travel

Colonizing Mars — A One-Way Trip To The Red Planet

The Netherlands-based nonprofit company Mars One is looking for people to help colonize and pave the way for future settlement on the planet Mars.

The catch?  It’s being planned as a one-way trip.

A few days ago Mars One released its basic requirements for future astronauts heading to Mars.  The requirements don’t seem to be too strenuous.  You have to be at least eighteen years old, intelligent, and in good physical and mental health.  You don’t need to be the top of your class in test pilot school like the old days of NASA.

Planet MarsAnd of course, I’m sure you need all of your affairs settled here on Earth before blasting off to Mars.  After all, you’re never going to see any of your family and friends ever again.  You’ll probably be able to send and receive video messages to and from the Red Planet, but that’s about it.

I’ve heard of this one-way-trip concept discussed for a while now when it comes to future space exploration.  The problem is that when you consider the extreme distances, travel time measured in years, and costs that will exceed billions of dollars, it’s hard to convince governments to send astronauts outside of the Earth’s orbit.  Through in the development of future spacecraft plus all of the necessary testing and re-testing to make sure it’s as safe as possible.

That’s just getting the astronauts and equipment safely TO the destination.  Bringing them home safely is another task and significant expense.

But what if you found volunteers who would make the one-way voyage knowing full well that they’ll most likely never return to Earth?  Think of all the work and research those volunteer astronauts could accomplish as long as they keep receiving resupply ships along with fellow colonists.  We’re talking about leaps and bounds of advances without worrying about bringing the astronauts back home.

It sounds cruel but it’s just part of the exploration and colonization process.  Plus, is it really that cruel if you have an all-voluneteer crew? Read more…

Namecheap

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - January 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

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Michigan Trip – Detroit, Frankenmuth, Food & More! – November 2012

Back in early November, my family received news that my dad’s aunt, my great aunt, died from complications of dementia and whatnot.

Technically, we really didn’t receive word about it directly from our relatives.  My second cousin made mention of it on Facebook and we took it from there.  My great aunt turned a bunch of family members against my parents and I, and those bad feelings are still lingering in some people.  Considering the intentional lack of sentiment from those people when my brother died two years ago, those so-called family members are dead to me.

My dad still wanted to go to Michigan and pay his respects, so I joined him for the trip.  We planned to stay up in the Detroit area for a few days and make the most of our time up north.

National Museum of the United States Air Force – Dayton, Ohio

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Dayton, Ohio

The drive from Atlanta to Detroit was divided into two days.  We normally make the entire drive in one day, but my dad and I both wanted time to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio.

The best way to see the museum is when it first opens at 9 am each weekday.  You’ll have the museum to yourself for a few hours before school kids and more tourists arrive.

The National Museum of the USAF is one of the best aviation museums you’ll find in this country.  There are hundreds of aircraft exhibits spaced throughout three large hangers, taking you on a journey through the history of the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force.  A fourth hanger is scheduled to be constructed starting in 2013 with an opening slated for 2015. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - December 7, 2012 at 5:05 pm

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Wild Eagle (B&M Wing Coaster) at Dollywood

This past weekend my girlfriend and I had an opportunity to visit the Great Smoky Mountains.  This included visiting Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and as you can guess by the title of this article, the Dollywood theme park.

As some of you may know, Dollywood is a small theme park created by music legend, Dolly Parton.  This is essentially her park, and she’s been known to make occasional visits and say hello to the guests.  The park is clean, the workers are friendly, and there’s plenty of live country and bluegrass music.

And for the past few years, Dollywood has been making a name for itself in the world of roller coasters.  It’s been making a BIG name, and the park’s coaster collection just recently took a giant step forward.

Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine at Dollywood

“Wild Eagle” is the latest addition to the growing number of roller coasters inside Dollywood.  This is a custom-made Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) creation that not only seats riders four-across, but it seats them on the sides of the track.  In fact, there’s no coaster car above or below you.  This creation is known as a wing coaster, and believe me, it’s an AWESOME  experience!

 Wild Eagle coaster - eagle statue - 01  Wild Eagle coaster - eagle statue - 02

This past Sunday we rode the Wild Eagle coaster twice at park opening.  Later that afternoon there was a massive line of people waiting for the ride. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 8, 2012 at 9:53 pm

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The Santas of Northern Atlanta’s Shopping Malls

It’s that time of the year again.

Time to take those darling, never misbehaving, always polite children to the shopping mall to get that precious picture with Santa.

But with all of the Santas throughout the northern metro area, how do you know which malls have the best displays for that all-important and holiest of holiday photos?  Just which mall (or store) should you visit?  (DISCLAIMER — Those are all just Santa’s HELPERS as we all know the REAL Santa Claus is busy monitoring the toy factory in China, err, the North Pole, and he’s also checking that naughty list one more time)

The other week my girlfriend and I visited many of the Santa locations in northern Atlanta.  We couldn’t hit every single one, but dammit, we saw plenty of malls, a$$hole drivers who can’t back out of parking spots, and plenty of self-centered, ADHD parents pushing their way through stores.  Our pain is your benefit.

Get ready.

Here we go.

“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane . . .”

Town Center Mall;  Kennesaw, GA

Town Center Mall; Kennesaw, GA

Right off the bat, this is by far the absolute WORST Santa meet-and-greet in northern metro Atlanta.

What kind of crap is this?  Semi-translucent, color changing trees?  WTF?!?  A wide open area of, well, nothing?  Wow.  Maybe next year the people will actually TRY to have a pleasant Christmas display that Santa would be proud to call a temporary home.

Town Center is still a busy and lively mall, too.  It’s better than Gwinnett Place and safer than Cumberland Mall.  It’s just amazing that so little effort went into Town Center’s utterly craptastic Christmas display. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - December 1, 2011 at 12:57 am

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North Georgia Trip Report — Chattanooga, TN: Tennessee Aquarium

Situated on the south side of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga is the Tennessee Aquarium.

Tennessee Aquarium --- Chattanooga, Tennessee

The aquarium itself is divided into two separate buildings and experiences.  The original aquarium is known as River Journey and it is the world’s largest freshwater aquarium.  The second, and newer, building is Ocean Journey, and it focuses on saltwater creatures and fish.  Admission to the Tennessee Aquarium includes both buildings and requires a few hours to see and appreciate all of the fascinating exhibits.

Tennessee Aquarium --- glass pyramid structure Tennessee Aquarium --- glass pyramid structure

Arriving at the Tennessee Aquarium, you’re treated to two creative and imaginative structures that house both primary exhibits.  Although the glass pyramids on top of both buildings may feel more like the Journey into Imagination pavilion in Epcot at Walt Disney World, the rest of the building is a massive, multi-level complex filled with dozens of exhibits and literally thousands of animals that live above and below the water.  Long escalators take you to the top of each building, and a self-guided tour takes you back down to the street level, seeing many interesting exhibits along the way.

Sidewalk water display. Sidewalk water display.

Outside of the buildings is a creative display of various water features in the sidewalks.  It’s fun and imaginative, and I’m sure that the kids love to splash around in them during the summer months. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm

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North Georgia Trip Report — Chattanooga, TN: Ruby Falls, Incline Railway & Rock City

During our week in the Ellijay, Georgia, area, we decided to take a one-day excursion to Chattanooga, Tennessee and be tourists for the day.  This part of the trip report involves activities on Lookout Mountain including Ruby Falls, the Incline Railway, and Rock City (includes the full park guide map for Rock City).

Well, to be honest, we actually planned on going there well before leaving for the trip.  Purchasing ticket combos through our local AAA office saved some time and money in the process.

Lookout Mountain

Situated mostly in the state of Georgia and not really Tennessee is Lookout Mountain, a 2,392-foot mountain home to several of Chattanooga’s most famous tourist attractions and spectacular views of the city.

Welcome to Lookout Mountain.

Driving up the mountain involves lots of elevation changes and curvy roads.  Just take note that some of the attraction directional signs can be misleading and actually take you off the main roads and through residential land.

Ruby Falls

Castle entrance to Ruby Falls. Entering Ruby Falls.

Our original plan was to visit Rock City first, but very overcast skies send us deep into Lookout Mountain and through the caves to Ruby Falls.  As it turned out, seeing Ruby Falls first was a great idea as our tour group only had about eight people.  Later groups that morning had about thirty or so people.  Score another one for BDL (born dumb luck). Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm

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North Georgia Trip Report — Helen & Brasstown Bald

Part two of the North Georgia trip report involves an excursion that we made to Helen, GA, followed by Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in the state of Georgia.

Helen, Georgia

Helen, Georgia The mighty Chattahoochee River is more of a stream up here.

