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.

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Should We Let 3rd Graders Decide Educational Policy?

I thoroughly believe in listening to students, even when it comes to things like state tests.

Note: This article has been cross-published on bobbycaples.com

First, let me state unequivocally that I care what students think about education. We should ask them frequently, and incorporate that feedback. Diane Ravitch, in a recent blog post, seemed to advocate though that we should allow students to actively make decisions about intricate elements of educational practice and policy independently.

More specifically, she praised a 3rd grader for, independently, opting out of state testing. She trusted his professional opinion about which elements of education to take part in. It’s not hard to see where I’m going with this.

Ravitch supporters have supported her historically by claiming that she using hyperbole to drive home messages. My critiques of her less-than-professional use of hyperbole aside, it’s hard to make a case that this falls into that category. She’s straight out suggesting that if a 3rd grader doesn’t like something, he shouldn’t have to do it.

So, start rolling your eyes – here’s where I state the obvious. Sammy is allowed to opt out of state tests, what about guided reading groups? Science lab? School discipline practices? Special education? Physical Education?

Clearly, again stating the obvious here, a 3rd grader doesn’t have the skills, experience, or cognitive maturity to understand the complexity of state tests. Say what you will, stand on whichever side of the line you prefer, but it isn’t simple enough for a 3rd grader to understand thoroughly.

Again, returning to my first point – I thoroughly believe in listening to students, even when it comes to things like state tests. But, under no circumstances should a a 3rd grader be given the power to make big-time educational decisions he can’t possibly understand.

The better question here is why Diane Ravitch could possibly think this is a good idea? Truthfully, I don’t think she probably does. She’s a smart woman – I’m sure she sees the logic in what I’m saying here. My best guess is that this makes for good press, and what is clear is that she’ll stop at nothing to get her message out and gain readers – after all, she recently blogged about her success with gaining 21 million page views.. This is fine, but not if you start publishing nonsense to get a reaction.

The problem, not just with this blog post, is that people will eventually catch on to your methods and stop taking you seriously. Most of her followers seems to die-hard pro-teacher-at-any-cost supporters who refuse to acknowledge a single valid point that is not their own. They refuse to acknowledge complexity or nuance of arguments, perspectives, or educational policy. Anything suggested by the Gates foundation must be wrong, anything ever accomplished by a non-non-profit or school must have a secret agenda.

I’ll end by saying what I’ve said plenty of times before – I’m probably more on Diane’s side of the argument more than I’m not. She has some good things to say, but doesn’t generally find a good way of saying them. I continue to hope she finds a more mature position from which to advocate for our shared positions, because I believe kids would benefit more if she did.

Until then….

Merit Pay

Diane Ravitch recently blogged again about an article advocating against merit pay for teachers. While I often find myself not agreeing with Diane on a lot of topics, I do side with her on this one.

There are two ways to attack this issue: from the neutral perspective of data (simply asking if the technique works), and from a theoretical one.

From a data-based perspective, I’ll leave that to other folks who have those data to confirm, but my understanding is that it’s been tried, and hasn’t worked. If that’s the case, sort of end of story on that point.

From a theoretical perspective, my initial response is actually that I do think there is a salary point above which merit pay would work. To use an extreme example to illustrate the concept, let’s say teachers were given a $300,000 bonus if their kids’ test scores were above a certain point. I don’t think all teachers would be able to accomplish this with all kids, but I do think we’d seen an increase in effort and time spent by teachers, and better results. My sense is that you’d see teachers exerting all kinds of crazy effort trying to improve their game and get results.

However, when we’re talking practically and considering what merit pay actually looks like – the actual amounts offered – it just doesn’t make sense. On the contrary, what we see is a reduction of effort because teachers – many of whom are driven by passion for students and learning – are insulted that their worth or results would be reduced to a few hundred extra dollars. They’re insulted that they’re being told through such an incentive program that they aren’t really trying as hard as they can, because if the powers that be did believe they were trying their hardest, they wouldn’t be offering this incentive program.

