Zhu Zhu Galore

If you’re a parent like me, then at least two things are true:

1. You have kids.
2. They have certain ideas about what they want for Christmas, and it’s going to cost you.

Emily and I have three kids, though none of them have been indoctrinated yet by the Zhu Zhu craze. If you haven’t yet heard, Zhu Zhu is a robotic hamster that does what most other hamsters do and, according to the theme song, is “so much fun without the mess”. Self-propelled and chock full of 8K of artificial intelligence, It’s like a Roomba vacuum, but with more hair and less vacuuming. Perhaps this embedded YouTube video will explain:

And then again, perhaps it won’t explain. These things are going for upwards of $60 at Amazon.com and possibly even more at your favorite toy store. By the way, Amazon has made it clear in their description that, quote, “Mr. Squiggles is a modern-day Houdin”. I’m one of those uncool parents who doesn’t know what a previous day Houdin is, let alone a modern-day version, so I looked it up at Wikipedia and found that “Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin (December 7, 1805 – June 13, 1871) was a French magician. He is widely considered the father of the modern style of conjuring.”

No wonder the kids are going ga-ga over these Zhu Zhus!

As we all know, when kids lose self control and are overwhelmed with desire, the best thing a parent can do is match their enthusiasm and start pushing other parents.

I remember having an analog version of the Zhu Zhu, a hamster named “Egon”. He would crawl through tubes and stuff, but he would also defaecate on a regular basis, having no regard for the fact that he was no longer in his cage but rather crawling around the kitchen table. I miss everything but that. Oh. And the biting.

There is hope for the Detroit Lions

I just caught this video that shows how Matt Stafford pretty much brought the Lions to victory over the Browns last Sunday, even with an injury that should have pulled him out of the game. I’m not a huge football guy (although as Malachi gets into it, so do I), but this is great. Stafford is wearing a mic, so you see/hear the game from a totally different perspective. Eye opening, at least for me. His best line comes out moments after his major shoulder injury: “I can throw the ball if you need me to throw the ball”. Awesome. It’s a great lesson at doing the job you’re hired to do, bringing your best to an organization and believing that a win is possible, even when everyone in the world would think otherwise.

I originally saw this at www.freep.com

Thanks For Books

The one thing about Kindle & Sony’s Nook Reader is that, well, you don’t get to hold a paper book anymore. The great thing, though, is that you can carry thousands of books without hurting yourself now, which I guess is good. I recommend lifting with your knees.

I came across a commentary at Entertainment Weekly concerning the beauty of the literal printed page on literal paper with literal coffee stains on the literal cover — all missing elements with a digital book. Even better (yet still kinda strange) is the accompanying video, seen below:

From the article:

Try doing that with a Kindle! Electronic readers may be popular, and they may even shrink my cumbersome wallful of literary treasures into a single portable hand-held device. But the book remains a pretty efficient content-delivery system that’s served us well for at least four centuries.

I wonder if librarians are worried?

Deep Fried Turkey

Yesterday on Mornings at Home, we did a listener poll to discover the truth about one of the more recent inventions in culinary arts. It’s a combination of delicious and dangerous and is really good for you — if you’re on the Atkin’s (r) diet:

Deep. Fried. Turkey.

Yes indeed. Some people use the conventional method of putting the bird in an oven, sprinkling it liberally with Mrs. Dash and Old Spice and then letting the inevitable happen: Thanksgiving. It’s a tried and true method that has served generations with great success. However, because we are an adventurous people with a penchant for the deep fried, someone took it to the next level and tossed an entire bird in the pot of boiling oil. Moments later, the inevitable happened: Total Devastation. It turns out that these turkey deep fryers are really dangerous if they are used improperly and end up getting you new wallpaper and walls if you have decent homeowners insurance. Make sure you get the deep fried indemnity clause. If you plan on cooking your bird in the oven, this is an unneeded expense.

Our listener poll indicated that people prefer oven-baked turkey over deep fried turkey at a ratio of 2 to 1. This could mean that our listeners are 2 to 1 conservative and 2 to 1 safety oriented. It could also mean that our listeners are 2 to 1 concerned about fires in their homes.

Because I am an academic individual (not really), I thought it would be good to bring some research to the table. This quote is from what appears to be a reputable online source that is not Wikipedia:

Another family holiday tradition is deep-fried turkey. There are common mistakes made while attempting this feat. These mistakes include not being located a safe distance from buildings or other combustible materials. They are easily tipped over especially if they aren’t placed on a flat surface. If the turkey isn’t completely thawed, the excess water will cause the pot to violently boil over when the water reaches the bottom of the pot; leading to a fire hazard. The same fire hazard exists when the pot is overfilled with oil. Overheating is another common hazard because most fryers don’t come with thermostats. Hot oil can injure eyes and severe burns are a possibility with the hot pot, handles and lids

Please note words like “fire hazard”, “combustible”, “violently” “boil” and the proximity of the word “injure” to “eyes”.

You would think that these official dangers would scare some people away from deep frying their turkeys. You would also think that we wouldn’t be so into reality television. Neither are the case. I wish I had better prepared for this Thanksgiving, because maybe I too could have deep fried a turkey tomorrow. Yes, it would have been wise to get the extra insurance, but when you taste that adhered grease to bird flesh, you’ll know you’re getting a glimpse of heaven.

One final wish:
Happy Thanksgiving!

One final warning:
And be Careful!

Excellent Choral Sound

I recently stumbled across Choral arranger/composer Eric Whitacre and his outstanding work, including tunes like Cloudburst, I Thank You God For Most this Amazing Day and others.

I really like to conduct a Choral ensemble. Conducting is an amalgam of leadership, creativity, spontaneity, detail and execution. By execution, by the way, I am speaking of “execution of a plan”, not the other kind of execution. That word has two meanings that are quite different. Hmm. Strange. Anyway, we just had our annual Thanks & Praise Service @ Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church, featuring a joint effort of choirs from SAFMC, Spring Arbor University, and instrumentalists from both places. It was delightful, and, if I can figure out how, I’d like to be able to post pieces of this concert on YouTube. It turns out I need the actual video for this to work, so it may take a few weeks.

I’m really excited to be able to direct SAFMC’s Sanctuary Choir & Orchestra. For the last four years, it had been under the excellent direction of a member of our congregation. He wasn’t just any member — he also conducted major orchestras, taught a large High School Band program, etc. He knew what he was doing like I know how to walk. And I’m pretty good at walking. Now I’m trying to get better at conducting. It goes to show you that those classes you take in college that seem kind of irrelevant may sometimes end up being the most valuable 2 credits in your entire program.

While we’re waiting for a YouTube video of Thanks & Praise, here’s Whitacre conducting Cloudburst: