MINI REVIEW (Part 1): Bezzera BZ02 Espresso Machine

Many moons ago, Scott asked me about espresso machines. Specifically, he asked me how I liked our Francis Francis X3. My response? “It died.” In fact, much too my wife’s horror, its guts (and carcass) still adorns my workbench in our garage.

What Scott really wanted to know was “what espresso machine do I like?”

I finally got that answer (but alas, by that time, Scott had purchased his own espresso machine…and thus my recommendation was available a little late…at least for him).

Just today, the email box pinged with another email from Scott. His espresso machine died…so what was my recommendation again? Well, it hasn’t changed. I recommend the Bezerra BZ02. And I really need a “Part 2” in order to explain why.

For now, however, it’s worth posting up my email reply to him for both the links and for the comment about the grinder. Enjoy. Oh, and more from me on this later.

Scott:

Wow…blast from the past. I’m now almost embarrassed to have recommended the Francis.

Anyway,

We have a Bezzera BZ02 (Semi Auto) and love it. We have had it for a while and when I purchased it, it was hard to find….I don’t know whether it will be easier or harder now.

We bought it from a guy in Sac (http://www.vanelis.com/store/), but he doesn’t seem to be carrying it anymore.

As you re-enter this amazingly complicated world, read this thread….it’s a good one: http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/machines/333116

And I can’t stress enough the “GRINDER. GRINDER, GRINDER” comments. I wish ours was better, but since I know how to baby it, I can make good espresso even with ours and thus can’t seem to justify the $$. I always wonder though, what I would get if we had a Mazzer, Macap or Rocky. As one of the guys in the thread said, “Buying a really nice espresso machine and a cheap grinder is a complete waste of time and effort.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Best,
JJ

Rewarding Kids for the Wrong Things

The following post is republished from NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. We have gone to the effort to bring this piece to our blog because we think that this message deserves special attention, preservation and further dissemination. We hope you enjoy it. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Listen Here: [audio:http://jerrychacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/20090808_wesat_03.mp3]

“My grandson has finally graduated. I still can’t believe I have a grandson … much less a grandson who has a diploma. Eli looked handsome in his white cap and gown. He seemed more serious than usual, and in fact, he told me the day before that he was nervous about the ceremony. You probably remember your graduations — you have to walk across that big stage, one by one. The whole audience is staring at you. When they called Eli’s name, he looked a little uncertain. But he walked to the podium, he took his diploma, he shook hands … and then, he broke into that sunny smile that lights up a room.

Eli just turned 5. He graduated from preschool.

Of course, we’ll frame that adorable photo of him standing in his cap and gown. But I’ve been wondering about the ceremony. Did Eli’s preschool do him a favor? Going to preschool is a passage. And we want to give kids a sense of pride and accomplishment. But is going to preschool so remarkable that we want to shower them with pomp and circumstance? And pressure?

I called Leon Botstein the other day. He’s the president of Bard College, in New York. A lot of people say he’s one of the more thoughtful educators in America. And I asked him, What do you think about Eli’s graduation? And Botstein started railing. He said, “We’re applauding children for the wrong accomplishments — any 5-year-old can play with friends and color books. Then we pressure children to value the wrong kinds of accomplishments.”

Get this: Some preschools are teaching kids to color inside the lines of the drawings. Picasso never did that. I know parents who get stomachaches and can’t sleep, because they worry that their 5-year-old won’t get into the best elementary school.

And that’s just the beginning. Between kindergarten and senior year, there’s a blizzard of standardized tests. Advanced classes to give a jump start on college. SATs. My wife is a therapist. She’s treated teenagers who are so scared, because they’re not in the best school. They’re not getting the best grades. They’re not winning enough awards. She’s seen students who are so anxious OR depressed about all this that they’re thinking of committing suicide.

Botstein says here’s what we should be rewarding: curiosity. Creativity. Taking risks. Taking the subjects that you’re afraid you might fail. Working hard in those subjects, even if you do fail. We should reward children when they show joy in learning.

Maybe we should even applaud them when they color the cartoons outside the boundaries. If they say, I love it that way.”

Ben and Immigration on KQED

Here is Ben Daniel’s latest installment on KQED’s Perspectives Series.  A slightly more expanded version (in print) can be found here.  I suspect that Ben will put that print version on his website soon, but, until then, enjoy.

[audio:http://jerrychacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/barrio.mp3]

OiTF: Pictures From Florence

I would have loved to have attended this Outstanding in the Field Dinner. Yes that is Michelangelo’s David at the head of the table (the far end of the picture). And yes, that would make this dinner an “inside” dinner and, uncharacteristically, NOT at the source of any food. But then who would pass up the chance to host a dinner in Florence, Italy inside the Galleria dell’Accademia. Maybe next year it can be at the Louvre.

Michelangelo’s David

Michelangelo’s David OiTF Table

Credit: The OiTF Blog

Mountain Winery — Mini Review

The Paul Masson Mountain Winery in the foothills above the town of Saratoga, California hosts a summer music series.

This last Thursday, Paula and I went to see Diana Krall (jazz) with two of our good friends. Yes, Diana was wonderful…but this review is not about the new mom of the Costello twins…this review is about the venue.

First, I have to be fair and give the disclaimer — Paula and I were married at the Mountain Winery (we closed the venue and held a private ceremony for family friends and a choir of 50). But I digress…except to tell you that I hold fond memories of the Mountain Winery.

What struck me when we walked into the amphitheater was how small it was. It seemed to me that there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house. In fact the place is so small that it seemed easy / natural for Ms. Krall to actually interact with individual people in the crowd. It was as if we were in a small jazz club in New York and this was just the normal Saturday night player. It was truly unique.

The fact that the performance was outdoors was not lost on any of us. The moon over the winery buildings playing tag with Venus and Saturn was spectacular in juxtaposition to the playful jazz of Ms. Krall.

The acoustics were marvelous — although I do not know enough to attribute the sound quality to the venue or to Ms. Krall’s sound engineer. Her quiet notes were clear and recognizable and her more boisterous runs were not muddied at all.

I did bring a jacket, but certainly didn’t feel like I needed it.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the plastic chairs on the main floor were a little too narrow…but that was a pretty trivial nuisance.

Would I go back? Absolutely!

It is only too bad that I missed the Indigo Girls.