So, for now, I’ll enjoy this moment of consensus with Diane!

Spring Cocktails

This spring I’ve been all about fresh ingredients, from herbs to fruit. The farmers market has become a routine stop for me, even to the point of not being able to use my rewards credit card and having to revert to cash or debit! The end result has been worth it, though. Here are a few ideas from someone other than me to prove it:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imbibe/6-cocktail-recipes-for-sp_b_6987528.html

I Hate My Job

I used to hate my job. I have a feeling I am not the only one.

Every morning, my thoughts were as dark as my coffee. I would put on a black suit picked from a closet full of monochromatic suits, stare at the key while locking the door, wistful for the moment when I could unlock it again. I’d light a cigarette on my way to the subway, hoping the nicotine will make my existence a little more bearable.

If we were in a movie, you would hear Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa while I trudged to work.

Sure, I can be a little dramatic sometimes.

I am currently in a love affair with my job (I quit the miserable one). Passionately loving my current job made me realize why I actively hated the former one.

For me, there are three primary reasons why one could end up in the aforementioned situation. They all have one thing in common: ego.

1) You are not good enough at your job.

We tend to underestimate our ego. It is a big fat pig that needs to be fed all the time. Since we spend most of our life working, it is only natural that we expect our jobs to feed our ego. But if you are just OK at your job, how can you expect to feel accomplished?

The good news is that more often than not, if you got hired, it probably means you are qualified for what you do. But maybe you are not quite qualified enough. You can always strive to perfect yourself and persevere. Sit down and try to understand why your colleague’s report was so impressive and yours so mediocre. Read the report religiously. Analyze its structure. Underline the parts that made the report so useful. Draw your own personal best practices. Take a break, have some peanuts. Internalize them.

Try to work as often as you can with a colleague you admire and ideally build a relationship. Team projects are an excellent way to receive constructive feedback and you work harder when you care about the good of the whole team.

Learn more, get better, get recognized, feed your ego and appreciate your job — and in turn, they will appreciate you.

2) You are too qualified for your job.

It’s like dating that guy who was too easy to impress because you knew you were too good for him. He confessed to you after the second date that he wants you to be the mother of his children, and you promptly lost interest. That guy.

If your job does not involve any type of internal or external challenge, you end up in a dangerous comfort zone that will prevent you from thinking bigger, doing better and feeling accomplished.

Asking for more responsibility or volunteering to work on more projects can quickly change the game. You will not only have more opportunities to prove yourself and learn but you also will end up with different projects to juggle. The art of multitasking is complex in itself. And trust me — no employer will refuse to make you work more.

3) This job is not for you. Full stop.

Nowadays quitting is too often associated with failure — whether it is a relationship, a job or a project. If you think this way, you are wrong. Being able to quit something that hasn’t been making you happy for a long time — despite all your efforts — is strength. Although your ego often dictates you to push yourself more and more, at the end of the day, it will only be satisfied if you produce good results, which is difficult to accomplish when you deeply dislike what you do.

Think about all the time you are wasting being miserable when you could be smothering your ego in love.

So do yourself a favor and re-think the pros and the cons of your job. Needless to say, this is a serious decision with many things at stake such as paying your loans, the unemployment rate, and the stability of your family. But I am confident that deep inside we all know what is good for us.

And don’t worry about your parents, they will still be proud of you.

Don’t keep your experience for yourself. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

from The Huffington Post | The Full Feed http://ift.tt/1z1vGYL
Bobby Caples

Why I Run: The Big Picture

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, once said “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

With “marathon season” upon us, if you’re anything like me your social media feeds have been overrun with “marathon fever.” Not to take away from Kathrine’s famous quote or the accomplishment that so many new and old runners will tackle as they conquer 26.2 miles, but I think it’s slightly misguided.

This is not a race report. This is a tale that just happens to involve three races and three distinct moments that have cemented for me whats right with Kathrine’s quote and whats wrong.

Self Victory:
It’s Sept. 5 around 10 p.m. in northern Minnesota. I look down, my headlamp illuminating my GPS watch: 4 hours, 62 miles, 11,000 feet of elevation gain and the same of loss. Im tired, sore, my stomach feels queazy. Theres a river running next to me, calm sound of water running is the only sound besides the crunch of dirt under my feet. I stop, and reach up and click my headlamp off. I’m plunged into darkness. I reach behind me and I pat myself on my back. I start clapping and I let out my signature “Yip, Yip.” I’m 62 miles into a 100-mile race, and I’ve just decided to “DNF” at the next aid station half a mile ahead.

You could call it a failure, but in my eyes it wasn’t. It was the longest and hardest run I had ever done to date. Could I have pushed through and finished? Probably (and next year I plan on it)! But had I kept going I knew that I was risking injury, and I wasn’t prepared to do that. In my eyes it’s okay to dream big, and it’s okay to redefine failure and success. Victory (without a doubt) is crossing the finish line. Victory (with a capital “V”) is also committing to the starting line. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you come in first or last or don’t even finish at all! What matters is that you toe the starting line with conviction and cary yourself with the type of spirit, grit, and passion that maybe just maybe has the possibility to inspire others or even yourself. If you are losing faith in human nature… go out and do something that makes you proud of yourself.
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Me earlier in the day enjoying the Superior 100 Course!

Inspiring Others:
It’s Oct. 12 a little before 11 a.m. in Boston. It’s the B.A.A half marathon and I’m running next to my sister. It’s her first half marathon, her longest run. She doesn’t have the same running genes as me, and it’s a completely new sport for her. About a month and a half ago she called me and asked what she would need to do to finish a half marathon. I quickly wrote up a plan and sent it to her. She wasn’t convinced she could do it or that the plan would be enough. She followed it though, believing in herself and here we were ready to cross the finish line!

If you are losing faith in human nature… go out and help somebody else accomplish something that they didn’t know was possible. Experience the joy of having a moment not be about yourself, but instead be about somebody else. Experience that moment where somebody discovers that yes, hard work and determination can make the unimaginable imaginable.

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Me basking in my sister’s accomplishment, .25 miles from the finish!

The Young Ones:
It’s Oct. 19, a little before 2 p.m. in Bradbury State Park in Maine. I’m not even going to go in depth about the race (50k, hilly, I came in second, 17 seconds behind first place). I’m sitting in a chair at the finish catching my breath when suddenly I’m surrounded by a group of about four elementary school students are surrounding me. The youngest looking one (he said he was 6) positions himself directly in front of me and says, “One time I hiked 8 miles, and another time I climbed Bradbury mountain without stopping! When I’m bigger I want to be like you.”

I smiled and said, “You’re already like me, when I get old and start shrinking I want to be like you!”

The next five minutes were spent answering a peppering of questions from my new 6-year-old friend. He wanted to know what everything was from the tape on my knee, to my hydration vest, to the logo on my visor. We parted ways with a high five. Next year I’ll return to Big Brads 50k, and I hope my 6-(then 7)-year-old friend is there! If you are losing faith in human nature… go out and interact with the next generation. Let them inspire you to do good to hand the world over to them in a better position, and have faith that there are those behind us that have the will and the desire to do great things. People who share the same ideals, and values as us.

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Me at the finish with my second place award made by the elementary school students!

Take from it what you want. Maybe you need to go out and run 26.2 miles to show others the good in human nature. Or maybe it’s not about the miles at all. Maybe it doesn’t matter if it’s 63 miles, 13.1 miles, or just sitting in a chair talking to a 6-year-old…

from The Huffington Post | The Full Feed http://ift.tt/1tlIdmx
Bobby Caples

A Dynamic Jewish Calendar Mobile App

Remember the Palm Pilot? That personal digital assistant (PDA) that was all the rage back in the 1990s now seems as archaic as a sundial or abacus compared to today’s impressive smartphones. The utility apps that we’ve come to depend on in the 21st century weren’t even dreamed about back then. For rabbis, other Jewish professionals and observant Jews, there was one mobile app that we came to depend upon back in the Palm Pilot era and that was Luach by Penticon (luach is the Hebrew word for calendar).

Penticon’s Luach quickly became the killer app for anyone in the Jewish professional world. In fact, I recall the dean of my rabbinical school at the time, Rabbi William Lebeau, telling the senior class that they could not be ordained from the Jewish Theological Seminary unless they had a PDA with Luach installed.

Now fifteen years later Google has created an importable Hebrew calendar and developers like RustyBrick, AvivoNet and Tebeka Software Solutions have rolled out their own versions of Jewish calendars for Apple’s iOS and Android. However, Penticon’s Luach is back and it is far and away the best virtual Jewish calendar for mobile devices on the market.

Penticon Technologies’ Howie Hirsch, who lives in Israel, has finally completed work on a Luach version for iOS and he was happy to answer some questions I had on the new app.

When did you come up with the idea of creating a Luach app for the Palm back in the late 1990s?

HIRSCH: I always had an interest in the Jewish calendar. When I started to learn how to develop applications for the Palm, I decided to do something that could be useful. I created a small application where I could enter a date, and it would give me the Jewish Date, and vice versa. As I learned more about developing for the Palm and learned more about the inner workings of the Jewish calendar, I realized that this would be an application that would be useful for me, and for many other people.

Why do Jewish people need a mobile utility app like Luach?

HIRSCH: It’s so convenient to have the information that Luach provides available to you at any time. It’s particularly handy to have it together with your calendar, so that you can make sure to avoid conflicts with Jewish holidays when you are scheduling meetings or other events. It’s also very helpful to know the Shabbat and holiday candle lighting time when scheduling events in your calendar. Having Luach on your electronic organizer is exactly where you need it.

In addition to observant Jews, who else uses Luach?

HIRSCH: Many Jews who are not Orthodox still observe Shabbat and Jewish holidays in their own ways. These people want to know when the Jewish holidays occur. It’s still universal to celebrate yahrzeits (anniversary of a death), based on the Jewish date. Using Luach allows this to be done very easily. It’s also very useful to figure out the date for a bar mitzvah and determine the Torah portion that is read for that Shabbat.

What are some highlights in the new iOS version of Luach?

HIRSCH: This is something that is very individual. Different people find different features as highlights. For me, the most convenient thing is being able to see what time candle lighting is for the upcoming Shabbat. That’s right there on the home screen of Luach as soon as I open it. I also like the fact that I can view events from the regular iPhone calendar from within Luach, and I can create new events in the iPhone calendar from within Luach. This eliminates the need to switch back and forth between Luach and the Calendar when planning an event or meeting that needs to take into account the Jewish holidays or Shabbat time. Luach has the ability to be configured for the specific customs of each user. It’s also really easy to find out [Shabbat or holiday] candle lighting times for any city, anywhere in the world. This is great for business trips, and vacations. Keeping track of yahrzeits is also very important. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many useful features, and which is most useful will vary greatly among users.

We might not think about the Jewish calendar on a daily basis, but it has an impact on our Jewish lives. Figuring out holidays, yahrzeits and minyan prayer times once took quite the effort, but today we have quick and accurate access to that information on our desktop computers and on the mobile phones we keep with us at all times. Having a fully functional Jewish calendar on our mobile devices helps Jewish people stay in touch with the calendar of our heritage now more than ever before.

Luach by Penticon, version 1.0 can be downloaded in the Apple App Store at or visit the Penticon website for more information. (Hirsch says an Android version is a possibility.)

Rabbi Jason Miller is an entrepreneur, educator and technology expert who is president of Access Computer Technology in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

from The Huffington Post | The Full Feed http://ift.tt/1D27yCV
Bobby Caples