32 Puppy Mill Dogs Seized in Tazewell County, VA

“Allegations of puppy mills are not that common here. It’s a very unusual circumstance. We’ve really not had that problem.” 

The above quote is from a 2008 article published by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.  Then-CA Dennis Lee had that to say after a seizure and arrest at the same address where [32 dogs were removed from a hoarding/puppy mill situation today.](https://www.facebook.com/tazewellcountysheriffsoffice/posts/2034978276540342?__xts__[0]=68.ARBECiH1rOM__zdLYoIIehHYNooEPT7WY-9cxcaXLbwCVnlEJKbBECALVRdIgeY6gcnIUHchkn4fj096W-zECcThYCNQZfkwfoY1MsewLYopQKEaQNXA3TBpv2yUvUwg9ZR3wVpgUVKgDRT6EmaSB29IB87JYBFL2DR-UfwV28Vj5Y2T4V2iPg&__tn__=-R)

Let me go on record as saying that I applaud the quick response from the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office to reports of this problem. I exclude them from any remark made beyond this paragraph. They did a heck of a job mobilizing to help these dogs. The problems that led up to this incident did not come from that agency.

In 2013, my rescue organization began to inform county officials that indeed there is a problem with backyard breeders (unincorporated puppy mills) in Tazewell County, and the 62% kill rate at our local shelter was plenty of evidence to support our claim. David White, Director of the Tazewell County Animal Shelter, told Jim Spencer, then County Administrator, that he was very pleased with the performance of our shelter because it had passed state inspection seven years in a row, despite the deplorable kill rate, of which he wasn’t even aware until we told him.

Soon after these facts and statistics were presented to county administration, Ginny Dawson brought a folder full of charts and graphs and other propaganda to an Animal Shelter board meeting to “prove” how well our shelter performed in comparison to the other Pocket of Shame SW Virginia Counties: Russell and Buchanan. David White then expressed very clearly—actually said the words when pressed—that he had no interest in seeing the Tazewell County Animal Shelter become a no-kill facility.

I have my own issues with no-kill, as evidenced by the article published earlier this week by our Director. This doesn’t mean I oppose the practice. However, shortly after that meeting, an attorney employed by the County Attorney’s office was overheard at a local hair salon explaining to fellow clients that Tazewell ARC was a fraudulent organization, that they were processing several complaints against us, and that people should not under any circumstances donate to our rescue.

Getting back to the dogs seized today from the Jewell Ridge home—according to the information released on Facebook, they’ll go to the Tazewell County Animal Shelter to be held as evidence until the court date. I want every single one of you to stop whatever you’re doing, including reading the next paragraph of this post, and think about this for a minute: the Tazewell Shelter has approximately twenty runs. Thirty-two dogs were seized. Yes, many of them can be housed together. But what in the name of God and all things holy do you think happened to the dogs who were occupying those kennels when the sun came up this morning? Next, ponder this: according to information I FOIAed from the County Attorney’s office, in 2016 and 2017 the grand total of solid waste deposited in the Tazewell County Landfill was 228,240 pounds, or 114 U.S. tons. You really think all that was dog shit?

So here’s the next question. For the next month, or two months, or however long it takes for this case to be disposed, what do you think is going to happen to owner surrenders being led through the front door of a kill shelter with no available space? Remember that according to Virginia law, it’s legal to kill them immediately upon intake. What’s going to happen to every single stray after their five-day hold is up? We hope like heck that rescue organizations will line up to help after all the media attention. Will TARC? We’re forbidden from pulling dogs from the Tazewell Animal Shelter, remember? That hasn’t changed. Nor is it likely to, even though a legal case could easily be made to override David White’s mandate. Not a battle that interests me in the slightest.

What about the local Humane Society? They have no facility and few—if any–fosters. So good luck with that.

Tazewell County has gaslighted every nonprofit and private rescue agency that has ever tried to step in and help this community in any meaningful way. It’s not just us, although we’ve probably been the most vocal about it. Now, when social media has made it impossible to hide behind rhetoric and bully tactics like the Good Old Boys (and Gals) did in years past, it’s a whole new ballgame. Do I think its possible that outside agencies will step in to help? Sure. There’s going to be plenty of mainstream media coverage about this, most likely to the deep chagrin of the Mountain Mafia. But my sincere hope is that all the people shown in these Facebook images of officials and officers and county personnel wading knee-deep in dog shit, handling dogs who look like they’re crawling with fleas and mange and all manner of parasites and fungus, will finally get a good, hard dose of what front-line rescuers have to deal with EVERY SINGLE DAY. Welcome to our world, Princes and Princesses. You think THAT house was rough? You ain’t seen nothing like the crap we save dogs from all the time, at our own personal expense, amidst ridicule and persecution from residents and county officials alike. Oh, yeah…also in the face of public accusations by Humane Society volunteers that we are hoarders ourselves. (Yes, we still have the screenshot of that comment so I don’t advise starting a war to deny it. Bad, bad optics, and not for us.)

If this doesn’t wake some people up around here to the dire need for social and political responsibility regarding animal welfare in Central Appalachia, it’s doubtful anything will. Go ahead and continue with Dennis Lee’s legacy of “we’ve really not had that problem.” Keep letting the REAL rescuers go unfunded, unsupported, and harassed by people on county and city payroll. Just remember that the world is watching you now, Tazewell County. It’s up to you, how you look in the eyes of an international society that regularly compares you to a Third World country. I really do hope you step up and start the long process of making all this right. Despite everything I’ve reminded you of in previous paragraphs, Iwill support an honest effort.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Who Said Things Get Easier on the Downhill Side?


Any of you ever feel like this guy?

Yeah, well–me too. My nonprofit rescue, @tarc, is finally moving forward with the October transport, but I’m starting to get a little ragged around the edges. This is hard work. And really, folks…the situation needs to change. It’s ridiculous for so many animals to die so routinely in U.S.shelters that groups like mine even have to exist. We should be spaying and neutering the problem away, not killing ourselves trying to shovel snow in a blizzard.

Here’s the latest post I made about the problem. If you love animals, please take a moment to read it. It may open your eyes to some very unsettling truths about the animal sheltering system in the United States. The Land of the Free isn’t as “developed” as it purports to be. It’s time we stand together as a nation and demand better from ourselves.

I’m starting a Discord for Steemians who’d like to get involved in our push for awareness and change. If you have a social media following away from the blockchain–or even if you don’t–this might be a good chance for you to get involved in a mission of mercy that could span the globe. I’ll be dropping the link to this post in a few Discord DM inboxes over the next few days, and I’ll also be talking about this on Thursday during Pimp Your Post in the Steemit Ramble. That streaming show is hosted by @shadowspub, and is frequently attended by animal lovers and all around good people.I can’t imagine Thursdays without it.

As it stands, the transport is scheduled to leave on the twentieth of this month. Two dogs are going to Vermont on commercial transport and four are going into New Hampshire. This marks the beginning of new lives for them, safe from kill shelters, abuse, and neglect. They are so very deserving of a happy ending. I’m so happy to see it all come together!

cover image source


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

So You Wanna Be Divisive? Bring It.

What follows is a derivative of a comment I made on Steem earlier today. I thought about it, thought about it some more, and decided that I’m just going to post this for everyone to see. Well, not everyone, obviously, because the recent rash of unfollows I’ve had by people associated with a certain community on Discord will hide this from their view. Unless, of course, it trends, or lots of people resteem it. Be my guest. Please.

I’m not going to name names in this post. No names at all. Most people will know instantly who I mean. If you don’t, it won’t take much digging to find out. But I want this to be as far from mudslinging as possible, even though that expectation isn’t very realistic. I’m not looking to start a war. Thing is, though—I didn’t, and I won’t, because you can’t start what’s already happening. This war has been simmering in the trenches for months, despite the attempts of many people to circumvent it.

I stand by my choice for witness team alignment, despite the controversy associated with it. I kept waiting to for those who warned me about a certain witness partner to be proven right, and him to be proven base of character the way they claimed. As time went on, the inverse became true based on behaviors I saw with my own eyes. Let’s just call this witness partner “X.” That will suffice for now.

People can “claim” anything they want. For my own personal knowledge, I asked the person who claims “X” owes him money if he would offer proof. He didn’t just fail to do so, he flat-out refused. Publicly, in front of many witnesses. Yet the money is still an issue? How? For me, the fact that “X” needed money to care for two animals he committed to says more about his character than that of any self-righteous accuser. It demonstrates loyalty and a clear understanding of ethical responsibility. If the money was a gift, as “X” maintains, what repayment is owed? If not a gift, as the other guy claims, then why be so cagey about offering proof? There’s no logic in his decision to withhold evidence that substantiates his case.

