Saturday, August 3, 2013

GOP leaders show concern for struggling Americans by proposing to slash food stamp program by $40 billion!

       Good Day World!

What world do the Republican leaders in Congress live in? Once again, they’re preparing to bow to their ivory tower ideology and forsake the real-world needs of millions of struggling Americans by taking away food from them.

Bravo! That’s the way to balance a budget…show you don’t give a shit about struggling Americans!

If the GOP leadership isn’t attacking the poor, they’re busy attacking women and people of color. They want to appeal to Hispanics and Blacks, yet they go out of their way to make life miserable for them.

But make no mistake, there’s plenty of Whites getting food stamp assistance too. Some Wall Street economists seem to think things are getting better, but that’s because they’re no where near ground level. They don’t see the hungry eyes of malnourished children, and the haunted looks of once middle-class Americans standing in food lines.

It’s a mark of insensitivity to cut food assistance programs (which don’t have lobbies)instead of some other part of the national budget.  That attitude seems pandemic among the majority of Republicans and conservatives. The wealthy have always held positions of power, and people’s lives have always depended upon their whims and ideology. Our government is no different than any other in this world in that respect.

Here’s the latest example of what I’m talking about:

“House Republican leaders are to present a bill that would cut the food stamps program by $40 billion over 10 years, a move opposed by Democrats. Republicans say the program, whose enrollment soared after the 2008-09 recession, is unbearably expensive at $78 billion a year.

Democrats such as Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts say food stamps mitigate hunger in a still-weak economy. One in seven Americans received food stamps -- the largest U.S. anti-hunger program – at the latest count, Reuters said.

Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said there would be “no Democratic votes” for the food stamp bill.

He said it was “very disappointing,” adding that the cuts might even be too tough for some Republicans to support.

“I don’t know what the hell they’re trying to do other than placate the Wall Street Journal and the Club for Growth and the Heritage, I don't know what they're doing,” Peterson said.” (Full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, August 2, 2013

As It Stands blog: Bad News for Star Trek fans; Teleportation Not Happening!

 Image: Teleportation

           Good Day World!

 Going where no man has gone before, the intrepid star travelers are going to have to stick to the good ship Enterprise when it comes to traveling.

 Our scientists say that teleportation is not even within reach yet. As far as they’re concerned it never will be a viable mode of travel for humans.

  It looks like Scotty is going to have to come up with another crazy space teleporter that defies what the experts think in order to keep Star Trek fans engaged. 

Meanwhile, our military isn’t going to let the idea go, and are still monkeying around with hopes of beaming up Generals and tanks. What ever happened to ripping the veils of time apart and traveling that way? Hmmmmm….

The trouble with teleportation: It could take quadrillions of years

“Bad news, "Star Trek" fans: Even if you found a way to teleport a human being, sending the required data would take longer than the age of the universe. At least that's what fourth-year physics students from the University of Leicester concluded in the latest of a series of studies on way-out topics.

Teleportation transmission rates get the technical treatment in the Journal of Physics Special Topics, an online publication created by the British university to answer burning questions on the fringes of science, such as: Could Batman really use a cape to fly? What would Han Solo see when he made the jump to hyperspace?” Read the rest of the story here.

More about 'Star Trek' tech:

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, August 1, 2013

As It Stands blog: 2016 Pres Race Shaping Up To Be Battle of Bums!

   Good Day World!

I’m looking forward to covering the 2016 Presidential race for Learnist. I covered the last election for the social learning website between Obama and Romney, and had fun doing it. There’s nothing like watching politicians making asses of themselves on a national stage.

I’ll predict right now, 2016 is going to be an even (wait for it…) nastier presidential campaign than the last one! No, really! When you look at the politicians/players lining up, it’s easy to see this new crop of wannabes are going to outdo each other when it comes to low blows and lies.

As far as the Dems go it’s shaping up to be Vice President Biden versus Hillary Clinton. I’m reasonably sure oddsmakers would favor Hillary for numerous reasons. And, can you imagine Bill as the (wait for it…) first Husband?? Too juicy.

Personally, I think Kentucky Sen.Rand Paul is a lunatic. If it does come down to him and Gov.Chris Christie for the Republican nomination…I say go with Christie! He’s shown flashes of humanity, a rare display for most politicians these days. He also may be the only Republican (I know, I’m assuming Christie will run, but go with it okay?) who could cross the aisle and actually negotiate with the Democrats and get something done as president.

Here’s some recent news on the subject:

“Voters got a tantalizing preview of a possibly contentious battle for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination when New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul kicked off a recent public spat, trading personal insults and harsh words in the media.

The battle started last week when Christie, the pugnacious governor regarded as a top contender for the GOP nod in 2016, called the Republican libertarianism represented by Paul a “very dangerous” trend for the GOP.

"These esoteric, intellectual debates — I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation," Christie said at the Aspen Institute forum on Thursday, referring to the surviving families of 9/11 victims. "And they won't, because that's a much tougher conversation to have."

From then, the fight was on. Paul responded Monday on Fox News by accusing Christie of shrouding himself in a “cloak of 9/11 victims,” and went on in the week to chide the New Jersey governor for a “gimme, gimme, gimme” attitude in seeking federal funds to assist with Hurricane Sandy.

And when Christie fired back by noting how much money Paul’s home state of Kentucky received from the government compared to the tax revenue it receives, Paul went on the radio to label Christie a “liberal Republican.”

“This is the king of bacon talking about bacon,” Paul added during an appearance on CNN.

The sparring could well foretell a major showdown in the 2016 Republican primary, should both Christie and Paul seek the Republican Party’s nomination. Each are titans of very different corners of the GOP, and a fight would not just test personalities against each other, but possibly emerging factions of the conservative movement, as well.”(Read the rest of the story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grockit Rebrands to Learnist as Kaplan Acquires Test Prep Assets

Big news today! The company who I work for Grockit, sold it’s test prep assets and now I’m working for Grockit’s spinoff – Learnist. This is great news for the Learnist team as we forge ahead with renewed vigor and money! I’ll keep you informed of our activities and meanwhile you can enjoy reading Learnist Boards on this blog – on the right hand side of this page.

Kaplan, the massive test preparation and professional training company, announced Wednesday that it has acquired the assets of Grockit, the education technology startup that offers test-prep services via online social learning games.

As a result of the acquisition, Grockit’s founders and employees will rebrand to become Learnist, shifting their attention to the company’s Pinterest-like, app-based approach to socialized learning using lessons created from curated content around the Web.

Exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Learnist founder Farbood Nivi said the additional capital will give Learnist enough room to operate without having to worry about raising money for some time.

“Selling Grockit gives us considerable runway without any dilution of shares,” Nivi told AllThingsD.

Founded in 2006, Grockit has seen success as a collaborative learning site operating on the assumption that students learn best through peer-to-peer communication. The site has seen steady growth over time, and its paid offerings have produced a revenue-generating business that Nivi and Learnist CEO Roy Gilbert focused on for much of the past seven years.

Last year, Nivi, Gilbert and the 26-person San Francisco-based team shifted their attention from Grockit to focus the entirety of their efforts on developing the Learnist product, which has seen modest growth over the year since it first launched.

The Grockit business, although still running and generating revenue, shifted to the background.

“The key element here for us is really about focus,” CEO Gilbert said in an interview.

Kaplan’s asset acquisition takes the technology, the brand and the business of Grockit, but none of the company’s team. Learnist’s employees will continue to operate out of San Francisco, and will use the new capital injection on growing the Learnist user base.

Kaplan Acquires Grockit Social Learning Platform & Test Prep Assets

NEW YORK, Jul 31, 2013 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Kaplan, the industry leader in test prep worldwide, has acquired the test prep assets and social learning platform of Grockit, Inc., a San Francisco-based pioneer in social learning applications and technologies. GSV Advisors acted as exclusive financial advisor to Grockit in this transaction.

Grockit, Inc. was founded in 2007 to improve academic achievement and extend learning outside of the classroom by advancing online social learning as the dominant instructional design. Grockit branded test prep has since helped over a million users around the world prepare for various tests including the SAT, ACT, GMAT, GRE and LSAT through its social learning platform. The company is rebranding as Learnist and is now focused on developing learning products outside of test prep markets.

"We've long recognized the Grockit team as innovators in social learning and gamification, and the company's initiatives are consistent with our efforts to improve student outcomes through learning science," said Rochelle Rothstein, Executive Vice President, Kaplan Test Prep. "As we seek to better understand the role of social learning and gamification in test prep effectiveness, the acquisition of Grockit branded assets accelerates our efforts. We're looking forward to exploring platform synergies to improve our student experience."

"We're proud of our pioneering work in social learning, and can't think of a team that's better positioned to take our platform to the next level than Kaplan, the recognized leader in test prep," said Roy Gilbert, CEO of Grockit. "We're confident in Kaplan's ability to continue innovating on the Grockit platform, and excited to direct our full attention to Learnist, our web and mobile social learning app focused on broader social learning."

