Apple cinnamon oatmeal in a black bean burger

I borrowed this large flat pan from a friend, and it worked perfectly for cooking. I really love having a gas stove.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m currently living with one, and as such most of our home-cooked meals don’t include meat. It’s just easier! I don’t mind eating meat less often (mostly just when we go out), and vegetarianism offers up new adventures in cooking. Essentially, “restrictions breed creativity,” or at least that’s how Mark Rosewater (head designer at Magic: the Gathering) would put it.

That’s a fancy way of saying it’s way too cold in Buffalo to go to the store, so I make do with what I have.

I researched black bean burger recipes online. The recipes I found for hotel room burgers, sweet potato black bean burgers, and simple homemade black bean burgers all got me 3/4s of the way to my final result.

I used apple cinnamon oatmeal because I didn’t have any other instant oats, which were called for in one of the recipes I read. I thought this might add an interesting flavor to the burgers, and threw in some spicy pasandra curry mix we had in a box to compliment it. I originally wasn’t going to use bread crumbs, but the consistency was too mushy and I wanted something to help hold the burgers together—the bread crumbs did the job perfectly. I was pleasantly surprised to find the flavor combination worked perfectly, and the burgers held together solidly when cooked. I would definitely recommend this recipe to a friend.

Please note that most of my ingredient amounts are approximate. I post this merely as a guideline for those who are interested, not a set of hard-and-fast rules.

Curried Black Bean Burgers

Yes, this burger does contain apple cinnamon oatmeal and spicy pasandra curry. And it tasted awesome

Yes, this burger does contain apple cinnamon oatmeal and spicy pasandra curry. And it tastes awesome.

Ingredients:

  • 2 15-ounce cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 slices double fiber bread, toasted and crumbled
  • 1 package instant apple cinnamon oatmeal
  • ~1/4 cup of cooked Spinach
  • 2 tsp pasanda curry powder
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • English muffins
  • Salt and pepper
This is what the black bean burger ingredients look like. A bunch of mush, ready to be mixed into one homogeneous mush.

This is what the black bean burger ingredients look like. A bunch of mush, ready to be mixed into one homogeneous mush.

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients and blend. A food processor would be great, but I used a hand mixer successfully. (I mashed the beans a bit with a fork in advance to assist the mixing process.)
  2. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large flat pan on medium-low heat.
  3. Spoon a half cup of black bean burger mush onto pan. Shape into burger shape.
  4. Cook about 8-10 minutes on each side. (These held together very well for me when cooking—possibly better than any meat burger I’ve made.)
  5. Use English muffins for the burger bun! I did this because it was all I had, but the flavor, shape, and texture complimented these burgers well.

This made enough for about 6-8 burgers, and we each ate 2 burgers for a meal. We put lettuce, avocado, cheese, mayo, ketchup, mustard, and tomato on these. You could probably omit the egg for a vegan version, and substitute more oats for gluten-free burgers. It’s definitely a versatile recipe. I added the bread crumbs at the end and they seemed to really help the burgers to hold their shape.

I borrowed this large flat pan from a friend, and it worked perfectly for cooking. I really love having a gas stove.

I borrowed this large flat pan from a friend, and it worked perfectly for cooking. I really love having a gas stove.

Celebrating Equal Pay Day in Buffalo With an Unhappy Hour

Equal Work for Equal Pay

Equal Pay Day is celebrated this year on April 9, 2013 to represent how far into the year women must work (on average) to make the same amount of pay that men made the previous year. Today, women earn about $0.77 for every dollar men earn. The pay gap is even higher for women of color.

Each year, the National Women’s Law Center asks individuals and organizations to blog, tweet, and otherwise recognize Equal Pay Day. This year, they’re asking bloggers to respond to the question “What would you do with your $11,000 in lost wages?”

I’ll be responding to that question in a later post, because I don’t yet have an answer. It’s a tough question! But I also wanted to highlight a local event that’s using a fun theme to recognize the gender pay gap.

Here in Buffalo, the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women is holding an Unhappy Hour in honor of Equal Pay Day. The basic gimmick is this: women attendees enjoy discounted drinks, representing the pay gap between men and women. (Men pay full price.) The event is free for men and women 21 and up, and attendees are asked to wear the color red in honor of the day.

Althea Luehrsen, executive director of Leadership Buffalo, is an expert on the history of women in business and will be speaking about the gender pay gap. (Leadership Buffalo is a local non-profit dedicated to “uniting and developing existing and emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.”)

The event flyer advertizes the opportunity to learn more about pay equity, network, gain negotiation tips, and enjoy an evening out.

A quick Google search shows that this isn’t an original idea—the concept of recognizing the pay gap with an “Unhappy Hour” has been around for at least a few years now—but I’m glad there are local organizations participating in awareness-raising in this way.

You can register at EventBrite to help organizers get an accurate head count, but it’s not required.

2013: New Year’s Resolutions Way Too Late

This year, I wanted to do something different with my new year’s resolution. Normally I make it something like eat less or exercise more or some combination of the above, and I pretty much always fail.

For 2013, I wanted to find something that I could feel good about and knew I’d succeed at. After all, I’m starting off my second quarter century of life. It’s kind of a big year, right?!

I don’t know about you, but I have mixed feelings about the “buy local” movement. For the most part, it seems to be a good thing for communities. Local shops keep local money in the local economy and spur economic growth. However, I’m sure that not everyone can afford to make local choices, and I definitely don’t want to demonize those who cannot afford to, and must shop where it’s most cost effective. (For example, Walmart, Target, etc.)

Sure, Walmart sucks, but the people shopping there are probably largely unable to make a different decision even if they’re aware of the problems.
But I think we can still recognize the problems that exist at a societal level, make city and statewide efforts to change the systematic issues, and continue to make better personal choices at the same time.

The resolution

So, in honor of making better personal choices, I’ve decided to commit to buying 1 item from a locally owned business each week. That could be something as simple as going out to eat locally, (for example, at SPOT Coffee rather than Starbucks), or making the effort to find a local grocer to get food for the week.

Hopefully this will help make me more conscious of what local businesses are around, and also give me an excuse to explore this new city I live in. Double bonus!

Catching up

Unfortunately, I’m getting started on this little adventure a few weeks late. It’s been on my mind, and I think I’ve been successful so far.

Week 1: Colter Bay Grill on Wednesday, Jan 2. Delicious tater tots, great beer, nice chill pub vibe.

Week 2: Helium Comedy Club on Thursday, Jan 9. (Attended the Buffalo Laugh-Off with Julia, Jon, and James.) This is a classy place, and so far they seem to have some great acts coming through town. I’m already looking forward to going back.

Week 3: Salon Eileen on Wednesday, Jan 16. (Got a haircut there; my hair’s real short now.) Really nice cosmetologist, very personable.

Week 4: Doctor’s appointment with…my doctor. Don’t feel like publicly sharing such things but obviously she is local!

Week 5: Dark Forest Games on Tuesday, Jan 29. (Played in a Magic: the Gathering prerelease Gatecrash event.) This is seriously one of my favorite game stores ever, reminds me a lot of the local store in Bloomington.

Week 6: SPOT Coffee in Williamsville on Wednesday, Feb 6. (Met a new friend for coffee!) I guess SPOT isn’t entirely local; they seem to have a Florida location now. But I think it’s close enough since their US office is based in Buffalo.

Week 7: The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens on Saturday, Feb 16. This one hasn’t happened yet but I can hardly wait! Apparently they’re going to have lights up and stuff.

Obviously, this isn’t a perfect process, but I like making the effort. I’ll try to keep better track with a weekly report and more details on the places I visit from here on out. There have been others that didn’t make the list—including the Buffalo Historical Society, the local bike shop where I got my helmet, and many many other restaurants and cafes. I’m starting to really love this city! There’s a lot to explore and I intend to do it.

