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Growing out the beard…

February 25, 2015, 2:44 AM

This past Sunday, I really came to realize that I have, as TV Tropes would say, started “growing the beard” when it comes to driving a bus.  It’s about getting past all of the newness and figuring out how it all really works, and starting to, you know, become proficient at what you’re doing.  When it comes to jobs, if a person is a good fit with the organization, they grow out their beard within the first few months after whatever training period ends.  If the beard doesn’t grow, then it’s possible that they’re not a good fit, and that often ends with a parting of ways.

Me, I’ve grown my (figurative) beard out quite nicely.  I have a run of my own, meaning that my assignment does not change much from week to week.  I do the same thing every weekday, and I do the same Saturday and Sunday schedules every week.  When the transit agency that I work for cut me loose to work my own assignment for the first time, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I was at a different bus garage than the one that I had trained at after having been unexpectedly reassigned at the end of training (about half the class was also moved from where they had trained), and I had never done a street relief in the middle of a route before.

For those not familiar, a street relief is how some bus routes work.  The buses are out on the street all day, and the operators just cycle on and off of them.  One guy takes a bus out of the garage, and then at a designated location, he hands the bus off to another operator.  That next guy takes the bus for however long, and then gives the bus to someone else.  That keeps going until the last guy gets the bus, and he brings it back to the garage.

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This year, I want to slim back down to where I was in 2012…

February 19, 2015, 3:28 AM

While I was between jobs, I put on a bit of weight, most likely due to reduced activity due to my being out of work, and out of a routine.  My current job, where I operate a bus, is not exactly conducive to physical activity, considering that I sit strapped to a seat for nine hours a day.  Pushing pedals and turning steering wheels does not count as physical activity, though I was getting nighttime leg cramps from it for a while. I also was a bit lazy when it came to exercise once I finished training and got my own assignment.  I work late afternoon into the wee hours of the morning, and initially would tend to sleep in a bit.  The only exercise I got was just under two miles on Sundays, going to and from a street relief that was just a shade under a mile away from the bus garage.  I also now drive to work in my car, which means that I don’t get any activity related to my own commute.

However, now that the bus has finally become routine and I’m really starting to get the hang of things (and – heaven forbid – having fun at work), I can start getting serious about fitness again.  After all, one of my more recent splash photos shows me looking like this:

The October 2014 splash photo, taken on July 5, 2014

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I can’t believe I set off the DriveCam…

January 28, 2015, 7:57 PM

I had a good bit of fun on Tuesday.  I went down to the Washington Auto Show at the Washington Convention Center with Elyse, and we wandered through, seeing all sorts of interesting things.  We took the Red Line to Gallery Place, then took the 70 bus up to the Convention Center (and we got an artic).

Unlike most car shows that I’ve been to in my 33 years, this was primarily for auto manufacturers to show off new cars.  As such, it was heavy on the marketing, and you could touch and interact with most of the vehicles that were there.  If you go on a Tuesday, as we did, the place was pretty quiet.  No wait for tickets and security, and no wait to see or do anything, and more time to chat it up with people.

Right off the bat, with its being a slow day, Elyse and I could tell that the people working the event were in a good mood.  When I purchased my ticket, the guy mentioned that admission, normally $12.00, was only $10.00 with a SmarTrip, or $5.00 with a student ID.  My old JAC card from my college days still lives on my keychain over a decade after I graduated college.  I said, “I still have my old student ID from when I was in college.”  The guy sold me a ticket at the student rate, and justified it by saying that it just says “a student ID”, and not that you had to be a current student.

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Okay, activists, time to feel old…

January 20, 2015, 1:22 PM

I just want to bring it to your attention for a moment that this all happened ten years ago today:

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Categories: National politics

“I am bold. I am brave. I am confident. I am supreme. I am courageous.”

January 9, 2015, 1:22 PM

When I was in training to be a bus operator, about half of the program involved going out with seasoned operators on their regular runs, and actually driving in revenue service, i.e. taking real passengers where they need to go (as opposed to driving an empty bus around with the “TRAINING” sign set).  During that time, I joined ten different operators on their runs, and learned a number of different bus routes.  It’s also where I came up with the idea that great bus operators don’t just happen, but rather, they are formed through the help of many, and lends credence to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.

