Jun 27, 2011

Random Pics from Washington, DC

At the risk of giving you the digital equivalent of a "here's my vacation photos" episode, I wanted to share some of the more interesting or poignant photos from our trip to DC.  Most of these were not posted to my Facebook albums, so hopefully they will be new to you.  I'll try not to bore you. Be forewarned, though, this blog post contains a BUNCH of photos.  They are mostly in chronological order, though the Blogger uploader moved some around. Oh, well.

I actually didn't like this one at first because the focus was off.  But, the more I looked at it, I thought about what a statement it makes.  The iron bars keeping people at a distance from their leader's temporary place of residence:

When we turned around, this little fellow was frolicking in the nearby grass.  You can bet *he* gets to play on the White House lawn:

I snapped this one, not intending to get the officer coming out of the car, but she looks like she is staring straight at me as she gets out, keenly aware of my photographic "eye:"

Crossing signals seem to more prevalent than the monuments in this town:

Here, I tried to duplicate the shot I made of the St. Louis Arch, fitting the sun perfectly above the monument.  I came close:

The American and POW flags flying at the WWII Memorial.  The wind picked up just enough at just the right time:

I love this shot of the golden (brass?) stars reflecting in the water:

The Washington Monument stands tall, overlooking the WWII Memorial.  The flags flanking each side make for a very cooly symmetrical (well, almost) photo:

We paused here for a moment after walking all the way around the WWII Memorial to find Arkansas:

Like soldiers keeping guard:

Emily reads some of the names on the Vietnam Memorial.  Her reflection did not come out as well as I had hoped, but it still makes for a very solemn moment:

Walking along, I caught a glimpse of the Washington Monument between some trees:

One of my favorite shots of the White House.  We are far enough away to take in the full majesty of our President's living quarters:

Despite all the protest signs to the contrary, Road Work and Construction were everywhere!

In the Museum of American History, Tyler finds a long lost friend:

Emily couldn't wait to have her picture taken under the huge "PEACE" sign:

The kids pose for a cool candid shot. The man on the right is painted to look as though he is exiting the bus station:

I remember seeing these as a kid along the Penna Turnpike as we traveled to Cleveland to visit my grandparents:

Here, a character actress answers questions about the making of "Old Glory:"

Emily LOVED the "First Ladies" exhibits. Here, she is checking out shoes and handbags:

I love taking photos of architecture.  I have others, too, but somehow missed them while looking for pics to post. I'll do a separate post for that topic.

The visit to Arlington was somber and sobering.  Each white stone rests at the head of someone who served our country:

Some of the markers still have flags gently blowing in the afternoon breeze:

After the changing of the guard, we watched two families place wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  This is a very moving experience - standing alone among a throng of people:

I saw this and thought of my pastor, who serves by riding with police officers during his Chaplain duties:

I saw these seashells placed carefully and evenly on top of this marker.  I could not ignore them.  I don't know the meaning, but it is quite evident that they are significant in the hearts of this person's family:

At the Air and Space Museum, opportunities for great shots abound:

I actually saw one of the R2D2 mailboxes on the street (er, sidewalk) once.  It's a Star Wars fan's "geeked-out" moments for sure:

The life-sized model of the Space Shuttle Enterprise captures the wide-eyed spirit of American ingenuity and adventure:

This is now one of my all-time favorite photos:

In the mock control tower at the Air and Space Museum, the Museum itself expands into the horizon like a huge airplane hangar:

This is from Arlington.  It is the marker at the end of a row of markers. At the right angle, it appears to stand solitary among the grass and trees.  In actuality, though, it is among many, many others:

This is a photo of the Metro crowd AFTER the Nationals-Cardinals game.  This doesn't even come close to showing the number of people crowded in the tunnel:

When I saw "Flippin' Pizza," I had to snap a photo!

The Tribe were here in spirit! (or something like that)

The Nationals opening sequences during the National Anthem are like none other:

Shan tries to hide... but she doesn't try TOO hard:

How do you visit the nation's capital and not feel patriotic?  Thank you, servicemen and women:

It was a dark and stormy night.... No, really, it was:

Jun 26, 2011

What's all this talk about school librarians?

