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I am now part of the SmarTrip pass test group…

August 31, 2011, 11:20 PM

So I was waiting for the bus this morning, and was checking my Email on my phone. I got a message with the subject of “Pilot Invitation” from a sender called “noreply”. Turns out that “noreply” was short for “noreply@wmata.com”, and the Email was to notify me that I was randomly selected to participate in the load-your-passes-onto-SmarTrip program. Here’s the message:

To SmarTrip® Account Holder

You have been randomly selected to participate in a pilot of several new system functions.

We sincerely regret to inform our MTA customers that the MTA system does not yet support these new functions.
We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause our MTA customers.

These functions will enable you to use your credit card to purchase stored value and passes for your SmarTrip® card.
You will also be able to save your credit card information to use for future purchases, and to print detailed receipts.

The next time you log in to your SmarTrip® account, you will see several new links on your account pages. For example, on the page with the header “View Card Summary”, you will see the following changes:

– A shopping cart icon on the left side of the screen
– A new group of links under the heading “Online Purchases” on the upper right section of the screen; and
– Within the text in the middle of the screen, there are links to “Add value” and “Add Pass”.

Please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the new functions, and the steps that you will need to follow to load your purchases onto your SmarTrip® card.

These new features are intended to make it more convenient for you to manage the balances on your cards and avoid the lines at ticket vending machines.

We encourage you to take advantage of these new features. If you have questions, or experience any problems when using these new features, please contact the Regional Customer Service Center at 1-888-762-7874.

Your SmarTrip® Account Team

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Categories: WMATA

And at last, we finish Chicago…

August 30, 2011, 10:16 PM

Just in case you thought I forgot to finish my description of Chicago, let me disabuse you of that idea. Here’s the last installment of the trip to Chicago.

First thing Sunday, Mom and I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant with Sis and Chris. To save money, since my main complaint about the trip in 2010 was that we spent too much on food, we bought food for breakfast, and had something reasonably healthy for breakfast that we bought at a nearby grocery store. I had oatmeal and some fruit. Yes, I did my darndest to be good on this trip, despite it all. But this being the last day, we splurged a little, and ate in the restaurant.

Then we went down to Rogers Park. Sis and Chris promised us a farmers’ market, and so we saw the farmers’ market in Rogers Park. It was initially raining, but we managed. Since I couldn’t buy anything on account of the train trip that Mom and I would be taking later in the day, I decided to have a little camera fun, photographing the fruits and vegetables for sale. And unlike the CTA workers, who think that when they harass photographers, they are doing it in the name of national security (puh-leeze), the folks at the farmers’ market were more than happy to show off their wares for the camera. And here are some of the results:

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Family, Friends

An earthquake? In DC?

August 23, 2011, 3:42 PM

Yeah. It happened.

It’s funny how it happened, too. I was at the office, helping a coworker move offices, and I felt the floor start to shake. My first instinct was to look out the window, since you occasionally can feel vibrations when trucks are moving around in the loading dock area. But there was no truck. Then I realized that the whole building was shaking, and that it must be an earthquake, and so I ended up standing in the doorway of the office next to mine (where my coworker was moving), waiting for the shaking to stop. From that vantage point, I saw everyone else standing in their office doorways looking as perplexed as I was. The lights flickered once for half a second, but once everything stopped, that was it. No further shaking occurred, and there was no damage that I could see. I was half expecting the fire alarm system to start up, but it never did.

A number of my coworkers left the building for a little bit, just in case, but I stayed in, and, like a number of others, tried to figure out what was going on. The Twitter and Facebook certainly lit up with earthquake-related buzz. I cross-posted a message to both services:

Okay… that was interesting. An earthquake in DC. Is everyone all right?
August 23 1:55 PM

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Categories: Nature, Work

And the conversion is underway!

August 23, 2011, 12:38 AM

It is time.

The conversion of Schumin Web from an HTML site to WordPress is officially underway. The work of my two testing sites, Falcon and Raven, is complete. “Raven” was hosted locally on my computer, where I could test things close to home. Then “Falcon” was the live testing site to see how things would behave on the actual Internet. Now Raven is kind of being set aside, and Falcon is currently being used as a development location, where the site is getting put together under WordPress.

And look at this:

Schumin Web main page, empty

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

“I feel braver when I’m holding a weapon!”

August 19, 2011, 10:37 PM

And now, back to Chicago following that little detour into complaining about pain. After all, I’ve only told you about half the trip!

On Saturday, we headed into the greater Chicagoland area – much further out than our hotel in Evanston. We actually went out to Lisle, Illinois, which is home to the Morton Arboretum. We went to the Morton Arboretum to participate in a Theatre Hike, where we see a play as we walk all around the arboretum. We saw a classic – The Wizard of Oz. Chris, my brother-in-law, was playing the Cowardly Lion. The whole day was a lot of fun from the moment that Sis and Chris picked us up at the hotel in their 1997 Saab.

First of all, Mom and I had never done much exploring outside the city, and so we were seeing the scenery, as we went through Skokie and a couple of other towns. We were also amazed to see how many companies had large corporate campuses in the greater Chicagoland area. It was something, all right. Plus we got to see Sis and Chris interact as they figured out where Morton Arboretum was and how exactly to plug it into their GPS. As it turned out, they had to Google it on Sis’s phone since the address they had didn’t work on the GPS, and so they navigated off the phone. Whatever works, I suppose.

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Categories: Amusing, Chicago, Family, Roads, Shopping

The pains of getting in shape… oh, the pains!

August 18, 2011, 1:50 PM

Ever have those weeks where you feel like your body is just going to pot? Welcome to my world this week. Four parts of the body have hurt this week: both ears, back, and right foot.

Ailment #1: Ears. I have somehow managed to get swimmer’s ear in both ears. Gross. The right ear is just sore, but the left ear is a full-blown infection. Big swelling in the ear canal, and the outer ear was warm and painful to touch. This actually has caused a feeling of fullness in the left ear, and some minor hearing loss on that side (due to the ear canal’s being mostly blocked). That started on Thursday, and by Friday morning, we had a full-on infection on the left side. Then on Saturday night, the drainage started. I have never seen fluorescent-yellow drainage before – like the color of a yellow highlighter. Gross. Even worse is that I can feel when the infection is draining. It tickles, and then causes some pain. Again: gross.

Ailment #2: Back pain. I don’t know what I did there. I mean with the ears, duh – I swim five days a week. But the back, no clue. That started last Friday morning just as I was leaving for work as a dull ache in my lower back. By the time the day was over, I was having trouble standing for long periods. Of course it would happen the day before a big demonstration, too. The DC SlutWalk was happening the next day, and I vowed that I didn’t care if I was screaming in agony at the event, but I was going no matter what. Thankfully, the back managed to work out for the SlutWalk, and I had a good time. But then it came back on Sunday. No good.

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Categories: Health issues

John Hancock Center, Schumy Lunch, and Lake Michigan!

August 14, 2011, 10:25 PM

Okay, so I’m late in posting this, but I think most would agree that it’s better to have worn myself out so completely at the pool (and giving myself swimmer’s ear in the process – yay me) and being so tired from it that I go right to sleep when I get home is preferable to not getting my exercise in and writing Journal entries on time.

So aside from the previously-discussed argument with the unprofessional CTA employee, the rest of that day went very well, though the argument did leave me a bit shaken for a while. But when that discussion happened, we were on our way back down to the Magnificent Mile, since Mom and I were going to visit the John Hancock Center observation deck.

We quickly found the Hancock Center, and found the ticket counter for the observation deck. Interestingly enough, the ticket counter is actually one level below street level. I find that kind of ironic when you consider that you have to go down to go up to the 94th floor where the observation deck is. Meanwhile, the lady at the counter, who looked like she was my age, asked where Camp Rainbow was. I told her that it was from Today’s Special, and was created for the show. It clicked with her, and she immediately recognized the shirt. SCORE! Let’s admit it – “Camp Rainbow” is a really obscure reference in Today’s Special, considering it was one episode (“Summer Camp”), though Jeff’s shirt made a cameo appearance later in “Storms”. But the lady at the counter was on her game! I was impressed.

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And fun was had in Chicago, too!

August 11, 2011, 6:10 AM

So before you think that all I did in Chicago was fight with CTA employees, I did a whole slew of other things in Chicago that were fun. First of all, the train trip over was interesting, as Mom and I shared a lower level Superliner I roomette on the Capitol Limited. That was certainly a different experience from before. Each time we’ve traveled before, it’s been on the upper level of the rail cars. The view isn’t that much different, except that you are just about at eye level with people in the stations that you go by, and your window doesn’t necessarily get above the sides of a few bridges. But otherwise, not bad.

And the Superliner I sleeper that I was on had been slightly refurbished. First of all, the three reading lights in the room were all LED (oooooh, ahhhhh), plus the panels above each seat had been refurbished. Take a look:

 

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Family, Fire alarms

I have never before seen such unprofessional behavior from a transit employee…

August 9, 2011, 9:33 PM

First of all, I’m back from Chicago, and Mom and I certainly had fun. We did a whole lot of things while we were there, which included tons and tons of walking – on streets, up and down stairs, and through buildings. If you could walk to it, we walked to it.

But when it was too far to walk, we took the Chicago “L” for the most part. And when I ride a transit system outside of the Washington DC area, rail geekery ensues. By the way, it’s harder for me to get all geeky on Metro for just normal riding as of late, since I take it every day and all.

So on Friday, August 5, Mom and I were heading to the Magnificent Mile from our hotel in Evanston on the “L”, with the intention of going to see the John Hancock Center. Got on at Davis station, where we caught a Purple Line express train to the Loop, and then transfer to a Red Line train at Fullerton. Once on the Red Line, we were getting off at Chicago station.

When we got to Fullerton, we got off our Purple Line train, and stood on the platform awaiting our Red Line train. While waiting, I got busy being a railfan. First I shot a movie:

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Categories: Chicago, CTA, Security, Some people

In 24 hours, I still won’t (quite) be in Chicago…

August 3, 2011, 7:59 AM

…but I will be much closer than I am right now and closing. Yes, 24 hours from now, Mom and I will probably be crossing through northern Indiana on the Capitol Limited in preparation for an 8:45 AM arrival at Chicago Union Station.

This trip is going to be fun. It will be a cool 83 degrees in Chicago while we’re there (it’s been a bit warmer than that in DC lately, trust me), and we’re going to have a lot of fun. Among other things, we’re going to see the new Marilyn Monroe statue, and see a play that Chris (my brother-in-law) is acting in. That I’m particularly excited about, because in all the years I’ve known Chris, I’ve never seen him act, save for a short demo reel on his site. I’m told this will be a children’s version of The Wizard of Oz, which should be fun.

Meanwhile, victory – I was able to explain to Mom in a way that she understood about why the monumental task of converting the site to WordPress is better than what I do now. I showed her the back end of the site and how I can update everything via a Web interface (once I finish building the skin), and how easy this is going to be. I think that Mom was able to wrap her mind around it, at least well enough to get the general concept, and understanding that this WordPress site I showed her really will be Schumin Web when it’s all said and done.

Then I was amazed to find what difference a little water makes. I didn’t have anything to drink all day yesterday on account of being so busy at the office, and I really started to drag in the evening. Turned out that I was just a wee bit dehydrated. All my energy came back once Mom and I got home and I drained one of my steel water bottles.

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Categories: Chicago, Family, WMATA