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I went out in search of places with harbors…

April 13, 2013, 5:54 PM

And this is the rest of the photo stuff that I did while I was on my vacation a little more than a week ago.  I wanted to do something related to water on my vacation, as I had already done snow and Stuarts Draft, suburban places, urban places, and mountainous areas.  The early plans for this involved a trip up to New Jersey to do this, but I determined that New Jersey was more than I wanted to pull off, owing to the other trips.  One day, perhaps, I’ll do the Jersey shore.  Stepping down from New Jersey, I thought about day tripping it out to Ocean City or Rehoboth Beach, but realized that if I was going to go all that way, I might as well just go to New Jersey.  That brought me to looking at Maryland locations that didn’t involve going over the Bay Bridge.  I narrowed it down to Baltimore and Annapolis, and then decided that with two days available, why not do both?  So I did.  I went to Annapolis on Thursday, April 4, and Baltimore on Friday, April 5.  Not bad.

In going to Annapolis, I was kind of surprised at what I encountered.  I knew that Annapolis was a smaller town as state capitals went, but exactly how small it was surprised me.  Realize that every state capital that I had been in or through (Little Rock, Richmond, Boston, Providence) has been its own metropolitan area.  Annapolis reminded me of Staunton, Virginia with a harbor on it.  It was a cute town, for sure.

By the time I did Annapolis, I had done a lot of photography.  By my accounting, by the time I set foot in Annapolis, I had taken 1,971 photos.  So I had pressed the shutter button quite a bit.  I wasn’t that interested in doing a cohesive photo set, though if I ended up getting a cohesive photo set out of it, that would be a plus.  Honestly, I was just looking to see what caught my interest and looked interesting to photograph.  What I ended up doing was wandering through the downtown area a bit, wandering around the harbor, and then going around the Maryland State House.  I had a good time, photographing signs, architectural details, birds, some boats, and (of course) fire alarms.  I feel as though I probably took more fire alarm photos in Annapolis than I did anywhere else on my two week vacation.  The reason was that in Annapolis, unlike in other cities that I photographed, a lot of buildings had fire alarm notification appliances on their exteriors.  Most were just bells, but I did spot one horn/strobe on the exterior of a jewelry store.

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Categories: Annapolis, Travel

Seeing Cumberland from the ground…

April 7, 2013, 12:28 AM

You may be familiar with Cumberland, Maryland.  Whenever Mom and I go to Chicago, we take the Capitol Limited, and that train travels a route that goes through Martinsburg, Cumberland, Pittsburgh, Toledo, and South Bend, among other locations.  When I take train trips, I like to look at the scenery.  Some of it intrigues me, and it leads me do more research on it later.  Take the Koppers facility in Green Spring, West Virginia.  I always found it interesting to see these piles of neatly stacked lumber along the tracks.  I researched it, and I enjoyed learning a bit more about what I had seen from the train.  Towns are a similar idea.  These little towns that the trains either pass through or stop in make me want to do more research.  Unfortunately, many of these little towns are beyond my reach without incurring a lot of travel expenses, but for the places that I can reach, if they interest me enough, I’ll pay them a visit.

Cumberland was one of those places.  The Capitol Limited spends a lot of time in Cumberland.  Going west, the first thing that they do is a crew change, where they exchange engineers.  Then they continue a little further west and do the passenger stop.  That stop takes about ten minutes, and is also a “smoke stop”, where passengers who smoke are permitted to get off of the train and have a cigarette.  While on the train waiting through the crew change and the longer passenger stop, I got to take an extended look at Cumberland.  And I liked what I saw.  I saw a town with some character to it, and I saw a few places that I would love to explore more deeply.  I saw houses, I saw churches, and I saw the WTBO sign on Wills Mountain.  And I was sure that there was much more that was interesting beyond what I could see from the train.

So this past Tuesday, I did exactly that.  I grabbed the camera bag, got in the car, and headed off to Cumberland.  This, by the way, is not exactly a short trip.  Amtrak gives three hours and nine minutes to take the train from Union Station in DC to Cumberland.  Google Maps gives two hours and 123 miles driving from my house in Aspen Hill to Cumberland Amtrak station by car.  That’s going via the Intercounty Connector and I-370 to Gaithersburg, I-270 to Frederick, I-70 to Hancock, and then I-68 to Cumberland.  I’ve done the drive on I-270 to Frederick a number of times in the past, and so I knew what to expect there.  Interstate 70 through to Hagerstown took me over a number of hills and past the Appalachian Trail.  I had taken I-70 west the rest of the way through Maryland when I went to Breezewood in 2006.  Then I-68 was really awesome.  The first thing you do is go through a highway cut through Sideling Hill, and then you go over a number of mountains before you arrive in Cumberland – directly in the middle of downtown.

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Richmond was fun…

April 1, 2013, 11:05 PM

So on Saturday, I headed down to Richmond to visit an area that I had not visited in about ten years: the Canal Walk.  You may recall that I first featured the Canal Walk in 2002 in a three-part set in Photography.  Then I visited the area again in 2003 for the Richmond portion of An Urban Comparison.  I photographed the Canal area again with Big Mavica since I was already in the area, but I never really did much with the photos.  There were three Photo Features from that day: one of the Reynolds Tobacco building, one of the skyline, and one of Riverfront Plaza.  Now, ten years later, it was time to get new photos.  I didn’t expect that the Canal area would change much, but I had changed quite a bit.  My Canon Powershot SX10 IS is a far superior camera to Big Mavica, and my technique has also improved.  I also have a polarizing filter that I got in January, and I wanted to give that another spin.  The Sandy Point photos that I took in February (photo set from this on its way before too long) came out wonderfully using it, and so I wanted to give it a spin again in a city environment.

I did the same thing that I did ten years ago, parking at the east end of the Canal and walking to the other end.  Like in 2003, I walked down the Canal and then headed over to the Belle Isle pedestrian bridge.  I also explored Belle Isle just a little, which I had never done before, as I had previously just gone to the end of the bridge and then turned around.

The biggest take from this trip was that the Canal area had grown up in ten years.  There were some new buildings, and there were new businesses in some of the older buildings.  The area had flooded in 2004 due to the effects of Hurricane Gaston.  I also noticed a lot more character in the area.  One semi-enclosed section of the Canal Walk now had all sorts of murals painted on it.  There was also a lot more life along the Canal itself, with recently constructed housing nearby, and shops and restaurants fronting the Canal.  Previously, the Canal was somewhat disconnected from the surrounding neighborhood, with not much to do on the Canal Walk except to walk.  Not anymore.

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Categories: Photography, Richmond, Travel

Just standing there, tapping away…

March 29, 2013, 11:38 PM

Thought I’d share.  Here’s a photo that Isis got of me at Landmark Mall in Alexandria today that I found amusing:

Tapping away on my phone at Landmark Mall
Photo: Isis

Isis found it interesting because everyone in the photo was wearing a hat in front of the “CITY CAP” sign and the mall train (both the other gentleman and I are train enthusiasts).  I found it amusing because I’m standing in a common pose for me when I’m out and about.  Holding my phone and tapping away.  After all, those amusing Facebook/Twitter/Instagram posts don’t just post themselves, right?

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Categories: Friends, Photography, Shopping

I can now add “commode critic” to my resume…

March 28, 2013, 12:44 PM

So I got back Tuesday night from a trip to Stuarts Draft.  That was fun, though not the fun that I was expecting.  I got to visit my friend Bergit in Charlottesville, and then spent two days spending time with my parents.  The original plan was to go to Roanoke with Mom on Monday and also visit friends and see transportation-related stuff, but that unfortunately got snowed out.

But first, though, in case you’re wondering what the deal with the title is, let me explain.  My trip started out with proof that my kidneys do great work, and that having a cup of coffee before a three-hour road trip is inadvisable.  Yes, I took far more restroom breaks on this trip than I normally would.  I ended up stopping at the rest area on I-66 near Manassas, Sheetz in Madison, the new Trader Joe’s in Charlottesville, and then the rest area on I-64 near Ivy.  Usually I can make it on one restroom break.  But, noooooo… my body decided that this was the perfect time to unload a bunch of water.  And I was not shy about discussing restrooms on social media on the entire trip.  This from the Sheetz in Madison:

This road trip has been brought to you by the letter P, and by the number 1.

And I accompanied this on Instagram with the following caption: “This road trip has been brought to you by the letter P, and by the number 1.”  Yep… that kind of day.

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What is Afton Mountain, anyway?

March 21, 2013, 5:58 PM

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this article by Dr. Christopher M. Bailey, a geology professor at The College of William & Mary.  The article discusses the name of a place that many people in the part of Virginia that I grew up with are most likely quite familiar with: Afton Mountain.

The article is titled, “Mind the Gap! Where is Afton Mountain?” and discusses the geology of the area, specifically Rockfish Gap, and a few quirks of the local culture.  First, for those not familiar, Rockfish Gap is a wind gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which separate the Shenandoah Valley and the Piedmont region in Virginia.  Because it is the lowest gap for quite some ways traveling both north and south, the area became an important way to travel east and west.  Today, Interstate 64 and US 250 carry travelers through Rockfish Gap.

Technically speaking, this is Rockfish Gap, seen here in a 2003 Schumin Web file photo:

Rockfish Gap, seen from the junction of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, on a bridge over Interstate 64.

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Categories: Afton Mountain, Nature, Roads

This is a problem where the biggest step towards a solution is not police, but signage and paint…

March 12, 2013, 10:16 PM

According to an article on Patch.com, since January 22, four pedestrians and one cyclist have died in collisions with cars in the eastern part of Montgomery County.  The cyclist was struck in downtown Silver Spring.  The pedestrian fatalities all occurred outside the Beltway.  One involved a woman’s being struck while on the sidewalk, and the other three were struck and killed while attempting to cross major arterial roads in the county – specifically, Columbia Pike (US 29), Connecticut Avenue (MD 185), and Georgia Avenue (MD 97).  Ken Silverman, an analyst for county councilwoman Nancy Navarro, created a map showing the location of the accidents.

Now in looking at all of this, I latched onto the fatalities related to crossing the arterials.  I am on each side of the pedestrian-driver coin in Montgomery County at various times, and so I am familiar with both driving around pedestrians, and walking around cars.  I have also crossed Georgia Avenue on foot many times.  In these instances, the Columbia Pike incident happened in the southbound lanes at the intersection with Oak Leaf Drive in White Oak.  The Connecticut Avenue incident happened at the intersection with Everton Street, in the Wheaton area.  The Georgia Avenue incident occurred at the intersection with Heathfield Road in Aspen Hill.  I looked at these areas, and there are some common factors in all of them:

  • All three incidents occurred after dark
  • All three incidents occurred at unmarked crosswalks (any intersection is considered a legal crosswalk in Maryland whether it’s marked or not)
  • The main roadway in all three locations is a six-lane divided highway with three lanes on each side
  • There are bus stops on both sides of the road at all three locations
  • There is street lighting on the side of the road where the incidents occurred (Columbia Pike and Georgia Avenue have lighting on only one side in these areas, and Connecticut Avenue has lighting on both sides)

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This should become an Internet meme…

March 3, 2013, 10:01 PM

So you may have seen the new splash photo, showing me holding a monkey wrench at Home Depot.  I was amused enough by it that I decided to make an “Internet meme” version of it.  Take a look:

PLEASE TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOUR PLANS

After all, what’s the fun of having a monkey wrench if you can’t throw it in someone’s plans, right?

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Categories: House, Matthew, Netculture

Okay, explain this dream…

February 28, 2013, 10:33 PM

Okay, this is a weird one.  Now you know I’ve discussed some odd dreams in this space in the past, like the surgery dream, the derailment dream, the Power Rangers dream, the countless Walmart dreams, CFW dreams, fire alarm dreams, etc.  But this one from a few weeks ago is hard to explain.  But here goes.

In this dream, I was at the building where I work in DC, and I was in the office doing work.  And outside, at least according to the dream, there was a volcano erupting.  Yes, a volcano.  In the DC area.  I know.  That said, this volcano was one of those explosive types of volcanoes, putting out tons of volcanic ash, but no lava, much like the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii.  In fact, in the dream, I even recalled that this was just like Pompeii.  Volcanic ash was falling all over, and the entire city was going to be buried, just like in Pompeii.  And we were all apparently doomed due to falling ash and poisonous volcanic gases.  It didn’t matter in the dream that Pompeii was only buried under nine feet of ash and my office is on the third floor, at least twenty-some feet above street level.  We were all doomed, and our building was going to get buried.  Completely.

With me so far?  Basically: big volcano erupts in DC area, ash falling all over the place, we’re all going to die.

The thing that got me in this dream was actually my own reaction.  Of course, I’ve noticed that in dreams, I seem to often “have a copy of the script” and know many details that are taken as indisputable fact within the dream’s fictional universe as things play out.  Thus how I knew volcano, ash, and pending death.  The only thing I saw in the dream was the inside of my office building.  Which had orange-red walls in my dream.  (Go figure.  The real office has mostly eggshell walls.)  But as my coworkers were panicking due to our impending burial by volcano, my reaction was indifference to our fate, because I had stuff that I had to take care of.  Yes, I was doing work as we were about to be buried under ash, decay completely, and then become plaster casts when we were rediscovered a thousand and some years later.  And yes, the idea of plaster casts of our final positions like happened in Pompeii came up in the dream.  I know.

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Categories: Dreams, Fire drills

So I finally have an outfit for running…

February 26, 2013, 12:17 AM

At last, I have an outfit to go running in.  Check it out:

New running/jogging outfit!  Just the epitome of fashion, aren't I?

So there you have it, I suppose.  For around half the cost of a pair of compression tights at Sports Authority, I am outfitted.  I got this snazzy pair of jogging tights at TJ Maxx for $15, and then I got the wicking shirt at Target for $20.  Not bad, if you ask me.  And, it all holds my stomach in place quite well.

And yes, I will wear shoes when I actually use this outfit for exercising.  I was trying it on for the camera at home in this case, and so, yeah, I didn’t bother to put on shoes for the photo.

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Protest fashionista…

February 19, 2013, 10:22 PM

I went to the 350.org Forward on Climate rally in DC on Sunday.  That was quite an event.  Good to see so many people interested in preventing manmade climate change and green issues.  I had the polarizing filter attached to the camera, and I was out photographing (though I was wearing a shirt advocating a ban on fracking).  I’ve been involved in various activism for about ten years now.  My first demonstration was April 12, 2003, about the Iraq War.  Since then, I’ve been to demonstrations on a number of different issues, including antiwar, globalization, organized labor, environmentalism, religion, food safety, whistleblowers, sexuality, and public television.  I’ve participated in many ways.  I’ve done straight photography, I’ve done black bloc, I’ve done public education, and I’ve even trolled (i.e. Internet-style trolling in real life).  And I’ve always presented my views when I get back to the computer.

This time, I really got into what I will call “protest fashion”.  I really got into the handmade signs and the various outfits.  Preprinted signs are great and all, but a homemade sign or a unique prop is going to get my attention more because it’s one of a kind.  And likewise, a fancy costume is going to catch my attention more than whatever someone just happened to pull out of the closet that morning (which makes me think of the Limozeen line, “And the lead singer wears glasses!“).

Now the challenge with Forward on Climate was that it was the middle of winter.  It was below freezing and quite windy.  Translated, it was really bloody cold.  And I mean really bloody cold.  Thus not freezing was of top importance.  I wore the anti-fracking shirt, and kept my coat open on purpose to accommodate that.  Thus I layered up under the frack shirt.  And I wore gloves, which unfortunately didn’t do much (note to self: I need new winter gloves).

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Categories: Activism

Trying some new training activities in the pool this week…

February 13, 2013, 11:01 PM

So life at the pool has been interesting lately.  Interesting in a good way, though.  I’ve gotten into a nice routine at the pool.  I know who’s in on which days, we’ve all gotten to know each other, and life is good like that.  And we all laugh about when we accidentally run into/hit each other in the lanes, or other odd strikes like the one time when I accidentally whacked one of the ladies in the aqua aerobics class in the butt as I was going by doing backstroke (embarrassing!) or today, where one of the kids in the swim class in the lane next to me accidentally kicked me in the funnybone (yes, in the elbow – very odd feeling).

And I know how my swimming jives with the others’ swimming, i.e. faster, slower, about the same, etc.  I most enjoy swimming with people that swim at a similar speed to me, or are faster than me.  With slower folks, when we’re swimming three or more in a lane, passing gets old after a while.  Folks I swim about the same speed as are folks that I know I’m not going to run into, and then faster folks are a challenge!  See, when I have a faster swimmer in the lane with me, I try to keep up with them.  I am up to that challenge, though my success varies.  Lately, there has been a small group of 17-year-old girls that come on Monday nights.  They also swim competitively, and so they go really fast.  If I can, I try to get a lane with them.  My goal is to see how long I can stay in front of them.  And I push myself to stay in that spot.  They usually pass me a few times over the course of a workout, but seeing how long I can stay ahead of them before the inevitable occurs is the challenge.  And with the goal of my swims’ being to get physical activity, push myself, and keep things interesting for me, their speed provides me with a good workout and also is something to aspire to.  I would love to be that fast one day.  Will it happen?  We’ll see, I suppose.

This past Monday, they were doing “dolphin drills”.  As I understand it, a dolphin drill is a training technique for improving one’s performance in doing the butterfly.  I don’t have any particular interest in swimming the butterfly, but the training technique intrigues me.  I observed the process in action and then discussed it with them, and got something of a handle on the process.  What you do for a dolphin drill, in a nutshell, is go down to the bottom, push off the bottom, come up, do butterfly arms, and then repeat.  In other words, this:

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Categories: Swimming

Best grammar lesson ever…

February 6, 2013, 10:26 PM

Sometimes, the best lessons in life are subtle and just sort of fall out of the sky.  This is one of them.  And also remember a few very important rules of the Internet:

  • The rules of proper spelling, capitalization, and punctuation still apply on the Internet.
  • There is no privacy on social media, no matter how much you think otherwise.
  • The Internet does not forgive, nor does it forget.  Once you put it out there, it is out there for everyone to see, and it’s out there forever.
  • The average Internet user is not required or otherwise obligated in any way to protect your identity if you say something stupid online.
  • It is not a violation of anyone’s privacy to circulate a message posted in a public venue.

That said, you are probably starting to realize one thing: someone is about to get nailed for something that they posted on social media.

You are about to find out why it’s best to use the language the way the rest of us learned how to use it.  However, while you may certainly be creative in your ideas and in the ways that you express them, those of us with a healthy respect for the proper usage of the English language request that you please not exercise your creative tendencies when it comes to grammar and spelling.

The incident in question happened on Facebook.  It was in response to a public post on the Power Rangers Facebook page.  The original post had something to do with Power Rangers Megaforce, and really isn’t too germane to what I’m talking about.  I made a comment about the original discussion (I know way too much about Power Rangers, by the way).  And then someone else made a post.  And it was a real doozy.

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How to stop the bounce…

February 4, 2013, 10:54 PM

Remember back in September when I walked over to get that haircut and then ran back?  I realized one thing after that exercise: I could run now.  And I could cover some pretty good distance, too!  I am, as they say, in pretty decent shape now.  A far cry from the little butterball that I was two years ago.  I’m also more than 100 pounds smaller than I was two years ago.

When I ran home, I was giving running a spin to see how I liked it.  And I did like it.  However, one thing has kept me from doing it again since then: the bouncing of a certain part of the body (not that part – nor that one).  The problem is my stomach.  My stomach has hung over a little bit for a very long time.  I don’t remember when it started, but it has.  It never hung that low, even though it hangs less than before.  But it still hangs over.  However, despite having lost around 30% of my original body weight in the last two years, the “spare tire” hasn’t gone away.  And when I run, it really starts bouncing around.  And I hate that.  I don’t like that it’s there, and I hate it even more than it bounces around like it does, since it makes a smacking sound as it moves.  I realize that this is probably going into “oversharing” territory here, but you know, I don’t think I’m that special here.  I’m sure that other people have had a similar problem.  Thus I discuss this in the hopes that someone else will leave a comment below (hint hint) and explain what they did in this same situation.  All I can find is information about pregnant women’s stomachs bouncing, and there are two problems with that: I’m not pregnant, and I think I can safely say that I never will be.  There is no baby inside of me.  Just excess body fat.  Then if I use the term “spare tire” to describe it, I get car articles.  Big help.  Not.

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It definitely gets easier once you’ve done it before…

January 26, 2013, 10:28 PM

And the 2013 “Keep Winter Cold” polar bear plunge is done!  That was a lot of fun.  And it was also a very different experience from last year.  While the event followed the same format as before, my experience was very different.  Last year was my first time going in, and as a result, I was very nervous and uptight about the whole thing.  This year, I knew what to expect.  No problems.  I was cool as a cucumber.

Driving in was a little bit interesting, though.  It had snowed on Friday, and I took Metro to work that day.  So I hadn’t seen the roads.  I was fairly confident that the roads would be fine, but the parking lot in my apartment complex was still snowy, and I had never driven the Soul on snow before.  Getting out of the lot ended up being fine.  Good.  Then going down, rather than take the Beltway all the way around to get to National Harbor, I took the Beltway to B-W Parkway, which then becomes DC 295 before becoming Interstate 295.  It’s a more direct route than taking the Beltway around, but I couldn’t go this way last year due to an accident that shut down part of DC 295 that I got wind of before I left.  This year, no problems.  This route took me past Minnesota Avenue station and Anacostia station, and also past two separate speed cameras each way.  DC apparently is trying to turn 295 into a toll road via the speed cameras and an unreasonably low speed limit (50 mph?  Seriously?).  It is far too easy to speed on that road, and DC robo-ticket fines are high.  As far as I know, I did not get nailed by a robo-ticket.  And then like I did last year, I listened to the Today’s Special album on the way down.  Not to keep me calm, but just because I wanted to.  And it filled the trip down perfectly.  I started it up when I left the house, and it ran out as I arrived.

I got there insanely early.  I knew this was going to happen.  The folks running the plunge weren’t even entirely set up yet.  But again, no problem.  I was early.  So I ended up checking out The Awakening to pass the time while they got ready to go.  The last time I saw that statue was when I photographed it for a Photography set nearly ten years ago, back in March 2003 when it was still at Hains Point in DC.  It was later bought for the National Harbor development, and was moved there in 2008.  And now, here it is.

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Categories: Events, Friends