We Must Do Better…

We must do better:

  • by caring for our citizens. All of them, not just those who are employed and can afford health insurance.
  • by enforcing a living wage. No one who works full-time should be struggling to survive. No business should be enriching its upper management and board while letting its lowest paid employees live in poverty.
  • by treating every citizen equally, under the law. Public businesses must not discriminate against their employees or customers.
  • by providing equal opportunities under the law. Marriage equality, fair housing, public education for all citizens, and more. Regardless of the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual preference, gender identity, or anything else. All citizens are valuable to our nation, and must be treated with respect.
  • by allowing people freedom to engage in any religion, so long as it does not harm others. Or no religion at all, if they so choose. Freedom of religion ends where it imposes on another.
  • by getting money out of politics. The amount of money spent to elect our federal government officials is disgusting, and could be used for the greater good, rather than to improve the status of a few.
  • by voting in elections, holding our elected officials accountable for their actions, and electing people who truly wish to serve their constituents, rather than corporations and lobbyists.
  • by caring for those with mental illness, without treating them as less than.
  • by treating victims of violent crimes and sexual assault with compassion, rather than judging them or dismissing their experiences.
  • by caring for those with less than enough to get by, without judgment or criminalization.
  • by offering real methods of rehabilitation for those who have been incarcerated, and allowing them a chance to improve their lives, reducing the incidents of repeat offenses, once they have been released.
  • by treating visitors and immigrants to our country with respect rather than fear or hate. Our parents, grandparents, and ancestors came to this country to improve their lives and those of their families. We should not be looking down on others who wish to do the same.
  • by acknowledging our shortcomings, and striving to improve.
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Better Than Kissing A Wookiee

Growing up in the 70’s, Star Wars was a huge part of my life. My sister and I played with the action figures, reenacting scenes from the movies, and creating our own stories. I read everything I could get my hands on about the Star Wars universe. As I grew up a bit, my interest in Star Wars ebbed and flowed somewhat, but I remained a fan. In college, while interning at Walt Disney World, I purchased a number of WEG roleplaying books, that were sent to Property Control – an employee-only store for damaged and discontinued items, sold at a significant discount. I played on a handful of Star Wars MUSHes in the mid-to-late 90’s, sharing the storytelling experience not with others around a table, but with people logged in from different parts of the planet – using a text-based system to create adventures that could have happened alongside the canon that existed in film and book form. Where previously the ability to game was limited by who was able to show up at a specific location at the appointed time, now people could log in to a common web address, using telnet, TinyFugue, or similar, from a computer lab, or their homes, if they had modems, and roleplay with people they’d never met face-to-face. I continued to play on various MUSHes for several years, even as technology grew, and text-based games became passé.

Far more interested in the story than the combat, I originally dismissed MMO’s as glorified MUDs – hack & slash dungeons that now had moving pictures instead of blocks of text. Although a great number of my friends played EQ or WOW, I had no interest in them – nothing I’d heard contained any story, a reason why your character was tackling a quest, beyond fame or gold. I was interested in how the choices you made affected your character, not leveling for its own sake.

But last year I started hearing about a new MMO, one based in a universe I was already familiar with – and the articles I read promised a more developed story element than anything else I’d heard of in the MMO genre. I preordered SW:TOR, and anxiously awaited my chance to beta test. When I got the email invitation, I gushed about it with other friends in a similar boat, and we talked about which storyline we planned to explore first.

I haven’t been disappointed. I have been learning my way around the MMO style of play, while immersing myself quite giddily in the stories of my smuggler, and the others I’ve taken for a spin. I recently got my ship back from the NPC who stole it in the opening scenes of the smuggler storyline, and am just beginning to learn the space navigation system.

This post was originally written for a Star Wars: The Old Republic game blog that has since been closed down. So I decided to repost it here.

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Guilding the Lily

For new players on Star Wars: The Old Republic (SW:TOR), there are a lot of opportunities for single play. While there are some quests that require groups, you can set yourself “Looking for Group” (LFG), or respond to a person’s request on general chat if there is a particular storyline quest you can’t complete on your own.

However, for many players, having a core group of other players is part of the fun of an MMO. Using a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) service (Mumble, TeamSpeak, and Ventrilo are a few of the top contenders these days) enables you to speak using microphones and speakers or headsets – which frees up your hands to concentrate on the task before you. SW:TOR, like many MMO’s, has a guild system in place. Each character, or toon, that you play on SW:TOR can belong to one guild at a time, and guilds are limited to faction (either Republic or Sith) and server, however there are some guilds that are duplicated on the other faction (because most SW:TOR players play both Republic and Sith toons).

You may choose to create a guild with other players that you already know, in real life or through other games. The advantage of this is that you are already somewhat familiar with these people, and how they might play. You may choose to develop toons together, so as to complement each other’s skillsets.

Alternately, you could go with one of the larger guilds. Before SW:TOR was even open for beta testing, enthusiasts of the game had started creating guilds, not just on the SW:TOR site, but also on social media powerhouses Google Plus, Facebook,and Twitter, as well as guild hosting sites like Enjin, Guild Hosting, and Guild Launch. In a very short amount of time, there was an overwhelming number of choices available for a new gamer.

So how does one choose?

Here are a few things to consider when selecting a guild.

  • Timezone: Where is the guild based? This will help you to determine what times are going to be most active for the members of the guild.
  • Language: Ideally you want to be able to communicate effectively with other members.
  • Activity level: Are you available every day, a few hours a week, or somewhere in the middle? Some guilds have expectations of play time for their members. Be realistic in assessing your own availability.
  • Play style: This may take a little longer to determine a good fit, but generally, are you into levelling quickly, developing a cohesive storyline, or just going out for some good fun? What motivates your choices in the game?
  • Personal goals: Take some time to consider what it is you ultimately want out of the game. Will this guild help you to achieve this?

Speak with members of the guilds you are considering applying for. They may invite you to join them for a gaming session (which is easier if you’re on the same server, because you’d ideally have a toon available to travel). This gives you a great opportunity to see how the members interact with each other, and with you. Are they quiet on the VOIP, only speaking about the mission before them, or are they relaxed, chatting about daily life?

Above all, be honest and open in your dealings with them – these are people who you’ll be spending time with, so you want to make sure you’re compatible. It’s not unlike a job interview. But with a lot more blaster fire!

This post was originally written for a Star Wars: The Old Republic game blog that has since been closed down. So I decided to repost it here.

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My take on Animal Shelters

Originally posted here: https://plus.google.com/114869214150121539635/posts/31nRwN5NNca

As many of you know, I will be starting at a county animal shelter very soon. It is not a no-kill shelter (I’m not sure there are any government-run shelters that are), but it is by no means a “high kill” shelter. I live in an affluent county, so as far as I can tell, the shelter is funded reasonably well. I know we (since I start in less than two weeks, I’m saying we as an immenent shelter employee) get animals not just from our county, but sometimes transplanted from WV and other poorer areas. And we take care of not only dogs & cats, but small mammals and livestock (I’ve seen horses there, I know there have been goats & chickens).

So here’s my take on things.

In an ideal world, there would be homes for all the animals that arrive at shelters and rescues.

In an ideal world, pets would not be traumatized by the people who take on the responsibility for their care.

In an ideal world, animals would not be mutilated, set on fire, hanged, drowned, drug behind cars, starved, or any number of other atrocities done to them by people, often “for fun.”

But we don’t live in an ideal world.

I know that I’m going into a position that some days is going to rip my heart out. I know that I am going to work with animals that are going to have had horrible things done to them, and some of them are still going to show love.

Some of them are going to lash out, because that’s what they’ve been trained to do, by people who didn’t know what they were doing, or worse, by people who did know, and did it anyway.

And some of them, I will find the strength to euthanize, even after spending days, or weeks, caring for them. Not because I enjoy it, not because I think those animals don’t deserve a chance. I don’t yet know the exact policy, what determines when that decision will be made. But I know in some cases, that will be done, and I believe I’m prepared for it.

