My photo editing experiences are 'way below novice, having made do with Windows (Office) Photo Editor, Picasa, Irfanview, and Paint all these years. However, most of the 90s decade of my 95 by 65 project involves photo work, so it's about time I upgraded to some good photo editing software.  In particular, I want to be able to work with my photos without losing data:  Picasa, for example, does some nice things, but degrades the image every time I use it.

I am finding the Adobe Photoshop CC (Photoshop/Lightroom) subscription attractive at $10/month.  I'm sure I don't need all the fancy stuff, and the cost would really add up over a matter of years, but for getting my feet wet it seems reasonable—and it would be several months before reaching the cost of Photoshop Elements.

I've read reviews of several other programs, but am not convinced they are worth the cost.  Except for GIMP, of course, which is always an option, though when I tried it years ago I found it not as user-friendly as I had hoped—i.e. I didn't get anywhere with it.  Adobe still seems to be the gold standard.

What do you think, Faithful Readers?

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Edit
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altThe Qur'an, English translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford University Press, 2004)

In the most important sense, a holy book cannot be subject to review.  It matters little whether or not I consider it holy; the fact that others do puts it in a different category of book.  For one thing, one must take greater care than normal to be respectful; that is merely good manners.  It also means that as a non-Muslim, I cannot adequately judge the Qur'an on the basis for which it was intended, that is, as spiritual guidance and inspiration for Muslims.  And yet, just as there is value in reading the Bible as literature, I believe the Qur'an may profitably be read in the same way.  Not to mention that it might be valuable to have at least some familiarity with a book that is so important to the two and a half billion or so Muslims around the world.

There is also the problem of reading a translation.  To Muslims, as I understand it, the Qur'an is a holy book in a much more literal sense than the Bible is to Christians.  That is, the book itself is holy, not just its contents.  What's more, it is the Qur'an in Arabic that really matters, in contrast to the Christian idea that the Bible speaks best to everyone in his native tongue.  While it is certainly instructive—essential for seminary students and scholars—to read the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, that is not considered a necessary skill for most Christians.  For Muslims, however, you're not really reading or reciting the Qur'an unless it is in Arabic.  I'm of two minds about this.  On the one hand, it's a great unifying factor, as when Latin was essential in the Catholic church, when priests all over the world could understand each other, and the Mass was basically the same wherever you went.  But there's no doubt that true understanding is difficult (impossible?) in a foreign tongue.

The Qur'an itself makes the point repeatedly that it is an Arabic revelation—though I can't resist mentioning that the point being made at the time was that it was in a language the ordinary people understood.

I don't have anything to compare it with, but I will nonetheless give high marks to this particular translation.  It is not beautiful English, but it is easy to understand, and the translator has provided just the right amount of commentary, that is, enough to provide historical context and explain certain idioms and literary conventions, while not interrupting unduly the flow of the writing.

Despite all the above caveats, I'll share some of my observations, based on a single read-through: (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 8:04 am | Edit
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I think anyone should be able to get to the Posit Science BrainHQ Daily Spark exercises.  At least, the e-mail states,

Every weekday, the Daily Spark opens one level of a BrainHQ exercise to all visitors. Play it once to get the feel of it — then again to do your best. Come back the next day for a new level in a different exercise!

If you try and can get to them without paying (even better if without registering), let me know.  Or let me know if you can't.  Since I have a subscription, I'm not sure what others see.

I find the BrainHQ exercises interesting and challenging, and I really have to get back to doing them on a regular basis....  (95 by 65 goal #70)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, April 20, 2015 at 9:12 pm | Edit
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altThe Wise Woman: A Parable (also known as The Lost Princess, and as A Double Story) by George MacDonald (1875)

My project to read all of George MacDonald's books in chronological order (95 by 65 item #61) led me recently to The Wise Woman, and I can well see why C.S. Lewis classed it as one of MacDonald's very best stories, along with Phantastes, the Curdie books, The Golden Key, and Lilith.  It's a delight through and through, and more than most fits my prime criterion for a good book:  A good book inspires me to be a better person.  I realize that distinction doesn't sound very impressive.  I don't mean a moralistic book, or a book that tells me to be better; rather, one written in such a way as to provoke, deep within, both the desire to improve and the hope that improvement is not impossible.

The Wise Woman well deserves what Lewis said about the mythopoeic genre—at which MacDonald excelled:

[I]t produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. It is in some ways more akin to music than to poetry—or at least to most poetry. It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and "possessed joys not promised to our birth." It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper; than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives.

