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Could my next laptop be a tablet? Perhaps!

April 30, 2013, 5:30 PM

First of all, hello from the Microsoft Store at Pentagon City Mall:

Hiiiiiiiiiiiii!

And I am writing this on a Microsoft Surface tablet with one of those flat keyboards.  Take a look:

Surface tablet at the Microsoft Store

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Categories: Computer, Shopping

And then there was Baltimore…

April 20, 2013, 12:54 AM

The day after my trip out to Annapolis, I was back in the car again and headed out to Baltimore.  It’s kind of funny how things work out.  This vacation kind of reminded me of spring break in 2002 and 2003 back when I was in college.  I planned out the vacation week with five or so different destinations in the eight days that I had available.  In 2002, my destinations were (in this order) DC, Richmond, Norfolk, Charlottesville, and Roanoke, with a day in between all but Richmond and Norfolk (which involved a hotel stay).  Then in 2003, I did (in this order) DC, Richmond, Norfolk, Covington/Clifton Forge/Lake Moomaw (one outing, all three destinations), Roanoke, and Charlottesville/Blue Ridge Parkway.  I only took two “off” days in 2003, between DC and Richmond, and Norfolk and Covington.  Now, ten years later, I had the luxury of spreading it out over two weeks, and did Stuarts Draft (intended to do Roanoke, but it got snowed out), DC, Richmond, Cumberland, Annapolis, and Baltimore.  I also scouted out Glen Echo Park as a potential photography destination (spoiler: not high up on my list).  And with two weeks and a few destinations planned, I kept a close watch on the weather, and that affected my plans.  Richmond was moved up a day to take advantage of sunnier weather.  Cumberland was similarly scheduled to take advantage of optimal weather (that’s how Glen Echo Park got included – to fill a gap in the schedule from Cumberland’s placement).  And then Annapolis fit the schedule, though weather was less important there, since it was mostly to get a feel for the area and determine further location work (probably).

And then there was Baltimore.  I was out exploring Fells Point on this particular day.  I chose Fells Point based on an episode of Bar RescueOne episode featured J.A. Murphy’s, which was located in Fells Point.  That bar, renamed “Murphy’s Law” during the show’s makeover, had closed, but I knew that going in.  No worries, though.  I wanted to explore.  I parked on the street (in front of Dogwatch Tavern, also featured on the episode), and went to work.  In getting the lay of the land of this area, I ended up dividing it into three sections.  First area was south of Thames Street.  This was the harbor area.  Then the next area was Broadway from Thames Street to Broadway Market.  The street around Broadway Market was a bit of a choke point due to construction on either side of the building that took away the sidewalks.  Then the third area was the block of Broadway between Fleet Street and Eastern Avenue.  I could have gone further north, I suppose, but owing to time considerations, I cut it off there.

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I went out in search of places with harbors…

April 13, 2013, 5:54 PM

And this is the rest of the photo stuff that I did while I was on my vacation a little more than a week ago.  I wanted to do something related to water on my vacation, as I had already done snow and Stuarts Draft, suburban places, urban places, and mountainous areas.  The early plans for this involved a trip up to New Jersey to do this, but I determined that New Jersey was more than I wanted to pull off, owing to the other trips.  One day, perhaps, I’ll do the Jersey shore.  Stepping down from New Jersey, I thought about day tripping it out to Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach, but realized that if I was going to go all that way, I might as well just go to New Jersey.  That brought me to looking at Maryland locations that didn’t involve going over the Bay Bridge.  I narrowed it down to Baltimore and Annapolis, and then decided that with two days available, why not do both?  So I did.  I went to Annapolis on Thursday, April 4, and Baltimore on Friday, April 5.  Not bad.

In going to Annapolis, I was kind of surprised at what I encountered.  I knew that Annapolis was a smaller town as state capitals went, but exactly how small it was surprised me.  Realize that every state capital that I had been in or through (Little Rock, Richmond, Boston, Providence) has been its own metropolitan area.  Annapolis reminded me of Staunton, Virginia with a harbor on it.  It was a cute town, for sure.

By the time I did Annapolis, I had done a lot of photography.  By my accounting, by the time I set foot in Annapolis, I had taken 1,971 photos.  So I had pressed the shutter button quite a bit.  I wasn’t that interested in doing a cohesive photo set, though if I ended up getting a cohesive photo set out of it, that would be a plus.  Honestly, I was just looking to see what caught my interest and looked interesting to photograph.  What I ended up doing was wandering through the downtown area a bit, wandering around the harbor, and then going around the Maryland State House.  I had a good time, photographing signs, architectural details, birds, some boats, and (of course) fire alarms.  I feel as though I probably took more fire alarm photos in Annapolis than I did anywhere else on my two week vacation.  The reason was that in Annapolis, unlike in other cities that I photographed, a lot of buildings had fire alarm notification appliances on their exteriors.  Most were just bells, but I did spot one horn/strobe on the exterior of a jewelry store.

