The Schumin Web w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Tue, 30 Sep 2014 04:09:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Single-stream recycling has come to my home at last… Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:54:30 +0000 So I went to take out the recycling after I got home from work today, and encountered this:

A dumpster marked "SINGLE STREAM"

Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s a dumpster.  And yes, it is, in fact, a dumpster.  This particular dumpster, however, is for recycling, and replaced a row of plastic garbage bins that previously served the same purpose.  The old bins were marked for what one should put in them.  Half were marked for mixed paper, and half were marked “commingled”, i.e. for cans, glass, and plastic items.  Now we’re using single-stream recycling, which does away with all of the categories, and therefore you put all of your recycling into one big container.

And therein lies the beauty of single-stream recycling.  It’s highly user-friendly, because it’s all a matter of yes and no.  If it’s able to be recycled, then it goes into the recycling bin, regardless of what sort of recyclable item it is.  If it’s not able to be recycled, then it goes in the trash.  The idea is that it’s more effective for all of the different recycling to be sorted out downstream from the user, so just put all of the recyclables in a single container, and let the company handle it from there.

Back when I managed an office for a nonprofit organization, I was responsible for implementing a single-stream program in the office when it became available at our building in 2009.  Along with emails explaining the program to the staff, I made the following handy-dandy guide that went up at various locations in the office:

My guide for recycling in the office  My guide for recycling in the office

And then this is what our trash cans looked like at the office after the program began:

The trash can and recycling bin for the single-stream program

Note the relative sizes.  The recycling bin was the standard seven gallon (28 quart) recycling bin that you would expect to see at an office.  The trash can was a tiny 0.75 gallon container that hung inside the recycling bin.  That ought to give you an idea about how much recycling there was compared to trash.  And it held true: I almost never filled the little black container.  Most stuff was recycled.

Now here’s the kicker, though, when it comes to these things: single-stream recycling only works when everyone follows the guidelines, since we all put our recyclables into the same dumpster, and someone who is sloppy with their recycling could contaminate the load with nonrecyclables.  As I was told when the program was implemented at my office building, if the load is contaminated beyond a certain percentage threshold, none of it is recycled, and instead treated as trash.  Basically, the company says “the hell with it” when that threshold is reached because it becomes more effort than it is worth to try to rectify it.  It’s sad but true.  My recycling could be perfect, but if my neighbors throw just anything into the recycling dumpster, my efforts at good recycling will be wasted, because the whole thing will get trashed for going over the contamination threshold.

And on top of everything else, the new dumpster is big and cavernous.  That means that I now can handle my recycling exactly the same way that I do my trash, i.e. bag it up in a big garbage bag, and then hurl it into the dumpster.  No more emptying bags into the little containers, and messing with the lids on said containers to get them to go back down.

So all in all, I’m pleased with this development.  I just hope that my neighbors do single-stream correctly along with me by making sure that their recyclables and their trash are kept separate.

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No longer a Baltimore transit virgin… Sun, 28 Sep 2014 17:58:37 +0000 Two weeks ago, I went up to Baltimore with my friend Elyse.  We went for the Star Spangled 200 celebration, and wandered around the city a bit.  And most importantly, I rode public transportation in Baltimore for the first time.  MTA Maryland is a very different beast from Metro.  MTA has buses, and MTA has trains, and there’s also a Circulator-type service.  But the details are quite different.  Elyse and I started out at Cromwell station in Glen Burnie, which is out by BWI.  That’s light rail.  DC doesn’t have light rail, as you know.  There’s a streetcar system coming in DC, but it’s not here yet.  Then there’s a heavy rail system, i.e. the Metro Subway, which we also rode.  That’s more like what I’m used to.  We also rode the Charm City Circulator, which is a free bus service that travels around the city, separate from the regular MTA buses (which we didn’t get to ride).  And owing to cooperation between MTA Maryland and Metro, my SmarTrip card worked in Baltimore.

Most surprising was that the fares for the light rail were basically on the honor system.  You bought your ticket at the machine, and then you just got on.  No faregates, no fareboxes, no nothing.  In my case, I loaded an MTA pass onto my SmarTrip.

So this was what I saw on my first ride on the Baltimore Light Rail:

Baltimore LRV 5011

The car emptied out near the Inner Harbor, as a lot of the activities were at the Inner Harbor, plus there was an Orioles game later.

An empty LRV

This is LRV 5011, an articulated light rail vehicle.  We rode up to Lexington Market, where we transferred to the Metro Subway.

Our LRV departs Lexington Market, photographed from the wheelchair access platform.
Our LRV departs Lexington Market, photographed from the wheelchair access platform.

Sign for Lexington Market on the Metro Subway.  An "M" at the top of a sign is something that I'm used to.
Sign for Lexington Market on the Metro Subway.  An “M” at the top of a sign is something that I’m used to.  We rode the train from here to Penn-North.

Our train departs Penn-North.  I hadn’t heard DC choppers like that in several years, since Metro sent the last of the 3000-Series railcars out for rehab in 2008.

We then turned around and took another train to Charles Center, where we exited the system.

Our train departs Charles Center. Elyse has no cell phone service (neither did I).

Exit sign at Charles Center.  That’s certainly an unusual shape.

Leaving Charles Center, we wandered around the Inner Harbor a bit.  We stopped by the Transamerica Tower, the grounds of which were one of the designated viewing areas for the Blue Angels‘ show, which was occurring over Baltimore.  I took a moment to photograph the building, in what seemed like perfect lighting:

On that note, I had never seen a rainbow on a mostly clear day like this.  It was short and high up in the sky.
On that note, I had never seen a rainbow on a mostly clear day like this.  It was short and high up in the sky.

Then we took the Charm City Circulator up to Fells Point, where the HMS Argyll was open for public tours:

The phrasing of this sign, cable-tied to the gangway railing, struck Elyse and me as being very British.
The phrasing of this sign, cable-tied to the gangway railing, struck Elyse and me as being very British.

Elyse poses for a photo with one of the fire extinguishers on the deck.
Elyse poses for a photo with one of the fire extinguishers on the deck.

Two Chubb-brand fire extinguishers.  The larger extinguisher on the left uses foam, while the smaller extinguisher uses carbon dioxide.
Two Chubb-brand fire extinguishers.  The larger extinguisher on the left uses foam, while the smaller extinguisher uses carbon dioxide.

According to the sign, this is an outfit GWS 60 warning rattler, used to notify sailors that a missile is about to be fired.
According to the sign, this is an outfit GWS 60 warning rattler, used to notify sailors that a missile is about to be fired.

Closer view of the rattler (I would call it a horn).
Closer view of the rattler (I would call it a horn).

Label on the warning rattler, which is an IS-A105N sounder.
Label on the warning rattler, which is an E2S IS-A105N sounder.

UK-style electrical plug.
UK-style electrical plug.

Plate for the swimmer of watch gantry, this one apparently replacing an earlier one.
Plate for the swimmer of watch gantry, this one apparently replacing an earlier one.

After we left the Argyll, we went up to the top of the Admiral Fell Inn, where was a roof deck.  There, we watched the Blue Angels for a few minutes:

The Blue Angels over Baltimore

The Blue Angels over Baltimore

Next to the Admiral Fell, Elyse and I spotted this:


This sign reads “VOTE AGAINST PROHIBITION” and is located on the side of a building at Shakespeare and Broadway, a sign that Fells Point has been a bar district for a very long time.

Leaving the Admiral Fells, we headed up Broadway, encountering a man playing a saxophone made out of PVC pipe:

Elyse and I were both quite impressed.  In doing some research later, I found out that this man is William Emerson, better known as “Abu the Flutemaker”, who makes many musical instruments out of various found objects.

We had lunch at Hot Tomatoes, which is on Broadway in Fells Point, which sells New York-style pizza.  We each had a slice, which was big and greasy – to the point where I couldn’t handle it manually.  I used a fork.  It was great pizza, and it’s definitely worth going to again, but for takeout, as I’m not sure if I’d want to eat in again.  They had several stand-up tables around, but only one chair, which, after walking around for several hours, was not enough, as we both wanted to sit.  The restrooms were also quite cramped.  I’d recommend that they invest in a couple more chairs for the low table that you can’t stand up at so that patrons can sit.

After lunch, Elyse wanted to show me Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I’d never been there, and I was told that the architecture of the older section was quite striking.  However, getting there was something of a challenge.  We first waited at a Charm City Circulator stop on Broadway, and were surprised to find out that despite the existence of a sign, and a bunch of us waiting for the bus there, that was no longer an active Charm City Circulator stop.  Veolia, get on top of this and pull that sign down if it’s no longer an active stop.  Then the next bus to come by, after we found an active stop, was full.  And the Charm City Circulator was not on the list of routes that the Transit App showed, possibly because it was privately operated, rather than being run by MTA Maryland.  So after waiting for a while, we ended up walking towards Shot Tower station via President Street.  We ended up finally catching up with a Green Route bus for Charm City Connector on the way there, and so we took that out to Johns Hopkins.  Good.

And for those of you who are wondering, no, I don’t know my way around Baltimore very well.  I can get some places without difficulty, but for most places, I still need navigation.  And that’s just because I don’t go up to Baltimore very much.

We arrived at Johns Hopkins during the “Golden Hour”, where the sun hits the buildings just so, and so I saw this:

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Then Elyse took me inside, showing me the area where she once stayed for something or other.  From that high location, we had a great view of the sunset over Baltimore:

The sunset over Baltimore as viewed from Johns Hopkins

Then from there, we headed back into the Metro Subway at its eastern terminus, and rode to State Center, and I got one more train video:

From there, we walked two blocks to the Cultural Center light rail stop, and rode that to Convention Center (the train was short-turning).  Then we got another train to take us the rest of the way back to Cromwell.

Arriving at Cromwell, we were in the mood for food, as it was now 9:00 in the evening.  The only food that we could find right around Cromwell station was a McDonald’s, which can be summed up in one word: yuck.  We ended up taking something of the driving tour around parts of Baltimore that I’d never been in before, eventually Route 40 and taking that into Catonsville, where we had dinner at the Double T Diner, which is a diner chain in the Baltimore area.  Not a bad meal.  I’d go back there again.

And then after dinner, we were done.  I dropped Elyse off at her house, and then headed home.  Now that I’ve seen  and ridden on Baltimore transit, though, I think I need to explore this system, which is relatively close to me, some more.  Should be fun.

