Monthly Archives: August 2007

Kids Can Think!

by Stacey

A new study shows that children as young as three or four years old can reflect on their feelings and when given the tools can communicate this to others. According to this brief article in the LA Times, the study tested how small children felt about answers they had given on a test.

UC Davis psychologist Simona Ghetti and student Kristen Lyons had 3- and 4-year-olds look at pictures of familiar objects, including monkeys, with features removed, making them harder to recognize. The child would choose between two photographs, either of a child looking confident or doubtful, and pick the picture that best reflected how they felt about their answer.

Even the 3-year-olds were more likely to choose the photo of a confident child when right and the doubtful child when wrong, reported Ghetti at a psychology meeting. They were aware of their uncertainty — a skill Homo sapiens appears to share with just a few other creatures, including dolphins and monkeys.

Did dolphins take the same test? How do they know that dolphins can do this too? I think people overestimate dolphins. Although, I have read that wild dolphins often give birth in the water with the help of another dolphin who acts like a midwife, which goes to show that even dolphins recognize that freebirthing is a bad idea. Okay, maybe they’re smart after all.

But back to kids. The article says that developmental psychologists have long thought that before age 5, children were mostly unable to reflect upon thoughts, feelings or memories — a skill that is critical to higher-order learning and self-control. Well the cat’s out of the bag now. No more temper tantrums in my house. Hear that Sasha?

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Filed under birth, child development, do-it-yourself delivery, dolphins, family life, freebirthing, kids, labor, parenting, psychology, toddler

Mattel Recall, Behind the Scenes

by Stacey

Weeks after Mattel rocked our world with its stunning back-to-back recalls of over 10 million toys, a picture is emerging of how lead paint got onto the toys in the first place. According to this NY Times article, Mattel had old ties to manufacturers in China and did not do enough oversight of the suppliers those manufacturers used to make their products.

Mattel has been manufacturing in Asia far longer than many companies (the first Barbie was made there in 1959). That led to long-term relationships with certain Chinese contractors, many spanning decades. Paradoxically, that appears to have contributed to Mattel’s problems: the longer it outsourced to a factory supplier with good results, the looser the leash became.

According to the article, Mattel allowed its most trusted manufacturers to do their own quality control testing, with spot-checks by Mattel only four times a year. Lee Der Industrial, the supplier involved in the first recall, had worked with Mattel for 15 years. The Early Light Industrial Company, the contractor that made the Sarge cars in the second recall, has supplied toys for 20 years, the article says.

In both cases, the Chinese companies broke Mattel’s rules on what paint they were allowed to use. Mattel has certified only eight paint suppliers. Lee Der bought lead-tainted paint from an uncertified company. Hong Li Da, the subcontractor, used uncertified paint when a tub provided by Early Light ran out.

Officials at Mattel say that production costs for labor and materials have risen substantially in the last three to five years, which may have led the manufacturers to try to cut corners, unbeknownst to the company. “We insist that they continue to use certified paint from certified vendors, and we pay for that, and we’re perfectly willing to pay for that,” one official said.

Mattel makes about half of the toys, including Barbie dolls, in factories owned by the company. The other half are made by 30 to 40 outside vendors, the article says. Mattel admits it was not watching those companies closely enough.

Mattel vetted the contractors, but it did not fully understand the extent to which some had in turn subcontracted to other companies — which in turn had subcontracted to even more. Mattel required its vendors to list subcontractors, so Mattel could visit them, but Mattel is investigating whether that procedure has been followed. A number of companies whose factories Mattel had never visited may have had a hand in making the toys that were shipped around the world.

With its image tarnished, Mattel is still in the process of trying to understand what the hell happened. The article says that company officials in Hong Kong are “trying to figure out how many subcontractors became part of its lineup.” It is also looking to find “a common thread” among the lead recalls in China.

Heads have already begun to roll. Four subcontractors have been fired and more are being investigated. The company has also begun to enforce a rule that subcontractors cannot hire two and three layers of suppliers below them. And the company plans to test every batch of paint that is used on its toys.

“We do realize the need for increased vigilance, increased surveillance,” said Jim Walter, a quality control officer at Mattel on the day of the recall announcement.

Umm, yeah. Those are toys for children you’re selling buddy. You should have recognized the need for vigilance before you let your manufacturers do God knows what and stick your name on the label. Not only have you jeopardized kids’ health, you screwed your shareholders in the process. Now that’s gotta hurt.

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Filed under children's health, family life, Fisher-Price recall, kids, lead paint on toys, lead paint toys, Mattel recall, parenting, Polly Pockets recall, Sarge recall, Tanner recall, toxic toys, toy recall, toys made in China recall

Taking the Night Off

by Stacey

After a long day of traveling back from the east coast, I’m realizing I have nothing to post for Wednesday. And so it must be. I’m wiped. I’ll be back on track tomorrow. Have a good one!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Reflections

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by Stacey

Earlier this month, the White House announced that first daughter Jenna Bush is getting married. On the face of it, the announcement seemed like another pro forma news event along the lines of the president had a mole removed or the vice president had another heart attack.

But last week, the Washington Post ran this article on political kids that shows the story has a darker side.

As the president’s daughter, Jenna isn’t a celebrity. She’s a symbol, and that’s a far more cumbersome role. That reality became inescapable as soon as her engagement to Henry Hager was announced by the White House 10 days ago. That transformed the betrothal into a national event — an official American celebration of marriage.

The article notes that Jenna’s other recent milestones, graduating from college and celebrating her 21st birthday, for example, went unmentioned by the White House press office. “But the engagement is different,” the article says. “It is weighted with the baggage of family, tradition and America’s misty-eyed habit of trying to cast the first family as a narrowly defined version of the Ideal Family — that deeply ingrained fantasy of well-behaved kids, nurturing mother and God-fearing father.”

