Archives: August 2007

Fri 31 Aug 2007

It Shipped

Amy hasn't chosen a name for it, but her iMac was picked up by FedEx in Shanghai at 8:05 UTC today and is now on the way. Woo!

Abulsme - Fri, 31 Aug 2007, 11:16:35 PDT
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Thu 30 Aug 2007

Skittles Status

Thank you to the several of you who have written to express condolences on Cheese. Several of you also asked about Skittles. The results of the blood work on Skittles show that Skittles has a lot of enzyme levels out of balance... similar to what they found on Cheese, but nowhere near as severe. So Skittles is also unwell... although not in imminent danger.

They do not as of yet understand why. They are having us make some dietary changes and watch him very carefully for the next 30 days or so, after which they will do more tests. We're also instructed to most definitely not even consider introducing a new bird until they figure out what is wrong and if it is contagious.

So we shall see.

Abulsme - Thu, 30 Aug 2007, 21:32:33 PDT
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New Best GPS

Well, at least for portable detachable car use.

Garmin Nuvi 750/760/770
(GPS Lodge)

The Garmin Nuvi 750/760/770 was announced today for the start of the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. The new line features the sleek design look of the Nuvi 200 series, and a full feature set that will set it at the top of the Garmin line. The units will offer you the ability to get some help, including how to get to police, hospitals and to the nearest gas station. This is now becoming a standard feature in the GPS world, which I think will be welcome features for most users. The other way the units can help you are to find your car: Tap the screen and take your GPS with you (to avoid it from being stolen) and then the unit can help you get back to your car when your “Pedestrian Mode” walking or shopping is over.
I of course want the 770. But that is definitely not on the 2007 budget. Maybe the venerable Nuvi 350 if I get lucky. Realistically though, no GPS this year. It is just way too low on the rational priority list. Near the top of the irrational gadget lust list, but pretty low on real life priority. So it will wait.

Abulsme - Thu, 30 Aug 2007, 19:54:58 PDT
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Wed 29 Aug 2007

Just Resting

Abulsme - Wed, 29 Aug 2007, 21:34:49 PDT
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Tue 28 Aug 2007

NAACP Dem Debate, Anybody Got?

I'm trying to catch up on my viewing of the presidential debates. So far I've watched:

  • 26 Apr 2007 - Dem debate at South Carolina State University
  • 3 May 2007 - Rep debate at the Reagan Library
  • 15 May 2007 - Rep debate at the University of South Carolina
  • 3 Jun 2007 - Dem debate at St. Anselm College
  • 5 Jun 2007 - Rep debate at St. Anselm College
  • 28 Jun 2007 - Dem debate at Howard University
The next one in order would be the 12 Jul 2007 Dem debate at the NAACP convention but my Tivo missed it and I can't find it anywhere online...

Oh, wait... never mind.

It is too late today. But maybe I'll watch this tomorrow. I gotta catch up on these things! To catch up to real time, I've got to watch 7 more of these! There have been quite a lot this year!

Abulsme - Tue, 28 Aug 2007, 23:11:18 PDT
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Wicked Resizing

I'm a little slow on this one, but take a look at the image resizing method highlighted in the article below. It is very cool.

Adobe Hires Co-Inventor of Image Resizer Technology
(Michael Arrington, TechCrunch)

The day before yesterday I showed the above video (it has now been viewed nearly 100,000 times), which shows some jaw dropping examples of next generation image manipulation, and said “I want this in PhotoShop immediately.” Well, that may be happening sooner rather than later. Co-inventor Shai Avidan has now joined Adobe and will work out of their Newtown, MA office. More info on Shai is here.
Basically it works by finding parts of the picture where not much is going on and eliminating them first when you resize rather than just scaling the image. So for instance, if you have a picture with two people on opposite sides of a street and make the picture narrower, the street will get narrower and the people will get closer together before it starts doing anything to the people.

Very cool. Check out the video.

Abulsme - Tue, 28 Aug 2007, 21:09:49 PDT
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Goodbye Cheese

As those of you who downloaded and listened to the podcast already know, our budgie Cheese was not in good shape over the weekend. He got sick late last week, but too late for us to get him to an avian vet on Friday, and none were open on the weekend. We got some treatment from a regular vet when he looked worse on Sunday, but they really didn't have any bird expertise and couldn't do anything of substance. We got him to an avian specialist Monday morning and they essentially put him in the bird equivalent of intensive care as they tried to figure out what was wrong. But basically with most birds, by the time they show any outward symptoms at all, they are in pretty bad shape. They hide the fact that they are sick at all costs, because in the wild, showing that weakness can be an immediate death sentence.

Cheese had shown some improvement Monday afternoon, but we got word this morning that he hadn't made it through the night. As of this morning, the vet had not been able to determine what exactly had been wrong and it was somewhat of a mystery. I gather they are continuing post-mortem tests, but in the end the reason won't really matter. (Although we are having Cheese's companion Skittles checked out just in case it was something that could effect both.)

Cheese is the yellow and green bird in the picture above. I actually was unable to find ANY pictures of either Cheese or Skittles where they were not together. When we initially got them, the intention was to only get one bird as a companion for Nacho, whose cage mate Brain had recently died. (Thus the name Cheese... Nacho and Cheese... get it?) But even in the big aviary with 100 budgies at the petstore, the two of them would not leave each other alone and were inseparable. So we had to get them both. Seperating them was out of the question.

They would sit next to each other on the perch. They would huddle together when they slept. They would play together. The only exception was when we for a time had our old grandmother budgie Nacho in the cage with them. Cheese would sometimes snub Skittles to stay with Nacho. She was the matron of the family after all, and appreciated the attention.

Cheese didn't really like us humans that much. But we liked him and he will be missed.

Especially by Skittles. They have never been apart, and now he has an empty cage.

I had sworn that we would not get any more birds. But we may have to rethink that. Budgies are flock animals and being by themselves isn't good for them. We'll figure all that out. But for now...

Goodbye Cheese. You were a good bird.

Abulsme - Tue, 28 Aug 2007, 16:12:09 PDT
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Mon 27 Aug 2007

Margaret Weer

Time for #27 in my ahnentafel. This is of course my mother's father's mother's mother Margaret Weer. Born in 1851, died in 1924. Lived in Ohio all her life. Married Thomas B VanTilburgh and then had 13 children, the 5th of which was my great-grandmother Mary Evelyn VanTilburgh.

I mentioned when I blogged about her husband a couple of weeks ago that the two of them started a tradition of VanTilburgh Family Reunions that have gone on annually for almost a century. I think that is great, if only for the tradition of it.

Aside from the above, I don't know all that much about Margaret Weer. For awhile it even looked like she would be the first ancestor I got to in breadth first ahnentafel order for whom I could not find parents' names. I eventually got those names only because a random distant cousin of mine found my wiki pages on my ancestors while googling her own ancestors and was able to provide that additional information. I get those kind of emails about every other month now from newly found distant cousins. Which is great.

In any case, that is all I know about Margaret.

Abulsme - Mon, 27 Aug 2007, 23:39:56 PDT
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Poor Kermit

I have nothing really to add to news about the Attorney General resigning, especially since it is now many hours after when it was announced. It is about time of course.

I just wanted to mention that of all the headlines I have seen about this today, this one was by far the best:

Gonzo Departs; Muppets Very Sad

That from The Corner.

It made me laugh.

Abulsme - Mon, 27 Aug 2007, 18:49:53 PDT
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Sun 26 Aug 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner: Just Seven Things

This week Sam talks about:

  • Sick Cheese
  • Monday Show and OCD
  • Parental Controls Again
  • Shaking Brakes
  • Lots of Ad Money
  • Moving the Primaries
  • Censoring Opus
Podcast XML Feed

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Abulsme - Sun, 26 Aug 2007, 21:53:44 PDT
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School Picnic

Early today (from about 0 to 2 UTC) was the picnic for the 7th grade kids and their parents. We went. We ate picnic foods and drinks. We talked to other parents while the kids did their kid things. Brandy wasn't feeling great, but we still managed to do our social duties.

I can't believe she is 7th grade now. One more week until school starts up again. Summer was good, but school starting again will be even better. It gives a good kind of structure. Plus I think Brandy and Amy have been driving each other crazy cooped up with each other for just a tad too long. :-)

After my night of CSS I basically slept from about 16:00 to 22:00 before getting up to get ready for the picnic. When I got home around 3 I immediately fell asleep again. Then I got up around 7, and have been up watching TV and futzing around ever since. Everybody else is asleep and I probably should be too, but I'm not.

I messed a little more with the site CSS, but didn't solve the IE problems. I'm starting to think maybe I don't care. But I know I should care. And I'm thinking about moving various elements to include files that currently are handled in other ways.

Of course, there are all sorts of other projects and things I need to do at home, but this one is the one that got my attention the last few days. But perhaps it is time to move on to other things.

I am rambling because I know I should sleep, but I'm so off cycle now that I'm not quite ready to do so. But I think I am tired. And hungry. Maybe I'll go find a snack. Normally on Sunday's I've been getting up early, because Ivan and I typically record the podcast at 16:00, which is earlier than I would usually get up on a Sunday. But Ivan is traveling again this week, so it will be a Samalogue and I can potentially sleep in and do it a bit later in the day.

But still. I should probably try to turn the brain off for a bit.

But maybe first that snack.

Abulsme - Sun, 26 Aug 2007, 02:40:14 PDT
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Sat 25 Aug 2007

I Hate CSS and IE

So, right around when I should have been going to sleep, I noticed a couple formatting things I didn't like on the site (relating to how the images flowed when they were taller than a blog entry), and I noticed one downright formatting bug (relating to the site footer on pages where the left and right columns were longer than the middle column).

So I spent all night messing around with the css for this site, and on some of the layout in the php as well. I finally got it so both of the issues I had been initially annoyed by were fixed in both Firefox and Safari. I was already thinking of some additional tweaks to adjust other things I'd thought about.

But then I went and looked in IE. It is completely broken in IE. The left column doesn't show up at all, and things are overlapping in the right column. And as much as I'd really like to completely ignore IE, it looks like about 33% of my site vistitors are on IE 6, and another 24% or so are on IE 7. I actually don't have IE 7, so can't check on that. Maybe MS fixed whatever is broken in IE 7.

But regardless, I know it is broken for IE 6. And that is just so annoying.

And the sun is up now. And I've got some things I have to do today. So I can't just sleep all day.

Plus, I really don't want to go to bed without "solving" this. But I'm not sure what to try next.

My other alternative would be to restore things to how they were before I started messing with them today, but I really can't say I'm happy about that alternative either.

And at this point I'm finally tired and need to crash for as long as I can. So I need to stop.

Maybe I'll just leave it in the works in Safari and Firefox but not in IE state while I sleep, then look at this again once I've had a night's rest.

If anybody out there has a lot of good CSS knowledge, take a look at my current CSS and HTML and give me any hints you may have.


Nap time. I'll worry about this once I'm rested. Worst case, I put it all back how it was yesterday. But that would be quite annoying.

Anyway, I'm done for now.

Did I say "Bleh" yet?

IE Sucks.

Abulsme - Sat, 25 Aug 2007, 07:02:52 PDT
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DVD: The Sound of Music

Today it was time to watch another DVD. And not just another DVD, but the next one on my quest to watch all of the movies on the 100 Years 100 Movies (1998 version) list. I started this quest soon after the list came out. I'm just a little, uh, slow. I had watched the movies from #100 down to #56 (M*A*S*H which I watched in January this year). So now it was time for #55, The Sound of Music.

I'd of course seen this before, but the last time was quite some time ago. And I am admittedly a sucker for the sappy sentimental type of movie. Usually not for musicals in general, but for ones with songs I've known all my life and can sing along to, yeah, I like those. Well, OK, not actually sing along, because I'd never sing in front of others, even Brandy and Amy, but sing in my head maybe. :-)

Anyway, it is a long movie and there are a few slow parts, but in between there are all the classic songs and the cute kids and all that. There were a few parts I had forgotten. I had no memory at all that there was a wedding in the movie. Or the scene in the cemetery.

In any case, yes I like this movie. It is worth seeing... but about once or twice a decade is plenty.

Abulsme - Sat, 25 Aug 2007, 01:45:49 PDT
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Fri 24 Aug 2007

Cinnamon Bun

I really think I need to get into the breakfast habit. Basically all my adult life I've pooh poohed and ignored breakfast except on rare occasions. (Not counting breakfast food for lunch or dinner at Denny's or the like... love that.) But breakfast at breakfast isn't something I do on a regular predictable basis.

But today (and not just today) I rolled into work a little later than I like, then sat there at the desk useless for a few minutes before I realized that I really was quite hungry.

Went downstairs to the snack bar and got a cinnamon bun and a white chocolate mocha. I'm almost done eating it and am already feeling a bit better and like my brain is almost functional. I a couple seconds I'll be able to be productive.

I should probably think about trying out a breakfast every day policy and seeing how it would work out. The problem is, of course having time for breakfast means getting up earlier. Getting up earlier means either less sleep or going to bed earlier, neither of which are all that exciting.

Oh well. The Cinnamon Bun is gone. Time to do real stuff.

Abulsme - Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 11:27:08 PDT
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Thu 23 Aug 2007

Ordered Amy's iMac

It took a little longer than I'd thought it would to sell the stock and mutual funds I was using to fund this and move the money around to the right places, but I just ordered the new iMac for Amy.

There was some last minute hesitation on if I was really going to max the thing out, or if I'd go with less memory and/or drive space to save a boatload of cash. In the end though, I decided to stick with my "max it out, by the time three years is up she'll find a way to use it" philosophy. But Gulp. I could have spent a lot less and gotten something that would have been more than reasonable for her for now... but here we go.

Between the monthly private school bills and this, we're now pretty much guaranteed to be cash poor for the rest of 2007. She'd better appreciate it and spend every moment for the next year thanking me!

Well... she is 11. So that won't happen. As Brandy says, some shrieks of glee when it first arrives and gets set up, and then there won't be another word of thanks ever. But hey, that's the way it goes.

And we really need this. Continuing to share my iMac with her ever increasing needs for computer time wasn't working. And Brandy's cheap temporary laptop she bought in 2006 is literally falling appart. (It is on the agenda to replace in 2008.) So she needed a machine. Did she need THIS machine? Well, probably not.

But damn it, I want to give her the best I can manage, so I did.

Abulsme - Thu, 23 Aug 2007, 08:40:08 PDT
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Yes, I'm a Whore

Yup, added some Google Ads. Just thought I'd finally give them a shot. Cause I want that $5 every 10 months or whatnot from the random people who stumble on this site by accident and then stumble away again through one of those links.

So far just PSAs. We'll see if anything else ever shows up and if so what. In part, I'm just curious about what will show up, cause I certainly don't have enough traffic to make any actual cash. But I've been meaning to try this for literally years, so today was the day.

I'll keep them up awhile. If they start to really annoy me, at some point I may get rid of them again.

Abulsme - Thu, 23 Aug 2007, 00:29:50 PDT
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Wed 22 Aug 2007

Layout Changes

As you might have noticed, I've been futzing with the site layout a bit today. Basically I moved some things to a new right column and started letting the center column expand if you have a wider window.

I've also added the little "AbulReading" Google Reader widget so I can mark things I am reading there and think are interesting but don't have the time or desire to explicitly blog about. Basically I'm putting anything there from the feeds I'm subscribing to that I actually bother to read rather than just skimming a headline or whatnot.

If I stick with Google Reader that will stay. If I don't, it will go. We shall see. I may add other things as time goes on since the new column gives me more room to play.

Any thoughts or comments appreciated as usual.

Abulsme - Wed, 22 Aug 2007, 20:13:36 PDT
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Tue 21 Aug 2007

Gotta Love the Pirates

We're Back!

Suprnova has been down for some years due to some heavy pressure from the copyright lobby. The former owner sloncek donated suprnova to The Pirate Bay - and as you know, we like to kick ass and bow for noone!

We were going to keep this site a secret until we had finished it, but of course it leaked, that's how internet works. So now that the word is out, we're releasing it!

Please consider these first weeks/months as a beta test. Since we love all you guys and gals so much we decided to keep it an open beta test. That means, please behave, don't complaint to much and if you discover any weird bugs or problems, let us know.

Some of you have also already discovered our new forum, Suprbay! Which is a joint forum for both Suprnova and The Pirate Bay. Discuss movies, music, love and whatever with your fellow pirates.

Finally, some words for non-internet loving companies: This is how it works. Whatever you sink, we build back up. Whomever you sue, ten new pirates are recruited. Wherever you go, we are already ahead of you. You are the past and the forgotten, we are the internet and the future.

(via Digg)

Abulsme - Tue, 21 Aug 2007, 19:52:02 PDT
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Mon 20 Aug 2007

Good Thing We're Waiting

Hurricane Dean, now a Cat 5, is heading right toward the spot I selected for my next random trip.

We're not going this year of course, maybe next. But regardless, hopefully it won't be that bad. This area is less populated than the northern end of the Yucatan, so it isn't as bad a scenerio as if it was heading up there. But a Cat 5 is a Cat 5, and for those who are indeed in its path, I'm sure this will not be fun.

Abulsme - Mon, 20 Aug 2007, 19:37:13 PDT
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For the last 48 hours or so I've just felt bleh. I can't identify it as a specific "sick" sort of thing, I don't have cold or flu symptoms or anything, but it's been the low energy, off and on headaches, heavy feeling head, random aches pains and discomfort, and the occasional dizziness or tingly feeling in the face sort of thing. I've been functional, but barely, most of the time feeling like I'd rather be lying down.

I don't know what this is, but I want it to go away.

Abulsme - Mon, 20 Aug 2007, 18:35:30 PDT
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Sun 19 Aug 2007

Duck and Bug

Abulsme - Sun, 19 Aug 2007, 17:07:08 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: It is all Just a Confidence Game

Another week another podcast. This week Ivan and I talk about:

* Recent Economic Events
* Economic Confidence
* Presidential Debates
* Obama and Debates
* The Appeal of Hillary
* Hurricane Dean
* Oil Prices Dropping

Podcast XML Feed

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Abulsme - Sun, 19 Aug 2007, 12:01:16 PDT
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Sat 18 Aug 2007

Week of Cronus

For the last week (12 Aug 2007 to 18 Aug 2007) I decided to do some spot sampling of my computer activity at home.

On Cronus I had this exciting line (or earlier variants of it, I tinkered a bit) in my cron:

0 * * * * sleep `perl -e 'print int(rand 3600)'`;/usr/sbin/screencapture -Sx /tmp/screensnap.jpg; /sw/bin/mutt -a /tmp/screensnap.jpg -s "Cronus Hourly Screenshot" < /dev/null; cp /Users/abulsme/Documents/screenoff.jpg /tmp/screensnap.jpg

The end result, an hourly "sample" of my screen, but at a random time so that it wouldn't be predictable and I wouldn't change my actions knowing when it was going to take a screenshot.

I actually set this up as a test for something else I wanted to do, but then decided to let it run a week and see what I would find. The results would of course not be the same as if I'd looked on a less granular time scale, but it is still interesting.

All of the below is based on which application was the active application at the time of the screenshot.

Lets see some of the things I found:


* 55.4% - Cronus' Screen Asleep
* 29.8% - Sam using Cronus
* 9.5% - Cronus' Screensaver On
* 3.0% - Cronus Crashed
* 2.4% - Amy using Cronus

Now, of the time I was the user and the screen wasn't asleep or screen saving and it wasn't crashed, the top 5 items were:

* 36.0% - Mail
* 20.0% - Safari
* 10.0% - iTunes
* 6.0% - Finder
* 6.0% - Excel

Leaving 22.0% of the time on various other apps.

Interesting, eh?

OK, time to turn the screenshots off. For now anyway.

Abulsme - Sat, 18 Aug 2007, 21:12:47 PDT
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Internal Clock

Oh wow, I'm going to be way off filter now. Yesterday I stayed up until about 13 UTC. Normal bedtime is more like 6 or 7. Then I woke up again about 17. I was up until around 19. Then back asleep again until I finally got up around 1 today.

That's about 10 hours of sleep total, so I'm not short on sleep or anything. But I finally got up for good, oh, 11 hours after the time I generally need to be getting up on weekdays to get to work when I want to be getting there.

My sleep cycle is just going to be so wonked out.

Jet lag without the actual travel. Should be fun!

Abulsme - Sat, 18 Aug 2007, 19:41:49 PDT
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Trying Feeds Again

Every once in awhile, probably once or twice a year, I decide to give a shot at doing my daily website reading via some sort of RSS feed reading system rather than going to the actual websites themselves. It seems like a great idea, and one that would add huge amounts of efficiency.

Every time I've done it though, I've ended up only doing it for a few days, then giving up. What has happened in the past that stopped me? Well, lets see...

#1) I would subscribe to just too much crap, and end up overwhlemed and unable to keep up. When I go to the websites by hand, I of course miss even more, because I forget to go certain places, etc, etc. And I don't care. But when I have a feed, and a little number showing how many items I have, I suddenly start caring more.

#2) I get frustrated by feeds which constantly are pushing out stuff I've seen before. Either because there are updates, or it is just glitchy, or whatever. When I see something again that I saw before, I get all frustrated. Of course, this also happens going to the websites, just in a different way.

#3) I always end up like I am missing context from the websites themselves. That somehow the rest of the site around the article I am looking for adds something that I just miss by just looking at a feed (and perhaps clicking through on some specific items). Of course, there are some sites where the design is just so awful I don't go there any more even though I might like the content, so this might be a solution to that.

Anyway, I'm giving it a try again. This all started because I had decided to give Growl another shot on my Mac (plus a number of other little utilities, I sort of went nuts last night) and one of the supported programs was NetNewsWire so I downloaded it and started trying it out. I subscribed to the feeds for all the sites I keep on my blogroll at the left of my website and a few others I've been checking out but I haven't bothered to put there yet. Then I started checking out their synchronization with NewsGator Online since of course ideally when I red my feeds from different places it would all be syncronized. Then I got a little frustrated with that and then I exported the OPML and then pulled it all into Google Reader.