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“Fire drill in three, two, one…” Tue, 16 Sep 2014 02:09:24 +0000 Back on August 1, I got together with my friend Elyse and we tested a number of different fire alarm notification appliances at her house.  We had to take it to her house, because I live in an apartment, and, out of respect for my neighbors, I have a visual-only policy at my house, i.e. as many strobes as you want, but no horns.  Most of the alarms that we tested were hers, though we did run a couple of mine, plus I provided the power, i.e. my Wheelock RPS-2440 24-volt power supply.

The first alarm up was a Gentex smoke alarm.  I’ve seen these in person before, most notably when I stayed at the Bolger Center in Potomac for an event with a company that shall remain nameless, where there was a Gentex smoke detector in my room, next to a Wheelock ET speaker/strobe.  At the time, I commented about the alarm system, “I thought about how neat it would be to see both devices in action, but the thing is, if both devices are going, you’re really screwed.”  While I had since seen a Wheelock ET in action, I hadn’t seen a Gentex smoke alarm in action until this day.  And here it is:

The tone on this one surprised me.  I was expecting Code-3, not the high-pitched beeping that I got.  After all, my home smoke alarm does Code-3, and so I would have thought that a Gentex product would do likewise.

Then we did a SpectrAlert Advance by System Sensor:

This particular specimen was made for use by alarm vendors displaying the Advance with some advertising literature, with the intent of selling to installers.  Elyse managed to get this from one of those vendors.

After that, we moved on to Elyse’s white Edwards Integrity 757-5A-TW horn/strobe:

This was pretty cool for me, because I had never heard an Edwards Integrity in person before.  I’ve seen them out and about many times before, but I’ve never seen or heard one in action.

Then the next alarm was a Wheelock Exceder LED:

Wheelock Exceder LED

For those not familiar, Exceder is the current line of fire alarm notification appliances produced by Cooper Notification under the Wheelock brand.  It comes in a version that uses a conventional xenon strobe (which you’ve probably seen before), and there’s another version that uses an LED for the visual component rather than a xenon strobe.  I had never heard either version of the Wheelock Exceder before, though in seeing clips online, I learned that it sounds almost exactly like an NS.  The LED was exciting for me, because it’s new in the fire alarm world, and I’d never seen an Exceder LED in person at all, let alone seen it in action.

And unfortunately, this would be a disappointment.  While the audible functioned properly, the LED part of it was, unfortunately, dead.  That was unfortunate, but somewhat expected, considering that a previous owner of this horn had disassembled it to see what it was like inside.  Apparently they didn’t get it all back together correctly.

After that, we moved onto a Wheelock NS:

This version of the NS is designed to be mounted on the ceiling, and has a very different design from the wall-based NS.  This alarm was also part of a trade that Elyse and I did.  She had an extra ceiling-mounted NS, and I had an extra Wheelock 7001, and so we swapped alarms.  Look for this ceiling NS, along with a few others, in the Fire Alarm Collection pages before too long.

Next up was my Edwards 881D-AW:

You may recall that this was extracted from my old middle school in 2005 when the Edwards system was replaced by a DSC Maxsys system.  This horn, unfortunately, didn’t sound when we applied power to it.  I don’t think that the horn is necessarily dead, as there was something to the wiring that confused me, specifically a white neutral wire that I didn’t know what to do with.  Thus we may have wired it up incorrectly, as I just turned this white wire up and out of the way, since I didn’t know quite what to do with it.  More research is necessary here.

Moving along, though, we hooked up Elyse’s Notifier KMS-6-24VDC/P bell, and took it for a spin:

And yes, that is a Wheelock 7002T with backbox underneath the bell.  We had to elevate the bell by a few inches, because when we originally placed the bell, with the gong touching the table on one end, the contact with the table muffled the gong.  That wouldn’t do, so we quickly found something to elevate it, after which it worked beautifully.

Then, speaking of that Wheelock 7002T, it was time to take that for a spin:

This particular 7002T also had an unusual label:

Label on the back of Elyse's 7002T

Prior to this, I had never seen a label screenprinted on the back of the strobe like that.  I’d only seen them like on mine, where the label is a sticker on the back of the strobe.  I wonder how long Wheelock labeled 7002Ts this way before switching to the sticker label.

Elyse also got the perfect photo of the 7002T in action:

Captured mid-flash

Can’t do better than that.  Then our last fire alarm horn was Elyse’s System Sensor MASS24110ADA:

This is a multitone device, and this one was set to slow whoop.  I have a similar one of these, though she has the trim plate on hers that I don’t have for mine.  I’ve seen the trim plate once before, at the Wawa on Quarterfield Road in Glen Burnie.

Then after this, we headed over to a phone line, and gave my Wheelock UTA-WH-VPS phone horn/strobe a spin:

For those of you who went to college with me, yes, this is the same phone horn that I had up in my dorm room in Potomac Hall.  It’s been a decade since I heard that horn.  I eventually want to be able to hook this up to something so that I can use it again, but I’m not getting a landline just so that I can hook my phone horn up.  One day.

So there you go.  I’m sure that we’ll eventually do this again, so if you want us to test anything specific, let me know in the comments below.  I have 12 and 24-volt power supplies, so I can test anything that takes 12 or 24 volts DC.  And if you have a working Exceder LED that you can send my way…

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Yes, that is a Wheelock 7002T up there… Wed, 10 Sep 2014 23:03:45 +0000 So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m doing a bit of cleaning/redecorating around the house.  I’ve purged the house of much junk, I’ve put pictures in the frames, and I’ve removed the bulletin board, whiteboard, and Scientology letter from the walls.  Of the items removed from the walls, the bulletin board got moved to the kitchen, and the Scientology letter is going back up somewhere else in the house, but I’m not entirely sure where yet, as I still have to figure out the master decor plan.  I gave the whiteboard away, and I’m told it ultimately ended up at the American Legion in Wheaton.

But I did put a new piece of decor up that is very relevant to my interests: a Wheelock 7002T.  This came about after my friend Elyse referred me to an eBay auction where someone was selling two Wheelock 7002T horn/strobes that had been completely gutted, marketed as wall decor.  The opening price was ridiculously low, and there were no other bidders.  In a word: mine.  The idea was to get these, dig up some trim plates, and then put them up on the wall.  This only worked because they were empty.  Without the guts, they were light enough to where if I put one up, I wouldn’t have to worry about their falling off of the wall on account of weight, and also, there was nothing protruding out of the back, which meant that it would go flat against the wall.

This is what I started with:

Two empty Wheelock 7002Ts

And there you have it, as they are stripped bare inside.  No guts.  And then when you flip them over, they look pretty normal:

The front of my empty 7002Ts

So as you can see, perfect.  And then I chose this as the site:

The site where the empty horn would go.

This wall, near my Metro map.  And then I mated the wall decor with its other half, i.e. the trim plate:

Mated with its trim plate.

Then after prepping the area, I got one side up:

My gutted fire alarm, hanging by one screw before I put the other one in.

By the way, this amused me far more than it should have.  I even sent this pic to Elyse, saying, “All done!  How’s it look?”  She got a kick out of it as well.  And then once I got the other screw in, I checked to make sure that it was level:

Perfectly level.

Perfect.  It made me think of a scene from a 1990s-era Wheelock promotional video, showing an AS:

Images: Wheelock Inc.

And here’s the final product, after I tightened up the screws:

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?  I wanted this piece of decor to look like a fire alarm horn, and I think I succeeded.

And if you’re wondering what the actual fire alarm looks like where I live, here you go:

That is a 120V EllBell by Ellenco.  And these are the pull stations, which are also Ellenco.  So no confusing this for the real alarm.  And now there’s something related to fire alarms as part of the decor, right next to something transit-related.  Not too shabby.  Now to do everything else in the plan.

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Google Camera is my new favorite toy… Sat, 06 Sep 2014 16:38:21 +0000 I recently went on a trip down to Stuarts Draft to see my parents and sister, as well as my sister’s friend Vickey, and I came armed with a new app for my Android device: Google Camera.  If you’ve never used it before, Google Camera is a camera app that will function as a regular camera plus do a few other things.  Besides shooting regular still photos and videos, it will also do a lens blur effect, it helps in shooting panoramic photos, and it also shoots “photo spheres”, also called “spherical panoramas”.  That last one is what I took for a spin on this trip.  Those are the ones that I can post on Panoramio, and I believe that they go in as Street View (but don’t quote me on that just yet, because they haven’t fully propagated to Google Maps/Earth as of this writing).

Shooting them is surprisingly easy.  Here’s a screenshot of the app in action, taking a photo sphere at my place:

Google Camera app in action

Basically, all you do is put the dot in the circle, and the dot moves after you place it, to show you where to put the camera for the next image.  And you do that all around.  Then when you’ve gotten all of the shots it needs, it makes a clicking sound, and it starts stitching it all together in the background.  A couple of minutes later, you have a completed photo sphere.  They look like this when they’re done:

Photo sphere of the westbound I-64 rest area near Ivy

This is the rest area on I-64 westbound near Ivy, at approximately milepost 112, off in a somewhat secluded area.  This is also the first photo sphere that I ever took.  Then when viewed as a sphere, it looks normal, and you can pan all around the image and it looks like Street View.

I’ve also discovered a few things about the feature.  First of all, it doesn’t work very well for items that are close to the camera.  Those get chopped up quite a bit, such as with this image taken near railings, power lines, and a telephone pole in Staunton:

Choppy photo in Staunton

Yeah.  Choppy, even when projected as intended on Panoramio.  Check out that telephone pole.  A few parts of it appear to be floating in the air.  I think it was maybe about four feet in front of me in real life.  The location is here, and I was standing in the corner of that catwalk to the bridge over the railroad track.  And as you can see, it’s not nearly as choppy in real life as it is in this photo.

Then on Labor Day, while my mother, sister, and Vickey went to Blacksburg, I took a little road trip to Roanoke and back, playing with photo spheres.  I took Route 11 down to Lexington, Route 60 through Buena Vista and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then took the Parkway all the way to Roanoke.  And I got lots of panoramas:

Walmart in Lexington
Walmart in Lexington.

Sheetz in Lexington
Sheetz in Lexington.

Stonewall Square, in front of Food Lion
Stonewall Square, in front of Food Lion.

Parry McCluer High School in Buena Vista
Parry McCluer High School in Buena Vista.

Buena Vista overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Buena Vista overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

House Mountain overlook
House Mountain overlook.

Otter Lake
Otter Lake.

Standing on a picnic table near the James River Visitors' Center and the Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge
Standing on a picnic table near the James River Visitors’ Center and the Harry Flood Byrd Memorial Bridge.

The Quarry overlook
The Quarry overlook.

Roanoke River overlook
Roanoke River overlook.

The Roanoke Star and overlook, while standing on a bench
The Roanoke Star and overlook, while standing on a bench.  You can definitely see that people were moving while I was taking this shot, as there are a few cases of disembodied feet, and children with no legs, as they were in a certain position as I was coming by doing one row, and then not there when I was doing another row, or walked into frame later after a row without them in it was already done.

Parking area at the Roanoke Star
Parking area at the Roanoke Star.  My Power Rangers shirt is visible in the bottom of this panorama.

Entrance to Tanglewood Mall, near JCPenney
Entrance to Tanglewood Mall, near JCPenney.

The Roanoke Star, taken from the same bench as before, at night
The Roanoke Star, taken from the same bench as before, at night.

So as you can see, I had a fun time.  I’ll update you on where and how to see my photo spheres on the map once they propagate through Google’s system.  If they show up as Street View, I’ll be delighted, because there’s nothing more infuriating than this:

No Street View here!

Nothing more infuriating than locating a road that you need to see, and there’s no Street View imagery for that area.  Shopping centers are especially a pet peeve of mine.  I’ll be trying to verify that the place that I’m looking for is what I’m mapping to, and since Street View usually doesn’t go into the shopping center (though it sometimes does), I only get a view from the road, and that’s often obstructed by landscaping.

And then on the way out to head back home, I got one more photo sphere, of the Sheetz in Fishersville in early evening:

Sheetz in Fishersville, Virginia

And here it is when projected as intended.  Not bad.  I really love the sky in this one.

So I’ll update you when I figure out how all of these panoramas display.  I’m hoping they show up as Street View, but we’ll see.  In any case, these are pretty fun to do.  I should take a day some time soon before I start driving and do a bunch of these all over Montgomery County.  Should be fun.

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Best birthday cake ever… Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:46:30 +0000 My friend Elyse recently celebrated a birthday, and, as a fellow fire alarm enthusiast, she got what I consider to be the greatest cake ever.  She sent me pictures of it.  Take a look:

This is a three-layer cake, designed to resemble a fire alarm pull station.  Specifically, an Edwards 270A-SPO, i.e. the classic Edwards pull station.  The logo is different from the one that you see on my Edwards stations because they opted to use an older Edwards logo, with a more square-shaped shield, vs. the later triangular shield.  Also, notice the details in the cake.  It totally looks like you can reach in and pull the handle, and then put a flathead screwdriver in the top to reset it.  You can even see where a break rod is supposed to go.  And I’m told that all of it was done with buttercream frosting.

And here’s a cross-section after some of it had been cut:

It almost makes you sad to have to cut into it, doesn’t it?  So beautiful, but cakes don’t last forever, and are designed to be eaten.  But that’s what we have cameras for.  In any case, you can see the three layers, and you can tell that the bakery got the angle right, as an Edwards pull station is bigger at the top and very narrow at the bottom.

If you’re thinking about getting something similar, Elyse tells me that this cake came from Touché Touchet Bakery and Pastry Shoppe in Columbia.  I’m going to have to keep this place in mind, because I was definitely impressed by it.

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When is the Internet going to understand that diabetes jokes are not funny? Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:50:34 +0000 So I was going around Reddit today, and saw this posted to the food subreddit:

Image: Imgur

The caption on the photo as posted to Reddit was, “Walked into work on my birthday to this :D“.  From what I can tell, the picture shows a round cake topped with icing and Reese’s Pieces, with Kit Kat bars for an outer border.  Then there are two small iced cupcakes to the left of the main cake, and a tray to the right of the main tray full of small iced cupcakes to the right with rainbows on them.

My first reaction was like that of many: that’s a lot of sugar.  I think that much sugar at once would give me a headache, or at least a massive buzz, before ultimately finding a nice place to live on my behind for a while.  I responded to the post, saying, “That is some serious sugar there.  Whose job was it to hold you and prevent you from bouncing off all of the walls?”

And then at the time of this writing, there were several comments making light of diabetes, including:

And then the person who originally posted responded in kind, which only encourages this sort of behavior.  They all get a downvote as far as I’m concerned.

Joking about chronic conditions is just not funny.  If you have diabetes, you have my sympathy.  I have family members who have diabetes, and a number of friends as well.  Greta #1 also had diabetes in the last year of her life, and we got to see the complications from that firsthand.  It is not a pleasant situation to be in, and one that requires careful management.  The idiots who make such jokes (and others like it) clearly have no understanding of what the disease is and how it develops, or, worse, they do understand, and choose to make the jokes anyway.  Remember that there are two types: type 1 is an inherited autoimmune disease that affects the pancreas, and has nothing to do with lifestyle.  Then type 2 is related to insulin resistance, and a number of factors can lead to it, including some that are lifestyle-related.  Therefore, it’s not a quick, easy cause to pin down.  And don’t forget: just because lifestyle plays a role in one version of the disease, that doesn’t mean that it’s fair game to make sport of.  And the idea that consuming a lot of sugar will, in and of itself, cause diabetes, is not nearly as simple as some will have you think.  The real answer is much more complicated, and oversimplifying it like that is not doing anyone any favors.

So bottom line: ditch the jokes that are making fun of diabetes or any other chronic condition.  The conditions being parodied are serious matters, and we don’t need to be perpetuating the misinformation that comes with these not-funny jokes and comments.

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And this is why I should never be allowed to go to Micro Center unsupervised… Thu, 14 Aug 2014 05:27:22 +0000 First of all, I apologize for my silence as of late.  I’ve been busy working on various things plus having some computer issues, and that’s caused me to neglect the website somewhat, save for changing the photo features and splash photos.

However, the good news is that I’ve received job offers from a few different area transit agencies (that I’m not naming) for the position of bus operator.  I should be starting training with one of them soon, once all of the various onboarding processes are completed.  From what I’ve seen, these are not quick processes, but they’re done correctly the first time, and I’m fine with that.  In deciding to become a bus driver, I realized over the course of the job hunt that my heart just wasn’t in it for more nonprofit work.  I also realized that I wanted a career, and not just another job, and I didn’t really have a passion for the issues that the organizations that I was applying to were about.  In looking at my interests, I came to realize that I had a real interest in starting a career in public transportation.  And a job as a bus driver is a foot in that door.  In pursuing that, I took a commercial driving course at Montgomery College over the winter, and I now hold a Class B commercial driver’s license with passenger and school endorsements, plus no air brake restrictions.  So life is good on that front.

I also had a big day on July 26, checking out the new Silver Line stations.  I received an invitation to ride the VIP train before revenue service began, and I brought my friend Matthew as my guest.  I’m going to do a full-on photo set for Life and Times for this day (along with a few other subjects in the photo set queue), so I’m not going to say much about it now, but we had fun.  I got to see a number of congressmen and other various elected officials, I got to talk to former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, and then Matthew and I rode the first revenue train from Wiehle Avenue to Largo.  Then after lunch, we toured the new stations on the way back from Largo.

And also, now that things are looking better, I gave my apartment a good purging.  I cleared my bedroom closet almost completely out, and also cleared out the hall closet.  Then I also cleared out all of the other places where junk accumulates, rearranged my bookshelves, and found homes for everything.  This place looks so barren now compared to how it looked before.  I also dusted off some “Ribba” frames from IKEA that I got back in 2008, and I’m going to fill them with various photos from the website and my Flickr.  Once I get some stuff on the walls, I think the place will look a bit more homey again.  And I’d much rather have stuff decorating the walls than junk decorating the corners.  Then I’m also getting ready to do a cleaning, as in removing dust and grime from places, now that all of the junk has been attended to and all of these surfaces are exposed.  I’ll take pictures once I get the stuff on the walls and the place is finished.

Life, however, has not been so good to me on the computer front, as my desktop computer, a Dell Dimension E521, is really showing its age.  The integrated sound recently died on it, and after verifying that the sound issue was a hardware problem, as well as recognizing that I had a few other longer-standing issues, plus the age of the machine in general, I decided to finally replace the whole thing outright.  Replacing the main computer had been in the cards for a while, but I didn’t feel comfortable actually taking the plunge until recently due to my employment situation.  Now I feel more comfortable doing an upgrade.  So I went to Micro Center on Monday to look at new computers, and ended up leaving with one.  I got a PowerSpec G412, which looks like this:

PowerSpec G412

This is a really nice computer, too.  It has, among other things, an Intel Core i7-4770K processor with a clock speed of 3.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM, a 120 GB solid state boot drive, a 2 TB hard drive for storage, two 14x Blu-ray burners, the capacity to run up to five monitors at once, and eleven USB ports (five USB 2.0, six USB 3.0).  The way I figure, I can go for a really powerful machine, because over the last sixteen years, I’ve only had two desktops.  My old Gateway G6-400 lasted almost nine years, from May 1998 to February 2007, and got a midlife overhaul in summer 2001.  Then my Dell lasted seven and a half, from February 2007 to August 2014, and received a gradual midlife overhaul from 2009-2011.  Considering my track record with computers, I ought to be able to make this one last until I hit 40 (a scary thought in itself).  Then I also have a 4 TB Western Digital network hard drive that lives across the room.  I’m using that to hold my photo archives, with plenty of room to grow.  Needless to say, this is a major upgrade to my infrastructure, and I feel as though I should grow a neckbeard before I’m allowed to touch my new toys.

This, by the way, is why I should not be allowed to go into Micro Center unsupervised.  I turn into Tim Allen at Sears.

Now as far as my Dell goes, I actually got an offer on it from Strong Bad.  He needed a computer for checking his email, and mine apparently fit the bill quite well.  Just kidding.  Seriously, I’m going to put Linux (Ubuntu) on it, and keep it in the corner and access it remotely.  Not sure what I’m going to do with it just yet, but I have a few ideas.  Plus having a few things that I want to do with it will give ma an excuse to really learn Linux.  I played with Linux on my old Dell laptop for about six months in 2008, but with no real goal where it was necessary to learn Linux to reach it, I didn’t get much out of it, and eventually put Windows Vista back on there.  Now I have ideas of what I want to do on a Linux machine, so I’ll make it work.  I have found that I always do better learning a new system or piece of software when I have a goal in mind.

However, I have not put the new machine in service just yet.  I need finish moving some stuff to the network drive before I convert the old computer from Windows to Linux, and then I’m going to make sure that I can run it completely by remote (using the netbook) before I take it off of my desk.  Then once I move the Dell, I’ll set the PowerSpec up and get that going.

So there you have it, I suppose.  Look for me behind the wheel of a transit bus before too long, and then when I’m not driving, I’ll either be at the pool, or at home with one serious PC.

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So I found an app that lets you take stereo photos… Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:24:22 +0000 Last night, I found an app called 3D Camera for my Android phone.  The idea behind the app is that you take two photos a few inches apart from each other, you line them up, and then the app makes a stereo image for you to look at.  Depending on how you shoot them, they can come out as either crossview or parallel.  I tested it out late last night on a Wheelock 7002T, and came up with this:

Wheelock 7002T, taken on top of my computer
(By the way, I strongly recommend clicking each of the images on this entry to view them at full size in the lightbox)

Now to view this image, what you do is you have to unfocus your eyes, so that you’re looking past it.  If you remember how to look at those Magic Eye pictures from the 1990s, it’s basically the same technique, except without all of the effort in hiding what you’re seeing until you look at it.  You know that this is what it is.  There’s no hidden picture.  You’re just getting the depth perception.  Take a moment and give this page about how to view stereograms a read if you haven’t been able to see it yet, because you will need to master this skill to get the most out of this Journal entry.  In short, you should see three images.  The middle image is where the depth will be, because it’s the two images overlaid on each other.  You may need to back away from the screen (or move the phone away from your face) in order to get the proper alignment.  The quality of the 3D is going to be similar to the way that the old View-Master slides looked.

The reason I did this was because, after spending too much time on Reddit looking at the CrossView subreddit, I decided to find a way to do it myself.  The app is somewhat quick and dirty, but it does the job.  So today, I took it for a spin while I was out running errands, and as a result, had a far more entertaining time out than I ever would have imagined.

So first, I approached the car:

Looking at the Soul... in 3D!

Then I put my reusable bags in the back of the car, and looked forward:

Looking through my car, from back to front

After that, I headed to the bank:

Educational Systems Federal Credit Union on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill

On the way to Aardvark, I sat at a few lights, including this one at Veirs Mill Road and Twinbrook Parkway:

Intersection of Veirs Mill Road and Twinbrook Parkwy, viewed from northbound Veirs Mill Road

Parked at Wintergreen Plaza, and about to go into Aardvark:

Parked at Wintergreen Plaza.  I never used to do tail-in parking until I got this car.  Now I park tail-in a lot, because this car is so easy to maneuver.
Parked tail-in, because this car is so easy to maneuver.  I never used to park tail-in on purpose like this with the Previa or the Sable, but with this car, I love it.

Welcome to Aardvark:

Entrance to Aardvark's Rockville location

Looking at the rows of goggles:

I got Tyr Nest Pro, by the way, because that style fits my big head the best.

Then I showed the staff how the 3D app worked, demonstrating on a rack of ladies’ swimwear:

A rack full of Dolfin swimsuits.  It sort of reminds me of the suit that my friend Suzie wears, but she wears Nike.

Just before checking out, I also needed to buy a set of bungee cords to go with my new goggles:

It's a good thing that the staff at Aardvark knows me well.  I commented while taking this one, "Now to decide what color bungee cord to get.  Might as well decide... in 3D!"

Bought a new “Suck It Up, Cupcake” swim cap as well, as my old one had gotten a bit stretched out:


Then I went over to Bed Bath & Beyond, where I saw this convertible:


And these shopping carts:

Shopping carts for hhgregg and Bed Bath & Beyond

A shopping cart for Staples, which is up the hill in another building

At Bed Bath & Beyond, I was looking to price foaming soap pumps.  While I was looking for the soap pumps, I found these:

I love this one, because those pillow covers really "pop", don't they?

And then I found the bath area, and was disappointed to find that the only foaming soap pumps that they had were sensor-operated:

I would like to know what sort of masochist voluntarily puts a sensor-operated soap dispenser in their home.
By the way, I would like to know what sort of masochist voluntarily puts a sensor-operated soap dispenser in their home.  I can’t stand those things in public restrooms, and I know darn well that I would never have one in my house.

Spotted an exit sign hanging from the ceiling:

I love the way this exit sign pops out at you!

And then I got some pictures of the fire alarm pair by the entrance on the way out:

Simplex horn/strobe!

Wait a sec... that's not a Simplex pull station!

And yes, this is a mismatch, which is unusual for a Simplex system.  That pull station may be a t-bar, but it’s not a Simplex.

Leaving Bed Bath & Beyond, I headed down Rockville Pike towards the Montrose Crossing shopping center:

Red light!

And got a pic in the rear view mirror while at a red light:

Waiting to make a left turn...

Arriving at Montrose Crossing, I got a photo of Sports Authority:

Sports Authority!

And then from the other way:

And Sports Authority from the other direction, as well as the residential property nearby.

Arriving at Target, I did my best to get a 3D version of the “hero shot” in the parking garage:

My "hero shot"

Then, coming in, I got a nice, long view of the main aisle on the lower level:

The main aisle at Target

Okay, this one just looks cool:

"Summer A Go Go"

Getting to the bath supplies, I found out that Target does not sell refillable foaming soap pumps of any kind.  Just these:

The non-foaming soap pumps at Target
They do, however, sell the disposable kind, which I don’t want.

The cosmetics aisle:

The cosmetics aisle
No reason for taking this, except for gratuitous stereoscopic imagery.  Yeah, I was having a lot of fun with this.

After leaving Target, I headed over to the Northgate shopping center in Aspen Hill.  There, I saw a school bus taking up a few parking spaces:

School bus 13514 parked across four spaces

School bus 13514 parked across four spaces

That’s some parking job right there.  I certainly wouldn’t park a bus in the middle of a parking lot like that, that’s for sure.

At Northgate, I headed over to the Michaels.  I went here for no reason except to take a few 3D pictures.  So where did I go?  Straight to the back, to photograph this pair:

A naked Wheelock 7002T

Fire-Lite BG-10

Yes, one of my favorite fire alarm pairs: a Wheelock 7002T with a Fire-Lite BG-10.  In 3D.  And for the record, this 7002T looks incomplete without the trim plate.  There’s a reason why I keep trim plates on my 7002Ts.  They just plain don’t look right without them, and there’s no getting around that.

Then I got another photo of the BG-10 from below:

Fire-Lite BG-10

Then I found where the posable wooden armatures lived, and posed them.  First, the hand:

"I want you.  Yes, you."

Then the full-body one:

I don't know what sort of pose this was supposed to be, but you try getting your left arm in that position, with palm up.  I, for one, can't do it.

After that, I walked over to the Kohl’s that’s in the same shopping center, and looked for foaming soap pumps.  They didn’t have them (what a surprise), and so at this point, I’m just going to buy them on Amazon.  So much for supporting brick-and-mortar merchants if they don’t have what I need.  However, since I was there, hey, I might as well shoot some 3D pictures, right?  I had intended to do some 3D photos in the shoe department at Target, but got sidetracked and forgot to do that.  But Kohl’s had a shoe department, so I helped myself.  I wanted to get some pix of some of those strappy sandals that women wear.  They look like they would be torture devices to wear, but they worked for my purposes, as I wanted to capture the tunnel effect that those straps would provide.

So I found a pair of strappy sandals, and got a couple of pictures:

Strappy sandals, by Candie's.  The tunnel effect is especially noticeable here.

Strappy sandals, by Candie's.

See the tunnel effect?  Kind of interesting, no?

And then before I left, I headed over through the housewares department, where I saw these ceramic cows:

The Moo Cow Choir

Based on the arrangement and the angle that I took the photo, I call it “The Moo Cow Choir”.  These things are actually creamer pitchers.  Here’s a slightly better look at them, in this non-stereo photo:

A slightly better look at this cream pitcher

The way these work is that you pour the milk or cream in that hole on the cow’s back.  You then pick the cow up by the tail, and the milk or cream comes out the cow’s mouth.  My parents have one of these, in white.  When I was a child, my mother used to put the milk for my cereal in one of these in the morning.  Then when I came down, all I had to do was pour the milk out of the cow, and I had cereal that was crunchy in milk.  That was always a nice touch.

So as you can tell, I had far more fun than I should have, playing with the new 3D camera app that I got for my phone.  I can’t envision using this new functionality for anything serious, but it certainly is fun.  However, the next time I do this, I need to pace myself.  From all of the crossing and uncrossing of my eyes that I did all day, coupled with the very deliberate focusing efforts that I did in evaluating my work, mostly on my phone, I’ve managed to give myself a nice little case of eyestrain.  Yay me.

But I had fun, so it’s okay.

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Acceptance testing on a waterproof camera enclosure… Sun, 06 Jul 2014 02:33:37 +0000 First of all, I had fun at the Outer Banks.  I’m going to leave it at that for now, though, because the whole trip is going to become a photo set for Life and Times, and so it’s going to come out, but the “extended Journal entry” treatment in Life and Times is what will do it the most justice.

That said, in preparation for the trip, I bought a waterproof camera enclosure, with the intention of taking photos in the water.  The idea behind the waterproof camera enclosure was to get Duckie, my Vivitar ViviCam 6200W, out of the picture.  Duckie, to put it nicely, has a very limited operating envelope.  It’s because the ISO is too low, as 200 is as high as it goes.  That means that when you take that camera underwater, you have to hold the camera very still to get clear pictures, unless you want to use the flash (which I don’t always want to do).  It became quite frustrating, and led to a lot of bad photos.  Basically, submerged handheld photos were a no-go under the vast majority of conditions.  It worked well enough outdoors and in daylight on land, but the pictures taken under those conditions have a slight red tinge to them, which is a pain to try to correct.  Plus it has no optical zoom, and the buttons were a bit stiff, with the latter’s making the camera’s use somewhat cumbersome.

Thus I got this to replace Duckie:

The new waterproof camera enclosure with my point-and-shoot camera inside.

This is my small point-and-shoot camera that’s housed inside the enclosure.  That’s a Canon PowerShot A800, which I bought back in 2011.  It’s always done great work on those occasions when I’ve used it, but it’s always been the odd man out as far as its usage goes.  Its intended use, i.e. quality photography in an everyday setting, has been taken over by my cell phone, as cell phone cameras have improved over the years, plus I often already have the phone in my hand anyway (so why reach for another device?).  Using this as the water camera with an enclosure seemed to be a good fit, as I have become increasingly dissatisfied with what I’ve been getting out of Duckie as my own techniques have improved over the years, and underwater photography is an area that I want to explore.  This is also a camera that I wouldn’t be too upset about if I accidentally destroyed it in the water.  Not like when I almost had a meltdown over Big Mavica’s unexpected demise back in 2008.  Back then, Big Mavica (a Sony Mavica CD400) was my only camera, aside from a flip phone that took very low quality pictures (but which was typical for its day).  This is one of three cameras (four if you count Duckie) that I regularly carry around.  My main camera is a Canon PowerShot SX10 IS.  I don’t believe that anyone made an enclosure that will fit it, and even so, I’m not apt to dunk my main camera.  My third camera is my cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.  Enclosing that and dunking it was always out of the question, since I rely on it far too much for too many things.

So the point-and-shoot was it.  And being a compact camera, enclosures were easy enough to find.  I did four tests on it: a fit test, testing to make sure that the camera fit the enclosure properly and was able to be locked in, an empty wet test, to verify the waterproof qualities of the enclosure, a dry test to verify the quality of the photography and how the camera handles in the enclosure, and finally a wet test to verify the same underwater, where my goal was to sink the enclosure in the bathroom sink and then let it sit for a while.  The photos of the empty wet test amused me a bit, though, as I had some trouble making that enclosure sink:

First I packed a box of Altoids mints in there along with a strip of paper with writing on it in ink that would smear if water hit it.  It floated.
First I packed a box of Altoids mints in there along with a strip of paper with writing on it in ink that would smear if water hit it.  It floated.

Next I took a full bottle of shampoo and placed that on top of the camera.  It sank the enclosure, but it had too small of a base to be stable.  It fell over shortly after I took this picture, and the enclosure floated back up to the top.
Next I took a full bottle of shampoo and placed that on top of the camera.  It sank the enclosure, but it had too small of a base to be stable.  It fell over shortly after I took this picture, and the enclosure floated back up to the top.

A full bottle of body wash finally did the trick.  That sank it and held it there.  I left to do other things, and came back in three hours.

Three hours later, after the test, checking the Altoids.  Still curiously strong and crunchy, just like Altoids ought to be.
Three hours later, after the test, checking the Altoids.  Still curiously strong and crunchy, just like Altoids ought to be.  The paper was dry, too.

Then the dry test went well enough.  The photos looked fine, but the flash was a no-go, because it sits halfway in the section for the lens, and halfway out of it.  Thus when I fired the flash, it reflected off of the enclosure, fuzzing any photos used with it.  I don’t consider that to be too big of a loss, though, since I’m not a big flash user to begin with.

And then the final test was the wet test, i.e. camera enclosed and getting dunked.  For that, I took it with me to the pool, and after my friend Suzie and I had finished our workout, we took the camera for a spin.  First, Suzie took some pictures:


Swimming next the bulkhead.
Swimming next the bulkhead.

Now at the other end of the pool.
Now at the other end of the pool.

Making a pose like Suzie asked me to.
Making a pose like Suzie asked me to.

Then we switched, and I gave the enclosed camera a spin in the water:

Suzie does a handstand on the bottom of the pool.
Suzie does a handstand on the bottom of the pool.

Swimming down the lane.
Swimming down the lane.

Striking a pose on the bottom of the pool.
Striking a pose on the bottom of the pool.

I went for a half-in-half-out thing with this photo.  It's an interesting effect, I suppose, but I don't know how useful it will be in real life.
I went for a half-in-half-out thing with this photo.  It’s an interesting effect, I suppose, but I don’t know how useful it will be in real life.

And then we got photos of each other over in the hot tub:

Posing with my "Suck it up, cupcake" swim cap.
Posing with my “Suck it up, cupcake” swim cap.

Suzie strikes a pose as well.
Suzie strikes a pose as well.

By the way, if you want to get one of the “Suck it up, cupcake” swim caps like Suzie and I were wearing, they’re made and sold by Aardvark Swim & Sport.

And that was the acceptance testing.  It’s funny, though: after all of the acceptance testing that Suzie and I did, Pete and I never used the camera or the enclosure at the Outer Banks.  But no worries – there’s lots more summer still to come, and plenty of opportunities to take it out for a spin.  I would love to film a few water slides, for one thing…

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Going back for the first time in 17 years… Fri, 27 Jun 2014 03:21:13 +0000 This coming weekend is going to be so much fun.  I’m getting together with my friend Pete, and we’re heading down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically Buxton, for a weekend trip.  For me, this will also be a bit of a throwback to the nineties, as the last time I was down this way was in 1997.  My family went to the Outer Banks five times in the nineties, for a week each time, from 1993-1997.  Back then, we rented Park Place, a house in the Askins Creek neighborhood in Avon.  This time, since this will just be a weekend trip, Pete and I are staying in a hotel for two nights, though I’m going to see about getting a few photos of Park Place on the way down (Avon is the town right before Buxton going south).  I do want to stay in Park Place again one day, though, but that’s not going to happen on this trip.

When we used to go down that way as a family, it worked out to where Dad would generally just sun himself on the beach, and Mom, Sis, and I would find ways to entertain ourselves.  The first year, in 1993, all the whole family did was get up, eat, and go down and sit on the beach all day.  That got old quickly by the third day, and Mom realized it.  So on subsequent vacations, while Dad was perfectly content to lay on the beach every day for a week, the rest of us found entertainment elsewhere on the island, as well as spent a couple of days on the beach.  On these outings, we went up the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a few times, we rode the ferry across Hatteras Inlet, and we did a few other things while Dad chilled out on the beach.

The last time my family went, in 1997, I was a freshly licensed driver, and did the driving that year myself, taking the Previa down to the Outer Banks with my mother and sister.  My father, due to a work schedule conflict that year, had to travel down separately.  That was fun, as it was my first time driving through a tunnel (the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel), among other things.  Still being a relatively inexperienced driver, I remember my being a little nervous while doing the drive down, but I managed.

This trip will be fun for a very different reason: I am now an adult, and traveling with another adult.  Therefore, I get to esperience the Outer Banks as a grownup, rather than as a teen.  Will it be a different experience?  Probably!  For one thing, I never got to experience that which is Brew Thru when we went down as a family.  We certainly drove by some Brew Thru locations on past trips, but we never went to one, for obvious reasons.  It seems really cool, driving through a beer store and getting service from the car.  And since the window on the car is now fully repaired, it’s a very feasible proposition.

Another thing: I’ve never seen the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse since they moved it in 1999.  I remember what the view looked like before, at the original location.  The new location will make the view a very different experience.  It’s kind of too bad that we’re not staying at Park Place, because you had the greatest view of the lighthouse in the distance from there, and I’d be interested to see how well you can see the lighthouse from there now.

And then since it’s Thursday, here are some throwback pictures of past trips to the Outer Banks:

I built this platform in the sand on the first day on the beach.  Look at how square it is.  This was either 1995 or 1996.
I built this platform in the sand on the first day on the beach.  Look at how square it is.  This was either 1995 or 1996.

Again in 1995 or 1996, Sis sits in a lawn chair on the beach and watches the sunrise.
Again in 1995 or 1996, Sis sits in a lawn chair on the beach and watches the sunrise.

Still from a home video in 1997.  This is the electrical room at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, at the top of the stairs.  I want to take lots more pix of this room this weekend.
Still from a home video in 1997.  This is the electrical room at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, at the top of the stairs.  I want to take lots more pix of this room this weekend.

The living room at Park Place, from 1997.
The living room at Park Place, from 1997.

An early selfie, taken in the mirror of the upstairs bathroom at Park Place in 1997.  Yes, that is one of those old camcorders that took the full-size VHS cassettes.  This thing was dated even then, but it did good work.  My parents still have it, though the chance that anyone ever uses it again is exactly zero.
An early selfie, taken in the mirror of the upstairs bathroom at Park Place in 1997.  Yes, that is one of those old camcorders that took the full-size VHS cassettes.  This thing was dated even then, but it did good work.  My parents still have it, though the chance that anyone ever uses it again is exactly zero.

Additionally, I have a new setup for taking photos in the water.  I bought a waterproof enclosure for my point-and-shoot camera in anticipation of this trip.  I tested it with my friend Suzie in the pool this evening, and it works very well (pix from that coming later on).  This will be used for things that I would otherwise have used Duckie (my existing waterproof camera) for, because Duckie only takes great shots in an extremely limited environment, and this is far more flexible.

So there you have it.  This weekend is going to be a lot of fun.  Pix to come!

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I completely nerded out on Sunday, and it was awesome… Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:21:47 +0000 I went out on a miniature road trip on Sunday, and I had a blast, taking photos of anything that vaguely interested me.  It was more or less spur of the moment, when you consider that for what ended up being a photography trip, I only had my cell phone, and then, I didn’t bring my spare battery along.  Thus it was a bit of a continual battle to keep a sufficient charge on the phone with only the car charger, but somehow, I managed, and the results came out pretty well despite my leaving my real camera at home.  The way this trip came about is that I wanted to go up to and explore Westminster, Maryland.  I’ve been wanting to explore Westminster for a while, ever since my father took an overnight business trip to Westminster a few years ago and I didn’t find out about it until it was too late in the day to go up and visit, because Dad didn’t realize that Westminster was as close to me as it was.  That sucked, because I would have totally gone up if I had known.  I’ll gladly travel an hour or so on relatively short notice to hang out with family.

So early Sunday morning, I just decided to go up and see what there was.  I like doing these sorts of trips, because it’s basically a scouting trip, seeing if there’s anything that I want to explore and photograph in more detail in the future.  Getting to Westminster is pretty easy: turn onto Georgia Avenue (MD 97) and take it all the way to Westminster.  Seriously, it’s that easy.  I got to Westminster just as the sun was coming up.  After a quick drive through the main commercial area along Route 140, I located the downtown area.

The downtown area in Westminster has what I consider an unusual feature: a single-track rail line for the Maryland Midland Railway running diagonally through the main intersection in downtown.  Main Street goes one way, and Liberty Street and Railroad Avenue (both MD 27) go the other way, and the rail line runs diagonally across the intersection.  I would have loved to have seen a train come through here while I was in the area, but unfortunately, I did not get to see that this time.

That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t get some photos of the whole intersection, at sunrise:

Looking north down the tracks, through the intersection.
Looking north down the tracks, through the intersection.

Facing south, looking down the tracks.  Same location as above, facing the opposite direction.
Facing south, looking down the tracks.  Same location as above, facing the opposite direction.

About 100 feet or so north on the rail line, near a second railroad crossing with Winters Street.  The building to the right is now a bike shop.
About 100 feet or so north on the rail line, near a second railroad crossing with Winters Street.  The building to the right is now a bike shop.

