Monday, November 27, 2006

W.A.T.C.H. Out! These toys suck

With the advent of the Christmas shopping season and the bonanza of toy-buying that will occur, WATCH has released it's 10 worst toy list.

Lots of choking hazards and shooting-your-brother-in-the-eye hazards. What struck my were the Heelys (I never knew what they were called). I've seen kids whizzing around on these shoes with wheels and thought "That's pretty cool and pretty scary." Seems I was right.

Also on the list are a rocket launcher and the Fear Factor Candy Challenge

There's nothing that really astounds me though. No bag-o-glass or rusty nails.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Story time: Review

Kids love stories told to them, and when you can't do it, a good recording of a story is always appreciated.

Storytime Favorites

Download "The Nightingale" (mp3)

from "Storytime Favorites"

by Toni Graney and Jeffrey Reid Baker

JRB Records

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Quel Surprise: Ambitious parents spend on educational toys for toddlers

The Philosopher Mom and I are both in the health/education field and are frankly skeptical of the whole "edutainment" business, but it appears that we might actually be alone in seeing things this way.

In today's IHT, the market-research (shudder) firm In-Stat states that the market for "eductainment" toys from companies like V-Tech and LeapFrog could reach $1.7 billion (yes with a B) this year.

My real concern with all of these techno-toys is that they channel and stifle creativity at a very early age. They limit the amount of time that children spend on imaginitve play, and parents can acutally get frustrated if they feel that kids aren't making enough progress. This in turn leads to the child feeling like a failure.

If balls and blocks were good enough for Galileo, Faraday and Einstein, they should be good enough for my kid (and yours too).

The decision in our house is pretty clear. The Curious Boy has no patience for most toys and prefers pushing around his high chair to just about anything else.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The End of Religion? Ask Nietzche

Religion and morality are complicated issues for many people, and since
we are an interfaith family the subject of teaching these things is
coming up more and more regularly. Although Curious Boy is too young by
far to get any of it, we hope that by talking we can hash out some
semblance of a coherent position by the time he is a bit older

There has been a few recent articles chronicling the rise to prominence
of the "New Athiests". Most visible is Richard Dawkins (YouTube),
who even appeared recently on South Park. Dawkins' principle weakness
is that he is as much a fundamentalist as the people he derides.

A more moderate voice in the debate is Sam Harris (LINK) author of Letter to a Christian Nation.

In last week's International Herald Tribune (via The Boston Globe) Harris argues that religion is a bad reason to be good.

America's midterm elections are fast approaching, and their outcome

could well be determined by the "moral values" of conservative


While this possibility is regularly bemoaned by liberals, the link

between religion and morality in our public life is almost never


One of the most common justifications one hears for religious faith,

from all points on the political spectrum, is that it provides a

necessary framework for moral behavior. Most Americans appear to

believe that without faith in God, we would have no durable reasons to

treat one another well. The political version of this morality claim is

that the country was founded on "Judeo-Christian principles," the

implication being that without these principles we would have no way to

write just laws.

It is, of course, taboo to criticize a person's religious beliefs.

The problem, however, is that much of what people believe in the name

of religion is intrinsically divisive, unreasonable, and incompatible

with genuine morality.

The truth is that the only rational basis for morality is a concern for the happiness and suffering of other conscious beings.

This emphasis on the happiness and suffering of others explains why

we don't have moral obligations toward rocks. It also explains why

(generally speaking) people deserve greater moral concern than animals,

and why certain animals concern us more than others. If we show more

sensitivity to the experience of chimpanzees than to the experience of

crickets, we do so because there is a relationship between the size and

complexity of a creature's brain and its experience of the world.

Unfortunately, religion tends to separate questions of morality from

the living reality of human and animal suffering. Consequently,

religious people often devote immense energy to so- called "moral"

questions - such as gay marriage - where no real suffering is at issue,

and they will inflict terrible suffering in the service of their

religious beliefs.


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More meaningful holiday gifts

The options for giving meaningful/ethical holiday gifts continues to grow. I think that the holiday season is a very poignant time to teach children about the realities of global poverty and our obligation as the wealthiest in the world to share some of what we have in order to help others.

