Blog #652 Easter/Spring

Easter thoughts (non-religious)

Yes, I’ve commented on the sacredness of Passover, Holy Week and Easter.  And, yes, there are other things to Easter.

Easter to me symbolizes Spring.  The first spring day is generally March 20th, but about mid-April, spring really has ‘sprung’.  Even in places where there have been late snowstorms, most of that is melted, the grass is turning green, there are buds (or leaves) on the trees – and they are the light green leaves of spring.  

Depending on where you live, you might have some flowering trees, even some flowers.  In Central Texas, the bluebonnets are slowly setting their seeds and dying back to just green plants.  There are more Indian Paintbrush showing now. Our roses are starting to open. I’ve planted tomatoes, green peppers and a few other things.  (Yes, in Central Texas you have to get it in early or it will burn up by mid-July). Farther north, the forsythia are in bloom, and lilacs are still a little behind.

Easter traditions include chocolate eggs, jelly beans, and even Peeps.  In Central Texas, you will find cascarones in the stores. Cascarones are eggshells filled with confetti.  My local granddaughters are six and in school full time, but they have loved smashing cascarones over my head (and getting confetti in my hair) – and (yes) – I have loved that they have done that!!!  

We filled Easter baskets for our children – complete with green plastic ‘grass’ and plastic eggs.  (Yes, I am generally against too much plastic waste – maybe paper grass and the cascarone shells will take over).

For my farming friends spring is generally the time for new critters on the farm.  Some of my Nebraska friends have experienced calving in the snow and in flooded areas this spring.  And, what can be more spring like than the new lambs jumping around in the fields? [Question, how do they stay so white, when there is mud all around].

Easter is the time to celebrate ‘new life’.  I have used Edvard Grieg’s Last Spring – but the concept is that after a long winter, spring truly is here.  Like the bears who have hibernated, let us get outside and enjoy spring.

I saw a friend with a new sunburn yesterday as he was watching his children run in track meets and forgot to bring his sunscreen.  Yes, it is finally spring!!!

For most of my life, I was in the northern part of the United States – and spring truly was the rebirth of the outside world.  Many people, when asked what is their favorite season, will respond “Spring”.

All seasons are good (even winter), but spring is so welcomed after winter that it is a favorite.  

So, this Easter, this spring, get outside (remember the sunscreen) and SMELL the roses, the fresh air, enjoy the colors and enjoy life!!!

Happy Easter!!! Happy Spring!!!

Bruce

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Blog #651 Easter Weekend

Happy Easter Weekend!!!

Today, my Jewish friends celebrate Passover; Tomorrow my Christian Friends celebrate Easter.

I am often reminded about “Peace on Earth”, so today (off topic), two song refrains:

From a 60’s Oldie song (“One Tin Soldier”)

The people of the valley want the treasure the people of the mountain had – and wage warfare to get it (even though the mountain people said they would share it freely, the valley people wanted the ‘treasure’ for themselves)

Now the valley cried with anger,
Mount your horses, draw your swords
And they killed the mountain people,
So they won their just rewards
Now they stood before the treasure
On the mountain dark and red
Turned the stone and looked beneath it
Peace on earth, was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat your friend,
Do it in the name of heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day,
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away.

And, a second music piece, Let there be Peace on Earth

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With ev’ry step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

So, can there be “Peace on Earth”?  

If we take the last song to heart – “Let it (peace) begin with me”.

All real change begins with yourself.  You can tell people to change, but ultimately the change has to be something that person wants to do.  

You can model love and peace to others – and maybe they will start to imitate you.  You can be the change you seek in the world.

Wikipedia (talking about the Golden Rule) says “The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one’s self would wish to be treated.”

If you want to have friends, you must be a friend first.  

Two other Bible verses – “Love your enemies” and “Love One Another”

Isn’t it time we can get along?  I think so!!!

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!!!

Bruce

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Blog #650 Dealing with Depression 2

Dealing with Depression 2

Continuing the series on dealing with depression.

This is the week of Easter and Passover (as discussed two days ago).  Many people do get depressed at special times of the year – remembering family events.  

Let’s continue looking at dealing with depression today.

-5 Reduce your stress.

Depression and stress are (at least) cousins.  In some cases, stress is good. It causes the ‘fight or flight’ options for dealing with a situation.  If you are depressed and on the job, talk to your management about getting help. A depressed person on the job is not going to be very helpful.  

I’ve read that a certain percentage of people don’t take vacations – they keep working away.  At least take a day off occasionally. Go find a nice park (now that it is spring). Walk through a large flower shop (and smell the aromas).  [And, while I love the aromas of a bakery, eating donuts and sugary sweets can actual add to depression and stress.].

On the job you may think you cannot be replaced – that might be true until you have your heart attack and die – that will force management to replace you.  Play games, get on a softball or volleyball team. Find friends. In this area (central Texas) there is an app called “MeetUp” and you can find all kinds of activities and hobbies.  (And, that is probably true about other places). Even taking a walk at lunch can help reduce stress and depression. And, taking a walk with a friend is even better as it gives you human contact and friendship!!!

-6 Get your sleep

Yup – our old friend – sleep – can help alleviate depression.  A 2014 study found that 80% of people with major depressive disorder experience sleep disturbances

And, just a quick run-through for sleep – have a schedule, go to bed about the same time, no caffeine after (say) 4:00 p.m., take some melatonin, drink some chamomile tea, turn off electronic (like your phone) at least an hour before bed, have a dark room (and/or dark eye masks).

-7 Watch what you eat

Many studies have linked depression to poor eating habits and/or missing essential nutrients.  Take a multivitamin. Zinc, vitamin D, magnesium and Omega-3 deficiencies can trigger depression

-8 Think positive thoughts

That might be easier said than done (that is, thinking positive thoughts).  Put positive things around your environment – post-it notes on the bathroom mirror, and other places.  Bible verses can also be beneficial – like you are more than conquerors – that God is Love – that the Joy of the Lord is your strength.  You can also use a Bible app and make time for daily devotions and prayer in the morning. (I’ve been using a Bible app (YouVersion) and you can find upbeat and encouraging studies).

So, what do you think?  Are you depressed? Can you (and God) overcome your depressions (and your stress)?

Tomorrow and Sunday I will be looking at seasonal things – Passover and Easter.  Then on Monday we will look at more aspects of depression!!

May this be a great week for you; may you stop and smell the roses; may you hear and enjoy the birds singing and chirping; may sunlight filter into your heart and give you ‘beauty for ashes’.

Bruce

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Blog #649 Dealing with Depression 1

Working with Depression

Depression can be a killer!!!  

After my major aorta surgery in July 2017, I was depressed.  I had no value. I had retired. I had no job. Nobody was really caring about me (or so I thought).  I couldn’t walk two miles. (I tried and had to call for help to get home).

There were at least two real times when the dark thought that I could just ‘end it’ (i.e. suicide) occurred.  All I needed to do was to step off the curb on a super busy street with a speed limit of 45. Cars were whipping around me.  I could time it perfectly – when a car was really whizzing past, just to step out in front of it – boom!!! It would be over.  (Obviously I didn’t do it – but I was down)

Depression also played some mental games on me.  One thing that I didn’t want was to ‘be old’. I wanted to ‘young at heart’ (and I might still be that).  But, my body with a huge scar from just below my throat to my abdomen was ugly – and I was now ‘an ugly old man’.  YUCK!!!!

I know all of us can be depressed from time-to-time.  I didn’t get the job that I really wanted; I didn’t get the promotion I really wanted.  It may be other things – I’m in deep debt. I was fired. My spouse left me (probably with good reason – as putting up with a depressed person isn’t much fun).

So, let’s look at some suggestions about “Living with Depression”

-1 DON’T WAIT

Make a call to a mental health expert.  Most health plans include mental health coverage.  You paid for the coverage, get into somebody who can help you.  Yes, mental health issues are different than physical illnesses.  You broke your arm? You would go to a doctor (or even to an emergency room).  You have broken out with hives? Get to a doctor. Your cough is so bad? Get to your doctor.  

Probably like others, I didn’t want people to know that “I was seeing a shrink”!!!  But, I am glad that I got help.

If you put it off, that is one more day dreading life – and hiding from life.  Too many days of depression will put you in a fetal position on the floor sucking your thumb!!!  (Or, maybe not).

-2 DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALONE

There are a lot of suggestions available online, books, meditation,  and people. By yourself, your brain can make you a recluse.

-3 DON’T GIVE UP

Get medical help – and don’t just settle for anyone.  In my depression, ultimately I saw five mental health professionals.  One did nothing for me (although he was highly regarded by people I know).  One did a lot of work with me – even hugged me and affirmed me as a human being.  

There are also prescription drugs that can help with depression.  (I’m still on one – Sertraline/ Zoloft – that seems to be a mild depression aid).

-4 Build a Social Network Group

This can be your family, or a group of others in similar situations.  If your depression is more of a grief from the death of a spouse or loved one, there are various grief support groups.  Plus get out and meet people. [I’m playing bridge and dominoes with seniors, volunteering at three locations].

So – don’t let depression put you out of life – get up and going!!!

More on this tomorrow!!!

Bruce

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Blog #648 Holy Week and Passover

Holy Week

This is the Wednesday of Holy Week (Christians), two days before Passover (Jewish friends).  Both are significant times in those two religions – and both are related.

Jewish friends are remembering the “Passover”.  This is a time when the Jews (or Hebrews) were in Egypt.  While they went to Egypt as free people when Joseph was a leader in Egypt and there was a great famine, after many years, they had become slaves and also had become numerous.  There was enmity between the Hebrews and the Egyptians. God, using Moses, send various plagues on the land – locusts, frogs, snakes, gnats, flies and others. Finally, God sent death to the first born sons in the land.  But, the Hebrews avoided that plague by painting their doorposts with the blood of perfect lambs. The “Angel of Death” passed over the houses with the lintels covered in blood, but killed the firstborn in the unmarked houses (basically the Egyptian houses).  

Can you picture waking in the morning in the Egyptian cities and finding your eldest son still in bed – dead?  Can you image in a household where the father was also the eldest son of his parents, and he died as well as the eldest son in the family.  

Just doing an estimation.  Let’s say where were a million Egyptians in that region.  Half of those would be males – so about 500,000. Of those maybe 300,000 would be the first born sons.  So, about 300,000 died that evening in the Egyptian homes, but nobody died in the houses marked with the blood of the perfect lamb.

That would be a disaster.  While probably not the case, but for discussion sake, the funeral homes would be overwhelmed.  The plague of death of the first son would also have affected the funeral directors too!! Bodies needed to be moved out of house before they started to rot and stink.  But, there would be crying – from almost every house.

My Jewish friends are remembering a very significant event in their history.

Then the Jewish people were led through the desert to the “Promised Land” – described as a land flowing with milk and honey.  But, even there people make mistakes and sinned. In their customs of the time, people could atone from their sins by sacrificing animals – like lambs, and their blood would ‘cover’ their sins.

And, my Christian friends are doing much the same.  Except for the Christians, to them the perfect lamb is Jesus – a man who was sinless like a perfect lamb.  He stated he was the “Son of Man” – sent from God the Father – eternal. Like the lamb, his blood was shed, but Christian beliefs are that the shedding of His blood took away our sins.  And, His blood, like the blood of animals ‘covers’ our sins.

So, in effect, Christians and Jews are ‘blood brothers’.  The blood covers our sins. Jesus was wholly Jewish and observed the Jewish laws and heritage – including the passover feast; sins are taken away by the shedding of blood – the blood of a lamb; or the shedding of Jesus’ blood.

To me, the idea of this week is for both solemness and joy.  Yes, traditions over the years have added Easter Eggs, bunnies, Easter Bonnets, and chocolate – but all those are built on something deeper.

But, however you celebrate Passover, or Easter or Good Friday – make it be a meaningful and happy time for you!!!    And, if you don’t celebrate either of these, may it still be a great week as you know your friends and associates are in a very solemn time in their faith experiences.  Give them a smile.

Bruce

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Blog #647 Willpower III

Victory through Willpower – part 3

From https://www.success.com/15-ways-to-effectively-strengthen-your-willpower/

Let’s finish off this three day series on willpower.

-11 Use positive reinforcement

As you reach a goal, give yourself a positive gift.  Maybe a ticket to a ball game or a movie; or a dinner out; or some other reward.  Do something special!!!

-12 Take care of your body

It seems when you lack willpower, you don’t take care of yourself.  I ‘ate’ myself in to being overweight. (And chocolate covered anything is great!!!).  If you are under a deadline for something, don’t let stress beat you. Take care of yourself – get good nutrition, good sleep, but positive things in your brain.  The old acronym GIGO – Garbage in, Garbage out still holds. Put good stuff into your body – by your mouth and into your brain.

-13 Have good habits

It is said that making good habits takes at least 21 days.  If you are working on exercise, get to the gym on a regular basis – make it a habit.  If you are working on inner peace (see two days ago), work on meditation and prayer – and make it a habit.  I am finding that I am more careful in our food shopping – reading labels for amounts of sodium and sugars in foods.  Processed foods seem to carry a lot of extra salt (that I don’t need). Make it a habit to read those labels, to build up the good habits.  There is the story of the great concert pianist who practiced daily for at least an hour. If he missed a day, he said he knew he had; if he missed a couple of days of practice, his closest friends can tell he was slightly off, and if he had missed a week of practice, the best ears in his audience could tell that he was ‘rusty’.  Keep on keeping on!!!

-14 Make a list of past successes

Keep track of those great victories – to keep you positive and to keep you working towards your new goals.  Yes, failure is a learning experience, but focus on the positives.

-15 Never be satisfied

One of my friends (Connie) has children that compete in athletics.  I love seeing her posts where son1 just reached a new “PR” – personal record, and son2 – also reached a new “PR” – personal record in their track and swimming events.  Likewise, her daughter who is on a university swimming team also is setting her personal records. Keep improving, keep working towards new goals and new horizons. (And, in her own right, Connie has definitely been a winner in her job and family and community!!!)

My own addition

Get out of your comfort zone.  Push yourself. Keep a great attitude.  Envision winning. Picture the promotion. Picture fitting in to your old clothes that have gotten too snug (or your new dress – that you bought as a reward when you ‘got there’.  Keep learning. Keep setting goals.

And, become the best version of YOU!!!!  

You CAN do it!!  It does take willpower – apply in and more ahead!!!

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog #646 It is Tax day

It Is TAX Day

Yup!!!  It is April 15th – the day to submit your taxes in the United States.  Probably most of you have already done it.

Some may grumble “I did my taxes and I had to pay in $XXX dollars”.  “I hate taxes”.

Okay, I’m not always fond of taxes.  As one of my favorite politicians (Bill Janklow) said “The best tax is one you don’t pay”.  I’m glad for cigarette and tobacco taxes (since I don’t smoke).

But, I am glad for taxes.  I really do like having roads to drive on, water when I open my faucet tap.  I even like taxes that go for defense and for national security.

Yes, we often have the ‘best government money can buy’ as lobbyists attempt to convince lawmakers that their organization is vital to our government.  

Taxes mean I am still alive.  Taxes means I can support the next generation of students.  Taxes means parks and other infrastructure for my life.

Do all taxes relate to me?  No, but helping people who are in trouble get training and food is good.  

I like having firefighters around in case of a fire.  I like policemen making my community safe. I like military personnel protecting our (United States) interests.  

But, in the long run, while there may be graft and waste, generally taxes advance and pay for good things for our society.

So thank all of you for paying your taxes!!!

Bruce

(And, as a retired guy, I’m glad you younger, working people are paying into my Social Security benefits!!!)

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Blog #645 Willpower – part II

Victory through Willpower

From https://www.success.com/15-ways-to-effectively-strengthen-your-willpower/

This is my second day looking at the link “15 Ways to Effectively Strengthen Your Willpower”

(And, thinking of my friend – now in Australia – Krys Zyak – definitely strong in willpower and success)

So, can you get up and go now?  Can you celebrate victories? Can you accomplish your goals?  Can you win at Life? (And … can you take cold showers?)

-6 Just keep running

Long distance runners talk about ‘running into the wall’.  They gotten to a point where their body says “Stop” – but they aren’t at the end of their run (or marathon).  The plan is to “just keep running”. Your brain can conquer your body. Just keep running. Whatever is going on in your life – just keep keeping on!!!  You have gotten so far – don’t stop now!!! [Aside, there were times getting my PhD that I ran into the ‘wall’. Stop, give up. I’m so glad I didn’t stop!!!]

-7 Get up an hour earlier

Get up an hour earlier.  Use that hour to meditate, to pray, to prepare for the day, to get brain in sync with your body.  (That also probably means – get to bed an hour earlier. You can read about the final score of the Final Four game tomorrow – it isn’t going to make any difference in the outcome of the game by staying up for the conclusion!!!  That is – I didn’t stay up for the last of the Virginia versus Texas Tech final men’s basketball game. I hear it was a good game, but I can catch the highlights on ESPN if I wanted to!!)

-8 Write down your goals and keep track of progress

I have written a lot over time about goals – especially SMART goals:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Write your goals down – review them frequently.  Do you want to lose weight, but post-it notes on your bathroom mirror (and on the inside of your outside door).  Keep track, review them. Make them part of YOU. Make your goals specific – not just ‘wants’ and ‘dreams’. Have you seen the various signs for United Way or other fundraising events?  They look like thermometers keeping track of progress. You can do that too.

-9 Say ‘NO’ OUT LOUD

I also have written about Warren Buffet’s Secret word [hint – it is two letters long – and starts with an N and ends with an O].  NO I can’t help you move this weekend!!! NO, I don’t want to be the Scoutmaster for troup 5. Even if you say it to yourself, you are planting those thoughts in your brain.  NO, NO, NO!!!!

-10 Make your goals public

Maybe not real public – like renting a billboard to display your goals, but with friends.  It keeps you accountable. Let’s use the weight goal “I WILL be no higher than 200 pounds by May 31st, 2019”.  Let a few others know so they can cheer you on. Have somebody be your coach – accountability coach who will ask you “Did you reach your goal this week, this month?”  Who wants to answer your weight-loss accountability coach with ‘no, I didn’t. The donuts just jumped off the plate and into my mouth.

Do these sound reasonable?  Are you ready to run your marathon?  Are you ready to really get fit? Are you ready to tackle climbing Mount Everest (or … Sleeping Giant)?  Build your willpower up.

There are five more reasons in the article, and I’ll look at them tomorrow!!!

LET’S ROLL!!!

Bruce

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Blog #644 Strengthening your willpower – part I

I just can’t do that (Strengthening your willpower)

From https://www.success.com/15-ways-to-effectively-strengthen-your-willpower/

-* I need to up out of my chair and take a walk|
-* I need to get my taxes done
-* I need to mow the yard
-* I need to write my blog today
-* I need to do some research on a topic
-* I need to find a job

I think almost all of us find ourselves procrastinating at times.  We ‘need’ to get something done, and yet, it is just hard to get moving.  If you will, it is Newton’s First Law of Motion – An object at rest stays at rest (unless acted upon).  Getting out of our chairs, sofa, or even our bed takes effort.

Today’s article looks at some ways to get going with strengthening our willpower!!

-1 Set small achievable goals.

Taking small steps and getting some small victories during your day gives us hope to keep going.  Some computer developers do Agile development, where every day you set your agenda to get somethings done.  You are accountable to others and you have a short (five minutes) morning meeting to set up your day. Maybe you are not going to get the whole project done today, but you are going to get some of it done.  Example: You are painting a large two story house, but today you are going to paint just the front (or just the upper front) of the house. If you do more, great, but you need to walk away at the end of the day with some accomplishments (and some victories)

-2 Control your thoughts

And make a commitment to your jobs, your long-term goals and your short-term goals.  Stay calm, remove distractions (if you can) and mentally control your focus and direction.

-3 Use short bursts to push your boundaries

I’ve been reading about HIIT workouts – that is High-Intensity, Interval Training.  If you are walking, maybe every 100 yards, you push the speed up for the next 100 yards, then back to the original pace.  Repeat this – fast speed and then normal speed. The concept is that is you do this consistently you will get faster and have better workouts.  (And your ‘old’ mnd doesn’t sense that you are tricking it into a faster routine)

-4 Win the day

I recently started doing morning meditation and Bible reading using an online app on my iPhone.  If I picked a short reading/medication (say 4 days), I could ‘win’ the day by doing that day’s readings; then I could accomplish the four days of that particular meditation.  Currently, I’m doing five readings/meditations of which one is for 31 days and one is for 53 days. I like to see the app keep track of my daily successes. The app tells me that I have so many days in a row and so many ‘perfect’ weeks.  That helps keep me working on it. [Aside, I am currently at 78 days in a row. By doing ‘daily wins’ – I have made a habit of doing my reading and meditation.]

-5 Take cold showers

Okay, I’m not into this one.  The article suggests that even 20 second cold showers strengthen our willpower.  The article suggests that suffering builds your willpower more than success. Forcing yourself to suffer (even if just for a short time) helps you feel confident and empowered!!

Okay, I’m going to try this.  [My brain is screaming at me – ‘NO, I hate cold showers’, but let’s see what transpires.

That’s enough for today.  We will be back tomorrow to look at more ways to strengthen your willpower.

See you then!!!

Bruce

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Blog #643 Habits of the Rich – part III

16 Habits of the Rich – part III (finished)

In the play / musical Camelot, Queen Guinevere asks King Arthur “What do the simple folks do?”  In this blogs, we’ve asked the reverse question “What do the rich folks do?”

Today, we’ll finish off this topic.

-12 DON’T GIVE UP!!!!!

The article says successful folks have focus, perseverance and patience.  An old expression is “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”. It sometimes is easier (and … at times, it might even be better, to back up and think through what you are doing again), to give up and forget it – but DON’T GIVE UP!!!!  Fight your way through!!! Quitters never win!!

-13 Set aside your self-limited thoughts.

We all have thoughts that hold us back. “I can’t do this”; “This is beyond me”; “This is stupid”.  You CAN do it. President Kennedy said we were going to put a man on the moon within a decade – and WE did (well, I didn’t have too much of a part in it – other than to cheer the various steps).  The concept of BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goals comes into play. Think big; go for it; you can do it!!!

What is going into your brain?  Computer people use the acronym GIGO – Garbage in; Garbage out!!.  Put good thoughts in your brain, embrace the positive.

-14 Get a mentor!

Of course, you need a mentor!!  You need a ‘running partner’, somebody to encourage you to keep going.  From the article “Among the wealthy, 93 percent who had a mentor attributed their success to that person.”  While, I may not be rich, I have had great mentors in the past, and I really like being a mentor (like writing these blogs).

-15 Eliminate “Bad Luck” from your vocabulary.

Believe in yourself and create your own Good Luck!!  Believing you can do it puts positive thoughts and attitudes in your brain.   It isn’t ‘luck’ that determine success, it is a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, a willingness to go the ‘extra mile’, and making your own luck!!!!

-16 Know your purpose.

I’ve referred to Seth Godin’s “Getting to Why” in the past.  You need to know where you are going – what is your “WHY”. Why are you doing this?  What is driving you? Know who you are – and where you are going. Make this your priority!!!

So, sixteen habits of the successful (‘rich’).  [By-the-way – you can be rich without meaning money.  Being rich in your family, in your volunteering, in your relationships and in your faith.

I hope this has helped you.  We will start a new topic tomorrow!!!

Bruce

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