52 States in 8 Months

Chinatowns of the East Coast unite!

Posted in Inauguration trip by Ulf on March 20, 2009

In the morning after the presidential inauguration I had some spare hours. At first I wrote some postcards which I bought in the previous evening (10 postcards for $1, but I gave six to Alex and Rebekka, so I only sent four of them to Germany).

Then, at exactly 10am, I went to the National Museum of American History. I went to the lower floor of this museum. Who would have imagined that I started with the exhibition about cars? ;-)

The left-hand side picture shows the first American number plates. Yes, I’m talking about the tiny buttons! They were not attached to the cars but to the suits which the drivers wore during the ride ;-). The second picture is for my fellows at Getrag. We were working on different clutch actuation systems. Well, it turned out that the Americans were a bit faster, they already had the “electromatic clutch” in 1941.

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In the section about the 1970s they mentioned their gas price shock. Yes, even the United States had rules which said that people with even number plates could only buy fuel on even days and odd number plates had to wait for odd days. Yes, this is unfair when a month ends with a 31st and the next month starts with a 1st, both odd numbers.

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Ah, and there was Stanley, the winner of the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge :-). It proofed that a Volkswagen is quicker than a Hummer and a Ford even without any driver at all ;-).

When I had enough of the cars, I went to the inventors section, starting with Thomas Edison’s bulb. However, the exhibit which amazed me the most was a simple graph. It shows the efficiency of different types of lamps. The low pressure sodium lamp which we know from our streets clearly wins this contest. From the same electrical power it creates about six times as much light as a classical incandescent light bulb. That is amazing! Unfortunately, the light is monochromatic which would probably not be accepted in our offices…


At about 11am I already had to leave the museum since I had to catch a bus. On my way out I saw some skeleton which wore all the amenities that medicine can offer today :-). And I saw C-3PO, the one they used in Star Wars 6.

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There was a nice car on my way to the bus station. Please read the two inscriptions on the windows :-).

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When I finally arrived at the Chinatown bus station (well, it’s not really a station, it’s just a normal sidewalk), I realized that the bus was hopelessly overbooked. The Chinatownbus people said that they would request some more buses to make sure we would all arrive. I waited for about 2 hours in total, but that was fine. I made it onto the third Philly bound bus.

In Philly I first went to the Independence Mall again where I bought a birthday present for my sister (no more details at this point). Also, I visited the building where Jefferson drafted the constitution. Although it’s just a replica, the building is very easy to find: Just look for the only small building among many large ones.


On my way back to Philly Downtown I went past an empty house with just some piece of art behind a window: It was a shopping caddy made of strip lights. The artist had also taken a movie showing the places where the illuminated caddy was on display before. I really liked it!


I went on to Schuylkill River. Wikipedia wants me to pronounce it like “SKOO-kull”, but I don’t really understand what they mean with those uppercase letters. Anyway, on the way there I crossed a very nice road: They put the flags from many countries from around the world on Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Wow! That’s a rare gesture in the US. Normally they would put up the flags from the US states instead ;-). But William Penn was watching, so they chose to do the right thing :-).

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I arrived at the river just in time to sea a magnificent sunset. The Cire Centre was even more beautiful at this time of day than it normally is :-).


However, I did not have much time to take pictures since I had to catch my train home. So I rushed into the 30th street station and jumped onto the R2 towards Wilmington. There was just enough time left to take a picture of a large structure in this enormous train station:

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So, why do I show you this blurry picture of SEPTA’s “Notice to the Public”? Well, just because the formulation “on the basis of race, color or national origin” can be found four times in this text. Basically every paragraph uses it :-). Maybe they should have looked for some more pleasing phrasing, one with less legal terms.

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