The Schumin Web http://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Mon, 14 Apr 2014 01:02:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Infrastructure pix with a borrowed camera… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/04/10/infrastructure-pix-with-a-borrowed-camera/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=infrastructure-pix-with-a-borrowed-camera http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/04/10/infrastructure-pix-with-a-borrowed-camera/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:34:40 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23382 I have had my current main camera, a Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, for approximately five years and two months as of this writing.  The camera still works quite well, but is starting to get up there in age.  For one thing, the fliparound screen on the back of it no longer works when the screen is flat against the camera while facing out.  The electronic viewfinder comes on and the screen goes black when it’s in that position.  Go figure.  I’m also often finding myself “hitting the wall” with the camera as far as its limits go.  Some of the ways I want to go with my photography, the camera can’t go there with me because it doesn’t go far enough.  Also, if it gives you any concept of how much time has passed, I wrecked Big Mavica in a rainstorm after I had owned it for five years and four months.

All that said, I am looking to replace my main camera.  In this case, however, there is no camera damage forcing my hand.  My current camera works fine, though it is starting to show some signs of age.  And even if the main camera was kaput, I have two other cameras plus a phone as backup.  So this puts me in a good position, as there is no pressing need to replace equipment.  I also do not feel that I am currently in a position to upgrade, so running on existing equipment works just fine for me.

However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not trying out other equipment when I can.  I recently got an opportunity to borrow a friend’s Nikon Coolpix P510 and take it out for a photo shoot.  The Nikon Coolpix P510 is a “prosumer” level camera similar to my Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, but is newer and takes photos in higher resolution (16 megapixel vs. 10).  I did this mainly to see where the prosumer cameras had gone in the past few years, since I’ve been toying with the idea of getting another prosumer or finally going to a digital SLR.

So in playing with this borrowed camera, I went out to do some infrastructure photography.  That brought me out to Brighton Dam, which impounds the Patuxent River to form Triadelphia Reservoir, which is about ten miles away from my house.  I’d been to Brighton Dam twice before for photography, but I don’t think I’ve ever featured it on the website, though I have put some photos from both earlier visits on my Flickr, if you want to take a look.  I chose Brighton Dam as my destination specifically because it was familiar.  I didn’t want to plan a photo shoot to somewhere new when I was using a borrowed camera.  I wanted a place where I already knew my way around so that I could focus on the equipment rather than the scenery, plus be able to compare pix.  Thus the dam.

However, that doesn’t mean I skimped on things.  With this shoot, I did more extensive photography of the area than I did both times before.  The first time, I was with a friend and the visit was part of a larger itinerary, and then the second time, extreme cold and very low wind chills dictated that the visit would be short.  This time, the weather was gorgeous, and I had all afternoon to play around with this camera.

And play I did.  Take a look at some of the pix:

Brighton Dam.  I am standing on the Montgomery County side.  The land visible in the background is in Howard County.
Brighton Dam.  I am standing on the Montgomery County side.  The land visible in the background is in Howard County.

Pipes where water is discharged from the dam.  The pipes, coupled with the unknown opening beneath, remind me of a face.
Pipes where water is discharged from the dam.  The pipes, coupled with the unknown opening beneath, remind me of a face.

Water flowing over a wall intended to direct water towards the main channel of the Patuxent River.
Water flowing over a wall intended to direct water towards the main channel of the Patuxent River.

Close-up of the wall.
Close-up of the wall.

Action shot of two geese.
Action shot of two geese.

The Patuxent River, immediately downstream from the dam.
The Patuxent River, immediately downstream from the dam.

A bird stands on a buoy in Triadelphia Reservoir.  Photographed from Brighton Dam Road, which runs across the top of the dam.
A bird stands on a buoy in Triadelphia Reservoir.  Photographed from Brighton Dam Road, which runs across the top of the dam.

Rust on my hand, from clinging to a fence to get closer to the dam than I should have otherwise.
Rust on my hand, from clinging to a fence to get closer to the dam than I should have otherwise.

Various intake valves on a platform in Triadelphia Reservoir.
Various intake valves on a platform in Triadelphia Reservoir.

Close-up of intake valve #2 bottom.
Close-up of intake valve #2 bottom.

Benchmark on the west side of the dam.
Benchmark on the west side of the dam.

Triadelphia Reservoir, viewed from atop the dam.
Triadelphia Reservoir, viewed from atop the dam.

Geese downstream from the dam.  I have no idea what the goose on the right is doing.
Geese downstream from the dam.  I have no idea what the goose on the right is doing.

Barbed wire above a fence on the Howard County side along Brighton Dam Road.
Barbed wire above a fence on the Howard County side along Brighton Dam Road.

Low view down the middle of Brighton Dam Road, facing Montgomery County.
Low view down the middle of Brighton Dam Road, facing Montgomery County.

Low view down the middle of Brighton Dam Road, facing Howard County.
Low view down the middle of Brighton Dam Road, facing Howard County.

Cobra head light, photographed from an area between Brighton Dam Road and the perimeter fence around the site.
Cobra head light, photographed from an area between Brighton Dam Road and the perimeter fence around the site.

Pole-mounted transformers.
Pole-mounted transformers.

I took a total of 328 photos with the camera, and went until I ran out of battery power:

"Battery exhausted."

I then posted this picture to Instagram with the caption, “Something tells me that playtime is over.”  Such is what happens when the camera takes an EN-EL5 battery rather than AA batteries.  I didn’t get the charger for this battery (this was a somewhat spur-of-the-moment borrowing), nor did I have any spare batteries, and so when the battery ran out, that was it.

All in all, this was a good learning experience.  First of all, this Nikon camera and my Canon camera are very similar to each other as far as layout of controls and screen menus go.  The two cameras also operate very similarly, to the point that it felt natural to me with no learning curve.  Image quality was similar as well.  I did, however, find the way the screen flips out on this camera to be a little cumbersome, as it does not flip out or around like mine does.  It will come out and angle up, but that’s about it.  I also didn’t like it that the camera didn’t operate on AA batteries.  I had my fill of non-AA battery cameras after Big Mavica, which took proprietary (and expensive) battery packs.  However, other than an additional six megapixels of resolution and a more powerful zoom function, there were no additional features beyond what my Canon offers.  In fact, it has less range than my Canon as far as aperture and shutter speeds go.  Considering that this camera is a few years newer than my camera, this tells me that the prosumer lines have not evolved that much as far as features go over the last few years, and that was disappointing.  Such is what happens, I suppose, but it also means that another prosumer camera is most likely not in my future, and that I need to start researching digital SLR cameras, because that’s where it’s looking like I want to go.

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The mildly interesting things that you see in a day… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/21/the-mildly-interesting-things-that-you-see-in-a-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-mildly-interesting-things-that-you-see-in-a-day http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/21/the-mildly-interesting-things-that-you-see-in-a-day/#comments Sat, 22 Mar 2014 04:34:31 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23328 So my Friday was fun.  I got together with my friend Matthew, we did some cooking, and then after Matthew and I parted company for the day, I headed over to Dulles Town Center for a bit.  Over the course of the day, I spotted a few things that I found mildly interesting.

On the way in, I stopped over at Aardvark Swim in Chantilly.  I usually go to the Rockville location, but since they were out of goggle straps (the bungee cord kind) in Rockville, and I knew I was going to be out this way sooner than Rockville would get more in stock, I swung by and here to get them.  Those of you who follow me on Instagram may remember that I was contemplating whether or not to buy this:

"Suck it up, cupcake" swim cap at Aardvark

I didn’t end up getting this on Tuesday, mainly because I hadn’t quite built up the nerve to actually wear it in the pool.  However, I did want that on a shirt, and had been wanting something like that for a while. Found it today:

I found a "Suck it up, cupcake" hoodie in my size!

Yes, I found a “Suck it up, cupcake” hoodie in my size.  Sold.  I know what I’m wearing to the pool on Monday.  Time to give my old Schumin Web sweatshirt a rest for a while.  This is very swim-related.

With Matthew, we were planning to do a little cooking.  We tried our hands at cooking hamburgers on the stove, and the first thing that we did was go shopping for the requisite parts.  But on the way out, I got this:

Simplex pull station at Matthew's house.

Simplex pull station at Matthew’s house.  Does anyone know the model number on the older Simplex single-action pulls?  My Simplex single-action is the 2099-9795, which is a newer model that’s also addressable (for intelligent fire alarm systems).  This is an older building, and the system is likely original to the building, with these and 2901-9838 horns without strobes.  So I’m guessing that it has a conventional system.

On the way back to my car, we spotted this:

Have you ever seen a Toyota hood ornament before?

Seeing it in context, something tells me that this is an aftermarket alteration...

Ever seen a Toyota hood ornament before?  Looks like an aftermarket part, considering that this 1990s-era Camry has the Toyota “bull” logo (I know that’s not what it really means, but to me, it’s always looked like a bull with big horns) in the usual spot on the grille.

Then, arriving at Safeway, Matthew and I saw these:

Caramel apples with frosting decoration

These are caramel apples with frosting decoration.  That was a new one for me.  I’ve also never seen caramel apples sold out of the bakery case, either, for that matter.  Of course, I don’t frequent the grocery store bakery all that much, either.

Getting back to Matthew’s house, we got to cooking.  Since neither one of us had ever done this before, we used directions that I found on WikiHow.  We shaped the 93% lean ground beef that we bought into patties, put a little spray on the pan, set the stove to medium heat, and got cooking:

The hamburgers on the stove

This was right after we started cooking them.  Following the directions from the website, the burgers were still a bit underdone, so we added a little additional heat and flipped them over two more times.  Since we made four patties (mainly as insurance against messing up), we each had two.  Two was a tad much for me, but considering that I didn’t have lunch, I think I’m allowed.  Then I put some pickle chips and a little ketchup on there, and I was good to go.  We both agreed that the burgers came out perfectly.  The only thing that was unexpected was some smoke, but a few minutes with the window open took care of that.

All I have to say is that we certainly did much better than I did a decade ago in college when we all tried to cook burgers and did pretty poorly (but the flames were cool looking).

After our meal, Matthew and I parted company for the evening.  He had another engagement to attend to, and I went over to Dulles Town Center, mainly just to walk around for a little bit.  Dulles Town Center was built in two stages, as the main part of the mall was completed in 1999, and the Nordstrom wing was completed in 2002.  The main part of the mall primarily uses Wheelock AS notification appliances, but the Nordstrom wing has Simplex TrueAlert notification appliances.  That’s a little unusual, when you consider that when you see Simplex, you see only Simplex on the whole thing, as Simplex sells complete systems, i.e. panel, annunciator, smoke detectors, pull stations, notification appliances, etc.  It’s not like other system manufacturers, where they make the panel and some other equipment, contract out to Wheelock, System Sensor, etc. for their notification appliances, and do similarly for their pull stations.  I don’t know how the fire alarm system is set up in the Nordstrom wing.  It could be that Simplex did an expansion to the original system, or it could be a completely separate system from the main part of the mall.  If it’s the latter, which seems more plausible considering how I usually see Simplex systems installed, it’s likely the case that each system shows up as a zone on the other system’s panel.  Thus an alarm in the main part of the mall would trip the panel on the Nordstrom wing and vice versa, because when one system goes into alarm, it indicates an alarm condition on the other panel through the alarm zone that I mentioned, which in turn puts it into alarm.

However, over in Simplex territory, I saw what was possibly one of the most unusual intentional alarm installations ever:

Simplex TrueAlert strobe installed through a glass window

This is a Simplex TrueAlert strobe installed through a glass window.  The device itself is in the mall, and the backbox and conduit are in the store.

Then I also saw dueling strobes at Dick’s Sporting Goods at the other end of the mall:

Dueling strobes!

Two System Sensor notification appliances on adjacent sides of the same column.  The one on the left is a horn/strobe, and the one on the right is just a strobe.  They cover different areas, and face the perimeter of the store.  I’ve seen many cases where two fire alarms are on complete opposite sides of a column, but never on adjacent sides like this.

And then when I got home, I posed with my new hoodie again:

Bathroom selfie with my "Suck it up, cupcake" hoodie

Yes, it’s the bathroom selfie.  If you don’t like it, well, it’s my bathroom, so suck it up, cupcake.

So that was my day!  I definitely had fun, and Matthew and I need to cook stuff together more often.

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Staunton Mall sold for $4.5 million? http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/15/staunton-mall-sold-for-4-5-million/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=staunton-mall-sold-for-4-5-million http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/15/staunton-mall-sold-for-4-5-million/#comments Sat, 15 Mar 2014 15:16:51 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23305 So according to The News VirginianThe News Leader, and WHSV, Staunton Mall has been sold to a Delaware LLC for $4.5 million.  Little is known about the new buyer or their intent, however, according to The News Leader, “The sale includes permits for development and land rights and assignment of leases, rents, deposits, profits and other agreements.”  This makes me wonder if someone is finally planning to redevelop Staunton Mall into something better and/or more modern.  At this point, we can only speculate. That said, Staunton Mall does look pretty dismal right now, shown in this file photo from January:

Staunton Mall, from center court facing south towards JCPenney, January 2014

I’ve discussed Staunton Mall on here before, but it’s been a while since I really talked about it.  The three most recent times were from Thanksgiving 2008, May 2009, and January 2010, and two of those weren’t even really about Staunton Mall.  The short of it is that Staunton Mall has been on the decline for about a decade and a half or so.

The shopping center that would later become Staunton Mall was built in 1969 as the open-air shopping center Staunton Plaza.  Staunton Plaza was enclosed in 1985 and renamed Staunton Mall.  In the redevelopment from an open air plaza into an enclosed mall, I believe that it was the case that the anchor stores (JCPenney, Woolworth’s, Montgomery Ward, and Leggett at that time) were retained, and the rest of the mall was new construction.  I have never seen any photos of the old shopping center, however, so I could be mistaken about whether anything else besides the anchor buildngs was retained in the transition.  The mall received a facelift in 1996 or so, removing a large fountain in the middle of the mall, adding a Goody’s store as a fifth anchor in what was previously a large empty space, and adding Stone & Thomas in the old Woolworth’s space after that store closed with the rest of the chain.  The rather large food court, which had dwindled down to a single eatery called “Dog Days”, was relocated from a location near Penney’s to a much smaller location near the movie theater, which added a few new food places, along with a relocated Dog Days.  The original food court was then converted to a Hibbett Sports location.  A number of other new stores were added at that time, including Bath & Body Works, Maurices, The Shoe Dept, a bigger KB Toys, and a Wills bookstore (later Books-A-Million).  And finally, the mall’s ceiling was changed from the original black to white by swapping out the ceiling tiles, and more lighting was added, which brightened the mall considerably.  The black ceiling grid in the photo above is a remnant of the original black ceiling, as the grid was never painted white to match the new tiles.

The mall began its decline not long after the facelift.  A few of the stores that opened during the 1990s update closed.  Stone & Thomas became Peebles after the former was bought by another chain and the Staunton location was sold to Stage Stores, which owns the Peebles brand.  Montgomery Ward dropped the “Focus” from its sign and later closed with the rest of the chain.  Colonial Properties bought the mall in the late 1990s, and renamed it Colonial Mall Staunton.  Steve & Barry’s opened in the old Wards space in 2004, and closed in 2008.  Goody’s lease ran out in 2007, and it was replaced by a Gold’s Gym (now independent).  Colonial sold the mall in 2007, and the mall’s name reverted back to Staunton Mall.  CVS left the mall in 2007 when it opened a freestanding location nearby.  Books-A-Million opened a new store in Waynesboro in 2008 and closed its Staunton Mall location.  The movie theater closed in 2012.  And in many cases, these stores’ former spaces are still empty, along with many other smaller store spaces where the tenants have long since left.  This leaves the mall with a lot of unused space that apparently isn’t in very high demand.

In other words, Staunton Mall is quickly turning into a dead mall, if it’s not there already.

This leads me to think that if Staunton Mall is going to again become a place where people want to go, it will not do so in its current form.  However, I do recognize that the mall has three anchor tenants that have been there for a long time and show no signs of departing, plus the various outparcel buildings have done fairly well over the years.  Thus my view towards redevelopment of Staunton Mall aims to retain what works and replace the rest.

This is what the Staunton Mall property looks like:

Staunton Mall from October 2012 via Google Earth
Image: Google Earth

In this Google Earth image, dated October 4, 2012, north is to the left.  The wall furthest to the left on the main Staunton Mall building faces directly north.  US 11 (Lee–Jackson Highway at this location) is located at the bottom of the photo.  Frontier Drive is to the right, and Barterbrook Road is in the upper left.  Route 262, a limited access highway that serves as something of a beltway around Staunton, is out of frame to the right. The front of the mall faces Route 11. There are multiple access ponts to the mall property from Route 11 and Frontier Drive, and there is a single access from Barterbrook Road via a driveway.

These are the relevant parts of the mall property:

Staunton Mall, with certain areas marked

And this is the shape of the mall property:

Outline of the Staunton Mall property

It’s also worth noting that the property is somewhat narrow at its north end, and the existing mall is not really centered on the property, sited slightly to the east.  In addition, there is almost no green space or landscaping on the property, as the entire property is either structures or asphalt, save for a few small parking lot islands.

The thing about Staunton Mall is that it really got eclipsed when all of the major retailers started flocking to Waynesboro.  If you want to go to Home Depot, Kohl’s, Michaels, Ross, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc., then you go to Waynesboro, because none of these stores exist in Staunton.  Thus the Staunton area could use an area with similar stores.  Staunton Mall seems the perfect place for that, clustering several of the second-tier box stores together to make a modern outdoor shopping center, plus retaining some of the anchor stores from the Staunton Mall and Staunton Plaza days.

In coming up with my plans, I made a few assumptions.  First, I assumed that the current design of Staunton Mall is fully obsolete and has outlived its usefulness.  Second, I assumed that the anchor stores would remain open in their own buildings for the entirety of a redevelopment project, without interruption.  Third, I assumed that the space where the former Gold’s Gym is located is not structurally separate from the rest of the mall, and thus would have to be demolished if the remainder of the mall was demolished.  I assumed that the McDonald’s, Red Lobster, and ABC store would remain unchanged as well.  And lastly, I assumed that any parking in a new development would be surface parking, and that there would not be underground parking of any sort, nor would any parking structures be constructed.  However, I do not know what Augusta County’s requirements are for number of parking spaces.

With those assumptions, that left me with these buildings remaining after removing the mall:

Staunton Mall without the mall, leaving Belk, the former Wards building, Peebles, Penney's, McDonald's, Red Lobster, and the ABC store

Obviously, Belk, Peebles, Penney’s, McDonald’s, Red Lobster, and the ABC store are operating and, to my knowledge, doing well.  I also retained the old Wards building despite its being empty because it fits well enough, and I would otherwise put a new building there anyway.  So my thinking was that it might be less expensive to retain the old building and do a built-out for a new tenant, rather than demolish and erect a new building.  I was initially going to retain Dollar Tree (built as an auto center for Wards, which closed a few years before the main store did), but when I figured all of the spaces out, I needed it for a larger tenant space.

So this is what I came up with:

My concept for redevelopment of Staunton Mall

This is the new Staunton Plaza, as I imagine it.  The way I came up with this is that I took the existing anchor buildings and measured them using a graphics program, and then added buildings of similar sizes.  Thus I determined that a building approximately the size of Penney’s fit nearly perfectly between Penney’s and Peebles.  I deliberately set it back from Penney’s in order to make the transition from Penney’s to Peebles less abrupt.  The idea here is that since the existing buildings’ locations made it impossible to have a straight facade, then let’s make it look like the stores were placed in an arc shape on purpose.  Then there is room for a Peebles-sized tenant on the other side of the Peebles building, next to the old Wards.  Then the old Wards building itself is still there, awaiting a build-out for the next tenant.  I initially tried to fit another tenant in between Wards and Belk, but I was unable to do so without creating a very awkward space.  But then I realized that by separating Belk from the rest and leaving a gap in between the two buildings, that retains the usefulness of the access from Barterbrook Road for shopping center patrons.  Then I put another Belk-sized tenant on the other side of Belk, which explains why I needed to remove the Dollar Tree building: I needed the site for parking.  And then, finally, I added a new ouparcel building in the parking lot, to hold two new tenants, each the size of Red Lobster.

I deliberately left off landscaping and parking.  I don’t know the requirements for either one, but I knew what I wanted as far as buildings go.  However, considering that the shopping center’s orientation would now be entirely towards Route 11, with no customer access on the back side, I could envision new green space to the east and south (above and left in the photo) of Penney’s, as well as potentially increasing the buffer between the residential areas east of the center.

I have also deliberately left off names for new tenants, because I don’t particularly care what companies settle in there as long as it’s full.  Having all of the various shopping options nearby where I now live, they all start to look the same after a while.  I keep hearing from people on social media that they want an Olive Garden restaurant, but honestly, having been there before, Olive Garden food is pretty mediocre, and far better Italian food options already exist in the area.  I also heard a number of people mention about reopening the movie theater that existed in Staunton Mall for many years, and to that, I’ll just say that movie theaters have evolved quite a bit since Staunton Mall’s theater was built.  There’s a reason that many movie theaters nowadays are standalone buildings vs. being in a shopping mall, and it’s because they’re bigger and offer far more amenities than they used to.  Therefore a mall is no longer the best place for a movie theater.

Then if you’re wondering how this new plan compares to the existing mall, here’s the overlay without the blackout:

New construction overlaid over the existing mall

You may be surprised to see how little new construction there really is.  There’s far more demolition than new construction.  Much of the old mall would become part of the parking lot in the new configuration, compensating for the loss of parking in the back due to the west-facing orientation with no rear customer access.

So that’s my concept for a redevelopment of Staunton Mall into a modern-day Staunton Plaza, turning a dead mall into a productive, if somewhat generic, suburban outdoor shopping center.  Now we just have to wait for news about what the new owners of Staunton Mall plan to do with their new investment.  Perhaps Staunton Mall will look like what I came up with in the end.  Perhaps it will look completely different.  Then there’s also the possibility that the new owners’ only intention in purchasing the mall is to flip it, i.e. buy it at a discount and then sell it to someone else.  We’ll see, I suppose.  In any case, feel free to leave a comment about my concept below.

