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.