mm196: Loving the spin I’m in

November 16, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Side project for work today: requirement, a spinning globe. Found the following with a quick search through image.google.com:

G1_08 G1_11 G1_16

Question is, of course, will these GIF files really spin when published?

Removed WLW’s default drop shadow, and voila!

G1_08 G1_11 G1_16

The web is a strange and wonderful place…

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea

October 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Spent spare time today reading about blogs and blogging. As I evaluate my efforts according to some of the experts, I give myself a grade of B+. Ignoring the experts, who probably would hold their noses and call L-HC a D+.

Because, of course, there are so few readers. And of course, there’s no monetization going on (just as well, since there are so few readers). So, why bother?

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that the millions of bloggers out there are primarily, with some gaudy exceptions, keeping personal journals. A custom, and habit, recently revived from the eighteenth and 19th centuries.

The difference is that what used to be kept locked up in a desk or closet is now published to the world in a technological tour de force unprecedented in history. And no quill pens, ink wells and blotters required.

Quantitatively, even with billions of potential readers out there, most of the millions of blogs and bloggers will go unnoticed.

Qualitatively, most of us deserve the lack of notice.

But, this newly awakened urge to write, for most of us, is probably not about notice. It’s about expression.

After scores of years passively accepting written and broadcast news and entertainment, we’re once again entertaining ourselves, by writing.

And our diaries, no longer locked away in desk drawers, hang out as strings of electronic plankton just waiting for an admiring public to suck them in through the baleen called Firefox.

For most of us a few people pop in occasionally, and once in a while a small fraction of those take the trouble to comment about what they’ve read.

Thanks for noticing!

And, thanks, also, to the experts, whose blogs about blogging make for interesting reading.

A few who made an impression (in no particular sequence), a couple of whom have today earned a spot in the L-HC blogroll blogroll2 :

Any of these are worthy of some time and attention, should you be interested in improving your game, or joining this phenomenon of the Naughts: the electronic diary.

And yes, I’m an easy grader. The B+ is because I enjoy reading what I write.

A hobby that gives one pleasure (and prevents one’s brains leaking out due to any exposure to “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”) seems like a worthy end in itself, regardless of its infinitesimal interest outside this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And if this hobby fills a few moments of a few intrepid readers’ spare time, sparing them from “CSI Omaha,” how bad can it be?

Not bad at all. B+ for sure.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

October 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

And over the past decade, the promised life-shortening chronic diseases have appeared as threatened: diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, all controlled as well as can be expected through (to some extent diet, but mainly) the wonders of the pharmaceutical arts, which is pretty well indeed.

This past summer, a promising exercise program that played to the only exercise MUDGE can comfortably handle (other than blogging!), walking, turned into Achilles tendinosis, and the pounds lost so arduously over the past four years are packing on again, as the recreational and therapeutic walking halted while various medical professionals in MUDGE‘s life attempt to figure out how to end the annoying ankle pain.

Then, the other day, thanks I believe to reddit.com, I encountered Sandy Szwarc.

For the first time in MUDGE‘s time in the ‘Sphere was I tempted to write: “WTF!” But I won’t.

Take a look:

junkfoodscience

What is most amazing is how long it has been known that body fat doesn’t cause heart disease or premature death, yet how vehemently people hold onto this belief. “The notion that body fat is a toxic substance is now firmly a part of folk wisdom: many people perversely consider eating to be a suicidal act,” wrote Dr. William Bennett, M.D., former editor of The Harvard Medical School Health Letter and author of The Dieter’s Dilemma. “Indeed, the modern belief that body fat is a mortal threat to its owner is mainly due to the fact that, for many decades, the insurance companies had the sole evidence, and if it was wrong they would presumably have had to close their doors.” That can still be said today, although the obesity interests have since grown considerably larger.

But the evidence that fatness is not especially harmful has been shown from research that dates back to the 1950s — more than a half a century ago. While many remain incredulous, the soundest body of evidence has shown, and continues to show, that being fat is not a risk factor for heart disease or a cause of premature death, even controlling for the effects of smoking or cancer.

The people of the U.S. are simultaneously getting fatter, and living longer.

Well, knock me over with a feather (not too likely in practical terms; you probably would be more successful doing so with a 3,000-pound bale of feathers).

