Education Blog got $12 million to promote message…ps…it’s not Wait, What?

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Yesterday a number of corporate funded charter school advocacy groups joined Governor Dannel Malloy in support of his plan to dramatically increase charter school funding while making historic cuts to funding for public schools.

For coverage see: The Hartford Courant’s Charter School Lobbying: Where Is Money Coming From?  and CT Mirror’s Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol.

Anyway you look at it, the corporate education reform industry has deep pockets.

Just last September, Peter Cunningham, the former PR guy for U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, rolled out a new organization called Education Post.

The cornerstone of the project is a pro-corporate education reform industry blog called The Conversation, its purpose being to counter the work of Diane Ravitch and the more than 230 other pro-public education bloggers around the nation.

The initial grants to get the new pro-common core, pro-charter school, pro-education reform effort off the ground totaled at least $12 million.  The money came from the Eli Broad Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Family Foundation and a generous anonymous donor.

At the time, the president of the Broad Foundation, Richard Reed, explained to the Washington Post that,

“The idea for Education Post originated with his organization but that other philanthropic groups had recognized the need years ago.

‘We had a shared disappointment in the tenor of the debate,’ said Reed, a former chief of staff to Vice President Biden and former chief executive of the Democratic Leadership Council.”

Reed went on to add that the new blog was stepping in to help support the discussion surrounding education policy because,

 “Administrators, school leaders and teachers have papers to grade, schools to run, and they don’t have time to get out and talk about this…This is an effort to help spread information about what works both inside the field and outside.”

Howard Wolfson, who served as a co-chief strategist to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and a senior adviser to Ned Lamont’ senate campaign in Connecticut is also an adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies.  Discussing the purpose of the new education reform blog, Wolfson said,

“There hasn’t really been an organization dedicated to sharing the successes of education reform around the country…You have local success, but it isn’t amplified elsewhere. And there is a lot of success. There is also an awful lot of misperception around what ed reform is, and there hasn’t been an organization . . . focused on correcting those misimpressions.”

Here in Connecticut, charter school advocates have, from time to time, raised the questions about who funds Wait, What?

Last year a pro-charter school blogger wrote, “How Much Money Does Jon Pelto Really Make for Attacking School Principals?”  The blogger added,

“Who does Jon Pelto think he’s kidding?

When Rick Green over at the Hartford Courant’s Capitol Watch blog asked Pelto who pays the bills, the not-precisely-accurate ex-politician’s response was laughable.

“Pelto said he raises about $7,000 annually to pay for his blog,” Green wrote.

Don’t believe it for a second. No fewer than three times a day, seven days a week, Pelto posts haranguing attacks on our governor, education commissioner, school superintendents and principals.

Each one of those posts is hundreds, sometimes thousands of words in length.

And he does it for free? Yeah, excuse me while I have a laughing fit in the corner.

For example, when Pelto was lamely and ineffectually attacking principal and magnet school founder Steve Perry for sending tweets, he decided that Perry’s tweeting had cost the city “well in excess of $10,000.”

How he arrived at that figure, no one knows. But now that he’s made it up, he repeats it as fact every chance he gets.”

Now that it turns out that a blog dedicated to promoting the education reform industry received $12 million in grants just to get going, I can certainly appreciate the Connecticut bloggers disbelief that there are people out here who actually care enough to write about education policy and politics without making hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the truth is that Wait, What? – like all the individual pro-public education blogs that I know of –  receive no funding at all, or, at best, collect small contributions from readers.

Over the past year, Wait, What? has received about $10,000 and, for the record, none of that money came from unions, political action committees or other advocacy groups.

Not that I would turn down contributions from people who like and support the blog and its mission, but truth be told, the anti-common core, anti-common core testing and anti-Governor Malloy posts have apparently made the blog somewhat of a pariah when it comes to the attitude of the national and state teachers’ unions.

Note to self: “If you want to collect donations from teachers’ unions, don’t criticize them and definitely don’t criticize the candidates they support.”

That said, towing the “party line” probably wouldn’t have resulted in a $12 million donation.

In any case, although the notion of making big bucks is very tempting, if readers ever type in the Wait, What? website url and the site is shut down, you still probably won’t find me writing for the education reform industry’s blog — The Conversation — although even a fraction of that $12 million would go a long way toward paying the bills.

Happy Friday!

And remember, As George Orwell said,

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

Oh and if you do want to contribute to Wait, What? click on the following link;

Spring 2015 Wait, What? Fundraising Request

 

Please take the time to read these recent Wait, What? blog posts

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Important – Massive Common Core opt-out movement continues to grow in New York State and Connecticut parents are standing up for their children as well

Staples High School newspaper observes – “it’s pretty hard to take a test if you don’t know anything about it.”

