The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Thu, 23 Jun 2022 16:56:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 A look at Lakeside dining past… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/23/a-look-at-lakeside-dining-past/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/23/a-look-at-lakeside-dining-past/#respond Thu, 23 Jun 2022 16:56:24 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=45377 While I was rounding up all of the material for the photo set about Zane Showker Hall, I dug through a lot of old photos of JMU in order to make sure that I had captured all of the relevant material.  Generally speaking, whenever I’m doing a photo set for Life and Times that requires rounding up historical photos or otherwise tells a story that is not in chronological, such as Staunton Mall, which included photos taken over multiple days and also a hefty dose of new material, presented in a very different order than it was originally shot, after I gather it all into a work folder, I sort it all out by subject and place the subjects in the order that I intend to present them.  In the case of a smaller, non-chronological set like Showker or Staunton Mall, I will usually write and place photos at the same time.  Compare to a travelogue photo set like Toronto or North Carolina, where I will do all of the writing first, and then add photos only after the entire narrative has been written.  Regardless of how it’s assembled, though, after I complete the first draft, I will typically start cutting things out, as I tend to load things on pretty heavily in my first draft.  Sometimes, I’m cutting things out that are extraneous to the story.  Other times, I’m trimming the number of photos down to a more manageable amount.

When I was doing the Showker photo set, I originally planned to include photos of some of the dining attractions that were around the building, and actually did a decent amount of writing related to them.  One thing that I planned to include was a little bit about Mrs. Green’s, which was a dining operation in nearby Chandler Hall.  I also planned to include some discussion of a small food truck that JMU operated in the mornings in front of Showker that I called the Chuckwagon.  I ended up cutting both of those, but for different reasons.  As far as Mrs. Green’s went, I originally opted to include it because it was in Chandler Hall, which was demolished to make way for Hartman Hall – thus it was something of a “before” for Hartman Hall.  However, considering that I only spent about fifteen minutes in Hartman Hall, tops, it came off as extraneous.  So I cut it, which created a tighter photo set.  For the bit about the Chuckwagon, I realized that I was devoting a large chunk of space to what was essentially a failed test concept, and it had very little to do with the subject other than its being parked in front of Showker.  Ultimately, it took the discussion off on a pretty long tangent, and so in order to keep it on subject, it was removed.  And for a photo set that was primarily about architecture, anything not about architecture just didn’t fit.

These two bits were cut fairly late in the process, after final photos had been selected and edited, but before final assembly of the set.  Considering the advanced state of completion that both were in before I cut them, I decided to move them to the Journal.  After all, they were somewhat related to each other, and would make a decent subject on their own merit.  I also consider that move to have taken the photo set full circle.  The Showker photo set was originally imagined as a Journal entry, but then, in realizing that it would need to be in a much bigger format than a Journal entry typically does in order to properly cover it, I moved it to Life and Times.  So the fact that pieces of the photo set ended up back in the Journal, which is where things originally started, means that we’ve come all the way around.

Mrs. Green’s is the dining service that most people will probably remember.  It was located in Chandler Hall, which was a dormitory building.  Chandler was unusual as far as dorms went, because it had a public portion and a private portion.  Part of the first floor and the basement were open to the public, and those areas were able to be secured separately from the dorm portion, which was always locked.  The first floor contained a computer lab, while the basement contained the Shenandoah Room, which is where Mrs. Green’s operated during the lunchtime hours during the week.  The Shenandoah Room was also available for events outside of Mrs. Green’s operating hours.  There was also an evening option in Chandler called Lakeside Express.  However, I know nothing about Lakeside Express beyond its mere existence, since I never went there in my entire time at JMU.  I typically was never in that part of campus during its operating hours, and they did not accept meal punches.  Chandler Hall was demolished in 2018 in order to make way for Hartman Hall, and the Chandler name was moved to the dorm that was previously known as Potomac Hall, on the far side of Interstate 81.

I photographed Mrs. Green’s on February 22, 2001:

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

I always enjoyed going to Mrs. Green’s, as it was very different from the other offerings on campus.  Because it was so different, I often looked forward to going there.  There is now once again a dining facility in that part of campus called Lakeside Cafe, which I believe is located inside of Hartman Hall.  Based on a photo that I’ve seen of it, this new facility is no Mrs. Green’s.

By the way, some of you who have followed this site for a long time may remember some of these shots of Mrs. Green’s from a photo set called Zane Showker Hall: The Ghost Town, which I retired from the site in the spring of 2005.  A number of photos taken that day were used in the new photo set about Zane Showker Hall.

And then there was the thing that I called the Chuckwagon.  That was JMU’s first attempt at a food truck, introduced in the spring 2001 semester.  It was a modified Cushman utility vehicle, and operated in front of Zane Showker Hall and Godwin Hall.  Here it is, in front of Showker:

The Chuckwagon

The Chuckwagon

The Chuckwagon

The Chuckwagon
The Chuckwagon.  The sign on the front said “Gourmet Today”, but absolutely no one ever called it that, even in official communications.

Chilled food on the left side.
Chilled food on the left side.

Hot beverages on the right side.
Hot beverages on the right side.

Hot foods in a unit on the rear.
Hot foods in a unit on the rear.

Breakfast and lunch menus, along with their prices.  Breakfast and lunch menus, along with their prices.
Breakfast and lunch menus, along with their prices.

The lady who ran the Chuckwagon.  She was really nice, and we talked quite a bit as I was heading to class.
The lady who ran the Chuckwagon.  She was really nice, and we talked quite a bit as I was heading to class.

And as far as I know, I’m about the only one who ever documented it.  I could find nothing else about it other than my materials.  Those of you who have followed this site for a long time probably remember when I wrote about it back in 2001.  I expressed some optimism about it at the time, saying, “All in all, I think the chuckwagon is a great idea, and will be a success, and we should see it around JMU for a long time to come.”  Apparently, the optimism that I had expressed in the original article was misplaced, as the Chuckwagon didn’t even last to the end of the semester before it was discontinued.

If I were to guess why the Chuckwagon did poorly, I would suggest that it had a lot to do with the state of technology at the time.  This food stand was not set up to accept any kind of card payments, making it a cash-only operation.  Credit cards did not have the same level of market penetration that they have now in this sort of business, so that part wasn’t as much of a concern for me.  However, the Chuckwagon also did not have the ability to take payments via JAC card (i.e. the student ID card), which would have allowed payments out of students’ dining dollar or Flex accounts.  Considering that there was no wireless networking on campus at that time, I suspect that they were unable to accept JAC cards because there was no network jack on the outside of Showker.  This was not unique to Showker, however, as most other buildings on campus were not so equipped, either.

I loved the Chuckwagon, but since I rarely had cash, I couldn’t patronize them as often as I might have if they had accepted payment via JAC card.  After all, I was your typical broke college student.  Cash was very hard to come by.  However, I had a meal plan that came with a whole ton of dining dollars, and those were only accessible via JAC card.  So I was unfortunately locked out of it for the most part, and I imagine that a lot of other people were as well.  It was a shame, too, especially when you consider that the lake area at that time was something of a food desert in the mornings, as the food options at that hour were quite limited compared to other parts of campus.  The nearest dining facilities were PC Dukes and D-Hall, which were pretty far away from Showker, and the Mister Chips convenience store was also a decent walk away.  A food option in that part of campus during breakfast hours would have been a good thing.

In going through the photos of the Chuckwagon, I started to wonder whether this sort of operation would succeed in today’s environment.  Nowadays, wireless communication is far more advanced than it was in 2001, credit cards are now accepted practically everywhere, plus food trucks that serve amazing food are far more common nowadays, though I admit that this thing was more akin to a mobile convenience store than a proper food truck, as no food was prepared on board.  In any event, I imagine that I would have probably been a more frequent patron of the Chuckwagon if I had been able to pay electronically.  Might it have succeeded in today’s environment?  If it was done right, I think that it very well could.

All in all, I hope that you enjoyed the photo set comparing Zane Showker Hall to its past self, and I hope that you also enjoyed this view into past food options on campus from my college days.

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I may be off my hinges, but something seems odd about this… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/18/i-may-be-off-my-hinges-but-something-seems-odd-about-this/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/18/i-may-be-off-my-hinges-but-something-seems-odd-about-this/#respond Sat, 18 Jun 2022 18:25:49 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=45239 A very close friend of mine is currently looking for a new job in order to further their career, and a recent experience of theirs while job hunting struck me as odd.  It bothered me because, in the end, all that this company really did was waste my friend’s time.  And when someone that I am very close to gets treated poorly, whether through actual malice or simply through indifference, I get upset, because I don’t want to see them be hurt.

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

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

In any event, my friend has gotten a few bites on their public-facing resume from actual, legitimate companies that I have heard of, and in some cases, done business with in the past.  I consider that a good thing.  In one situation, though, I found the process to be a bit strange, and it left me feeling a bit angry for my friend.  The company found their resume via a search on Indeed, made contact with them, and invited them into their recruitment process.  The first step in that process was an assessment, i.e. one of those ridiculous “personality tests” that ask all sorts of questions about what your views are on attendance, teamwork, work habits, drug use, and so on, where there are allegedly no right or wrong answers.  If they passed the assessment, the process would continue, and if they failed the assessment, the process would end.  According to my friend, they failed the assessment, and therefore the process ended.

As an aside, I am quite confident in saying that the “no right or wrong answers” claim for those assessment tests is a lie.  Companies know what they’re looking for on those assessments.  I remember doing one of those back in 2003 during my interview when I was applying for Walmart.  It was something like a fifty-question “opinion survey” where there were allegedly no right or wrong answers.  After they scored it, the hiring manager said, pretty much straight up, “Let’s discuss the questions that you got wrong.”  And the funny thing was that every single one of those allegedly “wrong” questions, I predicted would be scored “wrong”.

When I heard about the process and the result, I was not happy, because all that this company ultimately did was waste my friend’s time.  As I was told, the company found their resume, reached out to them to invite them into the recruitment process, and then subjected them to an online assessment that subsequently eliminated them from consideration.  As I understand it, an assessment test is used as a way to trim the pool of applicants down to a more manageable amount by eliminating the people who will admit in writing that they aren’t willing to perform the essential functions of the job that they applied for.  The idea is that if you’re subjecting candidates to an assessment where the candidate made the first contact, fine, because that works to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak (though I suspect that there are probably better ways to do that besides those ridiculous assessments – but that’s besides the point).  For a situation where the company reached out to the candidate and invited them into the process, i.e. the first contact was from the company to the potential candidate, subjecting the candidate to an assessment is unacceptable.  If the recruiter found the resume and liked it enough to make the contact and invite the candidate into the process, to me, that tells me that they’re already considered good enough, and therefore, they should bypass any assessment and advance directly to the interview stage, because clearly, the company thinks that they will be a good match.  Anything else is a waste of the candidate’s time, especially when they were brought into the process by the company in the first place.  Clearly, the company sees some value in inviting them into the process themselves, and thus an assessment seems unnecessary, since the company initiated the discussion.  The idea is that the company made the effort to bring someone into the recruitment process when that person didn’t apply, which tells me that they’re more interested in that person right out of the gate compared to the average Joe who applied off the street without any prompting by the company.  Therefore, because the company has already shown that they’re very interested in that candidate, they should go straight to first-round interviews without an assessment.

To subject the candidate to an assessment after actively inviting them into the process, and then bouncing them out based on the results of the assessment without ever interviewing them is just disrespectful.  To me, that speaks of either a serious lack of respect for candidates’ time – more so considering that the company initiated the process with the candidate – or a very broken recruitment process.  Either way, it’s not a good look for the company.  Especially so with the latter, since it tells me that if you still need to use an assessment on the people that the company reached out to and recruited themselves as a weed-out tool, the people in charge of that area of recruitment aren’t doing a good job with it, i.e. they are just pulling in anyone regardless of whether they are qualified or not, and just trying to meet certain quotas for invitations, possibly knowing that those people would probably fail early on.

I suppose that it all ultimately comes down to a matter of respect.  My friend had never considered that particular company before they were invited into their recruitment process, but I suspect they will not consider them again after the experience that they had with this time around, where the company recruited them, subjected them to the weed-out process, and then spit them right back out.  After all, why waste your time with that company again when they have already demonstrated that they do not respect your time at all?  And this is during the recruitment process, when they’re supposed to put their best foot forward in order to entice someone to join the team.  Imagine how they treat their employees once they’re already committed, and the company doesn’t have to put in effort to woo them anymore.

This also speaks again to why companies should treat jobseekers like customers, and not as beggars or otherwise as nuisances.  People remember experiences, and it can and does affect people’s decisions regarding said companies in the future.  If I’m mistreated by a representative of a company, regardless of whether I’m a customer, a jobseeker, or otherwise, I’m going to avoid that company in the future if I can, because I respect myself more than to intentionally subject myself to mistreatment.  This admonishment is even more important when the company made the first contact, because now they’re the one starting the process.  They chose the candidate.  The candidate didn’t choose them.  My friend admitted that they had never thought about the company prior to the company’s reaching out.  Thus it is especially incumbent on them to put their best foot forward when they’re the ones who started things.  To waste someone’s time like that is just plain unacceptable.

I suspect, though, that most of these companies will never learn.  It’s like the old line from The Simpsons, where Principal Skinner says, “Am I so out of touch?”  And then, after thinking about it, he concludes, “No, it’s the children who are wrong,” enabling him to double down on his outdated views.  The same attitude holds here, and unfortunately, we all suffer for it.

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Staunton Mall demolition update… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/10/staunton-mall-demolition-update/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/10/staunton-mall-demolition-update/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2022 19:15:37 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=45060 This past weekend, while Elyse and I were on a trip down to Staunton, we visited Staunton Mall in order to check up on it to see how its redevelopment was going.  You may recall that Staunton Mall had been on a long, slow decline before finally closing in December 2020I published a photo set about the mall based on my final visit, documenting as much about the mall as I could so that it could be remembered, and including older photos from years past.  My last update was from July, and covered the fencing off of the mall building (sans Belk, which remains open), and asbestos abatement in some of the anchor spaces.

Now, demolition has begun in earnest, and a little more than half of the mall is gone.  Interestingly enough, the mall is being demolished from the inside out, as the interior walls and roof have, in large part, been demolished, but the exterior walls, as well as the spaces closest to those exterior walls, are mostly still intact and recognizable.  I have no idea why they’re doing it this way.  I would have expected the exterior walls to come down along with the rest of everything, as they’re clearly working from south to north.  The JCPenney end of the mall is mostly gone except for the exterior walls, while the section between the food court and Wards is only partly demolished, and the 1980s expansion is, for the most part, still intact.  And, of course, Belk remains open for business.

We visited the mall twice: once for Elyse, and once for me.  In Elyse’s case, she was going for something very specific: the panel in the elevator at the JCPenney store.  For those not familiar, Staunton Mall was a one-level facility, however, the JCPenney store had a very small upper level on the west side of the building, which housed the store’s administrative offices.  It’s why the front side of the store was so much taller than the rest.  Elyse rode this elevator for the first time in 2016, and again in 2020 just before the store closed.

In any event, we got the attention of one of the people working on the demolition of the mall, and Elyse asked nicely.  They went in, removed the panel, and passed it over.  Here it is:

Elyse holds the elevator panel from the JCPenney in Staunton Mall

The panel is now in Elyse’s collection of elevator parts, which includes other car panels and hall stations.

The next day, we visited again, when we knew that the demolition crew would not be there.  I was planning to fly my drone around the site, and so, for safety reasons, I didn’t want to do that while there was work going on.  I flew from a variety of places, both on the property and across the street.  Interestingly enough, when I’m flying Staunton Mall, I do better when I fly from across the street.  There’s a big hill across Route 11 from the mall, and there is a hotel and a shopping center up there.  I get better transmission and better line of sight when I’m flying from there.

I started by getting some overview shots of the mall:

Staunton Mall, facing northeast, with the Betsy Bell and Mary Gray mountains in the distance

Staunton Mall, facing northeast

Staunton Mall, facing north

Staunton Mall, facing approximately northwest

Staunton Mall, facing west

Staunton Mall, facing southwest

Staunton Mall, facing south

Staunton Mall, facing approximately southeast

Staunton Mall, facing east

Here is a slightly closer look:

Looking towards the center of the mall from near Penney's.
Looking towards the center of the mall from near Penney’s.

The former Penney's building, gutted.
The former Penney’s building, gutted.

The former Woolworth's/Peebles building, hardly recognizable.
The former Woolworth’s/Peebles building, hardly recognizable.

Belk, still open for business with a repaved parking lot.
Belk, still open for business with a repaved parking lot.

And then from the street, Staunton Mall still looks like Staunton Mall for the most part:

On the JCPenney building, that large section in front wasn't just there for looks - that contained the upper level served by that elevator.
On the JCPenney building, that large section in front wasn’t just there for looks – that contained the upper level served by that elevator.

The facade of Staunton Mall facing Route 11, still mostly intact.

The facade of Staunton Mall facing Route 11, still mostly intact.

The 1980s expansion, still fully intact.
The 1980s expansion, still fully intact.

On the back side, though, it wasn’t so nea:

Southeastern corner of the JCPenney building. The sign is still intact, but just about everything else on the east facade of the JCPenney building is gone.
Southeastern corner of the JCPenney building.  The sign is still intact, but just about everything else on the east facade is gone.

And then I took my little eye in the sky into the building for a closer look at things.  I imagine that this is what we all really came to see, i.e. the mall as it’s in the process of meeting its end.  After all, we spent more time inside the mall shopping than just standing around looking at the outside, no?  Therefore, most of our memories of the place are of the interior.

Interior of JCPenney, from roughly the center of the store, facing west (towards the front entrance).  Note the second floor above the main level.  From inside the store, except for the elevator tucked away in a corner, one would have no idea that there was a second floor.
Interior of JCPenney, from roughly the center of the store, facing west (towards the front entrance).  Note the second floor above the main level.  From inside the store, except for the elevator tucked away in a corner, one would have no idea that there was a second floor.

Still facing west, closer to the front of the store, and slightly south.  The elevator is in the center of the shot.
Still facing west, closer to the front of the store, and slightly south.  The elevator is in the center of the shot.

The second floor at JCPenney.
The second floor at JCPenney.

One of several piles of demolition debris throughout the mall.  This one is within what was the former Penney's.
One of several piles of demolition debris throughout the mall.  This one is within what was the former Penney’s.

The former Piece Goods Shop space.

The former Piece Goods Shop space.
The former Piece Goods Shop space.

The former Boston Beanery space.  I never ate here, either as Boston Beanery, or the later "Sauced" concept that operated out of the space, so I can't comment on the decor, but here it is.
The former Boston Beanery space.  I never ate here, either as Boston Beanery, or the later “Sauced” concept that operated out of the space, so I can’t comment on the decor, but here it is.

The former Peebles building, completely demolished except for the exterior wall.
The former Peebles building, completely demolished except for the exterior wall.

The center entrance to Staunton Mall, across from the entrance to Peebles.
The center entrance to Staunton Mall, across from the entrance to Peebles.  Compare to a similar view while the mall was open.

The second location of Hot Wok.  This still makes me sad, because Hot Wok fully built this space out, but only operated here for a very short time before receiving a notice to vacate.
The second location of Hot Wok.  This still makes me sad, because Hot Wok fully built this space out, but only operated here for a very short time before receiving a notice to vacate.  But don’t worry – Hot Wok landed on its feet, and is now operating out of a new space in the Martin’s shoping center.

A rather unflattering message painted on the wall near the movie theater entrance.
A rather unflattering message painted on the wall near the movie theater entrance.

A big hole in the wall near the movie theater entrance.
A big hole in the wall near the movie theater entrance.

The movie theater entrance.
The movie theater entrance.

The movie theater entrance, from the inside.
The movie theater entrance, from the inside.  Compare to this view of the same area from a little further back while the mall was still open.

Entrance to the movie theater.  The movie theater building was still fully intact at this point.
Entrance to the movie theater.  The movie theater building was still fully intact at this point.

The remains of the arcade.
The remains of the arcade.


Part of the former Fine’s space (left) and the former Afterthoughts space (right).

The original Hot Wok space, in the food court.
The original Hot Wok space, in the food court.  The demolition revealed a lot of the original brickwork from when the facility was Staunton Plaza.  Apparently, the entire shopping center had the same kind of brickwork on the exterior as JCPenney, but following the conversion to Staunton Mall in the 1980s, it was all covered over except on the JCPenney building.

Main corridor of Staunton Mall, taken just north of the original Hot Wok, facing south.
Main corridor of Staunton Mall, taken just north of the original Hot Wok, facing south.  Compare to a similar view taken in 2020 while the mall was still open.

Main corridor taken near the original Hot Wok, facing north towards Montgomery Ward.
Main corridor taken near the original Hot Wok, facing north towards Montgomery Ward.  Compare to a similar view taken from slightly closer up while the mall was still open.

The former GNC space.  The front of it has been shorn off, while the remainder is still readily recognizable as a former GNC.
The former GNC space.  The front of it has been shorn off, while the remainder is still readily recognizable as a former GNC.  Compare to when I photographed it in December 2020.

Former Boyd's Hairdressers space.  I couldn't help but think that with that column and planter demolished and that weird sunroom gone, this space is more visible now than it was in the entire thirty years as a mall.
Former Boyd’s Hairdressers space.  I couldn’t help but think that with that column and planter demolished and that weird sunroom gone, this space is more visible now than it was in the entire thirty years as a mall.

The Belk wing, as viewed from next to the south entrance to Montgomery Ward and facing the former Hofheimer's store, is still intact.
The Belk wing, as viewed from next to the south entrance to Montgomery Ward and facing the former Hofheimer’s store, is still intact.  Compare to a similar view taken while the mall was still open.

And that’s Staunton Mall as it currently stands.  Its days are quite numbered now, and it will soon be gone.  I imagine that the next time I’m in Staunton, it will just be Belk standing amongst a sea of concrete.  I found the demolition process to be interesting in that in the original part of the mall that used to be Staunton Plaza, the first thing to go is the mall corridor, which was roofed over in the 1980s, then the remainder of the interior demolition, and then, presumably, the exterior walls will go last.  I assume that this was done because Staunton Mall was originally several separate structures, and thus they’re peeling back the layers.  I wonder how this compares to how the Belk wing will be demolished, because unlike the main section of the mall, the Belk wing was built in its final form all at once.  I suppose that we’ll all find out together.

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I wonder if someone could have pulled this off… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/01/i-wonder-if-someone-could-have-pulled-this-off/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/06/01/i-wonder-if-someone-could-have-pulled-this-off/#respond Wed, 01 Jun 2022 23:12:52 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=44910 Referring back to how being on the train is like being in the shower at times, I started thinking about an event from third grade that happened towards the end of the year, and wondered how the purpose of certain elements about it might have been defeated.  The event was a bazaar, and kids could buy and sell items to each other during the event.  Some kids made arts and crafts specifically to sell at the event, while some kids sold items brought from home.  I was one of the kids who sold items from home, as I used it as an opportunity to get rid of some toys that I didn’t play with anymore.  I don’t remember doing much beyond selling during the event, other than taking a quick look around at what the other kids were doing in all three classrooms before going back to my station.  I don’t remember my buying anything of note from the bazaar.  I think that I may have bought some candy, but that would have been about it.  I just remember unloading some of my junk on the other kids.  All in all, it was a fun event.

The event used its own special currency, issued by the teachers, and was distributed based on student behavior for a few weeks leading up to the bazaar.  They came in three versions: Johnson dollars, Jordan dollars, and Swanson dollars.  Good behavior earned you dollars, either individually, or collectively as a class (i.e. everyone in the class got the same amount of money at once) and the teachers would fine students for bad behavior (fines were only levied individually).  All three types were named for the issuing teacher, and they all were valued at par with each other (i.e. one Jordan dollar was equal to one Swanson dollar, etc.), and were otherwise considered equal in every way, i.e. despite different designs, it was one accounting system.  After all, it was a program to reward good behavior, and not a macroeconomics lesson, though it could have been a fun math activity as well if, say, one Jordan dollar was worth three Swanson dollars, and one Johnson dollar was worth two Jordan dollars.  After all, we did learn multiplication and division that year, and it could have been some good real-world practice in navigating currency exchange rates, though it would probably be too complicated for third-graders – especially when there were no cents in this currency to make things more granular.

Whether or not this concept worked as an incentive for good behavior, I don’t know, because in elementary school, I tended to stay in trouble for one reason or another, but I did my best fo play nice in order to maximize my “wealth”, even though I ultimately didn’t buy much (I was Mr. Krabs before he was a thing, I suppose).  I imagine that people could discuss the merits or drawbacks of a plan like this to incentivize good behavior among students, which essentially paid them in company scrip to be spent at an event as a reward for good behavior.  I imagine that some people would swear by it, while others would call it bribery.

The different dollars were pretty basic in their design.  They were all hand-drawn, and vaguely resembled US dollars in their appearance, with Jordan and Johnson dollars’ being a little bit more ornate than the very minimalistically-designed Swanson dollar.  In any event, it was clear that each teacher drew up their dollars with eight bills on a sheet of paper, and then photocopied and cut them up for distribution (I mean, it’s elementary school, so what do you want?).  There was no central accounting system for all of the money.  Each teacher was their own issuing authority, and the total amount of Johnsons, Jordans, and Swansons in circulation was not tracked.

While I was on the train, I started to think about it: what if a kid, or a group of kids, manipulated the system in order to defeat the intended purpose of the activity, i.e. a reward for good behavior?  Imagine if a few plucky individuals had made a run of counterfeit Jordans or Swansons and managed to flood the market.  Suddenly, with an excess of cash in students’ hands and the value of the currency’s being depressed by the excess of counterfeit cash, fines would become meaningless, because it wouldn’t make a dent in things based on the total supply of money.  Consider it license to be a brat, I suppose – but don’t be so much of a brat that you get sent to the principal’s office.  But to do your counterfeiting, all you really had to do was tape together a sheet of Jordans and Johnsons, and a sheet of Swansons (Swanson dollars were a different aspect ratio than the other two because they were drawn in a different direction on the paper), hit up a photocopier, and counterfeit away.

The thing to remember, though, is that there is no perfect crime.  Thus in playing out this scenario, I wasn’t thinking so much about how to pull it off, but rather, about what the fallout would be when the kid(s) involved inevitably got caught.  After all, I was never clever enough to get away with something like this.  Not a lot of kids liked me in elementary school, and they would snitch on me for dumb stuff.  And the teachers would enable the snitching by responding to it accordingly and nailing me for stuff based on these kids’ accounts alone.  So if I had started counterfeiting third-grade dollars, I would get caught quickly, because some kid would snitch on me just because it was me.  I couldn’t get away with anything.  But imagine if it was a popular kid, or a kid that the teachers would otherwise have never suspected, that was doing the counterfeiting.  No one would see that coming until it got well into it – enough to wreak some havoc.

I suppose that when the teachers found out, they could go a few different ways.  The most likely thing, I suspect, would be the cancellation of the entire bazaar.  No more event.  Just sit at your desk with your head down (always with the head down, it seemed, because that’s not degrading or anything) during the time when the bazaar would have occurred.  Classic collective punishment right there.  A few students fouled it up, so nobody gets to have it, and when the innocent victims question the punishment when they didn’t do anything, the teachers will tell them that they should use social pressure to keep the other kids in line, despite that it’s not the kids’ responsibility to police their fellow students (but that is the job of the staff).  This seems the most likely because it’s a decision that is easily made in anger, which is often how discipline was done in my elementary school, and it ensures that the kids responsible get punished, despite there would be a lot of collateral damage.

A somewhat more equitable way would be to do a reset on the money system, i.e. declare all of the previous currency to be invalid and issue new currency that is easily distinguished from the old currency.  However, that would not address the root cause of any counterfeiting, but just require another run with a photocopier.  My elementary school only had a black and white copier at that time (and that was an upgrade from the old ditto machine), so there was no way to use colors or something that would be harder to reproduce accurately.  But it would invalidate existing counterfeits and require that they start over as well, and who knows if it would be worth the effort by the counterfeiters to try their scheme again, especially when the teachers would be onto them.  Then there’s the collateral damage again.  Like with cancelling the entire thing, there would be a lot of collateral damage, as you’re wiping out a lot of kids’ wealth for a situation that they had nothing to do with.  Though that’s fiat money for you, I suppose.  It’s money only because the powers that be say that it’s money.

Obviously, if you can figure out who the counterfeiters are, you deal with them directly, and knowing kids, they are all too eager to snitch on someone for a perceived wrong, even if they’re well outside of their lane.  In any case, give the kids who were responsible a lesson about macroeconomics that they will keep with them for life, as they go through life with the memory of the time that they turned a monetary system on its head.  I figure, that memory could go two ways: remembering themselves as doing something really badass, even though they got nailed for it in the end, or it becomes an old shame that they would rather not bring up.  They may have fouled up the bazaar, but they learned an important lesson from it.  Though remembering the way that Mrs. Carmical operated, any discussion of the matter and lessons being given would likely be framed in the context of how terrible of a person they are for inconveniencing the staff rather than about economic repercussions.  After all, Mrs. Carmical was a disciplinarian, and not an economist.  Her job was to punish children, not teach them about money systems.

But I would argue that there are more clever ways to address such a situation that would teach a better lesson.  I realize that the intent of the bazaar was to incentivize good behavior, but if someone turns it into a lesson on economics, whether they intended to do that or not (more likely not, since cheating would be the most likely motivation), it might be beneficial to go there with them and give them a taste of their own medicine.  In other words, don’t punish, at least not directly.  Be the market, and make it work.  Treat the counterfeits as a given, especially if they’re indistinguishable from legitimate Johnsons, Jordans, and Swansons, and raise the prices of everything to reflect the decrease in value caused by the increased supply.  You might not have intended to teach economics to third-graders, but if you have to, then so be it.  In other words, turn the Jordan dollar into something worth even less than the Zimbabwe dollar.  All of a sudden, the fines for bad behavior become much bigger in order to account for the inflation caused by the oversupply of money.  Caught talking out of order?  That will be one billion dollars, so pay up – now.  And a lot of the prices in the bazaar would go up for the same reason.  A piece of candy?  That will be 100 billion bucks.  And then after the bazaar is over, and all of the money becomes valueless by design (since it was only good for the bazaar), explain what happened with an aim towards teaching economics to small children.  No vengeance, no accusations, just a nice teachable moment.

Of course, this is ultimately all just a thought exercise.  As far as I know, no one in the third grade at Grimes Elementary in the spring of 1990 attempted to manipulate the currency of a class bazaar in order to cheat or otherwise gain an unfair edge in their wealth for avoidance of fines or otherwise.  In other words, the incentive program went exactly as planned.  And the bazaar was a pretty fun event overall.  I was able to get rid of a bunch of junk that I had knocking around my room, and I ended up with a decent amount of money in the end.  I’m pretty sure that I had around $100 in some combination of Johnson, Jordan, and Swanson dollars at the end of the event.  Once the event was over, and the currency was therefore valueless, I took my leftover bills and taped them up to the wall in my room in rows, where they stayed for maybe a month or so before I took them down.  But in any event, thinking about how the lead-up to this bazaar might have gone horribly wrong was fun.

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Trying out electric cars in space tights… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/25/trying-out-electric-cars-in-space-tights/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/25/trying-out-electric-cars-in-space-tights/#respond Wed, 25 May 2022 18:31:40 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=44691 This past Thursday, Elyse and I went out to take some electric cars out for a test drive.  I started seriously considering purchasing an electric car after filling up the HR-V a few weeks ago and being blown away by how expensive it was to fill it up.  The idea was to use whatever electric car for commuting, and then keep the HR-V for road trips and other adventures where it might not be practical to use an electric car.

In going out, it was warm enough to finally take this pair of men’s space leggings that I had bought for myself a while back for a spin.  I had wanted a pair of space tights for a while, and I was delighted to have found a pair of these things for men.  After all, why should women get to keep the joy of fun prints all to themselves?  Plus, after having lost so much weight, I can now fit into a pair of these and not look ridiculous.  You be the judge:

Standing in the mezzanine wearing my space tights  Standing in the mezzanine wearing my space tights

If it tells you anything, I was so excited to actually look decent in these tights that I showed them off to my surgeon, Dr. Brebbia, during our online check-in appointment earlier in the day.

However, this is not my first time wearing men’s leggings out in public since I’ve lost weight.  Back in November, I rediscovered an old pair of jogging tights from ten years ago, and on a warmer day, Elyse made me wear them out on a trip to the mall.  They were comfortable, though I didn’t like the lack of pockets.  Other than the lack of pockets, though, the trip to the mall went well.  I just put the little key fob for the car against my stomach, just below the waistband of my tights, and I used my phone for all of my payments.  I also wore one of my short-sleeve hoodies, i.e. I had a pocket somewhere, even if it wasn’t attached to pants.  That also had the benefit of being just long enough to go past my hips, because while I did want to wear the tights, I didn’t want to look too intimidating.

In any event, I paired the space tights with my sneakers, which gave me something of an athletic look.  I was originally going to wear flip-flops, but Elyse strongly recommended that I wear real shoes, considering that I would be driving cars that I was unfamiliar with.  I thought that was fair enough, so I went with it.  As originally planned, we had four cars on our list: a Volvo XC40 Recharge, an Audi Q4 e-tron, a Ford Mustang Mach-E, and a Volkswagen ID.4.  I looked through some dealerships’ stock online, and it looked like the various dealerships up in Frederick had things in stock, so we planned an adventure up there.  I feel like it doesn’t take much prodding for Elyse and I to take a trip up to Frederick, especially since, because of traffic, it’s often easier to go up to Frederick than to locations closer by in Montgomery County.

