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Richmond's Own (but unowned) Website

 
 
Kind of hard to remember everything, but I’ll try a bullet of highlights over the past 3 weeks (not necessarily in chronological order)! Probably forgot something, but I’ll get in as much as I can.

  • 100 degree heat – made worse by humidity
  • National Zoo! Good planning meant we went on a relatively cool day. Amazing Amazon building (a real rainforest we can walk through, complete with birds flying about. [There’s another island, no fences this time!]) And an awesome invertebrate house – octopus, jellyfish, insects, butterflies, and other amazing wildlife!
  • American History Museum – saw the Star Spangled Banner (the actual one, as in the one in the National Anthem), and  going back and standing in line, just to go to the Presidents in the Media 10 minute video, just to see the 1 minute using clips from The American President, The West Wing (the last scene in the pilot. Talk about impressive), and Air Force One (get off my plane!). Also, always fun to see the exhibit’s copy of the board game “The Kennedys”
  • American History Museum has some cool trains and transportation history!
  • Microsoft Surface (the old table one, not the tablet) in the Freer Gallery to look at Asian art pieces. And just to play on!
  • Being disappointed by the lack of Chinese markets in Chinatown.
  • Walking back to GW from Chinatown (and past the White House)
  • Chipotle!
  • Uno’s Pizza in Georgetown
  • Helping staff my first White House event
  • Being in the same room as the Vice President and Dr. Biden at said event.
  • Intern food from said event.
  • Got an amazing dinner related to said event. 
  • Checked out a library book from the EEOB Library (why pay $50 to use the university library for read-only privileges when I can check out a book from a White House Complex library?)
  • Back on the mock USS Enterprise (the aircraft carrier) in the Air and Space Museum – and seeing the USS Enterprise (the Star Trek ship) in the gift shop again. Loved the little kid saying “it’s the Enterprise!”  - future trekkie!
  • Got my Library of Congress library card! As a pre-emptive measure for research. And it’s just cool!
  • Didn’t get to go to Pirates of Penzance, but got to go watch Brave instead!
  • Walk through the US Botanical Gardens.
  • Walked by US Congress
  • Got my EOP keychain fob
  • Saw the original Kermit muppet at the American History Museum.
  • Nationals Game (though I think I wrote about that the first time)
  • Finding the underground complex connecting the galleries behind the Smithsonian castle. 
  • Watching the Newsroom (pretty great!), and The Great Escape (not as great as I thought it’d be), and Food Network Star (spoiler: wish Emily wasn’t eliminated!)
  • Making our way around DC with 200,000 Girl Scouts
  • Saw some amazing Contemporary Art at the Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art – including some engaging and enthralling television/media installations (and I mean super captivating – mind blown with everything!), and a gaming exhibit
  • Jumping into the Capitol Reflecting Pool!
  • Shake Shack - good burger and shake!
  • Missed out on a crab festival, but got to eat a great cake out of it!
  • Chips and drinks with interns; and another informal gathering with office staff.
  • Learning about the Indian Treaty Room (beautiful place!)
  • Saw Marine One (albeit from a ways back and from a window)
  • Great food at the Museum of the American Indian (best Smithsonian food!)
  • Folklife Festival out on the mall!

 
Finished a week in Washington, D.C. – and what can I say? Well actually, that’s probably a good question to ask.*  I’m an intern this summer with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy – very fascinating policy and events happening!

Is it like “The West Wing?” Well…for one thing, the offices walls aren’t all made of glass. And unfortunately, there’s not always hundreds of people walking around, randomly handing you papers and folders as you walk down the hallway…  Though I’ll say the pace of the work is sure fast like the show! I love it; there’s never a dull moment. The people I’ve met have been great, both the staff members and other interns. And I’m learning fast that everything in DC has an acronym – there’s a lot to catch up on!

So I’ve finished my first week of 9-5 work – yikes, can it be tiring! College schedules seem so relaxed and sparse compared to a regular work week! And having to cook your own meals on top of that afterwards – on the topic of meals, since I have to cook the majority of my meals, and since I would consider my cooking skills amateur as best, I am also going to try to keep a food blog over the summer to cover my culinary escapades.  

I’ve loved it here in D.C. for the first week. The weather’s been nice, and hasn’t been too hot nor too humid (it’s been quite bearable!).  On Monday night, I was invited to dinner at the house of a family friend, which was quite delicious (and I didn’t need to cook!). Tuesday night, I went with a bunch of other interns all staying in the same GWU dorm to go to the Nationals vs. Mets baseball game. I thought it’d be alright, just another baseball game, but it turned out quite fun! Besides the obligatory ballpark pretzel, I got to meet a lot of the other interns in the building, and the game was actually quite interesting too! The Nats and Mets were tied at the end of the 9th inning, and then again at the end of the 10th, each scoring1 run after the other. And at that point, most of us had to leave (we had work the next morning!). In the end, I believe the Nationals won, all the way in the 12th inning! It was quite an experience!  
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So the cheaper seats may be a ways up...still fun!
Wednesday night, my roommate and I made a Target trip, and I took the opportunity to purchase a cooking pot, as well as some food for the week. 

Today I ventured out into this fair city along with my roommate and another friend from the floor. Turns out this week is a huge giant gathering of Girl Scouts – 200,000 extra people! And all that many extra girls flooding the city means close to 200,000 more bags and purses…meaning longer bag check lines to get into museums! (Though it seemed like a great way for them to celebrate the Girl Scouts!) We went into the Museum of Natural History first, and we had to wait a while in line to get in, but it was probably worth it! We went through some of the exhibits I’d seen before, but it was nice to see them again, and I was able to look more closely at things or see things I missed the first time around. We went around through the dinosaurs, mammals, human evolution, insects, human skeletons, and more! Everything was so crowded though; I had no idea that many people could fit in there!
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The photo doesn't really do justice to just how darn crowded the place was! (Museum of Natural History)
We ate lunch at the museum, and probably ended up spending about 4.5 hours in there. After that, we walked across the National Mall to the Smithsonian Castle and sat down for a bit. From there, we moved out into the garden and into the Sackler Gallery – the name of which presents no meaning to what’s inside. But it turned out to be the Smithsonian’s Asian Art museum! It looks very small – we thought it was; but despite its small physical footprint, we found that it went down for few floors and had a decent number of exhibits (think a submerged Johnson Art Museum). I love art museums and galleries! At the bottom, we actually found a tunnel that led to an underground atrium, which is actually part of a Smithsonian center  - there were lots of classrooms for activities and even a children’s theater, as well as offices, and a display commemorating all the patents Steve Jobs has. It also connected to the African Art museum, though we didn’t have time to go there. We came back on the Metro (with all the Girl Scouts, presumably leaving their “Rock the Mall” sing a long), tired after a long day, but I’m quite excited to museum myself out again next week!

 
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Really cool piece of art, representing a story about 21 monkeys; it chains together 21 carvings, each influenced by the word meaning "Monkey" in 21 different languages! (you can sort of read "Mono" at the bottom link in the photo, Spanish for monkey)
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Among the Sackler Gallery highlights was the Windows Surface table (here showing the water homescreen, but also allowed us to look at scrolls and other artwork). Move over Apple iPad, this thing was so much cooler! AND it used a matte screen so much fewer fingerprints!
*Footnote I guess? Yes, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m allowed or not allowed to say, but I thought it’d be a fun title.  
 
To post or not to post? For class, we’re reading Sherry Turkle’s  Alone Together, about how we interact with technology, especially communications networks. Many people post their jobs/internships on Facebook.   I’m conflicted; I’m usually against it – but I suppose I have more social/psychological perspective now.  Yes, prospective employers may see it. But am I using a post to replace live synchronous conversation? Do I feel less accomplished than people who post? Do I need to feel the emotional response when others like my activity? Questions to answer later as I turn and seek shelter in the safety of blogging instead... 

 
So I’ve neglected this blog for a few months now (at least I remember the password) – but I’ve had some free time to reflect a bit on what’s been going on.  Tonight I sat in for an hour and a half listening to history about Collegetown and Cornell student organizations. Last weekend I went to a jazz concert.  Two weekends ago I sat at a table eating with Kenan Thompson (and 30 other students, but still!). So maybe my prelim schedule sucked.  And it snowed in late April. But I wouldn’t have traded my experience this semester for anything else.

 
_A new writing exercise for me, based on a class assignment – writing a reading response in 100 words. Which may be a challenge for me, since I tend to write a lot. So, I will be trying some micro entries, unedited, cutting myself off at 100 words. Hopefully it will cause me to be more concise in my thoughts and think about how I use each word. It will probably also make blog writing (which can seem like a long daunting process) occur more often. Don’t worry, I’ll still try out the long form from time to time.

98. //This time I was good and went under. But if I’m over 100 words next time, I’ll probably cut off mid sentence.

 
_After the highpoint of wrapping up the Billy Joel show, I had to come back down to reality and work on my physics problem set when I got back around 12:30am. Well I didn’t necessarily have to do it then – but it was due at 1:30pm today, so I either had to sleep and wake up early, or just do it then – I decided to do the latter. I figured it’d be safer to stay up and finish the problem set in case I woke up late – and by 3:45am, I was finished. Then was the decision to either turn it in then, or go to sleep and turn it in the today. Now I’m pretty sure most sensible people would have slept. I on the otherhand…

It wasn’t that bad going up at 4am. I did pass a guy with a backpack going down the slope when I went up. I think I passed 4-5 people in total, and I think only 1 was intoxicated. The half mile or so up to Clark wasn’t too bad, but I will say it is creepy to see buildings completely empty and quiet. PSB and Clark were lit up, but coming back through Rockefeller was pretty creepy since half the lights there are turned off at night. I rushed out of there back into the 24 degree weather. I didn’t make much of the cold on the way up – 24 degrees is the coldest weather I’ve been outside in all year, but I had my jacket, hat, and gloves. Until I got to the steps between Uris and Morril that go down Libe slope – there was a little bit of ice on the stairs, and nothing had been salted. So as soon as I got to the end of the dozen or so stairs, I switched over to the grass the rest of the way. I was in bed by 4:30 but wasn’t able to sleep for a while.

I didn’t end up waking until almost 1 – probably a good thing I turned in the problem set last night, otherwise I’d have some fun running up the slope to do. Today I took a break from studying (I’ve got a couple days still, and I thought it’d be good mentally to take a break). So I went to the mall to see The Muppets this afternoon. (Possible minor spoilers!)
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Lighting outside the El Capitan on Hollywood Boulevard in Jan 2011 for filming The Muppets
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Filming in Jan 2011 outside the El Capitan, I think this is the part at the end of the film when they come out of the theater.
_Now I thought I wouldn’t have a picture for this entry, but I have 2 – from January 17 last winter, when I was in Hollywood for a Cornell alumni panel event, a lot of streets were blocked off for filming – The Muppets! (I guess it feels cool to think I have a connection to the film, even if rather insignificant). I actually completely forgot about this entire thing until tonight when I was looking at somebody's YouTube video from their viewpoint watching the filming, and I remembered - I drove by when it happened! From a quick search, the Jan 17 date was one of the nights they were doing filming in Hollywood. We were in front of the Disney El Capitan, which I believe stood in for the Muppet Theater at the end of the film. Lots of lanes were blocked off on Hollywood Boulevard where they filmed, and in the pictures you can see some of the lighting for the street – I remember seeing the giant searchlights too. Though we weren’t driving by when the big song and dance number happened, there certainly was a lot of traffic congestion caused by the filming. Though I’d guess if you’re a Hollywood native, that’s rather normal.
_Anyways, the film itself was greatly entertaining and absolutely fun (and pulling at my heartstrings!). It was a fun 2 hour ride of nostalgia – including the Toy Story short beforehand about a Buzz Lightyear Happy Meal like toy – I remember those things! I do like that the kinds of shorts that precede Pixar films are including in Disney films. As for the movie itself, I suppose the decline and comeback of the Muppets is a novel, if not somewhat exaggerated, metaphor for Disney’s handling of the Muppet brand up until now. But I thought it was a great movie in spirit with the films and shows preceding. Though I do feel a lot of the jokes went over the kids’ heads (there was a little girl’s birthday party in attendance), quite a few times I heard a lot of adult laughter, though at the same time the kids in the theater seemed to enjoy it.  I’ll admit I got quite teary eyed near the end – to the extent where showing any emotion would probably have made me cry so I kind of sat there with as still a face as possible looking at the screen. Thus, I didn’t get the full emotional impact of the last 15 minutes, and require seeing it again while it’s still in theaters. (See what I did there?) Maybe a rewatch when it’s in Cornell Cinema (hopefully next semester). The songs are stuck in my head too – had to pay a visit to the piano when I got back to get down some of the chords! Though for me, I think the film struck me in a very Toy Story 3 sense, especially in its value for an older audience, reminding you of friends and joys together from the past. And while perhaps in the age of Facebook recreating the sense of high school or college friendships is just a post away, the joy of the Muppets can truly feel timeless.

