Video submissions for ‘The Road to Home DadCon’

By now you know I want to do a documentary. And if you have been following me at all, you know I have no idea what I am doing. But of course that has never stopped me before.  Right now I am trying to find guys who are off to DadCon who have no shame and are willing to send me film. What sort of film? We’ll, selfie is fine. And saying what? Well, I’ll get to that.

Here is what I am thinking:


1. Use a phone, video camera, digital camera, etc. I don’t care. If it records, use it. Just make sure it is 1080 HD and you shoot in 16:9 Widescreen (not landscape).

2. Film over multiple days i.e. before, during and after the convention. It doesn’t have to be long, just 2 or 3 min (or less) here and there. Whenever the mood takes you.

3. What you film is up to you, for the most part. I can always use b-roll of you preparing the night before with the wife, kids, dog, etc. Or b-roll of your travel, or the convention, or Raleigh, or in the pub, or you heading home and when you get home. Just do your best to keep the camera steady, and shoot as much as you feel comfortable.

That said, I will need some or all of these questions answered (or answer your own):

Before the convention film:

Who are you (share whatever personal details you feel comfortable – name, age, details of kids, wife, your location, how long you’ve been a SAHD, why you are a SAHD, what’s that like?

Why are you going?

Is it your first, or if you have been before, where and what was it like?

How did you wife react to you going?

What was the planning life (arranging to have someone take the kids etc.)?

Is it your first time away this year?

How important is it too you?

What do you expect?

During the convention film (Typically done at the end of the day or start):

What was the day like?

What did you do?

Who did you meet?

What was your favourite thing?

Where did you go?

If you went to a session, what was it and what was it like?

End of convention Film:

How do you feel?

Was it what you expected?

What was the best thing about it?

Will you be back?

Did it help and how?

If you film when you get home, which would be cool: what is the first night at home like?

This is a passion project with me, but I don’t know what I will get filmed. Truth is, I’ve never done anything like this before, and having a toddler and a wife that travels makes overcoming the learning curve a bugger. But I am going to do my damnedest. I just hope I get a few guys to help out, too.


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The Road to HomeDadCon – A Documentary


In the beginning…

Last year, when my daughter was about 9-months old, I began my search for online at-home dad resources.  Up to that point, I was in denial of my at-home dad status.  The first thing to really pique my interest was HomeDadCon.  My gears started turning.  Step to step to step, I ended up with the idea of a documentary.  It was June, 2015.  I put that idea into the wild.  It died.

To the present…

Now is a new year.   And unlike the 20th Annual At-Home Dad Convention, I am registered to attend number 21.  My goal is to film that journey.  From Palm Coast to Raleigh, I want to use GoPro , iPhone and the film of others to tell a sometimes funny tale of getting to, and participating in, Home DadCon.


You’ve heard of Gonzo Journalism? Well, I am thinking elements of that style. This is going to be first person perspective for the most part.  I want to make it humorous as well as human.  I want to make the big, small, and the small, big.  See later for details.  It is all still in development.  I will, however, not belittle Dads or DadCon.  That’s not the sort of humour I’m looking for.

Story Outline

Here is what I know about the story so far:

I plan to fly to either London, Ontario or Detroit, Michigan and meet with a fellow SAHD to road-trip it the 13hrs to Raleigh, North Carolina.  My mate and I plan to see the sights, so I expect an irreverent look at the American road trip.

I want to film enough of the location – hotel & Raleigh – and events, as to capture the feel of the town and the convention.

I want to interview enough people, maybe even have people submit their film – as to capture the mood and enthusiasm for convention and their roles as at-home-dads.

I want to interview behind the scenes, to look at how much effort goes into a production like this.

I will trace all of those things, particularly the human aspect, over the event, from my own perspective and the perspective of a few individuals.

I anticipate sadness and a deflation when it is over.  I expect to get that on film; everything from the tear down to the drive home, ending with my front door.

The Process and Funding

I am in the development stage right now.  What I can tell you is that I have no money,  and it will have no real budget all.  This will be bare bones.  The film will all be from iPhones and the like. The music for the soundtrack will all be free to use or as close to free to use as possible.  There will be no fancy lighting, no reality TV script, and no set shots.  This will be as close to real as real can be, with only an outline to drive it. And when it’s done, it most likely will go on Vimeo. Maybe. Who knows? There is a long way between there and now.

Do you want to help?

Are you going? Have you been before? Are you willing to take film of yourself – diary entry style – of the buildup to HomeDad Con, perhaps also during the event, and submit it to me? Maybe even film a little 3rd person footage from the convention itself? If so, contact me and we will get a plan together. I am looking for your personal thoughts and feelings, presented in a way that gets at the heart of the why the convention is important and what it means.  I intend to use these as vignettes throughout the larger film.

Thanks in advance!

Posted in Documentaries, SAHD | 3 Comments

20 Pictures of Austin, TX

If you’ve read my post ’19 Pictures that make me think of Portland’, you’ll be noticing a theme…  Edit: It’s now Nov 18th, 2015.  I started this post Dec 29th, 2013.  So that theme you’ll be noticing, it’s that I take a bloody long time to write posts!

Let’s start again.

Back on Feb 21st, 2013, I updated my statue on Facebook to:

“Live in Flagler Beach, FL. Visited Portland, OR. Now in Austin, TX. Maybe ‘House Hunters’ should go to Boulder, CO?!”

At the time, IVF and my daughter weren’t even a thought.  Nappies, poo, crying and sleepless nights – Possibly personal problems, but certainly not the 3rd party imposition of a baby.  No, life revolved around finding somewhere to live.  Somewhere ‘nice and liberal’ that we could call home after 5-years in the Florida sun.

Austin was city ‘2’ to get the ‘House Hunters’ treatment.  Though how we decided on it is forgotten, much like anything that wasn’t ‘tweeted’ or ‘facebooked’ about, but most likely it was a Yahoo article or a Google search for hip non-GOP places to live.   I vaguely recall something about Austin being the place to be back then.  And all the cool kids were doing it, so why not us?

The love affair with Austin got quite serious.  There were two trips: one in Feb and another in April.  A realtor was engaged.  Popular sites were visited and admired.  Beer was drunk, music was listened to, Mexican food eaten, and a decision made that the dawdling must be replaced by action.  It wasn’t though, much to my shame and regret.  We got back to Flagler Beach and life reverted back to worrying about the same old minutia (namely a dispute with VW over damage to newly purchased TDI Jetta).  Dawdling turned to a full stop, then reverse, and before too long relocation seemed as distant as the gaze of 16 year old girl working in a shoe shop.

Now all that’s left of Austin are the photos from my iPhone (and some buried social media updates).  Here are a selection of my favourite pics.  Looking at them now is bittersweet; I’m reminded of how easily I could now be in the big smoke, living at ‘Circle C Ranch’ in a 4000sq/ft home, but then again, I’ve got a 14-mth old toddler instead.  She’s pretty awesome.

'Greetings from Austin' Mural
At the corner of S. 1st and W. Annie, this vintage postcard mural covers the side of 'Roadhouse Relics' art studio. Put there in 1998 by the owner Todd Sanders and friend Rory Skagen, it's become Austin landmark. So much so, that in 2013 they were able to raise $10,000 to have the faded mural restored. This is as it was, unrestored.
Looking east from the Austin Hilton
The congestion in the distance is on I-35. This was our route into Austin from Houston. Certainly not as pretty as the west side of town along MoPac, there were some serious concerns about Austin before we got to look around. But every place has its rougher areas. The places that take a little longer for the economic boom to hit. At our visit, west and north were already becoming too expensive. By now, the east may well already be getting a 'dust and touch up.'
Austin Capitol Building and Grounds
You can't visit Austin without going to the Capitol Building. It was dusk when this photo was taken. The light was getting low, and because of that it was an all too quick visit. It was a shame. The gardens were immaculate, and there were many interesting bronze sculptures to look at, but we had to hurry along if we wanted to see the inside before things closed at 5pm.
The Capitol Dome: up from inside.
America loves their domes. Living in Australia, I can't say I saw a single dome. Not one. Living in America, I've seen several. Just off the top of my head, at least 3 up close: Jesse Hall at Mizzou, the Capitol Building in D.C., and now the Texas Capitol. Not exactly my style, but makes a good picture.
Onion Creek Trail, McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is located south-east of Austin on land once owned and occupied by 19th century businessman Thomas F. McKinney. Within is the Onion Creek Trail - an easy going 2.8 mile loop, flanked by mesquite, juniper, and live oak.
Prickly pear cacti along the Onion Creek Trail
I read somewhere that these were Texas Prickly Pear (Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri), though the lack of flowers means I've no idea if it's true. It doesn't really matter. They caught my eye because they are Opuntia cacti, a genus that was once a environmental pest in Australia. You can't study environmental science back home without learning of Prickly Pear and the Cactoblastis moth. Our single greatest example of biological control.
Volcanic rock just off the Picnic Trail
More McKinney Falls State Park. This plateau is the result of long ago molten lava from Pilot Knob volcano.
Lower McKinney Falls
Still, hot, but no one swimming? Could be the snakes I saw in the water.
Blanchard's Cricket Frog, Lower McKinney Falls
Frogs aren't really my expertise, but I am pretty certain this little critter is a Blanchard's Cricket Frog (Acris blanchardi). (He's well camouflaged, so you might have to look closely).
McKinney Homestead
Built between 1850 and 1852, the homestead was occupied until it burnt down in the 1940s. Looks like it was a fine place to grow up.
Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis)
I admit it, I like pretty flowers. Also in McKinney Falls, these Texas bluebonnets covered an area the size of a football field. And I seem to recall a scottie dog wandering through while we were there. That would have been a better picture. Dogs make even the best things better.
Band posters on the south end of Congress
Although this pic is from Congress, it's advertising the goings on downtown. And the downtown is great for live music. Our first visit we stayed at the downtown Hilton on 4th St, and that afforded us to have a few beers on the famous 6th St without having to drive. There was easily something for every musical taste.
Main Building, University of Texas at Austin
Main Building is a attractive looking building, but it's made notorious by Charles Whitman. It's from the viewing platform at the top that in 1966 he shot 48, killing 16. It's a eerie story made creepier by finding out later that he was buried in West Palm Beach, the place we lived for 5 years before moving to Flagler Beach.
Corner of Guadalupe and W 24th, from the University of Texas at Austin
Modern and colourful today, this was the scene of several of Charles Whitman's victims back in Aug of 1966. I'm sorry if this is a bit macabre, but the story fascinates me. I think because it's another example of how foreign the U.S. can be to me at times. The idea of a mass shooting on campus at my home uni is beyond my imagination.
City Skyline from Lou Neff Point
Zilker is a fine park. There are some great views of the city and Colorado River. Here, from Lou Neff Point, is one of them.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail
The MoPac Expressway crosses the Colorado River, and beneath it is a section of the Butler Hike and Bike Trail. It's beautiful with great views; just so easy to forget the 4 lanes of traffic above you.
West along the Colorado from under MoPac
This piece of the Colorado is damned off from the rest, as you can see by its different colour. I haven't looked into the reasoning, but no doubt flood control played a role.
Tightrope walker under MoPac
Seeing the weird and wonderful is what Austin is all about. So when you come across tightrope walkers, well, it's just 'normal.'
Market Gardens by Veteran's Drive
Another bit of wonderful in Austin: Market Gardens. As we walked the Butler Hike and Bike Trail under MoPac, these were on the north side of the Colorado River. I don't know why it's there, and Google hasn't given me the answer. Leave me a message if you know.
Colorado River from Mount Bonnell
There's not a lot to Mount Bonnell. There's a short trail and loads of other visitors, but a view is a great view. If nothing else, you can look at the expensive houses and dream.
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Urban Camping: Livin’ in your office, by Terry K.

I’m just a frustrated hobo at heart, who were it not for the restrictions of marriage would be riding the rails and swiping plates of left over Chinese at the local food hall.   So when I read what other creative hobo types have done to wrestle back their free time, I am in awe.  Terry K takes hobo to a new, and well shaven, level.  As you can tell from the title of his Salon article < I secretly lived in my office for 500 days >, he camped out under his desk at work and pocketed his rent money for a year and a third.  It’s simple. It’s genius.  And I have to admit, it’s something I also thought about when I first moved to West Palm Beach in 2008.