I’ll cry, and likely vent on here about it. But euthanasia is not the worst thing that we as humans do to animals. And until that bridge is crossed, I will do my utmost to ensure the animals in my care have the best lives possible.

I can’t save them all, but I can do my part to make their lives better.

If you are considering a new pet in your family, please consider adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue.

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Cold Treats for Hot Dogs (and Cats!)

Cold Treats for Hot Dogs (and Cats!).

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What Can I Put in My Dog’s Kong Toy?

What Can I Put in My Dog’s Kong Toy?.

This is an article I wrote for my work’s blog. I’d love to hear any feedback, especially treats, etc. that you’ve used in your dog’s Kong!

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Staff Review: Answers Raw Pet Food (via Whole Pet Central)

One of the foods I feel great about giving my pets is “Detailed Answers” by Answers Raw Pet Food Company. I rotate the proteins (beef, chicken, and pork), just as I rotate the kibbles that I feed my dog and cats, to reduce the chance of them developing food allergies. Because I have a large pet family, I buy the 4 pound carton. It’s very easy to thaw the food in the refrigerator, and scoop out the daily portions. It’s best to use all of the food … Read More

via Whole Pet Central

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Adding Another Pet to Your Family, Part 2 – Introducing Dogs

Adding Another Pet to Your Family, Part 2 – Introducing Dogs.

via Adding Another Pet to Your Family, Part 2 – Introducing Dogs.

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5 Tips for Meeting a Shy Dog

I wrote the following article shortly after I started working as a pet sitter. One of my assignments was a mid-day walk for a dog recently adopted from a shelter. While he was bonding quite well with his new “parents,” he was very mistrustful of a new person coming into his home and getting in his personal space, which was necessary to open his crate, put on his leash, etc.

So, without further ado,

5 Tips for Meeting a Shy Dog

How to Win Over Dogs and Influence Puppies!

Whether you’re a meeting a friend’s furry companion or working as a pet care provider, at some point you are going to encounter a dog that is not immediately enamored of you. Some dogs have past trauma that  has made them distrustful of new people, while others were simply born less outgoing than the average canine.

If you spend much time around dog owners, particularly those who are active in obedience and agility clubs, you’ll hear the terms alpha and omega get thrown about. An alpha dog is a natural leader, with a dominant personality. These dogs can be challenging for first-time dog owners, because they try to make their own rules, which may not agree with their human’s boundaries. Conversely, omega dogs are at the other end of the spectrum. They are easily cowed, submissive, and are sensitive to loud noises and other unexpected events. Dogs like this can be loyal companions, but require some extra care, especially at the beginning of the relationship.

As a lifetime pet owner who has accumulated over 9 years in professional, hands-on animal experience through employment, education, and volunteering, I have compiled 5 tips to help you put your new acquaintance at ease. There is nothing more rewarding than getting an exuberant greeting from a dog that was once withdrawn.

