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Who ever thought that I would be researching, among other things, Canadian mannequin manufacturers?

December 25, 2012, 1:35 AM

So I’m working on creating my new Today’s Special wiki, and I’m “deep in the weeds” in fleshing out what articles and other titles should exist, and creating the categorization scheme.  If it tells you anything, I have titles for nearly every character that was on Today’s Special (though most of the one-off characters will be redirects to the episodes where they appeared), and did a lot of research on filming locations that were used.

By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Today’s Special, you may get a tad lost in this, because I’m about to get very detailed.  For a basic overview of Today’s Special, check out my existing T.S. site, which this wiki is going to replace.

Probably the biggest bit of research that I’ve done for this so far is the filming locations.  I quickly discovered that almost all of the location filming done for Today’s Special was done in the Toronto area.  I believe that the furthest afield that they ever went for a location shoot was the Trent-Severn Waterway, for the episode “Sam“.  Just about everything else was done right in Toronto.  In researching locations, I looked into any public place that I had a good chance of locating.  Thus I did not bother to research location scenes shot in private homes, such as the home of Jodie’s Aunt Millie in “Being Alone“, nor did I research places like the doctor’s office in “Soup” or the barber shop in “Hair“.  The likelihood that I would never find them was too great.  But I did have quite a bit of success in other areas.

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Categories: Today's Special

ZooLights!

December 23, 2012, 2:10 PM

You can tell that my life has been busy lately.  This happened a week ago and only now am I finally getting a chance to write about it.  Nonetheless, though, I had fun last weekend.  I got together with my friend Melissa, who I know through a few Anons, and who I first met at the Silver Spring Zombie Walk in 2011.  We went around the mall in Wheaton a bit, and then headed into DC for ZooLights at the National Zoo.  That was a lot of fun.

First of all, I had not been to the National Zoo in ages.  I think that the last time I was at the zoo was, I believe, the summer of 1996.  Back then, Mom and Sis and I went on a weekday, and I remember its being my first time ever making any sort of Metro transfer, and my first time on the Red Line.  Prior to that trip, we had been to Washington a few times, but never before had we done anything other than one train.  I took the Blue Line on my first trip, and several Orange Line rides.  That first transfer was interesting, because I had never been to Metro Center before, nor had I ever transferred.  It had never crossed my mind that one line crossed over the other.  Then when we got to the zoo, I recall our being not so impressed with it at that time.  But at the same time, it was also really hot out and I was not doing well on the hill that the zoo is built on due to my being somewhat out of shape.

Back in the present, though, I’m in really good shape, and it’s time to see Christmas-themed lighting.  I will admit that I had some fun (in a mean way) with the identity of the main sponsor for ZooLights: Pepco.  Pepco, you may recall, is the for-profit utility that has the notoriously unreliable power grid in DC, Montgomery County, and PG County, and that keeps asking for permission to raise rates.  My comment was that with Pepco sponsoring it, I was somewhat surprised that the lights were even on, considering that they often have problems with that.

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“Where is this train going?” takes on new significance with Rush+…

December 18, 2012, 9:37 AM

So in reading the Express this morning, I looked at Dr. Gridlock’s column on the DC Rider page. There were three questions: two about escalators, and one about destination signs at Franconia-Springfield.

I took issue with the answer to that third question, which went as such:

Q: I am a regular rider at Franconia-Springfield and am adjusting to most parts of Rush Plus.  However, the problem remains that trains pull into the station, turn off their destination signs, and you are left to guess whether it’s a Blue or Yellow Line train until about 30-45 seconds before they close the doors.  It’s particularly frustrating when it is cold outside and there are two trains waiting with their doors open.  Is there any way to persuade Metro to leave the direction signs lit?

A: I don’t see a good reason a train operator would need to turn off the destination signs, unless just maybe Metro isn’t sure where to send the train till the last minute.  What I’m thinking of here is that the operations center monitors the crowding on the platforms and could alter a train’s route – though unlikely.

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Categories: DC area local news, WMATA

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have just defeated Metro’s bag inspections.”

December 12, 2012, 10:40 PM

As summed up in this tweet, this evening’s commute was definitely a memorable one for me.  The ride itself was uneventful, but the events leading up to it demonstrated major flaws in Metro’s random bag inspection program (which has been discussed in this space in 2008 and in 2010) and proves that it will never catch anythingEver.

My evening commute got started as it usually does.  I packed up my stuff, walked over to Dupont Circle station, and went down the brand new south escalators.  Coming down the escalator, I noticed signage at the bottom that indicated that Metro was doing its random bag inspections.  That was a first – I’d never seen one of those happen in person before.  There were two Transit Police officers standing behind a table, swabbing people’s bags.  No one said anything to me.  Then as I headed toward the faregates, the female Transit Police officer standing in front of the kiosk stopped me and said that I had been selected for screening.

I was a bit surprised about that.  I figured this would be just walking by and watching as Metro unnecessarily slowed people down on their way home from work.  I never imagined that I would be the one getting chosen for extra scrutiny.  I knew that I wasn’t going to take this one lying down.  My exact words to the officer were, “I am refusing the search,” and I went back up the escalator.  According to a quote from Metro in a 2010 Washington Post article on the subject, a person who “refuses to submit their carry-on items for inspection will be prohibited from bringing those items into the station.”  Note that.  Since I refused the search, I was, based on information provided to the public, prohibited from bringing my blue work bag onto Metro, which contained an umbrella, my by-then-empty lunch container, my transit log book, a set of keys, and a few various odds and ends (mostly junk – I really need to clean out my bag).

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Categories: Commuting, Security, WMATA

So I’m at work modernizing websites again…

December 11, 2012, 1:07 AM

So I’m at it again, working to modernize a Schumin Web property.  You may recall (and it’s pretty hard to miss) that Schumin Web proper was converted to WordPress over the course of a year in 2011-2012.  Then College Life was converted to WordPress last month in a process that took about a week and a half to do.  That leaves the Today’s Special site and Transit Center left to be upgraded.

The current project is to convert the Today’s Special site to a content platform of some sort.  However, unlike Schumin Web proper and College Life, this one isn’t going to be where the site is ported to a content platform but looks the same to the user in the end as it did before.  This is going to be a big project for different reasons.  I am finally going to take the Today’s Special site and bring it into the 21st century.  Here’s a little secret for you: I have been unhappy with that site’s design and structure for a little over five years now.  The site last received a major redesign/overhaul in 2005 (while I was out of commission due to some minor surgery), and that mainly improved the writing and the layout, while keeping the general structure the same.  When I converted the site to PHP with the move to Dreamhost in 2007, I had wanted to do a big overhaul on it, but ultimately ended up converting it more or less the same as it was before, owing to time constraints and also my own capabilities at that time.

Now, my long-dreamed-of overhaul is coming.  I have the time, and I now have the technical knowledge and the maturity to bring my vision to reality.  The Today’s Special site is going to become a wiki.  It’s going to move away from fansite and more towards being a knowledge base – the source for all things Today’s Special.  Using Homestar Runner Wiki and Muppet Wiki as inspiration, my plan is to greatly expand the depth and breadth of coverage of the Today’s Special site, and be as extensive as I can get it.  And with the wiki format, this can and should be a collaborative effort.  I want other fans to join in.  I hope that Today’s Special alumni will contribute.  I hope that TVOntario joins in, too.  I think everyone with an interest in the show has something to contribute, even if it’s just correcting a typo, or removing a stray comma.

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New fins means new things to try in the pool…

December 3, 2012, 11:40 PM

Look what came today:

New swim fins!

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Categories: Swimming

Driving in Virginia on Thanksgiving morning…

November 22, 2012, 7:04 PM

First of all, greetings from Stuarts Draft, where I will be through Sunday.  And so far, so good.  The drive went surprisingly well, and then Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely wonderful.

Considering how well my drive went today, though, I don’t know why anyone would want to go driving on the day before Thanksgiving.  Seriously, this was one of the easiest drives to Stuarts Draft that I’ve had in a long time.  I left the house around 8:45, and it was more or less smooth sailing the entire way.  Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, from my house to the Beltway, was no problem.

On that note, by the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the Freestate gas station on Georgia Avenue at Layhill Road?  This is how it looked this morning:

The Freestate station on Georgia Avenue

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Walmart worker strike on Black Friday?

November 20, 2012, 1:29 AM

So like many people, I got wind that there are strikes planned at Walmart stores this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.  These leave me with very mixed feelings.  First of all, some of you may recall that I am a former Walmart employee, who worked for the company for a little over three years, from late 2003 to early 2007.  My employment ended there when I was fired for what I would consider to be questionable reasons.  And then I have made it no secret that I am quite pro-union.  I think that Walmart employees need a union badly, because Walmart is not looking out for its employees’ interests, no matter what kind of anti-union propaganda they throw at their employees, and their anti-union manuals prove it.  Thus employees must stand up for themselves.  But at the same time, I’m not sure about these tactics, because I fear that the groups behind these actions may, though well-intentioned, be leading these people off of the proverbial cliff.

First of all, on the matter of Walmart and what they provide their employees, I don’t think I ever made more than $7.50 per hour the whole time I was there.  For the first six months of my employment there, the insurance was a joke.  Full-time employees were eligible for the real insurance only after six months’ service, and before that, you were offered coverage through a company that I’d never heard of, and it was basically a reimbursement plan.  In other words, you had a plan where you would go to the doctor, pay out of pocket, and maybe – just maybe – the insurance company would pay you back for it.  I never had to use that insurance, thankfully, so I can’t speak for how well it worked out.  But it felt like a scam from the get-go.  After six months’ service, I got the real insurance, which was Blue Cross.  That was better than the junk insurance that they offered the new employees, but not by much.  If I recall, the package for one person was around $15 per pay period, and it came with a $1,000 deductible.  Yes, before the insurance would actually pay for anything, you had to spend a thousand dollars.  Thus in most years, you paid $390 per year for the privilege of paying out of pocket for all of your health care expenses anyway.  The only time the insurance actually paid for anything was in 2005 when I had that pilonidal cyst taken out, and I hit my deductible in February (yes, $1000 in medical bills in a month’s time).  And even then, it didn’t cover much, and the copays were pretty ridiculous.  I will say that I don’t know how much Obamacare will affect what Walmart provides its employees, though, and this information comes from my experience from several years ago.

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Categories: Walmart

My thoughts on the election now that it’s finally over…

November 9, 2012, 12:35 AM

First of all, aren’t you glad it’s just over with now?  Our election cycles run for far too long, especially when you consider that the New Hampshire primary was on January 10 this year, which meant that candidates started running well before that.  The 2012 election cycle started up right after dust settled from the 2010 midterm elections.  That’s far too long, in my opinion.  Considering that this year, Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee in May, I think we could safely adjust the schedule a bit.  Basically, imagine the primaries in the summer.  Have New Hampshire in May.  Then have nominees by September.  Skip the conventions, because all they are is a coronation for the nominee that is known months ahead of time, and then vote in November.  The goal in this compressed schedule is to give the American public some peace and quiet in between elections.

Now as far as the contest itself goes, I think this was the biggest dog and pony show that I’ve ever seen.  The moment that I laid eyes on the Republicans’ field of candidates, I knew that President Obama was getting a second term.  Realize that the Republican Party didn’t want to “put out the good silverware” for a race against a popular incumbent president.  I’m sure that’s really why the likes of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, etc. didn’t run.  The party didn’t want to dirty up its better names on a race against an incumbent.  Then once the crazies that did run on the Republican side actually opened their mouths, I really knew that they had no chance.  Thus I felt confident for just about the whole season that the end result of the contest was settled.  Basically, barring a major scandal or a major blunder on the Democratic side, President Obama was in, bottom line, end of story.  Thus my view that the whole campaign was basically a dog and pony show.  I was pretty sure that the Republicans knew that they had no chance in 2012, but they still had to put on a good show and run someone to at least make it look like they were interested to keep their faithful engaged.

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Hurricane Sandy, early voting, etc…

October 30, 2012, 12:16 AM

First of all, hello from Aspen Hill, Maryland, where I live, and where the power is still on (as of this point in the writing at least) despite the pounding we’re getting from the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy.  This was the view off my balcony about two and a half hours ago:

View off my balcony during Hurricane Sandy

Note the blurry areas on the trees.  As this was a fifteen-second exposure, the blurry areas are where the trees were moving around in the wind.  I just hope that the lights continue to stay on, and that the 22 cans of food that I bought at Shoppers on Saturday are just my being paranoid about this, and that I won’t actually have to open them with a manual can opener and prepare them on the stove.  So I guess we’ll see how that goes.  I’m rooting for no power outage, but that might be a tall request considering that this is Pepco we’re dealing with, and that the power grid in the Washington DC region is amazingly fragile.  My parents, who live out in the sticks, never lose power, and where I live in the suburbs of Washington DC, you can just look at a power line funny and the entire street goes dark.

But I didn’t start writing this entry to talk about Hurricane Sandy, though I certainly hope that everyone in the storm’s path is in a safe place to wait out the storm, and that everyone who still has their power keeps it throughout the storm.  Tonight, I want to talk about the election.

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Zombie night in Silver Spring!

October 28, 2012, 11:00 PM

So October 27 was the night of the annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk.  Except this year, for various reasons, there was no actual zombie walk through the downtown area of Silver Spring.  It was just zombie night, where there were a bunch of events for kids and adults, but no single, unifying event like in years past.  I knew this going in, and knowing there was no specific zombie walk but rather just a night of zombie-related fun and festivities, I decided to just see what I could see.

