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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

And another one is in the books

Selfie op at the National Building Museum

A happiest of New Years to one and all! No resolutions this year, other than to pass my Amharic exam in the summer so that we can leave for Addis Ababa as scheduled at the end of July. Our departure for our third tour is no doubt the biggest thing on the agenda for 2019. On a more personal level, there's the wish for general health and well-being for all members of my family, as well as to my good friends and acquaintances. Speaking of health, I'm hoping this year will see a lot fewer visits to clinics and hospitals, following a 2018 that included an MRI, a CAT scan, an EEG, an EKG, a colonoscopy and more blood tests than I can (or care to) remember.

I'm supposed to go back to work tomorrow, but the government is still largely shut down and at this point I have no idea when the furlough will end and life can return to some semblance of normality. If you're wondering what one does during these trying times, read on...

Last Saturday my daughter and I went to the local farmers market, where we discovered a tasty Turkish treat called börek (in my defense I've never claimed, nor aspired, to be a foodie):



After our visit to the market, Amber and I were able to drag Shu-E out of the apartment to enjoy a sunny afternoon with a drive into the nearby Virginia countryside. Our destination was the small burg of Clifton, population of fewer than 300 souls, which I had driven through the weekend before while on my way to do some hiking. Clifton is one of those charming small towns that was dying a slow death before gentrification and weekend visitors gave it a new lease on life. We parked near the red caboose on the site of Devereux Station, a railroad siding on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad that supplied Union troops defending Washington, D.C. during the Civil War:


The main thing to do in Clifton is to walk up and down Main Street, looking at the old houses and reading the informative signboards in front. The 1900 Kincheloe House belonged to a local "huckster":


The 1902 Huckbill House was the residence of one Oscar Woody, who went down with the Titanic:


This church isn't much to look at, but as the sign explains is the oldest African-American house of worship in Fairfax County:



In case you were wondering where "Sleepless in Seattle" was written, you now know where to go to pay your respects:



More old residences:





We broke for lunch at the Main Street Pub. Being the designated driver, I had to make do with a bottle of root beer. From Virginia, of course:


This may look like a disgusting doughnut, but not to worry - it was the daily special, a beefsteak hamburger smothered in onions, mushrooms and gravy:


Passing through horse country on the way back to Falls Church:


My wife has a thing for illuminated displays. On Saturday evening we drove to Alexandria to check out the locally famous Collingwood Lights. This year's edition earned the homeowner a $50,000 prize:






We also stopped by another house to see its light show, but as Shu-E pointed out, the bar had already been set very high by the Collingwood Lights:



On Sunday, while my wife settled into her usual spot in the living room armchair, I dragged took my daughter into the District of Columbia to visit one of the sights not affected by the government shutdown, the National Building Museum. The exterior is impressive, starting out life in 1887 as the home of the Pension Bureau:



The frieze depicting Civil War soldiers extends around the entirety of the exterior:



But it's the massive interior, with its towering columns, that truly impresses:




The interior has been used to host inauguration balls, which explains the Presidential Seal set into the floor near the South entrance:


It doesn't cost anything to walk inside and admire the scene, but the museum hosts several small exhibitions that can be visited on one reasonable admission fee. The first exhibit we checked out was Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project. Prefabricated houses, like this 1934 "Motohome", were coming onto the housing market before the Second World War...:


...but it was the atomic bomb project that spurred the creation of new developments in places like Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington:


The cottage in Los Alamos, New Mexico where Robert Oppenheimer and his wife stayed during the war:


Oppenheimer's famous observation following the successful Trinity test:


The exhibit didn't shy away from what happened in Hiroshima 広島...:


...and Nagasaki 長崎:


The surface of this ceramic tile from the roof of a Buddhist temple in Hiroshima was blistered by the nearly 3300° Fahrenheit (1800° Celsius) temperature of the blast:


An example of the post-war fasciation with nuclear energy:


Another exhibit details the eviction crisis in the U.S. Every year 2.3 million mostly low-income people face being kicked out of their residences as rents rise in urban areas. "Our cities are becoming unaffordable for our poorest families, and the problem is leaving a deep and jagged scar on the next generation" (Matthew Desmond):



Flickering Treasures examines the forgotten movie theaters of Baltimore:



An ornamental lion's head fornice, circa 1915:


The view from the second floor:


Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs - memories from childhood:


Amber looks for inspiration without an app:


Making Room: Housing for a Changing America shows how the building industry is struggling to catch up with changing residential demographics. A nuclear family like mine now makes up a smaller percentage of the housing markets compared to single and childless couple households:


The Open House exhibit includes an example of a modern residence featuring moveable walls and multifunctional furniture. A typical Japanese urban apartment, in other words. The influence is clearly there, but not acknowledged:



The Pilot District Project focuses on Washington, D.C.'s efforts to tackle the underlying causes of the uprising/riot that broke out following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968:



While the weather was pleasant on the weekend, it was rainy all day on New Year's Eve. After seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the afternoon, my daughter and I walked to the downtown area in Falls Church after dinner to see what was going on. Watch Night was what was happening, but the lousy weather dampened the turnout:


This star was going to drop at the stroke of midnight, but we didn't feel like waiting around in the drizzle to see it. Instead, Amber watched the ball drop in Times Square from the comfort and dryness of our living room:


At one point, we walked away from the festivities to explore the churchyard of The Falls Church Episcopal. The church's origins date back to 1732, and is home to the oldest identifiable grave in the city. The churchyard will be explored in greater detail on a sunnier and dryer day:


Back on Broad Street, where the Sudden M Pac Band was belting out Seventies favorites to a small but enthusiastic crowd:


However, this kid had the best way to see out 2018, with his rendition of "Walk the Line", complete with slick dance moves:


And so 2019 is now upon us. Happy New Year, 明けましておめでとうございます, 新年快樂, С новым годом and መልካም አዲስ ዓመት to you all!

However, a reminder that the Year of the Pig doesn't begin until February 5...


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