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Just standing there, tapping away…

March 29, 2013, 11:38 PM

Thought I’d share.  Here’s a photo that Isis got of me at Landmark Mall in Alexandria today that I found amusing:

Tapping away on my phone at Landmark Mall
Photo: Isis

Isis found it interesting because everyone in the photo was wearing a hat in front of the “CITY CAP” sign and the mall train (both the other gentleman and I are train enthusiasts).  I found it amusing because I’m standing in a common pose for me when I’m out and about.  Holding my phone and tapping away.  After all, those amusing Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts don’t just post themselves, right?

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Categories: Friends, Photography, Shopping

I can now add “commode critic” to my resume…

March 28, 2013, 12:44 PM

So I got back Tuesday night from a trip to Stuarts Draft.  That was fun, though not the fun that I was expecting.  I got to visit my friend Bergit in Charlottesville, and then spent two days spending time with my parents.  The original plan was to go to Roanoke with Mom on Monday and also visit friends and see transportation-related stuff, but that unfortunately got snowed out.

But first, though, in case you’re wondering what the deal with the title is, let me explain.  My trip started out with proof that my kidneys do great work, and that having a cup of coffee before a three-hour road trip is inadvisable.  Yes, I took far more restroom breaks on this trip than I normally would.  I ended up stopping at the rest area on I-66 near Manassas, Sheetz in Madison, the new Trader Joe’s in Charlottesville, and then the rest area on I-64 near Ivy.  Usually I can make it on one restroom break.  But, noooooo… my body decided that this was the perfect time to unload a bunch of water.  And I was not shy about discussing restrooms on social media on the entire trip.  This from the Sheetz in Madison:

This road trip has been brought to you by the letter P, and by the number 1.

And I accompanied this on Instagram with the following caption: “This road trip has been brought to you by the letter P, and by the number 1.”  Yep… that kind of day.

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What is Afton Mountain, anyway?

March 21, 2013, 5:58 PM

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this article by Dr. Christopher M. Bailey, a geology professor at The College of William & Mary.  The article discusses the name of a place that many people in the part of Virginia that I grew up with are most likely quite familiar with: Afton Mountain.

The article is titled, “Mind the Gap! Where is Afton Mountain?” and discusses the geology of the area, specifically Rockfish Gap, and a few quirks of the local culture.  First, for those not familiar, Rockfish Gap is a wind gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which separate the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont region in Virginia.  Because it is the lowest gap for quite some ways traveling both north and south, the area became an important way to travel east and west.  Today, Interstate 64 and US 250 carry travelers through Rockfish Gap.

Technically speaking, this is Rockfish Gap, seen here in a 2003 Schumin Web file photo:

Rockfish Gap, seen from the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, on a bridge over Interstate 64.

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Categories: Afton Mountain, Nature, Roads

This is a problem where the biggest step towards a solution is not police, but signage and paint…

March 12, 2013, 10:16 PM

According to an article on Patch.com, since January 22, four pedestrians and one cyclist have died in collisions with cars in the eastern part of Montgomery County.  The cyclist was struck in downtown Silver Spring.  The pedestrian fatalities all occurred outside the Beltway.  One involved a woman’s being struck while on the sidewalk, and the other three were struck and killed while attempting to cross major arterial roads in the county – specifically, Columbia Pike (US 29), Connecticut Avenue (MD 185), and Georgia Avenue (MD 97).  Ken Silverman, an analyst for county councilwoman Nancy Navarro, created a map showing the location of the accidents.

Now in looking at all of this, I latched onto the fatalities related to crossing the arterials.  I am on each side of the pedestrian-driver coin in Montgomery County at various times, and so I am familiar with both driving around pedestrians, and walking around cars.  I have also crossed Georgia Avenue on foot many times.  In these instances, the Columbia Pike incident happened in the southbound lanes at the intersection with Oak Leaf Drive in White Oak.  The Connecticut Avenue incident happened at the intersection with Everton Street, in the Wheaton area.  The Georgia Avenue incident occurred at the intersection with Heathfield Road in Aspen Hill.  I looked at these areas, and there are some common factors in all of them:

  • All three incidents occurred after dark
  • All three incidents occurred at unmarked crosswalks (any intersection is considered a legal crosswalk in Maryland whether it’s marked or not)
  • The main roadway in all three locations is a six-lane divided highway with three lanes on each side
  • There are bus stops on both sides of the road at all three locations
  • There is street lighting on the side of the road where the incidents occurred (Columbia Pike and Georgia Avenue have lighting on only one side in these areas, and Connecticut Avenue has lighting on both sides)

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This should become an Internet meme…

March 3, 2013, 10:01 PM

So you may have seen the new splash photo, showing me holding a monkey wrench at Home Depot.  I was amused enough by it that I decided to make an “Internet meme” version of it.  Take a look:

PLEASE TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR PLANS

After all, what’s the fun of having a monkey wrench if you can’t throw it in someone’s plans, right?

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Categories: House, Matthew, Netculture

Okay, explain this dream…

February 28, 2013, 10:33 PM

Okay, this is a weird one.  Now you know I’ve discussed some odd dreams in this space in the past, like the surgery dream, the derailment dream, the Power Rangers dream, the countless Walmart dreams, CFW dreams, fire alarm dreams, etc.  But this one from a few weeks ago is hard to explain.  But here goes.

In this dream, I was at the building where I work in DC, and I was in the office doing work.  And outside, at least according to the dream, there was a volcano erupting.  Yes, a volcano.  In the DC area.  I know.  That said, this volcano was one of those explosive types of volcanoes, putting out tons of volcanic ash, but no lava, much like the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii.  In fact, in the dream, I even recalled that this was just like Pompeii.  Volcanic ash was falling all over, and the entire city was going to be buried, just like in Pompeii.  And we were all apparently doomed due to falling ash and poisonous volcanic gases.  It didn’t matter in the dream that Pompeii was only buried under nine feet of ash and my office is on the third floor, at least twenty-some feet above street level.  We were all doomed, and our building was going to get buried.  Completely.

With me so far?  Basically: big volcano erupts in DC area, ash falling all over the place, we’re all going to die.

The thing that got me in this dream was actually my own reaction.  Of course, I’ve noticed that in dreams, I seem to often “have a copy of the script” and know many details that are taken as indisputable fact within the dream’s fictional universe as things play out.  Thus how I knew volcano, ash, and pending death.  The only thing I saw in the dream was the inside of my office building.  Which had orange-red walls in my dream.  (Go figure.  The real office has mostly eggshell walls.)  But as my coworkers were panicking due to our impending burial by volcano, my reaction was indifference to our fate, because I had stuff that I had to take care of.  Yes, I was doing work as we were about to be buried under ash, decay completely, and then become plaster casts when we were rediscovered a thousand and some years later.  And yes, the idea of plaster casts of our final positions like happened in Pompeii came up in the dream.  I know.

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Categories: Dreams, Fire drills

So I finally have an outfit for running…

February 26, 2013, 12:17 AM

At last, I have an outfit to go running in.  Check it out:

New running/jogging outfit!  Just the epitome of fashion, aren't I?

So there you have it, I suppose.  For around half the cost of a pair of compression tights at Sports Authority, I am outfitted.  I got this snazzy pair of jogging tights at TJ Maxx for $15, and then I got the wicking shirt at Target for $20.  Not bad, if you ask me.  And, it all holds my stomach in place quite well.

And yes, I will wear shoes when I actually use this outfit for exercising.  I was trying it on for the camera at home in this case, and so, yeah, I didn’t bother to put on shoes for the photo.

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Protest fashionista…

February 19, 2013, 10:22 PM

I went to the 350.org Forward on Climate rally in DC on Sunday.  That was quite an event.  Good to see so many people interested in preventing manmade climate change and green issues.  I had the polarizing filter attached to the camera, and I was out photographing (though I was wearing a shirt advocating a ban on fracking).  I’ve been involved in various activism for about ten years now.  My first demonstration was April 12, 2003, about the Iraq War.  Since then, I’ve been to demonstrations on a number of different issues, including antiwar, globalization, organized labor, environmentalism, religion, food safety, whistleblowers, sexuality, and public television.  I’ve participated in many ways.  I’ve done straight photography, I’ve done black bloc, I’ve done public education, and I’ve even trolled (i.e. Internet-style trolling in real life).  And I’ve always presented my views when I get back to the computer.

This time, I really got into what I will call “protest fashion”.  I really got into the handmade signs and the various outfits.  Preprinted signs are great and all, but a homemade sign or a unique prop is going to get my attention more because it’s one of a kind.  And likewise, a fancy costume is going to catch my attention more than whatever someone just happened to pull out of the closet that morning (which makes me think of the Limozeen line, “And the lead singer wears glasses!“).

Now the challenge with Forward on Climate was that it was the middle of winter.  It was below freezing and quite windy.  Translated, it was really bloody cold.  And I mean really bloody cold.  Thus not freezing was of top importance.  I wore the anti-fracking shirt, and kept my coat open on purpose to accommodate that.  Thus I layered up under the frack shirt.  And I wore gloves, which unfortunately didn’t do much (note to self: I need new winter gloves).

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Categories: Activism

Trying some new training activities in the pool this week…

February 13, 2013, 11:01 PM

So life at the pool has been interesting lately.  Interesting in a good way, though.  I’ve gotten into a nice routine at the pool.  I know who’s in on which days, we’ve all gotten to know each other, and life is good like that.  And we all laugh about when we accidentally run into/hit each other in the lanes, or other odd strikes like the one time when I accidentally whacked one of the ladies in the aqua aerobics class in the butt as I was going by doing backstroke (embarrassing!) or today, where one of the kids in the swim class in the lane next to me accidentally kicked me in the funnybone (yes, in the elbow – very odd feeling).

And I know how my swimming jives with the others’ swimming, i.e. faster, slower, about the same, etc.  I most enjoy swimming with people that swim at a similar speed to me, or are faster than me.  With slower folks, when we’re swimming three or more in a lane, passing gets old after a while.  Folks I swim about the same speed as are folks that I know I’m not going to run into, and then faster folks are a challenge!  See, when I have a faster swimmer in the lane with me, I try to keep up with them.  I am up to that challenge, though my success varies.  Lately, there has been a small group of 17-year-old girls that come on Monday nights.  They also swim competitively, and so they go really fast.  If I can, I try to get a lane with them.  My goal is to see how long I can stay in front of them.  And I push myself to stay in that spot.  They usually pass me a few times over the course of a workout, but seeing how long I can stay ahead of them before the inevitable occurs is the challenge.  And with the goal of my swims’ being to get physical activity, push myself, and keep things interesting for me, their speed provides me with a good workout and also is something to aspire to.  I would love to be that fast one day.  Will it happen?  We’ll see, I suppose.

This past Monday, they were doing “dolphin drills”.  As I understand it, a dolphin drill is a training technique for improving one’s performance in doing the butterfly.  I don’t have any particular interest in swimming the butterfly, but the training technique intrigues me.  I observed the process in action and then discussed it with them, and got something of a handle on the process.  What you do for a dolphin drill, in a nutshell, is go down to the bottom, push off the bottom, come up, do butterfly arms, and then repeat.  In other words, this:

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Categories: Swimming

Best grammar lesson ever…

February 6, 2013, 10:26 PM

Sometimes, the best lessons in life are subtle and just sort of fall out of the sky.  This is one of them.  And also remember a few very important rules of the Internet:

  • The rules of proper spelling, capitalization, and punctuation still apply on the Internet.
  • There is no privacy on social media, no matter how much you think otherwise.
  • The Internet does not forgive, nor does it forget.  Once you put it out there, it is out there for everyone to see, and it’s out there forever.
  • The average Internet user is not required or otherwise obligated in any way to protect your identity if you say something stupid online.
  • It is not a violation of anyone’s privacy to circulate a message posted in a public venue.

