26 September 2007

blogs don't die - they just fade away slowly.

I'm finally sick of complaining. I start my job on Monday, and maybe I'll post here if I have something to say after work, but otherwise enjoy the day.

21 June 2007

I want these - I have always wanted them

I think every toy has been called "too dangerous" for one reason or another. Skateboards, snowboards, rollerblades, those rollerblade scooters, pogoballs. OK, maybe pogoballs were never considered that dangerous.

The bottom line is that kids are kids and you can't grow up a kid being scared of getting hurt all the time. More importantly, you will turn gray very quickly if you are that worried over your child. We are people - animals. We used to live in the wild and we made it this far. If a kid falls and bangs his head on the ground, she'll probably cry and feel pain, but it is highly unlikely that anything that bad will happen. Broken arms and wrists are not fun, but they are part of growing up.

At any rate, I want these shoes. They make them in adult sizes, so it's just a matter of time.

Something for the Fleet of Foot
Shoes With Built-In Wheels Are All the Rage -- and the Source of Some Angst

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2007; B01

They're hard to spot, those Heely kids.

Although millions of Heelys have been sold around the world, turning the sneakers with wheels into a must-have accessory for the grade-school set, you seldom notice a child wearing them until . . . THERE'S ONE! . . . Over there, b y the giant fridge !

Like magic, 8-year-old Anthony Viera has shifted from walking to rolling on the wheels inside his shoes. It's as though he's floating as he zigzags past kitchen appliances, fishtails down another aisle where his grandfather is pricing air conditioners and then -- aye yi yi -- swerves near a display of big-screen, big-ticket TVs.

No one pays him any mind on a recent night at the Fair Oaks Mall, which is fine by him.

"One time, when I went to Home Depot, they told me to stop rolling," said Anthony, a third-grader at Cub Run Elementary School in Centreville. "They think you're going to knock things down."

A fad for some and an annoyance for others, Heelys have hit their stride just in time for summer. Last year, the company, Heelys Inc., had more than $188 million in sales, compared with $21.3 million two years earlier. But, alas, a backlash has set in as some worry whether the sneakers-on-wheels are safe. Some schools, malls and other public places have banned them.

For a company with about 40 employees, Texas-based Heelys has created a worldwide craze since the shoes hit the market in 2000. Many sporting goods and shoe stores carry them. A pair of multicolor Gelato-style Heelys at Finish Line in the Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax will set you back $99.99.

"When they first came out, they hit the market just fierce," said Finish Line assistant manager David Holy, 20, of Manassas. "I've had people in their 30s come in and ask to buy them."

But malls aren't just places to purchase the shoes. They're considered awesome places to wear them.

Look around the average shopping center and you're liable to see a child between 6 and 14 gliding along on wheeled sneakers, perhaps in tow as her mother holds her hand and dashes around on errands.

At Potomac Mills mall in Prince William County, security guards hand out warnings to children who are heeling recklessly. Those who continue heeling wildly are asked to leave. The mall adopted the policy in February after some customers complained about children rolling into them, spokeswoman Caroline Barry said.

World Against Toys Causing Harm, a Boston-based nonprofit group, puts Heelys on its 2006 "10 Worst Toys" list, and two medical studies, including one this month in the journal Pediatrics, have warned of their possible hazards. A 12-year-old Massachusetts boy died in March 2006. Two boys elsewhere were critically injured while wearing wheeled sneakers, though it is not clear whether the shoes were to blame.

The Pediatrics study also put its finger on the tricky thing about wheeled sneakers: Their appeal rests on their versatility, which allows children to be walking one moment and zooming around on wheels the next. How can a kid be sly about his new James Bond-like sneakers if he's armored head to foot like a hockey goalie? And so they forgo helmets and pads, despite warnings by the company and safety advocates.

"Nobody wears any of that stuff with Heelys," fretted Lenore Gelman, the mother of two sons -- Teddy, 11, and Sam, 8 -- who successfully lobbied for Heelys. Gelman, a special education teacher from Gaithersburg, said she had never heard of the shoes until her older son began begging for a pair.

