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Pearls of Wisdom

Posted by Becks
on 02.18.06

The first thing people usually do when they find out I went to college in New Orleans is ask about Mardi Gras. Did I ever go? Of course I did. Hell, they shut down the school. Even the professors wanted to party.

The next thing they ask, if we're away from polite company, is if the girls really flash for beads. Yes, they do, I say and then let out a sigh.

Mardi Gras changed a lot over the five years I went (1996-2000) and the biggest change was in the culture of flashing. I place the blame squarely on Girls Gone Wild, which emerged in 1998. Before GGW, flashing was just an infrequent eccentric local custom that was part of the bigger party; by 2000, it had become the central focus. What people don't understand is that there used to be a kind of weird etiquette involved that was so oddly chivalrous, sweet, and innocent that I doubt even a priss would have objected.

The custom has been completely corrupted thanks to the feedback loop created by GGW: people watched the tapes and got the idea that that was what Mardi Gras was about, they came to New Orleans and emulated what they thought went on there, that gave GGW more footage for their videos, which then convinced more people to come to New Orleans with the expectation of a fleshfest, lather, rinse, repeat.

A list of ways things have changed:

1. In my day, girls didn't flash for crap beads. There has been a serious devaluation in the bead currency. Guys have heard that "girls will flash for beads" and assume any old strand should earn them some tits and the girls oblige out of ignorance. Back in my day, a guy would have been ashamed if he didn't offer you something nice.

2. Flashing wasn't sexual. Before, the goal was just a semi-wholesome "Titties! Hooray!" Now, it's some kind of titillation escalation race where you've got girls practically putting on live sex shows on balconies. Which brings us to...

3. Girls never used to flash from balconies. OK, flashing from balconies is just whorish. I know, I know, we're talking about a custom that involves showing a stranger your tits. Where do I get off being judgmental? But flashing used to be about an audience of one and was something the guy earned through witty conversation and chemistry, much like a kiss at the end of a date. Up on a balcony, you're just giving it out indiscriminately and there's no sense of accomplishment for the guys (a point some of my male friends have lamented). What's in it for the girl flashing from the balcony? She's not getting chatted up by cute boys and, since she's above the crowd, she's not even getting any beads. Very inequitable. All you get on a balcony is your picture taken, which brings us to...

4. PHOTOS WERE ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN. Girls!!! Come on! You might want to run for Senate someday! Cut it out!


 

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I'm writing to you while bare-chested again.

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.18.06

If the letters to Star Jones on Christopher Monks' blog are preventing him from getting hired as a teacher, then I should probably go ahead and cross that vocation off my list of things I could be when I grow up.

"What would happen should a parent or student come upon your web site? How would you respond to questions about your unusual interests?"

"My interests?"

"Yes, such as Star Jones," she said. The tips of her toes wiggled accusatorily.

Then I realized what was going on. The interviewer thought I was actually stalking Star Jones. So I said what anyone would in that situation: "I'm not stalking Star Jones."

As soon as I heard myself say the words, "I'm not stalking Star Jones," I knew the interview was over.

"We find your preoccupation with penises a bit concerning, Mr. Stropher." You'd best get tenure quickly, Labs. The full letters to Star Jones and much more of Mr. Monks' writing are at utterwonder.com.


 

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Easily The Best Comments Thread on The Internet Which Didn't Happen at Unfogged

Posted by Alameida
on 02.18.06

Go read this metafilter thread on what a woman being bullied on the bus should do. It is just fascinating. What should she do? She's obviously a shy person who will always come out last if she tries to sass back, but now maybe it's too later for her to ask politely, and...?


 

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"A rich Jew and a poor Jew"

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.17.06

I'm preparing for a performance of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an exhibition," which, though admittedly a bit tacky, is great fun to play. The highlight for me is "Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle," inspired by this Hartman painting:

goldenberg.jpg

Goldenberg is the rich Jewish merchant, and he gets a heavy theme in the strings, with a few augmented seconds thrown in for that middle-eastern feel. The beggar Schmuyle has this fun trumpet bit, and the two go back and forth for a while before wrapping up their exchange. Good stuff.


 

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I want to play a game!