Another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker: Charter schools — civil rights rhetoric vs. reality

Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) explains why Common Core testing is so important

Dianna R. Wentzell – Misleader of parents on Common Core SBAC testing named Connecticut Commissioner of Education

Careening down the wrong path as Education Reform Industry spends more money to buy public policy

Common Core SBAC testing – Open letter to the Connecticut Working Families Party

But in Connecticut – “No one dared disturb the sound of silence.”

Yes we are failing our children…especially here in Connecticut

Your financial support for Wait, What? is needed and truly appreciated

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Spring Wait,What? Fundraising Request

Despite these difficult economic times, more than 75 readers donated to help support Wait, What? earlier this year during the winter 2015 fundraising drive.

Since its inception in January 2011, Wait What’s 2,200 plus blog posts have attracted nearly 2 million visits and produced more than 25,000 comments.

Visitors who just come to read and learn are welcome, but a special thank you goes out to those who have provided the financial support that has allowed Wait, What? to become a leading examples of the role investigative blogging and independent journalism can play in helping to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out about the important issues of our time.

And we have just begun the fight!

Revealing the truth and holding the powerful accountable will remain the vital role of this blog.

While the reality of financial security remains out of reach for many, whatever financial support readers could provide would be extremely helpful as I continue to strive to use Wait, What? as an important platform for providing news and commentary.

You can donate on-line by following this link: https://fundly.com/spring-2015-wait-what-fundraising-request

Or, if you would prefer, donations can also be made by check.  Checks should be made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward help with the maintenance of Wait, What?

As always, thanks so much…

And a special thank you to all of those who have already donated to the effort.

Jonathan

To donate on-line go to: https://fundly.com/spring-2015-wait-what-fundraising-request

A look back on the Wait, What? Blogs this week

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Please read and re-read, pass on the ones you think deserve more attention

No, the Common Core SBAC test is not like a blood test.

Sound Familiar?  The Opt-Out Battle in New York makes Washington Post

Pelto calls for investigation and disciplinary action into violations of the SBAC Testing Protocol and the related bullying of children

Teachers Matter

No really… Students who aren’t taking SBAC Test MUST be removed from testing rooms

Martin Walsh – A CT teacher stands up for CT parents and their right to opt-out

Not my daughter: How one dad opted out his kindergartner from standardized testing

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education

Look-Out – He’s got our credit card and he is going nuts!

CT Capitol Report Headline Reads – The Oracle: Pelto: Told you so…

Hello Superintendents – Common Core SBAC Test “Mandate” is not like Connecticut’s truancy laws.

Common Core SBAC Test – Connecticut wrong, Vermont right!

Wait, What? Week-in Review – A lot going down – Please take a look

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With the massive Common Core SBAC Testing scam about to swallow up Connecticut’s children and public schools, a disastrous proposed state budget having been put forward by Governor Dannel “REqad My Lips” Malloy and a special state senate election in Bridgeport featuring the darling of the charter school industry, the disgraced Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr, the Wait, What? blog has been blaze with activity and extra posts and comments.

If you haven’t had time to review some of the recent blog posts, please take a moment to read up about the developments that are taking place around us.

Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test

Parents & Teachers Please Read – the Common Core Test is rigged to fail students

Is your public school student a “failure” – the Common Core SBAC Test says probably yes!

Teachers across America are fighting for their students – Where the hell are CT’s teacher unions

Opt-Out Gobbledygook – The Regional School District No. 14 Example

Malloy on Corporate Education Reform Agenda – “stay the course” “even if [policies] aren’t that popular”

Pelto Challenges Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry Leaders to debate

Yes to SBAC opt out request brings Bristol CT off the SBAC Wall of Shame

Connecticut Teacher Union perfects the concept of Sleeping with the Enemy

***** Sample opt out letter for Connecticut parents *****

 

Malloy’s State Budget Plan:

Malloy budget targets most vulnerable among us (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Dan Malloy’s cut to end all cuts – Bring out your dead (or don’t as the case may be)

The Biggest Winner in Malloy’s Budget – Charter Schools

Read it and Weep – Malloy’s budget – More money for charter schools, less money for public schools

Dan “Read My Lips” Malloy goes with $900 million plus in new revenue…

Ya know that “no tax pledge” I made during the campaign, well I lied! – Surprise

News Flash: Malloy reneges on sales clothing exemption commitment to pay for tiny cut in sales tax

 

The real story surrounding the Special State Senate Election in Bridgeport

Hey Reverend Moales – Where is the missing money?

