Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Top 3 Qualities of a Good Kiddie Crayon

When my baby expressed desire to start eating on her own, her clothes, her highchair, and the dining floor soon started to get messy. When she learned how to get toys from her own room, the entire house soon became a mess. When we taught her how to write with real pen and crayons, again, her clothes, the floor, the walls, and the bed sheets soon became a mess.

Not that I’m complaining but it’s just hard to keep an eye on her all the time. She knows she had restrictions and rules to follow; we always made it clear to her. But when she’s having fun, it’s her playful rules that… oh well… rules.

It's when her mom yelps that horror movie-quality "Oh my!" or "Oh no!" still-can’t-believe phrases that my daughter knew she probably did something mommy didn’t like. Perhaps another teeny weeny 2-inch colorful crayon mark on the bed sheet? Oogh… mommy shrieks, baby (I’m fond of calling my daughter that) pauses then cries.

Good thing we already anticipated such things might happen. The crayons we bought were furniture-friendly and best of all – safe for kids!

Non-toxic. Kids are not stupid to eat crayons right out of the box. But of course, curiosity is another matter. Being dared to do something by playmates is another issue as well. A crayon fragment accidentally dropped in a jelly bean jar is another.

Whatever the case maybe, it is important to know that the brand you’re buying meets or exceeds specific quality standards, and contains no known toxic substances in sufficient quantities to be harmful to the human body, even if ingested or inhaled. If needed, your physician may contact your local poison control center for assistance in obtaining product ingredient information.

But even though your preferred brand is considered not-toxic, it is possible for one child to have sensitivity to a particular ingredient, just as one could have sensitivity to a certain food. Go for brands that have been tested against common allergens to identify any possible sensitivities.

Washable. My daughter loves to doodle just about anywhere she can find a comfortable lying-down position. That is... on the bed most of the time.

She knew we forbid her to write anywhere else but on her coloring books and on her paper boards. But when she’s pretty much drawn into her multi-colored art, her canvass sometimes extends to the bed sheets. And if she gets tired and falls asleep, the crayons can get squeezed under the pillows leaving marks as well.

Good thing we gave her crayons made from washable water soluble materials. These types come completely off most fabrics (off walls too and other non-porous household surfaces) with a wipe of a wet sponge. And when we're too lazy, we stuff marked items down the washing machine.

For non-washable crayon marks on walls, hope is not lost. Baby wipes with baking soda can still do the trick.

Durable and easy to use. Big adult hands are adept to regular-sized pastels; small kiddie hands prefer the over-sized jumbo crayons. Interchanging the two will result in kids breaking the crayons into pieces.

As with my daughter, she doesn’t have yet that dexterity in her right hand to control the force applied on the crayon. The longer she colors, the more pressure she exerts on the crayon. Either the crayon breaks, or it tears through the paper.

Jumbo crayons are good because they’re durable and provide better grip for small hands. The only problem is, like with its smaller cousins, when they get dull, they have to be peeled and sharpened. Aside from creating a mess, it wastes precious crayons into shreds.

There’s a new brand of "twistable" crayons eliminating the need for frequent sharpening and label peeling. These twistables are the same old crayon stick, housed in durable plastic barrels. When the tip is wearing down, a simple twist advances the stick inside. The clear plastic allows you to see how much crayon is left.

So far, this is the best crayon my wife and I bought for our daughter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Top 3 Internet Web Browsers

Before the internet started consuming my precious sleeping hours at night, I was an avid BBS user. With my ASCII-based client and at a maximum throughput of 14.4Kbps using my now-Jurassic metal-cased modem, I downloaded all the low-res porn and puny DOS games that I can.

Then with the advent of the internet, one-by-one, the BBS servers went out of reach. Shifting to the emerging trend, my so-called BBS browser became not obsolete… but useless.

The very first internet browser that I used was that of NetScape’s. Because of its far more complex page formatting, internet appeared to be slower than its BBS predecessor. Nevertheless, the on-line experience proved to be much more engaging.

Have a look at the top web browsers of today keeping us informed more than ever. May the search engines have mercy on your fingertips.

Mozilla Firefox 3.51
When Firefox was first released in November 2004, I was like "Fire… what?" because I was always hesitant to try applications other than the ones that came bundled with my OS.

Thanks to the layout inconsistencies and countless crashes I had with IE8, I was forced to try Firefox. I have to admit, I’m glad I made the switch.

