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.
“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:
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:
September 29, 2014, 6:54 PM
So I went to take out the recycling after I got home from work today, and encountered this:
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:
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:
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:
September 6, 2014, 12:38 PM
I recently went on a trip down to Stuarts Draft to see my parents and sister, as well as my sister’s friend Vickey, and I came armed with a new app for my Android device: Google Camera. If you’ve never used it before, Google Camera is a camera app that will function as a regular camera plus do a few other things. Besides shooting regular still photos and videos, it will also do a lens blur effect, it helps in shooting panoramic photos, and it also shoots “photo spheres”, also called “spherical panoramas”. That last one is what I took for a spin on this trip. Those are the ones that I can post on Panoramio, and I believe that they go in as Street View (but don’t quote me on that just yet, because they haven’t fully propagated to Google Maps/Earth as of this writing).
Shooting them is surprisingly easy. Here’s a screenshot of the app in action, taking a photo sphere at my place:
August 28, 2014, 11:46 AM
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:
August 20, 2014, 6:50 PM
So I was going around Reddit today, and saw this posted to the food subreddit:
August 14, 2014, 1:27 AM
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.
July 16, 2014, 10:24 PM
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:
July 5, 2014, 9:33 PM
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:
June 26, 2014, 10:21 PM
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.
June 24, 2014, 10:21 PM
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.