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A splash photo that’s open to some interpretation…

November 25, 2014, 1:38 PM

This past Saturday, I got together with my friend Elyse, and we spent the day seeing what we could see, mostly in Rosslyn and Ballston.  While we were in Rosslyn, we checked out the open-air patio on the fourth floor at the Le Méridien hotel (formerly Hotel Palomar) at the Waterview complex.  The patio had decent enough views, but we ended up spending more time taking photos of the fire alarms, and as a result of that, got December’s splash photo:

Two conflicted lovers?

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“Not fooling anybody” in DC…

October 31, 2014, 11:50 AM

This past Saturday, I did some photography in Washington DC, but not the usual sort of photography that I do when I head into DC.  This time, I photographed repurposed commercial buildings, i.e. buildings constructed with the standard architecture for a specific chain, and now operated by a business other than the one that the architecture would suggest.  “Not Fooling Anybody” on Reddit, where people share photos of such conversions, describes it as “former chain businesses that have been converted to other uses, yet still strongly resemble their former use.”  Some people might call these bad conversions, but I prefer to call them “obvious conversions”.  After all, some conversions can look quite elegant, such as Italiano’s in Baltimore, which is a former KFC, but nonetheless still resemble the former tenant’s distinctive style.

It’s also worth noting that these sorts of buildings have no historical value of any kind, so they’re worth photographing while they’re still there, because they will be demolished when someone comes up with a more lucrative use for the land.

For this trip, I did my research.  I had assembled a list of some places that I had spotted over the course of going wherever over the years, and then augmented that with some others that the folks on the DC subreddit brought to my attention, particularly on some corridors that I had never had any reason to travel under normal circumstances, such as Bladensburg Road and Benning Road.  I then used Google Street View to visually verify all of the suggestions so that I knew what to look for in the field, plus I also did a virtual drive down a few roads using Street View to see if there were any others, as some corridors tend to be just teeming with them.

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Back to Cumberland…

October 11, 2014, 7:56 PM

On October 2, exactly a year and a half after my first road trip to Cumberland (where I produced a photography set), I was back out that way again.  The purpose of this trip was to explore the downtown area a little bit more deeply, make some photo spheres, and check out a few things that I had missed the last time I was out there for one reason or another.

I had two planned stops on the way out.  The first was at the westbound South Mountain rest area and welcome center on Interstate 70.  Besides its being a logical spot to take a break, I wanted to get some photo spheres while there, plus I wanted to get updated photos of something that really bothered me on the last trip to Cumberland.  In the Journal entry for the April 2013 trip, I discussed an errant apostrophe on the signage directing motorists to parking, where “RV” was pluralized using an apostrophe.  The rule of thumb when it comes to pluralization in English, by the way, is that an apostrophe is never used to form a plural.  Ever.  I filed a request about this with SHA, which became case #SR-0198410, in early May of this year, to get it fixed, referencing the photo from 2013.  I heard back from SHA a few days later, where they promised that they would have the apostrophes removed by the end of the month.  When I was through that area again in mid-June, I swung by the eastbound rest area (opposite side) to check to see if they kept their promise.  They did, as they scraped the apostrophe off of the sign.  This left a somewhat inelegant result:

The apostrophe is gone, though there was still some odd spacing, but I could live with this.

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Categories: Cumberland, Photography

No longer a Baltimore transit virgin…

September 28, 2014, 1:58 PM

Two weeks ago, I went up to Baltimore with my friend Elyse.  We went for the Star Spangled 200 celebration, and wandered around the city a bit.  And most importantly, I rode public transportation in Baltimore for the first time.  MTA Maryland is a very different beast from Metro.  MTA has buses, and MTA has trains, and there’s also a Circulator-type service.  But the details are quite different.  Elyse and I started out at Cromwell station in Glen Burnie, which is out by BWI.  That’s light rail.  DC doesn’t have light rail, as you know.  There’s a streetcar system coming in DC, but it’s not here yet.  Then there’s a heavy rail system, i.e. the Metro Subway, which we also rode.  That’s more like what I’m used to.  We also rode the Charm City Circulator, which is a free bus service that travels around the city, separate from the regular MTA buses (which we didn’t get to ride).  And owing to cooperation between MTA Maryland and Metro, my SmarTrip card worked in Baltimore.

Most surprising was that the fares for the light rail were basically on the honor system.  You bought your ticket at the machine, and then you just got on.  No faregates, no fareboxes, no nothing.  In my case, I loaded an MTA pass onto my SmarTrip.

So this was what I saw on my first ride on the Baltimore Light Rail:

Baltimore LRV 5011

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Categories: Baltimore, Elyse, MTA Maryland

Google Camera is my new favorite toy…

September 6, 2014, 12:38 PM

I recently went on a trip down to Stuarts Draft to see my parents and sister, as well as my sister’s friend Vickey, and I came armed with a new app for my Android device: Google Camera.  If you’ve never used it before, Google Camera is a camera app that will function as a regular camera plus do a few other things.  Besides shooting regular still photos and videos, it will also do a lens blur effect, it helps in shooting panoramic photos, and it also shoots “photo spheres”, also called “spherical panoramas”.  That last one is what I took for a spin on this trip.  Those are the ones that I can post on Panoramio, and I believe that they go in as Street View (but don’t quote me on that just yet, because they haven’t fully propagated to Google Maps/Earth as of this writing).

Shooting them is surprisingly easy.  Here’s a screenshot of the app in action, taking a photo sphere at my place:

Google Camera app in action

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So I found an app that lets you take stereo photos…

July 16, 2014, 10:24 PM

Last night, I found an app called 3D Camera for my Android phone.  The idea behind the app is that you take two photos a few inches apart from each other, you line them up, and then the app makes a stereo image for you to look at.  Depending on how you shoot them, they can come out as either crossview or parallel.  I tested it out late last night on a Wheelock 7002T, and came up with this:

Wheelock 7002T, taken on top of my computer
(By the way, I strongly recommend clicking each of the images on this entry to view them at full size in the lightbox)

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I completely nerded out on Sunday, and it was awesome…

June 24, 2014, 10:21 PM

I went out on a miniature road trip on Sunday, and I had a blast, taking photos of anything that vaguely interested me.  It was more or less spur of the moment, when you consider that for what ended up being a photography trip, I only had my cell phone, and then, I didn’t bring my spare battery along.  Thus it was a bit of a continual battle to keep a sufficient charge on the phone with only the car charger, but somehow, I managed, and the results came out pretty well despite my leaving my real camera at home.  The way this trip came about is that I wanted to go up to and explore Westminster, Maryland.  I’ve been wanting to explore Westminster for a while, ever since my father took an overnight business trip to Westminster a few years ago and I didn’t find out about it until it was too late in the day to go up and visit, because Dad didn’t realize that Westminster was as close to me as it was.  That sucked, because I would have totally gone up if I had known.  I’ll gladly travel an hour or so on relatively short notice to hang out with family.

So early Sunday morning, I just decided to go up and see what there was.  I like doing these sorts of trips, because it’s basically a scouting trip, seeing if there’s anything that I want to explore and photograph in more detail in the future.  Getting to Westminster is pretty easy: turn onto Georgia Avenue (MD 97) and take it all the way to Westminster.  Seriously, it’s that easy.  I got to Westminster just as the sun was coming up.  After a quick drive through the main commercial area along Route 140, I located the downtown area.

The downtown area in Westminster has what I consider an unusual feature: a single-track rail line for the Maryland Midland Railway running diagonally through the main intersection in downtown.  Main Street goes one way, and Liberty Street and Railroad Avenue (both MD 27) go the other way, and the rail line runs diagonally across the intersection.  I would have loved to have seen a train come through here while I was in the area, but unfortunately, I did not get to see that this time.

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Sometimes you have those weekends where you just have to get out of the house…

June 11, 2014, 6:06 PM

Ever get that feeling of “I just have to get out of the house”?  I recently had that feeling, where I just needed a change of scenery for a little bit, and so I planned a weekend trip down to Stuarts Draft to visit the parents, going down Friday, and coming back Sunday.  They were, as always, delighted to see me, and on the whole, we had a good time.  I also made some extra space in my house, as, on Mom’s request, I brought my sister’s old bicycle back to my parents’ house.  Gave me some practice in “beheading” a bicycle by removing the front wheel, and then reattaching it at my destination.  But it travels much more easily without the front wheel:

The bicycle has been beheaded!
The freshly-liberated front wheel.

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And it goes from an Edwards to a Fire-Lite…

May 12, 2014, 11:12 PM

And there you have it.  I figured that, when Herb, three firefighters, and I had trouble resetting the pull station during that accidental fire alarm at the pool last Thursday, the Edwards 270A-SPO that had recently been installed at the pool and was the center of the action in this alarm would not be long for this world.  And I was right.  This is what greeted me when I arrived for today’s workout:

Fire-Lite BG-12

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Categories: Fire alarms, Olney, Swimming

It was a six-mile hike, mostly uphill, but the view was definitely worth it…

May 12, 2014, 12:19 PM

On May 4, I got together with Melissa, Pete, and Pete’s dog Bruno, and we went on a trip out to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia to do some hiking.  The inspiration for this trip was twofold.  First of all, Pete and Melissa had recently become friends on Facebook, though they had never met in person.  This seemed like a good opportunity for them to actually meet.  And then the venue came about after I saw someone else post pictures of the Maryland Heights overlook at Harpers Ferry onto Facebook, and I decided that I wanted to see it for myself.

Heading in, I first picked Melissa up at her house in Hyattsville, along with, to my surprise, Jason.  He was going to check out the Smithsonian, and so we brought him down to a Metro station.  After dropping Jason off at Eastern Market station, Melissa and I met up with Pete for breakfast at Sizzling Express.  After breakfast, we headed back over to Pete’s house to get Bruno, and then we all walked down to the car, which was parked on 6th Street SE.  I ended up taking Bruno’s leash, which was an experience all of its own.  Realize that when I was growing up, my family had a dachshund, which is a small dog.  Bruno is a basset hound, which is a much bigger breed.  Walking a basset hound is a different experience entirely from walking a dachshund, in that I was mostly walking Bruno, but there were definitely times when Bruno was walking me.  Bruno is pretty strong, and was able to pull me around at times as he checked out various items along our path.  Greta could never have pulled me around like that on account of her being too small.  But it was fun, so all was well, and Pete was there to remind Bruno to be on his best behavior if necessary.

When we got to the car, Bruno got in his carrier, and we were off.  To get there, we took the Southwest Freeway to GW Parkway to the Beltway to I-270 to US 340.  And for the record, 340’s east-west signing in Maryland always throws me off, because I am very much accustomed to 340’s being signed as a north-south route, as it is in Virginia and West Virginia, though that’s by far not the only US highway that changes directional designations like that.

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Well, tonight’s workout was fun…

May 8, 2014, 10:19 PM

I think this describes my workout at the pool tonight:

SO YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR SWIM WORKOUT?  LET ME SING YOU THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE.

Yes, I got interrupted by a fire alarm.  I was simultaneously annoyed and delighted about the situation.  On the one hand, Olney Indoor Swim Center has a Notifier voice evacuation system, and I had never heard it go off in the three years that I have been swimming at Olney.  So I was delighted that I finally got to see and hear it in action.  On the other hand, though, I take my swimming quite seriously.  I find interruptions to my workout to be quite a bother, like the time that a storm-related power outage ended my workout early back in August 2012.  So a fire alarm during my workout annoyed me, because it knocked me out of my groove.

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Categories: Fire alarms, Olney, Swimming

Fun at the Inner Harbor!

April 29, 2014, 9:42 PM

Sometimes you’ve got to love what kinds of amusing things you can get into with friends.  Last Wednesday, Melissa, Jason (whom I know through Melissa) and I got together and went up to Baltimore.  The primary purpose was to visit the observation deck at the Baltimore World Trade Center.  And that we did.  We got to see Baltimore from above, and I got all sorts of photos from 27 stories up, but then we also got all sorts of crazy pictures of each other, mostly of Melissa and me.

But first of all, for those not familiar, this is the Baltimore World Trade Center:

The Baltimore World Trade Center, the world's tallest regular pentagonal building

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Categories: Baltimore, Melissa

“It should be legal to push tourists into the Tidal Basin when they don’t watch where they’re going.”

April 28, 2014, 1:22 PM

One tweet just says it all sometimes, doesn’t it?  Such describes my experience on the 13th seeing the cherry blossoms on the Mall.  It was my first time doing that, and, as long as I don’t forget about this experience, it will also be the last time that I do that.  I was reminded once again that large crowds of tourists tend to get on my nerves very quickly.  I was also reminded that I have springtime allergies, as I discovered that putting myself in close proximity to cherry blossoms activates my seasonal allergies.

That said, all of this made my cherry blossom experience something that I was very interested in getting over with not long after I got there.  I took Red Line in, and walked over from Metro Center.  I believe that this sight, near the Holocaust Museum, should have been my warning that this would not necessarily be a pleasant experience:

A trash can overflowing with trash

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Staunton Mall sold for $4.5 million?

March 15, 2014, 10:16 AM

So according to The News VirginianThe News Leader, and WHSV, Staunton Mall has been sold to a Delaware LLC for $4.5 million.  Little is known about the new buyer or their intent, however, according to The News Leader, “The sale includes permits for development and land rights and assignment of leases, rents, deposits, profits and other agreements.”  This makes me wonder if someone is finally planning to redevelop Staunton Mall into something better and/or more modern.  At this point, we can only speculate. That said, Staunton Mall does look pretty dismal right now, shown in this file photo from January:

Staunton Mall, from center court facing south towards JCPenney, January 2014

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Categories: Staunton

Driving around Montgomery County…

March 9, 2014, 1:25 PM

For my commercial driving class, I had to watch others’ driving to identify distracted and at-risk driving behaviors and document them.  Normally one would do this while another student was driving the bus, but since I’m the only student in the class, I am doing this as homework.  Since I had some issue with making the arrangements for someone else to drive me around so that I could write, I decided to take matters into my own hands and attach my cell phone to the visor to make a movie of my own driving for later analysis.  In other words, something like this:

Driving along Georgia Avenue in the Soul

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