Saturday, September 01, 2007

Williams Family's First Visit to MSI - September 1st

We lived in Milwaukee for 8 years. During our stay in Milwaukee, we made a habit of going to the City's main Zoo every Saturday, if for no other reason than just to walk around and enjoy the weather. In the winters, it was tough. And let's face it, there's all of about two weeks of Summer in Milwaukee. I exaggerate, but...well, no I don't. Anyways, it's a habit we fell out of when we moved to Chicago, partially because our neighborhood is so nice, we didn't feel the immediate need. But now that we're settled in a little bit, we decided to start a new family tradition. The zoos in Chicago are not convenient from our house, and we felt that Michigan City's zoo would be a bit of a letdown after Milwaukee.

Therefore, we decided on the Musem of Science and Industry (MSI). I always loved MSI as a kid because it really appealed to my science / geek side (ok, it's pretty much "all" as opposed to "side"). Recently though, I discovered that the building that MSI is in is the last remaining structure from the 1893 World's Fair which officially put Chicago on the map as a major world power, only 22 years after the Great Chicago Fire. History may come full circle if Mayor Daley gets his wish to host the 2016 Olympics. Fittingly enough, the Olympic Stadium is slated to be built just a couple miles due West of the 1893 World's Fair Grounds. Stay tuned on that.

Anyways, we got to the Museum, pretty much right when they opened and we purchased our memberships. The staff was very well trained - they comped our parking, they got us signed up, they took our money and off we went. Very efficient, extremely polite. On the way in, we noticed the Pioneer Zephyr (forgive me if I don't get these names right the first time) and although we didn't stop to see it until we were leaving, I put the photo here for continuity's sake :

DSC01781.jpg picture by JRock3x8

The opening hall is quite impressive - you can see the banner for the Star Wars exhibit opening in a couple of weeks. I expect I will jump out of my skin when that opens up!

DSC01712.jpg picture by JRock3x8

The first exhibit room we got to see was a large collection of model ships. There were about two dozen of them. Here are three shots of one of the more detailed models :

DSC01720.jpg picture by JRock3x8

DSC01721.jpg picture by JRock3x8

DSC01722.jpg picture by JRock3x8

Next up was a room full of cars. Matthew got so excited he started banging on the glass and we had to restrain him a bit. His grandfather is a bit of a car nut and Matthew just feeds off that. Check out the cute model showing off this beauty! :)

DSC01732.jpg picture by JRock3x8

As we were leaving the room full of cars, we saw this solar car built by students at the University of Michigan. It was really hard to get the whole vehicle into one shot. I had to paste in the description (which you can't really read in this size) from another picture.

DSC01735edit.jpg picture by JRock3x8

The next room was a room about digital effects in photography and video. The stuff was pretty tame by today's standards but a good primer nonetheless. I'll be interested to see how this room evolves over time because it's clearly out of date for anyone who has seen a movie in the last ten years. Matthew, Kelley and I sat down to watch one of the demonstrations for just a minute.

DSC01737edit.jpg picture by JRock3x8

Next we walked through the "Net" room which had a very trippy Matrix-esque floor :

Kelley wasn't interested in being the fireman but Matthew was up for it! Oh and Grandpa, I took the engineer's job in your place since you couldn't be there? What's that? Oh...different engineer, I got it...

DSC01745.jpg picture by JRock3x8

Although the ships and the cars were nice, today was all about RAILROADS! For those who have never been to MSI, they have the most FANTASTIC model railroad setup I have ever seen. I hear tell there is a better one somewhere in West Virginia, but this is pretty outstanding nonetheless. Just to the left of this picture, there is a very small dynamite demonstration that just about scared the pants off my poor daughter. It says push the button, and then there are a few flashes, a very loud boom, and a rather sad plastic wall descends into a hole demonstrating how they cleared paths through rock. It was funny to see her jump back at the boom and then see this sad little piece of plastic move.

DSC01753.jpg picture by JRock3x8

You can see in the distance of the next picture downtown Chicago. There's a good reason I didn't post anymore pictures of it - it's mostly wrong. The LaSalle Bank Building is not there at all. The Chicago Board of Trade is south of the "el" tracks instead of north of them like it should be and there are countless other buildings which are just in the wrong place. I was about to take up the issue with one of the staff there and then decided a Saturday morning probably isn't the most appropriate time to start abusing my membership privileges. All in all, the effect was very good but the bad layout just left me scratching my head.

Union Station from the theoretical west :

DSC01750.jpg picture by JRock3x8

On the other side of the floor was Seattle. I have never been to Seattle, so any Seattle folk out there can tell me if they got it close to correct or not.

DSC01758.jpg picture by JRock3x8

Another shot of Seattle's model skyline - what IS that structure at the bottom left of the picture. It looks like 4 different colored pieces of play dough mashed together and made into a concert hall or something. Very bizarre looking. I'll take a better picture during my next visit.

DSC01756.jpg picture by JRock3x8

At the far end of the previous picture you can see some loading dock equipment which I recorded video of here :

Suspended from the ceiling of the railroad rooms were several planes, including this United Airlines jet which was missing its left wing (presumably so it could fit in the room). Very impressive.

DSC01766.jpg picture by JRock3x8

As we were exiting the train room, I caught a couple shots of this beauty. I'll have to get the story on this one later. If someone knows, please fill it in the comments.

DSC01771.jpg picture by JRock3x8

DSC01770.jpg picture by JRock3x8

There was a room dedicated to oil and all of its various uses. I took the following video of this room which was a fancy light show using bubbles and some hydrocarbon gel. I didn't stay for the whole explanation because the voice was really loud.

For whatever bizarre reason, I started getting a really bad leg cramp right about here, so we cut the trip short and headed back to the van. We had been there for over an hour anyways which is more or less what we like to limit our little trips to anyways.

More pictures and stories in weeks to come!

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