Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who Let the Dogs Out?

This week members of the new 110th Congress had their orientation on Capitol Hill. During the orientation, Freshman Congressman and Congresswomen, and Senators went through the two houses' respective processes for finding a new office.

Whichever office each new member gets, they will be able to bring a dog to work with them if they choose to. One of the little known secrets of Capitol Hill is that all the Capitol buildings are wide open to dogs.

The logic goes something like this: if a Member of Congress wants to bring their dog to work - nobody is really in a position to tell them they can't. But then, as they represent the people - no Member of Congress should have a special privilege that a member of the general public does not. Therefore, though it might not be advertised, if you try to walk into any of the House or Senate office buildings with a dog, nobody will stop you.

The pup may have to walk though a metal detector - but that's about the biggest hurdle he'll face.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reflecting Pool

Continuing with the India turns out there is another connection when it comes to the National Mall.

Congress commissioned the construction of the Lincoln Memorial shortly after the President's death in 1867. However the memorial was not designed and fully completed until May 30, 1922 when it was commissioned by then Chief Supreme Court Justice and former President William Howard Taft.

The long pool placed in front of the memorial reflects both the Washington monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It measures 2000 feet by 160 feet and contains 7 million gallons of water. The pool was modeled after the one that sits before the Taj Mahal.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rocket's Red Glare

It turns out that one famous phrase from America's National Anthem has its roots in India.

After the American Revolution, the British turned their attention toward expanding their influence in India. In 1780 British troops invaded Mysore, an area then ruled by Hyder Ali. What the British did not know was that Hyder had been working on a new rocket.

Whereas previous rockets had been small and less effective. Hyder's new rockets had metal tubes, were 12 lbs each, and had 10 foot bamboo poles for stability. This gave them much more range - they could fly at least half a mile. Moreover, Hyder had the manpower to produce and launch hundreds of them at at time. Using his barrage of rockets, Hyder was able to repulse the British invasion of his territory.

In the wake of their defeat, the British redoubled their research into rocket technology such that by the time of the War of 1812 - they were a widely used part of the British Arsenal. Some of those rockets were the ones that Francis Scott Key saw outside Fort McHenry when he saw "the rocket's red glare" and that "our flag was still there."