Not surprisingly, it was a little bit underwhelming.  I wasn’t about to hit the bars and take pictures of adults drinking in zombie costumes.  The best players in last year’s zombie walk were the kids, and so I tried to stick to the areas where most of the family entertainment would be held, around Ellsworth Drive, while still getting around the full downtown area a bit.

On Ellsworth Drive, in the “Downtown Silver Spring” development, the younger set was out and about.  Some of them were remarkably scary/creepy specifically because they were kids and looked a little too wholesome to be spattered with blood and looking all undead.  Like these two:

Two children dressed as zombies, looking far too wholesome to be covered in blood.  And the blank expressions add to the scary effect.
Add the blank expressions to the mix, and you have nightmare fuel right there.  Great costumes, great playing of the part, but still creepy.  Good work.

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Categories: Halloween, Silver Spring

One of my photos goes viral… sort of.

October 24, 2012, 11:12 PM

So apparently one of my photos has gone viral.  Remember this photo?

Code Pink demonstration on July 4

I took this photo on July 4, 2006 in front of the White House.  It first appeared on Schumin Web in a Journal entry posted July 5, 2006 about a trip I made to DC on July 4.  It also ran as the Photo Feature later in the same month.

Then a few years later, in 2009, that photo got morphed into this:

IF OBAMA DOESN'T END THE WARS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, CLOSE GUANTANAMO, AND STOP BOMBING PAKISTAN, WE SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD WE'LL VOTE FOR HIM WITH SLIGHTLY LESS ENTHUSIASM IN 2012."

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A whole bunch of bowling videos…

October 22, 2012, 10:09 PM

I realized tonight that I had never shown you some funny bowling videos that my friend Matthew and I had made a while back.  Matthew and I will, as I’ve demonstrated before, go bowling from time to time.  We always have a lot of fun, but considering that Matthew is a far better bowler than I am, the object of the game for me is to see how close I can come to matching his score.  I’ve discussed our first time doing ten-pin together and our first time doing duckpins together before, but I never showed you our second run of each style.

Now on the first time for each, I wasn’t sure how the various bowling alley operators viewed photography, plus I was concentrating a bit more on what I was doing.  After all, I had not done ten-pin in seven years before our first time bowling together in 2009, and then neither one of us had ever done duckpins before when we did that in August 2009.  Now, I have come to realize that the operators of these bowling alleys really don’t care if you’re taking videos and stills of yourself (plus I’m just using my phone here rather than my real camera), plus I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable with the whole bowling thing overall.  Additionally, there’s a certain fun part of acting in front of the camera in these sorts of situations.  After all, there’s a certain bit of structure to these things, because you know the general idea of the afternoon, i.e. throw the ball and knock down some pins.  But how one gets from A to B is where the fun comes in.

This first bunch of videos was from December 3, 2011, when Matthew and I were doing ten-pin at Bowl America in Reston.

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This is always a good feeling…

October 21, 2012, 9:32 PM

It’s always a good feeling to unload a bunch of clothes that I can’t wear anymore on account of my sizing down out of them.  So on Saturday, I donated an armful of clothes to Goodwill, and I think I’ve now just about kissed the era of big clothing goodbye.  Take a look at this:

A whole bunch of shirts that I can't wear anymore

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Categories: Clothing, Shopping

Two days, two eye exams…

October 11, 2012, 11:58 PM

So this week, I had two eye exams on consecutive days.  And that means getting my eyes dilated twice.  Yay me.  The reason I have two eye exams is because I also see a specialist for a retinal hole, which is stable, but the specialist wants to observe it to make sure it stays that way.  Thus two eye exams – once for the retina doctor, and once for the regular eye doctor.  It wouldn’t be that bad if not for the dilation.  That means that after the eye exam, I’m going home and hiding in the house with the shades closed for a few hours until the drops wear off.  And it would of course be my luck that it would be sunny on the days that I had my eye exams – and this isn’t even Philadelphia (where I’m told that it’s always sunny).  But it was cloudy on Tuesday, but then yesterday and today, it was a beautiful day, which is exactly what I don’t want when my eyes are dilated.

One complaint about the eye exams is that there’s not enough diversity in eye charts.  I’ve done this enough times, especially since I get two eye exams a year, that I’ve got the eye exam chart just about memorized.  The eye chart is done with a projector, and then they use mirrors to get the full 20 feet in the exam room.  This is the projector, seen here at my regular eye doctor’s office:

The eye chart projector

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Categories: Health issues