Monday, July 02, 2007

I Want a DUMP Button

Last week my family made a post-school season pilgrimage to our nation's capitol. What a splendorous city of Parisian architecture, clean streets, warm air, Southern greenery, and magnificent monuments (soiled only by the requisite portraits of our President). We hit the major landmarks and monuments, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorialbut here are some highlights:

Completed 10 years ago, this riverside walkway pays tribute to the 32d president through sculpture, water features, and stones engraved with Roosevelt's stirring words.  

  • BEP Main Building Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
See a bill printed start to finish in a quick, easy 45 minute tour. ($700 million printed every day!)

Spy history, gadgets and techniques.
1903 Wright Flyer
Always an inspiration. I wish we had set aside a whole day for it.
  • Library of Congress.
In the largest library in the world, you won't see any books--they are safely locked away from the public, but anyone (not just Americans) can enter the reading room with a request. The foyer is incredible, graced with sculpture, murals and engravings such as "Ignorance is the Curse of God." (Isn't it the other way around?)
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Sculpture of a buried giant struggling to the surface, along the Potomac. Climbable!

Private attractions, if you know someone...

  • Central Intelligence Agency
I wish I could tell you about it!

  • National Public Radio
Thanks to my friend Barrie Hardymon (asst. editor for Talk of the Nation and principal contributor to Blog of the Nation),  my son and I got our daily dose of Neal Conan right there in the control room, standing beside the call-in screeners.

NPR broadcasts live with a 6-second delay, and so Barrie pointed out the DUMP button that radio hosts press to instantly delete 6-second spans containing objectionable expletives. After DUMPing the dirty words, NPR then broadcasts without delay while DSP software works for several minutes in the background to imperceptibly slow the transmitted conversation until it re-builds 6 seconds of latency.

"What happens if you need to DUMP it again before it's ready?" my 8-year-old asked. Barrie conceded that it is indeed a problem on rare occasion. "If you build up 12 seconds of delay instead of 6," the boy suggested, "you can press DUMP again if you need to." I thought it was a Capitol Idea!

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  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    I wouldn't recommend the general tour, but if you know someone, the Pentagon is, IMO, one of the best tours in DC.

  2. If you fly into BWI, I recommend:

    All the FDR water features were down for me when last in DC (though the cherry blossoms were full-on)