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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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I don’t know why anyone expected a different result…

October 11, 2018, 12:11 PM

So in case anyone has been living in a bubble lately, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed and sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, after several weeks of hearings, where Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault by several different women.  And then in the end, the Senate voted to confirm him, mostly along party lines.

First of all, I have no reason to think that these women accusing Kavanaugh of some very vile deeds are not telling the truth.  Based on various posts from friends on social media who have spoken about their own experiences, not reporting these things at the time that they happen is fairly common, for any number of reasons.

What surprises me is how outraged some people are that this nomination went through.  My typical response has been, “What did you really expect would happen?”  Think about it.  Donald Trump is a Republican.  The Senate is controlled by Republicans, and they had enough votes to confirm him to the Supreme Court all by themselves, without any Democratic support.  And unlike the Democratic Party, the Republican Party won’t eat their own, so this whole abbreviated FBI investigation and senators’ publicly wavering on whether or not they would vote up or down was all a political stunt designed to appease the constituents at home during an election year.  And everyone fell for their song and dance, while they knew that they would confirm him all along no matter what.  Brett Kavanaugh could have walked up to Dr. Ford and shot her in the head at point-blank range in front of everyone in the hearing room, and the Republicans would have still confirmed him.  The Eleventh Commandment, i.e. “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” still holds true.  I wish that it had turned out differently, but I also kept my expectations realistic.  I thought it was a bit naive for anyone to really expect that it would have turned out any other way that it did.

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Categories: National politics

Please do not put me in a position where I have to defend Donald Trump…

October 4, 2018, 8:04 AM

At 2:18 PM on October 3, a presidential alert went out to everyone’s mobile phones.  It was accompanied by the classic emergency tone, and looked like this:

"Presidential alert: THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed."

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Categories: National politics, News

Bill Cosby goes to jail…

September 29, 2018, 1:34 PM

Like everyone else did, I read about Bill Cosby’s being sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison for sexual assault, and his eating a pudding cup as part of his first meal as an inmate.  I also finally figured out the word to describe my own feelings about the whole Bill Cosby situation: disappointment.  I am not angry over Cosby’s conduct.  I am not sad about Cosby’s conduct.  But I am very disappointed over Cosby’s conduct.

After all, I was part of a generation of kids that practically grew up with Bill Cosby, and his very wholesome brand of education and entertainment.  His stand-up comedy was mostly about his family and his children.  We watched Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, where, in the opening, Cosby indicated that, “If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done.”  We watched Picture Pages, where Cosby taught us about math and other subjects with friend Mortimer Ichabod Marker.  Cosby also had a long relationship with the folks on Sesame Street, making many appearances there.  We then watched The Cosby Show, which was a wholesome comedy about a successful family, and ensuring that the children were positioned for their own success.  The final episode was about a college graduation, after all, driving home that heavy emphasis on education.  He also released a book, Fatherhood, during this period.  And then Cosby was all over the commercials during this period as well, pitching Jell-O gelatin, Jell-O pudding, Kodak film (“No seal?  Who knows!”), and EF Hutton, among others.  All of those wholesome and family-oriented roles caused him to develop a public reputation as a father figure.  We all looked up to Bill Cosby, because he had made himself as someone worthy of looking up to, as a successful father of five, a strong proponent of education, and from all appearances, an all-around nice guy.

That Cosby, in the end, turned out to be a grade-A scumbag, is just disappointing, and felt like a punch to the gut.  “America’s Dad” turned out to be a dangerous sexual predator.  There’s a certain feeling of disappointment and betrayal that comes with it, discovering that a role model is anything but.  We all looked up to him, and then soon discovered that he was not worthy of our respect.  Watching his fall from grace is a sad reminder that people are not always who we think that they are, and that Cosby’s wholesome public image was merely a facade over an absolutely despicable person.  Cosby will likely be remembered not for the work that made him famous, but as the scumbag who drugged and sexually assaulted many women over several decades.  And that’s how he should be remembered, because that sort of conduct is inexcusable.  No more love for Cosby, as the real Cosby is a person that is not worthy of admiration and who lost everyone’s respect.  Sigh…

Categories: News, Television

I have reached a milestone…

September 11, 2018, 4:08 PM

I recently reached a milestone when it comes to my overhaul of my Today’s Special site.  I last wrote about this project in 2013, at which time I had settled on a platform for the site (WordPress) and had written a few articles, mainly as proof of concept.  The build plan has always been to start with “Hats” and work my way through to “Memories“, adding content in the order that it appears in the show.  After I get through all 121 episodes and the content related to those, I will then write the articles for the content that doesn’t necessarily tie neatly into an episode or episodes, like the articles for the main characters, the various sets, and so on.  Then once all of the articles are written, I just need to write the “business” pages like the main page, privacy statement, etc., give everything a final check, and then launch.

Since I announced the project in 2013, the project has made good progress, though that progress has happened in fits and starts over the intervening years.  I completed the articles for “Hats“, “Snow“, “Noses“, and “Family” in late 2013, and then set the project aside for about two years.  I suppose that other matters took precedence during that time.  Then when I picked it up again in late 2015, I got a lot of prep work done for the episode pages, such as all of the writer, director, and sequence information, and then by March 2016, I had completed things through “Games“, i.e. the twelfth episode.  I then picked it up again in December 2016, and finished up the first season in February 2017.  I picked up on the second season in September 2017, starting with “Dance“, and finished it up exactly one year later, taking approximately six months off from it from December 2017 to June 2018.  That work on the second season also included writing seven brand new episode synopses, to replace some temporary short synopses written in the nineties.  You know what they say: there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution.  That said, the new synopses are the same length as the standard ones.

In finishing the 1982 episodes, and a number of other articles related to that, I believe that I have reached a significant milestone as far as Today’s Special goes.  Going into the project, I was concerned that I would get bogged down in those early episodes and the project would stall indefinitely.  But now I’m done with them.  I have completed the early material, and am now moving into the middle of the series.  Starting in 1983, the series really “grew out its beard“, as the show definitely hit its stride during that period.  The 1981 episodes were fairly light on story, focusing mostly on teaching about the various concepts that the show covered, such as hats, snow, camping, fruit, and so on.  The 1982 episodes were built around an actual plot, but still had a lot of teaching and explaining in them.  Starting in 1983, the concepts are taught through the storyline, with less direct explanation of concepts.  There’s also more conflict, as 1983 has five episodes where characters get very upset with each other for very valid reasons.  In addition, the characters are far more developed in 1983, as all of their origin stories are shown.  The show also changes its appearance slightly, as this is when Jodie begins wearing her third uniform, which is the version with the long sleeved button-down shirt and pocket on the right side, rather than the short sleeved jumpsuit that she wore previously.

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“Roseanne” becomes “The Conners”…

September 1, 2018, 10:51 AM

Funny how real life sometimes writes the plot.  I was planning to do a review of the tenth season of Roseanne in this space back in May, but while I was writing it, the show was cancelled by ABC after Roseanne Barr posted some pretty vile stuff on the Twitter.  That put the partially-written Journal entry on hold, because those events affected a lot of what I was working on.  However, the network’s reaction to the Twitter rant was completely understandable.  I can’t imagine that any company would want to be associated with such vile rhetoric coming from one of their key players.

Based on the fallout, where Barr blamed Ambien for her racist rant, I can tell you one thing: she’s not sorry.  Sure, she’s sorry that she ran her mouth and lost her job, but she’s not sorry for what she said.  If anything, her using the medication as a scapegoat cements that those were her true feelings.  The idea is that the medication “removed the filter”, and, with nothing to prevent vile things from being said, she let out what she had really been thinking all along.  And then she doubled down on it on a Fox News appearance later on.  I’m disappointed, because I expected better from Barr.  But I suppose that it doesn’t matter anymore, because Barr’s career is most definitely over, destroyed by an ill-considered Twitter post.

I suppose that this is also a lesson about how to handle your relationship between your personal social media and your employer, especially when you’re in a very public position.  People hear about stuff like this and complain about free speech, but the whole concept of “free speech” as laid out by the First Amendment only applies to the government.  A private entity is completely free to fire you for saying something vile on the Internet, and that’s what happened with Barr.  The government played no role in her firing.  She ran her mouth, and boom – she lost her job.

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Categories: Television

Please don’t stop for me when I’m waiting to cross the street…

August 25, 2018, 1:51 PM

On Thursday, while I was waiting for a bus, I witnessed a near accident involving a pedestrian at a crosswalk on Layhill Road near Glenfield Local Park in the Glenmont area of Montgomery County.  In other words, this location, seen from approximately my vantage point:

Layhill Road and Saddlebrook Park
Image: Google Street View

This view is facing approximately south, putting the northbound lanes on the left and the southbound lanes on the right.  There is a median in the middle of the road.  Southbound traffic has a turnout for traffic making left turns into the park police station (entrance visible at left).  There are wide bike lanes on either side of the road.  There is also a Metro facility entrance at this location (out of frame to the right).  This intersection is not a big one by any means.  There are no signals.  Ride On has a bus stop on either side of the road at this location.

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Categories: Roads, Silver Spring

I finally found it after twenty years…

August 14, 2018, 1:38 PM

When my family went to England back in 1998, we mainly watched Sky One, which ran American television shows, when we were at the hotel.  I suppose that we watched mostly American TV because it was familiar.  The commercials, however, were very British.  Three commercials stuck out in my mind while we were there.  One was for Ribena, which featured a pregnant woman explaining how beneficial it was during pregnancy.  One was for some mac and cheese product where two boys were playing a game, and the younger boy’s job was to stand there and hold the antenna, complaining, “My arm hurts!” at the end of the spot.  And then the third was for Lucozade, a sports drink.

That third one, for Lucozade, was by far the most memorable of the three, primarily because of some rather racy content.  It featured several men wearing nothing but mountie hats putting on a show, while a bunch of cartoon women watched.  At one point, they explain that because this variety of Lucozade is low in calories, it helps them “stay firm”, as the camera pans from the face down their body, stopping at their stomach, where the man says, “Where it counts!” as he pats his stomach.  Very memorable, and very British.  You would certainly never see a spot like that in the United States.

Back in the nineties, it was never a thought that we would be able to find this commercial.  Of course not.  The technology and the will wasn’t there.  Now, though, with sites like YouTube and the like, a lot of older advertisements have seen new life for nostalgic purposes, which is a welcome addition.  After all, full television programs tend to have good repeat value, but commercials, due to their more timely nature, rarely get airtime again after their planned run is completed.  There are exceptions, like that Arby’s “five roast beef sandwiches” spot and the Fruity Pebbles spot with Santa, which ran for quite a few years, but for the most part, they’re one-and-done.

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Categories: Advertising, Vacations

Was I right to have been upset about this?

August 7, 2018, 6:18 PM

While participating in a discussion on Reddit, it conjured up the memory of something that happened in my junior year of college that left me a bit unsettled at the time, and on which I never got any closure.  Before I begin, be advised – the events described here occurred more than 16 years ago, so at this point, this discussion is purely academic.

While I was a resident advisor in Potomac Hall in 2001-2002, there were two occasions where I was asked to swap office duty shifts near the end of the year.  On the first occasion, the person who wanted to switch with me told me that it was for a family emergency.  In that instance, I agreed to switch days without question, because I would expect the same thing for me should a similar situation arise for me.  I remember seeing that person in the building that night, and thought, I thought that you had a family emergency, but dismissed it, because that really wasn’t my place to judge.  Then on the second occasion, a different person asked me to switch duty days so that they could attend an awards ceremony.  I said no, because I didn’t want to trade days, and an awards ceremony wasn’t an emergency.  I held my ground on that, but later relented after my hall director, Mecca Marsh, whom I’ve written about previously in this space, turned the colleague’s request into an order from the boss.  So I was a bit annoyed about that, especially since I knew that Mecca would have never taken my side like that should I have been in the same situation.  But in the end, I did as I was told.

Then fast forward a month or so later.  The colleague who swapped shifts with me for the awards ceremony brought a video over to show me.  The video depicted a probate ceremony for an historically black sorority on campus.  I learned a lot from the video, which both of my colleagues were in, because prior to this, I didn’t know anything about how historically black Greek letter organizations worked.  My colleague did a great job in explaining to me what was going on, why it was going on, and the significance of it all.  Then they went on to explain that sorority events were the real reason for the “awards ceremony”, and the other person’s “family emergency”.  They couldn’t tell me what they were really doing because they were sworn to secrecy.

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Categories: JMU, Work

New rugs!

August 2, 2018, 10:28 AM

So I have a little house update for you: carpet!  In the last month or so, I finally got the area rug question figured out, and procured and placed three area rugs in the house.  It makes for a much richer setting with some area rugs on the hardwood floors.  I put area rugs in my bedroom, the back bedroom, and the dining area part of the the living room.  So now, all three bedrooms and the living room have rugs in them.

For some reason, choosing home decor tends to stress me out.  I popped so many Advils in the process of picking these carpets.  I think it’s because it’s a significant cash outlay, because (A) furniture and carpet aren’t cheap, and (B) it’s something that you really don’t want to return, especially if if required special arrangements to get it home in the first place.  Choosing what loveseat to buy for the mezzanine was difficult, as I visited so many stores in search of the perfect loveseat.  I eventually settled on an Ektorp loveseat from IKEA, which turned out to be the perfect thing to put up in the mezzanine.

Deciding on the area rugs took the stress from the loveseat search and multiplied it by twelve.  I had three rooms to outfit, and each had to be perfect, but I didn’t know what “perfect” was.  I knew what my dimensions needed to be, and then worked from there.  I spent many nights on Amazon looking at area rugs.  More headaches.  I went to Walmart and Target’s websites.  Nothing good – need more Advil.  I went down to Big Lots and came out empty, save for a brand new headache.  I also went to Ollie’s up in Jessup, and came out with something for Elyse, but no rugs.  And rugs were my responsibility, since Elyse didn’t quite understand why I was so wound up about rugs, and often suggested that I “just pick something”.

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Categories: House

You know, he totally looks like…

July 31, 2018, 10:50 AM

So I was recently on Reddit and looking at /r/blunderyears, which is a board where people post old embarrassing photos of themselves, and came across this guy’s old photo from 2005:

This guy from /r/blunderyears

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Categories: Asbury Park, Reddit