Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Washington D.C. Pics Of The Day--Day 2

It's day two of our D.C. vacation , and Ked and I are starting to realize that we've got a lot of ground to cover, and only five more days to cover it. So, we plan our route for maximum efficiency and set out to see the sights and gain some knowledge along the way. Put on some comfy shoes and come along with us. We always enjoy your company!

Even though we had a little more drive than on Day 1, that doesn't mean we didn't take time to stop for pretties. We didn't catch the name of this lovely green pool, but it would have made a nifty picnic area, complete with shade and tables and some charming local bird-life that found this location the ideal place for their morning ablutions.

Our first official stop was the National Aquarium, which lured us in passing on Day 1 when we read the sign which promised to let us watch shark and piranha and alligator feedings in progress, if we showed up at the right time the next day. Sadly, we missed dinner time on our visit, or we could have shown you some nice grisly chomping. As it is we will all have to be contented with less dramatic images. It's probably just as well. The photos would likely have been nothing but blurry red smudges anyway. So, I guess I'll show you this seahorse instead. Come to think of it, this photo is a wee bit blurry, too, since this stubborn seahorse refused to remain still for the camera, but I had to post it anyway. (Many of today's photos will be a bit grainy, since I had to snap them through glass.) Neither Ked nor I had ever seen a real seahorse before. They were cute, and odd, and slightly unbelievable. Did you know that male seahorses carry their young in pouches on their abdomen, like a mama kangaroo? Did you also know that young seahorses may eat up to ten hours a day, and can consume up to 3,600 baby brine shrimp in that time? You did, huh? Well, since you're so smart, could you tell us why this seahorse has a red string tied around its neck? None of the signs shared this information, and we were really curious. You can just leave the answer in the comments if you're feeling helpful.

Any Lolcats fans out there? This gator made us think, "Oh hai..." as soon as we saw him/her/it. This is only a little critter, but the glass that separated human from alligator was still an emotional comfort, If you click on the photo, you'll see a very impressive row of teeth. Respect the teeth.

This guy was a fascinatingly colorful resident of a tank full of poison frogs. Their vibrant color is a shout out to potential predators, a warning that their skin secretes deadly, toxic, nasty stuff, and the predators should look elsewhere for dinner. It's a decorative, "Hey, Stupid, don't eat me." supplied by nature to keep the frogs safe while happily munching on other hapless critters. Turns out these other critters are what make the frogs poisonous in the first place. The ants, mites and beetles they eat provide them with the toxins they store in glands on their skin. Not so good for the insects, but a heck of a deal for the frogs.

This rather lugubrious-looking fellow is a lionfish, a venomous coral reef fish whose family has made its way from the Indian and western Pacific oceans into Atlantic waters. Seems that people like them for their aquariums, and the fish have been inadvertently loosed into the wild in unnatural places. They are considered invasive, because they compete with the local species for resources. Strangely, in the Pacific Northwest, our beloved Chinook salmon are considered endangered, but I was just reading a week or so ago that in other parts of the world (somewhere in South America and possibly New Zealand, if memory serves) they are considered an invasive species. One man's junk is another man's jewel. (Although, I also read that South American anglers are pretty happy with the arrangement.)

Next, like the lionfish, we moved on to completely new territory. Our next stop was the National Museum of the American Indian. We really enjoyed it, although we wanted Sioux Lady and Tasina around to give us their perspective on what we saw. We thought the museum focused a great deal on religion, crafts, the damaging effect of the white man, and how Native cultures are trying to stay Native, but gave very little education on what those cultures actually were. I would have liked to have seen more about the history of the western hemisphere before the Europeans showed up, and not just a skimming of what happened after guns were introduced into the west. I wanted to learn about Native accomplishments, government, social structures, architecture, agriculture, inter-tribal disputes and how they were settled, and other such non-white-related history. Ked and I both thought that the museum seemed too PC, glossing over the less than savory parts of American Indian history, and giving an all too prominent place to white people. I know that the arrival of Europeans changed things in the Americas dramatically, but that's not all there is to the story. We wanted more.

Here is one of those ubiquitous statues. We liked this one a lot. I didn't have the presence of mind to note any actual information about who is depicted by the figures, although I'm guessing we can all take a fairly safe stab that one of them is George Washington.

There were cases and cases of gorgeous Native crafts, and this shirt is a glorious example of bead-work. Click on the link to get some of the detail.

Speaking of glorious--this outfit just blew me away. I know there is meaning and symbolism which I don't understand, and there wasn't much helpful signage to get me better informed, but even without knowing any of the important stuff, I do know what something like this would take to accomplish. I sew a lot, and have done enough hand bead-work to know what a commitment this kind of project is. I once spent three weeks (solid--eight hours a day) hand-beading lace for a friend's wedding dress, and what I did can't hold a candle in a hurricane to the amount of work that went into this beautiful design. I am beyond impressed.

Click on this one for a closer look. I'm not sure how clear it is, since, again, it was through glass, but you'll get the idea, anyway.

Once we had explored the museum from top to bottom, we headed over to the Capitol. We didn't get to see inside, since apparently that takes prearrangement, but we did wander around the grounds. Another reason for us to head back to D.C. in a few more years--they are building a United States Capitol Visitor Center, which "will occupy three levels below ground on the east side of the U.S. Capitol." Looks like we'll need to add another day to our next D.C. trip itinerary.

Even though Ked is sitting down at the fountain (another fountain--and some columns!!) of this same Capitol building, it looks to me like he's at some Mediterranean resort. Where's my Italian phrasebook?

This little hole is, we assume, the home of Senator Baggins. I think he's working on legislation to ensure the rights of home-brewers everywhere.

This is the proof that we were STUPID! As you can see, we sauntered right on by the National Archives, snapping photos like mad of the lovely columns, while completely neglecting the historical treasures within. "I hate being retarded." (Points to anyone who can tell me what book/miniseries this quote is from.)

This structure is somehow related to the navy, and the Naval Memorial sits right out front. Both my father and my step-father were in the navy (WWII), and I appreciated the tribute, but what really caught my eye was the architecture. I loved the curve of the buildings--and note the columns!!

Here is the home of the FBI. (I'm pretty sure it is, anyway.) The building is just downright ugly, but I have to give them props for patriotism.

The details on this one are just incredible. I have no idea what building this is--I don't think it was anything governmental, although I could be wrong--but the architectural details are worthy of any government edifice. Click on this one. Be amazed.

Here sits one of the many statues of people-whose-names-I-do-not-know. I don't even know where I took this photo. I think, however, if things were right with the world, that this fellow should be standing outside the U.S. Mint. Get it? Mint... because he looks so much like he came out of a tube of toothpaste? . . . That bad, huh? Okay, on that sad note, I'll pack it in for the day. Ked and I were tired at this point, anyway. We headed hotelward, for some nice barbecued ribs and a strawberry spinach salad. Yum. Afterward, we had a strange craving for those little green candies they serve at weddings. I have no idea why...