 
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Crew shirts
_Today was the last day of classes. And Billy Joel!! CCC and CUPB coproduction. I don’t have any pictures of my own from the event, but I’ll do my best to do the event justice in words. (Not counting the caption, this blog entry should have about 1000 words – so I have my “picture is worth 1000 words” quota.) I arrived at Bailey a little early, around 5:15 or 5:20. After a while, everyone started filtering in as we gathered in the dressing room to get shirts, sign in, and get ready to break up into crews.

Beforehand, you could hear Billy and some of his crew doing sound checks – when I was in the bathroom, I overheard someone on the piano singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas over the Bailey speaker system – I’d like to think it was him singing it!

We broke up into crews, I was on ushering tonight. The ushers and ticket takers had a meeting with George from Bailey Hall up in the main lobby, before we split into the two crews. Ushering went pretty smoothly. People got to their correct seats, and we were able to seat people pretty well who came in late. The show went pretty smoothly too (except when I had to go around to tell people to stop filming, but most people took that pretty well too). 

The show was called “Billy Joel: An Evening of Question & Answers…and a little music.” So it was driven mostly by people asking questions to Billy about his life and his music, and Billy answering and playing some songs or snippets on one of 2 pianos (a larger one, and a smaller one – with pianist envy, as he said. Read it aloud.). I really enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere, which both the venue and show format lent themselves to.  I was impressed with how down to earth Billy was, he came out in a Cornell sweatshirt, and the full house really enjoyed his performances and conversation. And he really knows his music – from classical, other artists, you name it – quite the piano man. His musical knowledge is quite extensive.

The night really went by in a blur, it was an amazing show – I really can’t describe the entirety of it in words – it was an incredible atmosphere in there, between the enthralled audience and the musical creativity and dare I say genius.  Not a rock concert, but again, I really enjoyed it just being him, the piano(s), and the audience all together.  I can’t exactly remember the progression of the show, but I’ll try to do it with a hail of bullet highlights from the show!
_
  • Piano man! He did it early on to get it “out of the way” – but great audience favorite. As were most of the songs.
  • He had his book of songs on the piano (with lyrics and/or chords? – he’s written 100s though, so give him a break!)
  • People get him confused with (Sir) Elton John. Or when he was first starting out, how people said he was copying Elton John. Because they both play piano.
  • The multitude of jobs he worked through, and some of the challenges he’s overcome in his life.
  • Uptown Girl is a response/parody to Franki Vallie and the Four Seasons (one of my favorite groups! Yes my tastes skew old…), and is in their style (got a few measures of him singing falsetto on Four Seasons songs).
  • Classical music – He played Bach, Beethoven, and others. To illustrate that throughout history, music has been a central form of getting to sleep with girls.
  • University President Skorton playing flute with Billy Joel. Has got to be one of the most surreal moments of the entire thing. President Skorton is a bit of a musician, and Billy Joel invited him up to play, upon which President Skorton jumped up on stage (literally – didn’t even look for the stairs!) and got right in.
  • Hearing some of the background stories to the songs. Gospel. Hymns. Folk songs. Beatles. Paul Simon.  And how songs changed and evolved from how they were first written to when they were published and recorded.
  • Got some rather interesting questions asked by the audience tonight as well….oh well, part of the format I suppose.
  • Playing Downeaster Alexa and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
  • He’s from an island. A very long island.
  • It was interesting to get a peek into his mind. Not writing songs to be hits, but songs that he likes. Would you really expect a Franki Vallie parody and a history lesson to be
  • Singing some snippets of Lady Gaga – she’s got musical talent and knowledge. (And so does Justin Bieber, to the dismay of a large part of the audience – but give him a chance!)
  • Did a James Brown Voice! And a Ray Charles one when he played Baby Grand.
  • Sung Louie, Louie – illustrating that the lyrics don’t matter as much as the music itself! (That’s when he did James Brown too).
  • Played a bit of We Didn’t Start the Fire – and pointing out how silly the piece is, the melody of the various verses composed of 3 notes. He said it sounds rather mosquito like, and can get quite annoying! (The audience still got him to play a few measures!)
  • He’s moving into some other styles – hymns, perhaps movie scores, symphonic music (wouldn’t it be great if he could write something for CU Winds?! Probably wouldn’t happen, but I can dream, right?)
_After the show, we cleaned up, went back down to the dressing rooms and hung out for a while (popcorn and cool gummy candies – planes, letters, dinosaurs and more!), before going to Mano’s (CCC tradition – though I think CUPB used to do it a while back too) which was fun filled with good ole fried food. It was nice to be able to spend some more time with everyone and have some fun.

This was an amazing way to end the semester, and this past semester with CUPB has been astounding, and I cannot wait to continue next semester!

 
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One of the giant screens in Barton
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Prepping the scanners at the doors
_The following entry is about our preparing for our second Jon Stewart show on Saturday night. When I have time, I may gather some of my recollections and write up some things from my notes about day 1 for the first show and what happened after our second show.

Saturday, October 29

2:00pm
A little after 2 I started getting ready to head up to Barton for the Saturday night show. Refreshed after the first good night of sleep in a long time, I grabbed my heavy jacket (it was 30 something degrees – and I’m from California!), and headed up the salted slope. I opened the door on the Statler side and walked into the Barton sauna. It was quite hot in there. Luckily, the actual building floor was much more comfortable. I made my way backstage where most of the E-Board and some of the other crewheads were sitting.  After a while, most of the crewheads had arrived and we made our way onto the small, slippery if it gets wet, barren with nothing to make fun of stage (Jon Stewart’s words, not mine!). We circled up on top of the stage (which I might add, was quite a cool place to be – I sat where Jon Stewart stood! Well, it sounded cool and awesome in my head) and had our crewhead meeting, going over what we could do to improve from the Friday night show.

3:16
After we finished our crewhead meeting, we circled up together as a large group and did our obligatory names and years – and favorite candy! Following that we broke into our crews. Caryn and I meet with ticket takers back behind the stage. We walked about the responsibilities of the job and our duties for the night, then Theo came and did a quick tutorial with the scanners – with the cool “secret” reset procedure! We headed down to the front of house to set up the tables and go over the set up.

