Riley and I recently visited the Franklin Institute with Pack 32 as part of a "camp-in" event.  We packed our sleeping bags and camping mattresses, and rolled up to the Franklin, ready for some science.

We arrived quite a bit early so that we could have dinner outside of the museum.  We took an Uber to a ramen place I know, since Riley loves ramen.  We both had a bowl of utterly unreal ramen -- There's nothing like real ramen, not the dried kind you get in the little orange bags.  We both opted for the hard boiled egg. It was super tasty.

After dealing with some taxi weirdness getting back to the Franklin (the Uber we requested got pulled over by the cops on the way to pick us up!), we met up with some scouts near the big statue of Ben Franklin, and headed with our gear to our "camp site" in the Earth Science exhibit.

In the camp-in, each group is assigned an exhibit in the museum in which they make camp.  You simply spread out your bag on the floor and you're set up.  No tents!  The Earth Science exhibit we were in talked all about global warming, earthquakes, and erosion.  We camped down in the erosion section, which had a padded rubber floor since there was a water trough.  It was the only padded floor I saw anywhere in the museum, so we had a good pick!

After we were set up, we went to a presentation about sports science, where a scientist gave some demonstrations about why warming up is important and how it affects your body if you don't warm up before doing sports.  Several of the scouts in Riley's den assisted the show.

After the show, we headed to the observatory, where we got to look through the big telescopes on the roof of the museum.  This is a special treat since you can't ordinarily use the telescopes during the museum's open hours (since it's daylight).  Unfortunately, there was a lot of light pollution, and only a few stars were visible.  It's almost a shame to have these big telescopes in a location that has such poor visibility.  Nonetheless, it was neat to be able to look through them.

We spent some time in the sports science exhibit.  Many of the other scouts were interested in the sports exhibit, and that's it.  I think that our scouts do not get as much exposure to awesome science as Riley, because he quickly (in comparison) became bored of trying to run faster or jump higher than everyone else over and over, and wanted to see other exhibits.  So from here, we parted with the rest of the pack to check out some of the other cool exhibits in the museum.

We spent a lot of time in Ben's Lab, where there were physics experiments and optical illusions.  That is always a fun place in the museum.  We played with some experiments with light, which were really neat.

It was then time to re-join the pack for our planetarium show.  I think at some point while we were in Ben's Lab, the rest of the pack decided to order in pizza, but we were ok since we'd already had ramen.  But as a result, the rest of the pack showed up just before the show started and got different seats, whereas Riley and I got to lay down dead-center, which was pretty cool.  The show was narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson, although I can't even tell you now what it was about.  Some pretty generic space content, is what I suspect.

After the planetarium, we all had to head to bed.  We were worried that some of the lights on the displays wouldn't be off, but they were all eventually turned off by some custodians.  The floor was not too uncomfortable, but some of the other scout dads snore pretty loudly, and it was hard to stay asleep.  One of the other scouts was sleeping opposite me from Riley and kept rolling over and slapping me all night.  He also kept asking me where the bathroom was when I was trying to sleep.  This made me irritable at night, and groggy in the morning.

When we got up, we headed to breakfast in the cafeteria.  There was cereal and muffins and fruit and coffee.  We ate a bit and then went to the new Brain exhibit that the Franklin has.  The Brain exhibit was pretty neat, and the experiments there were all interesting.  I think this was Riley and my favorite exhibit of the weekend.

After we were done with the exhibits, Riley and I stopped by the gift shop to look around. I bought a Franklin sweatshirt and Riley got a glass prism.

In the end, it was a fun trip, and something I've always wanted to do has now been crossed off my list.

This year I've bought into a season ticket package with some other guys to go to Philadelphia Eagles football games.  I went to a couple of games last year with them, and it was a good time, so I was enthusiastic when they offered the opportunity to join them for the rest of the season.

As part of the season ticket package, there are tickets to home pre-season games.  Typically these games are on Thursday night, which makes them difficult to schedule to attend.  Combined with the fact that the big name players don't play, there isn't a big demand in our group for these tickets.  As a result, I requested all four of our tickets for the Jets game, and took Berta and the kids.

The game was entertaining.  It wasn't as busy as a regular season game by a long shot, but it was busier than any pre-season game I'd been to before.  I would say that that stadium wasn't quite half full.

I tried to convey all of this to the kids while we were heading into the stadium.  We took the train, which was probably a mistake, but always seems so convenient to Berta's work to get in and out of the city, which I really hate driving to myself.  Abby was amazed at the number of people that were in the subway with us headed toward the game.  I told her that it was just one subway train, and it that there would be many more people at the game itself.  She seemed impressed.

It's hard to convey the difference in atmosphere between pre-season and regular season games.  There isn't the same sense of urgency. The same energy isn't there.  The pageantry remains, but the crowd isn't as enthusiastic.  It's an odd thing.

Riley spent most of the game complaining about how he doesn't like football, "It's boring."  Instead of watching Philadelphia play the Jets, he watched the jets on approach to Philadelphia International Airport.  There were 25 that he counted.

I also wanted this to be an opportunity for Berta to see what the games were like to attend, since I'd be doing this every other week or so during the season.  There are some things that are a pain, like how you can't bring a purse into the stadium unless it's completely transparent.  The game itself, if you like football, balances a lot of that out.  The food prices are insane at the stadium, though.  I don't care how good you think Chickie and Pete's Crabby Fries are, that's too much to pay.  On regular games, we usually just grab a sandwich outside the stadium and pack it into the game in a clear bag.  Anyway, the game isn't always so expensive to attend.

