A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

A Sturm's Eye View

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 18 December 2000

The following is the text of a support query I sent to 3Com:

"I have a 56K Voice Faxmodem Model 04-566300 and I want to use a headset/mic with it. There is a 3.5 mm jack on the modem that I presume is for this purpose. However, my headset/mic has two 3.5 mm jacks: one for the mic and one for the earphone. Can you provide me with the information needed to make an adapter or where to purchase such?"

3Com's tech support response was for me to phone them, whereupon they requested $25 up front to answer my query! I'd do it by trial and error except I don't want to stuff up my headset or the modem.

I posted the above and the Win2k native backup issues to The HardwareGuys bulletin board.

John Dominik wrote:

Hey, here's a thought...

I noticed before leaving the previous employer that Retrospect is now producing PC-backup software. Well, actually, they've been doing it for a while now. I found Backup exec to be about as counter-intuitive a program as there ever was. Retrospect walked me through the process of scheduling backups, what I wanted to back up to, how often, and what tapes/media/savesets to use. And I was going from tar and such on UNIX to a graphical environment for backups for the first time - scary.

Check out http://www.retrospect.com/ - thirty-day free trial, after that it's $50 (*USD) for the Retrospect Express Backup. If you need to go to the full network version, it's a little spendier, at about $180. But that's direct from them; it might be available elsewhere for less. It's a thought.

Thanks John. Great minds like a think! Retrospect was the first alternative to Backup Exec I was considering. It's ominous that Backup Exec started out with Arcada (I think) then was owned by Seagate who wrote the Win2k Backup version, and now is owned by Veritas. Software that passes so quickly from company to company tends to have problems. My brief Internet search the other day revealed lots of disgruntled sysadmins. One mentioned that he hadn't been able to make a reliable backup for three months! And we all know who gets the blame when the soft, smelly stuff hits the whirling thingy.

As far as counter-intuitive goes, that's down to previous experience. Backup Exec seems intuitive to me, but it's what I'm used to. Retrospect works so differently to other backup programs that it will likely seem counterintuitive to me. Retrospect's creation of a database of backed up files rather than relying on the archive bit or date means backups are slower. I could care less about that -- my backup to tape is scheduled for times when I'm doing things non-computer. But the ease of restoring required files is very appealing. The bullet is bit and I will report on this later.

MarkM's response to my tape backup problem:

Backup with the W2K native tools has been problematic for me also. I don't have a good answer for you, just some questions.

Are you using the Inject Media/Eject Media wizards when you insert/eject your tapes, or are you just putting them in and pulling them out? Are you trying to back up manually with the Backup wizard or perform a scheduled backup of some kind? Does the Removable Storage Manager properly recogize/identify the tape you have in the drive? If it isn't recognized, can you perform a refresh on the tape drive so that it is recognized?

No, I wasn't using the Removable Storage Manager; online help for backup mentioned that I *may* need to use it. When I just looked, the RSM service wasn't running, but that may be because I installed evaluation copies of backup Exec and Retrospect. I started it manually, but the tape drive now has a red cross symbol against it.

To investigate another issue (ACPI), I need to do a fresh Win2k install, so I will check the Inject/Eject media tool next time around. Thanks for the heads up on this, Mark.

Since I want to investigate whether the Win2k ACPI solution I posted here works, I need to reinstall Win2k.

I tried Retrospect and struck a glitch. Even though I shut down Outlook, it was still running and consequently my outlook.pst file wasn't backed up. Every so often, when I launch the task manager, I notice that there can be several instances of outlook.exe running, even though there is no Outlook window visible! How this happens is a mystery to me. Backing up with Retrospect a second time, I expected to pick up the missing outlook.pst file, but received the following message:

- 18/12/2000 4:20:33 PM: Copying Data (D:)
Catalog out of sync with backup set "Backup Set A".
To repair it, use Tools>Repair>Update Existing from the Directory.

Attempting to do so, I received an error message about the file database being corrupt! Yikes! Time to RTFM and try again.

Bob Thompson responded to the 3Com/USR modem problem:

Your model appears to be specific to Australia. I checked the main US USR site, and all the models I could download manuals for have two separate jacks. I found your model on the UK USR site, but that site is useless. No manuals on-line, etc.

I have encountered single-jack headphone/mic combos before, and I know I've seen adapters to use separate headphone and mic plugs with a combo jack. But a quick Internet search turned up nothing (or, more accurately, too much to sort through).

It seems to me that what you need is a manual for your model.

These modems come with no documentation whatsoever. The documentation online at the USR website does not provide the info I need. I guess it's the trial and terror approach.

The ideal solution to all this of course would be to get the Banksia modem working with the voice/fax software, or for Netcom, the new owners of Banksia to provide adequate drivers and software. I note that the Banksia Wave modem is now being marketed as the Netcom Wave. And of course the box says that it's suitable for Win2k! The drivers haven't changed, only the name on the case and packaging.

Thought for the day:

Work for the fun of it, and the money will arrive some day.

Ronnie Milsap

Tuesday 19 December 2000

Much of the day spent working on The House of Steel.

Bo Leuf writes:

You post

> These modems come with no documentation whatsoever. The documentation 
> online at the USR website does not provide the info I need. I guess 
> it's the trial and terror approach.

In one sense there aren't that many permutations. I would guess, sight-unseen, that the single plug is a three-lead type, and if its the Jap mini stereo plug, sleeve and two tips (L and R), then "obviously" the sleeve must be common both phones and mic, and L and R must be the active side of phones or mic. Thus take two female mono sockets that fit the current headset plugs, join them at sleeve connection, and run three leads to a stereo plug that goes to modem. If you start by keeping the mic disconnected in this arrangement, then trial and error should determine which lead should be phones (you hear something). Then, Bob's (probably not) your uncle, but never mind... :)

/ Bo

Yes, this had already occurred to me. It's the microphone that would most easily be damaged by incorrect connection. My real problem is that my eyesight for close work is now very poor. It would have been much easier for me if I could buy an adapter ready-made. My uncles were Frank, Ted, Jim and Dick... ;-)

From Joe Hartman:

Jonathan, I notice the same problem with Outlook and asked Mr Syroid about it a couple of months ago. I can not find the note he sent me but if I remember correctly, it basically said that this is what happens when you shutdown Outlook while it is checking for mail. I changed my settings to have Outlook check every 30 minutes rather than every 5 minutes and have not noticed the problem since. Also, I only noticed this problem in the internet only version of Outlook. I have never seen the problem at work where I check both Exchange servers and pop servers. Joe

I never experienced (or more accurately, noticed) the problem when I was running Outlook in corporate mode. Since I changed over from MS Small Business Server 4.5 to Win2k Pro for Internet connection sharing, I have been running Outlook as Internet only set to check for mail every 10 minutes. I'll leave it at that setting and just make sure that I only close down Outlook immediately after a mail download. Usually, I only close Outlook when my son goes online to play games. Another thought is that closing Outlook without closing all open mail items may stuff things up.

Thought for the day:

Life begins at 40 -- but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.

William Feather

Wednesday 20 December 2000

Another long, sweaty day toiling in the hot sun working on The House of Steel. My muscles are hardening, but the fat around my middle is persisting! Someone passed a rude remark about my "beer gut" the other day. I pointed out that I very rarely drink beer, but this was laughed at! Haven't these idiots noticed that alcoholics, beer or otherwise, are nearly always really, really skinny? I wonder what the reaction would be if I made remarks about people without a beer gut, referring to their alcoholism.

I haven't been doing much navel gazing of late, so here goes:

He was a sailor by Michael Leunig

More about Michael Leunig here.

From Keith Stewart:

Well done. - Writing about your positive experiences to one and all on the Internet - 'Good News about Dingo Blue'.

Mine with Dingo Blue have so far complemented (or is it paralleled?) yours.

I am an 'old hand'; one of the three guys who set up and started Pegasus ISP so long ago that we had a NEW 486 running text-based Linux in Byron Bay. We had a 'large' 100Mb (yes) hard disk of which we were very proud. 'Peggy Sue' would phone the USA 4 times a day to sawp files with a server there, by 'fast' 1200bd ISTD line across the Pacific. Few of our clients all over Australia knew that we were not connected to the Net 24 x 7, and they thought that a few hours delay in swapping emails or in updating newsgroups was normal.

No www of course. We pre-dated the WWW.

Now I am back in Sydney from Dhaka at end 2000. setting up a small Linux server with four terminals hanging off it. When it is running and stuffed with compressed files I will need for tech support, I will strip it, return to Dhaka with the hard disks and cards and replicate it in Bangladesh. I had to ask my previous Sydney ISP some non-standard questions about DNS etc for our 'netlinkbd.org' - top level domain name, and the air became cloudy. Not only that, but carefully-worded emails to support were ignored. Forget phoning unless you have a packed lunch and a copy of the Womens Weekly.

So I swapped to Dingo Blue., I had heard by word of mouth that 'Dingo Blue know what they are doing.

This is unusual, in any country. Even in the USA in my personal experience with AT&T who don't care if you get on or not, to my local Erols ISP in Virginia, whose growing pains caused endless problems with staff who seemed to be swimming at the shallow end of the gene pool most of the time, with two pleasant exceptions.

DINGO BLUE RULES. OK ? Wonderful !! Real people answer the phone. That in itself wins me over. On the rare occasions I get to speak to a human-being in business, I shop at and deal with that company. I can choose where I spend my money. I will pay for quality service. Dingo Blue's tech support has been faultless. Their male and female staff not only know a lot, but are honest enough to admit when I have them stumped. A quick check with a supervisor or a techie and all my queries have been answered. The end result? I am now starting informal negotiations with Dingo Blue management to determine if there is some way we can get some of our key Dhaka ISP personnel trained by Dingo Blue people. Either by osmosis at Dingo Blue in Sydney, or by our borrowing a Dingo Blue person and exposing him or her to the horrors and frustrations of daily life in Dhaka. I need to replicate in Bangladesh, the 'Dingo Blue Quality Standards I am enjoying here in Sydney.

Pacific ISP will never know why I quietly closed my account. I could not be bothered wasting time telling them. Life is to short, and it is a pleasure to be able to write about Dingo Blue; that rara avis, an efficient company in year 2000 in the Western World.

I am now about to contact Tech support at Dingo Blue to arrange to FTP a website into 'wherever' good websites go when they leave my PC.

I bet it will take one quarter the hassles I experience when attempting this task with Pacific ISP. (Pacific's printed instructions included such gems as mis-prints in the lettering re SMPT (or was it spelt as SMPT?) in their printed setup sheet. A Pacific Techie then said, "Just put in SMP." Hhhmmm. 'SMP' Did not fly, of course.

Keith Stewart - Partner. NetLink Support (BD) in Sydney until end-Jan 2001.

My first taste of the Internet was through Pegasus. I well remember reading my email as it downloaded through my 300 baud Dick Smith modem and the picture of Ian Peter sitting next to the river in the rainforest with his laptop for the Pegasus launch. I'm glad you enjoy my rants. Sadly, my budget didn't allow me to maintain my Pegasus account beyond a few months.

At that time I was on the board of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia Ltd (NASAA). Board meetings were hellishly expensive since Australia is a rather large country and airfares much higher than overseas. I tried to interest the board in using computers to set up a private newsgroup on Pegasus and meet face to face but once a year. The cost savings for a cash-strapped volunteer organisation were significant. Fear of computers is the reason my proposal was rejected. Ten years down the track it's the norm.

I notice that Christmas is almost upon us. The requests for help with home PCs are starting to trickle in. The flood will no doubt occur on Boxing Day. Christmas, bah, humbug!

Things that sound dirty at Christmas, but aren't:

1. "Talk about a huge breast!" 
2. "Whew, that's one terrific spread!" 
3. "It's a little dry, do you still want to eat it?" 
4. "Tying the legs together will keep the inside moist." 
5. "Just lay back and take it easy. I'll do the rest." 
6. "I'm in the mood for a little dark meat." 
7. "How long do I beat it before it's ready?" 
8. "Use a nice, smooth stroke when you whip it." 
9. "Don't play with your meat." 
10. "Just spread the legs open and stuff it in." 
11. "How long will it take after you stick it in?" 
12. "You'll know it's ready when it pops up." 
13. "If I don't undo my pants, I'll burst." 
14. "That's the biggest one I've ever seen!" 
15. "Do you think you'll be able to handle all these people at once?" 
16. "I didn't expect everyone to come at once." 
17. "It's Cool Whip time!" 
18. "You still have a little bit on your chin." 
19. "Are you ready for seconds yet?"

Thought for the day:

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.

Anthony Robbins

Thursday 21 December 2000

The DayNotes Gang has a new member: Mike Barkman in Rotorua, New Zealand. When Tom Syroid has finished swinging from his chandeliers, he'll presumably update the Gang's web page to reflect this. Meantime, it's up at Svenson's Mirror. And now I have company on the bottom of the planet, even the map locating DayNoters might be updated.

World map showing location of Jonathan Sturm & Mike Barkman

Until recently, every computer I have owned has had lavish attention to performance tweaking. Even the AMD K6-2 sitting to my left has its memory bus set to 83 MHz, rather than the 66 MHz that was standard when it was built. This shoved the PCI bus speed up to 41.5 MHz, well above the 33 MHz most expansion cards can take. I got away with all this because I use quality memory (KingMax) and quality expansion cards. The video card is the most likely to be unable to take the strain and it has a Matrox Millenium II.

What brought this line of thought on was the fact that I will be installing Win98 on a new machine a friend recently ordered (it has yet to arrive). Against my advice, he is getting a Thunderbird CPU rather than a Duron. The hard disk is a small, slow Samsung, rather than a fast Seagate. Since the hard disk is the limiting factor on speed rather than the CPU, this is rather like pressing on the accelerator and the brake pedal at the same time! At least he ordered 128MB of RAM, rather than the 64 he originally planned.

And I thought then of this machine I am sitting at. Really, this 700 MHz Athlon has all the grunt I need to get my work done. The 256 MB of RAM is sufficient for some quite intensive graphics: hi-res scans of 35 mm slides weigh in at nearly 30 MB each. The only time I feel constrained by the machine is switching tasks, something I do rather a lot of. This isn't caused by disk swapping, but I believe would be alleviated by a second CPU. When I recently put a newer, faster hard disk in the machine, I noticed a dramatic decrease in load times, but most of the time all my apps are open 24 hours a day.

ASUS has released an interesting peripheral they call the iPanel. This is a device for monitoring CPU temperature, fan speed etc, etc. What a pity it's currently only supported by the ASUS CUSL-2, an i815 based board.

3Com emailed me to fill in a customer support satisfaction report. I concluded with the remark that I certainly won't be buying anything manufactured by 3Com/USR again!

I finally managed to get some gardening done. Sowed cauliflowers, carrots, beetroot and swedes; great wintertime fodder.

Some more Leunig

Leunig cartoon: Web Feet Site


Thought for the day:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the Summer solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, with respect to the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all, and a successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2001, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other great cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Australia great (not to imply that Australia is necessarily greater than any other country), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Friday 22 December 2000

Rain! After several weeks of warm to hot sunny weather, we had several useful showers. Living in the country and relying on water collected in tanks from the roof makes you very conscious of the variations in weather. And living a semi-self-sufficient lifestyle means that life has rhythms determined by weather and season. While many dream of a bucolic existence, free from the restraints of city life, the reality is that country life is in many respects more restrained. Crops must be sown and harvested at the appropriate times, livestock tended... While the city dweller can "phone in sick", a cow with a full bag must be milked, the chickens fed... Make hay while the sun shines is literal, not figurative.

On the other hand, within the framework of necessary activity, there is considerable flexibility. Because the days have been hot, I started at dawn, possibly the most beautiful part of the day in the country. During the middle of the day, rather than turning to the demands in the Electronic Cottage, I slowed down. The work on The House of Steel is up to date. So when the rain came, it was time for those other necessaries: paying some bills, reinstalling Win2k to test last Saturday's discovery, test the Smith Micro software for the Banksia modem (yes, it finally turned up)...

Instead, I played some Civilization: Call to Power and read a little of Charles Seife's Zero, The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. And reading about the Church's attempt to ban the use of zero, led me to thinking about its attempt to ban polyphonic music. Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli, was supposedly written to persuade The Council of Trent that polyphony wasn't the work of the Devil and it's one of my favourite compositions, so I listened to that too. Very relaxing.

Joe Hartman's theory that multiple instances of Outlook being caused by quitting Outlook during a mail download may well be correct. I have observed no reoccurrences of multiple instances so far. This can't prove the theory, but does lend it credence.

Thought for the day (especially for Tom):

The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.

Sidney J. Harris

Saturday 23 December 2000

Happy birthday Akihito, Emperor of Japan!

I did a very interesting install of Win2k following the procedure outlined in last Saturday's Diatribe. You may recall I have MS ACPI-Compliant System, 2 USB controllers, Hollywood Plus adapter, Matrox video adapter, NIC, Sound card and Adaptec SCSI adapter all sharing IRQ 9. Well, installing to a Standard PC, I ended up with the USB controllers, audio and NIC as the only devices on IRQ 9. Out of interest, I changed the BIOS to Plug & Play OS = Yes and unlike on previous occasions, this didn't cause a BSOD. Rebooting into the original install, expecting the usual BSOD, again, it did not occur! The only change since I last tried this was the installation of Service Pack 1. There's more investigation afoot, but that can wait. This is the silly season after all :-)

Don Armstrong writes about DingoBlue. I forwarded his email to DingoBlue for comment, but have not received a reply.

Well, Jonathon, I'll only agree with you about Dingo Blue up to a point: their technical support IS excellent.

HOWEVER, in my experience their business practices leave a lot to be desired. My brother (rural New South Wales, Australia) joined them early this year. At that stage, they were advertising an 1800 telephone number for Web access for people in the Central West of NSW (local call fee), which is why he switched from his earlier ISP. There was a special deal for Web access plus phone service, which he took. He and the person referring him got a credit on their accounts (deferred for two months), and he subsequently got credits for other people he referred to Dingo Blue. Almost two months later, they withdrew the 1800 number, with no notice. They SAID they'd emailed their customers about this, but they hadn't changed their Web site, and they hadn't told anyone who joined on the basis of what they said on their web site, subsequent to the purported date of their supposed email - which of course was just before my brother joined them.

Well, they said - sorry about that, but we've done it, and we're not going to reverse it. All we can suggest is that you use the credits that you've accumulated to make long-distance calls to one of our points of presence - we've got a special deal where any calls between 7 and 10 pm are a maximum of $2. He did that, while looking for alternatives. HOWEVER, they also hadn't told him that their "special deal" wasn't QUITE what they told him - it was any phone calls COMPLETED between 7 and 10. If you ran a second over, then it wasn't the extra second that was charged at normal clocked rates - it was the entire three hours and one second (or whatever). One night's access went from two dollars to twenty or thirty. And they were direct-billing his credit card - they had the money before he found out what they'd done. And they'd billed him twice for that month too.

He's not with Dingo Blue any longer.

Regards, Don Armstrong

No comment.

Much to my amusement, some of our Merkin cousins took offence at my "politically correct" seasons greetings in my Thursday Diatribe. Why America is a parody- and irony-free zone, I have no idea, but the words of Alanis Morrisette's song, Ironic, tell the story: "...like rain on your wedding day". Well I'm sorry, but that's not ironic, it's just shit happening! My Oxford English Dictionary (yes, I eventually found the CD) tells me that parody is a composition in prose or verse in which the characteristic turns of thought and phrase in an author or class of authors are imitated in such a way as to make them appear ridiculous and irony is a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used.

