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I recently went to a Royal Farms Store in Glen Burnie where I had take-out fried chicken with wedge fries. It was really excellent There’s a reason why Food & Wine Magazine had named it “…best fast-food chicken…” (Okay, I don’t read that magazine but the store had the sign with that quote.)

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I also saw some Bic lighters in that store featuring Run-DMC, Eminem, and Outkast.

Royal Farms Store, Glen Burnie, Maryland

I saw a couple of dinosaur-related stuff at Target. One was a jigsaw puzzle.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

The other was a virtual reality set that’s a tie-in with the upcoming Jurassic World movie.

Dinosaur Stuff at Target

Click here to learn more.

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Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt, Maryland is basically a typical suburban shopping mall. It is anchored by a Target at one end and a Giant at the other end. It is a thriving indoor mall despite the fact that other malls similar to Beltway Plaza has succumbed to the phenomenon known as dead malls or the retail apocalypse in recent years. Beltway Plaza has such staying power that The Washington Post did an article about it last year.

The mall has a Southwestern-style motif on the outside that has gotten pretty grimy over the years. But a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be at the mall right at the point where it was briefly transformed into a total visual marvel. Outside there were some dramatic looking clouds that had come in that looked threatening but it didn’t rain at all. At sunset both the sun and the clouds combined to create this awesome effect.

This visual effect started to reflect off of the exterior of Beltway Plaza, which added a very warm glow to the mall that contrasted with the dark clouds in the background.

Here’s another shot of the clouds that reflected the glow of the sunset as it contrasted with the mall in the foreground.

One Saturday I decided to attend a networking event that was held in the Roland Park section of Baltimore. Roland Park is one area of Baltimore I had never set foot in before but I had long heard about it. My mother once worked as the office manager of a now-defunct life insurance company and she had a coworker who was a divorced secretary and a single parent of a girl who was born the same year that I was.

The coworker eventually got remarried to a doctor with a thriving practice and they settled in a row house that was located on the edge of Roland Park. By most standards they would be considered upper middle class. But by Roland Park standards, they were “working class” or “poor.” The coworker’s daughter attended the exclusive Roland Park Country School (which is among the ritziest private schools in that area) but I remember hearing about how the coworker told my mother that her daughter used to envy her classmates who vacationed in Europe each summer while she had to settle with spending a week in Ocean City with her family because they weren’t as wealthy as the other Roland Park Country School parents.

My mother used to tell me stories about that coworker when I was growing up so I heard a lot about Roland Park. I only recall meeting that coworker’s daughter a couple of times, mainly at company picnics where the employees could bring their families. I think we may have said “Hi” then walked away from each other. That was the extent of our interaction together. She was growing up in Roland Park attending an exclusive private school while I was growing up outside of the city in Glen Burnie (which is way more downscale than Roland Park) attending less-exclusive public schools so we really had nothing in common beyond the fact that we were white girls who were born in the same year and our mothers worked for the same life insurance company.

I went for many years without even thinking about Roland Park until I found out about this networking event. I’m still looking for a new day job and I finally had a reason to actually travel to Roland Park to see what that area is about. I decided to arrive in Roland Park before the networking event began so I could at least get a glimpse of the neighborhood.

Roland Park has an interesting history as being a planned suburban-style community that was still located inside of the city limits. Parts of the area were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of famed architect Frederick Law Ohmsted, who has gained posthumous fame in recent years thanks to Erik Larson’s bestselling book The Devil in the White City. Many of the homes in Roland Park are standalone houses, which contrasts with the rowhouses and apartment buildings that predominate the rest of the city. The homes are also where the wealthiest elites of Baltimore live, which you can tell by these pictures I shot.

The one feature of Roland Park is that there is a network of nature trails that are open to the general public. I found this self-guided walking tour on the Baltimore City Paper website that shows the highlights of these nature trails. These nature trails were marked with signs that had bucolic names like Squirrel Path and Laurel Path.

I only had enough time to walk through a small portion of the nature trail system but it was a lovely walk. I walked through the nature trails during the fall so I was treated to a constant array of fall foliage in a variety of brown, green, red, and yellow. As you can see in the photos, it was a cloudy day and it drizzled a few times while I was driving to Roland Park. Luckily for me the rain stopped by the time I reached the nature trails. The gloomy day still didn’t detract from the lovely fall foliage that I saw everywhere. There were times when I found it hard to believe that I was still in the inner city as I was walking on these trails.

At one point I was able to see some television antennas over the horizon marking the location of Television Hill, where all of the local Baltimore television stations broadcast from.

The networking event was held at a community center, which is located inside of a church.

The church has a really nice looking steeple that has an interesting stained glass design at the base.

Here’s a closeup of the stained glass base of the steeple.

Early last month it was an unusually warm November day so I sat on a park bench outside the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland. One nice touch that the cafe has is that there is a dog dish filled with water that’s available for any dog to drink from. Except other animals besides dogs have also taken advantage of the cafe’s generous offer, such as this sparrow in the next two photos.

Believe it or not there was a time when the National Rifle Association actually supported gun control.

A series of photographs show the effects of nuclear bomb testing has had on a remote area of Kazakhstan.

