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Fri, 05 Sep 2003

Mars, Math and Mozilla

Saturday and Sunday night I set up the tripods and fixed a couple of telescopes on Barsoom (Mars to the uninitiated) as it hung angrily in the south east.  It was truly a marvelous sight even though its only distinguishable feature was the bright white of a polar ice cap.  The second night I brought out Jonathan and McKenna to see the sight.  They really enjoyed staying up late and seeing Mars and the Moon through the telescopes.  The whole adventure put me in the mind of searching the heavens and finding a good simulator to help me.  As the really good simulators usually cost more money than I make in two days, I started hunting for something that's free:  Celestia was the answer.  It's a fun program that can be used to take a closer look at any point in the known universe.

Last evening was Back to School night at the elementary.  Of course, that means another round of trying to indoctrinate parents into accepting Investigations as a viable method for teaching mathematics and the rift continues to widen between those who are blinded by a shiny new toy and those who see their children falling further behind in math skills.  Investigations doesn't teach mathematic skills, mathematic rules nor does it encourage memorization of fundamental mathematics. Rather it encourages children to think about why 1 + 1 = 2.  After reviewing Investigations, it is obvious to me that it's great for teaching cognitive skills, kids who buy into the Investigations program will be great thinkers.  Ask any mathematician and you'll quickly find out that without a strong foundation in basic math you cannot accomplish anything that requires more skill than simply counting your fingers and toes.  If both standards based mathematics and Investigations were used in the classroom, these kids would be unstoppable.  As it is most of these kids will, I fear, become math failures.

I've finished, finally, providing a way for users of the Great and Broken Browser (Internet Explorer) to view this page as I intended it.  While I was working on that, I noticed that a couple of sites list ways to easily enlarge small text on web pages using a javascript hack in the Great and Broken Browser.  Funny, I can do that even easier in Mozilla:  Ctrl + + enlarges Ctrl + - reduces or I can select the magnification I want from a convenient menu.  True, the GBB has a menu but it lacks any easy key combinations to do this task.

This entry authored by Tyran at 15:30

Wed, 10 Sep 2003

I won't stand for it!

I will, however, be more than happy to take it lying down.  We bought a Tempur-pedic mattress over the weekend and it arrived Monday afternoon.  As with any unfamiliar mattress, I didn't sleep terribly well the first night (think sleeping in a nice hotel, it's still not as good as being home).  When I woke up Tuesday morning I felt as well, if not a bit better, than I normally did.  When I woke up this morning though, WOW!  Usually I get up with at least a stiff lower back and I always feel a bit tired but this morning I didn't have a single ache anywhere and I actually felt like I had had enough sleep and that was with waking up four or five times through the night!  So far, this mattress has been everything the manufacturer and the salesman claim and then some.

This entry authored by Tyran at 09:56

Parent or State Agent?

Parents' Rights are the hot topic here in Utah, that's often been the case but the current situation between the State and the Jensens brings the whole situation into stark relief..  I've held off on saying anything because the whole topic is so volatile and I wanted to let things cool a bit before speaking my peace on the subject.  Before I go any further, I want to say that I side with the Jensens but that sometimes parents don't think and they act irrationally.  See these articles from Aug 25 and Aug 26 as an example of irrational extremism.

Hypothetical situation time:  Your child has a non-communicable illness which, if untreated, is fatal.  The treatment, however, has a 50% chance of leaving your child with severe brain damage.  What do you do?  Now wait, your child is twelve or thirteen and says, Mom, Dad, I don't want to take the chance that I'll end up a vegetable for the rest of my life.  I would rather enjoy the life I have.  Now what?  Well, if you live in Utah you don't have a choice.  Your child must receive the treatment and you and your child must live with the consequences.  If you don't, the State will take your child and force the treatment on your child whether you or your child like it or not.  If your child were not a minor then the State would have no power and you and your child could make such a decision.  The situation would also be completely different if the illness were communicable because then the situation becomes a public health issue.  For some reason, I find it repugnant that a State that should be pro-family can have such a Draconian stance on this issue.  With this in mind, it's obvious that I am not a parent but merely an agent of the State . . . at least in Utah.

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:09

Thu, 11 Sep 2003

A Day of Rememberance

OMA moment of silence.

