All Posts Tagged With: "Waterloo"
Retired astronaut will research fainting spells
WATERLOO, Ont. The former Canadian astronaut who gained a global audience with his musical performances in space will be taking on a new job as professor of aviation at an Ontario university.
The University of Waterloo says Chris Hadfield’s first task on campus will be assisting research into why some astronauts get fainting spells when they return to Earth—knowledge it says will also be useful for elderly people prone to falling.
- An excerpt from Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
- Chris Hadfield on the view from above and his fear of heights
- Behind the scenes on our Bowie-inspired Chris Hadfield cover
The school on Tuesday announced the appointment of the guitar-playing ex-astronaut, who retired in July shortly after getting back from five months on the International Space Station.
During the mission, Hadfield became the first Canadian commander of the space station and performed more than 130 science experiments.
He also earned millions of Earth-bound fans through social media with his dramatic photos, tweets and a slightly reworded cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” that became a popular YouTube video.
It was believed to be the first music video made in space, according to NASA.
The university says Hadfield’s first public appearance at the school will be at a special guest lecture Dec. 3.
It expects he will take on some teaching and advising duties in aviation and similar programs beginning in the fall 2014.
The university says Hadfield, 54, has a long history in Waterloo, earning a postgraduate degree at the school and marrying his wife there, while Hadfield’s eldest son was born in nearby Kitchener.
Hadfield had a 21-year career as an astronaut and his recent journey on the International Space Station was his third trip to outer space.
He was the only Canadian to visit the Russian space station Mir in 1995, and the first Canadian to perform a spacewalk when he installed Canadarm 2 in 2001.
Hadfield has called his career the culmination of “an incredible adventure” that began when he was a nine-year-old dreaming of flying in space.
Born in Sarnia, Ont., and raised on a corn farm in Milton, Ont., he became a military pilot before being selected in June 1992 as one of four new Canadian astronauts.
Hadfield has been working on a book that will offer stories, lessons and experiences from his time in space. “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” is due out later this month.
What students are talking about today (April 2nd)
1. The star of the MTV reality show Buckwild has died. Shane Gandee and two men, also dead, were last seen leaving a local bar in the rural town of Sissonville, West Virginia. They told bar patrons they were going to drive their truck off-road, a sport known as “muddin’” among the country-loving college-aged kids followed by MTVs cameras. The gossip site TMZ reports that carbon monoxide poisoning is being explored as a possible cause of death and that Gandee’s truck’s exhaust pipe may have been blocked by mud.
2. Twenty people, including some students, were displaced by a fire that destroyed two townhouses and damaged a third near York University on Monday, reports CBC News. York administration offered those affected by the fire temporary shelter.
Waterloo aims to capitalize on emerging field
BlackBerry co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin say they have established a $100-million fund for the development and commercialization of quantum computing.
They say the new Quantum Valley Investments fund in Waterloo, Ont., will be a catalyst for breakthroughs in an emerging field that could revolutionize information technology.
The two men collaborated to found the company formerly known as Research In Motion, which recently changed its name to BlackBerry (TSX:BB) in keeping with its main product line.
Lazaridis has already been a driving force behind the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, which was conceived as a world-leading centre for research.
He and Fregin say they believe the new fund will complement the institute’s work and could lead to the creation of new industries and jobs in the Waterloo region.
Two are in Ontario
Startup Genome has released a global ranking of Startup Ecosystems and three of the top 20 entrepreneurial cities are in Canada. The ranking is based on eight components: startup output, funding, company performance, talent, support infrastructure, entrepreneurial mindset, trendsetting tendencies and ecosystem differentiation. Toronto is eighth, Vancouver is ninth and Waterloo, Ont.—the only small city on the list—punches above its weight class at 17th. Here are the top 10:
A physics video, a lawsuit over a B+ and an unfunny Joker
1. A new video funded partly by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo is calling on Barack Obama to improve physics education. The video is spreading surprisingly quickly, approaching 320,000 views already. “High school physics students across most of America aren’t required to learn any physics discovered since 1865,” says the narrator, who then lists off some of the discoveries since then, including photons, the existence of antimatter, MRIs, the big bang… you know, little things.
