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In hindsight, sometimes I wonder if I might have had an easier time…

July 14, 2019, 12:20 PM

Sometimes I wonder if, in hindsight, I might have had an easier time in school if I had just beaten the crap out of a few kids.  Seriously.  I got picked on quite a bit, particularly in middle school. I got made fun of for my weight, I got made fun of for the way I walked (which I found out much later was due to overly tight calf muscles, which is remedied through stretching), and I got made fun of for my mannerisms.

I admit that I was a bit of an easy mark in middle school.  I wouldn’t fight back, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I was in a martial arts class at the time that emphasized never starting a fight.  Additionally, and more importantly, when students get into a fight in school, fault was typically assigned equally regardless of what happened, and so both students got suspended.  Thus even if you were not the one who initiated the fight and you were trying to get the other kid off of you, you were still getting suspended.  Since my parents had decided before I was born that I was going to college, getting suspended was viewed as the worst thing ever.  Recall the “you might as well wish you were dead” remark from when I got suspended in fourth grade.  We later found out after we moved to Virginia that the elementary school suspension wasn’t in my records.  Whether that was sloppy work on Mrs. Carmical’s part or what have you, I don’t know, but officially, it never happened.  However, getting suspended going forward was a no-go, because of the assumption that it would affect my ability to get into college.  As it turns out, that assumption was mistaken, because no college cares about what you did in middle school.  But for that mistaken assumption, I had a rough time.

In reading various discussions online, one thing that I saw over and over was that when the victims of bullying retaliated against their attackers, it generally put an end to it.  One story from online that stuck with me was where a girl who was being bullied walked by and jabbed a pair of scissors into her attacker’s back.  She got in some trouble, but the end result was that her bully now feared her.  Seemed like a good result.  She ended it.  And in a fight, if everyone is getting suspended, it really changes the dynamic of things.  With nothing to lose, why not inflict maximum damage?  Give the kid something to remember you by.  Bet that they won’t mess with you again after that.

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Categories: School, Stuarts Draft

Petty tribalism has no place in the 2020 cycle…

July 7, 2019, 10:52 AM

Here we go again.

The 2020 election cycle is very much underway, and one of the top-tier candidates is Bernie Sanders.  Sanders, you may recall, is an independent senator from Vermont who ran in the 2016 election cycle, and came in second place to Hillary Clinton, who went on to lose in November.  Back in 2016, we saw a lot of people saying, “Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat,” and they used that as a reason that people should not vote for him, and how if he wants to run as a Democrat, then he should join the party, for whatever that’s worth.  In any case, with hindsight, you can see how well all of that petty tribalism worked out.  The Democrats ended up nominating the worst possible candidate in Hillary Clinton, and she ultimately lost the race to Donald Trump, who should have been an easy candidate to defeat, because he’s a complete buffoon who had no experience in government.  One could write volumes about what went wrong in 2016, including the complete shutout of the Sanders constituency after the nomination was secured, the choice of a boring vice president who added nothing to the ticket, and so on, but the bottom line is that the Democrats lost, and lost pretty badly.  Sure, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the popular vote unfortunately is not what gets someone into the Oval Office under our system.

And then recently, when a friend posted an article from Business Insider titled “25% of Bernie Sanders’ supporters don’t trust the Democratic National Committee to run a fair 2020 primary“, it generated the following comments:

“Well since he is not a Democrat… or is he now… One cannot run or control something of which one refuses to be a part.”

“If one wants to criticize the DNC process and be taken seriously, one should be a member of the party.  It’s their primary, so they get to set the rules.”

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Categories: National politics

On public speaking…

June 29, 2019, 12:48 PM

I was recently listening to a HowStuffWorks podcast on fear of public speaking, and I drew quite a few parallels between what they were saying and my own experience.  I’ve never had a good relationship with public speaking, and I will actively try to avoid it whenever possible, but at the same time, part of my job is to make good announcements, and I do that beautifully on a routine basis.  Jerry Seinfeld has spoken about the idea that fear of public speaking ranks higher than death, and that people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.  I can sympathize with that.  After all, if you’re dead, you never have to speak in public again.

