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My Sappy Mac Story

All these 30th Anniversay Macintosh posts made me heart-wrenchingly nostalgic. I dug up some terrible thing I wrote 12 years ago and reworked it to be slightly less embarrassing.

The first Mac I ever used was my mother’s computer. It was a Mac Plus that my grandfather gave her in 1992 after we moved to Florida. It had a very loud, 20 MB, SCSI hard drive. My mother had specifically told us that the computer was for work only, not for playing games. Yeah, right.

My favorite game was Stunt Copter. I loved to drop the stunt guy on the horse – an early warning sign of my sadistic streak. Video game violence, etc.

My mother used that computer faithfully for a few years, but it was underpowered when she got it. We frequently spent time at Kinko’s so she could use their less-outdated IIci’s and IIsi’s. In 1993 she bought a Quadra 605 when it first came out. Again, this was a business computer, not a toy. One year we got a SupraExpress 33.6 modem and AOL 2.5. That is when I realized how incredibly slow it was compared to my friends’ computers. The Quadra 605 and I had a love/hate relationship.

When my mom bought a Compaq in 1998, she gave me the 605. I customized and upgraded that thing as much as I could (mostly just system extensions the decreased performance, and another 4 megs of RAM since the PPC upgrade card had been discontinued). Unfortunately, the monitor died, and it was replaced with an old PC monitor with a giant adapter.

I used that Quadra 605 all the way up until 1999, when I accidentally killed it by turning the computer around. The monitor adapter sticking out the back hit the wall and cracked the motherboard.

My school got rid of a LC II, so I picked it up. It couldn’t really do anything, but it was nice to have it around.

My mom’s office’s art department was getting rid of their computers, so my mom managed to get me one of them. It was a Performa 637CD. It was the first Mac I ever owned with a CD-ROM – a major failing of the Quadra my mom had selected.

I upgraded the Performa to OS 8 and maxed out the RAM. (68 MB). It had Photoshop 3 on it, so I was pretty happy. I gave it to my sister for Christmas and purchased a used Performa 6115CD for my younger brother. I was a pretty good Mac zealo– I mean, enthusiast. I also purchased an antiquated Quadra 700, and a used Performa 6360 for myself. I knew I couldn’t get a hot, new Mac, but I still wanted a Mac. In a time when Jobs was remaking the Mac, I was buying up the discarded, pre-Jobs machines.

In 1999, the school yearbook teacher switched over to using Quark XPress for the yearbook and bought three new 450 MHz G4s. She needed some guidance, though, so I became the “Technical Editor”. I also had to network the following: three G4s, two 7200/120s, six 5500/225s, a HP LaserJet 4MP, and a StyleWriter II (the same kind I used at home). We still passed Zip disks around to transfer most things.

I went off to college, and I had to build my own PC with Windows 2000, etc. because my major was something you could not use a Mac for.

I regret telling my mom to sell all the misfit Macs that I had accumulated – but only at times like this. I have no practical place to store those things, and even if I did, I would almost never turn it on. I did keep all the system disks though.

I spent most of the 2000’s wishing I had a Mac. MacWorld Keynotes were still a big deal and I’d pretty much want whatever was announced. After I graduated I kept inventing reasons why I couldn’t buy one. It wasn’t practical. Then, after my supposedly powerful PC laptop started having serious performance issues after only one year, I decided to go back to the Mac. I spent $2500 on a brand-new, 15” MacBook Pro (2007 edition).

When it came time to replace the 15” MBP with a newer model, I made sure to hold on to my old one. It’s a little easier to store than Performas, Quadras, and CRTs.

2014-01-24 09:46:27

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Going Off Half-Cooked

There was some handwringing, and mocking, and more handwringing, about SquareSpace announcing a logo design program.

The way I feel about this development, as a non-SquareSpace user, is, “big whoop.” The people that will use this service were very unlikely to be a designer’s future customer. It also has the ability to raise the bar for the bare minimum a designer must do for a logo. I mostly object to it because I really doubt this is what SquareSpace should be focusing their efforts on, based on the purely anecdotal complaints I see about their services, but I can’t judge the whole thing based on that. Perhaps the fact that I have not been swayed to be a customer before today, or since, should serve as some kind of evidence that it might not be the most crucial path for new customers?

