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Elyse goes to the inauguration…

January 28, 2017, 8:24 PM

Sometimes, it’s fun to live vicariously.  Such is what happened on Inauguration Day.  I had to work, and so I spent my Inauguration Day mostly doing support work to help keep trains moving.  However, Elyse came down to DC to see what she could see as far as inauguration-related activities went.  She and mutual friend Dave went out to see what was going on, and I was able to follow along through frequent updates sent to me on Facebook Messenger.  Though this was not intentional, she did a photo shoot in a similar way that I shoot an event that I’m not directly involved in.  The official festivities were kind of “meh” (though she did watch the swearing-in live on television, which I didn’t get to do), but she kept up with a lot of the activism.

I admit: I have more or less hung up my activism hat, having not participated in a political demonstration in a very long time. I stopped doing black blocs in October 2010 after a pair of disastrous demonstrations soured me on the tactic, and I haven’t been to a political demonstration of any kind since August 2013.  However, I still cheer on and support my friends who are still involved in it, even if I haven’t done it myself in years, and in fact, a number of my activist friends helped organize some of the protests that occurred in DC.  So I was delighted to get these updates from Elyse, as well as from elsewhere on Facebook and the Twitter, to see what was up while I was at work.

After I got off of work, Elyse came over and we looked at her take from the day, and the photos were quite good.  She also gave me permission to run some of them on Schumin Web, and so hopefully you can live vicariously through Elyse as well, as people came to DC to protest Donald Trump on the occasion of his inauguration.

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Eight years of growth and change…

January 19, 2017, 11:19 PM

This evening is Barack Obama‘s last in office as President of the United States.  At 12:00 tomorrow, Donald Trump will be sworn in, and then the Obama family will leave for a well-deserved vacation to Palm Springs.  Meanwhile, based on what we’ve already seen from Trump’s camp as president-elect, what I said in my post-election Journal entry rings true: “In the end, the expression, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ seems like a fitting description of what we may have these next four years in a Trump administration.”  Hold on tight, because it’s going to be a crazy ride, and there is no emergency stop mushroom to dump the country and apply all of the brakes.

Meanwhile, I really have to question whether Donald Trump will serve out his full term.  Considering how much of a loose cannon he has been, I have a feeling that he will last only until the Republicans in Congress have had enough of him, i.e. when he starts jeopardizing their chances for reelection.  Then they will, at the very least, find a reason to impeach him, likely for one of his many conflicts of interests that he has refused to rectify before he takes office.  Don’t know if he’ll get removed or not, but I consider an impeachment likely.  That or he will pull a Nixon and resign prior to the whole thing.  We shall see.  All I know is that Trump is making George W. Bush look like a true statesman by comparison, and Bush was an idiot.  But Bush at least started acting presidential once the election was over.  Trump, on the other hand…

But this Journal entry isn’t supposed to be about Donald Trump.  It’s more of a look back over the last eight years, and a reflection on personal growth.  In 1980, then-candidate Ronald Reagan said in a debate, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  I consider the question to oversimplify a number of factors, plus it overestimates the president’s influence on your individual life (the actions of your state and local officials affect your life far more than those of the president), but I consider the question to be a good way to judge how one’s life has progressed over a defined period of time, regardless of who the president is and what they did during their term.

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Categories: Myself, National politics

That wasn’t at all what I expected to happen…

November 14, 2016, 10:30 AM

So like much of America, I watched the television on the night of November 8, 2016 in stunned silence as the news media called the race for Donald Trump.  I started watching around 7 PM, when the first polls closed, and kept the television on until 2 AM, when I finally had to go to bed.  Considering the way I wrote about the election around a month ago, I expected that this would be an early night.  I figured that I would watch the returns come in until 11:00, and then once the polls closed in California, they would project California for Hillary Clinton, and then call the race for Hillary Clinton.  Then I would turn the television off and do something else until bedtime.  But that was not the case, as many states were too close to call.  Then I watched as Hillary Clinton’s path to victory narrowed, and it started to become apparent that we were not going to elect the first woman president on this election night.  Once they called Ohio for Trump, I knew that it didn’t look good for Hillary.  After all, Ohio picks the president, because almost no one wins the White House without Ohio.  Then as the night wore on, I ran a few scenarios through an electoral college calculator, and realized that in order for Hillary Clinton to win, she would have had to take every single remaining state that was still in play.  That seemed highly unlikely.  I went to bed kind of stunned, because this was most definitely not how I expected election night to go.  When I woke up the next morning, I checked Reddit, and found out that yes, Donald Trump had, in fact, actually won the election.  Whoa.  I definitely did not expect to have to eat my words about this election.

In hindsight, however, I can’t say that I’m very surprised about this result.

Before even getting into factors specific to this election, in the last 60 years or so since the 22nd Amendment, which formally limits the president to two terms, took effect, the White House has tended to switch parties every eight years.  Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, served two terms, and he was succeeded by John F. Kennedy, a Democrat.  Then after eight years of a Democratic administration, we got Republican Richard Nixon.  The only exceptions to this have been Democrat Jimmy Carter, who was defeated by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 after only a single term, and Republican George Bush, who was elected president in 1988 after eight years of Reagan.  After Bush’s electoral defeat in 1992, the eight-on-eight-off cycle resumed.  Thus after eight years of the Democratic Obama administration, history indicated that it was time for the party to flip again.

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Categories: National politics

I’ve seen Christmas lighting, Halloween lighting, but never election lighting…

November 8, 2016, 12:00 AM

So Elyse and I were driving down 16th Street in DC last night, and we spotted a house near the intersection of 16th and Corcoran Streets NW with red and blue lighting in the front yard.  Hmm.  So we turned around and took a look:

Election lights in DC

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Watching the second debate, I couldn’t help but think that Donald Trump was acting like someone who knew that they had already lost the election…

October 12, 2016, 10:25 PM

I had thought of a million ways to start this Journal entry about the 2016 election, but after hearing the revelations of Republican nominee Donald Trump‘s hot-mic comments about women, and seeing his performance at the second debate with Hillary Clinton, I’m convinced that we don’t have to worry about Donald Trump’s becoming president.  It’s not going to happen, especially after the grownups in his party have more or less abandoned him.

It’s kind of funny how it’s all worked out, I suppose.  Back during the primaries, I never imagined that Donald Trump would ever get the nomination.  I said that he would likely be in it for a few primaries before dropping out, having made whatever point that he was trying to make, and that ultimately, one of the grownups would get the Republican nomination.  I figured that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich would come out on top, and Donald Trump would be a footnote in this election.  Imagine my surprise to watch Donald Trump, a man whose only qualification for political office is being rich and having a very big mouth, take the nomination.  I guess it goes to show exactly how weak the Republican field was this time around.

Realize that Trump’s campaign seems to mirror that of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons when he was running for governor of whatever state Springfield is in.  His campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train, making us wonder why he is so popular.  And the incident regarding women is his fish dinner.  Recall that on The Simpsons, Burns ran for office as a reaction to an inspection of his nuclear plant after three-eyed fish were discovered by Bart Simpson near the nuclear plant.  Burns’ message was about getting government off of our backs.  Just before the election, the campaign arranged for him to have a dinner with a family.  The Simpsons were that family.  At the dinner, Marge served this to Burns:

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Categories: National politics

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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Okay, activists, time to feel old…

January 20, 2015, 1:22 PM

I just want to bring it to your attention for a moment that this all happened ten years ago today:

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Categories: National politics

ELI5: the American electoral system

August 19, 2013, 12:23 PM

On Reddit, there is a forum (“subreddit”) called “Explain Like I’m Five” (ELI5).  It’s not intended for literal five-year-olds, but rather, it’s a venue for people to ask questions, and (hopefully) get a response explaining it all in plain English, with any jargon defined plainly, and complex concepts explained as clearly as possible.  Post titles typically begin with “ELI5” with the topic following.

Today on the ELI5 subreddit, this question came up about the American electoral system, as far as presidential elections go:

I’m Australian and having seen a lot about the election last year I couldn’t really find an explanation that I understood about things like swing states, etc.

I feel quite a bit of sympathy for this person.  The presidential electoral system in the United States is unique, and let’s admit it: the average American doesn’t even understand how our electoral system works, and many of them have lived with it for their entire lives.  For someone who does not live in the United States and is used to a different electoral system, I can imagine that trying to figure out our system can be headache-inducing, to say the least.

So I did my best to explain how it works, including the discussion of how swing states work into it all.  The guidelines for this subreddit say that while discussion of politics and controversial topics are allowed, “try to remain textbook-level fair to all sides, for both questions and answers.”  I think I did pretty well on that, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.  So here’s my (somewhat long-winded) explanation, in plain English:

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Categories: National politics, Reddit

Driving in Virginia on Thanksgiving morning…

November 22, 2012, 7:04 PM

First of all, greetings from Stuarts Draft, where I will be through Sunday.  And so far, so good.  The drive went surprisingly well, and then Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely wonderful.

Considering how well my drive went today, though, I don’t know why anyone would want to go driving on the day before Thanksgiving.  Seriously, this was one of the easiest drives to Stuarts Draft that I’ve had in a long time.  I left the house around 8:45, and it was more or less smooth sailing the entire way.  Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, from my house to the Beltway, was no problem.

On that note, by the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the Freestate gas station on Georgia Avenue at Layhill Road?  This is how it looked this morning:

The Freestate station on Georgia Avenue

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My thoughts on the election now that it’s finally over…

November 9, 2012, 12:35 AM

First of all, aren’t you glad it’s just over with now?  Our election cycles run for far too long, especially when you consider that the New Hampshire primary was on January 10 this year, which meant that candidates started running well before that.  The 2012 election cycle started up right after dust settled from the 2010 midterm elections.  That’s far too long, in my opinion.  Considering that this year, Mitt Romney became the presumptive nominee in May, I think we could safely adjust the schedule a bit.  Basically, imagine the primaries in the summer.  Have New Hampshire in May.  Then have nominees by September.  Skip the conventions, because all they are is a coronation for the nominee that is known months ahead of time, and then vote in November.  The goal in this compressed schedule is to give the American public some peace and quiet in between elections.

Now as far as the contest itself goes, I think this was the biggest dog and pony show that I’ve ever seen.  The moment that I laid eyes on the Republicans’ field of candidates, I knew that President Obama was getting a second term.  Realize that the Republican Party didn’t want to “put out the good silverware” for a race against a popular incumbent president.  I’m sure that’s really why the likes of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, etc. didn’t run.  The party didn’t want to dirty up its better names on a race against an incumbent.  Then once the crazies that did run on the Republican side actually opened their mouths, I really knew that they had no chance.  Thus I felt confident for just about the whole season that the end result of the contest was settled.  Basically, barring a major scandal or a major blunder on the Democratic side, President Obama was in, bottom line, end of story.  Thus my view that the whole campaign was basically a dog and pony show.  I was pretty sure that the Republicans knew that they had no chance in 2012, but they still had to put on a good show and run someone to at least make it look like they were interested to keep their faithful engaged.

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Hurricane Sandy, early voting, etc…

October 30, 2012, 12:16 AM

First of all, hello from Aspen Hill, Maryland, where I live, and where the power is still on (as of this point in the writing at least) despite the pounding we’re getting from the wind and rain of Hurricane Sandy.  This was the view off my balcony about two and a half hours ago:

View off my balcony during Hurricane Sandy

Note the blurry areas on the trees.  As this was a fifteen-second exposure, the blurry areas are where the trees were moving around in the wind.  I just hope that the lights continue to stay on, and that the 22 cans of food that I bought at Shoppers on Saturday are just my being paranoid about this, and that I won’t actually have to open them with a manual can opener and prepare them on the stove.  So I guess we’ll see how that goes.  I’m rooting for no power outage, but that might be a tall request considering that this is Pepco we’re dealing with, and that the power grid in the Washington DC region is amazingly fragile.  My parents, who live out in the sticks, never lose power, and where I live in the suburbs of Washington DC, you can just look at a power line funny and the entire street goes dark.

But I didn’t start writing this entry to talk about Hurricane Sandy, though I certainly hope that everyone in the storm’s path is in a safe place to wait out the storm, and that everyone who still has their power keeps it throughout the storm.  Tonight, I want to talk about the election.

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One of my photos goes viral… sort of.

October 24, 2012, 11:12 PM

So apparently one of my photos has gone viral.  Remember this photo?

Code Pink demonstration on July 4

I took this photo on July 4, 2006 in front of the White House.  It first appeared on Schumin Web in a Journal entry posted July 5, 2006 about a trip I made to DC on July 4.  It also ran as the Photo Feature later in the same month.

Then a few years later, in 2009, that photo got morphed into this:

IF OBAMA DOESN'T END THE WARS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, CLOSE GUANTANAMO, AND STOP BOMBING PAKISTAN, WE SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD WE'LL VOTE FOR HIM WITH SLIGHTLY LESS ENTHUSIASM IN 2012."

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The death of the world’s most wanted man brings out a number of emotions…

May 2, 2011, 11:50 PM

Well, I’ll be. They actually captured Osama bin Laden. I did not expect to see such a thing happen. I always figured that bin Laden would die of natural causes, and we would never find out about it. But they actually managed to capture him, though not alive.

First of all, I think it’s probably a good thing that we did not bring bin Laden in alive. For me, this is not any sort of kill-that-bastard vengeful line of thinking. It’s that we very much need to be able to move on as a country. If we had brought bin Laden in alive, then he would have to stand trial. The question would have been how do we try him, choosing between a civilian court or a military tribunal, and all of the discussion related to that. Then a trial would reopen many painful emotional wounds in too many people. With bin Laden dead and without a trial to reopen all of those 9/11 wounds, perhaps now we can move on as a country. Nothing anyone can do will ever bring back the lives of those who were killed on 9/11, and nothing will erase the pain of losing a loved one, but perhaps bin Laden’s death will help bring closure to some, and help with the healing process.

I am, however, disgusted by the behavior that I’ve seen exhibited by many Americans after bin Laden’s death was announced. First of all, there is no doubt in my mind that Osama bin Laden is the scum of the earth. There is no doubt in my mind that he was instrumental in the commitment of many atrocities against innocent victims. However, for Americans to be dancing in the streets celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden seems a bit barbaric. There are certainly times to dance in the street and celebrate (the overthrow of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak being one), but in this instance, it seemed wrong. I for one don’t feel any joy in bin Laden’s death, just as I don’t feel joy when anyone dies. The problem is that this action by Americans seems to erase any outrage that we might have been able to claim about people who will celebrate publicly when bad things happen to Americans. We just proved that when people we don’t like are killed, we will do the exact same thing. There goes our claim to the moral high ground, since as a country, we just did what we had expressed outrage about when it was done about us. Rick Telfer put it best on the Twitter when he said, “Always the same stupidity. When ‘they’ cheer for death, it’s barbaric. When ‘we’ do, it’s cathartic.” I believe it’s barbaric when either side does it.

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Categories: National politics

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother…

January 20, 2010, 10:47 PM

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother. I try to get a little discourse going on a political issue with a known hostile crowd on Facebook, and their arguments become so nonsensical that it finally becomes pointless to continue. But then again, it’s also kinda fun. Most recently, it started with this as someone’s status message:

[Name] is lifting up prayers that this healthcare bill DOES NOT PASS

Okay, so we’ve got an opinion. They want to see the healthcare bill fail. So let’s dig in:

Ben Schumin Why don’t you want to see it pass?

So I’ve started the discussion. Why don’t they want to see it pass? Personally, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t get what I really want out of this health care thing (single-payer for all), but it’s still better than nothing, as it outlaws a number of the health insurance industry’s dirty tricks, like denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and recission of coverage. We can then build on this later to ultimately end up where we really ought to be down the road.

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“The color coded alert system was security theater at its best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.”

July 16, 2009, 9:45 PM

July 15 poll resultsSo said “BFS” in the Express. And for those of you who have been following this site, “BFS” is me, as I usually post comments for Express using my initials. And my comment got published again, as seen at right in this excerpt from page 28 (56 in the PDF file) of Express.

According to an article on page 4 of the July 15 edition, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has “appointed a task force to determine in 60 days how effective the current system is.” The idea is to either overhaul it or do away with it entirely.

I’m surprised that they’re even appointing a task force for it. I’d just ditch the thing outright. After all, if you step back, what did the terror alert system do? It was propaganda. It told people when to be scared, and what to be scared of. And it was no secret that the system was used by the Bush administration to score political points. Every time they wanted you to be scared, they just looked into the camera, and said…

ORANGE

It’s “orange”! Oh, no! Grab your duct tape and plastic sheeting and head for the hills!

And looking at the history of threat level changes, it seems to prove that the Bush administration wanted you to be scared at times that were advantageous to them. What officially tipped me off is when they raised the threat level to “orange” at the beginning of the Iraq War, and left it there until just after they took Saddam Hussein down. They worked long and hard to make you scared of Iraq, and so when they went in and invaded an unarmed nation, they wanted to make doubly sure that you would be fearing the terror boogeyman. Apparently, wetting your pants was patriotic, and if you didn’t wet your pants, the terrorists would win.

And once people stopped paying attention to the terror alert scale, Homeland Security stopped using it, as we never saw an alert above “yellow” nationally after August 2005. And we never saw a “green” or even a “blue” threat level. You’d think that they would have dipped it down into “blue” a time or two just to make the public think that they were doing a good job. After all, if you’re going to manipulate it to make people scared, you might as well manipulate it to make the people think you’re doing something right (even if you aren’t). But instead, the two bottom levels were simply decorative.

So in the end, I think that the Homeland Security task force will scrap the alert level system entirely. Its main purpose is to make people afraid of things they can’t do anything about. And you know what they say – why worry about a problem you can’t solve? Like I said in the comment, it’s security theater at best, and blatant fearmongering at its worst.

Categories: National politics, News