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Passover

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

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

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

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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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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.

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

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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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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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Recently I decided to take extensive photographs of a typical Toys R Us store mainly because late last year, just before Christmas, Toys R Us had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This month Toys R Us is closing a large number of its stores throughout the United States. Nearly three years ago I did an extensive post covering the two-month period that the Kmart in Greenbelt, Maryland conducted its going out of business sale. This time I decided to take a photo of a Toys R Us store that is NOT among the stores that are slated for closure because I wanted to provide sort of a time capsule as to what it was like to visit a Toys R Us store on a typical day when it was in normal operations.

The biggest irony about the upcoming store closings is that this year is Toys R Us’ 70th anniversary. When I looked up Toys R Us’ Wikipedia page I learned one interesting fact—that chain started its first store in the Adams-Morgan section of Washington, DC. That store, which was then-called Children’s Supermart, was operating in a space that is now occupied by the iconic nightclub Madam’s Organ Blues Bar. A few years later the first store with the Toys R Us name was opened in Rockville, Maryland. Toys R Us went from being a local business to a national (then international) store chain when it was sold to Interstate Department Stores, Inc. in 1966.

In a way it’s kind of sad that this is happening to Toys R Us because I grew up watching those commercials on television that featured someone dressed in a Geoffrey Giraffe costume while the ad jingle went “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid/There’s a million of toys at Toys R Us that I can play with.”

There was only one Toys R Us store in the town that I grew up in (Glen Burnie, Maryland). Sometimes my mother would buy toys from that store but she also purchased toys from Montgomery Wards and Sears as well. I still have memories of when I used to go to the one in the Glen Burnie Mall and it had a sign that said that children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sometimes I would get permission from my mom to go to either the Record Bar (which sold vinyl records, 8-track tapes, and cassette tapes) or the video arcade (both of which have long since gone out of business) while she and my grandmother went inside of some clothing store. I was somewhere between 12-15 when I did this. (I know that for a fact because I pretty much lost interest in doing this once I reached 16.) I always made an effort to go past the Toys R Us entrance in the mall where I would enter that store without being accompanied by an adult just so I would flout that rule. None of the store employees ever did anything to kick me out for being an unaccompanied minor under 16 but it still filled my juvenile ego to know that I flouted a store rule. I never stayed too long inside Toys R Us because most of the toys were geared towards younger kids and I had pretty much outgrown any interest I had in things like Barbie dolls or Play-Doh. I only went inside because a sign said I couldn’t do it and it was an easy way to rebel against authority without getting into any kind of serious trouble. (LOL!)

Ironically that Glen Burnie Toys R Us is still going strong and it’s among the stores that is being saved from closure for now. The same can’t be said for the rest of the mall and, in fact, that mall had finally closed down for good last year.

When I moved closer to the Washington, DC area as an adult, I was lucky enough to be in an area where there were three different Toys R Us stores all located just a short drive away from my home—in New Carrollton, Laurel, and Langley Park. I used to periodically shop at Toys R Us mainly to purchase presents for my then-husband’s nieces and nephews or to buy baby shower gifts for various friends, relatives, and coworkers. There was a time when my church had a Toys for Tots-like program around the winter holiday season where we purchased toys for the children at this non-profit community center in Washington, DC that strived to provide programs for inner city kids from low-income families that would be an alternative to gangs and I used to shop at Toys R Us for that reason as well.

But then Toys R Us encountered its first problem when the dotcom boom happened and it was very slow in getting an online presence.  Amazon, which sold only books at the time, wanted to start selling toys so Toys R Us entered into a ten-year contract with Amazon to allow that online site to be its exclusive online supplier. It might have sounded like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, that deal was like having Coca-Cola decide to let Pepsi-Cola handle all of its marketing and distribution of Coke products. Amazon soon allowed other third-party retailers to sell toys on its site, which resulted in a lawsuit.

One-by-one, over the next few years, the Toys R Us stores that were located closer to my home started to close. The one in New Carrollton was located in a building with a flat roof. A major blizzard hit the area where two feet of snow accumulated. The flat roof of the New Carrollton Toys R Us had accumulated so much snow that it literally caved in. I still remember seeing local news reports about that roof collapse along with pictures of stuffed animals floating on top of huge puddles that were created by melting snow. The chain decided to permanently close that store rather than rebuild. The building was razed then rebuilt and a CVS Pharmacy now sits in that location.

As for the one in Laurel I remember that the chain decided to do a remodel of that store while remaining open for business during the remodeling. Once that job was done that store looked really nice with a fresh coat of paint and bright lights. A year or two later the chain decided to close the Laurel store, which had me rolling my eyes since that chain had spent time and money remodeling that store only close it soon afterwards.

At that point the one in Langley Park was the closest Toys R Us store to my home. Compared to the Laurel store or even the New Carrollton store, that Langley Park store was a major hot mess. The floors had scruff marks everywhere and the shelves were totally messy and disorganized. It was almost like no one cared about having that store looked its best so it would encourage customers to return. I don’t know if the clientele had anything to do with the store deciding not to do much to keep up appearances or not. (Many immigrants, mainly from Central America and the Caribbean, started to settle in Langley Park starting in the 1980’s.)

Early one morning the bodies of two men were found in the parking lot of the Langley Park Toys R Us. Each of the men have had their their throats slashed. A third man was also knifed and survived. Naturally this story of three immigrant men being attacked in a Toys R Us parking lot was extensively covered by the local news media. Police found out that these slayings were the result of a drug deal gone bad and a suspect was arrested. That Toys R Us store closed soon after that incident.

As a result of those closures, these days if I want to shop at a Toys R Us, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour in any direction in order to get to a store. As a result, my shopping at Toys R Us has become very rare. These days if I need to buy a toy for whatever reason, I’m more likely to go to the Target store that’s located only three miles from my home and it has a pretty decent toy selection.

At this point there are only two Toys R Us left in my county and they require at least (depending on the traffic) a half-an-hour commute. One is a regular Toys R Us store in Clinton and the other is a Toys R Us outlet store at National Harbor. The Clinton store is the one that is among the stores that Toys R Us plan to close soon. Once that happens, my county will only have the outlet store left and no more regular Toys R Us stores.

At one point Toys R Us had opened a giant flagship store at Times Square in New York City. I went there many times whenever my then-husband and I visited his father and step-mother. I used to be awed by the four floors that not only included toys but I remembered there was a giant life-sized version of Barbie’s dreamhouse that you could walk through while browsing the selection of Barbie dolls that were displayed on shelves inside of that house, an animatronic t-rex robot, a giant candy section, and large 3D displays that were built from LEGOs.  In addition there was this giant indoor ferris wheel that was as tall as the store itself so one could see all four floors of the store while going on that ride. I never went on that ride myself because I still have memories the one and only time I went on a ferris wheel when I was seven years old and it literally made me feeling so dizzy that I never cared to repeat that experience. On top of it, the lines to that ferris wheel were usually long and I wasn’t in the mood to wait in a long line to get on a ride. I last went to New York City in 2011 (just a few months before my hip surgery and my husband’s subsequent sudden walkout) and I walked past that store while seeing the ferris wheel through the glass windows from the outside. I’ve heard that this store is now closed, which is too bad. Here’s a video tour of the Times Square store I found on YouTube that was shot shortly before it closed.

As for the chain itself, it has been going through more troubles in recent years. This article said that Toys R Us has an e-commerce site that’s very clunky to use compared to Amazon while also mentioning that kids these days are more likely to play with computers, smartphones, and tablets than traditional toys like Barbie dolls and Lego. Another article said that Toys R Us’ prices are higher than what Walmart, Amazon, and Target charge for the same toy. There is another factor in Toys R Us’ decline and it has less to do with kids’ playtime, their parents’ shopping habits, or the cost of toys and more with the fact that in 2005 the management decided to sell the company in a leveraged buyout to the real estate investment trust Vornado Realty Trust and the private equity firms KKR and Bain Capital. This trio of companies have focused more on doing a complex financial deal that would leave them richer while drowning Toys R Us in debt. It’s the usual Wall Street financial shenanigans that focus more on extracting huge short-term profits for the very wealthy 1%  class and less on operating a viable profitable store chain in the long run.

In a way one could say that karma had finally struck Toys R Us. When that chain first started opening stores throughout the United States in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, a lot of the smaller toy stores that were locally owned were driven out of business because many of them couldn’t compete with the wide selection of toys or the low prices that Toys R Us provided. Now it’s Toys R Us’ turn to eventually get driven out of business through a combination of increased competition (from the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Target) and being literally milked heavily for profits by a bunch of Wall Streeters.

Of course it’s the employees who are suffering the most due to increased workplace stress and losing their jobs.

Which led me to my recent visit to a Toys R Us store in Annapolis, Maryland. I wanted to pick a store that isn’t among the stores being closed and I ended up picking the one in Annapolis because I decided to attend the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. The meetings are held in Crofton and Annapolis is just a few miles away on Route 50 so it made sense for me to go to the Annapolis store then head back to Crofton for the meeting.

The next photo shows the outside of the store. Some of the stores in this chain are Toys R Us only while other stores are its Babies R Us subsidiary. (The latter store focuses on items for babies and toddlers such as furniture, formula, and diapers.) This location is a larger store that has both Toys R Us and Babies R Us under the same roof.

Here’s what I first saw when I entered the store.

The next photo shows the Fingerlings, robot toys which were THE Hot Toy of 2017. These critters were sold out everywhere just before Christmas and these toys were sold on eBay for several times the original $15 retail price. As of late January I saw a few of these toys on the store shelves at the original retail price.

There was a section devoted to toys that were based on recent movies, such as Coco and Batman vs. Superman.

The store was nearly empty when I visited it. I know that the fact that I visited it on a Thursday in late January was a major factor. But this particular Toys R Us is located across the street from Annapolis Mall and I noticed that the mall was filling up with cars when I was leaving the area yet Toys R Us was mostly empty.

The store had a few Toys R Us exclusive toys, such as this Funko Pop! vinyl set featuring Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

They had some retro video games based on Space Invaders and the old Sega Genesis console system on the shelves yet they kept the games for the newer console systems kept behind locked cases.

Curiously Toys R Us had a bunch of Sharper Image products that it was selling on its store shelves. (The Sharper Image is a separate store chain that specializes in upscale electronic products.) This store sold mainly robot dinosaurs.

Toys R Us had an entire display devoted to last year’s hot trend, Fidget Spinners. (Remember them? I certainly do.)

Toys R Us carried a few American Girl dolls but they were all of the 14-inch Wellie Wishers.

This next item was among some of the more unusual toys I found on sale. This one is a Bear Surprise, where each bear is a pregnant female who could carry anywhere between 3-5 cubs. (The person wouldn’t know for sure until after he/she purchases a Bear Surprise and take her home.)

The one thing I most remember about Toys R Us is its mascot, Geoffrey Giraffe. I remember when that store used to sell Geoffrey Giraffe stuffed animals where the giraffe wore a sweater with the Toys R Us logo. I didn’t see any stuffed Geoffrey Giraffes on sale. In fact, I didn’t see much of Geoffrey Giraffe anywhere in this store except for this graphic. It’s obvious that they’ve redesigned him but he looks incredibly lame compared with the Geoffrey Giraffe I knew when I was growing up. It was like someone decided to make Geoffrey into this bland forgettable character that would blend in with a corporate environment. I can’t imagine any child being enthusiastic about this Geoffrey Giraffe.

The Journey Girls are 18-inch dolls that are Toys R Us’ answer to the ever-popular American Girl doll. They cost around $40, which is cheaper than American Girl’s $110 dolls.

Curiously Toys R Us had a section devoted to jewelry from Claire’s (which is a separate retail chain that sells jewelry and other accessories).

Here’s another Toys R Us exclusive I found, a Zoomer robot unicorn.

Naturally Toys R Us had a line of Star Wars toys.

They had a whole shelf full of Sharper Image drones.

Here are some more toys I found at Toys R Us, which includes Wonder Woman, Gremlins, and even a stuffed Godzilla plush.

I remember when Teddy Ruxpin first came out back in the 1980s and I saw news stories about this teddy bear. I was amazed by the animatronic technology back then even though this product was aimed at young children and I didn’t have any young children of my own. Teddy Ruxpin has been re-released and he’s compatible with a smartphone app and Bluetooth.

Toys R Us had a section devoted to bikes, small cars that children could ride in, and rollerblades.

Here’s another shot of an empty store aisle.

Toys R Us had an arts and crafts section including a shelf dedicated to nothing but Crayola products.

A quarter of the store was devoted to Babies R Us, which had cribs, blankets, and other products geared towards infants and toddlers.

Here’s a shot of the hall in the Babies R Us section that has the restrooms.

Toys R Us had a couple of STEM-focused high tech toys that are designed to encourage making and coding but they were pretty small compared to what Target and Best Buy offer.

They had a bunch of shelves devoted to board games. Some were the games I knew from my childhood, such as Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots, while others were definitely ones I hadn’t heard of before.

There was an aisle devoted entirely to LEGO products.

This one was another interesting item where you create your own version of a Kinder Surprise Egg.

Toys R Us had toy vacuum cleaners and toy irons for those budding young housewives.

I remember when Zhu Zhu Pets were the big Hot Toy way back in 2009. Like Fingerlings, Zhu Zhu Pets were sold out in stores everywhere just before the holiday season but then they became plentiful once Christmas passed. I haven’t seen Zhu Zhu Pets on sale anywhere in my area in a few years so I was surprised when I found them at Toys R Us.

Toys R Us also had Barbie dolls on sale along with newer dolls, such as the DC Super Hero Girls dolls.

I saw one discount bin full of polar bear Christmas ornaments.

I found a few dolls and plush based on Disney’s Moana movie and Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. video game series.

I decided to make one purchase. The woman at the cash register offered me a free frequent rewards card. I accepted it even though I rarely shop at Toys R Us these days and I don’t know when I’ll make another trip to any Toys R Us store in my area. (Like I wrote earlier, most of those stores are located at least a 30-minute trip from my home.) I have to admit that the card is pretty colorful.

Here’s the one purchase I made. I bought a $15 Fingerlings monkey for the heck of it. I shot a video of the first time I played with this baby monkey, which I’ll write about in my next post.

UPDATE (March 8, 2018): Toys R Us is now seriously considering liquidating all of its stores in the U.S. That chain had recently started doing the same in the U.K. I’m glad I managed to take these photos of the Annapolis store when I did because I now have a time capsule of what a typical Toys R Us store was like when it was in business.

UPDATE (March 14, 2018): It’s official! After 70 years in business, Toys R Us will close its remaining 800 stores, including the one in Annapolis where I took the photos in this post.

UPDATE (April 10, 2018): I made a return trip to the Annapolis Toy R Us store where I was able to compare what I saw on that subsequent trip with the photos I took for this blog post.

Santa Claus

I had a busy day on December 2. First I went to The Doll and Teddy Bear Show in Gaithersburg. I took so many pictures at that one event that I decided to make a separate post about the other things I did on that day after I left the show.

When I went to The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, I noticed that there was a flea market being held, which I don’t recall ever seeing before during visits to previous Doll and Teddy Bear Shows. (I hadn’t gone to that show since 2011 and I never went to those fairgrounds for any other event.) So after I went to that show, I went to the flea market that was located on the other side of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

The flea market had a variety of dolls and action figures on sale as well, except they were all of the more recent variety than the predominantly pre-1960 vintage/antique dolls that were on display at The Doll and Teddy Bear Show. I found a vintage Barbie doll-sized Michael Jackson doll from the 1980’s on sale. (This doll even had the sequined glove on one hand, which was Jackson’s trademark look at the time.) The doll that’s next to the Michael Jackson doll reminded me of Diana Ross. (I have no idea if it was actually a Diana Ross doll or not.)

Like The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, the flea market had a variety of Christmas decorations available for sale, including Santa Claus.

The flea market was a total vintage treasure trove.

The flea market had stuff other than vintage items on sale as well, such as packaged food, hair dye, and even tires.

There were some good prices on a few computer laptops.

Cash-strapped parents of school-aged children can buy school supplies at the flea market.

I’ve long heard conservative Republican politicians complain about poor people and immigrants who still have consumer goods and they use that argument to favor such things as cutting programs that would help them. When I was at this flea market I heard a lot of shoppers speaking Spanish to each other and many of the vendors are bilingual. I realized that this is how many of these immigrants are able to afford consumer goods on very tight budgets. This particular flea market operates every Saturday and Sunday so cash-strapped shoppers have an affordable place to go when they need to buy something. Heck, if I lived closer to Gaithersburg, I would be shopping at this flea market on a regular basis. (Depending on the traffic, Gaithersburg is about a 30-45 minute drive from my house so it’s really not feasible for me to make regular trips to this flea market unless I happened to be in the area for a different reason on the weekend and I decided to make a brief stop while I was there.)

I saw one table that had toothpaste on sale. I bought this tube of Colgate toothpaste for only $2. The package was a little bit bent in one corner but, otherwise, the toothpaste was still usable. In fact, I’m currently brushing my teeth with this toothpaste and it works just as well as the toothpaste I’ve purchased in the regular supermarkets and pharmacies.

On the way back home I went to the annual Festival of Lights Craft Show that was held at the Greenbelt Community Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. I really wanted to go to that show since I missed the opening ceremony of the Festival of Lights the night before mainly because I had opted to go to the Holiday Warm-Up Party that was held at my church instead. One of my friends was selling her fused glass jewelry and plates. On top of it I ran into several of my other friends who happened to be there at the time. Here are a few of the handcrafted items that were available for sale.

I’ve gone to previous Festival of Lights Craft Shows but this was the first year I’ve ever seen a vendor table with a 3D printer. This vendor made items that could be used in spinning yarn.

The Festival of Lights Craft Show was held in the Greenbelt Community Center, which also had this display explaining how some of the earliest Greenbelt residents had celebrated Christmas during the height of the Great Depression.

The Greenbelt Community Center also had a special red mailbox where people can deposit their letters to Santa Claus.

When I was on my way back to my car after visiting the festival, I noticed this hilarious car sticker.

I only purchased soap at the Festival of Lights Craft Festival. I purchased two bars of Lilac Wood soap—one is for me and the other I planned to give to my mother for Christmas.

I bought one additional soap that I also plan to give to my mother. The cupcake in the next photo is actually soap. That’s right, it’s soap that looks like a cupcake. I think it’s cute.

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.

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.

Last week I had to take my car to a dealer in Silver Spring because there was a recall on the steering wheel. After I had that fixed and picked up that car, I decided to chill out at a nearby Target store in Silver Spring. I normally don’t go to this particular store, mainly because there’s another Target that’s located closer to my home but I decided to go there since it was on the way back from the car dealership.

This particular Target has giant red cement dots outside its doors (which is a feature that the Target that is closer to my home doesn’t have). Normally I don’t pay attention to those dots but I saw that two of those cement dots have been converted to resemble the heads of Mario and Luigi from Super Mario Bros. and other numerous Nintendo video games.

The heads were there to promote the recently released Nintendo Switch console system.

I stepped inside the store where I noticed that this store is larger compared to the one I usually go to. It also had items on sale that I’ve never seen at the other Target, such as American Girl’s Wellie Wishers dolls.

Those dolls were released last year but it was the first time I had ever seen them in person. That’s because it’s been a year since I last set foot inside an American Girl Place. The next photo shows the clothes and other accessories that one can buy for a Wellie Wishers doll, which are priced somewhere between $20-25.

The Wellie Wishers are smaller than the other American Girl dolls. From what I’ve read, these dolls were created for kids who are younger than the larger dolls’ target audience of girls between the ages 8-12. These dolls have vinyl bodies (compared to the larger dolls’ cloth torsos) and they are depicted as being somewhere between the ages of 4-7 (while the larger dolls are supposed to be around 9 or 10 years old). At $60 per doll, they are definitely cheaper than the larger dolls’ $115 price. But these dolls are more expensive than the 18-inch Our Generation dolls that Target sells as its alternative to American Girl. (The Our Generation dolls are generally priced between $20-35 depending on how many accessories are included with a certain doll.) I still find them to be pretty cute and their clothes are very lovely and colorful.

April 22 was not only Earth Day but it was also the day that a massive March for Science took place in downtown Washington, DC to protest the Trump Administration’s official denial of climate change while cutting funds for federal research. I thought about going myself because, as someone who was once married to a NASA software engineer, I know the importance of science in everyday life (even if science was never my favorite subject in school).

But then it rained like crazy and I decided to can that idea. I didn’t feel guilt over what I did because I had already previously participated in the Women’s March on Washington and the Werk for Peace dance protest. The People’s Climate March was scheduled to be held in Washington, DC on the following Saturday. In addition, there are more anti-Trump marches on Washington planned for the future which will focus on immigration, LGBTQ rights, and fans of the hip hop group Insane Clown Posse (that one is because, for some weird reason, the federal government has classified the fans of this group as gangs and terrorists).

And I’m sure that the longer Donald Trump stays in office, the more people will hold massive protest marches.

So I ended up going to Silver Spring where I took place in the second annual Creator Con. At least it was held indoors so I didn’t have to deal with being rained on. Here are the photos I took during my time there.

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

There was one thing that blew my mind. There was a band consisting of teenage boys who did covers of classic rock songs like The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” and The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.” I found it interesting that there were kids who did covers of songs that first came out decades before they were even born.

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con

Creator Con was held at Eubie Blake High School, which had these pro-LGBTQ signs on display. I’m old enough to remember a time when a teen openly admitting that he/she was LGBTQ would not only result in all kinds of bullying and harassment but many teachers would’ve been indifferent to that student’s plight. Now there are official signs making a LGBTQ teen feel welcome.

Creator Con

Creator Con

Santa Claus

Ever since my husband left me just three days after Christmas in 2011, I’ve been celebrating my birthdays by going out to all-you-can-eat Asian buffet places. While they were okay, I was ready for something a little bit different. I got a combination birthday/Christmas check from my mother so I could indulge myself a little bit. I originally planned on going to the Christmas Village that’s temporarily located in Baltimore where I would indulge in German food and do some shopping. But then I looked at operating hours and I found that the Christmas Village is closed on certain Tuesdays—including December 15.

Okay so that plan fell by the wayside. Then I decided on Plan B. I went to Tyson’s Corner Mall instead.

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Here are the first few images of the plaza area where Metro riders arrive at the mall.

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Käthe Wohlfahrt had a heated tent set up outside.

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The next shot is one of the two giant wooden soldiers that guard the entrance to the tent. There was a photography ban inside the tent but you can just go on the website to see the variety of German-made Christmas decorations that are currently for sale.

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Once again the mall has erected an ice skating rink on the plaza. It was empty mainly because I came on a Tuesday night.

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I saw that Jon Wye now has a kiosk in the mall. I can remember when Jon Wye was a regular fixture in many of the local indie craft shows (such as Crafty Bastards). One year I purchased this t-shirt for my then-husband, which he really loved. (My husband loved to cook, although in the later years of our marriage I did more of the cooking because he would come home from work totally exhausted.)

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I ended up eating my birthday dinner at Wasabi. It’s cool they deliver food on a conveyor belt plus the food is excellent.

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After dinner I walked around the mall some more. I saw these cute Christmas villages made from Legos at the Lego Store.

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A few months ago I wrote a rant on Why Kim Kardashian and Her Family Need to Just Go Away. I was exasperated over the fact that the entire family seem to have a knack at calling media attention to themselves even though most of them have no discernible talent. Even though I go through great lengths to avoid having anything remotely to do with Kim Kardashian and family, even I can’t avoid them completely. One example is this poster in a store window touting a fashion collection that’s promoted by two of Kim Kardashian’s younger half-sisters, Kendall and Kylie Jenner.

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Nintendo set up this temporary display in the middle of the mall. People had the opportunity to actually try some of the latest Nintendo games that are currently on sale for both their 3DS and Wii U systems.

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I saw these cute dolls made by the German company Götz in a Pottery Barn Kids store. Here’s a fun fact: Götz was the manufacturer of many of the early American Girl dolls, which ended when Mattel purchased American Girl and, in a cost-cutting measure, shifted all production to China. These days Götz makes its own 18-inch dolls that are sold in Pottery Barn Kids stores.

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I also saw this Star Wars display in the Pottery Barn Kids store right across from where the Götz dolls were displayed.

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In the middle of the mall was something called Those Animals, which were motorized stuffed animals that one could ride through the mall. Each animal is billed to carry a person up to 500 pounds. I thought about renting one briefly to try it out but I didn’t because I wasn’t sure if I would be considered too old to ride one. I later saw a group of teens riding those animals so maybe it would be okay for adults to ride as well. Maybe I’ll consider it again if Those Animals are still around the next time I go to Tyson’s Corner Mall.

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I went to the American Girl Place. I focused mainly on the Christmas related stuff this time around because I’ve already taken so many pictures of that store in the past. There was this store exclusive dress that was displayed on different dolls.

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There were also other types of holiday outfits for dolls available as well.

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They also brought back the horse carriage that I photographed extensively last year at the same store.

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Earlier this year I wrote extensively and posted a bunch of photos on Samantha Parkington’s gazebo. It was adorned with Christmas decorations when I saw that gazebo this time.

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Their Bistro area was all decked out in holiday ornaments. The doll on the counter is Kit Kittredge, who’s the BeForever historical doll representing America during the Great Depression.

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There were a variety of winter holiday decorations strewn throughout the store.

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I took one more token photo of the 2015 Girl of the Year, Grace Thomas, because by the time I make a return visit to the American Girl Place, she’ll be long replaced by the 2016 Girl of the Year.

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I took a few more photos of various store windows and displays throughout the mall.

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I saw the ultimately geeky Christmas ornament: Darth Vader wearing a Santa hat and one of those ugly Christmas sweaters featuring all kinds of Star Wars-related motifs. I didn’t buy it at the time because I didn’t have enough money on me (after eating at Wasabi). When I attempted to go to a Hallmark store located closer to me, I found that all of the Darth Vader ornaments had been sold out except for the display model.

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I finished with a visit to the Nestle Toll House Cafe. Instead of getting a birthday cake for myself, I opted to purchase a cookies and cream brownie. Boy, was it good!

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I purchased only one thing during my trip to the mall. I found this $9.99 miniature gumball machine that had the images of Anna and Elsa on it from the Disney movie Frozen.

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There is a coin slot but one can get the gumball just by twisting the handle. However, if you opt to pay with a coin, there is a lid at the bottom where you can retrieve your coins. (In other words, it functions as a bank as well as a candy dispenser.)

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As I went back out on the plaza in the direction of the Metro station (so I could return home), I saw an employee spraying the surface of the ice skating rink with water.

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I also saw some people sit on the outdoor couches by the tables with lit flames, such as this family in the next photo.

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A few days before my birthday on December 15 I decided to take the Silver Line Metro to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia because I got some birthday money from a relative and I wanted to spend it on myself. I also heard that the mall was having something called a Christmas Market & Winterfest and it’s currently being held only on the weekends before Christmas.

This was my second trip on the Silver Line Metro since it opened. When I previously arrived two months ago, the plaza outside the mall greeted Metro commuters with all kinds of interesting stuff like giant sized chessboards. The chessboards and other outdoor stuff were replaced with the tents of the Christmas Market & Winterfest, an ice skating rink, and a large Christmas tree. It’s really cool that the mall does special things like this that makes it convenient for people who choose to commute via Metro instead of driving their cars to the parking garages.

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The largest tent belonged to a vendor that I recognized from going to the Christmas Village in Baltimore just five days earlier. The next photograph shows the back of Käthe Wohlfahrt, which specializes in selling handcrafted Christmas decorations from Germany.

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The next photo shows the front of the Käthe Wohlfahrt tent. As you can see, the front entrance resembles the entrance to the one in Baltimore.

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Like the Baltimore location, the one in Tyson’s Corner also didn’t allow photography but you can see what Käthe Wohlfahrt sells on its website. While I was there, I found this really small yet delicate looking lace moose ornament that I purchased for around $6. Here is what that ornament looked like after I took it home.

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I also walked past the ice rink, which was really big. It was opened to the public and I saw plenty of people using it when I was there.

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Inside the mall there were people trying out the free Microsoft Xbox demo of the video game Just Dance.

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Inside the mall there was a temporary Christmas store that was only opened for the holidays. There were plenty of cute items on sale, such as this Christmas stuffed animal based on the Internet celebrity Boo the World’s Cutest Dog.

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This next photo shows the ever-popular Elf on the Shelf, which brings to mind my own vintage elf decoration (which I wrote about last year).

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This Christmas store had a huge selection of ornaments and decorations for people with all kinds of various interests.

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There were even nutcrackers that represented various sports teams.

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There were also Department 56 buildings that represented all kinds of structures. There were even a few pieces based on the town of Springfield on The Simpsons.

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The next photo shows a temporary display where Nintendo was demonstrating its latest products to the general public.

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I finally arrived at the American Girl Place, whose front display had dolls decked out in the latest sparkly Christmas outfits that were on sale.

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The next two photos showed its special store exclusive Christmas outfit that were modeled by two different dolls.

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Every time I go to that store I always come out with a bunch of photos. I especially love the BeForever line (even if I’m not a fan of the name) because I’ve always been a history nerd and this line focuses on dolls representing girls who grew up in the past and it features historically accurate clothes and tiny accessories. I’m not quite as big of a fan of either My American Girl or the Girl of the Year (mainly because they represent modern girls wearing modern clothes—if I wanted such a doll, I would simply go to Target and buy an Our Generation doll for a quarter of the price of one American Girl doll) although they look lovely. But I definitely love BeForever. If money and space were no object, I’d buy all of the BeForever dolls along with the clothes and accessories. Since that’s not the case for me, I have to make do with these lovely photographs that I took.

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I still love those human clothes based on the BeForever dolls. I still wish someone would make these clothes in adult sizes because I definitely would buy something like the outfit in the next photo that’s based on Kit Kittredge’s Meet outfit.

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There was a funky Christmas tree in the store.

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The most awesome Christmas item that’s currently available for 18-inch dolls is this horse-drawn carriage. It looks incredibly gorgeous in real life. However, this carriage would take up a huge amount of space in my living room so there is no way I could ever buy this even if I wanted to. Besides, this is way out my tight budget. According to the American Girl website, the Pretty City Carriage costs $275 while the horse is sold separately for $98. I have to admit that I’m totally impressed by the attention to detail on the carriage.

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Despite the glittery mall with its upscale shops (such as Michael Kors and Coach) I saw at least one store that was having a going out of business sale.

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Last year I went to my first ever Intervention Con in Rockville. I was only able to afford one day because, having attended both Brony Con and Otakon, I was too low on funds to afford the entire weekend. I really enjoyed myself at that con because it was relatively small and intimate and I managed to meet all kinds of interesting people and attend some really cool panels and workshops.

This year I skipped Otakon (I basically contented myself with taking pictures of Otakon cosplayers outside the convention) so I could afford to attend a full weekend of Intervention Con. (Although I still had to commute to and from the Hilton—where Intervention Con was held—because money is still too tight for me to stay in the hotel. I also had to pack my own meals and drinks for the same reason. I was able to get this deal at the Hilton front desk where I could get a weekend parking pass—yes this particular Hilton Hotel charges for parking in its garage—for $18. I took it because the breakdown would be $6 per day, which is a relative bargain compared to the usual $15 per day on the weekday.) Because of the convention’s relatively intimate size, I felt comfortable enough with getting a full weekend pass since I knew I would be doing less waking than if it was held in a large facility like either of the convention centers in Baltimore and DC.

The first of the events started at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon but I didn’t arrive until later because the panels I was interested in were held later. I managed to arrive a little bit early so I could pick up my pass, which is pictured below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I was also given my choice of these plastic balls and I picked the blue one. I never figured out the significance of these balls.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The setup at Intervention Con was pretty much the same as last year so I quickly remembered where everything was located.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I spent some of my free time playing video games, many of which were classic late 1970’s-early 1980’s video games that were put on Free Play the entire weekend.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also spent some browsing the Dealer’s Room but I couldn’t afford to do much shopping. I managed to take this panoramic shot of the room.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The next two photos are of the Intervention Con table which had a variety of extra things for people who paid a little extra money in order to gain “Enabler” status. Among the goodies given to such generous people were hand-crocheted amigurumis that resembled the Intervention Con’s owl mascot.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I came across some workers putting the finishing touches on erecting a life-sized model of the Tardis from Doctor Who.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

There were a few cosplayers at Intervention Con such as this woman in the photo below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also brought along my latest creative project with me to work on during some downtime. I was currently working on a crocheted piece. I had every ambition to attend the “Early Stitch and Bitch” that was scheduled for 9 a.m. the following morning and I wanted to start my crocheted project before attending this event.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The first workshop I attended was on “Designing Your First Book,” which I found pretty enlightening. (Every now and then I have fantasies of one day publishing my own e-book even though I haven’t thought of what I wanted to write about yet. LOL!) It started at 5 p.m. and ended at 6 so I ate the dinner that I brought with me.

At 7 p.m. I went to another panel that I was the most interested in attending, which was titled “Comics Rehab: Overcoming Creative Depression.” It focused on the challenges of retaining your creativity in the challenges of real life (such as depression). That workshop really resonated with me because there are times when I’ve had a hard time getting going on anything because I was dealing with the emotional fallout from both my hip surgery in September, 2011 followed by my husband’s walkout just three months later (and three days after Christmas) followed by revelations that he left me for a friend who also has severe mental health issues. I got some helpful tips (the most important one was to go out and be with friends if depression is too overwhelming—don’t stay home alone). Near the end of that panel, a man who cosplayed as Jesus sat down next to me.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The reason why Jesus arrived was because he was involved in the next panel that was taking place in the same room. I stuck around in that room where I was treated to a spectacle that was titled “Cosplay Candidate: The Political Game.” Basically four cosplayers were asked questions about politics and they gave pretty hilarious answers while they were sticking in character to the character that they were portraying. One of the participants, standing next to Jesus in the next photo, was known as King Drunk for obvious reasons.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So I sat in on this panel for a little while until I grew pretty tired around 8:30 p.m. and I decided to call it a day and drive home.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

As I was walking towards the parking garage, I saw this guy playing the guitar near the Tardis.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So it was one day of Intervention Con down and two more days to go.

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