Monday, April 16, 2018

Dolls Gotta Have Heart; Raggedy Ann, Legends, and History for Over 100 Years - Ruby Lane Blog

Dolls Gotta Have Heart; Raggedy Ann, Legends, and History for Over 100 Years - Ruby Lane Blog: Raggedy Ann has been a beloved doll and literary character for over 100 years.  Her face has graced countless story books, coloring books, paper dolls, toys, radios, canned goods, and posters about Diphtheria and Smallpox vaccinations.  Raggedy Ann and her brother, Raggedy Andy, have starred in their own animated films, and Raggedy Ann has flown... Read more »

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why We Love Dollhouses (And You Should Too!) - Ruby Lane Blog

Why We Love Dollhouses (And You Should Too!) - Ruby Lane Blog: The first dollhouses on record are probably the Dutch cabinet houses and Nuremburg doll houses, meant more for adults as cabinets of curiosities than for children.  The novel The Miniaturist is based on these. One great example that still survives is Mon Plaisir, from the 18th century. The Nuremberg House open, 1673 via Victoria and... Read more »

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Using Exercise to Relieve Stress by Kayla Byers, CM 107

Using Exercise to Relieve Stress by Kayla Byers

            The purpose of this blog post is to talk about relieving stress by exercising.  Use exercise to relieve stress, to forget about what happened at work, to forget about your day, and to have a clear mind.  I feel like I have a rush of energy after doing a workout; it is exhilarating. 

            I think exercise is an effective way to relieve stress as it releases endorphins in the body.  Endorphins are neurotransmitters which is responsible for the production of your brain’s feel-good response.  Exercising improves your mood; it can boost yourself confidence it also helps with sleeping better at night.  This is very important to me as I like to exercise because it not only does it relieve stress, but I can forget about everything that happened that day and focus on my workout.  Who here likes to exercise to relieve stress?  How does it make you feel?  I feel energized and empowered after I finish a workout, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something. 

            For people that do not like to exercise it would be good to start, even if you just go for a short walk to get your heart rate up a little bit. However, for the people that cannot exercise due to medical conditions or have a tough time moving around, this can be quite difficult.  There are other ways you can relieve stress where you can exercise for example: A stress ball is a form of exercise and a form of relieving stress.  I find whenever I exercise I am very aware of my body and what I put into it.  I tend to make better choices in what I eat. 

            Nutrition is very important when it comes to exercising.  To get the max benefit of exercising the human body needs healthy food for fuel.  For example: It is like gas for your car, without it your car will not run.  Nutrition plays a vital role in managing stress as well.  Eating a well-balanced diet has many benefits, as I stated earlier it plays a vital role in fighting stress.  For instance, eating healthy improves brain functioning, immune function, it lowers blood pressure, it improves circulation, and it can eliminate toxins in the body.  In addition, eating healthy and drinking water throughout the day is super important; drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.    Stress can cause anxiety and depression, so relieving stress is very important.  However, not all stress is bad, so having the good stressors in your life is also important.  Positive stress can give you motivation and help you with daily tasks, it can give you that burst of energy!

            I want to talk about my personal experience with CrossFit, and share with my audience how I lost 70 pounds that I gained during pregnancy.  Prior to becoming pregnant, I have always been involved in exercising and staying active.  During pregnancy I ate whatever I wanted; I did not realize that what I was eating would have a negative impact on my body.  This unfortunately led to me gaining 70 pounds, which was not at all healthy baby weight.  I felt so miserable and did not think that I could ever lose the weight.  It is very stressful taking care of a newborn, and I was not motivated to even eat healthy, or do anything exercise related. 

            One day I was reading on a friend’s Facebook profile.  She was involved in CrossFit and she posted pictures of her progress.  I decided to take advantage of this opportunity, so I went to a CrossFit gym in Altoona called Priority CrossFit.  I tried it out for two weeks free which and discovered that I really like it.  The workouts are not easy, but they are fun, and they get your heart rate up.  CrossFit is not just lifting weights; you have cardio, weight training, and plyometrics.  After months went by, I started to see improvements. I started losing weight and gaining muscle, which felt great.  I stuck with it for five months and lost the 70 pounds I gained during pregnancy, my before and after pictures were astonishing. 