  1. Eye contact When dogs meet for the first time, they try to determine who is more dominant. They may do this by affecting an aggressive stance, barking, or other posturing, but one of the key behaviors is eye contact. Just as children hold staring contests to determine a winner, the dog who maintains eye contact longer is dominant. If you are encountering a shy or nervous dog, do not look directly at her for more than a couple of seconds. You don’t want to start a staring contest with Annie, which would make her more upset, and could, in extreme cases, cause her to react defensively, perhaps even trying to bite.
  2. Get down Particularly for small dogs, a person standing over him can be quite intimidating. Adult humans are not only taller, we outweigh most dogs by a significant amount. For domestic canines, humans make up part of their pack, or family group. Dominance in canine packs is determined by strength and leadership, so a larger, heavier individual has an advantage over a smaller one. Since you are not trying to assert dominance over Scruffy, get down on his level. Sit on the floor, and watch his reaction. In some cases this is all it takes to win over a shy dog.
  1. Bribery If you’ve been warned ahead of time that Shelby is shy about meeting new people, bring an extra-special treat! Salami, cheese, or hot dogs are something she likely doesn’t get on a regular basis, and if she associates you with yummy treats, she’ll soon be wagging at the door when you arrive. Be sure to clear any treats with her owner before-hand, you certainly don’t want to cause her a tummy ache, if she has a sensitive stomach. Our dogs have always enjoyed carrots, which are an inexpensive, healthy treat you may already have in your refrigerator, and our veterinarian agrees that vegetables are a great addition to their diets.
  1. Slow and steady Some dogs, like some people, have high startle reflexes. If Buddy is already nervous, he’s not going to react well to sudden movements or loud noises. This can be a hard lesson, especially for children, who are themselves bundles of energy, and move erratically. You’ll also want to keep your voice low and soothing. It’s okay to say things that would normally sound silly. Buddy can’t understand what you’re saying, but a soft “Gooood boy, Buddy,” can reassure him that you’re not someone to fear. Using his name reinforces that you are part of the pack (at least peripherally), because you know the name his family calls him. I tend to talk a lot to new dogs, whether they’re nervous or not, so they get used to the sound of my voice.
  1. Don’t force it You’ve tried everything you can think of, and still the dog is cowering behind her owner, or worse, in her crate, and wants nothing to do with you. That’s okay! The worst thing you can do in this situation is to force attention on Roxi. So ignore her for a few minutes. Talk to her owner, look out the window, and most importantly, put some distance between the two of you. This will let Roxi calm down, and after a few minutes, she may come out of her shell, especially if you still have that yummy-smelling treat (dog treats in the pocket work wonders).

It may take repeat visits before the dog accepts you, but with these tips in mind, you’ll have some ideas for approaching the dog positively. If you have other suggestions, please comment, I’d love to read your experiences and feedback.

(originally written for Associated Content, which has since been closed down by Yahoo!) Original link:http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/387350/5_tips_for_meeting_a_shy_dog.html?cat=53

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Trick or Treat Among the Trees…

Another Associated Content article, this one was in response to a challenge, asking for articles about local community festivities. The state park where I worked several seasons had a long-running tradition of Hallowe’en festivities.

Trick-or-Treat Among the Trees

Campers Have Created Their Own Festivities at a Popular Indiana State Park

Kristin S. Moran

What a perfect atmosphere for a fall excursion, the first hint of frost gilding the bare branches of the forest, dry leaves crackling underfoot as visitors walk the park trails, seeing wildlife that remained scarce during peak visitation times, and the campfires providing needed warmth as well as fellowship!

Several years ago, as the story goes, a few families, looking for a safe and fun experience for their children, began camping at Lincoln State Park over the Halloween weekend. Their favorite Indiana summer camping spot was draped in the browns and golds of autumn, and now they had the place almost to themselves. The park employees brought home-made treats to share, and as the years went on, word spread, and more people chose to camp the final weekend in October.

The main road of the electric campground, which was barricaded for two hours to allow children plenty of time to trick-or-treat and view their neighbors festive site decorations, which became more elaborate each year. Eventually, the campground was filled to capacity, not one, but two weekends each October, and the event was added to the official calendar of events. For several years, half of the sites were reservable, while the other half were rented on a first-come first-served basis. With a 14 night stay limit, competition was fierce for prime campsites, some families paying 14 nights’ stay to ensure their children would be able to trick-or-treat at the park.

More recently, Indiana’s state parks have gone to a more user-friendly, online reservation system, which affects all of the campsites, so anyone hoping to come in Friday night would likely have to stay in a primitive campsite, without the amenities of electricity or a modern bathhouse.

Extra staff are assigned to work the weekends, to assist with the large number of campers, and employees spend days preparing goodies for the campers, then using the shelterhouse nearest the electric campground those Friday and Saturday evenings to dole out hundreds of fresh-baked cookies, cups of hot apple cider, and popcorn to the families. Some years, professional storytellers have been hired to share ghost stories with interested ghouls, superheroes, and other costumed youths (and the young of heart), but apparently that has been stopped due to state budget cuts.

In a time when most Halloween stories told about our communities are restrictive, discussing unsafe trick-or-treating areas or costumes, it’s wonderful to experience an ongoing tradition at Lincoln State Park, begun by members of the camping community, and embraced by the park management and staff.

Trick-or-Treat Among the Trees. (original link, now dead)

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