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Diary
By blixco (Thu Nov 20, 2008 at 11:48:39 AM EST) (all tags)
and other than having caught my wife's cold, thus being physically miserable from Sunday night on, it was a very good visit.  I didn't get to see any HuSi-ites, though, due to my health (why make perfectly good people sick?), time, and general uppity-ness.

Update [2008-11-20 19:16:7 by blixco]: Flickr link in last graph.



Laurea was already ill with what we assumed was my flu-like virus that I had for two weeks.  Turns out she had a straight-up rhinovirus, and it settled in on the Monday before we left. She actually threw up on the plane before we even took off from Austin (too much medicine on an empty stomach), and on the day she felt the worst (Saturday) she was presenting, giving talks, and presenting a poster in two locations for twelve hours total.

The G20 were in town causing many streets and destinations to be closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic for security reasons. Friday night, Laurea and I walked from our hotel (a last minute change put us on "embassy row", New Hampshire and R streets) to the Lincoln memorial, feeling our way (no map, and the signs are few) to the White house (riot cops in riot gear quietly kept everyone away from the area for a block in every direction around the fence) then to the Washington Peni...er...monument which was shrouded in fog, then to the Lincoln memorial.  Everyone is right: night time is the time to visit the memorials and monuments.  We did not, however, even see the Vietnam or Korean memorials that were a few yards away...the fog was pretty thick.

Saturday, since Laurea was booked, I went sightseeing...again walking, since I like to experience as much of a city as I can and everything was only a few miles away.  The walk was great, taking roughly the same route down as the night before to DuPont Circle, following 17th street or Connecticut depending on what my zen method of navigation told me to do.  This method has yet to fail me....I found my way to the National Archives (closed due to G20 friends and family visiting), the white house (this time you could walk to the front fence), the Treasury, then to the National Mall, and various Smithsonian buildings. The first visited was the castle. I was a subscriber to Smithsonian Magazine when I was a wee tyke, and wanted to see three things: the castle, the Air and Space museum, and the Industrial Arts museum.  The castle is amazing. The gardens in back are really something.  

The Industrial museum is closed. I can't properly express how annoying this was.

The Air and Space museum is the most visited museum in the whole complex, and is pretty goddamn amazing.  Walked in and bumped into a group of random people...four of them, all guys...who were just staring up at the ceiling open mouthed.  I look up to see what's what, and there's the Bell X-1.  The guy next to me, in a thick Texas accent: "is that....is that the real X-1? Glamorous Glennis?" One of the other guys says "yeah...yeah, I think it is" with this faraway sound to his voice. Both the Texan and I say "Holy shee-it" at the same time.

It's an impressive place, and checking it out solo was great, though Laurea and I went back on Monday.  I got to see all the stuff I missed, including the UAVs.  They have the Dark Star UAV. Just, there. On display. To everyone. Like that program wasn't ever horribly secret. Like any classified program, I guess...it's just bizarre to see it out there where anyone can take pictures of it.

We also went to the National Museum of Art. Four hours. Well spent.  Oh, and the Asian Art museum + the African Art museum, both joined at subterranean levels, both in back of the castle.

Things I didn't see could fill a book.  I did get rousted by a planclothed member of the uniformed secret service (he was in a marked car, anyway).  The G20 was in, and Saturday they closed several miles of streets spontaneously in the area around the capital, the white house, and the National Archives. No vehicular traffic, and no pedestrians allowed across the streets.  Traffic snarled for miles and hours in every direction. I sat on a wall above the street, randomly taking pictures of the motorcades.  I guess my attire and my manner (constantly reaching into the black gear bag at my side for my camera) made someone nervous.  I wasn't the only one to get searched, but I was the only one within earshot who got an apology, un-requested, for "hassling" me...the guy who searched my bag was pretty funny, and it didn't feel like I was being oppressed. He apologized and offered his name and badge number in case I wanted to complain. Very UK of him, come to think of it.

Speaking of which, the UK limo had no auxilliary security. None. Just the limo. Contrast that with VP Cheney, who had the limo, four leading SUVs, four following SUVs (including one with a sniperfinder array and a whole load of antenna that killed my cell reception for a good five minutes) and an ambulance.  There was an ambulance following the Saudi rep, too, along with a gaggle of black SUVs and some white ones filled with third-party security. I managed to walk around the corner and was stopped on a covered sidewalk (the covering provided to protect passers-by from falling construction debris). Right about that time the rain started pouring down and people across the street ran toward us (they had no cover). The cops went nuts and physically pulled all but a few back to the sidewalk just as the Malaysian motorcade screamed into view.  The cops narrowly prevented a handful of soggy pedestrians from a terrible international incident.

It was hilarious.

Finally allowed to cross the street (once the rain stopped and eight more motorcades screamed by), I headed through downtown back to the hotel.  The neighborhood reminded me of the best parts of Austin, Boston, and San Francisco. Very pedestrian and bike friendly, great row houses and brownstones, really nice people. The area immediately around our hotel had really diverse restaurants and shops, and about every third business had a rainbow flag or an Obama poster or both. Everyone I spoke to (and I spoke to a hell of a lot of random people) was political right up front, and energetically liberal. Hell, the airport shuttle we rode in from BWI was filled with four older (60's-ish) UKians, two Bostonians, and our driver was from Gambia.  The political discussion that inevitably resulted was ernest and lively, and very one-sided.  It was strange to me to hear so much politics, all of it very left-wing liberal...I know Austin is a pool of blue in a sea of red, but even our blue is pretty purple.  My ears were not accustomed to it.

All told, I walked anywhere from 10 to 15 miles a day except for Monday, where we only walked 8 miles and took the metro to and from DuPont Circle.  I got new shoes. I lost ten pounds. And I found that I really, really, really love that city. The monuments and museums, the people, the energy of the place...and the weather (cold and rainy?!? awesome!)...were all pitch perfect.  Even though by Tuesday I was drowning in my own mucous, I loved every minute of it.

Sorry I missed meeting up with the folks who live there and nearby. I don't mind inflicting strangers with my germs, but friends deserve better.  Laurea and I want to go up again when she's not working and we're both healthy. She's also looking at universities there, now.  So we may join you in a few years.

Now with photos (only some of them).
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Curious by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Nov 20, 2008 at 02:55:24 PM EST
no "sorry, officer, I don't consent to this search. Am I free to go ?" ?

No time, by blixco (4.00 / 1) #2 Thu Nov 20, 2008 at 03:07:48 PM EST
really.

Him: "Nice camera"
Me: "Not really, it's a cheap one"
Him: "I don't care" flashes badge "can I see it and your bag?"

I knew I could say no, but why bother? I guess I could have made some sort of ham-handed stand against The Man, but I can see where they were nervous.  Where I was standing, the view I had, coupled with how I was dressed (MNS Casual) coupled with the constant reaching into my bag (a black nylon "go" bag)...yeah, I'd have checked me out too.

That being said, he was really funny. And very nice. And I could have officially complained, but I chose not to.

---------------------------------
"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
The Industrial museum is closed. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 04:03:58 AM EST
It reopened today.

In one of the smaller galleries at A&S museum they have some KH-2 and KH-4 reconnaissance satellites, and images from them, on display.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Bastards! by blixco (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:03:34 AM EST
Makes sense that they would close only while I was there. They had no signage telling when they'd re-open.

---------------------------------
"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
It was closed for 2 years. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:09:24 AM EST
From the Post

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
I always enjoy the Air and Space museum by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 04:31:45 AM EST
we missed it this summer, but bringing a bratty 2 year old through it would have been Hell, and there was no need to tempt AF_dad to talk about stuff he shouldn't talk about, especially the UAVs.

Back in the 80's, I hit the highlights in about two hours.


By myself by blixco (2.00 / 0) #7 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:04:32 AM EST
I took about two hours.  With Laurea we took about an hour and a half...she doesn't have the awe that I have staring at, say, a Curtiss 8 cylinder engine.

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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
I've worked Protective Services with Brits. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 04:46:59 AM EST
Believe me, there was auxilliary security, but you didn't notice because they were DOING IT RITE.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

They may have been by blixco (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:05:19 AM EST
packed into the limo clown car style.  If they were static, then they were really, really good and stayed around looking like tourists for an hour or so.

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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
The latter. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #11 Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:16:38 AM EST
Yes, it may sound implausible, but we did that shite.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
I believe it. by blixco (2.00 / 0) #12 Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:45:13 AM EST
The pedestrian density was pretty high, and I'm positive that not all of them were tourists.

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"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin
[ Parent ]
Yep. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #13 Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 09:53:54 AM EST
It's pretty damned difficult to be unobtrusive in an urban setting for two hours.

Unless you're MNS.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
X1 by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #10 Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 12:47:26 PM EST
Same reaction I had, only I was 15 at the time, so I was a bit more verbally exuberant.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

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