Monday, February 26, 2007

Your favourite RSS Feed reader/aggregator

I'm wondering what daddies (and everyone else) are using to read RSS feeds. There are a lot of daddy/mommy/science/environment/everything sites to read and using an aggregator has become essential. I am partial to online readers because I like being able to read my feeds from outside the house (cough, at work,cough). I am trying to decide between bloglines, Google Reader and Rojo. What do you use? Why?

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Your favourite RSS Feed reader/aggregator

I'm wondering what daddies (and everyone else) are using to read RSS feeds. There are a lot of daddy/mommy/science/environment/everything sites to read and using an aggregator has become essential. I am partial to online readers because I like being able to read my feeds from outside the house (cough, at work,cough). I am trying to decide between bloglines, Google Reader and Rojo. What do you use? Why?

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

You're so smart, I'm making you stupid.

I know that everyone and their daycare worker must be talking about this article from New York Magazine entitled "How Not to Talk to Your Kids" by Po Bronson. (I thought Teletubbies could barely talk, let alone write....sorry, I couldn't help myself. The kid loves 'em.), but I felt like I had a some perspective to add on this.

The article is a bit lengthy, but the gist of it is that kids fare better when they are praised for their effort or skill at a specific task rather than simply being told that they are smart.

Growing up I was one of the "smart kids". School came very easily until University, and didn't get really hard until grad school. My whole life I was told how smart I was, and looking back, I realize that I fell precisely into the trap that the article outlines. It turns out that kids who are praised for being smart rather than working hard are more likely to give up quickly when faced with something that doesn't come easily.

Sounds a lot like my life. Piano, guitar, karate, tai chi, basketball, soccer, quantum mechanics...the list goes on. Stuff that initially interested me but that I let go or settled on being mediocre at because it was hard.

I find myself falling into the same trap with the kid already. Hopefully this article will help with that.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Empathy in infants and toddlers...

It's the most amazing thing to watch. Things have been crazy in our house, balancing work and school, the Philosopher Mom on "reduced activity" during her pregnancy, and sometimes people just crack. Last night was one of those times. The PM broke into tears at the dinner table, as we were discussing how we were going to manage everything. The Curious Boy, who had been end-of-dinner fussing, let out a great wail and then sat silently watching his mom. I let him down from his high chair and he rushed over to her. As soon as he was in her arms he started kissing her and stroking her hair and face. He wouldn't leave her until she calmed down.

I've seen the CB show concern for others before. He always strokes and kisses kids who are crying, and he loves to hug his friends and family when he sees them.

I know kids are sensitive to stress in those around them, but it is an amazing thing to see it so clearly.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Although the publicity surrounding the teaching of evolution vs. the teaching of so called creation science or intelligent design has waned, the fact remains that legislators in a number of states continue to prepare legislation on the subject. Here in Canada, the religious right is gaining momentum (we're always a little behind the U.S. - I hope we had missed this outright) starting to lobby for similar things here.

Next time the subject comes up at a PTA, whip out a copy of

"15 Answers to Creationist Nonesense" from Scientific American.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kangaroo care....

Breastfeeding advocates have long touted the importance of skin-to-skin contact between parents and infants, and it seems that many NICU departments are finding that the same is true for preemies.

Kangaroo care is the term used to describe skin-to-skin contact between preemies and their parents, even when the babies still need respirators or monitoring.

The benefits are striking. Stress decrease in the infants is clear, and there appear to be long term benefits regarding sensory integration (which is something that will be discussed another time).

Our local CBC morning show, Daybreak, had an interview with a mother of premature twins and the head of pediatrics/neonatology at the Jewish General Hospital, where kangaroo care has been practiced for 15 years.

Hear the interview.

Kangaroo Care (Google Search)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Toxic Breastmilk.... depends on where you live

There has been growing concern over the level of certain toxins in breastmilk. It turns out that for most North American women, this is not a major concern. When looking at volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as dioxins, researchers found that levels in breastmilk were well below allowed levels for drinking water. In fact it appears as though infants are at greater risk of exposure to VOCs from indoor air pollution. Other studies have shown that women who live in the far north do sometimes have very high levels of VOCs and mercury in their breastmilk.

See the article

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Yawn.....Napping is good for you heart

I try and get a nap in whenever I can, but it's never as regular as I would like.

Siesta Sense: Midday Napping Associated With Reduced Risk Of Heart-related Death

Science Daily
Among Greek adults, taking regular midday naps is associated with
reduced risk of death from heart disease over a six-year period,
especially among working men, according to a report in the February 12
issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journal.


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Sunday, February 11, 2007

The (Second) Great Stroller Debate

With kid #2 on the way, and the boy being only 14 months old, we really need to figure out which double stroller is best for us.

There are the side-by-side and linear/stadium options and the crazy phil underside e3.

Right now the two main competitors are the yet-to-be-released Graco Quattro Duo and the Peg Perego Duette SW (with a freakin' steering wheel).