Our first stop in Frederick was Sheetz, to get lunch.  The way I figured, the Volvo and Audi dealership were right next door and shared a driveway with Sheetz, plus I didn’t want to go driving unfamiliar cars on an empty stomach.  Going over to the dealership, we were disappointed to discover that the Volvo XC40 Recharge that we had hoped to test drive was gone, and that there would be no more until September, i.e. the next model year.  However, they did have a used Polestar 2 out on the lot that we could try.  I wasn’t necessarily looking at Polestar because it didn’t have any models in the compact SUV form factor like I wanted, but it was there, and Elyse likes Polestar cars, so why not.  We filled out all of the test drive paperwork, they gave us the key fob, and off we went.  I came up with a test drive route through Frederick that did everything that I needed it to:


Image: Google Maps
(Click the image to see it in some detail)

Basically, we did a big loop.  Starting with the Volvo/Audi dealership, we made a right turn onto Buckeystown Pike (MD 85), turned right onto Market Street (MD 355), turned left onto West Patrick Street (MD 144, US 40) down the “Golden Mile”, made a left onto Old National Pike, and then got on I-70 eastbound, taking that back to the dealership.  That gave me a little bit of everything: city driving, suburban driving, and freeway driving.  We also dipped into a parking lot to try out parking it, as well as taking photos of it (because this would be a very confusing Journal entry without proper visual aids).

The Polestar 2 wasn’t a bad car by any means.  It had some serious pickup, which the salesman warned us about before we started.  We discovered this ourselves when I hit the accelerator, and it practically leapt forward.  I said to Elyse, “He wasn’t kidding about the fast acceleration!”  I liked that it had a brake hold feature that could be turned on and off (they called it “creep mode”), and I also liked that it had Google Assistant built in, so when I said “OK Google” while driving, expecting to talk to my phone, not only did my phone answer, but the car answered as well, separately from my phone.  That was a welcome feature.  However, what bothered me about it was that I felt like I couldn’t see around it as well as I could in the HR-V.  I thought that the side mirrors were relatively small, the “B” pillar (i.e. the one that the seat belt hangs off of) was fairly wide, and the rear window was tiny.  Additionally, it had no camera on the right mirror like I have on the HR-V, but I later learned that the side camera is exclusive to Honda and Hyundai.  Going out with the vehicle, I tried to turn it off before getting out for photos, only to realize that I had no idea how to turn it off.  I learned later from the salesman that you didn’t – it sensed the key fob and acted accordingly.

We stopped at Terrace Lanes so that Elyse could use the restroom, and that’s where I got my photos.  Check it out:

The Polestar 2, parked in the lot at Terrace Lanes.

The Polestar 2, parked in the lot at Terrace Lanes.

The Polestar 2, parked in the lot at Terrace Lanes.

The Polestar 2, parked in the lot at Terrace Lanes.
The Polestar 2, parked in the lot at Terrace Lanes.

My view inside the Polestar 2.
My view inside the Polestar 2.

The dashboard was all-digital.
The dashboard was all-digital.

The touchscreen reminded me of a giant tablet.  The driving settings screen is displayed here.  There are three settings for steering, you could turn sport mode on and off, set regenerative braking to off, low, or standard, and enable or disable creep mode.  This is also where you interacted with Google Assistant and messed with all of the other doodads in the car, as well as set climate control.  Also, for what it's worth, that space beneath the tablet is a wireless charging pad for a phone.
The touchscreen reminded me of a giant tablet.  The driving settings screen is displayed here.  There are three settings for steering, you could turn sport mode on and off, set regenerative braking to off, low, or standard, and enable or disable creep mode.  This is also where you interacted with Google Assistant and messed with all of the other doodads in the car, as well as set climate control.  Also, for what it’s worth, that space beneath the tablet is a wireless charging pad for a phone.

That tiny rear window.  You understand why I didn't like that.
That tiny rear window.  You understand why I didn’t like that.

Selfie in the Polestar 2.  Note the full panoramic roof.  Note that while this is bigger than the moon roof that I have on the HR-V, this one doesn't open.
Selfie in the Polestar 2.  Note the full panoramic roof.  Note that while this is bigger than the moon roof that I have on the HR-V, this one doesn’t open.

Woomy came along for our test drive, and he had something to say about the Polestar 2.  I told the salesman not to take anything that Woomy says personally, since Woomy doesn't like anything.
Woomy came along for our test drive, and he had something to say about the Polestar 2.  I told the salesman not to take anything that Woomy says personally, since Woomy doesn’t like anything.

We then tried out a 2021 Audi Q4 e-tron.  According to the salesman, the vehicle was “the full Audi experience” but with an electric motor.  An Audi seemed like a stretch for me, since that’s not my usual market segment as far as cars go, but from what I could find, the price was fairly close to other models that I was looking at, so it seemed to be worth a try.  The Audi was a little bit different than the Polestar, in that it had an on/off button like the HR-V.  They also tried a bit too hard with some of the functions, like making a horizontal selector lever:

The horizontal gear selector
Photo: Audi

I found that thing awkward to use, especially with “park” as a button on the side rather than a position on the lever.  It’s like the difference between the master controller on a Broad Street Line train and a WMATA master controller.  The Broad Street one seems awkward with its horizontal design, while the WMATA one generally seems more intuitive.  This thing was not intuitive, and I had to think a lot about it while using it.  And then I also felt like the seat belts were too quick to lock during fast acceleration.  On more than one occasion, the seat belt locked when it shouldn’t have, making me feel like I was being choked.

Other than that, the Audi was a decent enough ride, with similar acceleration to the Polestar.  If it tells you anything, we were prevented from doing the full acceleration test on the on-ramp to I-70 due to an old person in a Cadillac in front of us, so we opened it up a bit on the I-70 mainline.  It was very easy to speed in this thing, as I caught myself going 90 mph on the highway (the speed limit is 70).  I slowed down pretty quickly after that, and made a mental note that it was very easy to speed in that car.  Otherwise, I found the touchscreen to be annoying, though we did get Android Auto to work.  The problem with the touchscreen was that you had to “click” it like a mouse button in order to actually register your touches reliably, rather than just touching it like most cars.  The menus were also a bit all over the place, and not as intuitive as you might think.  However, unlike the Polestar, the moon roof actually did open on the Audi.

Here’s what the Audi looked like:

A view of the Audi Q4 e-tron in a parking lot on East Patrick Street in Frederick.

A view of the Audi Q4 e-tron in a parking lot on East Patrick Street in Frederick.

A view of the Audi Q4 e-tron in a parking lot on East Patrick Street in Frederick.

A view of the Audi Q4 e-tron in a parking lot on East Patrick Street in Frederick.
A view of the Audi Q4 e-tron in a parking lot on East Patrick Street in Frederick.

Close-up of the e-tron badging on the side of the car.
Close-up of the e-tron badging on the side of the car.

The view from my seat.
The view from my seat.

The Audi, like the Polestar, also had a tiny back window, though I felt like the Audi was slightly easier to see around.
The Audi, like the Polestar, also had a tiny back window, though I felt like the Audi was slightly easier to see around.

The touchscreens in the center.  The bottom one was more about mechanical functions of the car, while the top one was more about entertainment and communications functions.
The touchscreens in the center.  The bottom one was more about mechanical functions of the car, while the top one was more about entertainment and communications functions.

We also played with Android Auto, which is something that the HR-V doesn't have (missed it by one model year).  I got it to play a classic song by Clive and the Cowboys.
We also played with Android Auto, which is something that the HR-V doesn’t have (missed it by one model year).  I got it to play a classic song by Clive and the Cowboys.

Woomy, however, didn't like my choices in music.  Everyone's a critic...
Woomy, however, didn’t like my choices in music.  Everyone’s a critic…

The seat belt, meanwhile, had this thing in the middle of the lap part.  I don't know what it did or why it was shaped like that, but it moved around a bit.
The seat belt, meanwhile, had this thing in the middle of the lap part.  I don’t know what it did or why it was shaped like that, but it moved around a bit.

Selfie in the Audi Q4 e-tron.
Selfie in the Audi Q4 e-tron.

Woomy and David also posed for a photo in the Audi.
Woomy and David also posed for a photo in the Audi.

When we got back, I asked the salesman to take a photo of me with the Audi.  I didn't buy it, but I wanted another photo showing me in my space tights, and Elyse refused to do it for me (she tends to get like that when I'm having too much fun with an outfit).
When we got back, I asked the salesman to take a photo of me with the Audi.  I didn’t buy it, but I wanted another photo showing me in my space tights, and Elyse refused to do it for me (she tends to get like that when I’m having too much fun with an outfit).

And that was that with the Audi.  I suppose that we had some fun with it, but it just wasn’t my type.

After this, we headed down to the Golden Mile, where we visited The Frederick Motor Company, i.e. the Ford and Subaru dealership.  Our goal there was to try the Ford Mustang Mach-E.  Their website indicated that they had two, but when we showed up, we soon learned that they had zero.  Well, crap.  That was a bit of a disappointment, but what are you going to do.  So the Mach-E got tabled for later.

We then headed down the road to the Volkswagen dealership to take an ID.4 out for a spin.  Now when I was looking at car descriptions and prices online, I felt like the ID.4 had a high likelihood of being my first electric car.  So I was genuinely excited about this one, because it seemed like a more serious prospect.  When I was doing my research online, I considered the Aldi to be a stretch, and I had eliminated the Polestar because I thought that they were ugly.  The Mach-E was on the list for sake of completeness, because I’m still a bit skittish about Ford following my experience with the Sable and its many mechanical issues after it surpassed 100,000 miles.  That thing was a major money pit at a time when I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spare.  But the Volkswagen ID.4 just gave me that good feeling that I was looking at a winner.  So I had high hopes.

Now, unlike the Mustang Mach-E, I knew that the Volkswagen dealer would have one, because they mentioned having a demonstrator vehicle.  And when we showed up, there it was, sitting in front of their showroom.  I parked the HR-V right next to it, and we talked to the salesman.  I completed the paperwork and all of that, and he gave me the key, and we were off, doing the same route that we did at the other dealership, starting from the Golden Mile and then working our way around to 70, down to the Sheetz, and then through downtown to get back to the dealership.

The Volkswagen ID.4 in the parking lot at Francis Scott Key Mall.

The Volkswagen ID.4 in the parking lot at Francis Scott Key Mall.

The Volkswagen ID.4 in the parking lot at Francis Scott Key Mall.

The Volkswagen ID.4 in the parking lot at Francis Scott Key Mall.
The Volkswagen ID.4 in the parking lot at Francis Scott Key Mall.

My view from the driver's seat.
My view from the driver’s seat.  Notice that the “dashboard” is mounted on top of the steering column, and therefore adjusts with the steering wheel.  Additionally, the gear selector is mounted on the right side of that dashboard screen, and operates via a twisting motion: twist down for drive, twist one stop up for neutral, and two stops up for reverse.  Park is once again a button.

Center touchscreen between the two front seats.  Climate control was accessed using real buttons underneath the screen.
Center touchscreen between the two front seats.  Climate control was accessed using real buttons underneath the screen.

Another relatively small rear window, though nothing like that Polestar.
Another relatively small rear window, though nothing like that Polestar.

Cell phone holder in the ID.4.  I was disappointed to find that this was not a wireless charging pad, but rather, it was just a slot to hold your phone, with charging via USB-C cables.
Cell phone holder in the ID.4.  I was disappointed to find that this was not a wireless charging pad, but rather, it was just a slot to hold your phone, with charging via USB-C cables.

Group selfie in the Volkswagen ID.4.
Group selfie in the Volkswagen ID.4.

Solo selfie in the ID.4.  Note the big panoramic moon roof.  This moon roof didn't open, but unlike the Polestar, it had a cover that was operated via a switch.
Solo selfie in the ID.4.  Note the big panoramic moon roof.  This moon roof didn’t open, but unlike the Polestar, it had a cover that was operated via a switch.

The Volkswagen ID.4 also had various driver assist features that I had never experienced before, mostly to help keep you in your lane should you start to drift.  I figured out how to turn those features on, but I admit that I barely tried those features out, as it was the 6:00 hour when we had this one, and so I had heavier traffic than I did with the Polestar and the Audi.  Therefore, I was not comfortable testing them out in that kind of traffic.  What I did experience, however, was promising, as it did warn me when I was starting to drift a little bit, though I never went so far that it would actually attempt a correction because of the aforementioned traffic and my unwillingness to fool around in said traffic.  But I feel like it has potential.

Overall, I was a little bit disappointed with the Volkswagen ID.4, especially since I anticipated that it would be a winner going into it, and as such, I had high hopes for it.  I got the sense that the designers tried to make this feel very close to a regular car, what with more “normal” acceleration that won’t throw you back in your seat if you gun it, but they skimped out on some things, and overdesigned it in some ways.  Right offhand, in skimping out, no wireless charging pad seemed like a big oversight, especially when I was not driving the base model.  Similarly, there was no brake hold feature, i.e. “creep mode” was always on, and no option for regenerative braking, i.e. one-pedal driving.  Those two features just didn’t exist on this car.  I have brake hold on the HR-V, and I was delighted to have it there, remembering that feature on the New Flyer Xcelsior buses at work.  As such, I did not want to give that up.  I also found Android Auto integration to be a bit unwieldy.  I hooked my phone up to it successfully, but every time I said “OK Google”, the system would hear the wake word, and then ignore everything else that I said.  What good is Android Auto integration if it’s going to ignore all of my voice commands, therefore requiring that I touch it?  Though in all fairness on this front, I’m not entirely sure if this isn’t just my missing a setting somewhere, as the HR-V does not have Android Auto, so I’m not that familiar with it.  But the Audi’s Android Auto worked well without any fooling around, so I expected that this would as well.  Then as far as overdesigning went, that steering column-mounted dashboard fit the definition of “overdesigned”.  I felt like it was too close to me, too small, and hard to use.  I would have preferred that it be placed back in the dashboard like most cars, and made bigger to compensate.  I feel like if it had been placed further back, they could have provided more information, and at the further distance, it wouldn’t require looking away from the road in order to see it.  And then there was that gear selector knob.  Get out of here with that.  It was just as bad as that weird gear selector in the Audi, but in its own way.  Just give me a fairly conventional gear selector, and I’ll be content.  The Polestar had that, which I appreciated.  My father’s Chevy Bolt has that as well.

The way I see it it’s okay to have very conventional features in your latest-and-greatest vehicles.  It just works.  I remember Ford’s version of the Taurus from the late 1990s.  The second-gen Taurus looked fairly conventional, but then went all oval-y for the third-gen model.  They then, thankfully, ditched the oval look for a more conventional appearance for the fourth-gen version starting in 2000.  Similarly, and speaking of Ford, that’s another thing that I don’t like about Ford compared to other automakers: a lot of stuff is in different places on Ford vehicles.  My Sable had no right stalk on the steering column, because all of the windshield wiper features were on the left stalk along with the turn signal.  The headlights, having been kicked off of the left stalk for the wipers, were in the dash rather than on the steering column.  Weird all around.  No other car that I’ve owned has been like that.  But apparently, that’s just a Ford thing to do, because when I’ve driven other Ford vehicles for work, they’re the exact same way as far as weird control locations go.

In any event, I test drove three vehicles, and put three vehicles onto the “no” list.  I feel like Polestar has potential, if they would introduce a compact SUV form factor like the HR-V and improve the vision around the vehicle, but the specific model that we tried was a “no”.  Otherwise, I’ve driven my father’s Chevy Bolt before, and while it was a pretty decent car, it didn’t feel like a good car for me.  And that’s fine, because while Dad enjoys it, I have my own requirements.  We also sat in a Tesla Model Y in the showroom at Montgomery Mall, and I nixed it in about five minutes, since it seemed too complicated, with everything’s being controlled on that big touchscreen, and too many unnecessary features on it.  That Elyse kept batting my hands away when I tried to do anything with it said that it did too much, and that it would be a distraction because of that.  I also envisioned my having an accident while trying to adjust the temperature, because it was too complicated.  Then there’s the Hyundai Ioniq, which I dismissed categorically because, well… you know.

The sense that I’m starting to get is that while I would like to get an electric car, the time may not yet be right for me to go into that arena.  After all, not every automaker has come out with an electric car yet.  Toyota is coming out with the bZ4X for the 2023 model year, and Subaru is coming out with the Solterra.  Then Honda is going in with the Prologue, which is expected to come out for the 2024 model year.  I am particularly interested in the Prologue because I already own a Honda that I’m keeping, and know their design language fairly well.  Plus most automakers at this point only have one model of electric car in their lineups, and they’re still trying to go all ultramodern in the designs in order to be all high-tech and fancy in order to look futuristic.  I suspect that will change eventually, as automakers make more electric models or make electric versions of existing models, i.e. we will end up with electric cars that look like cars that aren’t overdesigned for the sake of being edgy.

So all in all, I suppose that I’m learning a lot about electric vehicles.  Thankfully, I have time on my side, as there is nothing pressing me to make a decision here.  The last three cars, I had some time pressure.  When I bought the Sable, the Previa had recently failed inspection, and was at end of life, and so I needed to replace it before it became undrivable because of the failed inspection.  When I bought the Soul, the Sable was starting to have a lot of mechanical problems, so it was time.  I was trying to get myself into a new car before the old one finally quit on me.  With the HR-V, I had no car following a fire, and was driving a rental that I was being charged for by the day.  This time, there’s nothing wrong with the HR-V.  It’s well-maintained, it’s having no issues, and I’m not planning to get rid of it.  So if it takes me until 2025 to get an electric car, so be it.  I can be picky and select the perfect vehicle for me.

Oh, and I love those space tights.  Expect to see me in those again some time.  I also might get another pair with a different fun pattern on it.  We’ll see.

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It’s kind of like being in the shower for eight hours a day… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/16/its-kind-of-like-being-in-the-shower-for-eight-hours-a-day/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/16/its-kind-of-like-being-in-the-shower-for-eight-hours-a-day/#respond Tue, 17 May 2022 00:16:36 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=44533 It’s interesting how jobs work sometimes.  As many of you know, I work as a train operator, operating a subway train in passenger service.  This is a job that I had imagined myself doing for a long time, and it still amazes me that I actually get to do it.  But no one ever tells you what the experience is like when you’re in the train cab all by yourself in a tunnel underneath the city.

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

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

It’s funny what I end up thinking about in that train cab.  Running through the list of presidents to pick out similarities between them is a favorite one of mine.  For what it’s worth, while “James” is the most common first name for US presidents, with Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, and Carter’s all being named James (though Carter went by “Jimmy”), the second most common first name is a tie between “John” and “William” with four each (Adams, Quincy Adams, Tyler, and Kennedy for John, and Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Clinton for William).  There’s also the question of whether to count two presidents as “Thomas” or just one, as Woodrow Wilson’s actual first name was Thomas, and Woodrow was his middle name.  Similarly, I have come to realize that I can’t name that many vice presidents that served prior to 1948.

I have also been known to sing songs in there, or mentally listen to music, playing out the tunes in my mind.  The Stokowski interpretation of “Night on Bald Mountain” (i.e. the version from Fantasia) is a favorite there, along with the Stokowski interpretation of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (also from Fantasia).  I also mentally play out a wide variety of show tunes in there, mostly from Today’s Special, but also from various other television shows and movies from the 1980s and 1990s.  The songs from the various Care Bears movies from the 1980s are another popular bunch with my brain.  I’ve also mentally played out some episodes of Today’s Special in my head.  I discovered 20 years ago that I had seen both “Our Story” episodes enough times that I actually have them memorized, and could conceivably do a one-man performance of both episodes if I really wanted to.

On the subject of music, though, one thing is torturous: getting a song stuck in your head in the train cab.  With no other distractions due to the environment of deep solitude in a train cab, a song stuck in your head has nothing to push it out.  So it will end up knocking around your head for hours. Imagine having “Forever Young” from Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation stuck in your head all day.  It happened.  Even worse when it’s a song that you don’t know all of the words to.  Then, I’m trying to figure out what the missing lyrics are in order to properly complete the song, but can’t look it up, so it ends up driving me up the wall.  And then when I have the opportunity to look it up once I’m off the train, I don’t, because then I’m distracted by other things.  Of course, not like I’d necessarily remember the missing lyrics anyway, so even if I looked it up, I’d likely be back to square one regardless.  It’s like how I discovered last week that I had been singing the Eastern Motors jingle wrong for the past seventeen years.  I thought it went, “Ford, Hyundai, Chevy, Beemers, and minivans,” but it actually goes, “Ford, Hondas, Chevy, Beemers, and minivans.”  Mind.  Blown.

The train is also where I do some of my best thinking.  The extended time alone with your thoughts allows time to sort through your feelings and such.  Sometimes it makes things worse, amplifying bad feelings, but other times it helps, such as helping me make peace with a situation, or working out a plan for a trip or something.  The train has a way of helping me mentally talk my way through things, and hopefully I can leave the cab in a better place than I was when I entered it (and I don’t mean New Carrollton).

Sometimes I end up mentally writing Journal entries and such while I’m on the train.  The “Crossing the line from punishment to just plain mean…” Journal entry originated as shower thoughts on the train, and then I realized that I needed to write it all out in order to make peace with it, which worked out pretty well.  My mother now understands exactly how awful that punishment was, and will probably never bring it up again – especially not with the misplaced sense of pride that she had about the whole affair.  That whole thought process came about innocently enough, and then got very deep.  I remember it was my first day doing a new line, and I was mentally recounting my old Lego buildings from childhood.  Growing up, my Lego creations were not so much specific things.  They were more of a continuous evolution, as I would constantly modify and change things.  I’d build something, reconfigure it, change it, expand it, modify it, and so on as my mood changed, or if I had gotten additional Legos to use.  It was always a work in progress.  I’d had the same Lego building in some form for a few years in elementary school.  It was a Ship of Theseus, really, since I had completely demolished and rebuilt the entire thing at various points in time, but since I never completely took it down and rebuilt it from scratch, I still considered it to be the same building, even though all of it had been redone at various points in time.  Then I got to the point in the timeline where Mom cleared out my room after she found a reason to carry out the punishment that she had been fantasizing over, which, when executed, included completely dismantling my Lego building.  As I recounted in the original entry, no two pieces were left connected when Mom was finished destroying all of my hard work.  That constituted a gap in the Lego timeline.  Recognizing that gap as I was going down the line brought back memories of that punishment and that time in my life, and I soon realized that I had a lot that I needed to say about certain things in order to work through it.  As far as the Lego timeline went, though, after mentally exploring the punishment and the fallout from that, as well as the circumstances in life that led to it, I went back to my mental recounting of my Lego creations, beginning with the new building that I built after I got my stuff back.  I had a few other gaps in my Lego timeline later on, but those were voluntary, such as when we moved to Virginia and I had to take my building apart because it couldn’t be transported whole by the movers, and there were a few complete demolitions and rebuilds when I decided that I needed to start fresh with a new design because I couldn’t do anything else with what I had.  The Lego timeline eventually did come to an end, because I found other ways to satisfy my creative needs, such as this website and then photography, and I eventually demolished my last Lego building because I no longer had any interest in Legos, and needed the space for something else.  But I’m still salty about that one gap in my Lego timeline, because it was done against my will, and was incredibly mean-spirited.

All in all, my mind never ceases to astonish me when it is left to its own devices.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it makes me crazy or causes me some level of distress.  But all in all, I don’t mind it, because I feel that I ultimately benefit from it.

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A weekend trip to Richmond… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/04/a-weekend-trip-to-richmond/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/05/04/a-weekend-trip-to-richmond/#respond Thu, 05 May 2022 00:30:23 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=44323 From April 14-16, Elyse and I did a weekend trip to the Richmond area.  This was a case where one adventure begets another, as Richmond really got the short end of the stick on our October trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  We had plans for the Richmond area on the outbound trip as well as the return trio, but they ended up being greatly abbreviated in the interest of keeping it moving.  Richmond is in that little spot where it’s close enough that we can go any time that we want, but difficult enough to get to so that we typically don’t.  Our last day trip to Richmond was about five years ago, and more recent visits to Richmond have occurred while we were passing through on our way to other places.  I think that the biggest impediment to our visiting Richmond more often is I-95, as it’s fairly unreliable, being subject to backups on a very regular basis, making it difficult to predict when we will arrive in the Richmond area.  In any event, inspired by our earlier trip, we had gathered up enough stuff that we had wanted to see to make a weekend trip to Richmond worthwhile.  So we picked a month and did a weekender.

On this particular occasion, we left the house and got going, taking I-270 to the Beltway to the I-95 express lanes, which were pointed southbound at the time.  We soon learned that there was a very long backup on I-95 southbound.  So we bailed, taking an express lane exit to US 1 near Lorton.  A major backup on I-95 had the potential to derail our entire day, so Route 1, while slower, was still a better bet than taking 95.  This routing took us past a number of places, and and we made some planned stops and unplanned stops.  The first stop was unplanned, at the Harley-Davidson place in the Quantico area.

Elyse gave Woomy a little carrot to hold at the Harley place in Quantico.  Woomy was having none of it, but at least he cooperated.
Elyse gave Woomy a little carrot to hold at the Harley place in Quantico.  Woomy was having none of it, but at least he cooperated.

Elyse photos Woomy while an employee looks on.
Elyse photos Woomy while an employee looks on.

This sticker bothered me quite a bit, but I don't know what bothered me more: the sentiment expressed in the sticker, which I find pretty gross, or that misplaced apostrophe in the bottom line.
This sticker bothered me quite a bit, but I don’t know what bothered me more: the sentiment expressed in the sticker, which I find pretty gross, or that misplaced apostrophe in the bottom line.

After that, we headed down to Stafford for a planned stop.  Here, Elyse was planning to photograph some toilets for a friend of ours, while I went to ship a coloring book to another friend of ours who has a child in the hospital.  I also somehow ended up buying a bunch of those giant gift soaps at a big discount at a nearby Ross store.  We then continued on through Fredericksburg, where we visited another Harley place.  This one was also unplanned, but we were going right past it, so… why not.


This sticker on one of the bikes on the showroom floor piqued my interest, as I had never seen something like this before.  Turns out that it is referring to the window sticker that you typically see in used cars, i.e. this.

South of Fredericksburg, Route 1 becomes pretty rural, though it’s still at least four lanes the entire way through.  We kept it moving through here until we got to Ashland.  Ashland is a cute little town just north of Richmond, and we went to their downtown area.  There is a live webcam focused on the train tracks.  Whoever was operating the camera zoomed in on us at one point, and we waved back to the camera.  We also got to photograph a few trains while we were at it:

Amtrak locomotive 190 in Ashland

CSX 3234 in Ashland

Leaving Ashland, we headed over to Virginia Center Commons, a dead mall in Glen Allen.  Virginia Center Commons was definitely a shell of its former self, with half of the building demolished in order to make way for an indoor sports facility, and many empty storefronts in what remained.

A weird, dated bit of architecture in what I believe is the center court of the mall.
A weird, dated bit of architecture in what I believe is the center court of the mall.

Jimmy Jazz, housed in what is clearly a former American Eagle Outfitters store.
Jimmy Jazz, housed in what is clearly a former American Eagle Outfitters store.

Interior of a former Aeropostale store.
Interior of a former Aeropostale store.

Chick & Burger, a knockoff of Chick-fil-A in a former Chick-fil-A space.
Chick & Burger, a knockoff of Chick-fil-A in a former Chick-fil-A space.

In an athletic shoe store, Elyse found a pair of Old Bay socks.  We didn't buy them, though.
In an athletic shoe store, Elyse found a pair of Old Bay socks.  We didn’t buy them, though.

On an outparcel lot, I found a former Outback Steakhouse, now a Vietnamese place.
On an outparcel lot, I found a former Outback Steakhouse, now a Vietnamese place.

We then headed over to Short Pump Town Center, which is a two-story outdoor mall.  Seriously, it’s like a regular two-story shopping mall, but the interior corridor is open-air.  Take a look:

Short Pump Town Center

Here, we went to Zumiez, where Elyse got a pair of pants.  I made a very bad joke while there, pronouncing the store name as “zoo-me-ay” as if it was French, similar to Target as “tar-zhay”.  It wasn’t offensive or anything – it just wasn’t funny.  The employee didn’t get the joke at all, and Elyse panned it.  But hey, I tried, even if it went over like a lead balloon.

We also went to Richmond Draftcade, which is a bar at Short Pump Town Center that is filled with vintage arcade machines set on free play.  It was a great place, with a lot of games that I hadn’t played before, including the original Street Fighter game.  Fun times all around.  We also spotted one of the new Siemens pull stations for the first time:

One of the new Siemens pull stations at Richmond Draftcade

It clearly looks like a Siemens pull station, but it’s very different from the classic Siemens pull station.  I suppose that it will take some getting used to, but it’s definitely special.  I miss the little flame graphic, which was removed in favor of braille writing.  That’s important, so I totally get it, but it was kind of cute looking nonetheless.

From there, we headed down to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express on Staples Mill Road.  That was unusual for us, because I don’t typically stay in the city itself.  I tend to stay in the suburbs more often than not, or am otherwise somewhat removed from my actual targets on a trip.  When Elyse and I go down to Staunton, we stay at Hotel 24 South, but we’ve never actually spent a full day in Staunton.  We’re always going off to other places, so even though it’s in downtown Staunton, it fits the mold.  My original plan for this trip was to stay at the Hampton Inn off of Research Road in Midlothian, which is somewhere I stayed in 2002 and 2003, but two factors worked against that.  First, the hotel’s website indicated that it was undergoing a remodel, which we wanted to avoid.  We’ve found that hotels that are renovating tend to have unusual things, such as the Holiday Inn Express in Wilkes-Barre where they had replaced the mattresses in all of the guest rooms, even if they had not put the corresponding bed frames in yet, which resulted in a bed that was too tall for Elyse to get into without her leg braces on.  Additionally, Elyse wanted something transit-accessible, which the Midlothian hotel was not.  The Holiday Inn Express on Staples Mill fit the description quite well, being walking distance from a bus rapid transit line, and had prices comparable to the suburbs despite being in the city.  Funny thing, though, was that despite our avoiding another hotel due to renovations, they were renovating the elevators at the Holiday Inn Express:

Notice about elevator renovations at the Holiday Inn Express

Yep – the elevators were undergoing modernization, which meant that for an eight-story building, there was only one elevator available, as one was running and the other was down for refurbishment.  Additionally, it was clear that the interior of the one working elevator was incomplete, but ultimately, whatever.  This maintenance work has to happen some time, and it was limited to the elevators, so I was fine with it.

The next day, Elyse and I initially did our own thing.  She left super early to go ride the buses, while I headed out later on, with a plan to meet up in the Petersburg area later on.  We ended up meeting back up in Hopewell, which is a town similar to Petersburg, in that it is kind of dumpy, and past its prime, with a large industrial area on the east side of town.  We initially gravitated to the industrial area, photographing railroad stuff and other infrastructure:

Norfolk Southern 742 and 3057.
Norfolk Southern 742 and 3057.

Switch for a turnout along Industrial Street.
Switch for a turnout along Industrial Street.

Wilted-looking crossbuck sign.
Wilted-looking crossbuck sign.

Power lines.
Power lines.

A red blinker signal on Industrial Street at one of the entrances the AdvanSix facility.
A red blinker signal on Industrial Street at one of the entrances the AdvanSix facility.  While I was photographing that, I attracted the attention of a security guard, who was wondering what I was up to.  He quickly realized that I had zero interest in whatever he was guarding (i.e. no industrial espionage), and that my interest was just in the red traffic signal.  He was pretty cool once he realized that we weren’t interested in anything relating to his charge, but still, he wouldn’t answer Elyse’s question about a siren.

A red water tower.  I photographed it because it looked funny, appearing not to have a top.  As it turned out, based on Google Maps imagery, it really didn't have a top on it.
A red water tower.  I photographed it because it looked funny, appearing not to have a top.  As it turned out, based on Google Maps imagery, it really didn’t have a top on it.

Moving to downtown Hopewell, Elyse and I again did our own things, as I took the drone up for a flight over the river, while she explored downtown.  Here’s what I got of the Appomattox River:

The Appomattox River, near where it empties into the James River

The Appomattox River, near where it empties into the James River

The Appomattox River, near where it empties into the James River

After we met back up, we also got a few other bits and pieces in Hopewell:

Sign for a former Gordmans store in the Cavalier Square shopping center.  This store was a short-lived conversion from Peebles, and closed when the rest of the company went under.
Sign for a former Gordmans store in the Cavalier Square shopping center.  This store was a short-lived conversion from Peebles, and closed when the rest of the company went under.

Sign for a Firestone tire shop in Cavalier Square.
Sign for a Firestone tire shop in Cavalier Square.

Sign for Roses in Cavalier Square.
Sign for Roses in Cavalier Square.

Sign for the Beacon Theatre downtown.
Sign for the Beacon Theatre downtown.

"VISIT DOWNTOWN" sign off of East Cawson Street.
“VISIT DOWNTOWN” sign off of East Cawson Street.

Downtown Hopewell was not a bad place by any means.  Like the rest of the town, it appeared to have been past its prime, with a lot of empty storefronts, but it was cute nonetheless.  We found a comic book store there, and the people there were quite friendly.

From here, we stopped in at the Hopewell Visitors’ Center, and then at a Hampton Inn so that Elyse could get an elevator.  We were surprised to see the shape that this elevator was in, as Elyse shows off:

Elyse stands with the elevator panel, clearly not properly affixed.
Yeah, that looks safe.

We then headed over to Petersburg.  Our first stop in Petersburg was a bit of cleanup from the October trip.  There, we visited that abandoned former Ramada Inn that had eluded us in October.  I had no intention of going in, for lack of proper safety equipment and safety concerns related to the condition of the building, so by “visited”, I mean that I parked across the street while I sent my little eye in the sky out to get a good look at it.  So here it is:

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

Former Ramada Inn in Petersburg, Virginia

As I understand it, this facility was built in 1973, and operated as a Ramada Plaza Hotel (i.e. a big Ramada Inn) for most of its time in operation, and later went independent as the Fort Lee Regency before closing in 2012.  It has been vacant ever since.  There were plans at one time to renovate and reopen the hotel, and a sign was standing in front of the hotel to that effect, but those plans ultimately fell through, and the city is now going through the legal process to have the building demolished.

While we were over here, we also did a segment of I-95 that we had missed in October, from the Washington Street exit to the Crater Road exit, encompassing the I-85 split.  We missed this segment because of that funeral procession, and Elyse wanted to ride it in order to finish (“clinch” in roadgeek terminology) I-95 in Virginia.  So we did.  We also went down I-85 for like two exits in order to get photos of a shield:

I-85 shield with a US 460 shield.
I-85 shield with a US 460 shield.

Selfies with the highway shields.
Selfies with the highway shields.

After this, we went into Petersburg via Crater Road.  By chance, we spotted a restaurant called “What-A-Burger”:

What-A-Burger in Petersburg

This is a small Virginia-based chain of burger restaurants, completely unrelated to the better-known Whataburger chain in the western US.  We had heard of this chain before, and wanted to check it out some time when we were out this way.  Unfortunately, when we came by, their dining room was closed, and they were doing all of their business through the drive-through window, so we passed on it due to the inconvenience factor, and limited our visit to photos of the exterior.  Something for another time, I suppose.

We then headed over to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Petersburg, and checked the place out.  They had a vintage elevator, though it was no longer being used (it was stationary and used for storage).  Therefore, we only photographed the hall station:

After the ReStore, we headed into downtown Petersburg.  We got to downtown Petersburg a little too late in the day, so the light was not ideal for photographing the buildings, with many shadows.  So that went into the “something for next time” file again, though we did explore around in the car a little bit and get ideas for the future.  I don’t regret getting there too late because we got great photos in other places, though I was a little disappointed to miss it again.

What was well lit, though, was the statue of justice on the Petersburg Courthouse, so with a better drone than I had last time, I photographed it again, getting various angles of it:

Similar angle to what I got in October.
Similar angle to what I got in October.

The other side of the statue, which I wasn't able to get over to with the Mini for some reason.  I thought that the statue didn't look as much like Bea Arthur from this other angle.
The other side of the statue, which I wasn’t able to get over to with the Mini for some reason.  I thought that the statue didn’t look as much like Bea Arthur from this other angle.

Close-up of the statue from her right side.  I was surprised to find out that the figure was not fully clothed, as her right breast was exposed.  I also got the sense that the statue had been painted many times over the years, and is probably a good candidate for a restoration, i.e. removing all of the old paint and applying a new layer of paint on top of the bare statue.
Close-up of the statue from her right side.  I was surprised to find out that the figure was not fully clothed, as her right breast was exposed.  I also got the sense that the statue had been painted many times over the years, and is probably a good candidate for a restoration, i.e. removing all of the old paint and applying a new layer of paint on top of the bare statue.

Close-up of the statue from her left side.
Close-up of the statue from her left side.

Low angle of the statue from her right side.  I was surprised to find that the statue was attached to the rest of the structure via a relatively small pole, and that there was a gap between the statue and the rest of the tower.
Low angle of the statue from her right side.  I was surprised to find that the statue was attached to the rest of the structure via a relatively small pole, and that there was a gap between the statue and the rest of the tower.

From here, we left Petersburg and headed over to Colonial Heights.  We had lunch at a Publix store, and we met up with Aaron Stone and Evan Stone there.  Elyse got a sandwich, while I got some buffalo chicken salad:

My lunch

Not a bad meal.  We then headed over to the commercial area that we visited before in Colonial Heights in order to get some more photos of things now that we had more time.  I photographed an antenna, as well as got better photos of the various retail around there:

Device on an antenna, covered in bird poop.
Device on an antenna, covered in bird poop.

Another device on the same antenna, also covered in poop.
Another device on the same antenna, also covered in poop.

Sam's Club in Colonial Heights.  This property used to house a Walmart store, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1993.
Sam’s Club in Colonial Heights.  This property used to house a Walmart store, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1993.

The Circuit City turned Gold's Gym.  I photographed this because I thought I could do better than I did in October.  I think that I did.  This was taken later in the day, and from a better angle.  You can also read the labelscar on the building from its time as Circuit City in this photo.
The Circuit City turned Gold’s Gym.  I photographed this because I thought I could do better than I did in October.  I think that I did.  This was taken later in the day, and from a better angle.  You can also read the labelscar on the building from its time as Circuit City in this photo.

Southpark Mall.
Southpark Mall.

Skylight over the northernmost court at Southpark Mall.
Skylight over the northernmost court at Southpark Mall.

From here, we all headed back to our hotel.  We left Aaron and Evan’s car at our hotel, and we headed downtown.  We were going to do the Canal Walk, but first, we headed to the Krispy Kreme located next to our hotel.  We watched donuts get made for a while, and also each had one of the defect donuts.  These weren’t bad donuts by any means, but misshapen due to their landing on other donuts or otherwise making contact with the equipment in some way, making for a bad shape.  Here are our mutant donuts:

Our donuts from the reject pile

Yeah, they’re a little ugly, but they tasted like a Krispy Kreme donut ought to taste like.  I was content, and so was everyone else.

From here, we headed downtown, and parked down by the canal.  Getting out there, we first had some fun with a sign about biking the Capital Trail.  It had a number part that you could change, and we decided to be honest about it:

Zero miles.  Like a boss.
Zero miles.  Like a boss.

For this nighttime walk along the canal, I just brought my phone.  I figured that I would take night mode on my phone for a spin, and see how well it did.  It performed well enough, but if I’m taking real night photos, I’m pulling out the tripod and the SLR, because this thing is not quite ready for prime time.

In any event, while I thought that the photos were kind of lacking (but I admit that the point was not so much photography as it was hanging out together), I could totally spend an evening doing night photography in this area.  I suspect that I could easily go down here and spend all night photographing along the canal like I mean it, using my real camera and the tripod.  I could even day-trip it if I really wanted to, sleeping until later in the day, driving down to Richmond in the early evening, and then spending all night going through this area and returning home at sunrise, similar to what I did with the nighttime phase of the Washington Monument scaffolding photo set.  It could be fun, though restroom access might be a challenge (unless I just want to use a bush or something).

From there, we headed out to Sheetz, and had dinner together in the lobby of the hotel prior to saying goodbye to Aaron and Evan.  Here, we experienced two things that kind of soured us on this hotel for future visits.  First, the front desk called the fire department for what turned out to be someone smoking pot.  This seems extreme, and caused more alarm than was necessary among Elyse and me, with the thought’s being that the place where we were staying might be on fire, and if so, we might have a lodging problem on our hands.  Deal with the pot smokers (since smoking of any kind was prohibited in the hotel), but don’t call the fire department.  After all, marijuana smoke smells nothing like fire smoke.  Someone should have been able to tell the difference, or the hotel should have investigated better before summoning a large response like that.  I considered that response to be a bit ham-handed on the hotel’s part.

The other thing that soured us on this place was their practice regarding their rear door.  This photo that Aaron took sums it up nicely:

This door is locked
Photo: Aaron Stone

This would be all fine and dandy except for one problem: nearly all of the parking for the hotel is on that side of the building.  Thus in order to enter the hotel from your car after 11 PM requires walking all the way around the exterior of the building to the open entrance.  That is not a fun thing.  Additionally, there is a card access point on that door, meaning that they can limit building access to only registered guests.  But they chose to bypass that and lock the doors entirely, and instead post a note threatening removal from the property for touching the doors.  My understanding was that this was done to combat a problem where people experiencing homelessness would enter the lobby in the overnight hours in order to sleep.  The issue is that in order to combat that problem, they chose to inconvenience their paying guests in a major way.  These sorts of problems should be handled in ways that do not inconvenience paying guests, i.e. I, as a guest, should never know that there is a problem in the first place, because the hotel is taking care of it quietly and discreetly.

On the plus side, though, there was absolutely zero COVID safety theater anywhere in the hotel that I could see.  The staff was not wearing masks, the breakfast service was standard, and there were no plexiglass screens anywhere.  Our stay felt 100% pre-COVID normal, which I appreciated.

But In any event, on account of the two issues that we experienced, next time we come to Richmond for a weekender, we’re probably going to stay somewhere else.

On Saturday, Elyse and I planned to focus on Richmond proper, after spending most of the day south of the city on Friday.  After checking out of the hotel, we started with the Krispy Kreme around the corner.  Elyse went in to get something, while I entertained myself photographing the sign:

Krispy Kreme in Richmond, Virginia

Krispy Kreme in Richmond, Virginia

I enjoyed photographing this sign, specifically because it’s uncommon.  There’s another one like this on Richmond Highway near Alexandria that has neon that I also need to photograph.  One day, I will get that one, but ironically enough, it’s easier for me to photograph things when I’m traveling vs. going about locally, because then I’m on the prowl for stuff to photograph, while I often have other things to do when I’m going around locally.

Finishing up at Krispy Kreme, Elyse needed to dip into Target, so we stopped at the one in the Libbie Place shopping center.  Then we stopped over at the Markel Building, which is very unique architecturally:

The Markel Building

First of all, the building is round, and then the exterior cladding has an interesting story: the design was inspired by a baked potato wrapped in aluminum foil served to architect Haigh Jamgochian while attending an American Institute of Architects event.  It’s product of its time (the mid 1960s), for sure, but it’s kind of cute.

We then headed over to Hollywood Cemetery.  Remember that trip to Richmond that I did with Anonymous back in 2009, when we visited the pyramid after our raid?  I finally got a chance to go back and photograph it without anyone in front of it:

The pyramid at Hollywood Cemetery

I also threw the drone up in the air to get some photos from higher up:

The pyramid, with the Richmond skyline in the distance

I liked this view because it puts the pyramid in some context with the city.  Normally, the city is hidden from view when you’re in the cemetery because of all of the trees, but this rises above that that and shows how it all fits together.

We then drove around the cemetery a bit, because Elyse had never been, and in my previous visit, it was a relatively quick in-and-out with the pyramid.  It’s not a bad place overall, and a very quiet and peaceful place in an otherwise busy city.

From here, we headed over to Carytown.  Elyse wanted to visit Chum Chum Onigri for food, as well as Bits + Pixels and Tokyo Mart.  I set her down along the main strip, and then went off in search of parking, which I found about two blocks away in a nearby neighborhood.  I met back up with her while she was chatting with a postal worker on her mail route.  Elyse was able to mail something, and then we continued on to our various destinations.  I was particularly pleased to see Tokyo Mart, because we visited there on our April 2020 trip at the beginning of the pandemic, and the place looked pretty sad at that time.  Now, none of the staff was wearing masks anymore, and in addition, the store had expanded into the space next door to it, thus doubling in size since my last visit.

On the way back to the car, meanwhile, I got a few photos:

"CLEAN KIDS DIE" sticker on a newspaper box.
“CLEAN KIDS DIE” sticker on a newspaper box.  All that I could find was that this was apparently a graffiti campaign of sorts in Richmond, but nothing about any meaning behind it.  I assumed that it meant something about living life to the fullest, with the idea that the immune system needs a lot of practice to stay in tip top shape.  But I could be reading more into it than I should.  Who knows.

"HAPPY" lettering on the marquee of the Byrd Theatre.  The entire marquee reads, "SAVE FERRIS/HAPPY BELATED/BIRTHDAY ADHYA".
“HAPPY” lettering on the marquee of the Byrd Theatre.  The entire marquee reads, “SAVE FERRIS/HAPPY BELATED/BIRTHDAY ADHYA”.

No parking sign along Cary Street.
No parking sign along Cary Street.

We then headed back to the car and went downtown.  When we got there, I set Elyse down at Main Street Station, where she was checking out a few things over there and then riding a few buses while I went around various places with the drone.  Since this was downtown in a fairly large city, my drone work consisted of many quick up-and-down flights in order to not overfly anyone or anything that I wasn’t supposed to.

The James Monroe Building.  This was, for a time, the tallest building in Virginia.  It was eclipsed in 2008 by the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center.
The James Monroe Building.  This was, for a time, the tallest building in Virginia.  It was eclipsed in 2008 by the Westin Virginia Beach Town Center.

Interstate 95 at the Downtown Expressway split.

Interstate 95 at the Downtown Expressway split.
Interstate 95 at the Downtown Expressway split.

Cupola on Richmond Main Street Station, with I-95 behind it.
Cupola on Richmond Main Street Station, with I-95 behind it.

The Virginia State Capitol.
The Virginia State Capitol.  I was surprised at exactly how small it looked.  I expected a bigger building for some reason.  Also funny that for as many times as I’ve been to downtown Richmond, I never actually saw the Capitol.  It’s well hidden, for sure.

The original Medical College of Virginia (now VCU Medical Center) building.
The original Medical College of Virginia (now VCU Medical Center) building.

Richmond east of I-95.
Richmond east of I-95.  The freeway runs along the bottom of the photo, and East Broad Street runs down the center of the photo.

I then headed over to Brown’s Island, at the west end of the canal.  I wanted to get some photos of the Federal Reserve building and other things, and made a beeline for that spot.  I flew around a few spots, mostly over the canal and the river.  First, I flew over the canal and nearby:

The Federal Reserve building, viewed from above the canal.
The Federal Reserve building, viewed from above the canal.

The Federal Reserve building, with the Riverfront Plaza towers nearby.
The Federal Reserve building, with the Riverfront Plaza towers nearby.


The former MeadWestvaco headquarters building, now home to CoStar, a commercial real estate information company.

CoStar sign on the building.  I feel like this photo could easily go on an annual report or a corporate website or something.
CoStar sign on the building.  I feel like this photo could easily go on an annual report or a corporate website or something.

And then I went over the river:

Aerial view of a footbridge over the James River.  On my previous visits to this part of Richmond, this bridge was still an abandoned railroad bridge, cut off from actual use.  Now it connects all the way across, and people were using it.  I didn't go across the bridge due to time constraints, but it definitely seems worth exploring in the future.
Aerial view of a footbridge over the James River.  On my previous visits to this part of Richmond, this bridge was still an abandoned railroad bridge, cut off from actual use.  Now it connects all the way across, and people were using it.  I didn’t go across the bridge due to time constraints, but it definitely seems worth exploring in the future.

A small island in the middle of the diver, with some disused manmade structures nearby.
A small island in the middle of the diver, with some disused manmade structures nearby.

The Richmond skyline, viewed from over the river.  If there's one thing to say about Richmond, it does have a very photogenic skyline.
The Richmond skyline, viewed from over the river.  If there’s one thing to say about Richmond, it does have a very photogenic skyline.

Skimming over the river at a low altitude.
Skimming over the river at a low altitude.

Manchester Bridge.
Manchester Bridge.

A disused bridge pier, presumably for a former railroad line, along with some other disused concrete structures.
A disused bridge pier, presumably for a former railroad line, along with some other disused concrete structures.

From there, I returned to the car and went to scoop up Elyse.  I found her near the BookHolders store near VCU, and parked on the street.  The BookHolders lot, meanwhile, was actively being monitored, and unauthorized cars parked there were being booted.  I squatted down and photographed one of the boots:

A car wearing a boot on its left front wheel

I can only imagine that the people parked here were unhappy about the boots.  The guy doing the booting was nice enough, though.  We chatted for a few minutes about it, since I was only interested in photographing the boots because nerd, and I had no skin in that game otherwise.

From there, our trip started to wrap up.  We went out in search of food, sweeping through the entire Carytown strip looking for a place to eat, and finding nothing that we both wanted that we could find parking near.  We ended up going to a Whole Foods on Broad Street, where I had a chicken salad.  From there, we got on I-95, and headed home.

All in all, I’d say that a good time was had by all, and I would definitely enjoy doing more weekenders to Richmond in the future.  Lots to do, and lots to explore.

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Thinking about the “Sunset Park” concept… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/26/thinking-about-the-sunset-park-concept/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/26/thinking-about-the-sunset-park-concept/#respond Tue, 26 Apr 2022 20:32:48 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43675 Those of you who have been following this website for a very long time may remember that one of the last quote articles, which ran about seven months before the feature was discontinued, was about the then-impending closure, capping, and seeding of the city landfill in Waynesboro, Virginia.  It was titled, “What Waynesboro needs now is a star!” and discussed a proposed redevelopment of the site into “Sunset Park”.  At the time, I said that it was a wonderful idea, and suggested that Waynesboro should consider commissioning some sort of large-scale art piece similar to the Roanoke Star, in order to have some sort of icon visible all across the city, and provide a landmark for the park, i.e. a reason to go up there.  Since my article ran back in 2004, the landfill was successfully capped and seeded, but as far as I can tell, very little has occurred since.  Plans have been drawn up, but that’s about the extent of it.  No construction to this end has taken place as of yet.

On my most recent trip down that way in mid-March, Elyse wanted to visit a hobby shop in downtown, and so while she did that, I went around to take the drone up to explore the old landfill site.  I wanted to see what it looked like up there, and, more importantly, I wanted to see what the view looked like from up there.

The sense that I got from my flight was that the landfill site seemed ideal for a park.  I found rolling terrain for the most part, with a gradual slope downward towards the city.  Gas vents are peppered throughout the site, consistent with its status as a former landfill.  An access road follows a curved path to the top.

View of the top of the former landfill site.

View of the top of the former landfill site.
View of the top of the former landfill site.

Sloping ground down towards the city.  The access road curves through the middle of the shot.
Sloping ground down towards the city.  The access road curves through the middle of the shot.

View towards the rest of the city, facing approximately west.  The area towards the center of the photo that juts out appears to be an ideal location for an observation platform of some sort, similar to the overlooks that exist at Mill Mountain Park in Roanoke.
View towards the rest of the city, facing approximately west.  The area towards the center of the photo that juts out appears to be an ideal location for an observation platform of some sort, similar to the overlooks that exist at Mill Mountain Park in Roanoke.

The view of Waynesboro from the landfill site.  It certainly is gorgeous, and I imagine that it would look equally gorgeous at night.

The view of Waynesboro from the landfill site.  It certainly is gorgeous, and I imagine that it would look equally gorgeous at night.
The view of Waynesboro from the landfill site.  It certainly is gorgeous, and I imagine that it would look equally gorgeous at night.

This view of the city is a bit more forward and elevated, i.e. I'm flying a bit higher than a pedestrian's view, but it does give a sense of grandeur of what one would see from the site.  It's by no means like the view of Roanoke from Mill Mountain Park, but it's not bad by any means.
This view of the city is a bit more forward and elevated, i.e. I’m flying a bit higher than a pedestrian’s point of view, but it does give a sense of grandeur of what one would see from the site.  It’s by no means like the view of Roanoke from Mill Mountain Park, but it’s not bad, either.

All in all, I feel like this is definitely something worth pursuing.  It’s not often that you have a stellar view like that within the city limits, and if you do, it seems worthwhile to take full advantage of it.

Meanwhile, I still can’t help but think that this park needs a landmark of some sort that’s visible from the city below.  In Roanoke, there is the Roanoke Star, which is visible throughout much of the city and is lit until midnight.  I love visiting the star, and it’s rare that a visit to Roanoke goes by where I don’t visit the star.  Then there’s Cumberland, Maryland, where the WTBO sign is visible throughout much of the city.  The WTBO sign is there because it’s on the property of the WTBO radio station (makes sense, right?).  But it still serves the same purpose, being something of a landmark feature of the town, albeit on a much smaller scale than the Roanoke Star.

For Waynesboro, for some reason, I think that the best thing to do would simply be to put the town’s name up in lights.  I draw my inspiration from the signage that Waynesboro used to have in a few places throughout the city:

Waynesboro, Virginia sign
Image: Google Street View

These signs were replaced around 2017 or so with newer signage sporting a more modern logo, but there’s a certain charm to this older logo that the newer one just does not have.  I think that taking this older logo, with the block letters and the larger “O” at the end, would fit the mountain quite well, lit up in white.  The newer logo’s font doesn’t lend itself as well to a mountaintop placement, and the extra elements around the text would look cheesy in that sort of application.  Plus, with that location’s being on a mountaintop, it’s somewhat out of the way and removed from the rest of the city, so a landmark feature like that up there would give people a reason to go up there.  I admit that in the case of both Roanoke and Cumberland, I would never have explored those parts of town had there not been a landmark feature to draw me there.  Without a landmark up there in Waynesboro, I feel like there won’t be much of a draw, and the park won’t see much use, and ultimately fail.  So if you’re going to build it, give them a reason to come.

And if Sunset Park ever comes to fruition, expect me to be there to capture the view the next time I’m in Waynesboro.

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A little awareness goes a long way… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/11/a-little-awareness-goes-a-long-way/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/11/a-little-awareness-goes-a-long-way/#respond Mon, 11 Apr 2022 13:53:38 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43301 Sometimes, it surprises me about how much some people lack awareness about their situation when they get caught in a copyright infringement case.  In this case, I sent a takedown notice for a photo of the old Giant Food store on O Street NW in Washington, DC, i.e. this photo:

Old Giant Food store on O Street NW

I took that photo on March 28, 2006 while on a trip to DC while I was still living in Virginia, and it’s been knocking around on the Internet for about sixteen years at this point.  In this instance, it was being used as a visual for a video that someone posted on YouTube featuring an old radio spot that Giant ran in the early 1980s.  This was a Creative Commons image, however, with no attribution anywhere that I could find, it was still a copyright infringement.  So I went to YouTube’s copyright infringement form, completed it, and the video was removed shortly thereafter, with my receiving confirmation of the removal at 12:54 PM on February 18.

About five hours after I got the confirmation, I got this message from a person named David Pinson via the contact form on the website:

Well it seems I owe you an apology.  I used one of your pictures on a video for a radio spot from New Years 1980 and received a takedown notice.  You’re a Creator I’m sure you know how this works.  I got a copyright strike for it.  This compromises my channel.  I’m hoping that you’ll see fit to retract the takedown notice and I will delete the spot video completely it’s not worth risking damage to my channel.  I’m sorry I used your picture without permission.  I’m a non monetized creator it was used simply as a visual aid.  I did not intend to profit off of it or benefit from it in any way.  I hope you can see fit to accept my apology.  I appreciate your consideration in this matter.

Pinson also sent me a second message around the same time as the first, this one directly to my email address:

I already sent you a message at your website, but perhaps this is a better way to contact you.  I received the notification of the takedown of my video today while I was at work and the YouTube app on my phone did not provide an email address or I would have contacted you via this method originally.  I am not well versed in what is considered fair use as far as photos that get posted to the internet, and while I realize ignorance of such matters is not an excuse, I hope we can work this out.  I’m sorry I used your photo without permission.  It was used as a visual aid to accompany a radio spot from 1980.  That’s what my channel sets out to do is provide content for the sake of nostalgia.  I am not monetized and I receive nothing for providing the content aside from personal satisfaction if it brings about memories that people can enjoy.   What I am hoping is that you would consider retracting the takedown.  I will permanently delete the video which uses the O Street Giant Food store.  I really wish you would have considered contacting me as I would have gladly acknowledged your ownership of the image and altered or deleted my video immediately.  Unfortunately the takedown has resulted in a copyright strike which I’m sure you understand puts my channel in jeopardy.  Hopefully we can resolve this matter in a way that is satisfactory and doesn’t pose a threat to my channel.  I appreciate you taking the time to consider this.

I let these messages go unanswered, because as far as I was concerned, the problem had already been resolved by YouTube’s processing of the takedown notice, and I had no reason to engage him when I had already gotten exactly what I wanted.  It sounds like he knew that he did something wrong, but was more sorry that he got caught than he was about violating copyright in the first place.  In other words, “I’m sorry, but here’s why I’m right.”

That attitude reminds me of a relatively minor incident that happened when I was in seventh grade.  That was a pretty rough year overall, and this incident was just another piece of kindling on that dumpster fire of a school year.  In this case, it was a Friday, and we had been having a team-wide event all day, and as such, the movable partitions between our three classrooms were open, making one giant space.  At the end of the day, a few of us were waiting for dismissal in the middle classroom (there were two dismissal bells about five minutes apart, and my bus dismissed on the second one), and the classroom on one end was empty with the lights off (mind you, the movable partitions were still open, i.e. the rooms were combined).  I went over to the door of that room to say hello to someone that I spotted in the hallway, and practically got chased back into the middle area again by the teacher whose room it was, who acted as if my walking over to that part of the combined room was equivalent to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.  I was a bit perturbed about the situation, because I felt as though I had done nothing wrong, and even if I wasn’t technically supposed to be in that area, nobody ever told me that, and it wasn’t obvious because the partitions were open.  If the partitions were closed and the different rooms were walled off, that would have been one thing, but the three rooms were combined into one.  In any event, at the next meeting with the guidance counselor the following week, that teacher was in on the meeting, and she apologized for her over-the-top behavior.  But then she immediately went into a really long spiel where she defended her actions and then told me why I was wrong and why she was right to run me out like she did, completely negating her meager apology, and then some.  In other words, “I’m sorry, but here’s why I’m right.”  That was no apology, because this teacher demonstrated that she wasn’t actually sorry, and, in fact, piled on more in the “I’m not sorry” direction to the point that saying nothing about the incident at all and just leaving it alone would have caused fewer hurt feelings than that non-apology.  If the teacher actually was sorry for her actions, it would have been, “I’m sorry,” followed by a full stop, i.e. no need to qualify that apology and essentially negate it by trying to justify their unprofessional behavior.  I don’t give those kinds of non-apologies.  If I feel that an apology is necessary, I apologize and leave it at that.  I don’t apologize and then continue to defend my actions.  If I was wrong, I am making amends for a wrong.  If I don’t believe that I’m wrong, though, I just won’t apologize.  Simple as that.

In Pinson’s case, he starts out okay, but then quickly moved into in the sorry-not-sorry category.  In his initial message, he states, “Well, it seems I owe you an apology,” which is good.  But then he starts to justify his actions in the second message, saying, “I’m sorry I used your photo without permission.  It was used as a visual aid to accompany a radio spot from 1980.  That’s what my channel sets out to do is provide content for the sake of nostalgia.  I am not monetized and I receive nothing for providing the content aside from personal satisfaction if it brings about memories that people can enjoy.”  Then he goes on to say, “I really wish you would have considered contacting me as I would have gladly acknowledged your ownership of the image and altered or deleted my video immediately.  Unfortunately the takedown has resulted in a copyright strike which I’m sure you understand puts my channel in jeopardy.”  Ah, the truth comes out.  He’s not sorry that he violated copyright.  He’s sorry that he got caught, after biting off more than he could chew, and was faced with the real possibility that he could lose his YouTube channel for it.

When it comes down to things, though, he really has no room to talk.  His video was the juxtaposition of two pieces of content, neither of which he had the rights to use: the advertisement, which likely belongs to Giant Food or a related organization, and the photo, which belongs to me.  You know when people post content from the television and then say, “No copyright infringement intended,” or “I own none of this,” in the description, thinking that they can get away with copyright infringement by admitting what they’re doing right up front?  That’s what this is.  In other words, they know that they are wrong, they are openly admitting as much, but they’re doing it anyway despite knowing better.  Apparently, stepping on other people’s copyrights is a public service for the sake of nostalgia in his eyes, and then when he gets caught, he pitches a fit because someone won’t let him have his fun anymore.  Funny thing, though: as far as my side of things (the photo) is concerned, since it was a Creative Commons image, if he had provided attribution for it, he would have been in full compliance.  But he didn’t do that, which led to his getting nailed for it.  It pays to read the fine print, folks.

I also love when people get salty when I nail them for copyright infringement without consulting them first.  This is why we have the DMCA takedown process in the first place, so that I don’t have to go through the person who is being accused of copyright infringement, and listen to them moan and complain in order to address what I need to have addressed.  Rather, just have to present my case to a disinterested third party (the host of the platform) in a standardized format, and they deal with it accordingly.  Boom, boom, done.  That’s why I find his request that I rescind the copyright claim to be a complete non-starter.  Why would I do that?  They’re asking me to undo what I did so that they can do the same thing themselves.  The rub for that is, as I said in my entry about the Almus Music case, by rescinding my copyright claim, I also give up my ability to do another claim on the same content in the future.  Therefore, if they don’t follow through, I have no further recourse short of lawyering up and going through a legal process, which, for a small case like this, isn’t worth the time or the expense.  The takedown process works quite well in allowing one to avoid such things, and besides that, I’ve been given no reason to think that Pinson would actually follow through and remove the content voluntarily, vs. deciding that he’s “doing the Lord’s work” or some other such thing by running his nostalgia channel and leaving it up indefinitely because he’s just decided that he’s right.  Bypassing him entirely and going straight to YouTube avoids all of this, as does letting the takedown stand.

And as far as the copyright strike goes, I have no sympathy for him.  Pinson made his bed, and is a little salty about the idea that he now has to lie in it.  I wasn’t the one who published works that I didn’t have the rights to.  He did.  And if one copyright strike based on a report from me kills his YouTube channel, then a pattern of infringement had been determined, and YouTube said that enough was enough and shut it all down.  Even more so when you recognize that copyright strikes expire after 90 days.  Therefore, it takes a lot of closely-spaced copyright violation notices to kill a channel.  Therefore, if you only get nailed for one infringement every 90 days, you could theoretically stay up indefinitely, since one strike rolls off just as the next one goes on, and you never have more than one strike on your record at a time.  In any event, a single copyright strike is your warning that you are going down the wrong path when it comes to content that you post on YouTube, and that if you continue down that path, there will be worse consequences than a trip to YouTube copyright school.

Ultimately, Pinson’s whole argument boils down to, “I’m upset that I got caught, and you’re a big meanie for holding me accountable for my own decisions.”  And at the same time, he seems blissfully unaware that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on, as the video that he published contains no content whatsoever to which he controls the rights.

Then, on March 17, I received a comment from “ConcernedAAco” on “Let me play a sad song for you on the world’s smallest violin…“.  The content of the comment made it quite apparent that it was Pinson, and that he was not happy with my lack of a response to his earlier messages:

It’s completely understandable that you take pride in your photography and want to protect your work.  What I fail to understand is why you would want to “sock it” to someone who is an individual creator on YouTube who is not monetized and used an image as a visual aid to accompany a 30 second radio spot from 1980.  Yes, this is somewhat unrelated to the post, but it ties in.  I can understand going after a monetized creator, an offshore business who used your photo to promote themselves, or a band who is obviously in it to sell their material.  That all makes perfect sense.  To go after an individual who runs a nostalgia channel as a hobby, a fellow Marylander as well who has apologized in multiple correspondence and sought to rectify the situation in a civil matter seems a bit heavy handed.  I have read your posts, I see you won’t respond to correspondence based on “ongoing litigation”.  That’s ludicrous in regards to this situation.  There is no litigation taking place, just months of penalties and YouTube purgatory.  You could have reached out to discuss the matter.  You could have lodged a copyright claim.  Instead you chose to request a takedown which you knew carried an automatic strike.  Some might see that as purely malicious based on the details.

First of all, kudos to him for actually reading the site.  Pinson is discussing the Almus case, as well as the Barbiturate case.  So he knew what I typically say about people who behave just like him when it comes to copyright infringement, and how I tend to verbally flog people in this space when they steal, get caught, and then whine about getting caught.  And yet he still went all in on it.  I suppose that he can’t say that he didn’t see the hornet’s nest, and then should not be surprised that he got stung after he chose to poke it anyway.

In any event, it’s clear that he was still salty about his getting caught, his getting nailed for it, and then my unwillingness to help him lick his (self-inflicted) wounds.  And he really doubled down on the “Schumin is a big meanie” position with this one.  There are a few points worth noting here:

I can understand going after a monetized creator, an offshore business who used your photo to promote themselves, or a band who is obviously in it to sell their material.  That all makes perfect sense.

That’s all well and good, but copyright infringement is still copyright infringement, whether it’s done by a television station, a grocery store, a school, a realtor, whatever.  I police copyright noncompliance pretty closely, and if you get a takedown notice from me, consider yourself lucky, because it means that I decided that your usage wasn’t viable for handling through other channels.

To go after an individual who runs a nostalgia channel as a hobby, a fellow Marylander as well who has apologized in multiple correspondence and sought to rectify the situation in a civil matter seems a bit heavy handed.

The intent behind your channel and where you are located in relation to me is 100% irrelevant.  It also doesn’t matter how many times you apologize.  After all, if you infringe on someone’s copyright and then get caught, I have no doubt that you are sorry about it.  I’m just not sure what you’re sorry about, i.e. are you sorry for the actual act, or are you just sorry that you got caught.  In this instance, I suspect that it’s the latter, and that they’re just sorry that they got caught.

I have read your posts, I see you won’t respond to correspondence based on “ongoing litigation”.  That’s ludicrous in regards to this situation.  There is no litigation taking place, just months of penalties and YouTube purgatory.  You could have reached out to discuss the matter.

Clearly, Pinson didn’t read those posts that well.  Prior to this entry’s publication, on the entirety of the schuminweb.com domain, the only instance where the word “litigation” has appeared is on a page called “The Sacred States of Pyrote News“, which is a nearly 20-year-old piece from the fall of 2002 discussing an international relations simulation for a class that I took during my senior year of college.  The context was, “In other news, the Grand Poobah of Justice, John Ashtray, has announced the beginning of litigation towards Bampff.  According to Ashtray, ‘We are not looking to punish anyone through this litigation. All we are interested in doing is bringing this whole thing to a definite end.'”  If Pinson wants to take that to mean that I’m not commenting because of that, sure, we’ll go with that, and hail the almighty Bolivar.

Additionally, there is a difference between not corresponding because of ongoing litigation, real or imagined, and not corresponding because it’s not worth my time.  I mean, what am I going to say?  “There, there, poor baby, it’s okay.  You just got caught doing something that you shouldn’t have been doing, and now you’re suffering the consequences that you absolutely deserve because of your poor decisions.  It was so totally mean of me to hold you accountable for your own actions like an adult.”  Or I could skip it and just let him be salty about it by his lonesome.  I chose the latter.

You could have lodged a copyright claim.  Instead you chose to request a takedown which you knew carried an automatic strike.  Some might see that as purely malicious based on the details.

For what it’s worth, since I am not a YouTube partner or otherwise a large content provider on YouTube, I do not have the ability to monetize other people’s videos on the platform when they use my content without authorization (i.e. leave the video in place on their channel, but any money from the video goes to me).  So that option is off the table, since I do not have access to those features, and YouTube won’t give them to me (I’ve asked).

I’m also not being malicious by any means, though I feel like there is a strong “Schumin is a big meanie” vibe throughout the whole message.  Really, though, it’s nothing personal.  It’s just business.  If it tells you how non-personal it is, I don’t even know what the channel is.  I found the video based on a reverse image search, I verified that it was an infringement, I filed my takedown notice, and then I moved on.  Surgical strike.  When Pinson messaged me, I looked to see if I could find the channel for a reference, and I couldn’t find it.  But when they decide to make it personal, I can go there with them, and people typically don’t like it when I do.

And I still find it funny how it so often works when it comes to treating people like adults.  People so often demand that they be treated like an adult.  You’ve probably said it at some point, yourself.  But then when someone actually treats them like an adult and holds them responsible for their actions, they don’t like it, and demand that they be coddled.  Which one is is going to be?

In the end, the usual lesson applies: read the terms of the license carefully, because you will be held to account for it based on its terms.  And if you do get nailed for infringement, take your licks like an adult.

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New doors! https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/01/new-doors/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/04/01/new-doors/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2022 04:32:22 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43853 On Friday, March 25, the largest part of a home improvement project got completed.  I got new exterior doors on the house.  This was a very long time in coming, with supply chain issues’ making it take many months longer than originally anticipated, but that’s what happens.  I went through American Remodel, and these new doors should pay for themselves over time in increased energy efficiency.  The old doors were in somewhat poor condition, and were drafty.  Elyse was getting drafts in her bedroom, the kitchen door was starting to fall apart, and the front door not only leaked air, but was oozing material from around the window, and had modifications made to it in the past that degraded its functionality.

Here’s what the front door looked like before the work, photographed about a year ago:

The old front door, photographed in 2021

Notice the dripping underneath the window.  I’m not entirely sure what it was, but it was coming from around the window.  I also discovered that it was an ongoing thing, as I cleaned it up one time, and then new liquid came out all over again in very short order.  Also, if you look around the area of the doorknob, you can see screw holes from a modification to the door hardware, as it was clear that the hardware that I knew was not original.  I don’t know what the original hardware was, but it was not what I was familiar with.  Additionally, the deadbolt on the door wasn’t exactly a super fit.  It was a high-security Mul-T-Lock deadbolt, which required a lot more effort than I wanted to deal with.  It was already on the house when I bought it, but I found out later that I didn’t technically own the lock, because the previous owner didn’t sign over the lock to me with the lock company, which meant that I could not get new keys made for it.  In order to get ownership of the lock and have keys made for it, I had to get someone to come out to rekey it, which I did.  When the lock guys came out, the poor fit of the deadbolt quickly became clear, as the lock company didn’t install it.  Rather, the previous owners did it themselves, and the result was not exactly professional-grade, as it was very difficult to lock and unlock the deadbolt, especially in colder weather.  A new door took care of all of that in any event.

Meanwhile, getting to the installation day was a lot longer than any of us had expected.  We got the details finalized, I put down my deposit, and the order was placed in the summer, and we expected 6-10 weeks for it to be manufactured, with installation coming soon thereafter.  Due to supply chain issues, the doors were in manufacturing for many months.  The hang-up came with the glass for the sliding doors.  The infamous supply chain problems that happened in 2021 impacted my project, and that was that.  You don’t know how delighted I was when I got the email telling me that my doors were in, and that I needed to call to schedule a date for installation.

On the day of installation, we got up early, and the contractors showed up at 8:15 AM.  As with any renovation project, the first thing to happen was demo, and that meant saying goodbye to that problematic front door:

Goodbye to the old front door.  Goodbye to the old front door.

Good riddance to that thing.  Then they made quick work out of the slider in the kitchen:

The kitchen door is gone!

The kitchen door is gone!

And then the one in Elyse’s room:

The basement door is gone!

The basement door is gone!

Then the new doors came out:

New front door!
New front door!

New kitchen door!
New kitchen door!

New basement door!
New basement door!

And then the doors got installed.  First, the front door:

The new front door is installed  The new front door is installed

I love that new window.  It looks so modern, though it took some time to get used to.

Then here’s the new kitchen slider in place:

The new kitchen slider, fully installed.

The new kitchen slider, fully installed.

And the new basement door:

New basement door, fully installed.

And then came the pièce de résistance: the storm door.

The storm door is ready to go in.
The storm door is ready to go in.

Putting the finishing touches on the storm door.
Putting the finishing touches on the storm door.

The final product.
The final product.

My only complaint about the process was this:

The thermostat, reading 63 degrees.

Yeah, it was a cold process, but that was nothing that anyone could help.  It’s part of the nature of the work: you take all of the doors off of the house, and you’re going to let all of the heat out.  Therefore, it’s going to get cold.  I turned off the HVAC system for the duration of the work, because there was no sense in running the heat just to have it go right out the door.  Elyse and I dressed warmly enough, but I was still cold.  Oh, well.  But once the job was complete, we fired up the HVAC, and the house was warm again in no time.

Meanwhile, with the doors done, the only thing left in this project is to replace the gutters and the number plate, but that will occur at a later date.  It also shows how much things can go down the “if you give a mouse a cookie” rathole, because with the freshly done door in the proper color, now the shutters don’t match.  So they need to be repainted in order to make things look all uniform.  I’ll do that later on.

But at least the doors are done.  I have other home improvement projects that I want to do, but for now, I’m happy that the exterior doors are completed, so I can start enjoying some savings due to reduced heat loss.

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I never thought that I would actually look forward to spring… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/20/i-never-thought-that-i-would-actually-look-forward-to-spring/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/20/i-never-thought-that-i-would-actually-look-forward-to-spring/#respond Sun, 20 Mar 2022 19:24:30 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43221 Let’s be honest: this winter was brutal for me. This was the first winter in a very long time where I truly felt cold. After going from the upper 300s to the lower 200s in weight, with a goal weight of 185 (we’ll get there!), this winter made the weight loss feel very real. I suppose that this is to be expected when you shed most of your insulation, but expecting it didn’t make me feel any warmer for it. This is even more so when you consider that I work in a job where I spend a decent amount of time out in the elements, and therefore have plenty of exposure to the cold.  I suspect that I understand why they don’t tell you about this part of losing weight when you are going through the pre-work for weight loss surgery, because the prospect of being cold all winter long might scare some folks off. All I know is that I certainly miss the days when I could go out and do some very long photography sessions at night in the dead of winter, and be just fine with a coat, a hat, and a pair of gloves. Nowadays, to go out in winter, I feel like I need eight hundred layers of clothing and heated everything. I remember my efforts at doing some night photography in Atlantic City back in January. Sub-freezing temperatures coupled with wind chilled me to the bone. I lasted long enough to get a few photos of Resorts before tapping out. I was just too cold.

I think that this screencap from when my cousin Mike was on the TV news a few years ago talking about a polar vortex event sums it up quite nicely:

Mike Schumin: Hates the cold.
Mike Schumin: Hates the cold.

Now more than ever, I completely feel this.  I used to love the cold, and winter used to be one of my favorite seasons, but now I’ve come over to the other side.  I am no fan of the cold these days.  Prior to my weight loss surgery and subsequent weight loss, I used to keep the temperature in the house at 70 degrees during the winter, and 75 during the summer.  Then in the summer of 2020 and winter of 2021, I ended up reprogramming the temperatures to be 72 in the winter and 77 during the summer, because I was always cold with the earlier temperatures.  I was cold in the winter with it at 70, and I was cold in the summer with it at 75.  The way I figure, this is where I live, and I have full control over the thermostat.  I will make it where it fits Elyse and me, and if we’re too cold, we need to fix it.  That little two-degree bump made all of the difference, and I really didn’t feel the change in my electric bill all that much.

I used to dislike the summer because it was always hot, but now that I don’t have all of the insulation on me that I used to have, I am pretty good in the heat.  I could spend all day in the summer heat, and I am pretty comfortable.  I barely even break a sweat anymore.  Therefore: no problem.  Funny how that all works out, I suppose.  Though when it comes to looking forward to spring, a number of people that I know were very surprised to hear me say that, because they know that I suffer from springtime allergies.  Thus for me, the longer that we can put off spring, the better, and the faster that it gets over with, the better.  But the cold this winter was just unbearable.  I feel like for the last three months, I was almost continuously cold.  I was constantly raising the thermostat at home to 74 or 75 because I was cold, and I zipped up my work jacket when I left the house, and didn’t unzip it until I got home again.  It stayed zipped the entire day.

My recent trip to Atlantic City was fun, but some of my plans were stymied by the cold and the wind.  Even when fully bundled up, I was freezing.  I am talking chilled to the bone.  I was able to fly the drone from inside the car with the heat on for the most part, but when I was doing conventional photography, such as my night photos of Resorts, I was standing out in the cold.  When I was in my twenties, I could stand out in that all day and just fire off photo after photo after photo.  I used to enjoy doing night photography in the winter.  It gets dark earlier, which means more hours to do that kind of photography work, and because it’s cold, it means that there are fewer people out to get in my way.  So I would just bundle up and go.  I had a thick layer of body fat, and then supplementing that with warm clothes made for a nice, toasty me.  Not so anymore.  I could have easily gone around and photographed all of the various facilities in Atlantic City, but this time, no dice.  I did Resorts, and that was enough.  I still like doing oceanside towns in the off-season because people are generally nicer in the off-season (they’re just glad that you’re spending during their slow period), and I don’t have to worry about parking, but Atlantic City in the dead of winter was too much.  Next time I go to Atlantic City, I’m doing it either in the fall or the early spring, i.e. enough to where it’s not busy, but warm enough that I can actually photograph like I want to.  Then, maybe, I can get nighttime photos of all of the various things that I want to around Atlantic City.

And I suspect that allergy season is going to be a beast this year.  Usually, I consider April 1 to be opening day for allergy season, and I discontinue allergy meds on June 30.  I accidentally ordered my allergy meds through PillPack a month early (i.e. March 1 was opening day this year because I placed the order too early).  I suppose that it’s just as well – I’m already feeling the effects of the springtime because of the warm days that we’ve had in the last couple of weeks.

All in all, it’s interesting how perspectives change as we get older and our situations change.

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“Just singing a song…” https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/15/just-singing-a-song/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/15/just-singing-a-song/#respond Tue, 15 Mar 2022 16:00:46 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43703 This past Thursday evening, Elyse and I found ourselves at JMU, touring the recently renovated Zane Showker Hall.  I’m going to go into more detail on that adventure later, so stay tuned for that, but while we were in the lecture hall formerly known as G5 (now numbered 0212), I found a microphone up front, and it turned on and worked.  When you give me a microphone, you never know what I’m going to do with it.  In this instance, I had a little bit of fun with it, and belted out a tune, which Elyse recorded:

That was “Just Singing A Song” from the Today’s Special episode “Songs“.  This was Jeff’s entry into the song contest, singing about two mannequins that were set up for a travel display.  In the end, everyone sang their songs together as their entry for the contest, and the result was beautiful.

Amazingly, we shot this in one take, and it came out perfectly (and no one interrupted me for a speaker test, intentionally or unintentionally).  I also wanted to sing the “Whenever Days Are Dreary” song that Jodie did in the same episode for the camera as well, but Elyse wouldn’t go for that.  Apparently, one song was enough.  Nonetheless, I’m pretty proud of this one.  I sang the song entirely from memory, having sung it in the shower, in the car, and on the train many, many, many times in the past.

Considering how well this came out, I imagine that Jeff Hyslop would be proud, as would Clive VanderBurgh.

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A reminder about party affiliation in Maryland… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/14/a-reminder-about-party-affiliation-in-maryland/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/14/a-reminder-about-party-affiliation-in-maryland/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2022 18:40:40 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43610 As we move ever closer to the midterm elections in Maryland, and the primaries that accompany them, this seems like the perfect time to remind everyone about the way that primaries are conducted in Maryland.  Specifically, Maryland, along with 13 other states plus DC, conducts closed primaries.  That means that the only way to participate in a primary election is to have registered your political party choice with the state voter registration system ahead of time, usually before a deadline. In the case of Maryland, that party deadline is June 7, 2022.  Party registration in a closed primary state is not something to be taken lightly, and determines which candidates you get to vote for in the primary.

All of this about party registration should not be confused with any actual political leanings that you may have.  In a jurisdiction that skews very heavily in one direction, and where party registration is required in advance in order to vote for a given party’s primary candidates, the only way that you get any say in your local governance is to register in that party.  In a situation like this, the primary election for that party is the election that decides the result, and the general election is just a formality, because the nominee of that party always carries the race by a very large margin, and the other general election candidates know that they have no real chance at winning.

(By the way, if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, this is not the first time that I have written about this subject.)

In any event, in these situations where one party has so much sway that their primary is the “real” election, it creates the situation where, if you’re actually serious about taking office and not just running for office for the attention, you run with that party.  Folks like Robin Ficker get made fun of for running in Montgomery County for good reason: no Republican, running as a Republican, will ever win a local race here because it skews so far towards the Democratic side.  Therefore, if you’re running as a Republican in Montgomery County, you are, by definition, doing it for the attention.  Democrats have gotten around 65% of the vote in every County Executive race since 2002 (maybe longer, but I only went as far back as 2002).  That is a landslide by just about any measure, and cements the primary as the real contest and the general election as a formality.

This line of thought is why Senator Bernie Sanders, who has traditionally run for office as an independent candidate, ran for president as a Democrat in 2016 and 2020.  The idea is that with the two-party system that exists at the national level, if you’re not in one of those two parties, you are never going to actually win the election, and therefore, if you run as a third-party candidate, you are running for office strictly for the attention.  By running as a Democrat, Sanders indicated that he was actually serious about being president, and not just doing it for attention.  Unfortunately, too many people dismissed him more or less categorically because of his traditionally running as an independent and applying some sort of purity test to him as a result of that, but it still holds that he was quite serious about the presidency by running with the party that had a history of actually winning it, rather than running as an independent.

With that said, the practical effect of this is that anyone who is not registered as a Democrat in Montgomery County is shut out of their local governance, because the general election doesn’t mean anything.  If, say, David Blair were to win the primary, it would be reasonable to start measuring for drapes immediately following the primary because he’s got it, i.e. he is definitely going to be the next executive, even though the general election hasn’t occurred yet.  They like to say that everyone gets a vote, but really, if you’re not registered as a Democrat, you don’t count, and it’s a self-inflicted wound, because we all choose our own party affiliation when you register to vote.

There are two solutions to this, short-term and long-term.  The short-term solution is to register as a Democrat no matter what your actual political views are.  It doesn’t mean that you agree with their stances.  It doesn’t mean that your stances even line up with whatever the party bosses are saying.  It doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to vote that way.  All that party registration with the state does is determine whose primary ballot you are given in a primary election.  So regardless of whether you’re a diehard conservative, a bleeding-heart liberal, have more libertarian leanings, or would still write in Lyndon LaRouche on your ballot even though he died more than three years ago, if you live in Montgomery County, it behooves you to register as a Democrat in the elections system in order to be able to participate in your local governance.  If you don’t register as a Democrat, you have self-selected out of the process, and therefore, you really don’t count.  It’s like I said in my entry about this in 2020 about the man who went to the primary as a Republican:

If it tells you my feelings on this, the guy ahead of me in line when Elyse and I voted in this particular primary was registered as a Republican, and therefore got the Republican ballot.  I really wanted to go up to him, pinch his little old-man cheeks and say, “You’re registered as a Republican?  How cute!  How does it feel to have no voice in your local government?”

Local activist Jason Makstein has made a pretty good education campaign about the whole idea of switching your registration to Democratic for primary purposes, known as Left to Vote.  He and I are in agreement: the Democratic primary is the real election, and unless you are a registered Democrat, you have de facto self-selected out of any participation in your local government, because you aren’t voting for anyone who is ever going to take office.  After all, no one is born being part of a given political party.  It’s not an unchanging fact handed down from above that someone is a Republican, a Democrat, Green, Libertarian, or whatever.  They chose to view themselves that way.  And how you view yourselves, and the moves that you make when voting don’t have to coincide.  Thus the need to register with the Democratic Party for voting purposes, even if you really consider yourself something other than a Democrat.

In the longer term, the solution is open primaries.  It’s long past time to pull Maryland out of the realm of closed primaries and implement an open primary system, or, even better, switch to a nonpartisan approach for local elections.  After all, with the Democratic Party’s unquestioned dominance over local elections, i.e. where people who aren’t registered as Democrats don’t count, it’s one-party rule, which makes party affiliation moot, because everyone’s the same party.  Might as well drop parties entirely as far as I’m concerned.  I am still convinced that a nonpartisan blanket primary, also known as a “jungle primary”, is the way to go.  In that situation, everyone gets the same ballot regardless of what party they consider themselves to be.  Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, LaRouche Movement, whatever – everyone gets the same ballot, i.e. I don’t care what party you are.  Just vote.  Then at the end of it, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election, and one of them is definitely going to win a majority of the votes there, and therefore take office.

So there you have it, I suppose.  In the end, make sure that you have a voice in Montgomery County, and register as a Democrat before the deadline for the primary.  This year, the primary registration deadline is June 7, 2022.

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Shooting macro with a new phone… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/05/shooting-macro-with-a-new-phone/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/03/05/shooting-macro-with-a-new-phone/#comments Sat, 05 Mar 2022 23:10:38 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43401 At the end of February, I got myself a new phone: a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.  This is the latest and the greatest as far as Samsung phones go, as of the time of this writing.  I typically get a top-of-the-line phone for myself, mostly because of how much I use it for photography.  I also like a big phone screen, especially now that I am in middle age, and have to hold things further away from my face in order to read them clearly.  This new phone was a bit of an update compared to my last phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra.  It still looks and acts like a Samsung phone, so there was very little learning curve, but it’s faster, easier to read, has a better camera, and has the S-Pen (which I had not had since 2017, back when I had a Note 5).  Most importantly, though, the camera is much better than the S20.  The S20 Ultra’s camera was a bit farsighted.  It did just fine photographing things that were far away, but it couldn’t focus if you got really close to it (sounds like me!).  So in order to get the proper effect, you had to back up and then zoom in.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough.  Sounds like when I need a magnifying glass in order to read the fine print sometimes.

So with the new phone in hand, Elyse and I went out, and I took it for a spin while running some errands.  I was interested in trying out the improved macro function, and focused on shooting things really close up.  We got together with my friend Matthew, and he got to see me do my thing, getting up, on, over, and around everything while Elyse did the things that she needed to do.

Our first stop was Fair Oaks Mall, where Elyse wanted to go to BoxLunch, which is a gift shop.  I had assumed that BoxLunch was a restaurant, i.e. a place where you can buy a boxed lunch (imagine my surprise to find out that they didn’t sell food!).  While Elyse was going around there, Matthew and I waited outside, where I took the new phone camera through its paces in the mall, focusing on the details in the sitting area just outside of BoxLunch:

The fingers on my left hand.
The fingers on my left hand.


Close-up of a power outlet underneath of a planter.

Another power outlet, this one on a little dome between the seats.
Another power outlet, this one on a little dome between the seats.

Elyse got a salted caramel Twix, and we shared it between the three of us (it was good, by the way).  Afterward, I photographed the wrapper before throwing it away.  The phrase "looking over the abyss" came to mind as I photographed this, as the wrapper was perched on the rim of the can before I pushed it in.

Elyse got a salted caramel Twix, and we shared it between the three of us (it was good, by the way).  Afterward, I photographed the wrapper before throwing it away.  The phrase "looking over the abyss" came to mind as I photographed this, as the wrapper was perched on the rim of the can before I pushed it in.
Elyse got a salted caramel Twix, and we shared it between the three of us (it was good, by the way).  Afterward, I photographed the wrapper before throwing it away.  The phrase “looking over the abyss” came to mind as I photographed this, as the wrapper was perched on the rim of the can before I pushed it in.

This photo of a sprinkler head was taken under a stair that Matthew and I were next to.  I give myself an "A" for effort, but it didn't come out very well.  Though the reflection of me taking the photo amused me.  I didn't notice that when I was taking it, but I laughed when I spotted it later on.
This photo of a sprinkler head was taken under a stair that Matthew and I were next to.  I give myself an “A” for effort, but it didn’t come out very well.  Though the reflection of me taking the photo amused me.  I didn’t notice that when I was taking it, but I laughed when I spotted it later on.

This one isn't macro, but it's another case where the reflection amused me.  I climbed onto the pedestal for this sculpture and laid on my back with my legs spread apart in order to get the right angle for this.  I don't know what I was going for, but it didn't work out.  But at least I got a funny accidental selfie out of it.
This one isn’t macro, but it’s another case where the reflection amused me.  I climbed onto the pedestal for this sculpture and laid on my back with my legs spread apart in order to get the right angle for this.  I don’t know what I was going for, but it didn’t work out.  But at least I got a funny accidental selfie out of it.

The facade for BoxLunch.  I still say that with a name like that, it should be a restaurant rather than a gift shop.
The facade for BoxLunch.  I still say that with a name like that, it should be a restaurant rather than a gift shop.

We then all went to a Sheetz in Chantilly for dinner, where Matthew and Elyse got salads, and I got a wrap.  While we were there, I took the opportunity to get up close and personal with the donuts:

Chocolate iced ring donuts with sprinkles.
Chocolate iced ring donuts with sprinkles.

Vanilla iced donuts with sprinkles.
Vanilla iced donuts with sprinkles.

Classic glazed donuts.
Classic glazed donuts.

Then, after we took Matthew back home, we stopped at the Giant Food store on Bureau Drive in Gaithersburg, so that Elyse could go grocery shopping.  While she did that, I took the phone camera for another spin:

Stem of an Opal apple.
Stem of an Opal apple.

Stem of a McIntosh apple.
Stem of a McIntosh apple.

Stem on a Granny Smith apple.

Stem on a Granny Smith apple.
Stem on a Granny Smith apple.

Some sort of flower(?) on the end of a kiwi fruit.
Some sort of flower(?) on the end of a kiwi fruit.


The peel on a Hass avocado.

Caps on some of the half-gallon cartons of milk.

Caps on some of the half-gallon cartons of milk.
Caps on some of the half-gallon cartons of milk.

Lid on a gallon jug of milk.
Lid on a gallon jug of milk.

The lid on a bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup.
The lid on a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup.

The lid on a bottle of Sprite.
The lid on a bottle of Sprite.

The new phone's first fire alarm, a System Sensor L Series strobe.
The new phone’s first fire alarm, a System Sensor L Series strobe.

All in all, I had fun with this new phone.  I put it through its paces, and I was quite pleased with how it performed.  I think that I’m going to have a very good time with this camera for the next couple of years until it’s time to upgrade again.

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Twenty-two years on the ground and counting… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/02/24/twenty-two-years-on-the-ground-and-counting/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/02/24/twenty-two-years-on-the-ground-and-counting/#comments Thu, 24 Feb 2022 21:21:02 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=43319 Recently, I was thinking about things, and I realized exactly how much time has passed since the last time I went flying: 22 years and eight months.  The last time I was in the air was on August 10, 1999, coming home from my 1999 trip to Toronto.  Photos of this final flight exist:

Flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville  Landing in Charlottesville

Our plane, viewed from the terminal in Charlottesville

The airplane was N911HA, a Dash 8 turboprop plane, and the flight was with US Airways Express from Philadelphia to Charlottesville.  I have not been up in the air since then.  That’s why I have never commented on all of the TSA‘s rules regarding flights and security and all of that: I have absolutely zero experience in dealing with them from an aviation standpoint.  I’ve dealt with them on rail before back in 2011, where they swabbed the outside of my bags to see if there was explosive residue on any of them, which I thought was kind of ridiculous considering, among other things, that they didn’t change their gloves between people, but I’ve never dealt with them when flying, because I haven’t flown since the agency was formed in 2001.

In any event, I made a Facebook post about it, and said, “I just realized that there are people who have been born, raised, and graduated college, all in the time since I last flew in an airplane (1999).”  It’s weird to put it into that sort of perspective, but it’s true.  It has been more than 22 years since the last time I flew in an airplane.  There are now fully grown adults whose complete existence has been in the period since the last time that I flew in an airplane.  Reactions were mixed.  One person commented that 1999 was only last year.  Another person commented that the people that I refer to have no memory of 9/11.  Some folks questioned why I had not flown in that long.  One person commented that they had me beaten by four years.  One suggested an Alaskan road trip.  One person expressed how much of a bother flying is, especially since the advent of COVID-19, with all of the safety theater that has gone along with that.  Another person suggested that I get out and go explore the world.

I guess you could say that my relationship with air travel is complicated.  My first flight was in 1985, a one-way flight going from Philadelphia to Tulsa on TWA, on the occasion of our moving from New Jersey to Arkansas.  Then I remember a trip back to New Jersey in 1986 where we visited friends and family, also on TWA, where we made a connection through Chicago on the way home.  All of those flights were pretty uneventful.

Then there was the time when I was in kindergarten when they were giving helicopter rides at Dixieland Mall in Rogers.  Mom and I went to that, and I was excited.  After all, I had never ridden in a helicopter before, so this was a new adventure for me.  To call that flight terrifying was an understatement.  The helicopter was noisy, there were no doors on the thing (so the sides were wide open), and we were all secured only by a single large seat belt across the three of us.  The pilot was to my left, Mom was to the right, and I was in the middle.  And this wasn’t exactly a smooth flight, as it was more of a thrill ride than a pleasure trip, as we were tilting and moving all around in ways that I couldn’t anticipate.  I did not have a good time there at all.  I remember looking out the side as we’re high above Rogers and thinking, “Oh, it’s not that far down,” and then reminding myself that I really couldn’t get out of this until it was over.  It’s funny – we have a photo from that event somewhere that they did of us just before we took off, all buckled in and with our headsets on, and I’m over there grinning like an idiot next to Mom.  I can understand why they took it beforehand, because as soon as we landed, I couldn’t get out of that chopper fast enough.  That still stands as my only helicopter ride to date, and up to that point in my life, I don’t think that I had ever been as scared as I was on that helicopter ride.

Over Christmas in 1988, we did a trip on Continental from Kansas City to Newark to see friends and family.  Then in the summer of 1989, we flew American to Florida and back, taking a rather convoluted route, going from Tulsa to Nashville to Tampa to Orlando on the way out, and then going from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas to Tulsa on the way back.  Then we flew again in 1991 for a trip to California, going from Fayetteville to Dallas via American Eagle, and then regular American from Dallas to John Wayne Airport in Orange County.  All of these trips were pretty uneventful as well as far as the travel was concerned.  Get in, sit down, buckle up, take off, eat, and then land.

Then in 1992, when I was 11, we did a weeklong trip to Virginia to go house hunting, in preparation for our move to Virginia the following month.  Our trip took us from Fayetteville to Dallas to Raleigh-Durham to Charlottesville via American and American Eagle.  The first two flights were uneventful.  Then the third flight, from Raleigh to Charlottesville, was a bit more interesting.  There, we were flying on a Short 360, similar to this plane.  This was very different from all of my previous experience with American Eagle, where we had always flown in something more like this, which looked like a regular airliner, but pint-sized.  The Short 360 had a taller ceiling, and felt like a much smaller plane because you could see the pilots up front flying the plane (I imagine that you would never see something like that on any American Airlines plane in a post-9/11 era).  I also remember that there was water coming out of a vent in the front of the plane (the little round things at the front of the plane in this photo).  I realize that this was an air vent and probably was just condensation from the HVAC system that didn’t affect the flight, but it nonetheless didn’t exactly instill confidence with me.  The idea was that if this existed, you started to wonder what else wasn’t exactly right on the plane.  Plus we were traveling through bad weather, with lightning visible during our flight, and it had me a bit on edge.  But we made it in one piece, and the trip was successful, as we ultimately found the house in Stuarts Draft that my parents still live in today.

The trip back to Arkansas, meanwhile, was more eventful than the return trip.  The flight from Charlottesville to Raleigh-Durham was on an even smaller plane than the Short 360 (like one of these), but that was a pretty straightforward trip.  I recall being impressed about how, despite that this was a turboprop plane, it was a very quiet flight without any of the vibration that I had experienced on any of my previous American Eagle flights.  The flight on regular American from Raleigh-Durham to Dallas was pretty uneventful as well.  When we got to Dallas for that last flight to Fayetteville, we made our way to the American Eagle gates, and we had a delay.  As I understand it, the plane that we were supposed to take wasn’t able to go out due to mechanical issues, and so they had to find another plane for us.  After what felt like forever, we finally had a plane and boarded.  As expected, it was one of the bigger turboprops, and not a Short 360 or something really small like we had on our Charlottesville trips.  After boarding, we went to take off, and I remember that we went down the runway a lot further than usual.  Then we slowed down, turned around, and stopped.  I remember my father’s saying that he had never experienced an aborted takeoff before, though he had experienced aborted landings in the past.  The pilot told us over the PA system that they had found a problem with the plane, and that they were going to run a diagnostic to find out what was wrong.  Then the plane started shaking violently, presumably as everything was being checked over by the plane’s systems.  After that stopped, the pilot announced that the problem “had corrected itself”.  That did not instill confidence in me at all.  I wanted off of that plane.  I didn’t care if the problem had fixed itself.  You put me on another plane that, as far as I knew, had no issues of any kind, and you fly me to Fayetteville in that.  Send this plane back to the shop before you fly anyone in it.  But unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice on this matter.  We did another takeoff attempt, got airborne, and we ultimately made it to Fayetteville safely, but with every single bump or other movement that we felt along the way, I was more than a little concerned that we were going to crash.  I’m pretty sure that my carefree enjoyment of air travel died with that flight, because now I had reason to be concerned whenever I was on an airplane.

That was the last time that I flew for about six years, so there were no new airplane experiences coming in to replace the experience of a somewhat traumatic flight, where I genuinely wondered whether or not we were going to make it home.  We did the trip to Virginia for the move by car, and we also stopped taking really touristy vacations where we would fly somewhere and see theme parks and such, instead driving to and from Avon, North Carolina, where we rented a beach house for a week.

The next time that I flew anywhere was in 1998, when we traveled to England for a week when I was 17.  I genuinely did not want to go on that trip because I didn’t want to fly overseas, especially considering my last experience on an airplane, as well as a very notable mid-flight failure that had occurred on an international flight in recent years.  We flew on US Airways Express from Charlottesville to Philadelphia, and then regular US Airways from Philadelphia to London Gatwick.  That first flight on a Dash 8 from Charlottesville to Philadelphia was when I realized that I was no longer as comfortable on an airplane as I used to be.  I had turned into a white-knuckle flyer.  Every time we had any kind of turbulence or felt any kind of bump or move, I was looking out the window and wondering how survivable it would be from that height if we were to go down.  Clearly, my innocence had left me.  I especially felt uncomfortable on a flight on the return trip from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  That was an older, long, narrow plane, and I just never felt at ease on that hourlong flight.  I remember nothing else about that flight except for being uncomfortable, and also being glad when it was over.

And then there was the Canada trip in 1999, where I had the same issues with white-knuckle flying, though I was more willing to go along with it all because I was seeing the store from Today’s Special, plus seeing my friend Sarah, so that trip had special meaning to me.  And I haven’t been in the air since that trip.  I’ve been to college, and I’ve had many milestones in my life, but no further flying.  All of my travel since the summer of 1999, including a return trip to Canada in 2019, has been via road or rail.

At some point about ten or so years ago, a coworker, upon learning that I had not been flying in many years, questioned why, and wondered if I was afraid of flying.  I contend that I am not afraid of flying, but at the same time, I will do everything that I can to avoid having to do it, because I really don’t enjoy it.  I consider the whole thing to be an unpleasant experience.  I don’t like going to airports.  I don’t want to deal with security.  I don’t like the way that they nickel and dime you on everything when you fly.  I do not travel light by any means (I am one of those people that will take half the house to go away for the weekend).  And I also don’t like giving up control like you have to do in order to go flying.  After all, in a car, you have full control over your journey.  I’m controlling the car, and commanding the car through all of its movements.  If I want to stop for whatever reason, that’s entirely my prerogative.  If something goes wrong, I’m the one making the decisions on how to deal with it.  On the other hand, once you get in the plane, there is nothing that you, as a passenger, can do if things start to go wrong.  All you can do is hold on and hope for the best.  On various land-based forms of transportation, if all else fails, you can always bail out.  Even if it’s highly inadvisable to do so, with the idea’s falling into the “no, that’s silly” category of thought, at least the option is there, and that provides me some sense of security.  Can’t do that on an airplane, because to bail out would be almost certain death.  And I don’t like that feeling one bit.

Meanwhile, Elyse has no problem flying, and just this year, has flown out of Dulles on Southern Airways Express on a short regional flight to Lancaster (I drove up separately with a friend and picked her up at the airport), and she’s also flown into National Airport from Boston on a trip with some friends of ours (I didn’t go on that trip because I had to work).  She also has a trip planned for this summer out to Nebraska with a friend of ours.

It’s also kind of ironic that for someone who enjoys planespotting, and has researched all of the different kinds of airplanes at various points, and regularly flies a drone, I don’t like to actually fly, myself.  But for all of those activities that I mentioned, I am safely on the ground at all times.  With the drone, if there is ever an accident (and there have been a few, don’t you worry), I’m not going to get hurt, though my wallet might take a bit of a hit for it in order to get the drone repaired.  Similarly, for planespotting, I’m on the ground.  I’m photographing the plane, rather than being in the plane.  On that same note, another reason that I wouldn’t want to participate in my employer’s rail rodeo is because of one of the things that happens should you win: you go on to compete at a national event, and depending on the location of that, you would have to fly out to it, and I don’t want to be faced with the choice between flying and disappointing my employer if I’m supposed to represent them at a competition.

I suspect that one day, there will be an occasion where I have to go flying again.  I am not looking forward to such a day, and I would be perfectly content to put that off forever if possible, but inevitably, that day will come.  If I ever want to go to Europe again, for instance, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to get enough time off of work in order to sail both ways on the Queen Mary 2.  Similarly, Elyse wants me to go on a trip to Japan with her, and I would have to fly in order to do that as well.  Additionally, there are certain destinations within the continental United States that would be impractical to drive or take a train in order to visit.  For instance, if I ever want to go to the west coast again, I would probably need to fly, because driving or Amtrak would each take the better part of a week to go one way, while air travel could accomplish the same thing in a single day.  I suppose that it benefited me that for many years, I was too broke to travel, so air travel was a moot point.  I became very good at traveling regionally by car, because day trips all over the region were what I could afford.  All it cost me was gas, and maybe a couple of meals.  Now I can afford to travel like I mean it, but find my dislike of flying to be the limiting factor.  I just don’t want to do it, and I will find any way to avoid it.

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