AS NASA SCANDALS GO, THIS ONE RANKS SOMEWHERE BELOW CAPRICORN ONE

Is NASA colorizing its photos of deep space? Yes and no, Slate reports. But just how the space agency's "public outreach team" gets those nebulae images before us in vivid greens and reds is a story worth reading. (Spoiler alert: Yes, Photoshop is involved.)

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Colorized or not, for any parents whose kids have the slightest interest in space, NASA's Web sites should be a regular destination. Small Fellow loves visiting the Planetary Photojournal, featuring NASA's "best of" photos of the solar system. And while all the planets are special in their own way, there is nothing on Earth (so to speak) to compare to the best images of Saturn.

WE THINK THE LITTLE RED-HAIRED GIRL STOLE IT AS A SORORITY INITIATION PRANK

Good grief! Someone pinched a statue of Charlie Brown.

AND NOW A PUBLIC SERVICE FROM THE PAPER OF RECORD

The New York Times offers a guide to getting a passport for your child.

June 5, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

THE CULTURE WAR OVER IVF HAS BEGUN. MEET YOUR GUIDE.

The religious right is coming after your unused embryos, and soon they'll be coming after IVF itself. Daniel Radosh, major-league blogger, friend of FD.com, and father of IVF-conceived twins, has been ahead of this story since the president's photo op with "Snowflake" babies a couple of weeks ago. To access his numerous outstanding posts on the war of the wombs, click here.

ALSO, FALLING OUT OF A TREE COULD LEAD TO BROKEN LEGS

The members of the American Psychiatric Association recently went to all the trouble of flying to Atlanta from across the country, just to find out that caffeinated drinks can make first-graders jumpy. Hope they earned double miles for the trip . . .

OUR FAITH, AND OUR PERSONAL ETHICAL CODE, WOULD NORMALLY LEAD US TO OPPOSE TATTOOING NEWBORNS. BUT WE'LL MAKE AN EXCEPTION IN THIS CASE.   

A Houston mom has given birth to identical quadruplets, without the assistance of fertility drugs of IVF. It's one fewer than 50 cases ever recorded. And we love the mom, the aptly named Shelley Breedlove, for confessing what so few other parents of identical twins will:

"I look at them, and I can't tell the difference to save my life."

"OH, I'M SO PROUD OF MY JOHNNY. COLLEGE REALLY AGREES WITH HIM. HE'S EVEN TAKEN ON A DOUBLE MAJOR: BANKRUPTCY AND EASTERN EUROPEAN BABES."

Trump University is open for business.

THIS IS GREAT NEWS, AS TINY GIRL GOES THROUGH ABOUT A DOZEN-AND-A-HALF EGGS A WEEK

Dr. Thomas B. Newman tells us not to worry about our children's cholesterol counts.

THE FD.COM QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND

Yesterday, we visited the annual PS 87 Street Fair on West 78th Street. At one point, we sat on the sidelines with other parents as Fellow, Tiny, and other preschoolers frolicked about the school's kindergarten playground. Suddenly, a four-year-old girl ran frantically from under the slide into the arms of her mother, who was sitting next to us.

"Mommy!" she cried. "There's a bee over there! I want to go back to the East Side!"


AS IF YOU NEEDED A REASON TO STAY IN MANHATTAN INSTEAD OF MOVING TO GREENWICH

In this weekend's mail: A flyer from the American Ballet Theatre promoting its 2005-06 season of "Ballet for the Young Dancer" classes, on which we noted that a year of 45-minute weekly "Ballet Steps" classes for 5- and 6-year-olds costs $1,000 at the theatre's Manhattan location, but $1,500 at its Greenwich, CT site.

June 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

IN A RELATED STORY, W. MARK FELT RECALLED WHAT HE WAS DOING IN A WASHINGTON, DC, GARAGE 30 YEARS AGO

Johnson & Johnson (and wouldn't that be a great name for a TV show about two former porn stars who open up a detective agency?) announced a major recall of children's medicines today:

... all lots and flavors of the following: Children’s Tylenol Meltaways (80 milligram dose) that come in bottles and blister packs; Children’s Tylenol SoftChews that come in 80 milligram blister packs; and Jr. Tylenol Meltaways that come in 160 milligram blister packs.

The recall, by the way, is unrelated to toxicity. The packages had confusing dosing instructions which might have led parents to give kids too much medicine. Which leaves us with just one question: What's a Meltaway?

THE CROOKS HAVE OBVIOUSLY NEVER TASTED THE STUFF

In New York City, stores have kept their giant cans of powdered baby formula on high shelves behind the registers for years - usually right above the condoms, if you can stand the irony. We've never quite understood why. Now we know.

BUT THERE ARE STILL NO DETAILS ON THE PROGRESS OF MASTER YODA'S "NO YOUNGLING LEFT BEHIND" PILOT PROGRAM IN CORUSCANT CITY

As regular readers know, we have made it our ongoing mission to bring you monthly highlights from Edutopia, the education magazine of the George Lucas Education Foundation. This month, the theme is "What Works: How to Save Public Education," a full issue of ideas for teachers (and eavesdropping parents) for improving classrooms, schools, and students. Most have been heard before; a few are worth revisiting as we all search for small changes that can turn around a student's school year:

- Open the windows. "Fresh air ... can have positive effects on mental development and attitude."
- Rearrange the desks. "I saw a big difference in student behavior .... It wasn't because they were any brighter. It was the seating."
- Pick up the pieces. "Chess encourages development of logical reasoning and basic decision-making ability."
- Clean it. "A little scrub here or dab of color there ... goes a long way."
- Get parents involved. "... if more parents understood how the system worked ... more of them would be interested in the policies ... that affect their children's education."

MRS. KILPATRICK IS NOT MY LOVER -- SHE'S JUST A TEACHER WHO CLAIMS THAT I LICKED HER TOES -- NOW I'M GONNA TELL MY MOM

Georgia mom Denise Strozier was understandably alarmed when she saw the autographs in her 10-year-old son's school yearbook, and the one from his teacher said,  " ‘Good luck next year. Don't lick anyone else's toes. You're silly. Love, Mrs. Kilpatrick,’ " Turns out the coquettish schoolmarm had indeed enticed the boy to lick her toes in exchange for some candy. As the boy told his mom, "‘Yes, ma'am, all my friends were there and I licked her toes, and I got candy.’ "

Ms. Strozier naturally called the school to complain, and, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, think what you will about the impropriety of Mrs. Kilpatrick's behavior, but please join us in admiring the magnificent chutzpah of the administration's response to her complaint:

the initial response from the school was simply to offer Strozier and her son a replacement yearbook, but only if she returned the one with the teacher's writing in it.

Well, it was worth a shot.

(via Fark.)

IS IT CHICKEN? IS IT A FRENCH FRY? WHO CARES, IT'S GREASY.

Burger King crosses chicken fingers with french fries in pursuit of a snack kids will find irresistible.

"For me, they're like M&Ms," said Greg Brenneman, CEO of Burger King.

... in that they have no nutritional value.

A MOMENT OF SILENCE, PLEASE, FOR A GUY WHO MADE A GOOD TOY

Leslie Smith, half of the British duo who founded Lesney Products and created Matchbox cars in the 1950s, passed away this week at the age of 87. At the peak of Matchbox sales, the company was producing more cars than all the world's major automakers combined. And Matchbox quality was in many ways superior:

To make the cars, Lesney designers regularly visited automakers, vintage-car museums and private collectors, photographing old and new models from every angle, taking exhaustive measurements, even obtaining blueprints. The result, scale models that were generally one-sixty-fourth the size of the real thing, were palm-size automotive microcosms, with wheels that turned and, in later years, doors, hoods and trunks that opened.

Like many good toy lines, Matchbox eventually came to be owned by Mattel, makers of the Hot Wheels cars whose competition drove Lesney into bankruptcy in 1982.

June 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

TOM DELAY TAKES THE KIDS EVERY SUMMER

Jesus, dinosaurs, cavemen, and Paul Bunyan all live together, just as God intended, at Michigan's destination roadside theme park, Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo.

Miossdino

Why do we bring up this stunningly silly place? Actually, to air a semi-serious gripe. Last night, Small Fellow went online to pbskids.org to play some "Postcards from Buster" games, specifically "Where's Buster?", in which kids answer questions about US geography to guess which state Buster is in. (Yes, Fellow is quite precocious, but that's not the point ... ) When you guess the correct state where Buster is, the game plays some celebratory music and offers a factoid about a worthwhile place you can visit in that state ("North Carolina, home of the Wright Brothers National Memorial," "Nevada, home of the ghost town of Rhyolite"). But when the question turns to the Wolverine State, all Buster can find to recommend it is  "Michigan, home of Dinosaur Gardens Prehistoric Zoo." Which is sad, and unfair. Michigan, birthplace of the modern autocar and of Motown, and one of our nation's leading cherry producers, deserved better from Buster. Obviously, one of last summer's PBS interns provided these factoids and no one checked his work.

[We could also point out the silliness of another question. We should note that each question focuses on a region of the U.S., and offers kids a map just of that region so they can use the clues provided to figure out which state is the correct answer. So then we get to a question asking kids to find a "Southern Pacific" state that: "Borders the Pacific Ocean; doesn't border Oregon; and doesn't border Canada." But the regional map provided only has ONE state on it. Hmmm. We'll go with Hawaii, Alex.

VANITY FAIR IS GETTING ALL THE CREDIT, BUT MR. KOTTER SOLVED THE "DEEP THROAT" MYSTERY ALL THE WAY BACK IN '76 - IT WAS MR. WOODMAN!

"Welcome Back Kotter," Episode 39. "Sweatgate Scandal" (1976)
.... After a break-in to Principal Lazarus' office in which confidential records were stolen, Vinnie and Epstein become investigative reporters ("Vinstein") and then Mr. Woodman tells them to "cork" the story after the cafeteria's liver supply is robbed. However, Horshack finds a lead from a note inside his Twinkie -- from Deep Throat. In a take-off of All The President's Men, the Sweathogs investigate and write a story to expose the liver scandal with information from Deep Throat, who turns out to be Mr. Woodman.

OR DID RICHIE CUNNINGHAM GET THERE FIRST? (AND WHY WERE ALL THESE INVESTIGATIONS TIED TO CAFETERIA LIVER?)

"Happy Days," Episode 72. The Muckrakers (23-Nov-1976)
Richie, wanting to become a tough reporter, sets out to investigate the food at Jefferson High. During his investigation, he discovers that Fonzie is afraid of liver.

[Ed. note: Al Molinaro was the "Deep Throat" stand-in here, at one point talking to Richie from behind a window shade, with his memorable profile hilariously leaving no doubt as to the identity of the cub reporter's informant.]

(OK, THOSE LAST TWO ITEMS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PARENTING. INDULGE US, IT'S THE ONLY BLOG WE HAVE.)


BACK TO TOPIC A: AS A PARENT, WHEN WE READ THIS, WE IMMEDIATELY IMAGINED THIS SPRAY BEING USED BY CHILD KIDNAPPERS


Scientists from America and Switzerland (where they should really know better) have made the questionable decision to tell the world that just a few whiffs of a nasal spray laced with the hormone oxytocin can make a person abnormally trusting and susceptible to persuasion.

The scientists hope their discoveries can be used to help treat people suffering from autism or social phobias, or to treat the rare cases of Williams' Syndrome, in which kids have few inhibitions and no fear of strangers.