2. A 41-year-old student at Concordia University is doing what so many students feel powerless to do—challenging a grade he sees as unjust. William Groombridge is suing over a B-plus he got in his energy policy course that he says should have been an A-minus. He wants a refund of the course, alleging that the school school arbitrarily downgraded his final mark to meet an unofficial grade quota or bell curve. More in the Spectator.
3. Police in Boulder, Colo. arrested a 17-year-old who showed up at a cinema wearing a Batman Joker mask. He scared patrons who were reminded of James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a Colorado premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. More in the Daily Camera.
Elmo scandal, Concordia on homestays, a regrettable tattoo
1. Concordia University has responded to complaints by Chinese students about homestays advertised through a link on its website. One student told CBC News that she hadn’t been fed enough, losing weight as a result. “While Concordia is not involved in providing homestay services, it has undertaken a careful review of the allegations,” reads Concordia’s statement.
2. Kevin Clash, the 52-year-old puppeteer behind Elmo, has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a man who was 16 at the time, according to a statement from Sesame Street. Clash denies the boy was underage, but he has taken a leave of absence and has been disciplined for inappropriately using work computers.
3. The Fiscal Cliff, a Jan. 1st deadline of doom that the U.S. economy faces if Congress doesn’t amend its agreed-upon package of tax hikes and spending cuts, is apparently a subject of interest for Star Wars fans. They took to Twitter with the hashtag #StarWarsFiscalCliff. Here’s one such missive from Tweeter John Podhoretz: “Ben Bernanke? That wizard is just a crazy old man.”
London shooting, Regina theft and Toronto mega-project
1. Students at Western University in London, Ont. had their homecoming weekend marred by the shooting death of 21-year-old Terrell Johnson off-campus early Sunday. A 28-year-old man was also taken to hospital. Joshua Carter, 22, is charged with second-degree murder.
2. Hannim Nur, the student who resigned from her post as president of the University of Regina’s Students’ Union (URSU), did so because she stole $700 of student money from the Canadian Federation of Students Saskatchewan by forging signatures on cheques when she was Chair. A statement from CFS-S says that the money was repaid and that they’ve updated procedures to reduce the chance of it happening again. Questions remain as to why Nur continued to work at URSU after she admitted the forgery to CFS.
3. A proposed mega-development on King Street in Toronto will house a whole lot of people in three 80-story condo towers. It will also include two museums and facilities for nearby OCAD University. The design is by Frank Gehry and the funding is from theatre king David Mirvish. Tweeters have compared the design to a tipped-over recycling bin, but Edward Keenan of The Grid points out that Gehry’s early sketch of the now-loved Art Gallery of Ontario once raised eyebrows too.
Kamloops student out $1,000 and has no place to live
A Thompson Rivers University student is out nearly $1,000 after he was scammed online. He showed up at an apartment on Arrowstone Drive in Kamloops that he thought he’d rented, sight unseen, by sending his deposit in the mail earlier in the summer. The building manager had never heard of the person who he’d sent the cheque to. The 22-year-old student will now need to find a new home.
It’s common for fraudsters to pretend to be a landlord by posting online and then asking students to send a cheque or money order for an apartment that can’t be viewed. Often, the scammer says they’re out of town on business and that the student can drive by the place, but can only view photos of the interior. This type of scam was prevalent in Calgary in 2009.
In April, Waterloo police warned against a variation on the rental scam in which the student owns the property. Thieves will pretend to accidentally overpay for an apartment using a fake cheques. Then, they ask for the difference to be returned to them before the bank realizes the cheques are fakes.