Grockit introduced its Learnist product in 2012 to enable people from all around the world use the web and mobile application to teach and learn from rich media assembled by experts across the community.



As It Stands blog: our Veterans in the news …

         Good Day World!

Today I thought I’d share some veteran’s news…just because. I’ve gleaned a sampling of stories and articles for you: A Summary of Veteran’s Employment SituationThe unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001--a group referred to as Gulf War-era II veterans-declined by 2.2 percentage points to 9.9 percent in 2012, the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. (Read article here) An Online College Guide for Veterans Earning a degree today can be costly and time intensive. This is especially true for veterans, many of whom had to forego higher education to spend years serving our country abroad.Sometimes attending a brick-and-mortar university may not be a practical option for veterans. Many service members may find themselves with little time to commit to a full-time college education following discharge. Fortunately, online colleges are excellent options for veterans who wish to earn or complete their degree without having to sacrifice their obligations at home. (Go here to continue) Homes for veterans: Volunteers build homes on the National Mall A group of veterans is joining forces with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity to build seven homes on the National Mall. Each home they plan to build represents a branch of the military. (Read story here)Unemployment among recent veterans drops sharply Unemployment among recent veterans has fallen sharply and now is the same as for the rest of the U.S. population, hovering just above 7%, new federal statistics show.The figures suggestVeterans job fair that a vexing and stubborn trend of higher joblessness among veterans who left the military after September 2001 has been reversed. It now appears that veterans are being hired at a faster rate than non-veterans.Advocates credited a variety of public and private efforts, including major U.S. corporations beginning to make good on pledges to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans, federal tax incentives for employers and allowances for veterans to receive professional licenses based on their military training. In the second quarter of this year, average unemployment among post-9/11 veterans was 7.4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That is not statistically different from the rate of 7.2% for non-veterans. (Read full story here)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

As It Stands blog: Brief History of Hipsters, Beatniks, & Hippies

Good Day World!

Hipster, Beatnik, Hippie, and right back around to Hipster. Hip, cool, groovy, dope, deck. The terms used and names given to each generation’s “it” crowd seems to be as ingrained in history as they are in the present, but who were these groups and how did their slang come about? And how is it that we’ve had two generations of hipsters?

The original 1940s hipsters were so named because of their awareness and openness to a certain attitude toward life. In fact, the words “hep” and “hip” are both derivations of the African word hepi—meaning to open one’s eyes. Early jazz musicians used the word “hep” for anyone in the know, especially with regard to the black world of jazz; the musicians and their fans were known as “hepcats.” In the 1940s, when modern jazz began replacing Swing, the term “hep” had morphed into “hip,” leading to the new name for musicians and their fans—“hipsters.” A group of ultra cool jazz aficionados ablaze in their devotion for and knowledge of the art chose to espouse the relaxed lifestyle of the jazz musicians, calling themselves Hipsters as well.

This group of jazz aficionados grew and was particularly attractive to the lower class white youth, a lot of whom were frequenting African-American communities in search of alternative dance and music. It was within these urban black communities that youth looked for their fashion cues, attitudes, drug use, and language.

The language or slang used amongst this group appears to be of the utmost importance in defining their belief system. According to Marty Jezer, in his book The Dark Ages: Life in the U.S. 1945–1960, this limited and obscure “Hipster” language was perfect in a world that defied definition. The world of the commonplace was a world of untruth and therefore unworthy of words. Contrast this to the world of music, which was considered worthy and trustworthy. And with music there is no need for words.

The world of the Hipster was so illusory that sentences were started with that word that drives modern parents crazy, such as “like.” “It’s like totally cool, man.” As if to say, maybe it’s cool, maybe it’s not; whatever you like, man. I’m not here to define your world.

Hipsters were looking for the meaning of life and they wanted to have that meaning now. They did not think in the current and divisive terms of the “free world” and “Communist bloc.” The only division was the hip and the square. The Squares believed in obtaining security through traditional methods of job, family, politics, and common social etiquette. The Hip world was one that ran together, melding the bohemian, the juvenile delinquent, and the Negro—a melting pot seeking consciousness.

