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A Last-Minute Thanksgiving Guide to Everything You Forgot

Hosting Thanksgiving can be fun, but there’ll always be stress involved. Stress leads to forgetfulness, forgetfulness leads to anger, and anger leads to wine-fueled fights with your mother-in-law. Luckily, here are quick solutions to fix whatever Turkey Day gaps plague you, so you can avoid the trauma and drama.

You Forgot About the Appetizer

Sure, it would be great if you had remembered to buy endive and lovingly spoon little mounds of chevre into each tender leaf, but endive didn’t make it on the shopping list, and now you have nothing for your guests to nosh on while you wrap up the main meal. You could send your nephew to the store for a sad veggie tray, or you could use this opportunity to clean out your cabinet and fridge.

First, check your pantry for a can of beans, any beans, and whip up an easy dip. Besides beans, you’ll just need a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), some salt and pepper, and then one thing from each of the following categories:.

  • A Tablespoon of Something Creamy: Any kind of nut butter or creamy dairy product will work here, so reach for that last bit of sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, or even that forgotten chunk of brie.
  • A Flavorful Pinch or Drizzle: Ginger and garlic are good options, but don’t be afraid to raid the fridge for flavorful one-offs, like miso, harissa, fish sauce, chilies, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, or even tin fish like anchovies or sardines.
  • Some Acid: The juice and zest of half a lemon or lime should get you there, but you could also try a teaspoon or two of your favorite vinegar, or even some mustard, pickle brine, or juice from a jar of banana peppers.
  • A Little Bit of Something Sweet: Any kind of syrupy sweetness you have on hand will work, be it agave, honey, or maple, but there’s nothing wrong with using a little white table sugar or brown sugar.
  • Some Sort of Topping: You could grab whatever herbs you have leftover from other Thanksgiving recipes, or add some chopped nuts or potato chips for tasty texture.

Just blend it all together, top with your garnish, and serve in a bowl with what extra veggies or crunchy carbs you have on hand. (Send someone to the gas station for chips if you have to.)

Next, if you have any extra greens or vegetable tops lying around, go ahead and turn those into a pesto using a ratio of 1:2:2:8 (1 part nuts, 2 parts oil, 2 parts grating cheese, 8 parts leaves or herbs), plus garlic, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Carrot tops, random herbs, kale, spinach, and arugula can all be blitzed into this flavorful spread, and you can even use a mixture of all of the above.

Just take a couple cloves of garlic and give those a good chop using the pulse function on your food processor. Add two cups of green stuff, ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of whatever nuts you have in your home, and pulse until smooth. Add a ½ cup of hard, grated cheese, squeeze in half a lemon, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of ramen dip. Just grab a packet of the super salty flavor packet (any flavor except that weird cheese one) and stir into a tub of sour cream. (Top with scallions to dress it up.) Serve with chips and watch it get devoured.

Beyond dips, a lot can be accomplished with a pack of bacon. In fact, a whole slew of bacon-based appetizers can be assembled with only one or two other ingredients:

  • Bacon + Club Crackers + Parmesan: This is an old faithful recipe of mine by way of The Pioneer Woman. Simply top a buttery Club cracker with a teaspoon of grated parm, wrap half a piece of bacon around it, and repeat until you’ve gone through a whole sleeve. Bake at 250℉ for two hours.
  • Bacon + Brown Sugar: Toss bacon slices with brown sugar, lay them in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet, top with another layer of parchment and place a baking sheet on top of the whole situation. Bake at 325℉ until crispy, about 20-35 minutes.
  • Bacon + Asparagus: Wrap a slice of bacon around a stalk of asparagus and bake at 400℉ for about half an hour.
  • Bacon + Pepper + Cream Cheese: Make a slit in a jalapeno or serrano (warning: these are spicy) and remove the insides. Stuff with cream cheese, wrap with bacon, and bake at 375℉ for about half an hour, until bacon is crispy.

That should take care of the snacks, or you can just do what my family does and buy a giant, plastic tub of aggressively orange cheese balls. That’s never a bad plan.

You Forgot to Buy Enough Booze

Maybe you don’t consider booze to be a necessary Thanksgiving supply, but I’d rather run out of pie than run out of wine. If you somehow underestimated the ethanolic needs of your guest list, don’t panic, you have a few options.

First, check out your liquor cabinet and see what kind of hard stuff you have lying around. You can make a quick punch out of almost anything, as long as you have something strong (liquor), something sweet (juice), and something sparkling (can be alcoholic or not). Feel free to play around with this to fit your palate, but I like a ratio of 1 bottle (750 mL) of booze:1 bottle sparkling wine:6 cups juice. If that’s a little strong for your taste, consider swapping out the champers for ginger ale or Sprite. Some combinations to get you going:

  • Grapefruit Gin Punch: Ruby Red grapefruit juice + Gin + Off-dry sparkling wine
  • Festive Cranberry Punch: Cranberry cocktail + Vodka + Prosecco
  • Rum Punch: Peach orange mango juice + Rum + Cava
  • Communion Punch: Welch’s grape juice + It doesn’t matter + maybe don’t actually do this
  • Beer Shandy Punch: Lemonade + Bourbon + Lager

If you don’t have time for even that, just send someone to go pick up a few cheap bottles of wine. Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Costco are all good resources with knowledgeable staff that will help you get the most bang for your buck. (Depending on which state you live in, you may not even need a Costco membership to buy wine there.)

You Forgot About the Non-Dinner Guest

Beyond the main meal, it’s likely you’ll have visiting friends and family pop by sometime over the holiday weekend for coffee or cocktails. To make sure you have something to serve besides leftovers, hit the freezer aisle and stock up on these winners.

You can never have too much pie and, if you’re running low on pumpkin, you can always grab a Marie Callender’s Pumpkin Pie ($6.49)—for that classic pumpkin pie experience—or an Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie ($6.49)—for something a bit untraditional, but very tasty. Both were ranked as some of the best frozen options by The Kitchn, and both can be found at nearly any grocery store.

But frozen pie isn’t the only chilly superhero, if you want to serve something that is just as easy but a little more high-falutin’, grab some frozen puff pastry. Puff pastry is a dough that can do both (sweet and savory) so grab some sheets and make one or more of the following delectable bites:

  • Super Easy Plum Tart: Cut pastry into squares and prick with a fork. Fan out some pretty plum slices and sprinkle with sugar and freshly ground pepper. Bake for about half an hour at 425℉ until golden brown, and drizzle with honey before serving.
  • Make a “Croffle”: Place puff pastry in your waffle iron and crisp it up. Serve with Nutella and strawberries.
  • Savory Cheese Straws: Mix a cup of grated parmesan, a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon of paprika together in a bowl. Cut puff pastry into strips and twist to form straws. Brush straws with egg wash and dredge through cheese mixture to coat and bake for about ten minutes at 425℉ until golden brown.

If the holiday has left you too tired to cook, just put a pot of coffee on and set out some sweet, seasonal liqueurs like peppermint mocha Kahlua, Frangelico, or Bailey’s. No one will be angry about that.

You Forgot to Make Name Cards or a Centerpiece

No one has ever said “You know, that was a nice dinner, and the turkey was superb, but I just can’t get over the lack of festive name cards and/or centerpiece.” No one has ever said that because no one gives a damn about tablescaping, which means you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. If, however, you want to give your guests a conversation jumping off point, consider printing out these festive Thanksgiving Mad Libs.

This will hopefully stimulate pleasant, non-political conversation at the dinner table. If that doesn’t work, scroll back up to section two of this article and pick a punch. (Communion punch is your nuclear option.)

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Didriks, Isaac Wedin, and Iris.

A Last-Minute Thanksgiving Guide to Everything You Forgot

Hosting Thanksgiving can be fun, but there’ll always be stress involved. Stress leads to forgetfulness, forgetfulness leads to anger, and anger leads to wine-fueled fights with your mother-in-law. Luckily, here are quick solutions to fix whatever Turkey Day gaps plague you, so you can avoid the trauma and drama.

You Forgot About the Appetizer

Sure, it would be great if you had remembered to buy endive and lovingly spoon little mounds of chevre into each tender leaf, but endive didn’t make it on the shopping list, and now you have nothing for your guests to nosh on while you wrap up the main meal. You could send your nephew to the store for a sad veggie tray, or you could use this opportunity to clean out your cabinet and fridge.

First, check your pantry for a can of beans, any beans, and whip up an easy dip. Besides beans, you’ll just need a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), some salt and pepper, and then one thing from each of the following categories:.

  • A Tablespoon of Something Creamy: Any kind of nut butter or creamy dairy product will work here, so reach for that last bit of sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, or even that forgotten chunk of brie.
  • A Flavorful Pinch or Drizzle: Ginger and garlic are good options, but don’t be afraid to raid the fridge for flavorful one-offs, like miso, harissa, fish sauce, chilies, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, or even tin fish like anchovies or sardines.
  • Some Acid: The juice and zest of half a lemon or lime should get you there, but you could also try a teaspoon or two of your favorite vinegar, or even some mustard, pickle brine, or juice from a jar of banana peppers.
  • A Little Bit of Something Sweet: Any kind of syrupy sweetness you have on hand will work, be it agave, honey, or maple, but there’s nothing wrong with using a little white table sugar or brown sugar.
  • Some Sort of Topping: You could grab whatever herbs you have leftover from other Thanksgiving recipes, or add some chopped nuts or potato chips for tasty texture.

