Memories of Dad

Every once in awhile when I’m watching a television show, and my mind thinks ahead and figures out how it’s going to end, it makes me remember my dad.

Picture 011My memories of him have pride attached. Like a good son, I looked up to him, and respected how smart he was, and how he could solve any problem with a home made solution. In retrospect, neither of my parents were really as smart or great as I always thought they were, but families have their own special kind of love blind. To me, they were both great, good looking parents.

All my life I’ve had a different way of looking at things, and thinking about things. My dad was a doer, and I was a dreamer.  He was more an engineer, and followed his ideas through to completion. I was more the dreamer that just liked coming up with the ideas. My mind has always been a bit obsessive, although I never had a diagnosis. I have always over thought things, and it effects the speed of my decision making process.

I’ve called myself a master of scenarios, while others have called me a devils advocate. When presented with a situation, I tend to create as many what if scenarios as I can. I always come up with possible situations that others didn’t think of. Sometimes that’s a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse.

This ability wasn’t always good at guessing the actual outcome that transpired, but it did generate a lot of ideas that frequently created fear and self doubt. Thinking up many possible outcomes for any given situation ended up being the main reason my life was filled with a lot of “No”.  If invited out, there would be enough scenarios with negative outcomes to tip the risk scale to my safe setting, and I would just say No. I would not attend. There was always a distinct possibility I wouldn’t enjoy myself at your party, or that movie, or that restaurant, or the spice.

On the positive side however, it was like a superpower when watching TV. My active mind always watches shows on two or three levels while I watch the storyline, I also evaluate the setting from the actors viewpoint, or the production side. I notice and remember plot points and inconsistencies. I am constantly thinking up scenarios about how the story will continue.

It gives me pleasure to watch a murder mystery, and solve the crime before the mid episode commercial break. I may revise and update my conclusions as the story unfolds, and I may imagine several possible conclusions. Because of this, I get to enjoy the equivalent of multiple new stories at once. The real show as it plays out, and the imagination versions I’ve created in my mind. Often my endings are totally different, but equally as satisfying as the real episode.

Sometimes I prefer my stories. My endings were better than the ones the show followed.

This is all fun and mind games until you watch with somebody else, and freely express your thought as the show plays live. It should come as no surprise that other spectators don’t share the same excitement when I guess who did it, how and why all before the the first 10 minutes have passed.  I can be the worst kind of spoiler dude, ruining shows live, with solutions that may or may not be right.

I’m worse that the person who you overheard in a line at the theatre talk about Darth Vader being Luke’s father, or that “the Judge is a Toon!!” even before you’ve entered the theatre. I’m even more irritating kid behind you in the theater that always whispers loudly to his friend before each plot point, unless he also keeps kicking your seat back, then he is the worst.

My father has a reputation within my memories of being loud. I don’t have too many visuals of anything other than him losing his temper. It is his defining character trait that trumps his genius in my memory vault. We always had to be careful not to upset him. 

However, in this one particular memory, I made him smile. Every time. Whenever I was able to guess the bad guy, way before he could comprehend it, he was always happy. Proud. 

I’d say; “It’s him. He did it” and he’d smile, and say; “How do you do that?”, emphasizing the second “do” in a tone I read aloud in my head as I write.

I have no memory of him ever getting upset at me spoiling the ending, even if I wasn’t right, which I usually was. I usually am. To be fair, TV shows are pretty easy to guess most of the time. It’s not rocket science, but to my father, it was a skill he didn’t process. His mind didn’t work that way.


A few weeks ago I was watching an episode of the BBC series Sherlock off my Plex. A friend had recommended it, and was eager o re-watch it with me. I was given permission to talk aloud as we watched. Very early on, I paused and declared; I’d like to solve the puzzle Pat.

She didn’t know what I meant at first, so the joke fell flat, but I followed up with an explanation of how rest of the hour long show would play out. I got all the major plot and character elements right. She seemed a bit shaken by the experience. I could witness her face mould through a few variations before settling on a response. I’m sure she may have even thought about accusing me of having seen it before. I get that a lot.

Instead, she asked; “How did you do that?”

I smiled. It reminded me of my dad.

I told her this story.

Who Done Whodunnit?

whodunnitI found myself watching another episode of an old show I’m not proud to admit to; Whodunnit.