Wait, I’m confused. Wasn’t Jenna the bad-girl of the Bush twins? The one they tried to pretend wasn’t running around drinking and tussling with the cops?

The article notes that kids of politicians often play a symbolic role for their parents.

During the campaign, if the children are old enough, they can become surrogates for the candidate. The five fresh-faced Romney boys blog for father Mitt. But they have also become Exhibit A for those who want to make an issue of whose children are serving in Iraq and whose are not.

If the children are too young, or not inclined to public speaking, there still is a role for them. (In the case of Rudy Giuliani, silence is probably the best he can hope for from his estranged kids.) They can be trotted out as pint-size embodiments of the candidates’ human side. They are walking, giggling, rambunctious optimism.

All the Democratic frontrunners for the presidential election are using their kids to help mold public perception. Chelsea Clinton has been out making speeches for Hillary. During Bill’s presidency, I thought the Clintons did a good job of keeping her out of the spotlight. Well, except for that one time when she walked hand-in-hand with her parents to the helicopter during the Monica Lewinsky scandal for a ride that I’m sure was loaded with laughs.

In 2006, the Obama family posed for these photos by Annie Leibovitz which ran in Men’s Vogue. The pictures show Barack Obama as having it all – a beautiful wife and charming children. He’s a devoted father and they’re just the kind of family this country can really get all misty-eyed over.

And then there are the adorable Edwards children, Jack and Emma, whose names alone make them sound like the nation’s first kids. They only add to the wholesome appeal of the Edwards campaign.

When I first read this article I thought, yuck. Kids should be free to be themselves and find their way, not serve their parents’ career interests. I would never do that. But the more I think about it, the more familiar this actually seems. Aren’t all children used to judge their parents? If my kids act politely or do well in school, won’t people think more highly of our entire family, of me, than if my kids throw eggs at people’s houses and have to repeat second grade three times? Do all kids carry this burden to some degree? What do you think?

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Filed under family life, kids, marriage, media, parenting, politics

The Open Post

by Stacey

This evening I watched the season finale of HBO’s Big Love and had Mormons on the brain. Then I saw this post on Crabmommy about Mormons and that made me remember the freebirthing post I wrote a couple of weeks ago and the exchange I had with Jennie Hatch who I later found out, is herself a Mormon.

Funny how all of a sudden Mormons are everywhere. How did that happen? And will we, could we possibly, have a Mormon president? We should ask Dooce. She knows a lot about Mormons because she used to be one and everyone she’s related to still is.

What’s up with you all? Anything interesting to report? Run into any Mormons lately?

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Filed under Big Love, Mormons

The Color Pink

by Stacey

Perhaps there’s more to pink than pretty. According to this article in TIME magazine, women may be biologically programmed to prefer pink and red, while men prefer green. A study in the August 21st issue of Current Biology found consistent sex differences in color preferences.

Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling, neuroscientists at Newcastle University conducted a color-selection experiment with 208 volunteers between the ages of 20 and 26. Participants were asked to move a mouse cursor as quickly as possible to their preferred color from a series of paired, colored rectangles, controlled for hue, saturation and lightness. Each person completed three separate tests, then was retested two weeks later.

On average, the study found, all people generally prefer blue, something researchers have long known. The study also found that while both men and women liked blue, women tended to pick redder shades of blue — reddish-purple hues — while men preferred blue-green.

To check for cultural bias, the researchers picked subjects from mainland China as well as British Caucasians and found the same male/female differences. “Though the Chinese participants showed a greater overall preference for red than their British counterparts (red is considered an auspicious color in China), Chinese women and men diverged in color preference predictably along the red-green axis,” the article says.

“This is the first study to pinpoint a robust sex difference in the red-green axis of human color vision,” says Yazhu Ling, co-author of the study. “And this preference has an evolutionary advantage behind it.”

Ling speculates that women’s ability to better discriminate red from green may have evolved from sex-specific divisions of labor, that is, while men were out hunting, women were busy gathering ripe berries and fruits. The article says another theory suggests that women as caregivers have developed a keener ability to detect fever in the flushed face of a child, a skill that enhances their nurturing role.

This study caught my eye for two reasons. One is personal. My husband and I have spent more time than is normal picking colors for the rooms in our house. Actually, it’s all my fault. We’re on house number two, sold the first and bought another. In both cases, I spent way too much time, as in everyone wanted to kill me because I wouldn’t shut up about paint samples, trying to come up with the perfect palette.

When it came time to make decisions, my husband and I were like a page from this study. He preferred blues, and greenish blues at that. And I loved the red and gold colors. We settled on both, the upstairs having more of the cool colors and the downstairs being more warm. One thing we both agreed on though: no pink. For some reason, both houses had these yucky pink-tiled bathrooms when we bought them. Not anymore.

While pink may not be my cup of tea, it sure is for many little girls especially when it comes in the form of a princess dress. (Thanks much, Disney.) So what do you think? Does this study explain the irresistible pink princess dress? Do the girls you know love pink?

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Filed under beauty, brain, family life, gender and color preferences, girl, girls, kids, pink, psychology

bob blanchett

by kristin

have you seen this clip of cate blanchett as bob dylan in the upcoming biopic i’m not there?

and here s/he is again:

notthere1

what an amazing actor. her dylan impression is especially fresh for me after recently watching no direction home, a documentary about dylan’s early years and his transition from folk purist to rock & roll pariah. i love the idea behind this new movie – six distinct stages of dylan’s life as depicted by six different actors. i am so there.

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Filed under art, biography, bob dylan, cate blanchett, celebrity, drugs, entertainment, fantasy, folk music, i'm not there, movie, music, no direction home, rock & roll