However, the one point that sticks with me most from this part of training is something that I learned on the first day with a seasoned operator.  This particular operator put a strong emphasis on positive thinking, and encouraged me to say the following affirmations to myself each morning:

I am BOLD.

I am BRAVE.

I am CONFIDENT.

I am SUPREME.

I am COURAGEOUS.

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Categories: Work

I made the mistake of commenting intelligently on a thread populated by very ignorant people…

December 12, 2014, 11:07 AM

…and for that, I am filled with regret.  I thought that perhaps these people would be able to respond to some level of reason.  I was quite wrong on that point.  This time, it was on the “Wilson Memorial Hornets Football” page on Facebook.  I don’t remember how I ended up landing on this page, since I don’t really care about Augusta County high school sports, but somehow, there I was.

For those not familiar, Wilson Memorial High School is located in Fishersville, Virginia.  The school was built at the same time as Stuarts Draft High School, i.e. where I went to high school, and is identical to Stuarts Draft architecturally.  The two schools are traditionally rivals, and play each other every year in football, though now, I believe, as an exhibition game, since the two schools are now in different conferences.

This Facebook page for Wilson football, however, has been a bit controversial.  On December 6, the page’s owner made the following post:

"What a Game!! Faith. Family. Football. We Are... ...WILSON!"

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A splash photo that’s open to some interpretation…

November 25, 2014, 1:38 PM

This past Saturday, I got together with my friend Elyse, and we spent the day seeing what we could see, mostly in Rosslyn and Ballston.  While we were in Rosslyn, we checked out the open-air patio on the fourth floor at the Le Méridien hotel (formerly Hotel Palomar) at the Waterview complex.  The patio had decent enough views, but we ended up spending more time taking photos of the fire alarms, and as a result of that, got December’s splash photo:

Two conflicted lovers?

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Here’s a blast from the Internet past…

November 20, 2014, 8:28 PM

So for Throwback Thursday, here’s a little blast from the Internet past: my old AOL Instant Messenger away messages!  Yes, AOL Instant Messenger, otherwise known as AIM, i.e. this:

AIM, circa April 2000

I was recently shuffling some files around on my computer, and found these, which I had preserved as a backup in February 2007, when I moved my computer from the Gateway to the Dell.  I want to say that I used AIM for about fifteen years.  I started using it the summer after I graduated high school, and stopped using it earlier this year, telling the two people that I still talked to primarily via AIM (both in-real-life friends) that I was dropping AIM and for them to use Facebook chat to get a hold of me.

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Categories: JMU, Social media

“Not fooling anybody” in DC…

October 31, 2014, 11:50 AM

This past Saturday, I did some photography in Washington DC, but not the usual sort of photography that I do when I head into DC.  This time, I photographed repurposed commercial buildings, i.e. buildings constructed with the standard architecture for a specific chain, and now operated by a business other than the one that the architecture would suggest.  “Not Fooling Anybody” on Reddit, where people share photos of such conversions, describes it as “former chain businesses that have been converted to other uses, yet still strongly resemble their former use.”  Some people might call these bad conversions, but I prefer to call them “obvious conversions”.  After all, some conversions can look quite elegant, such as Italiano’s in Baltimore, which is a former KFC, but nonetheless still resemble the former tenant’s distinctive style.

It’s also worth noting that these sorts of buildings have no historical value of any kind, so they’re worth photographing while they’re still there, because they will be demolished when someone comes up with a more lucrative use for the land.

For this trip, I did my research.  I had assembled a list of some places that I had spotted over the course of going wherever over the years, and then augmented that with some others that the folks on the DC subreddit brought to my attention, particularly on some corridors that I had never had any reason to travel under normal circumstances, such as Bladensburg Road and Benning Road.  I then used Google Street View to visually verify all of the suggestions so that I knew what to look for in the field, plus I also did a virtual drive down a few roads using Street View to see if there were any others, as some corridors tend to be just teeming with them.

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“I am always so thrilled when people realize how much better a place can look with just a few simple changes!”

