September 27, 2014
Kids Arts and Crafts Books and Games

More than 400 activities to keep small children amused fill Play Together, Learn Together by Melanie Rice, illus. by Chris Barker. The eight sections include art projects, number games, playacting and laying the groundwork for reading and writing as well as metallic gold loom bands and rainbow looms Spot art adds cheery color to the pages. 

(Kingfisher, $12.95 paper 160p ages 3-up ISBN 0-7534-5294-4; Apr.)

The Kids ‘N’ Clay Ceramics Book, created by Kevin Nierman, written by Elaine Arima, illus. by Curtis H. Arima, includes hand-building and wheel-throwing projects from the Kids ‘N’ Clay Pottery Studio in Berkeley. Projects range from pinch pots to “storytelling bookends,” with small scenes formed on clay L-shaped bookends, from a “prickly porcupine” statue to a smooth dessert plate. The photos of projects made by students at the studio, and of the kids at work, add enormous appeal to the clearly explained and open-ended projects. Tips for helpers” (the adults) are scattered throughout the book. (Tricycle, $16.95 paper 128p ages 5-up ISBN 1-883672-89-9; Apr.)

In the small-format, many-paged Little Giant Book of After School Fun, edited by Sheila Anne Barry, Paul Sloane, Tom Bullimore, Mark Danna& Trip Payne, illus. by a variety of artists with b&w cartoon art, answers and an index, is packed with optical illusions, brain teasers, crosswords, card tricks, card games, word searches, little mysteries to solve and an array of other games. (Sterling, $6.95 paper 352p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-8069-7122-3; Apr.)

Head to Toe Science: Over 40 Eye-Popping, Spine-Tingling, Heart-Pounding Activities That Teach Kids About the Human Body by Jim Wiese features experiments using ordinary household materials. Projects include “Helpful Spit,” which teaches about the digestive system; “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff,” which tests lung capacity; and “Smelly Feet,” in which microbes that breed in sweaty tennis shoes are grown in a jar. The activities can also be expanded into science fair projects. (Wiley, $12.95 paper 128p ages 8-12 ISBN 0-471-33203-8; Apr.)

A substantial, colorful compendium of project ideas, Step-by-Step Crafts for Children includes sections for making jewelry, kites, cards and books. The jewelry section, for example, includes instructions for making a necklace of salt dough “bones,” clay beads that look like licorice and funky papier-mache glasses. Illustrated stepby-step instructions accompany the photos of finished works. (Kingfisher, $12.95 paper 160p ages 8-up ISBN 0-7534-5300-2; Apr.)

Two Crafts from the Past titles, first published by Heinemann in hardcover, are now available in paperback: The Egyptians and The Aztecs by Cillian Chapman. An introduction to Egyptian culture and beliefs frames the project ideas, e.g., making black ink for writing hieroglyphics and papiermache for nesting mummy cases. The Aztec crafts include weaving textiles and making mosaic masks. In each, stylized borders set off the colorful illustrations and photos of finished works. (Harper Festival, $9.95 paper each 40p ages 8-up ISBN 0-688-177468; -17748-4; Apr.)

October 13, 2012
Monitoring Your Life, Cell Phones and Texts

MOST of us see computerized dossiers, x-rayed luggage at airports, credit checks, video cameras in banks and stores, and electronic markers on consumer goods as the normal order of things. We think of these technologies as essential to life as we know it, not as threats that enhance surveillance and social control. However, many of these familiar systems have the potential to do just that. Indeed, most of them are so subtle, diffuse, and voluntary that we are unaware of the extent to which surveillance has become embedded into everyday life. For example, if you were looking into the question “is my girlfriend texting another guy”, you’d want to be sure that the outcome was the truth and not some error in the data.

Clearly these new forms of surveillance can be immensely beneficial. For example, the life of an elderly heart-attack victim who lived alone was saved when her failure to open her refrigerator sent an alarm through her telephone to a central monitor. A corrupt judge was caught when he took a bribe from an undercover police agent who tape-recorded the encounter. Serious crimes have been solved because of tips received on citizen hotlines. Advanced emergency systems that give a caller’s location and phone number the instant an operator answers have saved lives. Satellite photography has monitored industry’s compliance with emission standards. Credit cards have revolutionized travel and retail merchandising. Computer-matching programs may save tax dollars, and citizens may feel safer because of video surveillance in banks and stores.

Yet as large databanks and their management have become central to the workings of the modern industrial state, people have surrendered traditional notions of privacy for the sake of efficiency, and the information-gathering powers of the state and private organizations have extended deep into the social fabric. In focusing on the power of these surveillance techniques, I do not suggest that we are hapless victims of technological determinism who can do little more than bemoan our loss of liberty. The fact that technology can be misused does not necessarily mean that it will be. Government legislation, good program design, and intelligent management have reduced the potential for errors and abuse. The United States has more restrictions on the use of surveillance technologies than most countries. Furthermore, some potential for surveillance has been neutralized by countersurveillance devices —such as the detectors that warn drivers of police radar units. However, there is often a significant time lag between the appearance of a new technology and its regulation, and regulation when it does come is often weaker than desirable. For example, many states still do not regulate the use of lie-detector tests.

I do not argue that more harm than good now comes from these new technologies. My point is simply that in our eagerness to innovate and our infatuation with the efficiency and gimmickry of technical progress in day-to-day transactions, the potentials for negative results from these new developments simply have not received enough attention. More should be done to safeguard privacy now, and still more as new technologies are perfected and more widely applied.

October 11, 2012

Is Golf Practice All You Need for Lower Scores?

Golf is a very demanding sport, both physically and mentally. Most recreational golfers would love to have a more powerful swing and lower their handicaps. Good instruction from a teaching pro and practice of what you’ve learned can help lower your scores. There is however, more to achieving consistent improvement. It’s great to go to the driving range and practice. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re further embedding the wrong movement patterns into your swing.To achieve the most from your instruction and practice time, there is another segment of your game that should be constantly evaluated. While it is receiving more attention of late, there’s still many avid golfers that don’t include this important factor into their strategy. What’s the secret?One of the best ways to achieve and maintain overall improvement on the course is to perform a golf fitness routine on a regular basis. This can do wonders to improve power and consistency. Strength, balance, and flexibility play a major role in the effectiveness of your golf swing. I’m not talking about body building, but rather simply toning and conditioning your body for the movements required during a round of golf.The golf swing places complex demands on the body. There must be mental concentration, neuromuscular coordination, balance, and muscular strength and flexibility all functioning at the same time during the few seconds it takes to make your swing. Most teaching professionals will admit one of the major reasons their students don’t progress to the next level of play is due to lack of muscular strength and flexibility.By conditioning your body using what’s called the principles of functional training for golf, you can prepare your body for every movement required on the course. Functional fitness is designed to mimic the movements of the golf swing. All the components required for an effective golf swing can be improved. So, instead of hitting thousands of golf balls on the driving range, why not tone up the fuel for your golf club…your body. You’ll not only improve your performance on the course, you’ll be better conditioned for the demands of daily life.

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