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About the Blog

The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?


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I Should Be Sleeping

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Happy Birthday, Avery!


My oldest son, Avery, is five years old today. He's been so excited for his birthday to arrive, and then this morning he woke up with a fever of 104. I felt horrible at the beginning of the day, but then you realize the thing with kids - he was just as happy spending the day watching TV with his mom & brother as he was going to school, going to dinner, etc. All we needed in the end was a birthday candle, a scoop of mint-chip ice cream from Dairy Queen, and a cool birthday present from his brother, Brandon. Instant birthday joy.

It also occurs to me that this day marks the five-year anniversary of my being a dad. I will resist the urge to wax philisophical, except to say this: I'm convinced I've got the best kids in the world. I'm also convinced that as long as I continue to believe that, and treat them as though I believe it, I will ultimately prove myself right.

Happy 5th, Avery. It's been a great ride. Somehow, though, I get the sense that the next five years will make it pale in comparsion...

posted by Brian at 11:50 PM | 4 comments

Twin Mini


It seems a Taiwanese company called AOpen, acting at Intel's request, has built a machine that looks very similar to the Mac Mini, in the sense that it looks exactly like the Mac Mini.

Interestingly enough, analysts are pooh-poohing it right out of the gate. Roger Kay of IDC says "I don't think the two -- Mac mini and whatever Intel puts out -- are really in the same market; that is, of course, unless Apple starts running OS X on x86 hardware." Huh? What about all that stuff I read when the Mini came out about it's form factor, it's place as an appliance rather than technology, etc.? Was that all just cover-up for "it has a great OS?"

He also questions whether anyone will be able to market the machine with an Intel Chip & Windows XP and still hit the $499 price point set by Apple. To that point, I say don't underestimate Intel & Microsoft's ability to buy market share. If they think the Mini is going to be a serious challenge, both of those companies are in a position to give these things away and make their money on the peripherals, home networks, and software.

All of this is not to say I think that either product will be all that successful. The Mac Mini will sell like hotcakes for a while, but once it's no longer the newest toy on the block, someone will invent the true computing appliance - one that doesn't require separate KVM's to get them working...

posted by Brian at 11:32 PM | 0 comments

Breaking News - You Can Tape Stuff Off the Radio...


Remember the good old days when everybody was stealing digital music? Then iTunes came along and made it so easy (and cheap) to buy music, that stealing it actually became more of a hassle than it was worth? Well, in what should have been an obvious next step, that state of affairs appears to be short-lived:

Lawyers, others questions radio TIVO-like devices - Yahoo! News

Various devices that enable listeners to record Internet radio streams and then convert them into MP3 files are catching on and making Web radio and streaming services more appealing to the general public.

But some legal experts say the recording software may violate digital copyright laws and does little more than promote piracy.

I must admit, I never understood how Digital Rights Management (DRM) was going to last. When I was a teenager, I knew the 50 ways to hack through Apple II+ copy-protection so I could copy my friend's new video game. Nowadays, I'm just an old fogey at 35, relegated to reading about today's teenagers, who hack into massive government or corporate networks and cause millions in damages. Still, even *I* can figure out how to break DRM protection. Simply play the DRM-laden song on the PC, have the PC record straight from the sound card into an (unprotected) MP3 file, and then "Save As..." Voila! Instant cyber-thief. So if I can figure this out, why is the rest of the world pretending the teenagers are even breaking a sweat?

Tools like Replay Radio put the issue in the forefront, though. Music is different than TV. It's portable and personal. A copy of a TV show still requires a TV, and usually, if you're lucky, someone to watch it with. A copy of a song, though, is the whole package. It's a 100% replacement for the purchased product. Not to mention the fact that you could conceivably go to work/school and leave Replay Radio running all day, then come home and cherry-pick the songs you want to add to your collection. A few weeks and some creative choices of radio stations, and you could fill an iPod for free.

Jay Cooper, a veteran entertainment lawyer, is quoted in the article singing that old refrain: "[This] Technology's way ahead of the law."

Indeed...

posted by Brian at 11:15 PM | 2 comments

Home Networking - Now with More Wires!


Here's a prediction: As soon as I get off my butt & configure a wireless network in the house, this will become ubiquitous.

posted by Brian at 10:36 PM | 5 comments

Friday, May 27, 2005

Highway Blogging...


I'm in the car on the way to a cousin's birthday party, and basically just want to see if e-mail initiated blogging is everything it's cracked up to be.

Don't worry, I'm not driving. Although, to be fair, there wasn't a lot of driving to be done in the last couple of hours. The NJ Turnpike folks decided that Memorial Day Friday would be a good time to fix the shoulder by Exit 8. Backed up traffic in both directions by around 30 miles.

Anyway, last time I tried this, the formatting was all screwy. If that's the case now, pardon our appearance while we strive to serve you better. I'll clean up the mess next time I'm at a PC...

UPDATE: Well, the formatting was indeed all screwy, but the good news is the blogger tools let me fix it from right here in the car. In fact, for those who are HTML geeks, what it did was automatically bracket each paragraph with a class called "mobile-post". So, when I do get back to my PC, I can actually define that class in my style sheet to be the same as a regular blog post (or, if I desire, a snazzy new mobile style!). The possibilities are mind boggling.

Anyway, kudos to the blogger tools once again...

posted by Brian at 5:11 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hello World - Redux...


I finally sent an e-mail out to some friends telling them about this blog (it was a soft-launch for a few weeks). So I'm re-posting my first entry for their benefit.

Welcome everyone! Post some comments!




OK, folks - here goes. The rather inauspicious beginnings of the 9,727,428th web log on the planet (this according to Technorati, of course). Welcome to I Should Be Sleeping.

There will be much more to say later, but for now, let's start with this:

My inspirations are Jeff Porten, who recently started his own blog and has been pretty good about updating it, John Scalzi, who's blog I read & comment on frequently, suggesting I do have time for this kind of thing, James Lileks, who posts something worth reading just about every single night, Glenn Reynolds, who basically started the whole thing, and to a lesser extent, others (see the Blog Roll at the left).

My goals are vague, yet lofty. Basically, this will be my place to weigh in on things in my world. If it mirrors my e-mail habits (which I believe it will) you'll see a lot of technology talk here, as well as some politics, some sports, and anything else that catches my fancy. Hopefully, others find it interesting and turn it into a discussion, and we'll all be better off in the end. If not, well then heck - at least I figured out how to create a blog...

posted by Brian at 11:58 PM | 0 comments

Primetime TV Update #3


Call it 1 for 3.

I went with Bo for American Idol, but it seems Carrie pulled it out. I stand by what I said, though - the winner got a recording contract, fame and fortune. The loser will get, well...a recording contract, fame and fortune.

On the upside, the fall season is now basically done. What will I do with all my free time? Probably post a little more around here, I bet...

posted by Brian at 11:55 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 21, 2005

(Grease) Monkeying around with the web


Almost as if the whole controversey around Google's new toolbar didn't happen, now there's a tool for Firefox browsers called Greasemonkey, which lets users write client side scripts to change the way a web page looks or functions directly from their browser.

Examples include a script that removes all stories about Michael Jackson from a Reuters newsfeed, and one that makes the Chicago Transit Authority map a background on the Google Map of Chicago.

Watch for the intellectual property rights police to jump all over this one...

posted by Brian at 2:22 PM | 7 comments

Friday, May 20, 2005

Laura weighs in...


Laura Bush agrees with me.

posted by Brian at 1:53 PM | 0 comments

News cataloging, Part Deux


OK, so they've got pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. Here's what his lawyer said:

"In our opinion this is a violation of all international agreements and human dignity, therefore we must sue the people responsible and the providers of these pictures, because if you look closely you can see that they were taken from his prison cell," lawyer Ziad Khasawneh of Saddam's defense team said.

"This is considered as another Abu Ghraib and we will take the necessary legal actions which we have already started," he told Reuters in Amman.

Fine. Sue 'em. I hope he wins. Whoever published these pictures was being infantile and gets what he deserves. But this was no Abu Ghraib.

Yes, publicly displaying pictures of him in his underwear is embarrasing. But it's junior high-school embarassing. He wasn't being humiliated by his captors like the Abu Ghraib detainees were. In fact, he wasn't being mistreated at all. What was awful about Abu Ghraib was what they were doing, not the fact that they photographed it.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khasawneh knows that this will only be an amusing side-story unless he can get it lumped into the "America Absuses Prisoners" meme, so it gets repeated over & over again by those who wish us harm.

posted by Brian at 1:48 PM | 4 comments

Primetime TV update #2


(SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't seen The Apprentice or ER finales, stop reading now).

The Apprentice: Redemption is mine! Tana got crushed, and for precisely the reason I stated. Kudos to her for coralling the team after she saw how bad she looked on air & trying the contrite apology thing, but that was a dead end all the way. Also, kudos to Donald Trump for telling Kendra that crying at work is over the top (and then for hiring her anyway).

Did anyone notice, by the way, that The Donald was extremely awkward and unsure of himself as the host of a live TV show? Last year, they had Regis Philbin around to gloss over the awkward moments (like when Trump's CFO was literally speechless on camera). Last night, Trump looked uncomfortable and the show never really built to a fever pitch.

And what's up with Martha Stewart? Apparently, this was announced back in February. I completely missed it, and haven't heard about it since. I'm also amazed (and quite happy) that they didn't plug it each & every week during this season.

As for ER, this was one of those interesting shows that provides a break between the "formula" shows. The transition from Noah Wylie to the new cast was excellent, as were the callbacks to the old cast members (very subtle - not too schmaltzy). The cliffhanger was a good one too. Yet again, another season awaits. I'm feeling pretty good about my prediction...

posted by Brian at 1:26 PM | 0 comments

A Palm in your hand is worth er, well...nevermind


Some months ago, I bought this as part of my ongoing PDA upgrade process (wherein my wife's PDA becomes unusable, and I buy a cool new one for myself and give her my old one).

At the time, it's "wow" features were the huge 320x480 display, the ability to display in landscape orientation, the MP3 playing functionality, and the whopping 256MB of storage, which could be used like a USB drive, without all that nasty synching. The complaints were the lack of WiFi, and the lack of voice recording capability.

Yesterday, a friend sent me this link. Almost as if by magic, WiFi and voice recording are here. Not only that, we're talking about 4GB of storage. One could not only digitize their photo collection, but carry the whole thing around with them at all times.

It's great to see innovation at work, but I probably won't upgrade right now. I don't need the voice recorder, I'm not using anywhere near the 256MB I have, and the WiFi card for the Tungsten T5 is only $100. Including the $350 I spent on the device, that's still cheaper than the $500 they want for the LifeDrive. (This seems to be a theme, by the way, since they're offering a free WiFi card with the purchase of a T5 right now. I guess you're basically paying $150 for a voice recorder and 3.75GB of memory...)

posted by Brian at 1:14 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek - Weak news


I was going to say something about this yesterday, but held my tongue (fingers?) since it all seemed to be a lot of posturing on all sides. After doing some more reading on the subject, though, here are a few thoughts:

First of all, Newsweek didn't cause the death of anyone if Afghanistan. What they did was provide a spark that some seriously crazy killers used to incite anger and fan it into violent rage. Let's always remember that it was the killers who caused the death, not Newsweek. Blaming them for these deaths is akin to blaming George Bush for the September 11th attacks.

That's not to say that Newsweek didn't do anything wrong here. Their first mistake, of course, was printing something that they couldn't confirm to be true. That's just bad journalism, and whether it incites terrorists, sways elections, or ruins reputations, it's still a bad (and easily avoidable) move.

Their second mistake is a bit more subtle, and also more endemic to today's media: they jumped on a bandwagon and underestimated the consequences of their actions. There's no doubt in my mind that had the Abu Ghraib scandal not occurred, this story would never have been printed. "Abuse by American Guards" is a hot story right now. It has "legs." Someone at Newsweek heard an accusation about mistreating the Koran, and saw an opportunity to play "gotcha."

The problem here is that media is cheaper and more global than it's ever been before. They can read Newsweek in Afghanistan now. They have CNN and BBC in Iraq. Anti-war protests are visible to our enemies. Our media still has an obligation to report the facts and investigate the news, but we need to be prepared to face the full consequences of the free press we hold so dear.

In the first Gulf War, the Iraqi army seemed to fold up at the very sight of American troops. This time around, they fought back. I firmly believe the news coverage of the war protests and the various commentators who called the U.S. and the President "evil" had a lot to do with this. Our enemy, who had been too scared to fight 12 years earlier, had been enboldened by the appearance of a divided America - an America that appeared unsure of its commitment to the fight. Soldiers probably watched 250,000 people marching in Times Square and figured that some percentage of the American soldiers in Baghdad would surrender or run when the fighting got hot.

As they say, freedom isn't free. We should never stop expressing our opinions, but we have to take our heads out of the sand and understand what happens when we do. Our actions have more consequences today than they used to.

posted by Brian at 2:38 PM | 3 comments

Monday, May 16, 2005

Primetime TV update


(Spoiler warning - if you taped Survivor & haven't watched it yet, stop reading now)

OK, so I'm 0-1. I was right about Katie voting for Jen, but I had not counted on Ian falling on his own sword like that. Those friendships will have an interesting dynamic from now on, huh? Can you imagine:

Ian: Tom, can you come over tomorrow & help me move this sofa?
Tom: Sorry, tomorrow's really inconvenient for me.
Ian: Giving up a million bucks was pretty inconvient for me too - be here at 10...

Good luck guys...

posted by Brian at 1:06 PM | 0 comments

Friday, May 13, 2005

Primetime TV Wrap Up


On a lighter note, some thoughts on all the primetime shows that are wrapping up in May. I know, I know - this is such a colossal waste of time. Remember, the blog's called "I Should Be Sleeping." Here's some of the reason why...

Survivor: Katie showed her loyalty to Ian, which means that Jen is toast next week unless she wins immunity. Of the Tom, Ian, Katie final three, both Katie and Tom will likely take Ian to the final two if the choice is theirs, since they'll figure Ian is the weakest in the jury's eyes. If it's Ian's choice, I think he takes Katie, based on that tear-fest over dinner & a car ride. Assuming it's true that the jury is anti-Ian, that means Katie's got a 2 in 3 shot at this, and Tom has a 1 in 3 shot. Prediction: Katie

American Idol: A pretty even final three (and unlike last year, the right three). I think next week's a crapshoot, but if I had to predict, I'd say Vonzell goes home. The finale's going to turn into another Rueben/Clay thing, where regardless of who wins, they both become stars. Bo's the better performer. Carrie has a face made for television. Prediction: Bo (but it doesn't really matter)

The Amazing Race: OK, everyone got what they wanted. Uchenna and Joyce got the money they needed for in vitro, and Rob & Amber got a 16-week promo for their televised wedding. Those two are fun to watch - they're going to make a living for the next few years just being Rob & Amber.

The Apprentice: Tana's very creative, but she writes people off too quickly and disrespects them to others. Nothing makes people trust you less than to hear you badmouth others behind their backs. Kendra's strikes me as too young and emotional, but could probably grow into the job. Prediction: Kendra

Two side notes, though: First, the whole Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts thing is a crock. I can find you a set of 10 high school graduates and 10 college graduates where I'd rather work with the high schoolers, and I can find you a set where I'd rather work with the college grads. It's about the individuals, not the categories. Second, there have got to be better folks out there to work for than Donald Trump, no?

Joey: Joey kissing Alex smelled an awful lot like shark-jumping to me. It's so clearly an attempt to generate the same "Ross kissed Rachel" vibe they had with Friends, and it so clearly shows how good the writing was on the previous show. Don't get me wrong, I like "Joey," but they should have ridden this a little longer. Prediction: Look for Friends cameos early next season

ER: Farewell, Noah Wylie. This show's been on its last legs for years. It's three or four formula shows in a row (doctor breaks the rules out of a moral obligation & gets away with it; doctor makes a romantic relationship more complicated than it needs to be; doctor kills a patient and questions his/her reason for living - take your pick), followed by a truly interesting show. I keep watching for the interesting ones, but most weeks, I walk away shaking my head. Prediction: Another year of "This is the show's last year" predictions

posted by Brian at 11:11 PM | 0 comments

Rule #1 - Somebody Tell George


One of my biggest pet peeves is government officials telling us something that isn't true with a straight face, and fully expecting us to believe it:

White House defends not telling Bush of scare - Yahoo! News

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Secret Service followed proper procedures and did not need to tell Bush immediately about the incident because the president was not in danger and the situation was defused in a matter of minutes.


Mr. McClellan: The president wasn't in danger because the Cessna that was 3 miles from the White House wasn't carrying a dirty bomb, or crop dusting equipment filled with anthrax, or a pilot with a death wish.

I realize that in a crisis, the President doesn't sit in the oval office with a headset on, directing the precise movements of everyone under his command. I realize that had he been informed, he likely wouldn't have done anything in particular. And I realize that the people who's job it is to actually deal with this type of situation did so in exactly the right manner.

All of this is very reassuring, but for the fact that this obviously could have turned into something that required the President's direction in a moment's notice. And if that happened, these 40 minutes would have been tacked right on the end of the first 7 minutes of the September 11th disaster, when Bush portrayed confidence to the news media rather than running off to a command post to watch TV like the rest of us...

I know he'd never slam one of his own in public, but I'm hoping that privately, Bush is extremely pissed off, and whoever made the decision to keep him in the dark is looking for a job right now.

posted by Brian at 10:48 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Google obtains Big Bad Wolf status


Fred Wilson (link via Jeff Jarvis) wonders if Google has gotten too big.

This is an old tale indeed. When a small company comes out of nowhere to dominate a space, they're living the American dream. When they get hyper-successful, though, they become giant, evil corporations.

Look at AOL. In the early 1900's, AOL was the internet's savior - easy to use, a logical way to pull together existing content, enough heft to draw the big names, etc. As their growth exploded, though, they became known for the "newbie" nature of their members, their agressive marketing campaigns, their network outages, and finally, their sagging stock price.

Microsoft is another example. Bill Gates was a hero in the early 1990's (think back to Windows 3.1, the first version of Windows that really made it big). Today, of course, Microsoft is responsible for every bad thing on the planet, with the possible exception of world hunger.

It's jealousy, I tell ya - simple jealousy.

As for Google: I used to hear it referred to as "God's Mind." Then the company went public and the founders got stinkin' rich. And almost instantly it started: Gmail was serving ads based on e-mail content, which was an invasion of privacy. AutoFill was giving certain vendors (like Amazon) preferrential treatment, and was violating copyright ethics by modifying an author's content without his/her permission. Accelerator is "caching the internet," a double whammy in that it both captures the web surfing habits of individuals and creates a "walled off community" like AOL did. Isn't it amazing that none of these problems existed when the company was a "small, privately held firm?"

I'm a big fan of Google (and, full disclosure, a stockholder) because their innovations almost always seem to be based on new and innovative techology. The PageRank system revolutionized search, and has yet to be fully duplicated to my knowledge. GoogleNews' aggregation concept is a novel one, as is Google Scholar, Google Suggest and others.

The companies from the dotcom bubble days that succeeded (and yes, some of them did) were all characterized with good technology & good implementation first, and good marketing & hype second. IMHO, Google still has that going for it.

posted by Brian at 1:20 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gary Hart on Iraq


Gary Hart - IRAQ: Exit or Empire?

Though the press has been unaccountably lax in pursuing this question, the best evidence, mostly from non-"mainstream" sources, is that we are building somewhere between 12 and 14 permanent military bases.

If the goal . . . was to overthrow Saddam Hussein, install a friendly government in Baghdad, set up a permanent political and military presence in Iraq, and dominate the behavior of the region (including securing oil supplies), then you build permanent bases for some kind of permanent American military presence. If the goal was to spread democracy and freedom, then you don't.


Interesting theory, senator. Are you suggesting, then, that we did not spread democracy and freedom in Germany, South Korea, or Bosnia? After all, we still have troops in all of those places.

Once Iraq is on its feet & functioning as a independent nation, they will likely be a strong ally of the United States. Many, including, I presume, Senator Hart, will see this as American puppeteering. I see it as a reasonable expectation on our part. And having some small number of American troops in that very volatile and strategic part of the world is not only in our best interests, but it is not mutually exclusive with spreading democracy and freedom in Iraq.

posted by Brian at 11:53 PM | 2 comments

Monday, May 09, 2005

More about Technorati


Jeff Porten asked in the comments about how Technorati works:


I note that I'm now in Technorati thanks to your blogroll. Never did understand that place, so if you could elucidate in a future post, much appreciated.