Articles (and responses to them) about school libraries and the people that run them are popping up all over the place lately.  I suppose that is one of the side effects of summer break.  Several school districts have cut back or eliminated the Librarian from their payrolls over the past few years, and evidently many of those have come just this year (in preparation for next).

I will provide links to a couple articles below, but for now, I'm taking my turn.

In one article (a response piece), the reaction says "iPads don't speak and don't teach."  To me, that statement is akin to the beginning of the robotics age in the auto industry: Robots can't weld. Um, yeah, they can. That's why they took over the job.  Well, I have to disagree with at least part of the iPad statement above.  iPads (or any latest tech) for visually impaired students have features designed to do just that: speak.  The devices can read books, tell the student where he/she is on the screen, etc. And, these programs will only improve over time.  Anyone remember the early days of JAWS?  It tried so hard to be a good screen reader.  Well, now it is up to at least version 10 with amazing results.  Not to mention the iPad's built-in VoiceOver system and there are other apps available as well. Just start searching and you'll find them.

Now, I know that wasn't the point being made, yet it was.  As for teaching?  That depends.  What skills are librarians teaching that are not available on electronic devices?  I have no idea, that's why I'm asking.  Many of today's apps are, unfortunately, "Skill and Drill."  The apps "teach" by throwing a math problem on the screen or a sentence for diagramming.  That is useless other than for review.  If apps are to TEACH, then there must be more depth, more intuitive adaptation taking place.  That is, the app (or program or web site or whatever) must be able to adapt itself to the learning.  As a student reviews a certain skill set, the program must be able to adjust difficulties, question types, etc, in order to help that student move forward.  Some apps "claim" to be adaptive, but all they really do is ask the same types of questions over and over until the child appears to get the correct answers.  That is not teaching.  That does not help the child understand WHY he/she missed the questions or how to reason in order to achieve the correct result.

So, tying this back to librarians in schools.  I believe we need librarians who are tech savvy that can teach critical thinking skills.  The Library many of us grew up with is dying for sure - Dewey Decimal, Books on shelves, Card catalogs, etc.  Those placed in charge of the resources available in the days of our schooling must now be willing to adjust their methods and resources for today's systems.  Our students are growing up in a time where "data" is everywhere.  Data is just numbers, words, figures, pictures.  What they need is someone who can help them turn that data into INFORMATION.  Information is the application of data for a meaningful purpose.  We are said to live in an "information age," but I think that is a misnomer (as it seems many things are these days, but I digress. often.).  We are in an "age of overwhelming data."  There is good data and bad data and students must be taught how to interpret the data they are bombarded with everyday.  They must be taught how to evaluate a website for FACTS vs OPINIONS, how to judge whether a particular Tweet or Facebook post is truth or fiction.  They must be taught how to recognize satire versus journalistic reporting. They must be taught how to determine whether a source is a "good" one and just what that means.  Google, Wikipedia, and other online sources *can* be great and useful.  But, they are only useful if the user knows and understands how to use them - and how NOT to use them.

I believe that in many schools, this could readily fall to the librarian on hand.  Why are librarians (which is actually not what most of them are even called anymore - they are generally "Media Specialists" now, and I will refer to them as such from here out) stuck inside the walls of the media center anyway!?  Media Specialists should be in the classrooms, helping teachers with the same types of skills mentioned above.  Our local district has "blocks" of time set aside for elementary students to go to art, to computer lab, to music, to the media center.  Are Media Specialists required to have lesson plans?  Do they have an agenda, a syllabus, etc?  If not, then they should - if they want to keep their jobs.

I have recently been put in the position of defending my job and I am a TECH person.  My job is vital to the main location where I work, but also to the schools which I serve.  I have to justify why I feel that way, and be able to explain it to others who do NOT feel the same.  Media Specialists must be willing and able to do that, too.  And, like my own position, I believe they can easily do so.  But, in order for their arguments to be effective, they must show their ability and willingness to adapt, adjust, and offer training to students in this ever-changing environment.  Districts are starting to hire (or have hired) Technology Integration Specialists.  Who better to serve in that position than the people already in charge of teaching responsible information gathering and interpretation?

