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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