Former student accused of bizarre e-mail and postering campaign
Waterloo Police have charged a 34-year-old former University of Waterloo student who they believe distributed bizarre anti-female posters and e-mails across campus this spring, reports The Waterloo Region Record. An e-mail claiming to be from the university’s president was circulated with an image of a nuclear bomb and French scientist Marie Curie, who discovered radium, along with a message that implied that women shouldn’t hold positions of power. “THE TRUTH. The brightest Woman this Earth ever created was Marie Curie, The mother of the Nuclear Bomb. You tell me if the plan of Women leading Men is still a good idea,” it read. Similar posters were then pasted over the campaign posters of female candidates during an student election. Many female students reported feeling uneasy about incidents. Zamir Nathoo of Kitchener, Ont. is charged with criminal harassment, personation with intent and mischief to property.
Says police should have removed students occupying stage
Globe and Mail columnist Christie Blatchford regrets not being able to give a scheduled talk at the University of Waterloo on Friday. Her speech was cancelled after a group of protesters occupied the stage and taunted Blatchford as a “racist” from the audience. The protest was in reaction to Blatchford’s new book Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us. Blatchford’s publicist and university security did not permit her to take the stage for fear they would not be able to protect her. The columnist would have handled things different if she were in charge, according to the Waterloo Record. “If it had been my university, I would have had the police remove them from the stage,” she said
What the big thinkers know, what they’re trying to learn, and how close we may be to a genuine revolution
Not even the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., is immune to the rhythms of the seasons. Summer there this year was quiet and casual, with several regular faces away on vacation. And yet there were plenty of signs that the little think tank is heading into an ambitious new era.
Stephen Hawking was on a six-week working visit from Cambridge, England. Every day you could see a caregiver pushing his wheelchair along the footpaths outside the building at surprising speed. The most famous scientist in the world does not like to dawdle. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has left him no control over most of his body. Twitching a cheek muscle to compose even a short sentence with his speech synthesizer can take 20 minutes. So he is keenly aware of wasted time. “I encouraged lots of people to go and talk to him,” Neil Turok, Perimeter’s South African director and a Hawking friend and colleague of long standing, told me.
“A lot of people did. Several of them came away saying, ‘I went and explained to him what I’m doing—and he didn’t seem very interested!’ I entirely sympathize with him. He has very high standards and if you start telling him something that doesn’t sound plausible he’ll very quickly tell you, ‘I’ve had enough.’ ”
Leonard Susskind, a white-bearded and soft-spoken Stanford University prof, was on a similar extended visit. Susskind has no human story of physical courage to match Hawking’s, but to physicists he is in Hawking’s intellectual class. He is a pioneer in the surreal but influential field of string theory, which describes a universe made of tiny vibrating strings curled up across many more dimensions than the three we know. Hawking and Susskind are two of Perimeter’s 20 Distinguished Research Chairs, eminent international theorists who visit Waterloo occasionally to work without the distractions of home.
Susskind spent much of his time in the third-floor lounge surrounded by groups of young scientists still in graduate school or fresh out. They would show Susskind their work, neat lines of equations on notepaper or hectic scrawls on the lounge’s blackboard. (Perimeter has hundreds of blackboards, in every office, conference room and coffee nook. They all get a lot of use.) Susskind’s questions would make his young visitors stare at the paper or blackboard for long minutes, as if hoping an answer would appear.
The day I arrived, the inaugural class of Perimeter Scholars International (PSI), an intensive master’s-level course in theoretical physics for students from around the world, held their convocation after a year’s intensive study. One of the most impressive was Bruno Le Floch, a 20-year-old ponytailed Frenchman who was one of the younger students in his class. “He’s just a genius,” Turok said. But he is also just a kid. So rather than dive into a theory career, Le Floch will spend the next year teaching in Cape Town at the African Institute for Mathematical Studies, which Turok founded in hopes of giving Africa’s best students a reason to stay at home and lead the continent’s intellectual development.
One day Stephen Harper visited Perimeter to announce a $20-million federal investment in Turok’s African initiative. One rarely has to wait long at Perimeter before somebody comes along with a gift of money. Often the visitor is a local boy who made good, Mike Lazaridis, the founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion.
