Most of you know that we’ve been busy for the past two weeks since our daughter and her family were left homeless and without belongings after a devastating house fire. Once they were settled into suitable shelter and after they were able to purchase a few articles of clothing and other basic needs (thanks to your generous contributions and support), Denene and I headed home.

Along the way north we learned that my uncle, the last remaining uncle on my mother’s side of the family, was rushed to a hospital where he was to undergo emergency heart surgery. The first hospital was not adequately suited to perform the surgery so he was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Delaware, just a few miles from our house. Of course, we were in North Carolina at the time, dealing with the fire situation.

Unfortunately, as the surgical team started the tedious operation, they quickly learned that they, too, were not equipped to handle such a delicate procedure as the one before them. Therefore, once he was again stabilized they rushed him to a hospital in Philadelphia. This hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is said to be one of the best in the country for the type of procedure needed for my uncle.

We arrived home late at night/early morning from the trip to Ellen’s, and the next morning I was off to Philadelphia where I sat for several hours, making the usual nervous small talk with my aunt and cousin—the stuff people babble about while waiting and hoping for encouraging words from surgeons.

During our wait a paramedic flight team rushed a patient down the hallway directly in front of where we sat. The two EMS professionals were surrounded by a gaggle of police officers, both uniformed and several others wearing plainclothes. Then came family members of the patient.

I told my aunt that the mere presence of so many police officers could only mean a few things. One: The patient was a dangerous criminal who needed lots of security. Two: He was a witness to a terrible crime and needed lots of security. Three: An important public figure and needed lots of security. Four: The patient was a police officer who’d been injured or fallen seriously ill while in the line of duty.

Before long, the hallway filled with even more police officers—motorcycle cops, K-9 officers, patrol officers, detectives, supervisors, and, well, you name it and they were there, and all with wrinkled brows, a serious and intense lack of smiles, and the absence of the usual cop-type joke-cracking and hospital humor. Had to be an injured police officer. No doubt about it.

While anxiously awaiting news about my uncle, a man walked over and sat in the empty chair beside me. He nervously twisted and intertwined his fingers, stopping occasionally to rub a hand over the fingers of the opposite hand and then after a moment or two switched to rub the fingers of the other hand, and then back to the finger twisting. His brow was deeply furrowed and he glanced around the room, obviously focusing on nothing in particular. I’d been there before, in that same mental state, when Ellen was undergoing cancer surgeries and when my parents and grandparents were nearing the ends of their lives. His heart-shattering, emotional pain was almost palpable.

He soon turned to me, a stranger, and said, “My son is a police detective and he and a couple of his coworkers were knocking on a door to speak with someone about a case when he suddenly collapsed. It’s his heart.”

Needing to talk to someone, anyone, he went on to explain how the other detectives did all the right things and, as a result of what was later learned to be a major cardiac event, the young detective, a man half my uncles age, was flown to the same Philadelphia hospital where he underwent the same procedure as did my uncle.

Both operations were performed at the same time, in separate operating rooms.

The anxious father and I chatted for several minutes, with he asking about my former career and I about the career path of his son. Then the man, Mr. Moretti, told me about an officer who’d once served with his son (Detective Andrew Moretti) at the same Pennsylvania agency, the Plymouth Township Police Department.

It was seven years ago, he said, when the officer about whom he spoke, Officer Brad Fox, was shot and killed on the eve of his 35th birthday. At the time, Officer Fox’s wife was expecting the couple’s second child.

Nick, a Belgian Malinois and Officer Fox’s his K-9 partner, was also injured in the shooting, but survived.

I remembered including Officer Fox in my long-running Friday’s Heroes column, the posts that recognize the officers who’d lost their lives in the line of duty during the week of the posts. I’d written those articles for eleven years and, yes, I recall most of the names and many of the faces. A few I’ve known personally. One was a former coworker.

So I pulled up the post on my phone and showed it to Mr. Moretti. As he read it, Detective Moretti’s wife entered the waiting room and her father-in-law introduced me as a retired police detective. Then he walked out into the hallway, wading into the midst of his son’s co-workers, work partners, and peers.