Just blend it all together, top with your garnish, and serve in a bowl with what extra veggies or crunchy carbs you have on hand. (Send someone to the gas station for chips if you have to.)

Next, if you have any extra greens or vegetable tops lying around, go ahead and turn those into a pesto using a ratio of 1:2:2:8 (1 part nuts, 2 parts oil, 2 parts grating cheese, 8 parts leaves or herbs), plus garlic, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Carrot tops, random herbs, kale, spinach, and arugula can all be blitzed into this flavorful spread, and you can even use a mixture of all of the above.

Just take a couple cloves of garlic and give those a good chop using the pulse function on your food processor. Add two cups of green stuff, ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of whatever nuts you have in your home, and pulse until smooth. Add a ½ cup of hard, grated cheese, squeeze in half a lemon, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of ramen dip. Just grab a packet of the super salty flavor packet (any flavor except that weird cheese one) and stir into a tub of sour cream. (Top with scallions to dress it up.) Serve with chips and watch it get devoured.

Beyond dips, a lot can be accomplished with a pack of bacon. In fact, a whole slew of bacon-based appetizers can be assembled with only one or two other ingredients:

  • Bacon + Club Crackers + Parmesan: This is an old faithful recipe of mine by way of The Pioneer Woman. Simply top a buttery Club cracker with a teaspoon of grated parm, wrap half a piece of bacon around it, and repeat until you’ve gone through a whole sleeve. Bake at 250℉ for two hours.
  • Bacon + Brown Sugar: Toss bacon slices with brown sugar, lay them in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet, top with another layer of parchment and place a baking sheet on top of the whole situation. Bake at 325℉ until crispy, about 20-35 minutes.
  • Bacon + Asparagus: Wrap a slice of bacon around a stalk of asparagus and bake at 400℉ for about half an hour.
  • Bacon + Pepper + Cream Cheese: Make a slit in a jalapeno or serrano (warning: these are spicy) and remove the insides. Stuff with cream cheese, wrap with bacon, and bake at 375℉ for about half an hour, until bacon is crispy.

That should take care of the snacks, or you can just do what my family does and buy a giant, plastic tub of aggressively orange cheese balls. That’s never a bad plan.

You Forgot to Buy Enough Booze

Maybe you don’t consider booze to be a necessary Thanksgiving supply, but I’d rather run out of pie than run out of wine. If you somehow underestimated the ethanolic needs of your guest list, don’t panic, you have a few options.

First, check out your liquor cabinet and see what kind of hard stuff you have lying around. You can make a quick punch out of almost anything, as long as you have something strong (liquor), something sweet (juice), and something sparkling (can be alcoholic or not). Feel free to play around with this to fit your palate, but I like a ratio of 1 bottle (750 mL) of booze:1 bottle sparkling wine:6 cups juice. If that’s a little strong for your taste, consider swapping out the champers for ginger ale or Sprite. Some combinations to get you going:

  • Grapefruit Gin Punch: Ruby Red grapefruit juice + Gin + Off-dry sparkling wine
  • Festive Cranberry Punch: Cranberry cocktail + Vodka + Prosecco
  • Rum Punch: Peach orange mango juice + Rum + Cava
  • Communion Punch: Welch’s grape juice + It doesn’t matter + maybe don’t actually do this
  • Beer Shandy Punch: Lemonade + Bourbon + Lager

If you don’t have time for even that, just send someone to go pick up a few cheap bottles of wine. Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Costco are all good resources with knowledgeable staff that will help you get the most bang for your buck. (Depending on which state you live in, you may not even need a Costco membership to buy wine there.)

You Forgot About the Non-Dinner Guest

Beyond the main meal, it’s likely you’ll have visiting friends and family pop by sometime over the holiday weekend for coffee or cocktails. To make sure you have something to serve besides leftovers, hit the freezer aisle and stock up on these winners.

You can never have too much pie and, if you’re running low on pumpkin, you can always grab a Marie Callender’s Pumpkin Pie ($6.49)—for that classic pumpkin pie experience—or an Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie ($6.49)—for something a bit untraditional, but very tasty. Both were ranked as some of the best frozen options by The Kitchn, and both can be found at nearly any grocery store.

But frozen pie isn’t the only chilly superhero, if you want to serve something that is just as easy but a little more high-falutin’, grab some frozen puff pastry. Puff pastry is a dough that can do both (sweet and savory) so grab some sheets and make one or more of the following delectable bites:

  • Super Easy Plum Tart: Cut pastry into squares and prick with a fork. Fan out some pretty plum slices and sprinkle with sugar and freshly ground pepper. Bake for about half an hour at 425℉ until golden brown, and drizzle with honey before serving.
  • Make a “Croffle”: Place puff pastry in your waffle iron and crisp it up. Serve with Nutella and strawberries.
  • Savory Cheese Straws: Mix a cup of grated parmesan, a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon of paprika together in a bowl. Cut puff pastry into strips and twist to form straws. Brush straws with egg wash and dredge through cheese mixture to coat and bake for about ten minutes at 425℉ until golden brown.

If the holiday has left you too tired to cook, just put a pot of coffee on and set out some sweet, seasonal liqueurs like peppermint mocha Kahlua, Frangelico, or Bailey’s. No one will be angry about that.

You Forgot to Make Name Cards or a Centerpiece

No one has ever said “You know, that was a nice dinner, and the turkey was superb, but I just can’t get over the lack of festive name cards and/or centerpiece.” No one has ever said that because no one gives a damn about tablescaping, which means you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. If, however, you want to give your guests a conversation jumping off point, consider printing out these festive Thanksgiving Mad Libs.

This will hopefully stimulate pleasant, non-political conversation at the dinner table. If that doesn’t work, scroll back up to section two of this article and pick a punch. (Communion punch is your nuclear option.)

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Didriks, Isaac Wedin, and Iris.

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Read more…

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Just recently, Google and Microsoft both added neural network learning to their translation apps. Google said it’s using machine learning to suggest playlists. Todoist says it’s using AI to suggest when you should finish a task. Any.do claims its AI-powered bot can do some tasks for you. All that’s just from last week. Some of it is marketing fluff to make new features sound impressive, but sometimes the changes are legitimately useful. “Artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” and “neural networks” all describe ways for computers to do more advanced tasks and learn from their environment. While you may hear them used interchangeably by app developers, they can be very different in practice.

Neural Networks Analyze Complex Data By Simulating the Human Brain

Artificial neural networks (ANNs or simply “neural networks” for short) refer to a specific type of learning model that emulates the way synapses work in your brain. Traditional computing uses a series of logic statements to perform a task. Neural networks, on the other hand, use a network of nodes (which act like neurons) and edges (which act like synapses) to process data. Inputs are then run through the system and a series of outputs are generated.

That output is then compared to known data. For example, say you want to train a computer to recognize a picture of a dog. You’d run millions of pictures of a dog through the network to see what images it decided looked like dogs. A human would then confirm which images are actually dogs. The system then favors the pathways through the neural network that led to the correct answer. Over time and millions of iterations, the network will eventually improve the accuracy of its results.

To see how this works in action, you can try out Google’s Quick, Draw! experiment here. In this case, Google is training a network to recognize doodles. It compares the doodle you draw to examples drawn by other people. The network is told what the doodles are and then trained to recognize future doodles based on what the past ones look like. Even if your drawing skills suck (like mine do), the network is pretty good at recognizing basic shapes like submarines, house plants, and ducks.

Neural networks aren’t the right solution for everything, but they excel at dealing with complex data. Google and Microsoft using neural networks to power their translation apps is legitimately exciting because translating languages is hard. We’ve all seen broken translations, but neural network learning could let the system learn from correct translations to get better over time. We’ve seen a similar thing happen with voice transcription. After introducing neural network learning to Google Voice, transcription errors were reduced by 49%. You may not notice it right away and it won’t be perfect, but this type of learning genuinely makes complex data analysis better which can lead to more natural features in your apps.

Machine Learning Teaches Computers to Improve With Practice

Machine learning is a broad term that encompasses anything where you teach a machine to improve at a task on its own. More specifically, it refers to any system where a machine’s performance at completing a task gets better solely through more experience performing that task. Neural networks are an example of machine learning, but they are not the only way a machine can learn.

For example, one alternative method of machine learning is called reinforcement learning. In this method, a computer performs a task and then it’s graded on the result. The video above from Android Authority uses a chess game as an example. A computer plays a complete game of chess and then it either wins or loses. If it wins, then it assigns a winning value to the series of moves it used during that game. After playing millions of games, the system can determine which moves are most likely to win based on the results of those games.