Posted by Tia
on 02.17.06

Okay, so maybe this will be a complete failure and make people think I am a total dork. Nevertheless, I can't help but thinking this forum is perfect for multi-person guessing games. Specifically, you know the kind where you get a few details of a gruesome scenario and you have to ask yes or no questions to figure out what happened? Let's play one of those. If you recognize the scenario, do not, I repeat, do not, give any element of it away to people who are trying to guess (I'm talking to you, W-lfs-n). If you have another one you'd like to do, let's save it for another day, but you can email it to me and I'll put it in a main post. (You'd have to be willing to spend time that day answering questions, because if I didn't recognize it I'd want to be a guesser too.)

Here's the scenario:

A man walks into a restaurant and orders abalone. When it arrives, he tastes it. After a few moments, he takes out a gun and shoots himself. Why?

Warning to Weiner and others: The answer is effectively in this thread. It's not spelled out, but it's in the answers to Andrew's questions. If you had to leave and you'd like to play later, let me know and I'll set up a fresh thread. You could also just not read any of the answers to Andrew's questions and play in this thread.

Actually, just stay away from the thread if you were called away and want to play later.


 

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In which I abuse my ability to post on the main page

Posted by Tia
on 02.16.06

So did you know I once wrote a short story with themes not entirely dissimilar to Brokeback Mountain? I did, and I'd never read a word of Annie Proulx at the time. Nor have I now, for that matter. I'm going to link to it. The real reason for this post is entirely selfish, though, and herein lies the abuse. I've never quite called it done, because it's set in the Texas panhandle, I've never been to Texas, and blue state imperialist that I am, basically I totally made up all the regional dialogue and had no clue about its accuracy. Also, there may be lots of other non-dialogic anatopisms (according to this Greek dictionary, "topos" means place in Greek). In one draft I had this character getting beer out of the back seat of his pickup, and none of my blue state readers even caught it; I eventually recognized the problem myself. So if any of you Texans read it, and have any opinions about anything wrong in the story, I'd be grateful if you'd let me know so I could finish it someday. (I already have some ideas about stuff that needs changing: milk of magnesia doesn't smell like anything; and an SRO? In a small Texas town?) But of course, no one has to read it or anything. It's kind of long.

Also, this story is my first FTP ever! [Tia licks finger, touches herself, makes hissing noise.]

P.S. And here I thought I was coining the word "anatopism". Apparently not.


 

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I just want the sweet pastries.

Posted by Ben
on 02.16.06

In the style of freedom fries and liberty cabbage, Danishes are henceforth to be known as "Roses of the Prophet Muhammed" in Iran.

This post has been in memory of ogged, Persian.


 

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Hockey Stick Distributions

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.16.06

This week's New Yorker has an interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell on social problems that follow a hockey stick, rather than a bell curve distribution. For problems of this nature, the real problem isn't in the center of a distribution, but in a very small number of extreme cases. He spends most of his time on homelessness: the typical person who spends a night in a homeless shelter spends exactly one night, but there is a very small contingent that spends years in shelters, and that small contingent uses an incredible amount of services. Any solution aimed at the vast majority of homeless people is going to have next to no impact on the few people who are the face of acute homelessness.

I don't have much to add to the article, but it's definitely worth reading.


 

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Grad school: ∗∗

Posted by Ben
on 02.15.06

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to be reading a site that normally reviews music, books, movies, etc. and happen across a review of graduate school in philosophy (by which the author helpfully explains that he means his program). I don't really have anything intelligent to say about it, and will try to keep my unintelligent thoughts to the comments, but I do think it's a little churlish to castigate philosophy for not having made any progress in 2500 years and then only talk about analytic philosophy—to the best of my knowledge, really decisive progress hasn't been made elsewhere. Obviously he has a point about the whole hegemony thing, though.

My impression from some of my peers is that many people aren't really concerned about the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy, one of them saying, for instance, "i've decided that its really pretty obvious there is no analytic/continental distinction", though he did go on to criticize analytic philosophy of language for having no knowledge of linguistic structure and an impoverished notion of pragmatics. On the other hand, this particular person is one someone who did think there was a meaningful distinction would definitely peg as continentally-inclined, and he's thinking of going to grad school in … anthropology.

John McCumber, mentioned in the linked review, has come up here a few times.


 

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Brokeback Mountain Fever!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.15.06

Willie Nelson records the most awkwardly named country music song ever about gay cowboys.


 

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Signs I spend too much time on the internet

Posted by Tia
on 02.15.06

This morning, contemplating my Valentine's Day lilies, I uttered aloud, though to no one in particular and entirely unselfconsciously, "Aw, teh pretty."


 

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Just When You Thought Powerline Couldn't Get Any More WTF?

Posted by Alameida
on 02.15.06

Ummm, wha?

Chait's definition [which equates political anger with the strong belief that a politician or party is seriously misguided] is also silly. Anger is an emotion, and (as John and I know from studying the philosophy of psychology) no emotion can be defined solely in terms of a belief or set of beliefs. By taking the emotional component out of an emotion Chait descends into nonsense. If, however, one takes Chait's belief component and adds the emotion he poured forth in his well-known piece explaining why he hates Bush, you get a pretty good working definition of political anger.

Riiight. "As John and I know from studying the philosophy of psychology". So. Fucking. True. Why did I ever think I could argue with these guys? I mean, Malkin totally agrees!


 

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That Totally Happened To Me The Last Time I Went Hunting. Except for The Part About Getting Shot.

Posted by Alameida
on 02.15.06

Bush to nation: "you will pry Dick Cheney from my cold, dead hands."


 

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The master sound finally silenced

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.15.06

PF Strawson has died. An obituary and kind words from Jason Stanley.


 

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More Pictures We Have to Look At

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.14.06

From Abu Ghraib. Via hilzoy.

Update: And more. Via mattbastard in Obsidian Wings' comments.


 

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Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.14.06

Slate is the poor man's Unfogged.

Here's a question I bet you can't answer, though the economy of the free world depends on it—you know, rockets, tall buildings, showbiz, oil wells, rifles, professional sports, world wars. How long is the average penis?

Wait. Without first resolving the mean versus median question, this entire exercise is simply a mockery of science. I shall not be belittled by freakish outliers!

First off, what do you measure—from where to where? What configuration should the penis be in—erect or flaccid? What about room temperature? (George Costanza was on firm scientific ground when he lamented the grim reality of shrinkage.) Furthermore, who should do the measuring? Self-reported measurements are more, um, forgiving than size determined by a disinterested medical professional, by half an inch or more.

All complicating factors, to be sure, but nothing that can't be handled. The answer to each of the above: whatever makes the numbers bigger. Duh.

The 1940s researchers introduced another problem. After much analysis and reanalysis, they concluded that measurement of neither the flaccid nor the erect penis could be reliably reproduced. So, they created a new approach: They measured the flaccid but stretched penis. Although statistically validated and still used in most studies, this method of measurement creates a different conundrum, because the maximally stretched flaccid penis simply does not exist in nature.

Yes, yes, we've established this already through the Ogged Test of the W-lfs-n Theorem of Penile Elasticity. It's like they don't even bother to read the comments here. Sheesh. Anyhow, the article gives the slippery results at the end of the article, but not before one last warning that the problem with any such set of numbers is the variation in measurement methodology.

Once you've become a veteran of the penis-elongation debate (and I invite you to join), you know all about how data can be massaged or manipulated.

Ahem.


 

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Best. Dream. Ever.

Posted by Alameida
on 02.14.06

OK, you guys, I had the greatest dream ever last night. I know, I know, you're thinking. "other people's dreams are boring!" You just don't have enough trust in the mysterious alameida. My dreams are disturbing, and creepy, but boring? Hizell no. To wit:

In my dream, unfogged is an actual workplace, a typical floor in an office building which has a rectangular hallway taking up a floor of an office tower, together with offices on the inner and outer edges of the hall. We are all getting together to launch the new unfogged. Everyone is there, and ogged is introducing us all to one another, but there is one person who doesn't blog in real life. Her name is Sarah, and she's totally hot, straight, dark brown hair tucked behind her ears and cool glasses, and she's brutally funny. We're kind of touring around the place when it becomes clear that--someone has murdered Fontana Labs. Stabbed him to death in an empty conference room.

Then we all try to reconstruct everyone's movement prior to the murder, and it's a classic Agatha Christie where anyone could be the murderer; we had split up into two groups and we took two elevators to another floor just after the murder, and no one can be sure who was in which elevator. We find that the murderer washed his or her hands on a towel from the coffee break room, after the elevator trip up, because the bloody towel appears in a room we already passed through before finding Labs' body.

Now, mysterious blogger Sarah and I totally have the hots for each other, and we end up going home to her place, and sleeping in the same bed (although we don't actually hook up). I wake up in the middle of the night and find we're spooned together, me on the outside, and my nose is nudged right up against the skin of her back. I think, "aw, that's cute. I must really be into this chick." I am awake now and roll away from her to lie in the bed, and I see the curtains over the window at the bottom right of the bed billow inwards. They are lace with a design of fishes. I watch them for a while, dancing in the sodium light of the streetlight outisde, and then I know. She did it.

I know that I just have to check one thing to prove her guilt, and I do so. Details are hazy at this point, but it seems she was the one to press the buttons on the elevator she was in, and pressed a different floor than people thought, thereby gaining an alibi. Like every moron in every horror movie ever, I go back and confront her. She totally admits her crime, and is going to kill me, but I get away. She is arrested.

In the denoument, it turns out that although I was at first ignoring her for Sarah, Tia and I are totally made for each other and, to make a long story short, we get gay married. Like a year later, she and I meet up with ogged to give him fashion advice, and he has chosen some heinous stuff, gray formal suits with contrasting black leather nehru collars, and Tia and I are just laughing at him, like, don't get all ethnic. We tell him to just go classic and he's listening. We don't have anything to drink in the tailor shop but bottled water, but we all toast Fontana Labs, and ogged rues the murderous tendencies of Sarah, who could have been such a great blogger, because she was fucking hilarious.

The End.


 

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A Billion Here, A Billion There; Pretty Soon It Starts Running Into Money

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.14.06

I'm sure you've all seen articles noting that Katrina refugees will no longer be put up in hotels after March 1. Reasonable; by now they should have been provided with some more permanent housing, like the 24,000 mobile homes that FEMA spent a billion dollars on. Except that no one's living in 22,800 of them:

Only 1,200 of those trailers were used, Richard Skinner [the Homeland Security Department's Inspector General] said.
The rest are "sinking in the mud and their frames are bending from sitting on trailers with no support," Skinner said. "They may have to be disposed of."

I know it's an administration credo that government spending never really helps anyone, but could they put a little less effort into trying to prove it? Really, guys, if you don't want to provide the housing, just don't spend the money in the first place -- it's not optimal, but it's a step up from your hobby of raking thousand-dollar bills into heaps for bonfires.


 

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Ovarilicious Blogiversary

Posted by Becks
on 02.14.06

Did you know that today marks the one year anniversary of Unfogged's first Blogger with Ovaries? And now look at the place!


 

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Entitled

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.13.06

Despite my tireless training of the spam filter, I still spend a fair amount of time hand-weeding my inbox of come-ons for genuine imitation Rolexes, home refinancing offers, and med1cat/ons taht will add !nches to my manh00d. I used to get annoyed by it, but have now reached a point of weary resignation. A few days ago, though, I received several solicitations for books. Specifically, anti-Semitic books that will allow me to pierce the veil of Zionist obfuscation and see the strings of the real puppetmasters for whom we all dance. Unsavory fare, to be sure, but different enough from the hot-girls-in-your-town-want-action stuff that they managed to catch my attention, however briefly.

Today, it appears to be more generic Christian books trying to break through my Bayesian ramparts. Normally, I would just mark them as junk and move on, but since last week's offerings proved diverting, I figured I'd see what titles were being offered. Not as conspiratorial, therefore not as engaging, though I was intrigued by Dan Lucarini's "Why I Left the Contemporary Music Movement: Confessions of a Former Worship Leader!" (fifth book down, here) Apparently, rocking for the Lord is teh badd. On that point at least, I agree with the author, but probably for altogether different reasons.

However, that lone title would hardly have merited an entire blog post all its own. No, I wrote this because the spam began with the very important question: "Are you a passive-purple-four-ball?" As I'm sure you all understand, despite catching the billiards reference, my Pavlovian answer was an audible "At the Mineshaft!" So, the moral of the story is that every so often you should read your spam, or else you might miss titles like Manly Dominion in a Passive-Purple-Four-Ball World. And that would be sad.

UPDATE: Nothing new under the sun. PZ Myers got this email last summer. Everybody needs to stop blogging until I can catch up.


 

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Holy Roman Empire

Posted by Apostropher
on 02.13.06

Not content with merely swearing off sex until the Italian elections, Prime Minister Berlusconi is aiming for full divinity.

First it was Napoleon. Now it is Jesus Christ.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has compared himself to both, prompting the open scorn of his political opponents and even the quietly raised eyebrows of his coalition partners.

"I am the Jesus Christ of politics," Italian media quoted him as saying at a dinner with supporters on Saturday night. "I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone."

To be fair, perhaps he just meant that he hangs out with prostitutes.


 

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Lincoln portrait

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.13.06

Oddly enough, I've got a performance of Aaron Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" coming up. LB reminds me that it's as good a time as any to post the text of that piece.

"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history."
That is what he said. That is what Abraham Lincoln said.
"Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility."
He was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois. And this is what he said. This is what Abe Lincoln said.
"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save our country."
When standing erect he was six feet four inches tall, and this is what he said.
He said: "It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong, throughout the world. It is the same spirit that says 'you toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation, and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle."
Lincoln was a quiet man. Abe Lincoln was a quiet and a melancholy man. But when he spoke of democracy, this is what he said.
He said: "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."
Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of these United States, is everlasting in the memory of his countrymen. For on the battleground at Gettysburg, this is what he said:
He said: "That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth."

 

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Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Posted by LizardBreath
on 02.13.06

(So I'm a day late.)

Here's to my favorite racist hick – I wish we had a dozen like him in politics today.

And to everyone out there who gets bent out of shape whenever they think someone is ‘playing the race card', or that identifying speech or behavior as racist without proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the intentions of the speaker is as bad or worse as actually being racist, remember that a better man than any of you will ever be could truly have been described as racist. That didn't stop him from doing more for racial equality than any other white man in American history. So, you know, suck it up and deal.


 

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[cartoon thread]

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.13.06

Volokh reprints a funny Chip Bok cartoon satirizing the decision not to republish the infamous Dutch cartoons. I think it's even funnier because people found it offensive as well, but I'm a bad person.


 

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Another productive day

Posted by Ben
on 02.13.06

I have to give a presentation tomorrow, have two essays due in a few days (albeit short ones—essays, not days), and, as usual, a buttload of reading. So of course I spent a few hours doing this.


 

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Illustrated

Posted by Becks
on 02.12.06

Ah, so the famous Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition comes out this week. If I ever found out that a guy I was dating bought the SI swimsuit edition, I think I'd have to break up with him. Not for the typical feminist reasons that you might expect, but because it's just so lame. You're an adult. Buy some real porn. Nobody over the age of 18 should be purchasing that magazine.


 

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An Effortless Segue

Posted by Tia
on 02.12.06

Why do the results of the Women's Health Initiative fat study not feel like news to me? I thought we already knew that unsaturated fats weren't bad for you. Or was that not the consensus? Maybe I'm just intuitively right about everything, and the scientific community has to catch up with me. I've scorned anyone who tried to tell me I shouldn't eat an avocado or natural peanut butter because it was fattening since I was wee.


 

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What Would Nia Do?

Posted by Alameida
on 02.12.06

Now that I'm off the olazapine and all, I'm totally getting back in shape. Since I'm basically a very lazy person, I figured that the cheapest (time-wise) expenditure of calories I could manage is to walk up the 20 stories to my apartment once a day. I started with just ten floors, and now I can do 40, that is take the elevator down to the basement, walk up, take it down again, and walk up. My brother says, well, that's great for your heart and all but not the key to weight loss; you should be briskly walking for an hour a day or whatever. (Keep in mind that I briskly walk 20-30 minutes a day 4 times a week, also). Is that true? Also, is there a law of diminishing returns, or should I just go right on and climb 50, 60 etc. flights per day? Would there be anything to be gained by walking down rather than taking the elevator? Should I be doing something else? OK, I do minor amounts of crunches and push-ups each day. Should I make like Britney and do 1000 a day? Don't tell me to swim, ogged, because I suck. Also, you're not allowed to read this site. (I have thought about getting a swimming instructor who could teach me to have an effective stroke...it wouldn't cost that much and I do have an Olympic-size pool in my condo...) Thoughts?


 

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