July 2008 Archives

An update

For those who know me, I have updated the Personal news from a few posts ago.

Annual Leave


Over the last 18 months my laptop has worked phenomenally hard and endured extensive use both on battery and mains power. It has travelled many thousands of miles, usually in a rucksack, by multifarious modes of transport as diverse as skateboard, train, cycle and car.
It has had open-case surgery three times and also bares the scars of encounters with walls, eccles cakes, floors and children. The laptop has been deployed in challenging circumstances such as, perched in the luggage rack of an inter-city train, on the floor outside a building that I was locked out of, and on a hillside in the Malverns. It has also had to cope with inaccurate spelling, sloppy syntax and amateurly coded html.

My laptop has therefore applied for (and been granted) two and a half weeks annual leave with effect from 5pm today. This seems a fair reward for such faithful service over long hours in demanding and ever changing circumstances.

laptop hol2.jpg

Sadly this means no blogging but the Laptop will be back in action in mid August and Youthblog will, once more, at least illuminate screens if not minds.

I got faith and an assault rifle!


I thought this was a wind-up at first but as far as I can tell it's genuine. Windsor Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma came up with a great incentive to attend their youth event, the chance to win a semi automatic rifle! They say,

" the conference isn't all about guns, but rather about teens finding faith"

In the UK I guess it's difficult for us to get our head around ......... having $800 budget for a youth event!! AND of course, giving a lethal weapon as a prize

Systems Summer


overloadpic.jpgOne thing I've noticed about us youth workers (and I admit there are exceptions) we are not the greatest administrators in the world, it is hard to be both, ''people' and 'paper' focussed at the same time. Ironically though, a goodly amount of admin' is required and I reckon most of us develop pragmatic ways of making stuff happen. All very well until you find yourself in a role like a Diocesan Youth Adviser (hypothetical example) and systems become really really important.

So, I'm declaring this 'Systems Summer' and thus getting to grips with the glaring holes in my knowledge as well as working out systems that allow planning, filing, tracking and retrieval, and all staying within my normal maxim of "work smarter not harder!"

This is also driven by the fact that we have SO little space at Church house and my little desk, one bookshelf and filing cabinet quickly become overwhelmed.

One thing I'm working on is the GTD system by David Allen. I'm also gleaning some knowledge from the excellent PastorHacks website and perusing this mahoosive list of 50 productivity sites usefully posted by Chris!

I also aim to become a JEDI master of Outlook as this is pivotal to reducing the amount of paper around the place. Watch this space ........... and if I lose my people focus feel free to hit me over the head with a rolled up copy of Youthwork magazine (but not the July one as that had loads of junk mail in and was quite heavy).

A day for something a little bit craaaaZY


Talking of crazy things you can do on a bike, I'm loving the Tour de France!

Personal News

Those of you who read the original post here will know that my mum was seriously ill in hospital.

On Friday the 25th of July they were able to confirm that she had Lymphoma and planned to start treatment the following day even though she was very weak. Sadly though she became ill with a further infection during the night and then died early on Saturday morning.

I wanted to write something fitting but find that the brief narrative above is all I can manage right now.

Funeral details: Funeral announcment Macdonald.pdf

I have turned comments off on this post but thank you for your prayers and thoughts.

The vision for youth work


Sometimes when I am responding to churches about the possibility of employing a youth worker I can sound a tad mono-thematic as I keep reinforcing the need to work out and communicate the vision. The role must respond to an owned vision not be a vague, "we need a youth worker!"

I'm pleased to say that I was really impressed with a church recently who asked if I could supply work that other churches had done as an example. So, if you have any documents that would be relevant (and are happy for me to have) then I'd love to see them. I thank you!

10 Reasons to cheer our teenagers

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Mark Easton writing for the BBC says,

"Reading the great British press, one might be forgiven for thinking that all our teenagers are binge-drinking, drug-addled, knife-wielding thugs ready to leap out and stab a granny for a fiver.

There is a real problem with knife-crime in some parts of the UK, let's not pretend otherwise. And there are many other problems concerning young people in this country.

