The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Tue, 01 Oct 2019 08:00:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 Changes in the area of photo licensing… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/10/01/changes-in-the-area-of-photo-licensing/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/10/01/changes-in-the-area-of-photo-licensing/#respond Tue, 01 Oct 2019 04:00:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29853 I have a few changes to announce in the area of photo licensing.  First and foremost, Schumin Web Photo Licensing, my in-house photo licensing site, is no more.  I had been running that site for about three years, and while it did a respectable amount of business, I felt that it didn’t justify the amount of resources that it consumed, and it also didn’t justify the amount of time spent to maintain it.  There was also always a bit of an uncomfortable interaction with Pixsy.  The idea was that there was a very real possibility that someone could use my licensing site in an attempt to circumvent a Pixsy case for an unauthorized use of an image, and that could be a sticky situation to get straightened out.  Yes, I had policies stating that use of the licensing site to circumvent Pixsy was not permitted, and that any licenses purchased in an attempt to circumvent Pixsy’s process would be cancelled, but good luck trying to prove that.  All it really did was make the site look prickly to potential users by having to put that in the fine print, even though its inclusion was necessary.  So in the end, the site is gone.

Otherwise, my philosophy for photo licensing is changing based on experience.  Licensing on the front end didn’t do as well as I might have hoped, but pursuing Creative Commons violations has been quite lucrative over the last few years.  I like to say that Pixsy furnished the house when I moved to Montgomery Village back in 2017.  Thus my stance on licensing has evolved from a traditional licensing model towards just letting people use the material under a free license that requires attribution, i.e. Creative Commons, and then aggressively policing compliance through Pixsy and DMCA takedown notices.  In other words, follow the rules, and it’s free.  Don’t follow the rules, and it’s going to cost you.

The Content Licensing page has also been revised to jive with this new stance on licensing.  It now again explicitly states that anything published prior to February 20, 2014 is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  This was always the case due to the way that Creative Commons works in practice, but after February 2014, it was not stated explicitly.  Additionally, it directs users to my Flickr page to find Creative Commons content posted after February 20, 2014.  Explicitly listing every Creative Commons image on Schumin Web would require going through more than five years’ worth of material to mark stuff, and I can think of a hundred other things that I would rather do besides that.  So Flickr it is, especially since that site has very powerful Creative Commons search tools.

I admit that the new licensing policy for images published February 20, 2014 and later is best characterized as “clear as mud”, but by using Flickr as my platform for Creative Commons licensing, it helps to better control what images get released into the wild under free licenses and what remains all-rights-reserved.  One example of where that control is useful comes from a downstream usage of my 2011 “Funny Faces” photo set.  I got an email from my father one day asking if I knew about an advertisement for an anti-virus program that displayed on the site where he checks his email.  That advertisement used a photo that I took of myself holding up a laptop to advertise the software.  I thanked Dad for the heads-up, and then, since it didn’t follow the licensing terms, went over to Pixsy and got compensated for the usage.  Therefore, I can now say, “My face!  My valuable face!” much like Luke Perry did on The Simpsons, because apparently, my face has some marketing value to it.  But in any case, had I been more selective about what went out to Creative Commons back then, I imagine that the “Funny Faces” photo set wouldn’t have been included, because it’s more personal in nature, rather than something that particularly needed to be released into the wild under a free license.  In other words, I didn’t necessarily want to be the unwitting spokesman for an anti-virus program, though I didn’t mind getting compensated for that use.

So that’s the new lay of the land.  If you have any questions, as always, let me know.

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Six years, two months, and five days later… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/24/six-years-two-months-and-five-days-later/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/24/six-years-two-months-and-five-days-later/#respond Tue, 24 Sep 2019 12:26:48 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29800 September 24 marks the day that I have been a former employee of Food & Water Watch for the same amount of time that I had been an active employee there.  Since leaving, I have given plenty of thought to my tenure there, and nowadays, I tend to give it a mixed review.  On one hand, that job was what got me up to the Washington DC area in the first place, and it was good for me for a period of time.  I grew both personally and professionally because of my experience there, and I certainly benefitted from that.  I also certainly had lots of good times while there.  However, I probably stayed there for much longer than I should have, as most people spent two or three years there and then moved on.  I was there for just over six years, was ninth in seniority by the time that I left, and was no longer all that interested in the issues that the organization was working on by the time that I left.

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

Looking back, I can’t imagine its having gone any other way, as the generalist’s role in the small organization is superseded by many specialist roles in the larger organization.  However, it’s not like I didn’t try to change the course.  I knew by the end of 2011 that I was starting to outgrow my role, and that I was not getting the respect that I knew that I deserved.  I had asked for more opportunities for growth, and got denied for upward movement, and was only offered additional responsibilities that would have led to other low-level positions within the organization, i.e. nothing that would have translated to more money.  After all, none of us really do our jobs solely because we’re passionate about the work that we do.  No.  The hell with that.  None of us would do our jobs for free.  We do our jobs because they pay money, which we use to support our lifestyles.  If my job stopped paying me, the trains would stop moving, because none of us would do it for free.  Not a chance.

The turning point with Food & Water Watch was when my boss decided to take my suggestions for additional responsibilities and hire it out as a new position.  I made my case for why I should have the role, but I was unsuccessful in convincing him.  Instead, after six years of employment there, I ended up in a role with fewer responsibilities than I had when I started back in 2007.

I ended up making a meme out of it the week that it all happened:

"Scumbag Steve" style meme about my situation

Yep… I gave my old boss, Lane Brooks, the “Scumbag Steve” treatment.  And that certainly was a scumbag move on his part.  Obviously, I didn’t share this meme around at the time except amongst a few close friends because I needed to find another job, and was initially looking in the same industry.  But in any case, this made me feel a little better about things.  I also realized that this was the spineless way that Lane got rid of people that he didn’t want around anymore, as he did the same thing to another person in our department at the same time as me.  That other employee and I both quit within a week of each other.

Starting my work in public transportation, after a longer-than-intended sabbatical, I was delighted to be back in the saddle again, and I was much changed from who I was when I left Food & Water Watch.  During my time off, I focused on more creative endeavors, and began to view Schumin Web as more of a side business than a hobby, even though the content was still just as quirky as ever.  In other words, even though I was living off of savings, I was growing again, and that was the best feeling ever.  I also stopped pulling punches around this time when it came to taking crap from people.  When someone called looking for pizza, I let them have it, and presented the evidence completely unredacted.  Since then, and in that same vein I’ve also settled a few scores with people from my past via this website, again completely unredacted, and that’s been very helpful for me.

During my first six months as a bus driver, I often ran into my old colleagues because of the areas that I was driving in, and I realized how much I had changed, and how much they hadn’t.  One particular encounter in Petworth with a group of my old coworkers really drove that home.  I was between assignments, walking from my street relief point on one route, and going back to the bus garage in order to start my next route.  I was wearing a complete bus operator’s uniform.  While so dressed, they invited me to come with them and go out for drinks.  My first thought was, do you not see this uniform?  I can’t just go into a bar on a Friday evening wearing that uniform, even if I’m just going in to get a hamburger and a soda.  A healthy respect for things that begin with the word “Unsuck” should keep most people wearing that uniform on their best behavior.  I invited them to come ride my bus if they wanted to see me, and told them when and where to meet me in order to do that, but they were clearly more interested in drinking than about actually spending time with me.  The encounter, while amicable, really made me feel distant from them.  It made me realize that they were part of my past, and that they had stopped being part of my present long ago.  I realized that I was not the same person that I was when I left Food & Water Watch, and that I also liked the person that I had become since our paths diverged.  I didn’t miss my old life.

All in all, I suppose that my time at Food & Water Watch was a learning experience, but I’m glad that it’s over.  I have become a much better and wiser person in the time since I left the organization, and I hope that growth trajectory continues.

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Thinking about the credits music… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/17/thinking-about-the-credits-music/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/17/thinking-about-the-credits-music/#respond Tue, 17 Sep 2019 13:14:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29522 As you well know, I am a big fan of Today’s Special.  I certainly know more about the show than most, and have traveled to Toronto to visit a number of different filming locations from the show.  And before we get too far along, nerd alert: I’m going deep into the weeds with this one.

There’s one episode, though, where I take issue with the credits.  In that instance, I think that the music that they chose to use doesn’t completely fit the mood of the ending.  That episode is “Babies“, from 1984.  In that episode, we learn that Wanda Willoby, from the Willoby Tale stories, has run away from her home in Possum Ridge and has come to the store, because she feels as though she is being replaced by a new baby that’s on the way.  After everyone finds Wanda, they comfort her, and explain to her that her parents won’t love her any less now that there will be a third child in the family.  Meanwhile, Wanda, while meaning well, causes a lot of trouble in the store, including accidentally dropping a large display of balls in the Children’s Department, and inadvertently backing into an alarm button in the Computer Room.  This underlines the need to get Wanda back home to Possum Ridge as soon as possible.  In the end, Wanda realizes that she is not being replaced by the new baby, and the episode ends with the storyteller, a young Lori Chodos (whom you might better remember as Beezus from the 1988 Ramona series), telling everyone how well Wanda handled the new baby after her experience in the store.  The episode ends on a high note, though certainly differently than any other episode, since the storyteller had never been integrated into an episode like this before (storytellers typically appeared in standalone segments).

The end credits music used was the slow flute theme, which is the basic melody of the theme on flute with some other accompaniment.  This is used on four episodes: “Babies” and “Butterflies” in 1984, and “Wishes” and “Phil’s Visit” in 1986.  Of those four episodes, “Butterflies” and “Wishes” have sad endings.  “Phil’s Visit” doesn’t have a sad ending per se, but it’s a very emotional episode about alcoholism, and the slow flute ending fits.  Out of the four, only “Babies” has a happy ending.  “Babies” is also the first episode to use that piece of music.  For recurring pieces of music, the first usage is sometimes very different than the other usages.  For instance, the music typically used during suspenseful scenes first appears in a relatively lighthearted scene in “Police“, where Sam is attempting to help Officer Hardy look for clues, but ultimately gets in his way.  In almost every other instance, the tune is used to help build suspense, such as when a spaceship lands on the roof, or Muffy is rescued after becoming trapped in a utility chase.

Here is the ending for “Babies” as aired:

In the case of “Babies”, I think that they should have used the regular end credits theme, which is an instrumental of the main theme, instead of the slow flute theme.  This is the default ending theme for most episodes, and is used when the final song of the episode does not run through the credits, or if the mood calls for a different closing song.  Happy endings typically would get the regular end credits.  “Babies” had a happy ending, which goes along with what the regular ending theme is typically used for.  It wasn’t a downer ending by any means, though I suppose that one could argue that it fits the quieter ending with the story.  However, I would argue that the regular ending just fits better.

Here is the ending of “Babies”, modified to use the regular ending theme:

You know, it just seems to fit.  A happy ending deserves the regular credits music.  The slow flute music seems to move at a slower, more thoughtful pace, which fits the heavier-hitting episodes that it was more often used with.  The slower pace gives you a chance to think about and digest what you just saw while the credits run.  This isn’t that, and I feel like the slower pace kind of drags out the credits.  After all, in “Babies”, the story is wrapped up neatly, and everyone is happy: everyone at the store is happy that Wanda is back on Possum Ridge, and Wanda is proud of her new baby brother.  That seems more suitable for the regular theme, since there’s nothing that the viewer needs to digest and process on their own.  The regular ending signals that the episode is over, and that everything is well.  “Babies” also wouldn’t have been the first episode to start the end theme well before the first card, either, nor would it be the last.  Prior to that, “Adventure” started the end theme while Waldo was trying to correct a mistake from earlier, where he had accidentally given Muffy a mustache like Sam’s while casting a spell.  While the end theme played, Waldo magically moved the mustache to Jeff and Jodie, and then finally to himself, where he then tried unsuccessfully to get rid of it while the credits were running on screen.

I have also given some thought to the ending of “Memories“.  That episode, the last in the series, uses its own ending theme, based on the final song in the episode.

Here is the ending for “Memories” as aired:

Being the final episode, I always wondered what it might sound like with the regular ending, i.e. sending the show out with the traditional ending instead of a custom ending.  So I swapped it in to see how it fit.

This is the end of “Memories” with the regular ending theme:

I was kind of surprised to discover that it doesn’t work very well.  I knew that it was shorter than most credits sequences, as this one is 35 seconds, rather than the 45 seconds to a minute that most credits sequences run, though it’s not the shortest (“Water” with its 20-second credits sequence most likely holds that title).  Putting the regular music on the “Memories” ending results in its starting at an odd place, in order for the song to finish at the right spot.  The regular theme also feels too upbeat for the song that would have immediately preceded it in “Memories”, which is slower, and more thoughtful.  I think that the only way that the regular ending theme might work, would be if it started at the first piano slide.  However, that would either require a 53-second credits sequence, or a fade out before the song is complete.  Fading the song out wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, though.  That happens in “Sleep“, which starts the theme much earlier than is typical, and fades out when the credits have ended.  But considering that it’s the last episode, a fade out would leave me feeling like it was incomplete.

However, working on the idea that the ending for “Memories” as aired is slower and more thoughtful, I also considered how the slow flute theme would fit.  The idea was that with the slower and more thoughtful ending, the slow flute ending might just work.

This is the end of “Memories” with the slow flute ending theme:

I was surprised that this ending worked so well.  Prior to editing it in, my guess was that it wouldn’t work because of the shorter length of the “Memories” credits sequence.  The slow flute ending runs for 45 seconds, and I was sure that cutting out the first ten seconds would destroy its balance.  That turned out not to be the case, and as long as you fade it in, it flows quite well, and ends at the right spot.  For “Memories”, it works, for the same reason that it works in “Butterflies”, “Wishes”, and “Phil’s Visit”: because it allows the viewer time to think about and process what just ran on screen.  “Memories” isn’t a downer ending by any means, but that final song, which gives a rundown of the entire series, requires some time to mentally process things afterward, and the slower music provides some space for that processing to happen.

All in all, these little thought exercises, coupled with testing my theories with some video editing, are fun.  Considering how deep in the weeds I’ve been getting with Today’s Special lately with “Project TXL” and all, as well as my recent trip to Toronto, it gets me thinking about things sometimes.

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Meet Woomy… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/08/meet-woomy/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/09/08/meet-woomy/#respond Sun, 08 Sep 2019 14:09:13 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29555 In going through what I’ve posted, I’ve realized that I’ve mentioned some things but never fully explained them.  I typically realize this when these things are slated to appear again or are otherwise planned to be referenced, but discover that there has not been a proper introduction.

In this case, meet Woomy, one of Elyse’s “critters”:

Woomy, on our trip to Scranton in October 2018

Woomy is a stuffed octopus, and Elyse found him at a thrift store.  His name came from the Internet, which named him on one of Elyse’s live streams on YouTube.  We took one look in his eyes, and we immediately knew his personality.  We knew that Woomy was a curmudgeon.  Unlike most of Elyse’s critters, who carry on extensive conversations with us just by nodding their heads, Woomy speaks audibly, but he only says one thing: “I don’t like that!”  Considering that phrase is, for the most part, the only thing that he ever says, we suspect that even if he did like something, he would still tell us that he didn’t like it.

Woomy also the most-traveled critter by far.  Woomy went on our October trip to Cortland and Scranton, and Woomy also went to Toronto with us.  He’s also come along for a few doctor’s appointments.  Did he enjoy any of it?  Not a chance.  At least that’s as much as he told us.  Woomy is also a social media darling, as people really love seeing Woomy make appearances on my various feeds

Here are a few photos of Woomy, not liking things:

Woomy presses the button for our floor at the Holiday Inn Express in Cortland.  Regarding the elevator, he said, "I don't like that!"
Woomy presses the button for our floor at the Holiday Inn Express in Cortland.  Regarding the elevator, he said, “I don’t like that!”

Woomy hangs onto the steering wheel.  When he saw this photo, he said, "I don't like that!"
Woomy hangs onto the steering wheel during our Scranton trip.  When he saw this photo, he said, “I don’t like that!”

Woomy guards a six-pack of non-alcoholic Budweiser at the hotel in Toronto.  When we asked him about it, all he said was, "I don't like that!"
Woomy guards a six-pack of non-alcoholic Budweiser at the hotel during our Toronto trip.  When we asked him about it, all he said was, “I don’t like that!”

Elyse helps Woomy press the button for the lobby in a building in Toronto.  The button earned Woomy's seal of disapproval, as he simply said, "I don't like that!"
Elyse helps Woomy press the button for the lobby in a building in Toronto.  The button earned Woomy’s seal of disapproval, as he simply said, “I don’t like that!”

Elyse gives Woomy one of those what-the-hell looks because of what he did while on our Toronto trip.  He grabbed a Malabar label, and then promptly announced that he did not like it.
Elyse gives Woomy one of those what-the-hell looks because of what he did while on our Toronto trip.  He grabbed a Malabar label, and then promptly announced that he did not like it.

Woomy sits in the waiting room at a doctor's appointment for Elyse.  I don't know what it was, but Woomy's assessment of the whole thing was, "I don't like that!"
Woomy sits in the waiting room at a doctor’s appointment for Elyse.  I don’t know what it was, but Woomy’s assessment of the whole thing was, “I don’t like that!”

Woomy inspects a bottle of Mountain Dew at Sheetz in Frederick.  The verdict was, "I don't like that!"
Woomy inspects a bottle of Mountain Dew at Sheetz in Frederick.  The verdict was, “I don’t like that!”

We took Woomy along with us when we recently went trainspotting at Horseshoe Curve near Altoona.  Woomy watched as well, but all he had to say about it was, "I don't like that!"  We'll see if I ever take him trainspotting again...
We took Woomy along with us when we recently went trainspotting at Horseshoe Curve near Altoona.  Woomy watched as well, but all he had to say about it was, “I don’t like that!”  We’ll see if I ever take him trainspotting again…

Woomy reads the information board at Horseshoe Curve, and then promptly declared his dislike of it.
Woomy reads the information board at Horseshoe Curve, and then promptly declared his dislike of it.

A friend of mine from high school remarked regarding this photo, “Well, with three hearts, you’re bound to have a lot of feelings on many subjects.”  I ran it past Woomy, and then reported back: “Woomy has already declared that he doesn’t like that.”

Woomy inspects a bag of gummy shark candies that Elyse got at the gift shop at Horseshoe Curve.  When he finished looking at them, he said, "I don't like that!"
Woomy inspects a bag of gummy shark candies that Elyse got at the gift shop at Horseshoe Curve.  When he finished looking at them, he said, “I don’t like that!”

I, meanwhile, sang “gummy shark” to the tune of that “Baby Shark” song.  You’re welcome.

Elyse messed with Woomy a little at the railroad museum in Altoona.  The two brooms here are part of an interactive exhibit, and they swept back and forth.  Woomy got quite a shaking from it, and shouted, "I don't like that!"
Elyse messed with Woomy a little at the railroad museum in Altoona.  The two brooms here are part of an interactive exhibit, and they swept back and forth.  Woomy got quite a shaking from it, and shouted, “I don’t like that!”

Woomy surveys the damage after an accident where I damaged a wall while pushing a case of Priority Mail boxes down the basement stairs, because I didn't want to carry all of them down.  He took one look at it and declared, "I don't like that!"  Neither do I, Woomy.  But at least he doesn't have to fix it.
Woomy surveys the damage after an accident where I damaged a wall while pushing a case of Priority Mail boxes down the basement stairs, because I didn’t want to carry all of them down.  He took one look at it and declared, “I don’t like that!”  Neither do I, Woomy.  But at least he doesn’t have to fix it.

All in all, we like Woomy, despite his curmudgeonly disposition.  However, the other critters don’t take as kindly to him.  Another octopus once gave Woomy a swift kick after he declared that he didn’t like something.  That elicited another “I don’t like that!” from Woomy.

In any case, follow me on Instagram for more pictures of Woomy, and you’ll occasionally see him pop up here as well.

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Of all the words to split hairs over… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/24/of-all-the-words-to-split-hairs-over/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/24/of-all-the-words-to-split-hairs-over/#respond Sat, 24 Aug 2019 13:18:41 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29452 I’ve got one more school story for you.  I figure that I’ve told this one so many times to various people that it’s worth putting in Journal entry form and getting “on the record” once and for all.  It also demonstrates just how toxic the situation was in 1990 at Bonnie Grimes Elementary School in Rogers.

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

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

Oh, how wrong I was.

A week or so later, as I was heading out to recess, I got called aside by my regular teacher.  I was to report to Mrs. George’s room.  When I got there, I was to serve my punishment for my transgression in the car line.  The punishment was to copy five or so definitions from a dictionary that Mrs. George had provided.  My assignment was to look the words up and copy the definitions onto the paper provided.  Fair enough.  In the process of all of this, I remember going past the definition of “flaunt” while in search of a different definition, and thinking to myself that I was glad that I didn’t have to copy that definition, as it was a long one.

The last word that I had to copy the definition for was “pettiness”.  It was a very short one, and it used the base word in the definition.  It was something along the lines of, “The state of being petty.”  I didn’t mind, because it meant that I was getting off easy for that last word.  I copied that very short definition, and went to turn the assignment in, having served my punishment, and intending to return to class.

Mrs. George looked the assignment over.  She saw my copied definition for “pettiness”, and challenged me on that, telling me that wasn’t the definition, and that I needed to do that one over.  I was surprised, because I had copied the definition exactly.  My general philosophy when it came to punishments was that it was a bad idea to fool around with those.  You’re already in trouble, so don’t make it any worse.  Just do it, get it over with, and move on.  Thus why I copied it exactly.  I resented this punishment in the first place, but the easiest way forward was to just go through with it.  But at the same time, I wasn’t going to do anything above and beyond what was assigned to me as a punishment.  I’m not a masochist, after all.

That said, I knew that I had copied the right definition, and so I refused, offering to show Mrs. George the definition in the dictionary.  After all, she had assigned the word, and it had a short definition in the dictionary that she had provided to me for this assignment.  This was something that was entirely within her control, considering that she provided both the words and the dictionary.  If she didn’t want a short definition, she should have chosen another word.  Mrs. George refused to look at the dictionary to verify the definition, and took my challenge as an act of defiance, even though I was completely right.

And with that, it was off to the principal’s office, which was a place with which I was very familiar.  There, Mrs. Carmical listened to what Mrs. George told her, and then acted based solely upon Mrs. George’s account of things.  Mrs. Carmical handed me a new piece of paper, a pencil, and a dictionary, and told me that I was going to do the whole assignment over.  My first thought was, absolutely not.  I had already completed it once, and I wasn’t about to complete it again.  So I just sat there.

Ultimately, this incident ended in a stalemate.  I waited it out, sitting in Mrs. Carmical’s office for the rest of the day, doing nothing.  Mrs. Carmical did not press the point, and so the punishment was over when school let out for the day.

This whole incident was messed up in so many ways.  Holding the original transgression as constant, and assuming that the punishment was intended to be fair (i.e. she was not deliberately setting me up), Mrs. George made two big mistakes.  First, based on her reaction to the definition of “pettiness”, it was clear that she had not looked up any of those definitions herself.  If she had, she would have known that the last definition was a short one, and presumably would have avoided it.  Second, after being challenged, she refused to verify it.  After all, if she knew that she was right and that I was wrong, she would have no problem with going in and showing me how I was wrong.  But she wouldn’t do it.  She just had to be right, because she was the teacher and I was the student.  I don’t understand the mindset where teachers just have to be right, even when they’re wrong, because ultimately, all it does is cause them to lose the respect of their students.  Especially so in cases like this, where they are demonstrably wrong.  But once you go all in on being right like that, there’s no going back from that without losing face in a major way.  In other words, the teacher is always right, and if the teacher is wrong, see rule number one.  Likewise, there’s also the idea that the student is always wrong, especially if the student’s being right means that the teacher would be demonstrated to be wrong.  That sort of mindset in practice can be very damaging, considering how impressionable kids are at that age.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Carmical had the power to stop the whole thing, and chose not to.  The proper thing to do would have been to look at the assignment, look at my paper, and look at the dictionary, and verify that the assignment was completed according to instructions.  The correct response should have been, “So what’s the problem?”  After all, it’s assumed that she is principal for a reason, and conflict resolution would be one of those things that principals should be expected to do.  The teacher might have had egg on her face because she made a mistake, but things would have been settled definitively and fairly.  But that’s not what happened, because this was Grimes Elementary, and fairness wasn’t how they operated.  Instead, Mrs. Carmical just took the teacher at her word, automatically assumed that I was wrong, and acted based on that.  I lost a lot of respect for both of them that day.

Let’s also talk about the word that was challenged: “pettiness”.  Out of all of the words to be petty over, Mrs. George was being extremely petty over “pettiness”.  I suppose that if she didn’t like my definition for it, then she would just demonstrate what pettiness was all about?  Who knows.  Also, what is it about teachers’ insistence on always having to be right, even when they’re not?  I would really have a lot of respect for a teacher who is willing to admit a mistake when challenged on it, or can demonstrate why they are right, rather than viewing any challenge as an act of defiance.  This wasn’t unique to Mrs. George or even Grimes, though.  That happened throughout my educational career with a number of different teachers.  Ultimately, all it does is cause you to lose the respect of your students, and that just makes everything more difficult.  After all, it’s harder to work with people that have lost respect for you.  Respect is earned, not demanded, and is easily lost.

This whole episode is also a testament as to why individual teachers should not directly punish, and instead let the next level up hand down the discipline.  In middle and high school, after all, the teacher’s responsibility for discipline ends when they send the student out of class.  After that point, it’s up to the administrators to figure out what happened and then determine discipline based on policy.  I could live with that, because I knew what to expect, and there was a separation between the person whose emotions are wrapped up in it and the person who is assigning punishment.  At Grimes, there was a sheet with “school rules” posted in every classroom that included specific punishments for infractions.  However, those rules were ultimately just decorative, because every teacher came up with their own rules and meted out their own punishments, without any sort of guide to determine what punishment fits with what infraction.  It drove me crazy because there was no consistency.  I would much rather see them follow a flowchart so that discipline is nice and consistent.  Some punishments did fit the infractions, but often times they didn’t, as the teachers often would let their emotions get in the way, and ended up giving out-sized punishments for minor infractions.

In the end, this was one more incident to add to the dumpster fire that was fourth grade.  Things would get much worse before they got better, and I was delighted when that year ended.

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Philadelphia? How about New York? https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/18/philadelphia-how-about-new-york/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/18/philadelphia-how-about-new-york/#respond Sun, 18 Aug 2019 04:55:21 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29467 August 13 was a day of unexpected twists and turns, for sure.  What was supposed to be a trip to Philadelphia with friends ended up turning into a trip to New York City for Elyse and me.  As originally planned, we were going to meet up with Brian, Trent, and a few other folks from the DC area who were traveling up separately at 30th Street Station, and the bunch of them plus Elyse were going to go fan transit for a while, while I did my own thing, mostly photographing in and around Center City.  That didn’t happen.

What caused our plans to change was twofold.  First, the weather forecast called for storms all up and down the east coast.  So I would have to figure out something else to do, as I would be rained out.  Secondly, we were running a tad late due to traffic around Baltimore that led us to take a more southerly route before resuming our planned route.  Once we got up there, the plan was to park in New Jersey and then ride PATCO into the city.  What happened, though, was that the other group didn’t want to wait for us at 30th Street Station, and so they went and continued with their plan without Elyse, and took SEPTA Regional Rail out to Norristown, with the idea that we would catch up with them later.  We learned this while we were on PATCO riding into the city.  So essentially, they ditched us.  We did not take too kindly to this, and so rather than chase them in an effort to catch up with them, when it was pretty clear that we were not a priority (otherwise, they would have waited for us), we did our own thing instead.

We ended up getting off of PATCO at City Hall station in Camden.  There, we walked over to the Walter Rand Transportation Center station for the River Line.  Neither of us had ever ridden the River Line, so this would be a new experience.  We were surprised that there was very little transit-oriented development around the River Line stations.  Much of what was right around the stations that we could see was older construction that predated the service.

We rode the River Line up to Trenton, which is the end of the line.  There, I got some photos:

River Line train at Trenton, wearing a Rutgers ad wrap

River Line train at Trenton, wearing a Rutgers ad wrap

From there, we went into the train station and caught a New Jersey Transit train to New York.  On the way, we saw the monorail at Newark International Airport from a distance:

As I understand it, this monorail is slated to be replaced with a new system, as the current system is reaching the end of its design lifespan.

And then we got to New York:

Welcome to Penn Station!
Welcome to Penn Station!

At Penn Station, I needed to pick up a charging cable for my phone, and did so at what I considered an unlikely place:

Kmart!

Never did I expect to go shopping at Kmart – especially in a train station.  But they had the cable that I needed, and they had it at a price that I could live with, unlike some of the other stores at Penn Station that were charging exorbitant amounts for the same thing.  I also got through the checkout very quickly.

Meanwhile, Elyse got trapped inside a restroom because of a massive fight occurring outside that blocked her in.  I had seen several police officers running down the station concourse, and that was what they were responding to.  Once the fight was cleared, Elyse could come back out.

We then made our way to the subway, where we caught a 1 train up to 137th Street-City College.  We went up here because Elyse wanted to see an adult store in New York for some reason, and we had located a place up there called Romantic Depot.  Being New York, I expected something awesome, but unfortunately, this place was pretty generic, as it had much of the same products that every other generic adult store carries.  I was not impressed.  There’s a store in College Park down by me called Comfort Zone that is way better than this store could ever be.  In any case, they did have some things that I’d only ever seen wrapped up out for customers to handle.  Interesting products, for sure, but none of which I would ever purchase for myself.

From there, we went to Subway to eat, and then headed south a little ways.  We stopped at the portal where the subway goes back underground at 135th Street after coming up for a few blocks in the middle of Broadway, and I got some photos.

Elyse looks at me as I get ready to photograph trains.
Elyse looks at me as I get ready to photograph trains.

The 1 line through this area is three tracks.
The 1 line through this area is three tracks.

1 train going uptown.
1 train going uptown.

1 train going downtown.
1 train going downtown.

We continued down the street, stopping by a newer Columbia University building.  Near there, Elyse found a penguin sticker on a truck amusing:

Elyse with the penguin sticker

From here, we boarded a train at 125th Street, and took that down to Lincoln Center, getting some railfan shots at 125th on the way:

Uptown train at 125th

Downtown train at 125th

Arriving at 66th Street-Lincoln Center, we took the M66 bus to end of line.  There, Elyse wanted to do the elevators at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital.  But first, she got a bite to eat at Sophie’s, a Cuban fast casual restaurant nearby.  She had an empanada, and I had a smoothie.  Good place.  Will definitely patronize again.  We found a gas stove on the street next to the apartment building that Sophie’s is in:

A gas stove sitting on the sidewalk

This just seems very “New York” to me, for some reason.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, Elyse couldn’t get the access that she wanted for her elevators.  Unless you were getting something done there or visiting a patient, they wouldn’t let you in.  This was understandable, but Elyse was disappointed.

By this point, it was getting close to 9:00, and we both had planned to leave New York around 9:00.  So we walked to 72nd Street on the new Second Avenue line, and caught our train from there.  I was that nerd who was photographing the signals:

Signal at 72nd Street  Signals at 72nd Street

After all, I work in the transit industry myself, and New York has a completely different signaling system than what I’m used to.  They have wayside signals up and down the line in most cases, whereas my system only has signals on the wayside at interlockings, and uses cab signaling otherwise.

From here, we took a Q train to Times Square, and then took a 1 train to 34th Street-Penn Station.  We boarded an NJ Transit train towards Trenton, and that was the end of our visit to New York.  At Trenton, we transferred to the last SEPTA train of the night going towards Philadelphia:

Our SEPTA Regional Rail train at Trenton.
Our SEPTA Regional Rail train at Trenton.

Interior of car 395.
Interior of car 395.

Elyse checks her phone on the train.
Elyse checks her phone on the train.

For a trip that was supposed to focus on Philadelphia, this SEPTA train was the first time that we ever touched Pennsylvania.  But, hey, at least we could say that we did, in fact, go to Philadelphia, as our train took us into Suburban Station.  From there, after we sought assistance from a guard in finding the exit, we walked over to PATCO’s 12-13th & Locust station to go back to Lindenwold.  So our alleged Philadelphia trip actually went to Philadelphia.  Here is a photo of City Hall as proof:

Philadelphia City Hall

Once we got back to Lindenwold, we got a bite to eat at a nearby Wawa on White Horse Pike, and then it was back home for us.  I was surprisingly perky for having been up as long as I had been, and the drive down was fairly uneventful, save for one guy that I encountered who was weaving a little bit.  I ended up having to use the shoulder to avoid a collision.  I suspect that he was probably drowsy, because he was definitely not moving like you should on I-95.

And as is typical for a trip that involves New York City, we got home much later than I would have otherwise liked.  But we had fun, so it was okay.

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They couldn’t even get mad… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/12/they-couldnt-even-get-mad/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/12/they-couldnt-even-get-mad/#respond Mon, 12 Aug 2019 14:17:25 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29288 After the Journal entry where I spoke about my seventh grade year, which generated a lot of great discussion, mostly on Facebook, I thought I’d share an amusing moment from eighth grade.

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

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

Now, fast forward to one day in school at the beginning of eighth period, just as Spanish class was about to begin.  I’m sitting there chatting with another kid, and I brought up what I learned about types of underwear and their relationship to sperm count.  The teacher overheard this conversation, and, understandably, she didn’t like it.  After all, we’re in school, and here I was talking about wearing boxer shorts for higher sperm counts.

In hindsight, duh: not the best choice of venue for that topic, as interesting and as educational as it might be.  It was somewhat related to sex, even though that was not my intent, and as you well know, it is not advised to discuss S-E-X in school (at least where the teacher can hear you).  Clearly, I just found it that interesting, and just had to share this fact that I had learned from my parents.  I mean, after all, I learned it from my parents, so it couldn’t be that bad, right?  In any case, I remember being surprised that the teacher took issue with it, specifically because I had learned it from my parents, and thus had assumed that it was okay.  Apparently, I was wrong.

That said, I got written up for that one, but didn’t get sent out for it.  I didn’t get an opportunity to hide that little faux pas from anyone, either.  I don’t remember how Mom found out, but she found out pretty quickly – the day that it happened, if not mistaken.  My homeroom teacher, meanwhile, knew exactly how to handle the aftermath of the incident.  He knew me pretty well, and knew how I rolled.  We had a discussion about it the next morning, the gist of which was that he knew that I knew better, so don’t do it again.  I admitted that it was a lapse in judgment, and yes, I realized that I definitely knew better.  Clearly, I had been so excited to share what I learned that it had clouded my judgment.

My parents, meanwhile, were put in a slightly uncomfortable position with that one.  They were unhappy that I got myself in trouble for talking about sperm count in school, but I did learn that little factoid directly from Mom, so they knew that they couldn’t get too upset with me about it.  I think that they realized that I had learned my lesson about this, so they didn’t pursue it beyond a simple “I’m disappointed” talk.

All in all, that whole incident amuses me, and I laugh every time that I tell someone about it.  There are no hard feelings towards anyone for it, because what I did was just dumb – no getting around that.

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Fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/02/fire-alarm-at-wheaton-plaza/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/08/02/fire-alarm-at-wheaton-plaza/#respond Fri, 02 Aug 2019 12:23:30 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29382 On Tuesday, Elyse and I were out with our friend Kyle Garcia, and among other places, we stopped over at Wheaton Plaza (Westfield Wheaton) for lunch.  As we were finishing up, we suddenly saw strobes flashing and then the speakers started up.  Yes, after twelve years of living in MoCo, I finally caught a fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza.  Elyse, Kyle, and I all got video of the alarm, while everyone else paid it no mind.  Here are my two videos of it:

I had never heard this kind of voice message before, where it tells you to cease operations.  And everyone ignores it.  I wonder how much of this is an effect of too many fire drills growing up.  After all, schools typically had fire drills once a month, and it was always the same thing: alarm sounds, go outside, stand out there, wait for the all-clear, and then go back in and go on with the day.  It was never an actual emergency.  So familiarity breeds contempt.  The idea is that the fire alarm’s going off never means an actual fire, and so no need to hurry, or even to pay it any mind at all.  It’s why I’ve said that all fire drills should be preannounced, and that there should be fewer of them.  That way, you are conditioned that if you hear an alarm without some sort of official communication preceding it, that there might actually be something wrong, and you might just want to evacuate with a sense of urgency.  The idea of the surprise fire drill, and thus no distinction’s being made between yet another fire drill and the real thing, is a bad thing, because all of the fire drills drive the urgency out of what should be a serious matter.

In any case, soon enough, they shut off the audible message, and then the strobes stopped a minute or so later.  No all-clear announcement or anything else was ever made.  Just kill the alarm and go on with the day.

I also got a few photos of the strobes:

As this was in a mall, i.e. a large space with lots of strobes, all of the strobes were perfectly synchronized.  The idea, according to a Wheelock sales video from the 1990s, is that if there are more than two strobes in a field of view, and the strobes are out of sync with each other, you could end up with a composite flash rate of six or more flashes per second, which could cause a person with photosensitive epilepsy to have a seizure.

So there you have it.  I enjoyed that little interruption to our day, as did Elyse (with her own video) and Kyle (with his own video).

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A couple of small refresh projects… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/29/a-couple-of-small-refresh-projects/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/29/a-couple-of-small-refresh-projects/#respond Mon, 29 Jul 2019 14:00:52 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29197 In the past month, Elyse and I completed two small “refresh” projects in the house.  These projects were nothing too major, but still make a big difference in the quality of life in the place.  We repainted the half bath and also replaced the toilet, and then I also repainted the coat closet.

The bathroom project was the more involved of the two, since the toilet was getting replaced.  That one was something that I’d wanted to do for a while.  The idea was that the old toilet was so cheap that it wasn’t worth rebuilding, and then since I had to patch a few holes in the walls and the door (from the previous owner’s decor) anyway, might as well do a full paint rather than trying to match the old color.  The new toilet came from a thrift store, believe it or not.  We bought a brand new American Standard Cadet 3 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Herndon back in May:

The new toilet at the Habitat store

As I understand it, this was a former display model, so it was completely built and just needed to be dropped into place.  And at $120, that wasn’t a bad deal.

Then in early June, we got started on the project.  But first, some “before” photos:

The toilet side of the bathroom

The sink side of the bathroom

And right after these photos were taken, it was out with the toilet:

With the toilet gone, we made a surprising discovery: there were three wax rings under there.  Yes, three.  They went out, too.
With the toilet gone, we made a surprising discovery: there were three wax rings under there.  Yes, three.  They went out, too.

The next day, we got rid of the old toilet at the Shady Grove Transfer Station:

Loaded up in the HR-V.
Loaded up in the HR-V.

Elyse sends it over the side.  It tipped over while it was sliding, causing the tank to shatter as it went.
Elyse sends it over the side.  It tipped over while it was sliding, causing the tank to shatter as it went.

Much to our surprise, the old toilet landed upright.
Much to our surprise, the old toilet landed upright.

The next step was painting.  The beautiful thing about this was that the painting part of the job didn’t cost me anything.  I already had all of the supplies from previous projects, and I used the same paint from when I did Elyse’s bathroom the year before.  Works for me.

I quickly learned that the existing paint in the half bath was no exception when it came to the quality of the paint job that I inherited when I bought the house: it sucked.  Seriously, my house had a surprisingly bad paint job, in that you could see roller marks, uneven application, and so on.  I couldn’t help but think that someone actually paid money to do this, and actually thought that it looked good when it was done.  In the case of the half bath, you could see evidence of the previous, darker paint job through the existing paint.  In any case, I was going to do a better job with my own painting, so as to obliterate any trace of past work.

The first paint to go on was the white semigloss paint, which I used on the ceiling and the door.  The ceiling was okay, but for the sake of completeness, might as well do it.  On the door, meanwhile, I had to patch some holes in it from a mirror that I got rid of, and gave it a fresh coat of paint.  My understanding with the mirror is that the intent is to open the door, check yourself over one final time before leaving, and then go out into the world.  I didn’t like it on the bathroom door because I didn’t want to see a reflection of myself using the bathroom.  If I were to put such a mirror in (and I have no plans to), I’d put it on the hall closet door.  In any case, after patching, the door got a fresh coat of paint as well:

The freshly repainted door.  I wasn't too worried about being neat with the trim around the door on the living room side, because the living room is also on my list of rooms to paint.
The freshly repainted door.  I wasn’t too worried about being neat with the trim around the door on the living room side, because the living room is also on my list of rooms to paint.  Also note the sanded spackling on the wall near the door.  More prep for the future paint job.

Meanwhile, the main painting came along pretty well:

(And yes, I did the painting around the toilet paper holder freehand, because I wasn't able to properly mask it off.  I didn't do too badly, though, and what paint I did get on there came off with a fingernail.)
(And yes, I did the painting around the toilet paper holder freehand, because I wasn’t able to properly mask it off.  I didn’t do too badly, though, and what paint I did get on there came off with a fingernail.)

All in all, the painting went pretty well.  I dripped on the trim in two places, but both places were spots where I wasn’t too concerned about it: behind where the toilet would normally go, and on the back wall under the sink.  Most people won’t look in those places.

The new toilet, meanwhile, was where the surprises came in.  We put a new extra large wax ring in there to replace the three old rings, and then plopped the toilet on.  Elyse hooked it up, since she’s the plumbing expert (I am “plumber’s helper” in these situations), and then it was time for a test flush.  Water everywhere.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.  After getting a bunch of towels to mop up the water, I got down on the floor under the toilet for another test flush to see where the water was coming out.  The water was coming out between the tank and the bowl.  Lovely.  We also had a leak under the toilet, as the bucket that we had placed under it in the utility room downstairs got water in it.  As it turns out, the toilet that we bought had no gasket between the tank and the bowl.  That’s understandable, because it was a display model, after all, and you don’t need a gasket for that.  So Elyse got a gasket while she was out with her parents, and we put that on.  Meanwhile, the leak under the toilet was because our extra large wax ring was insufficient for what we needed to do.  We evaluated a few options, including a flange extender, but ultimately, we just went with more wax.  After all, three wax rings worked before, so we added a second wax ring that we had left over from when we bought Bev.  That did the trick.  No more leaks!

And then I hung up a picture in the bathroom, put all of the stuff back, and the project was complete:

Viewed from the living room.  Note the different doorknob.
Viewed from the living room.  Note the different doorknob.

Toilet in place with contour mat around it, and lots of extra paper.
Toilet in place with contour mat around it, and lots of extra paper.

The sink.
The sink.

Overview of the bathroom, taken off of the mirror.  The picture is the Mars Cheese Castle photo feature.
Overview of the bathroom, taken off of the mirror.  The picture is the Mars Cheese Castle photo feature.

With the bathroom done, I tackled the closet.  I painted the closet because that project made me happy.  Elyse’s stance was that it was just a closet, so no need to paint it.  I, meanwhile, couldn’t stand looking at all of the scuff marks and other blemishes every time I went in there.  Additionally, the existing paint job was hideous.  On the door, it looked like there was once a rack hanging over the door, and they painted around it at a later date.  On the inside, it looked like they repainted the closet at some point, but they did the whole job in ten minutes, using only a roller, and not bothering to paint the corners or even all of the walls.  Look at how bad this paint was:

The door.  Note the white spots at the top, and the scuff marks at the bottom.
The door.  Note the white spots at the top, and the scuff marks at the bottom.

Around the top of the closet.  It was apparent that someone had repainted the closet before, but did a really poor job on it.
Around the top of the closet.  It was apparent that someone had repainted the closet before, but did a really poor job on it.

The bottom of the closet.  Definitely a lot of scuff marks, plus the same bad paint job.
The bottom of the closet.  Definitely a lot of scuff marks, plus the same bad paint job.

There was only one surprise here: the doorknob was broken on the inside, so I needed to replace that.  Just as well, as the previous owner had a locking knob on that door, which I felt was an accident waiting to happen.  Thus if I had to replace one knob, I might as well decide what style to use throughout the house, since it was very inconsistent.  I ended up choosing the style that’s in Elyse’s room, the Gatehouse Gallo, which tapers outward.  Right away, I did the closet, the half bath (have to coordinate), and the utility room downstairs, which also had an unnecessary lock on it.  So out of eleven knobs, five are the selected style, and six more need replacement.

And here’s the completed closet, which I did in white semigloss:

The repainted interior.  Note the nice, consistent paintwork inside.
The repainted interior.  Note the nice, consistent paintwork inside.

The closet after moving back in, with the painted door and new knob.
The closet after moving back in, with the painted door and new knob.

The door, painted and with new knob.  Again, I wasn't too worried about being neat around the trim, since the living room is going to get repainted anyway.
The door, painted and with new knob.  Again, I wasn’t too worried about being neat around the trim, since the living room is going to get repainted anyway.

So all in all, my house is now a slightly better place to live in because of these projects.

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In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if I might have had an easier time… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/14/in-hindsight-sometimes-i-wonder-if-i-might-have-had-an-easier-time/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/14/in-hindsight-sometimes-i-wonder-if-i-might-have-had-an-easier-time/#respond Sun, 14 Jul 2019 16:20:17 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29151 Sometimes I wonder if, in hindsight, I might have had an easier time in school if I had just beaten the crap out of a few kids.  Seriously.  I got picked on quite a bit, particularly in middle school. I got made fun of for my weight, I got made fun of for the way I walked (which I found out much later was due to overly tight calf muscles, which is remedied through stretching), and I got made fun of for my mannerisms.

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

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

And as it turns out, people do respond to calling them out on their nonsense in a meaningful way.  One instance from sixth grade happened completely by accident.  This one kid who was on the other team would act like a flamboyant asshat around me, directing this behavior at me, every time he saw me.  I realize now that his behavior was more of a reflection on him than it was me (since his out-sized behavior was calling more attention to himself than anyone), but it still bothered me.  I didn’t know his name at the time, so I gave him one: Butthead (this was before Beavis and Butthead was a thing).  It seemed apt, because it described how he acted, i.e. like a butthead.  Now fast forward to December, when I had been dealing with his crap for a few months.  Mom and I were at Food Lion in Stuarts Draft, and he and his mother were also shopping there.  I said, loudly enough that he could hear me, “Oh, look, it’s Butthead.”  My mother was mortified, and I heard about it all the way home, and then even after we got home, mostly because she didn’t understand the context (she knew nothing about the situation up to that point).  But, you know what?  I never got any more crap from that kid again.  We were in the same homeroom in seventh grade, and I never heard a peep out of him.  Wouldn’t you know it, calling him “Butthead” in front of his mother worked.  I wonder if his mother queried him about it and told him to knock it off, or if he was just embarrassed enough to give it up.  I’ll never know for sure, but whatever happened, it worked.

Seventh grade was the worst for bullying, though, partly because it was just an awkward age all around, and partly because one of the main teachers took a very hands-off approach to dealing with interpersonal conflicts.

The teacher that I’m referring to is Frank Wade:

Frank Wade, from the 1994-1995 Stuarts Draft Middle School yearbook

Frank Wade was my homeroom teacher in seventh grade, and also taught social studies.  I have a feeling that he was ready to move on from being a teacher, as he had just earned his certification to be a principal over the summer.  This was also his fifteenth year teaching at Stuarts Draft Middle School.  Whether the desire to move up professionally affected his performance of his job as a teacher, I don’t know, but I have my suspicions.

As far as dealing with interpersonal conflicts went, Mr. Wade’s approach, in a nutshell, was to tell the kids to work it out themselves, and take no action until the matter boiled over and it turned into a fight.  Then he just had to swoop in, pull the two kids apart, and send them all to the office to let the administration deal with them.  And then once the kids were sent to the office, it wasn’t his problem anymore.  This method also meant that he enabled the bullies by giving them free range to do their thing, since he refused to intervene until it came to blows.  The problem with this is that seventh graders aren’t quite mature enough yet to work things out amicably on their own.  They still need adult guidance in working things out without trying to kill each other.

Besides being an enabler, Mr. Wade was also a bully in his own right.  I’ve written before about how he made fun of me on the last day of school for having perfect attendance, which was a better attendance record than he could say about himself that year.  He also, on multiple occasions, yelled at me for an action that the principal had taken the previous year to help me deal with bullying during the early morning hours.  He disagreed with the action that the principal took, and essentially called me a wimp for having had that arrangement.  If it were up to him, I’m sure that he would have just thrown me to the wolves and let something boil over to a fight, which would have been consistent with his hands-off approach.  I found his remarks about that to be completely out of place because it was really none of his business, as he weaponized an old situation for his own benefit.  I also found it to be quite unprofessional since he was openly trashing what his boss did in a situation that he had nothing to do with, in front of students.

On another occasion, I was talking with another kid, completely outside of school, and spoke candidly about what I thought about Mr. Wade.  The kid snitched on me the next morning, and I got yelled at by Mr. Wade shortly thereafter. I remember that he said, “You can’t talk about teachers like that!” and telling me that it was slander.  I know now that he was 100% wrong, but at twelve years old, I didn’t know well enough to tell him to go screw himself.  At that young age, I didn’t know what the word “slander” even meant.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that whenever a teacher says “you can’t say that” to start a discussion about behavior, the rest of what they’re about to say is nonsense.  After all, we know that their “you can’t say that” claim is patently false, because I just said it.  If you want to maintain your credibility, don’t say something so easily disproven.  “I don’t like what you said” is probably a better phrasing, but I suppose that “you can’t say that” appeals to people trying to assert some amount of authority.

In any case, on a third occasion, we had a substitute on a Friday.  During a holding period that we had because of the way that lunch periods were structured, a number of kids all had ganged up on me and began physically attacking me.  I went up to the front of the room where the substitute was, trying to get some help in dealing with these bullies all ganging up on me.  She told me to sit down.  I refused and explained why, and she told me not to talk over her.  I’m pretty sure that I was right, and I didn’t go back to my seat for the rest of the period, because I wasn’t about to put myself back in that situation as long as I had anything to do with it.  The substitute told me at the end of the day that she was sending a disciplinary notice up to the office on me for what happened during that holding period, and not on the kids that I was being bullied by.  Thanks for nothing.

When I talked with my mother after school about what happened, her response surprised me: I should have just walked out of the classroom to remove myself from the situation.  Mind blown, because the thought never crossed my mind.  After all, most of the problems that happen in school come about because we can’t leave, and therefore are unable to remove ourselves from a situation.

The following Monday, I got loudly chewed out by Mr. Wade for my allegedly bad behavior, along with another reminder about how he would have just thrown me to the wolves when I was in sixth grade.  Nothing was said about how his being the biggest bully around was the only way that he managed his classroom, and that in his absence, the kids went wild.  Of course not.  It was my fault for standing up for myself when I had several kids trying to get rough with me.

I also got a referral to the guidance counselor from Mr. Wade during the second semester for my “behavioral problems”.  I enjoyed going to see the guidance counselor, because it occurred during that holding period, which meant that I would not have to deal with Mr. Wade and his abuse that day.  In other words, it was a refuge.  The guidance counselor, unsurprisingly, was firmly on the school’s side, which also enabled Mr. Wade, because that stance assumed that the school staff was always 100% right, and that the student was always 100% wrong.  It doesn’t allow anyone to consider that actions taken by the school staff could have contributed to a situation.  So the guidance counselor wasn’t really of much use, but nonetheless, talking to the guidance counselor about Mr. Wade and the bullies that he enabled was far better than having to actually be with Mr. Wade and the bullies that he enabled.

I also got the sense that Mr. Wade found me to be annoying in general.  I asked a lot of questions, and he clearly didn’t want to answer them.  Fairly early on in the year, he enacted a policy, that applied only to me, where he would only allow me to ask him one question a day, and after I used that, he would not answer any more questions for me unless I submitted them to him in writing.  I thought my questions were important, as I was often trying to verify the stuff that the kids told me (in other words, making sure that I hadn’t missed a memo somewhere).  In any case, his limiting my ability to ask questions was a jerk move, but it certainly fit the character, in that he considered certain things to be outside of his job description that he shouldn’t have.

Meanwhile, if I were to do it all again, I would have absolutely beaten the crap out of this kid:

Michael Stonier, from the 1993-1994 Stuarts Draft Middle School yearbook

This is Michael Stonier, seen here in my seventh grade yearbook.  He was really smart, but he was also a little shit.  We had a number of classes together, and we were in the same homeroom.  Mr. Wade’s hands-off method enabled Michael Stonier, because any attempts to work it out amicably just led to more bullying.  And I was too afraid of getting suspended to just slug him and make him fear me instead of his viewing me as an easy mark.  Beating the crap out of him might also have sent a message to the other kids, that you didn’t necessarily want to mess with me.

Michael Stonier’s transgressions towards me were numerous, but a few incidents stand out.  One was during school spirit week.  The first day was “high school colors day”.  That involved wearing the colors of the high school that you would eventually attend (Stuarts Draft Middle School at that time sent students to two different high schools, depending on where you lived).  My mother had bought me a white polo shirt from a local sports apparel store that said “Stuarts Draft Cougars” on it.  I didn’t find out until I got to school that it was the same shirt that the (female) cheerleaders wore, which Michael Stonier was quick to point out.  I ended up wearing my jacket closed the entire day in order to cover the shirt to prevent additional commentary on said shirt.  That would have been well enough, but Michael Stonier was more than happy, on at least three occasions that day, to pull my jacket open and show everyone what I was wearing.  So three times that day, I was physically attacked for the clothes that I was wearing.

On a second occasion, we had an early dismissal due to inclement weather.  That put dismissal during sixth period, when I had Phys Ed.  Since the dismissal time fell in what would otherwise be the middle of the period, the Phys Ed teachers didn’t have us change clothes or anything.  With only about twenty minutes of class time, they just treated it as a holding period.  Because our spots in the gym were arranged alphabetically by last name, Michael Stonier sat right behind me.  He kept going on and on about how I should get liposuction because I was fat, and even came up with a rhyming song for it.  I was delighted when that abbreviated period was over, because it meant that I didn’t have to listen to his crap anymore, at least for that day.

The last memorable occasion with Michael Stonier is the one that really takes the cake.  On April 4, 1994, while at lunch, Michael Stonier told me that a girl that I didn’t particularly get along with was planning to beat me up after lunch.  I didn’t believe a word of it.  Then he left for a little while.  Then he came back and told me more details about what would allegedly happen to me.  Still didn’t believe him.  Imagine my surprise when, while I was standing at my locker, this girl started attacking me.  I was too shocked to react in any meaningful way.  Mr. Wade came over, pulled her off of me, and sent us both to the office.  In the office, she gave a nice tale of things that never happened, and we ultimately each got one day of in-school suspension.  During my day there, among other busywork assigned, I had to write an apology letter to her for my alleged transgressions.  In other words, she beat me up, and I was the one who had to apologize.  Talk about adding insult to injury.

It wasn’t until much later that I put two and two together and figured out what really happened, i.e. that Michael Stonier orchestrated the whole thing.  I told you that he was really smart, but was a little shit, didn’t I?  He talked to the girl, who was kind of dumb to begin with, during the lunch period about me, feeding her complete fabrications, and got her all riled up based on these falsehoods.  He then gleefully told me what the girl had said that she would do to me after lunch.  Then he just sat back and watched it all happen.  We both got sent to in-school suspension, and he got away with clean hands.  That realization had me seeing red, but by then, it didn’t matter anymore.

Somehow, I managed to keep that incident from my parents.  At the time, I was too embarrassed to bring it up to them, and the school never asked me for the form that I was supposed to get signed.  My parents learned about it a year or later, when a friend casually brought it up while we were talking about stuff while my mother was nearby, and she overheard.  He didn’t know that she didn’t know about it, and my mother was actually kind of impressed that I was able to keep it from them, as it was well into eighth grade that they found out about it.

In any case, I wonder how much of that could have been prevented had I just beaten the hell out of Michael Stonier at a few strategic junctions.  The jacket incident, I think would have been justified, because he attacked me first.  That being fairly early in the year (early October), it would have set the tone that I was not one for him to trifle with.  Then the few days off from school for the suspension would have meant no abuse from Frank Wade for a time.  Now, my mother would have made sure that a suspension would be quite unpleasant, but if it made school more pleasant afterward by essentially neutralizing Michael Stonier (i.e. mess with me and I will give you something to remember me by), that might have been worth it.  Plus I imagine that his parents had no idea about how he acted in school, and if he had to explain to his parents why he got suspended, they might have had a few things to say to him.  Likewise, if I had realized at the time that he was the mastermind behind the incident where the girl beat me up at my locker, he most certainly would have deserved to get in on that action as well.  After all, I was already in trouble, as I had been assigned to in-school suspension.  Kicking the crap out of Michael Stonier for that would have been very fitting, even if it meant that my in-school suspension day would probably have been upgraded to a full-on suspension.  But it would have gotten him kicked out as well, and likely would have made the rest of that school year easier, since I imagine that it would have kept him at bay for the remaining two months.  Unfortunately, as too often is the case for many bullies, he never got his comeuppance.

These days, I consider seventh grade to be my second-worst school year, after fifth grade.  Thankfully, eighth grade was a much easier year for me.  I had a much better homeroom teacher, and Michael Stonier and I almost never crossed paths.  He was on a different team, and we had zero classes together.  I think I only saw him twice the entire year.  And then when it came time to go to high school, I went to Stuarts Draft, and Michael Stonier went to Wilson.  Good riddance to him.  Frank Wade, on the other hand, well… there was no cure for him.  The way things were scheduled in eighth grade, we would pass each other in the hall every day around 11:00, and he would make this face of disdain at me every day when we passed.  And of course, even as late as 2007, he still couldn’t help but to take a cheap shot at me, even to my mother.  Of course, Mom got the last laugh on that one, since I was working in the DC area by then, which exposed him for the bully that he was.  Last I checked, Frank Wade had retired from the school, with his last several years spent working as an assistant principal, and he is now taking special needs children out on fishing trips.  Hopefully, he treats them better than he did me.

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Petty tribalism has no place in the 2020 cycle… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/07/petty-tribalism-has-no-place-in-the-2020-cycle/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/07/07/petty-tribalism-has-no-place-in-the-2020-cycle/#respond Sun, 07 Jul 2019 14:52:51 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29148 Here we go again.

The 2020 election cycle is very much underway, and one of the top-tier candidates is Bernie Sanders.  Sanders, you may recall, is an independent senator from Vermont who ran in the 2016 election cycle, and came in second place to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose in November.  Back in 2016, we saw a lot of people saying, “Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat,” and they used that as a reason that people should not vote for him, and how if he wants to run as a Democrat, then he should join the party, for whatever that’s worth.  In any case, with hindsight, you can see how well all of that petty tribalism worked out.  The Democrats ended up nominating the worst possible candidate in Hillary Clinton, and she ultimately lost the race to Donald Trump, who should have been an easy candidate to defeat, because he’s a complete buffoon who had no experience in government.  One could write volumes about what went wrong in 2016, including the complete shutout of the Sanders constituency after the nomination was secured, the choice of a boring vice president who added nothing to the ticket, and so on, but the bottom line is that the Democrats lost, and lost pretty badly.  Sure, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the popular vote unfortunately is not what gets someone into the Oval Office under our system.

And then recently, when a friend posted an article from Business Insider titled “25% of Bernie Sanders’ supporters don’t trust the Democratic National Committee to run a fair 2020 primary“, it generated the following comments:

“Well since he is not a Democrat… or is he now… One cannot run or control something of which one refuses to be a part.”

“If one wants to criticize the DNC process and be taken seriously, one should be a member of the party.  It’s their primary, so they get to set the rules.”

How quickly people forget the lessons from 2016.  People played the tribalism game then, and it didn’t serve anyone very well. It would behoove everyone to drop that narrative as quickly as possible, because it will only serve to divide, and the Democrats need unity right now more than anything.  A divided party with hard feelings all around, as happened in 2016, will result in a second Trump term, and we don’t want that.  The whole idea of petty tribalism also is fairly contrary to what the Democratic Party is supposed to be: the “big tent”.  When the Democrats moved away from the “big tent” metaphor in 2016 and started shutting out different groups, they lost.

My stance about Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is that by virtue of his running in the Democratic race, he is, for all intents and purposes, a Democrat.  Considering the way that our electoral system currently operates, it locks in two major political parties, and third parties have little to no chance to prevail.  Thus if you are actually in it to win it, and not just trying to get attention, you pick one of the two parties and run with them.

The question really should be, what makes one part of a political party?  You don’t pay dues to a political party, so that sort of measurement is out.  Using voter registration to determine membership is also out, because 19 states don’t ask voters to declare political party at all in the registration process.  So by that metric, there are no members of any political party in those 19 states.

Additionally, in the states with closed primaries, what one registers as may have nothing to do with actual political beliefs.  I initially registered as an independent when I moved to Maryland, but later switched my registration to Democratic because of how heavily Democratic Montgomery County is.  Thus if I wanted a say in who was running my local government, where the Democratic primary is typically the deciding contest and the general election is a formality, I had to be a registered Democrat.  When Elyse and I voted in the primary in 2018, the guy behind us was a registered Republican.  I couldn’t help but think how his vote counted for nothing because of how strong the Democratic party is in MoCo.  If it tells you how weak the GOP is in MoCo, our Republican governor, Larry Hogan, completely ignored the guy running for county executive on the Republican side (Hogan, meanwhile, was reelected with 55.4% of the vote).

Then, in his home state of Vermont, Bernie Sanders won the Democratic senatorial primary all three times that he’s been up for election, getting 90-some percent each time.  Thus Sanders was the official Democratic nominee for senator each time he’s been up.  Considering that he also caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate (i.e. for purposes of determining the majority party, Sanders is considered a Democrat), I’d say that Sanders has a pretty good claim to being a Democrat, despite his “independent” label.  Makes these people who engage in petty tribalism because of Sanders’ independent label look pretty silly, if you ask me.

In any case, the Democratic primary race is looking like it’s going to be pretty interesting.  There are 25 people vying for the nomination on the Democratic side.  Mind you, with a field like that, you can probably split it into two tiers, i.e. the ones that are likely to last longer than a couple of primaries and those who won’t.  For instance, John Delaney, the former congressman from Maryland (and my representative for about a year), despite having declared in 2017, still has very little name recognition, and so I place him in the lower tier.  I’m guessing that he will be out before Super Tuesday.  Also, Trump has been primaried, as former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld is running on the Republican side.  That gives the Democratic party a major advantage, since history shows us that when a sitting president gets a primary challenge, they usually lose in the general election.  Thus it behooves the Democrats not to screw it up.  That means that they need a unified party and a really solid candidate.  After the way 2016 went down, I don’t know if I can trust the Democratic party to not screw it up.  I am still backing Bernie, as I did in 2016 (I’ve been a Bernie fan for about twelve years now), but I would also be content with Elizabeth Warren or a few others.

But in the end, whoever wins the nomination has to work a lot harder than Hillary Clinton did in bringing everyone together.  The left is a fickle bunch, and will stay home if they’re unhappy.  Hillary Clinton was content to let the more leftist wing of the Democratic party leave the “big tent”, and she lost.  The next Democratic nominee has to do better, and keep everyone engaged, if they’re going to unseat Donald Trump.

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On public speaking… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/29/on-public-speaking/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/29/on-public-speaking/#respond Sat, 29 Jun 2019 16:48:20 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29134 I was recently listening to a HowStuffWorks podcast on fear of public speaking, and I drew quite a few parallels between what they were saying and my own experience.  I’ve never had a good relationship with public speaking, and I will actively try to avoid it whenever possible, but at the same time, part of my job is to make good announcements, and I do that beautifully on a routine basis.  Jerry Seinfeld has spoken about the idea that fear of public speaking ranks higher than death, and that people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.  I can sympathize with that.  After all, if you’re dead, you never have to speak in public again.

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

And of course, college just loved to force you into presenting in front of the class.  Group projects: ugh.  The second worst thing to be told in college was that we would be doing a group project.  The only thing worse than that was to be told that everyone would be required to present.  No thank you.  I would have much preferred to do more of the research and writing, and never stand up in front of the class.  But that was never the case, except for one time in my final semester of college, where we had a group project where everyone didn’t have to speak.  And then, let it be known that since it was my final semester and I didn’t give a crap, I volunteered to do the PowerPoint, which consisted of five or so slides with stock photos that ran in a loop on a timer.  Total effort was about thirty minutes.  And I still graduated, so take that, group presentation.

I wonder, though, with my hate-hate relationship with public speaking, that in college, I did so poorly partly because I didn’t care that much about a lot of the material that I was presenting on.  In other words, I am doing just enough research to complete this presentation and get a passing mark in this class.  I am not an expert in the subject, don’t care about the subject, nor do I even necessarily know enough about it to speak about it off-script.  I always wondered what would happen if, upon completion of a presentation, when the professor would ask the class, “Any questions?” if I just said, “No!” in an authoritative tone and sat down.  After all, the presentation is over, and I’m not getting graded on answering questions for a bunch of people who have no influence on my grade.  My presentation is over, and Elvis is now leaving the building.  I finished the assignment, and I have already put it behind me.  I also didn’t like the way that my body responded to the undue stress that public speaking put on it.  I remember a presentation that I had to do on some foreign policy topic in 2003.  My stomach was all topsy turvy going into that presentation.  I somehow managed to get through it (barely), and then spent much of the rest of the day in the bathroom doing liquid poops.  That was something that I never want to experience again.  That happened another time around a presentation.  No fun.

It’s interesting, though, how things go in real life after college.  I absolutely will not speak in front of an audience under any circumstances.  It’s not something that I do well, and I accept that.  I will nope my way out of it quicker than you could say mozzarella.  However, when I can’t see the audience, things work a bit differently.  I’m far more relaxed when I am just speaking to a camera.  I suppose that the Video Journal posts that I did in this space over a period of two years demonstrate that.  I got in front of the camera in familiar settings, and I had a good time with it for the most part.  I quit doing those because I realized that while I did well enough with it, it wasn’t my best work, and so I quietly retired the format.  Then at work, part of my job is to make good announcements to the passengers on my train.  I never have a problem with that.  The passengers can’t see me, and I can’t see them.  I’m just talking to a microphone.  Most of my announcements are routine, but when something is up, I have to improvise, and I do well enough.  In other words, this is why you’re not going to make it to your dinner date at Eastern Market on time, and it’s not my fault.  My biggest fear with making announcements is an accidental burp or something while I’m speaking that happens quicker than I can let go of the button.  That hasn’t happened yet, and I hope it never does.  If it does, though, I suppose that the Twitter would be buzzing about the operator who burped in the middle of an announcement.  In any case, making good announcements is not public speaking as far as I’m concerned.  And then at union meetings, I will attend and listen, but I will never go up to the microphone to speak.  However, I am a very active participant in the union’s official Facebook group, and will be very eloquent in that format.

So there you go, I suppose.  I am a writer, not a speaker.  And I’m fine with that.

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Elyse goes to Build-A-Bear… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/27/elyse-goes-to-build-a-bear/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/27/elyse-goes-to-build-a-bear/#respond Thu, 27 Jun 2019 15:47:29 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29112 On Tuesday, June 26, Elyse, my friend Matthew, and I went to Build-A-Bear at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, where Elyse got herself a stuffed bear.  This was part of a larger adventure which took us to Manassas and a few other places in that general area.  In the case of Build-A-Bear, Elyse had entered into the sweepstakes for the “pay your age” promotion and got selected, receiving a ticket with a date window to visit a store and redeem it for a bear.

First, we had to find a suitable character.  Elyse briefly considered this flamingo.
First, we had to find a suitable character.  Elyse briefly considered this flamingo.

She ultimately settled on a blue bear with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme.
She ultimately settled on a blue bear with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme.

Recording the sound module.  Elyse had me record a message for the box so that, in the finished product, when you press the bear's hand, my voice plays.
Recording the sound module.  Elyse had me record a message for the box so that, in the finished product, when you press the bear’s hand, my voice plays.

Elyse gives the sound module a test.
Elyse gives the sound module a test.

Next, the employee helping us filled the body with stuffing until it looked like a bear.

Next, the employee helping us filled the body with stuffing until it looked like a bear.
Next, the employee helping us filled the body with stuffing until it looked like a bear.

Elyse inserts the heart inside the bear before it's closed up.
Elyse inserts the heart inside the bear before it’s closed up.

Naming the bear.  With my voice in it, Elyse named it after me.
Naming the bear.  With my voice in it, Elyse named it after me.

Now it's time to pick out some clothes.
Now it’s time to pick out some clothes.

Elyse briefly considered a traditional locomotive engineer's outfit, but ultimately decided not to go that route.
Elyse briefly considered a traditional locomotive engineer’s outfit, but ultimately decided not to go that route.

Testing out a pair of jeans.
Testing out a pair of jeans.

I think that we have a winner with the jeans.
I think that we have a winner with the jeans.

Elyse then took the bear to the "spa", which is an air shower where you can brush out your bear's fur.
Elyse then took the bear to the “spa”, which is an air shower where you can brush out your bear’s fur.

Elyse finds a winner as far as shirts go.
Elyse finds a winner as far as shirts go.

All set!  That is quite the well-dressed bear.
All set!  That is quite the well-dressed bear.

All in all, we all had a fun time helping Elyse build her bear.  The total cost came to around $40 with the voice module and the clothes, but we still saved around $6 with the “pay your age” deal, which I consider a win overall.

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Looking at some old photos from 2002… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/17/looking-at-some-old-photos-from-2002/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/06/17/looking-at-some-old-photos-from-2002/#respond Mon, 17 Jun 2019 15:54:58 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=29027 Sometimes, it’s fun to look back at old photos.  The world changes, after all, and sometimes, old photos document things that don’t exist anymore.  For whatever reason, Elyse and I were looking at my photos from a trip to the Washington DC area that I made on April 13, 2002.  For context, back when this trip happened, I was a junior in college, and had just been notified that I was being laid off from my call center job with Telegate USA (the successor company to CFW Information Services) after just under five years’ employment there.  The call center where I worked was closing, and Telegate, primarily a European company, would exit the US market entirely within the year.

This particular trip produced the Old Town Alexandria set in Photography.  I now consider that set to be poor work, and have it on my list of photo sets that I eventually want to reshoot, along with Meridian Hill Park.  I figure that, with the passage of time and my becoming more proficient with the camera, I could do a much better job a second time around.  In the case of the Old Town Alexandria set, I really didn’t take enough time to compose the shots.  Timestamps indicate that it took me an hour to cover from near the waterfront to the Metro station.  I was really just walking and photographing without putting much thought or effort into it.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the DC area via the Metro, and more or less exploring around.

It’s also funny to think that I took these photos with my original Sony Mavica camera, which recorded at 640×480 resolution, with corresponding image quality.  It was only slightly better quality than a potato.

I remember seeing this parking garage going up and being kind of excited, thinking that Vienna was getting a third parking garage.  Unfortunately, this was not the case, as this garage was to be part of an apartment complex rather than public parking.
I remember seeing this parking garage going up and being kind of excited, thinking that Vienna was getting a third parking garage.  Unfortunately, this was not the case, as this garage was to be part of an apartment complex rather than public parking.

Rosslyn Metro Mall signage.  The last time I was in Rosslyn, this mall was in the process of being vacated to make way for something new.  As I understand it, the new development will include a fitness center and a food hall.
Rosslyn Metro Mall signage.  The last time I was in Rosslyn, this mall was in the process of being vacated to make way for something new.  As I understand it, the new development will include a fitness center and a food hall.

Back in 2002, the King Street Trolley was called "Dash About", and used a standard Gillig Phantom with a wrap on it for the special service.
Back in 2002, the King Street Trolley was called “Dash About”, and used a standard Gillig Phantom with a wrap on it for the special service.

Thai Peppers is long gone (though the company is still around), and since 2007 or 2008, the building has housed a business called Ernie's Crab House.
Thai Peppers is long gone (though the company is still around), and since 2007 or 2008, the building has housed a business called Ernie’s Crab House.

Let the record show that Elyse made fun of me for this shot.  It's a photo of a row of flowers in a park near King Street station, and not a good photo by any means.
Let the record show that Elyse made fun of me for this shot.  It’s a photo of a row of flowers in a park near King Street station, and not a good photo by any means.

It's so weird to see some of the old messages that the PIDS used to display.  I'll bet that a lot of people nowadays don't remember when the PIDS would show the time, or use the whole screen for one train's information.  The current three-train display was not implemented until 2005.

It's so weird to see some of the old messages that the PIDS used to display.  I'll bet that a lot of people nowadays don't remember when the PIDS would show the time, or use the whole screen for one train's information.  The current three-train display was not implemented until 2005.
It’s so weird to see some of the old messages that the PIDS used to display.  I’ll bet that a lot of people nowadays don’t remember when the PIDS would show the time, or use the whole screen for one train’s information.  The current three-train display was not implemented until 2005.

Of course, Metro has no more Rohr cars, as the last of them were retired in 2017.
Of course, Metro has no more Rohr cars, as the last of them were retired in 2017.

This was my first time visiting Federal Center SW station, and I remember being struck by how bright this station looked.  As it turned out, the station's vault had recently been cleaned and painted.

This was my first time visiting Federal Center SW station, and I remember being struck by how bright this station looked.  As it turned out, the station's vault had recently been cleaned and painted.
This was my first time visiting Federal Center SW station, and I remember being struck by how bright this station looked.  As it turned out, the station’s vault had recently been cleaned and painted.

This was my first time taking the Metro to Maryland, as I rode out to Addison Road station, completing the Blue Line in its entirety, and marking the first time that I had ridden an entire line from end to end (though not in one sitting).  This was during the early stages of construction of the extension to Largo.  Note the bump posts marking the original end of the tracks just past the bridge over Cabin Branch Road.
This was my first time taking the Metro to Maryland, as I rode out to Addison Road station, completing the Blue Line in its entirety, and marking the first time that I had ridden an entire line from end to end (though not in one sitting).  This was during the early stages of construction of the extension to Largo.  Note the bump posts marking the original end of the tracks just past the bridge over Cabin Branch Road.

The old Pepco facility off of Benning Road.  This building was torn down in the 2010s and the land is currently vacant.  Pepco still has a large facility elsewhere on this property.
The old Pepco facility off of Benning Road.  This building was torn down in the 2010s and the land is currently vacant.  Pepco still has a large facility elsewhere on this property.

This "Max the Metro Dog" advertisement, discussing escalator safety, has always been a favorite of mine.  I agree with its message, that the escalator is no place for hot dogging.
This “Max the Metro Dog” advertisement, discussing escalator safety, has always been a favorite of mine.  I agree with its message, that the escalator is no place for hot dogging.

This was my first time riding on a 5000-Series railcar, and also my first time riding the Green Line.

This was my first time riding on a 5000-Series railcar, and also my first time riding the Green Line.
This was my first time riding on a 5000-Series railcar, and also my first time riding the Green Line.  The 5000-Series was relatively short-lived, only lasting for 17 years before being retired in 2018, as Metro opted to forgo a midlife rehabilitation for these cars and retire them early in favor of more 7000-Series cars.  Back then, this new color scheme was hot stuff (I think that it looks somewhat dated nowadays), and these cars were so bright and clean looking.

The 5000-Series was also Metro's first time using mixed case on the train signs.  This was replaced with all caps a year or so later.

The 5000-Series was also Metro's first time using mixed case on the train signs.  This was replaced with all caps a year or so later.
The 5000-Series was also Metro’s first time using mixed case on the train signs.  This was replaced with all caps a year or so later.  Mixed case would reappear on the 7000-Series in 2015.

In 2014, the eighties called Pentagon City Mall, and they asked for their decor back.  Pentagon City now looks totally different, sporting a dark color scheme.  The new decor looks great, but I admit that I kinda miss the old styling, because that's the Pentagon City that I grew up with.

In 2014, the eighties called Pentagon City Mall, and they asked for their decor back.  Pentagon City now looks totally different, sporting a dark color scheme.  The new decor looks great, but I admit that I kinda miss the old styling, because that's the Pentagon City that I grew up with.
In 2014, the eighties called Pentagon City Mall, and they asked for their decor back.  Pentagon City now looks totally different, sporting a dark color scheme.  The new decor looks great, but I admit that I kinda miss the old styling, because that’s the Pentagon City that I grew up with.

The Previa, parked at its usual spot at Vienna station.  It's been thirteen years since the Previa was retired.  I had some great times with that car.
The Previa, parked at its usual spot at Vienna station.  It’s been thirteen years since the Previa was retired.  I had some great times with that car.

I typically look back fondly on those early DC trips that I took while I was still in college.  I kind of knew by then that Washington was where I wanted to end up, and there was a certain level of exploration involved in these adventures.  This trip was the first where I really went all over, going into Maryland and such, and visiting more end-of-line stations.  By the end of this trip, I had been to four out of nine terminals: Vienna, Franconia-Springfield, Addison Road, and Branch Avenue.  And like almost every DC trip I made prior to moving up here, a stop at Pentagon City Mall was a must.

There are times when I miss those adventures, exploring an area by Metro.  It’s not the same anymore now that I live here.

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Crossing the line from punishment to just plain mean… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/05/29/crossing-the-line-from-punishment-to-just-plain-mean/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/05/29/crossing-the-line-from-punishment-to-just-plain-mean/#respond Wed, 29 May 2019 14:26:48 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=28908 Sometimes, in reflecting on childhood, you remember an incident and think, “Wow, that was really messed up.”  And then the more that you think about that incident, the more messed up you realize that it was.  Such was the case of a punishment that I received from my mother in November 1990 that, based on the way it all happened, was just wrong.  Before I begin, though, I should note that my parents did a great job overall in raising my sister and me.  But this one was wrong in so many ways.  And my mother likes to bring this one up in conversation, and speaks about it as though she’s quite proud of herself for it, despite how hurtful it actually was.

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

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

On November 5, 1990, we went back to school right after I had come home.  I don’t remember what we went back for, but typically, whenever we went back like that, it was to retrieve a forgotten item.  I have no reason to think that wasn’t the case, and retrieving a forgotten item was never treated as a big deal.  I was in a really good mood that day and full of energy, as kids tend to be sometimes, but apparently, I was a little bit over the top on this occasion, while we were all talking about whatever in the classroom.  Mom was not happy about that, claiming on the way home that I treated her “like dirt” during the whole incident, which I viewed as an unfair characterization of my behavior at the time.

And apparently, her search for a crime to justify cleaning out my room ended with that visit to school.  When we got home, after I got chewed out in the car for the incident, Mom immediately went to work cleaning my room out, taking all of my toys and stuff right in front of me, and over my protests, leaving empty shelves.  This included my Legos, which I had built into various things, primarily a building with various rooms and such.  As she took my Legos, I expressed concern about what would happen to my Lego building, since I had put much time and effort into it.

As an aside, it should be noted that in the days before Schumin Web existed, I did a lot of stuff with Legos, and put a lot of time and effort into my Lego creations.  I was a little architect and engineer there, designing buildings out of Legos and then figuring out to make my ideas work with the materials that I had on hand.  I would periodically change my buildings, either adding onto them, remodeling them, or sometimes demolishing them completely and starting over.  Legos were my creative outlet in those pre-website days, and I took as much pride in my Lego creations as I now do with the website.

In the heat of the moment, my mother said that “it will be dismantled”.  My Lego building was taken away in one piece, so I held out some hope that she didn’t really mean what she said, and that I would get it back intact, since Mom wasn’t always the best at keeping to her word when it came to punishments.  Mom returned my stuff to me two weeks later, marking the end of the punishment.  My Legos were given back to me in a garbage bag, and yes, my Lego building had, in fact, been dismantled.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, though, because I was just happy to have gotten all of my stuff back.  I quickly went to work sorting through my Legos and getting everything back in order, and then went about constructing a new building.

Looking back, this was problematic in a few different ways.  First, Mom had come up with a punishment that she was clearly excited about carrying out, but didn’t have anything to use it on.  I guess that you might say that this was a punishment in search of a crime.  And it was clear that she had been looking for an excuse to carry it out.  Her justification for finally carrying it out, i.e. the way that I had behaved on our visit to the school, was pretty flimsy, since I had never been never told that I was doing something wrong until afterward, when we left school to go home and I quickly learned that she was mad at me.  I had no idea that I was doing anything wrong in the moment, and thus I never had the opportunity to reel it in and correct things.  This was an extremely outsized punishment that was fit for an outsized transgression, and this wasn’t it.

Such an outsized transgression for which cleaning out my room may have been justified might have been what caused me to get suspended for two days for threatening the teacher later that same month.  In that instance, if memory serves, on the day before Thanksgiving, at the end of the day, I said to the teacher, “Now that school’s out, I have the right to smack you.”  My teacher physically pulled me to the principal’s office immediately upon hearing that, and I got suspended the following Monday after the principal called my parents over the holiday weekend saying that she was considering doing as much.  It was clear that this teacher and I were not a good match for each other, and she would send me out of the classroom on a regular basis for the weakest of reasons, either by putting me out in the hallway, or having me sit in the office for a while (and then sending another kid down later to retrieve me).  The time leading up to Thanksgiving was particularly rough, with one occasion in the week leading up to that where I was sent out to wait in the hallway, and another fourth grade teacher that was walking by looked at me and said, “Oops!” in a mocking tone.  But in any case, I was absolutely wrong to say what I did, and should have been punished for it, but it’s worth noting that these sorts of things usually do not occur in a vacuum.  Rather, they are often the culmination of a series of incidents where the teacher had been a participant.  Unfortunately, though, the typical stance of schools is that the school is always right, and therefore, any wrong is automatically the fault of the student, which eliminates the ability for the school to consider that they may have also contributed to the situation, such as with the whole purple binder incident earlier that same year.  In any case, my mother threatened to clean out my room for a second time among other punishments if such a suspension were to happen, but she never carried any of it out when the suspension actually happened, though she did tell me that I had completely ruined my life and that I might as well wish that I was dead because of this elementary school suspension (clearly, she was wrong about that).  But in any case, threatening the teacher was certainly an outsized crime for which an outsized punishment might have been well suited.  But she never followed through.  Perhaps, now that she had already cleaned my room out once, the thrill of taking all of my things away was gone?

What I consider to be the most problematic thing about the original punishment, in response to my allegedly poor behavior following the casual after-school visit with my teacher, was the dismantling of my Lego building.  That is where it crossed the line from punishment to just plain being mean, and turning it from a punishment into an act of revenge.  It would have been one thing to take all of my things away (even though the crime really didn’t justify it), including the Legos, but leaving everything intact.  In other words, just make everything inaccessible to me, but take proper care of everything while it was outside of my possession.  Therefore, at the end of the punishment period, I would be made whole again, having learned a lesson from the loss of toys for a period of time, but ultimately moving on.  Dismantling my Lego building went a step further, as that required active effort beyond simply making my things inaccessible to me, as was the alleged intent of the punishment.  Mom made a choice, and chose to put in extra time and effort to deliberately destroy something that I had put many hours of work into and had been rather proud of.  She was very thorough in doing so, as she had separated every single brick.  No two blocks were still joined together in that garbage bag when I got my Legos back.  That sent a message.  It was no longer a matter of, “Okay, your punishment is now over, and you are forgiven.”  Instead, the message was that this was something of an unforgivable sin, because with my Lego building’s destruction by her hand, I could never be made whole again.  Sure, I got my Legos back, and I soon built a new building, but it wasn’t the same.  No amount of work could have brought my Lego building back as it was before it was intentionally destroyed, and I still hold a certain level of resentment for the loss of the old one.  I learned a lesson from all of this, but not the one that Mom likely intended.  Rather, I learned that parents can be very petty and spiteful.

Every time my mother brings up this punishment in conversation, it reopens these old wounds that I would much rather leave in the past.  I have a feeling that whenever she brings this punishment up in conversation, and about how proud she was of it, she doesn’t realize how hurtful that punishment really was, and how much I would rather not have it brought back up decades later.  Some things deserve to be left in the past, and this is one of those things.

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