Nov 30 2006

Singing Cowboy

Category: HealthTim @ 10:58 pm

In light of the teen smoking post, I felt like sharing this video. TheTruth.com is producing some good videos that show the scary reality of smoking.


Nov 30 2006

Teen Smoking – What Can We Do to Stop It?

Category: Health,ParentingTim @ 10:57 pm

Google Teen Smoking and see what you get. I count over 2.7 million links and would say that qualifies as an important issue in our world today. What can be done to stop teens from smoking?

Let’s start with the most hypocritical group in the mix; tobacco companies who produce anti-smoking ads. Clearly, the tobacco companies are extremely interested in cultivating new young and healthy customers. It seems their regular customer base has a high mortality level. Why on earth would these people want to produce non-smoking ads?

In a report published recently in the online version of American Journal of Public Health, researchers looked at those anti-smoking ads and found some interesting results:

“These results are very important because they demonstrate that the tobacco company’s nominal ‘youth smoking prevention’ programs do not prevent kids from smoking,” said Stanton A. Glantz, a professor of medicine at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco.

“These programs, like earlier similar efforts by the tobacco industry, simply serve the industry’s public relations needs and support their political efforts to displace meaningful tobacco control,” Glantz said. “The industry should immediately suspend these programs.”

Well, that would confirm what would be a logical assumption. Tobacco companies are just trying to put a good face on their deadly product. Being aware of the real reason behind some anti-smoking campaigns can be a big influence in stopping teens from smoking. Researchers at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that teens were half as likely to smoke if they understood the subliminal messages in cigarette ads:

“Many factors that influence a teen’s decision to smoke – like peer influence, parental smoking and risk-seeking tendency – are difficult to change,” said the study’s lead author, Brian Primack, M.D., Ed.M., assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s division of general internal medicine. “However, media literacy, which can be taught, may be a valuable tool in efforts to discourage teens from smoking.”

The more teens are aware of the games that are being played in the media, the less likely they are to smoke. And that’s a good thing because other research is showing another reason for kids to avoid smoking:

Younger smokers in the 12- to 14-year-old age group were 28.4 percent more susceptible to developing an alcohol problem later compared with 4.2 percent for nonsmokers although both reported having one to eight drinks in the past month.

[…] smoking appears to prime the brain for subsequent addiction to alcohol and possibly other substances.

It’s not bad enough that the smoking can kill you, it also gets you primed for other addictions.

So what’s the answer? Many communities, cities, and states are considering or have passed non-smoking laws. Others are continuing to raise taxes on cigarettes in an effort to either stop smokers or generate some positive cash-flow for governments. Do these efforts work on teens?

I believe some of the anti-smoking ads by thetruth.com and others do have an impact. I work at a cancer hospital and get daily reminders of the results of smoking. I know that one trip to our Head & Neck Center will be all it takes to ensure my kids never smoke. It’s not a pretty sight.

For more, check out these blogs:


Nov 30 2006

Violent Video Games Emotionally Arousing Teens

Category: Health,Kids & Technology,ParentingTim @ 8:39 am

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine wanted to find out what happens in the brain when teens play video games. They selected 44 teens with no history of behavior problems and asked them to play video games:

Half played a T-rated (for Teen) first-person shooter game called Medal of Honor: Frontline, involving military combat, while the other group played a nonviolent game called Need for Speed: Underground.

After playing, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study what happened in the teen’s brains and found some interesting results:

“Our study suggests that playing a certain type of violent video game may have different short-term effects on brain function than playing a nonviolent, but exciting, game,” said Dr. Vincent Mathews, a professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis and the study’s author.

[…]

“What we showed is there is an increase in emotional arousal. The fight or flight response is activated after playing a violent video game,” Mathews said.

Well, how does this activated fight or flight response effect teens?

“During tasks requiring concentration and processing of emotional stimuli, the adolescents who had played the violent video game showed distinct differences in brain activation than the adolescents who played an equally exciting and fun – but nonviolent – game,” Dr. Mathews said. “Because of random assignment, the most likely factor accounting for these differences would be the group to which the volunteers were assigned.”

Said another way:

The brain scans showed more activity in brain areas tied to emotional arousal — and less activity in brain areas linked to self-control — in the violent video game group.

Bottom line; violent video games cause teens to become more emotionally aroused and lowers their self-control. As a parent, I’m thinking that’s not such a good combination.

The researchers are quick to point-out that this is only one study and the long-term effects are not yet known. However, these first results give us all something to think about…


Nov 29 2006

Zune or iPod? Is there really a choice?

Category: Kids & Technology,Sci/TechTim @ 8:29 pm

On November 14th, with much fan fair, Microsoft threw itself into the mp3 player market with the launch of their Zune player:

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment platform that provides an end-to-end solution for connected entertainment. The Zune experience includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service, and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. Inspired by the vast and varied community of music fans, Zune focuses on helping emerging artists shape the digital canvas.

Zune

Will the Zune be the next big threat to the iPod? Is this another round in the continuous struggle between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates? Are we seeing a shift in the music player marketplace? Businessweek doesn’t think so:

The Zune is not generally seen as a threat to the iPod, which dominates the portable music player market. Shaw Wu, an analyst for American Technology Research, has predicted that Zune’s success may instead come at the expense of other makers of portable music players, such as Sony, Samsung and Creative Technology Ltd.

Ok, it’s not seen as a threat, but how is it selling?

An Amazon.com selling list for electronics on Monday featured seven digital media players, including six iPod models, but did not include Microsoft’s Zune device, the article said. Cyber Monday, the Monday following Black Friday, is usually one of the busiest online shopping days of the year.

It’s still early and there is a lot of iPod bias out there, but check out headlines from various publications

The last one is my favorite. It’s the headline from a post on C.W. Nevius.blog and sums it up this way:

Same price, fewer features. But it is available in brown.

That doesn’t sound good. What does Microsoft have to say?

Microsoft Corp. is pleased with initial sales of its Zune music player, even as Eugene Munster, a Piper Jaffray & Cos. analyst, says few retailers are recommending the device as an alternative to Apple’s iPod. ”All signs indicate that we are on track to meet our internal business projections,” said Zune sales director Jason Reindorp.

Apparently, Microsoft is happy just to be in the game. To me, the big test was answered last night by my 15-year-old.

Dad – “Son, what have you heard about the Zune?”

Son – “What’s a Zune?”

Other Blogging:


Nov 28 2006

Mom was Wrong, Slouching is Good!

Category: Health,ParentingTim @ 10:25 pm

In what can only be viewed as a sure sign of the apolocalypse, a new study from Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland finds that slouching is actually good for your back:

The “slouch” position revealed a reduction in spinal disk height, signifying a high rate of wear and tear on the lowest two spinal levels.

When they looked at all test results, the researchers said the 135-degree position was the best for backs, and say this is how people should sit.

Translation, slouching at 135 degrees produces much less strain on your back than the correct posture 90 degree position. The research were quick to caution us on one thing, sitting at 135 degrees can cause one to slip of the chair and risk additional spinal injuries. They recommend something around 120 degrees to be safe. Anyone have a protractor?

What’s next, sitting too close to the television helps your eyesight? Running with scissors is good for cardiovascular circulation and prevents the onset of arthritis? Maybe eating all your veggies can be harmful? Spinach anyone?


Nov 28 2006

Cy-Fair High School – Sam McGuffie’s Hurdle

Category: Houston,Video,Youth SportsTim @ 10:02 pm

I had the good fortune to be at this game and witness Sam McGuffie live.

Check this out:

McGuffie rushed for 376 yards that night with 8 touchdowns. Oh yeah, he’s only a Junior.


Nov 28 2006

Sports Associations Equal Easy Money

Category: Youth SportsTim @ 10:02 pm

It’s tough work being involved in a youth sports association. You try hard to gather enough money to build fields/parks/courts, outfit the kids in uniforms, hire quality officials, develop and maintain websites, pay the legal fees to keep the IRS from circling, and still managing to conduct actual games while fending off glory-crazed parents. And the best part, most associations are run by volunteers.

Apparently, the president of The Southwest Youth Athletic Association in Springfield Illinois decided the association owed him for his trouble:

According to a Springfield police report, the youth baseball league’s former president, Gary A. Gaulding, wrote 80 checks to himself totaling almost $147,000 between August 2003 and last April. That’s more than $1,800 per check. Prosecutors say the amount could reach as high as $165,000.

Not bad work if you can find it.

What makes this case even worse; ten years ago the association was almost bankrupt and about to close. The fact that they pulled this association out of the red and built a highly successful organization. I guess you could say it was a little too successful…