It’s Time to Play “THE BLAME GAME” (in fact, it’s overdue)


I’ve stayed clear of the political fray for the most part of late, but I had an observation based on the outpouring of sentiment following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Gay Marriage.

The vehemently hateful comments that have poured from Facebook and much of Fox TV, etc. The vitriolic, often threatening and if not encouraging than at least hinting at violence and suppression….

Why, when a controversial policy or issue is decided in government, ending in a favorable outcome for “liberals,” or Democrats.  Before Shepherd Smith’s lips are done moving with announcement of the decision, both social and national media is lit up by extremists spewing vitriolic poison from the GOP and conservatives? Some of which is so hateful and menacing that in those moments not an elephant is the symbol of the party, but a spitting cobra. Why is there no effort to understand or tolerate, or simply acknowledge

“you know what, we lost this one…we’ll win the next one, but meanwhile let’s talk and maybe figure out why so many people disagree on this that it’s now law.”

Which is part of my point…when conservatives or Republicans win…do you hear this type of speech coming from Democrats and Liberals/Progressives? I’m sorry, you may be able to point out exceptions and finite cases where it’s happened in a very isolated instance…but overwhelmingly the answer is NO.

Typically Liberals/Democrats are more willing to move on, and even to try to understand why so many people seem to passionately disagree, at least so many disagree that in a vote or decision, they came out on the losing end.

For  those that view themselves as a person of value, who cares and wants good things to happen for people other than him or herself.  Can’t we agree it’s beyond time for a glance at your associations and a reevaluation of standing aside some of these zealots. The extremists promoting violence and casting themselves to decide what is “right,” or “American,” for other people, mostly strangers, to do?  Those who regurgitate what they heard someone else say, but stand tall and defend it because it reinforces their already limited and self-centered worldview? It’s shocking to me some of the people that I know deep down, and even some on the surface, are kind and do care about others.  But they choose to align with a party growing more and more radical and unaccepting of any outcome that isn’t 100% what they want; even if it disregards the will of a group, often a large group or even a majority, of other Americans.

Liberals mostly encourage you to say your piece and share your opinion, and often they even think about it, and try to relate to it and put themselves in your shoes! This may be a concept I should asterisk and offer more detail on below, as it’s sure to puzzle any GOP’s that don’t stop reading this after the first few sentences.

The vast majority of “Libtards,” I know, all have an open-mind in common.  Even to the point of saying “change my mind if you can.”  Understanding and not planting a deep wedge of dissent of disagreement is a frequent characteristic of Liberals I know.  Typically leaving the back door out in case future information or events shed new light on a subject, is a unique characteristic only displayed by one side.  Personally I’m proud of the fact I don’t plant my flag and declare myself immovable. I like to think it takes a certain amount of humility, but also, and this is really not up for debate, but it takes a whole lot of intelligence.  Some of my most provocative discussions have ended with the statement:

“you know, I never thought of it that way, I am going to have to reconsider.”

I always want to keep up with the opposing side, and see both sides of anything.  For my own good, if not for my ability to discuss current events.  You never know when the winds of change blow in, and I’m a firm believer that more knowledge is always better than less.

I know progressives open to listen to Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck and other radical entertainers. Conversely, I can’t tell you of any conservatives, at least of those I know, willing to listen or give thought to what is said by Rachel Maddow or Keith Olberman. I use the most extreme examples on each side, to make a point. But am I wrong?

One side seems overwhelmingly to be willing to listen to what the other has to say, and attempt to put the shoe on the other foot and see where the opposition is coming from.  But on the other side, the GOP side…simply it isn’t reciprocated, or really even considered.

A few days ago, during an online forum discussion on a site I frequent, one of the posters made a comparison on a point to climate change.  Once I was able to interpret analogy, reading on I came to his closing statement of

“or whatever Al Gore is calling it today.”

REALLY? Do some still believe that climate change, “or whatever it’s called” is a trumped up Al Gore manifestation existing only to make the ol’ guy not feel useless?

Regardless of your conclusion, whether you believe climate change is real, man-made, a natural cycle, a menstrual cycle, or a motorcycle.  That I understand, as I realize conservatives avoid reputable sources and don’t listen if they don’t agree. But to suggest Al Gore is the sole source and that his demagoguery on the topic is all keeping it relevant, is ignorant at best and flipping moronic at worst.

That’s a relevant example here, because, not the issue, but the tactic because it’s worn out by conservatives related to any debatable issue they don’t like to discuss. “Liberals want to kill business and industry,” “they’re a bunch of socialists,” “they want to give my job to an immigrant.” Really? I know many of the extremists concocting this hyperbole don’t have a iron-clad understanding of exactly what these statements mean.  Or what process of deduction they used to logically come to these conclusions with such certainty. But c’mon…is that all Sean Hannity told you to see?

If so, then it reinforces my point that it’s past time to expose yourself to some of the drivel from the other side. Because these issues are so much more complex and “grey,” than that. I don’t care what anyone says, we live in a world of grey, and black nor white seldom apply. Foreign policy? Climate change? Economics? Systems of governance? How can anyone see these as black and white?  And with our recent controversy relating to gay marriage. I will understand a person seeing the right or wrong of homosexuality as black and white based on their beliefs. But the concept of marriage isn’t unique to any one race, creed, religion, nation or tribe.  It’s a universal way two people bind themselves and commit to partner through the rest of their lives.  Even if the issue of them personally having to accept it, I don’t care if they do, that’s their right.  But the right for them to get involved and decide what other people may or may not do? Obviously some think it’s black, to others it’s white.  Indicating that accepting it as grey, is probably pretty logical.  Living in the grey, or at least accepting grey, is how compromise happens.  And in the history of the world, compromise has led to quality outcomes.

In the United States today, we hear comments like “both sides shoulder blame.”  Which because we do disagree, in that respect we do share blame.  But if the answer is compromise, as history has shown it over and over to be.

Yet one side still refuses to budge a millimeter or consider why there so many think they’re right, and vehemently disagree. This viewpoint and unwillingness is not unique to both “parties,” or “affiliations.”  When heels are dug in, teeth are gnashed, threats and personal insults are hurled…honestly, which side is associated with those actions? Is the blame really 50/50….or even 60/40? Can you look in the mirror and tell yourself that with a straight face?

When it comes to financial issues and economics, conservatives want to keep what’s theirs, which is a common view and may surprise them but so do liberals.  Many liberals of today are fiscally moderate to conservative, this one included.  We like the ideas of financial prudence and playing some things safe. When discussed, I nod my head along and think “uh-huh.”  Right up

to the point that the opinion moves from reasonable to what any rational person has to see as bing the definition of “greedy,” or at best extremely “self-centered.” If the government has to fund our country, and it comes to who to ask for more from.  If the money will either come from my country club membership fund, or your food and shelter fund….I have no problem taking the hit, in reality…I insist.  I neither want or work for more than my share, and I certainly don’t need to be rewarded for working hard by taking more than my share and leaving someone else with less.  I want my share, and I want you to have your share.  Then maybe we can both hang out, talk and enjoy life and company.  Maybe there will even be a chance that neither of us has to be too concerned with debt, or bills or gas prices and we can focus on our fellows.  And if that’s the case for me, but not for you, then I’d like to know what I can do to help, if anything,” and someone who starts off as a stranger, maybe we can help one another and in enrich both of our lives and enjoy the pursuit of happiness as friends, who care about each other and are always there to help. Finances separate us all today, creating the imagined concept of social class, which we then turn around and exploit and excuse many of our actions.  Further we allow it to justify why things are how they are, and to remove empathy for those that have less.

Class is directly related to levels of crime, as 80% of crime is related to finances….stealing, gangs, drugs? All those things represent segments of the population that are marginalized and don’t have near a fair share. The other 20%….it’s white collar crime. So crime is either because people are miserable, or they’re selfish and greedy….oh well, throw them both in jail….

I’ve actually heard friends I respect say that’s the answer “throw them in jail.” WOW!

Some people spewing, believe it or not, are active churchgoers identifying as “moral.” They not only see themselves as good, but take it upon themselves to decide who is else is good, and who else is not.  Just like their politics they skew over the line into judgment and closed mindedness in almost all of their opinions.