A free tutorial on how to turn dollar store tea lights into the cutest snowman Christmas ornaments.

How the deranged took over America and why they may be here to stay.

There’s a cop who calls himself the “Riot King” of St. Louis and his behavior is scarier than his name.

Serialized television has become a disease.

A Tumblr user shares how naughty her great-great-grandmother was back in 1890.

Here is how you can create a professional camera rig for $200.

The history of Russian involvement in America’s race wars.

Study by MIT economist says that the U.S. has regressed to a Third World nation for most of its citizens.

A stock analyst downgraded Chipotle for paying its workers too much. That tells you everything wrong with the economy right now.

The anti-Trump resistance forgets that George W. Bush is a war criminal.

Paper cutouts turn landmarks across the globe into scenes of temporary amusement.

TrumpsHair is the site that lets you add Trump’s hair to anything.

Photos show the North Korea that neither Donald Trump nor the Western media wants the world to see.

How a narcissistic brand of nationalism is taking over the United States.

The deadly consequences of militarizing the local police force.

This Arab illustrator is empowering women through art.

Harvey Weinstein and the economics of consent.

Decline and fall: how American society unravelled.

How millions of white Americans bought into a racist myth.

The reason why Harvey Weinstein is the beginning of a new backlash against sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

Brad Pitt talks about his side venture as an artist.

Banning terrorists won’t stop terrorism.

10 stories about Donald Trump you won’t believe are true.

I decided to head to Gaithersburg for a networking event that was taking place during the late afternoon-early evening hours. I looked up Gaithersburg on Google to see if there was anything that was worth checking out before the networking event and I learned that there is a historic district stemming from the era when Gaithersburg was a small rural town. So I decided to arrive in the area a little bit early and check it out.

The historic area has a train station with a History Park where one can sit on the benches next to a vintage locomotive that’s permanently parked there.

Next to the History Park is the Gaithersburg Community Museum. Unfortunately that museum has limited hours and I arrived after the museum had closed for the day. It’s a nice looking brick building. The Wikipedia has a paragraph about this museum if you’re really curious about it.

Gaithersburg started as small rural town but this photo shows how much development had encroached on the original town.

The downtown historical area has a lot of nice locally-owned shops. Apparently there’s a Latino population in the area because I saw a number of Latino restaurants and other Latino-owned businesses.

Many of the buildings have historical markers such as the ones in the next two photographs.

I ended my stay at the Gaithersburg historical district by visiting the area’s one and only antique store, which had a lot of interesting vintage stuff on sale.

I have to say that, compared to the historical districts in Laurel, Ellicott City, Annapolis, and Alexandria, Gaithersburg’s historical district is very small. I was able to tour all of it in less than 30 minutes. (Had the museum been open and/or I had opted to eat a meal in one of the restaurants, I could have stretched the touring time a bit more.) The architecture is charming but it’s one of those places where if you have to be in Gaithersburg for some reason, it’s worth a brief detour. But it’s really not worth going out of your way to visit because the aforementioned historical districts in other towns and cities are larger and simply offer more than historical Gaithersburg.

The networking event itself was located at the Casey Community Center just a few miles from the historic district. When I arrived there I found that this community center is really a converted barn, which I thought was interesting. (Most community centers I’ve visited tend to be in nondescript modern buildings.) I thought it was so cool that I couldn’t help taking pictures of it.

The entrance to the networking event itself was on the side of the building.

Since the winter holiday shopping season has officially started three days ago, I’d thought I’d post pictures of stuff I’ve seen lately on the store shelves. I took these photos mainly to show some of my friends on social media who would be especially interested in these products.

First, here are some photos I shot at Target over the past month or so. Target is selling the 3Doodler along with the DoodleBlock Kit.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has a LEGO aisle filled with all kinds of LEGO kits for all ages.

Target, October-November, 2017

Last year American Girl came out with a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Wellie Wishers, which cost $60 each. Target is now selling a line of multiracial 14 inch dolls known as Glitter Girls for $20 each.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target also sells a line of 3-foot tall dolls based on various Disney characters.

Target, October-November, 2017

You know Christmas is coming soon when you start seeing special gingerbread spice cereal like this.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target has been selling a line of STEM toys, kits, and games for makers of all ages. You can now make a variety of things including LEGO stop-motion animation, piñatas, video games, drones, Raspberry Pi computers, and more. Below are just a few of them.

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

Target, October-November, 2017

This is probably the most unique and off-beat product I found at Target: A Funko Pop! vinyl toy based on the late painter and television show host Bob Ross.

Target, October-November, 2017

I also found some Hot Wheels toy cars that seemed to be made with Baby Boomers in mind. How else can you explain cars based on The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night and Mad magazine.

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

What I Found at Target Today

Recently a new Guitar Center store opened up in Laurel, Maryland so I decided to check it out.

Coco Guitars

I saw these special edition Cordoba acoustic guitars for adults and children that are tie-in products to the Disney/Pixar movie Coco, which was recently released. (I haven’t seen it yet. All I know that it’s based on the Mexican El Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead holiday, which happened earlier this month, and which also explains the skull motif on these guitars.)

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Coco Guitars

Last, but not least, are a few of the photos I took when I made my last trip to a local Five Below store.

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

What I Found at Five Below Recently

Like I wrote in my last post, November 4 was a pretty busy day for me. In the morning I went to the Christmas Bazaar that was held at a Roman Catholic church. For lunch I ate Slavic food at the Slavic Festival that was held at an Eastern Orthodox church. (You can read about both in my last post.) If all that wasn’t enough, after I left the Slavic Festival, I headed to Laurel where I visited Dinosaur Park.

I first visited the place a few years ago on the spur of the moment when I kept on passing the sign pointing the road that leads to Dinosaur Park and I found myself wondering what exactly is Dinosaur Park. I arrived there only to find out that Dinosaur Park is only open to the public two Saturdays per month and I happened to be there on a Saturday when the park was closed.

So I forgot about Dinosaur Park for a few years until I learned about a planned gathering on Meetup.com where people were going to meet at Dinosaur Park and I decided to go. To make a long story short, I arrived at the park from the Slavic Festival but I arrived an hour later than the designated meeting time and I didn’t find anyone. (It didn’t help that I was meeting strangers and I didn’t know what they looked like.)

In any case I decided to just take photos since I was there on the Saturday that the park was opened to the public.

The entrance to Dinosaur Park has sculptures of dinosaur bones and eggs which are very popular with the children.

The dinosaur tracks lead directly to the entrance to Dinosaur Park.

Dinosaur Park came into existence when someone discovered a rare deposit of fossils from about 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period. Among the fossils are ones belonging to a dinosaur known as the Astrodon johnstoni, which has since been designated as the state dinosaur of Maryland. The next two pictures show a sculpture of a newly-hatched Astrodon johnstoni.

There were dinosaur art showing what the Laurel area probably looked like back when the dinosaurs roamed that area.

Dinosaur Park is an active working archeological park where the public can help out as long as they follow certain rules. The biggest rule is that any fossils you find must be turned over to the park. You are not allowed to take the fossils home with you. However you will be given credit if you find a fossil. The next photo shows what had been found at Dinosaur Park the day I was there: a raptor tooth, bone fragments, and a fossilized pine cone.

Before a visitor can help with finding fossils, each person must sit through an orientation that’s given by one of the park employees, such as the man in the next photo.

Toy dinosaurs and fossil samples are displayed for people to look at during orientation.

The next photo shows a replica of a raptor skull that was found at Dinosaur Park.

Fossil samples are displayed as part of orientation. We were told that the chances of us actually finding a large dinosaur thighbone or giant rib were extremely small. We were more likely to find very small fossils of things like a dinosaur tooth or a small turtle. Many of these fossils are even smaller than a penny, which is why they can be difficult to find.

Once orientation was over, people can walk over to the nearby piles of dirt and start looking for fossils. In addition to the ban on removing fossils from Dinosaur Park, there was also a ban on digging because many fossils tend to be found on the surface, especially if they had been naturally uncovered by wind or rain. Digging runs the risk of inadvertently destroying fossils.

I tried looking around on the dirt surface but I didn’t find anything. It’s a real challenge to find something that may be no bigger than a penny. I gave it a shot but I wasn’t lucky enough to find a fossil. At least it was a nice sunny day and I finally got a chance to see what Dinosaur Park was about.

In case you’re interested, Dinosaur Park is only opened on the first and third Saturdays of the month from 12 noon-4 p.m. For more information and directions, I suggest that you check the park’s website.

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.

The Saturday before Halloween was definitely jam-packed for me. In the afternoon I went to Annapolis to check out a few things. The night before I promised someone that I would film a portion of a performance at the New Deal Cafe that was happening a few hours after I returned from Annapolis. That performance was scheduled to begin until later in the evening. Earlier that evening there was the annual Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk through the woods. I decided that I could squeeze it in before the performance at the New Deal Cafe.

I’ve gone on that walk other years (in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016) but I have gotten very few decent photos from the walk itself. This year I purchased a used Canon digital camera from eBay that has special low light settings so I decided to use it on the pumpkin walk in an effort to take pictures in the dark woods. I have to say that I have gotten the best photos ever from that Canon camera. Here are the photos I managed to shoot successfully.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

The wooded path has fallen tree logs and exposed roots that can make this path a challenge to walk on at times, which is why I always carry a hiking stick and a flashlight with me when I go on that pumpkin walk.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

I encountered a ghoul on the walk holding one of the jack o’lanterns.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

You can’t get more self-referential than a headless horseman carved on the side of a pumpkin. (LOL!)

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Here’s a pumpkin for Minecraft fans.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Here’s a little bit of humor.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

The legendary Goat Man greeted walkers on the wooded path.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

The Halloween fairies greeted visitors as well.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

The next pumpkin references the upcoming Greenbelt municipal election, which was held soon after the Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk.

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk, October 28, 2017

I have to say that this year was the best year I ever had picture-wise. Other years I would’ve been lucky to get at least 10 photos to turn out well but to have the vast majority turn out well really thrilled me. Having the right camera for the job makes all the difference in the world.

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