This song might be about the electric chair, but it’s still relevant.

Phil Ochs isn’t necessarily a genius of a poet. But his lyrics have a clear, socially conscious, non-self-involved message. And make a really good point.

Have you seen the iron lady’s charms
Legs of steel, leather on her arms
Taking on a man to die
A life for a life, an eye for an eye
And death’s the iron lady in the chair

Stop the murder, deter the crimes away
Only killing shows that killing doesn’t pay
Yes that’s the kind of law it takes
Even though we make mistakes
And sometimes send the wrong man to the chair

In the death row waiting for their turn
No time to change, not a chance to learn
Waiting for someone to call
Say it’s over after all
They won’t have to face the justice of the chair

Just before they serve him one last meal
Shave his head, they ask him how he feels
Then the warden comes to say goodbye
Reporters come to watch him die
Watch him as he’s strapped into the chair

And the chaplain, he reads the final prayer
Be brave my son, the Lord is waiting there
Oh murder is so wrong you see
Both the Bible and the courts agree
That the state’s allowed to murder in the chair

In the courtroom, watch the balance of the scales
If the price is right, there’s time for more appeals
The strings are pulled, the switch is stayed
The finest lawyers fees are paid
And a rich man never died upon the chair

Have you seen the iron lady’s charms
Legs of steel, leather on her arms
Taking on a man to die
A life for a life, an eye for an eye
That’s the iron lady in the chair

 

My letter to the editor was published in the Buffalo News

This past Sunday afternoon, when meandering around Philadelphia, I checked my phone to see if my letter to the editor had yet been published in the Buffalo News. They called me last Tuesday to say that it would be up in 2 days, and I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen.

Could I have been in a more appropriate place than Philly’s Constitution Center when I found out it was, in fact, published? They called it “Keep Bible references out of biology lessons.” Here’s a brief quote:

Secularism, the separation of church and state, offers protection to people of all worldviews, be they religious or non-religious. This is especially important in a public school classroom where students should not feel pressured to support or adopt a teacher’s personal beliefs.

Cooooool beans.

Takeaways from #csicon 2012

This past weekend, I attended my first skeptical conference, and my first conference as an employee at the Center for Inquiry. It was a mind-expanding and socially exciting experience. I got to meet and make friends with skeptics young and old, see a little bit of Nashville, and grow closer to some of the coworkers I spend each day with at our Amherst headquarters.

I’m going to try to share my favorite parts of the conference, in tweets. With lots of photos.

Wednesday

Arrived Wednesday afternoon, grabbed dinner in the hotel bar, and met and mingled with lots of new skeptics. There were no official events, but I met many of the CFI people that I’d previously only followed on Twitter, like Paul Fidalgo and Syd LeRoy.

Thursday

Loved getting the chance to meet some Skepchicks before and after their opening workshop on skeptical activism! (And lucky to get to work with one of them every day.)

Unfortunately, I missed most of the workshops working on conference registration, preparations, and Halloween party decorating—but the handbook that was printed and passed out at the first workshop can also be downloaded in PDF form for free. It’s called the Skeptical Activism Campaign Manual, and worth checking out.

The first evening kicked off with a candid speech from Ron Lindsay, with a country song tribute using the conference slogan (It’s time to get empirical – our love is a miracle?) and a tribute to Paul Kurtz.

Next came the live SGU podcast. It started off with dead puppy jokes and ended with zombie apocalypse predictions, but in the middle was a nice segment with a poem by Joe Nickell remembering PK.

After this, we grabbed some quick dinner in the hotel bar, and made it back in time for the tail end of George Hrab’s musical serenades. He’s a master of the one-liners—nerdy, meme-thickened one-liners.

(My thoughts exactly.)

Friday

Lots of people gave blood in the blood drive.

Eugenie Scott talked about her work as director of NCSE in supporting teaching of evolution in public schools.

I got a book recommendation that I’d like to get for myself and my niece/nephew.

PZ Myers presented on the science and math of evolution.

