Sandy and I are sitting at gate 42A of Terminal 4 at LAX waiting for flight AA144. We've got about a half hour before they start boarding.
We're heading to College Park Maryland to witness our daughter, Katie, graduate from the University of Maryland with a BA in linguistics. We get to Dulles just before midnight, pick up a rental car and then work our way to, around and through Washington DC to find our hotel in College Park. Tomorrow is open, Friday afternoon is the ceremony, Saturday is open, much of Sunday is open as we fly back out in the evening.
After sleeping as late as we could and still get the continental breakfast in the hotel (Howard Johnson Express), we drove to Katie's house to pick her and her boyfriend, Dustin, up to go to the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade Maryland.
The museum is small but packed with displays. It is located near Fort Meade. Anybody can visit the museum and admission is free. It is not too far up 295 (at highway 32) from the beltway and is well worth a visit.
This is a working Wehrmacht Enigma crypto machine. The Germans never did realize that the Poles, then the British had managed to crack their machine. The decoded messaged from the Enigma were a key part in the Allied victory in WWII. This machine is on display to show how it worked. One could code plaintext to cyphertext on the machine and then decoded the cyphertext back into plaintext.
This is a Korean war vintage American encryption machine, the M209. This one saw heavy use for many years and may not have ever been cracked during it's useful life.
After the visit to the museum, we drove back to College Park and got lunch. Sandy was pretty sleepy so we went back to the hotel for a nap. All of us got back together at Katie's house (The Grand Palace of Funk) and then went to Outback for dinner. At this point, Sandy and I were done for the day so we went back out our hotel and crashed.
Today was the BIG DAY. After picking up Katie, Dustin, Richard and Cara at the Palace, we drove up to UM for Katie's department graduation ceremony. We had a minor panic when Katie couldn't find her tassel so Dustin and I went back to the Palace to look for it. It was on the walkway outside the house.
There was a small graduating class from the Linguistics department, one PhD graduate and about a dozen undergrads. Katie hasn't yet decided if she will go to grad school or not. Her department recommends that she does. Her decision may depend on if she can find a good job or not.
After the ceremony, we loaded up and drove to a nearby Metro stop and rode the subway into Washington DC. We walked to the International Spy Museum and spent several hours going through the very interesting and well presented private museum. I don't have any photos as photography was not allowed inside.
After a pizza lunch (at about 16:00) we walked down to the National Mall and walked through only a part of the Natural History Museum. It was almost 19:00 by the time that we left. The place is huge and there was no way we could see it all in less than a full day, or maybe even two. We made our way back to our hotel and crashed again.
Today we found ourselves back on the National Mall. We got off the Metro at the National Archives station and walked to the Washington Monument. However, all the tickets for today had been issued so we couldn't go up inside.
We then walked back to the National Archives to view the nation's founding documents on display there. These were the real deal, the originals of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Most of what makes our country what it is is written longhand on seven large sheets of paper.
Then it was up to a nearby Subway for lunch, then back on the train to the other side of the mall to a station near the Air and Space Museum. We had planned to catch a shuttle to the Dulles annex where the larger displays are, but it was really too late in the day for that. So we toured the Air and Space Museum until I got tired and then we made our way back to College Park and the hotel. I think that I was coming down with some bug but I managed to fight it off without getting really sick, but I was still very tired.
Today is a travel day, but our flight doesn't leave until 18:00. So we had all morning and most of the afternoon to burn. We slept in and checked out at 11:00 and then headed for the Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles. This is where the museum has all their really large stuff. One of the large items is the original Enola Gay B-29 Stratofortress. This is the exact airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. There is also an SR-71, the Space Shuttle Enterprise (an engineering model) and a Concorde, all stored indoors, among hundreds of other air and space artifacts.
Among the space related artifacts is this model of the Mars Pathfinder mission. I have a special interest as I built the guts of the return link transmitter that returned all the mission data. This mission was the predecessor to the Mars rovers that are currently exploring Mars.
I am currently sitting in the D concourse at Dulles waiting for our flight which is still two hours away.
The flight was uneventful but it was "food for purchase." Fortunately, we had some food with us or we'd either have to starve or pay $10 for a really small sandwich. We got in at about 21:00. I dropped my stuff, took a shower and went straight to bed.
All the planned trips for this year are completed. We plan to stay home for awhile.
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© 2008 George Schreyer
Created May 21, 2008
Last Updated May 26, 2008