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I may be off my hinges, but something seems odd about this…

June 18, 2022, 2:25 PM

A very close friend of mine is currently looking for a new job in order to further their career, and a recent experience of theirs while job hunting struck me as odd.  It bothered me because, in the end, all that this company really did was waste my friend’s time.  And when someone that I am very close to gets treated poorly, whether through actual malice or simply through indifference, I get upset, because I don’t want to see them be hurt.

For some background information, my friend is currently employed, and as far as I am aware, their current employment relationship is stable.  Their situation is not like when I was at Food & Water Watch, where they were actively trying to push me out, and thus a sense of urgency with the job search in order to get out before the hammer ultimately fell.  There is no time crunch with my friend.  They can afford to be choosy about who they want to work for, and choose the right job rather than a “right now” job.  That is a very enviable situation to be in, and it gives them more power than they might otherwise have, because they can choose to wait for better offers.

As part of their job searching strategy, my friend listed their resume on Indeed.com, which is a site where companies recruit candidates via job postings and resume searches.  I have mixed feelings about making one’s resume public.  When I made my resume public when I was looking for a new job in 2013, I got lots of contacts based on it, mostly by phone, but from all of the wrong kinds of people.  I was not interested in working for some shady insurance company or whatever else tried to reach out to me.  I quickly got the impression that only shysters used the public resume search functions and that reputable companies don’t because they have plenty of applicants who are seeking them out and thus don’t need to recruit like that, and as such, I pulled my resume.  That stopped those sorts of contacts immediately.  However, considering the number of sites today that tell people that they should make their resume public, I suspect one of two things about my experience: either my experience was atypical, or a lot has improved in the last nine years to prevent the shysters from locking onto people’s resumes so easily.  Either way, it’s left me a bit wary about public resume postings, and as such, I am more guarded about who gets to see my resume, i.e. only people that I want to have it ever get it.

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Categories: Friends, Work

It’s kind of like being in the shower for eight hours a day…

May 16, 2022, 8:16 PM

It’s interesting how jobs work sometimes.  As many of you know, I work as a train operator, operating a subway train in passenger service.  This is a job that I had imagined myself doing for a long time, and it still amazes me that I actually get to do it.  But no one ever tells you what the experience is like when you’re in the train cab all by yourself in a tunnel underneath the city.

When I was in class learning how to be a train operator, our instructor told us that it was an easy job, but that it was also a boring job.  However, all throughout training, an experienced operator is always in the cab with you, and as such, you’re never alone with your thoughts.  There is always someone nearby to interact with, plus, since you’re just learning the job, you’re thinking about the mechanics of the job a lot because it’s has not yet become second nature.  So that “boring” aspect never really comes into play.  Even in my case, where one of my instructors said that I was a natural in regards to my ability to operate the train, I still had to think a lot about what I was doing because I had not yet internalized it all.  It wasn’t just a matter of sitting down and going to town like it is for me now, six years later.  The mechanics of the job are pretty simple: fire up the train, move the master controller to control your speed, monitor the radio, scan the tracks for any hazards, make good announcements to the passengers, and open and close the doors at the stations.  It’s really not a hard job by any means.

Once you get comfortable in the job, and the movements come more naturally, that’s when you really get to experience what it’s like to operate a subway train.  And it’s also when you learn what your mind is capable of doing when it is left alone for long periods of time with minimal distractions.  It’s kind of like being in the shower, in that you are alone with a task to accomplish, and that task is all that there is to do while you’re in there.

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Categories: Myself, Schumin Web meta, Work

This should have happened a long time ago…

November 25, 2019, 8:35 AM

Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and there was someone that I didn’t know in my “People You May Know” list who had an emblem for an organization called “Food & Water Workers Union” on their profile photo.  This piqued my interest, because as you may know, I used to work for an organization called Food & Water Watch.  The similarity in the name made me wonder if it was related, so I looked it up.  I figured that it was some branding that my former employer was using for a campaign of some sort on the environmental issue du jour.  Imagine my surprise to find out that it was for a recently-formed Food & Water Watch employee union, part of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union.  At the time of this writing, they had voted to unionize, and, according to a tweet, were negotiating over which positions will be represented by the union.  I have to say that I’m proud of them for organizing, but I’m also surprised that it took them this long to get to this point.  Their becoming a union shop really should have happened a long time ago.

I don’t know what prompted people to organize, but I can only imagine that people finally got fed up with the culture that I left for greener pastures back in 2013.  Back then, there was rampant favoritism, little to no room for advancement, no respect for different people’s roles in the organization, and no respect for procedure.  There was also the backdoor way that my former boss, Lane Brooks, liked to use to get rid of people, including the finance manager and myself, by creating a new position specifically written to be outside of the targeted employee’s qualifications, and then advertising it out, effectively demoting the employee.  If that by itself didn’t make them leave, he would then put the screws on the employee until they quit.  And if that didn’t work, he made more overt moves to fire them.  After the targeted employee left, the new position was abandoned, having served its purpose in ousting the targeted employee.

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Categories: Work

Six years, two months, and five days later…

September 24, 2019, 8:26 AM

September 24 marks the day that I have been a former employee of Food & Water Watch for the same amount of time that I had been an active employee there.  Since leaving, I have given plenty of thought to my tenure there, and nowadays, I tend to give it a mixed review.  On one hand, that job was what got me up to the Washington DC area in the first place, and it was good for me for a period of time.  I grew both personally and professionally because of my experience there, and I certainly benefitted from that.  I also certainly had lots of good times while there.  However, I probably stayed there for much longer than I should have, as most people spent two or three years there and then moved on.  I was there for just over six years, was ninth in seniority by the time that I left, and was no longer all that interested in the issues that the organization was working on by the time that I left.

One thing that I have come to realize with the passage of time is that my position ultimately came to its logical conclusion.  When I was hired, the organization had about twenty people, with most people based in DC.  By the time that I left, the organization was somewhere around 100 people spread across many offices.  In my role as office manager, I was that “jack of all trades, master of none” person.  I had no direct involvement with the program content, but rather, I was the guy behind the scenes who made sure that the people handling the program content had what they needed to do their thing.  I was tasked with fixing stuff, working with outside vendors, making sure that the office had all of the necessary supplies, doing all of the shipping and receiving, handling matters related to the building, and so on.  In other words, I served in a very generalist role.  I knew a bit about a lot of things, and it suited me well for a time.  What happened was that over the years, as the organization grew, they would carve specialist roles out of my responsibilities.  It made enough sense, because a bigger organization justified creating more specialized roles.  My job gradually evolved over the years as my responsibilities shifted with the growth of the organization.  The view of my generalist role also evolved, with the focus of my role’s shifting from the “jack of all trades” part to the “master of none part”, as, with the hiring of more specialized roles, I went from being the guy who knew a lot about a lot of stuff to “what does he know?”  And eventually, my role was whittled down to a very low-level role that I was overqualified for, and probably overpaid for as well.

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Categories: Myself, Work

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

Five years since I left the nonprofit world…

July 20, 2018, 2:34 PM

Yesterday marked five years since I left Food & Water Watch, where I worked for a little over six years.  I had not been happy there for a while, and the deterioration of things in my last three months or so was the final push that I needed in order to do what I knew that I needed to do, i.e. leave the organization.  Looking back, I suppose that what ultimately happened was the logical conclusion to my work there.  I was hired into a very generalist position back in 2007.  I was that guy who “did everything”.  One day I would be doing accounting work.  One day I was building furniture.  One day I was fixing computers.  One day I would be working in fundraising.  You name it, and I probably did it at some point.  Over the years, my job evolved and changed as the organization grew, and people with more specialized roles were added as various functions of the organization became too large for a more generalist position.  Eventually, there became less of a need for a position like mine, but so rather than promote me to a new role, they opted to unload me.  Suit yourself, I suppose.

In any case, the next fifteen months were an interesting time in my life.  I was reminded of exactly how much job hunting sucks, but I also remember not really feeling any of the positions that I was applying for.  More nonprofit work after just having been chewed up and spit out by one didn’t exactly ignite my passion.  Especially when there was that nagging thought that in a few years, I would probably be searching for a job again, since most people tended to only stay somewhere for two or three years before moving on.  By October, I had given up on nonprofits, and focused on transportation.  I got a CDL, and I was applying to driving jobs.  I was more excited about the work than sitting in an office all day, that’s for sure.  I knew I was in the right place, because I felt like the passion and the fire were back.

It’s funny, though, what makes you realize how much you’ve grown and changed in five years.  I redid my resume about a month ago for a few internal positions that I am pursuing with my current employer, and based the new resume on the one that I had used in 2013 and 2014.  That old resume was trying to be a lot of different things, and focused on how well-rounded I was as a candidate, focusing on technical abilities, writing, and work experience.  It was two pages (front and back), and probably had too much on it, as it had this big, flowery “skills” section, plus a section on volunteer work which covered all of my writing on Wikipedia, and also showcased the various skills developed through Schumin Web.  I thought it was great in 2013 and 2014, but in 2018, I saw a whole lot of fluff.  I condensed that puppy down to one page, as a lot of that was irrelevant to an internal move in a transit agency.  My Wikipedia writing experience went right out the window, as I hadn’t done that in quite a few years, and thus it was less relevant.  Schumin Web is now listed as a real job, as the business side of things (i.e. licensing photos for third party use) has actually become a real revenue stream in the last few years.  And then my Office on Youth internship, which I did in the summer of 2003, is gone.  It didn’t provide any new insights that other positions didn’t already provide, and was for such a short duration that it could disappear and no one would miss it.  Kind of weird to think about, though, since that internship defined my summer that year.  But then again, things change.  No one from when I interned there still works there.  I don’t recognize a single face on their staff bio page.

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Categories: Myself, Work

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

Now to build on the successes of the past year…

January 3, 2018, 9:37 PM

A new year always brings a lot of feelings.  It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and a time to look ahead to the year ahead.  Reflecting back on 2017, I’d say that I had an outstanding year, and laid the groundwork for a strong future.  After all, at the beginning of 2017, I was still relatively new at the whole train operations thing, and lived by myself in an apartment with a hostile relationship with the property management.  Now, I’m more experienced with my work and more comfortable with all of the ins and outs of my job, and I’m also a homeowner with a roommate.  I made my first mortgage payment at the end of December.  Things suddenly became very real when I wrote that check.

Now, in 2018, I want to build on my successes from the past year and reach even greater heights.  After all, in 2017, I got the house.  Now, I want to make it my home, and not someone else’s idea of a home with my furniture sitting in it.  That means getting rid of that chandelier in Elyse’s room, painting a few rooms, and getting my wallhangings up.  I’m excited to design the new decor, because I have so many blank canvases upon which to expend some pent-up creative energies.  My parents are delighted about this as well, because I’d been fantasizing out loud about redecorating their house for a few years in order to expend those creative energies that I couldn’t do with the apartment, but they were a bit cool to the idea.  Now I have my own place to paint and decorate as I wish.  The previous owner of my house decorated the place fairly minimalistically, using pale colors on walls and few wallhangings and furnishings, such as in the living room:

My living room during the showing

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I think this takes the cake for condescending job rejections…

September 17, 2017, 6:25 PM

If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve probably, at some point, received a rejection letter from a company.  It’s that lovely little note that says “thanks, but no thanks” in a way that typically attempts to deliver the bad news while also attempting to soften the blow of said bad news.  Most of them are fairly straightforward, but some people try a bit too hard to make people feel better in their rejections, usually to the opposite effect.  On the /r/jobs board on Reddit, which I help moderate, this came through, which I believe takes the cake when it comes to rejection letters that try too hard to make people feel better:

Looking at my desk full of fantastic applications is like looking into a box full of puppies – you wish you could keep them all.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and I’m sorry to tell you that your experience and skill set is not the perfect match we are looking for to fill this position.

I regret that I cannot give you a positive answer, but I have no doubt that there are many companies that will be thrilled to hear from a talented candidate like you.

We wish you all the best for your future endeavors and success finding the perfect match.

Best regards,

[Name]

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Categories: Reddit, Work

A few career anniversaries in the next month…

March 23, 2017, 2:04 AM

The next month contains no less than three career anniversaries of mine.  March 31 marks ten years since I was fired from Walmart, April 15 marks the 15th anniversary of when CFW Information Services (then Telegate USA) closed and I was laid off, and then April 18 marks ten years from the day that I was hired at Food & Water Watch.  Rememberances of jobs past, I suppose.

The anniversary that still gets me is the CFW one.  I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years.  That was my first job, which I started at age 16, in June 1997.  It was a call center job, processing inbound calls for customers seeking directory assistance services in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Then Pennsylvania got added to the mix.  Then we started doing two national services – one used by bill collectors doing skiptracing, and a wholesale service for the public through a variety of different providers.  When the national services came online, I mostly did the bill collector service.  That was a good job.  The dress code was casual (after all, who saw you?) and you worked at a computer all day.

That job did, however, have a turning point.  In June 2000, parent company CFW Communications made a major change to its corporate structure, merging with another regional telecommunications company in Virginia to form nTelos.  As part of that same deal, Information Services was out.  Our division would not become part of the new nTelos, as we were sold to Telegate, a company based in Munich, Germany.  I remember watching this company, which had thrived under CFW ownership, be slowly destroyed under Telegate ownership.  If I recall, Telegate acquired our company with the intention of gaining a foothold in the US marketplace, with the desire to eventually launch a “11880” style service in the US like they did in Germany.  The “11880” style service never happened, and things basically stayed the same.  Meanwhile, for a company with three Virginia call centers (Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester), their choice of a headquarters location was surprising: Plano, Texas.  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.  The management in Texas also seemed to come and go on a fairly regular basis, as one after the other either abruptly quit or was dismissed.  It was no surprise when Telegate started closing call centers as the business started to drop off (probably due to the hideous management of the company), as Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester all closed within about 6-7 months of each other.  I was away at college at the time that my center closed, and never received any official notification from Telegate of the center’s closing, but rather, was notified by some of my soon-to-be-former coworkers.  It just so happened that I would be in town the weekend before the closing, and so I stopped by to pick up my belongings and turn in my equipment.  And that was the end of my first job.

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Categories: CFW, Walmart, Work

In retail, it’s made abundantly clear that the employee is never right…

August 16, 2016, 8:12 PM

The recent discussion in this space about bad employee behavior made me think of a few incidents that occurred during my time at Walmart back in 2004 that defied logic. These were incidents where I got pulled into the back office and chewed out for something that I had no control over due to policies and procedures in place at the time. One of these even was handled as a “coaching”, short for “Coaching for Improvement”, which is Walmart’s term for its disciplinary process. If you ask me, it’s pretty messed up to discipline someone over something that they have no control over. It’s where you realize that as an employee, you are never right, even when you follow protocol to the letter, and you are also responsible for your managers’ mistakes.

The first incident occurred in the summer of 2004. I got into work, and my boss, the assistant manager over the front end, pulled me aside to speak with me as soon as I clocked in. His first words were, “This is your verbal warning,” i.e. this was a coaching. Lovely. I was then told that they had caught me on camera at the service desk accepting a stolen item for a return. They explained what happened, i.e. that a person had taken a vacuum cleaner off of the shelf, walked it over to the service desk, presented a receipt, and got a their money back for it from me.

While at first glance it might seem like an open-and-shut case, and therefore grounds to discipline me for accepting a stolen item for a return, if you look more deeply into it, that argument starts to fall apart. My job at the service desk was to accept and process returns. In my store, a mid-2000s Supercenter, the service desk was in the middle of the front end, in a space that I referred to as a cave, since it was a windowless room that was only open to the rest of the store on one side.

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Categories: Walmart, Work

Now, about that boot…

December 23, 2015, 5:12 PM

You may recall that this past September’s splash photo showed me posing with a broken merry-go-round at Pentagon City Mall, i.e. this:

At Pentagon City Mall, sporting a boot cast.

Note the choice of footwear.  I’m wearing a Crocs shoe on one foot… and a massive boot cast on the other.  It was posted without any explanation other than a mention of its presence, but clearly, something was up, because I don’t normally wear a boot around like that.

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Categories: Elyse, Personal health, Work

Spotted a zebra finch today…

November 7, 2015, 11:42 PM

So I was on my layover right before starting my last trip of the night, when a bird flew into the bus shelter, and ran right into the glass sides.  The bird apparently didn’t hit very hard, because it never even appeared to act dazed.  It was like the Chumbawamba song “Tubthumping“, in that it got knocked down and then got up again.  And here it is:

A zebra finch, standing in the bus shelter

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Categories: Childhood, Work

While hunting for a photo…

August 29, 2015, 9:29 PM

Yesterday, I was hunting through my archives to find a photo to show a friend.  My photo archives are arranged by subject and by date.  If I took a bunch of photos in a single day, then all of those photos typically go into a folder marked with the general subject of the photos and the date.  One-off photos usually get dated, marked with their subject, and get put in a folder with all of the one-off shots for the month.  The photo that I was looking for depicted a bus sign after the normal text for that route had changed.  So I knew what it was, and knew what the photo looked like.  I also knew that the photo was a one-off, since I took the photo at Glenmont on the way home from work.  However, I didn’t remember exactly when I took it.  I had an approximate range for when I took it, but didn’t quite know.  So that meant that I needed to hunt.

First of all, I was successful in finding the photo.  Here it is, dated September 24, 2012:

Route Y5, destination MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

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“I feel important, just like a king…”

May 30, 2015, 12:49 PM

So today is my birthday.  I am officially 34 years old.  I rang my birthday in doing one of the things that I always enjoy doing, i.e. driving the bus, and watching out for Virginia drivers (yes, Virginia drivers are, by far, the worst drivers in this area as far as I’m concerned).  Then I took my birthday as a floating holiday, so I don’t have to work my birthday (yaaaaaay!).

But at the beginning of my workday on Friday, my friend Elyse met me at the location on the street where I pick up my first bus, and gave me a birthday card.  Check it out:

  

And of course, I immediately made sport of the grammatical error in the handwritten message.  But no worries – I did it with a smile, so it’s all in good fun.  Then down at the bottom is an Edwards Integrity fire alarm horn/strobe, like they have at work.

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