No longer a fledgling upstart, Firefox 3 is full-featured, lightning fast, and an able foe for both the big-dog competitor Internet Explorer and competitors nipping at its heels. Firefox's killer add-ons remain strong, and the latest update makes v3.5 about 2x faster than v3. However, competition is strong and it can no longer be said that Firefox is the fastest browser available.

Latest Firefox features include tabbed browsing, a spell checker, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager, private browsing, location-aware browsing (aka GeoLocation) based exclusively on a Google service and an integrated search system that uses Google by default in most localizations. Functions can be added through add-ons, created by third-party developers, of which there is a wide selection, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox's users.

Internet Explorer 8
Ah... the monopolistic browser that had Microsoft paying millions of dollars in courtroom settlements. It tried and (brutally) succeeded in dominating the browser market share, forcing its competitor (guess who) to concede and eventually disband.

Its latest version, Internet Explorer 8, addresses just about all of the major concerns that users and critics have had with the world's most used browser since 1999. Whether they get answered in a way you like is another matter.

There are several new and interesting features. Web Slices lets you save predefined sections of a Web page for at-a-glance viewing. Accelerators make repetitive tasks one-click behaviors, for instance finding directions or blogging. InPrivate browsing introduces a cache and history on-off switch, while related tabs are color-coded and automatically reorganized as you open them. There's also tab sandboxing, which means that when a tab crashes, IE itself won't, and it even tries to resurrect the page that crashed.

An unwanted new feature (?) in IE8 is that it frequently crashes whenever I change the layout of this blog (say add a widget) and tried to hit on the Refresh button. I don’t recall experiencing the same glitch with IE7, nor with my current Firefox browser. It seems like the "frequent crashes" were far from unusual.

Google Chrome 2.01
Chrome is Google's endeavor to make the browser facade disappear and to shift focus on the applications and pages the users are viewing. Some of Chrome's basic supporting architectures are quite novel, similar to other open-source browsers on the market today. Initially for Windows, versions for Linux and Mac OS X were released as well.

Chrome is blazingly fast and is easily the quickest browser available. Its minimalistic interface is a drastic departure from the norms of modern web browsers. Instead of the traditional toolbar, Chrome puts its tabs on top. Tabs can be detached into a separate window, and can be dragged and dropped back into the browser (a neat feature actually).

The search bar and the address bar have been fused into a single control Omnibox. The Omnibox includes suggestions from URLs stored in the browser history and from the search engine. The stealth mode, Incognito, lets you surf without storing any history information or cookies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Toy R Us vs. Toy Kingdom

Toys R Us and Toy Kingdom, two of the biggest names when it comes to toy-centered retailers in the country today. A mere mention would probably bring ear-wide smiles to most kids and plus a couple of swipes to their dad’s (or mom’s) credit card.

Toys R Us or (or Toys Я Us) is a toy store chain based in the United States and has locations in Europe, Asia, Oceania, Canada, and Africa as well. Toy Kingdom, on the other hand, is based in the Philippines - owned and developed by the SM Group.

The Toy Kingdom franchise is exclusive only to SM mall branches such as SM Megamall, SM Southmall, and SM Mall of Asia. A lone exception to this is The Podium which also operates a Toy Kingdom express store.

Unlike Toy Kingdom, the Toys R Us branding is carried by more malls such as all Robinson’s malls (Galleria, Places, Midtown, etc.), Trinoma mall, Festival Supermall, and Tutuban Center.

Despite the numerous branches of Toys R Us in the country and after buying (on a number of different occasions) in some of their local branches (Galleria, Trinoma, and Metro East), I still feel that the Toy Kingdom (Megamall) "experience" is far far better. Probably because Toy Kingdom (Megamall), with its innovative store design and very distinctive toy zones, was able to capture the awe in kids and parents alike.

From its modest beginnings in 1991, Toy Kingdom was cited as the best toy store in 2006 by the Philippine Retailers Association.

Today, Toy Kingdom’s different zones will amaze one through a wonderful selection of recreational, educational, interactive, and collectible toys. Here are the lists of a few of those zones:

In all fairness, Toys R Us has the largest toy store in the United States (and possibly the world) with its flagship store located in New York City’s Time Square - even featuring a colorful Ferris wheel.