The GOP is closely associated with the church today, which counterintuitively is part of where this “closed for business,” approach to politics is originates. While I agree with their faith, I don’t agree with their practice of it or their steadfast insistence on their way.  Further, I don’t want my faith and beliefs to be forced on other who may not share the beliefs.  I would imagine many “Libtards,” regardless of faith feel the same.  There’s a pattern here, and it’s one of acceptance, tolerance and empathy.

On almost all issues, Liberals and Democrats will listen to what the other side has to say. They not only listen…but they consider, and ponder….they give some thought to. Unfortunately, for all of us, it’s just a one way street.

Conservatives, don’t want to hear what “Libtards,” think, they don’t care about any opposing argument.  It might as well not exist, because they’re not going to consider it. If discussing it, more often than not, descend into ad hominem arguments that have no relevance, but act as a crutch for people who frankly, and this is just my opinion, but they can’t explain why they think what they think.  Often they realize somewhere in them it’s illogical…and avoid discussion that leads to that conclusion at all costs.   This is the core of the problem, discussion creates questions, and questions in the case of these extremists, they really don’t have answers that make real sense.  It’s a situation that doesn’t appear to be changing soon.  Liberals will continue with “let’s talk,” and conservatives with “if you don’t agree, you’re unAmerican, socialist and of low moral character.

Not all conservatives are bad people, but all conservatives are misguided at least in their insistence that issues not have two sides.  I challenge those that are good people, who care for their fellows and want to help other people and in turn help themselves.  How can you associate with extremists and allow these loud and radical voices to speak on your behalf.  There needs to be another group step up within the group.  To say not all of them are on board with what’s being spewed so hatefully in their name.  To embrace education and logic and no longer stand with others that are so extreme, often willing to espouse or at least hint at violence. So extreme, that they equate more closely to radical Islam than “Libtards.” Time to reassess just which side carries blame, or at least the majority.  It will never be our way or the highway with Democrats, we’re not going to rollover and just change everything we think without you giving some too.  Compromise is about two sides of the coin, agreeing to work things out and find common ground.  It’s time to take accept responsibility and stop trying to blame others for our misguided opinions.  We all have to say “let’s talk,” and stop saying “buzz off.”


Daily Fantasy Sports…My “Take”


I shared this earlier with some buddies in my normal, season long league.  They were asking what I do to win in Daily Fantasy Baseball, as I’ve finally “cracked the code,” at least a little bit of it.  I’m  by no means a “shark,” and I’ll still play a pitcher or player who gets rained out….but more often than not, I’m catching those now, and I’m picking based on stats and figures, not gut or some blogs daily favorites.

You have to put your “knowledge,” or how closely you follow the sport where it belongs…in a van, down by the river!  I was picking based on reading roto blogs, and based on my own intuition as a lifelong baseball nut and stat nerd.  Turns out, this gets you NOWHERE!

The roto blogs, mostly, are written by baseball fans.  Guys that two years ago were writing for Fansided or Bleacher Report and are insanely knowledgable about baseball, but not DFS.  In this instance, A doesn’t equal B, although B, may sometimes equal A!  This is not to say they can’t be good DFS players with practice and strategy development, smart writers and beat guys could learn and become solid DFS players.  But as far as what they think about who to play for fantasy lineups, the advice you want is from the finance guys.  People that don’t know what “‘round the horn,” means, and could care less how many players are in the 40/40 club.  I had to start seeking DFS advice from unlikely sources, such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and Fortune.   You won’t find daily advice, or even regular advice….but what I found, was a few interviews with some of the true DFS “sharks,” the guys that are entering $10,000 per day, and winning. They play everywhere, are almost unavoidable and a night mixing it up with them is about as pleasant as waking on a Cancun beach with no memory of the night before, and as you roll over and sit up realize…well it hurts to sit. Not only that, but you notice you had slept on your stomach, and there’s deep, very deep indentions in the sand from where your knees had been.

Back to DFS, these sharks aren’t your friend.  But what do all Ivy League, Wall Street trader types have in common?  Huge Egos!  So when approached for an interview by Forbes or WSJ, and asked to spill on what they do differently, making them successful at DFS.  These huge egos betray them and they can’t help but proselytize to the world about their genius and how they’ve got everything figured out. Usually, if you’re like me, you just want to hate these guys, but in this case, they are my new friends! When they speak on DFS, I listen, and you should too.  Abandon or, and study the real pros. Do you want to eat, or be eaten….there’s two types of players in DFS, and we do certainly need fish, but not me, I set out to stop the losing, and join the sharks!

As I mentioned, many of these wily brainiacs used to be Wall Street traders, only now they spend their days following sports information tickers instead of the Dow.  Oh, they bring the same tools….namely a maven’s knowledge of how to build and use Excel spreadsheets. But they have learned to apply it to what used to make them feel so inferior in high school….sports!  There are actually some sites with information on how to create reusable spreadsheets that compile data and spit out winners for you, and I attempted to make a couple, but let’s face it.  Mathematically, I’m about an 8th grade level, and I really don’t even care about it…as I simply despise math. If I stare at Excel for too long, my eyes will cross and I’ll start speaking in tongues…but I did find other ways to use what I’d learned, but dumb it down for a guy like me.  I have no doubt in the process I’m sacrificing some info,  if I could find a couple partners and we split up the number crunching duties, maybe I could even handle a full on “death by Excel,” style strategy. But it’s just not what I’m naturally good at, and I’ve always felt one of my strengths is just that…I know and utilize my strengths, and I admit, avoid or compensate for my weaknesses.  In this case, I am a good “baseball guy,” and I’ve got a knack for spotting trends.  I actually do enjoy statistics, analyzing them to figure what they can tell me…just don’t ask me use them to spit out other, more or different NUMB3RS!

So what I did do, was I started tracking which games I entered, how much I spent, and my ROI.  A month ago, I’d have told you I was winning “some,” but…turns out it was more like “barely ever,” or about 15%.  I was foolishly betting too much in the $.25/tourneys that pay out in the thousands for top finishers, even finish in the top two-hundred or so, and you’ll likely take home $10 or more.  When betting sports, I’ve always enjoyed parlays, they’re low risk, with high reward…or so I’ve always thought.  Turns out, playing in ten of those over a 48 hour period, I would win maybe one. Which isn’t “low risk,” it’s “low intelligence.”

I was actually winning the 50/50’s, which if I bet $1, I’d win $1.80.  Which is such little gratification for my lizard brain, that I scoffed….but would I rather win one of those 5/7 days a week, or lose 45 $.25 tourneys, and win 4 for a total loss of -$8.75? I was entering  about one 50/50 every two days, and 6-7 quarter tourneys in that same time.  So I reversed that ratio, now playing one $1 – 50/50, and maybe two quarter tourneys per night.  This not only builds up my bank, but it gives me some confidence….some SWAG! And that’s nice to have…nobody at the mall may know why I’m “pimp-walking,” but it’s that extra $3.75 in my wallet from last night’s DFS!

Also, I mix in all free games that offer an actual payout.  Usually there are 4-5 on each DraftKings, DraftDay and FantasyHub (I play those three, plus FanDuel). You can, feasibly win trips to big tourneys in NYC and San Francisco, autographed memorabilia, and a few free dollars in credit to use to enter a cash game and maybe increase your bank!

Your bank is very important….I’ve read advice and determined to not bet more than 10%, up to an absolute max of 20% on one night.  And overall, I haven’t made a deposit in a long while.  I wasn’t winning much, just barely staying alive.  But keep reading…because suddenly, my banks are growing…and my status as “guppie,” is moving out into deeper water.

I tweaked many of my strategies…or lack thereof. First, as a beginner, you have 50 games in any sport to enter “beginner,” matches.  USE THEM ALL!  Once you hit 50, you’re ineligible.  And, the low dough games are good for a pauper like me, but also, I avoid most “sharks.”  $5 and above, and you’ll run into a few Ivy League finance guys in there.

Weather and starting lineups are KEY!  I kept losing because of rainouts, and worse, because a guy gets the night off.  Obviously, catchers are a huge culprit, but every player gets a night off now and then…nothing is more frustrating than learning that the 15% of your total salary cap you spent on Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, was on a night that he stayed on the bench and ate seeds.  It’s imperative to find a site with reliable, and early lineup and weather information.  I highly recommend the following:

They typically have lineup info posted hours before anywhere else that I can find…and it’s always accurate.  Go figure…I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!  I just put the bit in and ride the sumbitch!

