Christmas Music: Holly, Jolly Christmas

Holly Jolly Christmas is the first song in Burl Ives’ 1965 album Have A Holly Jolly Christmas. It also includes Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. Both songs were sung by Ives in the Rankin/Bass made-for-television Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer(1964) and was part of the official soundtrack album for that show. The version Ives did on his album differed from the soundtrack and is the one most people hear on the radio. Here is a music video that incorporates scenes from Rudolph with the soundtrack version. Enjoy.


Masterchef Junior:Perfect Eggs and Signature Dish (Episode 4)

egginpanIt is Thanksgiving week but not on Masterchef Junior season 2. Nope, no turkey and all the trimmings here. I am surprised they did not have one. It would be a great challenge to have these kids come up with an upscale turkey meal for Thanksgiving. Instead we get a fried egg challenge and have them cook their signature dish. This was an underwhelming episode and perhaps one of the reasons Joe “the stare” Bastianich has decided to move on from the Masterchef franchise in 2015 (except for filmed episodes of the next season already in the can). Really this was one episode you could miss and come back later to watch. Or not at all.

So the kids all line up to learn they will cook perfectly made sunny side up eggs. They have done this on Masterchef but not on the junior side of the show. Oh and they have ten minutes to cook as many as they can. Perfectly. Off they go to get the pans nice and hot, and cracking those eggs into the pans. If these kids saw what happened on that Masterchef episode, they would have doubled their efforts to do it right. In that episode three former contenders were cooking eggs for the chance to return to the show. It was brutal as the judges tossed any egg and its plate into the trash that did not measure up. Nor did they mention the number of eggs cooked perfectly would have a very important impact on the next challenge.

Now I suppose the lesson here is consistency. In restaurants, each meal has to be perfection on the plate each and every time. And mastering how to perfectly cook sunny side up eggs is one way to do this. The adults did not fare well in the challenge and most of the kids end up overcooking them or worse. Abby got only two eggs correct while the others got four to ten eggs right. Sean got ten for the win.There was no trip to the pantry tonight and no selection of foods to be done by the winner. Instead the number of eggs successfully cooked meant the number of ingredients in your signature dish. Great for most but it left Abby with just 2 ingredients. Oh boy. Gordon tried to console her but it came out kind of flat to me. In fact he was smiling way too much about it as if he was happy it occurred.

We learn the various restaurant dreams the kids have. Abby wants to have a combined veterinary and restaurant. Bring your animal in for care and then sit down for a meal! It will be called Horses and Courses. Logan wants to have an underwater bistro! Moving on….Graham decides to reveal he started out at 17 as a dishwasher in a restaurant. And it turns out his mentor to get into the business back then was none other than Gordon Ramsay. Moving on again….Abby is limited to two ingredients and decides to do salmon & asparagus done five ways. Samuel is going to do a blood orange glazed duck breast with zucchini and pasta. Just be careful to select the right fruit. His restaurant will be called Le Samuel with a French-Asian theme. He even has drawn what the restaurant will look like and describes it. Ah filler can be interesting in an episode that is well, boring. At least he has thought out his restaurant but he needs to work on recognizing his fruits and vegetables first like cucumber and zucchini. Now that is a trick question since both cucumber and zucchini are fruits but treated as culinary vegetables. It is easy at first glance to make the mistake but they are not that hard to distinguish upon close examination.

The dishes went from really good (Abby, Adaiah and Samuel) to not that good (Logan, Levi, Sean, Oona and Sean). On the bottom were Josh, Levi, Oona and Sean. Both Oona and Sean were saved sending Josh and Levi home. Levi said the best part was meeting Ramsay. Josh says Samuel or Sean will be the winner.

As the credits rolled by, I really thought this episode just lacked the punch of the previous episodes. Something was very off here. Libby Hill over at Grub Street says that the elimination challenge was flat.

There was a certain winning quality about watching the kids talk about their imagined restaurants and showing off their elaborately planned layouts, some meticulously colored. And sure it was darling to see a little girl extoll the virtues of her future restaurant — called “Horses and Courses” — complete with ride-up pony parking, but the rhythms of the episode were a complete disaster. The entire thing was so ill-timed that dish-tasting and judging began halfway through the episode, since it means the show had to devote an entire 20 minutes to the criticism of hardworking children.

