The Official Star Log of Commander Furieux: An Elite Sister Site


Following my recent signing to the Frontier Developments game, Elite: Dangerous, I have,  as I fully expected, become thoroughly engaged in the whole Elite hype. Many people who remember the original game on the various 8 bit computers on which it enjoyed major success have become similarly rapt by the title and its IP.

There are now more than half a dozen  books of fiction available to buy written by both Elite fans and previously published authors. There are hundreds of amateur fiction pieces on the web, countless fan artwork based on the Elite universe, videos of the game put to music and numerous other endeavours, showing a community that truly loves it.

Some players have set up online “guilds” (the game does not and will not feature any built in guild system) to cooperate in various schemes from trading conglomerates, exploratory expeditions and piracy or smuggling rings. There are combat guides, fictional galactic news feeds, dynamic trading applications, created by players, all done as a respectful bow to this magnificent title that many of us have waited 20 years for.

Elite: Dangerous is an unusual game. Many MMO’s and other sandbox titles have massive play areas. Kilometres upon kilometres of 3D worlds waiting to be explored by players and lovingly handcrafted by the developers to ensure variation and quality. E: D differs in that it uses an algorithm (aside from known system data gathered from real world science) that procedurally generates star systems in a realistic and random way. What this means, is that we have an area of over 100 billion locations to play around in, an exploratory mission of the galaxy; all of which will probably not be seen by any one person in their lifetime.

To me, that seems worth documenting.

My homage to Frontier Development’s game is this.

The Official Star Log of Commander Furieux.” A fictional weblog documenting the life, work and interstellar travels of a “Space Waster”. Complete with backstories, fleshed out combat and trading narratives based on in game events, images and videos taken of assets in the game and an up to date web diary of the day to day adventures of Deuil Furieux and any friends or foes (real person or otherwise) he may meet traversing the infinite black.

I am no stranger to MMO’s and in fact, I wanted to do something like this with Koei’s Uncharted Waters Online, a game I played dutifully for about 3 years.  Sadly, it I never got around to it. The scale and scope of Elite: Dangerous is without doubt far, far greater than anything UWO offered and I look forward to sharing my tales and sci fi anecdotes with you. A game as graphically beautiful as this title is creates a perfect opportunity to take some great screenshots, the fiction behind the title is gradually becoming more apparent with each official novel released (of which I intend to read all of them) and the general goodwill behind the “majority” of the player base should make for some exciting and interesting encounters that should be recorded and shared.

The game itself is still in beta with an estimated release date in Q4 2014. As it stands we only have a handful of systems to fly around in, trade is still in its infancy and combat still has some bugs that still need ironing out. Lots of  other features have yet to be implemented but I have taken it upon myself to kick off the star log with what we have so far.

My long term goal is to have a news section for the day to day events that occur during CMDR Furieux’s exploits, a system guide detailing all the systems that he visits complete with images of planetary bodies and relevant information regarding the economy and life or lack thereof in each. I also plan to write small pieces of fiction under the category, “Tales from the Star & Garter”, something that I have sorely missed engaging in since my pen and paper roleplaying days.

I think I am going to have a blast with Elite: Dangerous and all that it entails. A game like this does not come around often and I would like to thank David Braben and all Frontier Developments for making this title happen even after all these years, all the Kickstarter backers for proving there was a market for Elite 4 and of course to the community of CMDR’s, kind, hilarious and helpful to a fault (well, most of them!)

See you among the stars, Commanders!

Elite Dangerous – Premium Beta – First Impressions

It’s been a long time coming. Frontier development’s fresh take on the seminal Elite franchise is finally on its way. In my youth I spent many a summers day playing the original on my humble ZX Spectrum 128k+ when I should have been outside in the sunshine. Some things never change, yet Elite was a game that really sucked me in. Its simple wireframe, monochrome starship models concealed its hidden depth, rewarding time spent learning the ropes with an engaging, long term and challenging sci fi epic. Expanding on the IP, the amazing Frontier: Elite II released in 1993 on Amiga, Atari ST and PC was a triumph of the space sandbox genre. To be presented with a few credits, a starship and a map featuring billions of procedurally generated star systems was nothing short of inspiring and unbelievable in its day.

