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Thu, 25 Mar 2010

Five Years of Iron Writing

Four years, eleven months, have passed. I've written 195,557 words, Rich has written 199,513 words. At long last, barring an unanticipated eleventh-hour SNAFU, at the end of this month the five-year Iron Writing challenge will reach its conclusion. Rich and I will have both met our commitment to write and publish at least 3000 words a month for five straight years.

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Posted Mar 25, 2010 at 14:25 UTC, 4307 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 27 Feb 2010

The Greatest
As the public penance of Tiger Woods' mea culpa fills the cable TV channels, a plethora of talking heads bemoan the ominous fact that all today's sports "heroes" are flawed. They say: "Look at how they've all let us down. Woods is an adulterer; McGuire is a druggie; OJ is a murderer. How disappointing! Where have all the real heroes gone? What is the world coming to?"

For some reason, I don't feel the same disappointment in the humanity of these sportsmen. Maybe it's because of my deeply ingrained love of tragedy. Maybe it's because my adolescent interest is sports began with Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Or maybe it's because my Catholic upbringing allows me to understand the idea of perfect God as imperfect man. Whatever the reason, I've never seen sports figures, even my personal sports gods, as being anything other than humans. Flawed humans. Limited and finite beings. And that's their biggest honor, isn't it? My apologies to Yankees fans, but could an übermench athlete (or a whole team of them in pinstripes) be deserving of heartfelt cheers? Maybe, but not from me.

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Posted Feb 27, 2010 at 00:09 UTC, 3780 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 30 Jan 2010


Although the MPAA claims that the profitability of the movie business is being ruined by digital bootlegging, the recently released film Avatar has now become the highest grossing film in cinema history. That's in un-adjusted dollars. Correcting for inflation, Avatar still ranks high, although it's hard to imagine Avatar's box office take will ever exceed the $6 billion present-day dollars that Gone with the Wind has earned since 1939. Nor is James Cameron's latest epic likely to beat the likes of Snow White, Star Wars, Bambi, Jaws, or The Sound of Music; Avatar maybe has a shot of unseating A Hundred and One Dalmatians to rank number 7 in all-time constant-dollar world-wide movie earnings, but that's as far as I expect it will go.

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Posted Jan 30, 2010 at 19:40 UTC, 3191 words,  [/danPermalink

Wed, 30 Dec 2009

An Engineer's Holiday Wish List

While the country at large is engaged in polarized debates over health insurance reform, I have been thinking about other problems -- problems I know a bit more about -- and wishing for their solutions to appear under our collective Holiday tree. In this essay, I'll describe a few of the solutions I want Santa to put in his bag.

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Posted Dec 30, 2009 at 17:03 UTC, 3615 words,  [/danPermalink

Sun, 29 Nov 2009

Favorite Movies 5 and 10 -- Base 8

Two and a half years ago, I posted my top 8 movie list in this space. I'm proud to say that nothing in the intervening years has changed my opinion of any of my all time favorite films. There have been some good new films, Slumdog Millionaire was pretty darn good, but no new film has surpassed any of my old picks. I still stand by the radix of my list as written in 2007.

Over those two and a half years, I have posted essays that explain my appreciation for most of the films on that list; however, two of the eight favorite films still have not been covered thus far. The two films in question are: Searching for Bobby Fischer and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

That I left these two for last should not imply they are of lesser quality. I feel they are the equal of any other film on the list. In fact, with the Iron Writers term drawing to a close, swift action is needed lest I disparage these excellent films further and leave a critical life's task undone. Thus my aim, today, is to fill the gap in my movie review list.

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Posted Nov 29, 2009 at 04:18 UTC, 3149 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 31 Oct 2009

Bad Science

No inconvenient questions are asked about William's death. In a world without evil, instincts toward suspicion once common in the species have become extinct. No one at the camp gives a second thought to Jaryn's story: he tells anyone who asks that he was mistaken when initially reporting William wasn't badly hurt. There is no autopsy; there is no investigation. Who would investigate? There are no police detectives. Everyone mourns the boy's death, new rules are established that discourage running near the water and the city adds more beach front caretakers. Otherwise, life goes on.

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Posted Oct 31, 2009 at 02:08 UTC, 3083 words,  [/danPermalink

Mon, 28 Sep 2009

Evil is Born Again

The last evil man wasn't conceived evil; yet he was born evil. He became evil several years before he was born -- in some senses centuries before; yet it wasn't till his fourteenth birthday that he knew himself as evil.

Let's start at the beginning.

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Posted Sep 28, 2009 at 20:53 UTC, 3406 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 29 Aug 2009

Contact First

"Houston, we have a problem."

Bob Houston sighed, shook his head, and shot a look of disdain at Ken.

"Oh jeez, Bob," Ken quickly added, "I'm sorry. You hate that don't you. But I the thing is, umm, Bob, we really do have a problem."

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Posted Aug 29, 2009 at 15:10 UTC, 3098 words,  [/danPermalink

Fri, 31 Jul 2009

Telling The Other Guy What To Do

Telling other people what they should do is tricky business, even if what you are telling them is for their own good.

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Posted Jul 31, 2009 at 00:18 UTC, 3328 words,  [/danPermalink

Sun, 21 Jun 2009

Birds In The Morning

How do birds know that the dawn has arrived? It's not just roosters, many birds know this.

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Posted Jun 21, 2009 at 05:05 UTC, 639 words,  [/danPermalink

Activity Buddies

Many activities are more fun with companions. Sex, obviously. Generally we enjoy sex involving a fuck buddy more than a solo experience. Generally, but not always. And that's the point.

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Posted Jun 21, 2009 at 05:05 UTC, 2641 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 30 May 2009

The Walking Purchase -- Curiosity
In school I was a math and science nerd. Not that my grades in other subjects were bad, they were OK. I read a lot (science books and science fiction) and a beneficial spin off from the incessant reading was decent language arts skills that buoyed my English grades. The reading also gave me a passable understanding of the point of historical research -- or at least "psychohistory" as visualized by Asimov.

Regardless of the adequate spin off skills that kept my grades from being too slanted toward science and math, if you had asked the 16-year-old Dan Ichov to list school subjects ranked in order of his enthusiasm and interest, then undoubtedly history would have been at the bottom of his list, with gym and health being the only competition for his academic interest cellar.

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Posted May 30, 2009 at 04:28 UTC, 3426 words,  [/danPermalink

Wed, 29 Apr 2009

Driving The Numbers

Because of my geek nature and technical training, I have an uncontrollable compulsion to check numerical relationships. It makes no difference if the relationship is obvious or subtle, or if it's such a platitude that we all have it memorized as axiomatic fact. For example, if somebody says, "That's six of one, half dozen of the other", I'll compulsively verify in my mind that the division of 12 by 2 equals 6, exactly. Since this was typically offered as a cliche for approximate equivalence, I usually quip "Maybe more like six of one, two pi of the other," hinting that the equivalence may not be precisely exact.

This number checking habit is, no doubt, one of my less endearing qualities. But, despite the fact that I know I'm being a dork, I can't help but do it.

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Posted Apr 29, 2009 at 20:37 UTC, 3274 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 28 Mar 2009

Beta Sigma (Chapter 5, conclusion)

The two men and the Highlander reached the upper edge of the canyon wall without further catastrophe. The truck again fouled on rock steps a few more times, but Jiabao had been running the winch slower, and Fred took great care in freeing them from each snag. Mundi had placed the last anchor well beyond a nicely ramped section of the uppermost cliff edge, allowing the truck to pull itself smoothly around from the vertical wall and finish on level ground, neat as can be.

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Posted Mar 28, 2009 at 21:16 UTC, 3121 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 28 Feb 2009


Last Fall I was up on Blue Mountain (about 10 mi west of the NE Extension PA Turnpike tunnel. It was very nice too. Crisp at night, but not cold. Near full moon. Clear skies.

An odd thing happened, though.

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Posted Feb 28, 2009 at 16:26 UTC, 1033 words,  [/danPermalink

A Walk up Brunswick Mountain (conclusion)

I lay on a small rocky clearing, a mile above Howe Sound, eyes wide, seeing nothing but black, ears hearing only silence...

Well, that's not exactly true.

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Posted Feb 28, 2009 at 16:22 UTC, 2248 words,  [/danPermalink

Wed, 28 Jan 2009

A Walk up Brunswick Mountain (continued)...
And so it was that as I began my traverse on the Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT), I had not yet set foot on snow, even though I'd seen several patches ranging in size from little bigger than a manhole cover, to as big as a sheet of plywood.

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Posted Jan 28, 2009 at 18:54 UTC, 3262 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 27 Dec 2008

Riding a Bike Across the USA

Now that I've announced my intention to pedal across the USA on a bicycle during the summer of 2009, I think it's my obligation to go on record with my reasons. Given the vast array of potential accomplishments and adventures I might choose to crowd into the diminishing remainder of my life, why did I choose to spend a precious summer on a bike trip? If for no other reason than self curiosity, this question demands an answer.

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Posted Dec 27, 2008 at 02:30 UTC, 3819 words,  [/danPermalink

Sun, 30 Nov 2008

A Walk Up Brunswick Mountain

Visible from most areas in greater Vancouver, the North Shore Mountains form a distinctive backdrop for the city. At 5866 ft, Brunswick Mountain is the highest of these peaks, located north of slightly lesser summits of Mount Harvey and The Lions.

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Posted Nov 30, 2008 at 15:00 UTC, 3202 words,  [/danPermalink

Fri, 31 Oct 2008

Beta Sigma (Chapter 4)

I learned the details of Jiabao's ill fated hunting trip during the investigation we held prior to Mundi's trial. The only human witness to the events that transpired, if you could call him human, was Mundi himself, but it was hard to doubt his factual account of events, an account that was detailed and consistent. Virtually all the facts of his story were confirmed by the data loggers in the skimmer, gear truck, Segways, and other smart-gear later recovered from the scene.

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Posted Oct 31, 2008 at 20:39 UTC, 3051 words,  [/danPermalink

Tue, 30 Sep 2008

Beta Sigma (part 3)

It was 8 Terran years since Beta Sigma tossed Dela Fagan's blood stained O2 mask onto my desk. In that time, the UNASA agency office in Valles Marineris city had changed very little. I still read TFB reports till my brain ached. And terraforming data was the same in the first three decimal places. Only the coffee in the office was different, as some enterprising souls in Hellas Planitia had managed to get Bolivian plants to grow in the hyper-alpine Martian environment.

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Posted Sep 30, 2008 at 16:34 UTC, 3130 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 30 Aug 2008

Beta Sigma (chapter 2)

"Fagan is missing," he said. "Some say he go north with a stolen crawler."

"Hmmm... A little too much Marshine?" I asked.


Al's reticence could be downright infuriating at times, but his silence sometimes spoke volumes. In this case it was clear that Dela Fagan had been involved in something more significant than a ethanol binge and a joyride on somebody else's crawler. I waited. If there was more, it would come.

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Posted Aug 30, 2008 at 17:51 UTC, 3253 words,  [/danPermalink

Wed, 30 Jul 2008

Beta Sigma

When Beta Sigma was 14 Terran years old he tracked a man almost 300 kilometers from Candor to Ophir Chasmata.

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Posted Jul 30, 2008 at 02:24 UTC, 1795 words,  [/danPermalink

Tue, 29 Jul 2008

The Ten Essentials as Poetry

In 1906, a club called "The Mountaineers" was formed by a group of people interested in exploring the wild areas and peaks surrounding the city of Seattle.

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Posted Jul 29, 2008 at 19:16 UTC, 1348 words,  [/danPermalink

Mon, 30 Jun 2008

How to Succeed in Tandem Canoing Without Really Trying
The Dr. Kronkheit Solution to the Difficulties of Cooperation

The marketing success of two-seated canoes seems to imply that any two random people can paddle along happily in these boats. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. It turns out that it is exceedingly problematic to coordinate the efforts of a pair of seated people toward the unified goal of propelling a shared vessel across the surface of the water.

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Posted Jun 30, 2008 at 16:35 UTC, 3099 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 31 May 2008

Copyrighting Marriage

"Funny, you like Samurai Sword; I like Baseball."

–Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Caps mine.

As I explained a couple years ago, I don't generally want to use this space for political rants, especially on a hot-button topic like the retronyming of marriage. Unfortunately, this month I seem to be a little short on better material (yet again, some might say). The topic seems, well, topical. So a rant is what you are going to get.

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Posted May 31, 2008 at 04:11 UTC, 3163 words,  [/danPermalink

Tue, 29 Apr 2008


This is the story of a single footstep.

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Posted Apr 29, 2008 at 01:02 UTC, 4038 words,  [/danPermalink

Mon, 31 Mar 2008

Abolish the FCC; Save the FCC; Which?

Since the turn of the century, there have been an increasing number of rants from pundits about abolishing the Federal Communications Commission, acronymically called the FCC, or sometimes "Uncle Charley" by the good buddies and old men on CB and ham radio. There's even a book by Peter Huber, a polemic that argues the extreme that FCC should never have been created, that it impedes innovation, protects monopolies, blocks easy access to the airwaves, censors free speech, dilutes copyright, lessens privacy, weakens common carriers, poisons the groundwater, corrupts young children, and contributes to global warming.

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Posted Mar 31, 2008 at 21:00 UTC, 3767 words,  [/danPermalink

Fri, 29 Feb 2008

Action At A Distance

Alan was tired of driving. He was tired of bad food, bad motels, and bad company. Most of all, he was tired of his bad luck. The incident with Carla was fresh in his mind and now Dave Ravinski was here trying to recruit him to some ridiculous cyberspace revolution.

"If you don't mind, take the next right into the mall parking lot," said Dave. "Park near the north entrance. That's close to the food court."

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Posted Feb 29, 2008 at 22:06 UTC, 3115 words,  [/danPermalink

Thu, 31 Jan 2008

No Bridge

I like to sleep outdoors on the ground in the woods during the winter. Most people accustomed to Tempur-Pedic® plafondized comfort in fossil fuel powered thermostasis are at a loss to understand my attraction to this apparent insanity. It's cold out there. Surely you'd die.

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Posted Jan 31, 2008 at 01:51 UTC, 3760 words,  [/danPermalink

Thu, 27 Dec 2007

The Golden Compass and Meta-Atheists

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," which some have called anti-Christian, saying it promotes a cold and hopeless world without God.

I'm an atheist, but not a meta-atheist. I don't believe in God, yet I still believe in belief in God. In case that's unclear, or has too much implied political-ethical-rhetorical baggage to comprehend directly, maybe an analogy will help. I don't believe in Santa, but I believe in believing in Santa. I'm an a-Santa-ist, but not a meta-aSanta-ist. I don't expect a chubby elf will slide down my wood stove flu to leave me a plasma TV this Christmas, but I would never go around telling anybody, especially little kids, that there is no Santa, that their belief in Santa is false. Doing so would be against my beliefs. I believe in believing in Santa so strongly that I hang up stockings and leave out cookies and milk. I might even waffle and evade committing myself, seeming to be a Santa agnostic, should some 7 year old interrogate me on the point of Santa's existence. But if I was pinned down and asked the direct question, "Is there literally a Santa, yes or no?" I would be lying about my beliefs unless I said no.

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Posted Dec 27, 2007 at 00:35 UTC, 2353 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 22 Dec 2007

Dog Story (Part 2)

Then I heard the barking...

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Posted Dec 22, 2007 at 20:57 UTC, 1638 words,  [/danPermalink

Fri, 30 Nov 2007

Dog Story

When bicycle riders gather together to socialize, the most popular conversation theme is how they contracted their last case of "road rash", a euphemism for the bruises and abrasions one receives from a spill. Telling these stories involves a sort of oneupmanship; the more gruesome the injuries, the better. Top marks go to stories where the rider BIFFs: an acronym that implies he or she was launched over the handlebars and Bought It Face First. An alternative theme, almost as popular, is their favorite dog story. For some reason unknown to humans, many dogs feel compelled to chase bicycles. Thus, nearly every bike rider has both a favorite crash story and "dog tail to tell, sometimes one in the same. Since I've already spun my favorite crash story (which did not involve any dogs), I need to complete the prose "bi-cycle" with a sequel featuring my favorite canine chase.

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Posted Nov 30, 2007 at 19:45 UTC, 3445 words,  [/danPermalink

Wed, 31 Oct 2007


I don't go geocaching any more, of course. It doesn't feel the same after what happened with Linda, and Jack. But I still can appreciate in an abstract sense why I once liked the game so much. Even so, it's hard to explain its attraction to muggles, a word that geocaching enthusiasts use to describe ordinary people – people that wander around with tunnel vision in their strictly zoned world oblivious to the secret stashes hidden all about them. Are you a muggle? Try to understand it, then. Wherever you may be right now, city, suburbs, or country, there probably are a half dozen secret caches within walking distance of you. The caches are plastic boxes, peanut butter jars, metal ammo cases, sometimes large, often tiny. They may be hidden anywhere. They could be behind a rock, in the crook of a tree branch, magnetically attached to a guard rail, wedged behind a public phone. How could you not want to find them, open them, and look and see what objects they hold?

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Posted Oct 31, 2007 at 21:09 UTC, 3252 words,  [/danPermalink

Sun, 30 Sep 2007

The 700 MHz Spectrum Auction

Consequences of the electronic information revolution continue to sweep over us like ocean breakers on the seashore flooded in a never ebbing tide. And the pace is accelerating. From telegraph to telephone, then AM radio, television, FM radio, PCs with 56K modems, cell phones, the Internet, WiFi. It shows no sign of stopping. No sooner do we stagger to our feet, half drowned from the last wave of information overload that bowled us over face first into the sand, we are slammed down yet again.

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Posted Sep 30, 2007 at 02:57 UTC, 4056 words,  [/danPermalink

Fri, 31 Aug 2007

Philmont Scout Ranch

They call it Scouting Paradise.

First, the basic facts. Through various gifts from Oklahoma oilman Waite Phillips, as well as some direct purchase, the Boy Scouts of America now own 214 square miles of New Mexico wilderness that they also call Philmont Scout Ranch. The land comprises a sizable chunk of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southernmost subrange of the Rockies. Once the home for indigenous tribes, Hispanic settlers, trappers and gold prospectors, the land is totally wild today. The only minor exception is a comparatively tiny base camp and training center at its edge and a few widely spaced educational program camps dotting the interior.

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Posted Aug 31, 2007 at 23:57 UTC, 3042 words,  [/danPermalink

Tue, 31 Jul 2007

Ending Discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America

"Once upon a time I was a Jewish kid growing up, alive and alone, in an all Gentile neighborhood. And mostly in school I experienced exclusion from many other kids my age who only knew what a Jew was from what their parents told them, what their friends said or popular negative stereotypes. ...So when I joined the Boy Scouts of America I felt that I had found a safe haven, away from all the teasing and all the taunting"

– Steven Spielberg, after resigning from the BSA National Board in protest against BSA's intolerance.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. In one way I love what they do, which is to introduce kids to all sorts of cool stuff, useful stuff, important stuff they'd never get at school, like how to cook for themselves without Mom around. They learn how to stay warm, dry, and oriented in the woods, on rivers, on mountain peaks. How to build a fire; how to put one out. How to cut down a tree; how to plant one. How to organize a team; how to accomplish things as an individual. They learn how to lead; how to follow. They even learn how to tie a few knots.

In another way they are an insular community whose inner workings are a revolting morass of bigotry. Boy Scouts can be a clique that spends a good deal of its energy defining itself negatively by being intolerant and exclusionary – both its choice of association and its way of thinking.

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Posted Jul 31, 2007 at 02:27 UTC, 4551 words,  [/danPermalink

Sat, 30 Jun 2007

Inherit the Wind

I have considerable difficulty matching my personal political agenda with the agendas offered by the mainstream parties. Meaningful dialog seems impossible with things so polarized. Neither the "left" nor the "right" seem to see things the way I do. Not that my view is moderate mix of left and right; I mostly have a different agenda that doesn't have a useful projection on the usual liberal/conservative axis.

On the other hand, with respect to the culture wars, I have firmly taken sides. There's no question that I've developed into a indefatigable supporter of progressive ideals.

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Posted Jun 30, 2007 at 20:39 UTC, 1431 words,  [/danPermalink

Under the Radar

When Alan and Carla reached the perimeter fence around NSA FANX, they tripped a nearby motion detector. This blinked a light on the security console and automatically switched the output of the IR camera nearest to them on to the main security display. Initially, the guards on duty, Billy MacDonald and Eric Krause, didn't notice. They had taken a momentary break from their vigilance to join in sad commiseration about the prospects of the Washington Nationals in the NL East.

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Posted Jun 30, 2007 at 15:09 UTC, 1805 words,  [/danPermalink

Thu, 31 May 2007

Babes in the Woods

Alan had to admit that, one on one, Carla appeared charming and innocent. She had a warm smile and a cozy demeanor that disarmed him. Intellectually, he knew her seemingly personable appearance disguised a soul that was icy cold, self serving, and unbounded by moral constrains. Yet as he danced with her in his arms, it was easy to be swept away by the glow of her. She wasn't exactly pretty or glamorous in the common senses, but with her suit coat off and her silk blouse the only thing separating the pointy tips of her small breasts from him, Alan found himself attracted and aroused despite his wariness. Her aura of power was exciting.

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Posted May 31, 2007 at 17:39 UTC, 1579 words,  [/danPermalink