Sunday, March 08, 2009


On Thursday, I went to the National Museum of American History.

Well, first I went to a pre-interview test, but let's just say...have you ever walked into a place and wanted to walk right back out before anyone noticed you'd arrived?  Yeah, it was like that.

But it was a gorgeous day, around 10C/51F with dazzling sun and a mild breeze, so I decided that rather than going home, I'd stick around downtown.  Deciding to skip the metro, I was lost around Dupont Circle for nearly half an hour wondering which way to go and not remembering which had been the correct way to my original destination for when (if?) I go back next week for the interview.

I waited for a bus for a few minutes but I have no patience for that kind of thing, so I used my feet instead, which feels much more productive.  In fact, from leaving home to returning at night, I walked a total of 6 miles on this day.

I headed south a little too soon so ended up at the western end of the Mall, to the west of the Washington Memorial.  Needing a little rest, I sat at a bench in Constitution Gardens overlooking the water.  I felt SO HAPPY in the moment that I sent a picture message entitled "Peace" to my dear friends Diva, Pandy, and Amy.  Diva enjoyed it so much that she blogged about it, and sent me a return image of her own "Peace"!  Indeed I agree with her in that the wonder of modern technology allowing you to share special moments with your friends thousands of miles away can be quite miraculous.

As soon as I'd texted them, a couple of ducks came waddling over, female in the lead, male bringing up the rear just like a couple going shopping.  She stood there quietly pleading for some lunch while her hubby stayed in the background preening.  Craning her neck as high as she could and peering up at my lap with her big brown eyes, she'd look down from time to time to inspect the floor or nibble my toe, convinced I had a sandwich and insisting I could share it with her.  I leaned over, talking to her and showing her my empty hands, and I am sure people walking past thought I was off my rocker.

Hello there, large two-legged being.
Do you have any lunch?
I'll wait.
Hm, your toe looks tasty.

The Canada geese have been arriving over the past weeks, and are out in full force grazing on the open green spaces.

Looking West on the Mall

Looking East on the Mall

By the time I finish blogging about all these museums, you will know what's at all the Washington DC compass points!

The splendid Environmental Protection Agency sits across the road from the Museum of American History.


Soon I was at the museum learning all about American history and it brought all that book-larnin' to life for me.

The collections and exhibitions encompass so many interesting things such as:
Bomb shelters
The Pill
Nuclear power and the Manhattan Project
The 1950s middle class housing boom
Julia Child's Kitchen (she was the American Fanny Craddock/Delia Smith)
DNA splicing
The patented DuPont Oncomouse (the first patented animal developed to receive the cancer gene for research)
Oil-eating bacteria
The Texas Supercollider
CFCs and the Ozone Layer
Colonial life
Immigrant workers
Wartime homemaking

L, top:  A Renaissance automaton, the Walking Monk.  When wound up, he rolls forward turning his head from side to side, opening his mouth, rolling his eyes, and beating his hand on his chest while holding a rosary with the other.  There was a video showing a complete version in robes and church paraphernalia.
L, bottom:  An early 20th century chemical laboratory

Center:  "Stanley" won the DARPA Challenge 2005, one of many robotic cars competing to make their own driving decisions.  In case of emergency, they can be overriden to go remote control.

R:  A small cross-section of the Texas Superconducting Supercollider, a giant project which Congress closed down in 1993 but which was supposed to be the largest atom smasher in the world.  It has now been replaced by CERN underneath Switzerland/France.

Let me know if you're interested in finding out what exactly is accomplished by smashing atoms.  I could rustle up a blog post about it...
Or anything else.  Please cast a vote for what you would like to read about.

FLIGHTY, the following is especially for you, part of one of those neat little glass cases stuffed full of little accoutrements, the best snapshot of an era.

WWII Ration Book.  One coupon for meat, fats, fish, and cheeses.  Another for 5 lbs of sugar.  There were also mileage and gas coupons for motorists.

In the next installment, we will learn about the Star Spangled Banner and the First Ladies' gowns.


Flighty said...

I've been to places like that for interviews but I'd say still go just in case it's a different on the day.
You never cease to surprise me with what you blog about, which of course makes for such enjoyable posts.
That War Ration Book is fascinating what with the Office of Price Administration and the warning of up to 10 years imprisonment. Exhibits like this tell so such about a different era.
Have a good week! xx

The Moody Minstrel said...

I guess I can safely cross D.C. off my list of places to go before I die, thanks to you, m'lady. Don't get me wrong; it's actually a good thing, because it increases the odds of making it to the other places on the list! ;-)

Interesting that the female duck tries to hit you up for food while the pimp, er, male just hangs back and preens.

Would you seriously blog about subatomic particles? Or quantum theory?

steve on the slow train said...

I'm not sure whether blogging about smashing atoms is a good idea--you might get the FBI as a follower. (Just kidding, I hope.) Looking forward to your post on the Star Spangled Banner. I read somewhere that Key had originally written the poem about the Barbary Pirates War, but then rewrote it during the Wr of 1812. And, of course, it had such an unusual meter that the "To Anacreon In Heaven" was the only tune it could be set to

Olivia said...

Flighty - Not sure you know what I mean...I am tempted to report them to OSHA for being a safety and fire hazard with all the junk that's packed into that house, with no proper workspaces, not even signage outside although they've been there 30 years (without cleaning up once...). It can only get worse.

Yes, or a $10,000 fine! Imagine how much that was back then.


Minstrel - Do I blog in so much detail that you don't need to visit? Oh dear! If you cross it off your list, I will stop blogging about it, so ner!

When I was in college I took a physics class in amongst all the biology (not sure why) and wrote a brief paper on subatomic particles such as neutrinos, quarks, muons.

Oh hey, and surely you were reading my blog back when I wrote about The Elegant Universe and the Theory of Everything.

Right now, I am reading "Parallel Worlds" by Michio Kaku, which is chock full of quantum physics. Kaku is my fave physics professor, the next being Brian Greene whom I discovered before Kaku.


Steve - I bet the FBI has been reading for weeks, and if not, they certainly are after that list I put up in this post. Imagine all the red flags! But as soon as they catch the tenor of my blog, they won't be worried.

I vaguely recall that being mentioned near the end of the exhibit. I suppose I should go back sometime to see each exhibit one at a time so that I have the patience to read everything.

These being my first visit to each, I am sort of skimming. There were so many collections I didn't make it to either, such as Lincoln, the Segregation issue, pop culture (featuring Kermit the Frog), the Civil War, and the western pioneers...

Selba said...

I want to visit DC Washington and also New York!!! Thanks to you to show all the wonderful scenes in your blog :)

10C with the sun and breeze.. that's a lovely weather...

Cute duckies!!!

Flighty said...

As it's like that then don't bother with the interview! xx

panda_eyed said...

Aww, love the duckies :) I didn't get your text :( I wonder why?

Lots of love! xxxxxxxxxx

Guyana-Gyal said...

Aiye yai-yai, 10C is colllllld. Well, for me, accustomed to the hot tropics.

I took a foreign student to our museum in town on Friday, she loved it even though it's a small, poor place, badly in need of funds.

I enjoy reading your museum posts, it's my way of travelling, cheaply. It's taught me quite a bit, given me lots of ideas too.

Um Naief said...

am loving the photos. i could probably sit at The Mall for hours. so lovely.

the ducks are too cute... and the fact that you talked to her and showed your empty hands. too sweet. animal lovers are an interesting breed! :))

yes, i've had interviews like that. i once had that feeling, as soon as walking in, and then had to wait on the interviewer for more than an hour 1/2, then finally got up and left. didn't get a call back! ;)