You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Video Games’ category.

UCLA has a digital archive of over 1,800 children’s books dating from 1728-1999.

Americans are receiving unordered parcels from Chinese e-criminals and they can’t do anything to stop them.

An explanation on what is an animation pipeline.

A study shows that most artists make very little money, with women faring the worst.

Galapagos finches are caught in the act of becoming a new species.

Why incompetent people think they are amazing: An animated lesson from David Dunning (of the famous Dunning-Kruger Effect).

True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.

Time capsule letters from the 18th century found in the butt of a Jesus statue.

Check out these crochet amigurumi toys based on video game characters like Plants vs. Zombies and Super Mario Bros.

Everything you always wanted to know about the Krampus but were afraid to ask.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Advertisements

I don’t have children. Sometimes I regret not having a child but these days I’m mostly glad because, after the hell that my ex-husband put me through over the past few years, I would’ve really dreaded having to face that asshole on a regular basis regarding the children. I also would’ve had to face the possibility of periodically going back to court over child visitation and custody issues because my husband left me for a seriously mentally ill woman and he married her just two months after our divorce was final. I would’ve been really concerned about exposing a child to whatever drama that would result from having a seriously mentally ill stepmother.

There are too many people who have no business ever becoming parents but they have one or more kids anyway and it’s the children who usually suffer. A case in point is a YouTube controversy that originally started last year but it has continued into this year. Here’s a quick recap.

A YouTube channel was created in 2015 called DaddyOFive. It was a series of videos featuring the real-life adventures of Mike Martin, his wife Heather, and their five children (hence the name). The videos were supposed to be light-hearted entertainment featuring a fun yet quirky family.

One regular feature of these videos had the parents playing pranks on one or more of their children. The videos began to gain popularity and the parents were able to make revenue from their videos.

As time went on, the so-called “pranks” took on a more disturbing tone and they became more and more controversial. The shit really began to hit the fan last year when popular YouTube commentator Philip DeFranco made this video questioning whether these “pranks” are actually child abuse. (This video have a few brief excerpts from the video where one of the kids was targeted in a “prank” that involved invisible ink.)

When DeFranco’s video went viral, there was more public scrutiny aimed at Mike and Heather Martin over allegations that their kids were being abused on video while profiting off of that abuse. The Martins responded to DeFranco’s video by blaming him for the public vitriol being aimed at them. DeFranco responded with a second video where he included more disturbing scenes from other DaddyOFive videos, which included the couple’s only daughter being slapped in the face by her brother after prompting by their father, one of the smaller boys being body-slammed to the ground by his larger brother, and one of the sons asking his father to leave him alone and stop filming him only to have the father continue putting the camera on the boy.

That second video only added fuel to the fire. It turned out that two of the children were Mike Martin’s from a previous marriage or relationship. (I wasn’t able to figure out whether he was ever married to that previous woman or not.) They were also the same two children who bore the brunt of those so-called “pranks.” The children’s biological mother soon got wind of the existence of those videos and she responded by getting a lawyer and filing for sole custody of the children, which she ultimately won. Here’s the biological mother’s brief interview on Good Morning America from last year, where she explained how she felt when she learned about her children’s appearances in those videos.

On top of it, the local authorities began to investigate the child abuse claims. What’s really embarrassing is that I learned that these two so-called “parents” lived in my state (Maryland).

Ultimately Mike and Heather Martin removed most of the videos from the DaddyOFive channel with the exception of a video featuring just the two of them where they apologized for their videos. A few months later they were sentenced to five year’s probation for child neglect. As part of the probation, Mike and Heather are not allowed to contact Mike’s two children in any way unless a judge authorizes it first.

So things died down a bit regarding DaddyOFive. There were no new videos uploaded and the couple seemed to keep a low profile for the rest of 2017. Sometime after the controversy and receiving probation Mike and Heather Martin took the remaining three children and moved from Maryland to West Virginia. Okay, I can understand that decision to some extent because that move gave them the opportunity to make a fresh start in their lives and put the recent past behind them. If they had stayed off-line, they probably would’ve eventually fallen into obscurity.

But that didn’t happen. The family re-emerged online just one year later with two new video channels—FamilyOFive and FamilyOFive Gaming. I can understand the name to some extent since Mike, Heather, and the three sons are now a family of five. But I find it mind-boggling that Mike and Heather would give both of those channels a similar name to the DaddyOFive channel that got them into trouble in the first place.

