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Staunton Mall demolition update…

June 10, 2022, 3:15 PM

This past weekend, while Elyse and I were on a trip down to Staunton, we visited Staunton Mall in order to check up on it to see how its redevelopment was going.  You may recall that Staunton Mall had been on a long, slow decline before finally closing in December 2020I published a photo set about the mall based on my final visit, documenting as much about the mall as I could so that it could be remembered, and including older photos from years past.  My last update was from July, and covered the fencing off of the mall building (sans Belk, which remains open), and asbestos abatement in some of the anchor spaces.

Now, demolition has begun in earnest, and a little more than half of the mall is gone.  Interestingly enough, the mall is being demolished from the inside out, as the interior walls and roof have, in large part, been demolished, but the exterior walls, as well as the spaces closest to those exterior walls, are mostly still intact and recognizable.  I have no idea why they’re doing it this way.  I would have expected the exterior walls to come down along with the rest of everything, as they’re clearly working from south to north.  The JCPenney end of the mall is mostly gone except for the exterior walls, while the section between the food court and Wards is only partly demolished, and the 1980s expansion is, for the most part, still intact.  And, of course, Belk remains open for business.

We visited the mall twice: once for Elyse, and once for me.  In Elyse’s case, she was going for something very specific: the panel in the elevator at the JCPenney store.  For those not familiar, Staunton Mall was a one-level facility, however, the JCPenney store had a very small upper level on the west side of the building, which housed the store’s administrative offices.  It’s why the front side of the store was so much taller than the rest.  Elyse rode this elevator for the first time in 2016, and again in 2020 just before the store closed.

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Trying out electric cars in space tights…

May 25, 2022, 2:31 PM

This past Thursday, Elyse and I went out to take some electric cars out for a test drive.  I started seriously considering purchasing an electric car after filling up the HR-V a few weeks ago and being blown away by how expensive it was to fill it up.  The idea was to use whatever electric car for commuting, and then keep the HR-V for road trips and other adventures where it might not be practical to use an electric car.

In going out, it was warm enough to finally take this pair of men’s space leggings that I had bought for myself a while back for a spin.  I had wanted a pair of space tights for a while, and I was delighted to have found a pair of these things for men.  After all, why should women get to keep the joy of fun prints all to themselves?  Plus, after having lost so much weight, I can now fit into a pair of these and not look ridiculous.  You be the judge:

Standing in the mezzanine wearing my space tights  Standing in the mezzanine wearing my space tights

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Categories: Clothing, Frederick, New car, Woomy

A weekend trip to Richmond…

May 4, 2022, 8:30 PM

From April 14-16, Elyse and I did a weekend trip to the Richmond area.  This was a case where one adventure begets another, as Richmond really got the short end of the stick on our October trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  We had plans for the Richmond area on the outbound trip as well as the return trio, but they ended up being greatly abbreviated in the interest of keeping it moving.  Richmond is in that little spot where it’s close enough that we can go any time that we want, but difficult enough to get to so that we typically don’t.  Our last day trip to Richmond was about five years ago, and more recent visits to Richmond have occurred while we were passing through on our way to other places.  I think that the biggest impediment to our visiting Richmond more often is I-95, as it’s fairly unreliable, being subject to backups on a very regular basis, making it difficult to predict when we will arrive in the Richmond area.  In any event, inspired by our earlier trip, we had gathered up enough stuff that we had wanted to see to make a weekend trip to Richmond worthwhile.  So we picked a month and did a weekender.

On this particular occasion, we left the house and got going, taking I-270 to the Beltway to the I-95 express lanes, which were pointed southbound at the time.  We soon learned that there was a very long backup on I-95 southbound.  So we bailed, taking an express lane exit to US 1 near Lorton.  A major backup on I-95 had the potential to derail our entire day, so Route 1, while slower, was still a better bet than taking 95.  This routing took us past a number of places, and and we made some planned stops and unplanned stops.  The first stop was unplanned, at the Harley-Davidson place in the Quantico area.

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Categories: Richmond, Vacations

Thinking about the “Sunset Park” concept…

April 26, 2022, 4:32 PM

Those of you who have been following this website for a very long time may remember that one of the last quote articles, which ran about seven months before the feature was discontinued, was about the then-impending closure, capping, and seeding of the city landfill in Waynesboro, Virginia.  It was titled, “What Waynesboro needs now is a star!” and discussed a proposed redevelopment of the site into “Sunset Park”.  At the time, I said that it was a wonderful idea, and suggested that Waynesboro should consider commissioning some sort of large-scale art piece similar to the Roanoke Star, in order to have some sort of icon visible all across the city, and provide a landmark for the park, i.e. a reason to go up there.  Since my article ran back in 2004, the landfill was successfully capped and seeded, but as far as I can tell, very little has occurred since.  Plans have been drawn up, but that’s about the extent of it.  No construction to this end has taken place as of yet.

