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One more day until vacation…

May 12, 2011, 7:36 PM

Yes, one more day to go. I am one “It’s Friday, ya bastards!” away from a week’s vacation. I am looking forward to it. This is going to be something of a hybrid, too. Last time I took a vacation was when I went to Chicago. Thus almost the entire time was spent out of town. Then two vacations ago was two weeks just hanging out at home and around town. This one will be about half just chilling out at home and thereabouts, and half out of town.

So you may ask, where am I going? A day and a half in Stuarts Draft and thereabouts, and then off to Kings Dominion with Mom and the eighth graders for “Math and Science Day”. It’s kind of funny, too, that I’m finally going to Kings Dominion. See, I’ve lived about two hours’ driving time from Kings Dominion for almost 19 years (believe it or not, my parents’ house and my house are about the same distance from Kings Dominion), and I’ve never been. We’ll see if it was worth the wait. The waterpark won’t be open (still too early in the season), but the rest of it will be. So we’ll see how it goes, I suppose. Otherwise while I’m in Virginia, I’m hoping to swing by SDMS again and visit Mom at school and such, do some photography in Staunton or Waynesboro or so, and then hopefully see Katie if all goes well, since it’s been far too long since last I’ve seen her.

Then in the first half of the week, I’m going to give lap swimming a try again. There’s a county-operated indoor pool in Olney, and considering how close it is to my house (only four miles), I should visit, and give it a spin. I’m thinking I’ll do it on Monday when all the children are at school. They have designated lap lanes, and so we’ll see how it goes.

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National Train Day!

May 7, 2011, 11:17 PM

Today was National Train Day, and so I headed on down to Union Station to check it all out. I had been to National Train Day once before in 2009, so I kind of knew what to expect, but still, it’s always neat to see the different rolling stock that they had on display. Rail cars that travel over the national rail network are very different from those on urban mass transit systems, and so it’s always a treat to see them.

I took the Metro from Grosvenor (yes, Grosvenor) to get to Union Station. The way I figured, since I was also going to a Wikipedia meetup afterwards in Tenleytown, this made more sense than going all the way around to Glenmont afterwards. Plus I’ve never originated a day’s Metro riding from Grosvenor before.

Arriving at Union Station, I found the line. Specifically, the line for the train equipment display. After all, I came to see the real trains. The model trains don’t interest me so much. I want to see the real thing when I go out. The line was long. The end of the line, when I found it, was out in the shops, back here:

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Categories: Amtrak, Events

The death of the world’s most wanted man brings out a number of emotions…

May 2, 2011, 11:50 PM

Well, I’ll be. They actually captured Osama bin Laden. I did not expect to see such a thing happen. I always figured that bin Laden would die of natural causes, and we would never find out about it. But they actually managed to capture him, though not alive.

First of all, I think it’s probably a good thing that we did not bring bin Laden in alive. For me, this is not any sort of kill-that-bastard vengeful line of thinking. It’s that we very much need to be able to move on as a country. If we had brought bin Laden in alive, then he would have to stand trial. The question would have been how do we try him, choosing between a civilian court or a military tribunal, and all of the discussion related to that. Then a trial would reopen many painful emotional wounds in too many people. With bin Laden dead and without a trial to reopen all of those 9/11 wounds, perhaps now we can move on as a country. Nothing anyone can do will ever bring back the lives of those who were killed on 9/11, and nothing will erase the pain of losing a loved one, but perhaps bin Laden’s death will help bring closure to some, and help with the healing process.

I am, however, disgusted by the behavior that I’ve seen exhibited by many Americans after bin Laden’s death was announced. First of all, there is no doubt in my mind that Osama bin Laden is the scum of the earth. There is no doubt in my mind that he was instrumental in the commitment of many atrocities against innocent victims. However, for Americans to be dancing in the streets celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden seems a bit barbaric. There are certainly times to dance in the street and celebrate (the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak being one), but in this instance, it seemed wrong. I for one don’t feel any joy in bin Laden’s death, just as I don’t feel joy when anyone dies. The problem is that this action by Americans seems to erase any outrage that we might have been able to claim about people who will celebrate publicly when bad things happen to Americans. We just proved that when people we don’t like are killed, we will do the exact same thing. There goes our claim to the moral high ground, since as a country, we just did what we had expressed outrage about when it was done about us. Rick Telfer put it best on the Twitter when he said, “Always the same stupidity. When ‘they’ cheer for death, it’s barbaric. When ‘we’ do, it’s cathartic.” I believe it’s barbaric when either side does it.

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Categories: National politics

Pillow fight…

April 30, 2011, 9:03 PM

First of all, I don’t know why I never posted about this earlier. I must have been really busy. This event is too small for a photo set, and the video coverage is significant, which knocks it out of Photography. In addition, I think I’m going to rethink the way I go about the concept of the year-end-cleanup photo set for Life and Times, so I can’t guarantee that it will get coverage there. So here we are. Better late than never, I suppose.

On April 2, Capitol Improv celebrated International Pillow Fight Day in Washington DC, first at the Capitol building, and later in Dupont Circle. I skipped the Capitol part (and just as well – I’m told that they got kicked out), and caught up with them at Dupont Circle at the appointed time.

However, first thing I did was get ready for this event. See, I figure that if you’re going to be at an event where you know for a fact large objects are going to be moving around at high speed, you might as well bring some protection. So on the way to the Metro, I stopped at the Home Depot store on Georgia Avenue in order to get a pair of safety glasses. The way I figured, it’s like this: I can’t see without my glasses, and I wanted to get close-in photos. So in order to protect the real glasses, I got safety glasses to wear over them. That way, if I got hit, the $3.00 safety glasses would take the hit and not my real glasses (or my eyes for that matter). Maybe I was being over-cautious, but better safe than sorry (and blind).

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Categories: Amusing, Events

With all of this exercise effort lately…

April 28, 2011, 11:20 PM

With all of this exercise effort lately on my part, I went digging around on the Internet to find information on the old presidential fitness test that we used to do in Phys. Ed class in school.  Remember that one?  It’s that test you did where you had to do pull-ups, sit-ups, and a few other things.  And you know what?  I realized, some 14 years after the last time I did one (Virginia does not require Phys. Ed past the 10th grade), exactly how screwed up the implementation of this test was when I was in middle and high school.

First of all, elementary school is always a bit of an outlier for me when it comes to school experiences.  I went to elementary school in Arkansas, and then we moved to Virginia in 1992.  And considering that I have not been back since, August 31, 1992 (the day we arrived in Virginia) is a bit of a “wall” in my life’s timeline, in that every event either happened before then or after then.  Plus with no Email or Facebook back then, all my people communications with the Arkansas folks ended when we moved as well (though I now have contact with many of them on Facebook).  My move to the DC area in 2007 wasn’t like that, because Washington DC was part of my life before then, and Stuarts Draft has remained part of my life since.  So thus it’s harder to compare elementary school to the rest because it is behind that “wall”.

But in elementary school, when most of us first learned of the physical fitness test, I believe the implementation was done correctly, based on what I read on the site for “The President’s Challenge“, as it’s called.  Basically, you had two award levels: “National” and “Presidential”.  That was something to work towards, but if you missed those benchmarks, it was okay as long as you put your best effort into it.  If you didn’t even try, then you were in trouble, but as long as you made a good-faith effort and tried, then it was good.  I still remember doing a mile in 14 minutes and 15 seconds as a first grader (why I still remember that 14:15 mile over 20 years later is beyond me).  Looking at the published benchmarks, I was only about two minutes off from the time indicated for the “National” award for six-year-olds today.  The numbers may have been and likely were different back then, but for this discussion, I’m going to use the modern numbers because that’s what I have easy access to.  If you have historic numbers circa 1988 or so, send ’em on over.

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Talk about working different muscles…

April 25, 2011, 8:16 PM

As I mentioned about three entries ago, I am now walking home from the Metro whenever practical. It saves me a dollar by skipping the evening 51 bus, plus it’s good exercise, helping to make the pounds melt away like magic.

I also walked the southbound side of Georgia Avenue this time around to see how sidewalk conditions compared to the northbound side. I think I might have to start doing half northbound and half southbound. By my estimation, conditions on the northbound side of Georgia Avenue are better from Glenmont Metro as far as Hathaway Drive – about a third of the way from Glenmont to my house. Then from Hathaway Drive to my street, it looks like conditions are best on the southbound side. Why the need to switch? Southbound has a lot of broken glass between Glenmont and Hathaway, while northbound is for the most part clear on the same stretch. But from Rippling Brook Drive to my street, northbound side has a lot of gravel on the sidewalk, while on southbound, the gravel is still present, but less of a nuisance than on the northbound side. I’d prefer to make the switch a little further north than Hathaway Drive (like around Rippling Brook Drive/May Street or Kayson Street), but Hathaway is where the traffic light is, and let’s admit it – Georgia Avenue is not exactly a pedestrian’s paradise even in the best of conditions.

Then I also shaved a considerable amount of time off the walk this time around. Last time, I did the whole course from Glenmont station to my front door in 40 minutes. Last time, you see, I wasn’t wearing good shoes and the gravel on the northbound side really slowed me down. This time, I did the course in 30 minutes. Now I can really start improving my performance on this.

