The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Wed, 01 Apr 2020 17:26:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 37838674 Stack ’em up? https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/04/01/stack-em-up/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/04/01/stack-em-up/#respond Wed, 01 Apr 2020 05:25:25 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31976 So my latest experiments with photography have been with stacking exposures.  For those not familiar, the general idea behind stacked exposures is to take several short exposures instead of one long exposure, and then “stack” them on top of each other in order to simulate a photo with a longer exposure.  It is useful in situations where a true long exposure is impractical, such as when shooting in daylight.  The way it’s done is that you take all of the shots that you intend to stack out in the field, preferably using a tripod and a remote control for the shutter, and then do the stacking at home.

Whenever I test a new technique, I typically will shoot photos of something that I’ve photographed before.  This way, I already know what the photo is supposed to look like, and I know what works as far as angles go.  That eliminates a few variables so that I can just focus on the technique.  In this case, I did two field trips.  One was out to Point of Rocks and along Route 7 in Virginia and ultimately into DC, and the other was to Burnt Mills Dam off of US 29 in Montgomery County.  The Virginia trip was mostly for nighttime shots, and the Burnt Mills trip was for daytime shots.

At Point of Rocks, Elyse went trainspotting at the nearby MARC station while I wandered around with my tripod to photograph some stuff.  My focus was on the Point of Rocks Bridge and the Potomac River running under the bridge.  My focus was mainly on smoothing out the water.

Stacked image of the Potomac River and Point of Rocks Bridge

Stacked image of the Potomac River downstream from the Point of Rocks Bridge

Stacked image of the Potomac River downstream from the Point of Rocks Bridge

Stacked image of the Potomac River and Point of Rocks Bridge

Stacked image of the Potomac River downstream from the Point of Rocks Bridge

Not bad for a first try.  I got a nice rhythm down with the remote, listening for the shutter and watching for each image to pop in on the screen.  I also learned in post-production that these stacks take a very long time to process (so thank goodness for Reddit).

From here, we headed over the Point of Rocks Bridge into Virginia, briefly dimming the lights as a tribute to my old Kia Soul when we passed the area where the Soul burned two years ago, and ended up at the former Leesburg Walmart, which I photographed in daylight about a month ago.  I got this result from stacking a bunch of two-second exposures:

Ten two-second exposures of the former Leesburg Walmart, stacked

I was hoping to get the effect of a true long-exposure photo.  The idea was two seconds of exposure times ten exposures should equal something that looks like a twenty-second long exposure.  Rather, this looked like a single two-second exposure.  When I gave it a different stacking treatment (“summation”), I got this:

Ten two-second exposures of the former Leesburg Walmart, stacked with "summation" treatment

This was closer to what I was going for, but it was too much.  But then when I then hiked up the contrast, I got something closer to what I was looking for:

Ten two-second exposures of the former Leesburg Walmart, stacked with "summation" treatment and high contrast

That’s more like what I was looking for, but I still didn’t like the purple in the sky, though.  So I hiked it up even more:

Ten two-second exposures of the former Leesburg Walmart, stacked with "summation" treatment and high contrast

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I suppose.

We then headed down to the Adaire apartment building, which is a high-rise building across the street from Spring Hill station.  I photographed that once before back in September, in a largely unsuccessful photo shoot of the Tysons Corner area at night.  I don’t know if it was lack of inspiration or what have you, but the shoot produced a lot of stinkers.  The photos of the Adaire were the only ones that ever got released.  In any case, this is what I got on the stack shoot:

Adaire apartment building, stacked

That was 25 two-second exposures.  It doesn’t look like a longer exposure, but it’s not bad, either.  Compare this to a single 30-second shot of the same subject, from approximately the same angle, in September 2019:

I definitely have a lot more to figure out when it comes to image stacking for long exposure, but both images have their good qualities.

I also photographed the Mitre building in McLean:

The Mitre building, with several exposures stacked

Not a bad look, though a bit dark.  Then I switched it to summation:

The Mitre building, with several exposures stacked in summation mode

I liked the effect, but it really needed some contrast work.  So I fixed it:

The Mitre building, with several exposures stacked in summation mode with the contrast adjusted

It’s a bit redder than I had expected, but it’s not a bad look, either.

At this point, I was going to hit the Beltway and head home, but Elyse really wanted to go into DC to see how it looked all empty, so we went on in.  We ended up at the Capitol, where I got it from a few different angles:

Two-second exposures of the Capitol, stacked

Two-second exposures of the Capitol, stacked

Two-second exposures of the Capitol, stacked

These aren’t bad photos by any means, but they’re not what I intended, either.  That last image became a photo feature around the time that I shot these.

That was the end of shooting for that particular night.  Looking back at that adventure, I’m amused about my technique on this.  It was a relatively cold night for the time of year, and so my method of shooting was to set up the shot, park the car right behind it, and then cut the lights on the car.  This way, Elyse and I could be in the heat and comfortable while I had the window open clicking the remote.  For the Leesburg Walmart, where I did several angles (most of which came out blurry, unfortunately), I would move the tripod and set up the shot, then run back to the car, and drive it to within five feet of the tripod.  I’d take the shots using the remote and then hop out again, reposition the tripod, and then hop back in and reposition the car.  It worked, but in hindsight, it amuses me, since I feel like I was so lazy, shooting with the remote from the car.  But at least I wasn’t cold.  I also had the exterior lights turned off on my car in order to prevent that light from being captured in the shots.  I’m sure that an observer would have thought that I was nuts, driving in circles around the parking lot of a former Walmart with my lights out, occasionally hopping out to adjust things.

Then a few days later, I went down to Burnt Mills Dam right around sunset for practice with moving water.  I practiced there before in early 2013 when I was trying to shoot water with my old Canon SX10IS.  I don’t believe that I ever wrote about that earlier Burnt Mills adventure at the time, nor did I ever publish any of the shots, but I did write about some pre-work that I did at home.  The experiment in 2013 at Burnt Mills was a bit of a failure, as I realized that even with the fancy neutral density filter, my camera wasn’t capable of doing what I wanted to do because of its own limitations as a midrange camera.  That started the idea that it was time to take the plunge and upgrade to an SLR, but other events put that on the back burner for a few years.  I finally upgraded to an SLR in 2016, and I’ve been having fun with it ever since.

In this case, though, I got decent results:

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

Burnt Mills Dam

These photos are all stacked exposures, taken using the tripod and the remote on regular automatic mode.  The last shot also used flash.  You can see that frothy-water look to an extent with the stacks, though not as much as it might if I had let the shutter run a little longer on each shot.  I particularly like the swirling effect that’s visible just below the dam on that seventh shot.  The individual images don’t show that swirling, but when stacked, it shows the movement of the water, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

So all in all, I would consider this to be a good start.  I definitely need to do more research on whether stacked exposures is something that is feasible for long exposure photography.  I’ve found plenty of information about using the technique for astronomy photos, and there’s even specialized software for that, but I didn’t find much about using the technique for more earthbound subjects.  I tested all of this in the best way that I know how: by looking up the basics on how to do it, and then playing around with it and becoming comfortable with it.  I also got a lot of Reddit done while waiting for all of these stacks to process.  If anyone has some good advice for good nighttime photography with image stacking, please share.  The Walmart photos in particular are promising, but they’re not completely what I’d like.  In the meantime, I’m going to do some more research to see what I can turn up on things.

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The signs of social distance… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/28/the-signs-of-social-distance/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/28/the-signs-of-social-distance/#respond Sat, 28 Mar 2020 04:40:13 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31909 In the era of social distancing brought on by the novel coronavirus, I have definitely observed some changes in how the world looks.  As a person who works in an essential industry (people still have to go places, yo), I still get out quite a bit.  In my work, service levels have been reduced, and all trains are now eight cars in order to allow people to space themselves out, plus it’s strange to go through some stations in the middle of the day and pick up nobody.  It’s also strange seeing the message boards on the Beltway advising people in big letters to stay home.  It’s also strange to see so many people wearing gloves and surgical masks, even though those don’t do anything when the general public wears them as a preventative measure, and may actually be harmful if the person wearing them thinks that it excuses them from things like not touching their face, washing their hands, and so on.

In any case, most of the time when I’m going out, it’s to pick up a few things at stores, mostly on my days off of work.  The first thing that I noticed was the panic buying, as seen on March 14 at the Target in Rockville:

The toilet paper aisle, picked completely bare.
The toilet paper aisle, picked completely bare.

The laundry aisle, also picked nearly clean.
The laundry aisle, also picked nearly clean.

The household cleaning supplies were also pretty well picked over, though there was still a bit of stuff left.
The household cleaning supplies were also pretty well picked over, though there was still a bit of stuff left.

The bottled water was almost completely cleaned out.
The bottled water was almost completely cleaned out.

The bread aisle had definitely been hit by the panic buying, but I was surprised that it wasn't emptier.
The bread aisle had definitely been hit by the panic buying, but I was surprised that it wasn’t emptier.

I also got a few shots of panic buying at other stores:

At the Giant on Chain Bridge Road in McLean, the meat department had been mostly cleaned out.
At the Giant on Chain Bridge Road in McLean, the meat department had been mostly cleaned out.

At the Walmart in Tysons Corner, the soup and the canned vegetables had been mostly cleaned out.  You really got a feel for the stuff that nobody liked, because it was the only stuff left.
At the Walmart in Tysons Corner, the soup and the canned vegetables had been mostly cleaned out.  You really got a feel for the stuff that nobody liked, because it was the only stuff left.

All of the panic buying surprised me.  It was clear that people had no clue how to prepare for this sort of thing.  The purchasing was similar to the way people panic shop for a natural disaster such as a snowstorm, where they are planning to be stuck in the house for days on end.  This is not that.  Unless you have a natural disaster on top of a pandemic, you’re not going to have anything preventing you from going to the grocery store, and there are no disruptions in supply.

Then when social distancing began is when things really started to get real.  This is what my Metro ride on the Orange Line looked like on March 16:

My Metro ride on March 16

I had the entire car to myself, which is normally unheard of for that time of day.

And then after Maryland governor Larry Hogan closed the restaurants, we had this:

La Casita in Gaithersburg, open for carryout only, with the seating area shut down.
La Casita in Gaithersburg, open for carryout only, with the seating area shut down.

Harris Teeter in Olney, with the seating area closed off.  At this time, however, the salad bar was still operating normally.
Harris Teeter in Olney, with the seating area closed off.  At this time, however, the salad bar was still operating normally.

And then as time progressed, these signs of the times became more and more numerous:

No more fitting rooms at Target.
No more fitting rooms at Target.

Quantity limits on the items that people have panic bought the most.

Quantity limits on the items that people have panic bought the most.
Quantity limits on the items that people have panic bought the most.  (And the toilet paper and paper towel aisles were both completely cleaned out.)

Target even went so far as to shut down the water fountains in the front of the store.
Target even went so far as to shut down the water fountains in the front of the store.

Starbucks at Target is now shut down completely.  Earlier, even with the seating closed down, the counter was still open.
Starbucks at Target is now shut down completely.  Earlier, even with the seating closed down, the counter was still open.

Sign at the pharmacy at Giant Food asking people to be socially distant.
Sign at the pharmacy at Giant Food asking people to be socially distant.

Sign at a restaurant, requesting that people put on the provided gloves before taking a utensil.
Sign at a restaurant, requesting that people put on the provided gloves before taking a utensil.

Sign on the door at the Harris Teeter in Ellicott City asking people to practice social distancing.
Sign on the door at the Harris Teeter in Ellicott City asking people to practice social distancing.

The Harris Teeter salad bar has gone prepackaged.  That made me sad, because now I can't purchase only the quantities that I want, but have to pick a much larger size than I need.
The Harris Teeter salad bar has gone prepackaged.  That made me sad, because now I can’t purchase only the quantities that I want, but have to pick a much larger size than I need.

Closed restrooms at a park in Point of Rocks, Maryland.  And for what it's worth, portable toilets were nowhere to be found (I ended up doing my business behind a tree).
Closed restrooms at a park in Point of Rocks, Maryland.  And for what it’s worth, portable toilets were nowhere to be found (I ended up doing my business behind a tree).

Sheetz took their slush machines out of service, "For the wellbeing of our community."  However, considering how much sugar is in these things, getting rid of them entirely would likely be a net benefit to the well-being of the community.

Sheetz took their slush machines out of service, "For the wellbeing of our community."  However, considering how much sugar is in these things, getting rid of them entirely would likely be a net benefit to the well-being of the community.
Sheetz took their slush machines out of service, “For the wellbeing of our community.”  However, considering how much sugar is in these things, getting rid of them entirely would likely be a net benefit to the well-being of the community.

Sheetz started promoting their mobile app on their touchscreens.  I still used the touchscreen, though.  I imagine that the touchscreens are cleaned more often than most people's phones, too.
Sheetz started promoting their mobile app on their touchscreens.  I still used the touchscreen, though.  I imagine that the touchscreens are cleaned more often than most people’s phones, too.

At the 24-hour Giant near Montgomery Mall, I noticed this on the floor near the registers.
At the 24-hour Giant near Montgomery Mall, I noticed this on the floor near the registers.

Lowe's, meanwhile, installed plexiglass screens in front of the cash registers as a temporary measure.  I definitely did not like those things, as they were very in-your-face and off-putting.
Lowe’s, meanwhile, installed plexiglass screens in front of the cash registers as a temporary measure.  I definitely did not like those things, as they were very in-your-face and off-putting.

Giant did the screens as a temporary measure as well, suspending these from the ceiling.  I don't know what these are supposed to protect anyone from, but if it makes people feel better...
Giant did the screens as a temporary measure as well, suspending these from the ceiling.  I don’t know what these are supposed to protect anyone from, but if it makes people feel better…


Then at Target, they are enforcing checkout spacing, asking that no one come into the checkout aisles until called up.

Those signs were supplemented with these cutesy little feet markers, spaced six feet apart from each other.
Those signs were supplemented with these cutesy little feet markers, spaced six feet apart from each other.

Target also suspended all returns.  I can only assume that the real reason is that they don't want all of the panic shoppers' items back.
Target also suspended all returns.  I can only assume that the real reason is that they don’t want all of the panic shoppers’ items back.

However, of all of the places that we saw, CSNY Pizza in Rockville took things a bit too far.  Check this out:

Yes, they actually wrote “READ THIS SHIT!!” in big letters and put it on a sign in their window.  How unprofessional.  In order to comply with the various emergency rules put in force, I can understand closing the interior of the business to the public entirely, but there is a right way and a wrong way to communicate that to the public and to your delivery drivers.  I posted about this on Facebook, and was surprised about how many people defended the restaurant for this sort of obnoxious conduct.  Not only is the signage unprofessional, but the “don’t be a jerk” and “don’t come any closer” messages are obnoxious, as is the phone box.  As far as I’m concerned, this is showing the owners’ true colors, and I don’t have to take that from someone I’m giving money to.  It makes me think twice about wanting to patronize this restaurant in the future knowing that this is how they really behave.

In any case, I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to this whole period’s passing, and the return of normalcy.  I’m going to leave it at that for now, because while I do have my opinions about what’s going on, my feelings on the matter still feel incomplete, and I’m not quite ready to discuss it just yet.

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Enhancing the curb appeal of the house… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/14/enhancing-the-curb-appeal-of-the-house/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/14/enhancing-the-curb-appeal-of-the-house/#respond Sat, 14 Mar 2020 12:15:27 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31765 At last, it is gone:

The tree in my front yard

You don’t know how glad that I am that this tree is gone.  Take a look at the house now:

No more tree!

Now, you can actually see the house, which I think is an improvement.  After all, I paid a lot of money for this house, and I want everyone to see it.  And now, with that ugly tree out of the way, you can.  That tree really did hide the house before.  There were also a few occasions where I nearly killed myself slipping on either blossoms or fallen leaves.

Though speaking of a tree that hides the house, I found a photo of the tree on Bing Maps from back in 2014 when the tree was larger:

The tree at its largest extent
Photo: Bing Maps

As you can see, that tree was a real beast.  Its limbs reached across four different properties at one time.  I don’t know when it was trimmed back, but all of the real estate photos that I could find for the four affected properties show the tree in its final form, pruned back to where it only towers over my property.

Getting rid of this tree was a long time coming.  I hated that tree from the moment that I first laid eyes on it, because it was ugly.  The rest of the house was awesome, though, and so I was willing to overlook the tree.  When I had the home inspection, the inspector asked me point blank if I was planning to get rid of the tree.  I said that I was.  For the last two years and some change, I had thought about getting rid of that tree.  At first, the biggest obstacle to the tree was Elyse, since she was adamant about keeping the tree.  Then after seeing some big bugs living in the tree, she changed her tune and came around to my side on it – or at least didn’t vehemently oppose it anymore.  Meanwhile, I waited a long time to do this because of other funding priorities.  After all, I had to get a new car a few months after I got the house, and so that occupied some funds that I would otherwise have had available for that.  I also put more effort into work on the interior of the house than the exterior, since I would be spending more time looking at the inside than the outside.  Thus I put more time and money into furniture and repainting much of the house (speaking of which, I do have another completed paint job to show you, but I want to clean up a bit before I photograph it).

One thing that I also considered was doing the tree removal myself.  The way I figured, I had the extension pole from the painting project, and maybe if I could get a saw end to put on the end of my extension pole, I could cut it down a little at a time over a period of weeks until it was all gone.  It seemed feasible enough, but Elyse wasn’t exactly enthused about it.  She told me that it was more likely that I would either hurt myself or damage something important, and thus really shouldn’t do it myself.  I begrudgingly agreed that it was probably a bad idea to attempt it myself.  Then this year, I used some of my tax refund money to cut the tree down.  I used Shifflett Tree Service, and they came out and made quick work out of it.  No more tree!

And here’s Elyse standing on the pile of wood chips remaining after they finished:

Now, with the tree gone, I need to see what else I can do to improve the landscape.  2020 might just be the year of the landscape, as I have plenty of things that I need to do with the outside of the house, including weeding the backyard, power washing a few things such as the deck, backyard brick, and fence, fixing the grass in the front yard, and also a few other odds and ends.  I suppose that a homeowner’s work is never done…

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Fun in Pennsylvania… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/07/fun-in-pennsylvania/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/03/07/fun-in-pennsylvania/#respond Sat, 07 Mar 2020 15:00:08 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31670 I guess that you could say that my March came in like a lion.  On March 1 and 2, Elyse and I did an overnight trip to south-central Pennsylvania, a 350-mile journey that took us to an abandoned motel, to Breezewood, through three of the four mainline tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, to Harrisburg, and then back home.  All in all, we had a fun time.

Our first stop was the aforementioned abandoned motel.  This was a former Days Inn near Breezewood, and from what we could tell, it had been abandoned since 2013, and, from the looks of things, it will never be occupied again.  Just about every piece of glass in the place had been shattered, the ceiling in the hallways had either fallen down or been pulled down, and there was mold everywhere.  Lovely place.

Welcome to Days Inn!
Welcome to Days Inn!

Exterior of the building, which was built in 1991 according to public records.
Exterior of the building, which was built in 1991 according to public records.

The main lobby.

The main lobby.
The main lobby.

First floor corridor.  Note that the drop ceiling is completely gone.  Wires were hanging from the ceiling, as well as bits of ceiling grid.
First floor corridor.  Note that the drop ceiling is completely gone.  Wires were hanging from the ceiling, as well as bits of ceiling grid.

First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.

First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.
First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.

Edwards fire alarm horn/strobe.  The fire alarm panel was completely trashed, but the horns were still completely intact.
Edwards fire alarm horn/strobe.  The fire alarm panel was completely trashed, but the horns were still completely intact.

Smashed toilet.  None of the toilets in the facility were fully intact, though some were better than others.
Smashed toilet.  None of the toilets in the facility were fully intact, though some were better than others.

Apparently, Phil Dulaney of Afton Mountain isn't alone in just leaving personnel records out in the open after abandoning a business, as the former owners of this business did it, too.  We found personnel records of all sorts in a filing cabinet in one of the rooms.
Apparently, Phil Dulaney of Afton Mountain isn’t alone in just leaving personnel records out in the open after abandoning a business, as the former owners of this business did it, too.  We found personnel records of all sorts in a filing cabinet in one of the rooms.

