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Sometimes you have to vote with your feet…

June 15, 2017, 9:18 PM

Sometimes, the fact that the telecommunications market is extremely cutthroat has its advantages from a customer standpoint.  It means that there is no room for loyalty, and also that the big players are more than happy to poach customers from each other.  It also means that if I’m no longer happy with my service, I can bounce at a moment’s notice to someone else who will make me satisfied with their service.

I’ve done that twice in the last five years.  Back in late 2013, I finally took Candice Bergen’s advice and switched to Sprint, replacing Verizon as my cell phone carrier.  The reason for switching at that time was related to my unlimited data plan.  I had an unlimited data plan with Verizon when I got my first smartphone back in early 2010, and kept it with my second smartphone in late 2011.  However, about a year after I got my second smartphone, Verizon announced that they were doing away with unlimited data plans, and that while people on existing unlimited plans were grandfathered in, they could not upgrade to a new phone at the subsidized rate and still keep their unlimited data plans.  In other words, if you wanted to keep your unlimited plan, you had to pay full retail for your device.  I considered that to be unacceptable, so I did my research, and settled on Sprint.  They offered unlimited data plans, and had all of the other features that I was looking for.  So I switched.  Other than a very slight loss of voice quality (Verizon had clearer sound by a hair), I continued to be pleased with Sprint two years later when I upgraded to a new phone, and also when I adjusted my plan a few months ago to a cheaper one that had everything that I already had, plus 10 GB of hotspot service.

Now fast forward to about a week or so ago.  The USB charging port on my Galaxy Note 5 stopped working.  Not good.  That meant that the only way that I could charge my phone was via the wireless charger.  Clearly, this was not a sustainable proposition, since I couldn’t use a wireless charger in a lot of places that I typically charged my phone, like in the car or in a bag.  Plus if I took any photos with my phone, I had to transfer them via the cloud.  I couldn’t just plug in and transfer stuff directly.

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Categories: Cell phone, Companies

A lesson on how not to behave on the phone…

March 3, 2014, 11:05 PM

I got a very interesting series of phone calls Saturday night (technically early Sunday morning) beginning around 2:00 AM.  Apparently a woman was looking to have pizza delivered from one of the many fine pizza establishments located in the District of Columbia.  So she called my phone number.  At two in the morning.  I believe that the initial call was an honest mistake, but after I told her in no uncertain terms that she had not reached a pizza establishment, she firmly earned her place in the customer hall of shame.

The first call came in at 2:04 AM from a New Jersey number.  I ignored the call.  After all, it was 2 AM, I was beyond tired, and I didn’t recognize the number.  I figured that once the person heard my “You have reached Ben Schumin” voicemail greeting, they would figure out that they had dialed a wrong number.  If it did, in fact, end up being for me, they could leave a message, and I would get back with them at my convenience.  And if it turned out to be important, I would have called them back right away.

A voicemail came in from the unfamiliar number.  It was a woman’s voice, and she was looking for pizza:

Hey, I’m interested in purchasing, um, an order for delivery.  Please call me back.  My phone number is 201-981-7557.  I’ve heard great things, and I’m really looking forward to it.  Thank you!  Bye.  (listen to audio)

This seemed reasonable enough so far.  I occasionally get callers who intended to call someone else.  The way I figure, I have a Washington DC number, i.e. 202 area code, and being a major city, there are lots of similar phone numbers, and so there must be a pizza place with a number similar to mine.  Also, noting that 201 is an area code for New Jersey (more specifically, North Jersey), I wondered if perhaps she misdialed the area code, and meant to dial another 201 number rather than a 202 number.  It happens.  After quickly verifying online that the number was, in fact, a cell phone, and wanting to let the caller know that she had not reached the place that she had intended (but at the same time, not wanting to actually talk to her), I sent the caller a quick text message at 2:07, saying, “So you know: I think you may have dialed a wrong number.  I have no idea what you are referring to regarding orders for delivery.”  I figured that would be the end of it, or, at most, get a quick text back apologizing for the mistake.

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Categories: Cell phone, Some people

My trip to Stuarts Draft… via Amtrak!

September 27, 2011, 10:41 PM

So this is actually a Video Journal entry. And here it is:

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And tomorrow, I’ll be treated to a lovely view of Virginia from the inside of an Amfleet coach…

September 20, 2011, 10:57 PM

Indeed, tomorrow is going to be fun. I’m going down to Stuarts Draft to visit the family, and unlike every past trip I’ve ever made between DC and Stuarts Draft, I’m doing it via public transportation. Specifically, I’m taking the Cardinal, Amtrak train 51. Since it’s only a four-hour train trip, I’m going in coach. That will be a new experience, because aside from like ten minutes in coach on the Capitol Limited in 2007, I’ve always traveled in a class higher than coach, being in the sleepers on the Capitol Limited, and then traveling business class on the Acela and the Downeaster (though it should be noted that the Acela does not have a coachclass section – business class is the lowest class of service).

The reason I’m taking the train is because I will be hosting a visitor as soon as I get back to DC. Specifically, Mom! The reason it worked out like this is because of a perfect storm of events. Sis and Chris are going to be in Virginia to attend a wedding in Blacksburg, stopping by to say hello and have lunch with all of us on Thursday. And of course, I just won’t pass up a chance to see my sister and my brother-in-law, since they live so far away and I don’t get to see them often. Then there’s the National Book Festival in DC, which Mom has attended for a number of years. So because of the timing, it seemed silly to drive down to Stuarts Draft in the Sable, and then take two cars back to DC. So the Sable is staying in Maryland (and it’s likely already parked where it’s going to stay for about four days), and Mom’s Scion is making the trip up and back. But we’re going to be leaving at 4 AM – yecch. I’m not going to the Book Festival, though. I’m just going home. So while Mom’s out meeting authors, I’m going home and taking a nap, getting the rest of the sleep I won’t be able to get on Friday night.

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Word to the wise: Don’t drop your Droid on its head.

December 11, 2010, 8:54 PM

Those of you who follow me on the Twitter know when I’m riding Metro. After all, during those times, many of my tweets have the #wmata hashtag on them. And usually, one Metro ride in a day is followed later in the day by another (after all, after going somewhere, I usually have to go back). But on Friday evening, I was notably silent. See, I had broken my Droid.

What happened is that I had just gotten off the phone with Mom. I usually call my mother during the walk from the office to Dupont Circle station, and we stay on the phone while I go down into the station and wait on the platform, only saying goodbye once I’m safely on the train (there’s a dead spot in the tunnel between Dupont Circle and Farragut North, so we have to end it by then). This particular evening, Mom had to get off the phone early, because Dad had dinner ready and she had to go. So we said goodbye while I was still waiting on the platform, and got off the phone.

Once I get off the phone, I usually switch to my iPod and resume my Randi Rhodes podcast. So I tucked the phone under my chin and held it against my chest with my chin. However, my winter coat, zipped all the way up, got in the way, though I didn’t realize it at the time. So while I was pulling out my iPod and my headphones, the phone dropped from where I was holding it, and landed headfirst on the platform. If you’re holding it upright, the top of it is what struck the platform, and it hit with enough force to knock the snap-on case off of it. I picked the phone up, and to my surprise, the screen was black.

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Categories: Cell phone, Rockville

So I am now the proud father of a Motorola Droid…

January 19, 2010, 12:27 AM

So I got my Droid today. I now have what I describe as the iPhone for people who don’t want an iPhone. This thing has the touch screen, it has Wi-Fi, it has downloadable apps and games, and it has a five-megapixel camera.

Yes, five megapixels. That’s right – my cell phone just out-megapixeled the late Big Mavica (which was four-megapixel). That’s obscene. My cell phone still slots below my real cameras, though. Duckie has six, and the Canon does ten. And take a look at a sample of its work:

Digging up the floor at Staunton Mall

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Categories: Cell phone

The 90-day campaign promise has begun…

January 17, 2010, 10:12 PM

How appropriate that I am writing this from my parents’ house in Virginia where, in traveling to get here, I passed three shuttered rest areas. While my sister was out getting married (more on that later), Republican Bob McDonnell was being sworn in as the 71st Governor of Virginia.

The reason I mention this is because during the gubernatorial campaign, McDonnell made a promise to reopen the rest areas that were closed last summer. I certainly could have used one or two of those on the way down here. It is very convenient to exit the highway into a rest area, get out of the car, go in, do one’s business, and then hop back in the car and go. Compare that to the alternative. That involves taking an exit to a local road and finding a place, and you’re never sure what you’re going to get, plus having to battle local traffic. I got off at Woodstock to use the restroom on the way down, and battling local traffic was not exactly a walk in the park. And if you’re stopping just to take a potty break with no intention of buying food or gas or otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Otherwise, you’re just clogging up local roads and such and eating up parking spaces for a non-revenue (for the private operator) visit. If you are also buying food or gas or what have you, then by all means, take the exit and use the restroom while you’re at it. But otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Get off, use the restrooms, stretch your legs, and then get going again.

So Mr. McDonnell has 90 days – until April 16th – to hang out the welcome sign on the rest areas that were closed. It appears that he intends to honor that promise (he’d better).

Either way, the clock is now ticking. McDonnell had better get cracking.

Computer rehab time already?

January 6, 2010, 9:14 PM

Next month marks three years since I got my Dell. And that means it’s almost time for my computer’s mid-life rehabilitation. Why get a new computer when you can make your current one last another few years with a little TLC, eh?

Yes, I do my computer like transit systems do rolling stock. Go for such an amount of time and then rehab the thing. It’s just like Metro recently did with the Breda cars. Rail cars generally last 40 years. So at roughly the 20-year mark, they do a mid-life rehabilitation on them. That brings them up to more modern standards, and gets them ready to go another 20 before retirement. Computers have about a three-year life span in my experience, and so a mid-life overhaul makes it go another three. Which means that I won’t need to replace my current box until 2013 or so. Now my last computer lasted nearly nine years. It went three years, had its mid-life rehabilitation, and then went almost six years before it finally was put out to pasture. That was for financial reasons, though – I couldn’t afford a new computer, since I wasn’t doing as well money-wise.

On my last computer’s rehab back in 2001, I upgraded from 128 MB to 384 MB of RAM, upgraded both optical drives, went from a 10 GB hard drive to an 80 GB hard drive, upgraded the video card, and upgraded the TV tuner card. I deliberately didn’t replace the motherboard and upgrade the processor, because that’s about where I reach my level of incompetence. Everything went quite well in the rehab, and it got me to 2007. I was pleased. I had contemplated a second rehab around that time, but I ultimately determined that a second rehab was more than I wanted to do for an eight-year old computer, and so I replaced it.

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I have a cell phone, and I have a desk.

May 25, 2007, 5:49 AM

Everything showed up Thursday evening. The desk showed up right outside my door, and the phone sat right next to it. So life is good. And I didn’t have to be a he-man, either, since the desk was brought right up to the door. So all I had to do was drag it in. If they had left it at the main door to the building, I would have had to drag it up three flights of stairs. And then I could have saved myself the trouble and brought up the old desk.

So, yeah, I’m happy. Cell phone is working again, same number as before, so text away. And I’ll be putting the desk together this weekend.

Two days from now, I will have a phone.

May 21, 2007, 6:33 PM

Good news! I will have a cell phone again two days from now. Verizon is sending me a replacement phone after the first one got crushed during my fall in Logan Circle. So all in all, good deal. I backed up my contacts, and so that’s not an issue. I am, however, going to have to download all my games again. But at least I’ll be whole again, after I mail back the old phone. My apologies for being out of contact for so long, but you know what they say… stuff happens.

Otherwise, the cable guy comes tomorrow and sets me up with TV and Internet service. I can’t wait. I’ll be able to, like, update the Web site and check my Email and such again. As it is, the computer’s up here now, but it’s just not set up yet due to lack of a desk (which is on its way). Then on this long weekend coming up, I might see about finally getting a bed. Sleeping in the living room on my futon when I’m paying for a one-bedroom apartment is not a good thing, since the bedroom is basically wasted right now.

So that’s what’s going on.

Trust me when I say that carrying a large desk up three flights of stairs is not my idea of fun.

May 19, 2007, 11:44 PM

First of all, hello from my parents’ house in Stuarts Draft.

In continuing to outfit my apartment in Silver Spring, I’m bringing my real computer up with me this time, and it will get set up in a little corner of my apartment. And then I’m going to have Internet service on Tuesday, so all in all, life is good. And the first week with my new employer was awesome. Now I’ve kind of caught onto how this whole thing works, and I feel confident. It’s not like the first day anymore, where my level of anxiety was so high that I could barely eat my cereal in the morning, and forgot the lunch that I’d packed.

So what does this have to do with the desk? Well, the original plan would have had me returning to Maryland with the computer in the Sable, and the desk in either the truck or the Sienna, depending on who went with me. Then in looking at the cost of gas to take a second car back and forth to bring this large piece of furniture to Maryland, we realized that it wasn’t exactly a worthwhile proposition. Thus we had a slight change of plans. My parents will put my computer desk of nine years to work for them. Translation: It’s staying. Meanwhile, I went to Staples and ordered a new desk. It’s identical to my original desk in almost every way, except that it’s a lighter shade of brown (I don’t know what you call the original desk’s color, but the new one is “natural oak”). And it’s getting delivered to Silver Spring. That satisfies everyone. No one, including me, really wanted to drag that thing up three flights of stairs. However, I liked the desk. It was sturdy and well-designed. I’ll happily put a new desk together on site after it’s delivered to my door, and I’m sure my parents will like the old desk.

