I was in Laurel because I was attending a morning workshop on the gig economy and how one can tap into and even thrive financially. It was a very well-attended workshop and I got a lot out of it. After the workshop ended at noon I decided to just stay in Laurel and make a full day of it. It was a sunny and warm spring day and I just wanted to decompress from that workshop. So I went to the nearby Giant where I purchased a sandwich, diet soda, and a few other lunch items, and drove to Riverfront Park. I ate my lunch outside on a park bench as I savored the natural beauty that was all around me. I also took a few photos while I was there.

The next shot was of the bathroom in Riverfront Park. While I thought the wall mural was intriguing, I was a little bit too grossed out by the toilet to actually use it.

I walked around the historic Main Street district, where I took a few more photos.

The front windows of Rainbow Florist was decorated for the upcoming Easter holiday.

Here’s the bull statue that’s located outside the entrance to the Laurel Meat Market.

One of the storefronts has a mural depicting the history of Laurel.

I really like the look of the building that houses the Laurel Post Office.

Here’s a sign announcing a new business that will soon open on Main Street.

I love this vintage ornate mailbox.

A family of sparrows have built a nest in a ledge overlooking The Crystal Fox store. I haven’t seen any baby birds in that nest but I’m sure they will come soon.

The next two photos show The Crystal Fox store windows.

Outback Leather specializes in selling horse saddles and other horse-related items (which makes sense since the Laurel Racetrack is located just a mile or two away).

I took one last picture before I left for home.

I went up to Dr. Sketchy’s in Baltimore for the first time in a few months. The really good thing about the days being longer is that I’m able to do some walking around the neighborhood after I finish eating dinner at the local Popeye’s (which has its awesome $5 chicken meal bargain that it only offers on Mondays and Tuesdays). Here are a few pictures I took, starting with a few store window shots.

The window in the next photo has words and letters written in white right on the glass itself.

Late last year I noticed that a new mural was painted on the wall between Red Emma’s and The Wind-Up Space, which replaced this one. I wasn’t able to take a picture until recently mainly because the days have grown longer with the arrival of spring.

Here’s an alleyway located near The Wind-Up Space and The Centre (where the Impact Hub is located).

Back in January I took some pictures of The Centre, including the Impact Hub and other windows at night. This time I took photos of the same building while it was still daylight.

This window had a cool looking mosaic. If you look close enough, you can read the words “GO TO COLLEGE.”

One of the windows still had a poster promoting the Johns Hopkins Film Festival, which had recently passed. I liked the design of this poster (including the position of the cigarette. LOL!)

I eventually made my way to The Wind-Up Space. Here’s a shot of some interesting art that was displayed behind the bar.

The last time I was at The Wind-Up Space, that place had a Christmas tree that was filled with Krampus ornaments. The Christmas tree was still up when I was there (even though Easter was just a few days away) but the Krampus ornaments were removed. There was a lampshade treetop, which was pretty hilarious.

The next photo shows one of the promo flyers for that night’s Dr. Sketchy’s Anti=Art School.

The rest of this post consists of the drawings I did that night. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Cherie Nuit. Some of the drawings are definitely NSFW.

I participated in two contests that evening. The first was where we had to somehow incorporate brunch. I drew Cherie lying on a pile of ice cubes at the bottom of a giant glass of mimosa. That drawing didn’t make it among the finalists.

The other contest I participated in was one where we had to somehow incorporate Peeps (in honor of the fact that Easter was just a few days away). My drawing made it among the finalists but it didn’t win.

I did one more drawing of Cherie Nuit before I decided to head back home.

Happy Earth Day! Here are some links for you to enjoy! 🙂

Donald Trump’s modeling agency is on the verge of collapse, say industry insiders. It will be the latest in a line of failed ventures like the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Steaks, and Trump Vodka.

The original sculptor of the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street says that the Fearless Girl statue facing his statue distorts his work so much that he is considering filing a lawsuit.

Cannabis industry attracts more mainstream investors as business grows.

A mass-market shoe with 3D-printed midsoles is coming soon.