The crossing at Winters Street, facing south towards the Main/Liberty/Railroad crossing.
The crossing at Winters Street, facing south towards the Main/Liberty/Railroad crossing.

Railroad crossing signal with two sets of lights and crossbucks.  The lights and crossbuck facing left are for traffic on Main Street, while the other set, facing approximately forward, is for traffic on Liberty Street.
Railroad crossing signal with two sets of lights and crossbucks.  The lights and crossbuck facing left are for traffic on Main Street, while the other set, facing approximately forward, is for traffic on Liberty Street.

Railroad crossing signal for traffic on Railroad Avenue.
Railroad crossing signal for traffic on Railroad Avenue.

I also got a photo of the sunrise in Westminster:

Sunrise in Westminster, Maryland
Good morning!

And then I was off to see what else there was in Westminster, plus find some food, since I didn’t have any breakfast before I left the house.  I knew that there was a Sheetz in Westminster, and so I planned accordingly, as four years at JMU left me with a love of Sheetz.  The Sheetz in Westminster, however, is probably the smallest and oldest Sheetz that I’ve ever been in.  Except for the signage, you wouldn’t think it was a Sheetz.  The building looked more like a generic convenience store than a Sheetz on the outside, and there was a mix of different styles on the inside.  While the right half of the store was up to modern design standard for a Sheetz, including the MTO area, the checkout counter, and the restrooms, the left half of the store appeared to have not been updated in 20 years, with 1990s-era styling that I didn’t realize still existed in any Sheetz stores.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the inside of the store, but it’s definitely worth a few photos next time I’m up this way.  The fuel area was similarly small, but I did get a photo of that:

The tiny fuel island at the Sheetz in Westminster
Have you ever seen a Sheetz with only four fuel pumps before?  That was a new one to me.

Otherwise, a few signs caught my attention in the town:

"NO FREE PAPERS" sign on a mailbox
I saw a number of signs like this saying “NO FREE PAPERS” in front of several houses in Westminster, including one in front of an apartment complex.  Have never seen signs like this around.  Is there a Carroll County ordinance that gives these signs some teeth and requires compliance, or is this just a well-intentioned (but ultimately futile) request that just happened to catch on?

I spotted this sign on Gorsuch Road in front of an auto place, having made a wrong turn earlier.  Never did I think that a sign saying, “Violators will be shot, survivors will be shot again,” existed in real life.  Meanwhile, when I went by, the business was closed, so… I used their parking lot to turn around, but not before taking a photo of the sign (how ironic?).

Getting back into Westminster’s commercial corridor, I spotted a Pizza Hut building in Five Guys clothing:

No mystery about what this building was built to house!
No mystery about what this building was built to house!

That’s one thing about chain businesses and the buildings that house them.  You don’t realize how much these kinds of places have been etched into our landscape and our consciousness until something else is in one of their buildings.  There is no mistaking this as a Pizza Hut, much like there is no mistaking the Federated FAPW Warehouse in Staunton as a former Walmart, and that there is no mistaking the Wheaton campus of the Ana G. Mendez University as a former Circuit City.  In this case, the roof design and those trapezoidal windows make it unmistakable as a former Pizza Hut, and no amount of paint or signage will change that.  I’ll bet that you probably know of a few former repurposed chain locations in your own town.  In any case, this is the one downfall of having architecturally distinct locations for your chain: when the location closes, there is a building left that is no longer associated with your chain, still has the distinctive design that your chain is known for, and no amount of paint, signage, or architectural modifications will hide it.

And speaking of converted buildings, on the way out of Westminster, I found this on Route 140:

24/7 Fuel Mart

24/7 Fuel Mart

This is 24/7 Fuel Mart, and there’s no doubt about what this place used to be.  That building, canopy, and sign screams “former Citgo station”.  The new logo and green color scheme isn’t fooling anyone on otherwise standard Citgo hardware.  And then despite the “GRAND OPENING” sign on the building, things have apparently not been going so well for them, as the place was deserted, I saw caution tape around the pumps, and a sign that said, “Station is closed for repair”:

"Closed for repair" sign on a pump

Apparently something has gone seriously wrong at this station, because it’s unusual for a gas station to shut down the whole operation.  I’ve seen many cases where the fuel is down and the store is open, and where the fuel is open and the store is closed.  No idea what’s wrong, but they’re not running, and apparently not too long after opening.  In any case, I find it a little strange.

Just up from this location, I spotted this cluster of signs:

This surprised me a bit, because most of the political signs that I’ve seen in Montgomery County are for Democratic candidates.  No one even gives a second thought to the GOP down here.  Based on the yellow sign, it would appear that the Carroll Conservative PAC is likely behind the posting of this cluster of signs.  Also funny when you realize that this area shares a congressman with my area, as it’s still the 8th District all through here.  Realize that the 8th District is currently shaped like a lopsided hourglass, with the smaller end of it in Montgomery County, a narrow “neck” in the middle (I live in the southern end of the “neck”), and then a larger end to the north.  The district also stretches from the DC line to Pennsylvania, as Maryland is quite gerrymandered.  In any case, interesting to see, because it’s very easy to forget that not all of Maryland is as “blue” as the area where I live.

Continuing down Route 140, I spotted this tower near Finksburg:

Tower on AT&T campus near Finksburg  Tower on AT&T campus near Finksburg

This tower is on the same site as an AT&T building.  I have never seen a tower that’s shaped quite like this, and from the looks of it, it appears to carry a number of different services on it.  The most intriguing thing was the two devices at the top of the tower, visible in the photo to the right (another view on Google Street View).  Anyone have any idea what those are? [Update: Reddit says that these are horn antennas for a microwave relay station.]

From here, Maryland 140 headed into Reisterstown, and then into Owings Mills.  In Owings Mills, I noticed some water towers that looked interesting, so I stopped by to take a look.  The water towers were off of East Pleasant Hill Road, and in figuring out where to park the car, happened on this sign at the end of the road:

That's a new one to me!

This “ROAD END” sign is a new one to me.  I’ve seen similar diamond-shaped signs that are yellow and say “DEAD END”, but I’ve never seen a diamond-shaped “ROAD END” sign in red before, though I have seen smaller red diamonds in threes before at the end of frontage roads that randomly dead-end.

And then here are the water towers:

Water towers in Owings Mills  Water towers in Owings Mills

I was really having an infrastructure-and-commercial-buildings day today, wasn’t I?  However, here was also where a twist was thrown into my day.  I had the window down when I parked for the water towers.  Since I would only be out for a minute, I left the driver’s window down when I got out.  I closed the door behind me, and it made a funny sound.  I thought, hmm, and continued.  Getting back, I went to put the window up, and it got stuck 2/3 of the way up.  It worked fine up until 2/3 of the way up, but it wouldn’t go past that.  As it turned out, the window jumped the track in the door at the forward end.  Unfortunately, no amount of manhandling would get it to go back up.  So this was how I was driving for the rest of the day, since I couldn’t fix it on the fly, and I couldn’t find a Kia dealer open on Sunday:

Stuck open!

And there is no doubt that it jumped the track:

This thing definitely jumped the track...

Well, lovely.  So for the rest of the day, it looked like I was driving around with the window open, because there was nothing I could do about it.  Thankfully, it wasn’t supposed to rain.

Crossing the boundary into the city of Baltimore, I encountered another repurposed commercial building:

No mistaking that for anything but a former IHOP...
No mistaking that for anything but a former IHOP, that’s for sure.

Otherwise, I tracked through Baltimore rather quickly.  I found a number of Baltimore Metro stations on the way, but due to the car window, I didn’t stop to check them out.  I came out of Baltimore on Route 1, which passes through Arbutus.  However, just before leaving the city limits, I passed this:

Italiano's on Route 1, in a former KFC building

Italiano's on Route 1, in a former KFC building

I wonder if the food at Italiano’s is as “finger lickin’ good” as the previous tenant.  Of course, considering the quality of the food that KFC sells, “better than the previous tenant” is a pretty low standard.  In any case, the building would have looked similar to this when it was KFC.  This is one of the better conversions that I’ve seen, though it’s still clearly a former KFC.

One of the things that I like about the Route 1 corridor between Baltimore and Laurel is the amount of vintage motel signs that you see along that route.  I saw these between the Baltimore city limits and Route 100:

Rooftop sign for the Beltway Motel
Rooftop sign, Beltway Motel

Beltway Motel road sign
Road sign, Beltway Motel

White Elk Motel
White Elk Motel

Terrace Motel
Terrace Motel

At Route 100, I turned east, and headed over to Arundel Mills.  I needed to satisfy a craving for Dave & Buster’s, so I did.  Funny thing happened there, too.  I did my usual thing, putting a few bucks on my card and then heading out to play.  Fairly early on, I ended up at this machine:

Milk Jug Toss

I played the game through, and got a modest score of 800.  That’s not great, but it’s not awful, either.  I had earned 20 tickets.  While the machine was dispensing my tickets, I swiped my card to play again.  The balls came down, and I threw three, getting a score of 600 over those three balls.  However, the fourth ball never came out, and I started looking at it like, what’s going on?  Then I noticed what was going on at my feet: the machine was still dispensing tickets, and quite a few had come out:

That's not 20 tickets...

This was what I had at 3:25 PM, after it had been going for a few minutes.  I quickly realized that the machine had malfunctioned in a major way.  My game where it wouldn’t give me my last two balls had timed out (the machine still owed me another two balls), and it was dispensing far more tickets than I had earned.  And it continued.  Ten minutes later, at 3:35:

3:35 PM.  Lots more tickets.

I even took a video of the scene:

It kept going for more than 30 minutes.  This was the final take:

And I got someone to take a picture of me while holding the full take:

Showing off my take!

In the end, the machine dispensed approximately 4,500 tickets (worth 9,000 points), which I redeemed, added to my card. There was no question about whether or not I would redeem these: in games where you are playing against the house, as was the case here, any mistake or error is always resolved in the player’s favor. Thus I redeemed the tickets for points without hesitation.  My decision was confirmed by the fact that while this insanely large pile of tickets was piling up, an employee came by to refill the machine to the right of this one, which was a basketball toss game.  They walked right past the machine and didn’t even blink.  That was all I needed to see.

Otherwise, I had a pretty good time playing the various redemption games.  Notwithstanding the 4,500-ticket malfunction in my favor, I had a pretty average take.  I did better, ticket-wise, the last time I went, but I still had lots of fun, though on this trip, I used one of my reusable shopping bags for tickets rather than a cup due to the out-sized take from the milk jug machine.  Most disappointing, however, was my spin on the Big Bass Wheel game, which is more or less the Showcase Showdown wheel from The Price is Right.  I got the four-ticket spot, which is like getting a nickel on Price.  So close to the dollar, and yet so far.  And it’s not like this was a bonus spin or anything, where the nickel is worth $5,000 (or whatever it is now).  And for the record, when I’m playing this game, I like making the beeping noise that the Price wheel makes.