Any suggestions? Pros/Cons?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Well, we've been averaging about 100 visitors a week lately, and are about to crack 2000 visitors! I guess that means that there are enough of you reading this stuff to justify opening up this blog to comments. So go, speak your mind. Please be nice.

Yup, it's our fault after all

In case you've been hiding under a rock, this has been one crazy winter. Here in Montreal, we didn't have any significant snow or cold weather until well into January, and now we've been in a deep freeze fro three weeks. Europe is barely having any winter at all.

Last week the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report basically telling us that human activity is indeed the principle cause of climate change.

The question then becomes - what can I do? If you aren't asking yourself this, go rent "An Inconvenient Truth" and then continue to read this post.(See the trailer.)

Making drastic changes to your lifestyle is not always reasonable when raising kids, but there are a lot of easy things that you can do to reduce your energy consumption and the amount of waste you produce. Some are obvious, others less so. Here's a quick list:

  1. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  2. Turn down your heat by 1 degree Celsius (~2 degrees F).
  3. Buy compact fluorescent lightbulbs.
  4. Buy Energystar-rated appliances.
  5. Use the shortest cycle on your dishwasher.
  6. Hang clothes to dry.
  7. When it comes time to buy/lease a new car, ask yourself, do I really need an SUV/MiniVan/Chrysler 300?
  8. With older kids, set a "walking only" radius around your house. No exceptions. Not even for you.

  9. Get a domestic composter. There plenty of good options, even if you don't have a yard.

  10. You can clean almost anything with vinegar or baking soda and water.
There are plenty of other things that can be done. What do you suggest?

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Repeat after me... "Natural does not always mean good."

This is a mantra that I repeat to my chemistry students, as well as to my friends and family. Just because something is natural does not mean that it is good for you. Snake venom is natural. HIV is natural. Botulinum Toxin is natural.

Chemists are learning that smaller quantities of various compounds often have greater effects than previously expected.

In this report from the New England Journal of Medicine (via researchers have found that lavender and tea tree oils can act as estrogen mimics in certain cases:

Lavender and tea tree oils found in some shampoos, soaps and lotions
can temporarily leave boys with enlarged breasts in rare cases,
apparently by disrupting their hormonal balance, a preliminary study

While advising parents to consider the possible risk,
several hormone experts emphasized that the problem appears to happen
infrequently and clears up when the oils are no longer used. None of
those interviewed called for a ban on sales.

The study reported
on the condition, gynecomastia, in three boys ages 4, 7 and 10. They
all went back to normal when they stopped using skin lotions, hair gel,
shampoo or soap with the natural oils.

It's unclear how often this problem might crop up in other young children.

plant oils, sometimes called "essential oils," are added to many
health-care products, usually for their scent. The oils are sometimes
found in other household products or sold in purer forms. Tea tree oil
is sometimes used in shampoos for head lice.

The suspected effect
in this study is attributed to a chemical within the oils that the body
processes as it does estrogen, the female hormone that promotes breast

The findings were being reported Thursday in the New
England Journal of Medicine. The federally funded study came out of the
University of Colorado and the environmental health branch of the
National Institutes of Health. The findings were first released last
year at a science meeting.

The three boys were brought to their
doctors with overdeveloped breasts that looked like those of girls in
early puberty. They were sore in one case. For each boy, doctors could
tie the problem only to their use over several months of the
natural-oil products.

The researchers suspected that the oils
might be upsetting the boys' hormonal balance. So they did a series of
laboratory tests to check how these oils work within human cells. The
oils appeared to mimic estrogen and block the male hormone androgen.

product labels, the oils sometimes are listed by their scientific
names: Lavandula angustifolia (lavender oil) and Melaleuca alternifolia
(tea tree oil). Such products do not require government approval to be
sold unless they make specific health claims.

Marijuana and soy products also have been linked to gynecomastia.

Clifford Bloch, a hormone specialist in Greenwood Village, Colorado,
who treated the three boys, recommended that parents "be cautious" with
such products, especially for prolonged use. "I would not give these
products to my children," he said in an interview.

Bloch said he
also suspects the oil played a role in a handful of young girls he saw
for a similar condition, including a 17-month-old whose parents were
washing her bottles with a lavender-scented soap.

Others sounded
less worried. "It takes very little estrogen to cause gynecomastia in a
young child," said Dr. Richard Auchus, a University of Texas hormone
expert who knew of the study findings. "If they're getting it for a
brief period of time, that really shouldn't cause long-term problems."

the research did not pinpoint any specific estrogen-like compounds in
the oils or look for them in a range of products. Chemist Steven
Dentali, at the industry group American Herbal Products Association,
said that warning people to avoid such oils "is premature without the
additional basic research needed to bolster the case that the issue
here is both real and significant."

Gynecomastia is very common
in boys during the hormonal changes of puberty. But it also occurs as a
rare condition in younger boys, men, and girls before puberty.

Bloch, the study doctor, said it's unknown if such oils could hurt women with estrogen-fed breast tumors.

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