But if I ask my 3-year old daughter "where do you want to go and look for toys", she’ll immediately answer "Toy Kingdom". Other than she can barely try out any toys at Toys R Us here, she finds their toy personnel intimidating (she always grabs me by the leg whenever one of the staff is near us). Imagine, instead of offering us the coolest or the most creative of toys for my daughter, they just stood there barely enthusiastic either at us or at their work, as if sending the impression "if you’re not going to buy anything, don’t touch anything".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Top 5 Thermometers for Baby

It is no longer recommended, not just for parents, but for the general public as well, to use glass mercury thermometers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns the possible risk of exposure to mercury which is considered an environmental toxin.

I used to play with it though - such a fascinating drop of liquid. I can break them into small drops and then combine them back again. Way back then I didn’t know they were toxic nor did my parents.

So if you still have those old mercury thermometers tuck in one of your grandpa’s drawers, better consult your local health office on where and how to dispose them properly.

Digital Thermometers
Before with the mercury-types, you have to sit and wait for about three whole minutes, crimping the glass tube under your armpit (or under your tongue), barely inching a muscle otherwise the reading will not be accurate.

Thank goodness for the invention of the digital thermometer - taking a child’s temperature now only takes a couple of seconds. This type of thermometer comes in many shapes and sizes, some with interchangeable accessories specifically designed for babies. Many digital thermometers can be used for the following temperature-taking methods:

  • oral or in the mouth (upper photo)

  • rectal or at the bottom (right photo)

  • axillary or under the arm (upper photo)

Digital thermometers usually have a plastic, flexible probe with a temperature sensor at the tip and an easy-to-read digital display on the opposite end.

Electronic Ear Thermometers
These types measure the tympanic temperature or the temperature inside the ear canal. Although they're quick and easy to use in older babies and children, electronic ear thermometers aren't as accurate for infants 3 months old and below (as compared to digital thermometers) and are far more expensive. Depending on the manufacturer’s advice, be sure to clean its ear-probe thoroughly before and after use.

Plastic Strip Thermometers
These are small plastic strips that you press against your child's forehead. They may be able to tell you (usually via color indicators) whether your child has a fever, but they aren't reliable for taking an exact measurement, especially in infants and very young children. If you need to know your child's exact temperature, plastic strip thermometers are not the way to go.

Forehead Thermometers
These types may be able to tell you if your child has a fever, but were previously not as accurate as the oral or rectal digital thermometers. Newer temporal artery thermometers, though still very expensive, have been shown in studies to be very accurate. They may someday become more widely available and affordable.

Pacifier Thermometers
These may seem convenient, but again, their readings are less reliable than rectal temperatures and shouldn't be used in infants younger than 3 months. They also require the child to keep the pacifier in the mouth for several minutes without moving, which is a nearly impossible task for most babies and toddlers.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top 3 Mentally Calculating Child Wonders

Ever since the introduction of electronic calculators about 35 years ago, they have become an indispensible tool even in the most simplest of calculation. Meet the few geniuses whose calculating accuracy cannot be matched by any handheld calculator today.

Alexis Claude Lemaire (1980) is a French computer scientist and mental calculation champion who holds world records for mentally calculating the integer 13th root of a 100-digit number and of a 200-digit number.

On May 10, 2002 he calculated the 13th root of a 100-digit number in 13.55 seconds, beating the record held by Willem Klein (88.8 seconds) and the somewhat less official record of Gert Mittring (39 seconds). On November 23, 2004 Mittring tried to beat Lemaire's record, but his time of 11.8 seconds was not counted as official as the organization's rules had decided to stop recognising records for root extraction of random numbers due to the difficulty of standardising the challenge. Less than a month later Lemaire beat his own record with a time of 3.625 seconds - that's all it took for him to read the number, calculate its root, and recount the answer. He found the 13th root of the 100-digit number 3,893,458,979,352,680,277,349,663,255,651,930,553,265,700,608,215,449,817,188,566, 054,427,172,046,103,952,232,604,799,107,453,543,533, which is 45,792,573. However, this record is also unofficial.

