Sunday, December 26, 2010

Skating Through Life

Once upon a time, someone sat down to figure out how they could combine the clumsy awkwardness of childhood with the improved control one gets while stumbling around on roller skates, in order to bring the two together into a total package intended to grace a child's feet as they go throughout their daily lives. Oh, if only we could bring the thrill of skating out of the roller-ring and into our homes. Rather than a flat, wide open surface buffed to perfection, we can have our kids skate around tables and chairs, up and down stairs, all with the thrill of sharp, pointy objects a mere arms-length away. At least, these are the thoughts that run through my mind anytime I see a child with roller-shoes.

Of course, it didn't start out that way. I remember the love affair the first time a child showed up in the classroom with a pair. There were the 'ooohs and aaahs.' The drools from the other children, alongside a well placed "well I'll be darned." There we sat, marveling at this wonderful feat of human engineering. Both awestruck at the ingenuity of our fellow mankind and ashamed that we didn't think of it first. Any 'ole fool could dream up space flight. But to put skates on the bottom of everyday footwear? Now that's true genius.

Then came the inevitable: "can you try them out Megan?" Happy to comply, the little girl popped out the wheels and was helped to her feet. For several moments she strolled around the carpet at a safe pace to exclamations of "that's so cool" and a low-pitched murmur of coos coming from the other children. Then she hit the tile area. The first skate was planted without a hitch. However, as she shifter her weight to put her other foot in front, like a child stepping on a sudden ice patch, her feet were swept out from under her. She plopped butt first to the ground, sending a chair flying across the classroom in the process. Apparently no worse for the ware, she looked back to the class with a big smile on her face. We all laughed and laughed.

It turns out; this little trendsetter wasn't the only one taking a spill. Doctors around the globe report treating injuries such as cracked skulls, broken wrists, arms or ankles; and dislocated elbows, all in children whose spills didn't go as well as Megan's. In the U.S. alone, around 1,600 emergency room visits occur each year after children take a spill while on shoe-skates, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In the grand scheme of things, this isn't exactly a child's most pressing danger, but it's hardly chump change either. As a result, many schools have even taken steps to ban the trendy footwear.

The skates come in several different varieties. Some are set up so that a wheel in the back of the shoe engages when the child shifts their weight to their heel. (So not only are they skating, but they're off-balance.) Others function like regular roller skates, with pop out wheels that a child can use to transform their everyday shoes into a pair of wheeled recreation devices. Whatever the style, the concept is to combine roller skates with everyday shoes.

We won't fault parents if they want to get their child a pair. Be honest, we know you can hear the voices in your head urging you towards them. One reason parents buy them, I suspect, is because laughing at kids when they fall is half the fun of the experience. Just be aware of the potential for danger, and remember that a skate is a skate, no matter what form it's in. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends a child wear full wrist and knee pads, along with a helmet, anytime such shoes are in skate mode. Kids should at least have a helmet anytime they want to skate around. As for their use in everyday life to zip around malls or down sidewalks, we don't see any more harm in it than usual, so long as a child is holding the hand of a firmly anchored adult. This should prevent any serious injuries if they slip. A couple of extra bumps and bruises won't hurt. It's good to toughen them up, or at least that's what my Dad always told us as he was trying to stop the bleeding. We just don't like seeing hospital visits.

In the meantime, I'm working on a little patent of my own. It's called the fire-cycle, and it combines the joy of fireworks with the utility of bicycle riding. There's a button on the handlebars that shoots bottle rockets and another one that releases jumping jacks and cherry bombs at will, which is great if you need an impromptu obstacle course, or if you just want to keep your little brother from following you. Nobody steal my idea.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Warning about Sleep Positioners

The FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recently issued a warning infant sleep positioners. Parents should avoid using them, as they increase the risk of SIDS. At least 12 babies in the last 13 years have been suffocated by infant sleep positioners, likely because they slid down and got their face wedged up against the foam device.

Other interesting tidbits from around the world:

Attack of the Elderly
A chiropractic center in Wicheta Kansas, found itself under particular attack, after two different cars crashed through the front of the building on the same day. First, and elderly woman rammed through the front of the building and landed in the reception area. A few hours later, an elderly man crashed into a different wall, shattering a window. Thankfully, no one was injured.

Twitter Birthing
Most women in labor are focused on the process of childbirth. Rachael Ince, a woman from Lancaster, England, was also focused on her Twitter account. She posted a 190 tweets while she was giving birth, including: "Ohh, I actually groaned during that contraction -- things are looking up!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How to Survive An Avalanche

Squarely in the realm of "you'll probably never need to know it but just in case you do..." category, sits the topic of avalanche safety. To some people, it may seem akin to learning how to dodge a meteor strike; information that isn't pertinent to their life and probably won't ever come in handy. Yet if you and your kids are winter sports junkies or prone to exploring avalanche prone areas, then it doesn't hurt to take a moment to sit down with them and cover the basics of how to survive an avalanche. During the 2007~2008 winter season alone, 36 people in the United States were killed in avalanches, a record that experts largely attribute to the growing popularity of back-country sports. And as remote as the risk my be, it's still higher than the likelihood of your child being murdered by a registered sex-offender. So before you head out to the back country, take a little time to go over avalanche safety. It can be entertaining if nothing else.

1. Don't bother trying to outrun the snow. An avalanche can pick up speed to 80 M.P.H. in a matter of seconds. If on skis and you think you're far enough ahead of it, your best bet is to veer sideways at a 45 degree angle and try to have it miss you. When you're the one who triggers it, you've got about 3 to 5 seconds to ski off it. But racing it is a losing cause.

2. If that doesn't work, grab a tree and hang on for dear life. No, that's not a joke. If you can manage to keep your grip, trees often form natural air pockets on the opposite side of the avalanche. It may buy you extra space or even provide the ability to climb out once things settle. It can also act as a shield against some of the deadly debris. Even if you can't hang on for the duration, the more snow that slides past you, the better your chances are. It's always best to be at the upper end of the avalanche as opposed to buried under the bottom of the pile.

3. Paddle. That's right, paddle. Humans are 3-times denser than dry snow, so if you're not swimming, you'll sink like a log. Either that, or perhaps safety experts just have a sense of humor.

4. Create space, or make air pockets. Once the snow stops moving, it will set like concrete. So as the snow slows, cup your hands in front of your mouth, and take a deep, breath so that your lungs will create extra space. Try to move as much as possible. The more space you create to move, the more air pockets and maneuverability you'll create, and the better your chance for survival.

5. Reach for the surface. As you're tumbling along, raise a hand and try to break through to the top. If you can manage to get any body part or piece of clothing showing it will help rescuers find you.

6. Stay calm, and breathe slowly. Don't bother yelling until you hear rescuers directly on top of you. Any farther away and it's unlikely they'll hear your muffled cries for help. It will only use up your precious oxygen, while filling your air pocket with carbon dioxide.

7. If you or a loved one is out in the high country often, invest in a good avalanche beacon or some of the other safety products that are available. You can find these in our safety store.

The key to surviving an avalanche is getting out quickly and avoiding collisions with deadly debris, such as rocks or tree trunks. Those who are uncovered in the first 15 minutes have a 90% survival rate. Yet as time ticks away, spending between 15 minutes and 45 minutes under the snow lowers your odds of survival fall from 90% to 30%. So there you have it. Information you'll probably never need but that all winter sports junkies should have just in case. See us next time for tips on how to dodge a meteorite. Hint: it involves using the Michael Jackson moonwalk.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

The New Owner of the Sun

Off Topic (Yet amusing)
In the realm of the utterly absurd, a spanish woman recently filed legal papers claiming she owns the sun. 49 year old Angeles Duran claims in notarized documents that she is now the official "owner of the sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers." What comes next? Why, she wants to charge a fee for usage of the sun's energy, of course. Where others might see a telltale sign of diagnosable insanity, she sees a business prospect with a fortune to be made: "Anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first," says Duran. Yes, anybody could have done it; just like anybody could, if they wanted to, wear their underwear over their head and run down the street singing "Are You Sleeping," if it occurred to them. Most of us don't, because we have an ounce of common sense.

Let me know how the biz prospect goes, Angeles. Especially since I hereby lay claim to legal ownership of the earth's atmosphere, of which the rays from Angeles' sun could certainly pass through . . . for a hefty fee, of course.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Childhood Obesity In 16 Minutes A Day

For all the complicated, hyped up weight loss theories out there, scientists have long known that the obesity problem boils down to a simple equation: if you take in more calories than you burn you will gain weight. Period.

A new study by the University of Southern California, conducted for the National Institute of Health, explored one half of the equation. They found that the tipping point between health and obesity for children may be as little as 16 minutes a day. That is how much more exorcise normal weight gain kids get over their obese friends. The kids in the study (N=3,106) wore accelerometers to track their levels of physical activity for a period of 4 days. Normal weight children ages 6 to 17 averaged 59 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, (right in line with NIH recommendations that all kids get at least an hour), while obese kids logged in only 43 minutes daily.

This may not seem like a lot, but averaged out over weeks, months, and years, it is a significant difference ... one that would certainly distort those calories burned equations in the wrong direction. (30 minutes of bike ridding, for example, can burn more than 250 calories.)

Girls, who averaged 20 minutes less daily physical activity than boys, are particularly in need of more exorcise. There was also a disturbing drop around adolescence, when daily physical activity plummeted -- to an average of 33 minutes for kids 12 to 15 years, and a mere 25 minutes for teens 16 to 19 years.

In the fight against obesity, little difference and daily habits matter. That is why parents should do whatever they can to squeeze in more physical activity -- weather it be getting up to dance, doing jumping jacks during commercials, or taking time to chase kids around the yard. Because it turns out that 16 minutes might make a world of difference.

For more information on the safety and health of children visit

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