Like I wrote in a previous entry, I’ve been practicing doing vector graphics on a Linux Mint laptop that a friend of mine obtained used through his day job at the local library. Here’s my latest effort where I did a digital portrait of that famous Internet celebrity Grumpy Cat.

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I’ve uploaded a copy of this graphic on OpenClipArt.org where you can download it for free.

I’ve first learned about Medium.com when one of my friends decided to try her hand at writing for that website by posting a story about how her hometown of Gardner, Massachusetts have sent its prized Norman Rockwell painting to the auction block in order to raise money for the local public education system.

Basically Medium.com is a place where people can write stories but don’t want to commit to writing a blog on a regular basis.

After a few months of toying around with writing something for Medium.com, I finally took the plunge. The effort to publish my first story is a story in of itself. Six months ago I attended two related exhibits in Baltimore. One was on painted screens, which is a peculiar art form that Baltimore is known for, and the other was about the painted screens’ most noted practitioner, Johnny Eck.

Soon after that visit, I found out that one of my friends, Phil Shapiro, is currently a writer for Make magazine. He wrote an article for Make on why he felt that Pete Seeger, who had recently passed away, should be considered a Maker. As I read that article, I began to realize that Johnny Eck could also fall under the Maker category due to his incredible amount of art and general tinkering that he made in his lifetime (such as carving a miniature circus from wood at 14). Phil encouraged me to try submitting something to that publication.

When I went to the Make website and found that there was a form that made it easy to contribute something, I decided to take Phil’s advice. So I re-wrote my earlier blog post on that Baltimore exhibit to make the case for Johnny Eck being considered a Maker and submitted it. Then I waited a few days. When I didn’t get a response from anyone, I did a search on Make‘s site and found no mention of either my name or my Johnny Eck article.

I thought there was some kind of a glitch so I submitted the same article again then waited another week. When I didn’t get a response, I did another search and found that my article was not posted online anywhere. I decided to make a third submission. Again I waited a week with no notice from anyone regarding my article.

When I ran into Phil again and told him about my unsuccessful efforts to submit my story, Phil told me that Make magazine has a total of 20 staffers and they get inundated with hundreds of submissions each week so there are quite a few contributions that fall through the cracks.

So I gave up on Make magazine, took out an account on Medium.com, and submitted my story there. I found the interface take some getting used to but I learned it quickly. I uploaded my article and it’s now live.

If anyone from Make magazine is reading this, all I can say is that it’s too bad you’ve chosen to ignore my article and now Medium.com is the one that people will go to read about the interesting life and career of a Maker named Johnny Eck.

You can now read my Johnny Eck story in its entirety right here.

September 1 was the actual Labor Day holiday itself. I spent the morning participating in the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade in high heat and high humidity (which you can read more about right here). I was satisfied with how well the parade went for me despite the hot weather and the fact that my left foot started to ache towards the end of the parade route.

I drove home soon after the parade ended where I ate lunch in my air conditioned home. After a few hours of rest, I decided to drive to Franklin’s General Store in Hyattsville because I was in the mood for something sweet to eat. My left foot was still sore but I could walk on it. (I only spent an hour in that store before I grew tired enough to just purchase the candy I wanted to buy and go back home so I could get some more rest.) As I got out of my car I saw that someone had done something cool to the bridge overpass that expands over Franklin’s parking lot.

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Hyattsville is located near Bladensburg, which is famous in American history for the Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812.  There’s been a multi-year celebration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 that’s been going on since 2012 (despite the name of that war, the War of 1812 lasted until 1815). In fact, there is a big celebration currently in progress in Baltimore this weekend and it will continue to go on until September 16.

