October 31, 2002

First of all, I apologize for the new Blog 7.0 build that I uploaded a couple of days ago. It has an irritating bug – you can’t use the space bar at the end of your text … I know that sounds confusing but those who tried that build would know what I mean. Rob pointed this out to me yesterday and I was able to fix the problem and upload a new build yesterday. So those of you who have this problem just need to re-download Blog 7.0 and re-install it. So what caused the problem? It was me mistakenly trying to fix a problem that wasn’t there :p Somebody wrote to me and said that they got extra lines at the end of their comments and I knew I had to strip out blank spaces at the end of comments and entries e-mailed in, in Blog Server mode. I was looking at the PlusMemo component when I was going to release the Blog 7.0 nag-removed-edition and I realized that it had an option to “remove trailing blanks” and I somehow confused that with removing trailing spaces from the comments and implemented that option. Now that option seems to ensure that no trailing spaces are entered in a PlusMemo component by not letting you enter space at the end of a line – so that’s how that came to be :p

Secondly, there is some racial unrest here in Sri Lanka between the Sinhalese and the Muslims at the moment. I pray to God that this does not escalate beyond what has taken place already since we are just trying to sort out the issues of racial unrest between the Sinhalese and the Tamils at the moment and we really do not need another conflict. Incidentally, for those who didn’t know/realize, I’m a Muslim. I have been expecting some problems like this for a while now just because some Muslim politician’s are opportunistically grab some glory by asking for an autonomous area for themselves if the Tamils get one as part of the peace process which is going on right now. I have always believed that we should all consider ourselves Sri Lankans instead of Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims but that doesn’t seem to be a popular opinion. Since I edit a page on peace in three languages for three local dailies, I have even written anti-Muslim articles where I have denounced the politicians for playing their games at this juncture of the peace process but of course nobody gives a damn. However, all this grand-standing and demanding was bound to create some resentment in the minds of at least some Sinhalese and yesterday’s incident seems to indicate that this is so. There had been some protest about a Muslim school or mosque (a mosque is a place of prayer – like a church or temple) being built in front of a Buddhist temple and that had escalated into rioting and fighting which ended with part of Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka – I live in the suburbs of Colombo) being placed under curfew. We should know today where the incident leads but I do hope that it ends there …

Thirdly, (I’m inserting this bit after publishing once because I forgot all about this :p) I see that the number of sites using Blog has been steadily growing. I added six or seven sites just a couple of days ago to the list and I already have seven or eight more to be added to the list. I haven’t been highlighting any of the sites using Blog here except occasionally but I’m beginning to think that maybe I should have something like a site of the week or something and highlight each site that uses Blog and is frequently updated. Not sure how often I’d get around to updating that though :p Anyway, the reason for this part of the entry was to mention two sites that caught my attention yesterday. The first one is called Mr. McGaughey’s Grade 2 Class and is basically a blog for the whole class (or perhaps their parents as well) which details classroom activities and stuff. I was really excited by Blog being used for this – can’t explain why. Maybe it was because that was a unique way to use it or maybe it’s just because I love kids but it did give me a warm feeling to see this particular blog and to know that I’d contributed in some way to making it happen. The other one is called All Around Me : Photo blog and has some really beautiful photographs in it. I had always admired Noah Grey’s beautiful photographs on the GreyMatter site and am now thrilled to have somebody do a a complete blog with photograph’s using Blog :-)

Fourthly, I’ve written at too great a length again and so it looks as if I shouldn’t venture into writing about the future of Blog or PostMan just yet since that’s probably going to be another long entry. So I’ll have to stop at this for the moment and promise that Blog and PostMan will be discussed tomorrow – just as I’ve been saying for the last couple of days :p

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Posted by Fahim at 4:56 am  |  1 Comment

October 30, 2002

First of all thank you Jim, Duane and Tyran (your comments were the ones I received last night before I went to bed and so they had the most immediate effect – but I thank the others for their comments as well …) for your comments on the issue of decisions because you again made me lose my tunnel vision where all I could see was myself and my immediate problems. You made me realize that others face the same problems and that they too make hard decisions instead of just saying to heck with morality and do whatever they feel like (which was what brought up this introspection in the first place …). Strangely enough, that made me feel better and so I had a good night of sleep – so thank you :-)

Of course, I now have to clarify a few things about last night’s post and this probably will mean that we don’t get to talk about PostMan or Blog today but I really think that this is a good discussion and am even considering transplanting it to GroupHug since that mailing list does have people interested in this kind of issue – and yes, that was a blatant plug for GroupHug since that list hasn’t got where it was supposed to be due to lack of members. But I digress again … I have this bad habit of adding a lot of extraneous stuff to what I write and clouding the issue – I apologize for that. First of all, I do realize that an individual has to make the best choice that s/he can under given circumstances and they can’t really control the reactions of others – only their actions and while I did talk about chaos theory and seemed to imply that I was worried about the far reaching effects of my actions, what I was really trying to say was that I felt that each of my actions has effects and that I was worried about the *immediate* (as in the next two or three ripples …) effects of my actions.

To illustrate, I knew this person several years ago who called me up (or was it IM’ed? I forget …) at work and said words to the effect that she had a gun and was contemplating using it unless I came over right then – or something along those lines, I forget the exact scenario. Now I believe in not giving into pressure (either physical or emotional) and I should not have gone especially since I half suspected that she was simply saying that to get her own way but could I take that chance and have another human being lose their life? I didn’t think I could. So I contacted her mother and told her what she’d said and she was completely dismissive of the whole thing and said not to worry but I still couldn’t take that chance since maybe she wasn’t like that normally but what if she was having a really bad day or something? So I worried, talked to her and I think I finally did go see her in the evening but of course, it turned out to be nothing – just a threat. It’s just that I can’t help worry about that one time when we think it’s nothing and it turns out to be something …

But to get back to what I was saying, I realize that we can control only our own actions but what if each possible action in a given scenario can only end up in breaking one of your principles? Should you take an action? Should you remain inactive? Or should you continue to search for an alternate solution which will not break any of your principles? Or (this is the choice which started the whole debate …) should you just say these principles/rules don’t affect me and do whatever you want? A friend of mine told me yesterday that he’d promised not to do a certain thing and that he was breaking his promise by showing something to me but that he hadn’t really promised since he hadn’t said “I promise …” only said “yes” when the other person had asked “do you promise …”. I can’t do that – to me the letter and the spirit of a promise are both valid but to others it seems to be such a simple thing to break a promise … So I guess I’m just trying to understand how others think about things and I’ve never been really able to do that – all I know is the inside of my own mind … I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see inside somebody else’s mind …

OK, that’s quite long enough :p I did receive some interesting e-mails from Jim and Duane on this subject and I would have liked to have put up their e-mails and my responses on a separate page but I dont’ know how Jim or Duane would feel about that. So I might (or might not <g>) do that after I’ve received their permission to publicly display what they wrote – provided I remember to ask them that is :p Oh yes, to those who asked, I am in love with Jen :-) I just don’t write as openly about all aspects of my life online as most people seem to on blogs :p

Oh one more thing … Duane brought up an interesting point about what happens to my source code if I were to die or were to give up on coding or something. I can answer about the give up on coding bit because I’ve passed on source code to others who wanted to continue development, before this as well. If I were to die … now that’s a whole new kettle of fish. I don’t like to open source my applications since I’ve worked on other projects where the source code was taken by others to be used in shareware/closed source projects and no mention given of the “borrowing”. Personally, I would probably leave the source for the final version with a friend/developer who could do what they wish with the source after my demise :p Any other suggestions? (And I’m sorry if I seem morbid talking about death but it’s not as if I’m suicidal or have a death wish – to me these are just practical concerns … especially when one lives in Sri Lanka where a terrorist bomb might get you – thankfully that’s not a problem right at the moment due to the cease fire – even if the traffic doesn’t <g>)

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Posted by Fahim at 5:13 am  |  2 Comments

October 29, 2002

OK, before I go into angst-ridden soul searching mode <g>, let me just say that I’ve uploaded the new build of Blog with the PlusMemo nag dialog removed. As I mentioned earlier, there is no change in version number and so you simply have to download the same old file. Now on to the soul-searching :p

I have always believed in doing what I think is right but what do you do when you have a conflict between two things which are both right in their own way? I believe implicitly in keeping my promises – not just to the extent of the letter of the promise but the spirit of the promise as well. I also believe in doing what my heart tells me is right. Then on the other hand, I also believe in not hurting anybody either through my actions or through inaction. What the heck do you do when all of these different principles collide against each other? I really don’t know in this instance and perhaps the one person who can help me sort it all out will not talk to me. I sometimes think it’s rather prissy of me to worry about every little action but then again, I can’t help feeling responsible for everything I do – maybe it’s from too much reading but I am always aware that each and every one of my actions can have far reaching effects like ripples on a pond due to a stone being thrown in. Terry Pratchett is very fond of a saying which goes something along the lines of a butterfly’s wings causing a storm somewhere else and I believe explicitly in that – everything we do can have very far reaching effects and I always try to consider everything when I do something. Of course, you can’t refuse to act because your actions might have far reaching effects either because that’s cowardice … at least, that’s what I think :p

Something else that occurred to me while coming back from work today was that in this day and age of the Internet where every one of us has so many friends that we’ve never met, that we need a dead-man’s switch of some sorts :p Why did I think this? Well, I was doing seventy on the road on the motorbike and in Sri Lanka, that’s courting death :p But it felt good to ride fast with the wind in my face but while riding, I had this though that if I were to die right then due to an accident, nobody on the Net would even know that I’d died (OK, fine .. I was specifically thinking of Jen there but I later thought of others I know of on the Net too :p) My parents know nothing of my Net friends and they’d not even consider letting anybody from the Net know if I were to die. But how would you reliably construct such a program that would let others know if you were to die? I was going through several alternatives but nothing is really foolproof but this entry is getting really morbid by this point and so I will stop :p

I’ve been considering a few additions to Blog as well as a completely new program which will merge Blog and a few of my other apps – though I would probably not do it since I hate bloated apps which have a lot of functionality that most of your users don’t need. So I’d rather stick with several different program than one huge app but I’d still like to discuss this idea here. Plus, Duane wanted to know about Postman … guess all of that will appear in tomorrow’s entry :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 5:44 pm  |  5 Comments

October 28, 2002

Got back from the airport a little while back – no, I wasn’t trying to leave the country so soon again :p I had to go back to get my luggage which had arrived from Singapore – that was an adventure in itself what with all the hassles you have to go through to just get into the air port … I think they are determined to make it hard for you just so that you will not lose your luggage in a hurry again :p I met a guy from Australia who had had his luggage go all the way to Germany and had finally got it back today. He said that he’d had some irreplaceable items in there and that he hadn’t had any toiletries or anything for three days. Plus, he’s on his way to India next (he was in Sri Lanka for a month) and that he was planning to visit the Himalayas and that he would need his sleeping bag there – must be nice to be able to travel like that … The only places I seem to see on my travels are the insides of airports <vbg> Jen and I have talked of traveling extensively but then again, she’s not even talking to me at the moment – so maybe it will all be a pipe dream, who knows?

I found out that .Net Magazine did run the article on blogging that they contacted me about but since their site does not include an online version of the article nor does their CD’s contents list Blog as being on it, I don’t know if Blog was mentioned. I guess it’s cool if it was and if not, hey nothing’s lost :p Anybody in UK who can confirm or deny as to whether Blog was mentioned in the article? And maybe if you have the magazine and if it does mention Blog, you can scan a copy of the article for me? Please? <g> Of course, asking for a copy of a magazine article maybe breaking some sort of copyright laws – who knows? :p

Since I’ve got my luggage, I should be able to release a special build of Blog 7.0 that removes the nag dialog at the start. I will not change the version number since that’s going to be the only change in the build since Blog 7.0 final. But I do intend to do a 7.01 or 7.1 release (depending on how big the changes are ..) which will hopefully fix all the bugs that people seem to experience. Just can’t promise you an ETA for that release though since I’ll probably put Blog on back burner for a while while I concentrate on PostMan – or I might simply take a little break from coding altogether if certain personal life issues go the way I fear that they will … Guess we’ll see how it all works out – sometimes I wish life was a lot simpler …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:37 pm  |  4 Comments

October 27, 2002

I had a talk with my parents (my father specifically since it’s sometimes a bit difficult to reason with my Mom due to the fact that she gets overly emotional :p) about the fact that I didn’t really care for an arranged marriage. Jen had told me a while back that I should be honest with my parents and let them know how I feel but I’d been afraid to do so for fear of hurting them. Turns out that Jen was right – it was better to talk to them even though there might be some pain involved. It could have been the fact that I have recently returned from my trip and they are still treating me as if I might break into a thousand pieces at a moments notice <g> but they did sort of see my point and have agreed to let me be and not try to arrange any marriages for me :-) I told my Dad that I would tell him when I find somebody that I want to marry and while they seemed to agree to it, I now get all these hints about how I’m getting old – so I guess things don’t change that quickly :p

Speaking of Jen, she’s convinced that a lot of hits to her site come from mine and recently she lost one of her hosts – the one I link to from my page. The the other mirror of her site is still functional and I will be updating my own link on the sidebar to point to that page. So if anybody was wondering Jen is on the Net, now you know :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 5:27 am  |  2 Comments

October 26, 2002

I am sort of back in action again – I’m partially rested, caught up on most of the support e-mails for my software and am slowly getting back into the swing of things. I even tried recompiling Blog with the registered version of PlusMemo and what do you know? The nag screen is gone! However, I only have the source for something like Blog 7.0 Beta 5 on my notebook and guess where the source for the final version of Blog 7.0 is? It’s on a CD, in my baggage, still lying somewhere in a baggage holding area in Singapore :-( I’m really concerned at the moment as to the safety of my baggage since that CD is probably the only single copy of the final source around and I’d hate to have to work on all the fixes for Blog 7.0 final – again. Oh well … guess we wait and see …

In the mean time, I probably should get to work on PostMan since I’ve been getting a few inquiries about PostMan and when I intend to get to work on that. Yes, I know that there is all the stuff about user-defined variables for Blog etc. but there was another conversation I had with Nigel where he pointed out that I was probably better off getting all the bugs ironed out of the latest release of Blog before I went on to work on new features. I agree with him :-) As far as I know, the biggest bugs seem to be with the customized code snippets stuff and since user-defined variables will closely parallel the code snippet stuff as far as the UI goes, I would think it would be beneficial for both features to get the bugs sorted out. I haven’t heard of any other problems from other users but Nigel seems to have problems with publishing as well. He tells me that occasionally, Blog will not publish the main page on the first try but instead does so the second time around. Now we’d traced this to him having a separate image folder and that this happened only when he had linked images to upload and I put in a fix for it as well into Blog 7.0 – so I have no idea why it still continues to happen since I can’t duplicate the problem in my tests. Anybody else out there with similar problems or somebody who has a separate image directory but publishes their blog to the root folder of their FTP server? Let me know so that we can get to the bottom of this …

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Posted by Fahim at 11:04 am  |  2 Comments

October 25, 2002

Ok, I am back … sorry about the unannounced hiatus but I’ve been traveling again – specifically, I’ve gone back to the US and been turned around and sent home … again! I feel tired, discouraged and sad – why does this have to keep on happening to me? I went up to Chicago this time and was stopped by the INS, they pulled me out of the line, questioned me and searched my baggage and in the process informed me that my visitor visa was automatically canceled since I intended to talk to a lawyer about my greencard while I was in the US visiting friends. I had not thought of talking to lawyers as an intention to stay in the US but according to the INS it is and so I was inadmissible :p I was held in in one of their rooms at the airport for a day, put back on a flight to Tokyo the next day and was sent packing!

I got as far as Singapore on the trip back before I hit another snag – the first available flight (for which I had to wait for about seven hours …) was full and the next flight was around seventeen hours later! There was no help for it and so I stayed at Changi airport. Of course, if I had to be stuck at any airport, I would choose Singapore’s Changi since it’s like a mini-city. There are showers, restaurants, movie theaters, cafes, hotels, shops and a cybercafe – all inside the airport. I discovered that the cybercafe allows you free access if you have your own computer and since I was traveling with my trusty notebook, I was able to hook it up and be online and checking e-mail in about four days! Jen was online and she kept me company through most of the day and since I had hooked up my webcam, we could almost have a one-on-one conversation even though we were separated by thousands of miles.

I finally got my flight back to Colombo and I was surprised to discover that it was only about three hours long – I’d been stuck in Singapore for almost twenty four hours to travel just three hours worth of distance :p Ah well, the wonders of modern travel! I got home in the wee hours of the morning and slept for only about three or four hours before getting up again to travel with my parents to Kurunegala since there was some stuff that I needed to attend to there. Now I’m finally able to sit in front of my computer and attend to other matters but I really don’t want to – I need a long rest and an even longer think as to what the heck I am doing and where I go from here …

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Posted by Fahim at 2:59 pm  |  4 Comments

October 18, 2002

I’ve given the matter of Blog variables quite a bit of thought and also looked at the various suggestions offered by people. While Tyran’s comment about putting the sidebar stuff inside it’s own Blog tag to identify them as static variables is good, I don’t want to use external variables just for sidebars, I want to allow people the freedom to use it for almost anything they can think of. Of course, you can still do it with the new Blog tag but then I’ll have to look out for multiple sections of the same tag if people want to use static variables externally in different places on their template. So, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route …

You can define an unlimited number of internal Blog variables but they’ll all probably begin something like $BlogVar with an identifying name after that bit. They have to be defined internally as either dynamic or static and they can be assigned a default value. Only the static variable values get replaced so that a new value will overwrite the old and this will happen only on Server mode if you receive an entry via e-mail with a new value defined for the static variable. The entry will be parsed at the time it is received and if it contains a static variable value, it will be stripped out of the e-mail but the static variable value will get updated. Why only via e-mail? Because if you are using Blog from your desktop, you can modify the static variable value yourself by hand by going into the edit variable dialog :p

With the above solution, there are no timing issues – a static variable is always updated when you receive a new entry via e-mail with a variable value and anything newer than that always overwrites the older one – unless of course due to some vagary in e-mail delays but even that can be accounted for if you keep track of the last date and time it was updated … unless of course, I run into some problem with time zone calculations <g> Since dynamic variables go inside an entry and are entry specific, they shouldn’t be affected at all by timing issues. This seems to provide a solution which will work fine for both static and dynamic variables and both internally and externally. At least, that’s how it looks to me … but you may see otherwise :p Comments?

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Posted by Fahim at 6:10 am  |  2 Comments

October 17, 2002

I had been giving the idea of customizable sidebars suggested by Duane a lot of thought since it kind of dovetailed into another idea suggested by Gene Arnold who wanted user definable variables that could be inserted anywhere in a template. The user can define default values for these variables or keep them blank and during publishing, if an variable was referenced and it had a value, it would be displayed, otherwise the variable tag will be removed from the template. Further to this, the journal entry itself was supposed to have new values for the variables defined at the top and any values defined in an entry replace the static value pre-defined for that variable (if any). Now, I heard from Duane yesterday and he further explained his idea and said that the main reason he wanted the variables was so that somebody could update their sidebar via e-mail by specifying the value for the sidebar variable – basically, allowing remote journal management without having to deal with the template at all.

Of course, as far as I understood it, Gene wanted the variable system for the Blog section where the entries are displayed so that he could have variable values in the template on a per-entry basis whereas Duane wants the variables outside the Blog section – basically the variables have to function as both internal and external Blog tags. Currently, since there is a clear demarcation between the external and internal Blog tags, I parse them separately. If the Blog variables could be in either section, the coding is going to present some problems – as well as the logic. For instance, when a static variable value is replaced by a new variable definition in an entry, is the new value permanent or is it just for the duration of that Blog session? I would say permanent thinking about Duane’s needs but if we come back to Gene’s needs, that might cause a problem unless the user remembers to “wipe” the variable value when he wants that variable to be empty – or rather, he will always have to define the empty variables in his entries (if they are in his template) because the variable might have been filled in an earlier post. DId that make any sense to anybody? :p

While the idea has a lot of merit and could lead to a lot of innovation with Blog, it is going to be fairly difficult to implement in a way that it would work across the board. Yes, we can come up with the framework easily enough but what I’m worried about is the coding and the performance – especially if the variables can be both external and internal. There is another problem with defining variable values in entries – when does it have effect? What I mean is, that if variables substitution is going to be static, then any new entry has to replace the existing value, right? But at what point do you decide that the new entry’s value is going to substitute the existing value? At publish time? If so, then older entries with the same variable might substitute a newer variable value if you publish your journal in reverse order since the last entry to be parsed will be the oldest one. Yes, I know it might be a bit hard to grasp what I’m talking about here since I’m trying to explain something in my head and you might have no idea what I’m talking about …

Anyway, what it comes down to is that there is a fair bit of groundwork to be covered before we can come up with a working system but I think it should be done since it will allow greater flexibility with Blog. Speaking of flexibility, I’m also looking into allowing the importation of Blogger entries into Blog for those of you who want to switch :-) However, since that is a one time operation, I am not so sure that I should bundle that functionality into Blog itself. I’m always conscious of application size and am reluctant to increase it unless absolutely necessary. So at the moment, I’m thinking of keeping the Blogger importer a separate application that a user can utilize if they are thinking of coming over to Blog. What do you think?

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Posted by Fahim at 5:46 am  |  4 Comments

October 16, 2002

First the travel saga … I went back to the US embassy yesterday and they were like “of course you can’t travel on an expired greencard! Who told you that you could?” and I was like “You did! Well, not you personally but another one of your people did – him!” And they simply nodded and said “Oh yeah … sorry … it doesn’t work that way” I was getting mad by this time but decided to keep my cool since I still needed to travel. So I spoke to them a bit more and they tell me that the only way I could get into the US would be if I handed in my greencard voluntarily since then they would “consider” issuing me a temporary travel visa. I was a bit taken aback by the word “consider” but decided to go ahead since I seemed to have no other choice. I did the needful and surprise of surprises, they were pretty good about the rest of the stuff and issued me a temporary visa without the usual hassles – not even the usual interview that goes along before they grant a visa. Of course, this is just one step in the next cycle of the journey – guess we’ll see how it goes …

A Blog user who prefers to remain anonymous has been kind enough to purchase a registered copy of PlusMemo. Thanks to him, the nag dialog which pops up each time you run Blog will disappear with the next release. I was so excited that I told him that I would do a new release as soon as I had the registered copy of PlusMemo but then I realized that I’d packed up all the source and stuff in anticipation of my trip and that I didn’t have anything to work on. So you’ll have to be patient with me till I can sort out my travel stuff and get settled back into work. But I do thank our anonymous benefactor for doing something which I am sure a lot of you are going to appreciate. Not only that, this one copy of PlusMemo will remove nag screens from several of my other freeware apps including Cee and the as yet unreleased PostMan e-mail client :p

Duane Brosius wrote to me yesterday and had a couple of interesting suggestions – one about Blog and one about the Blog community :-) The one about Blog was a feature to automate the sidebars that a lot of us seem to have on our sites. His suggestion was to have a set of internal text variables which could be assigned different values and these could be used in the sidebar. I couldn’t see the difference between having the text variables and putting the sidebar values directly into the template itself except for ease of maintenance and being able to switch sidebars easily (if you constantly switch sidebars that is …) and so asked Duane to explain it to me more to see if this idea is viable. Any useful input that anybody else may have on the idea is welcome since while I might not see it, this might be a feature that could be useful to many …

Duane’s other idea was that I introduce the people that I talk about here in my journal because somebody new to Blog would not know who I was talking about – he meant the “regulars” in the Blog community :p I think it’s a good idea but besides linking to their site (if I know of it ..) I wouldn’t know how to introduce the people I talk of since I basically mention anybody who’s written to me with something that I think is worth writing about here in the journal. Yes, there are a few like Tyran and Nigel that I mention often and I guess it kind of confuses people when I say something about them without giving the background but then again, I probably mentioned it somewhere in the past and so think I shouldn’t mention it again – of course, that doesn’t help the person who’s just started reading my journal … Hmm … I see why writers of sequels have such problems :p Any ideas on this issue? I appreciate all feedback, comments :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 6:19 am  |  6 Comments

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