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This year I decided to check out the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights that was held at Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. As you can see from the photographs, it was a well-attended event. The weather was cold but it was pretty clear with no rain or snow. (My area has been getting tons of rain this year and it gets pretty tiresome after a while. Thanks for nothing, global warming!)

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here is what the official Festival of Lights tree looked like before it was lit for the first time. The box that held the tree had Santa Claus decorated on all sides.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

The local orchestra played a variety of winter holiday tunes.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Once Santa arrived the tree was lit up. Here is what it looked like with its lights on.

Festival of Lights Opening Ceremony, November 30, 2018

Here’s a short video I shot of the opening ceremony.

After the opening ceremony I walked over to the nearby Greenbelt Museum, which opened its door to the public for free as part of the opening ceremony festivities.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

I shot photos of that same museum during Labor Day weekend so I decided to focus on its special exhibit on how people celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah during the Great Depression. It included vintage decorations of the period. I found it very interesting.

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

Festival of Lights Opening Night, November 30, 2018

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Back in July I wrote this rant about the controversial DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive YouTube channels, which documented the adventures of Mike and Heather Martin and their children. They did all kinds of so-called “pranks” on their children, which definitely crossed the line into child abuse. As a result of the ensuing controversy, Mike and Heather lost custody of two of the children and they were put on probation. This couple continued to make videos that showed disturbing scenes regarding their remaining children and it resulted in YouTube taking the channels down and banning Mike and Heather Martin from its platform.

Mike and Heather have since migrated over to Twitch, where, based on a quick glance of the videos they have posted, they are more focused on playing video games than playing pranks on their kids.

Recently I came across this video by Turkey Tom where he went deeper into the controversial family and the fandom that has come up around them.

He posted his video on December 2 and, at first, I thought dredging up an old issue from a few months ago is like flogging a dead horse. But then I read the comments and based on what I’ve read, it looks like the original YouTube channels that got Mike and Heather Martin into so much trouble have been reinstated along with the complete original videos. I did a quick search where I saw that both DaddyOFive and FamilyOFive have been reinstated.

I thought YouTube had completely gotten rid of those two channels and banned the Martins from ever posting anything on its platform again. But now YouTube has reinstated those channels and the videos are now available for anyone to watch. What the fuck is wrong with you, YouTube?!? I thought being banned meant being banned for life. But YouTube takes down the offending channels and reinstates them months later even though the videos clearly show the kids being abused in the name of “entertainment.”

It’s bad enough that Mike and Heather Martin tried to profit off of abusing their kids in front of the camera but now it looks like YouTube is doing the same by reinstating those original channels that contain the disturbing footage.

This is yet another example of how YouTube totally fucks up in enforcing their own rules, especially when it comes to channels with a big following. Earlier this year there was the infamous Logan Paul Suicide Forest incident where YouTube essentially gave a slap on the wrist to Logan Paul for making that video showing the dead body of a man who committed suicide. At the time time YouTube decided to demonetize my own Sagittarius Dolly YouTube channel and thousands of other channels that had fewer followers than Logan Paul while citing Paul’s Suicide Forest video as the reason for that decision.

So many smaller YouTube channels were punished for what Logan Paul did in Japan, which really sucks. And now, YouTube has reinstated the DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive YouTube channels along with all of the original videos in an effort to make a profit off of child abuse.

I know that keeping inappropriate videos off of the platform is like playing Whack-A-Mole but reinstating those offending channels is a total slap in the face to the children who were depicted in those videos. It also sends a clear message that you can video yourself engaging in despicable behavior and, if you get banned from the platform, it will only for a few months—especially if your channel had earned a lot of views prior to the banning. Shame on YouTube for this latest bone-headed decision.

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I arrived at yet another Campfire Sessions, which is a monthly series of special performances that are held at The New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland. Basically the performers play a set lasting around 15-20 minutes then take questions from the audience about their work. I arrived a bit late because earlier I was taking part in a weekly crafting event known as Fiber Fans (where people can bring their knitting, crocheting, or sewing and socialize while working on their latest piece) that’s held at the Greenbelt Makerspace. The Campfire Sessions are hosted by Joey Campfire, who’s known as one-half of The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. This month he decided to do his emcee duties wearing an American flag long johns.

I arrived just in time for the last act of the evening. They are known as The Chromatics and they are an a cappella group consisting of people who are all employees at the nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. They sing songs about science and space. I found them to be a bit quirky. I shot a video of The Chromatics singing some of their songs.

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Here’s a short video of an electric can crusher that was made by a group of mechanical engineering students in India.

Why European fascism is destined to die a slow, painful death.

Why we need to include female villains in our history books.

Pussy Riot has accused Bella Thorne of ripping off their signature ski masks.

Haiti is poor because colonial powers like the United States made it that way.

The economic recovery threw the middle-class dream under a Benz.

Hasbro introduced Monopoly For Millennials and Millennials are mad.

Hate groups make unprecedented push to recruit on college campuses.

Cheating and manipulation: Confessions of a gaslight.

The lost American museum that had it all.

How to turn a red state purple (Democrats not required).

Why Baltimore doesn’t heat its schools.

Here’s a free pattern for a beautiful knit scarf.

What does it feel like growing up in a collapsing world?

Ahed Tamimi offers Israelis a lesson worthy of Gandhi.

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Click here to learn about the origins of this.

Benjamin Franklin

An old young man will be a young old man.

Last month I wrote a post about the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie (featuring Mickey Mouse) while posting pictures of the various related products that are currently for sale. After I posted it online, I saw more 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse-related stuff that arrived in the stores. I wrote another post about it while saying that I wasn’t going to write any more posts about the 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse unless I see something that’s incredibly unique and interesting.

After that post went online I saw something on sale at Giant that inspired me to buy it and write another post about it.

That’s right, it’s a special 90th anniversary package featuring Eggo waffles with Mickey’s face on them.

This package reminded me of the time when my then-husband and I went to one of our many trips to Walt Disney World (the last time was in 2011 before my marriage abruptly ended with my husband’s walkout). On that particular trip we stayed at a hotel located on Disney property. We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant where I ordered waffles. I was served this large waffle with Mickey’s face on them. I was surprised to see a waffle like that. I remember the waitress telling us that on the previous morning a three-year-old child received the same waffle and he cried because he couldn’t bear to cut into Mickey’s face.

I don’t know if I’ll ever go to Walt Disney World since I’m currently financially struggling and I’m currently trying to find steady work. Even if I do find work, I have debts to pay off so my desire to visit Walt Disney World is a very low priority in my life right now. I’m just going to have to make do with these Eggo waffles. At least the waffles are pretty cute.

Here’s is what they look like after I poured maple syrup on them.

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Not too long ago I was helping someone with her eBay sale. She had contacted me through the local time bank so I was getting time banking hours instead of cash. (But I can redeem it for any tasks that I need done at a later date.) Now that I’m finished with that task, I can write about it.

Basically the woman wanted to downsize her possessions while trying to raise funds to help her church fund this missionary who’s currently serving in another country. I took photos of her stuff, which ranged from fine china to a cervical collar that has never been used, and I did some online research on how much could she expect to sell her stuff for. The most interesting item she had was this antique book. It was titled Samantha at Saratoga. I had never heard of this book before.

What was really fascinating was the author, who was listed only as Josiah Allen’s Wife. That was really unusual. I know that there was a time when women didn’t have too many rights. I once took a semester-long pre-law class in college called “The Legal Status of Women” where I learned that in the early days of the United States, children were considered to be their father’s legal property. When a boy reached 18, he was considered to be an independent adult but a young woman was still considered to be her father’s property. Once she got married, she became her husband’s property. I was amazed at the idea that women were considered to be someone else’s property that this author would be known simply as someone’s wife than writing under her own name.

The first page inside of the book had the signature of the book’s previous owner, Dorothea M. Smith, along with the date January, 1918. I assumed that this was the date that she obtained this book (whether she bought it for herself or someone gave it to her as a present).

The copyright information was also interesting, even though the actual year looked smudged. (I guess the printing press had too much ink when it was printed.) I couldn’t tell whether the year was 1807 or 1867.

The book had some nice illustrations such as this one.

When I did a Google research on this book, I found out some really interesting information. According to the Wikipedia, Josiah Allen’s Wife was the pen name of a writer named Marietta Holley, who enjoyed a prolific writing career. She was not only a humorist and satirist but she was one of America’s first female humorists who was compared to Mark Twain. She used her writings to comment satirically on U.S. society and politics at the time. Her books were widely read both in the U.S. and Europe but, by the time of her death, she had become forgotten. Ironically, despite her pen name, Marietta Holley never married or had children.

Samantha at Saratoga was one of a series of books about the travels of Samantha and her husband. With the exception of Saratoga and Coney Island, Marietta Holley had never actually visited the places that she wrote that Samantha and her husband visited. Instead she relied on maps and guidebooks in order to accurately describe the places that Samantha and her spouse visited on their travels.

Even though Marietta Holley and her writings are relatively obscure today, there is a library in Watertown, New York who has a room named after her.

The most surprising thing is that I found out how much this woman’s copy of the book was really worth. Since it was an old book by a woman who was a bestselling author in her lifetime that has long since gone out of print, I thought it would be worth something. After doing searches on Amazon, Abe Books, and eBay, I found that copies generally went from $4.50-$20. That book is worth no more than any of the books that are currently on The New York Times Bestseller List, which is pretty surprising given how old that book is.

The Internet Archive has copies of Samantha at Saratoga and the other books in the Samantha series available for free downloads. I haven’t gotten around to downloading and reading any of them yet but I hope to find the time to do so someday. It would be interesting to see what that book is like.

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I thought I said everything that needed to be said when I wrote my original post on the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse. What I didn’t realize is that the photos I posted of various anniversary stuff (ranging from cookies to waffle irons) was just the beginning. I went back to Target last week and I saw that the store had more 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff that I hadn’t seen before, starting with this 90th anniversary remote control Mickey car.

Target had a special box of small Mickey Mouse plushes that depict him in the various stages of his long and distinguished career.

The box even had a cute handle shaped like Mickey Mouse heads.

There were small vinyl 90th anniversary Mickeys that I hadn’t seen before.

Plus there were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments.

There’s one surprise I found out about a Mickey item I had previously blogged about. I saw Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willie plushes at Target. What I didn’t realize is that this particular plush is also animatronic. If you press one of his hands, he’ll rock side to side and sing Steamboat Willie‘s opening theme song. I shot a short video showing this.

I wouldn’t be surprised if more 90th anniversary Mickey items will arrive in stores in the near future. In any case, I’m not going to write any more posts about the 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse unless I see something that’s incredibly unique and interesting. One could easily spend 40 hours a week trying to keep track of all of the 90th anniversary Mickey items that are out there and I just don’t have the time to do that at the moment.

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All those months of dealing with my ex-husband ending all further alimony payments, getting one job where I was promised that I would eventually get full-time hours only to not being able to even get 20 hours a week after working there for four months while the boss was job hunting himself, and only being able to get freelance piecemeal work began to take a personal toll on me. I really wanted to take a vacation for just a day or two but I couldn’t afford to do it so I was trapped. But then I got my current gig where I was helping a therapist prepare for a series of upcoming webinars that are slated to begin next month so I managed to get just enough money in that I could do something fun.

However the best I was able to afford was taking the Metro to Tyson’s Corner Center in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. It was better than nothing so I decided to go for it. It was raining heavily that day but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Besides, I was riding a Metrobus to the nearest Metro subway stop so I didn’t have to worry about driving on slippery roads. I rode the Silver Line Metro to the Mall. When I arrived at the plaza that has the entrances that are located the closest to the Metro station, I noticed that it looked pretty deserted due to the rain.

That’s in contrast to past visits where, depending on the time of the year, there is usually some kind of activities for people to participate in, whether it’s playing with a giant chess set or a giant ice skating rink.

I found out that this year is the 50th anniversary of Tyson’s Corner Center and there were signs touting this fact everywhere.

I walked past the Microsoft Store. I can count the number of times I’ve actually stepped inside of that store on one hand. I walked past the entrance but I didn’t go inside on this trip.

I’ll admit that I only went to this mall for a change in scenery. I didn’t do much shopping because money was still too tight for me at the moment. I basically shot photos of whatever appealed to me at the time.

At least I found out that Golden Girls socks are actually a thing this year.

Pez dispensers have always been a bit on the kitschy side but Pez has really outdid itself with pink flamingoes Pez dispensers.

I made a brief stop inside of the Apple Store, where I saw the latest computers with the large monitors.

I also got a look at the new iPhone XS, which has received a lot of press for its over $1,000 price tag. I have to admit that the iPhone XS has nice sharp graphics on its screen. If the phone allowed for people to do their own upgrades (such as adding more memory or replacing the hard drive) it would be one thing but, as far as I can tell, this smartphone is just like all of the others where you can’t even open your own phone and it will ultimately be disposable once it stops working completely. I’m going to stick with my Samsung Galaxy J3 phone for the time being.

I came across this kiosk that I haven’t seen on previous visits. It’s for a store called b8ta and it sells a mix of Google products and technology products that are created by smaller companies.

I made a brief stop inside of Build-A-Bear Workshop where I saw these cute Halloween plushies and a brontosaurus on display.

I eventually made my way to the American Girl Place. I haven’t been there since last December so there were plenty of new things to see. I saw that Felicity Merriman, the historical doll who’s supposed to represent the American Revolution era, has been taken out of retirement and is now available for sale once again. She’s on display with Addy Walker (who represents the American Civil War period) and Samantha Parkington (who represents the first few years of the 20th century that’s known as the Edwardian Era).

Here’s another historical doll, Nanea Mitchell (who represents Hawaii around the time of the Pearl Harbor bombing) with some new accessories available for sale.

Maryellen Larkin, who represents the 1950s, relaxes in her trailer, which is sold separately from the doll. The details of this trailer are pretty impeccable.

Kit Kittredge, who represents the Great Depression, sits behind her newly released vegetable stand.

Last year I saw Z Yang for the first time. Even though she’s a contemporary doll, this one caught my eye because she’s into photography and videography like I am. I learned that she is among the dolls who will be retired soon. I would say that I’m sorry to see her go but I’m still a bit cash-strapped at the moment so there was no way I could afford this doll and her accessories. There is also the issue of space because I really don’t have enough room to have a huge collection of large dolls.

This doll in the next photo was a bit of a surprise. Gabriela McBride was released last year as American Girl’s Girl of the Year Doll for 2017. Usually the Girl of the Year doll is on sale only from January 1-December 31 then she is retired. I was surprised to see that she was still around in 2018. I still remember last year the times I tried to take her picture but the first time I failed because the phone on my previous smartphone (Droid Ultra) began to act erratically and it wouldn’t take any photos while I was at the store yet it finally worked after I returned home. The second time I brought my older Canon DSLR with me but that effort failed because I had to be elsewhere and I shot photos at that other place before I arrived at the mall and I ran out of battery power by the time I arrived. My smartphone worked miraculously until I got to Gabriela McBride and my smartphone camera decided to stop working. The third time was finally the charm when I arrived last December with a Canon PowerShot camera that I purchased used off eBay and I took some photos of that doll and her accessories without a hitch. I thought that she would be retired at the end of 2017 just like her Girl of the Year predecessors but it wasn’t the case with her.

The country singing pair of Tenney Grant and her friend Logan Everett were also slated for retirement but I didn’t bother with taking their pictures. I had already shot them and their accessories on a previous visit and there wasn’t anything new with those two.

I managed to check out the 2018 Girl of the Year. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s a Latina, she’s into STEM, and her big dream is to work for NASA so she could go to Mars.

American Girl went all out with the space theme. In fact, one of my Facebook friends who works for NASA was posting approvingly about this doll earlier this year. (He’s the father of two daughters—both of whom are now young adults—and I’m sure he would’ve bought this doll for them if they were still kids.)

Seeing this doll in person I have to say that she’s gorgeous and her clothes are literally out of this world. (If there were ever human adult versions of her dresses, I would definitely want to buy them.) She has gorgeous black hair with a purple streak in it. If I weren’t so cash-strapped, I would definitely feel tempted to buy this doll.

Her accessories, which are sold separately, includes things like astronaut ice cream and a replica of an Apple Watch.

There are corresponding books, one of which comes with the doll and the other two are sold separately. A few days before I came to Tyson’s Corner I was at the library where I saw a young girl checking out a pile of books, including one of the Luciana books.

Among her separately sold play sets is one that resembles a STEM makerspace. There is even a cute robot dog.

If it weren’t for the fact that this STEM maker station cost $100, I would say that it would be a cool thing to purchase for the local makerspace in my area for the kids to play with.

I thought that this robot dog came with the maker station but I found out that this robodoggie is sold separately for $35.

There is also a space telescope so Luciana could look up at the stars.

Then there is this NASA space laboratory and a NASA space suit for Luciana to wear. I can understand why my Facebook friend was gushing about Luciana online. In fact, this capsule reminds me of my ex-husband, who works for NASA. If we were still together, I definitely would’ve urged him to go to the American Girl Place with me so he could see this in person. I also would’ve told him that we could stop off at Wasabi afterwards because I was trying to get him to consider the two of us eating there before he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas and three months after my hip surgery in 2011. (I had gone to Wasabi for the first time when I was still married in October, 2011 but I went by myself that time.)

The details of this capsule are pretty astounding. My ex-husband definitely would’ve gotten a kick out of it if he had seen it for himself in person.

Yes, it’s sad that visiting the American Girl Place so we could see this NASA space laboratory together is another thing I’ll never get to do with my ex-husband but that’s the way things go.

My ex-husband was never into dolls and normally I would never have been able to get him to even step one foot inside of that door. I think I may have gotten him to make a rare exception and actually visit a doll store because he definitely would’ve been impressed with the painstaking details of this NASA space laboratory.

Luciana is totally rocking this astronaut space suit.

For families who want to purchase Luciana and her accessories but who are cash-strapped, there are Mega Construx kit versions.

Like other Girl of the Year dolls, the American Girl Place has a designated space where people can have their selfies taken with a standee of Luciana Vegan and a space capsule.

The sign said to turn the handle and look inside but the door handle was broken when I was there.

The best I was able to do was to shoot through the door window.

American Girl sold separate Washington, DC souvenir t-shirts for dolls. They also had matching shirts for their human owners as well but I only shot the doll shirts.

I didn’t spend much time in the store beyond Luciana and the BeForever historical dolls. But I saw this car that looked cool. It reminded me of that Volkswagen that American Girl came out for the 1970s historical doll Julie Albright a few years back.

I also shot these two outfits that were released just in time for the upcoming winter holiday trio of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

After my visit to the American Girl Place I ate a sushi dinner at Wasabi, which is the place that delivers food on conveyor belts and you could pick which plates you want.

After dinner I walked around the mall a bit. I found a temporary Halloween store that was selling costumes. This year they have costumes based on that mega-popular video game Fortnite. (I’ve seen kids play that game and they can’t seem to get enough of it. I haven’t tried it myself as of this writing.)

I did get a chuckle out of this obvious parody of My Little Pony‘s Rainbow Dash, even though I know nothing about Fortnite‘s Rainbow Smash.

They also had two costumes based on the late artist and TV personality Bob Ross. A couple of friends or lovers could dress up together as Bob Ross and one of his paintings, which I find hilarious.

Just a few feet away from the Halloween store is a Christmas store. This is crazy. Halloween and Thanksgiving haven’t even happened yet and there is already a Christmas store.

Just a few days after I took this shot of these Grinch ornaments I learned that someone is coming out with yet another remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that will be shown on the big screen. I guess that’s why there was a display of these ornaments. I personally think that doing yet another remake is so unnecessary. I have the original 1960’s TV special on DVD so I can always play that one on my TV screen instead of paying over $10 to see the remake in a movie theater.

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I was going out and photographing various Christmas-related stuff starting in late November but I decided to wait until late in December before I started doing any kind of blogging about the winter holidays. On December 16, the day after my birthday, I would write one new winter holiday-related post every day until January 6 (Feast of the Epiphany) and I would even write and upload posts on Saturdays and Sundays.

Except things went a bit awry. I kept on doing winter holiday activities while I was doing my marathon blogging until I discovered that I had more posts than days available, which resulted in uploading two or three posts per day towards the end. I began to burn out on doing this but I kept at it.

Had I gone to the Artechouse Nutcracker event sooner I would’ve accomplished my marathon blogging on January 6. But I ended up not going until January 6 and I wasn’t able to write about it until earlier today. So there was a two-day break between my last winter holiday post and the Nutcracker post that would be the last of the marathon winter holiday posts.

Having done this, I’ve decided that I will never try this again. It was sheer insanity to do so much blogging like that and it also distracted from other things that I would like to be working on. If I was to do this again, I would not save posts until late December. If I come across something Christmas-related in November, I would try to write about it soon afterwards instead of waiting until after December 15 to write about it.

Well, anyway, I’ve learned my lesson.

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