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Magic Wheelchair creates incredible costumes for disabled children in wheelchairs.

What it’s like to have borderline personality disorder.

A camera store shows off gear wrecked by this summer’s solar eclipse.

Nintendo reveals that Mario of Super Mario Bros. fame is no longer a plumber.

Britain’s first zero-waste store is packaging-free and only sells ethical goods.

Half of digital media time is spent in five apps.

Clear-cut tropical forest revitalized with industrial orange peel waste.

What we saw in North Korea goes against everything western media wants us to believe.

The earliest known appearance of the F-Word, in a bizarre court record entry from 1310.

Six steps for dealing with cheapskate clients, especially if they won’t pay up.

STEFDIES is one woman’s amusing war against selfies.

13 most useless job skills employers don’t want anymore.

The two English cousins who fooled the world into believing in fairies.

Nine things you didn’t know were invented by women.

Stop waiting for Obama to fight for the DREAM.

Deceased 13-year-old girl breaks organ donation record by saving eight lives.

The Equifax Hack: What you need to know and how to protect yourself.

Former television news anchor is now an adult film star.

Breaking the unholy alliance between big money and mainstream media.

Nineteen girls in the last 67 years have worn the same handmade dress to school on the first day of kindergarten.

National Lampoon’s Presidential Vacation.

Researchers confirm that a Viking warrior discovered in Sweden was a woman.

The Voynich Manuscript appears to be a fairly routine anthology of ancient women’s health advice.

The United States didn’t just help topple the Allende government in Chile—we trained the economists too.

Lost languages discovered in one of the world’s oldest continuously run libraries.

The English alphabet used to have six additional letters.

Photos of people who have found their doppelgängers in museums.

We’re spending so much time trying to become robots that we’re forgetting how to be human.

Japanese robot dog sniffs your feet and faints if they’re smelly.

A short, handy visual primer on how to rescue a wet, damaged book.

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I went to my first Baltimore Comic-Con in quite a few years. I attended that event the first time in 2012 and the second time the following year. Then I didn’t go for another few years until recently. The main reason was financial. I ended up going to other events, such as Intervention Con, and with tight finances being the norm these days, I couldn’t afford to attend those events and Baltimore Comic-Con as well. Something had to give and Baltimore Comic-Con was the one that I ended up not attending.

But then a few things happened. First, my utilities company informed me that they had made a billing error in my favor for the last several months so, for the next few months I’m paying a lower bill than usual. Then I found out that Intervention Con wasn’t going to happen this year mainly because the organizers decided to focus on holding two specialized conventions instead—PotterVerse for Harry Potter fans and (Re)Generation Who for Doctor Who fans. While I like both Harry Potter and Doctor Who, I don’t like them enough to consider spending time and money at specialized conventions. I’m more into conventions that cover things like art in general or comic books in general instead of a very narrow field.

I’ll admit that I miss Intervention Con because that was my favorite convention due to the fact that it’s smaller and more intimate than—let’s say—Awesome Con or Otakon. Getting a good seat at a panel was no problem, I found it easier to meet people, and I didn’t have to do as much walking because of the small size so I didn’t become physically spent as much as when I used to go to Otakon. If you want to know why I loved going to Intervention Con so much, check out my blog posts and pictures from the cons I went to in 2013, 2014 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3), and 2016 (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3).

As I was typing this, I remember that another annual event I usually loved going to at this time of the year, the Silver Spring Maker Faire, has also decided not to put on another event in 2017. I hope it’s not some kind of a sad trend where the organizers of these fun annual events have decided to cut back on holding their events because it would be really sad if that was the case. (If you want to know why I’m sad about what happened with the Silver Spring Maker Faire, check out the photos I took in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.)

Like I wrote a few paragraphs ago, I found out that I had a little bit of extra spending money so I decided to go to Baltimore Comic-Con for the first time in four years. What made it really sweet is that the famed 1980s rapper DMC (from the group Run-DMC) was going to be there and he was not only signing autographs for fans (who paid at least $20 for one of his comic books) but he was giving two panels—one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Saturday was the only day I could go to Baltimore Comic-Con because of finances and the fact that I was serving as a substitute teacher in my church’s program that teaches local immigrants how to speak English the following day. But I managed to treasure every moment of my time there and I took a bunch of photos the moment I stepped outside of the Baltimore Convention Center and paid the $35 Saturday admission fee.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Baltimore Comic-Con

While I was waiting in line I witnessed this cute scene of a baby dressed in a Batman outfit (which isn’t apparent in the photo below because of the angle of the baby but I saw him wearing it in real life) looking at this man wearing his Spider-Man cosplay outfit.