            Finally, I want to encourage the people who want to try CrossFit but are afraid because they think it is too hard, or are afraid of failure.  You would be surprised what your body can do, our bodies are like machines.  The amount of strength and power you can gain by lifting is impeccable; you just have to tell yourself you can do it!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Quanity over Quality

“Quantity over Quality”
By Omar De Los Rios, CM 107
            When can we honestly say that a person is selected for a job or for a promotion because he really deserves it, or because he has all the qualifications and experiences? Why is it more important where you come from than what you have done in order to earn something? In this blog I would like to talk about a serious topic where even lives have been put to risk. Due to the “politically correct” mentality of certain individuals that are willing to bring a higher risk in jobs like Emergency Management and Fire Services or even with our Military that still fighting a war, hiring practices are endangering lives. Most of these individuals have never ran into a burning building or put on a uniform and sacrifice anything. When can we honestly say it’s enough?
            Let me begging with an Article I read (4); that talks about the 2017 New York City Fire Department (FDNY) entry level for new aspiring candidates. This article states how most candidates where able to pay and be coached in order to answer the most difficult  questions, how these candidates where able to cheat their way into the system and most likely got selected to move forward in the hiring process not due to their abilities to perform Fire and Emergency tasks, but based solely in their personal abilities. Moving forward, how many of these candidates will be assigned to an Emergency response team and will be able to perform all tasks required to be part of a team, or even be a team player? I had a conversation with a Battalion Chief within the FDNY that clearly stated than the quality of candidates coming in the FDNY has drop drastically because new candidates are not bringing to the table the desire and love for the service that is a key component to work well within the Emergency Services. Most of these candidates are with the FDNY because of the benefits and rewards that come with being a firefighter,  but not all them are willing to put their lives at risk for either their coworkers or somebody that has called to be rescue. Firefighters have also been accused of looting.  It’s a shame that a service as important as the Emergency Services get politicalized just because of certain people. Now, let’s look at the future; how many of the firefighters will get promoted? Will they have the qualities and experience to lead and take precise decisions that will affect the outcome of operations? A perfect example of these can be seen in the Article about the NYPD Captain that went home when his 2 officers were shot (5).
            But the FDNY is not the only service that is suffering the consequences of lowering the standards in order to attract unqualified candidates in order to have a higher hire. We can see this problem more and more within the Military, Americans are being raised without a sense of patriotism or love for the Service to others; most families prefer their loved ones to go to college and get an education instead of joining the Military, which is perfectly understandable,  but many see the Military as a way out of poverty and a way to have a stable job. Most of these recruits joined the Army for college money and the benefits that come after successfully serving their 3 years commitment. What happens within 3 years served is what makes the difference; a lot of them come and put their 110% effort to and be an essential part of a team, to perform their duties and grow a be a productive member of the Military and society, but one out of ten soldiers join for the wrong reason, or realize that the Military is not something he really wants to do. Tthis is when Commanders with Basic Training prefer to “Push them forward” and send them to Units where they will become a bigger problem. I, as Platoon Sargent, has seen first-hand the quality of Soldiers coming to the Units; some of us leaders question how these Soldiers made it so far when they cannot even perform basic soldiering tasks such as passing the physical exam, qualifying with a weapon or having knowledge of their job. I had a Soldier that didn’t even know the Soldiers Creed, and that is one task that soldiers are supposed to know from day1 in the Military because it is indoctrinated to them 24/7. Now, some of these individuals managed to stay long enough to get automatically promoted to a leadership positions; a few of them do not know the difference between left or right,  and now they are in-charge of a team.
Finally, this bring my point about “The Peter Principle” (3), a person can get promoted because they are really good at what they do but his leadership skills are very low or a person can get promoted because he is really good at leading, but he lacks the basic understanding of his job, he lacks abilities and they can’t perform to the standard. Standards were created based on experiences and bad and good calls from the pass where lessons were learned and safety points where put in place in order to make things or an individual better; lowering the standards just because certain candidates believe is too hard for them harms the outcome and the final product desired. If a person really wants to be a Firefighter or a Soldier, it should be solely because their abilities.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Is a Safety Conscious Work Environment being Enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?

Is a Safety Conscious Work Environment being Enforced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission?

By Kyle Sweeney CM 107

What is a Safety Conscious Work Environment (SCWE)?  Do all employers follow the SCWE guidelines?  I work in a heavily federal regulated industry (nuclear) and if there is there is not a SCWE, they will either temporarily close you down or place you under a Confirmatory Order until you do.  Well, this has not work out well at my place of employment.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a policy in 1996 (you can see it here: which stated that the employer must ensure that employees in the nuclear industry can raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation.  For the site I have been employed at this has not been the case since 2014.  The NRC issued a confirmatory order directing the employer to issue a plan that would resolve this issue within the workforce.  It stated that the employer must inform the employees of all the options available to them if they needed to report a safety concern and additional training.  The employer increased training frequency for supervisors/managers and posted the avenues available to employees to report their concerns. Some of those avenues included the immediate supervisor/manager, Employee Concerns and directly to the NRC themselves.

Over the last year there has been many employees that have raised concerns to their managers and no actions were taken.  These concerns were then raised to the Employee Concerns and again no actions were taken.  These same concerns were raised to the NRC and they substantiated these concerns. The NRC again, asked the employer to come up with a plan to fix these issues.  The employer created a plan in November of 2016.  Since this plan was created, 5 of the 8 employees in my department have been terminated.  These five employees were individuals that had raised concerns to the managers, Employee Concern and some of the concerns were also turned over to the NRC.  

So, NRC acted by having the employer being accused, conduct their own investigation.  Are you kidding me?  How do I know this you ask?  I was one of the five individuals terminated and NRC contacted me and informed me of this.  While NRC tried to defend the employer with the information the employer provided them about my concern, I had informed NRC that they had provided inaccurate information and provided them more accurate information.  Their response was, we will follow up with the employer and get some more information.  At no point has NRC conducted their own investigation.

The system is broken.  The policy that NRC created is not being followed by all employers and NRC is not doing a good job to ensure it is being enforced. I would like to end this with some questions for the reader.  Where do we go for assistance now?  How can we stop this?  What is the use of a Safety Conscious Work Environment if the individuals that created it, will not enforce it?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Volunteer Firefighting and its Issues

Joey Keller
CM 107 

People probably do not know that the vast majority of firefighting services across the nation are performed by volunteers. From the time of the first fire department was created by Benjamin Franklin until more recent times volunteers have been able to handle this burden without any paid support. Year after year between call volume increasing and staffing shortfalls in the fire departments create many problems that volunteers simply cannot keep up with the demand for their services.

I am the Fire Chief of my home town fire department, the North Beach Volunteer Fire department located in Calvert County Maryland. Our county is the last 100% Volunteer Fire Service in the State of Maryland, our services include 7 fire departments, 1 Advance Life Support Department, and a Dive Team. Although being the last all volunteer county is the state       This something we are very proud of; the department Fire Chiefs have all come to realize the need for paid supplemental staffing to be able to ensure the safety of the citizens in our response areas.

Though there are many independent reasons why different volunteer departments are failing, there are some general reasons that affect all departments equally. The first reason is in general,  most people don’t want to work for free, especially where you have a good chance to get hurt or killed. In my department we saw a huge drop off of member participation when the economy took a dive around 2008. My members were faced with a choice, work overtime or work more than one job to provide for their families or possibly lose their home. Obviously people went to work instead of staff the department which is understandable, but when citizens call 911 they expect someone to come.

Another reason I believe affects fire departments is the abuse of the 911 system and the dependence of the emergency room as a primary health care provider. Besides volunteering at my home department, I also work as a firefighter in the District of Columbia and between the two departments, I have many stories of what people call 911 for and when I share stories with people they tend not to believe them. Unfortunately, people call 911 more often than not when that service and the services of the ER is not needed when they should be making appointments with their primary care doctors. Most people seem to want a solution to their problem immediately and almost never take the additional steps to make sure their problem is fixed in the long term.

Though I have many stories and there are endless reasons why volunteer fire departments have problems keeping up with the demand of responding on calls, the bottom line is when citizens call 911 they expect someone to show up. The flip side of this is, citizens need to be prepared and willing to pay for the supplemental staffing. When people hear the word volunteer, they immediately think “they don’t get paid” which is true but it also means citizens don’t pay the extra taxes to pay for these services. So when more and more departments need help of paid staffers the citizens need to be prepared to do their part in paying for those services which for most places means taxes being raised.