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Free EMail…

Right LOL

Most of you probably think that the free email provider you’re using makes money by showing you those annoying advertisements when you access you email via their web-mail interface.

Have you ever stopped to think about how they could possibly make money when they allow you to use a POP3 or IMAP4 client to read your email?

Well, the bottom line is sure they make some money by showing you those advertisements; but in this day and age almost every single email provider actually uses the content of your inbox to target you and sell demographic information.

While they might not be “reading” your email line-by-line; they are certainly indexing your email’s content — and they’re selling information about what you (aggregated of course) are talking about to anyone who will pay for it… and of course it’s long be rumored that some of them might have agreements with “men in black” to provide them more details about email (and searches) that might be consider a threat to national security.

Read the Terms of Service (TOS) for your “free” email provider very carefully — you’re going to be surprised what you’ve authorized them to do, and how little privacy you really have (remember some of the cable companies and DSL providers actually have you using one of those “big name” email providers as well — so your “for-pay” email account might be suspect as well).

My advice…

If you care about your privacy, pay a little money with an email provider that doesn’t harvest your personal (and confidential) information and sell it off to everyone with a little pocket change.

Originally posted 2009-08-19 01:00:36.


Unfortunately it’s a pattern I’ve seen all too often in the past — the tale tale signs of a merchant that clearly care nothing about you as a customer except what they can extract from your wallet.

I was in Walgreen’s, and I was purchasing a few items and I noticed that they had a $5.00 off on your next purchase with a $20.00 purchase — well, it just so happened that I could make immediate use of that so I got together $20.86 in merchandise and went up to the cash register.

The cashier entered all the promotional codes for my purchase… I swiped my credit card (which was authorized for payment), out came my receipt, an no $5.00 off coupon.

She called the manager on duty (a person I’d conversed with on a number of occasions — who I’ve always found quite competent, quite friendly, and quite helpful).  It took her a few minutes to get to the register; she said that she could void the receipt and do it again, but my feeling was that the cashier had done nothing wrong — it just didn’t work.

But wait!

Walgreen’s apparently knew there were cases where this wouldn’t work — they had provided stores with a form that customers could fill out and mail in.  It did take her quite some time to locate the form, in all I stood at the check out about 40 minutes (40 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, nor will I be compensated for in any way).

So, corporate expects customers to spend their time and money (no envelope or stamp was provided by Walgreen’s) to correct their problem.  The advertisement clearly stated that the $5.00 off coupon was instant, not a mail-in rebate; and that it could be used on the next trip to Walgreen’s (like immediately).

I can’t fault any of the store employees — they tried to do what they could; but I do fault the corporate policy.

I came home, I wrote a lengthy message to Walgreen’s customer service telling them what had happened, and what I thought of their policies, and that they’d made me a happy and loyal CVS customer (there’s a 24-hour CVS right across the street from the 24-hour Walgreen’s near my home).  And when I sent it — I immediately deleted the email address I’d provided Walgreen’s for their sales circulars and online shopping (I’ll have no need for those) and directed that they were to remove all my information from their systems.

I have no need to invest my time and my money correcting the failing of a company that doesn’t offer in any way to compensate me for their mistakes, and I encourage everyone to do what I always do — use your wallet to show you just won’t accept this type of behavior.

If a company makes a mistake — the company should fix it without any intervention of the customer that’s effected.  And my personal feeling is there should be a federal law that requires companies to pay individuals for their time and expense they invest in fixing problems that they in no way contributed to (whey are doing work for the company) – after all, the way it stands now, companies have no reason to get it right, since it always seems to be you the consumer that get’s the short end.

I’m just saying “No” to Walgreen’s — just like all the other companies who’ve shown they don’t deserve my business.

Originally posted 2012-05-28 02:00:03.

Linux – Desktop Search

A while ago I published a post on Desktop Search on Linux (specifically Ubuntu).  I was far from happy with my conclusions and I felt I needed to re-evaluate all the options to see which would really perform the most accurate search against my information.

Primarily my information consists of Microsoft Office documents, Open Office documents, pictures (JPEG, as well as Canon RAW and Nikon RAW), web pages, archives, and email (stored as RFC822/RFC2822 compliant files with an eml extension).

