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Rated M for Moron

Violence in video-games  and the effect it has on impressionable young minds, has been a heated topic of conversation ever since the first digital antagonist met his untimely end at the hands of a child.  Starting all the way back when games looked like this:

LowResGame

It has always been a topic of great controversy  There are many people that believe that violent video-games desensitize the player to the violent acts they are committing in the game and, even worse, that these games REWARD them for committing them. They argue that the games distort the player’s ability to determine right from wrong and that they will become more likely to commit violent acts in real life as a result.

I would like to submit that these arguments are complete bullshit.

First of all, let me be very clear about one point straight out of the gates. I have been playing video-games my entire life, a great many of them that would be considered violent, and I can confidently say that violent video-games have not made me into a violent person… although one might argue that video-games in general, have made me into a violent person. There really does not need to be any intentional violence of any kind in the game for it to make my blood boil.

I could be playing a game wherein you control Winnie the Pooh, the goal of the game is to make everyone love you, and you ultimately win by hugging every creature in the Hundred Acre Wood, but if the game is… frustratingly difficult, I will curse like a drunken sailor, with Tourettes Syndrome, who just got their hand stuck in a wood-chipper.

But… and I want you to pay close attention to this part… that doesn’t mean that I am going to track down the game developers, and their families, and beat them to death with a honey-pot.  I cannot lie… I have broken my fair share of inanimate objects in fits of video-game-induced rage.  One time, after a particularly frustrating experience, I smacked my drink off my desk… that may not sound so bad, but unfortunately for me, my drink was in an actual glass which instantly exploded into a hundred razor-sharp shards, a few of which angrily pierced the offending palm that was attacking them.  As fate would have it, immediately after I did this, Karrie (my girlfriend at the time) called me, and I had to rush her off the phone because my cupped hand was rapidly filling with blood while she was talking.

I also, once, punched a monitor with my High School ring on.  It didn’t end well for the monitor… or the ring.

It’s true… these were pretty aggressive acts… but they were not against people, nor was there ever any danger of such.  But… it has also been argued that “immersion” is the key to unlocking your inner rage-monster.  So, apparently, my failure to act violently is because Pooh Bear isn’t realistic enough to make me BELIEVE it’s real.

The implication that game immersion somehow causes a game player to magically absorb a set of values (good or bad) is… well… the kindest words I can come up with are: “fucking retarded”.  The argument here is that, since users are encouraged to commit violent acts with their own hands, in a world that SEEMS real, they will somehow transfer this mechanic into the real world.

Well.. until we construct “The Matrix”, and plug our brains directly into it, arguments over immersion, in my not-so-humble opinion, are moot.  We all know what we are seeing isn’t real, no matter how realistic the graphics look to us.  Our brains pick out differences that, at the time, seem subtle but, in hindsight, aren’t really very subtle at all.  Here, let’s use a single long-lived game series as an example.  Castle Wolfenstein:

Wolfenstein

It’s hard to believe, I know, but with each release these graphics were believed to be AMAZING.  10-years later they look as if they were drawn with crayon, 20-years later it’s like the artist was drawing on a moving bus, and 30-years later it’s like that bus was on a bumpy road.  I have no doubt that the same will be said in 10 years for games that we are looking at today.  Reality is a tough goal to chase, believe me.

Now that I have made my arguments, let me say something that seems to contradict them.

Children should not be allowed to play violent video-games.

That’s right.  Just because I don’t believe there is a connection between violent video-games and actual physical violence doesn’t mean I let my kids play games that are rated for adults.  That would be idiotic.  There is a reason that games have an ESRB rating on them, after all.  And… If you have strong opinions about the effect something has on children, and yet you completely ignore a system that is meant to help you keep that thing out of children’s hands… well, then, yeah… you’re an idiot.

Case in point… In a recent Harris Poll, 58% of parents surveyed believe there is a connection between violent video-games and actual violence.  And, 33% of parents surveyed “let their kids play whatever they want”.  Sure, there is a possibility that there is no overlap in these two stats, but… how much would you like to bet that there is?  In either case, this leads me to my point… Violent video-games are not the problem.  Children that play them are not the problem.  The problem is that…

…most parents are morons.

Yeah, I have said it before, and I will say it again.  The search for the root cause of your children’s problems is over.  Look in the mirror, asshole.  You are responsible for your children and ALL of their actions, not teachers, not movies, not video-games… YOU.  Stop being a whiny bitch and take control.  You have no excuse, I do not care what your situation is, you can always make time to raise your own damn children.

To these parents that want to blame video-games for their own incompetence at raising children, I have a simple message… Keep your damn hands off my video-games. I have a honeypot, and I am not afraid to use it.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Gripes

 

Measuring the immeasurable

My wife Karrie and I don’t always see eye to eye. In fact, there are some things that we almost never agree on… like what the temperature is in the house. Often, she will insist that it is “cold” while I maintain that it is “fine” and that she is “batshit crazy”. Personally, I like the temperature in the house to be suitable for the long-term storage of meat and Karrie tends to prefer something closer to the temperature at which you cook it. And my stance on the matter has always been that she can put on a sweater, whereas I cannot easily remove my insulating layers of blubber.

Often our arguments escalate to the point that I simply get up off my generous posterior and actually check the temperature, which typically hovers around 70-72 when I am home. Despite the clear, verifiable facts, however, this doesn’t usually end the disagreement, since Karrie will still argue that this is “freezing”. I think it’s important to pause here, and note a few things at this point:

  • Karrie has a Masters degree in Physics
  • Freezing is 32 degrees, which is 40 degrees (or 56%) cooler than 72 degrees
  • When the temperature outside reaches 68, Karrie prances around in a tank-top, shorts and flip-flops.

My point is that… coming to an agreement with anyone about something as measurable as the temperature is difficult enough! Start discussing more subjective things and you are absolutely screwed. Yet, we all seem to try to quantify these things and argue about them. For instance, I would rather alternate between licking broken glass and gargling with lemon-juice that to ever have Indian food touch my tongue. Yet, somehow there are Indian restaurants out there that are very highly rated (by people devoid of functioning taste buds, clearly).

As another example, men always want to observe and classify women. When men gather into groups, we ogle every woman that passes by. I do not reveal this with any pride or remorse, I only state it like one would state “The Earth orbits the Sun” or “Apple makes products for morons”; it’s a simple statement of fact delivered without the burden of emotion. We ogle because it is our nature and not doing so denies what we are.

Similar to food preferences, it seems a virtually impossible task to measure attraction in any meaningful way. Some men prefer blondes (gentlemen if the old saying is to be believed), some redheads, others brunettes. Some like brains, others focus purely on looks. Some men are only physically attracted to women who appear so thin and fragile to me that I would swear they cannot be handled without special, carefully calibrated equipment, while other men prefer women that look like they could sustain a direct short-range ballistic missile hit to the ass with little-to-no discernible damage.

It seems pretty obvious to me that a woman’s allure is a purely subjective thing, and not one that can be easily measured. But, despite that fact, all the guys I know seem to want to apply some sort of rating system to it all. These systems, in my experience, tend to be pretty unreliable. For instance, one group of guys I know uses “dress size” as their rating system which seems like a nice quantitative measurement. But, due to the complex and confusing nature of women’s dress sizes, it seems to result in more arguments than ogling:

Pedro: Look, to your right… an 8.

Me: Where?

Pedro: There, near the buffet.

Me: Is she behind the 14?

NOTE: Let me spend just a moment here to comment on how ludicrous I think women’s dress sizes are. For men, the size system is a representation of factual data. Your waist is 36 inches around? BINGO! You are a size 36. Genius. But, as far as I can tell, there is no measurement that you can take on a woman’s body that will have any easily calculated correlation to their dress size. It appears to be a number that is derived through some combination of high math and dark magic, and it is something that makes my brain weep.

The most popular system of rating, the “1-10 system” is also the one that is the most difficult to agree upon. One mans “10” is another mans “7”. A while back, a group of us tried to improve upon the system through the use of modifiers. The idea was to give the subject a base score, and then apply these modifiers (both positive and negative) to reveal their final score. It looked something like this:

Base score
Physical attractiveness: 1-10

Positive Modifiers
Wears revealing clothing: +1
Talks with an accent: +2
Talks to you: +2
Flirts with you: +3
Willing to have sex with you: +4

Negative modifiers
Cheerleader effect modifier: (number of friends with them, after the 1st) x -1
Beer goggle modifier: (number of beers, after the 3rd) x -1

It wasn’t perfect, I knew that when we created it.  With work, however, I believed it might become a more accurate scoring system than those that were currently in use. But the initial field tests did not prove promising. An inarguably attractive woman hanging out with a couple of friends, after you have had a beer or two, would score very low, while a flirty manatee in a low-cut dress with a British accent would score pretty high.

Sure… with work it might become more accurate, but the amount of work needed to cover all cases, would make it resemble the US Tax Code in size and complexity which would make it pretty impractical for use in a bar.  In hindsight, my first clue that the new system was doomed for failure should have been that the group of people responsible for creating it would likely never have a need for most of the modifiers.

And so… in the end, I returned to the same place.  You just cannot measure some things.  I will stick with a much simpler system.  The temperature is “perfect”, Indian food “sucks”, some women are “hot” and if you disagree with me, you are “wrong”.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

What happens in Vegas… happens to someone else.

I have traveled quite a bit in my lifetime and, honestly, I have been to places that a positively dull person such as myself has no right to visit. The problem is that I go to all these exciting locations around the globe, and instead of going out and seeing the sights in some of these beautiful places, I usually end up in my hotel room, eating the long-expired mini-bar snacks while reading email in my boxers.

Aside from the places that I have been to all over the US, I have also been to Paris, London, Dublin, Barcelona, Cancun, Athens, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Amsterdam (many times). I am probably forgetting some, but I think you get the general point. I am “well traveled”. And, however banal my activities are once I reach my destination, the stamps on my passport and the pile of gadgets I take with me on my trips, make me look like an up-and-coming international field agent on a clandestine operation for the US government.

I am currently in Las Vegas attending the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). For those of you that are unfamiliar with the show, it is a ridiculously large event filled with all manners of gizmos and gadgetry. Exhibits can range from pretty mundane things, like security systems and solar panels, to more exciting items, like fancy laptops, all the way to nerdgasm-inducing electronics like robots and 3D gaming.

For reasons that I am sure are abundantly obvious, I have wanted to go to this show since I was a zygote, and I was deliriously happy to be able to attend it for legitimate business reasons. You see, my job has become very focused on tablet computers, and CES is one of the best places to find out about “what’s next” in tablet computing. I guess.

This is only the second time I have been to Las Vegas (I went to CES last year too), a fact that seems to amaze just about everyone that I speak with about it. Is it really all that difficult to believe that I have not found the time to travel across the country just for the privilege of feeding my salary into those paper-shredders they call slot-machines?

*As the plane is landing in Las Vegas on my last trip*
Person: First time in Vegas?
Me: Yeah
Person: Do you gamble?
Me: No, I took math in school.

I mean, seriously people… do you know what the odds of winning are? Those machines are physical applications of well established laws of probability. There is a reason these casinos are lavish. Sheesh.

Anyhow… Since I don’t really do anything exciting here I thought I would share some of my discoveries from the thrilling tradeshow floors of the Consumer Electronics Show!

I know… try to contain your excitement.

Here we go…

The South Halls:

I have only one thing to report from the South Halls:

I intend to purchase this computer workstation and never leave it. I will ONLY invite people over so that they can briefly bask in my awesomeness, and then I will demand that they leave.

The Venetian Halls:

Although it wasn’t very large, I have to say some of the most interesting stuff at CES was at “Eureka Park”. It was a small collection of tiny companies with products that ranged from clever to batshit crazy.

In the clever category, I would place:
Cubelets by Modular Robotics. Cubes that you snap together to make a robot. A bit like Lego Robotics, but still pretty cool nonetheless.

In the batshit crazy category, I would place:
TxtRng… a thumb-ring stylus. Ostensibly intended to improve accuracy when typing on smartphones, but it felt a bit like trying to type with my toes.

The Central Hall:

This is the hall that contained all the large companies; Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, Motorola, etc. So… this is the hall that had just about everything that I came here to see. I won’t talk about that stuff though… too boring.

If I had to summarize what the remainder of the floor was about, I would say “3D”. You could not swing an overpriced HDMI cable without hitting five 3D TVs (and about 20 people, incidentally). There was a display by LG as you entered the Central Hall that had over 120 3D TVs.

It was impressive, no doubt, but I still don’t know a single person who owns… or even WANTS to own a 3D TV. Who exactly are they selling these to?

The North Hall:

After the “all work, no play” Central Hall, I thought the North Hall held some promise. There were many more booths, all smaller companies and I figured that would mean a much wider variety of gadgetry. That was, however… not the case. Here, let me share a map of the floor with you:

I took the liberty of highlighting in pink all the booths that were selling nothing but cases for iPhones. I spent about 2 hours walking around, looking at… gel cases. It wasn’t just the sheer volume of duplication that made this exercise idiotic, it is also the fact that each of these companies is duplicating something that is completely unnecessary.

What the fuck are you covering? Let’s look at an iPhone here:

Yes, Apple conveniently provided you with a cover. It covers the electronics, not only protecting them from damage but doing it with style. I loathe Apple, but they DO know how to design something. So, I ask again… what the fuck are you covering? You are covering a case that is made from materials specifically chosen to withstand abuse, created by some of the most highly regarded consumer electronics designers in the world with a skin that is probably made from recycled condoms designed by a minimum wage Chinese sweat-shop worker.

If you use, or even OWN, a gel-case, please punch yourself in the face. Again. One more time.

The remainder of the hall was “Automotive Electronics”, which equated to “speakers and chassis lighting”.

You can probably gather, by all of this, that I was a little disappointed in the North Hall.

And, that wraps it up for CES. I head home to NY tomorrow, rest for a day and then head off to Amsterdam so that I can spend my nights in a different hotel reading email in my boxers.

Try not to be jealous.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Yule be sorry…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Time to empty your bank account to purchase expensive gifts for children who don’t appreciate or deserve them. Time to gather with your loved ones and try to consume more than your own weight in food. Time for me to make fun of some traditional Christmas songs!

When I listen to the radio, I frequently have a dialog with the person singing (see this entry). Some of these exchanges can get pretty heated. I often wonder what the people around me think about the strange man driving on the LIE, yelling at his radio. In any case, although I usually have problems with the lyrics in popular music… Christmas music is not immune…

I’ll start with a true classic which Bing Crosby made famous:
“I’ll Be Home For Christmas”

Bing: I’ll be home for Christmas.
Me: Wonderful news!
Bing: You can count on me.
Me: I had no doubt.
Bing: Please have snow and misletoe and presents by the tree.
Me: Hmm, ok… I didn’t realize there was a list of demands involved. I’ll see what I can do about the last two, but affecting the weather may be a little out of my reach.
Bing: Christmas eve will find me where the love light gleams.
Me: So, that’s… here… right?
Bing: I’ll be home for Christmas.
Me: Yeah, ok, I think we covered that part.
Bing: …if only in my dreams.
Me: Wait… what?

Seriously? You ask me to line up all these things for you? Say things like “you can count on me” and “I promise you” and then end off with “if only in my dreams”? Bah!

Now, when you do a little research on this song, it is sung from the point of view of a WWII soldier stationed overseas and the “if only in my dreams” ending is supposed to be a sad twist. So, you may consider me a dick for making fun of it. I can accept that. It’s still stupid.

Next up? Another song that Bing is known for:
“Do you hear what I hear?”

Bing: Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king…
Me: Stop it, I’m blushing.
Bing: Do you know what I know
Me: Probably.
Bing: A child, a child, shivers in the cold
Me: That sucks.
Bing: Let us bring him silver and gold
Me: Really? Not, like, a blanket? Or some food?
Bing: Let us bring him silver and gold
Me: You’re kinda generous with MY silver and gold, you know.

You can’t tell me that you didn’t find it a little strange that nobody thinks to give the kid a sandwich in any of these songs and stories. I mean really… what the heck is he going to do with Myrrh?

Moving on, we have one that truly makes my blood boil:
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
This is sung by… a lot of artists… though Bono gets the winning line.

Simon Le Bon: There’s a world outside your window
Me: Yeah, I’ve seen it, it sucks.
Sting and Simon: And it’s a world of dreaded fear
Me: Well, it’s not THAT bad.
Sting and Simon: Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
Me: I don’t think a “bitter sting” can “flow”…
Sting and Simon: And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom.
Me: Ok, seriously, where the hell is this?
Bono: Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you!
Me: No kidding! Yeah, thanks God. So glad you made their lives a living hell.

Go ahead… tell me that’s not what they meant! I am sorry, but no matter how you try to rationalize it, that is an absolutely ridiculous way to word that. Really? “Thank God it’s them”? How the hell could anyone think that those words are anything but douchey?

Idiots.

I will end with a lovely song by Nat King Cole:
“The Christmas Song”

Nat: Everybody knows… a turkey and some misletoe, help to make the season bright…
Me: Really? Because in my experience, a turkey and some misletoe results in some awkward photos that are VERY difficult to explain to your wife.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 🙂

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Occupy This!

I know my reaction is a bit late for this one, but I think it’s high time I poured my thoughts out into a blog entry, otherwise my head might explode.

First of all, I sincerely tried to understand and empathize with the protesters. No, really, I did. Then, when I inevitably realized that their cause was retarded, I tried to ignore them. But now, since the media seems intent on continually feeding this mindless creature, I am just getting more and more pissed off.

I do not think I would be considered “well off”, certainly not “rich” and not even in the same galaxy as “the 1%”. So, if you work out the math (go ahead… I’ll wait), the implication here is that I am in “the 99%”. Before I cover the more salient points of my argument, let me bitch about this “we are the 99%” business.

Since I love math so much I want to share the joy of a simple calculation with you. It only requires two numbers too, so it’s easy enough for you to play along at home. First get an estimate of the number of “Occupy Wall Street” protesters; I checked and the latest number hovers around 5K. Next, get the latest Census data on the population of the United States; a quick search puts this at around 307M. Now… part over whole, times 100… (5K/307M)*100 = 0.0016%. So, maybe it should be modified to be “We are the insignificant percentage of loud-mouthed morons”? Yeah, you’re right, that wouldn’t fit on a sign very well.

What’s that you say? I’m a jerk and my calculation is bullshit because there are people “occupying” other cities the world around? Ok, lets multiply that by… what? 100? 1,000? Hell, let’s throw caution to the wind and just make shit up! Let’s say that there are similar protests of the SAME SIZE in 10,000 cities! ((10K*5K)/307M)*100. Congratulations… you are the 16%. Don’t even begin to tell me that, although there are only a small number of actual protesters, they represent us all. They do not. I vehemently resent the suggestion that this group of lazy asshats speaks for all of us “poor victimized people”.

To these so-called 99-percenters, I want to make this absolutely crystal clear: I am not one of you. Please remove me from the “99%” figure you have been throwing around and immediately update all of your marketing materials. You are completely within your rights to say “we are the 98.99999%” if you wish, but you do NOT have permissions to use the small percentage of the population that my corporeal form represents.

NOTE: While I am writing this the woman next to me on the train unceremoniously dumped her enormous bag of shit onto the seat between us, it’s bulk covering all the things I had next to me, breaking the unspoken rule that only 50% of the “buffer” seat is yours to consume. I am considering a protest wherein my fist briefly occupies her lower jaw.

Ok, let’s move onto the protest itself.

I do not like protests or protesters, in general, but I usually tolerate their existance without complaint. What has been fairly consistent about other protests I have seen is that there is a clear PURPOSE for the protest and ALL of the protesters agree on it.

In this case, there is absolutely no organization or leadership for this mob at all. It’s just a bunch of people hanging out in a park whilst whining about the bad hand life has dealt them. You could ask 100 different protesters what the point of their cattle-like occupation is and you would get 110 different answers (I am estimating that you will run into at least a handful of people with multiple personality disorder).

If I had to distill the arguments of the few protesters that have properly functioning neurons into a simple request I think it would be: “We want the rich people to pay their fair share!”. Sounds great. Ok, let’s run with that a bit.

Now, this is the part where I get into some pretty foreign territory for me because I am, by no means, an expert on financial matters. But I am going to try to take the arguments and apply LOGIC and not empirical knowledge of the financial domain. Let’s see how this goes.

Ok let’s say we have a “1-percenter” who is currently taking home (in the current income-tax model) $6.5M in income per year. Now, let’s say that the proposed change results in them taking home $5M instead, meaning that they have effectively lost $1.5M every year. Now, let’s just go out on a limb here and suggest that the REASON this person is a financially successful businessperson is that they are kinda good with that whole money-thing. Do you think that they will:

 

1. Meekly accept this giant loss in their net income

or

2. Do whatever it takes to increase their compensation back to where it was (if not higher) by, ultimately taking it out of the hides of those that work for them.

Let’s just say that I have my doubts that this group of pot-smoking hippies will have any noticeable impact on the lives of the rich. If I were a wealthy company owner and the government actually LISTENED to these idiots, I would start doing things like making my employees pay to get into the bathrooms. Just out of spite.

I have spent my entire parenting career trying to ensure that my children understand that they are NOT ONLY in control of their own fate, but they are RESPONSIBLE for it. I refuse to raise children that have the inflated sense of entitlement that these people have. My children will make mistakes, we all do. And when they do, they will NOT blame others for the hardships that befall them, they will pick themselves up and do what they can to make the situation better. And that will NOT involve sitting in a park smoking pot and playing guitar.

This whole thing is less like a protest and more like a Phish concert at an asylum if you asked me.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Gripes

 

Oh baby!

God’s latest move, in this ongoing chess game called life, was both interesting and unexpected; Karrie and I were recently blessed by the arrival of our third child, Gavan Tomas Coffey.

Well played sir.

Although, some might suggest that handing me another child wasn’t exactly wise, but still… well played.

In any case, having Gavan has made me reminisce about the whole child rearing process. I have been thinking back on my experiences with each of our children over the years, and analyzing my unique parenting approach. Honing it like a finely crafted weapon for use as I, once again make my way into the fray.

I’ll try to keep some sense of order to my ramblings…

To begin with, I would love to say that I was a doting husband, entertaining Karrie’s every whim during the long nine months of each pregnancy, but that would be a bold-faced lie. Karrie has never been a big fan of accepting help from others, and I am an inconsiderate lazy bastard (a pretty good match).

Aside from Karrie expanding by about a dress size every month until small objects began orbiting her, it was pretty-much business as usual around the Coffey household for each pregnancy, so let’s just skip to the birth.

My behavior during all three of my children’s deliveries fully supports my theory that men really have no useful role in the birthing process; our only relevant duty in the entire business ended about nine months earlier, and involved a grand total of 90 seconds of work (including 30 seconds of begging). Let’s face it guys, we are in the room to hold our wife’s hand so that she has something to squeeze when it hurts. She’d really be better off with a decent “stress ball”, if you asked me.

For example, with each delivery, Karrie was strapped to a machine that measured the intensity of her contractions. During each contraction, since only my left hand was busy at the time, and it was impossible to have a meaningful conversation with Karrie because she was fully focused on gently but firmly ripping the fingers off of that hand, I occupied my mind by studying this machine and discussing my observations with her when each contraction had passed…

Me: Did that one hurt?
Karrie, grunting in pain: Yeah, it hurt… a lot.
Me: Really? Because that only went to 20, and this machine goes up to 100.

Now, before you ladies get all “hear me roar” on me, you should be aware that Karrie spent less time in labor with all three children combined than most women spend with one. With that said, I fully understand that pushing a roasting chicken out of any orifice is not a pleasant experience, and one that would surely spell the end of life on earth if the males of the species had to do it.

There is a good reason that “in the old days”, midwives used to send the men to boil water that was never actually used. We are nothing but a useless distraction from the main event, and should be forbidden entry into the room, and possibly even the building. What ever happened to men-folk spending their time in the local pub waiting for the call from the hospital so they could hand out cigars to drunken strangers?

The point is that men do not see things in quite the same way as women do. Women see childbirth as a miracle that is a joy to behold; a rare opportunity to witness new life being brought into the world. Men see it as a medical procedure…

*The doctor holds up the baby, still connected to the placenta*
Doctor: Would you like to cut the umbilical cord?
Me: Isn’t that what I pay you for?

…and we don’t see it as a pretty one either…

Nurse: Do you want to hold the baby?
*The nurse holds out a slime-coated bundle that I can only assume, by context, is a baby*
Me: Umm… no. Why don’t you hose it off first, then I will reconsider.

The hospital introduced something new this time around. Before we were allowed to leave the hospital with Gavan we had to watch a video about the dangers of shaking babies. I believe it was cleverly entitled “never shake a baby”. The fact that you need to have a video explaining to new parents that violently shaking their newborn is “bad” is not exactly surprising, but kinda sad.

The only thing I got out of the video was that it’s mere existence illustrated the vacuousness of your average parents. About halfway through the video I felt like turning to the nurse with a look of feigned innocence and asking: “Wait… is this true for puppies too?” but thought better of it.

Once we had watched the video, and signed more paperwork than we did at our last home closing, we were allowed to take Gavan home and begin to figure out how this little bundle of swirling chaos was going to change our lives. I mean sure, we have two other kids, so having an infant in the house is nothing new, but it has been a long time.

Why many people, Karrie included, love the infancy stage so much is beyond me. I sometimes shudder to think about how our children would have turned out if I was the primary caregiver in the household. I would probably have purchased every possible gadget that claimed to help a baby sleep/eat/poop/etc. Ultimately, my children would have been, for all intents and purposes, raised by robots.

I am perfectly fine when presented with clear instructions, but that is not how infants operate. When they are hungry, they cry. They have a full diaper? Cry. Hurt? Cry. Want to cry? Cry. It’s a bit like having a single alarm that can either indicate that “It is lunchtime”, “The basement is flooded” or “The building is being attacked by aliens”.

Women will have you believe that they use their magical spidey-sense (“maternal instinct”) to determine what the baby truly wants when they cry, but I have observed Karrie very closely and determined that women really just cycle through and check every possibility until they find the right one. It’s a well camouflaged brute-force algorithm, they just get better, and faster at it over time. Just had food, diaper is clean, doesn’t look hurt… must be something else.

I am not trying to devalue a mother’s role in any way, just trying to shed some light onto how it works in reality. I am still baffled by most of it. For example, when Karrie determines that Gavan wants to play, she will sit on the floor with him for hours, positively glowing, delighted by his every coo and giggle. Whereas my interactions with him tend to go a bit like this:

*I stare at Gavan*
*Gavan stares back*
Me: Do something.
*Gavan cries*

Don’t get me wrong, I try to enjoy myself with the baby but I just don’t think I am wired to enjoy this stage of his life with the same vim that Karrie does. I do what I can though, for instance, I was recently in a candy store with Gavan, and decided to solicit his help to test a widely accepted scientific theory:

Me, to everyone around me: Watch this.
*gives a giant lollipop to Gavan*
Me: Give me that!
*snatches lollipop away*
Me: See how easy that was?

Unsurprisingly, Karrie seldom leaves me alone with any of the kids. In the interest of their safety and mental well-being, she pretty much handles all child-related activities all the way up to, and including, bedtime.

When she is putting the baby to sleep, or back to sleep in the middle of the night, she usually tells stories and/or sings songs. She is pulling from a fairly standard repository of children’s stories and songs, and I usually don’t have a problem with them, but at 3am I tend to become a little more critical than normal…

Karrie sings: Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.
Me, turning over from a dead sleep: Seriously? With all the science education you have, you are wondering what a star is?

I mean, really… what kind of bullshit is that? She knows damn well it is, more than likely, a giant ball of burning gas. But, this exchange gave me some ideas for a few minor modifications to the traditional lyrics. Because, if it’s not a burning ball of gas, it certainly isn’t a “diamond in the sky”:

*Craig sings*

Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.

A meteor set on a course to kill us all with massive force?

Or perhaps the final breath of a suns explosive death.

Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.

*Craig finishes with a flourish*

*Gavan begins to wail*

He does that a lot around me. I have a way with the kids.

So, in summary, even though it has been a long time since we had a baby in the house, Karrie and I are handling things in much the same way as we did with our other children, years ago. It’s a time-honored good-parent/bad-parent routine that we have grown quite accustomed to (Guess which one I am! Go on! Guess!). She spends every day diligently teaching the baby how to behave properly, and I spend about 15 minutes each night desperately trying to undo all of it.

I am sure you can recognize who has the harder job here. After all, Karrie has all day to do her part, whereas I only have 15 minutes to do mine.

It’s not easy, but it’s a burden I bear stoically.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Lyrical Satirical

I am sure by now that you have noticed my unnatural sensitivity to the general use and abuse of the English language. You know that guy who corrects everyone when they say something incorrectly? I correct him. Don’t get me wrong, I freely admit that I am not always correct, it’s just that sometimes I feel like I am the only person who gives a shit about things like the difference between “you’re” and “your”.

NOTE: Incidentally, it’s quite simple folks; “you’re” is a contraction of “you” and “are”, as in “you’re a fucking idiot”, and “your” is the possessive form of “you”, as in “your IQ is too small to calculate”.

So, right or wrong, I will continue to fight the good fight as the Sheriff of Englishtown. And, just in case you thought my jurisdiction only covered written and conversational English, rest assured my friends that it extends well beyond that.

Have you ever listened to songs on the radio and had their lyrics just… rub you the wrong way? Well I sincerely doubt that any songs have bothered you as much as they have bothered me. The problem is that, unlike most people who probably just listen to the music without even trying to hear the words, my brain seems to need to understand the words to every song I hear… even if I hate them.

Most of the time, this is ok. I don’t listen to the radio often but, when I do, I listen to a station that plays “popular” music which tends to follow simple, predictable patterns that lull the brain into a state of catatonia. Every once in a while, however, I hear lyrics that make me question if the person that wrote them speaks English as their primary language (or at all, for that matter).

I think, for me, it started with Alanis Morissette, when she asked her fans “isn’t it ironic?” and for many of the situations, which she presented in her lovely voice, I was forced to respond “No Alanis… no, it’s not”. By my reckoning, “Ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife” doesn’t qualify as irony… it just sucks. If you had asked me “doesn’t it suck?” then I would have readily agreed.

Yeah, I know, 15 years too late on that one.

But, lucky for you, I have some more current material. Here are three more examples of fairly current songs with lyrics that make me yell at the radio…

Let’s start with “Tattoo” by Jordin Sparks:
Jordin:”Don’t look back, got a new direction”

Me: Good for you.
Jordin: “I loved you once, needed protection”
Me: Whoa… sounds like you have an STD problem there.
Jordin: “You’re still a part of everything I do”
Me: Chlamydia will do that.
Jordin: “You’re on my heart just like a tattoo”
Me: Sure, that’s another way to put it.

To me, this is a classic lyrical mistake; Jordin got cornered by the word “direction”, desperately needing a word to rhyme with it, and ultimately choosing the word “protection”. Not a word, I would argue, that is the best choice here. I am sure, for instance that she could easily have worked affection, connection or erection seamlessly into this song without too much trouble.

There are plenty of good rhyming dictionaries online Jordin. Google it.

Oh, and emphasizing the wrong syllable of the word “tattoo” just so that it works for your crappy song makes me want to run you over with a farm tractor.

Up next, “Already Gone” by Kelly Clarkson:

Kelly: “I want you to know, that it doesn’t matter where we take this road, someone’s gotta go.”
Me: Yeah, ok. I vote for you.
Kelly: “And I want you to know, you couldn’t have loved me better. But I want you to move on, so I’m already gone.”
Me: That was fast.
Kelly: “I’m already gone, already gone.”
Me: Ok ok… I got it.
Kelly: “You can’t make it feel right when you know that it’s wrong”
Me: You know, for someone that’s gone, you sure are noisy.
Kelly: “I’m already gone, already gone”
Me: *sigh*
Kelly: “There’s no moving on, so I’m already gone”
Me: How can you be “already gone” if there’s no “moving on”?

It’s like the songwriter has short-term memory loss. First she wants this man to “move on”, which is apparently why she’s “already gone”. And then, 30 seconds later, she claims that there is no “moving on”… which is NOW why she’s “already gone”. Fascinating.

Speaking of memory loss, the final song for today is “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt:

James: “I saw her on the subway, she was with another man”
Me: Bummer
James: “I won’t lose sleep on that, because I’ve got a plan”
Me: Brilliant, let’s hear it!
James: “You’re beautiful…”
Me: Ok, good start, what’s next?
James: “You’re beautiful…”
Me: Um, ok, I think we covered that.
James: “You’re beautiful…”
Me: I’m losing faith in this “plan”.
James: “It’s true…”
Me: Ok, now you’re just fucking with me.
James: “I saw your face in a crowded place… and I don’t know what to do”
Me: What happened to the plan!?

If your plan was to be a whiny bitch, then mission accomplished James! This is a lyrical train-wreck. I cannot even make up a funny reaction to this worthless word-salad other than to say that I am confident that I could write more coherent lyrics while under the influence of a rhino tranquilizer.

You may think I am being extra picky here, but I respectfully disagree. These people get paid an awful lot of money to work with these words, and it’s really ALL they do. I am pretty sure that if all I had to do as a job was to make sure that the words of a small collection of 3-minute songs were not retarded, I would be able to do that without fail.

But, then again, they get paid millions of dollars to croon their atrocious songs to crowds of adoring cretins while I write a blog that only a half-dozen people read… for free.

So, I guess they must be doing something right.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2010 in Gripes

 

A nerds-eye-view of “girls”

It’s that time again! Time to reveal yet another in a long list of shocking truths about myself. In previous articles in this series you have learned a wide array of interesting factoids such as: 1) I don’t like sports and 2) I don’t know how cars work. To add to that long and detailed list, today’s interesting Craig fact is:

I am no Casanova.

I know, I know… It’s unbelievable; a sobering sign of a world gone mad. If you need a moment to meditate and take it all in, do so now. I’ll wait.

<insert pause here>

Ok, welcome back.

The truth is that, in general, I am more than a little shy socially. Because of this, my group of friends has always rather small but, when I was younger at least, it included equal parts boys and girls. It was when I finally started to notice that girls were constructed from fundamentally different parts than I was, however, that things changed rather dramatically. You see, prior to this realization, everyone I met had been lumped into the “person” category and I was thus able to actually speak with them, but when I became a teenager it all went to hell. Even in forced social situations, like school, and even with “people” I already knew, things became… awkward…

Me: Did you do the Math homework yet?

Person: Yeah, it wasn’t that bad.
Me: Great, can you help me with the second question?
*popping sound*
Me *staring at their chest*: Were those there a minute ago?
Girl: You’re not on the football team, why the hell am I talking to you?

Ok, that may not be 100% accurate. It was really more of a *boing* sound… and I think she may have kicked me too. In any case, from that point forward I became convinced that all girls hated me and would do everything in their considerable power to ensure that I remained a virgin till I was at least 80 and so I decided to never date. After all, in order to go out on a date, I would have to actually ask a someone, which would in turn require me to communicate with one of these malevolent creatures and that really didn’t seem practical. Thus, by the age of 16 or so, I had already decided that I was going to die a lonely old man who would leave everything he owns to his goldfish (likely named “Mortimer”).

It was probably for the best, since I am quite certain I would not have done very well in the dating arena. When I get nervous I become very… proper, and I can assure you that if I was out at a bar trying to “pick up women” I would be quite nervous. I would likely start sounding like some jackass acting student practicing (badly) for a part in a Shakespearean play.

Me: Pardon me fair maiden but even from yonder barstool one could not help but notice that you possess a level of pulchritude rarely heard of outside of ballads.
Woman: *looks confused*
Me: Barkeep! A beverage for the resplendent young lady!
Woman: *looks frightened*

It really is nothing short of a miracle that I actually found a mate.

Yeah… about that…

I am married so, clearly my whole “die a lonely old man” thing didn’t pan out, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. Life just had other plans for me it would seem. Almost up to the very last minute, I was planning to go “stag” to my Senior Prom, but the friends that I was going with all got dates leaving me with the following choices:

    1. Don’t go
    2. Go as a pathetic dateless loser (“stag” is only ok when you aren’t the only one)
    3. Get a date

And so, because I was forced into actually getting a date to the Senior Prom, that is how I met my wife, Karrie. That sounds so much worse that it is meant to. I didn’t need to be forced to ask her out as the result of any shortcomings on her part, believe me, but still the start of our relationship wasn’t exactly the makings of a romance novel. I would love to spin some fantastic tale about how my wife and I first met and started dating. Something flowery that tugs on the heart-strings. Something like:

I saw her from across a crowded room, unable to avert my gaze from her beauty, her hair glimmering like dewdrops in the bright summer sun. As if sensing my gaze upon her, she suddenly looked my way. Our eyes met and I could feel an instant connection; my stomach began to flutter as if the caviar and champagne I had just had were flirting capriciously with each other inside of me. Suddenly conscious of her sweeping gaze I quickly checked my appearance, appalled to find that there was a small wine stain on the cuff of my shirt. Sensing my dismay, her expression softened as if to say “Such things don’t matter to me”. And so, without a word, the stage was set for our life together…

But, sadly, it was really more like:

I saw her across the crowded classroom, staring at her for an inappropriately long time. Her friends caught me staring at her and whispered something to her, laughing. She turned her gaze my way and I felt like I was going to hurl; that’s the last time I have Cheetos and Mountain Dew at the same time. Feeling a little exposed with her glaring at me, I quickly checked to see if my fly was open, only to find that one of the football players had just pantsed me. Sensing my dismay, her expression softened as if to say “Really? Spiderman Underoos?”. And so, without a word, the stage was set for our life together…

Truthfully, Karrie, being one of the few people on the planet who found my jokes to be funny, was my first and only choice to ask out. If she had said no, I am pretty sure I would have immediately started executing my original plan and picked up a goldfish on the way home. But, seeing as I am thoroughly married to her, it’s pretty clear that she did not say no. On the contrary, due to what I can only assume is an epic lack of judgement on her part, she said yes… three times, in fact. Yes to the prom, yes to dating me, and eventually yes to marrying me.

Now, while I realize that marrying the first girl I ever dated doesn’t exactly make me an expert on relationships, I like to think of myself as a fairly observant and empathic person. I truly believe that, despite my lack of direct empirical evidence, I understand women about as well as any man can. And although I didn’t go into very much detail about my experiences with girls when I was younger, if I had to summarize them I would say that, with very few exceptions, teenage girls are pure evil right down to the deep black frozen core of their obsidian hearts.

There are those, I am sure, that will beg to differ with my opinion and likely because they lost their virginity in school broom-closet at the age of 16, while my interactions with girls when I was young were typically not what you would call “warm and inviting”. To these folks, I don’t really have a rebuttal that isn’t laced with jealousy, and therefore I stand by my original assessment.

What got me thinking about all of this recently was the fact that my son just started high school, and is now surrounded by the special industrial-strength high school variety of girls every day. He is likely already riding the same emotional roller-coaster that I did when I was his age and there is really no way that I can possibly prepare him for what is coming.

I cannot decide if I should wish him luck, or buy him a goldfish.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Llama-palooza

The parts of my life that I choose to document in this blog are typically not very representative of me. Most of them are infrequent events of minor import that I shamelessly embellish to make sound more interesting than they really are; like a good documentary. But there are a few portions of my life that, when I describe them, sound like a pitch for a bad sitcom. This is one of them:

My daughter trains llamas.

She trains them for two categories of activity. To show (like a “dog show”) and to go through an obstacle course. She does this every week, all year long, and then goes to small 4H events to compete with other local llama trainers. She has done this for a few years now, and it had almost begun to feel… normal. That is, until this past week when we decided to enter her into a competition at a very large state fair called the “Eastern States Exposition” (aka. “The Big E”). It was during these two days that I learned just how different I am than the typical state fair… fare.

I think the first clue should have been the laptops. I brought two (naturally).

When we arrived, I wasted no time and set up a small wireless network for my son and I to use, and we almost immediately began playing a Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) which we played for as long as we could before our legs went numb from sitting in those crappy folding chairs that seem to be specifically designed to completely cut off the circulation in both thighs.

We were like a little oasis of technology adrift in a sea of llamas. We were set up on a hay-covered floor in-between two llama pens in a giant building filled with livestock of all varieties. Our choice of location was made purely based upon the fact that this spot actually had a power outlet. In hindsight, however, despite it’s ready source of power, our choice of basecamp may have been less than ideal (see diagram below).

Llamas are deceptive creatures when it comes to their feces. They don’t make big sloppy messes like cows do, just a small pile of pellets, almost like a timid little bunny. But I would estimate that they expel waste about once every 30 seconds, and the accompanying cloud of noxious gas that comes along with these pellets has a scent which is not entirely unlike being punched in the nostrils with an icepick.

To add insult to injury, the lovely creature pictured to the right seemed to think my laptop power cord tasted like licorice because he started happily chewing on it when I was away for a few minutes. Luckily my wife caught him and moved the cable, otherwise I would have had to open a BBQ’d Llama booth.

As if all that wasn’t enough, there were llamas in both of these pens that were for sale. and we were constantly interrupted from our gaming by the seemingly endless stream of toothless hicks that had come to the fair purely to fulfill their instinctive need to eat fried balls of butter. Although it was abundantly clear that they had no ability, or intention to actually purchase a llama, they were all desperate to know how much they cost. Given our “prime” location, in their tiny little brains we were clearly the ones who possessed this knowledge that they so greatly desired.

After about the fourth time I got tired of explaining that I wasn’t the owner of these llamas and that I had no clue how much they cost, and I just started responding with things like “about fifty grand” and “how much you got?”. I even told one man that I would consider trading one for his daughter and two mature goats (he declined).

About the only advantage of our position was the fact that we were pretty close to the arena where the competition was going on, so we could clearly hear everything the judge was saying about the llamas in each round, but we were far enough away from him that he couldn’t hear my comments…

Judge: Up next we will be the class 6 Suri Wool Yearling Males
Me: Fantastic. It’s about damn time.
Judge: I bet you are wondering why I started with class 5.
Me: Honestly? It was friggin’ killing me. I was thinking “Starting with class 5 llamas? It’s like a world gone mad!”

This was amusing for a while (at least to me), but eventually the “charm” of our little camp wore off and we decided to take a break from gaming until we could feel our legs again, so we packed things up and moved to bleachers around the arena to watch the show.

It was like I took a rocket to a different planet. Now that I was paying full attention to the competition I realized, more with every passing minute, just how differently I was wired than these folks. For example, I personally derived a great deal of amusement from the judging and specifically… the judge himself (pictured left). I would swear to you on a stack of Bibles that he spent a solid five minutes discussing one llama’s testicles. The fact that the judge was an older gentleman with a stern look about him just added to the comedic affect.

Judge: The reason I put this llama in second place is that I really didn’t like the look of his testicles. One is hanging a little lower than the other.

At this point I was in the bleachers, barely able to contain my bubbling mirth. But, when I looked around me to find someone else to share this absurdity with I found that they were all nodding knowingly as if to say “Yeah, I saw that too. Those testicles just aren’t right.”.

I think that was about the time I decided that I needed to leave this place before my brain imploded. By the end of our stay, I was thoroughly ready to go home to hide away in my fortress of digital solitude.

I think that, perhaps, in time I might grow to enjoy at least some portions of the fair. I mean, it has the kind of food that you wouldn’t dare eat without the aid of a “spotter” armed with a defibrillator and that, at least, is right up my alley. But for now I think I will just categorize it as “an experience”.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Dam-boozled

Once or twice a year I make a trip to Amsterdam.

Now, if this were the blog of a more cavalier or lascivious man the remainder of this entry would be filled with stories about me puffing away the few remaining useful brain-cells I have in sweet-smelling smoke-filled coffee bars during the day and bed-hopping my way through the red light district in a drug-induced haze at night. Naturally, I would awaken every morning in an alleyway bereft of money… and pants.

Well I am terribly sorry to disappoint you but, this is not that blog, and I am not that man.

No, while I thoroughly enjoy every visit I make to Holland, they are all quite tame and have never involved anything more exciting than an uneventful walk around the streets of the city followed by a movie back at the hotel (no, not even that kind).

I’ll be honest, I struggled for a while to come up with something to say about Holland and its people that was both derogatory enough to fulfill the general parameters of my blog, and yet not so bad as to make my Dutch friends, some of whom actually read this, hate me any more than they already do. Since my prudish nature has robbed me of the opportunity to poke at the seedy underbelly of Amsterdam, I am forced to retreat to safer terrain such as…

Food

As my physique suggests, I don’t typically have a problem finding food no matter where I am in the world and Holland is really no exception. In fact, Amsterdam is currently home to my favorite restaurant on the planet, a small place named Bistro Bij ons.
In this tiny little restaurant, they serve a traditional Dutch dish called Stamppot which is basically a pile of mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and bacon covered in gravy and topped with stewed meat.  For me eating Stamppot is a borderline erotic experience requiring my full mental attention to avoid moaning loudly with pleasure and ultimately being kicked out of the restaurant for disturbing the other guests. It’s like a pig and a cow are having sex on a bed made of potatoes… in my mouth. Finish that off with a serving of “flipped bitches” for desert, and it becomes obvious (at least to me) why this place holds a special place in my heart.

But, sadly, not all restaurants in Amsterdam are Bistro Bij ons, and not all Dutch food is Stamppot.

On one trip, we asked the concierge at our hotel for a recommendation, and he sent us to a place down the street named Envy (ostensibly named so to describe the feeling that passersby feel when they gaze upon its inhabitants). We realized, a bit too late, that this place was designed to trap those unfortunate enough to enter, keeping them weak by feeding them microscopic portions and ensuring that each course is prepared by a different shift. About two hours into our visit we began to desperately and fruitlessly seek escape.

FUN FACT: In Dutch “fusion” restaurants “check please” means “wait an hour and then bring me another ‘course’ consisting of 2 grams of meat, a drizzle of unidentified sauce, and a ‘foam’ of some variety”.

Eventually we escaped by asking the waiter for “chicken nuggets” and then, while he was confused and distracted, we struck him in the head repeatedly with a pepper-grinder until we were sure he wouldn’t regain consciousness until we were safely back home in the US. In hindsight, I think we may have been a tad overzealous and I sincerely hope that the pepper-grinder was not permanently damaged.

In another restaurant, on a different visit, one of the many courses of our meal had only two ingredients that I was able to confidently identify…

The long strip of mushy yellow paste still haunts me.

Considering what this dish likely cost, the profit they make off the investment in a large box of Sunmaid Raisins and a couple of bags of microwave Orville Redenbacher Popcorn must be amazing.

Ok, let’s wrap it up with a brief comment on my favorite meal of the day, breakfast. On each visit, in every hotel I have stayed in, they offer a buffet breakfast with the usual selections: eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. They all have a selection of breads as well and, without exception, near the breads they all have a display stand filled with boxes that look like the one below.

The fact that I have never seen a single person actually eat these, combined with the fact that the picture on the box looks like a large pile of mouse droppings on a slice of bread, made me suspect that this was some sort of national practical joke. Something like Rocky Mountain Oysters are for people who live in Colorado.

In an unprecedented display of bravery, on my last trip I decided to actually try them on some toast. After I took my first bite I would not have been surprised to look up and find all the Dutch people in the restaurant chuckling while clacking their wooden shoes together in amusement (or, whatever it is they do) but, not only was there no laughter, I also found out that they taste a lot like dark chocolate sprinkles, and not at all like rodent-poo as the box suggests.

How odd.

Anyhow… I have learned some hard lessons when it comes to eating in Holland. Always pack a backup snack, don’t eat the brownies and, whatever you do, never ever trust the concierge.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2010 in Uncategorized