The Features

A DC Halcyon Day

Photo courtesy of
‘Smithsonian Castle 2′
courtesy of ‘tbridge’

Sunday was just about as incredible a day as we get here in DC. Perfect temperatures, brilliant jewel-toned sky with wisps of high clouds, and colors that popped. I went out with some friends to participate in a Ravenchase Adventure, starting at Presidents Park just north of the White House. With a package full of clues and DC-specific hints and puzzles, we took off around the National Mall, from John Paul Jones to the Enid Haupt garden and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. Running from statue to statue, sculpture to exhibit, Mall to Penn Quarter, we gathered seven worksheets full of codes and clues, all to realize we were carrying the solution in our bag all along.

We ended with a late lunch at Matchbox. We walked tired back to the Metro and car, having covered 4.5mi of ground in the middle of the city; it was the part of DC we usually reserve for tourism, doing our own tourguide duty for friends from out of town. It was nice to get down to the Mall to get to some of the out-of-the-ordinary places like the Enid Haupt Garden where the views are so lovely. Seeing Jim Sanborn’s Antipodes, a very similar work to his Kryptos which is at CIA-Langley and remains unsolved, was a real treat. I had somehow missed it on previous visits, and it is absolutely amazing in person. Our clues lead us to a code for Ian’s wooden chest, but lead us into parts of the Mall we’d otherwise missed. Our day, though, was not quite yet half-done. Continue reading

The Features

On The Water: American History’s Latest

Model Tradeship 2
Model Tradeship 2 courtesy of Me

Right next to the exhibit on the first floor dedicated to America’s transportation systems is the National Museum of American History‘s latest exhibit: On the Water. As much as transportation over land has changed the United States, the maritime elements of our economy has done the same. Divided into seven slices of time, some of which overlap, the exhibit focuses on the coastal and riverfront parts of the United States from 1450 through to the present. Read on for a preview.

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Entertainment, Fun & Games, Special Events, The Daily Feed

Pillow Fight Saturday

courtesy of flickr user Nivad

courtesy of flickr user Nivad

Left wondering what to do with those old, deflated pillows?

Problem solved: At 2PM on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle or at 3PM in Dupont Circle, show up with a CONCEALED SOFT pillow – in a bag, backpack or something similar and act completely nonchalant.  Wait for the crowd to gather and when you hear the signal it’s on!

Hooray! It’s International Pillow Fight Day, part of The Urban Playground Movement, whose goal is to organize free, fun, all age appropriate, non-commercial public events all over the world. DC’s pillow fights are being “organized” by DC Defenestrators.

Pillow fighting etiquette dictates:

-Soft pillows only!

-Swing lightly, many people will be swinging at once.

-Do not swing at people without pillows or with cameras.

-Remove glasses beforehand!

-The event is free and appropriate for all ages.

-Wait until the signal to begin.

-The event is more fun with feathers. I logged onto the DC Defenestrators facebook page for the event and they’ve updated their last pillow fight rule: + *CHANGE* you are responsible for your own feathers! – California had a pillow fight that required $10,000 to clean up from the city. If you leak any feathers, you are responsible for cleaning them up. We want this to be fun for everyone, don’t be d**ks that make a mess and leave.

Entertainment, The District, The Mall

Tourism: The New Sant Ocean Hall

Phoenix, the Right Whale

Five years ago, the Museum of Natural History got together a group of people with the goal of expanding the Museum’s reach beyond just the land. The incredible wealth of life below the water’s surface, and the great span of the ocean, was a missing spot in the museum’s coverage. Thus, they began the most extensive renovation in the Museum’s History. Tomorrow, the NMNH opens the brand new Sant Ocean Hall. The ceremonies kick off at 11am out front of the Museum, where the Aloha Boys & Halau O’Aulani Dancers, as well as the Tlingit community, who will be performing a drum ceremony to bless the exhibit.

Once inside, the centerpiece is Phoenix, the Right Whale, suspended in the dead center of the exhibit about 10 feet off the ground. Phoenix is a model built off a living Right Whale living in the North Atlantic that scientists from the New England Aquarium have tracked for the last 21 years. Right whales represent one of the North Atlantic’s most endangered species, though their population is on the rebound with some of the more recent preservation efforts.

The Ocean Hall is 23,000 square feet, the largest single exhibit space in the Museum. It features a central corridor that features exhibits on coastal ocean life, and leads back toward the Open Ocean exhibit, featuring a couple of specially displayed giant squid. See, the fire marshall just about had a conniption when he found out the Smithsonian wanted to put a bunch of jars of flammable, toxic alcohol in the middle of a bunch of children. So, they went to the 3M corporation and they came back with their Novec 7100 Engineered Fluid, by the tankful. See, it still allows for neutral buoyancy, and the preservation of the specimen, it just doesn’t catch fire easily, or poison people.

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Adventures, Entertainment, Technology, The Daily Feed, The District, The Hill

Sneak Peek: The Sant Ocean Hall at NMNH

Sant Ocean Hall

Wow, what a morning. I spent the morning walking through the new Sant Ocean Hall at the National Museum of Natural History on the Mall. We got an introduction from the direct of the museum, and a great tour through the 23,000 square-foot space. We’ll have a full review up on Friday as part of our Tourism column.

However, there was one bit that was way too cool to wait for Friday to share: Science on a Sphere®. The Smithsonian’s new exhibit features this cool technology from NOAA which involves multiple projectors and a suspended gray sphere. It’s based on four desktop computers running Linux and some multiple projectors. It’s just amazing. Click on for the full size video.

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