The Schumin Web http://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:46:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best birthday cake ever… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/28/best-birthday-cake-ever/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=best-birthday-cake-ever http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/28/best-birthday-cake-ever/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 15:46:30 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23714 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? http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/20/when-is-the-internet-going-to-understand-that-diabetes-jokes-are-not-funny/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=when-is-the-internet-going-to-understand-that-diabetes-jokes-are-not-funny http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/20/when-is-the-internet-going-to-understand-that-diabetes-jokes-are-not-funny/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 22:50:34 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23702 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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/14/and-this-is-why-i-should-never-be-allowed-to-go-to-micro-center-unsupervised/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=and-this-is-why-i-should-never-be-allowed-to-go-to-micro-center-unsupervised http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/08/14/and-this-is-why-i-should-never-be-allowed-to-go-to-micro-center-unsupervised/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 05:27:22 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23693 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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/07/16/so-i-found-an-app-that-lets-you-take-stereo-photos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=so-i-found-an-app-that-lets-you-take-stereo-photos http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/07/16/so-i-found-an-app-that-lets-you-take-stereo-photos/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 02:24:22 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23655 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:

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:

SUCK IT UP CUPCAKE

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

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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/07/05/acceptance-testing-on-a-waterproof-camera-enclosure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acceptance-testing-on-a-waterproof-camera-enclosure http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/07/05/acceptance-testing-on-a-waterproof-camera-enclosure/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2014 02:33:37 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23640 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:

Selfie!
Selfie!

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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/26/going-back-for-the-first-time-in-17-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-back-for-the-first-time-in-17-years http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/26/going-back-for-the-first-time-in-17-years/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 03:21:13 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23624 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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/24/i-completely-nerded-out-on-sunday-and-it-was-awesome/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=i-completely-nerded-out-on-sunday-and-it-was-awesome http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/24/i-completely-nerded-out-on-sunday-and-it-was-awesome/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 02:21:47 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23610 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?

"NO TURN AROUND.  VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT.  SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN."
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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/17/took-the-bicycle-out-for-some-trials-and/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=took-the-bicycle-out-for-some-trials-and http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/17/took-the-bicycle-out-for-some-trials-and/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 20:52:41 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23588 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… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/11/sometimes-you-have-those-weekends-where-you-just-have-to-get-out-of-the-house/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sometimes-you-have-those-weekends-where-you-just-have-to-get-out-of-the-house http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/11/sometimes-you-have-those-weekends-where-you-just-have-to-get-out-of-the-house/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 22:06:57 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23504 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?” http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/10/a-room-that-big-and-not-a-single-fire-alarm-notification-appliance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-room-that-big-and-not-a-single-fire-alarm-notification-appliance http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/06/10/a-room-that-big-and-not-a-single-fire-alarm-notification-appliance/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 18:43:47 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23507 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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Exactly 22 years later, I got another baby elephant… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/30/exactly-22-years-later-i-got-another-baby-elephant/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exactly-22-years-later-i-got-another-baby-elephant http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/30/exactly-22-years-later-i-got-another-baby-elephant/#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 03:36:31 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23473 So today was my birthday, meaning that I am now 33 years old.  And for my birthday, I got a baby elephant.  Check it out:

The "baby elephant", as it is

So if you’re thinking, that’s not a baby elephant, I can explain.  When I turned 11 years old, my parents got me a full-size bicycle for my birthday, to replace this red one:

My childhood bicycle

However, I didn’t know that I was getting a new bicycle for my 11th birthday.  My parents told me that I was getting a baby elephant.  The idea behind their telling me that it was a baby elephant was that they wanted to keep the real gift (a bicycle) a surprise.  “Baby elephant” was supposed to be so ridiculous of a concept that it was easy enough to dismiss out of hand.  But then this is me that we’re talking about, and when they told me that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, it became my understanding that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, though admittedly, even at the time, I thought it was a tad strange.  But they said “elephant”, so that was what I expected.  I even looked up elephants in the encyclopedia in school to find out how one takes care of an elephant (after all, it was my elephant), and told a bunch of other kids that I was getting a baby elephant for my birthday.

So on the morning of my 11th birthday, I saw this, a Huffy Stone Mountain bicycle:

A Huffy Stone Mountain bicycle
Image: Huffy

Then I asked my parents, “Where’s the elephant?”  That’s when they explained that the bicycle was the “elephant”.  I was actually a bit disappointed at the time that I didn’t get the elephant that I was led to believe.  While I thought that the idea was a little odd at first, I warmed up to it, and was geniunely looking forward to receiving an elephant when my birthday rolled around.  When Mom found out about this thought process, and how I actually genuinely believed that I was getting an elephant for my birthday, she got a little sad about it.  But it’s okay – we can laugh about it now.

I should also add that I probably ought to consider myself fortunate that we moved from Arkansas to Virginia the same summer that I got that bicycle.  School ended on May 29 that year, and my birthday was the 30th.  And then we left Rogers for good on August 29, 1992.  So I never had anything to live down about the elephant that I never got, because when I went back to school the following fall, I was halfway across the country with a whole new group of kids who had never heard the elephant story, and to whom I never told the elephant story.

(By the way, if this sounds familiar, it’s worth noting that I told this same story on here once before, back in 2002.)

I ended up riding that bicycle for about five years, from 1992 until around 1997, when I got my driver’s license.  Once I could drive a car, I put my bicycle down and never looked back.  My parents ended up holding onto my old bicycle until well after I moved up to Maryland, and then, unbeknownst to me at the time, they got rid of it at some point.

I got the urge to ride a bicycle again about a year ago, and asked my parents about the possibility of getting my old bicycle out of storage and up here so that I could use it again.  That’s when I learned that my old bicycle wasn’t mine anymore.  However, my sister’s old bike was still available.  I remembered that it was similarly sized to mine, and so Mom agreed to bring it up.  This was my sister’s old bike:

That bike was in great shape for 19 years old, mainly because she didn’t use it all that much.  However, before I was willing to take it out, I was concerned about whether any components had dry rotted and needed replacing or otherwise needed maintenance due to the long period of inactivity, and I was not qualified to identify and repair these things myself.  I did fill the tires up, though, and you may recall that I did this using an electric pump and the car.  I ended up taking a couple of test runs on it around the parking lot of my apartment complex after filling the tires up, but a feeling of apprehension about the still-uninspected bike, combined with the fact that I had no idea how much air to put in the tires (and literature that I could find online about that was no help) kept it at home.  It also didn’t help that my ham-handed filling of the tires caused one of them to blow later on while it was sitting in my living room.  A piece in the valve stem gave out, making a loud hissing sound as the air escaped through it, which scared the heck out of me when it happened.  I had intended to take the bike out for that inspection, but other priorities such as getting a Class B commercial driver’s license and finding gainful employment in a new field took priority.

Plus I had another realization: when I had done the test runs on it, I didn’t quite fit right, and in playing with the height settings on things, I realized that even if I got the seat high enough, I would be bent so far over that it would give me a backache, and that wouldn’t be a good thing.  But don’t forget that we didn’t buy this bicycle for me, but rather, it was intended for my sister, who is a little bit smaller than me.  So it’s okay.  Besides, nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I still learned a lot from it,

So my thoughts turned to needing to look around for a new bicycle.  When my mother asked what I wanted for my birthday, I pitched the idea of a new bicycle to her.  My original pitch was to sell the old bicycle and apply that towards a new bike, but, to my surprise, Mom asked me to bring it back down if I wasn’t going to use it.  So the next time I head down to Stuarts Draft, I’m going to be bringing a bike down with me.

I ended up getting a new bike at Dick’s Sporting Goods up in Gaithersburg.  I looked at a few different styles, such as a mountain bike like I had before, a road bike, and a few others, and eventually ended up with what they call a “comfort bike”, which is a hybrid bike designed with rider comfort in mind, including a suspension on the seat, and higher handlebars.  After all, I’m not going to be racing on this bike, nor will I be commuting on it, or doing anything too extreme.  I intend on using it for more casual riding, such as on the various bike trails and such around here.

I went up to Dick’s in Gaithersburg with my friend Suzie (one of my friends from the pool), and we got the bike.  Here it is getting final preparations for sale:

My new bicycle, getting the final preparations for sale.

I also took the opportunity while there to outfit the bike with a white LED headlight and a red rear LED taillight, since I was fairly certain that I would end up riding at night.  I don’t think I will necessarily intentionally ride at night, but rather, it’s more likely that a ride would unintentionally run long, and it would get dark on me before I got back home.  This bike also has an aluminum frame, which makes it much easier to carry up the stairs because it’s much lighter.  My sister’s old bike was a pain to carry up to my third-floor apartment because it’s made of heavier materials.

And since this bike was picked for me, at my 5’10″ height, it’s a bit bigger.  Compare my sister’s old bike to my new one:

My new bike in back, and my sister's old bike in front

Even though my sister’s bicycle is a foot or so closer to the camera (the wheels are the same size), you can definitely see a size difference, as my new bike is noticeably taller, and that’s fine by me, because it means that it fits me well.

Otherwise, now that I have a bike that I actually feel comfortable riding, I have a list of things to do.  First of all, I have to become proficient in riding this bike.  I did a little test run on it in the store, but that wasn’t very long, and I was wearing flip flops when I did it.  But it was a good fit check.  I also need to learn what the various hand movements are to signal turns and stopping when riding in traffic.  Then there are a few pieces of equipment that I don’t have just yet: a water bottle holder and a lock.  I deliberately tabled a water bottle holder for now, because I wanted to make sure that whatever I got fit my 27-oz Klean Kanteen water bottles, and still need to do a little more research on that.  Klean Kanteen makes a nice one, though, so that’s a possibility.  As for the lock, I don’t know enough about these things yet to feel comfortable picking one out with any sort of confidence.  I need to know what to look for in a lock and how I’m supposed to attach it and such.  I want to eventually start biking rather than driving to the pool, and so I’m going to need a lock for that, because a bicycle will not fit in the lockers at the pool.  Any suggestions/advice that you might have about locks are welcome, and I strongly encourage that you leave a comment below with any thoughts.  And then as for a helmet, I have one of those already, and it fits me well.

So there you go.  22 years to the day that I got my first “baby elephant”, I got another one.

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And it goes from an Edwards to a Fire-Lite… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/12/and-it-goes-from-an-edwards-to-a-fire-lite/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=and-it-goes-from-an-edwards-to-a-fire-lite http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/12/and-it-goes-from-an-edwards-to-a-fire-lite/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 04:12:20 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23465 And there you have it.  I figured that, when Herb, three firefighters, and I had trouble resetting the pull station during that accidental fire alarm at the pool last Thursday, the Edwards 270A-SPO that had recently been installed at the pool and was the center of the action in this alarm would not be long for this world.  And I was right.  This is what greeted me when I arrived for today’s workout:

Fire-Lite BG-12

And apparently it’s at the end of a line, because it had this written on the top of it:

Fire-Lite BG-12 with markings indicating end of line

This seemed to be the more logical choice in pull stations for this facility.  The system is Notifier, and Fire-Lite and Notifier are both in the Honeywell family of companies.  That Edwards station, while fully compatible with the system (as was clearly demonstrated), just didn’t feel right in a building that otherwise used Notifier pull stations.  As there are three other BG-12 stations in the building already, it’s not an outlier by any means.

But there you go.  Three different pull stations in one spot over the course of about a month or two.  Now let’s just hope that little children keep their grubby little mitts off the pull stations while I’m trying to swim…

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It was a six-mile hike, mostly uphill, but the view was definitely worth it… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/12/it-was-a-six-mile-hike-mostly-uphill-but-the-view-was-definitely-worth-it/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=it-was-a-six-mile-hike-mostly-uphill-but-the-view-was-definitely-worth-it http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/12/it-was-a-six-mile-hike-mostly-uphill-but-the-view-was-definitely-worth-it/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 17:19:27 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23447 On May 4, I got together with Melissa, Pete, and Pete’s dog Bruno, and we went on a trip out to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to do some hiking.  The inspiration for this trip was twofold.  First of all, Pete and Melissa had recently become friends on Facebook, though they had never met in person.  This seemed like a good opportunity for them to actually meet.  And then the venue came about after I saw someone else post pictures of the Maryland Heights overlook at Harpers Ferry onto Facebook, and I decided that I wanted to see it for myself.

Heading in, I first picked Melissa up at her house in Hyattsville, along with, to my surprise, Jason.  He was going to check out the Smithsonian, and so we brought him down to a Metro station.  After dropping Jason off at Eastern Market station, Melissa and I met up with Pete for breakfast at Sizzling Express.  After breakfast, we headed back over to Pete’s house to get Bruno, and then we all walked down to the car, which was parked on 6th Street SE.  I ended up taking Bruno’s leash, which was an experience all of its own.  Realize that when I was growing up, my family had a dachshund, which is a small dog.  Bruno is a basset hound, which is a much bigger breed.  Walking a basset hound is a different experience entirely from walking a dachshund, in that I was mostly walking Bruno, but there were definitely times when Bruno was walking me.  Bruno is pretty strong, and was able to pull me around at times as he checked out various items along our path.  Greta could never have pulled me around like that on account of her being too small.  But it was fun, so all was well, and Pete was there to remind Bruno to be on his best behavior if necessary.

When we got to the car, Bruno got in his carrier, and we were off.  To get there, we took the Southwest Freeway to GW Parkway to the Beltway to I-270 to US 340.  And for the record, 340′s east-west signing in Maryland always throws me off, because I am very much accustomed to 340′s being signed as a north-south route, as it is in Virginia and West Virginia, though that’s by far not the only US highway that changes directional designations like that.

Getting to Harpers Ferry, through a stroke of luck, we found parking at the MARC station.  The park ranger working the lot initially told us that the lot was full, but then as we were getting ready to loop around the lot to exit and find parking elsewhere, a space opened up in front of us.  No problem: I was in there.  Considering all of the hiking that we were going to do, I wasn’t about to pass up a space that close to where we were going.  When Pete and I visited in July, we parked way up on Fillmore Street, which was a considerable walk all of its own.  Right after I parked the car, I spotted Amtrak Superliner cars on one of the tracks.  I told them, “Hold on, gotta go be a rail nut,” and quickly dashed into the train station for a few quick pix of the eastbound Capitol Limited, which was servicing the station from the wrong track:

The eastbound Capitol Limited, on the opposite track from normal.

The eastbound Capitol Limited, on the opposite track from normal.

The eastbound Capitol Limited, departing the station on the opposite track from normal.

Interestingly enough, as I was photographing the train, one of the departing passengers recognized me!  Turned out that she had encountered me at the Forward on Climate rally in DC last year.  We talked for a moment as we exited the train station, and then I gave her a Schumin Web business card before we parted company.

After that brief jaunt into railfan territory, and after talking to the park ranger about payment and ticket display, and after verifying that everyone was in good shape regarding what everyone was bringing, we were off.  The Maryland Heights trail was across the river from the rest of the town, and so we headed over the bridge to the Maryland side.  The stairs down to the street on the Maryland side of the bridge were an open grate, which Bruno didn’t want to go down, and understandably so.  Therefore, Pete carried Bruno down the steps:

Pete carries Bruno down the stairs

While Pete went ahead with Bruno, Melissa and I got a couple of shots of the tracks leading into the Harpers Ferry tunnel, i.e. this:

Railroad tracks leading up to the Harpers Ferry tunnel.  The tracks on the left side are the CSX Cumberland Subdivision, and lead toward the MARC station, and eventually to Cumberland.  The track to the right is the CSX Shenandoah Subdivision, eventually leading to Strasburg, Virginia.

The tracks on the left side are the CSX Cumberland Subdivision, and lead toward the MARC station, and eventually out to Cumberland.  The track to the right is the CSX Shenandoah Subdivision, eventually leading to Strasburg, Virginia.  The two lines merge inside the tunnel.

Coming down off the bridge, we walked a short distance north to the trailhead.  Pete took care of Bruno…

Pete and Bruno walk toward the trailhead

…and Bruno took care of watering the plants.

Bruno lifts his leg on a bush

The fact that Bruno would lift his leg at everything, even when he was completely dry, amused me.  Greta, after all, was a girl, and a proper lady just doesn’t do such a thing.  In fact, Greta was so proper that she would wait until she got home after a walk to do her business.

Then when we got to the trailhead, I took care of a quick matter of business:

Giving our admission fee to Uncle Sam

This is me paying our admission fee to Uncle Sam.  Interestingly enough, you didn’t pay the ranger at the parking lot.  Instead, you got an envelope from the ranger, placed a stub on the dash, put your admission fee in the envelope, and then deposited the envelope in one of these little pylons around the area.

And then we started up the trail.  It was a three mile hike to the overlook, and mostly uphill.  That will definitely work your leg muscles, that’s for sure.  Partway up the trail, we stopped to check out the former location of a Civil War-era stone fort.  The fort is gone now, but it is clear that something was once there:

The site of a Civil War-era stone fort

The site of a Civil War-era stone fort

I also got a pic of Bruno at the fort:

Bruno at the fort location

From here, we continued on our path up the mountain.  The overlook is on a side trail, and thankfully, it was all downhill to the overlook, because we were tired of all of the uphill movement at that point.  Arriving at the overlook, we were greeted by this view:

The initial view from the overlook

When I looked out, I quickly locked onto a tiny feature in the distance: a bus.  Thus, my initial reaction to the view was, “Is that a Gillig Phantom down there?”  You probably can’t even see the bus in the smaller picture, but if you click to enlarge it, you should be able to see it.

But wouldn’t you know it – I was right:

Yep - it's a Gillig Phantom!

What can I say, except that I know my buses, even from a long way away.

The view was spectacular, though, as we got to watch an opening in the clouds approach the town and let the sun shine through:

I also found the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers to be rather interesting:

Confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers

What struck me as interesting was the fact that the rivers were two distinct colors.  This trip was a few days after some massive rainfall came through the area, and apparently, the Shenandoah (top) was carrying some extra sediment from upstream.  The Potomac (bottom) was much darker, and presumably carrying less sediment.

Meanwhile, Pete and Bruno took a moment to rest, and Pete gave Bruno some doggy treats:

Pete and Bruno take a break

Bruno also got to explore around a little bit, i.e. as much as his leash would allow:

Bruno, near the edge of the rocks

Melissa and I also took a bunch of photos from the overlook, plus some pix of each other at the overlook.  Here’s one that Melissa took of me:

Standing next to the view of Harpers Ferry

Every time I look at this photo, it gives me this unsettled feeling in my stomach, because it looks like I’m standing right at the edge of the cliff.  I’m really not!  It didn’t look nearly as close as it looks in the photo in real life.

Then Melissa and I switched places, and she got in front of the camera.  She stayed in the original spot that she was in when she took the photo, and I moved around, and we got this:

Melissa in front of the overlook

For those wondering, yes – Melissa did cut her hair since the last time I had seen her.  She is now sporting a short hairstyle!

And then a passerby took a picture of both of us:

Melissa and I at the overlook

And then after that, it wasn’t long until we started to head back down the mountain.  Melissa asked if there was a shorter way down, and my comment, pointing off the overlook, was that there was, and that while I’m sure it would be an awesome trip down, but I wouldn’t want to experience the landing at the end of it.  In other words, unless you want to jump off the overlook, nothing doing.  Thankfully, except for the hike from the overlook to the main trail, it was downhill the whole way.  Of course, downhill has its own hazards.  It’s not as strenuous as uphill, but you have gravity on your side going down.  Thus you want to go down, but since you’re traveling in the same direction as gravity, it will carry you down faster than you want to go if you’re not careful.

However, Bruno had a blast, and I got some shots of him on the way down:

And then eventually, we got to the bottom of the hill, alongside the river:

Then Melissa and I looked back up at where we’d been:

Hard to believe that we had hiked all the way up there and back!  Then we headed back over the bridge to the West Virginia side.  On the way over, I took a few photos of the abandoned bridge piers in the Potomac River:

Interestingly enough, Melissa got a shot of me while I was taking that last one:

Standing on the bridge, taking photos of abandoned infrastructure

There you have it, I suppose.  And then I got a pic of the abandoned railroad tracks on the way back to the car:

Abandoned track in Harpers Ferry

When we got back to the car, after a quick restroom break, we headed over to the field next to the train station, in the shadow of the tracks, to have a picnic lunch.  That was a great lunch following a great hike.

After lunch, we headed up to Hilltop House, mainly to show Melissa the view:

This photo, by the way, is the overlook as viewed from Hilltop House.
This photo, by the way, is the overlook as viewed from Hilltop House.

Then we drove over to see Jefferson Rock:

Jefferson Rock itself

Bruno near Jefferson Rock

Melissa poses in front of Jefferson Rock

And that was more or less it.  We got in the car, and settled in for the ride back to DC.  But first, we stopped for some quick photos of some old cars on the way down the hill:

Ford Model T

That last one, a Ford Model T, makes me think of Gertrude from Today’s Special.  It’s a shame to see these historic cars sitting out in this condition, though.

And that was that.  We headed back into DC, where we dropped Pete and Bruno back home, and then picked Jason up from the Metro to head back to Maryland.  We ended up having dinner at the Chevys restaurant in Greenbelt, and got these photos before we left:

I don’t know about you, but I look awesome in that second picture.  If only I had a stomach that was that flat in real life, right?

And then, after dropping Melissa and Jason off, I headed home.  I’d say that a fun time was definitely had by all.

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Well, tonight’s workout was fun… http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/08/well-tonights-workout-was-fun/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=well-tonights-workout-was-fun http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/05/08/well-tonights-workout-was-fun/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 03:19:26 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23439 I think this describes my workout at the pool tonight:

SO YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR SWIM WORKOUT?  LET ME SING YOU THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE.

Yes, I got interrupted by a fire alarm.  I was simultaneously annoyed and delighted about the situation.  On the one hand, Olney Indoor Swim Center has a Notifier voice evacuation system, and I had never heard it go off in the three years that I have been swimming at Olney.  So I was delighted that I finally got to see and hear it in action.  On the other hand, though, I take my swimming quite seriously.  I find interruptions to my workout to be quite a bother, like the time that a storm-related power outage ended my workout early back in August 2012.  So a fire alarm during my workout annoyed me, because it knocked me out of my groove.

Spoiler alert: the fire alarm nerd in me won out over the serious swimmer in me.  This should come as no surprise to anyone.

So today, I was having my regular workout.  I normally start at 7:20 on Thursdays, and go for about an hour.  I got through the first thirty minutes, past my mid-workout calf stretch, and then I was just starting my fourth lap after stretching, when I saw strobes start to flash.  A few seconds later, the slow whoop tone began, followed by an evacuation message, in a female voice: “May I have your attention, please!  A fire emergency has been reported in the building.  Please leave the building by the nearest exit.”  Lifeguards cleared the pool, and it was time to go outside.  Thankfully, it was a very warm day today.  I would consider today to have had “good fire drill weather,” i.e. the kind of nice weather conditions that one would normally expect to have during a typical school fire drill.  We were only outside for a few minutes, but during that time, the folks at the pool who knew me well all commented to me how I was probably enjoying this quite a bit.  And let’s admit it.  I was definitely enjoying all of this.

Once they verified that it was an accidental alarm, caused by a child pulling a pull station, they let us all back in, even though they hadn’t reset the system yet.  This system was the kind where they could silence the audibles and leave the strobes, and so they did as much, save for an unsuccessful attempt at resetting the system, which stopped the strobes for a moment, before everything started up again (but they quickly killed the audibles again).  So the strobes were still flashing, but everything was still going on per normal otherwise.  I think that I was probably the one person there who wasn’t bothered by the fire alarm’s continuing to run while swimming.

When I finished my first lap after resuming swimming, I looked at the pull station that was in the lobby across from me, and noticed that it looked activated.  That station had previously been a Notifier BNG-1R (the Notifier version of the Fire-Lite BG-8), but a few weeks ago, I noticed what looked like vertical silver stripes on the pull station.  That seemed unusual, but I had chalked it up to my not wearing my glasses, and never bothered to verify if the station had been changed.  Turns out it was.  They had swapped out that Notifier BNG-1R for an Edwards pull station, and the handle was down.  Coming back on the next lap, I saw Herb, the director of the facility, looking at it in a puzzled sort of way.  I thought, uh oh, Herb needs some help, and jumped out of the pool to go help Herb reset the station.  After all, an Edwards 270A-SPO, unlike most pull stations, resets with a screwdriver, and the other pull stations at the pool, the Notifier BNG-1R (i.e. Fire-Lite BG-8) and the Fire-Lite BG-12, reset with a key.  Herb was initially confused, expecting to find a place to put a Notifier key.  I showed him how to open it, then I moved the switch back to normal (which was a little hard to do for some reason), reset the handle, and then snapped the station closed.

On that note, by the way, never did I ever think that I would one day be resetting a fire alarm pull station while wearing nothing but a speedo.  Just thought I’d put that out there.

After we got the station reset, with the handle hanging a little bit lower than I would have liked, but still up (and my commenting to Herb that this station really needs a break rod), we went back to the panel, which is in the back of the building.  There, Herb reset the system, after which it promptly went back into alarm, indicating that the alarm was originating from a pull station in zone 1 on the first floor.  After Herb silenced the audibles again, we went back up to the front, where the graphic annunciator is located, and verified that it was, in fact, the same pull station.  As it turned out, the switch’s being difficult to move back was most likely preventing the station from properly resetting.  At that point, the fire department showed up (they had already been notified that the alarm was an accident), and so I left to resume my workout, with the strobes’ still flashing.  It ended up taking three firefighters’ working on it to finally get that station to reset and stay reset.  I was a bit disappointed to see the excitement end, but everyone else certainly appreciated it.  The rest of my workout was so-so at best, since the alarm had gotten me out of my groove, and I had been paying more attention to the fire alarm than to my workout.

Funny, though, about that pull station.  I had photographed that pull station on December 17, to show a friend what kind of fire alarm equipment that the pool had.  This was the pic from December:

Notifier BNG-1 at Olney Indoor Swim Center

That is a Notifier BNG-1R on the wall.  And then here’s the same spot from today, now filled by an Edwards 270A-SPO:

Edwards 270A-SPO replacing that Notifier pull station

I’m sure that you can see why a person who is somewhat nearsighted would confuse the two from a distance, and chalk it up to nearsightedness.  Both are red with silver details, and have long vertical lines in silver.  Plus, considering that some of the original BNG-1 pull stations had previously been replaced elsewhere in the facility with BG-12 stations, I was sure that they would have stuck with Honeywell (of which both Fire-Lite and Notifier are part) equipment.  Guess not.  I suspect, though, that this pull station’s tenure in Olney may be a short one.  It was recently installed to replace the original station after a water pipe burst in that area during one of the many cold spells that we had this past winter, and I suspect that it may be replaced again if that switch continues to be a problem.

Then otherwise, I didn’t get any pictures of the panel, as my phone was locked up in my locker.  But for those wondering, this is the graphic annunciator in the main entrance, in a file photo from November 28, 2012:

Graphic annunciator at Olney Indoor Swim Center

At the time I took this photo, there was a trouble condition (since rectified) for a duct detector on the second floor.  I’m kind of surprised, however, that there was not a zone map somewhere in the room where the panel is located, even if it’s just a paper map taped to the wall.

Then the notification appliances at Olney are Wheelock ET-1070-WM-24:

Wheelock ET-1070-WM-24, surface mounted

The Wheelock ET-1070-WM-24 is an earlier version of the Wheelock ET-1070-LSM-24, which I have in my collection.  Most of the notification appliances at Olney Indoor Swim Center are surface mounted.  I have no idea why they did that, because a few are flush-mounted like one would otherwise expect.  So go figure.

Interestingly enough, this was also my first time hearing an American voice evacuation system, and hearing a canned voice evacuation message in person.  My only previous experience with a voice evacuation system was in Canada back in 1999, when the Delta Chelsea had a fire alarm while Mom and I were staying there, and that was a much older system, with no strobes or canned messages.

And that was that.  I was delighted to finally hear this system go off after having been swimming here for almost three years.  Now I wonder if that pull station will be different when I’m next at the pool on Monday…

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Fun at the Inner Harbor! http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/04/29/fun-at-the-inner-harbor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fun-at-the-inner-harbor http://www.schuminweb.com/2014/04/29/fun-at-the-inner-harbor/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 02:42:12 +0000 http://www.schuminweb.com/?p=23430 Sometimes you’ve got to love what kinds of amusing things you can get into with friends.  Last Wednesday, Melissa, Jason (whom I know through Melissa) and I got together and went up to Baltimore.  The primary purpose was to visit the observation deck at the Baltimore World Trade Center.  And that we did.  We got to see Baltimore from above, and I got all sorts of photos from 27 stories up, but then we also got all sorts of crazy pictures of each other, mostly of Melissa and me.

But first of all, for those not familiar, this is the Baltimore World Trade Center:

The Baltimore World Trade Center, the world's tallest regular pentagonal building

And then this is the view:

View from the Baltimore World Trade Center, facing north.
Facing north.

View from the Baltimore World Trade Center, facing west.
Facing west.

View from the Baltimore World Trade Center, facing southeast.
Facing southeast.

And the whole time during this outing, we took all sorts of fun photos.  Let’s just put it this way: when you’re out with friends, fun photos happen.  That’s some of what good friends do, after all.

On the way up to Baltimore, we stopped at the CVS at the Burtonsville Town Square shopping center in order for me to pick up some allergy medication (that time of year, after all).  On the way out, Jason spotted this vault door, which research later revealed to be from a bank that used to stand at the site prior to the shopping center, and was then repurposed as public art.  And we got a shot of Melissa in the doorway.
On the way up to Baltimore, we stopped at the CVS at the Burtonsville Town Square shopping center in order for me to pick up some allergy medication (that time of year, after all).  On the way out, Jason spotted this vault door, which research later revealed to be from a bank that used to stand at the site prior to the shopping center, and was then repurposed as public art.  And we got a shot of Melissa in the doorway.

Melissa and Jason pose in front of the harbor.
Melissa and Jason pose in front of the harbor.

I found Melissa's getting down in an almost lounging position on the dock to get some skyward photos to be mildly amusing, and so I took a photo.
I found Melissa’s getting down in an almost lounging position on the dock to get some skyward photos to be mildly amusing, and so I took a photo.

I jokingly described this as "Melissa in her natural state" as she checked her cell phone.
I jokingly described this as “Melissa in her natural state” as she checked her cell phone.

Selfie at the observation deck!  Yes, this is a selfie with my real camera rather than with my cell phone.
Selfie at the observation deck!  Yes, this is a selfie with my real camera rather than with my cell phone.

Melissa found the swinging motion of the viewer on the observation deck to be somewhat mesmerizing.  I was amused by the jangling sound of the change inside it as Melissa moved it around.
Melissa found the swinging motion of the viewer on the observation deck to be somewhat mesmerizing.  I was amused by the jangling sound of the change inside it as Melissa moved it around.

Another "Melissa in her natural state" photo.  Jason and I were both amused in seeing how unintentionally pasty this photo made Melissa look.
Another “Melissa in her natural state” photo.  Jason and I were both amused in seeing how unintentionally pasty this photo made Melissa look.

Photo of me at the edge of the harbor.  I look uptight in this pic, don't I?
Photo of me at the edge of the harbor.  I look uptight in this pic, don’t I?

Melissa pretends to ride this metal bicycle sculpture.
Melissa pretends to ride this metal bicycle sculpture.

That looked like fun, so I took it for a spin as well!
That looked like fun, so I took it for a spin as well!

All in all, I think you will agree: we had fun.  Who knows where you’ll find us next, and what kind of crazy stuff we’ll get into…

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