Make a Cheap, No-Sew Halloween Costume for Your Kid (Without Losing Your Mind)

Some tips to make your Halloween stitch-witchery a little easier.

It’s nearly that time of year again. As September wraps up and October looms ahead, kids between the ages of three and 13 start brainstorming about what they will dress up as for Halloween. Meanwhile, moms everywhere give a collective sigh, because they will be responsible for conjuring up yet another costume.
In Halloween costumes – and in life – I’ve always been a do-it-yourself mom. For one, it usually costs less money to build a costume out of makeshift materials than to buy one from a big-box retailer.
Sometimes the individual elements can even be repurposed after the holiday, so it’s less wasteful, too. If you buy a pair of gray sweatpants to go with a shark costume, they don’t have to be shoved into your dress-up box on November 1st. Your kiddo can wear them all through the winter.
I also just like making things myself. Costumes, cakes, curtains, you name it. While I’m not really a fully-committed “Pinterest Mom” (my husband might disagree with that, so don’t ask him), I do find enjoyment in turning a pile of old clothes, a stack of felt, and some hot glue into a costume that vaguely resembles a Ninja turtle.
As a stay-at-home mom, my days are often filled with the menial kinds of tasks that keep a household running but leave me feeling awfully unproductive at the end of the day. DIY projects make me happy. And my kids, so far, have appreciated the one-of-a-kind costumes I’ve been able to put together for them.
Without any judgment on the moms who toss a costume into their Target cart, pay the bill, and get on with their day, you might be someone who looks at those $39.99 prepackaged costumes and thinks, “Huh, I could probably make that myself for at least half the price.”
Whether you want to avoid shelling out big bucks for an overpriced mermaid costume or simply want to get your hands dirty with pipe cleaners, rhinestones, and scrap fabric, here are some tips to make your Halloween stitch-witchery a little easier.

Give your kids a deadline for making a decision

If your kids are like mine, they start proposing costume ideas in July and change their minds no less than a dozen times. You know what’s worse than scouring eBay, Amazon, and the craft stores for all the supplies needed to make a Dora the Explorer costume? Having your kid decide she actually wants to be Doc McStuffins instead. Let your kids entertain a million different ideas at first, but tell them no take-backs once it’s October.

Look around your house before you buy anything

What do old sheets, aluminum foil, muffin tins, wooden curtain rods, cardboard paper towel rolls, and bungee cords all have in common? They can be re-purposed into any manner of costume parts or accessories, and they’re probably all lurking somewhere in your basement. Shop local first – as in your own house – before you start searching elsewhere.

Get thee to a thrift store

Used clothes are the perfect foundation items for homemade, no-sew costumes. Hoodies can be turned into anything requiring a headpiece (like many animals), skirts and dresses can be refashioned into everything from cloaks and capes to princess and fairy outfits, and a T-shirt turned inside-out to hide a logo or graphic is basically a blank slate for whatever you need it to be.
Bonus: you’ll feel significantly less guilty about taking a pair of fabric scissors to a gently-used $3 sweatshirt than one you just bought, brand-new, for $14.99.

Invest in a glue gun

This step is essential. I have never once used a sewing machine (or even a needle and thread) to make a costume for my kids. Instead, I hot-glue everything. Truly – everything. Buttons, felt, fabric, velcro closures, PVC piping, cardboard. It works on nearly every kind of material. Fabric glue and Krazy glue work only selectively, under certain circumstances. Hot glue is the most dependable and versatile option.

Felt is your friend

You can use felt for anything. A swath of soft, flexible felt can be bought by the yard and used just like fabric. It cuts more smoothly and bonds together better with hot glue than its cotton, flannel, and fleece counterparts. It’s very forgiving.
Stiffer felt, usually sold in rectangular sheets, is perfect for decorative accents: animal or character facial features, superhero emblems, letters and numbers, flowers and leaves, headbands and hair accessories. The stiff kind is also the easiest and most comfortable way to make a partial face mask. (Just cut two holes on either side and attach with sewing elastic.)

Leave yourself enough time

This is probably the toughest part. Depending on your level of craftiness, it might take two hours or two days to whip up a Captain America or Lego Ninjago costume for your kiddo. I know you’re busy, but don’t wait until the night before to get started. It’s unusual for everything to work 100 percent as you expect it to, so you will need to have a backup plan (and the time to execute it) for any element that doesn’t quite work on the first attempt.

Head to Pinterest

There, I said it. Maybe I really am a Pinterest Mom. Just remember: you don’t have to copy another mom’s butterfly or gumball machine costume tutorial to the letter. You can adapt, modify, skip steps, and take shortcuts. Find some inspiration and do what works for you. After you’ve racked your brain trying to figure out how to turn an old plastic container into an astronaut helmet, you might have a total lightbulb moment while perusing Pinterest tutorials.

Who Knew We All Should WANT to be Pond Scum…

There’s more to pond scum than meets the eye.

Blackburn is famous for her work on telomeres—the chromosome-capping entities that protect genetic material as it replicates. Telomeres wear down over time, she discovered—and that erosion corresponds to aging.

She also discovered that telomerase, an enzyme plentiful in “pond scum,” but limited in humans, rebuilds telomeres and holds the secret to longevity.

Pond scum…is “an organism that multiplies forever and ever…

It’s not so easy with human cells. Blackburn says telomerase can be a mixed blessing: while the enzyme allows the renewal of useful, necessary human cells—like blood cells—it also promotes the spread of cancer cells.

It will take more science to discover when telomerase becomes a danger, and how that knowledge might be used to improve health…

Her research has shown that people who exercise, sleep well, eat decent food, and keep a good attitude—“everything your mother told you,” she said—are more likely to preserve their telomeres and live longer…

 

Source: Here’s Why Pond Scum Will Live Longer Than You

Global Competition Less Security for The Consumer- Be Aware

Chinese factories are churning out hackable hardware, and no one is doing a thing to stop them.

In the aftermath of the attack, one company in particular has been implicated: Hangzhou Xiongmai Technologies. According to security researchers, the Chinese company built hardware and software for internet-connected security cameras that was insecure. Then hackers deployed a malicious strain of malware known as Mirai into the devices, and used them to direct huge amounts of internet traffic to Dyn, a Domain Name System (DNS) provider that often serves as a virtual “first stop” for computers connecting to sites on the internet.

 Popular websites including Twitter, Spotify, Netflix, and PayPal were knocked out by the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack…

As manufacturing supply chains have grown more fragmented globally, and electronics products have become commodities, security and safety standards haven’t caught up…

 What is Xiongmai Technologies?

Analysts say Hangzhou Xiongmai Technologies is one of the industry leaders in making and selling IP (Internet Protocol) camera modules. Still, there’s scant public information about the company…

The current CEO is also head of Hangzhou Jufeng Technologies, which also specializes in smart cameras. Jufeng also owns a a stake in Hangzhou Trade, and Chen Jinsheng is listed as a “supervisor.” All five companies are registered to the same address.

In what now seems like foreshadowing, the company attracted controversy earlier this year when Chen Jinsheng proudly touted in a public speech (link in Chinese) the company’s relentless pursuit of cost-cutting in order to drive sales of low-end products…

 … a 15-year cybersecurity industry veteran, on WeChat this June. He said that cost-cutting companies were “blood-sucking insects” killing China’s security industry, by driving prices down so low that it threatened to destroy it entirely…

While many internet-of-things (IoT) companies fail to secure their products properly, Xiongmai’s approach is particularly egregious, said Brian Karas, who follows the video surveillance industry at research firm IVPM. “In the current age of IoT devices, this is not just leaving your front door unlocked, it is like leaving it open for anyone to walk through,” he told Quartz.

These mostly Chinese manufacturers face fierce competition from their peers, each gunning to sell modules to the myriad of security camera companies—which now include legacy hardware firms like Honeywell, budding startups like Nest, and a plethora of unknown brands. Even among consumer-facing brands, the industry is heavily fragmented…

 Consumers, meanwhile, don’t buy cameras because they’re secure, they buy them for special features like waterproofing, sharp image resolution, or a Minion-shaped casing…

Consumers also bear some responsibility for enabling the Mirai attacks. Research showspeople repeatedly resist picking strong passwords for their devices. Rather than taking 10 seconds to choose a strong one with dollar signs and a mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters, they lazily resort to guessable ones like “password” and “123456.”

…security of IoT devices will be more challenging, as there are no US government regulators or independent agencies directly responsible for it. The CPSC told Quartz it cannot issue recalls of Xiongmai or other vulnerable cameras because the malfunction “seems to be related to an invasion of privacy,” and that’s not what it regulates. The CSPC will only intervene “when there is a risk of physical harm to consumers because of a defect with the product.” The US’s main consumer regulator doesn’t look at privacy. 

