Erstwhile Muse

Sep 17, 2003

A Day in Chicagoland

or Clones and Robots and Dean...Oh My!

A brief list of things I have enjoyed on this, our first full day in the greater Chicagoland area:

  1. Public Transporfuckingtation. I'm not going to try and say that it's a perfect system, a mere one day of exposure is sure to cover up a few flaws, but compared to the sad state of affairs of the Columbus public transit system, it's a goddamn technological marvel of the ages. My personal favorite is the bike racks on the front of the busses, and the ability to take a bike on the damn train...if you can't get close enough by either of those two methods, it can't be too far of a bike ride. What a fantastic solution, and one that the eighth fattest city in the country could stand to implement. Apparently it hasn't done much to help Chicago in that regard, but that largely appears to be due to a host of other factors and is not soley reliant on their transportation. Looking closer into Men's Fitness' little survey does bring up the old lies, damn lies, and statistics quote in my head; Columbus somehow beats Chicago in the commute attribute, despite the former's absolute antipathy towards anything resembling a well funded and useful public transportation system. The problem here of course is the fact that Men's Fitness only pays attention to travel time as an average rather than per capita, or any sort of measure of efficiency or environmental impact. Heaven forefend we should cut into any possible gym time (which most Americans would not avail themselves of anyway) by taking the damn bus or train.
  2. The Museum of Science and Industry. This of course could spawn a list of its own, especially when you let a couple of computer geeks roam free for a few hours; let's begin, shall we ?
    1. While on the subject of trains, let's discuss the museum's absolutely outstanding model railroad, shall we ? This is a fantastic example of the grown men and their toys theorem, as well exhibited by one of the volunteers we spoke to after we had wandered around drooling over scenery, pushing all the buttons around the periphery of course. They wouldn't have put them there if they weren't meant to be pushed, after all. Back to our helpful and friendly volunteer; Lee had noticed while we were cresting the Rockies on our way back to downtown Chicago that they had built a small cave into the upper parts of the display. What was more amusing to us though was the fact that the cave contained a family of bears about to devour Little Timmy and his Boy Scout buddy. Our trusty guide pointed out a few more scenes of interest that I highly encourage you to look for if you get a chance to visit:
      1. The Hulk rampaging through downtown Chicago.
      2. One of Chicago's finest arresting a hooker on one of the side streets.
      3. Midwestern residents sharing their morning commute with a bovine rider.
      4. Somewhere on the Illinois dunes a young lad making his escape with a woman's bikini top, and the ensuing chase.
      Despite my best efforts, the observation was made that the display would make quite a spectacular, if somewhat incredibly impractical table for wargaming. Moving on...
    2. to the Pioneer Zephyr, aka The Silver Streak. God damn is that a beautiful piece of machinery, all gleam and wonderful lines. There's not really much more I care to say about must be seen to be appreciated.
    3. We also spent some time helping them to break in a new exhibit on the toy business, especially the manufacturing process. Lee and I both decided the toys we really wanted were the ones that came from Motoman; not currently being in possession of a spare $15-45,000 I decided to go with the $3 Gravitron non-functional link instead. This was a good bit of fun as we wandered around the display once, playing with the Motoman toys and investigating the assembly stations while museum employees tried coaxing the various Windows systems to play nicely with each other in order to get the display running, then following the bits of colored plastic around the loop again once the kiosks and all were back online ready to make my Gravitron non-functional link, complete with all the sonic welding and laser engraving and cheeky packaging robots. My personal suggestion for those visiting the museum and leaving with a custom Gravitron...go for a purple or orange one. The neon green tops are rather eye catching, which is probably why that color is used for the dummy runs. Unfortunately there is no telling how many times those pieces have been through the assembly line before being turned into a finished piece.
    4. What geek field trip would be complete without checking out a functional Enigma machine ? The main U505 exhibit was not open unfortunately, but we would have been amiss had we not made sure to see that particular piece of crypto history, especially as this was an advanced prototype model that printed on ticker tape. To find out that the NSA has it's own crypto museum (which we immediately agree would be worth visiting given the chance) was a nice little bonus surprise.
    What about the fucking clone you say ? Well I'll be honest, the genetics display just wasn't that fascinating to me at that point. They did however have some cloned mice, so at the very least I can officially say that I have seen my first clone up close. Whee....
  3. When we were finished with the museum, it was time to attend to the reason for the trip in the first place, that being Laylia's performance at the Chicago Turkish Festival. Acting as itinerant videographer for the event took up relatively little of my time there luckily, leaving me plenty of time to ogle the many attractive young women there as they danced to traditional Turkish folk music, and become amused by the wonderfully low key Dean campaign presence. Thankfully the folks involved realized people were there to party, not politick and left the campaigning to one sign unobtrusively placed to the side of the stage and one handout passed along to people on their departure. Chalk up one more for appropriate grassroots efforts.

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