Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: The Missing Millionaire

The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding HimThe Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding Him by Katie Daubs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love a true Canadian mystery...
In all honesty, the lack of a definitive answer to what happened to Small made it hard to spin a compelling tale, so I would find my mind drifting. The book was well enough written that I stayed with it, and in the end, it was worth the listen. I like that I have added to my knowledge of Canadian mysteries and history. Would probably be even more interesting to Torontonians.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Review: Broken Wings

Broken Wings: A Flight Attendant's JourneyBroken Wings: A Flight Attendant's Journey into PTSD by Nattanya Andersen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn't finish it...
This book started off good, and I found the heart of the story compelling, but it couldn't hold my interest. Once the accident story was told, and the PTSD recovery detailed (interesting), it fell into flight attendant tales, much like those I have heard on podcasts, but with an edge that wasn't positive and left me feeling she didn't like her passengers much. Not terrible, but not worth my credit. I returned it before finishing.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A true crime reader's dream.
A fascinating look into the world of those who are driven to solve real life mysteries. Unfortunately, Michelle died before the final pieces fell into place, so thanks are extended to her friends who finished this work posthumously. Also the very interesting background to the killer caught by connecting DNA from genealogy testing (which he had never done) ~ verified by a coffee cup.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

T'is morning...

... and I suppose I am sleepy. I was fooling myself, thinking how awake I was, when I wished someone a good day by name... and her co-worker's name came out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

To horripilate

Today's new word, from the Audible book I am reading:


undergo horripilation, in which the hairs stand erect from the body due to cold, fear, or excitement

- Oxford Dictionary 

Cinderella stamps

When is a stamp not a stamp?

When it's a cinderella stamp it seems.

I've been curious about this category of stamps on eBay. My newest interest is art stamps, as well as architecture, myth and music stamps, so I have been getting quite familiar with how eBay organizes stamps. I finally satisfied my curiosity about the 'cinderella stamps' category I kept seeing. Here's what I discovered.

In philately, a cinderella stamp is "virtually anything resembling a postage stamp, but not issued for postal purposes by a government postal administration".

This beauty was a charity stamp for TB (tuberculosis)
In addition to stamps issued by non-recognised countries or governments, cinderella stamps include advertising stamps, charity stamps (eg. Christmas or Easter seals), commemorative stamps, purely decorative stamps, hotel stamps, local stamps, poster stamps, propaganda stamps, railway stamps, revenue stamps, telegraph stamps, and any other stamp created solely for amusement (such as labels or stickers).

While cinderella stamps tend to mimic official postage stamps, they may lack a country name (often replaced by the organization or cause) or a denomination. Sometimes a fictitious country or denomination may be used.

Following are a few examples, courtesy of WikiCommons (click to enlarge for details, especially entertaining of the mad cow stamp amuses you):

Sunday, September 01, 2019

A step back in time to La Alberca

La Alberca's Paza Mayor
Perhaps the most enchanting step back in time I took on my 2009/2010 Europe trip was the village of La Alberca in Spain. I was staying nearby while volunteering at Pueblo Inglés (from which I have many memories but have not written much, except a brief post, Consulting My Pillow in La Alberca).

In Spain, every village has its own distinct design. My friend
Lisa Ch, sporting the La Alberca village ring we both bought there
(this pic from later that year, when we reconnected in NYC)
Anyways, it was with interest that I stumbled across this enchanting post by a traveller who has been there more than once, and though that I'd share it.

"When my parents came to visit in Madrid last year, they brought with them some of my old photos, a box of a few hundred slides I’d set aside years ago. It was a random sampling of the uncounted thousands of Kodachromes and Fujichromes I have sitting in the not-so-archival environment of my parent’s damp basement in Toronto.

There are a lot of things I prefer about digital photography over film, but film has digital beat when it comes to looking at old photographs. You get to hold the actual original thing, for starters, and you can see it without having to plug anything in. Slides can’t be perfectly copied in a keystroke, they’re one of a kind. And for that same reason, you see them only once in a while. They get put into deep storage and get forgotten about until they surface sometime later, like artefacts from the past.

