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Sheldon Brown's Journal

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Sheldon in kepi

July 1, 2000

Picked up a fish eye lens attachment for the Coolpix...who needs reality, anyway?

July 2, 2000

iBook disaster!

While downloading photos from the Nikon to my iBook, the system hung, and I couldn't reboot. I can reboot from the cd, and the stuff on my hard disc seems to be intact, but I can't run anything because the extensions don't get loaded when I boot from the CD. I tried all the usual tricks; zapping the PRAM, rebuilding the desk top, loading a new system, but nothing worked.

July 2, 2000

Book: Blind Waves, by Stephen Gould 2000

It is, perhaps 2 or 3 decades into the 21st century. The Antarctic ice sheet has mostly melted, raising sea level by 100 feet (30 m). The city of Galveston, Texas, like most coastal cities, has disappeared beneath the waves. Impoverished, landless people from all of the low-lying parts of the world want to crowd onto the remaining dry land. The I.N.S. has become the largest department of the Federal government, and will stop at nothing to keep would-be immigrants out. Off the coast where Galveston used to be is an enormous, overcrowded floating city, populated by those who cannot gain entry. A sizable portion of this floating city is a detention camp for captured illegal entrants.

Patricia Beenan is a Shakespeare-quoting citizen of the floating New Galveston, and earns her living from the sea. She has a nifty trimaran, with a detachable middle hull that turns into a flywheel powered submarine. She uses this for salvage work and maintenance tasks on the floating city. When she discovers a sunken freighter full of bodies, all hell breaks loose. The freighter has apparently been sunk by gunfire from an I.N.S. vessel, which attempts to cover up its crime by sinking her sub. Patricia is too wily and clever to kill that easily, however. Commander Thomas Becket of the I.N.S. is called in to investigate the freighter sinking, and winds up joining forces with Patricia...and falling in love with her.

I liked this book a lot, and recommend it to science fiction fans, and to those interested in naval stories as well.

My iBook is still hors-de-combat. Called Apple for support. They had me try zapping the PRAM 4 times in succession among other things. Finally gave up on not re-formatting the disc. Fortunately, they did explain how I could connect to a network while booted off of the CD, so I've been able to copy everything off onto Harriet's new PowerBook, which has a 12 gig disc...sure took a long time, though!

July 4, 2000

Got everything backed up, then wiped the hard disc to all zeroes and re-formatted it. The good news is that it isn't a hardware problem, so the machine won't have to go in for service. The bad news is that it took hours to get everything loaded back up and mostly working again. I'm still not back to where I was.

Watched the fireworks from in front of the house, took photos with the Coolpix...finally filled up the 96 meg chip. I need to clear some space on the ibook before I try to upload any more. I'll put the photos from June on a CD, that should make some room.

Film: (video) Girl, Interrupted 1999

This is in many ways a female One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. This autobiographical film mostly takes place in McLean hospital, Belmont, Mass. The protagonist, played by Winona Ryder, is persuaded to commit herself, though she suffers little more than normal teenage angst. The characters in the hospital, particularly Lisa the frightening psychopath played splendidly by Angelina Jolie, are quite convincing and well acted. Whoopie Goldberg plays a kind and caring can't go wrong with Whoopie! This is a rather gloomy film, as might be expected from the title.

July 6, 2000

Put some new pix up on my Hats Page

July 8, 2000

I was thinking about electricity... 200 odd years ago, Benjamin Franklin discovered the bipolar nature of electric charges. He decided to call the two states "positive" and "negative." While we've grown used to thinking in these terms, this is actually more of a metaphor than a true description. He could as easily have called them "yin" and "yang" or "east" and "west" or something else. Actually, "east" and "west" might have been pretty cool, and might have made it easier to remember the various right/left hand rules and other interactions between electricity and magnetism.

What occurred to me last night was that another metaphor could be "male" and "female." One could imagine the "negative" as "male", and the electron serving the role of the male organ. This metaphor would even include the gay minority, with positrons and anti-protons filling those roles...

Play: Macbeth at The Publick Theatre

The second time I've seen The Scottish Play in 5 weeks. This production was in many ways more satisfying than the Downtown version with Kelsey Grammer. The Lady Macbeth (who also played Lady Macduff!) was excellent, it had a real, if not fancy set, and was generally truer to the original and easier to follow.

July 9, 2000

I've cobbled together a rig that lets me photograph negatives with my Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera, and have been having a lot of fun going through old books of negs. Currently I can do everything up to 2 1/4 x 3 1/4, I need to do a bit more cobbling before I'll be able to handle 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 and 4 x 5 negs (I've got a lot of the former from my father which should be fun to finally get to see!)

My hardware includes a hollowed out 2 x 4, a coffee can and a peanut can. Fortunately, i do own a good collection of negative carriers of various sizes, including a nifty Negatrans for 35 mm strips, and also a good, color corrected cold-light light box. It even works for color, with a bit of fiddling with Photoshop. Some of the results are already on my Hats page, and more on my Personal Bicycles page.

July 12, 2000

In anticipation of my birthday, Harriet got tickets for a "Tall Ship" cruise around Boston Harbor, ducking into all of the inlets where the "Tall Ship" fleet is currently tied up. It was an evening cruise, 8 to 11 pm, on the 68 foot sloop New Horizons. They served very good roast beef and Harpooon I.P.A., which is about my favorite. I took some photos with the Coolpix, but mostly it was too dark for to get anything sharp from a moving vessel. A grand time was had by all.

I was particularly impressed by US guided missile cruiser Vicksburg and the Indian destroyer Mysore

July 14, 2000

Le Quatorze Juillet, I'm 56 years old. Not terribly eventful.

July 15, 2000

Book: The Light of Other Days, 2000, by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

When I saw the title at the library, I assumed that this was an expansion of the short story of the same name, dealing with "slow glass." Turns out to have no real connection, and that story wasn't even by Clarke, but by Bob Shaw, Analog, August 1966.

This novel, set in the early 21st century, deals with the development of a viewing system that uses micro-wormholes and VR technology to let the user see anything, anywhere, anytime past or present. It causes a revolution in social attitudes by utterly destroying all vestiges of personal privacy. It also causes a revolution in the understanding of history, by providing objective evidence of what really happened. A further complicating factor is that a planetoid has been discovered on a collision course with Earth...but won't hit for some 500 years. It is too large to be deflected by any existing or planned technology, so the working assumption is that Earth is going to be destroyed 5 centuries hence. This causes further social strains. I quite liked this book, and would generally recommend it.

I put up more pix on my "Hats" page.

In the evening, Harriet, George and I drove out to Montague, Mass. to Nym Cooke's annual Summer Sing of 19th century hymns and tearjerkers. I got a solo on the last voice of Hard Times Come Again No More. A grand time was had by all. Tova was missed, but she had a performance of Rocky Horror do do, and we wouldn't have been able to get her home in time.

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July 16, 2000

digestersHarriet's friend Connie invited us out to Winthrop to watch the departure of the "Tall Ships" fleet from the end of Deer Island. Deer Island is not normally open to the public. It was, for years, the site of a prison, but that's gone now. Now it's the site of a Brobdinagian sewage treatment plant and the head end of a fabulously expensive "outfall" tunnel under the seabed.

digestersThe construction of this complex is nearing completion, and they felt it proper to let the Great Unwashed in for OpSail. We indeed had a great vantage point, right by Deer Island Light...but, unfortunately, most of the time it was too foggy to get a good view of the ships.

We did see HMS Rose, Friendship and this unidentified full-rigged ship, flying the Argentine or perhaps Salvadoran flag.

July 21, 2000

Dream: I dreamt that I had $151, in the form of a dollar bill and one of the new $150 bills, but I couldn't find anybody who'd change the 150 for me, 'cause it was too new and they didn't know about the issue yet. The bill featured a portrait of a group, not an individual, maybe 5-6 people belonging to some group that the government had wronged, then repented...can't recall more precisely than that.

I needed to break the bill to get money to help one of my family members who was in some sort of trouble...

July 22, 2000

Film: Love's Labour's Lost by Kenneth Branagh, 2000

Shakespeare done as a Busby Berkeley style musical? Kenneth Branagh makes it work, splendidly. He sets it in 1939, against the background of the rumblings leading to WWII. He captures the '30s style perfectly, even to the water ballet--though some of the dancing is sexier than the Hayes Office would have permitted. The film features great tunes by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, The Gershwin brothers and Jerome Kern. I just got back from seeing this at my neighborhood theatre, and my mouth is a bit sore from holding a grin for so long. Don't miss this one! It's possibly even better than Branagh's Much Ado About Nothing, despite the absence of Emma Thompson.

July 23, 2000

Although I ride most every day, commuting to work, it's only a mile each day, and it's been a while since the stars and planets were in a correct alignment for me to go for a ride just to go for a ride. This afternoon I popped the Sibelius Second Symphony into my MiniDisc player, hopped on my Raleigh International and headed out to Weston. 14.24 miles, which isn't much but it's fairly hilly for fixed gear riding. I didn't quite have to walk any of the hills.

Took a couple of photos with my Coolpix.

Ivy   Charles River Canoe &Kayak
I must remember, when I wear my new polarized glasses and bring my camera along, to also bring along my polarizer for the camera. This was a good day for polarizers.

July 24, 2000

UPS brought me a Kenko 8 x 32 scope with an adaptor for the Coolpix and a tripod mount. I haven't had much chance to use it yet, but it's pretty nifty. I'd guess it's equivalent to maybe a 600-800 mm lens on 35 mm. It will require some care and plenty of light to get good pix with it, but I have high hopes. Too bad I didn't get it when the Tall Ships were in...

July 25, 2000

Book: Gasp! by Frank Freudberg 1996

Martin Muntor has just lost his job, his health insurance, and learned that he has inoperable lung cancer. He has nothing left to live for but his fury of revenge. He decides to take on the tobacco industry. This gripping thriller follows his campaign of cyanide laced cigarettes. His cyanide kills over 400 people--about 1/1000 of the annual toll from the tobacco it's mixed with. Read it now, see the movie later, 'cause this is a very cinematic story, sure to be picked up by Hollywood.

I'm a former smoker myself--I was burning through 3 packs a day in 1968, when I quit by the use of pure logic: There's a lot of folklore about quitting smoking, and a bit of established scientific fact. One known fact is that the longer you have smoked, the harder it is to quit. The time came in 1968 when I realized that I couldn't imagine myself still smoking ten years thence. Thus I knew I'd be quitting sometime, and, scientifically, it is easier to quite today than it will be I did, on June 14, 1968.

July 27, 2000

On June 28th I ordered a wide-angle lens for the Nikon Coolpix from The sleaze-bags instantly charged my credit card, even though they turned out not to have the product in stock! Today, almost a month later, it finally arrived. I certainly won't do business with these folks again.

The lens is quite nice, gives the equivalent of 24 mm on 35 mm film, though there is some barrel distortion.

July 30, 2000

Film/show: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Harvard Square Theatre

I'd been to this before, but went again because Tova has the part of Magenta, and I wanted to see her. She was excellent, no surprise. George brought a gang of about 25 students from the PROMYS program he's doing at Boston University, so Tova had a pretty good claque.

I must admit I found the show pretty boring. This seems like a nice safe way for middle-class teenagers to play at being naughty rebels, yell "forbidden" words and throw stuff in the theatre, but the whole thing seems a bit sophomoric to me. There is an undeniable camaraderie among the regulars, which is probably the main attraction.

July 31, 2000

Harriet's birthday. I got her a Palm IIIxe, it's a big hit. I loaded it up with a couple of Mark Twains (Life on the Mississippi and Innocents Abroad) and Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)--I'm in the middle of these latter two items in my own Palm.

The Palm IIIxe has been in very short supply, and, although I ordered it a month ago, it didn't come and didn't come, so I was getting worried it wouldn't arrive in time. I decided to order a Handspring Visor Deluxe, if only as a backup in case the Palm didn't make it in time. Got the Palm a few days ago, then the Handspring came today! I decided to keep the Handspring, 'cause I'm getting too frustrated with the limits of my 2 mb Palm III.

The Handspring unit is blue and matches my iBook, and it sure is nice to have the 8 mb of space to work with. Now I can use AvantGo and get the online New York Times and Le Monde, among other things. In fact, I've used the AvantGo software to load my Bicycle Glossary and the Harris Cyclery Parts pages into the Handspring, for handy reference.

I had a bit of a scare with the Handspring, because when I loaded its software it blew away my existing Palm stuff in my iBook! After a bit of fiddling I was able to get the iBook to work with both units, and was able to save my data by beaming it directly from the Palm to the Handspring with the infrared ports.

I'll keep the Palm to use with BikeBrain, and also as a universal remote control, and make the Handspring my constant companion.

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August 5, 2000

I've been populating the Handspring with, among other things, song lyrics.

Went to a wedding of a daughter of one of Harriet's old M.I.T. pals. It was at the Wellesley Inn, and was a generally nice experience except for the noisy DJ at the reception, making conversation difficult to impossible. I deliberately didn't bring a camera, but then there were disposables on the tables, so I got hooked in. My disposable was a 39 exposure job, something I hadn't seen before.

August 6, 2000

Put up another of my mother's paintings:

Town House
The Four Towers of Marblehead 1960s

Abbott Hall, St. Michæl's Church, St. Stephen's Church, Old North Church.

This view from Crocker Park no longer exists, as the trees have grown too tall.

Book: The Forest of Time and Other Stories by Michæl Flynn 1997

I'm not a great fan of short stories, but I've liked Flynn's novels Firestar et. al. These were mostly pretty good.

August 9, 2000

Thanks to bad weather in D.C. my brother and his wife had a layover in Boston. Harriet and I met them for dinner at a very nice Chinese restaurant in Brookline. A good time was had by all.

August 11, 2000

eBook: Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, 1869

In 1867, a grand excursion was organized. Some 65 mature Americans charted the steamer Quaker City for a 6 month tour of Europe and the Middle East. This was one of the earliest such organized tours, and Mark Twain chronicled it in a breezy and humorous fashion. By and large, a good time was had by all. Twain particularly enjoyed France, Germany and Egypt. He mentions that France, under Napoleon III was undergoing a bit of a golden age, with general prosperity and good order, if not liberty. (This would all come crashing down 4 years later after the disastrous Franco-Prussian War.)

His discussion of the squalor, filth and ignorance he found in Syria and Palestine is quite scathing. Religious readers, especially Catholics may find many of the passages in this book offensive. As an ex-Catholic, I found it quite entertaining.

August 12, 2000

eBook: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, 1784

I'm in the middle of the new Harry Turtledove, but happened to start this up in my Handspring PDA, and could't put it down 'til I finished it.

The Autobiography only goes as far as 1757, so it doesn't cover any of his involvement in the Revolution or as Minister Plenipotentiary to France, but what an amazing life he had! What accomplishments! He established the first public library, police force and fire department in the Americas, if not in the world. He wrote and published the major newspaper of the continent. He invented, among other things, the lightning rod, bifocal glasses and the wood stove. As a scientist he discovered and proved that lightning and electricity were the same, and was also the first to analyze electricity as a polarized phenomenon--he was the first to use the terms "positive" and "negative" to describe attributes of electricity.

Not covered in this Autobiography, his skillful diplomacy both in Philadelphia and in Paris was instrumental and indispensable in the success of the American Revolutionary War.

I can't think of any other human being who has accomplished so much good for humanity as a whole as Franklin.

Picked up George from B.U., his summer advanced math program is over. He appears to have had a grand old time.

August 13, 2000

Went to the Larz Anderson Bicycle Show. The weather report was threatening, but the actual rain held off until after the scheduled 3 pm close. I took a few pix, including these 360 degree IPIX images:

Click to go to active panorama. [Sorry - iPIX plugin no longer active. -- HJF]

To Navigate:

Place your cursor on the image. If you click on the right, the viewpoint will move to the right, on the top, you'll move up, etc. Click just above the middle to zoom in, just below the middle to zoom out.

I've got more photos of this event at

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August 17, 2000

I don't quite understand why, but I've really been affected by the fate of the poor Russian submariners. Today I keep thinking "What a beautiful day it is to not be trapped and suffocating at the bottom of the Barents Sea."

August 19, 2000

I'm a bit under the weather, some sort of bug. I actually drove to work yesterday, and nearly got to try out the air bag in the brain was definitely not firing on all cylinders. I called Harriet up and asked her to ride over to the shop and drive me home, 'cause I didn't trust myself behind the wheel.

Today is the day Tova goes back to Cornell, but I'm staying behind 'cause I'm too sick.

August 20, 2000

Book: The Great War: Breakthroughs by Harry Turtledove, 2000

This is the third volume of a projected alternate history tetralogy dealing with the First World War--in a timeline where the Confederacy won the War of the Rebellion.

Taking up where The Great War: Walk in Hell leaves off, it brings us to the end of the war, but to a peace that looks to be no more stable than that of our own timeline. Another volume is projected for this series...

August 23, 2000

Dream: I'm driving to Marblehead, coming in the back way over Leggs Hill Road. I explain to Harriet that this is a cool shortcut I know...but I don't get to Marblehead. I pass a town line sign "Entering Enfield" the road continues slightly downhill for a couple of miles. The houses are old and start to get closer together. Just as it seems I'm about to approach a town center, the road dead-ends at the side of a lake.

I remember that Enfield, Mass. was one of the four towns drowned by the building of the Quabbin Reservoir in the late 1930s. We get out of the car and wander around, finding ourselves in a sort of "Glocca Mora" where the people are all still living in the '30s.

Whoo--just as I typed that the electricity went out in our neighborhood. Good thing I've got a battery in my computer. I'm gonna go see what's up.

Looks like it covered quite an area, I went up to rt 16 and it was dark as far as I could see in either direction, but it came back on after a few minutes.

August 24, 2000

eBook: The Unbearable Bassington by Saki, 1912

Saki (H.H.Munro) is better known for his quirky short stories. Before stumbling on this book, I never even knew he wrote any novels. This tale of the Edwardian upper middle class in many ways reminds me of P.G.Wodehouse, though a bit more serious.

The principal characters were not at all sympathetic, though good for a chuckle now and then. The story seemed fairly pointless, with an anti-materialist moral stuck on at the end.

August 25, 2000

eBook: 1632 by Eric Flint 2000

This is a rousing time-travel/alternate history yarn, with a contemporary West Virginia mining town, population 3000, getting transported complete to German Thuringia in 1632, in the middle of the Thirty Years War. It's moderately heavy on the blood and gore, and on jingoistic glorification of good-old American know-how, but it's a rousing, entertaining tale. I liked it a lot, wished it was longer.

The publisher, Baen Books, has put the whole book on the Web. I downloaded it into my Visor and read it that way.

Actually, I was wrong about that...the chapters on the Web are only about 40% of the book! I got it out of the library on dead trees. See below.

August 29, 2000

Marblehead HarborWent out to Marblehead in the afternoon with Harriet and George for a swim. We went to Crocker Park, swam off the float. It's kind of amazing that this is still there, laissez-faire, no-lifeguard deep water swimming in the middle of the harbor. Last time I was there, there was still a diving board, but this year it's gone. Also, no longer a ladder to climb up on. When I was a kid, they had a high board and a low board here, but high boards went extinct in public places some years back, thanks to the litigation craze. I never had the cojones to actually dive off the high board, but I used to like to cannonball off it. (Actually, I never learned to do a spring dive from a diving board until I was in my 30s.