Days off blow, weather too, but it’s not as bad…as you can find weather reports anywhere.  Overall, just don’t risk it if you can help it. And if you do, you better keep a close and constant eye right up until game-time. Even “a slight chance of rain early, tapering off…” is enough to make me think twice.  Easy way to settle a toss up of players in my lineup.

Next, I studied up on the differences in scoring, site to site.  Sorry, but if you’re not doing this first thing…then slap yourself, and stick a fork in your ass because your DUMB! I know, because I WAS! DraftKings, FanDuel, DraftDay, and FantasyHub all score a little differently, and when 50th (wins $10) or 650th (wins $.65) is a statistical difference of maybe 8-12 points….? Let me tell you, that on multiple nights, I’ve been one starting spot, away from winning 1st out of 5,000 guys and a $200 payday off a $0.25 bet, and instead I finish 175th and net a dime in my pocket….woot.  It’s bad enough when I considered the right pick that night, but when it’s a rain out or night off….well, I have ordered one of those spiked, leather flogging things the psycho monks always use, and that’s going to be how I learn my lesson from now on.

As much as all the above matters, the single greatest impact on a lineup is typically going to be related to pitching. Miss bad….and it’s probably not your night no matter how good your hitters do.

On DraftKings, you get two pitchers with win/loss weighted far less.  Your pitcher can lose the game, but if he strikes out a bunch of guys, doesn’t get many walks or beanballs…then you can still have a great night scoring despite the pitcher losing the game.  However, in FanDuel, it’s “Just Win Baby!”  If your guy loses his matchup, then you’re behind the 8-ball…  Oh, and FanDuel you pick one pitcher, in DraftKings..two!

I started being really selective about pitching.  In DK, I try to pick one top dollar guy, a Scherzer or Kershaw, and one “wildcard.”  Thing is, if I can pick a wildcard…my odds of winning are like 150% better. But you better know what you’re doing…cause if you go with that random rookie from the Giants, Chris Heston, and he’s on the road at the Mets at Shea….well, just pick him on the night he throws the no-hitter…mmkay?

If you can hit a wild card, and leave a big gun who you actually think is not in a good spot. “Yeah buddy!”  That’s a night that you may break your own record and actually make an entire $5!  For example, when “King,” Felix Hernandez got shelled in 1st inning on Friday night at Houston, I just had a bad feeling about that matchup.  So I go elsewhere, and hit on a random wildcard…not insane points, but 20-25.  Once a matchup starts, you can see the percentage of DFS players from that site who selected any given player.  On Friday, almost 80% of guys picked King Felix!  So after one inning in Houston, my chances of winning had just increased like 5,000%…..and I did go on to win 4/5 games I entered that night.

Now, realizing pitching is such an essential.  Do I have any advice you ask?

Vegas BABY!  Pull up the Caesar’s or another sportsbook, and look over the gambling lines.  Most will be expected…but usually, I identify 2-3 games standing out as “what do they know I don’t?”  And being Vegas….there’s a reason they can pay all those giant electric bills for those strip based casinos.  Let’s just say it’s not because they don’t know how to set betting lines on sporting events. Overall, using Vegas odds to select my pitchers, particularly on FanDuel, where wins are everything…it’s been the single biggest help to my scores.

Now selecting a lineup of batsmen….as I said above, I used some Excel “Super-Devil,” spreadsheets, and if I had a few buddies to share the duties with and all work as a team, maybe it could be done and I’d get even more refined data.  But by my lonesome it’s just too much info for me to process.  The Wall Street Wunderkinds who quit their day jobs and play DFS fulltime…they spend 10+ hours a day prepping.  That man, is like, not going to happen right now man.  No can do….

But I did what I could, and after pitching…it was time to find out more about the scoring in each site.  Much to my surprise, hitting stats are also quite different, which really I didn’t expect. In Fanduel, a walk, hit by pitch, stolen base, or a lowly leadoff single, score EXACTLY the same as a run scored, or an RBI….1 lousy point. Don’t ask me, but that’s one big flaw in scoring, and just another reason I have to say I prefer DraftKings. One other big consideration is FanDuel, unlike DraftKings, deducts 0.5 points for every out!  As far as hits, add one point for each base, starting with the aforementioned 1 point for a single, and you can count on 2 points for a stolen base, with no penalty for being caught thieving bases.

DraftKings, is more typical….or less insane whichever you prefer! A walk is 2 points, which is still the same as an RBI, or run scored..and hit by a pitch…gets you only an “e-bruise,” on the offended body part, but no point.  Singles are 3 points, doubles are 5 points, triples are 8 points, and a HR is 10 points!  Also, a stolen base is 5 points, for the mathematically challenged like myself, that’s half the points of a HR, and more than a double or an RBI! But beware, if you are caught stealing, it’s minus 2 points.

Think about Billy Hamilton last night, with 5 SB, plus a single and a double!  So 33 points, with no RBI, only one run scored, one extra base hit (a double), one single, but 5 stolen bases!  Talk about a lot of stat padding…but hey, 34 points is 34 points.

Finally, I developed four primary categories to check daily to select my hitters.  I use my ESPN season fantasy league’s “player,” page and sort all players in the league by position.  Focusing on “BVP,” (batter vs. pitcher) and “7 days,” (his numbers in the past week).  I also check a couple other boxes that I’ll explain below, but they’re not really statistics.

First, I check the BVP, which probably I weigh most heavily.  What’s the history of this hitter vs. this pitcher?  More often than not, this holds well, but there can be outliers like Chris Coghlan on Saturday night…he was 12/15 vs. Mike Leake, and only got on base once and scored one lousy run. Still, that’s a great statistic, and with him being over .400 the past 2 weeks….and he being a left-handed hitter, and Leake a right-handed pitcher…I felt great about the matchup. Like I said…best laid plans don’t always work out, but I’ll remember that and play him again next time vs. Leake.  That’s a great stat, and he just had an off night.

But, I also picked Aramis Ramirez that night, and as a Cubs fan I know him very well. I saw he had almost a .600 average vs. the pitcher he was facing (I think Gio Gonzalez?) and my memory of watching him daily for a decade, is that when he had good numbers against a guy, that seemed to ALWAYS hold true.  He’s just one of those guys that you don’t even have to watch him to know exactly what he’s doing in the game…you will usually know in advance!  Is he hot of late…then he’ll rake.  Cold?  He’ll stink.  Is he at a favorite ballpark to hit at, against a favorite pitcher to face, or a time of year that he prefers (notoriously slow starter)? If he’s any of those traditionally, then it’s likely he’ll be that in the game today. So this is one place, where my unquestioned, epic “fandom,” helped me out in DFS!
Next stat, after BVP, as I said is the past week.  Is he generally hot?  Most guys I’ll ride with if I don’t have anything to tell me not to, as Ramirez, etc because of him being a longtime Cub.

Final two factors…one is the ballpark.

Playing at Petco?  Forget it, unless it’s a late start slate of games only, and I really want to play because of another matchup and I like some other number that I think could override that cavernous outfield. By the way, games start and are setup by time of day, with “All Day,” being easily self-explanatory,  “Early,” indicating games starting around noon, up until 3-5pm, “Evening,” which are approximately 7pm starts, and finally “Late,” which is west coast, etc. I hate late games, because it may only be 2-3 games total…or less. But if there’s a pitching or other matchup I have to be in on, then I hold my nose and dive in.

Back to ballparks, which I try to avoid the likes of San Diego, Seattle, Kansas City or Miami. Conversely, I try to play a team hitting in Colorado, Arlington, Baltimore, Houston, Yankee Stadium, Fenway and Wrigley (if the wind is a non-factor or blowing out, be careful early in the season….it’s a tough place to drive the ball with the icy wind blowing in off Lake Michigan). Keep in mind other factors at the ballpark too, such as a speedster like Hamilton or Dee Gordon playing on Skydome turf, or similar…..I see them on turf…I want them in my lineup….most likely, unless the BVP or other stat says “stay the hell away!”

The last factor is R/L matchup.  And you’d think “who cares,” because I’m already watching BVP.  But there are small sample sizes, and no sample sizes.  Plus think of R/L as more of a corollary that just strengthens the BVP numbers.  If BVP is good, and the hitter is a lefty, pitcher a righty….the trend is about 50% more likely to hold that day, than if a good career BVP is facing R/R or L/L matchup. Hey, I don’t make up these stats! But yeah, I do try to exploit them, AND YOU SHOULD TOO! ;).

Now, a few others, try to find those cheap guys who have numbers that say “big game.”  If he can check all 4 categories….”Good BVP, 7 days of hot hitting, game in a backyard of a ballpark, and pitcher throws from his opposite side,”  well you’ve likely got a pretty darn safe pick for your lineup; and likely at 1/3 the cost of a guy like Rizzo, Stanton, Trout, Harper or Cabrera.

Same thing with  a pitching mismatch.  The other night I went with CJ Wilson in DraftKings, and even though they lost.  It was a close 1-0, and with him costing $6,500 instead of the $11,000 guys were spending on Matt Harvey or Corey Kluber.  Well, identify a few of those, and you’ll really have something and can pick the best and most likely hitters for all the other roster spots. Newbies, like I recently did, will just pick the top two pitchers, call it money well spent, and move on.  And it is likely money spent on a high scoring pitcher…but…if I can identify the pitcher that is underrated, like the aforementioned rookie Chris Heston vs. the Mets at Shea, who last week would throw a no-hitter and cost half or less than Kluber and Harvey.  I can take that difference and apply that savings to invest in Giancarlo Stanton for the outfield, instead of my opponent who blew his wad on obvious Kluber, and then had to settle for Alexei Amarista, in the same roster spot that I have Stanton!  Pitching is ultra important…but it’s also IMO, the easiest spot to predict an under the radar scoring stud.   And why is this so important you say?  Well, because my friend, Giancarlo Stanton is what we refer to as a ‘difference maker,’ and, well…we like those.

I’m still tweaking the setup daily, but so far this has worked well.  And say with 7 day numbers, once I do it every day for a week or so, I get the hang of who’s hot, and can save some time there.  For example, if the Blue Jays are active, and Russell Martin is in the lineup, he’s getting selected!  He’s been scorching for the past 2 weeks.  Same with Giancarlo Stanton, so I go into my lineup construction looking to save elsewhere so I can get them in.  I hit over this weekend with dirt cheap, “veteran minimum,” type players like Eddie Rosario with the Twins, Delino DeShields Jr. with the Rangers, and John Mayberry Jr. with the Mets.  I was able to identify, select and hit on each of them and they all produced as well or better than other players in the outfield who literally cost 10x more.

If you want to “stick your toe,” in the water, I recommend accounts at DraftKings, FantasyHub, and DraftDay.  They will let you play for free, with no deposit, and offer at least 3-5 free entry contests every night…that pay out cash or credit for cash games. At DraftDay, and FantasyHub, they offer a really unique gameplay and interaction, both with their different strengths.  DraftDay has some unique and different types of lineups to offer, two in particular I’ve not found anywhere else. Both are free and you can win cash and tickets to big tourneys.

One is “Perfect Team,” with no cap. You just pick the best players at every spot that night. Next morning they calculate and post the actual perfect lineup: and whoever got closest, wins.  The second is picking from 8 blocks of players. No cap, just a list of 5 guys, different positions (except pitchers) and you pick one.  Usually you’ll have two blocks of separate pitchers, then 6 different blocks of 5 positional players each. For example:


So you pick one of this group.sane deal with several other groups.

I just began play on FantasyHub, and I’m really impressed so far. For one, I opened a FREE account, no deposit, and I now have $4.75 in my account! I placed in one game, but I also got $1 for a “hot streak,” which can be logging in every day, selecting a lineup every day, and other reasons.  They literally pay you just to keep coming back!  Which worked well, because I’ve been on FanDuel and DraftKings and am happy with those, but if DraftDay and FantasyHub will let me play for free, and fill up a bank for me for just coming back (at FantasyHub), then I will indeed keep coming back!  Now, I can play all four sites, and decide where I want to spend my actual money!  Who knows, maybe I’ll keep winning and won’t need to spend anything, but either way, I’m hooked!  Indeed, there’s likely to be more money deposited eventually, and I’d say FantasyHub or DraftKings are neck and neck for my favorite sites for DFS.  One factor hugely in the favor of FantasyHub, is they donate to charity, and allow you to select a large or small portion of your winnings to donate as well.  Is that a smart platform or what?  They probably do enough to get non-profit status which will likely bring out the cynics among us…but really who cares!? I think it’s cool, that I get to give a bit to charity for playing DFS. And it’s a great way for them to differentiate, and probably yes, to get a nice break at tax time! But hey, you gotta love playing DFS and feeling philanthropic…is this a great country or what!?!?  ‘Merica!

Fantasy leagues have changed the game and how we follow sports.  Stats and numbers are huge! But in DFS….they’re twice as HUGE!  They’re literally EVERYTHING! Take a little time, and toss your “gut,” out the window. Try some different sites, and try different techniques.  Don’t ever lose sight that it is gambling, you’re not always going to win and anyone that says they do (at least anyone who didn’t go to an Ivy League school, major in science or math and formerly worked on Wall Street) is full of it.  It’s like Vegas…everyone I know “wins,” in Vegas.  Really?  Interesting…..  Same idea on DFS….it’s the ego talking man!

Good luck, and most important, have fun!

Christianity Co-existing with Christianity


Where else can an average person truly express their opinion but their own blog!?  This is the point I think, when something on the news or Facebook…whatever be the hot topic, you can hop onto your blog and post your opinion about it.  Since my opinion is rarely relevant, and often inappropriate outside of myself and my children. Few places do I feel free to write about how I feel, and to hell with anyone else or what they think. Outside of my own blog, I’ve learned life is easier, when I mostly keep opinion to myself, unless asked directly to give it. I used to always want to chime in, and I still get myself into trouble on Facebook and elsewhere doing so. Not real trouble, but I end up beating myself up, either because I regret what I said, or who I shared it with.  If this sharing becomes debate, as it often does on Facebook, it ends one of two ways; I feel like a jerk because I won, or I feel inferior because I lost.  What’s the point? The best solution for me, is to remember that what I think really doesn’t matter, and it’s importance ends at the tip of my nose.

However, this is my blog and today want to share a few things.  Few if anyone will read it, but I’ll feel better putting e-pen to e-paper, instead of just the actual paper in my bedside journal.  Maybe, just maybe, a couple people WILL read this. And if anyone is offended, or if this did turn to debate and I were to win….then the reader brought it upon themselves.  This is my blog, I can share my grocery list if I want, and you can choose to read it, or to ignore it.

First I’m a Christian, at least I consider myself one.  And I’m going to attempt to verbalize my religious beliefs in less than 3,000 words….or somewhere around there.  What makes me find this relevant is this business with Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.  And why some people insist on trying to impose on this person what she should feel, do and believe.  To impose THEIR beliefs….on someone else.  Which to me, is the ultimate problem with all religion today, from Southern Baptist to Wahhabi Muslim. Does anyone else ever look at Judaism and admire that about them?  That they don’t impose their beliefs on others?  That in fact, they don’t want to convert you, and they will make it very difficult for you to do so if you choose. I dig that about the Jews….it intrigues me, and at one point in my life, I wanted to convert to Judaism.  Mostly, because they didn’t want me…it made them seem elite, and like maybe they knew something I didn’t?  Maybe it’s my ego, but I prefer to join a religion that doesn’t want me, or at the very least will make it very difficult for me to join if I choose (but if I run their “gauntlet,” will then welcome me with open arms). Than one that shows up on my doorstep to try and convince me why I should buy a book, sign on a dotted line and call myself a “believer.”

As far as my own status as a “believer,” here’s where I stand and what I believe to be truth:

  • I believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins.
  • I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
  • I believe we are all children of God.
  • That I should strive to live as close to a reflection of the example set by Jesus Christ during His time on earth as is possible.
  • That these ideals are both what God wants from me, and what will bring me peace, contentment, and happiness.

If you need more specificity than that, I’m definitely not the person to ask.  That’s as far as I go into specifics, and I’m at peace with that.  There are more things I believe such as that we shouldn’t judge others, and that we should try to love all our fellow men, focusing on helping and giving, and that the more I do for others, the more God will do for me.  If I literally live 100% of my life for you, and completely ignore my own desires, then God will take wonderful care of me, giving me more abundance than I could ever provide.