The people with the money and power have to see a reason to keep any program alive - sports, arts, math, science.  Give them a reason and they will find the money. It happens all the time and we all know it (I did mention sports, right?).

External links:
NY Times "School Eliminating Librarians As Budgets Shrink"
"Invisible Professionals - Replacing Librarians with iPads?"
JAWS - Screen Reading Software

Jun 25, 2011

Chevy Nova in the land of myth and funny

Anyone who has ever taken a marketing class has most likely been told the tale of woe suffered by Chevrolet in the 70's because of their "Nova" small car.  I distinctly remember the professor in my econ class cautioning us that we must be diligent in our research before coming up with global product names.

Why the hubbub? Well, the story goes that in Spanish-speaking countries, the car wouldn't sell because it was called the "Nova" (translated literally to "No Go" or "Doesn't Go.").  Even I very recently relayed the tale to my son.  Of course, afterward, I decided to check the story out for myself.  Lo! and Behold! the whole thing is a myth.

I think Snopes.com has one of the best explanations: It would be akin to someone opening a restaurant called "Notable" and English-speaking people not eating there be they had "No Table" upon which to eat.  (For the record, I think if someone DID name a table-less eatery "NoTable," that would be a wonderful play on words!)

"Nova" happens to also be (or have been) the name of a gasoline company in Mexico.

This is one of the reasons I love the Information Age.  Prior to having a worldwide brain-dump, we were simply expected to believe our professors BECAUSE they were professors.  THEY were supposed to be the experts.  In the past two days, I have taken part in discussions which resulted extensive research to get more information behind the topic being discussed.  Of course, I was generally not one to take things at face value in college, but for some reason, the story of the Nova rang true to me and stuck with me ever since.

Some people say Google is making us dumber.  I disagree.  I think we need to be teaching critical thinking skills in school.  We need to teach our children how to find relevant information and to QUESTION EVERYTHING.  What are the sources of the information?  Where did THEY get their information?  What is being said in support of it?  What is being said to refute it?  What conclusions can they draw on their own, based on what they found?  They need to be taught how to ask questions - to not be afraid to ask questions.  They need to be allowed to make mistakes, to be wrong, and to admit when they were wrong and WHY (that is, what made them wrong and how did they come to the conclusion that they were incorrect). 

So, here I am, saying, "I was wrong about the whole 'Nova' thing.  I had bad info and took it at its word. I've since been corrected, and now you have too."

(info: http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp)

Jun 24, 2011

Heh-heh, What a mess!

Since we got back from vacation right before Father's Day, my kids did not have time to get anything for me.  I actually wasn't expecting anything because we had a GREAT time on vacation and that alone was a wonderful Father's Day experience.  But, on Father's Day, they surprised me with a "coupon" good for one copy of Duke Nukem Forever! Wahoo!!  Well, today, after I got home from working on my day off, their gift was waiting for me!

I read a review in PCGamer and I am a little worried about the content. I know the game says "M" on the case, but I have a feeling it may be a bit more "Mature" than the original Duke 3d and the side-scrollers before it.  I'll install it after everyone goes to bed and see how it goes.  One of the things I liked about Duke 3d was the way they handled the maturity levels.  Things were in bad taste (after all, it *IS* Duke Nukem), but at least it wasn't "no-holds barred."  My understanding is that is much more "in your face" than previous incarnations.  I'll give a review later.

In the meantime, Duke is calling out, "Come Get Some!"

The Nation's Capital (2011 Vacation - Thursday)

I am finally getting around to posting our last day of vacation in Washington, DC.  I'm sure it is a subconscious thing - vacation was over this time last week, but posting about it puts the final nail in it.  We had such a  good time on our vacation, a part of me was holding on to it.  The time has come to let it go and move forward.

On Thursday, we headed out to the Museum of Crime and Punishment (with interactive CSI exhibit).  This is one of the few pay-to-play museums in the city, and I have to say that it was completely worth it!  The museum walks the visitors through a history of crime and punishment from the dark ages through modern-day with interactives that let people get in the shackles or the stockade.  You can even hang out in a jail cell and "escape" through a hole in the cell.  That was fun!  They also walk you through the old west to the crazy 20's to the mob to recent crimes.

 I enjoyed the "lineup" where they have a couple of open spots for you stand in.  They also have a police car simulator.  I'm not sure where I was supposed to be going, but I did okay until I swerved out of the path of a taxi who then steered directly into my car.  Had I been a real officer, I would have arrested that guy for being a bone head.

I particularly enjoyed the displays regarding John Dillinger, Ma Barker, and the like.  One of my favorite short stories is "The Death of Jack Hamilton" by Stephen King about Dillinger, Van Meter, etc. It was cool to see some of their items up close and personal.

They also have movie memorabilia from various crime movies. This included the car used in "Bonnie and Clyde"

The CSI Exhibit was VERY cool!  You watch a quick video, then investigate a crime scene.  From there, you walk through the process, including a body on a table that a voice-over helps you examine.  It is immersive interactivity at its best.

After the museum, we asked about ice cream shops nearby.  There are "MSA" folks everywhere, and these people are supposed to be able to help you find things around town (or so they said).  The only "ice cream" shops they could point us toward were actually frozen yogurt places.  That's well and good if we wanted smoothies (or frozen yogurt at all for that matter).  Well, I pulled up MAPS on one of our phones and searched for ice cream.  The same yogurt places showed up, but also a Haagen-Daz shop! Off we went!

Rain started falling as we made it to the shop and it kept on falling.  We were afraid the Nationals game was going to be rained out, but we still had a couple hours to kill before that.  The ice cream shop was inside a shopping plaza with a movie theater.  Based on the time of day, the only movie we could watch was "Kung Fu Panda 2" so we decided to catch a flick before the game.

After the movie, we dodged the rain as best we could back to the Metro and headed for the Nationals Stadium.  Much like our experience in DC, all you have to do is follow the throng of people headed in the same general direction on game day.

We were packed in there pretty well, but at one stop, someone wouldn't quit leaning on the door.  The doors would open ("Doors Opening") and then close again ("Doors Closing").  This repeated at least half a dozen times before the PA system came on. "Ladies and gentlemen, please do not lean on the doors."  A few more times, the doors opened (with the now familiar friendly female voice saying, "Doors Opening" and then "Doors Closing") and closed again.  Everyone on board groaned each time.  The PA system came on, "Ladies and gentlemen. If you do not step away from the doors, I will make everyone get off this train!"  Again, doors opened then closed.  People were getting angry, but no one could tell just who or what was causing the problem.  The PA came back on, "This train is now out of service.  Everyone exit now!"  The doors opened and everyone got out onto the platform.  Once the cars were emptied, the train took off and we had to wait for the next one.  Nice.

 We entered the stadium at center field, but our seats were all the way around the other side in the home plate reserved section.  These were AWESOME seats - not just because of the view, but these were soft, padded, roomy seats!  I can't believe we got these great seats at a great deal on Stubhub!  Sweet!

 Emily and Tyler cheered on the Cardinals (as did a whole lot of other folks there!).  I rooted for both teams, generally, but really pulled for the Nationals.  They were the home team, after all.  Plus, with all of us there to watch, we are putting our ball game karma to the test.  The Nationals should end up in the World Series based on our previous track record.  If they do, we will have pretty solid proof of our karma and I am hoping we'll have offers next summer from teams to have us come give them an extra dose of luck. Okay, maybe that's a stretch.

 We ended up next to a couple of guys that kept talking about Little Rock and Arkansas. Not in a bad way, just as part of their general conversation.  After a few innings of this, I spoke up. "I don't mean to listen in, but I hear you talking about Arkansas and Little Rock a lot. Are you from there," I ask the guy next to me.  "No," he says, "but he is." He points his thumb toward the guy next to him.  Turns out that guy is from Blytheville (a good ways off from Prescott).  I tell him we are in DC from Prescott near Hope.  He says, "I know where that is. Back in 1996, I played football and we had to travel all the way to Prescott for a game.  We got our butts handed to us by the Curley Wolves."  At that point, we get into a discussion about the history of the name "Curley Wolves" and talk about our trip, etc.  It was amazing just how many Arkansas-connected folks we ran into during our vacation! It was very cool.

At one point, there was a heavy (but thankfully brief) rainfall that cleared much of the stands.  In any case, the game was great!  We ended up in extra innings and the game was won off a sweet home run with runners on base.

After the game, we rode the Metro back to the hotel. Well, almost.  ONE STOP before we get to our stop, the PA announcer comes on, "This training is being taken out of service immediately. Please exit the train."  Okay, really!?  Not only we were the next stop, but there is only one stop after that for the entire run!  What take the train out?  The air conditioner went out.  Really!? I think we can survive a train ride without air conditioning! Oh well, we'll have a couple more stories to tell from our adventures!

Jun 20, 2011

Why most of these 9 things WON'T disappear in our lifetime...

There is an article making its way around the interwebs from Xenohistorian entitled, "9 Things that Will Disappear In Our Lifetime (see link below)."  While I appreciate the author's attempt to explain some of the chosen items, I disagree with some and here's why:

1) The Post Office.  Yes, paying bills online has put a serious damper on Ye Olde Pony Express.  But, I want to see how people will send small gifts to each other.  Or heck, even medium to larger-sized gifts.  While UPS and Fed Ex are out there, the fact is that it is still cheaper to send small packages via USPS.  Will the Post Office need to CHANGE in our lifetime? Absolutely.  The entire system needs an overhaul - eliminate Saturday deliveries, cut back on staff in certain offices, and streamline many of their internal systems.  Will it disappear, though? I don't see it happening.

2) The Check. This one I actually can agree. I hate checks. With gift cards and online bill paying, I see the end of the check coming someday.  Of course, I also thought pennies would be gone by now, too.  Guess we'll see about checks.

3) Newspapers. The print form of newspapers on a national level (the "big guys" like New York Times, etc) is already shifting to mobile media formats.  Small town, local and regional papers, though, are not going anywhere anytime soon.  Even younger readers can be found holding local papers.  In my town, there is an online competitor to the print paper, but if the paper can offer more in-depth coverage on recent stories (or on stories developed over time), print media can still be a viable delivery method for the future.  The article assumes that everyone has broadband internet and that we all have gobs of bandwidth to spare for content. Sorry, but just look at many of your mid-American rural communities.  You will find that many folks still fight with dial-up or awful, expensive satellite access.  Even in places where DSL is available, folks are limited to a max of 1.5 Mbps.  Those speeds are great for a single person watching YouTube, but stick more than that on the line, and you might as well be using dial-up.  Small town, local print papers aren't going away in our lifetime.  As for paying - I also disagree.  With the newer and more innovative advertising mechanisms being developed, customers won't have to pay to read.  Besides, why pay for it when someone else will post the information for free anyway.  Surely, newspaper publishers see this.  If not, then here is their wake-up call.

4) The Book.  BBZZTT.  The book isn't going anywhere in OUR lifetime.  I do foresee a time when printed books will become fewer and fewer in number during our lifetime, but there are still way too many people that prefer holding the physical book and pages over holding some electronic device to read.  One thing the article overlooks - some people simply can't stare at computer screens all day.  I do see textbooks going the electronic way, but not until the country's infrastructure can handle all the digital content the new incarnations of textbooks promise.  Until then, expect printed books to remain (again, mainly in rural schools or other areas with limited to no bandwidth).  As for leisure reading, I know my own children prefer to hold books in their hands.  I see a time where vast volumes of books are no longer printed, but rather people will be able to choose to have a printed copy sent to them (see #1 above).   Print-On-Demand will not only include self-published authors, but also will be houses where anyone can request any book be printed for a fee.

5) The land line.  See any above comments regarding limited bandwidth in this country.  Add to those comments the fact that cell coverage is awful in more places than have limited bandwidth!  You can look at all the coverage maps you want from all the carriers you'd like.  They mean nothing.  Grab a phone and walk around.  Visit America from coast to coast.  I just spent a week in Washington DC and my coverage was spotty at best - 3G or otherwise.  I live in a rural community well-known for its lack of cellular coverage.  Unless the infrastructure changes in some very major ways, people will need landlines just to keep in touch with the world (whether through phones or dial-up or DSL).

6) Music.  I believe the article was trying to say the current MODEL for music distribution will disappear.  Music itself will never disappear.  I actually believe that the death of big music conglomerates will HELP music rather than kill it.  Without the music companies sucking the profits from artists, musicians will be freer to distribute their own music through the channels THEY choose: iTunes, their own web site, whatever social media outlets exist in the future, etc. 

Radio stations will be freer to play what they want, when they want. 40% of the music downloaded may be "catalog" right now, but I believe that's because people of a certain age have discovered an easy, relatively inexpensive way to grab the music they grew up listening to.  That will change over time.  Of course, some music from the past will ALWAYS be downloaded simply because of the nature of people and their tastes - Mozart, Chopin, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, etc. I believe the Internet has actually helped independent artists and will continue to do so.  Think about local bands that no one ever heard of until they went viral online.  How many other bands are out there trying to go viral?  Are the record labels going to "discover" them and turn them into superstars?  Very doubtful.  Music will not disappear in our lifetime.  As long as there are people to create it, generate it, and release it, there will be music (as well as fictional works, paintings, sculptures, etc).

7) Television.  Once again, review any and all references to bandwidth.  I believe there will significant changes in how television is delivered and how shows are created and viewed, but there will still be television.  The fact is, people like canned, well-produced, easily obtainable viewing.  Television provides that.  I believe we will finally see the day where we can "drop the needle" on programming and forgo the stupid "rewind/fast forward" methods we are forced into right now.   I do agree that people will get (should get) to choose the content THEY want to watch.  Like "music" above, I wonder if the author was shooting for the "corporate delivery of television" rather than television itself.

8) "Things" you own.  I agree that more and more content will be stored in "the cloud" and be available.  The issue bends itself back to bandwidth.  In many ways, I like the idea of having my content available to me anytime, anywhere.  On the other hand, I am relying on 100% uptime. Not 99.99% uptime, but 100% availability. I also need enough bandwidth that anything I access appears INSTANTLY as if it was located on my local machine.  I am old school - I like physical media.  I have a real issue with paying $50 for a game (or for anything) where all I get is the content without any packaging, manuals, etc.  Now, give me the same game/content for about $25 and I can swallow that.  In the past, companies blamed their pricing on branding, printing, etc. Well now, what's the excuse of overcharging?  I have grown to like my digital media except for one major issue: degradation.  If you have not experienced this yet, you will.  As you move the same music from device to device, and as the media the devices are stored on break down, you will notice little skips and pops and weird screeches coming from your player.  Now, having the content in the cloud might cure some of that since it would (theoretically) only be stored on one media type, but that remains to be seen.  Of course, as I said, we have bandwidth and connectivity issues to resolve LONG before the stuff we own becomes complete vaporware.

9) Privacy. I agree with this one as well.  In fact, I've been preaching the disappearance of privacy since the days of PeopleLink and CompuServe, FidoNet and CBBS.  I don't know why it shocks people so much that their privacy is at risk when many of those same folks are publishing their entire life story online - Facebook, blogging, Piknik, Google Docs, etc.  As the adage goes: put it online in any form and assume the world is reading it.  There is no privacy. Get over it or get offline. Even when we set our Facebook options to be as limited as possible, the things we post are out in the ether for the world to see and share, to discuss and debate.  There is no way around it other than to unplug. And, even that is no guarantee. Why? Because we use our plastic cards at some local restaurant who uses Heartland to process our payment then Heartland gets hacked.  Or, Heartland (just using as an example, I am not say they do this necessarily) takes your info from the card and sells what they are allowed to mass marketers.  Ads suddenly appear on web pages you visit.  Ads run along side your blog posts that match the content or your eating habits or your preferred toothpaste flavor.  There should never be an assumption or expectation of privacy online.  No matter what "the law" says.  There is no privacy, and in the future, there will be even less than no privacy - everything will be known.

