You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘smartphone’ tag.

Uber can’t be fixed—it’s time for regulators to shut it down.

A new book examines how the upper-middle class has enriched itself and harmed economic mobility.

The rise of the 21st century Victorians.

Brooklyn’s famous Green Lady explains her lifelong devotion to the color green.

The far-out sci-fi costume parties of the Bauhaus school in the 1920s.

It’s the end of the shopping mall as we know it.

How to deal with a 4Chan troll. There is some information that’s useful for anyone who’s dealing with any kind of online troll regardless of whether it involves politics or not.

Low-income workers who live in RVs are being chased out of Silicon Valley streets.

Feminist publication makes history by appointing black trans woman as editor-in-chief.

The sketchbook of drawings done in ballpoint pen by Nicolas V. Sanchez.

A look at the female pioneers of the Bauhaus art movement.

The fight for health care is really all about civil rights.

23 ways to treat yourself without buying or eating anything.

Glow-in-the-dark “toonie” coins celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.

These bosses share the worst interviews they’ve ever seen and the results are stunning.

Browse a collection of over 83,500 vintage sewing patterns.

Bid on old computers, speakers, radios, and other junk from the bowels of RadioShack.

This transgender doll is making huge strides in teaching children about gender roles.

She took on Tesla for discrimination. Now others are speaking up.

A new kind of tech job emphasizes skills, not a college degree.

Women in tech speak frankly on the culture of harassment.

Over decades of poverty, Detroit’s have fostered a resilient informal economy based on trust.

GoFraudMe is a blog that exposes fake GoFundMe campaigns.

Rural America is the new “inner city.”

3 ways to be seen as a leader in your field.

Artist repaints mass-produced dolls to make them look realistic and the result is amazing.

Every Sega game ever made is coming to iOS and Android for free.

Edvard Munch’s famous Scream painting animated to Pink Floyd music.

Despite serving time in a Russian prison under Vladimir Putin, a member of the punk rock group Pussy Riot is still defiant.

This 106-year-old cooking show host is YouTube’s oldest creator.

Turn your smartphone into a hologram projector using everyday items.

Tips on how to use emojis correctly and in a professional way as part of your marketing campaign.

Is American retail at a historic tipping point?

Artist crafts classic Stephen King-style book covers for classic songs.

3D printing replicates body parts.

Japan’s largest anime store opens up to international shoppers, but there’s a catch.

Eight things no one tells you before you become a YouTube sensation.

Apple’s most powerful computer in years will be in stores by Christmas.

Facebook releases several new open source tools for video and virtual reality.

How one writer became disappointed by Patreon.

Twitter has a serious problem with bots.

The truth about succeeding in business with your husband.

3D printed cars are the future. But are they safe?

Is multimedia journalism the way forward?

Streamers flock to YouTube Live, but the money (and crowd) is still at Twitch.

Find out if a robot will take your job.

Too many dolls: Is American Girl overextending itself?

PBS travel guru Rick Stevens sacrifices $4 million nest egg to house dozens of homeless women and kids.

Why photography is such a difficult business to get into.

You can now 3D print a tiny pretzel made of glass.

You can now live stream to YouTube from your phone if you have at least 1,000 subscribers.

Microsoft lets users access accounts without passwords.

Robots will soon become our children’s tutors. Here’s why that’s a good thing.

How Android smartphone users can stop Google from tracking your every move with its Google Timeline feature.

Nazi-looted art claim sets new test for Germany.

L.O.L. Surprise is the top selling doll for the past five months with over 2.5 million sold.

Adult animation brings more approachable culture to traditional TV.

How YouTube’s shifting algorithms hurt independent media.

Woman makes spectacular PowerPoint presentation persuading man to date her.

Software audit highlights major security weakness across all open source software.

How to make your kid’s art last forever without cluttering up your home.

The controversial My Friend Cayla doll have been banned in Germany. Parents must either destroy their child’s doll or face a fine of roughly $26,500 and two years in prison.

For animators looking to get into video games, there is a growing community just for them.

Where YouTube went wrong.

Six things you should never store on your work computer.

Why open source pharma is the path to both new and cheaper medicines.

On Monday, July 25, 2016 I was doing a lot of reading on social media about the Democratic convention in Philadelphia along with the protesters who are worried about the future direction of this country (especially with finding well-paying jobs being way more difficult than it used to be, the frequent clamoring for war in the Middle East, climate change, etc.) and I started to have one of those paranoid anxiety attacks that I’ve been getting every now and then, especially since my hip revision surgery in 2011 followed by my husband’s abrupt walkout just three months after that surgery. I just couldn’t take it anymore so on Monday night I shut off my personal Internet wi-fi, put my smartphone on airplane mode, and popped my DVD copy of Finding Nemo in the DVD player and just watched.

I kept my smartphone on airplane mode for the entire day on Tuesday, July 26 (yesterday). In fact, I didn’t even take my smartphone off airplane mode until this morning (Wednesday, July 27). I have to admit that it wasn’t so bad living without my smartphone for a while. In fact, it was quite relaxing.

Before I got my first smartphone I used to check email only once a day. After the smartphone I had grown used to checking email every time it alerted me to a new message. Yesterday I switched back to my pre-smartphone habit of checking email once (using my laptop) and I have to admit that I liked it. The vast majority of emails I receive aren’t very urgent and reverting back to checking it once a day have put emails back in their proper place in my life (mainly something that shouldn’t require my constant vigilance).

I stayed away from social media for most of yesterday. I only went on Facebook once using my laptop and that was to look up information about this upcoming free event that’s taking place in Arlington tomorrow night on what a creative economy would look like (which also included networking opportunities) and clicking on the link to make an RSVP.

I went to the movies yesterday because one of the movie houses in my area has something called “Five Dollar Tuesdays” where you only pay $5 admission to see a film. (The only condition is that this $5 discount only applies to movies that have been released for seven days or longer.) I decided to check out Finding Dory since I saw the original Finding Nemo on DVD the night before. (My verdict is that while I enjoyed the movie, I liked the original better. I probably won’t be buying Finding Dory when it gets released on DVD.)

Going on that smartphone diet also enabled me to focus on a few creative projects that are of the sort that I usually feature in this blog. (I will eventually feature them in this blog once I’m finished.)

It felt nice putting my smartphone on airplane mode for a long time. I’m realizing how much I had allowed my smartphone to take up a much larger chunk of my life than I should have. There are a variety of decluttering and housecleaning projects that I keep on putting off because I kept on falling into temptation to check that Facebook app on my smartphone or checking email or whatever.

The only disadvantage of not using my smartphone at all while doing only brief web surfing with my laptop: I didn’t keep up on the latest news that day. Three of my smartphone’s news apps tend to do push notifications on really major urgent news. This means that—let’s say—if Russia had decided to launch an old Cold War-era nuclear missile on Washington, DC, I would not have known until the big boom followed by a mushroom cloud. (Of course if that had happened, I wouldn’t be here typing this blog post. LOL!)

Back before there were personal computers and smartphones, I used to get my news from reading a newspaper in the morning then watching the evening news on one of the major three networks. I’ve given up my newspaper subscription for financial reasons (plus the newspaper has far fewer pages along with less content than it used to). I’ve given up cable TV as well (for financial reasons) and I haven’t gotten around to buying an antenna for my TV set. (These days I use my TV to play console games and watch DVD’s.) If it weren’t for the push notifications from my smartphone’s news apps, I would not know what’s going on in the news. So putting my phone on airplane mode had cut me off from yesterday’s news and, to be honest, I didn’t miss it at all. Especially since the big news this week is the Democratic convention in Philadelphia and things are starting to get ugly there (which triggered my anxiety).

I took my smartphone with me when I went to the movies mainly because I wanted to have it with me in case of an emergency. Fortunately everything was fine and I didn’t have to take it off airplane mode at all.

I have taken it off airplane mode and I’m now back to being a normal smartphone owner. It was great putting it on airplane mode for over 24 hours because I got some peace out of it. Unfortunately I can’t do this very often mainly because of the current state of my mother’s health plus I’m also looking for some side work so I have to be reachable to anyone who wants to talk to me but prefers to communicate by phone. I’m definitely going to consider doing this again in the future if I get another paranoid anxiety attack.

Ramadan

Ever since I got my first smartphone in 2011 (just a few months before my husband abruptly walked out on me) I’ve been increasingly using its GPS feature to help guide me around in unfamiliar places instead of using paper maps or doing a Google search followed by printing the directions out on paper. It’s just way easier for me to just type an address into the smartphone and have its GPS device guide me around. The biggest hassle is that I have to leave the phone on the seat while listening to the directions orally. Every now and then I would pick up the phone to glance at the map to make sure that I’m going in the right direction while trying not to focus my eyes too much on that map because I’m driving.

