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For the second year in a row I took part in Maker Faire NoVa, which was held on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Ironically, nearly a week after this event was held, I got word that the company that was responsible for Maker Faire NoVa and all of the other Maker Faires held all over the world, Maker Media, had abruptly shut down and laid off all of its staff. I’m glad that Maker Faire NoVa happened before the closing of Maker Media since there were so many people who took part in it.

I was working with Phil Shapiro, who had sent in three proposals to Maker Faire NoVa and they were all accepted. I was sent to work one of the booths—which was about how one can get a computer for $60 if other people in the community pool their money and buy used computers from a certain place in bulk. I decided to show off my book, The Cash-Strapped Person’s Guide to Thriving in the Digital Age, at that booth since the theme of my book dovetails nicely with the message of that booth. Here are a couple of sample books and a bunch of promo postcards I had printed up.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

On the way to the event we stopped by this bicycle rack that was located in an office park because it looked pretty cool from the highway. They are bikes one can rent from a company called BECO bluebike.

On the Way to Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

One of Phil Shapiro’s proposals that Maker Faire NoVa had accepted was a demonstration for a new game that Phil had recently invented called Thunk. The next picture shows the props used in Thunk as they were loaded in the trunk of Phil’s car.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

We arrived to see the statue of George Mason all decked out in steampunk clothing.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

The next set of pictures show one of the booths that were assigned to Phil and it was also the same booth where I staffed. Like I wrote earlier, it was a display on how a group of people in the community could bulk order used computer equipment from certain companies and each person could end up with getting a decent Linux computer for $60. I also displayed my book and handed out postcards while I was there.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

I had one of the computers run some of my animation files. (You can view the animation that’s depicted in this photograph right here.)

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

There was a display that had a couple of flyers regarding “The Most Affordable Computer.” One was information that Phil wrote about how it’s possible to get a computer legally for as low as $60. The other was an article that The Washington Post did about him back in the 1990s when he lived in Arlington and he would give used computer equipment a new home with low-income families.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

I had my own book on display along with a promo postcard and the paper version of Phil’s proposal on how one can get an affordable computer.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

The good news was that booth got plenty of attention. Now for the bad news: Because that booth was located near the larger information booth that’s located in the middle of the floor of the building that we were in, I was inundated with so many people asking me where a certain area was located or a certain building. I literally couldn’t answer people because I wasn’t among the organizers of Maker Faire NoVa and I’m not very familiar with the layout of George Mason University’s Fairfax campus. It got frustrating because these people weren’t interested in the topic of the display (I tried to hand out a few postcards and papers but to no avail) and I had to frequently point towards the information booth.

The second booth that Phil took out was on making 4K videos. He had lined up another friend who would staff it but that friend turned out to be a no-show. Unfortunately that second booth was located too far away from the booth that I was working at so I couldn’t even pull double duty and staff both at the same time. (I could have pulled it off it they were adjacent to each other instead of each being located about a 100 feet away.) Ultimately Phil decided to let that one go and take down the display a few hours early.

The third booth was located outside on the campus grounds. It was where Phil had demonstrated his game Thunk. Here’s a still photo of the booth setup.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

I also shot a short video of the game Thunk in action as well as a few other displays that included a 3D-printed Rube Goldberg-style display, jugglers juggling balls, and robots (including ones that resembled R2-D2 from Star Wars).

Apparently the Thunk booth was the one that got the most attention, which was great for Phil. He shot his own videos of Thunk at the Maker Faire NoVa.

You can see other prototypes of his game in action on his YouTube channel right here and here.

There was even a book signing at Maker Faire NoVa. Sylvia Martinez was promoting her book Invent to Learn. Phil took time out from demonstrating his Thunk game to buy the book and have it signed by the author.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

There were a variety of booths ranging from 3D printers to sewing to robots. I tried to visit as many of the booths I possibly could during breaks but that event was so massive that I’m sure I probably missed a few. The event was spread out to over three different buildings on campus plus there were booths set up on the grounds as well. I also saw plenty of people dressed in costumes—especially ones depicting various Star Wars characters.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

This booth had an interesting idea: You can use a 3D printer to print the parts for your own 3D printer. In other words, you can use a 3D printer to make a new 3D printer.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

There was an area where people of all ages were encourages to take apart various electronic devices in order to see how they work.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

There was a re-creation of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area done in LEGO.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Someone had done a LEGO re-creation of Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books, which even included the Knight Bus. The details of this display were really awesome to see in real life.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

I also walked around campus where I saw a few interesting things, such as this statue.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

The last three photos show the only thing I purchased at this year’s Maker Faire NoVa. It’s a handcrafted soap that has a rubber unicorn duck embedded in it. I paid $5 for it. It looks pretty small but I thought it was really pretty and I fell in love with it.

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

Maker Faire NoVa, June 2, 2019

I did so much walking at that event that I was literally sore for the next two days. I didn’t begin to recover until the third day after Maker Faire NoVa. I really enjoyed this event as much as I did last year. Given the news of Maker Media’s demise, only time will tell if there will ever be another Maker Faire NoVa (or something similar with a different name).

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Since tomorrow is the Fourth of July holiday I’d thought I would just post some miscellaneous photos I’ve taken with my smartphone over the past few months.

Here’s a cute stuffed squirrel that I found at IKEA.

IKEA, May 23, 2019

IKEA, May 23, 2019

IKEA also has this nice portable charcoal grill that looks very compact and easy to store. I would love to take up grilling once again once my finances stabilize.

IKEA, May 23, 2019

I saw this leopard shirt for men on display at a local menswear boutique.

Leopard Shirt

Not too long ago I needed a new keychain because the one I was using fell apart so I purchased this puffy unicorn keychain for only $5 from Five Below. It turned out to be short-lived because the puffy unicorn has managed to detach itself from the rest of the keychain ring.

Unicorn Keychain

Unicorn Keychain

Here’s a dinosaur sign I saw inside of a local library.

Library Sign

I’ve seen Disney Princess dolls before but it was the first time I’ve ever seen them dressed in casual clothes. It’s a tie-in with the Disney movie Ralph Breaks the Internet (which I haven’t seen yet as of this writing). I think it’s cool seeing these princesses dressed in something other than the usual ballgowns.

Disney Princesses in Casual Clothing

I saw this new flavor of Oreo cookie: S’mores.

S'mores Oreo Cookies

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I went to the 15th annual Greenbelt Green Man Festival on Mother’s Day weekend. This year the weather was pretty bad but the festival went on despite that. The first day I arrived early to the festival where I took a few photos.

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

It was cloudy when I first arrived but after about an hour or so I felt a few raindrops so I ended up going over to the Mental Health Awareness art event that was held indoors in nearby Beltway Plaza (and which I wrote about in my last post).

The next day it really rained and it poured hard at times. I ended up not arriving to the festival until late in the day and that was because I was curious to see if there were many people who came on the second day (which was also Mother’s Day). Many vendors had put up extra plastic around their canopies in order to keep their wares dry. I also saw that many vendors had decided to pack up and leave early. I couldn’t blame them because there were so few people at the festival due to the heavy rain downpour.

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

Many of the schedule performers ended up moving indoors to the nearby New Deal Cafe. Some of the festival-goers also moved indoors.

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The vendor who was selling the official Greenbelt Green Man Festival t-shirts also moved indoors where one table was taken up with t-shirts.

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

There was a drumming circle that was scheduled to be held outdoors towards the official end of the festival. That drumming circle was moved to the awning outside of the New Deal Cafe. They had plenty of drums available for people to borrow so I ended up borrowing one and participated in the drumming circle.

The 2019 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I shot this video covering both days of the festival. It begins with the official opening of the festival, then it moves on to short footage of a hula hooper and a man dancing with his two children. It ends with scenes from the closing drumming circle on the second day. (At times you can see my hand attempting to drum with one hand while holding the smartphone with my other hand.)

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Ramadan

Last week I learned that Grumpy Cat passed away. She was only seven years old. Her death was announced on Twitter with this message:

We are unimaginably heartbroken to announce the death of our beloved Grumpy Cat.

Despite care from top professionals, as well as from her loving family, Grumpy encountered complications from a recent urinary tract infection that unfortunately became too tough for her to overcome. She passed away peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, May 14, at home in the arms of her mommy, Tabatha.

Besides being our baby and a cherished member of the family, Grumpy Cat has helped millions of people smile all around the world—even when times were tough.

Her spirit will continue to live on through her fans everywhere.

Grumpy’s Family—Tabatha, Bryan, and Chyrstal

Grumpy Cat’s death was covered by the mainstream media both here in the U.S. and abroad.

Back in 2014 I was teaching myself how to use Inkscape, which is the free open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. In the process I did some tracing over photos of animals who became Internet celebrities. One was of Boo the World’s Cutest Dog (along with his older brother and best friend Buddy). The other was of Grumpy Cat, which you can see below.

grumpycat

I later uploaded that digital drawing to OpenClipArt.org, where you can download it and use it for free.

Earlier this year Boo passed away and I devoted a Throwback Thursday post to that pooch where I mentioned that Inkscape graphic I did of Boo and Buddy. I never thought that in the same year I would be devoting another Throwback Thursday post to Grumpy Cat while discussing some of the Grumpy Cat-related creative projects I did but that’s the way it goes.

Like Boo, Grumpy Cat also got her start on social media. (Yes, that cat was definitely female.) She was born with feline dwarfism and she had an underbite, both of which contributed to her looking like she had a permanent scowl on her face. When her owners posted her photos online, people soon began using them to create memes, several of which have been posted on Metro News as the 30 most iconic Grumpy Cat memes.

I even did a meme of Grumpy Cat myself back in 2017 when I made fun of the sudden celebrity of Danielle Bregoli (also known as “Bhad Bhabie”) whose defiant retort to Dr. Phil when she appeared as a guest on his TV show went viral: “Cash me outside, how bow dah?” Here is the meme, which I did in Adobe Photoshop.

grumpycatcashmeoutsideparodymeme

I tried uploading the meme to various Facebook and Twitter discussions about Bhad Bhabie but I couldn’t get the meme to take off in a viral way so I gave up after about a week or so of trying.

I also incorporated Grumpy Cat in a drawing I did once. Here is some background. Back in 2013 I went to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in Baltimore (link is NSFW) where the model for that evening was a burlesque performer named Lady Satine. I took part in a contest where we had to do a drawing where we incorporated Lady Satine and a cat. So I drew Grumpy Cat protesting “Lady Satine laid on a box I was in once. It was awful!”

Lady Satine and Grumpy Cat, Dr. Sketchy's Anti-Art School, Baltimore, August 12, 2013

My drawing failed to make it to the finals but I still had a blast drawing the two of them together.

Then there was the time when I made a meme that poked fun at Ann Coulter in the wake of her poking fun at then-First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts to publicize the plight of the 300 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped by a terrorist group Boko Haram. I promptly posted that meme on Twitter.

In the meantime I followed Grumpy Cat on all of the social media sites and I still have a DVD copy of the movie Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever, which I play around the holidays about once a year or so. A couple of years ago I purchased this small stuffed Christmas Grumpy Cat plush that I now display underneath my small Christmas tree during the holidays.

One Halloween I purchased a Grumpy Cat hat from a temporary Halloween store, printed a few sheets of paper that had slogans that one would find in a Grumpy Cat meme and I went to a couple of Halloween parties dressed as Grumpy Cat.

photo69

photo70

photo71

I ended up wearing that hat again just a couple of years later when I participated in the Women’s March on Washington the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The march organizers were putting out the word that people should come to the march wearing knitted pink pussycat hats. I got the word of this march on such short notice that there was no way I could knit something up in less than a week. I ended up taking my Grumpy Cat hat out of storage and wearing that instead.

Women's March on Washington

Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017

I also wore that hat at the Women’s March the following year.

Women's March on Washington 2018

Women's March on Washington 2018

I even read a few issues of the comic book series The Misadventures of Grumpy Cat (And Pokey!). I found the series pretty amusing.

Grumpy Cat was probably one of the few famous felines that I actually liked. I have an allergy to cats so I can never keep one as a pet. As a result, I ended up liking dogs better and I’ve even stayed with a few dogs over the years with no problems. I think Grumpy Cat’s perpetual scowl and the sarcastic memes that her face generated really resonated with me.

Grumpy Cat’s online fame even inspired me to think about an online project that almost became a reality. Back in 2013 I thought about creating a Facebook page for my pet hedgehog Spike because he was incredibly photogenic and I thought that he had a chance at being an Internet celebrity. I felt that the fact that he was a hedgehog instead of the usual dog or cat would only increase his chances of becoming famous. I was going to launch his Facebook page in late November, when most people tend to be home for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. As to whether Spike would’ve ever become as famous as Grumpy Cat is pure speculation now because I was never able to put that plan into action due to the fact that Spike died in September of that year.

Grumpy Cat’s online photos turned into memes led to a bunch of spinoff products that were profitable to her owners but there was also some controversy over her fame. There were accusations that Grumpy Cat’s initial fame stemmed from a meme whose joke was stolen from a comic strip. There were also accusations that Grumpy Cat was being exploited by being forced to make numerous public appearances all over the U.S. and in a few other countries as well. A writer for Jezebel summed up his one and only meeting with Grumpy Cat in person with this headline: I Met Grumpy Cat and It Was Fucking Abysmal.

Since Grumpy Cat is now deceased all of those exploitation allegations are moot. Regardless of how you personally feel about Grumpy Cat’s huge amount of public exposure, she had generated a log of spinoff products in her short life, most of which sold very well. In fact, I saw an article a few days ago that had this headline: Grumpy Cat’s owner is facing a major financial loss—there’s no insurance for pet influencers. There’s no denying that Grumpy Cat’s family will be taking a major financial hit because, for the past few years, they had basically lived off of the revenue that Grumpy Cat generated. In contrast, the owner of the late Boo the World’s Cutest Dog works for Facebook so she had a career to fall back on when her dog died earlier this year. I guess the moral of that story is that if you have a pet who has become a celebrity, always make sure that you have a job or some alternate source of income that’s completely unrelated to your pet because one day your pet will die and your finances could end up in dire straits if you don’t have any contingency plans for that event.

In addition to the hat, DVD, and Christmas plush that I purchased, there were plenty of other Grumpy Cat products I saw on the store shelves and wrote about in this blog over the years. I photographed just some of the ones I saw on store shelves.

Grumpy Cat Stuffed Animal in Store Window

Originally posted on March 29, 2014.

Grumpy Cat Coloring Book

Originally posted on July 1, 2015.

photo8

Originally posted on April 20, 2015.

photo28a

Originally posted on August 12, 2014.

Finally, here’s a photo of two plushies—one is based on Boo and the other is based on Grumpy Cat. And both of them have now crossed that Rainbow Bridge in 2019.

Internet Celebrities as Stuffed Animals

Originally posted on July 28, 2014.

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Ramadan

The annual Sakura Matsuri street festival in Washington, DC is one of the last major events that is held as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival is usually held in the Federal Triangle area (such as the one in 2015). Except when I last attended two years ago, the festival was moved to the Navy Yard.

This year the festival has been moved back to its original location in Federal Triangle. On my way to the festival I saw tourists taking selfies outside of the Trump International Hotel, which had me rolling my eyes. (LOL!)

Selfies at the Trump International Hotel

I arrived at the festival and it was as I remembered from the last time I went in 2017. There were cosplayers dressed in various costumes, a variety of Japanese imported goods available for sale, a variety of performances and demonstrations. The admission fee is now $10 per person. (I remember when this festival used to be free years ago. Then they decided to turn it into a paid event and charge $5 per person. Now the prices are higher.) Here are some photos and videos I shot at this event.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I shot this video of Ai’s Sakura Band, which is led by a Japanese pianist, composer, and arranger named Ai Yamashita. This group played traditional Japanese music that celebrated sakura (the Japanese word for “cherry blossom”).

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Here are a couple of photos of me standing next to the sign featuring that cute cartoon blob.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

There was this table selling wooden chopsticks with geek sayings on them. Having seen Guardians of the Galaxy, I laughed at the chopsticks that said “I was Groot.”

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

At one point I went over to the science area of the festival where I briefly petted this baby seal robot with one hand and shot this video with the other.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

The next couple of photos show the women who represented each of the 50 states and territories who were chosen to be Cherry Blossom Queens and Princesses for 2019.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I even shot this short video of the group singing “My Country Tis of Thee.” The lead singer had a very nice voice.

I made my way over to the Wishing Tree where one can write his/her own wish on a piece of paper then hang it on the tree.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I ended up writing my own wish. I had to do with my latest job being unsteady. (I work for a government contractor that is currently having a hard time with getting new work because many of the government contracting officers have been spooked by President Donald Trump’s recent month-long shutdown. Apparently many of them are afraid of another shutdown happening again so they are holding on to their funds more than they used to.) I wrote this on my piece of paper: “I wish for financial stability with a well-paying job. I wish my new book sells lots of copies. I’m not asking to be rich.”

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I would’ve written more about how I only wish to be financially stable and I’m not asking to be rich but I ran out of space on the paper.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

The next photo shows the only thing that I purchased at the Sakura Matsuri this year: a small dish of vanilla Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I briefly checked out a calligraphy show where someone did some Japanese calligraphy in ink while music played. Here’s a video I shot of that event.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I saw the Yosakoi Dance Project demonstrate their high-energy style of dance. I took a couple of decent shots of the group in action.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I also shot this video of the group in action.

At one point the leader of the dance troupe took his young daughter on stage where they briefly chatted. She looked so adorable in her little kimono.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I continued shooting more pictures of the festival.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

I shot this video of Japanese singer-songwriter Rie Tamuro, who played her acoustic guitar and sang. She played a mellow folk style of music. I thought she was quite talented.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

The last video I shot was of the Japanese alternative rock band LUST. The group’s music reminded me of what I used to hear from the Seattle grunge rock scene of the 1990s.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

The last photo I shot at the festival featured a group of people doing the traditional Japanese bow, which was appropriate since in Japan people bow to each other when they are arriving and leaving.

Sakura Matsuri Street Festival

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I’d never thought I’d live to see the day when Marshmallow Peeps become part of a “nutritious” breakfast.

Marshmallow Peeps Cereal

Then there is this new updated version of The Game of Life, which is subtitled Quarter Life Crisis and it has the ad line “Now With Crippling Debt!”

A New Version of The Game of Life

I’m lost past my quarter life but I can identify with being in debt because I’ve been there since 2011 when I went through a divorce and having a hard time finding a job that pays enough that I can support myself.

And here’s the evidence that Fortnite is the hottest video game on the planet right now.

Fortnite

Fortnite

Fortnite

Fortnite

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I celebrated the fact that I had been employed at a day job for the past month by doing something fun. A few days earlier the weather was getting warmer and the temperature had even reached 60 degrees on some days. Sadly the sudden burst of warm weather was only temporary and it was bitter cold outside the day I went to DC. But I was determined to have fun since it had been a long time since I had done something totally fun and I wasn’t going to let something like weather stop me.

So I took the Metro bus to the nearest Metro station and traveled to the Chinatown area of Washington, DC. When I arrived in Chinatown I saw some people taking photos of each other by the Friendship Archway. (I was there doing the Lunar New Year period where most Asians were ushering in the Year of the Pig. The annual Chinese New Year’s parade was scheduled for the following day but I didn’t go because I felt that walking around the streets of Chinatown in very cold weather for one day was enough for me. If I hadn’t gone to Chinatown the day before, I would have considered going to that parade since it has been at least 10 years since I made my one and only attendance at that parade.)

I walked around a few places that I thought about eating lunch at. I read that many of these places had discount rates only to find out that these discounts are only available from Monday-Friday. I wasn’t into paying an extravagant price for a lunch so I ended up eating at the Corner Bakery where I had a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich at an affordable price. After lunch I walked over to It’s Sugar where I saw these items, starting with a long gummy rattlesnake.

The biggest surprise I found in that store was the numerous consumer products based on the late Bob Ross, whose Joy of Painting show I used to watch on PBS from time to time. I saw socks, mints, and even energy drinks dedicated to the guy who made “happy little trees” his catchphrase.

I bought some candy at It’s Sugar, which I ate after I returned home. I eventually made it to the place that served as the main reason why I wanted to go to Chinatown on that day. The German-American Heritage Museum had a special exhibit on German-made toys which started prior to Christmas and I thought it sounded potentially interesting. The only thing is that even though the museum is open from Monday-Friday, it is only open on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month (while it is completely closed on Sundays). When I was still underemployed I was struggling too much financially to even consider making the trip during the weekday. Now that I’m working again I find that I can only go to this museum on the weekends but I have to go only on the Saturday when it is actually opened. (Life is full of ironies at times. LOL!) The exhibit is scheduled to close at the end of next month, which was why I made an effort to get to that museum before it was too late.

The museum admission was $10, which wasn’t so bad. (There are other museums, such as the Newseum and the Spy Museum that charges around $20 per person.) The museum is small and I found the special exhibition to be smaller than I expected. But what they had on display was pretty good. They gave out this pamphlet that explained the history of German toys, how they were made, how they reflected the culture of the times in which they were made, the notable German toy companies, and how some of these toys were also popular in the U.S.

The one thing I learned from that pamphlet is that German toys were originally homemade until the Industrial Revolution, when they were mass-produced in factories. The rise in the toy industry also coincided with worker exploitation, especially among women and children who were employed making these toys. The workers were paid less, which was how toys became cheaper to buy and why many German imported toys were so cheap in the U.S. during the late-19th century to early-20th century. (It’s no different from today where toys and many other consumer products are made in China, Vietnam, and so many other Third World countries so that cheap goods would flood the U.S. while corporate executives keep the lion’s share of the profits.)

There were plenty of dolls made mainly because they were supposed to prepare young girls for the day when they will become mothers themselves. The museum had dolls, tea party sets, and doll furniture that were on display (along with the occasional nutcracker).

There were also plenty of toy soldiers, which were made because they were supposed to prepare young boys for the day when they will join the military and possibly fight on behalf of Germany.

There were also toys based on the American Wild West featuring cowboys and Indians (who are now referred as Native Americans). It was kind of wild seeing German-made toys reflecting U.S. history like that and it showed that the German toy industry were definitely eying the foreign markets.

Seeing these metal toys brought back memories of seeing similar toy soldiers dressed like British soldiers displayed on a shelf that my ex-husband’s stepfather had owned since his childhood. These toy soldiers were very tiny, made from metal, and they looked very exquisite. My ex-husband’s mother died in 2010, his stepfather passed away last year, and I am no longer on speaking terms with my ex so I have no idea whatever became of those toy soldiers or who owns them now.

There were plenty of Steiff stuffed animals on display. I used to see them on sale at FAO Schwarz in New York City and I remember they were pretty expensive. I’ve also seen them in other high-end stores also being sold at high prices. (Which probably explains why my parents never gave me a Steiff toy when I was a child. LOL!) They definitely look cute and cuddly.

The museum had a hands-on area where people of all ages could touch and play with some of these toys. The only thing I touched was this children’s book written by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann called Der Struwwelpeter. I briefly thumbed through it and took a couple of pictures.

There were a few other odds and ends at that exhibit, including some toy cars and chickens, a couple of trays, and a snowglobe.

Like I wrote earlier, the museum was relatively small so I was able to finish with viewing the exhibit in an hour. Afterwards I decided to go back home. On my way back to the Metro station I stopped at Walgreens because I wanted to pick up some cold medicine. (I had been struggling with a cold at the same time as trying to learn the ropes of my new day job. Yeah, it sucked big time but what else could I do?) I saw that this particular Walgreens location had an area that sold packaged sushi, just like its Union Station location. In fact, this Walgreens sold a variety of packaged food ranging from sandwiches to salads that I’ve never seen in any of the suburban Walgreens stores in the DC area. There were a couple of sushi places in Chinatown that I attempted to eat lunch at until I saw the menus posted outside and found that the bargain meals were only from Monday-Friday and I ended up eating at the Corner Bakery instead. So, in order to compensate for not eating sushi for lunch, I picked up one of the sushi packs from Walgreens, took it home with me, and ate it for dinner. (I ate a a salmon and avocado roll.) I found it to be pretty tasty and it was at a reasonable price.

So somethings didn’t turn out the way I expected (such as the weather and eating lunch at the Corner Bakery instead of at a Chinese or Japanese restaurant in Chinatown) but I still had fun anyway.

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Back in 2014 I was practicing with the open source vector drawing program Inkscape (which is touted as a free alternative to Adobe Illustrator). I decided to trace over a photo of two dogs who became Internet sensations. One was Boo (located on the right in the below graphic), who got his start on Facebook after one of his owners posted photos of him on that social media platform. Those photos became popular and he was soon known as Boo the World’s Cutest Dog. The other was Buddy, who was Boo’s older brother and closest friend.

buddyandboo-optimizedgraphic

Soon after I finished that digital drawing, I uploaded it to OpenClipArt.org, where you can still download it for free. I even used that vector art as the basis for this tutorial I wrote for OpenSource.com on how to trace over a photo in Inkscape.

I followed Boo on Facebook and I’ve always enjoyed seeing the latest cute photos of him. At first it was just him and Buddy but then his owners added a third dog, a Golden Retriever known as Bluebeary Pie who soon grew taller than the two Pomeranians. Then Boo’s human owners had a baby daughter of their own and that child was sometimes in the photos with Boo and the other dogs that were taken from angles where the child’s face was partially or fully obscured. (It was obvious that the girl’s parents wanted to protect her privacy.)

Boo was a star but he basically remained a typical dog who was blissfully unaware that there was a Wikipedia page about him. He was also unaware of the spinoff products based on his image, including a brief three-issue comic book series. Boo seemed to take his fame in stride as he frequently traveled with Buddy, whom he was closest to. But then Buddy died in 2017, which apparently Boo took very hard. After Buddy’s death the family added another dog to the household, a sheepdog named Benny. Despite the addition of Benny, it was apparent that Boo really missed Buddy and had never quite gotten over Buddy’s death. Nearly a week ago Boo’s owners wrote this sad yet eloquent post on Facebook:

Dearest friends of Boo,

With deepest sadness I wanted to share that Boo passed away in his sleep early this morning and has left us to join his best friend, Buddy. Our family is heartbroken, but we find comfort knowing that he is no longer in any pain or discomfort. We know that Buddy was the first to greet him on the other side of that rainbow bridge, and this is likely the most excited either of them have been in a long time.

Since starting Boo’s FB page, I’ve received so many notes over the years from people sharing stories of how Boo brightened their days and helped bring a little light to their lives during difficult times. And that was really the purpose of all this…Boo brought joy to people all over the world. Boo is the happiest dog I’ve ever met. He was so easy going that we never had to bother with training. He made the manliest of men squeal with delight over his cuteness and made everyone laugh with his quirky, tail wagging personality.

Over the years Boo met some super cool people, a lot of crazy talented people, but most of all so many kind people…friends who gave him endless love, people who prioritized his comfort over getting that perfect picture, partners who understood that Buddy ALWAYS had to be included, and last but definitely not least, the amazing doctors, therapists, and staff at Adobe Animal Hospital and Sage Veterinary Centers for the countless hours of care and dedication they poured into Buddy and Boo.

I brought Boo home in the spring of 2006 and so started the greatest, most heartwarming friendship of all time. Shortly after Buddy died, Boo showed signs of heart issues. We think his heart literally broke when Buddy left us. He hung on and gave us over a year. But it looks like it was his time, and I’m sure it was a most joyous moment for them when they saw each other in heaven.

Boo, we love you with all our hearts and will miss you until the day we meet again. Have fun running around with Buddy and creating adorable mischief wherever you guys go.

Thank you to all of you for following along on their silly adventures over the past 10 years. They sure had a LOT of fun.

With love and our deepest gratitude,
Boo’s humans

I felt sad reading about Boo’s death but he lived the equivalent of 84 human years, which is nothing to complain about. Boo’s death was also covered by the major media outlets like CNN and the BBC as if he was a major celebrity. In addition to doing that vector graphic of Boo and Buddy, I also saw various spinoff products based on Boo on store shelves over the years. Here are the ones I shot with my smartphone.

photo50

Originally posted on December 26, 2014.

photo16

Originally posted on December 19, 2014.

And last, but not least, here’s a stuffed animal version of Boo alongside another Internet animal celebrity, Grumpy Cat.

Internet Celebrities as Stuffed Animals

Originally posted on July 28, 2014.

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This past weekend a major snowstorm hit the Washington, DC area where I lived. The snowstorm started late Saturday then it stopped for a brief period on the following Sunday afternoon before it started up again and it didn’t stop for good until sometime in the middle of the night.

As a result, most of DC was even more shutdown than it was before (due to the ongoing federal government shutdown where Donald Trump is still refusing to budge on signing on this year’s budget until he gets his border wall).

Yesterday morning it was sunny with a bright blue sky. It was still cold outside but it wasn’t quite as bad as before the snowstorm. I managed to bring out my Elsa doll and placed her along a shoveled sidewalk area to give you an idea as to how deep the snow was in my area. (Elsa is about 11-12 inches tall, which makes her roughly the same height as Barbie.)

I also took a few photos of the wooded area that’s close to my home.

Later in the day I went to the local mall where I went to Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts because I needed to buy some new patches for my jeans. When I was standing in the checkout line I saw these really cute stuffed animals for Valentine’s Day that had these groan-inducing puns.

Right next to the llama on the right-hand side is The Perfect Man chocolate, which I remember actually buying from that same store five years earlier then blogging about it. I ended up not buying The Perfect Man this time around but I managed to buy a pack of glue sticks because I had a coupon (through the Jo-Ann smartphone app). The store also had a sale on a bundle of two pairs of fuzzy Christmas slipper socks. Each bundle was originally priced at $9.99 but they were 90% off so each bundle now costs $1 each. (Which meant that each pair of slipper socks only cost 50 cents per pair. Sweet!) I purchased two bundles because I only wear slipper socks in bed these days so I really don’t care if I’m wearing green and red Christmas socks in—let’s say—early March since I only intend to sleep in them and not wear them out in public.

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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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