Flowers in Winter

Or, another couple of days in Chicago.

After enjoying the riverboat architectural tour the weather turned grayer and colder so we shifted to more indoor activities. Of which Chicago offers many kinds!

First off was a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, which was showcasing an exhibit devoted to Pompeii that Barbara and I had seen when it came through San Francisco but our friends Brian and Cathrin had not.

But the museum had a lot more on tap than just Pompeii. I particularly loved its motto:

Science discerns the Laws of Nature.
Industry applies them to the Needs of Man.

Which, if you’ll forgive them the implicit gender bias which was just taken for granted when the museum was founded is actually both a good turn of phrase and commercially quite clever. Because it no doubt makes it easier to raise money and get exhibits from businesses eager to show off how they’ve met the needs of humanity.

The museum had a lot of cool technology exhibits, including a full-size Boeing 727 suspended overhead, the first train to go over 100 miles per hour (old 999 from the New York Central), a giant Tesla coil and an exhibit highlighting what it was like to be a coal miner over the last 100+ years. Short answer: if at all possible, take any other job you can find.

Who knew that the mining companies, in addition to not paying the miners well, exposing them to all sorts of hideous risks and health hazards, ripping them off through company stores and housing, also only paid them by tons produced? I certainly didn’t. Yet another example of the “wonderful” human ability to rationalize the crap we subject each other to, all in the name of upholding one or more “ideals”…which generally are simply self-interest gussied up to smell sweeter.

They also had the biggest model train layout I have ever seen. So big that I couldn’t figure out how the tracks were interconnected.

As for the Pompeii exhibit, the collection included a number of beautiful items, including this statue. Upper class Pompeiians lived quite well! At least, they did up until Mt. Vesuvius erupted and obliterated the community.

Reading and gardening are fun!

One of the more compelling exhibits was a digital display showing how successive waves of pyroclastic flows eventually buried both Pompeii and Herculaneum. The latter, in fact, became entombed inside of 75 feet of hard rock, making it much harder to excavate — Pompeii was “only” buried in 16 feet — even to this day. Interestingly, the ash waves started only after the initial eruption slowed down. Prior to that point the ejecta got blasted so high into the sky it got carried away by high atmospheric winds.

The next site we visited showcased a wide variety of tropical ferns and flowers. Because what else would you want to do when the ambient temperature is in the low 30s and the sky is overcast?

Visiting amateur botanists

The Chicago Conservatory is a fun destination on just such days (and probably pretty much any day, too). It was a quick train ride away from where we’re staying. One downside of almost all the train lines in Chicago being elevated is you get to enjoy more of the winds the city is known for.

I won’t include every beautiful plant and flower we saw (you can find all of them in the shared photo album). Suffice it to say we all enjoyed the visit and came away inspired. Plus, it was fun having to work around both a wedding party and several groups that were there scouting out photo sites for their weddings.

But I did want to include this guy. Who probably doesn’t appreciate just how good he’s got it, living in a tropical paradise smack dab in the middle of the frozen north.

Check out the photo album of our Chicago visit.

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