The Schumin Web w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Thu, 22 Jun 2017 04:21:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Schumin Web 32 32 37838674 Sometimes you have to vote with your feet… Fri, 16 Jun 2017 01:18:33 +0000 Sometimes, the fact that the telecommunications market is extremely cutthroat has its advantages from a customer standpoint.  It means that there is no room for loyalty, and also that the big players are more than happy to poach customers from each other.  It also means that if I’m no longer happy with my service, I can bounce at a moment’s notice to someone else who will make me satisfied with their service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The novelty sodas that I got in March

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next, we tried the “Grass” soda:

Grass Soda

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

The following week, we tried the Sweet Corn soda:

Sweet Corn soda

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

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

Butter Soda

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

And last but not least, San Francisco Fog soda:

San Francisco Fog Soda

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

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

The second round of sodas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, check this place out:


More pinball!

Vintage video games!

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

Note the position of the flippers.

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

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

The crane machine

The crane machine

The crane machine

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

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

Elyse makes her "video game face"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Casino arcade

The north facade, meanwhile, looked a little rough:

The Casino's north facade

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

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

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

I was amused about what was carved into the display:

Scratchitti on the display

Yes, I am immature.

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

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

"Grow up and get a life"

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of one side of the setup

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

Grandma Vera's Bakery

Grandma Vera's Bakery

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

Then someone was selling clothes and hats in another section:

Ibhana Creations

Another contained a vendor selling flowers and other plants:

Bell Flowers

Another contained a juice vendor:

Juice Fresh

Juice Fresh

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

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

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

Then another section contained a table and a computer monitor:

Seats from the car were used as benches:

Seats as benches

Seats as benches

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

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

The front end of 4089

The front end of 4089

The front end of 4089

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

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

"Step back, doors closing!"

And then on the right:

"Step back, doors closing!"

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

Train 205, destination 09. Red Line to Grosvenor!

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

Then the rest of it looked like Metro:

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

The sculpture
Photo: A. Hastings

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

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

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

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

The ChurchFinder page for Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church

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

My photo of Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church, from 2003

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end of Darlene's wedding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We first found this building:

Then we found this second building up the street:

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

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

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

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

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

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

View from Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook

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

Meanwhile, Melissa got a selfie at the overlook:

Melissa gets her selfie

Elyse and I got one, too:

Elyse and I get our selfie

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

Trump graffiti in one of the rooms

Trump graffiti in one of the rooms

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

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

The old tourist information center

The old tourist information center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I also got a photo showing the stairs:

The stairs, going all the way down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macy's at Regency Square

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

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

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

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

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

Large produce section.
Large produce section.

Toy department.
Toy department.

Housewares department.
Housewares department.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’m doing science… Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:35:34 +0000 This past Tuesday, March 29, Elyse and I headed down to Richmond for the day.  The idea was that we wanted to go somewhere, but it was going to rain, and so we needed a good indoor venue.  So we decided to go to the Science Museum of Virginia.  I had not been in a very long time (15 years!), it was indoors, and Elyse liked it a lot when she went a few months ago.

I was surprised to find out that all of the exhibits were different compared to previous visits.  The exhibits had changed gradually over several visits in the nineties, but this change was a bit more dramatic, with all new exhibits, as well as the removal of a mezzanine level that previously existed in the main hall.  The new exhibits seemed more child-focused, which is something that I don’t remember from my last visit in 2002.  They had a hurricane simulator, where you could experience gale-force winds, tropical storm-force winds, and hurricane-force winds.  They also had a track that challenged you to outrun different kinds of animals (turns out that I can run faster than a rat, or at least keep up).

There was also a demonstration of robotics that used an air hockey table.  There, you had to beat the robot at air hockey.  All went well at first, but this was more exciting than most.

Yes, the puck got stuck.  There was a spot on the robot’s side of the table where the puck was prone to getting stuck, and since it was on the robot’s side (and thus protected by plexiglass), we couldn’t get it loose.  The robot was set up to shoot a puff of air when the puck got stuck, but it couldn’t make it move.

We ended up getting the puck moving again by cannibalizing a piece of plastic tubing from a nearby exhibit about RPMs.  We made a loop in the tubing, and went under the plexiglass to push the puck off of the problem spot.  It worked, and the game resumed.

The puck got stuck in the same spot again, and so we had to use the technique again to get the puck out of the problem area.  I ended up catching it like a lasso and pulling it back onto our side.  Once the puck was going again, the game resumed.  An employee later showed us a stick that they keep nearby to get the puck moving again when that happens.

Elyse plays a full game without the puck’s getting stuck in the problem area.  Unfortunately, she lost to the robot, 1 to 0.  I didn’t do any better, though.

Then after this, we took a look at the historic Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad cars:

Passenger coach on display

Passenger coach on display

Caboose on display

Elyse poses with the caboose on display

Then, going back inside, we tried out a tightrope exhibit, challenging participants to cross the tightrope a few inches above the floor.  I tried it, and I nearly fell over.

Elyse did better:

By the way, the astute listener will recognize the tune that I’m doing as the jazzed up version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” from Today’s Special.

Then near the Dome, we found the one exhibit remaining from my previous visits:

Bernoulli exhibit, near the Dome in 2016  Same Bernoulli exhibit, in the main hall in 2002
This exhibit is an air blower that demonstrates the Bernoulli effect, holding a beach ball in a column of air.  We found it by the Dome on Tuesday, pictured at left in that location.  In 2002, pictured at right, it was in the main exhibit hall.  Note the now-demolished mezzanine level in the background of the 2002 photo.

The saddest thing about the museum was the treatment of the Dome, formerly the IMAX Dome (and Omnimax before that).  The museum had done a lot of upgrades to the theater in recent years, including a complete replacement of the IMAX projection equipment with digital equipment – thus why the IMAX Dome is just the Dome now, because it’s no longer IMAX.  Previously, the projection room for the theater was an exhibit in and of itself, seen here in 2002:

Reels of IMAX film, in 2002

Part of the IMAX film projection system, in 2002

Equipment on the right side wall, in 2002

Upper part of the projection system, in 2002

Now, in 2017, the room is mostly empty:

Former IMAX projection room, now empty

Former IMAX projection room, now empty

A shame, because I always enjoyed seeing what makes the theater run.  Of course, with the conversion to digital, I suppose that you don’t need as much space for the equipment.  And watching computers run digital things is nowhere near as interesting as watching mechanical things work, so I suppose that there’s nothing to show anymore.


Near the Dome, however, was an historic switchboard from when the building was a railroad terminal:

RF&P terminal switchboard

I was amazed about how little has changed with these things over the years.  I’ve seen plenty of these at the terminals and the yards at work, and they still look a lot like this.

Then we also took a look at the pendulum in the mezzanine, and got to watch it knock a peg down:

The pendulum knocks a peg over

As I understand it, this is called a Foucault pendulum, and it changes orientation according to the rotation of the Earth.  Thus the pegs.  The change in orientation is demonstrated as it knocks down the pegs throughout the day.  This one is set up to knock down a peg approximately every 15 minutes.

And then finally, we saw one of these in the gift shop:

Yes, the old soda bottle tornado. Always a classic.
Yes, the old soda bottle tornado.  Always a classic.

Overall, I felt like the museum was more geared towards kids than it used to be.  I admit that it had been a while since I was last there, but I felt like it was more accessible to all ages back then, and that the museum had more things that adults and kids alike could have fun with.  Now, it seems like a museum specifically designed for kids.  A shame, but considering that it’s a popular destination for school groups, I suppose that they’re catering to their market.

Otherwise, I have more photos from our day in Richmond, but since they’re on a different topic, I’ll post those separately.  Talk with you again soon.

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A few career anniversaries in the next month… Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:04:23 +0000 The next month contains no less than three career anniversaries of mine.  March 31 marks ten years since I was fired from Walmart, April 15 marks the 15th anniversary of when CFW Information Services (then Telegate USA) closed and I was laid off, and then April 18 marks ten years from the day that I was hired at Food & Water Watch.  Rememberances of jobs past, I suppose.

The anniversary that still gets me is the CFW one.  I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years.  That was my first job, which I started at age 16, in June 1997.  It was a call center job, processing inbound calls for customers seeking directory assistance services in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Then Pennsylvania got added to the mix.  Then we started doing two national services – one used by bill collectors doing skiptracing, and a wholesale service for the public through a variety of different providers.  When the national services came online, I mostly did the bill collector service.  That was a good job.  The dress code was casual (after all, who saw you?) and you worked at a computer all day.

That job did, however, have a turning point.  In June 2000, parent company CFW Communications made a major change to its corporate structure, merging with another regional telecommunications company in Virginia to form nTelos.  As part of that same deal, Information Services was out.  Our division would not become part of the new nTelos, as we were sold to Telegate, a company based in Munich, Germany.  I remember watching this company, which had thrived under CFW ownership, be slowly destroyed under Telegate ownership.  If I recall, Telegate acquired our company with the intention of gaining a foothold in the US marketplace, with the desire to eventually launch a “11880” style service in the US like they did in Germany.  The “11880” style service never happened, and things basically stayed the same.  Meanwhile, for a company with three Virginia call centers (Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester), their choice of a headquarters location was surprising: Plano, Texas.  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.  The management in Texas also seemed to come and go on a fairly regular basis, as one after the other either abruptly quit or was dismissed.  It was no surprise when Telegate started closing call centers as the business started to drop off (probably due to the hideous management of the company), as Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester all closed within about 6-7 months of each other.  I was away at college at the time that my center closed, and never received any official notification from Telegate of the center’s closing, but rather, was notified by some of my soon-to-be-former coworkers.  It just so happened that I would be in town the weekend before the closing, and so I stopped by to pick up my belongings and turn in my equipment.  And that was the end of my first job.

I imagine that if CFW/Telegate had not closed, my job at Walmart would have never happened.  Holding college constant, i.e. I still had the internship, went the extra semester, and didn’t have a “real” job upon graduation, I probably would have gone back to work in the directory assistance world until I found that job.  After all, I loved it at CFW.  Good working environment, good people, and good management.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the way that they tied call time to pay.  We were paid hourly, base rate plus incentive, i.e. the lower our average call time was, the more we made per hour.  That put two things at odds with each other: good customer service and pay.  So if someone had a more difficult inquiry, that was costing me, personally, money.  If you ever wondered why directory assistance so often gave wrong numbers, this was probably why, because at least in our case, pay was tied to call time, and thus the sooner we got rid of you, the caller, the more money we made.  You want good service, don’t tie my pay to the speed at which I get rid of callers.  Thankfully, when they introduced the national service, they moved away from that incentive-based pay structure that so bothered me, and instead paid straight time at a higher hourly rate than under the old incentive-based system.

Then the office was probably the most nineties thing ever:

The operations floor. Gotta love those color choices.

The operations floor. Gotta love those color choices.
The operations floor.  Gotta love those color choices.

My workstation. We ran a software called "InquiryDesk" using a database by a company called LSSi.
My workstation.  We ran a software called “InquiryDesk” using a database by a company called LSSi.

The employee breakroom.
The employee breakroom.

I suppose it tells you something about how much I liked this job that I had dreams about it years after the center closed.  One dream was a weird one, but more than one was pure nostalgia, as I was back at that facility once again, doing that job again.  In these dreams, the center always looked exactly as I remembered it.  Those were always happy dreams.  In real life, however, our call center is now the operations center for a local credit union, and I’m told that the main operations room was subdivided into smaller spaces.  Though I did find a recent photo in the hallway on Facebook.  I posted an old photo of mine of the same space in the comments.

Then there was Walmart.  I will have been out of their employment for ten years at the end of this month.  They were a real piece of work.  I lasted there exactly three years, four months, and 20 days.  I consider it miraculous that I lasted that long, because that was by far the worst place that I ever worked.  I was amazed about the extent that employees tattled on each other to management for things that were downright stupid.  And this was on top of the dumb things that management would write you up for on their own, without external assistance.  I always considered employees’ ratting out other employees to be extremely bad for morale, because then you can’t trust your teammates, if you think that they’re going to run to management to tell on you for any stupid little thing.  Something like this happened to me in 2004, where an employee ratted me out for something extremely minor.  In this case, it was over employee parking.  In my particular store, employee parking was at the far end of the lot, beyond a certain point.  Pretty sure that I was parked on the edge of the lot, flush with whatever landmark they used to determine the employee area.  Coworker saw me and ratted on me to management for allegedly parking outside the employee area, and – get this – they actually gave me a writeup for insubordination over it.  I was like, really?  They took the coworker entirely at their word for it (and they were definitely out of place), and wrote me up for it.

But that’s not part of what led to my getting fired, interestingly enough.  The official record is that I was fired for yelling at customers and coworkers alike, i.e. being extremely rude to just about everyone.  Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me knows that’s not how I operate, and that I tend to be a pretty nice guy.  There was no doubt in my mind that they were trying to get rid of me, because for the last six months of my tenure there, they were throwing everything at the wall in regards to me to see what stuck.  I laughed in their faces for most of it, because their accusations were downright ridiculous.  The best one was when they accused me of calling a coworker a “dickhead” in the breakroom, during a time when I was out of the building.  There, they claimed that they had witnesses for it that they couldn’t produce, i.e. they didn’t have any (because I wasn’t even there), and they couldn’t even keep a straight face while accusing me of this behavior.  But that didn’t stop them from writing me up for it.  Oh, well.  I told a current coworker last week about what I got fired for at Walmart, and they were surprised, nearly ten years later.

It always amuses me what lengths a company will go to in order to make the involuntary departure of an employee very personal.  If the employer wants to fire someone in a non-union environment, that’s their prerogative.  Employment at will means that an employee can quit at any time for any or no reason, and an employer can, subject to a few exceptions, fire someone for any or no reason.  So if Walmart wanted to get rid of me, they should have just been upfront about it and let me go rather than wasting everyone’s time going through a whole disciplinary process, and then not challenge an unemployment claim.  Oh, well.

That, of course, dovetails quite nicely with anniversary #3, which was when I got hired on at Food & Water Watch.  Of course, they were no better than Walmart in many ways, but my getting hired there so quickly after getting canned at Walmart (18 days from fired to hired) did mean something else: I no longer had a firing on my “permanent record” as far as my work history went.  With only six weeks between jobs, as well as a move to the DC area between the two, the question of, “Why did you leave Walmart?” got a better answer that benefits me more, i.e. I left because I got a better job than stupid Walmart.

Meanwhile, I’m happy in my current career in public transportation.  I work for an organization where people generally stay until they retire, I’m a union member, and as far as career progression goes, I want to do everything before I retire, from operation to supervision to training to central control.  I consider that a big part of knowing when you’re in the right field, when you really could see yourself doing a multitude of different jobs within the field, and see a career progression.

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“Hello!  Welcome!” Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:03:33 +0000 You may recall from the Pittsburgh photo set that Elyse has an interest in elevators.  I find them interesting as well, though to a lesser extent than Elyse and others.  However, I always enjoy seeing an unusual specimen, like the pop-out buttons on the elevators at the Investment Building in Pittsburgh.

This elevator, at the United Office Building in Oxon Hill, takes the cake for interesting features.  Check it out:

Yes, it says, “Hello!” which is quickly followed by “Welcome!”  Elyse found this elevator about a month ago, and when she showed me her recording, I found it interesting enough to take a look for myself, for the message alone (the rest of the elevator is unremarkable).  I also imagine that, for the building occupants, like many things that we spend a lot of time around, after a while, you just don’t hear it anymore.

The rest of the elevator itself is unremarkable, other than the signs around it on the main level:

Elevator signage at the United Office Building

Elevator signage at the United Office Building

Yeah, those signs are obnoxious.

Otherwise, I’ve always loved talking elevators.  I remember the first time that I ever heard a talking elevator.  It was in 1991 at Old Main on the campus of the University of Arkansas.  My mother, sister, and I were all amazed to hear the elevator say, “Going up!” as well as, “Floor number two!”  It was such a novelty that we rode it all the way up and back down.  As it was 1991, I have no video of this, and I have no idea if the elevator still exists in this form.

My interest in talking elevators is such that when I’ve filmed elevators, it’s unusual voices, though this recent instance was the first time that I’d done so in a while.  I got these gems from a decade or so ago at various Metro stations:

North garage elevator at the Vienna Metro station, shown here on December 8, 2004.  I’ve heard this called the “thankful” elevator because it said “Thank you for using the Metrorail!” at every level.  Thus going up to the top of the garage, it would thank you four times.  Unfortunately, the last time I was there in December 2016, it was no longer thanking riders at every level.

In mid-2005, the Vienna north garage elevator was not only thanking people, but for whatever reason, it was in fire service mode, saying, along with its regular messages, “This elevator is needed because of an emergency.  Please exit the elevator when the doors open.”

Cleveland Park station used to have a very unique announcement that was different depending on where you boarded.  At street level, shown here, it said, “Welcome to Metrorail.  This is the Cleveland Park station.  Please give priority to handicapped and disabled persons before boarding the elevator.  Thank you.  Going down.”  I’ll bet that this was an early version of the message at Vienna, which was deployed far more widely throughout the system.  It surprised me that it said “handicapped” as part of its message, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I filmed this.

Same Cleveland Park street elevator, filmed the same day, i.e. November 9, 2005, but going up.  Now, the message states, “Welcome to Cleveland Park, mezzanine level.  Going up!”

I have many more recordings of Metro elevator announcements, but the rest are the standard, “Welcome to the [name] station.  Please give priority to seniors and persons with disabilities before using this elevator.  Thank you.  Going [up/down].”

But I’m always interested in hearing a unique elevator voice.  I still remember when Elyse took me to the children’s section of Johns Hopkins Hospital when we went to Baltimore in 2014.  In that case, the elevators had children’s voices making all of the announcements.  It was unusual, for sure, but unfortunately, I didn’t get a recording of it.  We’ll have to go back some time and get one.

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I think that we need to have a discussion about news sources… Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:14:18 +0000 Over the course of the last several days, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I feel as though I’ve had to play fact-checker a lot more than usual.  Most of the stories that I’ve had to verify and debunk are about Donald Trump, but there have also been a few ones about the toxin-du-jour and other miscellaneous topics.  And having to constantly stay on my game and do the same sort of research over and over again gets tiring.  I started out making this post about the problem:

I feel as though I've had to burst far more bubbles than usual as of late when it comes to people's sharing fake news stories. Please, people, vet your stories before you post, because anyone can start a website and write anything they want and make it look official. I highly recommend for vetting stories. They'll set you straight on the fake ones.

This post got eight likes and one comment, so it didn’t do as well as I would have hoped.  Maybe it’s because I posted it in the middle of the day on a Friday.  But in any case, the bottom line is to think before you share.

Then two days later, I posted again, taking things a step further:

Be advised: if you are posting links to fake news, and I catch you, I will respond, and either debunk the specific article that you posted with a source, or inform you, again with a source, that the entire site that you're using is not to be trusted. This is really where reputation comes into play. If you've never heard of the outlet before, the odds are better that it's fake news. Likewise, see if other outlets are talking about the same story. If multiple reputable entities are talking about the same story, the odds are good that it's a real story.

This second post generated more reactions and more discussion.  But note that nothing about this is a new practice on my part.  I’ve always debunked the fake stories as I’ve found them.  It’s just been a lot more recently.  Nonetheless, it’s like Randi Rhodes has said many times: you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.

Remember that anyone can buy a domain name and make a website, and they can say whatever they want on that website.  I know, because I do it myself on here.  I pay for the domain and the hosting, and then I can go and say whatever I want on here.  No one is going to stop me from saying whatever I please on here.  However, when I talk about stuff, I try to link to my sources whenever possible.  But I don’t call my site news.  I consider my site to be opinion and entertainment – not “news” by any means.

The bottom line here is that it is incumbent upon you, the consumer of media, to do your homework and vet your sources.  A quick Google search will typically suffice.  They say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and fake news stories typically don’t stand up to scrutiny once the claims are googled.  That said, I love for this.  They do an extraordinary job of vetting various claims made about things, and have been doing so since the mid 1990s.  So if you’re googling a claim and Snopes comes up, read it, because it probably will conclusively answer whether the claim that you’re reading is real or fake.

Another thing to look at is whether or not the claims in an article are repeated anywhere else, particularly by a more reputable news organization.  If you don’t find the same story written about by other organizations on a subject where you would expect something of that nature to get very wide coverage, then you may want to take the story with a grain of salt, i.e. it’s probably fake.  If I see several outlets reporting similar stories, then there’s a good likelihood that the story is legitimate.

Then there are also sites that make it their business to vet these various “news” sites.  One site that I’ve found helpful in this area is Media Bias/Fact Checking.  They vet sites based on wording, sourcing, story choices, and political affiliation.  Generally, you can run a site claiming to be news through there, and they will likely have a page about it.  They also publish lists of sites by bias, including questionable sources.  Then there’s also Real or Satire?, where you submit an article, and they tell you how it stacks up as far as reliability.

It also seems worthwhile to draw a line between satire and fake news.  Satire sites, such as The Onion or The Borowitz Report, may look like news at first glance, but they make no bones about the fact that they aren’t real stories.  It’s humor to make a point, and this is known from the outset, and a mark of good satire is that the subject matter seems plausible.  Fake news, on the other hand, is trying to mislead you into thinking that it’s actually news, and while some of it is so ridiculous that it can be dismissed out of hand, some of it can have real world consequences, as in the case of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which led to a random nutjob firing shots into a local pizzeria in DC.

And lastly, it’s up to you to do your own research on the trustworthiness of sites.  Always do your own research, because you need to fully understand what you’re reading, and come to an understanding on the trustworthiness of your sources.  Others may help by pointing you towards resources that indicate the trustworthiness of a source, but ultimately, it’s your own responsibility to be informed.  That also means not trusting Donald Trump or the White House when it comes to determining fake news, because their definition of “fake news” is any negative coverage of them or anything that they disagree with.

In any case, I want everyone to be well-informed, and that doesn’t come easily.  Do your research, people…

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Saying goodbye to Landmark Mall… Thu, 23 Feb 2017 14:21:42 +0000 About a month ago, Elyse, Brian, Aaron, and I took a field trip to Landmark Mall in Alexandria, visiting it for the last time.  Landmark was slated to close permanently on January 31, and so we came by to get photos before it all shut down.  This trip took a similar form to when Elyse and I visited Owings Mills Mall in September 2015, though in the case of Owings Mills, we didn’t know that in less than two weeks from our visit, the mall would close permanently.  With Landmark, the mall was closing at the end of January in preparation for a redevelopment that would replace the mall with a mixed-use “town center” style development.  The Macy’s and Sears stores would remain through the redevelopment, however, I suspect that may change.  The Landmark Macy’s was included in the round of store closings that Macy’s was doing in early 2017, and I’d suggest that the long-term prospects for Sears’ survival are looking pretty grim, so the plan to include those two buildings in the new development might change, as one of those stores is vacating, and the second may not be far behind.

And then here are photos:

Escalators in the mall's northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.
Escalators in the mall’s northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.

Mall entrances for Macy's, viewed from the lower level. Note the "store closing" signs inside.
Mall entrances for Macy’s, viewed from the lower level.  Note the “store closing” signs inside.

Open area in the mall's southeast corner, between the center court and Macy's.
Open area in the mall’s southeast corner, between the center court and Macy’s.

Escalator entrance to the food court level, which was above the two main shopping levels, blocked off with a barrier and plants. The food court level closed before the remainder of the mall.
Escalator entrance to the food court level, which was above the two main shopping levels, blocked off with a barrier and plants.  The food court level closed before the remainder of the mall.

Center court, viewed from the upper shopping level (the same level as the RK Jewelers store visible in the photo).
Center court, viewed from the upper shopping level (the same level as the RK Jewelers store visible in the photo).

The center court, viewed from the same vantage point as above, showing the play area for children in the middle.
The center court, viewed from the same vantage point as above, showing the play area for children in the middle.

Former Bubbles hair salon, on the upper level next to Lord & Taylor.
Former Bubbles hair salon, on the upper level next to Lord & Taylor.

"Right Time By Wantai" kiosk, stored in a corner next to the upper level entrance to Lord & Taylor.
“Right Time By Wantai” kiosk, stored in a corner next to the upper level entrance to Lord & Taylor.

Upper level entrance to the former Lord & Taylor store. This store closed in 2009.
Upper level entrance to the former Lord & Taylor store.  This store closed in 2009.

Open area in the southwest part of the mall between the center court and Sears, viewed from the upper level.
Open area in the southwest part of the mall between the center court and Sears, viewed from the upper level.

Empty store on the upper level. It appears to have been a clothing store of some sort, but I don't know which company it was built out for. The paintwork on the ceiling also makes me think that another store might have occupied the space after the original tenant left.
Empty store on the upper level.  It appears to have been a clothing store of some sort, but I don’t know which company it was built out for.  The paintwork on the ceiling also makes me think that another store might have occupied the space after the original tenant left.

Sears court, viewed from the upper level.
Sears court, viewed from the upper level.

Former Old Navy space on the upper level. The space was last used for a store called "Furniture & Mattress Outlet".
Former Old Navy space on the upper level.  The space was last used for a store called “Furniture & Mattress Outlet”.

1990s-era signage at the lower level mall entrance to Sears.
1990s-era signage at the lower level mall entrance to Sears.

Open area in southwest part of the mall between the center court and Sears, viewed from the lower level.
Open area in southwest part of the mall between the center court and Sears, viewed from the lower level.

Former Auntie Anne's pretzel store on the lower level.
Former Auntie Anne’s pretzel store on the lower level.

Center court, viewed from the lower level, looking upward.
Center court, viewed from the lower level, looking upward.

Former CVS store on the lower level.  Unlike most CVS stores, this location did not contain a pharmacy.

I also got photos of the company that I was with in the mall:

Elyse and Brian pose for a photo through a set of steps near the Macy's.

Elyse and Brian pose for a photo through a set of steps near the Macy's.
Elyse and Brian pose for a photo through a set of steps near the Macy’s.

Elyse poses for a photo in the former T-Mobile kiosk.
Elyse poses for a photo in the former T-Mobile kiosk.

Brian, Aaron, and Elyse get a photo of the Sears sign.
Brian, Aaron, and Elyse get a photo of the Sears sign.

Elyse and Brian pose for photos on some of the kiddie rides.

Elyse and Brian pose for photos on some of the kiddie rides.
Elyse and Brian pose for photos on some of the kiddie rides.

All in all, we had a fun time.  The other patrons in the mall that we spoke to were also there, for the most part, to pay their last respects to the mall.  We also ended up chatting at length with a person who worked for either the mall management, and he was really awesome.  He knew what we were up to, and said that even though technically, the mall had a no-photography rule, he was more than happy to look the other way, since the mall was closing and all.

And now, I suppose we’ll see what happens with the site’s redevelopment.

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I feel like I’m irrationally angry about this… Fri, 10 Feb 2017 21:00:57 +0000 I am currently am experiencing a bout of tendonitis in my left wrist and hand.  For someone that blogs as much as I do, it happens, and so you deal with it.  It started on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, it was bad enough that I decided to go to an urgent care facility to get it looked at.  I went to Patient First in Rockville.  There, after they took all of my vitals, the doctor came in and looked at my hand.  Turned out that it was tendonitis, and the doctor recommended that I take Advil for it, and gave me this wrist brace:

The brace.

They also told me to schedule an appointment with my regular doctor, which is already set for next month.  They then gave me my discharge paperwork, and sent me on my way.

Two days later, I’m still annoyed about that visit.  I could have told them that it was tendonitis, because I’ve had it before and know the symptoms.  I could have just gone to CVS and bought Advil and a brace and skipped the doctor.  I went to the doctor with the intention of getting a prescription for some drugs that would knock out the pain and/or inflammation.  Specifically, I wanted prescription-grade naproxen, i.e. something that I couldn’t get on my own because it requires a prescription.  However, I didn’t ask for a prescription.  I let the doctor do his thing, feeling that it was untoward to directly ask for a specific prescription drug, and he didn’t prescribe me anything.  And now I’m annoyed that I didn’t get the drugs that I didn’t ask for, that I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t know already, and that I could have self-diagnosed, skipped the co-pay, and gotten the same result from a trip to CVS.

I have mixed feelings about this whole experience.  The question remains unanswered: is it considered acceptable to ask a doctor for specific prescription medications, or is it considered untoward?  And does it matter whether the desired meds are brand or generic?  I think that it is a bit untoward to ask for brand name drugs based on seeing a commercial for something on television, but is it similarly untoward to directly ask for generic drugs?  Add to it that when I went to a different urgent care facility in 2011 for an unrelated ailment, I did ask for a specific prescription drug – meloxicam in that case – and I got exactly what I asked for.  Did I cross a line then?  Sometimes it’s better to go in with a plan, present it, and then get permission to execute it.  Clearly, I had a plan before I came in, but I never presented it in order to get permission to move on it.  As such, I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t get what I wanted, because I never indicated to the doctor about what I wanted.  But it also feels untoward to push someone around who has years of formal training in medicine, when I have no formal training in that field.  I think about how I would react if the doctor tried to tell me how to operate a subway train.  It would probably be something along the lines of telling him to take a long walk off of a short pier.

All in all, I suppose that I’m torn over what is proper and what isn’t in that case.  What do you think?  Leave a comment below, and let’s have a discussion.

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