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A fun time was had by all…

April 7, 2010, 9:06 PM

So I got back from Stuarts Draft last night, and all in all, it was a pretty good trip. First of all, on the way down, I visited my friend Bergit, who I first met at the National Equality March back in October. We had a good time, chatting it up, and visiting a few stores in Charlottesville’s Corner district. Perhaps the most amusing part of the whole trip was the discovery that UVA sold a Snuggie with their logo on it, which Bergit modeled for the camera:

Bergit models the UVA Snuggie

With the combination of the UVA markings and the fact that it touched the ground, the look kind of reminded me of a sorcerer casting a spell.

Then later that day, my parents and I went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Staunton. The food was typical of your average American Chinese restaurant, but the amusing thing was the other customers. Specifically, Mom and I noticed a middle-aged couple, likely husband and wife, each sporting some pretty serious mullets. Mom originally questioned whether those were really mullets, and I put it like this: “If you block out the back part of their hair with your thumb, and the rest looks like a respectable short hairstyle, then it is a mullet.”

For purposes of illustration, let’s take our mullet lady on the Metro from April 2009. Remember her?

The Metro mullet lady

Now, let’s crop the photo a little bit so that the long part is out of frame:

The Metro mullet lady with the long part cropped out

See? It looks like a respectable short haircut when you block out the longness in back. Proof of mullet.

Then we started fantasizing about correcting the mullet. I suggested taking the direct approach: Tackle them, hold them down, and then cut that mullet off while telling them, “I am doing this for your own good!” After all, I’m pretty sure that the people who grow and sport mullets don’t realize the crime against good fashion that they are perpetrating. Thus it comes down to hair vigilantism…

Otherwise, on Monday, Katie and I went up to Harrisonburg for a bit. We went up to JMU, and kind of wandered around the campus. I wanted to check out a few specific locations on campus, plus eat at D-Hall. There were a number of new buildings that had been built, plus a few that had been remodeled, and I wanted to see. Plus if we saw a few of my old professors along the way, all the better.

Our first stop was Miller Hall. That building was a bit of a dump when I was in college, serving as the science building at that time, but I had many good times there, taking a few astronomy courses, a few geology courses, as well as MATH 205, aka “Introductory Calculus”. The big lecture hall was still there, and the lobby looked basically the same, but with big new light fixtures. The only sciencey thing left in there was the planetarium, which presumably was too much trouble to relocate to the new Chemistry and Physics Building over on the CISAT side of campus. The ground floor was really reconfigured, with the old back corridor closed off, and a new corridor where a computer lab used to be, as well as the location of the old fire alarm panel. And room G31, a long, narrow classroom with a small stage in front where I had the aforementioned calculus class, was totally obliterated. The room where Sal Liriano taught me Calculus is no more.

Sal Liriano, who was a visiting professor for a year, was definitely an interesting professor. The thing I most remember about that class was when he said, “Jesus Christ” in class in his distinctive accent. One time, he was having trouble spelling “continuous”, wanting to spell it “continious” (which is also how he pronounced it). A few students helped him out in spelling it right, and he said, “Oh, that’s how you spell it. Jesus Christ.” Then another time, a student had mentioned that they threw away their homework after doing it, and he said, in a surprised voice, “You throw away your homework?! JESUS CHRIST!” But I am, as I’ve said before, eternally grateful for the “D” that I received in his class, because I was a lost cause when it came to calculus, but I tried, and he recognized that I definitely tried my best (though it was hopeless).

While I was in Miller Hall, I was surprised to discover that the political science department was now housed there. I ended up running into two of my old professors – Dr. Roberts and Dr. Hammond. I got to take a few minutes to catch up with both of them, and that was a lot of fun.

Then Katie and I headed towards D-Hall, since it was just about lunchtime. D-Hall was just as I remembered it, but with one notable difference: No more trays. Seriously – just plates now. That was a surprise, but we managed. And with no more trays, the tray return area, which used to be a small window with a conveyor belt, had been enlarged, with a large apparatus for placing plates. Take a look:

Changes to the tray return area to accommodate the elimination of trays.  The window is enlarged, and a plate hopper is added.

Isn’t that a beaut.

After that, we headed over towards Warren Hall, part of the student union. On the way, Katie and I encountered a man dressed in an elephant costume, helping to promote a concert that evening in the Festival Ballroom advocating sustainability. Katie and I both posed with the elephant man:

Katie poses with the elephant man

I pose with the elephant man

Then, heading into Warren Hall, we stopped by Card Services and said hello. My friend Judy had since retired, but Jan and Carolyn were still there, and we took a few minutes to catch up on things. It’s always fun to visit those folks.

After that, we went down to the second floor, where the post office was located. Katie took a picture of me with my old mailbox:

Standing next to JMU Box 2732

I am pointing at JMU Box 2732, my old mailbox, with my thumb. Those were good times. The post office lounge had been refurnished, and I later discovered that the old furniture that I remembered had been moved down to Taylor Down Under.

Speaking of Taylor Hall, I was amazed that Taylor still has its original Edwards fire alarm horns. Check it out:

Fire alarms in Taylor Hall - same as I remembered!

This comes after a fire alarm upgrade in 2004, where a Simplex system was put in. Now usually when your new alarm system is from SimplexGrinnell, there’s nothing but Simplex parts in there. Simplex panel, Simplex pulls, Simplex smoke detectors, and Simplex notification appliances. It’s rare to see anything non-Simplex in modern Simplex systems. Thus my amazement that the old Edwards horns from 1993 were retained (but the old Edwards pulls were placed by Simplex ones), while all the horns on the Warren Hall side were replaced with Simplex horns, including Gentex horns dating from a 1999 renovation of Warren Hall.

After we finished in Warren and Taylor, the recently-christened “Madison Union” (called the “University Center” back in my day), Katie and I headed back over to the car and headed over to the CISAT side of campus. By this time, I had walked Katie around campus quite a bit, and she wanted a break. So she ended up parking herself at the Festival, while I went around the CISAT side for a bit. It’s funny… when I was there, the building that housed the “Festival” dining facility was called the College Center. Now, the whole building is called the Festival. I guess that’s a case of the official title coming around to match the name it was usually referred to, but it just feels strange. It would be like if JMU officially renamed Gibbons Hall “D-Hall” because that’s what everyone calls it anyway. That would just be wrong. It’s like when adults try to act “cool”. It’s just wrong. Don’t do that.

So while Katie chilled out, I headed over to the new East Campus Library. That was something. Take a look:

East Campus Library

That building was also absolutely gorgeous on the inside, too. Lots of natural lighting, balconies, and no weird layout for the stacks (Carrier Library has a really weird layout, with the floors at different levels, where the main stacks are located). I wish that they’d built that years ago when I went there. Back in my day, I had to head over to Carrier Library all the way across campus to hit up a library. This new library is within a very short walking distance from Potomac Hall. I’m jealous.

I also got to explore the new Chemistry and Physics building. The building itself was a bit of a letdown, though, as it was kind of unimpressive. It reminded me of an uprated version of the old Miller Hall, where science nerds could hang out. However, I did run into Dr. Staib, whom I had for an astronomy course in the planetarium back in the fall of 2000. That class was interesting, because it was my last semester without glasses. I kind of had to go on faith for a few things on there, since the stars looked kind of fuzzy to me, despite the Viewlex planetarium machine’s sharp projection on the dome. That, and my having difficulty reading the chalkboard in an accounting class I was taking that same semester, led to my getting an eye exam, which led to my first pair of glasses.

Then from there, I took a quick walk through the HHS and ISAT/CS buildings, and headed across the field. The biggest change over there was the addition of a third dorm, Shenandoah Hall:

Shenandoah Hall

At last, the third dorm has been built. JMU should have built that a long time ago, but at least now it’s there. It’s built mostly on the same model as the adjacent Potomac and Chesapeake Halls, but it’s taller – note that the center section is two floors rather than one. I wonder what that bottom floor is used for, since it appears that there are no actual student rooms on that floor. I know that when I was in Potomac, we did quite well with the single-floor “pavilion room” area, so who knows.

This is also the first time, I believe, that JMU has recycled a name. When I was a student, Shenandoah Hall was located on South Main Street, across the street from the Quad. It was a converted house, and it housed the JMU Police Department. That old Shenandoah Hall was demolished to make way for the new fine arts building that’s currently under construction.

And then of course, no discussion of CISAT is complete without my old dorm, Potomac Hall:

Potomac Hall

Ah, Potomac. Just as I remember it. I didn’t go in, but I did get to talk with some current Potomac residents. I was quite surprised to find out that the building is currently an all-freshman dorm. That kind of made me sad, because if Potomac had been an all-freshman dorm back in my day, I would never have had the wonderful Potomac Hall experience that I had. I loved Potomac Hall. I had a lot of fun times in that building. Plus I think the combination of freshman and upperclass in the same building kind of worked. I’ll bet Mecca would have blown a gasket if she had presided over an all-freshman Potomac Hall.

After finishing over at JMU, Katie and I kind of goofed off at Valley Mall for a bit, and then headed over to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. That was fun, as we each got the little trivia player units, and followed along on the TV sets, answering various questions on history, science, and pop culture. Katie did fairly well on the pop culture, and I did fairly well on the history and science. I actually won a few of the contests. When the screen would show “Winner: BEN”, I hit a button on the applause app on my Droid, and gave myself some applause. Yes, anywhere I go, instant applause! I felt like Ron Smooth, host and star of Sing, People Sing.

Then on Tuesday, I headed back home, heading north via I-81, going from one “Certified Business Location” to another. Anyone who’s driven through the I-81 corridor in Virginia is sure to have seen these. The signs say the county name, and then beneath, it says, “A Certified Business Location”. Check it out:

Shenandoah County, A Certified Business Location

Meanwhile, the standard Virginia county line sign is as follows:

Normal county line marker sign

Note that it’s fairly simple: Enter one county, leave another. According to what I found on Chris Allen’s blog, the title is supposed to indicate that the locality is ready and able to handle industrial development. However, I tend to agree with the blog author on this: “[T]he bottom line is this: if your county feels the need to advertise itself as a ‘Certified Business Location’, then your county needs help.”

So there you go, I suppose. And then meanwhile, my allergies are giving me fits. Gotta love springtime…

Web site: More on the "Certified Business Location" designation

Song: How to make duct tape flip-flops

Quote: And then meanwhile, I discovered that two of the student teachers on Mom's team at the middle school were fellow Potomac Hall alums! How cool...