Another effort to stamp out democracy in Bridgeport – What is it with Mayor Finch and the Charter School Industry?

Mayor Finch shifts to Reverend Moales in Bridgeport Special State Senate Election

 

Other key issues including the Achievement First Inc Charter School Money Grab in New Haven

The “done deal” to divert scarce public funds to another Achievement First Inc. hits a road block

New Haven (& CT) Taxpayers to subsidize Achievement First’s corporate development plan?

Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers – Beware the Achievement First Inc. Money Grab in New Haven

Charter School Renewal in CT: The Accountability Is Flexible (By Robert Cotto Jr.)

Without A Net – The challenge of learning in chaos (By Wendy Lecker)

Investigative Blogging Aimed at Empowering Citizens

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The Wait, What? Winter 2015 fundraising drive is coming to a close.

Please consider making a donation via – The Wait, What? 2015 Winter Request Donation Page

Or consider sending a check to Wait, What? c/o PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

As in years past, although thousands visit the Wait, What? blog every day, only a handful or readers actually provide the financial support to make the blog possible.

But those donors make a big difference!

This time, thanks to the generous support of more than 45 donors, we’ve raised $3,150 toward the goal of $5,000

If you could add a donation, no matter how small (or large), it will help keep the Wait, What? blog going.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check out this past week’s Wait, What? posts;

Malloy, Budget Deficits and the failure to follow State Law

The millionaire candidate who won’t pay his taxes or debts…

In the news again – Steve Perry’s point man in Bridgeport – The Reverend Kenneth Moales Jr.

ALERT! Parents – the Common Core SBAC Test really is designed to fail your children

New State Reading Test for Teachers vs. Steve Perry and the Testourkids.com Reading Centers

Malloy administration selects Lisa Grasso Egan to oversee state employee negotiations

How much will the absurd Common Core SBAC Test cost Connecticut taxpayers?

Question – Can my child graduate without taking the absurd Common Core SBAC Test?

Legislative Champions starting to step forward in Connecticut

Parents can (and should) consider opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests

Readers – I Need Your Help to Keep Wait, What? Going…

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With no operating funds from big corporations, foundations, unions or advocacy groups, Wait, What? has been a four year journey funded by personal saving and contributions from some generous readers.

But truth be told, I need your help to keep Wait, What? active and continuing its mission of educating, persuading and mobilizing people on a series of vital issues that impact our nation, state and communities.

Maybe you could dedicate your donation in honor of our surviving #Blizzard2015 or #StormJuno

Or maybe you could donate as part of your on-going commitment to supporting citizen journalism and the role we play in providing The People with the truth about what is happening in their government.

Or maybe you could donate based on your belief that we must continue to push back against the Corporate Education Reform Industry and ensure that the word “public” is truly part of “Public Education.”

Whatever reason you choose, the fact is your financial support is needed.

The time and money to keep Wait What? doing what it does best —– is extensive.

I recognize that that most people don’t have a lot of disposable income these days to donate to vital causes, but your help and support is critically important and truly appreciated.

Please consider making a donation to support the Wait, What? Blog

You can donate on–line by going to: https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request

Or you can donate via check; Made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward helping with the maintenance of Wait, What?

Thank you so much,

Jonathan

Please take a moment today and click on the following link to make a donation:  https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request?

The Wait, What? Winter request for donations…

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https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request

 

Friends

Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of those who have provided financial support for Wait, What? – Along with all the people who have read and participated in the dialogue – The Wait, What? blog has become a leading news and commentary site.

The 1,820 blog posts since January 3, 2011 have attracted over 1.6 million visits and an incredible 23,000 comments.

Thanks to all of you, the blog has become a prime example of the importance of investigative blogging, advocacy journalism and the role social media can play in helping to educate, persuade and mobilize people to stand up and speak out about the important issues of our time.

While the primary focus of the blog has been the on-going effort to push back against the corporate education reform industry and re-take public control of public education, we’ve collectively dealt with an impressive array of issues.

The first blog on Wait, What? was entitled “MIND THE GAAP – Confronting the Cost of Fiscal Honesty 1/3/11).” Less than a week later, the blog of the day was, “Grappling with Connecticut’s Budget Crisis – Part I: What about Education Funding? (1/7/11).”

The article ended with the observation;

“After pledging during the campaign that he would maintain state funding for local education, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy backed off a bit Thursday, saying that is “a goal” that he will “try and accommodate.”