As is often the case, I find myself thinking about TV on two or more different levels. I can enjoy a show for it’s plot, or acting, or other ideas. I often explain my multi-level thinking to others, as if I am my own DVD commentary. I think about the actors and the direction, and the background players and the scenery. This show confused me a bit, because it’s one of the rare shows on TV that is so bad, it’s watchable. It’s a campy mixture of reality TV, role playing in a murder mystery house party.


I describe it as a home-style murder mystery party acted out each week, but the players are real people – not in any character. They play the role of detectives to try to figure out a crime.  Contestants of a reality show acting very poorly, trying to convince us the story is reality.  It’s an unusual mixture of reality and fiction, and real people find themselves “acting” to the death scenes they know are fake, but providing reactions as if it was real. It was that rare blend of watchable bad TV that made it entertaining on a few levels.

Each contestant must have been told the basics and were told to treat it as real. Like a bad movie or a house party plot, twelve random strangers gather together in a posh home, and presumably stay there for the duration of their “life” on the show. Each week, the loser of the solution competition is killed in some unusual way, and their murder is used as the plot for the following episode. The vote off is a common and easy to grasp formula for reality shows, but this was the first I know of where the contestants are treating the situation as if it was real.  They must fake shock and sadness when their competition are murdered, and they do it very poorly. The viewing audience isn’t treated to any additional information, so we can try to work out the solutions too.

A butler hosts, and I strongly suspect he will end up being the killer, not one of the guests.

While watching the current episode, it occurred to me that I was over thinking it. I’m sure each contestant was simply told to treat it as real. Much like we’re told to treat our own murder mystery parties. Once I accept the bad acting is real and sincere, but the rest of the game is more genuine, I can’t help but wonder why they are so dumb.  They don’t seem like dumb people, and I am hesitant to blame editing, because all the investigation the group does is solely narrated by the people. They know what I know, but wander around aimlessly drawing irrational conclusions. It’s very odd. They seem to ignore obvious clues with clear meanings. I’m not the kind of person that stands up and yells at the TV, but this show made me want to.

I think one of the reasons the show breaks from it’s half reality, half acting concept, and just seems bad, is because it’s also a content. We know the person who understands the clues, and is worst at crime solving will be the one that gets killed at the end of the episode.

If you were to ever find yourself really locked in a mansion with a killer, the group would probably be working together to save everyone. If you walk into a crime scene looking for clues, you share. On a TV show for cash, you act dumb, and share nothing. You covet the information for yourself, secretly hoping they kill off your competition. This explains why people don’t figure it out as quickly as we do as viewers, because we’re seeing it all, and they’re only seing pieces of the puzzle. People are not being helpful. In a twisted way, you want to be the last one standing. You win if you’re the murderer at the end of week 12.

It all makes sense now. I can continue to watch.


This Blog is Gluten Free

I went to my favourite Toronto burger place for lunch today, and got a surprise.  Their fabulous Big Guy 7oz juicy burger was now being advertised as Gluten Free. You’d have to be living under a rock these days not to know the term. 

“Gluten Free” seems to be the big new diet fad, with great controversy. Like so many diet options, I have happily remained ignorant to what it all means. I know it means something to do with wheat or grain, but I really don’t know or care. To me, it seems the way the world interprets dietary needs, changes faster than the seasons. First eggs are good for you,  then bad for you,  then good for you again.  One day were told to eat less sugar and then we find out the sugar substitutes cause cancer.

jackpot777I’ve seen online debates about Gluten get mean. One day last year, people started almost randomly declaring they had gluten allergies,  and stores and restaurants were quick to jump on the new bandwagon and offer specialty menu items catering to the elitist diet snobs.  Low fast isn’t good enough for them. Suddenly they can’t tolerate gluten. At the same time, experts chimed in and vocally called them all liars.  Only a very specific few people had real Gluten allergies, and have known about it their whole life. Everyone else just made it up. Maybe they liked the idea that it made them special. Somebody somewhere, must have said Gluten was bad for you, and the world reacted. Blogs and daytime TV can be bad for your health.

Gluten free exploded, like fat free did a decade before. Even Gluten Free chocolate became a thing. I ignored it all. 

I’s already made up my mind, like I do with so many foods before I try them for the first time. Diet food is bland. If you’re taking something out of the food I love, it’s going to taste worse. In my experience, fat free Jell-O is horrible. Sugar free chocolate tastes odd. I fully understand and accept that the things that make my favourite tastes great, are the things that mean scientists keep telling me to avoid, or less experts on the Internet tell me. I wish everybody on Facebook would stop telling me the things I love are horrid – or worse, how they’re made. I don’t need to know.

When Fat Phills decided to go Gluten Free, I was afraid. They were not offering it as an option, like they did with their buns. It was the only way I could order lunch. The sign was clear; all our Burgers are now Gluten Free.

I asked Phill. He’s a great guy and sincerely loves talking to his customers. I trust what he tells me.  Phill says that he removed the breadcrumbs from his Burgers. You may remember about breadcrumbs in burgers. Our moms used to do it too. Not so much as a filer, but as a binding agent to keep the raw beef from falling apart, which is especially important when grilling over an open flame like Fat Phills does. Without a binding agent, the burgers crumble.

What he was surprised to discover, was the happy side effect that they actually tasted better. By changing his binding to use a Gluten Free binding agent, the flavour of the juicy fat actually improved the burger. It seems obvious, but bread also absorbs the juicy juicy grease,  making the burger a little dryer and less tasty.  As I mentioned above, the grease is one of those deliciously evil things that add the flavour. Gluten free burgers were not bland, but actually an improvement. 

Who knew.

So I suspect “Gluten Free” isn’t as bad as fat free after all. It might even make other things better too. I’m curious to see.  I still believe sugar free is horrid, but maybe this is a bandwagon I’ll jump on too.

I will not however claim to be allergic.

Even Bad Magic is Magical

For the first time ever, a magician won America’s big summer talent show; America’s Got Talent.

SC_003Judge Howard Stern has been campaigning for more than three years on his morning Sirius Satellite radio show for America to vote more for variety acts than singers. Like me, he is disturbed that a gigantic talent show featuring lots of acts in a wide range of talents, seems to still favor the singers. There are so many singing talent competitions on TV these days, he really wants a non singer to win the “anything goes” show he works for.  Stern continuously makes the reference that singers have it easy by comparison.  They have an obviously great voice,  and they come on stage sing somebody else’s words. They evoke emotion, and people fall in love with them.

Tonight I watched magician Mat Franco smile and impress the judges and audience with close up magic.  By the end of the episode, he received the most votes,  and won the million dollar prize. Everyone was happy… except maybe the other magicians.

magicI was seriously into magic in my teens for 5 or 6 years. It was a great hobby for me, shared with my best friend at the time. My interest faded away as I got a job and started my adult life, but he continued and made it his career. I’ve maintained my love for magic through my life, and watch it whenever I can, both live and on the Internet or TV.

It’s hard for me to know how magic feels to the average person with less exposure. It was normal for me to understand what magic is, and feel for the magician more than the spectator. As a novice magician, I see it differently and although I will admit to not knowing how a lot of amazing stage magic is done, I still understand the basic concept.

Matt is a good example of a good performer. He has a nice smile that doesn’t scare the audience. Many magicians base their acts on an edgier performance, using flame and danger. Matt is more an everyday performer, opting to not wear a costume or flashy assistants. He’s more like you and me, and his magic seems more real because of it. He’s likable, and he makes us want to enjoy the show.

His choice of trick for the first finale performance was the cups and balls. As I noted above, I’m not an expert on how the general public perceives magic on TV.  Having said that, I’m still fairly confident that a great percentage of Americans and the world have not only seen this trick done before, but may even know how it’s done. Penn and Teller have performed their version of the cups and balls on TV numerous times. They use clear cups, so you can see how it’s done. I’ve seen them perform this on multiple shows many times.

If anyone you know ever bought you a magic kit at any time in your life, it would have included a deck of cards,  red sponge balls, a fake thumb,  and the cups and balls. You can pick up a set for $1 at the dollar store.

As a former magician myself, watching a new fellow prestidigitator perform their version of the trick is like watching your favourite band play their take on a famous Beatles tune. It’s familiar, but different every time and even though you know the tune, the creativity in making it their own is entertaining. Every magician has their own take on the cups and balls. I’ve seen some amazing interpretations. I’m biased, but my high school buddy Jay Sankey had one of the coolest versions I’ve seen.

It surprised me to see Matt’s version of the cups and balls was not very good. I would say almost horrid. He performed a very basic unimaginative routine, pretty much like the stock patter listed in every magic book you could find. He did it poorly, attempting to distract his skill level with a complex rhyming poem about the judges and America’s Got Talent.

Even if the premise of the trick wasn’t known by many before he started, his moves and loads were bordering on horrid. It was quite possibly the worst cups and balls routine I’ve ever seen. In the span of my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot. Hundreds of times.  He was worse than 13 year old Allen Berman, who performed it at his best friends Bar mitzvah, and he was worse than Robby the clown at the Acton fall fair, that I saw 5 years ago. If you didn’t know how the cups and balls was performed before Mat’s routine – you did after he was done. There was nothing spectacular about it. Nothing worthy of a million dollars.

Still, Matt impressed the crowd and some people even stood up to clap. To be fair, they already fallen in love with him based on numerous previous appearances. This was the final, and he’d impressed and baffled everyone before. Most people had already made up their minds which one of the final six they were going to vote for. In an odd way, the true miracle of Mat’s magic was that he got everyone to love him with style and performance rather than actual magic skill.

SC_002His second effect of the evening impressed me more. Like the cups and balls, his second trick was also a common store bought routine. By coincidence it was a trick I loved, and I’ve been showing my friends the same trick since I was 16.I actually remember the very first time I saw it, and bought it. It’s called The $100 Card Trick.

In this case however, the trick was personalized, and Mat’s interpretation was much more his own.  He took one of the most impressive card tricks, and made it big.  He combined the close up aspect of a card trick, with the big stage, and multiple people. he added audience members holding gigantic playing cards, and involved two judges in the effect.   It worked well for the close up judges and the big TV audience.  I loved it. 

I’m not actually 10% certain, but I think he made a vital counting mistake on this trick too, but covered it up well.

spellzMatt’s magic is a testament to how much people love magic and to be fooled. I underestimated America’s love for magic. Since I was young, I’ve watched all the TV magic I could find. I sat through every episode of Kreskin and watched all the Doug Henning specials.  Later, I caught every David Copperfield and David Blaine show as well as others. If it had magic in it, I was watching it, including series shows from Canada and the UK. My buddy Jay that I mentioned earlier even hosted his own children’s magic series (Spellz).  Magic has always been a part of my life, and I suppose I assumed it had been for others too.

What I am learning however is the opposite. Most Americans don’t see magic. They’re not exposed to it in their day to day lives, and may only witness a single effect once a year or less. They see a trick on America’s Got Talent each summer for 90 seconds. The average Joe citizen may have never seen a good card trick.  As hard as it is for me to believe, much of the audience may never have seen the cups and balls. It’s new magic.

Magic is awesome. It turns a frown into a smile more globally than a joke or a song, and follows up with the bonus emotion of wonderment and confusion, and if done well, respect.

The thing is, bad magic does too, at least when well performed.

Not everyone in the audience takes pleasure in ruining a trick by figuring it out, or ruin the mood by telling you they’ve figured it out. Some people do feel this need of course, and they’re found on YouTube posting in the comments about how everything is done. YouTube and the Internet are filled with spoilers who crave that, but most people are happy to have been fooled, and smile. In this way, magic can appeal to everyone for different reasons, but they’re still finding joy, either as a happy participant, or a bragging dickhead.

I congratulate Matt. He’s done well. He’s won a competition where many have tried and failed. We wasn’t the best, but he had a  broad appeal, and perhaps better than anyone is probably showing the world that magic is a good hobby choice. An art you can learn and be good at, or at least good enough at. His profile pieces show his growth, and compared to learning how to master an instrument or other skill, magic has everyday appeal and wonder. When you watch a guy doing acrobatics you can be impressed by his skill, but you don’t feel the emotion. Magic creates a different kind of awe, and you can perform it with a salt shaker at the dinner table.

I suspect many people will look at magic as a hobby this year.

The first trick they’ll learn is the cups and balls.

The Highlander – 2014 Doctor Edition


A few summers ago,  during the slow summer season when hardly anything new is on TV, I started binge watching The Highlander series every day on one of those obscure higher package cable channels. I have always been a fan of time travel stories, and although immortals are not technically the same as time travellers, the similarity in story was enough for me.  I had seen the movie later in life, but I really liked the series. I often find myself day dreaming about what it would be like for me, if I could live a few hundred years. As I got older, I even started telling people I’ll be darn pissed off if I die an old man, and THEN find out I was immortal.

Over the years I have considered a few immortal scenarios I could write about, if I ever started writing fiction. The concept leads well to fiction, and I’m still surprised we don’t see more movies and TV shows about immortals.

Tonight that all changed, and a new modern day immortal debuted in the fall TV lineup. Another cop procedural with a twist, which seems to be such a common storyline these days.  Character X helps a regular cop or federal agent solve crimes. I’ve blogged previously about how many cops in the USDA seem to need the help of strangers to do their job. I suspect the real cops get a little disturbed by this. There are almost no shows were good cops do their own crime solving these days. Yesterdays blog was about another premier using the same plot, except with government cop and consultants were 5 geniuses instead of an immortal.