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Categories: Annapolis, Baltimore, Vacations

Seeing Cumberland from the ground…

April 7, 2013, 12:28 AM

You may be familiar with Cumberland, Maryland.  Whenever Mom and I go to Chicago, we take the Capitol Limited, and that train travels a route that goes through Martinsburg, Cumberland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and South Bend, among other locations.  When I take train trips, I like to look at the scenery.  Some of it intrigues me, and it leads me do more research on it later.  Take the Koppers facility in Green Spring, West Virginia.  I always found it interesting to see these piles of neatly stacked lumber along the tracks.  I researched it, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about what I had seen from the train.  Towns are a similar idea.  These little towns that the trains either pass through or stop in make me want to do more research.  Unfortunately, many of these little towns are beyond my reach without incurring a lot of travel expenses, but for the places that I can reach, if they interest me enough, I’ll pay them a visit.

Cumberland was one of those places.  The Capitol Limited spends a lot of time in Cumberland.  Going west, the first thing that they do is a crew change, where they exchange engineers.  Then they continue a little further west and do the passenger stop.  That stop takes about ten minutes, and is also a “smoke stop”, where passengers who smoke are permitted to get off of the train and have a cigarette.  While on the train waiting through the crew change and the longer passenger stop, I got to take an extended look at Cumberland.  And I liked what I saw.  I saw a town with some character to it, and I saw a few places that I would love to explore more deeply.  I saw houses, I saw churches, and I saw the WTBO sign on Wills Mountain.  And I was sure that there was much more that was interesting beyond what I could see from the train.

So this past Tuesday, I did exactly that.  I grabbed the camera bag, got in the car, and headed off to Cumberland.  This, by the way, is not exactly a short trip.  Amtrak gives three hours and nine minutes to take the train from Union Station in DC to Cumberland.  Google Maps gives two hours and 123 miles driving from my house in Aspen Hill to Cumberland Amtrak station by car.  That’s going via the Intercounty Connector and I-370 to Gaithersburg, I-270 to Frederick, I-70 to Hancock, and then I-68 to Cumberland.  I’ve done the drive on I-270 to Frederick a number of times in the past, and so I knew what to expect there.  Interstate 70 through to Hagerstown took me over a number of hills and past the Appalachian Trail.  I had taken I-70 west the rest of the way through Maryland when I went to Breezewood in 2006.  Then I-68 was really awesome.  The first thing you do is go through a highway cut through Sideling Hill, and then you go over a number of mountains before you arrive in Cumberland – directly in the middle of downtown.

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Richmond was fun…

April 1, 2013, 11:05 PM

So on Saturday, I headed down to Richmond to visit an area that I had not visited in about ten years: the Canal Walk.  You may recall that I first featured the Canal Walk in 2002 in a three-part set in Photography.  Then I visited the area again in 2003 for the Richmond portion of An Urban Comparison.  I photographed the Canal area again with Big Mavica since I was already in the area, but I never really did much with the photos.  There were three Photo Features from that day: one of the Reynolds Tobacco building, one of the skyline, and one of Riverfront Plaza.  Now, ten years later, it was time to get new photos.  I didn’t expect that the Canal area would change much, but I had changed quite a bit.  My Canon Powershot SX10 IS is a far superior camera to Big Mavica, and my technique has also improved.  I also have a polarizing filter that I got in January, and I wanted to give that another spin.  The Sandy Point photos that I took in February (photo set from this on its way before too long) came out wonderfully using it, and so I wanted to give it a spin again in a city environment.

I did the same thing that I did ten years ago, parking at the east end of the Canal and walking to the other end.  Like in 2003, I walked down the Canal and then headed over to the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge.  I also explored Belle Isle just a little, which I had never done before, as I had previously just gone to the end of the bridge and then turned around.

The biggest take from this trip was that the Canal area had grown up in ten years.  There were some new buildings, and there were new businesses in some of the older buildings.  The area had flooded in 2004 due to the effects of Hurricane Gaston.  I also noticed a lot more character in the area.  One semi-enclosed section of the Canal Walk now had all sorts of murals painted on it.  There was also a lot more life along the Canal itself, with recently constructed housing nearby, and shops and restaurants fronting the Canal.  Previously, the Canal was somewhat disconnected from the surrounding neighborhood, with not much to do on the Canal Walk except to walk.  Not anymore.

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