World Vision has been a pioneer in the ethical gift catalog, where you can buy everything from a wheelchair ($14) to a share in a deep well ($100) in someone's name.

WorldVision (Canada)

Oxfam has joined the trend as well with a chicken starting at $15 CAD.

Oxfam Unwrapped (US, Canada)


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A World map of happiness

So it seems that the "pursuit of happiness" part of the US constitution needs a little help. When 80 000 people around the world were asked to rate their own happiness, the US placed 23rd out of 178. Not bad, except that my true north strong and free placed 10th. IN YOUR FACE!

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1. Denmark

2. Switzerland

3. Austria

4. Iceland

5. The Bahamas

6. Finland

7. Sweden

8. Bhutan

9. Brunei

10. Canada

11. Ireland

12. Luxembourg

13. Costa Rica

14. Malta

15. The Netherlands

16. Antigua and Barbuda

17. Malaysia

18. New Zealand

19. Norway

20. The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23. USA

35. Germany

41. UK

62. France

82. China

90. Japan

125. India

167. Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176. Democratic Republic of the Congo

177. Zimbabwe

178. Burundi

It seems that wealthy countries with small populations fare well, as do democracies with a strong social component (Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada).

From ScienceDaily

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The philosophermom and I spent the weekend in NYC ...

The philosophermom and I spent the weekend in NYC sans Curious Boy. As we were strolling along east 68th Street headed toward Central Park it occurred to me that I was at the heart of DaddyBloggerLand. Well, I guess I shoulda called (or blogged) first, but the excitement of a weekend without the kid was overwhelming and I forgot. So DaddyType no.1 (Greg) and MetroDad and ChildsPlayx2 (I think) and all the other Dad Bloggers, I'm sorry I missed the chance to meet you all IRL. I acknowledge of course, that you might not have wanted to get together and are simply happier this way.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I love TreeHugger:

The consensus among public health experts is that excessive use of antibacterial agents in household products leads to increased antibiotic resistance as well as other health effects.  (See Hygiene Hypothesis at Wikipedia).  Anyhow, here is a list of stuff that contains the antibiotic triclosan, which has many similar features to the amphibian
hormone 1. 

We���ve all seen the personal care items that proclaim the equivalent of ���Kills Bacteria On Contact,��� or, ���Kills the Germs That Cause Bad Breath.��� There���s a whole conversation we could start about whether sterile lifestyles���the sort that get enforced with bactericides in personal care and cleaning products��� could have an adverse impact on childhood immune system development and allergic response. But, we���ll leave that topic for later. This post is focused on the environmental risk versus the human health benefit of adding the bacteriocide Triclosan to soaps and lotions. (A list of consumer products containing triclosan is presented below.) We're focused on this more narrow question because of a recently studied consequence of triclosan in freshwater environments. Triclosan, widely used in soaps and toothpastes for its ability to kill bacteria, has been found to hasten the transformation of tadpoles into adult frogs. The new research, "published online September 29 in Aquatic Toxicology , is the first to show that triclosan can act as an endocrine disrupter at concentrations found in North American streams... More than 55% of streams examined in 2002 had a median concentration of 0.14 parts per billion (ppb) (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2002, 36, 2322���2329)". The concern is not just with aquatic life, due to triclosan���s structural similarity to thyroid hormones, which orchestrate growth and development in wildlife and humans.

The following partial list of Triclosan-containing personal care products was obtained from the Household Products Database.

