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Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 - 9:17 PM

"Windows XP File Sort By Name"

Has anyone besides me noticed that Windows XP sorts files completely different than any previous version of Windows? In fact, this complete change seems to have gone by mostly unnoticed. Since I deal with files and folders numbering in the thousands every day, I immediately noticed the first time I used My Computer. To be honest, this new sorting method bugs me. By the way, if you are not interested in such things or think they are negligible, then skip reading this. It will bore you out of your mind! For people like me who work with computers and numbers day-in, day-out, it is very significant and pertinent.

Previously, Windows, DOS and virtually every application developed for a PC environment sorted files using a simple case-insensitive ASCII sort. This means that the order of the files is determined by comparing the characters of the names to the order the characters are found in an ASCII character chart, a universally standard order (yes, it's an old standard, but the order still stands). For example, numbers 0 to 9 fall before letters A to Z in the chart, and therefore, they will come first in a list. Symbols have their own special place in the chart: some come before the numbers and letters, some fall after. Since symbols are not regularly used at the beginning and end of filenames, it's not overly important to memorize the entire ASCII character chart. It is simply important to know that numbers come before letters. When I learned to do office filing many years ago, such considerations were followed, and even the phone book puts numbers before letters. It seems to me to be a sensible and good standard to adhere to even through thousands of eons when computers have evolved into intelligent red gel that one can paint on any surface to make wishes come true. Why change it? Naturally some people have decided to consider numbers to be sorted with the first letter of the number as it would be written out. For instance, one would sort with the Os, Two and Three with the Ts, Four with the Fs, etc. Many old dictionaries (and some telephone books) would sort 24 with T, and actually commit the atrocity of spelling it out, twenty-four. This is an atrocity because it actually changes the term or business name. I work at C2F, not CTwoF, or CeeTwoEf, or SeaTooEffe, etc.

Here is an example of a case-insensitive ASCII sort:
(the way things have always been done in a PC environment file sort - should look familiar to most computer users)

  1. ART0301XX.JPG
  2. ART0401ST.JPG
  3. ART040403.JPG
  4. ART040410.JPG
  5. ART0442.JPG
  6. art0475.jpg
  7. ART1202.JPG
  8. ART124008.JPG
  9. ART1675.JPG
  10. art3012.jpg
  11. ART310027.JPG
  12. ART310048.JPG
  13. ART5311D.JPG
  14. art6625cr.jpg
  15. ART80121.JPG
  16. ART828.JPG
  17. ART869.JPG
  18. ART8732C.JPG
  19. ARTB906.JPG
  20. ARTE215.JPG
  21. ARTE277.JPG
  22. ARTS242.JPG
  23. ARTS8740.JPG
  24. ARTS87401250.JPG
  25. ARTS8787

Here is the same list of filenames as sorted by Windows XP:

  1. ART0301XX.JPG
  2. ART0401ST.JPG
  3. ART0442.JPG
  4. art0475.jpg
  5. ART828.JPG
  6. ART869.JPG
  7. ART1202.JPG
  8. ART1675.JPG
  9. art3012.jpg
  10. ART5311D.JPG
  11. art6625cr.jpg
  12. ART8732C.JPG
  13. ART040403.JPG
  14. ART040410.JPG
  15. ART80121.JPG
  16. ART124008.JPG
  17. ART310027.JPG
  18. ART310048.JPG
  19. ARTB906.JPG
  20. ARTE215.JPG
  21. ARTE277.JPG
  22. ARTS242.JPG
  23. ARTS8740.JPG
  24. ARTS8787
  25. ARTS87401250.JPG

Basically, the new XP sort is attempting to look at filenames as numerically as possible. I'm sure it was changed on a whim as a "solution" to the ASCII sort's inability to sort series of pictures based on a number suffix. Since 10 and 15 actually come before 2 in an ASCII sort, in order to make files sort in order of their numeric value, a common number of digits must be used in a series, filling the extra empty digits with zeros. See here...

An ASCII sort of a series of a series of images with common convention, but no leading zeroes on the numbers:

  1. image1.jpg
  2. image10.jpg
  3. image11.jpg
  4. image15.jpg
  5. image2.jpg
  6. image20.jpg
  7. image3.jpg
  8. image4.jpg

A Windows XP sort on the same list of images:

  1. image1.jpg
  2. image2.jpg
  3. image3.jpg
  4. image4.jpg
  5. image10.jpg
  6. image11.jpg
  7. image15.jpg
  8. image20.jpg

Now, at first glance at this second sort, most people would think, "Ah, fantastic! The solution to my woes! Now I don't have to put leading zeroes before image series numbers to make them sort right." Here is an example of leading zeroes to make series sort as most users would wish in an ASCII sorting environment:

  1. image01.jpg
  2. image02.jpg
  3. image03.jpg
  4. image04.jpg
  5. image10.jpg
  6. image11.jpg
  7. image15.jpg
  8. image20.jpg

Here's my personal opinion on the matter. No, it's not hard fact, but opinion and preference. I prefer the ASCII sort because it is far more predictable. A human can always find an image in an ASCII sorted list because, based on the fact that 0 to 9 always come before A to Z, it is easy to use one's knowledge of the alphabet to find any filename imaginable. On the other hand, the new XP sort might occasionally make it easier to visualize a large series of similar filenames as seen above. However, the XP sort only benefits a sort when every single image has a common naming convention. In other words, all images must have the same first characters before the numbers, or the whole numeric sort will break down and be absolutely meaningless. In fact, if the filenames aren't named exactly the same with a common series, the XP sort will appear to almost jumble the filenames in a completely sporadic and impossible to discern manner. Take the example of the second list above, showing the XP sort on the images starting with "ART...". That is actually how the files will be sorted in Windows XP. Notice that XP assumes that all numbers contained inside a filename are a series, so it places the lowest value number at the front, even if there are different characters and numbers that follow. In the case of these files, they are not in a series at all. In fact, the numeric part of the filename is a product number, not a series. Each number has virtually nothing to do with the others. So the sort is not sensible or helpful for this application.

Try looking at a folder full of thousands of images containing different number combinations in their names, and you will get dizzy trying to find anything at all. I understand exactly how the XP sort works, have a detail-oriented mind, and have worked with computers for over 15 years, and have a hard time finding files in a large folder in Windows XP. It has nothing to do with teaching an old dog new tricks because I typically have no problem picking up new stuff. My mind isn't that old yet :). This new sort is only to fix that little problem of commonly named series so that it is no longer necessary to add leading zeroes. This leading zero issue isn't really much of an issue because most people that work with computers for any time at all become very aware that they have to use leading zeroes to make their series order properly. Besides, it looks nicer and more consistent for filenames to have the same number of digits so their lengths line up horizontally anyway. And this new sort method messes up every other possible conception of order and sense that the human mind could possibly conceive.

Therefore, if this numeric, anti-intelligent sort method is to be used at all, there should at least be a checkbox option somewhere in Windows XP browsing options to allow people to disable it and return to the more sensible and easy (in my opinion) and consistent (without a doubt, absolute fact) ASCII sort. Instead, the only way to return to the old sorting method is to hack into the registry. For those who care about this and would like to revert to the ASCII sorting method, click here to visit Microsoft's documented solution. However, don't bother with this if you are not a computer geek. Editing the Windows Registry is very risky business - not for the novice. Changing the wrong registry key can cause irreparable damage to your computer, so avoid it unless you know exactly what you are doing.

Note: In my humble opinion, the purpose of sorting is to translate computer information into a format that makes it easier and faster for human eyes and minds to locate and utilize. If a sort method only confuses the issue and makes it take 10 minutes to find a file due to a confusing method where it would take 30 seconds using a standardized method, why use such a method? When browsing through a folder with thousands of images named as shown above, it is actually faster to use a search, rather than knowing where something falls in the list with the XP sort, so the sort is actually worthless. Ah well. I'm sure there are many out there who would disagree. Just look at the second list on this page and try to make sense of it (and imagine it is 6000 members long!). I understand both the ASCII and XP sorts, but knowing the XP sort doesn't make it any easier to find a given filename in a list. You have to know in advance the number of digits in a filename's number, and all the surrounding characters. In short, it takes a lot of thought. Hmmmm... would I rather use one simple rule that I learned in kindergarden "ABCDEFG, HIJK, LMNOP...", or sit and think of what number might be contained in a filename and where? They may as well be randomized! I apologize again to those who don't care or are sickened by technical babble :) God bless and happy sorting!

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Monday, November 21st, 2005 - 1:53 AM

"What Was I Talking About Again? Serif and Corel Ramblings"

No one better calls me "sanserif" no mores, says I! I have recently found a great graphics software company. Serif is a British company who seems to strive to compete with the big wigs of design. Serif's goal from its infancy in 1987 has always been to give the ridiculously overpriced software companies a run for their money. Adobe... Ahem.... I have to say that the products I have looked at don't quite measure up to the big boys, but they certainly show promise. I will be watching their progress.

I was privileged to see the rise and fall of Corel. They still produce some fine software, but their heads seem to be in the clouds, or the clouds are in their heads or something. At any rate, their idealistic goal of making supreme software that not only competed with the big names, but blasted them into shameful oblivion seems to be virtually lost. Their newest goals relate more to buying out smaller companies and adding to their ridiculously huge list of titles. In my opinion, this spreads their attention FAR too thin, and all their products suffer. If they had invested in their own flagship products, DRAW and Photo-Paint, they would be the best in the industry, no doubt. There was a time when those two names had more features, functionality and ingenuity than Adobe could ever dream of. Those Adobe execs would have been flushing their neckties down a filth-emblastifying toilet (the way of the future; no more sewage overflowing; send it all to Dimension X).

Because Corel is buying out seemingly dozens of other companies, their flagship programs have become yawn supreme to say the least. Rather than adding the features of these bought out applications to their own, they simply maintain the newly acquired titles alongside their own, an absolute foolhearty idea. If a person wants to get good functionality from Corel nowadays, they would have to buy all these newly acquired programs just to get the one or two cool tools or effects that makes each one unique. Why not combine them all into one vector program and one paint program. Get rid of Paint Shop Pro and Painter X! Grab all the great features of these programs and stuff them into Photo-paint's already fine toolset. I was your biggest fan, Corel, following from 3 to 8... But oh grieviousness, I get so upset to see what dumbness and numbness you have achieved of late. Corel needs me, I tells ya. They need a 2x4 smacked alongside the head to get them all straightened out. They'd still have a chance to be on top again.

Okay, now that I have sufficiently ranted about Corel - not at all my intended topic - I'll get back to Serif. Potentially, Serif is the Corel of the 21st century. I see them rising. I just hope they don't lose site of their idealistic dreams or sell out to someone who has dollar signs for eyes. It's like martial artists who go Hollywood after brilliance in Hong Kong (sorry Hollywood, you have no martial arts brilliance). They all stink and lose their religious convictions and commitment to beauty on screen. Don't sell out! Remain pure, I say! Ahem!... yes, back to Serif.

I made an online purchase for one of Serif's more promising products, Movie Plus 4. This would be their video editing software option. I suppose it could be compared to Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas. Interestingly enough, though Movie Plus is an extremely low cost option, it has some extremely robust features that put in the same league as some of the much higher priced applications. No, I won't claim it can compete with Premiere or other industry standard packages, but perhaps some day. Besides, for a mere $29, you can mess around with some astoundingly fun and powerful features. Some boring math... Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 costs $700. Divide $700 by $30 and you get about 23. So that means that for Adobe's price to be justified, they'd have to have 23 times the features, speed, reliability and functionality as Serif's product. I seriously doubt there's that much of a difference! I'd pick the $29 decent product over the overpriced $700 "industry standard" product any day. I can't stand paying just for a name. I shop at Winco and buy generics whenever I can. Well, I'm just a poor hobbyist when it comes to video. A poor hobbyist with a severely more powerful video editing application coming in the mail! I'll save the full review of Serif's Movie Plus 4 for the day I receive it - might be a delay, since it is technically one of my Christmas presents. I'll act surprised. I'm super anxious!

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Sunday, November 20th, 2005 - 2:07 AM

"Who Owns the Bible?"

Some time ago I was seeking a freely distributed electronic Bible translation. I really wanted to create a database with all the verses of the Bible. That way I could pull any group of verses at will and load them into my pages, especially here on EsoBlog. After much searching and communication with some nice people at the largest Bible translation association, I learned it probably isn't going to happen. The King James Bible is freely distributable in a format I could work with, but I just don't think the King James cuts it anymore. The verbage in that translation just has no connection with most people of my generation and younger. It may as well be Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic!

For a while it really bothered me that the Bible has all sort of limitations of use and copyrights. I thought, "It's the Word of God for goodness sake! Why limit its use or lay claim to the very words found there?" I still kinda think that way, but I have come to realize the importance of a Bible free from error that might well creep in if the text was free and distributed all over the place.

So soon after my search was over I relinquished my desire to find a free Bible database and now link to Bible Gateway whenever I need to display verses. Bible Gateway is an awesome site for anyone looking to read or search through the Bible in a large number of popular versions and languages. Click here to check them out.

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Tuesday, November 15th, 2005 - 11:16 PM

"Merry Christmas in Mid-November"

My favorite radio station is technically Air 1 (www.air1.com), but at work I have a cheap radio and can only get one Christian station. I listen almost exclusively to Christian music not because I have ridiculous rules or limitations set by religious leaders or myself, but I feel I can do no other. It is a personal choice forced on me by no one. Music has such a profound effect on me that I feel I need to expose myself to the very best, to give God a chance to speak to my heart, even in the dark times. It is a choice I made a very long time ago.

At any given moment at work I have my headphones on, listening to The Fish, a Portland area Christian radio station - the only one that my radio can pick up in the office. The commercials are totally bothersome, and I sometimes have to remove my headphones with lightning speed when some of those really irritating advertisements come on, but otherwise, I like it.

I was somewhat surprised today when I turned the radio on. Yes, here it is in pre-Thanksgiving November, and they are already playing Christmas music 24-7. I realize that most people moan and groan when they hear of such a thing, but to me it is literally music to my ears. Since I was a child, I have always been nutty about Christmas music. I don't care if the holiday season is constantly expanding. I don't care that the primary motive is to gain profits for department stores and other businesses. I very much welcome this time. To me, Christmas is a great time to reflect on the beautiful gift of life God has given us. Most of the time I just struggle to make it through a week, only to see it replaced by another, and another, and another. I tend to become more thoughtful this time of year. Thank God for early Christmas decorations and music! I can't get sick of it.

This year I feel somehow especially in need of this season of great hope. To know that Jesus came and dwelled among us and gave me the opportunity to seek Him and receive forgiveness from a life of sin and impossible weights is so precious, with lack of better word. So needed. So crucial. When I put my headphones on this morning to hear unexpected ancient words in the form of Christmas carols, I was nearly brought to tears. If a world can somehow find meaning in celebrating monsters and death for several weeks before and after halloween, then why not for goodness sake celebrate Jesus' coming to mankind with much gladness - He's the Savior and only hope for all! Why not spend half the year remembering such things and looking to God alone for hope and life with upheld arms and tearful eyes? The Jews were pretty famous for their religious feasts, sacrifices and remembrances. Why not continue such a rich tradition for the highest reason possible and to the most deserving Recipient of all attention and honor? Jesus came to this earth 2000 years ago. He was not just a mere babe, but rather the Almighty God humbled as a man by His own choice and ability. He came to this earth that He might gain for Himself a people, one that He loves more than life itself. Yet more, He came for you and me. How precious, how dear. Merry Christmas in mid-November.

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Tuesday, November 15th, 2005 - 9:40 PM

"EsoGallery Returns"

Woo hoo! I was finally motivated to redo my art galleries. I decided that I could re-use a large portion of the code I created for EsoShow, and maintain relatively the same format for EsoGallery. It is so nice to be free from manually maintaining static galleries. That was absolutely horrible! Now I can just add art to the database, upload the image, and BINGO! Yose. What a relief. Now to delete all those old files that I'll never use again; clear up some server space. See the new EsoGallery linked from all over the site, or click here. I intend to add some more functionality and information on the gallery page, but my primary wish is to maintain a clean interface with faster download rates. I don't want a bunch of flashy, fluffy Javascript and movement like before. So don't expect more than just pure functionality. My opinion is that too much interface distracts from the art itself (not that the art is much to speak of). I don't like to add features just because I can. I prefer to keep it simple. I believe it takes more wisdom and discernment to hold back, rather than thoughtlessly adding every feature and flashy thing under the sun. I do, furthermore, intend to add a thumbnail view so that a large chunk of images can be browsed visually. Obviously when a thumbnail is clicked, that image will be loaded into the regular gallery view.

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Sunday, November 13th, 2005 - 6:26 PM

"The Church of a New Age"

The young folk ordered and operated the service at church today. This is the second time to my recollection that they have "taken over" in this fashion. Our church is pretty good at involving young people on a regular basis, especially in leading worship and serving visibly up front. These youth services are a special time when the high school group and their leaders have domain of the entire service, including worship, skits, testimonies, sermon, illustrations, etc.

Our church has been on a big kick lately relating to reaching the modern culture. Unfortunately, it seems the modern culture has for the large part been turned off by church. So it our challenge as Christians not to hinder the kingdom of God by demanding to follow outdate practices and traditions just for the sake of personal comfort. We must reach out to the culture we live in, lest we quickly become irrelevant. Not that God Himself is hindered by our personal preferences, but it sure would be nice to open our hearts to the work that He will do in these days.

When the youth group does the service, it becomes quite apparent how detached old church has become from the postmodern generation. Even though my age bracket qualifies me to be part of the postmodern generation and/or Generation X, I feel somewhat displaced among such crowds. I was raised very traditionally in a conservative church, so I am comfortable in a "church atmosphere". However, I can see and appreciate some of what is happening in the culture, and I am in no way offended to see that others think differently and have alternate views of tradition and authenticity.

My hope in the end is that some sort of balance will be achieved between the traditional church and the emerging church. There are certain traditions and practices that have always been part of the church, and I believe these things were designed by God to establish His holiness and bring Him glory. Some of them, though ancient, have eternal value and must be continued in obedience to God's established will on the matter. For example, I don't personally believe that anything that goes completely against the written Word of God or the perfect Gospel (message of good news) of Jesus Christ should be tolerated. On the other hand, the specific method for achieving effective ministry can and must be altered to fit those being ministered to. If the church of tomorrow (or even today) must look almost entirely different from what I have come to know as church in order to reach the postmodern world for Christ, and God is pleased with these changes, then so be it. I certainly don't want to get in the way!

I really appreciate seeing the young people of our church finding value in being involved with the service. In a time when the youth are often mistaken for being outright rebellious, it is a good thing to see them sharing their perspectives and trying to make ministry more effective and valid to the new generations.

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Sunday, November 13th, 2005 - 2:13 AM

"The Vikings Retell a Classic Tale"

Blood of Beasts

"Is That Hair, or Frosty Pepper Spills?", "Rubber Claws Deluxe", "Bad Beauty and the Beast Knock Off", "Worst Opening Credit Font EVER!", "Corrupted DVD That Blacks Out Randomly Greatly Enhances Cinematic Experience", "Volume Control!", "Horribly Misleading DVD Cover Art", "Worst Acting Ever", "Pure Junk", "Disgustopeck Effects", "12 Member Vikings Village With a King?", "Let's Forgive the Guy Who Killed Most of Our Men and Make Him Our Next King"... and other raving reviews come to mind when referring to the 2003 disasterpiece, Blood of Beasts. To be sure, this movie crosses the line of being so bad it's funny. Gather your highschool friends 'round, microwave the popcorn, and prepare yourselves for the worst monitary and temporal investment you've ever taken part in. Whatever you do, don't buy this movie based solely on the attractive cover art! Those images do not appear anywhere in the entire movie! I'd rather watch Erik the Viking.