That said, you are probably starting to realize one thing: someone is about to get nailed for something that they posted on social media.

You are about to find out why it’s best to use the language the way the rest of us learned how to use it.  However, while you may certainly be creative in your ideas and in the ways that you express them, those of us with a healthy respect for the proper usage of the English language request that you please not exercise your creative tendencies when it comes to grammar and spelling.

The incident in question happened on Facebook.  It was in response to a public post on the Power Rangers Facebook page.  The original post had something to do with Power Rangers Megaforce, and really isn’t too germane to what I’m talking about.  I made a comment about the original discussion (I know way too much about Power Rangers, by the way).  And then someone else made a post.  And it was a real doozy.

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How to stop the bounce…

February 4, 2013, 10:54 PM

Remember back in September when I walked over to get that haircut and then ran back?  I realized one thing after that exercise: I could run now.  And I could cover some pretty good distance, too!  I am, as they say, in pretty decent shape now.  A far cry from the little butterball that I was two years ago.  I’m also more than 100 pounds smaller than I was two years ago.

When I ran home, I was giving running a spin to see how I liked it.  And I did like it.  However, one thing has kept me from doing it again since then: the bouncing of a certain part of the body (not that part – nor that one).  The problem is my stomach.  My stomach has hung over a little bit for a very long time.  I don’t remember when it started, but it has.  It never hung that low, even though it hangs less than before.  But it still hangs over.  However, despite having lost around 30% of my original body weight in the last two years, the “spare tire” hasn’t gone away.  And when I run, it really starts bouncing around.  And I hate that.  I don’t like that it’s there, and I hate it even more than it bounces around like it does, since it makes a smacking sound as it moves.  I realize that this is probably going into “oversharing” territory here, but you know, I don’t think I’m that special here.  I’m sure that other people have had a similar problem.  Thus I discuss this in the hopes that someone else will leave a comment below (hint hint) and explain what they did in this same situation.  All I can find is information about pregnant women’s stomachs bouncing, and there are two problems with that: I’m not pregnant, and I think I can safely say that I never will be.  There is no baby inside of me.  Just excess body fat.  Then if I use the term “spare tire” to describe it, I get car articles.  Big help.  Not.

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It definitely gets easier once you’ve done it before…

January 26, 2013, 10:28 PM

And the 2013 “Keep Winter Cold” polar bear plunge is done!  That was a lot of fun.  And it was also a very different experience from last year.  While the event followed the same format as before, my experience was very different.  Last year was my first time going in, and as a result, I was very nervous and uptight about the whole thing.  This year, I knew what to expect.  No problems.  I was cool as a cucumber.

Driving in was a little bit interesting, though.  It had snowed on Friday, and I took Metro to work that day.  So I hadn’t seen the roads.  I was fairly confident that the roads would be fine, but the parking lot in my apartment complex was still snowy, and I had never driven the Soul on snow before.  Getting out of the lot ended up being fine.  Good.  Then going down, rather than take the Beltway all the way around to get to National Harbor, I took the Beltway to B-W Parkway, which then becomes DC 295 before becoming Interstate 295.  It’s a more direct route than taking the Beltway around, but I couldn’t go this way last year due to an accident that shut down part of DC 295 that I got wind of before I left.  This year, no problems.  This route took me past Minnesota Avenue station and Anacostia station, and also past two separate speed cameras each way.  DC apparently is trying to turn 295 into a toll road via the speed cameras and an unreasonably low speed limit (50 mph?  Seriously?).  It is far too easy to speed on that road, and DC robo-ticket fines are high.  As far as I know, I did not get nailed by a robo-ticket.  And then like I did last year, I listened to the Today’s Special album on the way down.  Not to keep me calm, but just because I wanted to.  And it filled the trip down perfectly.  I started it up when I left the house, and it ran out as I arrived.

