When you go beyond “first” church of something, it’s probably time to come up with a different name.

3 minute read

August 28, 2009, 3:05 PM

I drove to work two days this week, and when driving, my commute takes me down Georgia Avenue to just north of downtown Silver Spring, and then down 16th Street into Washington to my P Street office. And there are a zillion houses of worship along the way. Seriously, 16th Street must be the religious district or something, because it seems that there are churches upon churches upon churches on there. There are a number of Jewish facilities, the Washington Ethical Society (which at first glance seems like a bit of an oxymoron, with “Washington” and “ethical” in the same sentence), a Buddhist facility (Chua Giac Hoang), and a number of Christian houses of worship of various denominations, including at least one that President Obama has been to (Nineteenth Street Baptist Church).

But the one that kind of struck me as amusing was the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist on the 5500 block of 16th Street. Note “fourth” church. I’ve never understood why churches like to number off like this, but it seems to be fairly common. Waynesboro, Virginia has a First Presbyterian Church and a Second Presbyterian Church. Then Staunton has a First, Second, and Third Presbyterian Church (I grew up Presbyterian, so this is why I’m citing Presbyterian churches – I’m familiar with it).

The way I see it, first, sure. To be “First Church of Christ, Scientist” or “First Presbyterian Church” or “First Baptist Church” or whatever, I suppose you get the right to say you were first. However, until moving to Virginia in the 1990s, I never saw anything beyond first, and thought it was more of an indication of quality more than anything else, especially since in Rogers, Arkansas, in many cases, “first” often translated to “only”. There was only one Presbyterian church in Rogers (and we attended it), and there was only one Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and only one Church of Christ, Scientist. They all called themselves “first”, yet they were all “only” in practice. But “first”, sure.

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Categories: Religion

Themed subway cars. Now there’s an idea…

4 minute read

August 23, 2009, 11:15 PM

I was listening to the podcast of the August 1 broadcast of Car Talk, and they had this to say regarding public transportation:

Tom: I think we have to use your idea of – my brother has a brilliant idea. Not enough people use public transportation. His contention is that the people who run the public transportation business, subways and buses, especially the subway which we have here in the city of Boston. They try… they almost make it difficult for you and unpleasant.
Ray: They took all the fun out of it.
Tom: They took all the fun out of it.
Ray: They’ve sucked the life out of it.
Tom: Sucked the life out of the train. Like in Washington DC, you can’t eat a donut, you can’t drink a cup of coffee, you can’t do anything, you can’t spit, you can’t smoke a cigar… My brother thinks that all the public transportation systems should have theme cars.
Caller: Theme cars…
Tom: Theme. So that you can go in the “cha cha” car. And there would be band, bands in there, playing, people dancing, and…
Ray: Yeah, Xavier Cugat, would fit right in there!
Tom: Xavier Cugat! Or you could have the cigar-smoking car, or you could have… I mean, there’s no end to the number of themes that they could come up with, so that people would be fighting, paying hundreds of dollars to get on the train.

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Categories: Radio, WMATA

“Cut your cheese in style” probably didn’t go over as well as the writers hoped…

5 minute read

August 12, 2009, 10:46 PM

First of all, let me just say that I am WIRED tonight. One of my coworkers, who recently came back from an extended vacation overseas, brought a loaf of palm sugar and a plate of coffee beans to work, and the idea was to take a pinch of sugar (it has the consistency of brown sugar), and some coffee beans, pop both in at once, and enjoy. Something tells me I had too many coffee beans today – on top of my regular daily cup of coffee. And to add to it, today’s coffee was the best kind – that bottom-of-the-pot coffee that’s super strong. My coworkers even commented that I was particularly “animated” today. I blame the excess caffeine. Perhaps crunching on coffee beans and then washing it down with a cup of coffee wasn’t the best idea…

But the caffeine buzz might just work, because I have a lot to say today.

First of all, the title of this entry. I spotted this on the front page of the Express today:

"Cut your cheese in style"
Image: Express

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I understand saving money, but when six of the facilities you are closing were renovated less than three years ago…

3 minute read

August 9, 2009, 8:40 PM

New Market rest area, one of the rest areas that was not closed.Virginia recently executed a plan to permanently close 19 rest areas in order to save money and help close a state budget shortfall. I can see closing a few rest areas, because there are admittedly some places where the rest areas are fairly close together, such as Mt. Sidney and New Market, which are 29 miles apart – most certainly the close spacing referenced in this article in The Washington Post. Now, the state is aiming for rest areas every 120 miles, or roughly two hours’ driving time.

Among the rest areas that I’m familiar with, on I-81, both Mt. Sidney (near Staunton) rest areas are now closed, as is the southbound rest area near Troutville (Botetourt County), as well as the southbound New Market rest area (northbound, pictured at right, remains open). On I-64, both Goochland County rest areas (near Richmond) are closing, and on I-66, both Manassas rest areas are closing, though due to the presence of a tourist information center on the westbound Manassas rest area, the facility remains open until mid-September. Then on I-95, both rest areas in Ladysmith are now closed, as well as both car rest areas in Dale City (truck facilities remain open at Dale City). That leaves no rest areas between Richmond and DC traveling northbound, and one southbound.

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Nine bucks later, I have a replacement Super Nintendo controller…

5 minute read

August 9, 2009, 9:20 AM

I finally confirmed today that one of the controllers on my Super Nintendo finally went bad. It was a shame, too, but such is what happens sometimes. I bought that controller new like eleven years ago, so it had a good run, giving me plenty of Super Mario-type fun. And then once I confirmed it was the controller and not anything else, I moseyed over to the computer, hopped online, and ordered me a new one. The joys of the Internet.

Meanwhile, does anyone know if the various USB video game controllers work with VirtuaNES? While I’ve certainly gotten some proficiency playing vintage games using the keyboard, as a rule, you can’t play vintage games with the index, middle, ring, or pinky finger. No – vintage video games are played with the thumbs. And maybe then I can really get going when it comes to Doki Doki Panic. After all, Wart is waiting.

Otherwise, the staff retreat at the Bolger Center went quite well. We did a lot of stuff, and really bonded as a staff. Meanwhile, I, as the Senior Office Manager, was in charge of logistics. I think I packed about half of our workroom into the back of my Sable and schlepped it all over to the Bolger. You really don’t realize how much a station wagon will truly hold until you have half the office loaded into the back of it, and luggage in the back seat. But it’s times like this that I’m glad I got a station wagon to replace the Previa rather than something else. You can’t load a mid-size sedan quite as well as you can a station wagon. Imagine if I had my sister’s car. The supplies would not only be in the trunk, but also in the back seat, which meant that I would have had to make a second trip home (on the other side of Montgomery County from the Bolger) to take my luggage.

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Categories: Fire alarms, Video games, Work

I actually got compliments on my bathroom…

2 minute read

August 2, 2009, 3:25 PM

My parents came by as planned, and we had a great time. I actually got compliments on the cleanliness of my bathroom, believe it or not. It certainly pays to really give the place a once-over. Of course, my parents got advance warning that I had cleaned. I posted a status message on Facebook indicating that I was cleaning, and my Aunt Mary, whom, along with Uncle Bruce, my parents visited before leaving New Jersey, saw the status message and commented on it. And Mom noticed that I had missed dusting my printer, and wrote “MOM” in the dust, and then dusted it with a paper towel.

So we got together, and went out for lunch. We originally planned to eat at Umbertos in Wheaton, but much to our dismay, they were closed. I don’t know what was going on, because they were supposed to have been open based on their posted hours, and the restaurant was in a bit of disarray, with the chairs missing, and the tables arranged in a way like they’re doing something or other. So who knows what’s going on. This merits further investigation, but a phone call to the restaurant a few hours later got no answer, and a call to the other Umbertos in Potomac got nowhere. I hope they’re not closed for good, because that would be a disappointment. That’s a favorite of mine for entertaining, and it’s really a diamond in the rough as far as Wheaton is concerned.

So we went to downtown Silver Spring, and had lunch there instead. We went to Austin Grill, which also serves Tex-Mex cuisine, though not as authentic as Umbertos. At Umbertos, the staff consists of mostly native speakers of Spanish and converse amongst each other in Spanish, while at Austin Grill, the employees definitely speak English as a first language. But the food was good. I had the grilled chicken burrito, my father had the burger, and Mom had enchiladas. I also got a hat from the Don Strock Diabetes Classic golf tournament, which Uncle Bruce’s company sponsored.

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Nothing inspires cleaning like a visit from the parents…

3 minute read

August 1, 2009, 11:45 PM

My parents are coming by early Sunday afternoon. Both of them, this time. Mom comes fairly regularly, but Dad doesn’t come nearly enough, and I’ve told him that. So we’re meeting up here, and then probably going out for lunch somewhere, likely in downtown Silver Spring. So they’ll be here for maybe an hour, tops, before we go out for lunch.

And so the cleaning begins. I don’t care if they’re only going to be here for an hour. This place will be clean. At this point, I’ve done everything except vacuum the rugs, and a Journal entry is a good reason to take a break. Now, though, you could eat off my kitchen floor, though the question remains: Why would you want to? And besides that, I wouldn’t let you, because then I’d have to clean the floor again. And cleaning the house is no fun.

But you know the drill. Attack the bathroom, and make everything all white and shiny. Soft scrub is our friend, but make sure the fan is on, because the bleach smell can be overpowering. Then attack the kitchen. Stove, counters, microwave, fridge, floors, etc. Gotta make it all nice and pretty. Then dust the living room. And finally, vacuum the rugs. All in the name of cleanliness. After all, one does not want one’s parents to see how one really lives. They saw how I really lived when I lived with them. Now I like to at least make it look like I keep things a little neater now that I’m living on my own than when I lived with them.

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Categories: Family, House, Work

The mark of Xenu?

3 minute read

July 29, 2009, 9:15 PM

The building next door to my office building is being renovated, and has been under construction since around April, and has been thoroughly driving me crazy with all the noise while I’m trying to work. You name it, I’ve heard it, from dumpsters banging to jackhammers to the movement of various equipment. Plus dust in the vicinity as I’m walking to Whole Foods. And you know who the new occupant will be?

The Church of Scientology. Yes. THEM.

This must be their way of harassing me at work. Rather than sending nasty letters to my office as some Anons have alleged has happened to them, they’re instead putting a facility right next to my office building. This is supposed to be their Ideal Org, as I understand it. So for the past three months or so, they’ve been gutting and rebuilding the Embassy Building at 1424 16th Street NW. First they did some demolition. Then asbestos abatement (hopefully performed better than on the Freewinds). Then more demolition. Then all the construction stuff disappeared. Then a new company took over and demolition continued. Now they’ve removed the windows and covered them with plastic.

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Categories: Project Chanology

So the fun in the water and the sun went quite well…

3 minute read

July 28, 2009, 7:54 PM

Let me tell you something… I had fun this past weekend, spending plenty of time outdoors and in the water. Saturday involved a tubing trip along the Shenandoah River with my coworkers, and then Sunday I went to Splashdown Waterpark with a few Anons. Not a bad time. And no horrible sunburn, either.

Saturday was an honest to goodness road trip, since we went out to Luray. And I managed to do just fine crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains at Thornton Gap. And then the water was awesome, though the river was a lot shallower than I expected. Previously, I had always gone tubing on the James River in Rockbridge County, and it was always at least four feet deep, if not mistaken. The Shenandoah River at its shallowest was less than a foot deep. Kinda hard for the tubes to go over, but somehow, we managed. And the water shoes problem was taken care of by my wearing my Crocs. They worked well enough, though I did manage to kick one off at one point. But thankfully, Crocs float, so I retrieved it with little difficulty.

Meanwhile, my coworkers amused me. Usually, when we go for drinks as coworkers, we get, you know, good beer. However, for the river, most of my coworkers had Pabst Blue Ribbon, which, if I’m not mistaken, is like one of the cheapest beers on the face of the Earth. So there you go, I suppose.

And then while on the river, we encountered a storm. That storm is actually what’s depicted in the photo feature right now. It seemed to come up from out of nowhere, as all of a sudden, we heard some very mild thunder and got significant wind and rain. Some people actually got out of the water briefly to ride it out, but most just continued on. After all, the storm would pass, and it did, and just in case more came up later, the best way to avoid it was to just finish the course. And so we did.

And just to give you an idea of how the wind and rain was, observe:

As you can see, the rain is coming down at a 55-degree angle due to the wind. Not the most fun, but it passed.

As you can see, the rain is coming down at a 55-degree angle due to the wind. Not the most fun, but it passed.

Then on the way home, we were treated to lots of lightning, as storms were brewing along Route 211. I took Meredith and Jorge back from the river, and we were witness to a good amount of it. The most memorable lightning was not long after we crossed Thornton Gap. Never before had I seen lightning go up. This lightning, which appeared yellow-orange in color, started at the ground, rose up to the clouds, and then spread outwards in the clouds. My reaction to the spectacle was unprintable, but it was quite a sight.

