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Just when you thought that the mountain couldn’t look any worse than it already did…

April 16, 2017, 5:37 PM

On Tuesday, April 11, I got together with Elyse and Melissa, and we headed down to Virginia for the day.  The plan was to get together with my parents, plus visit Afton Mountain and downtown Staunton.

We left the house at 9:30, and took US 29 down to Charlottesville.  First stop was Moe’s Original Bar B Que, where we had lunch with my father.  Fun time, and my father seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to finding good barbecue.  Every barbecue place that Dad has taken me to has been wonderful, and this was no exception.

From here, we took US 250 across to Afton Mountain.  There, we went to the second overlook, i.e. the Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook, to get some views.  I tend to avoid Afton Overlook, the first overlook, after being propositioned for sex there one night back in 2005.  The second overlook, which is a mile and some change further down the road, tends to attract fewer undesirables.  I suppose it’s because it’s further away from civilization than the first one, which is a minute’s drive from the freeway.  In any case, the view is awesome:

View from Rockfish Valley Parking Overlook

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Soda, toys, and a Kroger like no other…

April 6, 2017, 2:07 PM

So, as promised, here’s the rest of the trip to Richmond that Elyse and I made.

After leaving the Science Museum, we headed over to Carytown.  Elyse wanted me to see Rocket Fizz, which is where she got some bottles of “Stalinade”, a strawberry-flavored soda that, as I said on Instagram at the time, was “Communism in a glass.  Definitely tastes the way that I would expect communism to taste: red.”  They have a very large selection of unique sodas, and some with novelty flavors, and some with novelty names.  I ended up buying a six-pack of novelty flavors.  Here was the take:

Sweet corn, ranch dressing, butter, San Francisco fog, grass, and bacon with maple syrup.

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I’m doing science…

March 30, 2017, 8:35 PM

This past Tuesday, March 29, Elyse and I headed down to Richmond for the day.  The idea was that we wanted to go somewhere, but it was going to rain, and so we needed a good indoor venue.  So we decided to go to the Science Museum of Virginia.  I had not been in a very long time (15 years!), it was indoors, and Elyse liked it a lot when she went a few months ago.

I was surprised to find out that all of the exhibits were different compared to previous visits.  The exhibits had changed gradually over several visits in the nineties, but this change was a bit more dramatic, with all new exhibits, as well as the removal of a mezzanine level that previously existed in the main hall.  The new exhibits seemed more child-focused, which is something that I don’t remember from my last visit in 2002.  They had a hurricane simulator, where you could experience gale-force winds, tropical storm-force winds, and hurricane-force winds.  They also had a track that challenged you to outrun different kinds of animals (turns out that I can run faster than a rat, or at least keep up).

There was also a demonstration of robotics that used an air hockey table.  There, you had to beat the robot at air hockey.  All went well at first, but this was more exciting than most.


Yes, the puck got stuck.  There was a spot on the robot’s side of the table where the puck was prone to getting stuck, and since it was on the robot’s side (and thus protected by plexiglass), we couldn’t get it loose.  The robot was set up to shoot a puff of air when the puck got stuck, but it couldn’t make it move.

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Categories: Elyse, Richmond

A few career anniversaries in the next month…

March 23, 2017, 2:04 AM

The next month contains no less than three career anniversaries of mine.  March 31 marks ten years since I was fired from Walmart, April 15 marks the 15th anniversary of when CFW Information Services (then Telegate USA) closed and I was laid off, and then April 18 marks ten years from the day that I was hired at Food & Water Watch.  Rememberances of jobs past, I suppose.

The anniversary that still gets me is the CFW one.  I can’t believe that it’s been fifteen years.  That was my first job, which I started at age 16, in June 1997.  It was a call center job, processing inbound calls for customers seeking directory assistance services in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, and New Jersey.  Then Pennsylvania got added to the mix.  Then we started doing two national services – one used by bill collectors doing skiptracing, and a wholesale service for the public through a variety of different providers.  When the national services came online, I mostly did the bill collector service.  That was a good job.  The dress code was casual (after all, who saw you?) and you worked at a computer all day.

That job did, however, have a turning point.  In June 2000, parent company CFW Communications made a major change to its corporate structure, merging with another regional telecommunications company in Virginia to form nTelos.  As part of that same deal, Information Services was out.  Our division would not become part of the new nTelos, as we were sold to Telegate, a company based in Munich, Germany.  I remember watching this company, which had thrived under CFW ownership, be slowly destroyed under Telegate ownership.  If I recall, Telegate acquired our company with the intention of gaining a foothold in the US marketplace, with the desire to eventually launch a “11880” style service in the US like they did in Germany.  The “11880” style service never happened, and things basically stayed the same.  Meanwhile, for a company with three Virginia call centers (Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester), their choice of a headquarters location was surprising: Plano, Texas.  Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.  The management in Texas also seemed to come and go on a fairly regular basis, as one after the other either abruptly quit or was dismissed.  It was no surprise when Telegate started closing call centers as the business started to drop off (probably due to the hideous management of the company), as Clifton Forge, Waynesboro, and Winchester all closed within about 6-7 months of each other.  I was away at college at the time that my center closed, and never received any official notification from Telegate of the center’s closing, but rather, was notified by some of my soon-to-be-former coworkers.  It just so happened that I would be in town the weekend before the closing, and so I stopped by to pick up my belongings and turn in my equipment.  And that was the end of my first job.

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Categories: CFW, Walmart, Work

“Hello!  Welcome!”

March 9, 2017, 12:03 PM

You may recall from the Pittsburgh photo set that Elyse has an interest in elevators.  I find them interesting as well, though to a lesser extent than Elyse and others.  However, I always enjoy seeing an unusual specimen, like the pop-out buttons on the elevators at the Investment Building in Pittsburgh.

This elevator, at the United Office Building in Oxon Hill, takes the cake for interesting features.  Check it out:

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I think that we need to have a discussion about news sources…

February 27, 2017, 9:14 AM

Over the course of the last several days, whenever I’ve gone on Facebook, I feel as though I’ve had to play fact-checker a lot more than usual.  Most of the stories that I’ve had to verify and debunk are about Donald Trump, but there have also been a few ones about the toxin-du-jour and other miscellaneous topics.  And having to constantly stay on my game and do the same sort of research over and over again gets tiring.  I started out making this post about the problem:

I feel as though I've had to burst far more bubbles than usual as of late when it comes to people's sharing fake news stories. Please, people, vet your stories before you post, because anyone can start a website and write anything they want and make it look official. I highly recommend Snopes.com for vetting stories. They'll set you straight on the fake ones.

This post got eight likes and one comment, so it didn’t do as well as I would have hoped.  Maybe it’s because I posted it in the middle of the day on a Friday.  But in any case, the bottom line is to think before you share.

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Categories: News, Social media

Saying goodbye to Landmark Mall…

February 23, 2017, 9:21 AM

About a month ago, Elyse, Brian, Aaron, and I took a field trip to Landmark Mall in Alexandria, visiting it for the last time.  Landmark was slated to close permanently on January 31, and so we came by to get photos before it all shut down.  This trip took a similar form to when Elyse and I visited Owings Mills Mall in September 2015, though in the case of Owings Mills, we didn’t know that in less than two weeks from our visit, the mall would close permanently.  With Landmark, the mall was closing at the end of January in preparation for a redevelopment that would replace the mall with a mixed-use “town center” style development.  The Macy’s and Sears stores would remain through the redevelopment, however, I suspect that may change.  The Landmark Macy’s was included in the round of store closings that Macy’s was doing in early 2017, and I’d suggest that the long-term prospects for Sears’ survival are looking pretty grim, so the plan to include those two buildings in the new development might change, as one of those stores is vacating, and the second may not be far behind.

And then here are photos:

Escalators in the mall's northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.
Escalators in the mall’s northeast corner, viewed from the lower level.

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Categories: Alexandria, Elyse, Friends, Shopping

I feel like I’m irrationally angry about this…

February 10, 2017, 4:00 PM

I am currently am experiencing a bout of tendonitis in my left wrist and hand.  For someone that blogs as much as I do, it happens, and so you deal with it.  It started on Tuesday, and by Wednesday, it was bad enough that I decided to go to an urgent care facility to get it looked at.  I went to Patient First in Rockville.  There, after they took all of my vitals, the doctor came in and looked at my hand.  Turned out that it was tendonitis, and the doctor recommended that I take Advil for it, and gave me this wrist brace:

The brace.

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Categories: Health issues

Elyse goes to the inauguration…

January 28, 2017, 8:24 PM

Sometimes, it’s fun to live vicariously.  Such is what happened on Inauguration Day.  I had to work, and so I spent my Inauguration Day mostly doing support work to help keep trains moving.  However, Elyse came down to DC to see what she could see as far as inauguration-related activities went.  She and mutual friend Dave went out to see what was going on, and I was able to follow along through frequent updates sent to me on Facebook Messenger.  Though this was not intentional, she did a photo shoot in a similar way that I shoot an event that I’m not directly involved in.  The official festivities were kind of “meh” (though she did watch the swearing-in live on television, which I didn’t get to do), but she kept up with a lot of the activism.

I admit: I have more or less hung up my activism hat, having not participated in a political demonstration in a very long time. I stopped doing black blocs in October 2010 after a pair of disastrous demonstrations soured me on the tactic, and I haven’t been to a political demonstration of any kind since August 2013.  However, I still cheer on and support my friends who are still involved in it, even if I haven’t done it myself in years, and in fact, a number of my activist friends helped organize some of the protests that occurred in DC.  So I was delighted to get these updates from Elyse, as well as from elsewhere on Facebook and the Twitter, to see what was up while I was at work.

After I got off of work, Elyse came over and we looked at her take from the day, and the photos were quite good.  She also gave me permission to run some of them on Schumin Web, and so hopefully you can live vicariously through Elyse as well, as people came to DC to protest Donald Trump on the occasion of his inauguration.

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Eight years of growth and change…

January 19, 2017, 11:19 PM

This evening is Barack Obama‘s last in office as President of the United States.  At 12:00 tomorrow, Donald Trump will be sworn in, and then the Obama family will leave for a well-deserved vacation to Palm Springs.  Meanwhile, based on what we’ve already seen from Trump’s camp as president-elect, what I said in my post-election Journal entry rings true: “In the end, the expression, ‘May you live in interesting times,’ seems like a fitting description of what we may have these next four years in a Trump administration.”  Hold on tight, because it’s going to be a crazy ride, and there is no emergency stop mushroom to dump the country and apply all of the brakes.

Meanwhile, I really have to question whether Donald Trump will serve out his full term.  Considering how much of a loose cannon he has been, I have a feeling that he will last only until the Republicans in Congress have had enough of him, i.e. when he starts jeopardizing their chances for reelection.  Then they will, at the very least, find a reason to impeach him, likely for one of his many conflicts of interests that he has refused to rectify before he takes office.  Don’t know if he’ll get removed or not, but I consider an impeachment likely.  That or he will pull a Nixon and resign prior to the whole thing.  We shall see.  All I know is that Trump is making George W. Bush look like a true statesman by comparison, and Bush was an idiot.  But Bush at least started acting presidential once the election was over.  Trump, on the other hand…

But this Journal entry isn’t supposed to be about Donald Trump.  It’s more of a look back over the last eight years, and a reflection on personal growth.  In 1980, then-candidate Ronald Reagan said in a debate, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  I consider the question to oversimplify a number of factors, plus it overestimates the president’s influence on your individual life (the actions of your state and local officials affect your life far more than those of the president), but I consider the question to be a good way to judge how one’s life has progressed over a defined period of time, regardless of who the president is and what they did during their term.

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Categories: Myself, National politics

“Ride all of the 2000-Series railcars” wasn’t one of my resolutions this year, but…

January 14, 2017, 11:40 PM

Catching a ride on all 76 of Metro’s 2000-Series railcars wasn’t in my list of new year’s resolutions, but that was my accomplishment today, as I caught car 2018 on my way up to Glenmont, therefore completing my second railcar series.  In other words, I have conquered these:

Car 2075, seen here at Huntington in 2004

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Categories: WMATA

Returning to Scott’s house…

December 30, 2016, 11:29 PM

You know how it goes when you have like-minded friends.  On December 28, Elyse and I got together with mutual friend Aaron Stone, and we took a field trip to the Baltimore area, revisiting various places of interest in order to show Aaron, including the Ames at Diamond Point Plaza and Scott’s house.  The way that we planned the trip, since our main objectives were mostly dependent on having daylight, the plan was to spend a little time at Diamond Point, a little bit of time at H&H Outdoors (a military surplus store in Baltimore), and then have a large block of time at the Bauers’.

The Ames at Diamond Point was, for the most part, unchanged from our previous visit.  We spotted a set of movable stairs near the front of the store that wasn’t there in our previous visits, but otherwise, it was the same:

Ames in Diamond Point Plaza

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Photo licensing returns in a new form…

December 16, 2016, 12:00 AM

You may recall back in October, I announced that I had removed Pixels.com as a photo licensing service, and that an in-house replacement would arrive in the relatively near future.  Well, the future is now:

The Schumin Web Photo Licensing

This is The Schumin Web Photo Licensing, codenamed “Finch” (after another JMU web server) during development, which does the same as what Pixels did, i.e. licensing content from The Schumin Web for third-party usage.  However, unlike Pixels, this site is completely in-house.

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Yes, that is a star costume…

December 8, 2016, 9:48 AM

For this month, the splash photo shows child me wearing a star costume.  I normally lean towards running a vintage photo for December, because December photos, owing to the Christmas elephant in the room, are typically harder to do than most because of that extra holiday element.  I own very little Christmas junk, and so a new photo requires a shopping trip and some spending to do.  That or I do the photo right in the store, as I did in 2008.  The December splash photo had nothing to do with Christmas in 2012, 2013, and 2014, owing to some recent non-Christmas photos of me taken in those years, but in 2015, Christmas returned to the splash photo.  However, I inadvertently duplicated my work in 2015, as I had run the same photo in December 2006 – a mistake that I didn’t didn’t discover until I did the prep work for this Journal entry.

For this month, my original plan was to run a photo taken in 1987, showing my sister and me with Santa Claus.  However, in a routine check of the archives to prevent duplicates, I discovered that I had run it eleven years prior.  So that went out the window.  I went hunting in my scans of old photos, and found this:

In costume as Andro Star

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Trying my hand at planespotting…

November 18, 2016, 11:02 AM

On Tuesday, November 16, Elyse and I went down to Gravelly Point in Arlington and photographed airplanes taking off from National Airport.  In the past, I had photographed airplanes casually, usually when I’m over in Rosslyn, i.e. near the airport, while doing other things (the raw photo set for Urban Demolition II is peppered with random airplane and transit photos, if that tells you anything).  However, this was my first dedicated outing for planespotting.

So I put the big lens on my camera and took it out for a spin, putting the camera in sports mode and going to town with it.  My first takeoff, however, left something to be desired:

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