It wouldn’t be long before Philip DeFranco began to devote a video to FamilyOFive, especially since this new video series included footage of one of the sons being hit hard in the groin with a ball.

But, wait, there’s more. Amanda the Jedi made this video featuring more disturbing footage involving the three sons under the guise of “entertainment.”

In addition, local station WUSA9 started to extensively cover the story and they contacted YouTube and the local authorities in the couple’s former (Frederick County, Maryland) and current (Berkeley County, West Virginia) residences for their responses regarding the matter.

In any case, YouTube finally pulled the plug a few days ago and took down all of the DaddyOFive/FamilyOFive channels and banned Mike and Heather Martin from the platform. I applaud YouTube for making that decision. Child abuse should never be considered entertainment and people should not be allowed to profit from it.

While it’s great that Mike and Heather Martin are gone from YouTube, this story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending. If you conduct a YouTube search under DaddyOFive, you’ll see that many of the original DaddyOFive videos have been re-uploaded on to YouTube by people using names like Team Takedown, Post, DaddyOFive Re-uploaded, ToxicFaygo 29, Legendary Posts, daddyofive archive, That One Guy, Fire Phoenix, polly annner, and DaddyOfive ReUploading. And these re-uploaded videos are just the tip of the iceberg, which once again proves the adage that the Internet is forever and it’s the children who will suffer the most for years to come.

There’s something else that I also find concerning. If Mike and Heather acted atrociously towards their children in front of the camera, can you imagine what family life is like when the cameras are turned off? I really believe that the three remaining children should be removed immediately from their parents and placed either with other relatives or in foster homes so they’ll have a chance to lead normal lives without having a camera focused on them while they are being abused by their so-called “parents.”

UPDATE (August 7, 2018): The FamilyOFive channel has migrated to Twitch. So far I’ve only seen one video where the family is playing the video game Overwatch with no live child abuse scenes. There are other videos posted and it seems like they are all of the family playing video games, which are all pretty mild compared to their previous videos. (I’ll admit that I haven’t watched any of their videos in its entirety.) If past behavior is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised if the parents eventually go back to resuming their “pranks” on their children for more views.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Three years ago I took a stab at creating an interactive story game using the open source compiler Ren’Py. I was mostly following a free online tutorial but I added a few original flourishes of my own in order to make it a little bit more original.

I haven’t done anything with Ren’Py since and I think it’s because I had a problem with learning the code and it got to be complex at times. (It was reminiscent of the times I attempted to learn Pascal and C++ in an effort to learn new skills so I can get a higher paying job only to have both attempts end in disaster.)

A friend of mine, Phil Shapiro, encouraged me to give Twine a try. He even did this book review about Twine where he praised it.

Like Ren’Py, Twine is an open source program. Like Ren’Py also specializes in coding a type of video game that’s basically a high-tech version of those Choose Your Own Adventure books. But I found Twine to be much easier to learn than Ren’Py because you need to know a little bit of really basic HTML code (and that’s only if you intend to use image and music files).

I did my first game, which is basically a practice game where I loosely based the story on Phil Shapiro’s day job in the computer lab of the local public library. (There are lots of fictionalized elements in this game, including one where I got my inspiration from an episode of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone.) Here are a couple of places where you can play this game, Phil the Library Computer Lab Guy, right now.

Play it online through Neocities.org.

Download it to your computer hard drive so you can play it offline through itch.io.

Have fun! 🙂

Ramadan

I had a pretty busy day. In the morning I went to one of the trainings and town hall meeting for the Poor People’s Campaign in the morning. In the afternoon I decided to go to Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, since that day was also Free Comic Book Day nationwide. (If all that weren’t enough, it was also Cinco de Mayo. I ended up eating tacos at home that I made myself using ingredients that I purchased from Aldi. I learned a long time ago that it’s total folly to attempt to eat in any kind of Mexican/Hispanic/Latino restaurant on Cinco de Mayo.)

So after checking out the Poor People’s Campaign, I drove to Annapolis. I arrived at Third Eye Comics only to find that parking was harder to find than usual. I ended up parking a few blocks away in an office park, which had some nice wall murals.

The next photo shows how crowded that store was. The next photo shows the line to the checkout counter.

I saw these vintage Atari video game cartridges on sale. I remember when Atari originally came out but I never owned one mainly because I was in college at the time and money was a bit tight at the time. It never bothered me that I never owed an Atari because my college (the University of Maryland) had plenty of arcade games on campus and some of the local off-campus fast food places also had arcade games.

I saw a few other interesting things on sale at Third Eye Comics.

I came across a whole aisle full of the ever-popular Funko Pop! statues. I found one new trend: Funko Pops based on real dead rock stars like Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead and Joey Ramone of The Ramones.

There were plenty of Funko Pops based on comic book and video game characters such as Rocket Raccoon, Mega Man, Superman’s alter ego Clark Kent, Wonder Woman, Batman, Batwoman, and Batgirl.

I also found an actual WTF t-shirt and a special edition of the Monopoly game board based on the latest Jurassic Park movie called Jurassic World.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Ramadan

Last month I was browsing through Target where I took these pictures. Later this month the latest installment in the ever-popular Jurassic Park movies, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, will be released. I saw so many LEGO and Duplo sets that one could easily create his/her own Jurassic Park in the privacy of his/her home. I have a friend on Facebook who is mad about dinosaurs so I took a whole slew for her benefit. Knowing her, she has probably purchased at least one or two of these sets by now. (LOL!)

The Jurassic Park/Jurassic World hype isn’t limited to just LEGO and Duplo. I saw this poster book on sale that includes tearaway poster pages that one can hang on a wall.

Soon after our wedding my new husband and I took a trip to the Orlando area where we spent the bulk of our time at Walt Disney World. Throughout our marriage we kept up with Disney and Mickey Mouse and we made a few return trips to Disney World while making a few trips to the original Disneyland theme park in California. I used to be well-versed on when a Disney anniversary was coming. Ever since my husband left and my marriage ended in divorce, I had let my Mickey Mouse fixation slide big time. (The majority of Mickey clothes I still own were ones that I either bought or were given to me while I was still married.) If it weren’t for seeing these special Mickey Mouse edition of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Crackers on sale at Target, I would have totally missed the fact (which is printed on the back of these packages) that this year is the 90th anniversary of the release of Steamboat Willie, which unleashed both Mickey and his girlfriend, Minnie Mouse, on the world.

Nintendo’s latest video game system is the Switch. (I still have the original Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 2, which should give you an idea as to how far behind I am on the latest video games. LOL!) One interesting thing is that Nintedo has come out with the Nintendo Labo, which definitely taps into the current STEM/STEAM/Maker movement.

I also saw another STEM/STEAM/Maker focused product on sale at Target. Google has a line of AIY, which are described as “Do-it-yourself artificial intelligence.” The products I saw on sale that day were an intelligent speaker and an intelligent camera.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Ramadan

A look at the digital ruins of a forgotten future called Second Life.

U.S. mints coins for Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit that might not happen.

Fewer tourists are coming to the U.S. and experts say that it’s largely Trump’s fault.

Barbie “Shero” doll with a hijab honors Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Martin Luther King may have been killed by a Memphis police officer, not James Earl Ray.

How white Americans used lynchings to terrorize and control black people.

Laminated jewelry crafted from vintage books by Jeremy May.

A look at the guerrilla grafting movement—secretly grafting fruit-bearing trees onto ornamental city trees in order to feed the poor.

A Princeton sociologist spent 8 years asking rural Americans why they are so pissed off. Hint: It’s not about the economy.

The surprising secret to aging well.

New York City has genetically distinct “uptown” and “downtown” rats.

Why the DNC is fighting WikiLeaks and not Wall Street.

How Australia all but ended gun violence.

83,500 vintage sewing patterns put into online database from Vogue, McCall’s, Butterick, and Simplicity.

Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world.

Watch the illustrated version of “Alice’s Restaurant,” Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic.

The bots that are changing politics.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Today is Tax Day in the United States, which means that everyone must file his/her state and federal tax returns today or else. Unless you happen to be President Donald Trump, which means you can continue to somehow evade paying taxes (and maybe not even bother with filing), brag about being smart for not paying taxes, deny ever saying that despite video evidence to the contrary, and get away with it—if you are Donald Trump then you can just treat today like it’s any other day in April. (He’s currently in his Mar-a-Lago estate as of this writing. He’s probably playing a round or two of golf while you’re reading this, which is what he usually does when he’s there.)

Five years ago this month I got a notice on Facebook that Occupy Baltimore and Luminous Intervention were doing a joint rollout of a new video game called Tax Evaders that emerged from the Occupy Wall Street movement and they planned on projecting that game outside on the wall of a building whose exact name and location was kept secret until the very last minute. (The secrecy was due to the organizers trying to avoid the local police learning about that event and trying to shut it down while possibly arresting people.) That rollout was scheduled for the same day that I was due in divorce court. My divorce case was scheduled early enough in the morning that I could easily make the trip to Baltimore to check out Tax Evaders that same evening.

My divorce case started at 9 a.m. and the entire trial ended at 9:20 a.m. It took 20 minutes to dissolve my marriage to my college sweetheart that was mostly a happy one until he abruptly left me for a woman with severe mental health problems (but that’s another story altogether). I arrived home and I felt depressed and drained. I drove back home in an effort to decompress from what was a surreal nightmare but I felt restless. I decided to drive to Baltimore several hours early where I walked around the the Inner Harbor snapping pictures. (You can see the pictures I took that day along with detailed descriptions of both my day in divorce court and my time in Baltimore right here.) I kept on walking around the Inner Harbor snapping pictures like some kind of a dazed zombie photographer until it was close to dinnertime when I boarded the Charm City Circulator bus and went to Fells Point.

Once I arrived at Fells Point I ate dinner at Brick Oven Pizza then headed to the Broadway Market, which was the designated meeting place for the Tax Evaders event. A small group of like-minded people were there and we hung around making small talk until someone from the Occupy Baltimore group met us and we were directed to the nearby Bank of America building where the Tax Evaders video game would be projected. The video game itself was being played with an X-Box Kinnect, which meant that people could play the game without needing to use any kind of gaming controls. I shot a short video showing what it was like.

I also shot still photos of that event as well, which you can view right here.

I found another short video on YouTube of the same event that was shot by the event’s co-sponsor, Luminous Intervention. This one includes short interviews with the activists behind that event along with the reactions of the people who played that game.

Five years later the entire Occupy Wall Street movement is mostly dormant (with the exception of various Facebook and Twitter accounts that use the name Occupy Wall Street but they seem to be more focused on sharing links these days than doing any kind of real-life organizing street protests on behalf of the 99%) while Occupy Baltimore is defunct. The Luminous Intervention site is still online but it hasn’t been updated in a year. Tax Evaders still remains online and it’s still available to play for free. Tax Evaders is basically a Space Invaders clone where you have to shoot down corporations who have successfully evaded paying their fair share of taxes. If you shoot down enough of those corporations, you will see government funding get restored to schools, libraries, and other government programs that benefit average Americans.

If you like Space Invaders and are concerned about economic inequality, then Tax Evaders is for you. The only sad part about this game is that the entire game’s premise has not been dated at all. In fact, the game is still just as relevant today as it was five years ago (if not more relevant in light of President Donald Trump’s recent tax reform bill that successfully passed last year).

So if you’re feeling frustrated about figuring out your taxes for this year, then you can take out your frustrations on Tax Evaders. One major caveat, you will need to have Flash installed in order to play this game.

Tax Evaders video game

UPDATE (April 18, 2018): It looks like Tax Day has been extended to today due to the fact that the IRS website had literally crashed yesterday with the throngs of people filing their tax returns. So that means you can have some more time taking out your tax-related frustrations on the Tax Evaders video game.

Back in January I shot some photos at a Toys R Us in Annapolis, Maryland. At the time Toys R Us had announced a closure of around 200-300 stores across the United States. I had heard rumors that those closures were going to be the first in a wave of closures that will eventually end Toys R Us as a business. I picked the Annapolis store because I wanted to take photos of a store that wasn’t on the list of stores that were closing so I could document what a typical Toys R Us store was like on an average business day. I also wrote about my own memories of shopping at various Toys R Us stores since my own childhood along with the factors that led to Toys R Us to file for bankruptcy then start closing some of its own stores.

I honestly thought that the rest of the stores weren’t going to start shutting down until summer at the earliest. Imagine my surprise when Toys R Us announced last month that it was going to just liquidate all of their stores (including its Babies R Us stores).

Like I wrote back in January, Toys R Us originally started in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC in the space that’s now inhabited by Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. Local station NBC4 recently ran a news story about Toys R Us’ DC origins that’s definitely worth checking out. There’s another page on the Ghosts of DC site that goes even further. It traces the entire history of that same Adams-Morgan building starting from 1907 when that address was listed as the site of a birthday party for twin brothers in The Washington Post‘s society column.

Toys R Us’ original founder, Charles Lazarus, died at 94 soon after the chain announced that it was liquidating. I know that he was at an advanced age but sometimes I wonder if he had died of a broken heart. It must be really tough to see your life’s work just metaphorically go up in smoke like that, especially after being in business for 70 years.

I recently started a new day job where I’m doing office work for a therapist who also happens to have financial investments and rental properties on the side while also dealing with his late aunt’s estate. He gave me this comic that he clipped out of a newspaper about Toys R Us.

While I’m not denying that the playing habits of children are changing but I learned that there is another factor behind the demise of Toys R Us. This video thoroughly explains why Toys R Us are literally closing up shop and it had little to do with other factors frequently cited (such as kids being more into smartphones and tablets than traditional toys, competition from other big box retailers like Walmart, and competition from online retailers like Amazon) and more to do with some disgusting Wall Street shenanigans where the executives at the top are making off like bandits while thousands of their employees are being laid off.

I decided to make to make a return trip to Toys R Us on a Friday afternoon. The day before I had a successful interview that led to the day job that I’m currently working at. Despite my good mood I was still struggling with a head cold when I went. I decided to go anyway despite being tired and sick because I wanted to go to check out the going out of business sale before most of the inventory got sold. I decided to go back to the same Annapolis store that I went to in January just so I could take more photos comparing the store in its beginning death throes with the earlier January photos. (You might want to flip between this post and that post for comparison.)

One man was standing at a corner near the store with a giant sign reminding drivers that Toys R Us is having its going out of business sale.

The signs in the Toys R Us window were cheerfully touting its products, especially with the upcoming Easter holiday.

It sounds strange to see a “Now Hiring” sign when the store was going out of business. I later read that Toys R Us was looking to hire temp workers who would help with winding down the stores.

One of its entrance doors didn’t work and it sported a handwritten “Out of Order” sign near the floor. Given the fact that this store will soon close, I don’t anticipate that door being repaired anytime soon.

Here is one of the signs announcing that this store was going out of business.

Despite the fact that the store would soon close, I saw a whole array of Easter-related candy, baskets, and toys available for sale.

I saw this sign promoting the Toys R Us mobile app that included a game. I wonder how much longer this app will work once Toys R Us closes its doors for good.


I read articles that said that one should expect empty shelves because a number of vendors had cut ties with the company before the company decided to close down. Sure enough, I saw far more empty and half-empty shelves than I did back in January.

There were a number of Toys R Us exclusives that were still in stock.

There were a number of toys that were still available the day I was there including dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, and more.

Compared with my earlier trip in January, I saw more people in the store this time as employees were busy and shoppers were milling around.

There was a long line at the checkout line. That was due to the fact that there were only two cashiers working the cash registers. They worked fast enough that I was only in line for about 15 minutes.

I made one purchase during that trip to Toys R Us.  It’s a Harley Quinn doll.

Here’s a photo of the entire long Toys R Us receipt.

Here’s a closeup of the top half of the receipt. This one is trying to encourage me to share my feedback about that store in order to have a chance to win a $500 Toys R Us gift card, which is pretty ironic since the entire store chain is in the process of closing. As for the Toys R Us gift card, I had heard that Toys R Us will soon stop honoring gift cards altogether.

Here’s the bottom of the receipt. I saw that same Harley Quinn doll at the Target that’s located closer to my home for $20.99. I had heard complaints that Toys R Us is more expensive than the other retailers but when I was there I saw that Toys R Us was selling that doll for the regular retail price of $19.99 (which was $1 cheaper than Target). With the going out of business sale, I got 10% off, which meant that I only paid $17.99 for the Harley Quinn doll, which meant that I save $2. Sweet!

When I was at Toys R Us in January I was offered a free frequent rewards card, which I took. I ended up not using that rewards card when I purchased the Harley Quinn doll because it would’ve been pointless since Toys R Us is closing soon. Here’s a photo of that card, which is colorful.

I never got around to completing my member enrollment online mainly because I rarely go to Toys R Us these days. It was just as well since it would’ve ended up being for naught.

This week Toys R Us put up this notice at its website announcing that it was no longer going to process online purchases and customers should go to the bricks and mortar stores if they want to purchase any remaining toys in stock.

Passover

The day after St. Patrick’s Day I helped a friend of mine with his booth at the annual Maker Faire NoVa that was held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I had attended previous STEM Maker events in Greenbelt, Silver Spring, and Washington, DC but it’s the first time I ever checked the Northern Virginia one. I have to admit that this event was the largest event of its kind that I had ever attended. To give you an idea as to how big it was, here’s a video I shot of this event.

And now it’s time for the still photos. I knew I had come to the right place when I saw this statue of George Mason (whom the university is named after) all dressed up for the occasion.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

The reason why I was there was that I was helping a friend of mine with his table. His name is Phil Shapiro and he frequently hangs out on YouTube and Twitter. He wanted to demonstrate Inkscape, which is the free open source alternative to Adobe Illustrator. He brought a couple of Linux laptops that he made available for people to use. At the last minute he decided to have one of those laptops run Tux Paint, which is a free open source graphics program that is made for kids under 7, which turned out to be a good move because a lot of visitors were kids. The kids seemed to really like Tux Paint so it was all good. In any case, here is what the sign looked like.

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

It was at that gumball machine where I made my one and only purchase from Maker Faire NoVa: A tiny 1-inch printed 3D printed Darth Vader who’s seated like a Buddha. I only paid 50 cents for this cool item.

Maker Faire NoVa, March 18, 2018

There were also some vintage bikes that the public can ride.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

It was also at Maker Faire NoVa where I got my first glimpse of American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year doll. Her name is Luciana Vega, she’s into STEM and her big ambition is to be the first person to explore Mars.

Maker Faire NoVa

This boy was showing his work in progress on his latest project. He was in the process of building his own BB-8 robot from the Star Wars movies.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

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

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

IMG_5248

Maker Faire NoVa

IMG_5253

IMG_5254

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

George Mason University’s Fairfax campus is pretty big. In fact, I think it may be as big as my own alma mater (University of Maryland at College Park). I briefly went through the campus Barnes & Noble store, which had copies of Michael Wolff’s controversial bestseller about Donald Trump’s first year in the White House called Fire & Fury.

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

Maker Faire NoVa

I really had a blast at Maker Faire NoVa. It helped that the weather was in the 50’s that day so I was able to wear a light jacket instead of my heavy winter coat for a change. I even saw my first robin of the year while I was walking around outside going from building to building while checking out the event. (The entire event was spread over four buildings.) Sadly that warm weather was a short-lived thing because the weather turned really cold and rainy the next day followed by a snowstorm.

The only downside about that event is that for about a couple of days before that event I started to have stuffed sinuses. By the time of that event my throat felt more scratchy as I talked more and more with the general public while I worked at Phil’s booth. My legs had grown stiff and sore by the end of the day due to the huge amount of walking and standing I did throughout the day. The following day I felt extremely tired and sick. I ended up spending most of the next week sleeping (with the exception of the couple of times I went out in the snow where I did some shoveling two days after Maker Faire NoVa). I even ended up skipping the big March for Our Lives on the following Saturday due to being sick. But the video, photos, and fond memories from Maker Faire NoVa made it all worthwhile.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

This February was probably the worst February for me in recent memory. It was like everything that could have gone wrong for me did.

First I learned that my ex-husband had stopped sending me alimony payments. I knew it was going to run out at some point but I always thought that it would be sometime in June (when it would’ve been the anniversary of the judge handing down the decision that the divorce was final) but my ex decided to stop sending further payments after late December. Of course he didn’t notify me of this. In fact he has pretty much avoided speaking to me as much as possible since the day he walked out on me back in late 2011, which has made the entire divorce process far worse than it was. (Ideally I would’ve loved for the two of us to meet together somewhere in person to hammer out a few things and communicate about such things as payment schedules and similar matters but, with him, everything can only be done via email or text—and that is only if he feels like responding.) As a result I only learned about this when the alimony check has stopped arriving. I sent a polite email asking about the payments while stating that I have had a run of bad luck (which I’ll get into in a bit). I didn’t resort to name calling or making accusations. It was basically a short polite email where I asked about the payments while explaining my current situation. I even expressed my sympathy for the death of his father back in October. He responded with this businesslike tone where he said that he had fulfilled his obligations and thanked me for my kind words regarding his father. The whole thing had the tone of a business transaction instead of two people who used to be married to each other.

Unfortunately consulting a lawyer was out of the question because I really can’t afford to launch any kind of lawsuits at the moment due to extremely tight finances. On top of it, my original divorce lawyer passed away back in 2016 so I would have to hire a brand new lawyer if I wanted to launch any kind of legal challenges regarding the original separation and divorce agreement.

Then there was that church service that I attended on the last Sunday in January, where I ended up experiencing raw emotions that carried through February. Here’s some background. When I was still married my husband and I used to attend that church together. When we separated, I tried attending Sunday service only to see my estranged husband there and I found it to be a major distraction and I couldn’t focus on any part of the Sunday service. I stopped attending church for a while because I just couldn’t stand attending with my ex. There were times when I arrived at church only to see his car parked there and I would immediately turn around and drive back home. I even contemplated quitting church altogether or switching to a different church, which wouldn’t be unusual because over the years I’ve seen other members’ marriages or longterm relationships end and one or both former partners would end up quitting. I had members of my support group for people who are separated or divorced tell me that they ended up either switching churches or stop attending in order to avoid seeing their ex on a weekly basis.

But then I had friends from my church tell me that my ex had eventually stopped going to Sunday service so I felt comfortable enough to attend on my own. I attended one service on the last Sunday in January where I didn’t even look up what the topic of the service was. It was also the same Sunday where I was scheduled to attend the 90th birthday party of a fellow church member that was held at a retirement community near my church so it made sense for me to go to church then go to the birthday party afterwards. It turned out that it was a lay-led service where it was being put on by members of the Men’s Group at our congregation. I found out that my ex was not only involved in the Men’s Group but he was among the speakers.

But then it got worse. My ex mentioned at the beginning of his speech “My marriage fell apart…” That had me livid because that statement implied that either I had left him or our marriage had broken down over a long period of time because we were arguing and not getting along so we both made the mutual decision to separate. In reality he didn’t even let on that he was the least bit unhappy until one night, three days after Christmas (and three months after I underwent hip surgery), he came home, announced that he was moving out, left behind two handwritten letters and the first alimony check, then bolted out the door. In fact, I wrote this post on the night he abruptly left indicating my hope that he would return soon. The following month I learned from friends that he had hooked up with a friend of ours who has long been suffering from severe mental health issues and he married her just two months after our divorce was final. For him to say “My marriage fell apart…” implying that it was something that happened to him is totally disingenuous and dishonest. If he had simply said “I got divorced” I probably would not have been as angry and upset.

I’m the one who had more right to say “My marriage fell apart…” than he did because he was the one who left me for a woman with severe mental health problems, insisted on a divorce, refused to consider marriage counseling, demanded that we separate all of our finances according to this schedule that he worked out in his head or else he would sue me, got engaged to the other woman eight months after he left me (while he was still legally married to me), sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email that was sent on Christmas Eve, and married the other woman just two months after our divorce was final.

As it turned out I ended up tuning out the rest of the service because I was fuming and I focused on perusing Facebook on my smartphone instead. I bolted out of the church as soon as I could, headed to a Starbucks that’s located inside of a Target that’s located near the venue where the birthday party was scheduled to be held, and just sat there drinking a soda I had purchased until it was time for the party to begin.

My biggest lesson is that from now on I’m going to look up the topic of a Sunday service before going to church. That way I can avoid hearing any future talks from my ex-husband.

On top of that there is my ongoing job search for a new day job. I’ve gone to various networking events and job search seminars and job fairs only to come up empty. I could write a separate post about how broken the job search process has become—complete with emailing resumes to various websites with no responses, people not returning phone calls when I did follow-up calls on job applications and left messages, and things like that. Even temp agencies have gotten completely dysfunctional where recruiters now tell you to go to their website, look at all of the jobs that are posted there and if you see a job that you like, you should send a resume and if the recruiters think you’re qualified, they will call you. Years ago I used to be able to easily find work through temp agencies simply by calling for an appointment and taking a series of tests (which measured typing speed, the ability to solve simple math problems, and knowledge of basic English grammar) but now most of them no longer give any kind of tests and they aren’t even into seeing you in person any more. I can’t even recommend temp agencies to anyone. And I’m not the only one. I have a friend who was let go from her job, which she had originally gotten after working there as a temp. She tried the temp agencies herself and she has gotten the same runaround as I did.

My car brakes started to make a grinding noise every time I used the brake pedal, which freaked me out. I initially decided not to drive the car to any place that was more than 10 miles away from home. Then the grinding noise got worse and I became too afraid to even drive my car because I was scared of not having any brakes at all. I couldn’t afford to get them repaired because of my money situation so I was left with no other alternative other than to leave my car parked while running the engine for a few minutes once a week so the car engine wouldn’t deteriorate from disuse. (I’ve know someone whose car stopped working after she didn’t use it at all for about a month or longer so she had to get it towed and repaired.) I started walking or using public transportation, which definitely put a crimp in my job search because I was limited to applying only to places that I could get to by Metrobus or Metrorail or some other form of public transportation.

I had to call my own mother telling her about my car situation while telling her that I didn’t know when I would ever be able to visit her in person again because she lives in a part of the state that has no public transportation whatsoever.

My Sagittarius Dolly channel was let go from the YouTube Partner program this month because I didn’t get enough subscribers or watch hours. I never earned any money from that program (that’s because of YouTube’s policy of not issuing payment until it reached the minimum $100 threshold and I never earned more than about $10 or $20 total) but I was still peeved because I was among the hundreds of less popular channels who were essentially paying the price for what Logan Paul did in Japan last month, which I already went into once, twice, and three times.

My PlayStation 2 console stopped working and today I found out that my Wii remote has stopped working even though I’ve been putting in new batteries with the same result. Those two console problems are nothing compared to what I’m going through but they seemed to be part of a continuum of how horrible February has gotten for me.

If all that weren’t enough, it had been raining most of February, which made me feel even more depressed. There was the occasional sunny day but it was mostly gloomy clouds and rain.

And I’m not even about to go into the constant news about President Donald Trump’s latest antics other than I find it so draining learning that we have a totally immature man-child in the White House. I’m also not even going to bother with the Parkland shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day other than to say that I’m totally pissed that nothing has been done to enact gun safety over the past several years and this latest shooting would have never happened had some common sense gun laws been passed years ago. I’m glad that the kids who survived that shooting are starting to agitate for change and other students from around the country are also starting to launch their own protests as well.

So I was down and out. But then a few things happened that made me less down and out. I had one friend loan me the money to repair the brakes on my car (which came to a whopping $560). I made arrangements with my co-op regarding being able to pay my co-op fees. By the end of the month I got my car back. I also had friends who were very kind to me, especially when they learned about my situation. One friend gave me $100 out of the blue when she learned about my car situation. I will always remember that act of kindness. I have a friend who wants my help in making a documentary about someone who is going to celebrate her 100th birthday this year and she said she will pay me. I have another friend who needs my help regarding computers and there may be money in it as well.

Plus I’m expected to pay off that loan from my friend by helping him with putting various things for sale on eBay while giving him the proceeds from each sale. I told him I can’t guarantee that any of those eBay listings will lead to actual sales. I’ve had mixed results with eBay and Etsy over the years where I seemed to have more unsold stuff than stuff that actually sold. I’ve generally done better with selling things at street fairs and I think it’s because people are more likely to make an impulse buy if they see something in person than some picture that’s on a computer screen. Maybe I can do a big yard sale if the eBay thing doesn’t work out. But in any case I’m going to give the eBay thing a try first so I would have more time waiting for the weather to improve so I can put on a yard sale if I need to do so.

The biggest lesson about my story is that it always helps to have friends who are supportive because you’ll never know when you’ll need to rely on them. In any case I’m ready to put February behind me starting tomorrow.

Previous Entries

Categories

Advertisements