Her criticism is that the judges do the good cop/bad cop routine too much. Meaning while they praise they good efforts, they continually ding you for the mistakes. She cites Logan as an example of this. Joe said his meat was good but that his rice was overcooked and lacked salt. And that was that. Gordon praises the meat and knocks the rice as well and then spends more time explaining his critique:“I just expected you to be a little more elaborate. And I have to be honest with you because we are looking for the best youngster. And you’re normally up there. So I am just slightly underwhelmed.” He goes on later to say he took seven ingredients and made them look like three. Others clearly get that Gordon is unhappy. Samuel even whistled. Logan looked rattled from the experience.

Gordon thinks Logan is so much better and was clearly disappointed in what was presented. So he gave him a more stinging rebuke in order to light a fire under the kid. It did succeed in knocking Logan down; he looked pretty down afterwards. Gordon never raised his voice, never cursed or said anything obscene. Perhaps that is what disturbs some who watch it. The message is clear enough: you can do better so do better! It is drill instructor light. On the other hand, the continued harping seems pointless. Logan got the message so why did Gordon keep beating the dead horse? Because I think he was frustrated with what he saw with his dish and probably other ones as well. He had enough and decided to vent. It was at the expense of a child who may have felt brow-beaten by the time it was over.

At any rate I felt this whole episode was pointless. Other than learning the kids restaurant desires, it is neither here nor there in the entirety of the show. This is that episode, and every show has one, where they know it is something to fill the schedule and nothing more. Pun intended, this was a turkey of an episode that ought to have been scuttled. I would preferred to have seen the famous WKRP episode with now classic turkey drop in it.


Science Friday: Turkey The Bird

Male wild turkey Photo: Public domain
Male wild turkey
Photo: Public domain

*The turkey is native to North America–the U.S. and Mexico–and is in the genus Meleagris. The common wild turkey and its domestic cousin is Meleagris gallopavo. Another species is ocellated turkey and it only resides in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.

*Archaeological evidence indicates Mesoamericans domesticated turkeys and the Aztecs as well. Turkey feathers were used for decorative purposes.

*Europeans first thought the Americas were part of Asia so the turkey was considered part of the guineafowl family. It was called guineaturkey and then shortened to just turkey. There are guineafowl in Turkey and back then giving a bird an exotic name added to its mystique. The name stuck.

*The Spanish brought turkeys to Spain where it was domesticated and new breeds resulted. English navigator William Strickland is credited with bringing turkey to England in the 16th century and his coat of arms has a turkey in it.

*Domesticated turkeys were considered a luxury food. Most people could not afford it until the late 19th century. Most people in had goose, duck, or beef for Christmas dinner (Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol had a goose). Scrooge bought a turkey for Cratchit which was something very special in those days.

*Turkey producers worked to lower the cost (by breeding birds to be plump and cheaper by the pound to sell)but it was the advent of refrigeration that allowed turkeys to be sent whole to markets (first by rail then by truck). Home refrigeration opened up the turkey market for everyone and with turkey prices lower than good cuts of beef, a better alternative. Today turkeys are sold fresh and frozen year round.

*Breeder farms supply turkey eggs to hatcheries (they are often artificially inseminated). After they hatch, they are sent to special grow farms and later to a main area. The are mostly indoor these days to prevent infection from being outside and to maximize production cost. It does keep the costs down but also has some problems. Turkeys can be aggressive and will peck each other, sometimes to death. Some producers clip their beaks when they are young. Some turkeys can develop health issues which means some die before reaching maturity becoming a loss to the producer. In recent years efforts have been made to make these areas more conducive to turkey roosting.

*Heritage turkeys (turkeys raised the old fashioned way-outdoors)has gained popularity in recent years. These use breeds that were more common long ago before the full domestication began. They are allowed to free range, reproduce naturally, and mature longer. Cook’s Illustrated reports they have more fat as a result of this longer maturity. The average domestic has more meat but more lean because once they mature, they are sent to the butcher. Heritage turkeys are more expensive than the mass produced turkeys.

*Wild turkeys, once thought to be nearly extinct, are now quite numerous again in North America. While domesticated versions can barely fly when they are young, their wilder cousins can fly,roost in trees and avoid predators (foxes, owls, snakes). Their eggs are often targets for raccoons and opossums. Wild turkeys travel in same sex flocks (male/male or female/female)with the exception of young turkeys that follow their mothers for about five months. They eat a wide assortment from insects, spiders and small frogs to fruits, flowers, acorns and grasses. They roam about during the day seeking food and in flocks. It is rare to see a turkey by itself in the wild. Males are four feet long and females three. Their breast feathers indicate which sex they are (males have breast feathers with black tips, females are brown). They are fast runners.

*Turkey flocks do not tolerate new members easily. If a turkey from a unknown pack or another nearby should come into their group, it may be attacked and killed.

*Turkey flocks can be a threat to agriculture because they are rapacious eaters. So in areas where turkey flocks exist (generally in woodlands, forests, and meadows), growers and farmers have to take special precautions to deter them from eating up their crops or their food to livestock. Turkeys are not seasonal and will stay year round even when there is snow on the ground.

*Homeowners in areas where turkey flocks roam have to take precautions as well like making sure not to feed them or leave out food they can get to (like bird seed). Turkeys can be aggressive and try to dominate (they are not territorial though, they just want to dominate). If they are not discouraged early on, they can become a real problem in the area because the behavior is impossible to change after that point. Often this results in them being killed since relocation rarely solves the problem. They can attack small children and seniors (they have sharp beaks) so chasing them away with brooms or other significant non-lethal methods usually works. Because their numbers have gotten large, annual hunts are allowed (by permit)in some areas to keep the turkey population from getting out of hand.

*The biggest consumer per capita of turkey are Israelis. In the early days refrigeration was not common and meat was hard to come by. Turkeys though are easy to domesticate and provide good meat. Which is why turkey is very big in Israel and why you find turkey pastrami is very popular. Kosher turkey is available in the United States from producers in Pennsylvania. Unlike other birds, if you brine this bird you do not need salt as the Kosher process adds salt.


Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Grace (1942) Photo: Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id#fsa.8d10749)
Thanksgiving Grace (1942)
Photo: Public Domain (US Library of Congress, digital id#fsa.8d10749)

Thanksgiving was not an official national holiday until 1863. A letter from a 74-year magazine editor, Sarah Josepha Hale, inspired President Abraham Lincoln to create a national holiday. She wrote in 1863 that we needed to have a national day of Thanksgiving so that everyone could celebrate it on the same day. At the time Thanksgiving was celebrated by the various states but not on the same date. She wanted President Lincoln to make it a national day so it would become a permanent part of “American custom and institution.”

According to Abraham Lincoln Online , other presidents had ignored such requests. Lincoln decided to act on her request and directed a proclamation be drawn up. On 3 October 1863, President Lincoln’s proclamation that establishes Thanksgiving as a national day was issued. It sets aside the last Thursday of November as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Secretary of State William Seward actually drafted the proclamation which Lincoln signed. Thanksgiving became a national holiday and was celebrated on that date until 1939. President Roosevelt in 1939, 1940 and 1941 changed it to the third Thursday (to extend the Christmas season) causing considerable controversy. A joint resolution of Congress in 1941 resolved it by decreeing Thanksgiving would fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

Lincoln’s proclamation was written during the American Civil War, a terrible time in U.S. history. Today we forget why this day was made a national holiday. It was to thank God for the blessings of liberty but also to ask his help. In our politically correct times, this proclamation is not always read in full or edited. So here is the original proclamation. Read it and understand why Lincoln thought a national day of Thanksgiving was needed for the United States of America.


Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day
October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
A. Lincoln

Happy Thanksgiving

How Not To Deep Fry A Turkey For Thanksgiving

Turkey fryer used the wrong way. Photo: State Farm
Turkey fryer used the wrong way.
Photo: State Farm

Thanksgiving is almost here and every year injuries or damage result from deep frying turkey. Now you have read the postings here and elsewhere warning about the unsafe ways to avoid. So this is short and sweet. The indoor electric deep fryers are the best way to go if you have no outdoor area to cook in (they keep the oil at the right temperature and you have a lid to close it up). General safety rules always apply but for the traditional outdoor variety the safety rules are simple:

1. Never put the turkey fryer in a garage, on a balcony, or back porch. It needs to be on level ground and not close to any structure should the worst happen. And it goes without saying never use these outdoor ones inside unless you want to burn down your home.

2. Keep pets and kids away from the actual cooking.

3. Always make sure to put in the correct amount of oil. People often forget displacement occurs when the turkey is put in resulting in hot oil hitting the flames. Always test with water and mark exactly where the oil line is. Never assume the oil line inside the container is where it ought to be.

4. Remember to pat dry the turkey before you put it in. And this next part is important: NEVER EVER PUT A FROZEN TURKEY INTO HOT OIL. The resulting fireball will cause damage to people and property. Make sure it is completely defrosted and dry when you put it in the oil.

5. Wear appropriate clothing. This is hot oil and it will burn on bare skin. Wear long sleeve shirts or chefs coat.

6. Lower the turkey carefully into the hot oil.

Deep fried turkey is delicious but you must be careful or Thanksgiving will be ruined.

Now for some videos. The first one is a guy who thinks he knows what he is doing. Notice where he has the turkey fryer and how it is not set up right at all. This idiot even mentions Archimedes principle of displacement but clearly does not understand it when applied to liquid in a container. A heavy object in liquid displaces liquid around and over it. If the objects mass is greater than the liquid overflow results. [Update 25 Nov 2015-The first video is no longer available except in compilations. A different video has been substituted in its place.]

Here is a demonstration on the correct way to deep fry a turkey.

And because, just like those guys on Mythbusters who like their explosions, here is what happens when you put a frozen turkey in hot oil.

Have a safe Thanksgiving everyone!


From the Titanic X Files: The Mummy Returns

Poster for the 1932 film The Mummy Image:Public Domain
Poster for the 1932 film The Mummy
Image:Public Domain

Every few years or so an email comes through that claims Titanic sank because a cursed Egyptian mummy was aboard. Of course it has been debunked over the years and Barbara Mikkelson’s examination at Snopes.com throughly reviews all the details of the claim. Still it makes its rounds out there, bouncing around like the proverbial bad penny. So how did this story take hold? Although not often noted, fascination in Egypt and in mummies was strong towards the end of the 19th and the early 20th. Books, scientific and otherwise, were very popular on the subject. Even Bram Stoker, known for Dracula, penned his own horror mummy story called The Jewel of the Seven Stars. That story became the basis of many Hollywood and British mummy movies (such as Hammer’s Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb).  So it is not hard to see why many might believe in cursed Egyptian relics or mummies.

The tale tells us that it is the mummy of Princess Amen-Ra who lived 1,500 years before Christ. And four young men in the 1890’s had misfortune when they acquired the mummy in the 1890’s while in Egypt. The one who bought it disappeared when he walked into the desert. A second was (accidently) shot by an Egyptian servant and lost an arm. The third found the bank that had his life savings had failed. And the fourth man ended up losing everything and selling matchsticks on the street. The mummy was sold to the British Museum, which had bad things happen as well (a death, reported poltergeist activity, people afraid to enter the area it was kept in etc). So ultimately it was sold to an American archaeologist and brought aboard Titanic and of course that ship sank in spectacular fashion in 1912. That is a watered down version of the whole story.

Egyptian history is full of various prince and princesses but so far no one has proved that an Amen-Ra (or variations of that name) existed. What is commonly thought to be the mummy is the inner coffin lid described as a gessoed and painted wooden mummy board of an unidentified woman. The lid was found in Thebes and has been dated (by style and shape)as from the late 21st or 22nd dynasty (about 950-900 bc). Unfortunately her identity is not known and the only inscriptions are religious phrases. She likely participated in ceremonies in the temple of Amen-Ra. It is speculated though not proven she was a priestess of that temple. It was donated to the British Museum in 1889 and has been on display ever since (except during the two world wars) and even gone on traveling exhibitions.