Eight-year-old boy learns to drive on YouTube then takes his little sister on a joyride to McDonald’s.

Microsoft Office vulnerabilities mean that no .doc is safe.

You’ll be working with robots sooner than you think.

Are you a photographer who needs a light box but you are currently short on cash? Here’s a video showing how you can make your own light box for less than $10.

Google’s new AutoDraw web-based drawing tool is a better artist than you.

It may be time to say farewell to the Pentax camera as Ricoh shrinks its camera business.

Chinese doctors use 3D printing to prepare for facial reconstruction surgery.

Microsoft to offer self-service refund for digital games.

How to stop Microsoft Office hackers from stealing your bank account.

12 ways to study a new programming language.

How Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet adhere to the Five-Hour Rule where they set aside at least one hour a day (or five hours a week) devoted to such practices as reading, reflection, and experimentation.

Exiles from the war-torn areas of Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan form a theater troupe in Germany.

Why Kickstarter decided to radically transform its business model.

How Steve Bannon’s multimedia machine drove a movement and paid him millions.

Microsoft will unveil the most powerful gaming console it has ever made on June 11.

Beware of “drive-by” computer scam.

Fake SEO plugin used in WordPress malware attacks.

Yes, some businesses still run Microsoft’s much-maligned Windows Vista.

Ohio inmates built and hid computers in prison using recycled electronic parts.

Dear Microsoft, stop blaming girls for not pursuing STEM careers.

Artist Hasan Elahi discusses racism in the digital art world.

Take a weirdly hypnotizing tour of America’s dying malls.

According to a recent survey, British women said that they prefer knitting to sex to help them relax from stress.

For photographers on a very tight budget, here’s a video showing how you can make your own DIY photography studio in your own home.

Disney files patents to bring humanoid robots to its theme parks.

Gizmodo reports on why people still use Microsoft Word.

Disney launching new animated Star Wars series on YouTube.

Black girls have been playing with white dolls for a long time.

Paper horror houses (including the Bates Motel) that you can download, print, and build for free.

Benjamin Franklin

Tongue double, brings Trouble.

I’m feeling schadenfreude over the firing of Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly. For the past few years I had been growing tired of going to the local Target store and seeing new books with his byline being released every few months that have titles like Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, Killing the Rising Sun, Killing Patton, and a whole bunch of other historical books with the name Killing in the title.

One of the reasons why I’m enjoying his downfall is that this piece of shit once threatened one of my friends with assault.

The friend in question works for an organization that’s concerned with issues regarding the separation of church and state. From time to time he has appeared on various cable news talk shows where he has discussed these issues. Bill O’Reilly’s show is among the shows that he has made more than one appearance. My friend has plenty of stories about Bill O’Reilly, including what went down the last time he appeared on that show.

Since my friend lives and works in the Washington, DC area, whenever he was invited to appear on any Fox News show as a guest, he usually went to the studio of the local Fox affiliate in downtown DC where he made his appearance via satellite. That notorious night he appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show was no different. He appeared via satellite and debated Bill O’Reilly about a certain hot issue at the time. When his segment ended and the show went to commercial break, Bill O’Reilly was still able to communicate with him via satellite, even though their exchange wasn’t being aired live at the moment. Bill O’Reilly told my friend if he ever sees him in person he was going to beat him up.

Since that incident wasn’t filmed, there is no evidence that Bill O’Reilly has threatened my friend with violence. But I have no problem with believing my friend’s account because Bill O’Reilly has a history of less-than-respectable behavior. His daughter has alleged that she saw her father choke her mother and drag her down a flight of stairs by her neck. Of course that marriage ended in divorce but that didn’t stop Bill O’Reilly from suing his ex-wife for $10 million last year on the grounds that she had fraudulently misled him into signing a separation agreement while having an extramarital affair.

And then there is this classic video that comes from his pre-Fox News days when Bill O’Reilly was an on-air presenter for the TV show Inside Edition.

It took a bunch of women accusing Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment to finally get Fox News to cancel his show once and for all.

