Thursday, April 15, 2010

Disney vs the NPS

If you have a daughter of a certain age, you may have noticed that Disney employees are trained to address them as "princess" and to refer to them (when speaking to the parents) as "your princess".  E.g. "What would your princess like to eat today?"  It's a cynical and calculated move to get the girls to nag their parents into buying billions of dollars worth of Disney princess-themed goods per year.

Today, we visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, both operated by the US National Park Service (NPS).  Several National Park Service employees gave my daughter a spiel about how we are a nation of immigrants who then go on to become our future scientists, engineers and doctors1.  Did the NPS direct their rangers and employees to stress this?  Or did they do this independently?  Top down or bottom up?
Bad Dad had reserved tickets for us to take the stairs up to the crown (only ~250 permits per day are given out).  Security was very tight for the Statue of Liberty.  We had to pass through airport-style security, then a GC-mass spec (gas chromatograph mass-spectrometer).  Finally, we had to put everything but our cameras and medications in a locker before the final climb.

There are two sets of staircases (up/down) in a double helix.

Unfortunately, the mass-spectrometer generated a lot of ozone, a lung irritant.  Iris and I sent our inhalers through the x-ray machine, then waited in line to go through the mass-spec.  Each person has to stand in a tunnel while puffs of air are blown about us and the air is sucked from above.  (Bad Dad says that this type of system is called a puffer.)  The air is put through a column of some sort (the gas chromatograph) to spread out the constituents along the tube.  Then the constituents are ionized as they come out of the tube so that they can be separated by mass (to charge ratio).  The ionizer also ionizes the O2 in the air, a small fraction of which recombines as ozone, O3, a lung irritant.

In the short amount of time between parting with our inhalers, and the time we could be reunited with them, Iris experienced an episode and needed her inhaler!2

Oh, if you go to Ellis Island, don't miss the exhibit of the treasured objects that immigrants brought with them.  I loved this Italian wedding dress.  Look at the creative embellishments!  The Baltic homespun linen embroidered shirts and blouses were also amazing.  Remind me to post a Flickr slideshow of the Ellis Island textiles after I get home.

1. That hits pretty close to home because Bad Dad's family immigrated from Central Europe via Sweden in the 1950s and my family immigrated from Taiwan in the1960s.  [Editorial: it's not clear how to cherry-pick immigrants that will innovate or produce innovators.  My dad came here for graduate school in engineering, and my FIL came here with a 6th grade education and a trade.  Guess whose child was the first to file a patent application?]

2. She's been having such a tough time this week.  Her nose is so much closer to tailpipe level than an adult's.  Schools in France are on a two-week school holiday.  Add the normal background level of NYC smokers (much higher than in LA), the French tourists everywhere, particularly at the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France), the high pollen levels and the cold she had a few weeks ago, and she has used her inhaler more this week than the prior 18 months!

Except for the poor air quality, she loves NYC and had wanted to live here (perhaps for college?).  But the pollution definitely gives her pause.


  1. Oh poor Iris! The pollen at this time of year bothers me too. But what fun to see Ellis Island. Immigrants are what maike our country great - let's have more of them!

  2. Ellis Island is one of my favorite places in NYC. I visited a couple of times during my tenure in New Jersey. The first time I visited, I had recently finished the Emigrant cycle books by Vilhelm Moberg. They are about a Swedish family that is probably pretty similar to my ancestors. Seeing Ellis Island with that story in my mind was very moving.


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