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Off the top

A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Fall maple

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These shots are both of the same tree, taken within minutes of one another. (The angle, and therefore the light, was different.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Reformation Sunday

Brief summary and reflection on the 95 Theses of Martin Luther:

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light (emphasis added), the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther...

(Establishes what true repentance is)

(Establishes the limits of the Pope’s power and will, i.e., as vicar of Christ)

(Canons of Church apply only to the living, cannot extend into purgatory)

(Indulgences must not go beyond the right and just powers of the Pope, which is to declare what God has done, so that they deceive the people)

(The powers of clergy lie in intercession, which is ultimately dependent upon the will of God)

(The certainty of contrition or salvation lies outside of men themselves and with God alone)

(No man is better than another; all benefits of Christ are granted by God alone)

(The indulgent nature of indulgences most often renders them contrary to true repentance; i.e. dulls the conscience)

(Only a very few can rightly distinguish between indulgence(s) and true contrition)

(Service and mercy are above indulgences; works of love improve a man but indulgences promote manipulative behavior)

(A person’s money is better spent than on many indulgences)

(St. Peter’s, or money spent on the Church, is worth less than prayers for the Pope himself or the very flesh and bone of the people)

(Indulgences should not have too great an importance attached to them, especially compared to the Word and the Gospel.)

(Indulgences should not be a matter reserved merely for the clergy, but the people ought to be privy to the accounts as well.)

(The first shall be last, and the last, first)

(The gospel fishes for men, but indulgences fish for wealth)

(Indulgences have their rightful place; i.e., there is apostolic precedent to preaching pardon in Christ)

(To assert that the Pope has power to remit sin is to blaspheme the Pope himself)

(The Pope’s graces come from God via spiritual gifting)

(If grace is free to all, then it ought not be limited to those who purchase indulgences)

(Let’s not make money off of prayers for the dead – they’re past the point of intercession)

(Why doesn’t the Pope use his own wealth, which is substantial, to build St. Peter’s?)

(Remittance of sin by the Pope is redundant)

(These questions are serious and deserve the attention of and reply from the Pope)

Luther illustrated the spiritual, material, and psychological truths behind abuses of the practice of buying and selling indulgences. His assumption was that the Pope would want to know of these abuses in order to right them.* Luther was not out to pick a fight or to have his own way...his purpose was to uphold the truth, for the cause of Christ.

*or, I should say, Luther was allowing the Pope this, in the spirit of I Corinthians 13; whether he personally had confidence in the Pope's character is a different matter. (added 11/2/05)

Bits and Pieces, 10/30/05: silliness

get outta my way

Seen on the friendly downtown pharmacy’s marquee:

Why would “Dodge” make a vehicle called a “Ram”?

The Chameleon

by John Gardner

People say the Chameleon can take on the hue
Of whatever he happens to be on. It’s true
– Within reason, of course. If you put him on plaid
Or polka dots, he really gets mad.


From my dear, sweet 3-1/2-year-old daughter:

“If you don’t do it, I’m going to kill you to death!!”

Friday, October 28, 2005

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ruby's, white and blue

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The future and purpose of Christian blogging

Now that the honeymoon is over, some who attended the GodBlogCon’05 are examining blogging in a more critical light, which is naturally a good thing. The main theme of the conference (which originated with the Godfather I mean Godblogger Hugh Hewitt himself) was that Christian blogging represents a new reformation in the church insofar as it is a means of getting information/reform/the gospel out in a quicker, more comprehensive way than ever before. This phenomenon was examined during panel discussion at the conference, as was the nature and proper use of that relatively new means of communication called blogging.

The Jollyblogger David Wayne writes, in Some cures for a GodBlogCon hangover,

blogging is just one piece of a much larger pie involving new technologies.

blogging is one ingredient in this interactive and personalized pie of the new media and we should expect it to lose some of the pre-eminence it now holds.

At the same time I don't think this necessarily means that blogging will go away. People didn't quit reading newspapers when the radio and tv were invented.
And just as there is still a place for newspapers and books in the age of the television, I think there will still be a place for blogs. It won't be the same place of pre-eminence it enjoys now, but it will still have a place and an important one at that.

Pastor Jolly, I mean Wayne, links to Pastor Mark (the one with the hangover). View from the Pew tracks back to Pastor Wayne and Warren Kelly says,

We need to make sure that we don't use blogging simply as a way to validate ourselves and our opinions -- we need to interact and engage.
I've read a lot of blogs that have tried to change peoples' minds about a lot of things, and none have been very effective. I've read evangelistic blogs, and I've heard nothing good from any nonChristian who went to one. They aren't effective in and of themselves, and that is what I see happening quite often. If blogs are properly used to build relationships, then I can see them being an evangelistic tool. But that seems to be a very big if.

Josh Claybourn tracks back as well, since David Wayne mentioned his post, Technology and the March of Mankind (Can you feel the link-love?). Josh makes the point that advancements in information technology are a double-edged sword.

The printing press may have improved the spread of knowledge more than any prior invention in history, and I think we'll soon find that the internet has come closest to offering a similar advance.

Of course just as the printing press brought the common man a Bible, Plato, and Ayn Rand, it would also soon bring Playboy and Hustler.

Yet, reflecting what both Joe Carter and Pastor Wayne say about controlling the uses and effects of these technologies, commenter David states that

Personal responsibilty can never be hacked.

I say “amen” to that. And I agree that the main potential for advancing the gospel, or the Truth, lies in the relational aspect of blogging way ahead of the informational, or the technological.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My prayer: Lord Jesus, Fill My Days

I really like this hymn from the Covenant Hymnal. The melody and harmony are a perfect transport for the words:

Lord Jesus, fill my days with gratitude and praise
that I might always show your mercy, love and justice too.
My time I wholly give to you.

Lord Jesus, take my mind, each dream and thought resigned
to think on all that’s pure and holy, cling to what is true.
My thoughts I wholly give to you.

Lord Jesus, still my heart. Enable me to start
to see your promised new beginnings, new priorities.
My heart I wholly give for these.

Lord fill my days, with endless praise.
Lord, take my mind, each thought resigned.
Lord still my heart, and set apart my life for you.

Lord Jesus, faithful Friend, I cannot comprehend
that you will lift me up to glory when my journey’s through.
My life I wholly give to you.

Now, before anyone challenges the theology or anything else in this hymn, I just want to say that I like it because it expresses my hope toward God. Though I rarely can sing the “wholly” parts honestly, they challenge me to give myself wholly to Him.

Of course Jesus is not a friend in the sense of being a buddy or pal, but He is benevolently disposed toward us and exists to be essential in our lives, ever faithful as His Father is faithful.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Boo who?

I’ve gone and posted my concerns about Halloween over at Intellectuelle, glutton for punishment that I am...

Monday, October 24, 2005

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Ruby's at the Balboa Pier, CA

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bits and pieces, 10/23/05

perfect love

...casts out fear. Joe Carter reminds us of this in The Fear That Qualifies Bravery. He distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate fear and defines true bravery. Food for thought. Something I need to explore myself, especially in light of my recent confessions to being chicken-hearted in certain situations.


of blogs and men

Catez at Allthings2all asks, “How do you define blogging success?” and gets some good answers in the comments section. Her question was spurred by comments by me and others on the issue of representation of women bloggers at the GodBlogCon.


On a related note, ilona of truegrit has discussed the blogging phenomenon, pre-GodBlogCon, no less, in terms of how it reflects humanity for better or worse. She also looks at what defines a quality blog and whether Christian blogging is, in fact, worthwhile. Ilona, wish you’d been at the conference!


get Pearced

Nancy and Richard Pearcey have a new blog, The Pearcey Report – check it out.

A couple of headlines from their home page: Are Schools Intelligently Designed? and Purpose-Driven Starbucks, which links to a USAToday article explaining why a quote from Rick Warren will grace some of the cups that deliver Starbucks’ rich brew to customers. The article also mentions other companies that place Bible verses on their packaging or products to reflect the fact that they are (or their founders were) believers, such as In-N-Out Burger.


who’d a thunk...

...that there was another blogger at the GodBlogCon from the same denomination as my home church (Evangelical Covenant)? Must’ve been Charlie Lehardy’s discussion of the Methodist Church during the round-table discussion that threw me off. When he announced that he was a pro-life Democrat at the Friday-morning plenary session, though, that should’ve given me a clue ;-). Charlie blogs at AnotherThink.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

sand & swing
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Friday, October 21, 2005

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Newport Beach, CA

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Response to Catez Stevens regarding women and the GodBlogCon

Catez Stevens has referenced my most recent post on the question of why there weren’t more women at the GodBlogCon at Allthings2all. She offered commentary and discussion on my post and others and said some valuable things. She asked, however, that comments to her post be limited to answering the question of “what is blogging success.” Therefore, in case anyone has read both her post and mine, I would like to respond in this post, just to make sure things are clear.

Catez, thanks for referencing my post and for the good discussion. I appreciate your thoughts and your challenge of sorts. I did sort of entangle my personal issues with the general issues in the part of my post that you quoted, and didn’t develop some of them as I could have. Let me say that I take full responsibility for my own lack of reaching out, which I know is essential to connecting with people, and therefore fault no one for any lack of readership or connection I may have in the blogosphere due to my own fault. I often wonder, though, whether things would be different if I had a different personality or could overcome my “issues,*”...maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot. Yet I am dependent upon and eternally grateful for those who have found me anyway without face-to-face contact and deem my writing worthwhile, you being one of them :-). (By dependent I mean for any “livelihood” I may have in the blogosphere.)

I do feel that there is a solidarity issue, maybe not for everyone, but I think that whenever a gender-specific subject is brought up, the solidarity issue automatically comes up with it. Perhaps the way the issue was raised at the panel session, i.e., being presented a bit confrontationally, is what caused me to see the specter of feminism lurking. Why did no one suggest a “men in the blogosphere” session at the GodBlogCon? Men have concerns specific to their manhood as related to blogging just as women have concerns as women, whether they relate specifically to gender or have to do with the way one’s gender may relate to external/neutral subjects such as blogging topics.

As I said in my post, it would’ve been nice to have a session to look at some concerns specific to women that hopefully would not have any overtones of being a rally for blogging women, yet I thought there was plenty discussed that applied to both women and men, and for that reason I feel the conference was a success. I came away encouraged and feeling as if maybe my IQ got bumped up a couple points just by being around so many wonderful, engaging people :-).

But, Catez, your point is well taken about having the added perspective that a women could bring to a panel discussion. I agree that it does not have to be about “needs,” and I think that the perception of whether it’s about perspective or needs/concerns may come in large part from the way the issue is broached.

In regards to “chips falling where they may,” my point was that there is only so much I can do to promote myself, and I don’t even do most of what I could do. So, my choice is to either try to do something that goes completely against my nature, or else just be the person I am, faults and all, and let the chips fall where they may.

Concerning bringing kids to conferences, I would not have been able to bring my kids to the GodBlogCon, but if I could’ve, I would’ve been more than willing to pay for child care as I think that would be my responsibility. I know that the Con was not a profitable venture in economic terms (I hope it’s OK to say that) and, for the future, profitability probably needs to be improved. But the fact of the matter is that many many wonderful people gave an awful lot to make this conference happen, and, if anything, attendees should be willing to pay more in the future. That said, I’m sure that future GodBlogCons will benefit from what was learned from the first go around, and future planning will no doubt be more comprehensive. Perhaps it can include some sort of child care. (addendum: the child-care idea originated with Marla Swoffer.)

Regarding asking “why are we blogging and how should we blog,” why is that question any different than asking why there weren’t more women at the GodBlogCon? If people are trying to work it out, why not let them ask the question so as to get the feedback? That’s one example of how we can help one another – if one of us is wondering things or feeling ambivalent or whatever, we can ask the questions and put out the feelers – we can reach out – and hopefully be able to trust that those who love us – our fellow Christian blogging brothers and sisters – will give us the encouragement or food for thought that we need.

On the question of blogging success, I don’t view it as a matter of success or failure, but of stewardship and purpose. I must assess whether the time and effort I spend blogging are responsible and accomplish anything for the Kingdom. I have concluded that making a few really good friends in the blogosphere and getting at least a little readership do make it worthwhile, and the discussion and interaction with readers is valuable, at least for me.

*I treated my insecurities with a bit of hyperbole in my post. I do think that, had I felt I had a good strong presentation/game plan for a “women in the blogosphere” session, I would’ve been able to present it just fine :-).


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Balboa Pier, CA

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why weren’t there more women at the GodBlogCon?

And why weren’t there any women on the panels?

That last question was asked by Stacy Harp during the Friday morning plenary session at the GodBlogCon. The session was a panel discussion by David Wayne, Joe Carter, and Dr. Andrew Jackson, moderated by John Schroeder.

Well...I’d say the reason there weren’t more women at the Con is that they were probably home with their kids. I, for one, would not have been able to attend had the Con not “happened” to occur at the same time as mid-semester break at the local university, which enabled me to hire students to be with my kids for three days.

Certainly distance, expense, and schedules were factors as well.

As to why there weren’t more women on the panels, well, I guess the Con was the brainchild of men, and either they just didn’t think of it, or else the women they thought of weren’t available. Certainly other women could’ve been invited to be on the panels, and perhaps should have been. But to be honest, it doesn’t really bother me that they weren’t, because I was happy to hear whoever was speaking seeing as how they were all people I admire very much.

But yes, there could’ve been a woman or two leading the plenary sessions. There were women leading some of the breakout sessions, and one of them could’ve been me if I’d accepted the offer. Yes, I was the second call to lead a session on “women in the blogosphere” after the original call was not able to attend the conference (because she had to be home with her kids). Why didn’t I accept? Several reasons:

1) lack of time to prepare
2) my own ambivalence over the whole issue of gender focus
3) a desire to attend other sessions being offered rather than lead one myself
4) utter, abject, fear

Perhaps another reason women didn’t attend was...shyness? Don’t know; I’m just wondering. Surely I’m not the only person who struggles with wanting to connect with people yet being intimidated as all heck most of the time, and I would guess that this tends to be true of women more than men. (Oops! A focus on gender!) Also, in new situations, I would much rather sit back and observe than lead, being the incorrigible introvert that I am.

Yes, a “women in the blogosphere” session would’ve been great, and, had it been offered, I would’ve attended! It would’ve helped me connect more with the women at the conference, which is one regret I have now that it’s over. Yet I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish that gender solidarity didn’t have to be an issue. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted to equalize issues of performance between men and women, being that I’m a female professional trumpet player and there aren’t many of us. I never wanted to jump on the feminist bandwagon and go butch just so I could feel I had some power equal to that of men. I decided to just play as well as I could and let the chips fall where they may.

I approach blogging the same way. I blog very little on issues specific to women, not that that’s a prerequisite to being focused upon as a woman blogger. I realize that there are many great women bloggers who blog politics, cultural issues, science, apologetics, theology, etc. as well as the boys do. Yet it’s true that I am a woman and, as such, am also a wife and mother, and those things certainly affect who I am as well as my blogging.

I guess I don’t have any answers. I do hope to see more women leading discussions at future conferences, and hope to have a chance to speak myself. Though at the rate I’m going I'll probably never build enough of a reputation to keep myself in the running. Shy people usually don’t get asked to do stuff and that’s understandable. Oh well. Guess I’ll just keep being myself and let the chips fall as they may... (Keep reminding me that I said that, OK?)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

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Newport Beach, CA

Monday, October 17, 2005

Impressions of the GodBlogCon

It's kind of surreal to think that only a couple days ago, I was present at the first-ever GodBlog convention on the other side of the continent, and, just twenty-four hours ago, was pulling into my driveway at the conclusion of the trip home. Yet, on terrain completely different (though beautiful) from that of my home, I met a group of people among whom I indeed felt at home, though I had never met (in person) any of them before.

It was a bit intimidating to be among such luminaries as David Wayne, John Mark Reynolds, Mark Roberts and others, yet they were all tremendously nice, gracious, wonderful people. It was also intimidating to observe most of these folks to be founts of profound, articulate language pouring forth at all times – live-blogging, live-speaking, on and on...sheesh, no wonder they have such prodigious output on their blogs!

But it was encouraging to realize that (Christian) bloggers everywhere have much in common and that they face the same challenges. They are thoughtful, smart people who sincerely seek after God and have a passion for expressing what they know of Him so as to make Him known to others. All bloggers must consider the way they will define their blogging, respond to commenters, and keep blogging in its proper place in their lives. Charitable discussion is of utmost importance, indeed there's great need for the type of discussion that blogging is, and for community among bloggers and between bloggers and their “real-life” communities and churches.

Someone else has mentioned how interesting it was to note which bloggers appear similar in person to the way they are perceived via their blogging, and which do not. One of the latter is Joe Carter – I would have expected him to be more of a “presence,” I guess, yet the person I saw (if but briefly) was the one I see in posts like this one and this one. Joe really has a sense of the importance of all of the voices in the blogging world, not just the “biggies.” This became evident to me when he offered his support of Intellectuelle, yet I saw the depth to which this is a part of him in the things he said as a speaker at the conference. His support is the best kind – he encourages and gently promotes, yet stays out of the way so as to allow those he supports to do their thing. Though quiet and unassuming, he’s always ready with thoughtful, articulate answers. It was a privilege to meet him and hear him speak.

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I also got to meet and chat with other women bloggers including Jan Lynn of The View From Her, Amy Hall of the A-team blog, Suzanna Bond of Salvation Walls, and LaShawn Barber (everyone knows LaShawn!). Jan blogs on being single – a ministry much needed, Amy blogs apologetics, and Suzanna blogs inner reflections and her artwork. Then there was Laura Springer of Laura’s Writings, from whom I learned about California spiders, and Cecilia Henderson of Kicking Over My Traces, from whom I’m expecting a novel of intrigue concerning the inner workings of the Internet, sometime in the future...

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSuzanna and I (not sure what was so funny but you can see I had a good time)

And of course it was great to meet Rusty Lopez, the person who introduced me to blogging in the first place.

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The speakers provided encouraging words as well as food for thought, such as John Mark Reynold’s picture of blogging as both preserved and live performance. Interaction afforded by the panel discussions and topical sessions allowed for good development of ideas. And, thanks to the volunteer efforts of Biola staff Matt Anderson and cohorts, the organization and flow of the conference were first-rate. Evident throughout was the sincerity of all involved (as JMR would probably say, “Feel the love, man!”) -- the prevailing “agenda” was the furthering of the cause of Christ via blogging, plain and simple.

At one point I found myself part of a round-table discussion including the likes of Reynolds, Joe Carter, Andrew Jackson, Tod Bolsinger, David Wayne, and Rusty Lopez (in no particular order). I was the lone female presence in that crowd. What was remarkable, though, besides the stimulating conversation, was the fact that I’ve never before found myself unable to get a word in edgewise in the company of a group of men! They would’ve yakked right through the dinner period had not a couple of us just gotten up to go. (I thought, hey, these are my kind of people – they’d rather talk than eat!)

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There was definitely no shortage of conversation at the Con, and plenty of humor as well. Both John Schroeder of Blogotional and John Mark Reynolds kept the LOL level high. And, speaking of laughter and general jollyness, I can say that the Jollyblogger, David Wayne, truly is jolly – either he’s always smiling or else manages to look like it! His workshop on blogging theology was both affirming and encouraging, and he succeeded in presenting what could have been a dry subject in an extremely relevant and engaging manner. (From now on I will read his blog in rapid-fire with a Southern accent...)

The presence of Hugh Hewitt certainly energized the conference; it was an event in itself to observe him at his craft. In observing two hours of his radio show's live broadcast, the musician in me really appreciated how he brought a “script” to life through impeccable timing and control of the momentum.

All in all, I think the conference was a success, and, while I hear that next year’s conference will be on the west coast again, I hope that an east coast division of the conference might be established in the future...

photo credits go to Rusty Lopez, who either took the photos or allowed his camera to be used to take the photos or posted them on his site so I could swipe them :-). I did, in fact, take my own camera to the conference, but it decided not to work.
correction: the round-table discussion photo hails from Mike’s Noise

Monday, October 10, 2005

Taking a hike

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It’s become a family tradition to go hiking on Columbus Day. Usually it’s our last opportunity of the year to hike in temperate weather, but mostly, it’s a great time to partake of fall colors. This year, though, the colors seem to be peaking late. No matter; after being overcast in the morning, the sky cleared and made for a beautiful fall hike in the Allegheny National Forest. We hiked from Scandia, PA down to the Allegheny Reservoir and back. The kids were troopers!

A quiet repose was had on the rocky shore of the reservoir (well, except for the kids throwing rocks :-) ). No one else was around. (Access to most of the reservoir’s shore is limited; it can only be reached by boat or trail. The particular trail we took isn’t short either :-) ).

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Tucked in among some large rocks were these mullein plants, still wet with dew.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bits and pieces, 10/09/05

Intellectuelle update

Don’t forget to check Intellectuelle for thought-provoking fare, including this post by Laura concerning the movement among college women to "return to motherhood," and this one by Ashley on how being Christian might affect one's food choices.

My latest offerings there:

The blogging format: who serves what?

Iconoclasm, part II: all reality is iconoclastic (name that quote)

When does a human life begin?


As art reveals the artist

In a thoughtful and insightful essay entitled Notes on Blogging: The Autobiography of a Blogger, Joe Carter suggests that we read blogs with an eye toward gaining insight into the authors as people regardless of whether the blogs themselves are personal, i.e., diary-style, or not. A reader comment warns Joe to be careful of drawing conclusions about a person solely from their blog entries. There’s a difference, however, between making snap judgments/drawing conclusions about the person and gaining insight into the person by noting particular features or characteristics of their work, over time.

With the exception of those who focus on journaling, few bloggers write in a way that would be considered purely autobiographical. But as philosopher Mortimer Adler noted, “There’s a great deal of Plato in The Republic, of Milton in Paradise Lost, of Goethe in Faust - though we may not be able to put our finger on it exactly. If we are interested in humanity, we will tend, within reasonable limits, to read any book partly with an eye to discovering the character of its author.” Blogs, like books, have a way of revealing the characters of their authors.


Whose choice is it?

I've participated in a robust yet friendly discussion at Chief Executive Mom this past week on predestination. (Nah, not much to talk about ;-) ). I've learned a lot. I may post on the topic myself, if I get the nerve.


leaving, on a jet plane

Posting will be light to nonexistant this week and maybe part of next week; I will be attending the GodBlogCon. It'll be great to meet other bloggers, hear what the speakers have to say, and perhaps gain an enlightened perspective on blogging. I'll share some highlights when I return.

Friday, October 07, 2005

burning bush Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Structures, part VII: red

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

wild sunflower Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Chokecherry revisited

That was then

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This is now
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Monday, October 03, 2005

Structures, part VI: beige

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