The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com C  e  l  e  b  r  a  t  i  n  g    2  5    Y  e  a  r  s Fri, 21 Jan 2022 22:27:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 A weekend trip to Atlantic City… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/01/21/a-weekend-trip-to-atlantic-city/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/01/21/a-weekend-trip-to-atlantic-city/#respond Fri, 21 Jan 2022 22:27:54 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=42651 From January 13-15, Elyse and I took a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We had been to Atlantic City twice before, both times for a single day each about a year ago.  Our first visit was part of a larger weekend trip where we did a little arc across the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, and Atlantic City was what we did on the last day.  The most memorable thing about that trip was watching my drone sail away on South Missouri Avenue, go out of contact, and then locating it about four blocks away, on the roof of Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern.  The second trip was a day trip that occurred two weeks later, where we made a day out of the need to retrieve the drone after the folks at Angelo’s had kindly retrieved it off of their roof for us.

This time, we were actually staying in Atlantic City.  We stayed at Caesars by Elyse’s request, as she wanted to film the elevators there, which are keycarded (i.e. we stayed there as guests in order to get the access that we needed).  I didn’t mind the price at Caesars, nor was it a bad place to stay, so that worked out pretty well.  This trip was mostly dedicated to photography, just like the previous adventures in Atlantic City, but with more time to play around.  I’m not too much into gambling, but we did make some time for that.  We also made plans to get together with family while we were up there, which was the driver for our plans.  Therefore, on Thursday, we drove up and more or less made a beeline for Atlantic City.  Then on Friday, we had our adventure day.  Then on Saturday, we traveled back west to fly the drone, do a few other things, and visit family.

However, on Thursday, Elyse wanted to stop in at Deptford Mall in order to get a screen protector for a new phone that she was getting, as well as film an elevator.  I am not unfamiliar with this mall, as I went to this store with my parents back in the early 1980s, and have been a number of times within the past ten years.  The mall bears very little resemblance to what it did when I was a child (though there is a Bamberger’s labelscar on the first floor), but it’s still a good, solid mall.

Some things caught my interest while we were there:

I always enjoy running over small pieces of trash when I can do it safely.  In this case, I was aiming to fun over the coffee cup, but missed.  However, I nailed it when it came to that juice box.
I always enjoy running over small pieces of trash when I can do it safely.  In this case, I was aiming to fun over the coffee cup, but missed.  However, I nailed it when it came to that juice box.  (And for those wondering, I have absolutely done this with a bus as well – one of my prouder moments was running over a full water bottle and hearing it burst under my left front tire.)

This is the sink area in the men's restroom at Round1, which is a Dave & Buster's-like place.  When I posted it to Instagram, I captioned it, "File this under 'sinks for ugly people'."  After all, it's a very rare thing to have a restroom that doesn't have mirrors over the sink.
This is the sink area in the men’s restroom at Round1, which is a Dave & Buster’s-like place.  When I posted it to Instagram, I captioned it, “File this under ‘sinks for ugly people’.”  After all, it’s a very rare thing to have a restroom that doesn’t have mirrors over the sink.

I suppose that this is a reminder that despite its modern appearance, Deptford Mall is almost fifty years old (it opened in 1975).  Elyse wanted to pose with this fire alarm pull station to show that it is taller than she is.  This used to be the standard height for pull stations, but that standard height became much lower in the 1980s.
I suppose that this is a reminder that despite its modern appearance, Deptford Mall is almost fifty years old (it opened in 1975).  Elyse wanted to pose with this fire alarm pull station to show that it is taller than she is.  This used to be the standard height for pull stations, but that standard height became much lower in the 1980s.

Elyse got a photo of me holding her screen protector and my own phone with one of the demo phones at the Verizon store in Deptford Mall.  This was taken on some sort of Google Pixel device.
Elyse got a photo of me holding her screen protector and my own phone with one of the demo phones at the Verizon store in Deptford Mall.  This was taken on some sort of Google Pixel device.

From here, after a quick stop at Wawa, we headed to Atlantic City.  After I missed my exit and we had to take a bunch of local roads to get to Atlantic City on our day trip last year, I always appreciate getting the navigation right.  Generally speaking, if you go through Deptford after you get off of I-295, you’re doing it right.  On that trip, I didn’t realize that the Atlantic City Expressway designation did not reach 295, and thus we went a bit out of the way (seeing signs for Trenton tipped me off that I had overshot), and we ended up going through Mount Laurel and a few other cities that I wouldn’t have gone through if I had actually used Google Maps in the first place rather than thinking that I knew where I was going.

In any event, once we got to Atlantic City, we first stopped at Angelo’s and got dinner to go for later.  We decided a long time ago when we first started considering this trip that we would definitely patronize Angelo’s on our trip, as Angelo really did us a solid in getting the drone down from the roof after it landed there.  We ended up getting the meatball parmesan, which consists of two giant meatballs with cheese and tomato sauce.  That was more than enough for us to share, and was our dinner later on.

Finishing up at Angelo’s, we then found Caesars, unloaded our luggage, parked, and got checked in.  We had room 797, on the north side of the Forum Tower:

Our room at Caesars.  Compared to most hotel rooms that we've stayed in, I feel like this room was wider, but was also shorter front to back, with a smaller bathroom than most.  And the beds were tiny.  I could not imagine two people sleeping on these beds.
Our room at Caesars.  Compared to most hotel rooms that we’ve stayed in, I feel like this room was wider, but was also shorter front to back, with a smaller bathroom than most.  And the beds were tiny.  I could not imagine two people sleeping on these beds.

Elyse shows off the one-piece toilet in the bathroom, while I am visible in the mirror taking the photo.
Elyse shows off the one-piece toilet in the bathroom, while I am visible in the mirror taking the photo.

Woomy and David sit on my bed at Caesars.  Woomy didn't like the room at all and made his opinions known, while David was just kind of unimpressed.
Woomy and David sit on my bed at Caesars.  Woomy didn’t like the room at all and made his opinions known, while David was just kind of unimpressed.

Gelato display at Tazza Cafe in the lobby of Caesars.  Elyse and I shared a cup of gelato on the first night.

Gelato display at Tazza Cafe in the lobby of Caesars.  Elyse and I shared a cup of gelato on the first night.
Gelato display at Tazza Cafe in the lobby of Caesars.  Elyse and I shared a cup of gelato on the first night.

Elyse shows off the really big bananas that we found at Tazza Cafe that we got for later.
Elyse shows off the really big bananas that we found at Tazza Cafe that we got for later.

Statue of Caesar Augustus in the lobby of Caesars.  I had always assumed that Big Julie was the namesake of the facility rather than Augustus, so that was a bit of a surprise.
Statue of Caesar Augustus in the lobby of Caesars.  I had always assumed that Big Julie was the namesake of the facility rather than Augustus, so that was a bit of a surprise.

Elyse checks the payphone in the lobby and discovers, to both of our surprise, that the phone still works.
Elyse checks the payphone in the lobby and discovers, to both of our surprise, that the phone still works.

After we got settled in our hotel room, I had intended to go out and do some night photography, but it was just too cold, so I skipped it.  So instead, we explored around the Caesars property.  Caesars is a very large facility, and has a lot of little spaces in it.  The casino is kind or right in the middle, and spans two floors.  There are also entertainment spaces in the facility, as well as plenty of shopping and dining.  I was surprised to find out that Atlantic City casinos allow smoking, with smoking permitted in up to a quarter of the total floor area.  I also discovered that not all of the games were available outside of the smoking area.  The only games available outside of the smoking area were slots and video poker.  If you wanted to play roulette or any kind of table game, you had to go into the smoking area.  However, the smell of cigarette smoke was noticeable throughout the entire casino, even on the upper floor, which did not allow smoking.  I would definitely support banning smoking in casinos, but apparently, the state is in no hurry to do so, even after a year of casinos’ being required to go smoke-free as a COVID mitigation measure.

As far as playing in the casino went, I’m not that big of a gambler.  I played with $20, and hit the slot machines.  I played a number of different machines, and ultimately lost about $10-$12 of that money.  I discovered one thing pretty quickly about slots: they were no fun, and just served to piss me off, as I watched my money disappear at the press of a button.  I suppose that slots aren’t fun for me because I know too much about how they work, after listening to a podcast about how casinos work, explaining that slots were basically a random number generator, and all of the spinning wheels and such were just for show, i.e. your fate is sealed as soon as you press the button.  And that’s no fun.  Then the video poker was a bit of a non-starter for me, as I don’t know how to play poker.  I just looked at that machine and was like, “Um…” and walked away.  Eventually, Elyse and I found the roulette game.  It used a real wheel and a real ball, but was fully automated, requiring no employee to operate.  We sat down at this machine and put our cards in, and quickly realized that you’re just betting on where the ball will land.  Seems pretty easy.  My strategy was pretty straightforward: just dance my fingers across the touchscreen and bet on a bunch of numbers.  And I did pretty well that way, turning my last six or seven bucks out of that initial $20 into $44 by the time we were finished.  I resented that the roulette wheel was only available in the smoking section, but we had fun.

The next day, Elyse and I each had our own separate agendas.  We got up, had breakfast, and got going.  Her plan was to take a New Jersey Transit commuter train from Atlantic City to Philadelphia to see a friend that she had met at MAGFest the week before.  Meanwhile, my plan was to stay in Atlantic City and photograph various landmarks with the SLR and the drone.  Therefore, I would be going around unsupervised for about nine hours while Elyse was in Philadelphia.

But first, now that it was light out, I took an opportunity to check out the view from our room:

The view from room 797 at Caesars.  Isn't that a beaut.
The view from room 797 at Caesars.  Isn’t that a beaut.

A few folks commented on the allegedly bad view when I posted it to Facebook, commenting that it looked like the worst room in the place, or that they hoped that we were being paid to stay there.  Truth be told, I didn’t care too much about the view.  Sure, you really only got a good view of the HVAC equipment, but other than to take the photo of the view, we never looked out the window.  Most of the time that we were in the room, it was dark out.  Though I was slightly amused because I always figured that these sorts of views only existed on TV for comedic purposes.  Who knew that they existed in real life as well.

In any case, once I dropped Elyse off at the train station, I went right to work, heading towards the eastern end of Atlantic City.  On the way, I spotted this:

"No left turn"

Yes, that is a “no left turn” sign printed over a former “do not enter” sign at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Ohio Avenue.  I posted it to the there is NO way that is MUTCD-compliant group on Facebook, and captioned it, “Always remember the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”  The best comment there was, “Two more Rs: Resurface before you Repurpose.”  I can’t disagree with that.

In any event, my first flight centered around the Madison Hotel:

Madison Hotel

Madison Hotel

I had high hopes for that based on that roof sign, but unfortunately, it was not to be, as the sunlight was not facing the right way, the sign was missing some of its cover, and it was boxed in by the surrounding architecture.  The photo of the penthouse was pretty spot-on, though.

The view from the immediate vicinity of the Madison Hotel.

The view from the immediate vicinity of the Madison Hotel.
The view from the immediate vicinity of the Madison Hotel.

I also got a good lesson in navigating this drone in the wind, as Atlantic City was pretty windy.  Unlike my previous drone, the Mavic Mini, the Air 2S has some more weight to it, and doesn’t get kicked around in the wind like typically happens to the Mini.  It was able to maintain its station in the wind just fine, though movements around the area were a bit slower.  In calm air, it can move at around 40 mph, but in the wind, it topped out at around 6 mph.  The moral of that story is to make sure that you have plenty of power to get back home, because it’s going to take a while to get there.  But I managed to get the drone back home safely after every single flight, i.e. it didn’t end up on Angelo’s roof again at the end of the day.

Finishing at the Madison Hotel, I headed over to Resorts Casino Hotel, setting up about a block away from the building, on the other side of their massive surface parking lot.  This one had some personal significance for me, as Mom has spoken for many years about how she worked as a server at this hotel in the summer of 1970, back when it was known as Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, and described all of the patronizing and blatantly sexist ways that both the patrons and the staff treated her there – stuff that would get the patrons kicked out and the staff fired today.  In any event, I had done my research beforehand to make sure that I had the right building, and up I went.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.
Resorts Casino Hotel, the former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall.

The newer hotel tower at Resorts, which opened in 2004.  That surprised me, because based on the dated looking architecture, I would have thought it was much older than that.
The newer hotel tower at Resorts, which opened in 2004.  That surprised me, because based on the dated looking architecture, I would have thought it was much older than that.

Then I flew a little further out, over the water:

Steel Pier, an amusement park built on a boardwalk pier.
Steel Pier, an amusement park built on a boardwalk pier.

The eastern end of Atlantic City, viewed from slightly offshore.
The eastern end of Atlantic City, viewed from slightly offshore.

Atlantic City from offshore, facing approximately northwest.
Atlantic City from offshore, facing approximately northwest.

Atlantic City from just offshore, facing approximately north.
Atlantic City from just offshore, facing approximately north.

Flying back to the launch point.  If you look really carefully (i.e. zoom in really well), you can see the HR-V parked on the side of the road near the middle of the photograph, and then I'm standing right next to it.
Flying back to the launch point.  If you look really carefully (i.e. zoom in really well), you can see the HR-V parked on the side of the road near the middle of the photograph, and then I’m standing right next to it.

After landing, I repositioned the HR-V to get a better line of sight on the Showboat and the Hard Rock.  That’s one thing that I like about going to resort towns during their off-season periods: no one cares about parking.  I’ve noticed that in Virginia Beach, Ocean City in Maryland, Asbury Park, and Atlantic City.  Off-season, when nobody is there, they’re just grateful to have you there, and parking enforcement is nonexistent.  It is a free-for-all when it comes to parking, just as long as you’re not stupid about it.  All of those “no parking” signs were merely suggestions, especially when I was within sight of the car at all times.  If it tells you anything, I didn’t pay a single parking meter the entire time I was there.  In this instance, I parked on Atlantic Avenue when I repositioned, which was a little bit further away than I had initially anticipated.  However, that further distance gave me a better line of sight than if I had been closer.  In other words, it wasn’t what I had initially planned, but it worked.

I also couldn’t help but make a post on Facebook about the situation that I found myself in, driving around all of the real-life streets that the properties on the Monopoly board are named for.  I said, “Considering that the Monopoly properties are named after streets in Atlantic City, it feels strange driving around the city and seeing the namesakes of the various spots on the game board.  I turned down St. James Place today, and couldn’t help but think that I wouldn’t pay $180 for that crappy little street.  Then Baltic Avenue is a pretty decent road, and that one ought to cost way more than $60.”

In any event, I launched my drone, and was off to explore some more with my little eye in the sky:

Flying over to the Showboat and the Hard Rock.
Flying over to the Showboat and the Hard Rock.

The Showboat, with its delightfully dated architecture.

The Showboat, with its delightfully dated architecture.

The Showboat, with its delightfully dated architecture.
The Showboat, with its delightfully dated architecture.  As I understand it, the Showboat is no longer a casino, and has repurposed the former casino space for more family-friendly activities, making it bear a closer resemblance to a Dave & Buster’s.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal.

The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal.
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, formerly the Trump Taj Mahal.

The view facing approximately north as the drone flies back to its launch site.

The view facing approximately north as the drone flies back to its launch site.
The view facing approximately north as the drone flies back to its launch site.

I then repositioned again, heading over to the Absecon Lighthouse.  I had photographed this landmark before on my second trip to Atlantic City (the day trip), and ended up using more photos of the flags in front of the lighthouse than the lighthouse itself.  At that time, I suspected that it would be a better subject for the drone, but I had no drone on that particular adventure.  Now, I was ready to fly, and fly it I did.  However, I also considered it to be too cold to stand outside and fly it like an adult, so I sat in the car with the heat on full blast and flew it from in there.

Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse

Close-up showing the Fresnel lens at the top of the lighthouse.
Close-up showing the Fresnel lens at the top of the lighthouse.

Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse

The view of the HR-V after landing.
The view of the HR-V after landing.  I ran out of battery power while I was flying on the far side of the lighthouse relative to my position in the car (the wind takes a toll on power due to the need for stationkeeping), and it went into a forced landing.  Thankfully, I had a very good line of sight to it, and was able to guide it right back without incident, landing vertically next to the car.

I then repositioned again, to the end of Pacific Avenue, and launched one more time:

The view off of the east end of Atlantic City.
The view off of the east end of Atlantic City.

View across Absecon Inlet between Atlantic City (left) and Brigantine (right).
View across Absecon Inlet between Atlantic City (left) and Brigantine (right).

I then landed and pulled out the SLR for some more shots:

Lamppost on the eastern end of the boardwalk.
Lamppost on the eastern end of the boardwalk.

One of several jetties east of the boardwalk in Absecon Inlet.

One of several jetties east of the boardwalk in Absecon Inlet.
One of several jetties east of the boardwalk in Absecon Inlet.

Horizontal traffic signal with trombone mast at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue.
Horizontal traffic signal with trombone mast at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue.  This intersection is unique because the traffic signals are permanently on flash, with all yellow bulbs for traffic on Pacific Avenue, and all red bulbs for traffic on New Hampshire Avenue.  Horizontal traffic signals are fairly common in Atlantic City in general.

I then left the resort area and headed west on US 30 a bit.  I wanted to reshoot a wind farm that I had previously photographed with the drone on my first visit to Atlantic City, and I also wanted to check up on the Fine Petro station that was previously featured in the Abandoned Gas Station set in Photography.

As far as the wind farm went, I feel like I was a bit too conservative, but it looked all right:

The wind farm in Atlantic City

I feel like for a wind farm, I really need to shoot it from the ground looking up.  I could get that sort of access at a facility up in Pennsylvania, but the last time we went, the weather wasn’t cooperating, so we couldn’t.  When I got up close last time, the photos were less than impressive.  But I did get a selfie:

Say cheese.

Then the Fine Petro station was pretty much as I expected.  I figured that it would be one of three scenarios.  Either it would be unchanged, the canopy would be removed, or the site would be fully cleared.  It turned out to be the second scenario:

The Fine Petro station in Absecon, sans canopy

The Fine Petro station in Absecon, sans canopy

And behind the building, I found the busted up remains of signage from when this was a Gulf station:

Gulf signage

If you look at the historic imagery for this location on Google Street View, you can see the Gulf signage in place.

After this, I had one more stop that I had planned to make on the way to Wawa for a meal: the sign for the Chelsea Baptist Church in front of the Tropicana.  It’s a big sign towering over the street, perfect for droning:

The big "CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS" sign on the top of Chelsea Baptist Church.

The big "CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS" sign on the top of Chelsea Baptist Church.

The big "CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS" sign on the top of Chelsea Baptist Church.
The big “CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS” sign on the top of Chelsea Baptist Church.

The sign for the Tropicana next to the Chelsea Baptist Church sign.  I considered it a nice juxtaposition of "the profane and the sacred".
The sign for the Tropicana next to the Chelsea Baptist Church sign.  I considered it a nice juxtaposition of “the profane and the sacred”.

I will be the first to admit that these photos didn’t come out as well as I would have liked.  The reason was the angle of the sun due to the late hour of the day.  The sun was low in the sky when I got over to the church, and that meant that the sun was shining more or less horizontally onto the sign, which I felt blew out a lot of the details.  And that was my fault, because I had intended to get this one, and then forgot it until I was on my way to Wawa to get dinner, and spotted it again.  Fortunately, it’s not like I can’t ever go to Atlantic City again, and I also don’t see this place going away any time soon.  So I’ll go up again.

I then flew away from the church and got more overview shots.

Atlantic City, viewed from more or less directly above the church, facing approximately west.  Note the low height of the sun.
Atlantic City, viewed from more or less directly above the church, facing approximately west.  Note the low height of the sun.

Atlantic City, taken over the ocean, facing east.
Atlantic City, taken over the ocean, facing east.

Atlantic City, taken over the ocean, facing west.
Atlantic City, taken over the ocean, facing west.

Dome on the roof of the Tropicana.
Dome on the roof of the Tropicana.

The drone lands back at its launch site, on the north side of the 2900 block of Atlantic Avenue.
The drone lands back at its launch site, on the north side of the 2900 block of Atlantic Avenue.

I then went to Wawa, and then went back to the hotel room.  It was starting to get dark, and I was hungry.  The plan was to offloaded my photos to the cloud, and wait out the time while it finished getting dark before doing some night photography.  While I was offloading photos, Elyse checked to make sure that I hadn’t busted my drone (oh, ye of little faith), so I sent her this back:

The drone, still in one piece.

I also had my dinner from Wawa, and then I inadvertently took a nap.  Clearly, I needed the rest.  I ended up staying at the hotel room until around 10:00, and then headed out to the train station to get Elyse.  She showed up around 10:40, and we headed to an Acme store in Brigantine so that she could get some dinner for herself.  She then wanted to check out the Hard Rock, and I wanted to photograph Resorts at night.  Here’s what I got of Resorts at night:

The 2004 building.
The 2004 building.

The former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall building.

The former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall building.

The former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall building.
The former Chalfonte-Haddon Hall building.

You want to talk about cold, I was chilled to the bone – even when all bundled up.  When I was in my twenties, I used to be able to bundle up and photograph for hours in winter temperatures without any issue.  Then I lost the weight, and got a bit older.  And as a result, I get cold.  Next time I photograph Atlantic City at night, I’m doing it in much warmer temperatures.

And then after scooping Elyse up from the Hard Rock (where she got carded twice for looking underage – heh heh), we headed back to the hotel.  We hit the casino one last time, where I played with the $24 that I had won the night before.  I lost all of it on the roulette wheel, so ultimately, for the trip as a whole, I broke even.  I had some fun at the casino, and in the end, it didn’t cost me anything.  I could live with that.

One thing that I was surprised about on our second night was how many people who were clearly under the legal gambling age of 21 that I saw at Caesars.  For adults, sure – you stay at the hotel and go to the casino and gamble.  But why would you bring kids to a casino hotel when the kids can’t participate in most of the activities there?  They’re not even allowed to be present on the casino floor just to watch.  I don’t understand why you would bring them to a place like Caesars, vs. somewhere that doesn’t have gambling like the Showboat.  Go figure.

On Saturday, we got checked out of Caesars and made our way back to the western side of the state.  Our first stop was in Camden, at the Michael J. Doyle Fishing Pier.  I was planning on taking my drone out for a flight over the Delaware River to photograph the SS United States and the Philadelphia skyline, but after I got all of the equipment set up and powered on and went into the B4UFly app to get my LAANC approval for the area, I saw a bunch of red in the area.  Well, crap.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, the airspace around Philadelphia was closed for “VIP movement”.  In other words, President Biden was probably heading home, and the airspace was shut down all around his route.  Good for him, I suppose, but sucks for me, because it meant that I would not be flying that day.  This is as far as the drone got:

And from there, back into the box it went.  Those are the breaks, I suppose.  So that plan gets added to the list for next time.

While we were in the area, we also checked out nearby Phoenix Park as a potential flying location for the same subjects, and that seemed like a reasonable place to go in the future, though the parking there was quite limited.

In any event, with that plan’s having fizzled, we continued on with our plans.  Our next stop was the Scrub Daddy facility in Pennsauken.  Elyse is a big fan of Scrub Daddy products, and she wanted to see where their headquarters building was since we were nearby.

Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy sign on the building.
Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy sign on the building.

Elyse takes a selfie with the sign.
Elyse takes a selfie with the sign.

Elyse photographs the Scrub Daddy building with her phone.
Elyse photographs the Scrub Daddy building with her phone.

Elyse gets a selfie with the road sign.
Elyse gets a selfie with the road sign.  The taped-over part on the sign is for a retail store that has not yet been completed.

Elyse poses for a photo with the road sign.
Elyse poses for a photo with the road sign.

All in all, that was a fun stop.  I suspect that we’ll be back, especially once that retail store opens.  Elyse loves Scrub Daddy, and has a good rapport with their social media people.

From there, we headed over to Cherry Hill Mall.  That was another stop for Elyse.  I’ve apparently lost my enthusiasm for malls because my first thought was, “Yeah, it’s a mall.”  Though we did get one amusing photo:

Elyse listens to "the ocean" in some glasses

I describe this as “Elyse listens to the ocean in a set of glasses”, as we were making fun of the “you can hear the ocean in a shell” remarks that people make.  I’ve never thought that it sounded particularly like the ocean in a shell, and cups sound exactly the same.

From there, we visited my cousin Mike and his wife Tara, who live nearby.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Uncle Bruce was also over, as it had been a while since I’d seen him.  We all had a great time together.

After that, Elyse and I stopped at a nearby Walmart before heading home.  This sign amused me:

"ALL VEHICLES MUST PARK IN PARKING SPACE BETWEEN LINES"

This is citing Borough of Somerdale ordinance § 247-27.1, which prescribes exactly what the sign says: park in one parking space, and stay in between the lines.  The real question is what prompted them to sign that ordinance in the parking lot of Walmart.

In any event, after that, we ran the trip home more or less nonstop, going down 295, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and through Baltimore, only stopping at Elyse’s parents’ house to pick up that new phone.  We had it shipped there because we wouldn’t be home to retrieve it, and didn’t want to play tag with UPS.  So all in all, I’d say that we had a good time on our little weekend trip to Atlantic City.  We definitely need to do more of this in the future.

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To be salty or not to be salty… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/01/10/to-be-salty-or-not-to-be-salty/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/01/10/to-be-salty-or-not-to-be-salty/#respond Mon, 10 Jan 2022 19:45:57 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=42550 Recently, news came out that the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, would unveil a new permanent name and logo for the team on February 2For those not familiar with the story behind this, the team had been criticized for many years over its “Redskins” branding, being considered racist against Native Americans.  Team owner Dan Snyder had publicly declined to change the name of the team whenever the issue would come up.  And for Snyder, that made enough sense.  As long as the fans were still buying, there was no real reason to change the name.  On one occasion when the issue came up, as it tended to do from time to time, local commentator Chris Core said in one of his commentaries on WTOP that it wasn’t really a matter of “if” but rather “when”, and that given enough time, the name would eventually be changed.  I saw it similarly to the way that Core saw it, that the name would eventually change, but only when it became a drag on the team’s profitability, i.e. once the “Redskins” name wasn’t raking in the cash anymore, it would be dropped.

However, I did not like what some of the more “woke” local news sites did when it came to showing their disdain for the “Redskins” name, though, calling the team by anything but their actual name.  Some called it the “Washington Football Team” (well before the team formally adopted that name), and some called them the “Washington Pigskins”.  I don’t know about you, but I expect my news organizations to present a fairly dry reporting of facts, without any opining in news articles.  I don’t care what the writer thinks about the subject that is being reported on in a news piece – just give me the facts.  Their own thoughts on the news belongs in the opinion section, and not a part of the news.  In other words, as long as the team was formally known as “Redskins”, then you call them the Redskins, no matter what you think about the name.

In any case, that time when the name was no longer profitable for the team came in the summer of 2020.  In the wake of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent wave of renamings to purge racist themes from our cultural landscape (this included the rebranding of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s products, as both were considered to use racist names and imagery), the Redskins’ corporate sponsors did what various activists had never been able to accomplish over years of trying, and forced Dan Snyder to dump the “Redskins” name by threatening to pull their sponsorship of the team if the name remained.  Unsurprisingly, the name disappeared overnight, and was replaced by “Washington Football Team” as a provisional name until they could come up with something better.  The colors remained the usual Redskins burgundy and gold, but the “Redskins” name and branding was gone, with a promise of a proper name in the future.

Getting rid of the “Redskins” name was only half of the battle, though, and also the easiest step.  The other, much harder part of it is to come up with a new identity for the team that looks good on them going forward.  That part concerns me more than getting rid of the old name, because it’s going to set the tone of the team for the foreseeable future, and signal some values for a long time to come.  Therefore, I feel like it is important that the Washington Football Team not screw this one up, but I have no faith that they won’t screw it up and come up with something that will make them look salty about not being able to use the “Redskins” name anymore.  I’ve seen a number of names tossed around over the years, and too many of them come off as not enough of a change, i.e. the “Washington We-Can’t-Call-Ourselves-the-Redskins-Anymore”.  One of the names that got tossed around by the opponents of the old name a long time ago was “Washington Warriors”, which epitomizes the “salty” idea.  It is close enough to the old name that it makes you think about it, which makes everyone involved look salty about losing the old name.  Thankfully, this name did not make any of the more recent lists, so it’s safe to say that it’s not a contender (which is a good thing).

One thing that I’ve thought about this for a while is that the team should make a complete clean break from their past identity.  Leave all of the trappings of “Redskins” behind.  That means a new name, a new mascot, and new team colors.  Unfortunately, though, the team seems to be unwilling to go the whole nine yards on that, as it’s been made quite clear that they’re sticking with the whole burgundy-and-gold color scheme.  It makes this meme, which pokes fun at the team’s inability to win a championship in thirty years, still relevant today:

"DISTRICT OF (NOT YOU) CHAMPIONS"

If they want to continue to embrace the color scheme of a mediocre football team that’s pretty adept at losing, then more power to them, I suppose.  I would have changed the color scheme along with everything else, taking the opportunity to ditch the burgundy for a bright red color scheme, in order to make a more regionwide branding for all of the big pro sports teams in the DC area, which, for the most part, use red as their main color.  Burgundy is a little bit different compared to the others.

As far as the names go, this is one of the lists of finalists that I’ve seen:

  • Armada
  • Brigade
  • Commanders
  • Defenders
  • Presidents
  • Red Wolves
  • Redhawks
  • Washington Football Team

I admit that none of those names make me say “Oh, wow,” but there are some that I hate less than others.  As far as I’m concerned, anything with “Red” in it should be categorically dismissed, because it makes them look salty about their old name.  And if they’re talking about a name to last for the next 90 years and beyond, i.e. forever as far as most people reading this are concerned, salty is not a good look to carry on for generations.  We already know that “Red Wolves” (and anything else to do with wolves) is out on account of trademark issues, but with “Redhawks”, the first reaction is going to be, “Oh, you mean the Redskins?” and that’s what we don’t want, because it immediately brings to mind the old identity of the team, which has a lot of baggage attached to it.  Some of the other names are just uninspiring, like “Armada”, “Brigade”, or “Commanders”.  “Defenders” to me cements the idea that they’re not charging forward, but constantly on the defensive, i.e. they’re not winners.  “Presidents” makes me think of what the Nationals use as their mascots, and that could get confusing.  Meanwhile, “Washington Football Team” is the name that they’re using now, and if they’re going through with the whole charade of doing a reveal of a permanent identity, I doubt it would be that clunky name.  You wouldn’t announce a big reveal date and then go, “Hey, we’re making our temporary name permanent!”  I would be very surprised if that ended up being the permanent name.  If they went that way, it would also come off as a massive middle finger to everyone, as if to say that everyone is too sensitive for the team to have a proper name, and therefore they have to use the most generic name possible.  It’s also the ultimate demonstration of saltiness about the name, i.e. choosing no name at all over their old name.  We don’t want that, but I also suspect that it won’t happen.

As far as rebrandings go, the former Redskins should really have looked to Staunton as an example of how to do a rebranding correctly.  In 2019, what was then Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton was renamed to Staunton High School, which came after a new school board was elected that campaigned on the issue of renaming the high school.  Prior to the renaming, the school competed under the name “Fighting Leemen” and used a royal blue color.  With the renaming, the school’s new nickname became “Staunton Storm“, and the color changed to a navy blue color rather than a royal blue.  It’s a completely different identity that befits a new name for the school, and makes a clean break from the past.  The old Fighting Leemen will pass into history as the students that went to the school as Lee High graduate, and the new name does not bring the old name to mind in the least.

So all in all, I suppose we’ll all find out together what happens with this whole football name thing.  It should be amusing to see what they come up with as well as what the reaction to it ends up being.  I have no faith in their not screwing this up, but I’m willing to be surprised.  And for the record, I still have zero interest in the game itself, but these sorts of things, where teams butt up against the public on more public-facing issues, pique my interest.

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A few flights over Pennsylvania… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/31/a-few-flights-over-pennsylvania/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/31/a-few-flights-over-pennsylvania/#respond Sat, 01 Jan 2022 04:13:28 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=42444 Just before Christmas, Elyse, Evan Stone, and I made a day trip up to Pennsylvania.  The goal was to visit the Lancaster area.  Elyse left the house ahead of us and flew up to Lancaster via Southern Airways Express, while Evan and I went up by car and met up with her in Lancaster.  On the way up, Evan and I took our respective drones for a spin over Hanover, the Susquehanna River, and Lititz.  I have my DJI Air 2S, while Evan has the original DJI Mavic Pro.

The first flight was over downtown Hanover, and it was a solo flight for me.  Evan saw a building where he wanted to know what the elevator was, and I entertained myself with a drone flight.

The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don't recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?
The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don’t recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?

Across the street from the unusual looking building.
Across the street from the unusual looking building.

View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately northwest.  Carlisle Street runs through the middle of the photo.
View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately northwest.  Carlisle Street runs through the middle of the photo.

View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately northeast.  Broadway runs through the middle of the photo.
View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately northeast.  Broadway runs through the middle of the photo.

View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately southeast.  Baltimore Street is the dark-colored road to the right.
View from the center of downtown Hanover, facing approximately southeast.  Baltimore Street is the dark-colored road to the right.

View down Frederick Street, facing southwest.
View down Frederick Street, facing southwest.

Water tower at approximately Fulton Street and Terrace Avenue, to the northeast of my location.

Water tower at approximately Fulton Street and Terrace Avenue, to the northeast of my location.
Water tower at approximately Fulton Street and Terrace Avenue, to the northeast of my location.

Sky over Hanover, while flying back from the water tower.
Sky over Hanover, while flying back from the water tower.

Another view of downtown Hanover while flying back from the water tower.
Another view of downtown Hanover while flying back from the water tower.

Intersection at the center of downtown Hanover.  According to Reddit, this intersection was a traffic circle a long time ago, and was converted to a regular intersection at some point.  I can see that there is enough space for a different traffic pattern here, with the small parking lots in the corner's likely being part of the former traffic circle.  I have no idea why it was converted.  Anyone know?

Intersection at the center of downtown Hanover.  According to Reddit, this intersection was a traffic circle a long time ago, and was converted to a regular intersection at some point.  I can see that there is enough space for a different traffic pattern here, with the small parking lots in the corner's likely being part of the former traffic circle.  I have no idea why it was converted.  Anyone know?
Intersection at the center of downtown Hanover.  According to Reddit, this intersection was a traffic circle a long time ago, and was converted to a regular intersection at some point.  I can see that there is enough space for a different traffic pattern here, with the small parking lots in the corner’s likely being part of the former traffic circle.  I have no idea why it was converted.  Anyone know?

Finishing up there, we headed up to the Utz Factory Outlet Store.  Here, Evan and I took turns flying around the neon sign.  Here are my photos:

Utz Potato Chips sign

Utz Potato Chips sign

Utz Potato Chips sign

Utz Potato Chips sign

I also got a photo of some of the ventilation pipes on the roof near the sign:

Ventilation pipes near the Utz sign

Then while Evan was flying the sign, I scooted across the street and got an overhead shot of a nearby Weis grocery store:

From there, we were done in Hanover, and so we continued on.  By this point, Elyse had made it to her destination, i.e. she was on the ground at Lancaster airport, and was encouraging us to hurry up.  It was not my intent to still be in Hanover when she landed, but (A) I misunderstood what time her flight was, and (B) we encountered heavy traffic in Westminster and Hanover.

Our next stop was in Columbia, where we flew around two bridges across the Susquehanna River.  One bridge, the Wright’s Ferry Bridge carried US 30 over the river, while another bridge, the Veterans Memorial Bridge, carried Pennsylvania Route 462 over the river.  We coordinated our movements here in order to avoid a collision, so I started on the Wright’s Ferry Bridge, while Evan started on the Veterans Memorial Bridge.  Then when we were both finished with our first bridge, we switched sides, with my crossing nearer to the Wrightsville shore, and Evan’s crossing over nearer the Columbia shore.

View just after takeoff, showing the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
View just after takeoff, showing the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The Wright's Ferry Bridge, carrying US 30 over the Susquehanna River.

The Wright's Ferry Bridge, carrying US 30 over the Susquehanna River.

The Wright's Ferry Bridge, carrying US 30 over the Susquehanna River.

The Wright's Ferry Bridge, carrying US 30 over the Susquehanna River.
The Wright’s Ferry Bridge, carrying US 30 over the Susquehanna River.

Wrightsville, the town on the western shore of the Susquehanna River.
Wrightsville, the town on the western shore of the Susquehanna River.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, with the piers of a former bridge adjacent to it.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, with the piers of a former bridge adjacent to it.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, with the piers of a former bridge adjacent to it.
The Veterans Memorial Bridge, with the piers of a former bridge adjacent to it.

View of Columbia, just before landing.
View of Columbia, just before landing.

From here, we packed up our drones and headed up to the airport to get Elyse.  After we got her, we headed up into downtown Lititz.  Elyse had a goal to meet there, to see a vintage toilet at a bar up there.  While she did that, I did a quick up-and-down over Lititz:

View facing north in Lititz.  North Broad Street is visible in the center of the photo.
View facing north in Lititz.  North Broad Street is visible in the center of the photo.

View looking straight down.  If you look carefully, you can see Elyse, Evan, and me on a strip of pavement just below the railroad tracks.
View looking straight down.  If you look carefully, you can see Elyse, Evan, and me on a strip of pavement just below the railroad tracks.

Sunset over Lititz.
Sunset over Lititz.

That was the end of the drone for this particular trip, since I was out of sunlight.  So everyone packed up their drones, and that was that.  The rest of the time in the area was spent exploring around Lancaster, including driving through the downtown area with an eye towards future photo shoots, and being quite surprised to find that the local prison has medieval-style architecture.  Overall, this was my second time in the Lancaster area, and it definitely seems like a place that I need to photograph in more detail.

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A day out in parts of Virginia that we don’t normally visit… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/14/a-day-out-in-parts-of-virginia-that-we-dont-normally-visit/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/14/a-day-out-in-parts-of-virginia-that-we-dont-normally-visit/#comments Wed, 15 Dec 2021 04:03:34 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=42137 From December 9-11, Elyse and I took a little weekend trip down to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed at Hotel 24 South.  We call the place our little home away from home, as we always stay there when we do these trips every 2-3 months.  Typically, we do something simple on the first day after we get down there, have a full-day adventure on the middle day (the Staunton Mall photo set came out of one of these middle-day adventures), and then do a few things and go visit my parents on the last day before heading home.  It’s a good routine, and it’s a lot of fun.

This time around, our middle-day adventure took us down to Clifton Forge, Covington, and Roanoke.  I had not been to the Clifton Forge and Covington area since 2005, and Elyse had never been.  Roanoke wasn’t part of our original plan for the day, but as we had not been to Roanoke since 2018, we were probably due for another visit.  I had low expectations for the day, considering that the weather was expected to be cloudy (which means gray photos), but I got a few useful things out of the day.

Our first stop was the Howard Johnson’s on Route 11 north of Lexington.  I had first become aware of this place after seeing it on Highway Host, and so we decided to visit it again.  Elyse wanted to film the elevator, while I was more interested in the architecture.  My understanding of the history of this location is that it has always been a Howard Johnson’s ever since it opened in the 1970s, though the attached Howard Johnson’s restaurant later went independent under the name Hilltop Diner, and had closed entirely by 2004.

The former restaurant looked pretty sharp on the outside.  The "beacon" style cupola had been changed from silver and turquoise to dark brown and orange, a sign for the motor lodge had been installed where the restaurant signage once was.

The former restaurant looked pretty sharp on the outside.  The "beacon" style cupola had been changed from silver and turquoise to dark brown and orange, a sign for the motor lodge had been installed where the restaurant signage once was.

The former restaurant looked pretty sharp on the outside.  The "beacon" style cupola had been changed from silver and turquoise to dark brown and orange, a sign for the motor lodge had been installed where the restaurant signage once was.
The former restaurant looked pretty sharp on the outside.  The “beacon” style cupola had been changed from silver and turquoise to dark brown and orange, a sign for the motor lodge had been installed where the restaurant signage once was.  The windows were covered so as to appear frosted, and as far as Elyse and I could tell, the restaurant space was being used for storage.

The motor lodge had been repainted in a tan, orange, and gray color scheme, and looked pretty sharp overall.  According to Elyse, it was still quite well maintained on the inside as well.
The motor lodge had been repainted in a tan, orange, and gray color scheme, and looked pretty sharp overall.  According to Elyse, it was still quite well maintained on the inside as well.

Elyse is all smiles in front of the HoJo's.
Elyse is all smiles in front of the HoJo’s.

Heading into Clifton Forge, we first circled around the downtown just to give Elyse an idea of what we were going to be working with, and then we headed out to the Kroger store.  She wanted to check out that store, which was still vintage in a number of ways, while I wanted to photograph the former CFW Information Services facility that was just up the hill from the Kroger with the drone.

For those not familiar, I worked for CFW Information Services, which later operated as Telegate USA following a sale of our division to the German firm Telegate in July 2000, from June 1997 to April 2002.  The facility in Clifton Forge was the sister facility to where I worked in Waynesboro as a directory assistance operator.  Architecturally, the two facilities were identical, though the settings that the buildings were in were quite different.  The Waynesboro facility was on a slight hill in an industrial park, while the Clifton Forge facility was on level ground next to a neighborhood.  The Clifton Forge facility closed in December 2001, while the Waynesboro facility closed in April 2002.  A third facility in Winchester closed in June 2002.  According to the LinkedIn profile of a former Telegate executive, the the company divested all US investments as a direct result of 9/11.  That doesn’t jive with my experience at all.  I wasn’t in the C-suite by any means, but the sense that I got was that they had been failing well before September 2001, and with a significant reduction in the number of expected directory assistance calls from their main client due to the proliferation of other services, they couldn’t sustain the operation anymore and started closing call centers.  9/11 likely had nothing to do with it, and seems to have been a convenient cover for what was simply a business failure.

In case you’re wondering, I tend to remember my employment with the directory assistance center fondly for the most part, and have a relatively high opinion of the company from when it was under CFW ownership.  However, there is no love for Telegate, which was in and out in less than two years, and only succeeded in running the business into the ground.  I suspect that the Telegate folks meant well, but they were just really bad at their jobs.  And unfortunately, their being bad at their jobs ultimately cost me mine.

In any event, the last time I photographed this facility, in 2003, it was listed for sale.  Nowadays, it is home to an E-ZPass customer service center.

Except for the change of the sign from Telegate to E-ZPass, it still looks like CFW Information Services in every way.  It would appear that when it became the E-ZPass center, they didn’t do any major renovations and just moved in.

Then I flew up and got some photos of the surrounding area:

And that’s the old CFW Information Services facility in Clifton Forge.  I finished up here just as Elyse finished up at the Kroger, and so I went back down and scooped her up.

The next thing that we stopped to photograph was a road sign, where it was apparent that one sign had been replaced at some point:

US 60 and US 220 Business shields

Clearly, that US 220 Business shield was the same size as that very old US 60 shield next to it, but apparently, it had been replaced at some point with a shield of more modern design.  The size difference is pretty significant.  They probably should have replaced both shields at the same time, but considering the aesthetic of Clifton Forge in general, this seems to fit the character.

We then headed back downtown.  I dropped Elyse off at the railroad museum, while I took the drone out to photograph the clock tower on the Clifton Forge Town Hall.  I just stood on the sidewalk out in front, and then “whirlybirds away”, as they say.

Pediment over the entrance to the Clifton Forge Town Hall.
Pediment over the entrance to the Clifton Forge Town Hall.

I found it slightly disappointing that the Clifton Forge Town Hall was flat-roofed, and the clock tower was simply a structure rising from that flat roof.  I was expecting a gabled roof that harmonized with the triangular pediment, with the clock tower rising from that.

I found it slightly disappointing that the Clifton Forge Town Hall was flat-roofed, and the clock tower was simply a structure rising from that flat roof.  I was expecting a gabled roof that harmonized with the triangular pediment, with the clock tower rising from that.

I found it slightly disappointing that the Clifton Forge Town Hall was flat-roofed, and the clock tower was simply a structure rising from that flat roof.  I was expecting a gabled roof that harmonized with the triangular pediment, with the clock tower rising from that.
I found it slightly disappointing that the Clifton Forge Town Hall was flat-roofed, and the clock tower was simply a structure rising from that flat roof.  I was expecting a gabled roof that harmonized with the triangular pediment, with the clock tower rising from that.

North facade of the clock tower.  Note the patch on the front of the clock face.  The time displayed accurately reflects the time that this photo was taken.
North facade of the clock tower.  Note the patch on the front of the clock face.  The time displayed accurately reflects the time that this photo was taken.

Railroad weathervane atop the clock tower.
Railroad weathervane atop the clock tower.

Finishing up with the clock tower on the Town Hall building, I raised my altitude and photographed the surrounding area.

View from above the town hall, facing north up Jefferson Avenue.
View from above the town hall, facing north up Jefferson Avenue.

View east down Main Street.
View east down Main Street.

I then joined Elyse over at the railroad museum, where she was checking out the gift shop.  I was surprised to learn that the old Chessie System logo was not a stylized cat facing sideways with its mouth open, as I had always assumed, but instead a kitten in a bed, sleeping soundly.  Let me show you what I mean.  Here’s the logo:

Chessie System logo, photographed on a piece of equipment

Here’s more or less what I imagined it to represent:


(Photo: Antonio Picascia, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

I trust you can see the resemblance.  In any case, imagine my surprise to find out that this was what it actually was:

Chessie mascot

The “Chessie” mascot, used with the slogan “Sleep like a kitten.”  There you go, I suppose.

Finishing up at the railroad museum, where Elyse bought two VHS tapes featuring trains in our local area (broadly defined), we headed over to a nearby fire department to get a photo of a siren, a W.S. Darley Model 5 with a different lid:

Siren at the fire department in Clifton Forge

This was also Elyse’s first time piloting the old drone, now fully repaired and back in service, though she did so with adult supervision, since she was not yet fully confident in her own flying abilities, along with the Mavic Mini’s lack of anti-collision sensors, and the presence of power lines nearby.  So she had me fly the drone into position, and then she angled things the way she wanted.  Something tells me that I need to give a more complete flying lesson, and give her time to really put the drone through its paces, because I want to get her to the point where she can fly confidently on her own.

Finishing here, Elyse wanted to check out a small coffee museum in downtown Clifton Forge, while I headed down to an area behind the Dairy Queen, where I launched the drone to fly around a CSX facility.  I was interested in flying over a vintage and disused railroad turntable that was visible on Google Maps, but unfortunately, that structure had been demolished since the map had been updated.  I did, however, get photos of the more modern turntable nearby, as well as other views of the yard:

The turntable at the CSX yard.

The turntable at the CSX yard.
The turntable at the CSX yard.

A building on the south side of the yard.
A building on the south side of the yard.

Trains on the tracks in the CSX yard.
Trains on the tracks in the CSX yard.

View of the CSX yard, facing approximately west.
View of the CSX yard, facing approximately west.

Abandoned rail bridge over the Jackson River.
Abandoned rail bridge over the Jackson River.

I then scooped Elyse back up, and we headed to our next destination: the Selma fire department.  That location has a very unusual siren on the roof:

The siren at Selma fire department

The siren at Selma fire department

According to the siren folks on Reddit, the device on top is a GCS Model 3, but the remainder is a mystery.

And then from here, it started to rain, and rain pretty hard.  Nuts.  It was not supposed to rain on this particular day, and as such, rain was not part of the plan, and would most definitely screw up our plans.  We had met all of our goals in Clifton Forge, but had not yet started on Covington.  The plan was to fly around the Westvaco (now WestRock) factory and get some industrial shots, but the rain kept my drone grounded.  That factory isn’t going anywhere, though, so we could do that another time.  We ended up driving by it so that Elyse could see what it looked like, and then moved on.  We ended up finding a Goodwill thrift store across from a former Kroger, partly converted to a CVS.  Here’s what that conversion looked like:

CVS (née Kroger) in Covington

As you can see, it’s clearly a former Kroger, and I believe that the “Prescriptions” sign dates from its time as a Kroger.

Our only other goal in Covington was to see the Walmart in Covington, and so we headed over there.  That store is a later pylon-style Supercenter, with an interior resembling the next generation of Walmart Supercenters (the kind with “Always” over the entrances), but with the pylon front like older stores.  The store is currently styled in the third-generation Project Impact signage, and is very well maintained.  It’s not as wide as most Walmart stores, being more square in shape, and as such, it has a slightly unusual layout, with electronics out in the middle of the salesfloor rather than against the back wall like it usually is.

From here, we were somewhat at a crossroads.  We didn’t have anything else to do on our list, since the rain screwed up most of our Covington plans.  We looked at how far it would be to Roanoke, and as it turned out, it was a little more than an hour away via US 220.  So why not?  It was a dark, rainy ride to Roanoke.  I admit: I probably would have enjoyed that ride if the weather had been better.  Nothing like driving on an unfamiliar road in the dark and the rain.  I was delighted to get to Roanoke, where I knew where I was going again.

When we got to Roanoke, Elyse wanted to see the elevator in a building on Church Avenue that was scheduled to be torn down, while I looked for parking.  I quickly discovered that parking was scarce because the Roanoke Christmas parade was about to occur.  Therefore, once Elyse finished up, we got as far away from downtown as possible.  We wanted to head over to Valley View Mall, but the parade route blocked our access to the roads to the mall.  So we headed down Jefferson Street, way further than we would have ever gone otherwise, taking it all the way to the end, where it turns into Cornwalls Avenue SE.  This was definitely out of the way of the parade route, and now we had to figure out how to get to the mall.  We had thought about driving by our friend Andrew Reams‘ house just to see where it was (he wasn’t home at the time, and we knew this), and so after we plugged his address in, it turned out to be a good “fulcrum point” to navigate to Valley View Mall, navigating to his house to keep us away from the parade route, and then navigating to the mall from there.  And for that purpose, it worked out.

Once we got to Andrew’s house, we trolled him slightly.  We went up to the door, rang his Ring doorbell in order to ensure that it was recording, and then put Woomy in front of it.  We also said hello, and then took some photos with Woomy on his front porch.  All in all, we had a good time, though the whole thing certainly tried Woomy’s patience.

Woomy looks into Andrew's Ring camera.
Woomy looks into Andrew’s Ring camera.

Woomy sits on the swing on Andrew's front porch.
Woomy sits on the swing on Andrew’s front porch.

Woomy takes a granola bar, which we made him put back (he didn't like that).
Woomy takes a granola bar, which we made him put back (he didn’t like that).

Leaving Andrew’s house, we went to Game Junkies, a vintage video game store nearby.  That was a neat place, as we found a lot of vintage console games, as well as some stuff that we never would have expected to find.

Elyse holds up a copy of Combat, which is a favorite Atari 2600 game of hers.  I taught her how to play it a while back, and she's pretty good at it, though she tends to get mad at me when I shoot her vehicle too many times.
Elyse holds up a copy of Combat, which is a favorite Atari 2600 game of hers.  I taught her how to play it a while back, and she’s pretty good at it, though she tends to get mad at me when I shoot her vehicle too many times.

A Pioneer LaserActive, which was an attempt to use laserdiscs for video game purposes.
A Pioneer LaserActive, which was an attempt to use laserdiscs for video game purposes.  You could also play Sega Genesis games on it with an add-on unit, which is installed here in the bottom left corner of the unit.  I had never seen one of these in person before, because my understanding is that they were never particularly popular (which could also be said about laserdisc in general).

A Japanese Super Famicom console.  This was marketed as the Super Nintendo outside of Japan, and had a different exterior design in North America.
A Japanese Super Famicom console.  This was marketed as the Super Nintendo outside of Japan, and had a different exterior design in North America.  Like the LaserActive, I had never seen one of these in person before, but this was mostly because it was intended for the Asian market rather than North America.

We then headed over to Valley View.  We dipped into a nearby GameStop store, which we were surprised to learn was the largest GameStop location in the United States (or at least that’s what the employees told us).  Here it is:

The alleged biggest GameStop in the United States

Not a bad place, but not very exciting, either.  After this, we headed over to the mall.  That was the same as always:

Valley View Mall, looking the same as always.

Yep – nothing much has changed here.  Elyse was surprised that Roanoke actually had a healthy mall in Valley View.  Prior to this, her only experience with shopping malls in Roanoke was Tanglewood, which has been a crappy mall for as long as I’ve known it.  We had a pretty good time there, going through the mall, though we didn’t buy anything.

From here, we headed up to the Roanoke Star.  I got the drone out and went for a quick flight near the star in order to test out some long-exposure features:

The Roanoke Star

The Roanoke Star

View from The Roanoke Star

All in all, not too bad.  I was very conservative with my movements, because while I knew the area, it had been a while since I had been there, and I’d never flown it with the drone before.  I want to come back up here some time during daytime hours and photograph the star and the park like I mean it.  I consider the flight to be a success, as my goal was primarily to test the drone’s long-exposure capabilities, and it was done.  And I see much potential in the capabilities.

From here, we headed down the mountain, and met up with Andrew at the train station at the end of Williamson Road:

Andrew with the train that he was working.

We got to hang out with Andrew for a few minutes while he waited for the relief crew to arrive.  Once they arrived, we parted company for the time being, and headed back downtown, where by then, the parade traffic had cleared out.

We got dinner at Texas Tavern, which was highly recommended to us by a few folks.  Here it is:

Interior of Texas Tavern

I liked Texas Tavern.  It’s one of those all-night restaurants where it hasn’t been renovated in many decades, and where the employees have worked there for a very long time, and know the place cold.  And we got out of there for less than $5, which I was quite impressed by.  She got a hamburger, and I got a bowl of chili, and the service was really quick.  Only downside to the place is that they’re cash-only, but I can forgive that because they’re so good otherwise.

By the time we finished there, Andrew was done with work, so we met up with him, and then headed over to where he has his elevator museum, which is open by appointment.

The elevator museum

The elevator museum

I was impressed by how much effort Andrew has put into curating the collection, and how well done it was.  I look forward to seeing this continue to grow in the future.  We also met up with Fred, another friend of ours, at the elevator museum.  After we finished at the elevator museum, we got a photo of Andrew with Woomy:

Andrew and Woomy

You can tell that Woomy is looking at us as if to say, I am only doing this because it’s you.  After all, you know that Woomy did not like that.

From there, we parted company with Andrew, and started making moves to head back up the road to Staunton.  But first, Elyse did a quick film of the Elmwood Parking Garage before we headed out.  I got a photo of Elyse there on her request, showing off how low the indicator arrows were:

To give an idea of how short these are, Elyse is 5’2″, and these things are eye level to her.  I was taller than these indicator lights, which was a first for me.

And then from there, we headed up the road back to Hotel 24 South in Staunton.  All in all, a fun time was had by all.  We probably won’t be back in Roanoke again until some time later next year, and we’ll probably do Covington and Clifton Forge again on one of our regular trips, coupling it with a visit to Gathright Dam and Lake Moomaw.

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A peeve about political terminology… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/14/a-peeve-about-political-terminology/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/14/a-peeve-about-political-terminology/#respond Tue, 14 Dec 2021 23:15:51 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=42151 One thing that always bothers me when I’m reading and listening to things from political discussions is when I hear someone use a term incorrectly, specifically referring to political parties.  As you probably know, the two major political parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The names, as they refer to the political parties, are themselves relatively meaningless, and are really brand names more than anything (and, in fact, the parties have switched stances with each other since their formation).  “Democratic” with a capital “D” is a separate concept from “democratic” with a small “d”.  The ideas of “Democratic values” and “democratic values” are two different things, as one thing refers to the political party, while the other is more abstract and references democracy more generally.  The same goes for “Republican” (capital “R”) and “republican” (small “r”).  The former refers to the Republican Party, also known as the “Grand Old Party” or “GOP”, while the latter refers to representative government, also known as a republicanism.  People like to consider the United States as a democracy, but technically, we operate under a republican system, because, constitutionally speaking, we are a republic, because we elect people to do all of the governing for us on our behalf, rather than all of us getting together and doing it ourselves (the founding fathers tended to view “democracy” as a negative thing, likening it to mob rule).  The concept of democracy and a small-d democratic system has little to do with the capital-D Democratic Party.  Similarly, the concept of republicanism and a small-R republican system of government does not mean a government that is, by definition, run by the capital-R Republican Party.  The idea of “republican values” and “Republican values” are two very distinct concepts.  The same goes for other political parties as well.  For instance, traditionally libertarian stances may or may not be the official stance of the Libertarian Party. Capital “L” vs. small “l” and all.  As an example, I feel like I’ve been leaning more libertarian in my own views as I’ve gotten older, but I generally don’t pay much attention to the Libertarian Party.  I like to tell people that I am a leftist, but a liberal, I ain’t.

In any event, the rest of this entry refers to the versions of these terms with capital letters, because I’ve pretty much covered the small-letter versions of these concepts as much as I need to for our purposes.

As far as use of the wrong terms goes, I mostly see it coming from Republican politicians and Republican-leaning pundits, directed at the Democratic Party, mostly because there are two closely-related terms to refer to the Democratic Party and people associated with it: “Democratic” and “Democrat”.  Most often, I see the improper use of the term take the form of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” and Democratic politicians as “Democrat politicians”.  You don’t get this so much towards Republicans because the same term is used to refer to people and the organization.  Members of the Republican Party are typically referred to as Republicans.  About the only different terminology there is the “Grand Old Party” moniker, typically abbreviated as GOP, and pronounced as “G-O-P”, i.e. as the letters, rather than as something rhyming with “mop”.

Generally speaking, when referring to the Democratic Party, the correct term is “Democratic”.  When referring to a person, or group of people, the correct term is “Democrat”. Some examples:

  • “Ken Plum is a member of the Democratic Party.”
  • “Ken Plum is a Democrat.”
  • “The House of Representatives has a Democratic majority.”
  • “The majority of members of the House of Representatives are Democrats.”
  • “Voting on the bill followed party lines, with the Democratic members voting yes.”
  • “The Democrats voted yes on the bill, which largely followed party lines.”

There is some subtlety there, which I hopefully conveyed to you.  If it can be construed as a reference to the party rather than to the people, “Democratic” is the term that you want to use.  If you’re referring to a person or group of people who align with the Democratic Party, the term is “Democrat”.  There is a difference.  It is subtle, but it is there.

It always bothers me when people use the wrong term – typically misusing (or abusing) the term “Democrat”.  Right-wing pundits tend to be guilty of this most often, and usually deliberately, calling the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party” on the air, likely as a snide commentary on the democraticness, or perceived lack thereof, of the Democratic Party.  In any case, the use of the term grates on my nerves every time I hear it, because it’s incorrect.  It makes one look either ignorant if you don’t know any better, or like a schmuck if you do know better and still use it like that anyway.  Bottom line: don’t do it.  Use the proper term.

Now go forth, and speak properly, and make yourself sound more educated so that people take you seriously.

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In case anyone noticed a pattern this year… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/05/in-case-anyone-noticed-a-pattern-this-year/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/12/05/in-case-anyone-noticed-a-pattern-this-year/#comments Sun, 05 Dec 2021 15:10:52 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41925 I’m wondering if anyone noticed a pattern with the splash photos in 2021.  Here’s what I did all year:

January
January

February
February

March
March

April
April

May
May

June
June

July
July

August
August

September
September

October
October

November
November

December
December

Every single splash photo in 2021 has me wearing tie-dye in some form or other.  In January, I wore my rainbow tie-dye onesie.  February, I was wearing a long-sleeve tie-dye t-shirt that I got on Amazon.  March, I’m wearing my “Eat Your Greens” shirt that’s tie-dye with the broccoli on it.  April, I’m wearing a different rainbow tie-dye that Elyse found.  May, I’m wearing “Eat Your Greens” again.  June, I’m wearing one that Elyse made for me last year.  July, I’m wearing a red, white, and blue one that I bought because it’s patriotic colors for the Fourth of July.  August, I’m wearing a short-sleeve version of the February shirt, from the same vendor.  September, I’m wearing something that I bought from Ross.  October, I’m wearing the February shirt again.  November, I’m wearing the July shirt again.  And then for December, I knew I had to do something fabulous, so I went on Etsy looking for a Christmas-themed tie-dye shirt, and found one.  Here’s another photo of me in it that Elyse took on the same day.  At least you can’t accuse me of not looking festive.

Then for what it’s worth, I also have a SpongeBob SquarePants tie-dye that I wore for Elyse’s birthday that I never ran as the splash.  Here’s what that looks like:

Wearing a SpongeBob SquarePants tie-dye shirt

I guess you could say that I like tie-dye.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, Mr. Krabs is my favorite character on SpongeBob SquarePants (unless it’s Squidward when he is buying cigarettes).

In any case, this was not something that I had planned for 2021 from the outset, but then once I started with it, I decided to keep it up.  January was “hey, I need a quick splash photo”, and decided to go with the onesie.  Then after I did tie-dye again in February, I decided to carry it through the year.  This tie-dye pattern also ensured that I wouldn’t skip a month and either not update it at all, or run a vintage photo (I usually have one or two misses a year).  I have no childhood photos of myself in tie-dye, and skipping a month entirely would ruin the pattern.  The pattern, however, ends with December.  I have already prepared my splash photo for January, and I am wearing a dark blue shirt that says “Count the Vote”.  That was deliberate, in order to keep it contained to one calendar year, and definitively break the pattern.

All in all, this was a fun little experiment, and I’m glad that I was able to carry it through the entire year.  I might have to try something like this again some time.

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Clearly, I know how to break a drone… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/24/clearly-i-know-how-to-break-a-drone/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/24/clearly-i-know-how-to-break-a-drone/#respond Wed, 24 Nov 2021 19:54:32 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41860 I haven’t mentioned it on here yet because it’s discussed in an upcoming photo set, but I got a new drone last month while I was on my trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  My DJI Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade and crashed nearly 400 feet up in the air while I was photographing a shopping mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  I was positioning the drone for my first shots of the mall, and then I noticed a “motor error” message and saw some uncommanded rotation.  Then I saw the view start to tumble, and the connection with the remote dropped.  I was soon able to reestablish contact, and found the drone on the ground, laying on its back in the grass about 500 feet away.  Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up:

The drone after falling from the sky

It looked no worse for wear, minus the propeller blade, and the camera was dangling a little bit.  I quickly found why the camera was dangling:

The broken gimbal mount

Yep, that’ll do it.  Cracked right through the camera mount.  I suppose that’s what happens when something falls from nearly 400 feet up.

In any case, I tried to take it for a quick flight to see what would happen, and it skidded around an inch or so above the ground and stopped.  Clearly, it was done.  I ended up buying a better drone later that day, so I was back in business on that front, and then I could figure out what to do with the old drone later.  I ended up sending it to DJI for repair, and they sent me back their own photos:

Damage to the gimbal mount

Damage to the left front arm

That photo of the gimbal is consistent with what I observed after the crash.  Then I’m surprised that I missed the broken left front arm.  That would explain why it wouldn’t fly in Rocky Mount, and also why it failed some test flights that I attempted at home after I attached a spare propeller blade.

Clearly, I know how to break a drone.  I remember the last time I had a drone accident, I had a flyaway while flying in Atlantic City, and it blew four blocks down the street and landed on the roof of Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern.  I had to go back two weeks later to retrieve it after the restaurant got it down off of the roof for me.  In that case, I probably could have recovered and flown it back if I had more battery, but it did a forced landing, which is how it ended up at Angelo’s.  The left front arm again broke in that case:

Busted drone in Atlantic City

That was another trip to the repair shop right there.  Then there was my first accident, where I accidentally flew up into a tree (I thought I was clear, and wasn’t), which caused a motor stall and a crash landing:

Left rear motor is missing after a crash

In that case, I severed the left rear motor entirely, so that was the end of that.  The drone won’t do anything if it can’t communicate with all of its motors.  Woomy had something to say about the first crash:

"I don't like that!"
“I don’t like that!”

In every case, though, I sent it off to an authorized repair facility, and it came back good as new.  This will be no different, though, now that I have a second, better drone, this will be a secondary vehicle, which works out well enough, because Elyse wants to have one that she flies all her own, so she’ll be taking that for a spin from time to time.

Meanwhile, let me show you my new drone:

New drone on the ground

New drone in flight

I got a DJI Air 2S, which is the latest and greatest, and is their mid-range entry.  It’s bigger, faster, more powerful, and has a better camera than the Mini, but it’s not the professional-grade line, the Mavic Pro.  I figure that this will serve me well for a while, as it suits me better than the original, and I think it will go with me where I want to take it (I would frequently hit limits on the Mini because it’s a relatively low-end drone).  You may not have realized it, but the photo of the James River Bridge that ran on the front of the site a few weeks ago was taken with the new drone during its second flight.  I’ve already gotten a bunch of stuff with the new drone in the month that I’ve had it, and I have more stuff planned in the coming weeks.

And hopefully I don’t kill this one the way that I’ve killed the Mini.  This one, however, has obstacle detection, which would help with an incident like happened with the tree, and the propeller blades attach differently than the Mini’s, which should prevent it from throwing a blade mid-flight.  As far as the crash in Atlantic City goes, I’m now a little more conservative about weather conditions, and I bring it back in on the first low-battery warning so as to prevent forced landings.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for that North Carolina/Hampton Roads photo set, which will be out as soon as I finish it (but I don’t know when that will be just yet).

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What is the point where elected officials have killed their credibility? https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/18/what-is-the-point-where-elected-officials-have-killed-their-credibility/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/18/what-is-the-point-where-elected-officials-have-killed-their-credibility/#respond Thu, 18 Nov 2021 16:41:36 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41719 Starting Saturday, November 20, Montgomery County, Maryland implements mask mandate number three.  This is based on rules that the Montgomery County council, sitting as the Board of Health, determined in August and October, where seven consecutive days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (50-100 cases per 100,000 people), based on raw case counts, automatically triggers an indoor mask mandate, and seven consecutive days of “moderate” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people), again based on raw case counts, automatically rescinds an indoor mask mandate.  This continues until 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The result of this auto-on, auto-off policy has been a yo-yo effect, where it’s masks one week and no masks the next.

For some history on this, the Montgomery County government first implemented a mask mandate in April 2020, not long before the governor issued a statewide mask mandate.  That mandate was rescinded in May 2021 when everyone else did after the CDC said that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore.  When the county had reached a 50% vaccination rate, they abandoned their own COVID rules and began following the state’s guidance instead, which included no more masks and a full reopening of everything.  Then in August, after the CDC revised its guidance again, and the county council watched as case numbers went up, Montgomery County started implementing its own rules again separate from the state, and brought back the mask mandate.  The idea was that the mask mandate would last until there were seven consecutive days of “moderate” transmission, after which time it would automatically be rescinded.  This happened in late October, and the mask mandate was rescinded effective Thursday, October 28.

Right after this is where they started to shoot their credibility, and it demonstrates what is wrong with looking at raw case numbers as a metric for determining public policy.  On October 30, two days after the mandate was rescinded, they were already talking about reinstating the mask mandate, as they soon returned to “substantial” transmission territory, and announced a return to masks less than a week after they were rescinded, to be effective on Wednesday, November 3 (i.e. six days from rescission to reimplementation).

Shortly after this announcement, someone on the Montgomery County subreddit posted this meme, based on the TV drama Squid Game, which described the situation pretty well:

MASK ON MASK OFF, based on "Squid Game"

And much to my surprise, it actually got upvotes, unlike most previous posts there that took a dim view of measures taken ostensibly to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which get downvoted to oblivion very quickly.

In any case, the county soon changed its rules for reinstatement of masks, which was something of a mixed bag.  It averted an immediate reinstatement, but we weren’t out of the woods by any means.  Now, it required seven days of “substantial” transmission, and masks would automatically be reinstated.  That seven-day threshold was reached this week, and the county announced that masks were back in force as of Saturday, November 20.  For those keeping track, that meant that the mask mandate was rescinded for only 23 days, or a little more than three weeks.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s ridiculous.  First of all, I find masks as a mitigation measure for regular use by the general public to be a step too far.  I said this about it back in May:

The problem with masks and the way that they were presented, and why everyone was being made to wear one was that, as the narrative went, we were not wearing them to protect ourselves.  We were allegedly wearing them to protect everyone else from us, and it does nothing at all for the wearer except fog up their glasses.  In other words, we were being asked to literally save the world by wearing a mask.  I considered that a ridiculous ask, especially if we were already supposed to social distance (if the virus allegedly can’t travel more than six feet in the first place, what’s the point of wearing a mask?).  That also meant that it failed the “What’s in this for me?” test.  If my mask doesn’t do anything to protect me, and my own protection requires the full compliance of every single other person in the world to be effective, then I don’t get any benefit from this, and I’m also not doing this out of a feeling of selflessness.

In other words, masks, as implemented, are security theater and nothing more, serving as something of a protective talisman for a certain subset of the population.  I take a very dim view of security theater, whether it’s to fight terrorism or prevent the spread of a virus.  Especially so when the county government has now become a one-trick pony when it comes to alleged mitigation measures, and masks are that one trick.  It’s like they say: if the only tool you have is a hammer, you will start treating all of your problems like a nail.  Any time that they feel like they need to show that they’re doing something when it comes to COVID, they haul out the masks, and put the pandemic right in your face, as well as on your face.  Masks have become the end-all for alleged protection, as people have shown that they won’t stand for any of the other measures that have been taken.  Social distancing is over.  Lockdowns and closures are over.  One-way traffic is over.  Masks are the only thing that they have left, and they’re holding onto it for dear life.

I also don’t like the way that this is all based on raw case numbers.  According to the way that the vaccines are being described, you can still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated, but it makes it much milder, i.e. you are unlikely to have serious complications, and it’s reduced to something akin to the common cold, if that.  In other words, these folks are not putting any additional burden on the healthcare system or anything.  They get it, they recover on their own, and then they’re over it, just like the flu.  There will never be zero COVID.  It’s never going away, and has become endemic, just like the flu.  We don’t hang onto individual flu cases and try to adjust everyone’s behavior every year come flu season, and this should be no different.

Even more infuriating, though, is that based on the way that the Montgomery County government has structured these rules about when changes in the mask mandates are triggered, it’s hard not to view this as a form of collective punishment.  The way the idea goes is that if we all behave ourselves and don’t spread the Ronies, we’ll be allowed take our masks off.  However, if we don’t behave ourselves and the Ronies get spread around, they’ll make us wear masks again because we’ve been bad.  And the punishment will continue until 85% of the total population is fully vaccinated, which not only includes people who refuse to get vaccinated, but also people who have legitimate medical reasons not to get vaccinated, and people who are ineligible to be vaccinated.  I really resent that, because I have done everything that I was supposed to do.  I got my vaccine series early, and I’m getting my booster shot next month.  Any obligations that I may have been considered to have had over COVID were fulfilled when I completed the series of vaccines back in March and became fully vaccinated.  There is nothing else that I can do to prevent the spread of COVID.  To ask anything more of me insinuates that the vaccines that I got didn’t make a difference.  It really reminds me of the way the teachers in my elementary school used to handle this little traffic light device that monitored noise levels in the cafeteria.  Green meant noise levels were at an acceptable level.  Yellow meant that they were higher, but still okay.  Red meant that noise levels were too high, and the device would sound a loud alarm.  We would then be told that there was to be no talking until the device went all the way back to green.  Then when it was time to put away our trays, the sound of all of the shuffling, as well as the dishwashing equipment’s starting up, would be enough to reach the red threshold and keep it there.  Thus the device’s alarm would sound continuously, and the teachers would scream, “No talking until it goes all the way back to green!” at us, even though it was something that happened every day when it was time to leave the cafeteria.  Collective punishment for things that we had no control over.  And the teachers wondered why we didn’t take them seriously when it came to behavior matters.

As far as people who refuse to get vaccinated, meaning people who are eligible to be vaccinated and have no legitimate medical reason not to, i.e. that they just don’t want to, my stance on them is simple.  As a fully vaccinated individual, I’m not worried about them, because they don’t really affect me.  I have my Rona shield, and it is well-tuned.  I disagree with their decision not to vaccinate, but it’s ultimately their decision, even if that decision is not a good one.  I don’t vilify them, nor do I view them as an enemy or an “other”.  I also don’t particularly want to know whether someone is vaccinated or not, i.e. I’m not going to ask, and also would rather they not volunteer such information, because it’s none of my business.  As far as I’m concerned, if they chose not to vaccinate, then they made their own bed and they have to lie in it, and if they get sick and die from a vaccine-preventable illness, it was their decision.  If they can’t be bothered to take the first step to help themselves, I can’t be bothered to care when they suffer the consequences of that decision.  I am also not willing to change my own lifestyle by wearing masks all the time in order to accommodate their poor decisions (because I did the right thing and got vaccinated), and I especially don’t want to hear about how much regret they have that they didn’t get vaccinated earlier now that they’re at death’s door.  Remember, it was their decision not to vaccinate.  And last I checked, should they expire, there is an historic French cemetery out in West Virginia that will be happy to take them.

I do, however, take great issue with the county council and the county executive, because they’re the ones making my life more difficult, rather than the people who didn’t get vaccinated.  My obligations regarding COVID are completed in full.  I did my part, so leave me alone.  As far as the county government is concerned, there needs to be political consequences for their continued meddling.  County executive Marc Elrich and all of the members of the county council that are not already on their way out need to be voted out come next year.  They have all earned a vote of no confidence from me, and they need to pay for this with their political careers.  I don’t have much faith that this will happen, though, considering the broken electoral system that we have in MoCo, but one can at least hope.

In any case, once mask mandate number three goes into effect on Saturday, I’m going to resume doing what I was doing during the last MoCo mask mandate, and drive from my house straight out of Montgomery County without stopping until I get to a non-mask jurisdiction (like Frederick County or Virginia) in order to do all of my errands.  There is very little in Montgomery County that I can’t do somewhere else that isn’t going to require that I wear the face diaper.  I like to think that I respect myself more than to submit to all of the micromanagement and other disrespectful nonsense related to mask mandates, so I will take my money somewhere else where I don’t have to deal with all of the crap.  I suspect that I’m not the only person who does that, too.  Remember that come election time, MoCo business owners, because your government is absolutely driving business out of the county over masks.  That’s money out of your pockets because of mask requirements.

Fortunately, though, I am getting the sense that the whole yo-yo mask mandate rules have become a bridge too far for a lot of people in Montgomery County.  Not only with the aforementioned Squid Game meme that someone posted, but other comments on the Montgomery County subreddit have expressed frustration and a sense of I-have-had-enough.  Previously, the general consensus on the Montgomery County subreddit was that they loved lockdowns, masks, and other weird pandemic rules and restrictions.  I used to remark that the people were like, “Lock me down, daddy!  Lock me down hard!  That’s right, zero COVID, harder, daddy!” as they begged the county government for more and more ridiculous security theater over this, but I feel like the tide is now turning.  I was always pretty consistent in my stance on the pandemic, and for the better part of a year and a half, my comments were getting downvoted to oblivion.  I was actually consistent enough in my stances that people would see those kinds of comments and recognize my username, and would act surprised when they actually agreed with me on something.  Now, it’s improved, as I’m getting upvotes on my comments about masks and various other security theater, because people are starting to come around.  Here’s some of what I’ve seen in the Reddit thread about the third mask mandate:

Newsflash: the vast majority of unvaccinated people would agree with you, are fully cognizant of the risks they assume, and just want to be left alone.  Now if only we could all ally against these government busibodies making shitty decisions with no basis in reality.

Why do we even care about case numbers anymore?  Everyone over the age of 12 has had more than enough opportunity to get the shot if they want it, and the 5-11s are getting vaccinated now.  If you’re vaccinated, it’s no worse than the flu.  And for the younger ones, it’s no worse than the flu even without being vaccinated.  The hospitals are nowhere close to being overwhelmed.  Open everything up and let this thing run its course.  I’m tired of protecting people who either don’t need protecting or don’t care enough to protect themselves.

When does this nonsense end?  At some point, are we going to return to our personal-choice lives??

Remember the last vaccine benchmark?  50% fully vaccinated and we do whatever the state does?  That was a lie.

Its never going to end.  Everyone is going to catch this eventually.  Everything we do is just kicking the can down the road.

At least based on these comments, it’s starting to sound like I might have been right all along.  After more than a year and a half of pandemic-related rules, people are done with it – even in Montgomery County.  And this third mandate really is Montgomery County’s just being a stick in the mud, too.  DC just got rid of its second mask mandate as Montgomery County was implementing its third, and you don’t have to go very far away from the county to find a minimal amount of masks out in the wild.  When Elyse and I recently went down to North Carolina, I could count the number of masked individuals on my hands.  Similarly, when we went up to Harrisburg last week, almost nobody was wearing masks.  In both instances, only the people that felt like masks were necessary did, i.e. everyone wearing a mask was doing so by choice, and the people that didn’t think it was necessary were going without.  In both instances, people were not dying in the streets on account of most of the population’s going maskless.  I don’t even have to go as far as Harrisburg to see a mostly maskless population, either.  Hardly anyone wears masks in neighboring Frederick County, and they’re doing just fine.  Montgomery County needs to get with it already and cut the nonsense, and move on from the pandemic – especially when the county executive can’t even be bothered to follow his own mandate, which speaks volumes about what he really thinks about all of this.

All I know is that the county council and the county executive have killed practically all of their credibility over this.  The relationship between elected officials and constituents has been damaged, and I have been given no reason to take them seriously over anything anymore.  And that’s not a good situation to be in, because no one benefits from that.

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The master at work… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/14/the-master-at-work/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/14/the-master-at-work/#respond Mon, 15 Nov 2021 01:52:02 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41262 Most of the time, when I’m doing photography, I only get to see the end result, which typically ends up on my Flickr page, along with other places.  It’s far less common for me to see candid shots of myself, just because I’m usually the one doing all of the photographing.  But when you go on a trip that is explicitly photography-oriented, and when everyone is shooting, I end up seeing some candid shots of myself.  Recently, from October 15-21, Elyse and I went on a trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads, where we photographed a lot of stuff, some familiar, and some less familiar.  The parts of North Carolina that we visited were almost entirely new territory for both of us, while Hampton Roads was a more familiar setting.  In North Carolina, we got together with my friend Patrick, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and had a quick meetup with another friend who formerly lived in the DC area.  Then in Hampton Roads, we spent time with Aaron and Evan Stone.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the trip itself right now, because I’m working on a much larger photo set about the adventure for the Life and Times section, so for all of the details, stay tuned, but it will be a while before it releases, because it’s going to be a big one.  In any case, some of these shots are posed, but a lot of them are candid.  If it tells you anything, when Elyse and I were reviewing them on the big screen in the living room, we put on “Yakety Sax” and laughed a lot.

In any case, here they are.  These shots were all taken by Elyse, unless otherwise noted.

Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there's Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.
Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there’s Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.

This is the first of a series of four photos that we took while photographing a center-pivot irrigation rig on display in Calypso, North Carolina.  If I recall, the prompt from Elyse was to "do something cute".
This is the first of a series of four photos that we took while photographing a center-pivot irrigation rig on display in Calypso, North Carolina.  If I recall, the prompt from Elyse was to “do something cute”.

A second pose, after determining that the first one was not cute enough.
A second pose, after determining that the first one was not cute enough.

Pose #3, going with the arms-up approach.
Pose #3, going with the arms-up approach.

Hands folded above the camera this time.  I think I ran out of ideas for poses by this point.
Hands folded above the camera this time.  I think I ran out of ideas for poses by this point.

Being a roadgeek with a "Future I-42" sign on US 70 the way to New Bern.  This was my first time seeing a "Future" sign in person.
Being a roadgeek with a “Future I-42” sign on US 70 the way to New Bern.  This was my first time seeing a “Future” sign in person.

Posing for a photo with David and Woomy in downtown New Bern.
Posing for a photo with David and Woomy in downtown New Bern.  An alternate shot with only Woomy appeared as the November splash photo.

In the HR-V, holding up the "Birthplace of Pepsi" shirt that we got in New Bern.
In the HR-V, holding up the “Birthplace of Pepsi” shirt that we got in New Bern.

Sitting on a couch in a New Bern hotel waiting for Elyse to film the elevator, and photographed before I noticed that she was there, looking rather concerned about whatever was on my phone.
Sitting on a couch in a New Bern hotel waiting for Elyse to film the elevator, and photographed before I noticed that she was there, looking rather concerned about whatever was on my phone.

Looking over the glasses at something at a carnival that we happened upon in New Bern.
Looking over the glasses at something at a carnival that we happened upon in New Bern.

Sitting on an old Ford tractor at a peanut place in Capron, Virginia along US 58 on the way to Hampton Roads.
Sitting on an old Ford tractor at a peanut place in Capron, Virginia, along US 58 on the way to Hampton Roads.

Evan got a photo of me in the room at the hotel in Newport News, offloading files from the day's photography.  I suppose that it's a reminder that for all of the time I spend in the field, I spend even more time working at my desk preparing stuff for publication.
Evan got a photo of me in the room at the hotel in Newport News, offloading files from the day’s photography.  I suppose that it’s a reminder that for all of the time I spend in the field, I spend even more time working at my desk preparing stuff for publication.

Aaron got a photo of me waving hello after getting a photo of a vintage sign in Newport News.
Aaron got a photo of me waving hello after getting a photo of a vintage sign in Newport News.

A photo of me lining up a shot of the sign outside of an office building.
A photo of me lining up a shot of the sign outside of an office building.

Sticking my tongue out in a display at Nauticus in downtown Norfolk.
Sticking my tongue out in a display at Nauticus in downtown Norfolk.

Touring the USS Wisconsin, and taking photos.  This is apparently how I look when I take photos: hat on, eye to viewfinder, mouth open, and neck skin hanging down like a turkey.  Remind me to thank Evan for this oh-so-flattering shot.
Touring the USS Wisconsin, and taking photos.  This is apparently how I look when I take photos: hat on, eye to viewfinder, mouth open, and neck skin hanging down like a turkey.  Remind me to thank Evan for this oh-so-flattering shot.

Walking down the deck of the Wisconsin.
Walking down the deck of the Wisconsin.

Mirror selfie!
Mirror selfie!

Navigating a narrow, steep stair between decks on the Wisconsin.
Navigating a narrow, steep stair between decks on the Wisconsin.

All smiles in a bunk room.
All smiles in a bunk room.

Taking a photo of a room through a slot in the door.
Taking a photo of a room through a slot in the door.

Looking all, "Oh, hey," as I come down a stair.
Looking all, “Oh, hey,” as I come down a stair.

Taking a photo with my phone.  Note that even with the different camera, the mouth is still hanging open.
Taking a photo with my phone.  Note that even with the different camera, the mouth is still hanging open.

Trying to find a comfortable position on the bunk in the Wisconsin's brig.  It's pretty hard to find a comfortable position on a bare steel bunk, but I suppose that the position in the bottom shot was the closest that I could get.

Trying to find a comfortable position on the bunk in the Wisconsin's brig.  It's pretty hard to find a comfortable position on a bare steel bunk, but I suppose that the position in the bottom shot was the closest that I could get.
Trying to find a comfortable position on the bunk in the Wisconsin‘s brig.  It’s pretty hard to find a comfortable position on a bare steel bunk, but I suppose that the position in the bottom shot was the closest that I could get.

Evan caught me photographing an older Honeywell fire alarm pull station in an office building in downtown Hampton.
Evan caught me photographing an older Honeywell fire alarm pull station in an office building in downtown Hampton.

Standing on a dock in Hampton with mouth wide open, as observed by Aaron.  I must be mentally lining up a shot, if my jaw is hanging down like that and that big turkey fold is all prominent, I suppose.
Standing on a dock in Hampton with mouth wide open, as observed by Aaron.  I must be mentally lining up a shot, if my jaw is hanging down like that and that big turkey fold is all prominent, I suppose.

Elyse and I make angry (or at least annoyed) faces in front of the corn sign at a Wegmans in Virginia Beach.  This is in keeping with an Internet meme where you're supposed to leave an "angry" reaction on photos of corn on social media.  Yes, it's dumb, but it's funny.
Elyse and I make angry (or at least annoyed) faces in front of the corn sign at a Wegmans in Virginia Beach.  This is in keeping with an Internet meme where you’re supposed to leave an “angry” reaction on photos of corn on social media.  Yes, it’s dumb, but it’s funny.

Evan got this shot of me photographing a discarded slice of pizza outside of a building in Virginia Beach.
Evan got this shot of me photographing a discarded slice of pizza outside of a building in Virginia Beach.

Elyse got another shot of me with the pizza slice.  What I'm doing here is taking a photo with my phone, primarily to mark the location for future reference.  While my Nikon does have built-in GPS and I tend to keep the feature turned on, I consider the Nikon's GPS to be less reliable than my phone.
Elyse got another shot of me with the pizza slice.  What I’m doing here is taking a photo with my phone, primarily to mark the location for future reference.  While my Nikon does have built-in GPS and I tend to keep the feature turned on, I consider the Nikon’s GPS to be less reliable than my phone.

Evan got a photo of me Slav-squatting while photographing an Arby's sign in Virginia Beach.
Evan got a photo of me Slav-squatting while photographing an Arby’s sign in Virginia Beach.


Going down the slide on the playground at Mount Trashmore Park in Virginia Beach.  And for those wondering, “absolute block” is a railroad term where only one train is allowed to occupy a defined section of track at a time.  In this case, I’m using the term as a way to verify that the slide is clear, and that nobody is going to come behind me until I’m clear.

Looking at the drone remote while sitting on a bench on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, with a somewhat perturbed look on my face.
Looking at the drone remote while sitting on a bench on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, with a somewhat perturbed look on my face.

So there you have it, I suppose.  The master at work.  These photos amused me, because it’s so rare that I get to see good candid photos of myself,  and Elyse, Aaron, and Evan came out in spades.  And then, like I said earlier, the full photo set related to this trip will come out later on, but there’s still a lot of work to do to complete it (so don’t look for it any time soon).

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Virginia governor’s race? Not at all surprised… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/03/virginia-governors-race-not-at-all-surprised/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/11/03/virginia-governors-race-not-at-all-surprised/#respond Wed, 03 Nov 2021 20:17:32 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41449 On the evening of November 3, I, like so many others, checked in on the various news websites to learn that Republican Glenn Youngkin had defeated Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.  I saw this result, and I was like… meh.  The pundits all said it would be close, and the results seem to bear that out, with Youngkin’s winning with 50.9%, McAuliffe’s coming in with 48.4%, with Princess Blanding, who was running on a “Liberation” ticket, taking the remaining 0.7%.  In any event, it seems like Youngkin did his homework and pulled it out.  It seemed like he had the better campaign overall, while McAuliffe tended to run on, “Hey, remember me?  I’m not Donald Trump.  I was also your governor back in 2014, and I’d love to have another go at it!”  In other words, while McAuliffe may have done his homework in 2013 and come out on top, the same can’t really be said for 2021.  I also did quite a bit of traveling through various areas of Virginia during the last few months of the campaign, and I saw way more campaign signs for Youngkin in my travels than I did McAuliffe signs, to the point where seeing a McAuliffe sign in my travels was noteworthy.

Terry McAuliffe’s win in 2013 was unusual because it broke the pattern of Virginia’s voting opposite of the president’s party.  Virginia, along with New Jersey, votes for its governor in what is called an “off-year election“, the year after the presidential election.  Since Barack Obama had been reelected president in 2012, by the usual Virginia pattern, Republican Ken Cuccinelli should have won.  I would suggest that people just didn’t want to vote for someone like Cuccinelli, because based on the public statements that I’d heard him make as attorney general, I had long come to the conclusion that he was nuts.

In any case, the pattern is well-established.  Looking through the list of governors of Virginia, the trend of voting opposite the president has been the case since 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  That followed two other Republican governors that were elected following Nixon victories in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which followed 80 straight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.  Following Dalton’s tenure, there were three more Democratic governors, which corresponded with the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  Then there were two more Republicans that corresponded with the Clinton presidency, and then two more Democrats that corresponded with the George W. Bush presidency.  The pattern then continued in 2009 with a Republican for Obama’s first term, and then McAuliffe broke the pattern in 2013 during Obama’s second term.  After that, the governorship fell right back into the pattern, with a Democrat’s being elected in 2017 while Republican Donald Trump was in the White House.  And now the pattern continues, with a Democratic president in Joe Biden, and a Republican governor’s being elected in Virginia.

So if you’re keeping track, the trend has held for eleven out of the last twelve Virginia gubernatorial elections, going back 44 years.

This is why it always amuses me whenever the mass media makes a big deal out of the Virginia gubernatorial election, and tries to draw conclusions about national politics based on it.  Virginia’s gubernatorial elections are quite predictable.  Look at what party holds the White House, and then you can reasonably predict that Virginia will vote the opposite.  I remember that the media made a big deal about the 2001 election’s being something of a referendum on then-president George W. Bush’s performance in office, coming just under ten months into his term.  A Democrat’s being elected in Virginia was supposed to be doom and gloom for the Republicans because Virginia is such an important bellwether for the performance of national politics and blah blah blah blah blah, whatever.  In the end, Democrat Mark Warner won by a comfortable margin, which fit the pattern that Virginia had been following for more than two decades at that point, voting opposite of the president’s party for governor.  Then the following year, Republicans made gains in both houses of Congress (which itself is unusual, because the president’s party typically loses seats in the midterms), and in 2004, Bush was reelected, and Republicans made even more gains in both houses of Congress.  In Virginia specifically, the Republicans gained a seat in 2002 due to a sitting congressman’s changing parties, and the state went Republican in the 2004 presidential election.  So much for that failing grade that Virginia allegedly gave Bush and the GOP.  But then Virginia elected another Democrat for governor in 2005 with Tim Kaine, with Bush in office for a second term as president, i.e. it fit the pattern.

The problem with this sort of take is that it assumes that all politics is national, and that national issues are the only thing that people are concerned about when candidates run for office, completely ignoring any local issues that don’t have national relevance that may play an important role in the campaign.  I suppose that for the media, which runs the same programming nationwide, this is quite convenient, because it allows them to tie coverage of a state election to something that is at least somewhat relevant to their entire viewing audience.  Without that, there’s nothing that would make a person in Minnesota all that concerned about what’s going on in a state election in Virginia.  Though it almost makes it seem like a novel concept that the issues in a state or local election would be different than ones that are hashed out in national politics, and that different jurisdictions have different issues that are unique to them.  But in any case, when you have a long and fairly predictable pattern like that, it makes drawing national implications from a state election a bit disingenuous at best.  Virginia did exactly what it has done in most of the other elections, and voted opposite of the president’s party.

That sort of pattern of voting opposite of the president’s party is what makes McAuliffe’s 2013 win against Cuccinelli so notable, because it broke the pattern.  It really left a lot of people, including myself, wondering whether this was a shift in Virginia’s politics, with a Democrat in the White House and a Democrat’s subsequently being elected to the governorship.  I remember when Ralph Northam was elected in 2017 to succeed McAuliffe, that people were so excited that the Democrats won in Virginia once again.  I was less impressed by Northam’s win than I was with McAuliffe’s win, specifically because while McAuliffe’s win in 2013 broke the pattern, Northam’s win in 2017 fell right back into the pattern, and so I was like, “Oh, Virginia’s back to its usual thing.”  Similarly, if McAuliffe had won yesterday, that would have been just as notable as his 2013 victory was because it would have broken the pattern once again (it also would have been only the second time that a Virginia governor served a second term), and might have signaled a sea change in Virginia politics, especially after Virginia had gone Democratic in the last four presidential elections (and it was placed in the Democratic column very early in 2020 without much discussion), and that Democrats had swept the general assembly in 2019.  With McAuliffe’s loss in 2021, the pattern is maintained.  The loss makes the election less notable than it would have been if he had won, because it fit the pattern.  Virginia has shown that it’s a pretty predictable state, at least as far as gubernatorial elections go, and McAuliffe’s 2013 win has now been cemented as a blip rather than as the beginning of a sea change.

However, I do wonder how things might go if Virginia actually allowed governors to serve consecutive terms like every other state does.  My understanding is that while not allowing governors to serve consecutive terms was once more common, Virginia is now the lone holdout in not allowing this.  A Virginia governor is out after four years regardless of how they perform in office, and there is a whole new crop of fresh faces for the next election cycle.  It makes the governorship of Virginia into a job that you hold solely to get experience in order to get a better job, since it’s limited to a single term.  Good examples of this are Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who both used the governorship as a way to raise their profiles and get some experience under their belt, and then they each subsequently ran for and won seats in the US Senate.  Mark Warner exemplifies this in particular, because he had run for Senate with no previous government experience in 1996, and lost to incumbent Senator John Warner (no relation).  Mark Warner then ran for governor in 2001 and won, and then after serving four years as governor, he ran for the same Senate seat again in 2008 after John Warner had announced his retirement, and he won.  He’s been in that seat ever since.  Similarly, Tim Kaine was governor from 2006 to 2010, and then ran for Senate and won after incumbent Jim Webb declined to run for reelection.  McAuliffe was unusual for taking a second go at the governorship rather than getting a better job after leaving office.  I was willing to forgive him for that, though, because there was really nowhere else for him to go.  He had declined to seek a position in the Biden administration (which I think would have probably been a good place for him), and the Senate would not be up for election again until 2024, when Kaine’s seat will be up again.  I also feel that his seeking a seat in Congress would be a step down from the governorship, because it’s district-based rather than statewide in scope.  I wonder whether McAuliffe would have won if he had been able to run for reelection as a sitting governor, rather than being required to sit out four years before going back.  I’ll bet he would have won, as my recollection is that he was a relatively popular governor while in office, and probably would have benefited greatly from running on his own record.  After having sat out for four years as required in the state constitution, his record in office became less relevant, as a lot of things had happened and a lot of things had changed in those four years, and what was relevant back then isn’t necessarily relevant anymore.  In other words, he may have been the right person for the job in 2013, but that didn’t mean that he was still the right person for the job in 2021.

All in all, I suppose that in so many ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Sure, there are some blips along the way, but the pattern still, for the most part, holds.

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Let me play a sad song for you on the world’s smallest violin… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/29/let-me-play-a-sad-song-for-you-on-the-worlds-smallest-violin/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/29/let-me-play-a-sad-song-for-you-on-the-worlds-smallest-violin/#respond Fri, 29 Oct 2021 13:36:59 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=41316 Do you remember about a month or so ago, when I made that Journal entry about Jeremy Jones, the guy who used several of my photos in an infringing manner, and lost his Twitter account for it?  He recently came back to badger me via Messenger one more time, and this time, unlike the silence that I had been giving him after my first response where I said that the matter was already resolved, I let him have it.  I told him that his losing his Twitter account is not my problem, that calling my parents in search of me was completely out of line, and I included the link to the earlier Journal entry.

I got a rather long-winded response to that message, and the sense that I got was that he had no real argument, and this was mostly an attempt to verbally lick his wounds in order to make himself feel better after being told in a definitive manner that I wasn’t playing:

Hey Ben,

Appreciate the response.  I respect your decision, didn’t really know that you felt that way but I understand now.  If you’re open to it, I’d like to explain how I feel about this situation now.

I think in the future you should try to be more compassionate and really understand what’s going on before writing me off because the way that you describe some of these things in the article are simply not true.  For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.  On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.  Secondly, it does mean this much to me.. it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.  I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.  I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.  Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.  But that’s neither here no there, I respect your decision and I will no longer contact you.  Thanks for your time.

After this, I blocked him on Messenger, since there’s really nothing else that needs to be said on his part, so there’s no point in giving him the forum.  In any case, what I took from this response was that he was confirming that I was right in viewing him the way that I did, and that it would have probably been better for him to have remained silent and been thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  I also got the sense that he was trying to excuse his own behavior, and project his upset over his poor practices that led to his losing his Twitter account onto me, and thus trying to make what was a problem of his own doing into mine.  Sounds like someone who wants to be treated like an adult, but then when someone actually treats them like an adult, they don’t like it, and start kicking and screaming over it.  I see it over and over and over again.

One of the ways that he tried to excuse his behavior was when he said, “For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.”  My question is, whose responsibility is it to ensure that one’s email address is correct on a social media account?  Answer is, it’s the owner of the account that is responsible for such things.  So if Jones did not maintain a current email address on file with Twitter, of course, he would not have gotten the communications about his various copyright strikes.  If he had kept his email address up to date like he should have done all along, he would have received immediate notification of the infringements as they happened, and he would have been able to take corrective action before it got to the point of his account’s being suspended.  But he chose not to keep the email that he had on file up to date, so he remained in the dark until it was too late.  He also said, “it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.”  Again, if he had kept his email address up to date with Twitter, he would have gotten all of that information as it happened, but since he didn’t do that, I can’t help him with that.  I was surprised that he was able to get my email address out of Lumen, though.  I’ve gone in there to see what turns up, and I can’t even get my email address out of it.

Then there’s the part where he said, “On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.”  There is one bit of truth in all of this: it is indeed 100% his fault for not knowing that it’s not okay to use images that you don’t have permission to use.  The principle of Ignorantia juris non excusat, which roughly translates to, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” applies here.  Likewise, it is your own responsibility to ensure that you are completely following the rules that the copyright holder has set regarding downstream usage, whether that is Creative Commons or otherwise (they were all Creative Commons in his case).  Recall that the death metal band Barbiturate spent good money, ostensibly to promote their band, on a designer who used a photo that they did not have the rights to use, and then the band subsequently lost the photo because they didn’t follow the license.  If it tells you anything, that photo, as modified for Barbiturate, has now been on Schumin Web as a testament to their lack of due diligence for far longer than it ever was in service for them to promote their band.  The same applies for Jones’ use of my photos.  If you take the time to do your homework and follow the terms as provided, you will be fine.

I’m also amused about the idea that he used my photos because they were a great way to represent what they were posting about.  He said, “I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.”  It’s as if he’s doing me a favor or something by stealing my photos?  If they’re so great, then do the right thing and follow the terms of the license as provided, or, if that’s not satisfactory, negotiate your own with me.  And then he admitted that he was being irresponsible when he said, “I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.”  Yep.  That’s what he did, all right.

There’s also the allegation that I scoffed at his idea to pay for use of the photos.  There, he said, “Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.”  The best that I can come up with for that is this passage from the first post: “For a habitual offender like Jones, I had no reason to think that he wouldn’t go right back to stealing more photos and getting nailed again, so I wasn’t inclined to bail him out by any means.”  In any case, once someone has demonstrated that they’re willing to use content in an unauthorized manner like that, I’m not inclined to trust them too much.

It reminds me of a guy named Mike Chalmers, who ran a website called The West Virginia Independent Observer.  That was handled by Pixsy, and unfortunately, they were not able to bring that case to a successful resolution (it happens – you win some, you lose some).  What made Chalmers’ case stand out, though, was when he circumvented Pixsy and messaged me about it directly.  In his message, rather than take responsibility for the mistake as the entity who is ultimately in charge (i.e. the buck stops here), he blamed his intern, telling me that he fired the intern, and trying to explain it away to me by calling it, “It was a dumb mistake by a kid who now knows much better.”  No acceptance of responsibility.  And then he went on to say, “And if you’re so inclined, perhaps after the dust settles, we could do some work together.  I like your work and you’re relatively local and I often need specific shots for the stuff we cover.”  Um, about that.  I wouldn’t want to work for someone who won’t pay when they were already using my photo.  What gives me any reason to think that they would pay me anywhere near what I’m worth when (A) the reason that we knew who we each were in the first place was because of a copyright infringement case, and (B) when the guy refused to pay when he was caught?  Exactly – I’ve been given no reason to think that, especially when he tried to blame the intern rather than taking responsibility for it like an adult when it was his publication.

All in all, when it comes to Jeremy Jones, I hope that he learned his lesson, even if he refuses to admit as much.  But I have my doubts.  In any case, after reading that sob story of his, I’m inclined to play a sad song for him on the world’s smallest violin and then go on with things.  It’s not my responsibility to make sure that he learns how to respect copyrights, but if he doesn’t learn his lesson from this, he will get nailed over and over again.

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Regretting the shot not taken… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/14/regretting-the-shot-not-taken/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/14/regretting-the-shot-not-taken/#respond Fri, 15 Oct 2021 02:04:32 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=40983 Some of you may remember that a month or so ago, there was a large protest on Reddit about COVID misinformation, targeting a subreddit called /r/NoNewNormal.  The idea of the protest was that a number of subreddits “went private”, i.e. stopped accepting submissions, and vowed to stay that way until Reddit management did something about this subreddit, after Reddit management had previously stated that they were not going to intervene.  Ultimately, /r/NoNewNormal was banned, and as such, the subreddit and all of its contents were removed from the Internet, as if they had never existed.  I have mixed feelings about the whole affair, and I feel like I have a unique perspective on it, because I used to moderate the subreddit, and probably did the most in building it, and then once it caught on, it slowly morphed into something that it should never have been.

First of all, my own stance on the whole pandemic is no secret.  I wrote a very long Journal entry about it back in May.  In short, I said that vaccination is the only way out of this, and that we should have never fooled around with much of the fabric of society like we did.  We should never have had mandated masks, lockdowns, closures, plastic shields, social distancing, or any other weird new rules and restrictions.  And then when the vaccine became available, get it without delay.  That has been my stance more or less from the outset.  The entirety of “your part” in this is getting vaccinated.  Aside from that, nothing else matters, so leave me alone.  I took an exceptionally dim view of people who tried to justify all of these changes as a “new normal” like they expected this to remain a thing for the foreseeable future, as well as playing the “wE’rE iN a PaNdEmIc!1!1!” card as an excuse to be exceptionally rude and/or judgmental with other people who disagree with them.

At the same time, it initially felt like those of us who opposed all of these new rules, ostensibly to curb the spread of COVID-19, were fairly alone in our opinions.  The sense that I got was that most people were all in agreement on these measures, and that I was the odd man out.  Then I discovered the /r/LockdownSkepticism and /r/EndtheLockdowns subreddits.  These were people who thought more like me on these matters, i.e. that the lockdowns and related measures were security theater.  I later found /r/NoNewNormal, which was started a little bit after the other two, and I tended to participate in that subreddit most, as it had the post quality of /r/LockdownSkepticism, but unlike /r/LockdownSkepticism, it did not have a “gatekeeper” for posts.  I tend not to post in communities that have gatekeepers, because I don’t want to waste my time posting somewhere when there’s a chance that no one will ever see my post based on the whims of some anonymous approver.  If I go to the trouble of posting something, I want a guarantee that it gets seen.  In any case, /r/NoNewNormal fit that bill, with decent, open discussion and no gatekeeper.  It was described in its sidebar as, “The phrase ‘new normal’ is pretty creepy. Let’s talk about concerns with it, and what can be done to resist it.”  It was sort of a way to criticize the measures being taken, and also a place to get emotional support for what we were all going through from a sympathetic group of people.  In other words, it was built with good intentions.

Eventually, the sole moderator put out a request for additional moderators.  I moderate a number of subreddits covering various topics already, and because of that, I know my way around the Reddit moderator tools pretty well.  So I volunteered to help.  I quickly got the nod to help moderate, and ended up in the #2 moderator spot for /r/NoNewNormal.

At this point, it seems worthwhile to explain how Reddit handles subreddit moderators.  On Reddit, all moderators of a given subreddit are not equals.  Notwithstanding differences in permissions (there is an option to designate which tools a given moderator has access to), there is a pecking order based on seniority.  A moderator with full access can remove any other moderator that joined after them, or change the access levels of the same, but they cannot touch any moderator who joined before them.  Therefore, the moderator in the #1 spot of a subreddit (often the person who started the subreddit, but not always) essentially has god status, because no other moderator can touch them.  The only way that the top moderator leaves their role is if they step down voluntarily, or they are removed by Reddit management for any number of reasons, typically when they go inactive on the site as a whole, and another user requests to moderate the subreddit.  I’ve seen both things happen in my experience on the site, some more than others.  In any case, it creates a bit of an uneven power dynamic, because in an argument, if push comes to shove, the higher-ranking moderator can always just remove the lower-ranking moderator, or strip them of much of their access, even if they retain the title.  I’ve seen some moderators threaten that before, and that’s usually a sign that there are major problems within a subreddit, and that such a subreddit is nowhere that I want to be.  I was in the second spot on /r/NoNewNormal and had full access, so unless I really pissed off the top moderator, I was safe, and had the run of the place.  The other problem with the seniority-based system as it exists is that if a higher moderator is doing things contrary to what everyone has agreed on as far as running the subreddit goes or otherwise is causing harm, there is no way to rein them in because they outrank you.  All you can do in that case is ask nicely.  From an official standpoint, your choice is either to deal with it, or wash your hands of the situation by removing yourself as a moderator.

So with my being in a moderator spot on /r/NoNewNormal, I went to work setting up the subreddit in the way that I typically do for subreddits that I moderate.  I set all of the various options, and then I put some basic rules down.  In the case of /r/NoNewNormal, those were:

1) Scope of this subreddit: This subreddit discusses concerns regarding changes in society related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, described by some as a “new normal”, and resistance to same.

2) Treat all participants with respect: Please be civil in comments and posts, and treat all participants with respect.

3) Please flair your posts accordingly: Please flair your posts accordingly, if possible (not all posts will have a suitable flair).

The first two rules are pretty standard for subreddits that I moderate.  The first rule always defines the scope of the subreddit, i.e. what the subject matter is, with the intention of keeping the subreddit on topic, and having a rule to point to when off-topic posts are removed.  The second one is behavioral, i.e. don’t be a jerk.  This is typically the unspoken rule in all social spaces, but it nonetheless merits saying, if nothing else but to have a rule to point at when removing things for incivility.  That third rule, meanwhile, was specific to /r/NoNewNormal, because we used flair to categorize posts, and this was a reminder to place flair on one’s post.  I later added one more rule, concerning violence, after that became something of an issue:

3) No threats of violence: There is zero tolerance for threats of violence, or insinuation thereof.

That rule bumped the original #3 to #4, and it reiterates a Reddit sitewide rule, i.e. no violence on the site.  That codified what had been our practice for a while, of banning anyone on sight who had threatened or insinuated violence.  We were not going to have that at all.  We also extended that to wishing ill on people as situations warranted, such as when then-president Donald Trump got COVID-19, and it was all over the news, and that spilled into our subreddit.  For that, I got out in front of it, pinning a comment to the top of that post stating that anyone who wished death or other ill upon the president and/or his family was getting banned on sight.  I only ended up having to ban one person for that, which was fewer than I had expected.

When I moderate an online community, I tend to take a “light touch” stance when it comes to moderating.  I don’t like throwing my weight around as a moderator.  I am there as a participant first, and only put on the moderator hat when I need to.  And when I do have to put on the moderator hat, I tend to do it as quietly as possible.  I don’t like online social spaces where moderators will see anything potentially controversial and say something like, “Our admin team will be monitoring this post to make sure that it doesn’t get out of hand,” because that has a chilling effect on the running of the space.  I don’t like feeling like I’m being micromanaged.  I would bet that no one likes being micromanaged, especially in something being done for leisure, like social media.  I want people to feel like they are free to express themselves, even if it’s controversial, and that nobody is constantly looking over their shoulder and ready to swoop in and dirty delete their post should they say the “wrong” thing.  We’re all adults here, after all, and if you’re not mature enough to handle differing opinions, why are you in a social space with other people on the Internet in the first place?

In moderating /r/NoNewNormal, I was initially more or less running it alone.  The top moderator was there, but they really didn’t have the time or the skills to properly run a subreddit.  Like so many subreddit founders, they had an idea and started a subreddit about it, but then had no idea what it took to actually run a subreddit, and get overwhelmed when it starts to get actual participation.  I quickly came to realize that I couldn’t rely on them, so I was on my own, but since I had full permissions, I could do everything that I needed to do without having to go to them for assistance.  At first, I was moderating the subreddit like I do my others: check on it as part of my usual perusal of Reddit, approve posts, look at posts or comments that have been reported to moderators (i.e. someone’s feelings got hurt, and they’re reporting it to get even), and so on.  For the most part, that worked, but it started to take up more of my time as the subreddit grew, and it grew pretty rapidly.  The subreddit also got a fair amount of troll posts and other things that needed to be cleared out, as well as nasty messages through moderator mail, both unprovoked and in response to bans that had been handed out for trolling and other abuse (people just can’t help but to take a parting shot at the moderators once they’ve been banned).  I suppose that such is what happens when your subreddit is based around criticism of a current event that is impacting all of our lives, where it seems like everyone has a strong opinion about it, and it’s all very polarized.

Growth on /r/NoNewNormal occurred pretty quickly.  Clearly, lockdown opposition was a bigger thing than initially thought, and soon, like within the first month that I was moderator, it had become pretty clear that I couldn’t handle it all by myself.  Other users started to message me to that effect, that it looked like I was in over my head.  Considering all of that, I eventually realized that it was too much for one person to handle, and put out a call for new moderators.  If I recall, I asked for people who were relatively sane/reasonable based on their participation in the subreddit, preferably with previous moderation experience on other subreddits, and vetted people based on that.  In the end, I brought five new moderators on board.  With seven total moderators, we had things mostly under control.  I later had to remove one of them because they eventually went rogue and started posting things on behalf of all of the moderators that were not vetted by anyone, after we had specifically asked them to wait so that we could all have input on what was to have been a group statement.  If it tells you how far they had gone when they went rogue, we later had to ban this former moderator for a period of time because they were breaking subreddit rules.  We later added a few more moderators, which rounded out our team fairly well.

The content was a bit of a mixed bag.  We had a lot of good content in the early days, mostly about developments related to the pandemic response, and emotional support for the participants.  One of the biggest things on the emotional support side was a weekly chat thread.  I find those things to be of limited utility (I would prefer to make my own post rather than add a comment to a megathread), but people wanted it, and so I made it happen.  I put it on its own account, /u/NoNewNormalBot, so that way, if anything bad happened with the chat thread, it would not affect my main account.  Politically, the subreddit tended to lean a bit more right-wing than I was comfortable with (I am by no means a right-winger), but I could tolerate that because it was an open discussion, and opposition to lockdowns and other rules was supposed to transcend political lines, even though in practice, support for lockdowns and such tended to be stronger in more leftist circles, while the more right-leaning circles tended to oppose them.  I was in that weird, uncomfortable spot of being a leftist who opposed pandemic restrictions, and so I really felt like a man without a party.  However, I had much less patience for two specific kinds of posts: conspiracy theories, and talk about the subreddit’s potentially being banned.  As far as conspiracy theories and such went, the biggest thing that I had to deal with was posts regarding the so-called “Great Reset“, the name of which comes from the name of the 2020 meeting of the World Economic Forum.  However, the name was where the similarities ended, as people on /r/NoNewNormal took that to mean that some anonymous “they” had engineered the entire pandemic in order to achieve certain societal ends.  I dismissed it out of hand as downright nutty.  After all, the simplest explanation is usually the right one, and conspiracy theories are almost by definition not the simplest explanation.  I used to low-key remove those posts when I saw them because they made the group look crazy as a whole, since the entire idea that the whole thing was engineered was absurd on its face (why would anyone seriously want to do that?).  At one point, I put in a filter for the automoderator to remove anything containing the term “Great Reset” immediately upon detection, but another moderator removed that, and I didn’t press the point.  On the latter point, there was always discussion about alternative platforms for where to take the discussion after Reddit eventually banned the subreddit.  I took issue with that, finding it quite insulting.  After all, there I was, putting in a lot of effort to keep the subreddit well-maintained, for no thanks and no pay, and people were saying, without directly saying it, that all of my efforts at running a happy subreddit were in vain, and working to pull people away from the subreddit that we were running and onto a different platform.  I addressed it at one point, saying that if /r/NoNewNormal was banned, I wasn’t following whoever to some new platform.  Rather, I was just going to walk away from it, because I wasn’t about to join another platform when I just wanted to discuss things and get some emotional support of my own.  It wasn’t such a huge cause to me that I would be willing to move to another platform for something that might be considered “too hot for Reddit”.  There are times when that is worthwhile, but 99% of the time, deplatforming should be taken as a sign that it’s time to move on when your host will no longer have you.  To that end, I configured the automoderator to remove anything posted that contained the names of certain alternative platforms in order to combat these sorts of things, and unlike the conspiracy junk, other moderators did not low-key remove that.  If people wanted to start an equivalent board on a different platform, more power to them, but don’t junk up my subreddit by advertising for it.

I also was amazed at how many people genuinely hated /r/NoNewNormal.  The way I saw it, it was okay to disagree, and it was okay to engage the community to discuss the subject when you disagree in a polite and professional manner, but it was not okay to troll, send hate mail, or otherwise sabotage the community.  I appreciated when people would come and politely ask questions of the community when they were of a differing opinion.  It allowed for an exchange of ideas, and even though no one really expected anyone’s view to change based on an Internet discussion, it was still good discussion.  But we got a lot of bad actors in there as well, and that was no good.  People would deliberately troll the subreddit.  People would make deliberately provocative posts in an attempt to paint us all as a bunch of nutters.  They would also send hate mail to the moderators.  I never had death from disease wished upon me more often than when I moderated /r/NoNewNormal.  When we would remove the troll posts and ban the trolls, they would then take a parting shot at us through the moderator mail.  There were also lots of post and comment reports from people who solely disagreed with what was posted that we had to go through.  And the trolls would give a Reddit award called “Wearing is Caring“, which promoted wearing masks ostensibly to stop the spread of COVID-19, to posts and comments on the subreddit.  The subreddit was generally anti-mask, and so it was pretty clear that the giving of the “Wearing is Caring” award was intended as a way to troll.  We were removing that award all over the place.  Unfortunately, there was no way to ban a certain award from the subreddit, and so that was a continuous battle.  I suspect that removing the award was feeding the trolls, since it notified them when an award was removed, but what else could you do, I suppose.

Eventually, I started to tire of the subreddit.  The content had started to become less about emotional support and took a more extreme turn, which turned off a lot of our earlier participants.  There was a lot of anti-vaccination content being posted, which I strongly disagreed with.  The userbase had become more and more polarized in one particular direction, in a way that made me uncomfortable.  Additionally, dealing with the trolls, brigaders, and other bad actors was becoming a constant thing.  Spending time on /r/NoNewNormal was no longer fun for me.  It felt too much like thankless work and a lot of abuse that I wasn’t getting paid for.  It was clear that the community that I had helped build had gotten away from us and had become something that resembled the worst of Reddit more than the support community that it had started out as.  I found myself participating less and less, and more just sticking to moderation tasks on there without engaging much.  In short, /r/NoNewNormal was no longer fun for me.

By this time, I had also found another anti-lockdown subreddit called /r/LockdownCriticalLeft, which was more along the lines of what /r/NoNewNormal used to be, and seemed to attract a smarter crowd overall.  That subreddit was a breath of fresh air for me, because it met my own emotional support needs the way that /r/NoNewNormal formerly did, without being the cesspool of anti-intellectualism that /r/NoNewNormal later became.

The tipping point for me came on February 15, 2021.  That was the day that I went out to Dulles Town Center and got my first dose of the Pfizer (tozinameran/Comirnaty) vaccine.  The way I saw it, vaccines were always the only way out of this thing.  Get vaccinated against COVID-19, just like you would against any number of other diseases, in order to return to your old life.  There was no going back to your old life without getting vaccinated.  In other words, you could not have your cake and eat it, too.  For me, it was a no-brainer: get the vaccine.  You don’t want a “new normal”?  Then get vaccinated.  I’ve been vaccinated against plenty of things to no ill effect, and COVID was no exception as far as I was concerned.  As I see it, if I’m faced with the choice of being vaccinated against a disease or getting the disease itself, it was much easier and less messy to get the vaccine than to get the actual disease.  After I got home from the vaccine appointment, I made a post on /r/NoNewNormal announcing that I had gotten my first shot of the Pfizer vaccine, and I strongly encouraged everyone else to get vaccinated as soon as they were eligible in order to help bring the weird “new normal” that we had long opposed to an end.  I have zero sympathy for people who develop serious complications from diseases that are preventable by vaccination if they never got vaccinated against it, where the only reason that they eschewed the vaccine was because they didn’t want to do it, i.e. no legitimate medical reason not to.  In other words, you died because you were dumb.  In any case, I distinguished my post with the moderator flag, and I pinned it to the top of the subreddit, because I was absolutely serious about this.  Why did I do it that way?  To make sure that it got seen.  I knew what the subreddit had turned into.  I knew that it had morphed from a group mostly seeking emotional support through reasoned discussion into a bunch of degenerates who just wanted to sit around doing nothing with their fingers in their ears, but they absolutely needed to hear this, and without the special placement, it would quickly be downvoted to oblivion and not seen by many people because of the way that Reddit’s algorithms interact with post voting.  The backlash was forceful and immediate.  My post got the flaming to end all flamings, as I got called all sorts of lovely things, from a troll to a shill to a sellout to a fake.  Even my fellow moderators turned on me, making their own comments opposing my views and distancing themselves from me.  The top mod supported me to a limited extent, and asked me questions that would help me make my point.  I held my own under that scrutiny and gave some very good answers, but, of course, the degenerates would hear nothing of it, giving me downvotes in the triple digits on all of my statements.  But that was always my stance, that the nonpharmaceutical interventions that we were asked to do were pointless theater, but that the vaccine was the real deal, and I was unswayed by their namecalling and flaming.

As far as I was concerned, with that incident, the people over at /r/NoNewNormal had shown their true colors, and there was a fundamental disconnect between our philosophies.  Even more so, their fervent anti-vaccination stance was quite irresponsible, if not downright dangerous.  So, in short, the hell with them.  Also, by virtue of my moderator position on the subreddit, I was in a unique position to do something about this community – a community that I was, by this point, convinced was doing more harm than good by continuing to exist.  The /r/NoNewNormal community had served a purpose for a while, but ultimately, everything has its time.  What is beneficial one day may not be so beneficial in the future, and its continued existence may actually become a harmful force.  I did a good bit of thinking about my options for it while I was at work (operating trains gives you a lot of time alone with your thoughts, which can be both a blessing and a curse at times), and I came up with a plan for how to dispose of /r/NoNewNormal.  My idea was to remove all of the approved submitters from the subreddit, remove all of the moderators beneath me, clear out the automoderator configuration, place the subreddit into a private status with a note explaining what happened and why, and then finally remove myself as a moderator and walk away from it, leaving the top moderator, whom I could not remove because of the aforementioned seniority-based system that Reddit uses for ranking moderators, all by themselves with an empty subreddit.

After I came up with the plan, I sat for a few days on the idea of whether I wanted to execute my plan.  Because I was only second-in-command, and not the top moderator, I could not completely kill off /r/NoNewNormal all by myself.  The top moderator could have revived the subreddit easily enough, even if I might have been able to make it rather cumbersome to restore.  That gave me pause about whether I wanted to go through with it, because if I did it, my goal would be to eliminate it, and anything short of that would have meant that the job was not complete.  Ultimately, I just took my ball and left, taking all of the things that I controlled away from the subreddit and washing my hands of the whole thing.  So I removed the access from /u/NoNewNormalBot that allowed it to make the weekly chat threads, and deleted all of its past posts, which eliminated the weekly chat thread in its entirety.  I also removed a bot-removal service from the subreddit, because that was also my doing.  And finally, I took the irreversible step of removing myself as moderator.  I was clearly done with them, and was separating myself from them for my own sanity.  When the top moderator saw that I had left, they sent me a very nice message thanking me for all of my contributions to /r/NoNewNormal, and that I was welcome back any time.  Meanwhile, when the degenerates that by then populated the place saw that I was gone, they practically cheered that I was “removed as a moderator” because of what I had posted.  I made sure that the record was set straight on what had happened: I resigned voluntarily, and the top mod confirmed that I departed on my own, and defended all of the work that I had put in to help build the subreddit in its early months.

In any case, I was gone, from there, and happier for it.  In the months that followed, I occasionally felt some regret that I didn’t take that shot at them when I had the opportunity.  Whenever I had those thoughts, I had to remind myself that I did the right thing, removing myself from a toxic situation, and leaving everything else in that den of ignorance intact because I could not eliminate them fully on my own.  But it was still a lingering feeling of regret over the shot not taken.

After I left, I would occasionally check up on /r/NoNewNormal quietly, without posting, and it was clear that I was right in separating myself from them.  One look at their sidebar in their later months told me, as their four rules ballooned out to ten, that they were having major problems on their subreddit.  Check these out:

3) This is an inclusive community: Everyone is welcome to participate in this subreddit.  Racism and other discriminatory conduct is not permitted.

6) No soliciting, offering, or selling fake vaccination cards: This includes (but is not limited to) anyone asking how to get a fake card, how to make a fake card, anyone offering files/instructions to create a fake card, anyone offering to create a fake card (either for free or for a fee), or anyone attempting to solicit/facilitate fake vaccine cards.

7) Follow Site-Wide Rules: Since this is reddit, we have to follow reddit’s content policy.

8) Avoid Duplicates / Reposts: This includes “i just got banned from” posts.  They will be removed.  We know it’s happening.  We’ve had many of those for weeks now and they don’t contribute anything at this point.

9) Moderators have discretion to remove all content and users as seen fit: By participating in this sub you agree to the terms that moderators can remove any and all content and users from the forum at their own discretion.  This community is based on the principal [sic] of rejecting the new normal and caters to the users who support this principle.  The forum is also sometimes open to those who come to ask questions in good faith and discuss matters respectfully, ask questions or provide factual corrections.  There is a zero tolerance policy towards those who abuse this.

10) No Misinformation: We strive to identify and remove misinformation as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately Reddit’s reporting system is crippled by rampant abuse which compromises our ability to identify and remove problematic content in general.  Sending a message to the moderators is the fastest way for us to be able to identify and remove problematic content.  Given that what determines misinformation is not always easy to define however it is NOT SIMPLY SOMETHING YOU DISAGREE WITH.

As I saw it, there were red flags all around that there were major problems going on, and that things had only gotten worse since I left.  Additionally, all of the instruction creep served as a way to broadcast exactly what was wrong with the subreddit to the world.  They had problems with racism, forgery, breaking sitewide rules (big no-no there), and misinformation, plus they clearly had no real presence on the subreddit, considering that they had to explicitly state that the moderators are the moderators and what moderators do and listing it as some sort of terms of service.  The exasperated tone that was conveyed through the writing, as well as the use of boldface and all-caps to add emphasis to parts of the statements, indicated to me that whoever wrote those new rules was at their wit’s end at the time that they added them, and that the inmates were clearly now running the asylum, i.e. things had clearly gotten out of control.  I also noticed that the moderator list had changed.  Gone were the names of most of the moderators that I was familiar with, and a lot of new names that I didn’t recognize were in their places.  I wonder how many of my old moderators realized that the place was not worth saving and just left it, like I did.

By mid-August, /r/NoNewNormal had been “quarantined“, which is something that Reddit management does with problematic subreddits.  It is not a ban in and of itself, but it does place a warning screen on the subreddit, and requires an additional click in order to access the subreddit’s content.  It is often used as a prelude to banning, and in the case of /r/NoNewNormal, they were banned a little more than two weeks later, and the content contained therein was scrubbed from Reddit entirely.  Good riddance to them, as far as I was concerned, and it gave me the sense of closure that I didn’t get before when I declined to take it out myself.  The problematic /r/NoNewNormal was gone, and unlike the shot that I might have taken, when Reddit management fired at it, they had the power to ensure that it was gone for good.

However, while I do agree with the end result, I don’t like the way that they got there.  Reddit had originally declined to ban the subreddit, but then reversed course after 135 subreddits “went dark” as a method of protest.  I don’t like that Reddit acted based on that, because it demonstrates a couple of things to the masses that I found concerning.  First, it says that at Reddit, the management doesn’t stand behind its own decisions, i.e. that their users have a significant amount of sway when it comes to decisions about how the site is run.  Additionally, by acting only after a massive protest, it sends a clear message that this tactic works as a matter of getting rid of subreddits that some people may disagree with or may otherwise be unpopular.  It’s that way of saying, “My subreddit is so important to your site that we can make you do anything that we want just by withdrawing access to it on our own, and you just proved it by caving to our demands.”  It seems to go down a slippery slope in the “First they came…” vein, and the way that typically ends is, “Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”  I really wish that if the /r/NoNewNormal subreddit was to be banned (and it was probably time for that), that it was done through Reddit management’s coming to its own conclusion about it and acting based on their own decision, rather than after being bullied into it by the userbase.  That just leaves a bad taste about it overall, and has a chilling effect on the entire website, as if bad moderators on certain subreddits didn’t have enough of a chilling effect on things already.

So there you go, I suppose.  While /r/NoNewNormal was started with the best of intentions, and I feel like no one involved in moderating it was acting in bad faith, at least when I was involved with it, the subreddit ultimately spiraled out of control and became something that it never should have become, and Reddit is a better place overall now that /r/NoNewNormal is no longer part of it.

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Exploring the penthouse suite… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/09/exploring-the-penthouse-suite/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/10/09/exploring-the-penthouse-suite/#respond Sat, 09 Oct 2021 14:00:39 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=40997 Since last October, whenever Elyse and I have traveled down to Augusta County, we’ve stayed at Hotel 24 South in downtown Staunton.  If you’ve followed this site over the years, you might recognize the place.  Under its original name, the Stonewall Jackson Hotel (the name was changed to Hotel 24 South in September 2020), I photographed the neon sign that used to be on the roof of the building back in 2007, and my sister had her wedding reception there back in 2010.  The building dates back to 1924, and was renovated and expanded to its current form in 2005, restoring its original use as a hotel after having served as an elder care facility for a time.

However, during the 2005 renovation, one section of the building was skipped over: the penthouse suite.  As I understand it, the penthouse suite was never available for rental to guests, but rather, was intended as the owner’s private residence.  I was made aware of the penthouse’s existence by some friends of mine, and we located the door to access the space on our December trip (the primary focus of that trip was paying last respects to Staunton Mall).  At that time, however, the entrance was locked, but we did learn that the penthouse space was excluded from the renovation due to lack of elevator access.  On our next visit, in March, they were doing maintenance work on one of the hotel’s elevators (a mechanical room for the elevators is also up there), and as such, the door was open.  So Elyse and I took a quick tour of the space before we went out for the day.

My impression of the space, based on the vintage architectural and decorative elements present there, is that it has not been used for anything resembling its intended purpose for a very long time, though it is not abandoned.  Rather, it appears that the current hotel management uses the space for storage.  The space does have modern ventilation, as evidenced by a modern air duct running through the hallway to the living room, and it did not smell old or musty.

Stairway leading up to the penthouse from the rest of the hotel.  This stair is the only way to access the penthouse level.  The stairs were in rough shape, with a large chip out of at least one step.
Stairway leading up to the penthouse from the rest of the hotel.  This stair is the only way to access the penthouse level.  The stairs were in rough shape, with a large chip out of at least one step.

Center corridor in the penthouse suite.  Note that the entrance door, in the left of the shot, has a knob in the center, rather than on the end.
Center corridor in the penthouse suite.  Note that the entrance door, in the left of the shot, has a knob in the center, rather than on the end.

Eat-in kitchen.

Eat-in kitchen.
Eat-in kitchen.

Side room off of the living room, with a window to the kitchen.  I suspect that this used to be a dining room.
Side room off of the living room, with a window to the kitchen.  I suspect that this used to be a dining room.

Full bath.  The black tile that you see here is not original, based on the presence of even older tile beneath it on the floor around the toilet flange.  However, all of the various bathroom fixtures, including a toilet and bathtub, have been removed.
Full bath.  The black tile that you see here is not original, based on the presence of even older tile beneath it on the floor around the toilet flange.  However, all of the various bathroom fixtures, including a toilet and bathtub, have been removed.

Living room.  This is the largest room in the penthouse suite, and contains a fireplace, as well as doors to a roof deck.

Living room.  This is the largest room in the penthouse suite, and contains a fireplace, as well as doors to a roof deck.

Living room.  This is the largest room in the penthouse suite, and contains a fireplace, as well as doors to a roof deck.
Living room.  This is the largest room in the penthouse suite, and contains a fireplace, as well as doors to a roof deck.


“A” and “L” channel letters from the former rooftop sign, now stored in the living room, without their neon tubing.

A small room that I believe was once a bedroom, off of the hallway.
A small room that I believe was once a bedroom, off of the hallway.

Another bedroom, possibly the master bedroom, being used for storage.

Another bedroom, possibly the master bedroom, being used for storage.
Another bedroom, possibly the master bedroom, being used for storage.

Big mattress being stored in one of the rooms.  A second full bath is visible behind this.
Big mattress being stored in one of the rooms.  A second full bath is visible behind this.

Light switch, hanging by its wires.  Noting the condition of the light switches, we did not attempt to see if any of the lights worked.
Light switch, hanging by its wires.  Noting the condition of the light switches, we did not attempt to see if any of the lights worked.

Another light switch.  Note the old wallpaper that is peeling, which covered even older wallpaper behind it.
Another light switch.  Note the old wallpaper that is peeling, which covered even older wallpaper behind it.

So that’s the old owner’s suite, up in the penthouse of Hotel 24 South.  It’s a shame that the hotel is not using this space for any revenue-generating purpose, either as a luxury guest suite, or as a rooftop amenity.  As it currently exists, with no elevator access and only a single, relatively narrow stair up here, it is not up to building codes, so any plans to welcome the public into this space would likely require significant construction to bring an elevator up here, as well as the addition of one or more sets of stairs, along with any other work to properly build out the space for a new use.  I could totally see this space in use as a rooftop bar, but based on what I’ve seen as far as nightlife in downtown Staunton goes, I suspect that there’s not enough traffic through there to make a solid business case to justify the amount of construction that would be required to bring it to fruition.

In any case, it was fun to explore what is definitely something of a hidden gem in downtown Staunton.  Elyse and I love staying at Hotel 24 South, and so it’s nice to get to know the ins and outs of what we consider to be our little home away from home whenever we come down here.

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Something about sitcom endings… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/09/29/something-about-sitcom-endings/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/09/29/something-about-sitcom-endings/#respond Thu, 30 Sep 2021 01:44:15 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=40848 Recently, I was thinking about the way various sitcoms that I watched ended their runs, and it made me realize that I actually prefer a certain kind of sitcom ending over others.  I admit: I didn’t ever think that a preference for certain kinds of sitcom endings would even be a thing, let alone that I would have a preference for types of sitcom endings, but here we are.

First, though, to clarify: I am referring to shows that had a proper final ending, i.e. shows where everyone knew when they were taping the final episode that it was to be the final episode.  To clarify what I mean, Perfect Strangers and Full House, for example, had proper final episodes.  Everyone knew that the final episode was to be the final episode when it was being made, and it was aired knowing that it was the last episode.  By comparison, Family Matters and Step By Step, while both long-running series by sitcom standards, did not have proper series finales.  Both shows were cancelled after their ninth and seventh seasons, respectively, and a proper finale was never filmed for either one.  In this entry, I am talking about the former case, where the end point is known, and not the latter case, where the final episode was not intended as such from the outset.

And interestingly enough, my preference is for series endings where the characters are set up to just go on and on, where things don’t drastically change in the finale, where we’re left feeling like the characters that we had come to love would be just fine going forward, even though we wouldn’t be watching them anymore.  In other words, I prefer the ones where the people involved don’t pull out all of the stops to make a huge grand finale.  They may still provide some sense of closure – a capstone of sorts – but it leaves the premise of the show intact.

The best example of the kind of ending that I like is that of The Cosby Show.  In that case, the final episode features Theo’s graduation from college.  It provides a nice conclusion to the series, as Theo is introduced in the pilot as a bit of an underachiever who wants his father to accept his lackluster performance.  Eight seasons later, Theo has come to understand his own challenges learning and has graduated from college, and has a bright future ahead of him.  The final scene of the episode shows Cliff and Clair saying goodbye to Theo as he goes off to celebrate his graduation with friends, they resolve a season-long running joke about a doorbell, and then, with the music from the doorbell playing, Cliff and Clair dance right off the set.  It’s a happy ending, and it bookends the series nicely.  The family remains mostly unchanged, with only a relatively small evolution of the characters rather than drastic changes.  Even though we would no longer be checking in with the Huxtables on Thursday nights, we knew that they would be just fine, and would remain as we remembered them.

Full House was a similar situation to The Cosby Show, in that the finale didn’t shake things up.  However, while Cosby‘s ending was planned from the outset, my understanding is that Full House was cancelled by ABC, and after a network change was considered, some of the cast decided that it was time to move on, and so what would have been a season finale was rewritten to be a series finale.  It did a pretty decent job as a series finale, as Michelle had an accident while going horseback riding, and they were able to revisit the show’s original premise, as well as a number of things that had occurred throughout the series’ run, all to help jog Michelle’s memory (she gets better just before the end of the episode).  There was also a B-plot about finding a prom date for DJ, which led to Scott Weinger‘s reprising his role as Steve Hale to be DJ’s prom date.  When everything resolved after Michelle got her memory back, the show ended with the realization that they stuck it out and got through it, like they always do, and like they always will.  The ending didn’t bookend the series like The Cosby Show did, but was more of a capstone, revisiting everything, and reminding everyone that things would be just fine going forward, even if we would not be watching them anymore.  What happened after that was touched on in Fuller House, but that show had a completely different kind of ending that I’ll discuss later on.

Interestingly enough, another ending that was going to turn out to be one of those satisfying “going on and on” endings was from the original run of Roseanne.  That episode was turning out to be an “everything will be fine” episode.  Darlene and David were at last bringing their baby home from the hospital after a premature birth where the child nearly died.  Dan and Roseanne had reconciled, and were at their best.  Becky and Mark were expecting their first child.  Friends of the family Leon and Scott were adopting a child.  The family was getting bigger, and everyone was happy.  Things were going to be all right for the Conners.  If the episode had ended right there, everything would have been perfect, despite that one critic at the time described the episode, minus the last ten minutes, as “flat”.  Much could be written about the way that Roseanne went (I certainly did), and the final season was a complete trainwreck otherwise, but the last episode, minus that strange final monologue that completely upended the show’s premise, leaving us wondering what in the hell we just watched, and which we would all much rather forget about, was a pretty decent conclusion to a nine-year run that should have ended at least a year before that.  If we end Roseanne where it really should have, i.e. at Darlene’s wedding (minus the heart attack scene), you still get a happy ending where you see the family going on and on after we stopped visiting them.  The revival of Roseanne, as well as The Conners, bears out a going-on-and-on ending, as the characters were thoughtfully updated from how we left them, with nothing too different from what we might have expected.  In any case, when it came to the ending of the original run of Roseanne, I’m still a bit salty that we never got to see the cast’s final bow, of which clips were shown in the previews for the final episode, but which was not included when the episode aired.  I’m also surprised that the footage hasn’t turned up somewhere online in the intervening 24 years, though.

One thing about all of these examples is that the writers didn’t have to try too hard in crafting the finale.  They all felt quite natural, and left the door open for another season if they really wanted to.  Everything fit within what was already in place, and left it in place.  They didn’t have to get too creative, and that was fine.  Additionally, I find unintentional finales, like those of Family Matters and Step By Step, to be satisfying enough, because without any definitive conclusion, we just see them going on and on, even though our access to their lives was somewhat unceremoniously cut off.

Then there are the kinds of finales that turn things on their head to various degrees that I’m not so big of a fan of.  The ones that demonstrate through their finales that what you knew from watching for however many years is gone for good.  They leave me feeling empty to a degree, because it always feels like something is lost.

A mild example of this is Perfect Strangers.  There, the main characters’ wives had both become pregnant, and both of their babies were due in the final episode.  Perfect Strangers episodes generally revolved around Larry and Balki’s getting into some wacky predicament, and this was no exception, as the discovery that a hot air balloon ride caused Balki’s wife, Mary Anne, to go into labor and then have the baby.  Larry’s wife, Jennifer, was overdue on her own pregnancy, and so they took her up on a balloon ride to attempt to get her to go into labor.  It was successful, as she went into labor and then delivered the baby in the hot air balloon’s basket.  However, a series of mishaps led to Larry and Balki’s hanging from the side of the basket for dear life, as they flew out of control, which ultimately required their rescue.  The show then fast forwards two months, showing Larry and Balki as fathers to their children, giving us the sense that the two have settled down a bit and they haven’t been getting into the wacky adventures like they did before, which, being parents at that point, is probably just as well, with their having more responsilibities now.  Other than that, though, it does leave all of the characters together in their final residence, but now as parents.  I was satisfied with that ending.

I’m not a fan of ones where the entire premise of the show is blown up, where everyone goes their separate ways or the gang otherwise breaks up.  For instance, I really can’t stand the way The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended.  All of the various family members go their separate ways.  Phil and Vivian move to New York.  Hilary goes to New York on her own.  Carlton goes to Princeton.  Geoffrey moves back to England to be with his son.  Will stays in Los Angeles.  It caps off what was, overall, a pretty awful season, so it’s really no surprise that the finale was a bit of a stinker.  Very emotional, sure, as there is lots of familial stuff for Will to sort out as the living arrangement ends, and the comic relief in that episode falls short.  Fresh Prince really should have concluded at the end of the fifth season.  Have Will get married to Lisa and live happily ever after, leaving the Banks family intact.  Especially ironic that they stopped after six seasons because they didn’t want to become a “franchise zombie” while putting out that mess of a final season.

The same goes for Boy Meets World.  That was a wonderful show, but it was clear that the show had been on for too long, and they had run out of ideas.  The ending was an emotional goodbye that seemed out of place.  Cory and Topanga, now a married couple, were going to New York for an internship that Topanga had secured.  However, they were only just finishing up their sophomore year of college, and there was no indication that anyone was transferring to a new school.  Wouldn’t they be back together in the fall for junior year?  I suspect that the ending was cobbled together after the show was cancelled, and thus they needed to find a way to say goodbye for the television audience, but it really didn’t make much sense.  An ending more like Full House, which comes off as more of a regular episode with some wrap-up elements included, might have been more fitting.

Then there are some endings that just take things a little too far.  Those endings where you wish that they would have quit while they were ahead and it would have been a better ending.  The Golden Girls comes off like this.  For those not familiar, Dorothy meets Blanche’s uncle, Lucas Hollingsworth, and the two of them get married.  Dorothy moves out of the house, and there is a lot of crying involved from all of them as Dorothy leaves.  I felt like, if they had ended it with the wedding and skipped all of the boo-hoos, it would have been a stronger ending.  The goodbyes with the roommates seemed extraneous.  After the wedding was over, they should have thrown the name “Paul Junger Witt” on the screen and been done with it.  Of course, the show ended because Bea Arthur decided to leave the show, and the wedding was how they got rid of Dorothy.  The remaining cast would go on to star in The Golden Palace, which was essentially The Golden Girls without Dorothy, on CBS rather than NBC.  If not for the spinoff show’s waiting in the wings, and thus the need to separate Dorothy from the rest of the cast, I imagine that they might have done a different ending.

Another ending with similar problems as The Golden Girls was Fuller House.  That show, which was a revival of Full House, was just plain ending after five seasons, rather than being retooled into something else because of a cast member’s departure, and they built up to the ending in the final season, culminating in a triple wedding, though I felt like the finale was disappointing overall.  The wedding itself was decent, but then, like The Golden Girls, they went on too long, and the events after the wedding itself took the ending from “okay” to “awful”.  Prior to the wedding episode, Stephanie and Kimmy both had told DJ that they were moving out of the house with their mates in order to work on different locations of their sandwich business, which was fair.  After the wedding, they went through all of the same sort of boo-hoos that The Golden Girls did when Dorothy left.  Kimmy, Stephanie, and Kimmy’s daughter Ramona had packed up and moved out, and actually left the house.  But then they came back at the last second and DJ told them that they could stay.  I couldn’t help but think that we had just suffered through that big, tearful goodbye scene for nothing.  Did they move back in and trash all of their plans on an impulse because they considered themselves inseparable, or did they still move out?  Who knows.  Additionally, one big point in the series was that Stephanie was not able to bear children of her own because of various medical issues.  That led to Kimmy’s being a surrogate mother in order for Stephanie to have a child, spending much of the fourth season pregnant with that child.  In the finale, they made Stephanie pregnant.  I feel like they wanted a “babies ever after” ending, and making Stephanie pregnant was how they accomplished it.  But because of all that had occurred in the series prior to that, they shouldn’t have done it, because now they just trashed a large part of Stephanie’s character in Fuller House.  If they had ended the series with the wedding and dispensed with the pregnancy announcement and let the move-out occur offscreen, it would have been better.

So there you go, I suppose.  I have opinions about television shows.  I guess I know what I like and what I don’t?

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When I say no, I actually do mean no… https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/09/14/when-i-say-no-i-actually-do-mean-no/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2021/09/14/when-i-say-no-i-actually-do-mean-no/#comments Tue, 14 Sep 2021 18:32:14 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=40714 We’ve all been taught the meaning of “no” before, as well as the idea of “no means no”, i.e. someone has declined, and that’s the end of it.  “No” doesn’t mean “yes, if I am persistent enough.”  When I say “no”, I mean it.  In the case of Jeremy Jones, who ran the @DMVFollowers Twitter account, I feel like he just couldn’t grasp this concept.

For some background information on this case, DMVFollowers was a Twitter account that posted news about things happening in the Washington, DC area.  They typically posted links to news articles, and included a photo with their posts.  Their feed looked like this according to an Internet Archive snapshot from January 2018:

@DMVFollowers in 2018

Some of the photos that turned up on there when he was talking about transit-related issues were mine.  Specifically, these:

Blue Line train on the D Route bridge in 2005
Blue Line train on the D Route bridge in 2005.

Red Line train at Brookland-CUA in 2008
Red Line train at Brookland-CUA in 2008.

7000-Series train at Greenbelt during press event in 2014
7000-Series train at Greenbelt during press event in 2014.

These were all Creative Commons images, and the license was not followed, as no attribution was provided.  Therefore, these were all processed as copyright violations.  The first photo was submitted on April 19, 2018, the second was submitted on August 29, 2019, and the third was submitted on December 1, 2019.  In all of these cases, the images were turned up via Pixsy scans.

About nine months after the first takedown, I received a message from Jones:

Hey Ben,

My name is Jeremy Jones from DMVFollowers, earlier last year we received a DMCA claim for an image we used on our Twitter. Just wanted to reach out to see how we can resolve this, let m know. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks, Jeremy

My records do not show that I responded to this message.  My policy when it comes to follow-ups with DMCAs is that the user made the decision to violate copyright, and they are responsible for whatever consequences come from getting caught.  Therefore, once the notice is processed, and I verify that the image is, in fact, removed, I’m out of the process, as the matter has been resolved.  In other words, he may not consider it resolved, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s resolved.

In the case of the first takedown, the image was removed from the server, and that was the end of it.  Same for the second.  However, the third takedown caused their Twitter account to be suspended:

@DMVFollowers in 2021

Sounds like that third notice put them into habitual-offender territory as far as the Twitter was concerned, and they said enough is enough.

Then on July 13, 2021, a year and a half after the last takedown, i.e. well after the account was suspended and we all moved on, I got a message from Jones on Schumin Web’s Facebook page:

Hey Ben,

My name is Jeremy Jones from DMVFollowers and I was reaching out to see if we can resolve a DMCA claim you made against our Twitter account a few years ago.  It ended up getting our Twitter account suspended.  Back then I was 24y/o and really didn’t understand the importance of crediting for photography.  I was really just posting cool things from around the DC, Maryland, Virginia area.  I totally understand now and wanted to see if I can resolve this somehow.  Let me know, looking forward to hearing from you and sorry for the trouble!

I’m 100% I can bring more business to you!

The first part sounded sincere enough, though it is the typical sob story of someone who doesn’t want to have to actually live with the consequences of their actions after they got caught.  Then the second part made me think that he wasn’t necessarily being sincere about the copyright infringement, i.e. that he was using this as an “in” to drum up business for himself for whatever reason.

In any case, I wasn’t biting, and sent this in response:

As far as I am concerned, the issue was resolved in 2018.  The takedown notices were processed by Twitter, and the infringing materials were removed shortly thereafter.  Therefore, I have been made whole.

Additionally, considering the length of time between when the suspension occurred and when I heard from him, I suspected that this Twitter account wasn’t exactly a high priority for him.

Then fast forward another month, and I got three more messages from Jones:

Hey, thanks for reaching back out.  Sorry for the late response but I rarely check my FB (I activated it just to reach out to you).  This is what happen, our page DMVFollowers was made in 2010 and overtime we reached the threshold of copyright infringing posts, the limit is around 8-10.  After talking to Twitter, they suggested I contact the last person to make a claim and potentially resolve it to restore the page.  DMVFollowers being down for the last 2 years has hurt a bit but Twitter finally got back with me and told me to reach out to you.

Let me know what you think, willing to pay for the photo used or whatever you fine suitable.  Thanks Jeremy

Also, let me know if you have any questions.

First of all, the late response surprised me.  If you don’t normally use Facebook, and when you have demonstrated that you have my email address, which you got via the DMCA process, why not use that instead?  In any case, any sympathy that I might have still had for them went right out the window after that message, based on what they said.  Specifically, “we reached the threshold of copyright infringing posts, the limit is around 8-10.”  Eight to ten?  I submitted three.  That meant that they had at least five other infringements before I came along, i.e. this was by no means their first rodeo when it came to copyright infringements.  And after admitting that they were a habitual offender, they had the gall to think that I was going to dig them out of their hole.  My takedowns may have put them over the top, but they clearly made their own bed, and are unhappy that they now have to lie in it.  I treated him like an adult and held him responsible for his own poor choices, and he clearly didn’t like that.  I find that to be a common thing: people demand to be treated like adults until you actually treat them like an adult, and then they get all upset that they actually have to be held to account for their own decisions.

In any case, I ignored these messages, because I had already declined to take action, and as far as I was concerned, that was the end of it.  For a habitual offender like Jones, I had no reason to think that he wouldn’t go right back to stealing more photos and getting nailed again, so I wasn’t inclined to bail him out by any means.

But apparently, for Jones, it was not over.  When I was visiting my parents last week, Dad told me there was a message on their answering machine for me.  I found that curious, so I gave it a listen:

It was Jones on my parents’ antiquated answering machine.  Apparently, he did his own research and tried again, and ended up calling my parents looking for me.  This would not be the first time that this has happened.  Back in 2008 or so, my parents received a very threatening message for me on their answering machine from neo-Nazi Bill White, after we had an interaction on Wikipedia that he apparently did not like.  I forget what the interaction was, but apparently I removed some sort of content from that site, probably for good reason, and he didn’t like that.  So he decided to follow up, and left a very disturbing message on my parents’ machine.  In any case, the joke was ultimately on him, because White got banned from the site shortly after leaving that message, and he is now incarcerated for a very long time after being arrested in 2009 for threatening a federal juror, and then later fleeing the country in violation of the terms of his release.

In the case of both Jones and White, though, I suspect that they didn’t specifically intend to call my parents, but thought that they had actually reached me.  I googled myself to see what turned up, and what I found amused me.  A site called AllBiz listed four entries for me: two in Stuarts Draft, one in Harrisonburg, and one in Maryland, all containing very outdated information.  Apparently, according to them, I run a “combined office administrative services” company with 25 employees and an annual revenue of $10 million.  Also, if you need assistance, contact my sales representative, James Richardson, at james@schuminweb.com (an address that has never existed).  The contact information for me was listed as such:

AllBiz contact information for me

I’ve redacted the specific details for purposes of privacy, but a 540-337 number does indicate a landline phone in Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and trust me that the address listed is, in fact, my parents’ address.  The email listed was one that I had used a long time ago, but I now use a Gmail address.  I suspect that this information came from a domain name listing, as I did list that as my domain information a long time ago.  AllBiz is by no means the only site to list garbage information for me based partially on old domain registration information, but it just happened to come up high in the search results when I looked it up.  My domain registration details are now private, but that wasn’t an option back then.  Regardless of what those sites say, though, take one look at my website and then compare to those business directory sites, and you’ll see a disconnect somewhere.  It is painfully obvious that my goofy little website is not that of a $10 million company with 25 employees.  James Richardson couldn’t sell $10 million worth of anything with this website.  What I’m getting at is, if Jones used one of these sites to find information about me in order to rescue his Twitter account from oblivion, he should have done more research, and taken these sorts of listings with a major grain of salt, especially before actually calling one of those numbers.

Additionally, when I do not list a phone number as an official communications channel, I feel that calling me crosses a line somewhere.  Similarly, I do not list a postal address, and therefore I feel like if someone mailed me something unsolicited, that would cross a line as well.  If I list it, then by all means, use it, but if I don’t list it, that means that I do not want to be contacted that way.  I also freely admit that if not for the phone call to my parents’ number, you would never have heard of Jeremy Jones and his former @DMVFollowers Twitter account, at least not on account of me.

In any case, though, when I communicate back and decline to take action, i.e. when I say “no”, I really do mean “no”, and don’t appreciate it when people take “no” as an invitation to keep prodding until I acquiesce.  Especially when you steal my content and violate my licenses, I’m not particularly inclined to help bail you out of your own problem.

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