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Driving around Montgomery County… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/09/driving-around-montgomery-county/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=driving-around-montgomery-county http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/09/driving-around-montgomery-county/#comments Sun, 09 Mar 2014 18:25:26 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23297 For my commercial driving class, I had to watch others’ driving to identify distracted and at-risk driving behaviors and document them.  Normally one would do this while another student was driving the bus, but since I’m the only student in the class, I am doing this as homework.  Since I had some issue with making the arrangements for someone else to drive me around so that I could write, I decided to take matters into my own hands and attach my cell phone to the visor to make a movie of my own driving for later analysis.  In other words, something like this:

Driving along Georgia Avenue in the Soul

In making this movie, I had to go shopping anyway, so rather than go to a store near me, I went to Milestone Center in Germantown, taking a rather circuitous route to get there for maximum driving exposure.  Normally, I would take Georgia Avenue to either the Intercounty Connector or Norbeck Road to I-370 and then to I-270, and then take Father Hurley Blvd. to get over to Milestone Center.  This time, I added Bel Pre Road in there betwene Georgia and Norbeck, then instead of I-270, I took Sam Eig Highway, Great Seneca Highway, Quince Orchard Road, Firstfield Road, Clopper Road, did a loop around Germantown Indoor Swim Center, went down Germantown Road, and then went through an office park and past the new Wegmans to reach Milestone Center.

The first video went from the Lotte Plaza shopping center on Georgia Avenue to Quince Orchard Road:

Then the second video started on Firstfield Road at Montgomery College’s driving range (those are the buses that I am learning on), and ends right around the Wegmans:

And no, there is no sound on either of these videos.

I found that, surprisingly, Montgomery County drivers are pretty careful in the middle of the day on a Thursday.  If I wanted some more action, maybe I should have gone over to Fairfax County, or followed DC Councilman Jim Graham around for a while.

In any case, my main reason for posting these videos is so that others in driver education classes (aka “Driver’s Ed”) might find them helpful.  If I can make the world a little bit better place to drive in, then that’s awesome.

Meanwhile, the evening after I made these videos, I had an amusing moment on the phone with my father about it.  I was telling him about how I attached the camera, using cheap duct tape (because the cheap stuff won’t stay stuck to anything).  He asked why I didn’t use rubber bands.  My exact response was, “Now you tell me.”  The tape certainly worked, but rubber bands would have definitely been far more elegant.

And then my test for my full CDL with MVA is this Thursday!  I do know what I’m doing, but I’m still really nervous about it, and that’s because it’s a high-stakes test.

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A lesson on how not to behave on the phone… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/03/a-lesson-on-how-not-to-behave-on-the-phone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-lesson-on-how-not-to-behave-on-the-phone http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/03/03/a-lesson-on-how-not-to-behave-on-the-phone/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 04:05:04 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23256 I got a very interesting series of phone calls Saturday night (technically early Sunday morning) beginning around 2:00 AM.  Apparently a woman was looking to have pizza delivered from one of the many fine pizza establishments located in the District of Columbia.  So she called my phone number.  At two in the morning.  I believe that the initial call was an honest mistake, but after I told her in no uncertain terms that she had not reached a pizza establishment, she firmly earned her place in the customer hall of shame.

The first call came in at 2:04 AM from a New Jersey number.  I ignored the call.  After all, it was 2 AM, I was beyond tired, and I didn’t recognize the number.  I figured that once the person heard my “You have reached Ben Schumin” voicemail greeting, they would figure out that they had dialed a wrong number.  If it did, in fact, end up being for me, they could leave a message, and I would get back with them at my convenience.  And if it turned out to be important, I would have called them back right away.

A voicemail came in from the unfamiliar number.  It was a woman’s voice, and she was looking for pizza:

Hey, I’m interested in purchasing, um, an order for delivery.  Please call me back.  My number is 201-981-7557.  I’ve heard great things.  I’m really looking forward to it.  Thank you!  Bye.  (listen to audio)

This seemed reasonable enough so far.  I occasionally get callers who intended to call someone else.  The way I figure, I have a Washington DC number, i.e. 202 area code, and being a major city, there are lots of similar phone numbers, and so there must be a pizza place with a number similar to mine.  Also, noting that 201 is an area code for New Jersey (more specifically, North Jersey), I wondered if perhaps she misdialed the area code, and meant to dial another 201 number rather than a 202 number.  It happens.  After quickly verifying online that the number was, in fact, a cell phone, and wanting to let the caller know that she had not reached the place that she intended (but at the same time, not wanting to actually talk to her), I sent the caller a quick text message at 2:07, saying, “So you know: I think you may have dialed a wrong number.  I have no idea what you are referring to regarding orders for delivery.”  I figured that would be the end of it, or, at most, get a quick text back apologizing for the mistake.

That ended up not being the case.  I got a call back very shortly thereafter from the same number.  Thinking that she was calling either to apologize for the earlier mixup or trying to get assistance finding the place that she was after, I took the call.  Much to my surprise, after apologizing for any confusion, she tried to place an order for pizza with me.  I stopped her, explaining that she had reached a personal cell phone in the Washington DC area.  After all, for all I knew, considering the New Jersey area code and Bergen County prefix (specifically Hackensack), she was looking for a place in New Jersey.  Bergen County, New Jersey and Washington DC are two very different places.  So after I explained that she reached a personal cell phone, she asked me if she could still have pizza delivered.  I told her “no” in no uncertain terms.  Her response was, “But this is America!”  That clued me in that I was not going to win this one, so I told her, “Have a good night,” and hung up the phone.

Then the text messages began.  Here was the first one:

"This one, piping hot just like last time.  Also, one order of breadsticks with extra marinara.  You guys are the best!  Thanks"

Followed by this one:

"Please don't forger the aioli!!  It's my favorite.  I've written Yelp reviews praising its glory"

Which was followed by a third:

"Also, can you draw a dolphin on the box?  My friends said you did that for them and it was so great"

Apparently, this is how you order a pizza these days.  You send a text message to a person who already has told you twice that they are not a pizza restaurant, sending them a picture of what you want that is lifted from an Urbanspoon review for a pizza place in New Albany, Indiana, plus breadsticks with additional sauce.  And also aioli, which, for those who don’t know (I didn’t), is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and usually egg yolks.  Probably the closest thing that many of us have had to aioli (and correct me if I’m wrong) is the garlic sauce that comes from Papa John’s.  And then while they were at it, they also wanted an illustration of a dolphin on the box itself.  All of this would be reasonable enough, I suppose, assuming, of course, that they had reached a pizza place in the first place.  However, note what is missing from this request: the size of the pizza, and also the address where it’s supposed to be delivered.

After this, I went to bed.  I was tired, and I had to get up in the morning.  After I was all settled in bed, I heard the phone ring again.  Since I was already in bed, I let it run out, and then a minute or so later, I heard the “uh-oh!” sound that indicates that I had a message.  Shortly after that, I fell asleep, and slept soundly.  When I woke up, I found that four more voice messages had been left over the span of about half an hour.

Here’s voice message number two, left at 2:39 AM:

Hello.  Um, my pizza, it’s been an hour, uh, half hour – excuse me – and it’s still not here.  Um, I’m just wondering when it’s going to be here, because you have a policy in your website that says after a half hour, it’s free.  And I, I really don’t want to take advantage of that, but it seems like it’s gonna be that way, because it’s been over a half hour.  So I wanted to know if my pepperoni pineapple pizza is gonna be here soon, or if I’m going to have to enact that policy.  If you could please let me know, that would be very much appreciated.  I’m really looking forward to it, I’m so hungry, and I’ve heard such great things.  Um, again, if, um, 413 Elm Street, and, um, if you could maybe throw in that complimentary order of breadsticks, that would be great, especially since, since it’s now running, um, two minutes late.  Okay, thank you very much!  Bye.  (listen to audio)

I don’t know how one is supposed to deliver pizza to a person who has not given an address, especially when the person had already been told in no uncertain terms that she had not reached a restaurant of any sort.  But in any case, she provided some sort of address in this message.  However, I don’t know where “413 Elm Street” is.  New Jersey?  DC?  And if in DC, what quadrant?  Also notice that she threatened to invoke some “thirty minutes or your pizza is free” delivery policy, added pepperoni to her pizza order (the earlier image showed only cheese and pineapple), and that she now expected that her order of breadsticks would be free.

And then ten minutes later, at 2:49 AM, I got this:

Hey, I placed an order for pizza, and, um, it’s been over 40 minutes.  I’m just wondering where it is, and if the free delivery after a half hour still applies.  Um, we also ordered breadsticks, but now I believe that they are complimentary as well, and we wanted extra marinara.  So if you can please get back to us and let us know the status of our pizza.  We’re really looking forward to it.  We’re so hungry, and you guys have amazing Yelp reviews, so, we’re just really looking forward to it, and if you could please call me back.  My phone number is 201 [unintelligible] and we are still looking forward to it.  Ummm, also, if you could throw in a few jalapeño bites, we would not be opposed to that as well.  Thank you.  Have a nice evening.  (listen to audio)

With this message, the woman’s expectation changed from free breadsticks to getting the entire order for free.  She was demanding free pizza, free breadsticks (with extra marinara), and also something new: jalapeño bites.  At almost three in the morning.  She also began referencing the restaurant’s great Yelp reviews, which made me think that she was possibly thinking about leaving an unkind review for whatever establishment that she intended to call.  And what was with that phone number?  She said “201″ and then something unintelligible where the rest of the number should have been.

Then at 2:54 AM, five minutes later:

Hi!  Um, I placed an order over 45 minutes ago for my pineapple pepperoni pizza, and clearly, you do not [unintelligible] apologize about not being able to take my calls this time, because I’ve been waiting this long for my pizza.  Now, contrary to your Yelp reviews, I’ve been waiting for an extremely long time for what should be a very simple order.  I mean, a pizza plus breadsticks is not a difficult order to fulfill.  I could understand if it was a larger one, but this is not difficult, and this is the DC area, so you should really get your act together.  And as far as my Yelp review goes for you, it will not be a flattering one.  Furthermore, you can only make this up if you brought me wings as well, within the next ten minutes.  And seeing as that’s not going to happen, you’re going to have the most tarnishing of reviews on your Yelp.  Now, I hope you understand that.  I hope that you know that I am very disappointed in the service I’ve received tonight.  [pause]  Have a good night.  (listen to audio)

She has now moved from “Hey, where’s the pizza that I ordered?” into outright threats of extortion.  She flat out demanded an order of wings at her door in less than ten minutes at almost three in the morning, or else she would be writing a bad review about them on Yelp.  And mind you, this is after she was notified, by me, via text message and over the phone, that she had reached a personal cell phone, and not any sort of eating establishment.  All of this was apparently irrelevant to her.  Apparently, in her world, my number went to a pizza restaurant.

And then I got a fifth and final voicemail seven minutes later, at 3:01 AM:

I have waited well over an hour for my pizza.  At this point, I am really upset with your customer service.  How dare you claim that you have a half hour ordering time and not hold up to it, because right now, I am so hungry.  All night, I looked forward to my pineapple pepperoni pizza [unintelligible] a shoe-in pizza.  And now, it’s not here.  What am I supposed to do?  Am I supposed to order from Domino’s?  Are you serious?  I’ve heard such wonderful things, and now I’m only disappointed by shoe-in pizza.  Come on.  What a disgrace.  When your Yelp review pulls up tomorrow, I hope that you are shocked by what you read.  Shocked.  I am so upset and so hungry.  Of all the things to look forward to and be let down by, I did not think it [unintelligible] pizza [unintelligible].  Thank you, and good evening.  (listen to audio)

Finally, she moved on from threats of extortion to self-righteous indignation.  Apparently, she gave up on ever getting a pizza from whoever she thought she was calling, and a bad Yelp review would soon be forthcoming.  And what a slam to Domino’s Pizza.  Clearly Domino’s was the bottom of the barrel as far as pizza places went in this woman’s mind.  Okay, then.