Noxzema Triple Clean Antibacterial Lathering Cleanser

Colgate Total Toothpaste, Fresh Stripe

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss, Solar

Gentle Antibacterial Body Soap with Moisture Beads

Clearasil Daily Face Wash

Shield Deodorant Soap Bar, Surf Scent

Softsoap Gentle Antibacterial Body Wash with Vitamins

Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel

Softsoap Fruit Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol, Fresh

Right Guard Sport, Clear Stick Deodorant

Suave Deodorant Soap, Antibacterial

Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant,

pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin Cleanser

Softsoap Liquid Antibacterial Body Soap

Clean and Smooth Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

Old Spice Red Zone Antiperspirant & Deodorant

Colgate Total Toothpaste

Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor Plus Gloss

New Vaseline Brand Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion

Lever 2000 Soap Bar Antibacterial

Lever 2000 Deodorant Soap Bar

Imina Lathering Facial Cleanser

Softsoap 2 in 1 Antibacterial Hand Soap Plus Moisturizing Lotion

Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap with Light Moisturizers

Right Guard Sport, Deodorant Aerosol

Suave Liquid Hand Soap, Antibacterial

Bath & Body Instant AntiBacterial Hand Gel-Freesia

Dial Liquid Antibacterial Soap, Original Formula

Clean and Smooth Kitchen Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap

From TreeHugger

Monday, November 06, 2006

The holiday shopping bonanza is beginning, with the pumpkins being rapidly replaced by red and white.  I've been thinking long and hard about how to shop this season, given the amount of Christmas/Hanukkah gifts we buy. 
Some things that have caught my eye so far:

RED:  Bono is the spokesman for this line of products that donates large portions of profits to buy anti-retroviral drugs for Africans.  There are specially branded products, like the iPod nano in red and their signature INSPI(RED) t-shirt from Gap.

More to come

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sam Harris is everywhere this week...

Maybe because of the primaries or maybe because a lot of what he says makes sence, Sam Harris is everywhere.  I talked about his Boston Globe article earlier, then all of a sudden he shows up on Tapestry, the weekly religion/spirituality show on CBC Radio 1.  Then, he's written an article in Newsweek.

This is someting that I think I will continue to talk about because it is a serious issue.  Don't think that I am using these posts to bash fundamentalists or people of faith.  If you know Harris, you will see that theistic liberals like me are equally repugnant to Harris.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Rock on OId Macdonald.....

Billed as Delightfully modern interpretations of nursery rhyme classics sure to please both kids and hip parents alike this record is fun, but at some moments it really does seems as though everyone is trying really hard to remind you that "I have a kid, but I'm cool... really I am."

Still great fun.

Kids' Club - Family Songbook

Kids' Club - Family Songbook

Various Artists

Rock River Music

Download "Old MacDonald" (MP3, 192kbps)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Wow, I guess they are starting younger

Viagra For Babies? Sildenafil Found To Prevent Rebound Pulmonary Hypertension In Infants

This is too good to pass up, even if it is a bit creepy. "Rebound Pulmonary Hypertension" occurs after infants in the ICU come off inhaled nitric oxide treatment and it seems that a single dose of sidenafil (also sold as Viagra) solves the problem.

From ScienceDirect

A single dose of sildenafil, a
blood vessel widening vasodilator (also sold under the brand name
Viagra), prevented rebound pulmonary hypertension and significantly
reduced the duration of mechanical ventilation in intensive care unit
(ICU) infants being withdrawn from inhaled nitric oxide therapy.

This research appears in the first issue for
November 2006 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

Shekerdemian, M.D., of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Royal
Children's Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, and five associates gave a
single dose of sildenafil to 15 infants undergoing withdrawal from
inhaled nitric oxide therapy. None experienced rebound pulmonary
hypertension, a common therapeutic complication.

children in the study cohort received a placebo. Ten of the 14 had an
acute elevation of pulmonary artery pressure by 20 percent or more
during the latter part of the weaning process.

Inhaled nitric
oxide was first introduced in the early 1990s as a therapeutic agent to
widen pulmonary blood vessels in ventilated lung regions by relaxing
pulmonary vascular smooth muscle.

Although there have been no
definitive studies of clinical benefit to date, the investigators
believe that inhaled nitric oxide therapy warrants use as an adjunctive
treatment in some of the sickest patients in the ICU. They call it
"unrivaled" in its efficacy as a selective pulmonary vasodilator.

important complication that is associated with the use of inhaled
nitric oxide is the development of rebound pulmonary hypertension on
its withdrawal," said Dr. Shekerdemian.

All infants who failed to
respond were given sildenafil during a subsequent weaning attempt more
than 24 hours later and were weaned successfully from nitric oxide

The total duration of ventilation for patients given
sildenafil was slightly over 28 hours, as compared with 98 hours for
those taking a placebo.

