Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beware The Turtle

Consider yourself warned....


Hedgehogs are just so damn cute!

Monday, February 21, 2011

United States Botanical Gardens

What to do on a gray day off? It's cool and damp and so wintry-BLAH! Answer: Take a trip to a tropical jungle, or an arid desert, or even time travel to a primordial moss covered, fern ridden bog...oh, oh! No, even better! Go to ALL three and then some at the United States Botanical Gardens.

The visit began with a stroll through the adjacent dormant seasonal gardens. A wilderness area, an Arabic patio with fountain, a mosaic rose garden, all awaiting Spring.

Inside you experience many unique eco-realms. A few are found in large spaces, others in alcoves and nooks. Here are some of the images that I discovered in the some of those places.


Flanked with twin rectangular pools with fountains orchids and amaryllis are featured among the other trees and plants.

Cymbidium are my favorite kind of orchids.


Features dozens of varieties of orchids year round in a natural setting among other tropical foliage.

This is the bluest orchid that I've ever seen.


The jungle is the largest area of the gardens in square footage and height--the center-piece of the complex. It is divided down the middle with a water feature that goes from overflowing balcony pool to jungle stream. Everywhere you look there are palms, ferns and philodendrons, bromeliads, etc. It is lush. The good kind of lush!


One of my most favorite places to explore. The catwalk rims the upper edges of the large "green house" and it affords you both a monkey's eye view of the jungle below, as well as, dozens of amazing plant finds. Plants that thrive up high and in the most peculiar places. In the actual tropics these would be tree trunks and rock outcrops, but in a giant green house, it's on the metal skeleton of the building.


An dry counter point to the humid jungle, the space features plants indigenous to the world's semi-arid ecosystems. Cacti and succulents make up the majority of the plants, but they are far from common and offer a variety of interesting forms and images.


At the entrance to the Primordial Forest is a singular display of bromeliads under a spanish moss laden tree.


Filled with plants that are related to the oldest flora on the planet, the Primordial Forest is a fern laden paradise.

You might even find a dinosaur egg, if you're very observant!

President's Day: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

After spend about an hour in the U. S. Botanical Gardens, I strolled over to the U. S. Grant Memorial. It's made up of a collection of 7 statues, with an equestrian featuring Grant in the middle on the highest pedestal. At the four corners of Grant are 4 male lions, and on his right and left two unique collections of Union soldiers depicted with horses on the move. There are no words with this memorial, and I couldn't even find Grant's name, which probably explains why it is one of the most neglected memorials in D.C. Yet, perched at the foot of the capitol building in the bowl of the arc of the reflecting pool, it is also one of the most prominently located.

As presidential memorials go, this one is as much, if not more, a memorial to Grant the general. And there's probably a good reason for that. As history has shown, he was by far a more effective and inspiring military strategist than he was a political leader. Looking out from atop his mount you do not get the sense of a man triumphant, but more, a man sobered by the cost of war's victory--another irony given Grant's reputation for self-medicating.

Something else most people probably wouldn't take the time to consider is the beauty of the actual marble the faces the pedestals. It's tainted by the effects of the copper oxidation of the statutes, but that just creates amazing new patterns in the igneous rock.

On the right side you have an image of the caisson pulled by a team of four horses with a cannon attached. One of the soldiers driving the team has leapt upon the back of the one of the animals while another solder on horseback joins in his attempt to restrain the horses as they lurch through the muddy terrain.

Three solders sit atop the caisson and each bears an expression rife with exhaustion and a numb determination. These are men about a task that must be done, but a task for which there is no joy.

To the left are seven soldiers in full charge as they enter a battle. There are drawn swords, a bugler sounding the charge and the American flag proclaiming their loyalty to the Union. And there is a curious feature, too. A figure fallen with his horse and plunged forward, suddenly and completely at the mercy of fate as the raging hooves of his comrade's steads prepare to trample across him.

From this angle, it would even appear that his fellow soldiers are oblivious to his peril, his cape thrust forward like some sort of shield.

As the bugler announces their arrival, the stars and stripes can be seen on the plain of the flag. It's a rich and dynamic work of art.

As I was preparing to leave, I caught site of these to men standing side-by-side at the base of the main statue and looking out across the national Mall. The younger man's arm was affectionately draped across the older man's shoulder. When they turned to leave they appeared to be a young man with his perhaps his grandfather. The older man spoke in a tone of voice that sounded like a person telling a story about something from their past. I did not recognize the language that they shared--and I'm pretty good with other languages. It wasn't Russian or Slavic, nor was it Arabic or Persian. It could have been Turkish, or Hungarian, possibly Finnish, though neither man possessed a Scandinavian complexion.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lego City In Context

A friend recently asked me, based on these photos, how large my Lego creation was. She implied that it must be huge. In fact, it's mostly squeezed onto a 4' x 8' piece of plywood made into a "table" in my basement. Here is the lay-out and the place where each of the following pictures was taken. Enjoy!

A) From the Opera House down the main street.

B) A close-up of the corner where the Fire Station is located.

C) Another view of the Opera House and it's front facade.

D) The buildings that are across the street from it.

E) The view up the middle street past the brown stones to a mansion that was inspired by the 19th century Polish Consulate in NYC.

F) Over the top of the Fire Fighter's Museum to the Spanish Embassy.

G) a San Francisco-like apartment building with a computer store on the ground floor.

H) Art Deco inspired art gallery with a luxury apartment on the 3rd and 4th floors.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Midday felt the need to feed my comfort zone and so purchased the ingredients for Tuna Noodle Casserole.

Yet, nothing is as simple as it once was, so I've adulterated the original recipe with low fat low sodium pre-processed components. To this I used a smaller noodle for less overt carbohydrates, and tossed in two bunches of scallions chopped into discs, and one package each of button, baby portobello, and oyster mushrooms--More mushrooms than tuna in the end. I can only assume it's healthier. And it really does taste so good!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What I'm Reading #34

As a kid, I always felt like I struggled with math in school. I one time imagined myself as an architect. But the idea of the math completely dashed that dream along with nice, average math teachers in middle school who were so lost in the pointlessness of their own lives that they could never have inspired mine. The killer was the one and only demi-god of all things mathematical (Mr. MacMillan) who in high school quickly convinced me that I was not only a mathematical imbecile, but that the only way to even measure as a bleep on his radar was to be as much of a total bastard as he was.

As a teacher, he's my anti-Christ!

As an adult, I LOVE all things mathematical. The ideas are like puzzles that both challenge and bring meaning to me. I am often complimented for my mathematical logic. And I am comfortable with this mantle--even proud of it. So imagine my surprise when a little book of geometrically designed monsters comes along and makes me feel like I'm back in 9th grade Algebra 2 with Herr MacMillan!?

This book is a delightful demon of mathematical dimensions. Unlike the kid who was so easily convinced of his inability to learn by a teacher who's own ego convinced him that it was his job to arbitrate the futures of his students rather than inspire them, I look forward to spending time discovering what magic expresses forth from these monsters.

Latest Lego Creation, Opera House Finale!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Latest Lego Creation, part 4

And the second floor facade goes up!

Entrance side a cross between the Palace of Versailles and an Egyptian Temple!

Arabic motif continues on the other street exposure side. Can you tell that I'm loving this!?