Of course thanks the Titanic legend it has been dubbed the “Unlucky Mummy.” It began with British writer and journalist, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, who believed the artifact was malevolent. His death was attributed by some (like Arthur Conan Doyle who created Sherlock Holmes) to its malevolence. Then two writers, William Stead and Douglas Murray began writing a horror story about an Egyptian mummy causing all kinds of problems. Then they saw the coffin lid at the British museum and Mikkelson writes:

Sometime after Stead and Murray invented their mummy tale, they were visiting the First Egyptian Room of the British Museum and noticed the coffin lid of the Priestess of Amun. They concocted yet another story that the look of terror and anguish in the face depicted on the coffin lid indicated that the coffin’s original occupant was a tormented soul, and her evil spirit was now loose in the world. Stead and Murray told their fanciful tale to eager newspaper reporters who — then as now — weren’t about to let the truth get in the way of a sensationally good story. The two stories were conflated into one and spread widely, and the Priestess of Amun came to be identified as the mummy whose mortal remains wreaked havoc wherever they were stored.

Today the legend still tries to soldier on despite the fact it has been decisively debunked. It is somewhat ironic that the sensational story he and Murray concocted about the mummy lid would one day be used to explain why he and others died on Titanic in 1912.

Sources:
1. Everything But the Egyptian Sinks (12 April 2012,Snopes.com)
2. The ‘Unlucky Mummy’ Said To Have Sunk The Titanic(23 Nov 2014, Epoch Times)
3. Unlucky Mummy (Wikipedia)


Retro Sunday: Thanks For The Memory

Bob Hope’s theme song for many years was “Thanks for the Memory.” It was from the 1938 movie The Big Broadcast of 1938 sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross. The song won the Oscar for Best Song in 1938. In the movie the couple, now divorced, sing the tune and is both wistful and sad. And seems to indicate they made a mistake. Enjoy and have a nice Sunday.


Rainy Saturday

Photo: George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)
Photo: George Hodan (publicdomainpictures.net)



Science Friday: Why Do Metal Ships Float?

Oasis of The Seas, one of the largest cruise ships afloat today(Photo 2010) Image:Baldwin040(Wikipedia)
Oasis of The Seas, one of the largest cruise ships afloat today(Photo 2010)
Image:Baldwin040(Wikipedia)

Back in the days when ships were made of wood (or other similar materials), most knew a ship or boat would float since wood floats on water. Sounds simple enough but it gets a bit more complicated when you add weight (or mass) to it. Then you have to think about how to do it to make sure its mass does not sink it. This is where two important principles come into play: buoyancy and the Archimedes principle. The Archimedes principle is that an object in a fluid encounters an upward force equal to that of the weight of the fluid displaced around the object. A ship floats when it displaces a lot of water and that water wants to return to where it was. This creates a force that pushes the ship upwards creating what is called the buoyancy force. A ship that displaces water equal to its own weight will float, while a ship that displaces water greater than its own weight will sink.

Ships and boats then have to be shaped in a way that allows for this displacement to occur so it does not sink. And it allows for a lot of air to be inside as well. Ships are not like solid blocks of steel, which have no air inside. Stability becomes a major issue as well. You want the center of gravity to be stable so it does not tip over easy. In small boats you can see how this works out. A person moving from one side to the other causes the center of gravity to change. Equipment has to be balanced and gear brought aboard has to be kept low and near the center of the boat. That is why it is unwise in small boats to sit on the sides as it will cause tipping. The same principle is true on larger boats and ships. Weight must be distributed so that no one part of the ship is heavier than any other. If the center of gravity on a ship becomes too high due to highly stacked cargo or other things, buoyancy becomes unstable and it will capsize.

Here is a YouTube video that explains how ships float.

Sources:
1. Buoyancy and how ships float (IMDO Ireland, Marine Institute)
2. Why can boats made of steel float on water when a bar of steel sinks (HowStuffWorks.com)
3. Why can heavy steel ships float? (Science Niblets)
4. Why Do Ships Float Infographic(Bolsover Cruise Club)
5. Buoyancy(hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/)

Revision History:
5 June 2015-Added 2 new sources (Bolsover and Hyperphysics)