Photo copyright Spain by Mike Randolf
There was one slide in particular that caught me eye. I took it out of the plastic sleeve and held it up to the window. My uncle Miguel had died the year before, but in the image, taken some twenty-five years ago, he looked not much older than I am now. We were in a village called La Alberca with my aunt and an old woman we met while wandering around..." [read more on Spain by Mike Randolf].

It's a great story.

Mike also has some great photos, they are really worth a look.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


It's Tuesday, what else can I say?
OT last night, a nice bonus, when I can get it.
Still doing the multiple-career balancing act.
One cannot do everything well, long accepted by me, though the transition remains on the tricky side. How to stay on top of things when I am not fully engaged isn't my fortay (sp?), but I keep experimenting. Biggest challenge perhaps is communication. I live by honest, timely and clear communication... no, I should say that's what I value - and when I don't get that, it really throws me for a loop. Especially when I am aware of the environment, and on the balance, I choose to stay with something that is going to let me down, surely, in the future. What can I say, if I have chosen with my eyes wide open? To negotiate or reason is futile, so the challenge for me is how to process it when it happens. I can't let others get my goat.


Now there is a doodle idea...

Friday, August 23, 2019


So much for blogging before work... it seems that the tired-er I get, the later I leave, and the less time I have before work. But a good reminder as to how much I prefer arriving super early.

Last week was a heavenly break from routine. Last Monday I 'finally' qualified to be able to take unpaid vacation at my new work, without impacting my status (it has been a long slog, but I made it!). They were kind enough to grant me my request to take the rest of the week off. I requested this only partly because I was burnt out and needed a break, but primarily due the extraordinary timing: my niece was in town, so she and my sister were out every day with the van (I had been planning to bus it all week). So......... this meant that if I was home, and they were out, I would - finally - get some stretches of time alone. So that's actually what I did.

After 30 years of living alone, it is still an enormous adjustment to have spent the last 9 years living with other people. Especially when there has been no ability to get away from each other.
I had a HEAVENLY week... perhaps made so much so because I hadn't been expecting it or even hoping for it. Suddenly, pow, there it was. What a relief!

Not that I did much (although that was the point).

I did create a new reading spot in my bedroom, so that I can be alone and not just lounge on my bed, or sit at a desk. It's a spot where I have been reading, journaling, drawing, and propping up my dinner to eat in solitude while doing puzzles. With my headphones on, listening to a podcast or book, I am in another world. It's made a world of difference.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Review: Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

Aliens of Extraordinary AbilityAliens of Extraordinary Ability by Maeve Higgins, Shaina Feinberg, Cristela Alonzo, Alysia Reiner, Cole Escola, Karim Nematt, Carlos Ib
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Transported me
What a lovely little audio drama. It felt like a docu drama. At first, it was simply entertaining, then I became aware of how the lives of these 'illegal immigrants' parallel the lives of people today. The ups and downs, the joys and the fears. Always the fears. Although set in New York City, and our treatment of immigrants is different in Canada, it gave me new compassion for those establishing new lives here. And empathy for refugees and immigrants everywhere. Listen and let Aliens of Extraordinary Abilities transport you...

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Friday, August 02, 2019

The genius of VocalID

How this escaped my radar, I'll never know, but it's brilliant.

FIRST: take a moment to think of Stephen Hawking's voice

THEN: read on...

Just after I first arrived in Korea, I was listening to NPR TED Radio Hour when I heard Rupal Patel being interviewed about her big new idea for synthetic voices. I was so inspired by the story, and I remember tearing up when I heard some of the voices that were created for people with speech disorders. The new technology blends together the speech sounds of a person who is unable to speak with sounds from a voice donor and creates a brand new, unique computerized voice for the individual... [read more on the Life in Limbo blog].

Many of those with severe speech disorders use a computerized device to communicate. Yet they choose between only a few voice options. That's why Stephen Hawking has an American accent, and why many people end up with the same voice, often to incongruous effect. Speech scientist Rupal Patel wanted to do something about this... [watch the TED Talk].

UVic linguistics associate professor Sonya Bird was listening to the CBC Radio “Spark” program in early 2014 when she first heard the voice of Rupal Patel, a Canadian researcher based in Boston who launched the VocaliD Human Voicebank in May 2014. The interview ignited Bird’s immediate interest in contributing to Patel’s mission to connect those living with a severe speech disorder (or limited speech) to their own unique vocal identities. Now, as a result of an eight-month volunteer effort by the Voice Drive Victoria group in collaboration with local speech language pathologist Gail Poole, more than 100 people in our region have donated their voices to this global effort ... [read more about UVIC's contribution].

