An Old Friend: The Train Room

(I’d like to start out here by saying: Grandma, I have some very fond memories of visiting the big train room at the Franklin Institute when I was a little guy. In my memory, you took me there at least once. If you remember it that way too, great. If not, pretend you did! Because I visited this place and thought of you.)

Anna and I have something unusual in common – we both have strong feelings about trains. When we are doing something together around the city, I usually look for an opportunity for us to ride a train, or the subway, or even a trolley. So I was very happy to bring her to my very favorite part of the Franklin Institute: The Train Room.


Since this was an evening event, they weren’t running the big train back and forth on the tracks. I’m not even sure they do it anymore, although all of the equipment looks like it’s still in place. Here is Anna trying her hardest to get some machinery to work:


We simply HAD to climb into the big train, the centerpiece of the room, and snap a couple pictures.



Bear in mind that all this came about because of a comet we didn’t even see!

The Train Room was the last thing we were able to visit that night. They started closing up the exhibits right after this. So we headed out and did the only reasonable thing – we stopped for ice cream on the way home.

I hope Anna remembers all this as fondly as I will.

We’re going to take a long weekend for Easter. Posting will resume on Tuesday next week. Best wishes to all of you for a lovely holiday weekend.

The Giant Heart

The biggest heart in Philadelphia doesn’t belong to an elephant at the zoo (they all moved to Tennessee – really) or a great humanitarian, though many people could lay claim to that title. No, the most massive motivator in town lives at the Franklin Institute, where a ‘temporary’ exhibit about cardiology from 1954 has been going strong for 60 years now.

It’s hard to get a full appreciation for the size of the thing in this picture, but trust me – it’s the height of a two-story building, and apparently would be the right size for a human being 200 feet tall. Maybe in the future people will be that big, if we all eat our vegetables.


Anna had brought along one of her friends for the evening, and as you can see from this picture, our girl was maybe even more excited about the heart than about Jupiter or the comet. (In my experience, a ‘crazed’ look on Anna’s face just means she is having a good time.)


Tomorrow: Flying in the danger zone.

Taking Flight

By this point in our evening, we had realized that we had the run of the museum, with almost no one else there. (The observatory nights are well attended, but they pale in comparison to the usual crowd of field trips and other guests in a typical day at the museum.) So our next stop was the Aviation room, where we got to climb around on an old Air Force training jet:


Now it was my turn to look crazed with excitement as I jumped into the pilot’s seat:


Back on the ground, Anna was running experiments in aerodynamics, trying on a pair of wings to see if she could fly.


We were all having a grand time, and we still had more fun ahead of us.


Tomorrow: Trains.

Across the Universe

With the comet Pan-STARRS hanging out in the night sky recently, Anna and I decided to head down to the Franklin Institute for one of their evening observatory sessions, hoping we could take a look at the comet. It turned out to be too low on the horizon to see from the observatory, but that didn’t stop us from having a marvelous time.

The big telescope at the Institute is an impressive thing:


It also enjoys a lovely view of some earthly sights, namely the Philly skyline:


The weather was crisp and cold that night – and we had left our coats in the car down in the parking garage! But the view of the telescope, which was trained on Jupiter and its moons that night, was worth the chilly wait.


Tomorrow: The Giant Heart.

Girl Scout Court of Awards

I mentioned yesterday that Anna made herself a lovely Colonial dress as part of a Girl Scouts project. Here are all of the girls from her group in their self-made dresses at their Court of Awards ceremony last week:


What a fantastic group of kids!

Colonial Dress… made by Anna!

Our crafty girls are at it again… Chelsea led a Girl Scout dressmaking project with Anna’s group. Anna decided to make herself a Colonial dress. The results speak for themselves:


Chelsea helped with the project, of course, but Anna did quite a lot on her own. It was an impressive effort. Can’t wait to see what she is making ten years from now!

My people are goofy…

…but we knew this already, didn’t we?

Look closely for Nick in this picture:


The weather outside remains frightful – by March standards – but the Sperger kids are still delightful.

Chelsea Climbing

For our Friday update, a couple of looks at my darling Chelsea, who is an enthusiastic rock climber. We were joined at the rock gym by Chelsea’s good friend Andy and her daughters. This was a nice picture of the two of them together:


Here she is in mid-scramble around the bouldering area of the gym:


And this one is blurry but you get the idea – after a big climb up one of the main walls, Chelsea took a funny-looking rest on the floor:


Happy weekend, everybody!

Social Climbers

A few weeks back, we had a day off work and school. Nick had other plans, but the rest of us trooped off to the Doylestown Rock Gym to get climbing.


More to come in the next couple days!

Travel Zen

I do a fair amount of traveling for work – not as much as some people I work with, but enough to require me to get extra pages in my passport. I had a big trip in January that took me to Germany, followed by Las Vegas. You can imagine the contrast between the two places was… striking.

I wanted to share this picture that I snapped on final approach to Las Vegas. I loved how the last rays of sunlight were just peeking over the mountains, while the city as already lit up for nighttime.


They use a heck of a lot of electricity in Vegas, that’s for sure.