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I was in a good mood that day for a few personal reasons (mostly related to my ongoing hunting for a new day job to pay my bills) that I decided to take the Silver Line Metro to Tyson’s Corner for the first time in over a year.

I ate dinner at Wasabi, which not only has good sushi but it has such a unique method of delivery that I shot this short video during a previous visit six years ago.

I also visited other stores like American Girl Place. The bad news is that I am currently dealing with the fact that the camera on my three and a half year old smartphone has been acting erratically since Christmas. Sometimes the camera will work and sometimes it doesn’t. There are times when I have to haul my older Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera if I want to go to a place where I want to take pictures in order to ensure that I have at least one working camera. The downside is that the Canon is larger and heavier and it shoots in fewer megapixels than my smartphone and the images are less sharp than my smartphone camera no matter how much I focus the lens.

The phone part still works and money is still too tight for me to get a new smartphone. (If the phone part ever dies, I will have no other choice but to buy a new phone but I’m trying to make my current one last as long as possible.) I have to make do with what I have right now.

On that day I felt lazy so I left the Canon at home. That was a big mistake, especially at American Girl Place because I missed out on taking pictures on some gorgeous new dolls that had arrived in the store since my last visit. Oh well.

I took three pictures of what I purchased while I was at Tyson’s Corner after my trip. I found a new book at American Girl Place which focuses on the 1970’s historical character Julie Albright. A few summers ago I devoted several weeks of Throwback Thursdays to doing reviews of the Julie books. I plan on doing a review of this new book soon.

I also discovered that since my last visit a Lolli and Pops candy store had opened at Tyson’s Corner. I had already been to the one in Annapolis Mall and Westfield Montgomery Mall so it was no big deal that I wasn’t able to get any pictures of the Tyson’s Corner store. I purchased a small bag full of gummy bears made from champagne. (I found at least three different flavors of champagne in that store.) The last two photographs show my haul from that store.

Today the French are celebrating Bastille Day, when the rebels stormed Bastille prison and it not only resulted in releasing seven inmates but it was also the turning point in the French Revolution. It is the French equivalent of the Fourth of July and there is a lot of partying and fireworks going on right now as you’re reading this.

For this occasion, I’m going to once again show my animation The March of Liberty since it includes an appearance by Marianne (who’s the symbol of France) as she marches to “La Marseillaise” (a.k.a. the French national anthem). This is the same animation that was shown at Light City in Baltimore earlier this year. Enjoy!

Ted Adelman’s name may not mean much to people who live outside the Washington, DC area but to the locals he produced Christmas magic. Yesterday I learned that he had died just a few weeks ago. In a way it’s fitting that his family waited until another major holiday weekend (Fourth of July) to announce his death because Ted Adelman celebrated Christmas in a really big way. Boy, did he ever celebrate that holiday! Each December his home would look like this.

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You can see more photos I took of that house in my blog posts that I wrote in 2012 and 2014.

I also shot a video in 2010 of both that house and another home located across the street that was also decorating in a big way. That video shows how the house had Christmas lights that flashed in synchronicity to cheerful Christmas music that was piped outside.

That tradition abruptly ended last December when the family decided not to decorate their home for the holidays. It was when NBC4 investigated and learned the reason why: Ted Adelman had been battling cancer and he simply didn’t feel up to it. His neighbors decided to organize a group of Christmas carolers that came over to his home on Christmas night singing Christmas carols as a way of thanking him for all the years that he brought cheer to neighbors and strangers alike.

As of this writing it’s not known whether his family plans to continue with this tradition or not and we probably won’t know until December. If there’s a Heaven, I can imagine Ted Adelman trying to overdecorate it at Christmas so much that even Jesus will tell him “You don’t have to do this for me. Really. Oh, well, I’m very flattered that you care this much about me.”

Late last week I finished my latest animation, which is based on the song “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” by The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. Here is the video. I’ll write more about how I made it below.

I’m pretty friendly with a few local musicians. (None of them are major stars and all of them have day jobs since they don’t make enough money from being musicians to pay the bills.) A few months ago I did a short animation to Phil Shapiro’s song “Open Source is Yours and Mine.

