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@SchuminWeb

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Does this count as “over 40” problems?

July 18, 2021, 11:27 PM

FYI, this Journal entry discusses gross body functions in personal places.  If you’re squeamish about such things, you might want to skip this one.  Otherwise, here we go…

This past Friday, I went in for some minor surgery to fix a small problem.  Back in April, I had developed what turned out to be an abscess on my backside.  I didn’t quite know what it was for a while, and was doing what they say that you shouldn’t do, and looked up my symptoms on Google.  It seems like every time you google your symptoms, it always comes back as a heart attack, and therefore, you need to get your tail to the emergency room right now.  But I knew better.  Even controlling for definitely-not-a-heart-attack, though, I still got inconclusive results, i.e. Dr. Google had no clue what it was.  All the while, this thing was uncomfortable.  At its peak, it was so painful that it was difficult to sit.  And considering that my job is performed from a seated position, that point really made for a long day.  At one point, I tried squeezing it, and pus came out of it.  That made me feel a little better for a little while, but it quickly filled back up and continued to hurt.  Eventually it started to drain on its own without any prompting from me.  That felt a little better because there was no more pressure, but it was still painful, and now it was draining all the time and making a mess in my underwear, even soaking through my pants on occasion, which is not a good thing by any means.  I don’t like having to choose my outfits based on thickness and color of material in order to prevent embarrassing abscess leaks from showing up.

I eventually went to an urgent care facility, and there, the doctor diagnosed it as a cutaneous abscess, and prescribed a course of antibiotics (Bactrim) for it.  According to the urgent care doctor, the abscess should take care of itself without any further intervention.  As it would turn out, the antibiotic took care of the infection in very short order, but the drain opening remained, and things kept on draining, albeit with less volume than before, which kept the leakage contained to my underwear and not going through my pants anymore.  I figured that some drainage was normal, considering that I had just had a big abscess that was being treated.  But then it kept on going, even after the infection had subsided, and after I finished up all of the antibiotics.  I kept holding out some hope for a while that it would resolve on its own, but it never did.

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Categories: Matthew, Personal health

A fence appears around Staunton Mall…

July 17, 2021, 8:44 AM

While Elyse and I were on that trip to Staunton that I discussed earlier, we stopped by Staunton Mall to check in on the progress there.  It would appear that the redevelopment plans for Staunton Mall are for real, because asbestos abatement appears to be happening in a few places, and a perimeter has been established around the building in preparation for demolition.  Recall that I declared Staunton Mall to be a dead mall back in 2009, but it took until 2020 for the mall to finally close.  That fence around the entire mall building, save for Belk, is a major step towards demolition and redevelopment.

Fencing in front of the former Wills/Books-A-Million store.
Fencing in front of the former Wills/Books-A-Million store.

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My first time eating at a real restaurant in a very long time…

July 9, 2021, 3:50 PM

Recently, on a trip to Staunton, I had my first meal in a full-service restaurant since my weight loss surgery in December 2019.  We were visiting family, as my sister and her husband were in from Chicago.  So our party consisted of Elyse and me, my sister and her husband Chris, our parents, and Chris’s parents.  Nice group all around.  We ate at Zynodoa, which is a higher tier restaurant than I typically go to, but it was a good experience overall.

I would say that the timing of things tended to work against restaurants in general.  I had my surgery on December 6, 2019, and so things were still healing for most of December.  I was figuring out through trial and error about what foods would be tolerated by my body, and also determining portion sizes.  When Elyse and I would go out, we typically would stop in at a grocery store with a food bar if we needed to eat, like Harris Teeter, Wegmans, or Whole Foods.  I was typically able to get out of there for about five bucks (I would jokingly refer to myself as a cheap date).  Doing that allowed me to try out a variety of different foods, and only get the amounts that I needed (remember, my tummy is tiny now).

Then the pandemic restrictions came along, which took eating in restaurants out of the picture entirely.  I’ve never been one to do take-out from restaurants.  If I’m eating food from a sit-down restaurant, I’m more than likely going to be eating it at the restaurant.  If I’m getting it to go, I’m going somewhere else, like a grocery store or something else cheaper than a full restaurant.  Thus if I couldn’t eat on the premises because of various rules in place, a full restaurant was of no use to me.  And if I’m getting food to take home, I might as well just eat the food that I already have at home.  All of that said, the pandemic rules came about while I was still forming new habits after having my surgery, and that meant that full-service restaurants were more or less out of the picture, i.e. they didn’t exist as far as I was concerned.

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Woomy has his own website…

July 2, 2021, 3:59 PM

So Elyse and I recently went hunting online, discovered that woomy.info was available, and snagged it.  This is the result:

Woomy's website, as it currently stands

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Strange what people will latch onto sometimes…

June 26, 2021, 10:10 AM

It’s funny what things people lock onto, take out of context, and run with in the age of the Internet.  I remember when my Code Pink photo in front of the White House became a discussion about President Obama and the 2012 election.  That made enough sense, because while it was a different context than the original one, it was still in the same vein, being anti-war and all.  More recently, though, a very old photo of mine was dusted off by a certain crowd and run in a completely different context than intended.  Remember this photo?

Photo from an Anonymous flash raid from July 2008

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When your drone starts to act up…

June 7, 2021, 11:20 AM

On Tuesday, June 1, Elyse and I went on a little adventure in Prince William County, Virginia, where the goal for me was to photograph some old AT&T Long Lines infrastructure up close with the drone.  First of all, for those not familiar, AT&T Long Lines is a now-defunct system from the mid-20th century used for telecommunications via microwave transmission.  It has long since been replaced by more modern systems, but many of the towers still remain.  Some have been converted to cell phone towers, with varying amounts of the old Long Lines infrastructure abandoned in place.  I’ve photographed about six of these things in varying degrees of detail, mostly in Virginia, both ground-based and with a drone.

On this particular day, I had two towers in my sights: one near Dumfries, and one near Manassas.  The Dumfries one was directly off of Route 234, and the Manassas one was a little bit further off of the beaten path.  The Dumfries tower was in full form, with its horn antennas still attached, while the Manassas tower had lost the old horn antennas.

Here are some of my photos of the Dumfries tower:

AT&T Long Lines tower near Dumfries

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Categories: Cameras, Northern Virginia

I am now in my forties…

June 4, 2021, 3:42 PM

This past Sunday, I turned 40.  I remember the first time that I heard about someone turning 40.  In that case, it was Uncle Johnny, i.e. Mom’s brother, back when I was still in my single digits.  That age sounded so old for someone who was in elementary school.  It was more than four times the age that I was at the time, and seemed so far off.  And now I’m there.  Uncle Johnny, meanwhile, is now in his seventies, and he and Aunt Beth are retired and living their best life.

My actual birthday, meanwhile, was pretty quiet, by my choice.  At work, it’s in our union contract that we are guaranteed to have our birthday off as a “floating holiday”, but I opted to work on my birthday and take the holiday the next day in order to have a three-day weekend.  This was also a bit of a weird birthday, because I definitely had a mental hang-up about turning 40.  I watched all of my classmates from high school post about turning 40 on Facebook, and I couldn’t help but think that it felt wrong for all of these young people that I went to school with to be turning 40.  I didn’t really want to turn 40, because 40 felt old.  You weren’t “young” anymore, but instead were “middle aged”.  Funny thing, though, is that I have one friend who acted like his life was practically over when he turned 40 a few years ago, and I had to reassure him that it wasn’t the case, and here I was having a hang-up myself over “40 is old”.  The morning of my birthday, I woke up, thought to myself, I’m 40!, mentally groaned for a moment, and then rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour.

But then after I got to work, I got to thinking (operating the train gives you lots of time to think), and I realized that I was 40, but I didn’t feel any different than I did the day before, when I was still 39.  I soon came to realize that it was going to be okay. I didn’t feel old.  I felt just as good as ever.  Sure, I have a few lines where there were no lines before, and a lot of things sag now (mainly from the weight loss), and I have to hold things a little bit further away from my face in order to read them than I used to, but all in all, I’m doing pretty well.  But don’t get me wrong – I still hate birthday greetings.

So now that I’m in my forties, here’s to another decade of adventures, I suppose.

Categories: Birthdays, Myself

I believe that we have finally reached the other side of this thing…

May 25, 2021, 9:37 PM

On Friday, May 14, 2021, a number of state governments rescinded emergency orders requiring the wearing of face masks in public for people who have had all of their shots for COVID-19, i.e. “fully vaccinated”, on the heels of earlier announcements providing dates for when nearly all COVID restrictions would be removed.  And with that, I think that it is safe to say that we’re finally on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that life will return to normal.  Ever since the middle of March 2020, when the response to a novel coronavirus started becoming out of proportion to the actual threat, and fear began driving the narrative, I’ve been looking forward to this time, when the world finally started returning to normal.

Truth be told, I took a dim view of the official response to this thing from the beginning.  From the outset, my stance has been that almost all of these various “precautions” were unnecessary, and that the best advice for the public was (A) wash your hands at frequent intervals, and (B) be careful about how much you touch your face.  This is the same advice that we give about nearly every communicable disease, and it’s served us quite well.  I didn’t see any reason why this one should have been any different.  Lockdowns, social distancing, masks, limits on gathering sizes, closed restaurants, closed drinking fountains, plexiglass shields, one-way aisles, contactless everything, the constant cleaning and “sanitizing”, temperature checks, and all of the rest of it is all just security theater, i.e. “the practice of taking security measures that are intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to achieve it.”  In other words, these measures were there primarily to placate a certain vocal subset of people who were afraid, and their fear was then projected onto the rest of us.  In the end, though, as long as there was no vaccine for it, there was nothing that most of us could reasonably do to prevent its transmission.  It was a problem that was beyond most of our capabilities to solve.  With that in mind, I wasn’t worried about it, and trusted that the scientists whose job it was to solve it would come through.  For the rest of us, there was only one single action that was “doing our part”.  That action was getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when it became available.  Nothing else made a bit of difference.  But until that time came when a vaccine was available, we just had to wait.

Unfortunately, though, we all know how much people hate to be told that they have to wait for something to be solved, and can’t do anything about it in the meantime, especially when they’re scared.  And for a mass hysteria event, we apparently just can’t have that.  Unfortunately, telling people to wait doesn’t look good for politicians, whose constituents will demand that something be done about it after the media has whipped them up into a frenzy – especially during an election year when many of them were trying to keep their jobs.  You know that people would practically crucify any elected official who got up and said, “I’m sorry, but there is really nothing in my power that I can do to solve this at this time.  Until a vaccine becomes available, we just have to wait.”  So, instead, they pander to the masses, going out and doing things that make it look like they’re doing something, i.e. security theater.  When they make it look like they’re doing something, the masses eat it right up.  They stepped in and shut down businesses (and destroyed many people’s livelihoods in the process – see my Gordmans entry), enforced social distancing rules on everyone, and required masks.  Everyone was impacted in some way, and it sure looked like something was being done while we waited.  Especially with the use of mask mandates, they put the pandemic in your face – and on your face – all the bloody time.  As far as the politicians were concerned, mission accomplished.

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A flight over JMU…

May 15, 2021, 2:12 PM

On May 10, while Elyse and I were on a weekend trip down to the Shenandoah Valley to see the parents and such, we stopped at JMU, and I took the drone for a flight over the far side of campus across Interstate 81.  That is a part of campus that has definitely changed since I was a student, as it’s a lot more built up than it used to be.  There are lots of buildings over there that weren’t there when I attended.  There’s also a new indoor arena over there called the Atlantic Union Bank Center, or, as the folks on Reddit have taken to calling it, the “Algerdome”, after JMU’s current president, Jonathan Alger.  I flew from a facility that was new since I was there, on the roof of a massive parking garage next to the Algerdome, built on the former site of Blue Ridge Hall.  That higher vantage point was helpful because it gave me a better line of sight to my aircraft and a better signal for my remote, as there were fewer buildings getting in my way up there.

And here are the photos:

Potomac Hall

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Categories: Harrisonburg, JMU, Photography

Gordmans, we hardly knew ye…

May 7, 2021, 10:03 AM

Recently, while working through my very large backlog of photos, I processed the various photos that I took of the Gordmans store in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.  For those not familiar, Gordmans, in the form that I experienced it, was an off-price retailer owned by Stage Stores.  Stage was in the process of implementing a major strategic move, repositioning itself away from department stores and going all-in on the off-price model (like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Ross).  With that, the company had begun to convert all of its department store nameplates, i.e. Stage, Bealls, Goody’s, Palais Royal, and Peebles, to Gordmans.  The goal was to have all of its 738 stores in 42 states converted to the off-price format under the Gordmans name by the end of 2020.  The Waynesboro store was originally a Peebles, and was an early conversion to Gordmans.

As you probably guessed based on my wording, world events caused a change in Stage’s plans.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, the various “lockdown” orders issued meant that all of Stage’s stores, considered “non-essential” businesses, were shuttered for several months.  With the stores closed and the resulting lack of sales for an extended period, this pushed Stage off of a cliff, financially speaking, which lead to their filing for bankruptcy.  It was ultimately determined that the best course of action was to wind-up operations, and as such, when the stores reopened, they immediately began going-out-of-business sales.

My first experience with Gordmans was on June 1, 2020.  Elyse and I were out doing some photography in the Hagerstown and Waynesboro areas, and happened upon the Gordmans store in the Wayne Heights Mall shopping center, at an hour when it should have been in operation, if not for government orders requiring that it be closed.

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A lesson on how not to behave when doing advocacy work…

April 27, 2021, 12:55 AM

Lately, there has been a small grassroots movement in Montgomery Village called “Citizens for Airpark Safety” complaining about noise from the Montgomery County Airpark (GAI/KGAI), which is a small public-use general aviation airport located in the Gaithersburg area.  I had heard rumblings about this from a few folks on a local Montgomery Village group that Elyse and I are in, but then it recently made its way to the physical space on Sunday when I found this on my front door as I was leaving for work:

Citizens for Airpark Safety flyer

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Peep show…

April 15, 2021, 11:41 AM

No, not like that.  Get your mind out of the gutter.

On Monday, April 5, Elyse and I went up to Westminster, where we saw the annual Peep show, held in the former Sears store at TownMall of Westminster.  There, we saw a number of displays made out of Peeps, those marshmallow rabbit and duck-shaped candies that some people like to eat around Easter.  All in all, it was pretty fun, though I admit that the ones that incorporated the pandemic into their theming made me cringe a little bit, because I am so over that (admittedly, though, I was over it from the moment that it started).

In any case, here are some of the highlights from the visit.

Bunny peep made out of bunny peeps.
Bunny peep made out of bunny peeps.

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Categories: Events, Holidays, Westminster

No good deed goes unpunished, I suppose…

April 6, 2021, 1:30 PM

You probably didn’t realize it, but for the first half of 2020, Elyse and I hosted a now-former friend of ours, her boyfriend, and her infant child in the house.  That was a situation that we would have never touched with a ten-foot pole if we had known how it would ultimately turn out.  What was supposed to have been a two-month stay for one adult and an infant ended up being a six-month stay for two adults and an infant, and ended up with a destroyed friendship, a lot of hurt feelings, and resentment all around.

The story starts out in the middle of 2019, when our friend started a long-distance relationship with a guy that she had gone to high school with.  He was now serving in the army, and stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.  In a very short time, that relationship turned into an engagement.  Elyse and I both agreed that relationship had progressed very rapidly – much faster than either one of us would have ever been comfortable with if it were happening to us.  Then in September, when we were planning an outing together, we learned that our friend was pregnant, and also, that she was no longer seeing the person with whom she had been engaged, who was also the father of her then-unborn child.  As I was told, the fiancé had cheated on her, and so she broke off the engagement.  By the time that we actually got together again, she had gotten a new boyfriend, and he would be joining us on this adventure.  I was fine with this, because I usually got along with this friend’s friends, and this seemed to be no exception, as the guy seemed nice enough.  In December, Elyse and I were invited to our friend’s baby shower.  We went, we brought gifts, and generally had a good time.  The one awkward moment at the whole baby shower was seeing the interaction between the boyfriend and her father.  My friend’s father made a big deal about refusing to shake the boyfriend’s hand, and the boyfriend was clearly not amused by that gesture.  I was a bit uncomfortable just witnessing it.  I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal, as the boyfriend had given me no reason for me to suspect anything in our previous meeting, plus the boyfriend was not the one who got her pregnant and subsequently cheated on her.  So I just chalked it up to a “no one is good enough for my little girl” attitude on her father’s part.

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Categories: Friends, House

Schumin Web turns 25…

March 15, 2021, 11:15 PM

March 23, 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of this website.  I’ve been doing this for a quarter of a century.  If it tells you anything about how long I’ve been doing this, Schumin Web has been around longer than Blogger, Etsy, Facebook, Flickr, Google, Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, YouTube, and a whole host of other online properties.  And in that time, things here have kind of gone on and on, as we’ve all grown older and matured together.

I suppose that nothing is a better indication of the leng th of time that Schumin Web has been around, and the amount of growth that has occurred during that time than the recent Journal entry about the new scooter.  I like to think of that as “Schumin criticizes Schumin,” as I discussed things that I had written in the site’s fifth year in light of more modern developments in the site’s 25th year. The whole thing felt a bit strange, because it felt as though I was criticizing what someone else had written.  I know that it was me, because I still remember the events and remember writing that page, but that look back really reminded me of how much I have changed in the past twenty years.  My writing style is completely different now compared to then.  My writing from back then looks and feels like the work of a much younger man.  My attitudes about things are different now, too, as back then, I clearly felt that I was invincible, throwing caution to the wind and riding my scooter on a wheel that I knew was faulty, just because I needed to get two more days out of it, and nothing bad had happened in the past.  Nowadays, I would never have done that, because I know that I’m not in invincible, and that getting hurt and not being able to go to work has real-life ramifications that affect more people than just me.  All of that said, I’m not the same person that I was back in the early days of this website.  That’s not a bad thing by any means, and I like the person that I’ve become.

Meanwhile, I feel like the 25th anniversary of Schumin Web should be a quiet celebration.  There is no big compilation photo set celebrating the anniversary waiting in the wings like I did in 2016 with the “Twenty Years” set in Life and Times.  Truth be told, the site’s 25th year was a relatively quiet one.  This was the first time in the site’s history where no new photo sets were released in the span of a year.  The last new photo set to be released was “Planespotting at BWI“, which came out on January 31, 2020 as a 2019 set.  I’ve mentioned before that it’s not that I’m not producing new material, but rather, it’s that other projects have hindered my getting things out of the door.  There will be 2020 photo sets, but don’t expect them for a while, because they will span longer time periods, and those require more work to assemble than ones that are shot in a single event.  Therefore, it makes sense to tackle them along with the backlog of photos from the past year.

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

Dueling reviews?

March 13, 2021, 8:25 PM

A few weeks ago, Elyse bought some ice cream from H Mart, which is a chain of international grocery stores.  One was cheese-flavored, and the other was corn and cheese-flavored.  Both of those are flavors that you don’t typically see in regular grocery stores.  Elyse had planned to review them on YouTube, and she did so in a live video on Friday night:

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Categories: Elyse, Food and drink