Then we get back to the moral code of the people in question. First, none of the people involved with my witness team or Discord community ever engaged in divisive conduct. We included everyone in everything. Shared members, shared moderators. Shared witness support. No one can argue that “X” says things in the most diplomatic manner, because clearly he doesn’t. But I’ve yet to see him be proven wrong about any points he’s made. Others, however…wow. The behaviors! Licentious remarks in public forums. The creation of an entire Steem account to mock an accidental misspelling of “X’s”name that was downright vulgar. Is there no sense of shame with these people? What about publicly ridiculing a person’s appearance after they took chemotherapy and years of immunosuppressants? Yet somehow all of this is okay? But wait–the best (or worst, depending on which camp a person is in,) is the blatant edict by a community leader for his entire drone army to disassociate from “X” and any initiatives he’s part of. This edict came with the express threat of removing delegations and all support from anyone who affiliates with “X.” And the whole drone army concurred that this was acceptable. And yet, this is okay?

Talk about centralized! It’s the antithesis of everything the blockchain is supposed to represent. Bottom line is that no one associated with “X” ever, at any time, forbade anyone else from affiliating with “those other folks,” participating in their servers, voting their witness, or following their blogs. We encouraged cross-promotion and teamwork. Then suddenly there it is, in writing, that the leader of the largest community on Discord has forbidden “his people” from association with “X” or his team witness. What the absolute hell, people? HOW is ANY of this not a thousand times worse than any lip “X” ever gave anyone? Yet they get a free pass for this egregious and downright insidious behavior?

Not from me, they don’t. Never have I been more pleased about where I chose to place my alliance. I’ll take smartass lip over corrupt character any day. I didn’t need anyone whispering crap in my ear or outright threatening me to decide where to place my loyalty. All I had to do was sit back and watch a certain subculture of the Steem community gnaw and gnaw at this bone until finally they broke it in half and divided a year’s worth of friendships and partnerships right down the fucking middle. Congratulations for that accomplishment, folks! You did your drone army proud.

cover image source



Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Who Cares About Thousands of Dead Dogs?

Today, @tarc posted about an emergent need for funding to get six dogs on transport to New England. I understand that for most people, the urgency of this and the reason for doing it seems dubious. Why don’t we just adopt them out locally? Those who follow my rescue’s blog know that here in Central Appalachia, the ratio of unwanted pet to available home is roughly 26:1. The only other option is to kill them, which local municipal shelters do wholesale. @tarc tries to save as many as we can.

I really do get it, that rescue under these conditions is a completely revenue-negative enterprise. There’s simply no way to recover the money we invest in these helpless animals. This makes bad optics for investors, who would only donate if some palpable benefit existed for them. We’re tax-exempt in the US, a designated 501c3, but that doesn’t help people outside our borders. Often the people who have money to help won’t, because there is zero benefit in it for them.

So the dogs at local shelters continue to die by the thousands every year. Tarc continues to drown in unwanted animals. I currently have 46 dogs living inside my house. Yes, as a state-reporting home-based rescue agency I’m set up for this. No. It’s not easy or fun. My health is suffering. I’m flat broke because every dime I make goes into this rescue. I have a fantastic plan for solving the problem in this region permanently, but there are no funds available to do so. So we just keep treading water. Or, more accurately, we keep shoveling snow in a blizzard.


The Great Grant Hoax

“Apply for grants,” some say. If only I had a dime for every grant application I’ve submitted….

Here’s the problem: rescues rarely qualify for grant money these days. It all goes to brick-and-mortar shelters. Groups who do grant money to rescues set absolutely ridiculous parameters that knock small operations like mine completely out of the running. See the screenshot below.

The Rachel Ray grant through Best Friends No More Homeless Pets sounds fantastic, right? Oh, wow! I could get up to $50,000 to spay and neuter community animals! WRONG. I only qualify to receive 10% of our yearly operating budget, which is damn tiny because we have no consistent support from the community we’re trying to help. Ten percent of $9,600 (our yearly budget) is $960. That would spay or neuter exactly nine animals. Helpful, yes…but to put it into context, it wouldn’t even cover the cost of the current transport that we’re trying to raise money to fund.

