Fantasy Football

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Yes it’s that time again. Late August and baseball pennant races are in high gear. So also it must be time to draft your imaginary team of assorted  (American) football players to separately be a collective unit under someone who is in no way associated with any level of ownership or management of any of the 32 NFL franchises. FANTASY FOOTBALL. Can you feel the roar of the fictitious crowd? The boos for the evil empires that win every year? OK if you don’t hear those things I applaud you for not buying into the hysteria (sorry for the Def Leppard album reference for the sheer whimsy of it!)

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Every year I usually do one or two (occasionally three) leagues – one pay and one free (normally Yahoo). In years gone by I was in two pay leagues; the EFFL (Extreme Fantasy Football League) run by my friend Joe – which was by far the most cut throat league I’ve played in and another – Dogpound run by my friend Chris – is very competitive and features good smack talk on a weekly basis.

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Last year the EFFL ceased operations as the commissioner had too many obligations and scaled back to do a Yahoo league and so I folded my team (The Freaktown Titans/Talons). In the Dogpound league (Foxsports online) I am back for my 5th or 6th season. Last year I took second in the regular season before getting bounced after my first round bye in the fantasy playoffs.

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So this year I was unable to attend the draft personally (held at Hooters restaurant) so I had Chris draft for me. Crazy right? That’s like sending a person with a gambling problem to the ATM with your debit card and saying, “Hey just take out what you think is enough.” In defense of Chris, I think he did a pretty decent job of not messing me over. Actually I think he did better than I would have done if I was actually there. For the record, one of the guys who had his team drafted by the members of the league last year made the playoffs so there is a positive precedent. My one holdover from last year’s team (aka keeper) was Jamaal Charles, running back for the Kansas City Chiefs. With the first three picks in the draft for my squad, Chris procured for me Peyton Manning (quarterback for the Denver Broncos), Jimmy Graham (tight end for the Superbowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks) and Julian Edelman (wide receiver for the Superbowl Champion New England Patriots). From there the picks have some potential but the early rounds give me some hope of a decent core (points) from week to week. The first three picks he got for me are arguably superior to those he got for himself – the caveat is that he was the reigning champion so he picked last. So if anyone could have the magic touch to give me a chance…why not him?

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There are still a couple preseason games to go and then the regular season starts and with it the start of the fantasy football season as well. Some people do not get the allure of fantasy football but let me try to break it down for you. If you are a die-hard San Diego fan and San Diego has a terrible team this year, you are probably not interested in watching their games or any other games. But if you play fantasy football and you have 12 different players for 12 different teams – you suddenly become a bit more interested and invested in what is going on with the other teams/games. For those of you that do not follow or care for football, the argument is moot. But for the casual football fan who plays fantasy football it makes the product (NFL) more attractive. A touchdown for a team you hate can all of a sudden be a cause for joy if you have the player on your fantasy team roster who caught or threw the touchdown. I will not bore you with the various categories that can generate points for your player and conversely your team. The aggregate of your team’s starting player’s points in a match up against a peer in your league determines the winner that week. Some leagues do team vs team match ups and some have cumulative totals for weekly or year winners. I like to do the head-to-head leagues to win or lose each week against a single opponent. But I digress…

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So those of you who are not inclined to watch or follow sports, I apologize for wasting your time. But for those who understand and ‘compete’ in fantasy world, you will understand.

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Hope everyone has a good and enjoyable weekend – how ever you quantify those terms.

Peace.

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Ronda Rousey Needs To Go WWE

Good day!
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Okay this is originally what I meant to blog about today. It has been announced that MMA Superstar Rowdy Ronda Rousey (27 years old) will fight Holly Holm (33 years old) aka The Preacher’s Daughter. Aside from the RR taking on the HH – there is little suspense how this encounter will turn out. Ronda will blast the heck out of this Holly girl in a short time-frame and the crowd will go nuts.

