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Such an isolating feeling…

November 7, 2019, 11:24 AM

Let me be the first to say that I am glad that the baseball season is finally over.  For those not familiar, the Major League Baseball team that is based in Washington, the Nationals, made it to the World Series, and ultimately managed to prevail, with the franchise’s winning the first World Series title in its history, both as the Nationals, as well as the Expos before that.

I don’t know how you’re “supposed to” feel about when the team that’s based in your city is in the championship round, but I felt a bit alienated.  I don’t pay much attention to professional sports, other than what I pick up at work (let’s just say that I am well aware of the RedskinsCowboys rivalry).  It just doesn’t interest me.  When everyone around me was celebrating the team’s making the World Series and then winning it, I felt bad because I couldn’t muster up the joy myself.  It made me feel very isolated, with everyone around me wrapped up in baseball fever, and my feeling incapable of sharing in the hubris.

It really came to the forefront for me when we were all given World Series hats at work, and encouraged, though not required, to wear in place of our our standard uniform hats if we so desired.  I was asked to put it on to verify that it fit when it was given to me.  It really brought that feeling of emptiness that I felt for professional sports to a head, and that made me feel guilty because I felt nothing over the success of the local professional team while everyone around me was overjoyed.  I never did wear the hat beyond the fit test, and after the period that it was authorized for wear expired, I gave it to Elyse.  I didn’t want it, but it made her happy.  So that’s a win, I suppose.  I also suppose that the hat was a moot point to begin with, considering that I haven’t worn a hat to work in more than a year.

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What to do with Columbus Day…

October 29, 2019, 10:25 AM

As the Columbus Day holiday rolled around again this year, we got the usual rounds of people who called the day “Indigenous People’s Day” and denounced Christopher Columbus.  This year, the District of Columbia passed short-term legislation declaring the day by the newer name.  My feelings on the matter have a surprising amount of nuance to them.  But first, let’s make no mistake about it: Christopher Columbus was no saint. From what I’ve read, he enslaved a lot of native people, and killed a whole lot of them as well, both through violence and disease.  For those not familiar, the form that this recognition typically takes is that people and organizations eschew the use of the term “Columbus Day”, referring to it as “Indigenous People’s Day” instead.

However, I take issue with the form that this recognition of Columbus’ being less than worthy of the honor of a holiday typically takes.  The reason that I don’t like this way of doing things is because it takes the holiday away from one entity and gives it to another entity, treating it as a single either/or issue, rather than treating the declaration of a holiday in honor of an individual or entity as one issue, and treating the removal of a different holiday as its own issue.  I also feel that it cheapens the new entity being honored because it makes it seem as though they are a substitute honoree, rather than something worth honoring in their own right.  The direct swap also feels too much like overt political correctness, which grates on me.  That said, I have no problem with the idea of having an “Indigenous People’s Day” holiday, but doing it as a title swap on the Columbus Day date goes about it all wrong.

I defended my ideas on a recent post on WHSV-TV’s Facebook page (the ABC affiliate from Harrisonburg), on a post running an article about Richmond’s recognizing the holiday under the new name.  The comments on WHSV’s Facebook page are typically garbage from very ignorant people, but you do get the occasional intelligent thread in the sea of garbage responses, and this was that latter case.

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Formality, not respect…

October 20, 2019, 9:34 AM

Something has always grated on me when people would say that the use of terms like “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Sir”, “Ma’am”, and so on allegedly indicated respect.  It also bothered me that, at least in school, the alleged respect only ran one way.  The students were required to address the staff by title and last name, while the teachers generally addressed the students by first name only.  It only made sense to me that if using last names meant respect, that it would reciprocate, but it never did.  You knew that something was fishy about that, because anyone who’s ever seen a teacher get told off by a student knows that the student will typically use the formal nomenclature for the teacher, but still be rather uncouth.  The student won’t say, “The hell with you, Maureen,” but more likely will say, “The hell with you, Ms. Kelly.”  The teacher in question might still hustle the student out of the room and fling their stuff out into the hallway so hard that their stuff hits a locker before falling to the floor, but they were respectful, because they addressed the teacher by their title and last name, right?  Right?  I see you rolling your eyes, because the argument clearly doesn’t hold water.  The hypothetical kid in the example was clearly being disrespectful, and what name they actually called the teacher, be it formal or informal, was irrelevant.

Then in 2014, when I began work at my current company, it all became clear during orientation.  Use of last names wasn’t about respect at all, but rather, it was about formality.  Formality made a whole lot more sense than respect for that type of address.  And unlike in school, everyone was on a last name basis with everyone, as in regardless of rank or title, you are on a last name basis with your colleagues.  The general rule was title and last name.  Operator Schumin.  Supervisor Walker.  Instructor Jacobs.  Superintendent Walkup.  And so on.  I can respect that, with everyone on a last name basis.  We may have different titles and ranks, but everyone is on a last name basis.  It’s not a matter of “I’m up here, and you’re down there, and I will address you accordingly,” that you get in school.  If schools want to do formal address properly, everyone should be on a last name basis, students and teachers alike.  In other words, if the teacher is “Mr. Matherly”, the student should be “Mr. Schumin”.  Or if one is going to use position titles, “Teacher Matherly” and “Student Schumin”.

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Categories: Language

Changes in the area of photo licensing…

October 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

I have a few changes to announce in the area of photo licensing.  First and foremost, Schumin Web Photo Licensing, my in-house photo licensing site, is no more.  I had been running that site for about three years, and while it did a respectable amount of business, I felt that it didn’t justify the amount of resources that it consumed, and it also didn’t justify the amount of time spent to maintain it.  There was also always a bit of an uncomfortable interaction with Pixsy.  The idea was that there was a very real possibility that someone could use my licensing site in an attempt to circumvent a Pixsy case for an unauthorized use of an image, and that could be a sticky situation to get straightened out.  Yes, I had policies stating that use of the licensing site to circumvent Pixsy was not permitted, and that any licenses purchased in an attempt to circumvent Pixsy’s process would be cancelled, but good luck trying to prove that.  All it really did was make the site look prickly to potential users by having to put that in the fine print, even though its inclusion was necessary.  So in the end, the site is gone.

Otherwise, my philosophy for photo licensing is changing based on experience.  Licensing on the front end didn’t do as well as I might have hoped, but pursuing Creative Commons violations has been quite lucrative over the last few years.  I like to say that Pixsy furnished the house when I moved to Montgomery Village back in 2017.  Thus my stance on licensing has evolved from a traditional licensing model towards just letting people use the material under a free license that requires attribution, i.e. Creative Commons, and then aggressively policing compliance through Pixsy and DMCA takedown notices.  In other words, follow the rules, and it’s free.  Don’t follow the rules, and it’s going to cost you.

The Content Licensing page has also been revised to jive with this new stance on licensing.  It now again explicitly states that anything published prior to February 20, 2014 is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  This was always the case due to the way that Creative Commons works in practice, but after February 2014, it was not stated explicitly.  Additionally, it directs users to my Flickr page to find Creative Commons content posted after February 20, 2014.  Explicitly listing every Creative Commons image on Schumin Web would require going through more than five years’ worth of material to mark stuff, and I can think of a hundred other things that I would rather do besides that.  So Flickr it is, especially since that site has very powerful Creative Commons search tools.

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Six years, two months, and five days later…

September 24, 2019, 8:26 AM

September 24 marks the day that I have been a former employee of Food & Water Watch for the same amount of time that I had been an active employee there.  Since leaving, I have given plenty of thought to my tenure there, and nowadays, I tend to give it a mixed review.  On one hand, that job was what got me up to the Washington DC area in the first place, and it was good for me for a period of time.  I grew both personally and professionally because of my experience there, and I certainly benefitted from that.  I also certainly had lots of good times while there.  However, I probably stayed there for much longer than I should have, as most people spent two or three years there and then moved on.  I was there for just over six years, was ninth in seniority by the time that I left, and was no longer all that interested in the issues that the organization was working on by the time that I left.

One thing that I have come to realize with the passage of time is that my position ultimately came to its logical conclusion.  When I was hired, the organization had about twenty people, with most people based in DC.  By the time that I left, the organization was somewhere around 100 people spread across many offices.  In my role as office manager, I was that “jack of all trades, master of none” person.  I had no direct involvement with the program content, but rather, I was the guy behind the scenes who made sure that the people handling the program content had what they needed to do their thing.  I was tasked with fixing stuff, working with outside vendors, making sure that the office had all of the necessary supplies, doing all of the shipping and receiving, handling matters related to the building, and so on.  In other words, I served in a very generalist role.  I knew a bit about a lot of things, and it suited me well for a time.  What happened was that over the years, as the organization grew, they would carve specialist roles out of my responsibilities.  It made enough sense, because a bigger organization justified creating more specialized roles.  My job gradually evolved over the years as my responsibilities shifted with the growth of the organization.  The view of my generalist role also evolved, with the focus of my role’s shifting from the “jack of all trades” part to the “master of none part”, as, with the hiring of more specialized roles, I went from being the guy who knew a lot about a lot of stuff to “what does he know?”  And eventually, my role was whittled down to a very low-level role that I was overqualified for, and probably overpaid for as well.

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Categories: Myself, Work

Thinking about the credits music…

September 17, 2019, 9:14 AM

As you well know, I am a big fan of Today’s Special.  I certainly know more about the show than most, and have traveled to Toronto to visit a number of different filming locations from the show.  And before we get too far along, nerd alert: I’m going deep into the weeds with this one.

There’s one episode, though, where I take issue with the credits.  In that instance, I think that the music that they chose to use doesn’t completely fit the mood of the ending.  That episode is “Babies“, from 1984.  In that episode, we learn that Wanda Willoby, from the Willoby Tale stories, has run away from her home in Possum Ridge and has come to the store, because she feels as though she is being replaced by a new baby that’s on the way.  After everyone finds Wanda, they comfort her, and explain to her that her parents won’t love her any less now that there will be a third child in the family.  Meanwhile, Wanda, while meaning well, causes a lot of trouble in the store, including accidentally dropping a large display of balls in the Children’s Department, and inadvertently backing into an alarm button in the Computer Room.  This underlines the need to get Wanda back home to Possum Ridge as soon as possible.  In the end, Wanda realizes that she is not being replaced by the new baby, and the episode ends with the storyteller, a young Lori Chodos (whom you might better remember as Beezus from the 1988 Ramona series), telling everyone how well Wanda handled the new baby after her experience in the store.  The episode ends on a high note, though certainly differently than any other episode, since the storyteller had never been integrated into an episode like this before (storytellers typically appeared in standalone segments).

The end credits music used was the slow flute theme, which is the basic melody of the theme on flute with some other accompaniment.  This is used on four episodes: “Babies” and “Butterflies” in 1984, and “Wishes” and “Phil’s Visit” in 1986.  Of those four episodes, “Butterflies” and “Wishes” have sad endings.  “Phil’s Visit” doesn’t have a sad ending per se, but it’s a very emotional episode about alcoholism, and the slow flute ending fits.  Out of the four, only “Babies” has a happy ending.  “Babies” is also the first episode to use that piece of music.  For recurring pieces of music, the first usage is sometimes very different than the other usages.  For instance, the music typically used during suspenseful scenes first appears in a relatively lighthearted scene in “Police“, where Sam is attempting to help Officer Hardy look for clues, but ultimately gets in his way.  In almost every other instance, the tune is used to help build suspense, such as when a spaceship lands on the roof, or Muffy is rescued after becoming trapped in a utility chase.

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Categories: Today's Special

Meet Woomy…

September 8, 2019, 10:09 AM

In going through what I’ve posted, I’ve realized that I’ve mentioned some things but never fully explained them.  I typically realize this when these things are slated to appear again or are otherwise planned to be referenced, but discover that there has not been a proper introduction.

In this case, meet Woomy, one of Elyse’s “critters”:

Woomy, on our trip to Scranton in October 2018

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Of all the words to split hairs over…

August 24, 2019, 9:18 AM

I’ve got one more school story for you.  I figure that I’ve told this one so many times to various people that it’s worth putting in Journal entry form and getting “on the record” once and for all.  It also demonstrates just how toxic the situation was in 1990 at Bonnie Grimes Elementary School in Rogers.

Fourth grade, as I’ve indicated before, was a pretty rough year.  This particular incident occurred in late October.  I was in the car rider line after school, waiting for my ride to church for the after-school program that I participated in on Wednesday evenings.  The teacher on car duty was Vicki George, the speech therapist, i.e. the person who worked with the kids that had speech impediments.  Having no speech impediments myself, I never worked with Mrs. George in an official capacity.  My only interactions with her were when she was supervising other kids, i.e. lunch duty, bus duty, car duty, and so on.  My interactions with her were generally negative, because she was a real stickler for behavior – more so than the regular teachers – and as such, on several occasions, I got nailed for stuff that I wouldn’t have gotten nailed for by anybody else.  I generally tried to avoid her, but sometimes our interactions were inevitable.  I don’t remember how I managed to piss her off on this particular occasion in the car line, but somehow, I did, but in any case, it was something really minor (and what I did isn’t relevant to the rest of the discussion).  I remember that she told me, “I’m giving you a yellow slip,” i.e. a report about a disciplinary matter, just before my ride showed up and I left.

I thought nothing of it, and the next day, I got a copy of my yellow slip.  Okay, then.  I didn’t hear anything else about it for a while, so I figured that was the end of it.

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Philadelphia? How about New York?

August 18, 2019, 12:55 AM

August 13 was a day of unexpected twists and turns, for sure.  What was supposed to be a trip to Philadelphia with friends ended up turning into a trip to New York City for Elyse and me.  As originally planned, we were going to meet up with Brian, Trent, and a few other folks from the DC area who were traveling up separately at 30th Street Station, and the bunch of them plus Elyse were going to go fan transit for a while, while I did my own thing, mostly photographing in and around Center City.  That didn’t happen.

What caused our plans to change was twofold.  First, the weather forecast called for storms all up and down the east coast.  So I would have to figure out something else to do, as I would be rained out.  Secondly, we were running a tad late due to traffic around Baltimore that led us to take a more southerly route before resuming our planned route.  Once we got up there, the plan was to park in New Jersey and then ride PATCO into the city.  What happened, though, was that the other group didn’t want to wait for us at 30th Street Station, and so they went and continued with their plan without Elyse, and took SEPTA Regional Rail out to Norristown, with the idea that we would catch up with them later.  We learned this while we were on PATCO riding into the city.  So essentially, they ditched us.  We did not take too kindly to this, and so rather than chase them in an effort to catch up with them, when it was pretty clear that we were not a priority (otherwise, they would have waited for us), we did our own thing instead.

We ended up getting off of PATCO at City Hall station in Camden.  There, we walked over to the Walter Rand Transportation Center station for the River Line.  Neither of us had ever ridden the River Line, so this would be a new experience.  We were surprised that there was very little transit-oriented development around the River Line stations.  Much of what was right around the stations that we could see was older construction that predated the service.

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They couldn’t even get mad…

August 12, 2019, 10:17 AM

After the Journal entry where I spoke about my seventh grade year, which generated a lot of great discussion, mostly on Facebook, I thought I’d share an amusing moment from eighth grade.

Eighth grade was one of my best years in school.  I had a great group of teachers, and I had a much easier time with the kids.  Sure, some kids were still terrible, but not like seventh grade.  I didn’t get in trouble at all in eighth grade, except for one time in the middle of the second semester, when I got written up for something relatively minor, but which was entirely my fault.

To give some background, my mother has always enjoyed sharing information that she learns with me.  In the era of the Internet, I typically use it as a starting point to do my own research to turn up more information about it, but back then, with much more limited resources, I typically took it at face value, and was still happy to have learned something new, even if I couldn’t necessarily dive into it more deeply.  In this particular instance, what Mom shared was that men who wore boxer shorts had higher sperm counts than men who wore briefs.  Okay.  So 13-year-old me just learned an interesting new factoid, though I didn’t really understand the whole mechanism behind it (if you want to know, go look it up for yourself).  But in any case, I was a tad more knowledgeable than I was five minutes earlier, and that was awesome.

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Fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza…

August 2, 2019, 8:23 AM

On Tuesday, Elyse and I were out with our friend Kyle Garcia, and among other places, we stopped over at Wheaton Plaza (Westfield Wheaton) for lunch.  As we were finishing up, we suddenly saw strobes flashing and then the speakers started up.  Yes, after twelve years of living in MoCo, I finally caught a fire alarm at Wheaton Plaza.  Elyse, Kyle, and I all got video of the alarm, while everyone else paid it no mind.  Here are my two videos of it:

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Categories: Fire alarms, Wheaton

A couple of small refresh projects…

July 29, 2019, 10:00 AM

In the past month, Elyse and I completed two small “refresh” projects in the house.  These projects were nothing too major, but still make a big difference in the quality of life in the place.  We repainted the half bath and also replaced the toilet, and then I also repainted the coat closet.

The bathroom project was the more involved of the two, since the toilet was getting replaced.  That one was something that I’d wanted to do for a while.  The idea was that the old toilet was so cheap that it wasn’t worth rebuilding, and then since I had to patch a few holes in the walls and the door (from the previous owner’s decor) anyway, might as well do a full paint rather than trying to match the old color.  The new toilet came from a thrift store, believe it or not.  We bought a brand new American Standard Cadet 3 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Herndon back in May:

The new toilet at the Habitat store

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Categories: House

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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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