Monday, May 23, 2011

Beaming Up to Star Trek: The Exhibition

Warning: It gets really nerdy past this point! LOL

As many of y'all know, I am a HUGE Star Trek fan. There are two traveling exhibits that feature costumes, props, models, and set pieces that travel around the country and the world. The Louisville Science Center hosted part of Star Trek: The Exhibition, and it was the closest that it's ever come to me.

I was determined to go. Jackie said she didn't want to go, but Mom said she would love to tag along. (I think she's a bigger Star Trek fan than she would care to admit.) With the exhibit closing in just a few days, we made an overnight trip to Louisville. I'd planned on making the trip sometime during the semester, but as usual, school kept me busy.

So last Wednesday, Mom and I hit the road to Louisville, which is a straight shot up I-65. We stopped in Cullman to grab a bite to eat. We were making good time... until we hit Nashville at rush hour. But it wasn't too bad, and we were in Kentucky in no time.
We traveled up I-65 at warp speed!
We passed by the Corvette Museum, and we also saw a bunch of signs for different caves: Mammoth Cave, Horse Cave, Kentucky Down Under, the Batcave... OK, we didn't really see a sign for the Batcave. We did pass a life-size dinosaur, though! We thought it was really cool. As we got closer to Louisville, we realized that that part of Kentucky is on Eastern Time. It was really weird because it was 9PM and still really light outside. It started to rain right before we got to the hotel, but it let up fast.

The space pod shower
We stayed at a Sleep Inn, and it was very nice. I'd never stayed at one before. The room had this weird, curved part that stuck out from the bathroom, which turned out to be the huge space pod type shower stall.

While I was talking to Jackie on Skype that night (because I'd forgotten to bring a wall charger for my phone), I realized that I'd forgotten to bring my camera! I was so mad at myself, but then I read on the exhibit's website that photos were prohibited...except for the ones you can pay for. I decided that I would charge up my phone in the car the next morning (just in case I could sneak in a couple of photos while we there there).

The next morning, we went to the JC Penney Outlet store that was beside the hotel. They had a ton of stuff, and all of the prices were really reasonable. We bought a bunch of stuff for only $70. It was a steal! (The closest one here is in Decatur. Mom wants to make a trip to that one someday.)

From there, we set off to the Louisville Science Center. They had a huge banner of the Enterprise on back of the building, which overlooked the parking lot and the Ohio River. There was also a large poster beside the parking lot entrance that said, "My other ride is a Constitution-class Starship." Of course I had my picture taken with it.

When we walked into the science center, I bought our tickets and we walked up to the staffer at the entrance to the exhibit. "You are not allowed to use cameras or cell phone cameras in the exhibit," he said. Bummer.

The first two costumes were from the 2009 Star Trek movie. One was of a Vulcan Science Academy member and the other was from a Romulan bad guy.

Next up was a display of the Borg Sphere ship from First Contact. The layers of detail on the model was incredible, and it was stuff that I'd never noticed while watching the movie. There was also one of the prosthetics of a Borg drone.

The next costume was Whoopi Goldberg's from when she played Guinan on The Next Generation. They even had her big, flat hat! There was also a display case of alien weapons, including Romulan rifles, Bajoran phasers, Cardassian disruptors, Andorian blasters, even a phaser rifle from The Original Series. There was also a Klingon uniform from TOS, with a forehead piece from a TNG-era Klingon.

Next was Major Kira's famous crimson uniform from Deep Space 9. Mom couldn't get over how small the costume was. "She sure was a tiny little thing," she said. Kai Opaka's costume was also on display there. Mom really enjoyed seeing the detail in all the different fabrics and jewelry.

While we were looking at the Kai's robes, one of the exhibit's employees walked up and started talking to us. Then he asked me if I wanted to sit in Captain Kirk's chair and have my picture taken. Of course I said YES!!! Because the science center didn't have room for the replica of the Enterprise's bridge, they used a green screen to put the bridge background in the photos. He took a couple of me by myself and one with me and Mom. He said, "You can use this as your Christmas card!" It was then that I realized that he must have thought that I was a stereotypical nerd living in my Mom's basement!! I didn't say anything to him though... and I'm still thinking about using it as our Christmas card. I don't think Jackie would mind. Maybe it could say, "Hope Santa beams down everything you want for Christmas!" Just kidding.
Me and Mom on the "bridge"

Standing on the "bridge"

Beam me up!!

When he finished taking my picture, he told me that I could take my own pictures throughout the exhibit!

That was all I needed to hear! I started snapping pictures, but tried not to be too obvious. In the next room, there were several costumes from Voyager, including Seven of Nine's brown catsuit, one of Neelix's suits, and one of Kes's outfits. Data's costume from First Contact  was also there, complete with a prosthetic of his positronic brain! It was so neat to be standing just inches away from all of these things that I'd watched over and over and over again on television. I was a little surprised to see the difference in how they looked up close from how the looked on TV. Seven's uniform looked very faded, as did Neelix's, but I'm sure under the studio lights they looked very different. Mom really liked Neelix's jacket's flaps that held it closed. She said she wouldn't mind having a jacket like his!
Seven of Nine
Mom with Seven's catsuit
Neelix's suit
In the center of the room was a large display of various props, including tribbles and PADDs. There was also a transporter chamber in the room that you could stand on!!! I hopped up on that thing in a heart beat!

Next was a hallway that looked like the set from TNG. One side had computer panels, while the other was a mockup of Captain Picard's quarters, but most of the furniture was not from the show. Inside the display was Data's uniform from the show and one of his paintings, Picard's ready room chair and his desk from the Enterprise-E, a replica of Picard's famous flute, a large computer display from Insurrection, and the captain's dress uniform seen in Insurrection and Nemesis.
Data's uniform & painting

McCoy's uniform
In the next section, Commander Tucker's jumpsuit from Enterprise was on display, along with communicators seen on most of the series. There was a staffer there with real examples of astronaut food. It looked pretty gross! Next we saw a Dabo girl costume and models of a couple of ships, including a Klingon battle cruiser! Dr. McCoy's uniform from TOS was on display beside a TOS hazard suit.

The next display was of tricorders. My Trekkie heart was in heaven! I love tricorders! There was also a space suit from First Contact and Voyager. It looked a little beat up, but was still cool!

In the next room was the 4-foot model of the Enterprise-D!!!! It was SO cool to see in person. You could tell where the name had been removed and reapplied when the model was used as other Galaxy-class ships, most likely on DS9. They also had the model of the Excelsior and a replica of the model of the Enterprise from TOS. Along one wall was a massive display of uniforms from the new Star Trek movie. There was an admiral's uniform, two cadet uniforms, and a uniform from the Kelvin. There were also Kirk and Spock's TOS uniforms!
The Enterprise-D
Next I saw Scotty's uniform, Captain Archer's jumpsuit, and Captain Picard's uniform. (Picard's was from seasons 1 through 3...which looked very uncomfortable. Now I know why they hated them so much!)
Me with Captain Picard's uniform!
The shuttle from Voyager was in a display case, along with some phasers, and a model of an early TNG shuttle. Next up were Captain Sisko's uniform, and one of my favorites: Captain Janeway!!
Captain Janeway
Mom & Captain Janeway!!
Along the other wall was "The History of the Future," which was a massive timeline that spanned all the way from Enterprise to Nemesis (and a little beyond). It also included the new movie.

We got to look at the pictures I'd taken in Kirk's chair, and Mom bought me the CD of all the pictures. From there, we went upstairs to the simulator ride. It was awesome!!! We were attacked by the Borg. The simulator rocked and shook. It even did 2 complete 360-degree rotations!!!! (Mom wasn't so thrilled about that part.)

With our Star Trek experience complete at that point, we had access to the rest of the science center for the day. We had a great time walking around looking at all of the other cool stuff there. We saw two ginormous polar bears!! They had an old hat exhibit, which Mom really enjoyed. Some of the hats dated back to the 1880s.

