Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday in D.C.

This morning we got up and had breakfast at the M Street Bar & Grill. It’s located just across the street from the CBS building. While eating, Dianne noticed several camera crews setting up at the CBS building entrance. We didn’t recognize the gentleman who came out the door, but he stopped and answered questions for the reporters. I checked the Face the Nation web site and found out the guy was Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. That’s our brush with greatness during the trip.

DCPics3 023AWe started out the day at the National Archives. Unlike the movie ‘National Treasure’ where Nicholas Cage just waltzes into the rotunda area to see the Declaration of Independence, we had to go through a rigorous screening where all gum was purged. It was crowded in the document area and dimly lit to protect the documents. Although you could take pictures without a flash, the Constitution and the Declaration were so faded they were difficult to read in person. I could barely see John Hancock’s signature on the Declaration. All in all, I wasn’t too wowed by the experience. The principles the founding fathers put in the documents seem way more important than the faded documents themselves. Interestingly, just outside the rotunda there was one of the four copies of the Magna Carta that was approximately 700 years old and yet was much easier to read. Here is a shot of the National Archives building from across the street in the sculpture garden. Note the person in the red hat.

DCPics3 004A After visiting the Archives we went to the National Gallery of Art. It is a large museum and there is a lot to see. I enjoyed the Impressionist art (or the lumpy stuff as Dianne likes to say) and the Netherland/German realism art. These schools represent two extremes of realistic, almost photographic representations of still lifes or people and a blurry, overall impression of a subject conveyed as much through color and lighting as in shape. Dianne enjoyed the more contemporary American paintings (Sargent, Homer, etc.) as well as paintings by the Masters like Rembrandt and Durer. Dianne also wanted to check out the special exhibit on Venetian drawings, but they were more watercolor and gouache type media than strictly pen and ink or pencil drawings.

After seeing the indoor art, we went across the street to the sculpture garden. There were a lot of nice flowers and landscaping, a few large sculptures, and a large pond & fountain. People were sitting on the edge of the pond with their feet dangling in the water to cool off. Dianne called it the fountain of feet (see the picture above). One of my favorite sculptures in the garden was that of a large typewriter eraser. DCPics3 037A Another, which really didn’t photograph well in two dimensions, was a representation of a house which from a long way off followed perfect lines of perspective. However, up close, you noticed the different walls of the house and the roof tilted opposite of the way they would meet at the actual corner of the house. It was like they were inverted from their normal perspective – almost like the house was turned inside out. I thought it was a very clever play on perspective. I also got a picture of Dianne near a sculpture made from concrete cubes showing her counting the blocks like one of the exercises in the Big Brain Academy game. Some of the sculptures were strange – or I guess I wasn’t able to appreciate them. For example, this sculpture was just a metal plate with rounded corners. Go figure!

You can see a collection of photos from the National Gallery and the Sculpture Garden by clicking here for the Flickr group.

After the sculpture garden, we walked to the International Spy Museum. There isn’t any photography allowed in the museum. It covered the basics of becoming a spy and the techniques and gadgets they use as well as many blurbs about spies throughout history. Personally, I liked the gadgets like .22 caliber cigarettes, spy cameras, bugs, etc. It’s a nice museum, but a lot of reading so I’m not sure how well it would be received by kids.

Dianne’s feeling a bit better, but still not eating too much. Surprisingly, she actually asked me to slow down while walking and she didn’t wander away much today.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Saturday in DC

DCPics2 048A Got up this morning and had breakfast with Dianne – well, I had breakfast while she picked at some fruit. We went back to the room and she fell asleep almost instantly. After an hour or so, she said she still wasn’t feeling well and suggested I should go to the National Air and Space museum on my own. It’s sad she wasn’t feeling well, but I don’t think she was thrilled about going there anyway. I grabbed the Metro just south of Washington Circle and went through the museum. It was fun to see many historic planes and space vehicles. In the main area there is the Spirit of St. Louis, the X-1 Glamorous Glennis, the X-15, and SpaceShip One that recently won the X-prize. Across from these planes on the second floor were other notable planes like the Lockheed Vega (the B model that was similar to the Winnie Mae flown by Wiley Post) used by Amelia Erhardt to fly solo across the Atlantic (~5 years after Lindbergh) and the Lockheed Sirius floatplane used by Charles and Anne Lindbergh to chart great circle routes from the West coast of the US to the far East. DCPics2 049C Some of the early planes like the Wright Flyer and the Vin Fiz (made the first transcontinental flight) were interesting. Pictures of the Vin Fiz are here and here. I wonder what Vin Fiz tasted like? The story of Cal Rogers and his journey across the US in that plane to win the prize put up by William Randolph Hearst is pretty interesting. I can’t imagine seeing the US that way. The Ole Miss was perched high above the viewing floor. Imagine riding in a plane continuously for about a month! They even had a platform built just behind the radial engine so they could work on it while in flight! It’s amazing what folks did to promote aviation. In that same era were air racing items like the Hughes Racer that set speed records and the Bendix Trophy.

One thing nice about the NASM is not only can you walk around the planes at their level, but you can also view the planes from raised platforms that go around the periphery of many of the rooms. That gives you an interesting view that you don’t get at other museums like the US Air Force Museum in Dayton. An example is this picture of an ME-109 – a German WWII era fighter. You can see other pictures from my visit to the NASM by clicking here for the Flickr group.

DCPics2 055A It was very hot in DC today (upper 80’s) and very humid. I walked over to the reflecting pool in front of Capitol Hill and felt like jumping in the water to cool off. On the way home, I stopped at a 7-11 store to get some liquids and meds for Dianne. She looked pretty pale, complained about being cold, and felt pretty hot. She’s not having a great vacation so far. Hopefully she’ll get back on feet tomorrow. I think I’ll be eating dinner by myself again tonight.

Friday in Washington, DC

DCPics1 012A We made it to Washington yesterday afternoon. The flight was smooth except for the descent into DC. There was some turbulence going through the cloud layers and the pilots were working to fly the approach the whole way.

After checking into our hotel, we went to the National Natural History museum as they have summer hours that extend later in the day. We spent a good 3+ hours walking around. It is a nice museum with lots of different exhibits including dinosaurs, fossils, skeletons, minerals & gems, etc. A lot of the fossils in the dinosaur area came from Ohio. Some were similar to those you see around the Caeser's Creek park area near Waynesville, OH. I enjoyed looking at the skeletons of creatures both extinct and those around today. It was interesting to see things side-by-side through the ages to get a picture of evolution. One of the best presentations of that we saw was an exhibit comparing horse skulls and forelimbs through the ages. Click here for a picture of Dianne at the exhibit. At the right is a picture of Dianne standing under a set of shark jaws from millions of years ago. If you look at the wall, you'll see a white outline that was projected on the wall to depict the body of the shark around those jaws. It was large! Click here for a close up picture of the jaw. Just above Dianne’s head and a bit behind the large jaws, you’ll see a smaller set of shark jaws from a recent great white shark. Quite a difference in size! We didn't spend a lot of time in the gem and mineral area, but we did see the Hope diamond and I took this picture for Eric. From top to bottom that collection of crystals was at least 4 feet high.

DCPics1 025A We also walked to the main building of the Smithsonian. Around the south side of the building (away from the Mall) is an extensive rooftop garden. Here is a picture of Dianne sitting in one section of the garden area. While sitting at the garden, Dianne mentioned she was tired and wasn’t feeling the best. I thought it was because we didn’t get much sleep Thursday evening and we hadn’t had anything to eat since having a light brunch. We jumped on the Metro and found our way back to the hotel. She didn’t feel like dinner, so I ate by myself in the hotel. Unfortunately, she is fighting some type of GI bug and isn’t feeling well at all. Check out her blog entry. Finally, all the Friday pics are collected in a group here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

We Cut the Umbilical Cord

We took the plunge a couple weeks ago and got rid of our traditional landline telephone. Our home phone number was transferred to my cell phone, so I’m carrying around the “home” telephone. With the evolution of cellular phone plans that include long distance calling, we weren’t using our home telephone much – except to talk to local telemarketers. The primary use of our landline was high speed internet access. We moved our internet access to our cable television line. With the change in internet access, it didn’t make sense to keep paying for the landline. Nevertheless, it seems odd not having the connection. I grew up with landline telephones that were all corded, so it seems strange not to have one. I still walk in the door every day after work and glance at the answering machine to see if we received any messages. Old habits die hard.

I was lucky growing up – for many reasons. My mother worked for the telephone company so we had quite a few of the latest and greatest phone models. I remember thinking a Trimline phone was so cool in that you didn’t have to stand by the base to dial the phone – when you actually had to move your finger in a circular motion to dial the phone. You could dial in the palm of your hand. Touch tone service was even more amazing. Forget all that dialing and having to start over when your finger slipped. We also had the large, four prong jacks installed all over the house so we could move phones around as needed. And then there was the occasional “conference call”, usually when talking long distance to relatives, made by picking up secondary extensions after the main contact was made. But even with all this ‘fancy’ equipment, I still relied on my brain’s memory to store frequently called numbers. Otherwise I had to pull out a paper book to look up numbers.

How things have changed as the equipment has improved. Speed dialing or voice commands make calling so simple it’s rare to touchtone out a number and it’s sometimes hard to remember numbers I’ve entered in my contact list. Even basic cell phones have a speaker mode to facilitate simple conference calls like we used to do with multiple extensions. We decided on the LG VX9800 for our cell phone. It has a full qwerty keyboard built in that makes text messaging a snap! I can also check the news headlines and watch video clips of news stories.

I wonder how long it will take me to stop looking at our old answering machine when I come home.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Friday Activities

HawaiiPics5 Dog Friday was a busy day for us. We started out looking for Da Kine Bail Bonds. All the fans of Dog the Bounty Hunter will recognize that business. If not a fan, you can read a bit about him here. Dianne snapped a picture of me out front. Unfortunately, no one was in the office. The white board had pictures of two people taped to it and written below them inside a heart was “Leland’s most wanted”. My theory is they were out tracking someone down. The office is much smaller than it appears on TV. Dianne was glad they were closed so I couldn’t get a Dog T-shirt. In case you want to find them, they are close to the state capitol area on Queen Emma street.

After that we had lunch at Grace’s. It’s one of Dean’s favorites, but a familiar spot for Dianne as well.

HawaiiPics5 Temple1We drove up through the Nuuanu area and saw several temples. We stopped at one to look around and you can see several pictures here. There were many offerings of cut flowers and plates of apples and oranges. There were several altars where incense was burning. In one of the buildings behind the main temple, there were some folks saying a chant. It was very pretty, but I don’t know anything about the Buddhist temples.

HawaiiPics5 Pali 1 We continued by going up the Pali highway and stopping at the lookout point. It’s near the ridge of the Koolau mountain range at about 3000 feet overlooking the windward side of the island. It’s near the spot where King Kamehameha drove his rivals over the cliffs in his quest to “unite” the islands. The picture here gives a sense for the steep cliff. The set of pictures here shows some of the view. It was a bit cloudy and extremely windy when we were up there. You can read more about the Pali here. Fortunately we were there during the day so we didn’t have to worry about the Night Marchers (or as I like to call them, the Midnight Stalkers).

HawaiiPics5 PCC 2After going over the mountains, we followed the highway north along the windward side to go to the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC). We stopped and got a couple pictures of a windward beach that you can see here and here. The PCC has areas set up for many different South Pacific islands. In each area, they have historical buildings representative of the island and have programs or craft exhibits conducted by people with a connection to that island. We visited the areas for Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. It’s one of Oahu’s top tourist destinations, so it wasn’t number 1 on Dianne’s list of places to see. But it is an interesting spot and we hadn’t been there since we were married. I thought it was nice and there are several pictures here. The day at PCC was capped off with a buffet dinner and an evening show highlighting song and dance from each of the islands. Thanks to Milton for arranging tickets for us.