There was a bit of a bother getting home since I hadn't taken into account the returning train schedule, and we got the kids to be a little later than we'd like.  Abby and Riley both commented about how they disliked the city -- it was dirty, polluted, full of weird people...  I was a bit sad that I have yet to convey the wonder (this is not the best word, but good enough for now) that I see in the city to the kids.  Maybe they will appreciate it more when they're older. 

Still, the evening was entertaining, and we survived.  Now the kids have been to a pro football game.  Hopefully they'll look back on it as the positive experience I was hoping for.

We had burgers for dinner last night, and got into a conversation about hamburgers and their names, in general; how a hamburger isn't made of ham, and so a burger made with bear meat (for example) could, in fact, not necessarily be called a "bearburger".

During this conversation, somehow the trademark name of a burger came up in topic: The Quarter Pounder.

I asked Riley where one might obtain a Quarter Pounder.  He answered, "Jake's Wayback?" It's a local place that makes great burgers.  But obviously not Quarter Pounders.

Abby was quick to reply, "I know where to get Quarter Pounders, but I don't want to say because then Riley will know."

"Oh, really?" I asked.  "It's OK if Riley knows where they come from.  Where is it?"

"Cheeburger Cheeburger," she said, triumphant sounding.

+2 points for the parents.

It was an interesting weekend for us; there was a lot going on.  Both Riley and Abby had sports events.  On Saturday Riley had a baseball game at Hickory Park and Abby had a soccer game at Fellowship Fields (at which I was "coaching").  Shortly after Abby's game, Riley and I left for Camden to camp on the battleship New Jersey with a group from Pack 32.

Battleship New Jersey

Visiting the USS New Jersey was definitely a unique experience.  The boys from Riley's cub scout pack (and their dads) got to experience a lot of the ship.  The evening tour after mess was pretty exclusive, too.  We got to tour areas of the ship that you don't get to see on a normal walking tour, like the areas inside the gun turrets where the ammunition is prepared and sent to the firing stations.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and thankfully very patient with our precocious boys.

We learned a lot of interesting factoids about the New Jersey.  The whole ship is made primarily of steel, which is pretty obvious if you think about it.  But the amount of steel used is astonishing.  Some of the armored doors and walls on the ship are made of solid steel 17 inches thick.

Just one of the three primary turrets weighs the same as a destroyer from the same era as the New Jersey.  That's like having three destroyers on board the ship!  Each gun in the turret fires a huge shell, propelled by 600 pounds of gun powder.  If fired straight up, the shell would reach 17 miles high.

There are "smaller" 5-inch caliber guns on the sides of the ship.  The shells for this gun are stored in the lower decks and raised to those turrets with constantly-moving chain elevators.  These shells are primarily used to shoot down enemy aircraft.  The nose of each shell contains a small vacuum tube that detects when the shell gets near metal, kind of like a poor-man's radar.  When the shell is near metal, like the hull of an enemy aircraft, the shell detonates.  This function of the US 5-inch shell was a closely guarded secret throughout World War 2, and wasn't even shared with our allies.  The shells were never fired over land for fear that one would land, unexploded, on the ground where the Nazis could recover and study it. It is amazing to me that the Axis did not have similar technology, seemingly having all of their shells detonate based on timed fuses.

The New Jersey was in service from 1943 through until the early 90's.  It had been retrofitted with modern weapons from the time.  There were Gatling guns mounted in several places on the sides of the ship for shooting down incoming missiles.  There were Tomahawk missile mounts on the ship for firing these very advanced weapons.  There were even rumors that the New Jersey had nuclear capabilities, but the Navy won't confirm whether this was the case.

One of the most interesting rooms on the ship was the CEC, the Combat Engagement Center. This is where all of the on-board weapon systems were controlled.  The room is the same eerie blue with all kinds of radar screens that you see in movies.  The kids had a lot of fun sitting at the consoles and firing missiles at their enemies.

I had always thought that the doors on a ship were round because of some reason related to water.  Of course, our tour guide said that if water was high enough to be a bother to a door, there were much bigger problems to worry about than the shape of the portal.  No, the door is round because it is structurally more sound.  If a door was rectangular, then when the ship's body has torque - either from weapon impact or heavy seas - then the steel would tear from the corners of the door.  Instead, a round door keeps the ship's body intact under pressure.

We learned how to navigate the ship using signs about the compartment locations.  We toured the captain's quarters, the admiral's quarters, the mess hall, the officer's mess, medical (including an unusually large dental area), and the bridge.  We were able to see inside the turrets at the top, where the guns were aimed and the ammunition was loaded into the barrels.

This was an overnight trip, so we all had to sleep in bunks on board.  The bunks were stacked three beds high, and were claustrophobically small.  Riley and I took bottom beds in separate bunks because that's all that was left by the time we arrived.  Still, the experience was authentic.  At lights-out the lights didn't go out, but instead dimmed to an eerie red color.  All through the night, you could hear the sound of people banging themselves against the steel bunks trying to get comfortable.

The only thing that was a little disappointing was the food.  We usually get such great (too great, sometimes) meals when we camp with the scouts that the chicken finger dinner and hashbrown breakfast were a little small and disappointing.  But a meal is a meal, and we got to experience the chow line first hand, which is interesting in itself.

There was a lot more that we saw and did on the ship, and I'm sure even then that we didn't get to see everything since the ship was so huge.  In all, the trip was pretty great.  Riley had a great time, as he usually does on scouting trips.  I'm not sure I'd sleep over again - not wanting to subject myself to the steel coffin bunk and ensuing back pains in the morning - but I'd definitely visit again, perhaps to join a different tour and see other parts of the ship that we missed.