Quoted is Dr. William Bennett, former editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter:

“Detailed epidemiological studies, too, show no impressive connection between obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The occasion for Szwarc‘s article is another new, very underreported study, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine, led by cardiologist Dr. Seth Uretsky, M.D., at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, showing the same counterintuitive findings: fat people survive cardiac episodes better than thin ones!.

Take a look at the full story:

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

Is it really possible that I’m supposed to be losing this lifetime battle against obesity?

And if so, why have I been lied to– er, misled all of these years?

Bears researching further I’m thinking, and Sandy Szwarc‘s Junkfood Science blogroll2 blog will now become a regular read.

Because, funny thing: Except for this pesky ankle, I feel pretty good.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm160: UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube

October 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Lots of children have been left behind, in this country where that Bush administration typical Potemkin Village of an initiative has dashed more hopes than fulfilled them; and around the world, where surviving to age 18 is a challenge, much less becoming minimally educated.

But when every child does get that laptop, UC Berkeley will be ready for them (at least when they get a little more learning under their belts!).

cnet

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at youtube.com/ucberkeley.

Berkeley said it will continue to expand the offering. The topics of study found on YouTube included chemistry, physics, biology and even a lecture on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

And, all YouTube content is free to the viewer, right?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Click one of the links, and enjoy some higher ed.

In the dark, dark ages of MUDGE‘s youth, the gold standard of information for the home was Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the ’50s, owning such a set was as aspirational as the filled two car garage, and represented a considerable expense for many families.

Now, Wikipedia and its like has democratized the encyclopedia, perhaps to the detriment of nano-accuracy, but it’s brilliant and self correcting in the main, and it’s free to all. All with PC and Internet access, of course, where OLPC comes in.

Today, UC Berkeley is showing the way toward liberating higher education.

Some days even a curmudgeon can’t help but smile.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm154: Burma: The saffron revolution

September 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Our British cousins take Burma more seriously than most, befitting its status as a former colony, I guess. Kind of the way the U.S. feels about Cuba?

At any rate, the Economist, the best magazine on the planet, has these observations on what they hopefully describe as a revolution there.

Sep 27th 2007
From The Economist print edition

If the world acts in concert, the violence should be the last spasm of a vicious regime in its death throes

Reuters

“FEAR”, the lady used to say, “is a habit.” This week, inspired in part by the lady herself, Aung San Suu Kyi, partly by the heroic example set by Buddhist monks, Myanmar’s people kicked the addiction.

Defying the corrupt, inept, brutal generals who rule them, they took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to demand democracy. They knew they were risking a bloody crackdown, like the one that put down a huge popular revolt in 1988, killing 3,000 people or more. In 1988 Burma’s people were betrayed not just by the ruthlessness of their rulers, but also by the squabbling and opportunism of the outside world, which failed to produce a co-ordinated response and let the murderous regime get away with it. This time, soldiers are once again shooting and killing unarmed protesters (see article). Can the world avoid making the same mistake twice?

MUDGE confesses that, not being in any way shape or form British, he’s paid only fitful attention to Burma through the years. So, I didn’t know that,

it was an economic grievance—a big, abrupt rise in fuel prices—that sparked the present unrest.

Now it’s up to the rest of the world to “persuade” Burma’s military dictatorship to do the right thing.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

economist

Revolution in Myanmar | The saffron revolution | Economist.com

The crux, according to the editors of the Economist, and not a great surprise at that, is China. Just as China has supported its client, North Korea, which support has aided and abetted its insane leadership, so has China more than tolerated the Burmese junta’s iron fisted, ham handed control and leadership.

And, like North Korea, it turns out that such undemocratic leadership is really, really bad for the economic well being of a country and its citizens.

So, the U.S., distracted by its own attempts to suppress “terrorists” and insurgents 6,000 miles away, not to speak of suppressing the Constitution and its amendments closer to home, can’t be bothered to do more than posture at the U.N. and let China veto any even symbolic movement to support the unarmed monks and the afflicted Burmese they are fighting for.

And China, in its cynical way, dare not publicly criticize its client by supporting its suppressed citizenry for fear, I’m thinking, of the message it might send to its own awakening underclass.

And, just so you know where I’m coming from, I read, in the ‘Sphere this week, I believe, a writer deciding that since”M—–r” is an artifact of the current corrupt regime, using the old name of Burma is perfectly appropriate and indeed shows support for the time, hopefully very soon, when the generals fade away.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm151: Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta

September 24, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

As we’ve noted lately (here and indirectly, here), fewer and fewer corners of the planet are immune from that pesky virus: information.

Even North Korea has been .0015% more reasonable of late, and the bright lights of media exposure can claim at least a bit of credit (a persistently starving population gets a lot more, of course).

So, Myanmar, as repressive a tyranny as can be found (sorry guys, we’re not going to forget about you just because you changed your name; a Burma by any other name…) is once again experiencing civil unrest, and due to the pervasiveness of both MSM and alternative media, this time they can’t hide it or minimize it or freely crush it.

The photo that accompanied the NYTimes story is ample evidence of this, in and of itself.

myanmar

By SETH MYDANS

BANGKOK, Monday, Sept. 24 — The largest street protests in two decades against Myanmar’s military rulers gained momentum Sunday as thousands of onlookers cheered huge columns of Buddhist monks and shouted support for the detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Winding for a sixth day through rainy streets, the protest swelled to 10,000 monks in the main city of Yangon, formerly Rangoon, according to witnesses and other accounts relayed from the closed country, including some clandestinely shot videos.

It came one day after a group of several hundred monks paid respects to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi at the gate of her home, the first time she has been seen in public in more than four years.

And here’s the nub of the argument:

Myanmar’s military government has sealed off the country to foreign journalists but information about the protests has been increasingly flowing out through wire service reports, exile groups in Thailand with contacts inside Myanmar, and through the photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet, that the government has failed to squelch.

“… photographs, videos and audio files, carried rapidly by technologies, including the Internet…”

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Monks’ Protest Is Challenging Burmese Junta – New York Times

There’s that pesky Internet again, screwing up the generals’ private party.

Our best, maybe only, hope for an end to tyranny:

  • the retro Myanmar variety (and our Chinese, North Korean (and Cuban) friends would fit in this bucket);
  • the more au courant Middle Eastern style as found in places like Syria and Iran;
  • and even such New Age (and retro) tyrannies as practiced by Putin and his ex(?)-KGB brethren throughout Russia and its former empire;

… is the pervasiveness of information, as exemplified by the liberator of Eastern Europe, CNN, and maybe the liberator of the rest of the shackled world, the Internet.

And, let’s give credit: perhaps the (admittedly looking more spurious) Congressional revolution of 2006 wouldn’t have happened at all without the blogosphere.

Not the infinitesimal nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© that we ruefully acknowledge as this weblog’s permanent fate, but certainly the heavy hitters like Daily Kos blogroll2 that help keep the kettle aboil, always a good state for the democratic process.

Small “d” democracy at work around the globe, powered by electrons.

Ben Franklin, Alessandro Volta, Nikola Tesla and all: the free (and hopefully soon to be freer) world owes you a monumental debt.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm145: Revelations from Pandora’s music box

September 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s no secret to faithful reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© that we’re mammoth fans of Pandora.com (you can refresh your memory here, here, here and here to mention just the best instances — a Sequitur Service© of L-HC).

Today, an interesting interview turned up on CNET.com with Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder.

The interview spans several interesting topics, including the state of musicians’ livelihoods today (not an idle concern for this writer whose No. 3 child knows that some day you’ll know his name).

newsmaker What will it take to create the middle-class musician?

By Candace Lombardi
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Published: September 18, 2007, 11:50 AM PDT

It’s an idea Pandora founder Tim Westergren thinks about a lot.

Between 100 town hall meetings and several sessions for seniors at this year’s AARP conference, Westergen has been campaigning for more Internet radio listeners for both Pandora and musicians in general.

Pandora uses the Music Genome Project, a tool that compares musical genetic codes of songs, to create personalized radio stations. You tell it what you like; Pandora plays those artists and others that have songs with similar musical qualities. With music from both big record labels and independent artists, listeners get more selection and increased knowledge about music.

So read about its history, Westergren’s analysis of what it takes to be a self-supporting musician in this country (spoiler alert: virtually insurmountable odds against — sorry, MUDGElet No. 3 — better line up a terrific day job!), and the current battles with the music licensing organizations over punitive fees, being fought with the help of Congress.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Revelations from Pandora’s music box | Newsmakers | CNET News.com

This writer remains an enthusiastic fan (in the original meaning: fanatic) of Pandora (ya think? the links at the top represent only about half of the references I found just in our own nanocorner etc).

The selection, the sound quality, the thin footprint (Lastfm requires you to download and install an executable file that runs separately when you want to listen, whereas Pandora runs very nicely in a tab within my Firefox browser) have all combined to make Pandora this listener’s non-classical music source of choice. And, when am I not running my browser?

What I respect most is the entire Music Genome Project. Most web business enterprises are pretty XML and CSS draped over a very straightforward financial plan (okay, some more fanciful than others, but regardless, one can always tell that the $ and ¢ and € are never far away).

Pandora is wrapped around a serious intellectual process, where it has analyzed zillions of artists and their songs in order to truly deliver on their promise: You’ve told us you like A; so now, listen to B, C, and D. We’ll bet you like what you hear.

And you know what? In this closet-pop music fan’s case, it seems to work, more often by far than not.

I’ve had one glass of wine tonight — it would probably take the entire bottle to loosen MUDGE up enough to disclose how pop is his pop — so don’t ask what I’m listening to.

But, if you haven’t tried Pandora yet — why not?

I’m awed.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm135: Process, again

September 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Couple of months ago, we wrote about the process of blogging, as we understood it after about 2½ months of consistent posting.

Not sure that understanding has increased, although the consistency has remained. At least in frequency, if not quality.

The quality thing can always be improved.

Received a modest number of hits in the past four months; averages about 16 per day, day in and out. A couple of times about 90. A bunch of times, a loyal few. Some of the early weeks — totaled 20.

Thanks, loyal few!

Where do those statistics come from, you may wonder? From our weblog host, WordPress.com.

What a terrific organization! Hosting at this site is free. Support has been superlative.

Two examples: Recently registered at a site that promised to promote this blog. (Early days yet and the jury is still out — so a more complete mention will wait for a future process episode.)

L-HC was rejected. Why? They reported that L-HC was not interpreted correctly due to a bug (go figure!) in Internet Explorer v6. We never saw it, because we run v7 at the CurmudgeonDungeon (say that 10 times quickly!).

At work next day, pulled up the site on the office PC (something we try not to do because we’re not at all sure that freedom of expression in a blogging context exists there) to verify the issue; sure enough, the sidebar contents fell to the very bottom of the lengthy page. A very ugly look.

So, I contacted WordPress support. Got a prompt answer: Yes, it’s a bug in IE6, usually caused by graphic elements of excessive width in the main panel. Maximum such width for our theme, Contempt (wonderfully appropriate for a curmudgeon — and one of WordPress’ most popular themes) was stated as 460 pixels.

Thus, I needed to go back into the bowels of history to find the offending post(s). A big task, that took some time to get to (this is supposed to be a hobby, right?).

Finally, a couple of weeks later got around to rooting around in the past, a job made reasonably easy by WordPress and a member of MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame, Windows Live Writer.

Found a couple of potential offending graphics, resized them with an ancient, paid for version of Paint Shop Pro, and all seemed okay in IE6. Reapplied to the promotion site, was accepted this time, and am gradually figuring out what makes that site tick.

But the point: the rapid response from WordPress support, considering that their census of blogs they host is up substantially from last reported on 21-July-2007:

wordpress7721

Take a look at today’s stat:

wordpress7909

A 20% increase in 50 days!

And yet, got an answer within hours to my query.

Last weekend, WordPress was experiencing some kind of problem, because several posts did not land cleanly. The result, a lack of synchronization between Windows Live Writer and the blog on WordPress. Thought it was me.

Sent off a query. Got a response within hours seeking further information. Replied with a clarification of the incident, and received a response to the reply within a very short time, promising some research.

Received another response shortly, admitting a WordPress.com server timing issue, since repaired, and all has been well since.

The point is not that they had an issue on their side. The point is, with nearly 1.5million sites, they still could respond so promptly, courteously and effectively.

Thus we proudly announce an update to MUDGE‘s Blogging Process Hall of Fame:

blogginghallv2

WordPress.com has vaulted to the top of MUDGE‘s list, not to make any less of numbers two and three, used to great effect every post.

And, the price for the entire suite is right: $0.00. Can’t beat that!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm133: Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books

September 8, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The concept of electronic books has always been promising, and never yet delivered in a practical, affordable form.

But, they keep trying:

nytimes

By BRAD STONE

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 5 — Technology evangelists have predicted the emergence of electronic books for as long as they have envisioned flying cars and video phones. It is an idea that has never caught on with mainstream book buyers.

Two new offerings this fall are set to test whether consumers really want to replace a technology that has reliably served humankind for hundreds of years: the paper book.

In October, the online retailer Amazon.com will unveil the Kindle, an electronic book reader that has been the subject of industry speculation for a year, according to several people who have tried the device and are familiar with Amazon’s plans. The Kindle will be priced at $400 to $500 and will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site.

That is a significant advance over older e-book devices, which must be connected to a computer to download books or articles.

Also this fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users.

Amazon and Google would not comment on their plans, and neither offering is expected to carve out immediately a significant piece of the $35-billion-a-year book business. But these new services, from two Internet heavyweights, may help to answer the question of whether consumers are ready to read books on digital screens instead of on processed wood pulp.

“Books represent a pretty good value for consumers. They can display them and pass them to friends, and they understand the business model,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research, who is skeptical that a profitable e-book market will emerge anytime soon.

The concept is wonderful: in a package the size of one book one could tote around an entire library.

The reality: this has not been a product that has rewarded early adopters.

Let me count the ways: Too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive.

But, electronics keep getting: smaller; lighter; more energy efficient; cheaper.

So, why no world-beater e-book yet?

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books – New York Times

Were MUDGE a road warrior, an e-book would be tempting. Indeed, the older of two official younger brothers of MUDGE, a globe-trotting road warrior if ever was (actually both brothers maintain 7-digit frequent flyer miles accounts — a way of life older-bro would run screaming away from), glommed onto the RocketBook (I’m recalling) a decade or so ago.

Wonderful concept; okay execution for the late 90s. Probably soon discarded.

But, we know that there are zillions of road warriors out there, but who else, really, is a potential consumer of these products, even should [too big; too heavy; not sufficiently book-like in readability and “feel”; way too expensive] get solved? Amazon’s “Kindle” seems like an optimized version of a tablet computer — again, the road warrior’s weapon of choice.

But, if I’m at home, or at the office, wouldn’t I rather open up a book or magazine, and read that black type on white paper?

Of course, what does it mean that so many people spend so much time reading on their computers?

It’s different. I consider this short-attention-span reading, provided by folks like yours truly, a short-attention-span writer.

(BTW, the younger of the aforesaid official younger brothers is said to be working on a novel — a long attention span feat well beyond MUDGE‘s capacity or ambitions. I’m impressed!)

Case in point: a favorite read, Gregg Easterbrook, writing as ESPN Page Two’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback, is good for 9,000 words per week during the NFL season. TMQ I print and read offline. It’s just more comfortable.

Is there potential value on the back end? Sure, in the same way that, in a perfect world, a fee for purchasing music on iTunes might be smaller for the buyer, and potentially more lucrative for the creator, since there’s less costly production and distribution between artist and consumer. Might. Sigh.

A way for writers to achieve readership without someone’s investment in the industrial revolution’s basically obsolete bricks and mortar of production, distribution and retailing?

Well, it’s called blogging. This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere just crossed 2,000 total lifetime (active for exactly four months today) hits. Obviously, and with my gratitude, a few loyal readers.

But more exposure than this curmudgeon ever expected to achieve in his short-attention-span writing career.

How would I look on paper? Certainly not worth the trees, even if paper is totally recyclable.

And how would Left-Handed Complement look on a “Kindle?” I wouldn’t spend $400-500 plus media fees to find out.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm128.9: And now for something completely… strange!

September 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Speaks for itself. Check it out (click on the picture).

industoriousclock

This unusual site has been around for many years; can’t tell you why.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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