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Bringing Elite into the 21st century, David Braben has turned to crowdfunding to finance the new instalment, “Elite: Dangerous”, raising over 1.7 million towards the goal to date. The basic concept remains the same. Explore, trade and fight and amass a fortune in order to purchase new ships, upgrades and weapons. Become a pirate, a bounty hunter, trader or explorer. The opportunities are endless.  Obviously, blessed with modern technology, the graphics have undergone some major cosmetics and from the aural delights I have had the pleasure of hearing in the alpha, it sounds awesome too.

There are a proposed 100 billion plus star systems to fly to, the only restriction being having enough fuel to get you to your destination. Future planetary landings and possible third person exploration of your ship and space stations have all been discussed by the development team and will hopefully make it into future expansions.

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At present, Premium Beta buyers (of which I am one) are able to play a series of single player combat scenarios awaiting the release of the full Beta on May 30th 2014, which will introduce star travel, trading and multiplayer.

My first impressions of the combat scenarios were positive. After some initial difficulty in controlling the ship and updating the keybinds to my liking (seems I learned some bad habits from Freelancer), I found it responsive and intuitive. The ship handles more like a simulator than an arcade shooter and this is no bad thing. However, in playing with the mouse I frequently ran out of desk space when engaged in particularly heavy dogfights which in turn hindered my performance. It appears I am going to have purchase a dedicated flight stick in order to get an edge over the enemy. In a game with this scale and opportunity, I think buying some external peripherals is a small order, and I look forward to spending many hours admiring the stellar views and exploring the cosmos in the coming months.

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I hope that some of you may join me in this adventure. Elite Dangerous promises to be one hell of a ride.

This article was created using assets and imagery from Elite: Dangerous, with the permission of Frontier Developments plc, for non-commercial purposes. It is not endorsed by nor reflects the views or opinions of Frontier Developments and no employee of Frontier Developments was involved in the making of it.

Cherry Ghost – Herd Runners

“Clear Skies Ever Closer” from HERD RUNNERS. Now available from

There is no question as to the underlying motif behind this magnificent collection of songs. Herd Runners is an album about love. The opening track Clear Skies Ever Closer featured above takes an emotional and introspective look at love itself, and what may or may not make cupid’s arrow stick. It is both uplifting and optimistic and leaves the listener with the feeling that everything and anything is possible in matters of the heart. Its a great choice for an opener and sets the stage for an emotional rollercoaster of an album.

Sacramento is also worth mentioning for its relaxing, radio friendly upbeat rhythm. This song about lost love and the daily torment of modern life is packed with lovely harmonies featuring surprisingly country sounding synths.

There is an almost 60’s vibe in the wonderful The World Could Turn. The beautiful string arrangement bolstered by some awesome brass makes you come back to this finely crafted track again and again.

The quiet indulgence that is Drinking For Two is a personal favourite. The old-timeyness and simple vocals pierce the heart with precision and the lyrics are heartfelt and honest.

“…I walk the streets alone again, and no one hears the stifled tears I duly spend; just waiting on my boat to cross the blue, I’m drinking for two….”

“…and if love should stay, at least it could fray and fall apart at the seams, but this love of mine is frozen in time, and so I’m just stuck inside my dreams…”

Sentimental? Perhaps, but since when was that ever a bad thing?

Simon Aldred and friends have made yet another slightly melancholic yet heartwarmingly touching LP, and you owe it to yourself to at least give it a listen.

Rydal Water at Sundown

Full Colour (71)b

I took this shot on an evening stroll around the Knott Wood area of the Lake District in Cumbria. Unfortunately it was little underexposed. A trivial spot of  post processing and a strong sepia filter resulted in this almost painterly effect. A little shady perhaps but then darkness normally plays a role in everything I do. Waste not, eh?

Pinball Arcade – Bronze Tournament


I recently participated in my first online Pinball Arcade tournament. And lemme tell ya, what a flippin’ rush it was!

Being the first multiplayer tournament I have considered being involved in, I was initially a bit sceptical of my ability to compete with the big boys of the digital pinball scene. Thankfully the game eases you into competitions with some degree of etiquette.