Still, the logo program means almost nothing to me, as an artist. I don’t talk about my job, but let’s just say I do shmisual sheffects for shmilm. There is often a notion that the process involves computers, so it must be something that can be automated to use very little input from humans. That it is something a computer does and I am just there to turn the computer on. There is the notion that anyone can just go buy some software off the shelf (or internet, these days) and make their own stuff without needing training, or artists.

The SquareSpace logo program doesn’t prohibit users from making a bad logo. It provides some structure through limited options. Users can still make really terrible, ill-suited, generic, eye-rollingly-silly, dumb things with it. They can go buy a copy of shmisual shmeffects shmof- software and make things too.

There is never going to be a wizard, program, or widget that gives users control, and taste. Users have to bring one, or both of those, to the table. If it’s only providing the taste, users have clip art. Cellophane-wrapped, mass-produced logos have a shelf-life that is already expiring when they are purchased.

If users think they can make a logo, then they can go on and make one. A text editor can make a logo. The software that “helps” you is really software that sets guides, and limits, on your behavior. Without limits, you can do something far better, or worse, than the program allows.

Anyone can cook by assembling some prepared, or partially prepared, items together. That doesn’t mean what they cooked was any good. Rudimentary cookbooks don’t put chefs out of business. If anything, they provide the chef with clientele that expect better than what can be had at home; that elevates the discussion of the food beyond fish sticks and tater tots. And who do you think sets the trends for the next round of cookbooks when everyone is tired of this?

Great, now I’m hungry.

2014-01-23 00:00:00

Category: text

The Ubiquitous Yak for the Discerning Obsessive

I saw Sid O’Neil’s post today, Farewell to Text Files, and my immediate reaction was to tweet him and debate it. You should go read it now, because dude is smart1. I didn’t agree with the conclusion he drew, abandoning plain text, because I thought that unfairly laid the blame on a file format. When Linus Edwards and I pestered Sid on Twitter, it became clear the real problem was that the flexibility that text afforded him meant he could keep tinkering with the tools of writing. Ulysses III was just a way to constrain his urge to tweak, to tinker with This Week’s Hot New Text App in the ironically titled, “Productivity” section of the iTunes store.

However, Ulysses III is only a circle of protection that will help for X amount of time. I can’t help but feel burned by the times I’ve invested in software that sputtered out, or were acquired, and I have to come to terms with terminating my relationship with said application. Aperture, not a writing program, is my current hobbyhorse for stagnation in application development. It has a proprietary way to store, and reference, the data inside of it. I have been on the fence about transitioning to Lightroom since Lightroom 3 was announced. I went with Aperture 3. We are now on Lightroom 5 and … Aperture 3. When I posed this argument, Sid correctly pointed out that it is trivial to generate text files from Ulysses III at any time he wants. It’s not nearly as painful as trying to bake out multiple versions of images, the EXIF, and then to import and then to … oh god I really don’t want to do it. Do you hear me, Apple?!

Writing programs stall too. Elements for iOS stagnated when the developer was hired by Hipstamatic. He was, unfortunately, laid off and decided to devote his time to developing his own apps again. He then released Elements 2, but now that’s fallen behind the curve again. The data inside of it, however, was not locked up. It was one of the first of many plain text editors that supported markdown syntax, and Dropbox file storage. As Sid mentioned in his post, this makes the data almost universally portable. His problem was using that portability to try apps, rather than write.

The option problem Sid had was one that I’ve bumped in to with blogging plaaaaatforms, and that is you can get overwhelmed by the options. You can start yak shaving, and wind up configuring every, little thing you come across. Do you see this blog? (I hope so, because I’m all up in your face right now.) Do you want to know how long I spent this morning trying to do @media hacks to force the Tumblr template to do what I wanted on smaller screens? DO YOU?

I had stopped writing, or taking photos, because I was so hung up on where the writing and the photos would go. I’m still not 100% behind SquareSpace because every time I test a demo there is always something just a little off that I can’t easily tweak. It makes me hem-and-haw about spending $8, or $16 a month. I don’t like WordPress, because their backend is unpleasant. (Knowing wink.) I don’t like {{%insert static blogging engine name here%}} because it requires setting up a Rube Goldberg machine to publish to it from anywhere that isn’t your computer. I have even devoted days of time to writing my own Python-based static blogging engine that runs in Pythonista for iOS, but never finished it, because: yak. Ironically, I like Tumblr least of all, but it is the easiest to just shove HTML in to from anywhere. (Pro Tip: Lifehack: Their native markdown support is crazy-bad!)

I’ll circle back to all of this again, and again, but at least I’ll have the comfort of knowing that the posts are all saved, and backed up, in UTF–8, plain text. Dump in the text and see if I hate it or not. Move on and do as little with shoehorning the content in as possible.

This thinking even factored in to the silly iTunes reviews I write. Fountain, a markdown-inspired screenplay format for plain text files, lets anyone copy and paste the text from the review to generate a screenplay. Also, because of this, I can just write them wherever I see fit. ByWord, TextEdit, TextWrangler, SublimeText, Editorial, Highland, and Slugline are all programs I’ve used to write these 12 things. Earlier this week I wrote what basically amounts to a love letter to Fountain’s ideals and principles because I can write my terrible fan-fiction wherever I want to. If I didn’t have these text editors, I’d actually be less productive in my ridiculous, “creative” endeavors, because they mainly serve as a conduit to start writing, even if I will pass it to something else.

2014-01-18 20:52:00

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That Pointy Thing on Twitter

I fave things on Twitter a lot. A whole lot. I should probably not do it so much. What impulse drives pushing that button?

If I really scrutinize this to an unwarranted degree, it boils down to:

  1. What the person had to say was amusing.
  2. What the person linked to was interesting.
  3. To use the fave as a bookmark to revisit a link later.
  4. To impart a small ‘nod’ to the conversation.
  5. To say, “This was a good back and forth, but it’s done.”
  6. When reading a conversation involving people I follow, I may weigh in to the conversation by favoriting a tweet in the thread I agree with, to nudge the conversation without interrupting, or branching it.

The barrier to entry in those first three categories just happens to be very low for me. At least, it is when I compare the frequency of my faves with those of other people.

This is at odds witch my feelings towards retweeting. I rarely retweet because I would much rather have a personal conversation, and retweets rarely spawn any conversation, they just get retweeted. I know that I have an assortment of people that follow me, and that there is an even wider range of people whom I follow. I don’t want to jam up someone with things they don’t want to read. I’d much rather have a directed conversation with someone through @-mentions so only people following the both of us will see it — presumably, they are interested in that since they follow us.

Some people seem to be caught off guard by getting their tweets faved often. It seems to put them off. I’ll try to tailor my copious issuance of stars to spare them from “too many”. I do wonder if that means that other people also feel that I favorite things far too much and are simply trying to be polite and not tell me.

I would very much rather have people give me input on this since this is hardly something where there is an etiquette guide.

I really like you. Here, have this: ★ . It’s free.

2014-01-18 11:53:36

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On Screenplay Software

I have always had an interest in film and television, but I have only recently started to venture in to writing for the medium. One of the catalysts for my interest is Scriptnotes, a fantastic podcast with screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin. They just came back from a holiday break and they are hitting it out of the park. Episode 125 is centered on dissecting an old post from Jeff Atwood (of StackExchange fame) called The 10 Commandments of Egoless Programming, and Episode 126 had a chunk on screenwriting software, specifically Final Draft 9. If you have any interest in technology you should listen to it (Then stay for the Three Page Challenges). Final Draft has remained relatively unchanged for years, but still dominates the entire screenwriting app market. Just a word processor, so what? It’s a $199.99 Mac App Store purchase which puts it in a unique weight-class. Final Draft also has mobile companion apps for iPad and iPhone. The iPad version appeared in Apple’s new, aspirational advertisement last Sunday.

What follows is an excerpt transcribed from 22 minutes in to Episode 126, but I strongly encourage you to listen to the entire conversation, particularly for Craig’s passion.

I just don't understand what -- If this is what they were doing, why did it take this long, exactly?

I don't understand -- That's a very good question.

The other thing that bothers me about Final Draft is that they are so clearly driven by a naked desire for revenue over taking care of their userbase -- 

At least that's my opinion --


because a lot of these features should have just been released, incrementally, as free updates on top of 8. There is **nothing** here that justifies a brand new release. and to charge whatever they charged. What does this thing cost?

It's an 80 Dollar upgrade.

80 Dollar upgrade! In a world where the entire operating system for Mac is free! And you're going to charge 80 Dollars for **what**? For colored pages  -- That you don't need. And ... what?

For full -- For full screen mode that really should have been a point one release.

Full screen mode and Retina compatibility? That's outrageous.


And that's the upgrade! I mean, what does it cost new?

Umm, 199, I believe.

Oh please. We live in a time where you cannot -- I'm sorry --  to sell a piece of *word processing* for a hundred and what?

99 dollars.

I mean **what**?! Are you out of your mind when you can get Highland for how much, John?

Uh, Highland is 29.99, right now.

I think FadeIn is 40 bucks?


Uh, It's **ridiculous**. It just doesn't make any damn sense.


I think -- I don't get it -- I think that, frankly, Final Draft is, um, they are perilously close to being disrupted, as the Silicon Valley term goes. Because nobody cares about this Final Draft crap any more, we're in the age of PDF for transmission. They're going to go bye-bye.

John goes on to play devil’s advocate, briefly, when discussing several limitations of competing screenwriting apps, mostly in the area of script revisions. They are, as Craig said, perilously close to being usurped if they think this situation will last much longer.

John August is a co-developer of the Fountain markup language, and the Highland app that functions as a converter for files to, and from, FDX, PDF, and Fountain plain text. The work he has put in to Fountain, along with the other developers, has allowed competitors to emerge and start to challenge Final Draft. Craig mentions FadeIn, which imports and exports Fountain to its own format, but there is also the popular Slugline which uses Fountain natively , and many other alternative apps, all using Fountain as leverage against Final Draft’s “.docx”-like hold on the market.

Here’s a short video John August made to demonstrate some key features of Fountain, and some drawbacks of Final Draft (and WYSIWYG in general):

The Slugline developers have their own video boasting WYSIWYG-ish functionality through on-the-fly parsing of what’s been typed. This bridges the gap between truly plain text, and the visual cues of what the final output will be. This is similar to ByWord’s approach to Markdown (which makes a small cameo).

On the same day as Scriptnotes 126, ArsTechnica released some thoughts on the fall of desktop publishing giant QuarkXpress. It is not pure coincidence that many of the reasons cited for QuarkXpress’ fall are cited by John and Craig as current issues for Final Draft. This was not lost on John and Stu Maschwitz (Fountain, and Slugline developer) either.

Yesterday, January 15th, Slugline got its first major update since it premiered mere months ago. The developers are moving at a quick pace, and they are clearly motivated to gain traction while Final Draft sleepwalks. I have no vested interest in winners and losers here, but I do like it when increased competition can lower the barrier of entry to the tools needed.

2014-01-16 06:58:00

Category: text

Stop Talking

I sent a tweet to all of my followers to stop tweeting about something I do not like.

Read that sentence again. Doesn’t it sound absolutely ridiculous? Who would want to say that sentence? Who would want to own up to that sentence being an actual activity they performed?

I did it, and I’m terribly ashamed of it.

I don’t barge in to a room full of people and yell, “Stop talking about football!” or “Shut up about The Golden Globe Awards!” Instead I wait out the conversation, subtly change the subject, or I leave the room. Why would Twitter be any different than that? Why should I get to scold people for talking “too much” about something I have absolutely no interest in? These days, I just scroll past. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to scroll. Problems will literally slide away.

This weekend was full of people I follow complaining about people they follow. I do not want to scold these people, because it’s really about a collective improvement in attitude and understanding, than specific actions.

Every time I feel compelled to complain about someone else’s interests, I reflect on the last few things I have talked about. Maybe I talked about computers, maybe it was a local news story, maybe it was Star Trek, maybe it was a dumb joke — Whatever it was, there is someone out there that was not enjoying it. I find that thing, I hold on to it, and it keeps me from standing on a soap box and shouting at people. I selected to follow whole people, not a topic-based mailing list, or a bunch of clones.

However, it is still very important to disagree with people; to have a discussion about certain things. That is best left to directed conversation, not broadcasts. Instead of aimless shouting, I talk specifically with someone about a topic I am in disagreement with. Maybe with two or three people.

It can feel good to let out a big, passive-aggressive tweet about a thing you have no interest in, mocking the interest “all” these other people have in it, but it’s not something people like to receive. I feel ashamed of reacting so poorly to situations in the past, and I would not want people to feel the same way.

Having said all that: Stop talking about football.

2014-01-13 22:59:47

Category: text

Andrew J Cast: The Show Must Go On


I hope the 4th wall has an insurance plan with a low deductible.

I appeared in Andrew J Cast episode 17: A Glorious Phoenix. It was about my Terrible Podcast Screenplays. He has been hounding me for one since the first day of his podcast. Unfortunately, he ended his podcast at episode 21. I technically have the longest episode of the podcast, and may have killed it.

2014-01-09 23:19:56

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Not my Cup of Coffee

Yesterday afternoon Tonx (a service that ships you freshly roasted beans on a fixed schedule) announced a new program to allow people to exchange their Starbucks gift cards for Tonx coffee instead. This is an interesting program for people that like Tonx coffee. Those people proceeded to evangelize it for the next 24+ hours over Twitter.

I don’t particularly care for Tonx coffee. I tried it and convinced myself I did, for a time, until I realized I had bags of coffee beans I didn’t want to drink. That doesn’t mean that those people that enjoy Tonx should not tweet about it, or that I should say something horribly rude about Tonx — I would never want to make someone feel bad about something they like just because I don’t share their enthusiasm.

What actually happens is that I feel insecure about not sharing in this euphoria. Many of the people talking about the Tonx offer are people that I deeply respect in the podcasto-techno-blogo-sphere. I get these momentary pangs of guilt whenever I do not like something that they enjoy. There is something wrong with my taste, and I am inferior.

I have gotten much better about reconciling this recently. I don’t like everything my friends like. I don’t like everything my family likes. If they recommend something to me, I am likely to take their recommendation seriously, but I don’t feel bad if I don’t like what they’ve recommended. I realized that the reason I feel bad about the blog-tech-pod-onians is because I feel like I’m disliking something in a dish they cooked for me. As if Myke Hurley has baked me a button mushroom casserole and I have to tell him I don’t like button mushrooms. Instead, I eat the casserole, all of it. “This is so good. My fave. Love it times infinity — plus one,” I say.

It is fine to not like something. I can even say, “Thanks, but I don’t like this.” Because we’re all adults. Myke Hurley will not cry. Marco Arment will not drive over me with his M5. Jason Snell will not ban me from computers. Merlin Mann will not eat me. Same goes for anyone else. Nothing bad will happen at all. Be respectful, enjoy a free trial (you may like it), and don’t worry about it if you don’t.

Tonx was not suitable for me, but it could be suitable for others. We are not all one hive mind, and our tastes in these matters are our own. When Nate Boateng stated he didn’t like Tonx, Linus Edwards and I agreed. Linus also seemed to feel like there was something wrong with him for not liking it. I said to him:

@LinusEdwards @nateboateng It’s not about being a coffee nerd. Tons of other roasters are still in business. It’s OK to not like something. >

I leave you with this parting thought: The title of this post was almost “Not my Cup of Joe”, because I love puns. You may not love that pun, and that is fine.

2014-01-09 21:25:09

Category: text

Vlcnr.app released



My review:

I don’t write many app reviews. In fact, I’m startled at how big the text is in this field. Silly iOS 7.

Speaking of iOS, this application cinches the platform’s place in history. With Vlcnr in the App Store, humanity had reached it’s peak.

Which is good. Because we at Vlcnr are coming for you.

Oh my. I’ve already said too much.

Love, Your CTO and friend*

2014-01-06 17:01:50

Category: link

Yet Another End of the Year

I don’t know why you are reading this Yet-Another-End-of-the-Year blog post, but I know why I am typing it. I need to type it because I need to think about it, and these days, the two have become the same thing (more on that later). I’ve been inspired by Chris Gonzales, and Matt Alexander to put finger to character. 2012, and 2013, were not especially good years for me. I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but there were two events that shaped each of those years. I was laid off (that’s both of them). It is a very dramatic way to put it though because I was hired back both times. The revelation is that my work has become almost seasonal. It was always project based, but It was nearly seven years before I experienced the first layoff, and a year later I experienced the second. I am currently working, so don’t get too sad. It does appear it will happen in 2014 as well, and the cycle will repeat.