Among my musician friends are a husband and wife duo known as The Bachelor and the Bad Actress. (I even went to their wedding that was held during the Crazy Quilt Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland a couple of years ago.) At one point I was communicating with Joe the Bachelor on Facebook (yes, he’s married now but he’s still known as The Bachelor because, well, old habits die hard [LOL!]) and I linked to the “Open Source is Yours and Mine” and I joked about offering to trash one of his songs the way I “trashed” the “Open Source” song. He really liked the video and was open to the idea of an animated music video to one of The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ songs.

Meanwhile I’ve been going to the weekly animation meetup at Makerspace 125 and there is talk about all of us collaborating together on one animation but nothing has happened yet along those lines (as of this writing). When I mentioned this to Joe the Bachelor, he offered to let those of us in that meetup to each take one of their songs and animate it.

I brought it up with the meetup group but it was met with indifference. I decided to do one of their songs on my own and show it to the other meetup attendees just to show that it’s possible. I picked “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog)” because the lyrics were straightforward and I figured that I could do a comedic animation that’s reminiscent of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

I used Moho Anime Studio Debut for the bulk of the animation. There were a few times when I had to use Adobe Photoshop for some scenes where using Anime Studio would’ve been frustrating. (Like most graphics programs, Anime Studio Debut uses layers. Unlike the other graphics programs, you literally cannot control the opacity in those layers. So I switched to Photoshop for those times when I needed to control the opacity of certain layers, exported the graphics as a .jpeg, then imported it into Anime Studio Debut. I’m going to stop here on the technical stuff since not everyone is interested in such details.)

This animation was my first foray into actual lip-synching. Anime Studio Debut recommended this free open source software called Papagayo, which churns out lip movements based on both audio recordings and what you type into the application. If you want to know more about this, I suggest getting it yourself, since it is free to download.

I originally planned on doing the entire thing in Anime Studio Debut while I would use iMovie only to put in the opening title and closing credits. There was a snag when I discovered that Anime Studio Debut can’t go any further than 3,000 frames and the song lasts longer than that. I was basically using the app’s default at 24 frames per second. If you do the math, you’d know that the maximum run time that the software can handle is 125 seconds or two minutes and five seconds. The song runs for two minutes and 31 seconds.

I found a workaround when I brought the song into Audacity and broke it up in two. Then I created two separate animation files, exported them separately, then brought them into iMovie where I managed to patch everything together into one file.

While I was working on this, I found out that Moby had been releasing animated music videos. The first one is a statement about people being addicted to their smartphones. The second one has become controversial because it makes an unflattering statement about President Donald Trump but that’s another story altogether. I was influenced by the end titles in both videos and they were my inspiration for how I created the end title in my own animation where I showed people where they can download or stream The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ music.

Speaking of President Trump, I added some imagery of my own about The Donald along with a quote from George Orwell’s book Animal Farm. See if you can spot them while you’re watching my video.

I have to admit that this was my most ambitious animation to date and there were times when I was on the verge of burnout. And that’s because I was also doing some major job hunting using tips from a book that I had recently gotten a hold of.

I finally decided that doing two big things at once wasn’t good for my health. With the Fourth of July holiday coming up, I decided that I would finish the animation first then resume reading the job hunting book after the holiday. (If this book works for me and I end up getting a new day job to pay the bills, I will write another post praising this book and urging all my readers of this blog to buy it.) With another finished animation under my belt, I now have something recent I can show to any potential employer interested in my animation skills.

I’m also toying with starting a Patreon page where I would make short animations (meaning less than five minutes) for anyone willing to give me some money. Working on this animation has shown me what I can realistically do for a potential patron while setting a price that’s reasonable for the patron while not pricing myself so low that I end up making $1 or $2 per hour (which is impossible to live on anywhere in the United States of America).

By the way, if you like the song, “Jack Sprat (aka Butcher the Hog),”  you can purchase it or stream it through The Bachelor and the Bad Actress’ Bandcamp page.

Ramadan

Like I wrote yesterday, I decided to devote a separate post to my attendance at the latest installment of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC because it would have made my last post extremely long otherwise.

This event was held during DC Pride Weekend and it was also held on the same day as a big demonstration on the Mall for LGBTQ rights. I wasn’t able to make it because I attended Sunday service at my church that morning, Dr. Sketchy’s was supposed to begin at 3 p.m., and there’s the issue of Metro’s unreliable weekend service where you typically have to wait between 15 minutes to a half-an-hour for the next train. I wasn’t too bitter about missing the march because it was very hot outside. (The temperature went as high as 95 degrees with high humidity.)

I saw rainbow flags everywhere in Dupont Circle as I was walking to the Bier Baron, where the event was held. Even the Bier Baron itself was decked out in rainbow colors.

Once I was inside I even got in on the act by laying out my pencils in a rainbow pattern.

Once again Reverend Valentine hosted the event. I gave her this toy dinosaur that I found outside Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, which was among the items that the STEM center invited the general public to take for free. (Makerspace 125 is currently undergoing some major spring cleaning and reorganization of the space.) I knew she was into dinosaurs so I figured what the hell since it was free and everything. (Besides, it gives me the excuse to post this picture right here.)

She loved it when I gave it to her. She said that it will live with the other toy dinosaurs that she has on display in her kitchen.

The event was pretty well-attended despite the fact that it was scheduled during DC Pride Weekend and that big march was still going on at the Mall just a few miles away. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Amira Jade and some of these drawings are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest at that event. This one was a beach theme. She said that she would also give extra points for including a dinosaur. So I had Amira Jade with Dino the Dinosaur.

I also decided to ad Batman surfing on a surfboard in the ocean as my personal tribute to Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960’s TV series who had died the day before. It was based on this incredibly campy clip from the TV show.

My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. Oh well. You win some and you lose some.

I did a couple of more drawings of Amira Jade before the event ended.

Ramadan

I’ve been hearing plenty on the Internet about this new fad known as Fidget Spinners. I became curious enough that I purchased one when the local Five Below store got a shipment in. The Fidget Spinners were only sold behind the counter and sales were limited to no more than two per person. So I paid $5 for a red one. I shot this short video recording my unboxing of my new purchase and my reaction to playing with a Fidget Spinner for the first time. Have fun with this one!

If you want to learn more about this trend, this link has some information, including the bizarre fact that the popular porn site PornHub revealed that, during a 10-day data sampling in May, there were 2.5 million searches for the term “Fidget Spinner”, which made it the top trending term and the fifth most popular search for that month. (Personally I would rather not know the details about how people can use a Fidget Spinner as a sex toy.)

Ramadan

A survey of the open source community finds widespread harassment and gender imbalance.

Teacher launches crochet campaign to fund the victims of the Manchester attack.

Dubai gets its first robot cop.

Verizon will slash more than 2,000 jobs from Yahoo-AOL when the deal closes this month.

Why the mainstream media should pay for the right to use videos and photos that were originally shared on social media.

Prison inmates crochet 150 blankets for veterans.

Security experts warn that the My Friend Cayla doll is susceptible to being hacked.

How YouTube celebrities have lead to the rise of YouTube tabloids that keep tabs on them.

Learn about Karen Wetterhahn, the chemist whose poisoning death changed safety standards.

Your grandma’s crochet is wildly in fashion.

This startup wants to turn YouTube unboxing videos into a big business.

These three industries are making the most out of 3D printing.

New report says Walmart punishes employees for taking sick days.

How banks are using artificial intelligence up front and behind the scenes.

Israeli police unveil first-ever 3D printed police car.

Why Adobe pays creatives to do whatever they want for a whole year.

FCTRY has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a Senator Elizabeth Warren doll, the proceeds of which will be used to fund Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign (if she decides to run).

One of the first computer video games is born again in open source.

A robot could cut your hair in the future.

Robot dog has an artificial woof that sounds like the real thing.

How Adobe got its users hooked on subscriptions.

Ramadan

Last fall I started a separate YouTube channel after a friend of mine urged me to do so. It’s supposed to be a “professional channel” that’s designed to build my personal brand. He was saying that doing everything that he told me to do would result in my getting hired. He wanted me to start doing book reviews where I would check nonfiction books (preferably with “uplift”) out of the library, read them, and do video book reviews just like what he does on his channel. I also added some videos I did using the MySimpleShow.com platform plus one video that I shot when the local shopping center started playing Christmas music the day after Halloween. (Yeah, that one was strange.)

I started to lose enthusiasm for that channel after the first few tries. I think the problem is that I had created that channel to someone else’s specifications instead of my own, even though it’s supposed to be my channel in theory. I attempted to put my own personal touch by doing this video review for this book I found in the library—a book on the history of 20th century fashion called Dressing the Decades by Emmanuelle Dirix. I enjoyed working on that book review the most because it was on a topic that interested me. While that video review got more hits than the others I’ve done, I decided to stop doing the video book reviews because it wasn’t worth the effort I had put into those video book reviews only to get very anemic responses.

But then last month I got a message through Facebook from Emmanuelle Dirix herself saying that she liked what I did. I was so thrilled with the response that I wrote a blog post about it.

At the same time this happened I had just started reading the latest library book I had checked out. It’s called Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol and it’s Steve Jones’ memoir about his life and career as The Sex Pistols guitarist. I originally had no intention of doing any kind of book review—I just wanted to read it because I’ve been a Sex Pistols fan since I was a teen.

But after hearing from Emmanuelle Dirix about my review of her book, I decided to try doing a video book review of Lonely Boy just to see what kind of response I’ll get from it. I may or may not do more video book reviews depending on the response I get to this one. It takes a lot of effort to make these videos (including using Post-It Notes to mark excerpts that I need to digitally copy, writing a script, and making the video itself).

So, without further ado, here is my video review of Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol written by Steve Jones and Ben Thompson.

Ramadan

I’m devoting this Throwback Thursday post to my wedding day mainly because today is not only what would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not left me for someone else but June 8 falls on a Thursday this year. June is the month that many couples in the U.S. traditionally get married. On top of it this month is LGBTQ Pride Month and I have a wedding-related story that definitely fits with that theme.

A couple of months ago on March 31 I saw a bunch of stories suddenly crop up on my Facebook feed about people speaking openly about either being transgender themselves or having a friend or loved one who is transgender. I didn’t know that the transgender community have been having an International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31 since 2009. This year it really took off with all of the testimonials about transgender people and issues. I only wished someone had given me advanced notice because I would’ve told my own particular story then. So I decided to wait until Pride Month to tell my own story.

I grew up being completely ignorant about transgender people. I was raised Roman Catholic and the topic of being transgender was simply never brought up in church. The local public school system never mentioned that topic either in all the years I was a student there. The first person I recalled who actually had sex-reassignment surgery was a British man named James Morris, who became known as Jan Morris after having the surgery. I was a kid then and I thought it was pretty mind-blowing that one could change genders like that. I remember Jan Morris got tons of publicity and it ignited all kinds of debate about transsexuals (which is what transgender people were referred as at the time).

A few years later a tennis player named Renée Richards attempted to compete in the U.S Open as a female athlete. She became controversial when it was revealed that she was originally born a man and she, too, had a sex change operation. There were female tennis players who protested the idea of her being included in their tournaments.

When I was in college I picked up a copy of Gloria Steinem’s book Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, which was a compilation of articles that she wrote in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Among those articles was a 1977 essay about the Renée Richards controversy called “Transsexualism.” Her hypothesis was that people opted for sex change operations because of the rigid gender roles that were proscribed in society, which dictates that boys don’t cry and girls don’t play sports. She basically said that if society were to loosen gender roles then men won’t feel the need to have sex change operations so they can express emotions more easily and women could play sports without having sex change operations to become men. Her closing words were “But the question remains: If the shoe doesn’t fit, must we change the foot?”

In the years since Gloria Steinem wrote her “Transsexualism” essay, there have been major changes in terms of gender roles. More men are opting to become stay-at-home dads while their wives work full-time. There are now male nurses, female doctors, male flight attendants, and female postal workers. The WNBA is a professional women’s basketball team and there is the FIFA Women’s World Cup Soccer. Women’s basketball, women’s hockey, and women’s soccer are all Olympic sports. Yet, despite these advances in gender equality, more and more people are coming out as transgender because they feel that they have literally been born in the wrong body, with the most prominent being Caitlyn Jenner, who once won an Olympic gold medal as Bruce Jenner.

During my college years at the University of Maryland at College Park, I met a couple of gay and lesbian students but my first-hand experience with transgender people was limited to going to a midnight screening of a certain cult film that has this musical number:

After college my fiancee and I decided to get married and it was my fiancee who, out of the blue, said that he wanted a church wedding. (I was always surprised by his preference. He told me that his family was basically nonreligious when he was growing up, with the exception of a few years when his family attended a Quaker congregation only to leave it when that congregation went through a nasty congregational split that disgusted his parents so much that they quit.) I had stopped going to mass and I would’ve been content with a civil marriage by a justice of the peace. I told him that we would’ve had to go to marriage classes if we were to be married in the Roman Catholic church while he would have to promise that any future children we had would be raised Catholic. He remembered an ad I had shown him that was published in The Washington Post a year earlier that was for Unitarian Universalism that said “Instead of having to fit in with a church, I found a church that fits me” while telling him that I was impressed with it. (I remember when I found that ad while I was going through the Sunday paper. There were no Unitarian Universalist groups on campus and the nearest congregation was only available by car, which I didn’t have at the time, so I never followed up on that ad and I soon forgot about it.) He even found a local UU congregation that he said we could try. (He also lined up a few other denominations we could try as well—namely Quaker and the United Church of Christ—in case the UU church didn’t work out for either of us.)

So we went to our first UU service and we were impressed with the minister. We found out after the service that the woman was a visiting minister and the regular minister would be speaking the following week. We were still impressed with the fact that the church had a weekly coffee hour where people stuck around and socialized after Sunday service. (In contrast, my old Roman Catholic parish had something similar called “Hospitality Sunday” that was only held once a month. Otherwise, people basically spilled into the parking lot and drove home once mass ended.) We were also impressed with how friendly the people there were. We went back the following week to check out the regular minister and we were impressed with him as well. We started going every week and, after a few months, we signed the membership book. We even managed to get the minister to officiate at our wedding so my husband got his way on having a religious wedding.

So we were married by a UU minister. During the reception I threw my wedding bouquet and one of the single ladies caught it. Then my new husband removed the garter from my leg and one of his single friends caught it. Then the bouquet catcher and garter catcher posed for a photo with me and my newly wedded husband.

The guy who caught my garter was named Dave Norris. Dave’s mother and my husband’s mother were friends and there were times when Dave hung around with my husband and his neighborhood friends in Long Island even though Dave was a few years younger than my husband.

Traditionally there is this old wives’ tale that says that people who catch the bouquet and garter are the ones who will be married next. That doesn’t usually happen in real life but Dave was the rare exception because he got married the following year while my husband was the best man at his wedding. It was a short-lived marriage that happened soon after his girlfriend found out that she was pregnant. The bride was six months pregnant at the wedding. Three months later she had the baby. Three months after the birth, Dave and his new wife separated and they were soon divorced.

My husband and I saw Dave in person a few more times after the quick wedding/separation/divorce. The last time we saw Dave was when he traveled to Maryland with his then-latest girlfriend because he was going to a conference in Washington, DC. The four of us ate at a local restaurant. After that we lost touch with Dave for a few years.

Meanwhile my husband and I became more involved in our new UU congregation where we made new friends. About a year or two later my husband and I ended up as co-chairs of the church’s Social Action Committee. During that time AIDS was starting to ravish the nation. At the same time there was a big March on Washington for LGBTQ people that was announced. A long-time member came to us about doing a lay service about AIDS. We knew that he was previously married to a woman and he had two children (one of whom would tragically die in a car accident when she was only in her early 20’s). It was during that time he came out to us as gay. A short time later he came out as gay to the rest of the congregation. I have to admit that the congregation was shocked but ultimately accepted him because he had been an active member. (If he had been a member of my old religion, he would’ve been driven away no matter how long he had been a member.)

I’ve already written plenty about that longtime member coming out as gay in this blog so I suggest reading this post if you want to learn more about Ed Kobee and his spouse, Al Usack. After Ed managed to rally his fellow congregation members (including my husband and I) to actually attend the March on Washington for LGBTQ rights, he and Al became activists within both our congregation, the Joseph Priestley District, and in the greater UUA for that faith to become more welcoming to LGBTQ people (which resulted in the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation program). Due to those efforts we started to seeing people who were openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual attending our Sunday services. Some became members for years while others attended for a short while then moved on.

I met my first openly transgender person through my UU congregation. One of the newer members was an open bisexual who had joined with her then-husband, who was also bisexual. (They gave a forum at my congregation on bisexuality where they said they had extramarital dalliances with same-sex partners.) That marriage subsequently ended and her husband left the church. She started a new relationship with a person who was born a man but he underwent a sex change operation and was now living as a woman. Yet she was still sexually attracted to women. I attended a forum on transgender at my church and this person spoke openly about how she felt like she was born in the wrong body yet she was still attracted to women. That was how I learned that gender identity and sexual orientation are two completely different things. This person was born in a male body and was sexually attracted to females so society designated him as a heterosexual. After the surgery this person was a woman yet was still sexually attracted to females so society designated her as a lesbian.

