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Aug. 21, 2008
By Glenn Rosenberg

Back to school — staying safe at any age

While the subjects studied and level of intensity change drastically as students advance through school, many back-to-school safety tips apply at any age. Students of all ages and grade levels need to get to and from school safely and be sure safety is always a top priority. The following tips can help students of any age stay safe as they head back to school:

> Bus safety – Whether it is a school bus or public transportation, safety considerations remain the same. When boarding, students should remain in clear view of the driver, and wait for the bus to completely stop before approaching it from the curb. Remember to remain seated when the bus is in motion, and when exiting, move directly to the sidewalk, out of the street and away from traffic.

> Backpack safety – Choosing the wrong backpack and packing one improperly can put strain on the back muscles and may increase curvature of the spine. So when choosing a backpack, select one with two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Also, remember to always use both straps and pack as lightly as possible. A rolling backpack is a great alternative for students carrying a heavier load, but remember that it must be carried up steps. A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.

> Bullying – Teaching a student how to respond to a bully, including making eye contact, staying calm and walking away, is extremely important. Additionally, onlookers should not cheer on or encourage bullies. Students of all ages should know that bullying is never acceptable, whether they are the victim, the culprit or an onlooker. Developing practical solutions with school staff and encouraging students to identify instances of bullying can help with prevention.

> Stranger danger – This term is often something taught in kindergarten. However, even college-aged students need to be reminded that people are not always who they say they are and that we should all be cautious about who we trust — both in person and online.

> Internet safety – Many students utilize the Internet for research purposes during the school year. Social networking is also a common use of the Internet as students are back in touch with old friends and making new ones. Parents should be aware of, and talk to their children about, content that is not appropriate for young computer users, the potential dangers of online conversations with predators and cyber bullying.

> Car safety – Young riders should be in age- and size-appropriate car or booster seats and older children should always wear their safety belts. Teenage drivers need to focus intently on the road and parents should encourage the elimination of distractions, such as cell phones, while driving. Curfews, driver education classes and parents setting good examples can help reduce risks.

> Bike helmets – While riding a bike, no matter how short or long the distance, wearing a helmet is critical. Helmets can help prevent the risk of head injury and even death. A properly fitting bike helmet should be horizontal on the head, with a comfortable fit. The front should be about two fingertips’ width above the eyes, and the Y-shaped side straps should hit just below the ears. The chin strap should fit snuggly, but leave enough room to open the mouth widely.

> Money matters – Students of all ages may need to carry cash for reasons such as transportation, food and other small purchases. To prevent loss or theft, students should not bring credit cards or large sums of money to school — they should only carry what they actually need for the day. Many schools and colleges are making it safer and easier for both parents and students by utilizing digital technology to help students manage their money or even eliminate the need for cash.

> Home alone – Throughout childhood, students need supervision before and after school. If a parent cannot be home at these times, a responsible alternate adult should be present until the parent returns. If a commercial after-school program is utilized, ask about the staff’s training, the child-to-staff ratio and the rooms and playground. These special efforts to supervise young children can keep them safe until they’re mature enough to be home alone after school. Older students should have clear guidelines regarding inviting friends into the home. Additionally, adolescence can be a time for experimentation and parents need to have open conversations about the illegality and dangers of alcohol and drugs and the potential consequences of irresponsible behavior.

> Pedestrian crossing – A student’s trip to school should always be a safe one. Walkers face hazards that can be especially dangerous, especially in heavy-traffic areas. Students should always walk on a sidewalk or as far to the side of the road as possible, be aware and cautious of their surroundings, pay attention to all traffic signals and crossing guards and never walk alone, especially when taking an unfamiliar route. Take note that many younger children do not have the pedestrian skills necessary to walk to school without parental supervision, so carefully consider whether or not they’re ready.

Glenn R. Rosenberg is vice president of AlliedBarton Security Services Higher Education division. Rosenberg has worked in higher education for more than 30 years as a senior university administrator, management consultant and business developer. He can be reached at [email protected]

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How will I survive?

By Ginger Isham
August 7, 2008

With the price of gas, and predictions for high costs of fuel for keeping warm this winter, how am I going to survive on a budget and fixed income? There is no way I can control what I have to pay for gas or fuel except to shop around.