So that was Dave & Buster’s.  I saved the points on my card for another day, since there was nothing that I really wanted to redeem them for.  And that’s fine, since I’ve never actually redeemed any of my points yet.  There was nothing that I wanted to get, and I come there primarily to have fun, and the prizes are secondary.

And then I hit the road again, getting back on Route 1 and heading south towards Laurel.  On the way, I saw a few more vintage signs:

Turf Motel
Turf Motel

Motel Valencia
Motel Valencia

Tastee Diner
Tastee Diner

And then I also saw a former Howard Johnson’s:

Tampico Tex-Mex Cuisine, housed in a former HoJo's

This one is the former Laurel location.  I’m not sure when the restaurant stopped being a Howard Johnson’s, but like the former Pizza Hut, Citgo, IHOP, and KFC that I saw earlier in the day, there’s no mistaking who the building was built for.  In fact, with some of the paint flaking off the roof, the original orange color of the shingles (Howard Johnson’s was known for its orange roofs) is becoming visible once again.

Then from Laurel, I turned west on Route 198 towards home.  On the way, I stopped over in Burtonsville and photographed an abandoned KFC (technically one of those combination KFC/Taco Bell locations) in the now-mostly-empty Burtonsville Crossing shopping center:

Dining room, facing the main entrance.  Note the exit sign and emergency light dangling from the ceiling via a conduit.
Dining room, facing the main entrance.  Note the exit sign and emergency light dangling from the ceiling via a conduit.

Dining room, from the opposite side of the building.  Since closing, the building has apparently experienced some water leakage, since a number of the ceiling tiles are noticeably sagging, and some have visible mold on them.
Dining room, from the opposite side of the building.  Since closing, the building has apparently experienced some water leakage, since a number of the ceiling tiles are noticeably sagging, and some have visible mold on them.

Customer ordering area.
Customer ordering area.

The other side of the ordering area, viewed through the drive through window.
The other side of the ordering area, viewed through the drive through window.

The painted-out exterior.
The exterior.  According to a discussion on the Twitter with Dan Reed of Just Up The Pike, the building was repainted shortly after it closed.  There is a photo on Just Up The Pike showing what it looked like before it closed.  I don’t know who anyone is trying to fool when chain locations do a paintout after they close.  Even in a different color, it’s still painfully obvious what it used to be.

Walmart does this, too, by the way, and it looks even more ridiculous on them, like we’re not going to recognize it as a former Walmart because the sign area is painted a different color or something.

And then from there, I headed home.  All I had left to do was to put something over the window to keep the weather out:

Window cover, exterior

Window cover, interior

Then I took it to the dealer the next morning for a warranty repair.  And that was that.  All in all, I had a fun little road trip, don’t you think?  I should do these sorts of local-ish road trips more often.

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Took the bicycle out for some trials, and… Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:52:41 +0000 Took the bicycle out for the first time today:

The bicycle in the parking lot for the Matthew Henson Trail

The goal of today’s trip was to get used to riding the bicycle by going around in the parking lot for the Matthew Henson Trail, testing out all of the bicycle’s different functions while riding around the lot.  Then following the conclusion of trials, I was going to take it on a short maiden voyage down the Matthew Henson Trail, and then back down my street.

In doing the trials, I have a new appreciation for the expression “it’s like riding a bike” when it comes to jumping back into things that you haven’t done for a while.  Once I got the seat set to the right height, it all came right back, and I got going pretty quickly.  I got up to speed, and felt comfortable doing so, though I did ride around the speed bumps rather than go over them.  Bumps still make me nervous after a few wipeouts on tiny bumps with that scooter that I had in the early 2000s.  But it’s okay.  I’ll work my way up to it.  I also got used to the shifters, which are different from the old Huffy bicycle that I had in the 1990s.  These are not levers on top of the handlebars, but rather, you twist the knob on the handlebars.

However, the shifters eventually caused an early end to this mission.  I managed to knock the chain off entirely, and got it jammed up in places in the process.  I extricated the chain and got it back on the gears easily enough, but then when I went to start up again, the pedals would seize up.  Same place on multiple starts.  Turns out that this happened:

The chain, chewed up ever so slightly.

Turns out that when the chain jumped the gears, the chain also got chewed up a little bit.  And it was just enough to make the bike undrivable.  Well, great.  Now I have to go over to Dick’s Sporting Goods in Gaithersburg to get the chain fixed.  I’ll do that tomorrow.  Considering that this was the first time out on this bicycle, I’m hoping that this repair will be covered under warranty.  Only two links on the chain got bent, but that was enough to knock it out.  The worst one is that top link that you see edge-on in the above photograph.  I”m pretty sure that’s the one that’s causing the seizing.  But once I get the chain fixed, I should be good to go.

I’m inclined to think that this chain failure was my fault due to inexperience in shifting, but considering that this is a brand new bike, I’m not willing to completely rule out that it’s in equipment issue.  I’ll let the guy at Dick’s give it a look over, and we’ll see.  The chain failed over the front gears, and the front shifter doesn’t have numbers on it like the rear shifter does, so it’s possible that I shifted too much at once and caused the failure.  Rookie mistake, and hopefully this won’t cost me anything.  And thankfully, this issue didn’t involve my wiping out.  I never fell over, since when the pedals seized up, I just stopped pedaling, and made a normal stop.

So there you have it.  I’ll try the maiden voyage another day, after I get the chain fixed.  I do want to start taking the bicycle for shorter trips when feasible rather than taking the car, since it saves on gas, plus it’s good exercise.  But I definitely have a lot to learn about this bicycle, that’s for sure.

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Sometimes you have those weekends where you just have to get out of the house… Wed, 11 Jun 2014 22:06:57 +0000 Ever get that feeling of “I just have to get out of the house”?  I recently had that feeling, where I just needed a change of scenery for a little bit, and so I planned a weekend trip down to Stuarts Draft to visit the parents, going down Friday, and coming back Sunday.  They were, as always, delighted to see me, and on the whole, we had a good time.  I also made some extra space in my house, as, on Mom’s request, I brought my sister’s old bicycle back to my parents’ house.  Gave me some practice in “beheading” a bicycle by removing the front wheel, and then reattaching it at my destination.  But it travels much more easily without the front wheel:

The bicycle has been beheaded!
The freshly-liberated front wheel.

Fits perfectly in the back of my car with the front wheel detached, however.
All stacked neatly in the car, ready for transportation.

I also realized fairly quickly why I picked a bicycle with an aluminum frame.  My sister’s old bicycle has a steel frame, and it’s much heavier going up and down the stairs than my new one.

The drive down went well enough, but traffic on US 29 between Gainesville and Charlottesville was a bit of a bother.  Some days, you can set cruise control on 29 and just go, but not on this particular day.  Too much traffic this time around.  Too much start and stop, and too many cars around.

Arriving in Stuarts Draft, I first stopped at my old middle school, where it was the last day of school, and where Mom just finished up her last year.  Yes, Mom is retiring from teaching, and as such, this was probably the last time I’d be visiting there for a while.  So after saying hello to Mom, I did a little tour and took a ton of photos.  For the record, Stuarts Draft Middle School has been kept up incredibly well, and despite having just finished its 36th school year, it is looking awesome.  It looks better now than it did when I was there back in 1992-1995, mostly due to better paintwork and various other improvements over the years.  Definitely looks better than Stuarts Draft High School did at that age, that’s for sure.

So I started in the office, and kind of wandered around a bit.  My fellow SDMS alumni, be prepared for a treat, as you see our old middle school, still mostly the same as before.  We’re also going to see a few things that you probably never paid attention to before…

The master clock, a Lathem LTR4-128, which replaced an earlier Edwards clock system.  Only the cover remains from the original master clock.  The fire alarm panel, a DSC Maxsys PC4020CF, which replaced an Edwards Custom 6500 system in 2005.
The master clock and the fire alarm panel in the office.  The clock system has always been in this configuration as long as I’ve known it, with a Lathem master clock behind an Edwards cover, but my understanding is that the Lathem clock was put in relatively early on because the original Edwards system malfunctioned frequently.  If anyone knows what kind of system this cover was used form I’d love to know.  The fire alarm system is currently a DSC Maxsys, which replaced an Edwards Custom 6500 system in 2005.

The master clock, a Lathem LTR4-128, which replaced an earlier Edwards clock system.  Only the cover remains from the original master clock.
Now this is an antique.  This is the graphic annunciator for the Edwards system.  As such, it is no longer functional with the DSC Maxsys system.  It’s interesting to look at, because, being original to the school, it doesn’t have the 1993 addition on it.  When I was in sixth grade, I noted that my morning classes were in zone 2, and my afternoon classes were in zone 1.  No idea what zone the pull stations that were added in 1993 were wired into.

The original intercom system
The intercom system, like the graphic annunciator, is also a bit of an antique, but it still sees daily use.  It’s a Rauland system, but I can’t tell if the entire thing has a model number, or if it’s just the model numbers of the various modules that form the system.  I do remember that Mrs. Garber (principal from 1993 to 2000-something) regularly had issues turning the radio module (in the middle) off in the morning.  She would always manage to turn the radio way up before successfully turning it off.

The seventh grade locker area
The seventh grade locker area.  This area is not original to the school, having been constructed during the 1993 addition.  It was constructed against a windowed corridor on the building’s west side.  The outermost two of the four windows were blocked in, while the inner two windows were converted to passages between the new locker area and the existing corridor, with heat-activated roll-down fire doors separating the two.  This locker area is unique for having three single-level locker islands in the middle of the space, which the sixth and eighth grade lockers do not have.  These are also now the oldest lockers in the school, as the original sixth and eighth grade locker areas were removed in 1997 to create four additional classrooms.  Those old locker areas were replaced with rows of new lockers along the main corridors.  The lockers are all open in this and subsequent pictures due to this photo’s having been taken on the last day of school, and therefore the lockers were being cleaned out by staff.

My old seventh grade locker
My old seventh grade locker, number 1269, in one of those islands of single-level lockers.  Owing to the replacement of the other locker areas, this is the only one of my lockers that still exists.  I was the first student to use this locker, in the 1993-1994 school year.

