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Mark Daniel Ellers

Today ’s

children get t echie Mobile apps useful learning tools, within limits

For many parents, a welcome quiet now exists where once there was fussing. In restaurants the raucous protests of hungry toddlers are muted. On long car rides, threats to turn the car around forgotten. Capturing the attention of so many of these tykes, while providing their moms and dads respites, are mobile applications, more commonly referred to as an apps. Apps for GPS-guided directions and online banking are helpful tools to get through the day. In recent years, though, more parents are turning over their tablets and smart phones to entertain and educate their children. Barrow Elementary School Media Specialist Andy Plemmons said that when his now 4-year-old daughter first started

using apps on his iPhone at about age 2 he was astounded at how quickly she got the hang of it. Plemmons’ story rings true for many parents of small children. Dr. Diane Bales, an associate professor of Human Development and Family Science for the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, postulates that children’s adaptive abilities to new technology might have something to do with a sense of fearlessness they exhibit. “A lot of people who have not grown up using computers or tablets are a lot more concerned and think, ‘I’m going to break it. I’m going to do something wrong, I’m going to buy something accidentally.’ As a whole, kids are more willing to explore, and try things,” said Bales.

Most of the popular children’s apps available are not purely educational, nor are they purely games. The best apps provide engaging play while sneaking in the learning. Plemmons has found that regardless of grade level, practically every elementary

student is excited to use one of the iPad tablets. The media center at Barrow Elementary houses 37 iPads, which are available for classroom use by teachers. “It’s definitely more engaging because it puts a lot of control in (the students’) hands,” said Plemmons. Engagement is the ticket, but it needs to be paired with structure from parents and teachers. According to Plemmons, though, with the right combination of instruction and purpose, the students stay focused. That captivating capability is one of the most unique aspects of these devices. A large part of what keeps children fixed on mobile apps is the “gamification” that’s built in. But sometimes it’s tough for children to self-regulate and know when to stop. “I think it’s important that kids

aren’t learning only on devices, because there’s a lot of developmental things that happen by kids interacting with crayons, and markers, and paint, and turning pages of a book,” said Plemmons. Roy Johnson, father of three app-loving children, only allows his kids to use his Kindle tablet on weekends and holidays,

while weekdays are spent engaging in more active play and family time. “We want to encourage our kids to play more actively than just sitting on the couch,” said the Jefferson resident. The number of available apps for children is enormous, so choosing which to download can be an equally large task. Moreover, this category of apps continues to grow at an astounding rate. With the release of iOS 7, Apple’s latest software update, parents can easily find suitable downloads in the new “Kids” section of the iTunes App Store. Apps are conveniently separated by age-range and category.

“A lot of (apps) are labeled educational, but that does not necessarily mean that they have any real educational value in terms of what we know children really need to be doing, especially at young ages,” said Bales. To ensure children benefit, it’s

important for parents to be involved in their child’s screen-time. Professionals stress the need for parental research before blindly downloading. Read some reviews. Navigate through it a few times before turning the device over.

Terrapin Taps Market -

local brewery set to expand

It is a tour night at Terrapin Brewing Company and the crowd is slowly gathering in the fenced-in lot adjoining the brewery. On the way back from the employee parking lot, owner John Cochran stops to admire the new grain silos being installed. The silos are only part of the new brewing system being put in place by Terrapin. Upon completion, it will have a brewery capable of producing four times the beer it currently turns out. This is a big step for Cochran’s small business. While running a brewery may seem like a unique small business, Cochran faces many of the same obstacles other business owners face. To creditors, business is business, and they aren’t willing to take beer as payment. There were several times when Cochran thought they were going to have to shut down, but somehow things

always seemed to work out. This was often thanks to the varied support system Cochran has surrounding him. Arguably, the most pertinent is his cofounder and the brewmaster of Terrapin Beer, Spike Buckowski. The two met while working at Marthasville Brewing Company in Atlanta. Having received a formal education in brewing from the American

Brewer’s Guild in 1996, Buckowski was ready to take his craft to the next level, and Cochran was the right man to partner with. “John and I are basically total opposites. I’m more of the creative side as far as recipes and making beers, where John is more on the numbers side. So, I think we have a good working relationship because we’re both different,” says Buckowski. Cochran and co-founder Buckowski are a perfect example of how it takes more than just a great product to attain success. After all, they knew they had an above-average product six months in when their flagship beer, the Rye Pale Ale, won the American Pale Ale Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival. Their first beer – their only entry – and they won gold at one of the most prestigious beer competitions in the country. But as John Cochran’s wife and former Terrapin financial control analyst Irene Cochran points out, “No matter how good your product is, it’s not going to sell if you can’t brand it.”

Irene’s dollars-and-cents mentality is another saving grace of the Terrapin Beer Company. Many of the skills she gained while working in finance with the CocaCola Company were pivotal in keeping Terrapin afloat amidst their early-and-often woes with creditors. “If it were not for my wife, this wouldn’t be going on now,” Cochran admits. It was no surprise to Cochran that he would face adversity when establishing a brewery in Georgia, of all places. When

Terrapin opened its doors in 2002, the culture of craft beer in the Southeast was nearly non-existent. Very few restaurants, even in a big-city like Atlanta, carried craft beer. “My wife would make fun of me because I would go into a restaurant and ask what beers they had on tap and I would get the list and be like, ‘Nah, I think I’ll have water,’” Cochran recalls, “but now you can go into even very mainstream places and they’ll carry some of the higher end craft

stuff.” It is the purchasing of a minority stake in Terrapin by Tenth and Blake (a division of beer giant MillerCoors) which has allowed Terrapin to expand in the way they would like, although T&B’s involvement has riled up a number of craft brew fanatics who are skeptical about the consequences of teaming up with the perceived “enemy” of the industry. Cochran insists that the capital Tenth and Blake provided Terrapin has resulted

in more freedom for him and Buckowski in running their business, not less. In fact, the initial loan from Tenth and Blake was used to buy out a group of eight individual investors who hoped to force Cochran and Buckowski to sell Terrapin to a “West Coast beverage equity fund investor who stated he was bringing in outside management to run the company,” according to Cochran in his response to a blog post on Aleheads. com regarding the recent Terrapin developments.

Despite facing some criticism surrounding the business side of Terrapin’s growth, there seems to be no doubt that there is a high level of respect for Cochran and Terrapin’s products throughout the East Coast craft beer culture. Cochran holds the same respect for his fellow industry leaders and newcomers alike. He has a love for the growing Southeast craft brew culture. It wasn’t the smartest business decision to open up a brewery in Athens, GA, but Cochran was adamant about spreading what he experienced during his time selling insurance in Seattle to the Southeast. “When I moved to Seattle, I’ll never forget, the first night I went out to a bar, they had 20 taps, which was unheard of here ‘cause most place had about four, six or eight taps, and out of those 20, every single one of them was a beer from within 40 miles away. It blew my mind,” Cochran recalls. He had been home brewing for fun

since he was in college at the University of Georgia, but it was not until after his time in Seattle that Cochran realized he wanted to be involved in the brewery business.

After moving back to Atlanta, Cochran found work as a volunteer at Marthasville Brewing Company and subsequently worked his way up until he decided to found his own brewery with Buckowski in 2002, three years after its conception and initial planning. His personal and business values focus on the community, which is evidenced in Terrapin’s actions. Just about every week there is an event being held at the brewery to raise money or awareness for local organizations. Terrapin is a part of the community, and the community is a part of Terrapin. The company employs just under 40 people, and has about 30 regular volunteers on staff. Volunteers like Ari Koschorke are just beer fans who want to be involved with the product they love. “John is super laid-back and is really open about talking about the industry to people who are interested and always more than willing to give advice,” Koschorke

says. Cochran’s candid nature is appreciated both by Terrapin’s anxious-to-learn volunteers as well as the community of students he is likely to meet with for projects and the like. Sitting in the conference room with a group of three UGA marketing students, he cites examples and detailed stories that come together to form an articulate response to each question. Cochran is overshadowed by a large, white easel pad filled to each edge with details underneath the title “Hop Harvest.” Nearby, a stack of empty Terrapin beer cases are in the corner. These boxes now fill what used to be empty space in the brewery for tour patrons to gather. Now pallet after pallet engulf visitors who must now spend their evenings at Terrapin entirely outside. This visible sign is merely an initial indicator of the Terrapin expansion yet to come in the following months and years.

A Christmas w i t h


Al Henderson’s vintage ornament collection recalls the festive feel of Christmases from the past. Holidays are so steeped in ritual. It is both the culturally widespread traditions and the familial traditions that so often inspire the wonder and merriment surrounding the holidays. For Athens resident Al Henderson, it was the old-fashioned bubble lights that “mesmerized” him as a child. From that initial fascination, Henderson expanded his interests, collecting antique ornaments and even growing and selling Fraser fir Christmas trees on his property in Newland, N.C. “I was born six weeks prematurely on Dec. 12, and my mother swore that it was

because I couldn’t miss Christmas,” said Henderson. “As a young, young child I fell in love with the Christmas tree. And now I’m growing trees in North Carolina, so I’m living my dream.”

Currently, Henderson estimates that he has about 500 ornaments in his collection, though most of them are simple glass ball ornaments. The more rare and valuable parts of his collection are the European ornaments. The ornament industry, particularly in eastern European countries, was extraordinarily strong up until World War II, he says. Germany was a major producer of highquality figural ornaments. “It was a cottage industry. These were people in their homes free-blowing these ornaments or blowing glass into molds. It wasn’t a factory,” said Henderson. Poland had its own trademark style called “indents.” The Czechs focused on beaded

ornaments. Further east, Japan was making glass balls painted with the richest colors and lacquers. On a recent visit, Henderson had prepared a display of his ornament colleciton. It was evident that these pieces were a great source of pride. His hobby is mostly for himself, but there is money to be made in the antique ornament market. “I’ve mostly always collected for me: both for fun and for investment,” said Henderson. “It’s an investment I can see, hold and enjoy and share with others. But I also have collected to re-sell.” Henderson is like a walking encyclopedia for everything Christmas. I was amazed by his expertise, and even more amazed

to learn that he considers the size of his collection “average” when compared to other collectors. Yes, there are others, and they’re organized. Henderson is part of a group called The Golden Glow of Christmas Past (www., which is has about 1,200 members across the country. The group has an annual convention hosted by different members in a different city each year. Last year, Henderson co-hosted the convention in Asheville, N.C., along with a few other Golden Glow members from that area. Henderson estimates that about 600 members were in attendance. Don’t hold your breath for the convention to come to the Classic City, though. Henderson is the only Golden Glow member in Athens, as far as he is aware. That’s not a problem as far as Henderson is concerned. He has taken advantage of the touring convention each summer by turning it into a family vacation.


court hadn’t been cleared since the week before as a young man wearing knee pads and holding a large plastic rake walked through the chain-link gate. He started systematically clearing the court, adding to the layer building along the fence-line. Bicycle tires don’t tread well on leaves. Six players walked their bikes through the gate then began riding around the Through the bustle of freshmen make-shift bike polo court. They would be playing across the length of the two coming and going from the University of basketball courts. This left two unnecessary Georgia’s Russell dorms in the frenzied poles on one side of the court where the stupor that comes with their first taste of basketball goals stood; but when facing the finals week is an enclosed pair of side-bychallenge of finding a large flat surface in side half-court basketball courts on the far the hilly town of Athens, you take what you edge of the parking lot. can get. There are two pairs of cones which The courts were sprinkled with fallen serve as goal posts a few feet away from leaves, especially in the corners, where each end of the rectangular court. It looks piles had begun to form. It looked like the

like a street hockey setup. Each player carried a mallet in their strong hand while keeping their other hand on the handlebars, never far from the brake. The mallet is usually made from a ski pole for the shaft and a piece of thick plastic piping for the head. The riders separated into teams of three and got into position on the wall behind their goal. The game began with one player from each team racing toward the ball which was sitting in the center of the court. Their teammates positioned themselves to receive a pass or play defense depending on the outcome of the “joust.� Once a team gained possession of the ball, they tactically dribbled and passed the ball down court

towards their opponent’s goal. Defense is a big part of the game. Players are allowed to make contact in three ways: bike-to-bike, mallet-to-mallet and body-to-body. There was no shortage of any type of contact, and it made for an exciting sport to watch. It also made for frequent changes of possession. When a player managed to get into shooting range

they faced another challenge – the goalie. With only three players per team, there wasn’t always someone in the goal, but good strategy dictates that one player hung back so that they’re only a quick ride from protecting the goal. The player in goal positioned their bike, creating a wall, and used their mallet as a crutch to stay upright without touching their feet to the ground. If any part of a player’s body (usually a foot) touched the ground, they were out of play until they remounted and rode to one side of the court and tapped the wall with their mallet. It only took a few moments to get back in the game, but a three-on-two situation provided the perfect opportunity for a team to score – potentially on an open goal. Eric Lewis, the representative for the

Athens bike polo team, progressed in the sport in the typical way. “I started using community mallets. But it’s a real do-it-yourself sport, so like most kids I thought that I could do it better, so I started trying to do it better. Then it took a very long time until I was doing it better. Since then I’ve built up an entire teams worth of spare mallets and spare bikes and stuff,” said Lewis. The mallet is a simple build – cut the bottom off of a ski pole (typically found at Goodwill or some other second-hand shop) and put it through a hole drilled in the broad side of the plastic piping which is the head. Next, drill in a screw on the other side to fix it in place. Most players cut specific and distinct holes into the plastic head, depending on their playing style.

“The mallet design depends on how you play and dribble the ball. I use the broad side to dribble, but some people like to guide the ball with the cupped end of the mallet,” said Colin Maldonado, a member of the Milledgeville, GA bike polo team. There are some minor adjustments most players make to their bikes, as well. Unless the player is left-handed, the most important thing is to rewire the brakes – a relatively simple task – so that the rear brake is on the left side of the handlebars. That way, the player can use the mallet in their right-hand. “Your front break is typically on the left, but obviously if you’re slamming on your front break you’re gonna go flying over your handlebars,” said Maldonado. Bike polo started gaining popularity in

the United States around 2007. Since then it has spread from major cities like Portland and Seattle to small towns like Athens and Milledgeville. While remaining relatively obscure, bike polo has a long history dating back to 1890’s Europe. Today bike polo is known to be played in at least 23 countries. In the U.S. the resurgence of the sport has

taken form in something of an off-shoot of the traditional game. Play has moved from a field of grass to a concrete court. The Athens team, which is currently unaffiliated with the University of Georgia due to a clerical error in their application to become a UGA club, is a part of the international “League of Bike Polo.” They are the oldest team in Georgia that is still actively playing. The regulars meet at least once a week – usually on Wednesday nights at eight o’clock – at the Russell dorm courts which has been dubbed “the cage.” “The cage makes for very fastpaced polo. It’s very up in your face and aggressive,” said K. Sakai, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the Athens bike polo scene. Since playing a pivotal role in the

birth of the Athens team, Sakai moved to southern Florida, where he continues to play regularly. For those who are used to it like Sakai, the cage is a great bike polo arena. “The cage court is technically too small to be a tournament court, but it really improves your handling. I love the cage. That’s where I started playing polo, and (heaven forbid) when I die, I want to die in the cage,” said Sakai. The sport encourages a do-it-yourself type of ethics. According to Sakai, making use of an unused urban space like the Russell basketball courts was part of that. “You use what you have, and most of the time those basketball courts were empty,” said Sakai. It’s definitely an intimidating arena.

Three of the walls are chain-link fencing, while the last wall is concrete. Conflict with the chain-link fence is largely responsible for the scratches and scrapes that come with the game. “I don’t think we get any more injured that any other sport, probably less so. A lot of it is just learning how to fall. I’ve probably wrecked 300-400 times, but – knock on wood – Athens bike polo has never really had serious injuries. For the most part it’s fairly mild – bruises and scrapes are typical,” said Lewis. Despite the possibility of serious injury and the probability of getting roughed up, many of the Athens players did not wear any form of protection, some even playing shirtless. “For a long time I didn’t wear anything,

but after awhile you start to notice that the skin goes missing in the same areas over and over again. It’s kinda like ‘Winnie the Pooh hockey,’ everyone just brings whatever is lying about,” said Lewis. These days, Lewis usually wears a hockey helmet with a face-guard, lacrosse gloves and shin-guards. Regular players have a sense of community between them. Leaders of the Athens team are quick to show out-oftowners a good time and a couch to crash on. They just want to have more people to share the sport with. “Part of it is being hospitable. You never know where your next player is gonna come from. And everyone was so kind to us when we showed up that you kinda wanted to extend that to others. People are always

willing to put you up, find you a place to eat and a bar to drink at,” said Lewis. The hospitality is not only reserved for out-of-towners, though. The inclusive attitude of the majority of the players separates the bike polo scene from the sometimes “arrogant” attitude of serious cyclists. No experience? No bike? No mallet? No friends? That’s beside the point

– just come play. This attitude seemed to be the default bike polo position. “Based on everyone that I’ve met through polo, and I’ve even seen a few people playing when I was up in Seattle, it seems like a pretty universal culture. It’s rowdy, but it’s also very friendly,” said Maldonado. The fact that the sport is so young is not necessarily a bad thing. Lewis pointed out that one of the appeals is that there is no professional level of bike polo. “It’s very grassroots. You can go to any town and meet people and they tend to be really great people because they’re not in it for the money, they’re in it

just because they enjoy doing it. And you already have something in common – a love of bikes, beer and fun,” said Lewis. Invariably, bike polo is most popular in places that already have an established biking scene. It’s still very much an underground sport, particularly in the Southeast, which is the least popular region of the U.S. for bike polo. Still, among those involved in any sort of bicycle based activities, bike polo is well known. Hip towns like Seattle have a thriving bike polo scene. On the “Seattle Bike Polo” website (, they describe themselves as “a group of individuals dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of Hardcourt Bike Polo both as a sport and, in some ways, a way of life.” Members come from varied

backgrounds and have varied skill-levels. Regardless of their occupation, bike polo is what’s important – a way of life, as they say. In Athens alone, the sport attracts people from all walks of life: “anyone from grad students, hockey players, professional cyclists, non-professional cyclists, bar tenders, bike mechanics, bus drivers, machinists,” said Lewis, “it really has a universal appeal.” “I’ve gone to tournaments where you’re playing with gutter-punk kids and frat boys, and everything in between. You’re playing with people who are dirt poor, and you’re playing with millionaires. One time I was crashing in a punk squatter house and the next time I was staying in a million dollar townhouse mansion,” said Lewis. Not all of the teams in the Southeast

have enjoyed the same level of continued success as the Athens team. With regard to the recently fading interest in Milledgeville’s bike polo scene, Hendershott blames school and work. The Milledgeville team is made up mostly

of Georgia College & State University students like himself and Maldonado. Many players who were once weekly regulars were pulled away, but not Hendershott. He has had trouble maintaining a solid base, but players like

him who are serious about it have a passion which seems to extend beyond the concrete slab. Now he is playing in about two bike polo tournaments a month, so his focus paid off. “I was bad about it ‘cause I put polo before school, just because that’s what my life is about,” said Hendershott. Things may be slow in Milledgeville for the moment, but Athens has held strong. So much so that they are expected to host the Southeastern Championship this May. The qualifier brings together 30-40 teams from across the Southeast to compete tournament-style for spots in the National Championship. This past year the National Championship was held in Geneva, and Seattle the year before that. So, in Athens and beyond, the sport

is growing for the most part. Based on the spike in popularity he has noticed throughout the suburbs of Atlanta, Maldonado predicted the sport will continue to rise. He is working to grow the bike culture in Milledgeville, most recently by petitioning GC&SU to install bike lanes on campus streets. Regardless of the future of bike polo’s popularity, Lewis will not give up on the sport he loves. “It’s the greatest sport I’ve ever played with the greatest people I’ve ever met. You best believe that I’ll be playing it until I’m too old and too broken,” said Lewis.

C ontact Mark Ellers ph. 770.656.7771 @mark_ellers

Mark Ellers - Feature Samples  

A portfolio of feature articles written and designed by Mark Ellers

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