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Helping your child stay safe online is of paramount importance in the age of digital technology

  • Written by Deborah Stone

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Timbercrest Junior High student Corie Leib, 13, and her mother Tami share a computer which is located in their home’s family room. Photo by Lisa Allen
The sky’s the limit when it comes to technology options these days.

Kids, who are quite savvy at all the various devices available, spend much of their waking hours cruising the Web, checking MySpace and Facebook, using Twitter or texting on their phones.

The world is at their fingertips, ready and accessible. But, it is important to note that all this information and conduits of communication come with inherent risks.

Stefanie Thomas, victim advocate for the Seattle Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, wants kids to be more aware of the impact of their online behavior.

Over the past two years, she has given 315 presentations on the subjects of cyber bullying, social networking, online postings, sexting and tips for staying safe online, reaching close to 30,000 children, teens and adults.

“I think the biggest problem with kids is that they have a complete disconnect with how they act online, as opposed to their behavior in real life,” says Thomas. “They use different rules and standards online because they don’t believe they’re going to get caught if they do something inappropriate. They don’t perceive there will be any long term consequences to their actions. What they don’t understand is that they really don’t have any control over what they put out there. They believe if they establish their privacy settings, no one else can see what they post. This is just not the case. In the world of copy and paste, nothing is sacred anymore.”

Increasingly younger children have access to computers and other forms of technology. The younger the child, however, the more impulsive and immature he/she is when it comes to dealing with conflict. They lack the necessary skills to resolve their problems independently. They act without thought or caution, assuring themselves that nothing will happen to them as a result of their behavior.

In their narrow view, bad things only happen to other children, not them. “It’s a boost to kids’ egos when they can say they have hundreds of online friends,” comments Thomas. “In reality, they don’t know this many people, yet they so readily share tons of images and personal information with these ‘friends.’ And as soon as they hit send or post, they physically lose all control over what’s done with those pictures or data.”

Thomas warns kids that they need to be aware of not only the content they’re sharing, but who is getting access to it. She notes that the images are not kept between one or two people. Rather, they’re sent out via mass texting, which can cause embarrassment, humiliation and potentially ruin a person’s reputation.

She adds, “And then there’s the content on Facebook postings, which can return to haunt you later on when it’s accessed by colleges or potential employers.”

Two of the most serious problems among kids and teens today are cyber bullying and sexting, according to Thomas. “We’re seeing cyber bullying occurring at the elementary school level now,” she notes. “By middle school, it’s rampant. It is happening every day in every school.”

To combat the issue, she stresses that schools, parents and law enforcement must each have a “buy-in.” The schools need to have an aggressive policy to hold kids accountable while parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing and keep the communication lines open. Law enforcement’s job is to investigate cases and see that the laws are carried out.

Sexting, which Thomas describes as sending any image of anyone under the age of 18 in a state of partial or full nudity, is common in middle and high school. She says, “These kids and teens view sexting as not real life,” explains Thomas. “They’re using it as a way to discover themselves and experiment sexually, but they forget that no one their age can keep their mouths shut about anything. And so, things get forwarded and it all goes viral.” She adds, “The latest problem is ‘sextortion,’ or blackmailing for the pictures. An individual threatens to forward the photos to everyone he/she knows if the victim doesn’t comply by providing more pictures.”

According to Thomas, parents can contribute to such problems by being naïve about technology and the pitfalls it can present to children. She notes that for some, the cyber world is overwhelming and they accept that their kids are so more knowledgeable than them when it comes to digital devices.

“They also trust their kids, thinking that problems happen to others, but not to their own children,” adds Thomas. “They are unwilling to accept that their kids could be involved in certain risky behaviors and are blind to the situation.”

So, what can parents do? “They need to educate themselves on how the Internet works,” emphasizes Thomas, “and then they need to keep tabs on their children’s computer use.”

Experts suggest parents create a written Internet safety plan, setting rules for usage, email and texting, as well as establishing strategies for handling inappropriate communication.They advocate reminding kids regularly about not disclosing personal information online or sharing passwords, warning them that anything they write can be forwarded or printed for distribution.

“It’s also a good idea to keep the computer in a common area in the house,” adds Thomas.

Local parent Leanne Christensen took this advice to heart with her two daughters. She set up a homework room, which also serves as the family computer room.

“I made the mistake initially of letting my older daughter do her work in her own room,” explains Christensen. “For one year, I basically never saw her and I didn’t really know what she was doing. I decided to change that when we moved to a new house. Now, we’re all together and I can monitor the situation. I also found that when you do this, kids are more likely to share the messages they receive. And if they get derogatory comments on Facebook, which has happened before, they are more apt to tell me and it can then become part of a discussion.”

Experts additionally urge parents to save or print inappropriate messages and pictures that their kids receive and to contact parents of others who sent those emails.

Your Internet service provider should be contacted and a complaint filed if you think the messages violate the Terms and Conditions of your contract.

Finally, Thomas urges parents to contact the police if their children receive violent threats or pornography, or are harassed in any way. “That’s when we step in and investigate,” she says. “Our taskforce takes this work very seriously and we do charge kids for these crimes.”

Women’s self-defense class to emphasize jiu-jitsu techniques

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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Whitney Neugebauer. Courtesy photo.
Whitney Neugebauer started jiu-jitsu because she thought it would be a fun sport to try and a way to meet new friends, as well as stay in shape.

Her boyfriend, now husband, Bryan Alvarez, was involved in the discipline and encouraged her to take a class.

She says, “I didn’t get into it for self-defense reasons, but I thought it was really cool that something that I was doing for fun was also something that might protect me if I ever got into trouble. I also found the sport really intriguing because it’s like a chess game in that you use a lot of strategy when you do it.”

The local woman, a 2005 WHS grad, and UW alumnus, took to the sport and eventually earned her second degree blue belt.

She is now a teacher at Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu in Bothell.

“I teach Gracie jiu-jitsu,” says Neugebauer. “It’s a martial art, which was founded by Grandmaster Helio Gracie in Brazil almost 100 years ago. Gracie was a small man and he adapted judo techniques taught to him by a friend of his father, who was traveling the world to spread the art he learned in Japan.”

She continues to explain that Gracie’s adaptations emphasize leverage and technique as opposed to brute strength and power. They allow a smaller, weaker person to successfully defend him/herself against a bigger, stronger opponent.

Originally a male dominated sport, Gracie jiu-jitsu has gradually been attracting women in recent years, who are drawn to the activity for a variety of reasons.

“They like it because it’s great physical exercise and it’s fun to do,” comments Neugebauer. “But, they also like the sense of empowerment it gives them and the useful skills they gain.”

She adds, “Jiu-jitsu is non-violent, but at the same time it can protect you from violence. We know that the first line of self-defense is always to avoid trouble and to run away if you can. However, if you end up in a situation where you don’t have those options, it is good to know something — some moves or holds you can do that will perhaps save your life.”

Neugebauer wants to help bring awareness of the sport to more women.

To this aim, she has created a self-defense course using Gracie jiu-jitsu techniques, geared specifically towards women to aid them in threatening situations.

“It’s pertinent to rape defense and sexual assault,” comments the local woman. “It will show women how to get out of a situation where someone is grabbing their arms and wrists or their throat. We’ll teach them techniques that they can use standing up or even when they’re on the ground and someone is lying on top of them.”

The course, which will meet on Saturdays over a period of seven weeks, will utilize demonstrations and emphasize ample practice time for participants, who will work with partners, to ensure they are able to master the moves.

Neugebauer stresses that the classes will be held in a non-threatening environment and that no experience or particular level of fitness is required.

“I think this is important stuff that all women should learn,” she notes. “Nobody ever thinks something violent will happen to them, but the fact is that it can. One of our students, Rosie, started taking jiu-jitsu classes because her boyfriend Richard was doing it. About one month after her first lesson, she saw a man attacking his girlfriend in a Safeway parking lot on Highway 99. She called the police and they told her to stay in the car, but the guy was really pounding on the woman and none of the bystanders looking on were doing anything.

“So Rosie got out of the car, snuck up behind the guy, put him in a rear-naked choke and rendered him unconscious. The cops showed up, woke him up told Rosie that it’s never a good idea to take the law into your own hands, but also congratulated her for her heroic actions.”

Neugebauer adds, “Even a little knowledge proved helpful in this situation.”

For registration information, contact Whitney Neugebauer at: (425) 770-0787 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

What: 7-week women’s jiu-jitsu based self-defense course
When: Classes start Saturday, November 19
Where: Evergreen Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, 10116 NE 185th St., Bothell

Space is limited.

 

Walk/Run 4 Women proves you’re never too old or too young to make a difference

  • Written by Barb Olsen, Special to the Weekly

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Eighty-six-year-old Mariana Vancil 9-year-old Adam Golshanara. Courtesy photo.
Mariana Vancil had prepared well for the recent Snoqualmie Valley Walk/Run 4 Women, not letting her 86 years of age get in the way.

She’d been out walking every day for months, and for the second year in a row she planned to complete the entire 13.1-mile half-marathon.

“I was surprised at how good I felt at the end of it last year,” Mariana said as she stood and prepared to get underway. “And this is a fun way to help raise funds for a good cause.”

Out on the front steps of the old Depot in Duvall, approximately 65 walkers, runners and volunteers gathered for the event’s official sendoff.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the event would go to the women at the Acres of Diamonds homeless shelter in Duvall, as well as to the Eastside Domestic Violence Hotel/Motel Voucher program, which provides an immediate place for women to go when they are in an unsafe situation.

“We can’t do the hard work for these women as they strive to rebuild their lives,” Duvall Civic Club treasurer Rose Hollis told the crowd. “But we can give them our support.”

And with that, the walkers and runners headed down the trail. Among them, of course, was Mariana Vancil. As the eldest walker, Mariana had made a new friend. That was 9-year-old Adam Golshanara, the youngest participant.

This would be his first half-marathon, and though he and his mom initially planned to walk only a couple of miles, in the end they got caught up in the enthusiasm and — along with Mariana — completed the entire 13.1 miles.

“People who never thought they could walk the whole way ended up doing the whole half-marathon” volunteer event chair Maura Van Ness said. “They were very proud of themselves.”

Back at the Depot hours later, Mariana Vancil enjoyed a chat with other participants and rested her tired feet, happy that once again she’d completed the entire half-marathon.

The Walk/Run raised enough money to provide more than $2,600 to Eastside Domestic Violence and the women at Acres of Diamonds.

Among the donations and the walkers were some particularly special stories, including a donation made in the memory of a local woman named Meg Holmes.

And there was the walker Brenda Hale, who participated along with her daughter Danielle Tercier.

Hale said she joined in the Walk/Run 4 Women because she is a survivor of a rare form of cancer called sarcoma and wanted to return the support so many people had given her when she was ill.

The Snoqualmie Valley Walk/Run for Women was sponsored by the Duvall Civic Club, which matched their members’ registration donations for the third year.See them on Facebook or call (425) 788-2492 for more information.

It’s not too late to donate. You can make your check out to “Duvall Civic Club Walk/Run 4 Women” and send it to the Duvall Civic Club, P.O. Box 315, Duvall, WA 98019.

Also critical to the event’s success was the support given by local businesses, including Match Coffee and Wine Bar, Duvall Coffeehouse, Valley Mailbox, Thrive Fitness, Ixtapa, Houston Barkley C.P.A.,Duvall Auto Parts, Pentz Design, Duvall Family Grocer, Duvall Safeway, Grange Café, The Laurel Tree, Community Business Services, Caron Nelson-Glickman Dentistry, Duvall Starbuck’s, Sam Castillo dentistry, and Redmond Ridge McDonald’s.

New exhibits at PSC explore puzzles, problem-solving and design

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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Photo courtesy of Pacific Science Center Kids can select a race course to ride their bikes in a virtual competition against two other participants.
Puzzles, problem-solving and design are the focus of two new exhibits at Pacific Science Center.

First up is “Design Zone,” where visitors can go behind the scenes and see how video game developers, music producers, roller coaster designers and other problem solvers use math and science to create their magic.

The exhibition is organized into three interactive areas: engineering and speed; art, architecture and video game design; and music and sound.

Each highlights the relationship between mathematical thinking and the creative process via hands-on stations that provide opportunities for kids to solve real-world challenges and discover some of math’s many applications.

In “MUSIC – Hear It!” kids can step into the DJ Recording Studio, On Stage and Dance Party areas and hear the math in the music, while exploring relationships between length and pitch in musical instruments, ratios and rhythms and visual representations of sound. They can put together music tracks, match beats on a set of simulated turntables and create a laser light show at a virtual dance party among the many hands-on activities.

Over in “ART – See It!” visitors will enter the Videogame Design Lab, the Architecture Studio and the Digital Design zone to find out how visual designers use scale, pattern, coordinate grids, equality and slope to turn their ideas into reality. They’ll get to see their own 2D and 3D designs emerge on an enormous coordinate grid, set variables in a video game and find their way through a digital maze on a giant tilt table.

In “ACTION – Move It!” kids make their way to the Theme Park and Action Sports Arena where they can build their own custom digital roller coaster, design their own skate park and select a race course to ride their bikes in a virtual competition against two other participants.

Once they’ve had the chance to explore “Design Zone,” visitors will want to take a look at the challenging world of “Puzzle Palooza Featuring Groovik’s Cube,” an exhibit chock-full of puzzles and brainteasers guaranteed to challenge the brain power and problem-solving skills of even the most astute and experienced puzzlers.

At the center of this display is the enormous, interactive “Groovik’s Cube,” a fully playable 35-feet high sculpture inspired by the classic puzzle, Rubik’s Cube. Illuminated with LED lights, the “Cube” is controlled from three stations surrounding the main structure.

It can be played by one to three players. In the three-player mode, each participant is able to rotate only a single axis, creating an entirely new, collaborative puzzle-solving experience.