It eventually became obvious that having a holder that would hold my phone at eye-level while I’m driving would be the perfect solution. I’ve held off on getting such a holder because of money woes and such. Last year I walked into a Five Below store where I saw a plastic holder for a smartphone that cost only $5 (which is the maximum price the store sells anything of its stock). Basically the holder had a suction cup that you use to put on the windshield then you put the phone in the holder whenever you need to use it as a GPS device so you can see the map without having to hold the phone in your hand.

Unfortunately that plastic holder was a short-lived thing. First I had trouble with getting that suction cup to stick to the windshield. It would stick for a while then it would suddenly fall to the floor, which is not what I needed if I was using the smartphone as a navigation device. During one of its falls it broke in half and I couldn’t fix it. I now knew why that thing was priced at only $5.

So I went back to the old way of having to periodically pick up the phone with my hand and glancing at the map. But then I walked into a Five Below store a few weeks ago and I found another solution that worked way better.

Remember Ty? Maybe that company’s name doesn’t immediately ring a bell but its most famous signature product will: Beanie Babies. Those are the animal-shaped bean bags that created a media frenzy and some sort of bizarre speculative bubble where people were buying those Beanie Babies in bulk whenever a store got a new shipment and reselling them on the Internet for up to $100 or more. (The Beanie Babies themselves were originally priced between $4-6.) I remember when a website known as BeanieMom.com was among the most visited websites and Mary Beth’s Beanie World was a very popular print magazine among Beanie Baby collectors. That speculative bubble eventually burst and people discovered that all those bean bags that they spent a ton of money on were back down to their original retail price of between $4-6.

Since that time Beanie Babies can now be easily found at their original retail price in a variety of stores with new ones being released all the time. (I saw a few Beanies based on the hit cartoon show My Little Pony a few months ago.) They’ve been joined by these big-eyed plushies known as Beanie Boos along with round-shaped plushes known as Beanie Ballz and other similar products like Beanie Buddies and Lil Ones.

I recently found a Ty product line at Five Below that I felt could be useful as a smartphone holder. They are known as the Peek-A-Boos and these are plush animals that are especially designed to hold a smartphone or any other mobile device. They were priced at $5 and I found them to be very cute. After much deliberation I chose the panda bear.

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Like the Beanie Babies, each Peek-A-Boos has a hang tag that includes the name of the animal and a brief poem about that critter. This panda is named Poo (not to be confused with a bear named Winnie the Pooh).

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As the first photo shows, the panda was holding a mobile-sized sign announcing that it was a Peek-A-Boos while proclaiming “I hold your phone! + clean your screen”. When I removed the sign after I brought it home, I found that there’s a list on the other side showing all of the Peek-A-Boos currently available while implying that one needed to collect them all. If I owned more than one smartphone I would buy more Peek-A-Boos but, seriously, most adults don’t really need more than one smartphone. I admit that the Peek-A-Boos are cute but I feel that one is enough for me.

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Here is Poo the Panda when he’s not holding anything. His green eyes are very large and sparkly and he’s got such a cute expression on his face.

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Here is Poo the Panda holding a mobile device (which is an iPod Touch in these photos mainly because I was using my smartphone as a camera at the time). As you can see it looks like he’s peeking over the mobile device as he’s holding it, which is a cute touch.

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This little critter is supposed to clean my screen as well but there are no indication anywhere as to which part serves as the screen cleaner. I saw that the inside of his front paws are made from a flat suede material so I tried cleaning the screen with them. It worked somewhat even though his paws are pretty small.

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I also saw that his butt is also made from the same flat suede material so I tried that and I found that I got better results. I think the paws are meant to simply hold the mobile device while his butt is supposed to be used to clean the screen.

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I was able to perch Poo the Panda holding the mobile device on the dashboard of my car. I actually tried it a few times when I needed to use my smartphone’s GPS device and I found that it worked wonderfully. I was able to glance at the screen at times without having to hold the phone in my hand. This is an excellent invention and it’s also so cute.

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I even found a use for other than the car. Every now and then I tend to misplace my smartphone, which results in me doing an intense search of my home until I find it. These days I have Poo the Panda hold the smartphone at home when I’m not using it and I put that panda bear in a place where I can usually find him. The only time I take Poo to the car is when I need to use the GPS. When he’s not sitting on the dashboard holding my smartphone so I can look at the map, he’s at home holding my smartphone.

I have to admit that this is probably the best product that Ty has ever released (and I’m including those overhyped Beanie Babies). These Peek-A-Boos are not only cute but they have a utilitarian value as well. This has got to be the best $5 I’ve ever spent on a smartphone accessory and I don’t regret it at all.

I even recorded a video version of this review so you can see me actually use Poo the Panda to clean my iPod Touch screen.

Ramadan

This morning I came across this article on Medium.com titled I Beg of You, Do Not Take Photos of Fireworks With Your Smartphone that was written by Lindsey Weber. The title itself is self-explanatory and it was uploaded just in time for this weekend’s Fourth of July festivities where a lot of communities will sponsor numerous fireworks shows across the United States. Here are a few choice quotes from that article.

Your fireworks photos are bad.

As we approach this year’s annual Fireworks Day, aka July Fourth or Independence Day, no doubt my Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat will be flooded with your horrible, awful, horrendous photos of fireworks.

It’s not your fault! Your smartphone, be it iPhone or Android, was not equipped to take photos of fireworks — so quick, so bright, so impossible to capture that they never appear as gorgeous as IRL through the lens of your cellphone.

You mean like these fireworks photos that I took with my Droid smartphone at the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival back in April, 2015?

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Skill (and a bit of luck, Stocker adds) is certainly a factor, but without the manual controls of a Real Camera, here is how your many, many fireworks photos will appear:

You mean like these photos that I took with my Droid smartphone at a Bowie Baysox minor league baseball game back in June, 2015?

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Just awful.

Oh, really. So are these fireworks photos I took at last year’s Fourth of July celebrations in Laurel, Maryland with my Droid smartphone “just awful”?

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I’ll admit that not all of my fireworks photos I took with my Droid have been posted online. For every one of my fireworks photos that I actually end up posting online, I take at least 10 other photos that exist only on my hard drive and will never see the light of day because they are just as bad as the Instagram photos Lindsey Weber posts in her article as examples of bad fireworks photography taken with a smartphone. The difference is that I don’t ever post any pictures online that I personally feel is not up to my personal high standards as to what is acceptable to post online. I will admit that some people have no hesitation with posting a blurry photo online because they just want to post something online no matter the quality of the photo itself but I’m not like that. It’s no different from me refusing to step outside in anything other than acceptable street clothes while I’ve seen people out in public wearing pajamas with curlers in their hair or wearing pants so baggy that one can see what color underwear the person is wearing. I’m more hesitant with exposing everything while other people don’t share my hesitancy to put everything online and/or in public.

The other reason to refrain from the stereotypical fireworks photo this Fourth of July is simply that everyone’s doing it. And I don’t just mean taking pictures of fireworks, but seeing fireworks. It’s pretty hard to avoid them — so high up in the sky and so very loud. We all know what they look (and sound) like.

Okay so maybe she has a point there with so many people are already viewing and taking pictures of fireworks so your own photographs are bound to get lost in the online social media Internet shuffle. But you know what? Who cares? If you really want to take photos with your smartphone, go head and do it, even if your mother or grandfather are the only people who will ever see your fireworks photos online. If only one person ever sees your fireworks photos and likes them, you have made that person’s day brighter, even if it’s only for a brief moment.

The only thing that I agree with the writer about is this:

And there’s one tip we should all remember — forever and ever, fireworks or not: Turn off the flash.

I rarely use the flash in my smartphone because the colors always look dull and washed out. And if a person is staring directly into the lens, you’ll get that infamous red eye look where that person looks like he/she is possessed by demons. Generally people tend not to mind being photographed in public places if their eyes don’t get temporarily blinded by the flash.

Instead of snapping at would-be fireworks photographers whose only available camera equipment is a smartphone, I’ll provide this advice. When the fireworks shoot up in the air, take the picture right at the moment when the fireworks pauses in the sky. A firework will typically pause for about one or two seconds before bursting their full display. If you hit the shutter right at that pause, you’ll have a better chance of taking a great fireworks picture.

Getting a terrific fireworks shot with your smartphone will take some practice. I’ll admit that you won’t get the perfect fireworks picture on the first or second try. You might end up taking 50 or more crappy pictures to come up with less than 10 good shots. That’s the nature of photography in general. Most professional photographers will end up taking more pictures than they actually need in order to increase the chances that they will have a few usable photos that they can get paid for.

