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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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Oh, there’s something about an album…

September 20, 2013, 10:49 PM

How many of you were aware that there was an album made for Today’s Special?  I’ll bet that many people in the United States were not aware of it.  I was initially made aware of it in the late 1990s, and have been able to listen to it in its entirety.  Recall that when I was going to my first polar bear plunge, I was singing along with the Today’s Special album in the car.  Certainly, there’s been a lot of discussion about Today’s Special over the years, with a lot of it coming from this website.  But most of that has been about the television program itself, rather than the various other things that go with it.  After all, the show itself is the main product, and distributed most widely.  Additionally, since the show originated in Canada, produced by a Canadian television network, I don’t believe that any licensed merchandise for the show ever made it to the United States.  Thus I’ll bet that many don’t realize that the album exists, and I’ve definitely never found a review of it anywhere.  So with this entry, I’m going to review the album.

Giving the album a listen, it seems that the album was released around the time as the stage show, which was shown on television as the episode “Live On Stage“.  No songs from episodes dated 1985, 1986, or 1987 appear in the album.  In addition, no songs original to the stage show are performed on the album.  However, where applicable, those songs on the album that were also performed in the stage show were performed based on the stage show version of the song rather than the television show version.

In general, I like the album, as it contains many songs that I have always considered favorites, and also includes a few that I was not familiar with as a child due to editing by Nickelodeon (commercial networks that aired Today’s Special usually deleted some scenes in order to allow time for commercials).  However, there are times that the album really grates on me a little bit, and that comes from the non-song dialogue that’s included, as much of it seems quite out of character compared to the show.
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Categories: Music, Today's Special

Secret introvert?

September 7, 2013, 1:21 AM

Growing up, whenever the topic came up about introverted or extroverted personalities, I would hear, without hesitation, “Oh, you’re an extrovert,” like it was a foregone conclusion.  After all, the stereotypical introvert is, as my mother once said in jest, the “Shy, silent type that communicates with [their] eyes.”  After reading a bit more about introverts vs. extroverts, though, I think I can say with some level of confidence that I am actually an introvert.

The article on The Huffington Post titled “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert” is what made me realize that I was more introverted than I might think.  I always thought I was just weird being the way I was, enjoying adventures by myself, and needing time alone to “recharge” after social interaction, so I’m glad that there are other people out there who function similarly to me.  I first spotted this article on a former coworker’s Facebook page, where they identified a number of the qualities listed on the page that applied to them.  When I read the article, I realized that yes, a lot of these things applied to me as well.

I’m going to be going through a number of these points assuming that you’ve read the article, and so if you haven’t read it yet, you may want to do that now.  You’re not going to be missing anything funny.  I’ll just be sitting here reading this grownups’ newspaper:

Sitting here reading this grownups' newspaper... (with apologies to Krusty the Clown)

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Categories: Myself

Two near-identical photo features…

September 2, 2013, 11:54 PM

Amazing how much difference some light makes…

August 26, 2013, 10:59 PM

So today was the first day that my regular pool, Olney Indoor Swim Center, was open following the two week annual maintenance period.  This maintenance period usually involves completely draining the pool and scrubbing it down and deep cleaning the building.  They also tackle any other maintenance work that would be too disruptive to do while the pool is open, like lighting repairs, resurfacing the water umbrella in the kiddie pool, and welding some pieces back together on the pool that had come apart over the years.  They also replaced all of the lane ropes, which introduced a touch of red into the pool (the previous ropes were blue and white – the new ones are red, white, and blue).

But by far, the most striking change was the lighting.  For the past several months, the pool has looked like this:

Olney Indoor Swim Center on Thursday, August 8, 2013

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Categories: Olney, Swimming

Surprised that more people aren’t outraged by this…

August 22, 2013, 9:15 PM

Yesterday evening, I attended an event described on Facebook as “Emergency Protest of Whistleblower Bradley Manning’s Sentencing”.  For those not familiar, Manning (now Chelsea Manning) is a former US Army soldier who, according to Wikipedia, “was convicted in July 2013 of several violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after releasing the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison and dishonorably discharged.”

I really don’t understand why more people aren’t outraged by this.  This is your government and mine, and it operates, at least in theory, by the consent of the governed.  That requires an informed public, and people are all too willing to allow their government to harbor secrets about human rights abuses and other vile acts done in our name.  Government should have very few secrets, if any, because the best disinfectant for government is sunshine and transparency.  The government, out of anyone, is the entity that should have “nothing to hide”, because it is funded by our taxes, and therefore we are all stakeholders with an interest in its activities that are being done in all of our names.  Thus why it really concerns me that people are more up in arms about the fact that material was leaked and about the person who blew the whistle vs. the content of what was leaked.  People really should be more up in arms about what their government is doing in their name, and about protecting the messenger – not shooting the messenger.