"The total ICU stay after the study was
completed was 47.8 hours for the sildenafil group and 189 hours for the
placebo group," added Dr. Shekerdemian.

"This study is unique in
a number of ways," she continued. "It is the first study to investigate
the pharmacologic prophylaxis of rebound pulmonary hypertension during
the primary attempt to wean from inhaled nitric oxide. This is also the
first prospective trial of sildenafil in the prevention of rebound
pulmonary hypertension. Moreover, this study is the first that defines
the extent of the problem of rebound pulmonary hypertension in infants
and children weaning from inhaled nitric oxide in the pediatric ICU."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Happy Halloween

In typical style, it's better late than never....

The CB has been under the weather lately so Halloween was a little less than fun.  We did get him dressed up and even got the girls over..

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

SIDS is a controvercial and sensitive issue.  In Canada, bumper pads are strongly discouraged, as are blankets, due to the risk of suffocation.  There is a growing body of evidence that biology has a lot to do with SIDS in many cases.

A study published today by the  NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development indicates that certain brain abnormalities are present in infants who die of SIDS.  The research stress the importance of eliminating environemtal hazards such as second-hand smoke and suffocation risks.

The study only looked at 41 infants in all.  The overall rates of SIDS are low (144 in Canada in 1999 - 0.54 per 1000 births) and have decreased significantly in the past 15 years.  This is consistent with the increased public awareness campaigns.

Infants who die of sudden infant death syndrome
have abnormalities in the brainstem, a part of the brain that helps
control heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, temperature and arousal,
report researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. The
finding is the strongest evidence to date suggesting that innate
differences in a specific part of the brain may place some infants at
increased risk for SIDS

Infants who died from SIDS had significantly
more serotonergic neurons (neurons that make and release serotonin) in
their brainstem as compared with controls, particularly in the area
known as the midline raph�� nucleus (blue dots). (Image courtesy David
Paterson, Ph.D., Children's Hospital Boston.

Read more (ScienceDirect)

Fathers Influence Child Language Development More Than Mothers

Fathers Influence Child Language Development More Than Mothers

More news about the importance of dads in a kid's development.

In families with two working parents, fathers had
greater impact than mothers on their children's language development
between ages 2 and 3, according to a study by the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill's Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development
Institute and UNC's School of Education

he children whose fathers used more diverse
vocabularies had greater language development when they were tested one
year later. However, the mothers' vocabulary did not significantly
affect a child's language skills.

Read more (ScienceDirect)

Hair Samples Show Babies Can Be Exposed To 'Crystal Meth' While In The Womb

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth is the fastest growing drug in North America.  It is cheap, potent and incredibly addictive.  It is to this decade what crack was to the 80s and heroin to the 90s.

A study in the British Medical Journal has shown conclusively that crystal meth can cross the placenta when pregnant mothers use the drug.

Babies can be exposed to methamphetamine or
"crystal meth" while in the womb, reveals an analysis of hair samples,
published ahead of print in the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of Archives
of Disease in Childhood

The authors carried out hair sample analysis on
more than 8,000 people, totalling more than 34,000 test results between
1997 and 2005.

In all, 396 samples tested positive for crystal
meth, accounting for 8% of the total during this period. This number
included 11 mother and baby pairs.

All but 14 of the samples
testing positive for crystal meth had been sent for analysis in 2005.
The first positive cases dated from 2003.

Wide ranging levels
of the drug were found in both the mothers' and the newborns' hair
samples. But the levels matched, indicating that the drug is able to
cross the placenta directly to the developing fetus, say the authors.

Only one newborn had no evidence of the drug in its hair. Fetal hair starts to grow at about 20 weeks.

authors say that the precise effects of crystal meth on a fetus are not
fully known, but the evidence to date points to restricted fetal growth
and developmental problems.

Crystal meth users were also
significantly more likely to use other drugs, the results showed. Most
(85%) of the 396 samples positive for crystal meth also tested positive
for at least one other illegal drug, predominantly cocaine. .

abuse increases complications of pregnancy and triples the likelihood
of serious medical problems among the babies born, say the authors.

Via ScienceDirect