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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 2012 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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No tire problems this time around…

October 25, 2017, 3:17 AM

On Tuesday, October 17, with Elyse and Aaron Stone in tow, I headed down to Ocean City for the day.  The plan was to do the Ocean City outing that I had wanted to do last year, but which had been significantly curtailed due to a slow tire leak that I had to get repaired en route.  Remembering that, I was very explicit about wanting to make as few stops as possible.  The only stops were restroom stops and a food stop, and we did well enough on time.  After all, the purpose of the trip was photography, and so I needed proper light in order to get it, and that meant making good time on the road.  Once I’m out of daylight, the photography is over, since I am currently without a functioning tripod, and therefore, my nighttime options are limited.

For those of you who are not familiar, Ocean City is one of those dumpy little coastal resort towns that has a very distinct operating season.  Outside of that season, the place is fairly quiet, as many businesses close for the off season, as do many of the hotels and attractions.  I was fine with this, because the off-season meant that there were fewer opportunities for people to get in the way of my shots, and those people who were out were easier to photograph.

The plan was that I would photograph along the boardwalk while Aaron and Elyse, both elevator enthusiasts, went out to ride various elevators.  We parked on 9th Street, and then once we got settled, I went south towards the fishing pier, and they went north to do some “elevator tourism”.

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Buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trains, and… moo cows?

October 19, 2017, 11:17 PM

This past Saturday, Elyse and I got together with our friend Dave, and we went to the Public Safety Open House held at the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Snouffer School Road near Montgomery Village.  Then we went out to Middletown and visited South Mountain Creamery, which is a dairy farm that sells products on site.

The Public Safety Open House event was a lot of fun.  There was a little bit of everything for us to see there.  We started out by looking at a row of Ride On buses.  Apparently, this facility is used to train Ride On operators, because there is, more or less, one or two of each type of bus that Ride On operates located at the facility.  We saw two Gillig hybrids, an Orion VII CNG, a New Flyer C40LF, and two Gillig 30-footers.

Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.
Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.  We all commented on how the one panel on the front was so faded.  No idea why.  I speculated at the time that it might be from the diagonal parking at the old Gaithersburg division’s causing sunlight to hit that corner more than others, but after thinking some more about it, while certainly plausible, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go with it now.

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Going to show that you never know what you’ll find at the thrift store…

July 30, 2017, 2:39 AM

It’s amazing what you find sometimes when you hit the thrift store.  Case in point, at Unique Thrift Store/Value Village in Hillandale Shopping Center, Elyse and I found this:

Elyse holds a "Big Mavica" type camera

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A lovely little road trip to West Virginia and back…

July 23, 2017, 3:53 AM

This past Wednesday, Elyse, Aaron Stone, and I took a little road trip to Jefferson County, West Virginia.  There was some stuff for all of us, as Aaron wanted to see some stuff that Elyse and I had seen before, I wanted to see some stuff that I had spotted in some Instagram pix, plus wanted to get newer photos of some areas where I had been before.

But first, food.  We designed our trip to take us to Sunshine General Store, which is this little hole in the wall restaurant north of Brookeville, at the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues.  Their hamburgers are to die for – thick and juicy.  However, you really have to know that they’re there, because at first glance, the place looks abandoned.

After we had our hamburgers, we headed over to Brighton Dam.  The intent was to get some new photos of the dam, but much to my surprise, a dam rehabilitation project was underway, and the park where you got the best views of the dam was closed in order to accommodate the construction work.  The level of Triadelphia Reservoir was much lower as well, presumably because of the dam project, and from the looks of the now-exposed land, it had been lower for quite a while:

Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.
Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.

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Red Line to Grosvenor…

May 17, 2017, 11:52 PM

You may be aware that in February, Metro began retiring the Breda 4000-Series railcars, starting with 4054 and 4055.  While most of the retired cars will likely be sold for scrap, not all of them will.  When 4089 was retired, it was cut up and converted into vendor kiosks, intended for use at Grosvenor-Strathmore station.  Today was the first day of this pop-up market, which will run at least through the end of June, and eventually be incorporated into a new development at Grosvenor station.

