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You Spin Me Right ‘Round, Baby

by Amber L. Burden on May 25, 2017


We’ve all seen them. They spin, they keep your hands busy, and they are extremely annoying when in the hands of a nine-year-old … It’s the spinner toy. For the record, the term “fidget spinner,” as they are often called, is already trademarked, and the trademarked item has nothing to do with the fidget toys that are currently flying off the shelves. But, just like the word “brainfreeze” is trademarked by 7-Eleven, we all know that people will keep using that term regardless.


There seems to be an extensive trend right now – a cult following, if you will – regarding these ever popular toy spinners. Why these odd devices are running rampant, the world may never know. Anyway, there is apparently a debate as to whether or not these spinners are toys or meant to be therapeutic. Part of this confusion comes from mixed stories as to the origin of the spinner. If it was invented for relaxation purposes, especially for those with autism or anxiety disorders, then there is a definite cause for an uproar. But what if that isn’t exactly the case? There are a couple of stories floating around the internet pertaining to the development of the crazy pieces of rotating plastic. Let’s take a look…

Story 1:
Catherine Hettinger, inventor of the spinner, was attempting to create something that creates a soothing effect, after having an encounter in Israel where she watched young boys throwing rocks at police officers. However, once they hit the shelves, the fidget toys became a product that couldn’t be sold fast enough. Hettinger is apparently thrilled at the response for such a need – peace, control, and relief – despite the fact that she isn’t receiving any financial compensation since her original patent expired.

Story 2:
In 1993, Hettinger applied for a patent that she called a “spinning toy,” a circular item that spins between a person’s fingertips. She allowed her patent to expire in 2005; but in 2016, the now-popular spinners became extremely popular. Sure, they spin like Hettinger’s product but they are otherwise a completely different mechanism altogether. Of course, the public’s ability to post whatever they want on Wikipedia was the starting point of Hettinger receiving credit for the device. She has recognized and acknowledged the differences between the booming spins and her own toy, as well as stating that she doesn’t know who credited her on Wikipedia. Besides, seeing as the patent of her own toy would have expired in 2014 – even if she hadn’t let it lapse –  she still would have not received any royalties for the sales. While some blindly give her credit, the actual inventor of the toy has not been identified (based on searches for “spinning toy” patents).

Many schools are beginning to ban these because they’re distracting the students. However, parents seem to have a problem with this; some of the kids (like those with ADHD, for example) are being helped with their focus, anxiety, and productivity because of the spinners. Based on the second story of origin, these are nothing more than toys – but is the intended purpose truly important, even if it helps some people? Maybe school districts should take another look at it. I mean, if an antiseptic can become a popular mouthwash (yup, Listerine was first made to clean your cuts and scrapes), why can’t we be a little more open-minded on the benefits of spinners?


For the record, despite my initial despise of this ridiculous toy, I had the opportunity to try one out. As a person that deals with severe anxiety, I surprisingly found it extremely helpful. It actually prevented me from having a panic attack the other night. I try my best to not fall into the traps of cultural obsessions but, well, I definitely keep this in my desk at work…


Blinded by the Light

by Amber L. Burden on February 10, 2017

Have you ever seen the stars during the day? If not, then be prepared to be amazed. This August, North America will have the opportunity to check out a total solar eclipse. While the following solar eclipse will be in South America on July 2, 2019, North America won’t see another one until 2024. There are definitely some great reasons to check this out, the first being that those of us in North America haven’t seen a solar eclipse since 1979. On August 21, everyone in the United States will see at least a partial eclipse. The path of the eclipse determines how much will be seen throughout the country. Here at our office in Dallas, Texas, we’ll have a 76% obscuration, meaning that 76% of the sun will be blocked by the moon. Augusta, Maine, however, will only have 57% obscuration. But for the best view, you need to be on the path of totality. This is the specific path that the sun and moon will take and will make a complete solar eclipse visible. One of the best places in the country to view this eclipse will likely be Hopkinsville, Kentucky  with 100% obscuration for 2 minutes and 40.2 seconds.


Many people don’t realize that, as an eclipse is approaching, animals react as if nighttime is on its way. That makes sense, right? The sky will be darkening similarly to the sun setting. So, of course, diurnal animals – the ones that are awake during the day – start heading to bed. As an eclipse approaches, you can see the animals begin to gather their offspring and make their way towards their nests. At the same time, you’ll notice nocturnal animals slowly making their way out of hiding. You can take this chance to get a peek at some creatures that you may rarely get to see, unless maybe you work weird hours.

An important thing to remember about an eclipse is to not look directly at it until it’s in full totality. Of course, you should never stare the sun – eclipse or not. As Bruce Springsteen sings, “Mama always told me not to look into the sights of the sun.” Mama apparently knew what she was talking about. You should always be prepared, like having a pair of solar eclipse glasses to enjoy the show. (You can find them here: Once it hits totality, though, take them off and marvel at the wonder!


If you’re interested in celestial shows, you can also check out the spectacle that will be taking place tonight. We get a three-for-one: a full snow moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, and a comet. The lunar eclipse – which, as the name suggests, is a block of the moon’s light – will begin around 4:30 PM CST and will be at its peak around 6:45 PM CST. Some may not see much of a change in the moon. But never fear… just grab a pair of binoculars and head outside around 9:00 PM CST to catch the comet! The light from the green comet with purple tail may be difficult to see without binoculars or a telescope; however, this is the closest that this comet has been to Earth in 30 years so you don’t want to miss out on this.


Finding Your Backbone

January 5, 2017

I am generally terrible at being assertive. My lack of self-confidence makes it difficult to push myself outside of my comfort zone and toward other people. Because of this, it’s been difficult for me to ‘ring my own bell,’ so to speak. There is so much more I could be doing in this world – […]

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The Demise of Your New Year’s Resolutions

December 6, 2016

As the new year approaches, people are starting to prepare for the annual tradition: let’s make a new year’s resolution! Personally, I do something a little different for resolutions but I’ll get to that later. Most people have an idea of what they would like to change or do to better themselves. It’s something that […]

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