The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:01:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 I guess that I can cross “escape from a burning car” off of my bucket list… https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/02/13/i-guess-that-i-can-cross-escape-from-a-burning-car-off-of-my-bucket-list/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/02/13/i-guess-that-i-can-cross-escape-from-a-burning-car-off-of-my-bucket-list/#respond Tue, 13 Feb 2018 19:40:33 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26688 Sad to say, my 2012 Kia Soul is no more.  On the night of February 7, in Lucketts, Virginia, as Elyse and I were on the way back home from a trip around the area with friends, my car caught fire and was destroyed in the resulting inferno.  Thankfully, we both escaped without injury.

The day had gone pretty well.  We had gotten together with two friends, Trent and Jackson, and we went from Gaithersburg to Rockville to Silver Spring to DC to Alexandria to Annandale seeing various things, with a focus mostly on elevators, as Elyse, Trent, and Jackson are all elevator enthusiasts.  I have somewhat of an interest in them, but not nearly as strong as the other three.  At the end of our day, we dropped Trent off at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, and then took Jackson up to Dulles Airport to meet up with family members of his that were flying in from out of town.  After we left Jackson with his relatives, Elyse and I headed out.  We took the Dulles Greenway to Leesburg, and then headed north on Route 15, intending to go over the Point of Rocks Bridge, and then continuing to follow Route 15 until we reached Frederick, after which we would turn south to head home.

However, circumstances would dictate otherwise.  As we were going up Route 15, the car suddenly started losing accelerative power, getting it back, losing it again, and so on.  The end result was that I was rapidly losing speed.  Elyse thought that it was the transmission slipping, and with that in mind, I was trying to see if I could get the car to a safe location in order to stop and call AAA for a tow truck.  A transmission problem would be covered under the Kia 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and so, like the engine replacement that I had a couple of months ago, I would take it to the dealer to get it fixed, and everything would be fine.

Then things went from bad to worse, as Elyse and I both saw flames shoot out from underneath the car on our respective sides.  I stopped the car, and we got out of the car as quickly as possible.  It all happened so fast.  I remember getting out of the driver’s side door and running around the front to the roadside, just as Elyse landed in the ditch alongside the road.  We then ran around to the back of the car and quickly grabbed our stuff out of the back, i.e. our coats, my tablet, my real camera, and the shopping bags, and then got a safe distance away.  I called 911, and shot some photos of the fire as I talked to 911.

The early stages of the fire, at 10:45 PM.  Note that the lights are still on, and flame is visible coming out from under the hood, through the grille, and underneath.
The early stages of the fire, at 10:45 PM.  Note that the lights are still on, and flame is visible coming out from under the hood, through the grille, and underneath.

Twenty seconds later, the fire is much larger, and has spread to the passenger area.  The person driving the Hummer in the other lane inquired about how we were doing, and also called 911.
Twenty seconds later, the fire is much larger, and has spread to the passenger area.  The person driving the Hummer in the other lane inquired about how we were doing, and also called 911.

Two minutes later, the car is fully involved, with flames rising twice as high as the car.
Two minutes later, the car is fully involved, with flames rising twice as high as the car.

Eight seconds later, the fire has burned through the Kia logo on the hood.  I specifically remember watching that happen, stunned.
Eight seconds later, the fire has burned through the Kia logo on the hood.  I specifically remember watching that happen, stunned.

Two minutes later, the fire department was on scene.  Note that there's so much flame that you can barely even see the car.
Two minutes later, the fire department was on scene.  Note that there’s so much flame that you can barely even see the car.

Putting out the fire.
Putting out the fire.

Still putting out the fire.
Still putting out the fire.

And the fire was brought under control.
And the fire was brought under control.

Elyse got a video of the fire:


The left front tire blows up at the thirty second mark, and you can also hear the airbags and various other things pop shortly thereafter.  The fire department is on scene at about 1:45, and they start hosing it down at around 3:30.  By the end of the video, it was mostly out, and they were working on hot spots.

When the fire department arrived, they offered for us to wait in the ambulance in order to keep warm.  After the fire was out, we took them up on the offer.  We also gave statements to a police officer on scene.  Elyse called her parents and made arrangements with them for us to get picked up, and then we waited in the ambulance for the tow truck to arrive.  The police officer told me that the car was totaled, to which I responded, with a slight chuckle, “I could have told you that!”

When the tow truck arrived, we saw the aftermath:

The remains of my Kia Soul, viewed from the front.  The fire had turned my green car white.

The remains of my Kia Soul, viewed from the front.  The fire had turned my green car white.
The remains of my Kia Soul, viewed from the front.  The fire had turned my green car white.

The rear of my car following the fire.
The rear of my car following the fire.

The front seats.  The interior was completely burned out.  Scary to think that Elyse and I had been sitting in these seats less than an hour earlier.
The front seats.  The interior was completely burned out.  Scary to think that Elyse and I had been sitting in these seats less than an hour earlier.

Debris that melted off of the front of the car.  This is the front bumper, the grille, the headlights, and various other things.  Pretty sure that the front license plate was in there as well.  You can see part of the radiator sitting on top.
Debris that melted off of the front of the car.  This is the front bumper, the grille, the headlights, and various other things.  Pretty sure that the front license plate was in there as well.  You can see part of the radiator sitting on top.

Loading the car onto the tow truck.  It was being taken to Terry's Body Shop in Purcellville.  That was a sad moment for me, because I knew that it was the last time that I would ever see my car.  And truthfully, that was fine - I never want to see the little fireball on wheels again.
Loading the car onto the tow truck.  It was being taken to Terry’s Body Shop in Purcellville.  That was a sad moment for me, because I knew that it was the last time that I would ever see my car.  And truthfully, that was fine – I never want to see the little fireball on wheels again.

A firefighter uses a shovel to scrape the debris from the fire off of the road, so that the road could reopen.
A firefighter uses a shovel to scrape the debris from the fire off of the road, so that the road could reopen.

And that was that.  The tow truck left with the car, the fire trucks left, and the police officer reopened the road.  As each unit left, I made sure to thank them for their help.  Elyse and I were waiting in the ambulance while they determined a safe place for us to wait to be picked up by Elyse’s father, who was en route.  The plan was to take us to a nearby Gulf station, but they were closing in five minutes.  We then waited in the ambulance outside the fire department while they called in to get permission to let us wait inside there.  They couldn’t get hold of their people in reasonable time, so they looked to see if the next gas station, a Valero station, was open.  They were closed as well.  Then we found out that Elyse’s father was nearby (he had actually passed us without realizing it), and we quickly arranged to meet up with him at the Gulf station.

You don’t know how delighted I was to see him, because it meant that the whole ordeal would be over soon.  We were going home.  We thanked the ambulance crew, and got in the car.  On the way home, I was filing the insurance claim on Progressive’s app, and I also looked at social media to see if there was anything about our incident other than the photos that I posted.  I found these on the Twitter:

Tweets about the fire

I’ve seen many traffic alerts on social media over the years, but it was kind of surreal to see this and realize that they were talking about me.

Then when we got home, we immediately went to work getting rid of the smoke smell that was on everything.  We both took showers, and I ran a load of laundry that night to get the smell out of our clothes.  Taking the shower, and then putting something comfortable on afterward was very calming.  It was a reassurance that everything would be fine, and life would go on.

I’m not going to comment on the cause of the fire at this time, because the insurance company is still conducting its investigation into the matter, though I certainly have my own thoughts as to the cause.  We’ll revisit that matter once the cause is formally determined, and we’ll see if my theory is correct.

Taking the fire as a given, though, I’m glad that it happened when and where it did.  I knew that there was a gas station not far up the road from our location, and that was the safe place that I was intending to take the car in order to call for a tow truck.  Imagine if I had made it to the gas station, and the fire happened there.  We would have been sitting on top of, or at least in very close proximity to, tens of thousands of gallons of fuel.  That could have been a major disaster if the fuel had caught fire, as there was a small trailer park located behind the gas station, as well as other structures nearby.  Since we didn’t make it there, and there was nothing around us, the worst that could have happened is that the fire would have burned itself out.  Similarly, it happened on a rural road in Loudoun County rather than a more populated area.  In other words, we didn’t screw up traffic that badly, though we certainly did cause a backup.  Then I’m also glad that we had dropped everyone off before it happened.  I’m glad that Trent and Jackson were both gone when the fire happened, because that’s fewer people to need to escape.  Plus the logistics of getting back to our various homes would have been more complicated, because Trent lives in DC and Jackson was staying in Leesburg.  Elyse and I live together, so getting us home was pretty straightforward.

Meanwhile, you would expect that something like a car fire would be a very scary situation.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t.  The whole thing happened so quickly that we didn’t even have time to be scared.  We saw the fire ignite under the engine compartment, and we just reacted.  I immediately stopped the car, and we got away.  It’s not like you see on television, which is designed for maximum drama.  Nobody was scared in the moment.  Seriously, it happened that quickly.  It was worse after it was over, once the adrenaline started to wear off, as only then did the realization of what happened sink in, i.e. that we had just escaped a big fire that could have ended much worse, that my car was gone, and that I now had a lot of things to sort through related to what had just happened.

These two photos that Jackson took in the car earlier in the day – one of me driving, and one of Trent – also made me think quite a bit.


Photo: Jackson Slater


Photo: Jackson Slater

It’s kind of surreal.  None of us knew that the car was essentially a ticking time bomb and would not survive the day, nor did we think that these would be the last photos ever taken of my car fully intact.  It also made me upset that I, unknowingly, endangered all of our lives by driving around in a vehicle that was about to catch fire.  None of us ever expected that the car would have caught fire, nor did we have any way of knowing what would happen, but it nonetheless upsets me.  It’s like an adventure game that is put in an unwinnable state.  The game won’t tell you right away that you can’t win when you forgot something or took an action that has consequences later on, but then eventually, it all comes to this:

"We're glad you could play Space Quest IV. As usual, you've been a real pantload."

That’s how I felt, rightly or not, after everything was over, i.e. that I had been going around all day with the “game” in an unwinnable state.  And in the end, Gary Owens was calling me a pantload.

My next day at work after the fire was Friday, and I was in a surprisingly good mood – the kind of good mood that you’re in on the first day back from a vacation.  I typically don’t look forward to my Fridays because I do three round trips instead of two, and that makes for a rather long day.  That Friday was one of the easiest days that I’d had in a long time.  I suppose that an event like a car fire puts things into perspective, and that three round trips behind a train console isn’t that bad compared to the alternative.

And now, all we have left of the Soul are the memories.

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That point where you’ve turned a corner on getting settled… https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/26/that-point-where-youve-turned-a-corner-on-getting-settled/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/26/that-point-where-youve-turned-a-corner-on-getting-settled/#respond Fri, 26 Jan 2018 19:27:51 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26666 Slowly but surely, this house is coming together.  Old furniture is in place.  New furniture is acquired and in place.  Various other little flub-dubs have been purchased and placed.  And I have a dust mop.  You know that you’re mature when you’re excited about buying a dust mop.

But in any case, it’s starting to look like Elyse and I live there.  My bedroom, for instance, is more or less complete:

My bedroom, with bed, nightstands, lamps, and curtains.
My bedroom, with bed, nightstands, lamps, and curtains.

Same setting, viewed from the mezzanine.
Same setting, viewed from the mezzanine.

I am particularly proud of the curtains.  When I first saw the house back in July, there were 84-inch gray curtains on the windows.  Those curtains touched the floor, which I didn’t like.  When I went shopping for curtains, all that I could find were 63-inch curtains, and 84-inch curtains.  63-inch curtains would cut right at the bottom of the window, and 84-inch would have touched the floor again.  I found 72-inch curtains, which were the perfect length, plus they matched the comforter on the bed.  They’re also blackout curtains, which means that if I really wanted to, I could keep the sunlight out, but the double window directly above, across from the mezzanine, as well as the skylight in the mezzanine, makes that an exercise in futility.  But that’s okay, because I just wanted something to complete the setting, and for that, it works perfectly.  Along with Elyse’s room, it’s the only room with any sort of curtains.  I’m not planning on painting my bedroom, so all that’s left to do in here is wallhangings, and perhaps also an area rug.

Meanwhile, Elyse and I accomplished this in the back bedroom over the course of about two nights:

The home library is complete.
The home library is complete.

This worked out more or less perfectly.  When I was mentally furnishing the house while everything was still going through, I knew that I wanted the bookshelves upstairs, but I didn’t quite know how I wanted them to be placed.  Then on moving day, the movers plopped them against the east wall, side by side.  It was perfect, and so I left them that way.  All that I had to do was relevel them and load them.  The strategy here was to have books ring the outside, and then put trinkets on the inside.  The shelves containing books look perfect, but the shelves with trinkets look a little crowded.  I think I’m going to put some things on top of the shelves, in order to add some character to the top, as well as make things look a little less crowded down below.

I’m still not entirely sure what the purpose of the back bedroom is, though.  There are currently no furnishings in it other than the bookshelves, and no area rug.  Elyse and I both have our bedrooms, the mezzanine is my office/den, and the living room is the living room.  The impetus for finishing the back bedroom was so that we could blow up the air mattress for an overnight guest so that we didn’t have to put them in the living room,  The air mattress fits in there perfectly, so that certainly works.  That said, I need to keep the space open so that I can blow up the air mattress for guests without having to completely dismantle the room whenever guests come over, but I suppose that we’ll see what happens with it.  Seeing that nature abhors a vacuum, I don’t want it to become a junk room, so we’ll see.

Then I also bid farewell to my old torchiere lamps:

The lamps, at the Habitat for Humanity store in Silver Spring

I never thought that I would get rid of these, but they really had no place anywhere in the house.  I have more ceiling lighting here, and I also couldn’t mentally place them anywhere that would work.  So, having outlived their usefulness, they’re gone.  I remember how excited I was to get them back in 2004 when I redecorated my old bedroom at my parents’ house, but what 22-year-old me thought was perfect is what 36-year-old me says no longer has any place.  So I donated them to Habitat for Humanity, at the ReStore location off of Cherry Hill Road in Silver Spring.

That worked out surprisingly well, because as luck would have it, we came across something that was incredibly useful.  The original plan that day was to drop off the lamps at Habitat, and then head over to IKEA, armed with a $25 off of $250 coupon, in order to purchase an armchair for the living room.  But Elyse wanted to look at the Habitat store while we were there, and I didn’t.  Considering that she’d eaten before we left the house and I hadn’t, that worked out well enough.  I went across the street to get lunch while she looked at the Habitat store.  Then I got a text message from Elyse while I was eating, that the Habitat store had a tan Ektorp armchair in tan on the salesfloor.  Ektorp was one of the styles that I had in mind from the outset, along with a Strandmon wing chair.  Once I finished eating, I came over and realized that it was in new condition, and the price was unbeatable.  But would it fit my car?  A quick measurement of my car’s back opening revealed that it was 36″ x 28″.  We took the legs off the chair, and it went right in.  Score!  I ended up paying $74 for a $319 chair.  I could handle that.  And it looks perfect in the living room:

The Ektorp armchair harmonizes perfectly with my Friheten couch.
The Ektorp armchair harmonizes perfectly with my Friheten couch.

And as you can see, part of the living room is still in an incomplete state.  The problem is that the dining part of the living room has been partly cannibalized for use in the kitchen so that I can use the breakfast bar:

Those chairs are the wrong height for the breakfast bar, but they work as an interim solution until I get real counter-height chairs.  Those are on their way, and it’s going to be these:

I ended up getting two of these from Zadia Wood Center in Rockville, and will stain them to match the cabinets.  They’ll be here in six to eight weeks.  Then the dining set will come together.

So all in all, this house is slowly but surely becoming a home.

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When you realize that the unbalanced nature of the electoral college is a symptom, and not the problem… https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/13/when-you-realize-that-the-unbalanced-nature-of-the-electoral-college-is-a-symptom-and-not-the-problem/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/13/when-you-realize-that-the-unbalanced-nature-of-the-electoral-college-is-a-symptom-and-not-the-problem/#respond Sat, 13 Jan 2018 21:38:24 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26656 With the recent talk about a potential Oprah Winfrey run for president, I started thinking again about how to fix our unbalanced electoral system, and the least difficult way to do it.

But first, since I mentioned it, just to eliminate all doubt: Oprah Winfrey should not run for president, at least not right now, for the same reason that Donald Trump was not qualified for the job, i.e. no experience in public service.  If Oprah wants to run for president, she should do like most presidents have done, and run for a local office and start a proper public service career.  Even Ronald Reagan, who was an actor prior to entering politics, was governor of California before he was president.  A career in public service prior to running for the top spot shows that you’re serious.  I’m sure that Oprah would make a pretty good Chicago alderman as a first step, and then on to a state legislature or Congress.  Governor of Illinois, maybe not, because most Illinois governors go to jail after leaving office, it seems.  But in any case, if you’re serious, and not just doing it for attention, you go through the proper channels.  We want to leave Trump as a fluke, and not make this whole TV-personalities-as-president-with-no-public-service thing a trend.

Of course, the whole reason that we ended up with Trump in the first place is because we have a very unbalanced electoral college system.  After all, more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, but because of the unbalanced nature of it all, it tipped toward Donald Trump.  Because its votes are allocated based on the amount of representatives and senators, it skews in favor of states with low population.  According to this map by Slate, the top three most powerful votes are found in Wyoming, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.  The bottom three are California, Florida, and New York.  In other words, the most populous states have the least voice per capita in determining who becomes the prez.

Back in 2016, when I wrote my election postmortem entry, I suggested the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact as a suitable solution for the electoral college.  I am no longer sure that the compact is the best solution to the electoral system’s woes.  I feel like that just puts a patch over the real problem: Congress.  Since 1913, the House of Representatives has contained 435 members, and the size was fixed at that amount in 1929 due to concerns over the House chamber’s capacity.  Therefore, since then, any reapportionment of seats has been a matter of rearranging the same 435 seats, meaning that if one state gains a seat during a reapportionment, another state has to lose one.  There is no allowance for growth in population – just comparative sizes.  And the population has grown considerably since then.  The 1920 census, which was the most recent when the 1929 act was passed, listed the country’s population as 106 million.  We’re now at 308 million as of the 2010 census, i.e. the population has roughly tripled since 1920.  But we still have the same 435 representatives.  Going strictly on numbers, 435 representatives into the 1920 population of 106,021,537 comes out to approximately one representative for every 243,727 people.  Today, using the 2010 number of 308,745,539, it comes out to approximately one representative for every 709,759 people.  This does not take state boundaries into consideration, since you can’t, for instance, take some of Montana and lump it in with Wyoming as far as representation goes.  That all figures into how Congress breaks out, and it creates some unevenness.

The solution, as I see it, is to lift the 435-member limit, and apportion representatives based on a designated amount of people, give or take (it’s never going to be perfectly exact due to state boundaries’ dictating certain limits).  I believe that communications technology now in common use obviates the need to limit the amount of representatives to what will fit in the House chamber.  We already have cameras in the chamber for C-SPAN, so what’s to stop Congress from using videoconferencing technology to bring the membership together at multiple sites, especially when, ever since the 1970s, voting is already done electronically?  One could have the main House chamber in the Capitol, and then have one or more satellite chambers elsewhere in the city (or in the suburbs), as necessary.

The big question, therefore, is how many people should there be per representative.  According to Federalist 55, the intent was to have one representative per 30,000 people.  Going with the 2010 population number, that works out to approximately 10,291 representatives.  My gut feeling is that having that many representatives seems excessive, though it would be very representative.  Hell, you could fit your entire district’s population inside certain large sporting venues.  By that number, Wyoming, the lowest-populated state, would have approximately 19 representatives, and California, the highest-populated state, would have 1,241 representatives.  Going with 200,000 people per representative, a number much closer to what it comes to for the 1920 census, you would end up with approximately 1,543 representatives total.  That would give Wyoming three representatives, and would give California 186 representatives.  And that’s not that bad.  And I figure, with that many representatives, you could house them in NoMa, which seems to be teeming with empty office buildings.  Do some buildouts and stash a few hundred congressmen in there.

Having so many representatives will also limit the impact of gerrymandering, if you can only put so many people in a district.  Since I moved to Montgomery Village back in November, I’m in Maryland’s 6th District, which is a fairly ridiculous district, though by no means the worst in Maryland.  The district encompasses all of western Maryland up to approximately South Mountain, and then turns southeast, with something of a neck through part of Frederick County, and then a bulb encompassing most of western Montgomery County.  My representative is John Delaney, who is from MoCo.  Like he really understands what’s going on out in Cumberland.  At one representative for 200,000 people, Maryland, with a 2010 census population of 5,773,552, would have approximately 29 representatives, and that would almost mandate more compact districts than the way that they snake around the state right now.

And then with more representatives in the House, the electoral college will mostly sort itself out, when you get the districts more in line with population, and not just rearranging the same number of seats over and over again based on population shifts.  The only other thing that I would do would be with a newly enlarged electoral college, would be nationwide adoption of the Maine/Nebraska allocation method, i.e. allocate electoral votes by congressional district, with two at-large electoral votes for the senators, and not have a winner-take-all for each state.  Therefore, if your district of 200,000 votes for a Republican, that’s what your electoral vote is cast as.  If your district votes Democratic, then that’s what it goes as.  If your district voted for Evan McMullin, then so be it.

And it just takes the passage of a single law to enact, rather than getting many states to agree on something that might be ruled unconstitutional, like the compact.  Is it likely to happen?  No – because no one wants to give up power.  But it should happen, but it would take a lot of political fortitude to make it happen.

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Now to build on the successes of the past year… https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/03/now-to-build-on-the-successes-of-the-past-year/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2018/01/03/now-to-build-on-the-successes-of-the-past-year/#respond Thu, 04 Jan 2018 02:37:21 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26632 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

My living room during the showing

What is now Elyse’s room was designed fairly well by the previous owner, with muted colors throughout.  Take a look:

What is now Elyse's room, during the showing

In other words, the chandelier, for which Elyse and I have both expressed our dislike, worked with the old decor.  However, without the matching furniture and wallhangings, it looks out of place, plus the trim color doesn’t match the rest of the house.  My coworkers have suggested that I paint the chandelier black, but I think I can do better selling it and replacing it with a much smaller fixture.

I have yet to design my interiors (there are still things that need to be unpacked, and that should take precedence), but that’s all something to consider when I start designing.  I’m planning to put more hardware on the living room walls than the previous owner did, and then Elyse’s room is getting a new light fixture and new paint.  What all of that will look like is still up in the air.  It took me seven years to finally get around to decorating the apartment.  On that timeframe now, it would mean that I would live around plain walls until I’m 43.  I will decorate well before that, but what it will look like is still to be determined.

I also like the way that my career is moving as we enter 2018.  I worked overtime on New Year’s Eve, and that was enjoyable enough, getting a few hours’ worth of extra money for playing with trains, and helping keep people who have no business driving after a night of revelry off of the roads.  So I got the new year off to a good start there.  I also get the feeling that some of my colleagues view me as something of a rising star, because I get a lot of suggestions that I try various higher positions.  My usual response is, “In time.”  It’s not no, just not now.  I have fun in my work, and I want to continue onward and upward, but I also feel that it’s important to pace myself.  I have an entire career ahead of me, during which time I want to move all around and “do everything”, but I fear that if I move too quickly, I’ll experience burnout and be unhappy.  Therefore, I am fully willing to take it slowly.

Compare this to when I worked at Walmart, when my coworkers questioned why I even worked there at all.  Admittedly, I was overqualified for Walmart, but at the same time, fresh out of college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and Walmart made a little (very little) money while I figured it out.  Then at Food & Water Watch, I don’t really recall much discussion about career progression.  You were basically there until you found your next job.  There was no advancement there.  You were what they hired you as, and that was all you ever would be with them.  Food & Water Watch and New Year’s Eve come together in 2013.  I remember watching the ball drop to ring in 2013 at my parents’ house that year, and I just couldn’t dismiss a nagging thought that 2013 would probably be my last there.  Turned out that I was right, but this was before things really went sour there.  Leaving turned out to be a good thing in the end.  It also dovetailed nicely with something else that happened around the same time: my leaving Wikipedia for good.  I was so done with Wikipedia that it wasn’t even funny.  That was an extremely toxic environment, where I received abuse from far too many people for ridiculous reasons, and I wasn’t getting paid for that.  When you’re volunteering and getting mistreated on a routine basis, the hell with it, as far as I’m concerned.  All in all, 2012-2013 ended up being a purge of a lot of negativity in my life, although it’s not what I consciously set out to do.  But if it tells you anything, I was happier unemployed than I was working at Food & Water Watch, even though unemployment, and living off of savings, was a stressful situation in its own right.

In any case, I’m glad that my career is on the up-and-up, and I look forward to further milestones in the new year.

Meanwhile, I also want to put a renewed focus on this site in 2018.  Simply put, the website needs some more love.  The move to Montgomery Village caused a backlog in my photo work, and that’s understandable.  I’m also planning a photo set about house hunting, moving, and getting settled, which is why there haven’t been many posts about the house – because I’ve been sitting on it with the intent of doing a bigger treatment of the whole process.  Also look for a “postmortem” of sorts about my old apartment after the security deposit comes back.  I’m also planning on doing a compilation photo set for 2017 in Life and Times, since there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t get a chance to discuss on the fly throughout the year.  I’m also planning to turn a lot of my photos from October in Ocean City into a Photography set.

Additionally, the site’s design is now around five years old, and probably needs a refresh.  I want a responsive design for my next major site iteration, but I have no idea how to do it.  So I have my work cut out for me there, as I want the site to look awesome no matter the screen size, and not like this:

So much wasted/unused space, though I admit that this is much wider than your typical monitor.
So much wasted/unused space, though I admit that this is much wider than your typical monitor.

I also have no idea what I want the next design of the site to look like yet, so there’s that to consider as well.

Then I also have the Today’s Special project, i.e. “Project TXL”, which is very much a work in progress.  I’m working through the series in order, and I’ve completed through “Building“.  That means that out of 121 episodes, I’m about a quarter of the way there.  Studying the show so deeply has given me a new appreciation for the development of the series.  In other words, it’s been a lot of fun.

So all in all, I am positioned for success in the new year, and I’m probably in a better position at the start of 2018 than I’ve been in a long time (or ever).  I’m excited to see what happens over the next year, and am hopeful for continued success.

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“Crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!” https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/25/crisp-bacon-strips-sliced-french-bread-hot-cheesy-sauce-on-a-plate-full-of-macaroni/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/25/crisp-bacon-strips-sliced-french-bread-hot-cheesy-sauce-on-a-plate-full-of-macaroni/#respond Mon, 25 Dec 2017 15:14:03 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26603 For the last several years, I’ve made it something of a tradition of watching the Today’s Special episodes “Christmas Part 1” and “Christmas Part 2” on or around Christmas Eve.  It only makes sense to me.  Most Christmas specials are awful, but Today’s Special‘s two Christmas episodes are outside of that mold, taking the same care with Christmas that they do when discussing the night or feelings.  The end result is a timeless story that still leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside after all these years.

This year, I decided to take a minor element from those episodes and bring it into real life.  Across the two episodes, they sing their own variation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” using food.  It starts out early when Sam sings, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plate full of macaroni!”  Then Muffy later adds, “Hot cheesy sauce on my plate full of macaroni!”  Near the end of the second episode, it takes its full form:

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!

So on Friday evening, I went to the grocery store after work and bought this:

Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.
Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.

And then the next day, I went to town with all of this on my new electric stove to make a Christmas meal for Elyse and myself.  Boil and drain the pasta.  Slice the bread.  Put the cheese in a pot with some milk and cook it.  And throw some bacon in the skillet.  I suppose that this is a lesson in the shortcomings of “real men don’t need instructions”.  I was flying by the seat of my pants here, and the result demonstrated my level of experience in preparing certain items.  I have lots of experience with cooking pasta, so that came out perfecty.  Then this was my cheese sauce:

Burnt cheese sauce

It looks nice and all, but unfortunately, I burned it.  I didn’t know that it was possible to burn cheese sauce, but burn it I did.  I learned after the fact that you’re supposed to cook these sorts of things “low and slow” because otherwise, you’ll burn it.  I cooked it on high due on account of not knowing any better, and the rest was history.  The flavor was a combination of Velveeta and “burnt”.  Apparently, the answer to, “Is burnt a flavor?” is yes, because that’s the flavor that my cheese sauce was.

French bread, meanwhile, is pretty hard to screw up.  The bread was already made, so all I had to do was slice it up with a bread knife.  Done.

Then there was the bacon.  Elyse absolutely wouldn’t let me get microwave bacon (read: she wouldn’t let me cheat), and so I bought real bacon and had to cook it.  I didn’t know exactly how long to cook bacon, and was concerned about undercooking it.  Nothing like having eaten something that doesn’t agree on account of its being undercooked, and then calling to be relieved for a “personal” (i.e. a restroom break) while you’re operating a subway train.  So in the end, you guessed it – I ended up burning the bacon, too, out of fear of undercooking it.  I don’t believe that bacon is supposed to break apart in a brittle manner when you touch it with a fork.  However, no one got food poisoning from undercooked bacon on account of me, so I suppose that I was successful in that regard.

And this was the final result:

Crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni, indeed.  And then with the meal prepared, I turned on the entertainment:

"It's Christmas Eve tonight..."
“It’s Christmas Eve tonight…”

And then when the episode was over and the meal concluded, the smell of burnt food lingered in the air.  Food can be petty like that.  You burn a couple of things, and then rather than forgive you for your transgressions and produce the beautiful smell of a freshly made meal, all you can smell is the thing that you burned, as if the food is punishing you for burning some of it.  Stupid food.

All in all, though, I think that this was a good plan, even if the execution wasn’t exactly spot on.  This was a good starting point, and I can improve on this next time.  I have more bacon to practice cooking with, and so maybe I’ll get it right next time there rather than burning it.  Likewise, I now know to slow down with the cheese sauce, so as not to burn it in the future.  I also think I overdid the macaroni.  I took the song literally, i.e. “a plate full of macaroni,” and so I filled the plates.  Pasta can be deceiving when you’re figuring out how much to use.  I think I served up too much macaroni, and so I will use less next time.

In any case, season’s greetings to all, and now I have to swim all of those carbs off.

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Apparently, Sam Crenshaw is an Ottawa Senators fan… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/18/apparently-sam-crenshaw-is-an-ottawa-senators-fan/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/18/apparently-sam-crenshaw-is-an-ottawa-senators-fan/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 17:47:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26594 Sometimes, you never know what you’ll find online.  Check this out:

I never would have guessed that Sam Crenshaw was an Ottawa Senators fan, would you?  I figured that he would have been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, considering that Sam was a big fan of the original Toronto Blizzard soccer team back in the 1980s.  Recall that he briefly played as a goalie during one of the Blizzard’s practices, much to his friend Jodie’s astonishment.

Meanwhile, it’s funny how I ran across this clip.  I don’t remember what prompted it, but I was digging through YouTube on my phone last night, trying to find a clip of Atlanta-area sportscaster Sam Crenshaw to show Elyse, when I encountered this video.  Ask Elyse – I was completely and totally blown away upon this discovery, watching it over and over again in order to completely wrap my mind around it.  “Did Sam really just say ‘kick butt’?”  (Yes, he did.)  And Sam is still a gentleman, rocking the white shirt and bow tie after all of these years.  I wonder what happened to Sam’s nose, though.  In any case, he looks good for 97 years old.  And I’m glad that Bob Dermer is still having fun with Sam as well.

And the Ottawa Senators appear to have done fairly well that season, coming in second place in their division, and making it to the conference finals in the playoffs.  Never underestimate the power of a few words of inspiration from Sam Crenshaw, I suppose.

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I suppose that this is why you buy a Kia… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/04/i-suppose-that-this-is-why-you-buy-a-kia/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/12/04/i-suppose-that-this-is-why-you-buy-a-kia/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 19:59:47 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26567 I suppose that what happened to me recently is exactly why you buy a Kia.  My car had been making some funny noises for a while, but since the check engine light had not come on yet, I figured that I had time to deal with it, and put it off until later.  This past Monday, the noises got noticeably worse, and the “check engine” light finally came on.  That’s when I scheduled a repair with a Kia dealer (since I suspected it might be covered by the warranty) and booked a rental car for the upcoming repair.  Then the car finally quit on me on the way to work, i.e. it just cut off in the middle of Georgia Avenue in Olney.  Thankfully, I was able to coast to a safe location to call for a tow truck.

The car ended up riding on the back of a tow truck from Olney directly to the dealer, and then I took the bus the rest of the way to work.  Then the next day, Elyse and I took a bus down to Rockville to pick up the rental car and talk to the people working on my real car.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone on that one, because I had planned a trip to IKEA during that time anyway, so I rented a truck.  So for a few days, I went from a Kia Soul – a compact – to a Ram 1500 pickup truck.  That thing was massive:

My rented Ram 1500 pickup truck

Talking to the people at the dealership, meanwhile, was perhaps the best thing that I had happen all day, because of one simple phrase: “The repair is under warranty.”  That was an excellent thing to hear, because the sentence right before it was, “It needs a new engine.”  The dealer also agreed to cover part of the cost of the rental car while I was getting the repairs done.  The truck was a higher tier than they would pay for, but considering that I would have had to rent something for my IKEA visit anyway, I wasn’t very concerned about it.

My new temporary ride, meanwhile, was definitely a change.  That thing was bigger and wider than I was used to, and I didn’t know how it handled.  Interestingly enough, my first instinct was to drive it like I do when I drive a bus, meaning riding the curb lane and using the “roping” method for steering.  That lasted until I got more comfortable with the truck.  Then I started driving it more like I drive the car.  The truck made me appreciate why so many people who own these things have footboards on their vehicles.  Mine didn’t have any, and it was a bit of a challenge getting in and out.  That muscle where the thigh bone meets the hip (hip flexor?) was sore from the constant climbing up and down.  It also had a V8 engine in it, which is twice as much engine as I’m used to, as the Kia Soul has a four-cylinder.  Very easy to speed in that thing.  It also had a massive fuel tank, and gobbled up fuel like there was no tomorrow.  When I filled it up the night before I returned it, for two days’ driving around town, it had consumed the equivalent of an entire tank on the Soul.  That’s the kind of car that will eat you out of house and home in fuel costs.  I’m not saying that this truck wasn’t fun to drive, but it’s definitely not something that I would ever buy for myself.

But it served its purpose at IKEA.  I had planned a trip to IKEA with Elyse and our friend Dave in order to get some furniture for the house.  I needed a new complete bedroom set (Elyse got my old one), plus Elyse needed a few pieces to complete her own setup, including shelves, a nightstand, and a desk.  I ended up getting Hemnes again for myself, since it had served me well over the last ten years.  One important thing when I bought the house was seeing this during the showing:

IKEA Hemnes dresser, when I first saw the house

Nothing helps you mentally furnish a house when you’re going to house showings than finding your exact model of furniture in place.  My new dresser is going in the same spot – once I put it together.

Elyse, meanwhile, got these:

Elyse got two of these 2x2 Kallax shelves.
Elyse got two of these 2×2 Kallax shelves.

She also got this Fredde desk.  This is going to be her gaming station.
She also got this Fredde desk.  This is going to be her gaming station.

We also peeked at area rugs, and I found this, among other things:

Green shag carpet.  Nooooooooooooooooooope.
Green shag carpet.  Nooooooooooooooooooope.

That rug gave me flashbacks to my time living in Rogers, Arkansas, when we had green shag carpeting all throughout the house.  That was as ugly back in 1985 as it is today.  We pulled some of that carpet out within a year or so of moving to Rogers when we replaced the linoleum in the kitchen and the laundry room, and made the dining area linoleum as well.  Then we ripped all of it out in September 1991, replacing it with a beige berber carpeting (and turned the dining area carpet again).  I remember that the berber carpets that we got back then didn’t wear that well, and when we moved in less than a year, they didn’t look that great.  I imagine that those berber rugs are long gone by now, considering this description in the most recent real estate listing:

Newly renovated 4BR home with mother-in-law suite. New appliances, granite, windows, siding, floors, & paint. Huge deck to enjoy secluded backyard. 3 full baths & cozy fireplace. Move-in ready!

Something tells me that the “mother-in-law suite” is our old utility room, where I used to go to play Atari in the last couple of years that we lived there.  That room had a random toilet in it as well as a utility sink.  I imagine that this is now the third full bath that didn’t exist when we were there.  Likewise, it sounds like the kitchen is unrecognizable from our time there, now with granite and such.  I just hope that they left all of the built-in storage in the family room.  That was great for storing toys.

But in any case, there will be no green shag carpet in my house as long as I have anything to say about it.

Then after we picked up all of the boxes for our stuff, I encountered this:

"Some people are squirrel-handed.  Gregor is a weird name."
“Some people are squirrel-handed.  Gregor is a weird name.”

And then our haul fit neatly in the bed of the truck:

Our haul.

That was about $1500 worth of stuff right there, waiting to be assembled.

And then on Friday, the car was ready, having been fully repaired.  I picked her up on Saturday, and she was just gleaming:

Glad to see you again!

As much fun as I had with the truck, it’s always good to see your real car again, that is completely paid for.  Meanwhile, I realize that this is silly to think about, but I can’t help but think that just maybe the Soul was jealous of all the attention that I was giving to houses, and this was its way of saying, “Don’t forget about me!”

And with the return of my real car, we had to say goodbye to the truck:

Returning the truck to Enterprise

I was glad to get rid of it, but Elyse was sad to see it go.  She had even named it “Kevin Wiggins”.  The “Kevin” part came from Elyse’s less-than-perfect vision and my driving it right after an eye exam.  The dilating drops temporarily made me quite farsighted, and so a message that said “Key in ignition” looked like “Kevin” to both of us.  Then the “Wiggins” part is a twist on the usual “wiggles” names that Elyse sometimes gives things.

So all in all, I think that the truck was a fun adventure, and with a new bed in my possession, hopefully it won’t be long before I can deflate the air mattress and sleep in a real bed again.

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I suppose that I live here now… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/26/i-suppose-that-i-live-here-now/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/26/i-suppose-that-i-live-here-now/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 04:58:26 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26563 So as of this writing, I’ve been living in Montgomery Village for about a week and a half, having moved on November 16.  The new place is starting to feel like home, even though I’m not entirely unpacked yet.  That is a process, and it will take time.  However, I think that the weirdest thing about the whole move process was watching my home of ten years get dismantled and carted out the door.  I hired movers to pack and move everything, so all that I had to do was keep Elyse occupied, make sure that the movers didn’t take the cleaning supplies (for the post-move cleaning that I am obligated to do, but have not done yet), and answer any questions that the movers might have.  Afterward, I was struck by what felt like the finality of it all:

The only thing left was a box for trash, the cleaning supplies, and some coolers to transport the food in the refrigerator, which I did the next day on the way home from work.  Before I left, I captioned a photo for Instagram as, “Wow.  I suppose that I don’t live here anymore, do I?”

Then we all broke for lunch.  Elyse and I ate here:

The Murderers' Choice!

This is the Boston Market in Aspen Hill.  Elyse and I call it “The Murderers’ Choice”, because the DC snipers, as well as a more recent shooter last year who fired shots in the parking lot at Montgomery Mall and the Aspen Hill Giant Food store, all ate there.  I had also never been to Boston Market before, so this was a new experience.  The food reminded me of Thanksgiving, though admittedly, no one does Thanksgiving better than my father.

After we finished at Boston Market, we headed over to the new house and prepared for the movers’ arrival.  First thing in was the couch:

I knew what to do with that: sit down and keep Elyse occupied, while answering the movers’ questions.  Once everything was in, I thanked the movers and bid them well, and then it kind of hit me that I now lived in Montgomery Village.  I captioned a photo as, “Okay, then. I guess that I live here now.”

Then the process of getting settled began.  Elyse got settled in pretty quickly, since she didn’t have much to begin with.  My old bed and dresser went in her room:

Elyse's room, with the bed under the ugly chandelier, meaning that I can't hit my head on it anymore

And then my bedroom looked like this, as viewed from the mezzanine above:

My bedroom, viewed from the mezzanine

That “bed” that you see is an air mattress, which I’m using as a bed until I can get over to IKEA for a real bed.  The sleeping surface is 22 inches off of the ground, and it’s queen size, i.e. the same size as my old bed.  That height sold me on this model, since it was bed height, and thus didn’t feel like I was camping on an air mattress.  Once I put my sheets and blankets and such on it, everything looked good.  Surprisingly, with my bedding on it, even though it was a new bed in a new place, I slept surprisingly well for a first night.  Normally, the first night somewhere isn’t exactly good sleep, because our brains are acting like night watchman to an extent, but I passed out, slept well, and woke up rested in the morning.  It must be a sign that I picked the right house.

I inflated the air mattress for the first time the night before, and got photos:

The air mattress, deflated

The air mattress, filled about halfway

The air mattress, fully inflated

As it blew up for the first time, I kept thinking, “IT’S ALIVE!  IT’S ALIVE!”  It is surprisingly firm, which I appreciated, but I’m looking forward to getting a real bed again, as well as a dresser.  I’m more or less living out of laundry baskets and boxes until I get my new bedroom furniture.  Then once that happens, the air mattress will be deflated and stored, and will come out for guests staying in the back bedroom.

Then since moving in, I’ve slowly but surely gotten the place together and made it home.  While Elyse worked on her bedroom, I got the kitchen together.  All of the dishes and such needed to be washed and put away, and everything needed to be arranged.  That took a few days, but it’s finished.  Only thing left to do in there is buy some counter stools for my breakfast bar.  Sitting at it with a regular chair makes me feel like a child, since the counter comes up to my chest, and I feel like I should be sitting on a few phone books.

Then I went up into the mezzanine and set my computer up:

My computer is all together again!

Now it’s starting to feel like home, though that chair mat is going to take some getting used to.  Also, take note of how clean my desk is.  I promise you, it will never be this clean again.

With the computer set up, I’m focusing on electronics.  My television from the apartment is in the mezzanine next to my computer (just out of frame to the right), and then I bought a big 50″ 4K television for the living room.  That purchase surprised me.  It was my original plan to go lower end with the television and get a 1080p set, since I’m not a big TV watcher, mostly using it to cast YouTube with my Chromecast.  But taking the upgrade turned out to be a no-brainer: a 4K television only cost $50 more than 1080p and had the Chromecast built in.  So when you consider the Chromecast and all, it was only an extra $15.  I’m sure that I’ll enjoy that once I get it up on the wall.  Imagine playing video games on that.  Elyse has several different game consoles, including a Nintendo Switch, which we recently bought that HD Street Fighter II game for.  I can’t wait to hadouken on that thing.  Should be fun.

Then once I get everything unpacked and declare myself “settled”, I have a list of improvement projects that I want to do.  Among other things, that ugly chandelier is coming out, I’m planning to paint Elyse’s room, the basement bathroom, and the living room, and I want to do some power washing outside.  Then I also have a bunch of other small things that I want to do just to make the place more my own.

So all in all, being a homeowner is going to be an exciting journey.

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I’m a homeowner now, and so many things to think about… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/14/im-a-homeowner-now-and-so-many-things-to-think-about/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/14/im-a-homeowner-now-and-so-many-things-to-think-about/#respond Tue, 14 Nov 2017 19:12:15 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26550 Good news: I closed on the house on Thursday, and I am now a homeowner.  About a thousand signatures later, my longtime fantasy just became reality.  There are certain occasions in life where an event leaves you mentally drained at the end of it, and closing on the house was one of those things.  And now that the closing is done, there are so many more things to think about.  There is some minor electrical work that I need to have done.  The paint needs to be updated in some places.  I need to buy curtains.  I need to buy a new bedroom set for myself, since Elyse is getting my old one.  I need to get an air mattress to sleep on until I get the new bed.  The cable gets installed on the 15th.  Moving happens the following day, on the 16th.  I need to change my address in a zillion places.  And it goes on.  Such is the joy of homeownership, I suppose.

But in any case, the house is now mine.  Check it out:

Wheelock 7002T on the breakfast bar
Wheelock 7002T on the breakfast bar in the kitchen.  I used this photo for a “Welcome home” post on Instagram.

The living room, almost completely bare.
The living room, almost completely bare.  Elyse is sitting on the only piece of furniture that I currently have in the house: a beanbag chair.

I’m excited to get my furniture and my stuff in there on the 16th, because then it can really start to feel like home.  As it is, I’ve already moved the wallhangings:

The various wallhangings in the living room, awaiting placement

I never thought that removing all of the wallhangings from the apartment would be as difficult as it turned out to be, though.  I lived in that apartment for ten years.  It had become quite familiar, and I finally decorated in 2014, making every wall a reflection of something about me.  Taking all of that down and seeing the nail holes, and the emptiness of the walls was harder on me than I expected.  It vaguely reminded me of a Stripping of the Altar ritual that I had seen at a Maundy Thursday service one time, when everything was taken down and carried out of the church.  As I removed everything, I piled it up in a corner, and then the next day, I loaded it into the car and carted it up to Montgomery Village.  The removal was something that I didn’t want to do, but I knew that I had to do it.  Removing the decor that was added in 2014 felt fairly straightforward, since that was completed as a single project.  Removing the mirrors over the bed was difficult for me, because they had been there since 2008, and felt like part of the space.  But the hardest thing to bring myself to remove was the Metro map.  I hung that up within the first two months of living here, and that, more than anything, felt like part of the space, especially since that wall was the perfect size for it.  It seems fitting that when I removed the map, you could see a mark on the wall where it used to be.

Elyse, meanwhile, found the removal of the decor to be a bit too much for her, even though she understood why it had to happen.  The removal of the decor was hard on me emotionally, even though I didn’t show it outwardly.  Her solution, however, was something that I didn’t realize that I needed until I saw it.  While I was away at work yesterday, she took some paper and a box of crayons, and redecorated.  This is what I came home to last night:

The mirrors over the bed are back - in some form.

The mirrors over the bed are back - in some form.
The mirrors over the bed are back – in some form.

This drawing stands in for Dinosaur Canyon.

This drawing stands in for Dinosaur Canyon.
This drawing stands in for Dinosaur Canyon.

Replica of an Amalgamated Transit Union poster that I had in the hallway.  These posters were printed with "I AM A MAN" and "I AM A WOMAN" on the back, and I admit that I peeked underneath to check.
Replica of an Amalgamated Transit Union poster that I had in the hallway.  These posters were printed with “I AM A MAN” and “I AM A WOMAN” on the back, and I admit that I peeked underneath to check.

I was particularly impressed with Elyse's replica of the "sick copier" drawing that I did back in 2009, which I had hung over the printer.  She drew this from memory, and it's very faithful to the original.

I was particularly impressed with Elyse's replica of the "sick copier" drawing that I did back in 2009, which I had hung over the printer.  She drew this from memory, and it's very faithful to the original.
I was particularly impressed with Elyse’s replica of the “sick copier” drawing that I did back in 2009, which I had hung over the printer.  She drew this from memory, and it’s very faithful to the original.

The Metro map.  Unlike the original, which is from 1996, this map has Rush+ and the Silver Line on it.

The Metro map.  Unlike the original, which is from 1996, this map has Rush+ and the Silver Line on it.
The Metro map.  Unlike the original, which is from 1996, this map has Rush+ and the Silver Line on it.

This was such a wonderful thing that Elyse did.  While she was rather vocal about the lack of decor’s making her uncomfortable, I knew that things felt off, but these temporary wallhangings restored a sense of balance for me that I didn’t realize that I had lost when I took everything down the night before.  The night after I removed everything, I didn’t have a good sleep, even waking before my alarm clock.  Even though it was the same apartment and the same bed, it felt like unfamiliar surroundings.  Last night, on the other hand, with these temporary wallhangings in place, I slept quite well.

I imagine that the lack of wallhangings won’t be an issue in the new house, though, because I have nothing to compare against there.  I have a blank slate upon which to place a new decor design.  Plus I’m waiting until I paint some of the rooms before I start putting things up on the walls, since the paint in certain areas needs to be redone either because it’s no longer looking spiffy, or, in the case of Elyse’s room, it’s just an ugly color.  The way I figure, I didn’t take much issue to having nothing on the walls in the first seven years in the apartment because there was nothing to compare against, therefore, delayed decor at the house won’t be much of a problem.

Now, though, I need to get things ready to move in.  I’m going grocery shopping on Wednesday night after the cable goes in, since I deliberately ran down the food supplies in the apartment in preparation for this move.  I have almost no food in the house right now, since that would just be one more thing to have to transport over.  Plus, who wants to carry all of that stuff up and down the stairs to and from a third floor apartment, when the kitchen is on the main floor in the house?  Considering that I have both a Giant and a Safeway within a mile of the house, and a Walmart and a Target in nearby Germantown, I ought to be okay there.  I think that I put it best in 2002 when I moved into the dorm for senior year, and then went on a shopping run that night.  Even if you just moved in, a shopping run isn’t moving.  Moving sucks, but shopping is more enjoyable, even if you still have to lug it in at the end of the day.

So that’s that, I suppose.  All goes well, next Journal entry should be the first posted from Montgomery Village.

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So… I’m buying a house! https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/05/so-im-buying-a-house/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/11/05/so-im-buying-a-house/#comments Sun, 05 Nov 2017 19:45:16 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26430 You may recall back in May that I sort of casually mentioned that Pixsy money was helping me get ahead financially and eventually buy a house.  “Eventually” has since morphed into “very soon”.  So I might as well make it official: I am buying a townhome in Montgomery Village, and therefore, I will be leaving my apartment of ten years in Aspen Hill fairly soon.  I am just a ball of different emotions, being both excited and terrified all at the same time.  I’m also picking up a housemate, as Elyse will be living with me.

I have wanted to own my own home for about six years.  Back then, it was an “eventually” thing, and more of a fantasy than anything else.  While some of my coworkers at Food & Water Watch owned their own homes, almost all of those people were married or otherwise in a committed relationship.  As a single person, I could not afford to buy a house on a Food & Water Watch salary.  I also owed a bunch of money on my credit card due to several large repairs that I had to make on my old Sable station wagon, which certainly didn’t help things.  Then when I lost my job at Food & Water Watch, any thoughts of being a homeowner went right out the window for a while as I went into survival mode, having to live off of what should have been retirement money for a little while.  When I started working in public transportation, one of the instructors during bus training gave us some advice: “Get yourself some bricks.”  In other words, buy a house.  My financial situation was not where I wanted it to be yet in order to do that, but I knew that our instructor was right.

In the fall of 2015, I was in the financial position to start considering becoming a homeowner, and I was starting to “hit a wall” with my apartment, as I wanted to do things that I couldn’t do while renting, like paint the walls.  I had creative energies that I wanted to get out, but couldn’t expend them in my place.  So I started fantasizing about redecorating my parents’ house, where the decor is somewhat dated (“stuck in the nineties” is the phrase I would use).  Mom wasn’t very receptive to my ideas for redecorating, unfortunately, as she didn’t see any reason to redecorate.  I also wanted more living space, as it was always hard to have guests over with no spare room and only one bathroom.  Guests sleep in the living room, and so whenever I had visitors over, no one had much privacy.  Plus, with guests sleeping in the living room, bedtime for one basically meant bedtime for all, since no one could really move around without disturbing the other person.

However, my plans were again put on hold in April 2016, when I transferred from bus to rail at work, and so while I was still interested in getting a house, I had too much going on with rail training to worry about it.  I didn’t mind this delay, though, because being a train operator was something that I had wanted to do from the outset.

In November 2016, I was ready to get things moving.  I spoke to Elyse’s father, who works in real estate, and we got started.  I found a mortgage company, and then once I got preapproved for a loan, it was time to house hunt.  I wanted a townhome at this point in my life.  I wanted more than one level in order to provide separation between living and sleeping spaces, and I also wanted my own entrance.  My original plan was to look in the area where I live now, but I quickly learned that I was priced out of Aspen Hill for the kind of house I wanted.  The only things that I could afford in Aspen Hill were either condominiums (i.e. an apartment that you owned instead of rented), or townhomes that were more or less unlivable without major repairs.  So I shifted my focus a little bit, and ended up gravitating towards Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village.  Being a little further out, the prices were lower, and the houses in my price range were move-in ready.

It took about six months to find the perfect house.  In that time, I looked at plenty of places.  I looked at traditional townhomes, back-to-back townhomes, quad-style townhomes, back-to-back townhomes in a row where four units shared a common entrance, townhomes with attached garages, townhomes with detached garages, two-story townhomes, three-story townhomes, four-story townhomes, townhomes with modern kitchens, townhomes with horribly dated kitchens, you name it.  I got to know Montgomery Village very well by the end of it.

I ended up finding what I thought was the perfect house in the middle of June.  It was a back-to-back townhome: three stories, no basement, and no front yard.  The first floor was the living room, dining area, half bath, and kitchen, with laundry in the kitchen.  Second floor was the master bedroom, master bath, and a small den off of the master bedroom that overlooked the living room.  Then the third floor had the other two bedrooms and a bathroom.  There was also a massive window over the living room.  By this time, I had described many of these back-to-back townhomes as “all stairs”, because they never had a basement, and almost everything required going up and down stairs.  This one, however, was different, and I think it was because the stairs had a railing on one side instead of walls on both sides like most of these “all stairs” houses, plus there was a skylight above to provide natural light (most of these “all stairs” houses were relatively dark inside).  Take a look:

The stairs on this back-to-back townhome.  I'm standing at the third floor level, and Elyse is standing at approximately the second floor level.  As you can see, light and openness makes everything better.
The stairs on this back-to-back townhome.  I’m standing at the third floor level, and Elyse is standing at approximately the second floor level.  As you can see, light and openness makes everything better.

I put an offer in on it, but quickly learned the old rule of house hunting: it’s never your first offer.  The seller had received better offers, and thus I was out.  Oh, well.  Back to the hunt.

About a month and a half later, I found the perfect place.  It was a traditional-style townhome, with three levels above grade, and a finished basement.  The basement contained a bedroom, a utility room, and a full bath.  The first floor contained the living room, the kitchen, and a half bath.  The second floor contained the master bedroom, a smaller bedroom, and a bathroom shared between them.  Then the master bedroom also had a mezzanine level, which overlooked the rest of the master bedroom.  The kitchen was modern, and it also had a unique little bar space on the other side.  Check it out:

Living room, facing the back of the house.
Living room, facing the back of the house.

Living room, facing the front door.
Living room, facing the front door.

The kitchen.  I've never had an electric stove before (always gas), so this will be a new experience.
The kitchen.  I’ve never had an electric stove before (always gas), so this will be a new experience.

The bar area in the kitchen.  This excites me, because my apartment has a breakfast bar, but it's mounted too low to actually be useful for that purpose, and so it ends up holding junk.
The bar area in the kitchen.  This excites me, because my apartment has a breakfast bar, but it’s mounted too low to actually be useful for that purpose, and so it ends up holding junk.

The back of the house.  Note that there is both a deck and a backyard.
The back of the house.  Note that there is both a deck and a backyard.

This chandelier is in the basement bedroom.  It's the AF Lighting 7050-6H "Ramblin' Rose" six-light chandelier, and it's certainly unique.
This chandelier is in the basement bedroom.  It’s the AF Lighting 7050-6H “Ramblin’ Rose” six-light chandelier, and it’s certainly unique.

Meanwhile, Elyse sat and played on her phone.
Meanwhile, Elyse sat and played on her phone.

I had looked at other houses in this neighborhood with similar floorplans, and this one seemed to have it all.  It had a window at the mezzanine level, which increases the amount of light that can come in.  It had lots of ceiling lighting, which more than made up for the areas where the sunlight couldn’t reach.  The kitchen had a built-in eating area.  The basement was a walkout, and completely covered by pavers.  The deck above was very comfortably sized.  There was no fireplace, which meant that I had extra living space that would have otherwise been taken up by said fireplace.  And the flooring was wood throughout most of the house, and tile in the kitchen and the bathrooms.  The only carpet was in the mezzanine and on the stairs leading down to the basement.

I put an offer in on the house, and, much to my surprise, it was accepted.  Considering how nice this house was, I was sure that I wouldn’t get it.  As it was a short sale, it took two months for the third party approval to come back.  Once that came back, this GIF of Ron Paul immediately came to mind:

IT'S HAPPENING

So I’m excited.  Now I’m thinking about movers, as well as a brand new bedroom set for myself (Elyse is going to use my current set), plus figuring out where everything is going to go.  I was thinking about putting my desk up in the mezzanine, and then turning the back bedroom into a rec room of some sort.  Elyse will be in the basement bedroom, with the chandelier.

In any case, this is going to be fun, and I’m glad to finally be investing in myself rather than giving money to a property management company with nothing to show for it except a pile of passive-aggressive memos.

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I’m not even going to try to recall how many times I made Elyse cross the street… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/31/im-not-even-going-to-try-to-recall-how-many-times-i-made-elyse-cross-the-street/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/31/im-not-even-going-to-try-to-recall-how-many-times-i-made-elyse-cross-the-street/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 18:30:40 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26510 Here’s some “new old stock” for you.  Back in March 2016, I had the idea of writing about a fatal pedestrian accident that happened in December 2015 at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) and the Matthew Henson Trail in Rockville.  It was an area that I was very familiar with, as one of the routes that I did on the bus went through this area.  I did the field work for that planned Journal entry, photographing the area in question, as well as a few other pedestrian control devices in Montgomery County, in order to have a discussion similar to the one I did in March 2012 about an intersection on Georgia Avenue.  Unfortunately, however, life got in the way, as I got a promotion at work, and the several-months-long training program that came with that promotion took precedence over the planned Journal entry.  The post eventually got shelved, and now it’s a moot point, as the intersection was initially upgraded with yellow warning signals directly over the crossing (vs. 500 feet ahead of it as before), and then after a second fatal accident in the same location, the crossing was upgraded again with signals that actually require traffic to stop vs. only warning drivers of the presence of pedestrians.

I was always a bit disappointed that an entire afternoon’s work never got used.  Like the Breezewood photo shoot in 2006, evidence of the shoot showed up fairly soon after the work was done – in this case, a single photo feature – but the intended final product never got made.  In hindsight, I’m not too worried about it, because what I would have advocated for in the intended Journal entry came to pass, though I wish that it hadn’t happened as a result of a second fatal accident.

The shoot itself was pretty fun.  I brought Elyse with me, and we made a good team.  The way we did it was that I set the camera up on my tripod and pointed it at whatever I needed, started filming, and then signaled to Elyse to activate the signal.  She then crossed the street, in order to give some legitimacy to the signal activation.  After all, I knew that I was stopping traffic on some fairly busy roads for a photo shoot.  I had Elyse cross the street so that I didn’t look like a complete dick, stopping traffic for no reason.  Someone needed to cross the street, so that it didn’t look like I was stopping traffic just to film the signals.  I imagine that Elyse probably did about a mile going back and forth across several intersections in Montgomery County and DC.  After all, every single take (and I did multiple takes) required activating a signal, and that meant sending Elyse across the street

We started as far out as we would go, and then worked our way inward, photographing different signals along the way.  The first signal that we photographed was a variant on a HAWK beacon on East Gude Drive in Rockville, near Fisher Lumber:

Two signals on a mast arm over East Gude Drive.
Two signals on a mast arm over East Gude Drive.

Directions on how this signal functions.  Basically, solid double red meant stop, flashing double red meant stop, look, and then proceed.
Directions on how this signal functions.  Basically, solid double red meant stop, flashing double red meant stop, look, and then proceed.

Flashing yellow light on the bottom.  This signal functioned more or less like a HAWK beacon, but unlike a true HAWK beacon, which goes completely dark when not activated, this signal has a flashing yellow light when it's not active.
Flashing yellow light on the bottom.  This signal functioned more or less like a HAWK beacon, but unlike a true HAWK beacon, which goes completely dark when not activated, this signal has a flashing yellow light when it’s not active.

And here it is in action, i.e. I sent Elyse across the street for this:

After we finished up at East Gude Drive, we went to the subject intersection, i.e. Veirs Mill Road and the Matthew Henson Trail.  There, I filmed the warning lights as they existed at that time, and documented the intersection from all sorts of angles.

The warning lights approaching the crossing for eastbound traffic.
The warning lights approaching the crossing for eastbound traffic.  I am embarrassed to say that before this intersection got some media attention, I didn’t even realize that these lights existed, because no one ever used them.

The lights in action:

These lights ran for about 45 seconds as soon as the button was pressed.  One problem here was that with the signals’ being 500 feet upstream from the crossing, it took eight seconds for the first vehicle that saw the illuminated warning lights to reach your destination, assuming that they’re going the 45 mph speed limit (and we know that everyone follows the speed limit).  Drivers in the first eight seconds after pressing the button never saw any sort of warning about pedestrians and bikes crossing, because they were already past the sign when the lights started flashing.

Eastbound crossing.
Eastbound crossing.

Eastbound crossing.
Eastbound crossing.

The crosswalks for the two sides of this crossing are offset, and this section of sidewalk in the median connects the two.  As I understand it, it's laid out this way to prevent cyclists from running both sides in a single motion.
The crosswalks for the two sides of this crossing are offset, and this section of sidewalk in the median connects the two.  As I understand it, it’s laid out this way to prevent cyclists from running both sides in a single motion.

Westbound crossing.
Westbound crossing.

Well-worn desire path along the side of westbound Veirs Mill Road.  There are no sidewalks in this area, and this path runs from Havard Street all the way to the subject crossing at the bottom of the hill.
Well-worn desire path along the side of westbound Veirs Mill Road.  There are no sidewalks in this area, and this path runs from Havard Street all the way to the subject crossing at the bottom of the hill.

Westbound crossing.  Note the stop line and warning signs.
Westbound crossing.  Note the stop line and warning signs.

We then headed over to University Blvd (MD 193) and Reedie Drive in Wheaton.  That location had another HAWK variant, though this one covered both roads with different signals.  The intersection doesn’t see much cross traffic for cars, so a standard traffic signal is unnecessary, but University Blvd is one of those roads where angels fear to tread, because it’s wide and fairly busy.

Signals facing traffic on eastbound University Blvd, where traffic normally does not have to stop.
Signals facing traffic on eastbound University Blvd, where traffic normally does not have to stop.  The signal functions similarly to the signal on East Gude, where the bottom light flashes continuously when the signal is not activated, it flashes quickly when it’s activated, and then goes yellow to red, stopping traffic.  However, unlike East Gude, there is no flashing red light.  When the cycle is over, it goes right back to bottom yellow flashing.

Signal for traffic on Reedie Drive.  Along with this signal, traffic on Reedie Drive also has a stop sign.
Signal for traffic on Reedie Drive.  Along with this signal, traffic on Reedie Drive also has a stop sign.  The pattern is top flashing red when the signal is not activated, then both red lights flash when the signal is activated, and then solid red on both lights, after which the signal resets.

The two sides together.
The two sides together.

And here’s video of the signals in action:


University Blvd signal.


Reedie Drive signal.


Both sides together.

We then headed over to East-West Highway (MD 410) at Summit Hills Apartments, which is a flag crossing next to a well-used bus stop.  There, pedestrians are supposed to grab a flag and carry it with them across the street, and place it in a holder on the other side of the street.  There were no written instructions on how to do this anywhere that I could find.

Warning sign with a cup containing some yellow flags.
Warning sign with a cup containing some yellow flags.

Approach to the crossing for westbound traffic.  Lots of lines on the road in approach to the crosswalk.
Approach to the crossing for westbound traffic.  Lots of lines on the road in approach to the crosswalk.

The crossing itself.  Note no median or pedestrian refuge island.  That meant that you had to do all four lanes at once, with no signals or warning lights, with a 35 mph speed limit for traffic.
The crossing itself.  Note no median or pedestrian refuge island.  That meant that you had to do all four lanes at once, with no signals or warning lights, with a 35 mph speed limit for traffic.

Elyse demonstrates the use of the crossing flag.

Elyse demonstrates the use of the crossing flag.
Elyse demonstrates the use of the crossing flag.

I’m not going to lie to you: out of all of the crossings that we did, this one made me the most nervous.  Traffic is moving relatively quickly, and there’s a lot of it.  It also doesn’t help that traffic is moving uphill in approach to this crossing in both directions, and there are curves on either side.  It really was a matter of grabbing the flag, looking both ways, and then praying that you don’t get run over while you’re crossing.

DC used to have a similar flag crossing on Connecticut Avenue NW at the intersection with Northampton Street, but that was upgraded to a HAWK beacon a few years ago, i.e. traffic is now required to come to a full stop when the signal is activated via call button.  Montgomery County should consider doing the same here, and be proactive about it, i.e. doing it before there is a fatal accident.  However, I do wonder how well it would work at this location, considering that there is a fully signalized intersection approximately 650 feet east.  Considering the volume that this road does at certain times of day, I wonder if a full stop here during busy periods would cause it to spill into the nearby intersection.  Who knows.

Then the last signal that Elyse and I documented was a true HAWK beacon in DC, at the intersection of 16th and Jonquil Streets NW.  This one was a challenge to film because unlike the others, which are activated via call button, this one was sensor-activated, and it’s harder to make a sensor go off than it is to just press a button (I didn’t realize that this was sensor-activated until we got there).

The pattern was standard for HAWK beacons, i.e. fully dark when not activated, flashing yellow warning when it’s about to change, solid yellow just like a traffic light, and then double red while pedestrians have a walk signal.  When the pedestrian signal changes to the flashing hand and starts counting down, the lights flash in a wig-wag pattern.  Then the beacon goes dark again when the don’t walk sign is solid.

Overview of the intersection.  The HAWK beacon governs traffic on 16th Street NW.  Jonquil Street traffic has a stop sign.
Overview of the intersection.  The HAWK beacon governs traffic on 16th Street NW.  Jonquil Street traffic has a stop sign.

Sign directing pedestrians to stand next to the pole to activate the sensor.  The call button is apparently obsolete, as it didn't do anything when I pressed it.
Sign directing pedestrians to stand next to the pole to activate the sensor.  The call button is apparently obsolete, as it didn’t do anything when I pressed it.

The sensor, mounted to the pole that the HAWK beacon is on.
The sensor, mounted to the pole that the HAWK beacon is on.

So there you have it.  Even though I never used the material for its intended purpose, hopefully someone finds this material useful.

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No tire problems this time around… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/25/no-tire-problems-this-time-around/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/25/no-tire-problems-this-time-around/#respond Wed, 25 Oct 2017 07:17:17 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26488 On Tuesday, October 17, with Elyse and Aaron Stone in tow, I headed down to Ocean City for the day.  The plan was to do the Ocean City outing that I had wanted to do last year, but which had been significantly curtailed due to a slow tire leak that I had to get repaired en route.  Remembering that, I was very explicit about wanting to make as few stops as possible.  The only stops were restroom stops and a food stop, and we did well enough on time.  After all, the purpose of the trip was photography, and so I needed proper light in order to get it, and that meant making good time on the road.  Once I’m out of daylight, the photography is over, since I am currently without a functioning tripod, and therefore, my nighttime options are limited.

For those of you who are not familiar, Ocean City is one of those dumpy little coastal resort towns that has a very distinct operating season.  Outside of that season, the place is fairly quiet, as many businesses close for the off season, as do many of the hotels and attractions.  I was fine with this, because the off-season meant that there were fewer opportunities for people to get in the way of my shots, and those people who were out were easier to photograph.

The plan was that I would photograph along the boardwalk while Aaron and Elyse, both elevator enthusiasts, went out to ride various elevators.  We parked on 9th Street, and then once we got settled, I went south towards the fishing pier, and they went north to do some “elevator tourism”.

My goal was to mosey over from where I parked on 9th Street down to the fishing pier and back, photographing everything along the way.  I had missed the fishing pier last year (it had closed for the evening by the time that I got over there), and so I was determined to get it this year in daylight, and see what there was to see.  I also went on Facebook and acknowledged a reality of ocean photography: “The thing about photographing the ocean is that the horizon needs to be level. If the water isn’t level, fix it until it is.”

Only slight cloud cover over the beach.  Perfect photography weather.
Only slight cloud cover over the beach.  Perfect photography weather.

8th Street, viewed from the boardwalk.
8th Street, viewed from the boardwalk.

I took a lot of sea gull photos.  I got them moving around on the beach, I got them flying around, you name it.

I took a lot of sea gull photos.  I got them moving around on the beach, I got them flying around, you name it.
I took a lot of sea gull photos.  I got them moving around on the beach, flying around, you name it.

The boardwalk, facing north from just south of 8th Street.
The boardwalk, facing north from just south of 8th Street.

I got a photo of these guys because I found it curious that they were walking around wearing helmets.  It later made sense when we spotted them on motorcycles as we were leaving.  Made a lot more sense then (duh!).
I got a photo of these guys because I found it curious that they were walking around wearing helmets.  It later made sense when we spotted them on motorcycles as we were leaving.  Made a lot more sense then (duh!).

Dinosaur skeleton-themed play structure.
Dinosaur skeleton-themed play structure.

With few people on the beach, it was neat to see the effects of the wind on the sand.
With few people on the beach, it was neat to see the effects of the wind on the sand.

Finding Nemo knockoff on the beach.  I call it "Finding Ocean City".
Finding Nemo knockoff on the beach.  I call it “Finding Ocean City”.

Man using a metal detector.
Man using a metal detector.

Heavy equipment moving some pallets around.
Heavy equipment moving some pallets around.

Ocean City's equivalent of the no-swearing sign like Virginia Beach has.
Ocean City’s equivalent of the no-swearing sign like Virginia Beach has.

Sea gull in flight.
Sea gull in flight.

I was very surprised to see the ferris wheel at Jolly Roger undergoing what appeared at a glance to be demolition.  I later asked online about what I saw, and as it turns out, this is part of a major overhaul project that the ferris wheel goes through every ten years, where the ferris wheel is dismantled, refurbished, and reassembled in time for the next operating season.
I was very surprised to see the ferris wheel at Jolly Roger undergoing what appeared at a glance to be demolition.  I later asked online about what I saw, and as it turns out, this is part of a major overhaul project that the ferris wheel goes through every ten years, where the ferris wheel is dismantled, refurbished, and reassembled in time for the next operating season.

Ocean City fishing pier, viewed from the northwest.
Ocean City fishing pier, viewed from the northwest.

A man goes fishing in the ocean.  Was surprised that he was walking around barefoot!
A man goes fishing in the ocean.  Was surprised that he was walking around barefoot!

Ocean City fishing pier, viewed from a wide section about halfway down.
Ocean City fishing pier, viewed from a wide section about halfway down.

View of the beach and the waves from the fishing pier.
View of the beach and the waves from the fishing pier.

A person walks along the beach, south of the fishing pier.
A person walks along the beach, south of the fishing pier.

"Love lock" placed on the fishing pier.  Based on the date, this was placed four days prior to our visit.
Love lock” placed on the fishing pier.  Based on the date, this was placed four days prior to our visit.

This lock had a surprising story.  I took this photo by chance, as I was moving down the fishing pier to head back to the boardwalk.  I posted it on Instagram the next day, and who responds but the person who locked it to the pier.  Turns out that it was put there in 2011 by a friend of Elyse's, and he was surprised that it was still there.
This lock had a surprising story.  I took this photo by chance, as I was moving down the fishing pier to head back to the boardwalk.  I posted it on Instagram the next day, and who responds but the person who locked it to the pier.  Turns out that it was put there in 2011 by a friend of Elyse’s, and he was surprised that it was still there.

I found an unopened bottle of iced tea sitting on the railing, so I took a few photos of it.  Wonder if Kermit the Frog misplaced his tea?
I found an unopened bottle of iced tea sitting on the railing, so I took a few photos of it.  Wonder if Kermit the Frog misplaced his tea?

Some people were throwing pretzel bits to the birds, and so I had a bit of a field day photographing the birds, getting them both in the air and on the ground.

Some people were throwing pretzel bits to the birds, and so I had a bit of a field day photographing the birds, getting them both in the air and on the ground.
Some people were throwing pretzel bits to the birds, and so I had a bit of a field day photographing the birds, getting them both in the air and on the ground.

Caramel corn.
Caramel corn.

Painted-out "The future is now" graffiti.
Painted-out “The future is now” graffiti.

All in all, I had fun on my photo walk, which ended up taking around four hours.  Time well spent.  Meanwhile, Elyse and Aaron didn’t fare as well.  They made it as far up as 27th Street, but unfortunately for them, almost all of the places that they had wanted to see were closed for the season, meaning that they had no access to the facilities that they planned to see.

We met back up around 5:30, and went to dinner.  We ended up going to The Dough Roller, which is a local chain of pizza restaurants.  It was nothing that you would necessarily write home about, but it wasn’t bad, either.  The most interesting feature was the lighting.  All of the fixtures shared a common theme, but no two fixtures were the same.

After dinner, we headed north into Delaware.  Gotta see Rehoboth, after all.  Arriving there, I got another photo of Elyse with the dolphin:

Elyse and the dolphin

That made a nice companion piece to last year’s photo, though this year, the dolphin wasn’t wearing a t-shirt.

We then wandered around the Rehoboth strip, which generally runs perpendicular to the beach.  We eventually found our way to Cooter Brown’s Twisted Southern Kitchen and Bourbon Bar, because Aaron needed to use the restroom.  He was initially punted, with the employees’ citing a “patrons only” policy.  However, shortly after Aaron came back out and reported back to us, the manager then came out and invited Aaron back in to use the restroom.  We all went in, and Elyse and I sat at the bar.  I had a water, and Elyse got herself a Jack and Coke:

Elyse's Jack and Coke

I suppose that this is why you shouldn’t have a “patrons only” policy for your restroom.  If they hadn’t invited Aaron back in to use the restroom, we would have just continued on.  However, because they let Aaron use the restroom, they sold a $7 cocktail.  I’ve watched enough Bar Rescue to know that liquor is typically one of the higher-markup items in a bar, so I’d say that the goodwill gesture of letting Aaron use the restroom off of the street paid off fairly well for them.  After all, it got us inside, and Elyse was thirsty.

Then on the way out, we discovered once again that there is no “direct” route to Rehoboth from DC as there is to Ocean City from DC.  You’re still taking a bunch of small, dark roads back.  We took Delaware Route 1 to Milford, where we changed to Route 14.  Then Route 14 becomes Maryland Route 317, you then take Route 313 for about two minutes, and then take Route 404 to just east of the Bay Bridge, where you join Route 50.

Last year, we made a wrong turn fairly early on as we were leaving Rehoboth, and the GPS just updated and kept us moving, so we went through a lot of little tiny roads as it sent us towards the Bay Bridge.  This time, we followed the “correct” route, and while we didn’t have to make as many moves, it still felt like a convoluted route, going past houses and encountering multiple stop signs (yes, stop signs – not traffic lights).

However, during our two minutes on Route 313, we did spot something interesting during a restroom stop.  We spotted milk being sold in quart-sized jugs that were shaped like the gallon, but smaller:

Quart-sized jug of milk, with Elyse for scale.

Quart-sized jug of milk, with Elyse for scale.
Quart-sized jug of milk, with Elyse for scale.

How unusual.

And that was that, I suppose.  I would say that a fun time was had by all.

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Buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trains, and… moo cows? https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/19/buses-fire-trucks-ambulances-trains-and-moo-cows/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/10/19/buses-fire-trucks-ambulances-trains-and-moo-cows/#respond Fri, 20 Oct 2017 03:17:34 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26469 This past Saturday, Elyse and I got together with our friend Dave, and we went to the Public Safety Open House held at the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Snouffer School Road near Montgomery Village.  Then we went out to Middletown and visited South Mountain Creamery, which is a dairy farm that sells products on site.

The Public Safety Open House event was a lot of fun.  There was a little bit of everything for us to see there.  We started out by looking at a row of Ride On buses.  Apparently, this facility is used to train Ride On operators, because there is, more or less, one or two of each type of bus that Ride On operates located at the facility.  We saw two Gillig hybrids, an Orion VII CNG, a New Flyer C40LF, and two Gillig 30-footers.

Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.
Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.  We all commented on how the one panel on the front was so faded.  No idea why.  I speculated at the time that it might be from the diagonal parking at the old Gaithersburg division’s causing sunlight to hit that corner more than others, but after thinking some more about it, while certainly plausible, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go with it now.

Ride On 5909, an Orion VII CNG.
Ride On 5909, an Orion VII CNG.


Ride On 5301 (left) and 5313 (right).  These buses are both Gillig hybrids.  5301 (originally numbered 5751) is a 2006 model.  Those buses had more white in their paint scheme than in 2007 and 2008.  The 2007 buses had the same paint scheme, but with black trim framing the white areas.  5313 (originally numbered 5763) is a 2007.  I’ve ridden both of these buses many times on the 51 route.

Labelscar showing the original number of bus 5301.  The early Gillig hybrids were originally numbered starting with 5750, and were later renumbered starting at 5300, though I don't know the date that this change was made.
Labelscar showing the original number of bus 5301.  The early Gillig hybrids were originally numbered starting with 5750, and were later renumbered starting at 5300, though I don’t know the date that this change was made.

There was also a former Ride On Orion I that had been painted for the fire department, but surprisingly, I didn’t get any photos of it.  However, Elyse did:

The fire department bus.  I am told that this is former Ride On bus 5267.
Photo: Elyse Horvath
The fire department bus.  I am told that this is former Ride On bus 5267.

Then we headed over to a University of Maryland medevac helicopter, N329PH, that was on display across the lot.  That was a lot smaller than I imagined.

Exterior of N329PH

Interior of N329PH

I certainly hope that any patient being transported here isn’t claustrophobic.  It’s a tight space!

Meanwhile, this amused me:

"Cleaning stuff". Okay, then.
“Cleaning stuff”.  Okay, then.

Helicopter controls.  Note the iPad to the side.
Helicopter controls.  Note the iPad to the side.

We also got to watch it take off:

Then while I was taking stills, Elyse got video of the takeoff:

After the helicopter left, we headed over to the emergency vehicles.  One of the vehicles on display was the bomb squad’s vehicle.  Here’s the bomb robot:

Another robot, being used to pick up a water bottle:

We also saw this vintage Cadillac ambulance:

Anyone else immediately think of the car from Ghostbusters?  Beyond that, though, I was amazed to see an ambulance built on a car platform.  I’ve always known ambulances as being on a truck platform.

Then here’s the interior:

Front seat.
Front seat.

The back of the ambulance.
The back of the ambulance.

Then we headed closer to Muncaster Mill Road, where we saw something very familiar:

WMATA railcar 4020, now being used for first responder training

I trust that you know what this is.  This is WMATA railcar 4020, still with its mate 4021, at the Public Safety Training Academy.  I’ve ridden this pair 13 times over the years: six times aboard 4020, and seven times on 4021.

We weren’t allowed to board, but we could certainly walk around and see the exterior.  Elyse and Dave had never seen underneath the trains before, so this was their opportunity to take a look at the stuff below the platform level.

I was surprised to see that they didn't connect the two cars back together after they arrived at the training center.  Metro trains operate in married pairs, and so I would have figured that they would have set them in that configuration again.
I was surprised to see that they didn’t connect the two cars back together after they arrived at the training center.  Metro trains operate in married pairs, and so I would have figured that they would have set them in that configuration again.

One of the wheel trucks on 4020.  Note the Breda builder's plate on the truck.
One of the wheel trucks on 4020.  Note the Breda builder’s plate on the truck.

Horn assembly on car 4020.  The two things that look like horns are the traditional train horn, while that Wheelock 34T is a smaller horn used for other purposes.
Horn assembly on car 4020.  The two things that look like horns are the traditional train horn, while that Wheelock 34T is a smaller horn used for other purposes.

Elyse poses for a photo with the 34T, pointing at it.
Elyse poses for a photo with the 34T, pointing at it.

I also got photos of both Elyse and Dave pretending to climb into the train:

Elyse poses like she's about to climb into the train

Dave poses like he's about to climb into the train

And then here’s an angle that you don’t normally see for a Metro train:

4021, viewed straight on from below.
4021, viewed straight on from below.

From here, we stopped to watch firefighters climb ladders on a training building:

Then we headed over to the high bay facility, which can simulate various scenarios, such as a row of stores and an apartment building:

This place had everything.  The simulated buildings are on one side, and there are traffic lights, road signs, and everything else that you might encounter as an emergency responder.  They even had simulated fire alarms:

Gray Edwards Integrity horns with blue strobes, used as a simulated fire alarm

These gray Edwards Integrity horns with blue strobes were simulated fire alarms.  The blue strobe differentiates it from the real fire alarm, which is made by Wheelock and has the normal white strobes.

Then this sign amused me:

CHS Pharmacy. I wonder what that's supposed to represent...
CHS Pharmacy. I wonder what that’s supposed to represent…

Then on the way out, we saw two cars stacked somewhat on top of each other, to simulate an accident:

And by then, the event was over, and we headed out.

Elyse had wanted to go to South Mountain Creamery up near Middletown for a while, and so we decided, why not.  I had never been to Middletown before, and so this was a bit of an adventure.  South Mountain Creamery is a working dairy farm, and they make and sell their own products on site.  We had the ice cream, and Elyse also bought a small pack of cheese to share.

After we had our ice cream, we toured some of the farm, going to the place where the recently born calves live.  I was surprised to see a calf that had been born earlier that day in one of the pens:

A newborn holstein calf, born earlier that day

I guess my surprise came in that I didn’t quite know what to expect as far as what a newborn cow looks like.  I never would have thought that they were that large when they came out of the womb.  Nor did I imagine that they would be that hairy when they come out, either.  I suppose that I expected that a newborn calf would be bald, just like most human babies are born bald, and that the hair would grow in later.

We got a chance to talk to the employee tending to these calves.  We learned a lot from her.  We learned that the calves are raised to the age of two before they become productive.  The bulls are then sold to other farms, and the cows begin to have calves of their own and produce milk for the farm.  When the cows reach the end of their useful milk-producing life, they are also sold.

We each also got to name a cow.  Elyse named a cow “Wiggles”.  Dave named this bull “Dave”:

Dave the bull

Then I named this bull, which had brown spots instead of black, “Gordon Brown”, after the British Prime Minister of the same name:

Gordon Brown the bull

Then on the way out, we saw a retired fire truck on the property:

Plymouth Fire Company truck

This fire truck is from Plymouth Township, Pennsylvania, which is near Philadelphia.  Considering our activities earlier in the day, this seemed rather fitting to see.

So all in all, I’d say that we had a fun time.  Very educational day on many different subjects, for sure.

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Renting out eight rooms… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/09/30/renting-out-eight-rooms/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/09/30/renting-out-eight-rooms/#respond Sat, 30 Sep 2017 04:29:32 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26408 So apparently, I spoke too soon when it came to the closure of The Inn at Afton.  You may recall that last month, I announced the closure of The Inn at Afton, based on a sign that said that the lobby and hotel were closed.  Elyse and I went down that way again on Wednesday, and one of our stops was to see how The Inn at Afton looked in the daylight after finally going out of business for good.  Much to our surprise, we found that the place was open again.  We stopped into room 211, which was being used as the lobby, and had a chat with the lady working inside.  As it turns out, the hotel is barely operational, with only eight rooms, all on the parking lot side, in service.  None of the rooms on the other side, which has a tremendous view of the piedmont, are in service.  I’m told that the remaining rooms have been stripped, and a walk past some of the first-floor rooms that are not in service seems to confirm this.  That means that out of 118 total rooms, 110 of them are out of service, presumably for being uninhabitable.  That’s an availability of 6.7%.  For that few rooms, it hardly seems worthwhile to remain open, but apparently, they do, likely out of habit.

Meanwhile, the room being used as the lobby smelled strongly of mold, and had visible mold and water damage.  Definitely an unhealthy environment.  We might have stuck around for longer and chatted with the very nice lady working there, but the mold smell was too much.  I imagine that the rooms that are still in service are just as bad, if they are willing to let the room that they’re using as a lobby become so bad.  Thank heavens for Orbit “Bubblemint” gum.  It got the mold taste out of my mouth.

So apparently, and much to my surprise, just when we thought that the book had closed on the operational history of the vintage businesses on Afton Mountain, there’s more to the Afton story to be told.

Otherwise, Elyse and I did some railfanning, plus got together with a few folks.  We did some railfanning in a place very familiar to me: Stuarts Draft, near the railroad crossing on Route 608.  This was part of the Norfolk Southern Shenandoah Valley Line.  There, they had some vintage signals for a switch entering and exiting a 5,842-foot siding that runs from just east of the 608 crossing to approximately one mile west of the next crossing, at Patton Farm Road.  The nearest milepost is 153:

Milepost 153

And here are the signals:

Vintage signals in Stuarts Draft  Vintage signals in Stuarts Draft

I’ve known of those signals ever since we moved to the area in 1992, and Elyse estimated that they’re likely older than me.

I also made an interesting discovery, in that there appears to be evidence that the railroad crossing at Route 608 may have been three tracks at one time.  There’s the main track that’s still there, then the siding appears to have once continued further west.  Rather than cleanly joining the main track, there’s a crossover, and then the siding track continues to a point shortly after the switch.  A derailer protects this area, as there is no bump post or anything at the point where the track ends:

The derailer, set to guide any vehicle that crosses it off of the tracks

Then I also found this, on the opposite side of the main track:

I don’t know what this track did.  It’s a very short section of track that ends within view of the camera, and there appears to be part of a switch at the end of it.  I can only assume that it’s been abandoned for a very long time, since I’ve always known the 608 crossing to be only one track.

Then we also got some photos of one of the crossbucks:

Crossbuck for northbound traffic (traveling towards 340)

All in all, not a bad time over by the tracks.

We saw Mom while we were down there, got together with Aaron Stone and his brother Evan, and then we all went down to Staunton to have dinner and do stuff.  Elyse and Aaron checked out the Masonic Building, which elevator filmer Andrew Reams made somewhat famous.  I had previously been to this building in April, and apparently, the joke was on Elyse.  While Mom, Evan, and I were chatting across the street, we saw Aaron come out of the building alone.  Then I got a phone call from Elyse, and she told me that she was stuck in the elevator.  Okay, then.  Thankfully, she managed to get herself out on her own just as I got over there.

However, the highlight of the day was during dinner at Shenandoah Pizza.  I saw my old Spanish I teacher!  It had probably been around 20 years since I’d seen her, and so that was pretty awesome.  Lots of catching up there.

Then after dinner, we parted company with Mom and dropped Evan off, and the three of us went to Waynesboro.  Was surprised to see what hideous shape that the old Leggett building was in.  I remember when it was Leggett, and then after it closed in 1993, it became Cycle Recycle, a bicycle shop, which moved from the building next door.  Now, the building had been mostly gutted, and it’s full of mold.  Apparently, there was an aborted renovation project, based on these signs:

Demolition permit.
Demolition permit.

Stop work order.
Stop work order.

I have no idea why the work was ordered stopped, because the cited section of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code describes the authority of officials to issue “stop work” orders, rather than the violation itself.  In any case, apparently the people followed suit, because the building was partially gutted, and left as is.  I imagine that at this point, the mold has rendered the building beyond economic repair.  You only have to approach the doors to get a good whiff of the mold.  Orbit “Bubblemint” gum to the rescue again.

Meanwhile, Elyse had gone to a nearby bar while Aaron and I checked out the back of the building.  Still pretty bad, though the ceiling was still partly intact in the back.  When we got back around, we headed over to the bar where Elyse went.  The bartender was pretty cool, as he said, “Oh, you’re with Elyse?  She’s a regular here!”  We spent a few minutes there while Elyse finished her drink, and then we headed out.

We eventually made our way to Walmart, i.e. my ex-store, and wandered around a bit.  The store had been remodeled twice since I worked there, including removing the floor tiles, and I didn’t see anyone from my time working there.  It really felt like I was at any Walmart, i.e. it didn’t feel like the store that I used to work in anymore.  That’s probably a good thing.

And that was about it.  A fun time was had by all.

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I think this takes the cake for condescending job rejections… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/09/17/i-think-this-takes-the-cake-for-condescending-job-rejections/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/09/17/i-think-this-takes-the-cake-for-condescending-job-rejections/#comments Sun, 17 Sep 2017 22:25:06 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=26380 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]

I know what you’re thinking: did they really just compare jobseekers to a box of puppies?  Yes, they did.  They actually spoke to someone that way in a professional context.  In their attempt to be cute and soften the blow of a job rejection, they make it fifty times worse – particularly that line that says, “no doubt that there are many companies that will be thrilled to hear from a talented candidate like you.”  When you don’t have a job and are having trouble finding one, that sort of line really hurts.  Even more so, the letter doesn’t say that they went with another candidate.  Rather, it’s a problem with you.  The problem is with you, and that’s why we’re rejecting your application.

I don’t know about you, but I really want to know what company this is, because that sort of nonsense needs to be called out for exactly what it is: condescending and unprofessional.  If I ever spoke to someone like the person who wrote this rejection letter did, I guarantee you that I would find myself sitting across a table from my boss, being asked to explain the unprofessional manner in which I communicated with people.  It is never a good idea to talk down to someone, no matter who they are.

When I worked at Food & Water Watch, I was the one who took care of job applications.  I proofread the job ads (because my boss couldn’t be bothered to use spell check), I posted the job ads, I received the applications, and I forwarded the applications to the proper person for consideration.  I was also the one who fielded calls and emails from applicants.  I treated everyone well.  Did you all receive my application?  Let me see.  What was your name?  Yep – we got it, and it was forwarded on to the hiring manager on whatever date.  I didn’t make the hiring decisions (because I certainly wouldn’t have hired a few of the clowns that I worked with), but at least I could confirm to applicants that their application was sent to the decision maker for consideration.  A customer service mindset with job applicants goes a long way when it comes to maintaining a good reputation.  People remember that.

One applicant who inquired in this way turned out to be an old friend from college, and we reconnected through that exchange.  I didn’t recognize the name at first, and replied cordially, as always.  I got a response back to the effect of, “Wait, are you the same Ben Schumin who was an RA in Potomac Hall?”  So that was pretty awesome, though unfortunately, they didn’t get the job.

In any case, the best rejections are the short ones that communicate the necessary information without making extra effort to avoid hurt feelings.  In other words, the drier the better.  It’s not that they’re going out of the way to hurt people’s feelings, but they’re just not trying to soften the blow.  When I was searching for a job back in 2013-2014, the best rejection letter was this one from Georgetown University:

Dear Applicant:

Thank you for applying to Georgetown University Campus Ministry’s office manager position. We are grateful for the interest of many qualified candidates. The position is now filled.

Sincerely,

Office of Campus Ministry
Georgetown University

Thank you for applying, but the position has been filled, sincerely, Georgetown.  Nothing to it.  No attempt to avoid hurt feelings.  Just quick and to the point.  It also was about a month after I applied, which was reasonable enough.  I hadn’t heard anything, which either meant that I was not being considered for a position, or it was a slow process.  Universities could go either way on speed of hiring process, and go quickly like a private company, or slowly like a public agency.  In any case, okay, time to move on.  It also didn’t hurt that I considered that position to be an unlikely prospect in the first place.

Then there’s this one, from Albemarle County, Virginia, where I had applied for some web position:

Dear Benjamin Schumin,

Thank you for your interest in working as a Communication Specialist with the County Executive’s Office. We appreciate your interest in Albemarle County Local Government. We had a number of qualified applicants and this was a difficult decision; however, after careful review of your application, other candidate’s background and skills more closely fit our current need.

We appreciate the time you invested in applying for our position. Please continue to review our current openings at www.albemarle.org/jobs for other positions you may wish to pursue.

Again, thank you for your interest in a career with Albemarle County. We wish you much success with your search.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Schick

HR Generalist

You know how, when you put your foot in your mouth and immediately realize it, your further attempts to mitigate it just make things worse, and you dig yourself into a deeper hole?  There you are.  This letter is just a trainwreck.  Right out of the gate, they’re thanking you twice for applying: first for the position, and then for the county as a whole.  And next comes the ham-handed attempts to avoid hurt feelings: “We had a number of qualified applicants and this was a difficult decision; however, after careful review of your application[…]”  I don’t care about how many applicants you had.  I don’t care how difficult your decision was.  Just tell me “no” and let’s all move on.  You’re not going to hurt my feelings by telling me “no”.  Just rip the band-aid off and call it a day.  Don’t peel it off slowly, because we all know that just hurts like hell, and prolongs the unpleasantness.

Then, of course, timing is key, too.  For a private-sector or nonprofit organization, if you apply and don’t hear anything back within a week or two, it’s usually a good indication that the answer is “no”.  Imagine my surprise to find this message in my inbox on May 8, 2014:

Dear Benjamin

Thank you for your interest in a position with the Association of American Medical Colleges.

We are fortunate to have many qualified candidates apply to each of our positions. We have reviewed the qualifications of each candidate and after careful consideration, we have determined that the qualifications of other candidates may better fit our needs at this time.

Please accept our best wishes and thank you for your interest in the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Warm regards,
Human Resources

I applied for this position on September 14, 2013.  Trust and believe that I had written this organization off about a month after sending in the application, and moved on.  This message seemed to just open up old wounds for no real purpose, since seven months and 24 days without a response is a clear indication of “no”.  Plus they put in some wording that tells me that they tried to prevent hurt feelings, when, after seven months of silence, it was clear that they didn’t give a rat’s patootie.  This sent me into a small rage, and I let them have it via social media:

Just got a rejection from an organization that I applied to seven months ago. Let me return the sentiment: FUCK YOU. #insulted @aamctoday

Yeah, it was a little unprofessional for someone who, at that point, still didn’t have a job, but damn, if that didn’t feel good.  I had also changed career trajectories by then, having gotten a CDL and moved my focus away from nonprofits and office work.  And as things would work out, I would get hired by my current employer one week later.

Then there are some companies that have some major nerve.  One place that I applied at was KIPP, a public charter school in DC.  I applied for two positions with them, and got rejection notices for each of them a week later.  It wasn’t that surprising, because they made high school and college GPAs a required field in their application.  I don’t remember or care what either of those numbers are, and I also wasn’t going to go back and research them, because with high school and college’s at that time being 14 and 10 years in my past, respectively, it really didn’t matter anymore, because I wasn’t the same person that I was in high school or college anymore.  So I fudged them as well as I could (i.e. I was in the ballpark, but not exact), but my old GPAs shouldn’t matter anyway.  I suppose that any organization that judges a candidate on their high school or college GPA after they have a number of years of work experience is nowhere that one would want to work anyway.  But that’s not the part where the nerve comes in.  I got the second rejection email on October 9, 2013.  Fast forward to May 22, 2014, and I got this email from them:

Hello,

I’m emailing you today on behalf of the KIPP Recruitment team. We’re assessing our application and hiring process and our records indicate that you looked into employment opportunities here within the past year. We would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time to answer a few questions about your experience. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, and will help us better serve our candidates, students, and schools in the future.

Please click here to fill out the survey: KIPP Candidate Survey

The survey is for information-gathering purposes only. The survey is anonymous, and your responses will be kept completely confidential and private.

Thank you for your interest in KIPP and for sharing your feedback with us.

Sincerely,

Sheila Sarem
KIPP Recruitment Team

And then I got a second email on May 30 from Sarem:

Hello,

If you have already filled out the KIPP Candidate Survey, we are extremely grateful! Thank you for your time.

If you have not yet filled it out, this is a quick reminder. I’m emailing again on behalf of the KIPP Recruitment team. We’re assessing our application and hiring process and our records indicate that you looked into employment opportunities here within the past year. We would greatly appreciate it if you could take the time to answer a few questions about your experience, regardless of where you are in the application process. The survey is for information-gathering purposes only and your responses will be kept completely confidential and private.

To access the survey, please click here: KIPP Candidate Survey

The survey is being administered by the KIPP Foundation, the national organization that supports KIPP Schools. All hiring decisions are made at the local level by individual KIPP schools and regions. If you have a question about your application status, please use our School Directory to follow up directly with the school or region where you applied.

Thank you for your time. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us, and will help us to better serve our candidates, students, and schools in the future.

Sincerely,

Sheila Sarem
KIPP Recruitment Team

It was bad enough that they sent the survey in the first place.  But then they sent a reminder, like I was obligated to complete their stupid survey, and this was a reminder of my obligation.  I’m sorry, but I don’t see where completing your survey benefits me.  It’s like an exit interview, in that there is nothing in it for the person completing it.  I no longer have any sort of association with your organization, and you’re not paying me for my time.  I laughed at it, while being amazed that an organization would think that they were so important that people would drop everything and respond to their survey when they wouldn’t even give you the time of day.

Of course, I don’t understand why so many companies will treat jobseekers like they are lower than scum in the first place.  People remember bad experiences.  When I was driving a bus, some of the routes that I did took me past the headquarters building for the Association of American Medical Colleges, as well as some KIPP schools.  I remembered how I was treated by them every time I went past their facilities.  It’s why I advocate treating job applicants like customers – because you never know when your paths may cross again.  The idea is that today’s unsuccessful jobseeker may very well be in a position to do business with the company tomorrow.  Or the tables may be completely turned one day, i.e. if I’m in a position to hire you and you are applying for a position that I am responsible for filling.  If you were mean to me the last time we had a contact, I wouldn’t hire you.  It’s like they say – the true mark of a person’s character is how they behave towards people who they consider beneath them.

And then too many jobseekers enable such poor treatment by expressing their gratitude for receiving any sort of response.  Regarding the original message, one person said, “[S]till 100x better than no response, so I’d say let them do what they want.”  I saw other responses in the same thread expressing similar sentiment.  I don’t see it that way.  First of all, it makes jobseekers look like beggars, fighting for any scrap of feedback, no matter how unprofessional it may be.  And it gives people in charge of hiring processes carte blanche to treat people poorly because it’s considered better than nothing.  Actually, silence is better than an unprofessional communication.  Just like how, in hindsight, there have been a few job interviews that I went to that I should have walked out of because it was clear that there was no way that I would ever want to work for those people.

In the end, I suppose it’s a sad commentary on how low our standards have become when it comes to finding work.  I’m satisfied that, when I was in a situation to interact with jobseekers, I always maintained the utmost in professionalism, but I’m disappointed about how many others don’t have the same level of professionalism.

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