Garrett (garote) wrote,
Garrett
garote

Cross-Country Trip Day 10: Thu Aug 23

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Want to rent a bike? Here's a whole bushel of them set up near the metro entrance. Good idea!

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The Washington metro would impress me a lot more, I think, if I wasn't already familiar with Bart and its awesomeness.

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Yet another tourist in the nation's capitol!
Jetlagged? Who, me?

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It's the freakin' SMITHSONIAN, y'all! Museum of Natural History, my favorite!

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I love the little 3D dioramas they build here. This is a reconstruction of early sea life. The division between plant and animal had not been established yet, but many different body plans were already competing.

The genes that code for body layout were relatively new at this point, so other physiological systems had not been adapted to rely on them. Thus, a creature could mutate to grow more segments, a new proto-limb, et cetera, and still survive to adulthood. The seas saw some very strange critters.

Nowadays, offspring with mutations to body plan are easily outcompeted by established organisms, or (the much more likely scenario) are just unable to function at all. Their genomes are too "burdened" by millions of years of customizations and baggage.

(Why would this "baggage" of DNA accumulate? Because it's a competitive advantage! The environment is constantly shifting - growing warmer, colder, wetter, drier, more or less crowded, more or less dangerous, et cetera, as the generations pass. One never knows when an old behavior or trait that has been bred into the background might suddenly become very advantageous again, and a small mutation that "switches back on" some disabled piece of DNA is easier - statistically speaking - than creating that advantageous sequence all over again.)

But I digress..

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I have no idea why they called it this, but I am amused, because I like flounders!

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I took a picture of this thing with my analog camera, a dozen years ago; now here it is again. It's one of my favorite exhibits.

A very ancient, distant relative of today's scorpions, this weird creature hunted prey along the shores of early seas. Check out those prototypical compound eyes - the best any animal had produced, up to that point.

This particular reconstruction is actual size, based on fossils. Yes, the ugly bastards grew as long as alligators.

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This early tree spread by dropping spores onto riverbanks, which were then activated by river water and fellow spores.

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Crinoids are undersea proto-plants, and they are very strange.

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The leatherback turtle can grow as long as eight feet. That's a biiiiig turtle.

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This exhibit ... was AWESOME.

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A butterfly atrium, with carefully controlled light, temperature, and humidity!

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A Blue Clipper butterfly.

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A Paper Kite butterfly.

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A Leopard Lancewing butterfly.

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An Owl Butterfly. Hoo hooo!

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The gem and mineral rooms are my favorite section of the Natural History Museum.

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Posing next to the Arkansas quartz.

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Labradorite! Neat stuff.

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That's a big hunka rock!

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The Topaz exhibition. Rocks around the clock!

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I like how the specimens now come with explanatory plates that tell me about the chemistry.

I met Ken for lunch, which kicked ass, and he declared that he could pick me up from the airport when I flew back to DC on Saturday, and drive me to my sister's house. What a guy!

From lunch I took the metro back to the motel, then hopped in the car (which was already packed) and started driving for Boston. The evening commute engulfed me and chewed up many hours. To keep my spirits up I started listening to the first book in the "Time's Eye" series, which turned out to be a bizarre what-if scenario that felt more like fantasy than science fiction. I'm not really a fan of fantasy these days, unless it's tongue-in-cheek.

Nevertheless I listened for a while, and became engrossed. "Time's Eye" was well-paced and the characters had plenty of those quintessential Arthur C. Clarke long-winded internal monologues, ruminating on the meaning of events or speculating on the unknowns of their situation.

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Welcome to New Joiysey. Also passed through on this drive: Yonkers.
YONKERS, PEOPLE.

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That's a BIG soda cup. I just had to have one, for the full turnpike experience. I filled it with icewater, and later gave it away in Boston.
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