Thursday, February 26, 2009

FAFSA and Finances

Wow, do I feel productive this week! I am refinancing our mortgage, the taxes were done in a spectacularly quick fashion -- not really happy about them, but they're done at least -- and we've filed the FAFSA, which is the Financial Aid form for College for Frankie.

The FAFSA form is basically simple to fill out. They make it very clear. What is very difficult is trying to figure out the numbers. Yeah, sure, I understand what numbers are supposed to be in this box, but how do I figure out that number??? It's not just what you earn, it's also how much do you have saved? How much do you have invested? And I don't have a lot of huge investments, but I have a strangely large number of little tiny investments. One share of stock here, one share there. Literally.

Anyway, I added everything up as well as I could, and I crossed my fingers and filled it out. Frankie helped.

From everything I've heard, I am not supposed to expect any financial help with paying for college, but I had to fill it out anyway. So at least it's done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Snow Drop


Enough snow, lets hear it for spring flowers!
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Happy Mardi Gras!

I think Mardi Gras is a really big holiday SOMEWHERE, even if it's not too big here in my town. But we celebrate it anyway, as we do all of those minor holidays, with food. Tonight's menu is Pancakes. Or maybe Waffles. Kinda depends on what the kids want. I don't really have any beads to throw at you, but happy Mardi Gras anyway!

Monday, February 23, 2009

My views on Obama's Stimulus bill...

If you don't feel like reading a lot, check back tomorrow... I'll have more pictures. This is going to be a long one...

Plenty of controversy in the news (click here) and everywhere else, about Obama's stimulus bill.

I was watching Sunday Morning news shows, and they were talking about the stimulus bill, and I decided I wanted to read it. Because I want to make up my own mind about it.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm purely a liberal democrat. Which will probably be obvious. It's not very "politically correct". Well, it's better now than it was Pre-Bush. But anyway, I believe in big government, I understand the reason for taxes -- not that I WANT to be taxed to death, but I understand it. I like the things taxes pay for, like roads and schools and protected wild areas. And I WANT someone taking care of the people who can't take care of themselves. There are often good reasons why someone needs a hand. I'm not against Republicans, but I'm a Democrat.

I am also someone who sincerely believes that there are more than two sides to every story. Just because I'm a Democrat, and a bleeding heart, and just because I WANT to believe it's gonna all work out fine, doesn't mean I want to be brainwashed.

I don't want to be "spun". I don't want to just listen to the Democrats and believe that it will all be fine because Obama's taking care of us now. I also don't want to just listen to the Republicans and believe that we are in serious trouble because Obama is creating huge inflation problems that are going to be more and more difficult to recover from. I want to make up my own mind.

I think most people want to make up their own mind, and it's a great thing that you can find the bill on line so easily. I was impressed by that. If it's government by the people and for the people, the people need easy access to what's going on, right?

But most people (well, me) spend all of the energy they (I) have on family and job, television and blogging, and don't have extra brain cells to even THINK about what's going on with the country. I think that's why we're all so susceptible to spin. I hate to think that I've let spin determine my opinion about something, but I do it all the time. Because it's too hard to get the kid to his doctor's appointment, make dinner, finish the laundry, never mind trying to figure out if the country is going in the right direction or down the hill in a hand basket.

(Of course, it's a litttttle late for me to be reading this stimulus thing now that it's already passed, isn't it? :D)

I thought it would be a good idea to have my own opinions, so I could be less affected by the spin.

So I really tried. And I made it through the first 17 pages. But I can tell you, I probably won't be reading much more. So this is as good as it gets, probably. Starting with Div. A, Appropriations, Title 1, Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related.

1. Those numbers mean nothing to me. I'm only a regular person. The only budget I manage is my household budget, and we aren't talking billions, we're talking hundreds. There is a difference in proportion that is impossible for me to grasp.

2. 24,000,000. for Agricultural buildings and facilities for construction and repair and improvements. Well, who is getting this money? What buildings? Do we need those buildings? It makes sense to do upkeep on assets that we already own; better than having them fall down and then we have to build new ones. And I guess it will help construction workers keep jobs, right? And some farmers maybe? Hope so. I hope no one from the Agricultural department decides to just funnel it into his farm, which he owns because it's a tax deduction because he grows tomatoes and keeps a pet sheep out back. I hope someone's watching where the money goes...

3. 22,500,000 for oversight and audit of programs, grants and activities funded in this act. That sounds like a good idea, someone to keep everyone honest. I hope the auditor is honest.

4. 176,000,000 for work on deferred maintenance at Agricultural Research Service Facilities.... I get that. Deferred maintenance is like when I needed a new roof, and kept putting it off until it was the right time to do it. And I guess it's a good time to pay roofers, when they are really out of work because nobody's building new houses right now. And I would assume that Bush probably deferred a LOT of maintenance, to balance the budget with all of that war expense going on.

5. .... the next part of that was "... provided that priority be given to critical deferred maintenance projects that can be completed, and to activities that can commence promptly." That seems like a good idea; don't start it if you can't finish it, and we need to start hiring people RIGHT NOW.

6. "50,000,000 to maintain and modernize information technology." In agriculture? I guess so; everyone uses computers now, right? And hopefully that will hire some IT guys for a while.

Allright, I just took a break for dinner. This is already a blog of mammoth proportions, and I am only on page three or something of the bill. I didn't find out where any of this money is coming from (my friends tell me it's coming straight off the printing press, manufactured just for this.) I didn't find out what happens when all of these dollars hit the economy and help us a little for now, and then the bubble bursts again next year.

I've gotta just sum it up.

There are so many facets to this mess that I can't see all of them. I bet no one can. I hope Obama and his advisors can see more of them than I do.

The rest of us will just have to keep crossing our fingers.



Frankie and I went to the Gastro today, and we saw his new doctor, because the old one moved out of the practice. The new one is head of the department and very well respected so I'm not complaining, although I'll miss Dr. Yousseff. But the great news that we came out of the appointment with is that his Crohn's disease is in remission. Which I guess I knew already, because he's been feeling great and growing and eating, but it's nice to hear the actual word.

So YAY Frankie!
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hours later... I've gotten through 17 pages or so.

I haven't given up, I still want to slog through the whole bill. It won't be all today, though... It's obviously slow reading. But now, I'm hungry, and we're meeting friends for dinner, so enough is enough!

Yup, I get out of cooking again tonight :D

Maybe Monday?

The Stimulus Bill: This is what it looks like. 407 pages.

Everyone is wondering and worrying around the economy, and what the President is doing. The stimulus bill seems like our great hope, but I've heard plenty of people complaining about it. It was passed by a Democratic congress, and many Republicans are against it.
I was watching "Face the Nation" this morning, and even heard that some of the republican Governors may choose not to take the money that they will be offered by this bill.
One great thing about the internet -- and I believe it's a great thing about Obama -- is that you can find the text of the bill, on line, really easy. I found it, and this is the first page - the table of contents. I'm going to try to read it (as well as I can... I like to read, but this is probably more than a little over my head.) If you want to try to read it too, the link is at the bottom.
Government BY the People, FOR the People. This is the whole point to CHANGE, right? So give it a try. I'm not doing anything important today anyway! I'll write back later with whatever I can figure out. Which might not be much. But you should try to read it too, when you have a minute, and see if YOU support it or not.
One Hundred Eleventh Congress
of the
United States of America
Begun and held at the City of Washington
on Tuesday,
the sixth day of January,
two thousand and nine
An Act
Making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation,
infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed,
State and local fiscal stabilization,
for the fiscal year ending September 30,2009,
and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of
the United States of America in Congress assembled,
This Act may be cited as the
‘‘American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act of 2009’’.

