Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Ramble”

A Sunday Evening Ramble

Biff Hiking #3

Time To Pay

I can’t ramble far tonight, because its early evening and it’s already dark outside.  Thank you, Daylight Savings Time!    I love it when it is dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.  And as much as I enjoy that “extra hour’s sleep” in the fall, I know I will pay dearly for it next spring when you come back around like the Grim Reaper to get it back … with interest.  You, DST, are like the IRS of time.

You’re like, “Hey, remember that hour I loaned you last fall?”

And when I say, a little warily, “Yessss?”, you say,

“Yeah.  Um.  I’ll be needing that back.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Sure.  No problem.”

“Well, there’s a little problem,” you say with a sympathetic smile, much like the loan shark who’s about to break your knees with a cudgel.

“What little problem?” I ask naively.

“Well, there’s the interest.”

“Interest?  I didn’t know there was interest.  I’ll be glad to give you back the hour you loaned me.”

You chuckle.   “Well, yes, I’ll be taking that hour back.  Along with every hour of your life for the next three weeks.”

“Nooooooo!” I yell, lifting my hands up at camera that’s rapidly panning backwards through the rain and the despair.


The Pilgrims Landing at Galveston Rock

The weather here in Dallas is decidedly un-autumn like.  The temperatures are in the 70s and 80s (~ 23-27 C).  The sun is bright as hell, requiring the use of sunglasses.  The grackles (our local bird of choice) are sleek and healthy looking.  The leaves are slowly changing colors and falling, but only out of boredom.  The breezes are light and southerly.  Flowers are in full bloom.

It makes me think that if the Pilgrims had landed here in Texas rather than Massachusetts, those first winters of theirs may have been much more pleasant.  They might have also started saying “y’all” and “fixin’ to” and “dern tootin’“.  Although I can’t imagine William Bradford landing at Galveston and saying, “Howdy, Pilgrim.  I’m fixin’ to mosey on over there to that big ‘ol rock over there.  Y’all tie up them ships and sidle on over there directly and we’ll have us some barbecue and whomp us up some vittles.  Dern tootin’!

The history of America might have turned out a whole lot different if it had actually happened that way.  At the very least, we might all be eating wild hog for Thanksgiving, rather than turkey.  Or some kind of jerky.  Or maybe chili.


R.I.P. CDs

I went into Barnes & Noble today to buy a CD for someone as a gift.  I was disappointed.  CDs have apparently gone the way of the dodo, the woolly mammoth, and the solvent 401K.  In the large room in the back that has been chock full of CDs for as long as I can remember, the CD section consisted of some sad little shelves in the back, and offered only “Best of …” CDs and Christmas music.  The rest of the thousand or so square feet was dedicated to DVDs and, ironically, vinyl albums.

Those of you who have been reading my humble little blog for a while know that I have written before about how bemused I am that such an archaic and inferior music-delivery system has made a comeback in a big way.  But I did not think that CDs would disappear so quickly.  I looked for a CD the other day at Target.  They don’t even sell CDs any more!  What is the world coming to?  (Waves my buggy whip in the air angrily.)

So it is official.  The age of the CD is over.  Time of death:  2017.

Toe tag ’em, boys, and get ’em down to the cooler.

 

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Another Saturday Ramble

Biff Hiking #3

The Parable of the Static Squirrel and the Rambling Acorn

Apparently, rambles are a popular topic (tag) here in the blogosphere.  I think that is because we writers (or, at least, us people who fancy ourselves writers) have a lot of difficulty thinking of topics to write about and so we just start writing in the hopes that something will come to us.

Result:  Instant “ramble” post.

It occurred to me as I was writing that, that that it is erroneous to believe that something will come to us when we begin to write.  It is more accurate to say that when we start to write, we stumble upon something to write about.  It is highly unlikely that an acorn will be out for a ramble and will happen upon a squirrel who is sitting motionless on his haunches on the ground hoping for an rambling acorn.  No, the burden is on the squirrel to become an adventurer and go off in search of an acorn.  Acorns are notoriously antisocial and unadventurous and so must be found and encouraged to come out their shells and to become, oh, I don’t know, an oak tree or something.

Enter:  the squirrel, stage left.

I don’t know what the hell that was all about, but lets move on before I stretch that metaphor so thin that you can wrap chicken breasts in it and pound them with a meat tenderizer.

Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah!

I went to a high school football game last night.  If you have never been to a high school football game in Texas, you have missed out on quite a spectacle.  It is a Very Big Deal® down here.  Except for the absence of television cameras and sideline reporters and wall-to-wall company branding, you could easily imagine that you are attending an NFL game.  The stadiums are huge.  The crowds are huge.  The bands play energetically and amazingly.  The cheerleaders are professional quality.  The spirit girl squads look like a Dancing With the Stars episode is about to break out.  The players are going at it tooth and nail wearing professional looking gear.  There are announcers.  The giant scoreboard video monitors play animations and replays.  The fans are enthusiastic.  There are hot dogs and popcorn and nachos everywhere.

And all this for only 8 dollars!

Once, a few years ago, my dad came down to visit us from his home in a northeastern state and since he happened to be here on a Friday when there was a game, we took him to our high school football game.  About 30 minutes into the Texas HS Football Experience™, he looked at me and said, “Is this a special game or something?”  I replied that no, it is not.  In fact, the opposing team wasn’t even in our conference and so the game essentially meant nothing.  And he said, a little incredulously, “You mean every game is like this?”  And I said, “Oh, no.  Some games are much bigger.  If we play our hated cross-town rivals, you would think the circus (and ESPN) had come to town”.

Three-fur Saturday

It is a little known psychological fact that humans are predisposed to grouping things into threes.  It’s call the Power of Three.

Have you ever noticed when you spontaneously reel off a list of things to someone, like a list of examples of your favorite foods, or a list of your favorite books, they are almost always lists of three?  It’s because three is the smallest group of things that the human brain needs in order to establish a pattern.

Weird, isn’t it?

Anyway, here’s your third part of this ramble post.  Don’t thank me.  My brain made me do it.  I would have been perfectly happy to stop at two.

 

 

Random Tidbits (11/05/2017 Edition)

 

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The Fall of my Discontent

Today I would like to bundle up in a warm coat, perhaps don some gloves, and go for a tramp through the fallen leaves and the brisk autumn air.  I would like to see my breath when I exhale.  I would like to look forward to a warm, steaming beverage when I finally get in out of the chilly air.  However, Mother Nature with her long history of not caring what I like or don’t like, chose to have it be a sultry 90 degrees (32 C) today and about 60% humidity.  The sun is so bright one must wear sunglasses.  Wearing anything thicker than a T-shirt will cause one to run the risk of heat stroke.  And the only refreshing beverage that sounds good right now is iced tea or perhaps Gatorade.


Tired and Feeling Low

Can anyone explain to me how every autumn, like clockwork, the tire pressure warning light in my car turns on?  It is usually on or around the first “cold” snap we have (cold being a relative term).  I will be driving to work and the light will come on.  I will check the pressure and, sure enough, each tire is anywhere from five to ten pounds under what it should be.  This happens on multiple cars over multiple years, so I don’t think it is because I have a wonky car.

I understand all about air expanding and contracting as temperature rises and falls.  I understand about materials becoming more brittle as temperature falls (and so perhaps not holding a seal as good as it should).  I understand that tires just lose a little pressure in the course of performing their duties of hitting potholes, speed bumps, and armadillos.  It is just the uncanny timing and precision that has me a bit nonplussed.


Aye!  Candy!

Halloween candy has a strange attribute.  In the weeks leading up to Halloween, when walking through the store, the candy displays looks so inviting, so delicious, so irresistible.  The stacks of bags of candy corn and fun-sized versions of everything from M&Ms to Baby Ruths to Kit-Kats to anything you can imagine make our eyes light up.  We are happy just to run our hands over it and ooh and ahh about how wonderful it all looks.

Then, in the week after Halloween, when it has been reduced to a third of its cost before Halloween, when it now lays in disorderly piles on clearance racks and tables, when the M&Ms are mixed with the Kit-Kats and the Nerds are jumbled in with the Twizzlers, it all just looks so tawdry and unappealing.  I think it is like waking up after a night of alcoholic excess and finding someone less-than-attractive laying next to us in bed (not that that has ever happened to me, but hey!  I watch TV and movies too!).

Suddenly, what just yesterday was enticing and alluring and beguiling, is suddenly tawdry and gaudy and meretricious.  The thought of eating any of it is actually a little nauseating.

But we buy it anyway … because it’s 75% off.   And who knows when we’ll be able to buy a pound of candy corn for ten cents ever again?


Four-Lorn

It just occurred to me that I could have gotten four small individual blog posts out of this, rather than one package of four posts.  But this way I can sell in bulk and pass the savings on to you, my Dear Reader.  So, later, when you are at home and wondering to yourself, “Why did I buy four of these when I really only need one?”, you can think clever marketing.

Or, more accurately, you can thank my laziness.  I don’t have the time or the energy to create four different posts, with all of the concomitant activities of finding clever (ha!) artwork, thinking of effective tags that will get me lots of reads, and trying to think of pithy titles that will grab the attention of rapidly-scrolling readers.

So, my laziness is your gain.   And has all of the appeal of Halloween candy the week after Halloween.


 

How Not To Write a Blog Post

Sleeping in Brain 2

I guess the only way to get back into this writing thing is just to roll up my sleeves and post something.  I keep waiting for inspiration to strike me, but that is kind of like waiting to win the lottery (without buying any tickets) or waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to appear (while never leaving one’s room), or even Waiting for Godot (if you’ll pardon an obscure reference).   No, I’m just going to have to write something the hard way … by actually writing it.

When I was a youngster, I heard the expression, “Nothing succeeds like success“. I have pondered that expression off and on my entire life, wondering exactly what it means.  I finally decided it was a rather cynical way of saying, “Of course successful people know how to succeed.  What they did worked for them.  Someone else might do the exact same things and fall flat on their face.

But I also chose to take this positive nugget away from that tired old saw:

In order to succeed at something, you must actually do that thing.

We live in a culture that assures us that we can succeed at things simply by  believing that we can.  How many movies and books and songs are there that tell us we can have something simply by believing something hard enough and sincerely enough?  How many artists do we see on those “best singer” type shows that, when asked why they should win the competition, sob and sniffle and say, “Because I just want this so badly!”

Well, that’s not how life works.  I really wish that it did.  If it did, I would be a wealthy and adored published author, living on my nearly-inaccessible lighthouse off the coast of Maine.

But I’ve never been delusional.  I have known all my life that if I wanted to be a published author that I would have to work at it morning, noon, and night with the obsession of a bee making honey.  But I allowed myself to get distracted by things like earning a living, eating, having a nice home, etc.  Writing not only took a back seat to other things, it had to follow along by hitching a ride on the rear bumper of a dilapidated old Trailways bus that was hundreds of miles behind.

This blog is a metaphor for my writing “career”.  I don’t put much effort into it, but expect success anyway.  I expect each little post to grow and thrive and blossom and to become some amazing, brilliant sunflower, big enough for everyone to see.  But the fact is, I don’t water it or fertilize it or even look at it much.

That’s not exactly a recipe for success.

So, I could rewrite the “nothing succeeds like success” aphorism to say

Nothing fails like not striving for success.

 

 

The Heat Is On …. (cough cough!)

fire

It finally got cold enough to have to turn on the heaters.  Here in Dallas, that means it dipped all the way down to about 46 degrees (8 C).  While that may not seem like much to those of you in more northern climates, down here it means that it’s time to stoke up the ol’ furnaces.

There are some seasonal rituals that people like, such as the first time that the leaves need to be raked, the first time the walkway needs to be shoveled free of snow, or the first time the lawn needs to be mowed in spring.  I suppose some people even like lighting the furnace for the first time every year.

I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the house to be nice and toasty warm on a cold winter’s night.  In fact, I prefer it.  But the first time the heater is fired up every year fills me with dread.  And that’s because when I fire up the heater for the first time in nine months, it must first burn off 9 months worth of dust, pollen, mold, and who knows what else that settles into the furnace and the ductwork over that nine months.  It is a nice, funky pong that smells something like an old, used sponge that  caught on fire, smoldered for a bit, and was then doused with the stagnant water from a leaf-clogged rain gutter.