3:57
We had a bit a free time between the initial crew breakout session and when we had to be in position for the show. I spent most of that time getting things prepared for that night – Eric, Caryn and I made signs for the doors, and I helped make sure some of the signs downstairs were where they needed to be – and setting up stanchions! My new word of the week! (Stanchions are the poles that hold up the ropes in a rope line, like at the airport – and they can refer to other sign posts as well – much better than just saying “that rope pole thing.”) I will say, that Eric can make an amazing number 2 sign out of gaffer tape. After taking the tape and tickets downstairs (for any potential confiscations), we were set to go.

5:34
Around now, the whole crew made their way downstairs, fully decked out in grey Jon Stewart crew shirts, crew passes, and flashlights. (Flashlights! We didn’t get these the first night, but were something I had asked for to make bag checking easier, since some of the entries were not well lit and it was hard to look into bags. Plus, holding a flashlight feels pretty cool too!) Once we were downstairs, we did a quick overview of the job duties, and settled into our positions, waiting for the word from upstairs (quite literally!). Scanners, tickets, tape, flashlights, and a ticket taking crew ready to go.

6:02
Doors open! The ebb and flow of the crowd varied – also drastically changing the temperature in the lobby of Barton. As much of a sauna it had been down there for the first half of the day, it quickly became a fridge, complete with snow outside – quite an Ithacan way to welcome parents to Cornell! For the most part, Caryn and I ran bags back and forth to the confiscation room, assisted when issues came up, and escorted guests to the box office when their tickets wouldn’t scan. Handed off quite a few bags – snag, tag and all. I think I got a decent intro to being an airport worker! Though I’m glad the bag confiscation went well – everyone’s bags stayed safe and were returned safely after the show.

7:23
By now, the majority of the crowd was already upstairs, and most of the crew was dismissed to either go up and watch the show or go grab a bite to eat. I stayed downstairs for a bit to have a slice of pizza and scan and bag check some of the stragglers coming in late. After that number trickled down, I headed upstairs to watch a bit of the show, letting the box office finish helping the latecomers.

Overall I had a great time, and I think the ticket taking crew did a wonderful job - and I’m especially glad everyone made it through the wild temperature fluctuations! This was a great weekend with CUPB, and I’m very much looking forward to our next production!

 
(There's a West Wing episode called 20 Hours in America. Is it better if I don't explain the titles? I feel it's kind

On Sunday, Carolyn met up with us, and she, Adam, and I proceeded to walk out to the mall, walking by the rather interesting street van vendors. We did go back to the National Air and Space museum, so I could get my picture of the Enterprise model (and go by very pricey space food!).
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Enterprise is in DC!
While we were waiting for Katie and Stephanie to come down to DC, we went into the museum of the American Indian. While perhaps the exhibits don’t display the best story, the atrium is sure beautiful, especially with prisms that shoot rainbows all over the four storey (British spelling!) atrium. We spent some time discussing possible uses for extra ledge space – totem poles or performance space perhaps?
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Prisms!
After that, we met up with Katie and Stephanie over at the Natural History Museum – saw the large diamond, and some elephant evolution side exhibits. Then we went through an extensive special exhibit on race. Some very deep stuff in there, I really enjoyed the parts about education.  We headed north, passed through the street where Taste of DC was happening, but we passed by the street where it was happening! Though we walked by and ate at Au Bon Pan – interesting change in the order of sandwich preparation vs the order the orders were put on the counter. But we got everything.

Next, we walked back and headed down to cross the tidal basin, over to the other side with the Jefferson Memorial. Very large, lots of steps, columns, and marble! We all sat on the steps for a little while, looking north up over the basin to the White House. There were quotes around the central statue, and some museum displays below.

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Jefferson...Airplane?
Adam and Carolyn had to head back to GW, but Stephanie, Katie, and I continued making our way around the basin. We went to the FDR memorial, which traced FDR’s presidency chronologically through a series of waterfalls – love water features! Though we ended up going backwards through the timeline – but it was a very different kind of memorial, and I really enjoyed it.
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Water Feature!!
Then we went to see the new MLK Jr Memorial, it was quite crowded, probably because it’s the newest memorial, but it was very great to see too – very tall, but the mountain symbolism made a lot of sense with the quotes.
We walked back up toward the Washington Monument afterwards, and saw Marine One land on the White House lawn! Well we didn’t really see it actually land, we saw the three of them fly over and land behind the trees. Though we waited around and saw it take off!
We went back up to the Museum of Natural History – walked through the mammals, ice age, oceans, and dinosaurs. Afterwards, the three of us decided to go eat at Potbelly Sandwiches. We got there about 10 minutes before their closing time, but the woman working was super nice and super fast too! We ate outside – next door was a sports bar…the whole thing had a rather London feeling about it. When we finished, Adam came back and met us, and we all sat and talked for a while. We walked around a bit afterwards, and had fun kicking a stick! But then we went to the Metro station and all had to say our goodbyes.

I had a great time seeing some of my Fulbright peers again – it was great too that we all sort of gelled back together, even though it felt like it’s been a long time since we’ve all been together. Was very glad to also get a real break (and my eyes off the computer!), and have a nice relaxing weekend with friends!

Monday I came back up to Ithaca. Had an hour or so to myself in DC, so I went down to the Capitol in the morning before getting on the train. The DC Union Station is quite nice as well! The train was packed (Columbus Day = travel day, should have figured that out sooner). Had a good train ride up, and I ran up to the Port Authority to catch an earlier bus (though in retrospect, maybe it would have been nice to spend a few hours in the city – perhaps next time when I don’t have as much stuff to carry!) On the way up, was treated to a nice sunset though! And now back to 7 more weeks in the college marathon…
 
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Washington Monument!
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National Air and Space Museum
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Protesters outside the Air and Space museum - that large puppet is a bit freaky.
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National Gallery - forgot to talk about this in the blog; but we spent some time here - saw some Monet paintings of London (Waterloo Bridge), interesting contemporary art themed around letters, and some fascinating tapestry.
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Capitol at night is pretty!
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The White House!
Fall Break time at Cornell! Finished off the first half of my semester with a marathon week of an essay due Tuesday, 2 exams Wednesday, an exam Thursday, and physics problem set Friday. Plus grading exams as a TA and music rehearsals and club meetings. Not much sleep in this week. (Though even though it was pretty rough, I’m sure there were people with weeks worse off than mine!)

But Friday came – getting ready to leave on the 2:30 bus was like student anarchy practically. A lot of rushing to the bus as each one pulled up, and everyone disappointedly walking away as 95% of the crowd realized it wasn’t a New York bus. I think 1 person stepped onto the Boston bound bus. But eventually, I got onto the fully packed New York bounded bus.

We got into New York City at night, around 7:30 pm – a very nice view of Manhattan’s night skyline as we were coming in from New Jersey (no pictures unfortunately, sitting on the wrong side of the bus). The bus ended up dropping us outside around the corner from the Port Authority, rather than inside. It was alright though. Made the walk down to Penn station where I had a bit of a wait. There was a ticketed passenger waiting area (which I had not seen last time, but then I was arriving at the station, not departing), and wifi! Ate my sandwich I had bought at Cascadeli, then got onto the train. Pretty much slept the whole way down to Washington, it took about 3 hours – didn’t get a chance to go to the snack car and talk with the train crew. Oh well though.

Arrived at Washington DC Union Station around 12:30am, where Adam and Carolyn were kind enough to come meet me. Took the metro back, got my first look at GWU (and some of the student night life atmosphere) and got into Adam’s room – it was great seeing him again – just like old times (it’s only been a few months, but it really has felt like quite a long time). Fell asleep pretty quickly too.

Had a rather late start to the next morning but it wasn’t too bad. Adam cooked some scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, and we went off! It still amazes me to see all the various institutions and agencies right here – the IMF, Organization of American States, the Eisenhower (Old) Executive Office Building. (And that was within the first 5-10 minutes of our walk!) We made it past the ellipse (which I didn’t even realize we were going by the White House until I saw it later when we were going in a different direction…too busy listening to a loudly woman complaining about sweat in her hair as she passed by.

We went onto the National Mall, and passed by the Washington Monument – though we couldn’t go up, closed because of possible cracks due to the Earthquake (I’ve got some screenshots of workers climbing the outside of the tower checking for cracks, from CNN). And I left my national parks booklet in my dorm! I could have gotten so many stamps from the DC area! Oh well, next time perhaps.

Adam and I started off in the National Air and Space Museum – which I’m sure is also a favorite of many a young child. We went in and got to go through the exhibits, we saw early flight. One thing I was really impressed by was the craftsmanship of wooden propellers – the curvature, symmetry, and weight balance is perfect to an extraordinary level, it’s amazing to think that they were doing this a century ago! We continued through some exhibits on commercial aviation – there was a display touting new digital instruments, and brand new modern CRT displays! Er…maybe it was outdated? To be fair, there was another display that did have a 21st century cockpit. It was astounding to see some of the old planes and lounges and level of services passengers received. True, air safety (another display) wasn’t as great then as it is now, but I wish we could all get that level of comfort and service! We proceeded to go through a WWI air warfare exhibit (complete with simulated trenches), then a much smaller WWII one. Though there was an air and sea display, which focused mostly on WWII and post war (up to the 90s or so) combination of air and sea power. It was really fun to look at because it was modeled on a real aircraft carrier, with a ready room, bridge, and other rooms, staircases, and ladders and gangways (though we couldn’t go on those). But that was quite an immersive experience (to some point at least), which I thoroughly enjoyed. We then walked past a small exhibit on UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles), and their rather recent history. After that, we went through an exhibit about the planets, and some of the information about our exploration, including a life sized mock up of the Mars Rovers! That was pretty interesting.

Finishing that, we walked across the bridge over the lobby, when we noticed that the doors were shut – people were not being let in or out. Police and security were telling people to not walk near the doors. Soon we saw a large group of people outside – protesters. Anti war protesters, as we could deduce from their signs and from the other people who had been on the balcony longer. Heard things about a huge poster being dropped over the railing in the lobby, and pepper spray. Intense sounding, but not sure how much of it was true (turned out to be true later on, according to the news reports – they took a guard hostage too, resulting in the use of pepper spray). We watched as they arrested a woman, and more police from various departments and divisions (or jurisdictions? Not sure what the correct terminology is here), as they came into the building, and then shut the museum down. So we, and a bunch of frustrated families, tourists, air enthusiasts, and some crying kids were quickly ushered out the back (secondary main) entrance. Oh well. We went around to the other side for a bit to see the protesters’ actual signs – and yes, they were anti war (mostly – there was an occupy Wall Street person thrown in the mix), and many police outside, Capitol, Park Service, Met, DHS, and more I think. A chopper was circling too.

After a bit, we had to move on to go up to College Park to pick up Stephanie, so we took the metro, and several transfers. Crazy weekend – red line single tracking (1 track, 2 directions, many delays), and the green line was out for a good chunk of stations – necessitating the getting on the green line, getting off, taking a red line until it met the green line again, transferring, and continuing on. We got up to College Park (Maryland), and waited for Stephanie – though a metro worker came and thought we were lost (probably since we were admiring the U of Maryland area map) – though after a while, Stephanie got there, and we all went back down into the city (after several transfers and one stop too far), to go pick up Katie. We walked up Capitol Hill, past the train station and postal museum out to where Katie’s bus came in. We waited a while, and then after she got in, we all went to get burgers, on Adam’s recommendation, which were great! (I haven’t had a burger in quite a while either!). After that, we walked back past the Capitol and down the mall to the Washington Monument. Felt like a little bit of London…just American. Walked around the circle, then up to the White House! Interesting mix of people outside the White House at that time of night, but it was a rather peaceful evening. We split up, the girls going back up to Maryland, Adam and I back to GW, where I got a glimpse of Adam’s duties in the building. Had a great first day in DC – and a bit more than I was expecting!