Playing with the AI image generator…

22 minute read

October 27, 2023, 10:02 AM

Recently, a friend of mine posted some computer generated images from the Bing Image Creator, which uses the DALL-E system as its base.  I enjoyed their posts, so I decided to take it for a spin myself with subjects that were more relevant to me.  My first idea was to have it generate me.  The way I saw it, ChatGPT kinda sorta knew who I was, so it seemed reasonable to see if Bing Image Creator could perform similarly.

The first prompt that I gave it was “Ben Schumin in Washington, DC” and this is what it produced:

"Ben Schumin in Washington, DC" (1)  "Ben Schumin in Washington, DC" (2)

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The Previa has come to the end of the road, and is now officially retired.

3 minute read

February 9, 2006, 7:56 PM

It’s really something to see, but my old Previa is now officially a part of automotive history. The final mileage on that car was 275,275 (funny how it came out like that).

And the car was very much on its last legs, too. It failed its last inspection due to brakes, an exhaust leak, a crack in the windshield, a sticky door handle, and a few other odds and ends. Besides that, a number of other components went over time. The radio died in 1999. The sunroof, which was originally motorized, stopped working in 2001 or so. There was a strange dent near the driver’s side door that made a cracking sound when it opened. The air conditioner was on its last legs in 2002, barely cooling the air, and then was gone completely for 2003. The driver’s side window started having trouble coming back up if it was lowered all the way down starting in 2003. In 2005, something hit my windshield (probably a rock), causing a crack that proceeded to grow quite a bit. In addition, the heater stopped working in October. You may recall that I discussed having no heat here, discussed getting it fixed here, and actually got it fixed here. That was one problem I couldn’t stand and thus had to have fixed.

Then in 2006, the brake light came on and stayed on while I was trying to park at the Vienna Metro station on my January 18 trip to DC, accompanied by the brake pedal going much further down than it used to before coming to a stop. That was scary at first, but a number of test-brakings confirmed that it was still drivable, and got comfortable handling this. The interior manual lock switch on the driver’s side door also broke that day as well. I got the car inspected the next day and it failed as expected. Dad and I determined that the cost was prohibitive, and I went car shopping. Then in the last month, on my most recent DC trip (February 1), the interior power lock switch stopped working to lock the doors. It would, however, unlock. So this meant that I had to lock the door with the keys. The plus to that, though, is that it was impossible to lock my keys in the car. And lastly, as I mentioned here, the air blowers stopped working on the way home from the car’s final trip before retirement.

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What a great last trip!

2 minute read

February 9, 2006, 12:12 AM

The Previa’s had an absolutely wonderful last hurrah. I went down to Roanoke, and met up with my friend Amanda Mone, who also now has the honor of being the Previa’s last passenger.

We had a blast, too. We met up in Salem, and kind of ran all over Roanoke. We went to Valley View Mall for a while, then went out to Bonsack, then went out to Tanglewood Mall, went to the Roanoke Star, and finally to the IHOP near Valley View Mall for dinner. Then, after dropping Amanda off, it was back home to Stuarts Draft.

It was really a great trip, and it really was a celebration of the old van while spending quality time with a friend.

In a way, it kind of reminded me of the last voyage of the SS Canberra, because such a tremendous celebration was made to commemorate that ship’s last formal voyage.

And I made sure that this last trip in the Previa was special, too.

And in what has been typical form for the Previa lately, another system stopped working near the end of the trip. This time it was the air vents, as they stopped working on the way home, essentially leaving the car with minimal heat (but nothing like those two months when the heat was out a while back).

Now, though, there are a few things still to do. I have to move all my stuff out of the car, leaving only the things that I need to take the car out on Thursday. And there is only one trip left to make – to Whitesell’s Service Center, where my new car is. There, the Previa will be formally retired, and I will drive off in my new car, a 2004 Mercury Sable LS station wagon. I am just tickled about my new car, but I will certainly miss the Previa.

Categories: Friends, Roanoke, Toyota Previa

“When sitting in the new Previa, I start to feel like… like… like an ace pilot…”

7 minute read

February 6, 2006, 9:34 PM

The title of this Journal entry comes from Toyota’s promotional video for the 1991 Previa. I think that it’s a fitting way to begin a tribute to a vehicle that’s played such a significant part of my life:

My 1991 Toyota Previa

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Catching up…

< 1 minute read

December 22, 2005, 6:39 PM

First of all, despite the site outage, its resolution, and related kinks to be worked out in restoring everything, I’m still doing the Journal, though composing the entries offline to be added in later (the time, however, does reflect the time of wrtiting). It’s been so long in writing because I’ve been hoping that this would be a short downtime. Since it seems it will be longer in getting things fixed, it’s time to get some things going again.

You’ve probably wondered what happened with the previous entry, regarding whether or not I would be brilliant or stupid with clearing my window. Turned out I was brilliant, but ended up looking stupid another way. What happened? I got my driver’s side door to open, but then I was unable to get it to close again. Mom ended up taking me to work. Mom later got the door closed, too. It had something to do with some gunk. I still don’t completely understand what’s going on there. But the door closes. Previously, I’d had some trouble getting it closed on really cold mornings, but never before had I been unable to get it closed.

Otherwise, I stocked up on Vault. The 20-ounce single-serve bottles are perfect for the drive to work.

This will either be seen as brilliant or really stupid

< 1 minute read

December 16, 2005, 12:01 AM

This Thursday, we received a few inches of snow and ice. And I have to go to work Friday morning. So rather than scrape my windshield in the morning when I’m in a hurry, I cleared it tonight. No problem. Windshield clear. I did it with a plastic snow shovel, too. Once I made a dent in the outer layer of ice with my hand, it came off easily.

The only way this could backfire on me (and knowing my luck, this is quite possible) is if we get any further rain or ice and it freezes into a sheet on my windshield. Then I’m screwed, because then I might have just as well left the original snow on the windshield in the first place.

So we’ll see if this time-saver works. Now I’ll still have to scrape my back window in the morning, which was covered by a sheet of ice, to make myself a peephole for driving. And the shovel is not precise enough to get that gunk off. Still, the big job – clearing my front windshield – is done.

Tomorrow is the big day…

2 minute read

November 24, 2005, 8:38 PM

Tomorrow at 4:30 in the morning, I must be at work for what is often called “Black Friday”, which is one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

This will be the first time I will have actually worked right in the thick of Wal-Mart’s big after-Thanksgiving sale. The past two years, I worked later shifts, after the majority of the pandemonium had passed. This year, I am there. And tomorrow, I will be dressed in all black from the top of my mock-turtleneck all the way down to my Chucks. I’ve also tried to get coworkers to do likewise. After all, what can I say? Black is the new black.

Otherwise, though, Thanksgiving went well. I had to work, and then had Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

Meanwhile, I’m still enjoying the heat in the car. Never again will I take having heat in one’s automobile for granted. Never.

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I got the car back, and it’s SO WARM!

< 1 minute read

November 22, 2005, 1:54 AM

Just as a heads-up, I got the car back, and the heat very much works now. Turns out that the reason for the problem was low antifreeze, which Dad thought was strange because the engine should have overheated if that was the case. And it never did. Either way, they fixed it and it only cost me $37-something. Not bad when I was expecting to pay three figures for a repair job.

When I got out, instead of going straight home like Sis did (she took me to pick the car up), I went around via Fishersville – 250 to 608. I wanted to give that heater some chance to perform, which it did – admirably.

Let me tell you, though – I will never take having heat in the car for granted again. You don’t know how much you appreciate it until you don’t have it anymore.

Categories: Toyota Previa

The car’s out getting fixed, and I’m at home…

< 1 minute read

November 21, 2005, 1:53 PM

So this morning, I dropped the car off. Sis helped me with delivering the car to Jenkins Automotive, and then we stopped off somewhere for breakfast.

Fast forward a little bit, and I just got a call – the car’s ready, and heat has been restored. Yay! I’m so tickled on that front. Let’s just say that I will never take automotive heat for granted ever again.

I’d dare say there’s nothing more unpleasant than driving home from Washington in sub-freezing temperatures (such as on this last trip home). That’s a 150-mile trip, too, mind you. And doing the one-handed thing the whole way – driving with one hand, and sitting on the other hand to warm it up. Now I can drive without a coat, hat, and gloves again.

This will also make the ride to work in the morning more pleasant and safer. The last few days, my car’s been iced over when I come to it, and I couldn’t do anything about it owing to lack of heat. I used my de-icing spray to clear the frozen stuff off, plus have de-icer washer fluid in there right now, but heat really helps in melting off the ice. Nothing beats good old heat there – it’s far superior to chemical methods, though those do have their strong points.

I’m just glad now that I’m going to have my heat again…

Categories: Toyota Previa

Two more days until heat?

2 minute read

November 19, 2005, 9:30 PM

I mentioned not long ago (here) that my car’s heat was not working, and as such any car rides are a cold affair. In fact, I have a pair of gloves next to the driver’s seat in case it gets really cold in there. That or you’ll see me driving one-handed, which I can do quite well after I was in a sling for a month in 1999 due to a shoulder injury. Usually if it’s cold and I’m driving one-handed, I’ve got one hand on the wheel, and the other hand either under my leg or behind my back – either way, next to a really warm place on my body so as to warm that hand up.

After a particularly cold trip back from Washington last Wednesday, I finally determined that I was going to get the heat fixed, which I’d resisted doing, in part due to laziness, and in part due to not wanting to have to pay to fix it. But it’s either that or freeze this winter. So I’m paying for it. Hopefully it’s something minor that won’t be very hard to fix. Let’s not even think about if it’s a major problem.

So I’m taking my car to Jenkins on Main Street in Waynesboro on Monday to get it fixed. My memory of Jenkins is waiting in there for much of the day on the day of my high school graduation getting a brake job. When I finally got antsy about whether the car would be ready in time to get home for graduation, I called home to get picked up, and then got the car the next day. This time, Sis is following me to drop the car off, and taking me right back home. Then she’s taking me back to Jenkins in the afternoon to pick it up. In between, I’m sure I’ll find something to do at home (I’m off work on Monday – that’s a first).

So perhaps after Monday, I’ll have heat in the car again. I certainly hope so. Otherwise, it’s going to be a COLD winter, and an icy one, as I otherwise have no access to heat to defrost my windows – just de-icer spray, which is only helpful to an extent.

Categories: Toyota Previa

I really need to do something about getting a N-E-W C-A-R…

2 minute read

October 30, 2005, 8:30 PM

Yes, we’re spelling it out. You see, every time I talk about the C-A-R on here, I have some sort of mishap with the Previa. But let me tell you, though… that car is a trooper, but parts are starting to go. The radio went in 2000. The air conditioning died in 2002. At some point, a panel on the interior of the door broke loose. The cruise control started a slow death in 2002 or so and now only works when it feels like it. I also recently got a crack in the windshield. And as you saw not long ago, I had to do a quick-fix on a wiper blade (which still works like a charm).

And now, I have no heat. Absolutely NO heat. Last time I got heat out of the car was on April 16 of this year, when Sis and I went up to Washington DC for A16, and needed heat (and didn’t get heat until halfway up there because we accidentally forgot to switch it over to heat). Then the warmer months came along and I didn’t need the heat. Now it’s cold again, and I have no heat at all. I really need a new car, but since I can’t afford that, I’m going to have to get it repaired. And that means that I’m going to have to call around to find out who will be willing to look at it and such to get it fixed.

And my rule about going to local businesses is that I don’t like going some place where everyone who works there is someone I went to high school with. I don’t like getting called “buddy” by people I never particularly cared for. I prefer to go some place where the people don’t all know me – makes me feel more like a customer.

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My trip to Starbucks to get a Venti Coffee Frappuccino…

4 minute read

October 10, 2005, 9:57 PM

I finally visited the new Starbucks Coffee in Waynesboro after work today. Yes, that’s right. Starbucks in Waynesboro. I never thought of Waynesboro as a Starbucks kind of town, but there you have it. I guess someone thought we were.

So I went over there to check the place out. It was built on a small property, where the old KFC once stood (KFC moved to a bigger property next door and the old building was demolished). It’s bigger inside than it looks, too. Going in, I remembered SpinnWebe‘s parody of my original Wal-Mart photo set, now in Life and Times, and so I ordered a Venti Coffee Frappuccino. So this is what it looked like:

Venti Coffee Frappuccino at Starbucks in Waynesboro

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I lost my Breda sticker… very sad.

3 minute read

August 6, 2005, 7:29 PM

How sad, indeed. I lost my “My other car is a Breda” bumper sticker magnet. I think I know how I lost it, though. I believe I lost it when I took my car through the car wash on Friday with the magnet still in place. I noticed it after work on Saturday, after Mom and I went to Home Depot (she met me after work), when I finally got a good look at the back of my car when she drove me back to it, and noticed it was missing – showing an outline of dirt around where the sticker used to be. Mom said that next time I go through a car wash, I need to remove the magnets first. Good idea.

And it’s not like the sticker is irreplaceable. I still have the pattern for it, so I’ll just have a new one made up. This would also be an opportune time for me to get the “Stand to the right” bumper sticker that I designed, to add to the right side of the car, similar to the Breda sticker. The Breda sticker being on the left was a coincidence. The “stand to the right” sticker being on the right is deliberate. After all, that would be a little hypocritical otherwise, no? The “stand to the right” sticker magnet standing on the left side of my car? No. Still, check it out:

"On Metro escalators, please... STAND TO THE RIGHT"

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Categories: Arlington, Toyota Previa, WMATA

DC can be so fun, but in this heat, the fun is best had in the shade or indoors…

10 minute read

July 21, 2005, 10:03 PM

I had fun in DC on Wednesday the 20th. It was a long day, but fun nonetheless.

However, the fun didn’t start right away. Oh, no. The drive up to Vienna was “more challenging” than usual. For those of you who don’t know, my car will have been in our family for fifteen years this month. So it’s an old car as these things go. And it’s seen fairly continuous service for those fifteen years. As a result, things start doing strange things as they age. My cruise control can be a little tricky sometimes. When it wants to work, I get up to speed, start it up, and then set it. It will catch, and it will work fairly well. However, other days, it will do one of two things. It will either try to catch and miss, or do nothing at all. In both cases, the cruise control light blinks several times, and then goes out, and the light will not come on again until the car is restarted. The end result is no cruise control until the car has had several hours sitting turned off.

So coming off of VA 608 in Fishersville onto I-64, I set my cruise. It caught and we were sailing. Changing to I-81, I always come off of cruise control, since it’s too tight a curve to take at full speed. Then once I get back onto I-81, I set the cruise control back to where it was. And life is good, don’t you see. Today, coming off the ramp and onto I-81, in re-setting my cruise control, it missed. So no cruise for me on the way up! Thus instead of just sailing up there, I was kind of doing an up-and-down thing speeding up and slowing down, since my mind wants to be on cruise control, but my car just won’t agree to it. I’ll get up to the proper speed, and then accidentally let it drop. Not a good thing. So we have to start over, getting to the right speed again. It’s a vicious cycle. After my stops at Sheetz and Wal-Mart on the way up, I checked my cruise again to see if it would come to life again (it sometimes does), but unfortunately no. No cruise for me. Several blinks and then dark. But at least it’s during the day, and I’m still fresh as a daisy.

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Chucks, Metro, and Home Depot

6 minute read

April 29, 2005, 3:05 AM

First of all, on Monday, my off-day, I managed to get a lot accomplished. I went to the bank, to the Toyota dealership to get windshield wiper inserts (you can only get them there since the front wipers are so large), and also to Staunton Mall for shoes. I had said before that I was going to make my Airwalks last through A16 before I replaced them. A16 was about nine days past when I went shoe shopping.

Now do you remember a few weeks ago, in the April 15 Journal entry, which is six entries above this one (if you’re reading this on the archived page) or below this one (if you’re reading this on the Journal main page), when I tried on the Chucks while I was down in Blacksburg? Well, I looked at the photo that I took with the cell phone from that time, and decided to give the Chucks another try-on. So I tried them, and what do you know – I liked them! I ended up getting myself a pair, though I didn’t like that I couldn’t lace them all the way up.

So this led me on a bit of a wild goose-chase around Staunton. In pursuit of long enough shoelaces (the Chucks came with 63″ laces, which only left an inch on each end when laced to the top – I needed 72″ laces), I went to Super Shoes, Wal-Mart, Athletic Annex, Hibbett Sporting Goods, A&N, and even Claire’s (it was a long-shot). After all of them, I came up empty handed. So I had my too-short laces, and figured out how to make them work for now. I looked at a file photo from the Million Worker March of a person wearing Chucks, and laced them that way. I ultimately found the long laces I needed online, at a place called The ChucksConnection. They are currently in transit. Once they show up, I’ll lace all the way up.

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