Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bass Pro Shops

Checked out the newest humongous retailer in the area Sunday, and it was quite the trip for the kids and I. I'd been to Bass Pro Shops before, in Atlanta-land and in Missouri, but I still was impressed by the new location in Leeds, a whole lot closer to home.

I could not really tell that much difference in the store in comparison with the others I'd seen, other than the inventory being a little different and the conspicuous lack of snow-related gear. There were parkas and sleeping bags rated to temps well below zero, which I saw shoppers checking out, perhaps unaware that they will never get a chance to use that stuff around here without sweating.
Also present were aquaria with native fish, and I was impressed to see a massive alligator gar (probably about 80 pounds) as the boss of the tank. There were people wondering aloud what kind of fish it was, where it may have come from and hoping they never saw one in person. I kept to myself that the alligator gar has swam rivers around here, for oh, a million years or so, can breathe air, gets well over 100 pounds and several feet long, and has several dozen razor sharp teeth.
It was a job keeping the three of us together in the big crowd there, so we did not buy anything. We did have fun checking out all the stuff they had, and will have to go back once the crowds have subsided.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

McWane Center

Once the sugar rush of Halloween had a chance to fade, the kids and I were up for getting out Saturday. I picked a Birmingham attraction that I had been meaning to check out for the longest time but hadn't yet.
The McWane Center has been at the heart of a concerted effort to make downtown Birmingham matter again since 1998. Its focus is on letting children discover the how science and technology affect everyday life, in ways that are simultaneously educational and fun. I remember from school how 'educational' and 'fun' seldom intersect, but the McWane Center brings the two together in ways that are entertaining and surprising.
Interactive demonstrations focused on the forces of light, water, wind and mechanics; concepts are usually considered in the context of stuffy intellectualism. But the kids got to see and touch those ideas as they looked at the ways the eyes see and the way the brain perceives, with printed exhibits of illusions.
Natural forces of motion were shown with air and water. The kids stood inside a booth and felt an 80 mph wind, made water move objects in a tank with waves, and watched a 'tornado' form around them in another booth. Elsewhere, they saw that water supports life with aquaria exhibits. Manmade motion was covered by letting them use a rope and pulley to raise a seat. Air compressed in a plastic tube by a tethered bowling ball made a tennis ball take off more than even I thought it would.
All right, I see my text becoming the same dry, academic ho-hum talk that bores most kids, so I'll just say that the McWane Center lets kids be kids, and learn something doing it!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trick or treat!

Everything was right for Halloween this year, so we made the most of it! The weather, the obligatory trick-or-treating (sans tricks) and then a hayride and get-together at a relative's family getaway followed suit, and we were happy!