Grg Lstr's linkdump and thoughts on science, family and things in the ocean that would kill you if given the opportunity.

Category: Unsolicited Advice (page 1 of 2)

New to Me in 2018: Camera Thief

So, I get to cheat a little with this one. Joe Duffey and his brother Brendan aren’t new to me. I see them all the time all over town. Joe saved my [soccer] life this year as we started up a new U11 travel team. Joe’s music isn’t all that new to me either, as his previous band, Underwater Window Garden, released a fantastic album a few years back entitled The Greatly Divided, which you should buy.

Joe is a great guy, and I’d be a fan of him whether or not he played in band. As it is, his new band Camera Thief crushed it at the local arts fest this year. They’re working on a new album, but its increasingly looking like it won’t happen in 2018. Fortunately, they’re on SoundCloud with a handful of songs now.

This one, Starting Fires, legitimately gives me chills:

I love this video because a) public domain Superman from Fleischer studios,  b) it is a good tune and, c) Joe did the editing himself. See for yourself:

Star Wars: Episode 7: Apathy of the Copywriter

If you read the Internets in the last week or so, you might note how folks were agitated about the news that Disney bought Star Wars. I don’t worry for a number of reasons. Chief among those is that you can only screw up Star Wars once.

George Lucas himself did that with the prequels.

Nobody in the history of Inventing Cool Commercial Properties, has ever sold out to licensing harder than George Lucas. He makes the Disney people look like pikers by comparison. Now, I just happen to have a four year old who, doing his father proud, has developed a love of Star Wars. We showed him the original trilogy on the backyard screen over the summer, and his grandmother dug up my old Vader-head action figure case for him to play with.

Since his birthday last April, Benny’s been asking about the Playskool Star Wars Snowspeeder — a sort of preschool version of the classic Star Wars action figure/vehicle set — which I promised that Santa would look into for Christmas. Of course, that means its gone off production. Fortunately, the Toys R Us in the Philadelphia’s lovely Market East Gallery mall –yes THAT Gallery mall — had one in stock, so I don’t have to pay $30-35 for it online.

Over my lunch break today, I hopped the trolley to the mall and picked one up.

The epic journey…blah…blah…blah…just gimme already. (Every 4 year-old ever)

That’s when, on the ride back, I realized that there is no amount of Disnification (bar inserting Walt’s frozen corpse into the Wampa den in Empire) that would make a worse mess of Star Wars than Lucas did himself.

I bring you the back-of-the-box copy for the Playskool Jedi Force Snowspeeder:

A galaxy full of adventure awaits in Star Wars Jedi Force! Join Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader and all your other favorite Star Wars characters on either side of the Force!

Skim across the surface of Hoth in a snoswpeeder flown by two of the best pilots in the galaxy. This particularly nimble vehicle was used in one of the Rebel Alliance’s biggest victories against the evil Empire.

Bask in this for a moment. It really doesn’t seem bad. At first glance, it seems, at worst, unnecessary. The 3-6 year olds this toy is made for isn’t reading this copy. The parents were raised with Star Wars. They generally know what this is. There was a day when you could argue that this was written for Grandmom or Aunt Lucy. But truth be told, even Grandmom and Aunt Lucy have either directly raised or lived through the first generation of Star Wars fans. They get the brand. Star Wars = space, adventure, light swords, lasers. (Star Trek = red shirts, Shatner, Spock)

This is short, so allow me to dig in a bit:

Join Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader and all your other favorite Star Wars characters on either side of the Force!

Luke, Han…and Darth Vader? One I was a kid, the assumption would be that Vader is the enemy, and would not, therefore, be the focal point of playtime. You might read something like “Join Luke Skywalkerâ„¢ and Han Soloâ„¢ as the fight the villainous tyranny of the Empire!” if you paused long enough to bother reading the box copy before tearing the thing apart to get at the toys.

The prequels changed that sentiment, I get it. Kids can’t look at Vader now without thinking about how cool Anakin is (or at least, how cool he is in the Clone Wars tv show). Still, this copy is dead inside. “Join your heroes and all of their friends who might be good or bad or something!” A real stirring call to adventurous roleplay.

Skim across the surface of Hoth in a snoswpeeder flown by two of the best pilots in the galaxy.

OK, technically only Luke flew one, but I’ll forgive them. Although, it doesn’t look like both figures can fit at the same time. We’ll find out on Christmas.

This particularly nimble vehicle

Note the fine Corellian leather in this particularly nimble vehicle! (Said ricardo vocce for maximum effect.)

This particularly nimble vehicle was used in one of the Rebel Alliance’s biggest victories against the evil Empire.

My inner 5 year-old seethes with the molten fire of Tatooine’s twin suns! What kind of revisionist nonsense is this?

The rebels LOST the Battle of Hoth. Everyone knows that who has actually seen the movies which might have helped with this copy design knows that.

So, inevitably, they will re-release this playset in some other fashion. How can they not? Empire is over 30 years old. Unlike the the Great Star Wars Drought from the late 80s until the late 90s, it seems we are entering a cultural state of perpetual Star Wars!

PlaySkool, when you re-release this snowspeeder, here are two options:

Its A SNOWSPEEDER! The thing Luke flies on the snow planet! Buy it for your kid!


Join young Jedi Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance as they fight the evil Empire and the forces of Darth Vader!

There, you’re welcome.

Lowered expectations

Much to my chagrin (and the amusement to the maintenance staff at Wistar), my beloved standing desk has been laid low. Or lower, at least. Read about my former state of excited expectation here.

When I started work here in early spring, 2010, I used my New Guy privledge to equip my closet-sized office with a standing desk. A year later, I asked them to remove the old fancy press-board executive desk that blocked my easy path to the door (replacing it with a beaten-up desk of sufficient length to go across the wall).

The standing desk was a joy to use. I felt more energized during the workday, and hardly acquired that mid-afternoon lethargy that used to drag me down. I loved the standing desk and extolled its virtues to my coworkers. I experienced every benefit proclaimed by articles at Forbes (I could forestall death by up to three years!) or Lifehacker.

I stood all day, every day.

Until today.

Today I realized I was experiencing one of the infrequently mentioned possible side effects of standing desks. Varicose veins. Yes, it turns out that whole “all things in moderation” axiom applies to standing desks too, dammit. I’m 38. I exercise. I eat (mostly) right (apple, as I type!). And I am acquiring my 68 year-old father’s legs.

I’m blowing out the veins in my leg in an awfully itchy and annoying fashion.

So, today I sit. So, special warning to folks considering jumping on the bandwagon–get an adjustable desk and, for god-sake’s, adjust it on occasion!

Mine isn’t conducive to regular up-and-down motion (should have gotten one of those swinging-arm jawns), and now it wobbles a bit as I type.

We can haz Make Day too?

While I’m thinking of The Franklin Institute, I’d like to reiterate my plea for a Maker Faire of our own. The Science Museum of Minnesota is having a little one this weekend.

More unsolicited science museum advice…

… actually it is advice from Paul Orselli’s ExhibiTricks blog. This might make a nice follow-up to my previous post on unsolicited advice for The Franklin, and it touches on similar themes…

A science museum, indeed every type of museum, is all about stories (human interaction) and stuff (interesting objects and materials.) Working with cool items or seeing interesting objects or devices while having an opportunity to interact with other people is what makes museums special, and incidentally different and more marketable, than on-line experiences or other types of for-profit entertainment centers.

At the end of the day, providing interesting opportunities for visitors and museum staff to interact with “stuff” (and each other) is a sure way for visitors to leave your museum NOT feeling stupid.

And that’s just a smart way to run a museum.

It reminds me of two rules I learned in grad school: 1) if your reader doesn’t understand something, you were probably unclear; and 2) you can please more than one type of reader at a time.

The first is obvious, to me at any rate. Anything that can be said, can be said simply enough to appeal to a person of reasonable intelligence. It really depends on being able to get a concept across without piling on confusing terminology, whether that concept is evolution or celestial physics. I don’t believe you can get someone to completely grok quantum physics in five seconds, but they might get the gist that regular old physics doesn’t work so well in explaining how things atom-sized and smaller behave, which is where quantum mechanics comes in. People tend to understand things when you break them down into digestible chunks (or quanta — ha!) of information.

The second, I think, applies to science museums, in particular. I’m not an exhibit designer — and I know nothing about museum pedagogy — but I would think a good exhibit is like a an old Warner Bros. cartoon: the kids don’t get the dirtier jokes, but the adults do. (Good example here in “An Itch In Time,” at the seven minute mark below. It went over my head as kid.) Likewise, I can see where it would be necessary to design an exhibit — to create an “experience” — that appeals kids, adults and science geeks alike. I think you would do that by engaging people in the process. Like Paul, I was impressed with how interactive the recent Star Wars exhibit was. Even my three year-old got into creating LEGO landspeeders.

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