"Of course, this finding could be misused," said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. "I don't think we currently have such abuses. However, in the future it could happen."

If only a 21st-century Deep Throat would emerge to lead us to the secret oxytocin vats hidden in the basement of the White House ...

June 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

BEFORE HE STARTED WITH THE PHILANTHROPY? NOT A CHANCE. BUT NOW? RELUCTANTLY, YES, WE'D LET HIM BE BORN.

On MSNBC today, Arthur Caplan of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania asks the musical question: Would you have allowed Bill Gates to be born?:

Gates is widely reported to display many personality traits characteristic of a condition known as Asperger’s syndrome. Asperger’s is a mild version of autism, a more serious condition that renders many children unable to talk, be touched, communicate or socialize. While I certainly do not know if Gates has Asperger’s, his difficulties in social settings are nearly as legendary as his genius, so it's possible .... [I]f you had been Gates' potential mom or dad 50 years ago, what would you have done if you knew about his abilities and flaws before he was born? Would you have wanted a child that would go on to do great things but would have a hyper-nerdy personality? What if the decision about whether to have a child like him also carried a risk that he might be born with far more serious disabilities? Would you have decided to carry the baby to term?

Of course, almost every parent would want to have a child who "would go on to do great things," Asperger's or not. But Caplan's article does eventually wend its way to a point, which is that there is a potential downside of universal access to a wide range of prenatal genetic testing, when you get to cases like autism (which genetic testing does not yet detect, but it may only be a matter of time). There may be parents who would decline to have a child they knew would suffer from autism, but if the autism gene resembles the Asperger's gene, then what? Asperger's is a relatively mild form of autism, and the syndrome has apparently affected such productive members of society as Gates, Lewis Carroll, and Thomas Jefferson.

These are the dilemmas our kids will face when they start families.

DARE WE SAY IT? OH, OK: ONE HEAD IS BETTER THAN TWO

These are the days of miracle and wonder and this is the first baby to survive a risky operation to remove a second head that was sharing a blood vessel with her brain. The condition is a result of a "rare birth defect, craniopagus parasiticus, that occurs when an embryo begins to split into identical twins but fails to complete the process, leaving an undeveloped conjoined twin in the womb."

Many Americans first became aware of this condition in a very special episode of "South Park."

COPY DESK, WE'RE GOING TO NEED A NEW NICKNAME FOR THE MERMAID BABY

Update: Radical surgery performed on Peru's "mermaid" baby was apparently a huge success. Surgeons intended just to begin to separate the girl's legs, which are fused by a rare birth defect, but were able to separate the legs almost entirely. Milagros still has a long way to go, but isn't it nice when modern medicine works?

AND YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE HAVING A HARD TIME UNDERSTANDING HOW GEORGE BUSH THINKS

The online anorexia cult is apparently growing as more teenage girls sign on and commit to reaching their dangerously unhealthy "gw" (goal weight). At least one former host of an "ana" Web site has realized where she went wrong:

“I guess I was attention-starved,” she now says of her motivation. “I really liked being the girl that everyone looked up to and the one they saw as their ’thinspiration.’ But then I realized I was helping girls kill themselves.”

LET THE FRIES BE WITH YOU

An entertainment watchdog group you'll never hear from again is protesting Burger King's "Star Wars" promotional giveaway because "Revenge of the Sith" earned a PG-13 rating (R2-D2 swears like a sailor).

The group is upset that the target audience for the kid's meal promotion is kids age 4-9, who are too young to be exposed to the violence in the film. In other news, members of the watchdog group have never met a kid age 4-9, or else they would know the sheer impossibility of keeping him or her from being at least minimally aware of "Star Wars" or Darth Vader. Yes, Burger King's giveaway is "an implicit endorsement of the movie," as the group complains. But, you know what? So's the ad for "Star Wars" on the side of a city bus. For better or for worse, you want to avoid "Star Wars" references, you need to move to Tatooine or Dagobah.

June 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)