Now I don’t know this woman, and I have no idea what pizza place she was attempting to call.  But I have to wonder what was up with the way she went on after having been told that she had not reached a restaurant.  My guess is that she was temporarily impaired in some way, i.e. under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or some other intoxicating substance.  After all, who in their right mind hears a voicemail greeting that sounds like a personal phone rather than a business and still leaves a message asking about food for delivery, calls the same number back to order delivery after receiving a text message saying that she got a wrong number, leaves three text messages clearly intended to place said order, and then calls back four more times to check on said order and make demands for free food?  Exactly.  My best guess is that considering it was late at night on a weekend, she was not entirely together that night.  If you want to order food late at night, please get a sober person to place that order for you.

Meanwhile, having worked in customer service roles, it always irritates me when I see blatantly bad behavior and unreasonable demands from customers.  It really is the bully mentality when people behave this way towards people in service occupations.  They know that the person on the other end of the phone or the counter can’t retaliate, therefore they feel as though they can abuse them.  In addition, I’ve seen too many managers enable bad customer behavior by rewarding them for it, under the guise of “the customer is always right”.  That’s a phrase that needs to disappear from our lexicon.  As I understand it, the original meaning of the term was that if a customer wants to buy it, then it’s the vendor’s job to supply it if they want to stay in business.  In other words, if someone is willing to put money on the table for a product or service, then who are we to argue?  Money talks, after all, and so the idea is to make available for sale what people want to buy.  But when it comes to modern customer service, the phrase has been twisted to have a far more literal meaning.  It’s no longer about the concept of supply and demand, but rather that the customer is viewed as some all-powerful god to be pleased at all costs, and it gives rise to abusive customers who make unreasonable demands, and managers who will enable their abuse.

Assuming for a moment that the woman in the above example had actually reached a pizza place and not my personal cell phone and had successfully placed an order, it would then be the pizza place’s responsibility to deliver the goods.  If the goods are delivered beyond any promised fulfillment time for reasons beyond the customer’s control, then it would seem reasonable to compensate the customer in some form for the delay, either with a partial refund or with some form of complimentary product.  However, the choice for method of resolution is on the company.  Really, resolution of a problem is where a store or restaurant to really show what it’s made of.  This is where great businesses are made and where bad ones tarnish their reputation.  Thus if one gives the business enough space to make a determination, then they will either make it right, or they will unwittingly hang themselves.  My mother and I were at a restaurant in Silver Spring a few years ago, and we discovered a piece of plastic in our appetizer.  We brought it to the server’s attention, and they investigated it.  A few minutes later, the manager came out, apologized, told us that they found the source of the plastic (a chip out of the container that part of the appetizer was stored in), that they had discarded the remaining product along with the container itself, and the cost of the appetizer was on the house.  It was a very reasonable solution, and we have been back there several times since.

However, when the customer starts making demands for free products, they’ve crossed the line between being reasonable and being unreasonable.  Likewise, dangling a bad Yelp review over a business’s head in exchange for free product is extremely poor form, if not outright extortion.  I have given many bad Yelp reviews over the course of the last few years, and all of the businesses deserved it.  However, I always give those bad reviews quietly, later on.  The business won’t know how badly they messed up in the heat of the moment, because I let them hang themselves.  I almost never mention Yelp reviews during any direct interaction with a business.  The only time I ever mention Yelp is if someone asks how I found out about the place, and I actually did find out about them from Yelp.  And in fact, I’ve found many great local hole-in-the-wall restaurants exactly this way.  But a Yelp review is not something to be dangled over a business’s head.  Allow them to succeed or hang themselves, and then report back to us via the Yelp service.  The rest will work itself out.  Plus of course, under most circumstances, one is not obligated to patronize any business that they don’t want to.

There are also certain times when it’s better to just let an unreasonable customer go.  The woman in the example above fit that definition quite well.  She was demanding free pizza, free breadsticks, and wings in less time than it would take to cook them (let alone prepare and deliver them).  It is unclear whether she wanted the jalapeño bites and the ten-minute wings for free or if she was placing an additional order, but considering the tone of those messages, I would guess that she probably wanted them for free.  Assuming again that she had successfully placed her order rather than just leaving messages with me, there comes a point where a restaurant would just be losing money on her.  That’s when you have to ask: is it more profitable to give into this woman’s demands just to please her, therefore enabling her to do it all again next time she wants free food, or just cancel her not-yet-fulfilled order (with full refund if already paid) and let her go?  I think I’d let this woman go, because she would just be losing money for the business, every time.

And lastly, this is a general reminder: adults are responsible for everything that they say and do at all times.  This is without regard to whether they are sober, drunk, high, stoned, or what have you, because that is not my problem.  Likewise, I am not required or otherwise obligated in any way to protect someone’s identity if they say or do something stupid on the phone.  It is also not illegal or a violation of anyone’s privacy to circulate a message left on a voicemail, as voicemail systems make it quite clear that what they say after the tone will be recorded.  What I do with the recording after that is my business, including releasing it on the Internet, unedited, unredacted, and with all metadata intact.  So do what responsible adults do, and think before you speak, or else someone might just make an example out of you for what not to do.

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At last, my Washington Monument photo set is done… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/20/at-last-my-washington-monument-photo-set-is-done/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=at-last-my-washington-monument-photo-set-is-done http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/20/at-last-my-washington-monument-photo-set-is-done/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 05:30:32 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23227 At last, I have finished my Washington Monument photo set.  I started work on this photo set in September, finished up the photography for it in November, and now it’s February and with the scaffolding mostly gone (only a quarter or so of the height is now covered) at the time of this writing, the set finally goes out.  This was quite a project, too.

I spent most of the first day, September 5, out on the Mall, shooting photos of the monument under clear to partly cloudy skies.  I was out there from mid-to-late morning until around 5:00.  I got home around 7 PM, after having walked 6.35 miles around the Mall area.  I got off the train at Metro Center, headed to the Washington Monument, and looped around it once at fairly close range.  Then I did another loop around it from a distance, following the path around the Tidal Basin, going past the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the DC War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the World War II Memorial.  Then I headed back up to the Washington Monument, and did another loop up close before heading out.  I went over to the Old Post Office on my way out in order to get a few photos of the Washington Monument from up above, before returning to Metro Center to head home.  After I got home, I don’t think I made it to 7:30.  I was out like a light.  Walking all that distance while taking some 900 photos, I definitely earned my sleep that night, as I was both physically and mentally exhausted.

As with any time I go out, it’s always interesting to see what I encounter.  After all, when I shoot photos of something, I never end up just taking photos of the target subject.  After all, storage space is cheap, and I usually carry about 20 GB of SD card storage in my camera bag when I go out.  And this was no exception.  Of those 900-some photos, quite a few were of other things, such as…

This is the Computer Building in Wheaton, photographed from the Metro garage.  The building used to be a five-story office building off of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, but in 2013, work began to enlarge the building and completely renovate it to turn it into apartments.  I was surprised that they were using the existing building as a base, but apparently the building was worth retaining.
This is the Computer Building in Wheaton, photographed from the Metro garage.  The building used to be a five-story office building off of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, but in 2013, work began to enlarge the building and completely renovate it to turn it into apartments.  I was surprised that they were using the existing building as a base, but apparently the building was worth retaining.

State at the National Sylvan Theater, just south of the Washington Monument.  Due to the repair work on the Washington Monument, the National Sylvan Theater is de facto closed due to loss of the audience space.
State at the National Sylvan Theater, just south of the Washington Monument.  Due to the repair work on the Washington Monument, the National Sylvan Theater is de facto closed due to loss of the audience space.

This picture illustrates what's going on at the National Sylvan Theater pretty well.  The construction fence runs right up to the stage at one end, and the front access to the theater is completely blocked.  I got into this area through the back of the theater.  If you were going to have a show at the National Sylvan Theater during this construction, it would need to be very tiny.
This picture illustrates what’s going on at the National Sylvan Theater pretty well.  The construction fence runs right up to the stage at one end, and the front access to the theater is completely blocked.  I got into this area through the back of the theater.  If you were going to have a show at the National Sylvan Theater during this construction, it would need to be very tiny.

The Jefferson Memorial.
The Jefferson Memorial.

The MLK Memorial.
The MLK Memorial.

The MLK Memorial again, viewed from the side.
The MLK Memorial again, viewed from the side.

Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe's old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn't you?  Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe's old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn't you?
Since the last time I was at the Lincoln Memorial in 2002, the Lincoln Memorial got a new fire alarm system.  Abe’s old alarms were an early ADA-compliant version of the Wheelock MT horn/strobe with Gamewell pull stations.  Now, Abe has Wheelock Exceder horn/strobes and Fire-Lite BG-12 pull stations with Stopper covers.  You always knew that President Lincoln was a Wheelock fan, didn’t you?

My own shadow, as I was approaching the monument for the second pass close by.
My own shadow, as I was approaching the monument for the second pass close by.

DC Councilman Jim Graham's Volkswagen convertible parked in front of the John Wilson Building.  Considering our previous encounter on the road, I was tempted to leave a note on his windshield reading, "Dear Jim, drive carefully.  Love, Ben."  Considering the way he drives, I'm amazed that he's kept the car in one piece all this time.
DC Councilman Jim Graham’s Volkswagen convertible parked in front of the John Wilson Building.  Considering our previous encounter on the road, I was tempted to leave a note on his windshield reading, “Dear Jim, drive carefully.  Love, Ben.”  Considering the way he drives, I’m amazed that he’s kept the car in one piece all this time.

In the Old Post Office tower, an old laptop is doing service as a screen showing information about the bells that live in the tower.  I thought this was a clever reuse for an older laptop.
In the Old Post Office tower, an old laptop is doing service as a screen showing information about the bells that live in the tower.  I thought this was a clever reuse for an older laptop.

The most amusing moment of the day came fairly early on as I was taking photos.  I was talking with a husband and wife, and they mentioned that they were staying at a hotel in Dupont Circle.  When I inquired further, they told me that they were staying at the Washington Hilton.  You should have seen how surprised they were when I then told them that they were staying at the hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot.  I suppose that they weren’t expecting to get that kind of history lesson during their visit.

Following the success of the daytime shoot, my intent was to complete the second half of this project, the nighttime photos, on September 28.  For that, I went down to the Mall again with the tripod in tow, along with my friend Suzie and her cousin Rocio.  We had a blast, but unfortunately, I had equipment problems that made the shoot problematic.  Specifically, the tripod that I had used broke on me (I wrote about this in October).  The photos of the Washington Monument turned out to be pretty awful to the point of being unusable.  If it tells you anything, the photos that I shot with the tripod were no better than handheld shots that I took near the end of the night.  But I did get a few photos of the outing between awful shots.

Suzie (at left) and Rocio pose with the row of people waiting in a bread line at the FDR Memorial.
Suzie (at left) and Rocio pose with the row of people waiting in a bread line at the FDR Memorial.

Suzie takes a photo at the MLK Memorial.
Suzie takes a photo at the MLK Memorial.

Even though it was clear by now that the tripod was done, I still got a few decent photos, like this one of the MLK Memorial.
Even though it was clear by now that the tripod was done, I still got a few decent photos, like this one of the MLK Memorial.

Handheld photo of the Washington Monument, taken from relatively close by.  I consider it like adding insult to injury that a handheld photo with the camera set on automatic where I didn't try very hard in shooting it came out better than any of the photos that I actually worked on and took with the tripod.
Handheld photo of the Washington Monument, taken from relatively close by.  I consider it like adding insult to injury that a handheld photo with the camera set on automatic where I didn’t try very hard in shooting it came out better than any of the photos that I actually worked on and took with the tripod.