"I saw them on other kids and I said, 'I gotta have those,' " Teddy said. "It just looked like a shoe with wheels. At first, I thought it was strange, but after more people started to get them, I knew what they were."

For those without a 10-year-old in the neighborhood, a word of explanation: Heelys come with one or two wheels in the heel so wearers can go from walking to rolling just by shifting their weight. The wheels are not retractable; they do not spin when a person's weight rests on the front of the shoe. The wheels can be easily removed, however, transforming a Heely into a pedestrian set of sneakers.

To keep from falling when heeling, the wearer is advised to stagger the feet, placing one ahead of the other for stability.

Some backlash was inevitable.

The journal Pediatrics highlighted the shoe risks. A study conducted by the Temple Street Children's University Hospital in Dublin reported that 67 children ages 6 to 15 had been injured on wheeled sneakers during a 10-week period last summer. More than 80 percent of the injured children were girls, and the most common injuries involved broken wrists, arms and elbows. There were no head injuries, and none of the injuries was life-threatening.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 1,600 emergency room visits a year are caused by wheeled sneakers. But the commission also reports that scooters send about 44,000 children annually to emergency rooms.

"The recommendation to parents should be, if you're going to buy wheeled sneakers, you should buy a helmet after that," commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said.

Some Fairfax County schools have banned them, but there is no districtwide prohibition, spokesman Paul Regnier said. Montgomery County has reported a few problems, but no districtwide policy is in place, spokeswoman Kate Harrison said. The D.C. schools' public relations office did not return calls seeking comment.

The only reported fatality of a Heelys wearer occurred when Ryan Carmichael of East Bridgewater, Mass., was hit by a car while crossing the two-lane road in front of his house to collect the mail. Police Chief John E. Cowan said last week that there was no evidence the boy was heeling at the time of the accident and that the circumstances suggest that he had been walking. A 12-year-old English boy and a 10-year-old boy from Jersey City, N.J., suffered critical head injuries while wearing wheeled sneakers after they fell and were hit by cars.

But the shoes' fans, which include parents, say that heeling is no worse than many other outdoor activities.

"It's in the same league as table tennis, billiards and bowling," Edward J. Heiden, a Washington-based consultant who, at Heelys' request, analyzed more than 2 million incident reports compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Between January 2001 and September 2006, Heiden found, sneakers-on-wheels had a better safety record than bicycles or skateboards or playing basketball, soccer or tennis.

Scott Freedman, medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, said the hospital has treated about 10 children injured while using wheeled sneakers in the past 12 months. "It's not a number that's astoundingly alarming," he said.

Still, Freedman urged users to wear helmets and other protective gear. And he advised parents to use common sense.


$ & the power

“Power, not reason, is the new currency of this [Supreme] court’s decision making”

- Justice Marshall, on the final day of the court’s 1990 term. Two hours later, he announced his own retirement"


20 June 2007

water conservation

Dear person in front of me filling up your big water bottle at the water fountain:

I hate it when you refill their one liter water bottle while I stand in line waiting. For one thing, it takes forever to fill your bottle - more time than you are actually supposed to spend at the fountain. You are like those people who go to the ATM and check the balance in each of 10 accounts while people wait behind them. Or maybe they are actually applying for a mortgage.

But the worst part is that after I have waited for 5 minutes while you and your buddy chat it up, I finally get to step up and grab my 2 second sip of water to wet my whistle. And what do I get? A mouth full of pee-warm water.

If you need indications that water fountains are not designed to fill water bottles, it's that they don't hold enough cold water in reserve to fill water bottles in succession. They DO have enough cold water to let people come through and grab a sip of water.

Besides, if they were intended to fill water bottles, don't you think the spicket would be higher so that you didn't have to use advanced geometry to get your bottle wedged under the stream of water, which still only allows you to fill it 2/3rds of the way?

16 June 2007

money at work

This is an example of what I guess I'll call moral capitalism. Kellogs isn't doing this because it's the right thing, and they aren't doing it because some government regulation says they have to. They're doing it because in the long run this will be better for them financially, and that is just fine with me. As Walmart unveils its line of organic food, we can all be confident knowing that we make a difference and send a signal every time we spend a dollar. That is why it is important to know where your money is going.

Adult-Only Froot Loops

Childhood obesity too often starts at home — in front of the television set. Children are defenseless against the wiles of Madison Avenue, and studies show most cannot understand the difference between an advertisement and the rest of their television fare. Even worse, these snappy ads directed at the young help create bad eating habits for life.

Now, the Kellogg Company has added its heft to those trying to address the growing national concern about young waistlines. The $11 billion company has established nutrition standards and promised that by the end of next year, many of its less-healthy items will either be healthier — “reformulated” to cut down on fat, salt and, particularly, sugar — or will not be advertised on children’s television shows.

The company’s new standards allow advertising for products with up to 12 grams of sugar per serving. That means if Pop-Tarts, Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies and Froot Loops keep their current contents they’ll be off the cartoon circuit. Frosted Flakes, with 11 grams, will still be pitched to the young.

Kellogg is now the latest corporation to respond to growing efforts by educators, parents’ groups, pediatricians and experts on obesity to cut down on advertising junk foods to children. A threatened lawsuit from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and two Massachusetts parents also helped nudge the company in the right direction.

Kellogg’s plan to limit advertising — like Walt Disney’s promise to stop using Mickey and his pals to sell sugary treats or Kraft’s limiting Oreo ads aimed at children — is only one small move in the right direction. The sugar content for Kellogg’s new list is high, and there is concern that more effort will now be made to sell these fattening treats to moms. There is still a lot more that these big, powerful companies could do to make products that lead to healthy profits and even healthier customers.


15 June 2007


This is one of the best movie scenes of all time. For any of you out there who may have gotten laid off today, enjoy:

(contains explicit lyrics)

07 June 2007


I don't know if I should be more surprised that proponents of staying the course in Iraq continue to use amorphous and simplistic terms of "victory" and "defeat" without ever explaining what they mean, or that I continue to expect them to put meat on the bones and enable true dialog.

This is not an issue of victory or defeat, or supporting the war or not. In order to have an informed and intelligent discussion about the best way to proceed in Iraq, as a political society we have to use words that have actual meaning.

No one advocates accepting defeat or rejecting victory. What they disagree about are actual specific actions - those are what we should discuss.

As much as I love a good conspiracy theory, this article from today's NYT suggests that the Russian invasion of Afghanistan was because of American defeat in Viet Nam. If only America had stuck it out until victory, there never would have been the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Accepting defeat is speaking in amorphous terms that remove the opportunity for meaningful discussion and suggesting that support for a single action or decision will mean the end of the world. Victory is embracing confidence that our American system of democracy will prevail; the people will ultimately make the right decision, and trusting that your ideas will stand on their merit rather than hollow rhetoric.

Defeat’s Killing Fields

SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

. . .

The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. . . .

The defeat had a lasting and significant strategic impact. . . . [the Soviet] of Afghanistan was one result.


05 June 2007


I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this republican debate. Tancredo just said the we need to stop immigration until we can assimilate the ones we have, and we'll know when that happens because the phone menus will no longer say 1 for English & 2 for Spanish.

I understand that this early in the primaries, there are always fringe politicians, and I always cringe when Dennis Kucinich gets his turn at the mic. But I'll take a wacko love hippie over a hate preaching fear monger xenophobe any day.

30 May 2007

pick one

Which of the following is the real The New York Times quote of the day:

(A) "If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill’s about partial birth abortion. That’s empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our citizens."

(B) "If you want to scare the American people, what you say is the bill’s an amnesty bill. That’s empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our citizens."

(C) "If you want to scare the American people, what you say is there's a war on terror. That’s empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our citizens."

(D) "If you want to scare the American people, what you say is there's a gas shortage. That’s empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our citizens."

Answer: who cares? It's all empty political rhetoric and that's the way we like it. We're Americans. OK, it was B. Full story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/30/washington/30immig.html