But I thought it might be timely to remind ourselves that youth doesn't necessarily mean yob. So here are ten reasons to cheer our teenagers:

1. Teenagers are more likely to do voluntary work than people from any other generation. In fact, they are 10 times more likely to be volunteering in our communities than regularly being antisocial in them.

2. More teenagers than ever before are staying on at school after 16 to study.

3. And more than ever are going on to further and higher education.

4. Despite the vilification, young people are far more likely to say England is a good place to grow up in (90%) than adults ( 71%).

5. And yet it is young people who are the most likely to be victims of crime.

6. They work hard at school - a record 62% of teenagers achieved 5 GCSEs grades A-C last year compared with 44% a decade earlier and 26% ten years before that.

7. Nearly two-thirds of 10-to-15-year-olds have helped raise money for charity.

8. According to English schools inspectors, bad behaviour in comprehensives is at its lowest level for at least a decade.

9. 175,000 under 18-year-olds are unpaid carers in the UK with some 13,000 providing more care than a full-time job (50+ hours).

10. In a recent survey more than nine out of ten young people said they thought their schoolwork was important and more than three-quarters enjoyed going to school.

This list doesn't mean teenagers are all little angels. They aren't and they never have been. But it would be a shame to demonise a social group that is actually happier, achieving at a higher level, with better health and more opportunity for travel, sport and cultural activities than any previous generation in our history"

Pallindromic Dylan Tribute

I have long been a fan of weird Al Yankovich and consider The Saga Begins to be a work of genius (not just the fact that he tells the entire story of The Phantom Menace lyrically to the tune of American Pie, but also because he had the idea to do it in the first place). But today I have been hooting with laughter at this Bob Dylan rip off Weird Al has done using only pallindromes as the lyrics! Ht to Steve Tilley, fab!

Christmas lights! Camera? Action ......

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group have sponsored a Church competition each year for the last few years. In the past it has tended to be stuff like octogenarian choir of the year or Church warden that looks most like Michael Caine type stuff. However this year is firmly in the realm of the youth group and may benefit your yoof wurk coffers to the tune of £3K.

true meaning.jpg

The challenge is to make a 1 minute film around "The true meaning of Christmas" and upload it to the web site. Although the Oct 10th deadline does limit the avaliability of Yuletide backdrop I'm sure this will be no barrier to the the creativity of your young people.

Go to it, for the honour of the Diocese, the fun of creativity ..... oh and £3k :-)

Newbury Youth Worker


st nix jul 08.jpg

St Nix Newbury are looking to replace the youth worker who replaced me! I'm still in the Church so you would get to star in the blog at least once a month ..... oh and inhabit the office I built with my own fair hands (and a ton of mdf) in the dedicated youth building.
The job doesn't come with accommodation sadly but do have a look!

You need to at least express an interest by tomorrow! Info and stuff

Weird coincidence 2


I mentioned a couple of weeks ago the weird coincidence whereby having sold my car at point A, I had to stop and give way to it at point Y a week or so later. It made for a mildly amusing (but not hugely impressive) blog post. But tonight *cue Twilight zone music* it happened again, this time at point Z. I had just emerged from a meeting in the village hall of an obscure Oxfordshire village when my old car drew up outside the Post Office opposite the hall. (Even more bizarrely, the Post Office was closed so no real reason for anyone to pull up there!). The weirdness quotient is quite large as not only is it statistically a little bizarre to see said vehicle twice, but on both occasions they have been definite rendevous*, not just passing glimpses!

random car encounters.jpg

Points A, Y and Z are also a long way apart and represent some sort of huge Bermuda triangle of coincidal bizarreness. Maybe there is some weird time flux link paradox akin to Doctor Who type stuff? or maybe not :-)

*Is Rendevous the singular and plural?



Social Inclusion of Rural Youth

Day conference on September 25th in the East Midlands on Social Inclusion for Rural Young People. RYN Booking Form and Workshop Options Sheet.doc

The Lambeth Talk


I had the privilige of being up in Leicester yesterday for an international gathering of young people and Bishops ahead of the Lambeth conference. The idea was for young people and Bishops to be in dialogue, and to explore and hear what the priorities were from the perspective of young people. The day was structured around the themes of Life, Faith and Power and was largely run by the young people which made it wonderfully messy, edgy and fun as well as deeply meaningful. As you can probably imagine, issues of justice, poverty, the environment, aids and the mission of the church were of primary importance to the young people.

I was particularly struck by one piece of drama on the issue of Power. The setting was the end of a church service and the 'adults' were audibly discussing the service and whether it had engaged the young people. The young people meanwhile, in white masks and only miming their conversation were revealed, by the text on the screen, to be discussing their disengagement, ideas for change and longing to be heard.
The young people were then invited into the adult meeting and asked if they were happy and engaged. They immediately agreed they were (while the text on the screen revealed their true and opposite feelings).


I thought this was a powerful piece on Power. The need for the power dynamics to change through listening, giving away power and building of trust in order to hear the really real, to create a space and place where the power dynamics are no longer controlling and influencing the outcome.

The group of young people that Anna and I took from the Diocese were so much fun to spend time with and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, debate and shared experience. Bishop John spent a good chunk of the day with us as a group. At the close when all Bishops were asked to pledge one thing that they would be doing in the next 12 months as a result of the day, Bishop John committed himself to working with young people to move youth representation in the Diocese forward, fab!

It was easy to spot Archbishop John Sentamu even with so many other Bishops present:


And the mountain trembled


preacheroldstyle.gifMy Church is in the middle of Exodus at the moment! A literal Exodus as our Curate, Youth worker and Associate Priest are all leaving (all for positive reasons I hasten to add) and a Biblical Exodus as we are 'doing' Moses at the moment.

The Exodus of preaching folk has meant that I have been drawn into the preaching on Exodus. All well and good BUT I've just looked up the passage the Rector has inflicted on me and it's this:

"16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and
lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud
trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the
people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of
the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD
descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from
a furnace, the whole mountain [b] trembled violently, 19 and the sound
of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice
of God answered him"

First problem is there is not much of it, and the second problem is what to make of the not much of it that there is (if you see what I mean). I've never been one for the real tub-thumping sermons although one is very much suggested here, where every few lines I thump the pulpit, look the congregation in the eye(s) and repeat,

(obviously emphasising a different syllable each time we come to this exegeted mantra!)

I also feel a teensy weensy bit of pressure when preaching at St Nix as it means occupying a Pulpit from which impressive people like Desmond Tutu and John Wesley have spoken from. So, my Biblically literate and highly articulate preaching friends ....... suggestions, nay ... HELP?

wes and the mountain.jpg

(The Rector does actually call into the blog from time to time and this may pressurise him into allowing me a few more verses!)

Knowledge not Experience

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In the previous post I was musing about how faith was sometime presented as propositional truth rather than experienced presence, community and grace. It's not, I'm saying, a conscious choice but rather a imbibed cultural outworking. This poster reminded me of the question I was asking:

find out about.jpg

I'm not knocking the poster, just wondering whether there is a tendency to present Christianity as a propositional truth, something to be known .... a philosophy!

A reflection from the world of selling

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Idly musing in PC World t'other day I remembered that I was, at some stage, hoping to get a digital photo frame for my parents. (This is a very good plan as my Dad spends ages watching our 'my pictures' screen saver whenever he comes to visit). As befitting my geek-like status I happened to have some media cards in my pocket and proceeded to do a little impromptu test to see which of the displays produces the sharpest images of my photos. At this point there was a horrible noise and various flashing lights as the alarm system went off. Whoops! One of the sales operatives came over and I cheerfully explained that I was just comparing them to see which one was best. However, I was told that this was not possible and I was not allowed to test the screens. Despite my protestations that I needed to be able to see and compare I was told, "No!"
At this point I did ask if they would prefer me to use an online site that included reviews?
Bizarrely, the answer was, "Yes!"

