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Saying goodbye to the Orion V…

July 5, 2022, 11:15 AM

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.

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A look at Lakeside dining past…

June 23, 2022, 12:56 PM

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.

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Categories: JMU, Schumin Web meta

I may be off my hinges, but something seems odd about this…

June 18, 2022, 2:25 PM

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.

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Categories: Friends, Work

Staunton Mall demolition update…

June 10, 2022, 3:15 PM

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.

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I wonder if someone could have pulled this off…

June 1, 2022, 7:12 PM

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.

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Categories: Elementary school

Trying out electric cars in space tights…

May 25, 2022, 2:31 PM

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

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Categories: Clothing, Frederick, New car, Woomy

It’s kind of like being in the shower for eight hours a day…

May 16, 2022, 8:16 PM

It’s interesting how jobs work sometimes.  As many of you know, I work as a train operator, operating a subway train in passenger service.  This is a job that I had imagined myself doing for a long time, and it still amazes me that I actually get to do it.  But no one ever tells you what the experience is like when you’re in the train cab all by yourself in a tunnel underneath the city.

When I was in class learning how to be a train operator, our instructor told us that it was an easy job, but that it was also a boring job.  However, all throughout training, an experienced operator is always in the cab with you, and as such, you’re never alone with your thoughts.  There is always someone nearby to interact with, plus, since you’re just learning the job, you’re thinking about the mechanics of the job a lot because it’s has not yet become second nature.  So that “boring” aspect never really comes into play.  Even in my case, where one of my instructors said that I was a natural in regards to my ability to operate the train, I still had to think a lot about what I was doing because I had not yet internalized it all.  It wasn’t just a matter of sitting down and going to town like it is for me now, six years later.  The mechanics of the job are pretty simple: fire up the train, move the master controller to control your speed, monitor the radio, scan the tracks for any hazards, make good announcements to the passengers, and open and close the doors at the stations.  It’s really not a hard job by any means.

Once you get comfortable in the job, and the movements come more naturally, that’s when you really get to experience what it’s like to operate a subway train.  And it’s also when you learn what your mind is capable of doing when it is left alone for long periods of time with minimal distractions.  It’s kind of like being in the shower, in that you are alone with a task to accomplish, and that task is all that there is to do while you’re in there.

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Categories: Myself, Schumin Web meta, Work

A weekend trip to Richmond…

May 4, 2022, 8:30 PM

From April 14-16, Elyse and I did a weekend trip to the Richmond area.  This was a case where one adventure begets another, as Richmond really got the short end of the stick on our October trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  We had plans for the Richmond area on the outbound trip as well as the return trio, but they ended up being greatly abbreviated in the interest of keeping it moving.  Richmond is in that little spot where it’s close enough that we can go any time that we want, but difficult enough to get to so that we typically don’t.  Our last day trip to Richmond was about five years ago, and more recent visits to Richmond have occurred while we were passing through on our way to other places.  I think that the biggest impediment to our visiting Richmond more often is I-95, as it’s fairly unreliable, being subject to backups on a very regular basis, making it difficult to predict when we will arrive in the Richmond area.  In any event, inspired by our earlier trip, we had gathered up enough stuff that we had wanted to see to make a weekend trip to Richmond worthwhile.  So we picked a month and did a weekender.

On this particular occasion, we left the house and got going, taking I-270 to the Beltway to the I-95 express lanes, which were pointed southbound at the time.  We soon learned that there was a very long backup on I-95 southbound.  So we bailed, taking an express lane exit to US 1 near Lorton.  A major backup on I-95 had the potential to derail our entire day, so Route 1, while slower, was still a better bet than taking 95.  This routing took us past a number of places, and and we made some planned stops and unplanned stops.  The first stop was unplanned, at the Harley-Davidson place in the Quantico area.

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Categories: Richmond, Vacations

Thinking about the “Sunset Park” concept…

April 26, 2022, 4:32 PM

Those of you who have been following this website for a very long time may remember that one of the last quote articles, which ran about seven months before the feature was discontinued, was about the then-impending closure, capping, and seeding of the city landfill in Waynesboro, Virginia.  It was titled, “What Waynesboro needs now is a star!” and discussed a proposed redevelopment of the site into “Sunset Park”.  At the time, I said that it was a wonderful idea, and suggested that Waynesboro should consider commissioning some sort of large-scale art piece similar to the Roanoke Star, in order to have some sort of icon visible all across the city, and provide a landmark for the park, i.e. a reason to go up there.  Since my article ran back in 2004, the landfill was successfully capped and seeded, but as far as I can tell, very little has occurred since.  Plans have been drawn up, but that’s about the extent of it.  No construction to this end has taken place as of yet.

On my most recent trip down that way in mid-March, Elyse wanted to visit a hobby shop in downtown, and so while she did that, I went around to take the drone up to explore the old landfill site.  I wanted to see what it looked like up there, and, more importantly, I wanted to see what the view looked like from up there.

The sense that I got from my flight was that the landfill site seemed ideal for a park.  I found rolling terrain for the most part, with a gradual slope downward towards the city.  Gas vents are peppered throughout the site, consistent with its status as a former landfill.  An access road follows a curved path to the top.

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Categories: Waynesboro

A little awareness goes a long way…

April 11, 2022, 9:53 AM

Sometimes, it surprises me about how much some people lack awareness about their situation when they get caught in a copyright infringement case.  In this case, I sent a takedown notice for a photo of the old Giant Food store on O Street NW in Washington, DC, i.e. this photo:

Old Giant Food store on O Street NW

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New doors!

April 1, 2022, 12:32 AM

On Friday, March 25, the largest part of a home improvement project got completed.  I got new exterior doors on the house.  This was a very long time in coming, with supply chain issues’ making it take many months longer than originally anticipated, but that’s what happens.  I went through American Remodel, and these new doors should pay for themselves over time in increased energy efficiency.  The old doors were in somewhat poor condition, and were drafty.  Elyse was getting drafts in her bedroom, the kitchen door was starting to fall apart, and the front door not only leaked air, but was oozing material from around the window, and had modifications made to it in the past that degraded its functionality.

Here’s what the front door looked like before the work, photographed about a year ago:

The old front door, photographed in 2021

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Categories: House

I never thought that I would actually look forward to spring…

March 20, 2022, 3:24 PM

Let’s be honest: this winter was brutal for me. This was the first winter in a very long time where I truly felt cold. After going from the upper 300s to the lower 200s in weight, with a goal weight of 185 (we’ll get there!), this winter made the weight loss feel very real. I suppose that this is to be expected when you shed most of your insulation, but expecting it didn’t make me feel any warmer for it. This is even more so when you consider that I work in a job where I spend a decent amount of time out in the elements, and therefore have plenty of exposure to the cold.  I suspect that I understand why they don’t tell you about this part of losing weight when you are going through the pre-work for weight loss surgery, because the prospect of being cold all winter long might scare some folks off. All I know is that I certainly miss the days when I could go out and do some very long photography sessions at night in the dead of winter, and be just fine with a coat, a hat, and a pair of gloves. Nowadays, to go out in winter, I feel like I need eight hundred layers of clothing and heated everything. I remember my efforts at doing some night photography in Atlantic City back in January. Sub-freezing temperatures coupled with wind chilled me to the bone. I lasted long enough to get a few photos of Resorts before tapping out. I was just too cold.

I think that this screencap from when my cousin Mike was on the TV news a few years ago talking about a polar vortex event sums it up quite nicely:

Mike Schumin: Hates the cold.
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Categories: Weight loss

“Just singing a song…”

March 15, 2022, 12:00 PM

This past Thursday evening, Elyse and I found ourselves at JMU, touring the recently renovated Zane Showker Hall.  I’m going to go into more detail on that adventure later, so stay tuned for that, but while we were in the lecture hall formerly known as G5 (now numbered 0212), I found a microphone up front, and it turned on and worked.  When you give me a microphone, you never know what I’m going to do with it.  In this instance, I had a little bit of fun with it, and belted out a tune, which Elyse recorded:

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A reminder about party affiliation in Maryland…

March 14, 2022, 2:40 PM

As we move ever closer to the midterm elections in Maryland, and the primaries that accompany them, this seems like the perfect time to remind everyone about the way that primaries are conducted in Maryland.  Specifically, Maryland, along with 13 other states plus DC, conducts closed primaries.  That means that the only way to participate in a primary election is to have registered your political party choice with the state voter registration system ahead of time, usually before a deadline. In the case of Maryland, that party deadline is June 7, 2022.  Party registration in a closed primary state is not something to be taken lightly, and determines which candidates you get to vote for in the primary.

All of this about party registration should not be confused with any actual political leanings that you may have.  In a jurisdiction that skews very heavily in one direction, and where party registration is required in advance in order to vote for a given party’s primary candidates, the only way that you get any say in your local governance is to register in that party.  In a situation like this, the primary election for that party is the election that decides the result, and the general election is just a formality, because the nominee of that party always carries the race by a very large margin, and the other general election candidates know that they have no real chance at winning.

(By the way, if all of this sounds vaguely familiar, this is not the first time that I have written about this subject.)

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Shooting macro with a new phone…

March 5, 2022, 6:10 PM

At the end of February, I got myself a new phone: a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.  This is the latest and the greatest as far as Samsung phones go, as of the time of this writing.  I typically get a top-of-the-line phone for myself, mostly because of how much I use it for photography.  I also like a big phone screen, especially now that I am in middle age, and have to hold things further away from my face in order to read them clearly.  This new phone was a bit of an update compared to my last phone, the Galaxy S20 Ultra.  It still looks and acts like a Samsung phone, so there was very little learning curve, but it’s faster, easier to read, has a better camera, and has the S-Pen (which I had not had since 2017, back when I had a Note 5).  Most importantly, though, the camera is much better than the S20.  The S20 Ultra’s camera was a bit farsighted.  It did just fine photographing things that were far away, but it couldn’t focus if you got really close to it (sounds like me!).  So in order to get the proper effect, you had to back up and then zoom in.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked well enough.  Sounds like when I need a magnifying glass in order to read the fine print sometimes.

So with the new phone in hand, Elyse and I went out, and I took it for a spin while running some errands.  I was interested in trying out the improved macro function, and focused on shooting things really close up.  We got together with my friend Matthew, and he got to see me do my thing, getting up, on, over, and around everything while Elyse did the things that she needed to do.

Our first stop was Fair Oaks Mall, where Elyse wanted to go to BoxLunch, which is a gift shop.  I had assumed that BoxLunch was a restaurant, i.e. a place where you can buy a boxed lunch (imagine my surprise to find out that they didn’t sell food!).  While Elyse was going around there, Matthew and I waited outside, where I took the new phone camera through its paces in the mall, focusing on the details in the sitting area just outside of BoxLunch:

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