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An afternoon at the Trolley Museum…

September 22, 2015, 11:20 PM

This past Sunday, I was at the National Capital Trolley Museum with Elyse.  Unlike most days, where they only run one or two streetcars, this particular day, they were running four.  They were running a streetcar from Brussels (by way of Grand Cypress Resort in Florida), a streetcar from New York City’s Third Avenue Railway, the 1971 PCC car from The Hague, as well as an open-air car referred to as “the boat“.  We got to ride the first three, but the boat had already been brought in for the day by the time we got there.  Ah, well, there’s always next time, as I literally only live two and a half miles away.

These are the cars that we got to ride.  First, the former Brussels car:

Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles (STIB) 1069

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Hello… Roanoke?

September 16, 2015, 5:46 PM

This past Friday, I was out with my friend Elyse checking out a few interesting shopping centers in the Baltimore area.  We weren’t so much interested in shopping as we were in seeing the centers themselves, and their various eccentricities.  We first visited Owings Mills Mall, which is a large. two-story facility in Owings Mills, Maryland that contains only six tenants: Bath & Body Works, DTLR, Gymboree, JCPenney, Macy’s, and Victoria’s Secret.  Needless to say, this was a dead mall.  Then we visited the Centre at Glen Burnie, which is a small and well-hidden single-level indoor mall off of Route 2 in Glen Burnie.  This was no dead mall by any means, but its being an enclosed mall surprised me.  I’d been by this shopping center many times in the past, and shopped at the Target store there, and never would have guessed that this was an enclosed mall.  Then our third and final mall was Security Square, a mid-sized single-level mall in Woodlawn.  Security Square was interesting for its former JCPenney building, which, after Penney’s closed, was converted to “Seoul Plaza”, a mall-within-a-mall consisting mostly of Korean businesses, though now approaching dead mall status (though the rest of the mall is doing well).

However, the biggest surprise of the day came as Elyse and I were walking through the Sears wing of Security Square.  Does this remind you of anywhere in particular?

A big star on an island of rides

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Categories: Baltimore, Elyse, Shopping

While hunting for a photo…

August 29, 2015, 9:29 PM

Yesterday, I was hunting through my archives to find a photo to show a friend.  My photo archives are arranged by subject and by date.  If I took a bunch of photos in a single day, then all of those photos typically go into a folder marked with the general subject of the photos and the date.  One-off photos usually get dated, marked with their subject, and get put in a folder with all of the one-off shots for the month.  The photo that I was looking for depicted a bus sign after the normal text for that route had changed.  So I knew what it was, and knew what the photo looked like.  I also knew that the photo was a one-off, since I took the photo at Glenmont on the way home from work.  However, I didn’t remember exactly when I took it.  I had an approximate range for when I took it, but didn’t quite know.  So that meant that I needed to hunt.

First of all, I was successful in finding the photo.  Here it is, dated September 24, 2012:

Route Y5, destination MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

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I think they just took the “uh-huh” out of Diet Pepsi…

August 20, 2015, 6:25 PM

You may recall that I made a Journal entry back in April regarding some blown blood vessels in my eyes.  Turns out that my body will no longer allow me to have coffee, after I discovered that no matter whether it was commercially brewed, brewed at home, cheap coffee, or expensive coffee, I would be awake with an upset stomach.  And it was very sudden, too.  One day, I could drink as much coffee as I wanted, and then the next, it was verboten.  Ultimately, I had to give up coffee completely, which some of my former coworkers might be quite surprised to hear.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the caffeine that was causing the problems, but something else in the coffee that was causing me problems.  Therefore, I ended up replacing coffee with diet soda in order to get my caffeine.  After initially bouncing between different diet sodas for a while, I eventually became a regular Diet Pepsi drinker.  It seemed to work for me, and it tasted pretty good.

Then they started fooling around with the sweetener.

You may have heard the news a few months ago that Pepsi was planning to discontinue the use of aspartame in Diet Pepsi, and replace it with sucralose.  For those not familiar with the generic names, aspartame has been marketed under the names NutraSweet and Equal, and sucralose has been marketed as Splenda.  Then this past Tuesday, I was at the grocery store, and spotted this:

Diet Pepsi, "Now Aspartame Free"

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Categories: Food and drink

The speed van…

July 29, 2015, 9:04 PM

While I was out yesterday, I spotted this van parked on the side of Bonifant Road in Greater Silver Spring (Colesville) near the Trolley Museum and the Intercounty Connector bridge:

White Ford Transit Connect van with "Safe Speed" on the door

This is a white Ford Transit Connect van, with the “Montgomery County Safe Speed” logo on the driver’s side door.  This struck me as something that merited further investigation, because the county has been using Bonifant Road to raise revenue through speed enforcement for years.  I’ve seen police sitting on the road, and there have been fixed speed camera boxes in various places along this road over the years.

