Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Purple Hair Challenge

Before I get to the topic at hand, I just had to comment about the wild and wacky weather we had this winter season. As much as I like a good winter storm, I never expected to have one bring us a White Saint Patrick’s Day. Although I did find it fascinating that once again we got another smaller snow storm right around March 9th this year as well. This was something I had noticed 20 odd years ago – it seems that when we get snow later in the season, such as February, March, and every once in a great while April, it seems to hit around the 9th of each of those months. Obviously this is just my perception, but still, it’s always one of those things that seemed to perk my interest whenever those storms come to town with a bit of snow the last couple of decades. It would be fascinating to do a bit a research and see a record of snowfall in this area and how often it does fall around the 9th of the month in comparison to other days.

But that’s something for another time, when there is more time, I suppose. What I wanted to do this time around was get an early start on talking about Extra Life for 2017. I have to thank everyone again for all the support you have given me over the last four years. It’s a great feeling to know that being able to do something so simple can have a great impact on so many, especially when those affected are kids. Combined, all of us who supported the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 2016 raised nearly $200,000 for CHOP and all the kids who need its services. By comparison, my $250 raised doesn’t seem like a lot, but it was all put in perspective for my by a fellow Extra Life Stream Team member not too long ago. He had mentioned that there are specialized baby bottles that allow infants born with cleft lips or other mouth deformities to be able to nurse. These bottles only cost a couple of bucks, so in the end, when someone donates a dollar or two, they are helping to buy these bottles for the kids that need them to survive. It hammers home the point for me, that every dollar really does make a difference and my #1DollarAtATime campaign went a long way to helping a lot of kids. So I’ll be hyping it up again for this year’s fundraising, but I still want to do more.

Already this year I have raised $35 of my $250 goal. I am hoping to keep bumping up my goal, as I did last year, all throughout the remainder of the year, and want to try to do more to reach my ultimate goal of $1000. That’s where the Purple Hair Challenge comes in. As I have watched and talked with many other Extra Life participants over the years, many of them have come up with ideas to enhance and encourage their fundraising efforts. Some host giveaways for games and other things, while other perform stunts after meeting a certain goal. I want to try to do both this year. I can’t really afford to do much in the way of giveaways, but I have an idea that I have been kicking around, and will reveal in an upcoming blog post. For this entry, I want to talk about my “stunt”.

Quite a few Extra Lifers do things like shave their heads, the ice bucket challenge, wax their backs, etc. so I figured I would join in the antics this year. So for my 5th year of fundraising for CHOP, if I can raise that $1000, I will dye my hair purple. The only stipulation is that I would like to meet that goal before I begin my 25 hour marathon on Friday, November 3rd. That way, I have enough time to get it dyed before the marathon and show off the efforts of my challenge – and the generosity of all involved, live on stream. This would be the first time in my 40+ years of life that I would actually dye my hair a different color, so I’m kind of excited about the prospect of being able to do something slightly wild and crazy. I hope I can count on everyone reading this to help me meet this challenge – even if it’s only to pass this blog entry on to other people you know, and mention the guy trying to get purple hair.

It’s also important for me to note, as I have done in the past, that everything I raise in my efforts goes directly to CHOP and their kids. That’s one of the other reasons I am so proud to be able to be a part of something like this. Everything we do is a complete and direct benefit for the kids of the hospital we have chosen to represent as a participant. I’m glad to be able to do something like this year in and year out, because I never know when something could happen, and it’s our family or the family of someone we know taking their child to CHOP. I never want to see that day come when Abby or Erin need the hospital; or Connor or Fin; or Ally or Cate; or Nick, Joey, or Cate. I don’t just do this for the kids who need the hospital now; I also do it in case the unthinkable happens and one of my kids needs CHOP and I want to make sure they have the best care possible. If I need purple hair to do it, then I don’t mind at all!

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.