Monday, April 23, 2007


Why my life rocks:

We stayed overnight Sunday, April 22, 2007, at the country home of Smithsonian paleontologist Mike Brett-Surman and Smithsonian exhibit designer Kim Moeller. On Monday morning, April 23, 2007, we got up at 5:45 a.m., and were out the door by 6:20 a.m., in hopes of beating the bulk of the traffic on the 60-mile drive into Washington, D.C.

We succeeded, getting there by about 7:40 p.m -- almost two and a half hours before the museum opened to the public. Mike had arranged for parking for us right at the Natural History Museum, and he gave Carolyn and me a private tour of the paleontology galleries -- we were the only ones in them! We also got a chance to see the Hope Diamond before anyone else came into its gallery.

After that, we got the behind-the-scenes tour of vertebrate paleontology, which was spectacular. And then Russell Feather, the head of the Smithsonian's gem collection, took us into the fabled (and closed to the public) Blue Room there, where we got to see the best of the gems that aren't on public display -- and from there, Russell took us into the vault, where truly valuable specimens are kept, and Carolyn got to try on over a million dollars worth of jewelry.

Then Carolyn and I headed off to the National Air and Space Museum, where we ogled the Apollo 11 command module, and headed to the lower level of the gift shop, which is where the 11-foot original filming miniature of the U.S.S Enterprise from classic Star Trek is on display. Of course, we'd seen the old girl before (15 years ago, at the 25th anniversary Star Trek exhibition at the Smithsonian), but I was particularly interested in seeing it again now that we have our own one-quarter scale Master Replica's duplicate of the filming miniature; I must say, I appreciate the detailing on the one we have even more after seeing the original again.

We then headed back to the Natural History Museum for lunch with Mike and Kim (in the staff restaurant -- much cheaper than the public one!). Then we said goodbye to our friends, and walked (in 85-degree heat!) to the World War II Memorial, the one memorial on the Mall that wasn't there the last time we were in Washington; it's magnificent. I only wish we'd had more time -- I would have liked to have made my way down to the Vietnam Memorial again, which figures so prominently in my novel Humans, but we had to hit the road, for the first leg of our two-day trip back home to Toronto.

Private tour of the dinosaur gallery; Robert J. Sawyer on left, Mike Brett-Surman on right

Mike loses a hand to a hungry theropod

Behind-the-scenes treasures in the paleontology department; they keep the Ark of the Covenant one aisle over

Carolyn Clink strikes gold in the Blue Room at the Smithsonian

Gemologist Russell Feather, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Brett-Surman, and Kim Moeller at the Smithsonian

Carolyn Clink trying on priceless jewelry

The real thing: United Federation of Planets Starship U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, no bloody A, B, C, or D

The World War II Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site


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