On Labor Day itself I took part in the annual Greenbelt Labor Day Parade. I’ve attended the parade other years (the most recent was in 2012) but this year was the first year that I had ever marched in it myself. I marched as part of the contingent from the Greenbelt Cooperative Initiative, which is trying to bring green-oriented jobs to the area that would all be worker-owned cooperatives. This year I had to wake up very early in order to get down to Buddy Attick Park, where the parade participants were lining up. Finding parking was a pain because parts of the streets were blocked off by the police in order to reserve it for the parade. I ultimately ended up parking about a block away from the end of the parade route then take a pedestrian path down to Greenbelt Lake where I walked for about 15 minutes until I reached the main area of Buddy Attick Park.

I arrived at the park just in time to see the local ROTC troop practicing their moves in the parking lot.

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I saw this cool looking vintage antique car.

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I walked part this one float.

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I came across the Makerspace 125 float. I’ve been seeing this float as a work in progress for the past few days so it was cool to see the final result. The theme of this float was “Turtles in Space.”

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This smaller butterfly-themed wagon was pretty colorful.

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Some people were practicing their dance moves before the parade began.

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I walked past a few more parade floats and other participating groups until I caught up with my own group.

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I eventually caught up with the Greenbelt Cooperative Initiative group. The next photo shows some of the props that people carried during the parade to symbolize the proposed Compost Coop.

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Most of us wore sandwich boards that had a general coop poster in the front and the name of the proposed future worker coops in the back. I carried the sandwich board that had the proposed Thrift Store Coop.

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Ironically we marched in front of Makerspace 125’s Turtles in Space float.

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The walk itself wasn’t so bad. (It was a two-mile walk that went very slowly.) There were two bad things about the parade. One was the weather. That morning the temperature shot up to the high 80’s with high humidity and that was literally pure hell. I’m glad that the parade route was relatively short.

As the parade walked closer to the fairgrounds there were more spectators. At one point I glanced over and I saw my ex-husband sitting next to my ex-friend whom he left me for and he married last year (just two months after our divorce was final). You don’t know how hard it was to march past those two and how I had to restrain myself from flipping the middle finger at those two.

The parade route ended at the far end of the fairground, where the rides at the Labor Day Festival was already underway. I took a photo of this really cool looking vehicle that was also in the parade.

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I took two more photos of two rides (one of them bumper cars) but I was so overheated from the weather that I decided to return home. I had also spent the bulk of the previous day at the festival so I didn’t feel bad about cutting my time at the festival short after marching in the parade.

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It was okay marching in the parade despite the high heat and high humidity. The only downside of being a participant is that I couldn’t see the rest of the parade like I would’ve if I had been just a spectator. In addition, I felt a pulled muscle in my left foot towards the end of the parade that made walking a little bit more difficult. I may have somehow injured it while I was doing all that walking. I spent the bulk of the following week off of my feet as much as possible. The good news is that my left foot is mostly healed since the Labor Day Parade, which is a good thing.

As for me, I would do it again only if I’m involved with a group that really needed my presence.

Benjamin Franklin

There are three Things extreamly hard :Steel, a Diamond and to know one’s self.

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I made my second appearance to the 2014 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival on the festival’s third day. I showed up on opening day then I spent the next day in Baltimore and Glen Burnie, which is the reason why I made my second appearance at the festival on the festival’s third day.

I started my day by going to a friend’s home located near the festival grounds. I’m currently involved with a group known as the Greenbelt Cooperative Initiative, which is seeking to bring new green-oriented jobs to the area while would all be worker-owned (as opposed to a traditional corporation). I managed to get myself roped into participating in the annual Greenbelt Labor Day Parade the next day and we were making signs and banners to carry with us in the parade.

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I worked on a few of the signs but I had to leave relatively early because I planned on submitting my recently completed crocheted amigurumi dragon to the Retro Town Fair that was being held as part of the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival and I had to make the submission deadline. Both me and my dragon made it to the Retro Town Fair just in time.

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The judging and displaying to the general public was going to take up most of the afternoon so I decided to use the ample time to hang around the festival. The hardest part was the weather. For most of the summer the weather had been relatively lovely. Most days it had been in the low   to mid-80’s with low humidity. It was completely unlike the usual hot and humid summers that the Baltimore-Washington, DC area is notorious for. In fact, on the first day of the festival, it was still the same lovely summer weather. When I was in the Baltimore area the following day, I noticed that the humidity was a bit higher but the temperature was still low enough so walking around was still okay. Well, all that changed the day of the Retro Town Fair because the notorious hot and humid day finally appeared.

Fortunately Makerspace 125 (formerly known as Club 125) was air conditioned so I spent some time there. There was a whole lot of making going on there. Some people were putting the finishing touches on the parade float that was going to be in the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade the next day while others were playing with Legos, surfing the Internet, and doing all kinds of arts and crafts.

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The Craft Fair was being held as part of the Labor Day Festival. I took part in that event last year on a day that was in the upper 90’s with high humidity and it was a financial disaster for me. This year I opted not to participate, which turned out to be a wise decision on my part. The first day of the Craft Fair was on the same day as the Retro Town Fair, which meant that the vendors were selling their wares under high heat and humidity while the second day was also just as hot. While I saw some people browsing the table, it was a far cry from other craft shows in the same location that were held in more pleasant weather. There were plenty of nice things available for sale.

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This Craft Fair also had a table that gave psychic readings starting at $10. I decided to try it for the heck of it. That incident led to me to finally make this video where I described what happened.

From time to time I braved the hot weather as I took photos of the rides, booths, and people on the festival grounds.

 

 

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I also went to the Greenbelt Community Center (which was also air conditioned) in order to check out both the Art and Photography Shows. (While I’ve participated in these events in other years, this year I’ve opted to submit something only to the Retro Town Fair.) Before I entered the building, I took this arty photo of the reflection of the Ferris wheel in the windows of the Greenbelt Community Center.

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I ended the day at the festival by finally checking out the tail end of the Retro Town Fair. The fair starts with the submission period followed by the judges checking everything out (the fair is closed to the public during the judging period). Once the judges finishes with deciding who gets the award ribbons in each of the categories, the fair is opened to the general public.

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There are different categories at the Retro Town Fair. The next photo shows the Baked Goods category.

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The next photo shows the submissions in the Canned Goods category.

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The next two photos show the submissions to the Vegetables category.

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The photo below shows the submissions to the Flowers category.

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The rest of the photos show the submissions to the category I submitted my dragon to: Needlework. This category consists of sewing, knitting, and crochet. There were a lot of lovely things on display in this category.

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Despite the competition, I was happy to learn that my little dragon had won the Third Place ribbon. :-)

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Once the Retro Town Fair officially ended, I gathered up my dragon and my new Third Place ribbon and went back to my air conditioned home.

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Ironically, on a day that’s the 13th anniversary of the terrible day when Osama bin Ladin’s Al Qaeda sent some terrorists to the U.S. to begin their deadly attack that ultimately cost the lives of 3,000 men, women, and children, President Obama is beating the drums towards war again. In fact, last night President Obama made a primetime speech on television where he outlined his plans for dealing with a new terrorist threat.

This time the new threat is from a group known alternatively as ISIS or ISIL. (I personally prefer the latter because Isis is the ancient Egyptian goddess of health, marriage, and love. On top of it, there was an early 1970’s all-female rock band known as Isis who took its name from the same Egyptian goddess.)

I’m pretty ambivalent because the U.S. still has a lot of internal problems that seems to be neglected by all the branches of the government these days (such as the high unemployment rate). Yes, I’m no fan of ISIL and I think that they are a bunch of thugs. I find their beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff to be totally unjustifiable and inexcusable. Foley and Sotloff were basically doing their jobs trying to inform the outside world of what was going on in some parts of the Middle East and there was no real reason why they had to die in such a cruel and barbaric way. (It’s basically a crude method of shooting the messengers.)