I’ve run into walls like this over and over since starting the rescue. Consider the email I received last year from Two Mauds, a grantmaker specializing in spay/neuter programs: “I wanted to follow up with you that Two Mauds was not able to fund your organization. We had our highest number of requests this year so the competition was strong. I recognize that your part of the state is of highest need, but we will only fund programs that are already established.” 

Okay—what kind of bullshit is that? “We know you have a huge problem there but you’re on your own until you fix the problem yourself.” Seriously?

I’m at my wits end. I really am. I’ve given my whole life to helping these dogs. I’ve lived in this house we bought for the rescue for five years, three of which we’ve had no indoor plumbing other than a hose and one faucet. I make do. There’s barely any heat for winter, and although we did get some wiring done to run a space heater, the whole house will need to be completely rewired before we can install anything better. I have no washer or dryer on the premises. I’ve basically been camping with the dogs I save since 2014. Nearly every week, some new jackass pulls into my driveway wanting to “donate” even more dogs. Evidently they think I need them.

The animal welfare situation local to me is downright absurd. I’ve posted about this many times, so I won’t go into it again. Let’s just put it this way: ordinarily, people think that shelters employ animal lovers with certain animal-related skills. Not when it comes to high kill shelters. No animal lover can stand being there under those gruesome circumstances. Have you ever witnessed euthanasia day? It’s horrid. Who can work in those conditions? Well, guess what—the people who can do it are typically the people who care the least. The ones who can’t hold a job anywhere else. This is not a hard and fast rule, but you can believe it’s situation normal. As a result, the care animals receive in most high kill shelters is deplorable. Want a glimpse into this appalling world? Read a document compiled about a shelter in the county adjacent to me. We’re all tempted to say, “Somebody should do something about that!” Well, I’m “somebody.” Sadly, I’m very much alone.

The Realities of Kill Sheltering

The photos below are tough to take. But please look at them. Once you’ve seen what I see far too often, you probably will no longer wonder why I do what I do.

Nope. They’re not sleeping.

Nope. It ain’t household garbage up to the bedrails of that truck.

Just…no words.

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It’s Not Like There isn’t a Damn Solution

My third novel, soon to be released by Steemhouse Publishing, is based on the horrific data in that report linked above. “High Kill” is not a story about animal abuse. It’s a story about human-on-human murder and violence. But how it all connects is a reality that more and more psychologists and law enforcement agencies are starting to acknowledge. Exposure to the gruesome world of animal sheltering is a daily work hazard for me. And it’s such a thankless job. I’d be fine with that, if only we could consistently raise enough money to do something about the problem. I know exactly how to solve this. I just need help.




Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Talking to the Animals

What If Your Dog Could Talk?

What would she tell you? That her kibble tastes too bland? That she admires you for the work you do? That her mission in life is to be by your side forever? These are things my dog Paige telepathed to animal communicator Tracey Korotky during a phone session we had recently.

For skeptics, even for people who want to believe, it can be easy to dismiss non-verifiable information. So what happens when the information gets specific, and the details coming through are absolutely right?

Tracey received information from Paige that exists nowhere except in the mind of that little dog, the shelter workers, and me, after I was told by the shelter workers five years ago. It isn’t online, isn’t “googleable,” and was not mentioned in any of the conversations Tracey and I had previously. Somehow, Paige communicated that she didn’t “fit,” or belong in any of the three places she’d lived before she came here. Tracey also determined right away that one of those three locations was the side of the road. Ding, ding, ding! You bet it was. Then, Tracey not only picked up on the fact that Paige was transported in the back of a truck (something a shelter worker told me in 2013,) but that she ultimately ended up in the shelter where I found her.

“Do You Really Believe That?”

Of all the backstories that a “cold reader” could have fabricated for an elegant, expressive animal like Paige, the story Tracey related to me would not be the logical choice. The only way Tracey could have gotten those details right is if she tapped into exactly the energy she claims she does. Can I explain it? No. But I experienced it firsthand. Twice. Paige is the second animal Tracey spoke with at my request, and the first animal shared very similar non-public details that there’s simply no other way Tracey could have known.

Tracey asked Paige about her history before she came to me. The concrete details she shared were one hundred percent accurate. Therefore, when Tracey explained that Paige saw her abandonment as an event in her life that built character, that she learned to be very resourceful and survive and doesn’t harbor residual issues, I tend to trust the whole assessment, not just the part I can verify. What sense does it make to believe only the tangibles and discount the intangibles? It doesn’t make sense at all, actually. Based on personal experience, believing what I heard is far more rational than doubting it.

One of the most significant takeaways from Paige’s session with Tracey is the confirmation that Paige serves a very real purpose in my life, in a service-type capacity. This is so significant that I’ll now be looking at certification requirements for canine public access rights. The frantic behavior Paige displays when I’m away from her is not true separation anxiety, but her panic at being thwarted from the job she was placed on this earth to do. It may be years before science can fully explain the blood-pressure and heart-rate lowering effect of pets on their owners. As for me, I don’t need a scientific explanation to know why proximity with Paige has a physiological affect on me. I just know that it does, and that’s the important thing.

“I have always been able to speak to the animals, but for many years I thought it was just stories in my head.”  —-Tracey Korotky

Tracey credits her training in the practice of Reiki for understanding that the stories weren’t just stories. “This is my gift from God,” she says on her website. “I use it to help people and their pets deepen their relationships, strengthen their bonds, and understand each other better.”

Tracey lives in New Jersey, but is able to connect with the energy of pets across great distances. A photo is usually all she needs. She has spoken not only with domestic pets like dogs and cats, but with horses, wildlife, free dolphins, and various cold-blooded critters. Many videos of her at work exist on YouTube. She also has a Facebook page that you can find HERE.

Tracey has the kind of positive energy and connection with her audience that the Steem blockchain needs in its user base. It’s my sincere hope that developers get the kinks worked out of this technology soon so that mass adoption for the platform becomes more practical. With the rise of dApps like @vimm and the integration of the world’s most popular website builder by @steempress.io, we’re shaping the future of the internet. With Hardfork 20 behind us, hopefully the spammer purge is effective and communities that change the Web can become a reality.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

People Gonna People–Thoughts from an Editor

I have something on my mind. These are my thoughts, not necessarily the official opinion of The Writers’ Block as a community, so I decided to post this here, from my own blog. It’s the stance we take at TWB, but I can’t speak for everyone. So I’ll just speak for me.


During my entire writing career, I’ve watched how hard some people resist feedback. They’ve been told by someone somewhere that they have a little talent, then they’ve heard it doesn’t matter what others think so you should just write what makes you happy. These folks have typically built a huge sandcastle around their ideas that’s complete with a moat and flaming arrows aimed at anyone who suggests a different truth.

It’s interesting, watching these people come into workshops where a workmanlike dynamic exists. Sometimes it’s even humorous. Their egos are usually the first thing folks like me see long before I find issues with their writing. When I say “ego,” I’m not talking about boastfulness. I’m talking about the Freudian ego, the part of us that employs all the defense mechanisms. The part of us that lies to ourselves. “Rules don’t matter” is a common theme. “Write what you want” is another. Recently I heard “a quick self-edit is all I usually need.”

Oh, boy. Talk about red flags.

These things may well be true if the person writes for their own catharsis and isn’t particularly interested in gaining an audience. Sadly, it’s also true if a person doesn’t have a genuine concern for their readers, but is only writing to satisfy a need for attention—any attention. So the question is, how many community resources should be invested in their reactions when an attempt to help them goes badly? You can’t please everyone. That’s a fact. And as a community leader, one can’t allow subversive ideas to creep in and undermine the foundation you’ve worked so hard to build. The Writers’ Block has a specific focus and a specific purpose. We exist to offer relevant and sometimes intense feedback for people who have a sincere desire to improve the quality of their writing. You appear in our group and ask for advice, you get it. It’s that simple.


The bottom line is that everyone needs editors. Everyone. Even editors need editors. I wouldn’t dream of publishing a piece of fiction, even on Steemit, that hasn’t been thoroughly evaluated and critiqued by writers I trust. I’ve been writing, edting, and publishing for more than twenty years. And I promise you that a “quick self-edit” is woefully insufficient to prepare my writing for public consumption.

As far as the terse, businesslike approach of most professional editors, how would their feedback best be accomplished? Let me put a different spin on my answer to that: when did telling anyone that their mediocre work is good enough help anyone, especially when an editor knows exactly how to make it better? If someone only wants to hear that what they’re doing is fine, then why join a workshop or ask for feedback at all?

Should we at The Writers’ Block present the “rules” as optional guidelines instead? Actually, we do exactly that. But here’s the rub—if ignoring the “rules” is a liability and weakens the writing, are we not obligated to say as much? Show me passive voice that makes the writing stronger and I won’t red ink it. Show me exposition that doesn’t derail the pacing and it gets a pass from me. Show me omniscient third person that doesn’t headhop and hold the reader at arm’s length, and I won’t say change it to limited third. I’ve seen this once–one time–since I’ve been with The Writers’ Block. Every other time, “omniscient” is a poorly executed mess, and by not saying so, I’m doing the writer a tremendous disservice.

The goal of TWB workshops is to help people write publishable work that meets the standard of today’s mainstream industry. Do lazy writers get publishing deals? All the time. Many bestselling authors make me cringe, yet they earn millions every year. However, it’s important to remember that to get a book deal in today’s market, you don’t have to be as “good” as those guys. You have to be better. Otherwise you just get lost in the noise.

Always Be Branding

As far as TWB—we are a brand. Nobody who represents our brand can write like a third grader. Otherwise, what would compel serious writers to affiliate with us? We’re here to help everybody, but not by blowing smoke up their ass. Steemhouse and Wordrow, our mainstream interfaces, will represent us to both the publishing industry and a commercial audience. TWB will try to help everyone who participates get something published in one or both of those places. I can tell you unequivocally that headhopping, exposition, poor construction and execution, or any of the skimmable content we see in so many people’s work will never represent our brand.

If people want to write in total disregard of our standards, fine. We’re not going to hijack Steemit and start flagging posts because their authors info dumped in the first paragraph, or because their characters leave us cold. Folks can write what they want. But if they come to our community, we’re going to tell them the truth. Want to argue the case for passive voice? Show us that it works. If, in our critique, we happen to tell you that it doesn’t, it most likely means it really doesn’t. There’s no other way to present that.


While I’m on this topic and on my personal blog, I’m going to address another point, and that is the subject of freewrites. I’ve been pretty vocal that I don’t like the way they’ve been promoted as a form of publishable/marketable writing on Steemit, but I also want to make it clear that neither The Writers’ Block nor I have any issue with a freewrite community of people who have no desire to write commercially and just need to get the words out. This has been misunderstood by many and it’s time to clear that up. Freewrites serve a purpose and this technique can be a valuable tool. As with any tool, however, improper use can be harmful.

Wikipedia defines freewriting this way: 

Free writing is a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism. It is used mainly by prose writers and writing teachers. Some writers use the technique to collect initial thoughts and ideas on a topic, often as a preliminary to formal writing.

I could not agree more. For me, that is the essence of freewriting. Unfortunately, some people have used it as a convenient excuse to publish sloppy, unedited work that may come back to haunt them later. The blockchain is permanent. Even edits are logged and discoverable. The implications of this for writers have not been fully realized. Blockchain technology is still new. But more to the point than any of this, my stance on freewriting is that if it deteriorates a person’s writing skill rather than improves it, then it’s a dangerous tool. Proceed with caution.

That’s it for now. It’s off my chest. ‘Til next time, keep Steeming.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Snake of the Day

I had an interesting visitor today. A black rat snake decided to slither his way into my house through the raccoon mesh on my back door. (Yes, I have to keep welded wire on all my doors and most of my windows to keep trash pandas out of my house. Because they will absolutely come right inside and I’ll find them eating out of the dog bowls. Another story for another day.)

(Pictured below: actual raccoon trying to get in the actual door where the actual snake was coming in. See why I need welded wire panels?

Anyhoo, this snake may well sense the impending floods of Hurricane Florence and be looking for safety. I wish I could tell him he doesn’t have to worry, because we are high enough on the side of this mountain that the flood would have to reach biblical proportions for our creek to overflow that much.

Below: what I saw when I went to find out why the dogs were making a ruckus.

For those unfamiliar with the species, black rat snakes are one of North America’s larges snakes. They can grow up to eight feet in length. They’re completely harmless and highly beneficial to the environment. Please never kill this type of snake. They’re easy to handle, either with your hands or with a long stick, and can easily be removed and relocated. See video below.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Five Stars for The Sportsnet Grill in Downtown Toronto!

