Follow by Email

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Au Natural

Today turned out to be a good day to stay indoors. And inside we stayed from the late morning to late in the afternoon at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. According to Wikipedia, it's the world's most-visited natural history museum, which comes as no surprise, considering the impressiveness of the collection combined with the lack of an entry fee. My daughter wasn't disappointed - the first section we went to was the one about dinosaurs, a subject she's been very interested in for quite some time now (and in which I hope she doesn't lose any of that enthusiasm). This area was dominated by skeletal assemblies of such luminaries as a triceratops, a diplodocus and a T-Rex (and if you don't know any of them, just ask an elementary-school student):

The ancient mammals on display were no slouches, either, with remains of mastodons and giant sloths on hand:

Much effort went into disproving the stereotypical assumptions of Neanderthals. This diorama, for example, showed that these early humans engaged in burial rituals:

The African Voices exhibit had an airplane coffin from Ghana, shaped as a KLM jet. My wife was surprised to learn that the Chinese aren't the only ones who like to send their deceased loved ones off to the netherworld in style:

The Kid's Discovery Center allowed the younger ones to get their hands on a lot of cool stuff, such as conch shells and sea stars. There were also microscopes and magnifying glasses on hand to check out things such as these bits of animal bones:

Another interesting section on the first floor was the Sant Ocean Hall, dominated by a large whale model hanging from the ceiling:

Temporarily back on the dinosaur train (a not-so-subtle PBS Kids reference), we watched an IMAX film called Flying Monsters in 3D, narrated by David Attenborough and covering the evolution of the pterosaurs:

On the second floor looking down. The area under the rotunda is dominated by a large African elephant:

The highlight of the uppermost level is undoubtedly the Hope Diamond. Arguably the most famous gem in the world, and supposedly the most cursed one, its history has followed a tortuous course over several centuries from India to its present home in the Smithsonian:

Among the other things we checked out on the second floor were mummies (dead, of course) and insects, many of which were very much alive, including these grasshoppers:

The last stop on our tour of the Museum of Natural History was the gift shop. My daughter made off with a DVD about insects, as well as a long rubber snake, nice complements to the Dora the Explorer and Hello Kitty ハローキティ goodies Amber has at home. Shopping also served to kill time while a storm passed through the District. At around 4 p.m., while I was upstairs checking out a rather disappointing "Korea Gallery", I looked out the windows to see a scene reminiscent of a typhoon (or hurricane, in these parts) blowing by. According to CNN:

Heavy thunderstorms...whipped through the Washington, D.C., area on Saturday, leaving nearly 1,000 households without power. Twelve people at the Prince George's County Fair were injured as they tried to evacuate Show Place Arena, about 20 miles east of Washington, due to pending severe weather, the National Weather Service said on its official Twitter feed.

Someone posted on one of my Google groups that a tornado had set down in Fairfax (not far from Falls Church) and was headed toward Ballston (between our city and Washington). While our apartment complex was fine, the power was out just a couple of blocks away, and it took a bit of driving before we were able to find a restaurant that was open for business. The lucky receiver of our disposable income turned out to be a supposed Cajun-style grill, where the Fried Gator Balls that I had didn't taste all that different from the Fried Soft Shell Crab my wife ordered for dinner. A somewhat disappointing end to an otherwise entertaining day:


  1. That looks like an interesting trip! Too bad about the food, though. Sharon and I, on the other hand, went to Tai-an, in the mountains of Miaoli County. I tried aboriginal mountain boar (served with spices - including a lot of what I think was cumin - along with yellow and red peppers) on long barbecue sticks. Really tasty. I'd say it's one of, if not the best food I've had in Taiwan. I will definitely eat some again, given the chance.

    1. I had wild boar in the mountains of Japan one time, and found it to be on the gamey side. Spices probably would've helped a lot.

      The restaurant we ended up at tonight was really just a glorified sports bar with a "Cajun"-themed menu (and name - Cajun Tail). The Gator Balls I had were genuine alligator meat, but they ended up tasting much like the popcorn fried chicken you can get at KFC in Taiwan. Whatever distinctive flavor alligator meat has was probably deep-fried right out of it!