There is definitive distinction between Jack Kerouac’s original term “Beat Generation” and “Beatnik.” Just to be clear, the Beat Generation—which did appear to give distorted rise to the “Beatnik”—was a term Kerouac devised in 1948 to describe his personal social circle, a group of New York underground anti-conformists. Kerouac’s Beat Generation was, to him, a group of blessed (beatified) and downtrodden (beaten-down) people. This group may have been downtrodden, but they were not completely down and out. They were blessed with ardent personal conviction and represented an anti-materialistic literary movement. The Beats exposed themselves to the absorption of culture through music, poetry, literature, and bumming with self-imposed poverty across America. Marijuana and other drugs didn’t hurt either. 
This counterculture possessed a romantic quality, a quality of people in the know, and once the media grabbed hold of and simplified, molded, and stereotyped, it became highly marketable. Pieces of this Beat Generation were spliced together to produce the iconic, alternative intellectual bedecked in goatees, dark framed glasses, black turtlenecks, and berets—bongo drums not necessary, but always welcome.

It was in fact a member of the media, Herb Caen, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist who in 1958 with sardonic wit and his finger on the perpetual cultural pulse, satirized The Beats by adding the suffix “nik,” which was borrowed from the technological marvel at the time, Sputnik. The Beats did not embrace the term. Beat was counterculture, with a state of mind, attitude, and literature of its own. Beatniks were a subculture birthed by the media, a superficial caricature of the real thing.

Nonetheless, in the 1950s, there were plenty of middle class college students all too willing to adopt the Beatnik prerequisite dress code and form intellectual circles of their own. The women had their Beatnik style as well. In black leotards, they let their hair grow long and completely free. The fashion choice was intended to strike back at the middle class, highly coiffed beauty salon look. The Beatnik attitude was one that shunned conventional, middle-class values and strove for expression against these values by associating themselves with radical politics, cool- cat jazz, free-verse poetry readings, and excessive parties. The argument of their authenticity was irrelevant due in part to the media catapulting them into an attractively dangerous avant garde. Whereas Kerouac’s Beat Generation was beatified, the media, and ironically commercialism, exalted and helped iconize the Beatnik look and style.

It’s claimed that Hippie is what Hipsters called their children—literally, little Hipsters. However this name came about, it’s a derivative of Hipster. As these mini-Hippies grew, they created another movement of their own, steeply based in their parent’s views on contemporary culture and political acquiescence. They rejected the established culture and swung wide to advocate extremely liberal politics and lifestyles.

This subculture was also known to listen to new and alternative music like psychedelic rock, embrace the sexual revolution, and once again use mind- expanding drugs to probe the perimeters of altered states of consciousness—all common themes amongst social subcultures.

Hippies were concerned with world peace and sustainable resources. They practiced alternative medicine and alternative lifestyles like communal living, organic and communal gardening, building “green” homes, and free love.

The Summer of Love and specifically the public display of cultural and political rebellion in the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco brought the Hippie culture firmly into public awareness and solidified its existence. Though this kind of public spectacle also perpetuated an historical period of violence, the impact left on society was enough to cause acute fascination by the mainstream media, thusly leading to a blossoming of hippie values and fashion statements.

“Free love” might have been a difficult grasp for mainstream America, but organic gardening, alternative medicine, outdoor concerts, bellbottoms, miniskirts, tattoos, and body piercings seemed to take hold. Perhaps, some of these fashions and ideals and lifestyles went dormant for a while, but they were firmly lodged in the psyche of American culture.

The Modern Hipster
And now we’ve come full circle. Try to ask one of your modern Hipster friends this simple question: “What is a Hipster?” From behind overly large glasses and bedraggled hair, he or she probably won’t have an answer and might not even consider themselves one. The modern Hipster, more than any other subculture, seems to try to confute its very existence.

The ultimate goal here is to non-conform without an admission of actually doing so. Successful non-conformity is achieved through cultural irony—take anything valued within a culture, be it fashion, music, literature, or art, and use it or wear it with outright, yet subtle irony (this is more difficult to achieve than one might think). The common fashion statements seem to be that one finds some of the ugliest—yet sometimes expensive—clothing, preferably wrinkled, and looking thrown together (a lot of thought and preparation can go into this). Any type of T-shirt graphics, footwear, or eyewear worn ironically is a bonus. 
However, some argue that the modern Hipster doesn’t really subscribe to a particular philosophy, genre of music, or politics. In a Huffington Post article entitled, “Who’s a Hipster?” Julia Plevin argues that the “definition of ‘hipster’ remains opaque to anyone outside this self-proclaiming, highly-selective circle.” She claims that the “whole point of hipsters is that they avoid labels and being labeled. However, they all dress the same and act the same and conform in their non-conformity to an “iconic carefully created sloppy vintage look.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge to the modern Hipster—and dare I say the ultimate irony?—is that although that hipster may consider himself totally deck (cool), unless he’s got some philosophies and politics to introduce to the world, his contribution may die with the totally ironical T-shirt in a Goodwill bin.

Image sources: Life Photo Archive, tea..    story source


Monday, July 29, 2013

As It Stands blog: Scientists say Cavemen liked to get high!

              Good Day World!

If you’ve ever wondered about how long ago man first “goting stoned” …wonder no more. Apparently cavemen got creative when doing psychedelics which doesn’t surprise me in the least.

“There's something undeniably surreal about early cave paintings, something otherworldly or even psychedelic. And according to a team of international scientists, that's because the cave painters were doing mind-bending drugs while painting them.

Researchers Tom Froese, Alexander Woodward and Takashi Ikegami from Tokyo recently published a comprehensive study of over 40,000 years worth of cave paintings and found some pretty telling patterns. The spiral-like and labyrinthian designs that pop up in paintings from locations that are thousands of miles away from each other didn't just pop up by coincidence. Since these patterns are consistent with those that many humans see after taking hallucinogenic drugs, the scientists think that ancient cavemen had more in common than previously thought. They all loved to get high.”

Time for me to walk on down the road…


Sunday, July 28, 2013

As It Stands: Women listen up! Start accepting compliments from each other

By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard

Compliments can trigger an unusual response when they come from one women to another.


  That’s a sweeping statement but consider this; women these days receive mixed messages about which behaviors are desirable or accepted, according to Renee Engeln, a psychology professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

“We’re told love yourself, but not too much. Be confident but practice a style of humility this culture doesn’t require of men. Less than we thought we were going to be. Less than what we could have been. This is a big issue with women,” said Engeln in a recent interview.

Engeln also explained that women are taught to believe in themselves, but not to admit it, lest they make other women who don’t feel good about themselves feel  uncomfortable. These observations fit my experience in observing women interact.

In 39 years of research (aka marriage) I’ve watched this behavior first hand. My wife, a very intelligent person, will describe herself as a scatterbrain or some other negative description depending upon the company she’s in. She lives in fear of offending people.

I may sleep out on the front porch for a couple of nights after she reads this column, but I like to share from experience. You know, that little bit of insider knowledge that keeps you from being a clueless clown even though you don’t have a degree in psychology.

I’ve had a lifetime of observing women from my mother and sisters to my girlfriends. My wife has been my master’s degree on women and why they do the things they do. The whole concept has been foreign to me from the start. Experts say men just don’t worry about the same things. I’ll go along with that.

 I can’t remember the last time I went to a sporting event with my guy friends and had one of them tell me my outfit looked cute! I don’t recall any men I know ever admiring one another’s t-shirt or slim-cut pants when we got together. Perhaps I’ve lived a sheltered life.

 Men just aren’t that nice. Women often worry about hurting each other’s feelings. Men are busy bruising egos and boasting of their exploits to all who’ll listen. I’d wager if you checked out our DNA you’d find that most men are missing some nice traits. Not all, mind you.

I think women are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to showing they feel confident without offending each other. I’ve personally witnessed a woman arrive at a party and get immediately complimented on her dress. She responded by saying she bought it at a Salvation Army Thrift Store! Even though it wasn’t true.

I ran across a viral video created by Amy Schumer of Comedy Central that every woman should watch. It shows a bunch of young women busy deflecting compliments from other young women. If you have a moment check it out at:
Women are often considered unfeminine if they’re assertive in their careers. Men are thought of as “bold” or some equally positive description when they’re assertive.

That kind of thinking needs to recede into the past where it belongs. I think it’s up to women to break the double-standard. They can start by accepting compliments from one another. It’s okay to be praised for something. No matter what it is.

Women don’t have to be complete jerks like men tend to be socially, but they should loosen up and not be afraid to say they’re good at what they do.
We’re not responsible for what other people feel. You can be proud of what you do without being a heel. This change won’t come about overnight, but it’s time for more talk about the topic.

 I’ve watched my wife grow emotionally and intellectually for nearly four decades now. She’s still learning how to take a compliment. I’m not sure if this attitude is hardwired in women or a cultural phenomena.

 I remember reading “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” by John Gray, a relationship counselor and American author, and thinking …“This guy’s hit it on the head!” If you’ve never read the book give it a shot. It’s a good read.

 I have hope for women however. My six year-old granddaughter has no problem accepting compliments from her Nana and me, to complete strangers of either gender! She gives a disarmingly sweet smile (minus one front tooth purchased by the tooth fairy) to anyone who compliments her.
As It Stands, you go girl!

Blog Break Until Presidential Election is Over

I finally hit the wall today. I can't think of what to say about all of the madness going on in this country right now. I'm a writer...