And then at the end of the evening, I threw the tripod away.

I was going to go back fairly soon to do the shoot again (since I had planned a second nighttime shoot anyway), but then the government shutdown happened, which closed all of the memorials and such, which cut off much of the access that I needed to do the shoot.  The shutdown not only closed a lot of the places that I wanted to shoot from, but it also closed the bathrooms.  I do like being able to stop and go to the bathroom over the course of these things, and I’m not about to use a tree on the Mall.  So those plans went out the window due to lack of access.  Then when the government reopened, I had to formulate new plans.  I ended up scheduling another photo trip with Melissa and Doreen, but after we ate dinner at Mellow Mushroom in Adams Morgan and then got lost trying to find the parking lot, none of us really felt like doing a photo shoot.  So that was that.

The third shoot, on November 8, was scheduled out of necessity when I found out the date that the scaffolding would start to be taken down.  I knew that if I wanted to get the photos I wanted, then it was time to act.  November 8 fit my schedule, and so I went at it.  I knew that the regular lights were lighting it rather than the special ones, and that was fine with me.  I had trouble getting good photos with the special lights, and besides, having nighttime photos with the full scaffolding lit with the regular lights would make my photos more unique.  And then I figured that if these photos didn’t turn out, I would complete the set with just the daytime photos.  I would have made it work, and the daytime photos certainly could have stood on their own, but I really wanted nighttime photos.

Thankfully, everything went well on this nighttime shoot.  I arrived on scene around 10 PM, and was at it until 4:30 AM.  Since I was doing this by myself, I took a few extra photos to amuse myself:

Long exposure photograph of the 14th Street Bridge.  This is the westmost span, i.e. the George Mason Memorial Bridge.  I shot this partly as a warmup, and partly because I really like photographing highways at night due to the headlight streaks.  I really should go out and photograph highways some night.  Could be fun.
Long exposure photograph of the 14th Street Bridge.  This is the westmost span, i.e. the George Mason Memorial Bridge.  I shot this partly as a warmup, and partly because I really like photographing highways at night due to the headlight streaks.  I really should go out and photograph highways some night.  Could be fun.

I took a lot of "meta" photos this time around, taking a photo with my cell phone of my real camera on the tripod, ready to go.  This one was taken at the Jefferson Memorial.
I took a lot of “meta” photos this time around, taking a photo with my cell phone of my real camera on the tripod, ready to go.  This one was taken at the Jefferson Memorial.

System Sensor fire alarm strobe in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  The fact that this strobe is in a big cage in a restroom kind of surprised me.  One would think that this wouldn't be the case.  Usually you see those sorts of things in gymnasiums and such where there is a higher likelihood of such devices' being struck.  A restroom does not fit into that mold.
System Sensor fire alarm strobe in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  The fact that this strobe is in a big cage in a restroom kind of surprised me.  One would think that this wouldn’t be the case.  Usually you see those sorts of things in gymnasiums and such where there is a higher likelihood of such devices’ being struck.  A restroom does not fit into that mold.

Mirror selfie in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  This was taken at around 12:20 AM.
Mirror selfie in the family restroom at the MLK Memorial.  This was taken at around 12:20 AM.

Another "meta" shot, this one at the Lincoln Memorial.
Another “meta” shot, this one at the Lincoln Memorial.  The statue of Lincoln is directly behind me, as was a group of drunk GW students.  Until this evening, I had no idea that it was a “thing” at GW to get drunk on a weekend night and head down to the Lincoln Memorial.  The Park Police officer who was stationed at the Lincoln Memorial was kind of glad to see me, because I’m pretty sure that I was the only sober person there other than him.  We had a great conversation.  I also found out from the drunk GW students why they have that little sign in there that says, “QUIET – RESPECT PLEASE”.  It’s not in honor of Lincoln.  Rather, you have to realize what kind of space you are in.  You are in a giant stone box that has nothing in it to absorb any sort of sound.  Thus everything echoes in there many times over.  And those drunk college students were quite loud in there.

Another "meta" shot, as I'm getting close to the monument itself.  I have no idea if the shot that I had lined up in this photo made it into the final photo set or not.
Another “meta” shot, as I’m getting close to the monument itself.  I have no idea if the shot that I had lined up in this photo made it into the final photo set or not.

Back to the car at last.  It was 4:40 AM by the time I finally finished up.
Back to the car at last.  It was 4:40 AM by the time I finally finished up.

Then on the way home, since I was going right by, I stopped over at the Walgreens in Chinatown for a look (not bad), and to get a drink.  I think I got home around 6 AM, just as it was starting to get light out again.  I slept well after that.  But I got photos that I could use, and that’s awesome.

And this was also why big photo shoots take so long to finally release.  There is a lot of weeding out to do.  First round gets rid of the irrelevant photos (i.e. the ones that have nothing to do with the subject, like these above), then I go after the obviously bad ones (e.g. blurry, cars or people in the shot, etc.), and then I have to start making harder choices, deciding between a bunch of photos that are all similar in what they show and similar in quality, and need to remove some from consideration.  That process is not fun, and that’s why it takes so long – because there’s lots to weed out.  From the daytime shoot, I pared it down from 900-some to 61.  In other words, I used roughly one out of every fifteen shots.  For the nighttime shoot, it was a little smaller, with roughly 350 photos pared down to 31, or about one in twelve.

But in any case, I’m delighted it’s done.  Now I need to plan some photo shoots for 2014.  What do you want to see me photograph in 2014?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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No more Creative Commons license? http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/20/no-more-creative-commons-license/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-more-creative-commons-license http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/20/no-more-creative-commons-license/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 05:00:16 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23221 As of today, The Schumin Web is no longer offered under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.  The site will now be offered under the traditional “all rights reserved” model, i.e. explicit written permission is required for most downstream usages.  I am doing this for one purpose: to make money.  I went to the Creative Commons model back in November 2005 in order to give my work more exposure through downstream uses, and apparently it’s worked.  I now have a portfolio of over 250 downstream usages, both online and in print.  I now have plenty of exposure.  People know who I am, and know about my work, based on multiple usages from a few high-profile entities.  Therefore, I believe that I have reached the point where I can monetize my photography work and bring in a few extra bucks.  The idea is that if you work for some vague notion of “exposure”, that is all you are ever going to get, and it’s very easy to be taken advantage of that way.  As I field more and more licensing requests from companies, it is clear that there is monetary value in what I produce.

Because of this, there are a few changes in the way that things will operate as far as image licensing goes, as I attempt to reconcile the old Creative Commons license with the new all-rights-reserved model.  First of all, please note: as of today, no new downstream usages of any Schumin Web content are allowed under any form of Creative Commons license.  Please see the new Content Licensing page for information about new downstream usages of Schumin Web content.  All existing downstream content usages that were made using the old Creative Commons license are grandfathered.  Thus, for example, if you used a picture under the Creative Commons license last year, nothing affects that past usage.  However, if you want to use another image today, you need to receive explicit written permission to use that image, even if the image was originally published during the period when the Creative Commons license was in effect.

Looking back at eight years of operations under the Creative Commons model, I have come to the conclusion that, while the whole idea of Creative Commons is certainly noble, it’s a pain in the butt on the management side of things.  I would find usages of my content that didn’t follow the Attribution-ShareAlike requirements, and when I contacted the offenders, they would claim that they didn’t think that the item was copyrighted and that they didn’t have to do anything beyond just using it.  And then explaining that they were, in fact, allowed to use the image but only if certain requirements were met sailed right over the heads of too many people.  This Journal entry discusses some of the problems that I’ve had with it.  Plus Creative Commons put me at a disadvantage when managing image rights, because it was a blanket permission to use it for anything.  That was all well and good when things weren’t moving, but with quite a few commercial usages of my work now, including a book cover, my view has changed.  Basically, if you are going to profit off of my work, I want a piece of that pie.  I’m not giving it away anymore.

Right now, I’m doing my own rights management in-house.  However, I am looking to partner with a company to handle the rights management for me, and am currently researching companies that provide this service.  If anyone has recommendations for stock photography companies to partner with, please leave a comment below, because feedback from actual users is worth far more than a whole stack of company literature.

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Digging out of the snow… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/13/digging-out-of-the-snow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digging-out-of-the-snow http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/13/digging-out-of-the-snow/#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 23:55:25 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23166 So considering that the pool is closed tonight due to the snow, I still got my exercise today, pool or no pool.  For those not familiar, the east coast of the United States got hit with a pretty significant snowstorm.  This is the biggest snowstorm that I’ve seen since Snowmageddon in 2010.  And hitting in the same week as Snowmageddon did back in 2010, no less.  However, this snow has mostly been the light, fluffy kind so far, and that’s the stuff that you can clear off the car with the brush part of the scraper with little effort (and really get some distance when slinging it).  However, when more than a foot of it falls in a short time, it does start to compress a bit.  But it looked very pretty while coming down last night:

The parking lot at the Safeway in Olney at around 10:00 on Wednesday night.
The parking lot at the Safeway in Olney at around 10:00 on Wednesday night.

Soul tracks at my friend and swim buddy Suzie's house.
Soul tracks at my friend and swim buddy Suzie’s house.

The Soul, parked for the night.
The Soul, parked for the night.

Looking back towards my building as the snow comes down in the evening, just before 11:00 on Wednesday evening.
Looking back towards my building as the snow comes down in the evening, just before 11:00 on Wednesday evening.

Then around 5 AM, I was up and out to keep somewhat ahead of the snow clearing business, and cleared my car:

5 AM clearing, before.
5 AM clearing, before.

5 AM clearing, after.
5 AM clearing, after.

To give you an idea of the depth at this point, here’s a photo showing tire tracks:

Tire tracks (not mine) leading away from my building.

Then this afternoon, I went about digging myself out of the mess of snow.  Here’s what I was presented with:

Blocked in with more than a foot of snow, plus a healthy covering on top of the car.
Blocked in with more than a foot of snow, plus a healthy covering on top of the car.

And then I had to remove all of that mess.

Halfway out!
Halfway out!

I think that I'm clear enough now to get out?
I think that I’m clear enough now to get out?

I got this much snow between 5 AM and when the snow stopped.  I guesstimate that this is about five more inches.
I got this much snow between 5 AM and when the snow stopped.  I guesstimate that this is about five more inches.

I did not clear enough just yet to escape.  Turns out that the car didn't want to go over that little tiny hump at the bottom, which was under the front of the car when I first cleared it.  So with the car slightly further back now, I scooped up that little hump.
I did not clear enough just yet to escape.  Turns out that the car didn’t want to go over that little tiny hump at the bottom, which was under the front of the car when I first cleared it.  So with the car slightly further back now, I scooped up that little hump.

And from there, it was a pretty straightforward matter (literally and figuratively) to escape from the parking space.  Freedom!
And from there, it was a pretty straightforward matter (literally and figuratively) to escape from the parking space.  Freedom!

Considering that I had to park halfway across the property from my own building last night, I moved the car to a space in front of the building that I actually live in:

And considering that I had to park halfway across the property from my own building last night, I moved the car to a space in front of the building that I actually live in.

Obligatory "hero shot" of the car after being released from the snow's icy hold.
Obligatory “hero shot” of the car after being released from the snow’s icy hold.

