A Bit More Catching Up

July 18, 2007

Good morning from Starbucks on Medford! I’ve been here long enough that the staff has be doing chores. Guess I could always try my hand at being a barista again (if Suzanne and Nicole would let me the cabin long term ūüėČ It’s a good day at Starbucks; new music rotation (was getting quite tired of Sir Paul and some ethno-punk-reggae mix) and I got a free drink for wrenching the top off of a reluctant vanilla bottle.

¬†I’ll spare you all the ongoing struggle with the field mice at the cabin. I’ve caught 2 and found 3 dead. Not sure what has cause the proliferation of murine invaders. Ironically I was almost a distant immunological cousin to one of these creatures. During my heart surgery five years ago I agreed to paticipate in the testing of a murine (mouse)¬†antibody in preventing the formation of micro-embolism in patients on the heart/lung machine. Blinded trial so no one knew whether I was made a mouse “blood brother” or not. However, six months after the trial I was tested for the presence of the murine antibody in my blood stream. Future exposures to mouse products could result in a serious allergic reaction (like I need more stuff to go wrong). The results were revealed to me and…no antibodies for me. Guess that’s why I have little sympathy for the vermin under my bed (although as I said…they are kinda cute).

Back to DC for a moment: How I managed to see as much as I did in the Washington Mall area still surprises me. Some of my looking was by zoom lense but I did manage to walk half of the Mall from the Smithsonian castle to the WWII Memorial and back. Stops along the way included the Museum of Natural History (hotbed of “evil’ lutionary activities including actual¬†fossil extractions and extensive dating efforts), the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery, the National Archives, the Washington Monument, and the World War II Memorial. Unfortunately I did not get to see Mi Lyn’s Vietnam Memorial masterpiece. My legs barely got me back to the Mall Metro stop before the showers started.

The Natural History Museum, of course, was very impressive although I have overdosed on the wealth of data and evidence for the self evident process of evolution in organic systems. The evolution that struck me most keenly was found not among hundreds of multi-million year old fossils but stately presented in true ephemeral grace in the Hall of Charters in the Archive’s rotunda. The wait was short, 30 minutes, considering the national treasures to be viewed. All the “big boys” where there; the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence along with personal “working copies of the constitutional documents” used by Washington in his role as chairman of the Convention. Lighting and age preventing any actually reading of most of the documents (this didn’t stop people with mini-video cameras from shooting sans flash for minutes at a time…a nice book of all the documents was available in the gift shop for less than $10) but I can assure you of two things: John Hancock’s name is really big on the bottom of the Declaration and the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights really does say “make¬†no law” regarding an establishment of religion.

One final observation concerning my fellow visitors; there were a number of foreign visitors of a variety of lands and languages. I was particularly taken with an adoptive German father talking passionately with his adopted Asian daughter in german over a particulary striking piece of work in the Sculpture Garden. There was one¬†fact that was so evident that to not mention it would be like not seeing the Washington Monument from the edge of the Elipse. I could count the number of African American visitors on one hand in the Archives, fewer still in the Sculpture Garden, and a handful more in the Natural History Palace (mostly as part of a family group of mixed races and ethnicities). This was in almost absolute contrast to the security staffs of the Museum and of the Archives which were exclusively African American on the shift for which I was present. Is there a question to be asked here? And a possible answer? It could all be a matter of coincidence and timing. Perhaps some folks were worn out from the Folk Festival on the Mall from the previous week. Or is race still so divisive in the Nation’s Capitol that the best that we have to share is unapproachable by those most in need of a clear understanding of the “rules of the game” codified in the documents in the Archive and the world view enshrined in all the other repositories of achievement and art. This question is worth thinking about for awhile and any comments are most welcome.

On a somewhat related note: the Archive has the complete documents from the arrest and arraignment of Rosa Parks. I have a postcard for¬†Ms. Brown¬†showing the bus layout and Ms. Park’s seat. The simple diagram makes this historical watershead so very tangible and even personal.

I only skimmed¬†the obvious bits¬†of the Capitol. A shoddy reconnisence at best. Many trips will be needed just to complete a simple inventory of treasure to sample. I’ll be back and, thanks to Steve and Kathryn, I’ll probably have a great place to stay.

More, as alway, later. Carrsville next. Now who can find that on a map?

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Catch Up Time

July 17, 2007

To all:

My apologies for the short absence. Recovering from my trip to Silver Spring and Washington, DC took a bit more time than I anticipated. This is primarily due to the sluggishness of a muggy summer setting in compounded by my own search for motivation. I’ll spare everyone the internal dialogue and get on with the travelogue!

The drive down to DC last week, via route 95, was the best “drive” of the trip I think. The weather was beautiful. Southern New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland present hundreds of postcard worthy scenes and the traffic, while moderately heavy, was smooth and swift. The same can not be said for the drive back. One feature that might trip up a resident of St. Louis on this drive, as it almost did to me, is the paying of tolls. Tolls for roads (NJ Turnpike), tolls for bridges (Delaware Memorial), tolls for parts of roads (Delaware Turnpike), and tolls for tunnels (Baltimore).¬† I had just enough cash (car-wide coin search included) to cover all the fees on the way down to Silver Spring. The total down came to $10.05 and $7.00 on the return trip (I skipped the Turnpikes and the Bridge and took a longer route back to Medford, NJ…it was not worth the savings!).

Baltimore presented a great stopping point for lunch and some photo opportunities. Maryland crab and a burger at the Rusty Skupper on the Inner Harbor post-lunch crowd is the way to go. Driving the scenic harbor route covered all the basic stuff like Fort McHenry and the massive harbor development in progress. A similar development effort is underway on the Wilmington, DE riverfront on a much smaller scale. If you’re a tunnel-phobe you’ll need to take the Baltimore Beltway way west to avoid the harbor crossing tunnels.

The few remaining miles to Silver Spring (see Kathryn, I can spell it consistently without the extra “s”) went quick and led to the only traffic of the day at the exit for the University of Maryland. My hosts, fellow godparent Kathryn and her husband Steve, scored a major bit of real estate luck in finding a great house in Silver Spring just minutes from the Metro and downtown Silver Spring (a ‘tres funky, artsy deco, mingling spot for a range of ages and ethnicities). I’m sure they will be able to retire on the sale of this home in a decade or two!

Annabelle and William, the kids of the house, provide enough energy to light most of Silver Spring. Boundless is perhaps the word I could use. How Steve and Kathryn keep up is a mystery to me. I did have some nice “table time” with them Friday night and Saturday morning. Steve was very helpful in letting me blather on about some grant ideas that I have and hope to run by him in a few months related to science education. No one better suited to the task as he is one of the major project managers on the upcoming (August 2008) final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. After the Apollo landing on the Moon, Hubble ranks in my mind as NASA’s greatest achievement. Below is a link to a recent article on www.space.com related to the mission:

http://www.space.com/news/061013_hubble_cost.html

I’ve included pictures from Baltimore, Silver Spring, and DC on my google picture site: http://picasaweb.google.com/jtholste

I’ll save my thoughts on DC for a separate piece as it was, in its own way, as overwhelming as NYC. Both places have a distinctive “gravity” unlike any other place I’ve been. Meanwhile, enjoy the photos and feel free to share the blog address with anyone you care to. And comments, BTW, are always welcome. Job offers too!