Being a Salesman (by training and temperament) I was muchly bemused by this. If you want to sell something the customer has to touch, see and engage with the product. If you get the product into the customers hand you are a good way to making the sale! Just reading a list and a price does not really cut the mustard!

jcworld.jpgMusing further (in the car park of PC World) I was thinking that this was one of the problems of modernity and Christendom. Christianity was so often (and not consciously) reduced to an intellectual knowing about God, a 'correct' understand of doctrine, an ascent to a propositional gospel. Now it's not a perfect analogy because our job is in no way to sell God (although certain evangelistic practices of the 80's and 90's seemed to be doing just that), we are pointers and witnesses to the God who is already at work. Brokers or explainers maybe of an encounter with God in the person of Jesus.

This is why the Contemplative, Social action, Justice and the like are so exciting, Discipleship and encounter that is about experience, not just the telling and explaining.

Er, I think I've finished this post now!
Filed under 'thinking out loud'

National Shed week

As it's national shed week (finally, a week that makes some sort of sense to me) I thought it was time to post a picture of the re-build. I took the shed that was sinking into the swamp and disassembled it, removed the rotten floor and repaired the damaged sides. I then moved it up to the new base and placed it between the workshop and the salvaged shed. It seemed pointless to me though not taking the chance to pimp it a little and I took the opportunity to expand it from a tawdry 5ft to a rather more useful 7 foot 6"!

new shed finished.jpg

I'm still nowhere the league of competitors for shed of the year BUT am happy nevertheless, this years winner has a very specific application for his shed.

In the pic' you can see the workshop (left), the salvaged shed (obscured behind fence panel, right) and the re-build, middle!

I need to do a bit of skip surfing to glean some more wood for the internals, watch this space!

Making me laugh


We are the new Bohemians


Nigel Pimlott was exploring the role of youth workers in Post Christendom and although there were (as ever) more questions than answers, he drew some interesting parallels with and from the French Bohemian movement. Nigel explored their subversive role on the edge of things and we emerged with some be-attitudes that make a great framework for discussion. This is further developed in the book, but the list as is:

•Be creative
•Propagate new ideas
•Fuse multiple concepts with traditional perspectives
•Express community •Promote subversive approaches
•Connect with contemporary culture
•Experiment with new ideals
•Be anti-establishment
•Abandon 'sentimental considerations'
•Incorporate a certain positive dysfunctionality
•Be confrontational
•Be impious
•Promote an element of discord with society
•Withdraw from conventionality

I am liking the word and the concept of "Impious" enormously :-)

Post Christendom


Stuart murray.JPGStuart Murray spoke on Post Christendom at the book launch. He provided the best snapshot of our post-christian (or on the verge of post-christian) paradigm that I've heard yet. You could buy his book, but in case it's useful (and especially so I can find it again), here are my notes:

What does post-Christendom mean?

One of a number of a words being with 'post' that are being used to describe our current cultural position. And all they are saying is, 'we are not where we were" and we don't know where we are or where we are going.

We are left with more questions than answers but it is key that first we look back at what Christendom is, and what the term refers to:

= Geographical region (the rest of the world was "heathen")
= Historical period from 4thC to "well when?"
= A civilisation and culture ... all built around the faith
= A political arrangement (state and Church)
= Ideology and mindset

Christendom was both brutal and brilliant, terrible things like cohersion and violence BUT good stuff too.

Post Christendom is the culture that emerges as the Christian faith loses coherence within a society that has been definitively shaped by the Christian story ...........

Post Christendom marked by 7 transitions (which we are currently in):

1. from the centre to the margins
2. from majority to minority
3. From settlers to sojourners (pilgrims or exiles)
4. from privilege to plurality
5. from control to witness

6. from maintenance to mission
7. from institution to movement

Note that the first 5 are happening regardless ..... the last two are choices we need to make, they are optional in one sense BUT to not choose to do them, means the Church will fade in post-christendom landscape.

(You can see how the church did maintenance and left mission to the specialists)

We are not in the same place we used to be
What used to work, no longer does
We have Challenges and OPPORTUNITIES

Three reactions that Murray has observed to these issues.

1. Old or trad churches: nodding then, "isn't there a way back?" RETURN
2. Younger network churches: Blank looks then "it's not to do with us (we are being raised up to replace the Christendom of dead Anglicans etc) REINVENT
3. REVIVAL (don't throw this gloom at us, God will revive christendom)

All three of these responses push us back to an old way of thinking not embracing the challenge and opportunity of post-Christendom.

