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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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How stupid do they think that I am?

March 31, 2015, 1:08 AM

I recently received an envelope in the mail that looked like this:

I saw this envelope, with just an address and what appeared to be a handwritten address, and thought “bill”, since this is how I’ve seen some smaller doctors’ offices do billing.

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Okay, folks, story time…

March 25, 2015, 2:03 PM

After hearing far too many people on Reddit spew out the “fact” that you can’t get unemployment insurance if you quit your job, I think it’s time to share a story about one instance why that “fact” is not the case.  It is not, in fact, a hard and fast rule that, if you leave your job on your own, you don’t qualify for unemployment insurance, and it doesn’t make a difference if you head it off by quitting or let your boss fire you.  I should know, because it happened to me.

You may recall that in July 2013, I posted a Journal entry about my last day at Food & Water Watch.  For those of you solely know me through the website, that post probably came as a surprise to you.  Save for a note on a photo feature, I didn’t give any hints prior to that entry that I was leaving Food & Water Watch, and I also never gave a reason in the entry about why I left.  All you knew is that I had left, with no reason given regarding why.  And that made enough sense, because I didn’t want to go into detail while I had an ongoing job search underway in the same field.  Now I feel as though I’m in a place to share, especially now that I’ve changed fields, going from nonprofit operations management to public transportation.

In 2011, I had started to change a bit as a person.  I grew up.  My interests began to shift.  I had also noticed that my own interests and those of the organization had started to diverge.  The organization had also begun to change, with the introduction of anti-fracking work into its fold, beginning its morph from a consumer group into an environmental group.

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Categories: Reddit, Work

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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Categories: Elyse, Events, Washington DC, WMATA

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