In FOREVER, the lead character is unexplainably immortal. Much like the immortals of The Highlander series. They actually die, but then come back to life. In The Highlander, they used the same body, which was logical. In this new series, they’ve added the twist that they are reborn somewhere lese, always naked in water. We’ll no doubt see this twits used for humour and suspense as the show continues. In episode two, we discover their original body just seems to disappear, which is a plot point that will surely get him in trouble. It also passes into the realm of magic and unbelievability for me.  I am actually OK with the concept of immortality, but a disappearing body pushes the limits of reality a bit farther than I’m comfortable with.

duncanLike Duncan Mac Leod, of the clan Mac Leod, he has lived for a few hundred years, and has learned many languages, although he still speaks with a British accent. He has mastered skills as he lived from life to life around the globe, moving on and starting over every few decades. Undoubtedly we will see his past memories of war and love become part of the story each week as the writers introduce us to more of him.

His other attribute seems to be a sharp mind, modelled after the kind of obsessive attention to detail we’ve been seeing a lot in shows from Sherlock Holmes to Monk, Psych, The Mentalist and others. He’s smarter than the average cop. I’m actually a little surprised they didn’t give him a photographic memory too.

I am excited to see episodes three and on. I’m curious to see whether he’ll reveal to his Lois Lane cop partner early on, or  her whether the mystery of how he isn’t afraid of death, and doesn’t seem to get injured will last a few weeks. It might even stay a secret all of season 1.  If the show gets picked up for a second season, it will no doubt start down another path of TV co-ed partnerships, and we’ll get to see them fall in love… which is extra tricky for an immortal. We’ve already seen how much he daydreams of his first love lost from the 1940’s

I can’t yet decide which decision will make for better story lines, but as long as they keep trying to solve dangerous murders, he will continue to be killed each week at least once, so it might start to get silly if he doesn’t explain himself sooner rather than later. Everybody used to complain when Superman didn’t do something super at least once per episode. It is the same for an immortal. There is no point unless they keep killing him. Currently the only Daren Stevens character that knows his secret is his adopted son, who is now the age his father would be. A nice twist.

FOREVER really is two shows in one A cop procedural with a super-hero twist. Well see whether the plot goes more towards a show solving murders,  or an immortal hiding a secret. I’m hoping for a nice balance that keeps the series going with interesting plots. I’ve seen from 5 years of The Highlander, there are a lot of places the story can go.

When my mind gets creative, it thinks up futire directions for season 2 and beyond. I think it’d be cool if every season they pulled a reverse Doctor Who and changed every character but the lead. One death is public and instead of being exposed, he must pack up and move on, much like The Highlander did when he moved to France for a year.  It would be something we don’t see often on network TV.

I like it.  I’m a first episode fan.  It stays in the rotation.


Pauseandblog: Scorpion

I’m watching the premier episode of Scorpion as I write this.


It’s a federal agent crime drama where the lead characters are a group of super smart, uniquely talented under 30 year old nerds, recruited by an old, wrinkle face, loud fed. I’ve just hit pause part way though, so I don’t know all the details yet.

What caused me to pause and blog, was witnessing some Computer mumble jumble fake tech talk. I ponder how long this kind of creative fake technology in TV will be acceptable. Back in the 80s, most people still didn’t have a home computer so when we saw Mathew Broderick talking to one, we believed it. Today, we’re pretty smart about what’s possible, and when a hacker goes into a restaurant and connects his computer via WiFi directly to the internal camera feeds at the airport, some people may still believe it’s possible… but when he hits ctrl-c on a flashing Blue screen of death Windows XP box and then goes back into the computer to solve the problem, that’s too far. Too hard to believe.

Kidding aside, I can’t help but wonder who they feel a demographic of reasonably unattractive nerds is appealing to. I understand that they can’t make nerds beautiful, or nobody would believe they were nerds, even in today’s nerd friendly society. However, true nerds may be bothered by a show like this, on many levels. Nerds don’t always like it when shows depicting nerds are able to do things that reality doesn’t really allow. 

I’ve already seen 10 things that are not realistic in this show, and I’m only 15 minutes in.

