I figured that it was time I got caught up on some travel info. Way back in June (the 17th, to be precise), Denise and I took a trip to the ABC Islands. Where are these islands, you may ask? They are just off the coast of South America, and the three islands aren't particularly related - they are, in fact, three separate countries - but they do have a nifty naming mnemonic. Specifically, their names are alphabetical, right at the top of the chart: Aruba is A, Bonaire is B and Curacao is C. We visited all three.

For those of you who missed the Nigritude Ultramarine contest a bit back, a new contest has been posted that originated for an Indian Business School Blog. The contest is now apparently open to anyone, anywhere. My personal favorite is Arvind's entry, titled appropriately enough: The best Indian Business School Blog. My question, quite frankly, is why every word in that sentence is captitalized except for best. They really should be consistent, since Google's search isn't case-sensitive. I also find the phrase a strange choice, because someone may actually want to search for the best Indian Business School Blog at some point. Nigritude Ultramarine, on the other hand, will likely have few actual searches. Nonetheless, Arvind, if you win, feel free to check out my wish list!

So we're back from the vacation. Sorry for the extended downtime, but these long vacations are a killer. Anyone else find that a nice 3- or 4-day weekend can be so much more enjoyable than an 8-day marathon? Not to mention I had to work on my laptop, and also only had dial-up for connectivity. Sheesh. Guess those people at Disney want you out in the park spending money instead of sitting in your room and blogging about not spending money.

While now I'm home and reasonably rested, I just cannot seem to get a decent night's sleep. The last three nights have had me up at roughly 1-hour intervals trying to do something to get back to sleep - go to the bathroom, take some medicine, get a cold rag, anything - but nothing has worked particularly well.

We called this doctor service Friday night while still at Disney, and it was pretty cool. Came right to the room, dispensed medicine and everything. Of course, that could be a bad thing. Never know where those Southern California doctors actually picked up their alleged medicine. But anyway, they say they are covered by insurance plans, which we'll find out shortly when we file their bill. Be nice if they would have done that for us.

And as you may have surmised by the title, I've been diagnosed with strep throat. It is such a pain. By Friday night I was barely able to swallow, and only with great pain when I did. The doctor suggested to stay off of dairy - I can only assume that the culturing ability of milk products just gives the little strep bacteria nice homes - and I've done so thus far. Yesterday wasn't bad, but this morning my throat is just on fire. Luckily I can swallow somewhat decently, but it just doesn't seem to get any better.

I'm stuck. I hate this, but nothing seems to work. The antibiotics seemed like they were helping, as did the rounds of salt water gargling, but now I feel as if I'm almost back to where I started. Well, not where I started, because I didn't have strep throat when I was born, but you know what I mean. Anyone have any down-home remedies that will kill off this beast?

We are currently - as in right this moment - in a room in the Disneyland Hotel. As a result, my postings will probably be a bit sparse for the next few days. It wouldn't be so bad if the hotel had high speed internet access, but (as you may have just surmised), it does not. So I'm on a piddly dial-up connection trying to accomplish everything that I need to do while I'm away from home. I'll be back home on Saturday evening, so I suspect a good number of posts will start to appear shortly thereafter.

Today is Veterans Day in the US. This day is set aside to remember all those who have served - according to the page above, those who have served honorably - in wartime or peacetime, even if they are still living. If you want to remember those who died serving, you want Memorial Day instead.

GMail is introducing POP3 access for users, initially leading most to think that GMail could be used as your primary account, as others have mentioned. What I don't get is why anyone would be quite this excited about it. Let's think about this for a moment.

Initially, the selling point of GMail was the 1000MB (1GB) of storage. Others have matched it, so perhaps this selling point has lost its luster. But what is also lost is that most POP3 users will use default settings, and those default settings remove mail from the server. Thus, introducing POP3 isn't so much a feature offering for the service, it's a storage-saving device.

Sure, POP3 can be configured to leave messages on the server. Have you ever tried that in Outlook, then tried to access those messages again from Outlook running on another computer? You end up downloading the same messages all over again, and since storage is so huge on GMail, it could be quite a download.

I understand that offering POP3 access for free may be a feature to sell GMail as a better competitor to other web mail services that don't offer it for free, and I also understand that having a free POP3 account my have some usefulness. But in the end they are two different markets. There is no room for a single conversation that contains both the immense size of the mailbox and the POP3 access to it, since those things don't work together. Now if they were to introduce IMAP, it might be interesting.

In the meantime, I don't think this is so much a selling point to new users as it is getting existing users to switch from the web-based interface (requiring not only extra storage, but cycles to serve those pages, processs searches and the like) to the POP3 one. And can you imagine what will happen the first time a longtime web user tries POP3 and downloads their 475MB of messages, so that they are no longer available online? Oops.

The Polar Express, the latest animated feel-good Christmas movie making the rounds (and roundly being panned by critics), we're left wondering about the problem.

The Incredibles did well by nearly anyone's standards. A Shark Tale was reasonable. Finding Nemo was stellar, as were the Shrek movies and a dozen others. So what gives?

I know, I'm running the risk of turning into a beverage blog. I'll try to keep things under control so everyone doesn't have to update their blogroll categories. But this was just too important not to share.

I've finally found someone who has gone on the record to explain the difference between Apple Juice and Apple Cider. Okay, I could probably have found this through Google if I wanted. It wasn't that high of a priority.

Okay, so it's been a week and you're jonesing for your political fix. Of course, there are certain exceptions - many people are getting theirs from last week's results that still haven't been resolved. Nonetheless, so that you can be practiced for the next time around, whenever it may happen, here are some political sites to entertain you.

I mentioned last night that I wanted to talk about my faith, and I will. But first, some more introduction. I think where I have the biggest problem is that I don't understand why there isn't more positive dicussion about religion. Don't get me wrong - I know people take their beliefs very seriously, and if someone questions them or even proposes an alternative, it might be taken badly. But what I don't get is that people just don't have those conversations at all.

There is a certain subset of our society that doesn't want to talk about anything that could be seen as remotely controversial, and that's okay. But every time I hear about someone who is talking about their beliefs, they are either doing so in a way that denigrates other faiths, or in such a way that it seems they don't do anything else. The latter is certainly a great testament to faith, but most of us have real lives - or reasonable facsimiles thereof - and need help with the daily grind.

That's where I am now.

By any account, I have been a Christian for most of my life. I can't put a specific date on it, but I was confirmed into the United Methodist Church at around age 12. I remember taking some sort of class, probably with the pastor, and going over some particulars, but I have no idea now why I went through the process.

I have said the words over and over. I have been both a churchgoer and not a churchgoer. I have done things that even those aforementioned non-religious people may discourage. In fact, very rarely have I ever regularly undertaken actions that anyone would consider Christian-like. While I'm certain that it's too early to tell, and by nature I am pretty cynical about this sort of thing, I think that's changing. I think that I'm actually feeling it, and it's exciting. I'm going to try to delve deeper.

As I mentioned previously, I don't know where this is going. I just feel the need to get it out. If it helps you in any way, or if you even just enjoy reading, then you're certainly welcome. Even if you want to encourage particular subjects or discuss the finer points of something I might bring up, you're welcome too. But this isn't about hatred, and it isn't about rubbing anyone's nose in it. It's purely about my own process of discovery.

You're welcome to join in, as either an observer or a participant, but please do us all a favor and don't be an ass about it. I've attended church most of my life, and yet I still question my beliefs. There really isn't much chance of everything suddenly being revealed in an angry, fight-provoking comment. So why bother?

It seems to me that our society likes the negative. That shouldn't be a revelation to anyone, whether you get your information from the Internet or from the nightly news. What I don't understand is why we don't focus more on the positive. Don't get me wrong - I'm not an optimist. Far from it. I'm not talking about the power of positive thinking or anything like it.

I just think it's strange that we are so enamored of the bad things that happen. Which celebrity marriage is headed for divorce, what sort of carnage is happening in the world, was anyone hurt in that horrible wreck? I suppose those things are titillating and that's why we are attracted to them, but focusing so much on the negative has to have an impact on our lives.

To take one example - why do we focus so much on the high rate of divorce? Instead of trying to figure out why people are breaking up, why don't we try to figure out what keeps them together? There are all sorts of reasons why the divorce rate is so high. Yet there are still marriages that can be measured in decades rather than minutes. Why is it we don't spend more time learning what we should do, rather than what we shouldn't?

We've all heard the stories of older people - men or women - having sex with younger (underage) ones. And while that doesn't exactly float my boat, if you know what I mean, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine a 16-year-old boy wanting a woman in her twenties (and, perhaps, vice versa). Though it's not my cup of tea, and it can be seen as improper, at least it's understandable. But a 29-year-old woman thinks her 7-year-old daughter's playmate (who was 8) is her boyfriend? That's just creepy.