Laundry room.
Laundry room.

Days Inn "Cost Tumbler" program on 3.5" floppy disk.  It's hard to get more nineties than that.
Days Inn “Cost Tumbler” program on 3.5″ floppy disk.  It’s hard to get more nineties than that.

Room 104, which was the moldiest room that we found in the place.
Room 104, which was the moldiest room that we found in the place.

The Four Seasons Restaurant, located next door.  According to public records, this facility was shut down in 2009 for health violations.  I don't know if it reopened after that, but it is very much abandoned now.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, located next door.  According to public records, this facility was shut down in 2009 for health violations.  I don’t know if it reopened after that, but it is very much abandoned now.

Restaurant interior, completely trashed.

Restaurant interior, completely trashed.
Restaurant interior, completely trashed.


Basement of the restaurant building.

One of several shower areas in the basement of the restaurant.
One of several shower areas in the basement of the restaurant.

That shower facility gave Elyse and me the impression that this motel was part of a truck stop, and catered primarily to truckers.  The facility is very close to the freeway, has a very large parking lot in the back (much larger than a motel of that size would otherwise need), signage for scale facilities (for weighing trucks), and a truck fueling facility on a pad site in front.

I later found some photos online of both the motel and the restaurant from when they were still in operation.  One day, if we go back to this place, I should recreate these photos showing the facility in its present state for comparison purposes.

Leaving the abandoned motel, we headed up to Breezewood.  When we arrived at Breezewood, we went in search of a place for Elyse to find a pair of pants, as she messed up her pants at the motel.  We ended up going to a Dollar General slightly west of the main Breezewood strip, but first, we happened upon this:

Former Howard Johnson's gate lodge

This appears to be the gate lodge for what was once a Howard Johnson’s motor lodge.  It was apparently most recently a place called Second Blessings, which was a church-run thrift store of some sort.  There’s no information on Rich Kummerlowe’s Howard Johnson’s site about this facility, so I don’t know anything about it other than that this is clearly the standard architecture for Howard Johnson’s, albeit in yellow rather than orange.

Then in Breezewood itself, I got some quick photos of the strip:

Breezewood

Breezewood

Every time I go to Breezewood, it just gets more and more depressing.  Breezewood has now lost a truck stop.  The Flying J truck stop is now out of business.  How does a place like Breezewood lose a truck stop?  One more indication that Breezewood is a dying area.  There are now like four closed motels in Breezewood, as well as a closed truck stop and several closed restaurants.  I remember in my 2006 visit, the strip was fully occupied.  That is not the case anymore, unfortunately.

After eating lunch at Sheetz, we stopped over to check out the entrance to the abandoned turnpike in daylight.  I’ve wanted to go up on the abandoned part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike for quite some time in order to photograph, but I am not about to walk all of that distance or bike all of that with the photo gear that I want to bring, let alone getting Elyse out there, too.  I would want to bring something powered up there, rules be damned, and just drive out to the locations where I want to photograph.  Barricades preclude bringing the HR-V in there, so it would need to be something smaller.  If anyone knows a good way to do this, let me know, because I would love to photograph up there if I can make it work.

After this, we took the Pennsylvania Turnpike across to Harrisburg.  This took us through the Tuscarora, Kittatinny, and Blue Mountain tunnels, which are always fun to do.  In Harrisburg, we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn, where, much to my surprise, we got a free upgrade from a studio to a two-bedroom suite.  I don’t know what I did to get such an upgrade, but I didn’t mind, as Elyse and I each got our own bedrooms.  We went swimming in the hotel pool, which was a fun adventure.

The biggest surprise at the hotel was the fire alarms:

This is the CWSI model 310 pull station, which transmits wirelessly.  It reminds me of what you might get if a Fire-Lite BG-12 and my Ademco 5140MPS-2 had a baby together.  This pull station was discontinued in 2019, so it will remain rare.

The next day, our plan was to check out a few things in Harrisburg.  We had been to Harrisburg before, and this visit was a follow-up on some of those visits.  We wanted to see Three Mile Island, which we had gotten a glimpse of from the freeway back in 2016, and then I also wanted to photograph some stuff downtown.  As far as Three Mile Island went, I had done my research.  We couldn’t get onto the property itself owing to obvious security concerns (it is a nuclear plant, after all, albeit decommissioned), but I did find a place to take in the view of the plant from across the river.  There’s a clearing on River Road where power lines go across the Susquehanna River to the plant, and that was the spot to go.

I got some pretty nice shots of the facility.  My favorite is this phone photo using the panoramic feature:

Three Mile Island

I also got some photos with my real camera:

The cooling towers for the long-dormant Unit 2.  This unit was decommissioned following the accident that occurred here in the 1970s.
The cooling towers for the long-dormant Unit 2.  This unit was decommissioned following the accident that occurred here in the 1970s.

Cooling towers for Unit 1.  These were decommissioned last year.
Cooling towers for Unit 1.  These were decommissioned last year.

As much of a panorama of the plant as I could get in a single shot.
As much of a panorama of the plant as I could get in a single shot.

Not too shabby, if you ask me.

After this, we headed downtown.  It had started to cloud up by this point due to an incoming rain system, but I made the best of it, though my shooting felt uninspired:

Fulton Bank building.
Fulton Bank building.

Sign on the Fulton Bank building.
Sign on the Fulton Bank building.

Traffic light.
Traffic light.

Bent street signs at the intersection of River and Walnut Streets.
Bent street signs at the intersection of River and Walnut Streets.

Pedestrian bridge to City Island.
Pedestrian bridge to City Island.

Fire alarm in a parking garage adjacent to Strawberry Square.
Fire alarm in a parking garage adjacent to Strawberry Square.

I suppose that a cloudy day takes the wind out of my sails a bit.  But I think that I got something usable out of it.  Look on my Flickr later on, as I’m sure that some stuff will turn up there.

After this, we went a very roundabout way to get to I-81 to return home.  We also made a side trip to Geisinger Holy Spirit Hospital so that Elyse could film some elevators.  I waited in the car, but I did get a photo of this thing, covered in ice:

Covered in ice.

Leaving Harrisburg, we headed to Chambersburg, where we stopped in at Rutter’s.  We got dinner, and Elyse had an alcoholic smoothie.  And then we headed home.  All in all, this wasn’t a bad trip.  I definitely want to do more overnighters in the future.

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These photos could have been taken anywhere… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/28/these-photos-could-have-been-taken-anywhere/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/28/these-photos-could-have-been-taken-anywhere/#respond Fri, 28 Feb 2020 13:30:07 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31571 While on an outing on Thursday, I stopped to photograph the former Walmart store in Leesburg, Virginia.  I had been planning a photo shoot here ever since the store closed in May 2019, upon the opening of a new Supercenter store elsewhere in the Leesburg area.  I was drawn to this location because, unlike a lot of former Walmart stores, this one left a massive labelscar on the building due to repaintings over the years, as revealed in photos taken by Aaron Stone.  Other Walmarts that closed have had lesser labelscars, and Walmart has also been known to paint out their labelscars.  But this one had “WAL★MART” still easily readable in blue.  I felt something of a sense of urgency in getting down to this location, because who knows how long a former Walmart will sit idle.  Other former Walmart stores in the DC area have been scooped up relatively quickly, such as the former Manassas Walmart, which was quickly converted to other uses.  So who knew how long this might remain in this form.

Arriving on site, I couldn’t have gotten better shooting conditions.  The skies were partly cloudy, with only a small amount of cloud cover, which worked to my benefit.  Completely clear skies make for slightly bluish photos that need to be color corrected in post-production, while partly cloudy skies tend to lend to more accurate colors that require less work at the computer.  My only complaint about the conditions was that it was cold and windy, which was not fun to shoot in.  By the time I finished this shoot, which took about 25 minutes to do, I was quite cold.  It took me some time to warm back up once I got back in the car.

In any case, here are the results from the shoot:

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

Former Walmart in Leesburg, Virginia

I suppose that I got a few winners in there.  All in all, I’m content with the photo shoot.

And I really did enjoy photographing that labelscar.  I suppose that this came about because of the period when this store was last updated.  This store had the mid-2000s design with the large signs against the wall, just before the logo was changed.  During this period, Walmart was painting the sign area, which was normally blue, into either a yellow or a pumpkin color.  The logo was still the same, so the remodeling work painted around the letters.  And then when the store closed, the letters were removed and no paintout was done, resulting in what you see.  It surprised me, but I was tickled to see it.

While doing this shoot, I was also struck by how generic what I was shooting was.  This was a 1990s-era pylon-style store.  Walmart built hundreds of these.  If you look on my Flickr, I have photos of seven different current and former pylon-style stores.  Whenever I’ve gone to Chicago via the Capitol Limited, I’ve always spotted a Walmart out of the left side of the train somewhere in Indiana (by the way, what town is that Walmart in?).  And there are many more.  I could have conceivably shot this at any of those locations, because they all look the same.  I could tell you any location in America, and you would probably not question it.

Meanwhile, I wonder what eventually happens to this building.  It’s located in a fairly well-traveled area, with several other shopping centers and an outlet mall within a mile’s distance.  Something tells me that it will be leased out before too long, but I couldn’t tell you when.

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The remodeling of a Walmart store… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/19/the-remodeling-of-a-walmart-store/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/19/the-remodeling-of-a-walmart-store/#respond Wed, 19 Feb 2020 21:33:23 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31183 Back in 2005, I was living in my parents’ house and working for Walmart.  I tended to go out a bit after work in order to unwind, and when I did, I would usually do a circuit that took me from my store in Waynesboro up Afton Mountain, down the Blue Ridge Parkway as far south as Route 60, go west on Route 60 to Lexington, and then head back home via I-81.  When I did this, the Walmart in Lexington tended to be one of my stops, as it was a logical place to get up, walk around, and shop if I needed to (I didn’t like shopping at my own store because I didn’t feel like a customer there, nor was I treated like a real customer).  For a few months that year, Walmart remodeled that store from the late-1990s design that it was given when it was expanded to a Supercenter to the then-current store design, which was the mid-2000s black signage with brown walls.  For some reason, I documented this remodel throughout the process via cell phone photos.  So here it is.  Forgive the quality, because cell phone cameras at the time didn’t take much better photos than a potato, and using Big Mavica would have been too obvious.

Prior to the remodel, the Walmart in Lexington was a typical 1990s pylon-style Supercenter, with a gray and blue color scheme, and late 1990s signage.

Prior to the remodel, the Walmart in Lexington was a typical 1990s pylon-style Supercenter, with a gray and blue color scheme, and late 1990s signage.

Prior to the remodel, the Walmart in Lexington was a typical 1990s pylon-style Supercenter, with a gray and blue color scheme, and late 1990s signage.
Prior to the remodel, the Walmart in Lexington was a typical 1990s pylon-style Supercenter, with a gray and blue color scheme, and late 1990s signage.

Early work was mainly painting walls and replacing floor tile.

Early work was mainly painting walls and replacing floor tile.

Early work was mainly painting walls and replacing floor tile.
Early work was mainly painting walls and replacing floor tile.

In the clothing areas, the carpeting was replaced by wood-look tile.  Interestingly enough, I learned from working at Walmart back then that the color of the carpet was chosen because it was the same color as most stains.  The wood look is definitely an improvement.
In the clothing areas, the carpeting was replaced by wood-look tile.  Interestingly enough, I learned from working at Walmart back then that the color of the carpet was chosen because it was the same color as most stains.  The wood look is definitely an improvement.

Pharmacy renovation.  The pharmacy was moved into a temporary structure on the salesfloor while the regular pharmacy space was renovated.

Pharmacy renovation.  The pharmacy was moved into a temporary structure on the salesfloor while the regular pharmacy space was renovated.

Pharmacy renovation.  The pharmacy was moved into a temporary structure on the salesfloor while the regular pharmacy space was renovated.
Pharmacy renovation.  The pharmacy was moved into a temporary structure on the salesfloor while the regular pharmacy space was renovated.

The new front end replaced the old color scheme with blue registers and red numbers with black, and introduced self checkout machines for the first time.  The self checkouts were IBM models.

The new front end replaced the old color scheme with blue registers and red numbers with black, and introduced self checkout machines for the first time.  The self checkouts were IBM models.
The new front end replaced the old color scheme with blue registers and red numbers with black, and introduced self checkout machines for the first time.  The self checkouts were IBM models.

By a month into the remodel, the exterior of the store was painted different shades of brown and tan, and the red stripe around the middle of the building was completely painted out.
By a month into the remodel, the exterior of the store was painted different shades of brown and tan, and the red stripe around the middle of the building was completely painted out.

Tile replacement in action.  Crews used a ride on machine to scrape the old tile off of the concrete, and then laid new tile.  The old tile had gray flecks, and the new tile had brown flecks.  Additionally, all red lines on the salesfloor were done away with.

Tile replacement in action.  Crews used a ride on machine to scrape the old tile off of the concrete, and then laid new tile.  The old tile had gray flecks, and the new tile had brown flecks.  Additionally, all red lines on the salesfloor were done away with.
Tile replacement in action.  Crews used a ride on machine to scrape the old tile off of the concrete, and then laid new tile.  The old tile had gray flecks, and the new tile had brown flecks.  Additionally, all red lines on the salesfloor were done away with.

New black wall and aisle signage going up in the grocery section.

New black wall and aisle signage going up in the grocery section.

New black wall and aisle signage going up in the grocery section.
New black wall and aisle signage going up in the grocery section.

The exterior signage is complete, with mixed-case text, and the addition of "Always" text over the entrances.
The exterior signage is complete, with mixed-case text, and the addition of “Always” text over the entrances.

And then the remodel was complete:

New signage is all installed in the grocery section.
New signage is all installed in the grocery section.

The renovated pharmacy is once again in service.
The renovated pharmacy is once again in service.

The clothing area, with new wood-look tile and signage.
The clothing area, with new wood-look tile and signage.

New lettering over the entrances.
New lettering over the entrances.

New aisle signage.  This remodel brought a sign over every single aisle, listing what it contained, greatly aiding navigation in the era prior to smartphones.
New aisle signage.  This remodel brought a sign over every single aisle, listing what it contained, greatly aiding navigation in the era prior to smartphones.

All in all, not a bad remodel.
All in all, not a bad remodel.

Since these photos were taken, the Walmart in Lexington has been remodeled at least twice.  According to Google Maps imagery, it is now wearing the current “Black 2.0” decor package, which has white walls and black signage.  The floors are still tiled, unlike other stores that have done away with the tile in favor of polished concrete.  Whether it’s because this store was converted to a Supercenter from a smaller store, I don’t know.  And, interestingly enough, the cash registers and numbers from the 2005 remodel are still there, while the self checkouts have been replaced.  Thus the front end is now a mix of black and blue, which is a tad jarring.  But that’s Walmart for you, I suppose.

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A Facebook comment should not bother me this much… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/11/a-facebook-comment-should-not-bother-me-this-much/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/02/11/a-facebook-comment-should-not-bother-me-this-much/#respond Tue, 11 Feb 2020 16:11:04 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=31049 Recently, I commented on a post on the Facebook page for WHSV, the local ABC affiliate for Harrisonburg, Virginia, and got some unusual feedback.  The original post was for an article about Trump’s participation in the “March for Life“, an anti-choice demonstration held annually in DC on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Before I continue, though, it seems worthwhile to explain my stance on the matter of abortion.  My stance is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.  But ultimately, it’s not my call.  What other people do with their bodies is their business, and it doesn’t affect me.

I also believe that abortion is more or less a settled matter, but that it has value for the GOP as a campaign issue.  In other words, the Republican Party will talk a big game about it, but ultimately, no one is going to ban abortion.  Ever.  Why ban it and settle the matter decisively in your favor, when you can bring it up as a campaign issue every election cycle and raise money and get people to vote based on it?  To actually ban abortion would be to kill the golden goose, and also hand a massive fundraising opportunity to the Democrats.  Maybe I’m a bit cynical about the whole thing, but I imagine that if they were really going to act on that issue, they would have done it by now, during the various periods where the GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.  That they haven’t done that tells me that they are not interested in settling it.

All that said, in response to the article, I said the following:

"It's an election year, so Trump is trying to gin up his base. I imagine that Trump actually doesn't give two shits about the issue of abortion, because Trump is only interested in himself."

Basically, for all of the aforementioned, I have no reason to think that Trump appeared for any other reason than to stump as part of his reelection campaign.  I really don’t think that he is all that concerned about it, except that these people tend to reliably vote Republican, and so he’s shoring up his base.

Now, to put it nicely, the comments on the WHSV Facebook page are, for the most part, a toxic cesspool.  You tend to get a lot of ignorant right-wingers responding based on emotion.  Reasonable comments are relatively few and far between.  So I kind of expect a wacko response written out of emotion whenever I comment.  In this case, my comment garnered one response:

"so you know the president personally and have discussed his views on life?!? WOW! KUDOS to you for really talking with a person before assuming what their motive is for saying something."

This is a pretty typical ignorant right-winger response rooted in emotion that I might get on a WHSV post.  It attacks the commenter rather than the substance of the comment, and is written in a relatively rude tone.

The problem with this particular comment was who it came from: this person was my eighth grade science teacher back in 1994-1995.  Now, in all fairness, I don’t think that she realized who was making the comment – thus why I blurred her name and photo in the screenshot.  We’re friends on Facebook, and I have no doubt that Facebook served this comment up to her because of our friends connection, saw a comment that is not stroking Trump’s ego, and responded, likely missing the name of who was commenting entirely.

The only thing that I could think of when I saw this was, “Come on, I know that you’re better than this.”  After all, this is my former teacher, and I respected them.  This sort of behavior caused me to lose respect for them, and I didn’t like that.  I knew that she could handle herself better than this, with her having worked with eighth graders all day for many years.  I also know that if I ever spoke to her (or any other teacher) like that in school, I would be in the office for being disrespectful in short order, and no one would question that result.  Same goes the other way around.  Don’t be disrespectful, no matter who it is.

I think that not every teacher realizes that to the vast majority of their students, they will always be the teacher, even outside of school, and even after they retire from teaching.  They will always be Mrs. So-and-So, no matter how old we get or how much time has passed.  My posts about fifth grade and seventh grade exemplify that, as I refer to the teachers involved as “Mrs. Bradley” and “Mr. Wade” consistently in their respective posts.  The same went for this teacher.  They will always be Mrs. Last Name to me, even though it’s been almost 25 years since I was her student.  To do otherwise would feel awkward, even at 38.  Mom has asked some of her now-grown former students to call her “Jane” instead of “Mrs. Schumin”, but I don’t know if I could necessarily do that if one of my old teachers asked that of me.  I think it might feel too awkward for me, even if we are all adults now.

It also makes me a bit disappointed in a response that this teacher gave when someone asked her something to do with politics.  I don’t remember the specific question, but she basically punted, stating, “I am a registered independent.”  I didn’t think much of it at the time, not knowing at the time how Virginia’s specific implementation of voting worked.  I now know that Virginia does not have party registration, and primaries are open.  So you can’t be a registered anything in Virginia, because they don’t collect that information from anyone.  You come in, and you pick the party ballot of your choice at the voting site.  In other words, the answer was, at best, a half-truth.  It’s true that there is no party registration, so everyone is “independent” in Virginia by default.  But you’re also not registered that way.  I get not wanting to engage in a political discussion with a bunch of 13-year-olds during what should be instructional time, but the question should have been avoided entirely.  Though I admit that “I am a registered independent” sounds a lot better than “I am a flaming right-winger”.

I was also not too surprised to learn that she was a right-winger, though, because considering how red of an area Augusta County is, I figured as much just going off of the odds.  Augusta County is one of those areas where you just assume that everyone is a Republican until you are informed otherwise.

All in all, this was a frustrating experience.  I don’t like losing some respect for people that I used to look up to.  I get that they’re people, too, and that teaching is just their job, but still…

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It’s been a month since the sleeve… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/01/19/its-been-a-month-since-the-sleeve/ Sun, 19 Jan 2020 19:05:04 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30788 It has been a little more than a month since I had the gastric sleeve surgery.  As of my one-month follow-up appointment with the doctor on January 7, I had lost 23 pounds since the surgery.  That is on top of the 16 pounds that I lost while I was on the pre-op liquid diet, for a total of 39 pounds lost in about six weeks.  Not bad.  I will get weighed next in the middle of February when I have my DOT physical, and so I’ll see how my weight loss is continuing at that time.

The time in the hospital was certainly an interesting experience, and my discussion of it in a previous Journal entry was a bit inadequate, since I was not quite feeling like myself again when I wrote it.  I’ve also learned a few things since then about what I experienced that I didn’t know at the time.  For one thing, I realized that the reason that I hurt all over was from the gas that they use with the laparoscopy.  As part of that process, they pump your abdomen full of carbon dioxide, and that stuff has to go somewhere once the surgery is over.  When everyone said “gas pains” about the surgery, I was expecting something more akin to bloating like when you eat something that doesn’t agree with you.  You know the kind where you go into the bathroom, you produce a little tiny Brazil nut-sized poop and then just fart a lot but feel better afterward?  That’s what I was expecting.  This was not that.  It turns out that the body has to absorb that gas, and it makes everything hurt, including things that had nothing to do with the surgery.  My upper back was sore.  My shoulders were sore.  My calves were sore, too.  It went away after a couple of days, but it definitely made for an unpleasant night at the hospital, since I was sore from that, and all of the stuff that they had attached to me made it difficult to move around in the bed.  Let’s just say that I was thankful to sleep in my own bed again the following night.  That pain from the gas was a lot more manageable when I was in familiar surroundings and not hooked up to a bunch of stuff.

You’ve also got to love the things that you say while you’re under the influence of the various things that they have you on in the hospital.  They gave me all kinds of anti-nausea meds, for one, but then when it was time to go into the operating room, they gave me some stuff through my IV that made me a bit loopy just before wheeling me in.  I got into the operating room, and I was thinking, oooooooooooh, look at the pretty lights as I studied all of the reflectors on them.  Then when they gave me the gas to put me out, all I could think of was that I wasn’t feeling sleepy.  Then the next thing that I remembered, it was done.  Later, as two nurses were wheeling me to my room on a stretcher, my hospital gown was apparently disheveled, because they asked me if my testicles were swollen.  I said, “No, I just have long nuts.”  I imagine that the nurses kind of died a little inside when I said that, but I suppose that such is what happens when the anesthesia is wearing off, because I certainly wouldn’t say that in real life.  But it made for a good laugh later on.

Then the recovery period was pretty good.  I gave myself an extra day of clear liquids before moving up to full liquids, because I didn’t feel confident about my ability to get enough plain water in me to move up to full liquids.  As it was, when I was at the hospital, right after the surgery, they gave me a tray full of gelatin, some kind of broth, and water, but I barely touched any of it.  Same thing again the next day.  I felt bad about wasting the broth, but if I could barely drink water, broth seemed too bold of a move.  Considering that a few hours after surgery, I threw up right after drinking water, I wasn’t going to chance it.  Also, because of the clear liquids that I was on for three days, along with the very little bit of residue that the pre-op diet produced, I didn’t poop for five days.  It was only after being back on full liquids for a few days that I finally did a poop again.  Along with actual liquids, I was also allowed to have yogurt and cottage cheese, because they dissolve in the stomach.

I also discovered what dumping syndrome was, as the stomach will reject something and just push it through.  I tried some ricotta cheese during this time, thinking that it would be like cottage cheese, but it went through me undigested.  I also accidentally consumed a protein shake too quickly, and that came out again in record time.  In either case, it was not a pleasant thing to have happen.

Two weeks out, I was given the clearance to move to soft foods.  That was a new challenge.  I had the liquid thing down pretty well, as I had consumed almost nothing but liquids for the month prior.  Now I had to actually get used to my new stomach, and see what it would and would not tolerate.  My stomach was still healing, and so I had to be careful.  The first thing that I tried was about the safest thing that I could think of: egg salad from Wegmans.  I got a scoop of it off of the salad bar, and had about half of it, and saved the rest for later.  So my first attempt at soft foods was a success.  I also gave scrambled eggs a spin, and they were also tolerated.

Christmas, however, was a challenge.  Elyse and I went to two Christmas events.  One was on Christmas Eve with Elyse’s father’s relatives, and the other was on Christmas Day with Elyse’s mother’s relatives.  I treaded carefully, and mostly succeeded.  On Christmas Eve, I had a little bit of turkey and some pulled pork.  Nobody can accuse me of not getting my protein in, I suppose.  I think that I ate slightly too much, but it stayed down, though I didn’t feel too hot after that.  Christmas Day, I had a little bit of deviled eggs, turkey, and ham.  I did better at that event, and we did other things after that, including some planespotting and some Christmas lights.  But when we got home, I had some leftover turkey that we had brought with us.  I made a small plate of it for myself, and tried to finish what I had put out.  I had one bite too many, and regretted it immediately.  Then I started feeling nauseous, and that leftover turkey came right back up.  I was kind of annoyed about that, but at least I could see that I did a great job chewing it up before swallowing, as I was taught in the classes with the dietitian (every class ended with a reminder of “chew, chew, chew, sip, sip, sip, walk, walk, walk”).  So that’s at least something, though there are a thousand and one things that I would rather do than to regurgitate what I just ate because I accidentally overdid it.

That said, one of the hardest things to get used to post-op was that just because it’s on your plate doesn’t mean that you have to eat it.  That whole “joining the clean plate club” thing goes right out the window, because it actually promotes overeating.  Once you feel full, stop.  I have gotten much better in determining what my limit is for a meal with my newly renovated stomach, but it still can be hit or miss.  I bought a set of six-ounce ramekins on Amazon about a week after surgery, and one of those is about the right size for a meal.  So I have a ramekin full of something, and I’m good to go.  But even then, sometimes I can’t finish.  It’s kind of funny how things work out, though.  Prior to surgery, Elyse would give me food to finish.  Now I give her food to finish.  We’ve also discussed sharing entrees when we go out, though we have not yet been to a place where that would be practical.  Lately, when we eat out, we have mostly gone to grocery stores with a food bar and an inside seating area, like Harris Teeter or Wegmans.  So I get a small scoop of something like egg, tuna, or chicken salad, and Elyse gets whatever she wants.  It certainly is cheaper now, as I can get dinner for two for under $20.  Figure that my own contribution is a few bucks, plus I don’t need to get a drink (you’re not supposed to eat and drink at the same time after bariatric surgery), and then Elyse does what Elyse does, and we’re good.  I can afford that.  I also like the way that the stomach restriction gives some structure to my eating.  I’ve always done well in structured situations, and this provides structure to eating, and I appreciate that.

Meanwhile, clothing has been interesting.  My uniform pants started to fit differently starting during the pre-op diet, and now, they are very loose.  My belt is presently the only thing standing between me and a wardrobe malfunction, as I’ve got that puppy cinched up tightly in order to keep my pants on.  I’m getting the pants altered later this week at the uniform shop, and I imagine that I will need to get further alterations done before I need to replace them (our uniform pants last around a year and some change before they wear out).  I also don’t need to wear a button extender on my collar anymore.  The collar now fits into itself just fine without strangling me.  In fact, I now have room to spare around the collar, which I always appreciate.  Additionally, my sweater vest now goes down lower than it did before.  That still has a lot of life left in it, though, so I don’t want to size it down right away (uniform stuff is not cheap).  I also had a recent occasion where I was cold all day while operating the train, which was an unusual thing for me.  I usually am warm enough in the train cab to where I can operate without a coat on, but on this particular occasion, I kept my coat zipped up and was praying to the Breda gods to give me more heat.  As far as regular clothes go, I’m down a size in jeans, and the size that I moved down to is starting to get a little loose.  Thankfully, I saved all of the pants that I had when I was last at a smaller size, and so I don’t have to buy anything there.  So as far as jeans go, once the belt becomes the only thing holding them up, I just have to dig up the next size.  At the time of surgery, I was wearing a 58, and now I’m in a 56.  Then I have 52, 48, and 44 on hand for when the time comes, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I’m also looking at joining a gym again.  Planet Fitness is still garbage, and I didn’t like the sort of exercise that I was doing there.  I have determined that I want to get back into the pool and swim again, and so I’m using that to guide my plans.  I checked out 24 Hour Fitness, which has locations near where I work.  However, one of the locations isn’t actually 24 hours, closing from midnight to 5 AM, meaning that I wouldn’t have enough time after work to get a workout in before they closed.  And in both cases, the pool was not open all night, closing before I would be able to get in there.  So that was disappointing, because they seemed like a pretty good facility otherwise.  The place seemed well-equipped, and there was none of that judgment-free nonsense that Planet Fitness hawked.  If the pool hours were right, I would probably go there.  The Montgomery County facilities are out, because they’re all relatively far from my house, and the hours don’t line up very well with my work schedule.  The problem with the MoCo pools is that they give priority to other programming, and lap swimmers are at the bottom of the totem pole, down where the dog lifts its leg.  That scheduling issue, coupled with the distance factor, is a deal breaker.  I still have to check out LA Fitness, and I have high hopes for them, though they’re not open overnight.  They have two locations in Gaithersburg, which isn’t the end of the world, as well as a location in Aspen Hill and Wheaton.  I would have to finagle my schedule a little bit to do them before work, but we’ll see, because I still haven’t seen any facilities.  After all, if the gym turns out to be nowhere I want to go, it doesn’t matter what the hours are, as we discovered with Planet Fitness.  So we’ll see there.

So all in all, I suppose that I’m doing pretty well, and hope to continue that success throughout the year.

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The sounds of Metro… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/01/18/the-sounds-of-metro/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/01/18/the-sounds-of-metro/#respond Sat, 18 Jan 2020 15:37:18 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30789 Back on July 8, 2007, my friend Matthew and I went on a railfan adventure with a different purpose than we would usually do.  Normally, a railfan adventure involved lots of photos and videos.  This time, instead of a camera, we brought a laptop and a microphone.  The goal was to get some audio recordings of the trains from the interior, for use in BVE, which is a train simulator program for Windows.  We worked from the double-ended seats, which were located more or less directly over the wheel trucks and traction motors.  I worked the laptop while wearing headphones, while Matthew held up the mic.  I’ve never been a big train simulator enthusiast (I prefer watching the real thing vs. operating a simulator), so I don’t know if these recordings ever got used in any of the final versions of these trains, but I loved doing the field work for these sorts of community-built projects.  I also did a set of Red Line announcements for the simulator.  As I know, there has never been a commercially available train simulator for the DC Metro, so for that, I enjoyed contributing in a small way to what was the only WMATA train simulator out there.

Our adventure that day took us on the Red, Orange, and Blue Lines, and we got recordings of cars 3273 (Breda original), 3185 (Breda rehab), 5028 (CAF), and 1130 (Rohr).


Original Breda car 3273 from Forest Glen to Silver Spring


Original Breda car 3273 from Takoma to Fort Totten


Original Breda car 3273 from Brookland-CUA to Rhode Island Avenue


Original Breda car 3273 from Union Station to Gallery Place-Chinatown


Original Breda car 3273 from Farragut North to Woodley Park-Zoo


Original Breda car 3273 from Cleveland Park to Tenleytown-AU


Rehabilitated Breda car 3185 from Van Ness-UDC to Cleveland Park


Rehabilitated Breda car 3185 from Woodley Park-Zoo to Farragut North


CAF car 5028 from McPherson Square to Foggy Bottom-GWU


CAF car 5028 from Rosslyn to Court House


CAF car 5028 from Clarendon to Virginia Square-GMU


Rohr car 1130 from Judiciary Square to Union Station


Rohr car 1130 from New York Avenue (now NoMa-Gallaudet University) to Rhode Island Avenue


Rohr car 1130 from Brookland-CUA to Fort Totten


Rohr car 1130 from Takoma to Silver Spring

Looking back in 2020, these recordings are a real blast from the past, since a lot of these sounds can’t be heard on Metro anymore.  The Rohr cars have been gone for almost three years at this point.  Likewise, the CAF cars were retired in 2018.  And the Breda cars’ rehabilitation was finished nearly twelve years ago, meaning that, combined with the 4000-Series’ retirement in 2017, the sound of the old DC chopper motors is now extinct on Metro (but Baltimore still has them for now).  Meanwhile, here’s something to think about as far as how much time has passed since these videos were made: that kid that you hear making noise on some of the Rohr videos is now in middle school.

All in all, this was a fun adventure.  Good memories.

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My second experiment with facial hair… https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/01/05/my-second-experiment-with-facial-hair/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2020/01/05/my-second-experiment-with-facial-hair/#respond Sun, 05 Jan 2020 13:53:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30660 Friday, January 3 concluded my second experiment in growing facial hair.  You may recall my first in October 2009, when I let my whiskers grow during a two-week vacation (16 days’ total growth), and then shaved it off at the end.  This time around, Elyse and I made a deal that I wouldn’t shave while I was at home recovering from my recent surgery, with the day of surgery’s being my last shave.  The agreement was that I wouldn’t shave again until either I couldn’t stand it anymore, or I went back to work, whichever came first.  As it turned out, I was able to go with it for the full period that I was out, which meant that I had 29 days’ worth of facial hair by the time that I shaved.  This is what a month’s worth of facial hair growth looks like on me:

The final beard, after 29 days of growth

The final beard, after 29 days of growth

The final beard, after 29 days of growth

The final beard, after 29 days of growth

Then Elyse got some photos of me sporting the beard while we were out planespotting at BWI on the 31st:

I suppose that if I were to describe my beard in a word, I would say “neckbeard”.  The sides come in pretty decently, and there’s a decent mustache that is a distinctly different shape than Dad’s mustache but doesn’t connect, but then there’s a lot of clear space on the front of my chin and around my mouth.  My neck, meanwhile, has lots of hair, which goes all the way down to the base of my neck.

When I went to shave it, Elyse wanted me to leave the mustache for some photos before finishing the shave.  Here’s what that looked like:

It’s an interesting look, but totally not me.  I thought it looked kind of early 1900s, and so I added my hat to see what I thought:

In any case, I sported this look for all of about ten minutes.  I think that if I wanted to, I could totally grow that out and make an Edwardian-style mustache out of that.  But I don’t, so… yeah.

And then I shaved that off, too:

Clean-shaven and smiling

I was happy to have my normal look back, despite many people’s suggestions on Facebook to keep the beard for a while longer (after a little prompting from Elyse).  Thing about it is that beards itch, plus I kept seeing the mustache in the corner of my eye and thinking that I had something on my nose.  That happened multiple times a day once it got some thickness, and that was annoying.

Meanwhile, in looking back at the way I shaved it, getting rid of the beard and then the mustache afterward, I’m reminded of what my mother has said many times about facial hair.  She says, if she could grow facial hair, “I would grow a beard, and then shave it off.  I would grow a mustache, and then shave it off.  I would grow long sideburns, and then shave them off.”  And then what did I do?  I had the beard, and then shaved it off.  I had the mustache, and then shaved it off.  I suppose that I am my parents’ child.

In any case, I suppose that this was a fun experiment, but I like the clean-shaven look.  Perhaps I’ll try this again one day, though I imagine that it won’t be any time soon.

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Christmas in Baltimore… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/29/christmas-in-baltimore/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/29/christmas-in-baltimore/#respond Sun, 29 Dec 2019 13:35:31 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30550 So Christmas was pretty fun this year.  On Christmas Eve, we had dinner with some of Elyse’s father’s relatives, and then on Christmas Day, we got together with some of Elyse’s mother’s relatives.  This was my first holiday with my new, smaller stomach, and so I was still getting used to its new capacity, figuring out how much I should take, what will be tolerated, and so on.  I believe that I overdid it by a tad on Christmas Eve, likely by eating foods that I wasn’t ready for yet, but I more or less nailed it on Christmas.  When you have a gastric sleeve like I did, you have to chew everything really well, and also not drink and eat at the same time.  Generally speaking, you have to give your stomach time to process the food that it just took in before resuming liquid intake.  Also, if you put too much in at once, it will get rejected, either by getting sent through to the intestines, or it’s coming back up.  But anyway…

After dinner on Christmas, Elyse and I went planespotting near BWI.  We had discusssed doing this for some time, even before our planespotting adventure at National, and on this particular occasion, it just worked out.  We were already in the Glen Burnie area, I had my real camera with me, and we had about an hour or so of daylight to play with.  The location where you typically planespot for BWI is actually specially designated for that purpose: the Thomas A. Dixon, Jr. Aircraft Observation Area.  It’s a very nice area that’s operated by Anne Arundel County, with a walking trail, playground equipment for the kids, and plenty of space to watch planes take off and land.  On this particular day, planes were landing over the park, and so I got some landing photos.  When it comes to planespotting at BWI, it can, for the most part, be summed up in one word: Southwest.  BWI is a focus city for Southwest, and as such, sees more Southwest traffic than anything else, and that also means a lot of Boeing 737s.

So here’s some of what I got:

N443WN, in the new Southwest livery.
N443WN, in the new Southwest livery.

N263WN, in the old Southwest livery.
N263WN, in the old Southwest livery.

N7745A, seconds away from landing.
N7745A, seconds away from landing.

N922VA, an Airbus A321-253N for Alaska Airlines.
N922VA, an Airbus A321-253N for Alaska Airlines.

N649AW, an Airbus A320-232 for American Airlines.  This airliner wore liveries for America West and US Airways prior to becoming part of American.
N649AW, an Airbus A320-232 for American Airlines.  This airliner wore liveries for America West and US Airways prior to becoming part of American.

N258JB, an Embraer 190AR for JetBlue.
N258JB, an Embraer 190AR for JetBlue.

An Air Canada propeller plane that I caught with my phone because I had already put the camera away.  Unfortunately, I can't make out the tail number on this one.
An Air Canada propeller plane that I caught with my phone because I had already put the camera away.  Unfortunately, I can’t make out the tail number on this one.

And in between those non-Southwest arrivals, I got a bunch of Southwest flights.  So all in all, I didn’t have a bad time, though I would love to come back here a little earlier in the day, and when I have clearer skies.

After this, we headed into Baltimore, in order to go to the “Miracle on 34th Street” Christmas light display.  This is a display that occurs on the 700 block of 34th Street in Baltimore, and is very much a neighborhood effort that has become something of a tradition (in other words, if you move in on this block, you are more or less expected to decorate).  The lighting displays were pretty good, with some more elaborate than others.  Take a look:

Not bad, if you ask me.  It definitely seems worth a look in future years, because a Christmas display is never the same two years in a row.

After this, we headed over to Ellicott City to see the lighting display on Red Hill Way.  I’ve discussed this guy’s lights in this space before, and he certainly does “DREAM BIG” when it comes to his display:

And of course, on the neighbors’ lawn:

And here’s the display in action:

All in all, I think that we had a fun day.

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Remembering Snowpocalypse… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/19/remembering-snowpocalypse/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/19/remembering-snowpocalypse/#respond Fri, 20 Dec 2019 04:40:09 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30451 This weekend marks ten years since the “Snowpocalypse” storm came to the Washington region and blanketed the area with a couple of feet of snow.  It was my first big snowstorm living in the Washington DC area, and it gave me my first snow day since college.  While I was stuck at home, I photographed the snow quite a bit.  After all, what else was I going to do while I was snowed in?

Snow coming down on Hewitt Avenue, seen from my apartment balcony, about four hours after the storm began.
Snow coming down on Hewitt Avenue, seen from my apartment balcony, about four hours after the storm began.

The next afternoon, snow has blanketed Hewitt Gardens Apartments.  We had more than a foot of snow at this point.
The next afternoon, snow has blanketed Hewitt Gardens Apartments.  We had more than a foot of snow at this point.

My car at the time, a Mercury Sable, covered with snow.
My car at the time, a Mercury Sable, covered with snow.

My apartment balcony, with an accumulation of snow on it.  I shoveled that clean myself.
My apartment balcony, with an accumulation of snow on it.  I shoveled that clean myself.

The vacant lot next to my building, after the snow had stopped, and the clouds had begun to clear.
The vacant lot next to my building, after the snow had stopped, and the clouds had begun to clear.

Cars completely buried in snow in front of my building.  The cars right next to the building got the most snow out of all of them for some reason.
Cars completely buried in snow in front of my building.  The cars right next to the building got the most snow out of all of them for some reason.

Cars parked along the side spaces, with a significant amount of snow accumulation, though nowhere near as much as the cars alongside the building got.
Cars parked along the side spaces, with a significant amount of snow accumulation, though nowhere near as much as the cars alongside the building got.

The parking lot at Hewitt Gardens Apartments after the snow stopped.
The parking lot at Hewitt Gardens Apartments after the snow stopped.

Final snow accumulation on my car.
Final snow accumulation on my car.

One of my neighbors clears a huge chunk of snow off of the trunk of his car.
One of my neighbors clears a huge chunk of snow off of the trunk of his car.

The Sable, after I cleared the topsides of it of snow.  I still had to dig myself a way to get out, though.

The Sable, after I cleared the topsides of it of snow.  I still had to dig myself a way to get out, though.
The Sable, after I cleared the topsides of it of snow.  I still had to dig myself a way to get out, though.

All in all, this was a fun snowstorm.  This was my first major snowstorm since I moved out of my parents’ house, and I think that I got through it pretty well, learning a lot about what happens during these sorts of major snowstorms, and how to deal with them.  I also learned that a snow day as an adult is just as fun as having a snow day as a kid – maybe even more fun.  We would repeat the experience less than two months later with two big back-to-back snowstorms in February 2010, but for that, I knew what to expect, having been through this one.

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I have been sleeved… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/07/i-have-been-sleeved/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/12/07/i-have-been-sleeved/#respond Sun, 08 Dec 2019 00:50:20 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30247 So it’s a done deal.  I received a sleeve gastrectomy on December 6 at Montgomery General Hospital.  Here I am the following morning:

Selfie at the hospital

The process at the hospital was pretty straightforward.  I got there, I got checked in, and then went into the prep room.  First I got changed into the gown that you see in the selfie.  Then I got weighed.  I was surprised to find out that I had lost 17 pounds on the pre-op liquid diet that they had me on twelve days prior to surgery.  I figured that I had lost a little weight, as my clothes had started to fit a tad differently, but 17 pounds off was beyond my wildest expectation.  After this, they put me on a stretcher, and started an IV.  I was a surprisingly hard stick this time, as it took four tries to get a vein, and they all hurt like hell.  They explained that because I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink due to the surgery, my veins didn’t present as well as they normally would.  This is what it all looked like when they got it hooked up:

Hooked into the IV

Then I met with the anesthesiologist, the surgeon, and other various personnel.  Then it was time to go to the operating room.  They started out by giving me some drugs intraveneously, moved me to the operating table, gave me the anesthetic gas, and then I was out like a light.  I awoke in the recovery room, where they told me that the surgery was done, and that it had gone very well.  Good.  Of course, now I had to get used to having a much smaller stomach that needed to heal.  Not long after I woke up, I threw up, producing a brownish, watery fluid, which I was told was normal following this sort of surgery.  They also said that some gas was to be expected, as that a byproduct of the way that the laparoscopic surgery worked.  So burping and farting was good, as it was expelling that gas.

One of the big things about the healing process with this surgery is walking.  The doctor said to walk a lot, and we did, going from my room, 418, to the other end of the floor and back.  Here’s a photo that Elyse got of one of my walks:

Taking a walk down the hospital corridor

The biggest challenge was in getting enough fluids and keeping them down.  The hospital provided little communion-sized cups for drinking water out of as a reminder to sip liquids.  I did one of those cups in one go, and threw up again a minute or so later.  Clearly, my stomach was not yet ready to take that much water on at once.  Duly noted.  So I took very tiny sips of water, and that stayed down.

The overnight stay was one of the worst sleeps that I’d had in quite some time.  I had a bit of upper back pain from the way that they had me placed for the surgery, and that prevented me from getting a good night’s rest.  That, coupled with the soreness from the recent operation and all of the various tubing that they had on me made for an uncomfortable night.  I also didn’t have my watch, so when I did wake up a few times in the middle of the night, I had no idea how long I had slept for, or how much more time I had to sleep.  I ended up getting up at 6 AM, which was quite early for me.

Shortly after getting up, I tried some water, and threw up again.  Lovely.  After that, they got me ready for discharge, removing the IV and such, and I got changed back into regular clothes.  Elyse’s mother took us home.  One of my instructions upon discharge was to make sure that I walked up and down stairs at least three times a day.  My exact response was, “Not a problem.  I live in a townhouse.”  And since getting home, I think I’ve already met that requirement just going up and down between the living room and upstairs, and up and down from the mezzanine.  I’m confident, due to the layout of my house, that I will get a lot more stairs in before it’s over.

Meanwhile, I’m off of work for the next four weeks while I recover.  That will be good for me, giving me time to heal up, plus it gives me a bit of a break from the usual routine while I heal.

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This should have happened a long time ago… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/11/25/this-should-have-happened-a-long-time-ago/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/11/25/this-should-have-happened-a-long-time-ago/#comments Mon, 25 Nov 2019 13:35:39 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30112 Recently, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and there was someone that I didn’t know in my “People You May Know” list who had an emblem for an organization called “Food & Water Workers Union” on their profile photo.  This piqued my interest, because as you may know, I used to work for an organization called Food & Water Watch.  The similarity in the name made me wonder if it was related, so I looked it up.  I figured that it was some branding that my former employer was using for a campaign of some sort on the environmental issue du jour.  Imagine my surprise to find out that it was for a recently-formed Food & Water Watch employee union, part of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union.  At the time of this writing, they had voted to unionize, and, according to a tweet, were negotiating over which positions will be represented by the union.  I have to say that I’m proud of them for organizing, but I’m also surprised that it took them this long to get to this point.  Their becoming a union shop really should have happened a long time ago.

I don’t know what prompted people to organize, but I can only imagine that people finally got fed up with the culture that I left for greener pastures back in 2013.  Back then, there was rampant favoritism, little to no room for advancement, no respect for different people’s roles in the organization, and no respect for procedure.  There was also the backdoor way that my former boss, Lane Brooks, liked to use to get rid of people, including the finance manager and myself, by creating a new position specifically written to be outside of the targeted employee’s qualifications, and then advertising it out, effectively demoting the employee.  If that by itself didn’t make them leave, he would then put the screws on the employee until they quit.  And if that didn’t work, he made more overt moves to fire them.  After the targeted employee left, the new position was abandoned, having served its purpose in ousting the targeted employee.

In addition, I remember feeling quite resentful of what they did to our health insurance benefits at the end of 2012, downgrading us from a Blue Cross PPO to a plan called “HealthyBlue”, which was an HMO plan that also required taking some online surveys about our health and speaking with an insurance company representative over the phone about our health in order to receive the full benefits of the plan.  “Yes, take away my PPO that is very easy to use for something that requires a lot of unnecessary doctor visits due to referral requirements, and requires that I speak with a stranger over the phone about my lifestyle in order to get all of my benefits,” said no employee ever.  I don’t care that you saved the organization $100,000 by downgrading our health insurance.  I thought that we were worth the extra 100 grand to have excellent health insurance, but apparently they didn’t.  Touting a “generous” benefit package in job advertisements didn’t mean much when they could cut them back at any time.  However, considering that we had no employee contribution to the premium, I, along with others, I’m sure, felt at the time that we would be out of place to complain about it, because we had no direct financial stake in our insurance benefits.  It reminds me of the expression, “United, we bargain.  Divided, we beg.”

About a year and a half after I left the organization, I wrote this about the organization on Glassdoor:

The organization has a major problem with favoritism.  Basically, if you work in the organizing or development departments, you are on top of the heap, and everything that you say is law.  If you are outside of those areas, it is made quite clear by the actions of others that your roles are inferior to those of organizing and development.  Those two areas also got the bulk of the training and professional development, while others were given little, if any.  I found that this created a culture of resentment amongst the “non-favored” employees, which poisoned the well in terms of interdepartmental relationships.  Organizing and development staff would continually deny this, while happily reaping the benefits of their favored status.

Likewise, unless one is in the organizing or development departments, the likelihood of professional advancement is slim to none.  While development and organizing staff are routinely promoted to ever increasing titles and roles, other staff rarely ever gets a raise beyond the annual raise that applies to everyone, and no promotions.  In other words, if you were hired in as a researcher or other non-organizing/non-development position, that’s likely all you are ever going to be there, and the only way to get professional advancement is to leave.  In addition, the line between which employees get their own office and which staff has shared offices is not clearly drawn, resulting in two people who have identical roles in different areas’ having very different office arrangements.

Additionally, the organization is quite unwilling to give up the “small nonprofit” mindset, and continually wants to operate in that way, to its own detriment.  Despite having grown from 10 or so people to well over 100 now, the organization still wants to act as though it’s the small size.  Any attempts to introduce structure to the processes of the organization would be routinely ignored by the organizing staff (the largest department), and would subsequently be tossed by the wayside.  This should come as no surprise to anyone, as the organization was formed when a group of renegade employees at another organization split off to form their own organization because they didn’t like the structure and process that the parent organization operated with.  However, as the organization has grown, the lack of structure hindered productivity because there were no formal channels in order for things to be processed in an orderly manner.  The attitude is very “anti-corporate”, which leads to much inefficiency as they refuse to adopt any processes, policies, or procedures that will make them look “too corporate”, despite such processes’ working well.

I think my review was pretty fair.  Then this was another review written by someone else during the time that I worked there:

If you’re not working as an organizer you’re not considered as important (organizers rule the roost), there is little room for career advancement internally (promotions/raises not given much, if ever), some staff can be demanding of other staff, although staff are usually nice.  Sometimes things can become disorderly/chaotic because there are staff working on the ground all over the place.

PROMOTE INTERNALLY to avoid losing top talent!  Promote at all levels of the organization – do not just promote organizers, it is bad for morale for everyone else.  Keep up the good work otherwise!

Looking at more recent Glassdoor reviews, the environment sounds like it got even worse than when I left it.  Here is some of what I found:

The toxic environment internally makes it a terrible place to work.  Most staff is significantly underpaid.  Notoriously sexist, racist, toxic employees not fired and many women and POC constantly leave because of this.  Terrible culture of backstabbing, passive aggressiveness, bullying, gaslighting.  Morale is non-existent.  No attention is paid to professional development.  Massive mission creep.

Executive director needs to retire.  Stop hiring completely unqualified friends of executive director into senior positions.  Fire the notorious offenders.

There is no real mission, no real values, no long term plans.  There is no pay transparency and many people are underpaid.  Some people in management are overtly racist and sexist and absuive and there have been no real steps to change this – people of color, young people and women leave instead of the perpetrators.  A toxic work environment where you are guilted into working long hours.  They are open to feedback, but will do nothing with the information they get (and sometimes even ask you to delete the files containing your feedback).

[Executive Director] is visionary in terms of campaign strategy.  However, she is also a terrible manager of people.  Morale is low.

The opinions of senior management are the only ones that matter, and they aren’t responsive to the ideas or concerns of staff, which are taken as criticism.  This made the culture increasingly toxic.  Senior management micro-manages every project because junior and mid-level staff are not trusted.  Low morale among staff.

Let’s admit: the management was terrible.  The executive director, Wenonah Hauter, was a strong public figurehead for the organization, but was a horrible manager.  I’d dare say that she couldn’t manage her way out of a wet paper bag, much to the organization’s detriment.  If they had separated Hauter’s roles as figurehead and manager into separate positions, the organization would have been better off, with Hauter going off promoting the organization and writing books, while a strong manager oversees the actual operations of the organization.  The head of my department, Lane Brooks, turned scapegoating into an art form, throwing his employees under the proverbial bus in order to save his own hide, using us as cover for his own shortcomings as a manager.  He was a fine example of the Peter principle, i.e. someone who had risen to their level of incompetence. Then the organizing department’s management clearly would have preferred to have been on their own, as they preferred to bypass everyone else and run their department like its own company rather than as part of a larger organization, duplicating functionality provided by other areas of the organization in order to keep it all within their chain of command rather than rely on people from other departments that they didn’t directly control.  Likewise, promotions were relatively uncommon.  One thing that I noticed was that when a new position needed to be filled or a position opened up, it was generally assumed that it would be filled from outside.  It felt like an internal hire only happened when they tried and failed to fill the role from outside, and they settled for someone who was already on staff because they couldn’t find anyone else.  The money, at least as far as I was concerned, was also not great, and I came to realize that I would never be able to meet certain financial goals as long as I was employed there.

I suppose that for all of the nonsense, it’s no wonder why Food & Water Watch, at least when I was there, was generally a place where people worked to get some experience in order to get a better job, or to be able to put work experience in Washington DC on the resume before returning home.  Why try to put out that dumpster fire when you can leave and get better pay and working conditions elsewhere.  You can’t blame anyone for following the path of least resistance.  At the time that I left, with a tenure of six years, I was one of the longest-serving employees in the organization.  Many positions turned over on a relatively frequent basis.

I have to say that I’m proud of my former colleagues for organizing.  I know that they will benefit from this, just like I have by being a member of ATU Local 689.  No longer will Food & Water Watch management be able to unilaterally cut benefits.  No longer will they be able to push people out of the organization like happened to the finance manager and myself.  I imagine that in a union environment, my demotion and the changing of my working conditions (constructive discharge) would never have happened, or at least not been permitted to stand after the filing of a grievance.  I also would think that a union would have protected my position before it ever came to that, rather than what did happen, where it was slowly whittled away to nothing as the organization grew and hired people on in more specialized roles.

This unionization also shows how committed these folks are to the organization.  By unionizing, it says that they are in it for the long haul.  They are a vital part of the organization, and have as much of a stake in the organization’s success as the management and other stakeholders, and as such, deserve a seat at the table.  Making Food & Water Watch into a place where people want to stay rather than getting some experience and then bouncing would benefit them in the long run.  You have longer institutional memory, and the expertise that you develop has a better chance of staying in the organization rather than going to benefit someone else.  Where I work now, most people will spend a career there and then retire after decades of service.  They know the organization very well, warts and all.  Additionally, because of that, it behooves everyone not to make enemies at work, specifically because these people will be your coworkers for decades.  If more people at Food & Water Watch end up staying for a career, I imagine that it will become a much less hostile environment than what I experienced, and the culture of backstabbing and bullying will fade away, because they’re in it for a career, and not just there to get some experience while looking for something better.

All in all, I wish everyone involved in the new Food & Water Workers Union the best of luck in negotiating a good contract.  While no amount of money would ever make me consider going back to Food & Water Watch, I really do want to see the union succeed.

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Excited, nervous, and so many other feelings… https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/11/17/excited-nervous-and-so-many-other-feelings/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2019/11/17/excited-nervous-and-so-many-other-feelings/#respond Sun, 17 Nov 2019 14:56:55 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=30087 This coming December 6, I will be going in for surgery at Montgomery General Hospital in Olney, where I will be having a sleeve gastrectomy procedure, commonly known as a gastric sleeve.  This is a surgery that will help with weight management.  This is done laparoscopically, and it removes a portion of the stomach, leaving a much smaller stomach behind that’s roughly the size of a banana.  This one only reduces the size of the stomach, and preserves the original path of the digestive tract.  Compare to the older Roux-en-Y procedure, which separates the stomach into two sections, and reroutes the digestive tract.

I am doing this because I have been heavy for most of my life (I haven’t seen the underside of 200 since eighth grade), and diet and exercise alone haven’t gotten me nearly as far as I needed to be.  Sure, I looked far better at 275 than I did at 384, but it was still too much weight to carry, and I still had weight-related health issues at the lower weight.  Over the course of the past year, I have attended classes with a dietitian, had various evaluations and tests done (the endoscopy that I wrote about last April was part of that), and after all of that, the insurance gave the surgery their blessing.

I have to say that I have a bunch of different feelings running through me about this.  On one hand, I know that this is a necessary step.  My primary care doctor first suggested it to me about a year ago, and then I unexpectedly got a second opinion within a month or so from a specialist that I was seeing when they suggested it as well.  As far as I was concerned, that was a pretty strong indicator about what I needed to do, when two out of two doctors, in their professional opinion, suggested it, completely unsolicited.  I also feel like I’m ready for it.  I know what I’m supposed to do to prepare for the surgery, I know what I’m supposed to do immediately after surgery, and I know what I’m doing during the healing process and thereafter on the maintenance diet.  At the end of every dietitian class, they told us “Chew, chew, chew, sip, sip, sip, and walk, walk, walk.”  I’ve also stocked up on my multivitamins and my calcium citrate, as gastric sleeve patients will take multivitamins and calcium supplements for life.  This also has the potential to get me off of some of the medications that I’m on as well as the CPAP (for sleep apnea).  That latter point is exciting, because while I’m used to the CPAP, it’s still a bother, and I would be more than happy to be rid of the device that I’ve described as “the most expensive fan that I’ve ever owned”.  I’ve also spoken with colleagues who have had the same surgery, and they have generally had good experiences, which leaves me feeling optimistic.  After all, if they can succeed with this while doing very sedentary work, then so can I.

I’m also tired of being this heavy.  I was at my lowest in a very long time for about a year in 2012-2013.  Then after I left my nonprofit job, the scale started moving upward again, as I was put off of my routine.  I was able to slow it and even slightly reverse it for a brief period, but ultimately, I ended up back at my original weight.  Let’s admit: even though I love what I do now, working in public transportation is not exactly conducive to physical activity.  I’m not strapped in a seat all day, as was the case when I was driving a bus, but you’re still sitting down all day.  Some days, I would just love to operate the train standing up, but it’s not possible with the design of the trains.  Most of my exercise is the walking that comes with the job, i.e. going from the rail yard to the station and back (not an insignificant distance), and reversing ends on the train platform.

I’m also a bit nervous.  This is not a minor procedure like getting a toenail removed or something.  This is the removal of about three quarters of the stomach.  If that doesn’t give you some pause, I don’t know what will.  I wonder how much it will hurt, and how well I’ll be able to take it.  I never was big on taking pain medication with past surgeries, such as the wisdom teeth in 1995 or the pilonidal cyst in 2005, so hopefully I won’t need to take any pain meds for this.  I’m most concerned that the work zone is in such a central location in my body.  While I’m not concerned about all of the walking that I will be expected to do during the recovery process, I am concerned about how long I will be out of the car.  I would love to do said walking while doing other things, like photo walks and such, but I don’t want to be a risk to myself and others on the road by driving before I’m ready.  In other words, I don’t want to be stuck at or near home for longer than necessary, but I also don’t want to rush things just to get out in the world.  Staying at home for the duration of the recovery is out of the question, because my surgeon has already told me that I need to stay active during the recovery process, and not have someone taking care of me (in other words, my mother will remain in Stuarts Draft).  Meanwhile, I’m also concerned about how my body will react to things with this new configuration.  I had two episodes of food poisoning in the last few months, and in the more severe of the two, I threw up so hard that my stomach muscles were sore.  That was a new feeling (how often do those muscles work so hard that they get sore?), but it raised some concerns for me about how things would go the next time that I got sick.

The big sticking point with this whole surgery, meanwhile, has been Elyse.  She is worried that she will lose her freedom during the time that I’m recovering, because I’m the only driver in the house, along with other concerns.  Overall, she doesn’t feel supported throughout the whole process, despite my best efforts to make sure that she’s well informed about the whole process.  I want her to be involved in this.  She has been to every appointment and every class with me by her own choice, and asked questions, too, but the whole process still stresses her out greatly.  I don’t know what to do, because I’ve offered every bit of help and other resources that I can come up with, including the MedStar bariatric group, and /r/gastricsleeve on Reddit, but she still finds it extremely stressful.  If it tells you anything, she doesn’t even want me to talk about it to other people in her presence.  I have a feeling that when it comes to Elyse, she’s just going to have to plow through it and come out on the other side.  Yes, the process may be stressful (and even with my being mentally prepared for it, it’s still undoubtedly going to be a challenge), but once we come out on the back side of it, it’s going to be okay, and there will be normalcy again.  Like Mrs. Pennypacker said in the Today’s Special episode “Hospitals“, everything will be fine.

Meanwhile, this is my last week eating solid food for about a month.  I start the pre-op liquid diet on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, go to clear liquids only during my hospital stay (expected to be just overnight), back to a liquid diet for two more weeks, then transition to soft foods for another two weeks or so, and then a month after the surgery, move to the maintenance diet, which is lifelong.

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