Monday, April 01, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

I spent much of the weekend writing open source software, which is much like my day job but with far less money involved. In total, I probably spent 24 hours over the course of three days writing code while listening to the Jazz Funk Pandora station.

On Friday night, we watched the Director's Cut of Amadeus, which Rebecca had never seen and I hadn't watched in years, over a meal of Chipotle. During the night, I was awoken around 3:24 AM by a return of the ghost raccoons that previously visited in 2010 and 2005. It was not raining, and the visit only lasted about 6 minutes, but things were definitely scampering all over the roof above the bedroom.

On Saturday evening, we took a shopping jaunt to the Cranston area, in search of tomato plants and ergonomic chairs, followed by dinner at Delmarva's Tap Room and Southern Cafe, which takes the place of the long-expired Ted's Montana Grill. The burger was tasty and they had a nice variety of craft beers, although it still felt like they were working out kinks in the logistics.

We had Easter lunch/dinner with the Taylorstown branch of Rebecca's family, and then decorated and quartered a bunny cake that looked like a Donnie Darko rabbit until we had filled in the eyes and mouth.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, April 02, 2013

New Chair Day

I've been meaning to get a new office chair for months, although the old one does have kind of a "scratching post charm" to it. The new chair is from Staples, and is one of the few chairs I've tried that a short person can sit all of the way back in and still have their knees bent properly over the front edge.

Most chairs tend to be too deep, and I end up sitting Indian-style, which is not beneficial to my posture after a long day of coding. This one also has a weird head thing that will prevent me from getting whiplash if I ever write a line of code that is just too awesome for my senses.

At $229, it's no Aeron chair, but I still cannot fathom spending $900 for a chair. I will have to engage in my favourite pastime of "sitting" for a few weeks and then get back to you with a review.

UPDATE: A quickie review.

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Tomato Day

We now qualify for farm subsidies.

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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Parks and Recreation, Season 2:
Parks and Rec improves drastically over its abbreviated first season, no longer feeling like a poor man's Office. Characters are fleshed out to be more than caricatures, and Amy Poehler is rewritten to be more naively optimistic than stupid. Rebecca has found a new favourite funny TV character in Ron Swanson.

Final Grade: B

Backatown by Trombone Shorty:
This album is a collection of brassy funk infused with hip-hop and soul characteristics. The benefit of funk is an unmatched groove, and the downside of funk is that a few songs are almost too repetitive and need some more variety. The songs without vocals are more successful, as are the ones that seem to channel a marching band from a historically black college. Here's the opening track, Hurricane Season.

Final Grade: B

Breaking Bad, Season 4:
I'm very torn on this season. On one hand, the first 2/3rds drags like Mahler and actually dissuaded me from watching. On the other hand, the plot and climax are a perfect distillation of organic storytelling, wrapping almost every plot point from the first four seasons together in a satisfying, yet slightly ambiguous ending. The show continues to sacrifice watchability for quality, and while the result is masterful, it's not always interesting. It needs to take "slow burn" lessons from The Wire, a show which managed to have both a satisfying season climax as well as satisfying forward progress in every episode. Bottom Line: If you get annoyed by long, lingering shots of artistically framed faces with no dialogue, the beginning of this season will annoy you, but the pay off is probably definitely worth it.

Final Grade: B

When we planted our tomatoes on Tuesday night, the ten day weather forecast showed no below freezing days. Not two days later, it's 27 degrees outside and our plants are waiting out the frost under buckets, with potential casualties. Plus, the weather.com website has started autoplaying video clips with sound.

Final Grade: F

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Friday, April 05, 2013

List Day: Currently...

  • Currently listening to... Bacaktown by Trombone Shorty and the soundtrack to Pushing Daisies, Season One

  • Currently reading... Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg

  • Currently playing... Bioshock 1.

  • Currently composing... nothing.

  • Currently considering buying... a replacement tomato plant.

  • Currently coding... Java objects mapping to geospatial geometries in the Time-Space-Position Information specification for DDMSence.

  • Currently planning... nothing.

  • Currently writing... this post.

  • Currently watching... Parks and Recreation, Season Three, and treadmill-watching The Office, Season Two.

  • Currently anticipating... a lunch of leftover Pattaya Thai food

  • Currently exercising... two and a half hours per week or more.

This update was sponsored in part by LiveJournal.

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

We managed to make it to the weekend with three and a half tomato plants, and the weakest one might even bounce back in spite of the frost. This means that we probably won't need to waste another $3.99 on replacements and can donate that much more to our retirement funds.

On Saturday, I wrapped up work on DDMSence v2.2.0, the leading (and only) open-source software for DDMS and then headed over to my parents' house to celebrate my Mom's upcoming birthday. The beginning of April is the busiest season for birthdays, according to the Birthday Calendar in the sidebar, so if you're planning on kids and want them to feel like a snowflake, shoot for a February birthday instead.

My sister was in town with the nephews, and Sam had just taken his first Metro ride to see the nonexistent cherry blossoms. Rebecca arrived later in the evening from a physical therapy study session in Fredericksburg, and we all sat around eating pizza and birthday cake while poking through a big box of junk from my Mom's youth.

On Sunday, I diddled around the house while Rebecca worked up the motivation to do her homework. We ended the weekend with a screening of Wreck-It Ralph and some tasty Safeway pizza.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Music Tuesday

For your musical enrichment, here is an aleatoric piece my Mom wrote in music school 42 years ago. It was A material.

Carol Burgtorf
Assignment due May 4, 1971


Necessary Personnel: One human being whose pulse will be continually monitored by another, the conductor, who will simultaneously beat time at the heartbeat rate; three pianists who all sit at one piano; a four-part mixed chorus.

The piece will begin: when the conductor can establish a clear pulse rate for a tempo.

Event Approximate number of heartbeats (may be determined by conductor) Text and/or music levels (text in italics) Directions for Performance (conductor will indicate when each event begins and ends)
I. 10 high and low pitches Pianists will hold loud pedal down and shout or sing into piano strings often enough to sustain echo.
supernatural noises
Sopranos will decide upon and make appropriate groans, screams, etc.
III. 40 supernatural noises continue softly.

"Amidst the mists and coldest frosts" low and sepulchrally
Basses repeat text over and over at one heartbeat per syllable and on one note. Each bass to determine his own pitch and entrance time.
IV. 6 V-I-V-I-etc., chord seequence in one major key, softly Pianists choose key, making chords as full as possible with their 30 fingers, changing chords only on a beat (duration of each chord not limited)
30 "with stoutest wrists"
"and loudest boasts"
Tenors declaim either text phrase heroically, in any rhythm. Pianists continue chord sequence throughout this.
V. 6 tone clusters in deep piano register Pianists stop V-I chords and begin playing clusters in tempo, continuing while altos sing.
4 "He thrusts" not too high a note One alto sings phrase once on one note, sustaining the tone until end of this section.
4 "his fists" one step higher than first phrase note Second alto on this phrase, in the same manner as first alto.
4 "against" one step higher than second phrase note Third alto on this phrase, same as above.
4 "The posts" one step higher than third phrase note Fourth alto on this phrase, same as above.
4 Now all four altos are singing together. Pianists stop.
VI. Now the person whose heartbeat is being monitored will begin to increase his heartbeat rapidly by running in place, breathing into a paper bag, or any other arduous method. During this time:
- "And still insists" relatively high Soprano soloist sings phrase three times, slowly and on any anguished melody.
moaning Everyone beings to moan very softly while soprano is singing, then falls silent.
- "He sees..." Soprano sings phrase once, suspensefully.
VII. Person stops exercising and, ona signal from conductor, the entire chorus screams the long-drawn-out words: "The gho-o-o-o-sts!" going from high pitch down to low one.
VIII. Conductor determines new rapid pulse and, with this as a new ever decreasing tempo (i.e. as heartbeat returns to normal)
40 "and still insists he sees the ghosts" whisper Chorus repeats phrase over and over in unison and at the decreasing tempo, two syllables per heartbeat. Chorus members begin to leave stage when they get tired of repeating above phrase.
IX. Conductor leaves stage, leading his pulse-maker by the hand unless he doesn't want to go. Pianists may either leave or begin a three-handed jam session at the piano.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken in either 1978 or 1979, in the days when it wasn't dangerous to put your kid's name on their clothing. BU was not yet in the narrative.

Update - I have just learned additional context from the authoritative source:

The photo on your web page today is actually from March 1980. We left you in the care of a babysitter whose name I do not recall but she lived on N. Owen. Ellen was feeling a bit neglected since your arrival in January 1980 so we took her to the Ringling Brothers Circus at the DC Armory.

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Wreck-It Ralph (PG):
This animated movie from Disney is kind of like Toy Story for the video game audience. After hours, video game characters can travel down the power cords to mingle with others, and hilarity ensues when a video game bad guy abandons his own game to become a good guy in another. It might be a little too niche to find mass appeal, but it's well done with very fitting voice actors. You'll find it most charming if you grew up on video games.

Final Grade: B

Parks and Recreation, Season Three:
This is an abbreviated season (but still free on Amazon Prime). It's not amazing, but is filled with comfortable laughs without too much heavy thinking required.

Final Grade: B-

Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg:
The complete title to this book, Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software, is excessive (like pretty much every book title involving a colon, even this double whammy), but the narrative is an engaging, conversational look at a software project that just never seems to end. It lacks any kind of solid conclusion, and the author, obviously aware of this, spends parts of the last half of the book channeling Victor Hugo's sewer essays, going off on software development tangents that are interesting for software developers but irrelevant to the main plot.

Like Wreck-It Ralph the audience of this book is a little too targeted, but the author does a pretty decent job of translating the technical deetails into nice dumbed-down analogies.

Final Grade: B

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

5:45 AM: Showered and awake.

5:51 AM: The deluge begins as I step outside. Also, that new streetlamp is way too bright.

6:04 AM: The deluge ends as I arrive at work.

7:15 AM: Apparently pretending that I have Google Glass.

9:45 AM: After meeting 1 of 2.

11:30 AM: Welcomed home by cats.

12:16 PM: Since I was fifteen pounds heavier when I last stopped buying Shells and Cheese regularly, I now have a fifteen pound buffer to abuse.

1:00 PM: The cost of a steam cleaner, amortized over the lifespan of two vomiting cats...

2:18 PM: Kicking off a new side project.

3:59 PM: Catnap.

5:30 PM: Exercising with The Office.

9:04 PM: Safeway pizza for dinner, while Rebecca turns in her coursework.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

This weekend, I started work on a new pet project, , a free open-source Issue Tracker. I was looking for a way to rejuvenate my web development skills, which were running on the fumes of technology versions released when I was still single. I also spend enough time complaining about other Issue Trackers that I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and see if I could do any better. As you can see, I already have a better name and logo than most existing software on the market, and that's easily 95% of the development challenge right there.

It's actually pretty challenging to write a web application these days, because there are more libraries and frameworks and toolkits available than ever before. Every time you research a library, you stumble across four more you need proficiency in and a swarm of Internet cowboys advocating alternatives. It's amazing that anything useful besides additional frameworks ever gets written.

When not sitting on the back porch with my laptop reading about embedded databases, I was at La Cote D'Or Cafe in Falls Church for Rebecca's dad's birthday. I ordered the "butter with a side of frog legs" -- although it was my first time eating them, they were unremarkable when compared to chicken wings because of the overwhelming amount of butter applied.

We also started the second season of Game of Thrones on Sunday, putting us a year behind the rest of the world. Thankfully, there is no WW2 shortage of "boobies on TV", because this show devours its ration in a matter of minutes. For dinner on Sunday, we returned to Delmarva's Taphouse, whose Yelp reviews now resemble a descending staircase. Our second visit can be easily summarized: Great selection of beers on tap, passable food, and minimal service.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Recipe Day: Glazed Grilled Salmon

My general MO for recipes is to start from a legitimate recipe out of a dead-tree book or the Internet (usually with 10 or fewer ingredients) and then cut as many corners as possible to speed up the process without arriving at taste ruination. This grilled fish recipe ended up being a home run with very little effort. The glaze is a sweet-plus-salty caramelization with no crazy ingredients.

  • salmon fillets of even thickness, 3/4" - 1"
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • rice


  • Remove lingering bones from the fish. If any portion is much thinner than the rest, cut into a separate fillet and plan to cook the mini-fish for less time.
  • In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the soy sauce, sugar, oil, and water together.
  • Put salmon fillets into a freezer bag. Pour marinade into bag and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes with the scales up. Begin cooking rice in the rice cooker that you really should own by now.
  • Preheat your grill for 10 minutes at the highest temperature, and scrape grill as smoothly as possible.
  • Grill scales up for 6 minutes without bothering it like a little brother. Flip and grill the other side for 4 minutes. Reduce time slightly for thinner fillets.
  • Remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes, scales down.
  • Flake meat away from scales with a fork and devour with rice.

Nutritional Content

  • Calories: Delicious
  • Fats: Omegas and Stuff

tagged as recipes | permalink | 1 comment

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Memory Day: Snapshots

These pictures were taken fourteen years ago today, on April 17, 1999. The lot of us, Jason and Rosie, Doug and Becky, Jen, and myself, took the weekend off from school and went to Busch Gardens. Because we stayed up until 3 AM playing Pictionary at Rosie's parents' house in Newport News the night before, we didn't actually get to the park until 10. And, we were so tired that we left by 6, officially making it the least cost-effective theme park visit of all time.

I made a detour to my own parents' house in Alexandria on the Friday before this trip. My dad handed me this new "digital camera" invention he'd just bought for the first time, and told me to give it a try in the park. It took pictures at 600x450 pixels and saved them to giant CompactFlash cards, and just barely fit into the pocket of my Members Only jacket.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Random Chart Day: DDMSence

Ohloh has a neat analysis feature that scans a code repository and generates interesting but ultimately useless statistics. Here's what it thinks about my own open source work:

The estimate of 31 years seems a little excessive, especially since the project is only 3 years old, but who can argue with a model named after a Beach Boys song?

tagged as data | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Daily Hour

The music-computer pendulum that is my life has swung quite far in the computer direction this past month. I've barely touched the electric bass in weeks, and have spent most of my free time writing code and gaining vast amounts of knowledge on embedded databases (H2, HSQLDB, Derby, SQLite), logging (Log4j, LSF4j, Logback, Commons), the Spring Framework, and all of the associated view technologies. I'd known much of it before, but technical knowledge has a shelf life of about two weeks before it's considered yesterday's news, so this was a good exercise to flex my web application skills. I specialize in blue sites.

To anyone who tuned out in the previous paragraph and worries that this will become a tech blog, I'll probably swing back to writing funk music 24 hours per day by the end of the summer, or sooner if I burn out on coding. You have to milk the enthusiasm while it's there though! Here is a list of blog-types that this blog will never become:

  • A programming blog
  • A daily log of my caloric intake
  • A live cam of our tomato plants
  • Weekly pictures of my pregnant belly

I'm still running while watching The Office 4-5 times a week, and briefly tagged 119 pounds before consuming a bowl of Shells and Cheese and bouncing back up to acceptable weights for blood donation purposes.

I also continue to try new cooking exercises (not pictured below), and expect our four tomato plants to bounce back from the frost any day now.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up

Our weekend opened with sushi and sake from Wegmans, which is still the best "cheap, pre-packaged" sushi we've found in the area. We ate shrimp tempura while finishing the second season of Game of Thrones, which was good but felt a little unnecessarily drawn out.

On Saturday night, we took one of our annual trips into D.C. where we parked at a meter that was etched with "Monday through Friday, through 10 PM" and augmented with a sticker reading "Also Saturday, through 10 PM" underneath a street sign that said "Monday through Sunday, through 6:30 PM". Not sure who to believe, we paid the meter at the exorbitant rate of 25 cents per 8 minutes. We then walked over to Annie's townhouse to celebrate Marc's 30th Birthday with meats and beers.

Sunday was the lazy day -- I mowed the lawn, watered the tomatoes, and said hello to all of the neighbours who were also out doing yard work. I hadn't spoken to any of them in three years, since the only time we bond with neighbours is when it snows appreciably and the street comes together to shovel.

For dinner on Sunday, I had the prime rib dip and a Guinness at Red Robin, paid for with the ridiculous tax refund debit card that the state of Virginia forced upon us. We then watched Zero Dark Thirty, which was mostly boring, and went to bed.

How was your weekend?

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stuff In My Drawers Day

My audition form from All-District Band tryouts in 7th grade, or "best ways to burn a young musician when you're in the Army band but have to spend the weekend slumming as an audition judge to pay the rent."

tagged as memories, music | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This Day In Spending

April 24, 2004

	SFW / Cash		-$  35.17

As a young, single professional, I was frugal enough to be able to buy a week's worth of groceries at Shopper's Food Warehouse and still get cash back.

April 24, 2005

	Stanis Furniture	-$1352.40

This was the day that I purchased a classy black bedroom set.

April 24, 2006

	Bowling			-$  19.50 
	Capitol City Brew	-$  24.00

Monday night in Shirlington was pretty happening.

April 24, 2007

	Dominion Power		-$  86.78

This power bill is comparable to any Spring month where the weather is not retarded.

April 24, 2008

	Loudoun Water		-$  53.67
	Comcast			-$  42.95
	Loudoun Tax		-$  61.09
	Transfer		+$2000.00

Comcast finally realized a couple years ago that they were undercharging me for Internet service by $20 a month. The only thing keeping me from Fios is that my dislike of streaming movies over Comcast does not yet outweigh the hassle of changing.

April 24, 2009

	Chickfila		-$   5.51

Number One with waffle fries and a lemonade.

April 24, 2010

	No purchases	

Although my records don't show any expenses on this date, I remember eating Korean Barbeque with Rebecca and her Grinnell friends. I must have been freeloading.

April 24, 2011

	Deposit			+$  479.50

Smells like the combination of a tax refund and the handful of dollars I get for running middle school band websites.

April 24, 2012

	Dominion Power		-$   84.63
	CC Payment		-$  160.49

The weather was not retarded. Also, a deep packet inspection of the credit card payment shows that it covered a tank of gas, my monthly webhost charge, a beta copy of Path of Exile to tide me over until Diablo 3, a pre-order of Diablo 3 and the Kindle book, Tasty Morsels of Sonic Goodness.

April 24, 2013

What should I buy today?

UPDATE: I ended up paying my $115 power bill. The weather is currently retarded.

tagged as memories | permalink | 7 comments

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Zero Dark Thirty (R):
I don't really understand why this obligatory Bin Laden movie received so much hype. It was, by far, more boring than any given episode of Homeland but thankfully less boring than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The movie felt like a paint-by-numbers book with only binary digits: it set out to tell the story of catching Bin Laden, and then proceeded to do exactly that for 2.5 hours, no more and no less. Characters had no motivation outside of pushing the plot forward, and the lack of subplots or fleshed out characters just highlighted how boring the main plot actually was.

Final Grade: D+

Spring Recipes by Gary Mak, Josh Long, and Daniel Rubio:
Having learned the Spring programming framework seven years ago, I picked up this book as a refresher to see what had changed. The Spring reference documentation has the annoying habit of being too comprehensive: "Here's twenty different ways to do the same thing, but we won't give you enough of an example to do what you actually want to do". This book excels at filling that gap, providing common use cases, example code, and patterns to greatly reduce the Spring learning curve. It's 1000 pages, but most of that is example code -- the actual prose is nicely compact. On the plus side, I liked that examples were usually complete, and provided all of the extra bits that most books would just gloss over. On the minus side, the book is full of typos and much of the code doesn't actually compile. If all you need is a book to learn or relearn the paradigms, this is the one for you. If you need working code, move on.

Final Grade: B-

Parks and Recreation, Season Four:
Another season of harmless laughs in which Leslie runs for city council. It's as strong as the previous two seasons, and features a fun guest appearance by Paul Rudd.

Final Grade: B

Nice Day to Cross a River by Greg Giraldo:
I was first introduced to the comedy of Greg Giraldo through the spoken-word song, "Underwear Goes Inside the Pants. His specialty was scathing social commentary wrapped in dialog just slightly less profane than Dave Attell. This album has some great bits, and is definitely worth a listen.

Final Grade: B+

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Fun Facts Friday

  1. If you mention the name of a big cable Internet company and their fiber competitor along with the word "switching" (like I did in Wednesday's post), your blog will get discovered by search spiders from deep within the belly of said cable company. Apparently, there are people whose job it is to stay abreast of all the bad things said about this company across the Internet. Definitely a job for more than 1 FTE.

  2. The light to turn left onto Baron Cameron from Town Center Parkway is a whopping two minutes long.

  3. Ralph Macchio, the original Karate Kid, is now older than Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) was when they filmed the original movie.

  4. Amber can only eat 17% of a can of wet food in one sitting without projectile vomiting everywhere.

  5. The Wire just happened for real in Baltimore.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up


  • Took the day off and released , the first of 17 developmental point releases before an initial public release.
  • Had Carne Asada for dinner at Los Toltecos, courtesy of the useless Virginia State Tax Refund debit card (by using it only at restaurants, I can always tip in round numbers and easily keep track of the balance).


  • Cleaned out the basement guest room in anticipation of a future basement dweller, who will continue the legacy started by Eric and Kathy in 2004 - 2005.
  • Finally started reading The Mythical Man Month, because the more people tell me that a book is a must-read for my field, the longer it will take for me to get around to it.
  • Started the 3rd season of Justified, starring Bubba Gump, while Rebecca went out for a Ladies' Night.


  • Slept in while Rebecca took her parents to Dulles airport for their trip to China.
  • Ate leftover fruit salad from Ladies' Night.
  • Went to a party for the Christening of Jack & Kristy's daughter, Annie, and ate smoked salmon off of crackers with cream cheese.

Happy 12th anniversary of the URI! Recital!

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Questions Day

I was working late last night, and came unprepared for today's post. (I did not realize that there would be writing involved when I signed up for blogging). So, ask me some questions in the Comments section and I'll answer them on Friday.

If you can't think of any burning questions, then recommend some new blogs for me to read. Or, go update your own!

tagged as you speak | permalink | 3 comments


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