I am retired, so my health insurance is somewhat stable. I have limited control over some of my health costs. I need to visit my dentist on a regular basis, have routine check-ups and tests to prevent more serious problems and higher medical expenses. Here, I have some control. Exercise is a key to keeping well and feeling good. It helps keep the blood pressure down, the blood sugar under control, the body moving and the blood flowing. My diet and what I eat is a factor also of which I have control.

Even though the cost of food has gone up, I have some control in this area. I can use coupons and have more than one supermarket to shop at in close range. I can stick to the basics of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and protein, whole-grain breads and cereals. I do not have to make recipes that call for unusual and expensive ingredients or a lot of seasonings and ingredients. I can choose what quick method of cooking I use and length of time food needs to be cooked.

I can choose what I buy or make for family gifts, making sure they are practical and useful. I can visit the local discount stores for greeting cards or make my own. The computer has many verses for all occasions. I can wrap gifts in leftover wallpaper, use wallpaper borders with tissue paper, brown bags with markers, new towels or even the Sunday funny papers. I can recycle gift-wrap, like we always did at Christmas as a child.

I can use old puzzles and games with missing parts for crafts, such as filling in the outline of a flower, car or house with matching puzzle pieces as a frame for a gift for a grandchild, or I can help the grandchild make his or her own gift. I can buy inexpensive material or gently used material and make pillowcases as gifts.

I can make my own centerpieces by placing candles, outdoor greens and flowers in containers I have on hand.

I can shop for clothes and shoes only when there is a sale or I can visit the gently used shops. I remember the excitement of hand-me-downs as a child and in my own family today–the idea that something nice was free and did not cost anything!

I can watch movies at home rather than go out. I can make my own popcorn and snacks. I can invite friends in for movie night. I can bring out the old games of Scrabble, Checkers and Pictionary, and card games of hearts, rummy and flapjack. Today my granddaughter and I enjoy the card game Skip-Bo.

I can do all these things easily because I have had the luxury of learning how to do them in the past when I had the misfortune not to have so many stores available to tell me what I need to survive in this life.

Ginger Isham is a longtime Williston resident and former co-owner of Maple Grove Bed & Breakfast. She writes a biweekly “Recipe Corner” column in the Observer.

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Guest column

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How will I survive?

By Ginger Isham
August 7, 2008

With the price of gas, and predictions for high costs of fuel for keeping warm this winter, how am I going to survive on a budget and fixed income? There is no way I can control what I have to pay for gas or fuel except to shop around.

I am retired, so my health insurance is somewhat stable. I have limited control over some of my health costs. I need to visit my dentist on a regular basis, have routine check-ups and tests to prevent more serious problems and higher medical expenses. Here, I have some control. Exercise is a key to keeping well and feeling good. It helps keep the blood pressure down, the blood sugar under control, the body moving and the blood flowing. My diet and what I eat is a factor also of which I have control.

Even though the cost of food has gone up, I have some control in this area. I can use coupons and have more than one supermarket to shop at in close range. I can stick to the basics of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and protein, whole-grain breads and cereals. I do not have to make recipes that call for unusual and expensive ingredients or a lot of seasonings and ingredients. I can choose what quick method of cooking I use and length of time food needs to be cooked.

I can choose what I buy or make for family gifts, making sure they are practical and useful. I can visit the local discount stores for greeting cards or make my own. The computer has many verses for all occasions. I can wrap gifts in leftover wallpaper, use wallpaper borders with tissue paper, brown bags with markers, new towels or even the Sunday funny papers. I can recycle gift-wrap, like we always did at Christmas as a child.

I can use old puzzles and games with missing parts for crafts, such as filling in the outline of a flower, car or house with matching puzzle pieces as a frame for a gift for a grandchild, or I can help the grandchild make his or her own gift. I can buy inexpensive material or gently used material and make pillowcases as gifts.

I can make my own centerpieces by placing candles, outdoor greens and flowers in containers I have on hand.

I can shop for clothes and shoes only when there is a sale or I can visit the gently used shops. I remember the excitement of hand-me-downs as a child and in my own family today–the idea that something nice was free and did not cost anything!

I can watch movies at home rather than go out. I can make my own popcorn and snacks. I can invite friends in for movie night. I can bring out the old games of Scrabble, Checkers and Pictionary, and card games of hearts, rummy and flapjack. Today my granddaughter and I enjoy the card game Skip-Bo.

I can do all these things easily because I have had the luxury of learning how to do them in the past when I had the misfortune not to have so many stores available to tell me what I need to survive in this life.

Ginger Isham is a longtime Williston resident and former co-owner of Maple Grove Bed & Breakfast. She writes a biweekly “Recipe Corner” column in the Observer.

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July 17, 2008
By Lawrence Keyes

Vermont needs fast, reliable Internet

Recent discussions around the state and during the campaign for governor suggest a growing unease about the prospect of economic growth and prosperity in Vermont. Travel and transportation are becoming more expensive. The state has lost several hundred high-tech jobs in the past year.

The admirable E-State initiative — an effort to bring broadband and wireless Internet to all Vermonters by 2010 — is largely an exercise to convince ourselves that “something is being done,” and “we've got it covered.” By late 2010, by magic, FairPoint (dangerously undercapitalized) and Comcast (the latest owner of the Vermont assets of the bankrupt Adelphia), and a few WISPs — wireless Internet providers — covering the hills and hollers, will have us covered. No significant attention is required by the state economic development folks; no significant public investment is required.

Talks with the Douglas administration and Gaye Symington have shown that they think the E-State deal is just fine. Pollina's Web site makes no reference to broadband at all.

What worries me is that with E-State we're going to get people barely off dialup. By going with wireless Internet connections, we believe that we have a state-of-the-art high-tech infrastructure superior to other states. That is how it is being sold. But, we're really just paving the dirt roads.

Wired broadband connections in 2008 are the equivalent of the interstate highway project of the 1960s, and the rural electrification projects of the 1940s. Broadband is the strategic infrastructure of our time, and should be treated as the crucial public investment that it represents. If we fail to invest in this infrastructure we will be passed by other regions that are making these investments.

Here's why. Current and future Internet services include voice and video in both directions. These services require high speeds and continuous connections to be effective. (E-mail, Web browsing and research, the stuff we've been using the Internet for during the past 20 years, do not). Further, new applications are predicated on the end-user being a provider, not just a passive consumer of another 142 high-def television channels or downloader of the latest iTune. In other words, high-speed broadband is not simply another medium for delivering the same old media by the same old conglomerates. Broadband enables individuals and small business to actively participate, lead and contribute to the future economic life of Vermont.

New applications, including distance education, telemedicine, videoconferencing and telecommuting, all of which are enjoying increasing interest and urgency with the increase in gasoline prices, are moving out of the research phase and into production. Several providers of these services are in Vermont and they service clients around the world. How ironic is it then that in many areas they can't reach Vermonters in their homes or businesses because of the lack of investment in broadband?

We're not out in front. We're barely catching up.

You may recall the failed Tech Academy proposal in Essex a few years back? Almost everyone agreed that this was a good idea, but it foundered under the weight of politics and financing which played one town off another. Now we're on the cusp of being able to provide technical education via distance learning. This isn't merely a theoretical possibility. Collaborators, including the Vermont Software Developer's Alliance, Linking Learning2Life, St. Michael's College, the city of Burlington and the town of Colchester have submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a pilot project using a Vermont-based company, Global Classroom, to deliver advanced placement and technical courses to students throughout the state via broadband.

My own company, Microdesign, with the University of Vermont Department of Physical Therapy, is delivering a thrice-weekly exercise program to a dozen patients in their homes via broadband using their home television sets and cameras, which allow the instructor to supervise and correct their movement. We see potential for cardio rehab, diabetes management, and a host of health and wellness applications, provided the participants have affordable, reliable broadband connections to their homes.

Understandably, politicians pick their battles. I want to suggest that the investment in broadband infrastructure should be given the highest priority by all candidates for governor.

Many solutions to the intractable problems we face in Vermont of workforce training, skyrocketing education and healthcare costs, and economic development will be delivered via broadband. And it will take forward-thinking legislation and economic incentives, in partnership with private initiatives, to get us there.

Lawrence Keyes is a principal with Microdesign Consulting Inc. in Colchester, and chairs the Vermont Software Developer's Alliance outreach committee.

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