Just remember that not everything you shoot is worthy to upload on to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or some other social media. In fact it might be better if you wait a day or so after shooting those fireworks (when you’ll be less tired after having a good night’s sleep) then sift through the photos that you’ve taken in order to decide which ones you feel are good enough to share online.

But don’t let Lindsey Weber or anyone else deter you from taking fireworks photos if you want to do so. With enough practice you could come up with some fireworks photos that are similar to the ones I took at the Fourth of July celebration at Greenbelt Lake in 2014.

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Recently David Letterman had this teenaged Japanese pop singer named Hatsune Miku on his program. Except she’s not a real human, as you can see in the clip from the show.

This appearance, coupled with the awkward interaction between Letterman and Hatsune at the end, went viral online.

As I watched that clip, I thought that I could’ve sworn that I’ve seen that Hatsune Miku somewhere else before. I went through some back entries of this blog and I realized that, yes, I have encountered her before in one form or another, starting with this cosplayer at Otakon 2010 in Baltimore.

Cosplayer at Otakon 2010

A figurine at Otakon 2012.

Japanese PVC Collectible

Some more figurines from Otakon 2013.

Otakon 2013, Day 1, August 9, 2013

Otakon 2013, Day 1, August 9, 2013At the time I took all those photos, I naturally assumed that this blue-haired girl was a character from an anime that was popular on Japanese television. I was wrong about that assumption. (LOL!) It turns out that she was created as a virtual pop star by Crypton Future Media. Despite her cute girly presence, she is just a computer software program that was based on Yamaha’s Vocaloid program. She has gained worldwide popularity with lots of spin-off products (that are sold on sites like J-List, Play-Asia, and Amazon) and she has even appeared in a number of video games. Her appearance on David Letterman’s show was timed to coincide with the two American Hatsune Miku Expos in Los Angeles and New York this month.

While I was reading about Hatsune Miku, I found Mikufan.com, which has the latest news regarding the virtual pop star. Through that site, I discovered that there is a photo app available for both iOS and Droid called Mikuture. I downloaded the Droid version when I saw that it’s a free app.

Even though Mikuture is called “an augmented reality app”, it’s basically a photo app where you get to pose Hatsune Miku (you can choose from various poses, facial expressions, camera angles, and even lighting), snap her in your photos, then share them with the social media of your choice. I played around with it, starting with Miku standing in the dimly lit foyer of my townhouse at night.

My First Photo of Hatsune Miku

The following morning I attended Sunday service at my Unitarian Universalist congregation. Before the service began I took this quick photo using the Mikuture app.

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

After Sunday service ended and the coffee social hour began, I really cut loose with that app as I put Miku in a variety of poses.

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International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

What was really funny about the next photo is that at the same moment I took a photo of Miku in that pose, my friend Carol, who’s in the right background, lifted her hands in a similar position to Miku’s. In addition, Carol is wearing an outfit in the same blue and black combination as Miku’s.

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

I even played with the app’s camera angles by taking this next photo while I was standing on the deck overlooking the wooded glen below. It was so easy to make it look like Miku was actually in the woods below and I was looking down at her.

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

Only a virtual person would have no problems with kneeling on a wooden deck the morning after a heavy rain storm swept through the area.

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

After I took that last photo, I was planning on leaving until a man from Papa John’s Pizza arrived with several pizza boxes. I remembered that a group of people were trying to have a series of all-ages pizza lunches in the glen once a month. I was invited to come last month and I really enjoyed myself. I decided to delay going home for a while and go into the glen. I paid $5 towards helping with defraying the pizza cost while I ate food and took some more photos with the Mikuture app.

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

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International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

International pop superstar Hatsune Miku arrives at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. #IAmUU #UUSunday #PBUUC

I had fun with that app. The only reason why I played around with it on the church grounds is because it’s a Unitarian Universalist congregation. If it had been a more rigid and straight-laced house of worship like a Roman Catholic church or an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, I definitely would’ve been leery about using that app. I really liked that app’s ease of use. It’s something that I could use again if I ever reach a point where I need new material for this blog that I could whip up pretty quick. Since I live near Washington, DC, it would be cool to try having Miku pose near such landmarks as the Lincoln Memorial or the White House.

For the rest of my life, whenever anyone asks me where I was the night the nation learned that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I can easily answer this question: Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Wind-Up Space in Baltimore!

When I decided to go to that event, I hadn’t learned about Robin Williams’ death yet. I was just going to have a good time and practice my drawing skills. Before I arrived at The Wind-Up Space, I stopped at the nearby Liam Flynn’s Ale House. I was inspired to try eating there after I attended the tail-end of the opening reception for the Station North Arts District Salon Show (where I currently have two pieces on display at the Station North Arts Cafe). Here is what the decor looked like.

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And here’s the wall full of art from the current Station North Arts District Salon Show.

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While I was at Liam Flynn’s, I ordered this incredibly awesome salmon dinner with a side salad and some hard cider. The meal was excellent. What’s really great was that there’s an option to order a half-meal for half the price of a full meal, which was great for my budget. Besides, that half-meal filled me up pretty well.

After dinner I walked a few doors down to The Wind-Up Space. Usually I can get a decent seat. However, that night it was so crowded that I ended up sitting in the back, which I documented with my smartphone camera.

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I learned that that night set a new attendance record with 65 people showing up and the place was on the verge of being sold-out. Despite the crowd, people were pretty good-natured so it wasn’t too bad. (I was still able to see the model despite being several rows back from the stage.) Since The Wind-Up Space is also taking part in the Station North Arts District Salon Show, I was able to get another view of some of the art from that show on display on one of the walls.

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The model for the evening was a burlesque performer from St. Louis named Jeez Loueez. (Some of the drawings in this entry are definitely NSFW.) I started out with a few black and white drawings, the best of which are posted below.

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During the first model break, I took a look at my smartphone. I have The Guardian newspaper app installed on it. (I became a fan of The Guardian ever since I read that paper during the time that my then-husband and I spent a week in London back in 2007.) I received a push notification from The Guardian and it said that Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide. I gasped when I saw that notification and I opened the app to read that story. Someone near me had heard me gasped and asked what happened and I mentioned that The Guardian app was saying that Robin Williams is dead. That person sounded skeptical and was even asking me if The Guardian is a reliable source. (I just want to say that The Guardian is pretty reputable compared to those notorious sleazy tabloids that tend to exaggerate or make up stuff—especially the tabloids that are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation—and it wouldn’t just announce the death of a major American celebrity like Robin Williams without some kind of an official confirmation from the local authorities.) The skeptic turned to her own phone and it was obvious that she saw the news for herself because she was looking at her phone for several minutes.

So it suddenly became surreal as I saw other people looking at their smartphones and I suspected that they must have seen the same news that I did. The conversations were all pretty muted. I think people were just shocked because Robin Williams’ suicide came from out of nowhere.

I don’t know when the people connected with the Dr. Sketchy’s event learned the news but the whole event continued as Jeez Louise returned from her break. So I took out my colored pencils and made a few more drawings. Like the old saying goes, “The show must go on!”

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There was another model break with Jeez Loueez changing her costume and doing a brief burlesque performance before resuming modeling.

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The organizers announced a contest and asked the audience for suggestions. One guy blurted out “Robin Williams” but they were initially reluctant to that suggestion while announcing that Williams had passed away. Instead we did a contest where we had to incorporate Roger Rabbit in a drawing. As someone who have long loved Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I took part in that contest and produced the drawing below.

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The above drawing was among the finalists but I didn’t win. There was another model break followed by an announcement that the organizers had relented on not using Robin Williams in a contest and decided to do a contest based on one of Williams’ movies, Hook. I had seen that film years ago and, while I felt that it wasn’t among Robin Williams’ better movies (I preferred Patch Adams, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Dead Poets Society), I’ve always loved Peter Pan ever since I saw the Disney animation of the same name when I was a child. So I took part in the contest. Unlike the last one, this drawing failed to make it to the finalists.

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After that contest people started to leave because it was getting late at night. I took advantage of the situation by moving to a closer chair where I was able to get a better glimpse of Jeez Loueez. I made this last drawing before I left for home.

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I briefly turned on the TV when I got home and I saw wall-to-wall coverage about the death of Robin Williams on the cable TV news. I also saw my Facebook news feed filled with Robin Williams-related stuff. (I didn’t dare check out Twitter, Instagram, or other social media because I knew it would’ve been the same.) The next few days were filled with news about Robin Williams’ suicide on both TV and the Internet. It was like the whole world erupted into mourning on a level that I haven’t seen since the murder of John Lennon in 1980 and the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994.

UPDATE (October 19, 2014): Here’s the official video of this event. Some of my drawings even made it in this one. 🙂


Santa Claus

For some added Christmas fun, here are some photos of various Christmas-themed food taken with my Droid Ultra smartphone at various local supermarkets over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

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Santa Claus

Christmas Eve has become loaded for me in terms of memories. It was on a Christmas Eve when my fiancee put an engagement ring on my finger for the first time while we were visiting his mother for the holidays.  (This was back when she lived in a small condo in Yonkers during the years between her first and second marriages.) Shortly after he popped the question to me a few months earlier, he took me to visit his mother, who then promptly drove us to visit this family-owned jewelry store that my fiancee’s family had long frequented. We chose the engagement and wedding rings then waited a few months for the orders to finally arrive in time for that special Christmas Eve.

It was also on a Christmas Eve when the fiancee I married pulled something really nasty on me. By December, 2012 I had adjusted to being separated from my husband. I knew that Maryland state laws specifically says that one can’t file for divorce until after the one-year anniversary of the separation. In our case, the one-year anniversary was on December 28. I thought that my husband wouldn’t consider filing for divorce until after the New Year and I also thought that it was possible that we would remain separated for many more months or even years. (I know plenty of people who remain technically married to their separated spouses mainly because neither partner has ever gotten around to filing for divorce.)

I didn’t check e-mail last Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because I had Internet problems so I did other things that didn’t involve the computer (such as visiting my own family). It wasn’t until December 26 when I got an e-mail from my separated husband dated December 24 that included an attachment. That attachment was a divorce petition in a .pdf format. In that e-mail my husband wrote something like “I’m sorry for the timing but it has to be done in order to get the ball rolling.” Never mind the fact that my husband really couldn’t really file for divorce until after the actual anniversary (December 28).

Adding insult to injury, I consulted a lawyer on my own after the New Year who told me that the divorce petition wasn’t real because there was no case number assigned to it. In the meantime my husband was pressuring me to sign the papers and send them to his lawyer because he claimed that I could avoid divorce court if I did it that way. However, that same lawyer I consulted said that getting divorced doesn’t work that way. A judge has to be involved in a divorce proceeding in order to prove that a marriage has been legally dissolved and it usually involves at least one court appearance.

Personally I think my husband sent that divorce petition on Christmas Eve in a total “Fuck You, Bitch!” gesture because he knew that I tended to get sentimental around the holiday season and he wanted to screw me over mentally so I would hate him enough to give him the divorce he said he desperately wanted. Well he succeeded on that front because I now consider him to be a totally toxic person to be avoided at all costs. In my mind he has gone from being a loving husband to being one of my worst enemies.

So on the one-year anniversary of that Christmas Eve missile sent by my so-called “loving” husband, I decided to do something fun. Several years ago I learned that Christmas Eve is an excellent time to go downtown to check out stores, museums, and other tourist attractions because most people are stuck in the overcrowded suburban shopping malls. There’s a huge difference between going to a Barnes & Noble in downtown DC on Christmas Eve and going to a Barnes & Noble in a suburban shopping mall on that same day because the crowds are way smaller in the downtown stores.

I read in The Washington Post about an interesting new exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore involving robots and I decided to check it out. It was a longer commute than usual mainly because there was this horrendous accident on the northbound lane of I-95 where a couple of cars looked totaled. The website said that the museum would be opened until 6 p.m. like usual and there were no announcements of early closings on Christmas Eve. Except once I got there around 4:15 p.m., the clerk at the front entrance told me that the museum decided to close at 5 p.m. at the last minute yet the admission was still $15.95. I was loathed to pay that much for only being in the museum for 45 minutes so I walked along the Inner Harbor for a bit while I took some nice early sunset photos.

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I walked over to the Christmas Village in Baltimore, the same place where I went to just a few days ago. This time the weather was way colder (the temperature never went above 45 degrees and it became colder the more the sun began to set). There were far fewer shoppers than just a few days earlier. The outdoor vendors were in the process of packing everything up sine it was the official last day for this Christmas Village.

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I went inside the heated tent. Half of the vendors were still there but there were also plenty of empty stalls.

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I managed to treat myself to a snack from one of the food booths. I ordered a belgian waffle topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. It was delicious.

I managed to buy one more thing at the Christmas Village in Baltimore. It’s a Swedish-made owl candle holder that uses tea candles and it looks really nice. In fact, I plan to use it for other occasions besides Christmas.