The table of contents for this Act is as follows:

You can read the whole thing here:

(It might take a while to load on your computer)

Friday, February 20, 2009

My spot on the couch

This is my spot on the couch in the family room. I like to sit under the pine tree. The needles are very soft, and rather friendly. Yes, it's a pine tree, not a palm; it's a Douglas Fir, to be precise. OOPS! I mean it's a Norfolk Island Pine -- thank you Anonymous for saying something, I knew it but I wasn't thinking! I brought it home one year when I worked in the flower department at the A&P grocery store. It was a left over Christmas tree that was so incredibly Charlie Brownieish that no one wanted it, so I got it cheap. It's doing OK, but still strange looking. I love it.

This is not the prime spot on the couch, of course. The prime spot is fought over by the two Franks.

Nick tends to sit in the front room or upstairs in the toy room. He is not jockeying for position, and he likes to be in control of his own clicker.

We do all sit together to watch our new favorite show, Big Bang Theory. It is a geeky/nerdy delight, perfect for our family.

The Franks watch a lot of engineering type shows.
Although Thor does enjoy Cooking shows, as well. And they watch plenty of football and hockey and NASCAR.

I like dramas like Life on Mars and Grey's Anatomy. I hate getting sucked into the rest of TV.

Nick likes sitcoms like the Fresh Prince of BelAire -- yes, it's still on -- or Nickelodeon shows, or Spongebob. Or, video games.

I didn't know what else to post, so I thought this would be something, which might be better than nothing.

It might NOT be better than nothing.

I'm really supposed to be cleaning. I don't want to.

One Mutant Frond


It's weird, but that's what I love about it.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Light in my Bedroom


I love the light in my bedroom, and this is the one. The light coming through the window in the evening, and the light on my bed table. And the light coming in the window in the morning -- for a bedroom in the western part of the house, it's awful light awful early in there. I have a big black pillow behind my head that I can pull over my face on the days I get to sleep late, so the light doesn't bother me. 'Cause if I pulled down the window shades, I'd never get up. At least the pillow in my face gets aggravating by noon or so. :)

The light on the bed table is one I got from Gram, it was in her house in Elizabeth when I was a little kid. In fact, the light bulbs still worked, years and years later, some of the first light bulbs made... we took them out and re-wired the lamp just to be on the safe side. It's broken in the back, I think because of a drunken brawl with Uncle Pete, but I could be wrong. There was a story about a drunken brawl and Gram hitting Uncle Pete over the head with a lamp, but I don't think this was the lamp. I think it was a different lamp, with lead in the base. He got a dent in his skull from it. Gram had some great stories.

I painted my bedroom lavendar because this is the light that I wanted in my bedroom in the evening. Peaceful and dim, and ready to go to sleep.

Good night.
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Sandy (The song, not my sister)


I've been working on the video I'm trying to make with my pictures... it's a lot of fun, but the main thing I discovered is that I am not ready to complete it yet.

It's based on the Springsteen song, "Sandy," Which is actually named "4th of July in Asbury Park."

Before I can complete it, I need more good pictures... so it will be a work in progress until at least this summer. I have some really good pieces of it. I really enjoy putting these pictures to words and making a video.

Do you think that the songwriters and singers would mind? The song is their intellectual property, after all, I just want to illustrate it. Is that against copyright laws or something? I have to look that up. My plan isn't to make money off the final product, and I'm buying the version of the song that I'm using from legal channels. So I'm thinking it should be OK.

Just like reading Tarot cards. People do make money off fortune-telling, but my own belief is that if I profit, I won't be able to read them honestly.

I must have good Karma. All of my talents are given away free...

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Chicken Fried Video

This video comes highly recommended by James... it's really good, give it a watch....
Thanks, you bratty kid!

Old Photos

Just got back from my Mom and Dad's house. She gave me a bunch of photos to take home with me, she's a scrapbooker and she can't bear to throw them out but she has so many that she doesn't need. Here is a picture of Frank and I when I was a bridesmaid at Annette's wedding. OOps -- I mean Thor and I.

I wonder how Annette is doing?

Losing touch of friends is rather sad, but it happens all the time. As I get older I've been thinking of the friends that I've lost touch with, wondering how they are and why I didn't keep in touch with them in the first place. I went on Facebook and saw pictures of a bunch of people that I sorta remember, but I doubt they remember me.

Time keeps ticking into the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Valentines Day at Asbury Park !!!


Well, Thor and I planned on going SOMEWHERE for our anniversary, but this wasn't what we thought of. It just happened. And it was really cool!

We had DECIDED to go to Sandy Hook. But somehow, he forgot to take the parkway exit to get there, and I didn't notice either. So we ended up about 15 miles past the exit coming up on a sign that said "Asbury Park." I hadn't been to Asbury Park in about 25 years. It has a bit of a reputation for falling apart, not for being the in place to go. But WOW, were we wrong! It is very cool... maybe not the safest or liveliest place to go, but a great choice for a day taking photos!
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There were people taking pictures EVERYWHERE.


This is another Valentines Day wedding, just like mine... how lovely!

Everywhere you went on that boardwalk, there were people taking photos. Only one wedding, but plenty of photographers. Me and Frank both took our own. This is a very photographic place!
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Glass Blowing Studio in Asbury Park


This was the most exciting thing EVER!

We had chosen not to go into NYC because we figured we'd save money, but I blew that plan right here when I found out you could blow your own glass in the studio we stumbled onto. It wasn't REALLY expensive, but up 'til that moment, everything was free. Oh well, it was worth it.

I made an ornament to hang in my window, but they have to ship it to me because it needs a certain amount of time to cool down. I have enough photos that Thor took that I'll be able to have a whole post about that, later, when the ornament actually arrives. So check in next week if you're interested.
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Madame Marie


Madame Marie, a boardwalk fortune teller, was made famous in Bruce Springsteen's song "4th of July in Asbury Park (Sandy)" and I guess this is the actual Madame Marie's stand, as seen from the glass shop next door.

I'm going to take a bunch of these photos and make them into a video slide show for that song. I tried to do it last night, but it got difficult (probably due to too much wine.)

The line is "... and the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do... "

You should have seen how many people took pictures of THIS place!
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Asbury Park Convention Hall

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Details of the Asbury Park Convention Hall


You can see that they've been fixing up this building... the details are incredible, restored from it's original grandeur.
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The face of Asbury Park NJ


This is the face of Asbury Park, I believe his name is Tilly. Frank and I are in discussion about whether it is the ACTUAL Tilly, or just a replica. Could be a replica.
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The Stone Pony is an Asbury Park LANDMARK, famous for it's contribution to the New Jersey music landscape.
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I love digital photos.
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We had a really nice time...
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentines Day Card for You


Hope you have a lovely day!
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Last Night's art experience

It didn't snow today or even yesterday, it's actually getting warmer for now. But last night I worked on this image, which I had taken at the last snow fall.

I like photography, and I like painting, and I like taking my photographs and manipulating them. So this is an image, it's not a photo anymore. It looks like a painting, but it's not.

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I like the colors and the shapes and the lines and the textures on this. That's why I like it. I also like the way it moves.
I don't know if it qualifies as good, but in my own little art world, I'm going to not think about whether something is good or not, I'm only going to think about whether or not I like it. And I've decided that I do like this one.

Do you?

You don't have to. The other thing that I've decided in my own little happy art world is that art is personal, so you don't have to like it, and I won't mind.

On the other hand, if you have ideas of things that you think would be really good -- like maybe you think it would be an even better image if it was darker, or lighter, or something -- please say so. I'm interested in constructive criticism. That doesn't mean that I'm going to change what I've done, but it might lead me to do another one, maybe in a slightly different way. So feel free to be honest! If it doesn't interest you at all, and it's just not your kind of thing, that's fine too.

