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Pinball and the Big Apple…

March 23, 2019, 1:55 PM

You know, one of these days, I’m going to realize that doing New Jersey and New York City is too much to bite off for a day trip.  However, that day has not come yet, and so on Tuesday, March 12, Elyse and I did exactly that, going to Asbury Park, where we visited the Silverball Museum, and then we rode a New Jersey Transit train from Long Branch to New York City, and spent a few hours in New York.

All in all, though, it wasn’t a bad trip, but it was very strenuous.  New York definitely needs to be its own thing, and always its own thing.  No bundling it with stuff in New Jersey, because we always end up getting home extremely late.  But unlike the last time that we bundled New York with Asbury Park, this time, New York was planned from the outset.

Our time in New Jersey was pretty typical: in via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, up via 295, make the big right turn near Trenton to get on 195, comment on the sign at milepost 14.6 that says that the trees are treated with a noxious substance, go to White Castle, and then arrive in Asbury Park.

The Silverball Museum was excellent, as always, as I played my way around the facility.  They had some new chairs this time around, and a few new games.  Elyse noticed that besides her favorite baseball game, there were four or five other vintage baseball games to try.  They also now have the arcade version of Asteroids.  I used to play Asteroids for the Atari 2600 all the time, so I knew my way around that game.  The controls are different on the arcade machine, though.  I found that the all-button controls were not as intuitive as the Atari 2600’s joystick-based controls.  That said, I didn’t do very well, but with more practice, I could probably get a decent score.

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A time to heal?

March 14, 2019, 10:00 AM

I was checking my Facebook feed on a break at work on Sunday, and imagine my surprise to see one of my old elementary school teachers post this:

Lost a special teacher friend this morning.  Sharon Bradley made you smile, and was the best story teller!  She was also my neighbor for a few years.  Sharon was good to my children and the students she taught.  Prayers for her family and extended school family who loved her.

Apparently, my old fifth grade teacher, Sharon Bradley, died on the morning of March 10, at the age of 76.  As of this writing, I do not know the cause of her death.

You may recall that I wrote a very long Journal entry last June about my fifth grade experience, after Mrs. Bradley came up in the “people you may know” list on Facebook around that time.  Fifth grade was, without question, my worst year in school, from kindergarten through college.  I suffered so much emotional abuse under her over the course of those nine months, enabled by the school administration and the guidance counselor.  When presented with the opportunity to reconnect through Facebook and potentially make peace, I declined, choosing to keep her out of my life.

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Categories: Arkansas, School

Looking back on some old photos…

January 29, 2019, 1:32 PM

Recently, Elyse and I were coming home from Frederick on a night with a very bright full moon.  The discussion turned towards how it was moonlight that was making everything so bright.  I was no stranger to this concept, and remembered a set of photos that I shot on July 31, 2004.  There, I was up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia near Rockfish Gap, shooting photos after work using Big Mavica with the tripod, under a full moon.  It was late at night, but the photos might have almost led you to think otherwise:

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So Christmas in Montgomery Village was a tad underwhelming…

December 27, 2018, 2:44 PM

Elyse and I drove around our immediate area in Montgomery Village looking at lights after I got home from work on Christmas Eve.  The sense that we got from driving around was that this wasn’t a big year for decorating.  There were some houses that were decorated, but on the whole, there was not a whole lot going on.  Last Christmas was definitely better, though admittedly, it is more of a challenge to successfully decorate townhouses than single-family houses.  Nonetheless, I have a few highlights to share:

These were the only decorations of note on my street.  It appears that these two houses coordinated their efforts, as the decorations in the second-floor windows match, and the lighting on the hedges on both properties also matches.
These were the only decorations of note on my street.  It appears that these two houses coordinated their efforts, as the decorations in the second-floor windows match, and the lighting on the hedges on both properties also matches.

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Adventures up north…

November 21, 2018, 1:48 PM

Back in the middle of October, as part of a weeklong vacation from work, Elyse and I took a trip to upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.  The first day took us up to Cortland, New York.  The second day, we explored Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The third day, we briefly explored Wilkes-Barre, and then went down to Centralia before heading home.

Our route on the first day took us from home up I-270 to Frederick, and then US 15 to Harrisburg.  We had planned a stop around Harrisburg in order to photograph Three Mile Island from across the river, but scrapped it due to bad weather (clouds).  We can day-trip it to Harrisburg any time, and traveling to the spot for Three Mile Island would have been a significant detour.  We both agreed that we weren’t going to make a long detour for bad photos.  Once we got to Harrisburg, we joined Interstate 81 for our travels north.