Unpause – Pause

As I watch more, I see that all the other characters have equal demographic followers that will be irritated by the inaccuracies of their life, from crazy lock picking, amazing math, hackable electric power, and crazy psychology tricks. As I think more about it, I realize that all TV probably has an unbelievable quality that applies to any role. I suspect the real FBI agents can pick apart how crazy the agent’s actions are. I guess we all give in to TV being unrealistic. We suspend our disbelief for the sake of the story, or the action sequences. We even accept the part where a complete stranger waitress volunteers to save the day, by being asked to drive over 100km down the busy streets of LA, aided by one of the smart nerds, who has hacked all the traffic lights (but one) to turn green for the journey.

As the episode continues, I can partially respect it as an action adventure show. It’s not unlike any other federal agent against the bad guys show, with a novel twist.  Parts were as silly as a Bond flick at times, and some of the silliness was laughably bad, like when they started driving a Ferrari at 200mph down an airport runway while a jumbo jet flies 20 feet above them for a few seconds so they can connect the two via a hanging network cable. Once they plug in, they are able to instantly download a fresh copy of the plane’s operating software and save the city.

The question is, will this silliness impact whether people like the show, or leave it. Can we accept absolute stupid moments in order to enjoy an action sequence? Can nerds handle stupidity that borders on mocking their talents and skills?  Time will tell.

I’ll watch week two before I decide. For now, it stays in the rotation.

Madam Secretary of Quahog

It’s new TV week.

I sat down this evening to watch and review the new network TV show about Mrs. Clinton called Madam Secretary.

It’s probably not really about Hilary although the main star looks a lot like a younger version of Mrs. Clinton,  complete with a similar, but not identical hair style. I think we are at least going to be shown what the job of the secretary of state is all about, which may indirectly impress people that the former first lady is a smart strong woman, who may be a good candidate for 2016 president.  I know little else about the show itself, but it’s hard not to make the connection.

Over the years, the networks have tried a number of government themed shows, including a short lived series with Geena Davis as the President. I expect this show to be similar in style to The West Wing, which was a fictional, but educational about us politics. I loved the West Wing.

Sadly, the show I apparently recorded and started to watch, was Family Guy.  The network had changed their pilot premier schedule for unknown reasons. A tiny banner scroll ran across the bottom of the screen alerting me that the show I actually wanted was on at some other time. An alert I could do nothing about but be frustrated. A PVR fail. I searched the schedule for another showing, as well as the ON DEMAND catalogue, but there was no other copy of the show. I had missed it.

Ouch. That has to hurt the ratings of a brand new show. Episode one would have taken a hit if anyone else had done the same. I wasn’t even to watch an online version on my tablet or Chromecast because the Global TV version plays from the web using a FLASH player, which is no longer supported on portable devices. I was forced to download the show from the torrents overnight.

As my brain often does, I ponder about what goes on behind the scenes to make such a change. Usually premier dates of new shows are set months in advance, and the schedule is delicately defined. Time slots are fought over and manipulated to fit the show style and demographic.

I wonder if it this last minute switch was political. I imagined a scenarios where the republican party secretly tries to sabotage a show that puts a democratic character is a good light. Having a hit show on the fall lineup in 2014 could actually help Hillary Clinton run for office in 2016, that is if she ever admits to wanting to.

I never found out why it was moved.  I’ll watch it later.

To be continued.

Magnetic Chereos

I’ve been watching more YouTube videos than regular television this summer.

Tonight I was watching a two part episode of the educational video series; Vertasium.

In week one, he showed a number of science physics things. The one I’m writing about first, was the sequence where a a magnet is used to pull a piece of cereal around in a bowl of water.

The following week, a second video was released that showed the reasons. The science explanation for this “magic” was the simple fact that cereal apparently a huge percentage of your daily recommended supply of iron. Real iron. Our body needs it.

What made the video interesting to me, was that they explained the iron explanation, and then followed up with more information. They claimed to have received some viewer comments, indicating that other items like paper reacted the same. It seems almost anything that floats, is also pulled around in the water towards a magnetic source.   The magnet wasn’t effecting the iron in the cereal at all, but rather the liquid itself.

I was as much interested in the science, as I was in the experiment itself, and the logic of the science behind their first answer. It was an example of trial and error that failed. The video did indeed show me that the iron in cereal was magnetic, but the water experiment was showing me inaccurate results. It seems as though they neglected to show the experiment first with a control, to provide prof that items that don’t contain iron do not move towards the magnet.

As I watched the segment, I became curious as to whether they even knew about this second answer before the second reveal episode. It is an excellent example of scientific principle being misleading when used without a control. They proved a hypothesis with three actual sets of proof. The cereal is definitely magnetic, however they did not prove to us that the proof they used was legit.

On YouTube, we can’t always believe what we see, and entire videos are often made to look real, but instead just turn out to be bogus pranks, or fake science. We have to be careful. When I watch Mythbusters do experiments, they always provide a proof of concept and a control experiment to prove the proof.

I wonder if the show knew both answers and were going to reveal them both, or whether they were surprised by the second discovery, and amended their reveal video to show both truths. In the old days of Television, this curiosity woukd remain a mystery. Today, I think to myself – Google knows all, and somebody else has probably already asked in the comments, forums, or via  twitter.  People love to follow up interactivky these days. It’s probably the biggest change in media. We no longer just watch and learn… we get to watch, learn and ask questions.

As it turns out, the editors of the video admitted to learning something new. The discussions went on for pages. It seems they were excited by learning something new, just as we were. Science is cool.

Later in the video,  they described to me why hot air rises is a totally new way,  allowing me to better understand it,  than ever before. It’s great to learn new things at any age, even if they’re things that may seem obvious and things I should have learned when I was 10.  The floating teabag effect let me understand the idea of whooshing thicker air than the vaccine of thin heated air.  Whoosh.

People of the Yard Sale

I found myself at a charity yard sale this weekend with time to spare.

10612538_10154521237690018_8068816020085399440_n[1]Usually I don’t pay too much attention to weekend sales in yards and driveways. They’ve never held much interest for me although I do know, for many people, they’re a weekend highlight. I can breeze through a yard sale in under 3 minutes usually. I I just don’t need to spend money on other people’s giveaways.

I take a quick overview walk around, similar to how I browse an antique store.  It can be fun to rekindle vintage home memories, but I rarely find anything to spend a dollar or 50 cents on. I like new stuff.

For a different reason today however, I stayed. I sat on the concrete stairs outside a home in a sub division miles from my home, and watched the people who come and go.  A huge variety of amusement, as each new eager treasure hunter arrived with the excitement of the search.  Each showing me a story, and occasionally I get to overhear just enough to fill in the blanks. A good yard sale truly is a cross section of assorted weirdness, both on the ground, and in the patrons.

I had a fun time watching and listening, as people struggle with tough purchase decisions, and bicker over whether to spend 50 cents for that plastic catsup bottle or not.

“Uncle Jack would like this”, and “oh look mom, a Golfer mug! Daddy would love this!”

10646999_10154521245060018_6691004129598573179_n[1]It occurs to me that even fans of the yard sale are shopping for somebody else half the time. I understand that the joy is in the search, rather than the find. People are not here looking for anything specific, they’re looking to find anything they like, or can gift, and pay only $3… or talk them down to $1. Kids especially seem to love digging looking for lost wonders, especially when anything could be cool. You never know. Like treasure hunting without knowing what is in the vault.

I discover from conversations with the yard owners, that early on the yard is filled with a different type of shopper. Before 8am we see mostly the professional yard scavengers.  The shop owners and Ebayers. They’re here when it opens to rummage through everything and find the good deals.  Anything that could sell in a store or online for a price, is worth buying for $1.  Occasionally they may even find things worth hundreds or thousands.  Inside our head, we all think; just maybe we’ll find something wonderful that nobody noticed.

Another distinct group of yard sale fan, coming at any time of day, often passing from one yard sale to another through the whole neighbourhood. I call them the Questers. These experienced yard salers are looking for more specific things. It may be the last piece to a doll collection or perhaps they need that last missing fork.  I’ve witnessed them arrive in small family packs, with a determination to find that game piece they’re missing, or the a Robin Hood mug. It clear they know what they need, and have been to many sales. They wisk through the whole yard faster than anybody else, overturning boxes and sifting through trunks. They come and go almost as quickly as I used to.

10676331_10154519631980018_8360461054883322463_n[1]“I FOUND ANOTHER PIG” shouts one child across the driveway. It’s clear they’re looking for pigs like a pig looks for truffles.  I know a lot of people who have animal collections and I can imagine that their friends and family would always be on the lookout for a pig ornament, or an owl statue, or whatever the specialty.  When I go to a sale like this, I’ll be on the look out for any My Little Ponies, because a friend of mine has instructed me to do so. I’ve never found one yet, but I always look. For such a specific find however, I suspect the EBayers bought it at 8:14am.

