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Looking back on ten years at Hewitt Gardens…

March 3, 2018, 4:54 PM

When I moved to Montgomery County in 2007, I never imagined that I’d stay in the same apartment for a decade.  But I did.  Hewitt Gardens Apartments, on Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill, was my home from May 10, 2007 to November 16, 2017, i.e. ten years and six months.  In the intervening decade, the apartment served its purpose, but I eventually outgrew it, and it eventually became very clear that it was time to move on.

I found Hewitt Gardens in a second round of apartment hunting, in May 2007.  I originally wasn’t supposed to live at Hewitt Gardens at all.  If things had gone as originally planned, I would have lived in Oakfield (now split into two properties, with the other called Glenmont Crossing), i.e. closer to Wheaton, across Shorefield Road from H-Mart.  But what happened is that after I filled out their pages-long application and sent in a deposit, I was informed that there were no one-bedroom apartments available, and that they could “upgrade” me to a more expensive unit with a den, and give me two months’ free rent, allegedly to compensate for the change.  However, even that would not be deliverable in the timeframe that I needed, plus what they tried to pull with me was a bait-and-switch, which is a really dishonest thing to do.  Nothing like starting a relationship with mistrust of the management’s business practices, right?  So Oakfield was out, I got my deposit back, and I conducted a new search.  In the new search, I had Hewitt Gardens, Peppertree Farm (off of Bel Pre Road), and Montgomery White Oak (off of Lockwood Drive) on my shortlist.  Hewitt Gardens was first, and it was perfect.  It had a lot of space, it was close to the Metro, it didn’t have a lot of unnecessary amenities, and at $920/month, the price was right.  Plus, unlike Oakfield they showed me my actual apartment, and not a model.  We ended up putting a deposit in with Hewitt Gardens on the spot, with the idea that no matter what else happened, I would have a place to live when my new job started in a couple of weeks.  Peppertree Farm was more money, and had a bunch of amenities that I didn’t need, and then Montgomery White Oak was a five-minute visit, since the apartment was just not very good, as well as more expensive than I would have liked.  So Hewitt Gardens it was.

It took Hewitt Gardens a few days to complete all of the processing on my application, and by Wednesday, May 9, 2007, they were ready to go.  I was up the next day to sign my lease and move in.  So far, everything was good.  I got my stuff moved in, I got the Internet turned on, I got my parking permit, etc.  Additionally, the new job, where I was an underappreciated office monkey at a nonprofit, was going well.

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Now I’m a Honda driver, but I’m still missing my Soul…

February 26, 2018, 1:56 AM

No one ever told me that losing a car would be so difficult.  The car itself is gone, and after about a week in a rental car (a Hyundai Accent), I am now the proud owner of a Honda HR-V, a crossover SUV:

My new car, a Honda HR-V

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Categories: Honda HR-V, Kia Soul

I guess that I can cross “escape from a burning car” off of my bucket list…

February 13, 2018, 2:40 PM

Sad to say, my 2012 Kia Soul is no more.  On the night of February 7, in Lucketts, Virginia, as Elyse and I were on the way back home from a trip around the area with friends, my car caught fire and was destroyed in the resulting inferno.  Thankfully, we both escaped without injury.

The day had gone pretty well.  We had gotten together with two friends, Trent and Jackson, and we went from Gaithersburg to Rockville to Silver Spring to DC to Alexandria to Annandale seeing various things, with a focus mostly on elevators, as Elyse, Trent, and Jackson are all elevator enthusiasts.  I have somewhat of an interest in them, but not nearly as strong as the other three.  At the end of our day, we dropped Trent off at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, and then took Jackson up to Dulles Airport to meet up with family members of his that were flying in from out of town.  After we left Jackson with his relatives, Elyse and I headed out.  We took the Dulles Greenway to Leesburg, and then headed north on Route 15, intending to go over the Point of Rocks Bridge, and then continuing to follow Route 15 until we reached Frederick, after which we would turn south to head home.

However, circumstances would dictate otherwise.  As we were going up Route 15, the car suddenly started losing accelerative power, getting it back, losing it again, and so on.  The end result was that I was rapidly losing speed.  Elyse thought that it was the transmission slipping, and with that in mind, I was trying to see if I could get the car to a safe location in order to stop and call AAA for a tow truck.  A transmission problem would be covered under the Kia 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and so, like the engine replacement that I had a couple of months ago, I would take it to the dealer to get it fixed, and everything would be fine.

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Categories: Elyse, Friends, Kia Soul, Virginia

That point where you’ve turned a corner on getting settled…

January 26, 2018, 2:27 PM

Slowly but surely, this house is coming together.  Old furniture is in place.  New furniture is acquired and in place.  Various other little flub-dubs have been purchased and placed.  And I have a dust mop.  You know that you’re mature when you’re excited about buying a dust mop.

But in any case, it’s starting to look like Elyse and I live there.  My bedroom, for instance, is more or less complete:

My bedroom, with bed, nightstands, lamps, and curtains.
My bedroom, with bed, nightstands, lamps, and curtains.

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Categories: Furniture

When you realize that the unbalanced nature of the electoral college is a symptom, and not the problem…

January 13, 2018, 4:38 PM

With the recent talk about a potential Oprah Winfrey run for president, I started thinking again about how to fix our unbalanced electoral system, and the least difficult way to do it.

But first, since I mentioned it, just to eliminate all doubt: Oprah Winfrey should not run for president, at least not right now, for the same reason that Donald Trump was not qualified for the job, i.e. no experience in public service.  If Oprah wants to run for president, she should do like most presidents have done, and run for a local office and start a proper public service career.  Even Ronald Reagan, who was an actor prior to entering politics, was governor of California before he was president.  A career in public service prior to running for the top spot shows that you’re serious.  I’m sure that Oprah would make a pretty good Chicago alderman as a first step, and then on to a state legislature or Congress.  Governor of Illinois, maybe not, because most Illinois governors go to jail after leaving office, it seems.  But in any case, if you’re serious, and not just doing it for attention, you go through the proper channels.  We want to leave Trump as a fluke, and not make this whole TV-personalities-as-president-with-no-public-service thing a trend.

Of course, the whole reason that we ended up with Trump in the first place is because we have a very unbalanced electoral college system.  After all, more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump, but because of the unbalanced nature of it all, it tipped toward Donald Trump.  Because its votes are allocated based on the amount of representatives and senators, it skews in favor of states with low population.  According to this map by Slate, the top three most powerful votes are found in Wyoming, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.  The bottom three are California, Florida, and New York.  In other words, the most populous states have the least voice per capita in determining who becomes the prez.

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Categories: National politics

Now to build on the successes of the past year…

January 3, 2018, 9:37 PM

A new year always brings a lot of feelings.  It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and a time to look ahead to the year ahead.  Reflecting back on 2017, I’d say that I had an outstanding year, and laid the groundwork for a strong future.  After all, at the beginning of 2017, I was still relatively new at the whole train operations thing, and lived by myself in an apartment with a hostile relationship with the property management.  Now, I’m more experienced with my work and more comfortable with all of the ins and outs of my job, and I’m also a homeowner with a roommate.  I made my first mortgage payment at the end of December.  Things suddenly became very real when I wrote that check.

Now, in 2018, I want to build on my successes from the past year and reach even greater heights.  After all, in 2017, I got the house.  Now, I want to make it my home, and not someone else’s idea of a home with my furniture sitting in it.  That means getting rid of that chandelier in Elyse’s room, painting a few rooms, and getting my wallhangings up.  I’m excited to design the new decor, because I have so many blank canvases upon which to expend some pent-up creative energies.  My parents are delighted about this as well, because I’d been fantasizing out loud about redecorating their house for a few years in order to expend those creative energies that I couldn’t do with the apartment, but they were a bit cool to the idea.  Now I have my own place to paint and decorate as I wish.  The previous owner of my house decorated the place fairly minimalistically, using pale colors on walls and few wallhangings and furnishings, such as in the living room:

My living room during the showing

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“Crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!”

December 25, 2017, 10:14 AM

For the last several years, I’ve made it something of a tradition of watching the Today’s Special episodes “Christmas Part 1” and “Christmas Part 2” on or around Christmas Eve.  It only makes sense to me.  Most Christmas specials are awful, but Today’s Special‘s two Christmas episodes are outside of that mold, taking the same care with Christmas that they do when discussing the night or feelings.  The end result is a timeless story that still leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside after all these years.

This year, I decided to take a minor element from those episodes and bring it into real life.  Across the two episodes, they sing their own variation of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” using food.  It starts out early when Sam sings, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a plate full of macaroni!”  Then Muffy later adds, “Hot cheesy sauce on my plate full of macaroni!”  Near the end of the second episode, it takes its full form:

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me crisp bacon strips, sliced French bread, hot cheesy sauce, on a plate full of macaroni!

So on Friday evening, I went to the grocery store after work and bought this:

Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.
Pasta, generic Velveeta, bread, and bacon.

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Apparently, Sam Crenshaw is an Ottawa Senators fan…

December 18, 2017, 12:47 PM

Sometimes, you never know what you’ll find online.  Check this out:

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Categories: Today's Special

I suppose that this is why you buy a Kia…

December 4, 2017, 2:59 PM

I suppose that what happened to me recently is exactly why you buy a Kia.  My car had been making some funny noises for a while, but since the check engine light had not come on yet, I figured that I had time to deal with it, and put it off until later.  This past Monday, the noises got noticeably worse, and the “check engine” light finally came on.  That’s when I scheduled a repair with a Kia dealer (since I suspected it might be covered by the warranty) and booked a rental car for the upcoming repair.  Then the car finally quit on me on the way to work, i.e. it just cut off in the middle of Georgia Avenue in Olney.  Thankfully, I was able to coast to a safe location to call for a tow truck.

The car ended up riding on the back of a tow truck from Olney directly to the dealer, and then I took the bus the rest of the way to work.  Then the next day, Elyse and I took a bus down to Rockville to pick up the rental car and talk to the people working on my real car.  I decided to kill two birds with one stone on that one, because I had planned a trip to IKEA during that time anyway, so I rented a truck.  So for a few days, I went from a Kia Soul – a compact – to a Ram 1500 pickup truck.  That thing was massive:

My rented Ram 1500 pickup truck

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Categories: Furniture, House, IKEA, Kia Soul

I suppose that I live here now…

November 26, 2017, 11:58 PM

So as of this writing, I’ve been living in Montgomery Village for about a week and a half, having moved on November 16.  The new place is starting to feel like home, even though I’m not entirely unpacked yet.  That is a process, and it will take time.  However, I think that the weirdest thing about the whole move process was watching my home of ten years get dismantled and carted out the door.  I hired movers to pack and move everything, so all that I had to do was keep Elyse occupied, make sure that the movers didn’t take the cleaning supplies (for the post-move cleaning that I am obligated to do, but have not done yet), and answer any questions that the movers might have.  Afterward, I was struck by what felt like the finality of it all:

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Categories: House, Montgomery Village

I’m a homeowner now, and so many things to think about…

November 14, 2017, 2:12 PM

Good news: I closed on the house on Thursday, and I am now a homeowner.  About a thousand signatures later, my longtime fantasy just became reality.  There are certain occasions in life where an event leaves you mentally drained at the end of it, and closing on the house was one of those things.  And now that the closing is done, there are so many more things to think about.  There is some minor electrical work that I need to have done.  The paint needs to be updated in some places.  I need to buy curtains.  I need to buy a new bedroom set for myself, since Elyse is getting my old one.  I need to get an air mattress to sleep on until I get the new bed.  The cable gets installed on the 15th.  Moving happens the following day, on the 16th.  I need to change my address in a zillion places.  And it goes on.  Such is the joy of homeownership, I suppose.

But in any case, the house is now mine.  Check it out:

Wheelock 7002T on the breakfast bar
Wheelock 7002T on the breakfast bar in the kitchen.  I used this photo for a “Welcome home” post on Instagram.

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Categories: House

So… I’m buying a house!

November 5, 2017, 2:45 PM

You may recall back in May that I sort of casually mentioned that Pixsy money was helping me get ahead financially and eventually buy a house.  “Eventually” has since morphed into “very soon”.  So I might as well make it official: I am buying a townhome in Montgomery Village, and therefore, I will be leaving my apartment of ten years in Aspen Hill fairly soon.  I am just a ball of different emotions, being both excited and terrified all at the same time.  I’m also picking up a housemate, as Elyse will be living with me.

I have wanted to own my own home for about six years.  Back then, it was an “eventually” thing, and more of a fantasy than anything else.  While some of my coworkers at Food & Water Watch owned their own homes, almost all of those people were married or otherwise in a committed relationship.  As a single person, I could not afford to buy a house on a Food & Water Watch salary.  I also owed a bunch of money on my credit card due to several large repairs that I had to make on my old Sable station wagon, which certainly didn’t help things.  Then when I lost my job at Food & Water Watch, any thoughts of being a homeowner went right out the window for a while as I went into survival mode, having to live off of what should have been retirement money for a little while.  When I started working in public transportation, one of the instructors during bus training gave us some advice: “Get yourself some bricks.”  In other words, buy a house.  My financial situation was not where I wanted it to be yet in order to do that, but I knew that our instructor was right.

In the fall of 2015, I was in the financial position to start considering becoming a homeowner, and I was starting to “hit a wall” with my apartment, as I wanted to do things that I couldn’t do while renting, like paint the walls.  I had creative energies that I wanted to get out, but couldn’t expend them in my place.  So I started fantasizing about redecorating my parents’ house, where the decor is somewhat dated (“stuck in the nineties” is the phrase I would use).  Mom wasn’t very receptive to my ideas for redecorating, unfortunately, as she didn’t see any reason to redecorate.  I also wanted more living space, as it was always hard to have guests over with no spare room and only one bathroom.  Guests sleep in the living room, and so whenever I had visitors over, no one had much privacy.  Plus, with guests sleeping in the living room, bedtime for one basically meant bedtime for all, since no one could really move around without disturbing the other person.

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Categories: House, Montgomery Village

I’m not even going to try to recall how many times I made Elyse cross the street…

October 31, 2017, 2:30 PM

Here’s some “new old stock” for you.  Back in March 2016, I had the idea of writing about a fatal pedestrian accident that happened in December 2015 at the intersection of Veirs Mill Road (MD 586) and the Matthew Henson Trail in Rockville.  It was an area that I was very familiar with, as one of the routes that I did on the bus went through this area.  I did the field work for that planned Journal entry, photographing the area in question, as well as a few other pedestrian control devices in Montgomery County, in order to have a discussion similar to the one I did in March 2013 about an intersection on Georgia Avenue.  Unfortunately, however, life got in the way, as I got a promotion at work, and the several-months-long training program that came with that promotion took precedence over the planned Journal entry.  The post eventually got shelved, and now it’s a moot point, as the intersection was initially upgraded with yellow warning signals directly over the crossing (vs. 500 feet ahead of it as before), and then after a second fatal accident in the same location, the crossing was upgraded again with signals that actually require traffic to stop vs. only warning drivers of the presence of pedestrians.

I was always a bit disappointed that an entire afternoon’s work never got used.  Like the Breezewood photo shoot in 2006, evidence of the shoot showed up fairly soon after the work was done – in this case, a single photo feature – but the intended final product never got made.  In hindsight, I’m not too worried about it, because what I would have advocated for in the intended Journal entry came to pass, though I wish that it hadn’t happened as a result of a second fatal accident.

The shoot itself was pretty fun.  I brought Elyse with me, and we made a good team.  The way we did it was that I set the camera up on my tripod and pointed it at whatever I needed, started filming, and then signaled to Elyse to activate the signal.  She then crossed the street, in order to give some legitimacy to the signal activation.  After all, I knew that I was stopping traffic on some fairly busy roads for a photo shoot.  I had Elyse cross the street so that I didn’t look like a complete dick, stopping traffic for no reason.  Someone needed to cross the street, so that it didn’t look like I was stopping traffic just to film the signals.  I imagine that Elyse probably did about a mile going back and forth across several intersections in Montgomery County and DC.  After all, every single take (and I did multiple takes) required activating a signal, and that meant sending Elyse across the street

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No tire problems this time around…

October 25, 2017, 3:17 AM

On Tuesday, October 17, with Elyse and Aaron Stone in tow, I headed down to Ocean City for the day.  The plan was to do the Ocean City outing that I had wanted to do last year, but which had been significantly curtailed due to a slow tire leak that I had to get repaired en route.  Remembering that, I was very explicit about wanting to make as few stops as possible.  The only stops were restroom stops and a food stop, and we did well enough on time.  After all, the purpose of the trip was photography, and so I needed proper light in order to get it, and that meant making good time on the road.  Once I’m out of daylight, the photography is over, since I am currently without a functioning tripod, and therefore, my nighttime options are limited.

For those of you who are not familiar, Ocean City is one of those dumpy little coastal resort towns that has a very distinct operating season.  Outside of that season, the place is fairly quiet, as many businesses close for the off season, as do many of the hotels and attractions.  I was fine with this, because the off-season meant that there were fewer opportunities for people to get in the way of my shots, and those people who were out were easier to photograph.

The plan was that I would photograph along the boardwalk while Aaron and Elyse, both elevator enthusiasts, went out to ride various elevators.  We parked on 9th Street, and then once we got settled, I went south towards the fishing pier, and they went north to do some “elevator tourism”.

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Buses, fire trucks, ambulances, trains, and… moo cows?

October 19, 2017, 11:17 PM

This past Saturday, Elyse and I got together with our friend Dave, and we went to the Public Safety Open House held at the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy on Snouffer School Road near Montgomery Village.  Then we went out to Middletown and visited South Mountain Creamery, which is a dairy farm that sells products on site.

The Public Safety Open House event was a lot of fun.  There was a little bit of everything for us to see there.  We started out by looking at a row of Ride On buses.  Apparently, this facility is used to train Ride On operators, because there is, more or less, one or two of each type of bus that Ride On operates located at the facility.  We saw two Gillig hybrids, an Orion VII CNG, a New Flyer C40LF, and two Gillig 30-footers.

Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.
Ride On 5822, a New Flyer C40LF.  We all commented on how the one panel on the front was so faded.  No idea why.  I speculated at the time that it might be from the diagonal parking at the old Gaithersburg division’s causing sunlight to hit that corner more than others, but after thinking some more about it, while certainly plausible, I don’t know if I’d necessarily go with it now.

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