Catching Up

November 22, 2014

Hi, everyone. Just wanted to let you know, I’m fine. My computer crashed a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been able to get online until yesterday, when some friends gave me a little laptop for my birthday. (Many thanks, my dears.)

Since I’m still learning to use it, this post will be brief.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope you are all safe, warm and well fed and that you will find a way to reach out to those who are not.

See you next week when I have hopefully learned to use my new computer.

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Delusions of Grandeur

November 8, 2014

The Republicans took control of both houses of Congress here in the US midterm elections this last week – to Republican cries of joy and Democratic moans of despair across the country.

President Obama ordered 1500 more troops to Iraq to “advise and retrain” the Iraqi troops already being advised and retrained by the first 1500 troops we sent when those Iraqi troops that we’d spent the last decade advising and training failed to make a proper showing as they came up against ISIS and threw one more monkey wrench in the Empires dreams of, well, more empire.

The fragile ceasefire between Kiev and the rebels in Ukraine’s eastern provinces has broken down – warming the hearts, no doubt, of Congressional hawks and members of the military-industrial-arms complex across the nation.

The remains of Typhoon Nuri will hit the Aleutian Islands this weekend, buckling the jet stream further east, later this week, and allowing arctic air to flood down and across the Midwest and eastern United States– to the despair of those of us who did not expect and will not delight in this too early taste of winter.

The IPCC, in its Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, said, this week, that if we want a 66% chance of keeping global warming under two degrees centigrade, we must reduce fossil fuel use to zero by 2100 – no doubt leaving oil producers and oil dependent countries everywhere rejoicing in the belief that this means they can wait until 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 2099, to actually do something about it.

Thus, life proceeds apace in the dying American Empire and its hapless global suzerainty and there seems precious little that we or the Empire can or will do at this point, locked-in ideologically to our oil dependent model of constant growth, to change the course we are on.

The Empire is well on its way to the fate of countless empires before it; the civilization built around it will, in its turn, collapse as other civilizations have, long before ours arose.

There is no guarantee that enough of the web of life that birthed us remains for another civilization to rise out of the ashes of this one.

Nor is their any indication that we are special; that the universe is, somehow, bound to preserve several billion bits of cosmic detritus wrapped in flesh and full of their own self-important delusions – one species among millions of other species on a small planet in a solar system circling a medium sized sun, in the back waters of the arm of a spiral galaxy set among the births and deaths of billions of other galaxies and star systems spread across the vastness of cosmic space-time.

What we need is some perspective. We are not exceptional as a people; we are not indispensable as a nation; we are not even particularly smart as a species – having polluted our air, water and food sources, squandered our resources in pursuit of a belief system that enriches only a small percent of the planetary population while impoverishing the majority. And in destroying the habitats of millions of creatures with which we share the earth, we’ve destroyed more of our own habitat than we can ever recoup.

Sadly, I have no expectation that next week’s news will be much different that this week, or last week, or the week before that. I fully expect that our delusions of grandeur will continue on, until reality intrudes and they can’t, any more.

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First Hard Frost

November 1, 2014   bird_winter_snow_213718

Last night, our first hard frost arrived. Temperatures fell into the mid twenties as a cold front moved through. I was about as ready as I could be, knowing that warmer, more normal fall temperatures were on the way and I could proceed with the few outdoor garden activities I couldn’t finish last week.

All of this does make me mindful, however, that the time for such activities is slipping away and the time for winter preparations is moving in around here. The man who mows the lawn came last week and mowed the first layer of dead leaves into the last layer of mown grass. I’ll leave most of the next layer of leaves to overwinter, collect enough for a layer on the garden before I cover the beds with straw and throw an armful of the extra leaves into the compost bin to help it get a new start. And that will pretty much conclude my outdoor preparations – except for planting that garlic.

As for inside the house, I’ve found someone to shrink wrap the windows and, later this winter, put up some pegboard so I can hang my large and cumbersome collection of brooms, mops, gardening rakes, shovels and hoes that are currently propped against the wall in the various corners of the back room. And the few vegetables for the indoor garden that I’ll grow from transplants rather than seeds are started.
I’m sure other things will pop up along the way to winter, but I’m looking forward to a time of relative quiescence winter brings to my house – a time to catch up on reading, putter around with whatever may grow in the back room garden and keep a less hurried eye on what happens in the wider world.

Here at home, the mid-term elections will (thankfully) be over in a few more days, though (like an unsavory odor) the effects will undoubtedly linger on, no matter who wins in the various races.

Hopefully, with the races for Congress and various governorships settled one way or another, more rational minds in both parties will prevail and the ginned up Ebola scare, on which some rode to electoral victory, will tamp back down to more reasonable proportions as they realize that the most effective way the developed countries can prevent a genuine outbreak at home is still to ramp up the fight where the current epidemic actually is, in West Africa.

Sadly, I don’t expect rational minds here at home to prevail in the senseless war the Empire and its NATO allies have declared against Russia by way of our meddling in Ukraine. After Putin’s speech at the meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, on October 24, it’s pretty clear that he and a number of other attendees knows what game is being played and have no intentions of sacrificing Russia’s, or their own, rational self-interests just to appease the declining Empire. Nor will the inflated egos of the Imperial neo-cons, who thought this a good move, allow them to see that more and more of the rest of the world is tired of being yanked around by the whims of a flailing has-been with delusions of past grandeur as they find ever more ways to defy those whims and the economic/military might it uses to enforce them.

Such appears to be the case in our fight with ISIS, as our bombing raids are insufficient without the ground troops and other support from our squabbling coalition of the, not only unwilling, but seemingly unable. The new, more “moderate” government in Iraq appears to be more afraid of letting go of the exclusionary policies of power than they are of ISIS. Turkey seems to be more afraid of its Kurdish minority than the swelling ranks of the disenfranchised dreamers of a new Caliphate joining ISIS daily from around the world. Sunni Saudi Arabia dances around the conundrum of fighting Sunni ISIS while possibly giving aid to the Alawite (a sect of Shi’a Islam), Bashar al-Assad of Syria, or to Shi’a Iran, who has its own reasons to offer aid in fighting ISIS. And, the list goes on.

Of course, by the time winter grants that less hurried eye, some other move in the grand game of Empire may have checkmated, or been checkmated by, those other players currently involved.  The slowing global economy may have tipped over on its side, kicking and struggling to upright itself, and rendered those moves moot.  By winter, the costs of ignoring climate change, the dangers of politicizing Ebola, the certainty that our fracking “bonanza” will give eternal life to the Empire, may have mortally blinded us to any number of black swans already seeking a landing site.

We never know, ahead of time, exactly what winter will bring, but that first hard frost always reminds us, the last days of autumn are a good time to make sure we’ve prepared as much as possible.

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Fall Stumbles In

October 25, 2014

Autumn around my neighborhood has just begun a full-tilt run toward changing colors. We still have had no hard frost and barely any hoar frost, though both are overdue. Today and tomorrow the temperature is supposed to hit eighty degrees, then gradually drop to a more seasonal normal over the rest of the week. We did have several days of showers/rain and temperatures in the fifties and low sixties a week or so ago.

The remains of both the backyard garden and side garden, along with the surrounding grass, have been turned into mulch for the gardens and they await a layer of compost from the compost barrel before their winter coat of straw, (next month’s “big ticket” item at my house.) I still need to get serious about the indoor garden and by mid November I’ll need to plant the garlic.

Halloween is next week. We don’t get trick-or-treaters around here. The churches and other local groups mostly handle that. I haven’t seen many notices for houses of horror, (honestly, I think some churches have sort of ruined that for a lot of people,) but area farmers still offer corn mazes – complete with ghouls and goblins, cider, homemade apple butter and something akin to old-fashioned hayrack rides. Mt. Vernon, a few miles from here, sponsors an apple butter festival this time of year, celebrating the event with demonstrations of traditional methods of making it in big copper pots that simmer for hours – along with selling the most delicious apple butter around.

All of this fairly screams, “Fall!” even when the weather doesn’t. So, with the scent of home made apple butter and the taste of home made cider lingering in my memory, I’m going to get this blog post up and take advantage of Mother Nature’s little weather prank to get some things done around the house and yard. Happy Halloween, everyone.