I definitely got to know I-81 a whole lot better than I did before taking this trip.  Previously, I had traveled on I-81 from its southern terminus near Knoxville as far as exit 116 in Pennsylvania, from my Centralia trip in May (prior to that, I had only traveled as far as the I-78 split).  Now, I’ve traveled the entire length of I-81 in Pennsylvania, and also 52 miles in upstate New York.  If there’s one thing to be said about I-81 north of Harrisburg, it’s that the views are outstanding.  I-81 runs through the mountains, and it’s quite a sight.  And just like it does in Virginia, it skirts around every single city, which doesn’t make for the most interesting trip.  I prefer when freeways go through the cities like I-95 tends to do, because it gives me something to look forward to, and also keeps me more engaged.

But thankfully, we had this license plate game that Elyse found in a thrift store, so as we spotted different states’ license plates, she turned that state over on the board.  The most unusual license plate that we saw was for St. Maarten, at a Sheetz in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.  Why a vehicle from St. Maarten was in central Pennsylvania, I don’t know.

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A visit to Morgantown…

October 24, 2018, 10:00 AM

On October 8, I went out to Morgantown for the day with Elyse, Brian, and Trent.  This was a fun little trip, with the intention of exploring the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system and also seeing a few elevators, as the three of them are very much into elevators.  I’m not as much into elevators as they are, but I’ve learned a lot from them.

It’s a long drive to Morgantown, that’s for sure.  From Montgomery Village to Morgantown took us about four hours, with stops in Frederick, Sideling Hill, Cumberland, and La Vale for various (mostly restroom) needs.  I was amazed about how mountainous Interstate 68 was, particularly west of Cumberland.  It felt like we were constantly going up a mountain, but the HR-V was killing the hills like a champ.  This trip also brought out the roadgeek in all of us.  We took I-68 from its eastern terminus in Hancock, and, since we were practically there already, rode 68 to its western terminus at I-79.

Sideling Hill was known territory to everyone.  We had all been there before, but the view was still worth a look.  However, it was foggy on this particular day:

Sideling Hill overlook, facing approximately east

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Please don’t stop for me when I’m waiting to cross the street…

August 25, 2018, 1:51 PM

On Thursday, while I was waiting for a bus, I witnessed a near accident involving a pedestrian at a crosswalk on Layhill Road near Glenfield Local Park in the Glenmont area of Montgomery County.  In other words, this location, seen from approximately my vantage point:

Layhill Road and Saddlebrook Park
Image: Google Street View

This view is facing approximately south, putting the northbound lanes on the left and the southbound lanes on the right.  There is a median in the middle of the road.  Southbound traffic has a turnout for traffic making left turns into the park police station (entrance visible at left).  There are wide bike lanes on either side of the road.  There is also a Metro facility entrance at this location (out of frame to the right).  This intersection is not a big one by any means.  There are no signals.  Ride On has a bus stop on either side of the road at this location.

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Categories: Roads, Silver Spring

You know, he totally looks like…

July 31, 2018, 10:50 AM

So I was recently on Reddit and looking at /r/blunderyears, which is a board where people post old embarrassing photos of themselves, and came across this guy’s old photo from 2005:

This guy from /r/blunderyears

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Categories: Asbury Park, Reddit

Finding my old fifth grade teacher on Facebook…

June 4, 2018, 2:30 PM

Recently, a very familiar name came up in my friend suggestions: “Sharon Payne Bradley”.  In other words, this person:

Sharon Bradley in August 1991, posing with me on the first day of school

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Categories: Arkansas, School

A walk down an abandoned road…

May 24, 2018, 5:40 AM

On May 17, 2018, I took a solo trip up to Centralia, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, Centralia is something of a modern ghost town, having gradually been abandoned due to a coal mine fire that’s been burning uncontrolled beneath the town since 1962, likely caused by deliberate burning of trash in the town’s landfill, which was on top of a former strip mine.  As of 2013, the town had only seven residents remaining, and when those remaining residents pass on or otherwise leave the town, their properties will be seized via eminent domain.

I had done some research about the site, but was a bit iffy on whether it was going to be good or not.  I was concerned about its being a bust, but it was still intriguing enough to make the trip.  And as it turned out, it was pretty cool.  The biggest “attraction” at Centralia is an abandoned section of road known as the “Graffiti Highway”.  That road came about when Pennsylvania Route 61 began having subsidence and visibility issues due to the coal mine fire.  The state built a new alignment for the route on more stable ground in 1993, and the old alignment was abandoned.  Since then, many people have come by and left graffiti tags on the road, which gave the road its nickname.  Besides the road, there are also several cemeteries in Centralia, as well as one remaining active church, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

When I went up, I wasn’t quite sure how it would work out.  Based on my research, as well as a little Google sightseeing, there were the roads of the former town surrounded by empty land and a few houses, and the possibility of seeing steam from the mine fire rising from the ground.  The Graffiti Highway was most intriguing.  I’d heard mixed reports about how accessible the Graffiti Highway was, though.  When it was still under state ownership, my understanding was that police tended to chase people away on a routine basis.  I didn’t want to travel that far just to get chased out.  But last fall, the state vacated their easement, i.e. they gave up the right of way, determining that it will never again be used for a road, and ownership of the land reverted back to adjacent property owners.  So I believe that the old road is now on privately owned land, and as such, the heavy enforcement went away now that the state no longer owns the land.  In any case, no one bothered me on my visit.

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Looking back on ten years at Hewitt Gardens…

March 3, 2018, 4:54 PM

When I moved to Montgomery County in 2007, I never imagined that I’d stay in the same apartment for a decade.  But I did.  Hewitt Gardens Apartments, on Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill, was my home from May 10, 2007 to November 16, 2017, i.e. ten years and six months.  In the intervening decade, the apartment served its purpose, but I eventually outgrew it, and it eventually became very clear that it was time to move on.

I found Hewitt Gardens in a second round of apartment hunting, in May 2007.  I originally wasn’t supposed to live at Hewitt Gardens at all.  If things had gone as originally planned, I would have lived in Oakfield (now split into two properties, with the other called Glenmont Crossing), i.e. closer to Wheaton, across Shorefield Road from H-Mart.  But what happened is that after I filled out their pages-long application and sent in a deposit, I was informed that there were no one-bedroom apartments available, and that they could “upgrade” me to a more expensive unit with a den, and give me two months’ free rent, allegedly to compensate for the change.  However, even that would not be deliverable in the timeframe that I needed, plus what they tried to pull with me was a bait-and-switch, which is a really dishonest thing to do.  Nothing like starting a relationship with mistrust of the management’s business practices, right?  So Oakfield was out, I got my deposit back, and I conducted a new search.  In the new search, I had Hewitt Gardens, Peppertree Farm (off of Bel Pre Road), and Montgomery White Oak (off of Lockwood Drive) on my shortlist.  Hewitt Gardens was first, and it was perfect.  It had a lot of space, it was close to the Metro, it didn’t have a lot of unnecessary amenities, and at $920/month, the price was right.  Plus, unlike Oakfield, they showed me my actual apartment, and not a model.  We ended up putting a deposit in with Hewitt Gardens on the spot, with the idea that no matter what else happened, I would have a place to live when my new job started in a couple of weeks.  Peppertree Farm was more money and had a bunch of amenities that I didn’t need, and then Montgomery White Oak was a five-minute visit, since the apartment was just not very good, as well as more expensive than I would have liked.  So Hewitt Gardens it was.

It took Hewitt Gardens a few days to complete all of the processing on my application, and by Wednesday, May 9, 2007, they were ready to go.  I was up the next day to sign my lease and move in.  So far, everything was good.  I got my stuff moved in, I got the Internet turned on, I got my parking permit, etc.  Additionally, the new job, where I was an underappreciated office monkey at a nonprofit, was going well.

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I guess that I can cross “escape from a burning car” off of my bucket list…

February 13, 2018, 2:40 PM

Sad to say, my 2012 Kia Soul is no more.  On the night of February 7, in Lucketts, Virginia, as Elyse and I were on the way back home from a trip around the area with friends, my car caught fire and was destroyed in the resulting inferno.  Thankfully, we both escaped without injury.

The day had gone pretty well.  We had gotten together with two friends, Trent and Jackson, and we went from Gaithersburg to Rockville to Silver Spring to DC to Alexandria to Annandale seeing various things, with a focus mostly on elevators, as Elyse, Trent, and Jackson are all elevator enthusiasts.  I have somewhat of an interest in them, but not nearly as strong as the other three.  At the end of our day, we dropped Trent off at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, and then took Jackson up to Dulles Airport to meet up with family members of his that were flying in from out of town.  After we left Jackson with his relatives, Elyse and I headed out.  We took the Dulles Greenway to Leesburg, and then headed north on Route 15, intending to go over the Point of Rocks Bridge, and then continuing to follow Route 15 until we reached Frederick, after which we would turn south to head home.

However, circumstances would dictate otherwise.  As we were going up Route 15, the car suddenly started losing accelerative power, getting it back, losing it again, and so on.  The end result was that I was rapidly losing speed.  Elyse thought that it was the transmission slipping, and with that in mind, I was trying to see if I could get the car to a safe location in order to stop and call AAA for a tow truck.  A transmission problem would be covered under the Kia 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and so, like the engine replacement that I had a couple of months ago, I would take it to the dealer to get it fixed, and everything would be fine.

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Categories: Elyse, Friends, Kia Soul, Virginia

I suppose that I live here now…

November 26, 2017, 11:58 PM

So as of this writing, I’ve been living in Montgomery Village for about a week and a half, having moved on November 16.  The new place is starting to feel like home, even though I’m not entirely unpacked yet.  That is a process, and it will take time.  However, I think that the weirdest thing about the whole move process was watching my home of ten years get dismantled and carted out the door.  I hired movers to pack and move everything, so all that I had to do was keep Elyse occupied, make sure that the movers didn’t take the cleaning supplies (for the post-move cleaning that I am obligated to do, but have not done yet), and answer any questions that the movers might have.  Afterward, I was struck by what felt like the finality of it all:

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Categories: House, Montgomery Village

So… I’m buying a house!

November 5, 2017, 2:45 PM

You may recall back in May that I sort of casually mentioned that Pixsy money was helping me get ahead financially and eventually buy a house.  “Eventually” has since morphed into “very soon”.  So I might as well make it official: I am buying a townhome in Montgomery Village, and therefore, I will be leaving my apartment of ten years in Aspen Hill fairly soon.  I am just a ball of different emotions, being both excited and terrified all at the same time.  I’m also picking up a housemate, as Elyse will be living with me.

I have wanted to own my own home for about six years.  Back then, it was an “eventually” thing, and more of a fantasy than anything else.  While some of my coworkers at Food & Water Watch owned their own homes, almost all of those people were married or otherwise in a committed relationship.  As a single person, I could not afford to buy a house on a Food & Water Watch salary.  I also owed a bunch of money on my credit card due to several large repairs that I had to make on my old Sable station wagon, which certainly didn’t help things.  Then when I lost my job at Food & Water Watch, any thoughts of being a homeowner went right out the window for a while as I went into survival mode, having to live off of what should have been retirement money for a little while.  When I started working in public transportation, one of the instructors during bus training gave us some advice: “Get yourself some bricks.”  In other words, buy a house.  My financial situation was not where I wanted it to be yet in order to do that, but I knew that our instructor was right.

In the fall of 2015, I was in the financial position to start considering becoming a homeowner, and I was starting to “hit a wall” with my apartment, as I wanted to do things that I couldn’t do while renting, like paint the walls.  I had creative energies that I wanted to get out, but couldn’t expend them in my place.  So I started fantasizing about redecorating my parents’ house, where the decor is somewhat dated (“stuck in the nineties” is the phrase I would use).  Mom wasn’t very receptive to my ideas for redecorating, unfortunately, as she didn’t see any reason to redecorate.  I also wanted more living space, as it was always hard to have guests over with no spare room and only one bathroom.  Guests sleep in the living room, and so whenever I had visitors over, no one had much privacy.  Plus, with guests sleeping in the living room, bedtime for one basically meant bedtime for all, since no one could really move around without disturbing the other person.

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Categories: House, Montgomery Village

I’m not even going to try to recall how many times I made Elyse cross the street…

October 31, 2017, 2:30 PM

Here’s some “new old stock” for you.  Back in March 2016, I had the idea of writing about a fatal pedestrian accident that happened in December 2015 at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) and the Matthew Henson Trail in Rockville.  It was an area that I was very familiar with, as one of the routes that I did on the bus went through this area.  I did the field work for that planned Journal entry, photographing the area in question, as well as a few other pedestrian control devices in Montgomery County, in order to have a discussion similar to the one I did in March 2013 about an intersection on Georgia Avenue.  Unfortunately, however, life got in the way, as I got a promotion at work, and the several-months-long training program that came with that promotion took precedence over the planned Journal entry.  The post eventually got shelved, and now it’s a moot point, as the intersection was initially upgraded with yellow warning signals directly over the crossing (vs. 500 feet ahead of it as before), and then after a second fatal accident in the same location, the crossing was upgraded again with signals that actually require traffic to stop vs. only warning drivers of the presence of pedestrians.

I was always a bit disappointed that an entire afternoon’s work never got used.  Like the Breezewood photo shoot in 2006, evidence of the shoot showed up fairly soon after the work was done – in this case, a single photo feature – but the intended final product never got made.  In hindsight, I’m not too worried about it, because what I would have advocated for in the intended Journal entry came to pass, though I wish that it hadn’t happened as a result of a second fatal accident.

The shoot itself was pretty fun.  I brought Elyse with me, and we made a good team.  The way we did it was that I set the camera up on my tripod and pointed it at whatever I needed, started filming, and then signaled to Elyse to activate the signal.  She then crossed the street, in order to give some legitimacy to the signal activation.  After all, I knew that I was stopping traffic on some fairly busy roads for a photo shoot.  I had Elyse cross the street so that I didn’t look like a complete dick, stopping traffic for no reason.  Someone needed to cross the street, so that it didn’t look like I was stopping traffic just to film the signals.  I imagine that Elyse probably did about a mile going back and forth across several intersections in Montgomery County and DC.  After all, every single take (and I did multiple takes) required activating a signal, and that meant sending Elyse across the street

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