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Categories: Driving, Silver Spring

Preserve community heritage, and keep names local…

July 23, 2015, 3:23 PM

In the wake of the June 17 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, a movement has come up to remove things related to the Confederacy from places of honor, and relegate them to history.

That said, if things go that way, a lot of things named for people who fought for the Confederacy will be up for renaming soon.  Among other things, there is discussion about renaming Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia.  In addition, there has been longstanding discussion in Staunton, Virginia about renaming the city’s public high school, currently named for Robert E. Lee, if it moves from its current, dated building to a new building on a different site.

Now as far as I’m concerned, history is where the Confederacy belongs.  I mean, the south lost the Civil War 150 years ago.  It’s time that people stopped fighting it, already.  However, when it comes to naming places for people, there are different ways to go about it.  One way is to name things for a prominent national figure, either current or historical, and the other is to search for someone with a direct connection to the area.  If the title of the post didn’t give it away, I support the latter more than the former.

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Finally, a road photo that I didn’t have to research…

July 11, 2015, 10:12 PM

Whenever I find a photo online showing something amusing on the road, I always like to find out the location.  I’ve become rather skilled at looking at background details in photos to sleuth out locations after posting and geotagging countless photos on Panoramio, as well as researching filming locations for Project TXL (a planned overhaul of the Today’s Special site).  So imagine my delight to see this funny road photo, showing Thomas the Tank Engine being transported on the back of a truck:

Original caption: "My buddy saw Thomas the Tank Engine getting kidnapped earlier this morning."
Photo: Imgur

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Yes, I made it to New York City…

June 13, 2015, 3:55 AM

Just in case the current photo feature’s being of One World Trade Center didn’t tip you off, I’m happy to say that yes, I did recently make it to New York City for that day trip that I had wanted to do on my birthday but quickly realized that I couldn’t do.  So I regrouped, and did it the way that works best for me: planned in advance.  I got together with my friend Doreen, and we went up on June 9.  And here’s proof:

Doreen got this photo of me at the 81st Street subway station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line.
Doreen got this photo of me at the 81st Street subway station on the IND Eighth Avenue Line.

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Categories: Friends, Places

“No, really, folks: enough with the ‘happy birthday’ messages. Just stop.”

May 30, 2015, 11:50 PM

Well, there you go: my 34th birthday officially sucked.  I think a few things led to it being a pretty crummy day.  I knew a few weeks ago that I would have the day off on my birthday and wanted to do something for it.  I didn’t tell anyone about the day off because I just wanted to do something for myself, by myself, and didn’t want anyone trying to make any requests for my time.  I was tossing around the idea of going to either Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach today, but really wasn’t all that excited about either one.  Then I woke up today, and went online to do a little more research and some more figuring out of what I wanted to do, and I had a different idea that sounded a lot more appealing than going to the beach: New York City.

That was something that I was excited about.  I have never really been to New York City.  I’ve only passed through New York City on the way to and from other places.  I went through by car in 2010 when I went to Boston, and I went through by train in 2011 when I went to New Hampshire.  But since I never exited a vehicle on those occasions, those don’t count as visiting New York.  The way I figured, it would take about four hours to drive up.  I would park at a PATH station (probably Journal Square), take PATH to World Trade Center, and then explore for a few hours before heading back home.  I actually left to go on this trip, and then by the time I got to the end of the street, I realized that it was probably a bad idea.  After all, this was a single day off.  I had to go to work the next day, and didn’t want to be all groggy from a big trip, or worse, oversleep and be late for work.  I quickly came to the realization that I couldn’t go anywhere today, and that just shot my day.  I ended up going to the shopping center up the road from me, bought a new pair of shoes for work, and then went back home.  Total distance traveled: 1.5 miles.

Sometimes I hate being an adult with adult responsibilities.  I wanted to go out and have fun.

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Categories: Birthdays

“I feel important, just like a king…”

May 30, 2015, 12:49 PM

So today is my birthday.  I am officially 34 years old.  I rang my birthday in doing one of the things that I always enjoy doing, i.e. driving the bus, and watching out for Virginia drivers (yes, Virginia drivers are, by far, the worst drivers in this area as far as I’m concerned).  Then I took my birthday as a floating holiday, so I don’t have to work my birthday (yaaaaaay!).

But at the beginning of my workday on Friday, my friend Elyse met me at the location on the street where I pick up my first bus, and gave me a birthday card.  Check it out:


And of course, I immediately made sport of the grammatical error in the handwritten message.  But no worries – I did it with a smile, so it’s all in good fun.  Then down at the bottom is an Edwards Integrity fire alarm horn/strobe, like they have at work.

