that a success and a positive step forward in our process of Democracy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What a Long Strange Trip


Well, it’s been two days and the world hasn’t melted like it did in Escape from the Planet of the Apes. So there may be some hope yet. But hey, at least we can look forward to Miley Cyrus and a few other of our wonderful celebs packing her bags and heading for Canada. At least it’s over with and we no longer have to be bombarded with political ads and mailings every 30 seconds or so, at least not until the mid-term elections come around. But at least we had quite the pay off in terms of a nail-biter on Tuesday.

I think this may have been the most intense and interesting election that I have watched in a long time, especially since I didn’t have an interest in either of the candidates. I ended up pulling an all-nighter awaiting the next turn of events throughout the night, and completely fascinated by the fact that, as the night went on, it became clear that not only did Trump get a lot more support than many had anticipated, but that he could actually pull out a win. I never would have thought it possible, but there it was and here he is, our President-elect Donald J. Trump. I must say I did take some bit of glee in the looks on the faces of most of the commentators, especially the MSNBC liberal troop after it was certain that there would be no glass ceilings shattered in 2016. I think that may have had some influence in how the results of this election turned out.

As I mentioned in previous blogs on this subject, I went into the voting booth with the firm intention of voting for the person I thought could carry out the position of President of the United States the best – Bernie Sanders. Now a lot of people will say that I wasted my vote, and that irks me more than anything else. The ability to elect our leaders is one of the greatest opportunities our form of democracy and freedom provides for us – I find it much more onerous that people continually fail to exercise that right – even if to hit that “Abstain” button that each voting booth contains. That sends more of a message than just sitting it out. But the point is that we are electing someone to essentially become the leader of the Free World. Just like any job, I feel it is my duty to make sure I choose the person I think is the most qualified for that job. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Donald Trump met those qualifications in my mind. Choosing the “lesser of two evils” is just completely asinine. To me, neither were lesser nor greater evils. Neither one was fit to lead this country, let alone the world, so neither was going to get my vote. The true wasted vote is the one cast for either of these candidates.

At the end of the day, the elections that our Constitution calls for are to allow us to move our country and society forward; to grow and progress to a more positive future. The problem is that the positions that our government created were supposed to be performed in the service to that end and to be a public service. However, those positions have become a type of career that they were never meant to be. As such, our government has stagnated for the better part of a century or more. One of the primary objectives of the career politician that our system has allowed to arise is to ensure that the system is molded to be of the most benefit to those who are elected into those positions. It is no longer about progressing our society, but about advancing political ideologies and agendas. Because of this any vote cast for a candidate who is a member of a political party is the true wasted vote as it allows the stagnation to continue. Of course we don’t always have that much of a choice when since, as is no surprise, most viable candidates have to be a member of one of the current political parties. However, we have seen a trend that tries to break out of this mold, which started with the Tea Party, and continues with candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that aren’t afraid to act of their own accord and not tote the usual party line. There will not be an ideal candidate for a long time to come until we can get more of the “revolutionaries” and individual thinkers into the lower offices and work on changing the system, but when someone does come along that has the potential to get genuine change done, then we need to support that candidate to the fullest.
Therefore, I voted for the person I thought could fulfill those objectives, even though he was not on the ballot. I would do so again, even if my one solitary vote could have been the difference in who ultimately won on Tuesday … err, Wednesday morning. Ultimately, it’s quite easy to understand why someone, including myself, could not in good conscious support Trump, even though he is one of those outsiders that I want to see running for political office. There were several reasons that reinforced why I would never vote for Hillary, her position as one of those career politicians notwithstanding.

I mentioned the issue with the e-mails in a previous blog, and that extends to the fact that she still thinks she did nothing wrong despite being goaded into admitting it was a “mistake.” It’s quite clear that she still things there was no wrongdoing in putting an entire government network at risk of security breaches. Beyond that was the hypocrisy she showed between her campaign message and the political ads released by her campaign. First was her infamous “deplorables” comment. I don’t care how fast she backtracked on that, it appeared to me at least, to be one of the first times where she looked genuine when speaking instead of putting on the typical false face of a politician. Despite that fact that she was toting a message of being “Stronger Together,” she had just insulted what turns out to be about 25% of the country. That comment told me that we are all stronger together – just as long as you think and believe the same way she and the rest of the Democratic Party does. If you don’t then there is no place for you. The other instance was the constant harping upon Trump’s past comments and attitude regarding women. Make no mistake, he’s an misogynistic moron for what he said and may (or may not) have done, but quite frankly, the acts of former President Bill Clinton were certainly not much better, and quite frankly worse, since at least one we know of occurred while he was in the Oval Office. That is more disgraceful to me than anything Trump has said. Personally speaking, I don’t know one woman who would have tolerated Bill’s “indiscretions” throughout the years, nor one man who would have not gotten kicked to the curb for the same. To me, that bespeaks a lot of her desire to maintain some form of political power than of setting an example of how a woman should be treated in a relationship.

Of course there’s that whole incident that came out during the DNC about some shady business of ensuring that Hillary would be the nominee instead of Bernie Sanders. That didn’t necessarily influence my support (or lack thereof) of Hillary, but most certainly reinforced my disdain for the system of political parties in this country. Ironically, had Bernie Sanders been the nominee I fully expect that the results of the election would have been much different. In fact, I think had either one of the candidates been someone else, we would have seen the election decided much earlier, and it is only because the choices we had could only have been worse had Sarah Palin been the Republican nominee, we saw what ultimately transpired this past Tuesday. I look forward to the time when I can cast my vote for a female candidate who is imminently qualified for the position of President, and that woman will be one where we don’t have to hear about asinine glass ceiling because that time is long past – this country has been ready for more than a decade for a woman president. We just need one that will actually do the job of servant of the people rather than servant of a political party and special interests.

But here we are. We’ll have a new President come the new year. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump can assuage whatever fears people may have of him and lead this country into the greatness that he claimed for the last year and half that he would do. I, for one, am interested to see how things play out. It could be that the campaigning was simply a shrewd political act to ensure he got the support he needed at the time he needed it. Only time will tell. Life goes on and nothing changes the fact that tomorrow I will have to wake up and go to work to try to earn enough of living to support my family and try to pay the myriad of bills that will arrive in the mail regardless of who is running this country.

In the meantime, I guess Canada better get to work building a wall. After all, I am sure they have no desire to be overrun by our slew of celebrities fleeing the country.

Monday, September 19, 2016

One Dollar At A Time


We’re past the halfway point now. At least in terms of something called #100DaysOfGaming. This event, or challenge if you will, was started back in 2014 by an Extra Life participant who goes by the handle of HeroByClicking (he is also our current Extra Life Stream Team Leader!). He did as a way to help promote what Extra Life does, as well as gear himself up for the annual marathon. The concept was that he would play one game for at least one hour for 100 consecutive days, ending on the day the marathon begins. Hero further challenged himself to play a different game for each of those days – no repeats. That may sound like a lot, but nowadays, with things like Steam and Origin (services that allow you to buy games directly from the Internet), it’s not as tough (or expensive) as it was even a decade ago to accumulate several hundred games in one’s library.

I am nowhere near that, however. I still cling to the old school ways of the brick and mortar way of shopping and purchasing. Naturally, things like my Massively Multi-player Online (MMO) games don’t usually have that option any more, but comparatively speaking, my 5-shelf bookcase is a rather modest collection of games over the last 30-odd years. Unfortunately, some of them are relegated to the dust collector category since the computers I can play them on have long since ceased to function. One of these days though, I keep telling myself, I’ll find the time to cobble parts together and get at least one of the ancient beasts moving again. For now, I will just have to satisfy myself with keeping a couple of the not so ancient PCs running (my old Windows 98 HP Pavilion for instance), and see what I can jury rig to run in a Virtual Machine (in essence, a digitized computer that runs on a real, physical computer). I also can’t forget about all those board games we have sitting on another shelf as well. Thanks to my little experiment on Day 52 (September 17th, 2016), I can stream some non-digital gaming goodness.

So, with this being Day 54 (and International Talk like a Pirate Day – Avast thee here, me hearties!), we have only 46 days left to go before this year’s 24 hour marathon – 25 if you include the hour we fall back on Sunday, November 6th this year. Just a month and a half left, and it will be here before we know it. This summer and the first 54 days have just seemed to fly by. My initial eight week stint with the official Extra Life Stream Team ended a few weeks ago, but fortunately, members have the option to keep actively streaming as long as there are time slots available, so I look forward to my weekly romps on the official Extra Life channel, chatting away with people and playing some games that I haven’t been able to get to for a long time. If anyone would like to join me, just watch the Extra Life Channel on Sundays from 9-11 PM Easten Time.

In my last two blog posts about Extra Life, I talked a little bit about my motivations for participating in the charity for the last four years. Because of that, and because of my determination to make sure Extra Life is as successful as it can be, I have challenged myself to become more involved, hence my participation on the Stream Team and inclusion in the 100 Days of Gaming challenge. To date, Extra Life has added over $22 million to the Children’s Miracle Network’s collection total over the last eight years. That may seem like a lot, but compared to the over $100 million spent on political advertising for this year’s election campaigns, and the $5 billion raised over all by CMN since it started in 1983, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Surely, if so many millions can be raised to fund what pretty much amounts to as asinine television commercials, then we can certainly do better for something like Extra Life that does some genuine good in this world and, at the end of the day, can help children from dying. Surely that’s worthy enough for a few more bucks to head our way.

That’s why I have decided to start the #1DollarAtATime initiative. I sort of hijacked the hashtag that has been around on Twitter for a while now, but it’s all for a good cause. Like I mentioned, CMN has raised over $5 billion to date, and most have that has been through simple $1 donations – either via the traditional CMN balloons, or through things like Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day. Even Sam’s Club gets in on the action, as my local Club had their fundraising effort a couple weeks ago – selling candy bars and snacks for $1 a piece. In year’s past they have raised over $10,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia that way. So even something as little as a single Dollar Bill can add up and go a long way.

I thought to myself, “What can we, at Extra Life, do to try to raise more money?”

The answer kind of presented itself as I was streaming a gameplay session for #100Days. At the end of the day, those of us Extra Lifers who stream or create YouTube videos for people to watch are doing it as an attempt at creating a piece of entertainment, not unlike a TV show or a movie. Others things have come to my mind, like giving away prizes for people donating certain amounts, or even original artwork made by Erin and Abby. But in the end, these things cost money and time, and that is something I have in short supply right now. Truth be told, I would rather use any extra money I have to donate right back to another Extra Life participant, which is what I have been doing as part of my #1DollarAtATime initiative. Perhaps next year, I can throw in some of that artwork for donations, but for this year, it will just have to be that one hour of entertainment I am trying to provide through my gaming videos.

So I am hoping, that with all my Extra Life videos thus far, and with the ones to come, people will find them at least mildly entertaining enough to be worth just a simple $1 donation. Heck, it’s cheaper than an hour at the movies at any rate, and certainly cheaper than a cup of Starbucks brew. If I can just get one person to pick one #100Days video to make that $1 donation, then I could potentially raise $100 for CHOP just through that. Of course, I plan on walking the walk and not just talking the talk. I have committed to donate $1 a day to each of my fellow Stream Team members, past and present, for the remainder of the Extra Life campaign. That should net Extra Life and CMN another $30-$35. Not too shabby, I think, and when I combine that with my $5 donations to my Judgement Gaming teammates (the team of other Extra Life participants I have joined up with) to bring that total to over $50. And then there’s the $15 donation I made when I signed up to be a Platinum Participant this year.

One Dollar may not seem like a lot on its own. But as we can see, it can all add up when people come together for a good cause. That’s why I participate, but it takes more than just us Extra Lifers to help these Hospitals get the funds they need. It takes people willing to give that money for that cause. That’s why I also donate. God forbid that either of my children will have to go through what many of these thousands of other kids have to go through on a daily basis. I am just glad I can do my small part here to help. I hope everyone else reading this will feel the same way.