So that was the smell that awakened me at about 2 o’clock this morning.

On the plus side, it was nice and toasty warm.

 

 

Putting the Monday in Mundane

Plumbing-Meeting RM v1

You can’t say “mundane” without saying “Monday” first, unless you’re just being a smart-Alec and deliberately mispronouncing it.

The two words are so similar sounding that I wonder if they didn’t start out as the same word but then diverged over time .  I could Google it, but I’m overcome with mundanity.  Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m lazy.

Before I go any further, here is the link to tonight’s background music.  It is David Sanborn’s The Dream.  I love me some David Sanborn while I write.  It helps chase away the mundaneness.

As the title of this blog implies, today was Monday, and it was also mundane.  You might say, “I had a bad case of the mundanes.”   (Sorry, that was an obscure “Office Space” reference.)

Where was I?

Today was a day full of PowerPoint slides and Excel spreadsheets.  I started out my career with a degree in engineering and spent decades designing some marvelous, highly technical, and extremely complex products, but somehow I’ve managed to find myself in a job where I only refer obliquely to engineering in PowerPoints and spreadsheets and hallway conversations.  It is the equivalent of a plumber being called out to a house where there is geyser in the upstairs bathroom due to a burst pipe.  But, instead of doing any actual plumbing, he presents to the homeowners a slide deck proposing a statement of work and presenting a preliminary plan of execution.  There is a slide outlining a list of potential risks to cost and schedule, as well as any cost avoidance opportunities that may be realized.  There is a slide mapping needed skills to available staff.  A high-level, time-phased budget is presented with material milestones.  There are several slides covering  any applicable building and plumbing codes, as well as an environmental impact assessment.    There are slides covering legal and contract considerations.  There is a mandatory safety slide.  Then there are some boilerplate slides on ethics, diversity, and team-building.  Finally, the plumber stands up and tells the homeowners they have 30 days to review the provided materials and to make formal comments through the plumber’s change management software and to accept the terms and conditions, whereupon formal negotiations on cost and schedule can begin.

I don’t understand how all of this managed to happen to a once-enjoyable career.

But I do now understand why modern office buildings don’t have windows that open.

 

 

A Man Walks Into a Bar …

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I thought if I waited long enough between blog posts that one or two interesting things would happen to me and that I would actually have a backlog of things to write about.  Sadly, that turned out to not be the case.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  When I decided this morning that today would be the day I would post on my blog again, I had so little to write about that I found myself looking back through my archives of things I’ve already posted in order to plagiarize something from myself to post.

Is this, then, where I am in my life?  Am I on that long stretch of highway where there are no memorable sights to see, no interesting little towns to drive through, no witty billboards to look at, no curious animals off on the horizon to comment on?  Not even a cloud that looks like a frog playing tennis?  Just mile after mile after mile of sagebrush and flat terrain and cloudless sky?  And not even really a discernible destination to drive towards.  Just driving in this direction because that’s the direction the road is going in.

I have often said that I am very thankful for the fact that, when I was in my teens and twenties, there was no such thing as the internet.  There was no social media.  There were no blogs.  There was absolutely no practical way to get your writings in front of readers short of physically handing them to your friends or family and saying, “Hey, read this and tell me what you think.”  However, nothing will turn you into a pariah faster and more assuredly than handing your writings to people.  But though I hungered back then to get my writings out into the world, I am still glad there was no way to do that.

I cringe to think back on some of the things I wrote back then and imagine the horror of what would have happened if I had ever posted them anywhere for the world to see.  No, everything I wrote on my trusty  Olympia typewriter back then just moldered away in my desk drawer, never to be read by anyone (not even myself).  If any of that had found its way onto the Internet, I would live my life constantly cringing and sweating and tugging at my collar nervously, living in fear that someone would walk up to me someday and say, “Hey, I stumbled across that short story you wrote back in 1982.

However, I do envy the old me in one regard.  I actually had things to write about back then.  I had crazy friends that I did crazy things with.  I had tragic, comical, and always one-sided romances with girls that I admired from afar (and who did not know I existed).  I did crazy things like street racing, freight train hopping, cycling 40 miles on a whim in the summer heat to a lake (and this was before cycling was even a thing), jumping off of a boat in the middle of a lake while drunk off my ass so I could swim back to shore, sinking a car up to its doors in the mud 40 miles from nowhere on a freezing New Year’s night, etc.)

Then somewhere along the line we outgrow the craziness of our youth and become Responsible Citizens™ and we work every day for 40 years without fail because we were told that if we do, that would be cake and ice cream in the break room and maybe free T-shirts if there were enough to go around.

I always like to keep my blogs humorous, so here’s a joke written by 20 year old Me


A man slides up into a bar and says, “Hey, man.  Beer me.”

And the barkeep says, “Sure thing, man.  What kind?”

And the man says, “Anything you got as long as it only costs a dollar.”

And the beer dude says, “You know what you can get for a dollar?”

“No, what, man?”

“The hell out of here.”

“Man, you’re a trip!  Gimme some skin!”

They slap palms and laugh and the bartender gives him half a beer for a dollar.


Here’s that same joke written by that same man thirty-some-odd years later.

A man walk into a bar and he says, “Hey, Bartender, I’ll have a beer.”

And the bartender says, “Here you go.  That’ll be 7 dollars.”

The man pays him seven dollars and drinks his beer.

The bartender says, “Would you like another one?”

And the man says, “Nah, I have to get home.”

And the bartender says, “Well you have a good day then.”

“Thanks.  You, too.”

 

Saturday Ramble

 

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I have not done one of these rambles for a while.  Or much of any writing at all, for that matter.  I won’t bore you with the details.  I’m sure you’ve suffered through similar dry spells yourself.  Every writer has.  And if there is a writer who hasn’t, we all hate that writer.  Stop showing off!  It’s bad enough that we struggle to write … we don’t need to be scoreboarded, too.

Today, as the title implies, is Saturday.  It is a nice pre-autumn day.  By that I mean the thermometer is well below the normal temperature of a hundred degrees (~ 37C) and is a much more reasonable 82 (28 C).  However, it is still nice and toasty outside if someone were to do something foolhardy like, say, mow the yard.  It’s the kind of day where you can sunburn very easily because it doesn’t feel so very hot, but the sun is beating down directly on you from a sneaky angle that lulls you into lowering your guard (and sunblock) for awhile.  Next thing you know … BAM! … you look like a lobster.

But I haven’t been outside much today, so I am safe from the wiles, seductions, and charms of the sun.

However, even as I write this, the suburban air outside is filled with the sounds of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and electric edgers.  It is like living at an air port consisting of tiny little gas-powered airplanes that are constantly taking off, landing, and doing fly-bys.  But I will not be shamed into mowing my yard today.  I mowed it last week and it has had the decency to not grow at all since then.  I would go outside and thank it, but I don’t like to encourage it.  Profuse praise is a form of fertilizer.

I’d like to write more, but every blogging how-to article I’ve read said to keep things short and pithy.  People don’t want seven course meals any more.  They want fun-sized Snickers® bars.

Here … have a Snickers® bar.

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Poor Biff’s Almanac — Saturday Evening

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It’s been quite awhile since I sat down and just pounded out a rambling, “I don’t really have anything to write about” post.  So, here I am.

I apologize in advance.

It is Saturday here in Dallas.  I suspect it is also Saturday nearly everywhere else in the world, so I can’t claim any sort of uniqueness there.  That particular well is also dry in terms of inspirational writing prompts.  So, shall we move on?

It was a quiet day today and, given the craziness of the past month, that was a good thing.  I enjoyed sleeping late, getting up, having a cup of coffee, and being in no hurry to be anywhere or do anything.  I did eventually get moving and took care of a few things around the house and ran a few errands.  However, I think I would been just as happy back at home, wearing pajamas, sipping a cup of coffee, and taking a slow, desultory stroll through the internet or maybe staring at a good book without really comprehending anything I was reading.

