Thursday, August 22, 2013

Free Online Educational Offerings from Saylor

Screenshot - 8_22_2013 , 7_06_27 AM Ever consider going to college and perhaps majoring or minoring in Computer Science, but don't really have the time to show up for classes, don't really want to go into debt paying for 4 years of college, and really don't want to fuss and bother with taking a bunch of classes that have absolutely nothing to do with your chosen major? (skip things like Psychology, Modern Dance, English Literature, and Art History?)

Maybe you should look into the offerings at Saylor. They have 2 different Computer Science offerings, depending on whether you want to major or minor.

They use all free materials that are available online, including materials that are unique to their program. Once you have completed all of the materials for each course, there is a final exam that you can take that does count, to prove your mastery of each course.

Once you have completed all of the courses in the program, they will issue you a certificate, free of charge. While this isn't exactly the same as a 4 year degree from a traditional college, you'll pretty much have the same knowledge as someone that paid for their schooling, except perhaps all the unrelated nonsense from courses having nothing to do with Computer Science, that one is usually forced to take. See their FAQ for more information.

And if you aren't quite ready for taking the required math courses to complete their Computer Science program, perhaps need to brush up on Algebra first, or fill in some of the holes left over from a less than adequate high school education, you can go back and take the high school math courses that you may have missed out on or forgotten the material.

Not interested in Computer Science? Perhaps Business Administration, Communications, or Political Science would be more towards your liking. Or maybe you really do want Psychology, Art History, or English Literature. (sorry, they don't have Modern Dance)

Or maybe you need some Workplace Skills, Job Search Skills, or some courses to help with Career Advancement.

Take a look, pick something that seems interesting and give it a shot. With 305 different courses, you are bound to find something that you'll like or need. And you really have nothing to lose. It's all free!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

World's Largest Afghan: A Dream or a Nightmare?


A couple of months ago I wondered if there was a Guinness world record for the largest crocheted afghan. Then I wondered how long I'd have to crochet to break it if there was one. And if there wasn't, how large an afghan would be if I just kept crocheting the same one for a year, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30 years.

Then it dawned on me how heavy something like that would be after 30 years of crocheting*. I'd need an extra insurance policy, much like those that own water beds in apartment buildings are required to have, if they are even allowed to own one.

Then I thought about how large it would be and how much space it would take up. Imagine an entire room stuffed full of crocheted yarn, till you can't cram any more in there.

And just how would we get it out of the apartment for the Guinness people to measure it? Who would be able to lift an afghan made from over 1.5 short tons of yarn and carry it down the stairs, even with help?

And the cost of making it? I can't afford that!

And the biggest question of all, how the heck would I be able to even crochet something that big, if I can't lift it to turn it as I am making it? (I was working on a round afghan at the moment that I was thinking about all of this)

So, yeah, screw it.

I don't want to be the world record holder that badly. :-D

*In case you want to do the math yourself, I can realistically expect to be able to crochet about 2 lbs of yarn per week, if I had a constant supply of that much yarn to work with.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why What Ann Romney Thinks and Says Is Relevant

Ann_Romney_CPAC_2011 I posted this link on a social network, and an interesting discussion spawned, involving the idea that what Ann Romney thinks and says is irrelevant, because she isn't the one running for President, her husband Mitt is.

While on the surface that idea might seem logical, in reality, it isn't.


No married President comes alone to the White House. What their spouse thinks and believes is relevant when it is their spouse that they will be sleeping next to, talking to, getting advice from, while behind closed doors.

A marriage is still a marriage, and I think most of us married people, who know just how much influence we have on our spouses, know why what Ann Romney thinks, does matter.

Would anyone be willing to deny that Hillary ever had an influence on Bill Clinton during his Presidency? If you'd say yes about her, but not the spouse of any other President, why?

I guess in the case of Ann and Mitt Romney it would come down to and depend on who is influencing who, wouldn't it? And we have no real way of knowing that. Maybe her comparison of military service to missionary work is hers and hers alone, and she has no influence on how her husband views military service or anything else. Or maybe she does. Or maybe that is her husband's views and he has influenced her.

And this isn't really about her views on just this one topic. It's about everything that Mitt stands for, thinks, and does. It's also about the spouse of every married President, past, present, and future.

Some questions for all the married people out there, anyone that has ever been married in the past, in a close relationship, or grew up in a two parent household (in this case, answer the questions based on your observations of the behaviors of your parents) ...

  • Did you ever come home and discuss your job with your spouse?
  • Did they ever discuss theirs with you?
  • Did either of you ever give the other any sort of advice?
  • Ever listen to that advice?
  • Ever act on it?
  • Did discussions with them on any topic, work or non-work related, ever lead to you changing your point of view on anything?

I think what I am asking is if you had a normal marriage based on teamwork that spilled outside the bedroom?

Because the only way one wouldn't understand the relevance of what Ann thinks and says, is if they didn't, and the concept was unheard of to them.

And I don't believe that for a moment. Every marriage contains a certain amount of teamwork and influencing of each other.

(and yes, this was all rhetorical, I am not trying to pry into anyone's personal business, so don't answer...just think about it.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why We Need to Tax the Hell Out of the Wealthy


Trickle down economics doesn't work. Every Republican President since Ronald Reagan has tried to boost the economy by cutting taxes on the wealthy, only to drive the country into a recession. Check for yourself. Cross reference the list of US Presidents with the list of recessions in the US and see where the economy was at the end of each Republican Presidency since Ronald Reagan.

So, if cutting taxes on the wealthy doesn't create more jobs and a stronger economy, what will?

How about trickle UP economics? Would that work?

Poor people do not take money out of the economy because they spend everything they get. They don't have enough to save or hoard. All of their money goes right back into the economy. Social programs that put more money in the pockets of the poor, put more in our economy.

The middle class, that can afford to save some, do take some of the money out of the economy, but only temporarily. The money they put away for retirement gets spent when they reach retirement age, back into the economy. And if there is anything left over, it goes to their heirs, who will spend it soon after getting it...right back into the economy.

The wealthy, their money keeps growing out of control. They can't spend it fast enough. It is not possible for them to spend the wealth they have accumulated within their own lifetime. They pass it on to their children, who can't spend it all during their lifetime either, so it gets passed on, and on, and on, growing and growing with each generation. And every one of those dollars is not part of our economy any more, can't be unless it gets spent, which will never happen unless it is forced to be spent.

And that is one of the purposes of taxes. High taxes on the rich keep the nations money supply moving around as part of our economy, instead of pooling in huge masses at the top and removed from the economy.

Keep the money moving and everyone keeps working. Take it out of the economy and people stop working.

This is why we used to be a prosperous nation when we taxed the wealthy more heavily and spent more on social programs for the poor, and why our prosperity went out the window when trickle down economics took over and we started punishing the poor. It doesn't trickle down because it can't.

Taking some of that money from the top and putting it at the bottom, in other words giving it to the poor, is the fastest way to jumpstart the economy. Taking from the top and giving to the bottom, where it then goes right into the hands of the middle class as soon as the poor spend it, then right back to the wealthy, where you take it again and give to the bottom again -- lather, rinse, repeat -- strong economy. The money keeps moving.

I said it when Bush was handing out stimulus money to the middle class, who then used it to pay down credit card debt instead of spending it on goods, which sent that money right to the top, taken right back out of our economy; that the best use of that money would probably have been to hand every poor person in the US a gift card and double their food stamps for a month. That would have worked so much better. They would have bought more of what they need to survive, not just hand it over to the wealthy and have nothing to show for it.

I consider wealth to be anything left over after taxes, after paying for all your necessities, food, housing, utilities, medicine, etc. Wealth is what you have left over to do with as you please, especially the money you can afford to save.

The poor don't have that, the middle class saves some for later, the wealthy save for never, because they have too much to ever be able to spend in their lifetime.

This leads to them becoming reckless with their money, investing becomes a game to which the goal isn't really making money to have more to spend. It's making money for the sake of making money, at whatever cost, in order to win a numbers game that win or lose has no effect on their lives. But these risky behaviors do have an effect on the entire economy, which this last recession was the result.

Now before you jump all over me and say that it isn't right to take from the wealthy who earned it and give it to the poor who haven't worked for it, that it's somehow unfair, understand this: it's not really a matter of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, it's more taking from the stagnant pool before it grows into toxic cesspool and investing it where it will do the most good, for all.

It's not good for any of us to have so many people living in poverty, to have the middle class slip into poverty themselves. It is not good to have high crime rates because the poor can't find jobs or lack the skills needed to earn a living. Investing in them is investing in all of us. Teach them some skills, like building and fixing roads, then fund the road repairs, then set them loose to do the job. The result will be that we will all have smooth roads to drive on, including the wealthy, and the poor that built those roads will have the money they need to buy the basic necessities of life...and they will have earned it. It's not a hand out; it's a hand up. Things like this will raise the quality of life for everyone.

President Clinton helped boost the economy through Welfare reform, which poured money into job training programs to get people off of Welfare and into jobs, and not low paying McJobs, either...real jobs. He handed over a prosperous country on the right track to George Bush, who then proceeded to undo everything good that was done, in favor of more tax cuts for the wealthy, more deregulation (which triggered more reckless investing), and more unpaid for wars.

Investing in job training for the poor and unemployed, and funding projects for those newly trained people to work on, is one of the things that helped our country come out of the Great Depression of the 1930's. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal invested in our infrastructure and gave jobs to some of the poorest people in our country. That infrastructure is still used today, but is aging and in bad need of repairs. Why not help fix our economy by repairing that infrastructure, and even modernizing it?

This idea that war is good for the economy has to stop, too. All it can hope to do is decrease the demand for jobs by decreasing the population that is left to need jobs. And the more recent wars the US has been involved in, didn't even do that. It just racked up more debt for the whole nation, making the problem even worse.

Use the environment as a good example of how it should work. Consider the oceans to be the wealthy and the mountain tops to be the poor, and the rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds to be the middle class. Unless enough evaporation takes place, mostly from the oceans, no heavy snows will fall on the mountain tops, no snow means nothing to melt and feed the rivers, nothing in the rivers to flow to lakes and ponds, nothing to flow back to the ocean. It has to keep moving and at a rate to sustain it, or it all dries up and turns to desert, surrounded by ocean.

Trickle down economics doesn't work unless you flip it over and put the poor at the mountain tops and tax the heck out of the rich's ocean to feed the whole system. Let it trickle from the poor back to the wealthy, creating prosperity as it moves along.

If you don't, then it all ends up in the hands of the rich, nothing in the hands of the poor and middle class, and then even the rich won't make any more money. Then the entire economy completely collapses because the money stopped moving, there is nowhere for it to move to. And when that happens, even the rich will starve because their money will be worthless when there is nothing more to invest in.

Yes, that might seem a bit far fetched. We will most likely never get to that point, but how much closer do we need to get to it? How much worse does our economy have to get before this trickle down lie goes away? How much worse does it have to get before we force the wealthy to invest where it is the most needed, through taxes, and not on reckless Wall Street games? How many more have to fall from the middle class into poverty? How much worse does the life of the poor have to become before we change direction, before we all get it and flip it over so the cash can flow freely again?

I don't want to punish the wealthy. I want them to keep earning, keep enjoying the lifestyle they have. I want them all to be happy, today and tomorrow. The only way to do it is to tax them more.

It worked before and it can work again. We can level the playing field a little, invest in the lowest classes of this country, put them to work, and make the American dream a reality, once more.


Read More

(Some crowd-sourced links provided by Bryan Fuselier, Jason Nichols, and Michael Cohen)

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Would you donate something like this to your local food pantry to feed the needy?

The Box

Peeking inside

Is this real food?

Do you consider this food? Real food?

A local food pantry that used to give out real food now gives these packs out to the people that they serve. They have been doing this for about 4 months. Included in the pack is 1 package containing a Slim Jim-like beef stick and a small cheese stick, 1 extra individually wrapped cheese stick, 1 single serving of apple sauce, 1 single serving of sunflower seeds, 1 single 4 oz. serving of juice, 1 single serving of mini animal grahams. Lots of fat, sodium, and carbs in that little box, This same food pantry also gives out single servings of cereal in little bowls with tear off paper lids, and single serving 8 oz. juicebox size containers of milk.

It doesn't matter what the family size, everyone gets the same amount of packs....4. And you get 3 bowls of cereal, and 1 box of milk. You can only get food from this food pantry once a month.

These packs are produced by ES Foods.The company claims they were designed to be snack packs for after school programs. Or lunches for schools without cooking facilities (they make packs with sandwiches in them). And they were not designed with adults in mind.

This food pantry used to give out bags of real food, stuff you could feed a family with for more than a day...bags of rice, boxes of pasta, cans of tomato sauce, quart size pouches of powdered milk, full size boxes of cereal, cans of tuna, bags of dried beans, cans of baked beans, cans of vegetables, boxes of macaroni & cheese, cans of beef & gravy, jars of peanut butter and jelly. You used to walk out of there with 2 large paper bags of groceries, packed full. Then suddenly this, in one little plastic bag.

Now this is a big deal to me for the following reasons:

  1. I am one of the people that rely on this food pantry for food. Don't get me wrong, I am not being ungrateful or looking a gift horse in the mouth.
  2. What bothers me about this is that most people I know would not consider the packs they give out to be real food. Most parents would not send their kid to school with Lunchables because they are unhealthy, over priced, and do not contain very much food. While these convenience packs they are giving away are not Lunchables, they are pretty much equal to them.
  3. What they are giving is 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches (maybe), screw you for dinner. What if you have a family of five, 2 parents and 3 kids? Or 1 parent with 4 kids?  What they used to give out fed my family of three, for days...breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What they gave out was much healthier food, with lots of stuff we all could eat.

I opened up the 4 packs and divided them up among the family members, according to what each person could consume. My hubby is a diabetic, so he can't have the juice, apple sauce, or cookies. He also doesn't have teeth, so he can't have the sunflower seeds. I have gall bladder issues, so I can't have anything too fatty, which means I can't have the cheese, meat, or sunflower seeds. I also don't like sugary drinks, so I can't have the juice. Daughter is a vegetarian, so can't have the beef sticks. So I ended up with all the applesauce and cookies, daughter ended up with all the juice and sunflower seeds, and hubby got all the beef and cheese sticks. Now the big question: What is for dinner? That was a question I used to be able to answer after visiting this food pantry.

This particular food pantry is serviced by Feeding America (aka Second Harvest). This is the organization where you can donate money at the cash register of the supermarket, when you do your food shopping. This organization discourages people from making food donations. They claim food donations are bad because they never get enough of the right items and too many useless items. They claim that money is better. They claim they can get more food, better food,  for your money than you can because they buy in bulk and know what they need. If you donate to this organization, this is what they are now buying with your money. Is this what you'd buy? Can you do better than this? Could you buy better food, more food?

Other food pantries in my area are run by churches, serviced by food donations from parishioners. They give out real food, normal food, food that answers the question, what's for dinner? You get 2 bags of real groceries, and you can go twice a month. Two of them even gives out stuff like 10 lb bags of frozen chicken legs, fresh eggs, fresh produce, frozen fish, venison roasts, loaves of fresh Italian bread, hams and turkeys for holidays. They don't get any help from any of the large regional food banks and they are serving their community much better. One of them has a couple of community cookouts during the summer, where they invite the needy to a nice barbeque and provide some fun social interaction with the, music, games for the kids. They will even come and get some of the shut-ins, with parishioners providing transportation. If they can do stuff like this, why can't Feeding America provide even a fraction of what they do? What the hell happened to make such a sudden drastic change in the amount of brains behind this organization?

Maybe, just maybe, Feeding America needs new management, people that really care and use their brains to provide real food with the money they are entrusted. Maybe that would better serve the hungry, and do right by the donors that support the organization, spending their money more wisely.

I used to support this organization with cash donations, back when things were much better and I could afford it. I used to encourage other people to donate to them, too. I even did so on this blog. I won't any more, not till they show some evidence of having more than 2 brain cells running things.

I am suggesting everyone follow my original advice for donating to a local food pantry:

Your local food pantry will need your help, more than ever, during this time of economic crisis. If you can spare anything at all, please consider making regular donations of food to the one closest to you. A little bit can go a long way and help a lot of people get by this winter, and beyond.
These are the kinds of items they would always be in need of:

  • spaghetti and other pasta products
  • spaghetti sauce (preferably with vegetables or meat)
  • canned meats (like tuna or chicken)
  • shelf stable milk that doesn't need refrigeration (something like Parmalat)
  • canned and dried beans
  • peanut butter & jelly
  • hot &cold cereals
  • pancake mix & syrup (get the "complete" kind that doesn't require eggs)
  • rice
  • canned fruits and vegetables
  • soups and stews (stuff with lots of meat & vegetables)

Just think healthy & nutritious, and don't give anything that you wouldn't eat. This is not an invitation to clean out your pantry of all your unwanted crap. They don't want your dust covered cans of gourmet liver paté and jars of pickled baby corn, that neither you nor your dog would eat.

If you are giving anything that requires something else to make it a complete meal, be sure to buy the other item to go with it, such as is the case with stuff like pasta & sauce, pancake mix & syrup, peanut butter & jelly, and cereal & milk.

When in doubt, contact your local food pantry and ask what they need most, or if they are willing to accept an item you may want to provide, before you make your purchase.

Probably about the easiest way you could do this, is to just pick up at least one extra non-perishable meal each week, when you do your shopping for your family. Then drop off the food you bought at your local pantry, on your way home.

If you are having trouble locating a local food pantry near your home, pick up your phone and call churches in your neighborhood. Many of them serve their community by running a food pantry.

Most do not require the people they serve to be a member of their church or even hold any religious beliefs, at all. And they don't use it as an opportunity to preach their flavor of religion to the people they serve, either. So if you are an atheist/agnostic, this shouldn't be an issue for you. Don't let it stand in the way. (Who cares why churches help, as long as they help and do it fairly.)