And by the way, I would just like to point out for a moment how awesome my new boots are.  This is a new pair of Sorel snow boots, which I bought last week on Amazon after my old boots ripped on me due to dry rot.  That was the modern day shoe hunt, buying a ton of shoes online from both Amazon and Zappos, trying them all on at home, and then returning all but one of them.  These are the winners:

My new boots.  I definitely like these.  They are warm, they are comfortable, they fit properly, and, best of all, they are black, rather than that ugly hunter green color.

I ended up wearing these around the house for two hours afterwards because they were so comfortable.

Then after taking care of my car, rather than just go in, I decided to be a good neighbor and pitch in a bit.  I helped two of my neighbors dig their cars out after I was free.  That had a few benefits.  First of all, I got to talk to and connect with my neighbors.  After all, digging out of the snow is definitely a community event.  We’ve all got to do it, and so we might as well talk to each other.  Secondly, I got some extra exercise on a day when the pool was closed.  And also, I just like being nice like that.  Help a neighbor out today, and maybe they’ll help you out one day in the future, or pay the kindness forward to someone else.

And now, it’s snowing again.  Lovely.  I suppose we’ll see how much more snow we get before it stops again.  I just hope that I left myself in a good position to get myself out again when the snow stops.

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Singing about five overbearing and overemotional humans… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/06/singing-about-five-overbearing-and-overemotional-humans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=singing-about-five-overbearing-and-overemotional-humans http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/02/06/singing-about-five-overbearing-and-overemotional-humans/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 04:34:51 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23133 So Tuesday night was fun.  I got together with my friend Melissa, and we hung out for a few hours.  We did some computer and phone maintenance over at my house, and then headed out for dinner.  We went to The Potomac Grill, which is located in Talbott Center on Rockville Pike.

For those not familiar, The Potomac Grill hosts Blinkie’s Karaoke, which is run by my friends Ken and Luisa.  I’ve done fill-in work as the engineer for Blinkie’s Karaoke from time to time, but this was my first time going solely as a participant.  Melissa didn’t sing, but I did.  I sang a karaoke version of the theme to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.  Those of you who are familiar with what I’ve talked about know that I’m a bit of a Power Rangers geek (I got into it in high school).  This was a new addition to the catalog, and so I premiered it.  And to top things off, Melissa filmed my performance:

Not too shabby, if you ask me.  I have no idea who the woman was that joined me while I was singing, though.  She was part of a group from Indiana that was visiting DC.  I think I do need to work on my performance a little bit.  First of all, if I had thought about it, I would have worn my Blue Ranger shirt.  Second, while the singing was good enough, I need to choreograph things a little bit better.  I did an “It’s morphin’ time!” and tried to do the whole morph pose, but for the most part, I was kind of swaying side to side and playing with my shirt with my non-microphone hand.  I could definitely do better when it comes to how I perform.  I need to think about this a bit.

And of course, if you can think of something that I could do to make a better performance for this song, leave a comment below.

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Brace yourselves… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/29/brace-yourselves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brace-yourselves http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/29/brace-yourselves/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:22:12 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23117 On the morning of Saturday, January 25, I started the day with this post to Facebook:

BRACE YOURSELVES: SPEEDO PIX ARE COMING

See, January 25 was polar bear plunge day, i.e. the day that I would head over to National Harbor and go for a quick swim in the cold Potomac River in support of climate change work with Chesapeake Climate Action Network.  And for those of you who are unfamiliar with my practice on these things, it should be noted that I follow my own advice, which I first gave in 2010, and thus I wear a speedo when I do the plunge (and if you don’t like it, don’t look).

So this year, I went with my friend Tania, who teaches Aqua Zumba at the pool.  This was Tania’s first plunge, and my third.  This was also the coldest weather I’d ever plunged in.  This is what the river looked like on the morning of the plunge:

An icy Potomac River

Yes, that is ice on the surface of the Potomac River.  The darker section in the back of the photo is not yet frozen, but for some distance from the shore, the surface of the river was frozen over.  It was one thing last year when they had to de-ice the shore, but this year, they were shoveling literally shoveling the river:

Shoveling ice off of the surface of the Potomac

Shoveling ice off of the surface of the Potomac

After all, we needed a clear path into the river in order to do this properly.  No walking on ice.  Then they also took the temperature of the water:

Cold day today: 25 degree air temperature, 30 degree water temperature.

Yes, you are reading that correctly.  First, the water was five degrees warmer than the air.  Second, the water was below freezing.  If it tells you anything, this water was only two degrees warmer than the waters that the Titanic sank in back in 1912.

And then came the plunge.  As Tania and I had agreed to photograph each other going in, she went first while I photographed using Duckie:

After that, it was my turn, starting with a pose on the shore:

Yes, I am wearing a red suit this year.

Yes, that is a red Tyr Durafast swim brief right there.  This suit is part of my regular rotation when I go swimming, along with a black one and a blue one.  And then I headed in:

And then Tania went in again:

Then she grabbed her Santa hat, and went in a third time:

So all in all, I believe that everyone had fun.  I only went halfway in this time, as the cold was already starting to take my breath away.  I wasn’t about to chance having any problems and needing to be rescued if I went in any further.  There will be other plunges, after all.  And to be fair, most people did similarly, because it was just that cold on this particular day.

And then afterwards, we headed over to McLoone’s Pier House, where I ran into Katy, a former coworker:

This was Katy’s fourth plunge at National Harbor, and then Dan (at left) was doing his second plunge (you may remember him from 2012).  Leslie, at right, didn’t go in this year.  Still, it was good seeing all of them again.

This year’s event seemed a little bit more subdued than most.  I saw no members of Congress going in with us this time around, and the crowd in general seemed smaller this year.  Maybe it was the extreme cold that did it.  In addition, the larger Maryland event at Sandy Point was supposed to have been held on the same day, but was cancelled due to extreme winds, which caused three-foot waves on the Bay, and also destroyed at least one tent.  A lot of people on social media got this event confused with the larger plunge near Annapolis, and I wonder if the cancellation of the other plunge caused people to not come to this one.  In any case, it seemed like a much smaller and more subdued event than usual.  I also felt like it seemed less organized than usual.  Usually, everyone plunges at once, but due to the smaller space available due to the ice, they initially sent everyone to the tents, then said that only people whose last names were in the first half of the alphabet were going right away, and for the back half of the alphabet to wait fifteen minutes, and then they quickly reversed themselves and said that everyone could go right away.  In addition, they didn’t have enough shirts this year.  Thus I didn’t get this year’s shirt because they ran out of them.

So all in all, I had a good time, and Tania really had a blast as well.  I just hope that CCAN has their ducks in a row a little better next year, and that they schedule their plunge event on a different date than the Sandy Point event.  I excused the same-day date last year because of the presidential inaugural the previous weekend, but this year, there was no excuse for that.

And then afterwards, right before I took Tania home, we got a pic of Tania in her polar bear shirt with the Soul:

Tania and the Soul

Something about posing with a salt-covered car on a cold winter day seemed fitting.

And that was that!  Another plunge is done, and already looking forward to next year’s plunge.  And to answer everyone’s comments, yes, we are crazy, but it’s okay to do something crazy like this from time to time.

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Getting some action out of this snow… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/22/getting-some-action-out-of-this-snow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-some-action-out-of-this-snow http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/22/getting-some-action-out-of-this-snow/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 04:37:06 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23102 Let’s admit it: between the wet, heavy snow and the light, fluffy snow, I will always fall on the side of the light, fluffy snow.  Powdery stuff is just nicer snow than the wetter stuff.  And with the recent snowfall to come over the DC area, we got the fluffy stuff.  It’s more likely to blow around and hit you in the face, but it’s easier to clear off of your car, and easy to shovel off of the balcony.

And like any good snowfall, I got pictures.  Of course, I got the obligatory off-the-balcony photo:

Good morning from Aspen Hill, Maryland!

But then I also got some action photos from clearing off the car.  I will be the first to admit that I had way too much fun doing this than I should have had.  First, however, the “before” shots:

Before the cleaning began

Before the cleaning began

Before the cleaning began

With there being something of a breeze going on while I was out, and the light, powdery, fluffy nature of this snow, it was quite easy to clear off, and also lent itself to some fun – just as long as I was standing upwind from everything.  So I went for style here, seeing how much snow that I could get airborne in one blow and then taking a photo of my work:

Look at that snow fly!

Whoosh - right off of the roof!

So much flying snow - I got good at this pretty quickly.  The snow scraper makes a cameo in this one.

And the end result was a clear (enough) car:

All done!

Not too shabby, if you ask me.  I was definitely “going for distance” with this one, slinging snow off the roof with the brush as hard as I could sling it, and taking a pic once the snow was airborne (think slinging snow with one hand, and then taking a pic with the other).  I had tons of fun doing this, and was disappointed to see it end (only so much snow!), but my fingers were so cold after I finished this that they were in pain.  But after a few minutes in the (warmed up) car, I was fine, and was running the errands that I needed to run.

And now that everything is all clear again, tomorrow starts CDL school!

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The future is riding on Metro… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/12/the-future-is-riding-on-metro/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-future-is-riding-on-metro http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/12/the-future-is-riding-on-metro/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 03:52:17 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23089 On Monday, January 6, at 10:30 AM, the future of Metro arrived, as Metro debuted its new 7000-Series railcars for the press at Greenbelt station.  First thing that happened is that they brought the train into the station:

The first 7000-Series quad set arrives at Greenbelt station

Once the train stopped in the station, the last set of doors on the trailing car (7006) opened, and out stepped Metro General Manager Richard Sarles to greet everyone.  As the train had come in signed as a Green Line train to Branch Avenue, the new canned announcements were running.  I only heard two: the line announcement and the door open announcement.  The voice is female, but it’s not Randi Miller, whose voice currently makes Metro’s door announcements.  The new voice is higher in pitch than Miller’s.  The door announcement, while in a different voice, is otherwise still the same: “Doors opening!  Step back to allow customers to exit.  When boarding, please move to the center of the car.”

The mainstream press then took the opportunity to tour the cars, while various local officials made remarks about the new railcars, beginning with Sarles:

Sarles’ was followed at the podium by Senator Barbara Mikulski:

By the time that Senator Mikulski had finished her remarks, most of the mainstream media had finished its tour of the train, and there was enough space for me to tour.  Therefore, I present to you, the new 7000-Series railcars:

Car 7007, viewed from just past the end doors, facing the blind end of the car.  The seat layout is different than before, with more side-facing seats, and two less rows of seats in the middle of the cars.
Car 7007, viewed from just past the end doors, facing the blind end of the car.  The seat layout is different than before, with more side-facing seats, and two less rows of seats in the middle of the cars.

Blind end of car 7007.  Like in the existing fleet, there is no cab at this end of the car.  The seats themselves are a departure from the current fleet.  Unlike how they appeared in the concept drawings, this design pleases me.  The seats appear as a unified piece while still showing two distinct seats.  It's because the piece between the two seats comes all the way up (and has the Metro logo on it!).  Like the existing fleet's seats, the bar runs along the entire top of the seat, and there is a vertical pole attached to most seats, similar to the 6000-Series.  Additionally, these new seats have a more ergonomic design.  Sitting in these new seats, I noticed the higher back, and also far more lumbar support than before.
Blind end of car 7007.  Like in the existing fleet, there is no cab at this end of the car.  The seats themselves are a departure from the current fleet.  Unlike how they appeared in the concept drawings, this design pleases me.  The seats appear as a unified piece while still showing two distinct seats.  It’s because the piece between the two seats comes all the way up (and has the Metro logo on it!).  Like the existing fleet’s seats, the bar runs along the entire top of the seat, and there is a vertical pole attached to most seats, similar to the 6000-Series.  Additionally, these new seats have a more ergonomic design.  Sitting in these new seats, I noticed the higher back, and also far more lumbar support than before.