Air-Conditioned Window Seats for a Blue Jays Game? Bring It On!

Recently, during a visit to Toronto, I had the opportunity to discover what may be the most overlooked venue in all of Ontario when it comes to pro baseball. Imagine my surprise, when meeting for a business lunch, I walked into a large, open space with massive plate glass windows overlooking the Rogers Centre playing field. As the game commenced, I could watch real-time footage on several large screen TVs scattered around the room, hear the announcer clear as day, and watch live action on the field below. All of this in an air-conditioned environment with a bar and dinner menu!

So why wasn’t this place packed, standing room only? I have no idea. The menu prices were in no way prohibitive. The atmosphere was classy, upscale. The view was second to none. Yet the venue was practically empty, operating on game day at only a fraction of its capacity.

I’m talking about Sportsnet Grill inside the Marriott in downtown Toronto. I don’t know the whole story about this place, or the insider scoop. I can just tell you that as an out-of-towner, I thought it was fantastic. I heartily recommend this venue for any sports fan wanting to watch a game live, from a gigantic box seat that has its own bar and kitchen. Five stars from me, meaning I will revisit every chance I get.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Jet-Setting, Writers’ Block Style

My fear of airplanes is known far and wide, and has been since I was a child. I’ve had nightmares about plane and helicopter crashes for as long as I can remember. In most of them, I dreamed I was on the ground watching some type of aircraft plummet toward me, with nowhere to run for safety. Most alarming is that as video footage of such disasters became more and more common on the internet, it confirmed that my dreams were remarkably accurate. I never thought I would ever work up enough courage to actually board a plane and fly.

Last week, I did exactly that. My motivation to attend and make a presentation at the Toronto Steem Creators Conference proved to be greater than my lifelong fear. I bought a seat on a nonstop flight from Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) to Toronto Pearson (YYZ) and determined that I would go through with every step of this journey.

The flight up definitely managed to alarm me. I didn’t get any great photos, just a few blurry shots of black night sky and the faraway lights of cities I couldn’t identify. There was no turbulence, but after my flight down, I think perhaps the pilot’s flying style didn’t put me at ease. I couldn’t tell which movements of the aircraft were deliberate and which ones I should worry about. None in the second category, obviously, but it didn’t feel like that at the time.


All throughout the trip, I was surprised at how streamlined and efficient the boarding and customs process was. I didn’t encounter a single unfriendly airlines employee or law enforcement officer. Me, who gets lost in shopping malls, was able to navigate my way through without a hitch.

On the return flight home, I knew what to expect. This made things easier, I think. It was also daylight, which meant I could see what was happening and was able to take some decent photos.

Below is what the Toronto airport looks like from the freeway. It’s hard to imagine the constant bustle of activity going on in the terminals from just driving past. From the outside, it looks industrial and heavy on the mechanics. In fact, as evidenced by the cover photo of this post, huge jetliners are such routine business in an international airport that pilots seem to just park them as casually as cars.

Throughout my stay in Toronto, @jasonbu acted as tour guide and Sherpa for @GMuxx and myself. He kept us safe and very entertained! He also did a great job getting us to the airport on the day we were scheduled to fly away to our respective continents. Leaving him to walk into the airport nearly broke my heart. But we’ll see you again soon, Jason! One meetup or the other, and we’ll do it all over again.

The check-in area was ridiculously busy. I, however, checked in on my smartphone. American Airlines sent me this handy-dandy little QR code that scanned properly the entire way through baggage inspection, customs, and Gate A6. I felt so efficient! The flight ran on time, and promptly at 12:00, we received the call to board.

The type of jet doing the Charlotte/Toronto route is called a CR9. This is a long, skinny aircraft with a sleek profile and the body of a cigar. The passenger compartment is so tight and narrow that, even though American Airlines lists a specific bag size for carryon, the accepted rolling luggage size is still too small. If it’s not a tiny duffle bag, it has to be valet-checked and loaded in the belly of the plane.

If you know me, you know I’m a big girl. I worried for the welfare of my seatmate. Fortunately, she was a teeny thing who probably didn’t weigh eighty pounds soaking wet. We did fine…after I wedged myself against the window. The seat itself was fine. But the walking aisle? Holy cow. An estimate of twelve inches wide might be too generous.

This pilot had a totally different flying style. I noticed it on takeoff. We were airborne a lot sooner, climbed a lot harder, and he kept the angle of attack considerably steeper as we left Toronto airspace. Surprisingly, I preferred this. When he rolled the plane onto its side for a turn, there was no gradual tilt. He just laid it hard over and gunned it. He drove that cigar like a sportscar, and it absolutely worked for that model of aircraft, and for me.

I hadn’t realized it, but we were flying directly into a storm that covered the entire eastern seaboard. Once we breached the clouds, nothing was visible but white until we started our descent into North Carolina. We did hit turbulence. But I kept an eye on the flight attendants, who never broke stride or sat down until we were ready to land. I figured if they were unconcerned, then I had no reason to worry. Even though we landed on the front edge of a major thunderstorm, this landing held true to the better experience and we were on the ground without hesitation or a bobble. I wish I had some way to know the flight experience and history of that pilot. I would stake money on him having logged many hours in active military combat. He knew his stuff, and his flying showed it.


The entire flight lasted less than two hours. We took off at 12:30 pm and were sitting on the ground in Charlotte at 2:15 p.m. On the flight up, I learned about GoGo Inflight Wireless. On the way home, I ordered this service. It was $10 USD for the duration of the flight, and it was well worth it for communicating with my husband, who’d be picking me up at the airport. I was able to send him all of the photos in this blog from the air.

I learned that most commercial flights cruise at an altitude of seven miles. Apparently, this is well above light aircraft traffic and up that high, the air is thinner and less turbulent. We had such a quiet, smooth flight from Toronto at that height that dropping down through all the lower level of convection was startling. It’s also difficult to gauge cruising speed when you’re flying above the clouds. Only when we passed another aircraft going the opposite direction did I perceive just how fast both vehicles were travelling.

Will I fly again? You bet! In fact, already I’m making plans to attend Steemfest in Krakow in two months. That will be a long flight over the ocean, into a country where English isn’t the spoken language. New adventures for someone who swore to never leave home soil. But I’m up for the challenge. This is going to be a very interesting year.


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków


Toronto According to Jasonbu

Suffice it to say that I had a blast in Toronto. The conference was great, sure. But that’s because of the people. I just spent five days with my Steem family, and now that I’m home, I miss them like crazy!

While I was there, I spent most of my time with @GMuxx, @Shadowspub, and @Jasonbu. Jason is a Toronto native and the best tour guide one could hope for. He really took care of us this week. Jason, we owe you. Big time.

Some of the things I got to see, like the Prince’s Gate pictured in the cover photo, were typical Toronto attractions. The Rogers sports dome. Lake Ontario. Trains. People. Gorgeous urban landscaping. The subway–I have now ridden one. Officially. Paid my tokens and hopped aboard. And off again. And aboard. And off, and…whew! I’m getting tired all over again just talking about it.

Other things seemed more poignant, like the indigent campsites underneath an overpass, and the guy sleeping on the sidewalk with his bike. Every large city has a homeless population, and perhaps Toronto’s is smaller or less prominent. But they’re there, and I can’t imagine what the winters must be like for them.

Then, of course, we had some OMG and WTF moments, like the guy with an itch that just couldn’t wait and ended up in my shot by accident, and the teenagers in Dutch costumes. Let’s not forget the name in neon that I was afraid to even attempt to pronounce.

I particularly enjoyed this lighted sign. You don’t see such things where I come from.

Jason knew exactly how we could see the Blue Jays game in a way that people like me can appreciate—in an air conditioned restaurant that overlooks the field. I have a whole blog post coming about the Sportsnet Grill. In my opinion, it may be one of the most underappreciated attractions in Toronto. Jason also made sure we got to see the CN tower from the walkway that runs between it and Rogers Stadium. The artwork on the side of the megalithic structure is stunning.

The reason we were all there in the city, though, was the Steem Creators Conference. Held at the YWCA downtown on Elm Street, this event spanned three days and provided a stage for presentations about such impressive ventures as Goldmoney, FreedomEX, @battlegauntlet, and The Writers’ Block’s own front-end project, Wordrow. I did try to video some of the presentations, but none of the footage turned out well. @shadowspub, @gmuxx, and others who attended the conference will be posting DLive links of several presentations.

GMuxx and Jasonbu

Shadowspub and I surround @anomadsoul, making sure he knew how grateful we were for the contest that allowed both of us to attend.