And if you can, send a donation to Doctors Without Borders or one of the other groups working in West Africa. The people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are our fellow travelers in the journey.  Right now, they could use a helping hand.

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Are They Really Trying to Kill Us?

October 18, 2014

Over the last couple of weeks, reading at doomer forums and the comment sections of some doomer blogs, I’ve seen some of the most irrational (and frankly, sometimes venal) conspiracy theories I’ve ever read. Come on, folks, get a grip.

So, are the elite/government/CDC/MIC trying to kill us all by “culling the herd” with Ebola? My answer – based solely on my having worked in both isolation units and surgery (which is sort of a reverse isolation where we are trying to keep the patient from getting infected by us) – would be, No. (Though in defense of those more conspiratorially minded than I am, the hubris and miscommunication about how ready we were shown by both the federal government – especially the CDC – and the Dallas hospital involved in our first minor outbreak here in the US certainly might have looked like it.)

The type of isolation training I had was for airborne and droplet born diseases such as TB (airborne) and influenza (droplet born) and sterile techniques for surgery (and in some cases, post-surgical care). Caring for an Ebola patient requires much more stringent training and isolation gear because of the ways it can be transmitted – especially to the caregivers.

Most hospitals here in America have staff and personnel that are well trained in isolation and reverse isolation techniques; very few are rigorously trained for handling something like Ebola, which is expensive and time consuming.

Fortunately, it is very difficult to spread in a general population like ours, where we generally don’t come in contact with or handle the bodily fluids of people who are in the contagious stage of the disease. Hopefully, that and the general humbling of the CDC and hospitals across the country will have given us the time and incentive to get our collective medical act together and prevent a wider outbreak.

There are a couple of other steps that people are talking about regarding the government – one taken and one not taken, yet.

The one taken – the appointment of an ebola “czar” to communicate and coordinate – has raised hackles because the President made a “political” rather than a medical appointment. Some wonder why he didn’t appoint a military superstar like Colin Powell or David Petraeus.

Most medical people that I’ve heard speak out about it feel that what we need isn’t another doctor, we have one heading the CDC, but someone who can organize and coordinate the various federal, state and local efforts here -medical and legislative – and then communicate that to the public.

As for the debate over a political organizer or a military superstar, well, I can’t help looking at the record of our military successes, lately, and the record of a guy who helped run two successful national political campaigns as far as expertise in communicating and coordinating – not to mention the difficulty of having to get something through our cantankerous Congress. It’s sort of a tossup, isn’t it?  Just saying …

As to the step not yet taken – banning all flights from those West African countries where the Ebola epidemic is not contained – I tend to agree that it’s not a good idea. Psychologically, if I were trapped in one of those countries by such a ban, and I had the finances to travel, I’d steady be looking for another way out – car, bus, train, donkey cart, whatever – to another country and an air flight from there.  And the worse the epidemic gets, the more people who are likely to be looking for such back-door ways to get somewhere else in order to come here.

Right now, countries where the epidemic is on going are checking people boarding flights out of those countries. And we are checking people from those countries when they get off of flights into the US, now, and keeping contact information on them and fellow travelers. The government was late in starting that, and it’s not a perfect system (as the case of Mr. Duncan shows,) but I’m not sure forcing a situation where people actively circumvent that system in numbers that could potentially overwhelm the medical systems in this country is any better.

Honestly, I think WHO is right. The best thing we could do to ensure our own safety, instead of obsessing over a handful of cases here or in Europe, is for the developed nations to work at stopping the epidemic over there. And the governments here and in the other developed countries have done a woefully inadequate job of that.

While we’ve been bitching and moaning over the President sending 3,000 troops to build hospitals, deliver supplies and train field workers – troops who will not be in contact with patients – Cuba, that tiny island of 11million people to our south that we love to hate, is sending almost 500 doctors and medical workers directly into combat in the affected countries.

We and the other countries of the developed world spent trillions of dollars bailing out TBTF banks, trillions fighting an everlasting war on terrorism, yet we gripe about a billion to stop what could turn out to be a much greater threat.

If you still think the elites are deliberately trying to cull the population via Ebola, go ahead on I guess. Maybe there’s enough information in the articles I’ve listed to help you get the right hazmats and handsoap to protect yourselves. Personally, I think you’d be better served buying a little extra hand sanitizer and, maybe, some face masks for the upcoming flu season and sending the rest to Doctors Without Borders, Samaritan’s Purse or any of  the dozens of other non-profits that are over there in the nitty-gritty fighting the good fight without much help. After all, to misquote George Bush, isn’t it better to fight it over there, so we won’t have to fight it over here?

Besides, the elites/government/CDC/MIC can’t really afford to kill us right now. We’re part of those Great American Consumers whose urge to  shop ’til we drop makes up 70% of the economy.  So, why would they want to kill us now?

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Your Money or Your Life?

October 11, 2014     U.S. Geological Survey - Public domain image

There’s an old joke (I remember it as part of Jack Benny’s comedy routine back in the 1950s) about the wealthy penny pincher who was confronted by an armed robber saying, “Your money or your life?”

The penny pincher thinks for a minute and the robber finally says, “Well?”

To which the penny pincher replies, with some anguish, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

The joke was hilarious back then, because most ordinary people would have said, “Here,” handed over what little they had in their wallets and considered themselves lucky to escape with their lives.

In today’s intricately intertwined globalized economy, where everything seems to depend on everything else – not unlike a game of pick-up-sticks on steroids – the joke is not so funny. Especially if you see it as a metaphor for what’s going on in the large Western economies and the Empire; especially if you look at the globalized nature of the bullets in the robber’s gun. Global warming and climate change, ecosystem destruction, financial instability, waning resources, failing infrastructures and, now, the possibility of a global pandemic with a very ugly disease.

More and more, the West’s response to the robber seems to come down to preserving their wealth or preserving all our lives.

And the more the robber wave the gun in their faces and say, “Well?”, the more the government, the elite and those still completely dependent on the system seem to yell in frustration, “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”

At this point, I’m not sure they can do otherwise. The pursuit of constant growth has become so pathological, the myth of constant progress so  firmly entrenched and the game of pick-up-sticks we’re all stuck in down to no good choices left, any one of the sticks that remain is able to bring down the whole pile.

At this point, the joke seems to be on all of us and we are each stuck with having to answer that metaphorical question for ourselves, fast.  Do we wait around for them while they’re “thinking”?  Or do we hand over the money and pray the bullets won’t kill us.

What’s it going to be? Our money or our lives?

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Buzz, Buzz

October 4, 2014

After reading the blog post, “The Buffalo Wind”, over at the Archdruid Report last Wednesday evening, I reread it over at, while I was there on Thursday, and again (twice) on Friday.

No, I have not undergone a sudden conversion from Atheist to Druid. I just like the way his blogs sometimes send my already buzzy brain into buzzing overdrive over various things I’ve been trying to puzzle out for days or weeks.

I must confess, even though I’ve been horrified by the world’s response, or lack, thereof, to the growing Ebola epidemic in West Africa, I’m not as worried about an outbreak here in America – yet – as I have been about the curious lack of compassion (even self-serving “compassion”) by the developed world toward this outbreak.

The attitudes seem to be, “Don’t worry. The Government and our sterling Medical Systems will protect us,” (which they probably will – at this time) and, “Oh, by the way, here’s a bone for those poor dogs over in West Africa; bad luck, that, but the stock market’s up, the economy’s busting out of the doldrums; let’s get on with the serious stuff – you know, sanctions on Russia, fighting Isis – the really hardcore stuff” – even though the recovery has mostly gone to the top ten percent, as will the war profits while the costs will fall on the rest of us.

But Russia is fighting back with sanctions of its own, cutting its oil prices in a big, thirty year deal with China, making deals with the other BRIC and SEO countries to buy and sell in their own currencies. The EU still flirts with recession; China’s and Japan’s economies are slowing; emerging nations are being hit with the fallout of our Fed’s winding down of QE3 and the threat of rising interest rates on all those loans they took out while rates were dirt cheap. At what point does a weakening world economy impact our (faux) recovery, or is it the other way around?

Along with the economic war with Russia,  our war on IS is morphing into two wars – one with IS and one with Assad of Syria. Can boots on the ground be far behind? And if Saudi Arabia and Iran, mortal enemies currently, can work through some of their differences long enough to work with each other in the fight against IS, might they continue the relationship and, in doing so, rearrange the entire Middle East that the declining Empire has spent so much blood and treasure arranging to its own benefit?

Oil prices are dropping here and on the world market; Saudi Arabia has just begun a price war with the other OPEC nations. Yet the oil and gas companies bringing us our vaunted Shale Revolution are already buying back stocks, selling assets and consolidating to maintain shareholder value and make a profit off of $100 per barrel prices. How low can the prices drop and for how long, before that Revolution gets left in the ground? And what would happen to the oil besotted Economy and, among other things, that sterling Medical System we are so depending on?

As the Ebola outbreak doubles every twenty days.

I don’t have answers for all that buzzing in my brain, but I am not alone in that. Many of us sense a draft on the back of our necks as the chaos at the edges of the system moves toward the center.

I think that may be what John Michael Greer means when he says, “The Buffalo Wind is rising now, keening in the tall grass, whispering in the branches and setting fallen leaves aswirl.”

Buzz, buzz.

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Mysterious Ways

September 27, 2014   

Well, of all the things I could have imagined happening from my little side garden of tomatoes, the one I probably would not have imagined is the one that, in fact, did happen.

While I was sitting at my computer, waiting for the world to drop some spiffy blog post into my lap, there came the tapping of my neighbor, Jackie, at the front door.

As I opened the screen door to invite her in, she pressed a loaf of bread and two boxes of bite-sized, crème-filled chocolate cupcakes into my hands and said, “Eubie went to the day-old bread store and thought you might like these. I’m working today [at the convenience store], so I’ve got to get back to the store.” And off she went.

Eubie is a neighbor who lives down the street. Last spring, while I was hacking away at the grass where I wanted to plant the tomato garden, he was at the store next door and came over to see what I was doing. When I told him, he took the hoe from me and finished the job that I’d been laboring over, pretty much likkety-split. So I told him to be sure and help himself to any tomatoes that might grow there – which I assume he did and that the bread and cupcakes were his way of saying thanks.

Now, I always buy several loaves of bread when I go grocery shopping at the first of the month and stick them in the freezer. But, this month, the loaves began to get moldy almost as soon as I defrosted them and by mid month, I was out of bread.

I walked over to the convenience store, but they were out of bread, too. So, I bought a small box of crackers to use. I had just run out of the crackers, when Jackie showed up at the door last week with an “extra” loaf of bread she’d bought while shopping.

Since I’ve been working outside these last two weeks, getting the garden ready for winter, clipping back bushes, weed whacking weeds and washing the earth boxes and assorted pots that I use for my winter garden, both my breakfasts and my lunches have consisted of throwing whatever I have around between two slices of bread, (or some crackers, or even a couple of thawed-out pancakes when needed,) rather than stopping to cook. And, yep, you guessed it. By this morning, I was almost out of bread, again.

So Eubie’s loaf of bread was needed and welcome (and who doesn’t need a couple of boxes of crème-filled, chocolate anything?) Thus, I am good to go in the bread department until grocery shopping day, next week.

Over the coming weeks, I will finish my outside work, start transplants for the indoor garden, hope for it to produce enough to share some of it this winter and ponder those mysterious ways in which the world tends to work when we throw a few seeds of neighborliness into the winds of change we all sense is coming.

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One Lucky Old Gal

September 20, 2014          Linda Easley

Now that the Empire is busy fighting everything from ISIL to Ebola, I guess it’s time for me to get the yard and gardens ready for winter.

This past week was cool and rainy. We had three inches of rain on one day, with smaller rains and brief showers the rest of the week. I did manage to get started deconstructing the garden in between those wet periods, but the coming week promises to be cool, sunny and dry – perfect for really getting busy in the yard.

The small side garden was a success; I’ve left it alone this past week in the hopes that the few remaining tomatoes might get picked by someone. (I do have a neighbor who’s particularly fond of fried green tomatoes.) But, if no one has picked them by later in the week, I’ll probably pick them clean, so I can get it ready for winter, too.

I’m hoping to expand it a little next year and plant a couple of other veggies – maybe some squash and green beans – along with the tomatoes. We’ll see.

And I’m looking forward to trying the winter squash I’ve stored away. I’ve never grown winter squash before, (at least, not successfully,) so that’s kind of exciting. I did clean, seed and freeze the one I dropped on the floor while bringing them in, fearing that I might have bruised it and it would rot around the bruise if I just tucked it away in storage. At least, that’s what the internet squash experts said could happen. I did save the seeds.

I fried a couple of the potatoes I’d brought in and stored the rest under the cabinet after they hardened. I do love fried potatoes. There weren’t too many of them this year, but they looked like nice ones and I think I can squeeze two or three meals of green beans and ‘taters seasoned with diced bacon out of the handful of little ones. Good stuff!

My kitchen table is still half covered with tomatoes, cherry and regular, in various stages of ripening – the last ones from the backyard garden. Hopefully, they’ll all ripen and I will have had my fill of fresh tomatoes by the time winter comes and I have to break in to the frozen and canned ones.

When I’ve finished with the outside gardens, I’ll start working toward my indoor garden for this winter. Each year, I learn a little more from the experience, so I’m looking forward to that.

Then it will be time for the great, pre-winter housecleaning, time to think about shrink wrapping the inside of the windows and to preparing coverings for the doors.

My life might seem small to some, but I really have no need to “live large”. I have loving family, dear friends and good neighbors. I am healthier than I probably have a right to be at my age, can still pursue my gardening, my larder is full (if not so overflowing, this year) and my house is old but comfortable.

Considering that the universe owes me nothing, that still makes me richer than two-thirds of the world population.

I understand that all of this could change in a moment, but, as I’ve said here before, right now, in this moment, I am one lucky old gal.

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Terminal Something

September 13, 2014   

Seems like, this week, the Empire moved from terminally stupid to terminally insane, declaring an “air war” on IS in Iraq and Syria (even though we already have around 1500 “advisors” –all wearing boots, as one wag put it – on the ground in Iraq) while the Empire and our EU allies upped its proxy war in the Ukraine by increasing sanctions on Russia after their mostly “sound and fury” NATO meeting.

Aside from the screaming hypocrisy of Congressional and media warmongers over both situations for the last few months, (neither ISIS nor Russia currently represent a direct threat to the Imperial homeland), there are a couple of things that many in the military/intelligence community think we are not seeing straight about our latest foray into Iraq.;;

The proxy war the Empire and its NATO stooges started against Russia in Ukraine is not going away and may heat up  if Russia decides to shut off the gas to Europe this winter just as we’re getting in deeper in Iraq/Syria. (Only one of Russia’s possible options, if we are truthful about it.)

US job creation for August, at 147,000, was the lowest since the beginning of 2014 while unemployment figures for last week were the highest in two months at 317,000. The global economy has yet to “break out,” though everyone from to Bloomberg thinks it will “soon”.

According to a new report from the World Resources Institute, several countries, including the US, may soon be facing the choice of fracking for oil and natural gas or having enough water to drink – a question already being raised in many Texas and California towns about both fracking and big farming as water dries up and towns find themselves without water at the tap.

Though global surface temperatures seem to have been rising much more slowly for the last decade or more, ocean and atmospheric temperatures are still rising fast, as are CO2 levels – with all the negative effects on sea life and record setting weather events across the world.

Oil prices have dropped recently because of lower demand in developed countries. If either of our wars suddenly blossom into something larger, what will be the effect on oil prices as that demand suddenly rises? On climate change? On a global economy still fragile from the great recession? I don’t know, but I’m sure watching for answers.

We are far too eager to believe our own hype about all of these things. As Einstein once pointed out, insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. And, like I said at the beginning of this post, I think the Empire just entered a state of terminal insanity.

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