The back of the new seats is a significant departure from the existing fleet.  Because of the additional lumbar support, there is an added bonus: more legroom!
The back of the new seats is a significant departure from the existing fleet.  Because of the additional lumbar support, there is an added bonus: more legroom!

Like in other car series, where there is a seat adjacent to a door, there is a windscreen.  Unlike the 1000 through 5000-Series, these new windscreens are not full-height, and unlike the 6000-Series, this windscreen is both off the floor and higher than head height for the average seated passenger.
Like in other car series, where there is a seat adjacent to a door, there is a windscreen.  Unlike the 1000 through 5000-Series, these new windscreens are not full-height, and unlike the 6000-Series, this windscreen is both off the floor and higher than head height for the average seated passenger.

The floor is not carpeted and primarily black, with red, white, and blue flecks in it for a slightly patriotic touch.  The designated wheelchair area next to the center doors, similar in size to the 6000-Series cars, is marked out on the floor in blue.
The floor is not carpeted and primarily black, with red, white, and blue flecks in it for a slightly patriotic touch.  The designated wheelchair area next to the center doors, similar in size to the 6000-Series cars, is marked out on the floor in blue.

The new interior LEDs can display larger text than before, and use orange text rather than red (though at least the 6000-Series is capable of showing other colors).  Unlike the 6000-Series, there is nothing like this in the center of the cars, though this is made up by other devices.  During the display, the sign alternated between "Next stop is" and "College Park".  I don't know if this particular style of message is just for station stops, or if there are other messages as well.
The new interior LEDs can display larger text than before, and use orange text rather than red (though at least the 6000-Series is capable of showing other colors).  Unlike the 6000-Series, there is nothing like this in the center of the cars, though this is made up by other devices.  During the display, the sign alternated between “Next stop is” and “College Park”.  I don’t know if this particular style of message is just for station stops, or if there are other messages as well.

Electronic strip map.  This is over the middle window on one side of each half of the car, where a spot for signage exists on other cars.  It lists the next six stops, then four more stops of varying distances, and then the final station on the line.  The map is shown displaying the stops for Green Line service to Branch Avenue.
Electronic strip map.  This is over the middle window on one side of each half of the car, where a spot for signage exists on other cars.  It lists the next six stops, then four more stops of varying distances, and then the final station on the line.  The map is shown displaying the stops for Green Line service to Branch Avenue.

This is a completely new feature on the 7000-Series cars.  This is an LCD screen showing service information, replacing the system map on the evacuation instructions sign.
This is a completely new feature on the 7000-Series cars.  This is an LCD screen showing service information, replacing the system map on the evacuation instructions sign.

The doors are more or less the same as on older railcars, though a bit shinier than before.
The doors are more or less the same as on older railcars, though a bit shinier than before.

Emergency instructions, door release handle, and center intercom.  This version of the evacuation sign is completely new, and unlike past versions, has no system map.
Emergency instructions, door release handle, and center intercom.  This version of the evacuation sign is completely new, and unlike past versions, has no system map.

The graphics for the door release handle are carried directly over from the earlier evacuation maps.  Note that the evacuation handle shown is the style used on the 1000-Series cars.  Considering that the 7000-Series will replace the 1000-Series cars, and the other car series use a different style and color of door release handle, I hope that this graphic is updated on the final version of this sign before more cars are outfitted with it.  I can almost guarantee that this was an oversight, but it will be an obsolete illustration following the retirement of the 1000-Series cars.
The graphics for the door release handle are carried directly over from the earlier evacuation maps.  Note that the evacuation handle shown is the style used on the 1000-Series cars.  Considering that the 7000-Series will replace the 1000-Series cars, and the other car series use a different style and color of door release handle, I hope that this graphic is updated on the final version of this sign before more cars are outfitted with it.  I can almost guarantee that this was an oversight, but it will be an obsolete illustration following the retirement of the 1000-Series cars.

The door release handle is similar to that on other car series (other than the soon-to-be-retired 1000-Series).  The major difference from others is that this has a shiny surface, rather than a brushed appearance.
The door release handle is similar to that on other car series (other than the soon-to-be-retired 1000-Series).  The major difference from others is that this has a shiny surface, rather than a brushed appearance.

The emergency intercoms, shown here at the coupler end of car 7007, are now steel rather than plastic.  The red button now has a light in the center of it.  The car number is located adjacent to the intercom unit.
The emergency intercoms, shown here at the coupler end of car 7007, are now steel rather than plastic.  The red button now has a light in the center of it.  The car number is located adjacent to the intercom unit.

This is the coupler end of car 7007.  In older car series, a cab would be located in this area.  Since the 7000-Series runs in sets of four cars rather than two, this is similar to the other end of the car.
This is the coupler end of car 7007.  In older car series, a cab would be located in this area.  Since the 7000-Series runs in sets of four cars rather than two, this is similar to the other end of the car.

There is likely some sort of equipment concealed in this corner, and I have no idea what this area contains.  The bars on top of this area lead me to think that this may also be intended as a place to put luggage.
There is likely some sort of equipment concealed in this corner, and I have no idea what this area contains.  The bars on top of this area lead me to think that this may also be intended as a place to put luggage.

I believe that this cabinet next to the door contains a set of hostler controls to allow 7000-Series pairs to be moved in the yard from the coupler end when not in a full quad set.
I believe that this cabinet next to the door contains a set of hostler controls to allow 7000-Series pairs to be moved in the yard from the coupler end when not in a full quad set.

This is the cab end of car 7006.  Note that the large window in the cab is now gone, and understandably so - it is my understanding that the large windows looking towards the interior of the car caused a lot of glare in the cab.  While the normal railfan window has been eliminated, there is a view through the cab door window.
This is the cab end of car 7006.  Note that the large window in the cab is now gone, and understandably so – it is my understanding that the large windows looking towards the interior of the car caused a lot of glare in the cab.  While the normal railfan window has been eliminated, there is a view through the cab door window.

Operator's console in the cab.  The large screen in the middle and the smaller screen to the right are new, and a number of the train controls are in different places than before.
Operator’s console in the cab.  The large screen in the middle and the smaller screen to the right are new, and a number of the train controls are in different places than before.

The control handle, previously on the console itself, is now against the right-side wall.
The control handle, previously on the console itself, is now against the right-side wall.

Door and coupling controls on the right-side wall.  The "reopen doors" button is new, and the train sign information is missing from this area.  I would assume that the sign information has been relocated to a different part of the cab, but I did not see any designated area for it.  This may mean that it's on one of the two screens and no longer has any dedicated physical hardware in the cab.
Door and coupling controls on the right-side wall.  The “reopen doors” button is new, and the train sign information is missing from this area.  I would assume that the sign information has been relocated to a different part of the cab, but I did not see any designated area for it.  This may mean that it’s on one of the two screens and no longer has any dedicated physical hardware in the cab.

Breaker switches, behind the operator's head, as in the 6000-Series cars.
Breaker switches, behind the operator’s head, as in the 6000-Series cars.

Left-side door switches, emergency stop plunger, and PA microphone.  Unlike in previous car series, the controls are not behind a door, and this area contains no seat, and will most likely be unavailable to passengers.  Left-side door switches, emergency stop plunger, and PA microphone.  Unlike in previous car series, the controls are not behind a door, and this area contains no seat, and will most likely be unavailable to passengers.
Left-side door switches, emergency stop plunger, and PA microphone.  Unlike in previous car series, the controls are not behind a door, and this area contains no seat, and will most likely be unavailable to passengers.

The fronts of the new 7000-Series cars are black, and contain the Metro logo on the door.
The fronts of the new 7000-Series cars are black, and contain the Metro logo on the door.

The carbodies are stainless steel, rather than aluminum as used in older car series, and are corrugated at the bottom.  The windows are less rectangular.  In addition, the external speakers are lower than before, and there are two destination signs per side.
The carbodies are stainless steel, rather than aluminum as used in older car series, and are corrugated at the bottom.  The windows are less rectangular.  In addition, the external speakers are lower than before, and there are two destination signs per side.


Blind end between 7004 and 7005.  Based on what I observed here, the even-numbered cars contain the full cabs, and the odd-numbered cars contain the hostler controls.  Similarly to the current cars as retrofitted in the late 2000s, the car numbers are in large size on both ends of the car near the roof.

And then when the event was over, they brought the car back to the yard:

And that’s the 7000-Series!  As I understand it, since these are the first cars to arrive for acceptance testing before Kawasaki goes into full production on these cars, some of the details may be subject to change.  I would also take the acceleration sounds that are in the video of the departure with a grain of salt due to the low speed of these movements.

Meanwhile, I’m excited.  These new railcars are going to be really neat, plus this finally resolves the concerns about the structural integrity of Metro’s oldest railcars, which have a tendency to fail catastrophically in a collision.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing these new railcars enter service once acceptance testing is complete and full-scale production begins.

Lastly, I would like to take a moment to thank Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, Metro’s media relations staff, and all of the other Metro employees involved in this event for their hospitality and helpfulness during this event.

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Whose opinions are these now? Fix your brand and we won’t wonder… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/05/whose-opinions-are-these-now-fix-your-brand-and-we-wont-wonder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whose-opinions-are-these-now-fix-your-brand-and-we-wont-wonder http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/05/whose-opinions-are-these-now-fix-your-brand-and-we-wont-wonder/#comments Sun, 05 Jan 2014 23:09:32 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23069 One of the most ridiculous things to come out of social media over the last few years is the Twitter disclaimer.  I’m sure you’ve seen these things before.  They usually look something like this:

Allie Burns, @AllieB: SVP Comms at @CaseFoundation & @Revolution, proud board member @sanergy, food, wine & travel lover, runner, sports fan and social citizen. Tweets are my own.
(I promise I’m not deliberately singling @AllieB out by picking her profile to use as the example.  This is not the only one like this, nor is this the worst offender by any means.)

My understanding is that these things are intended to protect employers from liability if their employees say something untoward, and to say that yes, this is, in fact, a personal account.  My view on this matter is that these things are completely unnecessary, and that too many people use these disclaimers as an excuse to be sloppy about how they brand themselves on the Internet.

I expressed my thoughts on the matter a few weeks ago when responding to an article by Jessica Miller-Merrell called “5 Employee Twitter Bio Disclaimers You Should Add Today“:

The idea of a “my opinions are my own” social media disclaimer in general is a bad idea, as I consider it tantamount to apologizing for having the capability to think and reason for yourself, and to be able to form your own opinion.

If individuals and their employers want to create a separation between personal and professional communications in social media (and there are very valid reasons to do that), then rather than request that employees create stupid little disclaimers, they should ask that the employees not brand their personal accounts in a way that implies or makes one potentially believe that the person behind the account is speaking on behalf of their employer.  I find it amazing how many people brand themselves entirely in the context of their work on their personal Twitter accounts, and then disclaim that the tweets are endorsed or approved by their employer.  Not only does it give the impression that such people are rather one-dimensional and that they can only define themselves by what they do for a living and have no other interests, but it also connects their personal online identity with that of their employer.  With, that, it blurs the line between personal and professional, and makes it difficult to know for sure whether one is speaking as an individual or as a representative of their employer.

I like to think that I’ve created a good separation in my online branding.  The bio on my @SchuminWeb Twitter account, as of this writing, is, “Ben Schumin and The Schumin Web. Ya know.”  There’s also a link to my website, The Schumin Web.  There is no ambiguity about who the person behind the account is speaking for because it contains no branding for any entity other than myself.

If more people would simply brand themselves as themselves and only themselves, rather than branding themselves in the context of their employer, then all of these ridiculous Twitter disclaimers would sort themselves out.

The bottom line is that if you brand yourself in the context of your employer, then it will give the appearance that you are speaking on behalf of your employer, no matter what you say or how much you insist otherwise.  In the example above, the person lists their job and their professional affiliations first, then described themself, and then disclaimed their tweets as being only their own.  The tweets themselves seem to indicate that this is, in fact, a personal account.  However, since the first thing we see is that they are the senior vice president of communications at whatever organization, then it is reasonable to think that they are speaking on behalf of the organization, or at least that there is some connection between what they’re saying here and any official communications on behalf on their employer.  So the question becomes, why even allow people to make that connection in their heads by including one’s employer in the branding for a personal account?  People should learn how to identify themselves as themselves.  Plus, unless your employer is separately paying you for ad space on your personal accounts, why give them the free advertising?  Now if someone has a Twitter account that they use exclusively for official communications on behalf of their employer, that account should be branded entirely (and only) in the context of one’s employer.  And then that person should have a separate personal account that’s not branded in the context of their employer in any way.

As I see it, if someone can only describe themselves in the context of their work, then I feel sorry for them.  If a person’s job is their entire life, then, I’m sorry, that is not a very fulfilling life.  Certainly such people are not so one-dimensional that they have no outside interests.  Do you read anything?  Do you collect anything?  What do you do in your spare time?  If someone is running a personal Twitter account, then that’s the kind of stuff that the person behind the account should use to brand themself.

Then there’s the view that we need to explicitly say that something is a personal account with the “my opinions are my own” or “views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of my employer” and other such garbage for purposes of making sure others know this because they may not be able to distinguish it for themselves.  No.  If others can’t distinguish personal from professional, then it means that the person has done a sloppy job with their branding.  That’s what Twitter disclaimers are at their core: a band-aid over sloppy branding.  Who a person is speaking for should be painfully obvious if done right, without any disclaimers or apologies.

I like to think that I’ve done a pretty decent job at keeping things separate over the years.  I brand myself online more or less exclusively in the context of this website.  I discuss my own interests.  If there are interests that overlap with that of a company, I’m happy for you.  It doesn’t mean that a company owns the concept and can control the way that I display that message on my personal website.  After all, they’re not paying me to operate this website.  Once I get paid, what I do with the money is my business, and if I choose to run a website, that’s my business.  I have been asked in the past to put one of those stupid “my opinions are my own” disclaimers on Schumin Web.  My answer has always been “no”, and that will always be my answer.  First, I’m the only one who pays to run this website.  As my mother has said before, “You have to pay to say.”  Plus I like to think that I follow various best practices about how to brand myself.  If I’m writing for myself, then I will be putting Schumin Web’s brand on it.  If I’m writing on behalf of someone else, then that content will be released under that entity’s brand rather than mine.

All in all, I think this is a pretty simple concept.  We are all special in our own ways, and that’s what makes us individuals.  When it comes to branding personal accounts, that’s what people need to use, and not label themselves in the context of their employer.  And a good personal brand renders the stupid Twitter disclaimer entirely unnecessary.

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A little walk down memory lane with Mom… http://www.schuminweb.com/2013/12/31/a-little-walk-down-memory-lane-with-mom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-little-walk-down-memory-lane-with-mom http://www.schuminweb.com/2013/12/31/a-little-walk-down-memory-lane-with-mom/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 21:07:07 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23048 I certainly had a fun time this past weekend.  Mom came up to visit for a few days, and on Saturday the 28th, we went up to New Jersey for the day, where we wandered around an old stomping ground: Glassboro.  This is where my parents met while in college, and this is also the first place where I lived, from birth to age three.

The first stop was Rowan University, which was Glassboro State College back in Mom and Dad’s day.  First stop was at the Barnes and Noble, which is now the university bookstore.  I had never been in a Barnes and Noble on a college campus before.  It’s something of a cross between a college bookstore and a normal Barnes and Noble, in that it’s styled like a regular store, it has the cafe, it has a section for books and other stuff that they normally sell, but then it also has a section for school-specific merchandise, a school supply section (smaller than I expected), and a textbook section.  Mom got this:

Mom poses with a Glassboro State hoodie

Then from there, we headed over to Little Beef’s for lunch.  Little Beef’s (formerly Joe’s Sub Shop) is a little independent sub shop that existed when my parents were in school.  It looks straight out of the mid 20th century, too:

Little Beef's in Glassboro, New Jersey

It is very believable that, save for the name, some paint, and the television, the place looks exactly like it did in 1969.  The food was good, though it was a bit greasy.  The employees appeared to be college students, and the service was top notch.

From there, we headed to campus, and wandered around the campus a bit.  We first went by Mom’s old dorm, Mimosa Hall, and got a pic of her with the sign:

Mom and the Mimosa Hall sign

Near Mimosa were a few buildings that I remembered from my earliest years.  I had attended a preschool on the campus, and also got to go around a bit.  I specifically remember this building:

South entrance to Robinson Hall

This is Robinson Hall.  I believe that it now houses the education department.  Note the two bridges, though.  As a toddler, I was all over and into everything.  And I have very distinct memories of running around and around on those bridges (they are connected next to the buinding).  Mom briefly had difficulty finding me in all of this, because I was shorter than the sides of the bridges.

I also remember running down this ramp:

Ramp to the basement of Esbjornsen Hall

I remember running down this ramp, looking through the window on the door down there, and seeing a Pepsi vending machine.  It had a 1970s-era logo on it, and said PEPSI-COLA on it.  No idea why I remember this, but that memory of the Pepsi machine has lingered for a long time.

We also explored the older part of campus, on the other side of Route 322.  There, we went past Bozorth Hall, which housed an experimental school in the 1980s:

Entrance to Bozorth Hall

I have vague memories of attending preschool here with “Teacher Kathy” and later with “Teacher Betty”.  Don’t ask me anything else about it, because I don’t remember.  Too young.  The building now houses the college’s communications programs.

Then we also got photos of Bunce Hall:

Bunce Hall

Bunce Hall is the equivalent of JMU’s Wilson Hall, i.e. the landmark building on campus.  Like Wilson Hall, it houses a large auditorium.  I have vague memories of running around in that auditorium, and in the hallway that leads to the auditorium.  Mom says I used to like to play with the lights in that hallway.

Then once we finished on campus, we headed back to the car and checked out a few places where my parents used to live.  We first looked for a place on Poplar Street where Mom lived during her sophomore year.  We soon discovered that the house no longer existed, likely razed as part of the clearing of several blocks to make way for an expansion of the campus (which includes that Barnes and Noble store that we visited).  After that, we headed down to 313 Ellis Street, which is a duplex where Mom lived with eleven(!) other people during her last two years in college:

313 Ellis Street, Glassboro, New Jersey

I could not imagine living in a house with that many people.  The house is a duplex, with three bedrooms on each side.  Each bedroom had two occupants.  I’d bet that privacy was a nonexistent thing with that many people living under one roof.  Mom also has said that, since they were the first tenants of the house, that parts of it weren’t even finished yet when they moved in, including the bathrooms (I’d say that calling it “livable” would have been something of a stretch).  I’d bet that the living arrangement was probably illegal from a zoning perspective, with that many unrelated people renting a single house, but that’s what they did.

After that, we headed to 304 Cornell Road, which is where my parents lived when I was born.  That looked the same as it did in 2009:

Our old house at 304 Cornell Road in Glassboro

Then, much to my surprise, Mom went over and knocked on the door.  She was greeted by a woman who was similar in age to her.  The discussion went on about the layout of the house, and the house’s history after we left.  The woman we spoke to was the second wife of the person who had owned the house for a number of years.  The person’s previous wife had died inside the house, as it turns out.  Wonder whose room she died in?  Mine?  Mom and Dad’s?  The upstairs “TV room”?  I don’t know.  We also showed the woman a few photos taken inside the house that are on Schumin Web using my phone (from the Childhood Days pages).  I guess it has to be strange to see photos of the inside of your own house taken decades before you lived in it.

After we left there, we went over to the corner, where the “falling down stop sign” was located.  Recall that the sign got that name because in the 1980s, it appeared to have been struck – hence the name, coming from an off-kilter appearance.  When I got there, I also learned that when I covered this area in 2009, I made a mistake.  The sign that I showed is not the right sign.  It’s at the same intersection, but a different part of it.  Three streets come together there: Cornell Road, Yale Road, and Pennsylvania Road (which runs diagonally).  The “falling down” sign governs traffic traveling southbound on Yale Road turning onto Pennsylvania Road.  The sign that I showed in 2009 governs traffic between Cornell Road and Pennsylvania Road.  It’s only a stone’s throw from the “falling down” sign, but it’s still wrong.

While we were there, though, we took a photo.  I pulled up the photo of me with the sign from 1983, and we duplicated the picture in 2013.  And here they are, side by side:

Posing with the "falling down stop sign" in 1983  Posing with the "falling down stop sign" in 2013

There you go.  Same spot, same pose, taken thirty years apart.  It’s worth noting that the original sign was replaced in the 1990s, and the original sign was much taller than the current one.

From there, we found Delsea Drive, and went out to Runnemede.  Mom worked for Mister Softee for three summers while in college, and so we drove by the main depot:

Mister Softee in Runnemede

And then from there, we went over to Deptford Mall, where we met my cousin Mike and his wife Tara for dinner.  And then from there, it was back to Maryland for us.  I’d say we had a fun time.  I love taking these day trips to New Jersey.  I definitely need to do these more often.

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If you think that you take your Christmas light displays seriously… http://www.schuminweb.com/2013/12/27/if-you-think-that-you-take-your-christmas-light-displays-seriously/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=if-you-think-that-you-take-your-christmas-light-displays-seriously http://www.schuminweb.com/2013/12/27/if-you-think-that-you-take-your-christmas-light-displays-seriously/#comments Sat, 28 Dec 2013 04:12:39 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23042 You may think that you take your own Christmas light display seriously, but I’ll bet that you’ve been outdone by this house located on Red Hill Way in Ellicott City, which my mother and I took a side trip to visit after going to Arundel Mills today.  First, just take a look at the lighting, which by itself is pretty extensive:

Light show on Red Hill Way in Ellicott City

Light show on Red Hill Way in Ellicott City

But the lighting isn’t all that there is.  The lights are programmed to flash along with a number of different popular songs.  The lights flash to different patterns depending on the song, and what the song is doing.  Check it out:

Yes, that is “I Would Do Anything For Love” by Meat Loaf, and the theme to Super Mario Brothers, among others.  And apparently, there’s an FM radio feed as well, based on this sign:

Radio 96.1

Mom and I didn’t check out the radio feed, so I don’t know what that involves.  I’m guessing that it’s a simulcast of the music that plays on the small sound system that’s set up next to the sidewalk.

I can’t even begin to imagine how long it takes to pull this off.  After all, they have to set up the lights all along the house, including on the roof, and also in the yard.  Then they have to program the lights.  I can only imagine that each song takes hours to program.  Then there’s the sound system next to the sidewalk, and the radio station.  And a bench next to the sidewalk.  Apparently they know that they draw a crowd (and with good reason).  And then they have to take it all down when the season is over.

In any case, I’m impressed.  My hat is off to them.

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