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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Old Bones

Went to the ROM Friday night to see the new dinosaur galleries and was not disappointed. While its clear they had a rush a few things to get it open in time (a few empty cases, placards describing something that obviously isn't there) they have an amazing range of fossils present, including a bunch of weird South American extinct animals, and a giant turtle hanging from the ceiling (Gamara!).

And yes, Gordo, the sauropod-from-the-basement, is indeed quite something. It is completely freaking huge. The staffer there was explaining how dinosaurs are now mounted using armatures, with each bone held in an individual clamp like a stone in a ring. So any bone can be removed for further study without disturbing the rest. And the skulls on all the mounted dinosaurs are casts, as the originals are too heavy (usually filled with rock) and too valuable to risk.

One of their palaeontologists gave a great lecture on the ROM dinosaurs, Gordo, and digging for fossils in Alberta. One great story concerned fossils that were dug up in the 1920s and 1930s. Because they understand the chronology of the rock layers so much better now, it would help a lot if they knew exactly where those fossils were dug up, but it wasn't recorded well. But they have pictures from the various quarry sites, and they've been working on matching them up with the geography of the area. They are also looking at organizing Dinosaur Vacations. For a bit of money, you can go with them for a week or two and carry their tools while they dig up dinosaurs. Become a grad student for a day without having to worry about the PhD.

Most times when me or my brother go to the ROM, we get people walking up to us and asking up questions, assuming we work there. Can't figure why.

Also last week saw The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters at the Bloor. This is the doc about the guy who has held the world record in arcade Donkey Kong for two decades, and the guy who decides to challenge him (while unemployed with a wife and kids). It was magnificent and horrifying in equal measure. Magnificent in that it's immensely well-made, and as a fan myself, I see nothing wrong with enjoying video games. Horrifying in that as the movie unfolds, you start thinking "OK, maybe you can enjoy video games a little too much". The sheer seriousness of these people is spooky, even through the film-maker never belittles them. He just gives them plenty of rope.