I realize that some Christians will see some of this as blasphemy,  but what they believe is irrelevant to me, and vice versa.  I’ll settle up when I meet God, not before, and certainly not with them.  Some of these Christians will believe this out of a true concern for my soul. But the majority will believe this to feel superior, and because it will allow them to marginalize everything else I say.  People want to feel good, and for many unfortunately the surest way of doing so, is comparing themselves to others and believing they are better.  I used to be the same way, and struggle daily to not be.  A wise man once said “a life spent keeping score is exhausting!” (if I’m wise to anyone other than myself….yep, irrelevant) Today it helps that I’ve been taught that for every person I believe myself superior, there will be someone else, that I applying the same standard, inevitably I’ll come out lacking.  My ego, which is out to get me anyway and I wish would just go away, is best served by just focusing on what I can do for others, not how I measure up.

I think it’s important to add another belief I hold.  Although, unlike some beliefs, this is more like fact, less like my own personal view.  That is that the foundation of any religious belief is faith, and faith is the same thing as….OPINION.  Personal religious faith has no more bearing on fact, than a discussion of red vs. white wine,  Jordan vs. Lebron, or who to vote for in a presidential election. All are simply opinions we have, developed over time based on our intake of factors (some of which may be facts), experiences and education. Whether faith or opinion, neither will be agreed upon by all, and cannot be proven to be the unbiased truth. You can argue until you’re blue in the face that Lebron would best Jordan in a game of one-on-one, if both were in their prime.  If you present it well, I’ll be glad to listen and I may even admire your faith in Lebron. But if I listen to another person present the argument for Jordan, then I may lean that way and I may switch back and forth several times!  On that topic, just like anything else that is a person’s faith, or opinion….you will never be able to prove yours is right and someone else’s is wrong.  You may feel different, but if so, then you’re not using the educated part of your brain, in fact probably not any of your brain, but your heart.  I respect that deeply, but it doesn’t make it any more factually accurate.   Opinions, and their relationship to accuracy is in the eye of the beholder.  This is a real problem today in the world, and the source of much strife, hate, and disagreement.  People are so fervent in their zealotry for their chosen religion, that they gloss over the fact of what that zealotry is.  It’s not truth, except in their own heart and mind.  Not fact, except in their own home and as they relate it to others that agree and are able to put rational thought aside for it.

Why do I get the feeling that “opinion,” is such a bad word, and may inspire much zealous disagreement as to it’s relation to faith? When a Christian (and I will mostly refer to Christian because I live in the “bible belt,” of the United States, and I’m by far the most exposed and knowledgable of Christianity. And as I stated above, I am a Christian) speaks of their faith, to me that’s such a beautiful and envious thing to have.  Before I had it myself I was jealous of those that did. I wanted to have something I believed beyond doubt, that gave me answers and helped me find the peace that I saw in many believers.  But I didn’t for a long time, and considered myself a skeptic at best and a full on agnostic at worst.  I was never an atheist, which doesn’t even matter to some, many don’t understand the difference.  But I believe few people are truly atheist, believing there is no God.  I think for the most part, you either have faith in a God, or you aren’t sure what you believe.  That was me, and I suppose that’s also the definition of Agnosticism.

Part of the reason for my doubt and being “on the fence,” was I felt so turned off by most religions I was exposed too.  The only one I thought had much saving grace was Judaism.  I embraced and was interested in converting to Judaism because of it’s open ended “many paths to the same goal,” belief.  In other words, Judaism could account for one of my biggest hangups with many religions, and certainly with Christianity.  The exclusion from a positive afterlife, of anyone who didn’t believe the same as they did.  I REALLY had a problem with this.  I love the example “so you’re telling me that the Dali Lama, Ghandi, the Buddha, Confucius, or essentially anyone who lived B.C, is either burning in hell or has that in their future?”

Who can accept that?  Who wants to accept that?  And why in the world would anyone want to associate with a religion that believes that?  I sure as heck didn’t….and for a long time, I found my only reconciliation in Judaism.  They were the only one’s that seemed to have it right.  However, there were also some facets of Judaism I didn’t like, such as Kosher living, the irrelevance of women (in many ways), and that it’s just so dang old-fashioned!  My religion will need to adapt and have flexibility as time progresses.  I want an “elastic clause,” in my religion, because as I’ve learned throughout my journey with life, and as I believe is the case on a broader scale than my own personal existence….more will be revealed.  So I rejected Judaism, and settled in to maintain my existence as an agnostic.

Moving through life, I had some pretty hard falls….many bruised shins, a lot of skinned knees, and repeatedly wounded pride and self-image. I kept risky behavior and pushing things to the limit even though it wasn’t working out for me. Ever time thinking it would finally be different. Finally, I reached an impasse and knew it was time to change or slide on down the drain, so I reached out for help and look toward the future, no longer living in the prison of my past.  I didn’t run from my past, but I embraced it, learned from it, and now use it to help others that came into my life that had made similar mistakes.  I found recovery, from myself…and in recovery I discovered a way of living that was tolerant, open, and assumed to know as little as possible, and instead acknowledged our own ignorance.  Because we knew little, and because most people who end up in recovery tend to be “seekers,” we are taught to embrace our own ignorance, and stop pretending like we’ve got life figured out!  This was really refreshing, relaxing, and I found much irony in that fact that I’ve met some of the most enlightened people I’ve been exposed to in recovery, and the most enlightened amongst them, would tell you they don’t know a thing. Some truly humble people, that in their acceptance, found great wisdom and the ability to help others.

When I got there, I was pretty deeply rooted in a “no religion,” worldview.  I felt that all people of religion were aggressive warmongers, anti-diversity, and simple-minded and scared, seeking comfort by looking down their noses at others as a default setting.  However I was taught in recovery that people of all persuasions may have something to teach.  And that if a person found peace and tranquility in ANYTHING, then good for them, and I shouldn’t judge them and should remain open-minded to what they had to say.   I found a lot of peace in this outlook, and it allowed me to take a deep breath!  I remember lots of phrases related to God and religion, that I’d never really been exposed to, and that I found appealing.  “Why don’t you choose your own conception of God?” and “I wasn’t angry or anti-God, but I didn’t like many of His ‘representatives,’ on earth.”  These phrases opened my mind, and thus opened me to religion.

Growing up in the “bible belt,” I’d been exposed to church a handful of times, but that exposure was overwhelmingly to a certain evangelical branch that shall remain nameless. I don’t mean to knock anyone’ s beliefs, because these folks have apparently found something they’re looking for.  But it sure wasn’t attractive to me, and it didn’t appeal.  They just didn’t seem to have much that I wanted, and I suspect that many non-believers and people on the fence have the same reaction. This group has a loud voice, and often drowns out any other that tries to explain or be an example of Christianity. Thus they end up being what people feel “Christianity,” is and they just don’t know any better. Effectively monopolizing the religion with their fiery interpretation of faith. What’s interesting is as much as I heard from these folks in my lifetime, even attending some of the related churches, I didn’t know that much about what they believed.  What I did know…is the consequences they promised for non-belief. Which is so unfortunate, because Christianly is a beautiful, tolerant, loving religion, with so many faces and things to learn about.  But these extremists, with their fear-mongering message of intolerance of diversity and consequences to those that aren’t like them, it may appeal to some.  But the number of people that are open to it and will want to become a part of it is growing smaller with each passing year.  Modern generations don’t want hate and intolerance, and have trouble accepting a God that is focused on anything other than love.  At least this is my observation and belief based on what I see happening today.

So these folks, and their extreme version of Christianity, it doesn’t represent all of us.  It’s simply become a stereotype, as relevant as saying that asians are all short, or african-americans all like rap music, or white people can’t jump or dance! It’s unfair, and it’s ignorant, but it comes back to the loudest voices getting the attention. This denomination believes they have it right, everyone else has it wrong, and not even other Christians will be getting the benefit of the doubt in the hereafter.  God is draconian, unforgiving, and judgmental…breathing fire and damning sinners to hell.  The motivations of these believers often were suspect to me.  It didn’t seem like they showed up on Sunday to learn and seek happiness, so they could go out to the world that week, and be better people, more tolerant and tolerable for their fellows that came into contact with them. They just seemed to do whatever it took to ensure an afterlife on streets covered in gold.

