August 5th, 2003

amused, silly, ha ha only serious

Day Eleven

Well, it's the middle of day twelve right now. I'll report on that later, but for now...

Day: 11
Location: Washington

We decided to do the Smithsonian museum for as long as we could for the day.

For those who aren't aware, the Smithsonian is a collection of museums in Washington. They belong to the people of the United States, and contain some absolutely awesome stuff. There are thirteen museums in the Smithsonian, but it's also a center for scientific and historical research.

We started at the Smithsonian Castle, the oldest of the buildings. The only parts of it accessible to tourists are Smithson's grave (the guy who started it) and an orientation movie.

Next, we looked at an exhibit on genetics. It was short and very kid-oriented, but interesting nonetheless.

Then we moved on to the National Air and Space Museum.

Every science fiction fan must make sure they visit the NASM before they die. They have the capsules from Friendship 7 (the first orbital Mercury mission), Gemini IV (the first spacewalk mission), and Apollo 11 (duh). They have a variety of backups and prototypes of spacecraft. They have aircraft used by the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart. They have an X-1, a mockup Skylab, and three-tenths of a Saturn V engine.

In short, they have many, many, many Cool Things.

My parents practically had to drag me out. They had to promise that we could come back if time permitted. And right after I'd found the cabin repress valve in the LEM...

Next, we went to the natural history museum. We visited their extensive collection of gems, a bunch of dinosaur bones, and the "insect zoo". It was all quite interesting, but not as cool as the earlier museum.

I suppose I'm lucky my family is as intellectual as it is--otherwise, I'd never be able to spend as much time in the Smithsonian as I did. We made plans to visit the American history museum the next day (the same day I'm writing this).

After that, we went back to the room and rested. We went out for dinner later (Dad dropped his mini-bombshell while we were going to dinner) and were planning to visit the monuments at night, but it got too late, so we came back to the room.

Well, we're about to go to dinner, probably followed by...something. What, I don't know, since there's not much to do in Washington at night, but the parents probably thought of something.

Report on today is probably coming after I get back tonight...
  • Current Music
    Random TV noise
amused, silly, ha ha only serious

Day 12

Day: 12
Location: Washington, DC

We went to the capital first--we'd scheduled a tour with our local Representative, Chris Cox. (Cox is a Republican who's fairly big on Internet tax freedom, among other things--he chairs a couple committees and is generally a pretty important guy.) The tour was led by an intern who turned out to be between her junior and senior years of high school. She was very nice...

Right, back to reality. The capital tour was interesting enough. I was surprised to see that one of Colorado's two statues was of Jack Swagert, one of the Apollo 13 astronauts. (If you've seen the movie, Jack was the bachelor who was added to the mission at the last second.) Jack had pretty bad luck--after the abortive Apollo 13, he was elected to Congress, but died of cancer before he took office. Apparently Colorado thought he was worthy of remembering.

Anyway, we got to see the House's chamber. We wanted to see the Senate chamber too, so we followed the intern back to Cox's office, using the House's subway. (It sounds more impressive than it really is, trust me.) She gave us passes, but the Senate was closed, so they were worthless. More souviners, I guess.

After that, we went to the last of the Smithsonian museums we wanted to see: the American history museum. The highlights for me were the information technology section and the firearms section.

The IT section had all sorts of old tech, from early computer UNIVAC's front panel to half of the chess-playing supercomputer Deep Blue. We didn't have a tour guide, but Dad was better--at one point he reached over the railing to demonstrate how to key the boot loader into an old PDP-8. No tour guide would know how to do that.

After that, we went back to the hotel. We had dinner, then went out to try to do the monuments again.

As we were leaving Smithsonian Station--the station closest to the monuments--lightning was flashing in the distance. Stupid Californians we were, we thought it was cool. About the time we reached the Washington Monument, it started drizzling. Halfway through the path next to the reflecting pool, it started really raining. By the time we reached the Lincoln Memorial, it was pouring.

We did our touristy stuff and sat down to watch the rain. After half an hour or so, we decided to walk back to the station. It stopped raining about the time we reached the entrance to Smithsonian Station.

The closed entrance.

There was another entrance to Smithsonian Station a couple blocks away, so we walked to it and went home.

I should add that the walk down the hall and the reflecting pool is at least a mile in each direction. Added to the events of earlier today, my feet are deservedly sore.
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    Seinfeld (family's watching)