So we planned my wife’s spring recess for a trip in the D.C., for her to conduct some user interview & testing for thesis, and for getting to see some cherry blossoms (sakura). Indeed, this was also my first time to be in the capital so it’s also quite novel to me.

For sightseeing, the city indeed demonstrated its versatility and diversity — it was only all too bad that the temperature suddenly dropped, and mostly we only saw saucer magnolia blossoms, whose pink petals we often mistook for the real cherry blossoms. But still, the rain that accompanied the temperature drop ceased the day we arrived at the city, so we could take quite some time getting around.

This is probably the best cherry blossoms we saw:

And the one on the bottom-left corner is the saucer magnolia:

The congress folks were also at recess, so it’s probably the best chance people renovate the capitol.


« Monuments, Georgia Town & Walking-Arounds »

We spent most of our days walking around the National Mall and Tidal Basin, marveling at the non-blooming of the cherry trees (slight irony and sarcasm intended), and getting to see lots of monuments. It is however strange that I never found a perfect spot and angle to take “the” picture of Washington Monument. Still, here are some of the good ones:

In contrast, Jefferson’s and Lincoln’s can look much more glorious in pictures:

The thing is we spent significantly less time hopping between memorials than we did museums. I do wish I could visit each state’s henge in the WWII memorial, and stayed at the MLK’s a bit longer, though. For completeness, here are the shots:

I’d say these two memorials are structured more abstractly, hence the need to stay and study.

We also took half a day to Georgetown University, one of the oldest universities here in the States (more than a decade older than SDSU!) The buildings and architectures are, well, indeed, old-fashioned, but it so suited well at a hill overlooking the capital city. Indeed, I would imagine a more modern style university, like UCSD, to be out of context here.

Given the proximity of National Mall to KDCA airport, we could frequently see planes approaching. Too bad they were mostly small planes — KDCA has limitations on how far the planes may origin, and we weren’t lucky enough to see bigger planes from west coasts. Here’s a SWA A319, with landing gears deployed, for example:


« Museums »

Even though I said we spent more time in the museums, it’s not that we visited every museum. Not at all — I didn’t want to hop between museums, and as little time as we had, we could visit only a handful. First stop was Hirshhorn Museum, which hosted a variety of contemporary art pieces. As hard as contemporary art may be photographed without context, let me just get a photo of a sculpture here, which I found intriguing and thought-provoking:

Our next stop was the Air and Space museum (we only went to this National Mall one and didn’t go to the Udvar-Hazy Center at Virginia, where more complete airframes were displayed). Given an aviation fanboy as me, we stayed there for quite a long time and studied aviation exhibitions a lot (not the space exhibitions though, which I was less interested in).

Let’s begin with a head of a NWA B741. We could actually walk into the fuselage, and stand by the cockpit’s door. B741 still required a flight engineer and the flight engineering panel was… complex. It’s a wonder contemporary airliners can fly a much longer range with only a two-person cockpit crew (human fatigue not taken into account).

Probably as a contrast and a demonstration of modern aviation technology, an A320 cockpit was also featured, with simulated take-off & landing views, despite we’re at an American museum. But for sure, there were much more American airframes on display than those from the French airline.

The exhibition materials were, to be honest, a bit outdated, with Boeing 777-era airliners only mentioned in text, and little-to-no mentions at all for 787s and Airbus A350s. I heard that in June 2016 the museum was budgeted for new exhibition materials, so… I guess by the time they’re done with that, B777X would’ve already been in the sky.

The aviation exhibitions detailed the beginning of the new transportation means, and I found this quote still very applicable well into 21st century:

Still, staying in a contemporary airliner is probably more comfortable than the early ones:

Oh but I still use noise-cancellation earphones inside the cabin nowadays, though.

Another thing related to comfortableness that changed across the era is probably the seating space — gradually becoming uncomfortable. Let’s take PAA’s famous B314 clipper — which is actually a flying boat named correctly — for example:

Its fuselage was said to be 150 inches wide, with 3-1 abreast seating, and have a range a little short of 3700 miles. Put contemporary similarly-ranged airliners in comparison: Boeing 757s and 737NGs, with fuselage widths 140 inches and 148 inches, all feature 3-3 abreast seating in the economy (read: sardine-can) class.


We also spent an entire afternoon in the Postal Museum, situated by the Union Station and not the Mall. Detailed were the development, evolution (and revolutions) of U.S. postal service, even well before U.S. independence:

Who would have actually imagined that this kind of pneumatic tube delivery service actually existed:

Also hosted were many years of newspapers — here with ones of historical events shown:

Here I also cleared my long-standing questions on what the barcodes printed on the evelopes denoted:

…and the manual zipcode input machine was hard to learn to type speedily, but actually speedy when learned; also reminded me of Prof. William Root’s lecture about finite-state automata when he talked about similar constructs:

The PostSecret was also on display I actually think it’s not much of etiquette to show what I took picture of, so here’s the link to the museum’s blog regarding the exhibition.

The Postmaster’s Gallery was closed for revamp, so we took time in the stamps exhibition. Needless to say, it was impossible for us to go through all the stamps, but we did find several interesting ones. Besides the those of high historical importance and EFOs, here are the highlights:


That’s why ROC MY ASS.

There were also tons of stamps (not necessarily postal ones) that other countries issued in their concessions in China during late 19th century through early 20th.


With cherry blossoms nowhere to be seen, we turned to the Botanic Garden to marvel at the colors. And we actually found Japanese sakura in one of the housings:

Here are some of the super-expensive orchids I took pictures of:

Finally there’s the exterior of National Gallery, which we didn’t have time to pay a visit:

For me, the surprise of this visit came from the restaurants and cuisines we encountered: we tried American, Indian, Mexican and Thai, and they tasted better than their New York counterparts, really. Even the lounge-style restaurant of our hotel (it’s a Mariott) had fabulous steak and chips-and-spinach (we even ordered the latter twice). So let me end this post with food porn: