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It Amuses Me [Self amusement and self pleasure are two sides of the same coin--ed. Good point.]

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.05

You know what I'm doing right now? I'm filling out a profile for an online dating site. I only about 30% intend to ever use it, but what I really want you to know is that I'm having a very hard time resisting using the Kaus editor style.


 

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Data Points

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.05

A friend (who's never going to email me again) says,

[An acquaintance is dating a woman.] She's a real catch: smart, goodlooking, works [in a cool job].

He met her on match.com.

Just saying.

Meanwhile, Profgrrrrl's friend goes on a few dates.

Date 1? Yeah, she brought her dog to lunch. Not kidding.

Date 2? She was nice and all, but couldn't stop bitching about her ex who she apparently is not quite over.

Date 3? ... She got drunk and ...

mm: well, she wet her pants.

pg: in the 2-year-old sense?

mm: yep, or the 82-year-old sense. However you wanna look at it.


 

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Stocked Up

Posted by Ogged
on 08.06.05

My shopping decisions:

I should get a carton of milk, since I'm enjoying cereal again. Winds up next to the unopened carton that's already in the fridge. Total: two cartons of milk.

Time to get another box of Powerbars, which winds up under the unopened box of Powerbars, which is under the ones left in the old box. Total: 30 Powerbars.

Grab a box of light bulbs, since it's been a while. Goes next to the box I got and forgot about, and next to the two left from a box before that. Total: 10 light bulbs.

I wonder if I already own a house.


 

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He really is undead

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 08.05.05

white on white

translucent black capes

back on the rack

My TV is used only for Grand Theft Auto, so I always assumed that referring to Novak as a still-animated corpse was a bit hyperbolic. But this now-famous video makes me realize that

Robert Novak is dead

the bats have left the belltower

the victims have been bled

red velvet lines the black box

Novakula is dead

I mean, really, the guy looks hideous and he sounds like my worst nightmares of retirement homes.

the virginal brides file past his tomb

strewn with time's dead flowers

bereft in deathly bloom

alone in a darkened room

the count syndicated columnist!

Robert Novak is dead

undead undead undead

You are not of my people unless you have played versions of that song lasting at least thirty minutes.


 

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Clues

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.05

Our lives are boring and safe. There's not much cause to be things like "brave" or "heroic," which is probably why the words have become so cheap that we hear them a lot and also why people do crazy shit like parachute off cliffs. Some of us don't care, but some of us go around wondering if deep down we're timid and cowardly, or brave and tough. I admit I wonder, and take my clues where I can get them.

1. A few nights ago, I had a dream where I came out of a building and realized on the way to my car that I didn't have my keys or wallet. When I got to my car, they were both on the ground, just outside the driver's door, and the car was unlocked. "That's lucky," I thought, and got in. A few seconds after I sat down, it occurred to me that I probably should have checked the back seat, given that the car was left open and *just* as I had the thought, someone in the back seat threw a cord around my neck and started to strangle me. The seat collapsed back a ways as he pulled on the cord and looking up I could see his masked head looking down at me. I croaked out, in a tone half weary, half exasperated, "Aw, don't kill me."

Then I woke up. And I woke up unbelievably mad at myself. So fucking like me to try to appeal to the basic human decency of the masked man with a cord around my neck. I know it's not a bad thing, exactly, but it really ought not be one's *first* reaction in that situation. I was enraged at my own passivity. And I was mad at the dream for ending, because just before it ended I was, I thought, about to start fighting back. We'll never know.

2. I have about an hour of home movies from my childhood. One of the clips doesn't make much sense but I'd never given it much thought. It's of me, around three years old, shot from several stories up, walking along a city street by myself. Then there's a cut, and the same shot of my mom running along the same street. A couple of years ago I asked my mom what was going on. "You said you wanted ice cream and your dad told you to get it yourself, so you went." Now that's the me I like.


 

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Always Outwitted

Posted by Ogged
on 08.05.05

While I was in the kitchen here at work, a phone call came in.

-Ogged, it's so-and-so from such-on-such on line 1.

-Tell him to go screw himself.

-[Into the phone]Um, he says...

-Nooooo!!

-[To me]Just kidding, he's on hold.


 

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Onward, Comrades

Posted by Ogged
on 08.04.05

Now that it looks like the Chapelle Show won't be back for another season, what are you we going to do for speech? "X, bitches" is already a bit dated, but was so very useful for so long. And I don't know if "Negro, please" was a Chapellism, but that too is dated and in need of replacement. Are the cool kids just not saying anything nowadays?


 

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Bleak Face

Posted by Ogged
on 08.04.05

Over at unrequited narcissism, Catherine, speaking, I believe, for urban women everywhere, says that it's really annoying when strangers tell women to smile. There's some discussion in yon comments about a proper response to the imposition. I think I've got one: "Why? Did somebody die?"


 

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All PR Departments Are Gay In The Same Way

Posted by Ogged
on 08.03.05

Is the CIA foisting the homosexual agenda on our children? This is a great catch.

Oh, the apostropher had this a couple of days ago.


 

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♥♥♥

Posted by Ogged
on 08.03.05

Did you know that our very own Fontana Labs is crushworthy? Odds are you did know, in your loins, even if hadn't yet brought it to speech.

We know that Abu-Labs himself has it bad for the Galtster.

I've all but proposed to Moira.

Fess up.


 

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The gloves, they are off

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 08.03.05

In case you missed it, Nietzsche was on to something:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

When a story begins like this, you know it won't end well:

Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.

 

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Because One Of Them Smells!

Posted by Ogged
on 08.03.05

I have an inside blogball question: why don't Susan and her partner Kriston, and their couple-friends Catherine and Tom have a group blog?

(Irresponsible speculation about their personal reasons and motives is welcome.)


 

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I Wear Genes

Posted by Ogged
on 08.03.05

There's an Italian woman we deal with at work for all our furniture needs. She's about 5'4", with short spiky salt and pepper hair; always perfectly tailored, perfectly fashionable clothes; never twice with the same purse or pair of heels. Today she stopped by to take some of our old office chairs to a charity of which she's a board member. We wheeled them out and she just slung them into the back of her SUV, and climbed in and pulled and dragged stuff around (I half helped, half tried to get out of her way), then hopped out, looking perfectly trim and pressed. I am in awe.


 

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What Are We Comparing?

Posted by Ogged
on 08.02.05

Tyler Cowen takes a non-loony look at the anti-war critique of the Iraq invasion. In his view, the basis of the critique is this (emphasis in original).

3. The war is going badly.
The correct marginal question, however, compares the current badness to the badness which would have resulted after the reign of Saddam (or his sons? grandsons?) ended, however that might have happened. Today we see many signals that things are going badly. But most of those signals also imply that things would have gone very badly under the alternative scenario for Saddam's fall. A civil war, for instance, may well have happened anyway, albeit later.

Hmm, this is more complicated than Cowen lets on. Is he talking about the prospective case for war, made before the invasion, or a retrospective justification? If he means the prospective case, in which we assume that there's a sound plan that will be well-executed, then sure, lots of people ("liberal hawks" like yours truly, in fact), would be willing to support the war as the best of available options. But the assumption of administration competence on which that argument depends has been pretty well undermined by what has happened since the war started. And the fact that there were people who recognized before it all started (Daniel Davies, as we've said often, and Kieran Healy, as I just remembered) that it would be bungled gives us warrant to say that we should have known better.

So the strongest anti-war argument is that the war should not have been started because it was bound to be bungled. But Cowen's point is that we can't be sure that what would have happened had the war not been started wouldn't have been worse than even the bungled war we got, because the conditions for the bad things happening now--like the sectarian violence--were in place before the invasion. This is an argument that's easy for an opponent of the administration to grant: given the administration's incompetence, it's quite likely that insofar as they were able to influence what happened in Iraq after Saddam, it would have been disastrous. If Cowen's argument is to be used to defend the administration (I don't think that's what Cowen's doing; he's just trying to find the right way to ask the "was it worth it" question), we'd have to be able to say that what would have happened after Saddam sans invasion would almost certainly have been very much like what we've seen since the invasion. But to make that argument, you can't just say that conditions X, Y, and Z existed and therefore we were bound to get T. You have to also show why ameliorative options A, B, and C could not have worked.

I think there *is* an interesting academic argument to be had about what well executed option would have been the best way to deal with Iraq, but no matter how we frame the question, any application to the administration we actually have would have the form "which would they have screwed up worse."

Update: Is that what Cowen was saying??


 

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You cannot be serious!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 08.02.05

Instapundit links with approval to this "photo-Fisking" of Juan Cole by Michael Totten.

By Totten's lights, the offending bit of Cole is this:

I take it this is because they have finally realized that if they are fighting a war on terror, the enemy is four guys in a gymn in Leeds.

Totten's response is unquotable, since it's a series of pictures: 9-11, a Taliban execution, the Kenya embassy attacks, and so on. This completely refutes Cole, since there are more than four terrorists, and they're not all in Leeds! Kaching! Score one for the rightosphere.

Of course, it's obvious even from the quoted bit that Cole isn't literally claiming that the extent of the global terrorist threat is a few guys in Britain; his point is that the terrorist threat is more like a network of mostly-autonomous cells rather than a centralized organization, and treating the threat as though it were a state-like entity is a huge strategic mistake. Hence GSAVE instead of GWOT.

But what's even better is that if you actually read the Cole post, instead of going off at a single sentence, you get this interesting and important point:

The terrorists don't have a social background in common. They aren't lumpen proletariat or working class or middle class or bourgeois. Or rather, they have in their ranks persons from all these backgrounds.
The terrorists don't have an ethnicity in common. Richard Reid and Lindsey Germaine were Caribbean. Others are Arabs. Some have been Somali or Eritrean or Tanzanian. Others have been South Asia (India/Pakistan/Bangladesh). Still others have been African-American or white Americans. They don't even have to start out Muslim. Ayman al-Zawahiri was particularly proud of an al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan who had been an American Jew in a previous life. Ziad Jarrah, one of the September 11 hijackers, appears to have been a relatively secular young man right to the end. It isn't about religion, except insofar as religion is a basis on which the recruiter can approach his victim. Islam as a religion forbids terrorism. But then so does Christianity, and that doesn't stop there being Christian terrorists. They are a fringe in both religions.
If you try to "profile" the terrorist using such social markers as class or ethnicity, maybe even religious background, you will go badly astray.
What then do they have in common? They got the software installed in their minds. Why? Because they met the installer, and were susceptible to his worldview. That's all they have in common.

And this, among other things, makes it absolutely crystal-clear that Cole, like every sane person, realizes that the number of terrorists >4, and, by extension, it demonstrates that Michael Totten's response is a complete non sequitur. Why go on about this? I'm not sure. I know it's a waste of time. I don't know much about Totten, though I think I know enough: he's a person who responds to an interesting (debatable, not obviously-true, conversation-starting) post about the nature of terrorism by holding up a picture of the 9-11 attacks. But Glenn Reynolds is surely smart enough to know better.

Just hit this.

UPDATE: I take it to be obvious that a necessary condition for having an interesting and responsible conversation about GWOT/GSAVE issues requires is the ability to recognize that questions about the nature of the problem (is it a war? is it something else?) are distinct from questions about its seriousness (is it a huge problem? medium-sized? a nuisance but not much more?) are distinct from the strategic question of how to solve the problem (conventional military? other means?). You can think this isn't a war, and think it's deadly serious, for example.


 

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No Do-Overs

Posted by Ogged
on 08.01.05

Well, maybe the Washington Post doesn't want to be complicit in another bogus case for war.

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.
The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal.

 

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Tap

Posted by Ogged
on 08.01.05

This is pretty funny.

IT'S summertime, and odds are that at some point during your day you'll reach for a nice cold bottle of water. But before you do, you might want to consider the results of an experiment I conducted with some friends one summer evening last year. On the table were 10 bottles of water, several rows of glasses and some paper for recording our impressions. We were to evaluate samples from each bottle for appearance, odor, flavor, mouth, feel and aftertaste - and our aim was to identify the interloper among the famous names. One of our bottles had been filled from the tap. Would we spot it?

...

The variation between waters was wide, yet the water from the tap did not stand out: only one of us correctly identified it. This simple experiment seemed to confirm that most people cannot tell the difference between tap water and bottled water. Yet they buy it anyway - and in enormous quantities.

My poor ex, incredulous that I could have such strong opinions about various brands of bottled water, made me do a tasting like this. First, I ranked the brands in order of preference, then she had me do a blind tasting and ranking.

...

...

[you are feeling suspense]

Come on, of course I ranked them all the same way again. Did you think I was faking? But, I must say, that soon thereafter, my general ambivalance about being so damn sensitive to Every Little Thing gave way to monovalence where water is concerned. Do I really want to be the kind of guy who can tell the difference between eight kinds of water? No, I want to be the kind of guy who can drink sludge and think it's just fine. So now I drink tap water (though I do keep a case of water bottles in my trunk).

The article does a nice job of undermining one reason that people drink bottled water.

Nor is there any health or nutritional benefit to drinking bottled water over tap water. In one study, published in The Archives of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland, and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. The scientists concluded that "use of bottled water on the assumption of purity can be misguided." Another study carried out at the University of Geneva found that bottled water was no better from a nutritional point of view than ordinary tap water.
Admittedly, both kinds of water suffer from occasional contamination problems, but tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water. New York City tap water, for example, was tested 430,600 times during 2004 alone.
What of the idea that drinking bottled water allows you to avoid the chemicals that are sometimes added to tap water? Alas, some bottled waters contain the same chemicals anyway - and they are, in any case, unavoidable.
Researchers at the University of Texas found that showers and dishwashers liberate trace amounts of chemicals from municipal water supplies into the air. Squirting hot water through a nozzle, to produce a fine spray, increases the surface area of water in contact with the air, liberating dissolved substances in a process known as "stripping." So if you want to avoid those chemicals for some reason, drinking bottled water is not enough. You will also have to wear a gas mask in the shower, and when unloading the dishwasher.

I suspect the other reason people like bottled water is that it's convenient. Of course, that reminds me of a quote from someone about how we're now, as adults, all carrying bottles around with us for comfort. But really, you can inconvenience yourself a little:

But despite its association with purity and cleanliness, bottled water is bad for the environment. It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, is then kept refrigerated before sale, and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.

And, if you don't mind being preached at a bit:

Of course, tap water is not so abundant in the developing world. And that is ultimately why I find the illogical enthusiasm for bottled water not simply peculiar, but distasteful. For those of us in the developed world, safe water is now so abundant that we can afford to shun the tap water under our noses, and drink bottled water instead: our choice of water has become a lifestyle option. For many people in the developing world, however, access to water remains a matter of life or death.

...

Clean water could be provided to everyone on earth for an outlay of $1.7 billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, according to the International Water Management Institute. Improving sanitation, which is just as important, would cost a further $9.3 billion per year. This is less than a quarter of global annual spending on bottled water.
I have no objections to people drinking bottled water in the developing world; it is often the only safe supply. But it would surely be better if they had access to safe tap water instead. The logical response, for those of us in the developed world, is to stop spending money on bottled water and to give the money to water charities.

I bought myself a little Nalgene bottle (I didn't say I was giving up the yuppie lifestyle entirely), and use that for my tap water. It's not so bad.

(via farber again; he's blogging up a storm)


 

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Sisters

Posted by Ogged
on 08.01.05

Debra Dickerson has written an alarmingly honest and personal piece about black women as objects of desire. (It's worth watching the ad to read the whole thing.)

In lamenting the loss of a lover to a rival, one woman was dumbfounded that anyone would prefer a woman "with hair like a black girl's" to her. I am ugly by definition. Usually, though, our degendering and masculinization is pretty easy to see coming. I watch the promos for my hero Chris Rock's new series about his Bed-Stuy adolescence and cringe when his "mother" traumatizes her son with bellowed, emasculating, dehumanizing threats like: "Boy, I will SLAP yo' name out the phone book, then call Ma Bell and tell her I did it." Hilarious, no? He looks about 10 as she terrorizes him with psychotic threats that would make Uday and Qusay proud. Who would want to bed that shrieking harridan?

...

...the world see[s] us as rhino-skinned, never soft. Quadruple-lunged, never asthmatic. Incapable of giggling, blushing or shutting the hell up. Sisters are essentialized as indefatigable, never in need of a door held open, a chair pulled out. A "how are you doing, really?" I have to believe that somewhere in there is also the belief that the niceties are wasted on us, coarse cows that we are. Bears are happy shitting in the woods and "sistaz" ain't got no time for no nonsense like sweet talk, a man who rises when we do, or a lover to whisper naughty things to in the dark. And we don't need no stinking flowers either, or at least Jamie Foxx's hospitalized mother didn't; in "Collateral," she rejected them and belittled him for his foolishness. The bedraggled dandelions I got for Mother's Day this year will shrivel up and blow away before I'll part with them.

...

It's a misery to black woman why our strength, the strength that kept our people from extinction and which holds the community together yet, makes us seem manly somehow, as if no white woman has ever roughened her pink hands or survived rape for her family's sake. Or been a bitch. Why is it so hard to fathom that we can raise our children alone (if need be, rarely by preference), work two jobs and still look good in a miniskirt. Still want to look good in a miniskirt. Sisters are simply not seen as either ladylike or, to put it bluntly, fuckable. Rapeable, certainly, as the history of slavery and Jim Crow prove, just not fuckable.

...

In the '80s and '90s, I reacted to my sexual invisibility vis--vis white men with faux feminist sarcasm and wannabe black nationalist contempt. But I'm 46 now and far less full of bullshit. I'm not angry. I'm hurt. It's not that I want white men to want me. I want all men to want me. I want to be seen as desirable, if I actually am. As available, if I actually am. As fuckable, though you should be so lucky. But, because I'm black, I'm somehow seen as a gender crasher, an imposter fronting as a real woman.

I don't want to get hung up on debating whether her impressions are correct in every instance. Certainly, there's something to them. But fair's fair, so here's honest for honest. If some what follows is racist, well, that's the point.

I had the same girlfriend all through college (stupid stupid me) but of the four women who I might have asked out given the chance, two were black. So I at least went through the initial mental reactions that one has in contemplating doing something. Here are some:

1. Both the women were fairly light-skinned, which made me worry about resentment from darker skinned black women.

2. Dating an attractive black women feels a bit like "poaching." As if their attractiveness is a way out of their blackness. It seemed like the world would be better if attractive black women were found with black men.

3. I thought they would be used to the massive black schlongs of legend, and would find my modest member puny.

4. I thought black guys would kill me.

5. I believed that the black community, by and large and in the main, was less open to outsiders, and that it would be harder to reach an accomodation with the woman's family and friends.

6. I was afraid of their sharp-tongued black female friends.

Then there are the things that don't bother me, but might bother others. One of my co-workers during college was an attractive (married) black woman, and sometimes we'd go to lunch together and people do stare.

What strikes me, in writing these down, is how social most of the prejudices are. They're about how things look to the world, or how the world will have to be managed, and not about how I expected the relationship might be between me and the woman. Which is probably why, in places where these pressures are greatly reduced, like, say, Berkeley California or some other hippy haven, interracial couplings are common.


 

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The Plot Thickens

Posted by Ogged
on 08.01.05

Two completely unrelated links to pass along.

1. A Google Maps hack that lets you plot a route and find out its precise length. Very cool for runners and walkers. (via kf)

2. Did the CIA fire an analyst for arguing that Iraq didn't have a nuke program? Maybe. (via farber)

Oh: And, Slate's take on the Dove "real beauty" ads that we talked about a while back.

And...: Al Gore's new TV network, Current, is up and running.


 

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The Safest Car Has No Wheels

Posted by Ogged
on 08.01.05

Max Boot wrote a column "arguing," more or less, that the Chinese want to eat your children. Jim Henley mocks briefly and effectively. But no one gets fired for being too paranoid. About which, two things: first, you should read this whole post by Daniel Davies. It's really good, even if you don't agree with all of it. Second, a question: can anyone think of examples from history where there was a credible threat to a society, and the society didn't respond in a way that made a significant fraction of its population believe that they were giving up too much freedom?


 

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Strange connections

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.31.05

Contributor A of the much-beloved, mostly defunct Mistakes Were Made was recently guest-blogging at Asymmetrical Information. Apparently A and MM share a workspace, or something. I find this fascinating.

Speaking of Mistakes Were Made, what technological options exist for easy and portable digital recording? Like, if I wanted to record lectures for online availability, or if I wanted to be a sound guerilla?


 

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Youth of today

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.31.05

As a sort of follow-up to Ogged's post about rights and alienation, this is an interesting article about the backgrounds of the 7/7 bombers and their complex relationship with Islam:

In many ways, the transformation has had positive elements: the men live healthier and more constructive lives than many of their peers here, Asian or white, who have fallen prey to drugs, alcohol or petty crime. Why Mr. Khan, Mr. Tanweer and Mr. Hussain in particular crossed a line that no one had before, how they and Mr. Lindsay linked up, or whether their plot was homegrown or steered from outside, remain mysteries, at least to the public.
But the question asked since their identities were revealed after the bombings continues to resonate: what motivated men reared thousands of miles from the cradles of the Muslim world, without any direct experience of oppression themselves, to bomb fellow Britons, ushering in a new chapter of terrorism.

And the anger that question prompts in me-- "do you really have it so bad?"-- is shared by their parents' generation, who often remain grateful to the opportunities of Europe. It should, but won't, go without saying that the attempt to understand the origins of this sort of action is compatible with condemning it. But the story really is interesting and important.


 

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