Following this achievement, Lemaire gave up trying to improve his performance at calculating roots of 100-digit numbers, and moved on to 200-digit numbers. Like an athlete, he trains his brain daily for this task. On April 6, 2005 he calculated the 13th root of a 200-digit number in 8 minutes 33 seconds. By July 30, 2007 Alexis got his time down to 77.99 seconds at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford and by November 15 his time was further decreased to 72.4 seconds. His latest achievement came on December 10, 2007 where he mentally extracted the 13th root of a random 200-digit number in 70.2 seconds. The so-called 'mathlete' produced the answer of 2,407,899,883,032,220 at London's Science Museum.

A computer was used to produce the random 200-digit numbers he tried to extract the 13th root from. The museum's curator of mathematics said, "He sat down and it was all very quiet - and all of a sudden he amazingly just cracked it. I believe that it is the highest sum calculated mentally. He seems to have a large memory and he's made this his life's ambition. It's quite remarkable to see it happen. A very small number of people have this extraordinary ability; nowadays there is only a handful." Lemaire says that his mental feats also have very useful applications in artificial intelligence, his chosen field.

Shakuntala Devi (November 4, 1939) is an Indian born calculating child prodigy. Her calculating gifts first demonstrated themselves while she was doing card tricks with her father when at the age of three. They report she "beat" them by memorization of cards rather than by sleight of hand. By age six she demonstrated her calculation and memorization abilities at the University of Mysore. At the age of eight she had success at Annamalai University by doing the same.

Unlike many other calculating prodigies, her abilities did not wane in adulthood. In 1977 she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. On June 18, 1980 she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 picked at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She answered the question in 28 seconds. However, this time is more likely the time for dictating the answer (a 26-digit number) than the time for the mental calculation (the time of 28 seconds was quoted on her own website). Her correct answer was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730. This event is mentioned on page 26 of the 1995 Guinness Book of Records with ISBN 0-553-56942-2.

In 2006 she released a book called In the Wonderland of Numbers with Orient Paperbacks which talks about a girl Neha and her fascination for numbers.

Truman Henry Safford (January 6, 1836) was an American calculating prodigy.

At an early age he attracted public attention by his remarkable calculation powers. At the age of nine, a local priest asked him to multiply 365,365,365,365,365,365 by itself. In less than a minute he gave the correct answer of 133,491,850,208,566,925,016,658,299,941,583,225. At around this age he also developed a new rule for calculating the moon's risings and settings, taking one-quarter of the time of the existing method.

Unlike many other calculating prodigies, Safford did not give public exhibitions. He went to college and studied astronomy. He became the second director of the Hopkins Observatory at Williams College, the oldest extant astronomical observatory in the United States. He served as director of the Observatory until his death in 1901. The Safford Fund for Williams College student researchers was created by his descendants to honor him. A portrait of him as a child prodigy hangs in the Hopkins Observatory's Mehlin Museum of Astronomy, adjacent to the Milham Planetarium. His natural calculating abilities seemed to wane with age.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

One Small Act Can Make a World of Difference

Recently, Hewlett-Packard (HP) urged PC users around the world to help save energy. Did you know that the simple act of turning off your computer can help reduce energy waste, curb carbon emissions and even save money? It may be a small change, but it can make a big difference – especially when a global community of people do it together.

The simple act of shutting down your computer when you are done for the day can make a world of difference. If we all commit to this one small change, we can reduce energy waste and curb carbon emissions. Join HP’s Power To Change (PTC) campaign and take an important step toward making the world a greener place today.

If 100,000 users shut down their work computers at the end of each day, energy savings could total more than 2,680 kilowatt-hours (kWh) and carbon emissions reductions could total more than 1,600 kilograms (kg) per day. This is the equivalent of eliminating more than 105 cars from the road each day.

Small changes can make a world of difference.

Be part of a global movement and engage in a community of like-minded individuals all making this change for the better. Download the Power To Change widget which reminds you to turn off your computer and keeps track of your energy savings. Here, you can also see the impact that you and the rest of the world are making on the environment.

Start today. Turn off your computer when you are done for the day and help spread the word.

Now what should I do about my pending torrents collection (another PTC)? I have to admit it saves me a lot of money. Now my heart is torn between two PTCs.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Top 5 Baby Grooming Needs

Admit it or not, most parents unconsciously treat their babies as their real-life Barbie dolls - bathing and dressing them as if they’re competing for the baby universe pageant. While this is good, overdoing it however, is not.
photo from iStockPhoto
Babies smell naturally wonderful (unless they’re covered in poop). And as far as grooming is concerned, “less is almost always” beneficial for babies. Use products that have few additives and fragrances as possible. Remember, baby skin is very delicate and tender.