But there is nothing that gets me wound up more than having to present something to an audience.  It’s one more reason that I’m glad that I’m no longer in school.  I never have to get in front of a group and present ever again.  One thing that I’ve learned as I’ve matured is that I am not very skilled with presenting things in real time.  I do quite well when presenting things in a written format, but public speaking is a major no-no for me.  I’ve tried presentations where I speak with notecards, and it’s typically not gone well.  About the only way that I have been able to get through a presentation of any sort is if I have a full-on script, i.e. every single word that I speak is written down on something in front of me and read verbatim.  It makes enough sense.  I am a much stronger writer than I am a speaker, and so if I take the much stronger writing component and use it to prop up the relatively weak speaking component, then we have a winner all around.  But don’t ask me any questions afterward.  When what I have written has been read, I am done.

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Categories: JMU, Myself, School

Elyse goes to Build-A-Bear…

June 27, 2019, 11:47 AM

On Tuesday, June 26, Elyse, my friend Matthew, and I went to Build-A-Bear at Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia, where Elyse got herself a stuffed bear.  This was part of a larger adventure which took us to Manassas and a few other places in that general area.  In the case of Build-A-Bear, Elyse had entered into the sweepstakes for the “pay your age” promotion and got selected, receiving a ticket with a date window to visit a store and redeem it for a bear.

First, we had to find a suitable character.  Elyse briefly considered this flamingo.
First, we had to find a suitable character.  Elyse briefly considered this flamingo.

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Categories: Elyse, Matthew, Shopping, Virginia

Looking at some old photos from 2002…

June 17, 2019, 11:54 AM

Sometimes, it’s fun to look back at old photos.  The world changes, after all, and sometimes, old photos document things that don’t exist anymore.  For whatever reason, Elyse and I were looking at my photos from a trip to the Washington DC area that I made on April 13, 2002.  For context, back when this trip happened, I was a junior in college, and had just been notified that I was being laid off from my call center job with Telegate USA (the successor company to CFW Information Services) after just under five years’ employment there.  The call center where I worked was closing, and Telegate, primarily a European company, would exit the US market entirely within the year.

This particular trip produced the Old Town Alexandria set in Photography.  I now consider that set to be poor work, and have it on my list of photo sets that I eventually want to reshoot, along with Meridian Hill Park.  I figure that, with the passage of time and my becoming more proficient with the camera, I could do a much better job a second time around.  In the case of the Old Town Alexandria set, I really didn’t take enough time to compose the shots.  Timestamps indicate that it took me an hour to cover from near the waterfront to the Metro station.  I was really just walking and photographing without putting much thought or effort into it.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around the DC area via the Metro, and more or less exploring around.

It’s also funny to think that I took these photos with my original Sony Mavica camera, which recorded at 640×480 resolution, with corresponding image quality.  It was only slightly better quality than a potato.

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Crossing the line from punishment to just plain mean…

May 29, 2019, 10:26 AM

Sometimes, in reflecting on childhood, you remember an incident and think, “Wow, that was really messed up.”  And then the more that you think about that incident, the more messed up you realize that it was.  Such was the case of a punishment that I received from my mother in November 1990 that, based on the way it all happened, was just wrong.  Before I begin, though, I should note that my parents did a great job overall in raising my sister and me.  But this one was wrong in so many ways.  And my mother likes to bring this one up in conversation, and speaks about it as though she’s quite proud of herself for it, despite how hurtful it actually was.

Back in late 1990, I was in fourth grade.  For context, recall that I did not have the best relationship with my elementary school, as it was clear that they weren’t equipped to handle someone like me (I briefly discuss this in the Mrs. Bradley Journal entry).  Because of that, I had a bit of trouble in school, and things were starting to come to a head with my relationship with my fourth grade teacher.  So getting punished was something that I was accustomed to.

However, this particular punishment really took the cake, mostly because of how it came about, and what happened in the course of the punishment, and the lasting damage that it caused.  In the fall of 1990, Mom had started openly tossing around the idea of cleaning out my room, i.e. taking all of my toys away, as a punishment.  Mom brought it up on several occasions that she wanted to do that, and nine-year-old me was terrified of the prospect, because it felt inevitable that she would eventually do that, and I didn’t know how to prevent it because I was never told what transgressions would trigger such a punishment.