When I was hired under contract by the South Florida Water Management District in Feb of 2008, I had to relocate fairly quickly.  That meant maintaining two houses: the one in Arkansas that my wife lived in, and a second future abode for me in sunny Florida.  The thought left me in a miser’s panic. I spent hours searching Craigslist assessing roommate options, short-term leases, and even dog sitting arrangements for the summer as a means to save cash on accommodation.  At around the same time, another possibility struck me: buy a VW Camper and park it somewhere cheap.  That could either have been up the road at Jonathan Dickenson State Park, or at work in the nice and secure ‘District’ car park.

Now I came no closer to acting out my fantasy than walking my employer’s campus to see where I would shower and where I would appropriate power from, but it did cross my mind. The savings would have been huge, well north of $12K a year, but I had to be realistic. I had a wife. Furthermore, I had a wife who considered staying in a La Quinta to be a form of urban camping.  And so that is where my dream ended. I am glad, however, I got to see someone else prove its validity. A tip of the hat to you Terry K, very well done!

Posted in Hobo Life, SFWMD | Leave a comment

History on microfiche: Times gone by on the Palm Coast

I often peruse old newspapers. I do it because I desperately want to time travel, but know that this is the closest I will ever get. This weekend I went to Palm Coast’s main library to find out more about a defunct local attraction, Animal Land. Instead, however, I burnt a couple of hours delving into the history of Palm Coast through the ads and articles on microfiche of The Flagler Tribune.

From what I can find out, the ‘Tribune’ was Flagler County’s only newspaper during its life from 1917-1981. And judging by the late ’40s editions, its 3 or 4 pages of farm reports and local accidents were never going to yield a Pulitzer Prize. But for a region where so little of past remains, and where so few people have lived their whole lives to share its history, it’s a rare and comforting glimpse of what once was.

A Milland Hotel Advertisement that appeared in the 1947 edition of the Flagler Tribune.And in truth it’s not the articles, but advertisements that make the Tribune most interesting. The featured image is a snapshot from 1947 promoting Flagler Beach’s allegedly finest accommodation: the long gone Milland Hotel. I spent a year in Flagler Beach. It’s charming, quirky, and a little run down; much like most of Florida. Yet the Milland Hotel advertisement reminds me of Flagler’s more illustrious holiday past, where for $2.50 a night, or $50 a month, you could “get away from heat, stress and worry.” If it strikes your fancy, just call the four digit telephone number and make your reservation now.

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19 pictures that make me think of Portland

My wife and I visited Portland back in January, 2013 to see if it lived up to its ‘Portlandia’ hype.  Was the spirit of the ’90s really alive in Portland?  Was it a place where young people went to retire?  And was it somewhere my wife and I could see ourselves living?

We weren’t really there long enough to answer the first two questions, but with respect to the last – and bear in mind that we came to this decision after 3-days of drizzly rain – it’s a resounding yes!  Portland is cool, young and progressive.  There’s no sales tax.  It has all the big name hiking stores – Columbia, North Face, Patagonia, REI.  There are bikes and bike lanes galore.  The food is awesome and fresh tasting.  Finally, there is a major league soccer team – The Portland Timbers.  Why wouldn’t you want to live there?

TriMet MAX Light Rail in Downtown Portland
The MAX Light Rail has been a feature of Portland since 1986. It reminded me a lot of European light rail. It made getting around easy, especially to and from the airport.
Grey day on Hawthorne Bridge
Hawthorne Bridge spans the Willamette River by Waterfront Park in Downtown Portland. The path to the right is part of the half mile 'Waterfront Bike Trail'. Portlandians are crazy about their bikes. Not far from where this picture was taken, there is a Kerr Bikes free DIY fix-it station. Just stop by during business hours and you'll have free access to bike tools, an air pump, a wheel-truing stand and a work stand.
Nissan Leaf getting its 'Charge On'
There are approximately 25 electric quick-charging stations in downtown Portland. According to the Internet you can recharge a depleted Leaf battery pack to 80 percent of capacity in just half an hour. At a cost of $2/hr for a guest, that works out to a cost of something like $1.67 for 75 miles worth of charge. It must be true. You can't put anything that's not true on the Internet.
Lotus Cardroom & Cafe Mural
The Lotus Mural was first commissioned mural of now famous Portland artist, Karl Abramovic. Art is all around Portland, as are classic American bars. We didn’t spend any time in the ‘Lotus Cardroom’, but that evening we ate at Henry's 12th Street Tavern in the Pearl District. I'm not sure if it was real or imagined, but the food in Portland tasted less processed and more natural than other places I've been in the US.
A saturated Pioneer Courthouse Square
Centrally located and easy to get to (it’s bounded on all sides by MAX Light Rail), Pioneer Courthouse Square is described as Portland’s ‘Living Room.’ It hosts 'Travel Portland' (the offical visitor information center), a variety of artwork, and almost weekly events. It's functional, but kind of ugly. The red brick reminds me of a much hated bus station they built in Consett, Co. Durham England around 1980, and demolished in 1993.
Steph trying to take the Umbrella Man's cab
Pioneer Courthouse Square is home to several bronze artworks, including bears, otters, a scattered chess set, and this one, the 'Allow Me' bronze. Known locally as ‘Umbrella Man’, it one of seven created by John Seward Johnson II. From the wristwatch to the brogues, it's almost perfect in every detail.
Mist over Washington Park: A view from the Portland Hilton
One of the officers at Travel Portland took great pride in telling us that Portland's rainfall was less than that of Florida. The difference, however, is that in Portland it’s metered out as a fine mist that lasts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Weather didn’t seem to slow your average Portlandian down, though. Wherever we looked, there were always plenty of people walking, jogging, or biking.
Portland's Southern Skyline
If there was any cause for concern about a move to Portland, it was that it's a big city. Our current location, Flagler Beach, Florida, has a population of 4,500. Portland has a population of over 600,000. Ribbon roads, I-5, buildings over three stories; now that would all take some getting used to.
The Portland Aerial Tram leaving its Upper Station
The Portland Aerial Tram isn't just for tourists. Along with sightseers, it carries employees, patients, students, and visitors from the south waterfront to Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus on Marquam Hill. A round trip cost us a economical $4 per person, but that fee is waved for anyone associated with OSHU.
East from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)
East of the Willimette River are the southeastern hipster neighbourhoods, like the ultra cool Sunnyside-Hawthorne. We spent two days wandering Portland's neighborhoods with a realtor, but soon realized that the funky northeast and southeast was 'where it’s at'. East of the river is highly rated for walking, with numerous small restaurant/shopping districts.
Spooled 2" cable at the Upper Docking Station
Each tram car travels on a pair of 2 inch (49 mm) 7000 feet (2100 m) steel track ropes (Thank you Wikipedia!). Along with being quite a marvel, it also makes an interesting photo.
Union Station Clock Tower
Anyone who has watched Grimm on NBC has probably seen the Union Station clock tower. It's part of one of those great, latter 19th century American railroad stations. On alternating sides, the tower signage is 'Union Station' and 'Go By Train'. At night they light up gold with a neon blue surround.
Lines of Amtrak Carriages, Union Station
Both Amtrak and Greyhound run through Union Station. If you feel so inclined, $24 will get you a one-way Amtrak coach seat to Seattle, Washington. And if the sitting for 4hrs bothers you, get a bed in a Superliner Roomette for $160.
World Forestry Center Museum, Washington Park
Washington Park is a large urban park west of the downtown. Using TriMax rail, it’s easy trip from the city. We got off at the station across from the Forestry Center's main building; a 20,000 square foot museum. The Museum is one of those buildings that makes you think, “I want a house like this.” That is until you see the building it replaced. From the photos on display, the original log cabin, constructed in 1905 for the ‘Lewis and Clark Centennial American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair’, was even bigger and more grand. Unfortunately it burnt down in 1964.
Vietnam Veterans of Oregon Memorial
Washington Park is more than 400 acres, but we didn't stray further from the Forestry Center than the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is a 1,200-foot (370 m) spiral path that details the progression of the conflict, as well as listing the names of Oregon residents who died. The only Vietnam Memorial I know of in Australia is in Canberra; however, they’re not uncommon in the US, even in very small cities. Pensacola, Florida has a population of only 52,000, but they have a half scale replica of the Washington D.C Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Converted Warehouses of the Pearl District
The northern end of the city is typical of much of Portland: The old and the dilapidated are making way to the new and refurbished. The Pearl District was once a center of trade and manufacturing in the city, but fell into ruin in the mid 20th century. The pictured Gadsby Building is typical. A retail furniture store for almost 50 years, it closed in 1953, only to be revived in the late 1980s.
Classic Beef Pie from Pacific Pie Co.
Jan 27th is close enough to celebrate Australia Day, right? I've missed my pies since moving to the US, and Portland gave me the opportunity to visit an Aussie owned pie shop. The menu touted 'Grass feed Beef' as one of the ingredients, which seemed nothing like the indescribable bits that go into piecrust back home. It was good, but at $6.95US it was quite expensive. Even with the current Western Australian mining boom, a deli pie isn't going to set you back much more than $4.
Craftsman Houses of Hosford-Abernethy
Near Hawthorne Blvd in Southeast Portland, the neighborhood of Hosford-Abernethy is one of my favourites. It is loaded with craftsman style homes. If I only had a spare $700-$900K, I would snap one up.
Voodoo Donuts One on 22 SW 3rd Avenue
Voodoo Donuts is a must see for anyone visiting Portland. It's one of the coolest shops around, and there's always a line round the block. As for the donuts… I'm not really impressed. It isn't their fault, it is just the way they make donuts here. Too much glaze and sugar, not enough real cream and real chocolate.
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WordPress 1.01