I had no idea, but I did a little digging on the site...

The best page to start with is this one: Technorati: FAQ.

Basically, it talks about how you can register your blog with Technorati, which indexes it in the Technorati database, so when you search for a keyword, you're only searching the blogosphere (plus any RSS feeds that have registered). It's basically a blog-specific Google.

As for why Jeff wasn't in Technorati before I started my blog, here's what I believe happened: My blog is hosted by Blogger. When I set up the blog, it asked me "Add your Blog to our listings?" to which I said yes (heck - you get publicity where you can when you're just starting out, right?) Anyway, it seems that answering yes to this question causes blogger to "ping" Technorati (see this), which automatically registers the blog. Once I'm registered, then all of the content on my blog is indexed (including, it would seem, my blogroll). So if you search for www.jeffporten.com, you get a hit from me.

I hasten to add, though, that Jeff's blog is still not registered on Technorati (that is, I did a few searches on text strings from his recent posts, and they did not return entries from his blog). So Jeff, go to this page, and follow the instructions to ping Technorati with your URL. Then we'll all be part of that big, happy family. <sniff...>

posted by Brian at 8:58 PM | 0 comments

NYTimes, Heal Thyself


Kudos to the New York Times for this:

Times Panel Proposes Steps to Build Credibility - New York Times


In order to build readers' confidence, an internal committee at The New York Times has recommended taking a variety of steps, including having senior editors write more regularly about the workings of the paper, tracking errors in a systematic way and responding more assertively to the paper's critics.


I think all of these are good things. As someone who doesn't believe I have the facts straight until I've read at least two accounts of something, any discussion of how the author reached his conclusions can only help to identify biases (both in the author's writing and in the critics' complaints about the writing). A discussion about how & when errors were made (including a dressing down of people who wrongly criticize an article) also tends to clarify the facts - typically by proving that the mistake wasn't as sinister/politically motivated as many would have us believe.

I'll also note that blogging is noticeably absent from the list of recommended improvements. It says the Times "should make it easier for readers to send e-mail to reporters and editors," which reads to me as a tacit rejection of allowing reporters to blog, or establishing an official blogging strategy for the paper. E-mail, after all, is so 20th century...

------------------

UPDATE! Jeff Jarvis points out that the dead-tree edition listed several recommendations, including the idea of starting a "Times blog." Odd that they'd leave that part out of the online edition, huh?

Also, the full report from the committee is now available online here.

posted by Brian at 8:16 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Way to go, Google...


Oh, and before I forget - kudos to Google for their Blogger tool. I was up and running with the brand new blog in less than an hour (seriously). I had the template reconfigured to match the rest of my site within another couple of hours (this is what I thought would take days & days of work), and I'd learned how to use the various administrative tools in a matter of minutes.

I'm sure there's much more to learn, but in terms of getting me 80% of the way there very quickly, color me impressed. Especially given the cost...

posted by Brian at 4:56 AM | 0 comments

Hello World


OK, folks - here goes. The rather inauspicious beginnings of the 9,727,428th web log on the planet (this according to Technorati, of course). Welcome to I Should Be Sleeping.

There will be much more to say later, but for now, let's start with this:

My inspirations are Jeff Porten, who recently started his own blog and has been pretty good about updating it, John Scalzi, who's blog I read & comment on frequently, suggesting I do have time for this kind of thing, James Lileks, who posts something worth reading just about every single night, Glenn Reynolds, who basically started the whole thing, and to a lesser extent, others (see the Blog Roll at the left).

My goals are vague, yet lofty. Basically, this will be my place to weigh in on things in my world. If it mirrors my e-mail habits (which I believe it will) you'll see a lot of technology talk here, as well as some politics, some sports, and anything else that catches my fancy. Hopefully, others find it interesting and turn it into a discussion, and we'll all be better off in the end. If not, well then heck - at least I figured out how to create a blog...

posted by Brian at 4:53 AM | 2 comments