Iowa State Historical Museum

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The third stop of our trip, just 6 minutes' drive from Pioneer Park and in front of the capitol building, was the State Historical Museum.  The museum, open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM Monday-Saturday, has no admission fee and occupies the spacious State of Iowa Historical Building.

Upon entering, the visitor is confronted by a huge skeletal mammoth replica and a decent selection of bones and bone replicas.

In the adjoining room, there are Iowa starfish fossils.  The American Mastodon femur (upper leg bone) shown below was found near Algona, Iowa.  

We saw Native American headdress and clothing, and tools of the pioneers--including a collection of millstones.  Native American and pioneer themes can be found throughout the building.  After seeing a 2-row planter and a 1 furrow plow, I'm sure all farmers are thankful for their modern farm equipment!

  The coal mining exhibit was in a dark room made to look like (guess what?) a coal mine.  Nearby, a film played telling the history of coal mining in Iowa.

Wildlife displays were next.  The moose behind me are from Alaska and Minnesota.

The 520 pound male bear lived in Grand View Park, Des Moines in 1916.  There were numerous bear sightings in Iowa during the 1800s and early 1900s.  Also on display were elk, buffalo, Iowa brush wolves,  wild turkeys, prairie chickens, hawks, foxes, and raccoons.  It was interesting, but also evoked the inevitable "Poor animals--why did they have to be stuffed?" feeling (especially the little fox kits and fledgling hawks).

Upstairs there was an insect display with butterflies and insects from Iowa as well as exotic butterflies from Peru, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines.  

The section of spruce below is from Washington state.  It was unloaded in Des Moines by mistake on its way to the 1893 World's Exposition in Chicago.

Currently, the museum has a temporary exhibit on the Civil War.  The exhibit depicts camp life and has special sections for weapons, prison life, and civil war music.


Across the hall is a room specifically dedicated to the Confederacy.

These flags, which read "Independence or Death" and "Southern Rights" are 2 of several southern flags displayed in the room.  

We were pressed for time and therefore skipped a visit to the library and historic preservation rooms on the first floor, instead heading upstairs.  From the staircase, we had a good view of the three vintage airplanes suspended from the ceiling.

The Solbrig is a benoist biplane that was built and flown Oscar and Mary Solbrig in Davenport, Iowa before 1910.  

A Curtiss-Klein pusher (1910) is on the left and a Bleriot XI monoplane (1909) on the right.

Aviation buffs can also find a Hat-in-the-Ring painting made from a scrap from a wing of one of Eddie Rickenbacker's planes.  (Rickenbacker was the top American ace in World War I, leading the Hat-in-the-Ring squadron).  You can also see the jacket that Colfax, Iowa native James Norman Hall (a friend of Rickenbacker's) was wearing when he was shot down and crash landed in Germany during World War I.  (James Norman Hall became a successful author, writing many books, including Mutiny on the Bounty).
(Ouch...I'm sure glad Jimmy Hall survived that one!)

On the second floor there are many beautiful portraits of famous Iowans as well as paintings by famous artists.  In the museum there are also musical instruments including an organ, bugle, and melodean--an instrument developed in the 1840s as a more affordable alternative to a piano.
A melodean
Other interesting artifacts include Daniel Boone's rifle, a pair of glasses that once belonged to Abraham Lincoln, and a rocking chair President Theodore Roosevelt sat in on a visit to Iowa. 

A pretty wedding dress caught my eye as well.  Around the time of World War II there was a silk shortage and the bride-to-be could not find silk to make a wedding dress.  No problem!  Her prospective groom was in the air force and flew over his fiancee's house, dropping a parachute to her father.  The dress was made from parachute silk!

The museum covers life from cradle to grave.  In search of an old-fashioned hearse?  The museum has that too--you'll just have to find a horse!

Need to find an iron lung?  Let's hope not!  But just in case...

And who could live without a Frank-A-Matic?  Oddly situated in the museum right beside the iron lung, this may not be as much of a life-saver, but it certainly was a time-saver!

Used in Des Moines in 1964 by the meatpacking industry, the Frank-A-Matic could stuff and link 35,000 frankfurters and sausages an hour.

The third floor of the museum houses a silver plated ware collection and Barratta's restaurant.

By the time our self-guided tour was over, it was near closing time.  After a long day, our feet were tired.  We had a lot of fun, and the trip was very worthwhile.

We bade farewell to the beautiful golden-domed capitol and headed home.

Des Moines Time Odds Blitz

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our next stop Saturday was Pioneer Park Shelter #3 for the Des Moines Time Odds Blitz.  Unfortunately traffic was heavy and slowed us down considerably.

  There was no time for lunch; we jumped out of the van just as the tournament director Hank Anzis was finishing the pairings for the first round.  "Here's the Carsons!"  Hank said, and walked right back to his computer and re-did the pairings; we were so happy not to have to sit out the first round!

Time odds blitz means that players with lower ratings get more time to think while players with higher ratings have less time.   In this tournament the lower rated player always had 8 minutes to start with.  If his/her opponent was 500+ points more highly rated, the opponent would get 2 minutes, with a 400-500 point difference 3 minutes, 301-400 4 minutes, and so on until a player rated between 0-25 points higher would have 8 minutes.  

There was no delay on the clocks as that would defeat the purpose of the time odds.  This is called "sudden death;" if you run out of time, you lose.  Unlike most chess tournaments, this tournament was not touch move (you touch a piece, you have to move it), but clock move (you hit your clock, your move is sealed).  There were a couple other rules slightly different from regular tournaments.  After the rules were reviewed, the first round started.

My first game I had 3 minutes as my opponent was much lower rated.  I was fresh and have a lot of practice with speed chess from my games on FICS, so I won without spending a whole minute.  

My second game I had only 2 minutes, so it was harder; but my opponent lost material and had a tough time.  The third game I had 6 or 7 minutes to my opponent's 8.  I was playing an experienced opponent closer to my rating, Steve Jacobs.  I focused on moving quickly in hopes of equalizing the time so he would be under as much (or more) time pressure as I.  Eventually, I won.

A promotion to board 1 for the 4th round meant playing Eddie Divonavic the highest rated player at the tournament.  The time odds were in my favor (I had 8 minutes to his 5), but he won easily anyway.  The next game, I was demoted to board 2 where I faced Matthew Jacob.  He pressed home an advantage and won.

The final round I played Ana, a rapidly improving scholastic chess player who tied for 2nd at this year's Iowa Girls Chess Championship.  Early in the game I was pretty sure I had the advantage.  However, under the time pressure I carelessly left one of my rooks unprotected.  Ana recognized the opportunity immediately, and I (poor me!) was left without a rook.  After that, the game was all hers, and she brought it to a quick conclusion. 
I was delighted to see my brother win the tournament, and it was a pleasure as always to meet with the old faithfuls--fellow chess-players whom I've seen at tournaments for years.  Many thanks to Hank Anzis for directing.  Time-odds blitz is definitely a fun way to play chess, as it makes games between players with large rating differences more challenging.  My dad remarked that it was one of the funnest tournaments he's ever played in;  I have to agree that it was up there near the best.  

Future time odds blitz tournaments will be at the same place in June, July, and August (see here for more info).

We stopped in a shady spot for a quick lunch, and then returned to the busy streets, driving toward our next destination...

Photo credits:  Thank you to my dear mother and Christine Denison for photos.  Other photos are my own.

Iowa Gold Star Museum

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saturday we took a trip to the Des Moines area.  The first place on our schedule to visit was the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston.  The museum contains the largest military weapons collection in Iowa and is open Monday-Friday 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. and Saturday 10:00 to 4:00.  There is no admission fee.

We went through security at Camp Dodge, and soon realized we should have asked the guard where the museum is.  After a little wandering, we found someone who directed us down a road to the museum.  On the way, we saw national guardsmen/women training and drove past the barracks.  Later in the day we could hear target practice.  

We were greeted in the museum by a retired sergeant who had told us of his experience in the armed forces , and explained to us the meaning of the gold star.  The blue star was placed in the windows of families who had a member in the service and the gold star was for mothers whose sons had died in the service.

The first room we toured contained a gun collection.  There were revolvers, dueling pistols, flintlock pistols, anti-tank guns, rifles, mortars, incendiaries, and grenades.  

On the left you can see among others a M1917 Smith & Wesson revolver (.45 caliber, 6 shot) and a M1903 Colt .38 caliber.  On the right there's a Spanish .54 caliber flintlock pistol (1780-1850), and a German 13mm percussion dueling pistol (muzzle loader) (1830-1870).

In the next room there was a collection of civil war era lances and swords.  The Gatling Gun (above right), a forerunner of the modern machine gun, is from 1883.

There was a separate display on each war the U.S. participated in.

1917 Machine gun ammunition cart and  1898-1909 German light field howitzer

There were helicopters, a Humvee, a half-track, and a jeep. 
 A Curtis P-40 B fighter plane replica hung from the ceiling.  At the push of a button by any passerby, a sound track would play of the plane going into a dive: then lights would flash from the replica guns and you could hear them "fire."  

In the submarine room you can find controls and monitors (and an informational video) as well as a periscope which gives a view of the street outside of the building.

The display on the most recent "Global War on Terror" includes a mortar used in Afghanistan and rockets like those mounted on either side of the Cobra.

On the other side of the building there is a small room with more information on the Civil War.  There is a small room dedicated to the Iowa State Patrol with mannequins displaying the State Patrol uniforms over the years.

On the left is the original uniform (1935--why does it remind me of Sheriff Andy Taylor?) and on the left is the current Honor Guard uniform worn by Iowa State troopers.

Outside there was a Republic F-84F Thunderstreak flown by the 132nd Fighter Interceptor Wing Iowa Air National Guard from May 1969 to April 1971.  It had a maximum speed of 658 mph and a cruise speed of 539 mph.

There was quite a collection of tanks, trucks, and artillery as well as a few rockets in the field near the museum.

We wished we could have spent more time: there is so much to see!  But after a very pleasant hour we had to leave quickly.  We didn't want to be late for the chess tournament!

The Iowa Gold Star Museum is a great place to visit!  Just be sure to come when you have plenty of time to enjoy it fully.

Tomorrow read an account of the chess tournament: Des Moines Time Odds Blitz

One Matchstick at a Time

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Matchstick Marvels museum sells matchstick hobby kits, so I bought one intending to try my hand at matchstick architecture.  I thought it best to have a few friends help with this monumental task, so one day when both my sisters and a friend were around, we gave it a try.

The kit came with instructions for a small box.  The first step was to glue 13 sets of 6 matchsticks and 2 sets of 4 matchsticks.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Maybe, except for the fact the matches didn't want to stay together for novices like me.  We experimented with squeezing the glue onto the matchsticks, painting it on them with another matchstick, or rubbing the matchsticks into a puddle of glue to find the most efficient way.  Just as we would get 6 matches stuck together they would start to fall apart.  Finally we finished all the sets and let them sit on pieces of paper to dry.  

When we came back they were nicely stuck together, and also *gasp* stuck to the paper.  With a little work we freed the matches from the paper--narrowly avoiding the need of borrowing a pry-bar from the shop (not that that would have helped).

We glued the groups of 6 and 4 matches together so we would have 3 sets of 18 matches and 2 sets of 16 matches.  After our matchstick boards were dry, we glued them together to form a small keepsake box.

My dear mother decided the box needed a lid, so she made one.  The finished product:

I think we have quite a bit of practice awaiting us if we ever want to build a Notre Dame Cathedral, but it's a start!

And I have a feeling all matchstick projects start small... but with determination (and patience?--well maybe) they grow, even if it is only one matchstick at a time.