Salty Marshes and Sandy Beaches

Image

 

Image

 

Cattus Island State Park

Advertisements

It’s Educational!

“You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?”

From the Daily Post

If by “school” we mean university, higher education, college, etc., then the only structural pillar that I would set happily ablaze as a neo-arsonist and rebuild is the “big business” attitude that many have seemed to duplicitously adopt in the US. They are not meant to foremost be a lucrative business opportunity for administrators and sports coaches and textbook sellers. They ought not be meant to cost a year’s salary or a young person’s sanity. It is a place for education and the opportunity for young adults to build marketable skills and acquire better ways of thinking and learning.

If we’re explicitly speaking of the reformations needed to K-12 schools, I have a few ideas:

  • Make teaching an incentive for teachers: although I don’t believe a sharp increase in salary would be easy, feasible, or economically sound, prospective and current teachers should be respected for the job they do and for doing a a good job. Reward teachers for not just preparing their students for the next dreadful standardized test  but for educating students in creative and empirically-successful ways.
  • Continue to provide a wide range of traditionally academic courses (maths, english, history, science, etc.) for students interesting in university and professional schools and technical courses for students that have less likely chances of pursuing higher education.
  • Expand useful education outside classrooms: provide homework that is not laboriously long and tedious but challenging and succinct. Encourage direct reading from textbooks, classical and contemporary literature, and reputable online sources. Then, encourage them to write critically and think independently.
  • Provide students with reasonably healthy meals. I understand this is not an easy endeavor for schools districts, but students deserve the right to proper nutritious meals. Also, I will not allow teacher and school board members to fraudulently enlist their child(ren) in free lunch programs.
  • Provide schools with adequate funding that will fully provide the means for students to learn and teachers to teach. That means no siphoning thousands of dollars to failing school districts without full accountability to where that money is going. Also, absolutely no preferences should be given to private schools in terms of state funding when public schools IN THE SAME TOWN are crumbling from a lack of resources (I’m looking at you, Lakewood, NJ…..And the state of NJ).
  • Rebuild dysfunctional family structures and communities to encourage learning. This is obviously a pipe dream. But we can’t deny that a lot of problems with failing school districts originate from the socioeconomic status of…yeah, I know, I won’t blabber on with this.

These are all fairly obvious and redundant points for what makes a successful school, but it really comes down to looking at the numbers to see what works and what doesn’t. Numbers don’t lie.

Diner’s Dilemma

Tell us about a time you’d been trying to solve a knotty problem — maybe it was an interpersonal problem, a life problem, a big ol’ problem — and you had a moment of clarity when the solution appeared to you, as though you were struck by lightening.

From the Daily Prompt.

I’ve experienced a slew of dilemmas and mountainous life problems, so frequent and so disconcerting that one seems to invite itself unwarranted before I’ve even begun to solve the last. I’ve rarely ever been gifted with an instantaneous solution as obvious as a cloudless sky is blue that has been able to at once reduce a problem such that is it a problem no longer. My solutions to life’s problems are experience-based, perhaps even experiment-based. Like modern medicine, I’d like to think my solutions are scientific; that I could publish them in Nature or the American Journal of Existential Woes without anyone batting a skeptic eye.

Alright, joking aside (but perhaps not too far aside), there has been one problem that I’ve encountered, and perhaps all of New Jersey has encountered at one point or another. As you plebeians may or may not know, New Jersey is home to a staggeringly high number of diners. This is no revelatory statement to native residents. We’ve got a lotta hash browns and crispy bacon and roast beef sandwiches and salad bars and glass ketchup bottles and tiny jam stands and paper table mats and half-and-half containers … and a peculiar shortage of napkins. Despite their shiny tacky retro glory, I still experience the somewhat earth-shattering and life-altering dilemma of picking out something decent from the menu. I’d classify this as an intrapersonal problem, so here’s my conflicting intrapersonal monologue as I scan the small novel-like menu booklet:

“Is breakfast acceptable at this hour? No, I don’t see anyone feasting on diabetes-inducing pancakes or french toast. Alright, what about a sandwich? Ah, I’m really trying to avoid the torch-wielding gluten demons. Diet menu options? Why would anyone on this life-sustaining earth would want to come to a diner for the sole purpose of cottage cheese and melon? What about a salad? What about the senior citizen specials? I could go for pre-chewed food right now. Screw it, I’ll just get the omelette.”

My moment of clarity in the hazy diner food effluvium occurred when I realized that eggs are perhaps the safest and most guaranteed meal one could order at a diner of questionable food standards. Any scientist could tell you that the answer to certain problems may not always be obvious, but can be relatively simple. I am in no way trying to extrapolate my paltry diner experience to quantum mechanics, but what I am trying to say is that when life gets a bit too complicated, I just order the eggs.


Enabling my Tea-Drinking Addictions, One Giftcard at a Time

When someone gives me a Target gift card for Christmas, it is guaranteed that I will spend at least a quarter of it on tea. And that is precisely what ensued at Target this afternoon. Please note that many of these product descriptions given below are written by a dimwitted college student-turned-tea-enthusiast. There is a plethora of flowery verbiage. I bet you don’t even know what a plethora means. Anyway, take this as ironically as you will.

Bring in the boxes!

Image

Since they were on sale 2/$6, I decided to grab Tazo’s Sweet Cinnamon Spice and Wild Sweet Orange. I also picked up a canister of Harney and Sons’ Green Tea with Coconut. I had already tried their Hot Cinnamon Spice and fell consummately in love with the perfect melding of sweet and spicy and comforting warmth. I realize green tea is probably best enjoyed in the warmer summer months due to its refreshing mellowness, but I couldn’t resist trying out a new flavor.

Below is the brewed green tea with coconut in a fairly small cup.

Image

This tea is very light and refreshing. The main body of flavoring is of a regular green tea, but the underlying citrus-y lemongrass and earthy coconut is very prevalent and complimentary. There does seem to be a smooth vanilla component that tries to balance out the inherent grittiness of the green tea leaves and the acidity from the lemongrass. This tea is by definition a loose-leaf version, and the leaves are rather large and green with speckles of coconut shavings. I can’t seem to see the vanilla (understandably). The labeling of the back states:

“The rich flavors of Thailand are the inspiration for this tasty blend. A combination of green tea, lemongrass, vanilla, coconut and ginger.

Character: A light green tea with a perfect blend of smooth coconut and spice.

Ingredients: Green tea is carefully blended with lemongrass, shredded coconut, natural coconut, vanilla, and ginger flavors.”

This tea has an estimated 30-50 mg of caffeine per serving (per tea sash, presumably), is kosher, and has apparent “transporting” effects. Personally, I tend to prefer black and herbal tea to green tea due solely to that gritiness it so unavoidably exudes, but this would still make a tremendous gift to any green tea lover. The packaging on these are delicate and vintage, and the quality is surprisingly high for tea you can buy at a department store.

On to brew the next flavor: Tazo wild sweet orange herbal tea.

Image

This one was interesting. The leaves are, by definition, tea fannings or dust, and look strikingly similar to those of camomile tea (i.e. very fine leaves and blossoms). The tea sash instantly turned the near-boiling temperature water a very bright orange that unleashed an aroma of citrus and orange. Despite added sweetener, this tea was still quite pungently acidic. The flavor is akin to hot, steaming lemon juice. The trace caffeine content will not awaken you (it’s caffeine-free), but the piercing acidity and aromatic orange tones will. The front of the box purports the wild sweet orange variety is

“A juicy herbal infusion of orange peel, lemongrass, citrus herbs and licorice root.

Ingredients: Lemongrass, blackberry leaves, citric acid, rose hips, spearmint leaves, color (turmeric, riboflavin), orange peel, hibiscus flowers, natural flavor, rose petals, natural orange essence, ginger root, licorice root, licorice extract.”

So we are dissapointed to learn that this vibrant orange color is not due to the orange or the citrus herbs or any main tea notes, but turmeric. I will note that I did not taste any licorice, but perhaps that was due to an overpowering citrus flavor. I overall wasn’t in any way put off with this tea, but it was unusual. It’s another refreshing tea flavor, and probably also best experienced in warmer months. I don’t think I’d recommend this as a gift unless you know someone who specifically goes for citrus and orange notes in their tea. I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

Last tea exploration: Tazo’s Sweet Cinnamon Spice.

Image

My phone’s high tech camera is clearly complex enough to distinguish the colors of these last two teas. So, just for clarification, the wild sweet orange tea produced a bright orange color, and this sweet cinnamon spice produced more of a light brown, cinnamon-colored cup of tea. This was actually very pleasant and warm. I suspected it would be very similar in taste to Harney and Son’s Hot Cinnamon Spice tea without the spicy heat, and I was on the money. You can taste a pleasurable amount of cinnamon and star anise, which is perfect for a cold post-Christmas December evening. I hate winter as it is, so having this type of tea on hand is comforting enough to keep me from suicide. And as mentioned, it’s spiced, but not spicy. There is a difference The leaves aren’t anything unusual, and I’m surprised that this isn’t classified as a black tea. As usual, the packaging says this is

“An herbal infusion swirling with warm, sweet cinnamon and spicy star anise.

Ingredients: cinnamon, licorice root, orange peel, indian sarsaparilla, chicory root, rooibos, natural flavors, star anise, almond extract.”

I could taste a hint of licorice in this one, which is probably because it is more complimentary to cinnamon than it is to orange peel. This one makes a great winter gift, and is also perfect in solutitude.

And this is how I spend my winter breaks.