That said, Manning should be held up as a hero and walking free rather than imprisoned.  And thus the message of this demonstration was simple: Free Bradley Manning.

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Categories: Activism, Washington DC

And who managed to dump themself out of their kayak in the first thirty seconds? That’s right. Me.

August 21, 2013, 1:46 PM

On Sunday, August 18, Melissa, Doreen, and I went down to the Key Bridge Boathouse (historically Jack’s Boathouse) right under the Key Bridge in Georgetown for a kayaking adventure.  This was a long time in coming.  We bought a Groupon voucher for this back in May, with the intention of going on May 19.  However, come May 19, the weather did not cooperate with those plans, giving us a cold and rainy day.  We ended up rescheduling, and this was the day we eventually settled on to reschedule.  It still ended up being a rainy day, but at least it wasn’t cold.

Doreen came along for our outing as well, and her participation ended up being something of a surprise.  Originally, Doreen didn’t want to go out on the water with us, and was going to be our designated photographer, using my real camera from the dock to photograph us.  Once we got to the dock, she decided that she wanted to go in the water, and so all three of us ended up going kayaking, and we just photographed using Duckie, which was securely clipped to my life jacket.

After signing all of our waivers and putting on life jackets, we got going.  First, Doreen got into her kayak:

Doreen gets into her kayak

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ELI5: the American electoral system

August 19, 2013, 12:23 PM

On Reddit, there is a forum (“subreddit”) called “Explain Like I’m Five” (ELI5).  It’s not intended for literal five-year-olds, but rather, it’s a venue for people to ask questions, and (hopefully) get a response explaining it all in plain English, with any jargon defined plainly, and complex concepts explained as clearly as possible.  Post titles typically begin with “ELI5” with the topic following.

Today on the ELI5 subreddit, this question came up about the American electoral system, as far as presidential elections go:

I’m Australian and having seen a lot about the election last year I couldn’t really find an explanation that I understood about things like swing states, etc.

I feel quite a bit of sympathy for this person.  The presidential electoral system in the United States is unique, and let’s admit it: the average American doesn’t even understand how our electoral system works, and many of them have lived with it for their entire lives.  For someone who does not live in the United States and is used to a different electoral system, I can imagine that trying to figure out our system can be headache-inducing, to say the least.

So I did my best to explain how it works, including the discussion of how swing states work into it all.  The guidelines for this subreddit say that while discussion of politics and controversial topics are allowed, “try to remain textbook-level fair to all sides, for both questions and answers.”  I think I did pretty well on that, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.  So here’s my (somewhat long-winded) explanation, in plain English:

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Categories: National politics, Reddit

Hot fun in the summertime…

August 17, 2013, 8:54 PM

So this summer has been a pretty fun one.  I’ve taken the various summer safety tips that I’ve picked up along the way to heart, like not drinking straight out of the hose while it’s at full blast, tying the waistband of your suit really well while bodysurfing, not putting too much sugar in your Kool-Aid, and not gossiping because it makes your tongue susceptible to sunburn (and I don’t like the taste of Solarcaine), and went out and had some fun with friends.

Specifically, on August 4, I went down to Chesapeake Beach Water Park with Melissa, Doreen (friend of Melissa’s), and Chris (Melissa’s boyfriend).  We had a blast.  Chesapeake Beach Water Park is a little bit smaller (and a little more expensive) than Splash Down Waterpark in Manassas, where I’ve been many times before, but it’s not a bad time.  They have a lazy river, a small central pool, several small slides, and a slide tower that has two small slides and two big slides on it.  This is the slide tower:

The big slide tower at Chesapeake Beach Water Park

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Chicago 2013…

August 9, 2013, 8:10 PM

At the end of July, Mom and I took a trip to Chicago.  We took the Capitol Limited, like we usually do, leaving DC on July 25 and returning July 30.  Not a bad trip, but I believe that there was something pivotal about this particular trip: Chicago was becoming a regular thing.  This isn’t a bad thing by any means.  It doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the trip any less, though, it’s just that it’s become something that we do every year, and that’s fine.  With the trip’s becoming something of a regular thing, this is the only thing you’re goign to get that’s specifically about the trip.  There’s not going to be a Journal entry for each day like I did in 2011.  No special photo set about the trip like I did in 2010 and 2012.  And that’s fine.  That’s not to say that there’s not going to be a photo set from the trip, though.  But it’s going to be a regular photo set, in Photography, about the Chicago Botanic Garden.  That photo set’s going to be what I describe as “flower porn”.  Seriously, I got very close to a lot of flowering plants, and got detailed photos of them.  When I used the term “flower porn”, Sis commented that it was also accurate, as I was photographing the reproductive parts of flowers.  So there you go.

On the outbound trip, Mom and I were in a roomette.  Second car back, room 14.  That’s a lower level roomette.  Mom and I were surprised to find that we felt like we didn’t have quite enough space on this trip.  That came about mostly in regards to legroom, as neither one of us really could extend our legs very far without getting in the other person’s way, and sitting diagonally was a little uncomfortable for both of us.  Having only one electrical outlet was also a problem, as we had several devices that we needed to charge: my laptop, my phone (which we were also tethering for Internet access when we had service), Mom’s phone, and Mom’s iPod Touch.  And one electrical outlet.  It was a shame that, when the Superliner I roomette panels were updated around 2011 or so, they didn’t add at least one additional power outlet.  What we ended up doing was plugging in the laptop and charging everything off of that.  It didn’t work as well in this capacity as I would have liked, however, we were asking the computer to do something that it probably was not designed to do, i.e. be a mobile charging station for three devices (vs. just one).

Meanwhile, the ride out was at times like visiting familiar places.  This was not just because this was our fifth round trip on the Capitol Limited.  Realize that as of this trip, I had visited all of the towns where we made a station stop between DC and Cumberland.  DC, Rockville, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, and Cumberland.  Now mind you, it’s been eight years since I last visited Martinsburg, and even longer since I was in the part of Martinsburg where the train goes, but it still counts.  Then I added Harpers Ferry earlier in the same month, and Cumberland in April.

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Vacations

Sometimes it just writes itself…

August 7, 2013, 11:47 AM

So I was looking at the Twitter last night after swimming, and I spotted this picture:

Hey @wmata - what kind of discounted fare does this guy have to pay? #NotSoSmartTrip
Source: Craig Sallinger

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Categories: Advertising, Amusing, WMATA

My newest piece of fitness equipment…

August 4, 2013, 12:47 AM

So I have a new piece of fitness equipment:

A bicycle.

Yep… it’s a bicycle.  Specifically, it’s my sister’s old bicycle – thus why it’s a female bicycle.  But no worries.  I’m secure enough in my masculinity to use a women’s bicycle, and besides, the only difference is one bar, and that lower bar means it’s easier to get on and off since I don’t have to lift my leg as high to get over the horizontal bar on a male bicycle (so there).  When I wanted to get a bicycle for myself, I asked my parents, thinking that all of the old bikes were still in the shed in Stuarts Draft.  Thus I was hoping to get my hands on my old bicycle (the “baby elephant“, as it was), which was a green Huffy mountain bike that cost $110 at Walmart’s “Sample Store” in Bentonville, which I got in 1992.  It was a very nice bike, though as one of my childhood friends mentioned, that bike was too big for me at first (I later grew into it).  Surprise: my parents got rid of my old bike.  I guess that’s what happens when you don’t ride a bicycle for more than a decade.  Don’t know what happened to it, but it’s gone.  However, Sis’s bike was available, so when Mom came up recently for our trip to Chicago (more on that in another entry), the bike came up with her.  This is a Mongoose Threshold mountain bike.  Not bad.

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Categories: Bicycle, Olney

A very upbeat goodbye…

July 22, 2013, 11:28 PM

You may have gotten a hint from the notes in the July 14 photo feature, but this past Friday, July 19, was my last day working at Food & Water Watch.

On my last day, we were having an ice cream social in my honor.  I wanted to make it a celebration of me rather than an emotional goodbye, so I made a slideshow of photos to go through and talk about with the folks gathered.  Many had never seen these photos before, and I was sure that the photos would garner some laughs and rekindle fond memories.

On the evening before my last day, though, I was a bit nervous.  I was somewhat uptight about how my emotional state would be when I finally said goodbye.  I didn’t want to cry on my last day, but I was really afraid that I might.  I even went to far as to post this Facebook status at 1:44 in the morning:

Thinking about my last day at Food & Water Watch on Friday. Wondering how the mood will be when I finally say goodbye, and thinking about it in terms of the ending theme for an episode of Today’s Special. I think it could go one of three ways:

1) A very upbeat end to the day. That would warrant the regular ending theme.

2) A more emotional ending that might have me in tears at the end of it. That kind of end would call for the flute theme that was used in “Butterflies”, “Babies”, “Wishes”, and “Phil’s Visit”.

3) Considering that I have a slideshow with old photos planned, it might be a celebration of days past with mixed emotions of laughter and sadness. For that, I would lean towards the ending theme used in “Memories”, the series’ last episode, which was a continuation of that episode’s final song.

We’ll see how it plays out on Friday, but I’m rooting for the day to warrant the regular ending theme.

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Can’t believe that I forgot this…

July 9, 2013, 10:46 PM

I can’t believe that I completely forgot to mention this in the last entry discussing the July 4 trip to Harpers Ferry and Winchester.  Pete and I spotted this scene along Route 7 in Clarke County on the way back to DC, and had to stop for photos:

Angry Birds at Wayside Farm

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