Have I made it sound too intimidating?  Never mind, then.  It's short (116 pages), it's free on Kindle (under the title, A Double Story), and entirely grandchild-safe.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 7:46 am | Edit
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The good news about my 95 by 65 progress for the first quarter of 2015 is that I did not let the project fall by the wayside, I've made steady progress, and I am enjoying the process.  I brought the following goals to completion:

#1 Create 95 by 65 list, completed 1/24/2015.

#2 Create the Leon Project, completed 1/12/2015.

#29 Research and purchase food processor, completed 1/30/2015.  Some of the safety features are a little frustrating, but on the whole I really like it so far.

#48 Visit King Arthur Flour, completed 2/12/2015.  Thanks, Heather!

#56 Join Twitter, completed 2/9/2015.  Thanks, Stephan!  I haven't yet done anything more with it besides make one tweet and read a few others.  I wanted to have it set up in case of emergencies, but so far haven't found any reason to use it otherwise.

#86 Rocket boost genealogy work by end of January 2015 (40 hours of work in segments of 1 or more hours, over approximately 2 weeks), completed 2/1/2015.  It was great to put in that much time, and I'd like to do it again (with some modifications), but what I really need to do is set up a system of regular, steady work in smaller chunks, which I haven't done yet.  There is so much to do!

The bad news is that I completed only six items in the first quarter, which means I'm working at a rate of two goals per month, well below that needed to accomplish 95 in the 30 months I gave myself.  What's more, most of these are relatively easy, short goals, unlike, for example, #91 Organize photos 2007-2011.

But I'm not discouraged.  Although I only completed six goals, I've made good progress on several others.  Indeed, I added three more accomplished goals to the total so far in April.  I'm still behind, so I need to pay attention, and focus.  But on the whole I'm happy with the system and my progress so far.

I love it that other people are so supportive in this.  Heather took us to visit King Arthur Flour and a new museum (#69); Stephan sent me invitations to Twitter and Google+ (#55), and joined me in reading the Koran (#65); and Porter makes sure I get to new restaurants (#38), Universal Studios (#39), and live performances (#34); nudges me to watch Shakespeare (#67), Great Courses (#66), and NCIS (#40); encourages me to keep running (#18); and arranged for our recent trip to a new state (#44), where we visited four new museums.  And more.

That said, it's still an overwhelming list, and I need to get crackin'!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 7:42 am | Edit
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alt95 by 65 #38 (5 new restaurants, #2) and #48 (visit King Arthur Flour):  Two flies with one swat.  (This European expression is much more to my liking than our own, as outside of dinner I see little reason to kill birds.  I have no such compunctions about flies.)

Our visit to the King Arthur Flour store, bakery, and café was Part I of our pre-Nathaniel-birth adventuring.  (Part II, which contributed to #69, will be the subject of a later post.)  KAF's products are good, though not inexpensive, and I loved getting a chance to visit their home turf.  Even more, I loved that the employees were so friendly and generous, especially since their generosity came out of their own pockets:  KAF is 100% employee-owned.

The food?  I had a bite of Noah's sandwich, which was wonderful, but for myself had ordered a simple half-baguette.  If you're taste-testing a bakery, you don't want to clutter up the basics with other flavors.  My verdict?  They do sell great bread in America, even if you'd never know it from the grocery stores and most restaurants.  The café is also not inexpensive, so maybe it's a good thing we don't live close enough to eat there on a weekly basis.  The temptation would be great.

I also enjoyed browsing the store, though I surprised myself by not buying anything.  If I get another chance to visit the store, I'll be more prepared with a plan—and more suitcase room.  There's just too much to choose from, especially with five kids anxious to get to the next stop on our adventure.  In the meantime, there's always mail-order.  And learning to make my own good bread.

alt

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Edit
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#37 Share at least 20 meals with others:  We met my brother for dinner at ...

#38 Try at least 5 new restaurants:  ... the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, after having enjoyed ...

#24 Attend 15 live performances: ... this year's Horns & Pipes concert.  And came home to ...

#49 Keep up a 10 posts/month blogging schedule for 20 months ... write about it!

A great day, but exhausting for an introvert, so at the moment it's about 50/50 whether I'll get some much-needed work done, or just go to bed and hope for an early start in the morning.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Edit
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I thought it would be easy.  I have no small children at home.  I have no paid employment.  Life at the moment is, generally, calm.  Surely it wouldn't be hard to pretend I had a half-time job, and dedicate 40 hours over two weeks to genealogy work.  However, this task turned out to be surprisingly difficult.  It took 18 days, not 10, to log the 40 hours, and before it was over I found myself heartily sick of genealogy.  It was an instructive exercise, however.  A few observations:

  • I can make a surprising amount of progress if I hole myself up in my office, ignoring phone calls, e-mails, Facebook, and even to some extent my husband.
  • Ignoring other responsibilities in order to meet my genealogy goals (or any other specific goals, I suspect) eventually builds up so much psychological pressure (guilt) that the once-pleasurable work becomes a chore.
  • Phone calls from grandchildren cannot be ignored.
  • My goal was to work in concentrated segments of at least an hour each, but I found that surprisingly hard to manage, and eventually allowed myself sometimes to count the accumulation of smaller time periods.  Otherwise, it was too frustrating to find myself with, say, a half an hour to work and yet know I couldn't count it towards the goal.
  • The original impetus for this exercise was the expiration of my Ancestry.com subscription.  Deciding to renew it took a bit of the wind out of my sails and slowed my progress, but I did eventually pull myself together and finish only one day later than my end-of-January goal.
  • I had hoped the push would make a good dent in my accumulated backlog of genealogy work.  Ha!  Infinity minus anything is still infinity.  Still, it really did help, and I made some good finds, though in trying to "beat the expiration clock" I spread my work very thinly, and concentrated more on new data than on entering the old, so the backlog looks more worse than better.
  • Having a full year's subscription ahead of me, however, and a plan to put in a steady hour or two each week, I'm hoping some more methodical plodding will bear good fruit.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 2, 2015 at 7:25 am | Edit
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Another goal, albeit one of the easier ones, accomplished:  I reaearched and bought a food processor.

Actually, I have one already, and hardly use it.  So why buy a new one?

The one I have was a gift from my father, many, many years ago.  I have a hard time getting rid of something associated with someone I love.  Or some place I love.  Or any situation with positive memories.  Even if it's broken or no longer useful.  Okay, I'll admit it:  I have a hard time getting rid of things.  I'm working on that.

This appliance was a combination blender and food processor, and the blender part gave up and was replaced years ago.  I hadn't used the food processor part very much, but it still worked, so of course I kept it.  I used it almost exclusively for making cole slaw, but eventually it became easier (and faster) to shred the cabbage by hand—and even easier to buy pre-shredded cabbage at the grocery store.

Not long ago, I found a recipe that I wanted to try, and it recommended using a food processor to shred the cauliflower, so I dug ours out.  And discovered why I rarely use it.  The motor wasn't powerful enough, and the workings kept getting jammed, so I'd have to stop, clear it out, and restart, over and over again.  The process finally completed, but it was a pain, and made mess.  However, it turned out that we both like the recipe, so I want to make it again—only without so much hassle.

After some thought, I concluded that I'd use a food processor for much more than shredding cauliflower—if it worked as I think it should.  I'm generally loath to bring more potential clutter into the house, but I wanted to give the idea of the appliance a second chance.  Hence #29 on my list.

I decided on the Cuisinart DLC-10S, attempting to hit the midpoint between unnecessarily complex and expensive, and too cheap to do the job.  Time will tell.  After I get a chance to play with it some, I'll come back and comment here.

For the curious, here's the recipe that drove this decision.  Follow the link for the original; the text version below reflects my small modifications and notations.  Also note:  This is a "Paleo" recipe, and I emphatically don't do Paleo.  But I'm not a vegetarian either, and some vegetarian recipes are really good.  Also, I don't care what the title says, these are in no way anything deserving of the name "biscuits."  You don't have to be a Southerner to appreciate that!  However, even though our Maryland friends would throw their own hands up in horror at the thought, we both found them a quite acceptable "crab cake," especially with cocktail sauce.  Delicious, in fact, and I suspect they could be made vegetarian without much loss by leaving out the bacon.  Who'd have thought cauliflower could taste so good?  Then again, who'd ever have thought of putting cocktail sauce on cauliflower?

Cauliflower Biscuits with Bacon & Jalapeño

Ingredients

  • florets from one head cauliflower (Next time I'll include more of the stems, since you shred them anyway.)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup fully cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 jalapeño, chopped

 Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  • Using a food processor with a shredding blade attachment, shred the cauliflower.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Sauté the shredded cauliflower with jalapeño, bacon, & spices for about 7 minutes to get the cauliflower cooking (should be softened & slightly translucent). (I found it took much longer than 7 minutes.)
  • Remove from heat, and stir in the eggs & almond flour.
  • With a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake the biscuits at 400ºF for 35-40 minutes, or until they look browned & crispy.  (For my oven, this was too long.  They were still good, but would have been better not so brown on the bottom.)
  • Allow the biscuits to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, January 30, 2015 at 9:11 am | Edit
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This is me, eating crow.

I've always had problems with the AARP.  I don't like their politics, and I resent the frequent junk-mail reminders that I'm getting older and should sign up.  When Porter joined—chiefly to get the AARP discount at Outback Steakhouse—I reluctantly put the card in my wallet, but was ashamed of its presence.  Having campaigned for decades against age discrimination, I still don't like the idea of an old-folks organization, and have thus far refused to read their magazine or even check out their website, though Porter says they have some interesting games.  It's a matter of priniciple.

As it turns out, some principles go only so far, and mine broke down today.  I discovered the AARP discount at Ancestry.com.

Remember my 95 by 65 goal to put in 40 hours of genealogy work by the end of January?  The chief impetus for that was the upcoming end of my Ancestry.com subscription, which I had planned to let expire for a while.  However, at least until March 4 (after which the agreement may or may not be renewed), AARP members receive a 30% discount on the World Explorer membership.  Thirty percent!

Pricing at Ancestry is so complex that I made a spreadsheet just to figure it all out.  (Or maybe that's just me.)  Not only are there different extents of Ancestry membership (World, or U.S. only), and different time periods (monthly, semi-annually, annually) but their World Explorer Plus membership also provides annual subscriptions to Fold3 and Newspapers.com.  The Ancestry website is not nearly as forthcoming with prices as it could be, making comparisons difficult.

Enter the world of the phone and the human interface.  I'm not a phone person, but this was worth it.  I learned the truth of what was so confusing on the website:  The World Explorer Plus membership cannot be given as a gift, and the AARP discount only applies to World Explorer, not U.S., and most importantly in my case, not with the AARP discount.  The last was a disappointing loss, but it turns out that Fold3 and Newspapers.com offer a 50% discount to Ancestry.com members, which adds up to only $8 more than if the AARP discount had applied to the World Explorer Plus membership.  (Are you confused now?  That's why I made the spreadsheet.)

Plus, because I upgraded my membership before it actually expired, they added an extra month to my subscription.  That's never happened before, but I was happy to take it.  When this membership is about to expire, I'll be sure to call ahead of time to see if the AARP discount is still active, or if there's something else useful.  I'd never have known if I'd just let my subscription expire, or renewed online.

I still have problems with the AARP.  But I'll take the perk.  In this transaction alone, the $16 membership fee saved me $90.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Edit
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As promised in my Leon Project post, here is my list of 95 things to accomplish by my 65th birthday, which is approximately two and a half years away.  The list was extraordinarily difficult to create.  Others have told me they had trouble coming up with such a large list; for me the problem was to keep it from expanding exponentially.  I am terribly intimidated by both the apparent ambitiousness of the list—which includes many projects that have languished on my To Do list for years, even decades—and by knowing that I've left out far more of what I want to do than I've included, not to mention the activities that make up most of everyday life.  Many of the items on the list can be broken down into 95 items of their own.  A few are simple; I put those in to keep myself encouraged, though unfortunately I had to take many of them out to pare the list to 95.  When I think of the time and effort this list represents, and realize that it's but a sampling of what I want to accomplish, it's no wonder that "my work" fills my days and is never far from my thoughts.  But, to claim a cliché from our old favorite General Electric ride at EPCOT (Horizons), If we can dream it, we can do it.  At least I'm going to try.  Certainly it's a lot more likely to happen than if I don't dare to dream it.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to categorize my list items.  In the end, I shamelessly copied from Stephen Covey's To Live, To Learn, To Love, and To Leave a LegacyLive gets the items related to everyday life and to health, including organization and exercise.  Into the Love category I put spiritual exercises, anything for which I deem the primary purpose to be social (from watching movies to visiting friends to joining Twitter).  Learn gets reading and other cultural activities, mental exercises, and language learning. My genealogy work goes into the Legacy category, along with Grandma's Treasure Chest and other educational materials creation, and photo/audio/video work.  Some items could easily go into more than one category, but I made myself stop stressing about that:  this is a tool, not a master, and it doesn't need to be perfect.  It just needs to be.

I look forward to collaborating with Sarah in mutual support and encouragement.  And to having a list of accomplishments as a 65th birthday present for my inner Leon.

Here's is the original list.  If anyone wants to follow my progress, there's a link to the Google Sheet on the sidebar (under Links/Personal). (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 11:15 am | Edit
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Leon?  Who or what is Leon?

Leon was my boss a few eons ago, back at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  He was a good boss, but one thing about him frustrated me.  Day after day I'd work steadily, creating algorithms and developing computer programs for our laboratory.  To all appearances, this did not impress him; it was simply what he was paying me to do.  What made him light up with pleasure and praise, however, was when I'd take the extra time to create a computer display related to my work.  Although I learned to produce these displays periodically, mostly to please him, it drove me crazy that I was being recognized for the "flash," and not for the bulk of the work, the more important work, that was behind it.  However much he might have trusted me to do good work (he chose to hire me, after all), he also needed the occasional, tangible reminder that I was worthy of his trust.  As it turned out, so did I.

Fast forward to every homemaker's frustration, every mother's least favorite question:  What do you do all day? We know how long and how hard we work, and how critically important our labors are.  All too often, however, the people we meet at parties, our friends in paid employment, and even those closest to us seem sincerely puzzled as to why our jobs take up so much time.  That is frustrating to no end, but in fact it's true of most professions.  No one from the outside can truly appreciate what it takes to do another's job, particularly since the hallmark of the best in a profession is the ability to make the work look easy.

I've discovered over time that Leon was not alone in his need for tangible measures of the value of our work.  Maybe there's no purpose in sharing the details with people we meet at parties, but bosses, co-workers, spouses, fellow-strugglers, and even (no, especially) we ourselves need occasional reassurance that we are making progress.  We are all Leon.

Why, then, do some of us find it so difficult to provide measurable documentation of our work?  I've come up with a few suggestions, based on my own experience and on what I've learned from others.

  • It takes time away from more important work.  Who needs to add yet another camel-straw to the crushing burden of work undone versus sand slipping through the hourglass? As I learned in the computer biz, however, documentation is essential, however much it feels like a waste of precious time.  Without documentation, others can't step in when we have to step back.  What's more, putting what we do into words brings clarity to our own vision.  If we don't know something well enough to explain it, we don't know it well enough.
  • We don't like to make our work public until it's in final form.  This is perfectionism, and Don Aslett would not approve.  In fact, he insists that telling others about our work while it's still in progress is a good way to get help.  It's also a good way to get kibitzers and critics, however.
  • Our goals have long paths and far horizons.  How do you quantify a happy child?  A valued relationship? Growth and development?  How can we help people appreciate our work without making their eyes glaze over?  A journalist can point on a regular basis to articles published, a doctor to patients cured, and a trash collector to clean streets, but in many professions success, when it comes, is preceded by thousands of failed experiments, research lines that didn't pan out, apparently fruitless counseling sessions, and draft pages ripped from typewriters, crumpled and tossed away.  It's all part of the process, but not conducive to marking milestones and erecting ebenezers ("hither by Thy help I'm come").  The employed can at least point to a paycheck, but unpaid work lacks even that.
  • We're not "announcers" by nature.  Some people like to chat about all the details of their lives, no matter how intimate or trivial.  These are good people to have around, as they take the greater share of the conversation burden.  But some of us don't see the point of such loquaciousness, or are simply uncomfortable with the idea.  This is another good reason for developing a documentation strategy:  we take control over what and how we share.
  • We want to be trusted with our own work.  We are not employees, and don't like the feeling that we are being supervised.  As it turns out, however, this is not as significant a factor as I had once thought.  We're not employees?  Well, the self-employed have the hardest taskmaster of all, one who knows best all our weaknesses, struggles and failures.  That boss needs the comfort of tangible markers more than anyone.

In light of these meditations, I've developed The Leon Project.  Call it a New Year's resolution if you wish.  I have hundreds of ongoing projects in various stages of completion, including not-yet-started and not-in-this-lifetime (genealogy is never finished!).  This year I'm making an effort to document where I am, what I'm doing, and where I want to go, with hopes of developing a better road map, complete with milestones to which I can look back and say, "thus far have I come."

A large part of this effort will involve partnering with my sister-in-law in her "101 Things in 1001 Days" project.  I have approximately two and a half years until my 65th birthday, which falls a bit short of 1001 days, so I'm calling my version, "95 by 65."  (That will become a link when I publish its own post.)  She started her project last year, but has graciously adjusted her schedule so that we both will finish on my 65th birthday.  We are hoping that by doing our projects together we can encourage each other to keep going and reach our goals—which range from the trivial to the highly ambitious.

I've created two new post categories, The Leon Project and 95 by 65, in expectation of keeping some of the anticipated documentation here.  I look forward to the adventure with both enthusiasm and trepidation.

 

Aside:  This is not the first Leon Project post I have written.  A few days ago the first one was nearly ready to post, but somehow overnight the bulk of the long essay disappeared.  (Note to self:  never assume that something you thought you saved actually succeeded in that process.)  It took a while before I got to the point of being able to rewrite, and of course the two are quite different.  Which is better we'll never know.  This one, at least, has made it to the finish line.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Edit
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