A few years ago,  I had a boss that explained to me how his church opened a medical clinic to treat the less fortunate, and as he was explaining this to recruit me, he ended by asking where I went to church.  I told him, and explained how we too,  had just opened a gorgeous state of the art clinic available pro bono for those otherwise unable to afford it.  He replied that he had heard about it, and asked if I knew that my church had accepted government grants to supplement donations (by the way, this is probably the largest and nicest free clinic in the state), and that because of this, agreed to not preach or attempt to convert patients who visited. He stated that his church had considered and turned down grants, opting to have a policy that if a patient were unwilling to listen to a sermon, then they could seek help elsewhere. I didn’t know any of this, and so I couldn’t retort, and he kept on me and badgered me about my beliefs and my church and implicated that we should be ashamed of ourselves.  I wasn’t sure I knew why they took the grant, but I had an inkling.  So the following Sunday I sought out my pastor and asked him.  He explained  “the point is to offer help and reach as many people that need it as possible.  Studies show that many of the less fortunate would rather remain sick or ill, than seek help in a church sponsored clinic. The elders decided that maybe it was because they just wanted to feel better, and didn’t want to be preached at, and further that  Jesus taught that help should include no strings.”  (Matthew 10:8) On Monday I returned and explained this to my boss.  He mumbled something about believing in the healing of the mind, body and soul (as if my church didn’t), and unlike before, when he wanted to discuss it thoroughly since I had no reply as to why they accepted the grant, he quickly moved off the subject. No wonder so many people on the fence are turned off by Christianity!  “We’ll help you, but on our terms”  Umm, which verse is that in the bible?  Where does this ignorance come from? And why does the loudest and most noticeable denomination of christianity in America spew it?

Anyway, thanks to recovery I decided to open my mind to religion and to see if I could find some things in common with believers, instead of focusing on the things I didn’t like. Lo and behold, this strategy worked really well for me!  I must give credit to the church I reference above, as they taught a version that I was immediately drawn to. Since my beliefs may not exactly reflect all of theirs, I won’t name names, but the head pastor preached of tolerance, impartiality, love, and lack of judgment.  I can honestly say that in almost four years of attending said church, I’ve still yet to hear the man utter the word “hell.”  Also, he stressed the fact that he’s just a normal human being like you and me, very little different. That he made mistakes, wasn’t always a great example of a “godly person.”  One time they had a series on the 7-Deadly Sins, and for the sermon on lust, when he walked out and got started, the background music playing was Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”  Everyone was kind of looking around at one another like “what,” but he came out and had a mischievous smile on his face, and the first thing he said was something like “c’mon people, it’s just a song.”  I will say, this isn’t a Unitarian or Congregational church, or anything outside the norm.  In fact, it’s the largest congregation in my hometown, and we’re one of the dreaded “mega-churches,” that I was certain I’d be so turned off by.  But found myself pleasantly surprised, that they did things their own way.

I’m not totally sure what my pastor would say about my “Jesus is the son of God, and so are all of us,” belief.  He may tell me that isn’t specific enough, and that I need to believe Jesus is the one and only literal Son of God, and the rest of us are only figuratively such.  But honestly, I think he’d tell me that as long as I believe, accept Him as my Lord and Savior, and am comfortable and get the benefits of living the life of a believer…that I’m doing alright.  It’s certainly what I believe.  And furthermore it allows me to stop debating in my head and stop asking so many dang questions! And just focus on the things I do believe, and gain the benefit of that.  If I were debating a skeptic and he brought up “water turned into wine,” or “lepers healed by touch,” “fish magically appearing in a barren sea,”  I don’t know about those things….the bible says them, and I tend to believe what I read in the bible, but overall I just don’t really care or focus on them.  My opinion on those aspects of my religion, doesn’t have to settle the question of whether or not I’m a “Christian.” If you want to discuss Christianity, then let’s talk about turning the other cheek, loving thy neighbor, generosity, and a life lived for others.  I don’t care about the specificity of the other stuff and have accepted that some mystery pertaining to my God…is just fine, and probably should be embraced.

Having laid out what I believe, brings me to my original motivation for writing this post.  I’ve read so much lately about Caitlyn Jenner; very hateful, very judgmental things, written mostly by Christians.  I ask, how is this a reflection of the teachings of Jesus Christ? Why does Caitlyn Jenner wanting to be a woman, have any impact on anyone else?  I read posts and articles about how she’s “not a hero,” and comparing her “hero status,” to that of troops overseas.  Why do we insist on doing this? Who cares? Why is calling her a hero a bruise on the hero status of overseas troops?  What is a hero?  Isn’t it someone that a group of people look up to and feel inspired by?  I have faith that many people in the LGBT community, probably feel inspired and look up to Caitlyn Jenner.  She may not be a hero to evangelical Christians, but if she absolutely is to LGBT people…at least some of them. Why do Christians get to marginalize her, and have the final say on who is or isn’t a hero? Is it because one group has heroes who matter and are important, while another doesn’t.  “Christians,” that want to say she’s not a hero, and get caught up in bashing her, certainly feel she is less than they are.  That because of her transgender status, she is a sinner and a person of poor morals.  This one fact about her, overshadows any good deed, or positive thing she’s ever done…it’s all washed away and now she’s a dirty sinner who’s turned her back on God.  She says she’s a Christian…HA!  Obviously she’s not our type of Christian.  (I wonder what you say about me?)

I know the bible says homosexuality is a sin.  But I also have zero doubt that homosexuality and transgender people have no control over how they feel, and they were born feeling that way.  For every example of a man or woman “saved,” by the church from homosexuality. You’ve got an example of a person with a polished veneer, but a tortured soul.  I don’t know if they’ve been brainwashed, but I know the “gay wasn’t prayed away.” (I believe in the power of prayer, it works for me and I do it multiple times a day for relief, but I don’t believe for one second you can “pray away the gay.”) There are powerful tactics people can use to bend the minds of people.  You may bend a person’s mind, but there soul is and always will be, what they were born with.  And in Caitlyn Jenner’s case….it’s the soul of a woman.

So when we want to impose our morals on others, ask ourselves just how “perfect,” we are ourselves.  When we say a person is a “good Christian,” or “comes from a good Christian family,” remember that Christians don’t have a monopoly on goodness.  And in fact, they have just as much of a relationship with evil, as any other religion.  In fact, in many cases more so.  Religion is, unfortunately, the basis of a majority of evil in this world.  Many deeds throughout history that shock and appall, have been done in the name of religion.  Further, I’d venture to guess that 75% of these deeds are split between Christianity and Islam.  Chew on that for a bit, and ask if you’re propagating a version of your religion that turns it’s back on this fact, or embraces it?

When you see an abortion clinic was bombed, behind the closed doors of your home, do you privately think “well they had it coming?” and thus keep their mouths shut instead of speaking out against extremists. Maybe even subconsciously? I’d venture to wager, that just as many evangelical Christians, deep inside harbor a feeling like this. But would criticize Muslims for seeing terror acts and not speaking out.  Instead of relating to them if they thought “well they poke in our business and view us as barbaric,” and thus keep their mouths shut.  So many Christians are up in arms that the Muslim world hasn’t united to decry their own people, misguided as they are, when they haven’t done so either.  Neither vehemently speaks out against violence done on behalf of their faith?  Hypocorisy abounds in the religious world, and it’s one of the biggest turn offs to those on the fence.

So today, I will try to live in the image of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I’ll pray for my enemies and those that I question how they live their life.  I’ll refrain from passing judgment on anyone, lest I find myself being judged (SCARY!)  And I’ll do my best to live for you, and let God worry about me.  Because I’m happiest when I do so.  I hope others can consider some of what I said, and not just dig in their heels and fall back on the accuracy of their religious opinions. Open your mind and your soul, love thy neighbor…and pray for Caitlyn Jenner. And while your at it…please pray for me too.

Movavi Video Suite is the ONLY Choice for Video Conversion and Editing


As many of you know, I am a lover of movies and TV. Over the past 7 months or so, I’ve accumulated quite an impressive collection of various videos. Over 700 films, from classics to primarily movies from the past few years (I started by getting movies I’d never seen). As well as my favorite TV shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and my latest discovery….the American Experience on PBS. American Experience is easy to find online at various sources and so I will focus on its episodes with regard to my main purpose, which is to introduce you to the Movavi Video Suite family of products, and how they can help you to begin to, or enhance your existing efforts to build a collection of high quality videos.

I started with a couple of the American Experience shows, I believe my first downloads were “Surviving the Dust Bowl,” “Battle of the Bulge,” and “JFK: Like No Other.” I was so impressed with the content, format and production that I decided to seek out more episodes. For those that are uninformed of this show, it’s been produced on PBS since 1988, and as of this writing there are well over 300 episodes. They’ve included award nominees and winners including season 4’s “LBJ,” parts 1 & 2, which won the Writer’s Guild award for best documentary (have you ever said LBJ, as if it were a spanish word, like “El…”? If not, I highly recommend that you do so now, and enjoy the giggle.) And more recently, season 26’s “Last Days in Vietnam,” which was nominated for an Oscar. If you are a history buff, even on topics you are well versed, you can learn a lot from watching American Experience.

For me, a man who likes to own copies of his favorite film and TV, is that American Experience is widely availabile from various sites online. For starters PBS has over 30 available to watch, then you can find many more on YouTube and other websites that allow you to watch for free. Take it a step further and using an application such as iSkySoft video down-loader or many others similar, you can easily and quickly download anything you can view live on the internet. In fact Movavi may even allow you to use it to download from the web, but I learned iSkySoft a while ago, and have grown comfortable with it and never even looked into Movavi for this purpose. If you download one of these many types of online down-loaders, it’s simple to click a button and then you have an MP4 of your very own.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, there are a few “buts,” first of which can be the quality. The versions downloaded directly from PBS are in HD, and even YouTube has many that come correct. However, there have been some like “The Man Behind Hitler,” “The Great San Francisco Earthquake,” (which is episode 101, the first ever in season 1 1988), and others that you just can’t get a good copy of. But not all is lost! This is where the great Movavi Video Suite, and in particular Movavi Video Converter comes in to save the day and offer a valuable solution.

Movavi in itself, allows you to take any video that you have in a file on your desktop or laptop, or any hard drive, and convert it for viewing either on your client or media player. Formats that it can handle include: AVI, MP4, FLV, MPEG-1,2, MOV, MKV, WMV, VOB, 3GP, WebM, OGV, SWF, MP3, AAC, WAV, and more. However from YouTube or other sources you’re unlikely to find many formats outside of those Movavi can handle. Not only will it convert from and to these formats, but it will also allow you to improve the quality of the download. Some improvements are simple such as: decrease file size, convert AVI to MP4 (one example, you can do almost any type of container conversion with little to zero quality loss), trim, crop, flip, rotate, lower or increase the volume, enhance with all types of additions to the film, as well as add or remove subtitles and soundtracks. Speaking of subtitles, you can also find a version online of almost any language track you are interested in! You can find subtitles at sites such as:

Once you have the subtitle track in the language you desire, Movavi will practically do the rest itself. Just follow some simple instructions and you’re in business.

Another major benefit of this program is that it is able to convert your file into a compatible version for iPad, iPod, iPhone, Nokia, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets, Android devices, Sony PSP, Google Nexus, Xbox 360, and more! This is really handy and unique to Movavi, and you may not realize it if you’ve watched a movie you downloaded on your phone before. But if you get a movie through iTunes, and you’ve got it on your laptop, phone and iPad…it’s only intended for one of these devices. So maybe it’s watchable, maybe you haven’t even noticed. But if and when you take the film and convert it into a version that is styled and intended for your specific phone or tablet, trust me you will then notice the difference.

I want to take a break here to address the concerns of my mother, and your mother…and probably many other people that think this all sounds really complicated. IT’S NOT! Well at least it’s not if you are using Movavi, which is simple and intuitive. This isn’t to say instinct will guide you through every step and that you can blindly become a pro video converter. But I’d compare learning how to utilize the features of Movavi Video Suite products to the learning curve of that first iPhone you bought. Now yes, you’ve used phones before, so it wasn’t starting from scratch, but Movavi Video Suite products are just that simple to use. Most are clearly labeled, and help is available both on the application and online via power user led forums, and Movavi technical support. Support is available with Movavi technicians Monday through Friday, midnight to 6PM (Coordinated Universal Time), or 4Pm to 10AM (Pacific Standard Time). Technicians are available to chat, email and discuss any issue you are having on the telephone.

Now back to all the great things about Movavi Video Suite products and features it has! I was just explaining the ability to convert videos for playback on specific types of device. But if you’re taking the video on your mobile, you need to make sure that you have some basic security in place right? Well Movavi Video Suite products have got you covered there as well. Movavi Video Suite products allow you to add watermarks, add captions and even to add an intro page at the beginning or end with your details so if an honest person comes across it, they can get it back to you….most likely with a compliment on the beauty of your videos and a question on how they too can achieve such professional looking quality!

One problem that Movavi Video Suite products has helped me to overcome, is the ratio or “size,” of an image you see on screen. I’m a stickler about filling as much of my screen as possible. No letterbox, widescreen or other types of video are acceptable in the Van Every home. I want to stretch that video so it fills the screen. With Movavi Video Suite products you are able to easily resize the images with a simple click and drag technique. I mention specifically that other products do this as well, however it’s rare to find one such as Movavi, that will allow you to click and drag. This reaffirms my position that anybody can use this software, as it’s not necessary that you know the size you need, or how large your screen can handle. Simply drag it to the edges of the editing window, and click done.

Speaking of the editing window, sometimes when you download a video from YouTube or similar you will end up with dead space at the beginning or end, a video that is three times as long as necessary because the up-loader has “looped,” it for some unknown reason. They may even add some personalization or a promo of themselves as if they are Spielberg. Luckily the Movavi Video Suite products have this covered as well with the trim option. The user interface is simple as all you do is drag the movie, represented in a “status line,” to the point where you want it to begin and then cut out the beginning! You can also do the same at the end, and once you’ve got it all dialed in simply click “convert.” Voila, you’ve got a movie with a running time of 123 minutes, and a personal video version with a running time of 123 minutes! Taking it to the next level, you can splice clips together to make a movie or show split into two parts into one, or even take a movie with two discs and make one. Does anyone remember the made for TV epic “Lonesome Dove?” Well, I own a CD of this that I’ve had for years, and I tinkered with Movavi Video Suite and was able to take the four discs that make up the entire series, and I now have one file on my iTunes for Lonesome Dove, albeit one file that is six hours and 55 minutes long! But as I hope you’ve come to understand, Movavi Video Suites products are all about personalization, and for this guy that rocks!

Finally, and potentially most important, is increasing the quality of the film or show you’ve downloaded. Unfortunately via YouTube you’re not always going to get a high quality HD video. Not to say that you can’t find that video of your choice in HD or at least an acceptable quality, but for many you will not. However, with the help of Movavi Suite products, quality is job one! Simply download the video of your choosing (do use the highest quality you can find, as the better you start with the better you’ll end up with…and it will take you a lot less time), and then with a few simple settings changed Movavi Suite products will take that old clunker, and “Pimp that Video!” I was skeptical of this at first, in fact I would spend my valuable time scouring the depths of the internet to find a better version of a video I wanted to have. Sometimes I’d find it, others not so much. No more thanks to Movavi Video Suite products is this an issue. Now I just take the best I can easily find and then upgrade it to the quality that I desire. I prefer my movies in 1080 HD, and with Movavi Video products, this is easily accomplished. As I stated above in parentheses, do be aware of the quality you find, and if given a choice, or a couple quick searches you are able to find a better video to start with, I encourage you to download that version. The video you start with will impact the end result, and if you take a 280p video and try to make it into a 780p or above, you may end up with the results you seek, but you’re computer will be locked down editing for the next 24, 48 or even 72 hours! I am usually able to find a version that my conversion takes an hour tops.

In conclusion, with the Movavi Video Suite family of products, you can convert to and from just about any type of video file. Movavi Video Suite products allow you to convert video, audio, and DVD as well as play the videos on mobile devices. The conversion speed with the most common types of video files is much faster than with most other types of video conversion software programs. And of course, the entire process is so easy and has so much help available that even a monkey in a closed room, typing on a typewriter could use it. Literally the process is as easy as adding your video, selecting the file type you want to convert to and clicking on Convert.

Video Converter

Sparrow Hawk Revealed

This is an article I wrote in the July 18, 2005 issue of The Northeastern.  At the time I was a staff write, but did go on to become an editor, and this was my first front page headline. Sparrow Hawk is a controversial and purportedly odd place up in the hills near the Illinois River.  I was proud of the interviews and research that went into this article and attempted to set the record straight about the people I met there.

Aura of mystery surrounds Sparrow Hawk

Many rumors circulate around Tahlequah and the NSU campus regarding Sparrow Hawk Village.  Some say that the residents are a mysterious cult, and that they are bad news.

“I’ve heard the rumors, but my kid’s doctor lives there with his wife who is a dentist.  I can attest that they are very normal,” said professor Kin Thompson.”

Everyone seems to have their own opinion as to exactly what goes on there.

“Somebody said they worship peacocks,” said Donita Osawee, Tahlequah graduate.”

While the peacock rumor is one that will raise eyebrows, it is not near as disturbing as some more extreme ideas such as residents of Sparrow Hawk Village throwing babies off of he cliff!  This idea is one that even residents of Sparrow Hawk cannot explain.

“We have never heard that one, but of course, it’s completely ridiculous,” said Doris Pass, Sparrow Hawk resident from Tulsa.

Sparrow Hawk village is many things. It is Sancta Sophia Seminary, a university where students from all over the world come to study theology and various religions This school has all of the facilities of most universities including a cafeteria, a wellness center and of course, a library.

“This is a metaphysical research library, one third of our collection are books that are no longer in print and extremely rare.  We have over 150 subjects covering all areas of spirituality,”  said Jenny Roberts, Sparrow Hawk librarian from Tuttle.

The library is primarilty for student use but people in Tahlequah can apply for library priveleges.

“People in town have them,” said Roberts.

Sparrow Hawk is also the LIfe of Christ  Community Church, where every Sunday morning members gather to praise and worship by learning and singing.

“We sing all kinds of songs, not just typically religious ones.  We sing ‘We are the World,’ ‘Oklahoma,’ and ‘It’s a Small World,’ then we also sing all the national, patriotic songs,”  said Pass.

Founded in 1981 by Carol Parrish an Charles Harrah, Sparrow Hawk Village is a place where individuals and families choose to live in a small community, where they know their neighbors and enjoy some of the most beautiful views in the area.  The community currently has between 90 to 100 residents, ranging in age from 2 to 90 years old.  They have their own fire department with 22 firefighters including women.

“We get more calls for 911 and emergency responses than actually fighting fires,” said Charles Pass, Sparrow Hawk fire chief.

The church, which is “Holistic Christian,” is a Christian church, but they emphasize the metaphysical in life and adapt aspects of various religions to explain life’s mysteries.  To many Christians the idea that there are many roads to the same God is blasphemy.  However, for Holistic Christians, this is exactly what they believe.

“We believe there are many paths to the same afterlife, whether you are Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim, you are welcome at our church and we incorporate those beliefs,” said Pass.

As far as peacocks, there place in Sparrow Hawk life is greatly exaggerated.

“When Carol Parrish started this community a peacock appeared on the mountain and to protect it and take care of it they built a cage and started feeding it.  Over the years people have given peacocks to the community and we always take them in.  We raise them just like some people raise llamas or anything else,” said Pass.

The peacocks are nothing more than pets, but what about the cross on top of the hill?  Many locals talk about how it used to be painted black.  This accusation of a black cross on Sparrow Hawk hill might help explain some of the feelings about the place.

“When the well was first drilled there was a black waterproof undercoating that was put on it.  It was painted white after a couple months, but people had already started talking about how we put up a black cross.  I suppose people just believe what they want to believe,” said Pass.

After a visit, it may seem to be that Sparrow Hawk village is a pretty normal place.  Visitors see residents as nice and friendly as the could be and Sparrow Hawk residents love when outsiders come up to learn what they are all about. They are open to the public and they have a gift shop and bookstore where visitors can buy things like candles and incense.  Church services are held every Sunday morning at 11 a.m. and guests are always invited to come and check it out.

“We love when people come and visit us, we just wish more did,” said Pass. 8762077_orig

My New Home, Mobile Work Station (well maybe it’s not that mobile, but it could be)

I say not that mobile, because I’ve yet to use it anywhere other than lounging on my ass in my La-Z-Boy! But that was the idea, and I’ll break down how I got to this and each step/inspiration. I must declare, the final product exceeded my expectations and I’m really proud and it’s as productive or more so than a “Home Office.”

So I got the La-Z-Boy, and as any man who owns one will tell you, once you go La-Z-Boy***, well you may end up with bed-sores on your hindquarters.

***It’s a similar implication to that classic if not classy description of sex with an African-American woman “Once you go black…” (you get the rest, I regret I must refrain as this is a family blog).  We all know what they say about the berry right? 

La-Z-Boy firmly attached to my ass, sitting anywhere else was no longer really much of an option. Unfortunately, “full 180 degree reclining, with optional heated seat” had never been proven compatible with “productivity filled home office.”  But I’m nothing if not up for a challenge, and shoot, it had to be possible! I mean, once you own a LZB, is sitting elsewhere really an option? Could it even be a potential health risk?  Try to say those three words out loud (Lazyboy, sit, elsewhere”) and you’ll see…it’s practically a tongue twister. Okay, so it’s not “Peter Piper Picked…” but it’s not as if it just rolls off the tongue either.  It’s certainly no “Miercoles.”

What to do? Well, I came to the obvious conclusion that instead of leaving the La-Z-Boy feeling needy and unappreciated, I needed to bring the work space to me…er, I mean to the La-Z-Boy. So I set about researching portable desk ideas and shopping.

When I shop online, it can take me a long time to make my decision. I do a ton of research, but it usually does pay off. How much is “a ton?” Well, when I bought the USB hub (we’ll get to it’s application), I logged on Amazon to pick one out and hit “pay now,” on Friday evening, and by bedtime Sunday I had finally skinned the proverbial cat. So anyway, I searched reviews to decide what would work for this conundrum of La-Z-Boy meeting productive office space most effectively. Should I go with the “rests on arms of chair,” u-shaped-tummy rounded desk? Perhaps a pop leg desk that crosses my lap? Or the traditional bean-bag lap desk? Oh the decisions life presents…and their lasting impact on our future.  Here’s a couple examples, can you spot the one with long-lasting life implications?

  1. Get behind the wheel after breaking the all-time keg stand record
  2. Purchase portable work desk in the style of “bean-bag,” or “tummy-wrap arm rest”

Long story, slightly less long…I settled on a sliding under the chair, extended table top desk.  ***Coaster Desks Laptop Computer Stand with Adjustable Swivel Top and Casters

51hK+MKNcOL(Amazon ASIN: B003TPAV3E)

It is easily moved, and I can get up and down from my chair without adjustment it. Obviously it’s primary benefit is convenience, but additionally it can hold several items, and includes the “tilty, back-and-forth table top,” thingy so I don’t have to move my neck much when I lie in prone position to analyze a spreadsheet. However, and this is exciting because my first customization is happening, I wanted more “tilty,” so I added a laptop mount to set on the table top.


So things with the work station are going well, actually that’s selling it short…they’re really starting to go quite well. But no peace is truly made to last and over time I moved more and more tasks to my “desk,” and I began to experience USB availability issues. I had my wireless keyboard fob and wireless mouse fob requiring (impending high level math) __ of __ available ports on my Macbook.  If I wanted to connect my iPhone or iPad, potentially to sync, charge, download a “movie,” I had to make another decision, and that prospect I think I’ve already established…is not my forte.  And in this ever more reliant on computing world, what if both “i,” products needed to sync or charge simultaneously? Or even my Kindle suddenly demanded new content? All the while, I’m suffering the humiliation of not using my wireless keyboard of mouse! Not to mention the future is unpredictable.  Who know, some day my full size nude blow up doll (with life-like ‘humid’ ……) may be USB compatible.

So I started the fore mentioned 48-hour search for a USB hub. Initially thinking 4 ports would be plenty, but in reading reviews I repeatedly saw it suggested to err on the side of as many available ports as possible.  Silly me, of course more is always advantageous…except when in reference to:

  1. Herpes
  2. Nervous gents in the aisle seat with the surname “Al-Badhawi”
  3. Movies produced by….I feel tacky putting them on blast publicly so I’ll simply say the name starts with “Happy,” and ends with “Madison”

Also, in researching, I determined I needed to have USB ports that were “3.0,” as this allows for much faster data transfer, and even though my current laptop only has 2.0 ports…I think I’ve already established that I like to consider possibilities in the….well heck, I forgot? Finally, good to have at least 2 high-speed charging ports for the iPhone, Android, tablet, Kindle, etc. The model I settled on is a LOFTEK® Inet SV720 High-Speed USB 3.0 7 Port Hub + 2 USB Charging Ports with 5V 2.1A & 5V 1A, 12V 4A Power Adapter and Micro B to USB 3.0 Cable In  61kDXNb1kuL._SL1500_