The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com w  w  w  .  s  c  h  u  m  i  n  w  e  b  .  c  o  m Mon, 26 Sep 2022 08:46:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.0.2 https://www.schuminweb.com/wp-content/uploads/Clouds-Facebook-icon-150x150.png The Schumin Web https://www.schuminweb.com 32 32 Thoughts about carpetbagging… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/26/thoughts-about-carpetbagging/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/26/thoughts-about-carpetbagging/#respond Mon, 26 Sep 2022 13:00:42 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=47954 Lately, I have had very mixed feelings on the subject of carpetbagging when it comes to Congressional races.  First, though, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, “carpetbagging” is an American term that was historically used to describe northerners who came to the south following the Civil War, and who were perceived to be exploiting the local population for their own gain.  The term comes from their luggage, which was typically a traveling bag made out of scraps of carpet.  In modern usage, it is generally used to refer to anyone who is running for political office in an area where they have no local connections.  Among others, Hillary Clinton fits the modern definition of a carpetbagger when she ran for a US Senate seat in New York, as she had never been a New Yorker prior to her running for the Senate.

The reason that I have very mixed feelings about carpetbagging comes from two people who have a history of running for Congress, and who have had varying results.  Additionally, I feel cursed by being able to see the issue from both sides.  Of the two politicians that I’m thinking of, one of them is David Trone, who has represented Maryland’s sixth district in Congress since 2018.  The other is Jennifer Lewis, a politician from Waynesboro, Virginia who has become something of a perennial candidate, having unsuccessfully run for Congress in Virginia’s sixth district in 2018 and a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 2019, and who is now is running in the sixth district again this year.

In the case of David Trone, the sixth district was not his first rodeo when it came to congressional races.  Trone first ran for Congress in 2016, when he ran for the eighth district seat, which was open that year after incumbent Chris Van Hollen declined to run for his House seat again in order to run for the Senate to succeed retiring senator Barbara Mikulski (he ultimately won).  Trone ran in the Democratic primary for the eighth district, which was a nine-way race between a bunch of politicians whose names I won’t bore you with because unless you live in Montgomery County, you’ve probably never heard of any of them and never will.  I lived in the eighth district at that time, and I recall having voted for Trone in that primary, because he seemed reasonable enough.  He finished second in the primary behind Jamie Raskin, who took the nomination with 33.6% of the vote to Trone’s 27.1%.  For a nine-way primary, Trone did respectably, but with this being a first-past-the-post system in a single-member district, Raskin advanced to the general election, and Trone was eliminated.  I figured that would be the end of Trone, politically, since Raskin would probably hold the seat for a while, and Trone would return to the private sector and his Total Wine & More business.

Then fast forward to 2018.  Sixth district representative John Delaney announced that he would not run for reelection to his seat in Congress in order to focus on his 2020 presidential campaign.  And if you’re thinking, I’ve never heard of this this guy, I sympathize.  I had moved to Montgomery Village by then, and so he was my congressman, and even then, it was easy to forget who he was or that he was running for anything at all, let alone President of the United States.  I think that the only thing that made him stand out in the field was that he was bald, because he was otherwise pretty uninspiring.  And as I expected, no one really paid any attention to his campaign.  After all, it was a very crowded Democratic field in 2020, and a lot of people with much higher profiles nationally were also running, and so there really wasn’t much room for him.  The only surprise is that he stayed in as late as he did before finally dropping out and endorsing another candidate.

With Delaney’s announcement that he would not be running for his seat in Congress, other candidates announced their intentions to run.  David Trone was one of the people who threw their hat into the ring.  I was a bit surprised by this, because I remembered him from his campaign in the eighth district two years before, and this wasn’t the eighth district.  This, by the way, is where I learned that a member of Congress is only required to be a resident of the state that their district is in, and are not required to live in the specific district that they seek to represent.  Trone, at least at that time, lived in Potomac, which is in the eighth district, i.e. Raskin’s district.  He was running for a seat in the sixth district, which he did not live in.  In other words, Trone was now a carpetbagger, running for office in an area where he had no local connection, but without having to go through all of the hassle of physically moving to that other area.

My stance about Trone’s running in a district where he himself did not live was pretty clear.  I thought that it demonstrated quite well who Trone was really looking to represent in Congress: himself.  It was a really bad look as far as I was concerned, as it made me think that his view was that if he couldn’t get elected in the district where he actually lived, then he’d just jump to the next district over and see if he could find enough suckers to vote for him there – and I’m not a sucker.  I definitely referred to him by some pretty derogatory terms at the time, since I had no reason to think that he actually gave a crap about any of his constituents and would represent our interests, since he only came to the sixth district to try to get into Congress after he couldn’t get elected in the district where he actually lived.  It truly ended right there for me, because as far as I was concerned, he was an outsider, and had no business running in a district that he himself was not a part of, even if it was legal for him to do.  In other words, just because something is legal doesn’t mean that you should do it.  That said, there was no way that I was ever going to consider voting for Trone in the primary.  I ended up voting for Roger Manno, who had the endorsement of my union.  Manno was also out there campaigning outside of the early voting site where Elyse and I went to vote.  We chatted, and he seemed like a pretty nice guy.  Unfortunately, in that eight-way primary race, Manno didn’t win, and Trone ended up winning the primary and advancing to the general election with around 40% of the vote.  I was surprised that more people didn’t see right through that whole district-hopping thing that he did and realize that he was running for himself above all else.

I remember the discussion about the general election with Elyse after the primary, where, in considering the national trends, I said to her, “Yes, we actually have to vote for the little sonofabitch.”  I didn’t want to, but I also wasn’t about to vote for someone who would help to empower and embolden then-president Donald Trump.  In other words, I picked my battles, and decided that the party of Trump was worse than electing Trone.

And, unsurprisingly, Trone won in the general election, because it’s Maryland, and the 2011 congressional districts were heavily gerrymandered.  The sixth district at that time was drawn specifically to ensure a safe Democratic seat by running a long neck from western Maryland out into heavily Democratic Montgomery County.  For those not familiar, the western part of Maryland is otherwise a fairly Republican-leaning area.  I always found it strange that I was lumped in with western Maryland, but when you’re drawing a district in order to get a specific result, I suppose that’s what happens.  For what it’s worth, the new Maryland congressional map has much more compact districts, and the most recent incarnation of the sixth district makes it “highly competitive” by cutting out a lot of Montgomery County and including all of Frederick County.  That redrawing affects me, as I’m now back in the eighth district with Raskin – a district which now exists entirely within Montgomery County.

So that’s Trone for you.  I have taken a very dim view of him ever since he ran in a district that he is not part of himself.  I’ve remarked in the past that if he ever has any problems, then maybe he should write his own congressman.

Jennifer Lewis, meanwhile, is kind of the opposite of Trone in a lot of ways.  But first, a little background: the sixth district of Virginia is the district that I grew up in and where my parents still reside, and it includes much of the Shenandoah Valley, stretching from Roanoke to Winchester.  It is a very “red” district, having been represented by a Republican for thirty years from 1953 to 1983, and then has been in GOP hands again since 1993.  Additionally, the three most recent representatives have all retired undefeated.  The last time that the sixth district defeated an incumbent was in 1952.  If it tells you anything, Bob Goodlatte, who served 13 terms from 1993 to 2019, had no Democratic opponent for seven of those elections, and was completely unopposed, with no minor party or independent candidates of any kind running, for four of those races.  The lowest percentage of the vote that Goodlatte ever got was 60%, when he was first elected in 1992.  All of that said, it is clearly very hard to unseat an incumbent in that district, i.e. that is about as safe of a seat as you can get.  The incumbent leaves that seat when they want to leave, because the voters keep on sending them back as a matter of routine.

Now, enter Jennifer Lewis.  She is a mental health worker by profession, and also a community activist.  She moved to Waynesboro in 2007, and made her first run for elected office in 2018 in a bid to succeed Goodlatte after he announced his retirement.  She won the Democratic primary with around 40% of the vote, and went on to face Ben Cline, who was then a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, in the general election.  Cline defeated Lewis in the general election, getting 59.7% of the vote.  This was by no means a narrow victory, but it was a worse showing than any of Goodlatte’s races, as Cline had a slightly lower percentage of the total vote than Goodlatte did in 1992.  This result was not surprising, though.  Cline was an established politician, and Lewis was a political novice.  Plus considering the district’s strong Republican lean, I doubt that anyone who voted for Lewis really thought that she had a chance of pulling out a win.

After this race, Lewis quickly pivoted to her next campaign, running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates to represent district 20, which covers parts of Augusta, Nelson, and Highland Counties as well as the cities of Staunton and Waynesboro.  She was running against John Avoli, the former longtime mayor of Staunton.  Unsurprisingly again, considering the general political makeup of that district (i.e. very red), Avoli won with 58.5% to Lewis’ 41.4%.

Then in January 2020, Lewis made what I considered a surprising announcement, that she was not going to run for Congress in 2020, but that she would run again in 2022.  I viewed this somewhat negatively, since it told me two things.  First, it told me that she was essentially writing off the 2020 election cycle, and conceding it to Cline.  In other words, she assumed that whatever schmuck might run against Cline on the Democratic side was just cannon fodder, i.e. they would definitely be defeated.  It also told me that she thought that people would be content to just sit around and wait until she was ready to run again.  I thought that was an exceptionally cocky statement, and not a good look on her part.  Additionally, by making that statement, she effectively sabotaged a fellow Democrat’s campaign, because if she was already thinking ahead to a 2022 campaign to the point of leapfrogging over the current cycle and announcing her candidacy for the following cycle, she more or less said that there was no point in even bothering with a Democratic campaign in 2020, leaving no room for the idea that there might be even the slimmest of possibilities that a Democrat would take the seat, and thus that a Democrat might end up being the incumbent in 2022.  A Democratic incumbent would almost certainly have screwed up her plans for 2022, since then rather than challenging an incumbent from the opposite party, if she ran with a Democratic incumbent, she would be launching a primary challenge to unseat an incumbent from her own party.  I doubt that she ever considered that, because if she did, she probably wouldn’t have made that sort of idiotic announcement in the first place.  That sort of assumption also speaks volumes about Lewis and the sixth district voters in general, and it caused me to lose a bit of respect for her.  The moral of the story here is that some things are better left unsaid.  She may have always fully intended to sit out the 2020 cycle and then run again in 2022, but she never should have announced her 2022 campaign at the same time that she announced that she was sitting 2020 out.  That announcement should have come much later, like some time in the middle of 2021.

In any event, to no one’s surprise, the Democratic candidate, Nicholas Betts, was defeated, with Cline’s getting 64.6% of the vote to Betts’ 35.3%.  That was consistent with Goodlatte’s results in those races where he had a Democratic opponent.  So the sixth district did what it always does, and sent the incumbent back by a fairly wide margin.

This year, Lewis kept her promise and is running for Congress again, looking to unseat Cline.  I have paid very little attention to this race, because the result is a foregone conclusion as far as I’m concerned.  Cline is going to win in the 60% range, and Lewis will end up with something in the mid 30% range, because that’s just how the sixth district votes.  I am willing to be surprised, but I don’t think that there’s going to be any sort of upset here, especially in a midterm where the Democrats hold the White House (historically, the party that has the White House tends to lose congressional seats in the midterms).  It’s a district where Republicans nearly always win, and I don’t have any reason to think that this race will buck that trend.

Personally, despite that asinine statement about the 2020 and 2022 races, I actually like Jennifer Lewis as a candidate, and I think that she has a solid platform.  I think that she could do a lot of good as an elected official, whether it’s in Congress, the state legislature, or some other role.  I can’t vote for her because I live in Maryland, but I definitely believe in her, and feel that she is genuine about her positions.

So what does this have to do with carpetbagging?  While I feel like she has all of the right stances and actually believes in them, because of the general makeup of the sixth district, she will never get elected from there.  Her best shot there was probably in 2018 when it was an open seat, and while she did get a larger percentage of the vote than any Democrat ever did against Goodlatte, she still lost by a pretty wide margin.  So I feel like unless the demographics shift pretty dramatically for the sixth district (not likely), it is unlikely that the Democrats will prevail there in the foreseeable future.  That said, the thought has crossed my mind that if she is serious about actually being elected and serving in that sort of role, and not just about advocating for progressive causes and raising her own profile for another reason (akin to how some presidential candidates are really running for book deals rather than political office), then she would probably be best served to leave the sixth district and run somewhere else, because no Democrat is going to flip the sixth district any time soon.

But then when I think about how Lewis would probably be well served to jump to another legislative district and run for office there, I also think back to the way that I felt when my carpetbagging congressman did exactly that, jumping districts to try to get elected somewhere else after getting punted in his original district.  After all, I had plenty of colorful things to say about David Trone in regards to his switch from Maryland’s eighth district to the sixth district, and that any support that I might have had for him ended the moment that he hopped districts, because I refused to support a carpetbagger like that, who had no local connection to the district that he was seeking to represent.  I also remember how delighted I was earlier this year when I found out that in the redistricting following the 2020 census, that I was now in the eighth district again, meaning that Jamie Raskin, who actually lives in his own district, is once again my congressman.  So for me, at least, my Trone problem is solved, in the sense that the little weasel is now someone else’s problem.  Therefore, I feel like I am not able to advocate, in good conscience, for Lewis to move to another jurisdiction with demographics that are more favorable to Democrats with the intention of running for office there, even though she’ll get slaughtered every time she goes up to bat as long as she runs in the sixth district.  Yes, I feel like she would make a great elected official, but I just can’t advocate for carpetbagging.

I guess that it all shows that politics are indeed a dirty pool, and that people who try to do the right thing don’t always come through with the results that they want when it’s up to the voters.  Throughout the whole exercise, I think that I was most surprised about how strong my feelings really were about the practice of carpetbagging when it affected me directly.

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A question about what is okay to critique… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/19/a-question-about-what-is-okay-to-critique/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/19/a-question-about-what-is-okay-to-critique/#respond Mon, 19 Sep 2022 16:04:21 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=47198 This is something that happened back in November of last year, and it’s something that I still question because it leaves something unsettled that I had previously considered to not be a question at all.  My understanding was, when it comes to a person’s appearance, the only things that are okay to to critique are hair and clothing, because those are choices that the person made, and that they can readily change.  That comes with a lot of caveats, though.  You don’t critique things about hair if it’s something that they can’t change, like baldness, though anything that they can still change is fair game.  Likewise, with clothing, you wouldn’t criticize the fashion choices of someone who clearly can’t afford anything else.

So, with that said, here’s why I ask.  Last year, I was off on Black Friday, and Elyse had planned an adventure for us on that day.  She planned a shopping adventure that day, and she wanted to go out and check out the “doorbuster” events.  Me, having spent four Christmases working in retail, I wanted nothing to do with any of it and would have preferred to just sleep in and work on the website or Flickr, but I wouldn’t have gotten a moment of peace if I stayed home – so out I went.  We chose to go to Annapolis so that I would have something to do, with the idea of my going out to Sandy Point State Park to fly the drone over the water while Elyse shopped.  Unfortunately, however, when I got to the park, I judged the wind to be far too strong to fly, so the drone never even came out of its carrier.  After sitting in the car for a while feeling annoyed about the circumstances, having driven out to the bay for nothing, I headed back to the mall, feeling somewhat defeated, and met back up with Elyse and joined her on her shopping adventure, because nothing was going up into the sky other than my frustration.

Later on, we found ourselves at a Target store.  I didn’t buy anything, but Elyse did, so while she went through the checkout, I went to Starbucks, got a steamed milk, and sat down to enjoy it.  While there, I noticed this lady a little ways down from me, standing along the same wall that I was sitting next to.  I grabbed a quick photo because of her rather unique hairstyle:

The lady at Target with a very unique hairstyle

I posted it to Facebook, captioning it, “For those days when you want to look like a human Chia Pet, I suppose.”  I found it to be fairly spot-on, considering the usual appearance of a chia pet.

I expected mostly amused reactions for that bad hairstyle, but I got a surprising amount of strong negative reactions to this.  Comments included the following:

  • “Is this a picture of a random stranger that you saw?  If so, I don’t think it is very nice to post this critiquing them.  I wouldn’t like it if someone did that to me.”
  • “not a cute look for you”
  • “I was just mortified AF and was going to say the same.  Please, Ben, don’t do that.  It’s so not cool.”
  • “For those times where you want to look like a jerk, there’s ‘critiquing a stranger’s appearance on the internet and posting pics'”
  • “It’s kinda creepy to take pictures of random strangers in public.  Also it is just mean to then use those pictures to make fun of them on social media.”

Am I that far off base?  The way I see it, such a photo is fair game.  We’re out in public, therefore nobody has a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Likewise, I took the photo myself, so no copyright issues involved.  As far as the subject goes, this hair presentation is not the result of a medical condition, so we’re good there, and while the curls may be natural or the result of a perm, the weird shaping is most likely the result of copious amounts of gel, and the color was definitely a choice, as green is not a natural hair color for humans.  In other words, she had to have gotten up one day and said, “You know, I’m going to dye my hair green today.”  And for those choices, they are fair game for criticism.  Goodness knows that I’ve been on the receiving end of criticism of my fashion choices in the past, both worn for real and for entertainment.  And I’ve also thrown out fashion criticism before, such as in the second part of my “clip show” photo set from 2005, and no one batted an eye.

I don’t know.  I imagine that there’s definitely an argument to be made both ways, and I’m interested to see what people think.  Discuss amongst yourselves, I suppose?

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Thirty years ago, we arrived… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/05/thirty-years-ago-we-arrived/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/09/05/thirty-years-ago-we-arrived/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2022 22:10:53 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=47726 August 31, 2022 marked 30 years from the day that my family came to Virginia, after having lived in Arkansas for the previous seven and a half years.  Thirty years is a little less than three quarters of my life thus far.  It just seems so weird to think about it that way.  But it really does mark the beginning of an era in my life, because unlike more recent moves, the move from Arkansas to Virginia was a clean separation, leaving a lot of elements of my life behind and starting new in Virginia, especially in those pre-Internet days, when there was no social media to keep in contact with everyone.  Additionally, having no family out there, I have not been back since we left.  The moves since then were not quite as clean of a break as the move from Arkansas was.  My 2007 move to Maryland was only me, and my parents stayed where they were.  Plus, as it’s only a few hours away, I can go down there almost any time I want, including down and back in the same day.  Then my 2017 move was local, so nothing else changed in my life other than the location of my house, and my commute to work.  I just upgraded my living situation, and that was it.

The move to Virginia was the culmination of something that was a long time coming.  My parents never really wanted to live in Arkansas to begin with, but it was a good career move for Dad with Scott Nonwovens, so they begrudgingly did it, and so we left New Jersey for Arkansas in February 1985.  I remember Mom’s mentioning a number of times early on about wanting to move back to New Jersey.  And in all fairness, that was understandable.  Dad had something to do in Rogers, as he was the one with the job.  Mom didn’t know anyone, and her primary role at that time was to take care of a newborn and a preschooler.  She had left everyone she knew when we left New Jersey, and it took a while to meet people and form new relationships, though that improved once Mom got a job at the Walton Life Fitness Center in Bentonville.  We also didn’t get along with our next door neighbors on one side, as their kids were out of control.  That ultimately led to something of a falling out.  We put slats in our existing fence on that side so that we wouldn’t have to see them when we were in the backyard, and they built an entirely new spite fence on their side so that they wouldn’t have to see us.  The neighbors on the other side were a retired couple, and they were awesome.

Meanwhile, the education situation in Rogers had really come to a head.  I had just completed fifth grade, which was my worst year from kindergarten through high school, without question, and that had followed third and fourth grade years that were pretty rough as well.  My parents had gone about as far as they could with the school system, and no one was looking forward to another year at Bonnie Grimes Elementary.  I was also hearing all kinds of rumblings at the time from my parents about changes afoot.  One was that we would not be returning to Grimes Elementary again, and I was also hearing things about moving, which made me think that something big and life-changing was coming, but nothing concrete as of yet.  It had been rumored that Scott had wanted to transfer my father to their corporate office in Philadelphia, and so it seemed like we would probably be moving back to New Jersey, as Mom had wanted all along.  I didn’t want to move, because unlike my parents, Rogers was pretty much all that I knew, and I was used to it.

The other shoe finally dropped on July 7, 1992.  That was quite a day.  I had just begun orthodontic treatment the day before, getting a brand new set of braces on my teeth.  That day, I got to experience a sore mouth from braces for the first time, as the braces did their work straightening out my teeth.  And let’s admit – I have nice teeth, so that worked out pretty well.  So I was already feeling a bit off from that discomfort, and then I got hit with the news that we would be moving, like a one-two punch.  I remember not taking the news particularly well at the time, but I eventually warmed to it by the end of the day.  And I imagine that nobody could blame me for not taking it well, though, because life in Arkansas was really all that I knew up to that point.  Now, unlike my sister, I remembered when we lived in New Jersey, but considering that we left when I was three, New Jersey was mostly just fuzzy, vague memories.  I then was read into the whole program, of which I was mostly unaware up to that point: Dad had gotten a new job with another company in the same industry, and unlike what I had been sort of led to believe, we would be moving to Virginia, not New Jersey.  However, I was not to tell my sister until after Dad’s last day at Scott in a couple of weeks, because she was too young to be trusted to keep that under wraps, and her blabbing to someone might have adverse consequences, so better to keep her in the dark.  She knew that we would be moving, but she was still under the impression that we were moving to New Jersey.  I did pretty well with keeping the secret, though I did accidentally slip once, in front of Mom.  However, no one had to worry about my sister’s blabbing it after that.  Let the record show that my sister corrected me, reminding me that we were moving to New Jersey.  Yes, we were, weren’t we?  Crisis averted, because she still didn’t suspect a thing.  Once Dad’s last day at Scott came and went, my sister was quickly read into the program, and so there were no more secrets.  After all, we now had housing to find, and from there, schools to enroll in and such.

Those final eight weeks in Arkansas felt kind of weird.  After all, I knew that I would be gone at the end of the summer, and so nothing in Arkansas really mattered anymore, because our future was outside of Arkansas.  But it was business as usual for the most part, as I still had “Kids Kamp” at the fitness center, and I was also still in Taekwondo and all of that, and Mom still had her job there up until we left.  I never got to say goodbye to a lot of the kids that I knew in Arkansas, because it all happened over the summer.  I left Grimes at the end of fifth grade thinking that I would likely be back in the fall, so the goodbyes weren’t about leaving for good, but just “have a good summer”, as I fully expected to see them all again in a few months, but that would end up not being the case.

One of those weeks before we moved was spent house hunting in Virginia, from July 26-31.  We stayed at the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlottesville, and spent about half of our time in Charlottesville and half of the time in Augusta County. Dad’s new job was in Waynesboro, but Charlottesville allegedly had excellent schools, but the cost of living was also higher in Charlottesville, which meant that our money wouldn’t go as far there.  The first day was spent in Augusta County and Waynesboro, as we all went over the mountain for the first time.  I remembered when we got into Waynesboro, I saw the city landfill high up on the mountain, and thought that it was a big, new highway project or something, because it looked like a lot of what the land looked liked along the US 412 corridor in northeastern Oklahoma, where they were constantly upgrading the road in order to bring it up to freeway standards.  Oh, how naive I was, as I learned much later that it was an eyesore rather than progress.

We looked at eight houses that day.  Five of them were in the Stuarts Draft in the same neighborhood, we looked at one in Fishersville, and then we looked at two in Waynesboro.  I remember my impressions of the various houses.  The first four houses weren’t terrible, but just didn’t seem right for us.  The fifth house was the one that my parents ended up buying and still live in, then under construction.  I didn’t get a good feel for it because I didn’t quite understand how it all went together, in its then-incomplete state.  The house in Fishersville had a beautiful view of the surrounding area, but the driveway was quite steep (not good for the snow), and the open land behind the house had recently been purchased by a developer who planned on building a lot more housing, which meant that the beautiful view would likely change from rolling land to houses as far as the eye could see.  In Waynesboro, the first house was inhabited by cats, and smelled like cats.  It also had a really weird layout.  The second Waynesboro house was better, but one of the bedrooms was on the first floor, which likely would have been my room, and no one was really too keen on having my room on a different floor than everyone else’s.  In Charlottesville, we looked at a number of different houses, mostly older and smaller than the ones west of the mountain.  I wasn’t too impressed.  The only relatively new house that we looked at was in the Forest Lakes development, and that house was smaller than our house in Rogers, and had a lot of HOA rules attached to it that we didn’t like.  One other decent house had a lot of space, but the access to the basement was through one of the bedrooms (who comes up with that?).  Interestingly, we looked at zero houses in Staunton, but I believe that Dad had done some pre-work before we all came out, and all of the potential houses in Staunton had been eliminated in that pre-work (fair enough).  I also remember that on our Augusta County house-hunting day, we had lunch at a place called The Purple Foot, which was a restaurant and wine shop.  On the Charlottesville day, we went to The Hardware Store, which was on the Downtown Mall.  Both restaurants have since closed.

We also went to the Staunton Walmart store for the first time on one of the days on our trip.  That was our first time visiting a Walmart store outside of Arkansas, and we wondered how it would be.  After all, we lived in the next town over from Walmart’s corporate office, and so we were used to high standards, being right around the headquarters.  Additionally, all of our Walmart stores had recently been replaced with brand new pylon-style stores in the last year or so, giving us the absolute latest and greatest as far as Walmarts went.  I was surprised to see that the Staunton store had the exact same layout and architectural style as the new Walmart store in Rogers, but it had the older brown and orange color scheme that the recently-vacated stores had, rather than the then-new gray/red/blue color scheme.  I never really liked that Walmart store because I thought it looked dated, and missed the Supercenters that Bentonville and Springdale had.  I became more content with the Walmart situation in 1995 when Walmart built a new Supercenter in Staunton, replacing the original store on Statler Boulevard.  We also drove past Staunton Mall, which would be our new local shopping mall, but didn’t go in on that visit.

While out on this trip, we also visited some local historic sites, visiting Monticello and Michie Tavern.  Those of you who are familiar with Charlottesville know that there are signs all over town pointing the way to Monticello, Ash Lawn, and Michie Tavern, and so I suppose that we had to hit some of those places (seriously, those signs are everywhere).  We also visited Stuarts Draft Elementary School and Stuarts Draft Middle School for the first time, as that was where my sister and I would be attending school if we ended up picking “the new house” in Stuarts Draft.

And in the end, we got the house in Stuarts Draft, though that wasn’t the first place that we put in an offer on.  We had initially put in an offer on a house in Charlottesville that my mother referred to as “the turtle house” (due to a turtle that we found there), but our offer was not accepted.  But in the end, everyone was content with the house in Stuarts Draft, as we were going to be moving into a brand new house with the George Washington National Forest in our backyard.  And then on the way home, I had my first bad flying experience, as our plane for the final leg of our trip back to Arkansas had mechanical issues that allegedly corrected themselves, and destroyed that innocent sense of wonder about flying.  It probably didn’t help that I didn’t fly again after that for about six years, and when I did take to the skies again, I was much more of a white-knuckle flyer than I had ever been before.

After we got back to Arkansas, things started to progress towards the move.  Dad soon started his new job, and so he drove out to Virginia with the Mustang, and stayed out there for two weeks before flying back to coordinate the move.  The final week in August, the moving company started packing up our house, and then on August 28, a much bigger truck than what the packing crew had been using came to load it all up.  I remember being struck by the emptiness of what had been our house.  After all, we had lived in this place for more than seven years at that point, and I had no memories of seeing it empty when we moved in.  And now it looked like the various vacant houses that we had seen during our house hunting trip.  Very weird, indeed.  We also soon learned the folly of getting beige berber carpet, because in less than a year’s time with that carpet, that stuff looked matted down and crappy, but at least it wasn’t that ugly green shag carpeting that was there when we moved in.  I wonder how long that berber carpet lasted after we left.  Who knows, but I imagine that it’s long gone by now.

It was a weird feeling leaving the house for what we knew would be the last time, but it was on to better things.  We stayed at what was then the Ramada Inn in Rogers, near the intersection of South 8th Street and New Hope Road.  That bookended our time in Arkansas quite nicely, as we had also stayed at that same motel when we moved in, though it was a Holiday Inn at that time.  The motel is still there today, though now it’s the Rogers Inn rather than a major brand.

The next day, we hit the road.  We would do the trip to Virginia over three days, and the first day brought us as far as Jackson, Tennessee.  We took the US 71 bypass to its terminus near Fayetteville Airport, and then took US 71 as it wound its way through the Boston Mountains to Alma.  Every time we did this trip (this was how we got to Little Rock and to Fort Smith), seeing Alma, I was like, wonderful, the mountains are over.  This route seems so primitive now, because the US 71 bypass was later extended all the way down to Fort Smith and has been redesignated as Interstate 49, and there is a tunnel through the mountains.  Much better than the sign that discussed how many people had died on that road, with the admonishment, “DON’T YOU BE NEXT!” at the bottom.  Then we got on Interstate 40 and headed east towards Little Rock.  All of this was still familiar territory to me, from various trips to Little Rock in the past.  Once we cleared Little Rock, though, I was in new territory.  I remember being struck by how rural eastern Arkansas was.  There was not a single thing of interest to look at until we got to West Memphis.  One thing I remember about this was seeing the logo for Fina gas stations along the road, and thinking about how the logo looked like a person with red hair and a red beard, with the text forming something of a big mustache.  We ran this section nonstop, and didn’t stop until we got to West Memphis, where we had lunch at a Burger King.  After lunch, we got back on I-40 and headed over the Mississippi River into Tennessee.  I specifically remember seeing the big “Welcome to Tennessee” sign on the bridge, and then after that, I turned around and looked at the “Welcome to Arkansas” sign on the other side, mainly because I wanted to see what it looked like.  Then I turned back around to face forward, and that was the end of Arkansas as far as any of us were concerned.  Now there were new things to see.  We got to see Memphis from the freeway, and I noticed that the road signs in Tennessee were a little different than they were in Arkansas (this is not unique to Tennessee, mind you – every state does things just a little differently than the next).  Getting to Jackson, we checked into the Holiday Inn, and we saw the Casey Jones Museum, which was next door to our hotel.  I also remember being so astounded that there was a Dunkin’ Donuts in Jackson, since they didn’t have any of those in Northwest Arkansas at that time.

This was a very unique trip as far as our adventures went.  Not only was it unique for being a one-way trip, but we also had our little dachshund, Greta, with us.  We didn’t usually take the dog on long trips, preferring to take her to a pet resort whenever we went on vacation.  But this wasn’t feasible here, so we always had to have someone attending to Greta when we were doing things.  The vet had prescribed a medication for her to help her relax in the car, which we called “doggy downers”.  Greta was typically a bit on edge in the car because her going for a ride usually meant that we were going to the V-E-T, but the doggy downers did their job, and Greta was fairly chill on the cross-country ride, though that was only a one-time thing.

The next day, we drove across most of Tennessee.  We spent most of the day on Interstate 40, with Johnson City as our goal.  That took us through Nashville and Knoxville, though it’s not like we stopped in any of those places in the interest of making good time (always about making good time with Dad).  Then we got on I-81 at its southern terminus, and took that to Interstate 181 (now Interstate 26) to Johnson City, where we stayed at the Holiday Inn.  That was our first time seeing a non-smoking hotel room, and we were surprised to see an ashtray in the room with a “thank you for not smoking” sticker in the bottom of it.  We couldn’t help but think that an ashtray was unnecessary if you were in a non-smoking room, but go figure.  In any event, it was such a difference from what you see as the standard nowadays, where smoking is prohibited in the entire hotel.  Back then, smoke-free rooms were just starting to come into fashion.

Meanwhile, I think that we went to Pizza Hut for dinner that night.  Most of what I remember about Johnson City was that the main street through the town was Roan Street, which for some reason stuck out in my mind.  Go figure.

On the third day, August 31, we were going to finish the trip.  I didn’t necessarily how our route was geting us there, but I knew that we would finish our trip.  As such, I didn’t realize that Tennessee and Virginia shared a short border.  I expected that we would drive through parts of Kentucky.  So after we got back on I-81 from 181, it wasn’t long before I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Virginia”, and I was like, wait, what? since I was expecting that we would hit Kentucky at some point.  We went right through that short border segment, and we were in Virginia.  The trip up through Virginia was pretty uneventful.  I don’t even remember going through the I-77 overlap, if that tells you anything.  I do remember seeing the overlap with I-64 and I-81, though.  I remember seeing the first sign for Stuarts Draft, which was exit 217, i.e. the Mint Spring exit.  Mom asked Dad if he knew how to get there from that exit, and Dad didn’t know at that time (but we soon learned that it’s a quick shortcut to get to Staunton).  Our road trip ended at the house, where we saw it in its completed form for the first time.  It was quite nice.  It smelled brand new, and had brand new carpeting and linoleum.  Everything was just so new and modern.

From there, we headed to Stuarts Draft Elementary School and Stuarts Draft Middle School to get school schedules and such.  After all, school would start in a little more than a week.  At the middle school, we had a surprise: sixth grade orientation was that night!  After finishing with the schools, we headed to Waynesboro, where we were staying at the Days Inn.  We also picked up the Mustang at the house of one of Dad’s colleagues, which is where he was able to keep it while dealing with the move in Arkansas.

Mom and I went to sixth grade orientation that evening.  All the way down there from our motel, we kept an eye out for an Amoco station, because that’s where our turn was to get to the school.  The orientation event was a whole new experience for me.  We met most of my teachers, though admittedly, the whole thing was something of a blur, considering all that we had done earlier that day.  I was still a little confused about how everything would actually go, but at least I had gotten to see it.  No worries, though – this was all explained on the first day of school.  One thing that Mom and I both found interesting was that I had a teacher named Mrs. Bradley for reading – the same last name as that awful teacher that I’d had in fifth grade.  That ended up being no big cause for concern, because as it would turn out, Bonnie Bradley, unlike Sharon Bradley in Arkansas, was a wonderful person.  Mom would later teach with her, and they still get together from time to time.  We only had one problem that night: my locker.  The way that the school did lockers was to print your locker number and combination on your schedule card.  I had a blank field where my locker should be.  We checked in with the office about it, and they couldn’t fix it on the spot, so they asked us to come back a few days later.  We returned the following Friday, and I got a locker.  We went down to check to make sure that it worked, and we were good.

One other thing that Mom and I did while at orientation was to ask another kid that we were sitting near who had braces about where he went for his orthodontic work.  We had not done any pre-work on that prior to moving, and I was still early in my treatment, having only had the initial installation and then one adjustment.  Clearly, I still needed the services of an orthodontist, so we were looking for some tips there.  They went to a practice run by a father and son partnership, Hamer & Hamer, and they had an office in Waynesboro and Stuarts Draft at that time.  That’s who we ended up going to, and it worked out pretty well.  I remember that they had to redo a lot of the diagnostic imagery and such because the orthodontist in Arkansas sent over copies rather than the higher quality originals, but in the end, it all worked out, and I have nice, straight teeth.

September 2 was when all of our stuff arrived.  That was an interesting day, for sure.  The movers put all of the major pieces of furniture in the correct rooms, but then they just unloaded all of the boxes into the garage, which my parents didn’t really appreciate, because it meant more work for them.  It also meant that the garage was unavailable for cars until we could deal with all of the boxes.  That was also our first night sleeping in the house. It felt weird, but we were at last in our new house.  I remember not liking the way my room was laid out originally, because I had no say in it.  I had bunk beds, and Mom wanted to put it with the narrow axis on one wall, and the rest sticking out into the room.  It made enough sense for her, having access to three sides of it, but I hated it from the moment that it was proposed because that took up most of the space in the room, and made it feel cramped (and I had the larger of the two bedrooms on that side!).  It was also unsafe, as there was no fall protection on one side, as it was designed to be placed with the long axis against the wall.  The other side had the ladder and a guard on it.  It wasn’t until the spring of 1994, following one occasion where I fell from the top bunk in the middle of the night, when I got to rearrange my room to the way that I wanted, with the long axis of the bed against the wall like it should have been all along.

Speaking of moving, I remember being quite concerned at the time about whether our stuff would actually make it to Virginia, though in hindsight, it was probably nothing to be concerned about.  The reason for the concern was our Fourth of July fireworks.  Mom had mentioned previously about wanting to use up all of our fireworks before we left Rogers, so that they wouldn’t catch on fire from the heat in the moving truck.  We never did use them all up, and the movers packed them up along with everything else (if it tells you anything, they also packed the trash cans with the trash still in them).  So I was a little concerned about that, but as it would turn out, it made it just fine.  In hindsight, there was probably nothing to worry about, because those things likely were exposed to much higher temperatures during the shipping process before they were sold.  In other words, no problem, and the movers probably wouldn’t have packed them if they thought it would be a problem.

From there, once school started, things started to come together and become routine.  Unlike my last three years of elementary school, my first year in middle school was amazing.

After school began, we started looking at finding a church.  Our plan was to try out the various Presbyterian churches in the area and then settle on one.  We figured that we would end up at First Presbyterian in Waynesboro, or maybe Second Presbyterian.  We also saw Finley Memorial Presbyterian in Stuarts Draft as we were driving by, and added it to the list, though we didn’t necessarily want to go to a really small church.  We started out with Finley Memorial, since it was the closest to our house, and as it would turn out, our search for a new church ended right there.  The original plan was to try Finley for one Sunday, and then try another church the next Sunday, and so on until we had tried them all.  The next Sunday, Mom suggested that we go to Finley again.  And then again.  And then it just became our church.  Mom still attends services there.

One thing that i never really got used to, though, was the political climate in our new town.  Recall that this was 1992, a presidential election year, and just after the national political conventions.  As such, it was into the home stretch, as the two major parties’ candidates had been chosen, and it was just a matter of convincing America about which one was the better choice.  Incumbent president George Bush had just been formally nominated for a second term at the Republican convention, and then-Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was the Democratic nominee.  Clinton was a favorite where we had lived in Arkansas, as he was the sitting governor, and he was relatively popular, having been reelected twice while we were living there.  In Virginia, people hated him, mostly because, in that very Republican area, he was on the opposite team (I got the sense that people there would vote for Bozo the Clown as long as he was a Republican).  That was a bit of a culture shock.  I heard so many hurtful things about Bill Clinton and Democrats in general that fall, and it definitely gave me some negative views about the place.  For as much as Virginia has become more “blue” in recent years, that area is still solidly “red”.  I remember the day after the election, Mom thought it would be a good idea for me to wear a little Clinton button to school, and I wore it all day.  Oh, did I hear a lot of opinions about that one… all negative.  If I hadn’t already known it before, I definitely would have found out then about exactly how much people didn’t like Bill Clinton, and it was expressed in some very colorful ways.  Oof.

All in all, I suppose you could consider the move to Virginia to be the pivotal moment of my younger years, because it set the stage for so much of my life afterward.  Who knows what my life might have looked like if we had moved back to New Jersey instead of Virginia, or if we had moved somewhere else entirely.  On the whole, the move was a good thing, and was a much-needed change for all of us.

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An afternoon looking at Legos… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/21/an-afternoon-looking-at-legos/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/21/an-afternoon-looking-at-legos/#respond Sun, 21 Aug 2022 23:06:38 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=47387 On August 6, Elyse and I headed out to Chantilly for BrickFair, which is a Lego show held at the Dulles Expo Center.  This was my second time going to BrickFair, following my previous visit in 2018.  Like in 2018, I had fun, and I photographed a lot of Lego creations with my phone, while Elyse checked out all of the vendors.  I am always impressed with what I see at these events, because it puts whatever Lego creations that I made back in the day to shame.  My stuff was decent, and I always took pride in the way that I engineered things to work with the parts that I had available, but this stuff is worlds beyond anything that I ever did.

There was so much to see here, and while I got around to all of the tables, I definitely didn’t see everything there, because there was just that much to see, and we had only budgeted four hours.  Here are some of the highlights of what I saw:

The Chicago Theatre.
The Chicago Theatre.

The Bromo Seltzer Tower, a landmark building in Baltimore.
The Bromo Seltzer Tower, a landmark building in Baltimore.

A data center building, similar to the one that Schumin Web is housed in out in Ashburn.
A data center building, similar to the one that Schumin Web is housed in out in Ashburn.

6320 Augusta Drive, a 15-story office tower in Springfield, Virginia.  Elyse and I have been to this building a number of times in the past, and Elyse has filmed the elevator there.  Also notice the Fairfax Connector bus out front.
6320 Augusta Drive, a 15-story office tower in Springfield, Virginia.  Elyse and I have been to this building a number of times in the past, and Elyse has filmed the elevator there.  Also notice the Fairfax Connector bus out front.

The King Street Trolley, a DASH service that operates in Alexandria between King Street Metro and Old Town Alexandria.
The King Street Trolley, a DASH service that operates in Alexandria between King Street Metro and Old Town Alexandria.

A New Flyer Xcelsior XD60 bus in New Jersey Transit colors.
A New Flyer Xcelsior XD60 bus in New Jersey Transit colors.

These two photos are details of a piece called "Lizard People" by Amber Niblock.  The top level showed a politician with green hands speaking at a podium, and then underneath was this scene, showing a bunch of anthropomorphic lizards, presumably calling all of the real shots.

These two photos are details of a piece called "Lizard People" by Amber Niblock.  The top level showed a politician with green hands speaking at a podium, and then underneath was this scene, showing a bunch of anthropomorphic lizards, presumably calling all of the real shots.
These two photos are details of a piece called “Lizard People” by Amber Niblock.  The top level showed a politician with green hands speaking at a podium, and then underneath was this scene, showing a bunch of anthropomorphic lizards, presumably calling all of the real shots.

A Fletcher-class destroyer by James Beute.  This was the first of many ships that I saw today.
Fletcher-class destroyer by James Beute.  This was the first of many ships that I saw today.

The HMHS Britannic, the younger sister ship of the Titanic.
The HMHS Britannic, the younger sister ship of the Titanic.  This ship never saw passenger service, serving as a hospital ship during World War I.  The ship sank in 1916 after striking a mine in the Aegean Sea.  Unlike most other Olympic-class ships in Lego seen here, this one was built entirely from scratch, and did not use the Titanic model as a base.

This one was called "Titanic II", described as "A space-ified rework of the Lego Titanic set."  It used the Lego Titanic model as a base, and was then modified with space-like things to make it look futuristic.

This one was called "Titanic II", described as "A space-ified rework of the Lego Titanic set."  It used the Lego Titanic model as a base, and was then modified with space-like things to make it look futuristic.
This one was called “Titanic II“, described as “A space-ified rework of the Lego Titanic set.”  It used the Lego Titanic model as a base, and was then modified with space-like things to make it look futuristic.

This piece is called "Titanic under construction" and was built by Kevin Darke.  This depicts Titanic on the slipway at Harland & Wolff prior to launch, though after the Olympic had already been launched, and uses the Titanic model as a base.
This piece is called “Titanic under construction” and was built by Kevin Darke.  This depicts Titanic on the slipway at Harland & Wolff prior to launch, though after the Olympic had already been launched, and uses the Titanic model as a base.  I picked out a whole lot of errors between this and what the Titanic would have actually looked at the time of her launch.  In this case, the ship here is much more complete than she was at launch, with the bridge fully built.  Additionally, many modifications that were made during fitting out based on the company’s experience operating Olympic are shown here, such as the irregularly-spaced windows on B-deck, the enclosed forward end of A-deck, and the bridge cabs that extend past the side of the ship.

The Space Shuttle Discovery, in Lego form.
The Space Shuttle Discovery, in Lego form.


This is Point of Rocks station in Frederick County, Maryland.  Elyse and I have been here plenty of times in the past, for trainspotting and drone photography.

Lego freight railcar done up with the Lego space logo, called the Extrasolar Shipping Company, with reporting mark ESSCX.
Lego freight railcar done up with the Lego space logo, called the Extrasolar Shipping Company, with reporting mark ESSCX.

One thing that amused me was seeing all of the branded stuff, i.e. the stuff that used the brands of real-life companies.  None of these were made by the companies named, and it was interesting to see all of the different interpretations of the various companies.

This one depicted a 7-Eleven, and was called "Night Riders", described as, "An underground racing scene meeting late at night."
This one depicted a 7-Eleven, and was called “Night Riders”, described as, “An underground racing scene meeting late at night.”

This one depicted a 7-Eleven store as well, and was fairly accurate both inside and out.
This one depicted a 7-Eleven store as well, and was fairly accurate both inside and out.

Dunkin' Donuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts.

Five Guys store.  While Five Guys doesn't have its own standard architecture, the interiors of their locations have a distinct style.  I was pleased to see how accurate the inside of this one was.
Five Guys store.  While Five Guys doesn’t have its own standard architecture, the interiors of their locations have a distinct style.  I was pleased to see how accurate the inside of this one was.

Brick-fil-A, an obvious spoof of Chick-fil-A, using Chick-fil-A's standard architecture.  I commented to the guy that for the next day, a Sunday, he should remove all of the people from the restaurant and make it look like the place was closed.  He responded that this was Brick-fil-A, and not Chick-fil-A.
Brick-fil-A, an obvious spoof of Chick-fil-A, using Chick-fil-A’s standard architecture.  I commented to the guy that for the next day, a Sunday, he should remove all of the people from the restaurant and make it look like the place was closed.  He responded that this was Brick-fil-A, and not Chick-fil-A.

Another Chick-fil-A, as well as IHOP.  I was particularly impressed about how faithful it was to IHOP's standard architecture.
Another Chick-fil-A, as well as IHOP.  I was particularly impressed about how faithful it was to IHOP’s standard architecture.

Pizza Hut location, with classic styling.
Pizza Hut location, with classic styling.

Connor Franco of Manorville, New York built a Lego Walmart store.  I'd say that they did a good job, because it looked like Walmart, with all of the right colors, the Subway restaurant, and other various things.

Connor Franco of Manorville, New York built a Lego Walmart store.  I'd say that they did a good job, because it looked like Walmart, with all of the right colors, the Subway restaurant, and other various things.
Connor Franco of Manorville, New York built a Lego Walmart store.  I’d say that they did a good job, because it looked like Walmart, with all of the right colors, the Subway restaurant, and other various things.

Angry Birds on an iPhone.
Angry Birds on an iPhone.

This creation by Daniel Zimmerman was titled, "Functioning Vinyl Record Player", and it was exactly what it said on the tin: it actually played real records.
This creation by Daniel Zimmerman was titled, “Functioning Vinyl Record Player”, and it was exactly what it said on the tin: it actually played real records.

Lastly, a basket containing a Lego hamburger and fries.
Lastly, a basket containing a Lego hamburger and fries.

And there you go, I suppose.  This overview barely scratches the surface of what was there, but there was so much stuff there that it would take ages to show it all.  All I know is that I enjoyed myself while I was there, and so did Elyse.  Hopefully my schedule works out again so that I can go next year, but we’ll see.

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A trip to New Jersey with Elyse and Woomy… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/14/a-trip-to-new-jersey-with-elyse-and-woomy/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/14/a-trip-to-new-jersey-with-elyse-and-woomy/#respond Sun, 14 Aug 2022 23:57:18 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=46623 On Thursday, July 28, Elyse and I took a trip up to New Jersey.  The main purpose of the trip was to visit the Scrub Daddy headquarters in Pennsauken, where the company has a retail store.  Then we built a day around this in order to justify the trip.  We were no stranger to Scrub Daddy by any means, as we had previously stopped by their facility on the last day of our Atlantic City trip back in January, just to see where it was.  I remember how excited Elyse was during that visit to Scrub Daddy’s headquarters, and on that occasion, we just photographed the outside of the building, since the retail store wasn’t ready yet.  I could only imagine how excited Elyse would be going in and actually seeing the place.

We left the house around 10:00 AM, and got as far as Delaware House by noon.  This was to be our potty stop on the way up.  Elyse noticed an Edwards Integrity on the outside of the facility, and got some photos of it:

I got my own photo of it as well:

The current version of Delaware House has been around for about twelve years at this point, and I’d say that this outdoor horn/strobe looks about like what one would expect for somethign that’s been out in the elements for that long, as the “FIRE” lettering is faded away for the most part, and the strobe lens has a yellow tinge to it – kind of like the Wheelock AS that I spotted on the Asbury Park Casino back in 2013.

From there, our original plan was for us to go to John’s Roast Pork on Snyder Avenue in Philadelphia for lunch.  That was Elyse’s idea, and I was looking forward to it as well, since I’d never had a Philly cheesesteak that was actually made in Philadelphia before.  When Anonymous DC did Philadelphia back in 2009, we visited Pat’s King of Steaks, but I didn’t have anything, because I didn’t want to get my hands dirty.  So I was still without an authentic Philly cheesesteak experience in my life.  However, due to traffic that we encountered on the way up, Elyse nixed it, because she didn’t want anything to get between her and our visiting Scrub Daddy, i.e. she wanted to go straight to Scrub Daddy as our first stop.  I was a bit disappointed about that change because I was looking forward to it, but I suspect that John’s isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so that’s on the list for a future adventure.  That change also shifted our itinerary quite a bit, as I was going to make some drone flights from the Camden waterfront that weren’t going to happen now, or at least not right away.

That change also meant that rather than going up I-95 into Philadelphia via Wilmington and then over the Ben Franklin Bridge as originally planned, we would now go directly into New Jersey via the Delaware Memorial Bridge and then up I-295 to Pennsauken.  I told Elyse that I was fine with that… but if we were going that way, I was making a photo stop on the way over.  I had wanted to photograph the Delaware Memorial Bridge for a very long time, but in doing my research, I determined that most of the land within sight of the bridge was either occupied by an industrial facility, private property, or just plain inaccessible.  But then I found Church Landing in Pennsville Township, on the New Jersey side.  It was a little less than two-thirds of a mile south of the bridge, with a clear view, and public access all the way to the water.  I added it to my list of photo targets, and considering that our change in itinerary would take us right by there, plus that it was a beautiful day, I was going to take full advantage of this and cross this one off of the list.  Elyse grumbled a little bit about the extra stop because she didn’t want anything to get between her and Scrub Daddy, but that was the deal.  First, I got some land-based shots:

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, viewed from the Church Landing fishing spot

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, viewed from the Church Landing fishing spot

Not a bad view, if you ask me.  Then I threw the drone up in the air and went in for a closer look.  After all, this was always intended to be a drone shoot more than a ground-based shoot.  So here are some drone shots:

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

The Delaware Memorial Bridge, via drone

I also got some shots of Pennsville Township while I was flying back:

Pennsville Township, New Jersey, viewed from the air

Pennsville Township, New Jersey, viewed from the air

And then before I put it all away, I got a quick handheld photo of Elyse with the drone:

Elyse, in the car and holding a Scrub Daddy plush. Woomy is sitting in the console, stewing about something.

I enjoyed this flight around the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  I did most of my flying beneath the level of the bridge deck for safety reasons, since you’re not allowed to overfly cars.  Thus when I got those shots from between the two spans, I had flown underneath the northbound span, and then only raised my altitude once I was clear of both spans.  I also stayed close to the New Jersey end of the bridge because of winds.  I likely would have gotten better lighting if I had flown closer to the Delaware shore and then turned around to face New Jersey, but when I was flying at the highest speed setting and only getting four miles per hour, I realized that I was pushing against a lot of wind, and that while I might make it there, I would deplete my battery trying to get over there, and would have to turn right around and come back and not get any operational time over there.  So I stayed close to the New Jersey side, but I would love to come back here on a future trip, hopefully with less wind, and see what else I can do here.

From here, we beelined it to Scrub Daddy.  As soon as we got there, I parked the car and Elyse went right on in.  I followed, with Woomy in tow.  Getting into the Scrub Daddy “Smile Shop”, Elyse was like a kid in a candy store.  So much Scrub Daddy stuff to see:

Elyse photographs a rack of Scrub Daddy sponges.
Elyse photographs a rack of Scrub Daddy sponges.

Elyse takes the claw game out for a spin.
Elyse takes the claw game out for a spin.

Elyse shows off what she won from the claw machine: a Scrub Mommy!
Elyse shows off what she won from the claw machine: a Scrub Mommy!

Elyse points at the crab on the package with much delight.
Elyse points at the crab on the package with much delight.

Elyse takes a selfie with the big Scrub Daddy.  One of the crab-shaped Scrub Daddy sponges is in the big Scrub Daddy's eye.
Elyse takes a selfie with the big Scrub Daddy.  One of the crab-shaped Scrub Daddy sponges is in the big Scrub Daddy’s eye.

Woomy checked out the store as well, but unlike Elyse, the little curmudgeon wasn’t nearly as enthused about everything that he found as Elyse and I were:

Woomy checks out the stack of Scrub Daddy mugs.
Woomy checks out the stack of Scrub Daddy mugs.

Woomy checks out the dye-free Scrub Daddy products.
Woomy checks out the dye-free Scrub Daddy products.

Woomy reaches out to touch the Scrub Daddy Eco Collection sponges.
Woomy reaches out to touch the Scrub Daddy Eco Collection sponges.

Woomy checks out the BBQ Daddy grill cleaning pads.
Woomy checks out the BBQ Daddy grill cleaning pads.

We stuffed Woomy into the eye of the big Scrub Daddy for a photo.  He really didn't like that assault on his dignity.
We stuffed Woomy into the eye of the big Scrub Daddy for a photo.  He really didn’t like that assault on his dignity.

I suppose that there’s no pleasing a grumpy little curmudgeon like Woomy.  He definitely says, “I don’t like that!” a lot.  Because of this, we warned the staff not to take anything that Woomy says personally, because, well… because Woomy.  Fortunately, though, the staff just loved Woomy.  Most people do, despite how much of a grump he is.

The folks at Scrub Daddy were really awesome.  Their social media person walked by while we were there, came into the retail store, introduced herself, and then asked, “Are you Elyse?”  Clearly, Elyse has made a big impression on the folks at Scrub Daddy, if they recognize her on sight.  They also surprised us by bringing out the folks in the mascot costumes.  Elyse and I both just loved that, and had a blast with them.

Elyse gets a selfie with the Scrub Daddy mascot.
Elyse gets a selfie with the Scrub Daddy mascot.

Elyse and the Scrub Daddy mascot share a hug.
Elyse and the Scrub Daddy mascot share a hug.

Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy mascot.
Elyse poses with the Scrub Daddy and Scrub Mommy mascot.

Elyse hugs the Scrub Mommy mascot.
Elyse hugs the Scrub Mommy mascot.

The Scrub Mommy and Scrub Daddy mascots hold Elyse's Scrub Daddy plush as if it was a baby.
The Scrub Mommy and Scrub Daddy mascots hold Elyse’s Scrub Daddy plush as if it was a baby.

And of course, family portrait.
And of course, family portrait.

All in all, we had an amazing time at Scrub Daddy.  I imagine that we will be back again at some point.

From here, we headed to our next destination.  Elyse wanted to have a small transit adventure in Philadelphia, while I wanted to have lunch and then fly the stuff from the Camden waterfront that I didn’t get to do earlier because of our course change.  So I set Elyse down at the City Hall PATCO station in Camden, and then headed off in search of food.  I was looking for Taco Bell, and ended up going to one out in Mount Ephraim.  Across the street from the Taco Bell was a Harley-Davidson dealership, so, keeping Elyse and her love of Harley dealerships in mind, before I went in for lunch, I dipped in there and bought a poker chip for her collection.  I took my time having lunch, because I assumed, correctly, as it would turn out, that the stuff that I had planned wouldn’t take as long as the stuff that she had planned, so I needed to fill some time.  I had no regrets there, because the timing ended up working out perfectly.

Once I finished lunch, I headed back over to Camden, with the intention of flying my drone around the Ben Franklin Bridge.  My previous experience with Camden had only been in the really bad areas, so I was quite pleased that the Ben Franklin Bridge was in a much nicer part of the Camden waterfront.  I set up in a little waterfront park just north of the RCA Pier, and sat on top of a picnic table in the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The park that I flew from. It was a nice area, even if the grass was dead.
The park that I flew from. It was a nice area, even if the grass was dead.

And then, up I went:

The Ben Franklin Bridge, viewed from the New Jersey side.
The Ben Franklin Bridge, viewed from the New Jersey side.

Getting lined up for a shot of a PATCO train coming across the bridge, and then just waiting for it to come by.  This was essentially trainspotting, high-tech style.
Getting lined up for a shot of a PATCO train coming across the bridge, and then just waiting for it to come by.  This was essentially trainspotting, high-tech style.

Patience pays off, as I got this photo of a PATCO train crossing the river.  Incidentally, Elyse was on board this train, and she spotted my drone as she was going by.
Patience pays off, as I got this photo of a PATCO train crossing the river.  Incidentally, Elyse was on board this train, and she spotted my drone as she was going by.

The bridge from the Philadelphia side.
The bridge from the Philadelphia side.

Hovering close to the water, getting a view of the underside of the bridge.
Hovering close to the water, getting a view of the underside of the bridge.

Still skimming over the water, viewing the bridge from a little further out.
Still skimming over the water, viewing the bridge from a little further out.

A view of Camden as the drone was flying itself home.
A view of Camden as the drone was flying itself home.

Selfie at the end of the flight, just before landing.
Selfie at the end of the flight, just before landing.

After this, I changed the battery, and then went for a brief flight in the area around where I was sitting.  The signage on some of the buildings behind me intrigued me, and so I went in for a closer look:

The buildings right next to me in Camden

Triad 1828

Close-up on the "Triad 1828" sign.  I didn't linger here too long, because the birds were making me nervous when I was flying close to the sign.
Close-up on the “Triad 1828” sign.  I didn’t linger here too long, because the birds were making me nervous when I was flying close to the sign.

RCA Pier and beyond.
RCA Pier and beyond.

By the time I was finished with this flight, Elyse had come back and joined me, and we headed to our next stop, which was Phoenix Park.  For those not familiar, Phoenix Park is not in a particularly nice part of Camden.  We explored this area during our Atlantic City trip, and it looked doable, but the area felt super sketchy.  Therefore, I did not want to do this one alone.  Having Elyse with me, even if she was just sitting in the car, made me feel a lot more comfortable.

At Phoenix Park, the plan was to fly around the SS United States in order to get better photos of her stern, and then photograph the Walt Whitman Bridge.  But first, I had to wait for a big cloud to pass.  It was a nice day in general, but I wasn’t going to let this big cloud block my sunlight and give me less-than-vibrant shots.

The cloud that I was waiting for.
The cloud that I was waiting for.

The drone, sitting on a table at Phoenix Park, powered down while I wait for the cloud to move.
The drone, sitting on a table at Phoenix Park, powered down while I wait for the cloud to move.

I ended up doing two flights from Phoenix Park.  My first flight was a relatively quick one on a partial battery:

The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.
The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Delaware River.
The Delaware River.

The Stove Ocean, a Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier.
The Stove Ocean, a Norwegian-flagged bulk carrier.

Overhead view of Phoenix Park as I bring the drone in for a landing.
Overhead view of Phoenix Park as I bring the drone in for a landing.

Then, after changing the battery, I was up in the sky again:

One of my targets on this flight was the SS United States, as I wanted to get better photos of the stern.
One of my targets on this flight was the SS United States, as I wanted to get better photos of the stern.  You really need to fly that from Camden, in order to maintain proper line of sight and remote range.  Unfortunately, though, I came too late in the day to get stern photos, because the sun was in all of my shots, which wasn’t the effect that I was going for.  I suspect that in order to do this right, I need to get there in the morning.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.

The Walt Whitman Bridge.
The Walt Whitman Bridge.

I was surprised to see this style of sign gantry over the bridge.  These new gantries were installed a few years ago, replacing the arch-style ones that I remembered growing up.
I was surprised to see this style of sign gantry over the bridge.  These new gantries were installed a few years ago, replacing the arch-style ones that I remembered growing up.

A high-level view of Walt.
A high-level view of Walt.

I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.

I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.
I then dipped down and flew under the bridge in order to get some shots from the far side of the bridge.

On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.

On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.
On the way back from the Walt Whitman Bridge, I photographed the Stove Ocean again as it was being loaded up with material.

And then I landed and put the drone away, because I had no more flights planned for the day.  However, while I was flying, I noticed that two vehicles had come into the park, turned around, and parked along the side of the road that goes in and out of the park.  No one got out of either vehicle.  That made me a little uncomfortable, because I didn’t know what was going on, and it validated why I wanted Elyse nearby for this part of the adventure.  After all, that felt a little suspect to me.  Were they up to no good?  Was I in danger?  I didn’t know.  However, once we started heading out of the park, I discovered what was going on.  I glanced into one of the vehicles as we drove by, and I saw a man sitting in the driver’s seat, and a woman’s head was bobbing up and down next to him.  Ah.  I understand now.  As you were.

From here, Elyse wanted to visit a Grocery Outlet store in Philadelphia.  I had planned on doing some night photography of the vintage sign at the McDonald’s in Magnolia that evening, which I had previously photographed in 2014, during the day.  So my plan was to remain in New Jersey and then leave via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and not touch Pennsylvania at all.  My general rule when it comes to New Jersey and bridge tolls is that I only want to pay a bridge toll once.  Therefore, if we’re in New Jersey, you’d better be absolutely sure that you’re done in New Jersey before we drive to Pennsylvania.  Likewise, if we’re in Philadelphia, you had better be damn sure that you’re done in Philadelphia before I drive to New Jersey.  Those bridge tolls add up, after all.  I was still planning on doing the McDonald’s sign in Magnolia, so if Elyse was insisting on having me drive into Philadelphia, this toll was on her.  She agreed.  So we went into Philadelphia via Walt.

The Grocery Outlet store, meanwhile, was nice enough, though I did spot a mouse running around on the salesfloor.  I also didn’t like the fact that the restrooms were locked and only available to employees, especially since I needed to go, myself.  But the people working there were nice.  We ended up going to a nearby Acme store afterward to satisfy our restroom need before continuing.

Elyse also wanted to take me to Barcade, which is a bar with lots of vintage arcade games housed inside.  We didn’t stay for very long, because we showed up just after 8:00, and the place was pretty busy.  There was lots of noise from other patrons, and the arcade machines were pay-per-game rather than on free play, and I was unprepared for that (note to self: bring small bills).  Plus a big storm was about to arrive, and we didn’t want to get caught in it.  This is what the sky looked like when we arrived at Barcade:

Storm clouds over Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.

We left at exactly the right time, as we had only been in the car for a few minutes when the storm began to make its presence known.  Soon, there was thunder, lightning, and very heavy rain.  We would have gotten drenched just from walking out of Barcade to the car, and we were parked right in front.  We eventually made our way to a Target store on Mifflin Street, and we waited out the rest of the storm in their parking lot, just sitting in the car.  Once the storm subsided, we went in and wandered around a bit, buying a few odds and ends while we were there.

After this, Elyse thought that we might want to go to Pat’s, since it was close by, but wondered how late they were open.  Turned out that Pat’s was open 24 hours, so no worries there.  So maybe I would just end up getting my authentic Philly cheesesteak after all, even though I’m told that the whole Pat’s/Geno’s thing is highly overrated and you can do better at other places, much like how Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC is also considered by locals to be overrated.

Once we got there, I saw it as a photo opportunity, as I broke out the tripod and the DSLR and photographed around the area a little bit:

Signage at Pat's.

Signage at Pat's.
Signage at Pat’s.

Geno's Steaks.

Geno's Steaks.

Geno's Steaks.
Geno’s Steaks.

Signage at Los Taquitos de Puebla.
Signage at Los Taquitos de Puebla.

Signage for Rim Cafe.
Signage for Rim Cafe.

The intersection of South 9th Street and Federal Street.
The intersection of South 9th Street and Federal Street.

I admit that I don’t have as much experience (and therefore skill) doing night photography as I would like, but I did like the way some of those shots of Geno’s came out.  I need to go out and shoot night photography more often, though, since I can do decent work when properly provoked.  I think that a lot of it also is that there are very few purpose-built nighttime photography adventures.  Nighttime photography often comes at the end of a longer day as something of an afterthought, and so I’m not necessarily at my best when shooting it.  Plus Elyse is usually running out of patience for my photography by that time in the evening, and often tries to rush me, which knocks me out of my headspace.  All in all, I like doing night photography, but I definitely need to get a lot more practice with it.

Also, this is the nerd in me coming out, but around the time that we did this trip, I had been watching a playthrough of Space Quest 6 on YouTube, and I couldn’t help but think that this area right around Pat’s and Geno’s reminded me of the streets on Polysorbate LX, which is the planet that you’re beamed down to for shore leave at the beginning of the game.  Elyse laughed about that because it’s such a me thing to reference, but it’s true – it did feel like I was walking around a real life version of Polysorbate LX.

And then as far as the cheesesteak wars go, which side did I choose?  Neither.  While I was out photographing Polysorbate, er, South Philly, Elyse went in search of food, and while she considered both Pat’s and Geno’s, she ultimately ended up getting an egg sandwich from J&J Pizza, which is about a block away from Geno’s.  She had me try a bite of it, and it was delicious, so I got something similar.  Seriously, it was amazing.  I had not had an egg sandwich that good since I worked at Food & Water Watch and would occasionally get breakfast at the cafe in the basement of our building.  Elyse and I were discussing how they made it taste so good, and I suggested that it’s because they were cooking on a flattop, they knew what they were doing (unlike ourselves), plus they were probably using lots of butter.  Whatever the case may be, though, we were fans.  The cheesesteaks can keep until a future visit, because I have no regrets about getting that egg sandwich.

Finishing up there, we started to head back home.  It was almost midnight, and we had two and a half hours’ worth of driving ahead of us to get back to Montgomery Village.  That also meant that Elyse was off the hook for the toll, since we did not return to New Jersey as we had intended earlier, so only one New Jersey toll was paid, which was all that I wanted to pay.

Along with a healthy dose of “I HATE STEVEN SINGER!” billboards, we encountered road work just south of Philadelphia and into Wilmington.  One thing that we were both surprised to see was variable message signs with flashing blue and red lights on them like police vehicles would have:

Red and blue lights on a message sign. Not a good thing.

I posted this to a Facebook group called “there is NO way that is MUTCD-compliant“, and a commenter described the problem quite well.  They said, “The problem with this is that it desensitizes people to the flashing red and blue lights and therefore makes it *more* dangerous for first responders at actual emergency scenes.”  Additionally, the current version of the MUTCD expressly prohibits this sort of practice, stating, “Techniques of message display such as animation, rapid flashing, dissolving, exploding, scrolling, travelling horizontally or vertically across the face of the sign, or other dynamic elements shall not be used.”  But Pennsylvania will do what it wants, I suppose, just like how Delaware still puts those idiotic PSAs on their changeable message signs, despite that those are also explicitly not allowed following a 2021 FHWA ruling.  When we were driving home, DelDOT was running a message on their signs that said, “A cold dinner is better than a hot ticket.”  They need to stop running those, but apparently, they just can’t help themselves.

Beyond that, the trip back was pretty uneventful, and we got home just before 3:00 AM.  All in all, I’d say that we had a fun time.

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An unexpected Staunton Mall update… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/13/an-unexpected-staunton-mall-update/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/13/an-unexpected-staunton-mall-update/#respond Sat, 13 Aug 2022 14:00:25 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=47337 On Thursday, August 11, 2022, I made what you might call an unexpected trip down to Augusta County.  Since the previous Sunday, Elyse had been down in Roanoke attending to some business related to a nonprofit that she is involved with, and was supposed to come back on Wednesday evening via Amtrak.  However, due to some heavy thunderstorms across Virginia that day, her Amtrak train was significantly delayed due to flooding and fallen trees, which meant that she only got as far as Charlottesville before delays on top of more delays meant that she would not arrive in Washington for many hours.  She ended up getting off the train in Charlottesville, and stayed overnight at my parents’ house.  That was a strange thing, with Elyse sending me photos from my old bedroom and all, while I was at home in Maryland.  Then since I was off on Thursday, I ended up coming down there to scoop her up and bring her home.  I figured that this was a good excuse for a road trip, so I gathered up my DSLR and my drone and hit the road.  We did a lot of stuff on this one-day trip, including spending quality time with the parents, but photographically, my main push was to get another update for Staunton Mall, after I had previously given an update in June.

Since my last visit, the mall has continued to be hollowed out.  When I visited in June, the interior walls were mostly demolished, with only the exterior walls remaining, from JCPenney to just past the Peebles.  From the end of Peebles to Montgomery Ward was where most of the demolition was occurring, as the roof was off of the mall corridor, while the stores were mostly still there.  The Wards building and the Belk wing were still mostly intact.  Now, the Wards building has been hollowed out to the exterior walls, as has the Belk wing up to the mall entrance next to Family Barber & Beauty.  I imagine that there is a reason behind the way that they’re doing this, demolishing the interior while leaving the exterior mostly intact until the end, but I don’t know what the reason is.

I followed the same process that I did before when it came to documenting the demolition of Staunton Mall.  I first drove around the property in order to figure out what was worth checking out, and then took the drone up for some flights near the areas that I wanted to photograph.  After all, why send my soft, vulnerable little body in there where things are unstable and could fall on me, when I can send a robot in my place and live vicariously through its eyes, while remaining in a place of safety at all times.  In this case, I parked in front of Boston Beanery to check out the south end of the mall, and then repositioned in front of Family Barber & Beauty to do the north end of the mall.

That said, this is what the mall now looks like from above:

View from the northwest.  Note that Belk (which is still operating) and the final stretch of the Belk wing are the only things still intact.
View from the northwest.  Note that Belk (which is still operating) and the final stretch of the Belk wing are the only things still intact.

View from the northeast.
View from the northeast.

View from the east.  You can tell from the lighting here that I made this visit in the early evening, as the sun was starting to get low in the sky.
View from the east.  You can tell from the lighting here that I made this visit in the early evening, as the sun was starting to get low in the sky.

View from the southeast.  Note that except for the aforementioned two sections, as well as the movie theater, everything else has been hollowed out to a shell.
View from the southeast.  Note that except for the aforementioned two sections, as well as the movie theater, everything else has been hollowed out to a shell.

View from the southwest.
View from the southwest.

View from the west.  Note that the front of the mall still stands, nearly in its entirety.  Thus while the interior has been almost totally gutted, it still looks the same from Route 11.
View from the west.  Note that the front of the mall still stands, nearly in its entirety.  Thus while the interior has been more or less gutted, it still looks the same from Route 11.

Meanwhile, the Peebles (previously Woolworth’s and Stone & Thomas) building is almost completely gone.  While the interior walls were demolished prior to my June visit, now the back wall has been leveled.  Only a small section around the loading dock still remains:

Peebles, now largely razed.

The south end of the mall looks largely the same as it did in June, with most of the back wall gone, as well as the exterior wall around Hibbett Sporting Goods (formerly the original food court):

The JCPenney building and the JCPenney wing of the mall, hollowed out, and with the back wall missing.

The area around the center entrance is still recognizable, though there is a lot less of it than there was when I visited in June:

LensCrafters and that gift shop are now completely gone.  The last remaining bit of the former CVS store is visible in the distance.
LensCrafters and that gift shop are now completely gone.  The last remaining bit of the former CVS store is visible in the distance.

The center entrance.  While it's still recognizable, it's definitely had more removed from it since my June visit, as the "Thank you for shopping with us" sign is now completely gone.
The center entrance.  While it’s still recognizable, it’s definitely had more removed from it since my June visit, as the “Thank you for shopping with us” sign is now completely gone.

The former Country Cookin' space, which later briefly housed the second iteration of Hot Wok, is now completely demolished except for the exterior wall.
The former Country Cookin’ space, which later briefly housed the second iteration of Hot Wok, is now completely demolished except for the exterior wall.

And for the record, I’m still a little salty about the way that the mall management did the Hot Wok folks.  Hopefully, they’re doing well at their new location over by Martin’s.  Considering how popular they were when they were at the mall, though, I have no reason to think that they wouldn’t be doing well.  Elyse and I still need to go and eat there some time.

Continuing, the movie theater building is still mostly intact, though the mall entrance next to the movie theater, as well as the arcade that was across from it, are totally gone:


The movie theater entrance, as well as what remained of the Video Zone arcade, is now just a memory.

The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.

The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.
The movie theater building itself has been partially demolished, as the interiors of some of the theater spaces are now visible.

I only ever saw three movies in Staunton Mall: AladdinThe Lion King, and The Santa Clause.  I couldn’t tell you which theaters I saw those movies in, and I imagine that it doesn’t matter anymore.

Then the Montgomery Ward building, which was nearly completely intact in June, is now just a few exterior walls:

What remains of Montgomery Ward.

What remains of Montgomery Ward.
What remains of Montgomery Ward.

Then there’s the Belk wing.  That was still fully intact in June, but it is now about two-thirds demolished (not including Belk, which is not part of the demolition).  The only part of the mall that is still intact is from the south edge of Books A Million to Belk.

The mall entrance in the Belk wing.  The side wall of Books A Million is visible to the right, while Family Barber & Beauty was to the left of the mall entrance.  The former Family Barber space has been completely demolished, save for an exterior wall.
The mall entrance in the Belk wing.  The side wall of Books A Million is visible to the right, while Family Barber & Beauty was to the left of the mall entrance.  The former Family Barber space has been completely demolished, save for an exterior wall.  Compare to how it looked in December 2020.

The south wall of Books A Million, still recognizable as such.
The south wall of Books A Million, still recognizable as such.

The end of the demolition, for now.

The end of the demolition, for now.
The end of the demolition, for now.

The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.

The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.
The last little bit of the Belk wing is the last thing still intact.  Compare to how it looked in December 2020.

In those photos of the interior of the Belk wing, I found it somewhat curious that all of the lighting on Belk’s mall entrance still worked, and that the sign still lit up, just as it did when the mall was still open.  It can easily be explained by the fact that Belk is still operational, and that it will remain fully operational throughout the entire redevelopment, and also that anchor store buildings tend to have separate ownership and separate utilities from the rest of the mall.  Nonetheless, I’m surprised that no one removed that signage, disconnected the electricity to the sign, or flipped the circuit breaker that sends power to those lights and the sign, because there’s no one there that will see that signage now that the mall is history.  The exterior facade on that side will likely not be retained, seeing as it’s been cut into in a place to the right of the sign.  I wonder what the treatment of that space will be when everything is completed.  I wonder if the exterior of Belk will be renovated as part of the redevelopment.  I suppose that we’ll all find out together.  I just hope that it’s not like the Harrisonburg store, where, following an expansion in the 2000s, two facades were designed in one style, and the third entrance, added during the expansion, was a completely different architectural style.

And then after landing, I got a photo of the HR-V in front of Family Barber & Beauty:

My Honda HR-V, seen just after I landed the drone. Note the drone's shadow in the foreground.
Note the drone’s shadow in the foreground.

So that’s the latest on the demolition progress at Staunton Mall.  I am forever grateful to my past self for documenting the entire mall in the Staunton Mall photo set in December 2020 while the mall was still open, since it’s helped so much in making before-and-after comparisons.  I’ll be in the area again in the second or so week of September, and so I’ll probably be able to give another update then.  Stay tuned!

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Still clueless, and not getting any better… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/05/still-clueless-and-not-getting-any-better/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/08/05/still-clueless-and-not-getting-any-better/#respond Fri, 05 Aug 2022 14:37:14 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=46016 Do you remember that Journal entry that I did a few months ago about David Pinson, the guy who had no clue about why I was filing a copyright claim against his video that used my photo of the old Giant Food store on O Street NW?  As it turned out, he didn’t learn a thing.  Recently, while I was nailing another YouTube user for a copyright infringement issue, I ran into Pinson’s channel, Earl of Baltimore, in my list of past copyright infringement claims.  So while I was in there, considering our history, I gave it a quick look over to make sure that my image was still gone.  I went in expecting to find nothing, so I was surprised that I actually had a hit.  I found this:

The Giant Food spot, restored to YouTube

It was the same radio ad as before, but I didn’t care about that part, since the audio wasn’t mine.  But the imagery with the commercial was my photo of the O Street store, now modified with heavy blurring, a yellow tint, and a flicker effect.  The video was titled, “The Video That Got My Channel Whacked” with the description of, “Ignorance of policy is no excuse.  Infringement carries consequences.  Best believe it.”  He also added as a pinned comment, “Just to add context, this was a radio spot that originally aired 1/1/1980 for Giant food stores and is probably lost to time other than being posted here on this channel.  I aim to preserve little tidbits like this.  In doing so it earned my channel a copyright strike.  Details as to why can be found in my last community post.”  (For whatever it’s worth, I was unable to locate that community post, so he may have removed it.)

Pinson probably thought that he was being really slick with that one.  It confirmed why I was unwilling to play ball with Pinson during our last encounter.  Recall that back then, he was begging me to rescind my copyright notice so that he can remove the video himself.  Based on what he said here, it is clear that I was right when I said in the previous entry, “I’ve been given no reason to think that Pinson would actually follow through and remove the content voluntarily, vs. deciding that he’s ‘doing the Lord’s work’ or some other such thing by running his nostalgia channel and leaving it up indefinitely because he’s just decided that he’s right.”  After all, rather than following the rules that come with the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, looking for a different image, or – heaven forbid – taking his own photo of a Giant Food store, he decided to double down and blame me for his misfortunes.  Characterizing a well-deserved copyright strike as getting his channel “whacked” sums that up quite well.

Additionally, if he thinks that he’s right in this matter, I’m surprised that he went to the trouble of adding so many filters to the image.  That makes him look guilty as hell, since he’s trying to obscure that he stole the image, just like YouTube channels that post pirated content and then flip the image and employ weird cropping in an attempt to throw off anyone who might potentially nail them for copyright.  I saw through that in about half a second.  Compare my original image to the one that appears in his video:

My original photo of the O Street Giant Food store.
My original photo of the O Street Giant Food store.

My photo of the O Street Giant Food store as it appears in Pinson's second video, subject to heavy processing.
My photo of the O Street Giant Food store as it appears in Pinson’s second video, subject to heavy processing.

It doesn’t take much effort to tell that it’s the same image.  It may be blurred and tinted, but you can easily see that it’s the exact same angle, you can make out the sedan in the lower right corner, and you can see the pedestrian in the lower left corner.  If I’m trying to identify a specific photo, that’s what I’m looking for.  I look at how fixed objects line up with each other (e.g. where a tree lines up with details on a building), and I look at things that would move between individual shots, like pedestrians and cars.  There is no doubt that this is my shot, despite the many filters used.

So just like the first time, I nailed him for it, completing YouTube’s DMCA takedown form and then submitting it.  The video was removed by YouTube about an hour later.  Pinson got in that “I am very smart” state of mind where he thought that he could outsmart someone, and I issued a swift correction.  As far as I was concerned, problem solved.

Then fast forward about four days, and I received another email from YouTube, this one with the subject “New Copyright Counter Notification”.  It came with the following explanation, presented in its entirety:

This is wrong.  The image in question DOES NOT APPEAR in the video.  I keep getting rejected because it is “unclear” whether I have a valid reason to contest I want a MANUAL review.  I want a representative to contact me asap.  Manual review by a PERSON of the video will make it ABSOLUTELY clear why I am contesting this.  I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief the material was removed due to a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.  I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which YouTube is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant.  David Pinson [address and phone number redacted]  I just received an email saying my request counter notification couldn’t be processed due to it not being accompanied by the above information.  The claimant is trying to claim an image that does not exist in the video.  Please manually review it.  I will continue to submit counter notifications until a representative gives me a valid reason this strike should stand.

I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief the material was removed due to a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.

I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which YouTube is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant.

David Pinson

Based on his response in his counter-notification, Pinson still has absolutely no clue.  I find it strange that he states that the image in question does not appear in the video, because as I demonstrated above, it absolutely does.  Just because one subjects an image to heavy processing doesn’t mean that it’s not still a derivative work of the original, and therefore, my ownership of the photo remains unchanged.  Other than simply denying that the image appears, Pinson gives no actual evidence to refute my copyright claim.  Based on the statement where he says, “I keep getting rejected because it is ‘unclear’ whether I have a valid reason to contest I want a MANUAL review,” I suspect that he’s submitting things with no evidence and expecting that people will just roll over and comply with his demands based on his statements alone, and they are getting bounced.  I also suspect that even if YouTube did a manual review, I doubt that he would prevail, because it’s obvious that he’s still using my photo and not following the terms of the standard license for that image.

What irritates me about this whole thing at this juncture is that he filed a counter-notification.  When YouTube receives one of these, they give the original complainant (me) ten days to come back with a court order mandating its removal, or else they’re automatically reinstating the video.  In other words, they’re washing their hands of the whole matter and not getting in the middle of it.  Therefore, having received the counter-notification, if I want the video gone, I would have to sue him, and he’s just not worth that hassle.  So rest assured, upon seeing a counter-notification come through, and then seeing Pinson’s name attached to it, that I was seeing red.  Especially when the entire premise of his counter-notification, made under penalty of perjury, is based on an untruth.  In other words, as far as I can tell (and mind you, I am not a lawyer), he perjured himself.  Not a smart move on his part.

But in any event, Pinson managed to bumble his way into getting away with copyright infringement, at least in this one case.  However, I suspect that his “Earl of Baltimore” YouTube account is very much built on a house of cards.  In his entire channel of 474 videos, I found fewer than ten that were actually original content.  In other words, it’s just a matter of time before various other rights holders with more resources than me (like having their own lawyers) also nail him, and then he’s going to lose his account.

The overarching lesson here, though, is simple: don’t steal.  But if you do steal, and you subsequently get caught, be an adult about it, and own up to it.

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Yes, I really did meet Andre the Giant back in 1991… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/26/yes-i-really-did-meet-andre-the-giant-back-in-1991/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/26/yes-i-really-did-meet-andre-the-giant-back-in-1991/#respond Tue, 26 Jul 2022 23:42:59 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=45065 Back in the summer of 1991, my life was quite different than it is now.  We lived in Rogers, Arkansas back then, and I had just completed fourth grade.  My father worked as a quality manager for Scott Nonwovens (now part of Berry Global following a series of acquisitions over the years).  My mother worked as a fitness instructor at the Walton Life Fitness Center (WLFC) in Bentonville, i.e. Walmart’s corporate fitness center.  That job of Mom’s provided a lot of benefits for the entire family, as we all got access to the fitness center facility, of which we made good use.  We were there so much that the fitness center almost felt like a second home at times, what with my taking swimming and Taekwondo classes there, as well as a little fitness camp called “Kids Kamp” during the summers.

One of the benefits that came with the fitness center as far as Mom was concerned was the Walmart employee stock purchase program.  I participated in it when I worked for Walmart in the mid 2000s, and as far as I know, the company still has this program.  Basically, you elected to set aside a certain amount of money per paycheck, which was then used to purchase shares of Walmart stock in your name.  As such, you were afforded all of the rights and privileges that came with being a shareholder, such as voting on issues presented to the shareholders, as well as attending the annual shareholders’ meeting.  Back then, Walmart was a much smaller company than it is now, so much of the annual shareholders’ meeting occurred at their corporate headquarters in Bentonville.

One part of the Walmart shareholders’ meeting, at least at that time, was a trade show.  A bunch of companies that you’ve probably heard of if you’ve ever shopped at Walmart had booths set up and they were showing off all of their new offerings.  In 1991, this was held at the Walmart corporate office (in 1992, it was held in a former Walmart store nearby that they had recently vacated following a relocation).  Among various things that we saw there, I got to take a Super Nintendo for a spin and play Super Mario World for the first time at the Nintendo booth, about two and a half months before it was released to the public.  I remember being surprised to see so many different buttons on the controller (six compared to two on the original Nintendo), and seeing Mario do two different kinds of jumps, i.e. the spin jump and the regular jump.

There was also a fair amount of celebrities at the event.  We met Alan Thicke, i.e. the guy who played Jason Seaver on Growing Pains, at the Fruit of the Loom booth.  I got his autograph, even though at the time, I had no idea who he was or why he was important.  The piece of paper that he autographed is knocking around the house somewhere.  Then we also met Andre the Giant and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake at the Hasbro booth, where they were promoting the various WWF toy lines.  Now, just like with Alan Thicke, I had never heard of either one of these guys before.  The only thing that I understood was that they were wrestlers.  And here are the photos that we got:

My ten-year-old self, sitting on a bench with Andre the Giant, with a balloon looped around my hand.
My ten-year-old self, sitting on a bench with Andre the Giant, with a balloon looped around my hand.

Mom with Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
Mom with Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.

They also got a photo of my sister standing in front of Andre the Giant (she didn’t want to sit next to him, but we’ll forgive her because she was only six years old), but that photo may have been lost, because it didn’t turn up when Mom found the other two.

In meeting Andre the Giant, I remember his being a very nice man.  I also remember that he was a very large man.  I was ten years old, and so you can see the size difference compared to me.  I especially remember the size of his hands – particularly his fingers.  They were huge – like the size of summer sausages.  Other than that, though, I didn’t think much of the encounter.  We got our photos, and that was that.

It wasn’t until 1993 when Andre the Giant died of congestive heart failure while visiting France for a family event that it really hit home how much of a big deal Andre the Giant was, and how special it was to have gotten to meet him, at what turned out to be about a year and a half before his passing.  You also really have to feel sorry for his family.  He was in France to attend his father’s funeral, and stayed a little bit longer after that in order to spend time with his mother.  And then while he’s there, he dies.  You can’t help but feel badly for his family, suffering a relatively quick one-two punch like that.  I found out about it when Mom showed me an article about it with a headline that said, “A Giant Dies”, relaying a brief story about his death.

In any event, that was a fun childhood memory.  I’m currently going through a whole box of photos and such from much younger years that my parents sent up with me to scan, and so I imagine that I’ll come up with some more stuff before too long.

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A day up in Pennsylvania… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/22/a-day-up-in-pennsylvania/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/22/a-day-up-in-pennsylvania/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2022 12:30:13 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=46163 On July 15, Elyse and I went up to Pennsylvania to photograph a very specific target: the western portal of the Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel, which is one of four tunnels on the mainline Pennsylvania Turnpike.  I’ve been wanting to photograph a Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel for a while, but distance plus operational challenges caused this to be back-burnered for a long time.

My first thought was to photograph the tunnels the old fashioned way: on the turnpike itself, from a vehicle.  I did this on my shoot from 16 years ago where I photographed Breezewood and then did the turnpike to Carlisle.  I do not recommend that anyone do this, at least not the way that I did, because I was driving with one hand and photographing with the other.  At the relatively young age of 24, though, I thought that I was good enough to handle it, but looking back, I’m fortunate that nothing went wrong.  If I had someone else with me doing the driving, this would have been a better option, but I didn’t have one.  Of course, even then, you really only have one shot at it.  The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a toll road, and a relatively expensive one at that, plus the exits are spaced fairly far apart.  Thus, in the case of Kittatinny Mountain (and the adjacent tunnel through Blue Mountain), having to go back to take another crack at it would require about 25 miles of extra driving, considering that the exits on either side are spaced about 12 miles apart, plus the distance to actually turn around at both ends.  Plus extra tolls and the fuel to do that round trip.  Pulling over and shooting some photos from the roadside is also not a viable option, because as I understand it, the PTC does not look favorably on that.  General rule of thumb is that outside of the service plazas, the PTC does not want you outside of your vehicle on their property at any time except if you absolutely have to, and will come check on you if you are outside somewhere that you’re not supposed to be.  So that led me to do some research on Google Maps in order see if there were off-turnpike places to photograph any of the tunnels.  Allegheny Mountain is too far west, being more than halfway to Pittsburgh, plus there’s no off-turnpike access.  Tuscarora also had no access.  No access at Blue Mountain, either.  But at Kittatinny Mountain, Route 641 goes over the turnpike just west of the tunnel portals.  Therefore, we have a winner.

Finding that, I then turned to Elyse and basically said, “Help me justify this outing by building a day,” and sent along a map of my target and the intended route there.  That’s how so many of our adventures happen: there’s something that one of us wants to do, but we can’t justify the time commitment or expense of a trip for it it all by itself.  So we add more stuff and make it into a full-on adventure that typically gets us home around midnight.  Elyse wanted to see a siren and some other stuff in Shippensburg and Chambersburg, so there was the rest of our adventure.

This adventure initially seemed cursed, though.  We got a later start than I would have preferred, plus there were a number of traffic issues along our intended route.  For those not familiar, our intended route was to take I-270 up to Frederick, get on I-70 and take that to Hagerstown, take I-81 up to Chambersburg, and then take a number of back roads to get to the tunnel portal.  First there was an accident on 270, which caused us to divert to Route 355 at the Frederick County line.  We ended up taking that into downtown Frederick and then going through the Golden Mile in order to avoid another jam on I-70 in Frederick.  Then on 70, we encountered more slowdowns just past South Mountain.  So we got off on Route 66 and took that and Route 64 into Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  We then took Route 16 to I-81, joining up with it in Greencastle.  We were about to hit another slowdown due to construction near Chambersburg, but thankfully, our exit was right before the slowdown started.  And we had no more traffic problems from there.  We ended up getting to our destination around 3:30.  That was later than I had intended, but it still worked out, because the sun sets to the west, and this was the western portal.  Thus I still had plenty of sunlight.

However, with the day’s being partly cloudy, I had intermittent periods of sun and shadow.  When I was ready to get started, we were in shadow, which required waiting it out.  So imagine driving two hours to Pennsylvania, just to stand on the side of the road and play with your phone.  But what else was I supposed to do?  I did get a nice selfie of myself in the process:

Selfie with the tunnel

And one of Elyse:

Elyse with the tunnel

And this is the cloud that I was waiting to move:

This weird, two-lobed cloud that was blocking my light

That’s the thing about a partly cloudy day, I suppose.  I like shooting under partly cloudy skies because the little bit of clouds tends to balance the light just a little bit, while completely cloudless days tend to give the photos a little bit of a tinge that I have to fix later.  But they do occasionally block the sun.  And when that happens, you just have to wait for them to pass.

Once the cloud moved, I got going:

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

Then I went for a walk along the bridge in search of another vantage point to shoot from.  My first thought was to go to the other end of the fence along the sides of the bridge and shoot from there, but as it would turn out, there was a short fence that stuck out on that end, presumably to prevent people and objects from getting down to the turnpike that blocked my view.  I understand why it was there, but it still was annoying, because it just stymied that effort.  So I started visually skimming over the fence, looking for openings in the fence that I could get my zoom lens through.

Elyse got a photo of me checking the fence for openings.
Elyse got a photo of me checking the fence for openings.

Lining up a shot after I found a sufficiently large opening to see through.
Lining up a shot after I found a sufficiently large opening to see through.

And then this is some of what I got from this other vantage point:

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

Kittatinny Mountain Tunnel

I liked this angle better because it provided a more straight-on view of the tunnel portal, even though it was harder to shoot because of the fencing.  The fence was something that I had considered when I was planning this adventure, but I ultimately didn’t act on.  In some of the early planning for this shoot, I thought about bringing a ladder that I had bought at Lowe’s for some home improvement projects back in 2020, in order to see over the fence.  Elyse was against it, but I was determined to do it.  However, once I got down to the basement to get the ladder, I had a realization: this was one of those versatile ladders that would do a million and a half different positions, and I didn’t know how to use it on account of the fact that I never did the projects that I bought the ladder for.  In other words, I would be taking a ladder that I had never actually used before, and therefore wasn’t familiar with, on a road trip and setting this brand new ladder that I hadn’t even taken the tags off of yet on the roadside and climbing up in order to get past a fence.  In short: bad idea.  The ladder stayed home.  I ended up taking a small two-step stepladder that I’ve owned for many years on our adventure with us, but as soon as I saw the height of the fence, I realized that it was too small to be of any use to me, so it stayed in the car.

After I got back from taking these photos, I put my real camera away and pulled out the drone:

My drone, ready to fly around Kittatinny Mountain.

In planning this flight, I was very cognizant of my surroundings.  I had very good line of sight on my drone from everywhere that I was going to go, and I was very careful not to overfly the highway itself.  After all, if one is going to fly, one must fly responsibly.  You’re not allowed to overfly people or vehicles just in case your drone falls out of the sky (it’s happened to me before, when my old Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade in mid-air), plus this is a major highway at the entrance to a tunnel that people are going through at 55 mph.  Under no circumstances was I going to do anything to possibly cause any problem for traffic.  Therefore, I overflew the bridge that had practically no traffic on it until I got out to the median, and then went straight out over the median.  So in the event of a failure, the worst that would happen is I lose my drone, but no one’s safety would ever be in question.

And so here’s what I got:

Overhead view of the tunnel portal.
Overhead view of the tunnel portal.

Slightly lower view of the tunnel portal.
Slightly lower view of the tunnel portal.


Close-up of the “Kittatinny Mountain” sign.  For some reason, I always thought the tunnel names were carved into stone, rather than metal lettering.

Then I backed off from the sign and dropped down a little bit in order to get some low angles, to simulate the view that I would get if I was walking around there.
Then I backed off from the sign and dropped down a little bit in order to get some low angles, to simulate the view that I would get if I was walking around there.

I then got some low views of the tunnel portals, still well within the median.  This is the tunnel for eastbound traffic, which was constructed during an expansion project in the 1960s.
I then got some low views of the tunnel portals, still well within the median.  This is the tunnel for eastbound traffic, which was constructed during an expansion project in the 1960s.

Tunnel for westbound traffic.  This is the original tunnel, first bored for the South Pennsylvania Railroad in the late 1800s but never completed, and later repurposed for use by the turnpike.
Tunnel for westbound traffic.  This is the original tunnel, first bored for the South Pennsylvania Railroad in the late 1800s but never completed, and later repurposed for use by the turnpike.

High-level view of the tunnel portal, from approximately above the bridge where I was standing.
High-level view of the tunnel portal, from approximately above the bridge where I was standing.

I also got a two-minute video of traffic moving in and out of the tunnels from overhead:

Then as I was repositioning to get another angle, I saw a white truck moving up the service road along the eastbound mainline.  This service road heads up to the road that we were on, and provides service access for the tunnels.  I figured that either (A) they were just going about their business, or (B) they were not pleased with my flying around the tunnel and came to bother us.  As it would turn out, it was the second option, but I didn’t know that yet.  So I was still flying around and doing my thing, while the person in the truck was talking to Elyse.  Then I got a call on my phone from Elyse, telling me to come back over because the gentleman in the truck was yelling at her.  So I started to bring the drone back.  Then, while I was landing, I saw a Pennsylvania state trooper show up.  I couldn’t help but think that things had just gone from bad to worse.  I then got another call from Elyse, but all of them were going to have to wait until the drone was out of the sky, because it was becoming abundantly clear that my flying time at this location was over.

Once I got the drone down, I walked over, and was mentally bracing myself for what I expected would be an unpleasant affair, especially since I was the last one to arrive, as well as the subject of the scrutiny.  As it would turn out, though, it wasn’t a confrontation at all.  The trooper had told the turnpike employee to get back in his truck by the time that I got there, and the trooper was actually apologizing to me about having to show up at all, because when an employee calls something in to the PTC, they have to respond as a matter of procedure.  Fine by me, because it meant that this would be an easy encounter.  As it turned out, according to the trooper, the turnpike employee had seen my drone buzzing around outside, and figuratively wet his pants over the camera.  That usually means that the employee is actually worried that they’ll be caught doing something that they’re not supposed to be doing, and, true to form, rather than admit that they don’t want to possibly be caught doing something that they weren’t supposed to, they cite “terrorism” or “homeland security” as their justification for making a fuss.  I suppose that they think that it makes them sound big and important, but it also serves as an indication to me to stop listening to them, because they’re just spouting off nonsense.  According to Elyse, the guy came at her all riled up, and started yelling at her, while she was sitting in the car plucking stray hairs with a tweezer while I was down the way doing my thing, and ranting and raving about “homeland security” to her as it related to my drone.  She directed him to my location, but he wouldn’t come over to talk to me, even though Elyse had nothing to do with the activity that got his attention in the first place.  In any event, the state trooper figured out pretty quickly that I (A) knew what I was doing, and (B) was following all regulations governing drones to the letter.  We discussed potential concerns over flying on PTC property because it is generally closed to the public except for very limited use (i.e. you can drive the highway and stop at the service plazas, but you’re not allowed to go anywhere else), but as any drone pilot knows, a property owner does not control the airspace over their property, meaning that I was in the clear there.  Our being on Route 641 was not a question, because that was not part of the turnpike system.  The trooper also brought up something that the employee had considered as his “homeland security” concern, that I could possibly see inside the building.  Turns out that no, I couldn’t possibly see inside, because to get close enough to even potentially see inside the building would pose too much of a risk to my drone, plus there was too much light outside.  The trooper also brought up something else that the turnpike employee was ranting and raving about, about the potential to cause an incident on the road.  I’m getting this secondhand via the trooper, but according to the employee, there had previously been an incident where a drone pilot had crashed their drone near a tunnel entrance, which caused damage to someone’s vehicle, that in turn caused an incident on the turnpike.  My response was, “Oh, why didn’t you bring that up in the first place?” because that was a legitimate concern.  Turns out that as described to me, the pilot in that instance was not following the rules closely enough, as federal regulations prohibit flying drones over cars and people for that exact reason.  And since I was being careful to avoid such “no-zones”, I was good.  In any event, the conclusion was that the turnpike employee was nuts, but it was probably wise to conclude operations at this location.  Plus Elyse wouldn’t let me fly anymore, insisting that I pack up and leave.

All in all, that was a very positive encounter, and I think that I caught the trooper off guard when, after he said that he had never flown a drone before, I responded, “You want to?”  I was perfectly willing to let him go up for a short flight under close adult supervision.  I don’t care if you have a state trooper uniform on.  Have some fun.  He laughed as he declined, saying that he didn’t want the liability.  Fair enough.

However, the problem with this encounter in general was the chilling effect that it has on safety.  For someone who was allegedly so concerned about safety, the turnpike worker, by harassing drone pilots, actually has the practical effect of making this sort of thing less safe.  This flight was the gold standard as far as drone operation safety went: close to the subject, maintaining visual line of sight at all times, and no overflying of cars or people, even accidentally.  Everything that I was doing was 100% legal, so there’s nothing that he could do legally to stop me.  The cop knew that. and he said as much, that he was only responding because he was required to.  But no one wants to be harassed like that – especially when they’re yelling at the wrong person, and won’t even go over to talk to the correct person.  If I think that I’m going to be bothered for my flights, I’ll position myself so that it’s harder to see me so that any potential bothers will be less likely to find me.  In other words, I can see everything that I need to see in order to be compliant, but others can’t necessarily see me or know where the drone is being flown from.  That’s less than ideal (I prefer to do it openly), and it makes things harder overall, but that’s how it’s got to be sometimes so that I can go about my business unimpeded.

In any event, after this, we headed to this little store in Roxbury that we spotted on the way out, where we each got ourselves a banana and some drinks.  I also spotted two things on the ground that piqued my interest:

"Our Country Neighbor" written in the cement, dated 1989.  This could have been the original construction of the building, or at least the last time the sidewalk was done.  Either way, I found it interesting.
“Our Country Neighbor” written in the cement, dated 1989.  This could have been the original construction of the building, or at least the last time the sidewalk was done.  Either way, I found it interesting.

USGS benchmark next to the entrance to the store.
USGS benchmark next to the entrance to the store.

We then continued until I spotted a really weird sign on the side of the road, and stopped to attend to it:

Let's just say that as road signs go, there is NO way that is MUTCD-compliant.  Not a chance.
Let’s just say that as road signs go, there is NO way that is MUTCD-compliant.  Not a chance.

The same property also had a collection of bells visible from the roadside.
The same property also had a collection of bells visible from the roadside.

And there was also this sign, with a clearly off-model rendition of Mickey Mouse saying "Hello, Roxbury".
And there was also this sign, with a clearly off-model rendition of Mickey Mouse saying “Hello, Roxbury”.

This sort of stuff, by the way, is one of the fun things about driving around in rural America.  You never know what kind of interesting stuff that you might come upon.  The Byrnesville Shrine of the Blessed Mother near Centralia immediately comes to mind as an interesting thing in rural America.

We eventually found our way to a military surplus store near Letterkenny Army Depot, where Elyse found a chicken fajita MRE:

Elyse with the MRE

One thing that I find interesting about MREs is that the contents last for so long.  There were contents in this MRE that were packed on March 23, 2009.  That was Schumin Web’s 13th anniversary.  The site has now been around for 26 years.  This food was still good as ever, prepared more than 13 years ago.

Also, for those wondering about Elyse’s shirt: this is a standard Schumin Web logo t-shirt out of the online store, which Elyse later tie-dyed.  I think that the combination of my logo and the tie-dye looks pretty awesome, but unfortunately, none of the various vendors offer tie-dye out of the factory.

We then went over to Shippensburg, where Elyse wanted to visit the downtown area, and see a siren.  Here’s the siren:

This siren is a Federal Signal SD-10, behind the fire department.

While we were there, we spotted a big pile of horse poop in the parking lot.  Since I already had the drone up in the air in order to photograph the siren, I just hovered over said horse pucky with the drone.  I figure, the drone has a pretty good camera on it, and with the drone, I don’t have to worry about shadows from my body, nor do I have to worry about accidentally getting my feet in the shot.  So here’s the pile of whatsit:

The horse cookies on the ground.  As Elyse would say, "Big poopies."
The horse cookies on the ground.  As Elyse would say, “Big poopies.”

Speaking of Elyse, she was thoroughly amused about the way that the drone's propellers handled the dung.
Speaking of Elyse, she was thoroughly amused about the way that the drone’s propellers handled the dung.  That turd was not exactly fresh, and as such, most of the water in it had evaporated.  When I hovered the drone over it, chunks of horse feces started blowing all around, which amused Elyse thoroughly.  I couldn’t resist getting a photo of her laughing over it.

We then went to a local pharmacy, where Elyse posed for a photo with a basket of Giant Microbes toys.
We then went to a local pharmacy, where Elyse posed for a photo with a basket of Giant Microbes toys.

We later headed over to Walmart so that Elyse could do a little grocery shopping, and then we checked out the former Lowe’s nearby.  That Lowe’s had been of interest to us for a few years, ever since a friend of ours had gotten inside after it had closed, and photographed the interior.  It took us this long to get up here mostly because I found it hard to justify a trip that far just for a former Lowe’s.  It’s along a section of I-81 that we really don’t have any reason to ever take, because past a certain point, it makes more sense to take US 15 up via Gettysburg rather than going out to 81.  Shippensburg is not really a destination in and of itself, just because there’s not a whole lot there to see.  Thus I would couple it with something else, and its being in that no-man’s land where any place that we would likely use as a destination beyond it would get the 15 routing rather than the 81 routing meant that it’s hard to find a reason to go past there.  But with the visit to Kittatinny Mountain, it fit, and thus a visit became practical.

In any event, the Lowe’s was no longer vacant, as it was in the process of being converted to a casino.  According to concept art that I’ve seen, it is expected that it will still strongly resemble the Lowe’s.  I took the drone up for a flight around the former Lowe’s:

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. Note that while the canopy was retained, the pitched roof was removed.
Note that while the canopy was retained, the pitched roof was removed.

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Former Lowe's in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania

Eventually, I found something more interesting than the Lowe’s: the heavy equipment in front of the building.  Seriously, the drone was already up and moving, so I just went in low like it was my real camera and got some shots of the heavy equipment.  One thing that I had to contend with here was a large amount of dust.  When I got close to the ground, my propellers kicked up a lot of dust.  There was nothing that I could do whenever that happened but wait for it to dissipate.

Heavy equipment in front of the former Lowe's

Heavy equipment in front of the former Lowe's

Heavy equipment in front of the former Lowe's

Heavy equipment in front of the former Lowe's

Heavy equipment in front of the former Lowe's

From there, we went to a nearby Sheetz for dinner, and then we started making our way home.  Before leaving Sheetz, though, we spotted this in the parking lot:

"Jesus loves you."  I'm sure that I'm not the only one who finds that mildly creepy, like Jesus is some kind of crazy stalker or something.
“Jesus loves you.”  I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds that mildly creepy, like Jesus is some kind of crazy stalker or something.

We took Route 11 from Shippensburg to just south of Chambersburg, and eventually rejoined I-81 at Exit 3, Molly Pitcher Highway.  We stopped in Hagerstown so that Elyse could get some elevators.  We visited the Courtyard by Marriott and the TownePlace Suites by Marriott, both on the Valley Mall property.  While Elyse filmed the elevators, I found ways to entertain myself.  At the Courtyard, I entertained myself by doing the “beach knees” thing with my Maryland flag leggings:

These are the same flag leggings that I’m wearing in the splash photo for this month, and I absolutely love these things.  And I know that I have a winner when Elyse doesn’t like when I wear them.  See, with Elyse, in theory, I’m allowed to have fun outfits, but then when I actually enjoy wearing them, then I’m not allowed to wear them anymore.  But since I’m the one who is wearing it, I take her recommendations into consideration and then wear it anyway.  Plus I paid enough for these Maryland tights that I’m wearing them until they fall apart.

Then we made one more pit stop on the way home, at another Sheetz, so that Elyse could get some food for herself (for some reason, we can never get our food stops in line).  We got a fruit cup while we were there, and spotted two tiny little grapes in there:

Tiny grapes, with a regular grape for scale

I love those tiny grapes and such, because they always pack a big punch when it comes to flavor.  Unfortunately, Elyse nabbed both of those things before I could get them.  Meanie.

And that was our adventure.  All in all, I’d say that we had a good time.  I like these little day trips, and Pennsylvania is surprisingly easy to get to.  These trips are a whole lot of fun, and I usually get decent material out of them.

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Saying goodbye to the Orion V… https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/05/saying-goodbye-to-the-orion-v/ https://www.schuminweb.com/2022/07/05/saying-goodbye-to-the-orion-v/#respond Tue, 05 Jul 2022 15:15:10 +0000 https://www.schuminweb.com/?p=45810 On Friday, July 1, Elyse and I went on a transit adventure, going down to Alexandria to attend the ceremonial final trip of the DASH Orion buses.  For those not familiar, DASH is one of the local transit agencies in the DC region, serving Alexandria, Virginia alongside Metrobus.  The Orion V is a model of high-floor transit bus manufactured by Orion Bus Industries from 1989 to 2009.  Orion itself went out of business in 2013 when parent company Daimler mostly exited the bus market in North America (save for selling Setra motorcoaches), and New Flyer, another bus manufacturer, bought Orion’s aftermarket parts business.  Long story short, Orion has been gone for a while, and even the newest high-floor buses are now reaching retirement age.  DASH, meanwhile, had been operating Orion buses since its founding in 1984, initially operating the Orion I model, and later the Orion V.  So this event marked the close of an era in DASH’s history, as these were their last Orion buses in service.  DASH’s fleet now consists mostly of Gillig and New Flyer vehicles.  DASH was also the last agency in the region that still operated the Orion V in service, which closes a chapter in the DC region in general as well.  Metro and Fairfax Connector still operate the later Orion VII model in revenue service, but that is a low-floor bus, and is a very different design than the Orion V.

As far as the Orion V itself goes, that is a pretty solid bus.  Most agencies in the area operated them at some point or other.  I’ve photographed Orion Vs operated by Metro, Ride On, DASH, and Fairfax Connector.  I’ve operated Orion Vs plenty of times, and they’re a lot of fun once you get the hang of them.  I found them to be very difficult to handle as a new operator in a training environment because they were a bit bouncier than the low-floor buses, as well as more sensitive in the steering, but once I was out of training and operating on my own, I was able to get the hang of driving them, and had tons of fun with them, to the point where I looked forward to being assigned one.  If the number started with a “21”, I was a happy guy.  I especially liked to take them on runs that had big deadheading (running without passengers) segments – especially on the freeway.  I remember doing a run a few times where the last revenue trip ended up at Prince George’s Plaza station, and I had to deadhead from there all the way back to Rockville, where the bus division was located.  I would take East-West Highway (MD 410) over to Baltimore Avenue (US 1), and then take that up to the Beltway.  Taking an Orion V on the Beltway late at night was a lot of fun.  I just had to remember to limit my enjoyment to about 60 mph in order to keep myself out of trouble.  After all, our buses had DriveCams on them, and those puppies were sensitive.  I was delighted when I got to take an Orion V out for a spin again in 2018 when a friend who helped run a bus museum was visiting.  I got settled in that seat, and it felt like old times again, after I had not operated an Orion V in a little more than two years at that point – ever since I left the bus in order to do trains.  I took my friend, along with Elyse, on a proper adventure in that bus, going over a few routes from my time as a bus operator, and showing it off a little bit.  A good time was definitely had by all.

So with all of that in mind, I was looking forward to going for a ride in an Orion V again.  The event was designed for the fans, but also was technically a revenue trip.  The event began at the Pentagon bus terminal at around 2:30.  Two Orion V buses, 96 and 97, rolled up, along with some other DASH support vehicles.  This was clearly a trip by the fans for the fans, as the folks representing DASH had been active in transit enthusiast circles for many years.  And the riders were all longtime transit fans coming out for a good time with buses.  Pentagon was a fairly quick affair, as we all quickly got our hellos and then got on the bus, since there is a blanket prohibition on photography on Pentagon property – even in the Metro station or outside.  Elyse and I boarded bus 97, which followed DASH’s 104 route to Braddock Road station.  Bus 96 followed DASH’s 103 route to Braddock Road.  Our operator took full advantage of the fact that this was a fan trip, and got the engine screaming for all of the folks in the back, who were sitting on top of the engine.  Me, I sat in the “interview seat”, which is the first seat up front, next to the door.  I like the view, and don’t like the engine noise as much as some folks did (I like hearing it, but it doesn’t need to be super loud).  In any event, you could tell that everyone operating these trips was having a huge amount of fun, and they were enjoying providing the fanservice as much as we enjoyed experiencing it.

The group on bus 97, going on a final ride with the Orion Vs.
The group on bus 97, going on a final ride with the Orion Vs.

The operator of bus 97 takes the crowd down the 104 route.
The operator of bus 97 takes the crowd down the 104 route.

At Braddock Road, the operators of both buses parked on the side of the bus loop, in order for everyone to get their photos.

Buses 96 and 97 parked at Braddock Road station.

Buses 96 and 97 parked at Braddock Road station.

Buses 96 and 97 parked at Braddock Road station.

The signage on the buses was done specially for the occasion, with normal route signage plus Orion-specific signage:

Regular route 104 signage on bus 97.

Regular route 104 signage on bus 97.
Regular route 104 signage on bus 97.

Some of the special signage for this trip, talking about how long DASH has operated Orion buses, and noting that it is truly the end of an era.

Some of the special signage for this trip, talking about how long DASH has operated Orion buses, and noting that it is truly the end of an era.

Some of the special signage for this trip, talking about how long DASH has operated Orion buses, and noting that it is truly the end of an era.
Some of the special signage for this trip, talking about how long DASH has operated Orion buses, and noting that it is truly the end of an era.

This sign made Elyse and me cringe a little bit, because they misspelled "Au Revoir".  They meant well, though.
This sign made Elyse and me cringe a little bit, because they misspelled “Au Revoir”.  They meant well, though.

While we were at Braddock Road, I grabbed a photo of the operator's compartment of bus 97.  Except for the shield, that's classic Orion V right there.  Note that the farebox has already been removed from the bus.
While we were at Braddock Road, I grabbed a photo of the operator’s compartment of bus 97.  Except for the shield, that’s classic Orion V right there.  Note that the farebox has already been removed from the bus.

Elyse and I got selfies in front of the bus.
Elyse and I got selfies in front of the bus.

Brian gets a photo of his Jibanyan plush, aka "Kitty", on the bike rack of bus 97.
Brian gets a photo of his Jibanyan plush, aka “Kitty”, on the bike rack of bus 97.

From here, we loaded onto the buses again, and followed the DASH 30 route to King Street station.  For that segment of the trip, our original operator sat with the rest of us, and another DASH employee, also a seasoned operator, took the wheel.  He was also more than happy to provide a little fanservice, making the bus lean a little bit, and really putting the bus through its paces, as many were cheering all around.  Then, since we were doing the 30 route, which went through Old Town, we picked up our first passengers, and the operator reminded us all to “keep it professional” with the arrival of non-foamers on our bus.  Some of the people that boarded along the route knew it was the final Orion trip and had picked it specifically for that, while some people were regular bus riders, going about their usual business, and this was the bus that happened to get them there.

Doing the 30 route in the Old Town part of Alexandria.
Doing the 30 route in the Old Town part of Alexandria.

Elyse holds up Fred's model DASH Orion V, along with a card describing what it is.  Both of these were destined for a display at DASH headquarters.
Elyse holds up Fred’s model DASH Orion V, along with a card describing what it is.  Both of these were destined for a display at DASH headquarters.

When we got to King Street, we got more photos:

Bus 97 at King Street station.

Bus 97 at King Street station.
Bus 97 at King Street station.

Looking towards the rear of bus 97, after completing its final revenue trip.
Looking towards the rear of bus 97, after completing its final revenue trip.

Overhead view of the operator's compartment on bus 97.
Overhead view of the operator’s compartment on bus 97.

Operators Jones, Magruder, and Cardona, who were our hosts for this adventure.  Jones operated 96, while Magruder and Cardona operated 97.
Operators Jones, Magruder, and Cardona, who were our hosts for this adventure.  Jones operated 96, while Magruder and Cardona operated 97.

Elyse poses for a photo in front of bus 97.
Elyse poses for a photo in front of bus 97.

Elyse and Minh pose for a photo in front of 97.
Elyse and Minh pose for a photo in front of 97.

Brian poses for a photo with Kitty in front of bus 97.
Brian poses for a photo with Kitty in front of bus 97.

After King Street, the official event was over.  However, the buses weren’t done just yet.  DASH had one more trick up their sleeve: a fan trip on the freeway, over the Wilson Bridge to Oxon Hill, just for the transit nuts.  That was fun, and it reminded me of my times taking an Orion V around the Beltway on various deadhead trips, though not for DASH.  Once we got into Maryland, though, we heard a popping sound and got a strange smell in the bus.  As it turned out, our bus had blown its turbo, and had gone into “limp mode”.  For those not familiar, “limp mode” is what happens when a bus has a transmission problem, and it limits the number of gears it will go into, and limits your speed to about 25 mph.  I’ve had buses in limp mode before, and when it happens, you generally want to get them back to the shop as soon as possible, i.e. it will limp its way home, but that’s about it.  We commented that it seemed fitting for the turbo to blow on that final trip, almost like it didn’t want to retire just yet.

Sergio poses for a photo while we were on the Beltway, while Brandon looks on.
Sergio poses for a photo while we were on the Beltway, while Brandon looks on.

In any event, we managed to get to Oxon Hill just fine, and we had another photo-taking session, as the buses officially went out of service for the last time.

Bus 96 at the park and ride in Oxon Hill.

Bus 96 at the park and ride in Oxon Hill.

Bus 96 at the park and ride in Oxon Hill.

Bus 96 at the park and ride in Oxon Hill.
Bus 96 at the park and ride in Oxon Hill.

Fred gets photos of the model bus with the full-size bus.

Fred gets photos of the model bus with the full-size bus.
Fred gets photos of the model bus with the full-size bus.

I got my own photos with the model, with the model in the foreground, while the real bus is standing in the background.

I got my own photos with the model, with the model in the foreground, while the real bus is standing in the background.
I got my own photos with the model, with the model in the foreground, while the real bus is standing in the background.

Brian gets his own photos of the model with the real bus.
Brian gets his own photos of the model with the real bus.

The Orions ride off into retirement.  As I understand it, bus 96 will be preserved by DASH itself, while bus 97 is going to a museum in Lakewood, New Jersey.
The Orions ride off into retirement.  As I understand it, bus 96 will be preserved by DASH itself, while bus 97 is going to a museum in Lakewood, New Jersey.

This was where our DASH adventure ended.  The buses needed to head back to DASH’s facility, as the operators still had full runs to complete later on in the day, and the rest of us took various other buses from there.  Elyse, Brian, and I took Metrobus on the D14 from Oxon Hill to Suitland station, and from there, we rode the Green Line back to Greenbelt, where we had parked.  All in all, I’d say that a fun time was had by everyone involved, giving the Orion V its last hurrah in the DC area.

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

Mrs. Green's

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

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

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

The Chuckwagon

The Chuckwagon

The Chuckwagon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elyse holds the elevator panel from the JCPenney in Staunton Mall

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

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

I started by getting some overview shots of the mall:

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

Staunton Mall, facing northeast

Staunton Mall, facing north

Staunton Mall, facing approximately northwest

Staunton Mall, facing west

Staunton Mall, facing southwest

Staunton Mall, facing south

Staunton Mall, facing approximately southeast

Staunton Mall, facing east

Here is a slightly closer look:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The former Piece Goods Shop space.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The movie theater entrance.
The movie theater entrance.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The horizontal gear selector
Photo: Audi

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

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

Here’s what the Audi looked like:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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