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Archive for August, 2006

On Occupation

Posted by Chance on August 30, 2006

Katherine Coble has a post which touches on how people value others based on their occupation. She writes

What you do for a living isn’t who you are. Making more money than another person doesn’t make you automatically better than the other person. If you live in a big house, good for you. If you drive a big car, good for you. I’m glad for your success. But the fact that something isn’t large or expensive or flashy doesn’t mean that it isn’t important.

Good point. I’m going to bypass the topic of if someone can have too much material possessions, but I wanted to focus on the occupational aspect.

Many are well aware of the perception that occupations that make more money are always better than low-paying occupations. I do think there is virtue in gaining skills for the workforce, so that one is more valuable to the employer, but some people go to the workforce immediately after high school, and I know each person is different. I, for one, do not have good manual labor skills, so I could not go the Vo-Tech route, nor am I a genius like Bill Gates, who didn’t have to go to college.

Anyway, back to my main point, I have seen this bias. But I have seen another scale, almost a reverse of the financial prestige scale. I saw this some when I was in college, and I will call it a scale of “nobility.” The idea is that some occupations are more noble than others. Typically, majors in the liberal arts were considered “nobel”, but majors such as engineering or business were less noble. The idea was that people who just cared about making money would go into business or engineering. People who cared about higher, transcendent things would go into the liberal arts. The deep, caring people would be a teacher or English professor; the greedy would be an accountant.

Now, this was hardly typical, and this is not an indictment of liberal arts majors. And I know that there was plenty in reverse, where business/engineering did not think you contributed something unless it was to the Gross Domestic Product.

Now, is there truth to either of these viewpoints? I think ultimately, a person has to do what they want to do, and what they believe God has called them to do. I think in many instances, these things are one and the same. Now, don’t get me wrong; many times God will call upon us to do things that make us uncomfortable, things we do not want to do. At the same time, I believe God gives us a passion for certain things, which is usually related to our occupation and/or something else that composes a significant part of our life.

My wife switched from a chemical engineering major to zoology, eventually getting her degree in the latter. Zoology is not nearly as high-demand as chemical engineering, but she felt miserable in engineering, and she had a passion for animals and nature. She made the switch and she was much happier, and I am glad she did.

As for me, I was at a crossroads my sophomore year in deciding what to do. I was a math tutor at the time, so the idea of being a math teacher appealed to me. At the same time, I had a passion for the physical sciences, so mechanical engineering appealed to me. This was troubling, however. I liked the idea of being a math teacher because it meant I was in an occupation where I helped people. I felt at the time that simply being an engineer meant I would not do anything for anyone, other than help someone make money.

Ultimately, I had to go with engineering. I just felt like being a math teacher was not for me. It’s hard to explain, but I just did not feel like it was my calling, at least not then. I would have gladly pursued that occupation, had it felt right. So here I am, as an engineer. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I feel like God gave me a passion for such a job, and even though I may not understand his plans, he wants me to be where I am.

I do not really feel this way now, where some jobs are better than others because of its altruistic implications. Part of my thought process then had to do with outside influences. I realize that ultimately, people have to pursue a career choice that makes them happy. I am not saying life’s ultimate goal is self-actualization, but one should pursue a field where they are happy if it is possible. Some jobs appear to be more altruistic, or more noble than others. And others seem to be more important because they make more money. But God has different callings for each of us. Some will make a decent amount of money, some not. God can use us no matter what we do for a living.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

When it comes to rock critics, nothing new under the sun

Posted by Chance on August 30, 2006

I used to read music magazines; I don’t anymore. This was about from 2000 to 2004 or so. One recurring theme I noticed is that critics complained about how there was no good rock music anymore. They talked about how groups needed to come and save rock. When garage rock was popular, Spin or Rolling Stone would talk about how the Strokes or the Hives were the new saviors of rock (actually, it was new saviors of rock with a ‘?’, I suppose to keep us in suspense.) They went on and on about how true rock was dead, and how certain groups were going to come along and revive rock ‘n’ roll.

I thought, man, music must really suck for this time period.

But then I bought an NME (a popular rock mag in Europe I suppose), which had a collection of all the articles about U2 that magazine had written since about 1979 or 1980 up to the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album and tour, around 2001/2002. It was interesting to see them talk about U2, especially in their early days, not knowing how big they were going to be.

In this magazine, I got a sense of the same stuff I was reading in modern magazines. “Rock was Dead.” “Was U2 the new savior of rock?” Same old stuff throughout the entire period of U2 (1980 – now). If there was actually a rock music crisis, I could understand. But when the same rhetoric about rock needing a revival is carried on throughout decades, their complaints seem less genuine.

So is rock music going through a crisis today? It is really hard to tell. It may be that I am getting older and am not with the latest fashions, watching MTV or the local radio station or whatever, but it seems that there is no coherent music scene. Or whatever music scene there is, it is centered around hip-hop, or pop heavily influenced by hip-hop. I could be wrong, but it seems that the most common groups I hear about are hip-hop groups, who I will not even try to name, because I will probably list groups no longer around.

There is good music around though. In a previous post, I expressed a satisfaction with the adult contemporary stuff they were playing on the radio. I did not realize though that it was mostly one station playing that stuff, until it went away. Now the radio stations where I live are total crap.

Many blame media conglomerates for decreasing radio quality. I think they are right. Part of this problem is due to more relaxed FCC regulations. However, I don’t think the answer is to tighten these regulations again (after all, if an owner of a private station wants to make a lot of money and send his kids to college, more power to him, he should have that choice). But I think the downward spiraling quality of AM/FM radio has led to satellite radio. Yes, satellite radio costs, but who said someone is entitled to free music? Despite this, increasing satellite radio programming quality will provide competition for AM/FM radio stations, causing them to up their quality again. Or, one could start listening to country. There seems to be no shortage of those stations.

Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

Why is an Opinion More Offensive than Drunk Driving?

Posted by Chance on August 29, 2006

Yes I know, Mel Gibson is old news. But I found this article at Crosswalk titled “Alcohol and the Mel Gibson Saga”.

The article states:

James B. Butler, executive director for the California Council on Alcohol Problems, has said: “Mel Gibson was arrested for drunk driving, and during the arrests made a number of anti-Semitic remarks. It now appears that his Hollywood career may be in jeopardy — not because he was drunk, not because he was driving and putting people’s lives at risk, but because of his remarks. Interestingly enough, alcohol is not identified as a significant contributing factor…”

Interesting point. Now, don’t get me wrong, anti-Semitic remarks are indeed harmful. But so is driving drunk, something that gets so little attention. I think that driving drunk is worse, since it actually kills people. Hateful remarks can ultimately lead to violence at times, but drunk driving is more of a direct aggression against people. The tragedy of Mel drunk-driving has been overshadowed.

The article goes on about the evils of alcohol. It has a quote from Billy Graham:

Years ago, the famous evangelist Billy Sunday described the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages when he said:

“If all the combined forces of hell should assemble in conclave and with them all the men on earth who hate and despise God, purity and virtue — if all the scum of the earth could mingle with the denizens of hell to try to think of the deadliest institution to home, church, and state, I tell you, the combined forces of hell could not conceive of or bring into being an institution that could touch the hem of the garment of the tavern to damn the home, mankind, womanhood, business, and everything good on earth.”

Hmm, convicting stuff. I do agree that alcohol has done so much damage in the lives of families and to our country.

So what should be done? Prohibition didn’t work. Or did it? The article quotes William J. Bennet, who was “former director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under former President George H.W. Bush.” He states:

One of the clear lessons of prohibition is that when we had laws against alcohol there was less consumption, less alcohol-related disease, fewer drunken brawls, and a lot less drunkenness. Contrary to myth, there is no evidence that prohibition caused any big increases in crime …. The real facts are these: As a result of prohibition, 180,000 saloons were shut down, and 1,800 breweries went out of business. In ten years of prohibition, the death rate due to alcohol decreased 42%, the death rate due to cirrhosis of the liver decreased by 70%, crime decreased by 54%, and insanity decreased by 66%.

I’m not sure I agree. But I have to consider the source of both arguments. Most people concerning this issue believe that prohibition was a mistake. Libertarians often point to the rise of organized crime when alcohol was prohibited and extrapolate that argument toward drug legalization. I have never actuallly looked at the numbers for this time period, but knowing human nature, I doubt prohibition had the desired effect.

Posted in Politics | 10 Comments »

Why doesn’t every American speak English?

Posted by Chance on August 28, 2006

I thought I would go for an attention-grabbing title.

Actually, as a limited-government conservative, I do not believe the government should attempt to force anyone to speak a certain language, at least in the private sphere. People should be free to speak whatever language they want. If someone wants to open a convenience store or clothing store with signs in Spanish, that is their perogative.

At the same time however, freedom to speak a certain language should come without feelings of entitlement. Sure, you can speak Spanish, but don’t expect the worker at the McDonald’s to accomodate you. There is no national language – yet, but at the same time, understand that the large majority of the nation speak English. That may seem offensive, but if I moved to China or Japan, a country with little English, I would not expect to be accomodated by everyone.

However, typically, this problem of different languages seems to resolve itself. When I lived in Austin, many businesses were bilingual, simply because first generation Americans (well, some not in the legal sense) worked at these businesses. Or, businesses would understand that they needed to hire someone bilingual. Same thing I have seen in Southern California. The larger the Hispanic population, the more accomodations were made. Sure, it is annoying sometimes when people speak two different languages, but it is in the immigrants vested interest to learn English (or at least their children), and some English-speaking people will have a vested interest to learn Spanish.

Now, in the public sphere, it gets more complicated. As a limited government guy, there would be fewer public services, or at least smaller versions of them, in the first place. But the reality is, public services, whether it be schools or the Social Security Administration, will have a need to interact with new Americans. And yes, I do not believe illegal immigrants are entitled to the services that legal citizens can obtain. Bilingual schools will need to be a reality. Most of the time however, if there is a large Hispanic population, there will be a pool to draw from for bilingual workers.

So should schools teach children with the ultimate goal of teaching them English? Yes, I believe so. After all, the purposes of schools are to prepare kids to succeed in the real world, and the ability to speak English is vital.

So, in summary, we should have freedom to speak the languages we want, but with that should come a sense of non-entitlement.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

Distinguishing the Different Types of Occupational Licensing and Regulation

Posted by Chance on August 26, 2006

A pure, completely laissez-faire libertarian will probably say there is no type of occupational licensing needed; that the free market will regulate quality of product in every sense.

I don’t know how I feel about that statement, but I think at the very least, we can sort occupational licensing into, say, three different categories: environmental, health and safety, and economic reasons (or the public good).

Environmental: I think regulations that protect the environment are reasonable. For instance, one wants to make sure that a business does not do unreasonable harm to the environment, or, if it does, that they pay some type of tax to remedy harm caused.

Health and Safety: Things in this category involve for instance, regulation of construction materials to ensure that they are safe, fire inspections, health inspections, to name a few.

Economic reasons: An example situation in one in which a person must demonstrate to the city council that their business will be profitable, or “needed.” It also involves limiting the numbers of competitors in a certain area.

There are also moral reasons, I should add, such as outlawing prostitution and the drug trade.

An article at the Institute of Justice gives an example that highlights the differences between “health and safety” regulation vs. “the public good” regulations.

Erroll Tyler, an African-American entrepreneur from Melrose, Mass., who is battling for economic liberty, seeks to show that you can fight City Hall.

After two years and two applications, Tyler still does not have the license he needs to start his amphibious vehicle tour service because City officials from Cambridge, Mass., decided that the City does not “need” him. In a sharp break from the American tradition of fair play, Cambridge is using the power of government simply to protect other tour operators from honest competition, hardly a proper use of government power.
[…]
Even though the only legitimate purpose of government licensing is to protect public health and safety in carefully tailored ways—such as requiring buses, for example, to be insured, well-maintained and operated by a qualified driver, in the transportation industry, an entrepreneur has to do more than satisfy objective criteria like these. To receive a “jitney” license, which is required to pick up and drop off passengers along a fixed route, State law and City ordinances require an entrepreneur to prove that his or her new venture also serves “public convenience and necessity.” Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, a proposed transportation business is only “convenient and necessary” if the entrepreneur can prove to bureaucrats that there is a market for the new business that existing companies cannot satisfy. It is not enough, in other words, for an entrepreneur to show that he or she will provide consumers better service at a better price. He or she has to further show that existing companies cannot meet the demand. Typically, existing companies oppose the issuance of any new jitney license.

“This approach turns the ordinary principles of entrepreneurship upside down,” Rowes said. “Instead of consumers and businesspeople deciding whether a new service is needed in a free market, bureaucrats, in close consultation with a start-up business’s would-be competitors, make that decision. In practice, the public convenience and necessity standard is so arbitrary and so hostile to honest entrepreneurship that enterprising citizens are routinely prevented from pursuing their dreams.”

In another quote from the same article,

Consumers, not city bureaucrats, should decide whether a business is “needed”, said Jeff Rowes, an Institute for Justice staff attorney. Governments, like Cambridge, need to recognize that economic liberty is as much a part of our Constitution as the right to free speech. The constitutional right to earn an honest living is the basis of our independence as free and responsible members of society. This right is more important than protecting other tour operators from competition.”

I completely agree. I don’t think it is unreasonable to have the government make some steps in the interest of public safety, at least, that is an issue I am dealing with right now. Regardless, if government regulation was limited to safety and health issues, that would be a vast improvement to our current situation.

I never support economic regulations in the third category, or at least, I cannot think of an example right now. The idea that a city council can limit a business simply because it is not “needed” is not only anathema to free market ideals, but also the ideal of America being a land of opportunity, and the ideal of the poor and middle classes being able to make a name for themselves. It is also contrary to the right to “the pursuit of happiness”. There are many words that describe the actions this city council, but my favorite one is tyrannical.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

College football predictions

Posted by Chance on August 26, 2006

Big 12:North Champ: Nebraska will improve, but Iowa State will be on top. Iowa State did decent last year, and they have 10 of 11 starts returning to offense. Colorado will do just as well with their new coach Dawkins, in his first year, than they will with their DB former coach Barnett. (What does DB stand for? Think of Summer’s Eve.)

South Champ: Texas, but only because OU loses to OSU.

Big 12 Champ: Texas, but I do picture them losing 1 or 2 games.

What will happen to Oklahoma State: OSU, and I say this as objectively as possible, will exceed expectations. People will be surprised by how much the quarterback, Bobby Reid has developed (he has been hampered by injuries the past couple of years). OSU will win at least 3 games non-conference, probably all 4. I could easily see them beating at least 3 teams in their conference.

I see a 7-5 record overall, with either a 3-5 or 4-4 conference record.

Other conferences:

Big 10: Ohio State will not meet expections; they are just losing too many starters on defense, and analysts seem to ignore that. They will have a great offense, no doubt, but other teams will simply outscore them. They will lose 3 games, but win their bowl game.

Big 10 Champ: I think Michigan will redeem themselves this year.

ACC: I would go for Miami due to the skill, but I think too many new members on the coaching staff will be a problem. I see Florida State winning this conference. Florida State fans will rejoice, except for when they lose to Florida.

Big East: I think there’s little doubt West Virginia will repeat. I could also see them going to the championship game, but their schedule may hurt them with the BCS.

SEC:

SEC West Champ: LSU

SEC East Champ: Sorry Michael, but I think this will be Florida’s year. Urban Meyer has a record of doing awesome his second year at schools. Their offense will take off.

SEC Champ: Florida

Other SEC news: Kentucky fans will be crying themselves to sleep this year, on many occasions. But I do see them doing better than winning 3 games.

PAC-10: I’ll go out on a limb and say U-Cal will be the champ. USC and U-Cal will both lose one game, but USC will have lost to U-Cal, so the tiebreaker goes to U-Cal.

BCS Championship: Notre Dame vs. West Viriginia. West Viriginia will be the only undefeated team. Notre Dame will have lost one game. Notre Dame will be in the championship game, despite some unresolved defensive issues, but no other team is that strong this year. I see West Virginia pulling the upset. Nevertheless, people will continue to talk about how Weis and Notre Dame are God’s gift to football, deservedly or not. Whether West Viriginia is the best team or not is another issue. But I see them being undefeated as a real possibility, and that alone will propel them to the championship game. I think they are better than people give them credit for, and their offense runs like smooth machinery, which will outscore Notre Dame.

So there it is folks. Hopefully you will not remember to look back at this post when the season is over and realize I have no idea what I am talking about. Then again, there is the edit button. “What are you talking about? I never said WV would win it all!”

Update: I realize Lee may not actually be a Kentucky fan simply because he is from that state. I will keep the description of him crying himself to sleep in this post nonetheless.

Posted in Sports | 2 Comments »

Free Competition Threatens the Rich

Posted by Chance on August 24, 2006

Libertarianism and economic conservatism have often been criticized because many of their proponents tend to be more rich and successful, and that they use that political philosophy just to keep themselves on top. That is probably true in many cases. Neal Boortzeven claims that seeing the amount of money deducted from his paycheck motivated him towards conservatism, then ultimately, libertarianism.

However, many times those who are successful claim to support free markets, but will actually use the avenue of government to work in their favor. There are numerous stories of executives lobbying for subsidies for their business, in the interest of the “common good.” FM radio companies, using the FCC, tried to block the Satellite Radio stations from coming in and competing.

Another avenue in which businesses work is through the avenue of occupational licensing. To the extent that we should regulate business is another topic within itself, but the point is, many companies will convince legislatures to more stringently regulate businesses, in order to make it more difficult for competitors to enter the marketplace. Such legislation can make it easier for a business to maintain a monopoly. Since that business may have been around awhile, it has the capital accumulated to follow whatever new regulations take place, while the cost burdens the little guy coming in. I believe such regulations can cause the scenario that liberals fear most, in which “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

So, many of the rich will act to constrain markets in order to hurt the poor.

But could some of these people be trying to act for the common good? Maybe. But many of those in power are the ones trying to push the new legislation through. I’m just not that trusting. Also, the fact that some of these regulations hurt the poor somewhat must also be weighed against the necessity of such regulations. Again, that leads to the debate about how much regulation is needed. But does one really need a license to be an auctioneer, a hair-braider, or a horse-teeth filer? How about a psychic? I would like to see what their certification test looks like. (Sorry, I’m not going to do a google search for psychic licensing, but I have heard it somewhere).

Again, even if some regulations are necessary, in excess, they can hinder opportunities for the poor. This seems to be anathema for the American ideal of any political stripe. Conservatives and liberals alike believe that America is supposed to be the land of opportunity.

A couple of the links above point to the Institute for Justice, an organization that sues on behalf of citizens, usually those pursuing an occupation that is laden with licensing laws. IJ is fighting for a free market, but not just for the wealthy, but for the poor as well.

I know there are many things to consider when dealing with the market and regulation, and one of those considerations should be how easy it is for the lower and middle class to make a living for themselves. A land of opportunity is advantageous for the poor, and is something that many of the rich do not want.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »

Football Season Approaches

Posted by Chance on August 24, 2006

Well, sports fans… The season is nearly upon us, both college football and pro. I am primarily a college football fan, but I have gotten more interested in the NFL when I moved to Bronco Country and when I started playing fantasy football. Speaking of fantasy football, by some miraculous twist of fate, I have both Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson on my team (For those who don’t know – I didn’t a year ago – they are both really good running backs).

My main two college football teams are also schools I have attended, the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Texas Longhorns. It is convenient that a team I like also won the national championship last year (Texas of course). Unfortunately, OSU has quite a way to go.

It is nice to be passionate about something that isn’t so meshed with politics (with the exception of public funding of stadiums). For the longest time I really never understood how someone could be so passionate about sports, how they would always have to see their team play on Saturday or Sunday. I wouldn’t say I am as crazy as some other fans, but I have developed a stronger passion for the sport of football.

I guess it first started while attending OSU, my alma mater. Before then, I felt like I never really had a team for which to root. As I attended the games, I became more involved and more passionate about the outcome. I began to make an emotional investment in the game. The bigger the opponent, and the higher the stakes, the larger the investment.