That's what I'm using at this very moment. I know there are a number of other options, both in terms of desktop clients and web based solutions. I like desktop clients, but syncing between locations is a little tricker in that case usually, especially if you have Mac, Windows and a Treo all in the mix and want it to work in all three places. So web based may be the way to go.

Anybody got any additional suggestions I should try? Or should I stick with Google Reader for a bit. It seems to do a decent job.

Abulsme - Sat, 18 Aug 2007, 11:12:53 PDT
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Fri 17 Aug 2007

Time from Home

Abulsme - Fri, 17 Aug 2007, 20:37:35 PDT
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Thu 16 Aug 2007

Amy Crew

Amy is the third little dot from the left in the "shell" in this picture.

This week and last week Amy has been at "crew" camp. She enjoyed it. Yesterday was the big race. Amy's team lost, but they had fun.

Today is the last day of camp. School will start again very soon.

Abulsme - Thu, 16 Aug 2007, 22:31:49 PDT
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Wednesday when I went into work, one of the elevator whiteboards was clear except for one word:


Given the nature of the people in this building, I can not imagine that I am the only one now thinking that now, a day and a half later, Parker only has five and a half days left in the backstep to prevent a horrible catastrophe of some sort.

Um... OK... maybe I am the only one.

Abulsme - Thu, 16 Aug 2007, 17:14:58 PDT
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Yesterday's Baseball

Yesterday a bunch of us from work went to a baseball game. One of those build team feeling sort of things. It was fun. Seattle lost.

Abulsme - Thu, 16 Aug 2007, 12:28:17 PDT
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Tue 14 Aug 2007

Thought of the Day

I hate it when at the end of a full busy day, I can't really remember what the day was full of and what I was busy with. I'm sure it was good stuff though.

Abulsme - Tue, 14 Aug 2007, 20:42:42 PDT
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Mon 13 Aug 2007

Ball Thing 400

Abulsme - Mon, 13 Aug 2007, 20:00:11 PDT
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Sun 12 Aug 2007

Thomas B VanTilburgh

Time for #26 in my ahnentafel. And the timing is pretty good on this one. Well, I'm a day off.

Thomas B VanTilburgh was born in 1847, died in 1910 and had 13 children along the way with his wife Margaret Weer. He appears to have lived in Western Ohio all of his life. He worked at a bakery, a warehouse and a brickyard at various times in his life.

And along with his wife, he started a series of annual VanTilburgh Family Reunions starting in 1909. They have not missed a year since. The most recent was YESTERDAY. (Thus me being off by one day here.) I did not attend, but my mother did. It seems attendance has dropped a bit over the last few years. There were only 20 or so of Thomas B's descendants there. They are hoping to make a bigger event in 2009 for the 100th anniversary of the first reunion. I hope they manage to do so. I also hope to go in 2009. It should be interesting.

I went to one of these before when I was about 9 or 10 years old I think. But I think I'd get more out of it today than I did then. :-)

Abulsme - Sun, 12 Aug 2007, 19:38:53 PDT
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Remember to Flossie

If the hurricanes are trying to follow us from Florida, they missed and headed a bit too far west. But good luck to Hawaii in any case. With luck it will pass harmlessly to the south.

Abulsme - Sun, 12 Aug 2007, 17:13:18 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: Who do you Trust?

Another week, another Curmudgeon's Corner. We're up to 11. Woo. In any case, this week's topics:

  • Political Discussions with Friends
  • Knowing the Facts
  • Trends in News
  • Venezuela
  • How your sources Influence you
  • Importance of contrary views
  • Oprah Effect
  • Trivia Answer
Podcast XML Feed

1-Click Subscribe in iTunes

Abulsme - Sun, 12 Aug 2007, 14:07:19 PDT
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DVD: Cheaper by the Dozen 2

This was Amy's movie pick this time around. She watches a bunch of her Netflix movies by her self, but this time I was "due" to watch one with her again, so we all watched together. I'd watched the original Cheaper by the Dozen movie on DVD sometime way back when... in Florida I think, before I started posting the movies I watch on the blog. That one was cute I guess.

With this one my main thought the whole times were along the lines "Why? Why did they make this?" and "Is it over yet?" interspersed with, "Oh my god, Hillary Duff looks awful, what is wrong with her?".

Sure, it had a couple cute moments. But they were not all that often and there were more parts that were just stupid. It did have a nice sentimental "Awww..." ending, but everybody knew that going in, right?

And OK, this movie is clearly NOT aimed at me. But still...

Abulsme - Sun, 12 Aug 2007, 12:48:53 PDT
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Is She Home Yet?

Abulsme - Sun, 12 Aug 2007, 11:10:03 PDT
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Sat 11 Aug 2007


Cronus has been a little slow lately, and it hasn't been a memory or CPU issue. But low and behold, I look and my 500GB hard drive (really 465GB, but that's the whole thing about how hard drives are labeled and the difference between 1000 and 1024, but whatever...)

Where was I? Oh yeah, the drive was 97.8% full.

I just deleted some stuff I'd downloaded that I could get back any time I wanted if I wanted but at the moment I don't want, and got it down to 88.6% full. That is a lot better, but still pretty full.

I have some more stuff that I'd feel comfortable burning to DVD or such and then removing from my primary drive, but that I don't feel comfortable completely deleting. So I think maybe tomorrow I'll go get a blank DVD or two and see what I can do with that. I'd like to get under 80%. Even lower if possible.

I suspect the fullness of my drive may have something to do with some of the slowdowns I've had lately. Maybe not, but it certainly seems like 97.8% was pushing it a little bit.

Anyway, time to go watch a DVD with the family. Tonight is an Amy pick. Oh my.

Abulsme - Sat, 11 Aug 2007, 21:35:51 PDT
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Iowa Republican Straw Poll

Results were just announced a few minutes ago. I pulled them from here. The top five:

  1. 31% - Mitt Romney
  2. 18% - Mike Huckabee
  3. 15% - Sam Brownback
  4. 14% - Tom Tancredo
  5. 9% - Ron Paul
Of course this bears no resemblance at all to the top five nationally. But that's Iowa for you. And of course the straw poll is not the caucus either.

Abulsme - Sat, 11 Aug 2007, 18:32:15 PDT
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Fri 10 Aug 2007

Nice Quote

'Freedom Is About Authority': Excerpts From Giuliani Speech on Crime
(New York Times, 20 Mar 1994)

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.
(via Boing Boing)

Abulsme - Fri, 10 Aug 2007, 21:15:26 PDT
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Thu 09 Aug 2007

Primary Calendar

South Carolina is busy messing with the date of their primary, thus potentially causing repercussions for Iowa and New Hampshire. Speculation is that this may even push Iowa into December of this year. Wild. In any case, I thought this would be a good time to note a couple of things of interest in terms of polls.

I've been checking up on Their methodology basically composites all the various polls being done to come up with a better trend line than any of the polls individually.

The first interesting thing to look at is the national numbers. These are national polls of who people say they support. On the Republican side Guiliani is leading (but falling) and Fred Thompson is rising quickly behind him. On the Democratic side Hillary is way in the lead and rising slightly. Obama is second but after his original rise is now very flat.

Interesting, but completely and totally irrelevant. Because of course the candidates are not selected by a national primary, but with a bunch of state by state contests which don't happen all at once like the presidential election, but rather are spread out over a long calendar, but with the early states having a hugely disproportionate influence. In most of the previous election cycles, after the first few states there is a run-away leader and all the rest of the states become mostly irrelevant.

So looking at those states tells more than looking at the national numbers.

Dems first.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida

Clinton and Edwards are in a dead heat in Iowa right now (although Hillary moving up and Edwards moving down). But in each of the other four Hillary has a commanding lead. Everybody else is way behind. Further behind than the national polls show.

I had really thought myself that Hillary would collapse at some point and one or more of the others would surge. There is of course still plenty of time for that, and an "anybody but Hillary" candidate might yet emerge. But not yet. For now, unless she collapses, Hillary is looking very solid.

The Republicans are actually much more interesting at the moment.

Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Florida

Mitt Romney has a very strong lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire, in spite of being in a weak 4th in the national polls. Giuliani is ahead in Nevada, South Carolina and Florida. But it is close in South Carolina (Fred Thompson is right on his heels) and in Florida he is dropping fast (mostly losing support to Thompson).

This is where the calendar comes in. If there is not much time between Iowa and New Hampshire and the rest then if Romney does indeed commandingly win both, he could get a big bump coming into the next three contests. If Iowa and New Hampshire both move earlier, putting more time before the next batch, then that effect might not be quite as great, but could still be substantial. Which could cause those next contests to be very competitive, which could mean that when we get to "Super Tuesday" on February 5th there are still two or more candidates who are still very much in play. And with as many states in play that day as there are this time, that might mean that coming OUT of super Tuesday there might not still be a clear front runner.

Which could make things very interesting for the rest of the primary season (which usually collapses to a non-event as all support flows to who ever is in the lead, because people like to vote for people who are in the lead because they are "inevitable"). If we are really lucky we might even get to the convention with nobody having enough support to win on the first ballot. But I'm not holding my breath on that one, especially on the Republican side where there may be "winner takes all" effects on the states.

In any case, it might be a fun election season next year.

I really want to see a convention that actually decides a candidate sometime, rather than that always being a given going in. But that is the news junky in me. It probably won't happen. Of course I said that about the kind of stuff that happened in the 2000 election, and it happened. That was so much fun. If only it had gone all the way to the House. But one can't have everything.

Back to the primaries though, this post from the blog shows a nice chart of the national polls from the year before the Iowa caucuses and at this time last time on the Democratic side Lieberman was in the lead, followed by Dean, Gephardt and Kerry in a three way tie for second. Dean took the lead from Lieberman in September sometime. Kerry didn't take the lead in the national polls until just weeks before the Iowa Caucus.

So we are of course still very early, and a lot can change. A lot probably WILL change. The dynamics tend to get more and more volatile as the first actual voting approaches.

So we shall see. Someone at work a number of months ago predicted that the 2008 race would be Romney vs Clinton. I sort of pooh poohed that, thinking that in the end neither one of those two would make it. I wasn't sure who would, but I didn't think those two would. But they are both very much in play.

So, one more interesting chart... the "Trial Heats" between the 4 top Democrats and the 4 top Republicans. That would be Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson vs Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Gore. (In both cases people who are not officially running but who are rumored to be considering it and who poll well are included... that would be Thompson and Gore.) In any case, this gives us 16 possible match ups.

Only ONE of those 16 has a Republican lead... that would be Giuliani vs Gore. And that combination has very sparse polling data and is very close.

There are SIX that look very close. Giuliani vs Clinton, Giuliani vs Edwards, Giuliani vs Gore, McCain vs Clinton, McCain vs Edwards, McCain vs Gore. All other combinations are clear Democratic wins.

Of course, those are popular vote polls too... and the popular vote also is irrelevant in the general election... only electoral votes matter...

And if we are a long way from the first caucuses and primaries, we are even further from the general election.... and quite a lot can happen in that time.

So this kind of poll watching is probably a complete waste of time. But it is a lot of fun.

Abulsme - Thu, 9 Aug 2007, 22:19:00 PDT
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Wed 08 Aug 2007

DVD: Doctor Who: The Beginning: Disk 2

I've for some reason not posted about this yet, but a couple of weekends ago Brandy and I watched the second disk of this three disk set. (Although Netflix is still confused and thinks this is the first disk.)

This is the second Doctor Who story ever shown. "The Daleks" is also of course the first appearance of the now iconic Daleks although their exact configuration and capabilities has evolved quite a bit from this first appearance at the end of 1963 to their most recent earlier this year in Evolution of the Daleks.

This one though is your typical First Doctor story meaning it is a bit slow, you laugh a lot at the "special" effects, and the Doctor himself doesn't do all that much while his companions run around.

And this was also a pretty LONG story. Seven 25 minute episodes. I like this stuff, but even for me, 7 of these is pretty long.

Amy on the other hand long ago gave up joining us when we watch "Classic" Doctor Who episodes. They are just too slow moving for kids these days. :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 8 Aug 2007, 19:04:32 PDT
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Ligonier Radio

My friend Ron (of Creepy Classics and Monster Bash fame) and a friend of his have recently started up their newest venture. It is a low power AM local community radio station for the Ligonier area in Pennsylvania.

They are streaming online, so you can take a listen even if you aren't in Ligonier. I turned it on for awhile yesterday, and the first thing I heard was my friend Ron's voice doing a Public Service Announcement of some sort. Excellent! :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 8 Aug 2007, 13:30:02 PDT
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Numbers not Ready for Sam

One of the things Apple released yesterday was Numbers, the new spreadsheet portion of iWork. There is a 30 day free trial, so of course I downloaded it. It is supposed to be able to read and write Excel files. So I gave it a workout importing the big huge (19MB) spreadsheet where I keep tons of personal data and graphs. It spent quite a few minutes importing and chugging and then finally came up. But it said there were warnings and asked if I wanted to see them. Of course I said yes. The first three "warnings" (out of a few dozen) were:

  • Sorting criteria were removed.
  • Date and time values can't be used in charts. Charts containing dates and times were removed.
  • Scatter plot charts with data points connected by lines were converted to ones without connecting lines.
Well... lets just say that those last two items there cover pretty much every chart I have. Almost everything I have is time series data using date/time stamps as the X axis in a scatter plot with some other variable on the Y. Of the handful that are not, they are scatter plots with lines connecting the points.

So, while I was hopeful that I might be able to say goodbye to Microsoft Office and Excel on my Mac, that will definitely not be the case, and I'm sure I'll be getting Office 2008 for the Mac when it comes out next year. (Although if it is anything like Office 2007 for Windows, I'll probably keep the old versions around too, because Office 2007 is still driving me batty.)

Oh well. I may still give the new version of Pages a try though.

Abulsme - Wed, 8 Aug 2007, 03:41:45 PDT
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Up Too Late

The sun has come up over northeastern Canada and is about to start heading down the US East Coast. I should really consider sleep soon.

Abulsme - Wed, 8 Aug 2007, 02:44:32 PDT
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Tue 07 Aug 2007

Lucky Kid

New iMacs FINALLY came out today. This has long been scheduled as "Amy's Year" for a new computer. 2006 was my year. 2007 will be Amy's. 2008 will be Brandy's. Then lather, rinse, repeat. So this is Amy's year, we were just waiting for iMac revisions.

All along the plan was to get the maxed out version of the smallest size when the updates hit. There was some discussion between Brandy and I today on the possibility of getting a baseline model instead as "good enough for now" but I'm a big believer in maxing things out so that you won't be TOO frustrated too quickly as the thing ages. In the end we decided to stick with the original plan of maxing out the smallest size. (We never considered a 24" for Amy.)

Since they dropped the 17", that means we're looking at a maxed out 20". So the specs for her will be:

  • 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2GB
  • 750GB Serial ATA Drive
  • SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • Apple Mighty Mouse
  • Apple Keyboard (English) + Mac OS X
  • Accessory kit
  • 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
  • ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO with 256MB memory
  • 20-inch glossy widescreen LCD
  • AirPort Extreme
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
That will beat the specs on my machine Cronus by a decent bit. It should last her for the three years no problem without me even having to do any mid-cycle upgrades. In the additional one to two years before it will be time for my own next computer though, I will be jealous, since she'll have the best machine in the house for awhile. But it is her turn... so that is OK.

I just initiated the process I need to do to swap money around between a few different accounts before I actually hit the order button. I'll probably actually hit that button sometime next week and we'll have the thing the week after that or so. In time to be all set up and running and happy before school starts in any case.

As I said... Lucky kid.

Abulsme - Tue, 7 Aug 2007, 15:33:39 PDT
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Mon 06 Aug 2007

No Easy Victories

My father William Minter's latest book (co-edited with Gail Hovey and Charles Cobb Jr) is now available for pre-order directly from the website for the book.

It presumably will be available through all the normal channels as well when it is fully released in October. I pre-ordered my copy though.

The summary blurb from the website:


"We were part of a worldwide movement that continues today to redress the economic and social injustices that kill body, mind, and spirit. No Easy Victories makes clear that our lives and fortunes around the globe are indeed linked." - Nelson Mandela

Hundreds of thousands of Americans mobilized to oppose apartheid in the 1980s. That successful movement built on decades of behind-the-scenes links between African liberation movements and American activists, both black and white.

No Easy Victories draws on the voices of activists of several generations to explore this largely untold history. While U.S.-based groups and individuals contributed to African liberation, African struggles also inspired U.S. activism, including the civil rights and black power movements.

Today Africa and the world face global injustices as deadly as apartheid. Understanding this history of solidarity is essential for finding new paths to a future of equal human rights for all.
With a couple of exceptions I'm guessing this is not the sort of book that is the typical reading for most of my blog's readers, but if this sort of thing interests you at all, go ahead and pick up a copy.

Abulsme - Mon, 6 Aug 2007, 21:25:08 PDT
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Abulsme - Mon, 6 Aug 2007, 19:45:37 PDT
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Sun 05 Aug 2007

That FISA Thing

Ivan and I discussed the FISA legislation that was passed by the House and Senate in the latest podcast and I had posted about it earlier on Saturday. I admitted on the Podcast though that even though I was expressing strong opinions on it I was undereducated on it and did not know all the details.

Well, I still haven't read the actual bill, and most likely never will, but here is a link to a helpful summary (surrounded by the author's opinions):

My Take on the New FISA Amendment
(Orin Kerr, Volokh Conspiracy)

There is a lot of interesting material in the comments there too... as well as in the other places linked to from the article.

Abulsme - Sun, 5 Aug 2007, 20:53:04 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: That's Why There are Traffic Laws

This is the tenth show of the year. Woo! We haven't done all too bad with this so far. And judging by the history of the first nine weeks, we've been averaging about 7 listeners a week. Well, downloads actually... so some of those folks may not actually be listening, but at least they are downloading it.

OK, seven isn't a huge number. But it is more than I expected when I started to be honest. So, thank you to all of our many listeners. If you are enjoying it, please feel free to tell your friends about it. And we do like comments and feedback, so comment here or send me email if you have anything to say!

Anyway, this week Ivan and I talk about:

  • Number Ten
  • Revision to FISA law
  • Congressional Breaks
  • Self Inflicted Damage
  • Israeli Airline Security
  • Bad Risk Estimation
  • Last Week's Stock Market
  • Mortgage and Real Estate Markets
  • Trivia Question
Podcast XML Feed

1-Click Subscribe in iTunes

Abulsme - Sun, 5 Aug 2007, 13:27:42 PDT
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Wrong Direction

House Passes Changes in Eavesdropping Program
(Carl Hulse and Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times)

Under pressure from President Bush, the House gave final approval Saturday to changes in a terrorism surveillance program, despite serious objections from many Democrats about the scope of the executive branch’s new eavesdropping power.

Racing to complete a final rush of legislation before a scheduled monthlong break, the House voted 227 to 183 to endorse a measure the Bush administration said was needed to keep pace with communications technology in the effort to track terrorists overseas.
(via Talking Points Memo)

We should be strengthening and increasing restrictions on what can be done without judicial review, not opening more ways in which intelligence can be gathered without strict procedures and due process. This is shameful.

Yes, there is a threat. But we are doing more damage to ourselves because of our paranoia and fear than anything actual terrorists could even imagine in their wildest dreams.


Abulsme - Sun, 5 Aug 2007, 09:31:30 PDT
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Fri 03 Aug 2007

Mountain Sunset

Abulsme - Fri, 3 Aug 2007, 20:41:32 PDT
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Asperger Test

Here is an online test for Asperger Syndrome:

What's Your AQ

Anyone involved with geeks will know that we share many character traits with those suffering Asperger syndrome: obsessive attention to detail, social awkwardness, and some difficulty relating to other people. A few years ago, I ran across a test used to diagnose Asperger syndrome, and was surprised to note that it seems like a thumbnail description of your average geek.

Being a geek, I decided to port the test from dead trees to PHP and Javascript. You can find your AQ by filling in the form below. If you feel like it, note your AQ in a comment.
(via The Daily Dish)

I answered honestly (I think) and scored a 31.

According to the test "Scores over 32 are generally taken to indicate Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, with more than 34 an "extreme" score."

So not quite, but pretty close! (18 is the average male score.)

Anybody who knows me should not be surprised.

Feel free to post your own scores in the comments.

Abulsme - Fri, 3 Aug 2007, 13:48:37 PDT
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Thu 02 Aug 2007

Quiet Building

The office is very quiet at 4 UTC.

I took way longer than I should have (due to inefficiency and procrastination mainly) doing something I'd said I'd do before I would leave. So here I am about 3 hours after the time I usually leave work, even though it shouldn't have been anywhere near that long.

I'm heading home now.

Abulsme - Thu, 2 Aug 2007, 20:59:20 PDT
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Another of those Days

Stuff to do. Busy. Did not have a chance to post earlier in the day. So here is a "cheat" post with no real content of interest to anybody, but which will keep my at least one post a day streak going just a little while longer.

Yeah, yeah, I know... weak.

I feel very ready for the weekend, but it is not here yet.

Abulsme - Thu, 2 Aug 2007, 15:39:11 PDT
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Wed 01 Aug 2007


A few nights ago the whole family fell asleep watching TV in the family room. That means I slept in the same room where the dog usually sleeps. Which means my allergies decided to attack me the last couple of days. At least I am guessing that is what it is. I just know I am feeling run down and tired and stuffy, and my brain doesn't want to work. I'd rather just lie down. But I have stuff to do, so I am trying. And drinking bunches of coffee.

This five minute break is now over. Back to doing productive things.

Abulsme - Wed, 1 Aug 2007, 11:22:10 PDT
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