Years ago, Lazaridis decided to put much of his fortune into an institute that would study the questions that fascinated him when he was a University of Waterloo engineering student. On one hand, Einstein’s theories of space, time and gravity. On the other, the odd but powerful insights of quantum mechanics. In 2000, with $100 million from Lazaridis and $20 million from two other RIM partners, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics set up shop in the old post office building on King Street.
Since then it has grown steadily. In 2004, Perimeter moved into a slate-black 6,000-sq.-m building on the shore of Silver Lake in Waterloo Park. Already this summer, work crews were building an extension that will nearly double the institute’s floor space. Its faculty size will triple.
(Current full-time faculty is only 11, but if you add faculty it shares with area universities, visiting scholars, post-docs and graduate students, there are about 100 people thinking in the building on an ordinary day, and often about as many stopping through for a conference or seminar.) Enrolment at Perimeter Scholars International will double. The Distinguished Research Chairs will grow in number to 30.
But what do the people at Perimeter actually do? Many assume the institute must be the research and development branch of Research in Motion. This is not even remotely true. There are no laboratories at Perimeter. It has no equipment for manufacturing anything. There is very little in the sleek four-storey building except boxes of chalk and an excellent bistro.
But establishing what the Perimeter theorists don’t do is easier than explaining what they do.
Even they have learned to leave it vague. “When the neighbours ask, I say I just want to understand why the universe works the way it does,” said Chris Fuchs, a tremendously engaging Texan who has been a visiting scholar at Perimeter since 2007. “And that’s when they usually say, ‘Isn’t it great that Stephen Hawking’s there?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, it is.’ ”
What Perimeter’s theorists do is think, singly and in groups. Sometimes they scribble equations on the chalkboards to enlist colleagues and visitors in their attempts to solve some new or nagging riddle. Once I passed Fuchs’s office on my way to the third-floor pop machine. He was staring intently, slack-jawed, at the chalkboard that makes up one wall of his office. When I returned 20 minutes later he had not moved.
What they think about, from assorted conceptual angles that make up the subdisciplines of modern theoretical physics, are ways to refine, extend and, ideally, reconcile the two great early 20th-century advances in physics—general relativity and quantum mechanics. Relativity refers to Albert Einstein’s realization that space and time are aspects of the same thing, as are matter and energy. Einstein described how massive bodies like stars warp the space-time around them, bending the fabric of existence in a way we experience as gravity.
Quantum mechanics is the product of research into the behaviour of the component parts of atoms by Einstein’s contemporaries—Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger and others. What they found is so odd it still puzzles physicists. A particle can sometimes be in one place and, in a way, somewhere else at the same time. Observing a particle to find out where it is destroys any chance of knowing for sure where it’s going. Two particles can become “entangled” so that a change to one particle will be reflected in a change to the other, no matter how distant.
In nearly a century of investigation, researchers have made great use of these odd insights. Electronics depends on the quantum behaviour of electrons moving through semiconductors. The same phenomena drive lasers, DVD players, computers, electron microscopes. The Nobel-winning physicist Leon Lederman has said that quantum mechanics is responsible for one-third of U.S. GDP.
How to find your sense of direction
On my first day of classes at the University of Waterloo, I got lost. I was leaving my physics lecture, headed towards my chemistry class, and then I realized I had a big problem.
I didn’t know where my chemistry class was.
And after taking a couple of turns, I had another realization. I didn’t know where my physics class was anymore, either.
I was stranded.
It’s been almost a year since that first day of classes. Despite my horrible sense of direction, after two semesters on campus, it’s hard to believe I ever got lost. Waterloo’s campus actually has a logical lay out. Of course, once stuff becomes obvious, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always, well, obvious.
Last Saturday I volunteered for Student Life 101 at the University of Waterloo. It’s an open house for incoming first-years, giving them a chance to explore the campus and find their future classrooms. The weird part? My job was to give directions.