This entry authored by Tyran at 06:00

Fri, 12 Sep 2003

Mozilla is Master

Most of you probably missed yesterday's post.  Now, don't go thinking that it's just because I must not know what I'm doing.  Of course I don't know what I'm doing!  Seriously, if you've been reading my blog for very long then you read this entry or at least you saw it; either way, you should go look at it again really quick and please take note of the OM symbol in front of the third paragraph.  Chop! Chop!  You haven't all day your know and if you don't look at it then the rest of this post won't matter to you.  Don't worry, I'll wait right here for you, I promise. . . .

Back so soon?  Good, I told you that I would be waiting right here for you.  Now, the only difference between the paragraph with the OM and the entry for yesterday (as far as the html tags go) is I changed the image from src="images/miniom3d.jpg" width="32" height="32" to src="images/irc-square.gif" width="48" height="55"; in other words, I changed the file name and the image size.  That's it.  The only other differences are the number of characters between the paragraph tags that enclose the whole thing and the fact that the one that works follows two other paragraphs while the one that does follows two heading tags.  Wait, the heading tags can't be the problem either because this entry (yes, go look at it before I have to badger you again) also follows two heading tags.  So the only differences between the one that broke yesterday and the two that didn't break are the image name and size attributes, and the length of the paragraph. 

All hail Microsoft's Trusted Computing Initiative and the Great and Broken Browser!  For the browser impaired, yesterday's entry has been repeated below:

Thu, 11 Sep 2003

A Day of Rememberance

OMA moment of silence.



HAH!  I still had to tweak this entry for the GaBB to recognize the text properly!  What great and magical thing did I do to make this entry viewable in the GaBB?  I added four line breaks before the closing paragraph tag.  Marvelous!  Wonderful!  DUMB.

Great, the GaBB is so broken that sometimes everything displays and sometimes part of it displays and sometimes my tag line at the end of this entry is there and then not there.  So impressive that it hurts!  Even better, I just discovered that if I view the page with my GaBB window maximized I have all the problems (tested on two different machines) but if I tile the window I can see everything with no problem!  Have I mentioned that Mozilla is a great browser?

This entry authored by Tyran at 06:00

Mon, 15 Sep 2003

The Quandries of Knowledge

I'm sure that this entry will generate a goodly amount of controversy but it's something that's been on my mind for quite some time.  Last Friday as I drove home I heard on the radio that an assistant imam was saying that the 9/11 hijackers are just like the US and British soldiers in Iraq.  The talk show host began haranguing about the perversion of Islam and how can the Muslim community sit by while this assistant imam slanders the Islamic faith in such a manner.  I had to ask myself a question that has echoed through my mind many many times over last decade.  A question with roots back to my childhood studies and one that resurfaces every time Islam comes to my attention.  The original question was:  Does Islam actually encourage the killing of non-Muslims?  Because I have done my own independent study on the topic, the question has changed fundamentally:  How can Islam be considered a peaceful religion when the Qu'ran (Koran) specifically enjoins the faithful to fight those who oppress Islam, to slay those who abandon Islam and to slaughter the pagan [unbeliever]?  On the other hand, I know a good number of Muslims who could almost be considered pacifists.  So which view is correct under Islamic guidelines?  Are the violent ones actually those who are the faithful envisioned by the Qu'ran or is it the good neighbors and friends that we know and love?

I cannot, I will not condemn my friends who are Muslim.  They are good and upstanding people by any standard.  So, where does that leave me?  Basically, it leaves me right where I started:  Shaking my head and laughing at any non-Muslim who is attempting to condemn Muslim terrorists on religious grounds.  Attempting to make such a condemnation only proves that the individual has not a clue about the religious aspect of the issue.  Such rhetoric will, in my opinion, only serve to further engender hatred against the US and the West among individuals within the Muslim community.  So why do I bring it up?  Mainly to clear my own mind but also to shed more light on this troubling subject.  If people continue to throw about unfounded rhetoric then the current situation will only worsen.

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:00

A Blast to the Past?

I read a rather unnerving article in the newspaper this morning:  Natural gas may dry up in 50 years.  The crux of the article is this:

At present consumption rates, the supply of natural gas in the United States will be depleted in 50 years, according to Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary of land and minerals management for the U.S. Interior Department.

Over the next 20 years, U.S. natural gas consumption is projected to grow by more than 50 percent, Watson said, but our supply, if it grows at the same rate it has over the last 10 years, will grow by only 14 percent.

The article also points out that nearly 28 percent of US electricity is produced by natural gas burning plants so this situation will have a direct impact upon a broad spectrum of daily life.  The reason for this shortage is fairly obvious as it is with anything related to generating any form of power.  The reason is the general shift from Subdue Nature to Save the Earth.  This brings me to another question that races around within the confines of my brain:  What, exactly, is the real goal behind any save the Earth/whales/rare plant or animal or tract of land of your choice campaign?

With the save the whales campaign, the situation just made sense.  Whales were on the fast track to extinction and all of the reasons to continue whaling could be met through other means using current technology.  It made no sense to continue pushing them into extinction and so it didn't happen.  With the success of Save the Whales, the environmental movement was able to really take flight.  Now nature is a sacred artifact that must remain undisturbed for the benefit of future generations instead of a resource to be harnessed for the benefit of today.  Is a depleted natural gas supply and its attendant woes a benefit?

Hey, it worked for the whales; so, why isn't it working for everything else?  Well, there is one fundamental difference between the whale situation and the one we're beginning to face now.  The needs being met by whaling could be met equally through other methods.  I'm all for saving the Earth and every odd life form on it but is that a reasonable position when doing so means a wholesale degradation of our current way of life and culture?  I would love to replace gasoline and natural gas and everything else for something cleaner and better for the environment.  I'm all for saving the environment but the problem is that there isn't anything that can replace the current forms of energy that we use and until there is, continuing on the Save the Environment at All Cost™ campaign is putting us on the fast track to the past.  In the past the precious resources we use today were locked up beneath tons of rock but in the near future those precious resources will be locked away behind something even more impregnable:  Law and common stupidity and all for the benefit of future generations.

P.S.
When you read the article linked above, be on the look out for the mention of wind power.  I just had to shake my head and laugh . . . even wind power pollutes!  LOL

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:45

Tue, 16 Sep 2003

A further explanation

The following is a response to Kim's comment about The Quandries of Knowledge from yesterday.

But you're making the fundamental mistake of trying to understand what the Qu'ran is saying from a Christian point of view.  From a Christian point of view, what you're saying is completely true but is it true from a Muslim point of view?  Obviously, many have the same basic view as the one you express.  Obviously, many others (maybe more than the first group?) don't share that view and it would appear that the Qu'ran supports the second group more than the first.

Without any twisting or second guessing the above excerpts clearly support the slaying of any who are not followers of Allah.  It takes some creative interpretation to read anything but that in these verses.  Obviously there are many Muslims who either don't take these and other similar passages literally or believe that they should be applied only in very specific situations which would likely be justifiable regardless of religion (self-defense comes immediately to mind).  I am very curious how these other possible interpretations might have come about if, indeed, they do exist.  There is also the distinct possibility that there is some overriding doctrine of peace that I'm missing that would temper the passages above.

It's funny that you mentioned the Crusades because those are the very studies to which I alluded in my post.  Both sides were, from an objective stand point, dead wrong.  From a scriptural stand point, it appears that the Muslims were justified by Islamic doctrine but there is no question that the Crusaders had no scriptural justification.  It is that very difference in views which brought about my original post.

This entry authored by Tyran at 09:33

A Quick Reminder

I figure that I should post a very short and emphatic reminder that I am not saying that all Muslims are blood thirsty warmongers.  All I want to do is point out that there may well be some religious justification for such an attitude among Muslims and that possibility necessarily complicates relations between Muslim and non-Muslim groups.  If I base my ethics on one religious doctrine and you base your on a religious doctrine with opposing views, then which set of ethics/morals is the one that takes precedence or how do we find a middle ground upon which to meet?  The more I learn about Muslim tradition, the more I realize that religious tradition is an extremely complicated situation within Islam let alone how it relates to any other group.  Perhaps if there were more effort to understand the complexities of our neighbors rather than to force them into seeing things the "right way," we would actually have a chance to find a middle ground.

In rereading some of what I wrote, it does come across a bit judgmental because I tend to write exactly what I think and most people aren't used to that level of honesty.  My intention was to objectively highlight that there are fundamental differences in the way Christianity and Islam view the world possibly even to the extent of what is fundamentally right and wrong.  If we don't recognize the potential for such fundamental differences, then what hope do we have of ever achieving any type of peace?  My intention is not to engender hatred or fear or animosity.  Someone that I count a very dear friend is Muslim and is one of the best, most honorable men that I know.  We need, however, to not be afraid of our differences and to understand them with open minds.  There is no possible danger in understanding someone else, there is no danger in acknowledging another point of view no matter how opposite it is from your own; because, with mutual understanding comes mutual respect.  OK, this is turning out to not be short nor quick so I'll wrap up with this:

Remember that to judge someone by your own standards is a very close minded affair.  If, however, you judge them by their own standards then you have done something much more for you have learned who they truly are.

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:01

Thu, 18 Sep 2003

From one extreme to another

There is one great frustration for me about being me:  When I turn my attention to a subject, I want to become so well versed in that subject that I have a perfect knowledge of the subject.  When I do something, I want it to be perfect.  Impossible, I know and it does cause me a great deal of frustration.  The other extreme is that I will avoid investigating something or doing something because I know that I won't become an expert on the topic or I won't be able to do it perfectly or even well enough for me to be satisfied.

Because of The Quandries of Knowledge I have been watching for more information to help me understand the situation; as I said Wednesday, I brought up the topic not to cause division but to make people (really just me) think and take a harder look at the situation with a more objective attitude.  The problem is that the more I look, the more unsure I am of what to think.  As I've already illustrated, I can understand how the militant groups can claim they are only following the Qu'ran.  I also want to understand how those preaching tolerance have arrived at their beliefs instead of turning to the militant way of thinking.  I want to help foster that way of thinking in general so as to stem the tide of rising racial and religious hatred growing in America.  If things were different, I would use the same basic tactic to foster some middle ground with the militants but how can one reason with the "one of us or dead" attitude that many of these groups have?

This entry authored by Tyran at 06:02

Quick Virus Alert

There's another virus out there claiming to be a patch from Microsoft (Swen.a).  Please remember that Microsoft will never send you a file via email unless you actually contact them first and in person (usually by phone).

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:13

One more quick one

As people who've read here regularly might remember, I'm not a fan of the DMCA.  I am a fan of respecting copyright but the DMCA takes things too far.  From one of the news feeds that I watch, I stumbled upon an article at Techfocus detailing how the site now blocks all RIAA/MPAA associated IP addresses.  I have opted to do the same.  If you know how to use an htaccess file and want to join in the fun, you can download the IP addresses here.

This entry authored by Tyran at 14:21

Fri, 19 Sep 2003

News bits

Here are the news bits which caught my attention today.

Bare Branches

Interesting, various LDS leaders have said that single men over age 26 are menaces to society and it looks like they were right.  A local paper published an article on Bare Branches or surplus men aged 15 - 35, surplus meaning that there are more men than women in a given region.  According to the study referenced, when the ratio of men to women starts to tip toward there being more men then society starts to break down.  The bare branches literally gang-up with a resultant increase in crime and civil unrest.  Makes me wonder if this is what's happening within American society on a smaller scale.

Mobile Senility

In other news, mobile phones and brains are on the hot seat again.  This time research is not focusing on whether cell phones increase senility.  Current research indicates that the microwave radiation generated by wireless devices might cause the production of albumin, a protein that can cause the permanent destruction of brain cells.  This will be one topic to watch; if you can remember to watch it, that is.

East and West Join Forces

The Dalai Lama and MIT are joining forces to study the effects of meditation.  The great thing is that so far the research done on meditation has proven that ... drum roll ... there is much more to it than first thought and that current thinking in neuroscience circles may well be missing the mark.  This article was food for some serious thought.

David Slays Goliath and Everyone Else Too!

You may or may not have heard about Eolas suing Microsoft over patent infringements in the Great and Broken Browser (that's Internet Explorer to the uninitiated).  Unfortunately, we're all the losers in this one.  Do you like playing the games in The Zone or at Miniclip.com or Popcap.com?  What about the webcasts from your favorite radio station?  How about the cutesy greeting cards that play some animation for your entertainment.  This one case kills them all.  There is a rant on patents, pending.

Big Brother's Best Bud or B4

In the United States, we expect that our private information is safe from unwarranted government searches, that's what Article Four of the Constitution guarantees:  No warrant, no search.  If you've every done business on eBay, that is not the case.  Joseph Sullivan, chief security executive at eBay, said that eBay will hand over all information it has on any individual for nothing more than an emailed or faxed request.  The Register has a quick overview of what was said and HAARETZ.com has much more detail about this disturbing news.  If you've ever signed up for an account at eBay, then you've sold your privacy down the river.

This entry authored by Tyran at 08:53

Mon, 22 Sep 2003

I HAVE THE POWER!

Well, not really but it is a catchy title.  As I was perusing the news today, I stumbled onto the Moon's tidal power.  Talk about renewable power sources!  From what I've read, it won't make other forms of generating electricity obsolete but it could be a very viable step in the right direction...at least until the environmentalists figure out some outrageous reason to kill it, that is.

This entry authored by Tyran at 16:17

Tue, 23 Sep 2003

Templates for the masses and AH HAH!

Over on the Blog forums a request was put out for tableless CSS templates.  I've added a page for such templates that I've used and linked it in the left side bar (look for Blog Templates).  The template is designed to work with Fahim Farook's Blog but can be modified to work with whatever you would like.

Imagine having a car which had two engines to power it.  One worked on older fuels and the other worked on new more efficient fuels.  Now imagine that the car would automatically sense which fuel you just put in the tank and switch over to the appropriate engine.  Sounds great right?  Now imagine that a second manufacturer builds a car that will use most but not all of the older fuels, runs better on the new fuels using just one engine and provides more optional features for the same price as the first car.  Which car would you buy?  Which car would you rather service if you were a mechanic?  As a mechanic would you charge your customers more if they bring in the two engine car?

Personally, I would favor the single engine car in each question.  I pose that little exercise in hypothetical thinking to help illustrate the problem that I have with the Great and Broken Browser (GaBB aka Internet Explorer).  The GaBB uses two different engines to render pages based on the document declarations found at the beginning of each web page it loads.  Microsoft's help page (linked previously) lists 24 different combinations to help me, as a page developer, to determine which engine will be used on my page.  The page then goes on to explain how the GaBB handles each of a hoard of standard CSS properties and, as usual, Microsoft has made most of them behave just a little better than the true standard.  Someone, please shoot me now!

This entry authored by Tyran at 20:11

Thu, 25 Sep 2003

Is This Downward Facing Duck?

OMMy four year old came down and practiced with me tonight.  When the kids are practicing with me, we only do surya namaskar.  As we folded into uttanasana, George asked me, Is this downward facing duck?  I had a very hard time not falling forward onto my head from laughing.  One of the most recognized asanas is downward facing dog and, kids being kids, George had heard downward facing duck.  Kids are great and add so much color to life!

I started another hatha yoga class last night.  The class was quite packed (25 or so students) with only three guys (including the instructor).  The class was great and proved a very good measuring stick for how my own practice has progressed.

This entry authored by Tyran at 20:46

Fri, 26 Sep 2003

These boots were made for walking

We watched Pirates of the Caribbean tonight.  We had a blast, the show was funny and the plot was engaging.  I loved watching Jack beat Barbosa at his own game.  I have hit, however, upon one possible loose end:  Bootstrap Bill.  Bootstrap was tied to a cannon and thrown overboard after having been cursed.  Being cursed, he was still undead.  When Will breaks the curse, he also killed his father or did he?  Bill was undead, he would have had plenty of time to untie himself from the cannon and walk across the ocean floor to where ever.  Is Bootstrap Bill alive and well in some unknown location?  Will Will, Elizabeth and Jack attempt to learn the fate of Bill?  What do you call a short clairvoyant felon who has escaped from prison?  Oops, wrong question!

This entry authored by Tyran at 22:57

Sun, 28 Sep 2003

Have you been flashed?

I had of flash mobs but had no idea exactly what they were...I guess I wasn't alone in that.  I read this article on The Nation and to be quite honest, flash mobs sound absolutely wonderful!  I'm curious, have you been flashed (seen a flash mob in action) or flashed (been part of the mob in action)?  If you haven't, if you had the chance would you be part of a flash mob?  Hit the comments link and let me know what you think.

This entry authored by Tyran at 19:53

Mon, 29 Sep 2003

Watch your back

It is a well established fact that I don't like Internet Explorer and have dubbed The Great and Broken Browser (GaBB).  Up to this point I have tried to highlight its failings solely from a standards point of view.  For those of you using the GaBB, please be aware that even if your browser is fully patched that you are surfing the web with your computer completely exposed to the world.  ZDNet Australia is reporting that MS still has not correctly patched the Object Type vulnerabilities.  MS tried patching this once already and then admitted on the 20th of August that the first patch was broken and the vulnerability still exists.  Unfortunately, the situation gets worse:  A Reuters article which appears on CIOL indicates that the exploits for the Object Type vulnerability are allowing crackers (malicious hackers) to take over their victims' computer dialing software and rack up huge phone bills.  The same exploit can be used to dump a Trojan on the victim computer which can then be used for whatever nefarious scheme the cracker has in mind.  How is all this done?  Simply by getting you to visit websites designed to take advantage of the exploit.  You have no immediate way of knowing whether your computer is infected or not.  You have four options to defend yourself:

  1. Use a different browser, only the GaBB is affected
  2. Turn off ActiveX in the GaBB
  3. Leave ActiveX on and pray your firewall and/or virus software can protect you
  4. Blithely ignore the problem and hope it doesn't hit you

There are, of course, some mitigating factors:  The dialer hijacking can only work if you use a modem or have a modem that is plugged into a live phone line.  Other than that, your machine is just as naked to the world as any other using the GaBB with ActiveX.

There is one other thing about this whole situation that has me concerned.  Did you notice that both links are from sources outside the US?  Sure, the Reuters article originated in San Francisco but I only found it through a news portal in India.  I wonder why I have yet to see either article published in the US.  I'll leave the speculation up to you.

This entry authored by Tyran at 12:51

Larry Boy Costume

I thought that Shanna was going to put up the images of Jonathan in his Larry Boy costume from a couple of years ago as so many people hit the site looking for one.  As she hasn't, I'll put them up here.

Jona as Larry Boy #1
Larry Boy Costume
Jona as Larry Boy #2
Larry Boy Costume Close-up

Shanna built the costume out of cardboard, some foam stuff (I know, real technical there) and plungers.

This entry authored by Tyran at 14:35

Tue, 30 Sep 2003

My Childhood Nemesis

Tonight Jonathan was awarded his Bobcat rank badge.  Have you ever seen a bobcat in action?  Imagine the damage that 20 lbs of claws and feline fury can do to a person and then remember that this rank is awarded to eight and nine year old boys...see the frightening similarities?  Anyway, it's Jona's first Scouting rank and I couldn't be happier.  Scouting (Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity and Explorers) offered me some of my most cherished childhood memories.  It also held my dreaded nemesis:  The Pine Wood Derby.

Give a boy a block of pine wood, four plastic wheels and four nails.  Tell him to turn it into a first class racer within a month.  Host a gala event for the races with prizes for the fastest car, the best looking car and the weirdest car.  Do this and you have an instant recipe for untold trauma in my young life.  I seem to recall attempting to build the first racer myself and something about graphite powder for the wheels.  I know that I tossed the car as soon as possible and was covered in grayish graphite long before that hot sweaty night was over.  No, it didn't win a single race and no it didn't take best nor weirdest in show.  I think it was red.  The only other car I can recall was a sleek blue beauty that my father carved for me.  It was cool, very cool.  It also didn't win a single race nor did it take best or weirdest in show.  I was sure that the whole thing was rigged.  The same kids who won the previous year won again that year and I know that my car was the best.  I was also sure that my father was none too pleased about the whole situation, words like machined and cheat were interspersed with the teeth grinding and low growls that I knew to mean great displeasure in my bear of a father.

I don't recall ever entering another Pine Wood Derby.  I think I might have brought one or two more kits home over the years but they, mercifully, seemed to disappear.  Looking back, I understand why my father growled at the mention of little wooden race cars.  If every boy had had to actually car and shape his own car, the whole event would have been much different.  Instead of being a fun race for the boys, it became a torrid ego stroking event for their fathers.

Why the sudden trip down memory lane?  Jona came home with a Pine Wood Derby kit tonight.

This entry authored by Tyran at 20:31

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