I’m happy that he’s off the air. If he has any common sense, he should keep a low profile. (Of course that’s assuming Bill O’Reilly ever had any common sense to begin with.) Maybe he can take advantage of his free time by writing a new book: Killing My Fox News Career.

UPDATE (April 21, 2017): If you think Bill O’Reilly’s assault threat against my friend after appearing on his show was an aberration, think again. This link has a couple of paragraphs about how Bill O’Reilly issued a similar assault threat against one of his guests, the son of a 9/11 victim named Jeremy Glick. Why? Because Glick had opposed the Bush Administration’s invasion of Afghanistan. That’s right, Bill O’Reilly had simply disagreed with Glick’s opinion on a certain topic. On top of it, O’Reilly spent months demonizing Glick as a “traitor” on his program. (In contrast, my friend got off relatively easy with just a single assault threat.)

Which proves my point that American discourse will be better off in the long run if Bill O’Reilly simply takes that $25 million severance pay that Fox News gave him and retire in obscurity. I don’t ever want to hear about him again until his death.

It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).

Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.

Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

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Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

Sakura Matsuri 2017

April 8 was a pretty busy night. The local theater in Greenbelt, Maryland was among the numerous theaters nationwide who held a simultaneous screening of the film 1984. Before the movie began a group of local activists held a reading of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech “Beyond Vietnam” in honor of the 50th anniversary of that speech. (Ironically MLK gave that speech exactly one year before his assassination.)

Reading Martin Luther King's Letter

Reading Martin Luther King's Letter

Reading Martin Luther King's Letter

By the way, if you’re curious about the speech itself, you can read the text or you can hear Rev. King actually give that speech himself.

Passover

Today is Tax Day in the U.S. and I’m burning the stress candle at both ends between getting my taxes done on time, following up on some potential job leads, and doing some general spring cleaning of my home. The one fringe benefit of Tax Day is that it gives me an incentive to go through papers trying to find any documents I could use for filling out those damned tax return forms while I take that opportunity to throw old papers either in the trash or the recycling bin (depending on if the paper in question is recyclable or not).

In the course of sorting through old papers I came across a letter from last year notifying me of the death of my onetime divorce lawyer while saying that if there are any outstanding papers from him that I need I should go to the lawyer handling my late lawyer’s estate and get them immediately. (Luckily my divorce lawyer had given me all the documents I needed around the time of my divorce so I didn’t need to do that.)

Well, anyway, here’s a video break that’s appropriate for today. It was originally a Beatles song but the late George Harrison did a live performance of that tune during a 1992 concert in Japan that also included Eric Clapton on guitar.

Passover

A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.

I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.

If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.

Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.

I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.

webfriendlyversion

That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.

Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.

I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.

Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.

If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.

I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.

This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.

However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.

Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.

Easter

Passover

Last month I wrote a post after I learned that The Washington Post was no longer running its annual Peeps diorama contest. The editor of the alternative weekly Washington City Paper hinted on Twitter that her paper may pick up the mantle while providing an email address for inquiries. From there it snowballed into a new Peeps diorama contest. Today is Easter Sunday so The Washington City Paper announced the winners of its first Peeps diorama contest on its website. I have to admit that everyone involved did very well on such a short notice.

One fringe benefit of the City Paper reviving that contest is that my 2013 rant on A Warning for Those Who Intend to Enter This Year’s Peeps Diorama Contest has once again risen to the top five most-read posts in my blog. It’s too soon to tell whether The Washington City Paper will run this contest again next year although I have a hunch that it’s highly likely that there will be one in 2018. Even though a different publication is now running the Peeps diorama contest, it still wouldn’t hurt to read my original rant because some points I raised in it still applies to that contest.

In any case, here are the winners of The Washington City Paper‘s Peeps Diorama Contest. If you want to view the winners in person, you can travel to the Peeps store located at National Harbor (which had been running a separate unrelated Peeps diorama contest as a tie-in with its #ThisIsHowYouHarbor social media campaign but also decided to team up with The Washington City Paper as a partner for the resurrected Peeps diorama contest).

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