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Remembering a time when going to a Pizza Hut was an experience.

Race, power, and money: The art of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

New AI can guess whether you’re gay or straight from a photograph.

A first-hand account about how the lives of tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley aren’t as glamorous as they are made out to be.

Harvey and Irma, married for 75 years, marvel at the two back-to-back hurricanes bearing their names.

The best U.S. cities to spend a weekend in without going broke.

Three centuries ago, that garden gnome in your yard would’ve been an actual human being.

A look at people who are planting flowers in potholes worldwide as a form of a creative protest.

Dirt to Shirt movement hopes to regrow local textile industry.

This panda bear-shaped solar farm sets a new bar for cute creativity.

The future of photography: Thoughts on the impact of free photos.

Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLa Roe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis.

A free tutorial on how to cast your own body double dress form.

Six ways America is like a Third World country.

Automation is a real threat. How can we slow down the march of the cyborgs?

Donald Trump’s Twitter following might include more than 4 million bots.

10+ reasons not to trust photos you see on social media.

Former CIA director says that one way of securing U.S. elections is through open source voting machines.

Here are the craziest parts from the worst Craigslist job ad ever.

Thousands of digitized vintage 78 RPM records are now available for free streaming online.

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The Hillary Clinton obsession needs to end.

See images of unusual architecture (such as a restaurant in a building shaped like an airplane) through the Library of Congress’ John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive.

See Michelangelo’s handwritten 16th century grocery list, which includes some very detailed illustrations in the margins.

Germany confronts the forgotten story of its other genocide in Namibia.

Hōshi: a short film on the 1300-year-old hotel run by the same Japanese family for 46 generations.

When J.M. Coetzee secretly programmed computers to write poetry in the 1960s.

“Blasphemous” Brazilian artist under fire for turning religious figures into pop culture icons.

The obsessive art and great confession of Charlotte Salomon.

A feminist artist uses glitter, stickers, and other accessories as media for creating art that explores a typical girl’s adolescence.

Colorfully decorative storefronts reveal the story of Paris.

What’s the matter with Democrats? Thomas Frank explains.

Read tons and tons of amazing Golden/Silver age comic books for free.

This is Sinclair, ’the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of.’

There are now LEGO kits focusing on recreating obsolete technology.

View tiny nightmarish illustrations drawn on sticky notes.

How the so-called “revolutions” around the world are manufactured by trained and privately funded political organizations to force regime change by overthrowing governments.

Bus seats mistaken for burqas by members of anti-immigrant group.

16 invasive species sold at garden centers you should never buy.

Queen’s Brian May and his homemade guitar.

Automakers got big tax breaks to build in the U.S. but used European labor to do the work.

I was attending a vigil for the victims in Charlottesville at Art Works Now in Hyattsville when I decided to take a few photographs of the area as I was walking back to my car after that event ended. Here’s a shot of both the Art Works Now building and its next-door neighbor, Pizzeria Paradiso, at twilight.

Here’s another shot of Pizzeria Paradiso taken from another angle.

Art Works Now has this giant Art Box that’s located in the back of the building.

Located next to Art Works Now is this used car dealership that has some art on the perimeter of its parking lot. This one is a statue of a bird dressed like a Prince George’s County police officer.

Last, but not least, I came upon these gardens that belong to Fields 4 Valor, a non-profit group dedicated to feeding hungry veterans.

There was one benefit to having so much rain hit the Washington, DC area in May (which shattered all previous records). I got my first strawberry of the season.

First Strawberry of the Season

I attended this year’s Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire in Greenbelt, Maryland but I didn’t participate as a vendor this time around. It’s due mainly to the fact that I got preoccupied by a variety of personal things that I missed the deadline to participate this year. That’s okay mainly because I never really made much money at the previous Greenbelt Mini Maker Faires so it was no big deal for me to skip a year. This year it rained in the morning but luckily it stopped by about noon so it didn’t affect the festivities very much. I basically enjoyed myself as I walked around taking these photos.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire put on by @makerspace125

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire put on by @makerspace125

The historic Greenbelt Theatre looked pretty majestic against a bright blue sunny sky as it overlooked Roosevelt Center (where the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire was held).

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire courtesy of @makerspace125

The kids enjoyed themselves with building things with Lego bricks outside of Makerspace 125.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

There was some serious yarn bombing going on around Roosevelt Center.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

All of the outdoor tables were topped with these pretty artificial flowers that looked very festive.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

There was all kinds of maker activity that went on inside of Makerspace 125, which was the main organizer of the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

A little memorial was erected to the late Greenbelt resident Eva Gresser, who was an avid knitter, which featured some of her knitting samples.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

There was one 3D printer vendor that was present who demonstrated his product inside Makerspace 125.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

There were plenty of outside tables in Roosevelt Center itself. Some were vendor tables selling handcrafted items while others were demonstrating various different types of making including arts, crafts, and gardening. Various live bands provided the music throughout the day.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

There was a robotics demonstration that involves simulating the movement of a finger on a hand.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

I even shot a short video so you can see how it moved. On the surface it may not seem like much but there were a lot of hours of programming that went into making that one finger move.

The last photo shows one of the many attendees at this year’s Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire.

At the Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire, April 23, 2016

The Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire was one of two events that I attended that day. I’ll write about the other event I attended in a separate post.

Last year I wrote in this blog about how I purchased three unpainted birdhouses from various arts and crafts stores and painted them. This entry is sort of a sequel to that blog post.

Soon after I had put up my birdhouses I found an unpainted bird feeder in one of the same arts and crafts stores where I had gotten one of the unpainted birdhouses. I purchased that one immediately. In time I found two other bird feeders in different styles. So I had a new bird-related project for me to paint.

Except I got diverted by other things and I didn’t begin the first of the bird feeders until early November. The one thing I learned is that painting bird feeders is way more involved than painting birdhouses. That’s because, with birdhouses, I only had to worry about painting the outside and the roofs didn’t move on two of them. (The third one did have a moveable roof but that one is a thatched roof made from a wicker grass material that wasn’t supposed to be painted so it was no big deal.) I initially painted this gazebo bird feeder.

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For inspiration on which color acrylic paints to use, I did a Google Image search. I ultimately decided to paint it in Titanium White and Parchment. Painting that one was a bigger challenge than I expected because I had to deal with a roof that was already attached to the rest of the structure with a rope. I had to constantly take the roof off the top and have it hanging down one of the sides (while making sure that the paint on that side was already dried) and take great care not to have the roof disturb what I had already painted. I thought about just untying that thick rope and remove the roof but I was afraid of not being able to attach it again so I decided to just deal with it and paint around that roof even if it did get in the way at times.

If all that wasn’t enough, the side windows were covered with this clear plexiglass material and I had to be careful not to get paint on it because it would’ve shown and the whole thing would’ve screamed “POOR SLOPPY PAINT JOB!” Had the bird feeder not come already pre-assembled, I would’ve worked much faster because I would’ve individually painted each piece, apply coats of varnish on each piece, then assembled the whole thing once everything dried. Painting this was a lot more work than I anticipated but it was worth it because I liked the results.

By the time I finished with the gazebo it was close to Christmas. I decided to take a break from painting bird feeders and I initially planned painting the other two sometime during that one week period between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

But then I didn’t do it. I basically procrastinated mainly because I had burned out on painting the first one. It wasn’t until the weather forecasters began warning about the upcoming Blizzard of 2016 in late January that I realized that I hadn’t finished the other two bird feeders. And I couldn’t put out the finished gazebo bird feeder because, in the rush to prepare myself for the storm, I had forgotten to buy bird seed. (I finally remembered the bird seed when the snow began to fell and I wasn’t about to risk an accident to buy bird seed.) Ultimately I whiled away my time being snowed in alone by painting the second of the two bird feeders, which is shaped like a barn.

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I stuck with the basic red and black color pattern that is used in many real-life barns. The barn was a bit easier to paint than the gazebo except there were so many intricate parts that I had to paint and make sure that I didn’t inadvertently paint red in areas where I intended to paint black. I ended up using artist tape to help delineate the red and black areas, which helped me work much faster than if I didn’t use the tape at all. When I was close to being finished, I had an idea to paint something extra.

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I originally thought about painting miniature Pennsylvania Dutch hexes that one tends to find hanging on barns in rural areas on the East Coast. But then I looked at some of the designs and I realized that many of them were way too intricate to do an accurate reproduction in miniature. (I would’ve have to buy very tiny brushes and spend at least two weeks painting each hex.) Instead I decided to paint horseshoes, which is another common barn decoration that’s frequently hung for good luck. At least painting miniature horseshoes was pretty quick and easy.

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The one thing I learned about hanging horseshoes is that in some parts of Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, horseshoes are hung with the opening facing downward with the theory that the luck will rain on anyone who pass under it when entering or exiting a door. In the British Isles, the horseshoes are hung with the opening facing upwards because if they are hung the other way then the luck will run out. That is a pretty interesting fact. I ultimately opted for painting the horseshoes with the opening facing up because most hanging horseshoes I’ve seen were hung that way. Besides many of my ancestors have come from all four nations in the British Isles (England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales) so I decided to honor my heritage by painting the horseshoes the way I did.

This last bird feeder was a challenge in its own way. I purchased it because of the really awesome laser woodcutting design.

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Since the design was one piece it was a bit of a challenge finding when to stop painting one area one color and to start painting that same area a different color. Granted I could’ve simply painted both sides of the laser design in one color but the results would’ve looked relatively dull compared to what I did. What I did was to use artist tape to decide on the borders for each color then painted that area that one color. I did just one color at a time. I also decided on a mostly cool color palette where I stuck to doing the butterfly in three different shades of blue with the vines and the rest of the bird feeder being done in three different shades of green. I broke up the cool palette by painting the flowers, buds, and stamens using warm colors like pink and yellow. I really like the results, which reminds me of some of Peter Max’s art.

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I finally managed to finish the last of the bird feeders in mid-February but I didn’t finally hang them outside until last week mainly because I kept on forgetting to buy bird seed. At one point I thought about just waiting until the fall to hang them, especially when the weather started to reach the 50’s (such as on the day I visited the University of Maryland at College Park campus not too long ago). But then a cold front came in where the temperatures plummeted back to the low 30’s so I decided to try filling them with bird seed and hanging them outside on the last weekend in February. Here is what the feeders looked like once they were filled with bird seed.

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Things were fine until the next morning when I noticed that the gazebo was in this position.

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I have a feeling that a squirrel probably did that. In any case the gazebo was completely empty of bird seed and I’ve since put it into storage. (I replaced it with one of my birdhouses.) Since the weather has been alternating between being cold and being warm (which is usual for early spring in my area this time of the year), I’ve decided that I will leave the other two bird feeders hanging on the shepherd’s crooks until they are either all completely empty of bird seed or until March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)—whichever comes first. Then I will put them into storage and replace them with my other two birdhouses for the spring and summer.

Last year I waited until Memorial Day weekend to hang up my birdhouses but no birds used them. I think it’s because I hung them pretty late in the spring when most of the birds had already done the hard part of finding a mate, finding a suitable place to build a nest, building the nest itself, laying the eggs, and keeping the eggs warm until the baby birds hatch. This year I’m going to hang them outside earlier. Maybe I’ll get a bird family to move in. Or maybe not. In either case they’ll look pretty decorative outside.

Dancing Skeleton

Since Halloween originally started as a Celtic harvest festival where people celebrated what they’ve harvested from the fields, I feel that it’s the perfect time for me to write about my attempts at gardening this year.

For the past few years I’ve been slowly trying to turn the portion of my front yard that slopes into an uphill into a garden mainly because I’m tired of trying to push the lawnmower up the hill. I’ve planted a few lavender plants plus strawberries. It’s a slow process because of tight finances so I can only afford to buy a few plants at a time. It’s also a struggle because the grass wants to grow back and I’m trying to pull them out because I want the lawn in that part of the yard to be gone.

I had some success when I started getting strawberries. The fruit is a bit on the small side compared to what one usually finds at the supermarket but I find the small strawberries to have a more intense flavor than their larger cousins. The next photo shows the first strawberry that was ripe enough for me to pick and eat.

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But then something amazing happened. Here’s some background. Last year I attempted to grow a few tomatoes along with cucumbers in the front yard. That summer was relatively less humid than this year, which was great from a personal point of view but it wasn’t so great for my vegetable plants. The cucumber plant yielded this yellow cucumber that never ripened. The tomato plants were a little bit better in that I got a few tomatoes late in the season but the yield was a letdown. That was why I decided to just turn that entire hill section into a strawberry patch bordered with lavender plants. (Strawberry plants tend to be low-growing compared to regular grass. The lavender was planted in the hopes that its flowers would attract a few bees who would then fly over to the nearby strawberry plants and pollinate whatever flowers were in bloom.)

But this summer I saw something unexpected. I saw this plant grow up that had the familiar looking leaves of a tomato plant along with the tiny yellow flowers with the spike-like petals. I was confounded because I did not plant any tomatoes this year. The only thing I can figure is that I somehow didn’t catch a tomato from last year because it dropped to the ground where I couldn’t see it. The fruit eventually rotted but the seeds from that fruit were dormant throughout the entire fall and winter and they sprouted this summer. At least that’s my theory. It’s either that or some incredibly nice and generous neighbor decided to sneak on to my front lawn and secretly planted a few tomato plants while I wasn’t looking. (The latter scenario isn’t very likely because I would’ve noticed had someone dug a hole and planted something in the front yard.)

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I decided to leave the plant alone as I moved and weeded the entire front lawn. I wanted to see what would happened. I was rewarded soon enough as some insect (probably a bee) pollinated those tiny flowers and I was rewarded with tomatoes that were ripening on the vine.

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These tomatoes were cherry tomatoes but they tasted really good. They had a light yet sweet taste. They tasted far superior to the cherry tomatoes that are typically sold in the supermarkets.

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I got a pretty small yield of tomatoes. (The next photo shows just two of the tomatoes that I managed to pick.) They weren’t enough to do anything like extensive canning but they were enough for a nice tasty snack either before or during a meal.

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But that wasn’t all. I initially got a fairly modest amount of strawberries. Like the tomatoes, they were enough for a small snack but not enough to do anything major with them (like bake a pie). The plants stopped producing strawberries by early July. But then, around the same time as the tomatoes started to produce fruit, some of the strawberry plants started to produce a few more berries. These berries were even smaller than the earlier berries but they were still edible.

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That’s it for my attempts at gardening this year. Who knows what the future might bring? Maybe next year I’ll have enough extra money to buy more plants and totally turn the hill into a strawberry and lavender patch. I hope so.

I’m in the process of turning over a portion of my front lawn that slopes up a hill into a strawberry patch. I’m doing this for the following reasons: 1) I’m so tired of pushing the lawn mower up that hill (which is a bit on the steep side), 2) I want a plant that grows low to the ground compared to grass and weeds so I won’t have to worry about mowing it, and 3) I love strawberries and it would be cool to have a strawberry crop. I could not only make all kinds of wonderful dishes with it (like strawberry shortcake) but I could use it as a barter tool where I could get a friend or neighbor help me with some short task in the future in exchange for a bag of strawberries. What’s more, I can even freeze strawberries for use in the winter. The only major hassle would be dealing with the birds, squirrels, and other animals who’d want to steal it but, otherwise, it’s a win all around for me.

A few weeks ago I got my first strawberry, which I documented for posterity.

myfirststrawberry

I’ve picked and eaten more strawberries since then. The strawberries are small but they pack way more intense flavor than the big strawberries that are frequently sold in the supermarkets. Which leads to my frequent complaint: Bigger is NOT always better. There are times when smaller is preferable. When it comes to strawberries, smaller is better because the flavor is more intense. I’ve eaten too many large strawberries at various parties and they always tend to taste bland. I’ve even eaten really big strawberries that literally had next to no flavor.

The supermarkets, restaurants, and catering places can keep their huge strawberries. I’ll just stick with my own tiny berries with the intense flavor.

Free Tutorials

For gardening enthusiasts who also like to shop at Ikea: 19 Incredibly Clever Ways To Use Ikea Products As Your Garden.

17 Hobbies You Can Pick Up For Free Online

Browse other free tutorials previously mentioned in this blog (along with pictures) right here.

Miscellaneous Links

36 Career Tips No One Will Actually Tell You shows, among other things, why it’s good to be always polite to the receptionist at the office.

How to Be Happy is a simple 10-point guide on how to find happiness anywhere you go.

How to Worry Less is another simple guide on why sometimes you just need to let go of your obsessions and let nature take its course.

The American middle class isn’t coming back—it’s going to die with the Baby Boomers sounds depressing but, unfortunately, it will be accurate unless radical policy changes are implemented. It’s also one of the few articles that actually admit that there are subtle differences between those who were born in the latter part of the Silent Generation and the early part of the Baby Boom (1940-1955) and those who were born at the tail end of the Baby Boom (1956-1965) and later in terms of overall prosperity rates.

The Decline of Analog Photography Seen Through Pictures brought back memories for me because when I took my first college-level photography class (Photojournalism I at the University of Maryland at College Park), I had to learn how to use a darkroom to develop film and print photographs. Half of those skills I learned in that class are now obsolete thanks to digital photography. Just seeing pictures of abandoned darkrooms and traditional photography studios seemed so poignant.

30 Vintage Photos of Little Girls Posing With Their Dolls are incredibly cute even if they were taken many years ago. Most of the dolls in the photos are very pretty and they are the antithesis of this next link.

Weird Vintage Toys That Scream “What Were You Thinking!?”

http://www.nablopomo.com

Recently I finally got around to finishing painting and varnishing these birdhouses that had been sitting around my house in their unpainted state for a long time. One of them I purchased at Wegman’s around the time that it was getting close to the second anniversary of the day that my husband abruptly walked out on me (which came three months after my hip surgery and three days after Christmas). The other two I purchased on impulse from a local Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Crafts the following year because I had this theory that having three unpainted birdhouses would kick my butt into gear and paint them. Except that I didn’t get around to doing it either.

So this year I decided to do it. It’s part of this ambitious gardening plan that I have for my home now that I have it to myself and I can make all the decisions without consulting anyone else. If my plans work, I’ll write one long self-congratulatory post. (LOL!)

In the meantime, I’m just going to focus on the birdhouses. Like I wrote earlier, I purchased all three of them in their unpainted state. All I had to do is to paint them and varnish them. I used acrylic paint then I sealed the paint job with polyurethane varnish. I also used stencils on two of the houses.

Here’s the first birdhouse I purchased at Wegman’s. Unlike the other two, this one has a thatched roof.

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Here’s one of the birdhouses that I purchased from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Crafts.

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Here’s the other birdhouse that I purchased from Jo-Ann’s.

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Basically I finished painting and varnishing them just in time for the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend. As part of my overall gardening overhaul, I rearranged the shepherd’s crooks (which I originally purchased as part of a failed experiment in topsy turvy gardening a few years ago) and I hung the birdhouses. I’m only hoping that I didn’t hang them too late in the spring because it would be cool if some birds actually used at least one of them to build a nest and start a family. As of this writing, the birdhouses remain empty. At least they still look bright, colorful, and decorative.

http://www.nablopomo.com

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