Wednesday, February 29, 2012

American History (May 2011)

After visiting the war memorials we kept walking along the Mall and naturally we soon came to the Smithsonian museums.  I couldn't resist going inside, though we didn't stay inside each one for very long--we were on an impromptu whirlwind tour of the city.  The only one that we missed was Air and Space.  But with Amy's family living in Richmond I'm quite sure that we'll be going back to DC at some point.  The drive up (especially when parking at Metro stops is free on the weekend) isn't bad at all when we get such nice accommodations in Virginia.  But there was no way that we were going to miss the History Museum, so we started there, especially since Amy hadn't seen much of it before.  The Museum did have extended hours, and if we'd been thinking clearer we would have saved it for later in the day.  Oh well, I'm not really complaining, I enjoyed our time that day, even if my feet were quite sore by the end of it.

One of the first things we saw inside (after the security check that felt somewhat like entering an airport, but not as intrusive) was a rather interesting statue of George Washington.
I enjoyed seeing a small working printing press, having seen larger ones in operation at the Cincinnati Museum Center.
But I really liked seeing a Dumbo car from Disneyland.  I'm not sure if I ever rode the ride, but I certainly remember seeing it when walking past.  I never visited Disneyland that often, but I remember frequently telling people that I lived two miles away from the park.

We had to visit the 1939 exhibit also.  It was an interesting year in which my dad was born and World War II started.  Amy remembers going there to see Dorothy's ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.  Interestingly enough they are currently not on display while they are being restored to go in a more permanent exhibit:
The famous Ruby Slippers Judy Garland wore in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz are showing their age and need to be removed from display in February in order to prepare them for a new exhibition called “American Stories,” opening April 5. The slippers are currently on view in “1939” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History through Feb. 22, and the museum will be open until 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and 19. Regular hours, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., resume Feb. 20....The Ruby Slippers were donated anonymously to the museum in 1979 and have been on almost continuous display since. The yellow brick road will still be represented to visitors by the hat from the Scarecrow costume worn by Bolger in the film. Because of the delicate nature of that costume, the museum is rarely able to exhibit it. Visitors can also visit the websiteto see the slippers under conservation. Read the entire article at the Smithsonian's website.

I took a picture of the outside of the Star Spangled Banner exhibit, but no photography was allowed inside.  There was a really interesting computer display inside, well not a display actually, but something projected on a flat surface I think.  The website has an interactive version of this that you can explore from your computer called Interactive Flag.

Next we saw the Gunboat Philadelphia (I had to search the museum's website to find the name of the boat since I didn't photograph any of the signs inside the exhibit).
In October 1776, American troops in a ragtag collection of newly built boats faced an advancing line of British ships on Lake Champlain in New York. The Americans, under the command of Benedict Arnold, were forced to retreat, but not before they fought the British to a standstill. One of the American vessels, the Philadelphia, sank during the battle and rested on the bottom of the lake until 1935. It was recovered that year with much of its equipment intact and came to the Museum in 1964, complete with the 24-pound ball that sent the gunboat to the bottom.

While I might have neglected to photograph signs around the gunboat I didn't forget to take pictures of two other signs, a Museum "You are Here" map and a historical road marker.  Amy gives me a hard time for photographing road markers.  I'm not used to seeing too many and like to take pictures to remember what they say when I look back later.  She is simply very accustomed to these markers in Virginia and practically ignores them.

Tomorrow's blog will cover the National Museum of Natural History, but you can see the whole album of DC pictures in the following slideshow:


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reading is important

I've always enjoyed reading.  Well not always, but ever since I was young I've had a fascination with the written word.  My parents read to me frequently (for which I am quite grateful) even long after I'd learned to read.  Sometimes as a kid I was punished by not being allowed to read.  It was an effective punishment, but has surprised many people that I've told about it.  Reading goes beyond just books for me as I can't help but read any signs that I walk or drive past--but at least I read silently.  When I was a kid I'd often read all the signs I could see while my parents were driving.

I saw this in a newsletter that came out from one of the local libraries (I have three local library cards--one for my county and two for adjacent counties).  This came from the Hamilton County Library:

March is Reading Awareness MonthDo you want to improve your child or grandchild’s wellbeing, school readiness, and learning outcomes?  Research shows that the simple act of reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to prepare your child to learn. During Reading Awareness Month in March the Library is encouraging all parents to make reading to their children 15 minutes every day part of their daily routine. Your library has a range of fun and engaging books to suit your child. Ask your librarian for recommendations.

I think that this is an excellent idea.  When my wife and I have kids I plan to frequently read to them.  I've even hung on to many excellent kids books.  I obtained them from my elementary school library when they were discarded, and I assume that many of them are out of print.  I'd like to let my kids have a library at home when they start growing up rather than always having to buy new (or new to us) books or going to the library.  I remember one of my sisters telling me that she once babysat some kids in a house with no books!  She said that she would take over books and the kids loved being read to.


War Memorials (May 2011)

Before our trip to DC last May I had never seen the World War II memorial before.  When I last visited DC the Korean War memorial had just opened--I remember because I collected postcards back then (instead of taking pictures) and there were none that I could find of the memorial, it was that new.  My parents subsequently visited DC without me (when I was in college I think), and they got to see the memorial.  WWII has long been the war that I've enjoyed studying the most, so I was quite eager to see the memorial in person.

The memorial is visible from a ways off as it commands prime real estate right in the middle of the Mall.  But WWII was a war that was never memorialized in DC (while Vietnam and Korea both were and the Civil War has memorials all over the Eastern US) and was a pretty massive event in our nation's history.

You can view several National Mall maps at this site (including the one the above image came from).

Each side of the memorial commemorates one of the main theaters of the war.  The first one we came to was the Pacific.  I was impressed by the architectural styles used in the memorial.  I thought that they were quite appropriate.

Around the edge of the memorial are pillars that represent each state and territory that was involved in the war effort.

I took a picture of the Kentucky plinth, and I thought that I'd captured one of the Virginia one also--but I cannot find the pictures now.  Perhaps they were taken on my iPhone, but if this was the case it would take a bit of work to uncover them.  I am woefully behind in getting my pictures organized in one place, let alone chronologically organized.

The drains were even themed along with the rest of the memorial.  Something about the stars (perhaps remembering designs from WWII) seems quite patriotic.

Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu...
~President Franklin D. Roosevelt, To the Congress of the United States, December 8, 1941 
You can read the rest of the speech on the US Navy's website
 I had memorized the opening line of that speak years ago (likely in high school), but I have to admit that I haven't read the rest of it in quite some time (if ever).  Between the two pictures below you can see much of the central area of the memorial (I do miss my old camera's panoramic feature).  The Pacific is on the left and the Atlantic on the right.

 The central area is dominated by a series of fountains, which look quite beautiful.

I can only hope that people are reading some of the signs.  I'm sure that we have gotten used to people throwing coins into artificial bodies of water, but it is nice to see every now and then if people can respect places and not pollute them with coins that have to be cleaned up periodically.  I didn't look at the water too closely, but I don't recall seeing any coins in it.  I also didn't see any wading, but it wasn't exactly a warm summer day where people would be tempted to do this sort of thing.

I think this is a very interesting quote from General Marshall.  I don't think I've ever read it before.

One side of the memorial featured a series of stars and thanks to the NPS website I remember what they stand for:
The Freedom Wall is comprised of 4,048 gold stars. Each gold star represents one hundred American service personnel who died or remain missing in the war. The 405,399 American dead and missing from the Second World War are second only to the loss of more than 620,000 Americans during our Civil War.

 Quite a few tourists were in evidence throughout the memorial that day.  At one point we even saw buses of veterans driven up.  I guess for this war, the oldest of the wars memorialized on the Mall it makes sense since the veterans are some of the oldest veterans (since I remember reading that the last WWI vet died recently).

After leaving the WWII memorial we soon came to the Korean War memorial.  It was also quite crowded, but I managed to take a few shots.  I think that the last time I was there we came up to it near to sunset, and it was quite dramatic with lights shining on the figures.
“Freedom is not free.” Here, one finds the expression of American gratitude to those who restored freedom to South Korea. Nineteen stainless steel sculptures stand silently under the watchful eye of a sea of faces upon a granite wall—reminders of the human cost of defending freedom. These elements all bear witness to the patriotism, devotion to duty, and courage of Korean War veterans.
The rich greens of the trees and other vegetation really made this area pop with color--the various colors of tourist clothing didn't hurt either, ;-).

In the background you can see the black wall that is also part of the memorial.  It contains many etched pictures (including a dog and a helicopter) of actual participants in the war.

I think the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is likely the best known war memorial on the National Mall.  Of course it is also the oldest one and in some ways the most iconic.  How can WWII or even Korea quite compete with a black wall that sinks into the landscape and is covered with thousands of names...  We first encountered the Three Servicemen Statue, which was recently restored in 2010.  Looking through my pictures I thought it was part of the Vietnam memorial but wasn't sure until I found it on the NPS website.  Sometimes the site is sparse on details, but other times it seems to have just what I'm looking for, :-).

The memorial itself is of course quite well known.  I decided to take a picture of the first name.

I hope that you've enjoyed this tour through the three war memorials on the National Mall.  You can see the whole album of DC pictures in the following slideshow (and be sure to look for a few more blog posts to round out the day):


Monday, February 27, 2012

Days of Praise

For a while now (at least a month I think, though my sense of the time is a bit fuzzy) I've been reading the Days of Praise devotions from ICR with Amy.  I try to read them and then pray together each morning before I leave for work, though a couple times I've gotten to work and then remembered (so we've read that evening), or I've also forgotten on a couple of days off where we slept in.  I'm enjoying them though, they're short, yet laced with quite a bit of Scripture.  And they send out an e-mail each day, which is perfect for me since I want something that I can easily remember.  Since I always check my inbox for new e-mails when I wake up this is perfect.  Here is a taste from today's devotion:

"And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." (Isaiah 32:2)
In the context of this beautiful verse, the "man" is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. To one who had been traveling in the heat of the desert, such as the Sinai wilderness, nothing was so welcome as the cool shadows behind a great rock in which one could rest for a while from the hardships of the wearying land. The symbol of the shadow is often used in the Old Testament to illustrate the refreshing presence of the Lord.


Washington DC in May (2011): The Mall

Last May (2011) Amy and I visited Washington DC.  We had intended to visit several embassies as part of Passport DC, but I got distracted once we saw the Mall.  I hadn't been to DC since the mid 90s.  And so we didn't end up going near an embassy all day.

The program involves several DC embassies opening their doors so that you can experience the cultures of their home nation.  It is a really interesting concept, and we do want to go back and see it at some point.  This year (2012) appears to be the fifth year of the program:
Travel the world without leaving the city during Cultural Tourism DC’s month-long celebration of international culture with two popular embassy open houses.

I was searching through old pictures recently and realized that I hadn't blogged about going to DC at all.  I must have posted some on Facebook (so I may reference my Timeline when typing these posts), but as I recall this blog was quite neglected while I was dating my future wife.  I've been enjoying posting travel blogs, so I thought that I could put some of them on-line retroactively.  I plan to extensively blog future trips, but there is no reason that I can't do ones in the past also.  Who knows, there might be a couple readers out there actually interested in reading this, ;-)--and if not then I'm sure I'll enjoy re-reading these posts later.  So without further ado I give you part one of our rapid tour through DC, the National Mall.
Doesn't that picture look exciting?  It was the first picture I took on the Mall.  Of course I did take a couple others earlier, of the subway station.
 There is quite a bit to see on the Mall.  One reason that we did stay there is that we weren't sure what would happen with the weather.  As you can see the day was quite cloudy and looked like it could rain at any moment.  At first we thought we'd just walk up the Mall a bit, look around, and then head to an embassy to begin.  The looking around never ended.  By the end of the day we'd seen all the memorials on the Mall as well as several Smithsonian museums and the Library of Congress.
This was my first glimpse of the Washington Monument (outside of movies) in quite a while.  I'd definitely like to go up it.  I don't remember if I went to the top when I visited DC with my parents, but even if I did I want to go up again.  Sadly though for those on a spur-of-the-moment trip you have to get tickets well in advance (or line up early in the morning).
By the time we got close to the Monument there were already plenty of people there.

And of course I couldn't resist taking pictures of the signs!  Free tickets are passed out starting at 8:30, and it was after 9:30 by the time I took these pictures.  But next time we'll try to plan ahead (try being the operative word ;-)).  Of course according to the Mall's website (which is hopefully up to date) the Washington Monument is still closed after last August's earthquake.

We also visited several war memorials (including the World War II memorial), but I'll save those for another post.

There are some beautiful trees lining the Mall in several spots.  If you take just the right picture you might even think you're off in the woods somewhere.  It would be a nice place to enjoy a picnic lunch (as I'm sure plenty of visitors have done).

The reflecting pool was closed, so I didn't get any dramatic shots, but I did capture a few in-progress construction shots.  I'm happy that the one including the chain-link fence turned out rather well.  I think you can see the extent of the work and the fence is a rather large clue about what is going on.  Closer to the other end you could see some heavy equipment being utilized.

All was not lost however, as I did manage to get several reflecting shots using pools that we found along the Mall.  It was a nice day for photography as I didn't have to worry about too much sunlight reflecting from the water or otherwise spoiling the shots.
The last shot I'll leave you with was of a bird that we saw not too far from shore.  I do really enjoy the zoom lens on my camera--it isn't telephoto, but 35x is pretty nice if you can't get too close.

Update: You can see the whole album of DC pictures in the following slideshow: