Urbana-Champaign and Back Again

Two weeks ago Anna had her graduation party in Urbana-Champaign. Just three short years ago she started at the University of Illinois‘s law school and soon she’ll be on the gilded road to endless riches. I’m clearly on the wrong career path. Anyway, I had a mini solo roadtrip adventure there and back. I drove straight there for the afternoon party. I’ve been to too many graduation ceremonies to have hope that the next would be exciting. I actually arrived an hour early. I planned for the faux pas though so instead of ringing the doorbell I whipped out a pre-printed Google map from Anna’s house to the UI campus. I had read about the Spurlock Museum is something the budding anthropologist should see. They had a lot of (presumably) replicas of artifacts and modern items from around the world. Some of it I recognize from my own department’s museum. Spurlock is what we could have if we had around a hundred times the funds. They had a bright exhibit of the Calypso craze of the 50’s. It’s funny how fads just explode into all media then fade to nothing but museum pieces.

Link to Flickr: Statue of Justice?

{The lighting in the museum was wonderful.}

I spent and hour and drove back to Anna and Anthony’s house to make my entrance. A lot of their relatives were there, as well as some friends who have scattered across the Midwest in the past few years. Anthony treated us to his homebrews, which you can read about here. I’m not much of the a drinker due to my amazing “Asian flush” ability, but his beers were really good and unique.

They also had Rock Band playing on a giant HDTV. It’s fun!! I’m not usually into rhythm games. Sure I’ve tried out a few: Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy, Space Channel 5, Donkey Konga, Taiko: Drum Master… but they’ve always been too difficult and ultimately frustrating for me. I even tried Guitar Hero in an arcade once, which was a waste of a dollar. For some reason Rock Band clicked with me. I was getting high 90%s on easy guitar after a few tries. Drums is a lot harder for me partly because my foot won’t cooperate, and when it does cooperate my left hand forgets what it’s doing. I didn’t try vocals but it looked fun. Playing Rock Band at the party pretty much sold it for me. I spent the night sleeping in their entertainment room. I snuck in some Guitar Hero III in the late night. =)

Link to Flickr: Anthony on drums.

{Anthony rocks the drums.}

I had big plans for the next morning. I wanted to visit Dickson Mounds (one of only two archaeological sites in the new world with a triple entendre in its name* (or one really long one**)). I also wanted to swing by Springfield to see some of their Lincoln sites. My plans were literally blown off course when a storm hit with some intense winds. I didn’t have a jacket either because I didn’t bother to check the weather before I left my house. Dickson Mounds was also a little out of the way so I went straight to Springfield. By the time I got there it wasn’t windy but still cold.

I went to the Illinois State Museum first. They had a nice section on regional natural history through time, hampered only by the fact that no dinosaur fossil has ever been found in the state (which they kind of play up for laughs before skipping to the Paleocene). They had some great dioramas of different ecosystems.

Link to Flickr: Prehistoric fish.

{If these prehistoric fish existed today, and could fly, it would totally bust through the wall like this.}

I almost left without seeing their anthropological stuff if it weren’t for reading a random brochure. Nothing really pointed the way to the elevator or escalator hiding around a corner but it lead to the other half of the museum. The second floor had a really cool exhibit on households through the centuries, showing how common material goods have changed. The last diorama had a bunch of Springsteen paraphernalia: just before my time. Still, it made me feel old.

The next stop was the Lincoln Library and Museum. I only saw the museum part. It’s hard to not repeat myself, but the museum was very impressive and modern. A docent pointed out the highlights for me at the entrance. It turns out she is an MU graduate as well! I went off to see one of the shows first. It had cool effects like a 2(?)-layered polarized screen that gave a sort of 3D effect. For example, the narrator will be on the front screen and the back will have a backdrop so it looks like the figure is walking around on a stage. The seats also had a force feedback mechanism which was pretty much unnecessary.

After the show everyone went to the nearby early-Lincoln exhibit. I went to the presidential-Lincoln exhibit which had far fewer visitors at that time. There were some very cool displays. There were lifesize dioramas throughout dramatizing different episodes of Lincoln’s life. There was a large animated timeline of the Civil War showing how the frontline moved with each real second being one war week. The early-Lincoln section was also very well made. It looks like a simple and small log cabin at first but upon entering it turns into a very large exhibit that is invisible from the atrium. I’m glad I went through Lincoln’s life in reverse order because his adult life was really sad while his early years were… less sad.

Link to Flickr: Wax young Lincoln.

{“Go back, Sam. I’m going to Mordor alone.”}

From Springfield I drove to St. Louis. I arrived on Delmar Boulevard just in time for early supper at a Thai restaurant Kristin and I used to go to. I also went to Starclipper because it’s a cool store. It was getting dark by then and I drove to Columbia to get some rest before work on Monday (spoiler: I didn’t rest enough).

* Lake Titicaca is the other one.
** Ba-bump-ch!

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