As a result of this, I find myself preoccupied with who I am outside of the work that I do. If I have only my work to define me, then I’ve been a nobody for 6 months of the last 24. Working hard doesn’t make me a better person, just more employable. Now it doesn’t spare me from being an unemployed “nobody”. There are still people that choose to measure me in that way, during those times. “Are you looking?” They’ll ask. “Have you considered…?” They’ll offer. To them, work is who you are, and who you are is your work, so you aren’t a person if you aren’t currently working.

In 2013, I did a much better job handling the “time off” than I did in 2012. In 2014, I’d like to think I will improve further in this area. Nothing bad happened to me in 2012, or 2013, as a result of it. Lack of a current job doesn’t mean I am not a person that’s doing well, in the grand scheme of things.

There have also been positive events that have come about because of my unemployment this year. I had been using work as an excuse to procrastinate telling my family about someone that’s been integral to my life for four years. July 2013 was that four year mark. It is now something I don’t need to deal with in 2014, at year five.

2013 was also the year I started exploring interests in a semi-productive way. I finally started work on a novel I had been kicking around in my head. It is languishing now, at the end of the year, but at least it’s been started. At least I stopped using the excuse that I would procrastinate as a justification not to begin. A constant problem for me, no matter the year.

My love of film flamed out a bit over the last few years. It was rekindled this past year in the oddest way, through podcast reviews I wrote on the iTunes Store. Podcasts are things my friend Jason tried to get me in to for many years, and I kept complaining that I didn’t have time, and couldn’t listen while I worked. I started to find time in 2011, and listened all through 2012 to one of the greatest podcasts of all time, Hypercritical (RIP), but it wasn’t until 2013 that I realized I was hooked on hearing these people talk in my ear every week. It doesn’t even matter what they talk about, most of the time, I enjoy the company (I am not lonely, see the fourth paragraph.)

I posted before about how much fun it was to write the podcast reviews this year. It really has turned out to be a highlight of 2013, which is very peculiar since they obviously don’t earn me any money. It’s a silly hobby, but it is creatively fulfilling in a bizarre way that I was totally unprepared for. The idea of writing what amounts to a very, short film for an audio-only podcast, let alone several short films for several audio-only podcasts, is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done. Particularly the 42 page one that was done on a dare.

The podcasters that have contacted me have been nothing but kind, even though they didn’t even need to say anything at all. I don’t dismiss their graciousness in the least. Zac and Andrew are great fun, especially. Myke and Matt have been very encouraging along the way as well.

This culminated with Andrew asking to interview me for his daily podcast program. I was caught off guard, and I politely indicated that it would be a bad idea. Who am I to go on a podcast? I wound up doing it, and I’m not sorry I did. It was scary though, seeing the tweets come in, to have “followers” from what amounts to rambling. I don’t see what I have to offer them, but there they are. I keep feeling like I should apologize for being mentioned anywhere. Andrew even talked about me in a “thank you” episode along with all these important people. I’m pretty sure I blushed, but I didn’t check in a mirror.

There is no way to “pivot” this Terrible Podcast Screenplay Tumblr in to a job, and I would be sleaze if I did, but perhaps it has made me think that I might be able to find a creative outlet for these repressed interests.

Strangely, I am also learning through this process about writing screenplays; something I didn’t think I would be doing in 2013, let alone 2014. My degree is in fine arts, computer animation for god’s sake. I’m no writer, but maybe I can learn, keep learning.

Towards the end of this year, my interest in film consumption has risen. Like someone stricken by food poisoning, I’m finding an appetite again (sorry, but it’s a perfect metaphor).

One of my favorite things I’ve seen all year is Europa Report. It isn’t technically amazing, like Gravity, but it has an honest, independent heart to it. A small production putting together a tight, well-executed film. Independence is something I want to think on further next year.

2012 was the year I lost my job for the first time. 2013 is not the year I lost my job a second time, it is the year I found out my job didn’t define, or limit me. Here’s to whatever 2014 holds, cin cin!

2013-12-31 00:06:00

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