Hooray! Some Good News…

By , January 31, 2009 6:22 pm

A big thank you to Lisa of Over the Crescent Moon for informing me that yesterday, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) unanimously voted to delay enforcement of certain testing and certification requirements.

The new requirements were scheduled to take effect on February 10, 2009 but enforcement will now be delayed for one year (February 10, 2010).  This will give the CPSC time to finalize four proposed rules which could exempt certain products from testing and provide more guidance on when testing would be required.

From the press release:

The stay of enforcement provides some temporary, limited relief to the crafters, children’s garment manufacturers and toy makers who had been subject to the testing and certification required under the CPSIA. These businesses will not need to issue certificates based on testing of their products until additional decisions are issued by the Commission. However, all businesses, including, but not limited to, handmade toy and apparel makers, crafters and home-based small businesses, must still be sure that their products conform to all safety standards and similar requirements, including the lead and phthalates provisions of the CPSIA.

Hooray!  This issue is not over yet, but at least Etsy and quality handmade and foreign toys have one more year of life.  It seems as though the vocal public outrage has produced a step in the right direction.

Thanks to all who let their voices be heard!!

Let’s hope that the CPSC will stay on this more reasonable path and narrow down the overly broad Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).



Here is a link to the full text of the press release:

CPSC Grants One Year Stay of Testing and Certification Requirements for Certain Products (from the CPSC website)

And the full text of the CPSIA is here.


Albatross Studies

By , January 30, 2009 8:38 pm

Perhaps my favorite place in the whole world is the South Island of New Zealand.  If you live there, I SO envy you!  What a beautiful place filled with nice people…I can’t say enough wonderful things about it.  The only drawback is that, for most of us in the world, it is a little out of the way.  No, make that VERY MUCH out of the way!  Upon further thought however, perhaps that is what keeps it so lovely and friendly?

Anyhow, I was once fortunate enough to be able to visit New Zealand’s South Island.  I believe it was in May and the leaves were turning color.  There was a fall chill in the air…strange, since we had just left tree buds exploding with flowers and greenery emerging from the sun’s warmth – a promise of lazy summer days was near.

We had many remarkable adventures in southern New Zealand as we explored the glacial and fjord-laden, yet lush, west coast; viewed spectacular snowy mountainscapes of the central region; and enjoyed sheep (many, many, MANY sheep) grazing on peaceful green hills in the eastern portion.

One of the most interesting places that we visited was the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin. Before the visit, I really new very little about these amazing birds, except that according to old sailing lore, it was considered bad luck to see one. Wasn’t an albatross involved in Edgar Allan Poe‘s novel,  The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym?

  • WEBCAM – I was quite excited to discover a live webcam from Dunedin’s Royal Albatross Center.  I found this quite some time ago and have been meaning to write about it.  At the moment, it seems to be showing just a general view of the colony since eggs are still incubating.  However when there are chicks, it is a nest cam!  Remember, that since it is live, you might find it is dark when you go to check it out due to the time difference.  Keep going back, it is worth it.
  • TRACKING – There are quite a few sites out there that show tracking results for albatross that have been fitted with satellite trackers:

Seaturtle.org (2004 data)

2008 Black-Footed Albatross “race”: Check out these amazing results for “the 2008 winner” named Oski.  In the 64 days (s)he was tracked, (s)he traveled a curved path totaling 19,571 km (a straight line distance of 4,943 km) at an average rate of 305 km/day!

The Hawaii Study:  Has a good teaching/classroom component.

  • ADOPTION – If your family or class has the means (or wants to do a few fundraisers), you can even adopt your own albatross.  The cost ($2,500 in 2008) covers the tracking tag and three months of data.  You can choose the name of your bird and follow him/her in real time through online maps.  Cool!  The non-profit sponsor, Oikonos, will also send you a framed photo of your actual bird as well as a map of the completed three month journey.
  • TEACHING – Good classroom tools here.

Oikonos also offers free, downloadable classroom tools about the effects of trash and debris on marine birds.

The Albatross Project

If you do nothing else, watch (and show your kids) this gorgeous video of albatrosses soaring over the ocean, and “playing” in the wind. It is such a beautiful sight that it actually made me cry! Please watch it!

OK, now that you have been moved to tears by these beautiful birds, how about trying to save them? Here are some organizations that would like some help (fundraiser anyone?):

  • GIVING – Organizations that aim to protect the albatross from long-line fishing and ocean trash:


Save the Albatross

Birds Australia

I don’t homeschool, but if I did, I would somehow work in an albatross unit despite the fact that I live in Arizona!  I hope that these resources will inspire somebody somewhere.


PHOTO CREDITS:  Thank you Wikimedia Commons!  For photo credits and licensing information, click on these links:  Squabbling Albatrosses and Soaring Albatross.


Technical Difficulties :(

By , January 29, 2009 1:37 pm

Ugh, I spent the whole morning writing a complicated post and it suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Not only that, every single post that I had written since September 2nd evaporated also! Nightmare!!

Thanks to the Word Press help forum, I was able to repair the appropriate database and all seems to be back to normal, however I am frustrated and feel like a slug that I spent my precious morning on the computer with absolutely nothing to show for it (except my new knowledge of how to repair a database table).

“Mom Unplugged” indeed. I am grumpy. I shall now truly unplug myself for today. Maybe another day I’ll have the energy to rewrite the destroyed portion of that post.

Now for a cup of tea…

Ball – Bernoulli’s Principle (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , January 26, 2009 11:48 am

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project was ball.  My original thought was golf ball.  We live on a golf course so our backyard provides us with a constant supply of golf balls!

We are still feeling very “sciency,” so I decided to stick with a science project like last week.  For a while now, I have been wanting to try a trick that I have seen on a larger scale at a science museum:  “floating” a ball in a stream of air to demonstrate Bernoulli’s Principle.

As a pilot and a flight instructor, I am very eager for my children to understand the physics of flight.  I have given them many lessons on the shape of airplane wings.  Each time we go someplace in our plane, I ask them to tell me about how the shape of the wing creates the lift that makes the plane fly.  In fact they have heard me go on about it so many times that they are now at the eye rolling, “here goes Mom again” stage.

I thought that they would enjoy this “magic trick” and felt they were ready for it as an added lesson relating to the airplane.

All you need is a hair dryer and a ping pong ball.  We had no ping pong ball (and golf balls are too heavy to use with the hairdryer) but I found a lightweight plastic ball in the playroom.  It was larger than a ping pong ball, but weighed about the same.

Turn the hair dryer on to high (if you have a “cool” setting, that’ll save your fingers from burning as you play with the ball) and point it straight up toward the ceiling.  Place the ball in the air flow.  If your ball is light enough, it should hover there.

You can slowly and gently tilt the hair dryer sideways and the ball will “follow,” remaining in the air stream until the angle is such that the force of gravity is stronger than the “lift” generated.  The ball will then fall to the ground.

For more fun, use a shop vac and some heavier balls.  (I recommend that you do this outside!)  Remove the hose from the vacuum port and attach it to the exhaust opening.  It will now blow air instead of suck it in.  Golf balls will work.  Try the lightweight ping pong ball that you used with the dryer too and you’ll see that with the stronger airflow, it will balance much higher.

Why do balls “float” this way?  Because of Bernoulli’s Principle!  Bernoulli’s Principle basically says that the faster a fluid (or air) flows, the less pressure it exerts.

To understand this experiment, you also need to know that air flowing over a curved surface flows faster than air flowing over a straight surface (the reason for this is complicated, but has to do with the same mass of air being forced through a smaller area – the curve takes up more space than the straight edge).

So:  The air that flows over the curved surface of the ball must flow faster than the air that goes straight up around the ball without touching it.  The faster flowing air in contact with the ball exerts less pressure than the surrounding air that is traveling straight up.  The lower pressure ball is “trapped” inside a cylinder of higher pressure and is thus held in place.

How does this relate to airplanes?  An airplane wing is curved on the top, and fairly flat on the bottom, as you can see in this drawing:

The air flowing over the upper curved surface flows faster than the air flowing along the lower, straighter surface. This means that the pressure on the top of the wing is less than that below the wing. Thus the wing is “lifted” or sucked upwards.

Airflow over a wing:

After the fun of last week’s video science lesson, we made another one this week. It is a bit longer (nearly 3 minutes), but we hope you enjoy it!


If you did a ball Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your project itself (rather than just your blog) in the Mr. Linky below.  If you didn’t join us, but would like to find out more about it, please don’t link, but read more here.


The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:




Update on Illegal Toys (…Clothes, Books, etc.)

By , January 22, 2009 11:05 pm

See this cute thrift store British guards pull toy that my 3 year-old loves?  (Made in England)

It was given to her by my thrift store-loving British Dad.

After February 10th, it will [might??] be illegal.

A quick update on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) situation:

  • As of today, there are 18 days until mandatory toy compliance certification is requested.  Only 18 more days of legal Etsy, of legal thrift stores, of legal used books (even library books), of legal thrift store clothing, of legal garage sale toys, books, clothes… [???? See NOTE below???] The scope is potentially HUGE.  It’s not just toys.

  • Ugh.


If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, here is a brief summary:

In August 2008 Congress passed the CPSIA with the goal of improving toy safety. It bans lead and phthalates from toys and children’s products and also mandates lots of extra testing and labeling. Well, the thought is nice, but in reality only large corporations will be able to afford the certification required. There is no exception for hand-crafted toys, or toys already certified under strict European standards.

The statute is overly broad and will effectively prohibit the sale of handmade toys in the United States. Even German toymaker Selecta has decided that the new law is too burdensome and has already withdrawn from the U.S. market.

If you want to, you can read more about this issue in these posts of mine:

Auf Wiedersehen Selecta (…Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)

Our Last Selecta Toy


NOTE: Thanks to alert reader Erika (I sound like Dave Barry) for pointing out my failure to completely do my homework.  On January 8th the CPSC published a clarification which apparently exempts resellers from the testing requirement.  So thrift stores, garage sales, used book stores and the like should be OK as long as they avoid selling “products that are likely to have lead content.” Here is the exact paragraph:

The new safety law does not require resellers to test children’s products in inventory for compliance with the lead limit before they are sold. However, resellers cannot sell children’s products that exceed the lead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to have lead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicate the products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellers that do sell products in violation of the new limits could face civil and/or criminal penalties.

It is still a bit troubling to me.  If I sell some antique toys to collectors on Ebay and one of those toys, unbeknownst to me, contains lead, will I be in violation of the law?  My interpretation of this is yes.  Hmmm….


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