The author of the article ends with: "All we will have that can't be changed are memories."  I have to disagree there, too.  We already have (and this is nothing new) people with fabricated memories and supposedly repressed memories, projected memories and "common" memories.  Memories can be changed.  We just have to hope we are strong enough NOT to change them.

Article: http://xenohistorian.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/9-things-that-will-disappear-in-our-lifetime/

Jun 19, 2011

The Nation's Capital (2011 Vacation - Wednesday)

We split Wednesday up into two separate site visits.  First, we headed out to Dulles to tour the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum near the airport.  I have to say, that is one incredible place! The airplanes cover the gamut of time from the very first flyers to modern-day jets.  Seeing planes like the Concorde and the Enola Gay up close and personal brings on feelings of awe that mere photos can never capture.  Likewise, the sheer number of aircraft and the absolute size of the place seems overwhelming upon first entry, but following along the catwalks and walkways provides an accessible route that breaks the trip up into segments.  The crafts are roughly divided by timelines and eras, though some planes and helicopters find themselves "out of place" simply because of how many there are.
One of the largest display areas covers space travel, including rockets, satellites and a life-sized model of the shuttle Enterprise.  The model was actually used by NASA for scaling, testing, etc.  It is the same make up as the real one, just without the space-safe materials needed for travel. Wow!  One of my favorites photos taken (by me) is this one:

While we were at the museum, we rode a couple of the simulators they have.  The first one took us on a 3D animated space flight around the space station.  The ride rocked and rolled, rose and fell, shaking us all over the place.  It was great!  The other one (only the kids and I rode it) put us on a space coaster, flying up and down and all around different space-themed attractions.  It was a lot more jostling than the first ride!

There's a McDonalds inside the museum, and we opted to eat there before venturing up to the observation tower.  The museum's tower is about half the height of the real Dulles tower, but gives the viewers a great shot of planes taking off and landing at the airport across the way.  On the level just below the deck, we could listen to actual air traffic controllers talking with planes that were coming in or taking off.

After the museum, we drove to Arlington National Cemetery.  In retrospect, we should have driven to the Metro station near the hotel and then taken the Metro to Arlington.  Of course, had I done that, I would have missed the Target where I stopped to buy swimming trunks since I had forgotten mine at the house before the trip!

We arrived at Arlington and immediately the tone is set as you begin to walk.  Remember, these are hallowed grounds.

The first thing that struck me is the sheer number of markers fill Arlington.  Sometimes we forget that Arlington is not just a historical place, but it also the final resting place for so many lives.  We had just seen the "E. Pluribus Enum" video the day before at the Captiol and though it means "Out of Many, One," I saw the markers in the light of, "Not just one, but many:"

As we walked through the cemetery, we carried a map that showed the different sections.  If we had been looking for a particular site, the information center would have told us exactly where where to look and then we would have followed the map to that spot.  We used the map (and directional posts) to find our way to JFK's burial site.

The story goes that JFK came to Arlington to visit the Arlington House (located above this site).  When he stood looking out toward the National Mall, he said, "The view is so beautiful. I want to spend eternity here."  And so, he does.

After visiting the JFK burial site, we walked to the Tomb of the Unknowns and arrived just in time for the changing of the guard.  I recorded it on my phone, but it is having a hard time uploading.  Once it is uploaded, I hope to post it here (er, a link to it anyway).  I may have to be reminded to do that, though.

As it turns out, there were also two families that requested to have wreaths placed at the Tomb.  The ceremony was incredibly moving.  Each family accompanied a soldier.  The soldier took the wreath to the front of the Tomb as the family watched from just behind him.  To the side, a bugler played taps.  After that, the wreath was placed on the steps on the other side of the Tomb.

This is a photo from below the Tomb. You can see the wreaths on the steps:

This is one of the photos I took in an attempt to convey the number of lives given in service, or buried here after having served our country in some way:

After we left Arlington, we stopped at a Target so I could buy swim trunks and then we hopped on over to our favorite nearby eating place: The Silver Diner!  Seriously good shakes there!