Do you remember that painter who used to appear on a PBS show -- Ross something? He was so soothing. He would practically whisper, as he painted, "Yes, here in our happy little forest, I think maybe we should have a nice little tree." I've gotta post a video of him on here soon, if I can find one. Well, I'm going to live in his happy little world of art. It seems like a lovely place.

Monday, February 09, 2009

an artist's eye

I like to play with art, and I think that's good enough for me. I see things that I like. They might not be art to you, but that's ok too. I've decided to be an artist when I grow up. It isn't too late. I'm not grown up yet, even if I am getting old. I'm younger than I'm going to be next week. So I'm working on building up my portfolio of images, and I'm starting now. I'm not worrying about the images that I lost on my previous hard drive -- I am only working on moving forward. I'm not sure where I'm going to start, but I know when -- I started tonight. Wish me luck!

My next design for Day Camp

I have designed several patches for the Day Camp patch, for Cub Scouts, which is handed out to each Cub Scout who participates. They put the design on the t-shirts too. This is the sketch for this year; my friend will be bringing it to a meeting and I should find out soon if they take my design. The theme is "America - Past and Present." Hopefully, they'll like it, and then I can post a picture of what the finished product looks like. That won't be for a while, though.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Photo of a photographer


We went to our friends' house last night and had a really great dinner and hung out. Thor and I both brought our cameras, and let Tara play with his new camera and I took a picture of her. Tara says she wants to be either a photographer or a chef. I suggested she should take photos of food. I bet there is a market for that, with all the cooking shows and cookbooks and magazines.

Tara also made REALLY GOOD brownies, which we did NOT take a picture of. I wish I had one right now. YUMM.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Black Cab Sessions

This is my newest favorite thing. It's from Youtube, it's called the Black Cab Sessions. They get all these different musicians doing something cool and accoustic in a little tiny cab in England. The sound is great, the musical choices are pretty cool, and I'm addicted to them. At least, I am today.

I'm really disappointed in the radio stations around here. Everytime I start listening to a station, it changes format. Even satellite radio changed. I really liked Sirius, but when they added XM, it changed and I don't particularly like the changes. I have to actively search for the music I want to hear, and these sessions helped me find some.

I'm gonna go watch some more. Bye.

Ice on the Brook

This is an old photo from my "GotCrowd" pix. Losing so many photos on my old hard drive makes me wish I'd saved more on sites like Flickr and GotCrowd.

Thor also saved a disc of photos that we had backed up ages ago. I have to reinstall them, and see what I've got. And some of our photos were on Frankie's laptop. Also not backed up, of course. Still not backed up, even if I learned my lesson.

Kurt got our new hard drive installed and running, but the old stuff hasn't been extricated. I would need to pay a professional for that, and I'm not sure that I'm up for paying.

I have downloaded Picasa again. I'm ready to start filling up the new hard drive. And will I back up the next batch of photos? That question remains to be answered.

My Widget isn't working.

But I tried! I wanna go to Bonnaroo, and I could win tickets for posting. Cross your fingers.


This is a Widget for Bonnaroo, for the festival that I would like to go to this year. There is a contest and if I post the video, I could win tickets. But when I posted, this was all that came up. I can't get it to play, and I can't figure out how to fix it, but I also don't want to take it down. So anyway, check out the Bonnaroo Web site at the Bonnaroo Web Site. They just released the list of artists -- Pearl Jam played there last year. This year? Bruce. I never did see Bruce.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Yay delayed opening!


Everyone loves to wake up late for a delayed opening! It's late enough to see the sunrise and take a picture. Normally, I'm running too late for that. Right now, though, I'm going to be late anyway if I don't start getting ready. At least I have time for a cup of tea.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More artsy pictures.

I know I'd mentioned earlier this week about wanting to get more artsy, remember? Well, the landscape in the winter without snow is mean and ugly. It's full of trash and bits of litter, even my own yard. The grass is dead and soggy and brownish tinged with green, the garden has more dirt than plants.

Cover everything with clean white snow and it looks much better, doesn't it? A fresh clean shroud, until things become alive again and start to grow.

So I went outside to let the cool air clear my head and to see things with a different eye. I took a few artsy photos while I was at it.


So many of my old photos are gone. So I'll take more to replace them. But right now, my files are empty of the good photos I am looking for. It will take a while to build up my files again. And then, I'll probably lose those photos too. Oh well, such is life.

This is my azalea bush, which will have beautiful hot pink flowers this spring, but right now it looks like a cotton plant. Not that I really know what a cotton plant looks like, but this is the way I imagine it would look. Maybe it's a snowball bush.

I really want to update my gardens this spring. I think now might be a good time to look at the catalogs and decide what kinds of seeds I want to plant. I want to grow lots of string beans, and some tomatoes, and I'm thinking about butternut squash. I want a few zuchini, and a few peppers, even though they never grow too well for me, and parsley and basil and mint for tea. And I want to update my rock garden in front of the house with annuals, but I need to really dig out the bed first, and pull out all of the bulbs and add more.

I have so much energy for gardening right now when I know how absolutely impossible it is to actually do anything. Funny how that works, isn't it? As soon as it's warm and spring, I won't have any interest in gardening at all.
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My favorite tree again...


One of the reasons I love this tree is because it looks all different at all different angles. This is one of my favorite angles.

Perspective is funny, you can look at things from all different ways, and see different twists and turns from one view than you see from another view. Which view is correct?
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Sunshine and shadows

It's a beautiful snowy day, but I'm kinda in the mood for spring after the warm weather we had yesterday.

Sunshine is so much better than shadow, don't you think?

RJ'sTAT2 video

Monday, February 02, 2009

Tattoo's R Us

Here is a picture of Chris's tattoo.

And this is a picture of the first tattoo I drew, for RJ.

Well, tonight, my third tattoo has been immortalized in skin. (RJ's skin again.) I've got a whole lot of video, which I plan on putting together in a little clip to post. It might take a while though. I haven't worked with the video blogging thing much yet. So I figured I'd start with this old picture first.

The story about the first tattoo is that the kid was talking about wanting to get a tattoo for a while. He told me he wanted a cross. I kept arguing that he wasn't religious enough to want a cross tattoo'd on his arm; it's not like he spends any time in church. So I drew a sketch, and told him I thought he should get something like the claddagh. And I told him my reasons with the symbolism or whatever... and he liked it.

I knew when he was going to get it, it wasn't a surprise, and he had his mom's permission, but even so, when I first saw that sketch engraved permanently on his arm, I really felt like I was punched in the gut... it was such a shock. A really big honor, but also a shock. I had a much less visceral reaction to Chris's tattoo.

This time, Laurie (RJ's mom) invited me to go along to watch the process. In fact, it was the first time I've seen a tattoo applied, aside from on TV. RJ was braver than I would be, that's for sure.

It was a very strange experience. It is so weird to watch a child of mine... (more or less... I THINK of him as one of my kids) in that kind of pain, and NOT do something to try to stop it. To think that he CHOSE to be in pain, in fact paid money for it. It's strange that people will pay decent money for art to be applied to their skin.

The place was beautiful, very clean, it had the feeling of a spa in an art gallery. The tattoo artist has a lot of talent, you could see it. I'm not sure how happy he was to be applying someone else's sketch, but he never complained about it.

Anyway, I'm going to go work on the video. I'm not sure when I'll get it done, but I'll post it soon. Check back later or tomorrow.

And oh yeah... having watched the whole thing, I'm not thinking I'm getting a tattoo anytime soon. I don't think I am tough enough. I'd be crying.
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