There was this huge skeleton hanging from the ceiling that we finally learned was a whale skull. I couldn't get over how big it was!!

We did an interactive exhibit about Kentucky's environment and wildlife. There was also a large exhibit about the human body, which reminded me of a toned-down version of the Bodies exhibit Jackie and I saw in Las Vegas.

Our last stop was the gift shop, but unfortunately they had sold out of almost all of their Star Trek merchandise. BOO! But I did buy the last uniform pins they had. They are replicas of the engineering and medical/sciences pins seen in the new movie.

After we were done at the science center, we walked around downtown, enjoying the sites. There is a lot of beautiful architecture and statues. We also got to see the Louisville Slugger factory, complete with 120-foot tall bat. We also looked around in the gift shop at the natural history museum. They had a bunch of neat things...and some weird stuff. Did you know they make a Ben Franklin and Shakespeare action figures??? (The Bard even comes with some lame accessories like a "Removable Quill Pen and Book"!) I'm sorry, but give me my Star Trek, Ghostbusters, Mutant Turtle's, or Power Rangers action figures any day over Ben Franklin and Shakespeare ones!

After that our time in Louisville had come to an end. We took one last look at the river walk, and then got back on the road. But we didn't make it far because we were almost out of gas. It was $3.96 a gallon!!! (Thank goodness my car gets great gas mileage!) We rode on for a bit before stopping to eat at a Cracker Barrel. When we got off the interstate, we saw another T-Rex and a sign for Dinosaur World, home to over 100 life-size dinosaur replicas! After we ate, we rode down to the entrance of Dinosaur World, where a family was taking pictures beside a huge triceratops. Several hours later we finally made it home.
Just like Jurassic Park...
I had SO much fun going to the exhibit, and I'm so glad that my mom went with me. (She finally got the hang of taking pictures with my iPhone.) Mom said she wants to go back to Louisville sometime. There was so much to do there, and we also want to visit some of the caves (and I want to go to Dinosaur World).

I'm going to upload all of my pictures to Facebook soon. I would have done it sooner, but I had some technical difficulties.
Even Data has computer trouble sometimes... :)

I hope all of the Trekkies that read this blog have enjoyed it! I highly recommend going to the exhibition, if it comes near you. It was a day that this Trekkie will certainly never forget! And for all my non-Trek friends, thanks for allowing me to be the nerd that I am!

Live Long and Prosper, y'all!

The Finkleas Hit the Road: Florence & Charleston, South Carolina

I know I've been pretty bad about blogging lately, but between the end of the semester craziness and traveling out of town (and state), I've been a little busy. But Bruce's Blog is back!!!

Bruce's Blog is back...and (hopefully) better than ever!
Two weeks ago, Jackie was gone on an audit for an entire week. While I knew I would miss her, I had the opportunity to hit the road with my parents and brother to go visit our family in South Carolina. I was really excited because I hadn't seen this part of my family (my dad's side) since my wedding. I really didn't get to spend much time with them then because, well, my wedding day was hectic to say the least!

It has been a long time since I'd gone on a trip with my parents and brother, and I realized that it could be our last "original" Finklea vacation.

The trip would also give me the opportunity to finally finish reading The Shack, which I had started last year when Jackie and I were on our honeymoon. My aunt had loaned me the book, and I figured it would be great to read it while we were on the road so that I could give it back when I saw her. When I stopped reading it last year, I only had about 40 pages to the end, but school stuff took over. While I could remember some of the plot, I knew I should just start over. I'm so glad I did. While I don't agree with all of the things in the book, I do appreciate the way that it emphasizes the personal relationship with the Trinity.

OK, back to the vacation... We got to spend some great time with my Uncle Allen and Aunt Coleen. We also got to see my cousin Casey, her husband Bradley, and their two kids. We really enjoyed getting to spend time with them.

Because we didn't get to do Thanksgiving with that side of the family last year, my aunt planned to have Thanksgiving dinner Tuesday night. We had the most delicious turkey! She used a brine solution that gave it such a good flavor. Thanksgiving in May is a wonderful idea!