I’m learning it’s a fun family adventure, much like hunting for Easter eggs, except these finds are all just laying there on the lawn. The hardest hiding spot is under the flap of an open box.  The real challenge is to search and find what you need or perhaps, need what you find. You may have a lot of possible wins at a good yard sale. A coffee mug with a sports team Daddy likes, anything pink for Sarah, a cow for Jennifer.

Jennifer likes cows. She is a school teacher friend of mine who one day somehow let her Grade 2 students know that she liked cows. From that moment on, Jennifer received something cow related on every holiday for the next several years.  Her house was literally overflowing with cow related trinkets, curtains, pictures and dolls. 

It is clear however, that the most popular exclamation I hear by far is; “oh wow, we used to have one of these!”

 10703773_10154521241465018_8852326529936009810_n[1]The recognition of a product or article from our your youth. Yard sales are filled more with memories than any other item. People come to them and have fun. They get excited over refreshed memories, opportunities to relive the past, and buy cool stuff for less than a dollar. It’s a culture I never really knew about.  I’d been entertained watching young kids get super excited in a Dollar Store when their parent would say they could have any three items from the whole store. The kids go crazy… but discounts are only part of the enjoyment. It’s the whole thing. Even people watching is part of the fun. I almost laughed out loud when people ask questions about one dollar items. 

When one lady asked; “Do you know if this cordless phone works?”, the answer she received was very polite. I would have said; “Lady… it’s a Dollar”.

The funniest thing I watched, was a woman get so excited to have found an only slightly dusty empty wedding guestbook. I had to wonder to myself, how sad it was that somebody threw a wedding, and nobody signed the book.  Or perhaps a wedding in this family was planned and paid for, but didn’t go though. An empty wedding book at a yard sale is a sad thing.

The lady cheered;  Woo Woo. This’ll save me $40.

10687103_10154521246050018_6709268384177127951_n[1]I think to myself, someboidy will object to using a wedding book that looks used, she’ll agree, and it’ll find it’s way into somebody elses’s yard sale. If this has happened before, that wedding book could be 200 years old. The Ebayers missed it.

You can find all kinds at the yard sale. 

P.S. I bought two scrabble sets for a friend that makes crafts and a rainbow plastic slinky, which I’ve never owned. I saw the slinky in a photo of the yard sale posted to Facebook and rushed to get it. I paid $3.

Photo Credit by Elisa Applebaum… Charity: Urban Cat Relief.


Robot Chicken Social School

Sometimes, educational TV takes a different approach. It teaches us important life lessons, and helps us socialize.

There is a TV show on every night that I strongly recommend everyone watches. Each episode is only 15 minutes, but the lessons it delivers is essential to a person’s pop culture education.

Robot Chicken is an amazing tool. It is a crash course in current and retro pop culture, ideal for learning just enough about anime, kids shows and toys to appear competent in any social gathering, or fan convention like Comic Con.

I am a 50 year old man. My young years were in the 60’s and 70s, so I missed a lot of childhood programming from the 80s and 90s. My Saturday morning cartoons were from the years where they were really crap. I remember bad shows like the original really horrible Spiderman cartoon, Rocket Robinhood, Friendly Giant, Rocketship 7 and Davey and Goliath. I looked up to Mr. Dressup and Mr Greenjeans.

Kids today know all about different shows, as every generation has their own version of Saturday morning. I know nothing about Anime and Naruto and Power Rangers and Transformers. I missed them all.

Robot Chicken is a unique show. It’s not live action and it’s not a cartoon. Robot chicken is primarily a sketch show that parodies all ages and all forms of children’s television and classic TV shows. Animated dolls replay scenes from our youth, and all the youth shows we missed. We laugh at the jokes we know, like Davey being possessed by his devil dog Goliath, and we laugh at the jabs at shows we don’t know too. It’s a funny show.

The secret is – we’re learning the basics of the shows we don’t know. We’re getting educated on the pop culture we were not a part of. We’re seeing HE MAN and SKELATOR and RAINBOW BRIGHT… all characters I knew absolutely nothing about before episodes of Robot Chicken mocked them.

One of my weekend hobbies is going to fan conventions and comic cons. In the Toronto area we have over 70 of them a year. A number that might actually be a record for North America. Because of Robot Chicken, I am able to listen and even participate in discussions about MY LITTLE PONY or GI-JOE. These are shows I’ve never seen, but I know all about Cobra Commander because of the parodies I’ve seen on Robot Chicken.

I want to get a whole line of T-SHIRTS: