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This post is kind of special in a way. Not only is it the last of the purely winter holiday 2018 posts but it also marks Washington, DC when it was in the early days of the latest federal government shutdown.

When Donald Trump decided to refuse to sign any budget bills unless he gets his border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border (a demand that most experts say is a waste of money that won’t keep out illegal immigrants), the federal government underwent a shutdown. The Smithsonian and many of the other tourist buildings were able to remain open by tapping into some extra funds but they only had enough money to keep the buildings open until January 1. I decided to spend a day doing something fun downtown since it was still the winter holiday season and it would be my last chance to check out any of the government-funded buildings for a long time. (The federal government remains shut as of this writing.)

To make things even more fun, I decided to pack my latest doll, a Hairdorables Willow that I unboxed just a few days earlier on Christmas Day.

I headed to the Greenbelt Metro station where I saw that one of the periodical boxes has been refurbished as a Little Free Library. This particular one has mainly paperback books and magazines, which are perfect for commuters.

Here’s Willow standing near a giant panda bear statue advertising the annual Zoolights event at the National Zoo (which was among the places that remained opened until January 1). I’ve been to Zoolights other years (in 2012 and 2016) but I wasn’t able to squeeze in a trip this time due to tight finances. (Even though admission to the zoo is free, it still costs money to take the Metro to the zoo.)

I arrived at the U.S. Botanic Garden, which looked very festive for the holidays.

There was an outdoor toy train that rode around. There was an indoor toy train layout inside of the U.S. Botanic Conservatory building but there was such a long line that I decided to skip it and focus on the other exhibitions instead.

The cool thing about the U.S. Botanic Garden is that it has a special holiday display of replicas of various Washington, DC area landmarks that were all made from natural materials. These replicas were scattered throughout the building among the various flora and fauna. The next photo shows the newest of the Smithsonian buildings, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Here’s the U.S. Capitol Building.

There were poinsettias in a variety of colors placed throughout the building.

The next few photos show a replica of the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Two topiary bears flanked a replica of Union Station.

There were a few Christmas trees placed throughout the Conservatory.

This photo shows the replica of the Library of Congress.

This photo shows the replica of the U.S. Botanic Conservatory building right inside of the real thing.

The next two photos show the replica of the White House.

Here’s a replica of the Washington Monument.

Willow the Hairdorables doll poses next to the Washington Monument replica.

A soon-to-be-furloughed Botanic Garden employee shows a few cocoa bean pods to visitors. (The building was crowded the day I went there.)

I also took photos of the various flora and fauna inside of the Conservatory.

A replica of two ships could be found among the flora and fauna.

The next few photos show a replica of the historic train station in Ellicott City, Maryland.

I shot a closeup of a wall that consisted only of pink poinsettias.

The outside of the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory building was festively decorated with two green wreaths.

Across from the Conservatory is another part of the U.S. Botanic Garden known as Bartholdi Park. The focal point of this park is a fountain that was sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who also designed the Statue of Liberty.

The water was shut off for the winter but the fountain still looked impressive, especially paired with some nice cloud formations that were there when I shot these photos.

The last photo shows some winter cabbage that were planted near the fountain.

After my time at the U.S. Botanic Garden, I walked over to the nearby U.S. Capitol Building.

Here’s a photo of my Hairdorables Willow doll with the U.S. Capitol Building in the background.

Standing near the U.S. Capitol was the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. It’s not quite as elaborately decorated as the National Christmas Tree that’s located near the White House (which I last visited in 2016 when Barack Obama still occupied the White House) but it’s charming in its own way.

I took another shot of my Hairdorables Willow doll next to both the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and the U.S. Capitol Building.

As I was walking away from the U.S. Capitol, I took a nice photo of the National Mall at twilight along with some nice cloud formation.

Here’s another shot of my Hairdorables Willow doll.

I walked a few blocks to Union Station. The next photo shows that Union Station is located along a path that’s part of the East Coast Greenway.

The next photos show the outside of Union Station all decked out for the winter holiday season.

Here’s a shot of one of the giant wreaths as taken from inside of the archway leading to Union Station.

Each year the Norwegian Embassy puts up a large Christmas tree in Union Station that’s usually decked out with U.S. and Norwegian flags and various Norwegian-made ornaments.

Here’s the last photo I took of my Hairdorables Willow doll on this trip where she’s next to the Christmas tree.

The Norwegian embassy also puts up this elaborate toy train layout that’s based on the terrain of Norway and one can see toy trains running throughout this layout.

The one new thing I noticed about Union Station is that it now has a special virtual reality video game arcade.

This arcade sports a giant video game that bills itself as “The World’s Largest Pac-Man Game.” For only $1 per game, one can choose to play either Pac-Man or Galaga. I didn’t play on this gaming machine but I saw the tail end of one Pac-Man game while someone else took over the machine and chose to play Galaga instead.

The virtual reality area offered the chance to play vr versions of video games like Argyle Shift, Mario Kart, and Ski Rodeo. I didn’t try any of the games because, as you can see in the next photo, the prices were pretty expensive.

I ended my trip by buying sushi from the only Walgreens location that I know of that actually sells sushi. The sushi I had tasted pretty good.

Since I took those photos, the U.S. Botanic Garden is now closed due to the federal government shutdown. Yesterday I learned that unless Donald Trump relents and signs the federal bill, tomorrow will break the record for the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Sigh!

Buy Me a Coffee at


Not too long ago I went to Target to buy a loaf of bread and sit in the Starbucks area surfing the Internet. I currently own two Fingerlings, a monkey that I purchased from the now-shuttered Toys R Us and a unicorn that I purchased from the same Target store as my most recent visit. While I was at Target I noticed that the store had gotten a new shipment of Fingerlings. Not only did I see a unicorn in a color scheme I had never seen before but there are now panda bear Fingerlings.

Target, August 14, 2018

I also saw monkey Fingerlings that now come with an even smaller plastic monkey under the Fingerlings BFF label. This small monkey is meant to purchase on the tail of the larger Fingerling monkey. Based on what I saw in person, I don’t think this tiny monkey is electronic at all.

Target, August 14, 2018

Target, August 14, 2018

Target also got these large plush Fingerlings monkeys known as Hugs, which have very long arms (so these monkeys can hug someone). When you press a button they make random chatter noises that are identical to what their smaller electronic robotic counterparts can make.

Target, August 14, 2018

Here is how tall a typical Fingerlings electronic monkey measures against one of these plush hugs.

Target, August 14, 2018

I have a friend who’s totally dinosaur-mad. In fact, she loves it whenever I sent her pictures of some dinosaur products that are on sale. I found this board game that’s based on the Jurassic Park movies.

Target, August 14, 2018

I found something else that my friend would like even better. As I was walking down one of the Target aisles, I heard a strange noise. I turned around and found that Target had got a shipment of FurReal pets that were shaped like baby t-rex dinosaurs and one of them was turned on to make a noise every time someone walked past. I have to admit that this dinosaur was not only totally cute but it was very attractively designed with bright colors.

Target, August 14, 2018

I also shot a short video for my friend so she can get the full idea of how totally awesome this FurReal dinosaur robot really is.

If I wasn’t financially struggling so much, I would’ve bought this critter for myself on impulse.

Buy Me a Coffee at

Santa Claus Baby New Year

I went to Dupont Circle the day after a snowstorm hit the area. While there was some leftover snow in the suburbs, all of the snow was melted in the city. In any case, commuting to the city was no trouble at all. When I arrived at the Greenbelt Metro station I saw this panda bear advertising the Zoolights event that is held at the National Zoo each year.

I arrived at Dupont Circle, which had Christmas decorations displayed all over the area.

The next fountain shows the Dupont Circle fountain. You would never know that a major snowstorm that dumped around two inches of snow came through the area the day before. Although it was incredibly cold that day. (The temperature was in the low 30’s.)

The next photo shows the window of Second Story Books, which specializes in selling vintage used and rare books. Many of the books in that window were the various sequels to The Wizard of Oz that L. Frank Baum wrote. Note the prices of these books.

For those who prefer to celebrate Hanukkah instead, this sign announced the lighting of the National Menorah on the Ellipse.


I eventually made my way to The Bier Baron, where this month’s DC chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School was being held. Here’s a photo of the stage I took before the event began.

The bar was very festive with strings of Christmas lights along the railing.


The event’s emcee, Reverend Valentine, was up in the booth spinning the tunes. The weirdest song she played was this song called Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey. I had never heard of it before although it supposed to be a very popular Christmas song among Italian Americans. (My mother’s side of the family is German/Irish/Czech while my father’s side is English/Scottish/Scotch-Irish/Welsh so that probably explains how I missed that one when I was growing up.)

Here are a couple more shots of the bar.

A burlesque performer named Delilah Dentata was the model for this event so some of the drawings in this post are definitely NSFW.

The event ended right at 6 p.m. and most people left immediately afterwards because they didn’t want to linger too much with the weather being that cold. (The temperature eventually dipped from a high of the low 30’s to the low 20’s.) I walked past The Fireplace where I briefly warmed my hands by pressing them against the glass where the outdoor fire was flaming.

I took some random shots of the Dupont Circle area.


I shot this next photo of a sticker that was on a trashcan. You can get an idea as to how popular President Donald Trump really is in Washington, DC. (LOL!)

I decided to make a stop at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café where I took these photos.

I stopped by Krispy Kreme where I purchased one of the Christmas donuts for sale.

I decided to take the Red Line Metro to Union Station because I wanted to check out the decorations this year. What I never realized before is that the stores and eateries tend to close very early on Sundays. The lower level of Union Station looked very spooky with the majority of stores and fast food places closed. (The one silver lining is that I knew not to go to Union Station on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve since both days fall on a Sunday this year.)

I got a chance to see this year’s Christmas tree, which is usually put up as a joint project with the Norwegian embassy.

Here’s a closeup shot showing the U.S. and Norwegian flags that were strewn throughout the Christmas tree.

There is usually a Norwegian themed toy train layout. The toy trains had stopped running when I was there but I was still able to marvel at the realistic miniature replicas of a small Norwegian village.

I took a few more photos of Union Station before I left. With nearly all of the stores and restaurants closed, it wasn’t worth hanging around Union Station too long.

Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

Today I feel like I’m starting to turn a corner regarding this awful cold I have. My breathing feels less congested than yesterday thanks to the amount of mucus I’ve been coughing up over the last two days. I still get into sneezing fits. The worst part is that I feel totally fatigued like I had been doing tons of physical labor. (I guess you could argue that fighting a major cold takes tons of physical labor.)

Today I was supposed to go to a job fair at the Newseum that is being held as part of Techweek DC. I ended up not going because I’ve been feeling so fatigued that I know I would have made a less-than-favorable first impression to potential employers. I’m not too disappointed because there was only a 50-50 chance that I would find anyone who is currently looking for someone with my particular skillsets. I originally figured that had the hiring event been a bust for me, I could at least check out the rest of the Newseum itself because that’s one museum I have never stepped foot inside. Given my current physical condition, I would rather sleep than walk around a museum.

Today I have to go to the grocery store to replenish some supplies (such as toilet paper) but that’s about as much traveling I want to do today. I’m only glad that most of the posts that went live this week (with the exception of the Inktober posts) were ones that I had written, edited, and scheduled last week before the big cold came (which is how you’re seeing new posts from me despite currently being very sick).

I managed to make another quick and simple drawing for Inktober today because that was all I could muster given my current health state.

Remembering a time when going to a Pizza Hut was an experience.

Race, power, and money: The art of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

New AI can guess whether you’re gay or straight from a photograph.

A first-hand account about how the lives of tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley aren’t as glamorous as they are made out to be.

Harvey and Irma, married for 75 years, marvel at the two back-to-back hurricanes bearing their names.

The best U.S. cities to spend a weekend in without going broke.

Three centuries ago, that garden gnome in your yard would’ve been an actual human being.

A look at people who are planting flowers in potholes worldwide as a form of a creative protest.

Dirt to Shirt movement hopes to regrow local textile industry.

This panda bear-shaped solar farm sets a new bar for cute creativity.

The future of photography: Thoughts on the impact of free photos.

Multilevel-marketing companies like LuLa Roe are forcing people into debt and psychological crisis.

A free tutorial on how to cast your own body double dress form.

Six ways America is like a Third World country.

Automation is a real threat. How can we slow down the march of the cyborgs?

Donald Trump’s Twitter following might include more than 4 million bots.

10+ reasons not to trust photos you see on social media.

Former CIA director says that one way of securing U.S. elections is through open source voting machines.

Here are the craziest parts from the worst Craigslist job ad ever.

Thousands of digitized vintage 78 RPM records are now available for free streaming online.

Santa Claus

I checked out the annual ZooLights that’s held during the Winter holiday season at the National Zoo for the first time back in 2012 (at a time when I was reeling from Christmas Eve when my estranged husband sent a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to an email that he sent on Christmas Eve just four days before the one-year anniversary of the day that my husband left me). I enjoyed myself at the time even though I was exhausted by the time I left.

I hadn’t made any return trips since mainly because I got distracted with doing other things. I finally got the idea that I should go back to the National Zoo during the Christmas season when I was taking the Metro to the recent Dr. Sketchy’s event at the Bier Baron in Dupont Circle. (Link is definitely NSFW.) The Greenbelt Metro station had this cute panda bear display hyping the ZooLights.



I finally decided to go to the zoo on the day before New Year’s Eve because I figured that it would be less crowded than on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day (especially since those two dates were the last nights that the ZooLights would be on display). On that day it was very bitter cold outside (I think the temperature was barely above freezing) but I still decided to brave the cold weather.


Once again I tried to arrive while it was still daylight because I wanted to see the animals. The only bad thing is that I saw signs saying that many of the animals (especially those who come from warmer climates) tend to stay inside where it’s warm so I was treated to views of empty animal pens after empty animal pens. I managed to get this neat shot of a canopy of bamboo forming an archway along the Asia Trail.


After seeing empty animal pens I finally hit pay dirt when I came to the giant panda area. One of the panda bears was sitting outside eating bamboo. (Even though the panda was seated so far away that I had to use the zoom feature on my smartphone, I could hear loud crunching as the panda was chowing down on the bamboo.)



I saw one other giant panda but that one was inside the Panda House. I didn’t take that panda’s picture because it was sleeping and it had curled up into a tight ball and was facing the wall so all I saw was the animal’s back.

Then I walked over to the red panda area and I lucked out again as I saw this little critter hanging around outside.




I saw some more animals when I went inside the Elephant House where I saw some elephants feeding.





By the time I finished visiting the elephants most of the buildings were in the process of closing. (They tend to close at 4 p.m. in the winter.) I managed to take a couple of outdoor photos, including one with a couple of animals that were among the few that were still outside.



The Small Mammal House was one of the few buildings that stayed open later to accommodate those who were checking out the ZooLights. So I took the rest of the animal photos in that building.












During my time at the National Zoo I also encountered technical problems with my smartphone camera. My problems actually began a couple of days before Christmas when I had problems with getting the camera software to actually load. Sometimes it would load as usual and I could take pictures but other times it either wouldn’t load or it would load but refuse to take pictures or it would load only to get an error message telling me to restart the camera software.

Basically my smartphone camera started to act more erratic. It finally came to a head when it refused to cooperate after I visited the Small Mammal House. Finally I had to do a Google search on my smartphone and did all kinds of troubleshooting on the camera software while dealing with the increasing plummeting temperature at sunset. Finally I managed to get my camera software working after I cleared its data cache. Unfortunately by the time I solved that problem, I didn’t have much battery power left so I didn’t take as many pictures of the ZooLights as I wanted. But I managed to take a few before my camera stopped working due to low battery.






The silver lining is that many of the lights that were on display were way similar to what I shot in 2012 so I suggest going to that blog post to get an idea of what its like to see the ZooLights.

The one thing I managed to do what I wasn’t able to do back in 2012 is to check out this train ride. When I was there in 2012 I saw this huge line and I didn’t feel like standing in it. But I still wanted to take that ride because I thought it did a tour of the entire ZooLights. One of the reasons I made every effort to show up at the Zoo during daytime is because I wanted to be among the early birds to get on the train. I managed to get my $3 ticket just minutes after it went on sale and I stood in a very short line so I could be among the first people to ride the train.

I discovered that this train doesn’t go through the entire zoo. All it does is go around the Great Cats area where you saw a couple of light displays (shaped mainly like cows and corn stalks) that you could only see on that ride and it lasted no more than two or three minutes. I saw a lion on a rock while I was on the train but the lion was too far away, it had grown dark outside, and the train was traveling too fast for me to get a decent picture. I also wasn’t able to get a decent photo of the train ride-exclusive light displays but that was no big deal since they were of cows and corn stalks. I personally wouldn’t take that train ride again unless I was with a very young child. When I got off the train I saw a longer line of people waiting to take that train and I can only imagine how aggravating an adult who waited in a long ride to take a very short train ride would feel after the ride ended.

I didn’t stay too late after the train ride because the really cold weather got to me. I think the weather outside was way colder that night than when I last went in 2012 because even trying to rest on a bench got pretty trying because I would get cold very fast when I wasn’t moving. I managed to leave the zoo and get to the nearest Metro station as soon as I could even though I felt major fatigue starting to kick in.

I had thought about eating dinner in a local restaurant before taking the Metro but everything was pretty pricey. I ended up taking the Metro to Union Station where I did something off-beat.

Here’s some background. On Christmas Eve I went to Union Station (along with the Smithsonian National Postal Museum that’s located next door) where I discovered that half of the local level is now being taken up by Walgreen’s. This particular Union Station Walgreen’s have one thing that other Walgreen’s in my area doesn’t: a sushi bar where fresh sushi is made daily.


The only reason why I hadn’t tried eating there on Christmas Eve was because I had eaten a mediocre lunch at a Chinese stand before I discovered that Walgreen’s had a sushi stand. When I couldn’t find a restaurant near the National Zoo that was within my price range I decided to take the Metro to Union Station (since I had to travel on the Red Line anyway) and try some Walgreen’s sushi just so I can say that I actually did it once.

By the time I got to Walgreen’s I saw that the sushi chefs had left for the day (I took the above photograph during my Christmas Eve visit) but there were a few fresh sushi packages left. I bought the spicy tuna roll and I found it to be quite good. If I had the chance to do it again, I would definitely eat the Walgreen’s sushi because it was good and the prices were on par with similar sushi at Wegmans.

After dinner I got back on the Metro and headed home. I was incredibly sore from doing all that walking in freezing cold weather. I was so sore that I spent most of New Year’s Eve resting at home. But it was worth it because I had forgotten how much I love seeing the animals at the National Zoo. I should make an effort to go back when the weather gets warmer. For added measure, I should pack a lunch and some drawing materials and make a full day of it. I could leave the house after eating breakfast then spend the entire day either photographing or drawing the animals I see. I would definitely do it when the weather started getting warmer (in March or April) so I could rest on the outside benches.

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