Sometimes it’s the details.

Forgive me if this starts strangely, but I promise: I’ll get there.

For the last several years I’ve been interested in exploring somewhat esoteric soda fountain drinks. I know, but it’s a hobby.

Anyway. The most recent drink to have caught my view has been the Egg Cream Soda- which has peaked my interest since I learned it contains neither egg nor cream. Instead, you start by making a fairly small amount of chocolate milk. Specifically, the chocolate sauce must be Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup and whole milk. Once mixed, you top the majority of the glass with seltzer. It develops an impressive, frothy and creamy head, and is far better than I would have ever thought. I’ve no idea why these ever fell out of favor, but boy am I hooked.

As is my custom, once I got the hang of the original version, I began to branch out. I tried a vanilla Egg Cream (don’t). I tried using half & half for the “milk” (do!). Eventually, with all my experimenting, I ran out of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup. I bought a bottle of Hershey’s and moved on. But something was wrong. The drink wasn’t as good as before. It took me a bit- I kept thinking that I was missing something or prepping things differently. I thought I was messing with the proportions too much. That I had blown it.

But it was the chocolate syrup. The brand really did matter- the results using the original are far superior to any variation I’d made. Which got me thinking. Sometimes, the specific details are what make something exceptional. Sometimes, in the rush to make things easier or “better” or more straightforward, we lose the detail that allows the finished product to really shine.

All this made me think about education and the classroom. I’ve always sweat the details in the classroom- the setup of the desks, the position of the whiteboard. The sound system. The typeface on the handout. The resolution of the video file to be played. And, I think, the odd story of the Egg Cream exemplifies this: the details are what allows the product to be so much more than the sum of it’s parts.


Research List #2

A weekly dump of the things I’m researching:

  • Soylent (not the stuff from the book/movie, rather, the new project to make a meal replacement)
  • Warp and Weft
  • Practical Advantages/Disadvantages of “Full Sized” sensors vs MFT sensors for video work
  • Alternative Firmware for a Panasonic Lumix GH2 (there are a startling number of these)
  • Building LED based Soft Boxes (got an idea on an IKEA hack for this. Maybe)
  • Chromebook student workflows
  • Digital Light Meters
  • Workbench Micro-Mills



I just saw this article pop up on my feed- it’s about the “Seven Tools for Thinking”

This, I think, represents an excellent distilling of the basic elements we must understand as educators in order to be effective. We loose track, sometimes, of the very basis of what we do. We get caught up in Common Core or assessments or scaffolding or flipping or whatever high-level representation of technique has peaked our interest, but these are the basis of all of what we do. They are the foundation. They are the bedrock.

Not only do I fear we loose track of them ourselves, but I fear we don’t explicitly show them to our students. More than any single set of facts or knowledge we might believe we should fill students’ heads with, the ability to think flexibly and well trumps all. Thinking is more powerful than knowing. Knowing will always run out as you approach the bounds of what is know; thinking never runs out.


SitRep (Current Research)

I’m going to dump a bunch of research points here that I’ve been working on/with in the last week or so. I’m not going to try to explain connections or give details- this is meant as a raw-form dump of what I’ve gotten my fingers into. You’ll see trends, I’m sure, and outliers.

  • 3D printing a new shift knob for my car (with 10×1.25 threads)
  • Hacking the firmware of a Panasonic GH2 camera for film use
  • Finding a decent 1/4″ x 20 mount for an iPad mini
  • Reupholstering a Eames Lounge Chair (and Ottoman)
  • Arri PL Lens mount specs (and adaptors to MFT format cameras)
  • Refining my work EDC (better separation/organization of components)
  • Carving a new Lock Pick set (searching for best pick profiles)
  • Water Ram Pumps for pushing rainwater collection uphill
  • Cree LED lightbulb color temperature
  • 110V MIG welding limitations
  • Team Wikispeed car building
  • PVC Fly Fishing Rod tubes (2″)
  • Daiwa Saltiga Boat Braid (55#) sourcing local
  • Preserving formatting & printing from Google Docs
  • Limitations of macros in Google Spreadsheets
  • Sourcing 5/8″ Round Steel Tubing local

I’ll let you make what you will of that list- but I’ve made progress of a bunch of this.


Wanna start a revolution?

I was reading Jason Kottke’s blog the other day, when he posted this excerpt from Vonnegut’s Bluebeard:

Slazinger claims to have learned from history that most people cannot open their minds to new ideas unless a mind-opening team with a peculiar membership goes to work on them. Otherwise, life will go on exactly as before, no matter how painful, unrealistic, unjust, ludicrous, or downright dumb that life may be.

The team must consist of three sorts of specialists, he says. Otherwise the revolution, whether in politics or the arts or the sciences or whatever, is sure to fail.

The rarest of these specialists, he says, is an authentic genius — a person capable of having seemingly good ideas not in general circulation. “A genius working alone,” he says, “is invariably ignored as a lunatic.”

The second sort of specialist is a lot easier to find: a highly intelligent citizen in good standing in his or her community, who understands and admires the fresh ideas of the genius, and who testifies that the genius is far from mad. “A person like this working alone,” says Slazinger, “can only yearn loud for changes, but fail to say what their shapes should be.”

The third sort of specialist is a person who can explain everything, no matter how complicated, to the satisfaction of most people, no matter how stupid or pigheaded they may be. “He will say almost anything in order to be interesting and exciting,” says Slazinger. “Working alone, depending solely on his own shallow ideas, he would be regarded as being as full of shit as a Christmas turkey.”

Slazinger, high as a kite, says that every successful revolution, including Abstract Expressionism, the one I took part in, had that cast of characters at the top — Pollock being the genius in our case, Lenin being the one in Russia’s, Christ being the one in Christianity’s.

He says that if you can’t get a cast like that together, you can forget changing anything in a great big way.

It seems to me that if we really want to change education for the better, these roles need filling. If you’re asking yourself if you’re helping make that change, then think hard about which of the three roles above you fill. Or, if you’re not one of those three, then be ready to deal with another reality: you might be holding things up.

So before you write off some off-the-wall idea from some nutjob, think hard about what you might be doing.

Looking for some help.

I need some help.

We’re looking to fill an Instructional Technology Specialist position here in Burlington MA. It’s a great, motivated, and progressive system, and we’re looking for people interested in working in such an environment.

You can find the posting here.


Where have I been?

Everywhere, it seems. Here’s a brief SitRep:

1. The Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative is happening soon. This will be the third year we’ve run the event, and it’s always a productive time for those that attend. Please do consider coming.

2. I’ve put into place plans to shoot two new episodes of Tangential. I’m currently at work on the sets, and I’m hoping for those to be summer projects.

3. My partner and I are embarking on a book project for educators- subject is already determined, but form and structure are not. Hoping for late summer/early winter completion.

4. My current research list is as odd and diverse as ever. I’ll give you a sampler:

  • Cree LED bulbs as used in a soft box
  • 3D printed shift knob
  • Surgical Tissue Scissors
  • Micro 4/3 cameras
  • C-Mount camera lenses
  • Diawa Saltiga Boat Braid
  • 608 Bearing Specs

Until next time.