My test metrics would be to take a handful of search terms which I new existed in various types of documents, and check the results (I actually used Microsoft Windows Search 4.0 to prepare a complete list of documents that matched the query — since I knew it worked as expected).

The search engines I tested were:

I was able to install, configure, and launch each of the applications.  Actually none of them were really that difficult to install and configure; but all of them required searching through documentation and third party sites — I’d say poor documentation is just something you have to get used to.

Beagle, Google, Tracker, Pinot, and Recoll all failed to find all the documents of interest… none of them properly indexed the email files — most of the failed to handle plain text files; that didn’t leave a very high bar to pick a winner.

Queries on Strigi actually provided every hit that the same query provided on Windows Search… though I have to say Windows Search was easier to setup and use.

I tried the Neopomuk (KDE) interface for Strigi — though it just didn’t seem to work as well as strigiclient did… and certainly strigiclient was pretty much at the top of the list for butt-ugly, user-hostile, un-intuitive applications I’d ever seen.

After all of the time I’ve spent on desktop search for Linux I’ve decided all of the search solutions are jokes.  None of them are well thought out, none of them are well executed, and most of them out right don’t work.

Like most Linux projects, more energy needs to be focused on working out a framework for search than everyone going off half-cocked and creating a new search paradigm.

The right model is…

A single multi-threaded indexer running in the background indexing files according to a system wide policy aggregated with user policies (settable by each user on directories they own) along with the access privileges.

A search API that takes the user/group and query to provide results for items that the user has (read) access to.

The indexer should be designed to use plug-in modules to handle particular file types (mapped both by file extension, and by file content).

The index should also be designed to use plug-in modules for walking a file system and receiving file system change events (that allows the framework to adapt as the Linux kernel changes — and would support remote indexing as well).

Additionally, the index/search should be designed with distributed queries in mind (often you want to search many servers, desktops, and web locations simultaneously).

Then it becomes a simple matter for developers to write new/better indexer plug-ins; and better search interfaces.

I’ve pointed out in a number of recent posts that you can effective use Linux as a server platform in your business; however, it seems that if search is a requirement you might want to consider ponying up the money for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and enjoy seamless search (that works) between your Windows Vista / Windows 7 Desktops and Windows Server.


Ubuntu – Desktop Search

Originally posted 2010-07-16 02:00:19.

Northwest Passage

There have been a number of articles recently on the effect of global climate change on the arctic ice pack, and I guess you could say one of the “good” things that is happening is that a (Summer) shipping route North of the Arctic Circle may be a reality within the next few years.

While the melting of the ice pack might be good news for shipping and oil/gas exploration, it might not be a good thing for the world as a whole.

Remember, a large portion of the world’s population lives in coastal regions, not far above sea level — when the ice pack melts, that water goes somewhere — and, of course, that’s fresh water, so not only does the level of the oceans rise, but the salinity of the oceans goes down.

No one can really predict what these changes will have on the habitability of this planet long term, but along with the receding glaciers we have more evidence of rather dramatic climate change.  Whether these changes are a natural event, a natural even being accelerated by emissions, or purely cause by emissions may still be debatable, but whether or not it’s happening… that’s fairly well documented.

Of course, as I always say — many love to do the back-stroke in de-nile; or as other like to day, de-nile isn’t just a river in Egypt…

Originally posted 2011-08-18 02:00:18.


Bootrec.exe, available as part of repair from the command line can resolve a number of start up issues on Windows.  It comes in quite handy for replacing the master boot record (MBR) and boot loader (a good way to remove a multi-boot manager like GRUB).

 Be sure you understand what you’re doing it you choose to use it.

 Use the Bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to troubleshoot and repair startup issues in Windows

Originally posted 2013-11-13 17:00:09.

Virtualization Picks

Let me preface this by saying that I’m making recommendations for virtualization based on:

  • Cost
  • Robustness
  • Ease of use
  • Performance

You’ll note I put performance as the last item since it generally is not a huge differentiator for most virtualization needs.  However, you individual criteria may vary, and you should make your own decisions.

The “thumb nail” information below should help you in evaluating virtualization solutions; and the links at the bottom will help you locate solutions.


If you need cross platform virtualization, and will move virtual machines from one host to another, the only realistic choice is VirtualBox.  While vmware and Parallels will run on most host operating systems.  While vmware offers some free solutions, I’ve found their new version of Fusion (for the Mac) could have used ten minutes of QA before shipping; on my MacBook Pro, my Mac Pro, and my Mac Minis it crashes when shutting down a virtual machine that used to work just fine under the previous version (yes it was converted), and even worse, it crashes OS-X on my MacPro.  Parallels is just too expensive, not only is the acquisition cost high, but he maintenance cost is high; it’s very nicely done, but simply not worth the investment.


For Windows Server 2008 on both 32-bit and 64-bit the uncontested choice should be Hyper-V, unless you’re running on a processor/motherboard that lacks hardware virtualization (and even then I’d say you should upgrade your hardware).

For Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP on both 32-bit and 64-bit the uncontested choice should be Virtual Server 2005 R2.  You should always use Virtual Server over Virtual PC.

For OS-X on an Intel machine you should use VirtualBox (if you feel you need to purchase a commercial product, choose Parallels over vmware; it works well, and has good performance and stability).

For Linux on an Intel machine you should use either VirtualBox, or if you’re a more savvy user Xen.

For BSD on an Intel machine you should use either VirtualBox, or if you’re a more savvy user Xen.


There are other virtualization solutions, but they tend to be rather expensive.  And yes there are non-Intel virtualization solutions that allow you to run Intel guests on non-Intel hosts (other than older Macs, that’s probably not a very common requirement, and outside the scope of my recommendations; the only product I’ve ever used on a G4/G5 is Microsoft’s Virtual PC for Mac).

Hyper-V and Xen use a very modern approach to virtualization, and overall have the greatest potential for future growth.  The OpenSource version of Xen; however, needs a fair amount of polish before the average computer user (not to be confused with computer professional / geek) finds it very usable.

Companies like vmware and Parallels might have nice solutions for large deployments, but I see little advantage in smaller deployments; and for single machines why not use something that’s free and works (well).


Originally posted 2009-02-10 01:00:22.

Warner Brothers

On 6 October 1927, just two years before the depression; Harry (Hirsz), Albert (Aaron), Sam (Szmul) and Jack (Itzhak) – the Warner (Eichelbaum) brothers – released The Jazz Singer in New York City, NY, US.

Sam Warner urged his brothers to invest in talking motion pictures (The Jazz Singer cost only $500,000 to produce and made over $3 million); and is regarded as the “father of talking pictures” but sadly was to pass away before his dream was realized.

Warner Brothers produced twelve “talkies” in 1928 and in 1928 the newly formed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences recognized them for “revolutionizing the industry with sound”.

The Warner principle was “to educate, entertain, and enlighten”.

Today Warner Brothers is part of Time-Warner, one of the largest media outlets in the world… but perhaps Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, Road Runner, and the Tasmanian Devil are the images people of my generation hold closest to heart.

Originally posted 2010-10-06 02:00:59.

Cricket Wireless

The continuing saga of trying to locate the best value cellular wireless plan for me has a new chapter…

About two months ago I started to make the switch to Cricket Wireless (you can use the link on the sidebar to get information directly from their site).

While I didn’t think Straight Talk (via AT&T) was expensive, it seemed like lowering my cost a little (the plan rates include taxes on Cricket) and going with a “MVNO” that was actually owned by AT&T would in the end be a better idea… and since my $50 promo card arrived today I figured it was time to share what I’ve found.

If you take advantage of the BYOD program, Cricket (like AT&T) will push out APN settings to your handset, making the transition fairly seamless (NOTE: if you move an activated SIM card to another device there is no way to have Cricket re-push the APN settings, so you’re going to end up entering them by hand… it would be nice if they at least stored the APN on the SIM).

If you’re used to AT&T (particularly pre-paid or an MVNO — remember, there’s no roaming), then your service will be just the same… and your LTE speeds will likely be extremely good (they’ll be the same as they were before).

Also, one of the huge advantages of Cricket over Straight Talk – they have real customer service, who can actually provide service.

Now, a few hints about switching.

First, definitely use my link (I get a referral bonus for you); but if you’re doing two lines, then use yourself to refer your second line.

Second, setup each line on a separate account initially and choose the $50/month or better plan with auto-pay… that will give you $5 off the second month, and it will give you your third month free (promos might change).

Third, order the SIM or handset online and avoid the $25.00 activation fee a local Cricket reseller is going to charge you.

Fourth, once you have your free month, then you might be able to combine lines together for more savings.  NOTE: the first two lines with auto-pay or multi-line discount are the same — so little reason to combine them unless you have at least three lines (the auto-pay and multi-line discounts don’t stack).

If you’re porting your number, go ahead and order your new SIM and turn off your automatic payment with Straight Talk; your number port is “pre-positioned”, so when you pop your SIM in and activate your new Cricket service online the number will port instantly, and your APN will push out within half an hour.

Originally posted 2015-05-02 12:00:21.

HTML Special Character Reference

ID Code Description
Á 193 Aacute 1 latin capital letter A with acute
á 225 aacute 1 latin small letter a with acute
â 226 acirc 1 latin small letter a with circumflex
 194 Acirc 1 latin capital letter A with circumflex
´ 180 acute 1 acute accent
æ 230 aelig 1 latin small letter ae
Æ 198 AElig 1 latin capital letter AE
À 192 Agrave 1 latin capital letter A with grave
à 224 agrave 1 latin small letter a with grave
8501 alefsym L alef symbol
Α 913 Alpha G greek capital letter alpha
α 945 alpha G greek small letter alpha
& 38 amp C ampersand
8743 and M logical and
8736 ang M angle
å 229 aring 1 latin small letter a with ring above
Å 197 Aring 1 latin capital letter A with ring above
8776 asymp M almost equal to
à 195 Atilde 1 latin capital letter A with tilde
ã 227 atilde 1 latin small letter a with tilde
Ä 196 Auml 1 latin capital letter A with diaeresis
ä 228 auml 1 latin small letter a with diaeresis
8222 bdquo U double low-9 quotation mark
Β 914 Beta G greek capital letter beta
β 946 beta G greek small letter beta
¦ 166 brvbar 1 broken bar
8226 bull P bullet
8745 cap M intersection
Ç 199 Ccedil 1 latin capital letter C with cedilla
ç 231 ccedil 1 latin small letter c with cedilla
¸ 184 cedil 1 cedilla
¢ 162 cent 1 cent sign
χ 967 chi G greek small letter chi
Χ 935 Chi G greek capital letter chi
ˆ 710 circ D modifier letter circumflex accent
9827 clubs S black club suit
8773 cong M approximately equal to
© 169 copy 1 copyright sign
8629 crarr A downwards arrow with corner leftwards
8746 cup M union
¤ 164 curren 1 currency sign
8224 dagger U dagger
8225 Dagger U double dagger
8659 dArr A downwards double arrow
8595 darr A downwards arrow
° 176 deg 1 degree sign
Δ 916 Delta G greek capital letter delta
δ 948 delta G greek small letter delta
9830 diams S black diamond suit
÷ 247 divide 1 division sign
é 233 eacute 1 latin small letter e with acute
É 201 Eacute 1 latin capital letter E with acute
Ê 202 Ecirc 1 latin capital letter E with circumflex
ê 234 ecirc 1 latin small letter e with circumflex
è 232 egrave 1 latin small letter e with grave
È 200 Egrave 1 latin capital letter E with grave
8709 empty M empty set
8195 emsp U em space
8194 ensp U en space
ε 949 epsilon G greek small letter epsilon
Ε 917 Epsilon G greek capital letter epsilon
8801 equiv M identical to
Η 919 Eta G greek capital letter eta
η 951 eta G greek small letter eta
ð 240 eth 1 latin small letter eth
Ð 208 ETH 1 latin capital letter ETH
ë 235 euml 1 latin small letter e with diaeresis
Ë 203 Euml 1 latin capital letter E with diaeresis
8364 euro U euro sign
8707 exist M there exists
ƒ 402 fnof I latin small f with hook
8704 forall M for all
½ 189 frac12 1 vulgar fraction one half
¼ 188 frac14 1 vulgar fraction one quarter
¾ 190 frac34 1 vulgar fraction three quarters
8260 frasl P fraction slash
Γ 915 Gamma G greek capital letter gamma
γ 947 gamma G greek small letter gamma
8805 ge M greater-than or equal to
> 62 gt C greater-than sign
8660 hArr A left right double arrow
8596 harr A left right arrow
9829 hearts S black heart suit
8230 hellip P horizontal ellipsis
í 237 iacute 1 latin small letter i with acute
Í 205 Iacute 1 latin capital letter I with acute
î 238 icirc 1 latin small letter i with circumflex
Î 206 Icirc 1 latin capital letter I with circumflex
¡ 161 iexcl 1 inverted exclamation mark
Ì 204 Igrave 1 latin capital letter I with grave
ì 236 igrave 1 latin small letter i with grave
8465 image L blackletter capital I
8734 infin M infinity
8747 int M integral
Ι 921 Iota G greek capital letter iota
ι 953 iota G greek small letter iota
¿ 191 iquest 1 inverted question mark
8712 isin M element of
Ï 207 Iuml 1 latin capital letter I with diaeresis
ï 239 iuml 1 latin small letter i with diaeresis
Κ 922 Kappa G greek capital letter kappa
κ 954 kappa G greek small letter kappa
λ 955 lambda G greek small letter lambda
Λ 923 Lambda G greek capital letter lambda
9001 lang T left-pointing angle bracket
« 171 laquo 1 left-pointing double angle quotation mark
8592 larr A leftwards arrow
8656 lArr A leftwards double arrow
8968 lceil T left ceiling
8220 ldquo U left double quotation mark
8804 le M less-than or equal to
8970 lfloor T left floor
8727 lowast M asterisk operator
9674 loz E lozenge
8206 lrm U left-to-right mark
8249 lsaquo U single left-pointing angle quotation mark
8216 lsquo U left single quotation mark
< 60 lt C less-than sign
¯ 175 macr 1 macron
8212 mdash U em dash
µ 181 micro 1 micro sign
· 183 middot 1 middle dot
8722 minus M minus sign
Μ 924 Mu G greek capital letter mu
μ 956 mu G greek small letter mu
8711 nabla M nabla
  160 nbsp 1 no-break space
8211 ndash U en dash
8800 ne M not equal to
8715 ni M contains as member
¬ 172 not 1 not sign
8713 notin M not an element of
8836 nsub M not a subset of
ñ 241 ntilde 1 latin small letter n with tilde
Ñ 209 Ntilde 1 latin capital letter N with tilde
Ν 925 Nu G greek capital letter nu
ν 957 nu G greek small letter nu
ó 243 oacute 1 latin small letter o with acute
Ó 211 Oacute 1 latin capital letter O with acute
Ô 212 Ocirc 1 latin capital letter O with circumflex
ô 244 ocirc 1 latin small letter o with circumflex
Π338 OElig O latin capital ligature OE
œ 339 oelig O latin small ligature oe
ò 242 ograve 1 latin small letter o with grave
Ò 210 Ograve 1 latin capital letter O with grave
8254 oline P overline
ω 969 omega G greek small letter omega
Ω 937 Omega G greek capital letter omega
Ο 927 Omicron G greek capital letter omicron
ο 959 omicron G greek small letter omicron
8853 oplus M circled plus
8744 or M logical or
ª 170 ordf 1 feminine ordinal indicator
º 186 ordm 1 masculine ordinal indicator
Ø 216 Oslash 1 latin capital letter O with stroke
ø 248 oslash 1 latin small letter o with stroke
Õ 213 Otilde 1 latin capital letter O with tilde
õ 245 otilde 1 latin small letter o with tilde
8855 otimes M circled times
Ö 214 Ouml 1 latin capital letter O with diaeresis
ö 246 ouml 1 latin small letter o with diaeresis
182 para 1 pilcrow sign
8706 part M partial differential
8240 permil U per mille sign
8869 perp M up tack
φ 966 phi G greek small letter phi
Φ 934 Phi G greek capital letter phi
Π 928 Pi G greek capital letter pi
π 960 pi G greek small letter pi
ϖ 982 piv G greek pi symbol
± 177 plusmn 1 plus-minus sign
£ 163 pound 1 pound sign
8243 Prime P double prime
8242 prime P prime
8719 prod M n-ary product
8733 prop M proportional to
ψ 968 psi G greek small letter psi
Ψ 936 Psi G greek capital letter psi
34 quot C quotation mark
8730 radic M square root
9002 rang T right-pointing angle bracket
» 187 raquo 1 right-pointing double angle quotation mark
8658 rArr A rightwards double arrow
8594 rarr A rightwards arrow
8969 rceil T right ceiling
8221 rdquo U right double quotation mark
8476 real L blackletter capital R
® 174 reg 1 registered sign
8971 rfloor T right floor
Ρ 929 Rho G greek capital letter rho
ρ 961 rho G greek small letter rho
8207 rlm U right-to-left mark
8250 rsaquo U single right-pointing angle quotation mark
8217 rsquo U right single quotation mark
8218 sbquo U single low-9 quotation mark
Š 352 Scaron O latin capital letter S with caron
š 353 scaron O latin small letter s with caron
8901 sdot M dot operator
§ 167 sect 1 section sign
­ 173 shy 1 soft hyphen
Σ 931 Sigma G greek capital letter sigma
σ 963 sigma G greek small letter sigma
ς 962 sigmaf G greek small letter final sigma
8764 sim M tilde operator
9824 spades S black spade suit
8834 sub M subset of
8838 sube M subset of or equal to
8721 sum M n-ary sumation
8835 sup M superset of
¹ 185 sup1 1 superscript one
² 178 sup2 1 superscript two
³ 179 sup3 1 superscript three
8839 supe M superset of or equal to
ß 223 szlig 1 latin small letter sharp s
Τ 932 Tau G greek capital letter tau
τ 964 tau G greek small letter tau
8756 there4 M therefore
Θ 920 Theta G greek capital letter theta
θ 952 theta G greek small letter theta
ϑ 977 thetasym G greek small letter theta symbol
8201 thinsp U thin space
Þ 222 THORN 1 latin capital letter THORN
þ 254 thorn 1 latin small letter thorn with
˜ 732 tilde D small tilde
× 215 times 1 multiplication sign
8482 trade L trade mark sign
ú 250 uacute 1 latin small letter u with acute
Ú 218 Uacute 1 latin capital letter U with acute
8657 uArr A upwards double arrow
8593 uarr A upwards arrow
û 251 ucirc 1 latin small letter u with circumflex
Û 219 Ucirc 1 latin capital letter U with circumflex
Ù 217 Ugrave 1 latin capital letter U with grave
ù 249 ugrave 1 latin small letter u with grave
¨ 168 uml 1 diaeresis
ϒ 978 upsih G greek upsilon with hook symbol
υ 965 upsilon G greek small letter upsilon
Υ 933 Upsilon G greek capital letter upsilon
ü 252 uuml 1 latin small letter u with diaeresis
Ü 220 Uuml 1 latin capital letter U with diaeresis
8472 weierp L script capital P
ξ 958 xi G greek small letter xi
Ξ 926 Xi G greek capital letter xi
ý 253 yacute 1 latin small letter y with acute
Ý 221 Yacute 1 latin capital letter Y with acute
¥ 165 yen 1 yen sign
ÿ 255 yuml 1 latin small letter y with diaeresis
Ÿ 376 Yuml O latin capital letter Y with diaeresis
Ζ 918 Zeta G greek capital letter zeta
ζ 950 zeta G greek small letter zeta
8205 zwj U zero width joiner
8204 zwnj U zero width non-joiner

Section Description
P General punctuation
A Arrows
1 General characters
C Controls and basic latin
S Miscellaneous symbols
D Spacing modified letters
T Miscellaneous technical characters
U General punctuation (special characters)
E Geometric shapes
G Greek symbols
I Latin extended B
L Letterlike symbols
M Mathematical operators
O Latin extended A

Originally posted 2008-05-16 14:04:48.

April Fools Day

But this is totally serious…

Today, California’s 1% increase in sales tax goes into effect; the term of the increase won’t be known until after a ballet measure is voted on.

California, like many states, has been spending far more than it’s been taking in — and this is yet another misguided attempt by the Governor and assembly to make up the difference.

In a down economy, let’s raise the sales tax — I’m sure that will jump start retail sales and put the economy on the fast track to recovery… GET A CLUE, it’s not like most people are spending money on luxury items right now, they’re just trying to make ends meet; and those with means to buy expensive items will just purchase them out of state.

It looks to me like the best view of California is in the rear view mirror leaving!

Originally posted 2009-04-01 01:00:49.