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Categories: Childhood, Family, School

No more Exeloo…

May 25, 2019, 2:50 PM

Imagine my surprise, when Elyse and I were passing through Huntington station, to see this:

The former location of the Exeloo in the north mezzanine

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Categories: WMATA

I still think about it twenty years later…

May 15, 2019, 11:46 PM

This month marks twenty years since I did The East Coast Price is Right.  That was a fun experience, and I did all of the legwork myself.  I built the set, chose the pricing games, researched all of the prizes (though we played for fun – no actual prizes were given out), wrote all of the copy, picked out all of the music, and even made and wrote out all of the nametags.  I still think about the production from time to time, and I wonder what I might do differently if I were to do it all again.

That production was the culmination of a series of writing assignments that I had done in high school.  In Mrs. Hevener’s English and composition classes at Stuarts Draft High School, we did freewrite assignments on a regular basis.  I tended to have fun with these, writing on various topics that interested me, much like I still do on here.  Some of my old freewrites ended up on Schumin Web under the now-retired “Writings” section.  In 11th and 12th grade, many of our freewrites were required to be related to the material that we were studying in class, which I resented a bit.  After all, I loved to write, and still do.  But I didn’t really much care about the literature that we were working on, and I didn’t like the poetry much, either, since the way that it was taught essentially beat the life out of it through overanalysis (by the way, what is a good way to teach poetry that doesn’t kill it?).  That said, I tended to stretch the definition of the “based on the literature” requirement until it was holding on for dear life, but doing so enabled me to continue to write about topics that I was interested in.  The problem with the “based on the literature” requirement was that in the case of the literature, we were expected to read it in massive quantities in such a short time that nothing sank in.  I tend to get the best results when I read at a slower, more thoughtful pace.  At the pace that they required, my eyes might have physically read every single word on the pages, but it wasn’t sticking, and I still couldn’t answer any of the questions about the material.  I did no better than when I didn’t read any of the literature and just BSed it, and so I went back to that.  After all, if I wasn’t doing any better in class when I read the literature than when I skipped it, there was no point in reading it.  In 12th grade, where half of the class material was about poetry, I tended to gravitate towards that, because it was easier to base stuff on for the freewrites.  I would take whatever style we were studying or had studied previously, and use that as a template to write about things that were far more interesting than whatever literature we were reading.  It wasn’t ideal, and I found it frustrating at times trying to fit to the format, but at least I could have fun with it.  Others tended to stretch it by saying that their poems were based on a poem called “Dover Beach“, which was in the poetry book.  That’s why I put “Based on the poem ‘Dover Beach'” in the introduction – because it was the catch-all poem that people often used, and that line spoofed that.

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Categories: School, Television

Toronto in a nutshell…

April 24, 2019, 9:30 PM

I mentioned about a month or so ago that Elyse and I were going to Toronto in mid-April.  That trip is now in the history books, and much fun was had.  I’m going to do a more detailed photo set in Life and Times later, but I want to present a high-level view of what we did on our trip now.  Much of the focus of the trip was to visit various locations where Today’s Special was filmed.  We visited the store, as well as other places where various characters visited over the course of seven seasons.  We also rode a lot of the TTC, visited friends, had dessert at a poop-themed restaurant, and rode some vintage elevators.

So here we go…

Main Place Mall, a mostly dead mall in Buffalo, New York, where we met up with a friend.
Main Place Mall, a mostly dead mall in Buffalo, New York, where we met up with a friend.

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Seeing what my innards look like from the inside…

April 15, 2019, 11:18 PM

So on Wednesday, March 26, I had an endoscopy as part of a weight loss program that I’m in.  That involved going to the hospital, getting an IV, getting wheeled into the room on a stretcher, and then getting knocked out while they did their thing.  The good news is that everything looks healthy inside of me, which is what I was expecting to see.

What I found interesting was the difference in the experience in this procedure vs. the last time that I got sedated, back in 2005 when I got a pilonidal cyst removed.  This time was just a diagnostic procedure, though, while it was actual surgery back in 2005.  The endoscopy was done at Montgomery General Hospital in Olney, while my 2005 surgery was done at Augusta Medical Center (now Augusta Health) in Fishersville, Virginia.

Much of the process was pretty similar to 2005.  Come in, check in, change into the hospital gown, put on the hospital bracelet, get all of my information, do vitals, and so on.  The first big difference was the IV.  I’ve had IVs in the hand before, but for some reason, this one hurt like hell going in.  I don’t know why – I’ve never had an IV hurt like that.  Then I met with the doctor, who was scoping me and then a second patient.  I was told that it was good to be the first one to get done.  Then I met with the nurse anesthetist, whose job was to knock me out when the time came.  After she told me what was going to happen, I joked about hitting me on the head with a big cartoon mallet.  I wonder how many times they hear that joke.  I imagine that they hear that a lot.

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Categories: Health issues

Time to complain about Daylight Saving Time…

April 5, 2019, 1:16 PM

So it’s been about twelve years since the last time that I wrote about Daylight Saving Time (DST).  That previous instance was back in 2007, which was the first year that the current date rules were used.  That put “spring forward” on the second Sunday of March, and “fall back” on the first Sunday in November.  And apparently, I was justified in being a bit on edge about the new time change date, because the next day, when it took effect, I ended up oversleeping and showed up for work late.  Oops.  But considering that I got fired from that job a few weeks later… oh, well.

One thing that I’ve noticed since the switch is that no one seems to know when it’s time to change anymore.  2019 is the 13th year of the new schedule, and the changeover date still catches me by surprise.  It feels random to me.  It’s not the first Sunday in March, but the second Sunday.  It’s not a new month with a time change, but rather a mid-month thing.

In any case, I would love to do away with the whole charade of changing our clocks twice a year.  I would lean towards abolishing DST in favor of standard time rather than adopting DST year-round.  Ultimately, standard time is the one that more closely lines up with the sun.  “Noon” is supposed to be when the sun is at the highest point in the sky.  If you’re going to adopt one time standard year round, ditch DST.  Going to DST year-round would essentially mean moving up a time zone, putting the east coast of the United States on Atlantic Time, putting the midwest on Eastern Time, putting the Rockies on Central Time, and putting the west coast on Mountain Time.

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Categories: Events

Pinball and the Big Apple…

March 23, 2019, 1:55 PM

You know, one of these days, I’m going to realize that doing New Jersey and New York City is too much to bite off for a day trip.  However, that day has not come yet, and so on Tuesday, March 12, Elyse and I did exactly that, going to Asbury Park, where we visited the Silverball Museum, and then we rode a New Jersey Transit train from Long Branch to New York City, and spent a few hours in New York.

All in all, though, it wasn’t a bad trip, but it was very strenuous.  New York definitely needs to be its own thing, and always its own thing.  No bundling it with stuff in New Jersey, because we always end up getting home extremely late.  But unlike the last time that we bundled New York with Asbury Park, this time, New York was planned from the outset.

Our time in New Jersey was pretty typical: in via the Delaware Memorial Bridge, up via 295, make the big right turn near Trenton to get on 195, comment on the sign at milepost 14.6 that says that the trees are treated with a noxious substance, go to White Castle, and then arrive in Asbury Park.

The Silverball Museum was excellent, as always, as I played my way around the facility.  They had some new chairs this time around, and a few new games.  Elyse noticed that besides her favorite baseball game, there were four or five other vintage baseball games to try.  They also now have the arcade version of Asteroids.  I used to play Asteroids for the Atari 2600 all the time, so I knew my way around that game.  The controls are different on the arcade machine, though.  I found that the all-button controls were not as intuitive as the Atari 2600’s joystick-based controls.  That said, I didn’t do very well, but with more practice, I could probably get a decent score.

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A time to heal?

March 14, 2019, 10:00 AM

I was checking my Facebook feed on a break at work on Sunday, and imagine my surprise to see one of my old elementary school teachers post this:

Lost a special teacher friend this morning.  Sharon Bradley made you smile, and was the best story teller!  She was also my neighbor for a few years.  Sharon was good to my children and the students she taught.  Prayers for her family and extended school family who loved her.

Apparently, my old fifth grade teacher, Sharon Bradley, died on the morning of March 10, at the age of 76.  As of this writing, I do not know the cause of her death.

You may recall that I wrote a very long Journal entry last June about my fifth grade experience, after Mrs. Bradley came up in the “people you may know” list on Facebook around that time.  Fifth grade was, without question, my worst year in school, from kindergarten through college.  I suffered so much emotional abuse under her over the course of those nine months, enabled by the school administration and the guidance counselor.  When presented with the opportunity to reconnect through Facebook and potentially make peace, I declined, choosing to keep her out of my life.

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Categories: Arkansas, School

Returning to Toronto…

March 10, 2019, 12:17 PM

In about a month, I’m going traveling.  Elyse and I are going to Toronto for about a week, and we’re going to see as much as we can in the five days that we will have on site.  My goal is to see as many Today’s Special filming locations as possible.  I’ve done a lot of research on these for the new version of the Today’s Special site that I’m still working on, and have written about these filming locations in the past.  I plan not only to visit the store again, but also a whole lot of others.  Meanwhile, Elyse has given me a list of stuff that she wants to see – a lot of it elevators – and we’re going to work as many of those in as we can as well.

It’s funny about what I’m doing similarly to my original trip to Toronto back in 1999, and what I’m doing differently.  We’re staying the Chelsea Hotel at Gerrard and Yonge, just like I did last time.  I booked a deluxe room, just like I did in the nineties, which should place us on a relatively high floor.  Mom and I had room 1667 back in 1999, and then I suppose that we’ll see what they give us this time around.  I would laugh if we got room 2137, which is also the number of Elyse’s favorite Metrobus.  We’ll see, I suppose.  From the photos that I saw, though, the Chelsea has been renovated since we were there before, so the Chelsea will be a very different experience than before, as I imagine that everything will look quite different.  The rooftop bar is now a fitness center, for one.  And speaking of the rooftop, unlike last time, when I was just under the age requirement to go on the roof deck (you had to be 19, and I was 18), and Mom brought me in anyway, I now am well above the age requirement to go in there.

I also wonder if the fire alarm will go off this time, like it did back in 1999.  I remember being a little uptight about that whole situation before.  After all, all of my experience prior to this was that if the fire alarm sounds, you leave the building.  They only evacuated three floors: the fire floor, and the floor immediately above and below.  I found out later that it was a relatively minor electrical fire on the 20th floor that was the source of all of the commotion.  Nowadays, I know a lot more about how high-rise fire alarm systems work, and might be a bit more sedate should something like that happen again.  I wonder if it still has those Pyrotronics pull stations.  Funny, though – I still remember what their alarm sounded like almost twenty years later.  That was the first time that I had ever heard a voice evacuation system, or a two-stage system.  It was memorable, but also a bit unnerving, since this was well outside of my experience, plus it was getting close to the time that we needed to leave to head home.

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Categories: Vacations

Home organization…

February 28, 2019, 8:33 AM

I suppose that home design is a continuing evolution.  There’s the first wave of home organization, which is mainly about making moving boxes disappear, and then there’s that second wave later on where you come up with a more sustainable solution, after you’ve had time to think about how things should go.  I recently did this with the back bedroom, where I put it through a second wave of organization.  The back bedroom has always been a bit of a multipurpose room.  I can inflate my air mattress in there, and it becomes the guest bedroom.  It’s something of a playroom as well, as Elyse has used it to build Lego sets.  It’s also the home library, as that’s where I keep my books and videos and such.  The closet is a “miscellaneous storage” area, and is an open design.  It had an Elfa shelving system in it when I moved in, and it was laid out for hanging clothes at that time.  I organized the linen closet in the hallway at the same time that I did this project, since I was moving things between both spaces.  I had previously reorganized the linen closet in order to make the shelving arrangement more compact, and discovered how inefficient that space was.

Here’s what both spaces looked like before I started working on them:

Back bedroom closet.  Note that everything is just kind of thrown in there.
Back bedroom closet.  Note that everything is just kind of thrown in there.  We did this in order to quickly get the room operational ahead of a guest’s coming to visit, so that we could put them in here rather than in the living room.

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Categories: House