Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poem for Tuesday and Mount Vernon Festivities

By Dana Levin

You put a bag around your head and walked into the river.

walked into the river with a bag around your head and you were
never dead

game on the banks of your
mental styx

for the double

of smoke—


You pressed a coin into his palm and stepped across the water.

stepped across the water with a hand on his arm and he was
silent and kind as you
               shoved off, toward the smoky coils

of the greek-seeming dead—
You’d been trying to sleep.

Found yourself here
in the mythocryptic land—

The river


had widened to a lake. You were anchored
in the shallow boat

by his faceless weight—
And on the green shore you could see their vapored

residue, how they could
smell it, those two―if you

slit your wrist you could make them speak.

If you


slit your wrist you might be able to sleep.

Handing you back

your coin.


Monday was quiet but less frustrating than Sunday night, when Comcast stressed out the northeast with DNS problems. Our internet came back on a few minutes before midnight, thankfully, though I was too tired by then to try to catch up on an evening's worth of e-mail about cyber sales, which is probably just as well since I really did no shopping...I bought a few beads from an online seller, but those were very inexpensive in the first place. As usual at the start of the week, I had lots of laundry to fold and was debating between watching The Life Before Her Eyes (for which I've been spoiled, so I knew it would be depressing) and Leap Year, and I made the mistake of asking myself, "How bad can a road movie set in Ireland with Amy Adams be?" and thinking it must at least be superficially enjoyable. Why is it that filmmakers believe they can perpetuate stereotypes about the Irish that would never be tolerated if they were about Jews, Haitians, et al? As much as I've liked Adams in a handful of movies, I've disliked her so much in others that she's no longer on my list of actresses I wish would be cast instead of Gwyneth Paltrow. Some of her film choices are simply terrible.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day. I keep discovering that hypoallergenic gold-tone earring wires break more easily than all others -- does anyone know why that is? Tomorrow I have to go out and buy some more, if the weekend crowds at Michael's and AC Moore haven't bought everything in the stores. It was chilly but nice out, so I took a long walk, since it's supposed to rain a lot on Tuesday and we already have a flood watch. In the evening, in honor of Leslie Nielsen who will be very much missed, we watched a bunch of Police Squad episodes, which were all hilarious ("He shot Twice twice?" "No, he shot Twice once.") Then we watched part of the 49ers-Cardinals game, but given the Redskins' pathetic performance on Sunday, I have given up on NFC for the season -- at least the Eagles lost too. (We haaaated last night's bird-killing Simpsons but since I couldn't post yesterday let's just block it out.) Here are some photos from Mount Vernon on Sunday, where holiday festivities are already underway, including a rare tour of the third floor and cupola which is too hot and close most of the year for the estate to allow visitors to visit:

Adam greeted Aladdin the Christmas camel, visiting for the third year to represent the camel George Washington brought in one year to impress his grandchildren. This camel is very friendly and slobbered on my hand as well as Adam's, though he also tried to suck on the foot of a little boy who had worn Crocs against his parents' advice, thus causing much screeching and parents unable to keep from snickering and saying, "If you'd worn shoes and socks, this would never have happened!"

This is Apple, the national Thanksgiving turkey "pardoned" by President Obama on November 24th. He and his brother Cider will live at Mount Vernon from now on.

The grounds at Mount Vernon have been set up for evening events at which firelight and warmth around the camel and turkey are evidently desirable.

Costumed staffers were making chocolate -- consumed as a drink in Washington's day -- in a tent near the camel's temporary enclosure.

The formal dining room inside the house (where no photos are permitted) and in the outside kitchen have been set up to reflect the winter holidays, with desserts like a miniature tree of crabapples, a cake shaped like a hedgehog, and whatever pastry is seen here.

Each year for the past few, former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier has constructed a miniature gingerbread Mount Vernon.

Here is a marzipan camel by the back porch of the mansion, resting on what appears to be a bed of coconut straw.

Mesnier was visiting the gift shop this weekend, autographing his books All the Presidents' Pastries and Dessert University.

Monday, November 29, 2010


My evening has sucked even more than the Redskins' because apparently Comcast picked tonight -- a few hours before Cyber Monday -- to upgrade their DNS servers, with the result that thousands of customers all over the East Coast have no working internet. I'm sending this via AOL dial-up, and I just need to mention that for all the dissing that AOL has taken from people I know, I have never had a problem dialing in when I've been desperate anywhere in the US, Canada, or England.

Had a lovely day at Mount Vernon with Dementordelta -- saw the Christmas camel Aladdin, the Thanksgiving turkey that President Obama pardoned, and the open third floor of the mansion which is closed 11 months of the year because there's so little space for tour groups (it's where Martha Washington lived after her husband's death). Proper report and photos tomorrow, Comcast willing. I'm glad the Ravens managed not to lose. Saw a tweet that suggested Leslie Nielsen had died -- really hope it's not true.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Poem for Sunday and National Geographic Geckos

A group of girls from Minnesota or black mascara
By Maureen Owen

Not trees trace so             just kids we hung
slim buckets    of chokecherries from our wrists

in neighboring galaxies    Giant Star Factories take control
composed of cold hydrogen gas and dust

7,000             light years from earth
slender-toed geckos                   step onto the moon

On the road between 2 baptisms and a shower they rang
to say       shallow water          the mouths drop open

not where you stand but how long you can
stand standing there
in constant hypothesis

the trees are passersby
damp light
flat orange moon
velvet navy-blue sky

fire berries
from here we see the beautifully attired drive tough Ford pickups

the oncoming
organizing principle
brushed out

the dancers take turns leaping over the bonfire       into
Qué pasa USA?

haircuts in London are really pretty backward
London—you are definitely not going to have a manicure there!
in LA toes must match the hands or else just don’t leave the house
in NY it’s more brunette

Outside       a refrigerator          floats       in the blackness shiny amid sharp stars

& the turtle who holds up the world          holds up
the world


We went downtown on Saturday to the National Geographic Museum, which has an exhibit called Geckos: Tails to Toepads (sponsored in part, unsurprisingly, by Geico). From the web site, we couldn't tell how many live geckos were in the exhibit, and I was only expecting a few, but there were dozens from all over the world, including some genetically engineered species. We had only put an hour's worth of quarters in our meter but ended up having to go back and add some more so we could see the Turpan frog-eyed geckos and and gold dust day geckos, then pay a quick visit to the Wild Music: Songs & Sounds of Life exhibit (with everything from natural musical instruments to whale songs) and the Simply Beautiful photography exhibit, plus a roomful of photos by presidential photographers covering Eisenhower through Obama. We had thought about going to the Phillips to see a photography exhibit there, too, but even younger son the photographer balked at going to an art museum at that point, so we headed home to take walks before it got dark.

A fan-fingered gecko at the National Geographic Museum shows off the appendages for which it is named.

Day geckos -- like these giant day geckos that were apparently Geico's model for their mascot -- have no eyelids, but dilate their pupils in the sun.

Yet this blanco leopard gecko -- a morphed albino species of leopard gecko -- apparently does have eyelids.

This is another genetically engineered species, a striped leopard gecko. I'm not sure whether the hybrids were created to try to produce healthier pets or just for variety, as with certain dog and cat breeds.

Madagascar's peacock day gecko is the most colorful of all the species on display at National Geographic...

...though the more widespread, nocturnal Tokay geckos get the most interesting decoration in their enclosure.

The crested geckos fold themselves over branches at amazing angles.

And a pair of skunk geckos hang out in their temporary home up near the warm lights.

I finally finished reading Sepulchre, which was a big disappointment; Kate Mosse wrapped up the past and present soppy romances just as expected, but after suggesting through the entire novel that the secret of the Languedoc really has to do with Visigoth treasure, and indeed that the discoveries that fueled Holy Blood, Holy Grail were fabricated just to distract people from it, she dropped that aspect of the storyline completely! I am, however, delighted to report that the Maryland Terrapins beat NC State, which should guarantee them a bowl game invitation. We didn't watch the entire game (and I was trying to look away so as not to jinx it, since my teams have played much better this season when I haven't seen them). After dinner we watched Merlin's "Queen of Hearts" and "The Sorcerer's Shadow," both of which I enjoyed very much -- I really like Arthur/Gwen, I love disguised!Merlin, and I must admit that I find selfish!Morgana so much more interesting than sweet Morgana and conflicted Morgana of the first couple of seasons. (Don't lecture me about how mean she is to Gwen; Uther is far, far worse than she is in every way that matters to every character I care about.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poem for Saturday and DC Downtown

Visiting Pai-an Pavilion
By Hsieh Ling-yun
Translated by Sam Hamill

Beside this dike, I shake off the world's dust,
enjoying walks alone near my brushwood house.

A small stream gurgles down a rocky gorge.
Mountains rise beyond the trees,

kingfisher blue, almost beyond description,
but reminding me of the fisherman's simple life.

From a grassy bank, I listen
as springtime fills my heart.

Finches call and answer in the oaks.
Deer cry out, then return to munching weeds.

I remember men who knew a hundred sorrows,
and the gratitude they felt for gifts.

Joy and sorrow pass, each by each,
failure at one moment, happy success the next.

But not for me. I have chosen freedom
from the world's cares. I chose simplicity.


Everyone in my family had the day off on Black Friday, so after a somewhat lazy morning around the house -- we did no shopping whatsoever, online or in stores -- we went downtown to see the exhibit on the quincentennial of Henry VIII's accession at the Folger Shakespeare Library and the miniature Washington landmarks built out of sustainable plant materials at the U.S. Botanic Garden. The Folger Library had books, prints, and a few handwritten documents from the early Tudor era, including a prayer book that Anne of Cleves gave to her (brief) husband and bound volumes of Henry's acrimonious correspondence with Martin Luther; we also got to stop in the theater, which is currently featuring Shakespeare's Henry VIII. The garden was mobbed, since it was the first day of the annual train exhibit, but we managed to see the conservatory holiday display, the Hawaii and cactus collections, and the central jungle. Because it was chilly, we ended up walking into the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center and looking at the exhibits there, then took we took the tunnel through to the Library of Congress and stopped in the gift shop before walking back to the car on the far side of the Folger.

Reindeer dance at the U.S. Botanic Garden's holiday display.

Though there's plenty of holiday color on display, most of the visitors seemed to be there for the miniature trains.

I'm still partial to the orchids.

But we always enjoy seeing the miniature Washington buildings, including the U.S. Capitol.

The actual Capitol Building is right next to the botanic garden, though this is the view from the other side, coming from the Folger.

The sky was beautifully overcast over the Statue of Freedom.

This is a model of the statue displayed inside the Capitol's visitor center.

This 1548 volume is Elizabeth Tudor's translation of Marguerite d'Angouleme's Miroir de l'ame pecheresse, written when the princess was eleven years old and published three years later. There are only three copies in the U.S. The one at the Folger Library came from Horace Walpole's library and contains his notes on the inside cover.

We only caught the very end of Auburn's come-from-behind victory over Alabama, which I was thrilled about until my father pointed out that it might hurt Boise State's chances of getting into the national championship game. I had to root against Oregon against Arizona State for the same reason, for all the good that did -- at least Boise State is beating Nevada at the moment. In between, we had Shabbat dinner (primarily Thanksgiving leftovers) with my parents and nieces, then came home and watched "Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith," the season finale of The Sarah Jane Adventures, which made me happy because the whole cast was reunited, but yet again I wished there was more direct interaction between Sarah Jane and the younger castmembers instead of each of them off solving a problem on their own. I know that I should be thinking first about the people of Korea, North and South, but when news about that part of the world comes on, the thing I immediately keep remembering is that when we visited the International Crane Foundation in Wisconsin nearly two decades ago, they told us that the extremely endangered white-naped crane and red-crowned crane migrate every year to the Han River Estuary in the demilitarized zone -- which is barely two and a half miles wide -- whose existence has kept them from extinction. And I worry about the birds.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Poem for Friday and Thanksgiving in the Woods

Around Us
By Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness
when it blankets the mind,
we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly
as a plane's wing, and a worn bed of
needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind,
and a blur or two of a wild thing
that sees and is not seen. We need these things
between appointments, after work,
and, if we keep them, then someone someday,
lying down after a walk
and supper, with the fire hole wet down,
the whole night sky set at a particular
time, without numbers or hours, will cause
a little sound of thanks--a zipper or a snap--
to close round the moment and the thought
of whatever good we did.


We had a fairly quiet Thanksgiving day, though it started early, since the cats had no intention of sleeping late (and having their breakfast delayed) just because we could. We watched all of the Macy's parade, which as always had some lovely moments and some embarrassing ones; I know its purpose is primarily commercial, but was it necessary for NBC to put everyone who's on any of their shows in front of a microphone for a gratuitous tie-in on top of the advertising sponsors for the floats that came later? I prefer the dancing penguins. Then we watched most of the Lions-Patriots game, the highlight of which was the feature before the kickoff about the death of Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry and the four people whose lives were saved when his mother donated his organs -- CBS anchors James Brown and Boomer Esiason (who has a child with cystic fibrosis, and a license plate encouraging organ donation) were both in tears afterward.

We decided to go hike a bit at Locust Grove since we knew we were going to eat a lot later. It was drizzly in the morning, but merely overcast by the time we went out, and we had the park pretty much to ourselves (no deer put in an appearance but we did see squirrels and a woodpecker). We had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' with my sister Nicole and her family; all the kids were fairly rambunctious, particularly while many of the adults were trying to watch the terrific Saints-Cowboys game, but my mother had a treasure hunt and pinata for them with cash prizes, so everyone behaved for that. Adam and I ate tofurkey plus all the usual side dishes (sweet potatoes, carrot souffle, spinach pie, cranberry sauce) while everyone else had turkey. There were two cakes for dessert but I was too full to have more than a bite of either one! Now we're watching the Bengals-Jets game and pondering places we can go tomorrow as far from stores as possible. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and good luck if you're planning an early morning shopping run!

Locust Grove's nature center was closed but had its holiday lights on for Thanksgiving.

The trees were looking pretty bare...

...but there was still some color in the woods.

The creek is pretty in every season.

And some of the fall leaves persistently clung to their trees.

The sky remained gray, though, and we're supposed to get rain and lower temperatures the next couple of days.

This is the Native American-style canoe created and displayed near the nature center.

And this is Paul's annual cookie cake. Previous cakes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Poem for Thanksgiving, 'Genesis,' Earring Rehab

The Thanksgiving in Boston Harbor
By Hezekiah Butterworth

"Praise ye the Lord!" The psalm to-day
  Still rises on our ears,
Borne from the hills of Boston Bay
  Through five times fifty years,
When Winthrop's fleet from Yarmouth crept
  Out to the open main,
And through the widening waters swept,
  In April sun and rain.
    "Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,"
      The leader shouted, "pray;"
    And prayer arose from all the ships
      As faded Yarmouth Bay.

They passed the Scilly Isles that day,
  And May-days came, and June,
And thrice upon the ocean lay
  The full orb of the moon.
And as that day, on Yarmouth Bay,
  Ere England sunk from view,
While yet the rippling Solent lay
  In April skies of blue,
    "Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,"
      Each morn was shouted, "pray;"
    And prayer arose from all the ships,
      As first in Yarmouth Bay;

Blew warm the breeze o'er Western seas,
  Through Maytime morns, and June,
Till hailed these souls the Isles of Shoals,
  Low 'neath the summer moon;
And as Cape Ann arose to view,
  And Norman's Woe they passed,
The wood-doves came the white mists through,
  And circled round each mast.
    "Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,"
      Then called the leader, "pray;"
    And prayer arose from all the ships,
      As first in Yarmouth Bay.

Above the sea the hill-tops fair—
  God's towers—began to rise,
And odors rare breathe through the air,
  Like balms of Paradise.
Through burning skies the ospreys flew,
  And near the pine-cooled shores
Danced airy boat and thin canoe,
  To flash of sunlit oars.
    "Pray to the Lord with fervent lips,"
      The leader shouted, "pray!"
    Then prayer arose, and all the ships
      Sailed into Boston Bay.

The white wings folded, anchors down,
  The sea-worn fleet in line,
Fair rose the hills where Boston town
  Should rise from clouds of pine;
Fair was the harbor, summit-walled,
  And placid lay the sea.
"Praise ye the Lord," the leader called;
  "Praise ye the Lord," spake he.
    "Give thanks to God with fervent lips,
      Give thanks to God to-day,"
    The anthem rose from all the ships,
      Safe moored in Boston Bay.

  "Praise ye the Lord!" Primeval woods
  First heard the ancient song,
And summer hills and solitudes
  The echoes rolled along.
The Red Cross flag of England blew
  Above the fleet that day,
While Shawmut's triple peaks in view
  In amber hazes lay.
    "Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
      Praise ye the Lord to-day,"
    The anthem rose from all the ships
      Safe moored in Boston Bay.

The Arabella leads the song—
  The Mayflower sings below,
That erst the Pilgrims bore along
  The Plymouth reefs of snow.
Oh! never be that psalm forgot
  That rose o'er Boston Bay,
When Winthrop sang, and Endicott,
  And Saltonstall, that day:
    "Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
      Praise ye the Lord to-day;"
    And praise arose from all the ships,
      Like prayers in Yarmouth Bay.

That psalm our fathers sang we sing,
  That psalm of peace and wars,
While o'er our heads unfolds its wing
  The flag of forty stars.
And while the nation finds a tongue
  For nobler gifts to pray,
'T will ever sing the song they sung
  That first Thanksgiving Day:
    "Praise ye the Lord with fervent lips,
      Praise ye the Lord to-day;"
    So rose the song from all the ships,
      Safe moored in Boston Bay.

Our fathers' prayers have changed to psalms,
  As David's treasures old
Turned, on the Temple's giant arms,
  To lily-work of gold.
Ho! vanished ships from Yarmouth's tide,
  Ho! ships of Boston Bay,
Your prayers have crossed the centuries wide
  To this Thanksgiving Day!
    We pray to God with fervent lips,
      We praise the Lord to-day,
    As prayers arose from Yarmouth ships,
      But psalms from Boston Bay.


I spent most of the day before Thanksgiving with Gblvr, though my kids were home the whole time she was here -- they had half a day of school and it sounds like they did very little work during the hours they were there. While Adam went out with his friends (originally for ice cream, though one of them fell off his bike so they ended up at someone's house instead), Gblvr and I got CalTort and watched a bunch of this season's Merlin episodes ("The Crystal Cave" through "The Eye of the Phoenix") and made jewelry (or in my case mostly reclaimed old jewelry; I took out a bunch of earrings I never wear and keep thinking about giving away because I didn't like their hooks, beads, etc. and put them together in new combinations). We got on the subject of Star Trek's "The Man Trap" and then we decided we needed to watch that, too, and while the disc was in the DVD player, we also watched "The Naked Time," because who can resist Spock in tears?

My mother got me the goddesses on these earrings when I was in college, I think -- they were on kidney wires, which I hate. I decided they would look much better with some color and on French hooks.

In general I never wear earrings that I have to fight with to put on. This very pretty glass from Art of Fire came on a wire hoop with tiny fastening hole, and I was always stabbing my earlobe and my thumb trying to close it in the back. Gblvr redesigned the earrings for me -- aren't they pretty?

I had the same problem with these cat earrings, which I've owned since before I had children. Gblvr looped off the end of the hoop and put them on French hooks for me so now I can wear them!

The big crystals were on horrible kidney wires that were tarnished and hung at a weird length that made them get lost in my hair. I put some Swarovski crystals on a new wire and changed the hooks.

Dementordelta bought a package of these bats once when we were making necklaces and I kept two of them. Gblvr made the earrings.

This started out as two sets of earrings: the doves on kidney wires and the peace signs on tiny studs. They both looked too small and colorless, so I wanted to put them on together. Gblvr helped me with the jump rings.

I bought the moons just because I thought they were pretty; Gblvr had the blue beads.

I really love these silver Art Deco style earrings, but they have a bit of greenish tarnish that I haven't been able to remove with anything I've tried (polishes, dips, etc.) in the decade I've owned them, so I decided to go with the color scheme!

I posted my review of "Genesis", which it's likely few people will read since it's the day before Thanksgiving, but that's all that episode deserves. My family watched Merlin's "Love in the Time of Dragons" after dinner, since we're still behind; we also watched the Futurama holiday special, which was cute but not their best ("Jurassic Bark" was on before it, which is really moving). It would have been a really good day except that my computer was acting up, and when I checked the task manager, I discovered that it was running something called atieclxx.exe which apparently can be a virus masquerading as some AMD component -- after two different virus scans, a malware scan, and a spybot scan, all repeated with the computer booted in safe mode yet finding nothing, I used msconfig to find and disable the process, but I still can't find the freaking file to delete it altogether. Please send advice if you have it, preferably not "wipe your hard drive"!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate! If not, have a wonderful Thursday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Poem for Wednesday, Glee, SJA, Aquarium

A Lament for Flodden
By Jane Elliot

I've heard them lilting at our ewe-milking,
  Lasses a' lilting before dawn o' day;
But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning—
  The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

At bughts, in the morning, nae blythe lads are scorning,
  Lasses are lonely and dowie and wae;
Nae daffing, nae gabbing, but sighing and sabbing,
  Ilk ane lifts her leglin and hies her away.

In hairst, at the shearing, nae youths now are jeering,
  Bandsters are lyart, and runkled, and gray:
At fair or at preaching, nae wooing, nae fleeching—
  The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

At e'en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming
  'Bout stacks wi' the lasses at bogle to play;
But ilk ane sits eerie, lamenting her dearie—
  The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.

Dool and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border!
  The English, for ance, by guile wan the day;
The Flowers of the Forest, that fought aye the foremost,
  The prime of our land, lie cauld in the clay.

We'll hear nae mair lilting at our ewe-milking;
  Women and bairns are heartless and wae;
Sighing and moaning on ilka green loaning—
  The Flowers of the Forest are a' wede away.


I didn't get out much on Tuesday because of all the work I have to get done before Thanksgiving! I did finish my write-up of Next Gen's terrible "Genesis," but I'll post it tomorrow, since I usually post Trek retro reviews on Friday (I missed last week because of Harry Potter and I'll miss this week because of the holiday so I'm posting in the middle -- if nobody reads my review or ever watches this episode again, no big loss). I had loads of laundry to fold, so I put on Away We Go, which I had mistakenly believed was a quirky comedy. (Maya Rudolph's husband has the same name as mine, though not in the film, so I was expecting to identify with her, ha.) It's actually quite serious and sad in parts, though excellent, with great acting and a screenplay full of interesting little surprises. There are some nice comic moments, many of which belong to Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal as two of the nutty old friends/relatives the main characters meet as they go off in search of an extended family for the baby they're expecting. I highly recommend the movie, but don't blame me if it makes you cry.

Adam had tennis in the late afternoon and we braved horrific traffic to get him there -- it took me 25 minutes to drive perhaps a mile and a quarter from my house and back -- thankfully Paul picked him up so I could take a much-needed walk. We all watched Glee, which I enjoyed in a fairly superficial way. Carol Burnett is always a pleasure to see but was seriously under-used, the Nazi-hunting jokes got old very fast, and in the end I felt like the entire idea that Nazi-hunting had ever been necessary was being ridiculed, which pissed me off, particularly with the crack about wanting to send Sue to Israel. The storyline was much kinder to Kurt and Finn, but what else is new...the show is always kinder to the boys. It's ridiculous that Kurt didn't get a substantial solo at his own father's wedding; at least the show is taking his bullying seriously. Then we watched The Sarah Jane Adventures' "Lost In Time," which was a bit uneven -- fairly tame ghost story, Nazis too stupid to be believed, lovely Lady Jane Grey -- but pleasant, though I'm a little bummed at how much of this season has involved the group not working together so much as each off on their own adventures.

A zebra shark swims in the large central salt water pool at the National Aquarium.

During the dolphin show, the dolphins born at the aquarium play with balls, frisbees, hoops, and other interactive toys...

...and mimic the trainers' behaviors like turning in circles, waving, and posing.

Paul's brother Jon's son Noah admires a pig-nosed turtle, and possibly his own reflection, in the Australia region of the aquarium.

A poisonous death adder hides under the leaves in the same regional exhibit...

...and a crocodile appears unimpressed at smiling visitors.

In the upper levels of the large round salt water tank, a moray eel watches fish swim by...

...while lower in the round tank, sharks swim in circles around a wide viewing area.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Poem for Tuesday and National Aquarium

By Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.


It was a quiet Monday of laundry and other unexciting chores -- the most time-consuming of which being the great seasonal closet switch, in which the winter clothes stashed at the back get moved to the front and the summer clothes get stashed to the back. I always end up having to re-order the transitional seasonal stuff -- the long-sleeved but not particularly warm blouses and the lighter denim -- and then I start trying things on to see if they still fit and if I still like them, and sending the rejects down the basement for VVA, so this always ends up taking more time than I think it will. Going down the basement at this time of year also invariably means fighting off cave crickets; by "fighting," I mean that they jump six feet in the air, then I scream and go get a container to throw them outside, by which time they have hidden in some dark corner where I can't get to them and neither can the cats.

I think I am going to review the upcoming Kate Mosse book for the Green Man Review, so I spent some time reading Sepulchre, her previous one, which I keep reading in fits and starts to draw it out...there aren't a lot of decent mysteries that combine Magdalene conspiracies, the Cathars, Debussy, the Carcassonne region, and Tarot cards, and though this one suffers from an excess of exposition, it's still a lot of fun with strong female characters. Since my Trek reviewing schedule is all messed up because of Thanksgiving, I watched a terrible horrible Next Gen episode, "Genesis," with my kids laughing throughout (the only good part is that it's the one where Spot has kittens, even though Spot is an iguana at the time). Then we watched the Chargers creaming the Broncos, though I have very little invested in either team so I couldn't get worked up about it!

A girl watches a dolphin approach the viewing area at the National Aquarium on Sunday.

A small black-and-yellow eel peers from around rocks in its exhibit.

A nurse shark rests on the bottom of the large circular shark tank.

Divers enter the central exhibit to feed the sea turtle, rays, and smaller sharks. (Adam took one too.)

The Australia exhibit has many birds flying and roosting overhead...

...and crocodiles and turtles in the large tanks circling the exhibit.

The jellyfish exhibit focuses on how there are too many jellies in the water because of pollution and overfishing, but also has many elegant representatives.

We saw this ray with a twisted tail both from above, looking down into the tank, and from below, at the windows into the deep water.