LAS VEGAS - JULY 02:  Actor, comedian and Ultimate Fighting Championship color commentator Joe Rogan arrives at the official Silver Star Casting Co. pre-party for UFC 116 at Studio 54 inside the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino July 2, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for MGM Resorts International) *** Local Caption *** Joe Rogan

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Joe Rogan, most notably of Fear Factor fame, thinks Ronda should have gone after Amanda Nunes (27 years old) aka The Lioness of the Ring (eesh that nickname sounds so lame). With all due respect to Joe Rogan, I think Ronda and the promoters need to think outside the lines and tap into their inner WWE. What do I mean? I think Ronda is so dominant that she should have to face BOTH of these women in a triple threat match. Then maybe we can see how ferocious she really is. I know it goes against ‘the rules’ but think of the hype and the buy-rates would be bonkers. In the event Ronda actually loses this match somehow, she can then fall back on it took two women to beat her and then in the rematch she absolutely destroys whoever won the title. It’s a marketing bonanza. Think of it. Wow.
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Oh well, back to reality. Carry on my wayward friends. I’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour…
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Peace.

Signs that you…

…might be being attacked by a tiger.
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– Presence of a tiger
– Blood on the tiger in your presence (not tiger blood, Charlie)
– Tiger paws with claws extended making contact with your person
– Memory of you bypassing the barrier at the zoo resulting in you landing suddenly in the midst of a tiger plus missing portions of consciousness
– High pitched screams emanating from your throat due to extreme pain caused by puncture wounds
– A wall of bystanders holding and pointing their cell phones at you but not actively doing anything to assist you
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These are just some of the ways to tell if you are being attacked by a tiger or other large predatory cat. I’m sure if you thought about it you could find some to add to the list. Until next time (if you aren’t fatally mauled by a tiger) have a terrific Hump Day!

CHONGQING, CHINA - AUGUST 5: (CHINA OUT) A Siberian tiger eats a chicken in a pond to cool down at the Chongqing Safari Park August 5, 2007 in Chongqing Municipality, China. The park, which has 30,000 animals in 430 categories, keeps animals cool during a heatwave as temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)
(DO I HAVE SOMETHING IN MY TEETH?)

Camel out. Winning! Peace.

Being On-line…

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Good morning. I am reading this Ashley Madison business and all I can do is shake my head. Where to begin?
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In this day and age it seems that no place is safe on-line. FBI database? Nope. CIA files? Nope. Worldwide banking systems? Sorry Charlie. Snapchat servers? Uh oh and again no. So why would we be all that shocked that an advertised ‘Cheater’ site would get hacked? In this day and age of incredibly complex video games and sci-fi movies where secret agents can hack into the most secure on-line vaults with a 1997 model flip phone stolen off of a junkie living in a dumpster behind a Subway restaurant in the middle of Nebraska with one bar of service and a 32K simcard – why not?
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The issues here are a couple-fold, pardon the pun. Hackers that target banks and credit files for their own personal gain (shifting money to untraceable accounts or purchasing things at random to cause chaos) that motivation is pretty straight-forward. Me-Me-Me and I’ll never get caught until cyber Scooby Doo and the gang track them down. But the hacks that go after some sort of moral high ground is another breed altogether. They do not directly benefit from exposing all these people living in the shadows and put themselves at risk of being discovered and imprisoned and for what? To dump explicit pictures (Snapchat) and potential relationship ending material (Ashley Madison) out there for the general public to view and judge these ‘customers’….why?
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If you watched the show The Following, featuring Kevin Bacon, you might think anyone with an AOL account could get into the FBI servers. Obviously the writers and producers took some liberties with their super criminals and their cyber hacking skills to further their exaggerated plots. But the point is, even the most secure on-line data is subject to being breached no matter how many secure layers of security and encryption exist. Someone with a big brain will always take it as a challenge to circumvent the channels just to prove it can be done – their own agenda and reasons being what they are.
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So to the customers of Snapchat and Ashley Madison et al who may have had their profiles or private bits floated to the surface for the world to peek at, the question becomes what are you going to do now? Sounds like the music is starting to play and it’s your turn to dance.
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It’s very easy to stand on the sidelines and be judgmental and shake a moral finger at the people affected. To be blunt, people using these types of services and apps know the risks of being discovered or having themselves be ‘exposed’ – sometimes literally. Will this stop anyone from snapping that au natural selfie? Probably not. Will this dry up the pipeline of dudes and dudettes doing that personal profile data entry on the hook-up sites? I doubt it. In this instant gratification world, on-line is here to stay and the Jerry Springer nation knows that whatever whims they harbor in their hearts, the endgame is only a few clicks, taps or swipes away.
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…here on Walton’s Mountain John Boy is Snapchatting with SexyGirl69XXX and his data-stream is about to go over its limit. Suddenly, the video series of his lady itching her itch is interrupted by an angry looking burly dude railing on for 10 seconds about murderous intentions over some Snaps with ‘his wife’. John Boy puts down the phone, pulls on some loose cargo shorts and walks across the hall to Jim-Bob’s door and quietly knocks. Jim-Bob answers his door, John Boy hands the phone to Jim-Bob and says, “Here’s your phone back. I’m done playing Candy Crush. Good night.” Roll credits and queue the music.
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If today’s technology existed 30 years ago, the world would probably be a smoking ball of rubble today. Let’s check in on the year 2045 and see if Skynet is running things then.
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Have a great week and enjoy some cat videos that actually feature real cats. 😉

Piece…, er peace!

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Top of the afternoon to ya!
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I come before you today as a person with a Tumblr account. Truth be told I have had an account for a year or two now. I signed up for it since it was free (like Twitter, WordPress (my blog), Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Myspace, Google+, etc). But until today I had not ‘messed’ with it.
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After doing a miniscule bit of reading, it seems like a conglomeration of some of the other social media sites. Presently I am on the fence about how I feel about it but we shall see. Right now, my favorite social media outlet is my Blog (WordPress) followed by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know there are tons of other social media sites but at some point you have to be like, I will focus on this, this and this and the rest be super darned!
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If you cannot find me with the old reliable Google search on any of those social media sites, you can email me directly at scottlatta@gmail.com for questions, suggestions or feedback on things I have posted.
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Before you go to sleep tonight ask yourself, which version of Journey do you like? The one with Ariel Pineda or the one with Steve Perry? There is no right or wrong answer and let’s not even delve into the other lead singers in between. Also same goes for Van Halen. Do you prefer Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? (no offense to Gary Cherone) With these questions answered, truthfully down deep in your soul, you should be able to rest peacefully barring an earthquake or blood curdling screams from a dark corner of your home.
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Happy Hump Day and Peace!

Tourney Softball

Good morning and spiffy Monday to everyone!

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With the formalities dispensed, how about a Monday blog? Alrighty then!!!
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Over this past weekend, I engaged in a familiar and enjoyable activity called softball. This was a special edition as it was the Men’s USSSA (aka UTRIP) State tournament for D level teams. There are obviously other levels of classes: E, C, B, A and then the Majors of softball. But for this piece we can focus on the D level. For me this was a return to playing competitive men’s post season tournament softball. The last two years I did not play any men’s sanctioned tourney ball as I was not on a roster for a men’s team.
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This year, I have been playing with the St Charles (St Louis) Kings that primarily play Midwest conference open tourneys (Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee). On Saturday, The Kings began with a morning contest against Intensity. Luckily we were the home team for this contest. With the score tied at 9 in the bottom of the seventh inning (last regular inning barring extra innings), we had the bases loaded and two outs. Our right fielder, Red, flared a ball behind their shortstop to plate the 10th and winning run for a walk-off win.
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In the next match-up we faced Quintessential (St Chuck Softball). Q as they are known locally volleyed back and forth with our team. In the top half of the seventh inning (again we were the home team as determined via coin flip), thanks to some loose defense by me (read grounder through my legs at second base) and the squad, we turned a 10-8 lead into a 13-10 deficit. Just to note, this game held some special significance for me as this was the first time in my 11 year softball career that my mom was on hand to see me play. Literally she showed up at the beginning of this game and this was the first time she had seen me play baseball or softball since 1983. So aside from two doubles to go along with a nifty over the shoulder catch running into shallow right field while playing second base – the other thing she was witness to was my blunder that put my team into a hole with the bottom of the seventh (last inning) looming. Silently I was asking the softball universe to just get me a chance to either get to the plate to tie or win the game to atone for my duh-duh-duh-ness. Out of the gates we got a double and a single to inch closer. A fly ball for an out. We scored another run. My spot in the lineup was getting closer. Finally we tied the game on a single putting runners at first and third with the guy in front of me due up and only one out. The other team employed a bit of strategy and intentionally walked Guthrie to load the bases to give themselves a force out at home or the option of a double play on a ball on the ground or a possible double play on a shallow hit fly ball for a catch and possible throw home for a tag play.
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Inside at this moment I smiled. Anyone who knows me, knows this is why I play. I enjoy the chance to prove myself. I got the situation I wanted. My botched defensive play and my teammates worked for this scenario to give me a chance to shine in front of my mom who until this day had never seen me play an inning of softball. I heard from the catcher Brooks, whom I have known for about 10 years on the softball field, say I didn’t check to see who was on deck before I agreed to walk him (Guthrie). Don’t know if that was a compliment or a mental ploy but to me it didn’t matter. I stepped to the plate, bases juiced, couple of bat twitches like a do any other time I bat and awaited the ball forthcoming from the pitcher’s right hand. The pitcher leaned to the third base side and released flat and inside and the machine swung into motion. My bat of choice is a Worth Legit and it was appropriate as the swing connected and lashed a line drive into left center field between the left and center fielders for a game winning hit at a State Tournament. On my way to touch first base, I nodded my head and clenched my right fist shoulder high as The Kings bench erupted and my mom and my girlfriend cheered. Sometimes softball is a funny, twisted little game but in this moment it was a fun game and I smiled all the way through the onslaught of high fives and ensuing sportsmanship hand slap line for the other team.
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The next game was our last in the winner’s bracket as we faced the eventual champion ADL (All Day Long). We fought well early against ADL and were up by 2 runs in the 3rd inning but one big inning in their favor blew it open and we lost 19-9. After sitting for a bit, we played the team that took ADL to the ‘IF’ game in MOFIA (Men Of Faith In Action). In tourney softball, the ‘IF’ game means that the team in the loser’s bracket playing the team in the winner’s bracket has to beat the winner’s bracket team twice because the rules dictate that it is double elimination meaning every team has to lose twice to be eliminated and the team in the winner’s bracket side for the championship is always undefeated. Thus the ‘IF’ game means if the winner’s side loses they have another chance to win the last game and be the champion. Mofia beat The Kings 21-7 in the midst of a 6-game winning streak in the loser’s bracket including beating ADL in the first game of the championship 15-1 only to fall in the ‘IF’ game 16-13.
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The Kings 2 wins and 2 losses gained us the 5th spot out of 17 teams for United States Specialty Softball Association. The previous week in Rolla, Missouri I played NSA (National Softball Association) Coed State. The squad of Alcoballics (actual team name) took 3rd out of 9 or 10 teams which was pretty impressive as we featured some players who really had never played any organized tournaments before stepping onto the field against players who basically comprise a who’s who of regional talent.
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The point of this piece? Just saying that this guy who is 43 years old can apparently still play a little even against players 10-15-20 years younger. In a game where most of the teams are run like a fantasy football waiver wire, always looking to pick up the flavor of the week and someone is always on the hot seat it’s nice to have a positive weekend (made only three outs in four games batting) against the best teams in the state. I have only been playing softball since 2004 and tourney softball since 2005. Pretty much every tourney team I have played on I have been the ‘old guy’ or one of the older guys and typically the one who’s name comes up the most when it comes to who to drop or bench because I’m not 26 years old or fast as a cheetah or can hit 400 foot bombs (home runs) on command. For the majority of my softball career I have been a utility player (no real position but can fill in here and there respectably) that hits for a decent average (I have my good weekends and my god awful weekends like everyone else). So even though I seem pretty easy going and go with the flow, I am playing with a chip on my shoulder because it always feels like I am one bad tourney from getting the ax.

I talk about softball a lot and I truly love to play. I briefly dabbled with playing baseball this year and the experience was nowhere near as much fun. The games move slower, the guys aren’t as loose and fun and it just is missing something. As always, losing is part of it but I lose softball games all the time and I still enjoy the experience and seeing my softball family. I have a few more tourneys (mens and coed) left this year before the weather turns cold and everyone turns to other activities for the holidays. I intend to enjoy them and hopefully do well and not sustain any serious injuries (or death).

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 29: Actor Kevin Bacon attends a screening and Q&A of "The Following" at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on April 29, 2013 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – APRIL 29: Actor Kevin Bacon attends a screening and Q&A of “The Following” at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on April 29, 2013 in North Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

Have fun out there and smile. If you should run into Kevin Bacon or Justin Timberlake please have them email me or call me. If they ask why, say you will just have to ask Scott.

