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

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

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

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Maker Faire NoVa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maker Faire NoVa

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

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

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

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

Maker Faire NoVa, March 18, 2018

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

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Maker Faire NoVa

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

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

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

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Maker Faire NoVa

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

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

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

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

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A free tutorial on how to make your own DIY safe from common household items like a can of shaving cream.

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Santa Claus Baby New Year

The day after I observed yet another birthday I decided to check out the Riverdale Park Festival of Lights and Holiday Market. I ran into a few friends of mine and just basically hung out. Here are my photos from that event.

Near the Christmas tree stand was this toy train layout, which had a toy train that was going around and around.

The two young boys in the next photo were constantly following the toy train. As it rode around and around in a circle, the boys walked around and around in a circle as well.

The bulk of the event was held inside of a building. There were all kinds of arts and crafts available for sale ranging from paintings to freshly baked cupcakes to dolls to handmade soap to fused glass jewelry. There was live entertainment as well.

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Artistic maps of Pakistan and India show the embroidery techniques of their different regions.

The radical 600-year evolution of tarot card art.

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The childhood works of famous artists like Paul Klee and Georgia O’Keefe.

A woman who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at 17 started to draw her hallucinations in order to help her cope with it.

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Russian artist reveals her mysterious sketchbook to the world and it’s full of visual secrets.

Vintage photographs showing what it was like to grow up in the video arcades from 1979-1989.

How the Nazis were inspired by Jim Crow.

There is no such thing as “white pride.”

10+ times adults did coloring books for kids and the results were hilariously NSFW.

The Confederate general who was erased from history for leading a post-Civil War interracial political alliance.

The best shots of the 2017 solar eclipse.

This artist battles depression and Metro delays with roller coaster doodles.

Dollhouse death scenes, used as teaching tools in Baltimore, being refurbished for Smithsonian exhibit.

Each month my Unitarian Universalist congregation holds an all-ages gathering after Sunday service where people eat pizza and cupcakes, play board games, and learn about famous UUs who celebrate birthdays that month. I finally got around to photographing one of those gatherings because someone brought this really cool looking Harry Potter dollhouse whose details are amazing.

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Harry Potter Dollhouse

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Here are the rest of the photos of that all-ages gathering that I took that day.

Playing Board Games

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I went to the fourth annual Silver Spring Maker Faire. I’ve gone to the three previous Maker Faires but all those other years I had to cut my visit short due to a meeting or something similar. This year was the first year where I didn’t have anything else scheduled or other things that I needed to do that day so I could just leisurely tour the Maker Faire at my own pace.

Across the street from Veterans Plaza, where the Maker Faire was held, a group of Hare Krishnas were doing their chanting and proselytizing outside of a Chick-fil-A of all places. (It’s convenient for the Hare Krishnas that Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays because, otherwise, the fast food chain’s Fundamentalist Christian owners would literally have a cow over this. LOL!)

2016 Silver Spring Maker Faire

2016 Silver Spring Maker Faire

I eventually dodged the Hare Krishnas and made my way to the Maker Faire, where I took these pictures.

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2016 Silver Spring Maker Faire

2016 Silver Spring Maker Faire

I also shot a short video showing some of the exhibits that were either moving or making sounds.

All in all it was a great event on a very beautiful day in weather that was warm but not too hot and the humidity was low. I enjoyed myself.

Here are some photos of vintage German dollhouses that were based on a typical home in the German Democratic Republic (a.k.a. GDR and East Germany) prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Here’s a fascinating page on The Fairy Faith: An Ancient Indigenous European Religion, including some lovely art.

Lego is moving away from using plastic to make its bricks in favor of making them from more sustainable materials.

http://www.nablopomo.com

A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual Utopia Film Festival. Most years I attend at least one film shown at that festival mainly because the festival is held near my home and each film charges only a $5 admission. Last year I didn’t go because I was still recovering from hip surgery, I hadn’t been cleared by the doctor to resume driving, and there weren’t any films that interested me enough to beg someone to drive to the theater so I could make the slow shuffle to the box office with my walker.

The film festival offers an all-access pass where, for $25, you can watch as many of the movies in the festival as you want. I never sprang for it before because I would’ve needed to be interested in at least five movies in order for the cost of the all-access pass to pay off for me and most other years I was interested in anywhere between 1-3 films so it was just cheaper for me to pay the $5 admission fee separately.

This year had the most number of films that I was interested in seeing so I was finally able to justify paying the $25 for the all-access pass. Most of the movies I saw I found that I liked. There was only one film that I was disappointed in. I saw seven movies on Saturday and two movies on Sunday.

I still have the program where I circled the program names so I could give you a rundown of what I saw.

The Legend of Merv Conn: It was a documentary about an accordion player who became an institution in Washington, DC and he kept on playing his beloved accordion until he passed away this year at 91. Merv Conn was quite a character with an absolute joy for life and he really loved the accordion. He seemed such a happy person and I wished I had the chance to meet him in person.

Ernest Borgnine on the Bus: This was originally a pilot for a television show that was going to show actor Ernest Borgnine traveling around the country on his bus. It was made years before the rise of reality television and, according to the director who spoke after the film, the various network executives didn’t understand it so they passed on it. It was a really neat portrait of Borgnine and he really loved traveling to various small towns and meet ordinary people. He wasn’t stuck up like many other Hollywood stars.

Record Paradise: The Musical Life of Joe Lee: Another interesting documentary about the son of a former Maryland Governor who was the black sheep of the family yet he turned his love for music into running a profitable record store.

From Here to Obscurity: The Best of Travesty Films: I’m going to go off on a tangent here. When I spent my freshman year at Anne Arundel Community College, I was a writer for the school newspaper, whose office was located next to the college radio station (whose frequency extended only to the college boundary). We used to hang around each other’s offices all the time. One of the radio station staffer was this woman who had blond hair with two pink stripes in the front. She described herself as the “Punk Princess of Pasadena.” (Pasadena, Maryland is located just located just a few miles north of the community college.) She used to go nightclubbing and she said that one time she saw this hilarious film with the memorable title of Intestines From Space.

Well I finally found the documentary about the people responsible for that Intestines From Space film. It was part documentary about a group of young guys—who called themselves The Langley Punks—in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s who made a bunch of cheesy Super 8 movies in the DC area and they actually got their films shown in actual theaters (this was back in the days before the Internet and YouTube) and part compilation of some of their actual shorts. I have to admit that while some of their stuff was bad, there were other films that were pretty inspired and witty. I thought Alcoholics Unanimous and Hyattsville Holiday were the best of the shorts.

Every Other Day is Halloween: This one was a documentary about Count Gore De Vol, a campy vampire who used to be the late night host for Channel 20’s Creature Feature back in the late 1970’s-early 1980’s. I used to occasionally watch Creature Feature when I was a kid and it was cool to see a local host from my own childhood. Count Gore De Vol actually appeared in person after the documentary ended. I caught a few expressive photos of the Count with my iPad.

Count Gore De Vol
Count Gore De Vol
Count Gore De Vol

My Little Demon: This film had potential. It started off with a woman and her therapist and the woman needed professional help because of the death of her daughter in a car accident. It reminded me of my times with my own therapist. But it had the cool twist where the therapist is really a demon who is trying to tempt the woman to give up her soul in exchange for the demon bringing her daughter back from the dead. It had some cool special effects for a low-budget film. The only major flaw was that the film was overly talky and I grew bored with the constant back-and-forth arguments over whether the woman will give up her soul to get her daughter back from the dead or not. What sucked was that the film had deleted scenes after the credits and they were even more boring than the main movie. The director should’ve cut more of the talking scenes then the movie would’ve been more interesting and it could’ve interested in some major Hollywood studio.

Of Dolls & Murder: Film director John Waters narrated this documentary about Frances Glessner Lee, a woman from a wealthy family whose main specialty was recreating real murder cases as dollhouse dioramas that she called “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”. I know that many adult doll fans would have a hard time viewing dioramas featuring a doll with stab wounds or a doll hanging from a noose but I found the dioramas very fascinating with the attention to detail.

The Source: It was an interesting documentary about an alternative New Age commune that started in Los Angeles in the 1970’s but it quickly became a cult whose leader not only felt that he was entitled to having more than one wife but some of them were underaged girls.

Detropia: I read the reviews for this movie in The Washington Post and I wanted to see it. I was thrilled when it was part of the film festival. Detropia shows the impact that the auto industry has had on the city of Detroit. I found it very moving and I was glad that I saw it. It has to be the most memorable of the movies that I saw at the film festival and I can see why it’s been getting rave reviews in the mainstream press.

It was fun watching those movies but I was tired after seeing the last movie on Sunday. I don’t know if I would want to see that many movies in a single weekend again because it can get a bit tiring, even if I did like most of the movies I saw. I may or may not do the full access pass again at next year’s festival. It really depends on the number of movies I’m interested in and if I can schedule the time to actually see them.

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