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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.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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.

How classic cartoons created a culturally literate generation.

People are furious at these new shirts from Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian are accused of stealing ideas from indie African American designers. 

See photographs of figures in Russian history rendered in colorized portraits, such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, and more.

This artist is brining out the beauty in stretch marks.

The rise in art protests: how the gallery became a new battleground.

What it means to be on the left.

Interactive Periodic Table of Elements shows how the elements actually get used in making everyday things.

Someone called this white girl’s Japanese tea party racist on social media but then this Japanese user stepped in.

Gorgeous color autochromes of American women from over 100 years ago.

Creative mom dresses up in amazing cosplay to represent older women characters.

Fender custom shop recycles Hollywood Bowl bench boards to make $12k guitars.

Rural America is stranded in the dial-up age.

Director Michel Gondry makes a charming film on his iPhone, proving that we could be making movies, not taking selfies.

This man spent 6 years crocheting a Super Mario Bros map blanket.

Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals.

Transgender soldiers of the American Civil War.

The 11 most unintentionally hilarious religious paintings.

Meet the unconventional family who lives in a 1940s time warp.

$330,000 in financial aid bought this person a slot in the American meritocracy. He writes about the flaws in that system.

Late last week I finished my latest animation, which is based on the song “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” by The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. Here is the video. I’ll write more about how I made it below.

I’m pretty friendly with a few local musicians. (None of them are major stars and all of them have day jobs since they don’t make enough money from being musicians to pay the bills.) A few months ago I did a short animation to Phil Shapiro’s song “Open Source is Yours and Mine.

Among my musician friends are a husband and wife duo known as The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. (I even went to their wedding that was held during the Crazy Quilt Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland a couple of years ago.) At one point I was communicating with Joe the Bachelor on Facebook (yes, he’s married now but he’s still known as The Bachelor because, well, old habits die hard [LOL!]) and I linked to the “Open Source is Yours and Mine” and I joked about offering to trash one of his songs the way I “trashed” the “Open Source” song. He really liked the video and was open to the idea of an animated music video to one of The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ songs.

Meanwhile I’ve been going to the weekly animation meetup at Makerspace 125 and there is talk about all of us collaborating together on one animation but nothing has happened yet along those lines (as of this writing). When I mentioned this to Joe the Bachelor, he offered to let those of us in that meetup to each take one of their songs and animate it.

I brought it up with the meetup group but it was met with indifference. I decided to do one of their songs on my own and show it to the other meetup attendees just to show that it’s possible. I picked “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” because the lyrics were straightforward and I figured that I could do a comedic animation that’s reminiscent of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

I used Moho Anime Studio Debut for the bulk of the animation. There were a few times when I had to use Adobe Photoshop for some scenes where using Anime Studio would’ve been frustrating. (Like most graphics programs, Anime Studio Debut uses layers. Unlike the other graphics programs, you literally cannot control the opacity in those layers. So I switched to Photoshop for those times when I needed to control the opacity of certain layers, exported the graphics as a .jpeg, then imported it into Anime Studio Debut. I’m going to stop here on the technical stuff since not everyone is interested in such details.)

This animation was my first foray into actual lip-synching. Anime Studio Debut recommended this free open source software called Papagayo, which churns out lip movements based on both audio recordings and what you type into the application. If you want to know more about this, I suggest getting it yourself, since it is free to download.

I originally planned on doing the entire thing in Anime Studio Debut while I would use iMovie only to put in the opening title and closing credits. There was a snag when I discovered that Anime Studio Debut can’t go any further than 3,000 frames and the song lasts longer than that. I was basically using the app’s default at 24 frames per second. If you do the math, you’d know that the maximum run time that the software can handle is 125 seconds or two minutes and five seconds. The song runs for two minutes and 31 seconds.

I found a workaround when I brought the song into Audacity and broke it up in two. Then I created two separate animation files, exported them separately, then brought them into iMovie where I managed to patch everything together into one file.

While I was working on this, I found out that Moby had been releasing animated music videos. The first one is a statement about people being addicted to their smartphones. The second one has become controversial because it makes an unflattering statement about President Donald Trump but that’s another story altogether. I was influenced by the end titles in both videos and they were my inspiration for how I created the end title in my own animation where I showed people where they can download or stream The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ music.

Speaking of President Trump, I added some imagery of my own about The Donald along with a quote from George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. See if you can spot them while you’re watching my video.

I have to admit that this was my most ambitious animation to date and there were times when I was on the verge of burnout. And that’s because I was also doing some major job hunting using tips from a book that I had recently gotten a hold of.

I finally decided that doing two big things at once wasn’t good for my health. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, I decided that I would finish the animation first then resume reading the job hunting book after the holiday. (If this book works for me and I end up getting a new day job to pay the bills, I will write another post praising this book and urging all my readers of this blog to buy it.) With another finished animation under my belt, I now have something recent I can show to any potential employer interested in my animation skills.

I’m also toying with starting a Patreon page where I would make short animations (meaning less than five minutes) for anyone willing to give me some money. Working on this animation has shown me what I can realistically do for a potential patron while setting a price that’s reasonable for the patron while not pricing myself so low that I end up making $1 or $2 per hour (which is impossible to live on anywhere in the United States of America).

By the way, if you like the song, “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog),”  you can purchase it or stream it through The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ Bandcamp page.

Ramadan

The Gig Economy won’t last because it’s being sued to death.

Fourteen artists proving that Black Americana is real.

How a British artist visualizes the microbiome through handmade embroidery.

Adorable robot friend Kuri can now find its way home to charge.

Hell on wheels: New York City’s subway system as seen in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Patches available at a jean jacket decorating party hosted by Harper’s Bazaar included ones that were made without permission from the original artists.

What an apple-picking robot means for the future of farm workers.

Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s space robot.

Independent retailers are struggling to survive in Washington, DC.

A look at a 2,000 year old computer called the Antikythera Mechanism.

Five obscure anime you should definitely check out.

San Francisco tries to ban delivery robots before they become a public safety hazard.

49 photography blogs worth following.

Man who struggled with Photoshop decided to spend 10 years mastering Microsoft Paint to illustrate his book.

FilmNation ventures into animation with sci-fi reimagining of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid.

This open source AI voice assistant is challenging Siri and Alexa for market superiority.

Why open source AI voice assistants pose little threat to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

10 photography tricks you can do at home without having to use expensive camera equipment.

Plush sports-doll maker Bleacher Creatures files for bankruptcy.

The Internet isn’t killing shopping malls—other malls are.

NBCUniversal is buying the DIY craft tutorial site Craftsy.

Phony WordPress domain steals cookies to fool web admins.

Infertile mice with 3D-printed ovaries successfully give birth.

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.

Passover

There’s no glory in overworking. It’s just imminent burnout.

Tesla is now worth more than Ford and Elon Musk is already rubbing it in to everyone who ever doubted him.

14 stunning embroidery Instagrams.

Magic moments marking 170 years of British photography.

A Singapore man who lives with more than 9,000 Barbie dolls.

YouTube will now block ads on channels with under 10,000 views.

This robot will literally make you a salad.

A beginner’s guide to microblogging on Mastodon, the open source alternative to Twitter.

An interesting story on how writing on Medium each week has changed one woman’s life.

A 27-year-old entrepreneur talks about how he launched a seven-figure snack business in 18 months.

3D knitting brings tech to your sweaters—for a price.

There’s more to tech stock photography than hokey gold bitcoins.

3D printing in-store is very close and retailers need to address it.

A comparison of six free web-based SVG editors.

Nine anime things that Astro Boy did first.

Chinese man “marries” sex robot he built for himself after he failed to find a girlfriend.

Seven integral WordPress plug-ins.

White toddler girl defends her choice of a black doll to a cashier at Target.

Animated vloggers like Kizuna Ai could be the future of YouTube.

Chobani founder, who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, stands by hiring refugees.

Brands see the future of fashion in customized 3D-knitted garments produced while you wait.

3D printing: Don’t believe all of the hype.

Five free graphic design tools.

Top 10 WordPress plugins for business sites in 2017.

Hollywood’s whitewashed version of anime never sells.

New robots just want to be your child’s best friend.

How to make a coin sorting machine from cardboard.

How Harvard Business School has advocated the propagation of immoral profit strategies.

Photos showing 100 years of people knitting.

Talking bendable Justin Trudeau doll for sale.

WordPress for Google Docs lets multiple users collaborate on content in real-time.

Six of the most innovative 3D printing companies.

GIMP is crowdfunding critical updates like high bit depth and layer effects.

This man makes amazing surreal animations from famous artwork.

Open Collective is a GoFundMe-like service for open source projects.

Philadelphia museum showing glass bongs as high art. The museum’s directors say that this exhibit is less about potheads and more about allowing an underground community of artists to showcase their work without fear of being stigmatized or prosecuted.

A look at one crafter who renders pop culture figures in embroidery.

Knitted knockers for breast cancer survivors.

A girl who lost her eye to cancer got the best lookalike doll.

Adobe is currently developing AI that turns selfies into self-portraits.

60 free and easy Easter crafts to make for this holiday weekend.

Improvisation is the heart of Cuban animation.

Researchers are working on robots that can monitor and care for the elderly, such as the animal-like MiRo.

As the ballerina moves, this robot paints the dance.

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