It just takes $1 at a time to make a difference in a life.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years



“A date that will live in infamy.”

How appropriate that phrase seems for today. And how disheartening that it can be applied to far more than just that cold day in December 1941. No one living back then could have imagined anything more appalling than the attacks on Pearl Harbor, yet there have been far worse atrocities committed far too often since then. September 11th will most certainly be a day that will live in the hearts of every American  who is old enough to remember the events of that day back in 2001.

I made mention of 9/11 in my blog last September, but I think on this 15th anniversary, it is appropriate to put down my thoughts and memories of that day. It seems to me (again) that the 10th anniversary was just here and gone not so long ago, and I remember watching many a special about the attacks and the remembrances during the week leading up to the day. This time, however, nothing seems to be as prevalent this week. In fact, it seems I am hearing and seeing more about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey (the 20th anniversary of which is in December) than I am of 9/11. A co-worker of mine had asked what day the 11th was back in 2001, and it was easy for me to recall that it was a Tuesday.  It’s strange, though, that some of my memories of that day are much more vivid and clear than others, despite the impact that the events of the day had on all of us.

It was a morning like any other, and I was getting ready to head to work at Slocum’s Bowling Center that day. We had a Tuesday afternoon Senior Men’s league, which is how I remember that the day was a Tuesday – some of the Seniors wondered whether we should cancel the league for the day. I first heard about something going on in New York due to the news the radio. I was an avid listener of NJ 101.5 back then, and recall for a time that they also broadcast the morning show, with Jim Gerhardt on NJN – the local television station. I don’t recall whether it was through the TV broadcast or on the radio itself – I think it was the radio – but I remember them announcing that a plane had struck one of the towers in New York City. I do recall flipping on the local TV news to see more about what was going on. At the time, of course, I was thinking what the heck could have gone wrong for a plane to have flown into the side of the building. It just like another one of those bad, freak accidents. Then I saw the second plane fly into the side of the second tower.
 
I think it was then that everyone realized that something more than an accident was happening. Even then though, it was more of a puzzled fascination with the events and trying to figure out just what the hell was happening. I don’t remember thinking anything about terrorism or being attacked even at that time. It was just too strange to understand what was going on. But then talk about Hijackings are circling and then the President’s message about terrorist attacks is announced. It still didn’t seem real, and was more a numbing shock to feel than anything else.

But then, as I was getting ready to head out to my car, it was announced that the Pentagon had been attacked. It was then that I learned what a cold fear was. I can still feel the chill that filled my body when I heard that bit of news. It was then I realized what was happening was real, and if the Pentagon could be so easily attacked, then our very country was in dire danger at that moment. The rest of the day was spent riveted to the overhead screens in the bowling center, watching the tragedy unfold as first one, then the other tower collapsed. It simply was stunning, in an unreal, numbing way. It was a day that can’t, nor should, be forgotten.

One of the strange things that followed, on a personal level, was the strange instances I had of glancing at a clock and noticing the time was 9:11 for months afterward. It happened regularly enough for me to try and avoid looking at clocks around that time, but it seemed inevitable – regardless of what I was doing, it just seemed natural that I would just happened to look at the time, and it would be 9:11. Looking back at it now, 15 years later, it seems stranger still, in that as many times as I look at the time now and in recent memory, I can’t remember the last time I did it when the time was 9:11.

A lot has changed since then. The unity that we felt as Americans has seemed to have faded. We have had many more threats arise, and many more attacks occur on American soil, as well as around the world. The loss of life in these other incidents hasn’t been quite as significant as those attacks on the Trade Center, but they are no less tragic or dramatic. It is a particularly strange and disturbing habit that the human race has of trying to kill one another with such regularity. Conflict of one form or another seems to be the mainstay of humanity through all of its history.  It’s amazing to me that we have this knack of holding such hate for complete strangers one has never met, nor will likely ever meet, and who could have no possible affect over one’s life. I have to wonder when we’re going to smarten up and realize that it’s time to grow up and try to make the world a better place by doing it together. We are all unique, and it is that uniqueness that can make us truly a fantastic species. Hatred and death get us nowhere.