There are three tiers for TPA Tournaments, Gold, Silver and Bronze. This one ran from the 9th of May to the 16th of May. New guy as I am, I was selected to join the Bronze Tourney, the first stop for newbies. If you score particularly well in the Bronze tier you may be chosen to join the Silver competition when the next tournament is announced. The same goes for Silver tier players who can move up to the Gold league should their individual performance be consistently awesome.

Farsight Studios, the creators of TPA had chosen a selection of 8 digital recreations of real pinball tables for us to play, allowing us 20 minutes on each table to get as high a score as possible. This meant that knowing your tables inside out and the quickest way to score a lot of points are vitally important. You can replay the tables as many times as you like in the week long competition in an attempt to maximise your score on each game.

The Tables

The tables were as follows:

  • Centaur – Bally 1981
  • Whirlwind – Williams 1990
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation – Williams 1993
  • Junkyard – Williams 1996
  • High Speed – Williams 1986
  • Goin’ Nuts – Gottlieb 1983 (Never in production)
  • Attack from Mars - Bally 1995
  • Harley Davidson – Stern 1999

Some of those tables were not part of my “Hell yeah, baby, let me press your buttons!” list but I thought I would persevere and get my least liked machines out of the way, with an aim to outclass my top scores in the tables I DID love. First up was the table that scares me the most, Bally’s “Centaur”.


When I first bought TPA, this table drew me at once with its almost Gigeresque artwork and monochrome playfield. On first play, I sucked so badly that I hardly played it again for months. Centaur is NOT an easy game. In truth, I find it the hardest table of all to keep the ball in play. The outlanes are harsh. The scoring requires perfect accuracy in hitting the drop targets in order, and I rarely, if ever manage to start up the multiball feature.

That said, whether it was due to me practicing on other tables or purely fluke, I managed to rack up my highest score to date on Centaur. A meagre 1.2 million. I sucked that up and moved onto the next table.

I decided to make myself feel a little better by playing a favourite table of mine, High Speed from Williams.


High Speed is a table I understand. Its all about reflexes. Never take your eyes of the ball and you can rack up some wonderful scores on this beast. Living up to its name, it can be insanely fast. The lack of central features mean the ball comes rocketing down to the lower flippers at mental velocities. Multiball comes easy and the simple extra ball award keeps you playing longer than perhaps most other tables. The fact that I love this game made it easy for me achieve a half decent score.


Whirlwind is a table I hadn’t spent  much time with before the tournament. I never really cared for the design nor the artwork. One of the positive things that playing on predetermined tables is that you are forced to learn the rules and intricacies of each. In the case of Williams’ Whirlwind I am glad I was introduced to such. Its easy to dismiss this table a simple and boring but when forced to play it as part of the competition, I discovered to my delight that this pin has a lot more to it than meets the eye. The multiball mode  which I unlocked for the first time during the tournament is a hell of a lot of fun. I will be playing this table more in the future.


The fourth table I spent time with was Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ugh. Now I liked Picard and chums when they were gracing our TV screens, but nothing will make me enjoy this table. Apparently its a fan favourite among pinball players. Meh. Not only do I dislike the layout that makes it hard to see what the heck is going on at any given time, I frequently hit that nasty pink spot target on the upper right ramp only to watch the silver ball drive straight across the table and drain through the left outlane.  Maybe I will spend a little more time practicing, but for the remainder of the tourney, I gave up on this table after I hit a reasonable score purely from luck. Frustration is a powerful reminder that “nothing is worth this”……


Table number 5 was the glorious Junkyard, the latest DLC from Farsight. Fortunately, I am fairly good at this game and posted a score of 25.5 million on my first go. Sadly, after repeated attempts, I couldn’t break that score. Junkyard is a fun table, packed with features and minigames. The fact that an extra ball is a common award makes this table a good bet for new players to practice their skills on.

At this point I decided to check my ranking so far and found that  I was sitting at 404th out of 696 entrants. More work required. Onto table 6 then, the wacky Goin’ Nuts from Gottlieb.


Goin’ Nuts is odd. It has no plunger, and kicks straight into a 3 ball multiball. It was never actually made into a real life pinball table.  You can play indefinitely until you are left with one ball on the field. When this occurs it starts a timer, the amount of time is based on the targets you have hit thus far although its possible to bring another ball back into play which stops the clock. Not really a favourite of mine, I was happy to post a score of just over a mill and left it.


Table 7 would be the lovely lovely Attack from Mars.  This table has me laughing like a little girl. The sound effects are awesome, the speech play is comedic and it has the ability to make you leave the game and hit the realms of your own imagination due to its retro future style. The only table that makes me smile more than this is “Scared Stiff”, sadly not included in this tournament.  I managed a score of 12 million on Attack from Mars though I bombed during the last mode “Attack On Mars” even though I was playing on an Extra Ball and 2 balls left. Sad but true. I guess the adrenaline got to me.  A wonderful table and I had a great time playing on it.


The last table then. Harley Davidson. Boooooooooooooooooooring. Sure the music is okay, and its fun during multiball, but come on Stern, MB shouldn’t be so easy to hit. HD can be fun, but it allowed me to zoom up the leaderboards simply by whacking those multiball modes. I almost felt like I was cheating.


Tournament Results I didn’t expect to do well in my first tournament. I am no pinball wizard. I joined purely for my love of pinball and of curiosity. Imagine my surprise when at 2330 on the 16th May I checked my scores and saw this:


“Yay!”, said I. “I don’t suck as much as I thought!” 588.36 points from a possible 800. 34th from 696 players. Winning the silver award lets me join a new league in the next tourney.  It will be interesting to see what happens next time.


Well. Paint me silver and flip me around, I have a new found love, and she returned the favour. Not only did I do a hell of a lot better than I ever dreamed,  I have actually got better at pinball. I am still learning the lingo, still learning the rules of each individual table, still being educated into how to “dial in” to each game. But by gawd, do I love that rush, and I will learn more.

Tournament play has taught me that even old dogs can learn to play ball. I am just sorry it took me this long to realise.


The Pinball Arcade is available for most game consoles, mobile phones, and tablet computers, including the iPhone, iPad, Android Phones and tablets, the Amazon Kindle Fire, as well as the PlayStation3, PS Vita, Xbox 360, and Macintosh.

Click here to sign up. At the moment Farsight are offering “Tales of the Arabian Nights” table for free! Try it now! You may end up as hooked as me!

Spam. We Used To Batter It.

Spam. Everyone’s favourite.

With more than forty spam comments per 24 hour turnaround on my site, you would assume that I would be a tad irked by the daily  barrage of cheap knockoff designer nonsense.

Not so!

While most spam bots are unimaginatively repetitive, there are a few gems that break the mould and have me laughing my Hormel’s off.  I thought I would share a few.

“Excellent. You haven’t made any mistakes, but do try to make your handwriting neater.”

Noted. I shall endeavour to delay my strokes and slant my lineation in future. Hey, do you happen to sell keyboards that emulate cursive ascenders alongside your Gucci handbags?

“Thanks for consisting of the attractive images– so vulnerable to a sense of reflection.”

As the birds awaken, I am busy airbrushing my hair.  A vain attempt to dodge and burn what I see in the glass. Hey, do you run the site?

“Hi, it’s hard to find in google, i found it on 32 spot, you should build some high quality backlinks”

Dude. If you found my site in the 32 spot, I’d be cracking open the Champers. Lets play “Add a Few Zeroes”. If you happen to guess correctly I will award you with a high quality backrub.

“For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Cheers, you adorable heretic!

“This actually answered my downside, thanks!”

Anytime bro. The upside just makes you high. Remember, “drugs are bad, mmmkay?”

“I used to be very pleased to search out this web”

And on finding, you trashed your keyboard, kicked your monitor in the cathodes, got your dog drunk, called your boss and told him to shove his job up his C++, divorced your wife, ran off with some floozy from Thailand, murdered her with an award winning watermelon and then died, happily, in the arms of a sailor from Bucharest?


Well, I tried.

Dear friend,

Consider Us Gravitational.

We pull and we push. We attract and we repel. We appeal and we repulse. We are lords of our own little wells. With sixty feet of tales to tell. Engines of sentiment burning a cut. Dry stone dreams blaze our ridiculous trails. Allowing for chance and societal laws, there may exist some orbital issues:

Tolerable sashays of order less bodies…yet, breaching our sphere they endlessly flail; like your dervish neuron of wit. Envisage them as meteors; sparkling ignitions of momentary passion, reflections of ourselves to the machinations of person and place.

