The Schumin Web w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Fri, 18 Aug 2017 05:25:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Schumin Web 32 32 37838674 The other shoe finally dropped on Afton Mountain… Fri, 18 Aug 2017 05:25:20 +0000 On Wednesday, I was on a day trip down to Stuarts Draft and such with a few people.  On the whole, it was a fun time.  On the way out, we swung by Afton Mountain in order to give a quick, five-minute tour of the abandoned motels up there.  One pass across the lower properties, then up and across the front of The Inn at Afton.  The Inn at Afton was a lot darker than I might have expected, and I spotted a sign on the window of room 213, which, as we discovered in April, was being used as the lobby.  This is the sign:


The room was empty except for those signs visible in the bottom of the photo about the nearby Swannanoa mansion.  So it seems like it’s official: The Inn at Afton has finally gone out of business.  Good.  I wonder what caused them to finally pull the plug on the place.  After all, many of the rooms were already uninhabitable.  The swimming pool was mostly empty with nasty green water in the bottom.  The lobby and restaurant building had already been closed, as signage last April was directing people to room 213 for any lobby functions.  In any case, I don’t think that maintenance was ever a priority here.  When we moved to the area in 1992, back when this facility was still a Holiday Inn, my father described the place as “grungy”, and thus we stayed at Days Inn rather than Holiday Inn when we arrived in the area.  We stayed at Holiday Inns for all of the other nights of that three-day road trip.  And just as well.  When I had the occasion of going into the lobby a few times in the early 2000s, the building always smelled like a combination of cigarette smoke and filth.

In any case, I imagine that this is the end of the road for The Inn at Afton as an operating property.  Considering that the other businesses in this area gradually closed in the 1990s and 2000s, and that The Inn at Afton itself was then slowly being abandoned while still operating, this is the logical conclusion.  In other words, I don’t believe a word of that “Will reopen at at later time!” line.  They’re done.  Back in 1998, according to C-Ville Weekly, the Howard Johnson’s, down the hill from The Inn at Afton, never reopened due to a lack of workers when it was time to reopen for the season.  In the same article about the closing, it indicates that owner Phil Dulaney planned to reopen:

Dulaney doesn’t plan to let Hojo’s – which has been on Afton since the 1940s – go gently into that good night. Dulaney, who has a soft spot himself for Hojo’s clam chowder and chocolate milkshakes, predicts that the restaurant will be up and running in the next few weeks. So while you can stop shivering, Chilly, you still might have to wait a bit longer for those nostalgia-inducing buttered franks.

Almost twenty years later, we’re still waiting for Phil Dulaney to find enough workers to reopen the Howard Johnson’s restaurant.  Not going to happen.

So now, there are only two things remaining in this part of Afton Mountain: the Rockfish Gap Tourist Information Center, and King’s Gourmet Popcorn.  Both are operated out of mobile structures by third parties.  The Tourist Information Center used to live beneath a row of abandoned motel rooms until moving to the current (mobile) structure located next to The Inn at Afton.  King’s Gourmet Popcorn is a food truck located in front of the former convenience store.  They are apparently doing well up there, and understandably so – their popcorn was absolutely fabulous when Elyse, Melissa, and I visited on our April trip, and the place had a lot of other customers when we went by.

I also suppose that King’s Gourmet Popcorn is an indication that yes, Afton Mountain is still a viable location for commercial development.  After all, it worked from the 1940s to the 1990s.  No reason that it couldn’t become something functional again.  I suppose the key is that the owners have to care enough to make it successful.  And unfortunately, Phil Dulaney, owner of the mountain site, is all talk and no action.  I suspect that Dulaney has to die and the property go to new ownership before something positive happens on the mountain site, though, and that’s kind of sad.  This site has so much potential, and the views are amazing, with Waynesboro on one side, and the Piedmont on the other.  There’s no reason that a new operator couldn’t build a new development up here with a modern hotel, a new tourist information center, and shops and restaurants.  You just have to care enough about your business to make it happen.

In the meantime, though, I wonder how long the now-abandoned motel will continue to languish, and how long it takes for it to look as bad as the properties below it.  Right now, the utilities are still connected, as the sign still lights up at night, lights were visible in the upper level corridors, and the parking lot lighting still comes on.  So who knows.

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That rare case when a company gets a reformulation right… Sun, 13 Aug 2017 17:55:52 +0000 Some of you may have heard about how Coca-Cola Zero (aka “Coke Zero”) is being replaced by Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.  I heard it and I was a bit concerned about this.  After all, we saw how bad Diet Pepsi with sucralose was.  I was especially concerned with this after Pepsi, in response to their own reformulation, then rereleased the old version in parallel to the new one, and it’s very hard to find.  I liked Coke Zero, and I hoped that Coke Zero Sugar would not be the same disaster that the new version of Diet Pepsi was two years ago.

First of all, for those of you who are not familiar: Coke Zero is (was?) a diet version of regular Coke.  Diet Coke is a completely different flavor, and has little relation to the original Coke, other than the name.  I was pleased when Coke Zero was released in 2005, and discovered that it was a diet version of regular Coke.  I just plain don’t like Diet Coke, but Coke Zero was good.  I could drink that.

I was tipped off to Coke Zero Sugar’s arrival by a friend who found it at a local Safeway, so I swung by:

Side-by-side comparison of old vs. new.  Note the additional red on the new version.
Side-by-side comparison of old vs. new.  Note the additional red on the new version.

I bought two bottles.  I figured that was enough to form an opinion about it.  I took some with me in the car on a recent trip to Annapolis, and also had it for my usual morning pick-me-up.  I was surprised that it actually tasted pretty good.  I liked Coke Zero, but you could definitely taste the sweetener.  It was based on regular Coke, but it was unapologetically diet.  It tasted exactly like you would expect a diet version of regular Coke to taste like.  Coke Zero Sugar, on the other hand, is a bit closer to regular Coke. You really can’t taste the aspartame as much as before.  It’s not identical to regular Coke, but it’s much closer than Coke Zero was.

I actually consider this better than regular Coke, for two reasons: first of all, it’s a zero-calorie beverage, which means zero guilt as far as I’m concerned.  Secondly, it’s not made with high fructose corn syrup.  I’m not a big fan of sodas made with high fructose corn syrup because they leave a residue in your mouth.  Thus with those, you have to rinse the goo out of your mouth afterwards.  Yuck.  No residue on Coke Zero Sugar.  It’s also why I like Mexican Coke, because it leaves no residue.  I’d buy that more, but calories and all.

It’s funny – I’m sure that people who work for my previous employer could tell you all about how high fructose corn syrup is going to kill you and how evil the beverage industry is for using it, but I’m far more shallow than that.  I just don’t like the residue that it leaves.  Likewise, I will typically drink some organic fruit beverage with my lunch.  I drink it not because of any alleged health benefits related to either the fruit part or the organic part.  Rather, it’s because it tastes good and has no calories.  I don’t care that it’s “organic”.  It tastes good and doesn’t have calories.

I am willing to put the new Coke Zero Sugar up there in the category of quality diet sodas that taste more or less like their parent beverages without the caloric hit that the parent beverage provides (and the residue-leaving sweeteners).  It’s right up there with Pepsi Zero Sugar (formerly Pepsi Max) and Diet Dr Pepper.

Meanwhile, this amuses me on the back of the Coke Zero Sugar bottle:

The trademark graveyard

I call this the “trademark graveyard”, i.e. where beverage companies put their old logos that they don’t want to die off.  A trademark only keeps its protection as long as it’s used in commerce, and this is their token use of these trademarks in commerce.  Typically, the way Coke does it is that if they market the beverage as “Coca-Cola”, they do the same thing with the “Coke” logo on the back.  Likewise, if they call it “Coke” on the front, it’s got “Coca-Cola” on the back.  This is unusual because it has “Coca-Cola Zero” and “Coke Zero” on the back.  I’m surprised that “Coke Zero Sugar” is not on there as well.  Coke is not unique in putting variations of its logo on its products for trademark purposes.  Pepsi does it, too, putting a pre-1950 logo on the back of its bottles.

So all in all, not bad.  Coke Zero was good, but this is better.

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Going to show that you never know what you’ll find at the thrift store… Sun, 30 Jul 2017 06:39:41 +0000 It’s amazing what you find sometimes when you hit the thrift store.  Case in point, at Unique Thrift Store/Value Village in Hillandale Shopping Center, Elyse and I found this:

Elyse holds a "Big Mavica" type camera

Those of you who have followed this site for a long time will recognize what Elyse is holding.  That is a Sony Mavica CD400.  I owned one from 2002 to 2008, and called it “Big Mavica”, because it was my second Sony Mavica camera, with higher resolution than the first.  Thus it was a “big” Mavica.

Last time we saw Big Mavica, it had gotten wrecked in a rainstorm, and was being shipped to a recycler in Michigan to raise money for some sort of charity.  So imagine my surprise to find a CD400 camera identical to Big Mavica on the shelf at the thrift store.  Check it out:

Hello again, Big Mavica.  It was like meeting up with an old friend after a long time apart, as it had been nine years since I’d held a Mavica.  Nonetheless, it all came back:

Just like old times.  Except I had more hair back then.  Elyse also posed for a few photos with it:

I was also amazed about how many memories finding a “Big Mavica” style camera brought back.  Elyse was wondering what the video from Big Mavica looked like.  So I showed her a few videos from back in the day.  I feel like I really started to grow and develop as a photographer during the Big Mavica era, as this was my first “prosumer” level camera. There were lots of settings to fiddle with and learn how to use.  Compare my first Big Mavica photo set, Autumn Leaves, with Downtown Lynchburg, from the middle of that period, with a later Big Mavica era set, Weekend with Katie.  The photography definitely improved quite a bit between the three sets.  Mind you, I now consider my Big Mavica material to be the work of a much younger man, but nonetheless, you can see some growth.

Nowadays, though, Big Mavica has been far outpaced as far as cameras go.  It was a great camera for its time, but that time has since passed.  The cameras that replaced Big Mavica in 2008 both were higher resolution, and beginning with my Motorola Droid phone in 2010, my phone camera has had a higher resolution than Big Mavica.  Plus Big Mavica’s design is very much a product of its time, being relatively large, plus having that big round side.  Compare to my camera today, a Nikon D5300 DSLR, which looks like a traditional camera.  Big Mavica just looks dated these days.

Besides one of Big Mavica’s relatives, we also found some other interesting things, like these handpainted Care Bear figurines:

Grumpy Bear!
Grumpy Bear!

This bear seems like a cross between Cheer Bear and Wish Bear.
This bear seems like a cross between Cheer Bear and Wish Bear.  The shooting star is like Wish Bear, but the rainbow belongs to Cheer Bear.  And that blue color doesn’t match either bear, as Cheer Bear is pink, and Wish Bear is a light turquoise color.

Then there was this giraffe:

Giraffe with a big tongue
That tongue.  What is going on with that tongue?

Then we also spotted this:

Commodore disk drive.  Wonder if this still works...
Commodore disk drive.  Wonder if this still works…

"Target & Blue" mug.
“Target & Blue” mug.  I did a little research on this, and found out that it’s a community outreach program in order to form good relations with local police departments.

And then at the Habitat for Humanity thrift store, we found a piano.  I played a tune:

Yes, that’s me trying to play the tune in the music box from the Today’s Special episode “Music”.  It’s not a bad tune, but I am not doing the tune justice by and means.

So all in all, I’d say that we had fun at the thrift store.  I always enjoy going to the thrift store, even if, in this case, we came out empty-handed.

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A lovely little road trip to West Virginia and back… Sun, 23 Jul 2017 07:53:54 +0000 This past Wednesday, Elyse, Aaron Stone, and I took a little road trip to Jefferson County, West Virginia.  There was some stuff for all of us, as Aaron wanted to see some stuff that Elyse and I had seen before, I wanted to see some stuff that I had spotted in some Instagram pix, plus wanted to get newer photos of some areas where I had been before.

But first, food.  We designed our trip to take us to Sunshine General Store, which is this little hole in the wall restaurant north of Brookeville, at the intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues.  Their hamburgers are to die for – thick and juicy.  However, you really have to know that they’re there, because at first glance, the place looks abandoned.

After we had our hamburgers, we headed over to Brighton Dam.  The intent was to get some new photos of the dam, but much to my surprise, a dam rehabilitation project was underway, and the park where you got the best views of the dam was closed in order to accommodate the construction work.  The level of Triadelphia Reservoir was much lower as well, presumably because of the dam project, and from the looks of the now-exposed land, it had been lower for quite a while:

Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.
Triadelphia Reservoir, with the lower water level.  Compare to the water level in April 2014.

The water in the Patuxent River downstream from the dam was very muddy.  Guessing that this has to do with the rehabilitation project as well, since the water was clearer with a greenish tinge to it in my previous visits.
The water in the Patuxent River downstream from the dam was very muddy.  Guessing that this has to do with the rehabilitation project as well, since the water was clearer with a greenish tinge to it in my previous visits.

After seeing Brighton Dam, we headed out to Frederick.  There, we headed up to the North Market Pop Shop, which is a soda shop similar to Rocket Fizz, which sells novelty sodas and such.  Check these out:

A wall of root beer.  So many different kinds of root beers.
A wall of root beer.  So many different kinds of root beers.

A wall of fruit sodas, ginger beers, and novelty sodas.
A wall of fruit sodas, ginger beers, and novelty sodas.

We didn’t buy anything on this visit, though.  This visit was just to scope the place out, as I still have four of the six novelty sodas from Rocket Fizz that we got on the way back from the Outer Banks.

We then headed over to Frederick Towne Mall, because Aaron had not yet seen this now-disused mall.  The best view of the interior is inside Boscov’s, where part of the gate is papered over, a lot of it isn’t, and you can see the interior of the mall.  Check it out:

Frederick Towne Mall

All of this should have been gone by now, replaced by a parking lot for a Walmart store that was to be built behind the mall footprint.  However, Walmart pulled out of the project in late 2016 despite a groundbreaking ceremony, and as far as I can tell, that put the kibosh on the whole redevelopment.  The mall is not abandoned, though.  The security cameras and siren are new since Elyse and I last visited back in April.

Leaving the mall, we headed out to West Virginia – specifically, Shepherdstown.  I had, by sheer chance, spotted photos of a railroad bridge piggybacked on an Instagram post about an ice cream shop in nearby Sharpsburg, Maryland.  I interacted with the poster, and learned the location of the bridge and the vantage points that were shown.  So we went to look and photograph.

Elyse smiles next to the railroad tracks.
Elyse smiles next to the railroad tracks.

Aaron photographs the railroad bridge.
Aaron photographs the railroad bridge.

The bridge.  Needless to say, considering the length of the bridge and its height, you never want to foul the tracks here unless you can get confirmation that all traffic is stopped.
The bridge.  Needless to say, considering the length of the bridge and its height, you never want to foul the tracks here unless you can get confirmation that all traffic is stopped.

Sign denoting the Maryland state line, across the track from our location, and a reminder that Maryland starts on the far banks of the Potomac River, i.e. the river belongs entirely to Maryland.
Sign denoting the Maryland state line, across the track from our location, and a reminder that Maryland starts on the far banks of the Potomac River, i.e. the river belongs entirely to Maryland.

The track, facing the other way, with the bridge behind me.
The track, facing the other way, with the bridge behind me.

Then we headed over to the Rumsey Memorial, and I got this photo of the bridge:

The bridge as viewed from the Rumsey memorial

Not bad.  We probably came too late in the day to get great shots, but the site definitely has potential.  Seems worth revisiting, though earlier in the day, and when it’s not so humid out.

Otherwise, Elyse got some photos of me getting in position to get that last photo:

Sexy.  This, by the way, is what happens when you hand Elyse your camera to hold while you climb through the railings.  Then she also got this photo of me before coming back through the railings:

There you go, I suppose.

We then left Shepherdstown and headed over to Charles Town.  After the whole dust-up with the death metal band over the cemetery pic, Elyse wanted to see the “historic French cemetery” that’s actually in West Virginia.  So we headed over to Edge Hill Cemetery and took a look.  Much to my surprise, there was an open grave at the east end of the cemetery:

An open grave at Edge Hill Cemetery

I never really thought about the depth of a grave, other than the whole “six feet under” thing.  But it’s deep.  If you fall into an open grave, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to climb back out of it on your own.  Then I also got a photo of Aaron standing next to the open grave, contemplating life:

Aaron stands next to an open grave, contemplating life.

I don’t know whose grave this is, but next time I’m out here, I’ll update, since I want to do more photography in Edge Hill Cemetery.

Otherwise, I got a few photos of the older part of the cemetery, or as Elyse called it, “the French part of the cemetery”:

Photo taken from a similar angle as the photo feature from October 2013.  Notice that they added some poles and chains around some of the graves.  I wish that they hadn't done that, because it destroys the scene.
Photo taken from a similar angle as the photo feature from October 2013.  Notice that they added some poles and chains around some of the graves.  I wish that they hadn’t done that, because it destroys the scene.

Photo taken facing east, past the last chain.
Photo taken facing east, past the last chain.

Headstones for Cleon and Ellen Moore.  Ellen's stone irks me a little, though, because it sort of indicates that her identity is completely tied to her husband, and that she is not an individual in her own right.  It's kind of like people who sign their name "Mrs. John Doe" instead of "Jane Doe".
Headstones for Cleon and Ellen Moore.  Ellen’s stone irks me a little, though, because it sort of indicates that her identity is completely tied to her husband, and that she is not an individual in her own right.  It’s kind of like people who sign their name “Mrs. John Doe” instead of “Jane Doe”.

Headstone for the Reverend Sydnor Gilbert Ferguson.  I'm no expert on these things, but the top half of this headstone appears to be a lot more modern than the bottom half.  I wonder if it wasn't replaced at some point.
Headstone for the Reverend Sydnor Gilbert Ferguson.  I’m no expert on these things, but the top half of this headstone appears to be a lot more modern than the bottom half.  I wonder if it wasn’t replaced at some point.

From here, we headed out to Harpers Ferry to show Aaron the train station, and then we headed back.  All in all, not a bad day.

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Yes, about that historic French cemetery… Mon, 10 Jul 2017 03:55:41 +0000 Sometimes, you really have to give someone the proverbial “smackdown”.  Such was the case of a recent copyright infringement issue that I had with a death metal band called Barbiturate.  As you may know, I periodically skim the Internet looking for unauthorized usages of my photography, which I then submit to Pixsy, a company that goes after these copyright infringers for royalties, therefore making the illegal usages legal.  I really don’t care when people use my work elsewhere.  I actually find it somewhat flattering.  However, if you are making money (and by that, I mean taking in revenue, regardless of whether you turn a profit) with my photo, you can afford to pay me for that usage (i.e. “F— You, Pay Me“), either by licensing it up front, or by having me chase you down via Pixsy.  Or at the very least, you can ask me for permission, because I do occasionally authorize use of my work for free.  But generally speaking, I don’t work for free, or for some vague notion of “exposure”.  I have a Flickr account and other outlets that give me plenty of exposure, thank you very much.  I don’t need anyone’s help getting exposure for my work.

In the Barbiturate case, I found this photo in Pixsy’s image search:

Nice graphic.  Black-and-white image of a cemetery with the band’s logo at the top.  The photo depicts Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town, West Virginia, which I photographed in October 2013.  I published the full set of photos on Flickr in January 2014, but published one photo as a photo feature in October 2013 to coincide with Halloween.  The Barbiturate graphic used the photo feature cut, where I hiked up the contrast to give the image a “horror movie” feel.  The Flickr set has a more natural appearance, though a cemetery in the fog is still pretty eerie.

Regarding the copyright case, this photo was taken and published at the tail end of Schumin Web’s Creative Commons period (late 2005 to early 2014), and so, not knowing if the date of publication for Barbiturate was within the four months that this image was so licensed, I treated this as a possible legal use, provided that the Attribution-ShareAlike license was followed.  However, I found no attribution on either the ReverbNation page that Pixsy found, nor on the YouTube videos that the band linked to on their ReverbNation page, and where they used the graphic as a background.  Thus, it was time to nail them for it.

As a side note, companies that host content need to make DMCA takedown notices easy to submit.  YouTube has one of the easiest processes for submitting takedowns for content hosted on their site.  You locate the content in the search results, add it to a list, and then submit one massive takedown request for all of the content on the list.  Upon submission, the affected videos are gone within minutes.  ReverbNation, on the other hand, has a takedown process that is a pain in the butt, where you have to fill out a cumbersome PDF form and then attach the form to an email to their legal department.  And they don’t include a space to link to the offending graphics, so I had to submit it as a separate attachment.

I submitted all of the takedown notices and then left to go to work, because as fun as it would be to do Schumin Web full time, I actually make my living playing with trains.  When I checked my email on a break at work, I heard back from a representative from Barbiturate.  No name – they signed the email as “Barbiturate”, even though it appears that there are multiple people behind the band.  The highlights of the email included:

The band holds all copyrights for the music, and the logo, as well as numerous other singular items of artwork, so we understand the nature of keeping ones content secure and protected.

The slide in question was created by a graphic designer whom we employed from the internet utilizing a paid service. As far as I understand it, the image was of a historic cemetery in France; one which was utilized under a creative commons agreement. The band was assured that the photo was above boards, and complied with copyright rules, etc, so I’m not really sure where your claim is coming from, but we take these things seriously none the less.

Additionally, we’re all reasonable here and we could have been contacted directly in lieu of being shut down in this manner.

So, with that said, we respectfully request that you withdraw your claim against out videos. If these photos of the French cemetery were in fact taken by you, and you can justify this, we humbly offer our apologies, and additionally, would be happy to cite you directly for your work etc.

It’s funny that, for a band whose representative claims in the first excerpt that it holds all of the copyrights to its works and takes copyright seriously, they admit in the second excerpt that they only got assurances from the designer that they found online that the graphic containing my photo was legal for their use.  It’s clear that they did not verify the legality of the photo’s use for themselves, because that photo had strings attached to it, and they didn’t follow the rules.  And if they had done their homework, they would have figured out that the photo of the “historic French cemetery” that they were using was actually taken in West Virginia.

Additionally, the third paragraph drives home an important point: everyone wants to be treated like an adult, but no one likes actually being treated like an adult.  I treat people like adults when it comes to copyright.  You choose, as a responsible adult, to use my photos without obtaining the rights to do so, and so I choose, as a responsible adult and the copyright holder, to utilize all of the tools at my disposal to blow the infringing usage off of the Internet.  I see no reason to confront the copyright holder directly, because adults who want to be treated like children rather than adults tend to balk if I come to them directly about copyright infringement, or ignore me outright.  So I have no reason to go to the infringers directly, because it rarely produces results.  If I can bypass the infringers and take care of it directly, I will, because I don’t have time to fool around and hold these people’s hands, and say, “Naughty, naughty,” about their copyright infringements.  And besides, it’s not like they even took responsibility for the violation anyway.  When they got caught, they blamed the graphic designer!  Hmmm, I wonder who decided to hire this graphic designer…

And lastly, notice in the fourth paragraph that the most that they are offering me is a photo credit, and that’s only if I can prove that the photos were actually my work.  Cheapskates.

So with that sort of message from them, I slaughtered them, dissecting their points one by one in my response.  Sometimes, these sorts of things are difficult to write, but this one flowed naturally.  First, my opening statement, which set the stage:

First of all, there’s no nice way to say this: you got ripped off by your graphic designer.  I don’t know what amount you paid them, but it was clearly too much.  Not only does the photo in question not depict an historic French cemetery as you were led to believe, but it’s also being used in violation of copyright.

Then I established my copyright claims over the graphic in question:

The photo depicts Edge Hill Cemetery in Charles Town, West Virginia, on a foggy morning in October 2013.  The cemetery has some graves from the late 1800s, but most of the interments are from the 20th century, and the cemetery is still actively selling burial plots.

Here is the full album on Flickr from that shoot:

Here is the photo that was used in the graphic in question:

Your graphic designer used a different edit of the photo than that which is on Flickr.  They used the version from my website, Schumin Web, which is cut differently, and where I hiked up the contrast to create an effect resembling that of a horror movie:

Then I laid out the copyright issue in question:

The photo was made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license from the time of its publication in October 2013 until February 20, 2014, at which time the CC license was withdrawn, and existing usages were grandfathered.  No new usages under Creative Commons were allowed after that date.  The Attribution-ShareAlike part of the license requires two things on the part of the downstream user to be legal.  First, it requires credit to the copyright holder, i.e. a byline of some sort.  Second, it requires that the resulting derivative work (i.e. your modification of the photo with your logo) be released under the same license as the original.  Your graphic containing my photo failed to include the requisite credit in any location where I found it in use, on both YouTube and ReverbNation, and therefore was not a legal use under Creative Commons, as the terms of the license were not followed.  Therefore, this is a run-of-the-mill copyright infringement case.

All of that said, that’s why you had copyright claims filed against you on both YouTube and ReverbNation.  Your designer failed to use proper due diligence when they created the graphic for you using the “historic French cemetery” that’s actually in West Virginia, and your organization also chose not to independently verify the claims that the designer made about the photo’s subject as well as its copyright status before using it.

In other words, they screwed up, and I told them exactly how they screwed up and how badly they screwed up.  I then offered a solution, whereby they could negotiate terms of a license with me to make their usage legal.  In that case, upon receipt of the licensing fee, I would withdraw my copyright claims, and we could all go about our business.  No license fee, however, and they could keep their copyright strikes with my compliments.

My offer to negotiate was met with silence.  Clearly, they chose the copyright strikes over a license.  Suit yourself, I suppose.

I hope, though, that they took an important lesson home from all of this, i.e. I hope that they learned the importance of vetting their contractors, as well as the work that said contractors do.  All of this could have been prevented if they had checked the work of their graphic designer before publication.  Then they would have known the copyright status of the images that they were displaying, and known whether or not they were in the clear.  Trust no one when it comes to business, because not doing your own due diligence up front can cost you money later on down the road when someone else catches the mistakes that you missed or chose to ignore.  And I have no sympathy whatsoever for people who find themselves in this situation, because they did it to themselves.

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Yesterday’s future is tomorrow’s memories… Thu, 29 Jun 2017 12:00:38 +0000 This month, the thing that we all knew was coming finally came: Metro retired the final 1000 and 4000-Series railcars.  That means no more of these:

Rohr 1000-Series railcar, photographed at Largo Town Center in 2008

And no more of these:

Breda 4000-Series railcar, photographed at Greenbelt in 2009

That also means no more of this:

Interior of 1185, photographed in 2009

And no more of this:

Interior of 4007, photographed in 2008

And also no more of this:

Flip-dot sign

Yes, era of orange carpet, orange seats, tan walls, rubber handrails, and flip-dot signage has ended.  Yesterday’s future becomes tomorrow’s memories.  These cars, which were state of the art and somewhat futuristic in the 1970s and the 1990s, respectively, are now, for the most part, memories.

Memories, because this is the style of Metro that many of us grew up with.  This is what we all thought of whenever we rode Metro in younger years, before the 5000-Series came in with LED signage and an updated color scheme.  The stations may look mostly the same, but the vehicles definitely don’t look the same anymore, as the 7000-Series, which replaced these cars, demonstrates.

My first Metro ride was on a Rohr, riding the Blue Line from Pentagon City to McPherson Square.  I specifically remember the large red cover over the emergency door release from that ride.  My second Metro ride, going back to Pentagon City, was on a Breda, though I misremembered it for many years as being another Rohr.  Nonetheless, these were the cars where I really discovered things, where my inner foamer really began to form.  On our next trip up to Washington six months later in December 1994, which was the first that originated at Vienna, I noticed that the handrails on the seats were brown rubber rather than metal, as they had been on our first trip.  Looks like someone found a Breda!  Then in summer 2000, on a trip up here by myself, I first discovered the word “Breda” on a builder’s plate:

Breda builder's plate, seen here on a 3000-Series in November 2000

I had never really thought about where Metro trains came from.  As it turned out, many of them came from Italy.  It was later, by reading the history page on Metro’s website, that I learned that other cars were made by Rohr.

I think that this retirement also is a big thing for many of us because for over 30 years, all of the car orders have increased the fleet size rather than replacing cars.  So we always had the older cars running alongside the newer ones.  One Red Line train could be 1000-Series cars.  The next one could be 6000-Series cars.  With the 7000-Series, it’s not only fleet expansion, but also replacement of 592 railcars, as the 1000 and 4000-Series have been retired, and eventually, 7000-Series cars will replace the 5000-Series as well, as Metro opted to forgo a rehab on these cars and instead retire them early.  Once the 7000-Series order is complete, rather than having seven different series of cars, there will only be four: the 2000-Series, the 3000-Series, the 6000-Series, and the 7000-Series.  And the Breda rehabs only have about another ten years before they reach retirement age, meaning more fleet renewal is coming.  More memories.  After all, if the Rohrs and older Bredas defined Metro in the 1970s through the 1990s, the Breda rehabs defined Metro in the 2000s and 2010s.

All in all, I’d say that I’ll miss the old railcars.  I’m glad that 1000 and 1001 will be refurbished and preserved for historical purposes, but I’ll miss seeing the older style of railcar around on a regular basis.

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Sometimes you have to vote with your feet… Fri, 16 Jun 2017 01:18:33 +0000 Sometimes, the fact that the telecommunications market is extremely cutthroat has its advantages from a customer standpoint.  It means that there is no room for loyalty, and also that the big players are more than happy to poach customers from each other.  It also means that if I’m no longer happy with my service, I can bounce at a moment’s notice to someone else who will make me satisfied with their service.

I’ve done that twice in the last five years.  Back in late 2013, I finally took Candice Bergen’s advice and switched to Sprint, replacing Verizon as my cell phone carrier.  The reason for switching at that time was related to my unlimited data plan.  I had an unlimited data plan with Verizon when I got my first smartphone back in early 2010, and kept it with my second smartphone in late 2011.  However, about a year after I got my second smartphone, Verizon announced that they were doing away with unlimited data plans, and that while people on existing unlimited plans were grandfathered in, they could not upgrade to a new phone at the subsidized rate and still keep their unlimited data plans.  In other words, if you wanted to keep your unlimited plan, you had to pay full retail for your device.  I considered that to be unacceptable, so I did my research, and settled on Sprint.  They offered unlimited data plans, and had all of the other features that I was looking for.  So I switched.  Other than a very slight loss of voice quality (Verizon had clearer sound by a hair), I continued to be pleased with Sprint two years later when I upgraded to a new phone, and also when I adjusted my plan a few months ago to a cheaper one that had everything that I already had, plus 10 GB of hotspot service.

Now fast forward to about a week or so ago.  The USB charging port on my Galaxy Note 5 stopped working.  Not good.  That meant that the only way that I could charge my phone was via the wireless charger.  Clearly, this was not a sustainable proposition, since I couldn’t use a wireless charger in a lot of places that I typically charged my phone, like in the car or in a bag.  Plus if I took any photos with my phone, I had to transfer them via the cloud.  I couldn’t just plug in and transfer stuff directly.

So I made an appointment at a Sprint store for technical support at my earliest opportunity.  According to Sprint’s website, appointment holders got priority processing for support, and the appointments typically took around fifteen minutes.  Good.  I could deal with that.

When it comes to cell companies’ retail locations, I will only go to corporate stores.  I absolutely will not go to franchised locations.  I’ve found that I tend to get better service at corporate locations, because they represent the company directly, and thus stand to lose more if you switch carriers.  My experience with franchised locations is that they’re only interested in making a quick buck by selling you phones and accessories, and they don’t care if you’re satisfied or not, as long as they’ve gotten their money.  I had a very bad experience with an AT&T authorized retailer last year relating to a screen protector on Elyse’s phone that reinforced my no-franchises rule.  They did a poor job installing the screen protector, to the point that dust got under it.  We came back within an hour to get it fixed, and after several more sloppy attempts, they basically told us to get lost.  All that said, franchised locations are bad news, so I avoid them like the plague, because they’re not the company that they have on their sign, and are more interested in a quick sale than repeat business.

So I arrived at the Sprint store on Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg about ten minutes before my appointment time.  When I got in, the first thing that I looked for was a kiosk or something on which to check in, so that the store knew that I was there.  Not finding anywhere to check in, I went over to the counter, where I attempted to catch an employee’s eye to let them know that I was there for an appointment.  The employee whom I was able to get the attention of gave me the dirtiest look that you could imagine, and told me, “There’s only two of us.”  Not, “gimme one moment and I’ll be right over”, or something else along those lines.  Clearly, my presence with an appointment was a bother.  He later came over to me with a tablet and checked me in, still keeping up the attitude that said without saying it that I was inconveniencing him.  I’m sorry that I’m making you do all of your job functions.  But at least I was checked in.  Good.  They knew that I was there, and so I would get seen.

Then they called me up for my appointment.  When I started to explain what was wrong with my phone, they were quick to cut me off and inform me that they only had one technician, and that his queue was first come, first serve, and it would take hours for them to look at my phone because of all of the other phones ahead of mine, including phones from the night before.  Therefore, I would have to leave my phone with them, and come back in a few hours to check on the status of my phone.  Clearly, that wouldn’t work, because I had to go to work later that day.  So I told the person at the store that I would have to come back another day, because I didn’t have that sort of time on this particular day.  In the end, I wasted an hour or so out of my day to be told that the information on the website was essentially meaningless, and that I would be at the back of a very long queue for service.  So thanks for nothing.

Needless to say, I was annoyed about the service that I received from Sprint.  And since this happened at a corporate store, this reflected directly on Sprint itself, and not on some third party retailer.  Sprint itself allowed this, i.e. Sprint management didn’t schedule enough Sprint employees to handle the customer load, and Sprint management also instructed someone to disregard the promises that the website made.  And someone made these employees think that it was somehow acceptable to make excuses for Sprint’s inability to run a Sprint store.

And the thing is, if I had been told going into this that there were no appointments and that support was on a first come, first serve basis, I would have been fine with it, because I could have planned accordingly.  I would have allotted more time for the entire ordeal, likely on a day when I didn’t have to also go to work.

So that was the end of Sprint, as far as I was concerned.  I’m not going to do the “I want to speak to a manager” thing, because that rarely gets me anywhere, instead just hearing the same lame excuses from the next level up.  I will just leave and not come back.  Sprint came off as unwilling to provide repair service when I needed it, and so I did what I had to do in order to get what I needed.  Sprint did not earn my continued business, so I started looking elsewhere.  Other than the unlimited data thing in 2013, I never had a problem with Verizon, and was sad to leave them.  Now, Verizon offered unlimited talk, text, and data, plus unlimited hotspot connectivity.  I know that they throttle you after a certain amount, but history has shown that I have never reached that level.  So all in all, works for me.  They also offered incentives to switch, including paying my early termination fee for Sprint.  I also got a good deal on an Android tablet, which is something that I would have eventually gotten from Sprint had I stayed with them for another upgrade.  Plus Verizon’s sales staff was exactly as I liked: helpful and not pushy.  Additionally, I had always been pleased with Verizon tech support in the past.  So it made sense to go back to Verizon after a little less than four years away.

So all in all, I’m glad to be back on Verizon.  Hopefully they will earn my continued business for a long time to come.

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Taste testing some novelty sodas… Sun, 04 Jun 2017 18:30:04 +0000 This past Thursday, Elyse and I finished up a round of taste tests on a bunch of novelty sodas that we bought at Rocket Fizz in Richmond back in March.  Recall from the second Journal entry about our Richmond trip:

The novelty sodas that I got in March

This was definitely a mixed bag as far as taste went.  We were admittedly a bit heavy on a single brand, as four of the six were from the Lester’s Fixins brand.  But we found out what worked and what didn’t, and were willing to be surprised by what we found.

The first soda that we tried was the one that started this whole thing in the first place: ranch dressing.  I had heard about the ranch dressing soda from someone that I follow on Instagram, and it seemed crazy enough to try.  I said this about it at the time:

"So Elyse and I tried the ranch dressing soda today. It smelled like feet, tasted like sugar and fizz in the moment, and left a ranchy aftertaste."

Realize that I basically had to force myself to drink that soda, because it was terrible.  Ranch dressing is lovely and all, but it doesn’t work as a soda.  Meanwhile, when I wrote that post, I had not yet had the complete experience, as I had not burped yet.  And the burp is as much of the soda experience as drinking it.  And it tasted exactly like it smelled: like feet.  All in all, as I’ve been known to say, “G-R-O-C-E gross”.

The following week, we broke out the bacon soda.  This was another Lester’s Fixins soda, and we were hoping that it would be better than the ranch dressing soda.  I had this to say about it at the time:

"So Lester's Fixins 'Bacon with Maple Syrup' soda tastes like bacon bits rather than real bacon."

All in all, the bacon soda was pretty good.  While it did taste like bacon bits, as in like what goes on salads, it was the higher end bacon bits, which are actually made of bacon.  Compare to something like that “Bac’n Pieces” brand, which is made out of something crunchy that was then treated with bacon flavoring.  All in all, I’d buy it again (the soda, not the artificial bacon bits).

Next, we tried the “Grass” soda:

Grass Soda

This was a non-Lester’s brand, and it wasn’t bad by any means.  We were told by the lady at the store that it tasted the way that you think that it should taste.  I expected something that vaguely resembled grass clippings, but surprisingly, it had a very subtle green apple flavor.  Quite a pleasant surprise, though I was a little disappointed that it didn’t taste like something resembling grass clippings.

The following week, we tried the Sweet Corn soda:

Sweet Corn soda

This was probably the best Lester’s Fixins soda out of the whole bunch.  It was the color that you would expect a corn soda to have.  It smelled like corn.  And then when we drank it, it tasted more or less like creamed corn.  In other words, they nailed it.

The following week, we gave the butter soda a spin:

Butter Soda

This is where you recognize that Lester’s Fixins doesn’t always hit it out of the park.  Ranch dressing soda was basically what it said on the label (and was pretty nasty), and the bacon bits hit pretty close as well.  Then the corn was perfection.  But this one was a miss.  Butter isn’t that strong of a flavor in the first place, and in soda, it quickly gets overwhelmed by other flavors.  In this case, the sugar took care of that.  Thus butter soda tasted like sugar water, and nothing more, because the sugar completely overrode the butter taste.  That was a disappointment, because I was looking forward to butter in soda form, and its placement near the end of the line was indicative of our high hopes for this soda.

And last but not least, San Francisco Fog soda:

San Francisco Fog Soda

This soda had a great presentation.  The label gave an impression of a foggy day on the San Francisco Bay, and the soda itself was a grayish white color to match.  The lady at the store told us that it had something of a marshmallow flavor to it, and that was a pretty accurate description of it.  While the name stirs up romantic imagery of San Francisco, the marshmallow soda that Elyse and I consumed was remarkably good.  It all came together quite nicely.

Meanwhile, Elyse and I picked up six more sodas from Rocket Fizz while we were passing through Richmond on our way back from a trip to the Outer Banks (more on that in a future Life and Times set [update: here it is]).  Check these out:

The second round of sodas

The next round of novelty sodas: “Martian”, chocolate, “barf”, Mighty Mouse blue cream, pickle juice, and maple syrup.  Note only one Lester’s Fixins soda this time around, as we went to great effort to select sodas from different manufacturers this time around.  I’ve had a chocolate soda before, but it was cheap stuff that tasted like seltzer water and chocolate, alternating between the two flavors.  I’ve never had a really quality chocolate soda before.  So this ought to be fun.

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A trip to the pinball museum… Mon, 29 May 2017 14:08:33 +0000 On Tuesday, May 23, Elyse and I, along with mutual friend Brian, went up to Asbury Park, New Jersey for the day.  Our goal was to go to the Silverball Museum, which is a vintage arcade on the Asbury Park boardwalk.

We left in the 10:00 hour, and headed up via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I-295, and I-195, with a stop for lunch at Maryland House.  On the way up I-295, imagine Elyse and Brian’s surprise when I said, “I think I left my hat at Maryland House,” in that oh, crap sort of way.  Elyse suggested turning around to get it, but we were too far afield to do that.  To turn around would be tantamount to cancelling our trip to return to Harford County, Maryland, just north of Baltimore.  So we continued on, hatless.  After all, we would pass Maryland House coming home, so we could see if it was still there at that time.  I know what I did – I set my hat down on the table next to me when we were having lunch, and I walked off without it.

Arriving in Asbury Park, we located the pinball museum, but first, I wanted to check out a place from my childhood that I had missed during my 2013 trip: Asbury Youth Center, which was a children’s clothing store run by my Uncle Skippy.  I remember Uncle Skippy, and remember his being pretty awesome.  Many of the outfits that you saw me in on the Childhood Days page, such as this one came from Uncle Skippy’s store.  The store closed in the late 1980s when Uncle Skippy retired, and I hadn’t been back there since.  So a quick Google search revealed the address to be 660 Cookman Avenue, and it was off to the races.  This is what the building that housed Uncle Skippy’s store looks like today:

The location of Uncle Skippy's store, now a restaurant called "Taka"

The location of Uncle Skippy's store, now a restaurant called "Taka"

I sent a photo of the place to Dad, and his reaction was, “Sure looks different.”

We also checked out the building next door to Uncle Skippy’s store, which was once a Woolworth’s, but is now a mini-mall:

That was fun, as we checked out a few of the stores, including one that I had seen on Reddit that sold wooden sunglasses.  I chatted with the owner of that store for a little bit.  Meanwhile, Elyse and Brian went to a store across the way that sold vintage and modern video games, going back as far as the NES era.  I was impressed to see that they sold games for the Sega Master System, as that system wasn’t all that popular, and thus it’s really rare to see those games being sold.  Elyse and I didn’t buy anything, and then Brian bought a Nintendo 3DS.

Then from here, it was off to the pinball museum.  We parked in space 42 (the answer to life, the universe, and everything – at least automotively), and headed on over.  We all bought our wristbands, and it was time to play.  Unlike other vintage arcades that I’ve been to, this place had signs over the games providing background information about the company that made the game and what that game did that was new and innovative.  It was also my first time seeing mechanical pinball machines.  I grew up in the era of solid-state pinball machines, which used far fewer moving parts than older machines, with the score and other information’s being displayed electronically.

It’s interesting – my father worked at a pinball arcade in nearby Belmar as a teen, plus Palace Amusements and the Casino had video games and such as part of their history.  Much of the boardwalk isn’t about amusements anymore, with gift shops and such in Convention Hall, and most of the businesses fronting the boardwalk’s being restaurants and souvenir shops.  So the pinball museum is something of a spiritual successor to the Palace (which is now a parking lot and other minor structures), the Casino (partly demolished, remainder still somewhat in use), and other amusement attractions at Asbury Park.

Reinforcing the idea that this was something of a spiritual successor to these amusement facilities of the past was this artifact:

This is the old photo booth from Palace Amusements, still in operation.  A sign on the booth explained that it was at Palace Amusements, and then operated in Vermont for a number of years before returning to the Jersey Shore.

Meanwhile, check this place out:


More pinball!

Vintage video games!

Yes, this place is as awesome as it looks.  One could easily spend hours here, playing all of the games.  Some of the games had the flippers in unusual places, like this:

Note the position of the flippers.

Note that the flippers face the opposite direction and are oriented closer to the center.  Definitely a challenge from the usual.  The object of this game was to move the horses around the race track.  This game was also completely mechanical.

This crane machine, which Brian is playing here, was something that I’d never seen before:

The crane machine

The crane machine

The crane machine

This was pretty fun.  Unlike most crane games, this was played for entertainment only, i.e. no prizes.  The object was to pick up the gravel (which was actually lentils) with your crane, and drop them in the hopper, and see how many “tons” you can get in there before time expired.  Very challenging, especially since if you went too fast, you got less material per scoop.  Thus you had to pace yourself to get maximum yield.

Of course, in the end, everyone was having fun, and that means making this face, as demonstrated by Elyse:

Elyse makes her "video game face"

We ended up spending two hours here before doing other things along the boardwalk.  But don’t worry – we’ll be back at the end of August for Elyse’s birthday.

Leaving the arcade, and after feeding the meter again, we headed over to the Casino.  That had seen some changes since I was there in 2013, because now, the carousel house was in use again:

The old carousel house is now in use as a skatepark!

The old carousel house is now in use as a skatepark!

The old carousel house is now in use as a skatepark, operated by an organization called Forth Union.  It’s not being used for a carousel anymore, but you know what?  It’s putting the space to good use for entertainment, and that’s awesome.

The midsection of the Casino, meanwhile, looked the same as it did in 2013:

Looking straight back towards the walled-off carousel house. The former Mad-O-Rama space is back and to the right.
Looking straight back towards the walled-off carousel house.  The former Mad-O-Rama space is back and to the right.

View to the left of the previous view. Pretty sure that this was part of the Casino fun house, but my recollection is a little fuzzy on this.
View to the left of the previous view.  Pretty sure that this was part of the Casino fun house, but my recollection is a little fuzzy on this.

View to the right, showing the Mad-O-Rama space and the areas next to it.
View to the right, showing the Mad-O-Rama space and the areas next to it.

The arcade, meanwhile, looked the same, other than a fence down the middle:

The Casino arcade

The north facade, meanwhile, looked a little rough:

The Casino's north facade

Does anyone know what happened to the “CASINO” lettering?

We also headed over to Convention Hall, which looked the same as it did in 2013.

After this, we went to Monmouth Mall, where Elyse and Brian filmed a Montgomery Vector elevator at the Lord & Taylor:

I was amused about what was carved into the display:

Scratchitti on the display

Yes, I am immature.

Otherwise, we found a rare specimen: a living Suncoast!

I’ve only seen one other living Suncoast store in the last decade or so, and that’s at White Marsh Mall north of Baltimore.  The company is now owned by the same people that own FYE, and has had similar “format decay” as FYE, i.e. they now sell mostly merchandise tie-ins with popular entertainment franchises, and very little actual media.  However, I did get this photo of two candy containers:

"Grow up and get a life"

I captioned this “Grow up and get a life.”  Fans of Super Mario Bros. will understand this immediately.

And then from there, we headed back home.  We returned to Maryland House on the way back to inquire about my hat.  The guy checked the lost and found, and bad news: no hat.  I’m guessing that someone saw it laying there abandoned, and got themselves a new hat.  And I hope that they enjoy it, as I harbor no ill will towards whoever found it.  I only had that particular hat for six months, and it never quite fit as well as I would have preferred, so I’m not too upset about losing it.  Plus I have the classic hat to fall back on until I get another hat.

So that’s that.  I’d say that everyone had fun.  I like these little road trips.

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Red Line to Grosvenor… Thu, 18 May 2017 03:52:47 +0000 You may be aware that in February, Metro began retiring the Breda 4000-Series railcars, starting with 4054 and 4055.  While most of the retired cars will likely be sold for scrap, not all of them will.  When 4089 was retired, it was cut up and converted into vendor kiosks, intended for use at Grosvenor-Strathmore station.  Today was the first day of this pop-up market, which will run at least through the end of June, and eventually be incorporated into a new development at Grosvenor station.

So Elyse, Elyse’s father Joe, and I gave it a look.  The car is cut up into different sections, with the various sections arranged around the station entrance.  Here’s an overview of one side of the setup:

Overview of one side of the setup

Then there were a few different kiosks set up.  One contained a bakery:

Grandma Vera's Bakery

Grandma Vera's Bakery

Interestingly enough, someone was selling clothes out of the back part of the bakery section.
Interestingly enough, someone was selling clothes out of the back part of the bakery section.

Then someone was selling clothes and hats in another section:

Ibhana Creations

Another contained a vendor selling flowers and other plants:

Bell Flowers

Another contained a juice vendor:

Juice Fresh

Juice Fresh

One thing interesting about the juice section is that it contained the center doors:

I checked the door release to see what it looked like:

Release cover for the #10 door on Breda 4089  Surprise: no release handle!
Door release handle for the #10 door.  The seal was missing, but surprisingly, so is the release mechanism.

Then another section contained a table and a computer monitor:

Seats from the car were used as benches:

Seats as benches

Seats as benches

What I would give to have Breda seats in my house, ya know?

And then there was the front section, containing the cab:

The front end of 4089

The front end of 4089

The front end of 4089

The Breda logo on the exterior is still intact.
The Breda logo on the exterior is still intact.

Meanwhile, they let Elyse and me in the cab.  I got photos of Elyse closing the doors, first on the left:

"Step back, doors closing!"

And then on the right:

"Step back, doors closing!"

We also set the ID and destination to make it a proper train to Grosvenor:

Train 205, destination 09. Red Line to Grosvenor!

And then Elyse put her hand on the master controller and pretended to operate:

Then the rest of it looked like Metro:

Then there was also a sculpture made using the various mechanical parts of the car.  It was gone before we arrived, but here it is, taken by a colleague of mine who was there earlier:

The sculpture
Photo: A. Hastings

So all in all, this was fun.  Glad to see a retired Metro railcar given new life.  I hope that this pop-up market does really well, and I also hope to see more Metro railcars get new life in creative ways after they’re decommissioned before it’s all over.

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So, about that whole “thou shalt not steal” thing… Sun, 07 May 2017 15:50:06 +0000 Sometimes the level of hypocrisy shown by those in organized religion just makes me stand back in awe.  They preach Christian values, and then don’t follow them in real life.  In this instance, it involves the church that I used to attend from 1992 until 2003, and where I am still technically a member, albeit inactive.  Through a recent interaction, I learned quite a bit more than I expected as far as where things stand with them.

For those who aren’t familiar, I work with a company called Pixsy to recover royalties for cases where my photographs are used without permission.  I routinely search for and submit cases where my photos are used without permission in hopes of recovering license fees for that usage.  Basically, I have no problem with downstream usages of my photos.  But I am a professional who deserves to be paid for those usages in a professional setting.  Basically, if you expect to take in revenue based on materials that contain my work, then you need to pay me for the usage.  My take on it is that if you were going to hire a photographer to do a shoot for you, there’s no question that you would pay them.  But by using photos of mine that I have already created, you’ve essentially hired me as your photographer, and as such, I should be paid.  Using my work for commercial purposes without even so much as asking me is a major no-no as far as I’m concerned.

In this case, I was skimming through the Internet looking for potential infringement cases, I found this:

The ChurchFinder page for Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church

I recognized that photo, showing Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church.  I took that photo back in January 2003:

My photo of Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church, from 2003

The biggest giveaway that it was one of mine was the presence of two big lumps of snow in the foreground.  Those wouldn’t show up in most photos of the church.  I later posted this photo to Panoramio, a photo geotagging service that was integrated into Google Maps earlier this year.  I figured that the people who run the ChurchFinder site found my photo on Google, saved it, and then uploaded it to their website without even giving it a second thought.  Fine.  Pay me for the usage, and all is well.  Pixsy accepted the case, and it was off to the races.

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago to receive an angry text message from my mother​, claiming that someone called the church seeking compensation for the usage of one of my photographs.  Pixsy had done exactly what I had hired them to do, and traced the infringement back to its source.  And I was as surprised as anyone that the case found its way back to the church.  I figured that the website that I had found it on just yoinked it off of the Internet and posted it all by themselves, and that the church itself had nothing to do with it.

Now, contractually, I’m not allowed to contact the party committing the infringement, and if contacted by the infringing party, it is my responsibility to refer them back to Pixsy for resolution of the case without further comment (I say as much on my contact page).  Likewise, if I have made previous contact with the party making the infringement, then Pixsy won’t touch it.

So this became a very sticky situation.  First of all, I was informed by my mother that I was now involved in a copyright claim against her church.  If I had known that it would go back to the church, I probably wouldn’t have brought it through Pixsy, but rather contacted the church directly to resolve the matter privately.  Secondly​, my mother more or less made herself a party in the case, because the minister told her about it, and she went to me about it.  I had to gently remind my mother that this was not her battle to fight, that I was not allowed to discuss the case per my agreement with Pixsy, and that if the church did, in fact, use my photo without permission, then they should pay me.

Imagine my surprise to see my mother then take the church’s side on this, playing the “poor nonprofit” card, and blaming everything on the previous minister, who had resigned his position a few years ago in order to join ECO, a homophobic Presbyterian denomination that broke away from the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2012.  She even went so far as to tell me that she would pay the fee herself, and that would be my Christmas present.  Clearly, my mother was taking this very personally, whereas to me, it was not a personal matter at all – it was just business.  I didn’t care what person, acting on behalf of the church, did it.  Whoever did it, it was done, and actions have consequences.

In the end, this was a no-win situation for me, and so I did what any normal person would do: I asked Pixsy to cancel the case.  I’m not letting a case drive a wedge between me and my family.

The take-home points were surprising.  I used to think that my old church practiced what it preached.  Not anymore.  Apparently, the whole “thou shalt not steal” thing only applies to physical goods.  I checked my Bible, and I didn’t find an asterisk on that commandment, and no fine print spelling out exceptions for digital products.  Likewise, there’s also the whole idea of rendering unto Caesar what is his and such, i.e. paying one’s obligations.

I’m also surprised that the church used the photo in the first place.  I took the photo with Big Mavica, which means it’s relatively low resolution.  Plus it was taken on a wet and cloudy day – so it’s not the best photo.  I took better photos of the church during my sister’s wedding.  But considering that it originated with the church, one has to wonder why they would steal a photo in the first place.  Go outside on a nice day and take your own bloody photo instead of stealing mine.  In that case, they would own the photo outright, and could use it however they wanted.  Likewise, sloppy handling of images is no excuse.  Just because a photo of mine made its way onto a church computer doesn’t mean that the church has carte blanche to do whatever it wants with it.  A good rule of thumb is that if you didn’t take a photo, and don’t know where it came from, you probably shouldn’t use it.

Then there’s the matter of how the church views me.  Rather than treating this as a business matter amongst professionals and working with Pixsy, they went straight to my mother, like I was a child.  I think “look what your son did” is the best description for it.  At least I know where I stand, I suppose.  It is clear that I will never be viewed as an adult at Finley Memorial.  I will always​ be viewed there as a child, rather than as someone with their own professional endeavors, and who should be taken seriously as an adult.  They had no business putting my mother in the middle of that situation.  This was a business matter between the church and me, via Pixsy.  That the church opted to bring my mother into this discussion is both highly insulting and extremely unprofessional.

But most concerning is my mother, who, when put into this uncomfortable situation by the minister, took the church’s side over mine, and thus I was the bad guy.  Really?  This is the same person who was so proud of me for going after infringers and making money based off of making their infringements legal, and now that her church got caught violating copyright, I’m the bad guy, and she’s defending the thieves.  Thanks a lot, Mom.  Way to stick up for me.  That hurts.  I was very disappointed that my mother refused to support me, especially when she knew that Pixsy money is helping me get ahead financially, and eventually buy a house.  I also found it interesting how quick my mother was to make excuses for the church.  My mother was a teacher for many years, and many teachers that I had wouldn’t take excuses.  If I didn’t complete an assignment, they would say, “No, you chose not to complete that assignment.”  Ultimately, people acting on behalf of the church chose to steal my imagery rather than take their own photo, or ask permission to use mine.  No excuse for that.

All in all, this has been an eye-opener.  And all of this could have been avoided if the church had first sought permission to use the photo.  I probably would have let the church use it for free because of our former association, but now I’ve lost any respect for them that I might have once had.  In the end, the moral is the same as when WJLA stole my Noah’s Ark photo: don’t steal.  Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean that you are free to use it as you wish without asking permission first.

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“If what doesn’t kill us is making us stronger…” Sun, 30 Apr 2017 14:00:07 +0000 So according to Deadline, there will be an eight-episode revival of the 1990s sitcom Roseanne.  From what I’ve read, most of the actors from the original series will reprise their roles.

Roseanne is probably the last sitcom that I would have imagined would do a revival.  Reason is that over the course of the final season, they more or less trashed the entire premise of the show as things went completely off the rails, as the Conners won $108 million in the lottery, turning them from working-class to fabulously wealthy overnight.  Then there was the ending of the final episode, which retconned much of the series with the revelation that Dan had died from his heart attack, Jackie was gay (and not Bev), Darlene married Mark and Becky married David, that the events of the final season were a fantasy, and that everything that we saw over the past nine seasons was actually a book written by a heretofore unknown person named Roseanne Conner.  So where do you go from there?

First of all, however, in exploring where this show might start, I’m inclined to dismiss speculation by Roseanne Barr from 2009 about what the characters might be up to.  From the article cited above:

On her website in 2009, Barr gave her detailed take on where each of the main characters from the show would be in a possible Roseanne revival: Roseanne and Jackie opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford; Dan reappearing alive after faking his death; DJ being published; Mark dying in Iraq; David leaving Darlene for a woman half his age; Darlene coming out, meeting a woman and having a baby with her; Becky working at Walmart; Arnie befriending the governor of Illinois and remarrying Nancy; Bev selling a painting for $10,000; Jerry and the grandsons forming a boy band; and Bonnie being arrested for selling crack.

I’m willing to dismiss this because no article that I could find thus far was willing to go on record stating that this speculation on Barr’s part from eight years ago is what the revival would be based on.  I could think of a few different ways that a Roseanne revival could go, based on how much of the ninth season one would prefer to ignore.  Let’s admit: Roseanne jumped the shark, big time, as soon as the family won the lottery.  The original series should have ended right here:

The end of Darlene's wedding

This is the episode where Darlene got married.  The story should have ended with Darlene’s wedding.  It would have sewn up the Darlene/David love story, and ended the series on a high note.  Then after this, rather than Dan’s having a heart attack, the cast should have taken their final bows.  That would have been a far better ending to the series than the long monologue by Barr that we ended up getting a year later, where I was left thinking afterwards, “What in the hell did I just watch?”  Plus I’m still a bit annoyed about the fact that ABC showed shots of the cast taking final bows in the promos for the series finale, but the series finale contained no such scenes.

So, really, I could see three scenarios for a Roseanne revival, depending on how we want to treat the final season.

The first is that they do a new show based on the “real” Conner family that author Roseanne Conner based her stories on.  This takes the original series at face value as a completed work of fiction inside of another fictional universe where little is known about the characters.  In such a situation, Dan died from his heart attack (or, as speculated, faked his own death), Darlene and Mark had become a couple, Becky and David had become a couple, Jackie was gay, etc.  I think that this is probably the most interesting scenario, as we would learn exactly what Roseanne the writer changed about her family.  Thankfully, in this situation, the final season never existed, bringing the series back to its roots.  It also allows for a lot of artistic license, which could allow the new series to escape any conventions from the old series that the writers no longer wanted to follow.  It also allows for casting changes, since nothing says that the “real” versions of any of these characters, other than Roseanne Conner herself, since she appeared in the final episode, are what we were accustomed to.  That also allows the show to continue to have Mark Healy as a character, as continuing to have Mark would require recasting the role, since actor Glenn Quinn died from a heroin overdose in 2002.  However, I really don’t know if this would go over well with the public at large.  It would essentially be a new series based on an older one, rather than a direct continuation of the old show, and as such, might be too confusing for some viewers who, in their minds, are trying to connect the two series more directly, and can’t wrap their minds around the series finale’s premise that the entire series was a book.  Yes, the series finale went very deep with that final monologue.  However, that ending is still subject to a bit of discussion, and lack of understanding of the ramifications of that ending could tank the new series if people don’t understand it.

Then there’s the second scenario.  This takes the original series at face value, and omits the monologue that churned everything up in the series’ final moments.  As such, the last time we saw the Conners, they were all sitting around the kitchen table, eating Chinese food together.  Becky and Mark were expecting a child, Darlene and David’s baby, Harris, had just come home from the hospital after a premature birth, Leon and Scott were about to adopt a child, and in general, things were starting to look up for the family.  This situation would treat the entire lottery arc, and all of the ridiculousness that followed, as canon, and build on it following the passage of 20 years.  In that situation, the Conners’ lottery winnings would have finished paying out about a year prior to the start of the new show, and so depending on how well the Conners managed their wealth, they could be financially secure and set for life, or they could have squandered it all and be back to square one.  I would expect that they would find a way to hand-wave the lottery winnings away in such a case, such as through some failed real estate investment deals or something, in order to return the family to their original situation, and make them middle class again, possibly changed from their experience.  Most interestingly, it could present a Roseanne who, after the considerable amount of soul-searching that we saw in the final season, was much changed from those experiences, and had a new outlook on life now that she and Dan are in their sixties.  Similarly, we would find out how all of the various babies turned out, as Jackie’s son Andy would now be 23, Roseanne and Dan’s son Jerry Garcia would be 22, Darlene and David’s daughter Harris Conner Healy would be 21, and Becky and Mark’s unnamed child would be 19 or 20.  Then Crystal and Ed’s children, Little Ed and Angela, would be 26 and 25, respectively.  There could be many storylines about the kids and their own grown-up endeavors.  They would also have to figure out what to do with the character of Mark Healy, as Glenn Quinn, as mentioned earlier, is no longer around to play Mark.  The killed-in-Iraq thread, as speculated years ago, fits Mark’s character well enough, as I could see Mark joining the military out of a sense of patriotic duty following 9/11, being sent to Iraq, and losing his life in that conflict.

The final scenario that I could possibly see them going with is one that omits everything that happened after Dan and Roseanne reconciled following the large fight in the eighth season finale.  Thus the Conners never won the lottery, and they’re going into the revival with a clean slate, starting from more or less where the show should have ended in the first place.  That would mean that Dan’s marital infidelity never happened, Darlene and David’s baby wasn’t born prematurely and almost died, no fighting terrorists on a train, no remodeling, no turning ownership of the restaurant over to Leon and Nancy, and certainly no weird ending.  It would be a continuation of the series as we would prefer to remember it, and forgetting that the ninth season ever happened.  Many of the same issues as in the second scenario would need to be faced, but without being colored by the lottery experience.  However, I think that that this might be too confusing for audiences as well, since this omits an entire season of episodes, albeit ones that should never have been produced in the first place.

Of all of the different scenarios, I think that I would find the first one most interesting, but it might be too confusing for audiences.  The third scenario discards too much story as non-canon, which leaves the second scenario as the most likely to go to production, as it only dismisses part of one episode, thus preserving the continuity that we’re used to, bad final season and all.  And it might make for interesting television, as we see what the family has learned over the years.

And then as far as that ninth season goes, I think it explains quite well why most long-running sitcoms finish up at eight seasons.  Nine seems to just be too long, as Family Matters can also attest to, which became tired and stale after being on for so long.  That show was (mercifully) cancelled before starting a planned tenth season.  Likewise, The Drew Carey Show ran for nine seasons, which was one season too many, with that show’s having run out of ideas somewhere in the middle of the eighth season.

Then another question when it comes to a Roseanne revival is about who will play Becky.  Will it be original actress Lecy Goranson, or replacement actress Sarah Chalke?  Either way, I’m sure that they’ll make a few which-Becky-is-it jokes, especially if it ends up being Goranson.

So all in all, it ought to be pretty interesting to see how a Roseanne revival plays out.  All they have to do is get their set back from Mike & Molly, and then it’s off to the races, I suppose.

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Seeing where Schumin Web lives… Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:24:52 +0000 On Tuesday, Elyse and I took a big loop trip through Virginia and Maryland.  We started at my house, went up through Frederick (where we had a late lunch at Sheetz), then took US 15 over the Point of Rocks Bridge into Virginia, where we went through Ashburn, and then down into Manassas, and from there, back home via the Beltway.  The plan was to see Manassas Mall, which we both realized that we had never actually been to.

As it turned out, Manassas Mall wasn’t that exciting.  It was a fairly generic one-story suburban shopping mall that contained fairly typical mall stores and a Walmart store, plus it contained an indoor go-kart track, as well as a place called Uptown Alley, which contained an arcade, bowling alley, and laser tag, as well as a restaurant.  Other than the entertainment venues, it was more or less as expected.

However, more interesting than Manassas Mall was a side trip that we made on the way down.  You may recall that, since 2007, Schumin Web has been hosted with DreamHost.  In 2012, DreamHost began operating in a data center in Ashburn, Virginia, and my site was one of many to get moved there.  It makes enough sense, since Schumin Web is based in the eastern US, and the largest segment of my viewership is also in the eastern US.  I remember getting a big boost in speed when the site started serving from Ashburn rather than Los Angeles, which made site maintenance that much easier.  With the site hosted in Northern Virginia, it wasn’t a large leap to imagine a trip to go see where the building that it was housed in was.

So that’s what we did on this trip.  I knew that I couldn’t justify a full trip just for that, so I bundled it in with the mall and other various odds and ends.  I knew that DreamHost was in RagingWire’s Ashburn facility, so it was just a matter of Google-and-go.

We first found this building:

Then we found this second building up the street:

Home, sweet home, I suppose, at least as far as the site’s physical location goes.  In any case, that was interesting to see, because I didn’t quite know what to imagine as far as the place where the site physically lives went, and now I know what it looks like, at least on the outside.  Nice place, and the large HVAC units also give a good indication of exactly how much effort goes into keeping this facility at the right temperature.  Wonder what kind of fire systems they have in here.  I imagine that it’s an FM200-based waterless fire suppression system, because conventional water sprinklers would cause more damage than the original fire.

I also found it interesting what was right around the data center buildings.  Most of it was boring suburban office buildings, but the first building had a lot of customer-facing businesses right next door to it, including a yoga facility.  So I saw a lot more activity than I expected.

So there you have it.  The place where Schumin Web is served from.  Now you know what it looks like.

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Just when you thought that the mountain couldn’t look any worse than it already did… Sun, 16 Apr 2017 21:37:32 +0000 On Tuesday, April 11, I got together with Elyse and Melissa, and we headed down to Virginia for the day.  The plan was to get together with my parents, plus visit Afton Mountain and downtown Staunton.

We left the house at 9:30, and took US 29 down to Charlottesville.  First stop was Moe’s Original Bar B Que, where we had lunch with my father.  Fun time, and my father seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to finding good barbecue.  Every barbecue place that Dad has taken me to has been wonderful, and this was no exception.

From here, we took US 250 across to Afton Mountain.  There, we went to the second overlook, i.e. the Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook, to get some views.  I tend to avoid Afton Overlook, the first overlook, after being propositioned for sex there one night back in 2005.  The second overlook, which is a mile and some change further down the road, tends to attract fewer undesirables.  I suppose it’s because it’s further away from civilization than the first one, which is a minute’s drive from the freeway.  In any case, the view is awesome:

View from Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook

I also made an unfortunate discovery when it came time to start photographing: dead batteries.  I just grabbed my real camera and went that morning, thinking that since I had already charged the batteries after the last use, they ought to be good.  Nope – dead.  So that forced me over to the phone camera for a little bit, while I used my USB battery to charge up a camera battery.  I managed to get enough of a charge on one of the batteries to be operational before we left the mountain, though.

Meanwhile, Melissa got a selfie at the overlook:

Melissa gets her selfie

Elyse and I got one, too:

Elyse and I get our selfie

From here, we headed over to the cluster of abandoned buildings near Rockfish Gap.  First stop there was the row of rooms above the old tourist information center.  There, among the other graffiti, we found this:

Trump graffiti in one of the rooms

Trump graffiti in one of the rooms

Pro-Trump graffiti.  This is the reminder that I grew up in a very “red” part of Virginia that voted 71.3% for Donald Trump in 2016.  For the people who voted for Trump, I just like to ask them, “How’s that working out for you?”  After all, Trump ran as the friend of the working class, and has proven time and time again that he is anything but.

We also visited the old tourist information center, which, to our surprise, was now opened up.  That looked quite different from the last time that I saw it, i.e. when it was open.  Now, it looks exactly as you would expect for a building where the roof has completely deteriorated, leaving it exposed to the elements for much of the past decade:

The old tourist information center

The old tourist information center

And it looks exactly as you would expect for a facility that’s been exposed to the elements for the better part of a decade.  From the looks of things, the ceiling has completely collapsed, likely due to water intrusion, along with all of the ductwork and insulation.  This room was previously dominated by a large topographic model of the area, which was moved to the new location.

We also visited The Inn at Afton, a former Holiday Inn that became independent in the late 1990s.  This was the last of the establishments that was still open, but I question how much longer it will hang on.  On this visit, we discovered that the lobby and restaurant part of the building are now abandoned, as the “lobby” is now housed inside room 213.

The Inn at Afton's sign, a remnant from its time as a Holiday Inn, though the structure around the bottom of the sign has been removed.
The Inn at Afton’s sign, a remnant from its time as a Holiday Inn, though the structure around the bottom of the sign has been removed.

Back side of the sign. Unlike in 2011, when the earlier red sign was destroyed in a windstorm and was subsequently replaced, they are apparently in no hurry to repair the sign again, considering that it's been in this state for several visits at this point, spanning more than a year's time.
Back side of the sign.  Unlike in 2011, when the earlier red sign was destroyed in a windstorm and was subsequently replaced, they are apparently in no hurry to repair the sign again, considering that it’s been in this state for several visits at this point, spanning more than a year’s time.

The Inn at Afton. Everything to the left of the entrance canopy is now closed off and abandoned.
The Inn at Afton.  Everything to the left of the entrance canopy is now closed off and abandoned.

View through a door in the lobby building. If memory serves, the former front desk is through that opening to the right.
View through a door in the lobby building.  If memory serves, the former front desk is through that opening to the right.

Inside the former Dulaney's restaurant, now used for storage. Lots of water damage was visible in this area.

Inside the former Dulaney's restaurant, now used for storage. Lots of water damage was visible in this area.
Inside the former Dulaney’s restaurant, now used for storage.  Lots of water damage was visible in this area.

Meeting room of some sort. Note the water damage on the parquet flooring.
Meeting room of some sort.  Note the water damage on the parquet flooring.

Swimming pool. Nasty stuff.
Swimming pool.  Nasty stuff.

Guest building. Looking at this place, I have to remind myself that this is still an active property. They actually rent out rooms in this dump!

Guest building. Looking at this place, I have to remind myself that this is still an active property. They actually rent out rooms in this dump!
Guest building.  Looking at this place, I have to remind myself that this is still an active property.  They actually rent out rooms in this dump!

Every time I see this property, I’m amazed about how much it’s been let to go to crap.  Owner Phil Dulaney’s typical response is that he can do what he wants with his property, and that he has plans that he’s working on.  I’m not inclined to believe him.  At this point, I’m convinced that Phil Dulaney has to die and the property be sold before something happens to revitalize the mountain.  It could be so much more, but it’s not, because the owner clearly doesn’t care.  I was amazed that half of the only active property, The Inn at Afton, is now abandoned.  One would think that, as an active property, that it would be maintained.  Instead, rather than repair leaks in the roof, they just locked it up and abandoned it, just like the other nearby properties.

On the way out, we stopped at King’s Gourmet Popcorn, which is a food truck that serves different kinds of popcorn.  We bought a “mini” sized bag of caramel corn, and it was quite good.  I recommend it if you’re going through that way.

We came down the mountain and into Waynesboro via US 250, which, coincidentally, brought us to a vintage Norge ball that I had been meaning to photograph for some time.  This one is at BZ Laundromat, which I assume was once a Norge location.  The ball is still intact:

It appears to be in very close to original condition, too.  It appears that the only alteration was to paint out the original “NORGE” lettering on the band around the middle.  Pretty neat.

From here, we headed across to Staunton.  Among other things, we saw the Masonic Building, where Elyse got a movie of the elevator, as well as the vintage restroom on the top floor:

One of the commodes was modern, but the other was vintage.  Looks like a regular commode, but oversized:

Vintage toilet at the Masonic Building
They certainly don’t make them like this anymore!

Then I also got a photo showing the stairs:

The stairs, going all the way down

We then headed to a nearby music store, where Elyse tested out a guitar:

"Stave it off, one, two, three, and now you can count to three!"
“Stave it off, one, two, three, and now you can count to three!”

We then continued down to Staunton Antiques, where they had a piano out on the street, available for playing:

Elyse tickled the ivories for a few minutes, and then we continued on.  We eventually made our way past the Wharf district and then to the train station before returning to our car.

From there, we went over to my parents’ house to see Mom, after which we went to Scotto’s in Stuarts Draft.  We took her car, and for whatever reason, Mom wanted me to drive her car (go figure).  Elyse noticed that I was driving Mom’s car like it was a bus, including roping the wheel.  I wonder if it’s because Mom’s car is bigger and heavier than mine?  In any case, that amused me.  Dinner was lovely, and then after getting back to the house, Elyse, Melissa, and I got into the Soul, and we headed back to Maryland.  Not bad for a one-day trip.

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Soda, toys, and a Kroger like no other… Thu, 06 Apr 2017 18:07:42 +0000 So, as promised, here’s the rest of the trip to Richmond that Elyse and I made.

After leaving the Science Museum, we headed over to Carytown.  Elyse wanted me to see Rocket Fizz, which is where she got some bottles of “Stalinade”, a strawberry-flavored soda that, as I said on Instagram at the time, was “Communism in a glass.  Definitely tastes the way that I would expect communism to taste: red.”  They have a very large selection of unique sodas, and some with novelty flavors, and some with novelty names.  I ended up buying a six-pack of novelty flavors.  Here was the take:

Sweet corn, ranch dressing, butter, San Francisco fog, grass, and bacon with maple syrup.

Sweet corn, ranch dressing, butter, San Francisco fog, grass, and bacon with maple syrup.  Should be interesting to try.  I imagine that some of these, like butter and ranch dressing, typically being heavier than your typical soda, will be interesting flavors.  Meanwhile, the clerk told Elyse and me that San Francisco fog has a marshmallowy taste, and that the grass soda tastes “exactly like you would expect”.  So this should be fun.  As of this writing, we have not yet tried any of them.

Then after the soda place, we headed over to World of Mirth, which is a nearby toy store.  Fun place, but this Giant Microbes toy gave me pause:

This is a stuffed HPV, aka Human Papillomavirus, aka genital warts.  With eyes.  It’s a strange combination of cute and disturbing all at the same time.  It actually reminded me of a video that they showed us about herpes in family life (i.e. “sex ed”) in seventh grade.  That video characterized the herpes virus as a red demon-like character called “Herpie”.  Yes, it was exactly as cheesy as it sounds.  I suppose that if those same people made a video about HPV, this little guy would be called “Pappie”?

We later found our way over to Regency Square Mall, which is in Henrico County just west of Richmond.  I had first been to this mall in 1998 on a field trip with school, where we saw Disney on Ice at the Richmond Coliseum, and then went over to Regency Square afterwards in that classic cut-the-kids-loose-for-a-while thing that school group leaders tend to do, unleashing a bunch of overbearing and overemotional humans on the innocent shoppers of a shopping mall.  Back in 1998, my shopping mall experience was limited to small, single-level malls like Staunton Mall and Charlottesville Fashion Square, so Regency Square Mall, with two levels, was a big deal for me.  Two stories was a big mall, plus it was filled with all kinds of interesting stores.  I had a field day with it, enjoying the mall more than the main part of the trip, which was Disney on Ice.  Fast forward to 2017, and the mall was a shell of its former self.  It also seemed much smaller than I remembered.  The mall had four anchor stores, but only two – Sears and JCPenney – were operational.  The other two stores were both Macy’s, which had recently pulled out of Regency Square and looked like this:

Macy's at Regency Square

Considering that of the two remaining anchors, Sears has already admitted that it’s near death, and Penney’s recently announced a round of store closings (though Regency Square was not part of it), it’s quite possible that Regency Square could lose all four anchors before it’s all over.

Then on top of that, Regency Square had a lot of inline store spaces that were empty, and many, if not most, of those inline store spaces that were occupied were filled by what I would call “second tier” tenants, i.e. stores that move into an existing space without doing a buildout first.

So all in all, Regency Square seems to be well on its way to being a dead mall.  There is a redevelopment planned, but we’ll see how that pans out, I suppose.

Then our last stop in the Richmond area was a “Kroger Marketplace” store on Staples Mill Road that Elyse found when she was in Richmond a few months ago.  Many of you are probably familiar with Kroger, which is a grocery chain that operates in 34 states under a number of different nameplates.  Richmond is a big Kroger city, with many locations all over the city and surrounding area.  Kroger typically runs conventional grocery stores, but this is a bigger concept, basically a “Supercenter” version of Kroger, but unlike Walmart, which added groceries to a general merchandise store, Kroger went the other direction, and added general merchandise to a grocery store.  Take a look:

Back actionway. All groceries.
Back actionway.  All groceries.

Large produce section.
Large produce section.

Toy department.
Toy department.

Housewares department.
Housewares department.

Jewelry department. This section is branded as Fred Meyer, which is another Kroger nameplate.
Jewelry department.  This section is branded as Fred Meyer, which is another Kroger nameplate.

Chemicals and paper goods sections, under a "household" banner.
Chemicals and paper goods sections, under a “household” banner.

Apparel section of the store. This was probably the largest single section of the general merchandise areas of the store. It's a smaller amount of floor space than you might find in a Walmart or Target store, though.

Apparel section of the store. This was probably the largest single section of the general merchandise areas of the store. It's a smaller amount of floor space than you might find in a Walmart or Target store, though.
Apparel section of the store.  This was probably the largest single section of the general merchandise areas of the store.  It’s a smaller amount of floor space than you might find in a Walmart or Target store, though.

Kroger Marketplace also contains a fitting room, in the back corner of the apparel section.
Kroger Marketplace also contains a fitting room, in the back corner of the apparel section.

Shoe department. I did not see anywhere to sit and actually try shoes on, but it's possible that I just missed this.
Shoe department.  I did not see anywhere to sit and actually try shoes on, but it’s possible that I just missed this.

I was definitely surprised to see such a thing in a Kroger store.  I just hope that they have a good returns department, because while you almost never get returns on groceries, you do get returns on a lot of the general merchandise items that they’re selling – particularly clothes.

So that was our Richmond trip.  Fun little adventure.  Now Elyse and I just have to try the sodas.

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