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And then we visited Winchester…

July 8, 2013, 11:50 PM

So in our last episode, I was discussing a trip that my friend Pete and I made to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and to Winchester, Virginia on July 4.  I got as far as the end of Harpers Ferry, when I realized that the Journal entry was running quite long, so I cut it off and promised to continue at a later time.  And now for part two.

Leaving Harpers Ferry, we soon came to Charles Town (not to be confused with Charleston, the state capital).  For those not familiar, Charles Town is the place where people in Harpers Ferry go to go grocery shopping.  For out of town folks, it’s also the home of the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.  I’ve never been gambling before, but it might be fun to do one time.  But in this case, Pete and only stopped for lunch, and then it was at a Martin’s grocery store, where we each got salad.  Funny how you can get pretty decent food on the go from grocery stores these days.  But we did just fine at Martin’s.  They had a decent-sized salad bar, and there was also an eating area.  All in all, not bad.

Then from there, we continued along to Winchester.  That took us on Route 340 to its intersection with Route 7, and then we took Route 7 the rest of the way into Winchester.  When I first made a close pass to Winchester some time in the 1990s, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the size of the town.  Understand that Winchester is listed as a control city for I-81 for quite some ways – more than 100 miles when traveling northbound.  In my experience up to that time, I had only seen bigger cities as control cities for highways, like Little Rock or Richmond.  Thus I figured that Winchester was a really big city.  Surprise: Winchester is, while by no means tiny, also not a big city by most measures.  It’s comparable in population to Staunton.

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Here’s a tip for you: don’t go hiking in flip-flops.

July 7, 2013, 11:58 PM

First of all, I hope everyone had a lovely July 4.  I know I did.  I got together with my friend Pete (whom you may remember from the Confirmation Demonstration and White House to Quantico photo sets), and we went on something of a road trip.  We both figured that with living in the Washington DC area, and considering how July 4 is in DC, that was a good day to get out of town.

So we decided to go on a trip to Harpers Ferry and Winchester.  Prior to this trip, I had only been to Harpers Ferry by train, and then only passing through.  As far as Winchester went, I had only been to Winchester once prior, and that consisted of driving around at night trying to find the downtown area, and a stop at the Apple Blossom Mall and the local Walmart.  So this was going to be fun.

I met up with Pete at Glenmont Metro, and then we were off.  To get from the Aspen Hill area where I live to Harpers Ferry, you drive up I-270 to Frederick, and then from there, you take I-70 for about a mile, and then take US 340 (yes, that 340) the rest of the way to Harpers Ferry.  The drive is beautiful.  The first bit of beauty is just outside Frederick, where there is a “Scenic View” wayside on 270.  We wouldn’t ordinarily have stopped there, except that was a good place to stop and put the phone into GPS mode for the remainder of the distance to Harpers Ferry, since we were both kind of fuzzy on the exact way to get there.  While we were stopped, I got a few photos of the area:

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Big anniversaries this weekend…

June 29, 2013, 4:36 PM

So this weekend marks a couple of big anniversaries.  First, tonight marks the anniversary of the big derecho that came through the DC area.  That was a rather interesting time.  I remember that Montgomery County looked like something had hit it, with power out and tree branches down all over the place.  Lots of traffic lights were out as well, which snarled all of the traffic as people had to actually be courteous on the highway.

But as far as I was concerned, that derecho couldn’t have come at a worse time.  See, the next night was the night that I had announced a major upgrade to Schumin Web.  That was the night that the final cutover to WordPress would occur.  That work was the completion of a project that I had codenamed “Falcon” (after a JMU student web server) that converted the entirety of the site to run on the WordPress platform.  Prior to that, the site was a mishmash of different systems put together to make one website.  Some of the site was static HTML.  Some of it ran on a MySQL database.  Some of it ran on a different MySQL database.  Some of it ran on yet another different MySQL database.  And there were some dependencies between the main site and my other sites (in “Major Areas“), where material was shared between them, including one shared database between College Life and the main site (historical note: College Life was part of the main site until October 2004 – thus the shared database).  Thus with the final conversion, that changed some things.  First, it rolled out a single, unified system for the main site, as I could now edit the entire site from a single place.  And second, it broke all of those dependencies with the old site.  On that latter point, I had to do quite a bit of prep work, since the goal was to cleanly “divorce” the main site from the others, while not breaking anything on either side.

Not breaking things was key there.  And I was more worried about the side that wasn’t the main site.  I wasn’t worried about Schumin Web proper.  Everything was being reworked and moved around over there, and so things were not going to be broken because everything was being placed new again, and checked over multiple times.  But the other sites were being left as they were, and needed to be fixed.  Whether they would be converted to WordPress or another CMS would be a different discussion based on each site’s needs.  But I had to make sure that the shared databases were separated.  I had to make sure that any images were brought in-house for the specific site (i.e. no more cross-hosting).  I basically had to make sure that each site was completely independent of the other, which I should have done from the get-go, but for whatever reason, didn’t do back then.  But I managed to get it all working.

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Categories: Schumin Web meta, Weather

Have not run the air conditioner yet this year…

June 27, 2013, 11:58 PM

I don’t know about you, but I have not yet run the air conditioner in the house once this year.  I realized this when I got a memo from the property management last week that said that they were coming through to do the quarterly filter changes on our HVAC units.  I realized that they could probably save a few bucks on my apartment’s filter, because I barely used my HVAC unit at all in the last few months.  The last time the filter was changed was March 27 (first time in six years that I was actually there for it), and I think I may have run the heat a couple of times, but otherwise the thing has been more or less silent all season.  And I will say this: it’s nice to have a June electric bill of $50.13.  That’s my lowest June bill yet, and that’s even against the very mild summer of 2009.

That brings me to the next question: has it been a really mild summer this year, or is it just me?  The last three summers, I had the air conditioning on for much of the summer, and needed it.  This year, nothing.  I’m starting to wonder if it’s just me, though, since I’ve heard people complain about how warm it is outside and the humidity and such, but then when I’ve been outside, I’ve been fine.  Can’t complain.  Seriously, I even wore my hat all the way through to June 21 this year.  This week is the first where I haven’t worn it to and from the office.

This whole thing about my being not hot at all while many others have complained makes me wonder if it’s not related to the massive weight loss in 2011-2012 (I’ve been more or less stable since July 2012, much to my dismay – I want to lose even more).  The last time we had a mild summer, in 2009, I was quite the little porker, tipping the scales somewhere in the upper 300s range.  And then for two out of the last three summers, I was still quite heavy.  Therefore, I wonder if having so much extra body fat for so long has altered my perceptions of what’s hot vs. not.

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Categories: House, Weight loss

One of my worst bowling performances ever?

June 20, 2013, 6:22 PM

So I finally got around to posting the videos of when my friend Matthew and I went bowling on March 3.  It’s only what, three months late, but, hey.  Matthew and I went to Bowl America in Dranesville (Reston/Sterling area), and we did two games of ten-pin bowling.  Matthew was feeling a little camera shy on this particular occasion (it happens), but he was more than happy to film me hamming it up for the camera.

Take a look:


Welcome to bowling, and, in my own words, I can throw gutter balls like a pro.

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Nothing like a relaxing day on the river…

June 9, 2013, 10:08 PM

A week ago, my friend Melissa and I went down to Luray to go tubing on the Shenandoah River.  This was the same place I went in 2009 with my coworkers, documented in the Tubing the Shenandoah River set in Life and Times.  This time, it was just the two of us, and we had a blast.

It was apparently a slow day at Shenandoah River Outfitters, as there were only nine people going tubing.  There was a group of five girls, then there was Melissa and me, and then another two people.  But then again, June 2 is fairly early in the season, so it’s okay.  It wasn’t amazingly hot out, and the day was mostly overcast.  That made the water feel a little cold getting in, but that cold feeling only lasted a few minutes, until we got used to the temperature.