I nodded toward the mob of police officers standing in the hallway leading to the operating theater of the cardiac care unit, and said to her, “Were you aware that when you married a cop you married an entire department as well as thousands of law enforcement officers all around the country?”

“It’s true,” I continued. “We’re a family, you know.”

She said she’d entered into their marriage with eyes wide open and knew exactly what was in store for her, and that I was correct, their extended family was one that reached the four corners of the country and all areas between. They’d seen evidence of that when Officer Fox was killed during the ambush attack.

It was then when the surgeon came out to deliver news about my uncle. His condition was serious but he’d survived the operation. There was much to be done in the days following the surgery … one step at a time.

When I finally left my uncle’s room that night, the elder Mr. Moretti stood in the hallway. The smile on his face told the story that his son, too, had survived the surgery. Relief had eased the worry lines that had earlier shaped his forehead and the area around his eyes. His jaw was relaxed and he displayed a cheek-to-cheek toothy grin. His wife stood at his side, tired but happy. The detective’s wife was ecstatic.

I wished them all well and headed toward the elevators, still limping from my recent hip replacement, and with the weight of worry for my own family members resting heavily on my shoulders. On the other hand, I was happy for the Morettis.

The next day, Detective Moretti was up, sitting in a chair, chatting away with his smiling wife and a group of police officers, a crowd so large that many were forced to stand outside in the hallway. I felt extreme joy to know that he’d “made it,” even though I’d never met him. Hey, we’re all family, right?

A few doors down from the happiness inside Detective Moretti’s room, my uncle, still basically unresponsive, was in the process of experiencing a heart attack and severe respiratory distress.

I’d just entered his room when the event began and the room quickly filled with doctors, nurses, surgeons, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, and more. Total but highly organized chaos. An hour later he was once again stable and that’s the situation today—stable.

So, my uncle, Pete, a veteran who’d served in Korea, is currently in a Philadelphia hospital room fighting for his life with the assistance of various machines, tubes, a ventilator, blood transfusions, and numerous dedicated and caring medical professionals.

My daughter and her family are living in a motel, with no home and no personal belongings. She’s recovering from cancer and the after-effects of aggressive chemo and radiation. She and her husband and son are emotionally and physically drained. They’re broken and they’re broke. Her hospital bills now exceed well over $1.25 million.

My mother-in-law is still battling serious cancer and still receives chemo each week. She’s weak.

Our wonderful daughter-in-law Stephani was recently diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness that has totally disrupted her life. As a result and after trying numerous other medications/injections that cost a couple thousand dollars each, she must now be hooked to an IV for hours at a time every few weeks to receive infusions of a new drug. She’s desperate for relief and for remission. “If it works, it will be worth it,” she said to me a few days ago.

This is the spot for a long … sigh …

When I walked down the hallway to leave the hospital this past Tuesday night, I overheard Mr. Moretti telling a group of officers that seven years ago I’d taken the time to recognize Officer Brad Fox’s service and sacrifice, and that I’d actually remembered his name after all the time that’s passed since he was killed in the line of duty.

It is my hope that Officer Fox’s wife and children know that he, like all the other officers who’ve lost their lives so that we can remain safe, will forever be remembered for their heroism.

And, speaking of heroism, Officer Fox’s death came as he and his K-9 were searching a secluded area for a suspect who was on felony probation, and who was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fiancee.

I know, this post was absolutely all over the place, but so are my thoughts and my own emotions. I guess what I want to say most right now is thanks to each of you for your support for me and my family during the tough times we’ve experienced.

So yes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys mean the world to me—you’re family—and I wish I could somehow repay your kindness and extreme generosity.


Officer Bradley Fox, 34

Plymouth Township Pennsylvania Police Department

September 13, 2012 – Officer Bradley Fox was shot and killed by ambush after responding to reports of a hit and run. The suspect opened fire as Officer Fox approached, wounding both Fox and his canine partner. Officer Fox is survived by his expectant wife and daughter.

10. A tourist stops you to ask for directions to any bizarre and out-of-the-way destination and you immediately know the location, the shortest route to it, and every single wacko who lives near it.

9. Your stomach growls while you’re standing in the midst of an extremely gruesome murder scene, so you begin to think of food and your favorite 3 a.m. dining spot.

8. At least fives times each week someone says, “I pay your salary, a**hole.”

7. You’ve heard the line, “I only had two beers,” at least a million times.

6. You’re on first name basis with every wino and prostitute in the city, and you point them out, by name, to your spouse.

5. You wish you had a dollar for every time someone says, “There are real crooks out there and you’re wasting your time messing with me, you sorry piece of ****.”

4. You’re a bit apprehensive about going to church because there’s only one seat facing the front door, and it’s not available.

3. No matter where you are, your friends always introduce you as a cop. “Hi, Guys. Meet Sammy Squarejaw. He’s a cop.”

2. You find yourself sizing up the largest guy in the room, wondering how long it would take you to get him cuffed.

1.  Everybody tells you that someday you should write a book about your experiences on the job.

 

Cow Alarms for Cars

It’s no secret that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), traffic crashes are the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 29 years old.

Add to this horrifying statistic … cows.

That’s right, those pesky bovines who refuse to move out of the way of oncoming traffic. Yes, this is a real concern, especially in India where a large number of car crashes involve drivers smashing into cows who seem to enjoy loitering in public streets.

For those of you not familiar with these walking sirloins, well, they move when they’re good and ready.

Cow Alarms for your Cars

As a result of the many traffic crashes in India, Sachin Sharma and Dharmesh Shah of the Department of Electronics & Communication, at Gujarat Technological University, in Ahmedabad, India, developed an alert system for cars that detects the presence of live bovine roadway obstacles (cows in the road).

When an animal is detected, the alarm lets the driver know, in advance, to apply brakes. This all occurs before the driver sees the hazard.

Obviously, though, cows in India do not understand basic signage, like the posted instructions we have here in the U.S. If so, one look and they’d know to remain on the sidewalks or shoulder.

Dumb cows …

Cow Alarms

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Unreal news in unreal times

Times are definitely changing, and with those changes sometimes comes a bit of the bizarre. For example…

1. Yesterday, in an effort to find new technological ways to fight against radicalization and terrorism, Obama administration officials met with representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, YouTube, LinkedIn, Dropbox. Looks like the military plans to “stupid” our enemies to death.  Stupid – a verb meaning to subject someone to the dumb things people say or do, especially the postings on social media.

2. Toxic chemicals have been found in fracking wastewater. Some of these toxins have been linked to reproductive and developmental health problems in humans. The mayor of a town near one fracking operation, Mayor Tommy Twoheads, says all is well, and that there’s absolutely no truth to the health scares.

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3. The White House has responded to a petition to pardon convicted killer Steven Avery, stating a U.S. president has no authority to pardon a state prisoner. The petition began receiving signatures (over 100,000 in all) after people watched the NetFlix series, Making a Murderer. The series supposedly chronicles Avery’s story of the police framing him for murder.

The president is currently reviewing the possibility of pardoning federal prisoner Elmer Fudd. Fudd, who claims total innocence, was convicted of numerous murder attempts on the life of Mr. B. Bunny.

Bunny, who lived in a federally-owned forest at the time of Fudd’s attempts on his life, currently resides in a safe space away from anyone who doesn’t have long ears like him, did not return our calls or emails. In the meantime, TV viewers are sick and tired of the police harassing Fudd and planting evidence at his crime scenes. They know it happens because they see it take place right there on their TV and computer screens.

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Inmate E. Fudd

Update – The Innocence Project has agreed to take Fudd’s case. #wascallywabbitsareliars #everythingontelevisionisreal

4. New laws on gun control are expected to be overwhelmingly effective.

New law number #1 – All criminals must abide by the rules.

Law #2 – Bad guys are not permitted to buy guns from establishments that legally sell guns.

Law #3 – Law abiding citizens must submit to legal means and processes when purchasing guns.

Law #4 – Remind criminals to abide by gun laws.

Law #5 – Hide all valuables because bad guys will always have guns.

Law #6 – Install revolving doors in city morgues (for employees, not overnight guests), jails, and prisons because bad guys will always have guns.

5. An armed militia has taken control of a corner in Winslow, Arizona. An FBI spokesman says it was a fine sight to see. The militia leader announced via Facebook, “We may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again.” FBI director Comey urged upset Winslow residents to take it easy.

6. El Chapo, the Mexican drug kingpin, has been recaptured after a daring prison escape. After his return to custody he requested to be incarcerated in the U.S., where leaving prison via revolving doors is much faster and far easier than digging tunnels.

*Writers’ Police Academy details to be announced very soon! All I can say right now is, Helicopters, SWAT Guys, and Driving Police Cars (very fast!), Oh, My!

Shhh, your dolls are listening

You’ve all watched at least one TV show where a computer expert helps police save the world by remotely accessing some sort of video and/or audio device. Conveniently, these lifesaving spy-type contraptions are almost always located in the precise spot where the bad guys committed their dastardly deed du jour. Therefore, in the blink of eye and the strokes of a dozen or so keys, detectives are able to apprehend the evil-doers, close the case, and settle in for a few drinks at the local cop bar where they compare stories and hook up with their one-night-only soulmates. All of this within 40 minutes, give or take a commercial or two.

In real life, of course, those “eyes and ears” used by TV cops are rarely where they’re needed. Or, if officers are lucky enough to run across a camera in the area where a crime took place, there’s a good chance the owner hasn’t switched it on within the past five years.

Is it legal, though, to place cameras on every light pole and roof top in the country? Is it okay that police have access to the recordings? Sure it’s legal, but are they really out there watching and recording nearly every move you make? Well, take a peek at the array of cameras on the roof top of Walmart on your next visit. See, you can no longer fib about shopping there because they have you on tape from a variety of angles.

Video recordings in public places are perfectly legal as long as they’re done in places where the person(s) recorded has no expectation of privacy, such as a Walmart parking lot. Audio recordings, however, are a different story. And the laws governing those recordings are clear. For example, some states allow audio recordings as long as one person in the room has knowledge of the recordings (one-party consent). Other states require that all parties be aware that their conversations are being recorded ( two-party/all-party consent).

So how does Barbie, the popular kid’s toy, fit into all this? Well, there’s a new doll in town and she’s called Hello Barbie.

Hello Barbie is a WiFi enabled toy equipped with both microphone and speaker, and she’s designed to verbally interact with children. The concept is simple, yet a bit elaborate. A child activates the unique feature by pressing a button on the doll. Then, as Barbie listens to the child speak, the little one’s voice is transmitted to Mattel (Barbie’s maker) where a response is electronically devised and transmitted back to Barbie who recites it to the child. In other words, these artificially intelligent dolls are able to carry on conversation with children, conversations that are stored in the depths of cyber-Barbieland. The company says they store the information to help Barbies learn and form better responses to their owners.

Child – “I like snow.”

Barbie. “Snow is nice. But it’s so cold.”

This sounds fine and dandy until we step back and think for a minute. Suppose Sally Sue switches on Eavesdropping Barbie while she’s in the room with her parents. Barbie immediately begins transmitting the adults’ conversation to Mattel. What if Sally Sue tells Sneaky Barbie her deepest and darkest secrets? What if Barbie records Sally Sue’s parents discussing their criminal activity?

What if a child tells Barbie that Daddy touches her private places after mommy goes to sleep? How will Barbie respond? Is this a dangerous and slippery legal and psychological slope? Or, is Hello Barbie just another toy that should not be a concern to people and their privacy?

Here’s another point to ponder. Creepy Barbie remembers everything someone says to her. Suppose for a moment that she goes rogue and orders all the toys in the house to rise up and… Okay, I’ve gone too far. Sorry.

Anyway, what do you think? Has Mattel stepped out of bounds on this one?

Are Big Barbie’s capabilities a violation of privacy laws? Is there cause for concern? Do you care one way or another?

Should the recordings be stored by the toy maker? Should the government be allowed access to those recordings in the event of a criminal investigation involving the child’s parents or others in the home?

So many questions and, well, I guess we could turn to Hello Barbie for answers…right?

Wild Turkey helped

It began back in March, this ordeal called “moving.” I had several representatives come to our home to estimate the cost of packing, loading, and transporting our precious belongings from one side of the country to the other. Now, we’re certainly not strangers to the process, having seven long distance moves under our belts. We know the ropes, inside and out.

So, after reps from each of the top moving companies offered their prices, I selected a company called ALL My Sons Moving and Storage. The salesperson ticked all the boxes. He was helpful, courteous, friendly, thrifty, clean, and…oops, wrong organization. Anyway, my selection was made and a week or so later a crew of packers showed up to start the process of wrapping and placing things in boxes. A different crew came to load our belongings in a truck. This, as I said earlier, was in March.

It took five men nearly 14 hours to load our things onto their truck. Their frustration at the weight of our property was evident by the way they began to list items on the company’s official inventory document. I thought you might appreciate this one particular listing regarding one of my heavy toolboxes. This came after loading all of our gym and weight equipment. Very professional, don’t you think? A sense of humor is a good thing, right?

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Our things were placed in the All My Sons handy-dandy climate-controlled storage facility until we called for them to be delivered to our new home. The salesperson told me when I called for the delivery, they’d have the load delivered on its way to us within a two-week window.

Well, I called well in advance, allowing for “the unexpected things to happen that always do, “and requested a delivery date. The operations manager for the company, and I, agreed on the day of June 27 as our “set in stone” delivery date. We selected the date because it was exactly one week after we closed on the new house, thinking seven days was ample time to spruce up the new place, with the help of contractors, of course.

The week of June 27 rolled around and I called the manager to be sure all was still on schedule. It was not. Then came the first excuse, and they needed an additional week to take care of  “the problem”. No worries, I told him, the delay gave me an extra week to maybe mop on a fresh coat of paint in a couple of the upstairs bedrooms.

Well two newly painted bedrooms, new trim, and some re-wiring later, I call again. “Your furniture is on the truck and will be heading your way in a couple of days,” he says. After four days, the boss tells me of a new hurdle they can’t seem to overcome—the driver refused to submit to a required urine test. Okay, I think, that’s a pretty good reason, and I certainly didn’t want a high-flying truck driver barreling through the Rocky Mountains with my music equipment and furniture rocking and rolling around in the trailer. We agreed on a new date, a week later.

Well, next came trailer problems and other new issues. And these calls eventually turned into near shouting matches. Our furniture was being held hostage and I was nearly 3,000 miles away from someone I couldn’t “reach out and touch,” personally.

Still more excuses flowed from the tiny speaker in my cellphone. I. Was. ANGRY!!

We’d lived in a hotel room from March until June, and then we moved into our brand new and very empty house and I’d grown weary of sitting on a camping chair and working from the top of a cardboard box.

Finally, I heard some good news—our furniture had been loaded onto the truck and the load was scheduled to leave the next day. The excuse-making manager said the driver would touch base each night to let us know his progress. Delivery day, he promised, would be the following Monday.

Two days went by and I’d not heard a peep from the truck driver. So I called my “buddy,” the manager. “He’ll be there on Monday,” he said.

When Friday came and I still hadn’t heard from the driver, I called again (more on this later). “Wednesday, at the latest,” Liar-Liar Pants On Fire, said.

Anyway, our things finally arrived yesterday Thursday), three days shy of one month past the original scheduled delivery date.

Thursday morning started off a bit rocky, combined with the discovery of several damaged pieces of furniture, but finally wound up on a somewhat pleasant note. The driver and his partner were very professional. The partner, whom I nick-named “Wild Turkey” is one of those people in this world who has a sense of humor similar to my own. He’s also a big fan of mysteries, and some of you are “Turkey’s” favorite authors.

Note – Wild Turkey was one of the workers who packed our things, and I’d assigned the nickname for reasons I won’t disclose. I will say, however, the name has absolutely nothing to do with a bird.

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“Wild Turkey,” and the truck driver.

The truck driver hired five local movers to help unload the tractor-trailer containing our goods, and they truly needed the help—over 17,000 pounds is a lot of stuff for two men to unload (that’s what their manager wanted them to do). Denene and I also pitched in to help with the costs, above what we’d already paid the company) and it was worth the money—not a scratch on the walls or on our newly installed hardwood flooring, and the entire truck was unloaded in five hours.

I felt bad for the crew because yesterday was one of the hottest days we’ve seen in a while.

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But, as soon as the last box was unloaded a few of them dove into the pool, fully clothed.

Our house is now full of boxes, and it’s in total disarray. Chaos might be a better term, actually. But our things are here and we’re extremely happy to have them with us once again.

However, even with all our belongings around me, I’m writing this from the top of a cardboard box. Maybe tomorrow I’ll see the top of my desk and will perhaps locate my office chair. I’m sure they’re here somewhere…

 

Name that author

To top of the agony associated with our second move from hell in three years (more on this later), last night I wound up having an adverse reaction to medication. It started with a headache that came from nowhere and grew to a level of pain I never knew could exist inside a human skull. Well, short of having been penetrated by an ax blade or a half-dozen hollow-point rounds. Then came the nausea, and I’ll leave the rest to your imaginations. I was extremely ill all night long.

So, with the headache still throbbing, a repair guy showed up early this morning to fix two of our garage doors that, by the way, stopped working properly a few days after the purchase of the home. Next up is the pool repair guy who’s schedule to fix…you guessed it, a filter and pump that also stopped working just days after the purchase of the home. All of this while a remodel is still in progress. Oh, did I mention the delivery of our furniture has been delayed once again? Next week is the latest prediction. What’s one more week after living in an empty house for a month, right?

Anyway, I really didn’t feel up to writing an article this morning so I had a thought. Why not post a brief piece of someone’s writing and see if you guys can guess the name of the author who set the words to paper. So, here you go. It’s time to play Name That Author!

Here’s the excerpt…

It was just after ten when I walked into The Red Garter, a rowdy redneck bar situated at the start of a dead-end cobblestone alley off River Street. The joint, a downstairs corner of a rehabbed cotton warehouse, features live music and is well-known for serving an ass-kicking, fight-inducing drink called the Rebel Yell. A concoction made from vodka, gin, and grain alcohol.

The place was jumping, especially for a Thursday night. The crowd, an eclectic mix of tourists, bikers, fishermen, and women with big hair and far too much makeup, were scattered about, playing pool, drinking, and desperately attempting to hook up with a one-night-soul-mate.

A four-piece band was playing what could have been an old Blondie song, but I wasn’t sure. The bass was thumping so hard I couldn’t hear the singing, which was probably a blessing in disguise, especially if the skinny pink-and-blue-haired woman at the mic sounded as bad as the music.

After a quick look around, I headed toward my usual table in the rear of the joint near the dartboard, crunching empty peanut shells beneath my feet as I went. The place had an earthy smell, like old wood and dirt, mixed with hints of stale beer, sweat, and drugstore perfume. Most of the exposed brick walls and heavy lumber were original, from the 1800’s. Some say it, like many of the other historic buildings in Savannah, is haunted by the ghosts of those who died there during the civil war. The stories, true or not, attract tourists to our area like our hometown kitchen guru, Paula Deen, uses butter…by the truck load.

I heard glass break behind the counter as the bartender, a tall, hard-bodied former cop named Lonnie Reavis, tossed some empty bottles into the trash. He made brief eye contact with me as I passed, but promptly turned his attention back to the swarm of customers that surrounded the bar like hogs at a feeding trough. His dark skin glistened like used motor oil under the multi-colored lights shining down from the track above the beer taps.

I took a seat in a sticky wooden chair with my back to the wall. The only spot in the entire place with a view of both front and back doors. I felt the usual, slight thud as the handcuffs in my back pocket contacted the chair bottom. Out of habit, I turned to the side a bit so the steel wouldn’t dig into my hip.

It seemed like just yesterday when…

ODD

Blog, blog, blog. What to blog about? Something new? Something old? How about something odd? Good idea? Sure it is. And there’s not a better place to locate something weird than in my old cellphone photos that, for some reason, I’ve not deleted.

So use your imaginations to provide your own captions. While you’re at it, maybe you can figure out what could have been going on inside my head when I chose to capture these images. Well, you see a peacock walking down the street you just gotta take a picture, right? And when a cow’s lips split into a big fat grin…you take a picture. Anyway…

Odd. Just odd.

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