Both “Design Zone” and “Puzzle Palooza” provide healthy brain food for kids of all ages and are eye-openers to a world where math is more than simply a subject in school.

“Design Zone” and “Puzzle Pallooza Featuring Groovik’s Cube” run through January 2, 2012. For more information: (206) 443-2001 or www.pacificsciencecenter.org.

Local inventor combines heat and light to create unique SunSauna

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Woodinville inventor and engineer Si Barghelame doesn’t claim to have a patent on sunshine, but what he does have might actually be the next best thing to it.

Barghelame owns SunSauna, a company that manufactures specially designed infrared saunas with full spectrum lighting. Whereas a traditional sauna heats the body indirectly via the air, an infrared one uses radiant heat, which is absorbed directly into the body.

“Infrared immediately penetrates the body, going about an inch below the skin,” explains Barghelame. “It warms you to a much greater depth and much more efficiently than a conventional sauna. You sweat faster and the detoxification experience is much more powerful.”

As for the concept of full spectrum light, the local man says, “I was inspired to research light therapy after suffering from a case of the Seattle winter blues one year. I studied the works of Dr. Norman Rosenthal, the man credited with creating the term ‘seasonal affective disorder.’ I got the idea of taking my own sauna, which I had turned into an infrared one, and installing some full-spectrum lights in it. I thought the sauna would be the best place for the whole body to get exposure to these lights.”

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SunSauna infrared unit. Courtesy photo.
Barghelame tinkered with his invention and eventually created a prototype, which he subsequently took to the Seattle Home Show.

The response to it was overwhelmingly positive and he knew he was onto something.

“It’s the combination of the infrared heat and the full-spectrum lighting together that is the key to providing a complete healing experience,” explains Barghelame.

Clinical studies note that infrared heat therapy is considered one of the best methods of whole body therapy for pain relief, toxin detoxification and elimination, enhancing circulation, increasing energy and lowering blood pressure. It is also helpful in stimulating the immune system, reducing cellulite, decreasing stress and assisting in weight loss.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a single infrared sauna session, people may burn as many calories as they would jogging or rowing for 30 minutes. In discussing full-spectrum lighting,

Barghelame notes that it has the same effects on an individual as natural sunshine.

He says, “It produces vitamin D and other endorphins, which improves mood and gives you energy, along with boosting your immune system.”

He adds, “Our body needs the sunshine. It’s crucial to our survival. And here in the Northwest, we don’t get enough of it. This lack of sun can lead to serious health risks.”

Barghelame comments on the difference on residents’ psyches when the sun is out. He observes that grumpy people start to smile and their whole attitude changes as soon as the sun shines. He says, “It’s like someone turned on a light switch, which is essentially what happens.”

With SunSaunas, the full spectrum of non-harmful rays found in natural sunlight is used, essentially eliminating the negative effects incurred through direct sun exposure. Barghelame is the only manufacturer of these specialized saunas, which are made from 100 percent Canadian red cedar and cost approximately $2,000 to $3,800, depending on size.  Buyers receive a self-evaluation questionnaire when they purchase one of the units and if they choose, they can complete it prior to their first experience with the product.

Results indicate the user’s level of depression, which is based on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.The higher the score, the more severe the depression. Barghelame tells his customers to fill out the same evaluation on a weekly basis for one month.

“The results are astounding,” he comments. “Everyone’s scores go down after continuous use of the sauna. It really works to improve one’s outlook and state of mind.”

The local man practices what he preaches and uses his SunSauna at home on a consistent basis.

He says, “It’s interesting what happens to me when I’m in there. I enter with problems on my mind and come out with solutions. It helps me think more clearly.”

The SunSaunas have proven to be popular, both for home users and spas. Michelle Rust, owner of Soul Ease Holistic Yoga Spa in Kirkland, has had a unit for five years. She views it as a complement to the wellness services she offers at the spa.

“Our clients love it,” she comments. “They see that it makes a difference. We have one lady who comes each day because it gives her relief from her allergies. And one gentleman claims it really helps with the inflammation he has from numerous hip surgeries. It’s also really good for the skin and then, of course, to rid you of toxins.”

She adds, “I would say that 80 percent of the people who try the sauna end up buying a package to use over a period of time. Some even end up getting one for their own house because they like it so much.”

Barghelame explains that infrared units have been around for 20+ years, but the roots of the original concept can be traced further back to the Finns. He says, “It’s not a new craze. The Finns with their rocks and wood and smoke that went out through the chimney had the real thing. The stove, the metal, warmed the sauna and that heat was infrared.”

He adds, “People are really just learning about infrared sauna over here and now I’m trying to make them aware of full-spectrum lighting. By combining the two, our saunas enhance the benefits of both, leading to a total healing experience.”

For more information about SunSauna: www.sunsauna.com.