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I continued walking along the Inner Harbor where I took photos of the U.S.S. Constellation at sunset.

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I visited Harborplace but both pavilions were nearly empty even though the stores were still opened.  I managed to visit It’s Sugar and took this shot featuring the teddy bear from the Ted movie and a stuffed effigy of Phil Robertson from the popular reality show Duck Dynasty (and who has been in the news a lot lately for his controversial comments regarding homosexuality and his observations of African Americans during the Jim Crow era).

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The front window wasn’t the only time I saw the teddy bear from the Ted movie. There was a version of Ted dressed like a Jamaican Rastafarian pot smoker.

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I took a panoramic shot of the store with my Droid Ultra smartphone to give you an idea of how uncrowded that store was despite the fact that it had every single kind of candy available for sale.

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I didn’t linger around Harborplace too long because many of the stores were in the process of closing early for Christmas. There weren’t a lot of people around with one exception. I saw a line form outside Santa’s Workshop as kids were making their last-minute wishes to Santa Claus.

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I took one final photo of one of the Harbor place pavilions as it was lit up at night. It looked really peaceful with the lack of people around.

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When I was still married, my husband and I used to visit his sister who lives in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. Some years the there of us would visit the Christkindlmarkt that was held in the town of Bethlehem. That one was awesome. It had a giant tent and it included crafts by artisans both local and imported from Germany, Russia, and other Central European nations. The one thing I miss during the holiday time was not being able to go to it due to the separation and divorce. I know I could travel there on my own but right now my finances are a bit too tight for me to make the three-and-a-half hour trip, rent a hotel there for the night, then make the return trip home.

There was a Christkindlmarkt that was held at the Heurich House Museum in Washington, DC but that one turned out to be a total bust for me, which I wrote about earlier. But then I unexpectedly hit pay dirt the night I went to that Christmas party at the German-American Heritage Museum when, during my time there, I picked up a brochure about something in Baltimore and the museum was one of the sponsors. It’s called Christmas Village in Baltimore and it’s a German-style Christmas market.

So I visited it and I can say that I finally found something that comes closest to the Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Like that other event, Christmas Village in Baltimore has a giant heated tent and it includes arts and crafts from both local artisans as well as artisans in other countries. The day I went there the temperature was unseasonably warm (it was in the low 70’s, which is usually more appropriate for places like Florida and Arizona than for the Baltimore-Washington, DC area). It was so warm that I had a chance to unearth this Christmas t-shirt that I bought for $5 at a local Five Below store years ago.

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It’s a cute Betty Boop t-shirt. I haven’t worn it in years mainly because the t-shirt is a bit on the thin side and it can be too cold to wear if the temperature drops to a certain level. So I basically wore that shirt with no jacket to Baltimore.

The Christmas Village itself is big. There is a line of outdoor vendors along with a giant tent where even more vendors are located. I took a panoramic shot with my Droid Ultra to give you an idea of how big it is.

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There was a variety of live entertainment (both indoors and outdoors) plus a variety of crafts that one can buy. The best part of all is that Baltimore is a closer drive to my home than Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, I took a bunch of pictures with my smartphone.

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I bought a few things for myself. One is a handblown glass Christmas ornament that was made in Switzerland. It depicts the witch Befana, who delivers gifts to Children in Italy instead of Santa Claus. It’s really cool to have a flying witch hanging on my small Christmas tree.

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The  next one is a cute teddy bear wearing a traditional German dress. Despite that bear’s look, I was amazed when I came home and found a tag that said “Made in China.”

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The next picture is an ornament that was also made in China. It’s a glass snowman perched on a bell that rings when you shake it. I once had two small bells that had belonged to my husband’s Hungarian grandparents and they were supposedly made in Europe. I remember one of the bells was shaped like Santa Claus. The other bell had “Merry Christmas” written on it. (My husband said that the bells were made in Hungary yet one of the bells had “Merry Christmas” written in English. Hmmmm.) I loved those bells and, of course, my husband took them in the course of dividing up the Christmas decorations. So I now have a pretty new bell in my Christmas tree.

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The last one was a wooden flute with a tiny Kokopelli god painted on it that was sold in one of the outdoor stands by a man who was selling South American-imported crafts. This flute was made by one of the native tribes in Peru. I think it would look pretty cool displayed on the coffee table in the living room.

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