Learned a new word from Joe Nickell, who also insists on on-site investigation.

Some great points from James Alcock’s presentation that really gets at the heart of why we should be skeptics:

Elizabeth Loftus spoke next:

Though I joked around here, in all seriousness, Elizabeth Loftus’ presentation was one of the highlights of the conference. Her important work shows that eyewitness testimony is highly unreliable, and what’s more important was her revelation in the Q&A session that some states are changing how they use this testimony to ensure jury’s are aware of potential inaccuracies in people’s memory.

Indre Viskontas, a neuroscientist, was a funny, engaging, and fascinating presenter. She brought up the value of storytelling in retrieving memories, and brought up the method of loci technique. (I’d previously heard it referred to as a memory palace.)

I didn’t even know there was a conspiracy theory that Paul McCartney was dead.

Massimo Polidoro presented, and was funny, entertaining, and informative. But I liked Paul Fidalgo’s response best:

In the panel covering the Paranormal Road Trip, I learned that lots of boring historical attractions may or may not use the lure of haunting to increase their popularity.

But the best part was probably learning about the mystery of Erdnase, an expert magician who has played the ultimate trick on us all by never being identified.

At some point during the day, I helped decorate for the Halloween party, and learned what a cool guy Jim Underdown is:

Heard Sara Mayhew for the first time, and learned that she drew all the graphics for her slides.

Next came dinner and the Halloween party. I can’t post all the Halloween costume pics, so I’ll choose a few highlights.

Saturday

The morning started off with what was probably the most heavily tweeted (and possibly most controversial?) presentation—no surprise that the topic was the “gender similarities hypothesis.” To sum things up, Richard Lippa focused heavily on current data showing how men and women test differently in many ways. He made a point to define what qualified as a statistically significant “difference” early—and made a point to only point out those differences which qualified.

At one point, Lippa stopped to say he was “agnostic” about the reasons why there were observed gender differences, and didn’t touch too strongly on how much he felt the influence was purely biological as opposed to based on social influence. He did note four possibilities for study:

Carol Tavris followed with a quip, and then a wonderful examination of the history of our views on gender differences, and an examination of many of the caveats and explanations for why we observe the gender differences that we do.

Some gems:

This was fascinating, and really reveals to me something that is at the heart of skepticism—gender is such an obvious trait, that it is easy to attribute observed differences as due to our gender. But true skeptics are aware of our biases and look deeper to find the truth.

I just wish I had a hard copy of her talk to look over! It was very good.

Next up was Eugenie Scott again, who focused her presentation on science education advocacy.

It’s nice to have Scott as the director of NCSE. And to be reminded of just one reason why we need to pay attention to local elections:

Then came a discussion of science and public policy.

Ben Radford spoke on mass hysteria:

Steve Novella presented on the placebo effect:

Finally, Anthony Pratkanis did a fabulous job exploring a topic I was previously unfamiliar with—fraud.

After the talks and dinner, we headed downtown with a bunch of fun students. Had dinner at a local Nashville place, where they couldn’t recommend any typical Tennessean fare (go figure).

Sunday

There was some positive coverage of the conference in the local paper.

David Morrison covered apocalyptic predictions, and how they affect people more negatively than you might expect:

Sharon Hill talked about the work she does covering Doubtful News.

And Scott Lillenfeld shared the importance of alternate accounts when debunking previously-held beliefs. He also shared Shepard’s tables, an optical illusion I hadn’t yet seen.

The closing panel was coffee and conversation with the CSI executive council.

For working in campus, this is a great idea worth thinking about:

Happy and/or Final Thoughts

A Twitter Chat for Educators – #atplc

As a physics student who always thought I’d become a research scientist and live out my days in academia, my transition into the business world has been quite the learning experience.

Two years ago, after graduating from IU, I started my first “real job” at Solution Tree, a company that does so many things that it’s hard to define what we do. The best way I’ve found to describe it is that we partner with K-12 educators to help schools and districts improve—ideally, creating long-term learning solutions. We do this by publishing books through Solution Tree Press, hosting educational conferences and workshops in the US and Canada, and sending consultants to evaluate and partner with schools to help them create healthier cultures and systems that ultimately help more students learn.

