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Preserve community heritage, and keep names local…

July 23, 2015, 3:23 PM

In the wake of the June 17 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, a movement has come up to remove things related to the Confederacy from places of honor, and relegate them to history.

That said, if things go that way, a lot of things named for people who fought for the Confederacy will be up for renaming soon.  Among other things, there is discussion about renaming Jefferson Davis Highway in Virginia.  In addition, there has been longstanding discussion in Staunton, Virginia about renaming the city’s public high school, currently named for Robert E. Lee, if it moves from its current, dated building to a new building on a different site.

Now as far as I’m concerned, history is where the Confederacy belongs.  I mean, the south lost the Civil War 150 years ago.  It’s time that people stopped fighting it, already.  However, when it comes to naming places for people, there are different ways to go about it.  One way is to name things for a prominent national figure, either current or historical, and the other is to search for someone with a direct connection to the area.  If the title of the post didn’t give it away, I support the latter more than the former.

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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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Now this is what civil disobedience is meant for…

March 9, 2010, 7:21 PM

I read an article on The Washington Post‘s site on my lunch hour at work today, where Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has urged Virginia state colleges to rescind policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Basically, Cuccinelli contends that the colleges have no legal right to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, and that only the General Assembly can ban such discrimination. According to the article, the General Assembly has declined to make that move numerous times, including this week.

I took a few things from this. First of all, Virginia apparently got the administration that it deserved. They voted for these knuckleheads, and they got exactly what they deserved – people who want to take Virginia a few decades backwards on social issues. Bob McDonnell certainly got high points from me during Virginia’s gubernatorial race last year for the privatize-the-liquor-stores bit, and the reopening-the-rest-areas bit. And Creigh Deeds was certainly a weak candidate. But considering that McDonnell wants to cut spending on public education and the attorney general wants to roll back protections for gays and lesbians has me really annoyed. We don’t want Virginia to turn into a state as backwards as South Carolina, where a state lawmaker actually introduced legislation to ban paper currency. I like to say that Virginia can produce an educated citizenry. However, if you can’t pay your professors…

Additionally, this is what civil disobedience is meant for. I’ve thought for a while that a lot of the civil disobedience that happens at protests and such is just for show. I don’t quite see how sitting in the street until you’re arrested (in a pre-arranged arrest, no less) and things of that nature get much accomplished. However, these state colleges should respectfully tell Ken Cuccinelli to go shove it, and that they will continue to maintain their non-discrimination policies that protect people based on sexual orientation regardless. After all, the heart of civil disobedience is in protesting an unjust law by blatantly disobeying it.

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The 90-day campaign promise has begun…

January 17, 2010, 10:12 PM

How appropriate that I am writing this from my parents’ house in Virginia where, in traveling to get here, I passed three shuttered rest areas. While my sister was out getting married (more on that later), Republican Bob McDonnell was being sworn in as the 71st Governor of Virginia.

The reason I mention this is because during the gubernatorial campaign, McDonnell made a promise to reopen the rest areas that were closed last summer. I certainly could have used one or two of those on the way down here. It is very convenient to exit the highway into a rest area, get out of the car, go in, do one’s business, and then hop back in the car and go. Compare that to the alternative. That involves taking an exit to a local road and finding a place, and you’re never sure what you’re going to get, plus having to battle local traffic. I got off at Woodstock to use the restroom on the way down, and battling local traffic was not exactly a walk in the park. And if you’re stopping just to take a potty break with no intention of buying food or gas or otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Otherwise, you’re just clogging up local roads and such and eating up parking spaces for a non-revenue (for the private operator) visit. If you are also buying food or gas or what have you, then by all means, take the exit and use the restroom while you’re at it. But otherwise, that’s what rest areas are for. Get off, use the restrooms, stretch your legs, and then get going again.

So Mr. McDonnell has 90 days – until April 16th – to hang out the welcome sign on the rest areas that were closed. It appears that he intends to honor that promise (he’d better).

Either way, the clock is now ticking. McDonnell had better get cracking.

It’s not often that I agree with Republican candidates’ ideas, but…

August 30, 2009, 10:47 PM

I’ve been kind of halfway following the gubernatorial race in Virginia this year, even though I’m no longer a Virginia resident. Part of that is because I did most of my growing up in Virginia, part because my parents still live there, plus half of the Washington Metropolitan Area, where I now live, is Virginia.

And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has been saying a few things that resonate with me that seem to make sense. For one, he wants to reopen the closed rest areas within 90 days of taking office (though to his credit, Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds also wants to reopen the rest areas, promising 60 days). The other thing that McDonnell wants to do is privatize Virginia’s liquor stores.

THANK YOU!

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I understand saving money, but when six of the facilities you are closing were renovated less than three years ago…

August 9, 2009, 8:40 PM

New Market rest area, one of the rest areas that was not closed.Virginia recently executed a plan to permanently close 19 rest areas in order to save money and help close a state budget shortfall. I can see closing a few rest areas, because there are admittedly some places where the rest areas are fairly close together, such as Mt. Sidney and New Market, which are 29 miles apart – most certainly the close spacing referenced in this article in The Washington Post. Now, the state is aiming for rest areas every 120 miles, or roughly two hours’ driving time.

Among the rest areas that I’m familiar with, on I-81, both Mt. Sidney (near Staunton) rest areas are now closed, as is the southbound rest area near Troutville (Botetourt County), as well as the southbound New Market rest area (northbound, pictured at right, remains open). On I-64, both Goochland County rest areas (near Richmond) are closing, and on I-66, both Manassas rest areas are closing, though due to the presence of a tourist information center on the westbound Manassas rest area, the facility remains open until mid-September. Then on I-95, both rest areas in Ladysmith are now closed, as well as both car rest areas in Dale City (truck facilities remain open at Dale City). That leaves no rest areas between Richmond and DC traveling northbound, and one southbound.

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Friends don’t let friends wear mullets…

April 2, 2009, 9:26 PM

The fashion faux pas of the century:

Mullet lady on the Metro

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So I have completed my service to the circuit court system of Montgomery County, Maryland.

February 11, 2009, 12:33 PM

So today, I had jury duty, which involved sitting and doing nothing for a shade under three hours over at the Montgomery County Judicial Center in Rockville.

According to them, they had a small docket today judging by the number of jurors that they called. So I got in and found the jury waiting room, where they gave us our little juror badges. Then we watched an orientation film, where the late Ed Bradley, as well as Diane Sawyer, explained why jury service is such a high calling, and how it basically works and what happens. Then it was time to play the waiting game. I found a nice place to park myself and pull out the Lappy, and I took care of some odds and ends while waiting to see what happened. I did some work Email, I fooled around on Wikipedia for a while, and watched some videos on YouTube.

Then after about an hour, my number, 73, was called up, along with the numbers of about 30 other people by my best estimate. I went up to Courtroom 14 on the sixth floor with the other prospective jurors, and we sat down in the gallery. At the front of the courtroom, the attorneys for the prosecution and the defendant were seated at tables, as was the defendant himself. Then the judge, the Honorable Mary Beth McCormick, came in, and things began. She explained that this was a criminal case related to an alleged violation of a protective order. The jury’s job was to determine guilt by the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, and sentencing would be up to the judge. We were all sworn in, and things got started, as the process of voir dire began. The judge asked a number of questions to us related to disclosure of information that might affect our service as a juror in this particular case, and in the event that anyone had something to disclose, those individuals were called up, one at a time, to make their disclosure to the judge and the attorneys for both sides. While disclosures were going on, the judge activated a “husher”, which turned off the microphones and played white noise over the sound system.

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It appears that I am ready to vote!

October 25, 2008, 6:50 PM

With a little more than a week to go before the election, I went online and made all of my final checks and such, and it appears that I am ready to vote in Montgomery County for the 2008 election. As a first-time Maryland voter, I was concerned that something might have gone wrong in the process when I registered to vote, and I would, for some reason or other, be unable to vote. So this is a good thing. I’d voted in Virginia on numerous occasions, but this is my first time voting in Maryland, and it will be good to again exercise my right to vote.

The way I see it, voting is key to all the various issues that I attend demonstrations about (except Scientology, since that’s a completely different can of beans). You see, if you are eligible to vote and don’t actually go vote, you don’t really have much room to complain when things don’t go well and it becomes time to demonstrate on an issue. Even my anarchist buddies should make sure they are at a voting booth on November 4, because even though they question the legitimacy of the powers being conferred, a lot of their demonstrations involve the actions of elected officials, especially with anti-war demonstrations and some of the discussion regarding controversial highway projects. There, voting the “right” candidate into office might help their causes. So thus I’ll be voting at Bel Pre Elementary School on November 4, and then I’ll see you in the streets.

Meanwhile, I also got to take a look at the Montgomery County sample ballot, available on the University of Maryland‘s site. Besides voting for president and vice president (where there are six candidates on the ballot, plus a write-in), we’re also voting for our member of Congress, a circuit court judge, two referenda on special appeals court judges, three school board candidates (one running unopposed), as well as state referenda on early voting, and slot machines, and two local referenda on repealing “legally ineffective provisions” of the county charter, and on property taxes.

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“Staunton” and “Augusta County” are mutually exclusive…

April 6, 2007, 10:47 AM

Katie and I went to Staunton Mall yesterday evening, and had a great time. Then we went to Applebee’s for dinner, which was fun (though we ended up having to sweeten the sweet tea!).

One thing that led to an interesting discussion was when we saw a Sheriff’s deputy’s car parked outside the mall. I made the comment about the fact that seeing that is a reminder that technically, Staunton Mall is in Augusta County, to which Katie replied, “Well, yeah, Staunton’s in Augusta County.”

My little ears kind of perked up on that one, and my mind with its background in public administration kicked right into gear. I was like, “Noooooooo… Staunton is an independent city, therefore by definition it is not part of Augusta County.” And being in the car and being on the Belk side of the mall made it much easier to describe, because the boundary roughly runs along the edge of the mall’s property on that side. What better place to have this discussion than right at the city limits, no? I was like, “We’re in the county right now, but that CVS over there is in Staunton. Therefore, if you call Staunton Police for an incident at the mall, they’re out of their jurisdiction, since that’s Augusta County. They’ll refer you to the Augusta County Sheriff’s office.

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Virginians: Vote NO to the marriage amendment!

November 3, 2006, 10:09 PM

This advertisement, which ran on page A8 of today’s issue of The News Leader, really burns me up:

"Counterfeit marriages" ad

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They say, “Vote early, vote often.” I did.

October 25, 2006, 5:56 PM

Today, I spent about an hour at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona, doing a bit of business with the local government, getting everything all squared away with everyone.

My goal was twofold. First of all, I was going to take care of the taxes on the Sable, and find out what the deal was with a $3.00-and-change late fee that was attached to the tax bill. It turns out that the late fee is related to a form that the county sends you at the first of the year. What they’re doing there is checking to make sure that you have the same vehicles that you had the last time you paid up. I did nothing with that form at the first of the year. I think I either trashed it, or it’s still sitting in a drawer somewhere. Either way, it seems that the 39-cent price of a stamp is well worth it if it saves me from having to pay more than seven times the amount in a late fee.

And then I also paid my personal property taxes on the Sable and bought a new county sticker. For 2007, the county stickers are orange. This is a change from the dark red 2005 sticker and the blue 2006 sticker. Since the old 2006 sticker was already loose in spots due to its being transferred to the new windshield in September, I just pulled it off with my hand, and affixed the new sticker. Bingo bango done.

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Ben Schumin, your “man on the street” out gathering people’s thoughts…

September 14, 2006, 1:50 AM

As date-stamped on my previous entry, my most recent trip to Washington DC was on September 12. That date coincided with the primary elections in Washington, where, among other things, people were making their choices for the Democratic Party candidate for mayor. In Washington, with the city itself being heavily Democratic, the Democratic primary is considered the actual deciding contest in the mayor’s race. And with Mayor Tony Williams not seeking another term, the field was wide open.

In fact, there were seven candidates on the ballot: Adrian Fenty, Linda Cropp, Marie Johns, Vincent Orange, Michael Brown (name remained on ballot despite exiting the race), Artee Milligan, and Nestor Djonkam. Fenty ultimately won the race (see here), and therefore, Fenty will likely be the winner in the general election in November.

Now let me remind you that I presently do not live in Washington DC, nor do I live in the Washington DC metropolitan area (though I’m working hard to change that part, but no success yet). I’ve followed the race to an extent, as I spend the equivalent of a month in Washington each year (a day in Washington every two weeks plus a few double-dips). I also really hate it when our national leaders step on the local leaders’ toes or leave them out of critical incidents, such as on May 11, 2005 (one of my DC trip days, by the way) when the White House and Capitol were evacuated due to an idiot who got lost in restricted airspace over Washington. There, the DC government wasn’t informed that something was up until it was all over. Mayor Williams was not happy, needless to say.

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I voted, using the new touch-screen voting machines…

November 8, 2005, 5:35 PM

Today after work, I voted in Virginia’s 2005 gubernatorial election. We’ll see whether the guy I voted for ends up winning or not.

This year, things were a bit different in the voting-equipment category. Through the 2004 election, voters in Augusta County used these old, mechanical voting machines. These things were great. They were this awful institutional-blue color with plaid curtains. They looked like they came straight out of the 1950s. Those things had charm. First, you pulled the big blue lever with the red handle. That closed the curtain, and you were ready to vote. Then you pulled the little red levers to make your selection, and it made a “chink” sound. Then when satisfied with your selection, you pulled the big handle again, it made a whole bunch of mechanical noises like “ka-chink” to record your vote, reset all the levers, and then opened the curtain. Vote cast.

Like I said, I loved those old machines because they had charm. Completely mechanical. I think that the only electricity required for them was used to power the lights inside the booth.

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