Driving to the alpine-themed town of Helen is one of the most scenic drives in the state of Georgia.  This drive was even better for us from Ellijay as we took a number of scenic roads through the mountains as we drove to the town.

The fall decorations always look great. Artwork tries to make the town look more European.

Helen originated as a logging town.  As the industry declined, the town switched to focus on tourism and themed the town to that of the Bavarian region in southern Germany.  The result is a German-themed town that brings in plenty of tourists, especially in the fall during its Oktoberfest celebration. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 9, 2011 at 12:42 am

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North Georgia Trip Report — Intro & Amicalola Falls

Just the other week, my girlfriend and I returned from a week of vacationing in the north Georgia mountains along with Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Some of MANY mountains throughout northern Georgia.

For me, vacation time always meant loading the car and heading down to theme park land in Orlando, Florida.  Other trips went north to Detroit, Michigan, to visit the Motherland, but those weren’t so much as vacations as they were family visitation periods along with taking trips down several memory lanes.

Although I’ve lived here in metro Atlanta for well over twenty years, my experience in the mountains just north of here is almost nothing.  Friends of the family live on Lake Burton in the northeast corner of the state, and I’ve made many trips to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains many times, but as far as the mountains in Georgia, I’ve generally skipped them.  This past week in that region was quite a unique experience.

Stop by and visit the Booger Hollow Store.  Six Gap Century bicycle riders.

My girlfriend has a condo in Ellijay, Georgia.  Ellijay is a quaint little town, although listening to the southern accent can be quite brutal at times, especially when it’s spoken by children.  The local Walmart parking lot is the hangout place for teenagers after school.  A local clothing store we visited had seats up front for the husbands to sit and socialize while the wives went shopping.  Otherwise, Ellijay has a nice mixture of livestock, farms, and very hilly and curvy mountain roads.  At least most of the locals know how to drive fast along the roads.

And as I discovered, Ellijay is a great point of origin for accessing many locations throughout that part of the state. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm

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Opening of I-85 Toll Lanes in Atlanta

For those people living and commuting along Interstate 85 in DeKalb and Gwinnett Counties in metro Atlanta, the opening of the I-85 toll lanes may have continued to screw the regular rush hour traffic drivers.

Yes, screw them.  Not help.  Not assist.  But continue to make the morning and afternoon commutes a living nightmare.

Sure, the drivers lost a lane a while ago when the furthest left lane became HOV only (carpool, buses and motorcycles only), but now it’s even worse.

Sadly, this toll lane project has been flawed from the start, and if the city planners actually think that this will help lessen the horrendous rush hour traffic problems, or even get its money back on the project, that’s another story.

The Atlanta Connector - A screwball idea of merging two incredibly busy interstates into one in the heart of downtown ATL.

As most of you probably know, the city of Atlanta ranks up there with the absolute worst of the worst in the nation when it comes to commute times to and from work.  People live everywhere and work everywhere, and they’ll zig-zag along the city’s interstates and major roads, trying to find the quickest way possible to and from work.  The problems with this being A) the city continues to grow, B) no road will ever have synchronized traffic lights, and C) many drivers don’t know how to drive efficiently, let alone knowing how to drive that well period.  This city is just full of traffic nightmares whether it’s a work day or the weekend.

So what do the almighty city planners do to try to fix the situation? Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 5, 2011 at 12:11 am

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Hello, October!

My favorite month of the year has finally arrived.

Actually, it officially arrived while my girlfriend and I were on vacation in the north Georgia mountains.  On October first we came home and attended a carnival-themed party hosted by a very good friend of ours.  The next two days after that have been, well, a recovery period from the change in weather and wee bit of drinking that took place at said party.

But October is here!

pumpkin farm

It’s the time of cooler weather, leaves changing color and falling to the ground, earlier evenings, the absolute best month in college football, and of course, harvest time and All Hallows’ Eve.

Halloween.

I love Halloween.  From the spooky decorations to horror movies on TV to haunted houses to Halloween parties to trick-or-treating, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  I’m addicted to watching all of the Halloween related shows on Travel Channel, that is, as long as it doesn’t conflict with watching my beloved Detroit Tigers in the MLB playoffs.

So, yes.  October is here.  This month is awesome.  The Tigers are playing right now in Game #4 of the ALDS against the Yankees.  New episodes of South Park and The Walking Dead resume this month.  Halloween is fantastic.

Great times for all.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - October 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm

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The Last Day of Summer Break

Here it is Friday in early August.

The sun is shining.

The squirrels are running across the lawn.

The outdoor temperature is nearing ninety degrees Fahrenheit.

And if you listen closely, you can hear the faint sobbing as the neighborhood children realize that come Monday they’ll be back in school.  This will be followed by shouts of joy by the parents as soon as the children board the school bus that Monday morning.

It’s the end of the summer as we know it . . .

No more beach vacations until Spring Break.  :-(

No more beach trips.  No more late nights and sleeping in the next day.  No more sitting inside and playing video games all day. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - August 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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Back From Pittsburgh; No Zombies This Time

This past weekend I had a travel opportunity to once again visit the great city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Well, it was more of a pack-an-apartment-and-move-the-contents-back-to-Georgia-type trip rather than traveling for business or pleasure.  Come to think of it, we really didn’t have any free time at all on this trip.

Northbound and down on a Delta Connection CRJ200.

The journey began bright and very early as my friend and I flew from Atlanta to Pittsburgh on a CRJ200.  The aircraft itself was pretty sweet, but when it comes to riding on the regional aircraft, I definitely prefer turboprops.  I flew on a Dash 8 this past November, and that was definitely a lot more fun.

One of the benefits to traveling first thing in the morning is that in addition to shorter lines going through security, the wait for takeoff is kept to a minimum.  In our case the pilot told us that we were first in line for takeoff.  We cruised along the taxiway, made the turn onto the runway, and then went to full power for takeoff.  We were airborne within a short moment and on our way north to Pittsburgh.

Sunrise from waaaaaaay up high.

Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 31, 2011 at 12:27 am

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Off To Pittsburgh (Again)

Well, folks, in a few hours I’ll be heading down to Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport for a non-stop flight to Pittsburgh, PA.

Why Pittsburgh?

It’s simple.  My friend’s sister had a successful dual-lung transplant, and now it’s time to move everything in the temporary apartment back down here to Atlanta.  We moved her up there at the end of November.  The fact that someone can have a major operation like that and then be essentially dismissed and allowed to move back home in such a short time frame is amazing.

This time my flight will be aboard a CRJ200 regional airliner.  It’s not as glorious as riding in a turboprop, but cruising with a pair of jet engines will still make this an entertaining flight.  I’m already looking forward to the acceleration of takeoff and the thrill of a (hopefully) smooth landing.  This is going to be a sweet ride.

The fact that snow is in Pittsburgh’s weather forecast this Sunday is an added bonus.  I’m sick of this extreme pollen here in Atlanta, and the breath of cold, fresh air is going to be great.

In the meantime, it’s time to sleep for a couple of hours before heading down to the airport.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 26, 2011 at 2:15 am

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Pittsburgh – Detroit Thanksgiving Trip

These past two weeks I had an incredible journey visiting the cities of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Detroit, Michigan.

The Pittsburgh part was to help prepare an apartment for a friend, while the Detroit part was to visit with relatives during Thanksgiving.  One of the coolest parts was flying on a regional turboprop airliner between the cities.  That’s just my aviation dork side showing there 🙂

The story with the Pittsburgh trip is that my friend’s sister has cystic fibrosis, and recently she was approved for a double lung transplant at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  Once you’re approved for the transplant, you’re placed on the waiting list and basically wait until the organ is ready.  This also means that you need to live within an hour or two of the hospital conducting the operation.

For my friend Susanne, that means packing up and temporarily moving to the great city of Pittsburgh.  My friend Jimmy drove the rental truck while I followed behind in the vehicle that would remain up there.  For 500 of the 680 miles, I stayed in very close pursuit of the truck and drafted as much as possible, increasing the vehicle’s fuel economy tremendously.  Apart from minor wear and tear (not much on the highways), it was cheaper for me to draft behind the truck than it was to rent a vehicle hauler and pull it behind the rental truck.

Every little bit helps. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - November 30, 2010 at 12:06 am

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Back from the Motor City

This past weekend I had the honor of spending a little bit of time in Detroit, Michigan.

Yeah, I’ve heard the jokes and know quite well about the city’s horrendous crime and corruption, but once you get out of the downtown area, things actually get quite nice.  Or at least they were nice and now the nicer areas are a few more miles away.  As the crime expands, many people simply move further away or out of the area entirely.

Michigan map

But let me tell you, being in the state of Michigan from late Spring through early Fall is simply amazing.

From the warm air to boating to cruising the streets to all of the usual summertime and warm weather activities, it’s tough to beat being in Michigan from May through September.  I love it up there this time of year.

One of the cool things about the people, apart from Detroiters being avid sports fans even when the teams have off years (or many years like the Lions), is that in general, they really appreciate the summer.  They are out and about enjoying everything from the local parks and Great Lakes to having BBQs and enjoying ice cream and lots of cold beer.  These are my kind of people.

It’s just a shame dealing with the crime & corruption along with the 8 month event known as winter. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - July 27, 2010 at 8:29 pm

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Four More Days . . .

. . . until the start of summer break.

Yes, believe it or not, but many students in the metro Atlanta area only have four more days of school.  Summer vacation begins on Friday afternoon.

But for the students, when will it feel like being on summer break?

  • A) That last day of school including the bus ride home.
  • B) On Sunday night when you don’t have to go to bed early.
  • C) On Monday morning when you’re sleeping in and not heading out to the bus stop.
  • D) A few days into the break when you’re making use of your freedom, not worrying about homework, tests or school projects.
  • E) Anytime in July, from fireworks on the 4th of July to the peak of summertime heat at the end of the month.
    No more class!  Hooray!

    No more class! Hooray!

    You’ll get a different answer no matter who you ask. Read more…

    Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 17, 2010 at 10:09 pm

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    “Destination Truth” – Last Three Episodes

    Season Three of Destination Truth ended last week with an episode showing the team first looking for spirits on the mysterious Easter Island and then looking for a large bird thought to be extinct.

    Actually, the last three episodes followed the same pattern:  Each first half had the team hunting for ghosts with marginal, inconclusive results followed by proving a cryptozoological or extinct creature not to exist.

    In other words, boring.  Just reality television that focuses on exotic locations and cultures.

    So were those last three episodes a total waste?

    No, certainly not.  Let’s take a look at the non-paranormal part of each episode and see what happened. Read more…

    Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm

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    Spring Break 2010

    It’s that time of the year again!

    Today was the last day of school before spring break for here in the metro Atlanta area.  It’s time to head to the beach, to the theme parks, to Detroit, or wherever it is that families go for this event.

    orange tree

    For me, I’ll take the land of orange trees, theme parks and the bright Florida sunshine.  It’s what my family has done for pretty much every spring break from second grade (the year we moved down here from Detroit) through junior year in high school.  And let me tell you, I really miss those days. Read more…

    Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm

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    “Destination Truth” – The Jersey Devil and The Yeren

    Last night’s new episode of Destination Truth brought the investigative team to New Jersey in the hunt for the legendary Jersey Devil.  The second half of the show had the team hunting for the Yeren in central China.

    As a whole, this has been one of the better episodes for this half of the season, even if the team didn’t uncover any solid evidence into either creature’s proven existence.

    The Jersey Devil:

    The hunting in New Jersey for the Jersey Devil marked the third time that the team has searched for an American legend, the Swamp Ape in Florida and Thunderbird in Alaska being the previous two investigations.

    The Jersey Devil

    The Jersey Devil

    The legend of the Jersey Devil dates back to colonial times in America, but sightings and talk of the creature continues today. Read more…

    2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 1, 2010 at 10:32 pm

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    “Destination Truth” – Ghosts of the Great Wall and the Israeli Mermaid

    The latest episode of Destination Truth had the team investigating reports of paranormal activity along part of the Great Wall of China, and then hunting for evidence of a mermaid that is said to live along part of Israel’s coastline.

    Ghosts of the Great Wall:

    I don’t know if it was just me, but the first half of the episode was pretty weak.

    The show started off with the usual reality show format, showing Josh and the gang heading off to China and doing all of the “fish out of water” jokes.  It’s interesting when the show goes to exotic locations, but it needs to focus more on the actual investigation and less about how different the location and people compare to back home in the States.

    Great Wall of China

    Great Wall of China

    The problem with ghost hunting (as proven by all ghost hunting and paranormal shows on TV), is that you really need solid visual evidence to convince the skeptics that spirits can exist in that format.  Seeing mysterious shadows out of the corner of your eye and having feelings of being touched, grabbed or pushed make for some great storytelling, but that’s just it.  Stories.  Not concrete proof. Read more…

    Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 25, 2010 at 9:26 pm

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