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A trip to New Jersey with Elyse and Woomy…

August 14, 2022, 7:57 PM

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:

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An unexpected Staunton Mall update…

August 13, 2022, 10:00 AM

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.

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Still clueless, and not getting any better…

August 5, 2022, 10:37 AM

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

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Yes, I really did meet Andre the Giant back in 1991…

July 26, 2022, 7:42 PM

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.

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Categories: Arkansas, Childhood, Walmart

A day up in Pennsylvania…

July 22, 2022, 8:30 AM

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.

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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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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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