Back from Africa

First, following up a little on my previous much-commented-on post on healthcare, I wanted to recommend this Bill Moyers video in which he discusses the hypocrisy of Dick Armey and the phenomena of ultra-rich people tricking poor people to vote against their own best interest, and in the interest of the rich, through these campaigns of fear-mongering and disinformation.

* * *

As is often the case, after the break are a great many bandwidth sucking images — sorry to my rural friends on dial-up — as well as an explanation for the image that I will start the day with.


As you know today was Science Centre day, with a friend of Nefarious’s that just got back from Africa. We went at a time between visits — the snakes exhibit has just closed, and the latest tour of Body Worlds (“Story of the Heart”, which I’ve promised the girls I’ll take them to after they laughed at the question as to whether they’d be scared) doesn’t open for a few weeks, and the kids water experiments area is undergoing renovation. The day started at the hydraulophone, a sort of hydraulic organ, and for the first time I actually played it (that’s not me though in the linked video playing Pachelbel). It’s hard to describe the sound. It’s not as rich as a pipe organ. In some ways it sounds like blowing across a bottle top.


As always I was annoyed by the smokers. I realize that they may have the legal right to smoke in front of kids — although that right is disappearing fast as smoking becomes relegated to private spaces — but it’s incredibly rude and crass. The fact that after sitting there scowling at the kids around them for the five minutes it takes them to finish they toss their butt on the ground caps it off nicely. I have no problem at all with someone choosing to smoke. I just have a problem with them forcing it on others, children especially, and with the littering. Coming to a playground to do it sucks.


In more pleasant news, one of the nice things that greets kids in one of the foyers is a big interactive floor. It goes through a series of modes — tiles that flip when you step on them, psychedelic ripples (as seen here) that radiate out from your footsteps, and so on. A little further in they have a floor that’s a virtual fishtank that you can walk through, splashing and scaring the koi.


There is a kids area at the Science Centre, which I think is getting less interesting as they all get older, but there’s a spinny-thing that I’m sure they’ll love going on forever. Personally I don’t get the attraction — getting spin-sick is about the least fun thing I can imagine doing!



One of the more bizarre areas that the place has is a room that’s full of broken computers, screwdrivers and other weapons of dismantling and destruction, and glue guns. Kids get to wreck things and take them apart, and then build sculptural projects out of them… Preparing them for Burning Man perhaps? They enjoyed it, building dystopian dollhouses that would fit in well in some “15 minutes into the future” cyberpunk TV mini-series. And we had fun gluing old calculator parts to my shoes. My only pair of shoes. So maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.


I don’t have a picture of it, but we also got to go to the planetarium — I didn’t even know they had one there, and it’s actually the only one in Toronto — which was amazing, and every one of them (and me too) described it as the highlight of their day. The screen was small, and there were too many babbling toddlers far too young to be brought in, but it was still wonderful to go on a guided tour of the universe and fly through a crowded starfield. I haven’t been to a planetarium in years since they closed the McLaughlin Planetarium. I always hoped it would open again, but first there were plans to knock it down for condos, and now it’s been sold to put up a business and law school for U of T. What a waste.

One of the exhibits that they have that’s been there since I was a kid is this huge kinetic sculpture that balls roll through in a sort of Rube Goldberg way. It never gets old, and every time I see it I want to go home and build one, but I’ve never had the follow-through to actually do so.


There’s lots more as well, and I didn’t take many pictures so I can’t bore you with more. We also headed to the park (and “enjoyed” the vulgar graffiti and equally vulgar tagging). If you take a look at the picture below, you’ll see there’s a red “chimney” as part of the play structure. Somehow — it would have been quite a feat to throw it so far — someone managed to chuck a bike up through the top of it! Bullies I suppose made some kid very sad.

Tomorrow I’ve promised that I’ll take them each to the playground that they want to show the other — “new” playgrounds that they’ve discovered near their respective schools… My legs are very sore from a long day, so on some levels I’m dreading it, but I’m sure that the fun will overwhelm the pain. Probably walk around the Polish Festival as well and see what yummy food they have for me.



  1. Toast wrote:

    I’m 26 and STILL love the spinny thing! We have a near-identical contraption at the Science Museum in London here, and I confess I still relish the quiet times on visits when the kids aren’t looking and I can go play.

    “Conservation of energy” was consequently one of the first bits of physics I really ‘got’ at school.

    I also used to take apart electronics & glue things together – my father actually built me my own shed in the garden as a kid, probably still only aged 11 or so, and I’d be forever shut in there with unhealthy levels of superglue vapour! Best by far were old cassette walkmans & car stereos, since with a couple of those, a battery pack & the pulleys I discovered you could build a little electric car. Hunt them down! Amazing introduction to gearings and ratios :) CD players & HDDs simply can’t be so readily repurposed.

    Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 4:59 am | Permalink
  2. Edurus_Fas wrote:

    ok- let’s see….
    calculator parts on your shoes — that is smart :) remember — some people caunt with their toes, and this would be a nifty way to do it with a calculator :P

    And as for the bike in the tube, I think there is a quick way to retrieve it: a long stick with an attached rope to it- and at the other end of the rope, a strong hook.
    poke the stick through the hole, let the hook get attached to the bike (or let the stick go all the way through and hold onto the hook until the stick is completely through the hole and out of the tube —
    hook the hook around a sturdy part o the bike and then pull the bike out from the top.
    Have Fun!

    Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink
  3. Ursula wrote:

    You’ll enjoy BodyWorlds Story of the Heart, when it was in Tampa I went twice. They even had a table set up with the plastinated cross slices and a spleen that the public was allowed to handle. First thing I did was sniff it (it didn’t smell). As curious as Nefarious seems plus as fun as you make learning, should have quite a good time. Cheers!

    Sunday, September 20, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
  4. Mead wrote:

    Smoking bans have helped health. BBC’s reporting it today, and it reminded me of your recent posts ( )
    (This paper is one of the ones they’re talking about: ).

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 1:29 am | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *