Lexus ES300 Hybrid

Lexus ES300h - 2

I’ve never stolen a car—even though the “Fast and Furious” movies and “Gone in 60 Seconds” make grand theft auto seem so glamourous. But after spending a week with the Lexus ES300 hybrid, I was more than a little tempted (yes, Lexus loaned me the car, but that in no way influenced my opinions).

Really and truly, there’s not a whole to say about this car except that it is absolutely amazing. But of course, one wouldn’t expect any less from Lexus. So I’m going to skip over the typical review items and focus on a few lesser-known features.

lexus es300It’s a magnet. As a single guy, I’ve noticed over the years that the amount of attention women pay to me changes depending on the circumstances. When I’m out and about by myself, women often smile at me (despite my fantasies, I’m sure most are just being polite). Going out for a walk with my dog (who’s, admittedly, cuter than I am) doubles the number of smiles. And when my daughters were little, going out with them probably tripled the smiles. I always thought that the combination of me + dog + daughters was the best thing ever. But me + dog + one daughter (the older two are all grown up) + the ES300 was complete insanity. I am, however, still single.

It makes the roads safer for everyone. The ES300 has all the latest and greatest safety features: blind spot sensors, lane change alerts, more air bags than you can count, anti-lock brakes, and on and on. But after testing out the zero-to-70 factor (which was really impressive) a few times and working the suspension by taking a few turns faster than I should have, I found myself actually obeying the speed limit. The reason? Because it’s such a joy to drive that I wanted to make the ride last as long as possible.

lexus es300h clockIt has a clock. Yes, the ES300 is gorgeous to look at (even without my daughters, my dog, or me in the picture), and the interior styling is sleek and stylish. But one of the classiest features of all was the analog clock. For some reason that tiny touch of retro made the whole car seem even more luxurious.


lexus es300h interiorIt’s beyond comfortable. As an NPR addict, I often stay in the car after arriving at my destination so I can listen to the end of an interesting segment. With the ES300, I’d frequently take the long way to wherever I was going and, when I arrived, I’d sometimes just sit there, usually with the radio off, reveling in the luxurious interior. My passengers, whether they sat in the front seat or the rear, said very much the same thing. And somehow, driving around looking for parking became a pleasure instead of the trigger for a murderous rage.

Bottom line? At $50,000, it’s a bit out of my price range, so I’m saving my pennies. But it might be cheaper to just hire one of those “Gone in 60 Seconds” guys to do their thing.

Five Ways to Get Your Child Enthusiastic about Learning Music

music lessons

music lessonsIntroducing children to music early in childhood—regardless of their musical aptitude—has a lot of advantages. One of the most important is that it greatly enhances their coordination, concentration, and cognition. It also instills the love of storytelling and teaches them to appreciate art and its different forms.

Exposure to music also helps kids explore new cultures and appreciate cultural diversity. Still, getting your child excited about learning music isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas that should make things a little easier:

Recognize Talent
Your first step is to recognize your child’s aptitude and support it. This might take a little bit of trial and error. It may not be immediately obvious, but every child has some kind of inclination, whether it is percussion, violin, guitar, singing, chimes, or something else. Don’t expect your child to follow in your footsteps—you may love digeridoo, but that doesn’t mean he or she will.

Get Professional Classes
Once you’ve figured out the instrument that strikes your child’s fancy—guitar, for example—the next step is to find a professional who offers guitar lessons for kids. Getting the right teacher from the start is important if you want to make music education fulfilling and engaging for your child. Getting a recommendation from someone you trust is ideal, but if you can’t, there are a number of websites where you can search for music teachers according to your zip code.

Whether you enroll your child in a group music class or hire a teacher for private, in-home lessons, the teacher should be inspiring, encouraging, and have a good command of technique. Getting good instruction now could pay off in the long run: some studies indicate that children with musical skills do better with college admissions.

Make it Interesting
Scales, chords, and etudes are an important part of learning any instrument. But you can make things a little more interesting by asking your child’s teacher to incorporate some of the child’s favorite songs. Being able to play something recognizable is a great confidence booster. And in the hands of a good teacher, there’s something to learn in just about every piece of music, pop, classical, jazz, or hip-hop.

