Friday, February 20, 2009

Something New, #308 - 312

The whole group from Team Lenexa toured the Capitol. We had an abbreviated tour, because apparently, the Capitol wants to get as many groups in as fast as they can. We zipped through the main rotunda, old Senate and Supreme court. The Senate was out this week, so we didn't get to go in there, because as the Capitol cop explained, "It's like going to your grandma's house - when grandma's not there, you can't go." We did get to go into the House and sit in the galley for a while, and Officer McNeely gave us his personal overview. He pointed out the bullet holes in the ceiling from a shooting that happened in the late '50s and showed us where the President comes in for the State of the Union address. Trivia: The President has to be invited in writing by the Speaker of the House to speak there. It will be especially interesting to watch the State of the Union address next week, because we've now seen the actual space. I also learned that the high school pages who serve in the Senate and House make about what I do. I gotta get another job.

After that, The Big One and I went to the Library of Congress, which was by far, the most beautiful building we'd seen. Marble sculpture everywhere, and every surface either had mosaic work or decorative painting. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when we saw the Reading Room. My number one choice for dream job would be to work there.

I also learned that each entity in the Capitol area has its own police force. They are federal police, but separate divisions, such as the Capitol police, Library of Congress police, Supreme Court police, etc. I think I got more information by talking to the cops than any tour guide or brochure. All that I talked to were friendly and helpful.

We went up the stairs to the Supreme Court, but got halfway up, and I realized I just couldn't bear another security check. I really wanted to see the inside, but we were running out of time, so I'll just look it up online.

We took the Amtrak from Union Station to BWI, so that was another first, as I'd never ridden on a train that wasn't at the zoo. I bought the tickets at the kiosk and we got on the right train on time and everything. That was just about the only place where we didn't have to go through security. Our mentor for the team, Aunt Kathy, said she was looking forward to getting back just so she could walk into a building and not have to show her purse to a guard.

Speaking of security, Homeland Security is just too much. I realize there are rules in place for our safety, but some are just ridiculous. The Big One had purchased with her own money a 3" snow globe of the Mall. She put it in her carry on, and they said it wouldn't pass. They gave us the option of going back to the desk and checking it, but we couldn't go through that again. So they threw it in the trash. Ironically, as we went to our immediate left, there was a gift shop that had a huge display of, you guessed it, snow globes. I was so mad, but found one for her on eBay, so hopefully that will make up for it.

We got home without a glitch and went straight to bed. I didn't even bother to start laundry, which is another first.

It was a wonderful trip and opportunity. I was so impressed with all the hard work that all the kids did on their models, research and presentation. Over 11,000 kids from all over competed, starting at the school and regional levels and 39 teams went to nationals. These kids really are the cream of the crop and I'd like to see data on how many kids from 17 years of this competition actually go on to become engineers.

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