Some time ago I watched the WordPress Lynda tutorials by Morten Rand-Hendriksen, specifically ‘Essential Training’ and ‘Building Child Themes.’  I would hazard a guess that most users start this way.  They were great.  They were easy and informative.  Unfortunately, though, I hadn’t set aside enough time to digest them properly, and any benefit I got from watching them was supplanted by the latest Yahoo news headline or the current adorable dog video.  It was just surplus information I had no use for.

Fast forward to a week or so ago.  With my sabbatical approaching its end, and my looking towards the next step in my career, I wanted to increase my web-presence.  My global resume, so to speak.  I wanted to let anyone searching for ‘David McFee’ online to be able to discover exactly who I was, what I was interested in, and what I stood for.  But my website was – is – a shambles.  I had to take another stab at WordPress.

What have I learnt?

Well, in short, much!  I have come to grips with the basics.   How the WP interface works, the basics of posts vs pages, how a theme works, etc.  And I have started to craft my content.  I know what I want to say, and where to put it.  It is all rather simple, but necessary stuff.   I’ve also branched into the world of css and php coding, at least as it pertains to child themes.  For a beginner that doesn’t know the respective languages, this is both fascinating and intimidating.  But I love it.

A good friend, who is a software engineer, once told me that I would love programming.  I’m paraphrasing, but he said that programming is perfect for people with an analytical minds, as it offers a good dose of both challenge and reward.  I got his point.  It was 1991.  At that time I was studying for my HEC in Mechanical Production Engineering at Newcastle College, and one of my favourite classes was CNC Programming.  I enjoyed writing the code, printing out the ticker tape, and testing it.  But I had different goals back then.  I was on track to do Quality Assurance.  It also didn’t help that I was pretty much computer illiterate.  I had had a bad experience coding ‘basic’ in high school, was too poor to be a ‘gamer’, so computers were foreign objects.  I wasn’t much different to most people my age, really.

That, of course, has all changed.  I was a late bloomer, but I am now pretty much a tech junky.  Even though my primary interest at Uni was biological conservation, I always wanted to see how technology could help.  When given the opportunity, I latched on to learning GIS and remote sensing software and techniques.  It is the best of both worlds.  As I progress with this page and the associated blogs, I want to expand further.  I want to know more about the programming aspects to GIS – that is where the magic lies.


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Technology Hell: My quest for the WordPress competence.

I am falling behind.  Where I once soaked up tech, I now feel like my father trying to program the record timer on our 1983 VHS: old, frustrated and a little angry.  My brain just isn’t replacing the old stuff like it used to.  Continue reading

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New Year’s Eve 2012

I have many New Year’s Resolutions. All the standard stuff: loose weight, get healthy, etc. But how to manage them? My conclusion was to write a blog. If I write about my resolutions they will come true. I mean, if it’s written on the internet it must be true. Right? So ipso facto, I’ll become fit and healthy by January 1st 2014. Let the journey begin!

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