So Elyse, Elyse’s father Joe, and I gave it a look.  The car is cut up into different sections, with the various sections arranged around the station entrance.  Here’s an overview of one side of the setup:

Overview of one side of the setup

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Categories: Elyse, Montgomery County, WMATA

“Hello!  Welcome!”

March 9, 2017, 12:03 PM

You may recall from the Pittsburgh photo set that Elyse has an interest in elevators.  I find them interesting as well, though to a lesser extent than Elyse and others.  However, I always enjoy seeing an unusual specimen, like the pop-out buttons on the elevators at the Investment Building in Pittsburgh.

This elevator, at the United Office Building in Oxon Hill, takes the cake for interesting features.  Check it out:

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Returning to Scott’s house…

December 30, 2016, 11:29 PM

You know how it goes when you have like-minded friends.  On December 28, Elyse and I got together with mutual friend Aaron Stone, and we took a field trip to the Baltimore area, revisiting various places of interest in order to show Aaron, including the Ames at Diamond Point Plaza and Scott’s house.  The way that we planned the trip, since our main objectives were mostly dependent on having daylight, the plan was to spend a little time at Diamond Point, a little bit of time at H&H Outdoors (a military surplus store in Baltimore), and then have a large block of time at the Bauers’.

The Ames at Diamond Point was, for the most part, unchanged from our previous visit.  We spotted a set of movable stairs near the front of the store that wasn’t there in our previous visits, but otherwise, it was the same:

Ames in Diamond Point Plaza

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Painting pottery…

November 16, 2016, 12:21 AM

The day before Elyse and I went to Pittsburgh, we got together with our friend Dave, whom we know through transit-enthusiast circles, and we went over to Color Me Mine in Rockville.  This is one of those places where they have premade pieces of pottery for customers to paint in the store, and then they glaze and fire it all afterward, and you pick it up a week or so later.

Going in, Elyse and Dave both picked train-shaped coin banks for painting.  I got a big plate, because I felt more like drawing, and thus I got myself a nice, blank canvas to paint.

But first, here are Elyse and Dave at the table:

Elyse and Dave, painting away

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A day trip to Ocean City that definitely felt rushed…

October 23, 2016, 1:20 PM

On Monday, October 10, I finally visited Ocean City, Maryland and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  You would think, having lived in Maryland for nine years, that I would have gotten out there before this, but better late than never, I suppose.

This was a trip where the journey was probably more interesting than the destination itself.  I’m also pretty confident that we did not meet my usual rule for a trip where you should spend as much time at the destination as it takes to get down there and back.  I also felt rushed when we actually got to the destination, but I suppose that such is what happens sometimes.  However, with this being an “overview” trip, where the goal was just to get a feel for what was there for future exploration, meeting my time rule wasn’t as important as it might otherwise be.

In any case, we left a little later than I would have liked, and the trip began fairly uneventfully.  Things went smoothly until we made a planned stop at the Wawa near Annapolis.  There, my low tire pressure light came on as we were getting ready to leave.  Okay.  Wawa has free air, so no problem.  The way that I figured, it had been a while since the last time that I had checked the tire pressure, so one of them may have reached the threshold for the warning light from normal whatever.  So I topped off the tires.  The left rear tire was a bit lower than the others, but the light went away.  Cool.  Problem solved.  Continue on trip.

After going over the Bay Bridge (my first time), I learned far more than I expected about center pivot irrigation systems from Elyse.  If it tells you anything, I’m no longer surprised when I learn that Elyse knows a lot about something medical or industrial.  But her information always checks out.  In this case, I learned about the different brands of center-pivot irrigation systems, and how to distinguish between them.  The main brands are Valley, Reinke (pronounced like “rinky”) and Zimmatic.  Those names, for whatever reason, made me think of the Pacman ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde/Sue.  I said, “Valley, Reinke, Zimmatic… and Sue.”  Maybe you had to be there, but we got a laugh out of it.  In any case, though, you saw a lot of them, as the Delmarva Peninsula has a lot of farmland.

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Categories: Elyse, Maryland

Amazing how some things never change…

September 21, 2016, 10:04 AM

It’s always amazing how some things never change.  Back on August 25, Elyse and I were photographing trains at the MARC station in Gaithersburg.  After the train departed, I captured this photo of a flurry of people walking across the tracks before the gates went up:

People crossing the street at the Gaithersburg MARC station, August 25, 2016

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I have been to Pennsylvania a lot lately…

August 27, 2016, 6:27 AM

In the span of two weeks, Elyse and I went to Pennsylvania three different times.  We went to Hanover on the 8th, Harrisburg on the 11th, and then Harrisburg again on the 18th.  Two of the trips were to scout out some potential sites for photography, as well as get something out of our system from the earlier bus trip, and then one was to bring the bus back for my friend.

The first trip was to Hanover.  This was one of those “seeing America” kind of trips, about catching a shot of whatever we found interesting, as well as scouting locations for further attention with our SLR cameras when the weather was more accommodating (it was hot and humid out – yuck).  Elyse met me at my house, and then we left for Hanover via Westminster.  On the way up to Westminster, we both knew about a certain street off of Georgia Avenue in Carroll County near Eldersburg and Sykesville (yes, I refer to Route 97 as “Georgia Avenue” all the way up to Gettysburg), and had to get a photo of it with Elyse.  Check it out:

Elyse Court

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A principal has egg on her face…

June 14, 2016, 6:10 AM

As someone who was on the receiving end of some pretty unfair punishments in school, and having witnessed school officials blatantly flout the rules on a number of occasions, it’s good to see someone get called out for a punishment that’s out of step with policy.  This was the culmination of a controversy regarding several students’ drinking alcohol on prom night at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School‘s senior prom, and the reversal of a decision that would have prevented them from attending their high school graduation.

The situation, as I understand it based on a Bethesda Magazine article and a Washington Post article, began with a policy set at the school level regarding consequences for students’ showing up for prom while impaired by alcohol or other various substances, or becoming impaired by the same over the course of the evening, encompassing the prom itself as well as the official after-prom party.  The school’s policy was that anyone who either was caught drinking at prom-related activities, or showed up to same already drunk, would not be allowed to walk at the school’s June 1 graduation at DAR Constitution Hall.  This is supported by a prom guest application document from the school’s website, where the relevant section, near the bottom of the second page, reads:

Students and/or guests who are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, inhalants, illegal drugs or controlled substances will not be admitted to Prom or After Prom.  Students attending Prom or After Prom who show signs of being under the influence of such substances, or who are found to be in possession of such substances during either event, will be subjected to the consequences set forth in the B-CC Student Handbook, and their parents will be notified.  If the student is part of an athletic team or other school-sponsored activity, the coach/sponsor will be notified as well.  Note that any senior who is determined to be under the influence or in possession of such substances when arriving at or during the course of Prom or After Prom will not participate in the on-stage distribution of diplomas at B-CC’s graduation ceremony.

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A few more thoughts about “Scott’s House”…

April 24, 2016, 8:05 PM

Today, I released the “Scott’s House” set in Photography, which covers the visit that Elyse and I made to the former home of Scott Alan Bauer back in March.  While the photo set gave a somewhat dry presentation of what Elyse and I found in the house, the preparation of that set raised a lot of questions that I will likely never get answers to, mostly revolving around the mystery of what exactly happened to this family.

From what I could tell, the house, in its final form, was home to only one person: Scott Bauer himself.  Only the master bedroom contained a bed, one bedroom had no furniture in it to speak of, and the third bedroom had clearly been converted to an office at some point.  In the bedroom-turned-office, some of the paperwork made me think that this home, leading up to its abandonment in late 2002, was not as happy as it once was.  One of the documents was a statement from Howard County social services regarding past due child support.  So it would appear that a divorce had occurred, and things had not been going well since.  Likewise, on an MVA notice, Bauer had insurance and emissions violations regarding his truck.  Makes me wonder if he had major financial problems in his final years at the house.

In any case, what caused Bauer to ultimately abandon the house and all of his belongings, as well as what happened to him afterward, remains a mystery.

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