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DC trip before DOE GTL conference
 
 
(Click on the images for a larger version.)
marriott DC
I've been wanting to go to Washington DC, since I was a kid, but no one would ever take me :(

However, I needed to go to a conference in Bethesda, Maryland for Department of Energy, Genomes to Life grantee's (my boss Tim Gardner is the grantee, I'm just one of the grant spenders; Genomes to Life is money set aside for research to make bacteria that remediate the environment [e.g. eat up nuclear waste] and/or produce bioenergy [e.g. turn poop into electricity]). I decided to leave a day early and spend a day in DC to see what I've been missing all these years. So here's my hotel in DC.
 
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There are all kinds of non-profits and lobbying organizations in DC. My Marriott hotel was right next to this one, which surprised me because I donated to a person on the street in Boston that worked for these people and I still get emails from them all the time.
 
national geographic museum
Down the street was the National Geographic Museum.
 
white house street hockey
I liked that behind the White House there were lots of people playing street hockey.
 
white house behind
The White House was much smaller looking than I expected. For a country full of big headed people that think they're the best at everything (myself included sometimes :), seems like we should've knocked this little shack down a long time ago and shown the world more of our excesses.
 
white house secret service
I would expect the president's house to be well-guarded. Even before the terrorist stuff, people liked to shoot US presidents. However, you'd think the security would be more effective (and less spooky feeling) if you didn't have an armed guy always walking around on the roof (see him to the left of the flag pole?). I'm sure there are plenty of security guys inside the house watching stuff on cameras that could be out on the roof in a few seconds if something really happened. Do we really need a sitting duck on the roof intimidating people? If anything really happened where that guy was needed, he'd be the first one shot - and with no benefit to the security of the white house in my opinion. And if we do need the guy there, can we have a short person whose head and gun aren't always bobbin around up there?

As a US citizen, I vote NO for the armed dude on the roof.
 
white house protest
What better place to let Mr. Bush know how you feel than right behind his house.
 
white house protest 2
Maybe he's got a "Vote NO for the dude on the roof" sign he's getting ready to show to Mr. Bush.
 
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Around the National Mall area,
 
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you can always see the Capitol Building
 
DC treasury
and at least one white building with large columns (this is what almost every DC national building looks like. This one in particular is the Treasury).
 
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Every 100 yards or so around the White House are these security people. I guess they're here to help the dude on the roof, but probably they mostly give people directions. I talked to one, he was really nice, and said he worked inside the White House sometimes - but not on the roof. Mr. Bush needs to buy these people some US certified chap stick. It gets really cold and dry standing out there all day, and the nice guy I talked to had some really cracked lips.
 
washington monument
To celebrate our first president, we the people of the united states of america, spent 36 years (1848-1884) building a giant pointy rectangle in his honor. Fancy people call these pointy rectangles obelisks. They were originally built by the Egyptians, but the Egyptians took a little more time with their obelisks and carved lots of pictures of birds and things into the sides. This particular obelisk was the tallest structure in the world when it was finished. But the Eiffel Tower took that title away only five years later.
 
white house front
Here's the front of the white house like you see it on TV.
 
white house front 2
But when you see it on TV, you are usually zoomed in like this.

I was hoping Mr. Bush would land our fancy green US helicopter right there on the lawn, but after five minutes of waiting for him, I got cold and left.
 
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I liked this building next to the White House. The nice man with the gun and the cracked lips told me it was where some of the white house staff worked.
 
DC red cross
I guess there are some Red Cross people in that building.
 
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These Daughters of the American Revolution used to make me write essays in middle school. I hope if I have kids, they don't make my kids write essays too. I can't say my life was enriched by the experience, cause I don't remember anything about it except my mom getting nervous each year as I waited until the last possible moment to make up my essay.
 
wwii monument
If you've read these albums, you know I like WWII stuff. Here's the World War II memorial.
 
world war II monument
As the war that led to the United State's world domination, I was expecting something a little bigger.
 
wwii monument 2
But this was pretty nice.
 
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I was surprised at how many helicopters were flying around the capitol.
 
korean war memorial
I was also surprised by the Korean War Memorial. A lot of americans probably don't even know when or why the Korean War happened,
 
korean war memorial 2
but this war got the best memorial in my opinion.
 
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I like the statues,
 
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but this etching into the stone was my favorite part. Very subtle and impressive.
 
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Unfortunately it doesn't photograph well, so make sure to go to the Korean War Memorial the next time you're in DC.
 
national mall
This is the National Mall as seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Martin Luther King Jr. stood here one time and said "I have a dream". He picked a good spot. Look how may people could see him from here.
 
lincoln memorial
Of all the stuff in the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial was my favorite.
 
lincoln memorial statue
First, Lincoln is very nicely sculpted.
 
lincoln memorial statue 2
Second, Lincoln is BIG. Much bigger than I imagined in my head.
 
lincoln memorial statue close up
This is a serious statue. I know people are always talking about Michaelangelo's David. And sure Michaelangelo only had a hammer and probably a few assistants. This statue was made by relatively unknown sculptor Daniel Chester French (I just looked up the sculptor's name, and make no promises that I'll remember it tomorrow). But if I were to pick a statue for my museum - I'd pick this one.
 
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It's kinda dark where Lincoln sits, but he has a pretty nice view.

The last good thing about the Lincoln memorial - in the bottom part is the only bathroom I found for miles.
 
vietnam memorial
The Vietnam Memorial
 
us flag vietnam memorial
is probably the most famous War Memorial in the National Mall
 
vietnam memorial statue
I was a little surprised
 
vietnam memorial 2
to find some of these people were crying by the names. It seems that if someone you knew died in the Vietnam war, you'd have come here already, since the memorial opened in 1982. But there was certainly a greater emotion of the visitors here to this memorial of what is still a relatively recent war.
 
J vietnam wall
Since there was a draft for the Vietnam War, almost no one was exempt from being projected onto this wall (unless perhaps, they were future presidents with rich and powerful parents)
 
lincoln memorial distance
I left the National Mall
 
potomac icy
to cross the
 
icy potomac
icy, icy
 
icy potomac 2
Potomac.
 
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This police boat
 
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looked like it was having a lot of fun
 
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driving along the ice.
 
potomac helicopter
Then a helicopter got
 
potomac helicopter 3
really really
 
potomac helicopter 2
close to me. I could hit it with a rock it was so close. I've never been that close to a helicopter.
 
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I crossed the Potomac, because I wanted to see
 
arlington national cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery.
 
arlington national cemetery 2
I don't know why, but I've always liked places filled with dead people.
 
arlington national cemetery 3
I really liked the catacombs in Paris.
 
arlington national cemetery 4
And I really like this cemetery.
 
arlington national cemetery 5
I learned something too. I learned you don't have to die in a war to be buried here. I've had this wrong in my mind for years now. And now that I learned that it's full of army people that did not die in a war. I'm wondering how they found space to put all these people here.
 
robert e lee house arlington
Ilaria and I learned in Ken Burn's Civil War series that Arlington Cemetery was built on Robert E. Lee's front lawn (the Union took the land from Robert E. Lee). There's Robert E. Lee's old house.
 
gravestone arlington national cemetery
Some of the people buried here fought in a lot of wars.
 
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I think more than anything, I liked the symmetry and uniformity of all the gravestones.
 
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Here's JFK's burial site.
 
bush arlington cemetery
And here's... Uh, what's he doing here?

Maybe that explains this video? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijV_H0SZXnI :) Hopefully the link doesn't break.
 
cemetery arlington national cemetery
You can see that the Pentagon is not far from Arlington National Cemetery. Perhaps, this was due to budget cuts. Can't cost too much to bring the permanently retired generals over here to their final resting place.
 
robert e lee house 2
I found Robert E. Lee's house to be much nicer than the White House.
 
robert e lee house 3
First it's one of the few buildings in DC that has columns and is not white, so it get's some originality points.
 
robert e lee house 4
Second, it's got one heck of a nice view.
 
robert e lee house 5
It's really nice inside too.
 
robert e lee house 6
Unfortunately (fortunately?), they were remodeling, so the house wasn't filled with the random period furniture you normally find in old museum-houses.
 
robert e lee house 7
But let's leave General Lee's house for another Arlington Cemetery curiosity.
 
tomb of the unknown soldier
The tomb of the unknown soldier. This site had the only crowd I found in the cemetery on this cold day. Probably because it is the most action-packed thing in the cemetery. That guy with the fancy uniform walks back and forth exactly the same way over-and-over-and-over...... It would suck to be in the army and be shot at, but I'm not sure I'd like walking back and forth real stiff across one 50ft piece of carpet all day while people video taped me, either. That's a tough job.
 
unknown soldier amphitheater
There's also a beautiful amphitheater at the tomb.
 
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But let's leave the cemetery,
 
national gallery
and walk past the national gallery
 
capitol building
on our way to the
 
capitol building 2
Capitol Building.
 
capitol building 3
This is another knock-your-socks-off building in DC.
 
capitol building 4
But unfortunately, they don't let you get too close. At least not at dusk.
 
supreme court
But that's ok, because right behind the Capitol Building
 
supreme court 2
was the Supreme Court.
 
supreme court 3
Here I could get as close as I wanted,
 
supreme court 4
and when I got up really close, I noticed that birds must like Corinthian columns.
 
union station
By now my feet were killing me, so I took a subway at union station. On the walk to my hotel, I learned that DC people have to add an extra level of complexity or bureaucracy to everything.
 
no red light running
I thought that you were supposed to know that you stop at the red lights. In DC, they have a special sign for that difficult to remember task.
 
national portrait gallery outside
The next morning, before heading off to my meeting about genes, genomics, and other fun stuff, I went to the surprisingly entertaining Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. I thought a museum full of heads might get tiresome, but that wasn't the case at all.
 
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First, half of the Museum was actually the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Which had some nice Hopper's like this one.
 
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There was also an interesting painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. This is her description of it.
 
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Err, that's not how I feel New York. For me, I'd need more gray and brown and less white, pink, and blue. And uh, stomp on it a few times, make it smell like urine, and put a bunch of curse words on it.

I like New York. But Georgia O'Keeffe, I gotta disagree with you on how it feels.
 
linus pauling portrait gallery
Now on to the National Portrait Gallery section... I took pictures of the portraits of two famous scientists (if you're not a scientist, you probably won't recognize them, because being a famous scientist really only means that most people know you in your own little science world, that few normal humans belong to). This is Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes. He actually hung out with Ilaria's father in Italy, before Ilaria was born and side-railed Fernando's path to being a famous scientist.
 
jim watson portrait gallery
This is Jim Watson, the most outspoken discoverer of the structure of DNA.
 
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This is a self-portrait by the lady that painted the Linus Pauling portrait. How's that for a self-portrait!
 
national portrait gallery architecture
Not only is this building full of nice art. The architecture itself is very nice. But let's look at a couple more portraits and finish up this photo album.
 
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Here's the most famous portrait in the museum.
 
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But the museum has one portrait for each of the US presidents.
 
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Even the recent ones (but not the current one).
 
fords theater
Here's Ford's theater
 
fords theater 2
where Lincoln was shot.
 
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Then Lincoln was carried across the street to that red brick house
 
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where he died.

Now it's time to leave DC and get to work...
 
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Frank Juhn was my roommate in North Bethesda, which was a town that really had nothing to photograph.
 
train DC
Finally, to make things interesting. There was the year's biggest snow and ice storm the day I had my flight back to Boston. I had a ticket on JetBlue which had a highly publicized hell-of-a-time getting people where they were supposed to be that week.
 
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Their flights were canceled for days. But I guessed my flight would be canceled before it actually was and booked a long but comfortable ride on a train back to Boston before the train was sold-out.