The eighth grade hall, viewed from near the west end of the building.  The old eighth grade locker area is located to the right, in the area where the concrete block wall ends and the drywall begins.  The replacement lockers line the hallway to the left.  For sixth graders, the eighth grade hall is like a forbidden zone, as students, at least in my time, were explicitly told that they were not allowed in the eighth grade hall.  There really was no reason for sixth graders to ever need to use the eighth grade hall, but I always thought that the outright prohibition was probably a little bit over the top.  It was also never mentioned what would happen to little sixth graders who were caught in the eighth grade hall.

The forum, facing the stage

The forum, facing the rear
The forum is a feature that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  The cafeteria at Stuarts Draft Middle School is a cafetorium, i.e. it doubles as both the cafeteria and the auditorium.  The forum is a smaller formal space, with a tiered audience area and a small stage with its own lighting.  The forum had brown carpet when I was in sixth grade, and received new blue carpeting in 1993, along with the office and the library.

For that matter, I always wondered if the office deliberately tried to avoid having fire drills while the forum was in use or if it was just coincidental.  I wonder this because when I was in sixth grade, during the “expectations” assembly that we had on the second day of school, Mrs. Kidd (then the principal) mentioned about how normally, only the two rear doors in the forum were used to leave, but that in the unlikely event of a fire drill in the forum, all four doors would be used for egress.  There was also one instance when I was in sixth grade where there was a fire drill at the beginning of the period immediately after a group that I was in was occupying the forum.  When I was a student there, though, fire drills were only held during second, sixth, and seventh periods, with one exception, where there was a fire drill during eighth period.  Fire drills were never held in first, third, fourth, or fifth periods (the latter two due to lunch periods), and, aside from the one exception, eighth.

The utility room

The utility room
Ever wondered what the utility room next to the gym looked like?  Here it is.  Lots and lots of pipes, and big equipment that makes noise.  It’s also very warm in that room, too, probably due to all of the equipment.  This was the last place in this school that I had never explored, and so I decided to take a look.

The custodians' office
The custodians’ office, off of the utility room.  Yes, the custodians have a couch.

The gym
This is the gym, facing southeast.  Two years ago, I had mentioned that the Bauer Drive Recreation Center gym looked a lot like the gym at my old middle school.  Now you can compare for yourself.  However, imagine that the walls were two shades of institutional green, with a darker shade beneath and including that maroon line, and a lighter shade above it to the rafters.  Then the entire area from the bottom of the rafters to the roof were painted a darker green color.  They painted the gym a “mushroom” color all the way up in the summer between my seventh and eighth grade years, but the ceiling was left its original green.  Delighted that they finally painted the ceiling a normal color.

Boys' locker room
The boys’ locker room looks (and, unfortunately, smells) the same as when I left it.  Only major difference is that they pulled out the row of full-length lockers along the one wall and added cube lockers to replace them.  I presume they needed more place for kids to store their Phys. Ed outfits, and so the old lockers had to go.  They did, however, keep locker #1, which was Mr. Ellis’ locker back when I was there.

The unpaired pull station in the gym
The gym also contains the only pull station in the original part of the school that’s not accompanied by a notification appliance (none of the five pull stations in the addition are paired with a notification appliance, either).  There was an Edwards 270A-SPO here back when I was a student.  That old pull station now lives with me (it’s the “LOCAL ALARM” one).

And that’s my old middle school.  Not sure when I’ll be there next.

Otherwise, the following day, I went out with Mom for her various errands, which took us to a few different places.  One of the places that we visited was my ex-store, the Walmart in Waynesboro.  This sign there amused me, because it’s up for some interpretation:

This certainly is up for interpretation

While the official meaning of this is that this is where a baby changing table is located, I interpreted it as the place where you bury the bodies.  A few folks on Facebook had other interpretations, such as where you get giant engagement rings, and where you barbecue babies (and you thought my interpretation was nutty!).

Then I was also slightly pleased to see this:

The now-former McDonald's in my ex-store

The now-former McDonald's in my ex-store

This is the now-former McDonald’s in my ex-store, which closed in the relatively recent past.  And good riddance to them.  I’ve never been a big fan of McDonald’s, since their food is basically garbage, plus this one in particular did not endear itself to anyone early on with all of the canned announcements that they used to run on the PA system.  Rumor on the street is that this is supposed to become a Burger King.  That can be dismissed out of hand because, if that were actually the case, the Walmart Realty site would not list the space as being available for leasing as of this writing.  A Burger King in Walmart would not be unheard of (one is going into a Walmart store in Newport News), but if a Burger King’s coming to the Waynesboro Walmart was true, it wouldn’t still be listed as available for leasing.

After this, we went over to the P. Buckley Moss Museum in Waynesboro.  This will probably be my last visit here, as it’s slated to close on July 13.  I’ve always enjoyed the Moss Museum, but my understanding is that it doesn’t get the traffic that it used to.  The organization that owns and operates the museum will be opening a gallery in downtown Waynesboro, though, which will help with the continuing revitalization of the downtown area.  According to museum staff, the existing museum building has been donated to Virginia Tech.  No one knew what they would use the building for, though.

I always found the fire alarm system in the P. Buckley Moss museum to be interesting, so before we left, I grabbed a few photos of some of the fire alarm stuff.  I’ve never seen the panel for the museum, but what I did see has always intrigued me.  The notification appliances are Wheelock ET speakers without strobes, and then the pull stations are Pyrotronics MS-51.  However, the astute observer will notice more pull stations than usual, and often found in pairs.  The main gallery contains a Halon fire suppression system. and the remainder of the building contains a pre-action sprinkler system.  For the Halon system in the main gallery, regular MS-51 stations activate the fire alarm, and specially-marked MS-51 stations with Stopper covers activate the Halon system:

Halon pull station with stopper cover

The Moss Museum was also the first time I’d ever heard of Halon, and the first time I’d ever seen a Stopper cover.  Then this is what the remainder looked like:

Two pull stations, a few inches apart, one plain, and the other adorned with a “SPRINKLER RELEASE” sign.  Understandably, considering that this is an art museum, we don’t want to damage the many original artworks found here accidentally, and a conventional wet-pipe sprinkler system would likely cause more damage than it prevented.  Thus the waterless Halon system in the main gallery, and the pre-action system elsewhere.

Then Sunday was interesting enough.  The goal of the day was to get ready to go back home, plus do a little power washing.  The idea for power washing came about after I saw the Power Washing Porn page on Reddit.  Basically, people power wash stuff, and then post pictures of the before, after, and sometimes also during.  I knew that there were some surfaces on my parents’ house that hadn’t been cleaned in decades, and so I had some good candidates for shooting some power washing porn of my own.  I’m going to give a larger treatment to the power washing in Life and Times, so I’m not going to elaborate too much here, but let me give you a sneak preview:

The brown swath was freshly power washed

Amazing what you can get when you blast water at something hard enough.  Almost 22 years’ worth of grime blasted right off in minutes.  Who would have thought that the wood looked almost new under all of that gunk?  And apparently a lot of the gunk went onto my legs:

My legs after power washing a bunch of stuff

Apparently it was very naive of me to think that I wouldn’t get dirty after power washing a bunch of stuff.  I ended up having to wash these clothes and take a shower before I left for home.

Then the trip home was pretty awful.  I got caught in massive downpours as part of a severe thunderstorm not once, but twice coming back.  But first, on the way out, I stopped to briefly check out the Shoney’s in Waynesboro, which closed “temporarily” not too long ago:

Exterior of the Shoney's in Waynesboro

Sunroom in the Shoney's in Waynesboro

Sign for the Shoney's in Waynesboro, minus the name part

I don’t know about you, but this looks suspiciously like a restaurant that has served its last platter.  Someone needs to get a stick and remove “TEMPORARILY” from the sign, because it’s clear that they’re history.  I just hope that the restaurant’s employees got some notice of the closure, rather than showing up for work only to find a note on the door stating that the place was closed.  Doing that sort of thing to one’s employees is really wrong, but it happens far too often with restaurants.  The Shoney’s location in Staunton closed abruptly one day, along with several other locations owned by the same franchisee, and employees got zero notice of the closure until they showed up for work and found out that they were out of a job.  Waynesboro was a corporate location rather than a franchised location, so I would hope that the company treated its employees better than an independent operator, but I have my doubts.

The Shoney’s location in Waynesboro has been the source of rumors for years, and thus just adds fuel to the fire.  Ever since Waynesboro had its retail boom in the mid 2000s, this restaurant has been the subject of a rumor that it was going to be converted to an IHOP.  It had been denied officially before, but now that the building is closed, who knows?  I think that the rumor is mainly wishful thinking, because Shoney’s is generally considered dated, and IHOP is another restaurant that’s known for its breakfast, but which does not exist in that area, as the nearest ones are in Harrisonburg and Charlottesville.  This is just like how I’ve heard so many people over there say that they want an Olive Garden in the area.  What is it with people and this strong desire for low quality food?

And then, as mentioned, the drive home sucked, as in driving 40 mph down I-66 with the flashers on, and not being able to hear the clicking of the flashers because it was raining so hard.  I first encountered the storm on I-81 for about 15 miles.  With I-81’s being a north-south route, the storm passed overhead and that was that.  But then when I turned east on 66, I caught back up with the storm, and unfortunately, stayed with it until I got to Fairfax County.  I stopped for a break at Sheetz in Haymarket, and got a few pix of how bad the rain was:

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

Rain at the Sheetz in Haymarket

That’s what I was dealing with.  No fun.  Note the water pooling up in the parking lot next to the curb.

But all in all, not a bad trip.

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“A room that big and not a single fire alarm notification appliance?” Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:43:47 +0000 Today on Facebook, a friend of mine posted this picture:

"This is a room full of people that care about your game requests."

While I agree with the sentiment regarding game requests, that room grated on me.  No fire alarms.  I mean, a room that size ought to have a bunch of them.  My first reaction to this picture was, “A room that big and not a single fire alarm notification appliance?”  After a response back from the friend who posted it, I said, “That room looks naked without notification appliances at regular intervals.”

So, I completed the room:

Fixed that for you!

Much better.  For the most part, I gave it Potomac Hall’s fire alarm system.  I put Wheelock AS horns and Siemens MS-501 pull stations next to the doors, and then Wheelock RSS strobes elsewhere.  For some reason, this gives me a satisfied feeling.  After all, I was the person who, as a child, would build buildings out of Legos and then put complete (pretend) fire alarm systems in them.

So for those of you who are more knowledgeable about how fire alarm devices should be placed: how did I do?

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