Basically the bisexual woman and the transgender woman started a relationship and stayed together for many years until the transgender woman died a few years ago. Over the years we’ve had other transgender people attend our Sunday services. I really can’t elaborate further on these other people because it’s really not my story to tell. On top of it, even though these people are openly transgender to my congregation, they aren’t quite as open to the general public outside of church. That’s because there have been too many cases of transgender discrimination on the job and in housing. And that’s not to mention the fact that there have been Republican lawmakers who are trying to pass those bathroom bills that only exist to make a transgender person’s live much harder. If that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that transgender folks are frequently targets of beatings, sexual assaults, and other acts of violence perpetrated against them by transphobic criminals.

Getting back to my husband’s friend who caught my garter at our wedding, we basically didn’t hear from Dave Norris for a number of years. One day, out of the blue, Dave called our house. My husband and Dave had an enjoyable conversation on the phone. Dave told my husband that he had started his own consulting firm and he gave my husband the URL to his new website.

My husband visited the website and saw the page that had the list of the small staff that the consulting firm had along with headshots. He saw the name “Denise Norris” on the list. At first he assumed that Dave had gotten remarried and his wife was helping out in the new venture. But then he took a closer look at that photo and saw that it looked like Dave dressing in drag. My husband soon called his old friend back and asked point blank if this person now a woman. His friend admitted it.

I remember that night my husband decided to take me out to dinner and he relayed that story about his friend is now living as a woman while we were in the car. We had the car radio on at the time while my husband was telling me this and this song suddenly came on the air.

Talk about serendipity! My husband and I got a good laugh out of it.

I have to admit that accepting my husband’s friend as a woman was slightly more challenging for this reason. The other transgender people I met through my UU congregation had already made the change so I never knew them in their previous gender. On the other hand, both my husband and I knew this person when he was a guy. (And my husband knew this person longer than I did since my husband hung around with this person while they were growing up on Long Island.)

A month or so later Denise was in the DC area attending a conference so we decided to get together for dinner at a local restaurant. It was awkward at first but then we hit it off, especially when my husband and Denise started talking about the old days when they were growing up and they would get into some escapades together.

We also learned that basically Denise had long felt like she was a female even though she was born a boy but she had kept those feelings to herself while she was growing up. I can understand why she felt she had to do this. There have been too many cases of transgender children being rejected by their parents and being targeted by bullies in school. It was only after she reached adulthood that her feelings became stronger and it reached the point where she felt that she had to have the surgery. I also remember that her mother was dead by then. (I don’t know if Denise ever came out to her mother before her death or not.) I’m only paraphrasing here because I don’t have an exact transcript of our conversation from that night and I’m just relying on my less-than-perfect memories here.

I have to credit Unitarian Universalism for my husband and I quickly adjusting to the fact that Dave Norris was now living as a woman named Denise Norris. If we hadn’t met other transgender people before seeing Denise, I think it would’ve taken both of us longer to accept Denise as she is now.

We would see Denise in person a few more times after that. I think the last time we met in person was sometime before 2008 (the year I had my hip replacement).

As for the woman who caught my bouquet at my wedding who is also in that photo I posted a few paragraphs ago, her name is Trisha and she’s my godfather’s daughter. I last saw her in person when my father died in 2000 and she stopped by the funeral home one evening during the viewing period. My husband and I told her what happened to the guy who caught the garter at the wedding and how he is now living as a woman. I remember Trisha smiling and deadpanning, “I have that effect on men sometimes.” (LOL!)

Denise Norris now works at Accenture and she is also a transgender activist whose speciality is getting corporations to not only end job discrimination among transgender people but also offer benefits to them (such as health insurance that’s broad enough to afford such expenses as hormone therapy and sex change surgery). She frequently gives media interviews on the topic, such as this recent example. I follow her on Facebook where I read her posts on transgender issues and fellow transgender people like Caitlyn Jenner. (Like many in the transgender community, Denise basically has a dim view of Caitlyn mainly because Caitlyn continues to support the same Republican Party that has been coming out with those notorious bathroom bills in recent years.) I haven’t directly communicated with her in years, especially since I am now divorced and Denise had been more of a friend of my ex-husband’s than mine. On top of it, our paths simply haven’t crossed in real life. There are times I wonder if Denise still has my old wedding garter and, if so, had she ever worn it. (LOL!)

As for my UU congregation there are still LGBTQ members who are active. The most recent transgender member is a person who originally joined my congregation as a man a few years ago. He was open about admitting that he was suffering from gender dysphoria and he was seeing a therapist about that. Last year this person decided to undergo medical treatment and she is now living as a woman. She is also in a relationship with a cis woman who’s a lesbian. This member now looks happier than before the change.

That’s it for my story.

Ramadan

I recently added a new experience on my resume and LinkedIn profile because I think it’s the most interesting temp job I’ve ever done. I was an extra at a taping of an upcoming television special that will air on public television throughout the United States later this year.

I unexpectedly got this gig when I was attending a networking event that was held at the state-run Maryland Workforce Exchange. I was searching for a new day job to pay the bills so I decided to go to this networking event to see if my fortunes would change. One of the participants there was currently doing a temporary gig for Central Casting where she was tasked with getting people to go to the taping. (She’s currently looking for something more permanent herself.) I spoke with her and we hit it off. I added my name to the list of people willing to attend the taping.

A few days later I got a few emails instructing me where to go, what time I was supposed to show up, and where I can find free parking. The emails also said that the dress code was limited to business and business casual. (In other words, no t-shirts or sweatshirts with slogans, sports teams logos, or a photo of the latest pop music sensation.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect other than it would be a talk on financial planning. Since my finances are currently in the toilet (I had incurred some debts in the wake of my unexpected divorce and I’ve been having trouble with finding a steady day job so I can pay those debts down) I thought that it would be one of those talks that wouldn’t be relevant in my current situation. (In fact, I probably would not have gone if it hadn’t been a paying gig.) The first night I went I brought my latest knitting project with me thinking that I would at least get that project done while sitting through the talk. I ended up not even touching that knitting until during one of the 10-minute breaks that took place halfway through the taping. That’s because the talk was way more interesting than I expected. The second night I left my knitting at home.

The first night as I was walking into the auditorium prior to the taping I overheard a woman tell someone else that she has seen the speaker on television many times in the past. She said that he is someone she always listens to regarding planning for the future.

The TV special featured financial expert Ric Edelman giving a presentation on how technological innovations and economic changes will affect financial planning for the future. He said that the old days where people went to school, got their job working for just one company for 30-50 years, retired, then died anywhere between 65-75 are over.

He mentioned that business will become less like the New York model (where people worked for the same company with the same employees and bosses for a number of years until retirement) and be more like the Hollywood movie studio model (where people gather together to work on one project until that project is done and the people move on to other jobs/projects in other places with new coworkers). He cited the gig economy as one example of that Hollywood-like trend.

He gave numerous examples of technological innovations that will become more prevalent in the future, such as robots taking over more of the jobs that people currently do, the rise of crypto-currency like Bitcoin, finding cures for Alzheimer’s and certain types of cancers, and other similar breakthroughs that will result in people living longer and seeing certain types of work going the way of the horse and buggy industry (which was a major employer in the U.S. until cars came along). All this will affect people’s financial planning.

His talk reminded me of the film Future Shock, which I had to sit through twice (once in the 7th grade and once in the 12th grade) when I was in school. The big difference is that the movie had a more negative tone about the changing times and the technology that went on at that time (I still remember the scene where narrator Orson Welles spoke disdainfully about people being able to get artificial joints in the future—as someone with a hip replacement, I’m very grateful for that technological breakthrough because I would’ve eventually ended up in a wheelchair without it). In contrast, Ric Edelman puts a more positive spin on the technological innovations that are either here now or will be coming within the next few years. (I’ll admit that some of my pacifist friends would have been horrified to hear him give a positive spin on the increasing use of drone warfare. Edelman talked about how drones can eliminate having to use flesh-and-blood soldiers in battles so it would save them from exposing them to physical and mental trauma. That is the positive side of drone warfare. What he didn’t say is what happens to the people who are targeted by these drones—many of whom include children and innocent civilians who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.)

He spoke so positively about the technological changes in the future that I kept on thinking about this 1990’s hit song “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”

Future Shock frequently shows up on YouTube only to have it get taken down. As of this writing, the film is back online right here. (In case this new link gets taken down, you can read Fast Company’s article on what Future Shock got right and wrong.) Watching a 1972 film predicting the future is interesting in terms of what the film got right and what it got wrong (despite the film’s overall negative tone). I would love to see the video featuring Ric Edelman’s talk about the future 10 or 20 years from now in order to learn what he got right and wrong, but I digress.

