Sunday, September 2, 2012

I Went To Africa Yesterday

Daughter: I like to hold it by the nuts so my hand doesn't get all sticky....

My wife - after acknowledging that the most enjoyable part of the State Fair for her and our daughter was the experiments/crafts and things in the 4H building - proposed going to the ScienCenter in Ithaca, NY. Any dalliance with 4H triggers latent desires in my wife to be near that city, closer to Cornell University and to have her offspring as deeply nerdy about science as she is. So I agreed to - mostly to see if it had been able to recover after being pillaged by another expat friend who had just past through there a week or so ago on a cross country trail of debauchery (she blogged the whole thing - with some truly lovely photos here).

Ithaca, NY is a beautiful part of the world. It's the kind of nice that makes you instantly think that the place you already live in is horrible. I'm fairly certain that if we just decided to up and move (for no good reason) that Ithaca would be pretty near the top of the list. The last time I was there was about 8 years ago when my wife and I visited with our old boss, the inventor Wilson Greatbatch, who was a keynote speaker at a conference. On that occasion he was talking about MRI-proof implantable medical devices, but mostly trying to persuade electrical engineering graduates to support his notion to mine the Moon for Helium 3, so that space travel to Mars would be much easier once nuclear fusion had been cracked (yes - I know...). This visit to Ithaca would likely include less references to dangerous emissions and unacceptable war. Although I had pretty much eaten an entire bag of sweet potato chips by the time we got 3/4 of the way there - so that was still quite possible.

Right outside Ithaca though is a little town called Dryden. It's the sort of picturesque, idyllic little place that is depicted on network TV as being overrun zombies/aliens/suspicious traitors planning to commit an enormous atrocity. That kind of niceness. But there are lots of places like that (particularly around the Finger Lakes region). The reason that Dryden stood out for me in particular is that we drove past this store that had what might be the most deliberately-inappropriate name one can get away with.

On the way there my daughter asked when were going to get to Africa. She's old enough to know that Africa is a different continent to the one we are in. Add that she was aware that you would likely fly to Africa if you wanted to go there. Therefore driving down Route 5 through another town that looks exactly like every other one in a Dodge Minivan must have been unsettling for her. She started to suspect we weren't in Africa because there were no deserts in sight. Her mother - seeking to clarify which continent we were on - started talking about the plains of Africa. She did this by asking my daughter what she would expect to see on the plains. After the mention of gazelles and lions my daughter betrayed how confused she was about the whole thing. Mostly because she was pretty certain that nobody in the right mind would let a lion on a plane.

Once at the Science Museum we had a spot of lunch, peed the children and let them run around the rather fantastic outside park. A particular favorite was a waterfall feature that you could drop plastic ducks down while someone else builds a dam so that you all get soaking wet.

Plus all the random stuff to climb on was a big favorite.

 A nice portion of the outside was a big section of big, dangling musical instruments that you could bash as hard as you like. I found it really interesting that my daughter went giddy and just smacked away on everything. But then when she asked me to take a video of it she was labored and careful about a lot of it. She played the xylophone like a child ragging a stick along on a fence (I spent a few minutes looking for that 70s British commercial where the kid does that and knocks a milk bottle over - and then he screams off camera. I think it was to tell people not to litter - but I might be wrong). Which was completely different to the insane battering she gave it when the camera was off.

I even managed an impressive display of drumming myself.

We did wander around the inside of the museum. I don't appear to have any photos of that though. In fact I seem to only have four of the inside. One of which is of my daughter atop a Triceratop skull.

Actually one of the reasons why I have so few photos is that both the kids were so excited by the plethora of stuff to do that they just kept moving on to the next thing. Not like the Fair though. That constant moving-on was based more about reaching an end goal three experiences later on. This was just and attempt to cram as much awesomeness into a day as was possible before we'd have t go home. I though have an MA in Museum Studies - so was trying in vain to get my kids to read some of the informational signs attached to each exhibit. Museum staff are well aware that nobody reads any of these things unless whatever they are looking at/poking buttons on is incomprehensible or doesn't work. In fact I proposed an experiment in the museum I worked at in Buffalo, NY to put up controversial signs and record people reading them - and then make an exhibit out of their reactions. Stuff that isn't absolutely offensive - but once read in full reveals a completely unrelated and disturbing trend that it makes you want to read everything to check whether you are really seeing that, or are just mental. Stuff like this -:

Anyhoo - they ran off like lunatics from exhibit to exhibit. The only thing inside the building that they were obsessed with was this -:

In an attempt to get them to focus the wife and I grabbed a child each and took them off to look at stuff. My daughter - predictably - wanted to go back outside and jump up and down. The following video is about the 6th minute of a good ten minutes of her just doing this -:

She only stopped this endurance task because she needed to go to the toilet (a valuable lesson Paula Radcliffe could have done well to learn). In which was a baby-changing table I pretended was a place I could sleep on . She told me it was for babies. Although she mentioned that the picture on it was of a woman holding firewood. I had no idea how she came to that insane conclusion so took a photo so that I could ask other people. Of course I then realized that I was stood in a public toilet taking photographs while my daughter had a shit - so put the camera away.

Shortly after that we left before anyone started having a bad time and the day went downhill. The timing was perfect as my daughter was asleep before got out of the city. You could tell she exerted the right amount of energy and business too because after getting home she had a mild breakdown about not getting chocolate 6 hours earlier. She had simply been too excited and too busy at the museum to eat any - and had fallen asleep on the way home.  The emotional disaster of missing chocolate caused her to become quite angry. After twenty minutes she extinguished that by focusing on playing an imagination game. Basically she re-birthed (no literally...) her doll Shayla Love Love Decency Rocket Boosters. She shortened the name to Love Love. It's been some time since she's taken care of her. That seemed ot prevent her from wrecking a rather nice day out. As did her finally eating her dinner and getting some chocolate with hazelnuts in it (which is where that top line quote comes from).

Right now the kids and their mother have gone to the in-laws for the night. I get the day off to do whatever I want. Which so far was to mow the lawn and then get this done.

You're welcome.

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant place for kids! I love the big gong noise best! As for your drumming, I don't think Cindy Blackman needs to start worrying any time soon ;)

    "The emotional disaster of missing chocolate caused her to become quite angry."<<<<< I totally know where she's coming from!!

    And thanks for the shout-out :)