Time to hit the road!
Heading to the contest. For me competing is a side note. I'm looking forward to meeting the greats, learning some tricks, and submerging in the awesome feeling of being a part of something so much bigger than any one person or group.
Time to hit the road!
We decided to start or vacation in one of the world's truly unique cities:Venice. One of the more immediatly interesting things about Venice is that the roads are, well, canals. You don't drive in Venice, you boat! This means the Taxis and the Busses are boats. This because the city is actually built mostly on water. Founded over 1000 years ago, Venice spans 118 small islands.
Most front doors are two steps up from water. This is because most travel throughout history was by boat. Merchants would sail door to door. If you want to walk anywhere, you are relegated to narrow lanes, sometimes not big enough for two people to pass.
At night they can get a little creepy.
We visited the fish market. Many interesting fishies, and tuna steaks that made me wish we had a kitchen in the suite.
Our first major stop of the trip was the Doges (Ruler) Palace. To get to it we of course had to walk through St. Mark's Square , which is a tourist attraction by itseslf. It is the largest meeting place in Venice.
So I've decided to turn this into a trip blog for the next month. My wife and I are honeymooning to Italy, with Prague for worlds at the tail end. If you didn't see the proposal video, check it out. We had started planning the trip before I propsed, so we just changed it into a honeymoon.
We are starting in Venice, the hitting up Florence, Rome, Pompei and a few other places along the way. I'll be yoyoing and filming in every town and posting here. Getting excited!
So this guy Brian was in town from New Brunswick, and his son picked up a yoyo and went mad (as we all did). He found the Vancouver Yoyo club, and they spent every Saturday they had with us while they were in Vancouver.
Brian is one of those crazy people who never leave school (University Professor) and was fascinated by everything involved in yoyoing. He wrote this to me as a sharing of thoughts, and I thought it was so cool I asked if I could post it. Enjoy
I just did some back-of-the-envelope calculations to compare yo-yo string to DNA, and I thought you might find them amusing.
If we consider the average yo-yo string as being a double helical structure similar to DNA, but with a diameter of about 2 mm, that makes it about 1 million times thicker than the DNA in our cells (the helix of double stranded DNA has a diameter of about 20 Angstroms (0.0000000002 meters)). The human genome has about 3 billion base pairs, and each base pair is about 3.32 Angstroms long, so the human genome comprises almost exactly 1 meter of DNA.
So if it were yo-yo string, it would be a million meters (1,000 km) long. And, as you probably know, most of our cells have two copies of our genomes (one from our mother and one from our father), so each cell has about 2 m of DNA packed away in its nucleus, which would be equivalent to almost enough yo-yo string to reach from Vancouver to Winnipeg. For comparison, the nucleus of a cell is about 10 µm in diameter, so that Vancouver-to-Winnipeg yo-yo string is packed into a ball 1 m in diameter (about the size of one of those yoga balls).
But, our genomes don't exist as single molecules of DNA, they're broken up into chromosomes. A big chromosome like chromosome 1 has 249 million base pairs, so the DNA molecule in it is about 8.3 cm long, which would be a yo-yo string 83 km long. Even the smallest chromosome, the Y-chromosome that makes males different than females, has 50 million base pairs, making it equivalent to a yo-yo string 17 km long. That would be a lot of string for playing with.
Yo-yos themselves remind me of "histones". The DNA in our cells isn't floating around loose; it's wrapped around proteins that actually look a lot like yo-yos. Histones assemble into disk-like structures with grooves in them for DNA to wrap around, and they have to spin along the DNA molecule like an off-string yo-yo to get out of the way of the other proteins that express the genes in the DNA or duplicate it when the cell divides.
The other way in which yo-yo string is a lot like DNA is in it's propensity to get over- or under-wound, and then twist around itself making a terrible mess. In DNA this is called 'supercoiling'. When a twisted duplex like DNA or yo-yo string is overwound (by twisting the duplex in the same direction as the individual strands are wound around each other) it becomes 'positively supercoiled'. Twisting the duplex in the opposite direction (such that it becomes under wound) is 'negative supercoiling'. In either case, if there is no force acting on the duplex to keep it straight (such as gravity), the duplex will 'writhe', coiling around itself to release the energy of the torque the over- or under-winding has stored in the structure. Cells generally keep their DNA in a negatively supercoiled state, because, as you know from putting strings on yo-yos, under-wound duplexes are easier to separate into their individual strands.
So negatively supercoiled DNA can be separated into it's individual strands to allow for gene expression or DNA replication more easily. In contrast, some cells (like bacteria that live in hot springs) store their DNA in a positively supercoiled state, for exactly the same reasons; the heat of their environment would cause their DNA to separate into its component strands (DNA is held together by hydrogen bonds just like ice, and just like ice, heat will cause it to melt), and the positive supercoiling prevents this from happening.
Something cells have that yo-yo players don't (and would really benefit from) are enzymes called 'topoisomerases'. Topoisomerases are enzymes that facilitate the interconversion of topological states of DNA. Topoisomerase I releases the energy in supercoiled DNA (rather like taking the string off your finger, and letting it spin freely until it's relaxed), but it does this without any ends having to be released (it's actually cutting one of the strands of the duplex, letting the cut end spin around the uncut strand, and then re-attaching it when it comes around). Topoisomerase II is even more useful; it allows one duplex to pass through another (they don't even have to be part of the same molecule), so it's like the ultimate knot-undoer; this is why our cells can have meters of DNA coiled up in their nuclei and it never gets tangled - Topoisomerase II is there passing molecules through each other like magic.
That's probably more than you ever wanted to know about DNA topology. But watching you and your colleagues (and now Ian) dextrously whirling yo-yos through weaves of colourful string certainly brings to mind many new ways in which to present the molecular macramé occurring in our cells to undergraduate students. I've really enjoyed it.
Department of Biology
University of New Brunswick
Fredericton, NB, Canada
“Do I really need to buy him/her a $100 yoyo?”
Says every parent of every yoyo kid ever.
Short answer, no.
You also don't need to buy him the new video game system/running shoes/sport equipment/microscope/Lego...whatever it is.
Yo-yoing is a hobby like any other, once you get into it, you want ALL THE THINGS. Should you have everything? Probably not. But if buying him/her the $100 yoyo is going to keep them off the computer games for a month, its money well spent.
"But what about a yoyo from the dollar store??
Most of the time, they are garbage. A sure way to get your child to quit playing with the yoyo, and go back to the computer games.
You can generally get pretty far into the skill on a $10 yoyo, 20-40 if you want metal. They can be bought at any of the online yoyo stores.
Enter the Dollar Tree. This crazy dollar store actually managed to get the sweat shops to produce a decent beginner yoyo. Which has obsessed the yoyo world. I know I've been highly amused by this new "fad", people across North America, hunting their local areas for these yoyos, buying them by the dozen, 'modding' the heck out of them and generally having fun with yo-yoing.
Why has this happened?
I was at yoyo meet this week and the topic came up of how yo-yoing has gotten 'stale'. Yo-yoing has always gone in cycles, so this isn't a surprise. I've noticed a few things.
1. New manufacturers. In a niche market, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. In the last 3-4 years, we've gone from a handful of North American companies, to over a dozen. Heck, we had 5 in Canada alone for a while, and our National championship usually draws less than 50 competitors.
2. Everything is the same. The answer to the question "I'm new, what should I buy" is "it doesn’t' matter, they are all good". There are differences in styles, and occasionally a company comes out with something novel, but the quality is pretty consistent across the board. Heck, you can get a $15 metal yoyo out of china that (If you don't mind a bit of vibe) plays as well as a $150 yoyo.
3. The elite have gotten eliter. When I started yo-yoing (a whole 4 years ago) Hiroyuki Suzuki’s 2005 World Championship video was still hot stuff. Now that wouldn’t even get him past prelims. The best have gotten better, as well they should but it seems to me that the elite are now so far beyond the beginner, that it’s hard to relate. I know I watch the top players and, well, get bored. So fast, so technical, I just have no hope of keeping up, and often can’t even follow what they are doing. Videos tend to be the same thing. Here I am doing my tricks, ho hum.
Again, what’s new? Not much
So I think it’s been great seeing this whole dollar tree yoyo thing explode. It’s been something new and shiny, that anyone who wants to can get involved in for a mere dollar and change, and it’s been about people having fun, trying new things, and being a community. Which, it turns out, is what yo-yoing is all about.
Believe me, you don't want to get sponsored.
"Are you crazy? Of course I want to get sponsored!"
I hear this a lot. My first response is...why? What's in it for you?
"Free yoyos man!"
Really? A few free yoyos?
Get a part time job at McDonald's and you'll get far more return on the time put in. Here are some reasons why.
1. Being sponsored is a job. You have obligations, deadlines and tasks. The company expects you to work for them! You have been sponsored as an advertising agent. This takes effort and time that you could be spending having fun yoyoing. Companies generally look at two main areas in a sponsored player. Contest wins and Internet activity.
2. Regular production of videos showing off the product. This may be something you love to do, but when it's final exams or that big project at work is due, and you need to put out a promo video tomorrow, it can turn yoyoing into a job. You need to be constantly pushing yourself to make up or learn fresh material. Are you sure you want to commit to monthy finding a cool place to film, and having fresh material to film?
3. The Internet. You are expected to spend time daily promoting your company on the Internet, in forums, on Facebook, the works. You are no longer free to talk about how much awesomer (yes that's a word) another company's yoyo is, your job is to show the world that the only Yo-yo they need is the newest one by your company.
4. You only ever get to use their gear. Want to show off the cool new yoyo you got that's perfect for your style? Sorry, you can't. Want to enter an online contest where you have to make a video using another company's logo? sorry, you can't.
And you are doing all this for a couple of free yoyos? That's a terrible idea!
So why do people chase a sponsorship? I have met a variety. I have met many for whom representing a company and promoting them is a joy. I have been In a room with someone who got sponsored, then sat in a room talking about the company and their piece of crap yoyos, then refused to use the company's gear on stage. I have also yoyoed with someone for whom it was almost irrelevant that he was sponsored, he just loved to throw.
Obviously there is the prestige factor "I'm super awesome, I'm on team yoyo tiger snake and you aren't *sticks out tongue*." I'm kidding, I have yet to meet anyone in the yoyo community that thinks like that, and I don't expect to, it's one of the joys of yoyoing. Having said that, it is cool being on a team.
It does lead me to the reason I enjoy being sponsored. Being part of something. Humans are community animals. We like being part of a tribe. Being on a yoyo team means you have people in your court. For me personally I like the promoting 'work', that's part of the fun for me, and far less a job. I honestly don't think I would have done nearly what I have, or gotten to where I am on my own.
So yeah, being sponsored isn't all bad. But it's not a goal worth aiming for, unless you think that thee work will be a joy for you. It's not worth it for any other reason. Find your passion within the yoyo world and enjoy that, and if you get sponsored by a company you can stand behind and enjoy being a part of, all the better.
So if you are a yoyoer who ever throws in public, you run into the dreaded "Hey man, walk the dog". If you are like me an are usually throwing metal, this is not a good thing. Here is the solution. If you tell people a story and engage them, you win.
"Once upon a time yoyos were simple. They we're round, like a wheel, and did simple tricks. The most popular was walk the dog. Like a dog, these yoyos came back when you tugge on them.
Modern yoyos are a different animal. Made of machined aluminum, they have wings and are more like birds that fly than dogs on the ground.
As a result, we no longer walk the dog, instead we walk the parrot! "
(Insert arm or finger grind here)
So back to school. For every teacher that means something different. We all feel excited at seeing what the new year will bring, meeting the new students and so on. We also feel the weight of planning a new year, perhaps moving rooms or changing grades. I have one additional joy that I get to look forward to. The Yo-yo club! At some point in the next couple of weeks, I'll pick a day, open up the gym at lunch, and have a bunch of crazily enthusiastic kids rushing in the play with yoyos.
It's a pretty cool thing to be able to look foward to.
So life is full of changes and transitions. Over the last couple days, mine has hit a big one. I have spent the last 2 years happily as a member of MonkeyfingeR Design's Yo-yo team. It has been great and I have enjoyed every minut of it. But an offer came along I couldn't refuse.
So now I'm the manager of King Yo Star Canada. Its a long story, but suffice to say that the people making the decision looked at what i've done to promote yoyoing and decided I'd be a good choice. This is a big step up, and a big responsibility. I'm looking forward to the challenge. More details to come, but it's going to be great!