But I’m not sure if going to war is the answer. I’m worried that the high cost of a new war could place further pressure on the U.S. economy. What’s more, it could potentially lead to ISIL sympathizers going to the U.S. and/or its allies to conduct 9/11 style attacks. In the most extreme circumstances, the U.S. could go through something that’s similar to what happened in Russia when its role in World War I pushed its citizens to the breaking point and it led to the Russian Revolution.

What’s more, here’s an article on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s website that seems to speculate that ISIL may not be as dangerous or powerful as the U.S. government makes them out to be mainly because that group is a relatively small one that has made more enemies than allies. There’s currently an attempt by James Corbett to create an open source investigation of  the real story behind ISIL and this site is actively looking for investigative reporters.

While I think the people who beheaded those journalists should be brought to justice, I’m not sure if going to war is the solution. After all, when West Germany decided to go after the terrorists known as the Baader-Meinhof Gang in the 1970’s, that nation didn’t go to war against East Germany, whose Stasi supported the group at the time. Instead West Germany took a police approach that included the use of intelligence—instead of a military approach—that eventually apprehended the terrorists without having to go to war against any other nation.

Like I wrote in my last entry, this year I attended three out of four days that the 2014 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival took place. There was a good reason why I didn’t attend the second day of the festival.

I recently took part in the month-long Station North Arts District Salon Show in Baltimore and it had just closed on August 29. The following day, August 30, was the day that the organizers urged us to come pick up our art and/or any money for any pieces that sold from 12-3 p.m. We were also instructed to pick up our art directly from the venue that housed our pieces. So I went back to the Station North Arts Cafe one last time to pick up my two pieces. (No, they didn’t sell.) Unlike a few weeks ago, I ate lunch at home and I basically picked up my pieces from the cafe then left. On the way to and from the cafe I took some more photos of some of the interesting murals and other sights in the area.

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At one point I got back in my car and drove just a few blocks further north into Charles Village.

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I had learned about something interesting that I first learned about through the Roadside America website. This thing definitely stands out when you are across the street from it.

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It’s a giant pencil that sticks right through the outside wall where Dawn’s Office Supply Company is located.

 

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I was only able to get a glimpse through the front windows because Dawn’s Office Supply Company is one of those old-school office supply stores that are opened only on Monday through Friday during regular business hours and I was there on a Saturday afternoon. (Dawn’s Office Supply Company does have an online store that people can shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.) I know that this may be hard for younger people to believe but there was a time (before the creation of big box office supply retailers like Staples and OfficeMax) when office supply stores kept hours that coincided with average corporate business hours and they were closed on evenings and weekends. I still have memories of the time when I was either in the 12th grade or my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College when I had to go to the nearby office supply store in Glen Burnie for some reason and I arrived at around 6 p.m. only to find that the store had already closed for the day. It’s such a throwback to find an office supply store that still keeps traditional business hours.

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Here’s a photo of this nice wood dresser that’s on sale at Dawn’s Office Supply Company.

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Directly across the street from Dawn’s Office Supply Company is this building that was once a car dealership and this concrete arch still has the Cadillac name inscribed in it.

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That former Cadillac dealership location is now a Safeway supermarket.

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The next two photos show some of the interesting architecture in the Charles Village area of Baltimore.

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Before I went trudging around Charles Village I parked my car near the giant Easter Island statue that I visited previously and wrote about in a previous blog post.  Like the Dawn Office Supply Company’s giant pencil, I also learned about this statue through Roadside America. I decided to take a couple of additional photos because I last visited that statue prior to a major rainstorm and the weather was a little bit nicer. (That day it was cloudy with a moderate amount of humidity but the temperature was still low enough that it made walking outside pretty bearable.)

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Even the giant wall mural that’s located near the statue appears more colorful and with more details in brighter weather.

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After my brief jaunt through Charles Village, I got back in my car and decided to drive to my original hometown of Glen Burnie. I took the local roads instead of the highway because I was in the mood for some pleasure scenic driving. At one point I had to go to the bathroom so I stopped at a Guitar Center so I could use the restrooms.  I browsed that store long enough to take a quick photo of this really interesting looking travel guitar that’s supposedly small enough to pack in a suitcase yet has the same sound tone as the bigger guitars.

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I basically drove to Crabtowne USA, which I had previously visited just a few weeks earlier.

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There were two main reasons why I wanted to take advantage of being in the Baltimore area by making a special trip to Crabtowne USA. One was that I wanted to try eating the food there to see what it was like. The other was to check out its massive collection of vintage pinball machines and video arcade games from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s—many of which can still be played for the low price of just one quarter.

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The first thing I did was order this crab cake sandwich with French fries and a diet soda. That meal tasted very good.

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I also noticed that there was a vintage 1970’s jukebox that still worked. (I saw customers select the songs.) Most of the music was 1970’s era songs.

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There was even a sign saying that this jukebox is currently for sale for $595.

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I took screenshots of the games that I actually played after dinner. First I played the video game Carnival, which is basically a glorified video shooting gallery.

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I was delighted to find this Root Beer Tapper variant, called simply Tapper, which has the Budweiser logo and plays the Budweiser ad jingle at various times throughout the game. The Budweiser themed Tapper was originally meant for bars while the all-ages friendly Root Beer Tapper was meant for shopping mall video arcades and other places where kids are more likely to hang out at. Except, for some strange reason, I remember when I was attending the University of Maryland at College Park and the nearby mall, Beltway Plaza, actually had the Budweiser-laden Tapper variant clustered with a few other video games (like Pac-Man) near the movie theater entrance instead of the Root Beer Tapper version. In fact, I didn’t learn that there was a Root Beer Tapper version until years later when I had gotten a Sony Playstation 2 and I had purchased one of those classic arcade game compilation titles called Midway Arcade Treasures and that had the Root Beer Tapper version along with video clips explaining how there were two versions of this game. These days if you want Tapper for your mobile device, your only option is Root Beer Tapper. This is why I was so pleasantly surprised to find the Tapper game with the Budweiser logo.

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Crabtowne USA also had a Baby Pac-Man video game. I vaguely remember maybe one or two places near the University of Maryland that had this game but it didn’t last long. After playing a few rounds I realized why. This game is a combination of a video game and a pinball machine and you have to play the video game part first before you can even play the pinball machine part. That game was also so hard to play that I never made it out of the video game part and I gave up on it out of frustration. According to the Wikipedia, Baby Pac-Man is the rarest of all the Pac-Man sequels that were ever released in the United States by Bally-Midway.

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I also played Arkanow, which is basically a clone of Breakout except that it improved on the original concept by the opportunity of making your paddle longer or being capable of shooting lasers (among the improvements). In a way, I’ve long preferred Arkanow to Breakout because of these improvements.

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I also played Popeye, a Nintendo arcade game that was once popular back in the day but it’s one that’s harder to find than, let’s say, Donkey Kong.

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Thanks to Crabetowne USA, I now know that Popeye wasn’t just a video game. There was also a Popeye pinball game as well. I found that machine to be pretty cool with the boat shaped wall near the flippers.

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I also played this pinball machine that’s based on The Simpsons and it had some pinball bumpers shaped like the nuclear power plant where Homer Simpson works.

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I also played Eight Ball Deluxe pinball because it brought back some college memories. It was one of the early talking pinball machines where a man’s voice would say stuff like “Stop talking and start chalking!” I have this one college memory of a woman whom I knew at the time who was incredibly thin-skinned and could be prone to anger (she told me several times that she was an abused child when she was younger). She played Eight Ball Deluxe and every time she lost she would get angry and kick the machine. Luckily I attended a large university with over 30,000 students so I had no trouble with distancing myself from her after that incident.

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I also played Mario Bros. for old time’s sake.

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I also played Gorf as well. That game was among the most memorable because it combined Space Invaders with a few other games and I also remember that robotic voice very well.

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I ended my time at Crabtowne USA by playing Mappy. Even though I have that game on my iPad and on the Playstation 2 video game compilation Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Collection, I found it pretty refreshing to be able to play it in its original arcade console form.

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There were other games that I would’ve loved to play (such as Donkey Kong) but they were among the ones that were currently out of order. That’s one thing about having an arcade consisting mostly of machines that are at least 20 years old or more: they tend to break down more often and, when they break down, it can take longer to find the necessary parts or the person who’s skilled in repairing such a machine.

I finished my time in Glen Burnie by checking out this new store that had opened in the shopping center that’s near the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s called Gabe’s and I had never heard of that store. I became curious because it moved into a space that was once occupied by Walmart (which moved into Glen Burnie after I permanently left by opening that store, then opening an even bigger store located in the same town about 10 miles away, while finally deciding to close the smaller of the two stores). I walked in and found that it’s one of those big discount places similar to Big Lots, T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, or Roses.

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I didn’t stay in Gabe’s very long. After that visit I just got in my car and returned home.

This year I attended three out of four days of the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. I went on the first day, which was Friday evening, because this year there were a few new things. For the past 59 years of its existence, the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival had contracted Rosedale Attractions to provide the rides and the Midway sections. All that changed earlier this year when Rosedale Attractions decided to switch to a different fair elsewhere that’s happening the same weekend for a reason that Rosedale described as “an economic one.” Reading between the lines in the story that I linked to in the last sentence, one could infer that the other event offered more money.

So the news was a big shock. But the good news is that the festival organizers managed to get another company called Sherwood Amusements to provide the rides and Midway so the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival was saved from some kind of doom or whatever.

The change in carnival providers gave me an opportunity to take some new pictures of the attractions from this new carnival provider. I last took photos of the original Rosedale Attractions rides and booths back in 2012 and you can view them here. Here are my photos of Sherwood Amusements’ rides and booths.

The biggest difference I noticed was the addition of these clown trashcans where you put your trash right in the clown’s mouth. These clown trashcans are either cute or scary—depending on your point of view.

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Here are a few of the prizes that one could win in any of the Midway Games booths.

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Here are a few of the rides.

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During my time at the festival I bought myself an ice cream cone while I enjoyed the nice weather. (The humidity was low and the temperature was in the 70’s.) I briefly perused the used book sale and played a couple rounds of Bingo. I ended my time by checking out the STEM technology center Makerspace 125 (formerly known as Club 125). A bunch of people were working diligently on this float that was scheduled to be in the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade a few days later. The theme of this float was called “Turtles in Space.”

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I basically returned home after a couple of hours.

I recently finished this crocheted amigurumi  dragon that helped me win the Third Place ribbon in the Needlework category at the Retro Town Fair that was held during the 2014 Greenbelt Labor Day Festival.

I had ordered the original pattern a few years earlier from FreshStitches.com but I didn’t get around to actually using it until this year. I started this project during some downtime at the 2014 Intervention Com and I even documented the beginnings of this project for posterity.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Here is the finished result.

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I used stick-on googly eyes that I purchased in one of the big box retailers.

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I crocheted the dragon in two different colored yarns. On top of it the colored yarns were multi-colored themselves. The dragon head, ears, neck, and body were done in a yarn known as camouflage because when the yarn is knitted or crocheted the color patterns resemble the ones on a camouflage military uniform.

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The dragon’s belly, horns, side head fringes, back scales, wings, and tail were done in a blue yarn known as ombré because it uses several different shades of blue and it reflects the current craze in ombré hair.

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The pattern I used can be found here. What I liked about this pattern is that you can literally choose what features you want your dragon to have then crochet it.

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I went sort of overboard on adding as many features to this dragon as possible. It all worked out in the end since I won that Third Place ribbon.

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