Two by Two

imageI love most “there are two types of people” jokes. You can search the web for list after list of these. I would give you some links but joke lists have a tendency to go south. They either add annoying ads or they collect a bunch of raunchy or otherwise offensive jokes. So I’d rather not be associated with any of them forever. My favorite two-types-of-people joke is:

There are 10 types of people;
those who understand the binary system and those who don’t.

I was led to this topic by an observation during my daily commute. I leave my house at 6:00 am. It’s a 20 minute drive, and I have to be at work by 7:30. I know; the math doesn’t work. The primary reason I leave so early is to avoid sitting in traffic. If I tried to arrive at 7:30, I’d have to leave at 6:50 and drive in heavy traffic. My daily ride tells me that:image

There are two types of people on the road at 6:00 am;
those who want to be early and those who are already late.

I don’t like being late…for anything.

That’s a hereditary thing. My father was never late for anything. Ever. I worked a few summers at the same Post Office that he worked in. I usually worked some weird split-shift scenario and he worked 6:30 am – 3:30 pm. Once in a while, I would be scheduled to carry the route for a regular mailman who was going to be on vacation and I’d get that 6:30-3:30 shift. So, I could ride with my dad. The first time this happened, he woke me up at 5:30 complaining that “we have to leave soon!” He started work at 6:30, but he arrived at the Post Office at 6:00. He considered himself late at 6:01.

Being early for work isn’t bad. Like my dad, I enjoy starting the day in a leisurely fashion and I can get a lot of things done before most of my coworkers arrive. Being early for things today is easier than it was 40 years ago. If you’re early, you can catch up on email, read the news, read a blog post or two, or Dilbert, or whatever. That leads me to another observation:

There are two kinds of smart phone users; image
those who use smart phones and those who really use them.

I know lot of people with smart phone, primarily iPhones, who use it as a phone, texting and email platform with a camera. I want to ask “have you heard about these things called apps?” but I figure if it works for them, who am I to be concerned? I, on the other hand, love my apps. If have tons of apps, some of which I don’t use very often, but some I use every day. Since Top-10 lists are all the rage, here are my Top-10 iPhone apps:

  • Evernote – Taking and organizing notes just can get any easier. I have hundreds of ideas for this blog in Evernote (sorry if that depresses you). If I see something interesting, I can quickly pull up the note and add to it. When I get enough stuff to scribble 800-1,000 words, we’re off to press.
  • WordPress – If you have a blog on WP, and a smart phone, get this app.
  • Jot – Without this app, you would never see the classy little illustrations that often accompany this blog. I also use it for work, drawing flowcharts, screen designs and such.
  • ESPN Sportscenter / MLB At Bat – The best thing about these apps is that the let me be an engaged fan of Pittsburgh sports teams while living in New England.
  • Travel apps (Marriott, Delta, Southwest & AMTRAK) – These are all good, but I do think Marriott’s are the best. On my last trip, I forgot to ask for an extra blanket before leaving for a long day of meetings. I opened the app – went to ‘Linens’ – Clicked to add one blanket and I returned to a room with the bed made up with an extra blanket.
  • Google Maps – I have a Garmin GPS in my car that I love, but I really like Google Maps when I am walking.
  • Vine – It’s amazing how much information you can convey in a 6-second video.
  • Pool – Oh my goodness, this free simple little pool game, is, Ah-dictive. Seriously, get this game. This just in – they just added a 9-Ball version. Free never felt so good.
  • 1Password – The best part of this app is that I also have a version on my laptop, my iPad and my MacBook (yes, I am a geek) so I’m never without my passwords.
  • (Our) 411 – I’m including this app on the list because I wrote it. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to buy a copy, in fact, it’s an ‘enterprise app’ so you can’t have a copy unless you and I work together. I like this app because it holds all that stuff I never remember like the code to the file room and my boss’s cell phone number.

I’ll leave you with a slight variation on a two-types-of-people joke:

Women have two types of clothing;
clean and dirty.

Men have three types;
clean, dirty and the things you have to smell before wearing.

I put that in last because I think my editor just threw up.

Posted in Humor, Perspective, Technology, Work Habits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Resawn Tote

imageBack in May I wrote about purchasing a new band saw for my shop. The primary reason for selecting this particular saw was its resaw capacity. Resawing, in case you don’t want to revisit that post, is the process of slicing a board into two or more thinner boards. Resawing lets you make your own thin boards. It lets you make multiple thin boards out of one thick board and, if the one board is interesting, it lets you make panels that mirror each other.

I couldn’t wait to use this saw. I couldn’t wait for the project to come along that would force me to use this saw. I had to create a project simply to play with learn how to use this new toy tool. The project was easy to pick, I would build a box.

I have almost always built a box to test a new tool, a new jig or a new technique. Boxes are the perfect choice because: 1) they don’t require a lot of thought. 2) They can be made in any size or shape and 3) my wife and daughter love boxes! I learned this the hard way.

When I bought my first dovetail jig, I made a box. I mean, that is what you do with dovetails; you use them to join together the sides of boxes. I pulled a few pieces of plywood out of the scrap bin and I made a box. The wood was the same species, but the sides weren’t the same width. I didn’t care, it was a test, an exercise and an example…until it became a gift. I brought it home to show my wife and she put stuff in it.

Ever since that day, I build my test boxes with care. When I built a jig to help me cut box joints in the Green and Green style, my daughter scooped it up before my wife had a chance. I felt like I should make another one. The day I bought a much better imagedovetail jig, I made a box in the shape of a bed. I thought our cats might like it. One did, for a while but he stopped using it. We still have the box. My wife uses it to hold all the cat toys. If you build a box around here, count on it being here forever.

This time, the box needed to feature boards that were resawn. I decided to build a tote. I picked a tote because it would let me use imagethree boards cut from the same board, two for the sides and one for a divider / handle. I selected a piece of Ambrosia Maple because it’s highly figured and I happened to have a fairly thick piece lying around. I cut a nicely figured portion out of the board and I used the new saw to slice that into three pieces.

These thin boards looked good but that they presented a few challenges. The first challenge came when I assembled the basic box. I decided to use box joints because the wood was too thin to machine any other joints into. Box joints, like mitered corners need clamp pressure in both directions. I normally use a band clamp for these types of joints, but I couldn’t do that for two reasons. First, a lot of glue squeezes out of a box joint, and the band would smush that around. Second, since the sides and the ends of my box weren’t the same thickness, the pins were long. I wanted to wait and sand them flush after assembly. Then, I discovered a third problem – the wood was so thin that the clamps bent the sides in. I had to clamp some support brackets on the inside to keep the box square against the pressure. If you ever need a gift idea for a woodworker, buy him or her clamps. You can never have too many clamps.


The next thin-board challenge came as I started fashioning the center divider for the tote. The idea was to leave that board a little taller than the sides and cut a hole in to serve as a handle. That would have looked nice, but it would have been way too fragile. It had to be reinforced. Also, the connection of that divider to the ends of the box had to be reinforced. I resawed a couple of thin slices of mahogany to augment the handle hole and to make reinforcing posts for all 8 corners. After that, I turned my attention to the bottom; once again, I was set back by the whole thin board thing. Fortunately, I had enough mahogany to slice up some support cleats.

Once I had a support system for the bottom, it was time to resaw a few more boards. I took a second scrap of Ambrosia Maple and sliced off a series of strips that I could make into shiplap flooring. The complete tote is made from two maple boards and one mahogany board. The long sides display the effect of matching up the grain nicely.


This project was fun. I learned a lot about the operation of my new saw and I was able to build an interesting wooden tote. My wife is planning to use it for all her dog grooming tools and accessories so it should have a long and useful life.

Note: You can click on any photo to see it in full resolution. You can also click here to see the full set on Flickr.

Posted in DIY, Family, Tools, Woodworking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Introducing the Windsor Locks Canal

imageAs I mentioned Tuesday, this post is a little bit of an exercise for me. I don’t normally work with a lot of photos in one post, and I don’t think I’ve ever tried to describe a “destination” before. I’m not sure that The Windsor Locks Canal is much of a destination; I mean I wouldn’t travel to Connecticut just to see it. But, it is one of my favorite places.

The official website says that construction started oimagen the canal in 1827. It also says that “Charles Dickens was a notable visitor who passed through the canal on February 7, 1842.” It’s probably good that Mr. Dickens rode through after the canal was operational as opposed to as it was being built, as I’m not sure he would have appreciated to conditions under which men labored. But this isn’t a post about labor. It also isn’t a post about futility, which could also be used to characterize the Windsor Locks and other canals built in that era, since the railroads made them obsolete by the late 1840’s But the Windsor Locks Canal survived. Its longevity is the result of a good design which incorporated stone into the design of the locks and as lining of the canal walls.

I am very glad they built this to last.

For as long as I’ve lived in Windsor Locks, the path that the mules once used to pull boats along the 4 ½ mile canal has been “paved” for walkers and cyclists. I put paved in quotes because, back in the early days you had to look pretty hard to find more than a few feet of contiguous pavement. At some point in the 90’s, the State of CT started talking about making the area around the canal into a State Park. They passed some legislation and put up a few signs, but the bulk of the plans were tabled due to our perennial budget crisis. It’s OK; they had enough money to repave the path. That was welcome relief to our family.

Shortly after our daughter started riding a two-wheeler, we started riding the canal path. Most people begin their ride imagefrom the north end, in Suffield, CT. There’s a large parking lot there, a porta-potty and one of the best views of and from the canal are at the north locks. We usually begin our ride from the south end, near the abandoned and half-burnt Montgomery manufacturing building.

Starting from the lower end, the path and the sights ease you into the imagecanal experience since there is so much land on the eastern side of the path, that you can’t see the river. This land is home to waterfowl and many small animals. We have stopped to watch as a mother duck nudges her ducklings into the water and we have been made to stop by a mother goose. Geese, in case you aren’t aware, can, be, mean. I guess any mother can be mean if she thinks her children are threatened, but no other animal has ever pecked at my chain as I was riding past. These days, I simply wait at a good distance.

The Connecticut River and the canal get close enough to see together as you approach the railroad bridge that crosses both waterways. We always stop at this bridge. We always take pictures and for the longest time, we paid fun homage to Jenn and Ken who professed their love for each other in a bit of harmless vandalism. Unfortunately, the paint outlasted the love affair and now we have a good laugh as we drive over the updated message. I should mention that the water is usually not as high as it is in the center photo below, but it was the first time my wife rode with me. It was pretty scary and she wasn’t happy.


The canal was built to help barge traffic navigate around the Enfield Rapids. A dam at the north end fed water into the upper locks and provided the necessary depth for further travel upstream. Since the arrival of the railroad, the dam has been allowed to gradually fail. It’s hard to say if the canal will retain a source of water if the dam fails completely but it’s a slow process so I think we have a few bike rides left.

The canal elevation rises only about 15’ along the 4 ½ mile journey so the ride is easy. It’s also an easy walk, so you have to be prepared to deal with walkers, joggers as well as opposing traffic. You also have to watch for photographers as the canal is a rich source of natural beauty.

My favorite spot on the canal is where it crosses Stony imageBrook. The brook is about to enter the CT River, but it cuts through about 25’ below the level of the canal and its towpath. In what must have been amazing engineering feat in the day, the builders of the canal constructed a viaduct to carry the canal over the stream. I am still impressed with this crossing, even though the original 2-lane wooden viaduct has been replaced by a single-lane concrete version.

My favorite day on the canal was one very hot and imagestill morning. The surface of the canal was as smooth as glass and the rising sun was at the perfect angle to create some amazing reflections. You can see the entire set of these photos on my Flickr site, but this is one of my favorites. In case you haven’t guessed, the masthead photo for this blog is also from the canal. It was taken on that same still day.

I would leave you with an invitation to walk the canal if you are ever in north-central Connecticut, but there’s a catch. The canal path is closed to human traffic from November 1st to April 1st since the area around the canal is a Bald Eagle nesting area. For the past three years the ban has been extended on the lower end of the path until the eaglets have left the nest. It’s disappointing to have to turn around, but it’s for a good cause.


Posted in History, New England Life, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Must Visit Top 5 Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Dan Antion:

Waterfalls and Canals – Pt-1

One of the best things that has happened this year in terms of blogging was having been invited to join a small group of people to share ideas, encouragement and advice. I think that I am truly the lucky member of this bunch because I think I am the only one who isn’t working as a writer. I am in some impressive company and I will be sharing some of their work during the remainder of the summer as a way of mixing it up a bit.

Back in May, I had an idea for two or more of us to try to write complimentary posts. I decided that I was going to start by attempting to write a travel post like one written by Sharukh Bamboat titled “Must Visit Top 5 Waterfalls Near Mumbai.” Sharukh has several other travel posts, but I am particularly fond of waterfalls. I will be following this in a day or two with a post about a local Connecticut water attraction. I hope you enjoy Sharrukh’s post.

Originally posted on India Destinations:

Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Waterfalls Near Mumbai

Tired after a long week of hectic work and stress? Well, monsoons have finally touched Mumbai and this time the clouds have been more merciful than before raining more than what we normally expect. While rains lead to flood and traffic jam problems during the weekdays it also offers a better way to relax and get back into action on weekends. Many Mumbaikars feel the need to just take a break from their hectic schedule and drive away not too far from the city into a place that can offer them lush greenery and icy cool waterfall where they can enjoy and have some great time with their family and friends. Here we take a look at the top 5 waterfalls near Mumbai that offer the best way to enjoy our weekend.

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Ring of Criticism

imageEarlier this year, I participated in what is commonly known as a 360-Review. The concept is pretty straight forward; you are reviewed by your supervisors, your peers, the people who report to you and some people outside of your organization. I was dreading the experience until I had a better understanding of how the process works. It starts with a self-assessment.

Unlike the MBTI that I wrote about last week, where you answer questions and a computer program validates what you already know about yourself, a 360-Review makes you do the evaluation. In the process, I had to answer about 5,000 questions related to 22 leadership skills. I guess it wasn’t 5,000, but it seemed to go on forever. After I was done, everyone in my universe got to take an anonymous shot at my psyche. Everything is confidential. I only see aggregate scores and the woman administering the review is the only one who sees everything. The fun started when she and I explored the differences between my scores and ‘those other ones’.

Overall, I seem to be a pretty self-aware kind of guy. I agreed with my collective posse 66.7% of the time. I over estimated my skills 16% of the time and I underestimated my skills 17.3% of the time. A nice balance I thought. I should point out that I turned down the offer to let my wife participate in the review, but I’m not sure how that would have impacted my scores.

Every question is scored from 1-6 and is asked in such a way so that 6 is better. The individual values always represent the frequency with which you do something:

1 – Never 2 – Rarely 3 – Sometimes 4 – Usually 5 – Almost Always 6 – Always

For example, consider six questions constructed from: “How often is Dan likely to accept ______ when offered?” Where the blank is filled in with:

  • Chickpeas
  • Grapefruit
  • Salad
  • Beer
  • Chocolate
  • Bacon

And you have a pretty good idea of how the scaling works.

If my wife, daughter, brother, mother or most of my friends and I answered those questions, I’d probably have better that 66.7 agreement. I would also be ranked pretty low for the skill ‘makes healthy choices’. The trained professional might ask me to work on improving my diet. Oh yeah, did I mention that you are given work to do after the review is over? I won’t share the results across all 22 skill sets, but I will share my 5 highest and 5 lowest skills:image

I was pretty comfortable with that mix and I’m not too interested in
bolstering those low-lying areas. Let’s face it, sometimes decisions aren’t fair – deal with it. My attitude might need some work, but the goal isn’t necessarily to improve specific skills. No, we want to close the gaps between my perception and that of the people I interact with. In other words, the goal wouldn’t be for me to eat better, but to help everybody plan better menus – no chickpeas.

Not surprisingly, the biggest negative gaps stem from questions where I was ranking myself at the 5 and the few I put at the 6 level. I don’t normally express myself in absolute terms, so I should have avoided the “Always” answers but I do think that “Always instills in others a sense of purpose behind their work” is accurate. However, I don’t think that I should always have to repeat that message. I am more inclined to follow what must have been Thomas Jefferson’s approach to instill a sense of purpose in Lewis and Clark:

Look guys, it’s very important that we claim all the land between here and the Pacific Ocean before the British or the French. OK, off you go!

Social Awareness is one of the areas where I under-estimated my skills relative to my universe. This section included questions like: “Is aware of how his/her emotional state impacts others” and “Uses sensitivity to another person’s feelings to manage interactions successfully.” When asked if I could explain this discrepancy, I said “I think everyone was trying to be kind.”

Seriously, I’m no good at that stuff.

Nobody that I know really thinks that I am “almost always or even usually sensitive to their feelings.” I could give you a great example, but my daughter is working on a blog post about that incident. I’ll reblog it here when she’s done. Ironically, one of the questions contributing to my awesome Self-Management score was: “Resists the desire to act or speak when it will not help the situation.” Again, people were being kind. I gave myself a ‘3’ – you will have to wait for my daughter’s post to fully appreciate how generous I was being. Or ask my wife,  I once told her “you don’t really look pregnant, you just look a little bit fat” – I was trying to help.

The planning and vision things were areas where I got a little defensive. I mean, I’ve been doing this job for 26 years without too many missteps, do they think I’ve just been lucky? As penance, the woman in charge made me prepare a presentation in which I explained my strategy to my universe. That’ll teach ‘em.

About those communication skills, well it’s not my worst score, so… The reason for it being rated so low is the fact that after 26 years, my peers still don’t understand the jargon that I use, and it’s only when I care about their feelings that I resist saying: “you really should know what that means by now.”

Posted in Humor, Learning, Perspective, Work Habits | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Oh Bob

imageI follow Bob Vila on Twitter and there are a lot of days that he has a tip that is spot-on perfect. And then are days like this. “10 things to consider when buying a new couch.” Let’s just say I’m guessing Bob doesn’t have many pets.

In 2010, we began a complete makeover of a small family room. In this case, complete meant stripping the room down to the studs and up to the roof rafters. You can see a bunch of pictures from that project here, but this post is about furniture. If you look at the picture at the right, you won’t see a couch. We had to throw it out. We relocated most of the furniture from that room, but there just wasn’t anywhere to put a couch, and we didn’t like the old couch anyway. When the room was finally finished (don’t ask for a date) we bought a new couch. While Bob touched on a couple of topics that we took into consideration, I can’t give him 10 out of 10.

My wife hates to shop for furniture so my daughter and I made a pre-shopping-trip shopping trip. We checked out four of the leading furniture stores in the area. It helped that my daughter was also looking to buy a new couch. We narrowed the field to one major store so, a week later, I went back to the store with my wife.

Our number one concern was size. As you can see, the room is narrow and it is divided on both long sides by doorways. There’s enough room for a couch that I can lay down on (6’ 2”) but not much more. We quickly discovered that a change in couch design over the years added a new term to the size equation. My wife is only 5’ 2” and on about 40% of the couches in the store, she could either have her knees bend over the front edge or have her back against the back of the couch.

The next question was “will the dog like it?

Of course, that isn’t a single question. It’s more like: Can the imagedog get up on the couch? Is the height of the armrest correct for the dog’s head? Will the cushions stay in place when the dog flips around? And, will the material hold up to a dog?

Color was kind of a consideration, although the seat cushions will spend most of their life covered with a color-coordinated sheet. That’s because, well, if you have a dog, you know. We also have two cats, so food that they see for the second time and hairballs are possible. While it’s true that Olympic sprinters can make it from the kitchen to the family room in time to relocate the soon-to-be-offending kitty, we aren’t sprinters and our cats wait until we’re at the other end of the house to start hacking. So, having something you can toss into the washer or, on a particularly bad day, replace, is a good idea.

We settled on a couch with black fabric, three seat cushions and three, permanently attached back cushions. It wasn’t particularly expensive, but that’s not to say that it was cheap. Given that the dog will spend more time on it than me, it was way more than I had hoped to pay. The sales clerk shocked us a bit when he said:

OK, you’re going to go with one of our disposable sofas.”

See, in the store, it’s a sofa. It’s part of a “conversation area group.” It only turns into a couch after it’s delivered and a cat pukes on it.

Anyway, our response was: “Disposable?

Yes. That sofa is designed for people who prefer to change their décor every 2-3 years. It’s good quality but it won’t hold up to constant use.”

Well, it’s been 4 years and the sofa has held up well to one older gentle Irish Setter and one dingbat Irish Setter puppy, not to mention two cats.


Posted in DIY, Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Independent Me

imageA couple of days ago, we celebrated our independence here in the United States. I was going to write about independence but I found it hard to consider on a nationwide scale. I mean, I get it. We are no longer beholden to the Queen, we can make our own laws, collect our own taxes and fight our own wars. A quick look at the news last week could have provided fodder for 800 – 1,000 words on any of those subjects, but others would write those stories. I started thinking about my independence.

My independence has often been described by other words: “quiet” “shy” “introvert” – stuff like that. If those don’t seem like complimentary terms, you should know that they weren’t offered as compliments. For a long time, those comments were passed along to my parents with my report cards. I’m sure there’s a drug for me today. Years later, a class titled “The Psychology of Business” brought my nature to the surface in an allegedly scientific way.

We started with a simple, albeit embarrassing exercise. One by one, we were asked to describe what we saw on our way to the Cathedral of Learning (where our classes were held) from the time when we arrived in the general area of campus.

I was a commuting student. I had gotten off the bus at the corner opposite from the Cathedral green. It was a short walk, nothing much to notice really. I remembered stopping to watch one of the squirrels before heading into the building. My report was short and sweet.

A few observations later, one of my female classmates began with:

I saw Mr. Antion exiting the bus. When I got off the bus, I noticed that the store on the corner was having a sale. I stopped to look at some of the specials they were advertising (described in detail). As I headed toward the Cathedral, I noticed Mr. Antion watching one of the squirrels.”

Then, the professor called on me:

“Mr. Antion, do you know Miss, Jenkins?”


“Do you recall seeing her on the bus?”


The professor explained the difference in our observations as being normal for both of us. Miss Jenkins seemed relieved. I really didn’t care. Of course it was normal; it was what I normally did. Isn’t that the definition of normal?

During our next class, we were given imagethe Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. This test confirmed, once and for all time that I am an INTJ – Quite the introvert, preferring intuition over sensing, a distinct preference for thinking over feeling and a moderate preference for judging over perceiving. Today, I would be told that:

“Generally, INTJs have successful careers in areas requiring intensive intellectual efforts, presenting intellectual challenge, and creative approach. Due to the characteristics mentioned above, successful INTJs are found in technological companies, particularly in research and development, and also found among corporate lawyers, high- and mid-rank managers in technology companies and financial institutions.”

Let’s see, I manage a small group of technology workers in a small insurance company…I guess it worked.

I was forced to take that exam in college; it was part of my coursework. I have had opportunities to take this exam again, for employers and even in a church we belonged to. I’ve tried to avoid it. Once, I even just said “I’m an INTJ” to see if that would suffice. It’s not that I strongly disagree with the assessment, well the “corporate lawyer” thing is a little disturbing, but the whole concept bothers me.

The concept bothers me because of the lessons that followed the exam in graduate school. We were taught how to recognize the various signs that someone might be ‘I’ vs. ‘E’ or that you were dealing with a Thinker. The pictures on someone’s desk, the art on the wall, the way they positioned themselves in a meeting – all signs revealing the secret code of that person. Once you knew the code, you could work with it. Ask the right questions, push the right buttons and get the right answers. I asked if we were being taught how to manipulate people.

The professor railed against that suggestion. “Manipulation has a negative connotation. Observing people and using your observations is a valid technique that can help you succeed in business.” This is why I shouldn’t speak. I couldn’t help but think of Jacob Marley:

Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” – Charles Dickens

Hmm, that seems like a pretty ‘feely’ kind of reaction for a thinker, doesn’t it?

That’s my independence. I don’t play by the rules all the time. I prefer to doodle rather to color within the lines. I don’t vote the party line. I’m not as predictable as the pictures in my office might suggest.

My introverted nature affords me time toimage think. It allows me to enjoy woodworking, and photography and cycling, oh, and writing. I can think in a crowded room. To some, I might appear lost, detached, awkward or shy, but sometimes I’m just thinking about what’s going on around me.

Maybe I’ll write about it later.

Posted in Learning, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments