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One Saturday morning I decided to check out this get-together on Meetup.com for art professionals and I found parking just a few blocks away from where the meetup was going to take place. I also arrived a bit early so I was able to walk around and take a few pictures before this particular meetup began.

The first few pictures show the Glut Food Co-op, which was originally founded in the late 1960’s by a couple of conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War. Glut, with its carrot-shaped sign has become a Mount Rainier institution that frequently attracts those who are looking for organic food but want a locally-owned alternative to chain stores like Whole Foods.

The next photos show the various sights around Mount Rainier.

A line of solar-powered toys line the windowsill of a beauty parlor.

This next sign outside a barber shop had this to say about being a barber.

So what exactly is a barber?

A barber is a person who practices primarily in the art of men’s grooming needs. Some barbers nowadays will also cut a lady’s haircut but a barber’s forte is generally men’s haircuts, beard trims, shaves, and mustaches. Barbers usually only do haircuts and don’t usually do perms, coloring, blow-drying or curling and straightening irons. Barbers used to be only men and cosmetologists were women. There have been a lot of changes in recent years because of the unisex salons and these days many people don’t know the difference between what is a barber and what is a cosmetologist.

Barbering is becoming a lost art. In the old days, everyone knew what a barber was. Many people are unaware that barbers were once surgeons and dentists and clergymen. The traditional barber pole is a symbol that comes from the bloody bandages blowing in the wind. The technical term for barbers is a “tonsorial artist.”

Wow! One can really learn something new while taking a walk around a certain area.

The next photo shows a row of colorfully-painted buildings including the public library, the local office of Progressive insurance, and a Masonic lodge.

The Masonic lodge has a trio of really colorful murals featuring birds flying against an orange background with blue flowers, and red-orange diamonds.

You can see the colorful bricks outside the Progressive insurance office.

The colorful bricks continue to the local public library that’s located next door.

The Mount Rainier library is one of the smallest libraries I have ever visited in recent years. It’s basically one small room. Despite its small size, I saw a few patrons browsing the books and using the computers and other resources.

The meetup took place at the Bird Kitchen + Cocktails restaurant.

The meetup took place outside in the restaurant’s courtyard, which had this vintage pachinko machine on display. (I didn’t attempt to try playing it so I don’t know if it’s there purely for decoration or if it is really a working machine.)

After the meetup ended I decided to do something that I had always wanted to do but I kept on putting it off. I figured that since I was in Mount Rainier anyway, I should check out that local legend about how there was a family whose exorcism of their teenage son provided the basis for both the bestselling novel and subsequent movie The Exorcist. I’m going to write a separate blog post devoted to this so stay tuned.

Ramadan

The STEM center known as Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, Maryland is currently reorganizing its space and doing some spring cleaning. They left quite a few items outside its doors encouraging passers-by to take what was there. Among the free times that were available was a nice looking wood desk and a wood cabinet. I also saw some half-built desktop computers outside, which would be perfect for anyone who is into building computers from scratch.

I managed to snag this toy dinosaur because I have a friend who’s into dinosaurs in a big way. 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.

Ramadan

Right now the big scandal is whether President Donald Trump was elected with a little help from his friend, Russian Premiere Vladimir Putin. Then-FBI Director James Comey was investigating the matter until President Trump abruptly fired him.

I could write a long separate blog post about this scandal except for the fact that there have already been so much written about this matter that anything I write here would be redundant. I’ll keep this post short by saying that James Comey was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate on his investigation, which began at 10 a.m. on June 8, 2017. I live outside of Washington, DC so naturally this scheduled testimony became the big talk of the town. In fact, some of the local bars decided to open way earlier than usual so people can watch the proceedings live on the TV screens while drinking alcohol. (Only in DC would the bars do something like this for a Senate hearing.)

The Greenbelt Theater decided to get in on the action by opening at 10 a.m. so it can broadcast the proceedings on the big screen. (The big difference is that the theater doesn’t serve alcohol.) I wasn’t able to get to the theater right at 10 because I was busy getting ready for another job hunting-related event at the state-run Maryland Workforce Exchange that was being held at the Laurel office that afternoon. I managed to arrive around noon. I set the alarm on my smartphone because I could only devote a half-an-hour to watching this because I had to get to Laurel. It turned out that I arrived at the tail end of the proceeding and it ended after I was there for 20 minutes. I managed to take a few token pictures to give you an idea of what it’s like to see something like this on the big screen.

In case you’ve missed it, you can read a summary of Comey’s testimony right here.

Ramadan

A new shopping center has just been opened a few months ago in Riverdale Park, Maryland but I decided to wait a few months until the crowds drawn by the novelty of a new place have died down. In addition, I decided to go on a weeknight because I’ve seen the parking lot filled with cars on the weekend. Here are the photographs I took.

The new shopping center’s main draw is a Whole Foods Market.

In the middle of the new shopping center is this really interesting statue of a blue bear.

If you look up close at that statue you’d see the statue is composed of little blue butterfly-shaped pieces.

Behind the bear statue is this low-level fountain where the water seems to spout from the ground. I can imagine kids splashing around in that fountain once the summer heatwave begins in earnest.

The new shopping center is located on what was once a farm. Here is some background. Riverdale Park was originally a big plantation known as Riversdale Park (note the additional “s”), which was founded by descendants of the original Lord Baltimore, George Calvert (who founded what eventually became the state of Maryland). One of his descendants, Charles Baltimore Calvert, inherited a portion of the original Riversdale Park plantation and he named it MacAlpine Farm after his wife’s family home in Scotland. While Riversdale Park grew tobacco using slave labor, MacAlpine Farm was more of a general farm that grew a variety of crops and raised livestock while using paid labor.

Eventually much of the land surrounding both Riversdale Park and MacAlpine Farm were sold to developers. The original Riversdale mansion still stands with just a small portion of the original grounds remaining. (Last summer I took extensive photos of the place while I was attending a drawing event there.) Much of MacAlpine Farm was razed with the exception of this building in the next two photographs.

This building is the remains of a 19th century icehouse that once served MacAlpine Farm. The sign in the next photo provides information about this icehouse. Basically icehouses were once common prior to electricity being widely adopted. Ice would be harvested further north from either freshwater rivers and lakes or ice manufactured by electrically powered factories. The ice would be stored in an icehouse, whose foundation ran several feet below the earth. Icehouses like this one became obsolete when government-supported rural electrification programs started in the 1930’s. This icehouse can be found on the perimeter of the shopping center parking lot.

So far there are only two places opened at this new shopping center. One is Whole Foods Market and the other is a Starbucks that’s located directly around the corner from Whole Foods.

A few people decide to socialize and eat al fresco outside one of the Whole Foods side entrances. (It was pretty balmy weather that evening.)

This Whole Foods have a few nice touches, such as this place where bicyclists can inflate their tires and maker other minor repairs.

Not only does this store promotes composting and recycling but it even provides a special water fountain for pets.

There are designated parking spots for electric cars along with a recharging pump.

This Whole Foods Market has only been opened for a few months so everything is still brand-new.

I walked around it and I basically limited my purchase to a couple of cookies because the store is a bit on the pricey side. (There’s a reason why many detractors refer to this store as “Whole Paycheck.”) There was an area where people can order artisanal hearth baked pizza for either consuming on the premises (there were tables provided nearby) or to take home. I really liked that large blue-tiled oven in the background that had “RIVERDALE” in written in white tile.

Next to the area where you can order pizza there is a baking area that’s behind transparent plexiglass so shoppers can see various baked goods made on the premises.

This new shopping center is still a work in progress (so far Whole Foods and Starbucks are the only places currently opened). The last two photos show addition store space currently under construction. I have no idea when the construction will be finished or what stores are scheduled to move in there.

UPDATE (June 16, 2017): Who could’ve predicted that just a few months after this particular Whole Foods opened and a mere two days after this post went live that Amazon.com would buy the entire Whole Foods chain? Not me, that’s for sure. That announcement came from out of the blue since I hadn’t previously heard of Amazon even publicly expressing any kind of interest in Whole Foods. It’ll be interesting to see whether this merger will have an effect on prices at Whole Foods since that chain has long had a reputation for prices so high that it’s been dubbed “Whole Paycheck” while Amazon has long been into keeping prices as cheap as possible.

Ramadan

I happened to be in Roosevelt Center when I saw these interesting chalk drawings made by someone. I have no idea who did them or why they did them, all I know is that they were made in the area that’s located near Makerspace 125.

Ramadan

During the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend I was invited to a party that was held at the home of a woman I know from my support group for people who are separated or divorced. Since the party was held in Crownsville, I decided to head to Third Eye Comics, which is located on the outskirts of nearby Annapolis since I was going to be in the area anyway. I took a couple of quick pictures of some of the items they have in their store besides comic books.

Ramadan

A few months ago I went on the annual Women’s Retreat that was held at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. During that day-long retreat I learned that the church has an extensive yarn stash.

Here’s some background information. When I first joined that congregation years ago, there was an elderly woman named Ottille Van Allen who was in her 80’s at the time but she was incredibly active. I could write a whole series of separate blog posts about the stories she used to tell me and others in that congregation over the years from being born in Germany when Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled that nation with an iron fist to immigrating with her parents to the U.S. because her father was a socialist and the Kaiser took a dim view of people like him to how she was immediately placed in an English-only class at school because there was no such thing as ESOL at the time.

Ottille Van Allen was a very avid knitter and she would spend much of her time knitting hats and mittens. (She was a retired schoolteacher.) She would sell her hats and mittens at a table during the church’s annual auction in the fall. She would continue to sell her inventory after regular Sunday service until mid-December. Whatever inventory didn’t get sold was donated to homeless shelters and various groups that serviced the poor in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

As Ottille Van Allen’s age increased, she had a harder time keeping up with her knitting. By the time she reached her mid-to-late 90’s, she wasn’t able to handle it any more. (She would die at the age of 103 or 104.) Other church members were moved by her plight and they wanted to continue the tradition she started of selling hats and mittens so a Handcraft Circle sprung up where people would gather after Sunday service a few times a month with their latest knitting or crocheting projects as they made hats and mittens for sale. (I have to note that this Handcraft Circle came into being long before it became trendy for women to form Stitch ‘N Bitch knitting circles that meet in libraries, coffeehouses, and other public places.)

Over the years as people involved in the Handcraft Circle moved elsewhere or died, either they or their families would donate extra yarn to the church for the Handcraft Circle to use for the hats and mittens. When I was at the retreat I found out how much yarn the church has amassed over the years. I saw that there were at least 10 large bins full of yarn of various colors and thickness and I was told that there were more. The church had so many yarn skeins that it could easily open its own yarn store as a side venture if it wanted to do so.

Basically the church would like to get rid of the excess yarn. So I took several skeins home with me. I purchased a circular knitting loom at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts and started making hats. I found that using the loom is easier than the traditional needles because I don’t have to count rows and stitches nor do I have to worry about how many stitches should be knit and how many should be purl. The only thing I have to do is to periodically measure the length of what I knitted in the loom so the hat would’t be too big or too small.

Here are the photos of what I’ve knitted so far.

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!

The last few days have been full of bad news. Last night there was this horrible bombing that occurred at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England which has resulted in the deaths of 22 people (including an 8-year-old girl). Today the police there has arrested a 22-year-old man named Salman Abedi, who is rumored to be aligned with Daesh/ISIL/ISIS.

This has come on the heels of another incident that sticks closer to home because I happened to live just a few miles from my alma mater, the University of Maryland at College Park. A Bowie State University student named Richard Collins III was just a few days away from graduation. He decided to head over to the University of Maryland to visit a few friends who were students there. Richard Collins III was waiting with his friends at a bus stop at 3 a.m. when a man approached him and he stabbed Collins to death.

The police arrested a 23-year-old man named Sean Christopher Urbanski, who lives in Severna Park (which is located a few miles south of Glen Burnie, where I grew up, and I once dated a man who grew up in that town). Why did Urbanski kill Collins? It’s because Urbanski is white and Collins was African-American. On top of it, Urbanski is a member of a racist Facebook group known as Alt-Right.

Today is the day that Collins would’ve graduated from Bowie State University had he not been stabbed in cold blood.

Personally I lump Sean Christopher Urbanski and Salman Abedi as being two peas in a pod. Both are young adult men in their early 20’s and both have killed strangers for hateful reasons. Granted Urbanski only killed one person while Abedi’s actions have killed and injured more. But they are the same because they are both terrorists.

I get really tired of people who immediately jump on the bandwagon whenever an Islamic fanatic conducts a terrorist act that kills people but these people are strangely silent when it’s a white Christian fanatic who conducts equally destructive acts that result in a loss of lives. The bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing were perpetrated by white men who were raised as Christians.

And that’s not to mention the long list of terrorist acts that have been committed by the Ku Klux Klan, which goes as far back as 1865.

I get that Sean Christopher Urbanski only killed one person but God only knows what could’ve happened had the police not arrested him. For all we know, Urbanski could’ve been a serial killer in the making whose targets are people of color. At least that arrest has nipped any serial killer ambitions that Urbanski may have had in the bud.

Until both the U.S. government and the media (especially the corporate-owned ones) start to treat deadly atrocities perpetrated by whites as terrorism just as much as it treats similar atrocities by brown-skinned people as terrorism, I will consider the ongoing War on Terror to be one thing: A Big Fucking Joke.

I attended this year’s Greenbelt Green Man Festival. On the first day (May 13) I arrived shortly before the festival closed down for the day mainly because I had spent the bulk of the day walking the Gateway Arts Open Studio Tour. I still managed to take a few photos.

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

The following day was more sunny and it was a warm pleasant day. Plus it was Mother’s Day on top of it. I spent the bulk of my day at the festival where I took these photos.

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

Makerspace 125 had its giant box full of Legos for any child to play with.

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

While the outdoor festival was winding down, the festival moved indoors to the New Deal Cafe. The band Kiva closed the 2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival with their show.

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

I only purchased one thing for myself that weekend: a bar of honey rose-scented goat milk soap that was made by Natural Image Botanicals.

2017 Greenbelt Green Man Festival

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