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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

I want to see a primary challenge in 2020…

February 18, 2019, 2:20 PM

So with the 2018 midterm elections behind us, that means that it’s presidential season again.  This one is already shaping up to be an interesting one, with a large field of Democratic candidates, and a few possible primary challengers for Donald Trump.

As of this writing, there are eleven declared candidates on the Democratic side of things.  A big field like that should produce a good nominee.  By comparison, in 1992, the last time that the Democrats (or anyone) unseated a sitting president, there was a field of nine candidates.  At this point, I am taking a watch-and-see attitude, because I consider it to be too early to really judge it all yet.  I expect that we will see even more candidates emerge on the Democratic side before it’s over, and there is still much to happen before I really dive in and pay attention to them like I mean it.  I’m more hopeful about certain candidates than others, but again, it’s still too early.

In the meantime, I am more interested in what the Republicans are doing at this stage in the process.  As I indicated in the title, I want to see Trump fend off a primary challenge from within his own party.  I have seen lots of discussion and speculation on possible Republican candidates to primary the president, and they all seem like they have potential.  I’ve heard Utah senator Mitt Romney‘s name get thrown around as a potential primary challenger, along with former Ohio governor John Kasich, former Senator Bob Corker, and Maryland governor Larry Hogan.  In addition, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has formed an exploratory committee, though hasn’t formally declared.  All of them seem like decent enough politicians.  They should run.

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It’s been a year since the car fire…

February 7, 2019, 1:18 PM

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day that I lost my Kia Soul in a massive fire.  I’ve chosen to commemorate the occasion with a photo set called “Remembering the Soul“, which looks back over the entire life of the Soul, from test drives to the end.  I made the set in part for Elyse, because she had a harder time getting over the fire than I did, and I also wanted to put the fire in perspective with the rest of the Soul’s life in an attempt to somewhat curate the way that she is remembered.  In the past year, it’s been very easy to think of the Soul only for the fire, because the last memories with her involved standing on the roadside and watching her burn to death.  But there were quite a few happy years and wonderful memories made prior to that, and the photo set is a reminder of that, even if she never made it to 100,000 miles.

Meanwhile, in the intervening year, I’ve watched as Hyundai and Kia have gotten some major criticism for other fires in their vehicles, including another 2012 model Soul in Virginia.  From what I can tell, it’s involved the Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe, and the Kia Optima, Sorento, Sportage, and Soul.  Most recently, I’ve seen a recall that focuses on the above named models, minus the Soul, and it seems to explain everything adequately as far as my fire goes.  According to an article on the subject:

Hyundai and Kia started recalling 1.7 million vehicles in 2015 – about 618,000 of which are Kias – because manufacturing debris can restrict oil flow to connecting rod bearings.  That can cause bearings in 2-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines to wear and fail.  The problem can also cause fires.  The repair in many cases is an expensive engine block replacement.

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Categories: Honda HR-V, Kia Soul

Looking back on some old photos…

January 29, 2019, 1:32 PM

Recently, Elyse and I were coming home from Frederick on a night with a very bright full moon.  The discussion turned towards how it was moonlight that was making everything so bright.  I was no stranger to this concept, and remembered a set of photos that I shot on July 31, 2004.  There, I was up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia near Rockfish Gap, shooting photos after work using Big Mavica with the tripod, under a full moon.  It was late at night, but the photos might have almost led you to think otherwise:

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Why was I afraid of this as a child?

January 18, 2019, 1:16 PM

Remember this segment from Sesame Street episode 1578, where Gordon talks about rain?

For some reason, that segment, which I called “Gordon in a wig”, terrified me as a small child.  I watched it once, and apparently, didn’t like it.  After that first viewing, I would turn the television off whenever it came on.

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Categories: Television

I have so many great ideas for photography, and I want a banner year…

January 12, 2019, 1:24 PM

Let’s admit – 2018 was kind of a bust when it came to photography.  I had plans, but none of them really came to fruition, with the exception of my trip to Centralia in May.  Even the big road trip in October produced only tepid results.  Most of that can be attributed to extremely poor luck when it came to the weather.  I got rained out almost every single time I planned to do something exciting.  Sure, we’re not in a drought situation anymore (far from it), but I have a shortage of newer material, which affects other parts of the site.

That said, I have lots of plans for photo sets.  I keep a list of ideas, but unfortunately, due to the rate that these shoots get accomplished, I have referred to the list as “The place where photo set ideas go to die.”  A lot of the list contains infrastructure sites, such as tunnels and bridges, both locally and on the road in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  I also want to do some explore-the-town photo sets, again both locally and on the road.  I also want to do a few reshoots of old subjects that I think that I can do better now than I did way back in the day.  See Richmond’s Canal Walk from 2002 and Richmond 2013 for an example of this.  Here are two photos of the same subject – one from the 2002 set and the 2013 set:

2002 photo
2002 photo.

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So Christmas in Montgomery Village was a tad underwhelming…

December 27, 2018, 2:44 PM

Elyse and I drove around our immediate area in Montgomery Village looking at lights after I got home from work on Christmas Eve.  The sense that we got from driving around was that this wasn’t a big year for decorating.  There were some houses that were decorated, but on the whole, there was not a whole lot going on.  Last Christmas was definitely better, though admittedly, it is more of a challenge to successfully decorate townhouses than single-family houses.  Nonetheless, I have a few highlights to share:

These were the only decorations of note on my street.  It appears that these two houses coordinated their efforts, as the decorations in the second-floor windows match, and the lighting on the hedges on both properties also matches.
These were the only decorations of note on my street.  It appears that these two houses coordinated their efforts, as the decorations in the second-floor windows match, and the lighting on the hedges on both properties also matches.

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The things that a mother will do for her child…

December 14, 2018, 2:00 PM

One of my favorite books as a small child was Sir Andrew by Paula Winter.  For those not familiar, it is a wordless picture book about a donkey who is very vain, who both gets in and causes trouble over the course of the story due to his vanity.  We first found it at the library in Rogers, Arkansas, where we lived at the time.  Apparently, I wanted my own copy of Sir Andrew, having liked the book that much.  However, in the mid 1980s, over a decade before Amazon and the Internet became commonplace, locating a book like that for purchase was a very tall order.  So my mother did what she could to make me happy: she photocopied the entire book, colored it, and bound it.  I knew that it was a homemade copy from the moment that I saw it, but I was pleased as punch nonetheless.  This was the Sir Andrew that I grew up with:

My bootleg copy of Sir Andrew

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Categories: Family, Popular culture

I don’t want to undertake another unfinished furniture project for a long time…

December 1, 2018, 8:00 AM

At last, my journey into the land of unfinished furniture is over.  Four dining chairs and an end table are now complete and in service.  My house looks way better for it, but I am so glad that it’s done and over with.

For this project, I was staining to match existing furniture.  I tested a few colors, and ultimately settled on Varathane “Early American” for the stain.  Unlike the kitchen chairs, stain and polyurethane were separate efforts for these pieces, since the right color was not a combo item like it was for the kitchen chairs.

I’ve already shown the unfinished chairs in the Journal entry about the rugs.  Recall:

The unfinished chairs, in place in the living room

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Categories: Furniture

And now, new toilets…

November 23, 2018, 2:16 PM

A year after buying the place, I’m still working hard to make it my own.  First it was the new furniture from IKEA.  Then I painted Elyse’s bathroom.  Then I finished the chairs in the kitchen.  Then I painted Elyse’s bedroom.  Then it was the area rugs.  And now, it’s new toilets.  I suppose that this is what happens when you become mature, that buying and installing new toilets becomes exciting.

In any case, Elyse and I had both been less than enthused about our respective toilets from the moment that we moved in.  The ones in Elyse’s bathroom and mine were both fairly old, and both had problems.  Mine leaked water from the tank into the bowl, which was a waste of water, and it also splashed me in certain places, which was quite annoying.  Then parts of Elyse’s didn’t work, which reduced its effectiveness, which also ultimately wasted water.  So they were both quickly marked for replacement.  The toilet in the half bath is in good shape, and is not slated to be replaced, though we are planning to do a small refurbushment project on it, likely coupled with a repainting project in that room.

On September 29, Elyse and I finally took the plunge.  While we were out in Hagerstown, after looking at a store called CoinOpWarehouse, we went over to Lowe’s and looked at the different toilets that they had.  She got the Ove Beverly, which had a very modern design. I got the American Standard Champion 4, which is an ADA height toilet of more traditional design.  This is what the Champion 4 looked like in the store:

The American Standard Champion 4

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Categories: House

Adventures up north…

November 21, 2018, 1:48 PM

Back in the middle of October, as part of a weeklong vacation from work, Elyse and I took a trip to upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania.  The first day took us up to Cortland, New York.  The second day, we explored Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The third day, we briefly explored Wilkes-Barre, and then went down to Centralia before heading home.

Our route on the first day took us from home up I-270 to Frederick, and then US 15 to Harrisburg.  We had planned a stop around Harrisburg in order to photograph Three Mile Island from across the river, but scrapped it due to bad weather (clouds).  We can day-trip it to Harrisburg any time, and traveling to the spot for Three Mile Island would have been a significant detour.  We both agreed that we weren’t going to make a long detour for bad photos.  Once we got to Harrisburg, we joined Interstate 81 for our travels north.

I definitely got to know I-81 a whole lot better than I did before taking this trip.  Previously, I had traveled on I-81 from its southern terminus near Knoxville as far as exit 116 in Pennsylvania, from my Centralia trip in May (prior to that, I had only traveled as far as the I-78 split).  Now, I’ve traveled the entire length of I-81 in Pennsylvania, and also 52 miles in upstate New York.  If there’s one thing to be said about I-81 north of Harrisburg, it’s that the views are outstanding.  I-81 runs through the mountains, and it’s quite a sight.  And just like it does in Virginia, it skirts around every single city, which doesn’t make for the most interesting trip.  I prefer when freeways go through the cities like I-95 tends to do, because it gives me something to look forward to, and also keeps me more engaged.

But thankfully, we had this license plate game that Elyse found in a thrift store, so as we spotted different states’ license plates, she turned that state over on the board.  The most unusual license plate that we saw was for St. Maarten, at a Sheetz in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.  Why a vehicle from St. Maarten was in central Pennsylvania, I don’t know.

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No, this is not the solution to kids’ getting run over…

November 4, 2018, 2:59 PM

Last night, Elyse shared a photo with me from Facebook depicting a school bus making a stop way out in the middle of the road:


Photo: Dana Shifflett Farrar

The photo was captioned, “With the string of school bus accidents, I loved how this bus driver intentionally placed itself [sic] in the middle this morning.  At first I wondered what they were doing, then I realized the kids had to cross the road.  Well done, sir.”  I don’t know where this specific location is, but considering that the person who posted it is from Shenandoah, Virginia, this likely depicts a location in Shenandoah County, Virginia, and as such is most likely a Shenandoah County school bus.  This was likely done in reaction to recent news stories where children have been injured while going to school.

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Categories: Driving, Honda HR-V, School

A visit to Morgantown…

October 24, 2018, 10:00 AM

On October 8, I went out to Morgantown for the day with Elyse, Brian, and Trent.  This was a fun little trip, with the intention of exploring the Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system and also seeing a few elevators, as the three of them are very much into elevators.  I’m not as much into elevators as they are, but I’ve learned a lot from them.

It’s a long drive to Morgantown, that’s for sure.  From Montgomery Village to Morgantown took us about four hours, with stops in Frederick, Sideling Hill, Cumberland, and La Vale for various (mostly restroom) needs.  I was amazed about how mountainous Interstate 68 was, particularly west of Cumberland.  It felt like we were constantly going up a mountain, but the HR-V was killing the hills like a champ.  This trip also brought out the roadgeek in all of us.  We took I-68 from its eastern terminus in Hancock, and, since we were practically there already, rode 68 to its western terminus at I-79.

Sideling Hill was known territory to everyone.  We had all been there before, but the view was still worth a look.  However, it was foggy on this particular day:

Sideling Hill overlook, facing approximately east

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