He gave this presentation as a way of promoting his latest book, The Truth About Your Future, which is also currently a New York Times bestseller.

I took pictures during my two nights I was working as an extra. The event took place at Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

I had toyed with arriving at the campus about an hour or two before the taping on the second night so I could explore the campus and grab an early dinner someplace nearby. I had to scuttle that plan when it rained on the second night. The taping took place both nights at the Cultural Arts Center building.

The next shot shows this interesting glass and steel sculpture that hung from the ceiling of the building inside.

The procedures for working as an extra were the same both nights. We were instructed to arrive at the building by 6:30 p.m. (I had to eat an earlier dinner than usual both days so I wouldn’t starve through the taping. It was a good thing I did that because the auditorium prohibited food and drinks.) The first thing we had to do was go to one of the tables where a representative from Central Casting was seated and do a check in.

We were given this form where the only thing we had to fill out was our name, address, phone number, Social Security number. We also had to sign it at the bottom. Central Casting filled out everything else.

Once we checked in we basically hung around in the lobby where people chatted among each other or went to use the restrooms.

Around 7 p.m. we lined up outside the auditorium doors and filed into the auditorium.

I took a couple pictures of some of the camera operators who were filming the presentation.

The director took to the stage first where he had us practice clapping and cheering. He instructed us to turn off our cell phones (I ended up putting my phone on vibrate). We were to look in Ric’s direction at all times while enthusiastically clapping at the proper time. We could also utter exclamations like “wow!”, “oooh!”, “aaaah!”, “whoah!”, and so on.

Once the director left the stage Ric Edelman appeared where he gave his presentation. He talked nonstop for the first 45 minutes. After he said “When we come back…” we clapped and cheered as he left the stage. The director came out on stage announcing that there was a two-minute break while Edelman drank some water backstage. We were allowed to stand up and stretch but we couldn’t leave the auditorium.

Ric Edelman returned to the stage while we applauded. He continued his presentation for another half-an-hour or 45 minutes. When he said “When we come back…” we clapped and cheered as he left the stage. The director came back on stage and announced a 10-minute break where we could go to the restroom if we needed to do so. During that time the director looked for 10 people who were willing to ask questions. The questioners lined up towards the back.

When the 10-minute break ended, Ric Edelman returned to the stage where he did the Q & A segment with the 10 volunteers. Once he finished answering all of the questions, the taping ended for the night.

The last picture shows Ric Edelman giving his talk. Unfortunately I was seated in the back of the auditorium on both nights so I wasn’t able to get a decent shot of him.

As we left the auditorium we had to turn in our signed form to the nearest Central Casting representative before we could leave the building and go home. I didn’t leave the event until it was around 9:30 p.m.

Ric Edelman gave the same presentation both nights. The main difference were the people who asked questions at the end. (Overall a total of 20 people got a chance to ask Ric Edelman a question while one of the cameras focused on the questioner so that person got a brief bit of fame. Of course, I don’t know how many of those questioners will actually make the final cut and actually end up being aired on television.) The auditorium was packed the first night with every single seat taken. On the second night I noticed that fewer people had showed up. (I guess some of the participants couldn’t show up both nights.) The director focused on filling up the seats closest to the stage. I ended up in the back just like the night before. I noticed that there were empty seats in rows that were further back than where I sat on the second night.

The biggest challenge on the second night was sitting through the same presentation again while pretending that I was hearing it for the first time. It wasn’t too bad hearing it for the second time because it was such an engaging presentation and Ric Edelman is such a dynamic speaker. Given my current financial situation, I would’ve been willing to sit through the same presentation every night for the next six months.

The show is tentatively scheduled to air on PBS in December during Pledge Week. (Which was why Ric Edelman interrupted his presentation twice—just so the local PBS stations can jump in with their own broadcasts begging people to make a generous donation so the stations can keep operating another year.) All in all I found the whole experience fascinating and I really enjoyed the presentation that Ric Edelman gave (even if I had to sit through it twice over a two-night period). I learned a lot from the presentation (especially regarding future technological advances) and, what’s more, I got paid $50 per night. So I earned $100 that week. Sweet!

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