It was a full circle kind of moment.
Setting foot on campus… before September
When I left my chemistry lab exam last April, I thought the next time I’d be on Waterloo’s campus would be this September. Starting my second year. But last week, when I set foot on campus for the first time in over two months, I thought I was doing something blasphemous.
Going to school? During the summer? Even though I’d only be there for 10 minutes to hand in some forms, it felt like I was performing some obscene act. School and summer just don’t mesh.
I had the same expectations of visiting Waterloo’s campus during summer vacation as I would visiting my old high school. That it would be depressing. A reminder of past anxieties and worries. I was sure the whole visit would just be something to endure.
But as I walked around campus, seven weeks early, I realized something that surprised me.
I’ve missed being on campus.
Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean that it’s the one for you
Are you looking through all the course listings and feeling completely lost? Korean 101, Ethics 105, Anthropology 201. With all of the options available, it’s easy to find yourself with a serious case of D.E.S.S. — Dysfunctional Elective Selection Syndrome.
Knowing your priorities is the most important aspect of picking electives. An elective has to make it through my personal screening system in order to make the cut. Grades. Interest. Time.
Last week I enrolled for my next semester at Waterloo. I had to choose three electives. Thanks to G.I.T., I have a filter to help me make selections that are a perfect fit.
My first stage of screening: Grades. Will this course help me get a good mark? For me, this is one of the most important criterion for an elective to have. Yes, I admit it. I choose electives for their GPA-boosting abilities. Something to offset organic chem when it inevitably suffocates me.
So if I find History and Film while trolling for an elective, and find out from birdcourses.com or ratemyprofessors.com that a 90 percent is easily achievable, it goes straight to the top of my list. But it still has two more stages to get through.
Stage two: Interest. Will I find the course interesting and engaging? When I started first year, I underestimated how critical this could be. Four months of lectures about Socrates, Plato and early political movements left me knowing I did not want to take any more political science courses. Ever.
I finally get why it’s important to find the subject matter interesting. My anthropology elective last year was unexpectedly fabulous. I discovered, thanks to a professor who was also an engaging lecturer, that mitochondrial DNA and 10,000 year old neanderthal skeletons are really interesting. In a cool but kinda icky way.
I now know that taking an anthropology course with this professor guarantees me a course that I’ll enjoy. And that really helps you to do better in a course. You can’t help but absorb and retain everything the textbook and professor says.
Pros of History and Film: All I have to do is watch boring old history films.
Cons of History and Film: All I have to do is watch boring old history films.
It won’t matter if a course is being touted as an easy grade if it becomes your post-cram nap hour.
Stage three: Time. The time you have to put into a course. If an elective, for all it’s GPA boosting power, is going to require more time that your core courses, then something is seriously wrong. I’ll get my fill of 24-hours-a-day-studying from my core courses. You don’t want to end up swamped under a course that just doesn’t mesh in the work input/grade output machine. I’m more than willing to put in the work. If I’ll get the mark to show for it.
If I take History and Film, I watch old history movies once a week for three hours.
What’s great about electives is that you have the complete freedom to pick what you study. But you’re also responsible if you end up in a course that you absolutely hate. Knowing what you want from an elective makes choosing one a lot easier. And helps to cut down on course drops later due to complete course loathing. Don’t enroll in Creative Writing if you don’t like writing essays. Period.
So if I take History and Film, I’ll probably get a good mark. If I can stand watching old war movies once a week for three very long hours.
Then again, maybe some things just aren’t worth it.
Being an Only Child has its advantages
For the past two months I’ve been living like an Only Child.
Unlike my younger brothers, my summer vacation started at the end of April. Which means each week day, between the hours of nine and three, I’m an Only Child.
Suddenly the TV doesn’t have to be split five ways. Dexter doesn’t have to compete with SpongeBob Squarepants. If I want to use the computer, nobody’s in the middle of a Runescape battle.
And those four toaster slots? All mine.
With four siblings in the house, using a water bottle is complicated. At the very least, it’ll migrate: a water bottle that starts on the top shelf of the fridge never stays on the top shelf. It’ll either get buried somewhere else in the fridge, or disappear completely. Or the lid will vanish.
Even worse, a layer of backwash might suddenly appear on the surface.
Taking a sip from a water bottle, putting it back in the fridge, and finding it where I put it. It’s a special kind of luxury.
And it ends in less than a week.
- photo courtesy of .jo.hardell.
The perfect extracurricular activity for Legolas-wannabes
Back in high school, if you lacked any kind of athletic ability (like me) there weren’t many extracurricular options beyond the science and chess club. But at the University of Waterloo, there are 160 student clubs and associations.
Including a LEGO, rock climbing, and cheese club. Plus the People Who Think The Second Matrix Movie Wasn’t All That Bad club.
Last month I signed up for the University of Waterloo Archery Club. After lightsabers and boomerangs, a bow and arrow is the universally recognized coolest weapon on the planet. Ever.
I couldn’t believe my luck. A club that’s all about bow and arrows. And shooting them.
It’s the kind of club that could never be offered in high school. It’s scary enough to think of your grade 10 English class getting driver’s licenses. Let alone handling the same weapon as Legolas.
Everyone who showed up got to shoot three arrows. A kind of trial-run before committing the $20 membership fee. As I quickly learned that first day, the most difficult part about shooting an arrow isn’t… well… shooting the arrow. It’s putting the finger tab on.
The finger tab is a leather glove-thingy that protects your fingers. Or maybe it’s just a way to make your fingers look cool. You know, the Michael Jackson look of the medieval-weapons world.
The instructor told everybody that putting it on is simple. Then proceeded to show us the Ten-Step Finger Tab Usage Procedure. “You slide it over your hand, tuck it under your thumb, wrap it around your finger, point your right foot towards the north and your left elbow towards the east, and alphabetically list every character from Lost. And then connect the velcro straps.”
I knew there would be a bit of a learning curve to overcome. Which meant my first practice shot would probably smack somewhere at the edge of the target. But by the time I fired my third practice shot, I would have the muscle memory and technique mastered. Never mind hitting the target dead-center. I would ricochet the arrow against the back wall of the gym, shave the wings off the mosquito that was buzzing around the ceiling, and then catch the arrow mid-air. With my teeth.
My first shot completely missed the target.
So did my second shot.
And my third.
My arrows simply wouldn’t cooperate. I’d aim at the bulls-eye in the middle of the target, and my arrows would insist on hitting the back wall of the gym instead. Yeah, I had some seriously messed up arrows.
The joys of not sitting beside the Loud Whisperer
There are more than 300 students in my genetics class. With that many people crammed into a lecture hall, chances are, you’re probably sitting in front of a Sneezer.Or a Loud Whisperer.
Or a Person Who Somehow Keeps Bumping the Back of Your Head With Their Stupid Binder.
But during my last genetics lecture, I didn’t feel a single sneeze mist the back of my neck. My body space wasn’t invaded by someone else’s notebook, or bulky book bag. And I didn’t get stuck beside any of those people who don’t understand the finer points of whispering. Like, uh, actually whispering.
And at one point, when I didn’t quite understand something the professor had said, I just paused the lecture and referred to my textbook for clarification.
Yup. Podcasted lectures rule.
When I recently heard my 12-year-old brother launch a squishy, viscous sneeze across the kitchen, I knew it was only a matter of time. It doesn’t matter how often I wash my hands, or if I chemically bathe my fingers with Purell before eating lunch. Unlike the Coughing Guy sitting behind me during a lecture, [...]
When I recently heard my 12-year-old brother launch a squishy, viscous sneeze across the kitchen, I knew it was only a matter of time. It doesn’t matter how often I wash my hands, or if I chemically bathe my fingers with Purell before eating lunch. Unlike the Coughing Guy sitting behind me during a lecture, there’s no escaping my younger brothers’ germs. They’re right across the kitchen table. They’re in the bathroom, surrounding my exposed tooth brush.
My younger brothers are the weak, germy link in my family’s immune system.
Now I’m on the brink of sickness. I’m just one ‘staying-up-the-whole-night-to-finish-that-stupid-chemistry-lab-report’ away from being full-blown sick. And in university, I don’t get to lie down in bed and read all day. I still have to attend classes.
In university, being semi-sick isn’t cause for celebration.
He’s the King of All Nerds, the Overlord of Physics, and he’s coming to Waterloo
Stephen Hawking. He’s the King of All Nerds. The Overlord of Physics. The Creator of Impressive-Sounding Theories that Some of Us Pretend to Understand. He’s revolutionized our understanding of black holes and the beginning of the universe. Most impressively, he’s appeared on Family Guy.
And this summer, he’s coming to Waterloo. As in, I’ll be breathing the same air as Stephen Hawking. My puny, average-sized human brain cells will be within a 20 kilometer radius of Stephen Hawking’s mega-sized “can legitimately use the phrase ‘quantum mechanics’ in a sentence” brain cells.
Never mind being within the same city limits as Stephen Hawking. Imagine being his child? Forget science fair projects about volcanoes and bread mold. When your dad is Stephen-freaking-Hawking, science fair projects are probably more along the lines of a fully-functioning particle accelerator. Instead of helping his kids with their homework, I bet he used to just say, “Oh, forget it,” and then shoved them out of the way.
But isn’t his quest for a ‘Theory of Everything’ kind of like licking every jelly bean in the bowl, just so your younger brothers can’t eat any? I mean, who does this guy think he is, anyway?
Oh. Right. Stephen Hawking.
“The final exam is hands-on. You have to beat Halo 3 in less than two hours.”
It’s always sad when kids get the Grandparent Version of a gift they wanted for Christmas. An entire industry of crappy toys has been created for grandparent shoppers. You know that shelf of Xbox 360 games in Wal Mart, with titles like, “Super Fun Kart Racing,” or “Monopoly/Yahtzee Double Pack”? Those games that make you wonder, “Who the hell is buying that?” It’s grandparents.
It’s sort of like when someone shows you a picture of their pet cat, and it looks exactly the same as the other 5.8 billion cats roaming the Earth. When a grandparent sees two action figures side-by-side on a shelf in Wal Mart- one being a fully articulated Master Chief action figure complete with battle rifle and hand grenade, the other being Super Stretch Bungee Man- the only difference they see is that one costs 10 bucks, and the other costs two bucks. Grandparents don’t understand the Rules of Lameness that govern action figures. Basic stuff like, if its wearing a purple jumpsuit and the box brags that it has ‘super karate chopping action,’ don’t buy it. Or, if it costs two bucks, there’s a reason every single ten-year old has walked right past it. Wal Mart was waiting for a 75-year-old, like you.
And those action figures of baseball/basketball/hockey players? The ones that are frozen in a single ‘dramatic’ pose? Those aren’t action figures. They’re target practice for your cooler action figures.
Even worse than getting a lame version of a gift you wanted? Getting a gift you didn’t want. Like a set of HB soft lead pencils. Or a gift card to the bookstore. Getting that type of gift is like a stab to the kidneys. It just hurts.
Mind you, a girl I knew in high school actually asked her grandparents for stuff like graphing calculators and protractors. But she also ate Triscuits and trail mix, so she’s not exactly representative of a normal 16-year-old.
Now that I’ve gone through my first semester of university, the type of gifts I want for Christmas have completely changed. Never mind a $30 gift card from EB Games. I want a card that guarantees me at least one bobo class next semester. A card that ensures my professor will say stuff on the first day like, “I don’t believe in final exams. You don’t have to write any essays. I award points based on how many times you can blink in a 30-second period.”
Or even better, “The final exam is hands-on. You have to beat Halo 3 in less than two hours.”