08/03/2009

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Grow Your Own Crystal Garden One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to grow "Crystal Gardens." My first "crystal garden" was made in a Sunday School class; the teacher found the instructions in a little booklet tied to a jar of laundry blueing. This is a super activity for a rainy summer day with your kids. You can build a single garden together, or, if you've got multiples or the neighbor kids, they can each make small individual gardens. Things You Need A glass or ceramic dish (not metal, and nothing precious) Several pieces of charcoal briquette, bricks, or small pieces of porous rock that are roughly an inch in diameter. This is the medium upon which your crystals will grow. You can use larger chunks, but it's much trickier. A clean empty glass jar that's at least large enough to hold 1 cup of solution. Salt (table salt is fine; salt without iodine is slightly better) Blueing (look in the detergent section of the grocery store) Ammonia Food coloring Procedure Rinse the material you'll use for a growing medium in water. You want it to be damp but not soaking in water. Arrange the medium in the bottom of the glass dish. It doesn't have to be in a single layer; feel free to be a little creative. Mix the following in the glass jar: 3 tablespoons Salt 3 tablespoons ammonia 6 tablespoons bluing Mix or gently shake until the salt is dissolved. Pour the solution over the medium in the glass dish. Try to saturate all of it with the liquid. Rinse the jar out with a tablespoon or so of water, and pour that into the dish as well. Set the jar aside; you'll need it again. Carefully put drops of food coloring on the medium; anyplace that you don't add food coloring to will have white crystals. Remember that yellow and red makes orange, blue and red purple makes purple. Sprinkle an additional two tablespoons of salt on top of the medium. Place the dish someplace where it won't be disturbed, out of the reach of pets and small children. On the second and third days, pour a solution of 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of ammonia, and 2 tablespoons of bluing into the bottom of the dish. You need to be a little delicate in doing this, since there will be tiny crystals already. The crystals will grow for several days, then stop. They are very delicate, and will crumble if disturbed, so set the dish where you plan to leave it, out of the reach of curious pets and small children. You'll see crystals start to form just a few hours after you add the solution. What happens is that capillary action draws the solution up through the coal, where the liquid evaporates, leaving the crystals behind. You can engage in variations on this theme, as well; you can make trees out of thick blotter paper; make two trees, and split one down the middle, vertically, half way down the top, and the other halfway up from the bottom; intersect the two trees to make a three-dimensional tree. Color the tips of the branches with colored markers, then place the tree in the solution. This is essentially the way the "Magic Tree" works. This was originally writing for Parenting Report.
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GLBT Smoking Among Homosexuals 37% of the women smoke 33% of men smoke Among Heterosexuals 18% of women smoke 24% of men smoke The numbers for homosexual smokers were provided by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; they derived the numbers from a review of more than 40 studies about the use of tobacco by various minority groups. There's a press release about the study here, and right now, you can read the resulting article by J. G. L. Lee, G. K. Griffin, and C. L. Melvin. "Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: a systematic review" in the August 2009 issue of the journal Tobacco Control. The numbers for heterosexual smokers were taken from the National Health Survey; both were quoted in this July 24, 2009 article from the Los Angeles Times. That GLBT people smoke more than other groups isn't exactly news; there's roughly twenty years of documented research to that effect. Nor are the GLBT communities simply smoking; there are a fair number of resources for people who are trying to quit. I've linked to several in the box at the bottom. There are, however, some differences in terms of queer cultures and smoking, and hetero cultures and smoking. For one thing, homosexual smokers are more likely to be childless, and to have more discretionary income to spend, as Steven E. Landsburg points out in this smart, thoughtful 2003 article in Slate. One of the researchers from the Chapel Hill study, Joseph Lee, a social research specialist, is quoted in the official press release: Likely explanations include the success of tobacco industry's targeted marketing to gays and lesbians, as well as time spent in smoky social venues and stress from discrimination. The relationships of socializing and smoking are not unknown to GLBT communities; see this QueerTips discussion of smoking in the communities and methods to help reduce smoking. What I found particularly chilling is that smoking is substantially higher among lesbians. And yes, I do think that the reasons for that include increased stress, more disposable income, and, quite frankly, the connections between bar culture and socializing. There are complex social rituals around smoking that allow smokers to "signal" each other in terms of availability and interest. It's not so much the let's-stand-outside-and-have-a-quick-smoke as it is the complex rituals around bumming a cig allow smokers to make contact in ways that non-smokers must accomplish much more obviously. There's the request for the smoke, the offer (or not) or a light, and how the other person's cigarette are lit—all of which allow women who smoke to indicate, often without words, their interest and availability very clearly and also, quite subtly. If you smoke, or someone in your family or a loved one smokes, here are some resources to help quit. For heaven's sake, don't nag the smoker. Nagging often makes smoking worse because it's stressfu. But you might suggest switching to brand that's filtered and has fewer chemical additives. Those additives actually enhance the addiction and affect the way our bodies process the nicotine. Try slowly smoking fewer cigarettes a day, or smoking more slowly. Even if smokers just managed to cut down, it's worth doing. Resources Gay American Smoke Out: How to Quit Smoking LGBT Factsheet on Quitting Smoking Originally posted: http://thatgayblog.com/article/glbt-smoking