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If anyone has been trying to contact me…

May 16, 2007, 3:03 PM

If anyone has been trying to contact me via the phone or AIM to Schumin Wireless for about the last 24 hours or so, I’m sorry, but I have not received your messages. Turns out that I did a bit more than skin an elbow and shred my pants when I tripped and fell in Logan Circle yesterday. It seems I also jarred something out of place in my cell phone.

Here’s the problem. Since the accident, the phone will come on and do whatever internal functions it does, but it is incapable of receiving wireless service. In other words, it plays the games that I have on there, and it will take pictures, but I can’t make calls, I can’t text message, I can’t transmit pictures, I can’t get on the Web, and I can’t do anything else that actually requires communication with other devices.

Since my cell phone is now officially my only telephone, this bumps this problem up to a very high priority issue. Since I have no Internet at home right now, I am basically out of contact. Translated: Not good. So I’m going to Pentagon City later today to get one of two things. I’m either going to get this phone fixed, or if it’s terminal, get a new phone.

If I get a new phone, I might as well upgrade, perhaps finally get a Blackberry device or something. I’ve wanted one of those for a while, especially when you consider that I refer to my present phone as “a poor man’s Blackberry”. Add to that the fact that I don’t really like my current phone all that much. I never particularly liked the way everything was laid out, and it lacked some functionality that the phone I had before that had.

So, yeah, if you tried to get a hold of me, sorry, but the phone is currently on strike. It shouldn’t be long before everything’s working again, though.

Categories: Cell phone

“Booger” is a word, but “burqa” isn’t?

March 27, 2007, 7:13 PM

First off, hello from Pentagon City. I’ve had a fun day today. I rode out to New Carrollton on the Metro and then around to Fort Totten and then to the Infoshop. And at times, I’ve been playing Scrabble Blast on my cell phone, like while I’m waiting on the train. I’m working my wordiness, keeping my mind in tip-top shape.

However, it’s kind of strange about what words are valid words. I had tried “burqa” – the Muslim women’s veil – and it rejected it! I would have scored 212 points on it, which would be a personal record, beating “mixed” for 170 points. This is the same game that accepts “booger” and “titties” as valid words (wipe that grin off your face!), while something far less juvenile gets rejected. It gets frustrating when it rejects perfectly valid words. Of course, it also rejects a number of “colorful” words that I’ve had the opportunity to give it.

But all in all, it’s a really fun game. That and Tetris Mania.

Otherwise, I’m revamping my discussion forums, changing from YaBB to phpBB. The official cutover takes place Saturday night. I’m excited.

Categories: Cell phone, DC trips, Language

Hey, isn’t that…?

January 4, 2007, 7:35 PM

First of all, after visiting my friend Tristan in Alexandria, I got back on the Metro at King Street. I literally ran to catch this train. I saw the inbound PIDS showing a Blue Line to Largo in two minutes. So I was just booking it. Dash into the station, through the faregate, up the escalator, and onto the platform just as the lights are starting to flash. And in comes this Rohr train.

*ding ding* “Doors opening! Step back to allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car.”

So I got on the train, and sat down. I pulled out my log, and started writing. Blue Line, Rohr 1263, origin at King Street. I’m looking at that number as I see it on the cab door and write it down, and it looks awfully familiar. So I checked my log. Sure enough, there’s 1263 at the top of my log: Orange Line, Rohr 1263, origin at Vienna, destination Rosslyn.

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Categories: Cell phone, WMATA

My new cell phone inspired me to make an enhancement…

May 17, 2006, 4:07 AM

I got a new cell phone last week while I was up in Harrisonburg, and it’s definitely an improvement over the old one. Along with a 1.3 megapixel camera (wheee!), this one has a better mobile Web feature. It actually displays graphics, and all in all makes things very easy to get around in, provided that the site is optimized for such a use.

And The Schumin Web is a pain in the butt to get around in on the mobile browser. It’s because my design is optimized for display on a computer monitor with a conventional browser. I use a big table to lay everything out, for proper viewing on a computer. With that, the phone then tries to make do with what it’s given.

As a result, the first thing you get is my logo and the “Celebrating ten years online” message beneath it. Then you get the list of sections. Then it displays the header image, and from there it rattles off the menu. Then it displays a large black box, which is how it renders that black vertical line that I use as a divider. Then, after navigating through all of that, you finally get to the actual content. By then your thumb is tired from all the scrolling, and you’ve probably decided it’s not worth the trouble to browse my site on your phone.

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