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Augusta County puts enforcement cameras on its school buses…

May 20, 2015, 12:09 PM

I recently read in an article in The News Leader that Augusta County Public Schools, where I went to middle and high school, is partnering up with the local sheriff’s office to outfit two of its school buses with cameras.  These particular cameras are mounted on the exterior of the bus, on the left side, and are designed to catch people who pass a stopped school bus while their red warning lights are flashing.  Normally, drivers in all directions are supposed to come to a complete stop when the bus’s red warning lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.

Now we all know better than to think that this always happens.  I’ve written about school bus stops before, in regards to whether a right turn that begins just beyond a stopped school bus and moves away from it is a legal movement, or if it’s not.  I casually asked a Montgomery County police officer about this one time while I was out and about, and he said that it wasn’t a legal move, describing the area where drivers are required to come to a full stop for a school bus as being like a bubble, rather than as a line of demarcation.  I would have loved for the move that I described to have been legal, because then I could just zip past and be on my way.  But apparently, it’s not.

Also, for those of you who have never driven a large vehicle before, let me let you in on something: if you think that the people around you drive like wackos when you’re in your car, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched drivers around a large vehicle.  The “wacko” factor gets turned up to eleven when you’re driving a large vehicle.  After all, large vehicles are very different than your car.  They’re big, they’re heavy, and they’re slow.  And in the case of school and transit buses, they make frequent stops.  Drivers in cars know that, and as such, will do anything, even some very unsafe/illegal moves, to get past or otherwise not have to wait for a bus.  I have been cut off in just about every way imaginable when I’m driving the bus, and I don’t get special privileges like school buses get, i.e. I don’t get to stop all traffic when I’m boarding and alighting passengers.  And even if I could, fellow road users are still very poorly behaved and would stop at nothing to get past or around me while I was stopped, threat of ticket or not.

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This is a message that I can get behind…

May 6, 2015, 4:58 PM

This message recently went up on the sign for the church up the street from me:

"Be someone that makes you happy."

Couldn’t have said it any better than that.  No religious overtones, and nothing cheesy.  Just a nice message to help put things in perspective.  Be someone that makes you happy.  After all, we only have one life to live, and it’s far too short to spend it being miserable about yourself.  Be the person that you want to be.

That is all.

Categories: Religion, Silver Spring

Fun in Philadelphia…

April 28, 2015, 11:29 PM

Back at the end of March, I went up to Philadelphia with my friends Melissa and Elyse.  We had a list of things that we wanted to do, and we did as many of them as we could.  We had a blast, plus we got to meet up with my cousins Mike and Tara for dinner.  This trip was also a proof of concept for how my various little outings might go now that I routinely work late nights, since my typical workday runs from approximately 4:00 PM until just before 2:00 AM.

Logistically, it worked out this way: Melissa met me at Glenmont station around 11:00, and then we traveled up to Howard County to get Elyse.  Then from there, up to Philadelphia via I-95.  Then in Philadelphia, everything that we were planning was transit-accessible, save for one thing, but we worked it all out pretty well.

Our first point of interest was the non-transit-accessible one: the SS United States.  This would be a quick look-see for some photos, and then move along to other targets.  We parked at the IKEA store across the street, and then Elyse and I walked over for a look (Melissa stayed in the car).  Here are pix:

The SS United States in Philadelphia

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I have ridden the 7000-Series…

April 15, 2015, 8:30 AM

Back in late March, Metro announced that the new 7000-Series railcars, which I toured in January of last year, would enter revenue service on Tuesday, April 14, on the Blue Line.  So on that day, I got together with Elyse, and we sought out and rode Metro’s new 7000-Series railcars on their first day of revenue service.  We met up in late afternoon, and we took the Red Line down to Metro Center from Glenmont.  At Metro Center, we waited for the train.  Elyse and I had been in communication with Metro’s social media team as we were making our way in, and they helped us with our planning, as they indicated when the train was entering service in the evening, how long it would be out, and where it was located, and in which direction it was heading.

And we watched the PIDS screens.  We knew that the train would be eight cars, because the 7000-Series is designed to run in quad sets rather than married pairs.  So when we saw something like this come up on the board, our ears definitely perked up:

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Categories: Elyse, Washington DC, WMATA

I never thought that could happen…

April 5, 2015, 3:20 AM

Among things that I never thought could happen, I never thought that throwing up could cause blood vessels in your eyes to break.  But take a look at this.

This is what my eyes looked like on Friday night:

Right eye, Friday night  Left eye, Friday night

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