Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 2: The American Way

Today’s blog post title is in honor of two things. First, an awesome quote I overheard between a father and his sons in the Space Exhibit of the St. Louis Science Center. Second, the last phrase of the oath I took at the end of my class to make me a Certified Barbeque Judge with the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

But I get ahead of myself.

On our first day in St. Louis, we stopped at the St. Louis’ Science Center. Our schedule was tight and we only had an hour at the museum. This was going to be fine, because we knew we were coming back the next day.

So, for our second day in St. Louis, that where we were heading first. (After a quick trip to Walmart. It was discovered that our electronically dependent family should never travel without our own power strip.)

We headed first to the Space exhibit, which was reached by crossing a pedestrian bridge over the interstate. Clever museum designers had included speed radar guns for the kids to use, telescopes, and glass windows on the floor. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves on the bridge.

The entrance to the space exhibit was really cool by my standards and the Jedi standards, because it had a lot of space age toys from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s on exhibit behind glass cases. This was less cool from Toa’s perspective, because all the toys were behind glass cases. And it received a “who cares” rating on the Sweetling scale.

BUT, beyond that were many exhibits, photos, and models detailing the history of space travel, and the possible future of space travel. That was a bit more cool on the Sweetling’s scale, but it was still all behind glass cases, so wasn’t rating high on Toa’s scale. My favorite part of the exhibit was two actual capsules from a Mercury and a Saturn rocket. Sadly, the lighting and the plexiglass prevented me from getting good photos of these artifacts. Playing near the capsules was a video showing the launch of these rockets, the re-entry and splash-down of the capsules, and the at-sea recovery of the astronaut, or astronauts. A father and his sons were watching the video. I didn’t catch the question posed by one of the boys, but I loved the father’s answer.
“Because we’re Americans. It’s what we do.”
I tried to interest Toa in the video, but it was way too passive for him. Instead, he found a giant elevator full of buttons, switches, and blinking lights. It was, of course, also “out of gas.” And therefore doooooommmmed.

After that clearly educational experience, we split up. When we had come the previous day, Toa really wanted to see the dinosaur display. After all, it had a robotic, life-sized model of a T-Rex standing over a fallen triceratops. The T-Rex was opening and shutting its enormous mouth and waving its bloody claws. The triceratops was still feeling kicking one leg and trying to lift its head despite multiple deep, bloody gouges in its side. What’s not to love about that? Sweetling, for some reason, had no interest in seeing that up close. So we split up. I took Toa to witness the dinosaur carnage, and the Jedi took Sweetling off to explore the exhibits on computer programming and design. (This area by the way, proved way to “elementary” for Sweetling. Toa and I went up there later, and we couldn’t figure any of it out so we gave up and went to find more dead things. Meanwhile, Sweetling and the Jedi had gone on to the section on building and engineering.)

All that to say, we had to split up on our second day, because Toa wanted to go explore the building section, which Sweetling had already been in the previous day.

The structure section had all kinds of “engineering vs the forces of nature”, hands-on experiences. It was a Toa of Boy dream come true. He got to try to blow the roofs of model houses with a air hose and nozzle to test what kind of roof would withstand a hurricane. He got to built three identical skyscrapers and then activate a motorized tabletop to simulate an earthquake and determine which kind of foundation best withstood the quake. He got to build different types of bridges and arches and see what kind of load each of them could bear before crumpling. In short, he got to wreck devastation upon the world. All he needed was a giant Godzilla suit and miniaturized Tokyo and his day would have been complete. We were way too busy to pause for pictures in this area, but I did snap a couple when he slowed down to build foam replicas of the Gateway Arch. He was even gentlemanly enough to give the little girl who helped the privilege of knocking it down. (Which she did while standing under it so the big blocks came down on her head.)

We did have fun, but all in all, we were a tiny bit underwhelmed with the St. Louis Science Center. It couldn’t hold a candle to Columbus’ COSI, and we had expected something on the COSI scale. We were more than ready to grab some individual pizzas for lunch and hit the road for Kansas City.

Our hotel in Kansas City was only about three and a half hours from St. Louis, since we were actual staying in Independence, Missouri. We crossed the Missouri River twice on the drive. I was all geeked out about that, because it was the Missouri River, which had played such a prominent role in the westward migration. But, no one else seemed to share my enthusiasm for this feature. I was also all geeked out about being west of the Mississippi when we first got out of our van in St. Louis, but I was alone in that too.

After checking in, we grabbed fried chicken to take to the hotel room for dinner, since I needed to be at my bbq judge training class at 6. The Jedi and the kids spent the evening in the hotel pool and walked to McD’s for smoothies. I drove myself to class, with a lot of help from the Tom-Tom.

The class was awesome. I sat in between a couple from Texas and two competitive bbqers who were there to “learn how to win”. We learned about contest rules and procedures and the process of judging. Then we got to practice judging and scoring bbq. The Jedi had sent me with some ziplocks and an ice tub for leftovers, but I pretty much cleared the samples off my plate between rounds. It was so good. I had a great time with my tablemates. I can’t wait to get to judge at my first real competition.

At the end of the experience, we all stood and raised our right hands to be sworn in as official barbeque judges. The end of the oath went something like,

“As a judge, I promise to strive for truth, justice, excellence in barbeque, and the upholding of the American way of life.”
Also of note is that it is officially stated in the rules that judges are not to use forks for eating while judging. I always thought the Jedi was joking about that point.

But no, it’s in there.

It’s because we’re Americans. It’s what we do.

Back to Day 1
On to Day 3

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