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This 1984 RadioShack catalog shows what was the latest in hot technology.

How the Republican Party became the party of racism.

Has Evangelical Christianity become sociopathic?

How bartenders are learning to stop sexual assault on the job.

GOP lawmakers surprised to learn no black soldiers served under Confederacy in South Carolina.

America’s forgotten towns: Can they be saved or should people just leave?

Artist makes fantastic digital paintings using Excel.

Any shame around poverty lies with the society that perpetuates it, not the poor.

Photographer reveals the addicted side of the streets of Philadelphia and it’s terrifying.

Six once-popular movie genres that Hollywood doesn’t make anymore.

For prisoners, “Christian rehab” is a codeword for slave labor.

Woody Allen does not get a pass.

Facebook payout turns Winklevoss twins into the first Bitcoin billionaires.

How Western civilization could collapse.

Camperforce is a documentary about the elderly nomads who keep Amazon’s warehouses working.

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I currently have a work of art on display at the latest artist exhibition that’s currently going on at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. Here’s is my piece.

Here is my piece as it is currently displayed inside of the church.

To learn more about how I created this piece, you can see the blog post I wrote on September 12, 2018.

After service last Sunday there was a reception for this exhibit where they basically served light food like baba ganoush with crackers along with fruit and vegetables. Here are a couple photos I took of the reception.

The art show is continuing through sometime next month. (I’m not sure of the date but I’ll definitely post it here when I get more information.) For more information about this exhibit, see the official website.

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I did a digital art piece that’s now hanging in my church as part of the Seven UU Principals art show. Here’s the art.

I did the piece entirely in Adobe Photoshop. It’s the image of the flaming chalice being surrounded by a circle, which is a symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith. I decided to try using words to create a picture instead of just doing a regular drawing. The flame is the only part where I did a regular digital drawing instead of using words (although I drew a red heart in the center of the flame).

As for the color scheme I used the traditional yellow and red for the flame. For everywhere else I used a rainbow color scheme to symbolize both the UU and Poor People’s Campaign acceptance of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity), class, age, physical health, mental health, and other categories that people in power like to categorize people in.

As for the words I used lyrics from two songs that are among the official songs of the Poor People’s Campaign. The circle uses lyrics from this song, “Everybody’s Got a Right to Live.”

The chalice itself has the words from “A New Unsettling Force.”

With this art I attempted to do a Unitarian Universalist variation on the Poor People’s Campaign and I think I succeeded.

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Years ago I took a series of non-credit classes through George Washington University’s Continuing Education program in my successful quest to get a certificate in desktop publishing. I did it mainly because I had hoped to land a better paying job than the data entry work I was doing at the time for a now-defunct computer reseller.

Ultimately my effort to get a certificate was for naught because when I finished I found that there were very few jobs in the desktop publishing field, despite all of the hype that I read in the media at the time saying that desktop publishing was a red-hot field. I ended up using my desktop publishing skills helping out with my church’s newsletter as a volunteer for a few years back in the 1990s. That was the best I could do with my desktop publishing certificate because I found that many would-be employers could have cared less that I got that certificate and I was offered the same clerical jobs that I had worked at before I went through that program.

Here’s another indication that getting a desktop publishing certificate was a wasted effort in the long-run: These days many word processing programs have desktop publishing features built-in so even a middle school student can quickly whip up a newsletter or flyer without even touching Adobe InDesign or a similar desktop publishing program.

From time to time I still use my outdated copy of Adobe InDesign to whip up a flyer or brochure on request from someone else. The most recent example was a calendar I had created for a few months for The New Deal Cafe, a non-profit cooperative cafe located in Greenbelt, Maryland. The idea was to have a calendar showing the upcoming musical acts and other events that were going to happen at the cafe soon. I did it as a volunteer in exchange for a free meal.

Here’s one of the calendars I produced for the New Deal Cafe.

Here is what the calendar looked like after it was printed and hung on the door of The New Deal Cafe.

That stint started last August and it lasted four months until January, when the head of the cafe’s Marketing Committee decided to take over production of the calendar herself. Since then I haven’t seen any new calendars hanging in any of the cafe’s outside windows. I’m only writing this post about my stint now because I wanted to show to people that I’m capable of doing desktop publishing layout work.

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Ramadan

For the third year in a row I went to Light City in Baltimore (which is also the festival’s third year). (You can read about my previous visits in 2016 and 2017.) The first year I went I basically just took the Charm City Circulator bus as far as the Shake Shack (which is located across from Harborplace) and I underestimated how big this festival was. The second year I had an animation that was showing at Light City so I took the Charm City Circulator until I got to a stop that was as close to the On Demand area (where my animation was being shown along with other film shorts) and I still have memories of sitting outside for two hours waiting for my animation to show up on screen as the temperature kept on getting colder and colder as time went on.

This year I decided not to submit anything to Light City so I could begin my tour anywhere. I also ended up going on the last night of Light City. I couldn’t get there earlier in the month due to scheduling conflicts so the final night was my first and last time that I visited Light City 2018.

I drove my car to Linthicum and stopped at a Royal Farms store so I could pick up a chicken dinner and a diet soda for only $7. (I know from previous years that many of the restaurants, fast food outlets, and food tents tend to draw very long lines during Light City. It was easier to just bring my own food to Light City.) I parked my car at the North Linthicum light rail station and took the train to the Camden Yards station.

I had the idea of taking the Charm City Circulator bus all the way over to the other side of the Inner Harbor near where Little Italy is located. When I arrived I found that this area has been heavily built up. There’s a new complex called Harbor East and I took some photos there along with some photos of Little Italy. I took so many photos that day that I decided to break up this year’s Light City entry into two. Yesterday I wrote about Little Italy and Harbor East. Today’s blog post is about Light City itself.

This year I shot video footage of some of the Light City exhibits. Here is the resulting video showing the highlights of that festival.

Here are the still photos I shot at Light City. When I arrived at the Inner Harbor the first thing I did was to eat the Royal Farms chicken while viewing the Harbor East marina at the beginning of a sunset.

Harbor East, April 28, 2018

I walked along the Inner Harbor where I saw the beginnings of Light City.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There were Fireflies Pedicabs that provided a service to give people a ride along the eastern end of the Inner Harbor. They were very colorful to look at.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

I arrived at the first Light City structure called Pulse Portal by Davis McCarty. Even though it was still light outside when I was there, I managed to have fun shooting the Inner Harbor at sunset through the colored glass of the structure.

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

When I was there a couple were preparing to get married by that structure.

2018 Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

2018 Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

2018 Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

2018 Light City, Baltimore, Maryland, April 21, 2018

Mr. Trash Wheel was docked along the Inner Harbor.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

The Herd by Kelley Bell consists of a flock of inflatable blue creatures floating in the Inner Harbor.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Octopus by Tim Scofield, Kyle Miller, and Steve Dalnekoff is a giant animatronic octopus whose tentacles were slowly moving while it was changing colors and playing very calming electronic music. I found it pretty mesmerizing to watch in person.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

This Coffee Bar tent was one of many tents that served refreshments to the general public at Light City.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

I came upon the On Demand area, which brought back memories for me. Last year I had my animation, The March of Liberty, shown in that area. I still have memories of sitting outside freezing in one of those adirondack chairs for over two hours waiting for my animation to be shown. I was so thrilled when it was finally shown that I shot this quick reaction video.

This year I didn’t submit anything to this festival. It was partially due to laziness and partially because I still have less-than-thrilling memories of sitting outside in the cold for a very long time. Even though I was ultimately happy when my animation was shown, it didn’t really lead to any further opportunities for me. (I had hoped that the showing of my animation at Light City would lead to some kind of a job or career breakthrough for me but it didn’t work out that way.) In contrast to last year, I didn’t spend much time in the On Demand area. I hung around just long enough to shoot these two pictures.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There were a few giant screens that were placed throughout the Inner Harbor that showed random video clips.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Something in the Water by Post Typography + PI.KL + Figure 53 featured some underwater lights that flashed just below the surface of the harbor.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

I came upon the Institute of Marine & Environmental Technology (IMET) where a few of the Labs @ Light City were held. I arrived on the last night of Light City so the building was closed when I was there, which is why I was only able to get a few external shots.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Here’s the installation As of a Now by Elissa Blount.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There was another underwater installation called What Lies Beneath by Formstone Castle.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

A drummer and a dance troupe performed outside of the Power Plant.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Many people walked through the bridge-like Synesthesia by Surcreative.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There was this line standing outside of the igloo-like The Eighth Art that was so long that I decided to skip it.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There were a few street performers playing for the Light City crowd.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Sun Stomp by the Sun Stomp Collective was this animation that required people to stomp on these nearby metal bleachers. The effect was pretty neat but it provided noise that was so loud that I had to leave quickly before I developed a headache.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

This year Light City had something called Mini Light City, which was geared towards families. This elephant balloon graced the entrance to Mini Light City.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There was a tent sponsored by Future Makers where parents and children could make simple projects that involved light. That area was very crowded.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

The Mini Light City area had another tent that was easier to get inside. It was sponsored by The PURGG Project and it included hands-on demonstrations using robots and drones.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

A WJZ-TV (Channel 13) van parks at Light City.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City in Baltimore drew such huge crowds that Harborplace was packed with people. This photo shows why I decided not to buy anything from It’s Sugar that night.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There were some psychedelic-like effects at the installation Colour Moves by Rombout Frieling Lab.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

There was a small carnival consisting of a ferris wheel ride (known as The Big Wheel) surrounded by concessions stands.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Many people have fun with rotating the giant prisms that made up the installation Prismatica by Raw Design, Atomic3, Jean-François Piché, and Dix au carré/Production: Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Here’s the bird-like installation On the Wings of Freedom by Aether and Hemera.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

The big HMO giant Kaiser Permanente sponsored something called a Thrive Garden, which, as far as I could tell, was a place where people sat down on benches.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Here is Elantica by Tom Dekyvere.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Some vector animations were shown on the outside of the Maryland Science Center.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Club Light City was an outdoor bar and dance area that was very crowded.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

And last, but not least, here is the installation Drone Prix.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

This year, for the first time ever, I managed to visit the entire Light City area in the Inner Harbor. The key to my success was that I took the light rail to Camden Yards then I walked to the nearest Charm Circulator bus stop where I took the Orange bus to the Little Italy stop then walked through Harbor East in order to get to the very far eastern end of the Inner Harbor then walked west back towards the Maryland Science Center. While I managed to see most of the Inner Harbor attractions, I didn’t see all of Light City. This year the festival expanded to a few outlying neighborhoods such as Fells Point and Federal Hill. I wasn’t able to attend any of these other Light City events due to tight finances and scheduling conflicts. Maybe next year I’ll make an effort to visit at least one of these neighborhoods hosting their own portion of Light City.

As I left the Inner Harbor to go back to the Camden Yards light rail stop I saw this sign announcing a special Lyft pick-up spot for those who went to Light City and decided to use Lyft’s services.

Light City, Baltimore, April 21, 2018

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Passover

The day after St. Patrick’s Day I helped a friend of mine with his booth at the annual Maker Faire NoVa that was held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I had attended previous STEM Maker events in Greenbelt, Silver Spring, and Washington, DC but it’s the first time I ever checked the Northern Virginia one. I have to admit that this event was the largest event of its kind that I had ever attended. To give you an idea as to how big it was, here’s a video I shot of this event.

And now it’s time for the still photos. I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this statue of George Mason (whom the university is named after) all dressed up for the occasion.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

These signs were further giveaways that I was at the right place.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

The reason why I was there was that I was helping a friend of mine with his table. His name is Phil Shapiro and he frequently hangs out on YouTube and Twitter. He wanted to demonstrate Inkscape, which is the free open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. He brought a couple of Linux laptops that he made available for people to use. At the last minute he decided to have one of those laptops run Tux Paint, which is a free open source graphics program that is made for kids under 7, which turned out to be a good move because a lot of visitors were kids. The kids seemed to really like Tux Paint so it was all good. In any case, here is what the sign looked like.

Maker Faire NoVa

Here are a few shots of the table that I took before Maker Faire NoVa opened to the general public.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Here’s Phil Shapiro at one of the laptops setting everything up before the show began.

Maker Faire NoVa

And here’s Phil showing off the two laptops with Inkscape and Tux Paint to the general public.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

One of the many kids tried his hand at drawing with Tux Paint.

Maker Faire NoVa

Near our table was one that was manned by Bob Coggeshall, who’s famous in the Unix world for inventing the Unix command sudo.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

There were all kinds of projects that were run off of Raspberry Pi, such as this vintage teletype.

Maker Faire NoVa

There were also all kinds of 3D printed projects that looked amazing.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

There was a refurbished gumball machine that dispensed 3D printed charms for only 50 cents.

Maker Faire NoVa

It was at that gumball machine where I made my one and only purchase from Maker Faire NoVa: A tiny 1-inch printed 3D printed Darth Vader who’s seated like a Buddha. I only paid 50 cents for this cool item.

Maker Faire NoVa, March 18, 2018

There were also some vintage bikes that the public can ride.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

It was at Maker Faire NoVa where I got my first-ever real life glimpse of a Bitcoin mining machine.

Maker Faire NoVa

It was also at Maker Faire NoVa where I got my first glimpse of American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year doll. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s into STEM and her big ambition is to be the first person to explore Mars.

Maker Faire NoVa

This boy was showing his work in progress on his latest project. He was in the process of building his own BB-8 robot from the Star Wars movies.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

There was just a variety of things I saw at Maker Faire NoVa that were simply astounding.

Maker Faire NoVa

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George Mason University’s Fairfax campus is pretty big. In fact, I think it may be as big as my own alma mater (University of Maryland at College Park). I briefly went through the campus Barnes & Noble store, which had copies of Michael Wolff’s controversial bestseller about Donald Trump’s first year in the White House called Fire & Fury.

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I really had a blast at Maker Faire NoVa. It helped that the weather was in the 50’s that day so I was able to wear a light jacket instead of my heavy winter coat for a change. I even saw my first robin of the year while I was walking around outside going from building to building while checking out the event. (The entire event was spread over four buildings.) Sadly that warm weather was a short-lived thing because the weather turned really cold and rainy the next day followed by a snowstorm.

The only downside about that event is that for about a couple of days before that event I started to have stuffed sinuses. By the time of that event my throat felt more scratchy as I talked more and more with the general public while I worked at Phil’s booth. My legs had grown stiff and sore by the end of the day due to the huge amount of walking and standing I did throughout the day. The following day I felt extremely tired and sick. I ended up spending most of the next week sleeping (with the exception of the couple of times I went out in the snow where I did some shoveling two days after Maker Faire NoVa). I even ended up skipping the big March for Our Lives on the following Saturday due to being sick. But the video, photos, and fond memories from Maker Faire NoVa made it all worthwhile.

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Not too long ago I had a job interview with this t-shirt printing place that was looking for people with desktop graphic skills. This place specializes in printing unique t-shirts to the specifications of the client’s preferences. While one could order only one unique t-shirt from this place, this business was set up to cater to people who need uniquely designed t-shirts and related clothing to be bulk-printed for groups and events such as family reunions, sports teams, conferences, etc.

I felt that I did okay with the job interview. Afterwards I was given a test where I had to design a t-shirt that would be used for a family reunion and it would incorporate the theme of the great outdoors and I could use hiking, biking, mountain climbing, kayaking, and other types of outdoor activities. I was allowed to download a graphic off of the Internet for the purposes of this test and I had to include certain words in my design. So I did this design using Adobe Photoshop.

I had to use the year 2009 in my design, which was just as well. I’ve heard too many horror stories of job candidates who were given similar tests where they had to design an article of clothing only to end up not getting the job but the company they had interviewed at used that job candidate’s design in a line of clothes that the company sold without the compensating that job candidate. At least with designing an outdated t-shirt I didn’t have to worry about this shop later using my design to make money without giving me any of the profits.

I was pretty happy with my design. In fact I took this quick shot with my camera before I let the person who interviewed me know that I was finished with the test. She seemed to be impressed with what I did.

The day I interviewed I was told that they had one more candidate to interview on the following business day and I would be notified if I got the job. I sent a thank you note the following day and the company responded with a nice email saying that it was great to meet me but that was about it. I never heard any further from that company.

UPDATE (October 26, 2018): Seven months later I got an email from the place where I took this test. At first I thought that the person the shop had hired instead of me didn’t work out and they wanted to give me another chance. But then I opened that email and, boy, is it a doozy! I’m starting to think that it’s just as well that I didn’t get hired by this shop. You can read about it right here.

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Santa Claus

Today is Christmas Day! Here’s some digital art I did for a Facebook friend of mine who’s really into dinosaurs.

I created this piece using a free online drawing application that Google currently has on its site called Santa’s Canvas. It’s part of a bunch of free apps known as Santa Tracker that Google has been slowly revealing at the rate of one app per day since December 1. (The reveal schedule is similar to the Advent calendar.) Some apps are simply fun Christmas-themed games. Other apps do things like teach people of all ages how to do simple coding or other types of computer work, such as a simple computer drawing in Santa’s Canvas. The final app was revealed online yesterday so you can now check it all out right here.

As for Santa’s Canvas, it lacks the sophisticated finesse of any Adobe Creative Suite program or even the open source alternatives like GIMP or Inkscape but it’s fairly easy to use. Even a young child can learn how to use this app pretty quickly. There are options to draw something from scratch but for non-artists who still want to create something, there are alternatives available where a non-artist can still create a work of beauty using pre-designed backgrounds and stamps of various images ranging from Santa Claus to robots. I did the above graphic using a winter background scene with two stamps resembling a gingerbread man running and a dinosaur dressed in a Santa outfit and I was able to finish it in less than 15 minutes. Once you finish your masterpiece, you have the options of sharing it online with others and downloading it to your own hard drive so you can admire your work for years to come.

I currently have my Christmas decorations up. The vast majority of them, including my small three-foot artificial Christmas tree, are located on a table in the living room of my home. Last year I did a 12-part series titled “A Tabletop Christmas” where I profiled what ornaments and decorations I had on display in my home. I still have the same decorations as last year when I did this series. In case you missed it, here are the links where you can see my pictures and read about the stories behind some of these ornaments and decorations.

A Tabletop Christmas, Part 1
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 2
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 3
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 4
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 5
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 6
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 7
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 8
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 9
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 10
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 11
A Tabletop Christmas, Part 12

Well, in any case, I hope you are all enjoying yourselves this holiday season. I’ll end this post with a link to this animated video featuring the voice of Patrick Stewart called Dear Satan, which explored what happened when a little girl’s letter to Santa Claus gets accidentally sent to Satan instead due to a simple spelling error.

This fall I’ve been volunteering as an English teacher to recent immigrants through a program that my church sponsors. These days I pack a lunch and soda as I head to Sunday service. Once service ends I socialize with people while the church serves coffee and tea. Once the social time ends and people leave church, I find an empty room in the church’s Religious Exploration building where I eat my packed lunch and read over the lesson plan. One Sunday, I happened to look out the window where I saw a black squirrel cavorting outside. I grabbed my camera and I managed to take this shot.

Technically this squirrel isn’t really a black squirrel. This critter is considered to be an Eastern grey squirrel but this one is considered to be a melanistic variation where the squirrel appears all black. It’s still considered to be an Eastern grey squirrel despite its black fur so, no, it’s not a rare black squirrel species. (LOL!)

While I liked the shot, I thought that it could use some improvement. So I put it through Adobe Photoshop where I increased the saturation and the contrast. I liked the result even better.

I tried putting the picture through a few Photoshop filters but I found that there is such a thing as overdoing it. Here is the same photo with the stained glass filter. It’s an okay effect but I think the second picture is the best because I had only played with the saturation and contrast. This third picture proves that sometimes less is more.

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