And why not?  It was near 100 degrees today (37.8 C) and steamy.  There is nowhere to go within 50 miles of here that doesn’t involve spending money (and lots of it) or finding myself rubbing elbows with ten thousand other people who also felt compelled to get out of the house and find something to do.    My inner hermit was trying to persuade me to just stay home.  And so I did, for much of the day.  Always listen to your inner hermit.  They know what’s what.

I took a stroll around the neighborhood this evening when the sun began to set and the temperature dropped down to the low 90s (33 C).  There was a slight breeze, so it was almost pleasant (except for the 75% humidity).  It was eerily quiet and deserted.  I didn’t see anyone else while out on my walk.  I would occasionally hear the hiss of a water sprinkler or the very distant sound of a lawn mower, but it was eerily silent.  I was reminded of a Twilight Zone episode I saw one time in which a man was walking around his neighborhood and it was completely deserted.  I felt that way tonight.  I half expected Rod Serling to step out from behind a tree to narrate the growing creepiness.  Sadly, he didn’t.  I would have asked for his autograph.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had been walking along these concrete sidewalks for two decades.  Small children that used to walk or run along these sidewalks to go to school or to trick-or-treat or to fund-raise for their school band or scout troop were now grown, graduated from college, and busy being adults out in the real world.  This realization did not put a spring in my step.

It put me in mind of a passage from Mark Twain’s “Life On the Mississippi” in which he, after many years, returned to Hannibal, Missouri where he had spent his boyhood.

Naturally, I was a good deal moved. I said, ‘Many of the people I once knew in this tranquil refuge of my childhood are now in heaven; some, I trust, are in the other place.’ The things about me and before me made me feel like a boy again– convinced me that I was a boy again, and that I had simply been dreaming an unusually long dream; but my reflections spoiled all that; for they forced me to say, ‘I see fifty old houses down yonder, into each of which I could enter and find either a man or a woman who was a baby or unborn when I noticed those houses last, or a grandmother who was a plump young bride at that time.’

I circled back home as the sun set and the light faded.  My inner hermit commanded me thusly.

 

 

 

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Sunday … er … Monday Morning

I am discombobulated.

Spring Forward

Due to this being a 4-day weekend for me, I have gotten my days all mixed up.  It is always amusing to me that, obsessed as I am with time, it only takes me 2 or 3 days of being off from work to get my days so mixed up that I don’t even know what day it is.  I shudder to think what I would be like if I were off from work for a month or longer.  I’d probably forget what century I am.  (This is still the 20th century, right?)

When I say I am obsessed with time, perhaps that is overstating it.  I wear a wristwatch and I constantly refer to it.  I am fascinated with the passage of time and why some patches of time go quickly, and others go like cold molasses.  How do we get from one moment to the next?  We do nothing and yet somehow time washes by us like we are standing still in a slowly moving river.  Things drift by us through no machinations on our part.  We stand inert, and the flotsam and jetsam of life and time drift by us, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but always doggedly and relentlessly.

I know time (or the telling of it) is a human construct to help us communicate things to one another and to mark off the passage of hours and seasons, but I have always tried to keep fastidious track of it.  I always know what hour it is during the day, and very often the minute within a 20-minute window.  That may be because I am at work and marking off the minutes until I can leave for the day, like a prisoner marking off the days on his cell wall, anticipating the day of his release.  I am also usually on top of what day of the week it is, and, to a lesser extend, what day of the month it is.   What year it is gets a little fuzzy in my head sometimes.  If someone were to suddenly and without warning ask me what year this is, I am just as likely to say “1987!” as I am the correct year.

However, as aware as I am of the passage of time and my fastidiously noting the hour and minute that I happen to be in, if I have off from work for any length of time, I begin to lose all sense of time.  By day four of a seven day vacation, I no longer know what day of the week it is.  I usually have only a vague notion of what hour it is by wherever the sun is in the sky.  The month?  Forget about it!  Year?  Well, I’ve already confessed my difficulty with years.

It makes me wonder, if I were independently wealthy and did not have to work for a living, would I simply stop noting or caring what hour or day or month it was?  Would entire years drift by me without my noticing them or bothering to give them names?

I don’t know, but I’d sure like to find out!

 

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