Now, as my company’s first ever Social Media Specialist, my job is constantly evolving. Not only do I communicate with the educators we serve through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks—I also have the opportunity to work closely with our authors and associates. As a company that puts on over 100 events a year, I’ve also gotten to experiment with using Twitter hashtags at live events, where attendees share their takeaways and use this as another method of networking and connecting with fellow learners.

In addition to all this, since I started here I’ve been the point person managing content on our commerce-free, PLC-focused blog, AllThingsPLC.info. I’ve honestly never liked the TLD (.info? Really?), but the website itself offers a wealth of helpful information for educators—from blog posts by Rick and Becky DuFour, two of our most popular speakers and authors, to evidence and strategies from over 100 schools that have implemented PLCs successfully for at least 3 years.

To help our social media audience learn about the great resources offered on AllThingsPLC, I decided to start a regular Twitter chat using the hashtag #atplc.

Every Thursday evening, from 9-10 p.m. EDT, educators from around the world connect with each other on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #atplc. This weekly hour-long PLC-focused discussion is a place for teachers and leaders to find inspiration and new ideas to use in their own schools. We sometimes even have our authors moderate and facilitate chats, and have occasional book giveaways where one random chat participant receives a free copy of a new title!

Past author moderators include Chris Jakicic, Kim Bailey, Ken Williams, Eric Twadell, Cassie Erkens, Tom Hierck, Tim Kanold, Jane Kise, Chris Weber, Mike Mattos, and Austin Buffum. We’ve also had plenty of PLC school and district leaders volunteer to facilitate chats.

The archive of all past chats, and a schedule of upcoming chats, lives on the AllThingsPLC blog.

State Impact Indiana – a great resource for Indiana educators

And I’m not just saying that because I was featured as one of their 48 People to Follow on Twitter If You’re Interested in Indiana Education. Really! I swear!

State Impact has, for me, been an immediate source for some breaking issues, with great writing by Kyle Stokes and relevant stories on everything from cuts to the prison system’s education budget to the latest on Indiana testing policies.

One of the things I’ve really appreciated is the in-depth, skeptical reporting on charter schools and waivers, an issue that’s big in our state and only getting bigger.

Anyway, I highly recommend following @StateImpactIN and subscribing to their email updates.

Full disclosure—I am an employee of @SolutionTree. My tweets are my own, but I do use Twitter to help promote the work my company does in schools, work that I’m honestly quite proud of! So if you do follow me, know that I’ll be talking a lot about PLCs (professional learning communities) and RTI and ed leadership and sometimes even our new books and online courses. As well as just sharing my thoughts on politics, ed policy, and my favorite funny cat pictures.

The Latest on Earth Eats

I’ve recently gotten back into writing for Earth Eats, and in the past couple weeks I’ve done two news pieces and one recipe. Here are the latest:

Hold the Dressing? Not So Fast
A new study says our bodies don’t readily absorb nutrients from veggies, like beta-carotene and lycopene, without a little fat.

Midwestern Drought Threatens Crops, Food Prices
With corn prices up about 27 percent in the past month and no sign of rain in Midwestern states, dry weather could force food prices across the country to rise.

Carrots and Beets Served the Danish Way
Smørrebrød, Danish open-faced sandwiches, feature oven-roasted beets and carrots purchased from an area farmers market.

Back From My Hiatus

So, it’s been awhile! My last post went up way back in December, right before Christmas and my birthday and the whirlwind of the holidays.

I’ve been through a lot lately, in my personal life, and I’ve actually been enjoying a hippie-dippie period of rediscovering myself and self-actualizing and all that fun stuff. I had a magical experience camping at Lothlorien a few weeks ago. (Click through to see the rest of the pictures.)

I’ll be posting about all sorts of things on here. Sharing photography, adventure stories, recipes, and reflections.