Also, choose grooming accessories that do not break easily into parts. You know the babies' moto - if they can pick it up, they can put it in their mouth.

Liquid soap, foam, or baby soap. Though generally cheaper, baby soaps are probably used less these days than its liquid counterpart. Soaps aren’t uniform all throughout and may contain slightly rough surfaces than can scratch baby’s skin. And if you’re not careful on how you grip the soap, your fingernails may scratch the baby’s delicate skin as well. Accidentally dropping the soap might force you to react in a way that can either harm or frighten the baby.

On the other hand, liquid soaps or foams offer the same cleaning benefits as soaps do but are easier to rinse. And since they are contained in dispensers, you dispense only the amount needed. Most liquid soaps can be used in baby’s hair too.

In either form, they have to be used sparingly. Look for a gentle formula and (of course) a trusted brand.

No-tears baby shampoo. If, like my daughter, your baby already has plenty of hairs at birth, you may want to consider a no-tears baby shampoo. Choose a brand that lathers into foam so that it holds and stay put, making it easier to control. Otherwise, the shampoo solution may drip onto baby’s eyes and cause irritation. This may tempt the baby to rub her eyes which can only cause further irritation (unlike adults, babies are not that gentle when it comes to scratching).

photo from ShutterStockBaby oil. It is usually preferred to keep the baby’s skin dry so as to prevent bacterial and fungal growth. But if the baby’s skin is left dry for too long it may start to flake. Though the baby’s skin normally peels during the first week, excessive peeling can hurt especially if it reddens.

Baby oil keeps baby’s skin moisturized and slows down the rate of peeling. It also keeps their skin soft and smooth to the touch.

Also, if you need to gently clean a sticky bowel off a sore bottom, baby oil comes in handy.

Baby powder. Depending on where you live, your baby may not need baby powder at all. Those residing in colder climates may opt to skip using baby powder for their little ones. They think the tendency of babies to sweat is very minimal as compared to those living in warm weather.

As an astringent, baby powder is used to prevent diaper rash. It also reduces the chances of the baby developing sweat rash along the neck and back area. And as a deodorant, baby powder keeps our little one smelling fresh in between baths.

So if you choose to powder, get one that is corn-based (corn flour). Talc-based powder has a tendency to cause aspiration pneumonia or granuloma if inhaled.

Baby wipes. Wet wipes comes in very handy for diaper changes in places where access to clean running water is impossible (in the car or strolling in the middle of nowhere). It is also effective for hand washing on the go, clean-ups after spit-ups, and dozens of other uses.

Use cotton balls and plain water for cleansing baby's bottom during the first few weeks and whenever diaper rash is a problem. The amount of friction applied when cleaning with baby wipes may only aggravate nasty rashes even more.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Transformers Star to Play Hulk?

Umm... Sam Witwicky? Nope. Agent Simmons of Sector Seven? Not quite. Optimus Prime? Megatron? Bumble...

Hold on a sec, here's another clue. The supposedly next hulk movie is not going to be played by any actor (or voice actors) of the recent megahit Transformers.

So it's going to be played by a woman? A gay hulk? Yaiks!

Well, in case you haven't heard, Marvel Comics green monster hero Hulk (better known as the Incredible Hulk) has a female cousin - She-Hulk. The superheroine, created by writer Stan Lee and artist John Buscema, first appeared in Savage She-Hulk issue #1 way back in February 1980.

Fast forward today, Megan Fox who played as "Mikaela Banes" in the chart topper Transformers, is a big favorite to portray the giant green female in the big screen adaptation of the She-Hulk comic book series.

Sources had it that "She-Hulk comics are popular so it's only natural that the character makes the transition to the big screen. The idea is to make She-Hulk sexier but even more savage than the Hulk, which is why Megan is the big favourite for the lead. She'll be green of course and will have to hang on to a few more pieces of clothes than the male version when she transforms!"

Wow, her tops must be very elastic otherwise she will tear through most of it. Ooh goodie... talk about being naughty. I'm getting excited already.

More boring details: She-Hulk has been a member of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Heroes For Hire, Defenders, Fantastic Force, and S.H.I.E.L.D. A highly skilled lawyer, she has served as legal counsel to various superheroes on numerous occasions.