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And once again, braaaaaaaaaaains…

October 31, 2013, 10:27 PM

One of the things I enjoy about Silver Spring is the annual zombie walk.  Last year’s zombie event was kind of ho-hum, considering that, for a number of reasons, it wasn’t a formal zombie walk, but rather, more a night for people to go out and drink while dressed up as zombies.  The zombie walk in 2011, which followed the usual model of a meetup, a walk, and then a movie, was much more fun.  This year’s zombie event followed the 2011 model, since as I believe that everyone realized that zombies without a walk was not nearly as fun (even if a lot of it was due to circumstances outside the organizers’ control).

That said, I had a lot of fun, as expected.  The zombie costumes were pretty gruesome, and there were also a few zombie hunters out there, too.  The surprise of the night, though, was that the zombie walk was rerouted at the last minute.  Turns out that someone made a bomb threat at the Majestic, a movie theater at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in Silver Spring.  The theater was evacuated, and since it was along the zombie walk’s route, the undead needed to be rerouted, which took the walk further east than originally planned, and approached the AFI Silver Theater, where a horror movie would be shown, from the east rather than from the west.

I also discovered that, in the hands of the right person, clowns can be made to look very scary.  I had always laughed about the “clowns are scary” bit, but some of the people playing undead clowns on this particular evening created fuel for nightmares.  And yes, you’re going to see them.

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Categories: Halloween, Silver Spring

Road trip to New Jersey…

October 30, 2013, 9:45 PM

Last Thursday, October 24, was a fun day.  I took a one-day road trip to Monmouth County, New Jersey.  The inspiration was my needing a change of scenery for a day, and seeing this as an opportunity to do a few things I’d wanted to do for a while now.

As with any trip, they say that getting there is half the fun, but I was quickly struck by how much it cost to get to New Jersey.  Let’s just say that officials in northeastern states, New Jersey in particular, never met a road or a bridge that they couldn’t slap a toll on.  And tolls have gone up.  The Baltimore tunnels in Maryland (Fort McHenry and Harbor) are now four bucks each way (up from $2), and the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge is now eight bucks(!) for its northbound-only toll (up from $5).  Otherwise, the Intercounty Connector near me was $2.05 from Layhill Road to I-95 (it’s a variable toll depending on time of day – your results may vary), Delaware was still four dollars, the New Jersey Turnpike was $3.50 to Exit 7A, and then the Garden State Parkway wanted fifty cents from me for going one exit.  Kind of surprisingly, New Jersey didn’t want anything for my ride on I-195.  Altogether, it cost $22.05 in tolls alone to get to my first destination.  And that’s just getting there.  I had to run that gauntlet of tolls coming back, too.

The first stop was a very personal one for me.  I went to Temple Beth-El Cemetery in Neptune, where my grandparents on my father’s side, Ruth and Seymour (“Pop”) Schumin, are buried.  I also didn’t realize before I arrived that Aunt Ruth and Uncle Seymour were buried in the same location.  Uncle Seymour died in April 1981, a little less than two months before I was born.  Pop and Grandma died within a month and a half of each other in the spring of 1988, when I was in first grade.  Aunt Ruth died in November 2003, right around Thanksgiving.  Therefore, I never got to know Uncle Seymour, it’s been 25 years since Pop and Grandma died, and it’s been almost ten years since Aunt Ruth died.

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Categories: Asbury Park, Driving, Family, Roads

Constantly evaluating my website properties…

October 27, 2013, 2:29 PM

You may not realize it, but I am constantly evaluating my various online properties.  After all, technology changes, systems change, interests change, quality standards evolve, plus I’m always coming up with new ideas.  My goal is to always have things looking fresh and exciting.  When sites start to look stale or otherwise dated, it reflects kind of poorly on me.  That’s one reason why the splash photo changes monthly, and the photo feature changes weekly.  It’s all about keeping things fresh.  You know that if you’re going to Schumin Web, there’s a good possibility that it’s going to look different the next time that you see it.

Of course, things don’t always look as fresh and new as I’d like.  Sometimes things do become stale.  Schumin Web carried the same design, more or less, for nearly eight years before getting a full redesign in September 2012.  What looked fresh and exciting in October 2004 looked dated by 2012, and many things were shoehorned into that design over the years, with some being integrated more successfully than others.  Even the current “Modern Blue” design got a refresh, updating holdovers from the earlier design, and making a more consistent appearance.

But now, I’m looking at my subsidiary sites, i.e. what you find in the “Major Areas” section.  I’ve always had subsidiary sites, going back to shortly after the website began in 1996, when I spun out a links page into its own website.  Such subsidiary sites have come and gone over the years.  The spun-out links page is long gone.  A jokes site came and went, spun out from a page on the main website before being closed down.  I had a game show fansite, which was a completely new creation and not a spinoff from Schumin Web, and then was later handed off to another webmaster (who has since closed it down).  I had a site about ocean liners for a while, before handing that off to another webmaster (who has since closed it).  Then of course, my old discussion forum site, The Schumin Web Community, is alive and well as The Fire Panel.

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

Social media and online privacy and…

October 19, 2013, 6:12 PM

Those of you who have seen me online know that I really get into social media.  I do Facebook, I do the Twitter, I do Instagram, and I also do Reddit.  And in doing social media, I’ve noticed a few recurring trends, and it begs discussing…

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you before: you’re going down your news feed, and you see a status from a Facebook friend.  It says something along the lines of this:

I’m cleaning out my friends list, so if you didn’t make the cut, it’s been nice knowing you.

I’m cleaning my Facebook friends.  Let me know if you want to stay.

I find these messages amazingly annoying.  Especially when, without fail, people make a zillion replies beneath that say something to the tune of, “Don’t delete me!” followed by reassurances from the original poster that certain people are “safe” from their defriending spree.  I personally think it says something about a person’s self-esteem when they feel that they need to post such a self-centered message and then watch people glom onto them like that.  It reminds me of the way that Chuck E. Cheese distributes free tickets to kids during the live shows.  There, Chuck just grabs up a handful of tickets in his hands (paws?) and throws them up in the air in the direction of the audience.  The kids then all then rush the character to grab as many free tickets as they can get their hands on.  It seems a bit demeaning for the kids who rush the character going after free tickets, and this seems on the same level, with a little bit of groveling involved on top of it all.  In any case, it’s a message I could definitely live without.

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Categories: Social media

Trashing a tripod…

October 16, 2013, 1:38 PM

It’s funny how things work out sometimes.  Some of you may know that I’m in the process of doing a photo set of the Washington Monument while it’s in scaffolding.  I shot all of the daytime material on September 5, where I walked 6.35 miles around the Washington Monument, and took 900 photos in the process (no wonder I was exhausted after that).  One of the photos became the photo feature on September 8.

The plan was to also do a nighttime component for this set, and I got together with my friends Suzie and Rocio to do half of the night photos (since the full round proved to be too much) on September 28.  Since I had gotten jittery photos when I did a similar photo shoot in March (the nighttime photos of the DC War Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are from that shoot), I did some equipment testing out on my balcony prior to this shoot to determine the cause of the jittering and get some quality photos.  Since the camera wasn’t going to change, the test was on the tripods.  I tested Big Mavica’s original tripod, which is a Kodak tripod that I got in December 2002, and my regular tripod, which is a Sunpak tripod that I got in December 2003 (which I used in the March shoot).  Turns out that the Sunpak tripod jittered and the Kodak one didn’t.  So it seemed a no-brainer: take the Kodak tripod out on the shoot.

Getting out on the Mall, with Suzie and Rocio along for the adventure, things quickly went south.  I can deal with most equipment issues fairly well.  But this time, an important piece decided to go: the head of the tripod.  Early on, things held together, but while I was working in front of the Jefferson Memorial, the head popped off, and it wouldn’t go back in and stay there.  Thus the best I could do was perch it in there and make do, but the problems got worse and worse as the night went on.

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Categories: Friends, Photography

If you can’t follow a license as easy as mine…

October 9, 2013, 3:21 PM

I am of the view that information deserves to be free, which is one of the reasons that I make my work available under a Creative Commons license.  For those not familiar, I provide my content under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  In a nutshell, that means that you are welcome to use materials found here for any purpose, including commercially, as long as you provide proper attribution, and share it under the same or similar license as you found it (it’s only fair, after all).  I even wrote a guide on reuse of content found here.  When I converted the site to WordPress, one of the changes that I made was to make the images available for download at full resolution.  That was done specifically to help downstream users get what they need and get creating without assistance from me.  That same conversion, with the image restoraton and such that went along with it, also finally allowed me to provide clean images right out of the box.  Recall that at one point, I put my logo and URL in the corner of the large-size images for photo sets.  Then I stopped doing that in 2005 or so, right around when I introduced the Creative Commons license to the site.  The conversion and image restoration work removed all of the remaining tagged images, making every photo “clean” without any extraneous markings.

I like to think that I’m one of the more permissive and lenient content owners out there.  Unlike many other entities that do not allow downstream use without explicit permission, I do allow downstream use right out of the box, as long as two things are present: attribution (preferably as “Ben Schumin/The Schumin Web”), and a free license.  That’s not that hard to do, and by and large, most people who reuse content found here follow the license.  But it really frosts my cookies when people don’t follow that, and because my license is so easy to meet, I take a very dim view toward noncompliance.

It always amazes me how many people think that because something is on the public Internet, that it’s public domain and can be used with wild abandon.  It’s quite common.  I’ve even had to disabuse my own mother of this notion before.  Rather, just like any other medium, just because it exists does not mean that you have carte blanche to do whatever you want with it.  Most material on the Internet is not, in fact, public domain, and therefore potential downstream users have to play by the content owner’s rules (or you don’t play).  Those rules are up to the content owner.

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