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Twenty-two years on the ground and counting…

February 24, 2022, 4:21 PM

Recently, I was thinking about things, and I realized exactly how much time has passed since the last time I went flying: 22 years and eight months.  The last time I was in the air was on August 10, 1999, coming home from my 1999 trip to Toronto.  Photos of this final flight exist:

Flying from Philadelphia to Charlottesville  Landing in Charlottesville

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Categories: Airplanes, Myself, Vacations

Looking at a photo shoot with a critical eye…

February 16, 2022, 11:28 PM

Recently, I made a post to Instagram sharing a photo that I took on a trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania back in November.  This is the photo that I shared:

The Pennsylvania State Capitol

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Categories: Harrisburg, Photography

When moderators become the thought police…

February 7, 2022, 10:00 AM

A few weeks ago, imagine my surprise one morning to find this in my Reddit inbox:

Reddit ban notice for /r/PoliticalHumor

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Categories: COVID-19, Reddit

At last, it came to visit us…

January 29, 2022, 3:18 PM

Over Christmas, Elyse and I were in the bag, so to speak.  We both came down with some pretty nasty colds.  I had congestion that I could feel all the way down into my lungs, a headache, a fever, a general sense of fatigue, and not much else.  Elyse had similar, as well as a loss of taste and smell, which I did not have.  I ended up missing four days of work for it, which, along with my regular days off, had me out of play for the entire six days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

What we had remained a mystery.  We suspected that it was probably COVID-19, or as we’ve taken to calling it, “The Ronies,” but we were unable to book an appointment for either a PCR or rapid test, nor were we able to purchase one online, because at the time, the recommendation was for everyone to get tested for any or no reason, and people were eating it right up.  We also respected ourselves more than to wait in a line for hours just to rule in or rule out a diagnosis when we already felt as bad as we did.  In other words, going out and getting tested wasn’t going to help us get better any faster, and would probably have the opposite effect, making us feel worse than we already did and causing a lot of unnecessary stress.  I didn’t need that, especially when you consider that I had spent much of at least two of those days that I was out sick asleep in my bed.  We ultimately decided that with a test for an active infection out of the question because of availability issues, we would get an antibody test via blood draw later on to rule COVID in or out after the fact.

In the meantime, with no test to rule the Ronies in or out, we both decided to just treat it like we would any other cold, and drink lots of water, get lots of rest, and do what we could to get through it.  Let’s just say that generic DayQuil and generic NyQuil were our best friends, along with Advil® brand Advil (because I like that candy coating on the name brand stuff).  I also once again got to experience the joy that is “fever dreams“, which are even weirder than the usual dreams.  The best feeling in the world, meanwhile, was when my fever finally broke.  Post-fever perspiration feels awesome, not because of the sweating itself, but because it means that the worst is over, and I would be feeling better again very soon.

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Categories: COVID-19, Personal health

A weekend trip to Atlantic City…

January 21, 2022, 5:27 PM

From January 13-15, Elyse and I took a weekend trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We had been to Atlantic City twice before, both times for a single day each about a year ago.  Our first visit was part of a larger weekend trip where we did a little arc across the Philadelphia and South Jersey areas, and Atlantic City was what we did on the last day.  The most memorable thing about that trip was watching my drone sail away on South Missouri Avenue, go out of contact, and then locating it about four blocks away, on the roof of Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern.  The second trip was a day trip that occurred two weeks later, where we made a day out of the need to retrieve the drone after the folks at Angelo’s had kindly retrieved it off of their roof for us.

This time, we were actually staying in Atlantic City.  We stayed at Caesars by Elyse’s request, as she wanted to film the elevators there, which are keycarded (i.e. we stayed there as guests in order to get the access that we needed).  I didn’t mind the price at Caesars, nor was it a bad place to stay, so that worked out pretty well.  This trip was mostly dedicated to photography, just like the previous adventures in Atlantic City, but with more time to play around.  I’m not too much into gambling, but we did make some time for that.  We also made plans to get together with family while we were up there, which was the driver for our plans.  Therefore, on Thursday, we drove up and more or less made a beeline for Atlantic City.  Then on Friday, we had our adventure day.  Then on Saturday, we traveled back west to fly the drone, do a few other things, and visit family.

However, on Thursday, Elyse wanted to stop in at Deptford Mall in order to get a screen protector for a new phone that she was getting, as well as film an elevator.  I am not unfamiliar with this mall, as I went to this place with my parents back in the early 1980s, and have been a number of times within the past ten years.  The mall bears very little resemblance to what it did when I was a child (though there is a Bamberger’s labelscar on the first floor), but it’s still a good, solid mall.

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Categories: Family, New Jersey, Vacations

To be salty or not to be salty…

January 10, 2022, 2:45 PM

Recently, news came out that the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Washington Redskins, would unveil a new permanent name and logo for the team on February 2For those not familiar with the story behind this, the team had been criticized for many years over its “Redskins” branding, being considered racist against Native Americans.  Team owner Dan Snyder had publicly declined to change the name of the team whenever the issue would come up.  And for Snyder, that made enough sense.  As long as the fans were still buying, there was no real reason to change the name.  On one occasion when the issue came up, as it tended to do from time to time, local commentator Chris Core said in one of his commentaries on WTOP that it wasn’t really a matter of “if” but rather “when”, and that given enough time, the name would eventually be changed.  I saw it similarly to the way that Core saw it, that the name would eventually change, but only when it became a drag on the team’s profitability, i.e. once the “Redskins” name wasn’t raking in the cash anymore, it would be dropped.

However, I did not like what some of the more “woke” local news sites did when it came to showing their disdain for the “Redskins” name, though, calling the team by anything but their actual name.  Some called it the “Washington Football Team” (well before the team formally adopted that name), and some called them the “Washington Pigskins”.  I don’t know about you, but I expect my news organizations to present a fairly dry reporting of facts, without any opining in news articles.  I don’t care what the writer thinks about the subject that is being reported on in a news piece – just give me the facts.  Their own thoughts on the news belongs in the opinion section, and not a part of the news.  In other words, as long as the team was formally known as “Redskins”, then you call them the Redskins, no matter what you think about the name.

In any case, that time when the name was no longer profitable for the team came in the summer of 2020.  In the wake of the protests over the killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent wave of renamings to purge racist themes from our cultural landscape (this included the rebranding of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s products, as both were considered to use racist names and imagery), the Redskins’ corporate sponsors did what various activists had never been able to accomplish over years of trying, and forced Dan Snyder to dump the “Redskins” name by threatening to pull their sponsorship of the team if the name remained.  Unsurprisingly, the name disappeared overnight, and was replaced by “Washington Football Team” as a provisional name until they could come up with something better.  The colors remained the usual Redskins burgundy and gold, but the “Redskins” name and branding was gone, with a promise of a proper name in the future.

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Categories: DC area local news

A few flights over Pennsylvania…

December 31, 2021, 11:13 PM

Just before Christmas, Elyse, Evan Stone, and I made a day trip up to Pennsylvania.  The goal was to visit the Lancaster area.  Elyse left the house ahead of us and flew up to Lancaster via Southern Airways Express, while Evan and I went up by car and met up with her in Lancaster.  On the way up, Evan and I took our respective drones for a spin over Hanover, the Susquehanna River, and Lititz.  I have my DJI Air 2S, while Evan has the original DJI Mavic Pro.

The first flight was over downtown Hanover, and it was a solo flight for me.  Evan saw a building where he wanted to know what the elevator was, and I entertained myself with a drone flight.

The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don't recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?
The building in the center of this photograph is the building that Evan found interesting, that he went to check out.  I don’t recognize the logo on the building, though.  Anyone recognize it?

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A day out in parts of Virginia that we don’t normally visit…

December 14, 2021, 11:03 PM

From December 9-11, Elyse and I took a little weekend trip down to Staunton, Virginia, where we stayed at Hotel 24 South.  We call the place our little home away from home, as we always stay there when we do these trips every 2-3 months.  Typically, we do something simple on the first day after we get down there, have a full-day adventure on the middle day (the Staunton Mall photo set came out of one of these middle-day adventures), and then do a few things and go visit my parents on the last day before heading home.  It’s a good routine, and it’s a lot of fun.

This time around, our middle-day adventure took us down to Clifton Forge, Covington, and Roanoke.  I had not been to the Clifton Forge and Covington area since 2005, and Elyse had never been.  Roanoke wasn’t part of our original plan for the day, but as we had not been to Roanoke since 2018, we were probably due for another visit.  I had low expectations for the day, considering that the weather was expected to be cloudy (which means gray photos), but I got a few useful things out of the day.

Our first stop was the Howard Johnson’s on Route 11 north of Lexington.  I had first become aware of this place after seeing it on Highway Host, and so we decided to visit it again.  Elyse wanted to film the elevator, while I was more interested in the architecture.  My understanding of the history of this location is that it has always been a Howard Johnson’s ever since it opened in the 1970s, though the attached Howard Johnson’s restaurant later went independent under the name Hilltop Diner, and had closed entirely by 2004.

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Categories: Friends, Roanoke, Virginia, Woomy

A peeve about political terminology…

December 14, 2021, 6:15 PM

One thing that always bothers me when I’m reading and listening to things from political discussions is when I hear someone use a term incorrectly, specifically referring to political parties.  As you probably know, the two major political parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The names, as they refer to the political parties, are themselves relatively meaningless, and are really brand names more than anything (and, in fact, the parties have switched stances with each other since their formation).  “Democratic” with a capital “D” is a separate concept from “democratic” with a small “d”.  The ideas of “Democratic values” and “democratic values” are two different things, as one thing refers to the political party, while the other is more abstract and references democracy more generally.  The same goes for “Republican” (capital “R”) and “republican” (small “r”).  The former refers to the Republican Party, also known as the “Grand Old Party” or “GOP”, while the latter refers to representative government, also known as a republicanism.  People like to consider the United States as a democracy, but technically, we operate under a republican system, because, constitutionally speaking, we are a republic, because we elect people to do all of the governing for us on our behalf, rather than all of us getting together and doing it ourselves (the founding fathers tended to view “democracy” as a negative thing, likening it to mob rule).  The concept of democracy and a small-d democratic system has little to do with the capital-D Democratic Party.  Similarly, the concept of republicanism and a small-R republican system of government does not mean a government that is, by definition, run by the capital-R Republican Party.  The idea of “republican values” and “Republican values” are two very distinct concepts.  The same goes for other political parties as well.  For instance, traditionally libertarian stances may or may not be the official stance of the Libertarian Party. Capital “L” vs. small “l” and all.  As an example, I feel like I’ve been leaning more libertarian in my own views as I’ve gotten older, but I generally don’t pay much attention to the Libertarian Party.  I like to tell people that I am a leftist, but a liberal, I ain’t.

In any event, the rest of this entry refers to the versions of these terms with capital letters, because I’ve pretty much covered the small-letter versions of these concepts as much as I need to for our purposes.

As far as use of the wrong terms goes, I mostly see it coming from Republican politicians and Republican-leaning pundits, directed at the Democratic Party, mostly because there are two closely-related terms to refer to the Democratic Party and people associated with it: “Democratic” and “Democrat”.  Most often, I see the improper use of the term take the form of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” and Democratic politicians as “Democrat politicians”.  You don’t get this so much towards Republicans because the same term is used to refer to people and the organization.  Members of the Republican Party are typically referred to as Republicans.  About the only different terminology there is the “Grand Old Party” moniker, typically abbreviated as GOP, and pronounced as “G-O-P”, i.e. as the letters, rather than as something rhyming with “mop”.

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Categories: Language, Politics

In case anyone noticed a pattern this year…

December 5, 2021, 10:10 AM

I’m wondering if anyone noticed a pattern with the splash photos in 2021.  Here’s what I did all year:

January
January

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Categories: Schumin Web meta

Clearly, I know how to break a drone…

November 24, 2021, 2:54 PM

I haven’t mentioned it on here yet because it’s discussed in an upcoming photo set, but I got a new drone last month while I was on my trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads.  My DJI Mavic Mini threw a propeller blade and crashed nearly 400 feet up in the air while I was photographing a shopping mall in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  I was positioning the drone for my first shots of the mall, and then I noticed a “motor error” message and saw some uncommanded rotation.  Then I saw the view start to tumble, and the connection with the remote dropped.  I was soon able to reestablish contact, and found the drone on the ground, laying on its back in the grass about 500 feet away.  Here’s what it looked like when I picked it up:

The drone after falling from the sky

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What is the point where elected officials have killed their credibility?

November 18, 2021, 11:41 AM

Starting Saturday, November 20, Montgomery County, Maryland implements mask mandate number three.  This is based on rules that the Montgomery County council, sitting as the Board of Health, determined in August and October, where seven consecutive days of “substantial” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (50-100 cases per 100,000 people), based on raw case counts, automatically triggers an indoor mask mandate, and seven consecutive days of “moderate” COVID-19 transmission by CDC guidelines (fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people), again based on raw case counts, automatically rescinds an indoor mask mandate.  This continues until 85% of the county’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The result of this auto-on, auto-off policy has been a yo-yo effect, where it’s masks one week and no masks the next.

For some history on this, the Montgomery County government first implemented a mask mandate in April 2020, not long before the governor issued a statewide mask mandate.  That mandate was rescinded in May 2021 when everyone else did after the CDC said that fully vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore.  When the county had reached a 50% vaccination rate, they abandoned their own COVID rules and began following the state’s guidance instead, which included no more masks and a full reopening of everything.  Then in August, after the CDC revised its guidance again, and the county council watched as case numbers went up, Montgomery County started implementing its own rules again separate from the state, and brought back the mask mandate.  The idea was that the mask mandate would last until there were seven consecutive days of “moderate” transmission, after which time it would automatically be rescinded.  This happened in late October, and the mask mandate was rescinded effective Thursday, October 28.

Right after this is where they started to shoot their credibility, and it demonstrates what is wrong with looking at raw case numbers as a metric for determining public policy.  On October 30, two days after the mandate was rescinded, they were already talking about reinstating the mask mandate, as they soon returned to “substantial” transmission territory, and announced a return to masks less than a week after they were rescinded, to be effective on Wednesday, November 3 (i.e. six days from rescission to reimplementation).

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The master at work…

November 14, 2021, 8:52 PM

Most of the time, when I’m doing photography, I only get to see the end result, which typically ends up on my Flickr page, along with other places.  It’s far less common for me to see candid shots of myself, just because I’m usually the one doing all of the photographing.  But when you go on a trip that is explicitly photography-oriented, and when everyone is shooting, I end up seeing some candid shots of myself.  Recently, from October 15-21, Elyse and I went on a trip to North Carolina and Hampton Roads, where we photographed a lot of stuff, some familiar, and some less familiar.  The parts of North Carolina that we visited were almost entirely new territory for both of us, while Hampton Roads was a more familiar setting.  In North Carolina, we got together with my friend Patrick, whom I’ve known for a very long time, and had a quick meetup with another friend who formerly lived in the DC area.  Then in Hampton Roads, we spent time with Aaron and Evan Stone.  I’m not going to go into too much detail about the trip itself right now, because I’m working on a much larger photo set about the adventure for the Life and Times section, so for all of the details, stay tuned, but it will be a while before it releases, because it’s going to be a big one.  In any case, some of these shots are posed, but a lot of them are candid.  If it tells you anything, when Elyse and I were reviewing them on the big screen in the living room, we put on “Yakety Sax” and laughed a lot.

In any case, here they are.  These shots were all taken by Elyse, unless otherwise noted.

Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there's Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.
Group selfie at the North Carolina welcome center on I-95 southbound.  From left to right, there’s Elyse, Woomy, David (a clownfish), and me.

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Virginia governor’s race? Not at all surprised…

November 3, 2021, 4:17 PM

On the evening of November 3, I, like so many others, checked in on the various news websites to learn that Republican Glenn Youngkin had defeated Democrat and former governor Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial election.  I saw this result, and I was like… meh.  The pundits all said it would be close, and the results seem to bear that out, with Youngkin’s winning with 50.9%, McAuliffe’s coming in with 48.4%, with Princess Blanding, who was running on a “Liberation” ticket, taking the remaining 0.7%.  In any event, it seems like Youngkin did his homework and pulled it out.  It seemed like he had the better campaign overall, while McAuliffe tended to run on, “Hey, remember me?  I’m not Donald Trump.  I was also your governor back in 2014, and I’d love to have another go at it!”  In other words, while McAuliffe may have done his homework in 2013 and come out on top, the same can’t really be said for 2021.  I also did quite a bit of traveling through various areas of Virginia during the last few months of the campaign, and I saw way more campaign signs for Youngkin in my travels than I did McAuliffe signs, to the point where seeing a McAuliffe sign in my travels was noteworthy.

Terry McAuliffe’s win in 2013 was unusual because it broke the pattern of Virginia’s voting opposite of the president’s party.  Virginia, along with New Jersey, votes for its governor in what is called an “off-year election“, the year after the presidential election.  Since Barack Obama had been reelected president in 2012, by the usual Virginia pattern, Republican Ken Cuccinelli should have won.  I would suggest that people just didn’t want to vote for someone like Cuccinelli, because based on the public statements that I’d heard him make as attorney general, I had long come to the conclusion that he was nuts.

In any case, the pattern is well-established.  Looking through the list of governors of Virginia, the trend of voting opposite the president has been the case since 1977, when Republican John Dalton was elected governor while Democrat Jimmy Carter was in the White House.  That followed two other Republican governors that were elected following Nixon victories in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections, which followed 80 straight years of Democratic control of the governor’s office.  Following Dalton’s tenure, there were three more Democratic governors, which corresponded with the Reagan and Bush presidencies.  Then there were two more Republicans that corresponded with the Clinton presidency, and then two more Democrats that corresponded with the George W. Bush presidency.  The pattern then continued in 2009 with a Republican for Obama’s first term, and then McAuliffe broke the pattern in 2013 during Obama’s second term.  After that, the governorship fell right back into the pattern, with a Democrat’s being elected in 2017 while Republican Donald Trump was in the White House.  And now the pattern continues, with a Democratic president in Joe Biden, and a Republican governor’s being elected in Virginia.

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Let me play a sad song for you on the world’s smallest violin…

October 29, 2021, 9:36 AM

Do you remember about a month or so ago, when I made that Journal entry about Jeremy Jones, the guy who used several of my photos in an infringing manner, and lost his Twitter account for it?  He recently came back to badger me via Messenger one more time, and this time, unlike the silence that I had been giving him after my first response where I said that the matter was already resolved, I let him have it.  I told him that his losing his Twitter account is not my problem, that calling my parents in search of me was completely out of line, and I included the link to the earlier Journal entry.

I got a rather long-winded response to that message, and the sense that I got was that he had no real argument, and this was mostly an attempt to verbally lick his wounds in order to make himself feel better after being told in a definitive manner that I wasn’t playing:

Hey Ben,

Appreciate the response.  I respect your decision, didn’t really know that you felt that way but I understand now.  If you’re open to it, I’d like to explain how I feel about this situation now.

I think in the future you should try to be more compassionate and really understand what’s going on before writing me off because the way that you describe some of these things in the article are simply not true.  For instance, this happens to be my first rodeo because the claims that people made would goto a specific email and those emails have all been deleted.  So because of that I wasn’t able to be notified about any claims made against my account nor have the proper way to get in contact.  On top of that I had ZERO KNOWLEDGE that using other people images was even an issue and I’m sure that’s hard for you to believe because you’re in the photography industry but it’s 100% true and is also 100% my fault for not knowing.  Secondly, it does mean this much to me.. it took me time to get in contact with you because I don’t have the emails associated with the claims, I found yours on a site called lumendatabase.org and that’s how I reached out.  I’m sure you don’t care about this stuff but in no way was I malicious in my intent to use your photos if anything I used your photos because they were a great way to represent what we were posting about at the time.  I would normally read a story, goto google, save a picture and post it not even knowing what I was doing.  Thirdly, I can’t believe that you would assume that me offering to help you in return isn’t genuine.  I’m not even sure how you’d come to that conclusion.  I was always taught to bring something to the table when asking and I was simply doing that in a very genuine way.  I had plans and ways that I could help for the mishap.  But that’s neither here no there, I respect your decision and I will no longer contact you.  Thanks for your time.

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