I got there insanely early.  I knew this was going to happen.  The folks running the plunge weren’t even entirely set up yet.  But again, no problem.  I was early.  So I ended up checking out The Awakening to pass the time while they got ready to go.  The last time I saw that statue was when I photographed it for a Photography set nearly ten years ago, back in March 2003 when it was still at Hains Point in DC.  It was later bought for the National Harbor development, and was moved there in 2008.  And now, here it is.

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Categories: Events, Friends

Take that hope for an unseasonably warm January day and toss it out the window…

January 24, 2013, 12:39 AM

So this Saturday is the big day: the 2013 “Keep Winter Cold” polar bear plunge at National Harbor.  And they’re calling for snow on Friday.  Which means it’s going to be plenty cold for Saturday morning’s polar bear plunge.  And I so hoped for a nice, warm day.  Yeah, that’s not going to happen.  That said, though, it still ought to be a lot of fun.  Katy is going again, and Ryan should be back this year, too.  Plus if all goes as expected, RaQeeba and Davette will be there again to take photos.

Now going into it this year, I have some experience.  I know what it feels like to walk into water that is very cold.  And no – a cold swimming pool has nothing on this.  I don’t care how cold you think that the competition pool at Germantown Indoor Swim Center is.  This is a lot colder.  And I have also promised a few people that I won’t be taking a movie of my experience this year.  That’s something that we only need to hear once.  I am, however, going to take Duckie in with me for still photos.

Also, you remember last year, where there was some discussion about what I should wear to the plunge?  This year, there’s no question about what I’m going to be wearing.  Like last year, I’m wearing a suit out of the suits that I wear to the pool for swimming.  That’s how I came up with last year’s selections for you all to vote on (and the jammer with the yellow stripes won).  I last went shopping for suits in mid-October.  I bought two polyester Tyr jammers: one with red stripes, and one with blue stripes.  But then what I didn’t mention at that time is that I also got a third suit on that trip: a black Tyr racing brief.  It’s part of the rotation just like the other two.  Day one is the red stripe jammer.  Day two is the blue stripe jammer.  Day three is the brief.  Then back around to red.  I do this since, as I understand it, giving your swimwear a “rest” period between uses extends their life.  And since I swim every day, that means multiple suits.  Plus the polyester suits are supposed to last way longer than lycra.  And get this: based on my swim schedule and the suit rotation, the brief comes up as the next suit for Saturday.  So even though I was going to wear it anyway, it actually does come up in the schedule on its own.

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Categories: Events, Photography

This really isn’t rocket science, I promise…

January 10, 2013, 1:28 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the act of placing groceries in bags and giving them back to the customer is really not rocket science.  And in Montgomery County, Maryland, a jurisdiction where there is an excise tax on disposable shopping bags, i.e. a financial incentive to use reusable shopping bags, I don’t believe that it is unreasonable of me to think that a grocery store cashier should know how to handle reusable shopping bags.  Apparently this is an unreasonable expectation.  I went to the Safeway store in Olney this evening after I went swimming, and the cashier did not understand how to handle reusable bags.

This what I bought:

My haul from Safeway in Olney

(And for those of you who are wondering, I took this photo in the store with the intention of posting on Instagram.)

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The Walters Art Gallery and Great Falls…

January 6, 2013, 9:42 PM

So as promised, this is the photos-from-Baltimore-and-Great-Falls post.  Right after Christmas, Mom came up to visit for three days.  We certainly had fun while we were out.  We went out to Montgomery Mall, we went to Baltimore, we went to Arundel Mills, we went to Great Falls, and we had dinner with friends.

Montgomery Mall was pretty much what you would expect.  After-Christmas sales and all that jazz.  Mom did, however, leave me a bit scandalized when she went into Abercrombie and Fitch just to pay the five-cent bag tax to get one of the bags with the picture of the guy with the six-pack abs on it.  I commented:

My mother went to the Abercrombie store just to get the bag with the picture of the guy with the six pack abs on it. I am scandalized.

This must somehow be payback for all the times that I may have embarrassed her in the past.  Especially when I brought the little green reusable bags that I take with me to go grocery shopping.

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