As we explore this cultural moment, The Story of EXILE may be a good metaphor for where we are and reflecting on what this place means. Exploring the loss and pain of Psalm 137 and looking at Jeremiahs message to the exiles.

We have a role to allow grieving that Christendom is over BUT also to allow a Party that some of the ghastly stuff is OVER. Rejoice that we have an opportunity to rediscover the Jesus story ............. Not the Jesus that we fitted into Empire.

Post Christendom is a useful lens to look at the issues and at what is going on.
Question: WHAT does it mean to live on the margins?

Three pointers to what faith in a post-christendom paradigm might require:

1. Sifting through the legacy
2. Fresh ways of thinking
3. Re-imagine Church and discipleship

Youthwork after Christendom

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Today I am here at the launch of this!
If you want to read it, you could go here.

The Lollipop qualification

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At Yellow Braces one of the activities was Archery, the Hill End site don't let us Arch (is that the correct term?) on their site so we have to trot over to a farm near by. All well and good but the journey does involve crossing a particularly nasty and fast piece of road and walking a few hundred yards along it. Although we had highly qualified archeryists (not the correct term) we didn't have anyone apart from me who was expedition qualified, this being the appropriate training and experience for supervising the walk! Ergo, I walk the Arch-ists to the Archery!

In the team briefing I mentioned that I would be off-site for a while as i was the only one qualified for (what I flippantly described as) "crossing the road"

"Qualified to cross a road!!!!?" was the horrified reaction of the team, "You're not serious?"

Those that know me will have encountered my bad habit of spontaneous and loosely credible stories that sometimes get taken seriously for a few seconds!

"Oh yes!" I replied, "Road Crossing is a really important qualification to have but unfortunately there is only one recognized piece of training and subsequent award, that being the one held by school lollipop ladies. That's the award I hold! It was a nightmare to get though, I had to do a three day residential course in Derbyshire alongside 30 middle aged women!"

There was a brief bubble of incredulous horror at the idea of three days training to cross a road before those who know me best cracked up!

BELA lolipop award.jpg

If I'm talking about my faith, theology, philosophy or anything to do with young people, I'm being serious. Anything else though, you can't be sure. (Mind you, you can never tell as sometimes I'm accidentally right ...... just maybe there is a three day course in Lollipopping!)

One to One policies


121.jpgHey blogdom and the wider net, I need a bit of a favour! If you have, own, have seen or blagged a 'one-to-one' working policy I would love to see it! (Even a work in progress would be a help if you have it).

I thank you!

That was Yellow Braces


Wow, what a weekend I've had! Yellow Braces was great and I consider it a privilige to be away with such an awesome team and diverse bunch of wonderful young people.
To borrow a Pip Wilson phrase, they are all beautiful human persons!

I am just getting back some semblance of coherent thought, because by last night when we'd packed everything away I was a complete space-cadet. I was in a bizarre parallel dimension beyond tiredness and could on occasion only stare blankly when asked a question about where a particular piece of equipment needed to go. (Friday night was quite hard work and one particular dorm proved to be allergic to sleep ........ this left me running on the reserve tank for Saturday and Sunday *laughing*

hill end.jpg

The whole event revolves around living and experiencing Christian community, we talk about Gernillub (phonetic version of bullying backwards) and living the opposite to bullying e.g building people up and including, not excluding. Gernillub we explain is about the Kingdom of God being lived out. All the worship and discussion therefore flows out of that theme and we explore the Kingdom.

We used a "Critical Mass*" that was generously made available to us by Paul Niemiec (DYO for Peterborough) which worked really well with the very able worship band that we had. Sarah Brush spoke and the giant jaffa cake idea was both well used and well eaten!
One of the real encouragments was that we always lay on some late night contemplative worship which is entirely voluntary ..... but 75% of the camp really wanted to go. Fab!

For activities, Adventure Plus headed up Sailing, Kayaking and Archery. As promised also there was a chance to 'Chill' in the solar heated pool which was enormous fun and as ever included the international doggy paddle race and the walking through water challenge! On land we had muggle Quidditch which I can't even begin to explain but was fab and even featured a VERY fast moving snitch, Hilarious and fun (Alison, any chance of you writing this one up?)

dive yb08.jpg

My enormous thanks to ALL the team!

* Critical Mass is an interactive but still liturgical Eucharist with lots of interaction and creativity which as a result is really accessible and deeply moving.

It's Yellow Braces day

Time for our annual Diocesan Camp which I'm really looking forward to and all the important elements are in place. It's going to be hard work today collecting all the equipment together and setting up BUT as ever the 'Solar powered' swimming pool will be a great place to chill out!

Prayers for the camp appreciated :-)

Hypermiling: Less fast, Less Gas


gas pump.jpg

Having only just discovered that my minimalist approach to fuel use has a name, i.e Hypermiling, I was further amazed to find there's a mass of information, discussion and data online. In fact, it's mahoosive, less is the new more! Anyway (and as I was asked, ... genuinely) these are the strategies that I'd worked out and played with for visiting the pumps less often.

But in order not to bore you, only those who click on 'continue' will read an essay exploring useful but dull anorakdom.

All Souls Clubhouse seek Female worker

I was asked to flag up this job from All Souls Clubhouse: Is this you?

Young Woman's Worker Post

The All Souls Clubhouse are looking to recruit a young woman's worker for 16 hours a week to be part of their youth work team. The post will be working with woman aged 11-19 years old in open youth clubs and small groups to carry out the aims of the All Souls Clubhouse; to make Christ known to the people of Fitzrovia. We're looking for someone who is passionate about Jesus and is passionate about making Him know to young women. We are largely looking to build the post around the strengths of the appointed worker.

For an application pack, or for an informal conversation about the job, contact Mark
Closing date for applications: 23rd July 2008

(There is a genuine occupational requirement for the postholder to be Female and a Christian sympathetic with the ethos of the Clubhouse)



Happy day, I have discovered there is a name for my driving style! Apparently driving in a way that maximises fuel efficiency is called Hypermiling, and I am therefore, a hypermiler.

"If you love driving, care about the environment and are slightly nuts, then hypermiling is your new hobby"
The Times

When you take into account the environmental impact and the spiraling cost of fuel it's a no-brainer really that if you have to use a car, squeezing more miles per jar-full is a good idea ... and reducing the size of the 'bang' in the engines' suck, push, bang, blow* cycle makes a whole lot of sense.

note.jpgIn my son's motability car there is an average fuel consumption reading which makes Hypermiling much easier. Officially it'll deliver 53mpg on a run but I have driven the 85 miles into Wales averaging 61.3mpg (it was on 63mpg before I had to start going up those darn hills). I have to get the calculator out (yes, sad I know) on the LPG mobile but am turning in really good figures.

I remember reading a biography of a wartime pilot whose expertise in eeking the most flying time out of his fuel saved his life as he nursed his plane back across a chunk of the Pacific towards land. It's difficult to imagine a scenario as serious for me in the Youthblog wagon BUT it might get me home, against the odds, for tea when there are only fumes left in the tank!

* Paraphrase of the four strokes in the engine's cycle, induction, compression, explosion, exhaust.

Caption Competition


Here's a picture crying out for a pithy caption, er ........ over to you


International Youth Ministry

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Although the blog is international (people from other countries wander in by mistake, oh and I once spoke on the Isle of Wight), there is definitely room for something more intentional about International Youthwork. So (with thanks for Andy for the link) is a site entitled International Youthwork which aims to: 'resource, shape thinking and create community amongst youthwork globally!' Nice!

international youthwork banner.jpg

'Youthwork' are one of the partners as you probably recognized from the font and singleword rendering of Youthwork. It looks like a really interesting site and I'm looking forward to having a better bite into it once The Diocesan Camp is over.

Hundreds march for stabbed youth

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I was saddened by the tragedy of another young victim of knife crime, but encouraged by todays march by young people for young people! Enormous respect to Ben's friend, Brooke, and sisters for their courage.


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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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