Cool guys (and gals) DO look at explosions

I bought the tickets so long ago, it was almost a bit of surprise when the Mythbusters: Behind the Myths Tour rolled into Toronto on Thursday. We arrived downtown Toronto in record time (thanks to Andrew for driving), and while we had enough time to kill with a pint, C’est What was packed and had other ideas.

The audience was a heartening cross-section of people, with a generous helping of nerd, not surprisingly. It was cool to see that the male/female split was pretty much even, and there were lots of kids. We also saw a number of folks who couldn’t possibly have been anything but professors. Some epic beards, too. πŸ™‚ (And, we think, Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies.)

Of all the things Adam promised in the pre-show video, the only one we didn’t get was beachballs. I’m ok with that. There was science, gadgets, stories, stunts, and, of course, pranks, largely played on enthusiastic audience members. They distribute a bunch of waivers on chairs before the show, and if you get one and sign it, you can be selected as an on-stage volunteer. Felt bad for the waiver-holders who were back farther than about 10 or 15 rows from the stage, since they were never getting called on.

The show was extremely family friendly, which isn’t terribly surprising, and many of the volunteers from the audience were kids. We had the distinct suspicion that Adam would have preferred something a little more “late nite”, which would have enabled swearing and more ridiculous stunts, but after Obama himself gives you kudos on getting kids jazzed about STEM, you know on which side your bread is buttered.

There’s plenty of content on YouTube from the shows β€” amusingly, the venue strictly prohibited recording or photography, but Jamie and Adam welcomed it, long as you kept the flash off. Plenty of photos and commentary on Twitter, too. Those gents definitely understand the value of smartphone ubiquity.

They did experiments and pranks with depth perception, friction, bikes and water balloons, a bed of nails, carnival feats of strength, and catching an arrow. (Apparently an Australian ninja corrected them after they “busted” that myth on the show.) They showed behind the scenes footage from the set and shows, and a number of their favourite explosions. Man, Adam LOVES him some explosions. And sometimes Jamies even smiles.

Both of them sat out and did Q&A at points during the show while things were readied backstage. The infamous cannonball incident came up, unsurprisingly, but Jamie answered in excellent diversionary fashion. The best question of the night came from a kid who asked about “that time they blew up a car for no reason”. The answer to why was, of course, because they could.

All in all, a very entertaining couple of hours. They’re born showmen (Adam more so), who know very well how to harness the enthusiasm (and social media proliferation capabilities) of an audience, and what better way to develop a love and learning of science than by doing crazy experiments and blowing things up?


The annual World Juniors hockey tournament is on, and I have to admit that while it’s always good to see Canada put forth a strong showing, their game results so far don’t sit terribly well with me.

8-1 and 15-0 aren’t hockey games — they’re bloodbaths — and under normal playing circumstances it’s unlikely the guys would run the scores up so much. It’s one of those unwritten rules of the game that when things are obviously very uneven, after a point you just let up.

The way the rules of the tournament go, however, total goals could be an important consideration in the event of a tie, so wracking up the points matters. But you can’t help but feel bad for the kids on the losing end of those scores, like the Kazakh kids who’ve so far lost 9-0 and 15-0.

I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and couldn’t help but think about the players on Canada’s team and on some of the other teams.

Even without taking theories of opportunity like Gladwell’s into account, the Canadian (and US) players have a helluva lot of advantages over many of the other players. Some of the Kazakh kids look positively tiny — I recall one of the announcers commenting that a Kazakh player was only 128lbs! The lightest Canadian player is 175lbs. The heaviest Canadian player is 216lbs. That’s not just a weight disparity; in a physical game, that’s dangerous. I don’t care how fast you are.

Beyond sheer physical size, the Canadian kids have likely had all kinds of other advantages to get where they are — money, coaching, ice time, etc. And most of them are on track for lucrative NHL careers. A few of the kids from outside of North America could probably claim similar advantages, and goodness knows there are plenty of Slavic and Scandinavian names in the NHL, but a comparable percentage at this level? I doubt it.

I realize inequality exists in sports, just like anywhere else. But there are ways we can manage around it and still have good competition with strong teams and good match-ups. After all, a close game is much more exciting than a blow-out any day. So maybe Canada doesn’t play Latvia or Kazakhstan, but they play each other, and we get games with better matched teams, tougher competition, and lower overall scores.

These kids are the best in the world, and the future stars of the game, and certainly there is some damned good hockey to be seen in these tournaments. (Yeah, it doesn’t hurt that Canada wins its share of gold medals.)

But as much as hockey is Canada’s game, I gotta say that seeing dejected faces of kids who’ve just played their hearts out, and scoreboards displaying inflated, lopsided scores feels pretty un-Canadian to me.

Antics, indeed

Andrew and I were watching some of the Pens ‘n’ Sens game last night (go Pens!), and during Coach’s Corner (I think) were treated to a clip of recent behaviour by the Rangers’ Sean Avery.

Maybe it’s because he was doing it to Martin Brodeur, maybe it’s because we grew up watching hockey where there were guys on the ice specifically to prevent shit like that, but both of us sat there in open-mouthed “Are you fucking kidding me?” dumbfoundedness.

Sure, technically Avery wasn’t breaking any rules. Guys like him rarely do. They stay within the letter of the law whilst pooping all over the spirit of it. Thanks, instigator rule!

Delightfully, in addition to other players, fans, and Don Cherry, the League wasn’t a fan of his behaviour, either (link courtesy of Andrew), but still, dude’s only gonna get two minutes for pulling those kinds of shenanigans. Do you think he cares? He’ll just have other tricks up his sleeve.

Thing is, the numbers speak for themselves. His schtick is effective. He makes people mad, mad people do stupid things, stupid things get penalized, and penalized teams get scored against.

I like fast, skillful hockey, and there are certain advantages to the evolution the game has undergone. But at the same time, I gotta say, I would have loved to have seen Avery try that shit on Belfour… πŸ™‚

Joss Whedon is his master now.

Srsly, who’s guarding whom here?

Anatole with Spike and Angel puppets

[For those not in the know, the Angel puppet (right) is from the Smile Time episode from Season 5 of Angel. The Spike puppet (left) is a limited edition in the same vein, but wasn’t actually featured on the show.]

A fine day

Aside from the pancake fiasco, t’was good stuff.

Planet Earth
arrived, which I got with my long-overdue-for-spending birthday gift card.

My Peet’s order arrived. (Best! Smelling! Mail! Evar!)

I matched my record for blood donation: 4 minutes, 12 seconds. It really does freak out the nurses. πŸ™‚

And I ate a delicious chocolate cupcake with caramel filling and buttercream icing. Mmm… (Though I did have to cough up a birthday gift card for that.)

And now, a relaxing evening with wine, American Idol, and the season finale (boo!) of House.

Truth in advertising?

Like a lot of people, I’m not watching a whole lot of TV these days. However, I enjoy a good car wreck as much as the next gal, and so when The Celebrity Apprentice debuted last week, I tuned in. At its best, trash tv allows Sherry and I to message back and forth with schoolgirl-like glee. And snark. πŸ™‚

Besides — Gene Simmons? C’mon.

Aaaaanyway, last evening’s episode saw the men’s and women’s teams charged with creating a commercial for Pedigree to encourage the adoption of dogs from shelters. Kudos. (The men won.)

And while I am all about getting pupsters new homes, I got a bit annoyed with both commercials. (Though I must say, you couldn’t get a better voiceover voice for that sort of ad than Trace Adkins — well played, men.)

You see, both teams used dogs in their ads, not surprisingly. But what kinds of dogs did they use? Well, the men had one dog — a female English bulldog. Riiiiiight. You know how many bulldogs end up in shelters? Pretty much zero. Why?

Because they’re ridiculously labour-intensive to breed and rear and they cost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. People don’t give up that kind of investment, especially since they only live about half as long as a robust mutt, too. The only bulldog I ever knew of that came into the KW HS was one who had a serious heart condition and the owner couldn’t afford the surgery and care. Unbroken bulldogs do not become shelter dogs.

The women used many dogs in their commercial. Want to know what the first three were? A Saint Bernard, a standard poodle, and a pug. Again, all purebred, well-groomed dogs. What. Ever. Yes, later in the ad they flashed a number of pictures of what appeared to be actual shelter dogs, and some were real dogs – mixes and mutts and dogs who needed to lose a few pounds or have a good brushing.

But those were nanosecond flashes, compared with “features” of dogs that, again, would cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. In my years at the HS I saw, to my recollection, one, perhaps two, standard poodles (and I believe one was a cross), and two Saint Bernards. One of them headbutted me in the face. πŸ™‚

I will give the women kudos, though, for how they presented their ad. They used the dogs in “stories” — one dog was in the shelter because his family moved. Another dog was there because her family had a baby who turned out to be allergic, etc. These are real and common reasons dogs end up in shelters. Although I’d love to see an ad with a dog saying, “I don’t really know why I’m in a shelter, but I’m pretty sure my owners were irresponsible assholes”.

The other irony of the whole exercise was that (supposedly) the Pedigree exec featured liked the winning commercial so much they were going to air it publicly… at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Riiiiight. Guess how many of the breeders/owners/handlers/etc. there a) feed their dogs Pedigree foods? Zero. Guess how many of the dogs at that show came from a shelter? Zero.

And yes, I am smart enough to realize that nothing about a TV show featuring The Donald has even a soupΓ§on of “real” anywhere near it.

Reason I’m going to hell #194,026,837…

This morning at the gym this odd commercial came on, where, basically, somewhere in rural Africa this katamari formed and began rolling, picking up people, trees, houses, livestock, etc.

And I thought, Huh… an African edition of Katamari Damacy. Weird… but cool that there’s a new one coming out…”

‘Cept it turned out to be a commercial for a charity about preventing the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Oh. Right.