Although this was the closest swimming place to my home growing up, I never spent much time there, 'cause that was where the tough, mean kids hung out, and I was scared of bullies.

New is a series of buoys demarcating the swimming area. Unlike the usual strings of buoys you see at typical, over-regulated swimming areas, these were a row of maybe half-a-dozen small nun buoys to keep the boats away. Marblehead harbor is a very busy place in the summertime, and Crocker Park is just a few hundred yards from the town wharf and Transportation Wharf, the only fuel stop for those who aren't yacht club members.

Interesting thing about the word "buoy." If you look in the dictionary, it's allegedly pronounced "boy", but I've never known a sailor to use that pronunciation--it's always a "BOO-ie" in the real world.

Here are a couple of iPix panoramas. Click the thumbnail to go to the interactive image. [No longer working - HJF]

Crocker Park


Chandler-Hovey Park

August 30, 2000

Film (video): Planet of the Apes 1969

My kids have seen this skillions of times, but it was a first for me. What a turkey! "Adventure" films pre-Speilberg/Lucas really have a painfully slow pace, compared to modern ones. This film, among its other failings, suffers from interminable stretches of film of people traveling from place to place. Perhaps this was supposed to build suspense, but the story is so obvious that no suspense is possible.

You gotta love Charlton Heston smoking a cigar in a space ship!

August 31, 2000

Book (continued): 1632 by Eric Flint 2000

When I finished the electronic version of this book, I was disappointed to have it end, and to end so inconclusively. A couple of days later, however, while browsing at the Newton Free Library, I found the hard-copy book, and discovered that I the electronic version was only the first 40% or so of it. This is a wonderful piece of, perhaps somewhat pollyanna-ish alternate history, and I greatly enjoyed it. The characters are, certainly rather more black-and-white than, say, those of Harry Turtledove, but they are quite engaging, and the book is an excellent read. Rumor has it that there's sequel in the works--I certainly hope so!

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
The Light of Other DaysArthur C. Clarke &Stephen Baxter7/15/00
1632 Eric Flint8/25/00
The Forest of TimeMichæl Flynn8/6/00
AutobiographyBenjamin Franklin8/12/00
Gasp!Frank Freudberg7/25/00
Blind WavesStephen Gould7/2/00
The Unbearable BassingtonSaki8/24/00
The Great War: BreakthroughsHarry Turtledove8/20/00
Innocents AbroadMark Twain8/11/00


The overall film list has been moved to a separate page.


The overall music list has been moved to a separate page.


November 29, 2002Lorraine BraccoThe Graduate
November 23, 2001Helen Mirren, Ian McKellnThe Dance of Death-August Strindberg
September 30, 2000Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell UniversityThe Maids-Jean Genet
May 30, 2000Kelsey Grammer/Colonial TheatreMacbeth
May 26, 2000The Huntington Theatre Co.King Hedley II
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
August 21, 1999Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sonata
August 13, 1999Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
May 22-29Newton South/North High SchoolsRichard III
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird


November 21-24, 2007Plantation, Florida
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May 5-7, 2006Aurora, Indiana
November 23, 2005Plantation, Florida
September 26-29, 2005Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
August 26-28, 2005'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
July 21-24, 2005Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
April 29, 2005Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
February 16, 2005Indianapolis
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June 8, 2004France, England
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November 27, 2003Florida
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September 29-October 3, 2001Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)
June 16-23, 2001Nags Head, North Carolina
October 5-14, 2000Evanston, Illinois
September 30-October 2, 2000Ithaca, New York
June 22-25, 2000Urbanna, Virginia
October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois
August 19-28, 1999Ithaca, New York
August 12-13, 1999Ithaca, New York
July 23-25, 1999Bridgeton, Maine
November 25-28, 1998Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1988-89France, England
1980Yucatan, Mexico
1975England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey

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