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My story from an unforgettable day…

September 8, 2021, 10:31 AM

I can’t believe that this Saturday will mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, otherwise known as 9/11.  I still remember that day like it was yesterday, even though so much has gone on in the intervening two decades.  They say that everyone can tell you where they were or what they were doing when they found out about 9/11, much like the people of my parents’ generation and the Kennedy assassination.

Back then, I was a junior at JMU, and I was working as a resident advisor in Potomac Hall.  It was the third week of classes, and everyone was getting settled into a nice routine.  Being a Tuesday, I didn’t have any classes until 2 PM, so I was able to sleep a little later.  I was awakened around 9:30 AM by a knock on my door, as one of my residents had accidentally locked themselves out of their room.  I put on a bathrobe over my pajamas, and we went down to the hall office, where I completed the paperwork for the lockout (everyone got two free lockouts in a year, and any subsequent lockouts were subject to a fee), and then gave them the spare key to their room so that they could let themselves in.  I impressed on them to immediately come back down to the hall office after letting themselves back in their room in order to return the spare key, because I would be sitting in there waiting for them to come back so that I wouldn’t accidentally leave any room key business unfinished.  My hall director, Mecca Marsh, was a tough boss to work for, and she did not take kindly to any mistakes.  She treated any oversight or error as the worst thing that you could ever do, going so far as to bean you in your performance evaluation for even the most minor of errors, so if I suffered a little inconvenience in order to ensure that I wouldn’t have to deal with Mecca over something, that was fine.  So I waited down there and found a way to entertain myself, probably for about five or so minutes, until they came back with the key.  Then I put everything back as it needed to be and headed back upstairs.  At that time, I was still oblivious to any sort of world events.  As far as I knew, it was just a normal Tuesday.

After this, I had another matter of business to attend to.  The night before, there was a pretty bad backup in one of the toilets on my floor that I had to deal with, as that fell under the scope of my responsibilities.  The toilet got plunged a bit, but ultimately, I had to tape the stall door closed and mark it as out of order, because it was beyond our capabilities as RAs to fix.  I took the plunger, which belonged to housekeeping, with me that night, in order to return it to our housekeeper, a lady named Kathy.  I hadn’t seen Kathy on my floor from the elevator to my room, so I dipped into my room, grabbed the plunger, and continued looking.  She wasn’t anywhere on my floor, and so I went up the stairs to the fifth floor.  I went down the hall to the TV lounge, and found Kathy in there.  I went in, gave her the plunger, and then looked over at the television.

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Categories: Events, JMU, Myself

A flight over JMU…

May 15, 2021, 2:12 PM

On May 10, while Elyse and I were on a weekend trip down to the Shenandoah Valley to see the parents and such, we stopped at JMU, and I took the drone for a flight over the far side of campus across Interstate 81.  That is a part of campus that has definitely changed since I was a student, as it’s a lot more built up than it used to be.  There are lots of buildings over there that weren’t there when I attended.  There’s also a new indoor arena over there called the Atlantic Union Bank Center, or, as the folks on Reddit have taken to calling it, the “Algerdome”, after JMU’s current president, Jonathan Alger.  I flew from a facility that was new since I was there, on the roof of a massive parking garage next to the Algerdome, built on the former site of Blue Ridge Hall.  That higher vantage point was helpful because it gave me a better line of sight to my aircraft and a better signal for my remote, as there were fewer buildings getting in my way up there.

And here are the photos:

Potomac Hall

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Categories: Harrisonburg, JMU, Photography

Elyse and I got a scooter…

March 2, 2021, 10:00 AM

This past Monday, Elyse and I got a Bird Air scooter.  The Bird Air is more or less a consumer version of the Bird scooters that you can rent in various cities.  The main difference is that there is no unlocking mechanism, since it’s designed to have one owner, and it also folds up for easy transport.  Here it is:

The new Bird Air scooter

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Categories: Elyse, JMU, Recreation/Exercise

A Facebook comment should not bother me this much…

February 11, 2020, 11:11 AM

Recently, I commented on a post on the Facebook page for WHSV, the local ABC affiliate for Harrisonburg, Virginia, and got some unusual feedback.  The original post was for an article about Trump’s participation in the “March for Life“, an anti-choice demonstration held annually in DC on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Before I continue, though, it seems worthwhile to explain my stance on the matter of abortion.  My stance is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  But ultimately, it’s not my call.  What other people do with their bodies is their business, and it doesn’t affect me.

I also believe that abortion is more or less a settled matter, but that it has value for the GOP as a campaign issue.  In other words, the Republican Party will talk a big game about it, but ultimately, no one is going to ban abortion.  Ever.  Why ban it and settle the matter decisively in your favor, when you can bring it up as a campaign issue every election cycle and raise money and get people to vote based on it?  To actually ban abortion would be to kill the golden goose, and also hand a massive fundraising opportunity to the Democrats.  Maybe I’m a bit cynical about the whole thing, but I imagine that if they were really going to act on that issue, they would have done it by now, during the various periods where the GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.  That they haven’t done that tells me that they are not interested in settling it.

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Of all the words to split hairs over…

August 24, 2019, 9:18 AM

I’ve got one more school story for you.  I figure that I’ve told this one so many times to various people that it’s worth putting in Journal entry form and getting “on the record” once and for all.  It also demonstrates just how toxic the situation was in 1990 at Bonnie Grimes Elementary School in Rogers.

Fourth grade, as I’ve indicated before, was a pretty rough year.  This particular incident occurred in late October.  I was in the car rider line after school, waiting for my ride to church for the after-school program that I participated in on Wednesday evenings.  The teacher on car duty was Vicki George, the speech therapist, i.e. the person who worked with the kids that had speech impediments.  Having no speech impediments myself, I never worked with Mrs. George in an official capacity.  My only interactions with her were when she was supervising other kids, i.e. lunch duty, bus duty, car duty, and so on.  My interactions with her were generally negative, because she was a real stickler for behavior – more so than the regular teachers – and as such, on several occasions, I got nailed for stuff that I wouldn’t have gotten nailed for by anybody else.  I generally tried to avoid her, but sometimes our interactions were inevitable.  I don’t remember how I managed to piss her off on this particular occasion in the car line, but somehow, I did, but in any case, it was something really minor (and what I did isn’t relevant to the rest of the discussion).  I remember that she told me, “I’m giving you a yellow slip,” i.e. a report about a disciplinary matter, just before my ride showed up and I left.

I thought nothing of it, and the next day, I got a copy of my yellow slip.  Okay, then.  I didn’t hear anything else about it for a while, so I figured that was the end of it.

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They couldn’t even get mad…

August 12, 2019, 10:17 AM

After the Journal entry where I spoke about my seventh grade year, which generated a lot of great discussion, mostly on Facebook, I thought I’d share an amusing moment from eighth grade.

Eighth grade was one of my best years in school.  I had a great group of teachers, and I had a much easier time with the kids.  Sure, some kids were still terrible, but not like seventh grade.  I didn’t get in trouble at all in eighth grade, except for one time in the middle of the second semester, when I got written up for something relatively minor, but which was entirely my fault.

To give some background, my mother has always enjoyed sharing information that she learns with me.  In the era of the Internet, I typically use it as a starting point to do my own research to turn up more information about it, but back then, with much more limited resources, I typically took it at face value, and was still happy to have learned something new, even if I couldn’t necessarily dive into it more deeply.  In this particular instance, what Mom shared was that men who wore boxer shorts had higher sperm counts than men who wore briefs.  Okay.  So 13-year-old me just learned an interesting new factoid, though I didn’t really understand the whole mechanism behind it (if you want to know, go look it up for yourself).  But in any case, I was a tad more knowledgeable than I was five minutes earlier, and that was awesome.

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In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if I might have had an easier time…

July 14, 2019, 12:20 PM

Sometimes I wonder if, in hindsight, I might have had an easier time in school if I had just beaten the crap out of a few kids.  Seriously.  I got picked on quite a bit, particularly in middle school. I got made fun of for my weight, I got made fun of for the way I walked (which I found out much later was due to overly tight calf muscles, which is remedied through stretching), and I got made fun of for my mannerisms.

I admit that I was a bit of an easy mark in middle school.  I wouldn’t fight back, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I was in a martial arts class at the time that emphasized never starting a fight.  Additionally, and more importantly, when students get into a fight in school, fault was typically assigned equally regardless of what happened, and so both students got suspended.  Thus even if you were not the one who initiated the fight and you were trying to get the other kid off of you, you were still getting suspended.  Since my parents had decided before I was born that I was going to college, getting suspended was viewed as the worst thing ever.  Recall the “you might as well wish you were dead” remark from when I got suspended in fourth grade.  We later found out after we moved to Virginia that the elementary school suspension wasn’t in my records.  Whether that was sloppy work on Mrs. Carmical’s part or what have you, I don’t know, but officially, it never happened.  However, getting suspended going forward was a no-go, because of the assumption that it would affect my ability to get into college.  As it turns out, that assumption was mistaken, because no college cares about what you did in middle school.  But for that mistaken assumption, I had a rough time.

In reading various discussions online, one thing that I saw over and over was that when the victims of bullying retaliated against their attackers, it generally put an end to it.  One story from online that stuck with me was where a girl who was being bullied walked by and jabbed a pair of scissors into her attacker’s back.  She got in some trouble, but the end result was that her bully now feared her.  Seemed like a good result.  She ended it.  And in a fight, if everyone is getting suspended, it really changes the dynamic of things.  With nothing to lose, why not inflict maximum damage?  Give the kid something to remember you by.  Bet that they won’t mess with you again after that.

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On public speaking…

June 29, 2019, 12:48 PM

I was recently listening to a HowStuffWorks podcast on fear of public speaking, and I drew quite a few parallels between what they were saying and my own experience.  I’ve never had a good relationship with public speaking, and I will actively try to avoid it whenever possible, but at the same time, part of my job is to make good announcements, and I do that beautifully on a routine basis.  Jerry Seinfeld has spoken about the idea that fear of public speaking ranks higher than death, and that people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.  I can sympathize with that.  After all, if you’re dead, you never have to speak in public again.

But there is nothing that gets me wound up more than having to present something to an audience.  It’s one more reason that I’m glad that I’m no longer in school.  I never have to get in front of a group and present ever again.  One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that I am not very skilled with presenting things in real time.  I do quite well when presenting things in a written format, but public speaking is a major no-no for me.  I’ve tried presentations where I speak with notecards, and it’s typically not gone well.  About the only way that I have been able to get through a presentation of any sort is if I have a full-on script, i.e. every single word that I speak is written down on something in front of me and read verbatim.  It makes enough sense.  I am a much stronger writer than I am a speaker, and so if I take the much stronger writing component and use it to prop up the relatively weak speaking component, then we have a winner all around.  But don’t ask me any questions afterward.  When what I have written has been read, I am done.

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Categories: JMU, Myself

Crossing the line from punishment to just plain mean…

May 29, 2019, 10:26 AM

Sometimes, in reflecting on childhood, you remember an incident and think, “Wow, that was really messed up.”  And then the more that you think about that incident, the more messed up you realize that it was.  Such was the case of a punishment that I received from my mother in November 1990 that, based on the way it all happened, was just wrong.  Before I begin, though, I should note that my parents did a great job overall in raising my sister and me.  But this one was wrong in so many ways.  And my mother likes to bring this one up in conversation, and speaks about it as though she’s quite proud of herself for it, despite how hurtful it actually was.

Back in late 1990, I was in fourth grade.  For context, recall that I did not have the best relationship with my elementary school, as it was clear that they weren’t equipped to handle someone like me (I briefly discuss this in the Mrs. Bradley Journal entry).  Because of that, I had a bit of trouble in school, and things were starting to come to a head with my relationship with my fourth grade teacher.  So getting punished was something that I was accustomed to.

However, this particular punishment really took the cake, mostly because of how it came about, and what happened in the course of the punishment, and the lasting damage that it caused.  In the fall of 1990, Mom had started openly tossing around the idea of cleaning out my room, i.e. taking all of my toys away, as a punishment.  Mom brought it up on several occasions that she wanted to do that, and nine-year-old me was terrified of the prospect, because it felt inevitable that she would eventually do that, and I didn’t know how to prevent it because I was never told what transgressions would trigger such a punishment.

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I still think about it twenty years later…

May 15, 2019, 11:46 PM

This month marks twenty years since I did The East Coast Price is Right.  That was a fun experience, and I did all of the legwork myself.  I built the set, chose the pricing games, researched all of the prizes (though we played for fun – no actual prizes were given out), wrote all of the copy, picked out all of the music, and even made and wrote out all of the nametags.  I still think about the production from time to time, and I wonder what I might do differently if I were to do it all again.

That production was the culmination of a series of writing assignments that I had done in high school.  In Mrs. Hevener’s English and composition classes at Stuarts Draft High School, we did freewrite assignments on a regular basis.  I tended to have fun with these, writing on various topics that interested me, much like I still do on here.  Some of my old freewrites ended up on Schumin Web under the now-retired “Writings” section.  In 11th and 12th grade, many of our freewrites were required to be related to the material that we were studying in class, which I resented a bit.  After all, I loved to write, and still do.  But I didn’t really much care about the literature that we were working on, and I didn’t like the poetry much, either, since the way that it was taught essentially beat the life out of it through overanalysis (by the way, what is a good way to teach poetry that doesn’t kill it?).  That said, I tended to stretch the definition of the “based on the literature” requirement until it was holding on for dear life, but doing so enabled me to continue to write about topics that I was interested in.  The problem with the “based on the literature” requirement was that in the case of the literature, we were expected to read it in massive quantities in such a short time that nothing sank in.  I tend to get the best results when I read at a slower, more thoughtful pace.  At the pace that they required, my eyes might have physically read every single word on the pages, but it wasn’t sticking, and I still couldn’t answer any of the questions about the material.  I did no better than when I didn’t read any of the literature and just BSed it, and so I went back to that.  After all, if I wasn’t doing any better in class when I read the literature than when I skipped it, there was no point in reading it.  In 12th grade, where half of the class material was about poetry, I tended to gravitate towards that, because it was easier to base stuff on for the freewrites.  I would take whatever style we were studying or had studied previously, and use that as a template to write about things that were far more interesting than whatever literature we were reading.  It wasn’t ideal, and I found it frustrating at times trying to fit to the format, but at least I could have fun with it.  Others tended to stretch it by saying that their poems were based on a poem called “Dover Beach“, which was in the poetry book.  That’s why I put “Based on the poem ‘Dover Beach'” in the introduction – because it was the catch-all poem that people often used, and that line spoofed that.

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Categories: High school, Television

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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No, this is not the solution to kids’ getting run over…

November 4, 2018, 2:59 PM

Last night, Elyse shared a photo with me from Facebook depicting a school bus making a stop way out in the middle of the road:


Photo: Dana Shifflett Farrar

The photo was captioned, “With the string of school bus accidents, I loved how this bus driver intentionally placed itself [sic] in the middle this morning.  At first I wondered what they were doing, then I realized the kids had to cross the road.  Well done, sir.”  I don’t know where this specific location is, but considering that the person who posted it is from Shenandoah, Virginia, this likely depicts a location in Shenandoah County, Virginia, and as such is most likely a Shenandoah County school bus.  This was likely done in reaction to recent news stories where children have been injured while going to school.

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Categories: Driving, Honda HR-V, School

Was I right to have been upset about this?

August 7, 2018, 6:18 PM

While participating in a discussion on Reddit, it conjured up the memory of something that happened in my junior year of college that left me a bit unsettled at the time, and on which I never got any closure.  Before I begin, be advised – the events described here occurred more than 16 years ago, so at this point, this discussion is purely academic.

While I was a resident advisor in Potomac Hall in 2001-2002, there were two occasions where I was asked to swap office duty shifts near the end of the year.  On the first occasion, the person who wanted to switch with me told me that it was for a family emergency.  In that instance, I agreed to switch days without question, because I would expect the same thing for me should a similar situation arise for me.  I remember seeing that person in the building that night, and thought, I thought that you had a family emergency, but dismissed it, because that really wasn’t my place to judge.  Then on the second occasion, a different person asked me to switch duty days so that they could attend an awards ceremony.  I said no, because I didn’t want to trade days, and an awards ceremony wasn’t an emergency.  I held my ground on that, but later relented after my hall director, Mecca Marsh, whom I’ve written about previously in this space, turned the colleague’s request into an order from the boss.  So I was a bit annoyed about that, especially since I knew that Mecca would have never taken my side like that should I have been in the same situation.  But in the end, I did as I was told.

Then fast forward a month or so later.  The colleague who swapped shifts with me for the awards ceremony brought a video over to show me.  The video depicted a probate ceremony for an historically black sorority on campus.  I learned a lot from the video, which both of my colleagues were in, because prior to this, I didn’t know anything about how historically black Greek letter organizations worked.  My colleague did a great job in explaining to me what was going on, why it was going on, and the significance of it all.  Then they went on to explain that sorority events were the real reason for the “awards ceremony”, and the other person’s “family emergency”.  They couldn’t tell me what they were really doing because they were sworn to secrecy.

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Categories: JMU, Work

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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When you just hate recognition that much…

May 15, 2018, 11:05 PM

People are always amazed when I tell them that I hate receiving recognition.  I just don’t like it.  I don’t find it enjoyable.  In fact, I find it incredibly awkward all around.  I don’t know what it is, but it just isn’t a fun thing.  This came to mind recently because of two discussions that I had with colleagues in the last few weeks.  One was about an operator competition that my employer was having, and another was about an employee of the month program that my specific division has.

In the case of the former, where train operators go out and demonstrate their skills for judges, I couldn’t see any way to get a satisfactory result for myself as a participant.  If I don’t place, I’m kicking myself for not doing better.  If I place, then I have to deal with a whole bunch of unwanted recognition.  Not participating at all seems to take care of both concerns, and I have no problem attending as a non-competitor and watching others compete.  I’ve done that before at a similar event for the bus, where I was there but didn’t compete, and I had a blast.  Besides, I have the most fun just being myself while operating the service.

In the case of the latter, a coworker brought up the idea of it, and how I would possibly be a good candidate for the employee of the month award.  I was honest about it: if I ever were to get the award, I believe that my response would be, “Thank you very much, but please give it to someone else.”  In other words, I would probably decline it.  I just want to do my job and call it a day, and a whole bunch of unnecessary attention just gets in the way of my being awesome.

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Categories: Birthdays, JMU, LPCM, Myself, Walmart, Work