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Pumpkin vs Butternut Squash

It’s almost Fall, so of course I’m starting to explore some of those cyclical season ingredients. In years past, pumpkins have been symbolically connected to our impending season, but this year I’ve started thinking about a substitute, and I’m wondering about butternut squash. I’ve done one experiment so far, and it seems that – with similar seasonings – I can get a similar effect, with the added bonus of less size and prep work.

Your thoughts? Recommendations?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

from Food & Beverage by Bobby Caples http://ift.tt/2cbjJsW

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Hipsters pass the torch. Millennials, take hold.

Remember the good old days of hating hipsters? Anything that was wrong – or maybe just different – about modern American culture could be squarely blamed on the hipster, from mustaches to craft cocktails. But, where has that culture-hating culture gone? Where are the hipsters, and – more importantly – the people who hate them?

Turns out they’ve got their eyes set on a new target – millennials. Sort of. See, millennials really just took over for hipsters – they inherited all the bad blameworthy stuff that hipsters did. Maybe rightfully so? Maybe hipsters are millennials, and vice versa?

I’m actually not, perhaps surprisingly, about to go off on how we lump everyone in the same basket, how we stereotype, how every new generations becomes the newest generation. That’s a valid approach to this conversation, but today I’d like to share a few thoughts I had while walking earlier – the replacement of the hipster by the millennial.

Everyone knows it – we hate millennials. Sure, they’ve got some good stuff going for them, but they’re narcissistic, short-sighted, more focused on Instagram likes than real friends, convinced of their invincible utter self-worthiness, etc. But…….aren’t we talking about hipsters here? Yeah, millennials may not sport the beards (or they may), but a lot of the things we really don’t like about millennials used to be reserved for hipsters.

So, what gives? In my opinion, our critiques are accurate – we really can talk about some selfish folks with no delay of gratification. However, I don’t think the critique is reserved for either 1) hipsters, or 2) millennials. I think, in reality, we’re all sort of a little that way these days. Maybe some folks more than others – maybe younger people, millennials, hipsters, etc. have been bitten a bit more by this bug, but it’s really more of a cultural phenomenon than a specific description of a certain subculture.

In my opinion, the hipster of 2011 has passed the torch to present-day millennials. Millennials: Here’s why we don’t like you. You represent the some of the worst (new) parts of our culture. You’re young, fully embrace modern culture, and haven’t yet learned to discern between the stuff you probably shouldn’t actually admit to liking, and the stuff that you’ll be heralded for as being a progressive early-adopter. But you’re not that different from the rest of us. We all care way more than we should about how many likes we can on Instagram, whether the restaurant we ate at last night was new & cool (versus actually good), etc.

Secretly, I’m sort of happy that I can pull out the flannels a bit more and drink expensive coffee in front of other people while listening to bluegrass. We just don’t ate it as much as we did a few years ago. Thanks millennials. But the lesson learned here is that we’ll probably always have stuff we don’t like about our culture, and there will probably always be someone who gets blamed for either starting it, or at the very least doing it more than others.

Frozen…cocktails?

Yes, I said it. I know, I know – frozen cocktails bring back memories of…gasp..the 90s cocktail era. We all love the 90s for some pretty specific reasons, but cocktails aren’t on that list. So, why on earth would we be bring back frozen beverages in a world of craft & classic cocktails? Sort of a good question. In part, I think frozen drinks have made somewhat of a comeback because, well, we’re just bored with stuff. Think about it – if you live and breathe cocktails, after a while the Manhattan just doesn’t stir (or shake) your creative juices. So, you start reaching for stuff, even if it’s of questionable value.

That being said, I DO very much think that frozen drinks have their place in the craft cocktail world, largely because frozen the “craft” label shouldn’t be reserved for certain techniques, but rather a process or set of values, such as high quality ingredients, creativity, balance, etc. To be sure, the sickly sweet cocktail mixers of the 90s should be, once and for all, retired. I’m not advocated for that. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t use high quality ingredients and blend your beverage too.

So, glasses raised to the frozen beverage.Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 2.29.04 PM

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Perfect Shot

Stumbled across this shot on the internets recently and it just perfectly sums up what I love about scooters – the freedom on mobility and access to life that just seems to be bigger on a scooter. Somehow experiencing the world is just different than when I’m in my “cage” (aka car)!Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 2.22.33 PM

from Bobby Caples’ Scooter http://ift.tt/21qYC7k

For a break from service, try…service

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you lose that day-to-day passion for what you do. I’m not talking about that long-term passion – the kind that’s in your bones. I’m talking about the enthusiasm you feel on the drive to work, assuming you’ve got a job that you’d normally be passionate about. I’m talking about the drive to stay a bit late to finish a project, the creative juice to imagine a new solution to a problem, etc. You’re still down for the cause, you’re just not emotionally connected to it as you sometimes are.

Conventional wisdom may suggest balance – finding a sport, spending more time with friends, otherwise taking more time off. I’m not against those things, but another idea is to find balance by actually doing more of the activity, in a way. By “activity” I don’t mean spend more hours actually engaged in what you’re not feeling, but some other unrelated, though service-related project, that you may feel. The idea is to revive that feeling of passion, and hope that it carries over into your main area of concentration.

Give it a shot – then give me a shout. I’d be curious if it works for you.

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Pollen Season on the Scooter

Oh, friends, it’s that time of year when everything turns yellow. I literally walked outside the other day, sat down at a table with my phone on the table, and a minute later the phone was…yellow. The photo below made me think of this season of yellow! Surprisingly, though, it’s pretty great that on the scooter I seem to be pretty immune to allergies and other air quality stuff, at least as long as I’m moving!
day-212

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Dealing with “side effects” of educational interventions

We’re pretty lucky in education – this post is rarely relevant. Unlike doctors, we often don’t have to worry about the things we do causing harm. Sure, things may not be effective, but rarely do we actually risk hurting kids with what we do.

“Ability groups” or “skill groups” (terminology differs depending on who you’re talking to) are one of those perennial educational topics that never quite die. Like punishment and charter schools, folks have deeply passionate & entrenched perspectives about putting kids in groups based on what they can do, and what they need to learn. As a brief point of clarification, here’s what we’re NOT talking about:

• Tracking: Keeping kids in whole classes, and even educational tracks, based on their ability.

• Temporarily pulling kids aside and providing a little extra instruction to kids who may need it.

In reality, we’re talking something sort of in between (though probably closer to the latter). Most (elementary) educators are pretty familiar with “guided reading groups” or similar small group format instruction. This is what we’re talking about – routine, ongoing instructional settings in which kids participate based on what they need to learn.

I’m not going to go extensively into this topic and talk about all the research supporting or not supporting the skill group as a concept. To hopefully suffice, consider that many thousands of research studies were conducted with kids participating in a small group of some nature. By default, while this does NOT support that simply convening in a skill group is effective it most certainly supports that skill groups can be an effective instructional condition. On the other hand, sometimes skill groups are done ineffectively. For example, teachers may have lower expectations of students in lower groups (not just expecting lower results, which would make sense since their skill level is lower, but lower expectations given relative performance levels). Teachers may also keep kids in those skill groups too long, not moving kids up or down as need be. In short, some of these (inappropriate) uses of skill groups can cause problems.

First, to be clear, these side effects do NOT appear to universally be present in all instances of skill groups, but only when skill groups are done in certain, non-ideal, ways. But, let’s just pretend they were always present. At the same time, they work for us in certain ways – they let us differentiate learning, monitor individual performance more closely, give relative performance feedback more swiftly and accurately, and so on. In short, the benefits can be huge, which leads me to the fundamental question at hand:

How do we, as educators, use interventions or strategies that may actually impart some harm to students?

Do we cross them off the list entirely? Ignore the side effects? Something in between. After all, if doctors refused to use any treatment with side effects, we’d have no cancer therapy, no anything really.

My own personal answer is that I think we have to balance the potential gains versus the risks, and make an informed decision. Just because skill groups may, under certain circumstances, lead to a few negatives, doesn’t mean we discount the concept entirely. What it does mean:

1) We should attempt to understand the side effects & the conditions in which they occur, then attempt to minimize their occurrence and magnitude.

2) We should weigh the benefit versus the potential risk. With something as huge as skill groups, we should be sure to weight the benefits more substantially. We may be willing to stomach more side effects if the benefits are that much better. As another example, consider special education for a child who is significantly behind – there are some pretty serious side effects, but some pretty serious risk that comes with doing nothing as well.

3) We should consider alternatives. For example, punishment has side effects. While we shouldn’t, therefore, dismiss punishment entirely, we should consider other ways of taking care of business. For example, differential reinforcement of alternative behavior (DRA) is a concept from behavioral psychology that basically pulls a fast one and switches up reinforcement for punishment. Pretty slick, a with a few less consequences.

4) We should inform key stakeholders, including the kids themselves. Not only does this build ownership & sustainability into the intervention, but it can (at times, though not always) mitigate the risk of side effects as kids may be able to stomach them a little better if they come from within. This means that kids who are involved in making decisions may not feel as much like things are happening to them, and they may better understand why the side effect is happening.

5) We should collect data & monitor progress, not only with the outcome, but with the side effects. If we think placement in a skill group is going to cause emotional stress, let’s monitor emotional stress in a data-based fashion. Let’s know what we’re up against & what we’re dealing with.

As educators, we like to strictly dichotomize and characterize things. Things are often either awful or great. The next best thing, or a complete waste of time. Find me someone who doesn’t love or hate charter schools, someone who doesn’t have a strong opinion on corporal punishment. In reality, and I hate to say this, but corporal punishment isn’t all bad. Charters aren’t all good, but 17% of them beat out public schools. Hmmm. Rarely are things as easy and neat as we want to make them. It’s our job as professional educators to not jump on bandwagons and be popular scientists with educational research. We have a duty to our kids to live in the grey areas research often leaves us; to wade in the murky waters of empiricism and best practice; to make professional, data-based decisions in the face of uncertainty.

So, with side effects, treat them as one part of the equation – one thing to be considered.

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