“That’s a goal that I have when preparing the budget,” he said during his first press conference after taking office. “There are many goals that I have. We are going to try and accommodate all of them,”

While some things haven’t changed, other things have.  That post failed to generate a single comment and only a handful of visitors stopped by to read it.

Now, with tens of thousands of visitors a month, an individual blog post can generate dozens and dozens of comments.

With 2015 underway, I hope to ensure that Wait, What? becomes an even more vital and important part of the public debate.

And so, I turn to all of you, again.

Over the four years, many of you have made a contribution to help support Wait, What?

And many provided financial support to my campaign as well.

I truly appreciate each and every one of those contributions for they have provided me with a truly unique opportunity to be heard on many of the issues we care so deeply about.

I know that these are difficult financial times for many of us and that the notion of financial security remains out of reach for many, but whatever financial support you could provide would be extremely helpful as I strive to use Wait, What? as a platform to provide news and commentary about the issues of our time.

A donation will help strengthen Wait, What? and the role of advocacy and investigative journalism in Connecticut.

You can donate on-line here:

https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request

 

Or, if you would prefer, donations can also be made by check.  Checks should be made out to Wait, What? and sent to Wait, What? c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, but they go a very long way toward help with the maintenance of Wait, What?

Thanks so much,

Jonathan

Your help would be greatly appreciated https://fundly.com/wait-what-2015-winter-request?

Vote today, but even more importantly, take action tomorrow for our very future depends on it…

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For nearly four years I have written and maintained the Wait, What? Blog as a vehicle to challenge the status quo and try, as best I could, to inform, educate and persuade my fellow citizens to question authority and demand better from those who hold positions of power in and outside of government.

In January of 2011, one of my first posts outlined the primary purpose behind Wait, What? – which was and remains – a belief that we must hold our own (in this case Democrats) to the same standards that we would hold our opponents.

Over the course of 1,761 posts, 26,778 comments and more than 1.5 million visits to this blog, I have tried to remain true to that purpose.

Many people have used their comments to add vitally important information to the discussion, others have simply added their support or observations, and some have vehemently criticized and condemned the content of some articles or the value and intent of the blog itself.

A common refrain has been that by criticizing Malloy and Democrats, among others, I have been siding with the enemy and promoting the success of the Republicans and those who are even more out of step with the needs of our citizens and our society.

As a true believer in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, I fundamentally respect everyone’s right to articulate their beliefs.  That said, skimming back over the many blog posts, I will stand my ground and say that I have not wavered from my belief that we must hold our own to the same standards we hold our opponents and that the transgressions and errors that I have consistently sought to challenge deserved the attention and light of day that I have tried to provide.

We know that real change is not easy.  By its very design our government is slow and often cumbersome. While there are sometimes benefits to the notion that a steady pace wins the race, the problems facing our state, country and citizens are growing exponentially and our window of opportunity to change course is closing.

As regular readers of this blog know, a common practice has been to seek out and use a quote that helps to clarify and amplify the points I am working to highlight. With that in mind, I turn once again to one of the greatest Americans in history, Martin Luther King, Jr. who said,

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.”

King opened that speech by reminding his audience and the world that, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

I believe that we have reached that time and then some.

There are many battles ahead.

I am not sure to the extent that the Wait, What? blog will be part of the dialogue.  As of today I am putting the blog on “pause” as I tackle some other anti-corporate education reform industry projects and consider various options for restructuring Wait, What?

But I have learned much from this process and assure my readers, both supporters and opponents, that I will continue to do all I can to raise awareness of the problems we face and force the changes we need in order to beat back those who seek to destroy the middle class, create a permanent underclass and continue their efforts to undermine the most basic values that are should be guiding our government and society.

I am but a foot soldier in this larger battle, nothing more. But like all good foot soldiers, I will not be dissuaded for doing all I can to do my part in the effort to create the change we need.

While I recognize that my posts have generated insults, condemnation and even blacklisting from groups and individuals who claim to be the “true” representatives of the people, I honestly believe that I am doing what I can to stand up and speak out about the important issues and challenges we face.

It cannot be compared in any way to what I’ve personally witnessed, for this battle here is minor compared to the truly greater battles that have taken place in our nation’s history, but I can’t help but be reminded by what occurred to Martin Luther King Jr. when he spoke out against the Vietnam War in his famous speech at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967.

In an editorial in the Washington Post two days later, the newspaper wrote that by opposing the Vietnam War and speaking out against our nation’s constant use of war, violence and destruction, King “has done a grave injury to those who are his natural allies … and … an even graver injury to himself.”

The Washington Post added “Many who have listened to him with respect will never again accord him the same confidence. He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country and to his people. And that is a great tragedy.”

Thus has been the message to those who seek to speak the truth and seek to force a true accounting of the problems we face and the solutions our citizens need and deserve.

It has always been that way and it will undoubtedly continue to be that way, but no matter how small our contribution may be to the greater effort, we must never shy away from standing up and speaking out.

I close this chapter by thanking all of you who have been part of Wait, What? and my associated activities these past few years.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in the months and years to come.

For as I am especially fond of saying to those who criticize our work, upset now?

Just wait for “We have not yet begun to fight!”

Your thoughts, advice, guidance and suggestions are always welcome,

And thank you for all that you have done, all you are doing and all you have yet to do in the future,

Jonathan Pelto
[email protected]
 

To blog or not to blog?

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That is the question…

In these difficult times, many of us are grappling with the question – How can one be useful and relevant in what increasingly appears to be a new dystopian age.  (Look up the word dystopian if you don’t know what it means).

Coming off my recent “campaign” for governor, I find this question to be particularly vexing.

In particular, do I continue to use my blog to raise what I perceive to be legitimate issues about the state of our state or do I throw in the towel and move on to something new?

For guidance I sought the advice of the “Common Core Guru.” You can find it under a local bridge, hanging out with three Billy Goats Gruff.  He suggested that I utilize a writing prompt to explore my deepest feelings and emotions about how to proceed.

To explore that path, the Common Core Guru suggested I use the writing prompt, “What I learned on my summer vacation?”

But, truth be told, I remain troubled by this advice because I recognize that, thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, Stefan Pryor (Malloy’s Commissioner of Education) and their merry band of corporate education reform industry groupies, that anything I write will be judged – not by humans – but by the Automated Essay Scoring (AES) System that accompanies the unfair, ill-conceived, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme.

As the SBAC Common Core industry has explained,

In 2010, when it was starting to develop the new Common Core exams for its 24 member states (Connecticut being one of them), the group wanted to use machines to grade 100 percent of the writing.

“Our initial estimates were assuming we could do everything by machine, but we’ve changed that,” said Jacqueline King, a director at Smarter Balanced.

Now, 40 percent of the writing section, 40 percent of the written responses in the reading section and 25 percent of the written responses in the math section will be scored by humans.

“The technology hasn’t moved ahead as fast as we thought,” King said.

But still, let’s face it, despite the failure of the technology as we “move forward,” 60% of the tests will still be scored by computers.

And as one expert recently noted,

AES algorithms can be gamed.  That is, a critic of AES can write a nonsensical piece that the AES engine will score with a high score point.  Critics cite this fact as a fatal flaw in AES.  However, to write the “hot mess” that receives a high score, the critic must be fully versed in many of the aspects that make writing strong:  a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions, grammatical correctness, etc. In other words, an AES can only be tricked by a good writer.

So to trick the computer you have to be a good writer…

Which returns me to the fundamental question, how best should I proceed?

In a blog post about the issue, fellow public education blogger Alice Mercer wrote;

Basically, the programs can judge grammar and usage errors (although I suspect it will lead to a very stilted form of writing that only a computer could love), but it’s not in the position to judge the facts and assertions, or content in an essay.  The only way to do that is to limit students to what “facts” they are using by giving them a list.

And friend and fellow blogger Anthony Cody added,

If this is the “Smarter” test, it seems far less intelligent than a qualified teacher, capable of challenging students with an open-ended question. And if we are sacrificing intelligence, creativity and critical thinking for the sake of the efficiency and standardization provided by a computer, this seems a very poor trade.

All of which leaves one very confused!

Because, if truth be told, as I contemplate continuing my Wait, What? blog or calling it a day, I’m left wondering how relevant a blog could even be in Governor Malloy’s Common Core world?

God knows, along with my readers, that my understanding of grammar and spelling is, at best, limited.

And if the computer is looking for “a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions [and] grammatical correctness” then maybe the time has come to accept that fact that I should throw in the towel and admit that my notion of right and wrong simply can’t compete against the computer’s understanding of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Finally, in conclusion, let me say that advice from the peanut gallery, let alone my readers, would be welcome.

Oh and by the way, you get an extra point if you know where the term “peanut gallery” comes from.

By the way, if I don’t continue with my blog, Wait, What?, I have to admit that I do have a second blog set up and ready to go.

It will be called, “Failure is an Option.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have had a restful, rejuvenating and safe Labor Day weekend and I wish you well as we head into the remainder of 2014.

Jonathan

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