I spent the day with Alex in Washington showing him what a great place it is to be. He is finishing with NOVA this summer but will not start JMU until spring semester and worries that his brain will atrophy, so we are working up a work-study-exercise regime. I think he is beginning to understand how lucky he is to have this opportunity. I don’t think there is any place better than Washington to pursue this kind of self-education, since we have all the free museums around the Smithsonian, think tanks, parks, monuments … But you have to do it deliberately.
We started off at AEI with panel discussion on regulation of greenhouse gases. Alex thought the guy from the Sierra Club made the best presentation. You can read about it here. I agree. He was mostly talking about the problems of coal. Coal is cheap but dirty from start to finish. In Appalachia, they remove whole mountains and dump them into the valleys. We can reclaim these lands with good forestry, but we all probably better off not doing it in the first place.
After that, we just blended in with the tourists. Our first stop was the wax museum. You can see some of the pictures. You really feel like you are standing with the person. They are very careful to get the heights and shapes close to the real person.
We next went through the aquarium. The National Aquarium in Washington is not nearly as good as the one in Baltimore, but it is worth going if you are in the neighborhood. This is the first time that I saw a living snakehead. These are terrible invasive species that can wipe out the native fish. They are very tough and hard to get rid of. They are semi-amphibious and can literally walk from one pond to another. The take-away is that if you see one of these things crush it with a rock or cut it with a shovel, but do not let it survive.
Finally, we went over to the Natural History Museum. We have been there many times before, but I learned a few things. Alex pointed out that the Eocene period was warmer than most of the time during the Mesozoic and, of course, much warmer than today. According to what I read, the earth was free of permanent ice and forests covered all the moist parts of the earth, all the way to the poles. It is interesting how trees adapted to living inside the Arctic Circle, where it is dark part of the year and always light in summers, but the sun is never overhead and always comes as a low angle, so trees needed to orient their branches more toward the sides.
Alex rolled his eyes when I was excited by a new (I think temporary) exhibit on soils. I didn’t learn much new, but I like looking at the actual exhibits. Soil is really nothing more than rock fragments and decaying shit, but very few things are more complex, more crucial and more often ignored.
Anyway, we had a good day and “met” lots of celebrities like Johnny Depp above. We had lunch at a place called “the Bottom Line” on I Street. I had a very good mushroom cheese burger. Alex has the Philly cheese steak sandwich.
The skeleton above is a giant sloth. I don’t know how that thing could have survived. Must have been one big tree that thing hung from.