The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Sat, 25 Mar 2017 03:44:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 A few career anniversaries in the next month… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/03/23/a-few-career-anniversaries-in-the-next-month/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/03/23/a-few-career-anniversaries-in-the-next-month/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 06:04:23 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25924 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!” https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/03/09/hello-welcome/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/03/09/hello-welcome/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 17:03:33 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25894 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… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/27/i-think-that-we-need-to-have-a-discussion-about-news-sources/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/27/i-think-that-we-need-to-have-a-discussion-about-news-sources/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:14:18 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25873 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 Snopes.com 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 Snopes.com 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… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/23/saying-goodbye-to-landmark-mall/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/23/saying-goodbye-to-landmark-mall/#respond Thu, 23 Feb 2017 14:21:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25869 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… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/10/i-feel-like-im-irrationally-angry-about-this/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/02/10/i-feel-like-im-irrationally-angry-about-this/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 21:00:57 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25854 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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Elyse goes to the inauguration… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/28/elyse-goes-to-the-inauguration/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/28/elyse-goes-to-the-inauguration/#respond Sun, 29 Jan 2017 01:24:56 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25813 Sometimes, it’s fun to live vicariously.  Such is what happened on Inauguration Day.  I had to work, and so I spent my Inauguration Day mostly doing support work to help keep trains moving.  However, Elyse came down to DC to see what she could see as far as inauguration-related activities went.  She and mutual friend Dave went out to see what was going on, and I was able to follow along through frequent updates sent to me on Facebook Messenger.  Though this was not intentional, she did a photo shoot in a similar way that I shoot an event that I’m not directly involved in.  The official festivities were kind of “meh” (though she did watch the swearing-in live on television, which I didn’t get to do), but she kept up with a lot of the activism.

I admit: I have more or less hung up my activism hat, having not participated in a political demonstration in a very long time. I stopped doing black blocs in October 2010 after a pair of disastrous demonstrations soured me on the tactic, and I haven’t been to a political demonstration of any kind since August 2013.  However, I still cheer on and support my friends who are still involved in it, even if I haven’t done it myself in years, and in fact, a number of my activist friends helped organize some of the protests that occurred in DC.  So I was delighted to get these updates from Elyse, as well as from elsewhere on Facebook and the Twitter, to see what was up while I was at work.

After I got off of work, Elyse came over and we looked at her take from the day, and the photos were quite good.  She also gave me permission to run some of them on Schumin Web, and so hopefully you can live vicariously through Elyse as well, as people came to DC to protest Donald Trump on the occasion of his inauguration.

First, Elyse caught up with some demonstrators at Columbus Circle, which is in front of Union Station.

Love the sentiment here. Also note the fix over what was most likely a misprint on the original sign.
Love the sentiment here.  Also note the fix over what was most likely a misprint on the original sign.

Jersey barriers became a makeshift dumping ground for drink cups and bottles. As I understand it, people couldn't bring any sort of items into the secure area with them, so this became a place to set down the drinks that they couldn't take with them. You have to wonder about the person who barely touched their Diet Coke before abandoning it, though...
Jersey barriers became a makeshift dumping ground for drink cups and bottles.  As I understand it, people couldn’t bring any sort of items into the secure area with them, so this became a place to set down the drinks that they couldn’t take with them.  You have to wonder about the person who barely touched their Diet Coke before abandoning it, though…

As in past years, Metrobuses were used as street barricades. This particular bus, 6017, normally operates on routes in Montgomery County.
As in past years, Metrobuses were used as street barricades.  This particular bus, 6017, normally operates on routes in Montgomery County.

Then more demonstrators in the street:

The person with the Trump cutout totally nailed it with the "SAD!" part.
The person with the Trump cutout totally nailed it with the “SAD!” part.

Two takes on Trump's uncomfortably close connections to Russia.

Two takes on Trump's uncomfortably close connections to Russia.
Two takes on Trump’s uncomfortably close connections to Russia.

Elyse also caught up with the black bloc, which definitely stole the show as far as coverage went.  She caught one of several trash cans being set on fire.

Trash can on fire.

Lighter fluid being used as an accelerant.

The trash can, on fire.

Close-up of the burning trash can.

Close-up of the burning trash can.

The trash can, buckling as its contents burn.

The crowd surrounding the burning trash can at Franklin Square.

The trash can, now almost completely consumed.

Wow.  Because of this, when Elyse got to my house later on, she smelled strongly of burnt paper.

Meanwhile, I still don’t understand what setting a trash can on fire does for the cause.  Ultimately, this costs the DC government money to dispose of and replace the trash can, and I’d bet that most of the demonstrators here have little, if any, beef with the local DC government.  Their beef is with the federal government, which this trash can has nothing to do with.

The crowd in the street at Franklin Square.
The crowd in the street at Franklin Square.

These sorts of signs always get me, because it's a reminder that we unfortunately haven't progressed as much as we would like to think that we have.
These sorts of signs always get me, because it’s a reminder that we unfortunately haven’t progressed as much as we would like to think that we have.

Holding a "4 Years To Fight" sign in front of a row of police in riot gear.
Holding a “4 Years To Fight” sign in front of a row of police in riot gear.

Another overturned trash can near Franklin Square, with a sign stuck in it. The interior container is the same as the one that was set on fire.
Another overturned trash can near Franklin Square, with a sign stuck in it.  The interior container is the same as the one that was set on fire.

A small trail of destruction, with the burned out limousine in the background.
A small trail of destruction, with the burned out limousine in the background.

The burning of the limousine leaves me unsettled.  I get that it’s representative of the 1%.  However, the people who are most harmed by the burning of the limousine are people who are trying to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.  And in this case, the owner of the limo was a Muslim immigrant.

Otherwise, though, I still fail to understand what this trail of destruction accomplishes.

And lastly…

Sign making fun of a controversy where inauguration staff taped over the logo of local company Don's Johns, presumably because of Donald Trump's first name, and reports about Trump's sexual preferences that had recently come out.
Sign making fun of a controversy where inauguration staff taped over the logo of local company Don’s Johns, presumably because of Donald Trump’s first name, and reports about Trump’s sexual preferences that had recently come out.

All in all, I was delighted to see these photos of the inauguration.  It reminded me of my own inauguration protest experience in 2005 and so much other activism from years past.  And, coupled with the Women’s March the following day, it’s good to see such vocal resistance to Donald Trump and his beliefs.  This is going to be a very rough four years with Donald Trump in the hot seat, and so this enthusiasm need to be kept up, in order to wrest the House and Senate from Republican control in 2018, and the White House in 2020.

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Eight years of growth and change… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/19/eight-years-of-growth-and-change/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/19/eight-years-of-growth-and-change/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 04:19:03 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25806 This evening is Barack Obama‘s last in office as President of the United States.  At 12:00 tomorrow, Donald Trump will be sworn in, and then the Obama family will leave for a well-deserved vacation to Palm Springs.  Meanwhile, based on what we’ve already seen from Trump’s camp as president-elect, what I said in my post-election Journal entry rings true: “In the end, the expression, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ seems like a fitting description of what we may have these next four years in a Trump administration.”  Hold on tight, because it’s going to be a crazy ride, and there is no emergency stop mushroom to dump the country and apply all of the brakes.

Meanwhile, I really have to question whether Donald Trump will serve out his full term.  Considering how much of a loose cannon he has been, I have a feeling that he will last only until the Republicans in Congress have had enough of him, i.e. when he starts jeopardizing their chances for reelection.  Then they will, at the very least, find a reason to impeach him, likely for one of his many conflicts of interests that he has refused to rectify before he takes office.  Don’t know if he’ll get removed or not, but I consider an impeachment likely.  That or he will pull a Nixon and resign prior to the whole thing.  We shall see.  All I know is that Trump is making George W. Bush look like a true statesman by comparison, and Bush was an idiot.  But Bush at least started acting presidential once the election was over.  Trump, on the other hand…

But this Journal entry isn’t supposed to be about Donald Trump.  It’s more of a look back over the last eight years, and a reflection on personal growth.  In 1980, then-candidate Ronald Reagan said in a debate, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  I consider the question to oversimplify a number of factors, plus it overestimates the president’s influence on your individual life (the actions of your state and local officials affect your life far more than those of the president), but I consider the question to be a good way to judge how one’s life has progressed over a defined period of time, regardless of who the president is and what they did during their term.

To answer the question of whether I am better off now than I was eight years ago, the answer is definitely yes.  Eight years ago, in January 2009, I was 27.  I had been working for a year and a half in a dead-end job at Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit working on consumer issues.  I had a ridiculous amount of credit card debt due to several big repairs on my car, a 2004 Mercury Sable.  I lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Aspen Hill.  My interests mostly related to transit and activism.  Exemplifying this, the weekend before the 2009 inauguration, I attended an Anonymous raid in extremely cold weather, and took Metro to get there.

Now, eight years later, I have a new career in public transportation with an agency where there is plenty of room for growth.  I’m in a union, and most people that work in this agency stay until they retire.  I have a different car that I bought new, and which will be completely paid for in a few months.  My credit card balance is completely paid off.  I still live in the same place, but that will hopefully change soon, as I’m currently working to make a major upgrade to my living situation.  And needless to say, I’m still quite interested in transit, though activism has somewhat fallen by the wayside in the intervening years, having become somewhat burned out of it after six years at the aforementioned nonprofit, and ten years attending demonstrations overall.

Of course, this also points to another thing: I probably would have had a similar path had Republican John McCain been in office.  In other words, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” is kind of a bullshit question, since the president works his magic at very high levels, and our being better of worse off, individually, is usually far more attributable to factors that have nothing to do with the president.  I didn’t feel compelled to quit my job at Food & Water Watch because of Obama.  Rather, it was my weasel of a boss that was the main influence on that.  Likewise, Obama really had nothing to do with my decision to go into public transportation.  That was all me.  And then the car?  I’m not going to point to the Sable’s need for major repairs and say, “Thanks, Obama!”  Nor will I credit Obama for my new car, or the paying off of my credit card.  I will, however, thank the Republicans in Congress for cutting unemployment benefits while I was still looking for a job, but in a raised-middle-finger sort of way, since that was directly their doing.

And truth be told, end-to-end, I did all right under Bush as well, as my personal situation definitely improved over those eight years, but he had little, if anything, to do with it, just like Obama had little, if anything, to do with my self-improvement in his eight years.  In 2001, I was a college student working towards a bachelor’s degree in public administration.  I lived in the dorms when school was in session, and at my parents’ house when it wasn’t.  I worked in a call center doing directory assistance.  By the end of Bush’s eight years, I had my degree, I was living on my own, and I had a “real” job (albeit one that turned out to be dead-end).

Similarly, I’m guessing that I will be better off by the time that Donald Trump leaves office, whether at the end of a term or not.  And Trump probably won’t have much to do with it.  I have plans for my own growth and improvement, and I will see to it that they are executed.

Meanwhile, I will certainly miss Barack Obama and his family.  They have been a class act all the way, though I’m sure that they are looking forward to moving on (i.e. Michelle Obama will never run for president).  Considering Barack Obama’s various press club speeches over the years, I think he definitely could do stand-up comedy, as he outshined more than a few of the “real” comedians at those events in his eight years.

In any case, though, it’s going to be an interesting ride with Trump in the hot seat.  Hold on tight…

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“Ride all of the 2000-Series railcars” wasn’t one of my resolutions this year, but… https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/14/ride-all-of-the-2000-series-railcars-wasnt-one-of-my-resolutions-this-year-but/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2017/01/14/ride-all-of-the-2000-series-railcars-wasnt-one-of-my-resolutions-this-year-but/#respond Sun, 15 Jan 2017 04:40:18 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25766 Catching a ride on all 76 of Metro’s 2000-Series railcars wasn’t in my list of new year’s resolutions, but that was my accomplishment today, as I caught car 2018 on my way up to Glenmont, therefore completing my second railcar series.  In other words, I have conquered these:

Car 2075, seen here at Huntington in 2004

The 2000-Series, manufactured by Breda in the early 1980s and rehabilitated by Alstom in the mid 2000s, is the second car series where I have ridden on every single car.  Back in 2010, I finally logged a ride on every single 4000-Series railcar.  Considering that I nailed the 4000-Series in just under five years (I started logging my rides in August 2005), it surprises me that it took nearly twelve years to finally log a ride on every 2000-Series car.  The 4000-Series, after all, is 100 cars, and the 2000-Series is only 76.

With the completion of the 2000-Series, this also seems like a good time to give you an update on my fleet-riding percentages.  I am using the same car number totals from the 2010 list in order to keep the comparison apples-to-apples, so this does not account for any car retirements since 2010, since, for one thing a lot of Rohr cars are now gone.  So here it is:

  • 277 Rohr 1000-Series (96.8% of 286 total, up 12 cars and 4.2% from 2010)
  • 76 Breda 2000-Series (100% of 76 total, up 10 cars and 13.2% from 2010)
  • 271 Breda 3000-Series (94.7% of 286 total, up 36 cars and 12% from 2010)
  • 100 Breda 4000-Series (100% of 100 total, no change from 2010)
  • 174 CAF 5000-Series (92.5% of 188 total, up 28 cars and 14.9% from 2010)
  • 165 Alstom 6000-Series (89.6% of 184 total, up 60 cars and 32.6% from 2010)
  • 43 Kawasaki 7000-Series (5.7% of 748 total when delivery complete, did not exist in 2010)

With the 2000-Series under my belt, my goals shift.  First of all, I’m not worried about riding the nine Rohr cars that I’m missing, because that may be an impossible task due to their ongoing retirement, which is planned to be completed by the end of the year, along with the 4000-Series.  Thus my next goal is to find the 14 remaining 5000-Series cars that I’m missing, because the 5000-Series is slated for early retirement instead of rehabilitation.

So I guess now, it’s time for me to ride some more railcars.  I enjoy this passive project, of logging rides on as many railcars as possible.

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Returning to Scott’s house… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/30/returning-to-scotts-house/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/30/returning-to-scotts-house/#respond Sat, 31 Dec 2016 04:29:38 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25719 You know how it goes when you have like-minded friends.  On December 28, Elyse and I got together with mutual friend Aaron Stone, and we took a field trip to the Baltimore area, revisiting various places of interest in order to show Aaron, including the Ames at Diamond Point Plaza and Scott’s house.  The way that we planned the trip, since our main objectives were mostly dependent on having daylight, the plan was to spend a little time at Diamond Point, a little bit of time at H&H Outdoors (a military surplus store in Baltimore), and then have a large block of time at the Bauers’.

The Ames at Diamond Point was, for the most part, unchanged from our previous visit.  We spotted a set of movable stairs near the front of the store that wasn’t there in our previous visits, but otherwise, it was the same:

Ames in Diamond Point Plaza

Note the moss on the floor in this photo. This corresponds to a rectangular hole in the roof, due to a panel's being left open.
Note the moss on the floor in this photo. This corresponds to a rectangular hole in the roof, due to a panel’s being left open.

Google Maps image showing the open panel on the roof. I have no idea what such a panel would be used for. Any idea?
Google Maps image showing the open panel on the roof.  I have no idea what such a panel would be used for.  Any idea?  Likewise, I have no idea why the panel is open now, as the most recent flat aerial imagery, from October 2014, shows the panel secured in place.

However, the rest of the shopping center had changed, as Diamond Point Home Furnishings, which had moved into the old Sam’s Club building, was using much of the shopping center for storage.  Remember the old Tandy Leather store space that I showed you before? It’s now stacked full of mattresses.  Same goes for almost all of the stores along that row.  The only places that weren’t used for storage were the restaurant space at the west end of the building, the Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant (which is still in business), and the former Ames.  Kind of a shame that the shopping center isn’t housing stores in that area, but at least the spaces are leased.

I also got a photo of one of the road-facing signs for Diamond Point, which I had missed on my earlier visit:

The street-facing sign
This sign is the one facing Diamond Point Road, behind Ames.  Note that the Sam’s Club signage is turned around, while the Ames signage is still facing out.  I suppose that’s because Sam’s Club was (and still is) a going concern when this location closed, whereas with Ames, the whole chain was going out of business, therefore, there is no Ames anywhere and thus no potential for confusion.

Meanwhile, following a trip to H&H Outdoors, possibly the last one that I make to the store at its present location, as they are moving this spring, we headed over to Scott’s house near Elkridge.  This was the part of the trip that we were all looking forward to, since I wanted to check out a few parts of the house that I had missed back in March, plus Elyse and I wanted to show it all to Aaron.

Making the hike up, there it was:

The former home of Scott Alan Bauer and family.

Other than the mattress sticking out of the side window, it looked mostly the same as it did in March.  Approaching from the front, it was clear that others had been through, as a few items were in different places and in different condition than they were in March.

The tractor was now missing its seat. We found the seat on the ground nearby.
The tractor was now missing its seat.  We found the seat on the ground nearby.

The Fisher television set was now in two pieces, as the front had been pulled off of the back and was now lying separately from the rest.
The Fisher television set was now in two pieces, as the front had been pulled off of the back and was now lying separately from the rest.

The typewriter, meanwhile, made me sad. It had been moved from where we found it before, and now it was missing a number of keys, and those keys that remained had clearly been smashed.
The typewriter, meanwhile, made me sad.  It had been moved from where we found it before, and now it was missing a number of keys, and those keys that remained had clearly been smashed.

And now onto new territory.  I had previously not explored the sides and rear very thoroughly, as Elyse and I focused on the front yard and the interior, and so there were new treasures to find.  When I watched a video of the house from 2013 after all of the photo set work was completed, I noticed a phone booth laying on the ground.  My assumption was that the phone booth had been removed, and that was why we had missed it.  We found it, lying north of the house:

"Phone" sign

The booth itself

The “C&P Telephone” name makes me think that this booth is from the 1970s or 1980s, but no later than 1994, when C&P became Bell Atlantic.  No idea why it’s here, though.

Then on the northwest corner of the house, we found a screened in hot tub:

The hot tub, which I had missed in March.
The hot tub, which I had missed in March.

I took this shot to provide context for the location. The window here is the window in the back of the family room. The boarded-up door to the right, I believe led to the kitchen. We never got close enough to this corner in March out of concerns over structural integrity in this area.
I took this shot to provide context for the location.  The window here is the window in the back of the family room.  The boarded-up door to the right, I believe led to the kitchen.  We never got close enough to this corner in March out of concerns over structural integrity in this area.

Aaron and Elyse look at the corner of the house.
Aaron and Elyse look at the corner of the house.

Going around the back, we saw the tree that had fallen on the house:

This tree fell on the house some time between 2010 and 2013, using Google Maps imagery and the 2013 video. Clearly, if the house had not already been abandoned by this point, it might have been after this event.

This tree fell on the house some time between 2010 and 2013, using Google Maps imagery and the 2013 video. Clearly, if the house had not already been abandoned by this point, it might have been after this event.
This tree fell on the house some time between 2010 and 2013, using Google Maps imagery and the 2013 video.  Clearly, if the house had not already been abandoned by this point, it might have been after this event.

The basement, taken from an opening in the wall on the rear of the house. The basement was not accessible from inside, instead accessed from an exterior entrance on the house's south side.
The basement, taken from an opening in the wall on the rear of the house.  The basement was not accessible from inside, instead accessed from an exterior entrance on the house’s south side.

When we went to enter the house, much to all of our surprise, Elyse discovered that the front door was locked.  That was concerning, as it was possible that an unknown person was already inside the house.  In March, the front door was unlocked, and therefore we entered the house via the front door.  Thus, for our own safety, we stayed outside until we could verify that it was clear.  However, I did get some photos of the living room through the window:

Since our visit, there was some new graffiti, as the blue, red, and light gray markings were not there when we came through in March.  Additionally, the hearts on the ceiling were new.

Aaron gets a photo of the living room, through the window. The entrance to the basement is to his right.
Aaron gets a photo of the living room, through the window.  The entrance to the basement is to his right.

Not long after this, we left the area immediately around the house in somewhat of a hurry, as Elyse heard footsteps coming from upstairs.  We had no idea who might be in the house, and we didn’t want to stick around to find out, either.

As we were leaving the house, we found an abandoned tractor just downhill from the Bauers’ house:

A Fordson F tractor, abandoned down the hill from the Bauers' house.

A Fordson F tractor, abandoned down the hill from the Bauers' house.

I ran it past Reddit, and as it turns out, this is a Fordson F tractor, manufactured from 1917 to 1928.  I never expected that this tractor was as old as it turned out.  I wonder if someone could restore this, or if it’s too far gone to restore.

I’m curious about whether it is part of the Bauer property or if it’s unrelated.  Considering that there are a few items that boggle the mind on the property, like that refrigerated case and the phone booth, it’s possible that it may have been abandoned independently nearby.  I suppose we’ll never know, but in any case, it’s been there long enough to become partially embedded in the ground.

Due to the house’s being occupied by someone, as Elyse spotted a person upstairs from a distance while we were checking out the tractor, I consider it unlikely that we will revisit Scott’s house again any time soon.  There are plenty of other abandoned structures around that are worth checking out, though, so we’ll see what we come up with next.

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Photo licensing returns in a new form… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/16/photo-licensing-returns-in-a-new-form/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/16/photo-licensing-returns-in-a-new-form/#respond Fri, 16 Dec 2016 05:00:37 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25659 You may recall back in October, I announced that I had removed Pixels.com as a photo licensing service, and that an in-house replacement would arrive in the relatively near future.  Well, the future is now:

The Schumin Web Photo Licensing

This is The Schumin Web Photo Licensing, codenamed “Finch” (after another JMU web server) during development, which does the same as what Pixels did, i.e. licensing content from The Schumin Web for third-party usage.  However, unlike Pixels, this site is completely in-house.

So why did I take licensing in-house rather than leaving it as an outsourced service?  Licensing information.  When I licensed an image through Pixels, I was only informed that I had made a sale, and what image was licensed.  I didn’t know who had licensed it – just that it had been licensed.  That fouled other processes that I use for image licensing that require that I know all of the places where my images have been licensed.  The new system, being operated entirely in-house using Photo Video Store Script, captures all of that information so that I can maximize my revenues.  It’s also allowed me to lower the prices slightly, because there’s no middleman involved.  I’m still making the same amount, but there’s no one else making commissions on it.  Seems like a win-win to me.

Meanwhile, I’ll be the first to admit: the site, as it currently stands, looks ugly.  That’s because it’s wearing one of the default themes that comes with the software, which I hacked up a little bit in order to put my branding on it.  The site works beautifully, but just looks ugly.  Recall that I did something similar when I converted the main site to WordPress.  In that case, the site was completely rebuilt under the hood, but it was wearing a theme that copied the design that the site had been using for about seven years at that point.  I was both slightly pleased and a little bit offended when a then-coworker commented that he couldn’t figure out what I was doing and why I was doing it, because the site looked the same.  That meant that despite the massive changes to the underlying structure, it still looked and felt like Schumin Web.  That was a goal of that project, to ensure that it still looked and felt like Schumin Web when I was done, so I was pleased to have met that goal.  I didn’t want to convert the site to a CMS if it meant that Schumin Web would be mangled up to fit in it.  WordPress fits like a glove.  However, I was admittedly a bit annoyed to have my work pooh-poohed, because it did take me a year to do.  Then about three months after the launch of Schumin Web under WordPress, I launched a brand new theme, which gave the site a brand new look, which it still sports today.

All that said, I’m launching with the default theme, and then once the site is in production for a while, I’ll put a new theme in place that makes it feel a bit more like Schumin Web ought to look.  [Update: This happened March 18, 2017.]

This whole launching of a new service, though, reminds me of another byproduct of the Schumin Web conversion from 2012: I consider it a factor in my departure from the Wikipedia project later that year.  I had significantly decreased my involvement on Wikipedia while I was working on Schumin Web.  Then when the conversion was finished, I came back to Wikipedia, but it wasn’t the same anymore.  I had grown during that period, and Wikipedia was still the same toxic environment that it always was.  Coming back, there was a certain feeling of I’m too old for this nonsense, and not surprisingly, I ended my involvement entirely not long after.

It’s also funny how history repeats itself.  This new site is essentially Almond Street revived.  Recall that Almond Street was an earlier attempt to run a photo licensing site, but a number of things made it clear that the time was not yet right for it, and thus the concept was ultimately abandoned.  However, unlike Almond Street, which was entirely designed and built in-house, this site is an off-the-shelf solution, built by someone else, and comes with its own tech support forums.  I see no need to reinvent the wheel when I can get a product that works right out of the box without much effort on my part.  Let me do the creating, and let other people do the programming.  Additionally, note the branding difference between now and then.  Almond Street was created as a separate brand for photo licensing because I didn’t think that Schumin Web was “good enough” of a brand to use to market photography.  Almond Street was promoted on Schumin Web, but not vice versa.  Nowadays, with the passage of time, Schumin Web is much more established and a much stronger brand, plus much of my in-house licensing inquiries are from people who originally found the photos on Schumin Web.  Thus it only makes sense to make it a direct offshoot of the main site.  The catalog, meanwhile, is almost entirely different, as I now consider most photo work from the Almond Street era to be subpar – the work of a much younger man.  I no longer have the Almond Street catalog (lost to the ages, I suppose), but if I were to guess how much overlap there is between the two, I’d say maybe one or two photos, tops.

So all in all, there you go.  Enjoy the new service.

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Yes, that is a star costume… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/08/yes-that-is-a-star-costume/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/12/08/yes-that-is-a-star-costume/#respond Thu, 08 Dec 2016 14:48:15 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25638 For this month, the splash photo shows child me wearing a star costume.  I normally lean towards running a vintage photo for December, because December photos, owing to the Christmas elephant in the room, are typically harder to do than most because of that extra holiday element.  I own very little Christmas junk, and so a new photo requires a shopping trip and some spending to do.  That or I do the photo right in the store, as I did in 2008.  The December splash photo had nothing to do with Christmas in 2012, 2013, and 2014, owing to some recent non-Christmas photos of me taken in those years, but in 2015, Christmas returned to the splash photo.  However, I inadvertently duplicated my work in 2015, as I had run the same photo in December 2006 – a mistake that I didn’t didn’t discover until I did the prep work for this Journal entry.

For this month, my original plan was to run a photo taken in 1987, showing my sister and me with Santa Claus.  However, in a routine check of the archives to prevent duplicates, I discovered that I had run it eleven years prior.  So that went out the window.  I went hunting in my scans of old photos, and found this:

In costume as Andro Star

That is me in costume as Andro Star for our church’s production of the musical Oh My Stars, It’s Christmas! on December 15, 1991 – almost 25 years ago, when I was in fifth grade and still living in Rogers, Arkansas.  That is the story of how Andro, a young star that couldn’t sing worth a lick in a heavenly choir, and who was ridiculed by the other stars for his lack of singing ability, became the Star of Bethlehem and, well, you know the Christmas legend.  The play is based on the children’s book Andro, Star of Bethlehem by Anne Claire, published in 1983.  I located and purchased a copy of this book in 2001.

My sister was also in this play, playing a minor star character.  Here she is in her costume:

My sister in her costume

I had a lot of fun with the production.  This was also the first time that I ever participated in an honest-to-goodness play. Previously, the most that I had ever done were those little elementary school programs where all of the kids stand on stage and sing songs together.  This was a play with characters and a script with lines that we had to memorize.  Additionally, the songs in this play were much hipper than you typically heard in church.  No organ music to be found here.

I still remember the songs and could probably sing them all back to you from memory.  I can’t say that I endorse the religious aspect of it all anymore, but the songs were fun and memorable.  The introductory song, “Zip Zappity Zoom”, was upbeat and catchy, even though it didn’t have much to do with the rest of the play.  One song incorporated the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and the finale was a split between a bouncy arrangement of “Joy to the World” and a reprise of “Zip Zappity Zoom”.  Great songs, all of them.

Here’s a video of another church’s production of the play, showing the lead song, “Zip Zappity Zoom”, with a very different interpretation of the star costumes than what we did.  You can see how much hipper the music is compared to a lot of other stuff that gets sung in church:

Looking back on this, I’m still amazed that I pulled the Andro role off.  I had never acted in anything prior to this, and then, there I was taking the lead role in a musical.  I remember auditioning for the role of Andro just for fun, and I never imagined that I’d actually get it.  Color me surprised.  I was one of the older kids, and we all tended to get the larger roles because we were older and more mature, so even if I didn’t get the Andro role, I would have likely had a larger role regardless, but I was still quite shocked nonetheless.  In any case, I had the most lines out of anyone, and somehow, I managed to memorize all of them.  I consider that an amazing feat in and of itself.

That play was my first and last major acting gig.  I acted one more time after this, doing a small role in a play about King Arthur for social studies class in sixth grade.  That play was also a lot of fun.  The King Arthur play was part of a larger interdisciplinary unit that the team did about the Middle Ages.  I later managed to get into the gifted-and-talented drama program based on those two plays, but after getting in, I never really did anything with it.  Let’s admit – I’m not much of an actor, and that is fine.

All in all, I love sharing these embarrassing old photos, because there is usually a fun story to tell along with them.

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Trying my hand at planespotting… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/18/trying-my-hand-at-planespotting/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/18/trying-my-hand-at-planespotting/#respond Fri, 18 Nov 2016 16:02:38 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25605 On Tuesday, November 16, Elyse and I went down to Gravelly Point in Arlington and photographed airplanes taking off from National Airport.  In the past, I had photographed airplanes casually, usually when I’m over in Rosslyn, i.e. near the airport, while doing other things (the raw photo set for Urban Demolition II is peppered with random airplane and transit photos, if that tells you anything).  However, this was my first dedicated outing for planespotting.

So I put the big lens on my camera and took it out for a spin, putting the camera in sports mode and going to town with it.  My first takeoff, however, left something to be desired:

That's a nice photo of the sky, though, don't you think?
That’s a nice photo of the sky, though, don’t you think?

Yes, I quickly discovered that this is not something that you should use live mode for.  Out of focus and out of frame.  I usually shoot using the screen rather than the viewfinder, which is a practice that I picked up early on, as neither the original Mavica nor Big Mavica had a viewfinder.  However, when you shoot using the screen in sports mode with my current camera, the screen goes black.  And the result was as you might expect, as I quickly lost track of my subject because I was shooting blind.  Whoooooooooops.

Once I switched to the viewfinder, things started flying far more smoothly.

N128HQ, an Embraer 175LR, operated by Republic Airlines for American Eagle. Formerly painted for US Airways Express.
N128HQ, an Embraer 175LR, operated by Republic Airlines for American Eagle.  Formerly painted for US Airways Express.

N500AE, a Bombardier CRJ-701ER operated by PSA Airlines. This plane was always painted for American Eagle, though previously in the old scheme.
N500AE, a Bombardier CRJ-701ER operated by PSA Airlines.  This plane was always painted for American Eagle, though previously in the old scheme.

N715UW, an Airbus A319-112 for American Airlines. Formerly painted in US Airways colors.
N715UW, an Airbus A319-112 for American Airlines.  Formerly painted in US Airways colors.

N512AE, another Bombardier CRJ-701ER. Always painted for American Eagle, though previously in the old scheme.
N512AE, another Bombardier CRJ-701ER.  Always painted for American Eagle, though previously in the old scheme.

N810MD, an Embraer 170SU, was a blank plane. According to historical photos on Airliners.net, this plane was previously painted for US Airways Express, but it's been blank for around two years. Does anyone know why it now carries no branding?
N810MD, an Embraer 170SU, was a blank plane.  According to historical photos on Airliners.net, this plane was previously painted for US Airways Express, but it’s been blank for around two years.  Does anyone know why it now carries no branding?

N826UA, an Airbus A319-131 operated by United Airlines.
N826UA, an Airbus A319-131 operated by United Airlines.

N7812G, a Boeing 737-76N operated by Southwest Airlines.
N7812G, a Boeing 737-76N operated by Southwest Airlines.

N858RW, an Embraer 170SE operated by Shuttle America for United Express.
N858RW, an Embraer 170SE operated by Shuttle America for United Express.

N348JB, an Embraer 190AR operated by JetBlue.
N348JB, an Embraer 190AR operated by JetBlue.

At this point, Elyse and I swapped lenses.  I let her take my big lens for a spin, and I put my regular lens back on.

N591NN, an Bombardier CRJ-900LR operated by PSA Airlines for American Eagle.
N591NN, an Bombardier CRJ-900LR operated by PSA Airlines for American Eagle.

N204JQ, an Embraer 175LR operated by Shuttle America for Delta Connection.
N204JQ, an Embraer 175LR operated by Shuttle America for Delta Connection.

N638JB, an Airbus A320-232 operated by JetBlue.
N638JB, an Airbus A320-232 operated by JetBlue.

N74856, a Boeing 757-324 operated by United Airlines.
N74856, a Boeing 757-324 operated by United Airlines.

Due to the angle that I photographed this one (more or less directly overhead), I was unable to capture the tail number. Pretty cool shot, though. All I can tell you is that this is likely in the Bombardier CRJ family, and it's Delta Connection.
Due to the angle that I photographed this one (more or less directly overhead), I was unable to capture the tail number.  Pretty cool shot, though.  All I can tell you is that this is likely in the Bombardier CRJ family, and it’s Delta Connection.

At this point, I was able to get my big lens back from Elyse, and did a little more shooting as we entered the “golden hour“.

N302DN, an Airbus A321-211 operated by Delta Airlines.
N302DN, an Airbus A321-211 operated by Delta Airlines.

N932AN, a Boeing 737-823, was the big surprise of the day. After seeing so many airplanes painted in the new American Airlines livery, Elyse and I were quite surprised to find this plane still sporting the older livery, where the aircraft is mostly unpainted.

N932AN, a Boeing 737-823, was the big surprise of the day. After seeing so many airplanes painted in the new American Airlines livery, Elyse and I were quite surprised to find this plane still sporting the older livery, where the aircraft is mostly unpainted.

N932AN, a Boeing 737-823, was the big surprise of the day.  After seeing so many airplanes painted in the new American Airlines livery, Elyse and I were quite surprised to find this plane still sporting the older livery, where the aircraft is mostly unpainted.
N932AN, a Boeing 737-823, was the big surprise of the day.  After seeing so many airplanes painted in the new American Airlines livery, Elyse and I were quite surprised to find this plane still sporting the older livery, where the aircraft is mostly unpainted.

N708PS, a Bombardier CRJ-701ER, operated by PSA Airlines for American Eagle. Formerly painted for US Airways Express.
N708PS, a Bombardier CRJ-701ER, operated by PSA Airlines for American Eagle.  Formerly painted for US Airways Express.


The last plane that we photographed was N560GJ, a Cessna 560XL, which was the only general aviation plane that we spotted taking off the entire time that we were there.

All in all, I’d say that Elyse and I both had a good time.  And the photos didn’t come out too badly for an outing where the purpose was not so much about getting gorgeous photos, but about figuring out the technique.

Also, check out Airliners.net when you get a chance.  It’s a site where planespotters share their photography, and you can search on the tail numbers to get historic photos of different planes.  That’s how I found out some of the historical details for the planes that I photographed.  I captured the tail number in the photos, and then just plugged it into the site.

Meanwhile, it’s kind of funny that I had so much fun planespotting and doing some research into all of these planes, because I haven’t flown in an airplane since 1999, when I took that trip to Canada.  The last plane that I flew aboard was N911HA, a Dash 8 operated by Piedmont Airlines for US Airways Express, from Philadelphia to Charlottesville.  It’s been so long that I’m still surprised when I see the regional carriers using jet aircraft, because the last time I flew, the regional airlines all used turboprop planes.

In any case, I fully intend to do this again, not only at National, but also eventually at BWI and Dulles.

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Painting pottery… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/16/painting-pottery/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/16/painting-pottery/#respond Wed, 16 Nov 2016 05:21:33 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25521 The day before Elyse and I went to Pittsburgh, we got together with our friend Dave, whom we know through transit-enthusiast circles, and we went over to Color Me Mine in Rockville.  This is one of those places where they have premade pieces of pottery for customers to paint in the store, and then they glaze and fire it all afterward, and you pick it up a week or so later.

Going in, Elyse and Dave both picked train-shaped coin banks for painting.  I got a big plate, because I felt more like drawing, and thus I got myself a nice, blank canvas to paint.

But first, here are Elyse and Dave at the table:

Elyse and Dave, painting away

Meanwhile, I took my painting seriously.  While Dave and Elyse were in more of a transit mood, I was in a fire alarm kind of mood, so I decided to paint the Wheelock 7002T from Zane Showker Hall, which I most recently photographed last March on my trip to JMU.  In other words, this:

Wheelock 7002T at Zane Showker Hall

However, before you paint, you have to draw.  And before you draw, you have to math.  No one can say that I didn’t take this task seriously:

Determing the size of the plate, and the dead space around it  Determining how big to make the fire alarm horn
Yes, I did a good bit of math to determine (A) how much space I had to work with, (B) how much dead space I wanted around it, and (C) how big I wanted the subject.

That work created this sketch on the pottery:

One fire alarm, sketched on pottery

By the way, I didn’t realize until it was too late that the design was slightly off-kilter.  Ah, well.  But I think that translated pretty well from photo to plate, no?

Then on the back side, I decided to go with the classic Wheelock logo:

The classic Wheelock logo.

Now it was time to paint.  First thing I did was the back:

Wheelock

I chose this flecked blue color as something similar to the box style from the 1990s, which was dark blue with some kind of star pattern on it.  Also note that the colors that you see during the painting process are lighter than the colors on the final product.  Firing and glazing and such darkens all of the colors.

Then the first thing that I did on the front was paint the background a light blue color:

The background.

And then this was the finished product:

The completed product, prior to firing

Elyse got a photo of me painting the edges black:

Painting the edges of my plate.

She also got a photo of Dave at work on his:

Dave, painting his train bank.

Here’s Elyse’s final product:

Elyse's train, in a green color scheme

Elyse's train, in a green color scheme

And here’s Dave’s, painted in SEPTA colors:

Dave's train bank, in SEPTA colors.

Dave's train bank, in SEPTA colors.

Then this is what my plate looked like when I picked it up a week later:

Front side of my plate, glazed and fired.

Back side of my plate, glazed and fired.

That plate will look very nice on display in my living room, don’t you think?

All in all, we had a good time.  Painting pottery with friends is a lot of fun.  Definitely need to do this again.

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That wasn’t at all what I expected to happen… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/14/that-wasnt-at-all-what-i-expected-to-happen/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/14/that-wasnt-at-all-what-i-expected-to-happen/#respond Mon, 14 Nov 2016 15:30:33 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25531 So like much of America, I watched the television on the night of November 8, 2016 in stunned silence as the news media called the race for Donald Trump.  I started watching around 7 PM, when the first polls closed, and kept the television on until 2 AM, when I finally had to go to bed.  Considering the way I wrote about the election around a month ago, I expected that this would be an early night.  I figured that I would watch the returns come in until 11:00, and then once the polls closed in California, they would project California for Hillary Clinton, and then call the race for Hillary Clinton.  Then I would turn the television off and do something else until bedtime.  But that was not the case, as many states were too close to call.  Then I watched as Hillary Clinton’s path to victory narrowed, and it started to become apparent that we were not going to elect the first woman president on this election night.  Once they called Ohio for Trump, I knew that it didn’t look good for Hillary.  After all, Ohio picks the president, because almost no one wins the White House without Ohio.  Then as the night wore on, I ran a few scenarios through an electoral college calculator, and realized that in order for Hillary Clinton to win, she would have had to take every single remaining state that was still in play.  That seemed highly unlikely.  I went to bed kind of stunned, because this was most definitely not how I expected election night to go.  When I woke up the next morning, I checked Reddit, and found out that yes, Donald Trump had, in fact, actually won the election.  Whoa.  I definitely did not expect to have to eat my words about this election.

In hindsight, however, I can’t say that I’m very surprised about this result.

Before even getting into factors specific to this election, in the last 60 years or so since the 22nd Amendment, which formally limits the president to two terms, took effect, the White House has tended to switch parties every eight years.  Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, served two terms, and he was succeeded by John F. Kennedy, a Democrat.  Then after eight years of a Democratic administration, we got Republican Richard Nixon.  The only exceptions to this have been Democrat Jimmy Carter, who was defeated by Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980 after only a single term, and Republican George Bush, who was elected president in 1988 after eight years of Reagan.  After Bush’s electoral defeat in 1992, the eight-on-eight-off cycle resumed.  Thus after eight years of the Democratic Obama administration, history indicated that it was time for the party to flip again.

Additionally, history in the same 60-year period has indicated that the electorate tends to frown on candidates who run because it’s their “turn” to run.  In 1960, Richard Nixon was the sitting vice president under Eisenhower, and ran for president.  He lost to Kennedy.  In 1968, Hubert Humphrey, then the sitting vice president – ostensibly his “turn” –  ran against Nixon and was defeated.  George Bush was an exception in 1988, where, as a sitting vice president, he actually won – first to do so since Martin Van Buren in 1836.  Since then, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were all “my turn” candidates, having run for president once before, and it was now their turn to become the nominee.  All were defeated in their respective elections.  Clearly, the voters don’t take kindly to heirs apparent or political dynasties.

Additionally, I’ve noticed that there are two ways to vote for a candidate: because you support them and want to see them succeed, or because you oppose someone else and want to unseat them or otherwise keep them out of office.  One of these strategies tends to work, and the other doesn’t do as well.  I remember in 2004, the Democrats put up John Kerry, who was, by most measures, a pretty awful candidate.  About the only redeeming quality that Kerry had was that he was a warm body that wasn’t George W. Bush.  We checked Kerry’s name on our ballots as a vote against George W. Bush, and not for any reasons related to Kerry himself.  And Kerry got defeated pretty well, which in hindsight, wasn’t surprising.  It’s hard to turn out the vote for someone when it’s not because you’re in love with the candidate, but rather, because you’re trying to defeat their opponent.  Plus it’s also relatively hard to unseat an incumbent, which is what Bush was.  I think that this sign from the DAWN demonstration on the occasion of Bush’s second inaugural sums it up quite well:

"I voted Kerry. Now I'm holding this fuckin' sign."
“I voted Kerry.  Now I’m holding this fuckin’ sign.”  Seems about right.

In regards to this most recent election, I’m at least glad that it is settled, even if I was taken back and disappointed by the results.  There will be no protracted legal battle over the results like happened in 2000.  It’s over.  I do think that the Democrats bombed pretty badly this election cycle, losing the White House and failing to retake the Senate, and they really only have themselves to blame for it.  There are many lessons to take from this, and let’s hope that the Democrats learn them and take them to heart if they expect to retake the White House in 2020.  Otherwise, history will repeat itself.

First of all, it is worth noting that Hillary Clinton now joins the ranks of Andrew Jackson, Samuel J. Tilden, Grover Cleveland, and Al Gore, all of whom also won the popular vote while losing in the electoral college.  The electoral college, where individual votes in a state determine slates of electors based on congressional representation that actually choose the president (I explained how it works in 2013), because of how it’s designed with its first-past-the-post and winner-take-all allocation of votes, requires that candidates get broad support across the country in order to be elected, requiring a plurality of votes in an individual state to take all of the electoral votes in that state (except Maine and Nebraska, which allocate their electoral votes differently).  Thus in a hypothetical state with twelve electoral votes, if Hillary Clinton got 48.1% of the vote, Donald Trump got 48.2% of the vote, and Gary Johnson got 3.7% of the vote, Trump would get all twelve votes.  Likewise, it doesn’t matter if a candidate in this hypothetical state just barely pulls out a win or wins by a landslide.  It’s still the same twelve votes.  So why did Hillary Clinton lose the electoral college despite winning the popular vote?  Because her support was too concentrated in “blue” states, i.e. states where the Democratic candidate is expected from the outset to win the state’s electoral votes.  When it came to “swing states”, i.e. states where it could go either way, Hillary Clinton did poorly.  Among all of the different swing states, she only won in Virginia, which is where her running mate, Tim Kaine, is from – and even that was a much narrower win than expected.  She even lost Pennsylvania, which had gone to the Democrats in every election since 1992.

Considering that it is possible for the electoral college to elect someone who didn’t receive the most votes, and that it happened again this time around, I think that it is definitely time to reform the electoral process to allow for direct popular election of the president and vice president, either by abolishing the electoral college directly, or to bypass it, rendering it strictly ceremonial.  The former method would be accomplished by constitutional amendment, repealing the 12th Amendment and laying out a new system of some sort, because something tells me that they will never go back to the method provided in the original Constitution, where electors voted for two people for president, and first place (provided that they have a majority of electors) becomes president, and second place becomes vice president.  What the details of such a replacement system would be, however, are not known, and would be worked out in Congress during the amendment process.  I would imagine that such an amendment would look similar to the 17th Amendment, which provided for direct popular election of senators.  The latter method, which would bypass the electoral college, is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement that would award the participating states’ electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote.  As of this writing, the compact covers ten states plus DC, which together control 165 electoral votes.  It will go into effect when enough states have joined so that it would cover a majority of the electoral votes, i.e. 270.  However, I feel that the interstate compact method would probably be best only as a stopgap measure, until a constitutional amendment can be worked out.

And for all of the people who helped circulate a Change.org petition around on social media in an attempt to sway the electoral college to give Hillary Clinton the presidency in some sort of last-ditch hail-Mary move, that entire concept just seems like a tremendously bad idea.  Technically, the electors could probably do it, but I don’t think that they could necessarily get away with it by the public.  We all still have to live here, after all, and half the country would – probably rightly – claim that the election was stolen from their candidate if it were to happen, and the other half would almost certainly be uneasy about it.  Imagine the level of civil unrest that would come to this country if such a thing were to come to fruition.  It would be something the likes of which we have never seen before in this country.  It would make the post-election anti-Trump demonstrations that we saw look like child’s play.  Plus such a scheme would require that Hillary Clinton cooperate, and there’s no evidence that such a thing would happen.  Hillary Clinton has already conceded.  She’s out.  Imagine the constitutional crisis should Clinton be installed via this method that overrides the voting (even though she did win the popular vote), and then decline to serve, citing the impropriety of the method.  I don’t think that we as a country want to go there.  Better to move on and change the process for next time.

Meanwhile, noting Hillary Clinton’s poor showing in swing states, it points to another strike against the Democrats in this race: Hillary Clinton was a “my turn” candidate.  People thought it was her turn in 2008, when she ran for president and competed against then-Senator Barack Obama.  She was defeated in the primary, and Obama went on to become president, running against John McCain, another “my turn” candidate, as well as a candidate who would have also kept the White House in Republican hands for a third term (two strikes against McCain).

In 2016, Hillary Clinton was again running for president, this time against Bernie Sanders in the primary.  The feeling that I got during the primaries was that come hell or high water, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was going to make absolutely sure that this was a coronation for Hillary Clinton.  It later turned out that we were spot on with this feeling.  That said, it is probably time for the DNC to take a long and hard look at how it operates, since the effects of its processes have far-reaching consequences (we are, after all, electing the leader of the free world here).  The first thing that the DNC needs to do is reform the way its delegates are allocated, i.e. get rid of the superdelegates.  The superdelegates, the ranks of which include elected officials, as well as party activists and officials, and are automatically seated at the convention and can vote for whoever they want, lend an air of impropriety over the entire process, and a feeling of mistrust of the electorate.  Recognize that the message that having superdelegates sends is something along the lines of, “We don’t believe that you, the Democratic primary voters, are capable of picking the correct candidate.  Therefore, if you don’t vote the right way, the grownups will pick the correct person for you.”  I recognize that the superdelegates have never used their influence in this way in the past, but it is still a “trust us” matter, because the power exists to make it happen.  Additionally, the media’s reporting of Democratic delegate counts typically lumped in the superdelegates’ endorsements with the pledged delegate counts, making an establishment candidate who is close to the leaders of the party appear like they are running away with the nomination, when the race may actually be much closer.  Such is what happened with Clinton and Sanders, where Clinton’s superdelegate lead made it look like it was a fait accompli.  Did that keep Sanders voters home?  Quite possibly.  And it sounds like without Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee, a lot of those supporters stayed home for the general election, and opted to elect Donald Trump by their inaction (and that’s their prerogative, I suppose).  Of course, even the pledged delegates are technically on the honor system when it comes to voting for their pledged candidate, so how much your Democratic primary vote is actually worth is definitely debatable.

Otherwise, Hillary Clinton wasn’t a particularly inspiring candidate.  We knew exactly what we were getting with her through her 30-some years in public life, and her message was not that of hope and change like Obama or Sanders brought to the table for their respective candidacies, and could not be easily distilled down to something that could be easily understood and talked about by average Americans who aren’t “into” politics.  She had no slogan like “Change You Can Believe In” (which she once derided as “Change You Can Xerox“), or Trump’s “Make America Great Again”.  The “I’m With Her” slogan that they ended up using made the campaign seem like it was all about Hillary Clinton, and not about America.  Not “us”, but “me”.  In other words, it was Hillary’s turn, and this was to be her coronation.  She represented the establishment in what was turning out to be a “change” election from both sides, with a heavy presence of Bernie Sanders supporters on the Democratic side, and Donald Trump’s running away with the nomination on the Republican side.

Hillary Clinton’s choice of Virginia senator Tim Kaine was also rather uninspired.  I remember when Kaine was governor, and I voted for him in 2005, back when I still lived in Virginia.  What sticks out most to me about his otherwise fairly uneventful tenure as governor was in 2009 when, in an effort to balance the state budget, he closed a large number of highway rest areas.  Seeing so many closed rest areas along the highway, including consecutive rest areas, sent a very bad message about the state.  In fact, it was such a blunder that both candidates for governor that year made reopening all of the rest areas a part of their campaign platforms.  The only difference in Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds‘ platforms in that area was how quickly they would reopen them (90 days for McDonnell vs. 60 days for Deeds).

In any case, there were so many different directions that the Clinton campaign could have gone for vice president.  Kaine was a real snooze, likely picked because of where he was from, i.e. a swing state, and because he wouldn’t outshine Clinton.  He was a traditional, if uninspiring, pick.  He wasn’t able to reunite the party after Sanders’ defeat in the primaries, which I’m sure left many voters feeling disenchanted, and led them to stay home.  Choosing Bernie Sanders as a running mate would have done much to reunite the party, and would have ensured that the progressive issues that Sanders voters championed were represented.  Such a move, where the runner-up from the primaries gets the VP nod, would not be without precedent.  George Bush was Ronald Reagan’s rival in the Republican primaries in 1980, and clearly, the trick worked, as Reagan and Bush ran away with the election that year.

And if not Sanders, perhaps the Clinton camp could have gone with Elizabeth Warren, the senior senator from Massachusetts, who, like Sanders, is also a strong progressive.  The Clinton ticket didn’t need geographical balance as much as it needed ideological balance, by including a strong progressive to capture that “change” momentum from the Sanders campaign and keep those people in the fold.  With Kaine, they willingly gave up the progressives.

Ultimately, though, Hillary Clinton lost control of the conversation, as it became more and more about Donald Trump and his outlandish statements.  Hillary Clinton became a warm body who wasn’t Donald Trump, and in the end, the election felt like it was a referendum on Donald Trump.  I admit – I wanted to see Hillary Clinton win, but mainly because I didn’t want Donald Trump to win.  I wasn’t exactly impressed with Hillary Clinton based on her own merits, but I viewed her as better than the alternative.  Therefore, I feel like many on the left, myself included, were voting for her as a default choice, i.e. voting against Donald Trump, rather than voting for Hillary Clinton on her own merits.  And rarely do such votes produce a winning result.  After all, it’s hard to vote for a candidate that you’re not in love with.  I did for the reason that I stated a month ago: because I still had to live with myself should Donald Trump somehow pull out a victory – and he did.  My conscience is clean.

In the end, the expression, “May you live in interesting times,” seems like a fitting description of what we may have these next four years in a Trump administration.  And in any case, I hope that the Democrats take heed of the lessons to be learned in the aftermath of this election, and not make those same mistakes again.

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I’ve seen Christmas lighting, Halloween lighting, but never election lighting… https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/08/ive-seen-christmas-lighting-halloween-lighting-but-never-election-lighting/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2016/11/08/ive-seen-christmas-lighting-halloween-lighting-but-never-election-lighting/#respond Tue, 08 Nov 2016 05:00:22 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=25525 So Elyse and I were driving down 16th Street in DC last night, and we spotted a house near the intersection of 16th and Corcoran Streets NW with red and blue lighting in the front yard.  Hmm.  So we turned around and took a look:

Election lights in DC

Election lights in DC

Yes, folks, this is an election lighting display.  I’ve heard of Christmas lights and Halloween lights, but never before had I seen election lights before.  That was definitely a new one on me.

I have already gone over my opinions on the election, and so I don’t feel that I need to repeat them here.  However, the big day is now upon us.  If you are eligible, registered, and haven’t done so already via absentee or early processes, please go out and vote today.

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