By all means, gaze in awe and ponder their cause and effect and complete your theory of non trending. I’ll be here to examine your atmosphere. We are the darlings of the incomplete, the fellows of illicit scintillation. The sole purpose behind your annoyingly innumerable masks.

Heed your own lyrics, dear brother in (my) arms.

And honour me this:

play on my words, play on my honesty, but mostly, play on.

You damned fool.

-Deuil Furieux

Star Wars: Heroes Within – Droids


Star Wars and Pinball fans rejoice!

The Star Wars: Heroes Within DLC from Zen Studios is now available on digital stores including PS4, PS3, Ps Vita, XBLA, Steam, iOS and Google Play featuring the final four tables in the series.

These include:

  • Han Solo
  • Droids
  • Episode VI – A New Hope
  • Masters of the Force

Read on for my impressions of my current favourite table, the brilliant, Jawa infested “Droids”.

“That malfunctioning little twerp. This is all his fault.” says Threepio as this table starts up.

Cheer up, Mr Protocol Droid, there are very few faults with this pin…….

First Impressions

The first thing I noticed when I loaded up “Droids” was that it’s brown. I mean, really, really BROWN. In most cases this would be a turnoff in a pinball machine, well known for being home to  epilepsy inducing neon gumbos of light. However, considering the theme, it works very well.

Loosely based on the interior of a Jawa Sandcrawler, (you know, that big shoebox on tracks in the original Star Wars movie…..) it encompasses the feel of both dusty Tatooine and the molten amber of the droid factory on Geonosis.

While Zen normally do a grand job in recreating various set pieces from the Star Wars universe and turning them into interactive toys, this table is different. The playfield itself displays a delightful background image featuring the robotic duo R2-D2 and C-3PO, the stars of the table, numerous lesser known droids and of course, the scrap merchants of the galaxy, the Jawas.  Aside from this wonderful artwork, the majority of the playfield is taken up by ramps that resemble conveyor belts. Its pretty clear from the outset that you are going to spend most of your time completing ramp combos, hurry ups and targeted ramp shots.


General Play

And in ramp shots, my padawans, is where this table excels. Its a 4 flipper medium-fast table, with the emphasis on looping combos and multiplier increases. Each of the 7 ramps (and 1 kick out hole) have the name of a Star Wars Droid at the base and for each consecutive ramp shot, one letter of the droid’s name is lit. After lighting all the letters you are challenged to a short hurry up to play that same ramp again, with successful shots awarding you a “Droid Perk”.  More on that later.



The centre of the table is home to the Sandcrawler’s “Primary Drive Unit”. In essence, the mission sinkhole. Protected by 3 drop targets that need to be hit in order to begin one of the 5 missions, its a necessary part of the game.

The mission objectives vary in form and difficulty, from Multiball jackpot lanes to hurry ups and specific ramp shots and bumper hits that convert the ball into a “bomb” that needs to be fired into the centre sinkhole. The missions are great fun, challenging, and the only real way to achieve stellar scores.

Accurate players who manage to complete all 5 missions can then move on to the table’s Wizard Mode, “Escape the Sandcrawler”, in which all the “Droid Perks” that you earned from your combos come into play. These include the amount of time you have in Wizard Mode, the amount of jackpot lanes, the jackpot score and the amount of balls in play.

Other Objectives

The Kickout hole on the right of the table can be hit easily using the upper left flipper and randomizes awards from minor scores, 1 million point rewards, multiplier increases and even extra balls.

There are also two multiball modes accessible from either side of the table. The “Ore Processor” that requires hitting a spot target near the centre of the table 4 times then shooting the ball up the upper right ramp. Multiball is started after striking the vari-target on the left a couple of times. The “Magnet Crane” on the right of the playfield is unlocked by lighting the lamps in succession then shooting the ball into the Kickout while the magnet is over it, releasing another ball onto field after it reaches the right return lane.


Final Notes

I am by no means a Pinball Wizard, I’m a casual pinball player who happens to love Star Wars. This table is probably suited to my demographic. Its not too difficult to keep the ball in play if you time your shots and know how to score. The left and right outlanes can be more hostile than a Wampa on space crack at times, and its not as easy to enable kickback on this table as it is on some of the other tables in Zen Studios library. However, the simple playfield and the the focus on lane play make this a great table to practice your accuracy without being distracted by the abundance of minigames that Zen like to push. (there is a small, fun R2-D2 hacking minigame on this table, but its unobtrusive.)