For most consumers, the DDoS attack on Dyn marked a minor inconvenience—Spotify or Twitter remained inaccessible for a few hours, but no greater harm was caused. But the same tactics used to slow internet access across the US could also be used to steal someone’s credit card information or email login credentials, spy on their home, or much worse in the near future.

Source: A collision of Chinese manufacturing, globalization, and consumer ignorance could ruin the internet

Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck?

Today I found out the origin of superstitions surrounding black cats including why a black cat crossing your path is considered bad luck.

…In fact, in early Egyptian times, dating back as far as 3000 BC, cats (including black ones) were the rock stars of the animal world…The hysteria of witches practicing black magic had just hit Europe and alley cats were often cared for and fed by the poor lonely old ladies …later accused of witchery.

Their cat companions, some of which were black ones, were deemed guilty of witchery by association. This belief was taken up a notch when a folklore involving a father and son in Lincolnshire in the 1560’s started making the rounds. The pair were said to have been traveling one moonless night when a black cat crossed their path and dove into a crawl space. …they threw rocks at the furry feline until the helpless injured creature scurried out into a woman’s house, who at the time was suspected of being a witch.  The next day, the father and son came across the same woman and noticed she was limping and bruised and believed that to be more than just a coincidence. From that day on in Lincolnshire, it was thought that witches could turn into black cats at night.

However, in some cultures, the black cat is still revered and a symbol of good luck even today…

Source: Why Black Cats Are Considered Bad Luck

Myths Debunked Surrounding ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a very common condition diagnosed mainly in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.4 million children between four and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. While many have heard of this condition, there are myths that surround the disorder and a certain stigma still exists. Joshua Cabrera, MD, clinical psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, helps break down what the condition is—and what it isn’t.

Fiction: My child is hyper, they probably have ADHD

Children are inherently energetic, sometimes even rowdy. If unruly behavior is the only symptom, then it’s difficult for a professional to say that their problem is truly a mental illness.

“ADHD is a real mental disorder,” Cabrera said. “There are a myriad of reasons why children are inattentive, such as anxiety or inadequate sleep, but a child with attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD does have a condition. Diagnosis will require observations of numerous symptoms in multiple settings and evidence of significant impairment.”

The main symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. These can manifest in different ways: persistent fidgeting, being easily distracted or forgetful and difficulty waiting for a turn.

Source: Fact or fiction: Dispelling the myths and misconceptions of ADHD — ScienceDaily

Strong Relationships With Parents Positively Impact Physical Health in Children

Growing up in a well-off home can benefit a child’s physical health even decades later — but a lack of parent-child warmth, or the presence of abuse, may eliminate the health advantage of a privileged background, according to a Baylor University study.

For example, if parent-child relationships are strained or abusive, meals may be less coordinated among the family, and children may be more likely to eat sugary or high-fat foods as snacks or even in place of meals. Sleep and activity routines also may become irregular, keeping children from developing healthy lifestyles and social and emotional skills useful for successful aging, Andersson said.

On the flip side, good parent-child bonds in economically disadvantaged homes, while they promote health, do not seem to lessen the negative impact of low socioeconomic status as the children age, Andersson said. Previous research has shown parents with less education and fewer financial advantages are more apt to threaten or force obedience rather than have constructive dialogue, and that may lessen warm relationships. In addition, disease rates or inflammation among those children when they become adults have been linked strongly to abuse, mistreatment or lower levels of parental warmth.

Source: Good relationships with parents may benefit children’s health decades later — ScienceDaily

AI Now Making Their Own Music…Kind Of

Researchers at Sony’s Computer Science Laboratory in Paris have shared a pair of tracks created with the assistance of software called Flow Machines.

Researchers can tailor the process to produce tunes that sound like the work of a particular artist—for example, “Daddy’s Car,” which is intended to emulate the style of the Beatles…The singularity isn’t upon us.

A second song, “Mr. Shadow,” is fashioned in the style of Great American Songbook composers like Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington

Neither of these songs were entirely composed by artificial intelligence, nor did a computer write the words.

If you’d like to experiment with making some AI music yourself, a startup called Jukedeck will generate a song in the genre and mood of your choosing…

Source: “The World’s First Songs Composed By Artificial Intelligence” Are Neither First Nor Entirely Artificial | SPIN

How the USA Needs to Step Up its Early Child Education Commitment

Considerable research shows that well-designed early childhood programs can help children, particularly those who are disadvantaged, build social, emotional and academic skills that can help them as students and in life.

The US seems to have missed that memo.

 In 2014, it had one of the lowest enrollment rates for children in early childhood and pre-primary programs among the world’s richest 35 countries. Only three do worse than the US…
Why it matters

The first few years of a child’s life are critical for building their adult success. “Serve and return,” the process by which adults engage with babies by making eye contact, smiling, talking and teaching them provide the basis for building communication and healthy relationships. Reading to kids, singing to them and having conversations builds literacy and language. Play helps kids socialize, develop motor skills and learn to be part of a group…

…But most parents work, making affordable childcare solutions critical, especially for poorer families where stress levels can be high…

It’s possible

Britain figured this out in 2004, when parliament reviewed the research on the benefits of early childhood programs…

The government now pays for any child in England who has turned three by Sept. 1 to have 15 hours a week of free child-care or preschool for 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours total…

Having subsidized childcare has significant ripple effects, including helping women balance work and home life…

The children benefitted too…children achieving “good development” has increased since the introduction of free preschool 12 years ago…

But it’s not happening in the US

Compare that to the US, one of the few developing countries where women are returning to work at increasingly lower rates a year after giving birth…

…According to the First Five Years Fund…less than half of low-income children have access to the kind of high-quality early childhood programs which research shows result in better health, education and employment later in life.
The evidence is not uniformly in favor of preschool…kids who attend preschool do better academically, but suffer socially, showing more signs of aggression and behavioral problems…
…closing the gap with other industrialized countries will require much more money as well as agreement on what to do.
Source: The US is failing to invest enough in early childhood education, one of the most critical periods in children’s development says the OECD — Quartz

World’s Oldest Library Has New Technology to Preserve its Records Forever

After years of restoration, the ninth-century Qarawiyyin library in north-eastern Morocco is finally set to reopen…

This, it is widely believed, is the oldest library in the world…

The iron door is found along a corridor that once linked the library with the neighbouring Qarawiyyin Mosque…Inside it were kept the most prized tomes in the collection; works of such immense import that each of the four locks had separate keys held with four different individuals, all of whom had to be present for the door to be opened.

The restored library boasts a new sewerage and underground canal system to drain away the moisture that had threatened to destroy many of its prized manuscripts – plus an elaborate lab to treat, preserve and digitise the oldest texts.

A special room with strict security and temperature and humidity controls houses the most ancient works. The most precious is a ninth-century copy of the Qur’an, written in ornate Kufic script on camel skin.

The library’s restoration comes at a time when extremists are rampaging the region’s heritage. Across Syria and Iraq, the militants of the Islamic State have carried out cultural atrocities that include ransacking the great library of Mosul, burning thousands of manuscripts, bulldozing ancient Assyrian cities like Nimrud and Hatra in Iraq, blowing up the Temple of Bel in Palmyra and sacking the oasis city’s museum, in addition to destroying tombs and mausoleums of Shia and Christian saints.

The Qarawiyyin library was also founded by a woman. In the ninth century, Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia’s Kairouan, arrived in Fez and began laying the groundwork for a complex that would include the library, the Qarawiyyin Mosque, and Qarawiyyin University, the oldest higher education institution in the world – with alumni including the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and the Andalusian diplomat Leo Africanus.

The library is expected to be reopened for visitors later this year after an initial target of summer 2016, and then September, slipped by. No definite date has been set, but the architects remain confident it will happen before 2017.

Source: World’s oldest library reopens in Fez: ‘You can hurt us, but you can’t hurt the books’ | Cities | The Guardian

Research Shows Teen Sleep Habits Linked to Drug and Alcohol use

A study led by researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Pitt Department of Psychology has identified a possible link between adolescent sleep habits and early substance abuse. The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that both sleep duration and sleep quality during late childhood predict alcohol and cannabis use later in adolescence.

“After considering other possible influences, we were able to determine that sleep problems are preceding the substance use problems,” Dr. Hasler added. “Addressing sleep may now be something we can add into the package of our substance abuse prevention and treatment efforts.”

Source: Sleep habits, adolescent drug and alcohol use linked, shows research — ScienceDaily