While neural networks are good for things like pattern recognition in images, other types of machine learning may be more useful for different tasks like determining what kind of music you like. To wit, Google says its music app will find you the music you want when you want it. It does this by selecting playlists for you based on your past behavior. If you ignore its suggestions, that would (presumably) be labeled as a failure. However, if you choose one of the suggestions, the process it used to give that suggestion is labeled as a success, so it reinforces the process that led to that suggestion.

In cases like this, you might not get the full benefit of machine learning if you don’t use the feature a lot. The first time you open Google’s music app, your recommendations will probably be pretty scattershot. The more you use it, the better the suggestions get. In theory, anyway. Machine learning isn’t a silver bullet, so you could still get junk recommendations. However, you’ll definitely get junk recommendations if you only open the music app once every six months. Without regular use to help it learn, machine learning suggestions aren’t much better than regular “smart” suggestions. As a buzzword, “machine learning” is vaguer than neural networks, but it still implies that the software you’re using will use your feedback to improve its performance.

Artificial Intelligence Just Means Anything That’s “Smart”

Just like neural networks are a form of machine learning, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. However, the category of what else counts as “artificial intelligence” is so poorly defined that it’s almost meaningless. While it conjures the mental image of futuristic sci-fi, in reality, we’ve already reached milestones that were previously considered the realm of future AI. For example, optical character recognition was once considered too complex for a machine, but now an app on your phone can scan documents and turn them into text. Describing such a now-basic task as AI would make it sound more impressive than it is.

The reason that basic phone tasks can be considered AI is because there are actually two very different categories of artificial intelligence. Weak or narrow AI describes any system that’s designed for a narrow task or set of tasks. For example, Google Assistant and Siri—while powerful—are designed to do a very narrow set of tasks. Namely, take specifics series of voice commands and return answers or launch apps. Research into artificial intelligence powers those features, but it’s still considered “weak.”

In contrast, strong AI—otherwise known as artificial general intelligence or “full aI”—is a system that can perform any task that a human can. It also doesn’t exist. If you were hoping that your to-do list app would be powered by a cute robot voiced by Alan Tudyk, that’s a long way off. Since virtually any AI you’d actually use is considered weak AI, the phrase “artificial intelligence” in an app description really just means “it’s a smart app.” You might get some cool suggestions, but don’t expect it to rival the intelligence of a human.

While the semantics may be muddy, the practical research in AI fields is so useful you’ve probably already incorporated it into your daily life. Every time your phone automatically remembers where you parked, recognizes faces in your photos, get search suggestions, or automatically groups all your vacation pictures together, you’re benefitting either directly or indirectly from AI research. To a certain extent, “artificial intelligence” really just means apps getting smarter, which is what you’d expect anyway. However, machine learning and neural networks are uniquely suited to improving certain kinds of tasks. If an app just says it’s using “AI” it’s less meaningful than any type of machine learning.

It’s also worth pointing out that neural networks and machine learning are not all created equal. Saying that an app uses machine learning to do something better is a bit like saying a camera is better because it’s “digital.” Yes, digital cameras can do some things that film cameras can’t, but that doesn’t mean that every digital photograph is better than every film photograph. It’s all in how you use it. Some companies will be able to develop powerful neural networks that do really complicated things that make your life better. Others will slap a machine learning label on a feature that already offered “smart” suggestions and you’ll ignore it just the same.

From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, machine learning and neural networks are very exciting. However, if you’re reading an app description that uses these phrases, you can just read it as “This feature is slightly smarter, probably” and continue doing what you’ve always done: judging apps by how useful they are to you.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

How to Make Screen Time Rules That Work for Your Family

Not long ago, pediatricians recommended limiting the amount of time kids spend on phones and tablets to just one or two hours a day, with toddlers getting none at all. That has changed, and now parents are supposed to make sure kids have a healthy relationship with their devices. Where do you begin? Here are a few ways to approach the task.

Remember That Screen Time Isn’t Everything

Especially when children are young, it’s tempting to assume that any time they look at a phone or a tablet or a TV, they are wasting their time. But not all screen time is the same: children might be drooling and staring at a dumb cartoon, or they might be playing a game that requires creativity or problem solving. Once they get a little bit older, they might be using “screen time” as a way to communicate with their friends, or research real-world activities like crafts they want to build or decisions about what to buy with their allowance.

If you want to set limits, pay attention to what your child is actually doing when they have “screen time.” I see a huge difference between my seven-year-old watching videos versus building things in Minecraft. (I feel truly conflicted when he watches videos about Minecraft—he’s passively consuming media, but he’s also learning skills that he turns around and uses to create.)

Rather than setting time limits, Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive in Their Digital World, suggests encouraging children to spend their time on more creative pursuits: making videos rather than watching them, for example, or learning to code their own video games when they are old enough.

You may still feel you need to set limits, but they don’t have to be restrictions on spending time with screens at all. Instead, you could use a tool like Circle to block access to certain websites at certain times. And you could follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guideline to keep mealtimes and bedtime tech-free.

Make Sure the Phone Isn’t the Only Fun Thing Around

We know that children need real-world play time, and interactions with real people. But just like us, they can gravitate to electronics because those devices are more convenient to use. “Are the dress-up clothes and the legos and the musical instruments as accessible as the screens?” Heitner suggests asking yourself as you look around your child’s environment.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, we’ve already explained how you can manipulate your environment to make healthy food more available and junk food out of sight and out of mind. That’s the same idea here. Even if you set firm rules, kids may spend their time whining about when they can watch YouTube next. But if their favorite toys are easy to get to, they may forget about the phones and tablets, at least temporarily.

That may mean an inconvenient tradeoff for you as a parent: watching videos can keep kids quiet, and is definitely less messy than a Lego explosion.

Look at Your Own Media Use

It’s hard to get kids to look up from their phones if you never do, either. I’m definitely guilty of this, especially if I’m on deadline. Heitner mentions that sometimes she has to arrange meetings with people in other time zones, so she can’t always put her phone away in the evenings. But she makes sure to put her phone away at certain times of day as part of her family’s routine.

“A great parenting tactic is to be honest with our kids when we’re busy,” she says. “But I also think we shouldn’t have a default be that we’re always connected and never unplugged.”

Decide Which Rules Make Sense

I didn’t really name my kids off the winter storm lists, but I was tempted.

When the AAP announced their 2016 guidelines about device use for kids, they also launched a Media Plan tool that helps you make a list of rules that work for your family. As you go through, you can check off rules for each of your children, and add your own as you go.

I hoped that the result would be a concise list of family rules I could post on my fridge, but the tool produced a lengthy printout. Still, it was useful to go through all of the rules and consider which ones I actually wanted to follow, and which I didn’t.

The biggest impact of the AAP’s guidelines, Heitner says (and I agree!) is that parents no longer have to pretend that they do, or should, set strict limits on screen time for their children. And we don’t need to look down on families who give their kids more screen time than we do. “It’s harder to talk to other parents because we’re so busy judging them,” she observes.

Without the guilt of the old rules, it may be easier to speak more openly with other parents about what they do when their child throws a tantrum about giving up the screen at bedtime. Or how they decided whether their middle schooler was ready for their own phone. Preschool teachers and special needs therapists (such as speech therapists) are a fantastic resource on early childhood learning, she points out. If you feel comfortable discussing tablet use with teachers, you can get great suggestions for apps that are appropriate for your child—or even for offline activities that could help your kid’s playtime to be more well rounded.

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Roy Luck and Josh Engroff.

How to Flirt With Finesse

How to Flirt With Finesse

You might dress well, have a cool job, and be blessed with beauty, but flirting is where the real magic of attraction is, especially when it comes to first impressions. In fact, good flirting is often more effective than good looks, and it’s something anybody can learn how to do.

Make Friendly, Lasting Eye Contact With a Smile

Eye contact is pivotal when flirting, and Marin suggests it’s the best way to indicate your interest. It means the difference between a friendly “how-do-ya-do” conversation and a “I’d really like to get to know you” conversation. Whether you’re across the room or already talking, eye contact has been shown to boost feelings of attraction. In one study, published in the Journal of Research and Personality, strangers were asked to stare into the eyes of other strangers. After holding a mutual, friendly gaze for two minutes, most participants reported increased feelings of passionate love toward the stranger.

Marin says the trick to flirtatious eye contact is to maintain your gaze longer than usual. If you spot someone across the way, try to meet their gaze, hold it for a few seconds, and look away. Repeat this a couple times and, if they aren’t giving you weird looks, then make your approach. Be cautious, though. While a kind gaze does wonders, an unbroken, wide-eyed stare is creepy. If you’re worried you’ll go overboard, use the triangle technique and smile. Nothing says “I like you” like a big ol’ smile.

http://lifehacker.com/use-the-triang…

Approach From the Front

How to Flirt With Finesse

The wrong kind of approach will end things before they even start. When you see someone who piques your interest, Vanessa Marin, licensed marriage and family therapist and Lifehacker contributor, recommends you always approach from the front. Nobody likes being snuck up on by a stranger, and Marin notes this is especially true for men trying to approach women.

If they’re facing away, either make your way around, or wait for them to move. And if they’re at the bar, at least grab a seat next to them instead of rudely tapping them on the shoulder. Approaching them from the front also gives you both a chance to catch each other’s glance and gauge interest.

Give Compliments That Go Beyond Looks

Compliments are great for flirting, but they’re also a dime a dozen. Dr. Nerdlove, dating columnist and Kotaku contributor, suggests you step things up and compliment them on something they had a conscious hand in:

Complimenting somebody’s looks is both unoriginal and not terribly interesting. Letting someone know that you appreciate, say, their fashion sense or their insight, on the other hand, shows that you get them on a personal level.

“You’re cute” and “you have pretty eyes” aren’t going to cut it. If you can’t think of something that appeals to their choices, Marin says you should at least try and give them an unusual compliment. Say something like “you have a very confident-sounding voice,” or “you seem like someone who knows how to get the best out of people,” or “you have a delightfully offbeat personality.” Leave them with a compliment that will stick with them and make you unique.

Also, ditch the pickup lines and cheesy one-liners. One study, published in the journal Sex Roles, suggests that both men and women hate “cute-flippant” opening lines. Overall, participants in the study preferred openers that were more innocuous or direct. So skip the “Are you wearing space pants?” lines and try to strike up an actual conversation about the venue, music, or a mutual friend. Otherwise, just go for it and offer to buy them a drink or make a unique compliment.

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-ways-…

Use Appropriate Touch to Show Interest

How to Flirt With Finesse

A light touch, done carefully, is an extremely effective form of flirting for both men and women. Light touching shows interest beyond a doubt. Additionally, your flirting may not be as obvious as you think it is, so it’s a great for being more direct, as long as the situation allows and the atmosphere is appropriate. When someone is certain that you’re interested, it’s easier for them to respond in kind.

In the book Close Relationships, Dr. Pamela Regan, a professor of psychology at California State University, suggests there are three main types of social touch. The first is “friendly,” which is like a light shoulder push, shoulder tap, or handshake—not ideal for flirting, but good for testing the waters. The third type, “nuclear,” is the super obvious types of romantic touch, like a soft face touch or brushing someone’s hair out of their face, and is far too abrupt and forward for flirting. “Plausible deniability,” the second type of touch, is right in the middle and it’s where you want to be. It involves gentle and informal touching around the shoulder or waist, and the almost-always effective touch on the forearm. One study, published in Social Influence, found that a light touch on the forearm increased the chance participants would give out their phone number or go on a date. Just be sure the atmosphere is right when you try it, or you might make them feel uncomfortable.

Use Playful Teasing to Your Advantage

People want what they can’t have, and a little playful teasing shows that you’re interested, but also draws people in. Nerdlove recommends a simple technique called “pushing and pulling,” where, like a kitten with a string, you dangle a compliment within reach, then pull it back. Here are some of Nerdlove’s examples:

“You’re the coolest person I’ve met… at this bar, anyway.” “Holy crap, you really are such a nerd, it’s adorable!” “It’s a shame you seem like a nice person, you’re giving me the most inappropriate ideas.” “You’re awesome, I never meet people like you; get away from me, I just can’t talk to you.” “We’re never going to get along, we’re too similar.”

The key here is to absolutely avoid negging or backhanded compliments, like “you’ve got a great smile, even with those teeth.” Keep it playful, friendly, and make it abundantly clear that you’re teasing. Do it with a big smile, have fun (and be self-deprecating when it’s right) and while you’re at it, use your teasing as an opportunity to do some flirty touching.

Nerdlove says good flirting is about riffing and playing off what one another says. Don’t force a change in the conversation, and keep things light. Also keep in mind that some people don’t like teasing or witty banter, so be ready to switch gears. If you say something unfunny or upsetting, apologize and change the topic. Don’t make it about you, and don’t shift the blame on them, like “I’m sorry you were offended.” Acknowledge that you messed up and move on to a happier subject. When in doubt, Nerdlove suggests you just be a great listener. It gives people a chance to open up about themselves, and gives you a chance to relax.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-be-a-go…

Read Signals and Take a Hint

How to Flirt With Finesse

Things won’t always go your way when you flirt, so it’s important to know when to throw in the towel. Nerdlove suggests it all comes down to watching the other person’s body language and listening to how they respond. If you see these signals, dial it back:

  • They’re being polite, but unresponsive.
  • Their smiles are quick smirks that don’t look authentic.
  • They give short, uncomfortable laughs.
  • They’re not volleying back jokes or questions.

Nobody likes an overbearing flirt; It’s pushy, awkward, and super skeezy. Also, people talk. You never know when one bad social interaction will make things worse for you in the long run. If you swing and miss, shake it off, save face, and give it a shot another day.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-read-bo…

Illustrations by Angelica Alzona.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this fall for the latest term of Lifehacker U, our regularly-updating guide to improving your life with free, online college-level classes. Let’s get started.

Orientation: What Is Lifehacker U?

Whether you’re headed to college for the first time or you’re back in classes after a relaxing summer vacation, or long out of school and interested in learning something new, now’s the time to turn it on and amp up your skills with some interesting and informative classes and seminars. Anyone with a little time and a passion for self-growth can audit, read, and “enroll” in these courses for their own personal benefit. Schools like Yale University, MIT, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and many more are all offering free online classes that you can audit and participate in from the comfort of your office chair, couch, or computing chair-of-choice.

http://lifehacker.com/plan-your-free…

If you’ll remember from our Spring 2016 semester, some of these classes are available year-round, but many of them are only available during the a specific term or semester, and because we’re all about helping you improve your life at Lifehacker, we put together a list of courses available this summer that will inspire you, challenge you, open the door to something new, and give you the tools to improve your life. Grab your pen and paper and make sure your battery is charged—class is in session!

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Computer Science and Technology

  • Stanford University – Principles of ComputingThis course is self-paced, geared completely towards beginners, and requires no computer science or technology background to really appreciate. If you’ve ever wanted a super simple, basic primer to computing technology—something you could send to a completely tech-phobic friend (or maybe that’s you!) this is it. You’ll learn basic lingo like CPUs and chips, GPUs and memory, disk and megabytes and gigabytes and so on, but you’ll also learn the nature of computers and code, how digital images work, and you’ll eventually dive into the basics of logic, how the internet itself works (IP addresses, routing tables, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and so on), and the basics of computer security.
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem – Build a Computer from First Principles: From Nand to Tetris – Professors Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan - By “first principles,” this course means teaching you the basics of elementary logic and how logic gates work, and you’ll use that knowledge to work through six hands-on projects that will have you building a completely functioning computer by the end of the course. You won’t need previous computer engineering or science knowledge to get the most out of this, either. All of the tools and the hardware simulator you need will be supplied with the course. In the process, you’ll learn exactly how computers work on a ground level, in probably the best way possible.
  • Harvey Mudd College – CS For All: Introduction to Computer Science and Python Programming – Professor Zachary Dodds - Python is one of our favorite programming languages for first-time learners, and this course will introduce you to both the language and to computer science in general. The course covers concepts around computer science from both a high and ground level, showing you how circuits work as well as how computers handle information in general. You’ll then learn the basics of Python to see how computers process and handle instructions, sift through data, and how to design algorithms to make computers do your bidding. Of course, no programming knowledge is required in advance.
  • The University of British Columbia- How to Code: Systematic Program Design – Part 1 – Professor Gregor Kiczales - This course is part one in a short series of classes that will walk you through concepts like how to represent information as data that a computer can understand, and the basics of how to structure code and commands in a way that computers can understand, how to properly test a program, and how to simplify and streamline code. The first part of the series focuses on how to make sure your code is as tight and well-structured as possible. If you follow all three parts of the series, you’ll end up at the final project, where you’ll make an interactive game, and learn a ton along the way.
  • Microsoft – Introduction to Windows Server – Professor Cynthia Staley - If you’re going to work in technology as a sysadmin or an analyst, you’ll probably have to work on Microsoft’s Windows Server at some point or another—and even if you don’t, having it in your back pocket is a valuable skill. This course will introduce you to the technology and its capabilities, help you learn the basics of installing and administering a Server 2012 system, and get the fundamentals down you may need for future classes (or an MCSA certification!) on the topic. You’ll learn about server roles and features, learn to install and monitor Windows server, and choose between Server 2012 editions based on you and your needs.
  • The University of Maryland at College Park – Software Security – Professor Michael Hicks – Learn the foundations of software security and common attack vectors like SQL injections, buffer overflows, and session hijacking and sidejacking in this course. The course takes the approach that you’re learning to build a system with security in mind as a practice, so while you’re learning how threats work and how exploits are used against common platforms, you’ll learn how to design systems to protect against them and minimize risk at the same time. At the end of the course, you’ll get a great introduction to penetration testing, which is a great aspect of cybersecurity often saved for expensive certification courses.
  • Cornell University – The Computing Technology Inside Your Smartphone - Professor Dave AlbonesiYou probably have a smartphone in your pocket already, and it’s likely a very powerful computer in its own right. But how much do you know about that tech, aside from that it’s just smaller and lighter than what you may use in your desktop or laptop computer? This course will explain all of that to you, including concepts like how smartphone CPUs work, how mobile computer systems are designed, and common methods to speed up computing for smaller, mobile platforms. It’s still a computer science course, so you’ll design your own small, working computer in the process, and you’ll also learn about logic, instruction sets, and application software along the way.
  • IBM – A Developer’s Guide to the Internet of Things (IoT) – Professors Brian Ines and Yianna Papadakis Kantos – You probably haven’t missed all of the fuss and furor around the “internet of things,” and what it means for the future of technology. This course does actually require you have a little computer science knowledge first, and be familiar with Python and JavaScript, both of which you may know if you’ve been following Lifehacker U for a while. Over the course of the class, you’ll use IBM technologies like Bluemix and Watson to build connected devices, and if you have a Raspberry Pi (again, if you’ve been with us for long you probably own one) you’ll use it to build your own IoT solution. In short, you’ll build your own connected appliance, program it yourself, and get a developer’s perspective on the potential of connected homes and devices.
  • Code School – Learn HTML/CSS - This is actually a course series from Code School on learning to build web sites and manage front ends of web platforms, but we’re focusing here on the first two classes in the series, Front End Foundations and Front End Formations. Both courses will teach you up to date HTML and CSS, how to build basic web sites with those technologies, and how to customize web pages and sites accordingly based on specific needs or design choices. From there though, the sky’s the limit, and you can move on through the course path to more complex technologies, like intermediate CSS and SVG.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Finance and Economics