And while in that vein, Australian writer Frank Hardy tells the following story: 

There was an American who had been visiting Australia and was on his way back to the USA on a cruise ship. While sitting in a deck chair, he stopped the steward and said, "I've been to Australia but I didn't get to hear any Australian jokes and I'd love to be able to tell one to the boys at my club. Can you help me?"

The steward said, "OK. There was a young lady walking down a bush track and she came to a crossroads. There were three men approaching from each of the other three directions. One was walking, one was riding a horse, and the other was in a car. Now, which one knew her?"

"Beats me," said the American.

"The horse manure," answered the steward.

The American laughed uproariously and said "Thanks good buddy".

When he got back to his club he related the joke to his buddies.

I heard this great Australian joke. It seems that there was this broad in the country standing at a crossroads. Approaching her were a pedestrian, an equestrian, and a motorist. Now, which one knew her?

The other chaps admitted ignorance, so the American proceeded:

The answer's "horse shit", but I'll be danged if I know why!

King Wenceslas phoned Pizza Hut with his order. 
"Is that the usual?" they asked. 
"Yes please -- deep pan, crisp and even."

Thought for the day:

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

Alan Watts

Sunday 24 December 2000

Fierce windstorms ripped roofs from homes and cut power to many parts of Tasmania today. You will be happy to know that the Electronic Cottage survived and the rain filled our water tanks nicely. Since we have a wood burning cook-stove, power cuts don't have a devastating effect on us. No computers running just means getting stuck into a book instead. Some hardship.

Books awaiting my attention include: The Works of Josephus in four volumes, The Nag Hammadi Library, Denis Brian's Genius Talk, Stephen Jay Gould's Wonderful Life, Margaret Wertheim's The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Funk et al The Five Gospels, Dava Sobel's Galileo's Daughter, Eric Rolls' Sojourners, Frazer's The Golden Bough, Alec Guinness's My Name Escapes Me, John Romer's Great Excavations and Gribbin and Goodwin's Origins.

I also recently acquired a copy of the Bible on CD; well, it's several copies in various translations, languages etc. A friend who is rather more involved in Christianity than I mentioned that there is an "official list" of Bible bits for sermonising from. Conspicuously missing from the list is Leviticus. Since discovering this interesting factoid, I have asked the not infrequent God-botherers that knock at my door for their thoughts on Leviticus. Not one has ever read it! I have -- twice, but that was back in the 1960s and I recall little of it. Why these people think they can assist my salvation when they haven't bothered reading the book they claim contains all the answers escapes me.

And while on this topic, I found Suzette Haden Elgin's Peacetalk 101 a fascinating read.

It's Christmas Day, Anniversary of Revelation of Koran (Brunei) and Constitution Day (Taiwan) as I write this. To me it's Annual Breakfast at Jane's Day. Jane's famous Christmas day breakfast runs from about 9 am to midday (for us). Then I am going to prepare a hot roast for Marguerite, her brother Philip, Thomas and myself. This year it will be a loin of pork. The pork is scored across and a mixture of chopped garlic, chopped rosemary and olive oil is rubbed across the scoring so that it works into the crevices. Then it is placed into a roasting pan smeared with olive oil covered by a generous scattering of caraway seeds. Finally, before it's placed in the oven, a modest sprinkling of balsamic vinegar over the meat. If you cook this, be careful not to overdo the balsamic vinegar -- it can easily overpower the other flavours of the dish. The pork will be served with steamed pinkeye potatoes (a local delicacy), broad beans (Windsor -- an old fashioned variety), peas and carrots.

Wine will be provided by Philip and I hope it's a reasonable chardonnay. I completely forgot to go shopping for wine, so it's Morris chateau cardboard chardonnay if he brings something unmentionable.

Thought for the day:

Leela: "I don't know what to believe anymore." 
Doctor: "Well that sounds healthy, anyway Leela. Never be certain of anything; it's a sign of weakness."

Dr Who -- The Face of Evil


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Check out Franklin & Friends, a website devoted to the village where the author lives: its culture, inhabitants, and more.

Jonathan Sturm 2000

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Check out Franklin & Friends, a website devoted to the village where the author lives: its culture, inhabitants, and more.

Jonathan Sturm 2000