Produced by Gary Drevitch
ET TU, ROCK 'EM-SOCK 'EM ROBOTS?
We'd read this piece a couple of months back and found it was interesting that automakers had been flooding the zone to promote new cars on Nickelodeon and Disney stations and sites, as well as placing product in virtual kid worlds like Whyville and inside Electronic Arts videogames. J.D. Power, in the Journal article, claimed that 62% of parents admit that their kids "actively participate" in car-buying decisions.
Still, we never put much stock in marketers' claims here. After all, even if automakers were targeting kids, that wouldn't affect us here at home, right? And then came the college bowl season and the NFL playoffs, rife with opportunity to bond with Small Fellow in front of the big screen as we sat through non-stop airings of the Dodge Ram/Rock'em-Sock'em Robots commercial. (You can see it on YouTube.) How often did this ad tun? According to the Washington Post, as often as five times during just one quarter of the college Bowl Championship Series. (Spoiler alert: Apparently a sequel will begin airing any day now. Might it feature Hungry Hungry Hippos? Dodge isn't saying. . .)
We're more nostalgic than most for the toys of our youth and we actually really liked this spot when we first saw it. Frankly, even after 50 or so views, we still find it amusing. Fellow, however, was quickly addicted. He refused to allow us to fast-forward through the ad when we replayed games we had DVR-ed. OK, we thought, he likes Rock'em-Sock'em Robots. No big deal. And then, after maybe his 25th viewing of the ad, he said it:
"Daddy, can we buy that car?"
DaimlerChrysler? Mission Accomplished.
BREAKING: NOT YOUR CAR SEAT
Oh, boy. Remember that Consumer Reports study blasting federal car-seat testing standards and insisting their super-tests proved that 10 of 12 leading models were unsafe at any speed, or at least any speed over 30 mph? Did it inspire you to toss your seat and secure the kids in the back seat with duct tape? Well, nevermind:
The magazine reported Jan. 4 that most of the seats it tested “failed disastrously” in crashes at speeds as low as 35 mph. In one test, it said, a dummy child was hurled 30 feet. . .
Consumer Reports said Thursday it had received information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that the speeds at which its side-impact tests were conducted were higher than the 38.5 mph reported. In fact, the NHTSA said the crash tests were conducted under conditions that would represent being struck at more than 70 mph — twice as fast as the magazine claimed, said NHTSA administrator Nicole Nason.
The magazine has retracted its earlier results and says it will retest the seats and release a new report soon. In the meantime, it urges parents to walk or carry their children to all destinations until it issues further instructions:
The magazine asked its readers. . . “to suspend judgment on the merits of individual products until the new testing has been completed and the report republished.”
BUT YOUR HIGH CHAIR? YEAH, TOSS THAT IMMEDIATELY
About 100,000 Graco highchairs are being recalled for repair because they can collapse if they are not fully opened and locked into place from the storage position, U.S. regulators said Thursday. Graco Children’s Products Inc. is recalling the Graco Contempo Highchairs after receiving 18 reports of the chair collapsing. There was one report of an 18-month-old boy suffering a bruise on his foot, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said. . .
The agency said consumers should contact Graco for a free repair kit, and can continue to use the highchair until they receive the kit as long as they make sure it is fully opened first.
OUR ADVICE: JUST LET THE KIDS "COUGH IT OUT" UNTIL CONSUMER REPORTS TELLS US WHICH COUGH MEDICINE YOU CAN USE
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, "about 1,500 children younger than 2 years old were treated in emergency rooms for adverse events associated with cough and cold medications. Three infants younger than 6 months old died after being dosed with the medications, and "blood levels of the decongestant pseudoephedrine at autopsy were far above what's normally expected after therapeutic dosing in children between 2 to 12."
The CDC now advises that parents “should not administer cough and cold medications to children in this age group without first consulting a health-care provider.” But the fascinating, buried news here is that the CDC also now says that controlled trials "indicate cough and cold medications are no more effective than placebo in children younger than 2."
Doctors now advise that for toddlers with colds, in lieu of medications, parents employ saline nose drops and a rubber suction bulb. But since we have an irrational, pathological fear of sending some sort of deadly air bubble up into one of the kids' brains by using the bulb, that's not really going to work for us.
THE EARLY FRONT-RUNNER FOR THE FD.COM SADDEST STORY OF 2007
By now, you've probably read or heard the tragic story of Jennifer Lea Strange of California, who died of water intoxication after attempting to win a Nintendo Wii game console in a radio station's water-drinking contest. But this devastating kicker to AP's follow-up story just makes it worse:
Strange had showed fellow contestants photographs of her two sons and daughter, for whom she was hoping to win the Nintendo Wii. The game console sells for about $250.
IT'S LIKE WE'VE ALWAYS SAID: YOU CAN TAKE THE VAS DEFERENS OUT OF THE MONKEY, BUT YOU CAN'T TAKE THE MONKEY OUT OF . . . THE OTHER MONKEYS, APPARENTLY
[A] female at a [Louisiana] chimpanzee sanctuary has given birth, despite the fact that the facility's entire male chimp population has had vasectomies. . . Workers have started collecting hair samples from the chimps for testing. Once they identify the father, it's back to the operating room for him.
Reached for comment, Jeff Goldblum said, "I'm simply saying that life, uh... finds a way."
ALL TOGETHER NOW: "NOBODY CHUANG CHUANG TONIGHT . . ."
Not unlike FD himself, Chuang Chuang, a panda at Thailand's Chiang Mai Zoo, has grown too fat for sex:
“Chuang Chuang is gaining weight too fast and we found Lin Hui is no longer comfortable with having sex with him,” said the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Kanika Limtrakul, adding that Chuang Chuang weighed 331 pounds while Lin Hui is only 253 pounds. . . As a result, zoo authorities are cutting out bamboo shoots in the daily meal for Chuang Chuang and giving the obese bear only bamboo leaves.
officials have been unsuccessful in all attempts to get Chuang Chuang
and Lin Hiu to produce an offspring since they began renting the pair
from China in 2003. Their quixotic campaign was the
inspiration for Thailand's best-selling book, "Eats, Shoots Blanks, and Leaves."
POWER CORRUPTS, AND MINIMAL POWER CORRUPTS CUTELY
Several academic studies (and we've seen them) show that when young people are put in a position to assess or judge their peers, they are almost always harsher in their evaluations than adults or teachers would be in the same situations. Small Fellow now has direct evidence of this phenomenon: Starting this week, he and his fellow first-graders no longer bring home a printout listing their nightly homework assignments. Instead, they're responsible for writing the assignments in their homework notebooks themselves. To make sure everyone has copied the assignment correctly, the kids exchange their notebooks with the other three or four students who sit in their pod and put a check or an X on each other's pages after seeing whether they correctly transcribed the teacher's notes.
But Fellow came home last night and said that a certain other boy,
drunk with power, "just put X's on everyone's notebooks! He made FOUR
X's! And they weren't even wrong! But now everyone has X's! It's not
fair! We told him, but he still made the X's!"
HE DOES HAVE HIS MOMENTS, THOUGH
Every night, we have a ritual with Fellow and Tiny: "Two Minutes." The kids get into their beds (ideally at 8:30) and we lie next to them for "two minutes," then give them a kiss and hug and, if they've gone to bed on time, a "throwdown" and two "catches." (We pick each one up while he or she holds a small stuffed animal, then drop them on their bed as they toss the animal across the room. From where it lands, we play two rounds of catch with the animal.)
The ritual is long-standing, but the kids going to sleep in the same place at the same time is a more recent development and so, as you can imagine, fierce debates have ensued over whose turn it is to get two minutes first. (Although one would think that going last is preferable. Whatever.) So now every date on Fellow's calendar has an "F" or a "T" in its box to indicate who goes first. Still, there have been conflicts over what to do when, say, Tiny Girl missed going first one night because she fell asleep on her own early in the evening, or when no one got two minutes because the family was out late and the kids fell asleep before returning home. We've decided to be a strict constructionist - whichever letter is on the calendar, that's who goes first, no matter what happened the previous day.
All of which is prefatory to this story: As we lay next to Fellow the other night, we, as we often do, gave him some gentle pats on the leg as he grew sleepy. And as we patted him, he turned to us and said, "I love you too, Daddy."
MORSE CODE GOING THE WAY OF SEMAPHORING? THAT'S -... ..- .-.. .-.. ... .... .. - !!!
This seems terribly shortsighted. How could the townspeople from "The Day After," the radio men from "Independence Day," or the gang from "Jericho" have communicated with the outside world if not for Morse code? In all seriousness, we sure hope people don't stop learning the code just because they don't have to.
The same gang of Korean cloners who claimed the first successful canine cloning a few years back -- but were later tarred by discoveries that they had fabricated results in two other studies in which they claimed to have cloned the world’s first human embryos -- now claim to have achieved the first cloning of a female dog. This has long been considered a major milestone target in the cloning field -- because of the complexity of the canine reproduction system.
We'll take their word for that.
NOT THE MOST WONDEFUL THING ABOUT TIGGERS
More trouble at Disney World, and of course FD is eager to share it with you all: A "cast member" in a Tigger suit is accused of hitting a boy on the head. When interviewed by park security officers, Roo said he didn't see a thing. . .
OUR RECOMMENDATION: NEVER LET ANYONE FROM CONSUMER REPORTS DRIVE YOUR CAR
In case you missed it, which seems virtually impossible, Consumer
Reports announced the other day that 10 out of 12 leading car-seat
models failed to protect kids in their privately-administered crash
tests. Car-seat makers are disputing the results, but the news here may
be Consumer Reports' scoop that the government crash-tests cars at 35-38 miles per hour, but only crash-tests car seats at 30 miles per hour.
In other news, it doesn't matter what car seat you use because, at the end of the day, you're too stupid to use the LATCH system properly,
so Timmy's going through the windshield whether he's slumped in a
Britax or a Graco: “LATCH was supposed to simplify child safety seat
installation for parents and. . . that isn’t happening," said NHTSA
Administrator Nicole R. Nason.
THE CHILD WILL ALSO STILL BE ALLOWED TO CLAIM HER FULL SCHOLARSHIP TO BERKELEY
Toys “R” Us Inc. agreed on Saturday to award a Chinese-American infant a $25,000 prize in a New Year’s baby contest after the company came under fire for disqualifying the girl because her mother was not a legal U.S. resident.
YOUR TEENAGE DAUGHTER IS IN GOOD HANDS
It's been years since we've said that to a parent and meant it. But today we do: Hearst Magazines has announced that Ann Shoket, current executive editor of CosmoGirl, will take over as editor-in-chief of its venerable Seventeen franchise. Ann (full disclosure: a dear former colleague) replaces recently departed editorial dramatist Atoosa Rubenstein, who is perhaps best known to FD.com readers for this memorable quote, uttered during Fashion Week in New York City after viewing designer Bryan Bradley's runway show: "I feel like I want to start starving myself so I can wear those clothes now."
Suffice to say that Ann, one of the good guys, would never tell your daughter that. On her watch, Seventeen will again be safe for your social-climbing tweens.
SHE'S SO OLD, HER UTERINE WALLS ARE MADE OF ADOBE
2006 lurched into the dustbin with a dubious new record:
A 67-year-old Spanish woman has become the oldest known woman to give birth after the Barcelona Hospital de Sant Pau said she had given birth to twins by Caesarean section. . . . The woman became pregnant after she received in-vitro fertilisation treatment in South America.
A Caesarean? Well, that's a shame. She'd told us she hoped to deliver naturally. Maybe next time. . .
WE'VE NEVER BEEN MORE CONCERNED FOR LOVING MOTHER'S HEALTH
-- because we just found out that a major new study has found that housework significantly reduces a woman's chances of getting breast cancer. (via Slate)
Overall, increasing total physical activity was associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women. Specifically, household activity was associated with a significantly reduced risk in postmenopausal and premenopausal women. Occupational activity and recreational activity were not significantly related to breast cancer risk in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. . .
Fellow Dads, it is critical that we do all we can to spread this critically important information to the women in our lives.
THERE MAY BE MANY READERS OUT THERE WHO WILL WANT TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH THEIR WIVES AS WELL
A surprising study from Germany has found that the more siblings one has, the higher one's chance of developing a brain tumor.
Researchers. . . reviewed the records of 13,613 Swedish brain cancer patients and found that those with four or more siblings were almost twice as likely to develop a brain tumor as those with no siblings at all. The risk increased with the number of younger siblings and in children under 15, where it increased nearly four-fold for one type of tumor.
The problem is likely the increased risk of infection that comes with close proximity to a number of young children. Clearly, for the safety of their entire family, parents would be well advised to stop producing children after having three. Just seems like the only responsible thing to do. . .
REMEMBER, EVERYONE: SUMMER CAMP APPLICATIONS AND DEPOSITS ARE DUE FEBRUARY 15
Almost everyone experiences occasional homesickness, but many young people suffer from a particularly intense form that interferes with normal activities, according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. . . .
About 95 percent of young people say they miss something about home the first time they are away. . . But a smaller percentage — about 1 in 14 — suffer from. . . “intense homesickness.”