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Categories: Recreation/Exercise

Alexes’ Alley…

April 25, 2011, 7:18 PM

I’m sure that many of you have seen me talk about two of my coworkers, Alex Patton and Alex Beauchamp, on here before. You may recall that Patton pranked me pretty well for April Fool’s 2010, and then Beauchamp came by an Anon raid in August. It’s these two folks, on either side of me, seen here from last summer:

Alex Patton, me, and Alex Beauchamp
Photo: Sarah Alexander

That’s Patton on the left, and Beauchamp on the right.

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Categories: Video games

Go for main engine start… 3… 2… 1… we have booster ignition, and liftoff!

April 23, 2011, 10:58 PM

One of the fun things about living in the DC area is the fact that you have the Smithsonian Institution right in your backyard. Of course, it’s not like DC area locals go there on a regular basis. We don’t. But when I have guests over, I have a place to take guests that’s fun and educational. And in the case of this weekend, I hosted Mom from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon, and on Friday, we went to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center out by Dulles Airport. The goal: see the Space Shuttle Enterprise before they swap it out for Discovery.

Let’s admit – I’m a bit of a space nerd. I just got finished reading a couple of books about the history of human spaceflight, and have edited quite a few articles on spaceflight-related topics on Wikipedia. I’ve never seen a rocket launch in person (but would like to one day), and I think actually flying in space might be fun, but launch and landing kind of scares me.

And the Space Shuttle, the technological marvel of its time, though in practice seriously flawed in its design, was interesting to see live and in person. First of all, photos do not quite give you a good idea about what the scale of this beast is. In looking at Enterprise (the prototype orbiter used for atmospheric testing that never flew in space), what you find out is that parts of the shuttle are a lot bigger than one would think. But at the same time, a lot of the shuttle is a lot smaller than one might think.

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Categories: Driving, Family, Space

A fitter, trimmer Schumin coming your way?

April 19, 2011, 9:50 PM

First of all, before we start this discussion, why didn’t anyone tell me I hadn’t written a Journal entry in three bloody weeks? I came to this realization today when I was showing somebody a photo on the site, and noticed that the last Journal entry was March 29. Yes, I can get caught up in things, and occasionally need that little reminder that I haven’t done one of these in a while. So here it is.

Yesterday, I posted this on the Twitter:

I’ve lost nine pounds since last time the doctor weighed me about a month ago. Apparently I’m doing something right?
April 18 8:51 AM

First of all, I was as surprised as anyone. I realize that I weigh a lot more than I probably ought to, but that surprised me. That’s over a span of about a month. I’ll spare you the exact numbers, citing Schumin-will-not-share-that-with-you privilege, but I’ve been really trying to clean up my act health-wise.

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Third time’s the charm when it comes to Metro, apparently…

March 29, 2011, 10:00 PM

I certainly had an exciting commute home this evening, that’s for sure. My commute took 35 minutes longer than usual, and involved three Metro trains and one Ride On bus. Of those, one train and the bus are considered normal for my commute. I have a one-seat train ride, you see, going from Dupont Circle to Glenmont in the evening (and vice versa in the morning).

So on this evening’s commute, I went down into Dupont Circle station at exactly 5:44 PM according to the clock on the SunTrust building in Dupont Circle, as per usual. I got down into the station, and missed catching Breda 4018 (best known for being the struck train in the Woodley Park-Zoo accident) by seconds. Seriously, if the mezzanine-to-platform escalator had been running, I would have made that train, and ridden Breda 4018 home. But since I missed it, I had to wait on the platform for the next Glenmont train, sitting out one Silver Spring train in the process.

When my Glenmont train came, it was headed by Breda 3021 (I ride in the lead car coming home). This was pretty normal so far. I got in, got a seat right away, and got comfortable for my ride home. We made it from Dupont Circle all the way to Takoma station without incident. Then at Takoma, we started having a door problem. The train operator started going around and around and around with the doors, opening, closing, opening, closing, etc. trying to get the doors to do what they were supposed to do. Once I saw the train operator get on the radio, though, I knew what was likely coming next.

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Categories: Commuting, WMATA

Big Brother knows when you travel the Intercounty Connector…

March 24, 2011, 11:01 PM

On February 23, the first phase of Maryland Route 200, otherwise known as the Intercounty Connector (ICC), opened from Shady Grove station to Norbeck Road, with an interchange at Georgia Avenue.

Taking advantage of the fact that tolls were waived on the ICC for the first week and a half of operation (it’s normally a toll road), I rode the ICC for the first time on February 26, riding from Georgia Avenue to I-370, and then I turned around somewhere on Sam Eig Highway. Basically, for those not following the designations, it’s one road with three names. My trip going west started at Georgia Avenue on Maryland Route 200 (Intercounty Connector). At Shady Grove Metro, the MD 200/ICC designation ends, and I-370 begins. Then at I-370’s interchange with I-270, the I-370 designation ends and the road becomes Sam Eig Highway, and goes for a while longer as an arterial, and then as a regular surface road (but whatever, I’ve never traveled Sam Eig Highway beyond where I turned around).

The ICC is certainly a nice-looking road, with the concrete sound walls designed to look like natural stone, and stained to match. Plus they also did a lot of work on the landscaping, and there is even a short tunnel along the route, covered in bright white tile (seriously, this is like the-color-of-your-toilet white, and lit brightly).

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Categories: Roads

And Schumin Web is officially fifteen years old…

March 23, 2011, 10:44 PM

Fifteen years old, today. Really. If you want to put things into perspective, I have had this site for more than half my life. I started the site at age 14, and I am now 29. Wow.

And so this evening, we celebrated! After a remarkably stressful day at work (at least for me), a number of us from work went out to El Tamarindo in Adams Morgan to celebrate, where they have some really great margaritas. My coworkers certainly managed to surprise me, having secretly signed a birthday card for the site, with some very sweet comments in it. Take a look:

Schumin Web's anniversary card (front)

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

What a strange place to have a demonstration…

March 20, 2011, 11:21 PM

This weekend was pretty fun. Two demonstrations in two towns in two days. Saturday was the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and an anti-war protest was held in front of the White House. Then on Sunday, everyone piled into their cars and in buses and headed about 35 miles south to Triangle to have a “Free Bradley Manning” demonstration outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Prince William County, Virginia.

Saturday’s event was pretty typical for an anti-war protest in DC. The only major difference was the lack of younger folks. Seriously, this march had a large showing from the over-40 crowd, and while there were people in their twenties present, it was definitely less so than other marches. And no red-and-black flags flying this time, no SDS, and no black bloc.

Somehow I sensed what the tone of this event was going to be (I must have a sixth sense for these things), and planned accordingly. Usually when I go to demonstrations, I bring a backpack, and carry supplies. I carry water, I carry items to protect from pepper spray, and I also carry extra clothes in case I have to ditch the ones I’ve got on due to getting sprayed. I’m not one of these people who will change clothes at a demonstration in an attempt to make themselves untraceable. I have always considered that a waste of time. But I would take extra clothes with me in case things got hairy. But this time, the backpack and all of the extra supplies stayed at home, and I just brought my regular camera bag with me. Trust me when I say that was much easier to handle than the backpack with all of its contents. Plus on a day with weather like Saturday’s, I wouldn’t need to bring water along.

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Categories: Anti-war

“I can only hope that the movement learns from its complete and utter failure in the fall of 2010, but unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath.”

March 15, 2011, 7:15 PM

In watching the various anti-World Bank and anti-IMF events get announced online at imfresistance.org for the weekend of April 15-17 (what do you know – a third A16!), one event stood out among the rest. And here it is:

What: Music to Smash Capitalism
Where: Freedom Plaza – 14th & Pennsylvania Ave NW
When: 7-10pm
Details: Free Outdoor Punk Show!

And then immediately below that:

What: Nocturnal Anti-Capitalist Action
Details: TBA

Sound familiar? This sounds suspiciously like what happened on Saturday night for the World Bank and IMF protests last fall. And we all know what a resounding success that was, heh heh.

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Categories: World Bank

So there you go. My body officially abhors the springtime.

March 9, 2011, 6:23 PM

Yeah, there you have it. My body abhors the springtime. I am allergic to pretty much everything related to the spring, and this was all confirmed by a doctor that specializes in allergies. So I have proof of it.

By the way, allergy testing is pretty interesting. What I’m allergic to in the spring is kind of irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion, but the process was interesting. They checked my blood pressure, temperature, pulse, heartbeat, and breathing, and then they offered two options for the actual allergy testing. One was a blood test, and the other was a skin test. I opted for the skin test, since the little applicator for that was better than getting my finger pricked or having them take a little vial of blood.

For that, they came in with a tray full of samples of different allergens, with the little skin applicators ready to go. They did the testing on my upper arms, which seemed agreeable enough. I’ve heard of people getting these kinds of things on far less preferable places, and so I wasn’t complaining. Plus I could watch the process, since it was in a spot that I could see.

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Categories: Personal health