Sometimes, this emotional investment can take an ugly turn. When OSU had a string of three good years, I got to the point of expecting my team to win. Instead of being in the situation where I was “happy if they win, sad if they lose”, I got to the point where I was “mad if they lose, relieved if they win.” That is no way to be emotionally involved in a team. I think I have gotten better recently. I was a little bit grumpy when I thought Texas was going to lose the national championship game (when where was about 4 minutes left and they were 12 points behind), but I don’t think I would have been as upset as I would have been previously had they actually lost.

Some may think being so emotionally involved in a sport is a little bit ridiculous. I think one should still have sports in perspective to other things, but for me, I enjoy being passionate about something that is, a little bit frivolous. There is something emotionally uplifting about team spirit and rooting for your team, provided it does not get ugly as I mentioned earlier.

For me, it is great to have the memories with my wife (then my girlfriend) when Oklahoma State beat Oklahoma U. twice during our shared college years. The first time I was not with her, but we were both watching the game on TV. I called her on the phone as soon as the game was over, expressing our shock that one of the worst college teams beat their rival, OU. The second time we were both actually at the game together watching the upset happen again. Those are memories we will have together for the rest of our lives.

College football, and really any college sport, is especially uplifting, because of the inequality among the teams, and that there are so many teams (there are no political connotations here, I promise). As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is exhilarating to see your team, who no one thought had a chance, pull a major upset of a national power. The suspense is overwhelming knowing that your team is reaching the Final Four, knowing that this is their chance, maybe their only chance in a hundred years, or ever, to reach the top.

Rooting for a team can also unite fans. It doesn’t matter if you are Republican, Democrat, whatever… You can be on the same team when it comes to rooting for a common goal.

Again, being passionate about your team, as long as it is kept in perspective, can be a positive experience.

Posted in Sports | 3 Comments »

(Some) Celebrities are the New White People

Posted by Chance on August 24, 2006

Katherine Coble shared a story about her husband’s experience with Samuel L. Jackson, in which Jackson stole her husband’s cab.

Back when I used to watch MTV, I remember watching a special on celebrities and how they lived. It spoke about how when celebrities showed up at clubs, they simply told people sitting at a table to get up. I believe it was my wife who said, “Isn’t that what white people used to do to black people.”

Same with the cab story. I could just imagine back in the 1960s, or even today, some white person shoving a black person out of the cab because they had to make their tee time.

Now, I know this really is not an issue of race, but I believe there is an underlying commonality with how some white people treated black people (some still do) and how celebrities treat the peasant folk. As Katherine said in response to my comment about this commonality on her blog,
“Interesting point. I think it has something to do with the perception of priviledge translating to worth.

Some white people used to be treated better solely because of their whiteness. They thought that meant they were actually worth it, and others worth less.

Replace “white” with “celebrity” and you have the same thing.”

So, what is my point? I really don’t know. It just bothers me when I hear of celebrities treating other people like trash, because, in many ways, it is the same type of behavior seen in race relations.

But it is easy to bash on celebrities and point out the flaws in other people. So, I have to examine myself and see if there is any of that in me. Do I think of certain groups of others as “less” than me? Do I ever think I am hot stuff? Do I ever look at my occupation and compare it to the occupation of others? Do I think I am superior just because I am really, really, ridiculously good looking?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

I’ve been tagged by Josh

Posted by Chance on August 24, 2006

1. One book that changed your life: The Book of Matthew

2. A book you read more than once: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

3. A book you would want on a desert island: Probably the entire Chronicles of Narnia (I haven’t read it yet, but I am about to, and I figure I would want a long book) by C.S. Lewis

4. A book that made you cry: Hmmm, I don’t know if I’ve ever cried while reading. I suppose if there was a book called the Death of Cute Kittens, that would make me cry.

5. A book that made you laugh: SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld

6. A book you wish had been written: Chance, Pinnacle of Masculinity and the Coolest Guy who ever Lived

7. A book you wish had never been written: I would agree with Josh and say the Koran.

8. Book I am currently reading: Keeping Your Wife Your Best Friend by Clarence Schuler.

9. Book I am planning on reading: Becoming One: Emotionally, Spiritually, and Sexually by Joe Beam. At least I think that is the one my friend is reading.

10. Person to tag: I think Michael has done it before, so I’ll tag Dan and Lee.

Posted in Tagging | 3 Comments »