Stray Rescue of St Louis

Stray Rescue of St Louis

Hello and welcome to my blog for this Monday, August 10th edition or at least this installment. Today I am going to relay my experiences from my volunteer day with the Stray Rescue of St Louis.
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In the past when I have done volunteer days for various organizations such as food pantries and a few other charitable groups it was OK. You sift through clothes or work through donation boxes for viable food items to repackage and box up for needy families. All very noble and worthwhile causes but at the end of the day it wasn’t something that really connected with me. I have thankfully never been homeless and in that urgent need of even basic items much less food or clothes. I am not trying to say those people doing that much needed work is not a good thing. It obviously is but on personal passion level it didn’t stir me. Companion animals move me. I grew up around big dogs and halfway through my life found my inner cat lady. So when the opportunity arose to do the stray rescue day through my employer, I signed up for the one in August and also the one in September.

My friend Melody, who I have known forever, regularly volunteers at the Humane Society and I see her weekly doggie updates (Hi Landry! Tell mommy you need a brother named Romo!). Occasionally she posts a feel good story when one of her favorites gets adopted and I really dig that. So I showed up early with my group from work and went through a brief orientation and quick overview of the shelter. The Stray Rescue is not like most other shelters. First, the organization is a no-kill shelter. There are animals who have literally been there for years with no expiration date on them. If they are not adopted, there will be a place for them until the zombies take over the world. But unlike other shelters, this organization only takes in literal strays. They do not accept surrendered pets or overflow from the local pet stores. The founder, Randy Grim, and his team monitor the surrounding areas for packs of stray dogs. He brings in strays who have gotten sick or been injured for care. Not every stray he sees gets brought in, some he just feeds and monitors their movements otherwise he would need a place ten times the size.

In orientation, I was told that through the organization there were in excess of 600 dogs with Stray Rescue – about 150 of them were at the Pine Street facility and the rest were in foster homes. Also closer to my heart, they have around 60 cats also in foster homes – there were three in kitty condos (cages) at the Pine Street location.

Forgive me but I didn’t really get any names of the people who manned all the stations of this well-oiled machine as I was checking out all the doggies. Guys and gals were answering phones and lugging the endless amounts of doggy laundry to and from the washers and dryers. Some of the same staffers also were handlers – harnessing up the dogs to hand off to the volunteers to walk with a short summary of each dog and their likes and dislikes.

In short, the experience was amazing and a bit heart-wrenching. The staff was so transparent and open about their passion and pleasure they take in caring for these animals. Everyone was so hands on and they did a great job of trying prepare each volunteer for the dog they would walk.
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Another very cool thing about Stray Rescue is that once the dogs are in the system they are in the system for life. What that means is once a dog is brought in, they are micro-chipped and they are entered into their database. So if the dog, let’s call her Reunion (actual dog), gets adopted out to a family and for whatever reason she didn’t work out with her new family and that family surrenders her to another shelter or if she would run away and get brought in to a place that checks for microchips – she would get returned to Stray Rescue – instead of maybe a death sentence at a kill shelter. Once in the system, the animals of Stray Rescue are part of their ‘family’ for life.

I got to walk four dogs by myself: Freckles, Zada, Racer X and Kool-Aid. There were two other dogs that I shared walking duties with another volunteer – but those four above, I held their lead rope-like leashes for my walks around the city. If any of you have experience with equines, you know what a lead rope is. If not, it is really a rope-like leash unlike the flat ribbon-like leashes for most dogs. The lead rope leashes are necessary as most of the animals at the Stray Rescue are Pit Bull terriers or mixes of larger, more powerful breed dogs.

Upon entering the different areas that house the dogs (Intake, Phase II, etc) the cacophony of barking is a bit overwhelming at first but then you acclimate like a fish in a bag sitting in the bigger tank. The volunteers are given open access to the various areas to wander in and out between the cages and see a picture of each dog plus notes about their social behavior along with any feeding instructions or medicines needed. When I say cages, you may envision bare wire cages in row after row with a couple of bowls in the corner for food and water but not here. Yes the cages are made of wire (some areas have small plexiglass rooms instead of wire cages), but many of them have PVC or hard plastic sheeting attached to the cages to shield them from the constant visual activity and give them some sense of personal space thus making it less stressful on the animals especially the ones that are not as social with other animals. Yes they have food and water bowls and also cot-like doggie beds to sleep on. Some of them share quarters for the more social animals or if they are siblings and get along.
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The Stray Rescue is a not-for-profit organization that has been in operation since 1998 based off of fundraising and donations. The network of volunteers and foster families is truly staggering. One man’s vision and passion spawned this awesome enterprise. If it hasn’t been evident until now, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. On the grand scale of what this organization does, I did virtually nothing. I walked some dogs, picked up their poo and helped their maintenance guy move some un-assembled cage parts so the gas company could do some necessary upgrades in their adjacent warehouse. That’s it but it felt like a great drop in a much larger bucket.

Giving a needy family a box of clothes or toiletries or food is nice but humans are very resourceful and can often work out their own complex problems. But for most part, companion animals that have been abandoned by their humans to fend for themselves without complete animals in wild instincts is harsh and unfair. I understand not everyone holds the same values or same priorities in life. I get it but when you agree to take on the responsibility of caring for an animal you need to see it through. If life and finances dictates otherwise, at least reach out to someone to give the animals a chance of a happy life instead of chaining them to a tree or locking them in an abandoned house to starve and die. The very thought makes me physically ill and causes my eyes to water. Every pet I have lost in my life (except fish lol) has caused me to shed tears.  My cats and dogs have all held a piece of my heart. Each one has had their own quirky personality and when they passed the pain was a physical thing. So the thought of people casting off their pets in such a callous way is incomprehensible.

In a world of such frivolity and waste, it is nice to fall asleep at night knowing there is a Stray Rescue and places like it. Compassion is a slobbery tongue licking your face or a kitty headbutt to say, “Hey. Human. I like you and just love me in this moment.” Isn’t that all any of us want anyway?

If you are in the St Louis area please check out their facility downtown at 2320 Pine Street. They obviously accept monetary donations but they also take blankets, collars, pet food and other things associated with animal care. One of the easiest things to donate is your time so give that too. Should you do not feel comfortable walking the dogs, you can still help with other less strenuous activities. If you are interested in finding out more about donating or just have general questions about their organization you can send them an inquiry through their contact form on their website (Stray Rescue Contact Form) or just give them a call at 314-771-6121. The staff is super friendly and very knowledgeable.

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In closing, the majority of my volunteer time was spent walking the dogs. I got in some cardio and these dogs got to spend some time outside. Of all the dogs I had and saw handed off, not one of them was scary. Granted these dogs were very anxious to go on their walk and very strong but each one after about two minutes was the biggest softie. They all loved to be petted and most responded to verbal queues. My first dog of the day was Freckles and my last one was Kool-Aid. They were all great dogs but my favorite was Kool-Aid. She was an almost feral pickup that they have been working with. She is paired with another dog in living quarters and was just the sweetest. After being anxious to get on the walk, she was easily led by the leash and responded to the half-whistle/half-kissy noises I made. When I was kneeling next to her, she licked my hand and face several times with her tail happily wagging. Best part of my volunteer day hands down. I hope she gets adopted soon along with the rest of the residents.
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To the author, businessman and animal lover that is Randy Grim – I wish you longevity and much happiness sir. To steal a little from the St Louis Cardinals, I also wish Stray Rescue Nation good juju to keep doing their great work for a very worthy cause. We all just want to be happy and loved and a great way to find that is with a dog or a cat.

Peace my friends. Have a kick butt week.

Favorite Video Game Series

Good day and happy Thursday.

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Recently I have dusted off some of my PS3 titles to play that I really enjoy. I do not have a very extensive library but I have some RPG, arcade, sports and a mish-mash of others. Three of my favorite series are: Darksiders (defunct), Dead Space (on hiatus) and God of War (new game in production now for PS4). Castlevania (across many platforms) gets an honorable mention in there along with the Diablo series and Mortal Kombat legacy games.
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As of late I have busted out Dead Space the original and Dead Space 2 for the PS3 for the shooting fun of it. Dead Space 3 has it’s moments but lacks something the first two installments have in playability. Also God of War (GOW) II has been getting consistent play at my home. GOW I, II & III are solid and fun all the way through. My enjoyment of the Darksiders franchise rests largely upon the shoulders of the first game centered around War from the lore of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The second game featuring his brother Death is OK but not nearly as focused and fun in my opinion.

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The GOW series probably sits at the #1 spot for me over all the rest. I like games that are linear in story. They flow in one direction and you achieve milestones to build upon to unlock the next part of the story and abilities. Some games give you these immense ‘open’ worlds that you have to wander around lost for hours to try to accomplish goals to open up your quests or whatever is needed. I prefer to have the path funneled for me instead of guessing what I need to do next. Do I need to kill 75 enemies to move on? Do I need to wander virtual miles to find a door only to realize I need to explore the equivalent of Asia to find a key to unlock this door? Is the environment interactive and able to manipulated? Can I swim in the water? Fall over the cliff? Cut down a tree? Climb a cliff? GOW combines so many of these facets with puzzle solving, great graphics and fluid character motions.
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The Darksiders first game has alot of the same playability as GOW and an easily referenced map so you know what areas you have already visited and check-listed against your quests/goals. In the Dead Space games, you can activate your directional controller and it gives you a temporary destination line to guide you based on the next objective you need to accomplish all the while stomping and blasting your way through human-turned-alien zombies manifestations (necromorphs).
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I have beaten all (6) the games in the GOW series: I, II, II, Ascension, Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus on Easy and Normal settings. In Darksiders I have beaten both games on the easy setting. For Dead Space, I have beaten the first two games played on the Easy and Normal settings. As for the third game and the other two incarnations: Extraction and Ignigtion I have not fared as well. The Wii version causes me some issues on the puzzles that require a steady hand…which I do not possess.
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GOW has announced that there will be another installment (most likely a prequel) to be designed and released with the PS4 system. So like when the Castlevania franchise kept bumping to the next generation consoles, I will have to break down and get a PS4 at some point. Tell the cashier I need a Powerball ticket please.
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In case you hadn’t already guessed it, my enjoyment of video games is on par with my thirst to play softball. By no means am I very good at either, but I can be logical and systematic to make myself a decent player of both. On occasion I have spent 12 or more hours on a Saturday engaged in both activities (not concurrently). Frequently after a long day of playing both, I am in need of a shower.
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Good gaming is not just a casual sit back and push a button every once in awhile experience but an intense mental investment in the game and enjoying what the creators have put countless hours into brainstorming brought to life. The game-play and character development shows as the storyline changes and the difficulty is ratcheted up – that’s what I’m talking about! Kratos, War and Isaac Clarke – getting to be all of these characters gets the blood pumping and brings a smile to my face as the carnage unfolds. It’s gory good fun – the same goes for Mortal Kombat and Castlevania. Lots of blood and guts and violence that is somehow entertaining and satisfying. Don’t judge me! lol
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Just so you don’t think I’m a total psycho on the blood front – I enjoy sports games like Madden Football and MLB The Show (baseball) too. Not all games outside of the sports genre that I play feature immense amounts of blood. There are games like the original Warcraft (PC), Legacy of the Ancients (Commodore 64) and Act Raiser (Nintendo) that were strategy civilization games – kind of like the Sims but with more destructive forces working against you.
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I have been addicted to video games since about 1983 when my parents gave me a Commodore 64 computer for Christmas that year. The first game they got me was called Cohen’s Towers which was kind of like Paper Boy meets Donkey Kong. For the record, I’m not a huge fan of Donkey Kong as a standup game or for the Atari console system but I did enjoy the version for Super Nintendo called Donkey Kong Country (shameless reboot of the franchise for profit lol).
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For all the Pac-man and Ms Pac-man enthusiasts I apologize as these games were also not at the top of my list – all those ghosts chasing you, way too stressful my friend. Over my lifetime, I would say I have invested a good sized fortune (and literal years) on games and gaming system (portable ones too) with very little regret. Places like Family Video and the extinct Blockbuster Video stores made the process a little more financially doable since you could take a potential game to purchase on a cheap test run before dropping $20-$60 on a title. Redbox locations now have this rental feature but I have not tried it and my short-lived run on Gamefly was very unsatisfying due to the more in demand titles never being available.
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So in times of trouble or just down time, it is good to pop in a disc or load up some fun and disconnect from the real world for a space of time. Bills and drama and responsibility will still be waiting for you when you get done but in that gaming bubble you can hack and slash and solve all your cares away.
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If you are not a game playing person, you should try it. There are all types of game play and subjects to appeal to just about everyone with eyes and thumbs. (If you are missing either or both of those, I am sorry for being insensitive). So grab your beverage of choice (you need to stay hydrated), maybe some snacks and get comfy in front of the screen. Go to your happy place.
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Peace and game on!

Baseline (not talking about tennis)

Hello.
Thank you for putting your butt in the seat of wherever you read my blog from or if you are standing I commend you as well because I am lazy. If I could sit and play softball I would. Sitting is optimal. Works great for watching TV or eating food or driving or a myriad of other options.
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As you get older you sometimes compare things. For example:
Music from “back in the day” versus music today. Some people will say across the board the music they grew up with during their formative years is the best but I don’t think it is that easy. Granted there are some bands and songs from years gone by that snap together like Legos in my brain but then there are also bands and such that just sucked. The musical offerings from today are really no different. You just have to have an open mind to give them a try. There will be some anthems that are just like, alright I can get behind this and dance like I’m having a cocaine induced seizure. Then there are some with the same three verses repeated into infinity that make you want to vomit down the front of the blouse of a department store mannequin.
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What am I rambling on about you may ask? Values I guess. Today’s society and sub-cultures are so vastly differing. Just communicating about simple things, your direct meaning can get lost.
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If I hand someone an apple as a gesture of sharing – that gesture, in turn, based on that person’s mood or internal train of thought can get twisted. The person getting that apple, who may have been pulled over on the highway by a police officer named Officer Orchard, may instantly associate the experience negatively because apples grow in orchards and they were only going 8 miles per hour over the speed limit and they think a warning would’ve been a just consequence instead of a ticket that will probably cost them $100 once court costs are added.
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It is really difficult to put yourself inside someone else’s shoes much less their actual brain. In reality you may have the best of intentions but circumstances may conspire to make you look like a big tool. How do you avoid this? Unless you become a mind reader or have the ability to rewind time (to go back after the situation has played out badly) you are blindly rolling the dice. Post on social media a funny meme about being clumsy to self-deprecate your own clumsiness and watch the negative backlash from someone who lost their entire extended family over the falls at Niagra Falls due to an accident involving a banana peel and a family of dehydrated wolverines.
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As a rule, I generally to try to treat people as I would want to be treated and take into consideration anything I know about with them that may color negatively something I say to them. In a face to face exchange things are a little easier because you can read facial cues or body language to gauge reaction to jokes or anecdotes. But in the virtual world of text or social media posts or instant messages there are a million variables, as thus you cannot always immediately tell what someone’s true reaction is. You cannot see if they are multitasking, deeply offended, just being sarcastic, dealing with poor reception (i.e. delayed response which can be interpreted as mad, confused or who knows what else), or just responded to the wrong person on a different topic.
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So if I am talking to you and you haven’t threatened my mother or viciously attacked me – you can most likely take what I am saying as humorous, sarcastic or generally just a sincere inquiry with no judgement attached. The majority of the time I am being silly and trying to entertain to give people a warm and fuzzy sensation. With the exception of a handful of people on this Earth, I do not wish anyone ill-will. So if we are in a argument, real or perceived, and I am still communicating with you – my intention is to come to a peaceful resolution. I may argue my point-of-view passionately at times but I try to be reasonable and can be logically stepped down. With that said I disgress and…
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If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber’d here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: if you pardon, we will mend: And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearned luck Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue, We will make amends ere long; Else the Puck a liar call; So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.

Thanks to the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the movie Dead Poets Society and Robin Williams (John Keating) and everyone who makes me smile a little and open my eyes every single day.
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[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

If nothing else, I try to be the voice that makes someone look at things in a different way every day. Thank you for looking in on or down on me today. Your choice.

Peace.

Out of the fire and into another fire

All the hurry up in my soul
All the noise in my head
All I want to do is
What I want to do the most
But I’m waiting for the sky
To rain an eternity down on me
Just drown out my sad little voice
Under a cold and bitter stream

For awhile I want to scream
For awhile I feel the need
All the while the sun softly mocks me
But it can’t burn me, I’m a ghost
Seems I have left no trace
To prove I was even here in this place
Goodbye to my all my friends
Goodbye sun as night hurries to replace

Never was, never just the way
Never the reason for someone to stay
You just never know do you
Stepping into Hell to meet the host
Eternity walking on bare feet
Hot coals between your toes
All the demons for your mind
No changing forever and so it goes