The sound is as you would expect in a Star Wars game.  Camp quotes from Threepio and the inimitable robotic birdsongs of Artoo are in abundance. The amusing high pitched voices of the Jawas are a welcome addition to Zen’s Star Wars Pinball series and the clang and the hiss of various targets are almost steampunk in nature. This is all encapsulated by the awesome Star Wars “Main Theme”,  John Williams at his best.   It’s a veritable aural pleasure for Star Wars fans.

The only fault I can really find with this table is the skill shot. It’s a simple plunger based lane rollover, but I find it very difficult to measure the strength of the release with the in game gauge. Of course, it could be that I just suck harder than Jabba the Hutt does on his spice pipe.

If Zen Studios had released this table as their only hope, then their future is looking bright.

It’s just a pity there wont be another.

Apparitions In Nature (Revisited)

B&W (37)

I wrote a line in my notebook as a teenager (it was furry, and had a faux leopard skin cover , yes I was an asshole then also), with the heading “Apparitions in Nature”.
It went like this:

“An apparition in nature stole my heart, I left it ‘neath the greenest leaves. May it grow in the shade of his boughs, giving birth to my wildest dreams”

It was written for a tree.

I have since come to find that this tree is no more, cut down in the prime of life, for no reason other than a farmer is too lazy to drive his machinery around it. I decided to write another line or two in memory of a constant that ceased to be perennial.


My lips crave the cold;

breath quick to shake off ideals.

A seasoned spoor on sequestered courses.


Spiritually nude, near the birch;

I grasped at misplaced apparitions,

when your palm met mine, lashed but ever youthful.


You gifted me solitude, you granted me peace;

as the wiles of your essence heaved from sense

the slow buzz of self-fashioned time.


You seized my love,  you prized hallmark of spring.

On receiving my embittered plea,

my black mask, you made emerald, bound with wooden ties.


You spoiled the longing for due redemption;

that self cruelty, that belief in disbelief.

the love for love among my kind.


With sovereignty over my disgrace;

 lord over my own discredit.

I cannot tell my grin from your unsung grave.


 Image – © “Dalhousie Strip Wood” Dominik Placido


“Every Delusion That I Hold Prized”


“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

—William Wordsworth

Welcome to Sinful Distractions, and thank you for visiting.

When I originally applied for the domain name ‘’ way back in 2002, weblogs were not at all as common as they are now.  Blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger and the like were to my knowledge non existent. While personal websites were popular before the advent of Myspace and Facebook  they mostly consisted of bad HTML and gaudy, clashing colours with very little media.

   “How hard can it be?” I asked myself.

Thus, Sinful Distractions was created. A basic HTML website built using simple tools supplied with the package. My own little space on the interwebz.

Initially, the site was used to display some of my early notebook scribblings, going on  to include the work of others, both friends and online acquaintances.  I gradually “enhanced” it to feature other amusements such as a forum and a shoutbox, (of which the latter still exists in the ether, I just found out) in which people could converse and make merriment.

With the rise of social networking, I felt less and less motivated to keep the site up to date and over time I let it  fall into disuse for a number of years before the ease of blogging software rekindled my interest. Wordpress injected Sinful Distractions with  a new lease of life for a time, igniting my passion for writing ostentatious monologues. The nature of blogging also inspired me to share some of the photographs I had taken in my absence, and urged me to start taking more, a pastime  which I love.

Somewhere along the line, the site suffered from serious issues. To my dismay, an update crashed the entire database and I lost access to it, both front and back end. Throwing my hands up in disgust, I gave up and decided to go play games instead.

It’s 2014, and she’s back. Simpler than ever. A cleaner, easier on the eye, electric notepad. No longer the sole home of cryptic writings. (Odd stuff will probably still feature heavily though).  My aim here is to post anything that interests me, whether it is something I have written, shot, played, listened to, watched, visited or simply observed. I agree that social networking has its merits yet I still feel the need to have a place I can call home(page).

Thanks again for visiting.

Dominik Placido