And we eventually made it back. Look for a Life and Times photo set a little later on that more completely documents the tubing trip.

Then Sunday, a few Anons and I got together for a trip to Splashdown Waterpark in Manassas. That was a lot of fun, as we hit every slide in the park at least once, spent plenty of time in the lazy river, and also swam around the pool. Splashdown is kind of unique as waterparks go for having, along with everything else, a conventional swimming pool. The reason can be traced back to the park’s history, though. See, Splashdown Waterpark started out as a conventional community pool. Then the facility was later expanded into a full waterpark. And I’m glad they did, because it’s nice to be able to hit up a good waterpark fairly nearby and not have to drive for hours and hours. And the price is quite nice for what you get.

And I came out unscathed, save for a very mild sunburn, and a little road rash from striking the bottom of the splash pool at the end of one of the water slides due to my losing the tube mid-slide. Basically, I fell off the tube on a hard curve, and decided that rather than fight to get back on the tube while sliding down at high speed, I’d just let go. Thus I went first, and the tube followed. And at the end of the slide, without the tube, I scraped the bottom of the pool with my elbow. That hurt, but it will heal.

So all in all, I had a fun weekend. Next weekend is a little calmer, though I am going railfanning on Metro with my friend Patrick on Sunday. That ought to be fun, since I don’t believe Patrick’s seen all that much of the system, and certainly hasn’t been to all the terminals yet, though I’m not sure yet what parts of the system we’ll cover.

One would think it wouldn’t be that hard to find aqua socks in the middle of July, but if you thought that, you would be wrong.

4 minute read

July 19, 2009, 8:29 PM

One would think – July is the middle of the summer. Summer is a time when people spend a lot of time in the water. One would think that one would be able to find water-type shoes in the middle of the summer. But no. I went to seven different stores, and found no aqua socks that fit at a price that I was willing to pay.

The reason, of course, is because of the way retail works. “Spring” starts December 26, and runs to roughly Easter. Then “summer” runs from around Easter to the Fourth of July. Then “fall” goes until around Labor Day or so. Then “winter” runs from Labor Day to Christmas. Thus now, on July 19, the aqua socks are mostly gone, and the stock of sandals is dwindling.

So why am I so worked up about finding a pair of aqua socks? Well, I’m going tubing on the Shenandoah River in Luray next weekend with a bunch of my coworkers, and the Web site for Shenandoah River Outfitters, the company we’re going through for this tube trip, recommends that shoes be worn on the river for safety purposes. Makes perfect sense to me – there could be rough bottom terrain, sharp rocks, or other kinds of hazardous debris, and I don’t want to get hurt on the river. Even more so when you consider that I’m one of the drivers for this outing, and thus my feet will be doing a bit of work beyond the river, and injured feet on the pedals is a Bad Thing.

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Categories: Retail, Shoes, Video games

“The color coded alert system was security theater at its best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.”

2 minute read

July 16, 2009, 9:45 PM

July 15 poll resultsSo said “BFS” in the Express. And for those of you who have been following this site, “BFS” is me, as I usually post comments for Express using my initials. And my comment got published again, as seen at right in this excerpt from page 28 (56 in the PDF file) of Express.

According to an article on page 4 of the July 15 edition, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has “appointed a task force to determine in 60 days how effective the current system is.” The idea is to either overhaul it or do away with it entirely.

I’m surprised that they’re even appointing a task force for it. I’d just ditch the thing outright. After all, if you step back, what did the terror alert system do? It was propaganda. It told people when to be scared, and what to be scared of. And it was no secret that the system was used by the Bush administration to score political points. Every time they wanted you to be scared, they just looked into the camera, and said…


It’s “orange”! Oh, no! Grab your duct tape and plastic sheeting and head for the hills!

And looking at the history of threat level changes, it seems to prove that the Bush administration wanted you to be scared at times that were advantageous to them. What officially tipped me off is when they raised the threat level to “orange” at the beginning of the Iraq War, and left it there until just after they took Saddam Hussein down. They worked long and hard to make you scared of Iraq, and so when they went in and invaded an unarmed nation, they wanted to make doubly sure that you would be fearing the terror boogeyman. Apparently, wetting your pants was patriotic, and if you didn’t wet your pants, the terrorists would win.

And once people stopped paying attention to the terror alert scale, Homeland Security stopped using it, as we never saw an alert above “yellow” nationally after August 2005. And we never saw a “green” or even a “blue” threat level. You’d think that they would have dipped it down into “blue” a time or two just to make the public think that they were doing a good job. After all, if you’re going to manipulate it to make people scared, you might as well manipulate it to make the people think you’re doing something right (even if you aren’t). But instead, the two bottom levels were simply decorative.

So in the end, I think that the Homeland Security task force will scrap the alert level system entirely. Its main purpose is to make people afraid of things they can’t do anything about. And you know what they say – why worry about a problem you can’t solve? Like I said in the comment, it’s security theater at best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.

Categories: National politics, News

This raid was a small one, yes, but it was still plenty of fun…

5 minute read

July 13, 2009, 8:44 PM

I don’t know what it is, but it seems that there’s something about July that makes for low turnout at raids. Last year’s July raid, Spy vs. Sci, also generated a small turnout, though that was attributable to the diversion of much energy from the global raid to the Over 9000 Anon March, which was being held the following weekend. This time, though… who knows.

The theme for the July raid was supposed to be “Tiny Tyrants”, referring to Religious Technology Center head David Miscavige, whom newspapers recently reported as having a tendency to use violence as a means of managing people, and who is somewhat short in stature, measuring a mere 5’5″ – somewhat short as American men go. However, in practice, that idea got thrown out the window, and we just did a general anti-Scientology raid. After all, in the year and a half that we’ve been doing this, we’ve generated a fair amount of signage, and these once again were put to good use.

Meanwhile, I did my own costume a bit differently this time around. As you may know, I usually wear a zentai to raids during the summer months. This one was no exception, but surprise – I had a new zentai this time around. Usually, I wear a black zentai with eye holes in the hood. This new one was bright green, and is more pure in its form, containing a completely blank face – no eye holes. That caused a considerable limitation in my vision, but it definitely made for a new and different raid experience. And I’d practiced ahead of time, walking around the house with the hood up, so I wouldn’t look like a complete fool navigating the sidewalks around the Org with spandex over my eyes. Yes, you can see through the zentai’s hood, but only mildly well. I’ll have to take a photo from inside the hood some time so you can see what I mean.

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Categories: Project Chanology

“Will play for tuition”?

3 minute read

July 10, 2009, 6:14 AM

You know, one thing I love about Dupont Circle is that you never know what you’ll see coming to/from the Metro. Today, coming back from the Metro, I ran into this scene:


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Categories: Washington DC, WMATA

So what ever happened to the DNA evidence?

2 minute read

July 8, 2009, 8:45 PM

For the past four days, I’ve been having a little fun with my Facebook friends. I’ve been posting status messages with the phrase “DNA evidence” in it without any explanation, and seeing what kind of responses I get. I chose “DNA evidence” as a phrase as a tribute to the use of DNA evidence as a running joke in six consecutive Strong Bad Emails on Homestar Runner. Then it was all explained in the cartoon DNA Evidence.

All together, I posted four “DNA evidence” status messages:

Ben Schumin is going to have that DNA evidence on the desk by nine!

Ben Schumin is not going to make the 51 bus tonight. The DNA evidence pointed to it.

Ben Schumin wonders what happened to the DNA evidence.

Ben Schumin *sigh*… DNA evidence.

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First time bowling in almost seven years…

3 minute read

July 5, 2009, 9:38 AM

So I went bowling for the first time in seven years on Friday with Matthew Tilley at Bowl America in Sterling, and we had FUN. We each bowled three games. Matthew, who used to bowl in a bowling league, scored way better than me, but that wasn’t the point. The point was having fun.

However, “fun” required having the correct ball. I know I use a 16-pound bowling ball, but the fingering was wrong on the first ball I picked up, and after hitting zero pins my first two frames, I realized that I couldn’t be that bad – it had to be the ball. So it was back to the ball racks for me, and I found a different ball. With a different ball, my game greatly improved immediately. Thus it was the ball.

We also came up with fun train names to put into the scoring system. I was Breda 3287AC, and Matthew was Rohr 1299.

In playing the three games, you could tell that I was getting back into it slowly but surely. At the end of the first game, my score was pretty bad, like 50-something. Then on the second game, I did a little better, knocking down a few spares, and then in the last game, I finally nailed a strike (yaaaaay!), though I still didn’t break 100.

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