October 12, 2014, 12:07 PM

This past week, I finally finished the work that I’d been doing at my house for the past two months.  The way I figured, since there was a period of time while the various processes related to onboarding at the new job were still coming together, I might as well take the time to finish a few things on my to-do list.  It’s funny, however, what inspires a person to decorate.  Back in July or so, my friend Suzie described my house as “a hot mess”.  I thought about that over the next week or so, and came to the conclusion that she was right.  And I admit – it was looking a little bit too “lived in” at the time, with a lot of unfinished business all over the place.  The closets were not being used to their full potential, I had a pile of stuff on the counter between the kitchen and the living room, the table was full of junk, and there were things in visible locations when they should have been in closets.

I started out on August 5, doing what I called the “demolition” phase.  This was where I cleaned out the closets and determined what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to get rid of.  It’s amazing how much junk can fit in a one-bedroom apartment.  I ended up getting rid of a ton of stuff.  I had long-outdated information about the 2008 Democratic National Convention from the Unconventional Action consulta that occurred in January 2008.  I had the banner from the black bloc at the National Equality March from October 2009.  I had an expired bottle of generic Solarcaine from the time when I got sunburned at Splash Down Waterpark in June 2008.  I also had a carton of fabric softener from 2007 that I had never opened, where all the liquid had been absorbed by the carton itself, leaving a blob of whatever solids were in the softener at the bottom.  No, seriously.  Take a look:

Yeah, I believe that the light parts of the carton were supposed to be white...  The blob of fabric softener solids in the bottom of the carton.

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Back to Cumberland…

October 11, 2014, 7:56 PM

On October 2, exactly a year and a half after my first road trip to Cumberland (where I produced a photography set), I was back out that way again.  The purpose of this trip was to explore the downtown area a little bit more deeply, make some photo spheres, and check out a few things that I had missed the last time I was out there for one reason or another.

I had two planned stops on the way out.  The first was at the westbound South Mountain rest area and welcome center on Interstate 70.  Besides its being a logical spot to take a break, I wanted to get some photo spheres while there, plus I wanted to get updated photos of something that really bothered me on the last trip to Cumberland.  In the Journal entry for the April 2013 trip, I discussed an errant apostrophe on the signage directing motorists to parking, where “RV” was pluralized using an apostrophe.  The rule of thumb when it comes to pluralization in English, by the way, is that an apostrophe is never used to form a plural.  Ever.  I filed a request about this with SHA, which became case #SR-0198410, in early May of this year, to get it fixed, referencing the photo from 2013.  I heard back from SHA a few days later, where they promised that they would have the apostrophes removed by the end of the month.  When I was through that area again in mid-June, I swung by the eastbound rest area (opposite side) to check to see if they kept their promise.  They did, as they scraped the apostrophe off of the sign.  This left a somewhat inelegant result:

The apostrophe is gone, though there was still some odd spacing, but I could live with this.

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Categories: Cumberland, Photography

Single-stream recycling has come to my home at last…

September 29, 2014, 6:54 PM

So I went to take out the recycling after I got home from work today, and encountered this:

A dumpster marked "SINGLE STREAM"

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Categories: House

No longer a Baltimore transit virgin…

September 28, 2014, 1:58 PM

Two weeks ago, I went up to Baltimore with my friend Elyse.  We went for the Star Spangled 200 celebration, and wandered around the city a bit.  And most importantly, I rode public transportation in Baltimore for the first time.  MTA Maryland is a very different beast from Metro.  MTA has buses, and MTA has trains, and there’s also a Circulator-type service.  But the details are quite different.  Elyse and I started out at Cromwell station in Glen Burnie, which is out by BWI.  That’s light rail.  DC doesn’t have light rail, as you know.  There’s a streetcar system coming in DC, but it’s not here yet.  Then there’s a heavy rail system, i.e. the Metro Subway, which we also rode.  That’s more like what I’m used to.  We also rode the Charm City Circulator, which is a free bus service that travels around the city, separate from the regular MTA buses (which we didn’t get to ride).  And owing to cooperation between MTA Maryland and Metro, my SmarTrip card worked in Baltimore.

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

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

Baltimore LRV 5011

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“Fire drill in three, two, one…”

September 15, 2014, 10:09 PM

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

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

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Categories: Fire alarms, Friends

Yes, that is a Wheelock 7002T up there…

September 10, 2014, 7:03 PM

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

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

This is what I started with:

Two empty Wheelock 7002Ts

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Categories: Fire alarms, House