Invest in Good Equipment
Having a quality instrument is important, even for children, in part because it’ll be easier to play and will sounds. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to rent whatever instrument your child is learning. You can always buy later. Whether you rent or buy, make sure your child learns to treat the instrument with love and respect.

Help Your Child Set a Goal
What’s your goal in having your child learn music? What’s your child’s goal? For you, it should be to get your child to appreciate music and, perhaps, learn a skill that could give him or her a lot of enjoyment. For your child, it may be to be a rock star, to entertain friends, or just to play along with favorite tunes. Get your child involved in this goal setting process, and help him or her establish both short-term (learn to play a particular song) and long-term goals. Most importantly, keep those goals reasonable. The more accessible and achievable they are, the more your child will enjoy making music and the more motivated he or she will be to practice and learn more.


Poop. Nothing to Us, But CARE Knows How to Use it to Save Lives

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dung

care knows how to use goat dungThanks to CARE for sponsoring this post. We flush our own down the toilet, but there’s something amazing about animal poop.

For decades, anyone who’s had a garden knows the value of horse manure and steer manure. More recently, conservationists have been raising money to save African elephants by creating and selling artwork from elephant poop. A few days ago, I read an article about a guy in India who’s trying to save endangered rhinos (who are being killed because ground-up rhino horn is supposedly an aphrodisiac) by giving poachers an alternative way to earn money from rhinos: make paper out of their dung and then sell it.

But perhaps the best use of animal feces I’ve come across is happening in the village of Haji Pur of Rajanpur, Punjab, Pakistan, where goat poop is literally saving lives.

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dungMalaria is one of the leading causes of death among children in rural Pakistan. But apparently, burning goat droppings in a special container made of mud drives away mosquitos, which are carriers of malaria and other deadly diseases, including dengue fever. This is especially important in places like Hiji Pur, where the nearest hospital or medical facility is so far away that most residents can’t afford to make the trip. As a result, many people who might otherwise have survived don’t have access to potentially lifesaving treatments.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing goat-poop mosquito repellent here anytime soon, but in Pakistan, where burning it at night allows people to go to bed confident that they won’t get bitten, it’s a low-cost, highly effective way to save lives.

CARE, a wonderful organization that has boots on the ground in impoverished countries around the world. They’ve discovered that innovation isn’t always a top-down kind of thing. In many cases, great ideas come from the bottom up (in this case, the great idea literally comes from the bottom…)

Here’s where you can help—and don’t worry, it’s not very expensive. For only $45, you can buy a goat for a family. The milk that goat produces will provide much needed nutrition—and a way to make some extra money. And CARE knows how to use that animal’s dung to save lives.

Read more about this story and many of the other remarkably inspiring ways CARE knows how to make the world a better place for people who need our help more than we can imagine.

A bit more about CARE. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE is committed to its mission to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has bene overcome and people live in dignity and security. How could you not want to support this organization?

Balancing the Brains of Kids with Neurological Disorders

Robert Melillo, author of Disconnected Kids.
Balancing the brains of kids with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurological disorders.
Issues: How the developing mind is wired; what causes left- and right-brain disconnect; identifying left- or right-brain deficiency; (re)training the brain through physical stimulation.

3 Lessons From March Madness to Teach Our Kids

march madness 2015

march madness 2015March Madness. The biggest basketball event of the year and a sporting spectacle that rivals even the Super Bowl. The NCAA Tournament is the ultimate single elimination, win-or-go-home clash of 68 teams, and at the office it keeps most of us more focused on filling out brackets and sneaking game highlights than working.

On the surface, it’s all “just basketball,” but college athletics can demonstrate some pretty big life lessons to our kids. Every season produces great stories and the NCAA Tournament is no exception. In fact, it’s where the best ones are made. Our children would do well to learn these life lessons:

Kevin Ware: The Value of Perseverance

The 2012-2013 Louisville Cardinals were looking hot in the NCAA Tournament, and many brackets had them in the Final Four and beyond. Louisville guard Kevin Ware was one of the first players off the bench and producing impressive numbers in March Madness. That is, until it all came to a terrifying halt in an Elite Eight matchup versus Duke.

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