My 94-year-old great great aunt lives in Charleston, so we took a day trip to visit her. She took us to a great little restaurant called Dean Walker & Family Seafood. Of course, everyone knew Aunt Margaret when we walked in the door. "You have to try the onion rings," she said, right after we were seated. It was only a few moments later that Dean's wife brings us a platter stacked high with with onion rings. "On the house," she said. I took one bite and knew that it was the best onion ring I'd ever eaten. We all agreed that they were the most delicious onion rings we'd ever had. I also enjoyed my fried shrimp.

After that, we went back to Margaret's house and sat out on her porch, which overlooks the Intercoastal Waterway. Aunt Margaret is one of the best cooks I know, and she had made a pecan pie based on a recipe she got back during the time that sugar was rationed during WWII.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the porch talking, laughing, and swapping old family stories. Of course I'd heard almost all of the stories before, but part of the fun for me is seeing other enjoy telling them.

I hope that I get to take Jackie up there soon to visit with everyone.

Well, that's about it for this entry. I promise to blog more this summer. We've got a lot of stuff going on this summer, and I'm really excited to share it with y'all.

I wish blogging was really this easy!

I just thought this one was funny!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seeing the Tuscaloosa Tornado Damage in Person

Wednesday, April 27th, was a day that God did not intend for me to die. As Jackie and I sat at my parents' house (because they have a basement), we watched the storm coverage on TV.

I remember the exact moment that huge, ugly, twisting funnel of air moved into the frame of the camera. "There it is!" exclaimed the weatherman.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I glanced at the clock, and realized what time it was. Had that awful storm hit on a Tuesday or Thursday, I would have been on campus. Actually, it would have been about the time for me to leave, so I would have been in my car, most likely driving down 15th Street to McFarland.

I would have been right in the twister's path. That is a chilling thought.

Soon damage reports started coming in, and I was hearing about so many places that I'd eaten and shopped at. Now they were gone. I often times would go to the Milo's on McFarland and then go browse around in Big Lots and Hobby Lobby during my lunch break.

Then I thought about my old apartment on 5th Avenue East between 15th Street and Hargrove Road. From the pictures I saw online, it looked like the EF-4 missed my old building by a matter of blocks.

I wasn't able to go back to Tuscaloosa for a little while, but when I did, I could not believe what I saw. The pictures on TV and in the paper could not do it justice. I almost didn't realize I was at the intersection of McFarland and 15th Street because it didn't look the same. 

My mind had a hard time integrating the images of destruction I was seeing all around me with the images in my memory.

Driving down 15th, I was shocked at how far I could see. Sitting at one light, I realized that I could see all the way to the Home Depot, which was really far away. You would never have been able to see it before because the trees had blocked it.

As I was leaving Tuscaloosa, I decided to see if I could get down my old road. I hung a right at what was left of the McDonald's on the corner. The debris had been pushed to the curb, and the road was open. I crept along, looking at all of the houses that I had driven by so many times. Only now, most of them were unrecognizable.

One house was already having a new roof built. On the side of the lumber the name "Traywick" was spray painted. I had a flashback to when I got to go to Enterprise when a tornado hit that southern Alabama community. I was an intern at NBC13 then, and I went down with reporter Karen Lehane. We interviewed a woman whose house had been hit. Her last name was Trawick. Although the names were spelled differently, they were close enough for me to find it and eerily odd connection.

As I got closer to my old apartment, I realized that I had been wrong about how close it came. What I thought was several blocks was actually just one street. The tornado was one street away.

The apartment building suffered roof damage, which was covered with black plastic. Many of the cars in the parking lot were damaged. The towering trees that had stood just feet away from my bedroom window were gone.

I thought about what it would have been like to have been in my old apartment when the storm hit, riding it out in the bathroom there. And I know my imagination can't do it justice.

As I headed back to Calera, I thanked God for protecting all of those that I know and love and for sparing my home.

I didn't take any pictures that day. I don't need them. I will never forget what I saw.