  • Purdue University – Personal Finance Planning – Professor Sugato Chakravarty - I always like to include a personal finance course in Lifehacker U, mostly because it’s such an under-taught set of skills that can be super useful once you’ve made the decision to start managing your money better. In this course, you’ll learn the basics of managing your money, you’ll learn about the time value of money, how to study and read the stock market and make smart investments, how to use credit judiciously and make smart use of it, how insurance works, and of course, why you should start saving for retirement sooner rather than later.
  • The Open University – Managing My Money – Professor Martin Upton - This popular finance course has made a couple of appearances in Lifehacker U in the past, but it’s still great, and packed with useful information for managing the basics of your money. The class starts with the basics of how to manage your money, making good and smart spending decisions, how to tackle debts and investments, and more. The class is based in the UK and uses a lot of UK-relevant data, but the skills are applicable anywhere in the world.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Microeconomics: When Markets Fail – Professor Rebecca Stein – Markets are imperfect, and subject to all sorts of errors, whether it’s in the judgement (or perception) of its human operators, or something else. This course in microeconomics explores why markets fail, what makes them fail, whether it’s always human error, and some of the solutions to market failure (like regulation, anti-trust policies, government intervention, and so on) and how they’ve performed in the past.
  • IESE Business School – Finance: Building a Robust Business – Professor Miguel Antón - If your interests in finance extend past personal finance and into business and organizational finance, this course is for you. You’ll learn how to read a balance sheet and understand intuitively what it’s trying to tell you about the health of an organization, even if all the numbers look good. You’ll understand the financial consequences of managerial decisions on the operations and departments of an organization, you’ll understand how assets and liabilities work, and you’ll understand the concept of working capital.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Science and Medicine

  • Université Paris Diderot- Gravity! From the Big Bang to Black Holes – Professor Pierre Binétruy – We all know gravity as that fundamental force that keeps us all on the ground, as it were, and that keeps the Earth moving around the Sun, but this course dives deeper into how gravity works, and how this fundamental force in the universe is important and common whether we’re talking about the Big Bang and how the universe was formed, how black holes are formed, and of course, all this recent fuss about Gravitational Waves. Einstein predicted them 100 years ago, and this course will talk about them in detail—along with the other topics we mentioned.
  • The American Museum of Natural History – Our Earth’s Future – Professors Debra Tillinger, Ph.D. - Our Earth’s Future is a course about climate change, how it’s changing the planet, the multiple lines of evidence for the human-induced climate change we’ve already observed, and what it means for the future of our planet. You’ll hear from climatologists, oceanographers, anthropologists, and other experts, and by the end of the course you’ll be able to understand the key scientific principles at play in climatology, and identify and respond to climate misconceptions.
  • Macquarie University – Big History: Connecting Knowledge – Professors David Christian and David Baker - One of the most interesting things about history is exactly how any single milestone can be considered important on its own, but said milestone is always really a long string of events that build on things that happened before it, take advantage of the circumstances around it, and of course, impact the future beyond it. This course is a journey across almost 14 billion years of history, connecting the dots between events in both natural and human history, and uncovering important links in the origins, nature, and future of humanity.
  • The University of Virginia – How Things Work: An Introduction to Physics – Professor Louis Bloomfield - Physics is the science of the universe around us, and this introductory course in the topic studies the physics of everyday objects around us so you can understand how such a basic series of rules, laws, and mathematics so perfectly describes the way objects fall from heights to the way walls and buildings stand up. If you’ve ever had a passing interest in physics, this is a great starter course for you.
  • Duke University – Music as Biology; What We Like to Hear and Why – Professor Dale Purves - In this course, you’ll study tone combinations that humans consider consonant or dissonant, and why, biologically speaking, we consider them so beautiful or jarring. The course studies concepts of why (and what kinds of) sound has such a huge impact on it, from making us feel tense and troubled to making us feel calm and at ease—and why as a species we tend to prefer only a subset of the billions of scales and tones that are possible.
  • The University of Leeds- Anatomy: Know Your Abdomen – Professor James Pickering - Do you know where your liver is in your torso? What about your kidneys, or where your stomach actually is? This course will help you identify where your organs actually are, their structures, and their positions relative to one another. You’ll study the gastrointestinal tract (and learn that sometimes “stomachaches” are nothing of the sort), and hear from an abdominal surgeon about the work he does with his patients.
  • Lancaster University – Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet – Professor Carly Stevens – The earth beneath our feet is more than just the stuff plants grow in. It’s actually a thriving ecosystem of its own, complete with tons of life and a complex environment that’s necessary for plants to grow, animals to thrive, and virtually every fundamental environmental process. This course will introduce you to that world, why it’s so interesting, and show you how soil resources are finite ones that are constantly under threat.
  • SUNY – The University at Buffalo – ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students – Professor Greg Fabiano - Aimed at parents and teachers who have young ones who show signs and symptoms of ADHD, this course examines some evidence-based diagnosis and coping techniques and skills that both you and your child can learn to help manage ADHD, and explain the current state of diagnosis and treatment options for it. By the end of the course, you’ll have the skills required to understand and examine the current medical science on the topic, and come up with strategies to cope at home and make sure you’re getting the best care for your child.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us – Professor Connie B. Scanga, Ph.D. - The basic signals the body has for telling us that it’s working properly—heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration, and pain—this course examines each of them in detail, the anatomy and physiology underlying them and through them you’ll gain a systemic understanding of how the body functions and how to tell if the body is functioning in a normal state. You’ll learn the mechanisms that cause changes in those vital signs, and how to objectively measure them in yourself and others.
  • The University of California, Davis- Autism Spectrum Disorder – Professor Patricia Schetter - Anyone working or interacting with people on the Autism spectrum need a solid understanding of the characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and its implications for behavior, learning, and comprehension in individuals affected by it. This course will introduce you to the topic, give you a fundamental understanding of ASD and how it’s diagnosed, and why prevalence—and awareness—is increasing. The course is evidence and science-backed as well, so you’ll also study up to date literature and studies and treatments around the ASD system of care.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Mathematics

  • The University of Michigan – Sampling People, Networks, and Records – Professor James Lepkowski - The hallmark of good statistics and data collection is in good sampling, and yet so many people have a poor understanding of how sampling works, how data is collected, how selective groups are chosen to represent larger populations, and how data is chosen to be exemplary of a larger whole. This course will show you how that process of selection takes place, whether it’s for people and studies, or records and historical data.
  • Weizmann Institute of Science- Maths Puzzles: Cryptarithms, Sybologies, and Secret Codes – Professors Aviezri Fraenkel, Yossi Elran, Sabine Segre, and Michael Elran - If you like puzzles and brain teasers, this course is for you. The class studies three types of major puzzles in mathematics, including cryptaritms—or puzzles where digits have been replaced by letters and you’ll need your math skills to solve them, symbologies—a similar type of puzzle where the numbers are replaced by symbols, and operator puzzles, where the numbers are given but the actual operators and operations are hidden and you’ll have to sort them out. Start from easy, and work your way to hard—with the help of the people who created the puzzles, of course.
  • Stanford University – Introduction to Logic – Professor Michael Genesereth – You would think that things like information and systematic reason would be things that everyone would understand on some level, but they absolutely require training, and this course from Sanford delivers it in spades. The course will show you how to formalize information in logical sentences, how to reason and drive to logical conclusions, and the applications of logical technologies in math, science, engineering, and more.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities

  • Harvard University – The Book: Book Sleuthing: What 19th-Century Books Can Tell us About the Rise of the Reading Public- Professor Leah Price- This course is actually one of a series on the rise of literature and reading in global societies, but this particular class stood out because it addresses a specifically interesting topic—what books can tell us about how the people who lived when they were published. You’ll look over those old books to get clues to the lives of the people who read them, and get a little historical perspective on the shift from print to digital media by studying how quickly people take to mass-produced media.
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- Positive Psychology – Professor Dr. Barbara L Frederickson - We all like to believe in the power of positivity, but positivity has its limits. This course will examine the topic, study positive psychology with the help of a forerunner who studies it, and shares practical applications for your everyday life that you can put to good use on your own.
  • The University of Edinburgh – Introduction to Philosophy – Professors Dr. Dave Ward, Duncan Pritchard, and Michela Massimi - This introduction to philosophy will walk you through major topics, like epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy or mind and science with the philosophers who studied and wrote about each. You’ll ponder the same questions they did, read their writings and thoughts on the topics, and try to reach the same—or at least your own—conclusions.
  • Michigan State University – Journalism, the Future, and You! – Professors Joanne Gerstner, Jeremy Steele, David Poulson, Eric Freedman, Joe Grimm, and Lucinda D. DavenportA lot of people have strong feelingds about journalism who also have no idea what good journalism looks like, or what it means to actually be a journalism. This course is designed to help you get a feel for the job, the types of careers where journalism skills are useful—or necessary—and the future of journalism on an international scale.
  • Boston University – The Art of Poetry – Professors Robert Pinsky, Duy Doan, Laura Marris, Calvin Olsen, Tomas Unger, and Sarah Handley – From the epic poems of ancient history to Shakespeare’s sonnets to modern poetry slams and hip-hop, poetry takes many forms, and this course helps you fully understand the beauty of poetry beyond simply hearing or seeing it performed, and instead learning to hear it in your own mind, interpret it your own way, and examine how each poem makes you feel.
  • The University of Nottingham – Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life Professors Maiken Umbach, Ian Cooke, and Mathew Humphrey - This course examines how words and phrases come to take on their very specific meanings, whether they’re slogans, images, or symbols. The class examines how those messages pick up political connotations, what needs to exist for a message to be considered propraganda, and how we express our own convictions and ideals through propaganda, whether we know it or not.
  • The University of Pennsylvania – Social Norms, Social Change – Professor Cristina Bicchieri - This course discusses social norms, or those spoken or unspoken rules that come to define a community, from which deviation is usually met by the group with punishment. You’ll study what makes norms different from other social constructs, how they’re created, and how harmful ones are sidelined, and how social change takes place to eliminate those old and potentially harmful norms—not to mention how you can play a role in that social change.
  • The Smithsonian Institution – Smithsonian’s Objects That Define America – Professor Dr. Richard Kurin - The Smithsonian Institution has a wealth of artifacts and objects in its catalog that many would consider emblematic of American culture and society. In this course, you’ll study many of them, from the Star Spangled Banner to the Statue of Liberty, the Declaration of Independence to the Greensboro Lunch Counter, the Model T to the Mercury Capsule—all of them are in the Smithsonian, and you’ll get a unique perspective on each one, learning the stories behind them, and why each of them is essential to US History.
  • Harvard University – Islam Through Its Scriptures- Professor Ali Asani - This course aims to build bridges of understanding and help educate people outside of the Islamic faith to what the religion is really about, using the Quran as the foundation of the lessons. You’ll learn about the challenges—seen in just about every religion—involved with interpreting the meanings behind an often-translated, millennium-old series of documents shrouded in history and myth. This course will introduce you to the place of the Quarn in muslim cultures, major themes of the text, the time and place contexts in which it was written, and the skills necessary to interpret it for modern times, along with the approaches muslims today take to engage with it.

Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Law

  • Yale University – A Law Student’s Toolkit – Professor Ian AyresYou don’t have to be a law student to appreciate this course, but if you have an interest in it, or if you are, it certainly helps. This course will help you build the foundations you need to study law, and to succeed in law school. You’ll learn the basic terminology, concepts, and tools that lawyers use every day, and if you plan to put it to use yourself, you’ll get some invaluable knowledge. Otherwise, you’ll just be able to actually understand aspects of the legal system, and not just comment on them like you do.
  • The University of Glasgow – Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime – Professor Donna Yates - When someone steals something extremely valuable, like a painting or sculpture that can be easily identified as stolen, how does it get around? Who buys that kind of thing? This course examines the grey market for antiquities and art, the shady—but often wealthy—buyers involved, and how authorities investigate those crimes and return those stolen antiquities to their rightful cultures, museums, and peoples.
  • The Open University – Forensic Psychology: Witness InvestigationProfessor Graham Pike - This course won’t open for a few weeks, but it’s worth signing up for now if you’re interested. You’ll learn how your own mind works, watch videos of real witnesses and police investigations, and understand the psychology of eyewitness testimony, when it’s reliable and when it’s not, and you’ll even get the opportunity to try your hand at solving a crime using nothing but evidence from witnesses.
  • Harvard University – JuryX: Deliberations for Social Change – Professor Charles Nesson - The jury is a unique and fairly recent invention. The idea that laypeople, or a group of people who are representative of a cross-section of society, can and should have the final say over a legal matter once it’s been presented to them by experts in the field, is unique to modern democracies. In this course, you’ll participate on a faux “jury” yourself, in both live and asynchronous discussions, on very real and important topics, like the decriminalization of marijuana use to the militarization of police—all couched in terms of real deliberations, designed to help you understand how the jury process works, why it works, and when it really doesn’t.
Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Summer Semester 2016

Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars

  • The University of Queensland – Question Everything: Scientific Thinking in Real Life – Professors Noel Chan, Scott Jones, Derek McDowall, and Anthony Mewing - Math and science are more than just tools to study the world around us and explain the natural phenomenon we see in the universe—they’re also excellent tools to use in your everyday life, from making smart decisions, learning the difference between logic and opinion, handling misconceptions, and learning the basics of measurement and estimation. This course will explain how you can apply scientific thinking to all aspects of your life.
  • Soundfly – Demo Recording 101 - Fancy yourself a musician? Thinking about cutting your own demo tape, so the world can hear how skilled you are? Whether you’re recording an instrument or just getting your rhymes down on tape, you’ll need to know the basics of recording the best possible representation of your sound for others to hear, and this short course will walk you through it. You’ll learn how to use a DAW, why you need two microphones, and how to get your recording in sharable shape—don’t worry, all the gear isn’t required, and they’ll make suggestions.
  • Soundfly – Getting Started with Chip Music - If you’re a fan of chiptune, or you’ve wanted to get into making it yourself, or maybe you’re just one of those people who loves the nostalgic sounds of video games from the 80s and 90s, this course is for you. You’ll study under a musician who loves and makes chiptune music himself, Chipocrite, and he’ll show you how he makes music, how you can too, and the tools you need to get started.
  • University of California, Irvine – Interfacing with the Raspberry Pi – Professor Ian Harris - It’s no secret that we love the Raspberry Pi around here—but if you’re not familiar with the tiny, portable, affordable computer, all of those pins and sensors can be difficult to understand. This course will introduce you to the Pi, all of its input and output devices and ports, as well as the world of connectable devices like GPS sensors, motors, LCD screens, and so on that you can connect to it and make it do even more. By the end of the course, you’ll definitely have a use in mind for a Pi of your own.
  • University of Leeds – WW1 Heroism: Through Art and Film – Professor Alison Fell - The centenary of World War I is a perfect time to look back at the events leading up to, the madness that was, and the aftermath of The Great War—the war that many thought would end all wars. You’ll explore posters and media of the time calling people to action and calling for support for the various war efforts, and you’ll look back through the lens of history, studying modern depictions of World War I in media and film.
  • Berklee College of Music – Pro Tools Basics – Professor Chrissy Tignor-Fisher - If you’re looking for more of a direct primer to the basics of a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation, than the previously mentioned demo recording class, try this one. Whether you’ve used a computer to create music before or you’re just curious how it would work for you if you decided to, you’ll get the basics of Pro Tools First and Avid Pro Tools through this class, and learn enough to help you decide if it’s right for you and your projects.
  • California Institue of the Arts – History of Graphic Design – Professors Louise Sandhaus and Lorraine Wild - Everyone thinks they know good design when they see it, and even those who actually do and have studied design have a poor understanding of why people find certain types of design are good or bad. This course will help you understand the factors that influence and shape the way we see things, why certain elements are “timeless,” and you’ll have assignments to help you understand the major areas of design (typography, image-making, interactive media, and branding) and how they’ve changed over time.
  • The University of California, San Diego – Social Computing – Professor Scott Klemmer - Technology has given us more ways than ever before to communicate and share ideas, thoughts, or nonsense across vast distances. It’s closed the distances between us, but it’s also presented its own world of challenges, and this course examines how computer technologies have embraced social aspects, and how future technologies will continue to do so.

Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes

The curriculum at Lifehacker U is rich and deep, but it may not reflect all of your areas of interests or expertise. If you’re looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.

  • Academic Earth curates an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world’s smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
  • TED talks are well known for being thought provoking, interesting, intelligent, and in many cases, inspiring and informative. We’ve featured TED talks at Lifehacker before, and if you’re looking for seminars on the web worth watching, TED is worth perusing.
  • edX is a collection of free courses from leading Universities like the University of California, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. There aren’t many, but the ones offered are free, open to the public, and they rotate often.
  • Coursera has a broad selection of courses in-session or beginning shortly that you can take for fun or a certificate of completion that shows you’ve learned a new skill. Topics range from science and technology to social science and humanities, and they’re all free.
  • Udacity offers a slimmer selection of courses, but the ones offered are not only often for-credit, but they’re instructor led and geared towards specific goals, with skilled and talented instructors walking you through everything from building a startup to programming a robotic car.
  • Udemy is an online learning marketplace and resource that packs tons of free and paid courses in a wide variety of topics. Some are taught by amateurs and experts in their field, while others are backed by higher education institutions and taught by university professors. You’ll learn everything from how to master Microsoft Excel to how to learn another language here.
  • FutureLearn offers regularly updating classes on topics like computer science and technology, history and humanities, political science, and culture from leading universities like the University of Birmingham, the University of Groningen, the University of Cape Town, and others.
  • Sliderule maintains a massive course database that’s easy to browse and search from many of the other institutions listed here. They also offer their own skill paths and collections of courses designed to help you learn specific things and achieve your own learning goals, as well as their own hosted, mentor-led courses.
  • The Saylor Foundation offers a wide array of courses and entire course programs on topics from economics to political science and professional development. Interested in a crash course in mechanical engineering? The Saylor Foundation can help you with that.
  • Class Central aggregates some of the best courses available from open universities and programs around the web in an easy to sort and search format. Just search for what you want to learn, and if a course is available and starting soon, you’ll find it.
  • Education-Portal.com has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes to students and the public at large.
  • CreativeLIVE features a number of interactive courses in business, photography, and self-improvement, many of which are free and available to listen in on at any time of day.
  • Open Culture’s list of free online courses is broken down by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School’s website.
  • The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web. They also maintain a great list of member schools around the world, so you can visit universities anywhere in the world and take the online classes they make available.
  • The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills. If you’re looking to augment your education or just take a couple video classes in your spare time, it’s a great place to start and has a lot of interesting topics to offer.
  • The University of Reddit is a crowd-built set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin. Individuals interested in teaching classes regularly post to the University of Reddit subthread to gauge interest in future courses and announce when new modules are available.
  • The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer, building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.

The beautiful thing about taking classes online is that you can pick and choose the classes you want to attend, skip lectures and come back to them later (in some cases – some classes require your regular attendance and participation!), and do examinations and quizzes on your own time. You can load up with as many classes as you choose, or take a light course load and come back to some of the classes you meant to take at another time that’s more convenient for you.

With Lifehacker U, you’re free to take as many or as few of these classes as you like, and we’ll update this course guide every term with a fresh list of courses on new and interesting topics, some of which are only available during that academic term.

If you have online course resources or your university offers classes that are available for free online that you know would be a great fit for Lifehacker U, don’t keep them to yourself! Send them in to us at tips+lifehackeru@lifehacker.com so we can include them in the next semester!

Title photo remixed from an original by aslysun (Shutterstock).

What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver bought $15 million in outstanding medical debt just to prove how easy it is to start a debt buying company. It was debt that regular people owed, presumably from surgeries, hospital stays, medical procedures and so on. Instead of buying the debt to turn a profit, Oliver forgave it. All of it. The segment outlined the many flaws of the debt and credit industry, but specifically the concept of “zombie debt,” or old, forgotten debt that somehow resurfaces.

As legal site Nolo explains, zombie debt is debt that “is very old or no longer owed.” It’s debt that comes back to life when a collection agency buys it for cheap. It’s not the same as maxing out a credit card and being unable to pay or being flooded with bills you can’t haggle down. Zombie debt is often invalid, and collectors use intimidating, sneaky tactics to get people to pay.

How Zombie Debt Works

Debt collectors make money when they buy old debts incredibly cheap and get people to pay a portion of the original amount that’s bigger than what they paid themselves. Theoretically, that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Collectors just help companies reclaim lost funds, and, after all, we should all repay our debts. Fair enough.

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In practice, though, debt collecting is a very shady business, and zombie debt exemplifies this. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lists some common types of zombie debt:

  • debts you already settled with a company or other debt collector
  • debts that were discharged in bankruptcy
  • time-barred debts you may have forgotten or overlooked that are past the statute of limitations
  • debts that no longer show up on your credit report, generally after seven years
  • debts you never owed, like debts resulting from identity theft

It’s easy to say “If you have past debt, you should pay it.” Zombie debts don’t work this neatly. As the FTC points out, they’re often the result of identity theft and they can even be debts you’ve already settled.

How Debt Collectors Get Around Time-Barred Debts

The FTC warns that you can restart the clock on the debt’s statute of limitations if you make (or just promise to make) payments. This is important because it’s how debt collectors turn a profit.

“Statute of limitations” means debt collectors can sue you for a limited amount of time to collect your past due debt. After that time, those unpaid debts are “time-barred,” and a debt collector can’t sue for time-barred debts. This time frame—the statute of limitations—varies depending on your state. Here are the statutes of limitations for all 50 states.

When you restart the clock, collectors can sue you, and many of them do. When consumers ignore these lawsuits, which happens often, they have to pay up, which can lead to wage garnishment.

However, don’t get “statute of limitations” mixed up with the time limit for negative items to stay on your credit report. Most unpaid debt falls off your credit report after seven years from the date it becomes delinquent, no matter how many times that debt is bought or sold. That’s separate from the statute of limitations.

How to Deal With Zombie Debt

Sadly, not all of us will be lucky enough to have a cable news show buy and forgive our zombie debt. We’ve told you how to deal with debt collectors before, and the cautionary rules are generally the same for dealing with zombie debt.

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As you can see in the Last Week Tonight segment (and as you may have experienced yourself), debt collectors can be nasty. They use all sorts of tactics (and in some cases, intimidation and outright lying) to intimidate you into paying, from calling you nonstop to contacting your friends and family members.

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Thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are not allowed to call during certain hours, use foul language, or make threats, though. So if you’re dealing with an agency breaking the rules, you can report them to the FTC. Also, abusive or threatening language are also red flags, so make sure you don’t have a scam on your hands, and here are a few questions you can ask to expose a fake debt collector. The FTC lays out your rights in dealing with debt collectors.

Assuming the agency is legit, your next order of business is to tackle them head on and make sure the debt is valid. Check out your credit report and see if the debt is listed. If not, the zombie debt may be a result of identity theft, and you can find sample letters to help dispute the debt at identitytheft.gov.

From there, ask for a “Validation Notice.” Consumer Reports explains how this works:

Even if the caller gives plausible-sounding answers, request a “validation notice” to verify the debt. The notice, which must be sent within five days of initial contact, must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a description of your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers sample request letters, too. To avoid restarting the statute of limitations, don’t even discuss the debt until you receive that notice.

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If you do indeed owe the money and believe you need to pay, dealing with collectors can still be tricky. We’ve written a guide to help you navigate the process, though.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-settle-…

In most cases, dealing with zombie debt is easier said than done. A quirky television host might come to your rescue, but don’t count on it. At the very least, you should familiarize yourself with your credit report, know the statute of limitations on any past debts, and understand your rights.

Photo by Ryan Jorgensen – Jorgo

Financial Literacy Alone Won’t Fix Your Money Problems

Financial Literacy Alone Won’t Fix Your Money Problems

Unless you were born into riches, you’ve probably dealt with money troubles. Financial problems can be a struggle, and “financial literacy” is the go-to solution to building good money habits. Create a budget, learn some basic rules, and poof! Our money woes are cured. That’s not all it takes to improve your finances, though. Not by a long shot.

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Financial literacy is, in a nutshell, understanding how money works. It’s very important, and it’s not difficult to learn. In fact, there are a handful of free resources to help you learn all about money. Those lessons can be helpful tools. However, if it were as easy as learning some basic math and rules, we’d all be awesome at money. Less of us would struggle with debt, live paycheck-to-paycheck, or overspend on stuff we don’t need.

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Many people assume financial literacy is the key to fixing these problems, though. For example, we recently wrote about the first thing you should do to get your money in order (figure out why you want to get it in order). Many of you had other ideas, like:

  • Figure out how to budget
  • Pay off your debt
  • Record all of your transactions
  • Learn about compound interest

These are the basics, and it’s absolutely important to have this knowledge in your arsenal. But these answers miss the point. Personal finance goes beyond this knowledge: it’s personal. And it’s important to understand why money is such a challenge for so many people. That way, we can tackle that challenge at full force and learn how to use those tools.

Money Is More About Behavior Than Basic Rules

Whether it’s basic budgeting, negotiating salaries or lower prices, or investing for the future, people often ask “why don’t they teach this in schools?” Well, they do teach this in schools. The problem is, teaching it is not that simple.

Years ago, I interviewed Laura Levine, President of Jump$tart Coalition, an organization dedicated to bringing financial literacy to classrooms. She told me one of the biggest challenges they face is deciding exactly who should teach financial literacy lessons:

There isn’t a way to identify where all the finance teachers are. If you teach algebra, there’s very little debate that’s in the Math Department. But personal finance might be social studies or consumer science or business. There are a lot more variables…Personal finance and financial education are very complex and very nuanced. We want to make sure we’re really assessing and seeing what makes it effective. But we’re not waiting for a perfect solution to get started.

In other words, money isn’t just math. It’s also behavior. Here are a few behavior-related lessons that helped me get my finances in order more than any rules:

Some financial solutions are indeed pretty straightforward, but in general, if you assume money is as easy as setting up a budget, you’ll probably be really frustrated and disappointed later, when you have trouble sticking to that easy budget. It’s not hopeless, though. When you acknowledge just how much money management money depends on habits, willpower, and other behaviors, you can better focus your energy and effort.

The Rules Don’t Always Work

There’s another reason basic financial rules (like “spend less than you earn”) won’t solve everything: they don’t always work.

For example, when I was in student loan debt, I bucked the “save 3-6 months of expenses for an emergency” rule. Instead, I saved a few hundred bucks for an emergency and focused on paying off my debt instead. I wanted to pay my loans asap so I could properly save for the future, and I had a safety net (moving back in with my parents) to fall back on if times got really tough. I took a chance and bucked the rules, and it gave me the confidence to take control of my finances. Plus, I saved a lot of money on interest. It’s not a smart move for everyone, and not everyone agrees with it, but it worked for me.

The point isn’t to break the rules for the sake of breaking the rules. The point is that life is complicated, and the rules are often oversimplified to the point of being ineffective, just so they can be easily taught to others. They’re so oversimplified, in fact, financial experts rarely agree on them.

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Don’t get me wrong—education is important, whether it’s history, grammar, sex ed, or financial literacy. However, unlike grammar rules, personal finance isn’t cut and dried. A lot of it depends on your individual situation, which makes it complicated.

You have to consider your own financial situation and mindset and do what works for you. Sometimes, that means bending the rules. For example, let’s say you start to pay off debt using the stack method (paying off high-interest debts first). It makes the most sense on paper because of compound interest, but let’s say your debt is so overwhelming, you get discouraged and give up on it altogether. The debt snowball (paying off smaller debts first) may work better. The snowball method bucks the basic rule of compound interest, yet research shows it works better for most people because the psychology matters more than math. In short, people aren’t computers.

http://lifehacker.com/5940989/pay-of…

What to Focus on Instead

Okay, you get it. Money management is more about behavior than rules. How do you learn to be good at money, then? Like most habits and behavior, it comes down to practice.

In high school, I was on the soccer team, and I sucked. My coach, bless her heart, explained how it all worked. I had to kick the ball with my foot at the right angle. I had to account for my position when I passed. I followed these rules meticulously, yet I still sucked. Finally, my coach told me, “Forget the rules. Practice your skills.” She put me in more games. She made me practice longer and harder. Eventually, I got better (not great, but better).

You can say the same for money, I think. The rules are useful and necessary, but without practicing your real-world skills, they will only take you so far.

Like a lot of habits and behaviors, the sooner you get started, the better. This is why it’s important to teach kids solid money habits early on (another thing Jump$tart is trying to do). For example, you could:

Many of us don’t grow up learning money skills, though. Our parents were just as bad with money as we are. If you didn’t get these basics yourself, yes, you need to learn the mechanics of building a budget, but more importantly, you need a solid reason to motivate yourself. If you don’t see a need to worry about money, what’s the point in learning skills or rules?

Before anything, it’s important to have a clear idea of why you want to get your money in order, whether it’s to travel more or to support your family. Without motivation, you’re just learning rules for the sake of learning them, and that won’t be nearly as effective as learning the rules to reach an important goal.

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From there, you build better habits when you navigate your weak spots and challenges. For example:

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It’s impossible to nail down the exact habits you need to improve your finances, because, again, so much of it depends on your own situation and personality. The overall point is: when you’re ready to fix your finances, it helps to be prepared for the work that goes into it. When we understand that money is more about mindset and behavior, we’re in a better place to fix the real issues so we can use those rules to our advantage.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

The days of hot, sweaty workouts are upon us. It’s time to upgrade your after-exercise snack from a boring protein bar and a swig of lukewarm water to one of these refreshing protein popsicles. The formula is simple: blend, freeze, enjoy.

Any liquid can be frozen into popsicle form, but protein smoothies are perfect for after a workout. Eating protein within an hour after exercising may help you build more muscle in the long run. Meanwhile, carbohydrates from sugar or starchy foods help to replenish glycogen in your muscles. That’s not a big deal after a short workout, but it can help you recover after a really taxing one.

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Although smoothies can be sugary, adding protein to the fruit keeps them from being too much like candy, and when you make them yourself, you can keep the sugar to a minimum and include whatever healthy ingredients you like. You can meet your post-workout protein and carb requirements with almost any meal or snack, but on a hot day, the popsicle format is nutritious and refreshing. Convinced? Here are some smoothie-sicles to try.

Banana Mango

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

This is my go-to smoothie recipe, fresh or frozen. Just put the ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth.

  • 1 large banana
  • 2 cups frozen mango chunks
  • 2 heaping scoops of unflavored whey powder
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups water
  • Cinnamon and ground cardamom to taste

Divide into four servings and freeze. This smoothie also refrigerates well, if you want to keep both your options open. Just put the extra into a jar, and shake before drinking.

Chocolate Coconut

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

This one comes from from Men’s Fitness. It’s extremely low carb and high fat—but some of you are into that sort of thing. It’s also just two ingredients:

  • 2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk

Blend these together, pour into five popsicle molds, and you’re done. The resulting popsicle is creamy and smooth, if a little bland. The taste will depend a lot on your protein powder, so sample the smoothie before you freeze it and consider adding a little more sweetener or maybe some vanilla extract or spices to punch up the flavor a bit.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

Here’s one for you crafty folks. A peanut butter smoothie gets layered with fruit and juice to make a sweet treat reminiscent of a PB&J sandwich. To be really fancy, you can make it like DailyBurn does, with an extra layer of peanut butter and a sesame seed garnish. We went for the simpler, two-layer option. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey (they recommend three tablespoons, which seems like a bit much)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups juice

Blend everything except the fruit and juice together, and fill eight popsicle molds half-full. Let them freeze for an hour. Then, top off each pop with a few raspberries and some of the juice. DailyBurn calls for unsweetened raspberry juice, but we used strawberry lemonade.

The extra work pays off: this popsicle is creamy in the peanut butter layer (with a little tang from the yogurt) and tart and sweet in the “jelly.”

Or Build Your Own

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

You’re probably catching on to the theme: Make any smoothie, then freeze it. To bring your wildest popsicle dreams to life, check out this smoothie formula infographic. In short, you choose a liquid, scoop in your favorite protein powder (or another protein source, like yogurt), and then add fruits and vegetables. Most smoothies will benefit from a little bit of sweetener, so taste a spoonful and see what you think. To find the nutrition content of your creation, use a recipe analyzer like the one at CalorieCount.com.

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The Logistics

Four Frozen Protein Smoothies That Make Perfect Post-Workout Popsicles

To freeze a smoothie without any special equipment, grab a paper or plastic cup, fill it about halfway, and add a stick. A chopstick snapped in half will do the trick, or try a plastic fork or spoon. Thicker smoothies (like our banana-mango recipe) will hold the stick upright while it freezes.

If you’re going to be doing this on the regular, it may be wise to invest in a set of popsicle molds like these reusable ones that’ll set you back about ten bucks. With either a store-bought or home-kludged popsicle mold, don’t forget that it’s easiest to remove the frozen treat if you run the outside of the cup or mold under warm water.

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You can also buy disposable sleeves, to make something similar to those freezy pops you may remember from your childhood—you know, the ones that came in giant room-temperature boxes. You can either knot the sleeves and lay them flat to freeze, or attach the tops of the sleeves to a shelf in your freezer with binder clips so they hang straight. When it’s time to eat, just push the popsicle out of the wrapping and enjoy.

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While your home freezer is obviously the best place to store popsicles, a well-packed cooler may be able to keep frozen treats cold in your car while you run or hike or work out far from home. If you’re training with a group, an ice chest filled with popsicles will make you an instant team favorite. Slurp and enjoy.

Blender photo by Daniel Lee. All other photos by us.