Archives: May 2003

Wed May 21, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Nine

I figured while I was waiting for things to install, instead of doing other useful things concurrently, I'd blog. May as well try to get another segment of this out of the way, especially if I can come up with 11 things as quickly as I did for part 8.

I never took the SAT test.

I took the PSAT, and from those scores the college admissions guy extrapolated that I'd have been in the 600's on each part of the SAT.

I started college three years out of high school, attending the local state college because it was cheap and I could afford to pay for it myself, I could easily get admitted, I could commute there, and one of my best friends went there.

I was motivated to go to college for a few reasons. I had advanced rapidly at the book bindery where I worked, but any further advancement and money would require a degree. I was jealous of my friends who were in college, and knew it was silly for me not to go too. Finally, I was in a bout of depression that made me want to escape my current situation, which felt too dead end.

After I read 1984 in late 1981, I started having nightmares - virtually unheard of for me - and was thrown into a state of depression, the same one mentioned in item 92. It was reading Atlas Shrugged that made me feel better.

I'm not prone to phobias or nightmares, but the one big thing that terrifies me and can give me nightmares is the idea of being accused of something I didn't do, or something that shouldn't be considered "wrong" and punishable. Guess I have oppression phobia. Thus my reaction to 1984.

The Atlas Shrugged character to whom I most closely relate is Hank Reardon.

When I started college, I was undeclared. I considered geology, as mentioned, as well as political science and computer science. When I tried to take a political science class to satisfy general requirements, I fled rapidly because I couldn't bear to have a commie professor pretending to be "balanced." In the short time I was in the class, we'd had to write a commentary on one of Reagan's state of the union speeches, which I did from an unabashedly libertarian perspective. Subsequently when I went to have the professor sign the withdrawal form, he seemed nervous to be around me, which thought was funny. But I digress.

I discovered there was a nascent Management Science program that started under the auspices of the Earth Sciences department. After one undeclared semester, that became my major. I considered minoring in economics when that became available, but decided I had enough to worry about.

Thus my degree ended up being a B.S. in Management Science, Finance and Accounting Concentration. I was torn between that and the marketing concentration, which people find weird because they see it as two different brain types.

In the early to mid eighties, for a few years, I was a card carrying member of the Massachusetts and national Libertarian parties. Literally card carrying; when I joined, they had membership cards, which were discontinued a couple years later. I attended the state party convention for a couple years. Rebecca Shipman is the only candidate for governor I've ever met personally, as a result. I meant to write a whole post about this sometime, so I'll stop now rather than expanding this to "could be its own post" length.

I'm not particularly fond of having my picture taken, and usually react with revulsion to seeing myself in a photo the way most people react to hearing their own voice on tape.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 21, 03 | 3:33 pm | Profile

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Eleventy-One Things, Part Eight

I wasn't brought up with any particular sense that I would someday have to establish a career, earn adequate money, and support myself, and that perhaps I ought to be thinking about and preparing toward such an eventuality significantly more than was the case prior to turning 18 and being abruptly faced with reality. If there's one thing I fault my parents for, this is it. Heck, I had some clue, but didn't grasp the scale of it or have a truly serious sense of things.

Somewhere along the line I was interested in astronomy.

Somewhere along the line I was interested in meteorology.

Somewhere along the line I was interested in geology. My sister and I, and one of my best friends in elementary school, were all into the rock hound thing. I considered geology as a major when I got to college. That and another earth science course were what I took for the science requirement, which was also good for the GPA. My geology professor used to make fun of sociology, saying all he learned in sociology was it's bad to be pooor, which he already knew. Heh.

Somewhere along the way, like most kids, I wanted to be a DJ.

I've been fascinated by electronics and gadgets as long as I can remember. In a more twisted aspect of that, I used to take a Lionel train transformer, touch the leads in different places in broken radios and walkie talkies, and see what happened or fry components. Got some cool squealing noises that way. I used to be jealous of my older brother, working on his guitar amplifier, going to radio shack for tubes and other parts with our cousin. In 1974 I sketched something I had in mind that now you'd recognize as a crude multimedia, communication center workstation, or a wish for something amounting to one. I wish I still had that!

I was always fascinated with business, and with the so-called robber barons. When I was a kid I would read their bios and completely relate to them. I guess I missed the part where I was supposed to think they were eeeeevil.

Somewhere along the line I was interested in farming, and more particularly horticulture of the more ornamental variety.

In my teens I had a lawn mowing and snow removal business. There really weren't jobs like there are now, so there weren't many options otherwise.

I was fascinated in my later teens with the idea of the mail order business before mail order became outrageously huge, but I didn't have a product to sell that way, or capital.

Circa 1977 - 1986 I was obsessed with the idea of starting or joining, or even simply encouraging others at, a commercial space launch venture, with the ultimate objective of terraforming Mars, or at least enabling that to begin.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 21, 03 | 2:13 am | Profile

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Tue May 20, 2003

Doomsday Provision

Rachel makes yet another gun post today, in which she quotes at length the dissent by Judge Kozinski in the recent 9th Circuit Silveira v. Lockyer decision. I agree; brilliantly said, but this one part is what people all should instinctively "get" about the Second Amendment, and seem to be too sheeplike to comprehend:

The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed?where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees.

That sums up for me why I find it incomprehensible that anyone would do anything short of embrace the Second Amendment; what it clearly says and means, and the premise, the fear, that it is based upon. I automatically suspect anyone else of being a brain donor.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 20, 03 | 5:46 pm | Profile

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Fri May 16, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Seven

I love to play cribbage, which I learned from my grandfather. A funny incident happened when I was a watchman at a paper factory. Guys who worked there and normally played during lunch break were missing a fourth, so they invited me to join them. I had said it had been a long time since I'd played. They somehow heard that as "I'm not very good." They were surprised. Heh.

I always sucked at Clue.

I am worse at Scrabble than you might expect.

I used to play Risk, which I enjoyed, with my friend Tom, until I figured out how to win every time.

I am not big on computer games, with the last major game I played extensively being Doom 2.

My first PC game was DOS shareware Tetris, which used J, K, L and M instead of arrows, becase it was still common for there to be 84-key keyboards. My roommate put it on my 286 that had been gameless for its first two years. I still enjoy it, and that game single-handedly did wonders for my finger speed and coordination.

I sometimes think people have it too easy these days when they buy computers and don't really have to learn anything. My first PC booted to C:\> and at the top center said "Welcome to the Packard-Bell Computer World."

In seventh grade I disliked wood shop class. Yet I admire people who can build things like furniture.

In eight grade I loved metal shop.

I also liked welding, which we did in the vocational agriculture classes in high school. My father and brother never took seriously the concept of my doing things like welding. It was strange.

Back to the topic of games, there may be a pattern to the fact that I am a Minesweeper addict, a Moraff's Morejongg addict (but I have to play Mega-Morejongg because I noticed after a while a finite set of tile patterns in the regular version), and an online Marbles addict.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 16, 03 | 2:30 am | Profile

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Eleventy-One Things, Part Six

It occured to me I really ought to continue this and get it moving toward a close.

I have never ridden a horse.

I think horses are amazing, beautiful creatures. My late uncle bred race horses, and after he drowned, a horse that had been his lived at my grandfather's house for a long while.

I just adore dogs, especially golden retrievers and other larger breeds.

I like cats, rabbits, and animals in general, though I do tend to prefer the more intelligent, active, interactive critters. Conversely, they usually take to me well.

I have never gone hunting.

I have no opposition to hunting, though when I was a kid, during hunting season we used to resent having to stay out of the woods surrounding our house, or at least be careful (noisy and bright). There was a hunting cabin just slightly into the woods across the street.

I have never owned a gun, except a BB gun.

I am a rabidly pro second amendment fanatic, and make fun of the reading comprehension of those who ignore it, or misinterpret it to be in any way restrictive.

I've only ever fired (non-BB) guns a few times.

I always loved playing with bows and arrows, and with slingshots.

When I was 12 I co-built, really was the primary force behind, a tree hut about 20 feet up a tree at my newly met best friend's house. It was made out of smaller trees we cut down for beams, and mainly found or discarded boards and plywood. It was big enough to sleep two kids in sleeping bags with room to spare, and last I knew was still up in the tree almost 30 years later, if unsafe to go in due to rotted floorboards. The walls weren't straight and it wasn't fancy, but I still can't believe we did it, at that age.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 16, 03 | 1:04 am | Profile

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Sat May 10, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Five

I have never been out of the country except to Canada.

Come on, it's only Canada, and yet exiting the country even to go there always makes me strangely nervous, routine as it may be (say, at least 4 times a year).

The first concert I ever attended, beside a couple my class had at high school with semi-big names, was the Beach Boys, at Providence Civic Center late 1978.

The most recent concert I saw was The Guess Who, late last summer at South Shore Music Circus. They were absolutely unbelievable! They did the big hits of BTO as well. It all sounded just as it should, only better. I'd see them again in a second, and can understand why the people next to me had seen them in New York, then decided to drive up to Massachusetts to see them again a couple days later.

In between, I have also seen Moody Blues, Bee Gees, ELO, Foreigner, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, Styx with Pat Benatar, and... maybe that's it; thought there were more. Not a big concert goer, really.

I can't whistle. People find this just too weird.

I don't play any instruments. I can puzzle out things by ear on a single note by single note basis on piano, which my brother tells me means I could learn to play, gets all puppy dog excitable and tries to show me vast amounts in a couple confusing moments, but I'm like "chords? Huh?"

I have never been married.

I have never had children.

I have 16 nieces and nephews, and 2 grandnieces.

I always thought I wanted to marry and have children, but now I can't imagine it.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 10, 03 | 2:46 am | Profile

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Fri May 09, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Four

Really fast, I hope, since I should be sleeping. It's too early in the list to have to struggle for items. Oh, here's Part 3 if you missed it, and that has links back to the first two.

Despite being near a lake, and having relatives with a pool starting when I was about 6 or 7, I actually "learned to swim" at a lake in Maine when I was several years old. In all reality, I hardly think I'd have drowned before that if I was tossed in over my head.

Once I get in the water, I am reluctant to get out, in extreme cases even for food.

From some of my earliest memories, I was fascinated with girls. I mean, about the only things I remember earlier are the snippets from the trip to Canada when I was two.

My first crush was in the fourth grade, on a dark haired girl from another room, who was new at the school and whose name I never knew. Either she moved away, or the next year she had changed so much I didn't recognize her.

My performance and happiness in school was always highly dependent on the competence and manner of the teacher, right through college. Also, where applicable, it mattered how I liked the subject and how voluntarily I was taking it.

I'm one of those really annoying people who can get a good grade much of the time with minimal effort.

But I'm lazy, so if it's tougher for me and I'm not interested, I'll crash and burn, almost to the point of binary grades.

I didn't actually graduate from high school, dropping out at the beginning of April the year I was to graduate, after missing 78 days sick in my senior year to that point. I'd have had to go in the summer and take phys ed to graduate. English was the only other thing I needed, and I had somewhere near an A in that. I was feeling just a wee bit tormented at the time.

I took the GED test just as soon as I could after the rest of the class graduated. I was in the 95th percentile overall, with the five parts ranging from 91st to 99th percentile. At the time, the last thing I felt like dealing with was more school, but the test administrator's note saying I should continue my education was the first nudge toward college.

I meant to mention that most of school, especially most of high school, was incredibly lame and boring. I'm pleased that they seem to be challenging and covering more with my nieces and nephews than when I was there. They are doing things as early as middle school level that I don't remember covering until college, if ever.

After my experience with high school, I declined to participate in college commencement. I just picked up my diploma from the office once it was available there. That pissed off the relatives who wanted to see me graduate. I am still not sure I would ever care if I went through a graduation ceremony.

Wow, moving right along... I could keep right on going, which is good, because this is still fewer than half the items. Over the weekend I'll continue.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 09, 03 | 1:51 am | Profile

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I'll Probably Regret This, But...

Picture of my ugly countenance circa 1984 or so, at the time I was right near my lowest adult weight.

Picture of my ugly countenance probably about 1996 at my previous job, actually wearing glasses like I should be now at the computer. Actually that's all I need them for, but they make a real difference in eyestrain. I'm about a year overdue for an eye checkup, and I think I do need a new prescription far more than I did last time, 5 years ago. But I digress. This is the one I figured I'd have to take a crop of for Kate. Eep! I just looked at her page and she wants a mission statement and stuff in the next day! Argh.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 09, 03 | 12:27 am | Profile

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Thu May 08, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Three

I prefer standard shift to automatic, hands down, no contest. Except in stop and go traffic jams.

I have owned 14 different cars, if I am remembering all of them correctly.

I have been driving for just about 25 years.

I last got a speeding ticket almost 24 years ago. You have no idea how amazing that is.

I have no accidents on record. I did hit a pole once, at less than 20 MPH, while delivering papers, at about 5:00 in the morning. That was enough to kill the car, but it bravely limped the mile or so home despite the front being a V and the radiator and fan being toast. That was a good 16 years ago.

I love bicycling, but haven't done it in years. The doctor would probably be all excited if I took it up.

It was a year from the time I got my first bike to the time I learned to ride it, during which interval my sister used it waaaay more than I appreciated. My father bought me a full size Schwinn right off the bat; one that wasn't even capable of having training wheels. I was about 8, as I recall. With my coordination and balance problems, this was more a challenge than for your average kid.

Once I could ride, I got very good at it, rode everywhere, and felt like I had wings. I loved riding no-handed, and also riding as fast as I could. Wore that bike right out. This was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a kid, including for my physical development.

I don't "do" sports. I couldn't really when I was young, which instilled a lack of interest. About the only thing that actually interested me in gym was tennis, but I had to learn some finesse or I'd hit the ball and blast it way over the fence and off into the woods.

Contrary to the previous thing, I do like watching many of the Olympic sports, especially skating and gymnastics. I hated doing gymnastics. I always resented not ever learning to ice skate, which was partly because there was a presumption I couldn't. Anyway, I went years when there was little reason for me to have a TV except if Olympics were on, and let me tell you, they're not the same in black and white.

I grew up in walking distance of a lake, and later my father owned a house that was one house away from the same lake, so we went swimming there a lot.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 08, 03 | 8:24 pm | Profile

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Wed May 07, 2003


Slackergurl inspired a post to be made later on the topic of taxes, when I read this post of hers. Then Ith went and compounded the urge with this post.

Okay, so first, I agree, tax cuts good, if not imperative to fix the economy, which will probably fix itself even without them. And it's true, it sucks being single and getting pretty much none of the loopholes or special considerations, and nobody pandering to you. I personally am in the fun position where I am self-employed, and don't make enough to pay the taxes on what I theoretically make, and live on it too. That has to change this year, one way or another.

I don't really have any suggestion as to what I would do about the abuse of singles. Since the feds feel it's their job to make social policy, even though it isn't, they want to encourage marriage and standard 2.3 child families. Happy 1950, folks! A flat tax might not be as a good as it sounds in theory, but that depends how flat. With no discontinuity at all, it would suck for those of us on the low end of things. That is, say, 20% of everything from dollar one, period. With discontinuity it would be great for those on the lower end. Meaning, say, zero through the first $40,000 (everyone files as an individual), then 20% (or whatever) of everything else. That's really the way such a tax would have to be done.

Anyway, Slackergurl doesn't like the tax cut proposal on dividends (elimination, that is). Well, lots of people don't. I happen to have always thought taxing dividends was a "duh!" action on the part of the government, because that (not capital gains; Slackergurl mixed up the two) is income being taxed a second time. It either has to be an expense to the corporation paying it, which makes little sense from an accounting theory standpoint but theory is easily ignored for policy and practicality reasons, or it shouldn't be taxed because it's already been taxed as income to the corporation of which the stockholder is an owner. If you were in a partnership, would you appreciate it if the partnership paid $30,000 tax on the 100,000 net income, then you paid $3000 on the $10,000 that was your share of that income? No. That's taxing $51,000 when the tax on $100,000, in this hypothetical example, is supposed to be $30,000, period.

Cutting the dividend tax ultimately is a fine idea which should:

1 - Put more money in the hands of investors/consumers in the form of more dividends paid out, and no tax on what dividends they might already receive. Of course, if they have enough closet space, they may just tuck it away...

2 - Change the way corporate management operates, making it more likely accumulating cash will go to stockholders, rather than be used for brainlessly "synergystic" acquisitions.

3 - Change corporate focus to be less about increasing share value at any cost, including through fraudulent or abberant accounting maneuvers, and more about generating a profit and positive cash flow.

4 - Create a healthier overall corporate governance and investing climate, creating a more structural level of change and benefit to the economy than just any old tax cut might be expected to do.

Since I took a break of a few hours after writing point 3, I feel like I may have lost some of my thoughts along the way. I hope this is close enough.

Capital gains is a whole different matter, and one which also can stimulate the economy, in the form of investment and risk-taking. It is not, in theory, entirely out of line to tax capital gains as if it were any old income, unlike dividends, which should not be taxed to the recipient under current corporate tax policy. On the other hand, if I earn $40,000 this year, fine, I pay tax for this year on that amount. If I invest $20,000 and in five years sell the investment at $60,000, I have also made $40,000, but while it was received this year, it was earned over the course of five. That could mean a lower total tax if you figured the marginal rate on a proportion for each of those years, compared to paying as if it were earned at once. That is one justification for a lower rate on capital gains.

The other is to stimulate investment. If I risk this $20,000 I might make $40,000 after five years. Should I do it? It could help this new company grow. Oh, but they'll take a big chunk of what I make. Well that sucks. I can do just as well if I take no risk with it.

Okay, way too simplistic. All the examples here are. Capital gains should be taxed at a favorable rate, but I am not persuaded that there is a theoretical justification, under the current overall taxing scheme of things, for reducing capital gains tax to zero. There is a theoretical justification for eliminating tax on dividends, and the results of doing so will be positive overall, if not dramatically immediate. There is both theoretical and policy justification for making some distinct changes to depreciation deductions for businesses. That would be a stimulus. There is absolutely no sane reason for computers to be on a five year schedule, for instance, even if you're able to use double declining balance to front load it.

Anyway, that's enough for now. I mainly wanted to defend the idea of eliminating taxes on dividends. To me it's a no brainer, wrong on the face of it. Yet it's an easy thing for people to misunderstand. One of my partners was unaware of the double taxation thing, as he was thinking of Cape Verde where he grew up, assuming the U.S. was the same. There the dividends are taxed, but corporate profits are not (or so he said). Once he knew better, he agreed with me.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 07, 03 | 1:43 am | Profile

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Mon May 05, 2003

Eleventy-One Things, Part Two

In keeping with my favorite color, my eyes are blue.

I am the middle of five siblings. I have an older brother and sister, and two younger brothers, born starting in 1954 and ending in 1971. I also have two younger stepsisters.

I grew up in a house 1/3 mile into the woods from any other houses, which was rural even for then in that part of the state.

The state being Massachusetts, where I live now and always have except for six weeks in Florida, which was supposed to be 4-8 months, until the friends I was staying with decided to move back north.

I have been to 20 states and D.C., if you count sitting in a plane on the ground for an hour as having been in Tennessee.

I have slept in 14 of those states. This is a weird factoid I keep track of for some reason.

I've been to 4 Canadian provinces, having not had quite enough time to justify taking the ferry to Newfoundland and adding that last time I was in Nova Scotia. I also regret having not gone to Ontario to visit my great uncle when he was still alive.

The great uncle mentioned in thing #18 influenced my sense of humor, despite that I only saw him a few times in my life. He was a jovial practical joker who drove my staid grandmother nuts. He also helped defend me from my mean older siblings when snowballs flew.

Okay, I should even be having to think about these yet.

My grandfather helped build the house I grew up in, which was made largely from local wood cut at the sawmill next door. (There were several buildings near us, just no houses.)

My father's parents lived on the second floor of the house, where there were four rooms. The first floor was two rooms. Our bedrooms were in the cellar, which had three unfinished rooms. My mother always resented my father not finishing them as planned. My father always resented my mother's almost complete inability to clean and organize.

My parents separated when I was nine.

And that concludes part two.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 05, 03 | 1:04 pm | Profile

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Eleventy-One Things, Part One

I was born in April 1961, on my mother's 26th birthday.

For benefit of folks who care about such things: sun in Aries, moon in Scorpio, Gemini ascendent.

I was born with a club foot, and was in a series of casts for 14 months.

When I was 17 days old, I got meningitis and wasn't expected to live.

If I lived, some thought I would be mentally retarded. I test at about 140, so wrong on that count.

However, I did have nerve damage that affected my coordination and made people assume I was "not mechanically inclined." I test high for mechanical and spacial aptitude.

I was chronically sick my first few years, until I received shots of gamma globulin as an experiment. The chronic sickness returned when I was sixteen, pretty much ruining high school for me and affecting me ever since. It was triggered by chronic, heavy exposure to cigarette smoke.

I have a big scar on my left wrist, shaped vaguely like a whale, from putting my hand through the glass in a storm door when I was about five. That was the most significant accidental injury I was to have for many years.

Apparently I like to fall off trucks and need to be wary of them.

In the 9th grade, I fell out of a truck at school. In vocational agriculture we had an antiquated 1953 pickup. To do stuff on the school grounds, we would sit on the sides on the back, facing into the truck bed. The teach went around a corner in the parking lot, clipped a curbing enough for a fair jolt, and I tumbled off. Next thing I know, I'm coming to on the blacktop with everyone gathered around me. Ended up with a few stitches in the back of my head, and a slightly sensitive lump there to this day.

Just before 8:00 AM on December 26, 1990, I fell off the back of a tractor-trailer I was unloading. I worked for a company that sold home renovation/hardware products by mail, in receiving, where I'd been for a month. This was my first time unloading a brass delivery myself. I'd hopped up into the trailer to ready things to grab with the fork lift. The driver was there too, doing whatever it was he was doing not to help. I stood at the edge and started to jump down, but instead fell forward like the Nestea plunge, onto frozen, rocky gravel. Probably it was a four foot drop. Put out my hands to catch myself, so I landed on my hands and then my chest hit. I blanked out very briefly, then got up, hurting like hell, and unloaded the truck before reporting to my boss what had happened.

My chest was killing me, but nothing was actually wrong. I had factured my left arm below the elbow, and damaged both elbows. I learned a great deal from the experience. The company had a hideous safety record, meaning typically about three such accidents per week in a workforce of 125. If you had an accident, it tended to mean your days were numbered. They had a policy that nobody was to call an ambulence. The HR person was tasked with driving people to the ER as needed. I was the second accident that day! In the first hour of the day! So I had to sit and wait for the HR person to get back from the first run to the ER, so she could turn around and take me. In the meantime, they couldn't bear to see me not working, so I packed parts with a broken arm, in excrutiating pain. Everyone assumed there was nothing really wrong.

So I got to the ER around noon, some four hours after the accident, where I learned what patience-taxing fun an ER can be. Got a couple X-rays, a check of the ribs, arm in a sling, and sent on my merry way to resume work the next day and start a series of visits to the company pocket doctor whose specialty this was. Got back to collect my car just about an hour after my shift ended. Went on highly theoretically "light" duty starting the next day and didn't get off it for almost five months.

I shouldn't bring up things in this list that I'll be unable to resist going on and on about. There's more, but I'll stop now, except to say the elbows have never been normal since.

My favorite color is blue. Big surprise.

The earliest identifiable memories I have are of a trip to Prince Edward Island when I was 2 years old.

Wow, part 1 is already done. Stay tuned for part 2 soon.

Posted by: Jay Solo on May 05, 03 | 2:35 am | Profile

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