Once we got over to the dropoff site at mile 16, we got photos.  First, the group of five wanted us to get photos of them with their phone.  Once we got that, we got the same shot with my camera, Duckie:

The group of five, with their tubes arranged in a star pattern.

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Your Montgomery County tax dollars at work…

May 30, 2013, 6:42 PM

Yes, fellow Montgomery County residents, your tax dollars pay for what I’m about to describe here.  First of all, let me show you what the original problem was:

Solid green light out on left turn signal out at Veirs Mill Road and Edmonston Drive in Rockville.

Yep… a bulb on a traffic light is out.  This is the corner of Veirs Mill Road and Edmonston Drive in Rockville.  It’s the solid green light on the left turn signal for northbound Veirs Mill drivers turning left onto Edmonston (right here).  I consider a light out on a left turn signal to be a very serious matter, because in many cases, there’s only one of them, and it has many different combinations that can be displayed that all mean different things.  It can be a very dangerous situation if part of that light isn’t working, and therefore unable to signal drivers on how to proceed, since its operation is more complicated than a conventional signal.  Plus, there are usually at least two conventional signals at an intersection anyway, so if one is not working, the other one picks up the slack.  But when there’s only one left turn signal, it has to be running at 100% all of the time.

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Categories: Rockville, Some people

Tonight’s commute was definitely more exciting than most…

May 14, 2013, 10:09 PM

Yes, tonight’s commute was definitely more exciting than most.  You may have heard about the Red Line train that caught fire this evening at Silver Spring.  That was my train.  Apparently the Metro gods thought we all needed a little excitement in our commutes this evening.  And that’s exactly what we got.

The ride started out pretty normally.  I got the train at Dupont Circle, boarding Breda 3147 – the lead car.  I was doing Facebook, and noticed this man who looked like a very serious businessman in a suit with his tablet computer and all that…

...but he's playing Angry Birds.

…and then I noticed that he was actually playing Angry Birds on his tablet.

When we got to Takoma, the train operator powered the train down and left the cab.  My first thought was that he was being relieved to use the restroom, and that a supervisor would be taking over the train shortly.  But no supervisor arrived, and I was starting to get a little bit concerned about when we were going to leave Takoma station.

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Categories: Commuting, WMATA

Kale pops?

May 8, 2013, 11:57 PM

So last week on Facebook, a friend of mine posted a status where she scoffed at a recipe for kale pops.  Basically, the gist was that it seemed gross, and this was a bit over the top for getting kids to eat vegetables.  I thought it was crazy enough that it just might work, and asked my friend to pass the recipe along, which she did.  Basically, to make these Yogurt Kale Popsicles, you take the kale, some nonfat plain yogurt, frozen strawberries, frozen pineapple pieces, and some stevia, and then you throw it all into a blender and blend it until it’s smooth.

This evening, I went over to Giant after I went swimming and got all of the stuff to make it happen.  I had the stevia, and I had previously gotten the popsicle molds on Amazon (I tried several places locally, and none had them!).  Then I just had to get the kale, the yogurt, and the fruit.  Giant was out of both the frozen pineapple and the frozen strawberries (hey, it was late in the evening), and so I substituted fresh.  Just as well, I suppose, considering that I was blending it all until it was smooth anyway.

And then when I got home, I started throwing things into the blender.  First, the kale and the fruit:

The kale and the fruit, all loaded in

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Categories: Food and drink

Food photos…

May 5, 2013, 6:57 PM

As evidenced in a few places on this site, most notably the Fruit Stands set in Photography, I like photographing food.  I don’t quite know why, but I enjoy it.  I like capturing the details on food items.  I like seeing the food items up close.  It’s kind of fun like that.  Since, outside of the aforementioned Fruit Stands photo set, food photos are usually not planned shoots, I don’t have my real camera around.  Thus these are phone photos.  Still, I have fun with them.  I took some this week, so I thought I would share.  Enjoy…

Sandwich fixings at the cafe in the building where I work.
Sandwich fixings at the cafe in the building where I work.

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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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