On my most recent trip down that way in mid-March, Elyse wanted to visit a hobby shop in downtown, and so while she did that, I went around to take the drone up to explore the old landfill site.  I wanted to see what it looked like up there, and, more importantly, I wanted to see what the view looked like from up there.

The sense that I got from my flight was that the landfill site seemed ideal for a park.  I found rolling terrain for the most part, with a gradual slope downward towards the city.  Gas vents are peppered throughout the site, consistent with its status as a former landfill.  An access road follows a curved path to the top.

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Categories: Waynesboro

“Just singing a song…”

March 15, 2022, 12:00 PM

This past Thursday evening, Elyse and I found ourselves at JMU, touring the recently renovated Zane Showker Hall.  I’m going to go into more detail on that adventure later, so stay tuned for that, but while we were in the lecture hall formerly known as G5 (now numbered 0212), I found a microphone up front, and it turned on and worked.  When you give me a microphone, you never know what I’m going to do with it.  In this instance, I had a little bit of fun with it, and belted out a tune, which Elyse recorded:

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A reminder about party affiliation in Maryland…

March 14, 2022, 2:40 PM

As we move ever closer to the midterm elections in Maryland, and the primaries that accompany them, this seems like the perfect time to remind everyone about the way that primaries are conducted in Maryland.  Specifically, Maryland, along with 13 other states plus DC, conducts closed primaries.  That means that the only way to participate in a primary election is to have registered your political party choice with the state voter registration system ahead of time, usually before a deadline. In the case of Maryland, that party deadline is June 7, 2022.  Party registration in a closed primary state is not something to be taken lightly, and determines which candidates you get to vote for in the primary.

All of this about party registration should not be confused with any actual political leanings that you may have.  In a jurisdiction that skews very heavily in one direction, and where party registration is required in advance in order to vote for a given party’s primary candidates, the only way that you get any say in your local governance is to register in that party.  In a situation like this, the primary election for that party is the election that decides the result, and the general election is just a formality, because the nominee of that party always carries the race by a very large margin, and the other general election candidates know that they have no real chance at winning.

(By the way, if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, this is not the first time that I have written about this subject.)

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Shooting macro with a new phone…

March 5, 2022, 6:10 PM

At the end of February, I got myself a new phone: a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.  This is the latest and the greatest as far as Samsung phones go, as of the time of this writing.  I typically get a top-of-the-line phone for myself, mostly because of how much I use it for photography.  I also like a big phone screen, especially now that I am in middle age, and have to hold things further away from my face in order to read them clearly.  This new phone was a bit of an update compared to my last phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra.  It still looks and acts like a Samsung phone, so there was very little learning curve, but it’s faster, easier to read, has a better camera, and has the S-Pen (which I had not had since 2017, back when I had a Note 5).  Most importantly, though, the camera is much better than the S20.  The S20 Ultra’s camera was a bit farsighted.  It did just fine photographing things that were far away, but it couldn’t focus if you got really close to it (sounds like me!).  So in order to get the proper effect, you had to back up and then zoom in.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough.  Sounds like when I need a magnifying glass in order to read the fine print sometimes.

So with the new phone in hand, Elyse and I went out, and I took it for a spin while running some errands.  I was interested in trying out the improved macro function, and focused on shooting things really close up.  We got together with my friend Matthew, and he got to see me do my thing, getting up, on, over, and around everything while Elyse did the things that she needed to do.

Our first stop was Fair Oaks Mall, where Elyse wanted to go to BoxLunch, which is a gift shop.  I had assumed that BoxLunch was a restaurant, i.e. a place where you can buy a boxed lunch (imagine my surprise to find out that they didn’t sell food!).  While Elyse was going around there, Matthew and I waited outside, where I took the new phone camera through its paces in the mall, focusing on the details in the sitting area just outside of BoxLunch:

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Looking at a photo shoot with a critical eye…

February 16, 2022, 11:28 PM

Recently, I made a post to Instagram sharing a photo that I took on a trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in November.  This is the photo that I shared:

The Pennsylvania State Capitol

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Categories: Harrisburg, Photography

A weekend trip to Atlantic City…

January 21, 2022, 5:27 PM

From January 13-15, Elyse and I took a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We had been to Atlantic City twice before, both times for a single day each about a year ago.  Our first visit was part of a larger weekend trip where we did a little arc across the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, and Atlantic City was what we did on the last day.  The most memorable thing about that trip was watching my drone sail away on South Missouri Avenue, go out of contact, and then locating it about four blocks away, on the roof of Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern.  The second trip was a day trip that occurred two weeks later, where we made a day out of the need to retrieve the drone after the folks at Angelo’s had kindly retrieved it off of their roof for us.

This time, we were actually staying in Atlantic City.  We stayed at Caesars by Elyse’s request, as she wanted to film the elevators there, which are keycarded (i.e. we stayed there as guests in order to get the access that we needed).  I didn’t mind the price at Caesars, nor was it a bad place to stay, so that worked out pretty well.  This trip was mostly dedicated to photography, just like the previous adventures in Atlantic City, but with more time to play around.  I’m not too much into gambling, but we did make some time for that.  We also made plans to get together with family while we were up there, which was the driver for our plans.  Therefore, on Thursday, we drove up and more or less made a beeline for Atlantic City.  Then on Friday, we had our adventure day.  Then on Saturday, we traveled back west to fly the drone, do a few other things, and visit family.

However, on Thursday, Elyse wanted to stop in at Deptford Mall in order to get a screen protector for a new phone that she was getting, as well as film an elevator.  I am not unfamiliar with this mall, as I went to this place with my parents back in the early 1980s, and have been a number of times within the past ten years.  The mall bears very little resemblance to what it did when I was a child (though there is a Bamberger’s labelscar on the first floor), but it’s still a good, solid mall.

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Categories: Family, New Jersey, Vacations

A few flights over Pennsylvania…

December 31, 2021, 11:13 PM

Just before Christmas, Elyse, Evan Stone, and I made a day trip up to Pennsylvania.  The goal was to visit the Lancaster area.  Elyse left the house ahead of us and flew up to Lancaster via Southern Airways Express, while Evan and I went up by car and met up with her in Lancaster.  On the way up, Evan and I took our respective drones for a spin over Hanover, the Susquehanna River, and Lititz.  I have my DJI Air 2S, while Evan has the original DJI Mavic Pro.

The first flight was over downtown Hanover, and it was a solo flight for me.  Evan saw a building where he wanted to know what the elevator was, and I entertained myself with a drone flight.

The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don't recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?
The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don’t recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?

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A day out in parts of Virginia that we don’t normally visit…

December 14, 2021, 11:03 PM

From December 9-11, Elyse and I took a little weekend trip down to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed at Hotel 24 South.  We call the place our little home away from home, as we always stay there when we do these trips every 2-3 months.  Typically, we do something simple on the first day after we get down there, have a full-day adventure on the middle day (the Staunton Mall photo set came out of one of these middle-day adventures), and then do a few things and go visit my parents on the last day before heading home.  It’s a good routine, and it’s a lot of fun.

This time around, our middle-day adventure took us down to Clifton Forge, Covington, and Roanoke.  I had not been to the Clifton Forge and Covington area since 2005, and Elyse had never been.  Roanoke wasn’t part of our original plan for the day, but as we had not been to Roanoke since 2018, we were probably due for another visit.  I had low expectations for the day, considering that the weather was expected to be cloudy (which means gray photos), but I got a few useful things out of the day.

Our first stop was the Howard Johnson’s on Route 11 north of Lexington.  I had first become aware of this place after seeing it on Highway Host, and so we decided to visit it again.  Elyse wanted to film the elevator, while I was more interested in the architecture.  My understanding of the history of this location is that it has always been a Howard Johnson’s ever since it opened in the 1970s, though the attached Howard Johnson’s restaurant later went independent under the name Hilltop Diner, and had closed entirely by 2004.

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Categories: Friends, Roanoke, Virginia, Woomy

Clearly, I know how to break a drone…

November 24, 2021, 2:54 PM

I haven’t mentioned it on here yet because it’s discussed in an upcoming photo set, but I got a new drone last month while I was on my trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  My DJI Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade and crashed nearly 400 feet up in the air while I was photographing a shopping mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  I was positioning the drone for my first shots of the mall, and then I noticed a “motor error” message and saw some uncommanded rotation.  Then I saw the view start to tumble, and the connection with the remote dropped.  I was soon able to reestablish contact, and found the drone on the ground, laying on its back in the grass about 500 feet away.  Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up:

The drone after falling from the sky

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What is the point where elected officials have killed their credibility?

November 18, 2021, 11:41 AM

Starting Saturday, November 20, Montgomery County, Maryland implements mask mandate number three.  This is based on rules that the Montgomery County council, sitting as the Board of Health, determined in August and October, where seven consecutive days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (50-100 cases per 100,000 people), based on raw case counts, automatically triggers an indoor mask mandate, and seven consecutive days of “moderate” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people), again based on raw case counts, automatically rescinds an indoor mask mandate.  This continues until 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The result of this auto-on, auto-off policy has been a yo-yo effect, where it’s masks one week and no masks the next.