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Sunday, November 6th, 2005 - 7:01 PM

"Xerox Transfer Project"

For the past couple weeks I have been working on a project page for the Art Advantage? web site. Art Advantage? is a product line conceived by the company I work for. I was privileged with designing the Art Advantage? web site from scratch. Unfortunately, it is a flat file site with no dynamic components, so each time a product is added or deleted, I have to update the site by hand. Second only to Esotropiart, it is to date my largest project undertaking.

The marketing directors decided it would be beneficial to the site to add some personal project pages. We have several resident artists at C2F. Among them is Juliette. She specializes in creating rich and thought-provoking collages. One of her techniques is to transfer xerox pigment onto a painting surface such as a canvas or board. My task was to present an example of her work in a step-by-step tutorial format.

Juliette chose a simple project she could finish at work while I photographed the necessary steps. I was fascinated at the process she outlined to transfer a photocopied image to the canvas. It is surprisingly simple, and I hope to try it some day when I get some spare time. The artistic possibilities availed by this technique are endless. I would encourage everyone to give this simple project a try. The required tools are fairly simple and inexpensive, and the results can be stunning. These canvas panels can be used to add a nice decorative flair to any space. There is no need to frame them, especially if a thick canvas is used, and the sides are painted as well. Check out the Art Advantage? project page.

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Saturday, November 5th, 2005 - 11:21 PM

"Radar Reflection"

I was looking around on the internet last night, researching radar, radio and the like for a top secret mission, when I learned a very interesting concept. To most people this is probably elementary, but I don't remember knowing this little physics tidbit before.

3-sided half box

If you construct a 3-sided surface where the three sides are at 90? angles to each other, you will have an effective radar reflector. Basically, take a cube and rip it in half taking three of the six sides away, and you will have the shape I'm referring to. The interesting tidbit about this shape in relation to radar is that, if you point a radar signal (or any form of electromagnetic wave that is readily reflected) very close to where the three sides converge, your signal will be reflected back at the exactly the same angle, providing that the surfaces are perfectly flat and at 90? angles to each other. Since radar must be reflected back in order to be useful, this 3-sided shape aides in making something more detectable.

Amazingly to me, the half box works exactly like a mirror set precisely perpendicular to the viewer. Virtually everyone takes for granted that if a mirror is set in front of them, that it must be perpendicular to the sight of their eyes in order for the image of their face to appear on the mirror. If the mirror is rotated in any direction ever so slightly, the person's face will be replaced by whatever objects are fixed behind them. Duh! However, if a 3-sided mirror of this radar-reflecting construction is held somewhat close to the subject the image will always appear, at least in part, virtually any direction the mirror is rotated. Naturally if the image is rotated to where basically only one of the faces is visible or the backside (the "outside" of the box) is showing, the principle won't apply. This shape simply increases the chance that waves will be reflected back to the source. The bigger the box is, and the closer the signal, the more likelihood of signal reflection and reception. So a surface with several of these half boxes inset into the contour will be more detectable by radar, or so I've read. By the same virtue, stealth can be created by making angles that are more likely to disperse a signal and keep it from reflecting back to its source. Don't ask me what these angles are, but if you are close to a stealth fighter/bomber, you let me know!

hexagon of straight reflection

Well, at least I thought it was pretty cool! Even if you don't think it is cool, click here to see an animation demonstrating the principle. Notice how the rotating EsoCube is not at all distorted by the rotating mirror structure. No matter the direction, the reflected image remains intact. This proves that the structure reflects waves directly back at their source. So as long as a wave is pointed within the inner black outlined hexagonal area (blue for illustration purposes, the black lines are reflections of the black borders to the mirror structure), it will be reflected virtually straight back where it came from. Mesmerizing, isn't it? Ah, the marbles (marvels) of technology.

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Tuesday, November 1st, 2005 - 9:49 PM

"Kiro Gaijin EsoLogo"

Kiro Gaijin EsoLogo

Created a variation of the Eso EsoLogo. This one is called the Kiro Gaijin EsoLogo.

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Tuesday, November 1st, 2005 - 12:17 AM

"New Eso EsoLogo"

Eso EsoLogo

I was fooling around with the idea of creating a variable layout for Esotropiart this evening. Will I actually implement the ability to change the layout? Eventually, but for now, I have a new abbreviated logo, called simply the Eso EsoLogo.

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