VocalID links
About VocalID
About the VoiceBank

Related resources
Synthetic voices, as unique as fingerprints - TED Tallk by Rupal Patel
Everything you need to know about donating your voice: Why you should help The Human Voicebank Initiative - TED Blog
Lending voice to an international initiative - UVIC
Speech Donors - CBC Spark Podcast
Vocal ID: Donate Your Voice - Life in Limbo blog

Thursday, July 25, 2019


An earlier version of TGIF.... is it really Thursday already? I'm tired this week, Tour de France time, so getting as much as I can before I leave in the morning, and try to watch the rest at night, hopefully not falling asleep before the final sprint.
Still remember seeing the Tour de France in person when I was in Barcelona. Lucky duck.
I am a little fazed to realize recently that it has been 10 years since my big Europe trip. It had been so life changing for me. But how has 10 years passed?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


I almost missed my bus this morning because I stopped to pick a few blackberries near where I park.
I hadn't noticed them before, but the previous morning I saw someone at the bushes and it dawned on me... and sure enough, when I stopped there on my way home, I had a nice little feast. This is on relatively busy little street, so I was surprised that they weren't picked over more.
It brought memories of picking blackberries at mom's place... they were so plentiful, and I had to go out in jeans and long sleeves, with gardening gloves and clippers, to cut them back, and get to the best berries just a stretch too far away. I hope I don't get silly enough to lean too far with these blackberry bushes on my commute.
It's a sign of how I am still trying to get my head above water that I didn't notice them before this week... I think blackberry season has been going for awhile now?
A good sign to slow down and take a look around me.
Happy to be downtown early, but on the sleepy side. More coffee soon, then looking forward to a good day. Love the environment here... very upbeat and free of drama. It's not so much that it feeds my soul, but it doesn't suck the life out of me. And a positive environment is something I can feed off of.
Interestingly, I'm enjoying not having to think about work after I leave work for the day. It's not the kind of work I've had before, and I am appreciating this aspect of it.
This is all post training, of course, and I am still learning.
In the lunchroom at work, and a lady behind me is pregnant and talking about her fear of delivery... yikes. TMI, but she's talking to a friend, so that's ok. The friend is reassuring her with tales of her own delivery. Gack. So totally not my world or experience. And it's thrown my train of thought. LOL.
Feels good to have my fingers on the keyboard.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Morning reflections

Goodness, how I have missed the habit of blogging. As in writing, not just posting book reviews (!). Though I no longer get frustrated or doubt myself if I am not blogging... it's just something that comes in waves in my life, something I can always come back to.
There are workstations in the lunchroom where I work. While I don't have time or the inclination to be on them during breaks, they are sitting idle first thing in the morning, and when I'm early, why not?
I leave home at 6:30 when I have an 8:00am shift, so get here around 7:20-7:30. I'm not one to relax coming in later, so this is like a bit of me time before I head to my desk. I'm usually there 20 minutes before my shift starts - to settle in and log in, to be ready to take my first call on the dot of 8:00.
Loving call centre work more than I might have imagined, and I kind of stumbled into it, and that realization. I'm good at it, and I can leave it behind when I go home.
More on that another time...
Deep into the Tour de France at the moment, watching until 6:20, noting the km left when I stop (today at 120k to go), then I pick it up at the same spot when I get home. I'm tired, but not as tired as those guys. Great race this year, interesting stuff.
OK, that's it for now.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Review: The Secret Cyclist

The Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional PelotonThe Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional Peloton by The Secret Cyclist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Secrets without a lot of drama
A great listen, and easy to digest over a day or two of the TDF. Lots of recent relevant observations, including happenings in the 2018 Tour de France. Having read several books about professional cycling, and having followed the ups and downs of doping and scandals, not much would surprise me, and nothing here did. Instead, I got a refreshingly positive inside look at the life of a professional cyclist, one who has stayed grounded and clean over the years. But it's not bland. Our secret cyclist has strong opinions and shares them with conviction. Insights on other riders relate mainly to the stories behind and around crashes and controversies, but are respectful of others privacy. It's not a tell-all, it's a tell-some. Good choice of narrator, it sounded like it was the rider himself.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Review: The Silent Patient

The Silent PatientThe Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book, but I didn't love it.
The premise was interesting, and it was well written. But it didn't draw me in. I even enjoyed an interview with the author so much I wish I'd liked it more. I realize I couldn't relate to, or feel compassion for, any of the characters. Yes, everyone has a dark side that challenges you to still accept someone, despite their flaws. But I never got to the point of really liking anyone. Perhaps that's beneficial, as there wasn't a pedestal to fall off of.... otherwise I can imagine if you could relate, this could be a real roller coaster ride.

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Review: The President Is Missing

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing by Bill Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bubble escape story...
I wanted to read this book simply because I thought it was so interesting that a former President of the United States had written a mystery with one of the best authors of the day....

Spoiler alert.... to read the rest of this review, click here.

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Saturday, May 04, 2019

Review: Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison

Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me OutPrisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out by Jason Rezaian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible tale
Jason Rezaian had a story to tell, but it's not the one he expected. The man was, and is, a journalist, and he was held without cause in an Iranian prison. At first his wife, also a journalist, was also held, but she was released after a relatively short period of time. Telling his story in his own voice, Jason shares the long stretches of solitude he experienced, the surprising (to me) stretches held in a prison house of sorts with another prisoner, the hope, the dashed hopes, and all the false starts before he was eventually released. It's a compelling story.

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Review: I'm Feeling Lucky - Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 by Douglas Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The early days of Google, from an insider
I enjoyed this account of the early days of Google, from one of the earliest hired employees. It was a stage of the company's history that could only be told by someone who worked there at the time. Douglas Edwards was well suited to the task, as he is both a writer and a non-engineer, enabling him to give the rest of us non-engineer types a sense of the happenings. As one of those set up for life from IPO, I appreciated the time he took to tell the story. I have a feeling the history post his departure won't be quite as fascinating.

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Review: Room 23: Surviving a Brain Hemorrhage

Room 23: Surviving a Brain HemorrhageRoom 23: Surviving a Brain Hemorrhage by Kavita Basi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brave account
Until now I had not thought about what indicators someone might have of a brain hemorrhage, as the person experiencing it. Kavita Basi took me there, inside her head, as she underwent an assault of excruciating headaches, and her world fell apart. This is an amazing story of recovery, and lessons on the fragility of life.

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Review: The Mueller Report

The Mueller ReportThe Mueller Report by The Washington Post
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dry at times, but fascinating
Of course I listened to The Mueller Report, why wouldn't I? It's a looong listen, but very complete. In addition to a verbatim reading of the report itself (complete with many 'redacted, conflict with ongoing matter' hiccups), The Washington Post provides context and a timeline. They also provide some analysis, but this is clearly separated. Some interesting background on Mueller vs Trump towards the end too. The multiple voices was interesting, presumably used in order to get the darn thing read and produced in a timely manner.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Review: The Quintland Sisters

The Quintland Sisters: A NovelThe Quintland Sisters: A Novel by Shelley Wood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliant approach to this story
As a Canadian, I have long known about the Dionne quintuplets, and have thought it a sad and disturbing story. In recent years I have heard bit of news about the surviving sisters and their difficulties later in life. So, I wanted to read an account, to understand more. I was initially hesitant about a fictional account but Shelley Wood has done the story justice ~ and it really works. The history of what actually happened has been woven into the fictional story of a young nurse who was with the girls from birth to girlhood. It's rather clever, and a great listen.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Review: Escape from Jonestown (the Laurence Bouvard story)

Escape From JonestownEscape From Jonestown by Laurence Bouvard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great telling of a tragic story
This was a very well done series, although I listened to it all one go. I particularly liked the approach taken to tell the story: through the story (eyes/heart/words) of one of the (very few) survivors, supplemented with words from the others. These perspectives were balanced with those of a woman who lost two sisters in the tragedy. There is much that is so very disturbing in this story, but it is told in a way that was listenable, calmly and without hysterics. If you don't know the Jonestown story, it's worth a listen.

Note: these is another book with the same name, make sure you pick the right one.

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Review: Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap

Together: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical MishapTogether: A Memoir of a Marriage and a Medical Mishap by Judy Goldman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adapting when things go wrong
This wasn't my normal type of book, as it was really about marriage. But the calamity that was at the heart of the story ~ a 'quack' medical procedure gone wrong ~ was interesting to me: how they got into doing the procedure in the first place, what did (and didn't) happen, and the aftermath ~ was what drew me. That part of the story was well told. The rest of the book was still interesting enough to keep me listening.

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Review: Unheard: The Story of Anna Winslow

Unheard: The Story of Anna WinslowUnheard: The Story of Anna Winslow by Anthony Del Col
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was aware that this was fiction, but thought I'd give it a try, but it just didn't grip me. Perhaps it was the set up ~ like a multi-episode podcast investigating a crime ~ was just too contrived for me. On the other hand, I did admire the creativity, and applaud pushing the boundaries of what is expected.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Review: Ayita

AyitiAyiti by Roxane Gay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A loosely connected collection of short stories.
Is there a name for this type of literature? It is a collection of short stories that at first seem unrelated, but they are all from one woman's life. Her life is set in Haiti and the USA. Over time, questions from one story are answered in another, filling in the blanks and curiosities. It has opened me to more short story collections in the future.

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Monday, April 08, 2019

Review: In Plain Sight (the Elizabeth Smart story)

In Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart InvestigationIn Plain Sight: The Startling Truth Behind the Elizabeth Smart Investigation by Tom Smart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The other side of the story
After listening to Elizabeth Smart's own story of her abduction, captivity and rescue (My Story, by Elizabeth Smart), I was curious about the investigation into her disappearance. In Plain Sight was written by Elizabeth's uncle, the sometimes family spokesperson who played an active role in the efforts to find his niece. Aside of a little TMI on his own issues, it is quite an interesting story. The efforts to find Elizabeth were remarkable and, it seems, were instrumental in her discovery and rescue. If not for this, she could well have continued to remain hidden in plain sight, if she had survived. Thankfully that is not the case. I might prefer a telling of what happened from someone less involved, but this was a good listen nonetheless. It should definitely be read by anyone else seeking a missing loved one.

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Sunday, April 07, 2019

Review: My Story (Elizabeth Smart's story)

My StoryMy Story by Elizabeth Smart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Simply inspiring
I remember Elizabeth Smart's abduction when it happened, as well as the startling revelations when she was rescued, that she had spent time on the streets in her home town, behind a veil, controlled by her captors. Elizabeth tells the story of her kidnapping, her captivity and rescue with courage and unapologetic honesty. Its a compelling story, made especially meaningful by the telling in her own voice. How one moves on after such incredible trauma is fascinating to me. I am endlessly curious about why some crumble and stay in the grips of their trauma, while others ultimately emerge strong, resolute and determined to embrace their second chance at life. The latter certainly describes Elizabeth, and she tells it well.

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Review: The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crack the code behind what triggers habits
This book surprised me in that it wasn't what I was seeking, but the sample audio clip was so compelling that I had to know the rest of the story. That need was satisfied, but then the book got into research and case studies about habits. It was starting to feel a little bit too textbooky for me (especially the corporate examples), but I'm glad I hung in there, as it got better again. The components of a habit ~ the trigger, the habitual action and the reward ~ were well explained. Don't skip the epilogue, as it has the best example of how to change a habit (very detailed and practical, based on the author cracking the code behind his afternoon cookie habit). I like the suggestion to study the habits you want to change as an observer, not expecting to overcome them right away. I will probably listen to this book again.

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Saturday, April 06, 2019

Review: Duped

Duped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost MarriedDuped: Double Lives, False Identities, and the Con Man I Almost Married by Abby Ellin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How can a woman be duped?
I've always wondered how a woman could be duped by a man living a double life with another spouse/finance/family/life. Could I be duped? Of course, I think I couldn't, but that's what the duped women say too. So, this book satisfied some of that curiosity. Not completely, as the things that swept her off her feet probably wouldn't appeal to me, but that's not the point. The slimebucket figured her out and lied his way into her mind and her heart. I was more interested in her reflections later, when she got out of the relationship, and reflected on the warning signs she ignored. Fascinating stuff.

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