For some history on this, the Montgomery County government first implemented a mask mandate in April 2020, not long before the governor issued a statewide mask mandate.  That mandate was rescinded in May 2021 when everyone else did after the CDC said that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore.  When the county had reached a 50% vaccination rate, they abandoned their own COVID rules and began following the state’s guidance instead, which included no more masks and a full reopening of everything.  Then in August, after the CDC revised its guidance again, and the county council watched as case numbers went up, Montgomery County started implementing its own rules again separate from the state, and brought back the mask mandate.  The idea was that the mask mandate would last until there were seven consecutive days of “moderate” transmission, after which time it would automatically be rescinded.  This happened in late October, and the mask mandate was rescinded effective Thursday, October 28.

Right after this is where they started to shoot their credibility, and it demonstrates what is wrong with looking at raw case numbers as a metric for determining public policy.  On October 30, two days after the mandate was rescinded, they were already talking about reinstating the mask mandate, as they soon returned to “substantial” transmission territory, and announced a return to masks less than a week after they were rescinded, to be effective on Wednesday, November 3 (i.e. six days from rescission to reimplementation).

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The master at work…

November 14, 2021, 8:52 PM

Most of the time, when I’m doing photography, I only get to see the end result, which typically ends up on my Flickr page, along with other places.  It’s far less common for me to see candid shots of myself, just because I’m usually the one doing all of the photographing.  But when you go on a trip that is explicitly photography-oriented, and when everyone is shooting, I end up seeing some candid shots of myself.  Recently, from October 15-21, Elyse and I went on a trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads, where we photographed a lot of stuff, some familiar, and some less familiar.  The parts of North Carolina that we visited were almost entirely new territory for both of us, while Hampton Roads was a more familiar setting.  In North Carolina, we got together with my friend Patrick, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and had a quick meetup with another friend who formerly lived in the DC area.  Then in Hampton Roads, we spent time with Aaron and Evan Stone.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the trip itself right now, because I’m working on a much larger photo set about the adventure for the Life and Times section, so for all of the details, stay tuned, but it will be a while before it releases, because it’s going to be a big one.  In any case, some of these shots are posed, but a lot of them are candid.  If it tells you anything, when Elyse and I were reviewing them on the big screen in the living room, we put on “Yakety Sax” and laughed a lot.

In any case, here they are.  These shots were all taken by Elyse, unless otherwise noted.

Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there's Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.
Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there’s Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.

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Virginia governor’s race? Not at all surprised…

November 3, 2021, 4:17 PM

On the evening of November 3, I, like so many others, checked in on the various news websites to learn that Republican Glenn Youngkin had defeated Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.  I saw this result, and I was like… meh.  The pundits all said it would be close, and the results seem to bear that out, with Youngkin’s winning with 50.9%, McAuliffe’s coming in with 48.4%, with Princess Blanding, who was running on a “Liberation” ticket, taking the remaining 0.7%.  In any event, it seems like Youngkin did his homework and pulled it out.  It seemed like he had the better campaign overall, while McAuliffe tended to run on, “Hey, remember me?  I’m not Donald Trump.  I was also your governor back in 2014, and I’d love to have another go at it!”  In other words, while McAuliffe may have done his homework in 2013 and come out on top, the same can’t really be said for 2021.  I also did quite a bit of traveling through various areas of Virginia during the last few months of the campaign, and I saw way more campaign signs for Youngkin in my travels than I did McAuliffe signs, to the point where seeing a McAuliffe sign in my travels was noteworthy.

Terry McAuliffe’s win in 2013 was unusual because it broke the pattern of Virginia’s voting opposite of the president’s party.  Virginia, along with New Jersey, votes for its governor in what is called an “off-year election“, the year after the presidential election.  Since Barack Obama had been reelected president in 2012, by the usual Virginia pattern, Republican Ken Cuccinelli should have won.  I would suggest that people just didn’t want to vote for someone like Cuccinelli, because based on the public statements that I’d heard him make as attorney general, I had long come to the conclusion that he was nuts.

In any case, the pattern is well-established.  Looking through the list of governors of Virginia, the trend of voting opposite the president has been the case since 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  That followed two other Republican governors that were elected following Nixon victories in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which followed 80 straight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.  Following Dalton’s tenure, there were three more Democratic governors, which corresponded with the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  Then there were two more Republicans that corresponded with the Clinton presidency, and then two more Democrats that corresponded with the George W. Bush presidency.  The pattern then continued in 2009 with a Republican for Obama’s first term, and then McAuliffe broke the pattern in 2013 during Obama’s second term.  After that, the governorship fell right back into the pattern, with a Democrat’s being elected in 2017 while Republican Donald Trump was in the White House.  And now the pattern continues, with a Democratic president in Joe Biden, and a Republican governor’s being elected in Virginia.

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