Baltimore Comic-Con

Here’s the cover of the official Baltimore Comic-Con program book.

Baltimore Comic-Con

I even shot a short video when I first arrived soon after the convention opened at 10 a.m. that morning. Fortunately the ticket purchasing lines were shorter that morning, which wasn’t the case later in the day, so I was able to quickly purchase my ticket then go straight to the Dealers Room where I saw the convention employees actually clapping their hands at each guest who walked through the doors.

The employees only did that in the morning. When I returned to the Dealers Room at various times later in the day, the employees stopped clapping for everyone and simply looked at people’s paper bracelets (which served as our passes) before letting them in the room.

If Intervention Con is my favorite convention because it’s smaller and more intimate, then I have to say that Baltimore Comic-Con is my second favorite because the organizers are trying to strike a balance between focusing on comic books and having a few celebrities in attendance, but not as many of them as the gigantic San Diego Comic-Con. I’ve heard all sorts of stories as to how humongous and utterly exhausting it is to walk through that event and I’m pretty reluctant to even consider trying it. I had a hard enough time going to a three-day event like Otakon (which is why I’ve stopped attending in recent years) and I think San Diego Comic-Con would be even worse. I’m happy to say that finding a decent seat at a workshop or panel is still really easy at Baltimore Comic-Con. I never had to stand in any long lines in order to get to the panel of my choice (and I went on Saturday, which is usually the busiest and most crowded of the three days).

After I got my ticket I initially checked out the vendors room but I only stayed there briefly because the panel featuring DMC was scheduled to begin at noon. I found a few reminders that DMC was here at Baltimore Comic-Con this year.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I arrived at the panel early enough that I was able to get a front row seat. This panel was devoted to DMC’s comic book venture known as Darryl Makes Comics and it also had others who currently work on the comic book series including Greg Pak, Khoi Pham, Domo Stanton, and Amy Chu. DMC can be seen in the photos wearing the black Motörhead t-shirt.

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

DMC of Run-DMC Fame and Now Darryl Makes Comics

I learned that DMC has been into comics since childhood and this fascination even influenced his rapping days with Run-DMC. He said he started Darryl Makes Comics as a way of getting different voices into the comic book industry who tend to be overlooked by the larger companies—including not only people of different races but also people from different classes, older people, women, etc.

I was really enthusiastic by this panel and I found out that DMC was selling copies of his comic books with his signed autograph in the Dealers Room for $20. I wanted to buy it but, unfortunately I was tempted by a whole bunch of other stuff that was also on sale in that same room and I didn’t have unlimited funds. I took a bunch of photos of some of the stuff that was on sale.

There was a booth by a company called FigureThis who had this really neat idea where they will shoot full body photos of you with multiple cameras placed all around you then send those photos to a 3D printer where it will print a 3D figurine of your image.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I still have photos posted in older blog posts of various 3D printers that I’ve shot at various events over the seven years that this blog has been in existence. I have older photos of really large 3D printers that cost at least $2,000. At Baltimore-Comic Con I saw these smaller portable printers by a company known as M3D that were available on sale for only $295.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

What’s more, these printers were small enough that a visitor can easily carry the printer home with him/her after purchasing it. If I had more money to spare, I definitely would’ve purchased one myself.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

I was very impressed with the 3D figurines this small 3D printer was capable of producing.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There was this really cool looking computer from a company known as Chimera Computers, whose slogan is “They might have the flash, but we have the power!”

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

There were a whole bunch of other products besides comic books (yes, they had a lot of comic books available for sale) that were on sale ranging from t-shirts to drinking glasses to vintage Nintendo video games to realistic looking figurines to superhero stories written in chapter book form for children who are beginning readers. In short, there was a little something for everybody.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The cosplayers were out in full force and I took a lot of pictures of them as well. I saw a lot of people dressed as Batman this year because the day I went to Baltimore Comic-Con also happened to be Batman Day, a day which many comic book shops in the U.S. hold Batman-themed events to observe the anniversary that Batman made his first ever appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939.

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

2017 Baltimore Comic-Con

After wandering around the Dealer Room snapping pictures for a few hours, my legs were growing tired. I decided to check out the 2:45-3:45 p.m. (yes, that was the actual scheduled time) panel on “Baltimore Celebrates Batman Day!” (That panel was how I learned that there was actually such a thing as Batman Day.) I’ve been a Batman fan from way back starting with the time my parents gave me a Batman bank as a present and I still have those early childhood memories of putting loose coins in the slot located on Batman’s back. I grew up watching the reruns of the 1960’s TV series starring the recently deceased Adam West and reading whatever Batman comic books my mother happened to purchase during her weekly grocery shopping trip. (Sometimes she would buy Batman while other times she would buy comic books featuring Captain America, Superman, The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk.) So I was eager to check out that panel.

The panel was moderated by Jimmy Palmiotti and it had people who had worked on either the Batman or Harley Quinn comic books including Amanda Conner, David Finch, Peter J. Tomasi, James Tynion IV, John Timms.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel primarily focused on the Batman and Harley Quinn comic books that have come out in the last five years while also mentioning the feature films Batman had appeared in within the last ten years. I’ll admit that I was a bit lost. That was because I haven’t read a Batman comic book since Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel series back in the late 1980’s. (I remember finding Miller’s interpretation of Batman as a very dark vigilante to be an interesting take but the story left me feeling so cold that I never re-read it. It didn’t help that, years later, Frank Miller was openly accusing the Occupy Wall Street movement as being a bunch of louts, thieves and rapists. Never mind the fact that my visits to the Occupy sites in Baltimore and DC indicated otherwise. I ultimately donated The Dark Knight Returns to an upcoming used book sale after my husband left me. Ironically Frank Miller was Baltimore Comic-Con’s 2017 Guest of Honor and he made his only convention appearance the day before. I wasn’t that inclined to even check him out in person and I don’t regret opting to go on Saturday instead of Friday.)

I watched the Batman feature films of the 1980’s and 1990’s but I stopped watching them after that because they seemed to emulate Miller’s vision of a dark violent vigilante anti-hero and I grew tired of that. The only Batman movie I’ve watched in recent years was this year’s The LEGO Batman Movie, which was excellent because it expertly combined the campiness of the 1960’s TV series with the darker interpretations of recent years and it worked extremely well. In fact, I purchased it on DVD when it was released. Maybe DC Comics should just let LEGO have exclusive rights to making future Batman movies because LEGO knows how to tell an entertainingly memorable Batman story.

My legs were a bit sore so it was a relief to sit down even if what the panelists discussed about Batman went over my head, with the exception of when they were discussing The LEGO Batman Movie. Although I was so intrigued by hearing the description of the Harley Quinn comic book series that I’m going to see if my local public library have the graphic novel reprints on the shelves. The high point of that panel was when the panelists asked if anyone had attended any of the Batman Day celebrations at a local comic book store in addition to going to Baltimore Comic-Con and someone got up said he actually went to such an event before he arrived at the Baltimore Convention Center. He had snagged some free Batman and Harley Quinn masks, which he gave to the husband and wife team behind the Harley Quinn comic book.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

The panel ended but my legs were still sore and tired. I decided to stay in the same room for the next panel that was about the legendary comic book writer and artist Jack Kirby.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Panelist Mark Evanier talked about his personal friendship with Jack Kirby, which he wrote a book about called Kirby: King of Comics. Abram Books’ Charlie Kochman was also on hand as the two of them discussed the book and Evanier’s recollections about Kirby. I found it to be a very interesting talk and it seemed like Kirby was definitely an interesting and unforgettable person.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

After the panel ended at 5 p.m. I thought about making one more return trip to the Dealers Room but my legs were really hurting by then so I decided to just take the next light rail back to the North Linthicum station (where my car was parked) and head home.

I had thought about buying one of DMC’s comic books with his autograph for $20 but I found something else in the Dealers Room that I ended up buying instead and I couldn’t afford to buy both.

Baltimore Comic-Con, September 23, 2017

It’s a plastic ocarina, which I purchased for $20, and it came with a free songbook that provided instructions on how to play the ocarina along with songs from the classic Nintendo video game The Legend of Zelda. I paid an extra $5 for a Star Wars ocarina songbook. I bought it from the STL Ocarina booth after hearing the person staffing it playing lovely music with that ocarina. I’ve been slowly trying to teach myself how to play it but I think it will be awhile before I can play songs on it that sound just as lovely as what I heard at that booth.

As for the Darrel Makes Comics comic book, I’ll go to the local public library to see if it has a copy of any of the issues on the shelves. I would like to read it at some point since I own a couple of old Run-DMC CDs and I’ve always been a fan of the group. This is one of those times when I regret having to deal with tight finances just so I can survive.

On the Saturday during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, I decided to check out this toy show that was being held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

It was such a feast for the eyes as the toys and various other vintage items were displayed at various vendor tables. The whole show took on the air of a flea market with an emphasis on vintage stuff dating anywhere from the 1900s to the 1990s.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Someone had a jukebox for sale, which reminded me of my childhood when many of the local restaurants had them and people could choose songs to play for about a quarter each.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

The jukebox played music during the entire event. (Which proved that it definitely still worked.) I couldn’t help taking pictures of the songs that were available on the jukebox. The majority of them were hits when I was a kid.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

And speaking of music players, here’s a vintage 8-track player with an Elvis Presley 8-track tape. I once had a stereo system that included an 8-track player but I never owned one like that. But I could’ve sworn that one of my friends or maybe one of my cousins had a player just like that but I don’t know for sure. (Memory is one of those funny things where you remember something but you don’t remember when, where, or how you remember it.)

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Late last year I did a series of blog posts with accompanying photos known as A Tabletop Christmas (so-named because I limit my Christmas decorating to just a single tabletop in my living room). Among the items I showed off was a small plastic Santa Claus puppet that I’ve had since I was a child. I didn’t know anything about the origins of this puppet. It wasn’t until I went to the toy show when I saw a tiny plastic Santa puppet on sale that’s identical to mine.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

The only difference between the two is that this Santa still had its label at the base while mine doesn’t have any labels at all. (I suspect that whatever label it had must’ve fallen off a long time ago.) My Santa puppet is currently stored in a box with the other Christmas decorations in the attic but here’s a picture of my Santa puppet that I took last December.

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At first I thought the animal in the next picture was a stuffed animal until I saw the dog move his eyes around. He laid there the entire time I was at that show.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

This show also had examples of how the mighty had fallen. I found this book by disgraced former Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly on sale for only $1 at one of the tables. (LOL!)

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

There was one token of something new that I found. Someone was selling glow-in-the-dark versions of the hottest toy of 2017: Fidget Spinners.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

By the way, you can check out a video I shot recently where I unboxed and played with one of those Fidget Spinners for the first time (and, no, the one I bought didn’t glow in the dark).

Everywhere there were visual treats, many of which harkened back to my own youth.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

As I was walking back to the light rail stop I shot this photo of The Cow Palace building because it had a nice small garden.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

I didn’t buy a lot of stuff at that toy show due mainly to tight finances. But I managed to snag a couple of things at bargain rates. I found the second season of The Simpsons DVD set for only $6.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

I bought a Monster High doll for only $5. I was attracted to her pretty winter-themed clothes. At first I thought I may have purchased a relative of The Snow Queen until I did an online search and I was able to make a definite identification. Based on this web page, her name is Abbey Bominable and she’s described as the 16-year-old daughter of the Yeti.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

Here’s a closeup of her hair, which looks like it has glittery plastic pellets weaved throughout the strands. It gives a really cool ice/snow effect, especially when the light reflects off of her hair.

Toy Show, July 1, 2017

These photos prove that spring is truly here.

Spring is Here

Flowering Tree

Underneath the flowering tree in the previous photograph was a dog who was tied to the tree trunk. It was whining and looking forlornly for its owner to emerge from the nearby supermarket.

Sad dog waiting under the tree.

Groundhog Day

Since today is Groundhog Day, I’d thought I’d post some photos I took at last weekend’s World of Pets Expo that took place at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland. I last went there in 2014 when I was battling a nasty chest cold. This year I was in much better health so I was able to enjoy myself at the expo even more. There were all kinds of vendor booths for both pets and their owners. There were various competitions for dogs including running through an obstacle course and jumping into a pool. I even went into a stall in the women’s restroom that had two toilets in the same stall.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

There were all kinds of animals on display including llamas. Here are the pictures I took at that expo.

This is where I went today. For only $10 admission I saw all kinds of pets on display. I loved seeing all of the animals.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.
What I saw at today's World of Pets Expo at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

Santa Claus

A long time ago I learned that going downtown on Christmas Eve is the best place to be on Christmas Eve because everything is relatively empty. That’s because so many people tend to pack into the suburban shopping malls doing last-minute shopping while the stores in the city are empty. I’ve spent previous Christmas Eves in both Baltimore and DC and it’s the same situation.

I thought about a lot of places I could go to on Christmas Eve. In Baltimore I could go to the Walters Art Museum, Fells Point, or the Ripleys Believe It or Not! Odditorium. In Washington, DC I could go to any of the Smithsonian museums, Chinatown, or Georgetown.

But then it rained on Christmas Eve, which put a damper on a lot of things I would’ve loved to have done (especially going to places where I would be spending a good bit of time outside) and I was not in the mood to do a lot of driving in such lousy weather. I ultimately decided to go to Union Station and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum mainly because both places were located next to each other so I could take the Red Line Metro to the Union Station stop. I exited on to the lower level, where I found that it wasn’t very crowded at all.

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I hadn’t been to Union Station in a long time. I was looking forward to eating sushi for lunch at the Hibachi stand followed by going to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry for dessert. Except when I arrived I found that half of the lower level where all of the fast food type places are located had been blocked off. While there are still places where one can get a quick bite to eat, there are far fewer choices than before. (That’s not to mention that both Hibachi and Vaccaro’s are both gone.) I ended up going to a Chinese food stand where I ordered orange chicken with two side dishes. But I ordered my lunch around the same time that they changed employees and I told the replacement employee that I had told the other one that wanted the orange chicken. She had me try the tofu and led me to believe that it was one of the side dishes. So I ordered the tofu as a side dish and told her that the orange chicken would be the main dish. Except when I got my meal and went to one of tables I found that this employee had given me the tofu as the main dish. The tofu was okay but I would’ve preferred the orange chicken. On top of it, the green beans side dish was undercooked. I made a mental note of never ordering anything from that place again.

After lunch I did some more walking around. I found out that the reason why the lower level had been cut in half was because Walgreen’s had moved in and opened this giant store.

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There was one large aisle dedicated to purchasing every kind of Washington, DC souvenir that you could think of.

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I’ve been to various Walgreen’s stores over the years but this is the first one I’ve ever been in that actually has a sushi bar that makes fresh sushi on the premises.

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If it hadn’t been for that less-than-thrilling Chinese lunch I had already eaten, I would’ve tried the Walgreen’s sushi for the hell of it.

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I made my way to the upper level where the upscale shops are located and I found that they were not crowded at all.

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Since my last visit to Union Station I saw that the DC Lottery had opened its own store where anyone can buy—what else?—lottery tickets.

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I decided to eat some dessert. Since Vaccarro’s Italian Pastry was gone, I thought about going to the Corner Bakery instead since I’ve eaten their desserts in the past and I found them quite good. But I found out that it was replaced by a French pastry place known as Le Pain Quotidien. I found their Christmas-themed dessert display to be quite charming.

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I ordered the sea salted chocolate and caramel tart and it was wrapped up in this nice looking box. The tart was excellent.

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I saw the Christmas tree that was a gift from the Norwegian Embassy.

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There was also a special exhibition documenting the joint U.S.-Norwegian explorations of the Polar Regions.

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There was a large toy train layout that I found to be quite lovely.

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On my way to one of the exit doors I saw this pigeon who somehow may its way inside Union Station. It was walking around among the various people on the floor like it was going shopping or rushing to take the next Amtrak train. I thought it was quite a hilarious scene.

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Outside of Union Station is this futuristic looking dome where one can rent a bike.

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Right next door to Union Station is the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. It’s one of the newer Smithsonian museums that had opened in recent years but I never got around to stepping foot inside until Christmas Eve.

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I don’t even know what took me so long to visit this place (especially since I’m a local resident). I’m glad I finally did because the interiors are absolutely breathtaking.

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As you can guess by the name, this museum is dedicated to the history of the U.S. Postal Service and postage stamps. Naturally stamp collectors will get the biggest kick out of this museum but there are plenty of things on display to wow those who aren’t into stamp collecting.

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This museum features Owney, a homeless dog who became the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service for a time until his death over 100 years ago. Here’s a bronze statue of the dog.

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And here’s the real Owney, as preserved by a taxidermist.

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Owney was the Grumpy Cat of his day—a beloved animal celebrity who received attention and presents (in the form of special tags indicating where he travelled to) everywhere he went. The next photo shows the many tags he received and are currently on display draping his stuffed carcass.

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The gift shop also has a smaller stuffed animal version of Owney for sale.

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I didn’t buy that stuffed animal but I did buy a short book on the dog’s life for only $4.

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Since I arrived at the museum on Christmas Eve, I got a chance to see the museum’s Christmas tree with surrounding poinsettias.

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The one exhibit that excited me the most was the one on PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard. That’s because, through my past involvements with Artomatic, I know that PostSecret originally started as an Artomatic exhibit that was put on by the writer Frank Warren. That exhibit was such a phenomenal success that it overshadowed the other Artomatic exhibits that were on display that year. That exhibit was eventually turned into a series of books and I remember the times when he held book signings at various Artomatic events mainly as Frank Warren’s way of showing appreciation for the event that started it all. (You can read about those book signings here and here.)

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Now PostSecret has turned into a Smithsonian exhibit, which is pretty cool. The next photo shows just a small portion of the postcards that Frank Warren has received over the years.

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Here’s something that was actually sent on a coconut.

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I’m still amazed that something I’m familiar with from my involvement with Artomatic has become a Smithsonian exhibit.

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The photos I took are just a small sample of what’s currently on display at that exhibit.

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There was an area that was especially made for stamp collectors. One can view the various stamps currently on file in a special room. The stamps are in a case that one can pull out and they are organized by nation, year, and type of stamp. I can imagine a hardcore stamp collector spending at least two days in that area alone just looking at all of the stamps on file.

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That area also had the world’s first postage stamp on display. It was a British stamp known as the Penny Black and it was released in 1840.

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There was a hands-on exhibit where one can design a stamp on a touch screen computer. Here is the stamp I designed.

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There was even an area that’s designed for anyone who’s thinking about starting his/her own stamp collection and one can get the first stamps for free. First you get an envelope like this.

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Then you go through this bin picking out stamps you’d like to put in your envelope.

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I have a confession to make. The rules of picking out free stamps basically said that each person was limited to six stamps in order to make the free stamps available for everyone. There were so few people in the museum the day that I was there that I actually broke the rules and picked out seven stamps. I wasn’t caught (mainly because there were so few people there) and I got away with it. I’m not saying that what I did was right or correct and if there had been a ton of people in the museum that day I would’ve obeyed the rules. But I fell into temptation because there were so few people and, besides, I only took one extra stamp and not like—let’s say—30 extra stamps.

Here are the stamps I picked out. I’ll admit that I was inspired by the recent elections and the incoming President Donald J. Trump Administration along with all the doubts swirling around him as to whether he will even follow the Constitution. So I chose this stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

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As a former Journalism major in college and current blogger, this next stamp really appealed to me. It features a quill and ink along with the words “The Ability to Write-A Root of Democracy.”

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I picked out this stamp featuring George Washington since he was not only one of the Founding Fathers but he was also the first President of the United States and he set the tone for how the succeeding presidents should always follow the Constitution.

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I picked out this stamp featuring Martha Washington because she was not only the first First Lady but I’m sure she went through her own trials and tribulations while supporting her husband first as a hero of the American Revolution then as President of the United States. It’s like the old saying goes: “Behind every man is a woman.”

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I picked out Thomas Jefferson because he was also a hero of the American Revolution, a Founding Father of this nation, and he was instrumental in including many rights that we Americans take for granted (such as the freedom of the press) and could possibly be threatened under Donald Trump’s presidency.

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I picked out Benjamin Franklin, another Founding Father who was the first Postmaster General. Plus I’m currently running the weekly Benjamin Franklin Fridays in this blog where I include quotations from his Poor Richard’s Almanack book.

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I chose Susan B. Anthony because she was a suffragette who fought hard to win the women’s right to vote.

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I chose one foreign stamp. This one is from France and it features Marianne, the French symbol of freedom who provided the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.

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I basically hung around the museum until it was closing time. By that time the rain had stopped but it was still cloudy outside and the ground was wet. I was treated to a nice Christmas Eve sunset as I took the Metro back home.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Continuing with this series on having a tabletop Christmas, here are some more ornaments that I currently have on my small tabletop tree.

I’ve been into animation since I was a child so it’s quite logical that I would have a lot of Christmas ornaments to reflect my interest in animation. Some of these ornaments were ones that I purchased while others were given as gifts from various relatives over the years. I used to have a lot of animation-themed ornaments back when my husband and I used to put up a six-foot tree. Since my husband left I’ve done some serious downsizing. While I still have a few animation-themed ornaments left, my collection of Christmas animation ornaments is a far cry from what I had five years ago (when my husband left just three days after Christmas with no indication that he was the slightest bit unhappy).

The ornaments shaped like Disney characters tend to predominate my collection the most. Okay, so I like Disney animation, especially Mickey Mouse. Here’s a caroling Mickey Mouse next to a ceramic ornament featuring a pink mouse in a stocking that I was given as a child by my parents and I still have it.

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Here’s a wooden Mickey Mouse clock. (No, it’s not a real functioning clock.)

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This was an ornament that I purchased during one of my many trips to Walt Disney World over the years. My husband and I arrived shortly after the 1st Disneyana Convention was held so the resort was selling these ornaments at a clearance sale for half-price.

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I also have a Mickey Mouse stocking hanger. I still have the same stocking that my parents originally purchased for me when I was an infant. It hasn’t been filled with anything since my husband left. These days I just hang my stocking as a decoration since it’s really not worth the effort for me to fill my own stocking. (Filling one’s own stocking kills the element of surprise right there.)

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I have a small Santa Mickey snow globe decoration that I received when I attended the annual post-Christmas white elephant gift exchange that my support group for people who are separated or divorced puts on each year. The snow globe has the year 2013 written on it.

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I also have other Disney characters besides Mickey Mouse in my Christmas tree, such as Winnie the Pooh.

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Flit is a hummingbird from the animated Disney movie Pocahontas.

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The next photo has two Disney ornaments. The raccoon is Meeko from the Pocahontas movie. The other figure is Stitch from Lilo in Stitch and he’s dressed like Elvis Presley.

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I have another Stitch ornament. This one is a small plush ornament and he’s wearing ear muffs, mittens, and a red sweater that says “NAUGHTY” on it. Next to Stitch is Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and he’s sliding downhill on a sled.

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These next two photographs show a double-sided ornament. On one side is Belle and the Beast from the film Beauty and the Beast.

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The other side shows the Beast after he’s been transformed back into his original human self.

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Rounding out the Disney decorations are two dolls resembling the two princesses Anna and Elsa from the movie Frozen. I originally bought the dolls thinking that I would display them at Christmas then put them away in the attic after the holidays. Except when it came time to take down everything, I couldn’t bear to put these dolls away. These days I keep them with my doll collection upstairs and I bring them downstairs to join the other Christmas decorations.

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I have other animated-themed ornaments that are based on non-Disney characters as well, such as this one featuring Sylvester and Tweety from the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes cartoon shorts.

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My parents gave me this ornament based on Dr. Seuss’ classic Christmas book How the Grinch Stole Christmas (which was later turned into a made-for-television animation special then it was remade into a live action theatrical feature film starring Jim Carrey). This one features the scene after the Grinch had finished making a Santa outfit for himself and placed reindeer antlers on his dog Max and they are both standing in front of a mirror (which is actually a real mirror).

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I know that technically the ornament in the next picture is really based on a video game but Sonic the Hedgehog was turned into a cartoon series in the 1990’s so I’m going to include it here on a technicality. I bought this ornament back in the days when I owned a Sega Game Gear and I was really into playing Sonic the Hedgehog. Basically the ornament is shaped like a Game Gear (including a Christmas scene featuring Sonic) while Sonic is running on top of the Game Gear bearing Christmas presents. I’ve long since sold my Game Gear but I still have the ornament nonetheless.

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Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

Way back in January I wrote a blog post about how last year the opening ceremony for the annual Festival of Lights in Greenbelt, Maryland was moved from the back of City Hall to nearby Roosevelt Center, which resulted in higher attendance since the movie theater, restaurants, and convenience store were all located there. I was there for the opening ceremony in its new location but I didn’t bother with taking pictures, which I regretted later. I took pictures of the lights in Roosevelt Center on the last day of the festival, which was on a Sunday night (when most of the businesses tended to close early on Sundays). The entire area was pretty yet deserted when I took those photos.

The opening ceremony was such a huge hit in its new location that the City of Greenbelt decided to do it again this year in Roosevelt Center. This time I took pictures of the festivities.

The festival gave out free hot chocolate. The festival organizers encouraged people to bring their own coffee cups or hot thermoses from home instead of using the free paper cups that were also available in order to get as close to having the festival produce zero waste as possible. I brought this coffee mug that had Stitch from the Disney movie Lilo & Stitch. (It was one a gift I gave to my then-husband but it was among the many items he left behind when he walked out on me back in 2011.) It turned out that that coffee mug was a conversation starter because I had so many kids who literally focused their attention on this mug.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

I brought my mug from home for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

As you can see, this event drew a lot of people of all ages.

A crowd gathers for the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

There were lights strung everywhere.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

A local band played Christmas and Hanukkah music.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The band performs Christmas music.

The Christmas tree remained darkened until Santa Claus arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights. The tree is waiting to be lit.

Santa Claus arrived on the back of a fire truck.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Santa arrived at the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights on the tree were lit after Santa arrived.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The nearby Greenbelt Theater was having a free showing of the original made-for-TV cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas just like it did last year. I saw it on the big screen last year and it was such a different experience from simply watching it at home on the TV. I thought about seeing it again but the line at the movie theater was really long this year. (I later heard that every single seat in the theater was filled.) I decided to skip it. It was no big deal since I saw it on the big screen last year plus I have that show on DVD so I can watch it at home anytime I want.

Makerspace 125 decided to schedule an Open House to coincide with the Festival of Lights opening ceremony. Someone decided to decorate a ladder with lights and ornaments instead of a tree.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Here's how @Makerspace125 does a Christmas tree at the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Makerspace 125 had this one free hands-on activity where people could make fancy paper ornaments.

A lot of making went on @Makerspace125 at the Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

One person brought her dog, Honey, who totally enjoyed herself at the open house.

At the Makerspace 125 Open House held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the @Makerspace125 Open House, which was held as part of the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

Most of the festival attendees basically cleared out after the Greenbelt Theater finished with showing the Grinch. Here are a few more photographs of the lights that are currently up in Roosevelt Center.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

At the opening ceremony of the Greenbelt Festival of Lights.

The lights will remain up until after New Year.

UPDATE (December 25, 2016): After I attended a special Christmas Day Sunday service at my church I decided to head to the Beijing Restaurant in Roosevelt Center (where I took advantage of its special Sunday buffet). After I left the restaurant I noticed that the Christmas tree from the Festival of Lights looked very glittery. Of course it helped that it was a very bright sunny day. Here are a couple of extra daytime photos.

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

Festival of Lights in the Daytime

I spent Small Business Saturday just cruising around two towns that are located squarely in the Gateway Arts District of Prince George’s County. First I headed to Mount Rainier where I checked out ReCreative Spaces.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County, Maryland

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

During my time there I created this Christmas ornament using green cardboard, ribbon, and pom-poms.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

I also got this free recyclable shopping bag, which was pretty cool.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

After my time at ReCreative Spaces I headed over to Hyattsville. The first place I stopped at was at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, where I took these pictures.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Then I stepped outside where I caught this cool lighting effect of the late afternoon sun on the American flag against a dark cloudy

I stopped by the Three Little Birds Sewing Company, where I took these pictures.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Next door to the Three Little Birds Sewing Company is a temporary pop-up shop that’s being run by Tanglewood Works in addition to its original location in nearby Edmonston.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

I walked around outside where I took a few twilight photos (including some gorgeous sunsets).

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

The last place I stopped in while I was in Hyattsville was at Franklins Restaurant, Brewery, and General Store.

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

Small Business Saturday at the Gateway Arts District of Prince George's County

One day after the most decisive election in recent memory has been held, I feel that posting these photos of a very cute dog will serve as a perfect palate cleanser to the all of the outrageous vitriol that has been spewed for all these months.

Last month I went to a board games meetup that was held in someone’s home located in my neighborhood. I had a good time as I met new people and played some board games I’ve never played before, including one whose gameplay was contingent on downloading this smartphone app. (I’ll admit that playing board games with an associated smartphone app is a new one for me. I grew up playing technology-free board games like Candyland, Uncle Wiggly, Scrabble, Monopoly, Yahtzee, and The Game of Life.)

The event hostess had a small dog who was very cute and very friendly. At one point this dog wanted me to hold her in my lap. Here are a few pictures I shot of this dog while she was sitting in my lap.

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After sitting in my lap for a while the dog indicated that she wanted down so I put her down. At the end of the evening, when I was getting my purse that I left on a sofa, the dog was lying next to my purse. She took one look at me and she rolled over on her back exposing her belly and indicated that she wanted a belly rub from me. That’s a sign that this dog trusted me enough to roll over on her back in the first place.

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